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Thursday, September 15, 2016
KNOTS LANDING Episode 055 of 344: DANIEL
Episode Title: Daniel
Season 04, Episode 02
Episode 055 of 344
Written by John Pleshette
Directed by Joseph B. Wallenstein
Original Airdate: Thursday, October 7th, 1982
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Joe warns Mack that Karen is using the court transcripts to try and go after Frank and Roy herself. Karen asks Wayne to negotiate a parts deal, and he goes to Frank and Roy, who set him up with their front men Marshall and Angelo. J.R. has one of his companies buy Val's publishing company. J.R. also meets with Abby, who will only give him the rest of the book if he'll tell her about Jock's will. J.R. tells her that Gary's coming into millions, and it isn't dependent on Val. Laura's water breaks. Richard rushes her to the hospital, but the car goes off the road and Laura gives birth in the car. The baby isn't breathing, but Richard saves him by giving him mouth-to-mouth. They name their new son Daniel.
You know, it sure feels like awhile since we’ve had a crossover from parent series Dallas to KL, doesn’t it? Season three had two very boring Brief Dallas Interludes in which Gary crossed over and paid a visit to Texas (The Split and Five Dollars A Barrel, in case you had forgotten), but we didn’t have any instances of our Dallas friends coming to visit KL at all during the third season. In fact, our last crossover was near the end of season two with Designs (airing March 26th, 1981), and that was episode 030. Now here we are at episode 055, so it’s been a 25-episode span with no crossing over. I only note all this and ask you readers/viewers to really cherish this because it’s one of the last times we are going to see a crossover. A few episodes after this, we will have one more crossover with J.R. and Bobby both appearing in the episode New Beginnings, and then that’ll be all she wrote and we’ll never be seeing characters from the parent series crossing over ever again, so cherish it while you still can!
Indeed, J.R. Ewing was our last crossover back in Designs and now here he is again, presumably arriving in town for something to do with Valene’s impending novel. In fact, our very first scene of the episode is J.R. riding in the back of a limo, flipping through the pages of Val’s manuscript and laughing his head off. We get the sense that he’s not annoyed or angry by this book, but rather amused, as he just keeps giggling to himself, mumbling things like what a clever writer Val is.
Before getting to what’s going on with the other characters, I’d like to mainly focus on J.R.’s visit and what he’s up to this week. See, he arrives on the cul-de-sac and, thanks to Richard, who comes to say hello (despite putting all these eps under a microscope, I cannot for the life of me remember if Richard and J.R. have interacted at all in the previous three eps that J.R. appeared in; can anyone else help me out here?). Anyway, this was a fun little bit because Richard clues J.R. in about what’s going on with Gary and Val’s big breakup, which is information J.R. is not privy to (this actually lead to My Beloved Grammy making the observation that they almost never talked about the events of KL over on Dallas, aside from a few brief mentions like when J.R. had been shot and Gary came to visit and discussed his alcoholic bender from the Bottom of the Bottle eps). Naturally, J.R. decides to have a little fun by paying Val a visit and deliberately making her uncomfortable.
Ah, what a lovely little scene. I think perhaps what I’ll miss the most after we lose the Dallas crossovers is seeing Hagman and J.V.A. acting together, because the tension in the air is always palpable whenever the two are onscreen together. In this instance, even though J.R. knows perfectly well that Gary is not living at the house, he’s all like, “Gee Val, where’s Gary?” and acts hilariously concerned while Val has to awkwardly explain to him that her and Gary are splitting up. Oh, how wicked of him; he knows damn well that the couple has split, but he just forces Valene to say the words out loud to him just to make her nervous and sad and because he’s J.R. and he’s so very wicked and I love it so.
Not too long after this, J.R. gives Abs a call and asks when she’d like to get together for a meeting. Since Gary is in the room while Abs talks on the phone, she makes up a fake name for who she is talking to (I can’t remember which name she picks, however) before being like, “Oh, lunch tomorrow? Okay, sure, what time?” Next time we see her, she is indeed lunching with J.R., in his fabulous penthouse hotel suite (that I totally want to live in, by the way). This is a good, important scene in which a lot of key information is conveyed, plus it also provides some of the last bits of linkage between the two series as we see the events of Dallas will play into the storylines over here on KL, something that gets rarer and rarer before disappearing completely as we make our way deeper into the series.
Okay, so we learn that while Abs sent J.R. some of Val’s manuscript (which we know, as we witnessed her doing it last week with A Brand New Day) she has left out several important chapters as a way of sorta blackmailing J.R. for information on Jock’s will. She wants to know if Gary is coming into a lot of money and what, if anything, Valene has to do with it. Well, after some lovely interplay between Hagman and Donna Mills (and, again, I remind you of how much I enjoy watching these two perform together and the sizzling chemistry they share), J.R. tells her that, yes, Gary is going to be coming into a lot of money very soon, and that “Val’s got nothing to do with it.”
I wanna talk for a moment about Abby’s intentions here and the question of whether or not she truly loves Gary. Now, at least at this exact juncture in the series, I personally believe that Abs does love Gary. I believe that as soon as she moved onto the cul-de-sac back in Hitchhike: Part One, she has had her eyes set on Gary. I also believe that her season two affair with Richard was merely a distraction while she bided her time and waited for the marriage of Gary and Val to disintegrate. I don’t think Abs views stealing Gary away from Val as a mere sexual conquest or some sort of challenge she set for herself; I believe that from her first day in the neighborhood, that was her long term, big goal, and I believe that she loves Gary not because he’s a Texas Ewing from a rich oil family, but because she just loves him.
Therefore, what to make of her interest in the reading of Jock’s will and the potential for Gary to come into millions of dollars? Why don’t you tell me what you think, my lovely readers? If Gary were to inherit absolutely nothing from Jock’s will, do you believe Abs would stick around and stand by him and become his loving wife? Or, do you believe her interest in Gary stems from the possibility of him having a ton of money? Leave comments or write in to tell me what you think! My personal opinion is that she would want to have Gary with or without the money, but that she would certainly prefer him with a lot of money, if given the choice. Another real interesting thing to note about this scene is that J.R. and Abs strike up a bit of a deal involving Abs promising to “keep Gary out of Dallas.” J.R. says how when Gary was married to Val, there was no threat because Val would never want to return to live in Dallas, but now that Gary is single again, he might be wanting to come back and join the power play over on the parent series. So, in exchange for Abs promising to keep Gary away, he gives her the secret information she so desires about the impending reading of the will (and I suppose you could say Abs makes good on her promise, since we only have three more Brief Dallas Interludes throughout the course of the entire series).
Oh yes, and one last thing that I found striking and would like to note: We get a lovely little backstory from J.R. to Abs about how Gary is just a born loser and can’t ever seem to shake that quality. I don’t know if this story is ever reiterated in another KL ep or even in an ep of Dallas (I’m pretty sure it isn’t) but I gotta say I loved the story and thought it helped us to further understand Gary and his backstory. J.R. talks about how when Gary was young, he really wanted a motorcycle (Hagman pronounces it as “motor-sickle,” which I really enjoyed), so he busted his butt working hard and saving up money and reading all the motorcycle magazines and what have you, eventually reaching a point where his father was very proud of him and decided to buy him a motorcycle, only for Gary, in all his excitement, to immediately drive it right into the glass window of the motorcycle ("motor-sickle") dealership.
J.R. uses this story as a way to illustrate what a joke Gary is, but we viewers can take the story in many other ways. I think this story shows that, when Gary sets his mind to it, he really can do anything he wants to. At the same time, it shows us that sometimes he gets too excited by something and winds up making mistakes because of that. The excitement of having the motorcycle leads to him immediately crashing it, much like the excitement of a torrid romance with Abs has lead to the disintegration of his marriage with Val. We’ve also seen him get way too excited way too quickly over, say, a potential methanol deal back in Power Play. While J.R. thinks this story is proof that Gary is just a loser, I see the story in an even richer way, as an illustration of both his good qualities as well as his bad ones.
Aside from these scenes, J.R. only really has one other major sequence in this ep, and it’s near the end, where he’s again shown riding in his limo, this time talking on a sexy 1982 car-phone. In this scene, we realize that thanks to a nice big check he wrote, he has now had one of his many companies buy Val’s publishing company and, presumably, has gained rights to do whatever he wants with her book. I predict we will have to wait until his next crossover, New Beginnings, to find out exactly what he’s got up his sleeve, but watching this episode by itself, my prediction is that he will not simply halt the publication of her novel. Instead, I think he has bought the publishing company out so that, when the book is released, he can play it off like, “Isn’t this a cute bit of fiction?” After all, if J.R. Ewing himself endorses a book, then that book couldn’t possibly be an exposé of all the Texas Ewings’ wheelings and dealings, now could it? My conclusion is that J.R. is gonna let the book be published but then use his power and clout to enforce the idea that the book is complete and total fiction.
So that does it for J.R. this week, but obviously we have a ton of other characters to focus on, as well. I want to note that three of our main cast members sat out last week’s episode, Kenny and Ginger (no great loss there) as well as Laura (a great big loss). Fortunately, Laura is back in the picture this week in a big way (unfortunately, Kenny and Ginger are also here, but they don’t get a big story or waste too much of our time by being onscreen all that often, so let’s just ignore them the same way the series tends to). Anyway, when we last left off with Laura, she was still very pregnant (and, in case I forgot to mention it, Constance was indeed pregnant in real life with her own baby). Well, this week she’s still pregnant, and when we first catch up to her and Richard, they are driving home from the hospital, where they went because Laura was convinced she was having contractions and about to give birth. Richard tells her they were Braxton Hicks contractions and has to explain what those are to Laura, who hasn’t watched much E.R since the show still hasn’t been created yet (I watched a ton of E.R so I knew exactly what Richard was talking about as soon as he said “Braxton Hicks”). In any case, it’s good to see we are getting back to some Richard and Laura, that couple I could just watch all day.
This episode officially establishes that Richard and Laura are back together, even living in the same house and sleeping in the same bed again. On the one hand, when you pause to think about it, it should feel ridiculous that we are only four episodes away from Night, in which Richard held Laura hostage with a gun for several hours, and now here they are living together again. Like I said, it should feel ridiculous that this only happened a few episodes ago, but it doesn’t. There’s something about the KL writing that is just so good, so subtle, so understandable, and something about the way these characters are written and interact with each other that just makes all this play very well. Again, on any other nighttime soap opera of the 1980’s, a storyline like this could be and probably would be very campy and silly and over-the-top, and the speed at which things happen would be part of the campy fun. Here with KL, I hardly stop to question it because I believe in the characters and I believe the characters are behaving true to themselves and not serving as mere functions of the plot the way they so often did over on Dallas.
Another thing to note in this episode is that Richard has already returned to being that almost unconsciously controlling man in the way he speaks to Laura and subtly demeans her, probably without even knowing he’s doing it. Everything we’ve seen of Richard and Laura thus far has brought us to very rich questions and thoughts about the behaviors of people. Can people really change or are they just inherently, at their core, designed and meant to be a certain way? It wasn’t so long ago that we were watching Best Intentions, in which Richard declared that he was finally hearing the way he speaks to Laura for the first time and that he was going to stop doing that, but now here we are with Daniel and he’s already back to doing it again. A lot of his degrading comments are expressed through his belief that Laura should go through natural childbirth and Laura’s staunch refusal to do so. She is going to have an epidural and that’s all there is to say about that.
Laura’s backstory and life before the series was created are always left somewhat vague, and I kinda dig it cuz it gives her some mystery. We have established that her mother died when she was twelve years old and that she pretty much had to take care of her father for many years, until Richard came along, at which point she started to take care of Richard. We saw her father just one time, way back in season one with Courageous Convictions, and we heard him on the phone a few eps back (but it sure didn’t sound like the same guy at all), but that’s it. This week we get a smidge more of a glimpse into her past, when we learn that she is terrified of natural childbirth because her mom drilled into her head so much the horrors or giving birth, that it was God’s punishment to women (Jesus!) and that it’s a pain so awful nobody can possibly imagine it, and so on and so forth. A little later in the ep, Karen and Laura have a pretty nice talk in which Karen assures her that it’s not so bad, that she had three kids herself and did it the natural way and that she’s glad she did. Personally, I’m on Team Laura in this debate, and if I was a woman and was ever unfortunate enough to become pregnant, you can bet that I would have the epidural and I would most certainly not endure natural childbirth (of course, if I was a woman and I got pregnant, I would immediately have an abortion because nothing in the world terrifies me more than small children).
While I’m speaking about Laura, I do wanna take a moment to mention that this episode unveils our new Jason Avery, technically our third Jason of the series (he was played by Justin Dana in Pilot before morphing into Danny Gellis in Community Spirit). Anyway, now Jason is being played by Danny Ponce (that’s how he’s always credited on KL, but his IMDb names him Luis Daniel Ponce). Looking over his IMDb, I was immediately surprised to find out he’ll only be in ten KL eps, but it appears to be over a span of about three years, as he’ll make his last appearance in 1985 with Until Parted by Death, at which point, I think, Jason morphs yet again. I was also surprised when I took a peek at his IMDb and saw him listed for the last two episodes of Happy Days, and I am fairly certain that he played the kid who Fonzie wound up adopting at the end of the show (I’m stating this with absolutely no research conducted, so if I am wrong, please write in and yell at me). I also note that he was in the main cast of the TV series Valerie. I think this guy might actually be the most prolific of all the actors to play Jason, as he’s definitely got quite a few credits to his name. One thing I have to note is that he looks exactly the same as our previous Jason, so much so that if I hadn’t known in advance that Jason would be going through a morph, I would not have even questioned it when we see Jason this week; he looks precisely the same as predecessor Danny Gellis, so good on the casting directors for making it a smooth morph.
But enough about Jason, who remains a non-entity for pretty much the entire time he’s with the show. Val has a little book party late in the episode, which of course Laura and Richard are nice enough to attend, but it is during this book party that Laura’s water breaks. This is another very KL moment that I enjoyed, because the breaking of the water is presented very undramatically. No exciting music plays or swells, nothing like that, instead Laura is just like, “Richard, we need to go,” and when Richard says how they can leave in a half hour, she says, “My water just broke.” She certainly says it in a tone like, “Hey, this is a big deal, let’s go,” but it’s not super duper over-the-top, and it probably would be over on Dallas.
The same holds true for the entire birthing sequence, which does not go precisely as planned. Instead of making it safely to the hospital, Richard and Laura wind up driving down some scary deserted back road and crashing the car into a fence. Due to being stranded out in the middle of nowhere with no form of communication (I’m a little surprised that a former big shot like Richard doesn’t have a car phone, but whatever), Laura is forced to give birth in the back of the car in a scene that I sorta half-loved. My memory had made this scene much stronger than it actually is, and I think that’s because the acting from Constance and The Plesh is so strong that I allowed my love for them to overshadow some shortcomings within this actual sequence.
I will pay the scene a big compliment and say there is legitimate suspense about whether or not this baby is going to live or die. At first, Laura sorta drifts off and refuses to push the baby out despite Richard’s insistence that she do so. Constance plays this part well, because it doesn’t come off as her being somehow vindictive towards Richard, but rather that she’s kinda lost in her own head right now. Instead of pushing, she is just sorta staring off into the distance and talking to herself, verbalizing all the horrible things her mother told her about childbirth. However, the baby does eventually come out only for Richard to announce that it’s not breathing. At this point, Laura starts to give a prayer to God to not let her baby die, and I really dug this. You don’t really see religious stuff explored too much on network TV, but this little bit alerts us that Laura is a believer in God and she even starts to do that, like, prayer thing that’s famous (the one that starts, “Hail Mary, full of grace;” quick reminder that I am not exactly a big churchgoer so I don’t really know any of this stuff). In any case, her prayers pay off because after a few seconds of Richard giving mouth-to-mouth to the baby, we hear the baby start to cry and we know he’s okay.
Like I said, the acting here is great, and I did feel legit suspense about the fate of the baby; I think a first time viewer would certainly believe the baby’s life is at risk (particularly since night time soap land loved to kill off the babies before they had a chance to be born or two seconds after they were born), so it works on that level. What’s my problem with the scene? Eh, I suppose it’s just that it’s such a TV birth. When the baby is finally unveiled, Richard’s already got him draped in a blanket and of course the blanket is completely white and not, you know, super red and bloody the way it probably would be if this had just occurred. Same with Richard’s hands, which look like he just washed them thoroughly while singing the alphabet to himself just a few seconds ago. Also, when Richard is giving mouth-to-mouth, we don’t actually get to see the baby, just sorta the backside of the obviously fake doll baby that The Plesh is acting with. I suppose blood and goo and placental fluid weren’t exactly in style on 1982 network TV, but I kinda expect KL to keep it a little more realistic than this, and seeing this birth in the backseat of someone’s car, which should be really nasty and bloody and messy, portrayed so bloodlessly and in such a television way sorta irked me.
Best thing about the scene? The entire range of emotions Constance portrays in her Laura character. Probably the most telling thing for me is the anger she finally lets out at Richard while she’s in the throes of her pain, sorta chastising herself and saying, “I never should have moved back in with you; what was I thinking?” She also throws out a comment about “Guns and suicide notes” that call back to the events of the ending of season three. We see that Laura is doubting her own choice to move back in with Richard and that, perhaps, she even believes he manufactured this little car crash as a way to force her to do natural childbirth. This calls back to a comment she made back in Living Dangerously when she confessed that she sometimes believes Richard has plotted and planned out everything involving his little mental breakdown right down to the suicide note she found in the trash. Oh yeah, and at the end of the scene, the couple agree on the titular name of Daniel for their new son, so there you go.
I feel like I’m kinda jumping all over the place this week, because Laura giving birth is actually the final scene of the episode, and we even run our ending episode credits over a super cute picture of Constance with her real-life son (who was actually named Daniel in real life, by the way), but I still haven’t talked about two other important plots this week, those belonging to Karen and Val. Who to talk about first? Hmmm, I’ll go with Val.
This week, the wheels continue to spin towards Val’s book going to publication. I feel like people are talking a lot about Capricorn Crude even though it hasn’t even been published yet, but I suppose it’s the gossip factor regarding it probably being a Ewing tell-all book. Suddenly Val is finding herself surrounded by a lot of gossipy people. In all honesty, the Val’s book story is blurring a bit in my memory (reminder that My Beloved Grammy always watch one disk of eps per visit, and there’s usually five eps on a disk, so sometimes they start to blur and I do apologize for that). The basic gist of Val’s story this week is that she’s starting to get in over her head regarding the whole book thing, not knowing how to deal with the gossip and all the questions people throw at her. Indeed, at her book party, some old woman asks her, “Tell me the truth; this is about the Ewings in Texas, isn’t it?” and she has to sorta avoid the question.
Honestly, Val’s stuff isn’t all that interesting to me this week, so forgive me for seeming blasé about it, but I’m ready to move on to Karen, who’s storyline involving the mobsters and her personal investigation into Sid’s death continues to gain steam. This week she is carefully going over the gigantic court transcripts that Mack gave her in A Brand New Day, building her own personal case against the mobsters. I note with real interest that Roy Lance returns this week, and not just that, but it’s actually the same actor! Season two was a bit of time ago, and I honestly didn’t recognize Roy this week and assumed that he had been recast. After all, the last time we saw him was over a year ago, right? It wouldn’t have surprised me if the producers had just hired some new guy and not expected the audience to notice, but when I took a glance at the episode’s IMDb page, I see that it’s the same actor, Steven Hirsh, who was first featured back in Chance of a Lifetime and will be back for his final appearance next week with Svengali. I’m very pleased that the same actor is here from back in season two, as that shows a surprising attention to detail that I really wouldn’t have expected.
This week, Karen and Mack have another one of their super cute arguments, something we will see regularly throughout the course of the series. I love Karen and Mack arguments, by the way, because they’re almost always infused with a nice dose of humor to keep things light; it never feels like the two are going to claw each other’s eyeballs out, but rather that they are just two forceful people who want their opinions heard. In this instance, Mack thinks Karen is getting into dangerous waters and he wants her to give him the court transcripts back. At first she refuses and he threatens to arrest her, but even this development plays out in a really cool way. It’s not like, “I’m gonna arrest you if you don’t do what I say!” It’s not like that, it’s more like he is a public defender and he does have a job to do and he will arrest Karen if she gives him no other choice. So, about halfway through the episode, Karen gives back the transcripts and even makes a movie reference that I appreciated, when she tells Mack she realized that she is a single mother of three kids and “not Michael Corleone.” This hardly concludes the storyline, obviously, and we have a few more eps in store for us in which Karen deals with who’s responsible for her husband’s death.
What other developments this week? Hmmm, well Abs buys Gary an apartment, which I suppose is important. It’s a pretty quaint and modest little place, an apartment I had completely forgotten ever existed on this show (by the way, at this exact moment I am waiting to see when Gary and Abs move into their sexy Beach House, which is one of my favorite KL locations and, if I recall correctly, only exists within the confines of the fourth season of the series). She tells him the apartment is for when he needs to get away from it all, including herself. I don’t know if this is a genuine, thoughtful gift to Gary, a truthful expression that she knows she can be a lot to handle sometimes, or if she is just trying to keep their relationship happy now that she officially knows that Gary will be coming into big money pretty shortly. Personally, I’ll go for a mix of the two options, because Abs is a complex character and she is capable of many different behaviors based upon many different motivations.
Before I completely wrap up my thoughts for the ep, I wanna take a moment to note that this is the last time The Plesh ever writes a script for KL, and so I am a little bittersweet about that fact. Honestly, I almost wish that his last two episodes weren’t placed right here at the very start of the season, that they could have spaced them out a bit so I would have the delight near the middle and ending of the season of starting an episode and saying, “Oh yay, The Plesh wrote this one!” Instead, Daniel puts a bow on his writing contributions to the series. One thing that makes this fact easier to take is that The Plesh is not completely finished being a creative force behind the scenes, as he is going to direct five episodes of the series in the future, actually at a point where he is no longer a main cast member on the show. His first directorial job will be the 1983 episode Homecoming, and then he directs three episodes in 1989 (Mrs. Peacock in the Library with the Lead Pipe; Birds Do It, Bees Do It,;and Twice Victim) and then one final episode in 1991 (Simmer). So he may be done writing, but we will still have the opportunity to see him direct in the future, which is exciting.
Since this is The Plesh’s final script, I wanna do a bit of a summation of his writing efforts on the show. From 1980 to 1982, he wrote eight episodes, starting with Bottom of the Bottle: Part Two and then spanning Chance of a Lifetime, Squeezeplay, The Vigil, Secrets, Night, and A Brand New Day, finishing up here with Daniel. So which was his best episode? Looking at the list all laid out like that, it’s hard to decide what his best ep is, but I finally realized it has to be Night. I believe in my reflection on season three, I went so far as to say Night was the best episode of the first three seasons, and I stand by that. This episode also gave The Plesh the opportunity to dive deep within his own character and really explore the intricacies and nuances of Richard Avery as he went through a total nervous breakdown, and I think that episode stands out particularly because of that fact. In any case, he wrote eight strong episodes and even though Richard is going to a be a character on the show for a little while longer (through the end of the season), I am pretty sad that we won’t have any more scripts penned by The Plesh.
Overall, Daniel takes the ball from A Brand New Day and continues to run with it. Storylines are being put on the stove and the heat is being turned up, slowly but surely moving closer to a boiling point. Even with just the first two episodes of the season, it’s easy to see why this would be the year that the show finally makes it into the top twenty and can officially be called a hit series. Everyone in the cast is getting material to work with, everyone has stories going on, and the stories are building and continuing from week to week, leaving me, of course, eager to watch more. Oh yeah, and last but not least, Hagman is of course fabulous in his guest spot, though I confess that I thought he was maybe a little more fabulous in his last three visits to the cul-de-sac; his energy level seemed just a smidge lower than in those previous eps. However, it’s still lovely to see him here and he still goes a great job, making me somewhat bummed that we only have one more crossover episode for the entire series.