Episode Title: Living Dangerously
Season 03, Episode 22
Episode 053 of 344
Written by Ellis Marcus
Directed by Lorraine Senna
Original Airdate: Thursday, May 6th, 1982
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Richard tries to get his job back, and they call Laura to bring him home. While there, she sees a suicide note in the garbage, and decides to move back in. Val's publisher changes the name of her book to "Capricorn Crude" and hires Joe to be the editor. Val asks Gary to go to her publishing party, but he says no because he's mad about the book. At lunch, Karen and Lilimae see Abby and Gary coming out of an apartment together. Lilimae tells Gary she saw this and will tell Val if he won't go with her to the party. Gary agrees to go to the party, but that night he's at the apartment with Abby, who won't let him leave. At the party, Val's very upset about Gary not showing up. Karen leaves and Val sees her and follows. Karen goes to the apartment and bangs on the door until Gary and Abby finally let her in. The door is open and Val walks in and sees what's going on. She takes off for home where she packs. Gary has followed, but she won't let him in. As she gets back into her car, Gary tries to stop her, but she takes off. He runs down the road after her, yelling at her to come back.....
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s official, we’ve reached the final moments of KL season three and, by my definition, the conclusion of that first “era” in the pantheon of KL. Today we shall be discussing the final episode of season three, Living Dangerously. How does it stack up against our two previous season finales, Bottom of the Bottle: Part Two and Squeezeplay? How excited does this get me for season four? Let’s dive in and find out.
We open with Lilimae and Val walking along the docks. I feel like this is the first time we’ve seen characters “at the docks,” so to speak. The ocean has been a real character these last few weeks, what with Abs and Gary frolicking at the beach and then rolling around in the sand for a make out in Acts of Love, and now here we are this week with Lilimae and Val walking in front of the ocean. Lilimae is done playing coy with Val like she was last week, when she was sorta hinting around about the Gary/Abs affair; this week, she’s right down to business. She says, “Your husband is having an affair with Abby Cunningham right under your nose,” to which Val declares, “We don’t know that.” Now, I could see some interpreting this as Val being dumb, but I disagree. Despite what Val says, despite the fact that she hasn’t literally witnessed Gary inserting his penis into Abby’s vagina, she does know he’s having an affair. What we’re dealing with here is Val not quite ready to completely accept that fact just yet. I’m not gonna say she’s burying her head in the sand, just that she’s probably working out her feelings and is just not ready to accept it yet.
I’m tempted to say the same mindset is true for Karen, but I don’t know if that’s entirely accurate. See, when we first see Karen this week, she’s hanging out in the garage when Diana comes in and says, “Mother, I’m eighteen years old, I’m a grown woman, I’m gonna head off to college in the fall, so I wanna know, who is having an affair with who?” Oh yeah, and then she corrects herself and says, “Whom,” which made me smile a bit. Quick parlay here, but does Diana go off to college in the fall? As we know, summers don’t exist in the land of TV, so when we pick up for season four, it will be the fall, yet I feel like Diana is still gonna be hanging around. Do the writers de-age her? Does she go to community college? I’ll keep my eyes open and we’ll find out next season.
But anyway, Karen sorta tries to be discreet and is like, “Nobody’s having an affair.” This is what I was referring to, by the way. Karen, just like Val, does know that Abs and Gary are having an affair. The thing is that still nobody has physically seen concrete proof of this, aside from Lilimae spotting his car back in Acts of Love. So everyone on the cul-de-sac is sorta tip toeing around the issue, waiting to see what will happen.
Well, they don’t have to wait long, because around the middle point of this episode, we have the ladies who lunch, namely Laura, Karen, and Lilimae. They’re eating at a sexy outdoor restaurant and Lilimae appears to be enjoying the shit out of some lobster (it made me want to eat lobster right away). They’re chatting it up about Richard and Laura and all that when they witness Gary and Abs coming out of their little rendezvous hotel at pretty much the exact same time (well, there’s a gap of about two seconds between Gary walking out and Abs walking out). The two just enjoyed an afternoon shag (and I loved this scene because it begins with Gary walking into the room and Abs running into his arms like Carol Brady whenever Mike would come home from his architecture office) and now three of our ladies have official confirmation of what’s going on. Now we have a bit of an ethical dilemma: To tell Val or not to tell Val?
Well, what do you guys think? My Beloved Grammy and I discussed this a bit, the ethics of whether or not you tell your friend that their husband is having an affair. I am a believer that yes, you do, because you owe it to your friend to be honest with them, but I also understand why a person would be reticent to do so. It’s a very awkward situation, and perhaps the ladies are hoping that Gary will come clean pretty soon and tell Valene what’s really going on. I get the feeling that Karen, of all the girls, would be the one to tell Val directly, and I think maybe the only reason she doesn’t this week is because she’s giving Gary a small amount of time to do so himself.
There’s kind of a lot going on this week, and I’m not quite sure how to lay it all out, but I wanna also focus on what’s going on with Val and her book, which is a big part of the story this week. Okay, so she first brought up the book in Best Intentions, then it went on the back burner for a few eps, then it came back to the forefront for Exposé, when Gary put his foot down and said, “You are not publishing this book and that’s final!” Since then, the book has been building and building and we’ve been told that Val is working on getting it published, and that’s pretty much her story this week. She meets up with an editor that Uncle Joe knows and helps her get in touch with. This guy looks a lot like Stephen King, but actually his name is Burr DeBenning (pictured below) and I recognized him from A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I feel like we’re gonna be seeing a lot of folks on KL who were either in a Friday the 13th movie or a Nightmare on Elm Street movie or both. I think this is as simple as the fact that KL runs clear through the entire ‘80s and these classic horror films were also a staple of the ‘80s, usually with a movie coming out every year. If I do a quick think over it, we’ve already had Diana’s boyfriend from back in season one, in the episode called Courageous Convictions. That guy’s name was Kevin O’Brien and he was in Friday the 13th: Part III. After him, we had Bernie in One of a Kind and that actor was in Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (with Lar Park Lincoln!). Then, just a few weeks ago with Exposé, we had that Transmorpher guy who was also in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge. So that brings us to this week and this guy. I’ll try to keep track of this sorta stuff as we continue moving along the series.
But anyway, the Stephen King lookalike guy is presented as something of a minor jerk. In a classic example of KL subtlety, he’s not too much of a jerk, but he’s just jerky enough to feel realistic. After all, he is the big shot editor guy from New York and Valene is just the naïve country girl, so you can understand why he might be a bit dismissive of her opinion. But the gist of the material between The Dream Child guy and Val this week involves disagreements over how to handle her novel. See, he wants a few immediate changes. Change one: He wants the title changed from A Family in Texas to Capricorn Crude. He says how Val’s title sounds boring and I think he uses a big, multi-syllable word, but if he does, I forgot to put it in my notes and I can’t remember what the word was (I think it might have been “parochial”). Change two: He wants to give the book a big, flashy, sexy cover, something like a huge erect penis ejaculating on a woman’s chest. Okay, maybe it’s not quite that bad, but instead he’s got some shirtless hunk standing in front of a lady who is, I think, sprawled out on a bed or something. In any case, it’s all very lurid and trashy and Val is not pleased with it. Change three: He wants to make sure and separate the “fictional” characters in this book (with such hilarious pseudonyms as “Mary Sue” and “C.R.”) from their real life counterparts, as he doesn’t want the publishing company to get sued by the Texas Ewings.
My Beloved Grammy brought up a good point as we were watching this, something I hadn’t even thought about. Since after I start to get deeper into KL, I sorta start to forget about whatever would be going on over on Dallas at the same time, I wasn’t even thinking about this, but she pointed out that Valene’s book and all this drama over here is not even ever mentioned on Dallas, and I’m pretty sure she’s right. Now, minor spoiler alert, but we will be seeing two more crossovers in season four where Dallas characters come into KL (Larry Hagman is in two and in the second one he is joined by Patrick Duffy), and, if I remember correctly, it’s specifically because of Val’s book. However, over on the Dallas series, I don’t think they ever mention Val’s book. Do I care? Well, not especially. Like I said, at this point I’m just becoming totally gripped with KL and, after those last two crossovers that we’ve got next season, the shows really do sorta stop mentioning each other nearly as much. However, it is a good point she brought up, and perhaps a bit strange that none of this drama is allowed to seep into the parent series at all.
Okay, so Val’s getting all prepared for some big book party publishing extravaganza that’s happening later in the ep. I really like all this stuff and am excited for where it’s leading. I feel like we are slowly but surely watching Val grow and evolve, and that’s what excites me. We got our first baby steps of this back in mid-season-one when she decided to go to school and get her G.E.D. and all that. This started to evolve more in season two when she took writing classes and The Other Paul Rudd got sorta obsessed with her (I still can’t figure out if he truly liked her writing or was just hoping to get a little rapey as part of a petty revenge towards Gary). Now we are seeing the next steps in her evolution as she takes the necessary actions to become an official, published writer, and if I recall correctly, this will just keep growing and changing over the course of the series.
Gary is grumpy and he and Val are fighting a lot, so he doesn’t want to go to the book party. He reminds her that he was against her book from the start and that he doesn’t want to deal with a bunch of reporters probing him for gossip on the Texas Ewings and asking, “Is J.R. really like this?” and so on. I guess he has a point, but we all know he’s just being a bit of a jerk here. In any case, Lilimae gets a fabulous moment this week where she gets to be a bit manipulative and order Gary to go to the book event lest she expose his torrid affair with Abs. I loved watching this and seeing how cute Lilimae is even while threatening Gary. She’s like, “Oh, I was out to lunch with Karen and Laura and we saw two butterflies leaving some hotel room after having sex with eachother.” Gary gets sorta quiet and is like, “Karen and Laura saw this?” Oh God yes, how juicy this scene is, and then Val walks in and Lilimae is like, “Great news, Gary’s gonna go to the book thing!” Well played, Lilimae; J.R. himself would be proud.
Sometimes I like to discuss the entirety of one plotline and then move on and discuss a new one, but this week, I’d like to hop around a bit and talk about what’s going on over at the Avery house. See, Richard has officially left his sanitarium and now he and Laura are sorta hanging around together but still living in separate homes. However, about midway through the ep, Laura gets a call from Richard’s old job and is told that Richard is there, harassing Parkhurst, and could she please come and take him away.
Well, this was a lovely little scene that I didn’t remember one bit. See, Richard is hanging out in Parkhurst’s office (and let’s take a moment to reflect that this is the last time we’ll get to see John Lehne in the hilarious, pipe-smoking role of Parkhurst, so a moment of silence for this small character who brought me such joy and hilarity). When the scene starts, Richard is basically begging for his job back, telling Parkhurst how he could very well sue him for firing him and so on and so forth, and then Laura walks in. What I liked about this scene was the rather cool and unexpected way that Parkhurst winds up looking like the joke in this scene. Richard should look like the jerk because he is so pathetically attempting to reclaim a job that clearly doesn’t want him, right? But then Laura comes and says, “Richard, you don’t want to work for this man,” and she says it in such a derogatory, off-handed way, not even necessarily meaning to insult Parkhurst, that it somehow makes it even more of a burn and you know it had to sting Parkhurst a little to hear it. She’s like, “Look at him, he has a ridiculous moustache and he’s always smoking this goofy pipe and he’s just silly, Richard, can’t you see that?” Richard does see that, so the two quietly leave the office, yet somehow it feels like a small victory has been achieved here.
When they return to the house, Richard wanders off to do something and then Laura finds a little piece of paper crumpled up and thrown into the wastebasket. We don’t get to see what this piece of paper is or what it says, but the music swells, so we know it must be something important. In our next scene, she presents this piece of paper to some of her lady friends and it turns out to be a suicide note, something about how Richard has purchased another gun and he’s planning to use it on himself because his life sucks so much. Laura has a rather telling bit of dialogue here where she says that sometimes she feels very sorry for him and very protective of him but sometimes she becomes convinced that he planned all this out well in advance. I don’t think she’s crazy for thinking this a possibility; after all, Richard has lied to her quite a bit throughout the series up to this point, mostly in season two when he was carrying on shagging Abs in hot tubs throughout the course of a working business day. So is he not capable of planning something kind of advanced like this suicide note as a way of getting Laura back into the house with him? In any case, the note is enough for Laura to decide that, yes, she will move back in with Richard, setting us up nicely for their relationship come season four.
Meanwhile, at the big book party, Val is having a real problem with the specific ethics of how she’s supposed to deal with all these reporters and their questions. She rightly points out that her editor is being contradictory, that on one hand he wants to make sure the book is clearly fiction and not based on people from Dallas, yet at the same time he is really feeding that notion to the reporters, getting them all excited and full of gossip. What’s a girl to do? The ending of this particular storyline comes when Uncle Joe tries to talk to the editor guy and basically turns into Val’s new editor, which is probably going to work out better for her.
At the same time as all this is going on, Gary and Abs are, you guessed it, shagging. In this case, we return to them post shag, lying there and decompressing from the throes of their passion. When Gary realizes what time it is, he is all like, “Oh crap, I gotta get to the book party thing!” As he tries to get dressed, Abs playfully holds his pants away from him and is all like, “No, you’re not going anywhere.” Again, she acts playful while doing this, but I think we all know what she’s up to. She wants Gary all to herself, and I think she wants to be caught as soon as possible so that Val will get rid of Gary and Abs can have her all to herself. Well, that’s my theory, at least, but why else would she be so persistent with him and manipulate him into staying here at the hotel rather than go to the party? In any case, it works, because Gary decides to stay here with Abs and enjoy another shag.
We are a mere minutes away from the end of the episode, and the tension is building up as Lilimae and Karen repeatedly try to reach Gary by the telephone. No answer no matter how many times they try, so Karen is like, “I know where they are, and I’m gonna go find them.” This part confused me a smidge, and I’ll explain why in a second. Basically, Gary and Abs are lying in their sex bed when Karen knocks on the door and is like, “I know you guys are in there, so open the door.” They do so, but before Karen has time to give them a lecture, Val comes walking in right behind her and sees the two naked bodies next to each other and gets her official confirmation about what’s going on. With this, she turns around and storms out.
The thing that confused me is how Valene wound up here. Was I not paying close enough attention at this point? The reason I’m confused is because, as I said, Gary and Abs are at their sex hotel; they are not at Gary’s house or at Abby’s place, so how does Val just sorta wander in? My conclusion is that she saw Karen leaving the book party and decided to follow her. Makes sense, right? I’m gonna pretty much stick to this theory because it seems the most sound to me. In any case, let’s move on.
The last scene of this ep is a big one, not just for the ep or for the season but really for the series as a whole. Valene speeds home, runs inside, starts packing up a little suitcase while Gary frantically bangs on the front door (he’s been getting pretty good at this). Then Val comes bursting out with her suitcase and hops in her car to drive away, but as she begins to accelerate, Gary chases after her and is like, “We can work this out, I’m sorry, I can explain, I’ll buy you a delicatessen in stainless steel!” Well, this doesn’t work, and instead a teary eyed Val continues to speed away, leaving Gary all alone on the street, screaming her name over and over again. Then we get a lovely, very cinematic pan up into a God’s-eye-view of the entire cul-de-sac before our “Executive Producers” credit and a slow fade to black.
Big moment, guys, and I’m gonna get into some SPOILER TERRITORY here, so skip over this section if you don’t want to know anything about the future. Basically, the reason this is a huge moment for the show is that this is not a minor spat that Gary and Val will quickly recover from at the start of season four. No, this is 1982 and Gary and Val are splitting and they are going to be split for nine years, until they finally remarry in the series’ 300th episode in 1991. So it’s a big moment in that regard, especially since Gary and Val are a couple that, for me at least, when they are apart I feel they are at their most interesting. The next nine years are going to have some of my absolute most favorite moments between the two, and I feel their chemistry and their acting is at its best during this period when they manage to find something of a super respectful friendship all while remaining apart, and I’m very eager to get to this period of the series.
Secondly, according to my own little designation of the separate eras of KL, this marks the end of our first era, what I said was the first-three-seasons “domestic” era of the series when things are more episodic and the problems are a little bit more middle class and regular. With season four, we will be moving into the second era, what I think of as the “super soap” era of the series and which I designate as lasting from seasons four through seven. Now, some might disagree with my little separation here, and I shall discuss that when we get to season four, but for now, I think this final scene marks, shall we say, the end of the beginning, the final moments of that first three seasons period of the series, represented onscreen by the separation of Gary and Val, the couple who we began the series by following.
But moving on from all that big picture stuff, how is Living Dangerously? Quite excellent, if I do say so myself, and I repeat that this season really kicked itself into high gear for the last five or six episodes and got super exciting and awesome. I really loved the shit out of Squeezeplay, our season two finale, but I think I liked this one even better, perhaps because I’m simply excited to dive into season four and meet some of my favorite characters that we haven’t been introduced to yet. But this episode just flew by, feeling really fast and exciting and full of character moments.
Stay tuned, because before we move on to the glory that will be season four, I shall be posting my “Reflection on Season Three” essay, examining how this season played upon a second viewing. Better? Worse? Do I still maintain this is the weakest season of the series? On Thursday I will answer all those questions and more, so I shall talk to you then.