Episode Title: Sacred Vows
Season 05, Episode 07
Episode 082 of 344
Written by Kathleen A. Shelley
Directed by Nicholas Sgarro
Original Airdate: Thursday, November 10th, 1983
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Eric goes to the hospital and tells Diana he's glad that Sid isn't around. He reminds Diana that Sid died in order to bring someone to justice and would be disgusted with her. Diana tells the police that she will testify. Laura tells Gary that if he doesn't have plans to get back together with Val, he should leave her alone, as stringing her along is cruel. Gary tells Abby he'll marry her and they do. Dr. Bovine suggests that Lilimae be put in a sanitarium. Lilimae begs Val not to commit her, but Val reluctantly does. At home, Val calls Gary for support. Olivia answers and tells Val that Gary and Abby are on their honeymoon. At the hotel, Gary orders room service. Gary is shocked when the waitress is a dead-ringer for the late Ciji.
Back in 1983, viewers had to wait a whole week, seven long days, to find out whether Abs would be able to get Gary to the marriage altar. Fortunately for My Beloved Grammy and I, we only had to wait mere minutes to jump from …And Never Brought to Mind to Sacred Vows, just long enough for me to pee and heat up my teriyaki and top off my glass of beer. Once those tasks were completed, we were ready to dive into this exciting KL episode.
Obviously, the first thing we see in this episode is our thirty second preview, and this one’s really packed, as it culminates with a quick shot of Gary and Abs at the altar, the priest asking if they take each other as man and wife. Oh my God! So, based upon our own powers of deduction, we can kinda assume that Gary and Abs are getting married this week, no? Of course, the thirty second preview has been known to trick us; sometimes they show us something that winds up being contradicted like two seconds later (like back in Celebration when we saw a quick flash of Val pushing Ciji down and Ciji hitting her head and lying motionless on the floor) or the scene is somehow removed from its context to make it appear to mean something different. In this case, however, I think we all feel fairly confident to what is going to happen this week, and this preview along with the title of the episode create a tremendous sense of foreboding throughout all the proceedings this week.
After the thirty second preview, we of course get the classic season five opening credits sequence (during this ep, I narrated the opening by telling My Beloved Grammy what some of my favorite scrolling squares are, such as Gary riding on the horse with his muscles flexing or Val and Ben running on the beach) and then the episode starts and I actually have an immediate problem right in the first couple of seconds. I know, shocking, right? What could my beef possibly be? Well, it’s a pretty small one in the grand scheme of things, but it’s one that makes me question what the creators were thinking. See, we get our usual list of guest star characters, such as Michael Sabatino as Chip, and then the last guest star listed is, “And Lisa Hartman as Cathy Geary.” Now come on, why would they do such a thing? Yes, spoiler alert, this is the episode in which Lisa returns to the series as the dead-ringer Ciji lookalike Cathy, which is very exciting and good, something I’ve been waiting for since we started season five, but why put this information right here in the episode credits?
Cathy’s appearance occurs in the last two minutes of this episode and serves as the cliffhanger that makes us want to watch next week’s show, but it’s spoiled right away here by putting her in the list of guest stars. Remember when a certain very important main character “died” on Twin Peaks and this certain person’s name was removed from the opening credits for a good seven episodes or so of the series? Then, when this person returned to the series, it was a big surprise, because they were in a disguise, so this person’s name was then put in the end credits of that episode before they returned to the main cast list at the opening credits the next week (I know it seems weird to be so vague and avoid spoilers of a show that ended 25 years ago, but I try to respect Twin Peaks and all its secrets and not give away anything to someone who hasn’t watched the series yet). This is how they should have handled Lisa’s return to the series, in my opinion; keep her name in the ending episode credits during Sacred Vows and then promote her to the start of the episode guest roster with A Change of Heart. I can just imagine a 1983 viewer sitting down to the watch this, seeing her name, and being like, “Wait, she’s back?” It ruins what should be a perfectly good surprise. Very fortunately for me, My Beloved Grammy didn’t seem to notice her name in the credits, so the surprise still worked on her just fine.
Anyway, that’s a little gripe that I managed to get over as we moved through this ep and the glory and splendor of KL continued to wrap its fingers so lovingly around me. As usual by this point, there’s just so much going on this week that I hardly know where to start, but I think I’ll start with Chip and Diana. Chip is still in his coma for the time being, and the doctors aren’t sure when/if he’ll come out of it. We get an early scene of Diana asking some nurse when he’ll be back, the nurse saying she doesn’t know, and Diana going a bit ballistic on her: “WELL THEN WHAT GOOD ARE YOU?!” Also, while Diana continues to give Karen the cold shoulder, she and Eric actually seem to be getting along somewhat.
Follow me along here, because this strikes me as a tad bizarre. Early in the ep, Eric announces that he’s going to the hospital to visit Diana and bring her some stuff. He says it a bit nervously, like he’s afraid Karen will be mad at him, but Karen assures him that she wants him and his sister to continue to have a relationship. This is the mature and right attitude for Karen to take, and I’ve got no problem with that, but do you all remember that Eric just gave Diana a big fat slap on the face just a few episodes back in One Kind of Justice? Considering the anger and hostility Diana can hold for anyone and everyone that she doesn’t like, it strikes me as a tad askew that now she and brother Eric are getting along well enough for him to drop stuff off at the hospital. Remembering that these characters have lives that we are not privy to as they move and exist throughout their days (we never see a scene of Gary or Val taking a shit, for instance, but we can probably assume that they do, in fact, do that every now and again), I’m gonna go ahead and assume that Eric went and apologized to Diana for the slap, maybe said something like, “You were being really mean to Mom and I got mad and I slapped you, but I’m sorry.” With this little imaginary scene in my head, I’m able to get on with proceedings much easier.
I have to say that Eric is really starting to grow on me. As I’ve said before, I never tended to give him much thought cuz I was too busy drooling over his twink of a brother, but we get another great Eric scene this week and I’m gonna be controversial and declare this scene as better than the slap. Obviously the slap was a beautiful thing and will go down in television history as a great audience-cheering-moment, but this one is even better and requires Steve Shaw to go on a bit of a soliloquy to Diana, which he delivers well. Basically he tells her that it’s a good thing Sid isn’t alive anymore to see the way Diana is behaving; he goes on to remind her that Sid died in the name of bringing criminals to justice, and now his daughter is protecting a man she knows to be a criminal and a killer and a beater-upper of old ladies in Seattle. Then he sorta storms out and leaves Diana to think about all the awful things she’s doing, and I believe his words really get to her, based on actions she takes a little later on.
This is a fabulous scene for many reasons. First and most obvious, it’s always nice to see Diana get chewed out by anyone (I’m flashing way back to Hitchhike: Part Two when she was being a whiny little brat and Sid told her he has more important things to worry about than, “Her fragile little girl ego”). Also, this shows Eric serving as a catalyst for plot change, which I appreciate, but what I appreciated even more was the reminder of Sid. Let’s recall that Sid Fairgate died right at the start of season three, and we are now at the start of season five. As I think I’ve mentioned before, it would be so easy for the writers to just shuffle him under the carpet and, by this point, start to forget he ever existed, but they don’t do that. Again, when I watch this show (or any show or movie), I try to think of all the characters as real people who have real lives, so of course Eric, Diana, and that beautiful twink Michael would still be remembering and talking about their father. He was their dad and they loved him and he died. Also, Eric doesn’t just mention Sid, but the very circumstances of Sid’s death, what he died to fight for, which maintains a continuity from over two years back that I’ll bet many viewers in 1983 hadn’t even seen for themselves, since the show was still pretty low in the ratings at that juncture in time. So for all these reasons, I’m declaring this scene to be Eric’s greatest moment, with the epic slap now coming in second place.
Like I said, Eric’s words clearly get to Diana, because the next time we see her, she’s talking to comatose Chip (which could come off as ridiculous, but I am one of those people who believes that people in comas can still hear us when we speak to them), telling him her reasons for testifying against him. Next up, she walks up to the ever-cheesy Detective Morrison (quick interruption: super boring Detective Baines declared back in One Kind of Justice that she was taking herself off this case and so she left the show and took her boring and annoying flirtation with Mack with her) and tells him that she is ready to testify. Of course, two seconds after this, we get a shot of Chip in his hospital bed, a pan down to his hand, and, you guessed it, some movement. I like to think he heard what Diana was telling him, thought, “Oh no you don’t,” and decided to snap out of his coma.
Meanwhile, Abs and Sumner are starting to get pretty cozy, and this episode presents her first attempts at seducing him. However, it’s not as easy as she thought, because he actually shoots her down in this instance (it doesn’t take long for him to crumble, though, cuz I think they sleep together in either the next episode or the one after that). See, they are in her office of debauchery, talking about political things, when Abs plants her first big, wet kiss on him. You gotta love the fact that Abs is still in the midst of trying to get Gary to marry her, but that doesn’t mean she won’t try to get an afternoon delight out of Sumner, as well. After the kiss, though, Sumner walks himself to the door, opens it, turns around, says “My regards to your fiancé,” and exits the building. Pretty boss moment, if I do say so myself, as well as a stunning demonstration of his ability to control himself. If Abs planted a kiss on me, I don’t care where we are, I would disrobe as fast as possible and start looking for the nearest hot tub.
Now, as we head into this episode, Gary clearly has a lot of thinking he needs to do. He slept with Val last week and impregnated her with the greatest storyline in KL history (although we the viewers don’t know that quite just yet), and last week we also got a lovely scene of him and Laura discussing his feelings for Val, the comfort and safety he feels whenever he’s around her, that he’s felt that way ever since he was fifteen (which I think might be a small flub on the part of the writers; wasn’t it established way back on Dallas that Val was fifteen but Gary was actually seventeen when they met?). This week, I started to wonder exactly what would drive Gary to marry Abs after all that happened in our prior episode, and at first I thought it would just be one thing, but it turns out to be two.
First off, Olivia and Brian return to Westfork from their little night out at respective friends’ houses and they are both delighted to see Gary. This reminded me that, for all the lying and backstabbing Abs pulls on Gary, he really truly loves her kids and he is actually a pretty great surrogate father to them, certainly better than their Transmorpher father from back in seasons two and three. So I think Gary sees these kids who he really loves and he doesn’t want to hurt them by running out on them; he feels a responsibility towards them and I also think they fill a paternal hole in his heart that is not occupied by the ever-absent Lucy back in Texas.
Now, at first I thought that was all the motivation Gary needed to marry Abs, but then we get a fabulous sequence between him and Laura. We’re getting a lot of him and Laura riding horses together and talking about their lives this season, and I like it very much and hope to see it continue long into the future. In this case, he starts to tell Laura how he thinks he can be friends with Val, but Laura quickly punctures that balloon by saying, “Val can no more be friends with you than you could have a glass of wine with dinner or a drink every now and again.” At this point, My Beloved Grammy opined that it’s none of Laura’s business what Gary and Val do, but I reminded her that Laura is friends to both of them, loves them both, and spent the last year watching Val go through pain and heartbreak before finally pulling herself together and improving her life by becoming a successful independent woman. Really, her words are probably true; Val is addicted to Gary in the way Gary is addicted to booze. We get a nice shot of Gary’s face and Shack is able to convey all his emotions with just his eyes; we see the change take over his face and know that he has now made his decision. Gary and Val have arranged a little lunch date together, and we get the most heartbreaking scene of the ep: Poor Val (POOR VAL!) sitting all alone in the café, drinking many cups of coffee, being pestered by the snarky cunty waitress (“Are you ready to order yet?”) as she waits in vain for Gary. Then we go outside and zoom back to reveal that Gary is sitting out in the parking lot, in his car, staring at her, debating going in. Instead, he chooses to drive away and, if you listen really close, you can actually hear America screaming at their TV screens, “NO, GARY, GO IN!” Nope, instead he drives away.
Wow, what a painful scene, and despite having almost no dialogue, I have so much to say about it. Many TV shows have had a central couple to focus on as the “Will they or won’t they?” couple throughout their run. Sam and Diane from Cheers are a famous example, and of course in the ‘90s people couldn’t get enough of Ross and Rachel, for some reason. But Gary and Val are so clearly the best “Will they or won’t they?” couple in television history and I think everyone, writers, actors, directors, is working at the top of their game here to make us want them to get together while also making us understand why they can’t be. Also, I am able to understand Gary’s motivations even as I so desperately want to see the two get back together. My Beloved Grammy and I talked about why Gary doesn’t even go into the restaurant to explain his feelings to Val, and my own theory is that he feels he must hurt her this one final, painful time in order to really get her over him. After what Laura says, he doesn’t want to be responsible for stringing Val along in any way, so in his own way, he’s using this cruelty as a way to release Val from his spell over her.
Next up, Gary returns to Abs and tells her he thinks they should get married, and right away. When he says “right away,” he means the very next scene, by the way, because next time we see them, they are having a very small wedding ceremony outside in the glorious open land of Westfork, with only Brian, Olivia, and the priest present. This scene is also stylishly intercut with Val’s other big story this week, which is having to take Lilimae to a sanitarium to undergo some tests and find out if she’s nutty. What cinematic style this shows! We keep crosscutting between Abs and Gary taking their sacred vows (wait a minute, that’s the title of the episode!) with this tremendously sad scene of Val leaving Lilimae alone. Now, I don’t get choked up over the Lilimae stuff because, well, I know that she’s going to be back from the sanitarium in just a few episodes and, in the grand scheme of things, this storyline isn’t really that big of a deal, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have some fantastic acting from both J.V.A. and Julie Harris. Harris does really manage to pull on your heartstrings here, because after Val leaves her alone in her room, she looks out the window and starts crying and I really felt sorry for her.
Last thing I wanna mention: Watching Gary get married to Abs, I found myself briefly questioning why none of the Texas Ewings were there to witness this. However, after a second of chewing on it, it was easy for me to justify. Obviously the behind-the-scenes reason is simply that the show isn’t doing Dallas crossovers anymore, but I came up with a few good story reasons why none of them would be there. First off, this was one rushed wedding, taking place about five seconds after Gary said they should get married. Also, nobody’s at this wedding, so it’s not like Gary only excluded the Texas Ewings. Karen’s not here, Mack’s not here, there ain’t nobody here. Finally, I actually think, deep down in his heart, Gary might be a little ashamed of what he’s doing and he simply doesn’t want his family to know about it, at least not at this point. I’ll bet you a million dollars if little Lucy was over here to see this, she would be upset, because she wouldn’t want her daddy marrying Abs; she wants both of her parents to be together forever.
We are about to wrap up the episode, but the creative team still has one more surprise in store for us (the surprise that was spoiled by the opening guest star credits, as I already ranted about). See, Abs and Gary don’t go too far for their romantic honeymoon; they just get a nice fancy hotel somewhere in California and decide to shag there. Like all red blooded Americans, the two get hungry after a good sex session, so they call up for room service and in walks Cathy to deliver it. This is our first glimpse of Lisa since Ciji died, barring that little teeny tiny flashback they had at the start of Marital Privileges, and we see that, while she looks like Ciji since she’s, you know, being played by the same actress, she does have different and not-as-flattering hair, kind of a bleach blonde look.
As she enters the room, we have a nice bit in which Gary just keeps not noticing her while she lays out their food and stuff. He’s busy fiddling with the fire and then signing the check and getting her tip ready and all that, but then he finally hands her the money and the two lock eyes and Gary’s eyes get all big and wide as if he’s just seen a ghost, which, in fact, he kinda has. Then Cathy disappears back into the hallway and into the elevator and the doors slide shut just as Gary comes out into the hall to try and get another look at her. This is all set to some classical music (I think Mozart) which really helps to add a little special spice to the sequence. And then boom, the episode ends and we are all left to wait another long week (or, in the case of My Beloved Grammy and I, a couple of seconds) to find out exactly how Ciji seems to have been reincarnated as this new character.
Boy oh boy, was that episode packed or what? So far, season five is just nonstop; every single episode is loaded with stories and material and excitement and the plots just keep growing and accelerating at this beautiful breakneck speed. By this point, the viewers should be deeply hooked; if you’ve been watching the show, it’s got a grip on you so the very idea of not tuning in next week would be completely ridiculous. Because of the breakneck speed of all the plot developments, it’s almost hard sometimes to keep seeing each ep as its own individual snowflake, the way I was able to do back in the seasons one through three era, but before finishing up, let me mention a few things I liked about this episode in particular. I liked the use of classical music to set the tone (not just with Cathy coming into the hotel room, but also an earlier scene where Abs is lazing by the fireplace and waiting to hear from Gary) as well as the stylish crosscutting of Abs and Gary getting married with Lilimae being dropped off at the sanitarium. Also, I need to correct myself, because this is the episode with the shot of Gary riding on his horse that is used in the opening credits sequence. I note that because it was a quick scene but just beautiful to look at, even on my shitty bootleg copies, in which Gary rides out to the middle of the ranch and just peers out over all the splendid land he now lives on, his mind clearly occupied with big life decisions (at this point, I turned to My Beloved Grammy and did my Miss Ellie impression by saying, “Gary loved the laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand”). So overall, while keeping everything zipping along, the episode still shines in special, individual ways thanks to the little touches and bursts of style thrown in by veteran director Nicholas Sgarro, our most prolific of all KL directors.
Coming up next, we start to get to the bottom of how exactly Ciji has managed to come back from the dead as a brand new person with A Change of Heart.