Thursday, September 22, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 057 of 344: SVENGALI

Episode Title: Svengali

Season 04, Episode 04

Episode 057 of 344

Written by Oliver Clark

Directed by Nicholas Sgarro

Original Airdate: Thursday, October 21st, 1982

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Karen goes through the Knots Landing Motors books and finds checks to West Century Auto, Frank and Roy's company. Karen invests money in Richard's restaurant because Laura is concerned that Richard is spending too much money. Karen is being followed. Kenny's boss won't let him make a demo with Ciji, so Kenny and Gary decide to make a demo with her on their own. Val's publicist, Bess Riker, sends a messenger, Chip Roberts, to drop off photos at Val's. He charms Val and Lilimae, and tells them he's a publicist. Back at the office, Bess tells Chip that if he thinks he's so hot he can be Val's publicist. Val appears on The Mike Douglas Show.


                Welcome to Svengali and we’ve got a lot to discuss this week, so let’s just dive right in.  First of all, let’s discuss that title, Svengali.  This is one of my favorite words to throw out into random conversation when I want to sound smarter than I actually am, and every time I say the word or hear the word I am reminded of Elaine on Seinfeld saying it and mispronouncing it as “sven-jolly” (that would be the episode called The Wallet from season four, in case you wanna go see where my reference is coming from).  For those who aren’t familiar with this wonderful word, it originated as a character in the 1894 novel Trilby, but over the course of time it has become a word used for any person who manipulates or controls a creative person.  Anyway, it’s a great word, and trust me, if you start to shoot it out in random conversation while just going about your life, you will seem really smart and sexy and start getting laid all the time, so go ahead and give it a try (another one of my favorite big words to make me sound smart: “Circuitous”).  Anyway, this episode is called Svengali, but who is the titular svengali character going to be?

                I’m glad you asked, because we are going to meet him good and quick as we move into the episode.  Svengali marks the first appearance of Michael Sabatino as Chip Roberts (pictured below), a character we will be seeing quite a lot of over the course of seasons four and five; he’ll wind up stacking up 28 KL eps in his resume until making his final appearance in the 1983 episode Denials.  Not to get too spoiler-ific right off the bat, but yes, Chip Roberts is the svengali that the episode title refers to.

                His debut is inauspicious enough.  He just comes rolling up to the cul-de-sac and enters the Ewing house very casually (should I start calling it the Clements house at this point?  I mean, Val has retained her last name of ‘Ewing,’ so 16966 Seaview Circle is still technically the Ewing house, no?) and immediately starts to charm the pants off of Lilimae.  Right away I’m gonna say that the relationship that is going to grow between Chip and Lilimae is one of the most interesting of the entire series, in my opinion, and helps to enrich Lilimae’s character and give Julie Harris some really amazing moments to let her acting star shine, and it’s all getting started right here.

                Chip Roberts claims to be, like, a publicist kind of guy.  In reality, he is just a messenger sent by Val’s publicist, Bess Riker, but he is immediately shown to be a bit of a conniver because he lies to Lilimae and to Val about what he’s doing on the cul-de-sac and really talks a big game, making it sound like he’s quite the big shot.  During his visit, he calls Bess Riker and she says something like, “You’re just the messenger, now get back to the office and pick me up a decaf cappuccino on your way!”  But then, get this, we see Chip put his finger over the little hang-up button that old style rotary dial phones have and then continue to fake talk into the phone long after the other line is dead.  It’s not terribly subtle and I’m kinda surprised that neither Val nor Lilimae, you know, notice that this guy’s got his finger jammed over the phone and is speaking to absolutely nobody, but whatever.  I’ll actually cut Val a break for not noticing this, because she is sorta distracted and loopy this week.  As we learn at the very start of the episode, she is going to appear on The Mike Douglas Show along with special guest stars Billy Curtis and Zsa Zsa Gabor, so she’s a little nervous about that.  Anyway, Chip promises her that she’ll do great and that he can pull some strings to get her some special treatment on the show and all that.

                Okay, I wanna take a big parlay here to discuss The Mike Douglas Show and its inclusion in this episode.  This episode does a few interesting things that we haven’t seen yet on KL and that I can’t remember if they do ever again, and that is having real life celebrities show up and play themselves.  In this episode we see Mike Douglas, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Billy Curtis, and they are not playing characters; they are portraying themselves.  So we know that in the world of KL, these three people exist the way they also existed in the real world and they are themselves, that make sense?

                However, I had never heard of The Mike Douglas Show before watching this ep and my research in preparation for this writeup only left me a bit confused.  See, My Beloved Grammy immediately knew who this guy was and recognized the show, saying how she used to watch his show all the time, so this was a familiar face to her, whereas I was not really familiar with this guy or his work.  However, doing some reading over on Wikipedia, it says that his talk show lasted from 1963 to 1981, when it officially went off the air.  Okay, but this episode is taking place in 1982, and late 1982 at that, so how can Val appear on this show if it had been cancelled the year before?  Are we experiencing some sort of alternate KL dimension where The Mike Douglas Show never went off the air and instead continues until the end of time?  I dunno, but I find the whole thing rather vexing.  If anyone has any information on The Mike Douglas Show that I am unaware of or am neglecting, please leave a comment or write in to tell me about it.

                Another thing I find interesting is the roster of guest stars lined up for the show.  Like I mentioned, in addition to Val, we have Zsa Zsa Gabor and Billy Curtis.  Gabor I’ve never understood and I’m still a little unclear on why exactly she is famous; she was first introduced into my life when I was a small boy and watched A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, in which she is shown on a talk show with Dick Cavett, who then morphs into Freddy and slashes her up.  Oh yeah, and she also has a quick little cameo in The Naked Gun 2 and ½:The Smell of Fear (my favorite of the trilogy, by the way) as well as A Very Brady Sequel.  Anyway, it seems to me that she’s always just playing herself, and I’ve never bothered to do the research to figure out why she’s famous, but anyway, I guess she is.  As for Billy Curtis, I actually didn’t know who that is when I was watching this ep and I had to look him up afterwards to learn that he is a known famous person (he was a munchkin in The Wizard of Oz, for instance).

                I’m gonna just sorta skip ahead to the end of the episode, where Val goes on the talk show.  At this point, I confess I am losing patience with Val.  I know she’s having a tough time with her split from Gary, but it really felt like every episode of this first disk of eps featured Val having some sort of a freak out or breakdown and getting really upset and flustered.  Make no mistake, you all know I love Val and you all know that I will sing her praises in the days and weeks and years to come, but at this exact moment in time, within the confines of these opening eps of season four, she is grating on me because she just seems to be whining and complaining so damn much.  Honestly, all she has to do in this ep is go on a talk show and make chit chat with the host, and it’s really not that hard.  Okay, I’ve never been on a live talk show speaking with a famous person, so perhaps I shouldn’t judge, but I really don’t think it’s that big of a deal.  You go out, you let the host do his thing, he asks you some questions, you answer them gracefully, and then you walk off; it’s not like Val has to go speak to Howard Stern or someone who’s going to ask her really probing, personal questions.  Val instead has a meltdown and tries to storm out of the studio before her interview, going on about how she’s not ready for this.  Fortunately, Lilimae talks her down off the ledge and she marches her butt out in front of Mike Douglas and his audience.

                Meanwhile, Gary and Abs are watching Valene on television from the comfort of their own bedroom, on the television that seems to be placed dangerously close to the bed.  It’s basically touching the foot of the bed, so one quick kick could send it tumbling over to an explosive demise.  This scene also causes some confusion for me, because Wikipedia says The Mike Douglas Show was a daytime talk show, yet here it’s shown airing at night with everyone watching it in the evening.  Gary and Abs are basically naked and lying in bed to watch it, implying that it’s nighttime, so what gives?  Okay, I’m probably way over-thinking this and it’s really not important in the slightest, so let’s move on.

                What is important is what Valene says on the show.  She is in something of an awkward spot, having to keep her personal life somewhat secret when she goes out to speak in public, and so we have an interesting moment where she says that her husband has been very supportive of her book, which is a twofold lie.  For one, he’s not really her husband anymore; he’s shacking up with Abs and they are gonna get a divorce soon, but also, when Gary found out what Val’s book was about, he wanted to put a stop to it; he was not supportive of it.  Val also has a moment on this talk show that’s probably supposed to be real endearing but I didn’t love it, and that’s when Mike Douglas describes the book using some sort of French word I can’t really remember and then Val says, “Well, I didn’t write the book in French,” and the audience laughs like this is the funniest thing they’ve ever heard.  Um, yeah, not so much, sorry.

                Anyway, the talk show goes smoothly and when Val leaves she is absolutely assaulted by the press, which is perhaps a bit much.  Again, I am not a famous person (at least not yet; obviously this blog is going to skyrocket me into superstardom and Donna Mills will be calling me up any day now and inviting me to come over and pour champagne on her in her hot tub) and I’ve never appeared on a talk show, so who knows, maybe it is like this, but I kinda doubt it.  Yeah, Val’s publishing a book, and yeah, the book is probably gonna be a big seller, but she gets attacked like she’s the biggest celebrity on the planet.  However, this does lead us to an ending that I really liked, because it seems spooky.  Someone comes up to Chip Roberts and says, “Are you famous, too?” and then Chip replies with, “Not yet,” and that’s how our episode ends.  Hmmmm, pretty nice, no?  It’s one of those abrupt endings like back in Power Play, where at first I’m like, “Oh, I guess it’s over,” but after a second of thinking I realize it’s kinda the perfect ending.

                Again, we’ve still got a bunch of simultaneous storylines going on for the other characters, as well, including my beloved Karen and Mack.  I’m gonna save most of my thoughts on Karen and her saga involving Wayne and stolen auto parts and all that for our next episode, Catharsis, when all of this sorta comes to a head, but I do wanna note one of my favorite moments of this episode, which is when Mack comes to the Fairgate house and Karen doesn’t want to see him.  She tells Michael to fib and tell Mack she isn’t home, which of course Mack sees right through.  Then he and Karen start yelling at eachother since Karen is upstairs and Mack is downstairs, and it’s all very cute and good, and then it culminates with Mack saying, “How about dinner?”  Karen says no, then Mack asks what time, and Karen says seven.  Fabulous little bit of ending dialogue for this fabulous sequence which had me smiling, although I do reiterate my microscopic criticism that, upon a rewatch, this little romance of Karen and Mack’s definitely feels like it’s happening a little too suddenly, a little bit in fast forward mode. 

                Kenny and Ginger actually have something to do this week, and it’s linked to my much loved Ciji, who gets to sing another fabulous song in this ep.  This marks her second song of the series, as she sang Open Arms in Encounters.  I think I might like this song better, although My Beloved Grammy would highly disagree, as she said the song went on forever and just kept repeating the same lyrics, which is actually true.  This particular song is called Hole in my Heart and I tried to do a bit of research to find out more about it, but to no avail.  This is not at all related to the Cyndi Lauper song Hole in my Heart (All the Way to China), but I do not know if this is a Lisa Hartman original song or maybe from one of her albums or if it’s a cover of a song by another band; if anyone can tell me, I would love to hear about it.

                In any case, yeah, the song sorta just repeats the same lyrics over and over again, but I like it a lot and it’s got that fabulous ‘80s sound and Lisa can just belt out a song really well.  Plus, you all know how much I love it when the plot is put on pause for five minutes so we can watch Lisa sing, and that’s what occurs here.  Also, this scene just has everything I need in a TV show to make me happy, cuz you have her singing this great tune and you even have star filters in the background behind her, as if Sylvester Stallone himself directed this episode.  As soon as I saw those star filters, I was like, “Yes, we’ve officially entered the 1980s.”  Yeah, we’ve technically kinda sorta been in the 1980’s since the second episode, Community Spirit, but I feel like it always takes a little time to sorta shake off that previous decade, and now with Ciji here to sing her fabulous songs, it’s like we’re really getting into the heart of the ‘80s as I see it. 

                This scene takes place in a the recording studio much like we saw Ginger singing at back in Possibilities.  Present are Kenny and Gary, both absolutely cumming in their pants over the very image of Ciji.  Gary himself is quite obviously already thinking of having an affair with her, because he’s just got this great big old grin on his face the whole scene; he is just so delighted to watch her sing.  Ciji is so entrancing that when she finishes singing and wants to do another recording, the band members are all for it, like “Hell yeah, let’s sing that song again!”  All around a perfect little scene, and the good news is that her songs only get better and better as we move along (my favorite is probably If Love Must Go, and that’ll be coming up at some point in this season, although I can’t remember the exact episode).

                The story of Richard and his restaurant also continues to grow this week, and we also get some interesting information that answered some questions I had.  First off, we learn that he is still going to a psychiatrist to talk over his emotional issues regularly, but he also skips that session this week and says that his work at the restaurant is more important.  I’m happy to see Richard showing a passion for something and putting his efforts into something that could very well make him much happier than his work as a lawyer or as the company pimp for Parkhurst, but I also think it’s important that Richard go see his shrink because his emotions are delicate and fragile and I don’t want to see him holding anyone hostage with a gun again.  Oh yeah, and another important thing: Karen shows up at the restaurant and gives Richard a check for $15,000.00 and says she would like to be an investor in his restaurant.  Wow, what a lovely, wonderful gesture to make towards a friend, am I right?  I know I’ve expressed my love towards the friendship of Richard and Karen on numerous occasions, but here’s another example of that special closeness they share and of that inherent support that Karen always provides for Richard whenever he needs it the most (much the way he gave her much needed support back when Sid was in the hospital and after he had died). 

She’s doing it most literally in this scene, by the way, because when Richard gets his bill of roughly $5,000.00 from the wine guy, he’s all upset, and then they have a classic snooty wine debate where the wine guy is like, “Well, I could get you the ’63,” and Richard is like, “No, I don’t want the ’63, that’s like drinking raw unfiltered green diarrhea!”  Mere seconds after getting that big bill, Karen walks in to give him her big check.  This also calls into question exactly how much money Karen has and how well Knots Landing Motors is doing as a business.  My conclusion is that Karen is perfectly comfortable with her finances and that Sid probably left her quite a bit of money when he died.  I mean, she’s got three kids including one who is off to college soon (and yes, patient readers, I have been paying attention to see if Diana would make any mention of going to college and so far this season, I haven’t heard a peep from her) and she is still able to give $15,000.00 to Richard. 

I think that about does it for Svengali.  I feel like I may have glossed over certain details of the episode, but what can you do?  Overall, I enjoyed the ep quite a bit and it’s an important one in the KL canon for introducing us to Chip Roberts, who may only have 28 eps to his name, but rest assured that he’s gonna be a big character and have a lot of sway over how the storylines go from this point until well into the middle of the fifth season.  Additionally, we had the rare occurrence of celebrities appearing as themselves, making this a somewhat unique episode in the canon, and we get a nice long song from Ciji, which always makes me happy (in fact, in the middle of doing this writeup, I went over to Amazon and purchased her 1982 album Letterock on vinyl and it should arrive within ten to sixteen business days).

Next week we get a bit of a wrap up to the long, ongoing saga of Sid’s death and the mobsters and all those dirty dealings with the episode Catharsis.



  1. Here's my input:

    1.) Mary Lou Retton also played herself in a KL episode, I'm thinking S13 or maybe even S14. Meg was taking gymnastics, and KL was clearly running out of money because this was the big special guest "get" they promoted like crazy that week, though Retton was well past her height of fame. And that's a pun, 'cuz she's really short.

    2.) Zsa Zsa was a B-movie actress in films. See "Queen of Outer Space." And she also played a villain on the Batman tv show. I believe it was the very last episode, which may tell you something about her appeal as an actress. But mostly she was on talk shows a lot because she was so eccentric and always good for a laugh.

    3.) My guess on The Mike Douglas Show, which I barely remember, was that it was on for so damn long most people probably weren't aware yet it was gone from the airwaves in 1983. Another possibility is that no new episodes were being produced but the last episodes were still timely enough to play in reruns. As it was syndicated, I believe, it may have still been running in parts of the country.

    4.) Abby and Gary have nooners. Duh.

    5.) "Roman à clef" means the novel is a real life story, disguised somewhat by fictional elements. By the way, would you read Capricorn Crude? I don't think I would.

    6.) To get Diana to leave for college, I'D CONTRIBUTE $15,000

    7.) You're right on the money about the Chip/Liliemae story line. It was the juiciest plot Julie Harris ever got as far as I'm concerned. And she gets to really step on the gas soon in one of the best final scenes of any KL episode ever.

    That is all I have. Goodbye.

  2. Excellent job there, Tv Food and Drink. Very nice :)

    And Brett...I am not sure if it is a Lisa original, but "Hole in My Heart" is on "Letterock" that we talked about a few weeks back.

  3. Sorry! commented before I read your last paragraph so I wouldn't forget. You will get to here it on vinyl in a few weeks. I bought the remastered mp3 of the album, and it sounds great. According to iTunes, I have listened to it 11 times since I purchased it on 7/31/16 ;)

  4. Hole In My Heart is on her Letterock album and its written by Rick Springfield. He recorded it the year before for his album Working Class Dog and she did her cover on her album the next year. They were on the same record label.

  5. Oh my gosh, Karen and Mack are so cute together. I like that Karen has a headstrong spirit about her and Mack knows how to correspond with her. Absolutely love the chemistry

  6. Do you think Karen's favorite color might be red? She's been wearing A LOT of it in seasons 3 and 4.

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  8. Gary's giddiness during Ciji's recording is nuts OTT. That was an interesting acting choice by Ted. BTW, why does Kenny's recording of the song end cold, but Gary's cassette fades out at the end?

  9. Last comment on this episode... or mabes it is from scene in next episode. Loved Richard's crazy face at Laura during their conversation about him skipping his psych appt. The whole scene played really naturally. I dig it. Anyone know if John and Constance were/ are friends?

    1. They must still be. According to July 2018 interview with Constance ... he cooks dinners for Constance and her husband. 😀

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  11. I agree with what was said above. I believe they uses Mike Douglas as a generic "talk show", not necessarily his own. Because he was well-known for doing one for decades, it makes sense. I kind of think the version in the episode is supposed to be a bigger show than his actual one, given the reaction to Val's interview. I suppose that is why they changed it to a nighttime thing. Also, I do think most people would be very anxious to go on TV, especially someone like Val who was a simple person before this.

    I love the scene of Ciji recording "Hole in my Heart". The tracking shot as they spin 360 degrees around her adds so much fun and excitement to the show. She really lit up the screen as this new character on the show adding vitality and a youthful edge they needed.

    As has been said, the song is her real recording and a cover of a Rick Springfield song. To Bijou, the version they use in the recording sequence is an edit (the end cut off) for time. When Gary listens later, that is the real version, but you are right that it should match what we were shown being "recorded".

    It's too bad that the timing didn't line up for Lisa to take advantage of the exposure to help her get a real-life hit. She went on the show to promote her record ("Letterock", later re-released as "Lisa Hartman"), but by the time it aired the album had already flopped. She never sang the actual single from it, "Hidin' From Love" (a cover of a Bryan Adams song), on the show, which was odd. Back then it took forever for record labels to press, distribute and promote singles. If it was today with iTunes and Spotify, I bet "Hole in my Heart", "New Romance (It's a Mystery)" and "If Love Must Go" would have charted as people downloaded/streamed them following their appearances on Knots.