Thursday, November 24, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 075 of 344: WILLING VICTIMS


Episode Title: Willing Victims

Season 04, Episode 22

Episode 075 of 344

Written by Peter Dunne 

Directed by David Jacobs

Original Airdate: Thursday, March 10th, 1983

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): When Laura realizes that Richard is really gone, she tells the police, and everyone else, that Richard killed Ciji. Jeff Munson offers Kenny a job and Ginger a contract in Nashville, so the Wards decide to move. Diana and Chip decide to go to New York after all. Karen tells her about Chip and Ciji's affair in an attempt to get her to stay. Gary's preliminary hearing is coming up, but Gary's spirit is broken and he won't cooperate. Mitch thinks if Gary would work with them he could get the charges dropped. Abby wants Mitch to request Gary must go to a sanitarium as a condition of release. Mitch says no, so Abby fires him and asks Westmont to represent Gary. Val visits Gary, and she tells him to shape up because while he's playing martyr in jail, the real killer is on the loose. She also tells him if he respected Ciji, he would do all he could to find the real murderer. Roland Mackey, a private investigator, tells Lilimae he is looking for Tony Fenice, and shows her a flyer with Chip's picture on it. Lilimae shows the flyer to Karen. Karen runs up to Diana's room, but Diana has already left.

 


Welcome to Willing Victims, our season four finale of KL.  As this episode began, I noted with interest two things about who’s behind the scenes this week.  First off, this episode is written by Peter Dunne.  I don’t know if I’ve brought him up yet, but he’s a big deal to KL fanatics and is generally credited with really kicking the show into high gear during season four.  During my first viewing of the series, I paid more attention to the actors and the cast roster and how that changed and evolved over the course of the series, but I didn’t really tend to notice who was working behind the scenes or as the supervising producers for certain seasons.  Now, thanks in no small part to the exceptionally knowledgeable posters on the KL SoapChat message board (which everyone should go off and join right away), I’m becoming more aware of who was working to shape the show and its stories and characters during certain junctures of the series.

Okay, so Peter Dunne serves as the supervising producer starting here in season four, and he’ll continue that roll throughout seasons five and six, as well.  Honestly, that says it all.  If I had a resume that said I was supervising producer of KL for seasons four, five, and six, and it had absolutely nothing else on it besides that, I would still go to my grave a happy man, very proud of the excellent work I did and the art I helped to contribute to the world.  However, Dunne has a big resume which includes lots of other credits, and what’s probably most interesting, something that we’re not going to really discuss for a couple of seasons, is that during the 1985-1986 season, Dallas and KL swapped producers.  Peter Dunne moved over to work on the dreadful dream season of Dallas while David Paulsen (last discussed as the writer of our tenth Brief Dallas Interlude, Jock’s Will) moved over from his post on Dallas to be supervising producer on KL for its seventh season.  That’s going to be an interesting topic to discuss when we get there, because we all saw how the ninth season of Dallas turned out, I.E. it sucked really hard and set the tone for the next five fucking seasons to follow.  How could Dunne do such amazing work on KL and then serve as producer for such a shitty season of Dallas?

In any case, that’s not really important to the topic at hand.  I just bring up Peter Dunne because he’s been our producer all throughout this fourth season and he serves as the writer of Willing Victims.  The other interesting thing to note is that series creator David Jacobs (the genius pictured below) serves as the man behind the camera and directs this week’s episode, his first time doing so.  We’ve discussed his scripts several times in the past, starting with our very first Brief Dallas Interlude (Reunion: Part One) as well as Interludes two and four (Reunion: Part Two and Return Engagements).  In addition, he wrote the KL Pilot that introduced us to this wonderful world and he wrote Will the Circle Be Unbroken?, the episode that first introduced us to Lilimae and explored her turbulent relationship with Val.  Now he’s the director and he’s going to end up directing eight eps, with his last directorial effort being the double whammy of brilliance Noises Everywhere: Part One and Noises Everywhere: Part Two, from season nine (hardcore KL fans should immediately remember what those eps are all about).  Anyway, Willing Victims is his first time working as the director of an ep, and I immediately noticed that he brought a lot of energy and style to the proceedings, an energy unique and different from some of the other directors I’ve admired throughout the course of the last 74 eps.  For instance, we begin the show with Val running.  As I watched her run, I noted that there is a “full circle” feeling to this, because what was the very first thing we saw as we began season four with A Brand New Day?  That’s right, it was Val going for a run.  Now here we are in the season finale and the ep begins the same way.  Yes, I’m well aware that Val goes running in a ton of eps, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we begin the premiere of season four and the finale of season four with the same scene.  Also, on the topic of stylistic flourishes, Jacobs makes a cool choice here when Val runs directly into the camera, which sorta goes blurry and un-focuses before refocusing on poor Gary in his prison cell.  Nice directorial work!

 
Val is still coming to Gary’s defense, not believing for a second that he killed anybody.  However, Lilimae has an extra harsh line early in the ep when she’s talking to Val and she gets real firm and says, “Gary Ewing kills people!”  This has to be the peak of Lilimae’s distaste for Gary.  I know I’m not crazy when I say that, at some point down the line, Lilimae and Gary become friendly again, but right here Lilimae really hates him and seems to truly believe he’s a murderer.  I have to wonder if there is even any awkwardness in her future when Lilimae has to be like, “Oooooooooooh, Gary, I’m sorry I thought you killed Ciji back in season four, ooooooooooooh.”

What is Gary thinking at this point, by the way?  I’m really not sure if Gary actually truly believes that he killed Ciji or if he just is punishing himself for being a drunken mess.  I kinda think he’s just given up, much like the Beast in the big fight scene with Gaston from Beauty and the Beast; you know what I’m saying?  Like, Gary is just sorta sitting in prison like a lump, barely talking to anyone, not trying to fight these charges against him, just sorta accepting this as his fate.  I think he’s just feeling like such a loser for being a hardcore alcoholic and for all the drama that’s gone on throughout the last year that he’s just sorta resigned to sitting in prison, doing nothing, figuring that’s where he belongs, but I don’t believe that he truly thinks he’s the murderer of Ciji.

 
Late in the ep, Val pays Gary a visit in that glass wall/telephone room that you always see in prisons on TV shows.  Gary gets mad and yells and is like, “Get out of my life!”  Somehow, Val manages to calm him down and get him to listen to her, at which point she gives a great big speech about how she’s seen him in all of his drunken states throughout their time together, and even though he gets angry and nasty and has a bad temper, he’s never gotten violent.  This is slightly contradictory, as we saw him have an epic bar fight back in the Bottom of the Bottle eps and he also gave Val a black eye (although I think that was pretty much an accident, so I’ll cut him a break).  Her basic point, which I think she manages to get through to him, is that he is not a man who would murder another person, no matter how drunken he was at the time, and that he’s wasting time lying in prison.  The real killer is still wandering around out in the world, so Gary isn’t helping anyone by taking the blame for Ciji’s death.

Meanwhile, after Richard blew town last week, Laura has become convinced that he is, in fact, the one true murderer.  While this could come off as a silly plot contrivance if handled by a less deft pen, this does work for me, especially when I try to put myself into Laura’s shoes.  Even though I have loved Richard throughout his entire run on the show and I tend to act like Karen and rush to his defense in many situations, he did hold Laura and Jason 2 hostage at gunpoint just a little over a year ago, demonstrating tremendous mental instability.  Not only that, but back in Celebration, when his jealousy of Laura and Ciji’s muff-diving reached the tipping point, he got violent on Ciji, grabbed her by the hair, and threw her out of the house.  So, yeah, considering that Ciji was dead just a few minutes after that occurred, I could see why Laura is quick to blame Richard.

I also wanna note that this episode doesn’t start right off the bat with Laura knowing that Richard is gone.  Instead, he’s just kinda missing and she is waiting to hear from him or see him turn up before, at a certain point, she realizes that he has left her and is not coming back.  It’s around this point that she gets Mack and Karen together for a talk and declares that Richard killed Ciji, showing lots of examples for why this is so.  She says how he got all his affairs in his order, got his money issues worked out, tidied up his issues with the restaurant, all before disappearing from town forever because he was the one who killed Ciji.  She declares that she’s going to tell the police about this and name Richard as the culprit, even though Karen disagrees with her and tells her not to do so.

Watching this as a viewer, I have to wonder: How many people would have actually put money on Richard being the killer?  I remind you that when I first watched this, I didn’t actually know who killed Ciji, but I also didn’t really think all that much about it, because I thought it was very obvious that it was Chip.  Chip has the best motive; we’ve seen him get violent on Ciji in private conversation with her, she was refusing to have an abortion even though he wanted her to, and he was two-timing her with Diana and was probably starting to get annoyed with her nagging.  To me, there was never any doubt that Chip was the one, and while I recognized Laura’s perspective, I never bought into it, especially since I knew upon first watching that Richard had left the show.  Somehow I didn’t think the writers would have an off-screen revelation that Richard was the killer or just have him disappear from the show, be announced as the killer, and then just stay gone from the series; that wouldn’t be classy or smart the way the writing tends to be.

Laura gets my favorite scene in this whole ep, which calls back to Gary trashing the shit out of his bedroom back in The Loudest Word.  With Richard gone, Laura has to go down to Daniel and do a lot of the work herself.  The stress of everything going on starts to get to her and, finally, when she has a moment all by herself in the kitchen, she just starts going to town and trashing the place.  She knocks over a shelf of pots and pans and then grabs a pan and just starts beating the shit out of everything in the kitchen with it, throwing stuff across the room and freaking out.  This is all done in an unbroken shot, no fancy editing, so you gotta know what a pain in the ass it must have been to do multiple takes of this and have to totally redress the set just to have Constance trash it again.  When she’s finally finished smashing stuff, she just sorta leans up against the wall and covers her face and starts to cry.  Here, the camera slowly starts to pan away from her, as if this is too intimate and personal for us to even be voyeurs to.  Another aspect of this scene I dig is the complete lack of music; it’s total silence until Laura starts going to town on the pots and pans.  Finally, I just found this super relatable; haven’t we all at some point lost it and had to start breaking stuff in a fit of anger?  It doesn’t matter that we logically know it makes no sense; we just get that pissed off that we start trashing.  What a fabulous moment and an episode highlight.

 
Meanwhile, Chip is finally officially going to New York.  This is something he’s been kinda sorta threatening to do ever since about Loss of Innocence, but now he’s really going and Diana wants to go with him.  Karen is very opposed to Diana going, but in the first half of the episode, I think it’s mostly because Karen just plain doesn’t like Chip.  I’m not sure anyone at this point is truly aware of how violent and dangerous Chip really is (the only person who was aware of it is now lying dead).  Karen just gets an uncomfortable feeling from him; she doesn’t know precisely why, but she does know that she wants Diana to stay here in California, not run off to New York with Chip.

Late in the ep, Lilimae is outside watering the plants or something like that when a mysterious man with a moustache arrives (but remember it’s 1983 and it was still against the law for a man to not have a moustache).  This man is a private investigator and his name is Ronald Mackey and he is played by Joe George (pictured below).  The guy’s IMDb page is pretty big, but the only thing I recognize him from is a super early Seinfeld episode, The Stakeout (that’s the one where George first invents Art Vandelay).  Anyway, he shows up to have a chat with Lilimae and asks her if she’s seen a guy named Tony Fenice hanging around, then he produces a black and white picture of Chip.  Lilimae looks at it and then tells a bit of a fib.  Even though the picture is clearly Chip with sorta different hair and a beard, she tells Mackey that she’s never seen this guy before.

 

Meanwhile, Karen is trying her hardest to dissuade Diana from leaving.  I should probably note that, after finishing this ep, I did a bit of a status update and asked My Beloved Grammy who, at this point, ranks as her favorite and least favorite character.  She said her favorite character is Karen (an excellent choice) and that her least favorite character is Diana.  My Beloved Grammy’s exact quote was, “Diana could leave the show forever and I would never even think about her,” making me wonder how she’s going to react to all the Diana-related shenanigans of season five.  Anyway, I bring that up because, once again, Diana is acting like a whiny little bitch and not listening to what her mother has to say to her.  We also get a nice little callback to a character I didn’t really care for, Uncle Joe, when Karen says that if Diana must go to New York, she should stay with Uncle Joe (it would be a pretty nifty little callback if she mentioned Jessica Walter from back in Reunion, but she doesn’t do so).  Diana’s having none of it; she is moving to New York with Chip and that is final.

Minutes before the episode is about to come to its conclusion, Karen wanders over to Val’s house and has a chat with Lilimae.  At this point, Lilimae mentions the private investigator who came by earlier, and how Chip is wanted in Seattle (shout out!) for some prior violent offense.  At this point, we get a rare moment of bad acting from Michele Lee, I’m sorry to say.  Still love you, Michele, but this isn’t your finest work.  See, she gets all scared and runs across the street, back to her own house.  This part is fine, if a little bit over-the-top, but then she bursts into Diana’s room and realizes her daughter is gone.  She opens her closet and almost all the clothes are gone from it now, at which point Karen grabs like, a shirt or something, holds it up to her face, and starts to moan in a very theatrical matter, “Oh, Diana, oh, Diana!”  It’s way too much and made me cringe a little bit, but I forgive it cuz Michele is usually brilliant and she has been brilliant in the past and will be brilliant in the future; this is just a rare misstep. 

From this scene, we dissolve to a bit of a final montage before the episode/season ends, and I note this montage because it has a cool dissolve that we are going to see for, I think, something like ninety episodes in a row in the future, since this shot makes its way into the scrolling squares for the opening credits of seasons five, six, and seven (and maybe eight, too; I can't remember).  It’s a shot of Abs looking out the window of The Beach House and then a dissolve to Val sitting in a chair in her living room, looking out her own window.  It’s a nice dissolve, and I noted it immediately since I recognized it from the opening of the next three seasons (I always thought it was cool that one of the scrolling squares in the opening had a dissolve going on it; stylish).  This is our final scene before our “Executive Producers” credit and the conclusion of the ep.

So that’s the end of the ep, but there is one last thing I wanna discuss, and I felt like saving it for the end to show at least some respect for two characters I have been ragging on since the very beginning of the show, Kenny and Ginger.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is Kenny and Ginger’s final episode and we never see either of them ever again (aside from a very brief and completely worthless cameo from Kim Lankford in the 1997 reunion movie, Back to the Cul-De-Sac).  Okay, so what are the circumstances which precipitate their evacuation from the series forever?

Well, after the shenanigans of the last year and the fact that Kenny and Ginger no longer feel like they have many friends in Seaview Cicle, the two decide to move to Nashville after Kenny gets a job offer from Munson (meaning, I suppose, that things are now cool between the two gentlemen, so that’s nice).  Since Kenny has been out of work since about halfway through the season, there’s good reason to take this job offer, so he accepts it and we get one final scene between the two of them in bed.  Even if these characters generally bored me, I will say I’m glad they get a legitimate exit and a final scene together; we don’t just start season five and some character is like, “Kenny and Ginger moved away,” or something like that.  Instead, the theme song kicks in with a sorta gentle, melodic quality, playing much slower than it usually does, as the two lie in bed and discuss the future for themselves and Erin Molly.  I guess it’s pretty nice to see that, after Kenny’s adultery problems throughout seasons one and two, the couple have managed to make it work out, have had a baby that they clearly love, have fixed their marriage, and that Kenny has also finally truly accepted Ginger’s desire to be a singer.  Now, instead of stifling it, he’s encouraging her to use her talent in Nashville.  While this scene is hardly the most exciting portion of the episode, I’m still glad it’s here to put a little bow on the characters before they move away forever.

Also, it’s time for a big revelation of my own, and that is the fact that I no longer hate Kenny and Ginger.  Way back in my Pilot writeup, I used the word “hate,” and called them the toxic bores and bad actors and all of that stuff.  However, throughout these four seasons, it wound up being way less painful to watch their storylines than I remembered it being, and season four was so good and so well written that the writers actually gave them some story and materials to work with, which helped to dull my hatred of them.  Just to be clear, I’m not saying that I suddenly like the characters or am super sad to see them go; I’m just saying that I’ve decided “hate” was a strong word and they’re not nearly as toxic as I may have remembered. 

The basic problem is that, for most of their run, they didn’t really get a chance.  I think it’s interesting to jump back to the start of the series and reflect that, while the two were introduced in Pilot, they then immediately sat on the bench for episodes two and three, Community Spirit and Let Me Count the Ways, which pretty much set the tone for how the writers would treat these characters throughout their time on the series; they always came last in the roster, and I don’t even have to do any research to know that they sit out more eps than any other main cast members on the show.  In fact, I’m gonna go ahead and say that, now, I kinda feel sorry for them, because I’m sure the actors wanted more interesting stuff for their characters to do (to the point that James Houghton wound up writing the episode Possibilities, which was all about Kenny and Ginger).  So my basic point is that while I’m not sad that they’re leaving and I’ll probably never think about them in the next ten seasons, they weren’t nearly as bad as I remembered and they did, every now and then, have their moments, most of them contained within season four, when it felt like the writers were finally giving them something to do.

 
The last thing I’ll say about this ep is that while it ends on a series of cliffhangers (Diana running off to New York with Chip, Gary awaiting trial for murdering Ciji, Richard disappearing, and so on), it ends on a more quiet note than other seasons have or will.  I won’t spoil the finale of season five at this point, except to say that it’s just PACKED and a ton of shit happens really really fast all within the last five minutes of that season, whereas this one is more mellow, more gentle.  It’s interesting to note that other shows would probably make Celebration the season finale, the cliffhanger being the simply fact that Ciji has been killed.  I like how KL has Ciji die and then spends four episodes setting up suspects and excitement so that there’s just a ton of shit going on as we reach the final episode of the season. 

So that about does it for Willing Victims as well as the entire fourth season of KL.  This was a great season finale that director David Jacobs brought a lot of style and class to.  It sets up so many things to unfold throughout season five that, if I was alive in 1983, it would actually physically hurt me to have to wait all those long months for a new episode.  What more can you ask for in a season finale?

Coming up next will be “A Reflection on Season Four,” and after that we’ll get started with one of the most beloved and most watched seasons of KL with the season premiere episode, The People vs. Gary Ewing.

3 comments:

  1. I won't miss Ginger, but Kenny was at least nice to look at, until he opened his mouth. Then it was over. He had tight pants on a lot, but it ultimately wasn't enough.

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  2. I love the shot of Abby at the beach house/Val in her chair. And since it was added to the opening credits for 3 seasons, we get to be reminded of the awesome beach house that left the series much too soon (get ready for Westfork!)

    And the thing I will miss most about Kenny and Ginger leaving is that their house will no longer be used as a set for the remaining 10 seasons. That last shot of them in bed was the last time we get to see inside 16961 Seaview Circle. I am a sucker for a 1970's-style house (I bought one myself), so I wish one of the future cast members would have moved into this house so we could see how it was modernized for the 80's and 90's.

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  3. Why couldn't have Chip killed Diana instead of Ciji?

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