KNOTS LANDING SEASON 5 (1983-1984)
THE CAST ROSTER
WILLIAM DEVANE, KEVIN DOBSON, JULIE HARRIS, MICHELE LEE, CLAUDIA LONOW, CONSTANCE MCCASHIN, DONNA MILLS, TED SHACKELFORD, DOUGLAS SHEEHAN, JOAN VAN ARK
Episode Title: The People vs. Gary Ewing
Season 05, Episode 01
Episode 076 of 344
Written by Michael Petryni
Directed by Nicholas Sgarro
Original Airdate: Thursday, September 29th, 1983
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Karen is very upset that Diana's gone. Mack is sure that Chip killed Ciji, and they put out an APB for them. Val is dogged by reporters. A "mystery man" helps her escape them. Abby is mad that Mitch is still defending Gary. He tells Abby that she can't fire him, as Gary is his client. Gary's mad and says he can't trust Abby. On the stand, Janet admits that Gary was charged because of the way he worded his statement, and that there are other suspects. The judge drops Gary's charges and releases him. Ecstatic, Gary looks around for Val, catches her eye and smiles at her. Abby sees this and quickly hugs him, but Gary continues to smile at Val.
Welcome to season five and strap on in, because things are about to get real exciting. You all remember where we were when we last left off in season four? If not, it’s no big deal, since we get one of those super long recaps at the head of this episode, right after the opening credits, with clips from the last batch of season four eps. Sadly, there’s no cheesy narrator this time (like at the start of season three when we recapped season two), just the footage, but it’s still helpful to get us up to date. Anyway, for those who have forgotten, somebody had killed Ciji in the closing hours of season four and now Gary is sitting in a prison cell as the most likely suspect. Well, he did go on a big alcoholic bender, black out, and wake up a few feet away from her dead body, so the police have a bit of a case there. However, Laura is convinced it’s Richard, who has blown town and won’t be coming back, while Karen and Mack now believe the killer to be Chip, who has just taken Diana off to New York to start a new life there. Quite a lot going on as we dive into the season premiere, wouldn’t you say?
But before we start talking about the episode in question, we gotta talk about the spiffy new season five opening credits, which are a monumental work of sublime art. The style of this opening is the same as the previous two seasons (and the next three seasons to come) with all the fabulous imagery inside of the scrolling squares panning across the screen, but this season the theme gets a major kick in the butt and somebody turned the energy level up to 100. While the previous four seasons used a somewhat slower, more mellow version of the theme, the season five version grabs you by the balls and doesn’t let go until the opening credits are totally finished. It kicks off right away sounding faster and more intense and then it doesn’t let up as we see all of our beloved cast inside their own scrolling squares.
And speaking of which, I believe I am correct in declaring that season five contains our biggest cast shakeup from the end of one season to the start of another that we ever get on KL. Three of our regulars from last season, James Houghton, Kim Lankford, and John Pleshette, are gone now, and we’ve got some new faces to take their spots. I should note that, while we will be meeting William Devane and getting his face in the opening very soon (just a few episodes away), he is actually not added to the cast straight away as we start season five. However, Claudia Lonow is given a boost from that “also starring” credit she has had the last few years into getting her own spot in the opening, and we also see Douglas Sheehan’s name added right near the end of the credits.
This utterly fantastic version of the theme song puts me completely in the mood to sink into a nice, solid batch of KL eps. When watching the show, skipping the credits is never an option, because why would you do that? The credits are just so sublime, and this arrangement in particular represents KL at its finest. This version says to me, “We’re here, we’re a hit show, we’re the best, and we’re not going anywhere for a long time.” It’s almost like the show has gotten a renewed confidence in itself after making that leap from #43 to #20 (and, with this season, leaping even further up to being #11) and that confidence is reflected right here within the theme and the opening credits. A few quick highlights of the opening before I move on to the ep in question. I love a shot right near the start of Val and Karen walking along the beach, Val kinda resting her head on Karen’s shoulder (this scene comes from later in this exact ep, by the way). I also love Laura’s credit where it’s this real dramatic shot of her face as she hugs Jason 3 and the camera sorta zooms in a little closer on her face. When you get to Abby’s credit, you have a fabulous shot of her sitting in a bubble bath, looking overjoyed at her own wicked ways; omigod it’s so good. Finally, right near the ending, you get two shots that I’ve always found iconic, and one is Gary riding up to the camera on his horse, looking powerful and dominant and full of muscles (he definitely hit the gym between seasons) along with a quick shot of Val and Ben running along the beach, right near the surf.
Let’s not mince words. This season five opening theme and credits for KL is the greatest opening credit sequence in television history. Now, I obviously haven’t seen every opening credit sequence ever created, but in my life of television watching, this one takes the cake. When you hear this version and see those squares, you know that you’re in for a good time, that you’re in the hands of masters of television who are going to tell you a super exciting story. I love lots of other television openings, but this exact one right here is, bar none, my absolute favorite.
But enough about the credits; let’s get to the actual ep, The People vs. Gary Ewing. After the opening, we get the super long recap of events from the last season before moving on to new footage. Oh boy, which character to discuss first? I think I’ll start with Karen and talk about how she is starting to get way overstressed and seems on the edge of losing her marbles a little bit. See, she’s real stressed about Diana disappearing to New York with a probable murderer as her travelling companion. It’s worth noting that, at this point, a lot of the characters are coming to believe that Chip killed Ciji. Even though Gary is rotting in prison as the most likely suspect in this crime, events of the last few hours of season four are making Chip seem more and more likely. Indeed, early in this ep, Mack is talking to Detective Baines and even says, “You know Chip is the killer,” to her. With all this talk in the air, it’s only natural that Karen would be stressed, and stressed she is. I confess, even as a deep lover of the character of Karen and the way Michele Lee plays her, that I started to find her to be a bit much as we went through this disk of episodes. She flips out a lot during this run of eps, and it did start to get a bit grating for me after awhile. I’ll forgive her since I know she obviously has a lot on her mind and is worried about her kid, but I don’t think a lot of these freak out scenes represent Michele at her best, honestly. She’s a bit over-the-top and I’m missing the quiet subtlety she brought to the proceedings around, say, season three, when she was dealing with Sid’s death.
Early in the ep, Karen gets a wakeup call that Diana is really and truly gone when she finds her bank book and discovers all the money has been withdrawn from her savings. This adds to her stress level, which reaches something of a boiling point when Laura comes to visit the house. See, Laura has been telling Baines that she should be looking for Richard, that Richard killed Ciji and then he blew town. Karen is not pleased with Laura’s interference and we actually see her get rather nasty with her friend for the first time in the series history. She says, “Richard left you; why don’t you just accept it? He’s not a murderer.” She says this part quietly, but firmly, but then she starts to scream and yell at Laura to, “Leave him alone,” or something similar, and then we get weirdly stylish with this super intense and long-lingering closeup of Karen’s eyes as she glares at Laura. After an uncomfortably long time focusing on her eyeballs, Karen sorta turns around like a robot and slowly walks up the stairs while really bizarre electronic music plays on the soundtrack. Watching this now, I realize that we’re not just seeing Karen have a really bad day. Rather, the writers are getting ready to hatch a new plot a little bit later in the season involving Karen’s problem with prescription drugs. We need to establish that she’s real overwhelmed and that her life is sorta crashing down all around her, so I think that’s why we get this operatic scene of arguing between she and Laura and the eyeball close-ups and all that goodness. Bizarrely, after this freak-out scene, My Beloved Grammy opined, “Somebody needs to get Karen some pills,” and I had to chuckle to myself, knowing what is to come just a few eps down the line.
Later in the ep, Val takes Karen for a nice walk on the beach and the two have a bit of a chat. This was an interesting little scene because, at first, I had a major quarrel with what the two ladies are talking about, but then the writers managed to cover their bases and make the scene make more sense. What am I talking about? Well, as the scene starts, Karen clearly has daughters on the brain and she asks Val how Lucy is doing, our first mention of Lucy since God knows how long ago. Val says that Lucy is fine, that she spoke to her on the phone and, “She sounds happy.” At this point, I paused to rant to My Beloved Grammy about how this made no sense if you were following along with the stories of Dallas at this point. See, over on that show, Lucy was not doing fine because the true love of her life was currently lying in a hospital, in a coma and near death. However, just as I was getting pissy at the writers for not maintaining a continuity, a beat goes by and then Karen says, “How long has it really been since you talked to Lucy?” At this point, Val admits it’s been about seven or eight months, and I relaxed. Mickey Trotter (pictured below in bed with Lucy) wasn’t in his life-threatening coma seven or eight months ago, so it would make sense that, if Val talked to Lucy when Lucy was dating Mickey and enjoying herself, she would probably sound a lot more happy. It also makes sense to me, at this point, that Lucy wouldn’t call her mother to tell her about all the shitty stuff going on in her life; I could buy that she would just want to deal with her trauma all on her own and not get her parents involved in it.
Laura is also having a rough time now thanks to being a newly single mother. Looks like she got herself a new mullet to cheer herself up in the interim between seasons four and five (calling into question exactly how many days have passed since our season four finale, Willing Victims), but that doesn’t change the fact that her husband left her without any notice and she now has two kids to take care of all on her own while at the same time working her real estate job and keeping the money coming in. Laura gets a good early scene along with Jason 3 (Jason 3 is Danny Ponce, pictured below, in case I haven’t mentioned it before) in which she has to explain to him that Richard is gone and not coming back. One has to feel sorry for Jason 3, who not only has lost his father and whatever sense of family he once had, but also appears to be incapable of aging. Yup, while Michael and Olivia and Eric get to grow up before our very eyes, due to all this morphing, Jason seems perpetually trapped within the same age range. I’m gonna pay close attention to see how his aging goes as we move along the next few seasons, because I have the feeling he actually goes backwards, at some point; stay tuned to find out. In any case, this is a good little scene between Laura and Jason 3 and Constance McCashin plays it very well. This is also the scene where she gives Jason 3 that hug and gets the closeup, the shot that makes its way into the opening credits.
Meanwhile, the plot is thickening down at the courthouse with Gary and Abs and all the lawyer shenanigans. See, Abs has taken it upon herself to fire Gary’s lawyer, but when she gets to the hearing, there he is. We get this rather awkward scene where Abs is arguing for the lawyer to go away and leave them alone, but at that same moment Gary comes walking out into the courtroom, and when he finds out Abs fired the lawyer, he is not pleased. The basic gist of the scene is that Gary wants to keep his lawyer and that he does so; the lawyer reminds Abs that she really has no sway in anything. After all, she is not Gary’s wife or family member in any way; at this point, she is just the chick he is sleeping with, and she can’t pull strings in the same way that his wife would be able to.
I wanna note something very strange going on in this ep. First off, we have a Tangled Knot, actor Joseph Hacker (pictured below) making his second appearance on the series after Community Spirit. Now, back in that episode (which was just the second ep of the show, so we’re going way back in time here), he played Chip Todson, that old friend of Laura’s who seemed to share some mysterious past secrets with her. You’ll recall that Richard asked Laura to get close to Chip and it resulted in her having to sleep with him, even though she really didn’t want to. Well, now Joseph Hacker has morphed into a new character, but it’s only gonna get more bizarre when I explain it. He is playing Jim Westmont, Abby’s little legal advisor, the character that had been played throughout season four by that guy from Nightmare on Elm Street 3. Okay, so as we were watching this episode and they kept referring to this character as “Westmont,” I figured they had just morphed him. However, Nightmare 3 guy returns to playing this character pretty much right after this episode concludes, making matters only more confusing. At first I couldn’t figure out what was going on and who was who, but then I realized we had just experienced another bizarre morph, similar to how Scooter Warren briefly morphed into a completely different person somewhere in season two before morphing right back into Allan Miller again. I guess we’ll just have to assume that Nightmare 3 guy was unavailable this week and so they just decided to have him played by another actor, an actor who happened to have already been on the show back when it was still in its infancy. Headache inducing, no?
At a certain point in the ep, Val is trying to escape from, like, the courtroom or whatever and she is mauled by paparazzi blocking her escape. This serves as our rather random introduction to the new character of Ben Gibson, played by Douglas Sheehan. To set the scene, Val is trying to get away, but she just can’t do it. Then, out of the blue, this guy shows up and sorta helps her out by stealing her away from paparazzi and making a run for it. However, rather than a smooth escape, the two wind up in a broom closet or something and it’s all rather comedic. This scene seems very weird upon first viewing, like suddenly here’s this new character we’ve never seen before coming out of nowhere to help Val out. Watching it now, however, and with the hindsight of knowing that Ben is gonna be on the show clear through season eight, it felt less awkward; just the writers bringing in this character who is going to be very important for the next four years.
Do I like Ben? I’m honestly not sure, and I’ll keep focused on his character as we move along and try to make up my mind. I know lots of fans say that Ben is boring, and he is kinda boring, but his blandness never offended me the way I was offended by Kenny and Ginger. From my first viewing of the series, I remember Ben being firmly at the bottom of the list of characters during this era of the show, that absolutely everyone else in the cast from seasons five through eight was far more interesting than him, but he also never bothered me, if that makes sense. I think Douglas Sheehan is a decent enough actor, but maybe the problem is that this character is really only introduced to basically fill the role of romantic interest for Val for a couple of seasons, helping to keep her and Gary apart from each other longer. Like I said, this is his very first appearance (out of 115 eps, at least according to IMDb) and I believe he only has this one scene this week, so let’s put him on the backburner for a little while and talk more about his character later.
Aside from all this stuff, I don’t have all that much to say about the rest of this episode because so much of it is just courtroom drama. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it before, but courtroom drama is probably one of my least favorite types of entertainment unless it’s done really exceedingly well (like in a movie such as Kramer vs. Kramer). On TV, whenever they take proceedings to court for a lot of witness testimony and, “Do you swear to tell the truth,” I usually get kinda bored, and I confess I kinda checked out of this one whenever they were in court. However, I don’t think I’m the only one not terribly interested in this; I think the writers want to get out of this courtroom as quickly as possible, too. See, in my memory, Gary stayed in prison for a really long time, but actually he gets out at the end of this ep. Stuff happens in the courtroom and somehow they deduce that Gary probably didn’t kill Ciji (I think his lawyer makes the main argument that Gary never said he did kill Ciji; he only admitted that he can’t completely remember the events of that night). Anyway, they don’t exactly say that Gary’s a free, innocent man or anything like that, but they basically let him out of prison and say that these proceedings will continue later. While I wasn’t terribly interested in the stuff in the courtroom, I love what happens when Gary is released, which is that he spins around and finds Val’s face in the crowd and the two lock eyes. He doesn’t immediately turn to Abs to express his joy, but rather to Val, his one true love and soul-mate. Then we get a killer final image to go out on, in which he gives Abs a great big hug, but in the middle of the hug, his eyes drift over to Val again and he sorta smiles. We actually freeze frame on that image (and I don’t think we’ve had a freeze frame ending since way back in season two; am I wrong?), proving that the KL team were smart enough to know when they had a great freeze frame ending and when they were better off just leaving the action playing under the “Executive Producer” credits.
Do you guys agree with me that it feels like the writers are just tired of dealing with Gary in jail and decided to get him out of there are fast as possible? Because seriously, this is quick; my memories of him rotting in a prison cell for weeks and weeks and weeks were clearly way off, because all it takes is one season premiere and he is out of there by the time the credits roll. When we hop into our next episode, Gary will be safely back at The Beach House, no longer an imprisoned man. In any case, I’m fine with this, because too much of Gary in prison would have started to bore me. I like that the writers are just taking care of this story right off the bat as we begin season five so that we can move on to new and more exciting business in the coming episodes.
Okay, so that was The People vs. Gary Ewing. It was a good season premiere but not my favorite episode, by any means. Actually, of the five eps we watched on this disk (which spans from here through One Kind of Justice), I’d say this was my least favorite episode, but in a way that’s a good thing, because it means the eps just keep getting better as you proceed through the disk. There was nothing bad about this episode, but it just failed to hook me in the same way that our next batch of eps hook me. I also just don’t care for the courtroom aspect of this ep, since there’s just something about the courtroom aesthetic that bores me. Also, I thought the music and some of the camera angles were a little too wacky for my tastes this week. I mean, what exactly was with Karen’s eyeballs and that bizarre bit of electronic music that played as she made her way up the stairs? This ep is directed by veteran Nicholas Sgarro, who directs more eps than anyone else throughout the course of the series, but some of his stylistic flourishes this week just didn’t quite do it for me. In any case, if it sounds like I’m bitching, that’s not what I intended. I’m just saying that, of the five episodes that opened season five, this is the least exciting or engaging in my eyes, but it’s hardly bad. It’s KL and I love KL; this one was just a smidge dry for my tastes.
Next up, we return to Chip and Diana, both of whom were absent this week, as we follow them along on their road trip to New York with Fugitives.
Next up, we return to Chip and Diana, both of whom were absent this week, as we follow them along on their road trip to New York with Fugitives.