Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Brief DALLAS Interlude Part 9 of 12: FIVE DOLLARS A BARREL


A BRIEF DALLAS INTERLUDE: PART 9 OF 12

 

Episode Title: Five Dollars A Barrel

Season 05, Episode 09

Written by Leonard Katzman

Directed by Irving J. Moore

Original Airdate: Friday, December 4th, 1981

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.com): Cliff gains the upperhand by acquiring the notes on J.R.'s loans; J.R. tries to get Gary and Ray's Ewing Oil voting shares; Pam has a short visit home to Southfork.

 

                Welcome back to Texas for A Brief Dallas Interlude: Part 9.  This writeup may not be quite as brisk as the one on The Split, but it’ll probably come close.  As was the case with No More Mister Nice Guy: Part Two back in the 1980-1981 season, what we have here is an episode where Gary shows up right away, has some lines, seems important, but then vanishes completely for the second half of the episode and we just have to watch the usual Dallas shenanigans.

                This Dallas episode actually begins right away with Gary.  A fancy, sexy car is driving up to Southfork, the door pops open, and out pops Gary.  Ah, what a glorious entrance, and after watching so much of The Split without him and wondering when he was gonna show up, it was nice to see this one where he just pops up right away.  Miss Ellie comes trailing out of the car after him, positively beaming with pride, looking at her most favorite son with such love.  At this point I must remind the reader that Miss Ellie never once drags her old ass out to California to crossover to KL and visit Gary even though on Dallas she could never shut the hell up about how much she loved him and missed him.  I guess she’s just too busy playing checkers and being generally uninteresting to get on a plane and travel out to see him.

                Anyway, Gary encounters J.R. by the Southfork pool (a pool that just recently had Kristin’s corpse floating in it but which the characters of Southfork have zero problem swimming in for the rest of the series’ run; just sayin’) and the two have a dialogue.  I got a boner during this scene, I have to say, and it fooled me into thinking Gary was gonna be way more important in this episode than he winds up being.  Basically, J.R. wants those voting shares from Gary (you’ll recall that Gary gets ten voting shares in Ewing Oil from Jock, as was established in The Split).  J.R. gives a nice speech about how Gary should go back to his “pretty little wife and little business back in California."  Gary is sorta sassy back with J.R., basically not taking any crap from him, and I liked that, but mostly what I liked was the reference to Val and to his business, Knots Landing Motors.  Again, I remind you that Dallas is #1 this season and KL is #43, but this doesn’t feel like a parent series doing a tacky advertisement for its spinoff series (the way it felt back in No More Mister Nice Guy: Part Two when J.R. was like, “How’s that sexy Karen doing over in Knots Landing?” or whatever he said while lying in his hospital bed); this just feels like storytelling continuity being maintained.

                We get scenes of Dallas storylines that, for the purpose of this blog, I do not care about, but we get one more pretty great scene featuring Gary.  In this case, the whole family has gathered around in the living room for cocktail hour.  Gary comes walking in with Lucy at his side.  This I liked a lot, because they both look so happy to be together (and I remind you that we only see Lucy on KL once, in a very early episode, Home is for Healing).  Also, Gary has a little sexy announcement to make, and that’s the fact that he’s given his voting shares to Lucy omigod.  The music swells, we get lots of close-ups of people’s faces, and then we see Gary looking smug and happy and we go to a commercial.

                And that’s it for Gary.  The rest of the episode plays out like a regular Dallas episode, and honestly I was fidgety and bored.  Doing these Interludes has only made Dallas drop in my estimation when stacked against the so-much-more-interesting-and-so-much-more-well-done KL.  Whenever we dip our toes back into Dallas for an Interlude, it just feels like so much of the same thing and nothing too terribly interesting.  J.R. is always up to some dirty deed, there’s always the continuing battle for Ewing Oil, there’s always lots of people meeting in restaurants and throwing vague threats at each other, J.R. and Cliff Barnes are always sworn enemies, Miss Ellie is always boring, and yada yada yada.  I’d just much rather be over with my friends at Seaview Circle, so I’m glad we don’t have another Interlude for some time.

                Also, I must note that these Interludes just don’t squeeze tidily in with the KL proceedings.  The previous Interludes felt like they squeezed in pretty well.  I particularly enjoyed watching A Family Matter of KL and then immediately watching the Dallas episode End of the Road: Part Two; I actually thought that played very well.  These do not, however, mostly because this episode starts with Gary arriving at Southfork, as if he got off the phone in The Split and then immediately flew out to Texas.  How, then, do you account for him hanging around all through Moving In?  As an anal person who takes all of this much too seriously, I must do a personal retcon where I assume that, in The Split, Gary got off the phone and immediately made plane reservations, but they weren’t for a few days or whatever, so he had time to be in Moving In and deal with Lilimae and all that stuff, and then he flew to Texas for Five Dollars a Barrel.

                Last of all, I haven’t noted any Transmorphers in awhile, but I have two to note here, although I’ve already discussed them previously and, even more interestingly, these two Transmorphers were in fact married to each other at the time of this airing.  First off, we have Priscilla Pointer as Rebecca Wentworth, Pam and Cliff Barnes’ real biological mother.  You’ll recall she was very creepy in an early KL entitled The Constant Companion in which she was, like, harassing Ginger and confessed to watching Ginger and her son make love, ick.  Secondly, we have that doctor from The Exorcist.  This guy’s name is Robert Symonds and he has a very unique voice and whenever I see him, I have to close my eyes and be like, “What do I know this guy from?”  After a few seconds, I usually remember that he was in The Exorcist and tried to help out the possessed Linda Blair.  Well, he’s in this episode and he was also in The Split playing some boring guy making a boring business deal with Ray (really, most of Dallas is just people making boring business deals), but he also helped out Michael when we realized Michael had A.D.D. back in Scapegoats (when was the last time we heard mention of Michael’s A.D.D., by the way?).  So, anyway, there you go.

                That’s all I have to say for this one, and we don't have another Brief Dallas Interlude to deal with until next season, when we actually get a Dallas (Jock's Will) followed immediately, on the same night in fact, by a KL (New Beginnings).  Until then, though, it's strictly Seaview Circle for the rest of the season, so tune in on Sunday for a return to the glorious California world of KL with the episode entitled The Surprise.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 035 of 344: MOVING IN


Episode Title: Moving In

Season 03, Episode 04

Episode 035 of 344

Written by Ann Marcus


Original Airdate: Thursday, December 3rd, 1981

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Abby is upset and trying to find her children. She answers the phone and it's Olivia, but the line goes dead. After that, she doesn't want to leave the house in case Olivia calls again. But this doesn't stop her from dating; she just has them sleep over. Val and Gary see a newscast about Lilimae helping to stop a thief. The news says Lilimae is homeless, so Val invites her to their house. The next day, Lilimae is arrested for shoplifting, but the judge says he'll only give her six months probation if Val and Gary assume responsibility for her. Val invites her to stay with them.

 


                Okay, so we’re back for another KL episode before we return to A Brief Dallas Interlude: Part 9.  Forgive all this confusing and annoying hopping around; I promise that after our next Interlude we’ll stick firmly to KL for the entire rest of the season.  However, this awkward jumping around actually gives me some relevant talking points, particularly about how these episodes do not flow well when placed together.  I will probably further explore this in my next write up, on the Dallas ep Five Dollars a Barrel.

                Suffice it to say that what’s bugging me is this: In the Dallas Interlude The Split, we saw Gary and Val in their kitchen, Gary hung up the phone and boldly announced how he had to head to Texas.  This was definitely said with an aura of “I must be on my way as soon as possible!”  However, here he is in California doing his thing, not even mentioning an impending trip to Texas or nothing.  Ugh, it bugs me.  I know that nobody in the world could possibly care and that nobody else in the world would even bother to be so anal and include all these Dallas eps, but I like it that way, damn it!  If I do something, I do it in full!  If I ever decide to watch all fourteen seasons of Dallas again (which is very, very, very, very doubtful), you can bet your ass I would include the nine eps of KL that feature Dallas characters crossing over.  In this case, it is just obvious that the writers didn’t really trade notes, and thus we have this weird feeling of jumping from episode to episode.  But in any case, let’s forego any discussion of Dallas/KL crossovers and just focus on the KL episode in front of us at this moment, Moving In.  What’s in store for us this week?  Eh, let’s just say it’s an underwhelming hour after the tour-de-force of the last few weeks.

                Everything about this episode is just sorta blah.  Make no mistake, I’m not gonna trash this episode like I have, say, Land of the Free, Kristin, Moments of Truth, or the much dreaded unnatural abortion known as Man of the Hour.  Oh far from it; this episode is not bad at all, but it’s just sorta there.  Again, this might just be the result of coming directly after the string of episodes (including the last couple of season two) that we’ve just witnessed.  My God, were those epic, but now we’re just sorta having this regular, boring, not-all-that-interesting episode.  At the same time, this is actually a pretty important episode in the grand scheme of things, so it certainly shouldn’t be skipped. 

                Ladies and gentlemen, this is when the wonderful and amazing Julie Harris truly becomes a part of KL.  True, she stopped by for one episode during season one way back in Will the Circle be Unbroken?  But that episode definitely felt like a one-off, as a lot of episodes during season one did, in that Lilimae showed up, there was conflict with her and Val, it was somewhat resolved, and then she left.  However, starting with this episode, she’s going to be with us until late in 1987, when she finally leaves the show at the head of season nine.  She spends this season as a “Special Guest Star” in the credits, but then she graduates into the glorious scrolling squares for the fourth season. 

                We begin with Lilimae, if I’m not mistaken.  My notes are actually bizarrely scarce for this episode (maybe I was getting tired from so much television in one sitting; or perhaps I was just emotionally numb from dealing with Sid’s death), so I can’t quite remember exactly how this starts, but I think it begins with Lilimae in a less-than-amazing hotel.  It’s not exactly The Hilton, but it gets the job done.  We get the sense immediately that she is not exactly doing great, as she appears to be devising a clever scheme to sneak out of the hotel without losing her possessions.  Actually, this scheme is pretty brilliant, in my opinion.  See, she takes all of her most valued belongings, puts them in a garbage sack, and allows the garbage guy to take them away.  Then she tries to sneak out the front with her luggage, where she is stopped by the hotel manager or whatever.  He’s like, “I’ll just keep your luggage until you’ve paid me what I’m owed,” but then of course Lilimae walks out the door, digs through the trash, and finds her belongings, which she stashes in a shopping cart.  Yes, Lilimae has become the dreaded shopping cart lady.  Oh, how very sad for her.

                In a not-very-good scene early in the episode, Lilimae foils a purse snatcher.  This scene is just kinda awkwardly filmed and comes off kinda goofy just because of staging and blocking and such.  Basically, she witnesses the guy snatch a purse from some lady, and she’s like, “Stop!  Theif!  Stop that man!”  Then cops sorta show up out of nowhere and start chasing the dude, but he is too fast for them, the cops have eaten too many donuts, they're tired from shooting a bunch of completely innocent black people in the back five or six times, and it seems he’s gonna get away.  Then Lilimae (all set to a kinda cool harmonica theme that sorta represents her theme, I suppose), pulls her valuables out of her cart and flings it forward real fast.  The thief trips over her cart and goes down hard, and then Lilimae has a pretty great and funny line where she yells at him, “You should be skinned alive!”  Julie Harris has a fabulous little accent and an amusing way of talking that always makes me laugh, so the scene is not worthless cuz it has that great line.

                Really, this incident is just a plot point to accelerate the story, and then it actually intersects rather tidily with a teeny tiny second storyline going on.  See, Gary is going to be on television omigod!  He’s going to be on a TV commercial promoting Knots Landing Motors and using the word “Friends” a lot.  He’s very nervous about his big acting debut, but then the entire cul-de-sac (including my three absolute favorite characters Kenny, Ginger, and that adorable baby with that great name, Erin Molly) gathers at the Ewing home to witness this incredible TV commercial.

                I actually liked this part quite a bit and wanna give a shout-out to Ted Shackelford for it.  Sometimes I think I don’t give him enough praise, don’t quite suck his dick enough since I’m too busy sucking Michele Lee’s dick.  I once read a review of KL where someone said he is “appropriately bland,” and perhaps there’s some truth in that, but that’s not an insult.  Gary has a certain everyman quality to him that Shack pulls off very well.  Maybe I don’t praise him enough because I just find him comfortable to watch, but I really appreciate him and the nuances he brings to Gary’s character and I love watching him grow over the course of the fourteen years.  In this instance, I found myself reflecting that it actually takes a rather good actor to play a bad actor, because when we see Gary in the TV commercial, he’s rather fumbling and looks terribly uncomfortable.  It’s all very good and rang true, and I found myself thinking of the weird complexities of an actor being told, “Your character is acting in a commercial but he’s uncomfortable and he’s not a very good actor, okay?  Action!”  It gives you kinda a headache when you think about it, but my basic point is that Shack is good in this scene.

                After the commercial, though, there’s a news stories about “Bag Lady Bags Bad Guy” or something equally stupid like that.  Then we see Lilimae on the news talking about how she thwarted the evil purse snatcher, and Valene gets very dramatic and says, “Mama?” and then the music POUNDS really loud and we go to a commercial.

                I feel there’s an awkward edit when we get back from commercial, because suddenly Lilimae is just there in Gary and Valene’s house.  It’s not even that, not quite; instead Val and Gary are talking about Lilimae and she just sorta walks in the room and is like, “Thanks for letting me stay here!”  How did they find her?  How did they convince her to come stay with them?  I dunno, and I find myself wondering if it was filmed and then scrapped for time or what, but in any case, here she is, and it’s helpful to provide us some exposition on what she’s been up to for the last thirty episodes or so.  I’m taking a peek at my notes here to see how things line up, and it appears that Will the Circle Be Unbroken? aired January 25th of 1980, while this episode is airing December 3rd of 1981.  So it’s actually been nearly two years since we last saw her!  FYI, at this point I should probably mention that I’ll just ignore that weird way that network TV shows seem to never have a summer (as in Sid’s car goes off a cliff March 26th of 1981 and then he gets pulled out of that car November 12th of 1981), because we’ll all just get a big headache if we start to talk too much about that.  Anyway, we learn that for the last 23 months or so, Lilimae has been in California but never made contact with Gary or Val.  She’s been trying to “make it” in the music business, much as she was trying to when we first met her in season one.

                Maybe I’ll just interrupt the flow of the episode here to say one thing I feel is worth noting.  Over the course of Julie Harris’ time on the series, we are gonna see some truly marvelous acting from her, acting that puts all other actors to shame, really incredible stuff.  I’m thinking immediately of her complex and fascinating relationship with Chip Roberts, of her INCREDIBLE scene with Alec Baldwin early in the 7th season where they discuss child abuse and the kind of father he had, shit like that.  I mean, there are scenes coming up in the series where it’s like, “Just give Julie Harris an Emmy to put next to all of her Tonys!”  But at this exact point in the series (and that’s what I’m trying to do, really follow the trail of the series and focus on each episode as its own special little snowflake) it seems like she’s mostly funny.  She has funny lines, she does funny things, she’s cute and silly, but I don’t know when we really start to see all the intricacies and complexities of Lilimae’s character.  During the course of this episode, she is mostly sorta funny, almost comedic relief after all the drama we’ve been witnessing.  So, on one hand I’m watching her and thinking, “Oh, great!  Now she’s a part of the show and I am so happy to have her around!”  But thinking of this as only her second episode after one that was almost two years ago, she’s still not given a ton of material to work with, if that makes sense. 

                Later in the episode, Lilimae...tries to steal a dress?  Why does she do this?  I have some problems with this only because of my foresight for the character of Lilimae we get to know in the future.  Maybe she wasn’t a great mother to Val, maybe she left her out in the cold when Val came with baby Lucy and J.R.’s good old boys were after her, maybe she’s hopeless as a musical star, but I don’t know that she’s a straight up thief.  Now, for the rest of the episode (this is that sorta comedic relief I was just discussing), Lilimae keeps repeating over and over again, “I was just trying to see in the natural light.”  Well, I don’t believe her and I don’t think we’re meant to; I think the writers are saying that, yes, she was trying to steal.  In any case, she comes outside of some department store and this random white lady comes out and is like, “I’m a detective and you just stole, you old cunt,” and then hauls her off to jail.  This pretty much fuels the rest of the episode, in which Richard (ah, how I love The Plesh) is hired on as her lawyer and has to represent her.  We get scenes of them discussing why she did this and what their argument is gonna be and so on and so forth.  Richard says how she should plead guilty because this is her first offense and at first, Lilimae is horrified (“I was just trying to see it in the natural light!”).

                Anyway, Lilimae does finally agree, so they appear before a judge to plead their case.  I’ve been slacking in this department lately, so let’s look up what else this judge might have appeared in.  Hmmm, let’s see here….well, this guy’s name is Peter Hobbs (pictured below), and actually I’ve seen quite a bit of the movies he’s been in.  Most notably he’s in the early Woody Allen classic Sleeper, which I love, but who does he play?  I’m thinking back and I think he might be the guy near the start who’s, like, a doctor when Woody comes out of his coma or whatever and tells him how tobacco is one of the healthiest things in the world.  He’s also listed for 9 to 5 and, get this, it appears we’ll see him two more times on KL, but playing a different character!  It says here on IMDb that he’ll be back for Secrets Cry Aloud in 1983 and Second Chances in 1984, playing Ed Marcus.  I’ll keep my eyes peeled when we eventually get to those eps.

                This judge is kinda a judgey asshole.  I guess that “judgey” is not exactly a big criticism since, you know, he’s a judge, but God damn does he make Val feel like a horrible daughter.  He gives this very self righteous speech about how old people are turned away by young people and left to rot in nursing homes or whatever.  I’m sure at this point, Val is wishing she had gotten a judge that was under the age of 90.  In any case, he releases Lilimae and makes her pay a small fee and takes a piss in Val’s face and then everyone goes home.

                Val is not happy when she gets home and gives Gary a nice speech/recap about all the bad things Lilimae did as a child, but then Lilimae materializes and is like, “I’d better be going.”  She walks out onto the street and Val chases after her and pleads that she doesn’t have to leave, that she would be better off staying with them and not going to her aunt whatever her name is.  After a little talk and some pretty good acting from both ladies, Lilimae agrees to stay at Val and Gary’s for awhile.

                Now, in my memory the episode ended here, with the camera going up into an overhead view of the cul-de-sac as Val and Lilimae walk back.  Well, that part happened just like in my memory, but there’s actually one extra little scene at the very end of the episode that’s a little offputting and odd.  Gary and Val wake up to find that Lilimae has cooked them a huge and artery clogging Southern breakfast, and she’s all chipper and nice and is saying how she’s gonna fatten Gary right up.  The tone seems very friendly, but then Val wanders off into the other room and sits on the stairs and looks rather upset and we just sorta end on her freeze frame upset face.  Hmmm, what to make of this?  It’s a rather cryptic ending that seems to be saying that Lilimae moving in with Gary and Val is a bad thing.  However, unless I’m remembering very poorly, nothing bad happens from Lilimae moving in.  In fact, her and Valene have a relationship that blossoms rather beautifully over the course of the next few seasons and they really bond in a new way.  Perhaps the writers didn’t know what they were gonna do with the character?  Maybe they were sitting around planning for this to be a really bad development?  Again, I don’t know, as I wasn’t alive and I wasn’t there and I don’t know behind the scenes details, but that seems possible. 

                Before I wrap up this episode, I should discuss a few of the small little details going on with the other characters.  Really, this episode is the Gary, Val, and Lilimae hour and you get the sense that the other characters are just making cameos, but there are some good things that I noted.  For instance, Abby’s quest for her kids continues.  Honestly, I feel like I’m not giving this due credit as it’s been going on since the end of season two and has been this little continuing storyline for the last few episodes, but I’ve been so caught up and distracted with the other stories.  In this episode, though, we have a quick scene of Abs getting a random phone call and running out of the shower to answer.  It’s Olivia on the other line, but just as she starts to say something, boom, she gets cut off. 

                Later on, Abs visits Jeff’s mother again, and I noted with a smile that it’s the same actress from the last time we saw this character (Carol Bruce), nice continuity being maintained there.  Later, Abby is sitting around her house obsessing about when the phone is gonna ring when this hilarious random white guy shows up and is like, “Put on something sexy, cuz I’m taking you out.”  This actor’s name is James O’Sullivan (pictured below), and he has an incredible resume as he also appeared in an episode of the KL ripoff Melrose Place as well as the absolutely hilarious Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (my favorite of the Children of the Corn movies).  I mostly peeked at his IMDb to make sure he hadn’t been in any previous eps, and no, he hasn’t, but I don’t mind.  Him popping in like this just helps establish that Abby is, shall we say, a busy woman.  Indeed, the two do shag, which I appreciated, and we see them lying in bed after the shagging and then Abby kicks him out, which I also appreciated.  While escorting him back to his car, the phone rings and she flips out and goes running for it, but she misses the phone call (I did wonder if perhaps, in this case, it could just be some telemarketer or something, but whatever, I still understand Abby’s concerns). 

                Aside from the Abs storyline (which, if I remember correctly, sorta resolves itself in our next episode, The Surprise), we also get a little Karen scene that I appreciated, as she is shown packing up Sid’s stuff for the good will.  There’s a pretty great little moment where she holds one of his old outfits, like one of his things for wearing while he worked on cars, and kinda strokes it and holds it up close, but then she puts it back in the box and says to herself, “Good will.”  I think little moments like these are often the best thing, because even though this episode isn’t about Karen dealing with Sid’s loss, but rather about Val and Lilimae, this quick scene just establishes that Karen is still grieving and that, unlike other shows, they’re not just gonna kill the character and then immediately forget about him.  Instead, it’s gonna be a consistent running theme for the course of the season (and probably a few more seasons, as well; I’m gonna try to pay attention to see when Sid stops being mentioned regularly).
 
                  So anyway, what did I think of Moving In?  Well, not much, actually.  I feel like I may have been dismissive, and I don’t mean to be, but this episode was just, you know, okay.  It existed, it didn’t offend me at all, it was perfectly fine, but it’s also just sorta there.  Again, this functions more as welcoming Julie Harris to the show than as its own super special episode.  I appreciate this episode because it means we have until 1987 to soak up as much Lilimae and as much Julie Harris amazingness as we possibly can, but as its own 48 minutes of television, it didn’t feel particularly special.

                Indeed, this episode appeared to do nothing for My Beloved Grammy, and she said she didn’t like it that much.  I also get the feeling that, at this moment, she doesn’t like Lilimae much, so I’m gonna pay attention to see if she starts to warm up to the character more.  Again, this is just the second time we’ve seen her and we have something like 165 episodes with her, so we’re gonna get to know her a hell of a lot better as time goes on. 
 
                  Anyway, our next KL is called The Surprise, but before we do that, we’re stopping off in Texas again one more time for this season with A Brief Dallas Interlude Part 9: Five Dollars a Barrel.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Brief DALLAS Interlude Part 8 of 12: THE SPLIT


A BRIEF DALLAS INTERLUDE: PART 8 OF 12

 

Episode Title: The Split

Season 05, Episode 08

Written by Leonard Katzman

Directed by Leonard Katzman

Original Airdate: Friday, November 27th, 1981

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.com): Jock sends an announcement regarding Ewing Oil from South America; J.R. confronts Dusty; Donna awaits news on her book.

 

                Well, ladies and gentlemen, this particular Brief Dallas Interlude may turn out to be one of the shortest ever.  To give some context, I had no recollection of these two episodes of Dallas, at least not as episodes featuring Gary and/or Val.  Pretty much all the other episodes where they stop in for a crossover visit I could remember just by thinking back over the run of Dallas, but when I saw these two episodes listed as featuring one or both of them, I was like, “Now what damn episodes are those?”  In truth, the entire run of Dallas kinda blurs together for me now, and it’s hard for me to remember individual episodes the way I can remember individuals of KL.  But in any case, I did my research, I lined up where these Dallas eps aired in conjunction with KL, and I squeezed them in on my last trip to My Beloved Grammy’s house.

                The reason this will be such a tiny essay is because it barely counts as an Interlude.  I felt fidgety most of this episode as I watched the Dallas shenanigans unfold before me, and I even started to wonder if maybe my research had been flawed, if maybe we’d sit through this entire episode without seeing either Gary or Val.  But they both do indeed show up; it just happens to be for about, oh, maybe 48 seconds out of a 48 minute episode.

                To put a little context into what’s going on over on Dallas at this point, I suppose it’s important to note that Jock Ewing is not yet dead on the show.  The actor Jim Davis is dead in real life, but at this point, his character is in South America doing stuff.  I believe he is pronounced missing about halfway through this season and is finally OFFICIALLY announced dead during the next season, the 1982-1983 season.  So in this episode, a lot of the plot centers around a letter Jock sends from South America about how he wants to divide up Ewing Oil voting shares in a certain way.  Miss Ellie reads out these voting shares to the family and we learn who gets what.  Gary gets a quick mention with, “Garrison Arthur Ewing gets ten voting shares.”  Okay, you all following along?  Then at a certain point in the episode, Miss Ellie says how she has to call Gary in California.

                Well, that’s when we get the 48 second scene.  We start with an exterior shot of Gary and Val’s house on Seaview Circle, and that was good, and then we go inside as Gary is hanging up the phone.  We’re in the familiar location of Gary and Val’s kitchen and Val is chopping vegetables or something.  Actually, this was some surprise because I knew Gary would be in this episode but I forgot that Val was, as well.  Anyway, he announces he’s gonna go to Texas and Val says, “Oh Gary, you know what happens every time you go to Texas!”  Gary does a callback to our last Interlude by saying, “We went for Lucy’s wedding and that turned out fine.”  That’s basically the whole scene.  Again, not terribly exciting.  Still, even if it’s only for a few seconds, Gary and Val do show up in this Dallas episode and so, as a stickler for completionism, I felt compelled to include this episode.

                However, how will things flow jumping from this Dallas and back into KL with Moving In, only to then immediately jump into another Dallas with Five Dollars a Barrel?  Will a perfect continuity be maintained?  I guess we’ll have to find out in our next discussion.  Talk to you then.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 034 of 344: AFTERMATH


Episode Title: Aftermath

Season 03, Episode 03

Episode 034 of 344


Directed by Kim Friedman

Original Airdate: Thursday, November 26th, 1981

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): The Fairgates are in turmoil. Michael is terrified that Karen will die, and constantly checks up on her. Eric cries in Sid's antique car, and then is very upset when Karen sells it. Diana's upset that Karen is acting like a robot and won't talk about her feelings. Karen is putting on a strong front, but is angry with everyone. She's angry with Sid for dying on them. At work, she fires Abby and goes off on Gary and starts slapping and hitting him. Val confronts Karen and tells her she's hurting the people she loves. Karen says she is terrified without Sid, and scared that if she lets herself feel she'll just blow. Ginger has her baby- a girl named Erin Molly. Karen visits them at the hospital, and they ask her to be the godmother. As Karen holds the baby, she breaks down weeping.


                You know how Francis Ford Coppola says something to the effect of how The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II are two halves of one complete story and The Godfather: Part III is the epilogue to that story?  Well, I kinda feel like that might be the case here with our KL episode up for discussion this week, Aftermath.  As I said in last week’s essay, I felt like Squeezeplay, The Vigil, and Critical Condition all formed together as this trilogy of greatness; I would say those three episodes are the “one complete story” while Aftermath is the “epilogue” to that story.  Of course, this is just my stupid opinion and, as I get further into season three, I may prove myself to be completely wrong (as I, of course, do recall that pretty much the entire season is about Karen dealing with the loss of Sid), but that’s the whole point of Knots Blogging, is it not? 

                Before I get started, just to give you some sense of my viewing experience, I’ll say that this was one of those episodes where the actual viewing quality and sound quality left a bit to be desired.  Again, I obtained twelve out of fourteen seasons via bootlegs recorded off the SoapNet, so it’s not like any of the episodes are exactly reference quality, but some are better than others, and this one definitely falls under the “others” category.  For one thing, most of the opening was missing, we jump from the “Knots Landing” title and suddenly we’re up to “John Pleshette” in the opening credits.  Oh well, that’s all that’s actually missing from the ep, so I’ll live with that.  But for most of the episode, there’s a static sorta “snow” right in the middle of the screen, covering the actors’ faces, and that was annoying.  I apologized to My Beloved Grammy for the quality of the print, and she of course is all positivity, which I love about her, and was like, “Well, at least we actually get to see the episodes.”  She has the right attitude, and as if by some sort of divine intervention, as soon as she said that out loud, that annoying static just went away completely and the episode’s picture cleared up, so yay! 

                Anyway, after the thirty second preview and the opening credits, we jump right to Sid’s funeral.  The priest is reading a really long passage from some famous book about a guy named God or Jesus or something, I’m not entirely sure what the plot of that book is about, but anyway, it’s a nice speech and he uses a lot of big words and stuff.  It’s not really the content of what he’s saying that’s important, but rather how we get to have shots of all the different characters standing around and watching Sid be buried, most notably Karen.

                Now, I’m gonna note something that other KL fans have noted in the past, and yes, I’ll admit that it bugs me slightly, but I recognize why it has to be so.  People wonder where Sid’s wayward daughter, Annie Fairgate, is during this funeral.  After all, he was her father, too, but she appears to have been Chuck Cunninghammed out of the show at this point.  Now, using real world logic, we all know that Karen Allen was in the classic Spielberg movie Raiders of the Lost Ark right around this time (that came out June 12th of 1981 and this episode is airing November 26th of 1981), so clearly she had bigger and, well, I’m not gonna say better, things to do (just to be clear, I love Raiders of the Lost Ark and think it’s one of the greatest movies ever made, but I just have a hard time with saying anything in this universe is “Better” than KL).  Now, if the KL folks had called Karen Allen up just five or ten years later for an appearance, I’m sure she would have showed up, as Raiders would prove to the peak of her acting career (and the disgusting sewage-infested bottom-dwelling depths of her career would arrive in 2008 in one of the very worst movies ever made, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull).  Anyway, at this point Karen Allen was a star on the rise, so I’m sure that’s the real life reason for why she’s nowhere to be seen at this funeral, although it’s hard to swallow from a storytelling standpoint.

                I’m probably the only person that would ever mention this, but I’m also bothered that Sid’s ex-wife isn’t here, the one we saw back in Civil Wives and played with a lovely campiness by Claudette Nevins.  I’m sure she couldn’t have been too expensive to ask back, but I suppose the writers didn’t remember her or didn’t care.  I know some would be like, “Why would the ex-wife show up for someone’s funeral?”  Well, I just feel like Sid would be the kind of guy that everyone would show up for his funeral.  I knew a mechanic who was actually very similar to Sid in all the positive ways, and when he died, there were hundreds and hundreds of people at his funeral.  People just turn up when truly good and decent people die.

                In any case, this is about a two minute scene and I’m clearly focusing way too much on it.  After the funeral, we get something of a montage to designate the passage of time.  Again, damn if KL doesn’t often feel truly cinematic.  Most other nighttime soaps would just tell us time has passed in dialogue, you know?  We might get some subtitle saying, “Five weeks later,” or we might have a character be like, “I can’t believe it’s been five weeks since Sid died!”  KL does it with style, like a movie, though, and we get lots of dissolves and little scenes between characters to show that time is passing.  We also get some heavy handed symbolism (I’m saying this with love) when Karen is sitting at a table with a huge and gawdy white elephant statue right next to her.  Diana comes up to her and is like, “Mother, I’m a huge bitch and I wanna talk about something,” but then she just walks away and is like, “Never mind.”  You see how the white elephant symbolizes the white elephant in the room that is Sid’s death?  You see what they did there?  You see how clever the writers are?  Eh?  Eh?  Anyone?  No?  Okay, moving on.

                This episode has a running theme about how Karen is refusing to truly acknowledge Sid’s death, that she’s trying to sorta just power through it and completely ignore the grieving process, acting like everything is fine and they’ll get over this.  This is not at all inaccurate to the time, at least according to My Beloved Grammy, who had lost a son early in 1980 and said that, indeed, there were just not the same kinds of support for losing loved ones that there are now.  No grief support, no meetings for other people to gather together and talk about their feelings with eachother, nope, you were just supposed to get through it and move on, MAN UP and DEAL WITH IT, DAMMIT!  Again, I love watching these with My Beloved Grammy because she is able to put things into the context of the time.  I was not alive in 1981 so I have no way of remembering what things were like back in that day and age.

                We move on to Knots Landing Motors, and I’m starting to pay stricter attention because I know that, at some point, Knots Landing Motors is going to recede into the background and then eventually disappear altogether, but I just can’t remember when.  I actually recently listened to a fascinating interview with Donna Mills (she really seemed lovely and very humble and kind) where she said she suggested to the writers ditching the garage as a setting for the show.  She said something to the effect of, “People don’t want to come home from work and look at a show taking place in a garage.”  I honestly didn’t give it much thought; I just figured when a show has 14 seasons and 344 episodes, you’ll get settled into a place for awhile and then eventually that place goes away (like there’s a period of time later in the series, after Sumner has become a well established veteran character, where every episode seems to take place in a high-rise and those two funny white guys, Bob and Mort, are always hanging around).  But anyway, the garage is in a period of transition right now without Sid to run it, and now Karen has to take over and be the boss.  We start with her giving a little speech to all the gathered workers about how nobody is going to be out of a job; she will keep all of them gainfully employed. 

                Next up, we have a pretty radical scene between her and Abs.  I like this part a lot because Karen gets super direct, which gives me a boner, and tells Abs how she will not be working with her.  “Why?  Because I doctored the books?  Everybody doctors books, Karen!” says Abs.  A sound logic, but it doesn’t fly with Karen, who says, “No, because I don’t trust you, and I don’t think I ever will trust you.”  I love it when Karen just tells it like it is, and she often manages to do it in a way that is totally 100% direct but not rude at all; she’s just saying, “This is the way I feel, this is the way it is.” 

                I don’t remember if this scene happens right after the Karen/Abs scene, but in any case, I’m gonna skip ahead to it, because I loved this scene.  Anyone who has ever experienced a death and then had to go through their loved ones’ belongings will relate to this scene, I think, because Karen has to go into Sid’s office for something or other, some file she needs to fetch for someone.  She enters the office, and you get that sense that nobody’s been in there for five weeks, and everything is still untouched.  The camera glides over pictures of Karen and Sid together and a really cute one of a younger Michael, the music plays, and Karen has to walk through the office and go into the closet and look at Sid’s old suits and stuff.  She runs her hand over one of the suits and we get some more fabulous acting from Michele.  I believe this is the last scene before we go to a commercial, and I really enjoyed the hell out of it.  I appreciated the realism of this small situation, small but very true and very relatable. 

                I’m watching this episode and everything is going along nice and smooth, and I’m like, “Jeez, I hardly even remember this episode existing and it’s pretty damn great!”  Sadly, it can’t stay 100% good because, you guessed it, we shift our focus over to everyone’s favorite sleeping pills, Kenny and Ginger.  Ginger’s really fake pillow that she shoved under her dress is getting bigger and bigger by the minute.  We’re all just waiting for her to finally spew this Hell-spawn into the world already, not because we’re in suspense about the pregnancy but just because we want this boring storyline OVER.  How long has she been pregnant?  Seven years?!  Okay, I know it’s not really been that long.  In fact, as I’m writing, I’m peeking through my notes and it looks like the first episode where I noted “Ginger’s pregnancy” was #22, A Family Matter, but I feel like she found out she was pregnant a few episodes before that.   Anybody remember?  Well, in any case, I know logically that the pregnancy storyline has not been going on that long but it feels like forever just because of how little I care.

                I feel like Houghton and Lankford must have been pissed about not being involved at all in the Sid-dying episodes (aside from one really brief but rather painful scene in Critical Condition) and demanded a bigger part in the next show, because my God is there entirely too much of them in this episode.  We witness pretty much all the details of a birth, and it feels like it takes nine months to watch.  First they are lying around their house, being boring, and then she says how she’s starting to have contractions or convulsions or whatever that thing is that women get when they’re gonna have a baby (babies are gross).  Then we watch them leisurely make their way to the car and drive off, but they comically forget their overnight bag and then have to drive back to get it, oh how funny, why aren’t you laughing?

                When they get to the damn hospital, I feel like the entire KL budget just got slashed and they had to refurbish an existing bedroom set or something, because the room looks very cheap and very small.  I also don’t think they hired an actor to play Ginger’s doctor; I think they hired a drunken homeless man.   Seriously, this guy comes lumbering into the room looking like Jack Nicholson after a night at Polanski’s mansion and I spit my Diet Coke out on the carpet because I couldn’t believe how haggard and unkempt this fucker looked.  Just to be thorough and at least attempt to do some research (since I know I’ve been slacking in the actors department lately and I haven’t even bothered to look for Transmorphers in a few episodes), I did look him up and the actor’s name is Howard Witt.  He looks like one of those guys who’s just in lots of shows, I guess, so presumably he’s not actually a homeless man (presumably).  But anyway, he comes walking in looking rather frightening and the scene plays out as we expect, with a lot of “Push, Ginger, push.”  It’s all rather dreadful, and what makes it worse is that we keep cutting away to interesting characters like Karen, and then just as we’re getting nice and comfortable, BOOM, we cut back to Kenny and Ginger and this stupid birth.  Each time I screamed a little bit in horror.

                Just to show that I’m not the only one with an agenda of rage against these toxic bores, at one point when we cut back to Kenny and Ginger, My Beloved Grammy got up and said, “This’ll be a good time to prepare my lunch; I won’t be missing anything.”  Now usually I am Mr. Snooty Film and TV Watcher and believe that you sit and you watch and you pay strict attention for as long as the piece of art is unfolding in front of you, but in this case I was fine with her leaving the room for a few minutes.  Why would anyone choose to sit and watch this?  Suddenly I understand the ratings plummeting to #43 during this season: TOO MUCH KENNY AND GINGER!

                Looking at my notes here, I realize I was at risk of glossing over a lot of great Karen stuff.  We have a very good scene involving a turkey dinner where Diana has, in her own cunty words, “Slaved over a hot stove all day,” and then Eric slices the turkey less than perfectly and Diana goes into an epileptic fit about how he’s mutilating the turkey.  Never mind the fact that they’re just gonna eat the damn thing and turn it into feces anyway, so who cares if its mutilated?  But just when I was in the middle of a rant about what a bitch Diana is, I realized the scene is not really about the turkey; it’s about the family being thrown into turmoil.  There’s a missing person at that table, and there’s still a chair placed out for where Sid should be sitting and he’s not.  Since Karen has not found a way to deal with her grief, neither have the kids, and so that’s why something so small as a turkey can create such a violent reaction amongst them.  Again, realistic.

                There was also a small scene I appreciated where Karen snaps at Michael because he won’t leave her alone in her bedroom.  This reminded me of Dee Wallace turning red and screaming “ALL RIGHT I’LL GET YOUR DADDY!” to Danny Pintauro in Cujo; that moment where a mother just cracks and has had enough and screams at her kid.  Karen realizes she was wrong to yell at him, though, and quickly follows him to his bedroom to talk about it.  Michael finally blurts out what’s on his mind, and that’s his fear that since his father died, Karen could die, too.  She assures him she is not gonna die for a long long time (and she’s right; she’s in every episode and is still alive and well at the end of the series) and the two have a sweet little talk and it’s just a good moment.

                The other good scene is, well, actually, it’s only half good.  The good comes from Karen and from Michele’s tour-de-force acting, but then it’s sorta cancelled out by the awfulness of Claudia Lonow’s acting.  The two have a little fight where Diana says, “You’re mad at Daddy for dying,” or something, and then Karen sorta loses it and says, “Yes!  I’m mad at him and his admirable morality!”  Then just as she’s acting her ass off and being awesome, Diana screams, “Stop it!” and puts her hands over her ears and runs up the stairs, all very dramatic but also very lame, sorta ruining the scene. 

                The last great Karen freakout I’ll mention occurs when she needs a private moment at work and darts into Sid’s office only to find Gary sitting in Sid’s chair, looking very comfortable.  I can understand why this image sets her off, seeing the guy who is sorta responsible for her husband’s death just sitting there in his chair, almost like he owns the place.  The genius of KL lies in the fact that we also understand Gary; he probably just came in here to look at a file or something and was only sitting down for a minute.  Neither of them are exactly wrong in this situation, but Karen flips and starts to hit him over and over again and scream at him to get out.  Wow, what a scene, and again, where is her Emmy?  Later I’m gonna look up who won the best actress Emmy for this season and then I’m gonna track down that person and take a big piss in their face and say, “It should have been Michele.” 

                Something very great comes together with something very awful in the final scene of this episode, so my mind is all mixed up with how to take it.  Basically, after we suffer through the entire birth of Kenny and Ginger’s demon spawn (which they give the ridiculous and stupid name of Erin Molly), Karen comes in to see the baby.  Holding the baby is, I suppose, a very transcendent experience for her, although she might just be crying because she has to be in a scene with Kenny and Ginger.  Now, in all honesty, I don’t do the baby thing; I think babies are gross and annoying and I hate the way they cause people to behave, and I really hate Erin Molly with a fiery passion not just because of her ridiculous name but because of the two creatures who conceived her, but I’ll still try to really focus on this scene and what it is saying.  Is it that Karen, recognizing the circle of life as one person dies and a new person is born, is finally able to release the cathartic tears that she has been holding back for the past few weeks?  Is it just that holding the baby is a magical experience?  Is it that it shows her life does go on?  I dunno, but I’ll say I like Michele’s acting here, if not the characters surrounding her.  As a note for the episode to go out on, it’s, well, okay, I guess.

                So that was Aftermath.  In a way, it does feel like an aftermath, like the last three episodes were that gut punch of amazingness and drama and this is more of a recovery episode.  At the same time, I found a lot to appreciate about it, mostly all the stuff with Karen.  Michele gives it her all and turns in a powerhouse performance, and there was a real cinematic feeling to some portions, like the montage at the start or the scene where she goes into Sid’s office for the first time.  I think I’d be even more praising of the episode in total if it didn’t include so much Kenny and Ginger footage, but be patient, for one day we will be rid of them both.

                Our next KL episode reintroduces Julie Harris into the dynamic after some time away, and that episode is called Moving In.  I’m excited to talk about one of my favorite characters on the show again, but before we go to that, we have another Brief Dallas Interlude.  We are coming up to probably our strangest and most awkward Interludes, the reason being that they are two eps of Dallas in a row but, thanks to the whole following-airdates-in-strict-chronological-order thing I am doing, we will be doing a bit of hopping back and forth.  Bear with me for a moment as I explain, for Aftermath aired on Thursday, November 26th, 1981, and the next night, Friday, November 27th, 1981, we had both Gary and Val popping up on Dallas.  Then, on Thursday, December 3rd, 1981, we get another KL episode, Moving In, and then another Dallas episode called Five Dollars A Barrel which aired Friday, December 4th, 1981.  After that, we’re back to pure KL for quite awhile.

                I’m sorry if these Dallas Interludes are just annoying you at this point, but rest easy that they will soon fizzle away and be pretty much forgotten.  After these two upcoming ones, we only have three left in the entire series run, those episodes being Jock’s Will (airing Friday, October 29th, 1982), The Family Ewing (airing Friday, September 27th, 1985) and Conundrum (airing Friday, May 3rd, 1991).  So if you’re getting annoyed with this hopping back and forth from KL to Dallas, rest easy that it will stop very shortly as KL really starts to become its own series, no longer so firmly attached to its parent series. 

 
                Anyway, I’ll see you all very soon to discuss A Brief Dallas Interlude: Part 8, episode entitled The Split.