Sunday, October 30, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 068 of 344: TO HAVE AND TO HOLD


Episode Title: To Have and to Hold

Season 04, Episode 15

Episode 068 of 344

Written by Michael Petryni

Directed by Ernest Pintoff

Original Airdate: Friday, January 20th, 1983

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): A tabloid prints a chapter of Val's book. She's very upset because it was a diary of her breakup with Gary. She and Jeff Munson blame Chip, who feigns innocence. Thornwall tells Chip it is a tactic to get Val to sign with them so they can promise her that he can prevent things like this from happening in the future. Gary is furious over the tabloid and barges into Val's. He and Jeff get in a fight and Mack breaks it up. Val overhears Chip telling Lilimae that Gary is cheating with Ciji (Chip is lying). Gary tells Abby they need to talk because they're hurting too many people. Abby promises to set aside time, but doesn't. Gary considers having a drink. Everything's going wrong with the details for Mack and Karen's wedding, so they sneak out of the rehearsal and elope to Las Vegas.


                After a very temporary setback in the relationship of Karen and Mack last week with And Teddy Makes Three, things are back on track for the two this week as they prepare for their nuptials.  In fact, we open To Have and to Hold with the two of them preparing their wedding plans.  I’m gonna bitch for a few quick moments, but please understand that I’m not bitching at the show or at the characters, because of course I love the show and the characters so very much.  It’s just that I hate weddings, I hate all the planning of weddings, I hate going to weddings, I hate the whole enterprise.  I especially hate the way people act when they are preparing to get married and I just plain despise how much damn money is wasted on a ceremony that lasts less than one day.  However, as we are going to see throughout the course of this episode, maybe that’s the point?  Maybe I’m supposed to be repulsed by all the wedding planning shenanigans because, at a certain point, Karen and Mack also lose their patience?  Read on.

                Okay, like I said, we open on wedding plans.  There’s a small detail to this scene that I liked and wrote in my notes: Diana asks Karen if Abs can come to the wedding and Karen immediately says no.  In a nice bit of continuity, Diana reminds Karen that, were it not for Abs, she could very well still be lying in a hospital bed on a dialysis machine.  A solid point, but Karen says how Val is her matron of honor and it would be too uncomfortable and so no, Abs isn’t invited.  I asked My Beloved Grammy what she thought of this and she agreed with Karen, saying that Abs has no place at this wedding.  I gotta say I love Karen’s open dislike for Abs.  She doesn’t even try to hide it, and even though we had that lovely concluding kiss-on-the-forehead back in Abby’s Choice, that doesn’t mean that Karen and Abs are suddenly best friends.  I know lots of people would be all timid and be like, “Well, maybe I should invite Abs,” and then spend the whole time worrying and fretting about it being awkward, but Karen gets right down to business and says, “Nope, Abs is a whore and she ain’t invited.”  Love it.

 

                The plan for the wedding is for it to take place at Daniel and be a big, epic celebration.  Karen is acting silly by spending too much money and making a big huge deal out of this wedding, despite the fact that she’s already been married once and, really, doesn’t even need to have a wedding at all.  There’s a lovely little scene where Richard (who, I must say, has been way too underutilized for my liking the last few episodes; the fact that he’s going to leave the show at the end of the season only makes it more painful to see him given such little material at this juncture) has a little power trip with Abs by announcing that he’ll be shutting down the restaurant for the wedding.  Abs is all like, “Do you know how much money you’re gonna lose?”  Richard is like, “As long as I keep making my payments on time, you can just shut the fuck up, you whore.”  Abs is clearly not popular this week.

                Karen is going so extravagant that she’s even looking into how to get specialty matchbooks made for the wedding.  At this point, My Beloved Grammy said, “Oh yeah, nobody does that anymore,” and then a second later Mack said, “Hardly any of our friends smoke anymore,” a nice little detail I appreciated.  This is 1983 and, if my research is accurate, C. Everett Coop was currently launching his personal war on tobacco and it had been two years since the “second hand smoke” dangers had started to be listed on the package.  People are beginning to cease their tobacco consumption, leading us slowly but surely to the present day, where those who want to smoke are forced out into the rain to hide behind a dumpster every time they want a quick cigarette, all while morbidly obese people who do nothing but eat McDonald's and drink sugary coffee drinks all day glare at them and make comments like, "Oh, such a disgusting habit." 

                All this wedding stuff escalates pretty fast, maybe even a little too fast for my liking.  See, everyone is gathered for the big rehearsal dinner (I also hate rehearsal dinners, FYI), and, at some point, I guess the pressure just gets to be too much for Karen and Mack and, in a bold move that I appreciate and approve of, they just run out of the ceremony right before we cut to a commercial.  We return from our commercial and suddenly we’re in Vegas, as is established by a bunch of stock shots of Vegas hotels, many of which aren’t even there anymore (The Stardust, for instance).  Ah, yes, even though I know this is probably all recycled Vegas footage used in a hundred other shows, I still like it because I love Vegas and I really love old Vegas.  I wish I could time travel back to when Vegas was still this small stretch of glorious excitement in the middle of a dessert, before it became super duper touristy and, perhaps, a little too much like Disneyland for my liking. 

 
                Anyway, they head into one of those super trashy Vegas wedding chapels that, if I were ever to make the decision to get married (which I am fairly positive I would never do), I would probably use, as well.  I like this style of wedding because it just cuts the fat out of the whole proceeding.  The only better choice would be to just go to city hall and get married real fast with the janitor as a witness.  Now, I’m not sure if the show is expressing a judgment about this type of wedding or not; I can’t figure it out.  When Mack and Karen go through the choices of types of wedding they can have (there’s deluxe and super deluxe and they come out to about the same thing, except that the super deluxe lists, “Someone to throw the rice” on the pamphlet), I am not sure if we’re supposed to see this as a bad, tacky choice on their part, or if it’s just supposed to be funny.

 
                Then two people come walking into the chapel, a man and a woman.  The woman is a nobody, some actress named June Berry who has appeared in nothing that I’ve ever seen, but the man is a big deal, at least in my world.  He’s played by the absolutely fabulous character actor Dick Miller, and as my readers know, I'm a big fan of the Dick.  If you’re a fan of Joe Dante movies, as I am (Gremlins being one of the most cherished films of my childhood), then you’ll immediately recognize this guy, because I believe he’s been in absolutely every Joe Dante movie ever made.  He even pops up in episode six of Police Squad! (along with Sid Fairgate’s duplicitous ex-wife from Civil Wives), an episode that was directed by, you guessed it, Joe Dante.  He’s also shown up in a few Scorsese movies (New York, New York and After Hours flash immediately to mind) and he played the gunshop owner that Arnold blows away in The Terminator.  The guy’s been in movies since 1955 and his most recent credit is 2015, so I think it’s safe to say that everyone in the world has seen him in at least one or two things.  In any case, he’s fabulous and I’m glad to see him here.

                Dick Miller’s character is named Al Spanky and we learn that he and the woman are about to get married for the third time.  The whole scene, he chomps on a big cigar and the characters tell Mack and Karen all about their previous two marriages and how they worked out or didn’t work out.  I think they are here to seem trashy, to make the idea of eloping to Vegas look a little more tacky.  It still doesn’t work for me because I still support Mack and Karen’s elopement plans.  I couldn’t remember all the details of this episode and I kinda had a feeling that Mack and Karen might back out of their Vegas plans and run back to California to have the big, lavish, overly expensive wedding, but I was pleased to discover that they stick with it and get married here in Vegas!  I’m eager to move on to the next episode (which will be the start of a new disk for My Beloved Grammy and I to watch) and see how people react to Mack and Karen just sorta bailing on the wedding.  I will say that maybe that’s not too cool of them.  They didn’t bother to tell anyone about it, and Richard went through the trouble of shutting down the restaurant for them, and then they literally just leave and fly to Vegas.  I like the Vegas elopement part, but it would have been more thoughtful of the two of them to inform others that they had changed their minds, don’t you agree?

 
                Meanwhile, we finally get some payoff to Chip stealing those manuscript pages of Val’s a few episodes back.  This week, a tabloid prints a big picture of Val alongside a blaring headline which declares, “Booze and women made my life hell!”  Turns out Val has been working on a sort of diary regarding her breakup with Gary.  Okay, real fast, I’ll admit that this part confuses me.  We’ve been told that Val is working on her second book, right?  Presumably it would be some sort of follow-up to her current bestseller, Capricorn Crude.  Now she talks about this diary she was working on and how nobody was ever supposed to see it, so am I to take it that this was a separate bit of writing she was doing?  At some point she mentions how the writing was a stream of consciousness flow expressing all her nasty, pent up feelings about Gary and the divorce, and that she was gonna go through and edit it later.  But is this all material for her next book or is it a separate thing?  Help me out here, readers!  In any case, drama ensues as soon as this headline hits the streets.  In a display of some humanity from Chip (I think), he goes to confront that Thornwall guy about these pages being printed.  Thornwall explains to him how this is a tactic so that, when they eventually get Val as their business client or whatever, they can help protect her from exposure such as this in the future.  I said Chip was showing humanity, but maybe he’s not, now that I think about it.  Maybe he’s really just covering his own butt; he’s mad at Thornwall not because this tabloid has hurt Val, but because he’s the one who stole the pages originally and he doesn’t want to be exposed as the thief, and now he might be. 

                I have no idea what Chip’s motivation is in this particular scenario, but he also thinks up a lie regarding the relationship of Ciji and Gary.  Okay, yes, we the viewers have seen Gary and Ciji spending a lot of time together, perhaps starting to develop feelings that are more than friendly, yet they’ve never slept together (despite that bizarre scene from a few eps back where Ciji started to strip right in front of Gary).  My basic point is that the two are not fucking, even though it might seem like they are to an outside observer (Ciji is too busy fucking Laura, obviously).  Anyway, early in the ep, Chip tells Lilimae that Ciji and Gary are, indeed, fucking, but why does he do this?  Is he just a complete liar who can’t go through his day without making shit up about everyone?  Or is there some grand plan to this lie?  Is he trying to deflect the blame for Ciji’s pregnancy, perhaps make it seem like Gary knocked her up?  Or does he just want to stir up further trouble in the relationship of Gary and Val?  This little story detail is something I had totally forgotten and I’m curious to see where it will lead us.

                If things aren’t going great for Val, they’re only going worse for Gary, who has not one, but two humiliating scenes all packed together into the same episode.  The first scene is pretty amazing, actually, and let me tell you why.  Gary’s conscience is eating at him, so he takes a drive to cul-de-sac to speak with Kenny.  It takes two drives, by the way, because the first time he goes, Ginger answers the door and fibs to Gary that Kenny is out of the house even though, in reality, Kenny is sitting in the living room all sad and unemployed.  Upon second visit, Kenny is home but Ginger is not, so Gary is able to speak to the “hip” young record producer.

                You know, I’m not even gonna make fun of Kenny in this scene, because not only does he get the most material he’s ever gotten on the show, but the anger he displays towards Gary feels real and the acting is pretty good.  This scene is brutal, because Kenny just starts to unload on Gary, listing all the different ways that Gary Ewing sucks.  You all know how much I love my callbacks to prior events, and this scene’s a doozy, as Kenny starts to list out all the people who have tried to help Gary and have then been hurt by Gary, including Sid.  He says how Sid took a chance on Gary and Gary fucked it up, all leading to Sid’s death.  Shack’s acting in this scene is really good, because he just sorta stares blankly at Kenny as he says these things, looking really shocked, looking really hurt.  Then Kenny goes on about how Val was the perfect wife to Gary and he went and cheated on her and left her.  I think Gary’s only line in this scene is, “You’re way out of line,” and he says it weakly, like you can tell the words are really sinking in.  Their private fight becomes public when Gary goes running off to his car and Kenny chases after him and keeps shouting all sorts of stuff about what a piece of shit he is.  Pretty much everyone in Seaview Circle gathers outside to witness this display, which culminates with Kenny shouting, “You finally learned how to be a true Ewing!”  Then Gary drives off all hurt and embarrassed but, I think, with Kenny’s harsh words really registering in his head. 

 

                I really loved this scene and My Beloved Grammy even opined, “This is the first time I’ve ever liked Kenny.”  I agree, and it’s because he’s actually doing something and is actually a part of the plot, and his acting in this scene is pretty decent, as well.  Plus, the scene shows that the writers remember what has come before with the relationship of Gary and Val and, particularly, the stolen auto parts saga of season two and the death of Sid.  It’s shit like this that I appreciate.  Sid Fairgate has now been dead for well over a year, and you just know that any other TV show would be glad to stop mentioning him and sorta pretend the character never existed, but on KL he is still frequently mentioned even long after death.  Gary kinda sorta was responsible for Sid’s death and even though Karen was able to find forgiveness in her heart for Gary way back in Aftermath, that doesn’t mean these events are forgotten by all the other characters, including Gary himself.



                I’m tempted to say the second Gary humiliation scene is even worse, though I’m not sure.  Kenny’s words are super harsh and really burn Gary, but the next scene is really physically harsh and calls back to that hilarious scene in the opening moments of the season with A Brand New Day.  You all remember when Gary crashed the party of Val, Rusty, and Cricket, only to get his ass brutally kicked by Rusty before shamefully creeping out the front door?  Same sort of scene here, because after Gary sees that tabloid headline, he comes speeding into the cul-de-sac way too fast and immediately marches into Val’s house, screaming and screaming for her to come down.  At first, boring white guy Munson and Lilimae try to keep him calm and are all like, “Val’s resting, go away,” but then Val comes down to try and explain. 

                The whole scene is loud and chaotic as Val tries to tell Gary that those pages were never supposed to be seen and Gary looks all hurt and is screaming, “How could you do this to me?!”  Then it starts to escalate into a fight as Munson tries to get Gary out of the house.  Munson gets him somewhat to his car before the two start to fight, and then Mack shows up to help, sorta holding Gary’s arms back and pulling him.  It’s at this moment that boring white guy Munson decides to punch Gary in the face, which is not too cool (and I appreciate that Mack even calls him on it, saying “That was a cheap shot”).  So, now Gary’s been punched in the face, in full view of pretty much all the neighbors, and has to slink away in his car and do the drive of shame out of the cul-de-sac.  Oh yeah, and one other small detail that I appreciate is, after Munson punches Gary in the face, Michael points and shouts, “And the winner is!”  This made me laugh and it made My Beloved Grammy laugh, plus it just felt like a realistic reaction from a real kid.  It doesn’t make Michael a jerk; he’s still young and all this drama on the cul-de-sac probably still feels very isolated from his own life.  In reality, a kid probably would make a little joke like that, and not even necessarily to be mean, but just to kinda be funny. 

                What Gary really needs is a serious talk with someone who can help him out, but unfortunately Abs is not that someone.  At this point (and this is just my own bullshit theory, so take it or leave it), I feel like Abs wants to create this isolated universe where only she and Gary belong.  She wants The Beach House to be their own little oasis of privacy in which they live forever together, and that’s why she wants to get rid of all the other outside influences affecting Gary.  After all, what was Kenny really doing that was so awful Abs had to make sure and sever ties with him?  I can’t really think of anything, except that Abs wants to have all the power over Gary.  Whenever Gary tries to speak to her about what’s on his mind, about how he feels badly for what they’ve done, she either ignores him completely or spins some elaborate web of lies about how Kenny is an enemy.

                Since A Brand New Day, My Beloved Grammy has been declaring that it’s only a matter of time before Gary starts hitting the bottle again, and she’s obviously a sharp lady, because that’s exactly where this episode takes us and then leaves us.  It’s early morning and Gary wants to hang out and talk to Abs, but she is rushing out the door.  I can’t remember what excuse she uses for why she has to make like a library and book, but in any case, off she goes, leaving Gary all alone at The Beach House with a fully stocked bar.  You all remember over on Dallas when Sue Ellen very briefly became independent from J.R. and moved into her cute little condo?  Remember how despite being a raging alcoholic, Sue Ellen still kept a fully stocked bar in that condo and would spend many episodes leering at the bar, foaming at the mouth like Cujo?  Well, it’s sorta the same situation here, because now Gary’s all alone and those big, sexy decanters full of liquor are calling his name.  “Come on, Gary,” they say to him, “Put me in your mouth; it’s been too long.” 

                Indeed it has.  The last time we saw Gary take a drink was the two part Bottom of the Bottle episodes that concluded season one, and that was March 27th, 1980, nearly three years ago.  We all saw how quickly his life unraveled back then and we all know how seriously shitty things are gonna get if he falls off the wagon now, with nobody to help him and support him, no Val to be the doting wife by his side.  To Have and to Hold concludes with a quiet scene of Gary all alone at The Beach House, holding a glass full of liquor (I believe it’s his beloved bourbon) and gazing out at the sun set.  The camera moves away from him, almost as if this display is to shameful for us to even focus on (making me think of Travis Bickle on the phone in Taxi Driver) focuses in on the ocean, and then boom, we get “Executive Producers: Michael Filerman and David Jacobs,” and that’s the end of the episode.  We shall have to wait until next week to see what happens and I, personally, can’t wait (I’m already making frantic calls to My Beloved Grammy begging for another disk of episodes). 

 

                A note on Gary as we watch him plummeting downhill right before our eyes.  For whatever reason, I continue to always think of Gary as he is in the latter half of the series.  Even though, right in front of me, Gary is destroying his life and ruining lives around him (with, of course, plenty of help from Abs), I never think of him as a bad guy; it never even comes into my brain.  Instead, I think of him as a dude having a hard time, a dude who has been pretty weak since Pilot and is still weak now.  I’m not sure exactly how long it will take before he finally starts to toughen up and take accountability for his life and his actions, but it’s not here yet.  I note this because, at this juncture, My Beloved Grammy is absolutely not a Gary Ewing fan.  She says he’s whiny and a baby and she often says, “I agree with J.R. about Gary.”  I’m curious to see if/when she starts to come around on Gary, and I predict it won’t be for awhile because we are really about to see him at his lowest point.

                That about does it for To Have and to Hold.  Interestingly, as with our last episode (And Teddy Makes Three), I think the “main” storyline of this episode, or at least the storyline that inspired the title, is probably my least favorite aspect of the ep.  I love Mack and I love Karen, as you of course know, and I have no real problem with their story, but it was the least engaging portion of the show this week, at least in my eyes.  I’m glad to see them get married so we can be done with, “Will Mack and Karen break up?” stories, at least for the time being.  I think what bugged me a bit about their story was that it felt kinda clunky, like one second they’re at Daniel, planning a big wedding, and a second later, they’re in Vegas, eloping.  However, all other aspects of To Have and to Hold are spot on and super compelling.  I never thought the day would come that I could possibly call Kenny material “compelling,” but here it is; the scene of Kenny screaming at Gary and telling him what a piece of crap he is marks the greatest Kenny scene in the entire series.  He’s finally given some material to work with and he insults the shit out of Gary and really hits him where he lives, in a way that, I predict, shall have ramifications well into the future.  Meanwhile, the Val stuff is good, the Chip stuff is good, Gary’s further descent and return to the bottle is super good, the whole thing is good.  As we watch, I like to pretend we are watching in real time, that I am a viewer in 1983, and if I was, you can bet your ass I’d be back next week, eager to see what happens next.

                I think we’re all eager to see what happens next, so without further adieu, let’s move forward to A New Family. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 067 of 344: AND TEDDY MAKES THREE


Episode Title: And Teddy Makes Three

Season 04, Episode 14

Episode 067 of 344

Written by Joel Steiger

Directed by Kim Friedman

Original Airdate: Thursday, January 13th, 1983

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Kenny and Gary almost come to blows. Jeff offers Kenny a job, but he declines. Ginger tells Gary that it was Abby who cut Kenny out, not Jeff, and that Gary better wake up. Chip convinces Ciji to get an abortion, but after spending time with Laura's kids, she changes her mind. Val asks Chip if he stole two chapters from her book, but he denies it. Val helps Mack pick out an engagement ring for Karen. He proposes to Karen, who answers "probably."  Karen's old boyfriend Teddy Becker is back in town, and Mack's really jealous. He and Karen break up, and Teddy wants to get back with her. Val tells Karen she's being foolish. Karen finally tells Mack she really loves him. He proposes again, and this time she says yes.


                Remember back in season three when Teddy Becker first came to visit in One of a Kind?  Now that was an episode that, before rewatching, I didn’t really remember all that much, but after putting it under the microscope for the blog, I wound up kinda loving it, and that was mostly due to the awesome guest spot of Terry Kiser (Bernie), who brought heart and humanity to Teddy and delivered a long and amazing speech that deserved an Emmy nomination.  Well, that was late in 1981 and now here we are in early 1983 and Teddy is back…um…sorta. 

                We open And Teddy Makes Three with something I don’t think we’ve seen yet: Just Val and Mack hanging out alone together.  In this scene, they are looking through the jeweler’s shop in search of that perfect wedding ring for Karen.  Then the creepy gay jeweler guy appears and starts asking them what they’re looking for and I wrote in my notes, “Is this the same creepy gay guy from two episodes of The Brady Bunch?”  Fuck, I am so smart, because when I went and did my research I discovered that I was right on point.  This actor’s name is Robert Nadder and he played two characters on The Brady Bunch (which happened a lot on that show).  First, he was in the 1971 episode The-Not-So-Rose-Colored Glasses as Gregory Gaylord (that’s the one where Jan has to get glasses and she doesn’t want to) and then he came back in 1973 for Amateur Nite (that’s the one where the Brady kids form The Silver Platters and sing Sunshine Day on television, one of my personal favorites). 

 
                As the episode started, and Mack and Val were perusing the wedding rings, My Beloved Grammy opined, “This is all a bit too soon,” and perhaps I agree with her.  My Beloved Grammy and I are similar in that we don’t see marriage as the end-all-be-all of existence the way so many other people do, and I’ve never understood why people feel the need to rush into marriage as soon as possible (or why they feel the need to get married at all; I will very likely never get married in my life), but for the sake of this being a television show, I’m sorta okay with it.  Again, this is early 1983 and the show is going to be on the air until 1993, and Mack is going to be a character on the show that whole time.  If the writers had been able to somehow have a psychic vision and know all this stuff as they were penning the fourth season, perhaps Mack and Karen wouldn’t have gotten married so fast.  But then another part of me asks if it really is all that fast.  Sid Fairgate died right at the start of season three and then we spent a whole year watching Karen go through all the stages of grief as she adjusted to being a new single mother.  Then Mack was introduced to the show right at the start of the fourth season, and we are now in the second half of that season, so really, it’s feasible to me that Mack would be out shopping for wedding rings now. 

                Anyway, while all this is going on, Teddy is back in town.  I’m of two minds on this (maybe more than two minds).  On the one hand, I’m glad they bring back a character we have seen before (sorta) instead of just introducing some new white guy to be an old friend of Karen’s.  I think it’s kinda cool that we haven’t seen Teddy since episode 37 and now here we are in episode 67 and he’s back, and I also think it’s kinda cool that the writers just expect us to remember him from that previous ep even though it feels like it was awhile ago.  But now let’s get to my big problem with this ep, and that is: Who the hell is this guy?  Where’s Bernie?  Where’s evil Dr. Crews from Friday the 13th: Part VII?  Well, he must have been busy when shooting commenced, because instead he has morphed into this really lecherous, frankly creepy-looking guy with a big David Letterman gap in his tooth.  This creepy guy (who apparently committed suicide in 1994, so, um, rest in peace as I berate your appearance) is named Steven Keats.  What’s extra bizarre is that the whole time we were watching this ep and I was whining to My Beloved Grammy about how much I missed Bernie, I was also convinced I had seen Teddy 2 in a ton of other things.  Turns out I hadn’t; the only movie on his impressive IMDb resume that I recognized was Death Wish, but I can’t remember who he was in that movie. 
 

                In addition to being played by a different actor and looking totally different and being way creepier, I also feel like this Teddy is a different character.  I should maybe go back and look at my thoughts on One of a Kind to make sure I’m not contradicting myself, but I remember kinda loving that Teddy and being surprised by how much Dr. Crews elevated that one-episode guest spot into something pretty memorable.  In that episode, I bought that he and Karen had a backstory together and I bought that they had complex feelings for each other that walked a line between loving friendship and maybe something more sexual.  Also, even as Teddy continued to insist that Diana was his real daughter, I didn’t find him to be a pushy or repellent character, yet this Teddy is.

                I’ll get right to the point: This whole Teddy-coming-back-to-town story is my least favorite part of the episode.  Even though the ep is titled And Teddy Makes Three and this is obviously supposed to be our central focus this week, it is the weakest link (goodbye).  Everything else going on in this ep is solid, lots of super interesting things for all the characters, but the only reason Teddy is here is to offer a very brief roadblock in the relationship of Karen and Mack, leading me to wonder if anyone watching in 1983 could possibly believe this character was a legitimate threat to them.

                Let’s just power through this portion.  Teddy is back, and he’s just sorta there when the ep starts.  It’s not like we have a scene of Karen picking him up from the airport or saying, “Oh, my good friend Teddy is coming back to town,” like the way she announced Victoria Hill coming to visit back in the incredibly boring Reunion.  Nope, instead he’s just there, and pretty much right off the bat he starts to beg and plead with Karen to get back together with him.  If there’s one thing women really like, it’s when a man is super desperate and has to repeatedly beg them to be their lover; it’s a real turn-on.  We cut to a quiet night at the Fairgate house, where Karen and Mack are sitting in the living room.  It’s here that Mack proposes to Karen and she says, “Probably.”  Well, I laughed and so did My Beloved Grammy.  Have I taken a moment in the last 66 essays to point out how well done the humor is on KL?  This is yet another piece of evidence for my “KL is way better than Dallas” argument.  Sure, Dallas would have humor and wit (usually delivered impeccably by J.R.), but it was also generally super stuffy and overly serious, thinking it was way more dramatic and important than it actually was.  On KL, there is just good, solid humor to make you smile and to lighten up proceedings.  In this case, the way Karen says, “Probably,” and Mack’s rather deflated reaction served to put a smile on my face.

                By the way, in my continuing rant against marriage, I must say I kinda see where Karen’s coming from.  What is the big hurry, anyway?  Why can’t Karen and Mack just keep dating?  Why must they get married right away?  However, and this is a nice little point brought up by My Beloved Grammy, something I wouldn’t have even though of and something that makes me appreciate The Block Party a little bit more.  During this scene, My Beloved Grammy observed that Mack is probably in a hurry to get married to Karen because he had a good scare seeing his Pop a few weeks back, not wanting to wind up like him, old and feeble and dying all alone, with no one to love him.  So BOOM, we’ve just found a good reason for why The Block Party exists! 
 

                Karen is throwing some sort of dinner party the next night and Teddy is the guest of honor, but then Mack shows up and he and Karen get into one of their cute fights.  They take it into the kitchen and start arguing about the engagement and Teddy and “probably” and all of that, and the scene culminates with Mack asking for the ring back and Karen giving it to him.  Again, this probably sounds very dramatic in writing, but it’s actually handled with humor.  Both Karen and Mack are funny to watch, and even the way they yell at each other or him asking for the ring back are not played as some SUPER SERIOUS INCIDENT but rather as a sorta cute bickering.

                Teddy takes this opportunity to continue to harass Karen about why she should marry him and move to New York and all that stuff.  Yikes, what a creep.  I must say that if Bernie/Dr. Crews was still portraying the character this week, I can see this playing a lot better.  That guy sorta won my heart back in season three and I’ll bet he could have pulled off this stuff even with a script that is, perhaps, not trying as hard as usual.  What do I mean by that?  Well, this whole story just feels like the writers don’t want Karen and Mack to get married this week, cuz they’re saving it for next week, so they have to introduce this temporary obstacle.  Who in the world could possibly be watching this and really think that Karen is gonna ditch Mack and marry Teddy?  Mack is part of the opening credits, and thanks to the wonders of “Starring (In Alphabetical Order),” he is the first name we see on the roster (at least this year; next year William Devane gets to be first), so we know he’s gonna be around for awhile.  Meanwhile, Teddy is being played by a second actor and he’s not even in the beginning credits at the start of the episode as a guest star; he’s relegated to the ending credits.  And even without all that “Who’s in the credits,” stuff that I like to focus on and probably nobody else cares about, just based on simple writing and storytelling, who could really think Teddy is here to stay?

                Before Mack and Karen decide to tie the knot, we get a quick scene that I put in my notes along with the question, “Why is Diana suddenly being so nice?”  That’s right, after weeks of being a mega-bitch (and of course we know that in a few weeks, she will return to being a mega-bitch and then become even more of a mega-bitch when we hit season five), Diana is suddenly really chummy with Mack, real friendly.  This feels sorta organic, since the two made peace with each other back in Abby’s Choice.  This week, after spending the whole season bitching and moaning about how much she dislikes Mack, Diana pays a visit to his apartment (and, in a nice little callback to The Best Kept Secret, asks if it’s safe for her to come inside) and gives him a speech about how he and Karen are meant for each other and they need to get married.  Like I said, at first I wondered where Diana’s sudden burst of caring and nice behavior was coming from, but with some reflection, it does make sense.  She just had a whole epic two-episode health crisis in which she had to undergo major surgery and get a new kidney.  She’s probably feeling a bit different about her behavior and her life choices right now, but like so many things in life, with a little distance it’s easy to forget things and return to our old behavior.  We often see people declaring that they are going to change their lives after some big crisis occurs, but then after awhile they’re back to their old ways, so that’s what I think is going on with Diana.  At this moment, she’s grateful to have kidneys and not be hooked up to a dialysis machine in a hospital, so she’s being nicer to those around her.  Give her a few weeks and she’ll be a mega-bitch again.

 

                Finally, Karen goes to see Mack at his apartment.  The two talk a bit, yada yada yada, Bob Loblaw, and then Mack grabs the wedding ring out of his pocket or whatever.  He has this nice bit of body language acting that I really want to think was improvised by The Dobsonator.  Basically, he pulls the ring out of that little box thing that it comes in and sorta tosses it behind him as he walks over to Karen to put it on her finger.  I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s this sorta cool, sexy walk, and the casual way he throws the box aside, I dunno, I liked it.  I always loved Mack as a character but didn’t find him particularly sexy, but after My Beloved Grammy’s comments of “He’s very good looking,” and his little way of sauntering over to Karen here, I’m starting to see it.  Anyway, she accepts his proposal, they kiss, and that’s our last scene of the ep.

                Every other story in this ep is better than the Mack/Karen/Teddy 2 one, so let’s move over and focus on someone else.  Everyone’s got good drama this week and I’m a little unsure of who to focus on first, but I’ll go with Gary.  By going with Gary, I am also by proxy discussing Abby and Kenny and Ginger.  If you’ll recall last week, Abs pulled some strings to get Kenny cut out of the deal involving Munson taking over Ciji’s contract.  Well, this week Kenny and Ginger are both pretty damn mad about it, and Ginger has her most interesting scene on the series since way back in season one (The Constant Companion) when she pays a visit to The Beach House and gives a nice big speech to both Gary and Abs about Abby’s wicked behavior. 
 

                See, I think Gary is in a real weird spot right now.  Too much has happened too fast in his life and he’s just not coping well.  You have this sudden change in lifestyle of going from the stable, loving marriage to Val, his true soul mate, to being married to Abs and dealing with her duplicitous ways.  Also, you of course have the death of his father and the inheritance he just received.  He’s suddenly gone from working in a car dealership to being a millionaire, which obviously sounds great to me, but it can cause some problems, as we know from real life.  I also think he’s starting to become aware of Abby’s true colors but he’s also so blinded by lust (and, yes, I still will say love) that he can’t quite resist her powers.  She has a hold over him right now that causes him to do things that might be a smidge unethical, like brutally cutting Kenny out of this record deal.  That’s what happens at the head of this episode, by the way.  There’s a tremendously uncomfortable scene in which Kenny walks into the studio where Gary and Munson are hanging out and watching Ciji perform New Romance again.  He’s all like, “Hey, what the hell is going on here?”  Then Munson comes up to him and is like, “Let’s go out in the hallway so I can quietly tell you that you’ve been replaced.”  Kenny is understandably upset by this news, and this is what leads to Ginger’s little visit a few minutes later.  But before the visit from Ginger, we also have, I believe, our first scene of Gary pumping iron really ferociously.  This is going to become a common occurrence for quite some time, and I have to assume it was some sort of Shack obligation to get shirtless and show off his muscles every week (I’m flashing back to that sensual massage he got from Abs in Catharsis).  Shack has clearly been hitting the gym off camera, because he’s blossomed from the tall, lanky fellow he was back in season one into quite the buff, masculine gentleman (and let's not even talk about the bulge in his pants, pictured below). 
 

                Anyway, enough about Shack’s muscles.  I think Ginger’s little visit serves as a small wake up call to Gary (before a big wake up call courtesy of Kenny next ep) about the life he is living.  Basically, Ginger comes to The Beach House to tell Gary what a shit he’s been and how badly he’s treated Kenny and how hurt Kenny is, moping around the house and being unemployed now.  She culminates her big speech with, “One day Abby will do it to you, just like she’s doing it to us,” an interesting insight that shows maybe Ginger isn’t as dumb as she first appears.  Here, instead of just being mad at Gary and blaming him for everything, she is able to see the manipulation taking place on the part of Abs towards Gary.  It’s kinda bizarre to note that the second Kenny and Ginger start to actually be somewhat interesting, we are also just a few eps away from them being shipped off forever and never mentioned again. 
 

                Meanwhile, some pages from Val’s manuscript are missing, and while she doesn’t know why, we the viewers know why because we saw Chip steal those pages last week.  Not too much happens in this regard for the time being (wait for next week), but there was a small detail I like, a detail that shows the KL writers are pretty good at remembering what’s happened on the show before.  See, at first Val asks Lilimae if she took those pages, and Lilimae is like, “I would never do a thing like that!”  Then Val gives her this look like, “You remember the episode Best Intentions where you stole the manuscript of my first book?”  Lilimae looks kinda ashamed and is like, “Yeah, okay, I did that once, but I wouldn’t do it again!”  It would be so easy for the writers to just ignore that little plot point or hope we wouldn’t remember all the details of that previous episode, but instead they mention it, assure us they haven’t forgotten, and I appreciate that.

                Also on the roster this week is our return to some Queer as Folk style storytelling involving Laura and Ciji.  Now, I can understand if you’ve read my essays for the last few weeks and felt that I’ve jumped the gun a bit on the whole “They are definitely lesbians,” angle, but you can’t watch these scenes and not see what I see.  We have not one but two scenes this week that are dripping with sensual lesbian undertones.  In one of them, the entire conversation takes place while Laura breastfeeds Daniel and Ciji leers at her boob.  The conversation goes in the direction of how natural and wonderful it feels to breastfeed, but just watch Ciji’s fucking eyes during the scene; she can’t take them off Laura’s tit.  Clearly she is wishing that she could suck on them.

                The second scene is where they’re just hanging out on the couch, sipping wine (when exactly did pregnant women stop drinking?), trying to decide what to do with their night.  What are Laura’s suggestions?  Well, one is fairly innocuous, I believe a suggestion that they order a pizza.  The second suggestion is that they sit in the hot tub, certainly more risqué than the previous suggestion, and I have to wonder if Laura was thinking of some nude hot tub bathing with young Ciji, because that’s certainly what I was thinking.  Finally, and most importantly, Laura suggests they go see a dirty movie.  I think I almost spit my wine out when this suggestion came up; I couldn’t believe the writers were being so explicit.  I also took a moment to reflect that it’s 1983 and video is slowly killing the popularity of dirty movies playing in the cinema (Taxi Driver style), but it hasn’t quite happened yet.  Not a lot of people had VCRs in 1983, since they were still super expensive, and I think if people wanted to see a dirty movie, they generally had to go stop off at the dirty movie theater.  What are Laura’s intentions with this suggestion?  I know it was trendy in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s for people to act like it was totally chill to go see a dirty movie; it meant they were modern and progressive (check out the awesome documentary Inside Deep Throat for more info on this amazing time in American history), but I definitely think Laura wants to take Ciji out to see a bunch of naked women getting the shit fucked out of them; that’s what I think.  What do my much loved readers think? 

 
                In addition to exploring her sexuality with Laura, Ciji is also busy this week with Chip and the pregnancy and all those shenanigans.  At the start of the episode, Chip has successfully pestered/threatened Ciji enough so that she agrees to go get an abortion.  However, after spending some time with her new lesbian love interest, Ciji changes her mind and decides she wants to keep the baby.  In this instance, Chip doesn’t grab her hair and make vague threats to her; instead he just sorta angrily barges out of the room, fuming, perhaps plotting something?  We’ll have to wait and see.

                I think that about does it for And Teddy Makes Three.  How do I rank it?  Even though I bitched and moaned a bit about the Teddy storyline in the episode, it wasn’t toxic or anything like that; it was just sorta limp.  I never believe there’s any real threat from Teddy’s presence; he’s a roadblock, a roadblock that Mack and Karen quickly drive around and then continue driving.  I don’t really feel effected by his presence one way or the other, but that portion is my least favorite segment of the episode.  The good news is that everything else is solid.  Last ep I said things are heating up, that we’re inching closer and closer to the season finale and so all the storylines are starting to get real juicy and exciting, and that continues this ep.  If you go through the cast roster, everyone’s up to something this week, whether it’s a small storyline like Val wondering where her manuscript went, or a bigger one like all the Kenny/Ginger/Gary/Abs drama.  Overall, while the Teddy stuff left me cold, I still liked the episode.

                Since this episode ended with Karen accepting Mack’s proposal and the two of them kissing, I think we all know where this is heading, and we’ll get to see it for ourselves next ep with To Have and to Hold.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 066 of 344: CUTTING THE TIES THAT BIND



Season 04, Episode 13

Episode 066 of 344

Written by Michael L. Grace

Directed by Ernest Pintoff

Original Airdate: Thursday, January 6th, 1983

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Abby sells Ciji's contract to Jeff Munson. Jeff wants Kenny to produce Ciji, but Abby will only sell if they cut Kenny out of the deal. She tells Kenny he's out, and he's very angry. Kenny and Gary get into a fight. Abby goes to Gary's lawyer, James Westmont, and wants him to protect her interests in case Gary doesn't marry her. Chip is offered a job with Thornwell and Associates if he can bring them Val's account. Chip steals two chapters of her current manuscript and gives it to them. Ciji tells Chip that she's pregnant, and Chip yells that this will ruin everything and manhandles her. Val has been putting off signing her divorce papers. Jeff takes her to New York for the weekend, and she sees a new, more down-to-earth side of him. Val finally signs the papers.

 


Ah, now this is more like it.  For those who read my thoughts on The Block Party last Thursday, you’ll know that it was hardly my favorite episode of the series, and I believe I even went so far as to declare it the worst of season four.  My main problem with that one was that I didn’t feel a lot was happening in it, that the majority of the plot was devoted to Mack’s lame Pop who disappears into the ether and is never spoken of again, and that the material given to the rest of the cast that week was lacking.  Well, this week, with Cutting the Ties That Bind, we’ve got a lot going on with everybody in the cast, so let’s all perk up and pay attention.

The very first scene of the episode is Val sitting around the house and staring at her divorce papers.  Yup, it’s official, um, well, almost.  All Val has to do is sign these papers and send them to her attorney or whatever and she will officially be divorced from Gary Ewing.  However, she’s reticent, and why not?  It’s moments like these that make me further appreciate that rich history that has been well established between Gary and Val, and it’s moments like this that also make me happy we did all those Brief Dallas Interludes before the KL Pilot.  Because of watching all those Dallas eps and of course the previous 65 eps of KL, we know what a big part of Val’s life Gary is.  The two fell instantly in love when she was fifteen and he was seventeen and got married and made baby Lucy (who nobody is really mentioning anymore).  Then we hit those years between 1962 and 1978 and there’s that great big gap in which the two didn’t see each other until they were finally reunited in the Brief Dallas Interludes Reunion: Part One and Reunion: Part Two, before finally getting married again in late 1979 with our Brief Dallas Interlude Return Engagements.  So now, after all that history and their remarriage and three rocky years of being married out in California, now Val has to decide if she wants to sign this piece of paper and be officially divorced from this man.  What to do?  Like I said, this decision feels like it carries a lot of weight, and that’s entirely because of how well done Gary and Val’s past history has been conveyed throughout the series and on the parent series, as well.

 
Lilimae certainly wants Val to sign the papers.  We are now seeing the era of Lilimae who truly hates Gary.  I’m not even kidding around here; I really think that she hates him.  Later on, the two will start to get along again, but right now sees him as the man who broke her daughter’s heart, cheating on her and then leaving her for some hussy, so she makes no bones about telling Valene she needs to sign the papers and get on with her life.  Val promises that she will sign the papers, but she simply isn’t ready yet.  Valene is a busy little bee lately, staying active as she transitions from one of Us to one of Them.  Let’s think back just one year, shall we?  When we were around mid season three, Val was still living with Gary as his wife.  She wasn’t really working, but rather her work was keeping up the house and being a good wife.  Her other predominant occupation to fill her days was going to school and working on her writing, and now we see how that is paying off for her.  Now she’s a published author with one hit book to her name and she’s starting work on the second.  In addition, she is managing to get up off her feet and start to move on from her breakup with Gary; she’s not the same angry and hurt Val that we saw at the start of the season; she’s starting to be real independent.  If that’s not enough, she’s also attracting the attention of boring white guy Jeff Munson.  Speaking of boring white guy Jeff Munson, he gets a lot of screen-time this week when he somehow manages to whisk Val away to New York for a romantic getaway.  I’m trying to remember how this all goes down, exactly, and basically he’s just like, “Val, let me take you to New York.  You’re a stupid hick country girl and you’ve never seen the big city and you have no idea what culture truly is, so let me show you.”  At first Val is hesitant, but Lilimae is very persuasive, mostly because she wants Val to get the fuck over Gary and start dating this guy, so she’s like, “Go on, sugar, go see the big apple!” 

 

There’s no real footage of New York in this episode, so don’t get too excited.  We instead get that stock shot of, I think, the Brooklyn Bridge, the shot that is in every movie or show set in New York ever made, and then we cut to Val and Munson up on the 32nd floor of this big, sexy penthouse.  Presumably this is Val’s first time in a big skyscraper, and she looks down at the city below her with true wonder.  Then Munson shows up with champagne and starts to tell her what a wonderful, awesome, sexy person she is, how she deserves the finest things that life has to offer because she’s written a book and the book has given so many people so much pleasure.  The sentiment is good and it’s nice to see Val be treated well by someone, but I just wish it wasn’t Munson, because he’s so God damned boring.

 
Our next scene is the worst one in the episode, and I cringed having to watch it.  Munson takes Val to Little Italy and The Restaurant of Italian Stereotypes.  This scene made me flash to a minor recurring character on The Simpsons circa season five.  This character’s name was Luigi; you all remember Luigi?  Actually, his full name is Luigi Risotto, which only makes the joke even funnier.  Luigi Risotto was the waiter at this Italian restaurant that Skinner and Bart went to when they were briefly friends, and the whole joke was that he was such a ridiculous Italian stereotype in every way, the way he spoke, the way he acted, the way he looked with a big, ridiculous moustache.  Well, Luigi is hilarious because he’s supposed to be a joke, but I don’t think there’s an intentional irony in this scene where Val and Munson chat it up and dance to obnoxious music alongside the entire cast of The Godfather.  I think this scene is supposed to be funny or endearing but I just found it annoying and I was glad to move on.  Just to be clear, this isn’t any sort of PC-attack on my part in which I suddenly disapprove of stereotypes, and I feel no particular loyalty to Italians just because I happen to be sorta Italian (if you really wanna see the cast of The Godfather, just look at photos of my relatives from my paternal grandmother’s side when we arrived from Italy and our original last name was, not even kidding, Madonna), no, instead it’s just as simple as I found this scene obnoxious.

Next up, I’m pretty sure Val and Munson shag.  Obviously we don’t get graphic HBO footage of this event, nor do we see any penetration or anything like that, but I’d still say it’s pretty clear.  Val’s hanging out on that penthouse patio again (I’d probably stay out there all day if I had a swinging pad like that) when Munson receives a phone call from Abs.  I can’t remember the exact details of why Abs is calling, but it has something to do with Ciji and her contract and all that, but Munson doesn’t want to hear about it.  He’s like, “I’m about to go put my penis inside of Valene; please call back tomorrow,” and he hangs up.  Then he goes out on the patio and the two exchange paltry romantic dialogue before making out a bit while the music swells and, well there you go.  Like I said, it’s not shown explicitly but I think we can all figure out what goes down (or who goes down) in the following couple of hours.

Val gets the concluding scene of the episode (don’t get nervous; I’m gonna cover the other characters in just a moment).  Now it’s the next morning and Munson’s semen is presumably dripping down her leg as she gazes out at the beautiful morning skyline.  She’s working on her manuscript or whatever, when she happens to pull out the divorce papers, slyly inserted into her travel bag by her doting mother.  A bit of piano music starts to kick in as Val looks over the papers, thinking really hard, and then the final image of the ep is her signing the papers, officially moving a bit closer to divorcing Gary, the true love of her life.  Before moving on to the other characters, I want to take a moment to say that in my notes I wrote, “Val is sorta getting the shaft at this juncture in the series,” and I want to expand a bit on why I wrote that.  While it’s true that she’s getting material, and she’s certainly keeping busy this week in particular, I can’t help but feel that her material is a bit lacking when compared to what else is going down with her friends and neighbors.  While the act of her signing the divorce papers is fairly compelling, the rest of her footage this week was somewhat underwhelming.  Is it because she’s been paired with a stiff as a romantic interest?  That could be it, but I’m not so sure. 

On our last disk of eps, My Beloved Grammy actually surprised me a bit by asking if Val’s character was being phased out of the show and I told her that no, Val is pretty much on the show from start to finish, more or less (she does sit out the final year, but that’s a shorter year and she’s still in thirteen of the fourteen seasons).  After My Beloved Grammy asked that, I did start to notice that Val feels like she’s not getting as much attention paid to her, at least not at this point.  The other storylines are sizzling with excitement and even the dreaded Kenny and Ginger are starting to be parts of the plot and actively involved in the events, but the Val stuff feels secondary, kinda like the writers are thinking, “Well, we gotta give her something to do, so let’s, um, ship her to New York this week.”  We are about two years away from Val’s babies and that’s easily the greatest storyline in all of KL history, so I think this is just a short lived little phase in which Val’s material is just not as exciting as what else is going on around her, you know? 

 

In case you don’t believe me, let’s just take a peek at what’s going on with everyone else on the cul-de-sac (or at The Beach House) to see how exciting this week’s events are.  There’s a lot of lying and scheming going on via Abs towards Kenny, who she doesn’t want to be the producer of Ciji’s album.  Early in the ep, Abs sells Ciji’s contract to Munson, but she wants Kenny to have no part of it.  Honestly, as I’ve mentioned ad nauseum time and time again, business dealings and contracts and stuff like that tend to fly right over my head; I just have a hard time keeping track.  What confuses me in this instance is the legality or possible illegality of what Abs is doing.  Okay, so early in the season, Gary discovered Ciji, right?  There she was, singing Open Arms, and we all saw Gary get very excited.  Next up, he rushed over to Kenny to tell him all about this hot new singer he just discovered.  Then, in, I think, New Beginnings, Kenny tried to get his own boss excited about Ciji and it didn’t work out, or something like that.  So, Kenny and Gary decided to go into business together with all that money that Jock left Gary when he died (from our Brief Dallas Interlude called Jock’s Will). 

Okay, my point is this: Can Abs just cut Kenny out of the deal at this point?  Would he not be, like, an investor in Ciji?  Couldn’t he sue Abs for what she’s doing to him?  It just seems to me like Abs doesn’t have a hard time getting rid of Kenny at all; this all happens rather quickly, and nobody mentions anything about the law.  Did Kenny have any money invested or was he just going along with Gary while Gary provided the dough?  A lot of my confusion stems from being stupid, but then a lot of it also stems from these plot points spanning whole seasons.  At this point, I try to flash back and remember which things occurred early in the season, but it’s already starting to blur a bit.  We know that Abs is duplicitous not just because we’ve seen her behavior since the start of season two but also because Munson appears to have no problem working with Kenny.  He’s fine with it, yet Abs is the one who wants him to have no part in it.  Later in the ep, Gary and Abs have Kenny and Ginger over to The Beach House, where they pour champagne for Seaview Circle’s power couple and gently begin to explain that Kenny is cut out of this deal.  Kenny and Ginger both get mad and stomp off, which is understandable.


Let’s try to examine exactly why Abs feels the need to give Kenny the shaft in this way.  Is it simply because she has watched the last three seasons and sees how useless these characters are?  Does she just dislike Kenny?  Is she only doing this because she can and because it helps her to express her power?  My own theory is that she doesn’t want any outside influences affecting Gary; I think she wants to build their own little world of Gary and Abs in which they are isolated from others and she has all the power over him, but I again must ask why.  Honestly, Abs is such a complex character that, watching the show, I often find myself at a loss for what to write about her.  See, it would be so easy to merely say that she’s wicked and, therefore, does wicked things.  I feel that’s how her character would be handled on other nighttime soaps, but the KL writing and acting is so good that Donna Mills really gets to bring Abs to life as this fully rounded, three dimensional human.  She’s not 100% wicked all the time, and we’ve already seen moments of humanity a few times from her (most notably Abby’s Choice in the scene where she confessed to Gary that she’s not a hero and that she has no courage).  Since neither Kenny nor Ginger have ever burned or hurt Abs in any way, it’s hard for me to figure out exactly why she’s so hell-bent on keeping Kenny out of the Ciji business, but she is.  Anyone have any ideas on this one? 

Gary’s really starting to fall apart here, although this is nothing compared to where he’ll be a few eps down the line.  He is still a very weak man at this point, the Gary Ewing who I had kinda forgotten all about.  Like I’ve said before, whenever I think of Gary, I tend to flash to later seasons Gary who is way more grounded and self-actualized, not this early Gary who’s super weak and easily manipulated.  This Gary certainly does the majority of his thinking with his penis, for instance, whereas the Gary from, oh, let’s say seasons seven and beyond, that Gary actually uses his brain to make smart decisions.  Abs is able to manipulate him pretty easily just by parading her body around.  In this ep, we have a fabulous scene in which Abs is lounging in a gigantic bubble bath, one of those kinds that’s just built right into the floor, Scarface style (and, by the way, a close-up shot of her face surrounded by all those bubbles is going to make it into the scrolling credits, I believe, next season).  Gary comes in all frustrated about something and all Abs has to do is sit in her bath, all naked and wet, and use her sexy body to get Gary to go along with what she’s saying.  “Come on, Gary, you know that Kenny’s a loser and we need to get rid of him.”  After that, she appeals to Gary’s foot fetish by sticking a soaking wet food in his face and asking him to massage it.  This I didn’t love, mostly because I’m not one of those guys who has a foot fetish (not naming names, Quentin Tarantino), but whatever, to each his own. 

 
The source of all this drama, Ciji, also has an exciting new plot development this week when she receives a phone call from her doctor announcing that she is pregnant.  Ciji hangs up her rotary dial phone and, at first, looks sorta upset, but then her face relaxes and we can see that she’s sorta digging the idea.  She acts a bit like Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby by whispering to herself, “You’re pregnant,” letting the words sink in.  The next step is telling Chip, but I think we all know he’s not gonna be too happy about this news.

Speaking of Chip, he very easily manages to get out of trouble with Diana.  Let’s flash back a week to The Block Party when Diana peeked out the window and saw Chip planting a kiss on Ciji.  If you thought this signaled the end of their relationship, you would be wrong, because when Diana mentions what she saw and asks him what’s going on, he becomes rather, um, gay, and calls her a “silly goose” for some reason (a little later he also mentions being “tickled pink,” and it was the first time I started to notice how bizarrely gay Chip seems to act so much of the time).  Then he thinks up a lie right and quick and tells Diana how Ciji was having a little panic attack about having to perform, so he talked to her and gave her a kiss to make her feel better.  That’s all it takes for Diana to be cool with Chip again.  Too easy?  At first I thought so, but then I thought of how many stupid teenage girls have been lied to by their boyfriends and easily accepted these lies, and then it seemed more real to me.

This is a big episode for Chip and he keeps busy for all 48 minutes.  Up to this point, we’ve seen that Chip is bad news, but I don’t think we know quite how bad he is.  He’s been lying to people and doing weird little manipulations and he’s definitely a con artist, but this is the first episode where we truly see that he might be psychotic.  I’ll start with how he steals Val’s manuscript.  Again, this little portion of the ep kinda confused me, but My Beloved Grammy helped me understand it a bit (it’s so much more enjoyable to watch these with a partner to help you out!).  See, Chip gets offered this job with some guy named Thornwall, played by Michael McGuire (the guy who was supposed to marry Diane in the first episode of Cheers and instead ditched her at the bar).  Thornwall wants to handle Val’s account, as she’s now a rising star and the talk of Seaview Circle.  Next up, Chip is suddenly stealing two chapters to the manuscript of Val’s new book. 
 

This is the part that confused me.  I had a hard time figuring out how stealing two chapters somehow helped Chip get whatever it is he wants from Thornwall, but I guess it’s basically his way of saying, “Hey, look, Val’s trusting me with her new manuscript, so now you know just how close we really are!”  Also, this plot point is a planted seed for a few eps down the line (To Have and to Hold, which we shall come to very shortly).  So while nothing all that big or dramatic happens with this storyline this week, hold tight because it’ll pay off shortly.

More significantly, in my opinion, we get our first real hint of Chip being violent.  When he arrives at Ciji’s apartment and she tells him that she’s pregnant (after she celebrates her pregnancy with a nice big glass of wine, of course), let’s just say he doesn’t react well.  Instead of being happy and saying, “Oh, that’s great, honey,” he tries the less popular method of grabbing Ciji by the hair and shouting, “Nothing is going to interfere with what I have planned for us!”  This is big stuff, folks, because since we first met Chip back in Svengali, we’ve seen him lie and manipulate people, but he’s come off more like a simple sleaze, just a “creep,” as Mack would say; now we see that he may be legitimately dangerous and perhaps psychotic. 
 

After things started to get lesbianic with Ciji and Laura in Abby’s Choice, that story seemed to go on the back burner for The Block Party, but now it’s back and I’m relishing it.  I notice a running theme going on in which Ciji and Laura hold their most private conversations in the bedroom.  They seem to enjoy gathering in the bedroom of Richard and Laura and just hanging out on the bed, above the covers, sorta relaxing, sometimes with the baby and sometimes without him.  Now, that’s certainly a subtext that a person can either choose to see or not see, depending on the person, and I’m certainly a person who sees gay in everything in every place I go every day of my life.  However, you can’t tell me that the next scene I wanna talk about does not make it very clear that something is going on between the two women.

It’s late at night and Richard is in a friendly mood and he wants to snuggle up with Laura.  He starts turning on the charm a bit and telling her about how the kids are out of the house and Bob Loblaw.  This whole scene, while Richard is lying on the bed, Laura has her back turned to him and is just sorta looking straight ahead.  It’s all very quiet and intimate, but the gist of the scene is that Laura doesn’t want to do it with Richard.  Why doesn’t she want to do it with Richard?  The answer, of course, is because she wants to do it with Ciji.  She wants to be one with her womanhood by lezzing out and doing some serious muff diving on this hot singer; that’s what she wants.  Now, I suppose you could argue that she just doesn’t want to sleep with Richard because their marriage is remaining on shaky grounds, the way it’s pretty much been since Pilot, but I believe that’s only one small fraction of the reason for her frigidity this week.  The real reason is that Richard does not turn her on and Ciji does. 
 

You know, I think that’s gonna just about do it for my thoughts on Cutting the Ties That Bind.  In my notes, it looks like I scribbled, “Karen is rocking the Annie Hall look,” and I do remember her getting dressed up in a lovely masculine outfit, a sorta suit and a tie, and I remember appreciating how she could look so good, but I don’t really remember her doing much in this ep.  Did she really have a significant story and it’s just slipping my mind?  Pretty sure she’s on the sidelines for the majority of this ep, although she’s still around.

 
My concluding thoughts are that Cutting the Ties That Bind is a tremendous step up from Emergency, Abby’s Choice, and The Block Party.  If those three episodes (particularly the latter two) represent a minor mid-season slump, then I feel this episode is where things start to pick up a lot as we are now officially in the second half of the season, with an ending now in sight.  Aside from a bit of a lag in Karen stories, all the characters are well represented this week and have a lot going on and there’s a lot to focus on, with stories building and growing and evolving.

We’re gonna get plenty of material next week when Karen receives a visit from Teddy Becker again (although he looks bizarrely different and much more lecherous than he looked back in One of a Kind) in the episode entitled And Teddy Makes Three.  more