Episode Title: New Beginnings
Season 04, Episode 06
Episode 059 of 344
Written by Mann Rubin
Directed by Lorraine Senna
Original Airdate: Friday, October 29th, 1982
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Gary goes to Dallas for the reading of Jock's will, and Abby flies in to surprise him. Val is at the same hotel on her book signing tour. Val and Abby are civil to each other, but Val's very upset when she sees Gary. Gary's money is left to him in trust, and he's very angry that, even in death, Jock doesn't trust him. J.R. goes to Val's book signing and tells her he hopes her book is a best-seller, because he owns the publishing company and will profit from it. Diana and Mack don't get along. Chip and Bess have an argument and she breaks up with him and fires him. Chip tells Lilimae that he quit over policy differences and lost his lease, so Lilimae invites him to live with her and Val. Chip hits on Diana.
Alright, welcome to part two of our little Dallas/KL double feature experience. Where we last left off, in A Brief Dallas Interlude Part 10: Jock’s Will, the entire family had gathered in the Southfork living room to hear what Jock had in store for them as far as the will was concerned. Basically, all the sons were given ten million dollars, but Gary had a little “I don’t trust you” caveat added to his in which Jock declared that he would have to live off the interest of ten million dollars for the first four years.
Watching New Beginnings immediately after that Dallas Interlude proved to be a very interesting experience, because directly after our little thirty second preview and the classic and majestic KL season four opening credits, we then cut to footage of the Dallas buildings and skyscrapers, including that one cool looking building that has, like, a glittery golf ball shape on top of it (what is the actual name of this building, by the way?), all while a smidge of the Dallas theme song plays. I noticed this because it’s just a few seconds of the theme and it’s not a version that we ever hear on Dallas, so far as I can remember. It’s a smidge slower, for one, and just has a bit of a different sound to it. Again, it only plays for a second while we see the cityscape; it’s not like they play the entire opening credits theme song from the parent series. I did a bit of research and, yup, sure enough Jerrold Immel is the composer for this episode, so leave it to him to give a theme we’ve heard many times a bit of a new kick.
Okay, so before getting to the episode plot and all that, I’m gonna do a quick mention of something I don’t usually pay that much attention to, and that’s the episode credits. By this, I don’t mean the opening titles with the scrolling squares, but rather the set of credits that play right after that, like who’s guest starring and who directed and all that. In this case, I noticed that Larry Hagman gets the top billing as a guest star, complete with the “as,” like it says “Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing,” you understand. Then the rest of the general guest cast gets credited, right, and then if I remember correctly, Patrick Duffy gets the last billing, and he doesn’t get an “As Bobby Ewing” or anything cool like that, although he does get "special appearance." I noted this and found it interesting because you would kinda assume that Hagman and Duffy would be billed right around the same spot, as they are both characters crossing over from the parent series. However, as I’ll discuss in a moment, it’s actually pretty fitting since Bobby gets about five seconds worth of material in the whole episode, and it’s all right within the start.
But anyway, the very first scene of the ep is Abby walking into some fancy schmancy Texas hotel and asking for the keys to Gary Ewing’s suite. In this scene, we also see that, coincidentally enough, Val is staying at the same hotel as part of the publicity tour for her book. Oh my, what will happen when/if these two women bump into eachother while out and about doing their Texas thing? We’ll have to wait and find out.
From there, we hop right back to Southfork, and that’s what I’m talking about with this episode really going well with that previous Dallas ep. Last time I watched through the series, back in college, I didn’t include any Dallas eps. I began with the KL Pilot and then I watched the whole series. In that viewing, I don’t remember this episode striking me as feeling odd in any way, but now I’m wondering how I could have not noticed it (I did drink a lot more back then). See, if you just jump from the last KL ep we discussed, Catharsis, and went straight into New Beginnings, you definitely get the sense that something is missing. Catharsis ended with the gang all having a nice meal together at Richard’s new restaurant, celebrating that the mobsters responsible for Sid Fairgate’s death had finally been brought to justice, right? Then you hop into New Beginnings and one of the very first scenes is Bobby and Gary at Southfork talking about how upset Gary is from the will. Viewed that way, it almost feels like you missed an episode and, in a way, you kinda did. So yes, it’s official, watching this particular Brief Dallas Interlude is actually rather important to understanding the plot for this KL ep.
Anyway, like I said, we’re at Southfork, and we’re in baby Christopher’s room. Bobby is playing with him or putting him to bed or whatever the hell you do with babies when Gary walks in. I want to note that I was impressed that we get to see baby Christopher here and that he’s even played by the same baby as over on Dallas, Eric Farlow, The Elephant Baby (seriously, this is one disturbing looking baby boy). This provides a real linkage from one show to the next, and I liked it. After all, it’s not like it’s necessary to see baby Christopher in this KL ep, but why the hell not do it? He is Bobby’s son, so it makes sense that Bobby would be taking care of him while talking to Gary.
So yeah, Gary is not pleased with his inheritance, and he and Bobby have a quick scene together in the nursery discussing it. I liked Bobby’s reaction to this where he’s kinda joking and he’s like, “Yeah, ten million dollars, how are you gonna live on that? Maybe you should take a night job?” He’s just teasing though, and he’s doing it in a loving way, and I found myself realizing that this is the last time we ever see these two brothers onscreen together. Think about it; this is the last time Dallas characters cross over into KL, and even though we have two more Dallas Interludes far into the future, Bobby and Gary don’t interact in either of them. In The Family Ewing, Bobby is, you know, dead, so we don’t get to see him and Gary together there, and then when Gary and Val pop up for their little appearance in the Dallas series finale, Conundrum, we are seeing a sorta parallel universe and so, again, no interaction between Bobby and Gary (we’ll discuss that in, you know, about five years or so). So this is it, ladies and gentlemen, this quick little scene is the last time we see these two brothers who do really seem to love each other in a special way onscreen together (I understand they interacted in the TNT Dallas monstrosity, but I don't recognize any of those events as being a canon part of the story). Since I think Gary is the brother that Bobby really loves and would rather have around, it’s kinda bittersweet to reflect on this. This scene is also the only one featuring Bobby in the episode, so say goodbye to him. He also showed up for little crossovers back in Pilot and The Loudest Word, so this marks his third and final appearance in the wonderful world of KL.
Make no mistake, this whole episode does not take place in Texas, and from here we cut back to the cul-de-sac to check in on what’s going on with our beloved friends in Seaview Circle. We get a harbinger of events for our next episode when we hear Mack and Karen discussing going on a camping trip together. We also get Michael wearing a pair of short shorts that need to be seen to be believed. Pat Petersen would be about 16 in this episode, by my calculations, so you’ll have to wait another two years before I really start to perv out and talk about his short shorts and his cutoff expose-the-bully-button shirts that he likes to wear and all the pleasure I get from looking at him wearing such wardrobe. Patience, gentle reader, for we will reach that juncture soon and then we can all start to worship at the altar of the one and only magnificent specimen of raw male sexuality that is Pat Petersen.
What else is going on in this scene besides Michael’s short shorts? Oh yeah, we get the start of a little storyline involving Diana not liking Mack. This is actually gonna span several episodes, so let’s focus on it a bit, shall we? Since Diana is a stupid bitch, she doesn’t like Mack. That’s about all there is to it. I mean, come on, let’s take a look at the two characters and decide who we’d rather hang out with. Would you rather spend time with someone hilarious and charming and warm and caring like Mack or someone dour and annoying and over-dramatic and whiny like Diana? Really, I think Diana is just not liking Mack to be difficult; there’s nothing wrong with him and I’m sure she knows it, but since he’s the new man in her mother’s life, she needs to make a drama out of it.
This might be a good time to mention that I’m really starting to hate Diana at this juncture in the series. I think way back in season one I might have said something about Claudia Lonow not being the greatest actress (but a super nice person in real life!), but I don’t know how much I discussed my distaste for Diana as a character. I think that’s because in seasons one through three she was mostly merely annoying, but it’s in this season that she starts to morph into a mega-bitch, just a nasty, bratty, unpleasant little see-you-next-Tuesday who is always ready to go with some nasty comment or putdown for her mother or for others around her. Yup, it’s really starting to display itself at this point, and believe you me, it’s only gonna get worse and worse as we move through season four and onward into season five. Diana is on the path towards turning into a complete psycho, and the first display of that impending psychosis is the fact that she doesn’t like Mack. Since Mack is a good person and tries to be nice to people and do the right thing, he actually cares about what Diana thinks of him, so they have a little chat in front of the Fairgate house and he’s like, “Your mother thinks you don’t like me.” Then Diana just gets right to it and is like, “I don’t like you cuz you’re arrogant and conceited and rude and stupid,” and so on and so forth. Oh, poor Mack.
Meanwhile, the other main storyline on the cul-de-sac this week involves the manipulations of Chip Roberts and the way he begins to slip insidiously into Val and Lilimae’s world. See, in this ep we see that he is sleeping with Bess Riker (who you’ll recall is that, like, cold bitch publicist lady who is representing Val, or whatever) and is living at her place. But, when he shows up at her apartment to, presumably, continue living there while having sex with her at the same time, Bess is like, “Your penis is too small and your ass is too fat, so I’m throwing you out.” Now Chip has to find a place to live, and fast, so next thing we know, he’s knocking on Lilimae’s door (or should I say Val’s door? Both womens' door?) and asking if he can live with her.
It’s a testament to the skilled writers of KL that this doesn’t come off nearly as weird as it probably should. After all, this is only Chip’s third episode of the show, and he barely knows Val and Lilimae, and he told them a fib that he is a P.R. guy who is going to represent Val and her book, yet here he shows up at their doorstep looking for a place to live? But Chip is Chip and we are already starting to see that he is a master manipulator and con artist and, interestingly, that Lilimae has got a bit of a crush on him. Because of this, and of course the fact that Val is off in Texas and not able to make decisions around the house for the time being, Lilimae is like, “Come on in, Chip, and live here as long as you like!” In fact, when Val does call from Texas and invites Lilimae to come down and visit, maybe cash in on the last opportunity to see characters from Dallas or see her granddaughter that she's never even met, Lilimae is like, “No, I’ll just stay home,” but she doesn’t mention a thing to Val about, you know, this strange man coming to live with them.
We see a quick display of Chip’s true colors when Lilimae goes into his bedroom (the bedroom she has given him to stay in while he freeloads off of her and Val, I should say) to show him a picture of, um, something, something I can’t really remember. I think it’s an old relative of hers or something and she is using the picture to show Chip that they have known each other in a past life. But when Chip sees her in the room and thinks she’s snooping, he kinda flips, and is like, “What are you doing, snooping in my room?” He raises his voice and gets real angry and scares Lilimae a bit, but then he does a good job of quickly cooling down and acting like everything is chill. This little outburst of random anger goes over Lilmae’s head, but we the audience note it and realize we should probably keep an eye on Chip.
The last thing Chip related is a scene that would probably be funny in another show but is actually kinda touching here. Late in the episode, Lilimae walks in on Chip and Diana dancing in the bedroom (oh yeah, Chip went outside and hit on Diana pretty quickly upon arriving at the cul-de-sac). It’s pretty harmless dancing, really; it’s not like there’s any grinding or anal sex or anything like that, but Lilimae is sorta horrified to discover this and awkwardly rushes downstairs to be away from them. Chip runs after her to console her and tell her that he and Diana are just friends, and so on. The reason this could very easily come across as funny is the fact that this 57 year old woman is crushing on this 27 year old man and is so horrified to find him dancing with a girl who is relatively close to his age. However, there’s something about the way Julie Harris plays this that makes it work; she just likes Chip and he is able to manipulate her in such a way that she feels good about herself. She is starting to think of him as her friend and she likes being around him, so she’s just sorta sad and jealous to see his interests leaning towards the younger Diana.
That about does it for the events and shenanigans over in Seaview Circle, so let’s move our attentions back to Texas, where Gary, Abs, and Val are all spending a few days. Like I said, they are all staying at the same hotel, Abs and Gary for the reading of Jock’s will and Val for the P.R. tour and book signing of her novel, Capricorn Crude, which is now officially out and available in hardcover at a bookstore near you. Not only are they staying at the same hotel, but on the same floor, nonetheless, and we have a lot of sitcom shenanigans of Abs just narrowly avoiding seeing Val as she walks down a hallway and what have you.
Gary and Abs are staying in a palatial suite (which we learn is being paid for by J.R., or at least by the Ewing Oil company), and early in the ep, he returns all angry from the reading of Jock’s will. I enjoyed this scene mostly because I would really like to inherit ten million dollars, and I don’t care if I need to wait four years to get it in full. I find it funny that Gary is still going to get ten million dollars, but he and Abs are so damn angry that he can’t have it right away. In the grand scope of things, four years is not that long; he’ll have his money in full by 1986 and the show will go on for another seven years after that. Abs is especially angry about this development, displaying that much of her interests lie in money and power and she wants it right away.
A little later, we have a scene of catharsis for Gary where he returns to the suite and tells Abs about how he went out to the ranch and just looked at it (this calls back to a few of our previous Brief Dallas Interludes; I’m specifically thinking about when David Ackroyd Gary and Val both returned to the ranch for the first time in years back in Reunion: Part Two and when Gary and Bobby both stopped outside the gates to gaze at the place in No More Mister Nice Guy: Part Two). He says how he was standing at the gates, staring at Southfork, and he saw some car being taken away (“My Father always bought American,” he tells us; no wonder the car is being taken away, all dead and useless) and he had this moment of release in which he realized that his daddy was officially dead and no longer held any power over him and, “It’d be pretty stupid to have rage against a dead man.” So now he’s feeling, I suppose, some release because this daddy that he had such a tumultuous relationship with is gone. It’s hard to describe, because I’m probably making it sound like Gary is delighted by the fact that his father died, and that’s not the case. He’s just describing his own feelings of release now that he no longer has to worry about pleasing his father.
Just as Abs and Gary get all excited and decide to have a shag, who should walk in but the one and only J.R. Ewing? I like how this is played, because Gary picks Abs up and is like, “I’m gonna put my penis in your vagina!” and he’s all excited and then, when they turn around, J.R. is just sorta there. No knocking or nothing; he just seems to materialize out of thin air to say mean things and stir up trouble. Basically, the gist of the scene is that J.R. says how Miss Ellie is upset at Gary for running off right after the reading of the will (he doesn’t say anything about how Lucy is probably upset, too, being that she is Gary’s daughter and we didn’t even see him interact with her at all during Jock’s Will; if my memories are correct, she did actually complain about this in the following week's Dallas ep) and then there’s some exchange about the will and what have you. What’s cool about this scene is that Gary seems to be developing more of a spine, and he stands up to J.R. and says how he’s not impressed or threatened by him and that “you can take your limo and your threats and get out of here.” As J.R. walks to the door, he has a cool, very J.R. backhanded compliment for Gary where he says, “I wish my daddy had lived to see this, Gary with guts, finally.”
The next time we see J.R., he and Abs are visiting together, doing some scheming. Once again, bittersweet feelings fill me as I realize that we never get to see J.R. and Abs onscreen together again. I’ve expressed back in season two with A Family Matter and Designs how much I enjoyed the interactions between these two. Abs is basically the female J.R. (or at least she is well on her way to becoming that), so they get along and seem to admire each other’s duplicitous ways. The chemistry onscreen between Hagman and Donna is always so sizzling, something I really cherish, and I reiterate one final time how much I would have loved to see Abby cross over into Dallas and stir up some trouble on the ranch, but alas, ‘twas not meant to be.
This scene also goes a long way towards showing us what Abby’s true feelings are for Gary. Why, exactly, does she want him? Is it because he now has money and power? Okay, it might seem that way, since she’s so desperate to get that ten million as quickly as possible, but I don’t believe so. Abs set her sights on Gary right away with her very first appearance in Hitchhike: Part One, when she first moved into the cul-de-sac as a newly single mother. Back then, Gary was just working at Knots Landing Motors and hardly had much money at all. I believe that Abs sees the potential in Gary; she sees that with a little work and effort, she can turn him into a man of power and wealth, but even still, I can’t say that she is only interested in his money. I repeat again that I think Abs does love Gary. It’s a complex love and Abs is an inherently duplicitous person who can’t resist being that way, just the same way J.R. can’t stop himself from all enacting all of his Machiavellian plots, but deep down Abs really loves Gary and she really wants to be his wife, and I do believe she would feel that way even if he didn’t have any money.
Okay, let’s start to wrap this episode up. As we inch closer to our “Executive Producers” credit, we find Val busy signing books, only to be horrified when J.R. steps up in the line and asks her to sign his copy. She is unhappy to see him, of course, and asks him why he had to come and bother her on this special occasion, and then J.R. tells her with delight how he now owns her publishing company (remember we saw him making that purchase back in Daniel?), which of course disgusts Val. Oh yeah, the kicker of the scene is that after making some vague threats to Val, J.R. starts to walk off, only to be stopped by a stranger who asks, with real awe in her voice, “Are you J.R.?” He grins and tells her that indeed he is, and then she gets all excited and asks him to sign her book, which he is happy to do. Yup, I definitely laughed at this, particularly that wicked good cheer J.R. displays all while pissing in Valene’s face. My only issue with this scene is that it doesn’t really go anywhere. Okay, so J.R. now owns Val’s publishing company, but what becomes of that? I don’t know that this is ever mentioned again or if it really has any negative impact on Val, aside from knowing that someone she loathes is now profiting from her own hard work. This also makes me wonder if the writers knew this would be the last crossover appearance or if they still thought J.R. would continue making his little visits to KL for the rest of time. Similar to the season two story of J.R. and Sid’s engine, this one kinda just fizzles away into nothingness, and I have to wonder if it’s an oversight on the writers’ part or simply the result of Hagman not making any more guest appearances after this; what do you think, my faithful readers?
The last scene of the episode is fabulous. Val is ready to check out of the hotel at the exact same time as Gary and Abs. Gary goes up to the front desk to check out, Abs starts to head outside to get a limo or whatever, and Val is walking that way at the same time, all while some announcer over a P.A. system says, “Mrs. Gary Ewing, paging Mrs. Gary Ewing.” As the announcer finishes her spiel, the two women come upon each other and are forced into a small, awkward interaction. Val is like, “Oh, Abby, you’re looking well,” and Abs is like, “Oh, Val, I hear your book is a big success.” Resentment is boiling beneath the surface for both women, yet they keep their cool. When Gary materializes, he and Abs walk off together to start their new life as people who have ten million dollars (more or less) while Val walks off alone, but the big poster displaying her picture and the blaring announcement that she is a new and exciting author looms right behind her. I think the message of this part is that Val may be alone, at least for the time being, but she is on her way to success and wealth just like Gary, and hers didn’t come from an inheritance but rather from her own work and determination. With that, the episode concludes.
Pretty solid, right? Not only is this just a fabulous KL episode in its own right and probably one of the best of the nine crossover eps (which I’ll review one final time: We had Pilot with Patrick Duffy, Community Spirit with Larry Hagman, Home Is For Healing with Charlene Tilton, Kristin with Mary Crosby, A Family Matter with Larry Hagman, The Loudest Word with Patrick Duffy, Designs with Larry Hagman, Daniel with Larry Hagman, and finally New Beginnings right here), but when you watch this as it originally aired on CBS by pairing it with Jock’s Will, it really does enhance it and make it better. Way back when I got this blog started, I said that those four Dallas eps (Reunion: Part One, Reunion: Part Two, Secrets, and Return Engagements) really ought to be watched before the KL Pilot to help provide context on the relationship between Gary and Val, and I stand by that. However, I don’t think any of the other Interludes since then have been terribly vital. They’ve been kind of interesting to see just to provide some linkage from one series to the next, but they’re hardly essential. Jock’s Will, however, really should be watched before New Beginnings to enhance the experience and help the story flow better.
Pairing them together is also just an inherently interesting experience, because you create this double feature of the two shows seeming to really complement each other in a way we haven’t seen before and never see again. Having a scene taking place at Southfork with Bobby and baby Christopher contained within a KL episode is just interesting, you know? I also appreciate the fact that there’s still plenty going on over in California with our main cast and characters; it’s not like the writers just moved the entire episode to Texas and spent the whole 48 minutes there.
Let’s also briefly discuss a theory I have, one which I can’t prove at this moment in time. I would love to see, like, a flow chart of the week to week ratings of this particular season of KL. All I know as I watch the season is where it finally finished up in the Nielsen ratings (at #20 for this season, I remind you), but I’m willing to bet you a million dollars (hell, maybe even ten million dollars, but you have to live off the interest for four years) that it was this exact night that finally saw KL beginning its rise in popularity. By airing it as a double feature right after the hugely popular Dallas (which ranks #2 for this 1982-1983 season), featuring crossovers from show to show, and making them form together as one big story, I’ll bet this was it. Imagine you’re a loyal Dallas viewer in 1982 who has never seen an ep of KL and you decide to watch this two-hour experience on Friday night. When the KL ep begins, it carries over right from where the Dallas ep concluded, yet you also get a great taste of the main cast and stories of KL (although I did note that Richard and Laura are both absent this week, and that made me pretty sad) and the building storylines going on there. If it was me, I would be tuning in next Thursday to see what would be happening in Seaview Circle that week. Anyway, my theory is that the ratings were probably still middling to low for the first five eps of this season, and then they finally began to rise right here, with this cool double feature experience.
The last thing I want to say is that, after some thought, I’m glad that the Dallas crossovers stop here. I think back in season one (maybe in my Community Spirit writeup?), I said I wish they had gone on longer, that I would have liked to see J.R. interact with Greg Sumner, but now I’ve sorta changed my mind. While I loved seeing the crossovers and especially loved all five of Hagman’s guest spots, since he always brought his A-game and never phoned it in, I’m looking forward to seeing KL just be KL, in all its independent glory, no longer dependent upon its parent series to boost ratings or give it recognition. This is really the perfect time for it to just become its own show; if J.R. or Bobby continued to cross over season after season until the end of time, I think it would just start to feel tacky. So here with are with episode 059 and our last crossover, meaning we’ve got 285 more eps and the show just gets to be its own thing, which I think is the right decision.
So that’s gonna do it for my thoughts on New Beginnings as well as this whole double-episode experience. Tune in Sunday as plots thicken and we begin to witness Abby starting to truly turn into the female J.R. with Investments.