Sunday, February 28, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 019 of 344: STEP ONE


Episode Title: Step One

Season 02, Episode 06

Episode 019 of 344

Written by Loraine Despres

Directed by Kim Friedman  

Original Airdate: Thursday, January 1st, 1981

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com):.                Diana is having difficulty with her new boyfriend as she feels a pressure to sleep with him. Karen, Diana, Val and Ginger are performing in an ERA benefit. Val asks Gary to help, but he's too preoccupied helping Earl Trent. Diana needs Karen's support but she is too busy rehearsing. In frustration, Diana pulls out of the ERA. Meanwhile with Laura preoccupied with work, Richard spends his time with Abby and they end up in the hot tub. Karen and Diana make up and sing, "Put on a Happy Face."

 

                As I sit down and prepare to write my thoughts about this episode of KL, entitled Step One, I thought I might take a moment or two to explain the context of how I am watching the series.  For instance, if you, the reader, were under the impression that I watch one episode and then immediately go to write about the episode in question, that is not accurate.  Rather, My Beloved Grammy and I try to get together about once a week and we just power through a solid disk.  Now, with season one, it was a smidge easier because there were three episodes per disk, but with season two (which, as of this writing, is sadly the last season of the series available on DVD; for the rest of the series I resorted to bootlegs), there are five episodes per disk.  So, just so you understand what we watched in our last viewing, we watched the entire disk two of the second season (which comprises Step One through Choices) and we also squeezed in A Brief Dallas Interlude by watching End of the Road: Part Two (this was viewed in complete chronological accuracy; as we put this episode in-between the KL eps A Family Matter and Choices).  So, basically, we watched six episodes of television in the most recent viewing. 

                Now, I only tell you this to explain the exact hows and whys of the KL viewing, and to remind you that if I seem to gloss over some details or forget little things, well, it’s because we watched a whole disk of episodes and, as I sit here and try to think about the first episode we watched, it’s sometimes a little hard to remember, so please forgive anything I forget to talk about or dissect.  Of course, nobody else on the internet is bothering to write about this wonderful show in excruciating detail from start to finish, so I guess you’re stuck with me, huh? 

                Actually, the way we view the episodes is, for me, very helpful, because we watch enough that I’m able to notice the flow of the stories and the way the plot advances, but we don’t watch too much that all the eps just become a big blur in my mind, you know?  I make it a rule to never watch more that one disk per visit, because I know if I did that, I would most certainly not remember all the little details that make each show special. 

                Anyway, if you’ll recall, our previous episode, Kristin, was most assuredly not one of my favorites of the series (I believe I even declared it the worst episode up to that point, did I not?), so I was hoping Step One would be a, shall we say, step up from our last episode. Was it?  Well, kinda, but not a big step up, if you know what I’m saying.

                Maybe I’ll just say right now that whenever an episode focuses really heavily on Diana, I tend to lose interest.  Now, there is one glorious exception to this rule, and it comes in the form of a certain fantastic character named Chip Roberts who will figure prominently into seasons four and five of the series, but he’s a ways away at this point, and certainly in the first three seasons, anytime Diana is the center of attention, I just don’t really care.  Therefore, you’ll understand that I groaned a little bit inside as we started this episode and I realized how Diana-centric it would be.

                We start with Diana and her friends hanging out and exchanging gossip about, what else, sex.  Looks like one of Diana’s friends finally lost her virginity the night before or something (I honestly wasn’t paying that much attention at this point, as me and My Beloved Grammy were kinda chatting a bit and talking about her recent trip to the doctor and stuff like that).  I note with interest the STAR STUDDED guest cast surrounding Diana as we start this episode.  For instance, is that not a very young Helen Hunt?  Why, it is, and she is playing Brenda.  Wait a minute, Brenda?  I’m gonna point out a flaw here, as we have previously seen Helen Hunt in the episode Hitchhike: Part Two, and in that episode, her name was Betsy!  Looks like the writers lost their notes at some point, because now she’s Brenda.  Of course, I don’t think they ever actually say her name in either episode; it’s just listed in the end credits that only psycho nerds like me actually sit and watch the entire way through, so it’s not really all that important.  Oh yeah, and less of a big star but still someone I recognized, we also have Wendie Jo Sperber playing one of Diana’s friends.  I know my dad really liked this actress and thought she was very funny, but honestly the only thing I recognize her from is playing Marty McFly’s sister in the first and third Back to the Future movies.

                Diana is dating some guy and they are allegedly “in love.”  This strikes me as rather strange considering this is the first time we’ve seen this guy (and, I think, also the last time; yup, a quick glance at IMDb confirms that we will never be seeing this actor or this character again).  But anyway, even though this character has only been invented for the purposes of this particular episode, Diana is very much in love with him and is considering losing her virginity to him, immediately setting the tone for what this ep will be about.

                However, even though the ep is clearly gonna be all about Diana, that doesn’t mean we aren’t getting some good stuff from the rest of the cast, as well.  Indeed, the second scene of the episode is one that, to me, is iconic, and that is Karen, Abby, and Val all working out together on the floor of Karen’s living room (is it Karen’s living room?  I apologize, dear reader, as it may have actually been Abby’s living room).  This scene starts with a closeup of Abby’s face and she just looks so positively unenthused about having to work out, which has always amused me, and then we zoom out to reveal the three women all doing their exercises together.  I don’t know why I find this scene so iconic, perhaps simply because it’s put into the opening credits sequence starting next season, perhaps simply because all three women look good and the scene is funny and has energy.  It also goes a long way towards adding to that homey neighborhood atmosphere of the show; that these three women who are neighbors and spend a lot of time together are just teaming up to do their exercises; the scene makes me feel warm and comfortable and among friends.

                Now, if Diana and her virginity are the A story this week, I would say the B story is definitely Abs and Richard.  Their affair is heating up nicely and this is the episode where we officially see them consummate their physical relationship.  Now, we know Richard is no stranger to a bit of adultery as he slept with Sid’s ex-wife back in Civil Wives, but for the last five episodes, it’s been a lot of very delicious flirtation between him and Abs.  My God, the list is endless; we had Abs inviting him over for a swim and his classic response of “Do I need my trunks?”  In addition, we had them doing some sexy gardening in Kristin and we also saw them enjoying dinner and wine together in Chance of a Lifetime, when Abs very subtly went on about how her first husband couldn’t sexually please her.  Now, as we reach Step One, we are actually in for a big treat: a scene between Richard and Abby that I’ve always thought was one of the most classic KL scenes of the entire run, but we’ll discuss that when we discuss that.

                Oh yeah, and one last thing before I return to Diana and her boyfriend: There are some very interesting little dropped hints that establish future storylines.  For one thing, even though Gary and Val are barely in this episode, we do see a quick scene of him receiving a phone call at night from that drunken Earl (you’ll recall that we met him and his lesbian-looking wife in Remember the Good Times) and having to go out and rescue him from whatever drunken situation he’s gotten into.  It’s just one quick scene here but it’s going to accelerate to propel storylines for quite a few episodes into the future (beginning with our next one, Breach of Faith) and I like that. 

                Also, and perhaps more interestingly, we have some major hints that something is not right with Michael.  Now, in a few episodes (Scapegoats, to be precise), we are going to find out that Michael has A.D.H.D.  In my memory, I thought that storyline came completely out of nowhere for the purposes of that episode, but actually they start dropping little hints leading up to it pretty early in the second season.  We’ve already seen him spill some milk and make a complete mess out of it, plus we’ve seen him fighting and being difficult at school.  In this episode, he is continuing to act a tad askew, prompting Karen to say, “I don’t know what’s wrong with Michael.”  Well, we won’t find out what’s wrong with him this week, but we will very soon, and I appreciate the writers for clearly having that storyline planned out well in advance and giving us some clues that it’s developing without being too obvious about it.

                Okay, so back to Diana (snore).  The boyfriend (his name is Bobby and he is played by Dan Shor, pictured below) tells her how his parents are going out of town and he has the house to himself; would she like to come over?  Diana agrees and her buddies drop her off at the house.  There’s a nice little scene where her friends are like, “Diana, you don’t have to do this,” and Diana just has this sad face.  I kinda liked that, and then she goes to the door and disappears inside the house and we go to a commercial; I guess if I was a viewer in 1981 (the very first day of 1981, no less), I would be curious enough to wait out the commercial and see what happens when Diana gets into that house.

                What ends up happening is a mystery for awhile; we the audience are not privy to whether Diana sleeps with Bobby or not.  Now, even though I don’t particularly care about these characters or this storyline, I’ll pay a quick compliment to this scene by saying that I really enjoyed the acoustic guitar soundtrack that’s going on in the background.  I note that Jerrold Immel is credited with doing the score for this ep, so good on him; I always enjoy when he pulls out the guitar.  It’s a quiet scene and both actors play it fairly well, I suppose, but what really struck me was the fabulous guitar.

                The next time we see Diana, she is being dropped off by Bobby and seems very upset about something.  Did they or didn’t they?  That’s our Mystery of the Week!  Now personally, I never thought they did it, but it sure does take awhile to find out for sure, because for the rest of the episode, Diana pretty much hangs out at the beach and feels sorry for herself.  This again reminded me of just how often the characters go to the beach in the first three seasons or so; it really does start to feel like every episode has heavy beach content, and I’ll be curious to see when/if this starts to fade away.  But anyway, at the beach Diana makes a new friend, some dude named Roger who is played by John Dukakis (and I actually did recognize this actor as he was in Jaws 2).  He offers her some beer, which she gladly accepts, and the next time we cut back to her, she’s good and drunken. 

                Roger is telling her about how he just moved out to California and, just like Val back in the first episode, he’s never seen the ocean before.  They chat for awhile but things turn a bit strange when he invites Diana to come and hang out in his hippie van.  At first she accepts, but for whatever reason, when she sees the van, she sorta flips and goes running off.  I think it has something to do with the fact that he’s got a bed set up in the back of his van, and perhaps Diana assumes he’s gonna try to get busy with her, and she just ain’t in the mood, so off she goes.  She drunkenly drives home (and, since we are still in an era where nobody really cares about drinking and driving, Karen only scolds her for being drunk and says nothing about her operating the motor vehicle) and then goes running off to her room like a little whiny brat.

                Oh yeah, how could I forget about this part?  Throughout the whole episode, there’s this lingering talent show coming up, and Karen is working really hard to get her little song-and-dance routine with Diana perfected.  I found myself asking just how many talent shows this damn high school has per year, as we already saw that crazy KISS looking show in Hitchhike: Part One, and that was only a few episodes ago.  Is the talent show like a weekly thing at Knots Landing High School?  Oh well, why harp on it?  For the purposes of this episode, there’s another talent show, and it really doesn’t matter that they just had one five minutes ago.

                Now, the episode is plugging along, and it’s not really doing too much for me.  While it’s a clear improvement over Kristin, it’s still ranking pretty low in my list of episodes viewed so far, except for one stellar sequence that is plopped right into the middle of the show like this wonderful little diamond in the rough.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am referring to Abby and Richard in the hot tub.  See, it’s the middle of the day, Richard is out of work and does not appear to be looking hard for a new job, and Abby is home all day and more than willing to service him.  We begin this classic scene with Abs grabbing some champagne for the two of them and making her way over to the hot tub.  Even the very shot of Abs in her bathing suit proudly holding that bottle of champagne up over her head is, for me, a very memorable image, and another one that they put into the opening title sequence next season.

                After she plops into the hot tub with Richard, things get decidedly steamier, but also goofier at the same time.  You know that trope you see in many an erotic movie where people pour champagne and/or other liquors all over each other rather than simply drinking the alcohol?  We’ve got that here, as for some reason Richard just starts to pour the champagne into the hot tub.  This to me seems very wasteful, but then he starts to massage Abby’s back and, yes, pour some champagne down her neck and lick it back off.  I gotta say this is all fabulously risqué, even for nighttime TV.  In particular, when Richard licks her neck, Abby lets out this almost orgasmic shudder that seems quite daring for TV in 1981, in my opinion.  While it’s obviously goofy that they waste so much champagne, that’s also part of the fun and magic of the sequence, which has always stuck with me as one of the most iconic in KL history.  Even if I absolutely hated everything else about this episode, I would still declare this a classic scene that everyone needs to see.

                The culmination of the episode involves Karen and Diana at the talent show.  Their act is coming up next, but it’s at this particular moment that Diana chooses to speak with her mother about what happened the other night.  She cuts right to the quick, saying, “The other night I went to Bobby’s house and his parents weren’t home.”  We get some fantastic acting from Michele Lee here, as she sorta takes in that information and chews it over for a second or two, and then she just goes, “Oh,” and then says perhaps they should talk about this after the show (I actually agree with her, FYI), but then Diana gets mad and is like, yelling and stuff.  In any case, this is the scene where we find out that no sex occurred, rather she and Bobby tried to have sex and it just didn’t quite work out.  “Oh Mother, it was awful!” she declares in her typically over-the-top acting style, adding that neither of them knew what they were doing.  Karen gives her some big speech and it is A Touching Moment, I suppose, although I didn’t feel particularly touched. 

                Anyway, that little mother/daughter chat is actually the penultimate scene of the episode.  The very last scene is, how should I say this, a bit odd.  Honestly, this entire last scene has always haunted me as one of the worst KL episode endings in the series run, a truly unsettling and very not cute song-and-dance number between Karen and Diana.  I wonder if this whole sequence was simply included to show off Michele’s pipes; I know she is a professional singer and even has a few albums on vinyl from way back when (I’ll keep my eyes open for them the next time I hit Silver Platters), so perhaps she just wanted an opportunity to sing in an episode.  Well, singing is one thing, and I actually have no problems with listening to her sing (Put on a Happy Face is the song, by the way). My problem is with the fucking creepy makeup that both Karen and Diana wear.  They are in full white face, like they are mimes or something, but with these super spooky black dots on either side of their cheeks and these Joker-looking lipstick faces; I honestly can’t describe how creepy the whole thing is.

                And it’s not just the look that’s creepy; it’s the whole production, the dancing especially, which strikes me as a tad too sexy for a mother/daughter pairing.  I also forgot to mention that their outfits are basically nothing; it looks like they are both dancing around in their underwear.  Honestly, there’s really no way to properly describe the total creepiness of this production number aside from just watching it; perhaps I’ll see if I can get a clip of it pulled up for all of your viewing, erm, pleasure? 

                Yeah, I hate this ending, and speaking of things that end up in the opening title sequence, for whatever reason the super creepy freeze-frame ending of this episode makes it into the classic scrolling squares opening starting next season.  Why?  This is a scene I want buried; I don’t ever want to be reminded of it, yet I’m gonna be looking at it constantly during the third season every time I see that opening title scene.  Yuck!  So, right here and right now, barring some unforeseen event in the future, I am declaring this WORST ENDING TO A KL EPISODE EVER!  That’s right, folks, you heard it here; I don’t think we ever get a worse last five minutes to a show; this one is the bottom of the barrel, really the pits.

                But what about the episode overall?  Honestly, this is such a huge improvement over Kristin that I’m kinda giving it more of a break than it deserves.  The main storyline did almost nothing for me, as it focused to heavily on Diana and, what with the subject of virginity and teenaged sex and all that, struck me as rather After School Special or maybe a less awful version of 7th Heaven.  Now, this is the main storyline that takes up most of the episode’s time, and I had almost zero interest in it, which is pretty bad.  At the same time, I wasn’t enraged by the plot; it wasn’t complete insane and stupid like Land of the Free; it just didn’t really grab me and engage my interest.

                I’ll forgive that though for a few reasons, one of which is that so many seeds have been planted and are growing along nicely.  We are seeing hints of a rift forming between Gary and Val, which will pay off in the coming episodes and seasons, plus the hints at Michael’s A.D.H.D. and some generally uninteresting stuff involving Kenny and Ginger’s marital woes.  In addition, I just can’t not recommend an episode that has Abs and Richard in the hot tub; that’s just such a wonderful scene of soapy deliciousness that, for me, exemplifies KL at its trashy best.  There was definitely no scene nearly that good in Kristin, and even though it’s a quick scene, it’s one of those that just burns into the memory.  Overall, however, despite that one amazing and sexy scene, the episode is fine and that’s it.  I’m pleased to announce that I don’t think we have to see another big Diana episode for quite awhile, and I know the upcoming four episodes will all be terrific, so we’ve got that going for us, which is nice. 

                Coming up next is one of my personal favorite episodes, one that greatly expands on all the storylines that we’ve got kicking into high gear at this point in the season.  Next up, we have pretty much everyone committing a lot of adultery in Breach of Faith.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 018 of 344: KRISTIN


Episode Title: Kristin

Season 02, Episode 05

Episode 018 of 344

Written by Diana Gould

Directed by Nicholas Sgarro 

Original Airdate: Thursday, December 18th, 1980

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com):.                Kristin Shepard is in Los Angeles following the shooting of J.R. in Dallas. After being arrested at a party for drug use, she calls Gary and Val for help and manipulates Val into letting her stay with the Ewings, but ends up causing trouble in the cul-de-sac. Kenny ends his relationship with Sylvie and tries to reconcile with Ginger, but his involvement with Kristin poses a problem.

 


                After the high of highs that was Chance of a Lifetime, could any episode immediately following it even come close to measuring up?  Hmmm, perhaps, like let’s say if The Plesh had gotten to just write another episode directly after that one, or if the episode in question continued on the path being set by that hour of television that was, for me, so extremely enjoyable.  However, our next episode goes a slightly different direction, bringing us our first Dallas crossover since Home is For Healing.  How does this episode measure up when compared to the previous?  Let’s explore.

                Kristin represents our fourth out of what will turn out to be nine KL eps featuring crossover characters from the parent series.  You’ll recall that Patrick Duffy had a little appearance as Bobby  back in Pilot, dropping Gary and Val off at their new home.  The very next episode, Community Spirit, featured Larry Hagman as J.R. as a pivotal guest character for that week, and then a few episodes later, in Home is For Healing, Charlene Tilton showed up as Lucy Ewing, visiting Gary and Val for a few days.  So who’s our special crossover guest star this week?  Why, that would be Kristin, played by the delightfully wicked Mary Crosby.  It’s at this point that I’ll take a moment to discuss where Kristin falls in relation to both KL as well as its parent series.

                We actually saw Mary Crosby fairly recently, in our two Brief Dallas Interludes.  However, we did not watch the famous Dallas episode entitled Who Done It?, mainly because it did not feature Gary or Val in an appearance, and I’m only including the Dallas eps that feature one or both of those characters.  However, I think anyone with a little knowledge of the television medium knows what a big freaking deal Who Done It?  was.  For those who aren’t aware, that would be the episode where we found out who, in fact, shot J.R. in the closing moments of the third season of that series.  This episode went down in history as the most watched television episode ever (with something ridiculous like 300 million people worldwide or something), and it has only been beaten twice as of this writing (once by the final episode of MASH in 1983 and once by the 2007 Super Bowl).

                My point?  Everyone was watching that episode of Dallas.  It was a major media circus and that particular episode was hyped up as an event everyone had to see.  Anyway, that episode aired on Friday, November 21st, 1980, and in it, we learned that J.R. had been shot by his villainous little mistress/sister-in-law, Kristin.  Now, we have Kristin showing up in a KL episode airing Thursday, December 18th, 1980.  Why do I note these dates?  Mostly because I wish to demonstrate what a tacky and obvious crossover this is, that they take a character who is at the peak of her fifteen minutes of fame (sorry, Mary) and, less than a month after the airing of the famous Dallas episode, they transplant her over to the spinoff series in an obvious attempt at ratings boosting.  A quick reminder that Dallas would finish the 1980-1981 season ranking at #1 while KL ranked at #28, so was this cross-promotion in any way successful?  I’m not sure, as I don’t have the exact facts and figures of how many people watched this particular episode of KL (I would be very interested to see a seasonal chart of the ratings and how they go up and down throughout a single year).  

                In any case, I’m not against tacky cross-promotion, and one of the things I really enjoy about the early years of KL is that it does seem so strictly linked back to its parent series.  As I mentioned, after 1985 I don’t think KL ever mentions Dallas again, although I’ll keep my ears open when I get to that juncture of the series.  Here in the early days, the two shows are going to great strides to demonstrate that they exist in the same universe and to remind us that, while J.R. and Bobby are doing whatever they’re doing over in Texas, just down in California, Gary and his friends are having adventures of their own.  So I like very much the idea of one big world with all these different characters from the two series existing in it.  At the same time, however, this is almost surely gonna rank at the very bottom of the nine crossover eps.  Bringing in Mary Crosby at this particular date in the series is just too obvious for me.  However, I could get over that if she had anything interesting to do, but unfortunately she does not. 

                I will applaud the writers of the two series for having a good continuity from show to show, however, as Kristin’s presence in California makes sense for the last time we saw her on Dallas.  See, she revealed that she shot J.R., but the thing to remember is that only J.R. and Sue Ellen know that.  If you’ll recall, just as J.R. is about to phone the police, Kristin reveals that she is pregnant with J.R.’s baby.  The result?  Rather than turn her in, J.R. ships her off to California and hopes never to see her again (spoiler alert, but Kristin will end up dead in the Southfork pool at the conclusion of this television season, so she doesn’t wind up pestering J.R. for long).  Anyway, as we begin the episode, Kristin is in California at some party.  Of course, being pregnant, perhaps Kristin shouldn’t be surrounding herself with alcohol and drugs, but whatever, she was never gonna be mother of the year, anyway.  I suppose I should note that Kristin is not actually shown taking any drugs, it’s more of a 7th Heaven situation where someone hands her some drugs (I think it’s coke?) and then a second later some cops materialize and arrest her.  So we’re about five minutes into the episode and Kristin has already been taken to jail for possession.  We’re moving right along now.

                I guess Kristin must have remembered that Dallas episode she appeared in where Gary and Val got their new house in California (for those who have forgotten, it was Return Engagements and it was Brief Dallas Interlude #4 out of 12), or perhaps she just remembers Gary since he just recently came to Texas to visit.   In any case, she calls up Val and tells her she is in prison.  Ever the nice and goodhearted person, Val comes and gets her out of jail and even lets her stay at the house for awhile.

                When Gary arrives home, he is not terribly pleased to see Kristin waiting there for him.  We get a reminder of not one or two but five  characters back in Texas.  First off, Gary gives Bobby a call to tell him who has stopped by for a visit.  We don’t see Bobby, but we know that’s who Gary is talking to (if you’re in need of a Bobby fix, don’t worry, as he will be crossing over into KL very shortly in the ep The Loudest Word).  Secondly, Gary tells Bobby “My love to Lucy and Mama,” so we get a mention of those two.  Finally, while arguing in the kitchen about Kristin’s presence in the house, Val points out that Kristin isn’t like Sue Ellen just like Gary is nothing like J.R.  Again, I reiterate my appreciation for the casual mentions of characters from over on the parent series. 

                Unfortunately, the vast majority of the rest of the ep deals entirely with, sigh, Kenny and Ginger.  My goodness, wasn’t our last episode so refreshing without either of these two in it?  The Plesh was smart when writing his script for Chance of a Lifetime because he didn’t even bother to write a part for Kenny or Ginger.  He knew they were boring and that nobody cared.  However, the writer of this episode (Diana Gould) decides to devote nearly the whole hour to these toxic bores, and every second they are onscreen sinks my esteem for this ep further and further down into the gutter. 

                I guess we have to talk about them, so let’s get to it.  You’ll recall from season one that Kenny was enjoying an affair with his little singing whore Sylvie at least as early as Home is For Healing.  At the climax of the first season, Ginger finally caught Kenny and Sylvie together, her eyes got all big and bugged out and frightening, and she threw Kenny out of the house.  Now, as we commence the second season, the couple is still split up though not technically divorced, and they did enjoy a quick romp in the sack back in Remember the Good Times.  Aside from that, however, their relationship is ending, at least so far as Ginger is concerned. 

                In this episode, Ginger finally starts dating a new person who she seems to really like.  I’m fine with this development because I also like this actor.  The character’s name is Karl Russelman and he’s played by the bearded David Haskell.  Don’t be alarmed if you have no idea who this guy is or why I care about him; he’s just a character actor who pops up in stuff throughout the ‘80s.  Looking at his IMDb, I am shocked to note that he died in 2000 at the age of 52 of brain cancer.  I honestly had no idea.  Anyway, the movie I go to when I see this guy is always Brian De Palma’s Body Double, in which he has a hilarious and memorable role as a pretentious drama teacher.  As for the character of Karl, it’s not as if he does anything interesting; in fact, he’s pretty damn bland. However, I like the actor and I like his beard and I’d frankly rather see Ginger dating this guy versus having boring relationship dramas with Kenny, so I’ll take it.  Mr. Haskell will return for two more eps of KL, both in the second season, and they are Breach of Faith and Scapegoats.  I’ll discuss him more in those later eps.

                Over in Kenny’s neighborhood (and speaking of which, where the heck is Kenny living now that Ginger has thrown him out?  Is he living at Sylvie’s?), things are getting complicated.  He’s clearly at the end of his rope with Sylvie, who’s boring and bland bitchiness is really getting out of control.  She makes it very clear that she does not want Kenny working with any new lady singers, none whatsoever, conveniently ignoring the fact that Kenny’s job is a “Hip young record producer,” so probably female singers are going to be a part of his daily life.  Kenny basically breaks up with Sylvie in this episode, but I have the feeling it doesn’t take since Sylvie is still going to be in a few eps throughout the second season.  Meanwhile, Kenny meets up with Kristin and gets an immediate boner for her.  The two hang out in the abandoned recording studio sipping cocktails for awhile and a heavy flirtation follows. 

                We were about halfway through the episode and I was wondering why I was having such a hard time paying attention to the developments.  Finally I realized that my problem was that there is SO MUCH Kenny and Ginger in this episode!  True, Kristin moves in briefly with Gary and Val, so we get some scenes with them, and we have a few little scenes with my other beloved friends from the cul-de-sac (including a fabulous scene of sexy gardening between Richard and Abs), but for the most part, this is The Kenny and Ginger Show and that’s a pretty god damned uninteresting show to have to sit through.  As I watched, I tried to put my finger on what exactly is wrong with these characters.  After all, all these shenanigans about adultery and new romances should feel right at home on any nighttime soap, so why is it so dull here?  The answer lies in pretty much all three of the principal characters, and I’m including Sylvie there, as well.  Since Kenny and Ginger are just so fundamentally boring to watch, nothing they do can peak my interest.  Ginger is just a generic “nice girl” and Kenny is just a block of wood, easily the least engaging cast member in the entire series run.  Finally, Sylvie may be a bitch, but she’s not an interesting bitch.  She snarls and makes evil faces and acts generally wicked, but who can possibly care about this character? 

                The same goes for Kristin, I’m sorry to say.  Now, let me make sure it’s clear before I go on: I am only referring to Kristin being dull within the confines of this episode.  Throughout her 28 episodes of Dallas, I thoroughly enjoyed the character and her wicked ways (although my favorite evil woman on Dallas will always be the delicious Katherine Wentworth).  She fit in so very well over on that series, but as she crosses over for this KL, it’s like all the energy and life has been sucked right out of her.  I’ll just blame Kenny and Ginger, since Kristin plays so heavily into their story this week, and those two just cultivate blandness around them; Kristin is merely sucked into their boring black hole and becomes boring herself.

                Even as a guest actress, I honestly get the feeling that Mary Crosby didn’t want to be here at all.  She doesn’t display the same energy she showed over on Dallas and she honestly just looks bored. I wonder if this little guest spot was something she had zero interest in and was somewhat forced to do to cash in on the “Who Shot J.R.?” phenomenon.  Hell, I could be completely wrong, but that’s sure the sense I get.  There’s none of that mischievous evil fun she displayed on Dallas.  Here, you get the sense that she’s an evil girl, but she doesn’t seem all that evil, if that makes any sense. 

                The episode limps along for awhile before reaching an abrupt conclusion.  One scene I did kinda like occurs between Kristin and Val, in the guest bedroom that will shortly be occupied for some six years by Lilimae (who, by the way, I am really missing right now and looking forward to seeing become part of the main cast).  In this scene, Kristin reveals to Val that she is pregnant, maintaining the continuity with Dallas.  I like this alright, although I do wish the scene hadn’t included Val snuggling her face up into Kristin’s lap (why does she do this?!).  Also, this doesn’t exactly go anywhere.  Kristin reveals she’s pregnant and then, well, that’s it.  This is her one and only appearance on KL, and then she’d return to Dallas at the close of the season just to be killed off.

                This brings me to another problem with this episode.  Even though I would encourage those watching KL for the first time to start with those four Brief Dallas Interludes, it’s not that big a deal if one were to just start watching KL without any knowledge of the parent series.  However, Kristin’s guest spot here feels completely random and useless if one has no knowledge or interest in what’s going on over in Texas.  If you are just watching KL, she shows up, she causes some very minor shenanigans, she reveals that she is pregnant, and then she disappears never to be heard from again.  I could see a viewer (not a viewer in 1980, by the way, since I’m pretty sure everyone knew who she was and that she had shot J.R.) being very confused by who this chick is and what she’s doing here on this series.  It’d be one thing if she showed up for a series of episodes and became part of a greater storyline, but instead she’s just stopping by while taking a brief break from her gig on Dallas.

                I’ll take another moment to talk about the very last scene of the episode.  Basically Kenny is cutting a record with….um….somebody (is it Sylvie?) and everything’s going along great.  However, just as they are mid song, a man arrives with a little envelope for Kenny.  “Are you Kenny Ward?” he asks, and then hands him the envelope, revealing that Ginger is officially filing for divorce.  Boom, we get the “Executive Producers: Michael Filerman and David Jacobs” text on the screen and the episode concludes.  At this point, I actually yelled out, “That was a terrible episode!” and just to show that I am not alone, My Beloved Grammy agreed. She even called it the worst episode we’ve watched so far. 

She’s a wise lady, and I absolutely agree with her.  This is the worst episode of the eighteen that we’ve watched so far.  It’s the worst for all the reasons I’ve already mentioned, but let me reiterate real fast: Kristin’s guest spot feels rather unrelated to anything going on over here in the KL universe, not to mention the fact that Mary Crosby looks completely bored and disinterested throughout the whole 48 minutes.  Also, the episode is just so God damned heavy on the Kenny and Ginger material.  In fact, let’s take a moment to ask what the writers could possibly have been thinking while penning this script.

Okay, you have Dallas, which is a complete screaming success at this point, the #1 show on television that just had the most watched episode of TV ever presented.  Okay, so you want to get some of those Dallas viewers to tune in to the spinoff on Thursday nights, right?  That’s all fine well and good, but if you are bringing in a guest star and trying to rope in new viewers, why would you then present them with such a boring episode?  I’m trying to imagine myself as a viewer in 1980 (I wasn’t born until 1990, so please follow me on this little hypothetical).  Let’s say I’m a loyal Dallas viewer who has, at this point, never seen an episode of KL.  Well, perhaps all the “Who Shot J.R.?” hype and the promotion of Mary Crosby crossing over to KL peaks my interest, so let’s say I tune in to this particular episode.  After spending an hour watching Kenny and Ginger’s relationship dramas, I don’t think I would be tuning in again next week.  I would say, “No thanks,” and return to being a loyal Dallas viewer.  If you are trying to get new viewers, don’t you want to make the tacky crossover episode the best one ever?  Don’t you want them to give the show a chance and then be blown away by how great and exciting it is?  That’s how you attract an audience, but this episode is so bland that I doubt anyone would watch it and then be ready the next Thursday for another ep. 

By the way, if I sound really angry and hostile, please don’t misunderstand me.  My heart will always belong to KL; I love it and its characters and its world and this is only episode 18 out of freaking 344, so we’ve still got plenty of material to talk about.  I’m just making the argument that, at this point in the series, I think this episode is an almost complete failure and is the worst of the series so far, even worse than the stupid-but-kinda-fun-to-watch Land of the Free  (whether it will remain the worst is still a mystery, but finding out is what this blog is all about, no?).  Even so, it’s easy to forgive because when you have 344 episodes, of course you’re gonna have a few stinkers along the way, and we’re still in the very earliest years of the series, when they are working to find their footing and establish themselves.  Sometimes these things take time and I’ll take a bad episode or two considering how many wonderful and exciting hours of television KL will wind up bringing us.
 
But wait, I'm not completely done yet.  Kristin may not be notable for much, but it is notable for being the last KL episode of 1980.  So, as I did with 1978 (in Brief Dallas Interlude Reunion: Part Two) and 1979 (in the KL Pilot) beforehand, let's take a moment to go over significant cultural or historical things that happened throughout 1980.  Well, Stephen King only published one book this year (slow year for King!), and that was Firestarter (a decent enough book, but not one of my favorites from the first ten years of his output).  However, this was also the year that Stanley Kubrick released his brilliant movie adaptation of The Shining, although it deviated greatly from the source material. 
 
Hmmm, what else?  Well, Brian De Palma released two movies this year, one that almost nobody besides me has seen (Home Movies) and one that remains one of his most popular and successful (Dressed to Kill).  In fact branching off from that, I think of 1980 as one of the premiere years of the horror film, as we had just a ton of them released that year.  The most remembered (and for good reason) is the very first Friday the 13th movie, which cost less than a million dollars to make and wound up grossing nearly 60 million (which explains why there are eleven more movies in that franchise).  We also had Prom Night, He Knows You're Alone, The Fog, and Terror Train.  
 
My favorite serial killer, Ted Bundy, was officially incarcerated this year and Ann Rule published her brilliant book about knowing him and working to solve his murders, The Stranger Beside Me.  On the subject of evil people, Ronald Reagan was also elected as President of the United States during November of 1980, a job he would retain all the way until January of 1989 (so basically the entire 1980s are "The Reagan Years").  Also, there was that whole famous "Hostages Coming Home" thing that I've never really paid that much attention to (but I did enjoy the movie Argo). 
 
Obviously stupid shit like who was the President of the United States pales in comparison to what was truly important: The top ten shows of the 1979-1980 season, and they were (going from #10 to #1) One Day at a Time, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Jeffersons, Flo, Dallas, Alice, MASH, That's Incredible!, Three's Company, and 60 Minutes
 
That about does it for my wrapup of the year 1980 (although I'm sure I missed a ton of important stuff) along with my thoughts on current series low-point Kristin.  Tune in next week for our first episode of 1981, Step One.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 017 of 344: CHANCE OF A LIFETIME


Episode Title: Chance of a Lifetime

Season 02, Episode 04

Episode 017 of 344

Written by John Pleshette

Directed by Nicholas Sgarro 

Original Airdate: Thursday, December 11th, 1980

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com):.                Gary makes a car deal with "Orchid Cab Co." against Sid's better judgment. Gary also hires a female mechanic, Linda Striker. Laura starts her real estate job. After her first sale, her boss, Scooter Warren, kisses her. Val starts college. Richard thinks a prestigious Chicago law firm will hire him, so he tells off his boss and quits his job. Then he finds out the Chicago firm's offer is for a salary several thousands less than he was already making. He cannot accept the job. He tells Laura he declined the job since she didn't want to move, but then starts crying.

 

                Boy, talk about your delightful surprises, for here we are still at the start of season two of a series that will span fourteen years and 344 episodes, and yet I’m ready to declare this very episode as one of the greatest of the entire series run.  Certainly, of the seventeen episodes we have watched and discussed so far, I think this is far and away the best one up to this point (with my much loved Let Me Count the Ways coming in at second place).  You all know how much I love The Plesh as Richard Avery, and that’s not just because he’s a fabulous actor who plays a fantastic character whom he brings to life amazingly, but it’s also because he’s a great writer who always seems to write my favorite episodes.  Seriously, how did The Plesh not continue on this path as being some amazing writer for television?  It’s very clear to me that he has what it takes to write a fantastic hour of television, as displayed very well here.  Now, remember that this is actually his second time penning a KL script.  He also wrote the season one finale, Bottom of the Bottle: Part Two, and that was a great ep, too.  The difference is that Bottom of the Bottle was all about Gary, but with Chance of a Lifetime, The Plesh gets, um, the chance (please ignore the pun) to write all about his own character and explore him in all his beautiful contradictions. 

                The plot of Chance of a Lifetime is a prime example of what made KL so realistic (sometimes, hah hah) and so relatable to the common viewer.  While Dallas was all about impossibly rich people doing nasty things to each other (fun to watch, but not necessarily relatable to the majority of American television viewers), KL is about issues everyone deals with.  This particular ep is about Richard being 37 years old and feeling like he’s not getting the respect he deserves down at the law firm he works at.  Because of that, when a potentially more exciting job opportunity comes his way, Richard immediately burns his bridges with his boss only to find that the enticing job offer was not really all that it seemed.  This is a simple story about something anyone can relate to, and in many ways, that is when KL is always at its best.  Even as we get deeper into the series and the plots become more and more outlandish and soapy, there is still a core of realism that keeps the series grounded.

                Now, I was really looking forward to watching this episode because I remembered enjoying it so much before, and also because I was excited for another Plesh-penned script, but what I had forgotten was how many different, separate storylines get started here that are going to wind up paying off throughout the season.  Seriously, it’s a virtual cornucopia of plotlines that are just getting revved up here, and I’m amazed to see so many of them all contained within the same ep.  As we go through the episode, I’ll try to keep track of all these separate storylines so we can observe how they will grown and evolve throughout the rest of the second season (or, in the case of a certain storyline, all the way into the fourth season!).

                At the head of the episode, that lovely village bicycle Abs is late for a very important job interview.  Where?  Well, she doesn’t say, but let’s take a moment to hypothesize on what kind of job Abs would be good at, at least here at this early point.  Abs is a recent divorcee after several years of marriage to Transmorpher Jeff Cunningham.  Did she hold a job while they were married?  Or was she a stay-at-home mom whose job was to take care of Brian and Olivia?  I get the feeling that Abs didn’t go out to a nine-to-five every day and that her job was to take care of the kids.  However, I also get the feeling that Abby's generally slutty behavior on the cul-de-sac is not a new thing; I get the feeling she was stepping out on Jeff frequently during their marriage.  So now here she is as a new divorcee and single mother; where is she gonna work?  My vote goes to someplace respectable and yet degrading at the same time, like perhaps a perfume lady at Macy’s.  After all, Abs is obviously a very great character the second she is introduced, but she’s not really a powerful character yet in the same way she will be by the time she exits the series in 1989.  There, at the closing of season ten, Abs has become a successful independent career woman and, thanks to her union with Gary, a very powerful woman socially.  Here, however, she hasn’t reached that level yet, and it’s going to take time.

                Anyway, the basic point is that Abs is late for her job interview and she doesn’t have time to take the kids to school, so she asks Richard, who is also already running late.  However, Richard agrees, obviously because he has a boner for Abs (although they won’t make good on that boner until a little bit later in the season; I’m eager to find out just when!), and from there we have a fabulous cut.  For more randomly hypothetical questions, I have to ask: Is an edit such as this generally contained in the script or do you think it was bred in the editing room?  Do you think The Plesh’s original script said to edit this scene in such a way or did the director (Nicholas Sgarro this week) come up with it himself? 

                I can hear you asking, “What edit?”  Well, basically Richard agrees to take the kids to school, saying something like, “It’s no big deal,” but then we RAPID CUT immediately to a close-up of his flat tire and then we see that he’s stranded on the side of the road, trying to fix this tire and having no luck.  Immediately, thanks to this clever edit, we have infused a bit of humor into this episode and we’ve also set the tone for the kind of frantic day that Richard is going to be having.  Again, you rarely saw edits this clever over on Dallas.

                Richard arrives late to a big office meeting with a bunch of big, important lawyers, including our special guest star Brian Dennehy as James Cargill.  And I know what you’re thinking, so I’ll get right to it; YES, Brian Dennehy is absolutely a Transmorpher, as he appeared in one of the very earliest Dallas episodes (it would be season one, episode four, The Winds of Vengeance) as Luther Frick, who spent the majority of the episode claiming he was gonna rape Sue Ellen and then just….um….sorta…didn’t.  Yeah, that was an exceptionally lame hour of Dallas, but whatever, here he is now on a much better series playing a much more interesting character.  As I watched this episode, I reflected on how there’s really nothing that special or interesting about this Cargill character, yet there is just something wonderful in the slightly sleazy way Dennehy plays him, elevating this character up and making him rather memorable.  When he’s first introduced, he’s sitting at the table with all the other lawyers, but he’s just sorta doing this jaw motion like he’s chewing something and it made him immediately more interesting to watch. 

                Cargill invites Richard to come and hang out on his boat that would be right at home on Miami Vice (although that series is still a few years into the future) and smoke some cigars and have some liquor.  I note with interest that we didn’t have to wait long to see Richard indulge in tobacco products again.  You’ll recall that he was shown smoking a pipe in Pilot and we saw him smoke a couple of cigarettes in Hitchhike: Part One.  Well, now here he is smoking cigars, so he is clearly a man who enjoys a wide variety of tobacco products, but I’m starting to think Richard is one of those occasional smokers, a guy who enjoys a nice pipe, cigarette, or cigar, but not all that often, only every now and again.  I’ll continue to keep my eyes open for the next time Richard enjoys some tobacco, although I don’t know if we ever see him smoke again or not.

                Basically Cargill insinuates to Richard that he could have a better life if he came to work for him, and he uses the cigars as his example, I.E. “You could have a lot more of these fine hand-rolled pre-Castro cigars if you came to work for me!”  Richard immediately gets a little cocky and starts to announce to anyone who will listen that he’ll be up and moving the family to Chicago any second now, as he has a big, sexy job waiting for him over there.

                This bleeds well into Storyline B of this episode (however, and this is something we haven’t seen up to this point, this episode is going to have a Storyline C and, yes indeed, even a Storyline D running through it, as well), which involves Laura in her new job over at the real estate office.  Let’s take a moment to recognize the first appearance of Allan Miller as Scooter Warren, Laura’s boss who clearly has a crush on her.  Mr. Miller will be playing Scooter in a total of seven episodes, making his final appearance in Best Intentions in 1982 (and there is one random episode where Scooter is randomly played by some Mexican-looking dude with a killer moustache, before he morphs back into Allan Miller again).  In addition to that, Allan Miller is also a Transmorpher, having appeared in three Dallas eps in 1985 (during the super boring saga of Jenna Wade’s trial). 

                Anyway, in another wonderful example of storylines being set up, we actually see Scooter planting a big, fat, wet kiss on Laura right there in the office.  The beauty of this is that it’s presented as no big deal; it doesn’t even get a close-up or anything.  They’re all excited because the two of them managed to sell a house that afternoon, and Scooter just leans on over and gives her that kiss and then the scene continues to play.  It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-kiss, yet it speaks volumes about storylines that are going to be starting, namely an affair between Scooter and Laura that will last well into the latter section of season three.

                Storyline C may very well seem superfluous if you watch just this episode and this episode alone, but it’s also gonna grow and evolve over the course of the season.  This storyline involves the new young female employee at Knots Landing Motors, Linda Striker, played by Denise Galik.  She will be in a total of four episodes throughout the second season of KL (making her last appearance in the ep entitled Players) as a potential adulterous romance for Sid.  Of course, we don’t know that just yet.  As introduced, it just seems like the storyline will be that she is too young and/or incompetent to work at a car business.  See, she seems to make a lot of screw-ups throughout her first shift.  Most specifically, at one point she jacks up a car but, like, forgets to put the parking brake down or something, so the car goes tumbling violently down to the ground.  Fortunately nobody is hurt, but Sid is not happy about this little accident and we even get to see a hint of misogyny coming from Saint Sid.  Seems that he doesn’t think women and cars mix (interesting, considering that Karen is going to take over as the boss of Knots Landing Motors starting in season three).  Watching this now, I know that Linda’s introduction signals a new storyline for Sid, but if I didn’t have that foresight, I’m not sure what I’d make of this little story, aside from it giving us a new slant on Sid’s character and showing he might not be quite as progressive as he looks upon first glance.

                Finally, we also have Storyline D, and this one is a doozy and has repercussions lasting longer than any of the other stories going on this week.  Specifically, some shady dudes show up at Knots Landing Motors and say they wish to purchase fifteen cars.  Gary is over the moon about this, and he says they’ve only moved two cars in the last few months (prompting me to wonder how Sid is keeping his business running at all) and that this is just the greatest news ever, yet Sid is not so enthused.  Obviously these dudes are mobsters, and quite frankly Gary is acting like a bit of an idiot by not realizing it.  These dudes wandered straight off the set of The Godfather, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that their business is probably dirty.

                Even though Gary wants to immediately sell the fifteen cars to the mobsters, Sid is smart enough to call the Better Business Bureau, where he discovers that the business the mobsters claim to run is completely made up; it doesn’t exist.  He tells Gary this, but somehow we still wind up with Gary sitting in a car with the mobsters and working out some sort of deal with them.  This little sequence might represent my only criticism of the episode:  How the heck did Gary get into this car?  We just cut and the scene is already underway, with Gary chatting it up with two mobsters in their vehicle.  I feel like a scene had to have been written showing how the mobsters lured Gary into their car, and it must have been either shot and then scrapped or not even shot at all; who can tell? 

                BIG ASS SPOILER ALERT CONTAINED IN THIS PARAGRAPH.  Anyway, there’s not that much time devoted to the mobsters in this particular hour, but this is going to launch off pretty rapidly into a really important story that will usher in the tragic death of Sid Fairgate at the start of season three.  In fact, this story is going to reach all the way to the opening hours of season four, when Karen finally takes it upon herself to solve the mob mysteries surrounding Sid’s death and make sure the mobsters pay for their life of crime.  So basically we are planting seeds right here and right now that are going to grow into storylines over the next two years, and I think that’s mighty impressive, don’t you?  END OF BIG ASS SPOILER ALERT.

                I love all the storylines, but my heart truly belongs to Richard and his job issues.  In fact, not only is heavy attention paid to Richard’s woes down at the law firm, but things also start to get heated up between he and Abs.  No, there’s no consummation or anything that exciting, but the two enjoy taking their kids out for dinner together (at some horrific looking roadside fried chicken place; barf) and then later they enjoy each other’s company while sipping white wine out in Richard’s backyard.  Abby’s methods of seduction are delightfully obvious, and I say that with love.  For instance, while discussing why her marriage didn’t work out, she says, “Me and Jeff just weren’t sexually compatible,” and then she also opines, “I really think the man should always be dominant.”  Yup, we all know where this is going, but we’re gonna have to wait just a few more episodes before we get to see any good action.

                Richard stays up all night working on the big case for Cargill, and the whole thing goes swimmingly, although we the audience are not privy to this information at first.  In fact, we don’t even see the big case coming to its conclusion, but why should we?  Who really cares about this case?  Nobody, that’s who, and what’s really important is how the case effects Richard’s character; that’s the interesting part and that’s the part I love watching.

                Basically, everyone comes out happy as a clam, and Richard’s boss can see how chummy Richard is getting with Brian Dennehy.  He invites Richard into the completely abandoned bar for a drink (prompting me to wonder exactly where the characters are at this moment; do most courthouses come adorned with fully stocked and completely unsupervised bars?).  Anyway, it’s at this moment that Richard finally gets the offer he’s been waiting nearly a decade for: His boss asks him if he’d like to be a partner in the firm.  Richard would obviously be smart to say yes and shake his boss’ hand and enjoy all the new privileges of making partner, but as I’ve reiterated in the past, Richard has Short Man Syndrome and now he’s feeling cocky.  He gives a pretty awesome speech to his boss about how he’s been working here for nine years and nobody has paid any attention to him until now, that nobody bothered to recognize that he was a good lawyer.  He essentially tells his boss to take his offer and shove it, then he finishes his scotch or bourbon or whatever the hell he’s drinking and he marches right out of that office.

                Next up, we have a wonderfully embarrassing scene, a scene that wouldn’t be out-of-place in, say, a movie like The King of Comedy or perhaps the series Curb Your Enthusiasm, those situations that are painful to watch but the humor comes out of the awkward situations.  See, everything is going just dandy down at the real estate office, and Laura and Scooter are enjoying going over some blueprints together, when Richard comes charging in drunk as a skunk and brandishing a bottle of champagne.  He pops the cork and champagne goes flying everywhere, including all over those important real estate blueprints.  It’s a fabulously uncomfortable sequence and I think we are all starting to feel pretty nervous for Richard.  After all, he hasn’t actually gone and spoken with Cargill about this potential new job; he’s really putting the cart before the horse at this moment.  I think any viewer in 1980 knows that Richard and Laura are not going to move to Chicago and leave the series; we all know that Richard’s gonna get a rude awakening when he speaks with Cargill.

                And a rude awakening is just what he gets.  He returns to Cargill’s Miami Vice boat to talk about his new job.  Cargill says he’d be happy to employ him, but then he drops the bomb that he would actually be making less money than he’s making now.  Richard explains that he can barely survive at his current salary, let alone one that’s even smaller, and that the move to Chicago will drain his bank account.  He can’t move all the way out there for a job that’s going to give him less than the one he just walked away from. 

                One thing I really like, and please feel free to contact me if you disagree, but I don’t feel that Cargill is presented as villainous here.  It would be so easy to turn him into a stock villain who promises Richard one thing and then reneges on it.  No, instead he is presented as a realist who speaks very plainly about the facts of his business.  He tells Richard that he gets people for real cheap because people want to work for him because he is the best there is, sorta the way Woody Allen can get great actors to work for cheap.  In this situation, Richard is the true fool for telling off his boss and taking a walk all before this new job was a sure thing. 

                The episode ends on a beautifully cryptic note in the Avery bedroom.  Richard is once again working on his little calisthenics routine before bed (he’s working up quite a sweat this time!) and Laura is talking about the move to Chicago.  Richard finally admits to her that they won’t be moving to Chicago, and he also tells her how he quit his job that day.  Well, that’s all fine, but the real cherry on top is that Laura gives him a great big hug and Richard just starts openly weeping.  Laura is a little surprised by this and is like, “Hey, don’t cry, don’t cry,” and then we just end the episode on that.  Pretty fabulous way to end a show, huh?  I am very pleased to note that we are moving away from the season one style of episode ending that, generally, involved making the last scene of the episode more uplifting.  So many eps in that first season ended with, like, people playing basketball and freeze-framing on a slam dunk or something, but now we are reaching a point where eps can just end with a man weeping into his wife’s arms, and I really like that.  It’s a wonderfully uncomfortable way to end the show, and I imagine it would feel very ominous to a first time viewer in 1980.

                While Let Me Count the Ways (that was season one, episode three, in case you’ve all forgotten already) is still one of my very favorite episodes of the series, I do feel it has now been outclassed by Chance of a Lifetime.  Let Me Count the Ways was beautiful in all departments, but it also was extremely self-contained and was non-essential to watching KL and understanding a greater overall plot, you know what I’m saying?  Chance of a Lifetime, on the other hand, is a beautifully mature script about a realistic subject matter, and yet it’s also planting seeds left and right.  Pretty much every story I mentioned, right down to Richard losing his job, is going to have far-reaching repercussions that span way beyond this episode and even this season in the greater overall story.  I have to wonder if The Plesh was given a mandate to get a certain number of new storylines rolling or if he just came up with them himself, if he was just working on the script and was like, “Hell, I’ll introduce some mobsters into the story; why not?”  Perhaps if this little blog of mine ends up generating any attention whatsoever, I might be able to contact The Plesh and interview him, perhaps ask him questions like that directly.  Wouldn’t that be a dream?  John, if you're reading this, please contact me!

                In conclusion, everything about this episode works, and it is the current reigning champion for the best episode of KL (but remember we’ve still got over three hundred more eps to talk about, so I’m sure a new champion will emerge very shortly).  Can this high quality be maintained by our next episode?  I guess we’ll have to proceed onward to find out, as our next episode represents our first Dallas crossover episode since Lucy came to California for a visit back in Home is For Healing.  Join me for an exciting discussion as special guest star Mary Crosby comes to pay Gary and Val a visit in the episode entitled Kristin.