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.