Episode Title: Acts of Love
Season 03, Episode 20
Episode 051 of 344
Written by Jeff Cohn
Directed by Harvey S. Laidman
Original Airdate: Thursday, April 22nd, 1982
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Karen and Laura visit Richard in the hospital where he is getting better. Val makes a romantic dinner for Gary, but he says he has a meeting with Abby and a client and he promised she'd baby-sit Olivia. Upset, Val takes Olivia and they drive into the mountains. They eat at a diner, but she forgot her wallet, so she waitresses to pay for the meal. A truck has overturned on the freeway, so they have to stay overnight. The diner owner kisses Val, but she says she can't sleep with him. Meanwhile, with Val away, Gary and Abby sleep together but he's consumed with guilt. Lilimae sees Gary's car at Abby's and waits up for him, but he doesn't come home. The next day, Val apologizes to Gary and says she'll be more lenient with his business. They hug, and Lilimae shoots Gary a look that could kill.
After the absolutely incredible television masterpiece that was John Pleshette’s brilliant, brilliant Night, how does the follow up episode compare? Well, actually Acts of Love does a surprisingly good job of keeping events flowing and stories percolating even if it’s not nearly the gut punch of intensity that Night was. While it’s maybe not a show stopper of an episode, I think we’ll find that there’s plenty of good stuff to talk about here, so let’s explore.
The Gary/Val/Abs love triangle was put briefly on hold last week, but now it’s back to the forefront, and after all this buildup that has lasted for nearly two full seasons, we are finally going to see it happen, or at least we think we are as the episode begins. See, in the thirty second preview we get a quick flash of Gary and Abs making out on a beach, and I was thinking, “Oh shit, is this the one where they finally do it?” I couldn’t remember, honestly, and while the thirty second preview got me all good and excited, let’s not forgot that we got a flash of them making out in the preview for Power Play a few eps back and that turned out to be a false alarm, just a quick make out before Gary called a halt to the proceedings. Having some prior knowledge from my first time watching the series of how this season would conclude and knowing that we only have three episodes until that finale, I had a strong feeling that this would be the one where Abby's powers of seduction finally win over Gary.
Acts of Love opens right away and just grabs you by the balls as soon as the opening credits are done. We are pretty much thrown right into a fight between Gary and Val, maybe one of their angriest, snarkiest fights yet. See, Gary is planning to run off to somewhere with Abs for yet another one of their business dinners, something that seems to be going on every day now. In this case, they’re meeting some rich white guy to hopefully invest some money in their methanol idea, and it’s not just the fact that Gary’s running off on Val, continuing to break their prior deal from Exposé, but he’s also turning Val into a babysitter by shoving Olivia at her and being like, “Yeah, watch her.” Make no mistake, Val loves Olivia and has a special bond with her because of all those baby-Lucy-being-stolen-from-her-weird-mommy-issues, but she is still rightfully annoyed to just be ordered to babysit Abby’s kid without any prior approval from herself.
In any case, we are expanding on that last shot of Exposé, that glorious little moment when Val realized that Gary was breaking their deal and her face got all cold and stoical and she delivered the letter to New York; you all remember that? In this case, Gary’s thoughtlessness has pushed her over the edge and she grabs Olivia and decides to take her on a Thelma and Louise style road trip. They hop in the car (and we get some hilariously bad rear screen projection that kept making me think of whenever Leslie Nielsen would drive his police cruiser on Police Squad!) and decide to go on a little trip. Olivia doesn’t want to go to Disneyland, which Val offers (and which made me remember that, yeah, the characters live in California and can just head out for Disneyland if they feel like it), and instead wants to go to, um, someplace. I’ve already forgotten what exactly it is Olivia requests to see, but in any case, it doesn’t matter, because she and Val get lost. The next time we return to the car and the bad rear screen projection, it’s night time and Val declares, “We’re lost,” to which Olivia has the hilarious witticism, “But we’re making great time!”
Anyway, Val and Olivia wind up in some diner run by this guy who keeps calling himself “The Kid.” His actual character name is Willie McCoy and he is played by Sonny Shroyer. I looked this guy up because he gets billed as a guest star in the episode's opening credits, so I figured he must be somebody. Well, he was in Forrest Gump and once I knew that I was able to place him (he’s the college football coach who says, “He must be the stupidest son of a bitch alive, but he sure is fast”) but it looks like he played “Enos” for 98 episodes of The Dukes of Hazzard. While I know this show is beloved by some people, I’ve never seen a single episode and don’t even really know what it’s about, so this doesn’t exactly help me go, “Oh yeah, it’s that guy.” In any case, I’m gonna assume that’s probably the role he’s most famous for and is probably why his name gets to be in the credits at the head of this episode.
I’m not sure I like this character. There’s kinda an arc to him this week in which he and Val do not get along at first, but then they sorta bond and eventually become something like friends. I’ll walk us through it, but suffice it to say that even by the end of this episode, I wasn’t sure I really liked or trusted this guy; there was just something about his folksy, down-home, country charm that I didn’t like and it rubbed me the wrong way. In any case, Val and him are certainly at odds with each other right away. Poor Val (POOR VAL!) is grumpy when she and Olivia arrive and all she wants is some food, but this guy’s doing the whole charming country guy thing and is like, “Hey, a country girl, we’ve got a lot in common!” Val’s like, “What we have is common is that we are hungry and you serve food, and that is all.”
After the meal, Val realizes that she made an uh-oh and forgot to bring her wallet with her when she left the house this morning. She tries to get the Dukes of Hazzard guy to take a personal check, but he won’t do it, citing house rules. Being a good honest girl, Val offers to wait tables for awhile, and he accepts. I feel kinda sorry for Olivia, who has to just hang out in this noisy diner with a bunch of rednecks while Val waits tables, but it’s also kinda fun to see Val slip so comfortably into waitressing (and we haven’t seen her do this since way way back in our very first Brief Dallas Interlude, Reunion: Part One) and it also gave me a little KL boner because it made me think of a certain storyline we’re going to be seeing with Valene come season six.
However, something else I noticed going on this week is a rather cinematic storytelling device used to demonstrate the two separate worlds that Gary and Val are occupying. While Val is in the midst of being a waitress and dealing with all these loud customers and their demands (which, by the way, she actually does very well; much like riding a bike, it seems like waiting tables is something you never forget how to do once you’ve learned it), we then cut to Gary and Abs at some fancy bar in wherever it is they went off to. There’s a real dichotomy at work here, you see, and it sorta runs throughout the episode, because we cut from the chaotic, noisy diner with Val to this nice, clean, reserved, richie-rich style bar where Gary and Abs are all dressed up in a nice suit and dress, waiting for the arrival of some big shot business guy. Gary and Val are spiritually beginning to separate away from eachother, starting to occupy different worlds, and this is a physical way to show that, and I thought it worked rather well.
Over here in the Gary and Abs storyline, they are awaiting the arrival of a Transmorpher business guy named Max Craig. This character is played by James Karen, who is one of those character actors who is simply in everything ever made (I note that he appeared in an episode of the KL ripoff Melrose Place), and just to prove that My Beloved Grammy can often have a sharper eye than myself, as soon as he wandered onscreen, she goes, “Wasn’t he on Dallas?” I shrugged and said, “Probably,” and when I did my research later, I discovered that yes, indeed he was on Dallas, and not too long after the airing of this episode, either. Looks like he appears in three episodes spanning 1982 to 1983, playing Elton Lawrence, and those eps were Barbecue Three, Mama Dearest, and The Reckoning.
Anyway, once the Transmorpher arrives, Abs goes to work with her shrewd business dealings and subtle verbal manipulations. She even pulls the Ewing Oil card, probably knowing that Dallas is currently the #1 show on television while poor KL is struggling at #43, by subtly implying that she and Gary are receiving financial backing from Ewing Oil and J.R. over in Texas. When the Transmorpher says, “Are you saying that Ewing Oil….” Abs interrupts and is like, “Well, I’m not saying anything, but….” This little trick works on the Transmorpher, who gets excited by the idea of big money and oil and what have you and decides he’d like to go into business with Abs and Gary (remember that if I gloss over the business related stories, it’s just because my poor little brain gets confused by these things and can’t follow them very well).
Okay, so Abs and Gary are in a mood for celebrating and decide to go for a nice nighttime walk on the beach. There is one quick scene that I actually didn’t care for, and I don’t know who to blame for it, but Gary and Abs start to sorta dance around and sing this stupid song that sounds very made up to me, something like, “I’m a mogul, you’re a mogul, he’s a mogul, wouldn’t you like to be a mogul, too?” Seriously, is this a real song? I did a little research to find out (and by “research,” I mean typing in these lyrics on Google before quickly giving up) and found nothing, so I can only assume that this stupid song is made up for the show, and rightfully so, because these lyrics suck (EDIT: HELPFUL COMMENTS LEFT ON MY BLOG TOLD ME THAT THIS IS FROM AN OLD DR. PEPPER ADVERTISEMENT). Now, this scene lasts less than one minute, so it’s stupid for me to focus so much on it and criticize it, but it was just one aspect of this ep I didn’t care for, because the song was dumb.
Like I said, we keep cross cutting from Gary and Abs back to Valene and Olivia. When we return to them, the diner has emptied out and closed down and poor, tired Olivia is sleeping with her head on the counter of one of the booths. Not exactly comfortable conditions for the poor girl (oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the reason Val and Olivia are even still here is because of some traffic accident on the highway that’s going to prevent them from being able to get back home for the entire night). Okay, so Val and Willie McCoy have a little fight here, a quick verbal exchange where he asks what’s been up her butt all night and why she came in so grouchy. I really liked J.V.A’s acting here, by the way, and it reminded me that I don’t really mention her acting too much, except for sometimes when I’m kinda mean and make fun of her for hamming it up a bit (flashback to Will the Circle be Unbroken?). I do this with both Gary and Val, by the way, where I just sorta assume that you readers know how much I love both of them and I sorta forget to make special mention of their acting and things they do which I appreciate. In this case, I just thought it was nice to see Val get mad and yell a bit, and I thought J.V.A did a good job of demonstrating that, while she’s yelling at this Willie guy, she’s not really mad at him, but rather at Gary. When Willie offers her a cozy room for the night, she says no and yells a bit about how she doesn’t like him or his stupid little diner and Bob Loblaw.
Anyway, it doesn’t take too long for Val to cool down a bit and change her mind. Sleeping with your head on a counter is lovely and all, but now Olivia is starting to sneeze every three seconds and Val is worried that she’ll come down with a cold and Abby will be mad. So, she swallows her pride and knocks on the door leading to Willie’s little house and he lets them come in to sleep for the night. Here the dichotomy continues to show its presence, by the way, because after Val and Willie visit in front of the fire for a few minutes and share stories, he tries to make a move on her and give her a kiss. In case you’re thinking that this sounds a little rapey, it’s not, so don’t worry. He leans in for that kiss, Val rather politely declines, and then he gives her some space. The reason I mention this is because at pretty much the exact some moment, Abs and Gary are frolicking on the beach, rolling around in the sand and making out passionately while the waves crash behind them. So while Gary is weakening and allowing Abby’s powers of seduction to work over him, Val still has faith in her marriage and her duties as a wife and declines Willie’s invitation to a roll in the hay.
After Abs and Gary make out on the beach for awhile, we have something of a repeat of their exchange from back in Power Play where Gary tries to back off and be like, “No, we shouldn’t screw; we just got excited from the big business deal.” Abs works him beautifully in this scene, being like, “I’m tired of being jerked around by you, Gary, I’m tired of going to the edge and then having you back off.” Well, her little speech clearly works, because a few minutes later they return to the cul-de-sac, enter her house, and play a message from Lilimae on her giant 1982 voicemail box (did they call it voicemail in 1982?). Basically, the message informs them that Val and Olivia will be gone all night but will return in the morning, and that’s all they need to hear to decide to finally go up to the bedroom and shag. Oh boy, what a moment, and I’m not just talking in terms of the storyline and all that buildup we’ve been experiencing, but also just in how it’s filmed. This is a stylish little scene, so let’s give the director (Harvey S. Laidman this week) some props for infusing this with some cinematic flair. Again, as with our prior episode, Night, by this point I was neglecting my notes and just sorta staring at the screen, but I definitely noted how he frames this shot with Abs in the foreground and Gary looming in the background, and then when they finally decide to start making their way to the bedroom, he sorta zooms into this creepy statue looking thing before doing a nice dissolve to a roaring fireplace over with Val and Willie.
Next time we see Gary and Abs, they are in her bed, which is a classic sex bed, by the way. Seriously, I want to have an adulterous affair in this bed, because it looks perfect. The sheets are definitely silk and they are this sorta hot pink color and you just know that rolling around naked in the sheets would feel absolutely divine. Abs asks how Gary is feeling and he says guilty (we’ll talk more about his guilt or lack thereof next ep) and they have a little exchange about what this roll in the sack means for them and so on and so forth.
I think we all knew this was gonna happen, but poor Lilimae is up late with insomnia, worrying about Val and wondering where Gary is. She’s walking through the house with, I think, a glass of milk, when she takes a quick peek outside and sees Gary’s car parked across the street, over at Abby’s house. Yup, that’s all she needs to see to know that something is up. After all, it’s gotta be past midnight at this point and yet Gary seems to be staying the night over at Abby’s. Lilimae ain’t no fool and she’s able to put two and two together.
Okay, we cut to the next day, where Val and Olivia are taking off from Willie’s little diner. I think this scene is supposed to be more moving than it actually is, mostly because I still didn’t like Willie at this point in the episode, but Val gives him a big hug before they take off and I think we’re supposed to infer that he gave her something of a self esteem boost or helped her to see that her problems with Gary can be worked out, something like that. Perhaps this would have more weight for me if I knew that Willie would be back for more episodes, but he won’t be; this is his one and only appearance on KL, so even though the writing was solid, I felt his character was kinda just there to be a plot device for Val and her feelings.
What a fabulous little ending scene we get this week, because when Val returns home she gives Gary a big hug and apologizes for the fight they had before, saying she’ll be more supportive and so on, and as they’re hugging, you can see that look of guilt just eating away on Gary’s face, and then we end on this great shot of Lilimae just glaring at him, staring him directly in the eyes as if to say she knows exactly what he was up to last night. Oh my goodness, how juicy.
While that’s the end of the episode proper and the end of the Gary/Val/Abs storyline for the week, I haven’t gotten around to a few other story beats in this ep, mostly involving Richard. I’m pleased to say that he hasn’t been shuffled offscreen after the events of last ep. He is put a bit on the back burner this week so we can focus on Gary and Val and Abs, but he’s still around and he still gets some good stuff. See, he’s now got himself checked into a hospital for rehabilitation, and Karen is nice enough to come and visit him early in the episode. This hospital looks rather cozy, by the way, and makes me want to have a little mental breakdown so I can stay at it. It’s also not a straightjacket type of place, nor is it like that ridiculous cartoon hospital that J.R. got stuck in during seasons thirteen and fourteen of Dallas (was anyone even watching at that point?). Instead, this looks like the kind of place that’s voluntary and that you can just sorta hang out in.
Anyway, Karen comes to speak with him and finds him setting some stuff up in his room. I noted with interest that Richard’s got a nice black and white photo of himself and Laura propped up on the mantle. Again, we’ve got some subtlety here, folks, because the photo is just there, sorta hanging out in the background during the scene. It never gets a big closeup or nothing, but the fact that Richard has hung it up shows where his priorities lie. I think he’s definitely still in love with Laura and, despite what happened last week, he still has some sort of hope that she will come back to him and they can be a family again. What Karen believes he really needs is a visit from Laura, if for no other reason than to lift his spirits. Now, if I recall correctly, Laura won’t be visiting him until next week, so we’ll just have to be patient and see how that turns out. In any case, I like how all this is unfolding, that after Richard’s mental breakdown we are not being treated to a bunch of over-the-top footage of him in some comic mental ward getting electroshock therapy or something like that. Instead, this plays out in a very KL way, more down to earth and realistic, and again I stress how much I enjoy Karen and Richard’s friendship, the way she’ll come to show him support during his most trying times.
That’s about all I got for this week. Yes, Kenny and Ginger are also in this episode and I think they might even have some dialogue, but who cares? Let’s just skip them and gets things wrapped up for the week. When I first sat down to write about Acts of Love, in my mind I was thinking of it as a step down from Night, but I don’t know if that’s entirely fair or accurate. Night was one of the most intense, exciting, and provocative episodes of the entire series, so I feel kinda sorry for any episode that has to come directly after it. But let’s remember that every episode simply cannot be that intense or else the audience would get an intensity overload and their heads would explode. With that in mind, I found a lot to appreciate about Acts of Love. It had cinematic flair that I appreciated, its storytelling structure did a good job of showing the emotional distance growing between Gary and Val, and it finally had Gary and Abs shag after nearly forty episodes of buildup, which was a very satisfying thing to see. It also does a good job of keeping everything moving, of propelling us onward towards that season finale and keeping the audience hooked. So while I think as we get further into the show and further away from this episode, I probably won’t think back and be like, “Omigod, Acts of Love, why that’s one of the greatest episodes ever!”, it was still really good and I found a lot to appreciate in it.
We’ve got two episodes left until we conclude season three, so let’s move right along to our penultimate episode of the season, China Dolls.