Sunday, April 23, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 116 of 344: OUT OF THE PAST


Episode Title:  Out of the Past

Season 06, Episode 16

Episode 116 of 344

Written by Neal Bell

Directed by Bill Duke

Original Airdate: Thursday, January 24th, 1985

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Abby decides to lengthen Joshua's segment. She threatens Cathy not to date Joshua anymore, or she will tell him about her affair with Gary and that she murdered someone. Mack can't get a Judge to grant him a warrant for Galveston Industries, so Greg gets Mack the warrant he needs. Karen unwittingly gives Galveston information on the investigation. Gary goes to Val's diner, and recalls how he met her in a diner by helping her out when it was really busy. He tries to talk to Val, who doesn't recognize him and thinks he's crazy. Parker and his friends beat Gary up and tell him to get out of town. Val's confused as to why two people have thought she was Val Ewing. Gary goes back to the diner and helps Val like he did when they first met. For just an instant she recognizes him and says "Gary," but then, confused, runs out, and Gary follows. She insists she's Verna and has never seen him before. She tells Parker she wants to get married right away.

 

                Oh thank heavens we are back.  It might be hard for my amazing and loving and devoted readers to get a sense of how timing works out for My Beloved Grammy and I to watch KL eps since I try to put up my essays like clockwork at the same time every week.  In real time, however, the gap between our last disk of eps and this particular disk of eps (spanning Out of the Past through The Emperor’s Clothes) was quite possibly the longest ever since we first started doing our KL nights.  It took over a month for us to get back together, and let me tell you that it was agonizing.  My hands began to shake, I started to wake up in cold sweats, screaming the names of Gary and Val, and my life became a barren, empty wasteland of misery in which all I could think about was one day returning to my friends on the cul-de-sac.  Happily enough, just as I was putting a pistol in my mouth and preparing to pull the trigger, My Beloved Grammy called me up randomly out of the blue and asked if I’d like to come over that exact night for another batch of eps, so I of course immediately rushed over, speeding my car and running all the red lights and mowing down a few innocent people in my mad dash to get back into the magical, intoxicating world of KL.  I only bring this up in order to point out that we may have lost a smidge of forward momentum when it comes to all the storylines going on, but KL is obviously so good that as soon as we got started again, we were able to remember everything that was going on and slip right back into things.  So anyway, let’s go ahead and talk about the first ep on that disk, which is Out of the Past.

As I think I’ve been saying incessantly, my favorite storyline going on at this exact juncture is that of Val/Verna and her adventures in Shula, Tennessee.  That story takes up a good majority of the time this week, but I’d like to start with some of the other characters and what they’re up to and then finish by talking about Val/Verna, so why don’t we go ahead and begin by catching up with Joshua and Cathy.  What’s going on with them this week?  Well, we are beginning to see an unfortunate metamorphosis in Joshua’s personality, no doubt accelerated by his quick rise to fame over at Pacific World Whatever along with Abby’s gentle manipulations.  Joshua was introduced onto the series in the second episode of the season, Calculated Risks, and he was gentle and quiet and wide eyed and innocent, but already that Joshua is starting to seem like some distant memory.  Now that he’s got that popular segment preaching on Reverend Kathryn’s show, the power is starting to get to his head and it’s negatively affecting his relationship with Cathy.  Indeed, we already saw a little storyline that I think I neglected to mention when it was going on (sorry about that) in which Cathy was gonna go off on tour with her band and Joshua said they would have to break up if she did so. 

Well, this week Joshua is giving one of his sermons on the show, but he sorta cuts it in half and makes it a much brisker affair, which Abs doesn’t like.  Honestly, I think I wouldn’t like that either, since I’m fairly certain when you’re dealing with time slots and commercials and all of that, if someone suddenly decides to take something that’s supposed to take up, say, ten minutes, and cuts it down to just five, doesn’t that fuck up your whole day?  Now you need to go to commercial five minutes early or move the next program up by five minutes or whatever, right?  In any case, Abs speaks to Joshua about it and he says something about how he just wanted to be brisk, but then Abs starts to give this speech about how, when you get some power, there will be people in your life who want to take that power away, or something like that.  Clearly she’s talking about Cathy, although it takes a minute for her to finally just say that, at which point she tells Joshua, “Don’t let Cathy ruin your career.”  Honestly, I’m having a smidge of trouble understanding exactly why this is a concern to Abs; does this simply lie in the base fact that she doesn’t like Cathy?  Most of the time, her manipulations seem to have some motivation which is easy to track, but in this case it sorta seems like she’s just rocking the boat for the sake of rocking the boat.  Am I missing something here?

 

In any case, this leads to a nice little one-on-one between Abs and Cathy at Lotus Point in which Abs tells her to stay away from Joshua and Cathy gets a nice line of, “Have you ever loved anyone?”  On paper that might not read, or it might even sound corny, but the way Lisa delivers that line makes it pretty funny, and I like that Cathy is not deterred by Abby’s threats here and is able to dish it out equally well, because when Abs threatens to tell Joshua that Cathy did time for murder and that she was fooling around with Gary while he was married, Cathy just points out that she could tell Joshua it was Abs who hired her to distract Gary in the first place.  It doesn’t take long for Cathy to do just that.  She’s having a chat with Joshua when he brings up what Abs said to him back at Pacific World Whatever, how maybe he needs to cut Cathy out of his life.  At this point, Cathy tells Joshua about her season five shenanigans, before he was on the show.  Joshua doesn’t appear to believe her, or at the very least he’s a bit confused, asking why Abs would purposefully hire another woman for her husband to fall in love with.  Clearly this relationship is on dangerously thin ice since Joshua basically refuses to believe anything Cathy, the woman who loves him, is saying to him. 

 

Meanwhile, Mack is still deeply committed to his investigation of the Tidal Basin murders, a storyline that I’m really beginning to follow along with and understand much better than during my first trip through the KL experience.  In this ep, Mack is trying to get a warrant to investigate Galveston Industries.  I kinda forgot the exact details of what the warrant is for, but I think it’s just to investigate the entire company, generally, to be allowed to snoop around and find some incriminating evidence.  However, the judge tells Mack he doesn’t have enough evidence in the first place to warrant getting a, um, warrant, so he turns him down.  Mack is upset, but then help arrives in the form of a certain Mr. Gregory Sumner, who shows up at Mack’s and Karen’s to inform them that they now have their warrant; he pulled some strings and used his powers and voila.  Karen is a bit suspicious about what his interest in all this is, why he’s being so helpful, and Sumner is like, “Hey, you wanted your warrant, you got your warrant.”

There’s also a quick scene this week between Paul Galveston and Karen that I probably should have paid a bit more attention to, only because I’m having a little bit of trouble understanding the exact contents of the scene.  Basically Karen goes to pay him a visit and he’s sipping on a gigantic snifter of brandy (which he always seems to be drinking; brandy must be Galveston’s drink of choice just like J.R.’s was a bourbon and branch) and she says something about how Mack is doing an investigation into the Tidal Basin murders.  Honestly, I couldn’t figure out if Karen was being threatening to Galveston in that sorta nice way, where you smile and are chit chatty but you are also saying, “Watch out,” or if she was really just making polite conversation and she sorta let this information slip out.  In any case, Galveston’s ears seem to perk up at this and I take it to mean that, prior to this, he didn’t recognize how serious Mack’s investigations were, but now he sees that he’s gonna have to start doing something clever to distract Mack.

 

Honestly, that’s about it for the non-Val/Verna stuff this week, which is interesting to note.  Generally, even if an episode is focusing pretty heavily on one character, there’s still a ton going on with the rest of the cast, but in this ep, they’re not given as much to do since we focus so heavily on the Shula adventures.  To be clear, I ain’t complaining; Val/Verna has been in Tennessee for five eps now, and this remains my favorite story going on right now and the one that I remember most from the season.  I’m sure I’ve said this already, but I love how Val/Verna essentially seems to wander off into another series for a good chunk of eps, and whenever we cut away to her we get to be part of this other series about the lives of a bunch of friendly folks in a small town in Tennessee.  Because of the gloriously huge episode count of the season, it really gives us time to live and breathe with her in Shula rather than just having her drop by for an episode or two.  Nope, instead we really get the sense that she is comfortably established here and that, if Abs hadn’t figured out where she was and told Gary about it, she could probably stay living here forever.  However, even though Val/Verna is popular amongst the town folks and is a good waitress and gets along with her boss and has a nice apartment, things aren’t all completely sunny, since we’ve got a snake in the grass known as Parker Winslow.  You’ll all recall that in our last ep, Parker did a bit of research at the library and discovered who Val/Verna really is.  After that, he proposed marriage to her and she accepted, which brings us to where we are now, with the two eagerly planning their wedding ceremony.  Now, real fast I do wanna talk about Parker’s motivations.  Parker is obviously a sleaze, but I also get the feeling that he’s not entirely motivated by greed in this instance.  He was dating Val/Verna before he found out she was a famous author and he did seem to genuinely like her.  Still, it was about two seconds after he found that “L.A. Author Val Ewing Missing” newspaper that he went and proposed to her, so I’m assuming that he thinks marrying her will somehow get him a slice of her money, but I just wanna point out that I don’t believe that’s the reason he started up with her in the first place.  I’m not saying this as a defense to the character, who I think is slime, but just merely an observation.

Fortunately, Gary is on the scene pretty quickly as we start this ep to try and rescue Val/Verna.  Unfortunately, he has a little recreation of the memorable scene between Abs and Val/Verna from our last show.  In similar style, he comes walking into the diner and sees Val/Verna working like a busy bee, and when she gets to his table there’s no glint of recognition in her eyes or nothing like that.  Instead, she just takes his order and asks if he’d like some coffee and when Gary says how he believes they know each other, she tells him that’s not so, but get this, she also says something about how, “I’d remember a face as handsome as yours,” which I totally loved.  Even in the depths of this bizarre amnesia thing she’s got going on, somewhere deep down inside, within the very core of her soul, Val/Verna is still inherently immediately attracted to Gary even though she doesn’t remember him.  By the way, I would be absolutely remiss in my duty if I neglected to mention what happens right before Gary walks into the diner.  See, he comes pulling up in the parking lot and then we go into a scene which I’ve never forgotten, and that is a glorious flashback to the first time Gary and Val ever met.  This has been a major part of their past history ever since their very, very first appearances way back on Dallas with Reunion: Part One, when Val told Lucy the story of how she saw Gary for the first time and, “He was just about the prettiest thing I’d ever seen.”  Oh God, yes, and how I’ve been waiting for the day to come when we would finally get to see this first meeting acted out right before our very eyes, and now that day has arrived. 

In the flashback, we see a young Gary come walking into whatever diner it was that fifteen year old Valene was working in.  She’s overworked, the diner is a madhouse, there’s a thousand things going on at once, too many people to keep track of, and her boss is giving her a hard time.  She has her back turned to Gary and is sorta yelling at her boss while holding two plates, but then Gary comes up behind her and gently takes the two plates out of her hands.  She spins around, their eyes lock, my thighs melt, and we witness what true love at first sight really looks like.  From there, Gary starts to go to work helping her out with her tables and then we return to 1985 and leave that flashback behind, but don’t forget about it, cuz it’s gonna be pretty darned important for a scene later in the ep.

I love the flashback for a multitude of reasons.  First off, I love physically seeing this first meeting that we have heard about as a part of Gary and Val’s core histories since day one.  I feel like the fact that we are allowed to take a minute and go back in time also adds a feeling of scope and grandeur to the series, really emphasizing the feeling that these characters are real and that their pasts are real, as well.  Also, I think it’s just, you know, cool.  I think other shows might be content with just telling us about Gary and Val’s first meeting and then leaving it at that, but actually seeing it is so much richer.  Finally, it really helps to demonstrate the theme of this episode that’s right there in the title, Out of the Past.  In this case, we are seeing something from Gary and Val’s past, and it’s going to be important to see how that past event can affect events within the present day.  However, just to show that I’m not a complete groveling sycophant for the show, I do have one small flaw, and that would be the casting of young Gary.  Young Val is pretty okay; I can buy that she’s a young J.V.A. (and she’s also a Transmorpher since she appeared during The Dark Years of Dallas as some boring girlfriend of Bobby’s or something), but young Gary doesn’t look much like Shack to me at all, and My Beloved Grammy agreed.  This guy’s name is Andrew Fielder and this is his only credit ever.  This forces me to wonder if he was actually a real actor or if he was just some friend of someone who worked on KL.  Perhaps some Lorimar suit was like, “Can you throw my kid into one of your eps?  He really wants to be on TV!”  Anyway, I have no idea who he is and no way of knowing where he came from or where he’s gone, but my little micro-criticism of this scene is that he just doesn’t look much like a young Gary.  Aside from that, however, the scene is gold.

Val/Verna doesn’t remember Gary and doesn’t understand why he’s hanging around and bothering her.  To the other observers in this little drama, it looks like Gary is kinda a weirdo for showing up to bother the nice waitress and claim that they used to be married.  Also, Gary tries to get the boss at the diner to believe him, but he’s not really having any of it, and the doctor he talks to says that Val/Verna seems perfectly fine and happy and he can’t force some sort of psychiatric evaluation on her on the word of one stranger in town.  Now, you all know I love this storyline and think it’s amazing, but that doesn’t mean I can’t point out some logic holes.  All the best works of art have their little flaws, and KL is no exception.  The main flaw here is that I don’t know that Val/Verna has any form of I.D. or a social security number or nothing to even prove who she is.  I could buy that she’d show up at a little diner and ask for work and the boss would hire her without seeing a social security; I’m willing to believe that he might be paying her under the table for her services.  However, now wedding bells are in the air and I’m pretty sure people can’t just show up to get married without having proof of who they are and where they came from and that they are, in fact, who they say they are.  So in this case, I’m wondering why nobody is like, “Say, let’s just ask Verna for a picture I.D. to prove who she really is.”  If that happened, wouldn’t Gary be able to prove he’s telling the truth?  Also, Gary really didn’t come too prepared, did he?  He found out Val was here and he just sorta rushed over, but now he’s finding it hard to get anyone to believe him as he goes around claiming that he used to be married to her for years and that they have a daughter in Texas.  Why didn’t he grab a quick copy of one of her books to show to people and say, “Look, there’s a picture of her with the name ‘Val Ewing’ underneath it.”  Why not bring some pictures of him and her together?  Why not bring some reinforcements in the forms of, say, Lilimae or Karen, people who can back up his claim and confirm that Verna is really Val?  So yeah, there are certain aspects of this storyline that are becoming a little hard to swallow, but I’m still swallowing it fine because it simply tastes so damn good.

Later, we start to see some wheels turning in Val’s/Verna’s head during a scene in which Parker is giving her a foot massage.  Seriously, ick, I’m just not a foot guy and it feels like, for this one scene, Quentin Tarantino suddenly stepped in as guest director and brought his little foot fetish along with him, because not only does Parker massage her feet, but as they discuss their wedding, he even kisses her feet.  Oh barf, I am gonna tell you right here and now that, no matter how deeply in love I might be with someone, I would never ever ever kiss their fucking feet.  But anyway, I’m focusing on a small detail of the scene instead of the big stuff, and that is the fact that Val/Verna is sorta talking out loud to herself and she’s like, “Isn’t it funny that that man called me ‘Valene’ and that’s what that pretty lady called me?”  She’s obviously referring to Abby’s little visit to town last episode (“Boy, you’re sure pretty”), and she then ends the scene with the little question, “Who on earth is Val Ewing?”  Just to prove that Parker is a complete sleaze and a worthless piece of crap (“A piece of crap!  I find him extremely ugly!  He emits a foul and unpleasant odor!  I loathe him!”), he and his two goons pay Gary a little visit with a bunch of big, like, wooden oars or something.  Oh God, did I hate this, and what cowardice it is to watch three guys beat up one guy.  Gary still manages to get a few good swings in, but it’s just not a fair fight and he gets beat up a bit with those big oars and then Parker kneels down next to him and grabs him by the shirt collar and says, “Hands off my fiancĂ©!”  Oh boy, things just aren’t going too well in Gary’s world lately, are they?

The best scene of the ep comes right near the end, in which Gary pays Val/Verna another visit at the diner and finds her in a very similar situation as she was the very first time he saw her.  As before, the diner is a madhouse and people are screaming at her and her boss is getting sassy.  The scene is pretty much exactly the same, and at this point My Beloved Grammy said, “He should come up behind her and take the plates like he did before,” and that is of course what happens.  When Gary takes the plates out of her hands, she spins around and they lock eyes and Bill “Cooke” Duke kicks in with some of his trademark brilliance and visual flair as we get these little subliminal flash cuts to the young Gary and Val again.  The music swells, Val’s/Verna’s eyes get kinda big, and then she whispers, “Gary,” and we see that, for this one moment, she is remembering.  My heart is beating and pounding as if I’ve been doing hours and hours of serious cardio and not just sitting on my ass drinking beer and watching TV, but then the moment shifts when she goes storming out of the diner, returning to her claim that she’s never seen Gary before.  Gary follows after her and says how, for a moment there, she was remembering, but she refuses to acknowledge it and asks him to leave her alone.  I find it easy to understand Val’s/Verna’s mental anguish in this instance.  Somewhere, buried deep down inside of her very soul, she can remember everything about her real life and her true soul mate, but if she allows her mind to remember Gary, that means having to allow her mind to remember all the other details, all the horrible things that have happened to her, the babies that she had and lost, and I think if that happens, she just won’t be able to handle it.  So it’s sorta an all-or-nothing thing, and the reason her mind snaps back into Verna mode so quickly is because she’s not ready to take on all those other memories yet; it would just be too painful.  Thusly, our final scene of the ep is Val/Verna returning to meet up with Parker and declaring that they need to get married right away.

 

So that was Out of the Past and obviously it was great, but of course I’m a broken record lately because every fucking episode of this season is great.  I didn’t think about it until I looked it up, but this actually our first Duke episode of the season and I’d almost forgotten how much I enjoy his eps and the style he brings.  I may have neglected to mention those sorts of directorial details in my writeup, but I noticed lots of cool mirror shots in this one, people speaking to each other while sitting in front of mirrors, for instance, and also those cool shots where someone is sitting in the background and a prominent figure looms in the foreground, like an early shot of Sumner sitting in an office while some guy stands in front of him and holds a file folder.  I also liked the use of dissolves that take us from 1985 back to the past when Gary was seventeen and Val was fifteen.  Duke always comes through like a champion and I’m deeply saddened to note that we only have three more episodes from him in our future.  If this ep has a flaw, it’s just some of those logical holes I brought up, but I love the series so much and this season so much and this storyline so much that it’s not too hard for me to just sorta go along with it. 

Next up, we’ll see if Parker Winslow successfully manages to trap Val/Verna into a marriage as we explore Lead Me to the Altar.

 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 115 of 344: INSIDE INFORMATION


Episode Title: Inside Information

Season 06, Episode 15

Episode 115 of 344

Written by Scott Hamner

Directed by Lorraine Senna

Original Airdate: Thursday, January 17th, 1985

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Mack shows a tape of the Tidal Basin murders to Lila Maxwell's roommate who recognizes Scott Easton and tells Mack he worked for Galveston Ind. Then Karen recognizes one of the men as John Woodside, one of Galveston's aides. Greg tells Laura that his father, Sumner, died as a pilot in the Korean war. Then Galveston showed up at his house, and Greg discovered that his mother and Galveston had been having an affair for years. Then Galveston told Greg that he was really his father. Abby flies to Shula and asks Val to level with her about if she is going to come home. Val doesn't recognize her and thinks that Abby is crazy. Parker overhears and researches Val in the library, and knows that she is really Valene Ewing. Parker asks Val to marry him, and she says yes. Gary tells Abby that Galveston called and said he needed to tell him something about her so Abby tells him that she found Val. Gary catches the first flight to Tennessee.

 


                When we last left off, Karen had finally decided to have that risky surgery after putting it off for nearly half the season.  After a few moments of unbearable suspense in which doctor’s ran that metal wheel thing over her foot and we briefly thought she might be paralyzed, we realized she was okay and all breathed a tremendous sigh of relief just as Mack entered the church to do a Fonzie-esque thumbs up to Christ.  As we pick up with Inside Information, we find Karen in recovery, bored and fidgety as she is forced under house arrest by her doctor’s orders, left with nothing better to do but watch VHS tapes.

 

                Speaking of VHS tapes, we actually open this ep with Mack showing some video footage to some chick who was roommates with Lila Maxwell, one of the murdered women in the whole Tidal Basin murder case that I’m really trying hard to pay more attention to this viewing.  We open on the roommate watching this video and both My Beloved Grammy as well as myself became immediately very confused because after a moment, the roommate spots an 80s Rapist Beard in the video and points and goes, “I know that man!”  She says how he worked for Galveston Industries and she used to see him hanging around and what not, but of course I’m gonna have to remind my lovely readers that we’ve already had two 80s Rapist Beards on the series very recently and both in rapid succession of one another.  First off, we had Scott Easton, the man Abs hired to deal with the whole water problem at Lotus Point, and he took care of that as well as taking care of making Val’s babies disappear, all right before he himself disappeared off the face of this earth.  Then, right after that happened, a new 80s Rapist Beard was introduced, this one being the guy that Abs found in that weird office building who gave her that cryptic speech about, “Sometimes people get on planes and they never get off.”  So, which one is it in this video?  Honestly, I didn’t know, but TV.com says it’s Scott Easton, and that makes sense to me, so I’ll go with it, although I continue to question why whoever was working in the casting department decided that two thin white guys with ‘80s Rapist Beards who look exactly alike should be cast during the same batch of eps.  Is it just because this was the mid-80s and when they tried to find another actor for that second role, they discovered that absolutely every single living man in the world had an ‘80s Rapist Beard cuz that was just how the world was in 1984-1985?  Sounds reasonable to me, so I’ll go with that.

 

                Meanwhile, Karen is still lazing around the house, being bored, even getting kinda meta for a moment when she declares to Sexy Michael, “I could only take one more day of soap operas,” a line that made both My Beloved Grammy and myself laugh (also a line that I’m fairly certain you would never hear over on Dallas).  Then Mack arrives with a Santa Claus sack of VHS tapes and declares, “I rented every movie ever made,” which immediately signified to me that the little Tidal Basin news footage had probably accidentally made its way into his goody bag and would be viewed by Karen very shortly.  I also just liked that line cuz it took me back to another time.  By 1985, the home video boom had really started to take off, because even though VHS and VCRs (and, lest we forget, Beta) had been around since the late ‘70s, they didn’t really start to become integrated as this standard part of people’s homes until right around this period, and of course having a VCR attached to your TV would just become a part of the household as we leapt into the early ‘90s (the same time that I was brought into this world, and I can definitely tell you that VHS was a tremendously important part of my own childhood, even though now I look back and realize what a shitty, inferior product it was).  This is a small detail, but yet another example of the shifting times as we power along with KL all the way through the late ‘70s and into the early ‘90s.  I’m willing to bet that when KL first started in 1979, absolutely nobody on the cul de sac had a VCR, but when we hit that final episode in 1993, I’m sure every single character has a VCR nicely established as a part of their living room.

 

                The next Karen/Tidal Basin VHS plot point also confused me, but I’ll try to work it out here.  Basically, just as I expected to happen when Mack arrived with all those video tapes, she accidentally puts in the news footage and gives it a good look before seeing something on the tape that gets her very excited and causes her to leap up and rush to Mack’s office.  When she gets there, she frantically tells Mack that she knows one of the guys on the tape, that his name is John Woodside and that he was some sort of an aide to Galveston.  These are big, long, full seasons we’re dealing with and, if Karen did indeed meet John Woodside at some prior point in this season, I have since forgotten it.  Did we see this meeting or is it just being sorta invented and made up right now, in this episode?  Honestly I can’t remember, and I confess it’s probably because the whole Tidal Basin thing and its relations to Galveston Industries are the plot point I am having the most trouble following during this sixth season.  This isn’t even a criticism, really, because I’ve pointed out incessantly before how my brain often has trouble following long, convoluted plot arcs, but also there’s just so much damn excitement going on elsewhere in this season that my brain is just more focused over on that stuff, on some of my other much loved and much cherished characters.

                Characters like Laura and Sumner, for instance.  This week it’s time for a big revelation that I think we viewers have all kinda smelled coming for awhile, and that’s the truth about Sumner and his relation to Paul Galveston.  See, he and Laura are still gallivanting around, doing political stuff and hanging out in Sumner’s hotel room a lot (have I ever mentioned how much I would love to live in a hotel?), but Laura is beginning to get frustrated with how Greg keeps her firmly in the dark about so many aspects of his personal life.  A few eps ago, she declared to Cathy that she was going to continue seeing Greg, was going to continue sleeping with him, but that “That’s it” and that she wasn’t going to get emotionally involved.  However, she’s clearly already in too deep with him, and it’s very obvious that the two love each other already (I’d say it’s been obvious since late season five, actually), but this week she gets angry and gives him this speech about how she’s going to get away from him if he continues to keep secrets from her and generally keep her outside of his personal life.  From there, we jump into a tremendous speech, a soliloquy really, something almost out of Shakespeare (although obviously KL is much, much better than anything Shakespeare ever wrote) in which he explains the circumstances of his father’s death and the eventual discovery of his true paternal roots.  Follow me along here.  Greg says how his father, or at least the man who raised him, was a pilot named Sumner who died heroically doing, um, something with his plane.  He then tells Laura about how this man Galveston started hanging around his house a lot and how little boy Greg was thinking, “What’s with this old character actor guy and why is he spending so much time with my mom?”  He also reiterates walking in on mama and The Duff Man having a nice afternoon shag, or at least I think that’s what he reiterates, how he heard his mom in her bedroom and thought she was crying but then discovered that Galveston was really riding her and she was enjoying the heck out of it.  Then, at the end of the speech, as the music swells, Greg confirms that his true father is, in fact, Paul Galveston, as his mother and him had been carrying on an affair for years and years and years beforehand. 

 

                I thought this speech was a highlight of the episode and it also had that ring of authenticity to it that makes me wonder if Devane improvised it himself.  Ever since I read that Devane would improvise most of his dialogue and that the rest of the cast would just sorta have to keep up, I’ve been obsessed with trying to spot obvious instances in which he is just improvising.  Of course, what I would really like to know is just how much of the dialogue he would make up, because some of the quotes I’ve read (like from Michele, who says he improvised “most of his dialogue” and that she thought the other cast members were “kind of afraid of him”) make it sound like he just made up whatever he wanted, while other quotes make it sound like he would go with the script but just throw in his own little curveballs when he felt like it.  In this instance, I’m sure the script for this episode dictated that Greg would reveal the truth about who his real father is, but I have the feeling that it wasn’t written out as this long speech.  I’m willing to bet the writers were like, “Okay, Devane, you thought your father was this pilot guy, but it turns out it was Duff, Bob Loblaw, go ahead and make something up but try to hit the general points that are pertinent,” and then they just let him go to town with his little speech to Laura.  I could be way off, and perhaps the speech was always written in the script in just such a way, but I have the feeling I’m correct, because it has a real ring of freshness and authenticity to it, as if Devane is really delivering these lines for the very first time.  What do you think, my dear readers?



                Let’s see, what else is going down on the cul de sac this week.  Well, in my notes I notice I wrote, “Cathy + ‘80s Explosion Band Play You’d Better Love Somebody.”  I’m sure this song is great because Lisa is singing it, but I confess it has slipped my mind as of this reading, unlike her previous ‘80s explosion song, Beat of a Heart.  However, as soon as I pulled up the original version of this song (by Rick Springfield, who also sang Hole in my Heart, which is so very popular with both Ciji and Cathy), it returned to my mind and, as I always say, Lisa outdoes the original.  Springfield’s is fine, I suppose, but Lisa’s voice is better and she gives the song more energy.  I’m really starting to believe that you could give any song to Lisa and she would improve it from its original, except maybe for those cases where the original singer is just on a higher plateau of vocal talent than any other human, like Karen Carpenter, for instance. 

 

                Also, Joshua’s popularity is continuing to grow with that religious show on Pacific World Whatever that, apparently, every single person in the world watches.  I’ve never thought of boring, stuffy religious programs in which priests sit in front of a camera and give sermons as being the height of excitement, but apparently the population of California disagrees, because they act like Joshua is one of the Beatles or something, writing fan letter after fan letter to him.  However, we are starting to see Joshua make a bit of a transition from that sweet, nice, virginal innocent boy who came into the picture at the start of the season into something a tad more, well, malevolent.  Most notably, he appears to be displaying some signs of that old jealousy, a jealousy mixed with hypocrisy.  There’s nothing wrong with every girl in California opening her vagina in front of Joshua’s face, yet as soon as he sees Cathy having a very short and innocent conversation with some guy at Isadora’s, he doesn’t appear to like that.  I get the feeling that, as we propel forward through this brilliant season, we are going to see Joshua’s shift continue.

                I love all of these characters and they are all super interesting, but let’s finish up by talking about the best storyline going on this week, which is obviously Val/Verna and Abby’s quest to figure out just what the hell is going on with her.  The little thirty second preview for this ep is very enticing because we get just the briefest flash of Abs sitting down at the diner and being waited on by Val.  The way this comes about is that Abs tells a bit of a lie to Gary (shocking, I know) about how she needs to go out of town to look at some sort of, um, business related, um, thing.  In any case, it’s not important since we all know she’s just making up some lie to cover her ass while she disappears to Tennessee for a day.  When she arrives at the diner, she finds Val/Verna really in her element, getting along great with all the locals, clearly already a popular girl despite only living in town for a month.  Then we the audience get a nice reminder that Val/Verna’s amnesia is pretty damn real and not just an act when she gives the briefest of glances to Abs and then simply says, “Go ahead and sit anywhere you like, darling.”  A moment later, she comes up to take Abby’s order and we get a pretty great line, which is her just giving Abs a look and going, “Boy, are you pretty.”  I love this, because obviously Abs is pretty, although a word so simple seems almost unfair to the divine, Goddess-like beauty that is Donna Mills and especially Donna Mills during this particular season, where I feel she looks at her absolute most stunning.  Abs looks right into the face of Val/Verna and sorta quietly whispers, “Val?” to which she only gets a confused stare back.  A minute later, she continues by whispering, “Just tell me if you’re coming home or not,” and it’s probably at this moment that she realizes Val/Verna has officially gone a bit cuckoo, because she has positively no idea who Abs is and positively no idea what she is talking about.  I actually distinctly remember watching this moment for the first time, on a break from college and drinking vodka on the rocks in my parents’ basement, sitting there and being like, “This is just the most brilliant thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” and I meant it then and I mean it now.  Watching moments like this, you realize you are staring right into the very heart of genius, of art on television working at the very fullest height of its powers.

                The plot only thickens when Abs tries to evacuate the premises and finds her efforts thwarted by Parker Winslow, who has noticed the fancy lady in town and fully intends to give her the third degree.  He snuggles up to her car and talks about how nice it is (although both My Beloved Grammy and myself had the same thought at this, which is that this is probably a rental car and not actually Abby’s personal vehicle, but whatever, Parker doesn’t know that) and starts to drop some questions to Abs about what her interest in Val/Verna is.  Abs tries to get away and be like, “It’s nothing, you small town hick, get the hell out of my way,” but it’s pretty obvious that this is not what Abs was hoping for.  While trying to make a clean escape and leave Val/Verna happy and crazy in Tennessee, she is now being faced with questions; she has gained attention she didn’t want to gain and we all know how bad that can be in a town as small as the fictitious Shula.

 

                The presence of the fancy lady in the sexy rental car coming to visit with Val/Verna sends Parker straight to the library to do a little bit of snooping.  I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it, but one of my absolute favorite things in movies or TV shows ever is when people go to the library to look at old newspapers and do research.  It takes me back to a simpler, better time, and it also reminds me of movies like The Amityville Horror in which people scroll through newspaper headlines, never bothering to read the full articles, and then gasp in horror when they come to some sort of big, epic revelation.  Something pretty similar happens in this scene, although Parker doesn’t have to dig back years and years the way they usually do in the horror movies; rather, he only goes back about a month and he stumbles upon an article with a nice black and white photo of Val/Verna and the headline, “L.A Author Valene Ewing Missing.”  Uh oh, what’s he going to do now that he has this inside information?!  Obviously what he’s going to do is rush to Val/Verna as fast as possible and propose marriage to her.  If I recall correctly, this scene takes place in the super cute and cozy looking apartment of Val/Verna, and Parker comes marching in all full of confidence and swagger and makes his case for why he positively loves Verna Ellers and wants to be with her for the rest of his life.  To the collective gasps and cries of “NO! NO!” heard from all 15 to 20 million people watching this upon original airdate, Val/Verna accepts his proposal and we have to wait and see how/if she is going to manage to get out of this.  Again, I can remember sitting there and watching this for the first time and being like, “Omigod this show is so brilliant; it never stops being exciting!” 

 

                Somebody has to come and rescue Val/Verna from these impending nuptials based on lies and deceit, and happily enough for myself, it appears that that person is Gary, the one true soulmate of Val/Verna.  See, when Abs gets back from Tennessee, she’s got her ass covered and is ready to take the wind out of Galveston’s sails, since just earlier this ep, Galveston reminded her that he knew where Val was and was planning on telling Gary.  In our final scene of the ep, Abs returns to Westfork and announces to Gary, “I know where Val is,” to which you can positively see the love in Gary’s eyes as his face lights up and he goes, “What?!  Where?!”  Abs tells him all about it at just the exact precise moment that Galveston comes rolling up his car.  He comes walking up to them, all ready to tell Gary what’s going on and get Abs into some serious trouble, only to be hit the revelation that Abs already told Gary and, as of this moment, he has no cards to play, although I have the feeling that will change shortly.  Anywho, we also end the ep fabulously with a freeze frame (which I notice they are doing a bit more frequently, and they always choose the most perfect eps to do it with) of Abby's smirking face as she looks at Galveston, basically saying, “Yup, I killed your plan; what are you gonna do about it?”  Fantastic ending to a fantastic ep.

                This was maybe not the best ep on the disk we watched (I think that honor would probably go to our previous ep, #14 With a Bullet), but it’s really splitting hairs at this point to try and pick a best ep out of this season.  The whole thing is just so consistently brilliant; every disk is a tour-de-force of joy and genius and this ep is obviously no exception.  As I so often say, I can only thank God that I don’t have to wait a whole week between eps like people back in the ‘80s did; we are able to do a nice binge watch of five eps at a time, which is obviously like having five consecutive, unbelievably intense orgasms all in one night, except of course much, much better.

                We’ll start a fresh new disk of five eps on our next visit, and we shall be starting with Out of the Past.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 114 of 344: #14 WITH A BULLET


Episode Title:  #14 With a Bullet

Season 06, Episode 14

Episode 114 of 344

Written by Peter Dunne

Directed by Nicholas Sgarro

Original Airdate: Thursday, January 10th, 1985

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Karen's surgery goes well. Galveston tells Greg to tell Mack to stop investigating the Tidal Basin murders, but instead Greg tells Mack to look for a connection between the murders and Galveston Industries. Gary's private detective tells Abby that Val has become Verna Ellers from her book "Nashville Junction" and that she seems happy. He says he'll do a fake report, in exchange for sex with Abby. He tells Gary he has no leads and is dropping the case. Galveston has his men bring him Abby's detective. Galveston threatens him, so the detective tells him where Val is. Then another man brings him all of Scott Easton's papers. Abby waits for the detective, but instead Galveston shows up and tells her that he knows where Val is and all about the babies and unless she comes up with a damn good explanation, he's going to tell Gary.




                Last week I said how I’m still managing to find each and every ep of KL to stand out as its own special and magnificent little 48 minute movie, and that trend continues this week.  God, how do the people working on this show do it so well?  You’ve got all these long, continuing, epic plots going on all concurrently, and you have to keep everything powering along and going good and exciting, yet they also manage to be artistic and keep each ep special, really standing out.  If our last ep was all about high emotions and a feeling of mounting dread as Karen prepared for her surgery, this episode is almost a religious experience, and I do mean that quite literally, since we open up on Mack entering a church and looking up at that big, creepy Jesus statue that always kept me afraid of going into church as a kid.


                Behind the camera this week, we have KL’s most prolific director, Nicholas Sgarro.  I feel like I’ve become so excited by other directors like Nick Havinga and Bill "Green Beret" Duke and, most especially, Larry Elikann, that I’m almost failing to give Sgarro his due.  Make no mistake, this guy is great, and he’s definitely got a special place in Heaven for directing more KL eps than anyone ever; I think it’s just the effect of how he’s directed so many that when his name pops up, I don’t generally get all EXCITED like I do when I see Elikann or Duke; I’m more like, “Oh yes, that old trustworthy Sgarro.”  However, let’s go ahead and give him an immediate shout out for how he shoots this scene with Mack in the church and how he cleverly runs audio of Karen’s meeting with her doctor over the footage.  Oh, such style, and all taking place on the small screen on a network show! 

                Oh yeah, and one other thing that we gotta mention regarding this ep: It’s written by none other than the landmark television giant Peter Dunne (pictured below in the only photo I can manage to find of him in the entire internet world), the man who’s dick I currently want to suck really hard because I’m crediting him with saving the show from cancellation with the brilliant triple whammy of seasons four, five, and six after a rather schizophrenic and sometimes hard to sit through third season.  Maybe I’m mistaken in giving him so much credit, maybe I’m not, and I’ll probably never know since I can’t time travel back to the set of the show at this point (although dear God, how I want to, if for no other reason than to violently sodomize Michael).  Anyway, I’m willing to say maybe Peter Dunne isn’t actually a genius in absolutely all regards considering some of the other credits on his IMDb (such as the dream season of Dallas and the rather awful final season of Melrose Place, a show that was hardly great art at any point in its run), but he was definitely a genius when it came to writing and crafting and understanding KL and all its characters, and his talents really shine this week with an excellent script full of fantastic character moments.


                So Karen’s in the hospital and she’s about to have her surgery and all that, but what’s Val/Verna up to over in Shula, Tennessee?  Well, we saw her making kissy with Parker Winslow last week, and now the kissy continues with Parker yet again (Parker Winslow can’t lose!), this time in the darkened back pantry or broom closet or whatever.  Basically Val/Verna goes wandering off into this dark room and is kinda sorta assaulted by Parker, who jumps out at her unexpectedly, and then the two continue to make kissy.  This would all be very romantic aside from the fact that Val/Verna is soul mates with one person and one person only, Mr. Gary Ewing, and it’s also upsetting to watch only because Parker continues to give us viewers a funny feeling.  After all, is his interest in Val/Verna really just stemming from a human physical attraction or is it from something deeper and more lecherous?  Again, we shall have to wait and find out.

                That’s about all that Val/Verna is up to this week, but Greg is busy as a bee with lots of different secret meetings, most notably one taking place in the back of a limo between him and Galveston.  We the viewers are definitely starting to get the sense that there’s some sort of crazy past history between these two (like perhaps maybe, just maybe, Galveston is actually Greg’s father) based on the way that they speak to each other, like two guys who have spent time together in the past but don’t really get along much.  This scene is similar to the one from our last ep in which Galveston creepily materialized by Greg’s bedside, although the gist of the scene is a smidge different.  In that scene, Galveston was saying ominous things about how the senate wouldn’t give Greg the power he wants and needs, something like that, but in the back of the limo, Galveston is telling Greg to get Mack far away from the Tidal Basin murders, to somehow encourage him to get off the case.  Greg is like, “Oh yeah, whatever, you’re old and I don’t like you and your guest appearance in a few years on Dallas is gonna suck,” and that pretty much ends the scene.  We kinda assume that Greg will go to Mack and do as Galveston asked, but he surprises us by doing precisely the opposite.  He comes walking into Mack’s office (the one with the ‘80s rowing machine on the floor, you’ll all remember) and My Beloved Grammy was like, “Ah, here’s where he tells Mack to drop the case.”  Instead, he tells Mack to further pursue the case and, indeed, to be even more aggressive in his pursuit.  Because of the way things have unfolded between these two over the last year or so, Mack is understandably a little bit reticent to take any advice from Greg, wondering why he’s suddenly showing up at his door to give him advice on a murder case.  He’s right to be suspicious since Greg has behaved questionably in the past, but in this case we get the sense that Greg is doing something he believes to be ethical and right, not listening to the orders of Galveston even though Galveston has a distinctive deep voice and a cool moustache. 


                This episode kicks into action movie mode during a delightfully unexpected car chase involving Mack and Jessick and, um, some other guy.  I can distinctly remember that there were three guys in Mack’s jeep, but damn it all, I can’t remember the third guy, and I’m not all that sure it’s too important anyway.  See, Mack’s driving along, everyone’s happy, he’s like, “Who wants to go get McDonald’s?” and Jessick is like, “McDonald’s makes my ass look fat and I’ll  look like that really disgusting fat chick from that super shitty sitcom with Kevin James,” so they decide not to go to McDonald’s and instead have a violent high speed car chase.  I love how this comes so wonderfully out of nowhere, how Mack sees this car and is like, “Oh shit!” and then immediately spins his jeep around and goes chasing after this other car, a car with two random dudes inside.  The whole time, Jessick is like, “Jesus, why are we having a high speed car chase?” but he gets no response from Mack, who manages to corner the car and then goes running out to violently assault the driver.  Seriously, Mack goes to town on this guy, really kicking the shit out of him for something like 72 minutes, even throwing him down against the hood of the car.  The guy is quickly abandoned by the other random dude in the car, who goes running off in pants-wetting terror, but just before the scene concludes, as this random dude lies all beat up and bleeding against his car, Mack points at him and says, “Wolfbridge hired him to beat me up!” 

                Ah yes, this brings me to a flashback from around, I think, mid season five, in which Karen was waiting for Mack to meet her for her drug rehab counseling and he instead got assaulted in the parking lot by Wolfbridge thugs.  Don’t you just love how that can happen so long ago but still play into the plots of the show now?  This is a type of storytelling that I have to think was pretty unique to this era of television, something we’d be more used to nowadays with the cable shows and the whole idea of binge watching TV.  Seriously, who in 1985 would see this scene and be like, “Oh yeah, I remember that scene!”  It feels like it happened so long ago, but it still plays into the plots now, and I like it that way.  On another, more base level, I also just enjoy whenever Mack gets really randomly angry and beats people up; it keeps his character so wonderfully unpredictable and, again, so manly.  Fuck, I’m starting to get really turned on by Mack at this point in the series, which is a new feeling.  The first time I watched the series, I obviously loved him and cherished him and respected him, but I don’t remember ever finding him sexy upon the first viewing and I’m starting to feel that way about him now.  Does this mean I’m growing and maturing or does it just mean I’m really horny?  I suppose that’s an issue for me to deal with on my own personal time, preferably with a good psychiatrist. 

                Meanwhile, Abs is up to her wicked ways again this week, helping to keep her character fully fledged and fascinating.  See, we’ve been watching Abs desperately try and figure out what happened to Val’s babies as well as what happened to Scott Easton, running around in bad hats and acting like a little amateur detective.  We have seen that she is not completely cold and heartless, that she does understand the maternal instinct and that she feels awful about what has happened to Val and her babies.  Now, on another show, this might lead to a “Abs turning good” storyline in which she goes to the join the rebels like the end of Return of the Jedi or something, but KL is more complex than that, and this week we see her still up to her duplicitous ways.


                See, that P.I. guy that Abs hired found Val/Verna last week, right?  When he found her, she was in the diner kissing Parker and he made the assumption that she had chosen to disappear into Shula and a new life with some new man, which is what he’s told Abs.  This week, Abs gives him orders to write a nice, tidy little report that says he failed to find Val and he’ll be moving on to a new case.  Abs declares, “I want the case on Valene Ewing closed.”  Later, she and the P.I. have a nice little meeting at her office at Lotus Point (where Abs mentions that she was an English major, just like me!), in which he starts to get, well, a little Trumpy.  I feel like it’s been a long while since Trumpy rape made its way into KL (I honestly think season one’s The Lie might have been the last rapey episode we’ve seen), but now it’s back.  See, the P.I. holds up two files and says, “This one brings Val home, and this one keeps her away.”  Abs sorta sighs and clearly makes the assumption that this is all about exploiting her out of money, so she starts to pull out her checkbook and scribble something and is like, “Okay, how much?”  However, things get creepy/rapey when the P.I. walks over to her and starts to slowly stroke her face while moaning, “Money isn’t everything, Mrs. Ewing.”  Then he goes walking off, leaving both Abs and myself with a genuine feeling of disgust.


                Ugh, let’s talk about rape for a minute.  It’s one of those subjects that is a horrible thing but that is sadly a part of our world, something that happens all the time and is very hard to digest.  Back in The Lie, I didn’t enjoy seeing Laura get raped, but I respected the episode for being well crafted and incredibly acted and exploring the subject in a complex way.  Here, as that horrible P.I. started to stroke Abby’s face, I honestly couldn’t remember if Abs was gonna get raped, either later in the episode or right here in front of me.  As it was happening, I kinda thought we might cut to commercial just as the P.I. started to rape, sorta like the two times J.R. raped people on Dallas and they would just cut to commercial as it was happening (yes, J.R. raped twice, I’m not making this up; once he raped Dr. Goodhead and once he raped that boring British chick that Clayton was obsessed with).  All I knew is that I did not want to see it.  There is something about the idea of Abs being raped that is just too horrible for me to deal with, and I don’t know if I would have been able to handle it happening to her.  She may be wicked and she may be duplicitous, but she’s also really strong and she’s sharp and smart and she’s my girl and I just don’t want to see her get raped.  Happily for me, that does not happen.  Again, if this was another show, like Melrose Place for instance, I have no doubt that Abs would get raped and the writers would be like, “We need a rape to create good drama!”  On KL, the drama comes from continuous unexpected avenues, from the curveballs the writers constantly throw at us and the characters.  For instance, the next day, the P.I. shows up to show Abs and Gary his report, and it’s the report that ends with his failing to find Val at all.  Also present in the scene (and this is significant for the latter portion of the ep) is Galveston, sorta watching proceedings like a hawk.  The P.I. hands the file over to Abs and when she opens it, she sees a little post-it note inside saying, “Meet me at your office at 8:00PM so I can rape you.”  I don’t know if Galveston actually sees this note or what, but I think he does, because he gets this sharp look in his eye and we can tell wheels are in motion in his head.

                In one of the last scene of the ep, Abs is sitting in her office waiting to be raped, but instead of the rapey P.I. coming to pay her a visit, it’s actually Paul Galveston.  Over the last few eps, we’ve seen that these two have a, shall we say, contentious relationship with one another (can we ever forget such dialogue as, “Shouldn’t you be at home making babies?” and “One more thing, don’t call me ‘Cookie’?) and that contentious relationship only escalates here.  See, Abs is kinda surprised to see Galveston here and so she asks if he’d like a drink and he’s like, “Another time, perhaps,” and then he launches into this speech where he’s like, “I don’t know what I have planned for you,” but then a second later he shows that he has a lot planned for her.  He tells her how he knows where Val is and that his next step is to figure out where the babies are, and once that’s completed, he’s gonna tell Gary absolutely everything.  Then he marches off and leaves Abs looking like she’s about to poop her pants.


                It’s been a few eps since Cathy graced us with one of her fabulous cover songs, but she more than makes up for it in this ep with a rousing rendition of Beat of a Heart by Scandal.  Now, I didn’t know this song or this band as we were watching the ep, but after finishing our disk I immediately sped home, running over puppies and old people in my frantic quest to return to my abode and look up this song, and I found the original version by Scandal on YouTube.  It has a fabulous ‘80s sound to it but, as usual, Lisa gives us the better version.  While Scandal’s music video is basically just one of those boring ‘80s music videos with lots of singing in front of white walls (I attached it below so you can all see it for yourself), Lisa’s rendition at Isadora’s is positively stunning, a true ‘80s explosion all around her.  I could happily watch this scene on a loop for the rest of time, never moving or getting out of my chair until the time comes for me to finally die and go to Hell.  My God, not only do we have the fabulous song which positively drips with ‘80s goodness, but we’ve also got Cathy’s wild electro-shock hair, as if she accidentally stuck her finger in an electrical socket and then had to go onstage right away and wasn’t able to give it a comb, plus we’ve got just about a million star filters going off behind her while the band plays and the people listen to her and it was just one of the greatest scenes I’ve ever seen committed to celluloid.



                I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but I feel like KL is a much more ‘80s show than Dallas, and I obviously mean that in the complimentary way, because the ‘80s are awesome.  It’s rather strange to notice this since both shows were on the air all the way through the entirety of the 1980’s, yet I felt that Dallas existed in something of a time warp in which everyone just sorta lived on the ranch or in stuffy offices full of liquor, but there were hardly ever any scenes where we heard a good ‘80s tune being blasted or went to a sexy ‘80s nightclub.  Indeed, whenever an ‘80s song did make its way into the series (such as when Charlie and Brad Pitt were dancing around to a cover version of Mony Mony), it would always feel jarring to me and I’d be like, “Oh yeah, we’re watching an ‘80s show; I kinda forgot.”  Here on KL, it’s impossible to forget the decade because there is so much ‘80s aesthetic just oozing out of every frame, and I feel like everything great and brilliant about the 1980s is rolled up into one fantastic ball of genius and exemplified through Lisa and all of her fabulous songs and performances.  God, don’t you just want to climb into the television screen and live in this world forever?!


                Last thing I’d like to note before we move on to Karen and her surgery: Gary gives a wonderful speech to Abs this week about a man speaking at his recent A.A. meeting.  He talks about how this man would always go off and disappear from his family so that he could also disappear into the nearest bottle.  He would get black out drunk and wander around for awhile before waking up in some strange new environment and having to figure out where he was, but whenever he would come home, his wife would be waiting to be nice and help him get cleaned up.  Gary makes the point that it wasn’t until his wife finally took the kids and left this guy that the man began to see straight and decided to quit drinking forever, but of course the sad irony is that by the time the man was straight and sober, he had lost his family.  Gary then goes on to say something about how Val would always do the same for him during his big benders, and then Abs delivers a line that actually made me laugh out loud, in which she asks, “Honey, are you thinking of drinking again?”  Um, no, Abs, he’s just telling you a story and making a point, and I think it’s funny how the point seems to go flying over her head.  This is a good scene for many reasons.  First off, it causes us to pause and reflect on Gary’s drinking and his fantastic sobriety that he’s maintained all the way through season five and now six, but it also makes us reflect on the negative qualities of his marriage to Val.  We realize that, in many ways, Val was an enabler for Gary’s drinking because she would always be there to support him afterwards, to make like it was okay.  This really opened my eyes and made me realize there are many positive qualities to the union of Gary and Abs.  Back in season four, during Gary’s big final bender, Abs was very cold with him and said, “If you want to drink yourself to death, go ahead.”  She did not merely stand by to be a good doting wife the way Val probably would, and I think that is one of the primary reasons that Gary truly got straight.  If he had been married to Val during that period, he could very well still be drinking at this point in the saga.  Also, I just like to have little shout-outs to Gary’s A.A. meetings to help establish that he’s continuing to go to those.  We may not see him going to the A.A. meetings on a regular basis, but we know that he is doing so and that’s good information to have.


                Okay, let’s get back to Karen.  Last week she agreed to the risky, scary, could-possibly-kill-her-the-way-it-killed-Sid surgery, and this week she’s ready to go with the surgery.  She spends most of the ep in the hospital, getting prepped, and we get a lovely scene between her and some kid in a wheelchair.  See, in case I forgot to mention it, one of the big risks of this surgery, in addition to, you know, death, is that Karen may end up in a wheelchair paralyzed forever.  This is a scary prospect, but near the middle of the ep, she’s sorta wheeling herself around the hospital, getting used to the feeling of moving in the chair, and she runs into this nice young boy who is also in a wheelchair.  At first, when we see him climbing out of his bed and getting into a wheelchair, we think this is supposed to be a sad scene, but then we quickly realize that the boy has a great attitude, that he’s not going to let this wheelchair ruin his life, and that he sorta shows Karen that this doesn’t have to be the end of the world.  She’s having a hard time moving her chair around, and he says something like, “For the first month, I broke everything in the house,” and shows her it’s just a period of adjustment, really.

                When the time for the big surgery comes, the tension really rackets up, and My Beloved Grammy continued to make little comments like, “Oh they can’t kill Karen off…..can they?”  How pleased I am to see this suspense and excitement really working on her, and how pleased I am to see the show’s sublime magic truly taking control of her (at the end of this disk of eps, she declared, “This is a brilliant series” and I was like, “Yeah, I fucking know, right?!”).  Like I mentioned before, if you manage to wash your brain out of the retroactive knowledge that Karen will be with us until the final episode in 1993, and if you manage to just look at this as its unfolding in front of you, not knowing what lies in the future, it could definitely seem like Karen might die.  Again, I remind you that they killed Sid, and not even in the spot where you would usually kill a main cast member, between two seasons, but rather at the very start of the third season, even after going through the trouble of redesigning the opening credits and keeping his name in there.  So yes, because of all that, it seems that Karen may die.


                However, she wakes up from her surgery, so we know that we’ve dodged that bullet (you see what I did there?), but will she be paralyzed?  This is an incredible scene and yet another one of those scenes that has ingrained itself into my brain for all time, ever since the first time I watched the series back in college.  See, Karen wakes up but is still groggy and unable to speak, so the doctors and nurses ask her to blink if she can understand them, which she does, and then they say how they’re gonna touch her feet and she needs to blink if/when she feels any sensation.  Oh God, the music gets scary as the doctor runs that, like, wheel thing over her foot, and no blinking.  Is she paralyzed?  The KL writing and plotting is so good that it honestly seems like a distinct possibility, that perhaps the next big story for Karen will be adjusting to life in a wheelchair, like Bobby Brady in another brilliant CBS series, The Bradys.  However, after a good long moment of suspense in which Karen appears to feel no sensation below her waist, the doctor runs the wheel thing over her foot one more time and we go into a really great closeup of Karen’s eyeballs as she blinks along with them filling with tears.  Oh man, such acting, can you imagine having to make your eyes start out dry and then fill with tears all in one extreme, tight closeup?  I think I could make myself cry pretty well if I was an actor and it was required for the scene, but I don’t know if I could do it knowing that the camera was in a super duper tight Wayne’s World style extreme closeup and that every detail of my eyes filling with tears would be photographed in microscopic detail, but Michele does it here, adding yet another stunning performance to her many past and future stunning performances.  Fuck me, yes, it’s all so good.


                We actually end on something that should be incredibly corny and eye-rolling, and that is Mack entering the church again to give a great big thumbs up to Jesus.  I know, I know, it sounds ridiculous when you write it down, and for all intents and purposes it should seem like high camp to witness onscreen, but somehow, God bless it, somehow it works.  How does the KL team do it?  On what other series could you end an ep with someone giving a thumbs up to Jesus and not have all of America pee their pants in laughter?  Why does it work so well here?  Why is it maybe one of my top ten episode endings of all time?  I don’t know, but all I do know is that this is a stunning ending to a stunning episode.

                Last thing I wanna address before we move on to our next ep is how long this storyline has been going on and how not boring it has been.  Over on Dallas right around this time, America was suffering through the absolutely toxic “Jenna Wade murder trial” storyline in which Scooter Warren was the lawyer of her ex-husband or something equally boring.  This story went on forever and is absolutely impossible for any living human to sit through (making it even more of a mystery how Dallas could finish at #2 in the rating while KL was #9, again showing that American people generally have no taste when it comes to what they will watch on television), yet this Karen storyline has also gone on pretty long, fourteen eps long, yet somehow it never bored me and it never felt long winded.  I know some fans disagree, as I’ve seen some people write that the story went on too long, but I simply disagree.  Yeah, it spans nearly half the season, but I was never bored, and in the typical KL fashion, it wasn’t just drama for drama’s sake, but it was drama coming from the inner core of the characters, keeping them interesting and real to us, and I think the pacing was just perfect and that this was the best spot to end this storyine and wrap it up.  Give it another two or three or four eps and I would have started to get bored with it, but ending it right here in episode #14 (with a bullet!) was the perfect choice.

                Clearly this episode was a sublime and shining work of genius, so let’s move right along and find out if our next episode can be equally good, as we explore the inside information of our next episode, Inside Information.