Episode Title: Marital Privileges
Season 05, Episode 04
Episode 079 of 344
Written by Richard Gollance
Directed by Larry Elikann
Original Airdate: Thursday, October 20th, 1983
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Diana tells Karen that Chip killed Ciji for her. Karen says she'll testify, but Janet says they need Diana. Furious, Diana tells Karen she never wants to see her again and moves to the ranch with Abby. Lilimae goes to see Chip, who laughs at her. She realizes he killed Ciji. Abby finds out that Gary will inherit 10% of Ewing Oil in fifteen days and his divorce is final in ten, so she has five days to marry him in order to get half of his inheritance. Abby finalizes the papers on her subsidiary, Apolune Corp. She asks Laura to check out an apartment building that her uncle left her. Gregory Sumner, a candidate for the U.S. Senate and old friend of Mack's, asks Mack to be part of his team. Val doesn't ask for money at her and Gary's divorce settlement. Val sees Ben, who explains he doesn't want a story, but wants to get to know her and they agree to be friends.
When we last left off, Chip had been apprehended by the police and Diana was boldly declaring that her name was no longer Fairgate, but was now Mrs. Tony Fenice. As you can probably tell from the title of this week’s episode, Marital Privileges, we are going to expand and build upon this development this week. My question about when, exactly, Diana made her big switch from Chip’s frightened hostage to his fervent defender is still waiting for an answer this week. See, as we pick up the start of this week’s show, Diana is returning home and is not in good spirits. She’s mad at Karen for Chip getting arrested and she yells at her a whole lot this week. During the course of that yelling, she mentions that she and Chip stopped off and got married in Vegas. Is this true or not? I honestly don’t know and can’t remember if we ever find out for sure whether this is truth or fiction. I don’t know my geography very well, so I don’t know exactly where Vegas is in relation to wherever Chip and Diana were driving through. My Beloved Grammy is much smarter than me and has actually looked at a map in her life, so she told me that with the route they were taking, they could go to Vegas, but that it would have been a bit out of their way.
I’m gonna go ahead and declare that I think Diana is lying. When watching a series, you kinda have to just trust your own eyes, if that makes sense. It’s sorta like if a character dies offscreen (especially in one of these ‘80s primetime soap operas); you just need to kinda assume that they could return to the series any minute because we didn’t physically see them die, you know? The same is true of this little marriage between Chip and Diana. We didn’t actually see this happen; we saw them driving along a whole lot and dodging cops and a few futile attempts of Diana to escape. Since we never actually saw them stopping off in Vegas to exchange marital vows, I’m going to assume that it did not happen. Rather, I think Diana, who is a mentally ill person, is so desperate to protect Chip that she’s concocted this little bit of fiction to do so.
This calls several things into question, for me. Okay, so I’m vaguely familiar with the whole “Spouses can’t testify against each other” thing, and I assume that to be the main reason Diana is telling this lie, but won’t she need some concrete proof that the two are indeed married? She can run around claiming they are man and wife all she wants, but does this hold any legal sway if she can’t produce some evidence? Where’s all that stuff that you’re supposed to get when you get married? Don’t you need, like, a marriage license or something? I know Vegas is famous for quickie weddings, but I assume there’s still a standard protocol that needs to be followed, no?
Diana is at the peak of her mega-bitchiness right before our very eyes. Upon returning to her home, she screams and yells at Karen a lot and says how it’s her fault that she abandoned Chip and so on and so forth. At some point, in all this yelling, Diana accidentally lets the cat out of the bag that Chip is the murderer of Ciji. It’s in the middle of a shouting match between mother and daughter and Diana just sorta blurts out something like, “He did it for me!” Upon hearing this, Karen gets understandably upset. We the audience only had complete confirmation on who took Ciji’s life two episodes back in Fugitives. This is the moment where Karen hears the truth, as well, the answer to the big question that’s been hovering over the show since Celebration.
After having one of these big fights, Diana disappears to go and live at Westfork with Gary and Abs. While she presents this as, “I’m mad at my mother, so therefore I’m moving in with my aunt,” am I the only one who suspects that she just really wants to live at Westfork for awhile? The first time we see her there, she’s relaxing in the hot tub (and I think she’s naked, too). Sure, Diana is mad at Karen and what have you, but I feel like she heard about Gary and Abby’s fantastic new ranch with a full gym and steam room and she just decided to make up an excuse to go live there for awhile.
I do want to take this moment to call into question Abby’s motivations. She is very open to having Diana stay with them and never seems bothered by the idea that Diana’s boyfriend/alleged husband could be a murderer. Does Abby believe Chip killed Ciji? Does she care? That’s kinda what I’m trying to explore here, because while Abs is wicked, I think there’s a limit to her wickedness, and I don’t think she would be totally cool with Chip murdering Ciji in cold blood. Is she only doing this to win a popularity contest against Karen, to show that she’s the cool aunt that Diana can talk to about anything and always rely on?
While Diana is relaxing in the hot tub at Westfork, Chip is incarcerated at police headquarters, being interrogated by that stereotypical angry cop. Have I mentioned this guy yet? Well, if I haven’t, that’s a tremendous oversight, and now is certainly the time to bring him up. This character’s name is Detective Nick Morrison and he is played by Steve Kahan (pictured below). I kinda just assumed this guy to be some random TV character actor, and I was surprised when I looked him up and discovered that he is actually Richard Donner’s cousin and was in all four Lethal Weapon movies (despite being a bit of an action film fan, I’ve actually never seen the Lethal Weapon movies, which I recognize is a tremendous hole in my film nerd knowledge), amongst many other things. Anyway, maybe if I was familiar with more of his other work and saw him turn in a good performance, I’d cut him some slack here, but I’ve found him hilariously cheesy here on KL ever since he was introduced in The Fatal Blow, and he’s extra bad/good this week
One of the very first scenes we get this week (it might even be the very first scene of the episode; I’m blanking on that) is Chip being interrogated by Baines and Morrison. The scene is a mix of artistry and camp, because the way it’s constructed and presented is surprisingly cinematic for network television, yet the dialogue from Morrison is just totally cornball and also exceptionally unenthused. Follow me along here. See, we actually get to see Lisa Hartman as Ciji once again in this quick flashback that’s intercut with Morrison talking. This is interesting because we see her name as a guest star, “Lisa Hartman as Ciji,” and I kinda perked up a little bit and was like, “Oh, is this the episode where she comes back to the show?” No, it’s not, that’s a few episodes down the line that we are going to have Hartman returning as brand new character Cathy. In this case, she is just playing Ciji one last time, real fast, for this little flashback.
Okay, so in the flashback, we see Chip and Ciji arguing, and she’s yelling at him, and then we get to the moment where Chip does her in, and it’s this shot in particular that I wish to talk about. Presumably you couldn’t show a man violently bash a woman’s skull in on network TV (I could be wrong about this one; write to me if I am), so director Larry Elikann shoots the fatal blow with this really cool shadow effect. We get a shot of the wall and Chip and Ciji’s shadows are prominent over that wall as he smashes her head. It looks like something from a Hitchcock film, honestly, and was an impressive bit of style to something that could easily be presented as very bland.
So the actual flashback I’m totally fine with, but Morrison narrates the whole thing like a man who has never been excited to talk about anything in history. His line reading is so flat it reminded me of Harrison Ford’s awful voice-over narration in the original theatrical cut of Blade Runner, the narration he purposefully did the shittiest job possible on because he was hoping it wouldn’t wind up in the movie. Yup, that’s the tone I get from Detective Morrison as he recounts the events leading up to Ciji’s death. He reads everything totally flat, no emotion, completely boring, as if he’s reciting a grocery list he’s handing over to someone before they go off to the market. In addition, we have some killer bits of corny dialogue, with probably the best one being, “You killed her and then you cleaned up like your mother was coming to visit.” Oh God, yes, so cheesy, I love it.
Chip spends the entire episode under arrest, and the other notable scene he’s involved in here comes due to a visit from Lilimae. This continues to move me in a way that I’m not completely able to express. There’s something about that inherent sweetness in Lilimae’s feelings towards Chip that tugs at my heart strings. Maybe she didn’t exactly have a romantic interest in Chip or want to screw him or anything like that, but she felt a special bond with him and she put her trust in him and he has betrayed her. I think Lilimae is feeling exceptionally confused by her feelings at this juncture, that she could really like a person and cherish that person only to find out that he is, in fact, a cold blooded killer who took a person’s life for his own selfish reasons.
A lot of Lilimae’s footage this week is just trying to get in to speak with Chip. She spends a lot of time hanging around the police station, waiting to hear if she can get in, and when she finally is allowed to meet with him, it’s a tremendous scene. I want to take my time machine back to 1983 and give Julie Harris an Emmy for her work here (you will probably hear me saying this a lot in the next two or three seasons to come, when Lilimae is really given some incredibly weighty material to work with and Julie Harris pulls it all off like a pro and a true master actress). She essentially pours her heart out to Chip and says that he has to take accountability for what he’s done, only for him to laugh at her. This is a very painful scene to watch because you can see in Lilimae’s eyes how much his dismissive laughter of her big speech stabs her in the heart. In addition, this scene is helping to set us up for some of the tremendous events of our next episode, One Kind of Justice.
Meanwhile, on the Abs/Gary side of the stories, we have something that I’m honestly a bit confused about. See, we get a quick A.D.R. of Abs talking to J.R. on the phone (I believe it’s piped in over an exterior shot of her palatial office complex, and we just hear her saying something like, “Nice talking to you, J.R.”). After hanging up the phone, Abs declares to Westmont that Gary will be inheriting ten percent of Ewing Oil in fifteen days. His divorce from Val will be final in ten days, which means there’s this five day window where she can rope him into marriage and then she will be entitled to half of his fortune, which should be tremendous. This development confuses me in relation to what we saw in the Brief Dallas Interlude Jock’s Will as well as the following batch of KL episodes like New Beginnings and Investments and, indeed, even to what was going on over on Dallas at this exact time. At some point in my life (not any time soon), it might be interesting to watch both Dallas and KL in tandem, sorta hopping back and forth from one show to the next all the way through their entire runs (remembering, of course, that Dallas had two seasons before KL was on the air and KL had two more seasons after Dallas had gone off the air) to see how well the two shows keep in continuity with each other.
The reason I mention this is because, if I’m remembering correctly from Jock’s Will, didn’t Gary just get that ten million dollar inheritance from his dad, the one that he could only live off the interest of for the first few years? Why, then, is he suddenly about to come into so much more money from the ten percent of Ewing Oil? I’m trying to remember back to what was happening on Dallas during this 1983-1984 season (that would be season seven of Dallas, for those following along at home). I remember that the big battle between J.R. and Bobby over who got control of Ewing Oil came to its conclusion right near the start of the season, and I remember that episode being a big deal, but I don’t remember how the culminating moments of that big battle related to Gary over in California. I just don’t understand why he’s suddenly coming into all this money when he already was given the ten million dollars last season, so can anyone help me along here?
In any case, I’m not gonna fret about it too much. For the purposes of the story before us, Abs is very excited to hear about Gary’s incoming fortune and now she’s got to work hard to get married as fast as possible so she can reap all possible benefits. Obviously this is a very duplicitous move, and it’s a testament to Donna's acting that, for me, she never seems all that evil. I’m not entirely sure how she manages to pull it off, except to say that as she schemes and manipulates and talks to Westmont about getting the most out of Gary, I really do find myself kinda rooting for her, in some strange way. This might have something to do with the fact that I do believe Abs loves Gary in her own twisted way. After all, she had her eyes set on him way back in season two when he was working for Sid at Knots Landing Motors and living in a cozy little house. If he had already been a millionaire when she met him and went after him, she would seem more wicked, but there’s something about the fact that she’s had her eye on him since her first appearance that keeps it feeling like she really does love the guy.
Now might be a good time to discuss Laura’s new role as the real estate advisor for Gary Ewing Enterprises. There are at least two fabulously funny scenes between Abs and Laura this week, starting off when the two are having a friendly chat and Laura casually mentions that Gary hired her to work for him. Abs smiles real wide and is like, “That’s great, Laura!” As soon as Laura is out of frame, however, Abby’s face completely crumbles and she looks exceptionally irritated, a nice bit of funny physical acting from Donna. The second funny scene occurs when Abs is clearly trying to distract Laura with nonsense busywork that is completely unimportant just so Laura will keep her nose out of what Abs is really doing. Instead of talking to Laura about her plans to trap Gary into marriage in time for her to get his fortune, Abs hands her some papers and says something about how her uncle died and left her with some land and she’d like Laura to go and look at it. I think Laura is smart enough to know that Abs is up to something, but she keeps quiet about it for the time being. The funny line, however, comes in reference to Abby’s new office, when Laura says, “You could open a trailer park in the reception area,” a killer sarcastic line delivered impeccably by Constance McCashin. I said in another writeup how I feel like Laura has, by season five, officially become the Laura I know and love from my last viewing of the series, and humorous lines like that underline my point. It seems like now that Richard is out of the picture, Laura’s tongue has loosened and she’s going to be ready with a sassy joke or comeback way more frequently than she ever was back in the first four seasons. This is good for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that her comments are usually very funny. The other thing I like is that, by having Laura as this down-to-Earth sarcastic character, we still feel like we are in the real world along with real people even as all these soapy dramas are occurring all around us. Laura always manages to keep it feeling like we’re in a real, tangible universe.
Probably the least interesting aspect of this episode involves the story between Val and Ben. I don’t mean to shit on Ben, if it seems like that’s what I’m doing, and I honestly have no particular problem with his character except that he’s, you know, a little bit boring. This story is still fine; it just happens to be far less gripping than the other events of this week’s show. Basically, Ben and Val run into each other again after that awkward first date from our last episode. Ben comes clean to Val that he is, indeed, a reporter, but that he wasn’t dating her because of some underhanded desire to manipulate a story out of her, but simply because he liked her and wanted to get to know her better. The two chat a bit and then settle on trying out the friend thing for a little while. Even though as a plot arc, this isn’t my favorite thing going on right now, I still note that the scene between the two of them is infused with some style. See, it takes place at Ben’s bizarre Plant House when Val decides to jog over there and see him. While the two are speaking outside the house, they then go inside and the handheld camera follows them in. A small touch, but I like handheld camera and I know that any other show could have just cut from them standing outside to standing inside (or just shot them entering The Plant House with a boring, stationary camera shot the way they would film it over on Dallas). I’m starting to think Larry Elikann really likes the handheld camera because I immediately recall him using it in the opening moments of The Fatal Blow, when all those reporters were hanging outside Val’s door.
One of the highlight scenes of this episode takes place between Gary and Val as they work to finalize their divorce. The two are sitting in an office with their two angry lawyers who are yelling at each other. What’s interesting is that Gary and Val display no hostility towards each other; all the anger in the room is coming from the lawyers trying to get the most they can out of the other one. Finally, Gary interrupts by insisting that Val have half of all his money, but Val refuses. Obviously, Gary’s lawyer thinks he’s insane for doing this and is relieved when Val refuses, and from there we follow Gary and Val out into the parking lot as they talk.
Val walks over to her car while Gary insists that she deserves the money, that he wants to give it to her, that she earned it by being married to him. Val says that she appreciates the sentiment but that his big fortune came into being after she and he were already separated, that she feels she has no right to it. Then she gets to have a pretty great speech about how she is making it work on her own, without his money, and she wants to keep it that way. This branches off into a talk about how, through all these years, everything she’s ever done has been for Gary. This is both an effective way to keep the audience up to date if they have missed out on previous seasons (cuz remember this is the ‘80s and if you hadn’t seen the previous seasons, well, too bad so sad, cuz you wouldn’t be seeing them again anytime soon), while also exemplifying the complex relationship they’ve had ever since we first met them back on Dallas.
In my mind, the imagery of this scene is iconic, and perhaps I’m mistaken in saying so, but don’t most KL fans just immediately know this scene based on the image of Val sitting in her car while Gary leans in through the window to talk to her? Doesn’t this shot even make its way into the scrolling squares at some point? Anyway, whether the scene is truly iconic or not, I do not know, but I know it’s iconic in my brain. See, Gary and Val come to this lovely agreement where he says he won’t force her to take all of his money if she doesn’t want to just so long as she isn’t too proud to give him a call one day and ask for some money if she’s ever in a jam and needs it. The two smile at each other with the most loving expressions I think I’ve ever seen on two people and, as Val drives away, you feel that they have achieved some special form of Zen peace with each other.
I could write pages about this scene and the developments it establishes. There’s so much going on in what could easily just be a scene of two people talking. First, let’s note the tremendously classy way that Val conducts herself. She could easily just take half of Gary’s fortune with no questions asked. After all, when you think about all that has happened since she was fifteen years old and Gary was seventeen years old, she kinda deserves a nice chunk of money for all her mental anguish. First, he knocks her up when she’s just a teenager, then he decides to run off on her while she’s got his baby in her arms, leaving her with his shitty family in Texas and his wicked brother J.R., who then proceeds to kick Val out of Texas and steal the baby from her. Okay, and that’s just chapter one. Next, after the two very briefly reconnected back in the Dallas two parter of Reunion, he did the same thing, leaving her randomly early in the morning (this was due in no small part to J.R.’s interferences, but I digress). Then, after they had finally remarried and been spun off into their own series, he went on a crazy two-part alcoholic bender at the end of season one that almost destroyed their marriage, but still Val was able to stay strong for him. Once they got through that hurdle, Gary started sleeping with The Other Paul Rudd’s wife, continuing an ongoing affair for several episodes behind Val’s back. Remarkably, she managed to forgive him for this and the two were able to go on for another year or so, only for him to take up a torrid affair with Abby. So yeah, all in all, some pretty shitty behavior on the part of Gary towards Val, and yet even with all that said and done, and with the opportunity staring her in the face to take his money and say, “I deserve this because of all you made me put up with,” Val still doesn’t take it. She has pride and respect in herself and she is proud that she is now making her own living as a successful author. Any other person could easily take the money and run, but Val says no thank you.
On the other end of the spectrum, I believe we are seeing real remorse from Gary. I think that big alcoholic bender through the end of season four has almost served as some sort of second birth from him. Now he has come out after that experience and is actively working to change his life, to right his wrongs. It is a testament to the fact that he really and truly loves Val that he is so insistent on her getting the money from their divorce. However, it’s even more a testament to that love when, after hearing her reasons for not wanting the money, he backs down and tells her he won’t badger her about it anymore, but that it’s always there if she needs it.
It’s moments like this that prove that breaking up Gary and Val at the end of season three was the best decision the show ever made. They are so compelling when they are apart, when they maintain this super interesting friendship built on respect for each other. The longer they are apart (and it’s a long time, ladies and gentlemen), the more we want them to be together. Moments such as Gary looking over at Val in the closing moments of The People vs. Gary Ewing or this fabulous scene here further show the deep love that the two really have for each other, no matter what they may have done in the past. Also, I can see that Gary is turning into the Gary that I really like and really respect right before my very eyes. This is not just a man who went on a bender and is like, “Sorry about that; what do I have to do to make up for it?” This is a guy who is really trying to live his life with some decency and ethics, doing the right thing and treating people correctly. Gary has been a very weak character throughout the first four seasons, unable to deal with any kind of a crisis or any kind of responsibility, but now we are seeing him shift into being a real, legitimate grown up and a real honest and decent person.
There’s really only one other development I wish to speak of this week, but it’s a good one. When you first power up Marital Privileges and get past the thirty second preview, you hit the fabulous opening credits sequence (the greatest opening credits sequence in television history, I remind you) and now the first name we see on the roster is not Kevin Dobson, but instead William Devane. Ah yes, as soon as I saw his fabulous face in that square with this name under it, I actually applauded at the TV screen, for I knew that this would be the first episode to feature easily one of my favorite characters from the entire series run. William Devane is going to stay with the show all the way until the final episode in 1993, and at least according to IMDb, he has 269 KL episodes to his name (although this might be slightly inaccurate, as sometimes IMDb includes those “credit only” eps where people are listed but don’t actually show up for the episode). Over the next ten years, we are going to really get to know this character and explore him in all his fascinating idiosyncrasies and contradictions. By the time we finish the series (if that ever happens), it will be hard to even remember a KL that didn’t have William Devane in it; to me, he is such a vital part of the series fabric that it was almost bizarre to watch those first four seasons and not have him as part of the cast.
I really dug his first scene on the series and felt like it was an appropriate harbinger for how important his character will be. See, Abs finds out about this Gregory Sumner guy who is some sort of politician and is running under the Democratic party for, um, something. I’m not sure what Greg is exactly running for, but I guess it’s the U.S. Senate. In real life, I try not to follow any politics, so if I sound really stupid when it comes to political stuff, it’s because I am. I vote for the President every four years and that’s about it. So please be warned that, moving forward, I’ll probably talk a whole lot about how much I love Sumner and the way Devane plays him, but often I’ll be kinda fuzzy on what exactly his character is up to politically, know what I mean?
We first meet him when Abs decides to pay a visit to his campaign headquarters. Before we see the character in the flesh, we see a great big poster of him, Devane’s smiling face and this slogan: “Sumner: The Man For the ‘80s.” Abs walks into the headquarters and finds Sumner with his back turned to her, a whole bunch of his lackeys gathered around him, listening to him talk about something. Then he sorta spins around and looks at Abs and he’s framed right in front of a big poster of himself and it honestly feels like A Big Moment. Perhaps if Devane had only been in a season or two of the series and then left, I wouldn’t be investing so much importance into this moment, but watching it, you get the feeling that we are unveiling a really important character and that it’s a big deal. We also immediately get the sense that this character will be unpredictable, because Abs tries to basically bribe him by giving him a big chunk of money from Gary Ewing Enterprises, only for him to turn it down. Again, I’m gonna sound like a moron because I’m not entirely sure on what the bribe is for. I think in politics, you basically just give money to people and then you expect them to do whatever you ask them to. Of course, they don’t call it a bribe, but rather a donation, but I assume that’s how it works. What’s interesting is that Greg turns this money down and seems to really embarrass Abs. Whatever her goal was coming here with this big check, she has clearly failed, so she has to creep out somewhat made a fool of.
Next time we see Greg, it’s in a scene between him and Mack in the men’s locker room (the most erotic place in the entire world). The two are chatting it up the way only straight men in a locker room can chat, and we learn that Greg and Mack are old friends who have known each other for some time. Also, Greg invites Mack to come on and be a part of his team, whatever that means, but for the moment, Mack turns it down.
That’s about all we get of Greg this week, and I can see why it might seem bizarre to get so excited about him showing up here. The reason is because I know he’s a hugely important character who will be with us clear through to the end of the series, and this is our first time seeing him. As we move on through the next seasons, I think we’re gonna see that Devane brings a welcome new energy to the show in the same way that The Dobsonator brought a new energy to the show when he was brought on in season four. Also, and I hope I can explain this well, but the entrance of Sumner to the series really makes it feel like the band is complete, that they’re finally all together. See, when I think of KL (as I do every single day), I think of a show featuring Gary, Val, Karen, Mack, Abs, Laura, Lilimae, and Sumner. To me, it’s these eight that are the most important characters through the series run, and now that we’ve reached season five, they are finally all together and in the cast roster at the same time. The KL team is officially complete and assembled.
Interestingly, when I sat down to write about Marital Privileges, I really thought it would be one of my quicker write-ups, that I would just sorta bust it out real fast to get to the extremely exciting One Kind of Justice. Instead, I wound up writing a ton more about this episode than I thought I had in me, like as soon as I started to think back over it, I realized how rich this episode was and how many different things were going on. First off, I am really starting to love Larry Elikann eps and think they are immediately recognizable as being directed by him and I look forward to his next one (which will be a little later this season with Lest the Truth Be Known). Also, in terms of storytelling, there’s just so much going on this week. You have the Chip/Diana drama, you have Lilimae’s fabulous scene visiting with Chip, you have Laura and Abs beginning a new business relationship together, you have Gary and Val reaching a new form of peace and understanding with each other, and you have the introduction of Sumner. All in all, a pretty loaded episode and one that I enjoyed tremendously.