Sunday, December 4, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 077 of 344: FUGITIVES


Episode Title: Fugitives

Season 05, Episode 02

Episode 077 of 344

Written by Scott Hamner

Directed by Larry Elikann

Original Airdate: Thursday, October 6th, 1983

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Val runs into her "mystery man," Ben Gibson, while jogging on the beach. He admits he doesn't jog and was just doing it to meet her. They go to dinner, but Val leaves when she learns he's a reporter. Gary buys a ranch and tells Abby he wants her to move there with him. She's mortified. Mack has the FBI help find Diana and Chip. On the road, Diana pays for gas with her credit card. At a motel, she sees a news story about Chip and is unnerved. Chip starts to cry and tells Diana that he slept with Ciji before he met her. He says Ciji was going to tell Diana she was pregnant to break them up. Chip said he was scared he would lose her, so he and Ciji got into an argument and that he hit her, but didn't mean to kill her. He claims it was an accident, but that he did it so he and Diana could be together.

 


If I seemed a little down on our last episode, The People vs. Gary Ewing, you’ll be glad to know that things pick up tremendously as soon as we get started on Fugitives.  Yes, dear readers, watching Fugitives brought me back to when I was first discovering my deep love affair with KL, during college when I would power through four or five episodes every single day because I simply had to find out what happened next and I couldn’t believe how incredibly exciting one TV series could be.

Even though Karen couldn’t get her mind off of Diana all through last week, Diana and Chip actually sat out last week’s ep as the writers cleared up some other unfinished business from the ending of season four.  I put this in my notes because, in my memory, season five started right away with Diana and Chip on the road; I didn’t recall that we had to wait until the second episode to see them.  But anyway, Fugitives focuses heavily on them almost from the get-go, when we get a shot of their car driving through countryside while the two actors pipe some really bad A.D.R. over the soundtrack (“Diana, look at that cow over by that fence!”). 



Before talking about Chip and Diana, however, let’s see what’s up with our other characters.  The little thirty second preview before the opening credits shows us a quick flash of Abs looming over Gary while he holds a decanter full of booze.  This is just a false alarm, however, because when we get to this scene in question, Gary is not going off the wagon again.  Instead, he tells Abs that he’s considering pouring it down the sink.  I’m kinda fine with him doing this.  In fact, am I the only one that finds it odd that The Beach House continues to be fully stocked with every liquor imaginable?  Don’t you think maybe Abs had better get the booze out of the house lest Gary be tempted?  Nope, instead all the booze is laid out on the counter, not even within a liquor cabinet but just right there in the middle of the room so it’s impossible not to notice it.  However, as I said, Gary is not drinking again.  In fact, with this ep, I think we start to see Gary getting back on the road to success and happiness.  It’s almost like going through that big bender and having to dry out within the confines of a prison’s walls has caused him to come out the other end as a renewed man.  Now he’s suddenly super proactive and busy with new plans.

 

Chief amongst these new plans is a new place for him and Abs to live.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to have to say goodbye to The Beach House, and while I will miss that unbelievably awesome house that I want to live in so badly, the next house is arguably even better.  See, when we next spot Gary, Laura is giving him a real estate tour of this truly monumental ranch which Gary is considering buying (and which he does buy and which he lives in until season thirteen or so).  This is one epic ranch that puts even Southfork to shame.  Not only is it just beautiful with all the open land and green grass as far as the eye can see, but when you get to the actual house, things only get better.  Not only does Westfork (that’s what Gary names it, though not within the confines of this ep) have an outdoor hot tub, but it also comes with a fully equipped gym including a steam room.*  Do you know how much I would love to have my own personal steam room in my home?  If I ever reach the point where I have my own steam room just built in as part of my house’s architecture, I can safely die and be a completely happy man, for I will know that I have Arrived.  I came in my pants a lot over The Beach House, but I’m starting to think that Westfork is even better.  It’s not just the gym and the steam room (my God, the steam room), but also the fact that it’s got so much land surrounding it.  The Beach House was sorta right there, you know?  Anyone who felt like it could wander in off the street, but Westfork is isolated and in a world all its own.  I love the idea of living in a place surrounded by big, open land, so I think Westfork would have to be the place for me if I was allowed to live inside of the KL universe.
 

But wait, I’m actually skipping over some important Gary stuff as I extol the virtues of Westfork.  When we first catch up with Gary, he and Abs are having a fight at The Beach House over the way she dealt with his incarceration, specifically the way that she seemed to want Gary to stay in prison.  She manages to cover her ass fairly well by reminding him that, when he was locked up and she said all she wanted was for him to come home, Gary replied with, “All I want, more than anything else, is a drink.”  She makes the argument that she couldn’t get him out of prison just to have him disappear into the nearest bar and continue ruining his life.  I don’t know that Gary really believes Abs here, as the two continue to bicker and argue all while Olivia and Brian look on from the upper floor.  On that note, as soon as Gary notices the kids watching them, he decides to take them out for a little walk and tells Abs not to come with them.  From there, we get a lovely scene between Gary and the two kids.  I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it yet, but Brian has pretty much been a non-character since he was first introduced and he continues to be a non-character here.  Olivia, on the other hand, is really starting to blossom and you can see that there’s a budding talent in our midst; even at age 13 here, she is able to convey lots of emotions and never feels like a phony child actress (one has to wonder why Tonya Crowe didn’t go on to a big career after leaving the series in 1990).  I also like this scene because it demonstrates that, for all the flaws Gary may have, he is a good surrogate father to these kids and speaks to them with respect and honesty.  In fact, on the topic of honesty, Olivia even just goes ahead and asks Gary, very casually, if he killed Ciji, and he says no.  I really liked how she just put it out there; she has a question and so she asks it. 

 

While Gary is busy with the kids, Val is busy with her first date with Ben.  This is prompted by him joining her for her morning run by the beach.  At first he tells her that he jogs the beach every morning, but a little later he confesses that he only started jogging hoping to catch up with her.  From there, he takes her to his bizarre house of plants.  See, Ben lives in a rather fantastic little house by the ocean, but it’s, like, full of plants; it’s basically a greenroom that spans the entire household.  Of all the KL sets, this is one of the strangest, but I do kinda dig it.  The two hang out and chat a bit about his life and he says how he was with the Peace Corps and has travelled all over the world but now he’s thinking he’s ready to settle down.  Bob Loblaw, he asks her out on a first date and they go.  This certainly doesn’t go terribly well, as after about five minutes of enjoying the lovely restaurant atmosphere and some good conversation, this random asshole named Charlie shows up and takes a big shit all over their evening.  See, through all this chit chat, Ben has failed to mention that he is, in fact, a reporter, but good old Charlie is here to inform us as well as Val.  He comes into the picture and he sits his ass down at the table with them and he’s like, “Boy, you’re sure some reporter, Gibson; how did you trick this exceedingly skinny chick into spilling all her information to you?”  Obviously Val is not pleased with this news, feeling she was lied to (which she kinda was), so she stomps off.

Before moving on, I wanna note this actor that plays Charlie.  I know that sometimes I go into way more detail about the guest actors and who they are and sometimes I just sorta forget about it.  What can I say?  It depends on my moods as I write, I suppose.  But anyway, just to do a little checking, I looked up the actor who plays Charlie.  His name is Martin Cassidy and not only did I discover that he’s in Halloween III: Season of the Witch (a movie I have loved since I was a kid even though lots of Halloween fans really hate it; I’d still take this movie over absolutely any Halloween sequel to follow it), but I also discovered that he is both a Transmorpher (appearing in the 1984 Dallas episode, Shadows) as well as a Tangled Knot who will be back in seven short years to appear in three 1990 episodes (If I Die Before I Wake, The Fan Club, and Let’s Get Married), playing Detective Hanson.  I do not remember those episodes and I do not remember who Detective Hanson is, but there you go; he’s a Tangled Knot.  I guarantee you that, if I ever reach those episodes, by the time I get there I will have forgotten this guy was even in an episode beforehand, but such is the nature of watching a series with so many damn episodes.


I feel sorry for Val here, and I think she’s justified in reacting the way she does.  I know that Ben didn’t have any duplicitous reason for avoiding telling her about his occupation, but I understand her frustration.  She feels lied to and she doesn’t want another relationship that just ends up hurting her.  This prompted me to think of all the shit going on in Val’s life and how remarkably well she is handling it.  In the span of roughly one year (not accounting for that weird time vortex of summers, which don’t seem to exist in most television series), she has lost the true love of her life, her soul mate, Gary, she has had a weirdo sociopath living in the house for the better part of a year, she has gone to prison due to confessing to Ciji’s murder (her own fault, but I’m just making an observation), and those are just some of the things that are flashing immediately to mind.  For all these stressors, I feel she carries herself very well and manages to keep a good attitude.

In fact, now might be a good time to mention that I’m starting to like Val a lot more than I did upon first viewing.  Now, just to be clear, I always liked her character, but I think I just didn’t pay her much attention.  I was more interested in Karen or Richard or Sumner and Val was never really in my thoughts.  I was compelled by the Gary/Val romance throughout all fourteen seasons, but on the overall cast roster, I feel like I just didn’t give Val much special thought.  Watching now, however, she has grown in esteem for me.  It’s not just the mature way she deals with her problems, but also the fact that she is an inherently decent person who treats her friends very well, no matter what is going on in her life.  This kinda pans out into the larger picture of the reason I love KL so much and that is that, despite all the soapy shenanigans and adultery and crazy adventures, so many of our core cast members play good, decent people who always strive to do the right thing and conduct themselves with a healthy amount of ethics.  Can you say the same about the other ‘80s nighttime soaps?


Meanwhile, back at the MacKenzie house (or should I still call it ‘the Fairgate house?’  Karen is now going by ‘MacKenzie’ but all three of her kids are still Fairgates, so what do you think?), things are not going too well for Karen.  The main gist of her plot this week is that Mack pulls some strings with some buddies and manages to get a tap installed on the phone.  From there, we get a lot of intense scenes of the phone ringing and everyone staring wide eyed at it.  One of the cops tells Karen that she’ll have to keep Diana on the line for five minutes in order to get a trace, reminding me of a different time when such things were much harder.  Thanks to cell phones, good television drama like this has been effectively ruined.  

 

Karen continues to be a bit much in this episode.  Remember I’m saying all this with love and that Karen is still, of course, my favorite character on the show and I still think Michele Lee is a brilliant actress.  I just think, at this particular juncture of episodes, she’s getting to be a bit much and the directors probably should have asked her to tone it down a notch.  A good early example of this is when some cop is talking to Mack and says they put out an A.P.B. on Chip and Diana.  Karen keeps asking them what an A.P.B. is and they’re sorta ignoring her, so then finally she yells, very dramatically and very over-the-top, “What is an A.P.B.?!”  It’s moments like this that are just a smidge too much for me, and if they happened once or twice, I probably wouldn’t even note them, but they are rather constant right now.

One last thing regarding the Karen/Mack stuff in this episode: We get a quick little scene of Karen talking to Uncle Joe on the phone and I liked that.  We don’t actually see Uncle Joe, but we know she’s talking to him, and I appreciate that little smidge of continuity.  I mean, nobody is watching this in 1983 and giving a shit about where Uncle Joe is or what he’s up to, but the character does live in New York and that’s where Diana is heading, so it makes good sense for Karen to call him and ask him to inform her if he hears from Diana.  Other shows would have completely forgotten about Uncle Joe by this point, but someone on the KL writing staff was smart enough to say, “Why not throw in a quick little reference to Uncle Joe?”  That’s called good writing.

Now, the main thrust of the episode concerns Chip and Diana, and this is good stuff, folks.  I’m starting to get real excited when I see that Larry Elikann is directing an ep, because I’m starting to think the man is something of a master of the television format (this is based strictly on watching his KL eps, although I looked at his IMDb and discovered that he directed the brilliant Dallas: The Early Years, so he’s just gained even more cool points in my book) because of the way he manages to draw out the suspense and really make it both palpable and unbearable.  If it sounds like I’m using hyperbole, let me make it clear that I’m not.  All the stuff that happens concerning Chip and Diana and their little road trip is legitimately gripping and I remembered how God damned excited I got watching this for the first time.  There’s a lot going down between the two in this ep.  We start off by seeing them parked in some gas station or whatever, and Diana is working on a letter to Karen.  “Oh, hey, let me mail that for you,” Chip insists, ever the doting boyfriend, though of course we all know what he’s really up to.  Instead of mailing the letter, he goes to a garbage can and throws it away while the music on the soundtrack swells up and he makes an evil face.  Next up, he absolutely insists that they use cash to pay for their gas, but when he walks off, Diana hands the attendant a credit card and tells him to just charge that.  Chip gets mad about this but tries to pass it off by saying that Karen’s the one who’s gonna get the bill and he wants them to make it on their own.

Diana is going along with all of this because she’s really dumb, but next time we see her she’s curled up on the bed in some cheap looking motel room when the news comes on and announces that the police are looking for Tony Fenice, alias Chip Roberts, and that he’s wanted in connection with Ciji’s murder.  Right after this news report, Chip comes walking out of the shower with a towel around his waist and asks Diana why she looks upset.  She makes up a pretty quick lie by saying that she saw a report on baby seals and it made her sad.  That’s some pretty fast thinking; I’ll give her credit for that one.  The scene ends on a cryptic, spooky note as Chip cuddles up to her and says, “Now that I’ve got you, I’m never gonna let you go.”  Ooooh, brrrrrrr.


Diana has a hard time keeping up her poker face as we continue through the episode, however.  Next up, the two are in a diner and she keeps trying to get away from the table, but with no success.  She says how she wants to go see if they have any magazines and Chip says of course a restaurant won’t have any magazines.  Then a cop comes in and Diana and Chip both flash looks at him, kinda silently showing that they both know more than they are saying.  However, the cop is completely useless and instead orders coffee or something and just waddles off like a worthless lump.  Next, she says she has to go to the ladies room, at which point she sneaks over to the payphone to call Karen.  Oh, what a tremendous scene this is, because just as she gets Karen on the line and says, “Mom, I’m with Chip,” who should step up behind her to hang up the phone?  Yes, it’s Chip, who slams his hand down on the receiver and then takes the phone away from Diana, looking very scary and menacing.

That scene was exciting (I remember literally gasping the first time I watched this when Chip came up behind Diana), but it’s nothing compared to the next one.  See, it’s the following morning and Diana gets up before Chip and starts sneaking out.  Boy, the tension in this scene is just cranked to the max, as she tries to quietly open the closet and grab some of her clothes before making her way to the door and leaving.  Chip stirs at one point as if he’s about to wake up and Diana even freezes up for a second.  I found myself imagining how scary this would be in real life, if I was really trying to get away from someone who could wake up any minute and do God knows what to me.  The scene basically turns into a horror movie as Diana makes her way to the car.  She keeps trying to turn the key and start the engine, but nothing’s happening; the car just won’t start.  We keep cutting from inside the car with Diana to a real creepy roaming P.O.V. from the outside, getting closer to the car window.  Is it Chip?  Is it just a fancy camera trick?  In any case, it’s scary, and it’s a stylistic flourish the likes of which we would never see on Dallas (oh wait, I just remembered that we had a roaming P.O.V. when J.R. got shot, and also when Bobby got shot as well; hmmm, guess that invalidates my entire point).  Anywho, a second later Chip appears at the car door, scares the crap out of Diana, and then tells her that he decided to remove the battery from the car so that nobody could steal it in the middle of the night.  Michael Sabatino is legitimately unnerving here, by the way.  I feel like I’ve been discussing all the things he’s doing but not the way he’s doing it.  See, it would be easy to play this character as purely threatening, but he plays the part as ever the constant con artist.  Even though Diana now knows how dangerous he really is and even though Chip knows that she knows, he still speaks in that super happy tone he’s been using since we first met him back in Svengali.  It’s almost like he thinks if he acts cheerful enough and has an explanation for every weird thing he does, he’ll be able to fool Diana, even though it would appear to be a lost cause at this point.



The final scene of the episode is also very exciting.  Chip and Diana are driving along when a cop appears right behind them.  Both characters stare intently at the rear view mirror, waiting to see if the cop is gonna turn on his cherries.  After a minute, the cop changes lanes and then starts driving right beside them, at the same speed, sorta looking into their car.  I have to wonder what kind of dumbass cop this is, by the way, because at this point we have learned that there’s an A.P.B. (“What is an A.P.B.?!”) out on the car, and he gets a good long look at the license plate as well as the drivers before he just, you know, sorta drives away.  So we’ve had two worthless cops all within the confines of the same episode; how terrific.  After this, Chip pulls the car over to the side and starts to sob.  This is A Big Moment, so get ready.  This is the moment that Chip finally admits it was him, he killed Ciji, he’s the murderer.  The beauty of this scene, however, lies within the very way he confesses.  He doesn’t act wicked and threatening and say something scary like, “Now I’m gonna kill you, too!”  Instead, he sobs and spins a little web of fiction about how he only slept with Ciji once, she got pregnant, and she was threatening to ruin his relationship with Diana.  He finishes his little tale of woe with, “I did it for you,” appealing to Diana’s romantic side.  After all, there is nothing quite as romantic as bashing a woman over the head and then throwing her dead body into the ocean all in the name of the girl you love, is there?  Anyway, this is the last scene of the ep and we get our “Executive Producer” credits over a shot of Diana’s frightened face.  This is how you do the ending to an episode, by the way.  How could a human being in 1983 watch this episode and not fucking have to be in front of the television at the same time the next week?  I can’t even fathom how someone could see this and not have to tune in for more; it’s just so incredibly exciting and, like the hardest drug imaginable, I am powerless to not go forward and see what’s going to happen next. 

So Fugitives was a pretty fucking great episode, wouldn’t you agree?  Larry Elikann keeps the tension going pretty much start to finish, most especially in any scene featuring Diana and Chip together.  In addition, everyone else in the cast gets some good material to work with as we get to see Val’s aborted first date with Ben, Mack and Karen dealing with the tap on the phone as they wait for some word from Diana, and probably the Gary stuff being my other favorite aspect of this ep.  I think this is when we start to see that Gary really means it this time; that he’s done drinking and he’s finally ready to stop being a big victim and take some accountability for his own life.  So in the midst of all this excitement and drama, our characters are still growing, changing, and evolving right before our very eyes. 

Next up, we get even more of Chip and Diana on the road with the action packed episode, Nowhere to Run.

*EDITOR'S NOTE ADDED MUCH LATER: I AM NOW FAIRLY CERTAIN THAT WESTFORK ONLY HAS A SAUNA AND NOT A STEAMROOM.  OH WELL, STILL PRETTY RAD.

4 comments:

  1. Fantastic episode. Even though I have never been a fan of Diana, I still rooted for her in this episode. I wanted her to get away from Chip/Tony or maybe even kill him in self-defense. But I went back to hating her the very next episode because...she is Diana!

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  2. I think gary stayed with Abby for the children's sake just as much for Val's sake. He genuinely loved Olivia and Brian and wanted them to be happy.

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  3. I love Ben on principal (he's nice and attractive) but hated his later drama. I just about fell over when Lilliemae said she thought he was another Chip and she had good instincts about people ! LMAO !! If there ever was a woman with terrible instincts in people, it's her ! I don't know why Gary lets Abby get away with all her shenanigans - it's kind of sick. The show did actually foreshadow her as the female J.R. and he manipulated and fooled Gary whenever he could so I guess that's what Abby is on KL. It's tough to watch, though.

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