Sunday, May 29, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 031 of 344: SQUEEZEPLAY


Episode Title: Squeezeplay

Season 02, Episode 18

Episode 031 of 344

Written by John Pleshette

 Directed by Joseph B. Wallenstein

Original Airdate: Thursday, March 26th, 1981

 The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Jeff doesn't return the kids and Abby's really worried. The FBI question Gary about Frank and Roy, and Gary finally admits his illegal dealings to Sid. Abby claims to be innocent, and Sid believes her. Gary and Sid agree to do a sting operation for the FBI, and Frank and Roy are arrested. Sid and Gary will have to testify, so the FBI guards them. One of the mechanics at Knots Landing Motors lets the brake fluid out of Sid's car. Abby receives a tape from Jeff telling her he took the kids because she is a bad mother. Abby totally flips out, so Karen calls Sid to come home to help Abby. Sid and an FBI agent get in his car to drive home. As they drive around the road, Sid realizes the brakes won't work. The car goes out of control and crashes over the side of an embankment down to the beach below.more...               

 
               QUICK NOTE: USUALLY I TRY TO KEEP MY ESSAYS FAIRLY SPOILER-FREE FOR WHAT'S ABOUT TO COME IN UPCOMING EPISODES AND SEASONS, BUT THIS PARTICULAR WRITEUP IS LITTERED WITH SPOILERS, SO IF YOU HAVEN'T WATCHED PAST THIS EP, YOU MIGHT BE BETTER OFF NOT READING WHAT I HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THIS EP.

                It’s time for our second season finale of KL and I’m very excited to discuss it for a myriad of reasons.  First of all, unlike the finale of season one (Bottom of the Bottle: Part Two), this one ends on a real legit cliffhanger, something unresolved that is gonna totally hook us in for a third season.  If you’ll recall, season one ended with a certain sense of closure, like just in case the show got cancelled right then and there, there was kind of a feeling of ending, a resolution with Gary coming to terms with his alcoholism and saying out loud, “My name is Gary and I’m an alcoholic.”  Here, we get something much more akin to “Who Shot J.R.?” and I like it.

                Honestly I remembered this being a big episode and I remembered enjoying it just fine, but I didn’t know I was gonna enjoy the shit out of it quite as much as I did upon this most recent viewing.  A quick reminder that My Beloved Grammy and I pack in a whole disk hpr visit and so this was the culmination of a disk that began with Man of the Hour (barf).  I am getting reflective lately on how moods and temperaments affect our viewing experience, how if you’re just feeling lousy, sometimes watching TV or a movie will not be enjoyable, but if you’re just loving life (as I am right now), you sorta relish and love the shit out of everything in your life.  Whatever the philosophical reasons, I was just blown away by Squeezeplay.

                Now, before we get into the episode proper, I wanna note something that I found curious, something I didn’t notice until doing this blog and paying attention to airdates and stuff.  Note that this aired the exact same night as Designs, March 26th, 1981.  I was surprised by this and wondered if the two episodes had originally aired as a big double-whammy two hour TV movie and were subsequently split apart.  TV.com says nothing about that; it just says they aired the same night.  Now, my hunch is that they aired as two separate television episodes, based on a few things.  One is the fact that they both have separate titles (it’s not Squeezeplay: Part One and Squeezeplay: Part Two, for instance) and that they don’t really feel like they’re meant to be watched together.  Designs ended with J.R. giving his classic grin ("My real shit-eating grin," as Hagman would call it) and laughing a bit in his hotel room, but then Squeezeplay seems to pick up quite a little while later (maybe a week?  Maybe a few weeks?) and begins with Gary having a meeting with his friendly mobsters at a nice lunch place.  So yeah, if this was a two-hour episode and we just jumped from J.R. grinning to Gary and some mobsters, I’m sure the audience would be like, “Huh?”

                I’m still saying “Huh?” for one reason, however, and that’s the very unusual sight of the Seaview Circle girls drunk in the middle of the day!  I can’t recall as I write this precisely why the girls are tipsy, but I think it has something to do with Laura getting a promotion of some sort.  In any case, they have clearly had a bit too much wine with lunch, they are giggly and silly over at one table, but just a few tables down Gary is dining with Frank and Roy, and it seems like it’s been awhile since we’ve seen Frank and Roy, doesn’t it?  I took a peek at the IMDb to see how long it’s been, and we last saw them causing shenanigans with Gary back in A Family Matter, so it has been quite some time. 

                Also, I would be remiss in my duty if I didn’t point out something fascinating that my research just revealed to me.  Frank is played by William Boyett (pictured below) and, yes, you guessed it, he’s a Transmorpher, but here’s the really amazing thing; he appeared in this season finale of KL in 1981 along with the season finale for Dallas that same year (the one that ends with the body in the swimming pool).  Amazing, right?  Talk about a resume!  This guy can say, “Well in 1981 I appeared in the season finales for both Dallas and KL.”  If the guy wasn’t dead, I would hire him right away for any role based on that alone. 

In any case, here they are now putting pressure on Gary for something.  I again remind the patient reader that sometimes simple plot points aren’t too easy for me to follow.  I don’t know why, but it’s just how my brain works.  I can go on and on for seventeen days about how the director shoots Karen looking at herself in a mirror, but then when someone’s like “What do the mobsters want with Gary?” I’m like, “I dunno.”  But I paid real attention this time and I think I got it straight, so follow me here.

Gary got into business with the mobsters way back at the start of the season in Chance of a Lifetime even though he knew they were probably selling dirty cars (as in stolen, not as in they got dirty in a drag race or something) against Sid’s advice.  The reason he did this is because he believed the company (Knots Landing Motors) needed the money bad, so who cares where the car’s came from?  But then the situation escalated and the whole storyline in A Family Matter where he had to borrow $50,000.00 from J.R. and yada yada yada.  Now Gary sorta has to reap what he’s been sewing, because the mobsters won’t leave him alone, they wanna keep doing business with him, and he’s starting to get in over his head.  The ramifications of this will be huge and will bleed over into the next season and even, believe it or not, the season after that (gotta love that long KL storytelling!). 

Anyway, feeling a bit tipsy, as I noted, the ladies (Karen, Val, and Laura) come up to Gary’s table and are like, “Oh, Gary, hi, what are you doing here?”  This doesn’t really relate to the plot at hand, but I gotta say isn’t it bad form to go up and bug an alcoholic when you are clearly inebriated yourself?  All three of the girls are clearly in “Happy Drunk” mode at the moment, and I get that feeling of elation, but isn’t it just rude?  We all know Gary struggles with wanting to drink, so is it nice to walk over and breathe wine fumes in his face and be like, “We’re having such a great time drinking over there!”  In any case, this scene is not about alcoholics and ethics; it’s about how Karen notices the mobsters.  Gary is having a secret lunch with them and probably doesn’t want Sid to know about it.

I like how this builds, because then later Karen is talking to Sid and just casually mentions how she saw Gary out and about wheeling and dealing.  I like that she doesn’t mention this to Sid in any sort of vindictive way; she’s just making chit chat, not even aware that Gary is up to something.  It keeps her sorta pure in some strange way.

Maybe I should also just admit that I got so engrossed in this episode, so excited by what was going on, that I sorta neglected my notes.  Indeed, I’m looking at them right now and they are sparse; you can tell I was doing notes for the first few minutes and then I just got lost in the magic.  This is an experience I remember from many a KL episode during my days of watching them in college; where I would just power through five or six or seven episodes a day like an addict, unable to stop, hooked on the brilliance.  My point is that you should please forgive me if I neglect any important plot details or whatever; don’t take it as me slacking; take it as me being so 100% into the episode that I forgot my notes.

I also forgot to note that this is a Plesh written episode and his episodes are always so rich and amazing, so full of character moments and depth; he really goes above and beyond what is required for TV show writing, skyrocketing his episodes into the realm of high art.  Honestly, I don’t even know where to start with Squeezeplay; there’s so much going on and so many fascinating character moments (and Kenny and Ginger don’t appear, so yay!  Clearly The Plesh is smart enough to just write them completely out of the episode, knowing they are dead weight). 

Basically Karen gets rightfully suspicious about certain situations not adding up, especially based on things that happened last week (or I suppose I should just say “An hour ago”) in Designs.  She knows Gary is up to something, she knows Abby is up to something, she just knows something isn’t right.  So in a fabulous little sequence, she calls up Richard and asks him to do a little illegal breaking-and-entering with her and he of course agrees.  The two of them head down to Knots Landing Motors and sneak into Sid’s office to go over his books with a fine tooth comb.  This was one of the parts of the episode I enjoyed most, because Karen and Richard’s fascinating friendship is one of my favorite things on the entire series (and it’s so sadly shortlived when you consider that my beloved Plesh is only with the show for the first four seasons….) and I love seeing them team up here to do something on the D.L.; it’s such fun!  They are going over the books and realizing that something doesn’t add up (it’s parts like this where my brain gets hazey on plot details, FYI) when Sid comes bursting in, wanting to know just what the hell is going on here.

From here, it’s Confession Time for Gary.  Pretty much the whole cul-de-sac (sans Kenny and Ginger, since nobody cares) sit down in the Fairgate living room to discuss what’s really going on.  Gary admits his culpability and admits to getting involved with the mobsters against Sid’s advice.  At this point, he also tells them that Abby  was a part of this, too, that she helped him adjust the books to keep everything neat.  Abby of course denies this and, I think, Sid believes her.  Again, Sid loves his baby sister and can’t see through her lies and deceptions, but he has good reason to be a little more reticent with Gary; this marks the second time Gary has let him down big time.  All things considered, I’d say Sid has the patience of a, well, Saint (hah hah) because he doesn’t yell and scream at Gary.  He’s clearly mad with him, but he keeps calm and basically just tells Gary he should go home and they’ll talk about it later.

The decision is quickly made that Gary should go to the FBI and tell them the truth about everything.  By admitting his part in it and aiding them in capturing Frank and Roy, he will probably be let off the hook.  This is where the episode shifts its focus for awhile, with some lovely CIA-ish stuff involving Gary and Sid meeting up with Roy and Frank together.  Sid gets to put on a show about, “This was always my idea; I’m a real badass and you don’t wanna fuck with me” (except of course he doesn’t say ‘fuck’ cuz this is a CBS show in 1981).  Then he leaves the table in a real huff when Roy and Frank don’t wanna do business with him and Gary is all like, “You shouldn’t have you done that; now you’ve made him angry and you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.”  Meanwhile, two cheesy FBI guys are sitting at the table next to them, listening in.  It’s all part of a big sexy sting, you understand.

The sexy sting continues later with Sid and Gary meeting up with Roy and Frank in some creepy parking lot in the middle of the night to exchange stolen cars.  Obviously they are both wired like John Travolta in Blow Out, so Sid has to do the whole, “What exact illegal act are you about to do, Roy and Frank?” thing just so the FBI guys have it all on tape.  After the money changes hands, Roy and Frank hang out for a minute and one of them has a hysterical line about how they should get back to the hotel because they’re showing Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. It’s nice to know what kind of films these mobsters like to enjoy together.  Unfortunately, they don’t ever get to see Marilyn because the police swoop in and arrest the two of them right then and there.

All of this is very sexy and good and I’m watching it with bated breath, but the shit that really elevates this episode up a notch is the character moments.  Gary hit a real rock bottom in the season one finale and I feel like he’s hit a new one, here.  He’s not a drunken mess like he was one year ago, but he’s gotten involved with stolen auto parts and mobsters and he’s kept Val in the dark about all of it.  The two of them have a fabulous scene together where I wish I could build a time machine just to go back in time and give them both Emmys.  It’s a very real argument where you believe this is a real couple having a real problem.  Val points out how she’s not mad at Gary for what he did but for the fact that he never told her about it.  They are supposed to be married, they are supposed to be a partnership, but when he needed money real bad, he went to J.R., not to her, and he didn’t even discuss it with her beforehand.  Gary says how J.R. was the only person he knew who could just pull $50,000.00 out of his shoe and give it to him like it was no big deal. 

See, he makes a good point there, how obviously Val would not be able to produce that much money in such a short time, but Val’s point is much more valid.  He is her husband and he needs to be honest with her and he never is.  I don’t think she mentions his affair with the dykey broad, but we the audience are certainly thinking of it, aren’t we?  We’re also probably thinking about all the little sexy and flirtatious moments we’ve witnessed between Gary and Abby through the season.  We know it’s only a matter of time before Gary strays again; in some ways he’s very weak and he simply can’t change his ways.  This is what I really admire about this episode as a season finale, too; it’s not just preparing us for a “Tune in next fall” cliffhanger, it’s also allowing us to reflect on everything that has come in the previous year, all the storylines and character dramas, and that’s something I didn’t remember at all; I thought the second season was still pretty much all self-contained and individualized, but it actually feels very thought out and pre-planned.  This fabulous sequence is  a credit to the actors who bring it to life as well as a fabulous script by the inimitable Plesh.

 There’s also a very small, very short scene in this episode that feels incredibly significant to me.  No dialogue is even spoken in it, but it’s just Sid and Karen in their bedroom, Sid staring out the window.  He looks sad, thoughtful, introspective, and Karen comes up behind him and puts her arms around him.  Then the scene ends.  It probably lasts less than a minute but as I looked at it, I thought about the fact that this is the last time we see the two of them together in their bedroom, as Sid’s headed for that damn cliff later this very day.  He’s about to leave the series and Karen’s life.  I’m experiencing that funny thing where you watch a piece of art and you know in a practical sense that these are not real people, that they are characters being played by actors, but you feel dread for what’s going to come, and you almost wish you could stop it.  There’s a fantastic sense of inevitability to this show, that something bad is going to happen and nothing can stop it.

                Amidst all these shenanigans, there’s also a really spooky looking new guy working at Knots Landing Motors.  This guy is obviously evil because he has a creepy John Wayne Gacy moustache and the camera always goes in for a closeup of him while he’s fiddling with a car.  This is the guy who’s responsible for what's gonna happen in the last seconds of this ep, because we see him fucking with the car that Sid is going to be driving, messing up some piece of wiring or, um, something (the brakes, I assume).  Now, I’m searching my brain and my memories and I do remember a storyline early in season four where Karen finally brings justice to the people who killed Sid, but does that storyline involve this man?  I’m gonna pay real close attention when we get there, because I don’t know that we see creepy moustache fuck again after this episode.  

                Abs is also having a bad time this episode, missing her kids and hanging around the house drinking like Gary or Sue Ellen would usually be drinking.  There’s a really long scene that I enjoyed and which made me reflect, as I spout endlessly in these essays, on how much damn time there was for TV back in the ‘80s.  The entire scene has no dialogue, and it merely consists of Abby sitting on her couch, drinking and watching TV.  She turns off the TV, stands up, walks across the room, and puts on a tape.  That’s the whole scene, and it probably lasts a solid minute or maybe two.  I just had to reflect that there is no way a scene like that would be on a CBS, NBC, ABC, or FOX show nowadays; those hour long shows are down to, what, 40 minutes?  Honestly, it is so nice to watch a show that clocks in at the length KL does, because it means we have time for small but important scenes like that.

                This storyline showcases why we love Abby for her entire nine years on the show.  No matter what a bitch she can be, she’s only human after all.  As she sits alone in her house, missing her kids, kids who are, no matter what, the most important things in her life (just wait until season eight and Olivia’s drug problems omigod!), we realize that she might like sleeping with married men or screwing people over in business deals or even lying to her brother, but she is human and has vulnerability and weaknesses like anybody else.  Oh yeah, and she’s also temporarily off the hook with Sid and Karen because later in the episode, Gary reneges on what he said about her and says she had nothing to do with the mobsters or the books.

                My only problem with this episode, and get ready to gasp, actually lies in Donna Mills’ acting in a certain scene.  Some FBI guy comes over to see her and deliver her mail that he personally inspected to make sure it wasn’t a bomb of some sort.  It turns out it’s a tape, so she puts it into the tape player and gets a message from Jeff about, “I have our children, they are safer with me, you’re a slut, Bob Loblaw.”  Well, I guess this scene is supposed to demonstrate that Abby is in shock, but, I dunno.  Abby just starts to moan, “Nooooooo,” over and over again, and it feels like it goes on forever and it’s just plain not good.  Sorry, Donna, and you’re forgiven cuz you’re usually so spot on, but this is one moment of just plain bad acting from the woman.  Even My Beloved Grammy said, “Ugh, I thought Donna Mills was a better actress than this!”  Well, everyone can have an off day, so she’s forgiven.

                Time for Sid to start driving off that cliff.  My sphincter was tensed up as I watched this, knowing what was to come.  Well, he’s chit chatting with an FBI man, everything seems okay (but the music is pretty scary so we all know something bad is gonna happen) then the car starts to go out of control, it heads for a ravine, it crashes through that metal barrier thing, and then BOOM, we freeze frame the season on Sid’s startled face as he heads off that cliff, oh Jesus Christ, please hold me, Mommy.

                Now, looking at this with hindsight, I recognize the genius of what we are about to see.  Naturally, if I was viewing this in 1981, I would be like, “Well, he might die or he might not, I guess it all depends on how contract negotiations go.”  But the thing is, Don Murray does not leave the show with this episode; he shows up for two more, and that’s the brilliance of it.  When we begin season three, we will see the unveiling of a brand new title sequence (the best one and the most famous one, the scrolling squares against the black background) and Don Murray is comfortably listed there IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER along with everyone else. 

                I’m excited to see how this little plot twist works on My Beloved Grammy.  We finished this episode and she’s like, “Eh, he’s the main character, I’m sure he’ll be fine.”  I was pleased to see her note him as “The Main Character,” and I do think, based on viewing just the first two seasons, that he sorta is.  Gary and Val were our gateway, our marijuana, if you will, by being introduced on Dallas and then spun off into KL, but Sid Fairgate definitely seems like the prominent male lead of the series.  So My Beloved Grammy feels pretty comfortable that he’ll be fine, and I’ll be eager to see how she reacts when he does, in fact, expire right at the start of season three. 

                Anyway, that about wraps up Squeezeplay.  Again, I don’t know if I was just in a super great and super elated mood when I watched this or what, but I really and truly loved it.  The only bad part was that quick scene with Donna Mills and the “Noooooo.”  Aside from that, what an episode, one of the best of the season and maybe even the best of the season.  I’m gonna have to think about this and I’ll figure it out when I do my writeup on season two as a whole.  I think maybe Chance of a Lifetime might end up winning the Best Episode of Season Two award, but damn was this a great episode, and what a fabulous way to end a season.  Remember that when this aired, I was negative nine years old, but I can tell you that if I was alive and cognizant and watching this on March 26th of 1981, I would be like, “Holy shit, I have to wait a whole summer for more episodes?”  It would have killed me.  This is how you do a season finale, just a remarkable achievement on all levels. 
 
                 Okay, so coming up next, we are obviously going to dive into season three of the show, but the one last thing I wanna cover is my reflection on season two, which will go up next week.  Also, a quick bit of BREAKING NEWS, due to the fact that I have an enormous back catalogue of essays already written and ready to go, and the gap from what's going up on the blog and what has already been written is getting pretty ridiculous, the blog will officially move from one post per week to two posts per week, one on Sundays and one on Thursdays, and I will start that new pattern as soon as we get to our season three premiere, The Vigil.
 
 

more

 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 030 of 344: DESIGNS


Episode Title: Designs

Season 02, Episode 17

Episode 030 of 344

Written by Rob Gilmer and Diana Gould

 Directed by Nicholas Sgarro

Original Airdate: Thursday, March 26th, 1981

 The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): J.R. comes to town (again). He wants to form a corporation with Sid and patent the engine that Sid invented. Sid refuses. Abby steals the engine plans and gives them to J.R., and has him sign a contract to protect her interests. They sleep together. Karen tells Sid that Abby stole the plans, but he doesn't believe her. Karen and Val are suspicious when Jeff comes to pick up the kids, and packs all of their things into his van. Karen goes to J.R.'s hotel to tell Abby she thinks Jeff kidnapped the kids, but Abby doesn't believe her and says Jeff is just trying to scare her again.more   

 

                Ah, yes, kids, it’s time for crossover #7 out of what will turn out to be nine crossovers in total (we have zero in the third season, then two in the fourth season, and then that will be all she wrote).  Designs has a lot of great stuff going for it and I’m eager to dig into it.  Not only is it a fabulous crossover of Dallas to KL, but it also functions as a fabulous episode of KL all by itself. 

                As I said, Designs is our seventh crossover of a beloved character from Dallas making a ratings-sweep-induced trip to KL, and it is the third time we see the always fabulous Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing on this series.  We actually see him pretty much right off the top of the episode, and I love how he is just there.  We are at Knots Landing Motors and, if I recall correctly, Gary is arriving at work, and J.R. is just hanging out, talking to Sid.  I like how it’s so casual, just no big deal, there’s not like a big build up or any epic suspense leading to the reveal of J.R.  It reminded me of when George Clooney made a return to E.R nine years after his last appearance on the series.  That was right near the very end of that series (I think there were only three or four more episodes in total after that one), and I remember watching it and loving how Clooney just sorta walked into the room and he was just there.  That’s how Mr. Hagman’s little introduction into this episode feels.

                Now, right off the bat I’m gonna pose a question to you the reader that is also a question for myself, the second time KL viewer, and that question is: Does this storyline ever go anywhere?  Follow me here for a moment.  The majority of the 48 minutes of Designs focuses on J.R. partnering with Abby in an effort to, I guess, sorta steal the idea of Sid’s eco-friendly engine that can get a hundred miles to the gallon or whatever.  It’s a fabulous story for this episode, but for the life of me, I really do think it leads nowhere.  Now, I’ve forgotten shit before (as demonstrated last week when I pretty much forgot absolutely everything that happened in More Than Friends), but in this case, I think my memories are pretty sharp, and I can think of two glaringly obvious reasons why this storyline may have fell by the wayside.

                SPOILER ALERT IN THIS PARAGRAPH FOR UPCOMING EPISODES! The first obvious reason is that our crossover days are very limited now.  As I said, we’ve got just two more episodes where Dallas characters cross over, and then KL is left entirely to stand on its own two feet.  The second reason is that Sid Fairgate, well, dies three episodes after this.  Poor Sid’s days on the cul-de-sac are about to come to an end.  Now, viewers watching this episode in 1981 don’t know that, but we have the foresight to know he’s about to plummet off that cliff and, well, that’s almost it (we’ll be discussing this in more detail at the start of season three).  So, if the writers were cooking up some great plot involving J.R., Sid, and the engine, perhaps it just had to go away because Don Murray left the show.  END OF SPOILER ALERT!

                In any case, I definitely prefer when I can see the writers playing the long game and planning out stuff way in advance, but it doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of this particular episode at all.  My only other problem with the episode is more my own personal problem, and that’s my occasional trouble with following basic plot convolutions.  A lot of times, with movies or TV, I get so lost in the other details of a show, particularly the small details that most people don’t give a crap about, that I have a bit of trouble following the basic plot.  So despite watching this episode with My Beloved Grammy along with my trusty notepad, I still sorta had a problem figuring out why J.R. was so interested in this engine and what he and Abby were getting up to together.

                When we first see J.R. in this episode, he tells Gary that he and Sid are going to patent the engine together and go into business as partners.  The rest of the episode involves this patent and how Sid is being naïve and hasn’t bothered to create a patent yet.  This is the shit that sorta confuses me, because then a little later (in a scene that, if you were flipping channels in 1981 and came to this, you would probably just assume you were watching an episode of Dallas), J.R. and Abby take a nice ride in his limo, sipping cocktails together.  In this scene, they start to talk about how to put a patent on Sid’s engine without his knowledge.  Boy, do these two make a fabulous pair.  For the first time, I noticed that the back of the season two DVD box has a fabulous picture of Larry Hagman and Donna Mills standing together, and how I would love to get a really big poster of that image and frame it and hang it up in my living room.  They are a terribly underrated little twosome, probably because when most people think of J.R., they immediately think of his fellow Dallas cast members surrounding him, and forget about his five trips to the cul-de-sac.  But I think Hagman and Mills always sparkle together and this episode is actually very significant for their little sexy relationship (we’ll get to it). 

                There’s a lot of exciting stuff going on in this episode, and the next part of the plot’s machinations involve Karen becoming curious about Sid’s infamous engine and wanting to be more involved with it.  After Karen, Sid, and J.R. all go out to eat together (a lovely scene that takes place in a Japanese restaurant, and I like the little detail of J.R.’s boots sitting in the other part of the room with his famous Stetson plopped on top of them), Karen asks if she can take a look at the, like, blueprints for Sid’s engine.  He tells her sure and says that the plans are in his office.  When Karen gets there, she can’t find the plans no matter how hard she looks, and the reason for that is because they are in the untrustworthy hands of Abby, who has stolen them for the afternoon.  One scene that made me slightly angry involves Karen leaving Knots Landing Motors, very frustrated.  She looked all over and just can’t find the plans.  Then as she leaves, J.R.’s limo pulls up and Abby comes hopping out, holding one of those super giant tubes in her hands (tubes like in that episode of The Brady Bunch where they all go to that amusement park).  What frustrates me is that Karen doesn’t immediately say, “What’s with the big tube, Abs?”  You know she’s a direct person and it’s in her nature to ask direct questions like that, but she doesn’t, and I do see that as something of a plot contrivance, setting up a later scene between Abby and Sid.

                Let’s just jump to that scene now, shall we?  Sid does go over to Abby’s house to speak with her, and when he sees the tube thing leaning against the wall, he’s all like, “What’s that?”  Abby has her ass covered though, because then she does this guilty face and is like, “You weren’t supposed to see this.”  We are in suspense as an audience and I’m sure Sid is in suspense as well, but then she pulls out this really crappy painting of, like, a family together and says how it reminded her of all the Fairgates, so she bought it for him as a gift.  He’s all touched and, even though we know Abby is doing something duplicitous and is a schemer, we also sorta breathe a sigh of relief.  Again, it’s the magic of KL; we see all the characters as fully fledged, three dimensional, interesting, and our sympathies lie with all of them (aside from Kenny and Ginger, of course). 

                Abby has now been in seventeen episodes and will wind up being in (at least according to IMDb) 236 episodes.  At this point, I feel she has become a firmly established character, she is no longer the new kid on the block even though she was not in the first season at all.  The first couple of episodes of the season didn’t feature her quite as much as I remembered, (which I kinda appreciated, because it helped her weave her way rather insidiously into the fabric of the series) but she really started to come into her own in the middle of the season and now I feel she has Arrived.  Already the magic of Donna is overtaking me.  Only she could play this character (just like only Larry Hagman could play J.R.), because only she has that magical ability to be manipulative and deceitful and yet stay strangely likeable at all times.  I don’t know if it’s just her stunning beauty or if it’s something deeper; she just has an aura about her that makes you like her and enjoy watching her, even as she’s working to screw over the nicest guy on the block, Sid.

                Let’s talk Sid for a moment.  I’m gonna miss him when he leaves  (although him leaving just opens the door for one of my all time favorite KL characters, Kevin Dobson as Mack, so perhaps it’s really a blessing in disguise) and as his very final episode inches ever closer, I’m getting reflective on the man and the intricacies of his character.  Remember last week when I said how Val was so trusting of The Other Paul Rudd even though any other person would run screaming from him?  This is sorta the same situation.  Karen is smart enough to see that Abs is up to something, but Sid has a naïve and trusting quality about him, that same naiveté that has prevented him from going to put a patent out on his engine.  This is his baby sister, let’s not forget, and he simply can’t bring himself to see her as a liar or a schemer in any way.  Indeed, he feels bad for even questioning her, and he feels embarrassed after she reveals that stupid painting, like he was in the wrong for even thinking she could be up to anything treacherous.  I don’t begrudge Sid this naiveté at all; in fact, it just makes me love his character even more.

                This main A-storyline for the episode culminates with something that almost made me ejaculate in my pants, and that is the consummation of a sexual relationship between Abs and J.R.  Oh, how glorious this is.  They are in one of J.R.’s fabulously swanky and expensive hotel suites (the kind of hotel room that looks like an entire house unto itself) and finally they just give in to temptation and shag.  Honestly, who wouldn’t shag J.R.?  And especially the J.R. on display here who still looks youthful and doesn’t have any grey in his hair yet.  My God was Hagman charismatic and sexy.  He’s the kind of sexy who is so sexy by sheer force of his personality that you don’t care that he’s not conventionally handsome or attractive.  I have wanted to see these two shag since they first laid eyes on each other, and seeing it happen right here is, for me, a seminal moment in all of television history.  Thank God that I think we get to see them shag one or two more times during the fourth season.

                But shagging J.R. and being up to mischief is not all that’s on the agenda for Abs this week.  Finally, after a lot of buildup (and, again, I like that buildup and that slower storytelling style), Jeff kidnaps the kids.  He’s been hinting at it since the end of A State of Mind, and in all the episodes he’s appeared in since then, it’s seemed like he might snag them any second, but he hasn’t done it yet.  Well, today’s the day!  Karen and Val stop by Karen’s house and find Jeff hurriedly shoving Olivia and Brian into the back of his giant van R.V. thing. Karen says something like, “You’ve got enough clothes to last three years!” and then they run inside the Fairgate Cunningham home and find that the place has been totally emptied out.  Yup, looks like Jeff finally went and did it; he had enough of seeing Abs sleeping with neighbors or crossover characters from more popular (but lesser quality) shows and he went and he kidnapped them.  What will happen?  We have to keep watching well into the start of season three to find out!

                Everything in this episode is very exciting and good except for one thing (or I suppose I should say two things) and that is obviously Kenny and Ginger.  Their storyline this week is a joke, and proof that either the writers never knew what to do with these two or that the actors simply weren’t up to the task.  The basic gist of their storyline this week is that Ginger is still pregnant (had you gotten bored with this and forgotten all about it?  Yeah, me, too!) and Kenny is becoming really obsessed with prenatal care books and Bob Loblaw.  He keeps telling Ginger how she can’t eat chocolate and cookies and candy and what have you because it’s bad for the baby.  Ginger is all like, “But I like eating sweet things and I crave them and I already have huge scary bug eyes, so why not just get really fat to top it off?”  Basically this goes on for awhile (providing the viewer with plenty of time to go make some popcorn) and then it makes a comedic switch near the end.  In the conclusion of this sizzling story, Ginger comes home with lots of lettuce and celery and health foods and is like, “I’m ready to eat right!”  Then Kenny is like, “I read a book that says you should follow your body’s instincts, so let’s go get a pizza!”  Then they go to get a pizza.  That’s it.  Again, it’s boring.

                I have to ask if this ridiculous C-storyline was always a part of the script for Designs or if perhaps it was inserted after the writers realized they had given Kenny and Ginger nothing to do.  I get the feeling that Houghton and Lankford were feeling neglected, and I believe they did sit out last week’s show (which was so refreshing omigod), so perhaps they went to the writers and were like, “Come on guys, you gotta give us something to do,” and this was the best the writers could come up with.  In any case, we’ve only two more seasons left where we have to look at these two, and we will all breathe easier and be much less sleepy as soon as they get shipped away.

                Let’s see, am I missing anything else?  Well, the conclusion of the episode is rather lovely, both funny and full of drama at the same time.  Karen rushes to J.R.’s fancy hotel to warn Abby that her kids have been taken.  She has a heck of a time getting to the room because the snooty desk clerk won’t tell her where J.R. is located.  As she’s getting on an elevator, she asks some bellboy for J.R.’s room number, and the bellboy assumes Karen is a hooker and says, “Don’t worry, Ewing usually tips pretty well!”  I certainly laughed at this and it again reminded me that KL always had humor and wit infused in it right from the start, even though in my memory I thought that was more of  Latham/Lechowitz era thing (seasons eight through twelve). 

                J.R. and Abs are lying in bed together and Hagman delivers the killer line, “We oughta put a patent on what we just did,” when Karen comes knocking at the door.  She comes in, she tells Abs what’s up, Abs rushes out, and J.R. is left alone.  He has some funny last line that I can’t really recall and then gives his trademark grin and that’s actually how we freeze frame and exit the episode. 

                We’re almost to the end of season two and Designs proved to be a rather lovely experience, setting the stage for excitement to follow in our finale.  Is it a perfect episode?  No, I’d say it’s not.  Not only is it polluted by the Kenny and Ginger storyline, but I do have to note that it builds up storylines that never seem to pay off, and that is mildly frustrating.  I’ll keep my eyes open as we go along, but I’m pretty sure everything with J.R. and Sid’s engine just fizzles away to nothingness.  On one hand, this doesn’t bother me the way it might some viewers, but it is a plot flaw.  You don’t get a storyline like this revved up and started and then never pay it off (although Dallas would do it constantly). 

                As far as crossover episodes go, however, this one may very well be my favorite.  Hagman is always perfect, whether playing J.R. on Dallas or in his five guest spots on KL, and I really thought seeing him and Abs get together was a fabulous moment.  So in conclusion I do believe Designs is a solid chunk of television and great fun, if not exactly television perfection. 

                We’re getting ready for our big CLIFF-hanger (Cliff?  Get it?  Eh?) with our final episode of season two, Squeezeplay.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 029 of 344: MORE THAN FRIENDS


Episode Title: More Than Friends

Season 02, Episode 16

Episode 029 of 344

Written by Carol Roper

 Directed by Alexander Singer

Original Airdate: Thursday, March 19th, 1981

 The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Abby comes on to Gary, but then says she's kidding when she sees how uncomfortable he is. Everyone thinks Laura's having an affair with Scooter, because of all their flirting. Laura tells Scooter that they can't really have an affair, because they're both married. Richard asks Laura if she'd like to discuss his affair with Abby, so that they can start over. Val's night school teacher is Earl Trent. He invites Val over to work on a story, and then asks her to sleep with him to get even with Gary and Judy. Val refuses and he starts to force her, but then breaks down weeping. Gary comes over and apologizes to Earl for having an affair with his wife.more          

 

                There are 344 episodes of KL.  That’s a lot.  That’s really a lot considering the way TV shows are going nowadays (in my opinion, by the way, generally for the better).  The last ten to twenty years with the fall of “big” networks like ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX and the rise of highly artistic and cinematic quality shows over on AMC, HBO, and Showtime have been very interesting to watch, and what’s interesting now is how few episodes these shows produce.  Breaking Bad went off the air with 62 episodes and Mad Men ended with 92 episodes.  One of my all-time favorite shows, Six Feet Under (which, FYI, was allegedly pitched to HBO as “Knots Landing in a funeral home”), ended with 63 episodes.  So nowadays, the actual length of time that a show is on is not indicative of a huge long run of episodes, unless you’re unfortunate enough to still be stuck on one of the regular original “big four” channels (a very, very sad place to be nowadays).  So one of the delights of revisiting KL and all of its fourteen season, 344 episode glory is the fact that I know I will hit plenty of episodes that I have just plain forgotten existed, and the episode up for discussion today, More Than Friends, is definitely one of those.

                Let me just say it’s so refreshing to be back to quality KL after the unfortunate accidents that were our last two episodes, Moments of Truth and Man of the Hour.  Placed together, those two formed a really nasty turd sandwich, but now we’re back on track right away, and as we get closer and closer to the end of the season, we have an episode rich for discussion.  This is also one of those episodes that perfectly exemplifies the best qualities of “early” KL (which you’ll recall I designated as seasons one through three), that real Scenes From A Marriage On A Cul-De-Sac quality that David Jacobs originally envisioned.  Even within the very title of the episode, we are given the theme that will run start to finish for all the characters on display, all those characters who I love so very much (aside from Kenny and Ginger, obviously).

                Watching these with my Beloved Grammy really enhances the experience as we find plenty of stuff to talk about and discuss with each show.  It’s also fun to watch her mind work as we watch the show, because I’ll always say the title of the episode and the original airdate before we start (and we always, no matter what, watch the entire opening credit sequence in total).  So this one cues up and we see that title onscreen, More Than Friends, and the titles are playing over a scene of Val walking through her college campus with some guy, presumably a guy from one of her classes.  My Beloved Grammy goes, “Interesting, I wonder if this guy and Valene are going to become more than friends.”  Well, that’s not what happens, but it’s fun to see her try and figure out what’s gonna unfold in the next magical 48 minutes.  What really comes next is actually the only scene I remembered from this episode, and that’s the glorious return of The Other Paul Rudd, last seen drunkenly stumbling down the street and calling his ugly wife an adulteress back in Breach of Faith.  See, we’re in Val’s writing and literature class and apparently her usual teacher is out sick, but in walks Earl Trent, that hilariously sassy, nasty, unpleasant, drunken asshole.  This scene is unforgettable, it truly is, so it’s no wonder it’s the one part that stuck in my brain.  See, Earl’s like, “Well, I graded all of your stories that you were assigned to write, and now I’m gonna read Val’s story and talk about how much it sucks.”

                In all honesty the tone of my writing might sound sarcastic or dismissive, but it’s not meant to sound that way (at least not here; it is meant to sound that way when I discuss Land of the Free or Kristin or Man of the Hour).  Make no mistake, this scene is crippling and the pain you can see in Val’s face and the pain we feel for her as an audience is absolutely real and very palpable.  As someone who fancies himself a writer and as someone who took four whole years of college for writing and had many writing classes, I understand the feeling of sharing your work with colleagues, contemporaries, and authority figures and putting yourself out there.  It’s a very naked feeling, and it’s always a bit uncomfortable to know you are sharing your own work to be an object of critique by others.  However, nothing I ever experienced or witnessed comes close to what The Other Paul Rudd does to Valene here; it’s absolutely brutal and, quite frankly, unforgivable.  If I saw this happening in a real classroom, I would report this drunken asshole to the dean right away (I would certainly do more than Val’s little friend does, which is raise his sissy pussy hand and say, “Uh, Mr. Trent, I really didn’t think it was all that bad!”).  Val toughs it out and sits through almost all of Earl’s blazing criticism and nasty comments, but she finally does get up and leave the classroom, prompting a perfect and hilarious final line on the scene when The Other Paul Rudd looks sorta whimsical and then asks the class, “Was it something I said?”  Just give this man his guest star Emmy right now; do it!

                After that brutal and horrifying scene, we shift our focus for awhile to another story, this one involving Laura at the real estate office and her relationship with Scooter.  But wait a minute, that’s not Scooter!  I thought Scooter was a nebbish, Jewey-looking man played by veteran character actor Allan Miller!  You know who I’m talking about; Allan Miller!  He was a Transmorpher who played Jenna Wade’s lawyer over on Dallas for a few episodes (or maybe he was the lawyer against her; who the hell remembers; that storyline was so boring and stupid) and he was also in one of my favorite movies, Cruising.  Mr. Allan Miller does not look at all like the man playing Scooter this week, who for the sake of brevity I am simply going to call The Second Scooter. 

                This bugs me.  KL really doesn’t do this too often, and it’s one of the things I like about this series.  Over on Dallas, characters were constantly being played by multiple actors (Jenna Wade was played by three actresses, and we all know the fiasco of the two different Miss Ellies, now don’t we?), but on KL, they don’t usually pull that crap.  Even with the kids (with the exception of Brian, who morphs somewhere around 1986 from the kid from Tremors and turns into future 90210 star Brian Austin Green), they are played by the same actors for as long as ten years (Tonya Crowe as Olivia) or even twelve years (Pat Petersen as Michael).  But here, we have Scooter played in two episodes by Allan Miller (those episodes were Chance of a Lifetime and A State of Mind) and he will be back to continue playing Scooter for five more episodes in the third season (starting with One of a Kind), but for this one episode and this one episode only he is being played by The Second Scooter!  Ugh, it just bothers me, and it totally kills the realism of the show and your investment in the character.  If Allan Miller wasn’t available for this week, why not just postpone the storyline or something?

                In any case, The Second Scooter is actually played by some guy named John Considine who also happens to look nothing like Allan Miller.  Gone is the Jewey-looking dude and in his place is some rather masculine fuck with a huge caterpillar moustache all over his face.  Seriously, could they have picked a guy who looks less similar?  I did some research and it looks like this guy actually has quite a resume, although none of it really stood out for me (aside from Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home, of course). 

                But how’s the guy as an actor?  He’s probably fine, and if he had been the Scooter we saw originally and would be seeing throughout the third season, I’m sure he’d be fine.  It’s just that bizarre morphing that really irks me.  I don’t mean to begrudge poor John Considine.  I also have no clue why he’s here; was Allan simply unavailable?  Or perhaps the writers didn’t know he would be so important in the third season and this was actually scheduled to be his last appearance?  Ah, who the hell knows; let’s move on.

                The storyline with Laura and The Second Scooter is good for a variety of reasons.  For one thing, and probably most obviously, it continues the running theme of the episode, the married people flirting with possible adultery.  Secondly, it builds elegantly (aside from the morphing) from what we’ve seen established between Laura and Scooter earlier (remember that big ole kiss he planted on her back in Chance of a Lifetime?).  Finally, and in my opinion most importantly, it’s realistic and relatable.  See, the basic gist of the storyline between Laura and The Second Scooter this week is that he’s clearly got a boner for her, and perhaps he doesn’t even know it or perhaps he does.  His wife certainly knows it because they have a very awkward dinner party where Richard is having a great time, being a fabulous host and talking about the wine he picked and yada yada yada.  But then, Mrs. Second Scooter goes into the kitchen with Richard and is like, “The Second Scooter is just a natural flirt; he doesn’t even know he’s doing it, and I’m sorry if it makes you uncomfortable.”  Well, at this point My Beloved Grammy started to tell me about how she had this exact same situation in one of her first jobs, where her married boss clearly had a big crush on her.  Nothing ever came out of it, no affair or anything, and he never even came onto her.  Rather, it was just obvious to her and to everyone around them that he liked her a lot and she said that occasionally made for awkward moments or uncomfortable dinner parties like the one on display here.

                I think My Beloved Grammy’s story speaks volumes about what makes KL so special and so superior to Dallas.  Dallas may have been fun to watch (for eight of its fourteen seasons), but I don’t think anyone would ever watch it and say, “That sure reminds me of the time I screwed a lot of people out of that offshore Asian oil deal!” or “That reminds me of the time my ex-husband died and then I woke up and he was in the shower and it had all been a dream!”  But people can watch a KL episode like this one and remember real situations that have happened to them.  Additionally, the interactions between the characters and the actors always rings true and authentic; in some ways the show achieves an almost documentary feeling, like we are peeking into their real, private lives.

                What other storylines are going on this week?  Ah, there’s actually an extremely significant scene between Abby and Gary.  What’s funny is that I believe this is Abby’s only scene in the episode, and when the episode ended I turned to My Beloved Grammy and said, “Was Abby even in that episode?” and we both had to think on it for a minute before she reminded me of this fabulous scene.  Make no mistake, it is fabulous, and the only reason we both sorta forgot about it for a moment is because it takes place early on in a rather dense and rich episode.  But this scene is actually tremendously significant for the episodes and the seasons to come, because while they are driving at night together, Abby finally just comes right out and starts talking about having an affair with Gary.  Oh my, it’s delicious, and the beautiful thing is that the two aren’t going to consummate their torrid affair until near the end of season three.  The writers are playing the long game again and I love them for it; they are slowly turning the heat up and letting the water start to get a little hotter, but it’ll be awhile until it finally starts to boil.  Perhaps in today’s attention deficit world where we all want instant gratification, this slow storytelling might annoy some (stupid) people, but I love it.  I love waiting and this scene just sets up wonderful things to come.

                I’d say Storyline A this week is Val and The Other Paul Rudd, so let’s return to that.  After his horrifying treatment of her in class, he gets rather stalker-ish with her in the library (there’s a truly creepy shot of Val walking through the shelves and him peering through a bookshelf at her early in the episode) and then goes up to her and tries to justify how he treated her.  He explains how he thinks her writing is great, or that she has the potential to be great, if she’d just hone her craft and let him work with her.  Does he mean any of this stuff?  I’m still not sure.  Later in the episode we realize he’s sorta just trying to get petty revenge on Gary for sleeping with his ugly looking wife earlier in the season, but I do wonder if his comments and compliments towards Valene are genuine.  Part of the joy of KL is these interesting character mysteries that the writers trust us to make our own minds up about.

                I think it’s easy to see that Valene is the most trusting and inherently good-hearted person on the show.  Even after the way Earl talked to her, she is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and work with him on her own writing.  She even seems to start trusting him and the things he tells her.  This is naïve, yes, but I am not mad at Val for being naïve; it’s part of her charm and a core value of her character.  I don’t think the idea of adultery even crosses her mind, and she certainly never thinks that Earl has ulterior motives because that’s simply not how she is programmed.  

                But we the audience get to see things that Val cannot see. For instance, one lovely night while her and Gary are getting ready to shag, the phone rings and it’s Earl on the line.  We see that Earl is simply sitting home alone in his apartment, playing a Public Domain Record really loud.  But what he tells Val is that he’s in a bar, contemplating having a drink, and that she should come and rescue him.  Val rushes up to do so, much to the annoyance of a blue-balled Gary, who winds up coming with her.  They find Earl in the bar he claimed to be at, contemplating some sort of brown liquor (is it bourbon?).  Gary gives a nice speech about how, “If you wanna have a drink, have a drink, see what I care.”  Personally, I’m on Team Gary right here.  Even though Gary is the worst A.A. sponsor ever for immediately sleeping with the guy’s wife and then abandoning him, Earl is a manipulative jerk.  He’s played brilliantly by The Other Paul Rudd and he has hilarious dialogue and delivers his lines beautifully, but as a character, yeah, he’s a real scumbag, so I support Gary in telling him to act like a man and take responsibility for his own actions.

                But it doesn’t stop there.  As we come closer to the end of the episode, Earl manages to lure Val to his apartment under the pretense that they will talk writing together.  He uses the excuse that they couldn’t possibly do this at her house because Gary would have a fit, and naïve trusting Val does indeed go to Earl’s apartment, where things start to get a little bit rapey.  Now this scene took me completely by surprise, much like the whole episode.  Was I drunk the last time I watched this or what?  I honestly just have no recollection of any of this shit occurring at all, so perhaps my first time through the series I started this episode, never finished it, and then forgot and simply proceeded to the next one?

                In any case, Earl locks the door to his apartment, trapping Val inside, and then starts to talk about how they should screw.  “Why not?” he argues.  After all, Gary and the ugly broad did it (and at some point in the episode we officially learn that the ugly broad left Earl and moved back to wherever she came from), so why can’t they do it?  Val says she’s gonna scream, so Earl turns on the record player and once again blasts that Public Domain Record.  “Go ahead, scream,” he says.  This is a tremendously interesting scene, because The Other Paul Rudd doesn’t play it totally rapey, necessarily.  He plays it more pathetic, if that makes sense.  When Laura got raped by that guy from that one episode of The X Files back in The Lie, that actor certainly played it rapey.  Earl seems more like a guy who’s trying to threaten rape but simply can’t go through with it.  In fact, he starts to cry like a little whiny bitch a few seconds later, and that brings to mind my only real problem with this scene (and this episode, for that matter).  The problem is that this seems like a real repeat of the “I’m gonna get rapey on you and then just start crying” scene we got from Jeff Cunningham back in A State of Mind.  I feel like maybe the writers should have reminded themselves that they just hit this beat a few weeks back and it might be better not to repeat it.

                Gary does come bursting in to save the day after about a thousand calls to Val go out unanswered, but by the time he arrives, he just finds Earl crying like a little whiny bitch.  Gary gets very stern and says, “I want you to stay away from my wife,” and Earl does do that because this is his last episode (sad).  The scene also gives a real feeling of closure to a storyline that’s been going on since right near the start of the season, because Gary explains how he can’t take back what he did with Earl’s wife but that he has to move on with his life.  Then him and Val exit and leave Earl to, I dunno,  kill himself or whatever.

                I’m really gonna miss Earl and his brilliant portrayal by The Other Paul Rudd.  This guy only shows up in three episodes of the series but he feels huge.  In my memories, he was in a ton of episodes and whenever I see The Other Paul Rudd in other shows (he’s in a Murder, She Wrote, for instance), I always remember him as Earl Trent.  It’s amazing to think he’s only in three episodes out of 344 and can make such an impression in my mind, but it goes to show what a tremendous actor this guy was, may he rest in peace.

                There’s a real feeling of catharsis and storylines finishing in all ways this week, because we also have Laura and The Second Scooter going out to dinner and finally addressing the big old adulterous elephant in the room.  The Second Scooter pretty much says, “I’d have to be crazy to have not thought about it,” but they conclude that to have an affair would risk both of their marriages and probably destroy their friendship, as well.  Laura gives one of her wonderfully mature speeches (delivered beautifully by Constance McCashin, by the way, who for some reason strikes me as extra adorable in this scene).  The two will have an affair during the third season, but I honestly can’t remember when or how, but that’s what this blog is all about it, is it not? 

                Perhaps an even better scene comes later when Richard and Laura are in bed.  Richard finally starts to try and explain why he had his affair with Abby, but Laura is just uninterested in hearing about it (or perhaps she just doesn’t want to dwell on the past).  I always love me some Richard and Laura in their private moments and this scene is played so well by both McCashin and The Plesh.  I love how The Plesh can be so vile for so many episodes in a row and then we feel for him and like him again just a few episodes later; that, my friends, is true acting!

                I really liked this episode, obviously, and the good news is that I like the next two even better.  We’re on an upward swing and I’m excited to be on it.  In addition to the great writing, the great acting, and a solid culmination of storylines by the end of the episode, I also saw little flashes of directorial panache from director Alexander Singer here.  For instance, an early scene where Richard comes to visit Laura at the real estate office and finds her and The Second Scooter chatting together was shot from the P.O.V. of Richard in a handheld tracking shot, and that really added a little element of style to the scene.  I also believe this episode was completely free of the toxic bores Kenny and Ginger, and that’s always a plus (the smartest writers on the show are the ones who just abandon those two characters and realize there is nothing interesting they can possibly do with them).  If I have a criticism of this episode, it’s that I would have liked more Sid and Karen.  They’re around, and we do get a lovely scene of Karen going to lunch with Val at the college, but I wanted a little more of them.  Thankfully the next two episodes will rectify this.

                Next up is our last crossover of a Dallas character into KL for quite awhile.  We won’t have a single one of these in the third season (although we will have two Brief Dallas Interludes during the third season, so get ready for those), and then we’ll just have two more in the fourth season, and then the crossovers stop altogether.  Get ready for another visit from the inimitable J.R. Ewing in our next episode up for discussion, the penultimate show of season two, Designs.