Episode Title: Emergency
Season 04, Episode 10
Episode 063 of 344
Written by Diana Gould
Directed by Larry Elikann
Original Airdate: Thursday, December 9th, 1982
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Jeff Munson tells Abby he'll only work with Ciji if he produces her. Abby says not to worry - she won't let Kenny stand in their way. Ginger shows Kenny a song she wrote, and when Ciji sings it that night at Daniel, Ginger is furious. She yells at Ciji that it is HER song, and she will get Ciji for this. Diana collapses and needs a kidney transplant. Karen doesn't handle it well, and the boys ask Mack to come to the hospital to support her. Karen rejects him at first, but then lets him comfort her. Karen and the boys don't match Diana's blood type, and therefore can't donate their kidneys. Karen asks Abby to be tested.
Oh goody, it’s time for a really exciting episode of KL this week. Make no mistake, at the era of KL which we have now reached I find every episode exciting, in case you haven’t been able to tell by my gushing over the last few weeks, but the little thirty second preview for Emergency before the classic opening credits definitely tells us that this episode will be a big one full of drama. Yes indeed, there is a lot going on this week, so let’s just dive right in.
The main thrust of the episode involves a medical crisis for Diana, and the writers (Diana Gould this week, contributing her seventh KL script out of twelve and her first one since the dreadful Reunion back in season three) do a good job of making sure this doesn’t feel like it’s coming completely out of nowhere. When we first see Diana this week, she’s looking a little sickly and multiple different characters ask her if she is feeling alright. On another show she would probably just collapse somewhere around the midpoint of the ep, totally out of the blue, but here they make sure to send us viewers hints that something is amiss with her. Now, Diana may be feeling poorly, but she still really wants to go out with Abs and Gary to, like, some snooty place. I’m trying to remember if they are going to the same whites-only tennis club that Diana and Chip were visiting back in Man in the Middle, but I’m not sure. I remember there being horses and stuff at this place, so it’s probably a different place. In any case, Karen doesn’t want Diana to go off when she’s feeling sick, but she lets her go anyway, and the fact that Diana collapses while she’s spending time with Abs provides us with plenty of fuel for Abs and Karen to argue throughout the episode.
We also actually have a legitimate story for Kenny and Ginger this week, so let’s focus on them for a minute (I apologize in advance). When we first see Kenny, he’s playing with that little bundle of joy, Erin Molly (and I reiterate that Erin Molly is not an incredibly stupid name) out in the yard. Okay, I don’t like Kenny and I don’t like Erin Molly, but for some reason I really liked how this little scene was filmed. He’s just sorta holding her up to the sky and acting like a dad with her, but there’s something about how the sun slants through his arms or the angle of the camera; I don’t know what it is, but I just found it to be a unique looking little sequence and I jotted that down in my notes. Sadly, our two boring characters quickly become three boring characters when Ginger enters the scene and tells Kenny how she wrote a song and she’d really like to perform it. Let’s not forget that Ginger is a singer now. We’ve seen her do some singing back in Possibilities, and let’s not forget that her singing gig in San Francisco was the catalyst for them being completely absent from the brilliant Night. However, now that Ciji is on the show, nobody seems to give a shit about Ginger’s singing (if they ever really did beforehand) and she’s understandably feeling a bit jealous. Anyway, Kenny is hardly husband of the year here, since when she hands him the lyrics to the song, he’s like, “Yeah yeah, whatever,” and then goes back to doing whatever he was doing. Okay, cut to a little later in the ep. Ciji is singing a new song (but we only get a few seconds of it and there’s no music behind it, so I’m not adding it into her song counter) and it just ain’t working. This was kind of a funny little moment cuz we hear her singing and My Beloved Grammy is like, “Oh no, I don’t like this song at all,” and I was like, “Me, neither,” and then the characters on the show immediately are like, “No, that’s not right for Ciji at all!” Kenny proclaims that Ciji is at her best when she’s delivering some sort of power ballet, so then he hands her the lyrics to Ginger’s song and is like, “Hey, Ginger wrote this; why don’t you sing it?” When Ciji asks if Ginger will mind, Kenny shows himself to be just as dumb as we’ve suspected since Pilot when he goes, “Naw, are you kidding; she’ll be thrilled!”
Needless to say, when the big moment comes, Ginger is far from thrilled. We are back at Daniel and it’s nighttime and we all know that means it’s time for Ciji to come out onstage and wow us. In this instance, she starts singing the Ginger song, which is called You’re the One. I want to make note of this song because, for one thing, I really like it and it’s going to come back in a big way a few episodes down the line (just you wait, my readers), and for another thing, I want to know who wrote it. Unlike all the songs Ciji has sung up to this point, this is not a cover of a song that would be popular in 1982. Instead, it’s a song made up for the show, and I have to wonder if one of the actors perhaps wrote it themselves (I think I may have even read somewhere that Kim Lankford did in fact write it herself, but I can neither confirm nor deny this idea). If anyone has any knowledge of where this song came from or who wrote it, please write in to me.
Anyway, it’s been awhile since I’ve attacked Ginger’s big bug eyes, so I’m gonna go ahead and do it now. I try to control myself from writing mean comments about people’s personal appearances on this blog, but in this instance I simply can’t help it. Seriously, how scary are Ginger’s big bug eyes? I don’t think they’ve ever gotten as big as they do in this episode. Once Ciji starts singing that song and Ginger realizes what Kenny has done with the lyrics that she entrusted to him, her eyes get so wide that you really start to wonder if they might explode. Kenny gets this pathetic look on his face like, “Come on, don’t be mad,” and then Ginger stomps off. In this instance I wanna say that I actually side with Ginger. How dumb can Kenny be? He knows that his wife wants to be a singer and he knows that she wrote this song especially because she wants to sing it herself, so then he immediately goes and gives the song to the woman that he’s been paying way too much attention to for the last few weeks, and then acts surprised when his wife gets angry. Kenny, you are a very stupid man.
Things get even more heated up later in Ciji’s dressing room. There’s a knock on the door and Ginger’s angry voice proclaims, “It’s Ginger!” Ciji tells her to come in and then the bug eyes attack yet again. Ginger goes on this gigantic rant about how she’s disgusted with Ciji for stealing her song and how could she possibly do this to her and so on and so forth. Ciji holds up pretty well in this fight, coming off as very relaxed and not afraid of Ginger or her bug eyes. I confess that if those bug eyes were coming my way, I would shit my pants and certainly not be able to keep my cool the way Ciji does. She also makes the fine point that Ginger’s problems lie with her husband, not with Ciji. After all, Ciji didn’t intentionally steal this song; Kenny just handed it to her and said, “Don’t worry, Ginger will be thrilled.” So yeah, he’s the one in the wrong in this situation.
Just before the scene ends, we get a huge seed planted and I’m not even gonna risk spoiling this for someone who is virginal to the series and doesn’t know what’s coming, but let’s just say the seed that is planted right here in this scene is going to grow into a fabulous flower very shortly. As the music swells and violins start to shriek as if Bernard Hermann came back from the grave just to score this particular scene of this particular episode, Ginger’s bug eyes get even bigger as she glares at Ciji and proclaims, “I’ll get you for this.” With those five words, she goes running off, leaving Ciji alone to wonder what exactly she might mean, leaving me to gasp in awe at the skilled writing and the sheer genius that is KL.
Before I move back to other characters and the main gist of the episode dealing with Diana, let me take a moment to discuss my thoughts on Kenny and Ginger at this juncture in the series. Even though I still relish making fun of them and saying mean things about how boring the characters are, and even though I will definitely not be crying when we reach season five and their dull faces have disappeared from the scrolling squares, I have to say I’m surprised by how involved in the plots they are at this point. This is probably their best season for actually feeling like they belong as part of the cast. For the last three years, they have been so unbelievably boring, and it’s not just that they were boring, but they also felt isolated from the rest of the characters, like they were existing off in some other, way less interesting show. I’d say the peak of their boring-ness was season three when they had Erin Molly and then just spent most of the season sorta sitting around the house and, you know, raising her. But now, they actually feel like they have some purpose and reason to be on the series. Kenny is no longer playing those ridiculous public domain records that he loved blasting in seasons one through three; now he is actually working with a real singer who sings real songs. This is causing jealousy on the part of Ginger which manifests itself when she explodes at Ciji here, setting the stage for some real exciting events that are awaiting us as we move further along this season. My point is that even though I still don’t like Kenny and Ginger and I still don’t think either of them are very good actors, at least they have a purpose in season four, you know? At least they don’t feel nearly as toxic and superfluous as they did in the last three seasons.
Returning to the saga of Diana and her illness, she’s at the snooty whites-only club with Abs and Gary when she complains of feeling poorly. She blames it on eating too much for lunch and then excuses herself to go rest for awhile, but the next time we see her, she has passed out and needs to be rushed to the emergency room, where an angry Karen awaits. I enjoyed the quick little argument Karen and Abs have in the hallway at the hospital. Karen says that Abs should have been keeping a better eye on Diana and Abs goes on her little, “Oh yes, wicked wicked Abby” rant that she likes to go on whenever someone is mad at her. It’s a quick scene and I enjoy how low key it is, not too over-the-top and not too theatrical. It doesn’t take too long after Diana arrives at the hospital for the doctors to figure out what’s wrong with her, namely that she is suffering from kidney failure. Random notation, but I got a little nerd boner when I realized that the actress playing a nurse in this ep, Lily Mariye, would go on to play Nurse Lily Jarvik for the entire fifteen season run of ER from 1994 to 2009 (clocking in at 127 episodes overall). ER is one of my other favorite shows (well, the first eight seasons are amazing, in any case) so I got a little nerd boner seeing Lily Mariye here, knowing this guest spot is getting her warmed up for fifteen years of ER.
Anyway, Diana’s doctor explains to Karen how Diana is going to need a kidney transplant pronto, and until she can get that kidney transplant, she will need to stay on dialysis and come in like four times a week for long sessions with the dialysis machine. The only hope is a transplant, and it would be helpful if someone from the family matched and was able to donate. If Diana has to wait for a cadaver transplant, she’ll be put on a waiting list and it could be a long time. All of this is very fine, well, and good, but if I have a complaint about this episode (and it’s a very small one), it’s that I simply don’t like Diana and so it’s hard for me to really care what happens to her. Minor spoiler alert, but Diana is gonna be with us through season five (she even gets to join the scrolling squares next season), so we all know she’s not gonna die, right? But what if I was a new viewer in 1982, watching fresh and having no idea where the show could go? I did some chewing on that thought for awhile. KL has already shown it has no problems going in surprising directions that you wouldn’t expect and killing off vital characters that we thought would be with us forever. Let’s flash back to the death of Sid for a minute and how shocking that must have been when it happened. So, knowing that the writers have no problem with stirring up the pot and completely killing main characters, if I was watching this upon original airdate, maybe I would think Diana could very well die. The question is this: Would I care? Mmmm, not really. When Sid died, it was like a gut punch because I loved that character and was sad to see him go. Diana has spent three seasons being annoying and whiny and, with this fourth season, has started to morph into an unpleasant bitch. Would I start crying if her character wound up dying? Nope. However, I would feel sad for Karen having to lose her husband one year and then her daughter the next year, so that’s where my feelings and emotions would lie.
It’s actually pretty interesting to compare and contrast the last time we were at the hospital, back when Sid died in The Vigil and Critical Condition, with where we are now, because everything is a smidge more DRAMATIC than it was in that case. Obviously I love Michele and she is still great here, but her anger and her angst is a little more heated, a little more obvious than it was back in those eps, where she was a master of subtlety and realism. For instance, when Diana hears she may have to be on dialysis, she just plain flips out and starts screaming and crying and trying to pull the, like, chord thing out of her arm or whatever. It’s all very over-the-top and only makes me like Diana less. Okay, you have bad kidneys, it sucks, get over it. Diana makes everything into a drama and now that she’s actually somewhat facing a life or death situation, she really gets the chance to over-react about it. I’m not a big fan of people who can’t handle a crisis; maybe this makes me sound like kinda an unsympathetic douche, especially since I’ve never had horrifying kidney problems or anything like that, but the way Diana just immediately falls to pieces here just annoyed me. If I was living in the world of the show, I would want to slap her.
Maybe one of the worst scenes from this episode involves Michael crying and saying how he wants to donate his own kidney to save Diana, that he’ll do anything for her. I don’t want to insult Pat Petersen, not just because I hope to have sex with him one day, but also because, in general, I find him to be a pretty good little actor, even as a kid. He usually has a real naturalism about him and he always seems comfortable in his role, but in this particular scene, he is not very good. I also noticed how the scene started right away with him having tears in his eyes, leading me to believe that they were probably those fake tears that actors can use when they are unable to truly emote and make real, natural tears fall from their eyes. I don’t remember if we get a whole lot of Michael crying on the series (I don’t think so), so maybe bursting into tears just wasn’t Pat Petersen’s thing, who knows? In any case, I think the scene is supposed to be moving and it really isn’t. Part of it is the acting, part of it is the fake tears, and part of it is my lack of investment in Diana.
However, we do get a great scene near the midpoint of this episode that involves Karen, Val, Gary, and Abs. Karen is sitting alone in the hospital cafeteria, drinking that awful hospital coffee that tastes like reheated fecal matter mixed with non-dairy creamer, which coincidentally also tastes like reheated fecal mater, when Val comes in to sit with her and support her. See, Karen called Val specifically to come and be with her in her time of need, and like a good friend, Val rushed over. However, two seconds later, Gary and Abs come walking into the cafeteria as well, taking a seat awkwardly right next to Karen and Val. Abs starts to ask lots of questions about how Diana is doing and what’s going on and Bob Loblaw, and then Karen has one of those amazing moments that I love where she becomes 100% direct and no-holds-barred with another character. In this case, she looks right at Abs and says, “Abby, I’ve asked Val to come and be with me and wait this thing out. You’re making us uncomfortable and I want you to leave.” It’s a testament to Michele’s acting that she can deliver lines like this and not sound like a bitch; instead, she just sounds like a person speaking directly and honestly to another person. This directness is one of my very favorite things about Karen’s character (maybe because it reminds me of my own qualities of what some would call blunt speaking) and I just loved how the whole scene unfolded, especially the really grateful look that Val gets on her face after Abs and Gary disappear.
Meanwhile, what’s going on with Mack now that he and Karen are split up? Well, he’s decided to go and have a midlife crisis and refuses to shut up about how good his life is without a woman in it. When we catch up with him this week, he’s playing tennis with his friend Patrice (this is the Body Double chick who came walking out of his bathroom last week in The Best Kept Secret, in case you had forgotten). As they play, Mack keeps going on and on about how he’s in the best shape of his life, how great it feels to be single, how Karen was more trouble than she was worth. Obviously none of us are buying this, and Patrice isn't, either. She excuses herself from the game and says she can’t listen to Mack’s stupid ranting any longer. Later on, we get another look inside Mack’s fabulous bachelor pad, which comes complete with its own fireplace (I love the idea of a fireplace in an apartment). Now, it turns out that he’s planning to have some friends over to watch the football game on TV, but I didn’t know that when the scene started, so therefore I found it very amusing when he plops in front of the couch with a six pack of beer ready to go. I assumed he was gonna down the whole six pack and not even care if it was cold or not, but really he’s getting things ready for his friends to arrive. When there’s a knock at the door, he thinks it’s one of his buddies and tells him to come on in, but it’s actually Eric coming to plead his case that Mack needs to get back with Karen. Actually, I’m not even sure if he’s saying that they should get back together, but really he’s saying that Mack needs to come down to the hospital and show some support to Karen in this time of grief. There’s a brief stall period in which Mack is like, “Look, kid, your mother doesn’t want me around anymore,” but he quickly relents and shows up at the hospital where, naturally, Karen is glad to see him.
The plot continues to thicken as we discover that nobody in the Fairgate family has the right blood type or whatever to help Diana out. Michael and Eric both want to donate and are unable to, and the same is true of Karen. Who could possibly be the donor? Well, it turns out to be Abs who is the match, but I wanted to take a moment to point out something My Beloved Grammy said that I found interesting. She kept predicting that Mack would turn out to be the right guy and sacrifice one of his own kidneys for Diana. I reminded her that Mack is not immediate family and the doctor kept stressing that it should be a family member, but then again, the doctor did say a cadaver transplant could be done, so who knows how these things work? My Beloved Grammy opined that, if she were writing the script, Mack would be the donor. I’m not sure I agree with her idea or not; what do you think?
In any case, as we near closer to the ending of the episode, it’s revealed that Abs is the right match and only she can be the donor. Karen gets this news from the doctor just before we cut to our final scene of the ep, which takes place at The Beach House. Abs is reading an article or something and she informs Gary, “Did you know that Jeff Munson has produced three certified platinum records?” Then there’s a knock at the door and it’s Karen, looking tired and out of sorts. She reveals the plot twist to Abs and says, “Help me, Abby Fairgate Cunningham, you’re my only hope!” Our "Executive Producers" credits appear over a shot of Abby’s face and big, wide baby blue eyes, beginning to wrestle with the decision she must make that will propel us into next week’s episode.
Quite the cliffhanger, huh? Certainly if I was an original viewer, I would be hooked. At this point, KL would officially be appointment television for me. How could you watch an episode like this and not immediately want to watch the next one to find out what’s gonna happen? The best part is that it’s not just some random little dangling thread to keep you watching next week; it’s a legitimate moral and ethical decision and it’s also a fascinating opportunity for Abs to show how invested she really is in the welfare of Diana.
So that was Emergency. Aside from a few small nitpicks (Michael crying, Diana’s overacting, the fact that I generally have a hard time caring about the welfare of Diana), this is a solid 48 minutes of KL. There’s storylines going on all over the place, and Diana’s kidney crisis serves as a sort of catalyst to move along other plots such as the rekindling of the relationship between Mack and Karen. Even Kenny and Ginger are seeming to function as a part of the plot and the stories now, something I did not remember and would never have expected. Finally, that Ginger line, that “I’ll get you for this,” oh my goodness, that was a big moment.
Will Abby find it in herself (literally) to give up a kidney and save Diana? Will she pass the test of whether or not she truly loves and cares for Karen’s kids? She has a big choice to make, so tune in next week when we discuss what happens with the appropriately titled Abby’s Choice.