Sunday, November 20, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 074 of 344: THE BURDEN OF PROOF

Episode Title: The Burden of Proof

Season 04, Episode 21

Episode 074 of 344

Written by Diana Gould 

Directed by Alexander Singer

Original Airdate: Thursday, March 3rd, 1983

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Val is booked and questioned. Abby goes to jail and has Gary sign over power of attorney to her. When she finds out Val confessed, Abby laughs and says, "That's so Val." Abby wants Mitch to get Val's confession thrown out. Mitch tells Abby she'd better determine what is more important - keeping Val and Gary apart, or getting Gary out of jail. Police bring Val to Ciji's to recreate the fight. Other police show up with Gary. Gary's really upset, and says Val has nothing to do with it. Police have to restrain them. Lilimae tells Chip it was his leaking Val's story that started this whole mess, and kicks him out. Chip tries to charm Lilimae, but she's no longer buying it. Police release Val. Richard has decided to leave Laura, but doesn't tell her. He liquidates his assets and takes care of unfinished business, packs, and secretly leaves.

 

As I sat down to write about The Burden of Proof, at first I was like, “What was that one about again?”  I was starting to think it might have been one of the less amazing of the seven eps My Beloved Grammy and I watched upon our most recent visit, but as soon as I read over my notes on the ep, I immediately realized that was inaccurate, that there’s actually a ton of stuff to say about this week’s ep.  While a good majority of the show this week is devoted to the continuing saga of “Who Killed Ciji?” and Gary’s incarceration and Val acting like she killed her and all that, I think the most important thing to note about this episode is that it marks the final (more or less) appearance of The Plesh as Richard Avery.  Yeah, he’ll be back for a guest spot in two episodes way down the line (the 200th and 201st episodes of the series, not to imply that those feel really far away at this point in time or anything), but this is the last time John Pleshette appears as a part of the regular cast of KL and I wanna spend a good deal of time discussing his final moments on the series and how they made me feel.

 
But first, let’s jump through the other characters and what’s going on with them this week.  I kinda wanna save my thoughts on Richard and his exit for the ending, since his final moments are also the final moments of the ep and they are the parts that resonate most strongly with me in The Burden of Proof.  We open the show with, I’m gonna declare it, some stock ADR dialogue recycled from last week’s show.  See, we start on a shot of the police station and we hear Val’s voice describing the events of the night of Celebration, and I’m absolutely sure that they just went and reused dialogue from last week, in which she was describing these events to, I think, Karen.  The dialogue goes something like, “She backed me up against the wall and she was saying horrible things,” something like that, and it’s absolutely the same and I felt really smart for noticing it, even though I know nobody besides myself cares.

 
But anyway, to get us up to date, last week’s episode ended with Val doing something very stupid, driving herself to the police station and declaring, “I killed Ciji.”  Now we are starting to see the repercussions of that, but I definitely get the sense that none of the cops, neither Detective Baines (pictured above) nor the stereotypical angry tough male cop dude, really believe that Val did it.  Her story just doesn’t really hold much water, and it’s kinda based in a bizarre fantasy that she has concocted for herself.  In fact, sitting here and looking through my notes, I can’t exactly remember all the details of how Val reaches this conclusion, or how her story goes.  It’s something like she thinks she actually killed Ciji when she hit the table, even though she was alive when Val left, and then Gary came back later and found the body and decided to hide it.  You see what I mean?  There’s a lot of leaps of the imagination in her story, this weird need to take the blame for something she didn’t do, and I think the cops sense that, too.

 
There’s a cool little stylistic cut done near the middle of the episode, involving the idea of retracing steps on the night of the murder.  First, we see the cops taking Gary for a walk on the beach, in the area where he woke up in the opening moments of Loss of Innocence.  They’re hoping to jog his memory and break through the alcohol-induced fogginess in his mind, but they have little success.  Then, we immediately cut to the same thing being done (via different cops) with Val, this time in Ciji’s apartment.  They take her there to look around and remember the argument she had with Ciji.  While in the middle of retracing her steps, Gary comes walking in with the other cops and there’s this big, dramatic scene where he’s, like, trying to wrestle out of the arms of the cops so he can get over to Val.  Now that he sees her in person and knows what she’s up to, incarcerating herself because of some bizarre need to protect him, he sorta flips.  Aside from shouting a few things at Val and struggling with the cops, Gary isn’t able to do much in this scene, and he is quickly removed from the premises.

 
Meanwhile, Lilimae has finally had it with Chip.  After nearly a whole season of having him living in the house, she finally tells him he needs to pack up and leave.  The reason she has finally had enough is because she blames Chip leaking the “Booze and Women” story to the press for all the crap that’s going down and, in a way, she’s kinda right.  Gary started unraveling when this occurred and he pretty much returned to drinking in the exact same episode that the story leaked, To Have and to Hold (remember it was the sorta cliffhanger of that ep, Gary holding a glass of bourbon in his hand, contemplating drinking it) and that has further unraveled to all the shenanigans that are now going down with Ciji’s death.  I also think Chip’s little confession that he was sleeping with Ciji in The Fatal Blow really alarmed Lilimae, even more than she appeared to be alarmed during the scene in question.  My theory is that this little confession sorta caused her to open her eyes about the way Chip really is, that he’s a con artist and a liar and possibly very dangerous.

Even though I’ve said a few times how weird it is that Chip just sorta gets to live rent-free under the same roof as Lilimae and Val for almost a whole season, Julie Harris does such a brilliant job of playing her character that her little crush on Chip always comes off feeling both sweet and sad.  I feel bad for Lilimae right here, because she really did just plain like Chip; she thought he was charming and sweet and she viewed him as a friend.  Now that she’s starting to realize what a bad man he really is, she has to order him out of the house, and you know that must be hard for her to do.  I don’t think I can see a relationship this odd between an older woman and a younger man working on any other show, but it always works on KL and I give most of the credit for that to Julie HarrisAnyway, at first Chip argues and tries to charm Lilimae.  It’s worked in the past and you can tell he thinks it’ll work now, but not so much.  Because of this, Chip returns to an older plan of his to ditch town and move to New York.  Somehow I’ve forgotten to mention all this drama in any of the preceding episodes, but see, Chip was originally saying he was gonna up and run to New York around the time of Loss of Innocence.  For whatever reason, something changed his plans and he decided to stay in California (I believe he claimed it was to help Val and Lilimae deal with all this stress).  Well, now that he’s being booted out of the house, he returns to his original plan, and the question which remains is: Will Diana go with him?

Meanwhile, while Gary’s in prison, Abs is up to her conniving ways with her lawyer.  Now, probably because of seeing what a true alcoholic Gary is and how quickly things turn to shit when he has a drink, Abs has decided she wants to keep Gary in prison.  Near the middle of the ep, she pays Gary a visit and they have a conversation through that prison-glass-wall-telephone thing.  In this scene, Gary signs over power of attorney to Abs, which I guess is important.  This is one of those storylines that I’m sure is important and exciting, but for whatever reason I’m just having a hard time following.  I’m really stupid sometimes and I confess that I don’t actually really know what “Power of attorney,” means, but I assume it’s important because My Beloved Grammy got very excited about all these shenanigans. 

 
Gary gets a second prison visit this week, this time from Kenny.  In addition to losing Richard this week, we will also be losing Kenny and Ginger next (can you guess which one I’m most upset about?), so I can sense the writers, at this point, sorta wrapping up any lingering threads for Kenny and Ginger so they can be shipped neatly out of town.  This is actually a somewhat sweet scene as Kenny and Gary manage to come to some understanding of all the shit that went down throughout the last year and seem to reach some peace.  It’s a quick little scene but demonstrates the writers crossing their t's and dotting their i's as we get ready to say goodbye to Seaview Circle’s most dynamic duo.

Meanwhile, Karen and Mack are continuing to do everything in their power to figure out this murder.  Also, on the topic of Chip, Mack finally declares, “I’m gonna call some people.”  I take this to mean that he’s going to do some research into who Chip really is and what his past is like, and I gotta say it’s about time.  Chip’s been in town so long and this is the first time that Mack finally decides to use his power and authority to figure out where this guy came from?  Better late than never.

Okay, that about does it for the other cast members this week; now let’s talk about Richard.  I tried to wash my brain out during this episode and to watch it from the point-of-view of a first-run viewer in 1983, and I wondered if I would be surprised that Richard is leaving the show or if I would see it coming.  I think I’ve settled on the latter, because throughout the ep, there’s a real sense of Richard getting his affairs in order and getting ready to leave town forever; it hangs over this entire episode like a storm cloud threatening rain.  All through this week’s ep, we see Richard taking care of little things that he’s been putting off, tidying things up, obviously planning ahead for the fact that he’s about to blow town.  For instance, one of the first scenes with Richard in The Burden of Proof is him speaking on the phone, talking about liquidating his assets and getting some money for Laura.  A little bit later, Laura has some little idea about the restaurant, something they could do to make it more profitable.  Richard gets sorta excited and is like, “Hey, that’s a great idea; you should do it.”  When Laura reminds him that he is the owner of Daniel, he starts to sorta ask her if she thinks she could run it by herself.  This is maybe a bit too much too soon in the episode, don’t you think?  If I was Laura, I would find it mighty suspicious that Richard is suddenly asking me if I could run the restaurant myself and even encouraging me to do so. 

Next up, we spot Richard finally fixing his drain pipe.  Karen sees him on the ladder, fiddling with it, and she comes over to chit chat with him.  Since this is pretty much Karen and Richard’s last scene together on the series (barring those two eps I mentioned, of course), it hit me rather hard.  The strange and loving friendship between the two has always been one of my favorite parts of the first four seasons of the show.  There have been so many points where, even if Richard was acting like a total dick, Karen would be in his corner and stick up for him.  Also, many of Richard’s sweetest moments have always been towards Karen.  Let’s not forget The Vigil, when Sid was lying in the hospital and Richard brought Karen a catered gourmet breakfast and helped her deal with her grief, or the very loving way he helped her cope during the episodes following Sid’s death.  Let’s also not forget that when Richard went loony back in Night, Karen was the only one coming to his defense, telling everyone that he was not crazy and that he was not violent.  Following the events of that episode, Karen visited Richard at the sanitarium more than any other character, always making sure to be a good friend and show her love.

Because of all that beautiful stuff we’ve seen in the previous 73 episodes, this scene resonates with a quality we wouldn’t have if we were watching another, less wonderfully written show.  See, Karen says how they should have a dinner party and Richard and Laura should come over and she tells Richard to “bring the wine.”  There’s a sense that she’s looking forward to this occurring, but we the audience get the feeling that it’ll never happen, that there’s something ominous in the air.  This is heightened by Richard’s final question to Karen, when he asks, “How do you like being married again?”  She smiles and says, “I love it,” and walks away.  This is an exchange of dialogue I’d forgotten, and now I can see what’s going through Richard’s mind.  He doesn’t want to live here anymore, not in California, nowhere near where all his past failures and problems have occurred.  He’s thinking of starting a new life and the wheels are turning in his head so quickly that he’s already thinking of whether he could ditch Laura and Jason 3 and start a new life with someone else.  If Karen can find happiness with a second spouse, why can’t he? 

 
Speaking of Jason 3, we also get a terrific little scene between him and Richard taking place in the Avery living room.  See, Jason 3 is working on some sort of college school project about “the happiest time he ever had,” and he’s focusing on a trip that he took with his parents to, um, somewhere.  Anyway, apparently he was quite young when they went on this vacation (although, due to constantly morphing into new people, Jason seems to always sorta stay the same age and even, near the end of his time on the show, age in reverse in some bizarre way) and Richard is surprised he remembers this trip at all.  The two sit on the floor and talk about all the fun they had and what they did while they were away from home.  Richard looks melancholy, almost happy/sad at the same time, and I can only imagine the swirl of contradictory thoughts racing through his head.  I have to imagine that he’s having a bit of guilt about what he’s planning to do.  How can he sit here with his son, who he loves, and talk about the fun they’ve had in the past, and then up and leave him later in the ep?  At the same time, I have to wonder if Richard is feeling like a failure all around, if he’s maybe telling himself that Laura and Jason 3 and Daniel will all be better off without him, the man who can’t hold down a job and opened a new business which has been struggling and is probably going to go under very soon. 

The very last scene of the ep is Richard sorta going through the house, collecting his shit, making sure he’s good and packed, and leaving.  I’m not gonna lie; I started to get misty here.  I didn’t bawl like a little faggot the way I may bawl for certain stories and scenes in our future, or the way I bawl whenever I watch Titanic.  Tears didn’t actually roll down my face, but my eyes got wet and watery and I felt very emotional here.  See, Laura is holding Daniel on her lap and playing with him in the bedroom.  Richard walks up to the door and looks in and Laura doesn’t see him, but little Daniel does.  Richard looks at the baby and he smiles and then he gives him a sorta wave with just one finger.  Next, he goes downstairs and he’s about to leave when he pauses, looks at a beautiful black and white picture of himself, Richard, Jason 3, and Daniel, and then decides to take that picture with him.  He goes outside, gets in his car, drives away, stops the car briefly to get out and look back over the cul-de-sac one last time, gets back in his car, drives away, and boom, that’s the end of The Burden of Proof.

 

It’s yet another credit to The Plesh’s incredible acting that Richard is able to do this, to up and leave his entire family behind without any warning, something that is really a pretty shitty thing to do, and yet I end up feeling sorry for him.  Somehow, Richard has always walked this tightrope where, no matter how he behaved, I could always understand his feelings and sympathize.  I really don’t know another actor who could manage to be such an asshole and also be so sympathetic, often within the confines of the same episode.  Something about the way The Plesh brought Richard to life has always made me able to relate to him no matter how dire his behavior towards others could sometimes get; I always seemed to understand that Richard was not inherently a bad person, but rather a man deeply dissatisfied with his own life who consistently feels like a failure.

I think my eyes got watery not just because of the heightened emotion of the sequence and the excellent musical score, but also because Richard is leaving the show and I am going to miss him.  The cast of KL is generally so strong that it’s impossible to really decide who the best character is.  A lot of my favorite characters aren’t even on the scene yet, for instance, and the cast grows, changes, and evolves in such a way that there’s always someone new and super interesting to focus on.  But I do think, for these first four seasons, Richard is very nearly my favorite character.  I think Karen is always going to be #1 in my heart, but Richard is a comfortable #2 right after her, and he brought the most energy, life, and intricacies to the first four seasons of this show.  In addition, The Plesh seemed to understand his character and be able to write for him in a way that was very special and rare.  In addition to being a tremendous actor (way underrated, I must reiterate), he also wrote eight fantastic episodes during his time as a cast member, spanning Bottom of the Bottle: Part Two through Daniel (with his most shining writing masterpiece being the unforgettable Night).  Whenever he stepped up to the plate to contribute a script to the series, I would always pay attention and know that I was gonna be in for an extra good, extra rich episode of KLIn fact, when I told My Beloved Grammy that this was Richard’s last episode, the first question she asked was, “Does he still write more episodes?”  Even though she generally doesn’t pay as much attention to who’s writing/directing eps as I do, she still found herself noticing that his eps were of a higher quality than the others.  Now, even though he doesn’t contribute anymore scripts to the show, he will be back in the future to direct five eps, starting with Homecoming next season and concluding with Simmer in 1991.  I can’t wait to get to those eps so I can pay attention to how The Plesh does behind the camera, not as the writer but as the director.

 
One last thing I wanna say, sorta related to the topic of cast members coming and going throughout the fourteen years of the show.  Well, clearly that’s going to happen a lot, which is only natural for a long-running show.  Indeed, the only people who are main cast members on the series from start to finish are Michele Lee and Ted Shackelford.  For the first four seasons, we’ve been pretty consistent with our cast, only losing Don Murray at the start of season three.  When we start season five, we will have, I believe, our mast radical shift in the cast in the whole series, losing Richard, Kenny, and Ginger and gaining the ball of excitement Ben along with a character I can’t wait to discuss, Sumner (and, also, Diana gets a promotion to main cast member next season).  However, the interesting thing about these shifts, and another credit to the quality of the show, is I never feel that hurt by someone leaving, because someone super interesting is generally just around the corner.  In this instance, yes, I’m sad to see Richard depart the show, but we’re about to get William Devane in the cast, and he’s one of the best characters ever and I love him with all my heart, so it’s like I barely have time to miss Richard, because Sumner comes into the proceedings and is so awesome, so funny, and so brilliantly cast.  Contrast this with Dallas, where the loss of cast members was brutal and would generally disrupt the quality of the show in a very toxic way (Patrick Duffy’s departure during season nine being the prime example, but Victoria Principal’s exit is even worse and basically smears shit all over the last four years of that show). 

Okay, that’s gonna do it for The Burden of Proof.  I thought this was an excellent episode in all sorts of ways, but especially as a swan song for Richard, who was consistently brilliant and brought quality humor and drama to the series through many different factors for 74 episodes.  All the other proceedings with the other cast members this week come second for me; The Burden of Proof should be remembered and respected for being our goodbye to Richard Avery, and I thought it did an excellent job of balancing these bittersweet emotions as he blows town.

This is very exciting, because now we just have one more episode left in season four and then we’ll be done with this brilliant year of television.  Coming up next, our season finale, Willing Victims.

6 comments:

  1. I am sorry, but I never, ever felt sad that Richard left. I also never really felt invested in his character the way I was invested in Karen, Val, Gary, etc. I could never sympathize with Richard. He was his own worst enemy. The cause of all his problems was his own reflection. Take Daniel, for example. Because of his narcissistic need to be Gordon Ramsay without Ramsay money, he entered into a shady deal where Abby had control over his own business! Pure ridiculousness. Ultimately, though, I could not understand why he left this season. Despite everything, Daniel was still a successful restaurant. He was making money. He and Laura were not happy, but that was nothing new. He could have separated/divorced, run his restaurant, been a father to his sons, and so on. It would have been better to send him packing at the end of season 3, after his life totally devolved into madness. Perhaps, I would have felt more sympathy for him then (it's still a stretch -- he was such an unlikable man). I mean, it's one thing to be mentally ill. That's reason to leave even your small child, to protect the child's safety. Leaving at season 4's end is a far nastier stain on his character. He's of sound mind, able bodied, and with clear disregard for his children, he just deserts them. No misty eyes over here. Only steam pouring out of my ears. Good riddance, Richard!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree. I was not sad at all when Richard left. I never was invested in his character. I tried but just couldn't. I did feel that they wrote him into a corner and felt bad for the actor. When he came back for
    Laura's funeral I felt a twinge of sympathy for Richard.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am with you. I always am sad (Even if it's only brief because Devane is on his way) when I get to the point where Richard leaves. I am currently watching the show again with a friend who has never seen the series, and he does not yet understand the depth of my Richard love. I think that is what makes Knots Landing such a fucking good show-- There really is no reason to really like or feel sorry for Richard and his assholeishness for leaving his family. And yet you do. The characters are so layered that I don't think anyone (Except maybe Danny. Maybe.) is completely good or completely bad. Like real life people. I also think that it speaks volume of the wonder that is Plesh's acting because he takes a character who is on paper so unlikable yet brings a vulnerability to him. I think the turning point for me with Richard is when Sid dies. At that point, he had been through some serious shit with the Fairgate family with the whole fake rape thing. He is so kind to Karen and I think in many ways, the reason why she deals with Sid's death as well as she does. Brilliant. I think the Richard character is brilliant.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Richard was a fascinating character. Yes, there were times where I felt he was truly despicable to Laura and also just a very bitter man with an often bruised ego (I think back to when Sid and Karen dropped him as Sid's lawyer during the rape trial and when he ends up being found innocent, Richard doesn't show him any support and just walks away).

    I can't support such acts that he did like his verbal putdowns towards Laura or when he violently threw Ciji out of their house, but I do think there was a decent man in Richard. I always saw him leaving Laura and the kids, however brutal it may have been, as his way of being "I really don't deserve you and you are better off without me". When he comes back for Laura's funeral, you see he has straightened up his life and is happy, but you still see that he viewed himself as a failure towards Laura. In my eyes, he was an extremely flawed person but he does redeem himself enough in my eyes.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Richard was a thoroughly flawed, but incredibly interesting character. He brought an antagonistic dynamic to the show those first four years, and I don't think the show would have been as successful without him. I definitely was sad when he left, but as soon as Sumner's larger-than-life character joined the series, I quickly forgot him until his brief return in Season 9.

    The fact that there are 5 responses to this blog means that Richard's character affected all of us, like him or not.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The scene with Karen and Richard at the drainpipe is terrific, I always remember it.

    ReplyDelete