Episode Title: Silver Shadows
Season 03, Episode 16
Episode 047 of 344
Directed by Nicholas Sgarro
Original Airdate: Thursday, March 25th, 1982
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Abby tells Gary they need $20,000.00 to keep their Methanol business going. Abby meets an engineer named Larry, but casts him aside when she meets Andrew Douglas, a famous silent-movie director. Larry, meanwhile, becomes more interested in Karen, and Abby is jealous. Abby uses Andrew, who says she reminds him of his deceased wife, Terry Clarington. Andrew is rich and somewhat senile and, at times, thinks Abby is Terry. He tells Abby that he will put her in his will. However, when he dies, he has left the money to Terry Clarington, so Abby gets nothing. She's also lost Larry to Karen, which further upsets her.
Oh Jesus, what a letdown. I can only imagine how a first time viewer would feel going from the high of highs that was our last episode, Best Intentions, to this week’s, um…..thing, which is titled Silver Shadows. Let’s just talk about it so we can get it over with, move on, and know that great stuff lies for us in the future, just around the corner, in fact.
I tell you, My Beloved Grammy and I were on such a high from the last episode that we immediately started this one with supreme eagerness, ready to see how things would continue on for Val and her Ewing family exposé and especially Laura and Richard’s relationship. Sadly, absolutely none of this is explored in Silver Shadows (despite that bizarre old TV Guide ad I've posted above, which seems to be describing a totally different ep) as we have to endure yet another one of those boring one-off episodes that could pretty much be skipped without missing a thing (well, that’s almost true). As we open up on Abby in some sort of dress shop suddenly being asked to model some clothing for some random dude, my heart started to sink and I thought to myself, “Oh no, it’s that episode.” Yes, for we have come to yet another episode that I had totally forgotten about and, had I remembered its existence, I would have tensed up long ago knowing it was approaching; I would have known, “Somewhere in season three lies that unbelievably boring episode with Abby and that old rich guy,” but instead I thought Best Intentions was the start of smooth sailing for us KL fans, and thusly I was hit with this one like a gut-punch. I wanted to turn to My Beloved Grammy and say, “I’m sorry for what we have to watch this,” yet I also didn’t want to bias her, thinking two things. I was thinking maybe she would find some enjoyment out of this, for one, and I was thinking maybe this episode wouldn’t be as bad as I remembered. Well, I was wrong on both counts.
Okay, so Abby’s modeling for this boring and ugly white guy. His name is Larry Wilson and he’s actually gonna follow us into the next episode, Letting Go, as well. I don’t want to insult the guy personally, but it’s doubtful he’ll ever see this, so let’s insult away. This guy is ugly, man, and I’m fine with him being ugly. I don’t really care if he’s ugly, honestly, except for the fact that he is presented as this eligible and desirable bachelor that both Karen and Abby start to fight over. I’m sitting there and I’m like, “Huh?!” The idea that this motherfucka could get with Michele Lee and especially Donna Mills just turns my stomach. Abby, what are you thinking?! You are one of the most beautiful women in the world and you’re gonna let this man be your date? What universe is this? I finally had to settle on the fact that it’s the 1980s and back then, I think a man could pretty much score any woman he wanted so long as he had money and coke. Oh yeah, and one last thing I almost forgot to note, he’s played by Joshua Bryant and he’s actually a Transmorpher as he appeared in the 1978 Dallas episode, Election, playing Peter Larson.
Anyway, the whole “try on these clothes for me” angle serves as the catalyst for Abby to meet this Larry Wilson guy, but then just a few minutes later she’s hanging out on the cul-de-sac and this really fancy old car pulls up and this really old guy played by Lew Ayres (he was a famous person and I remember him from Omen II and I've attached a pic from that movie below) gets out and is like, “Will you wear this necklace?” So Abs puts it on and the guy gets all excited and is like, “You look just like my ex-wife who died like a million years ago, omigod!”
It was about at this point, really early in the episode, that My Beloved Grammy said, “What is this? What’s happening?” and I was just like, “I know, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” After all the excitement of shenanigans from last week, this is probably the moment where we the viewers realize what we are in for, that we are just going to have an entire ep devoted to Abs and some boring old guy we don’t care about, have never seen before, and will never see again. Anyway, the guy’s rich and lives in a mansion with a butler that he treats like shit. He takes Abs to his mansion and shows her the photo of his dead wife, and wouldn’t you know it, but it looks like Donna Mills put on an old-fashioned hat and posed for a painting, very similar to that old photo of Diana that we got to take a look at back in One of a Kind. So Abs is like, “Golly gee whiz, I sure do look like your dead wife!” From there, she starts an unbelievably boring relationship with this old guy and his snooty butler.
Meanwhile, we also have a little “jealousy” storyline brewing between Karen and Abs that I simply have no patience for. It’s not just that this boring generic white guy is so ugly (and that’s the last time I’ll say that; I’m starting to feel bad for picking on the poor actor so much), but that this storyline feels right out of a sitcom; you can almost hear the live studio audience being told to laugh their heads off when Abs has to turn down Larry Wilson for a date and then he immediately drives over to Karen’s house and asks her out instead, all while Abs glares and wonders what’s going on. Then she marches over to the Fairgate house and is like, “Karen, what are you doing talking to that boring white guy? He’s my boring white guy!” Then they argue for awhile and I yawn.
If there’s anything to grasp onto here, it’s that Abs is definitely doing a bit of scheming with Lew Ayres here, as she knows that he is not only suffering from dementia (he keeps confusing her for his dead wife and he sometimes refers to things as happening right now even though they happened forty or fifty years ago, plus he has these little bursts of anger that come out of nowhere), but also that he has a ton of money and he’s at death’s door. Earlier in the ep, Gary tells Abs that they need to raise money fast, around $20,000.00, or else their little methanol venture is gonna fall flat. My Beloved Grammy helps me stay somewhat invested when I’m struggling with an ep, because she does this super cute thing where she sorta talks out loud about what she thinks is gonna happen. In this case, she’s like, “I’ll bet it’ll turn out the old guy doesn’t actually have any money,” and I kinda thought that might happen, too; I really couldn’t remember.
Abs decides to throw a big party at the mansion after she sits through a screening of one of the old guy’s silent movies (oh yeah, I forgot to mention that; he’s like supposed to be some great filmmaker from the silent movie era). I definitely think a part of Abs is trying to get the guy to leave her all his money, but I also do believe that there’s another part within her that kinda falls for the guy, not necessarily in love, but I think she starts to have some special feelings for him. She’s not totally duplicitous, which is part of what makes her character so rich and interesting as we go through her nine years on the series. The writers could just write her as a bitch or a gold-digger or a really awful, evil person, but they consistently keep her fully fledged from the day she’s introduced to the day she leaves the show.
Anyway, during the party, Abs and the snooty butler (the character is named Henry and he is played by Walter Brooke, who was in a lot of stuff and is also a Transmorpher since he appeared in the Dallas episode The Red File: Part Two, playing Cole Young) have some bickering throughout the party about who’s gonna get the money when the guy from Omen II dies, and the butler says how he deserves it cuz he’s put up with forty years of his nagging and degradations and what have you, but he also tries to puncture Abby’s balloon a little bit by telling her that there won’t be that much money when all is said and done thanks to taxes. I’m watching the clock at this point and waiting for the episode to end.
Okay, so the guy finally dies and I guess this was an okay scene. In my notes, I actually wrote down one thing that I liked about it, and that was the very final shot of it. See, Abs is by his bedside to watch him expire, and I think maybe the audience is supposed to be crying at this point, which is an absurd notion. The guy was just introduced at the head of the episode and I am not going to cry about him dying here, but I guess Donna Mills does a good job acting. I mean, she always does a good job acting (aside from that “Nooooooo” scene from the end of season two when her kids were kidnapped), so I might just be taking it for granted. But anyway, after the guy finally expires, I kinda liked the shot of him lying dead in the bed with Abs beside him and the way the camera pulled back slowly and sorta framed them.
Then there’s a twist ending where it turns out in his will, he left all the money to his wife. The only problem, of course, is that his wife has been dead forever. Abs tries to argue that the money was meant for her, that he just got confused because they looked so similar, but then Henry the butler is like, “Oh no, the will says the wife,” so Abs is left with nothing. Then she looks in a mirror and puts on that hat from the photo and we get a little stylistic flourish where her face becomes enclosed in that little circle before the screen fades to black, the way an old silent movie would end. It’s an okay little bit of style but it’s there to conclude an episode I had zero interest in, so I didn’t really care.
Okay, so I was about to apply my “episodes aired out of production order” theory to this episode, because who in their right mind would produce an episode this bad and boring after the genius of Best Intentions? So many wheels started spinning last week that I just couldn’t understand why the writers would put all that on pause for this terrible episodic storyline. However, my theory can’t be true because there is one bit of continuity maintained from our last episode. See, we get a scene where Laura comes over to the Avery house and is mad because Richard is there. She says how she calls to find out when he’ll be gone so she can go there when he’s not there, and then he tries to invite her to the party Abs is throwing and there’s some dialogue where Laura reiterates that they are, in fact, getting a divorce. Thanks to the inclusion of this one scene, I officially know that this episode is meant to be watched right after Best Intentions.
Oh yeah, and of course the fact that Larry Wilson (who, by the way, arrives at Karen’s doorstep at one point with a sweater wrapped around his neck, which prompted both My Beloved Grammy and myself to scream and start throwing tomatoes at the screen) will be back as Karen’s romantic interest in next week’s episode, so the writers are clearly introducing him in this episode as a plot function for next week. So, thanks to those two little details, we know that Silver Shadows is, indeed, meant to come in-between Best Intentions and Letting Go. What were they thinking?!
Also, I know that I rarely really talk about the airdates, but I have to note that there was a two week gap between the airing of Best Intentions and Silver Shadows. So just imagine being an at-home 1982 viewer and seeing the excitement of Best Intentions and then waiting two solid weeks for a new KL episode only to be faced with this episode. No wonder the third season is the lowest ranked of the whole series! You pull crap like that with the viewers, why would you expect them to keep tuning in?
However, there is good news, and that is the fact that, as far as I can recall, I really truly believe this is the last time we have to deal with this. I think after this episode, the writers never give us a one-off disposable episode again. I think the ending of Silver Shadows marks the end of the “Let’s introduce a story in this episode and then wrap it up by the end of the episode and never mention it again” era of KL, and you all know how excited I am to get to the full-on serialized soapy storytelling of season four and beyond. So knowing that this is gonna be the last time we deal with an episode like this does make it a little easier to take.
You know, I’ve been so resoundingly negative in this writeup that I almost feel guilty, as if I’m mistreating my best friend. But you guys surely know at this point how much I love KL, you surely know that it’s one of my favorite things in the world, and you all saw how much I came in my pants over last week’s episode, so you can understand that this episode just really irked me, yeah? You are gonna get plenty of gushing from me in the weeks and years to come, so maybe it’s good for you to see that I am capable of insulting an episode, and I’m gonna continue to do that just a bit more in my concluding thoughts.
Everyone get the drumroll ready, please, because I am officially declaring this the worst episode of KL ever, and when I say ‘ever,’ I do not just mean of the eps we’ve seen up to this point, I mean of the entire 344 episode run. I think this is the pits, the bottom of the barrel, as bad as the series could possibly get. I am remembering back to Land of the Free when I declared that the worst episode ever and said it never gets worse than that, but I was wrong, so wrong, and I want to send a wine and cheese basket to the writer of Land of the Free as an apology, because this episode is so much worse. It’s so unbelievably boring, a word I never use towards KL, and I do think its placement in the season is also a huge problem. If this was placed somewhere else in the season, maybe a little earlier in the run, I might give it more of a break. But coming off of Best Intentions, it’s painful to sit through this 48 minutes and I have never felt less invested in a KL episode. I think this is the first and hopefully only episode of KL I have actually hated.
But if that is so, then the good news is that it’s all uphill from here and, yes, next week’s episode will be a tremendous improvement. Stay tuned as we witness Karen finally coming to terms with Sid’s death and learning to move on, learning to let go (which they will say about ten thousand times in the episode) in our next episode up for discussion, Letting Go.