Sunday, July 31, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 044 of 344: REUNION


Episode Title: Reunion

Season 03, Episode 13

Episode 044 of 344

Written by Diana Gould

Directed by Joseph B. Wallenstein 

Original Airdate: Thursday, February 18th, 1982

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Karen's college roommate, Victoria Hill, a fashion designer, is in town to work with Karen on a benefit fashion show. All the neighborhood women are the models. Victoria offers Karen a job in New York and she considers it. Diana is enthralled with Victoria and wants them to move to New York. In the end, Karen decides to stay in Knots Landing. Gary tells Abby he's tired of her acting sexy to manipulate him. Laura tells Scooter she's leaving Richard, and they finally sleep together. Scooter wants her to move in with him, but she says no. Then Laura finds out that she's pregnant.

 


                I’ve kinda started to like telling you guys how many episodes were on one of the disks My Beloved Grammy and I watched and which episodes they were every time we have a visit and share some time with our friends on the cul-de-sac.  Well, our most recent visit spanned this episode, Reunion, through Letting Go and, I must say, probably gets my nomination for most schizophrenic disk we’ve ever watched, even more than our last visit which included the utter insanity that was The Three Sisters.  Truly, this disk was just all over the place and sorta served as a summation for all my problems with season three and why I think it may continue to be my least favorite season of the entire series.

                Now, I can hear you all scratching your heads and saying, “What’s the deal?”  Certainly it probably seems like I can’t really say a bad thing about KL because I just love it so much, love the world and the characters and the whole journey start to finish.  But we’re reaching a critical point in the series, the point where it finally turns into a full-fledged, epic nighttime soap.  We are about ten episodes away from this turning into the greatest show ever made, but before we get there, we’re gonna have to suffer through a few more boring, forgettable one-offs like, well, Reunion.

                Reunion (which, random, actually shares its title with our first two Brief Dallas Interludes and, even more strangely, is actually recycled as an episode title later in 1986, as the third episode of season eight is also called Reunion) is another one of those episodes that, frankly, I’m getting a bit sick of at this stage in the game.  It’s the kind of episode where some random person comes out of nowhere, is introduced to the cul-de-sac, stirs up some trouble but nothing too serious, the kind of trouble that can be tidily wrapped up with a bow at the conclusion of the 48 minutes, and then leaves, never to be heard from again.  We’ve seen it quite a few times by this point and, happily, we’re coming to the end of this type of plot device.  Once the show becomes fully serialized, this style of episode will fall by the wayside and I’m getting pretty itchy for that to happen.  In the case of Reunion, it’s not a troubled daughter like Annie back in Pilot or a gang of bikers like in Land of the Free or an awful ex-wife like in Civil Wives or a lying old man like in The Rose and the Briar or…..well, you get my point.  No, in this case it’s one of those “really important friends from a long time ago,” and this time she’s an old college friend of Karen’s named Victoria Hill and she’s played by someone I really like a lot, Lucille Bluth, or Jessica Walter, if you prefer.

                We open the ep on the gang anxiously awaiting the arrival of Victoria.  Karen is throwing her a nice little dinner party to welcome her to the neighborhood and everyone’s talking about this exciting fashion designer woman who lives in New York and, according to Diana, “Knows Yoko Ono,” as if that’s something to be proud of.  Anyway, as they wait, Karen explains her history with this plot-contrivance character, how they went to college together and both had these big hopes and dreams but Karen dropped out to marry Sid while Victoria continued on and became this big deal fashion lady.   Then the phone rings and it’s Victoria cancelling on Karen because she got held up at, um, a dinner party.  Michele Lee delivers this line with a humorous bit of resignation, and we the viewers are able to get the hint that, when we meet this fashion lady, she’s probably gonna be something of a bitch.

                Well, we meet her a few scenes later, and there she is in all her Jessica Walter glory.  Like I said, I like Jessica Walter a lot.  I love her insanity in Play Misty For Me (which, to get all six degrees on you for a moment, also starred Donna Mills, pictured below) and of course I love her character on Arrested Development.  Here, however, she’s not given much to work with, nor does she really bring anything to the part to really elevate it and make it special.  It’s not her fault, you understand, this is just one of those dull guest spots and I’ll bet the lady wasn’t even taking it that seriously when she showed up to do it.

                Now, when we first got started watching the episode, and I was taking my notes and wondering what I was gonna say about it in my writeup, I started to wonder if I could not perhaps apply a little queer theory to this ep.  Being a homo myself and having gone to a liberal arts college and learned all about “applying queer theory” to art, I was thinking of exploring the lesbo route when we first see Victoria meet Diana and immediately start drooling all over her (as we’ve seen previously, Diana has this inexplicable power to meet new strangers and just utterly take their breath away, even though she’s living on the same cul-de-sac as Donna Fucking Mills).  When Victoria first sees Diana, the camera goes into a close-up of her face, she’s all quiet, and then she immediately goes up to Diana’s bedroom (subtext?) so Diana can be annoying and talk about her own fashion ideas and yada yada yada.  While she’s prattling on and I’m impatiently waiting for the fourth season to come with the introductions of characters I love like Mack and Ciji, the camera again sorta pans in to Victoria’s face as she sits on Diana’s bed, just sorta admiring her.  Well, it turns out the queer theory is shot because the ep quickly shows its hand and reveals that Victoria is just a sad, lonely woman who had “a career” instead of “a family” (this is back before a woman could have both, you see).  All of this will unfold as the episode progresses, but I was a little bummed to see it turn out to be that, as I was hoping to have some queer theory in there to spice it up and make proceedings a little more interesting.

                Next up is a little nighttime scene between Karen and Victoria.  They sit in the living room, they sip wine, they talk about the loss of Sid.  I’m not entirely sure if it happens here or not, but I think this is the scene where our central conflict is introduced for the week, as Victoria invites Karen to come to New York and work for her.  She tells her to sell Knots Landing Motors, ditch all of her friends, and just move herself and her three kids on over to New York.  Immediately my interest starts to lag even more as I sit through this boring storyline in absolutely no suspense.  Maybe an episode like this would play better if I was watching it week-to-week back in 1982, with no sense of the future and no way of knowing that KL would be on the air for another eleven years.  However, I’m watching it with hindsight and I know damn well that Karen is in all 344 eps of the show and there’s no way she’s leaving the cul-de-sac to move to New York, not even for a little while.  I immediately know how things will unfold, she’ll get all excited about it and start to seriously consider it for the bulk of the ep, and then she’ll realize life is pretty good in California and she’d be better off staying, which is of course what happens.

                Thanks to Diana’s pestering and getting way too excited, Karen kinda jumps the gun and is like, “Well, okay, let’s sell the house and move to New York!”  For the rest of the ep, we get a lot of stuff with the other neighbors being like, “Gee, I can’t believe Karen’s moving!”  This is mostly set against the backdrop of the worst fashion show I have ever seen in my life, as Victoria parades out onstage and says, “Welcome to my imagination” (not too narcissistic) and then all the ladies of Seaview Circle are forced to march out onstage in these truly awful outfits.  I didn’t really bother to note the outfits specifically because, for one, I was pretty bored, and for another, My Beloved Grammy and I mostly just sat in stunned silence while this went on, occasionally just saying, “Oh God no,” when a new outfit was unveiled.  Seriously, if Victoria Hill was a real person, her “imagination” would have led her to the unemployment offices right and quick, as these are some truly garish, hideous examples of the very worst in ladies’ fashions.

                The episode feels like it’s killing time because the fashion show goes on forever, almost as if it’s playing out in real time like The Chinese Restaurant or something.  We get one nice stylistic flourish where a bird’s-eye angle shows the big auditorium crowded with people and then it dissolves to emptiness after the fashion show has ended.  Now it’s just Karen and Victoria all alone.  I forgot to mention that since Karen agreed to move to New York, Victoria has started to bark at her like a bitch a lot, shouting orders out and being all, “Do this, don’t do that, go get ready for this, why are you wasting your time with that?”  In this case, Karen is trying to tidy up a bit and Victoria is like, “Let the hotel take care of that!  I’m sure they’ve got plenty of ethnic people!”  Karen finally stands up for herself a bit and says, “You’ve been ordering me around all day, so stop it.” 

                The rest of the scene is maybe the best part of the episode, yet I still didn’t like it that much.  It’s too bad, as well, because we’ve got two fabulous actresses in a scene together, finally having a bit of a confrontation, and this should be good stuff, but the writing falls flat.  It’s strange, since this episode is written by Diana Gould, who has some great episodes to her credit (although she did also write Kristin, so…..), but this is all just so on-the-nose.  The “show, don’t tell” rule of writing is broken here as the two women start to bicker and just basically explain everything about their troubled relationship to each other.  The kicker of their fight (which, FYI, is witnessed in full by Diana who appears behind them on the stage and quietly listen to the whole altercation) comes when Lucille Bluth says, “Oh, can the motherhood stuff, Karen; it’s a biological function, not a holy calling!” and then Karen replies with, “Well, it’s a function you missed, isn’t it?”  A nice burn, which is probably why they included it in the little thirty-second preview at the start of the show, but then the rest of the scene continues on with the same problems.  The women talk a bit more, they work it out, then Victoria goes backstage and works it out with Diana.

                Now this scene is not totally worthless, as I found myself sorta pretending that all 344 eps of KL were planned out in advance and the writers had a great, grand master plan for all fourteen years.  See, Diana talks about how she might move to New York one day, and it was only after she delivered that line that I realized she does, in fact, do that.  Once the writers realize this character is a boring, bratty bitch and finally decide to ship her off at the start of season six, I’m pretty sure she moves off to New York, where she’s hardly ever mentioned again except for a small series of eps in season fourteen where Karen comes to visit her.  So, there you go, at least we plant a seed here that pays off in about two years or so.

                The episode concludes with Victoria leaving and a bit of interaction that made me laugh if only for the irony.  See, Karen says, “Come back anytime,” and then Victoria is like, “Never!”  Then there’s a pause and she goes, “I’m just kidding,” but of course she never does come back, nor am I sure if she’s ever mentioned again (I’ll keep my ears open), so I found that line funny.  Victoria simply joins the ranks of a myriad of other characters throughout the first three years of KL who show up for one week and then leave and are never heard from again.  Oh yeah, and then the very final shot of the ep is Karen removing that FOR SALE sign from in front of her house, realizing that her place is right here on this cul-de-sac with her friends.

                Okay, so that’s the A plot of this week, and in my memories, that was the only plot of this episode, but as keeps happening throughout this season, I find myself surprised to see that even in the midst of these forgettable one-off episodes, there are still little drops of serialized plot working through the show.  In the case of this episode, we have two, one really significant and one less so.  I’ll start off with the less-so.

                Basically, early in the ep when Karen says how she’s considering selling Knots Landing Motors, we see Abby’s eyes bug out in excitement and we can hear her getting a nice little conspiracy boner and then we cut to her and Gary talking about how, with Karen gone, they could buy the shop and use it to, like, work out their little methanol plan that they started hatching back in Power Play.  I liked this scene quite a lot, actually, and it continued an interplay that was also demonstrated back in that ep, because Abs is getting all excited and stuff, but then Gary totally puts her in her place and is like, “Does this all come naturally to you?”  He gives this speech about how she’s so good at immediately becoming duplicitous and what-not and then says how it’s the same with her flirtations and yada yada yada.  The kicker of the scene is that Abs, referring to that flirtation, asks, “Gary, do you want me to stop?” and then he goes, “I didn’t say that.”

                I found this scene interesting, especially after that big, “I am a Ewing, I’m Gary Ewing,” speech from Power Play.  Okay, why does Gary act like this?  We all know he wants to screw Abby, and those of us who have seen the series before know that we won’t have to wait much longer to finally see that happen.  So, on the one hand he is definitely attracted to her, she’s definitely got him nicely wrapped around her finger, and we know he enjoys their workplace flirtations and the idea of maybe more.  Yet every now and then he keeps scolding her and calling her out on being a liar and a schemer.  Why?  My theory is that Gary’s two heads are at war (the penis and the brain, for those too dense to figure out my little reference there).  On the one hand, his logical brain (his head head) is probably telling him to watch out, cuz Abby’s dangerous, and he’s got a good thing going with Val and they’re building a life together and he’s already cheated on her once and she managed to forgive him, so he’d better not do it again, and so on and so forth.  Meanwhile, we have his less logical brain (his penis head) saying, “Dude, Abby’s hot!  You should sleep with her!”  Gary is a man, and I hate to break it to you readers, but we men like sex and will pretty much go for it whenever the opportunity presents itself, even when logic dictates that it’s not the smart thing to do.  So basically, every time Gary says, “Abby, you’re a lying hoe,” that’s his head head working on him, but then when Abby asks if the flirtation should cease and he tells her no, that’s his penis head working, you see?  This scene is about all we get between Abs and Gary this ep, but clearly I found it much more interesting than our main storyline this week.

                The other storyline this week that I didn’t remember and that keeps this ep from being a total one-off is that we reveal Laura has slept with Scooter and that she’s pregnant.  Now Jesus, I have to ask, what’s the deal here?  One of the first scenes of the ep, right as we’re just getting started, is Laura and Scooter finishing up a roll in the sack together.  Say what?  This affair story has been building for over a year, and the writers kept dropping hints that consummation could occur any second, but every time it would get closer, something would block it.  Most recently, we had Laura finally growing fed up with Richard, driving over to Scooter’s house, and then finding his bitchy ex-wife, the ice queen, at the house.  Now here we are and Laura and Scooter are just….screwing.  Then he rolls off of her and she’s like, “Boy, I’m so glad we finally started sleeping together!”  But when did this happen?  It plays almost like we accidentally skipped an ep, cuz now, after all that buildup, they’re just in the sack.  Make no mistake, I don’t need cum shots or something, but I kinda thought when Laura finally decided to sleep with Scooter, it would be a big scene, that we’d see it occurring, but instead it all happened off screen.

                As they lie in bed, Laura starts talking about how she’s going to leave Richard, she’s gonna start a new life, everything’s gonna be good, but the next time we see her she is in a doctor’s office being told that she is pregnant.  Now, I must pause the storyline in question for  a minute to talk about her doctor.  The scene began, Laura says, “I’m pregnant,” then we cut to her doctor, and in my brain I said, “Wasn’t that guy in Cujo?”  Then, after a second, in my brain I said, “Hasn’t he already been in an episode?”  I jotted this down in my notes, but now, having done some research, the answers are yes and yes.  The actor’s name is Arthur Rosenberg (pictured below; he's the one with the moustache) and he played the business partner of Dee Wallace’s husband in Cujo (which is a movie I love, in case I haven’t mentioned that) and yes, we’ve already seen him back in The Loudest Word.  Now, in that case, he was Val’s doctor, and I would like to believe he’s just playing the same character and he also happens to be Laura’s doctor, but my little theory is destroyed by IMDb, which tells me that back in The Loudest Word he was “Dr. Harper,” and now here he’s “Dr. Gold.”  Well, perhaps he could still be the same doctor and someone just screwed up the name somewhere; it’s possible, right?  However, I gotta go with what’s official, and what’s official is that he’s playing two different characters, and because of that, I think I need to invent a new term.

                You’ll recall that a Transmorpher is someone who appeared on both Dallas and KL as different characters.  But what should I call someone who showed up on KL multiple times and played a different character within those appearances?  After some careful thinking, I’ve decided to call a person like this a Tangled Knot; what do you think?  So, ladies and gentlemen, I’m gonna introduce our first Tangled Knot, or at least the first one that I’ve bothered to notice up to this point, and that’s Mr. Arthur Rosenberg.  So from now on, I will try to keep track of both Transmorphers and Tangled Knots, and you can feel free to help me along with that by leaving some comments or by sending me an E-mail in case I miss some.

                Okay, back to Laura.  So yeah, she’s pregnant.  This is big news and Laura’s pregnancy is gonna create some great, soapy drama in the coming episodes, culminating, I believe, near the start of season four.  What’s extra bizarre is how un-dramatically it’s introduced here, in the middle of this isolated, almost-could-be-completely-skipped episode.  In fact, I almost wanna tell the new viewers that they can feel to just skip right over this episode, but unfortunately if they do that, they’ll be missing this important plot revelation.  Also, and I suppose this is a minor spoiler for next week, but my theory that episodes throughout season three aired out of order is only gaining momentum here, because Laura’s pregnancy will not be mentioned at all in next week’s show, and then it’s going to be the huge focal point of the episode the week after that, creating a very bizarre storytelling structure (part of the reason why I mentioned the schizo nature of this particular disk that we watched).

                Okay, let’s wrap this up.  I want to take a moment to say that I’m aware that I glossed over a lot of points for this ep, including the way that the Fairgate boys react to the news that they may be moving to New York.  I apologize for that, but honestly, I just kinda wanted to move on and get past this episode, because it sucked.  That’s right, I’m saying it, and you know I never say that about KL.  You readers should know by this point that I love KL about as much as anything in the world, that I am my best self whenever I am watching KL, that whenever KL is playing before me, a look of sheer joy consumes my face and I am just lost in the rapture and the magic, that I could probably sit and watch all 344 episodes of KL without getting up except maybe to pee, that I would die for KL.  You know all this to be true, so I’m sure you know how hard it is for me to say that an episode just flat out sucks, but I’m sorry, this one does, and this is coming from the guy who actually kinda sorta enjoyed Land of the Free.  In fact, I think that back in that ep from season one, I said it’ll never get worse than that ep, but I’m sorry, for me, Reunion is worse. 

Why?  Well, Land of the Free at least had camp and kept me entertained for all 48 minutes, plus it had that great goofy musical score.  This episode just bored me, more or less, from start to finish.  If you excised the small scene with Abs and Gary and the pregnancy stuff with Laura, this episode would, in fact, be 100% skippable and I would actually recommend it.  We are so close to the show taking off like a shot and becoming all it was meant to be, so I suppose waste-of-time episodes like this are just trying my patience right now, that I’m getting fidgety as I wait a few more eps to get to the truly brilliant, genius KL that I know and love and would defend to the death.  We are almost there, guys, I promise you that!  If someone out there has been following along and thinking, “Eh, this show is okay but I don’t know why Brett loves it so goddamn much,” well, you’re about to find out, cuz it’s coming, but we’re just not quite there yet. 

Maybe my hostility for this ep seems a little unjustified, but I just felt it did nothing interesting and the main storyline was so dull and forgettable.  Plus it was just boring, and I felt squirmy throughout most of the 48 minutes.  When it was over, My Beloved Grammy goes, “Hmmmm, well that was interesting,” which I know is her code word for “not interesting at all,” and then I said, “I thought it sucked!” and she was like, “Yeah, I kinda agree, it was pretty bad,” so we were both on the same page in that regard.  However, and after all this venom you might find this surprising, it was not the worst episode on the disk we watched, and that one’s coming up (I won’t show my hand and tell you which one it is just yet, but you’ll find out soon enough). 

Okay, so in conclusion, Reunion sucked and I didn’t like it, but I still love KL and I would still die for KL and with a little patience, we shall shortly arrive at the KL that is truly 100% brilliant all the time.  I can’t guarantee we’ll be experiencing that next week, however, as we dive into another stupid one-off episode that I had a vague memory of not liking that much, Cricket.  I shall talk to you all then, but take care for now!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 043 of 344: POSSIBILITIES


Episode Title: Possibilities

Season 03, Episode 12

Episode 043 of 344


Directed by Nicholas Sgarro

Original Airdate: Thursday, February 11th, 1982

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Richard and Laura introduce Karen to a friend of theirs, Charles Linden, and she has her first date, but they don't get along. Kenny has Ginger make a demo tape for a song, and Andy Moore, another producer, encourages Ginger to pursue a singing career. Kenny's against this, and wants Ginger to stay home with the baby. When he finds out Ginger and Andy are working behind his back, he's not happy, but Ginger decides to go ahead with it.

 

                Hmmm, I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record here, as I’ve said this about a myriad of episodes in the past, but here with are with Possibilities and, once again, I had completely forgotten this episode existed.  As we worked our way through it, I had little sense memory flashbacks of small details, but overall this was one of those eps that had completely fallen out of my brain.  However, even if it’s maybe not the most exciting episode of the series, I have to say there are still some interesting points to it that I am eager to discuss.

                For the time being, the drama of Gary, Val, and Abby is going to be put on the back burner until we get closer to the culmination of the third season.  This week, and get ready to clench your buttocks up as you prepare for boredom, we’re going to focus mostly on Kenny and Ginger.  But wait a minute, after all the bitching and moaning I’ve done about these toxic bores through the last 42 episodes, maybe the big surprise of Possibilities is that they aren’t as boring as you would expect when they get this episode strictly focused on them.  Perhaps there’s a possibility (you see what I did there?) that they could surprise us this week.

                We open on a bird’s-eye angle looking down at a card game.  Present are Kenny, Ginger, Richard, Laura, and some boring white guy we’ve never seen before.  Now, the credits play over this shot and I immediately took note of the writing credits for this week, James Houghton and Mona Houghton.  Now, this is obviously not the first time or the last time that a cast member gets to pen a KL ep.  Don Murray wrote two eps in season two (Hitchhike: Part One and Hitchhike: Part Two) and of course The Plesh has given us many fine and outstanding eps up to this point.  However, this is the first time James Houghton has contributed a script, and I also find the name of his writing partner interesting.

                Mona Houghton (pictured below), hmmm.  At first I assumed this was his wife or something, but it turns out she’s his sister.  IMDb says she is “Known for her work on The Godfather: Part II,” and my ears immediately perked up, but then I looked up her credit and it’s for “Location Assistant,” whatever that means.  She’s also credited as a writer for The Young and the Restless and Another World, and she has one more KL credit coming up later this season, Best Intentions, and one in the fourth season called Encounters (incidentally, both of these episodes are also written alongside her brother). 

                Now, the reason I note the writing credits of this ep is twofold.  For one, I find it interesting that James Houghton pens an episode but then also brings his sister along.  Did they simply work well together?  Who contributed what?  Who provided more of the story material?  That’s the one thing I find interesting, but the other thing worth noting is that, finally, Kenny and Ginger actually have something to do this week.  If we go down the roster, they haven’t really had a story in months.  During season two, there was the affair of Kenny and Sylvie (snore; I didn’t say it was interesting, I just said it was there) and then Kenny and Ginger’s reconciliation and the pregnancy storyline, yada yada yada.  Well, since Erin Molly was birthed earlier this season, this couple has really fallen by the wayside.  The most exciting story they’ve had all season was the one where Erin Molly wouldn’t stop crying, and that was a joke that distracted us from other, interesting storylines and characters.  In any case, I have to wonder if James Houghton finally wrote his own episode because he was tired of having nothing to do on the show.  It’s a theory I have, and of course there’s no real way to prove it, but I get the sense that he was finally like, “Well, if you guys aren’t gonna give me anything to do, I’ll give myself something to do,” and so he wrote this week’s ep. 

                Sometimes I wonder if I should feel bad because I insult Kenny and Ginger so much.  The internet is a wide, vast forest, and there’s a lot of material out there, but I do sometimes wonder if James Houghton or Kim Lankford could randomly stumble upon this blog and be like, “Boy, this fag really hates our characters.”  The thing is, I’m not sure if it’s their fault or not.  They almost never really get a chance to shine or to get a significant storyline, and I don’t quite know if it’s because the writers just never gave them the chance or if it’s because their acting just wasn’t up to par so the writers let them fall by the wayside.

                Okay, enough about all this guessing and hypothesizing; what happens in this damn episode?  Well, like I said, we open on the card game and everyone is having a lovely time.  Karen comes walking in and I have to take a moment to say that, as much as I love Karen, and I do, I always shudder whenever she rocks the pigtails.  When does she stop doing this?  I think this look disappears when we get to season four, or at least I hope so, because it’s awful.  I like everything else about her look right here, as she’s wearing some sort of Hawaii sports jersey and just looks casual and relaxed, but those pigtails, man, those damn pigtails, enough already with the pigtails.

                Anyway, Karen sees the boring white guy sitting at the table and asks who he is.  His name is Charles Linden and he’s played by William Joyce.  Let’s take a gander at his IMDb page, shall we?  Well, the guy was born in 1930 and died in 1998 and, in addition to the random movies and TV appearances on his resume, I note something very interesting, and that’s the fact that he’ll be back on KL years later as a different character.  Looks like he’ll be playing “Carl” in two episodes from 1988, The Perfect Alibi and A Weekend Getaway.  Wow, this is interesting news.  What do I call a person like this, by the way?  I call people who showed up on Dallas and KL as different characters Transmorphers, but what should I call someone who is on KL as a different character several times?  I dunno, but I should think of some sort of term, and if anyone has any suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments box.  Just for the record, this guy isn’t a Transmorpher as he doesn’t ever appear in a Dallas episode, but we will indeed be seeing him years and years down the line turn into a different character; how fascinating!

                This guy’s a bore, but that’s not a criticism of the episode.  I think he’s supposed to be a bore, and Karen’s storyline this week is that she decides to give dating a shot, return to that world, and she just happens to pick a boring white guy who is also, like, a conservative Republican and has elements of control freak in him.  In any case, he seems nice enough at first as Karen decides to join the poker game and sits, well, directly next to him, basically breathing on him.  I guess this is supposed to demonstrate that Karen is nervous and doesn’t know how to behave around new men, but Jesus, girl, give the guy some space.

                What about Kenny and Ginger this week?  Well, I guess Ginger is getting bored sitting around the house and raising her little demon spawn.  When one of Kenny’s singers gets sick or dies or something, she volunteers to go to a recording session and lend her voice.  Oh yeah, this part was pretty funny, because Lilimae hears about the sick singer and is like, “What kind of song is it?” and Kenny almost says, “Country,” but then he stops himself and is like, “It’s very modern.”  Instead of hiring Lilimae (who I think he might still be frustrated with for hijacking that cool black guy last week and becoming his friend), he hires Ginger on as a temp singer or whatever.  So he takes her to a recording session where she meets this other guy named Andy Moore. 

                Okay, Andy Moore.  I’m about to give you a real headache, so apologies in advance, but Andy Moore is some sort of Super Transmorpher, and not even that, he’s a Super Duper Transmorpher.  Allow me to explain.  He is played by Philip Levien (pictured below) and will be returning for a few more KL eps as Andy Moore (Svengali, New Beginnings, and Abby’s Choice, all from 1982), but in addition to that he also appeared on Dallas as not one, but two different characters.  He is in four episodes spanning from 1985 to 1986 as Lee McHenry, however, he is also in the 1978 ep Reunion: Part One (playing Jimmy) which, if you’ll recall, was actually the first episode of anything I discussed on this blog.  That was our first Brief Dallas Interlude and it introduced us to Gary and Val (or should I say David Ackroyd Gary and The Real Val), so it’s significant to television history for that reason.  So, in conclusion, not only does Philip Levien appear on both series as different characters, but he also appears as different characters within Dallas and one of those episodes was our very first Brief Dallas Interlude, so this guy gets some sort of a special medal and a key to the city.  I think he really ought to meet the President and shake his hand, as well.

                Andy Moore clearly has a boner for Ginger, and since I’ve blocked out most of the Kenny/Ginger footage from my first viewing of the series, I can’t remember if this leads anywhere or not, but I get the feeling it will, like maybe he’ll try to have an affair with her or something; I’ll keep my eyes open as we proceed forward.  But anyway, Ginger records a song and, quite honestly, it’s not bad.  That’s right, I’m complimenting something Ginger-related this week; can you believe it?  I think I’m also grateful to see the show moving away from those awful public domain not-really-music stock musical effects they’ve been using and get to some real singing (Ciji is just around the corner….), but I also just kinda dig this song.  Country isn’t necessarily my bag, baby, but I can still appreciate some country songs, and I’m gonna say it, I like this one.  Who wrote it?  I’d really like to know this but, as is the case with so many of my KL questions, I really have no way to find out at the moment.  I almost wonder if Kim Lankford wrote this song.  Make no mistake, it’s not a masterpiece and I’d rather listen to Ciji/Cathy sing any day of the week, but it’s pretty good, pretty catchy, and her voice is actually good.  Now, just when you start thinking I’m getting way too complimentary of Ginger, I do have to interject with a comment My Beloved Grammy made that I found hilarious, but I’ll also add the caveat that it’s not particularly nice.  So my apologies go out in advance to Kim Lankford if she has somehow stumbled upon this blog and wants to see what I have to say.  Kim, I’m sure you’re a lovely human being, a real nice lady, but as Ginger was singing in this scene, My Beloved Grammy opined, “She’s not such a bad singer as long as you put a bag over her head,” and I almost peed my pants and immediately put that little comment into my notes.  Forgive me, Kim, for My Beloved Grammy said it, not me.

                Back to Karen for awhile.  Even though Charles is a bore, I like this story because it feels real, the forty year old woman who has kids and has lost her husband awkwardly trying to feel her way around the dating world again.  And again I reiterate that Charles is supposed to be boring, so the actor is doing his job well (let’s see how I feel about him when he returns in six years as “Carl”).  One scene I really enjoyed comes between Diana and Karen and takes place in Karen’s bedroom.  See, first Karen says she doesn’t want Diana to wear her blouse tonight because she wants to wear it herself.  Then Diana finds Karen sobbing in her bedroom and she’s like, “What’s wrong?”  All choked up and full of tears, Karen says, “I have a date.”  I like the mix of funny and sad in this scene, because the scene is actually rather amusing, but my heart also goes out to Karen because I know how weird and mixed up she is feeling.

                I also gotta say Diana is being unusually supportive in this episode.  She is nice to Karen the whole time, nice to Charles aside from some friendly arguing later on (more on that later), and doesn’t throw a hissy fit or act like a bitch about anything.  Jeez, Diana, are you in there?  Considering how cunty she’s going to act when Karen starts dating the amazing and hilarious and unbelievably charismatic Mack next season, I’m not sure why she’s being so friendly to boring white guy Charles, but there you go; I guess she’s in a friendly mood this week.

                On Karen and Charles' first date, we immediately see that he’s the controlling type.  Now, make no mistake, he’s not controlling in the abusive sense, he’s not like Tom Drogan from IT or anything like that, but he does that “ordering food for the date” thing that I really hate and you can tell Karen doesn’t like it either.  He orders them some sort of fancy dish, and he just sorta says Karen will have the same thing.  One thing this episode does a few times that I liked is make use of those “flips.”  You know what I’m talking about?  It’s like when we cut from scene to scene, the image flips, so we know some time has passed, yet we’re still following the same characters in the same location.  There’s a flip when Ginger is singing and there’s another flip here on the date.

                Their next date is smaller, to a greasy looking hamburger place where Charles again orders for Karen, this time a burger and fries and a milkshake.  As a neurotic fag who eats exactly the same food every day and is obsessed with his weight, I can tell you that a man ordering me a burger and fries and a milkshake would be an instant turn off.  What are you, trying to turn me into a whale?  I’m kinda surprised Karen doesn’t make mention of the sheer heart-attack inducing caloric intake that he is throwing at her without even asking if she wants any of that food.

                Oh yeah, there’s also a real cute scene between Michael and Karen a little later in the episode where he is feeling blue and he admits that he doesn’t want her to go out with anyone else.  “Things are fine just the way they are,” he says, and I gotta give some kudos to Pat Petersen, who not only grows up to be a smoking hot babe that I want to do vile, possibly illegal things to a few years down the line, but he was also a pretty realistic and endearing kid actor.  It’s something about his voice, I think; it’s rather husky and he always sounds very genuine when he speaks.  I gotta say bad kid acting can really ruin a scene, and I can’t think of really any bad kid actors on KL, can you?  Jason (in all his incarnations) is kinda non-existent, but he’s never bad.  I feel the same way about Brian, as well; he’s just kinda there, but Olivia is great and she obviously only gets better and better as we move along.  Whoever cast the kids for KL should get some sort of special medal or a blowjob for their work.

                In any case, the dates with Charles come to a pretty fast end after Karen has him over for a family dinner near the ending of the episode.  Another great scene, very perceptive, and filmed well, with Michele’s face doing all the acting that needs to be done.  See, Diana is arguing with Charles about how the Equal Rights Amendment is a good thing, and Charles is like, “Oh, I’m an old white straight Republican man and I hate all people who are different!”  The camera just slowly goes in on Karen’s face and you can tell that she realizes this is not going to work.  How can she be with a man who doesn’t defend the Equal Rights Amendment?  It only gets worse when she sees him out after dinner and he’s like, “Boy, your kids sure don’t understand being seen and not heard.”  Great scene here, by the way, cuz I like how Karen doesn’t get mad or anything.  She’s just like, “You don’t really believe that, do you?”  When he asks her to stick to private restaurants for their dates, she just says, “No, it’s not going to work,” and bravo Karen for your honesty.  What I appreciate, however, is that she’s very gentle, very kind, she doesn’t say, “Oh, you’re an old white straight Republican,” but instead just sorta lets him down easy.

                And another thing I appreciate is that, despite the fun I’ve poked at this character, he is never portrayed as a bad person.  Even the dialogue at the dinner table is not done in such a way as to say, “Look at this awful man!”  Instead, it’s just a matter of a simple dialogue, and even though he’s a smidge controlling of Karen on the dates, he’s never portrayed as evil or a bad person.  It’s just a situation where these two people are not compatible.  I feel other shows would make him very extreme, a very nasty character who is easy to hate.  But KL is better written than other shows, so they play it more realistically and more subtly. 

                Also, and I think this is very important to note, we are seeing Karen going through the natural stages of the grieving process over the course of this season.  This will finally culminate in what I remember as a season highlight, Letting Go, and that’s still a few episodes down the line, but we’ve seen her lose Sid and go through pretty much all the classic stages, most notably anger when she lashed out at Gary in Aftermath.  Now I think she’s starting to work her way up to acceptance, and she’ll get there pretty soon, and going out on a few dates with Charles is the first part of that, but she’s not quite ready yet.  I acknowledge that it’s really only been a few months since Sid died, so probably in real life Karen wouldn’t be trying dating yet, but let us remember that this is a TV show and things have to be expedited a bit, lest we end up watching every boring bit of minutia of these characters’ lives.  The way it’s presented throughout this season, for me, feels very real.

                Back to Kenny and Ginger.  Ginger impresses lots of people at the record place with her singing, but for Kenny, this was just a temp thing.  Now that she’s finished, he’d like her to go back home and raise that adorable Erin Molly that I really don’t hate with an unnecessarily seething passionate rage (this is sarcasm; I really despise Erin Molly and her stupid name).  See, Kenny is an old fashioned kinda guy, and he’s like, “Ginger, you have a vagina and you were make for making babies!  Stop trying to do silly things like think and just get back into the kitchen!”  Ginger argues that Kenny has the nice house, the great kid, but he also needs his work; it adds that extra ingredient to his life that’s so essential, and she wants that, too.  In all seriousness, I’m obviously exaggerating Kenny’s misogynist attitude and I do understand where he’s coming from.  He doesn’t think that they had a baby just so they can shuffle the baby off to nannies and babysitters while the parents go off to work, and I think that’s a good point, but I also see Ginger’s point.  As fun as it is to stay home all day wiping a baby’s ass, a lady’s gotta get out and explore the world a bit or she’ll go stir crazy.

                Okay, we’re up to 1982, so obviously we’re still really early in the run, but this ep got me thinking as I drove home from My Beloved Grammy’s house, the love of KL pouring through my veins as I operated the motor vehicle, loudly screaming the sounds of the theme song.  I started thinking about the change in attitudes towards women and feminism from 1979 to 1993 and how, really, we will see that reflected on KL.  Let’s flash back to season one for a minute, and I’ll remind you that during that year, all the women stayed at home and tended house (or went out to bars to get raped, in the case of Laura) while the men went off to work in order to bring home the bacon (EDIT: Only as I went through this paragraph to get it ready for posting did I realize I forgot all about Ginger being a kindergarten teacher, which only helps to demonstrate how quickly any Kenny/Ginger footage just falls right out of my brain).  By the time we reach the series finale in 1993 (in a few decades, if the internet even still exists by the time we get there and if I am still alive to continue maintaining this blog), all of the women on the show, if I recall correctly, are gainfully employed as successful career women in their own right, often with extraordinary power.  Throughout that fourteen year span, the world changes and that change is reflected on the series.  We have already seen that change begin to take place even at this very early juncture in the series.  After all, in season two Laura got her own job in real estate, and of course Valene is taking her college courses and becoming a writer and this will wind up paying off for her very well, Karen is now in charge of running Knots Landing Motors, Abby is a working single mother (maybe not the ideal role model, but I’m just pointing out the example) and now we see Ginger trying to expand beyond the confines of her boring house and motherhood, as well.

                Anyway, when Kenny puts his foot down on Ginger and says, “No, you’re a mother, not a singer,” she decides to take matters into her own hands, so she calls up the Super Duper Transmorpher, Andy Moore, and arranges a meeting with him.  I think she gets Lilimae or someone to take care of Erin Molly for awhile as she goes down to this guy’s office.  In any case, this episode ends on a cryptic note, as eps have been doing a lot recently (and I like it!).  In this instance, when Kenny sees Ginger in the recording booth at his work, getting ready to sing another, new song, he desperately pleads one last time with her to go home and stop all this singing foolishness.  Well, Ginger says no and she gets her ass back into the booth and starts belting out this song, which I also kinda liked, by the way, and we just sorta end the episode with her singing and Kenny looking frustrated.  Not a bad way to go out, don’t you think?

                Now, for the life of me, I can’t recall if this storyline actually goes anywhere.  Similar to the J.R. crossover last season with Designs and the whole energy efficient engine and what have you, I think this might be another storyline that just sorta gets forgotten about, though I could be mistaken.  The ending of this episode certainly sets a tone like, “Get ready, Ginger’s gonna become a big singer and Kenny ain’t gonna like it,” but I just feel like it doesn’t actually unfold that way.  Remember, though, that there are a lot of episodes and I’ve only watched the series once, so I could have forgotten the details.

                Okay, what of Possibilities?  Well, I’ll say that My Beloved Grammy said it was her favorite episode of that particular disk (a disk that also included The Rose and the Briar, The Three Sisters, and Power Play) and at first I thought I disagreed with her.  Immediately after finishing the disk, I thought Power Play would be my top episode of those four, but now I think I actually did like this episode best, and that’s a bit surprising considering the high content of Kenny and Ginger, my two absolute least favorite cast members in the entire fourteen year run of KL.  But I gotta say that either James Houghton or Mona Houghton or both really did put in the effort to give these two characters something to do this week and I felt like they were almost interesting in this episode, and that’s a pretty high compliment to pay.  Also, the Karen storyline was pretty good, too, and gave Michele Lee a chance to demonstrate her excellent acting skills.  So, while not a masterpiece and not one of KL’s most unforgettable episodes, this was a pretty pleasant surprise and I would have to say I thoroughly enjoyed Possibilities.

                I don’t know if I will be able to say the same about next week’s ep, but let’s discuss that when we discuss it, as Karen receives a visit from none other than Mama Bluth herself, Jessica Walter, in Reunion.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 042 of 344: POWER PLAY


Episode Title: Power Play

Season 03, Episode 11

Episode 042 of 344

Written by James Bonnet

Directed by Bill Duke 

Original Airdate: Thursday, January 28th, 1982

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Gary and Abby decide to invest in a Mexican company making methanol cars. Gary mortgages the house without telling Val. Gary goes to Mexico to work out a deal with Pete, the owner. Abby decides to follow, and Richard goes to help them with legal points. While in Mexico, Gary and Abby have their first kiss, but later he gets mad at her when she wants to cut Pete out of their deal. Richard warns Gary that Abby is trouble. Meanwhile back home, Val's upset that Gary didn't ask her about mortgaging the house or tell her that Abby was with him.

 

                After the bizarre and random horror movie shenanigans of our last episode, The Three Sisters, returning to storylines involving Knots Landing Motors and the love triangle between Gary, Val, and Abby feels like sinking back underneath a comfortable blanket that you know well and love deeply.  In fact, before I get into Power Play directly, I still need to bring up another point about The Three Sisters.  Now, before you think I’m just obsessed with that episode and can’t get over how strange it was, I’ll say I’m just gonna re-explore the possibility that it was meant to air elsewhere in the season (between The Surprise and One of a Kind, I’m convinced of it!) by demonstrating how much smoother the flow of stories would be if you jumped directly from The Rose and the Briar to Power Play.

                The last scene of The Rose and the Briar was Abby, Olivia, and Gary all taking off in the car together to go to Olivia’s school function.  Abby smiled and said, “Don’t we look like a real family?” and then Lilimae told Valene how she’d better keep an eye on her man.  Well, that episode ends there, and then our very first scene in Power Play is Gary at Knots Landing Motors being sorta talked into a new business venture by the woman he’s lusting for: Abs.  When you just jump from one episode to the next, it seems like there’s a flow to the story that’s building and building and building and, we think, is going to finally come to a head in this episode.  We are going from an episode where Abs used her duplicitous ways to, however briefly, turn Gary into the surrogate father for Olivia, and then we jump to here and see her using her powers to pull Gary into a potentially unwise new business venture.  However, with The Three Sisters crammed in there between eps, the flow of that story is totally thrown off as we explore a haunted house with the Seaview Circle ladies for 48 minutes; that episode has no mention whatsoever of the Gary/Val/Abs triangle, nor any of the other major storylines going on during this season.  Basically, my point is that it just feels off, and I am convinced, utterly and completely convinced, with no way at the moment to confirm my suspicions, that the original schedule for the season was supposed to have The Rose and the Briar followed immediately by Power Play, but someone did some reshuffling and placed The Three Sisters where it currently resides in the season.

                But you know what, enough about The Three Sisters.  We’ve talked about The Three Sisters, I’ve obsessed over The Three Sisters, and I think it’s time to move on from The Three Sisters.  Power Play begins with the usual thirty second preview, and this one does something that is fairly typical for both Dallas and KL, where the preview shows you something occurring that looks REALLY BIG, but when you reach that point in the episode, it’s not quite as major as it looked in the preview (I’ll just spoil it right now: It’s the kiss between Abs and Gary, which is the last image we see in the thirty second preview before we go to the scrolling opening credits). 

                We open at Knots Landing Motors, where Gary and Abs are getting very excited about some sort of business deal involving methanol powered cars.  I feel like we’ve heard methanol talked about a time or two on the series beforehand, but off the top of my head, I wouldn’t be able to name which eps.  I think the gist of it is that methanol is cleaner, safer, and burns more efficiently, and could solve the oil crisis (I need to do my research to see if America was really suffering a big oil crisis in 1981-1982, as I thought that was more of a ‘70s thing).  Again, I’ll confess that sometimes, when big business deals or issues with money and investors come into play, while I stay interested in the proceedings of the series, I just don’t really follow along very well.  If you think I’m slacking or not paying attention to the stories enough, well, I’m sorry about that (although, to my knowledge, I am the only person on the internet who is devoting to watching all 344 eps of KL and writing about them, so you get what you get).

                Basically there’s some sort of deal or business arrangement that Abs and Gary wanna be a part of, but they need $200,000.00 to invest or something like that, so they corner Karen in her office and start begging her for money.  At this point My Beloved Grammy voiced her own opinion on proceedings, which I like to try and insert whenever possible, and she opined that Karen has no obligation to help Gary out with anything after his shenanigans less than a year ago in season two.  After all, in a way, Gary is responsible for the death of Sid, and instead of firing him and ostracizing him, Karen has been good enough to keep him employed and in a position of some power at Knots Landing Motors.  Now here he is begging for a shit-ton of money, and yes, I agree with My Beloved Grammy: If I was Karen, I wouldn’t give Gary a penny.

                Karen is a good person and a smart businesswoman, even if she is still finding her sea-legs running the garage all by herself, and she points out that she has, I think, seventy employees that depend on her, and she can’t give out $200,000.00 that she might never see again and risk the jobs of those employees (many of whom have never gotten involved with mobsters and gotten her husband killed).  So she declines and Gary takes it relatively well, but Abs is not happy.  She attacks Karen for her decision and says how she is denying them the opportunity to do something really special and awesome and altruistic, and yes, ladies and gentlemen, she even pulls The Sid Card, saying how Sid would have done this because he cared about humanity and Bob Loblaw, to which My Beloved Grammy opined, “You are not your brother, Abby,” which is absolutely true.  Abs has no interest in real world affairs or in helping out the environment; she is only using this scheme as a chance to get closer to Gary.

                I should also mention the other character figuring into this drama.  He’s another worker at Knots Landing Motors, Pete Dorado, and he’s played by Bert Rosario (pictured below), making his second and final appearance on the series here (his first was The Surprise).  Some quick info on Mr. Rosario: He made his first television appearance in 1976 in an episode of The Streets of San Francisco and seems to still be working today.  He’s been in lots of TV eps, but I note him for a 2009 ep of E.R as well as for appearing in what is, in my opinion, the worst Seinfeld episode of all time, The Puerto Rican Day (he played Man; do you remember this character?).  Well anyway, this whole methanol storyline that I’m clearly not paying enough attention to was dreamed up by this guy, and if Abs and Gary can’t invest with him, he’s gonna go off and work with, like, some big evil scary oil company (not Ewing Oil from over in Texas, however; this one is, I think, called Petrolux). 

                Now this episode is pretty strictly focused on Gary, Val, and Abs, but there are a few things going on elsewhere in the neighborhood.  My two absolute favorite characters of all time, Kenny and Ginger, actually do have a storyline and something to do this week (well, it’s more of a Kenny story, but Ginger shows up in it).  There’s actually some redeeming quality to this storyline, and some good humor that actually made me laugh, maybe because it’s mostly coming from Lilimae, who can always make me laugh and smile.  Basically, Kenny gets home from work and he’s like, “Oh boy, being a really boring character is hard work; I’m dog tired!”  So he turns on the tape player and sits down on the couch and is all ready to relax with Ginger when he hears the sweet sounds of Lilimae coming out of his tape player.  “Oh, what is that?” he asks, all angry, and Ginger is like, “Oh, Lilimae was babysitting; she must have put that in to get the baby to sleep.”  Kenny takes the tape out and puts some of his Public Domain Music in the player instead (that’s more like it!), expressing some moderate frustration at Lilimae.

                This is kinda the B storyline for the week, and I confess I enjoyed it, because Lilimae keeps showing up at Kenny’s work and annoying him, but she doesn’t appear to be annoying anyone else, if that makes sense.  The first time she shows up, she steps into Kenny’s office (first time we’re seeing his office, by the way) and is like, “Oooooooooooh, Kenny, did you listen to that music I snuck into your tape deck?”  When Kenny answers in the affirmative, she asks for the God’s honest truth about what he thought of it, and he’s like, “Well, if you really want the truth, I think you suck and you’re old and you smell kinda bad and just a few weeks ago you were a homeless shopping cart lady….” and so on and so forth.  He adds how her music is too old-fashioned, but the beautiful thing is how nothing fazes Lilimae, cuz he walks out of the room and she just shrugs and is like, “Oh well, I’d better keep trying.”  You gotta love her persistence, plus the fact that she doesn’t get offended; she did ask for the truth, after all.

                By the way, this episode has not one but two black people in it!  It’s been awhile since I’ve noted our dark skinned friends showing up on KL, and I’m sorry about that.  I’ve noted before how I appreciate that black people are allowed to exist on KL (we even have a black main cast member, Larry Riley, later in the run!), whereas on Dallas it was strictly whites only.  In this case, our two black characters are Kenny’s secretary, Tina, played by Carol Carrington.  Her IMDb resume is not huge, and while she’s in some stuff, there was nothing that I really recognized or that leapt out.  However, and more importantly, there’s also this super cool black guy with awesome glasses playing the piano.  His name on the show is Charlie Hart, but his real name is O.C. Smith, and his resume surprised me.  This is his only acting credit ever, but it appears that he was a real musician, a performer, and he performed songs in quite a few things, including Shaft’s Big Score.  I wish there was more information on this guy, but that’s about all I got. 

                In any case, he and Lilimae share a rather sweet scene together where he’s playing the piano and singing “a lonely song” and she comes in and joins him.  With her sweetness, she manages to charm him and they start singing together and enjoying each other’s company.  I just thought this was super cute, two people enjoying making some music together.  They croon together while he plays the piano and reflect on the sadness of the song and my heart melted a little bit.

                Later, there’s a very brief scene that made me laugh for about seventeen minutes where Kenny is just walking down the hallway, presumably returning from getting coffee or taking a shit or something, when Lilimae just comes wandering past him and is like, “Ooooooooh, I made a special tea for Charlie Hart!”  Then she walks off and Kenny has this sorta bemused look on his face, like, “What the hell is going on here?”  I’m actually gonna pay James Houghton a compliment here (Hell just froze over!) and say that he’s pretty funny when just playing the character reactionary, making confused faces and being generally annoyed by Lilimae’s behavior.  The dude’s never gonna win an Emmy, but he’s actually making me smile here, so there you go.

                Oh yeah, on the subject of black people being allowed to exist on KL, we also have one of my favorite black people of all time working behind the camera this week.  The name is Bill Duke, and if the name doesn’t ring a bell, a quick look at a picture of him should, because the guy is also an actor.  In front of the camera, he has appeared in tons of movies, including a few action classics with Arnold like Predator and Commando.  In Commando, as he and Arnold have an exciting fistfight, you might recall this brilliant exchange of dialogue:

 

Bill Duke: You scared, motherfucker?  You should be, cuz this Green Beret’s about to kick your ass!

Arnold: I eat Green Berets for breakfast, and right now I’m very hungry!

 

                The dude’s resume is huge, and as an actor he has also appeared in, oh, let’s take a look here, Car Wash, American Gigolo, Red Dragon, and X Men: The Last Stand.  He also directed the landmark film, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (my second favorite Sister Act movie!) and he actually was a big character in the underrated, David Jacobs-penned TV movie from 1986, Dallas: The Early Years (I think I like this TV movie even better than any standard episode of Dallas).  He also directed two eps of Dallas (they are both from 1983 and are The Reckoning and Crash of ’83), six episodes of Falcon Crest, and most importantly, ten glorious episodes of KL, and this is his very first one!  He will go on to direct A New Family, Celebration, Forsaking All Others, Second Chances, Yesterday It Rained, Out of the Past, Fly Away Home, The Deluge, and then his final episode in 1987 is Nightmare.  Bill Duke, ladies and gentlemen. 

                I mention Bill Duke here because I think his episodes tend to have a distinctive flavor, and I can vividly remember an episode coming up a little later, somewhere in season five, that has a certain classist and racial dissertation going on (I can’t remember the title of the episode but I’ll definitely remember it when we get to it), so I think he brings a certain social consciousness to episodes that you don’t always see on the series.  I will spoil things a little bit and say that I don’t think Power Play is his best episode, but I note his presence because he’s going to go on to direct some episodes I really remember and really appreciate.

                Let’s move back to our main story for the week and pay some strict attention to it.  KL is right on the brink of turning into a full-fledged nighttime soap with the glorious, epic, and brilliant season four.  After this episode, there’s a total of eleven episodes left in the season, and I feel that the writers will still do a couple more standalone episodes as we proceed through season three, but by the time we start season four, episode one, we will have arrived at what KL truly is.  They’ve been flirting with that for quite awhile now, and the best example is the slow seduction of Gary by Abs.  Abs moved in right at the start of season two with Hitchhike: Part One.  That was November 20th, 1980, and now here we are on January 28th, 1982, and still Gary and Abs have not consummated a torrid love affair.  It’s been a very slow burn and I appreciate how long it’s taken.

                Now, Abs of course had that lovely and unforgettable affair with Richard during season two (I still think about the two of them having champagne in the hot tub and I smile), and that was obviously a very beautiful thing to witness as a viewer.  However, I do believe that from the moment she arrived in Seaview Circle, she truly only had eyes for Gary.  As soon as she saw him, he was the man she wanted.  She just went after Richard as a bit of a distraction, biding her time until she saw the opportunity to get Gary; he’s the man she is truly obsessed with.  Watching this episode, having only vague recollections, and particularly after that thirty second preview, I really thought this was the episode where Abs and Gary start their affair, but that’s not so.  The writers are gonna stretch this out even longer and God bless them for it; I love me a good slow burn when it comes to this kind of storytelling.

                Follow along with me here.  Gary is very excited about the prospect of this Mexican methanol deal, and when Karen denies them the money, he decides to take a loan out on the house as a way of getting, I think he says, $150,000.00.  He tries to justify this to Val by saying how the house was a gift from his mother and it’s already paid for, but Val is unhappy (and rightfully so, in my opinion) because he didn’t bother to discuss it with her.  It’s her house, too, and he’s gonna go off and take a loan out on it for a deal that might very well fail miserably, all without discussing it with his own wife.  Val is also perceptive enough to see that Gary is getting far too excited about this whole situation, saying, “He’s talking about billions of dollars when they haven’t even made a deal yet.”  One wonders if she is perhaps worried that Gary might become power hungry and obsessed with money like his brother J.R.

                Gary goes over to Abby’s house and she boosts his confidence nice and good, telling him all those nice things he wishes he could hear from Val.  She’s like, “Oh Gary, Val needs to have more confidence in you.  Look at you, you’re so strong and smart and you probably have a huge penis, too.  You really ought to take the loan out on the house.”  This puts a smile on Gary’s face and he leaves Abby's place with renewed spirits, ready to fly off to Mexico for this whole methanol deal.  Donna Mills has a fabulous bit of acting where she’s all smiley and giggly as Gary leaves, but as soon as she shuts the door, her face goes, like, dead.  Her grin goes away and she looks very serious.  You can see the wheels are in motion in her head; she’s thinking, “I’ve just about got him where I want him.”

                Gary goes to Mexico (or at least a woodsy outdoor location near the usual shooting set that we are told through dialogue is Mexico) and then, for some reason or another, Abs decides to join him.  I think Gary gives her some sort of cryptic call and she’s like, “Oh, I’ll be right over!”  However, when she goes to the Avery kitchen to discuss this with Richard, get some legal advice, Laura wanders in and gets a nice reading on what’s really going on.  So, smart girl that she is, she’s like, “Hey Richard, why don’t you go to Mexico with Abby?  Show up with a lawyer and the company or whatever will know that you really mean business.”  Richard agrees and Laura can rest easy that she has, for the time being, made it a bit harder for Abs to seduce Gary.

                They all get to Mexico.  Richard starts drinking a lot of margaritas (yum) while Abs wanders outside to hang out with Gary.  They go into this barn where there’s, like, this big tank of methanol, and then Abs gives this really hilarious performance where she starts to get all excited about the methanol.  She’s like, “Touch it, Gary, it feels like my vagina!  Just like my vagina, when you touch this tank of methanol, it feels warm and kinda wet!”  The more she talks about it, the more excited she gets, and the best line of the whole scene (and I’m not making this line up the way I made up the “big penis” and “my vagina” lines) is when she’s like, “Oh Gary, I can feel it inside of me.”  She actually says these words; I’m not kidding.  It’s a pretty obvious flirtation, I have to say, but then Abs can be pretty obvious sometimes (I’m flashing back to an episode when she was seducing Richard and said something like, “I like it when the man is totally in control in the bedroom,” or something to that effect), especially when she feels she is really close to getting what she wants.

                This is a big moment, because Gary starts to get excited to and he lets out this pretty stupid “Yeeee haw” sound that I could have lived without, and then the two get up nice and close, start to embrace, the music swells, and then they finally start to kiss.  Oh, did I say ‘kiss?’  I meant they start to make out, and it’s wet and violent.  They are just making out as much as two people can make out while the music just gets louder and louder and, with that, we go to a commercial.

                However, when we return from commercial, Gary and Abby are taking a walk through the woods and Gary is justifying what happened by saying, well, nothing happened.  He says how they just got a little excited in the heat of the moment, they kissed each other, it’s not a big deal, and it won’t happen again.  He says it was just them “reacting to the excitement of the moment.”  Now, I am trying to figure out how Abby is feeling at this point.  Is she pleased because the kiss has happened and she knows it’s only a matter of time before he weakens?  Or, if she frustrated because she was all ready to get laid and now Gary is taking a step back?  I’m not really sure, but Abby and the viewer can rest assured that it won’t be that much longer before she can finally enjoying the feeling of Gary slipping inside of her (it will occur before we’re finished with season three, I can promise you that).

                There is a fabulous scene between Richard and Gary a little bit after this where they have a small talk.  Richard comes out to sit down next to Gary, saying how he couldn’t sleep because of the heat.  He’s talking kinda quiet, being real honest and forward, and he says how he had the affair with Abby last year.  He says how he had his reasons to justify it in his head, but Gary needs to be smart and not do the same thing; he has a good thing going with Val and he shouldn’t ruin it.  This is a really perceptive scene for Richard, and even My Beloved Grammy, who is not a Richard fan, said, “For once, I agree with Richard.”  Of course, this scene just makes me love Richard more than I already do.  For all his faults, he is smart and he is perceptive, and he can see what’s going on and he’s gonna make an effort to put a stop to it before it’s too late.

                After Gary gets back from Mexico, Val has prepared a lovely meal for the two of them complete with candlelight and fancy silverware and the works.  However, Gary barely acknowledges the meal and can’t stop talking about Abby and the Mexico deal and how things are going over there.  Val gets angry and is like, “Gary, look at this food, look at this table,” and then she admits, “Abby effects you in a way that really frightens me.” 

                Our last scene is quite an interesting one, mostly because I didn’t realize it would be the last scene when it started playing out.  See, Gary and Abby are sitting in the couch in the Ewing living room, talking about the deal, and Abby starts to casually suggest that maybe they don’t need Pete in the mix at all, that maybe they should just sorta go off and do the deal themselves and screw him.  When Val hears this, she explodes and starts yelling and is like, “She’s suggesting you betray your partner,” or whatever, and then Gary explodes back at both of them, which I found interesting.  He’s mad at Val for having no confidence in him and he’s mad at Abby for suggesting they screw Pete.  He has this good speech where he’s like, “I am a Ewing; I’m Gary Ewing, and Gary Ewing doesn’t stab his partners in the back.”  Then he says how he’s gonna call Pete so he can talk to a friend, as there aren’t any friends of his in this living room right now.  Then he walks out, and I’m waiting for Val or Abs to say something to eachother, and instead the episode ends there, and I’m like “Woah.”  I really like it when I get all sucked into a scene and I wanna see what’s gonna happen next and then BOOM; it’s all over.  This cryptic ending reminds me of the brilliant ending for the Plesh-penned Secrets a few weeks back.

                Okay, so that was Power Play.  How was it?  Well, certainly it was a huge step up from The Three Sisters, that’s for sure.  However, even though it had a lot of aspects I appreciated, like the slow burn of Abs and Gary, the humorous storyline between Kenny and Lilimae, and that great ending, I still felt the episode wasn’t one of the most impressive we’ve seen thus far.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, and perhaps this summation seems jarring since I don’t think I’ve mentioned any specific complains in my write-up, but I’ll just say that before starting the episode, I had sorta forgotten it existed, and I feel that after we continue on this journey and get deeper into the series, I’ll once again sorta forget about it.  Again, I’m not sure entirely why and I wish I could explain it better, but despite all those aspects to enjoy, I feel this one just doesn’t stick in the memory as all that special. 

                Okay, so stay tuned for next Thursday as we explore a potential new romance for Karen and an actual storyline for Kenny and Ginger with Possibilities.