Sunday, March 27, 2016

A Brief DALLAS Interlude Part 7 of 12: END OF THE ROAD: PART TWO


A BRIEF DALLAS INTERLUDE: PART 7 OF 12

 


Season 04, Episode 12

Written by Leonard Katzman

Directed by Irving J. Moore

Original Airdate: Friday, January 23rd, 1981

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.com): J.R.'s flirting with Afton at Lucy's wedding sends Sue Ellen after an old boyfriend. Jock upsets Miss Ellie.

 

    
            In our last Brief Dallas Interludes, J.R. had been shot and was lying in a hospital bed unsure of who exactly had shot him.  As we jump quickly back into the world of Dallas, we see that, even though that was just a few months ago, quite a lot has changed in this world.  For instance, in that last Interlude, we were not yet aware that Ray Krebbs was actually a Ewing, that Jock was his illegitimate father, but now that information is out and about and the characters are all discussing it.  Or, for a better example, last time we had an Interlude, Lucy was just meeting Mitch for the first time, and now here she is getting ready to walk down the aisle with him.

                A quick note about the episode, as well.  You’ll notice that I am not writing about End of the Road: Part One.  The reason for that is because this did not originally air as a big two-hour double block of television; rather, the two episodes aired as singular entities one week apart from each other, so I don’t believe I need to see Part One to write about Part Two.  Secondly and more importantly, neither Gary nor Val appear in Part One, so it simply doesn’t count as part of our Interlude series.  Okay, moving on.

                Honestly, this may very well end up being the briefest of the Brief Dallas Interludes, mostly because Gary and Val don’t have very much to do within the confines of this ep.  The majority of the episode focuses heavily on Lucy’s wedding, obviously, but we also have some storyline going on involving Bobby making a business deal or something.  I will say that while I am glad I’m doing these Dallas eps as they come along, sometimes it’s a little bit weird to jump from show to show and return to the Dallas world.  Even though I’m really only interested in writing about what Gary and/or Val do within their appearances, I still find myself trying to remember what was going on in the overall storylines on the series, so I’m like, “Why is Cliff dating Donna?” and stuff like that, things I’ve forgotten about even after viewing the entire Dallas series (twice, actually).

                In any case, I’ll give you a really speedy update.  As we start the episode, we see that the wedding of Mitch and Lucy is in turmoil; perhaps they won’t get married after all.  Mitch is talking to his sister (Afton, who will become a pretty important character in Dallas) and his mom (Anne Francis from Forbidden Planet) about why he and Lucy are splitting up, that it just won’t work.  Well, after Lucy shoves him in the pool, he changes his mind and they decide to get married and most of the second half of the ep is about that wedding.  Sure, there’s stuff going on with Sue Ellen (she’s considering an affair on J.R.) and Bobby (who is trying to run Ewing Oil and is finding himself in J.R.’s shadow) and pretty much everyone in the cast.  But this is a KL blog, not a Dallas one, so let’s just ignore their storylines, shall we?

                Miss Ellie and Jock show up at the airport to meet Gary and Val.  It was here that I really perked up and started paying attention; I wanted to see if any of the storylines from over on KL would be mentioned, if perhaps we’d get some small hint of Gary’s recent infidelity with dykey-looking broad or a mention of J.R.’s recent trip to town, something like that.  You’ll recall that our last two Interludes linked rather heavily into KL by having Gary mention KL characters and talk in some detail about his troubles going off the wagon.  This ep is not nearly so linked, however.  Gary and Val come to see Lucy get married, and that’s about it. 

                Not to say I’m necessarily complaining; I still love the fact that these crossovers feel so organic.  They do, too, because other shows would probably just be like, “Here are two characters showing up from the spinoff; please watch the spinoff on Thursday nights,” but here, it doesn’t feel like tacky cross promotion.  It’s Lucy’s wedding and of course her parents would show up to see this event.  Even if you were watching Dallas and were completely unaware that there was a spinoff, you wouldn’t question Gary and Val’s presence in the ep because it makes sense for the story. 

                The fact that Ray Krebbs has been revealed as a Ewing also plays somewhat into our beloved KL characters.  When Gary speaks to Ray about the recent announcement, he basically says that this is great because it means he can stay in California and Ray can sorta fill the hole in Miss Ellie’s life (oh wait, that sounded dirty).  Obviously this does not please Miss Ellie, who later takes Jock aside and says she’ll “Never forgive him for what he’s done,” essentially blaming him for Gary staying in California.  This is a bit perplexing to me for a number of reasons, by the way.  In case I haven’t mentioned it, Miss Ellie is easily my least favorite character from the entire original cast of Dallas; I just think she’s a boring old hag with an annoying voice.  Well, I suppose that’s not particularly important to my next point, but here it is: Why the hell is Miss Ellie so obsessed with Gary moving back to Texas?  Did she not buy him a house in California and tell him it was specifically so he could start a new life out there?  Now here we are, just a little over a year later, and she’s all heartbroken that he’ll be staying in California.  Huh?  Isn’t that what you wanted?  And why blame Jock for this?  Gary was gonna stay in California no matter what; it doesn’t matter at all that Ray is now a Ewing.  Gary has his own show and its ratings are increasing (slightly, very very slightly), so he’s sticking to that series, dammit!  Oh yeah, and one last note: Why doesn’t Miss Ellie just, you know, fly to California and see him?  It’s not like she’s busy; she’s a wealthy woman who sits around the house all day, and she has plenty of spare time to pay her son a visit, particularly since she whines so much about him not being around.

                I enjoyed seeing Lucy getting adorned in her (actually quite ugly) wedding dress, and I think there’s some line about this being handed down from generation to generation, although I may very well have hallucinated that particular line.  Mostly this scene is good just to see Lucy and Val standing next to eachother, and I had a realization as I watched this: This is the very last time we see Lucy and Val together ever.  Valene only appears in two more eps of the series, our next Interlude, The Split, and then she won’t be making an appearance on Dallas again until the very last episode in May of 1991 (over ten years after the airing of this episode), and when she does appear, not only is Charlene Tilton no longer a cast member on the show, but even if she was, I don’t think we would have footage of them together based simply on how that episode of Dallas plays out (and fear not, for we will be discussing that one in, oh, a couple of short decades).  Also, we’ve already had our one and only appearance from Lucy crossing over to KL, and that was back in Home is For Healing.  So really, this is a moment to be cherished, as we shall never see the mother/daughter pair onscreen together, which is pretty weird to think about.  Reflecting on the two actresses, I’ll take a quick moment to say the casting was just perfect on both ends, as the two really do look like mother and daughter and they also look so close in age that it’s easy to believe Val had Lucy when she was very young.

                Another lovely moment occurs when Gary proudly walks his daughter down the aisle.  Now, I don’t think what I said about Lucy and Val holds true of Lucy and Gary.  Gary will be showing up five more times on Dallas, and I am fairly certain we get scenes of him and Lucy together in at least a couple of those appearances, so when we reach those, I’ll try to note when we are seeing their final scene together as father and daughter.  In any case, it’s not here.

                So jeez, what else to say?  I would say this is very much a Dallas episode and the appearances of Gary and Val are just there because they make real sense for the story.  Sure, I’m willing to bet that the writers and producers were, again, hoping to strike up interest in the spinoff series by putting the two characters in this episode, but it doesn’t feel tacky the way, oh, the episode Kristin felt tacky; this one just feels natural.  I definitely think that if a viewer watched both A Family Matter on Thursday and then End of the Road: Part Two on Friday night, they would probably be tempted to devote fully to both series, as they are both pretty good eps that signify the two series doing solid work.  I would be very curious to get an episode-by-episode listing of the ratings for all KL eps and see how eps that aired immediately after a Dallas Interlude ranked in the overall ratings.  I’d be willing to bet that if Gary and Val showed up in a Dallas, there would be a spike in the ratings of the very next KL ep, whatever one it might be, but I currently have no way of knowing this for sure.  Anyone who has access to such information please feel free to contact me.

                The last thing I want to say, and this is a bit of a revelation for me, is how much more I am enjoying KL over Dallas even at this early point.  If you’ll recall, I believe I said that during seasons one, two, and three of KL, Dallas was the superior series on television at that point (it would be, for Dallas, seasons three, four, and five), but now I don’t think I believe that anymore.  Whenever we jump into A Brief Dallas Interlude, I just find myself less interested and a bit eager to return to the world of KL.  This is very odd, as I absolutely remember the first three years of KL being my least favorite, but upon this rewatch, I already am finding KL to be the superior show.  Jumping into Dallas, it just seems less interesting to me, not just in the writing, but also in the very way the show looks.  It’s just shot kinda drab and I have zero interest in quite a few of the characters (not to beat a dead horse, but Miss Ellie, again), whereas with KL I love all the characters (sans Kenny and Ginger, of course).  Anyway, don’t mistake this for me calling Dallas bad, because I’m not.  I’m just observing that, for me, KL is already the superior, more mature, and more interesting show.

                That oughta do it for awhile as far as Dallas eps.  We won’t have another Interlude until very late in 1981, when Dallas is in its fifth season and KL is in its third (we actually get two Dallas eps in a row, and they are The Split and Five Dollars A Barrel).  That’s a ways away, however, so for now we’re gonna return to our beloved friends on the cul-de-sac with our next KL episode.  Originally airing Thursday, January 29th, 1981, our next episode up for discussion is called Choices and I will speak to you then.
 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 022 of 344: A FAMILY MATTER


Episode Title: A Family Matter

Season 02, Episode 09

Episode 022 of 344

Written by David Paulsen

Directed by Edward Parone

Original Airdate: Thursday, January 22nd, 1981

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com):.                J.R. Ewing is in town for an oil convention. When Gary refuses to ask him for the money, Abby goes to J.R. for it and sleeps with him. J.R. says he knows that Abby has designs on Gary and that he'll only give Gary the money if he asks for it himself, so Abby keeps trying to persuade Gary. Val asks Gary not to get in any deals with J.R., and she and J.R. have a nasty confrontation. Roy and Frank continue to pressure Gary, so he finally goes to J.R., who gives him the $50,000.00. Kenny breaks up with Sylvie and wants to get back with Ginger, but she says no.

 

                A Family Matter marks the fifth out of nine crossovers from Dallas to KL and it marks the second time that Larry Hagman has guest starred as J.R. Ewing on the spinoff series; we last saw him (aside from our Brief Dallas Interludes) in just the second episode of KL, Community Spirit, when he came to town and caused trouble and shenanigans.  Well, now he’s back, twenty episodes and just about one year later, to wreak more havoc.  I must say that crossovers featuring J.R. are among my favorite treats in the first couple of seasons of KL.  A quick reminder that we have our final crossover episode in season four and then the crossovers stop completely, which is both good and bad.  On one hand, it’s important for the spinoff to be able to stand on its own two feet, but on the other hand, I sure did enjoy seeing J.R. and would have loved to see him continue to come to California and visit, perhaps even butting heads with William Devane as Greg Sumner; wouldn’t that be something?

                We begin A Family Matter with the lovely ladies of Seaview Circle all driving somewhere together (well, it might not be all of them; I feel like maybe Ginger was missing but I didn’t bother to write it down in my notes), speaking about J.R.’s impending visit.  Karen reminds us of how much she kicked ass back in Community Spirit and got the best out of J.R., and Abby says how she’s excited to meet him.  Well, I’m excited, too, because I absolutely love the sizzling energy whenever Larry Hagman and Donna Mills are onscreen together, and I really really wish Abs could have crossed over a time or two and made appearances on Dallas but I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

                The two of them have instant chemistry, by the way, and I did some research and learned that they actually played a husband and wife in some short-lived series back in 1971 called The Good Life.  Well, it’s easy to see that because both of them strike up a special relationship right off the bat and I just love watching them interact.  In their first scene together, Abs shows up at J.R.’s hotel room and the two of them sip brandy together and talk about life.  See, if you’ll flash back to our previous episode, Scapegoats, you’ll remember that Gary is in some dire financial trouble because of those pesky mobsters and he needs $50,000.00 real fast.  Abs thinks he should just ask J.R. for it, but Gary refuses.  Hence, Abs pays J.R. a visit herself and starts to work her magic on him.  She says how Gary needs the money but he’s too proud to ask for it, and she really appeals to him in a special way when she thinks up a lie and she thinks it up quick involving Valene and Gary splitting up.  Basically, Abs doesn’t come right out and say that Gary wants to divorce Val, but she heavily implies it, and she makes it sound like this $50,000.00 is all he needs to proceed with divorcing her.  She also works up a lie to make it sound like Val is one step away from moving to Texas and living there forever, and that is most certainly not what J.R. wants to hear.  We all remember how much J.R. hates Val (and vice versa), so we can sense that this little lie might work.

                J.R. may be in town bringing his star power over from the #1 show on television, but we still have a whole cast of beloved (and maybe some not so beloved) KL characters to discuss in this episode.  What else is going on?  Well, to get the boring stuff out of the way, Kenny finally up and leaves Sylvie.  I did some checking just to make sure, and yes, this marks the official last appearance of Louise Vallance as Sylvie, who made her first appearance in Home is For Healing and appears in a total of seven episodes.  Yikes, only seven?  It’s funny how it can seem like someone is in A TON  of episodes but then when you look it up, it’s really not that many.  In any case, we start with her and Kenny together in her bedroom or whatever and he pretty much just dumps her right there, saying how he has the chance to get back with Ginger and he’s not gonna miss that.  It’s a real quick little scene, especially considering how long these two have been carrying on their little affair, and it ends rather un-dramatically with him just leaving her alone and her sort of accepting this.

                I’m fine with this development.  Sylvie never interested me, and she even failed to be a good, interesting bitch.  Psychotic female characters can be and should be great fun (I am thinking of both Kristin Shepherd and Katherine Wentworth over on Dallas, and we obviously have the magnificent Jill Bennett coming to KL several seasons down the line), but Sylvie never was.  She was just a generic stock bitch and she brought nothing more to her character; mostly she was just irritating to watch.  Therefore, I will not miss her at all and I’m really quite pleased that this ep marks the last time I’ll have to look at this character.  A quick note: It is interesting that Kenny just dumps her and that’s the end of it.  I’m wondering how this story would be handled just a few seasons later, when the show had become a full-on nighttime soap?  Perhaps in that case, Sylvie would go crazy and pull a Fatal Attraction and start boiling, oh I dunno, maybe one of those kids from Ginger’s kindergarten class.  Here, in the more quiet and down-to-earth early seasons, she gets dumped, she accepts it, and we don’t see her again. 

                Meanwhile, over at the Fairgate house, I am shocked to note that Michael’s A.D.H.D. is still being discussed!  Now make no mistake; I am still quite certain that this development recedes into the background and is completely forgotten about over the next twelve years.   However, in my memory his A.D.H.D. was never mentioned after the Scapegoats episode at all, so I am pleased to see it coming up here.  In this instance, Diana discovers that Michael has used her yearbook as part of some art project.  Basically, he snuck into her bedroom, stole her yearbook, and started cutting all the pictures out of it.  This is one time where I’ll actually defend Diana and disagree with Karen, by the way, because when Karen hears what he has done, she’s all like, “Oh, it’s no big deal, and he didn’t even cut out any of the pictures you like.”  I don’t think that’s the issue; I think the issue is that he went into his sister’s room and took something that belonged to her and destroyed it, and I’d be pissed off, too.  I guess Karen is still trying to be patient with him and, because of that, she can perhaps be a little too lenient with her discipline.

                Meanwhile, we shift our focus over to my vote for most fascinating couple on the cul-de-sac (specifically at this exact juncture of the series): Richard and Laura.  Things are really evolving (or perhaps even devolving) in their relationship.  As we dive deeper into season two, we see that Laura is no longer that wimpy, crying, mistreated woman that she was in season one.  Again, I’m surprised to see that my memories are not accurate, because in my brain, I thought she was wimpy and weak for four seasons and didn’t start to toughen up and become independent until the fifth season of the series.  Well, turns out it’s much faster than I remembered, because now that she has a job of her own and Richard is unemployed, there seems to have been a power shift, and Laura is changing and becoming a woman who is unafraid to talk back to her husband. 

                I’d say that Laura as a character is evolving while her husband is the one devolving.  Poor Richard has just not been having a good last couple of months.  If we care to review, we’ll remember that he lost his job back in Chance of a Lifetime and, since then, has mostly been lazing around the house, carrying on in his affair with Abby and drinking a lot.  See, that’s another thing I’d totally forgotten, but we’re now in a period of episodes where Richard seems to constantly have an alcoholic drink in his hand and either be drunk or on his way to drunk.  Clearly he was drinking too much in Breach of Faith, where he couldn’t resist groping Abby at the neighborhood barbecue even in front of everybody, but here he is still pounding back that brown liquor whenever we see him.  Subtlety is something that’s done so well on KL, and this is a prime example: The writers don’t go out of their way to say, “Look, Richard’s drinking too much,” and to my memory (which could be inaccurate), they don’t use this to set up some big “Richard the alcoholic” storyline; instead, it’s just a subtle little character detail we notice if we’re paying attention.

                I feel like Richard’s affair with Abs is on its last legs, anyway.  Around Breach of Faith time, it sure started to seem like she was becoming tired of him, and that feeling is growing now.  She clearly has the hots for J.R., but he’s also only in town for a few days; the Ewing that Abby truly has her eyes set on is Gary.  This has been obvious since she arrived back in Hitchhike: Part One and I get the feeling that she was only sleeping with Richard as a quick little sub-affair to hold her attention until she can get her claws into Gary, her true gold metal.  I believe we have a few more eps of Richard and Abby continuing their affair, but I think it’s going to come to a conclusion very shortly.  We’ll have to just wait and see.

                Abs invites J.R. over to her house for a dinner party, and then she invites pretty much everyone else on the block.  Well, not everyone, but the dinner party does include Abs (obviously), J.R., Val, Gary, Karen, and Sid.  Obviously Val is vehemently opposed to showing up for this dinner, but she eventually caves, and I’m glad she does because we get a fabulous scene that put a big old grin on my face.  Not only that, but we also get some nice linkage back to Dallas.  For a quick bit of context, I’ll go ahead and say that our next episode up for discussion after A Family Matter is not a KL ep, but rather another Brief Dallas Interlude.  So basically, you have this episode, which aired on Thursday, January 22nd, 1981, and has J.R. crossing over from parent series to spinoff series.  Well, the very next night, Friday, January 23rd, 1981, we had Lucy’s wedding on Dallas and both Gary and Val show up to see their daughter get married.  I like the idea that is still going strong at this point in the series that the two shows are firmly linked and what’s going on within one series can be mentioned on the other series, and I also like the idea that you could see two crossovers from show to show within the same week; if I was a viewer of both series back in 1981, I think all that stuff would get me rather excited (nerd alert, I know).

                What I was just saying about the two shows still being able to reference each other is exemplified perfectly in this scene.  J.R. gives a toast to the gathered table and announces the impending nuptials of Lucy Ewing to Mitch Cooper, a storyline that was going on at the exact same time over on Dallas.  Continuity within character behavior and motivation is also done well from show to show, as J.R. talks some smack about Mitch, implying that he’s not a very good doctor and that he’s not good enough for Lucy, and that’s all very much in line with what was happening on Dallas.  I love these small details, and at this point in both series, it really does seem to me like the writers and producers want you to be watching both shows simultaneously and they are rewarding the viewers who are doing so by maintaining a great continuity from show to show.  Kudos to the writers, at least at this point (just wait until 1985 and The Bobby of Two Universes because I will have a lot to say about that development).  Oh yeah, and now might be a good time to mention that this ep is written by David Paulsen, who served as the big cheese supervising producer over on Dallas during its best seasons (or was he just a big writer for that show and not necessarily a producer?) before moving over to KL for the 1985-1986 season (at which point KL supervising producer Peter Dunne moved over to Dallas, somehow managing to go from running three of KL's most brilliant seasons in a row to running one of the absolute turds of the entire Dallas run).  I just note this because I wonder if Paulsen was specifically shipped in from the parent series this week to write this ep because of high J.R. content.  Any thoughts?

                The scene escalates when J.R. says how he’s basically just going to give Lucy and Mitch a big wad of dough or something, and this makes Val angry.  There’s obviously always anger bubbling under the surface for Val whenever J.R. is around, but she gets very upset and says how he’s just going to ruin Lucy’s life the way he ruined her life.  In all honesty, I’m not quite sure what J.R. is planning to do that is so upsetting for Val; isn’t it standard for the bride and groom to get a lot of money from their rich family members?  Oh well, in any case Val gets angry with J.R., which I always enjoy watching.  In fact, Val actually gets the BIG LINE of this episode, something I always remember fondly.  When she goes to confront J.R. at his hotel room, she exits the scene with this classic line: “I don’t blame whoever it was that shot you; I just wish I’d done it myself.”  Oh, delicious, just utterly delicious, and Hagman has a fabulous little delivery right before we fade to commercial where he just sorta looks off into the distance and quietly says, “I don’t need this.”  Hilarious, just hilarious (and also doubly funny when you think that just a few weeks back, Val was allowing the very person who shot J.R. to stay in her house for awhile).

                By the way, what exactly is going on with Gary and the mobsters?  I’m glad you asked, because that storyline pseudo-culminates (for the time being; it will return in a big way at the end of the season and then yet again at the start of season four) with quite possibly the lamest fight ever committed to celluloid.  It takes place at Knots Landing Motors, where the two mobsters show up to presumably beat up Gary.  For whatever reason, there is absolutely nobody here aside from Gary and Abby, despite the fact that it’s a weekday afternoon.  Where is Sid?  Oh well, it doesn’t matter, as it makes it easier for Gary to have this lame fight.  See, one of the mobsters sneaks in through the back door to find Gary, but Gary is prepared and starts beating him up.  Meanwhile, the other mobster is trying to get in through the front door, but it’s locked.  Finally, we also have Abby watching from a short distance, seeing Gary’s epic lame fight.

                Why is the fight so lame?  I dunno, maybe because Gary is battling a ridiculous mobster stereotype who has positively no game whatsoever, or maybe it’s because the entire scene is done without any sort of music or background soundtrack, it’s just the sounds of two guys having this lame fight.  Now, if you take any of my words for a harsh criticism, that’s not how I intend it.  I am saying this is a lame fight with love in my heart, and the occasional corny and lame sequence is just another part of the magic that is KL, and I got a good laugh out of watching this long and decidedly unexciting fight sequence. 

                The mobsters pretty much run away in terror at this point, but that doesn’t change the fact that Gary still needs his money.  Now, I will admit to spotting some storyline logical holes within this particular ep.  We’re watching the show, we’re enjoying it, but My Beloved Grammy made the point of: Why doesn’t Gary just call up his mama for a loan?  Miss Ellie probably keeps $50,000.00 in her fucking shoe and would not mind giving it away to her favorite son.  I wonder if the fact that she just bought Gary and Val a house only about one year ago has anything to do with Gary’s reticence; perhaps he doesn’t wish to feel entirely dependent on his mother, or perhaps he’s just embarrassed by having to ask for so much money.  My point is that there’s no scene of Gary calling Miss Ellie or even mentioning the idea of Miss Ellie giving him a loan to anyone, and it seems like a bit of an oversight to me.  Even a quick bit where Abs says something like, “Why not call your mother?” and Gary getting upset about the suggestion would have suited me just fine.

                But in any case, this ep culminates with Gary obtaining a check from J.R. and J.R. giving him a bit of a lecture about what this transaction means for their familial relationship.  I also love seeing Gary and J.R. interact; I feel like Gary always makes it pretty clear that he doesn’t like his brother much, and you can tell that it actually physically hurts him to take this money from J.R., but he’s in a desperate situation and needs to take care of it.  As J.R. sees Gary out, he delivers the fabulous line, “See, doing business with the family ain’t so bad,” and we close out our episode for the week.

                I must say I was very enthused about this particular episode.  Of the entire disk we watched during our last visit together, this is very likely my favorite episode we saw (although perhaps I’ll give the edge to Breach of Faith, which I also positively and 100% enjoyed).  Also, after seeing the writers try a crossover episode and simply fail with Kristin, it’s nice to see an ep that is both a great crossover episode as well as just a great episode all around.  To go back to a subject I discussed in Kristin, if I was a loyal Dallas viewer and only tuned into this one episode of KL because I wanted to see Larry Hagman’s appearance, I would probably be sold on the show based on the merits of this particular ep; it really represents the show coming along nicely and it’s a wonderfully entertaining 48 minutes.

                And one last note, something which I’ll probably bring up again whenever J.R. comes to California, but I really love that Larry Hagman so clearly loves playing this character and gives it his all in absolutely every way.  I could see a lot of other actors being reluctant to appear on a spinoff of their own popular series, or perhaps showing up but not really putting any effort into it, viewing their guest appearance as just a quick paycheck.  Not Hagman, however.  He bites into the character of J.R. Ewing with just as much gusto as he had in any episode of Dallas, and there’s that wicked glint in his eye that shows us how much he truly relished playing this character, whether within Dallas or its spinoff. 

                I’ll conclude by saying that this is also, at least up to this point, my favorite crossover ep.  We had a visit from Bobby back in Pilot, then J.R. in Community Spirit, then Lucy in Home is For Healing, and then Kristin in, um, Kristin.  This is my favorite one because it works as both a great ep of KL and a natural and seamless crossover from one series to the next.  We get some material for every character and we also get this fabulous guest spot from Larry Hagman.

                Our next KL episode is Choices, but before we get to that, we need to stop quickly off in Texas for the nuptials of Lucy and Mitch.  Coming up next is our seventh out of twelve Brief Dallas Interludes with the Dallas ep entitled End of the Road: Part Two.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 021 of 344: SCAPEGOATS


Episode Title: Scapegoats

Season 02, Episode 08

Episode 021 of 344

Written by Tim Maschler

Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont

Original Airdate: Thursday, January 15th, 1981

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com):. The Fairgates find out that Michael suffers from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder). Sid hires Abby as the bookkeeper for Knots Landing Motors. Frank Kolbert and Roy Lance from "Orchid Cab Co" offer Gary a deal on cheap parts, but Sid declines, thinking it sounds illegal. Frank and Roy tell Gary they had a verbal agreement and threaten him, telling him he'd better have $50,000.00 for them by the end of the week. Abby overhears and suggests Gary ask J.R. for the money, as she read in the paper that J.R. will be in town soon.

 


                Rewatching through these earliest seasons of KL, I am continually surprised to see so many ongoing storylines going on already, continuing and growing and evolving throughout the season.  In truth, this is not how I remembered the second season of the series going, but rather I remembered it being just about as standalone as the episodes in the first season.  Remember how the first season’s episodes would generally be about one subject, maybe two, and those subjects would resolve themselves when the time came for the episodes to wrap up?  Well, season two also does that, in ways, and this episode specifically kind of does that, but at the same time, there are many continuing plot points that are going on at the same time, and that’s something I did not remember.  I still maintain that the show doesn’t morph into a full-on nighttime soap until the fourth season, yet I’m seeing that its evolution into nighttime soap is already well underway as we go through this second season.

                The reason I bring it up here is because I remembered this episode being about one thing and one thing only: Michael’s A.D.D.  When the episode started, I was like, “Oh yeah, this is the one with Michael’s A.D.D. that’s really important for one episode and then is completely forgotten about.”  Well, yes, that is true, but in addition to that story, we’ve got a ton of stuff going on with pretty much all the other characters, things that will grow and build and eventually culminate at the end of the season.

                We begin Scapegoats mysteriously in the Fairgate house at night.  Everyone is asleep except for our youngest, Michael, whom Karen and Sid find sleepwalking through the living room.  To their knowledge, this is the first time Michael has displayed this type of behavior, but Eric tells them this is not abnormal, that he’s seen his brother sleepwalk lots of times in the past.  Now, right away I’m noticing new details in this rewatch that went over my head the first time.  The first time I viewed the series, I remembered Michael’s A.D.D. problem coming out of nowhere and then retreating back to nowhere almost immediately.  Now, I might be right on that latter point (we’ll have to wait and find out), but I was wrong on the former.  Michael’s strange behavior actually is foreshadowed well in advance of this episode; if I’d been paying more attention, I could have noted the exact episode where his behavior is first shown as erratic (it might even be in one of those two Hitchhike eps when he has a fight with a boy at the beach).  Anyway, this is episode 21 of the entire series and it’s episode eight out of the second season's full order of eighteen, so they’ve actually been building up to this particular storyline for awhile.  We’ve seen Michael spill his cereal and make a big crazy mess, and I believe it was just two episodes ago in Step One that we heard Karen remark, “I don’t know what’s wrong with Michael.”  Well, finding out what’s wrong with Michael is the topic of this week’s show.

                But it’s not the only topic, and that’s the part that surprised me.  Remember that mobster storyline that got started in the Plesh-penned masterpiece Chance of a Lifetime?  Well, that storyline is also growing as we get deeper into Scapegoats.  The mobsters (their names are Frank Colbert and Roy Lance, by the way, and they are played in full-on Italian stereotype mode by William Boyett and Steven Hirsch).  See, last time we saw them it was achingly clear that they were trying to sell stolen parts to Gary, and here they take him out to lunch (Gary doesn’t drink though, good boy) and start throwing vague threats at him about what they’re gonna do if he won’t do business with them.  Now, Sid’s a smart man and he knows these mobsters are running a shady outfit, so he’s specifically told Gary not to go through with this, yet Gary seems lost, not sure what to do.

                Let’s talk about Gary at this particular juncture in the series.  Is he still a likeable character?  Do you support him and wish for his happiness?  The reason I mention this is because we are going through a particularly bad time for his character, arguably his second worst period since the last two episodes of season one (Bottom of the Bottle).  If we’ll recall what happened last week, he is now officially having an affair with Judy Trend, committing adultery on Val, and that’s obviously pretty damn bad, but at the same time he’s dealing with these mobsters and he’s getting in way over his head.  Oh yeah, and in addition to the Judy affair and the mobster dealings, it’s pretty obvious that Gary really wants to have an affair with Abby; he’s just not quite ready yet. 

                I will say that I still love Gary and support Gary, but remember that I am coming at this from the perspective of someone with scope for the whole series.  When I look at Gary, I think of all the different ways he grows and matures throughout the entire fourteen season experience of KL.  I know that he has his low points and his high points, but I also know that, eventually, much later in the series, Gary will reach a true self-actualization and be a good, decent, honest man.  Since I know these things in advance, it makes it easier for me to stay with his character during trying times like these, when he’s really behaving like quite a jerk and a pretty lousy husband, to boot.  Now, for someone who doesn’t have scope on the whole series, it would be much harder to support Gary right now.  For instance, during our last episode (Breach of Faith), when Gary and Judy finally embraced in a kiss, My Beloved Grammy was not pleased and declared, “I don’t like Gary anymore.”  We’ll see how long her not-liking of this character lasts, but I have a feeling that she’ll forgive him his mistakes as we get a few seasons deeper.

                Another storyline that’s getting revved up (pun really not intended) involves Sid and this magic engine he’s working on.  Keep all of this in mind since it will figure heavily into our next show as well as more shows down the line.  Sid is trying to fix the environmental problems caused by automobiles, so he’s designing this, like, super engine that can get like five jillion miles to the gallon, or something.  It’s barely mentioned here but, again, those seeds are being planted to grow in future eps.

                Speaking of seeds growing, we also have Denise Galik as Linda showing up again.  You’ll recall that she was introduced in Chance of a Lifetime as the new female mechanic that Sid had some reservations about hiring.  Well, here she is again and, like I said, it’s not that she is given much to do in this particular episode, but rather that she is still hanging around and the writers clearly are planning to do something with her, just not quite yet.

                And lastly, concerning storylines that will get going in future episodes, we also have the mention that J.R. Ewing will be coming to town in a week.  Abs announces this to Gary after snooping on one of his conversations with the mobsters, and that helps to set up our next show (A Family Matter) where J.R. does, indeed, show up in town and start causing shenanigans.  I feel like if this was being done in season one, J.R. would just show up for the confines of his one particular guest appearance (it was Community Spirit back in season one) and that would be it, but here the writers are starting to display forethought for the future and set things up an episode or two before they pay off, which I appreciate.

                But for all these little tangents I’m going off on, I am forgetting about the main major storyline of this episode: Michael.  As I’ve covered, he’s acting weird and freaking out and getting into fights with other kids.  We have an amusing scene of him at school, working on some painting, and him and this other kid get into a bit of a rumble and have to be broken up by the teacher.  At this point, the bitchiest school-front-desk-lady I’ve ever seen calls Karen into her office and gives her some lecture about, “All parents think their kids are special,” all the while answering every phone call that comes her way (this school is getting more phone-calls per minute than any business I’ve ever seen).  Seriously, this lady sucks.  She called Karen down to the school to talk to her, yet she is too busy with her phonecalls and her snarky comments to give Karen her full attention, and if I were Karen, I’d be pissed, too.

                Anyway, Sid and Karen take Michael to see a shrink, and the shrink is actually one of the guys who tried to figure out what was wrong with Linda Blair in The Exorcist.  I recognized him immediately not just because I recently saw that movie again, but also because he has a unique face and voice.  The actor’s name is Robert Symonds, and he was actually in a ton of stuff before dying in 2007.  In fact, I am very glad I took a peek at his IMDb, because if I hadn’t, I would have completely missed the fact that he is a Transmorpher!  That’s right, he appeared in not one but two Dallas episodes, both from 1981, entitled The Split and Five Dollars a Barrel.  Even more interestingly, both of these episodes will soon be covered on this blog, as they both feature appearances by Ted Shackelford as Gary and will form parts eight and nine of our Brief Dallas Interludes!  So when we get to those eps, I will make sure to keep my eyes peeled for Transmorpher Robert Symonds.  Oh yeah, and one last bizarrely cool bit of trivia, but apparently he was married to fellow Transmorpher Priscilla Pointer (last seen by us in the KL episode The Constant Companion).

                Anyway, the doctor declares that Michael is suffering from A.D.H.D., hence all the excess energy and generally strange and unruly behavior.  I did some quick research to see when A.D.H.D. was first recognized as a medical condition, because in my brain, it’s a fairly recent thing.  Well, let’s just say I was surprised to see it was first discovered in freakin 1902!  I thought KL was on the cutting edge for talking about it in 1981, but I guess they were actually about eighty years too late, oh well.  Anyway, that’s what Michael has and it’s gonna require a lot of energy and determination from the family to keep him occupied and exhaust his supply of energy throughout the day.

                Now, that little bit of information doesn’t come from the Transmorpher Exorcist doctor, but rather from David Haskell as Karl.  Again, it’s small little details I appreciate, because the writers could have easily had Exorcist doctor explain to the Fairgates what they need to do to work with Michael, but instead they bring in this already established character to do that.  Even though Ginger broke up with him a few eps back, that doesn’t mean he still can’t hang around to help out Karen and Sid; after all, he really is supposed to be a pediatrician, no?  Like I said, sometimes it’s the littlest, subtlest things within the KL writing that I appreciate the most.

                Now, there’s one little scene fairly early on in this episode that I wish to discuss because it’s awesomely moving in a sort of retroactive way.  See, in the earliest stages of the episode, Sid is like, “Oh, Michael’s fine, don’t worry about it,” being na├»ve as he sometimes can be.  However, when Michael behaves like a psycho during a beach volleyball game (again, they are always going to the beach in these early episodes), Sid has to chase him down to the tideline and talk to him.  The scene is shot beautifully in silhouette in front of a real, natural setting sun over the ocean, giving it this pink colored effect and slightly obscuring both Sid and Michael; all we see are the outlines of their bodies.  Michael is upset and says something like, “I just wanted to play with them,” or “What’s wrong with me?” or something, to which Sid assures him that nothing is wrong.  Why is this small scene so amazingly moving?  Well, get ready for A SPOILER ALERT and go ahead and skip ahead a bit if you don’t want this spoiled, but in the episode where Sid dies (Critical Condition from season three), they use a still image from this scene to close out the episode, like where they usually run the credits with a reprise of the theme song.  In the case of that episode (which we’ll obviously discuss in greater detail soon), they just run this still picture of Sid and Michael in front of the sunset over a lovely and sad piano version of the theme song, and it always makes me feel emotional, and the image came out of this particular episode, which I feel should be noted.

                The episode actually wraps up in a kind of abrupt way.  It merely ends with Karen and Sid at their kitchen table, discussing what they are going to do to help Michael.  In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting the episode to be over right there, but Karen says something to the effect of how the whole family is gonna have to adjust a bit to help him out, and then the two parents hold hands and we get the “Executive Producers” credit and the episode ends.  Is that a good thing or a bad thing?  I’m not quite sure.  My memory of this Michael A.D.H.D. storyline is that it leads absolutely nowhere, and indeed I’m not even sure it’s ever mentioned again in the series except in the very next few episodes coming up.  If this had really gone somewhere, and if the writers were playing the long game with it, I think I’d like this ending better, but as it stands, it’s kinda like, “Oh, that’s it?”  After this episode, the storyline doesn’t do anything or go anywhere, which makes this whole story feel a bit weird and standalone. 

                What else is there to say about this episode?  Not a whole lot.  This episode is far, far better than both Kristin and Step One but it’s absolutely a step down from our last show, Breach of Faith, which I thought was a highlight of the series up to this point.  I mainly have a problem with nearly an entire episode being devoted to Michael and his attention deficit problems only to then forget about these problems and sweep the storyline under the carpet.  This is very unlike the KL writers and is something the folks over at Dallas would be more likely to do.  I felt like that series was constantly bringing up storylines and then forgetting about them or not allowing them to lead anywhere, but KL generally had much tighter, much better writing that didn’t let storylines dangle or fall off to the wayside, so this is not typical of their quality of writing. 

                Aside from the Michael storyline, we obviously have plenty of stuff going on with the other characters, but even that is dominoes being set up to fall; nothing really happens within the course of this episode, but rather it’s stuff being set up to happen.  That doesn’t mean the episode is boring or bad, but it does mean it’s not as exciting or as rich as many of your other KL eps.  I believe the term often used for episodes like this is “Filler,” where you’re just sorta padding stuff out until allowing storylines to pay off later.  Of course, it’s KL and I love KL and the episode still goes down pretty easy, even if it’s a rather unremarkable and unspectacular 48 minutes of television. 

                However, I have a hunch (well, more than a hunch since I’ve already watched this episode) that our next show will be better as we have the second triumphant guest appearance of Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing.  That’s right, join me for our next show when everyone’s favorite bastard comes to town for a visit in A Family Matter.