Thursday, August 17, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 138 of 344: PICTURES AT A WEDDING


Episode Title:  Pictures at a Wedding

Season 07, Episode 08

Episode 138 of 344


Directed by Nicholas Sgarro

Original Airdate: Thursday, November 14th, 1985

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Gary is sure the twins are his.  Joshua tries to break into Cathy's apartment, and then trashes Val's house. Val kicks him out and Lilimae is upset. At the station, Joshua finds out that Ben gave his show to Cathy, and he and Ben fight. Cathy tells Ben that Joshua is upset because Lilimae is dying. Ben talks with her doctor, who says Lilimae only has bursitis. Cathy is upset that Joshua would lie to her like that. Greg thinks Peter is snooping too much, but Peter says Greg is sloppy with information. Equipment convoys for the underground communication center are coming to Empire Valley on Monday, so Abby asks Gary to go away with her to get him out of town. Val and Ben ask the MacKenzies to stand up for them at their wedding, and to go along with them that Ben is the twin's father. On the day of the wedding, Val and Lilimae make up. Gary decides to drop Olivia off before going out of town and stops to talk to Val. Ben sees this and isn't happy.



                Welcome to Pictures at a Wedding, our first episode all about a wedding since, well, For Better, For Worse near the end of season six.  I guess it hasn’t been that long since we had a wedding episode, but what’s exciting about this ep is not necessarily that it’s about a wedding, but the people who are finally getting married, Ben and Val.  I’ve gone on and on about my love affair with the slow burn storytelling of KL, and right here in the relationship between Ben and Val, we have a perfect example of that quality.  Ben was introduced right in the first episode of season five, which was The People vs Gary Ewing, which aired September 29th, 1983, and which was episode 076 of the series.  Now here we are with Pictures at a Wedding, which is airing November 14th, 1985, and which is episode 138 of the series.  So we have a gap of over two years and 62 eps between Ben being introduced as Val’s new romantic interest and the two of them finally tying the knot now.  On another show, let’s say Dallas, perhaps, I feel like Ben would be introduced and then, five episodes later, he would be marrying Val.  On KL, things unfold at a more realistic and grounded pace, and it’s one of the many qualities I respect so much about the series.  Of course, I’m getting ahead of myself by declaring that they tie the knot in this ep; maybe they do and maybe they don’t, but the question of will they or won’t they is kinda the central thrust of this ep.  There’s a lot to discuss here and this is episode is also coming to us courtesy of two important people in the KL universe, Michael Filerman and David Paulsen. 

                This might sound immediately contradictory to everything I just said, but it could certainly be argued that this wedding is happening a smidge fast considering it was only in the closing seconds of our very last ep that Val said to Ben, “I think it’s time we got married.”  However, I don’t see it as happening fast specifically because we’ve had those 62 eps of buildup in the relationship between the two characters, so after waiting 62 eps, I can’t blame the two for now wanting to get the wedding going as fast as possible.  As we open the ep, Karen is all excited about having gotten her living room remodeled (this has been a small little side plot sorta going on throughout the last couple of eps), when Ben and Val stop by for a visit.  They tell Mack and Karen about how they’re getting married, everyone’s all good and excited, and then they have a nice chat about how, for all intents and purposes, they are going to be raising the twins with Ben as their official father.  This is a good scene because it helps to remind us of who exactly knows what as far as Val’s babies are concerned.  So, for those of you keeping track at home, the people who know that Gary is the real father are Val (duh), Ben, Karen, Mack, Abs, and, if I’m remembering correctly, Greg Sumner.  I’m not crazy, right?  There was a scene in season six where Abs spilled her guts to Greg and told him that Gary is the true father, right?  If I’m remembering wrong, write in and yell at me.  The timing of this wedding is pretty much perfectly terrible, by the way, because it was just last ep that we finally got to see the light bulb going on in Gary’s head as he held the babies while Lilimae narrated about how, “You’d think Ben wasn’t even their real father.”  In this ep, Gary is facing a moral crisis, not knowing what to do or how to behave.  Can he just pretend that there’s no possibility of him being the father and go along shagging Abs in hot tubs and being happy?  Or does he have to know the truth?  And if he does know the truth, would it be possible for him to watch Ben and Val get married and live happily ever while still keeping his own mouth shut?  So much to chew on here.

                I love Shack deeply and adore his acting and the way he brings Gary Ewing to life.  I feel like sometimes I forget to mention that because it’s just such a given; he’s such a vital part of the show that I just tend to accept his amazingness and forget to acknowledge him as much as I really should.  With Pictures at a Wedding, I feel we are seeing some of his best acting as he wrestles with what decision to make, and we have many fabulous scenes from him, one after the other.  Probably my favorite scene from him this ep takes place at Lotus Point between him and Karen.  He comes to visit her at her office, they’re making polite chit chat for a couple of seconds, and then things get real when he shuts the door to her office and looks her right in the face and says, “Let me ask you something; are those babies mine?”  We then cut right to a commercial, which is a brilliant decision and the perfect place to insert an ad for Tide before we get to return to the main drama a moment later.  Karen manages to hold her own very well when she tells Gary that they are not his babies, that they are Ben’s babies, and then she heavily discourages him from bringing the subject up with Val or interfering with the wedding in any way.

                I’ve also gone on and on about how I feel we have crossed the threshold where the show is no longer new and the characters are now firmly established and completely fully inhabited by the actors playing them.  I bring that up yet again only because I feel this scene is a perfect example of that.  Here we are watching Michele and Shack sharing a very excellent scene together, and these are both characters we have followed all the way from day one, since the very first episode of the series.  I think that longevity is one of the reasons why a scene like this comes off as so good, because both actors know their characters inside and out as if they are, in fact, real people. 

                Despite what Karen says, Gary is still having a hard time, and you can hardly blame him.  We get another callback to Bobby’s death (and, now that I’ve officially finished my just-for-fun rewatch of the dream season of Dallas, I can officially declare with 100% certainty that Bobby’s death is handled far better on KL than it is over on the parent series during the exact same season) when we see Gary sitting and gazing at a black and white framed photo of him and Bobby as kids, and wouldn’t you know it, the two boys standing side by side together look pretty much exactly like Val’s new twins.  God, what a fabulous way to stay linked to the parent series but do it in a super organic and interesting way that propels the plotlines on the spinoff further, because now this photo that Gary found is serving to move the storyline over here on KL.  This is quality writing, folks.

                I’m gonna move away from Gary for a moment to focus on some other characters.  In case I didn’t mention it, this wedding is going to take place at Lotus Point, which has really turned into a lavish tourist destination by now.  We now see that it comes with a pool and tennis courts and, I’m fairly certain, a fully functioning gym (we all know how into pumping iron Gary is), and a restaurant; it’s basically got everything you could ever want.  Also, last ep Karen started trying to persuade Laura to come work with her at Lotus Point and, at first, Laura didn’t want to, citing some of her disastrous past jobs with friends or family that have wreaked havoc on her life.  She reminds us of the tragedy of Richard’s restaurant, of what happened when she worked for Abs during season five, and what happened when she got involved with Sumner and all his political stuff.  Again, this is solid writing that shows the writers are remembering all the past history of these characters and are making sure to remind us of what went down in seasons past, yet being done in such an organic and subtle way that you hardly notice it’s happening.  Ooooh, and the same could be said for a fabulous Sid callback that we get via Laura to Karen.  See, when Karen is trying to sell her on the idea of working with her, she starts to talk in these big, over-the-top ways about how Lotus Point could make the world a better place, and then Laura says how Karen sounds like Sid when she talks that way.  God, yes, everything about this scene is a yes. 




                We also get a line a little later in the ep that I have to wonder if it’s meant to be somewhat meta.  Karen and Laura are discussing something or other and how much this something or other will cost and then Karen just casually says how it should cost about eleven million dollars, to which Laura says, “I can remember a time when eleven million dollars meant a lot to you.”  I’m convinced this line is supposed to sorta like Eric’s immortal, “Living in this cul-de-sac is like being in a soap opera,” line from a few eps back, if the writers are deliberately acknowledging that they know these characters are now more glamorous and rich than they were back in the simpler, more middle class days of seasons one through three. 

                Meanwhile, Joshua is unraveling so rapidly that it makes the Joshua of the closing hours of season six seem like a big, snuggly teddy bear.  By this point, he is legit frightening to watch and he only gets more frightening in this ep.  You should all vividly recall him attacking Cathy and flinging her into a pile of garbage last ep, which means that Cathy is justifiably upset with him now.  When we first catch up with the two characters, Cathy is in the little apartment that she bought a few eps back, alone and enjoying some relative peace, when Joshua knocks on the door and starts pleading with her to let him in.  Fuck, what a suspenseful scene, as Cathy puts her head up against the door, which is locked with one of those cool chain things that I wish I had.  I also love how perfectly acted this scene is by both actors; I believe in Cathy’s fright and I also think Baldwin is perfectly portraying a mentally unhinged and abusive person, most specifically in his ability to go from calm and collected to totally raving within seconds, which he demonstrates nicely in this scene.  See, at first his voice is all calm and gentle and he’s telling her how sorry he is for throwing her into a pile of garbage, saying she should just open the door, which she eventually does, although she’s smart enough to leave the chain on so he can't burst in.  It’s good thinking, too, because after she tells him their marriage is over, he freaks out and starts screaming at her and trying to break the door down, turning really scary really fast, a classic psychotic abusive in action.  Fortunately, Cathy manages to get the door shut and locked without him getting in, but it’s still a tremendously unnerving scene.

                A little later, Joshua returns to Val’s house all pissed off because he went in for an interview with someone only to find that the people were no longer interested in him.  As he talks, he gets more and more super scary, throwing things around, breaking a lamp, basically trashing the entire living room while Lilimae and Val scream at him to calm down.  All three actors are at the absolute peak of their talents in this scene, and my favorite thing about the whole scene is probably the way Val asserts control and orders Joshua out of the house right away.  I’m a big fan of assertive Val; I love whenever she gets real tough and direct, and this is a good example.  Then she rushes upstairs to start packing up a suitcase for Joshua, declaring to Lilimae that Joshua is never setting foot in the house again, ever.  Obviously I am completely and 100% supportive of Val in this situation.  Joshua is a raving lunatic, he’s now become abusive, violent, and dangerous and there are two new babies living in the house now, two babies who shouldn’t be around a psychotic.  At the same time, I understand Lilimae and my heart goes out to her.  I’m gonna go ahead and boldly declare that Julie Harris and only Julie Harris could manage to convey all the emotions going through Lilimae in such a fabulous, realistic, and yet subtle way.  During this scene, she manages to be frightened of Joshua but also deeply hurt by what Val is saying.  This goes back to what I said last ep, about how Lilimae simply doesn’t know what to do with Joshua, that she doesn’t want to alienate the son she has only just recently gotten close to, and that’s why she’s choosing to bury her head in the sand at this point.  She is not stupid and she logically knows that Joshua is a menace, but her heart is still going out to him because of how she abandoned him so many years ago.  So many complex emotions going on, all confined within one fantastic scene with some of the best acting we’ve seen on the series ever.

                Later in the ep, we are catching up with Ben and Cathy at Pacific Cable Whatever as they have a nice long chat about what a psycho Joshua is.  The only problem is that Joshua is lurking in the vicinity, hiding out under, like, the bleachers or whatever, listening to them talk, watching as his stupid little religious show gets morphed into something much sexier, much more rocking, and much better.  Indeed, in case I’ve forgotten to mention it before, Ben is effectively morphing the religious show into something completely different, something that focuses exclusively on the talents of Cathy and her band, something that people might actually want to watch.  Joshua is upset by these developments, so he takes it upon himself to interrupt what is shaping up to be a great Cathy musical number and turn into The Phantom of Pacific Cable Whatever, cutting the electricity and ruining the show and generally being a menace.  He is thrown out by security or whatever, but I do question Ben’s decision to not call the police and report this blatant vandalism, perhaps get a restraining order put on Joshua.  In fact, that’s probably my only criticism right now of this most sizzling storyine which, for the record, is my absolute favorite story going on right now and one of my favorites of the entire series run.  The criticism is that I find it a smidge unrealistic that nobody, in all this drama and chaos, decides to call the police and report Joshua’s psychotic behavior as of late.  Maybe this is a storytelling contrivance to keep the drama moving, but I’m not too upset about it because the drama at hand is just so very good.


                There’s another vital plot development this week relating to the whole story of Lilimae “dying.”  If you’ll recall, this is the lie that Joshua thought up to explain to Cathy why he needs to keep living with Lilimae, but now that lie is coming back to bite him on the ass.  See, Cathy tells Ben how Lilimae is dying, trying to use this as a reason for why Joshua is acting so nutty.  I’m not sure that Ben even buys this in the first place, but it’s hard to tell, and in any case, he winds up visiting Lilimae’s doctor in the interest of getting a blood test before the wedding (I don’t know if you still need to do this nowadays and, since I never plan to get married, I’ll probably never find out) and he mentions how he found out that Lilimae is dying.  The doctor is fairly shocked to hear Ben say this and immediately tells him that Lilimae is not dying, that she only has bursitis (whatever the hell that is).  At first I wondered if this doctor is in any way violating the whole Hippocratic oath confidentiality thing, but I’m pretty sure he’s not.  It’s violating the confidentiality if you’re like, “Hey everyone, guess who’s dying!”, but I think it’s okay to assure a person that another person is not dying when the one person seems to believe that they are.  In any case, this is real important because now Ben knows that Joshua’s been lying and he’s able to report it back to Cathy, further emphasizing what a crazy monster she is now married to.

                The day of the ceremony arrives, and we are immediately given the fantastic gift of one amazing scene after another, just flying at us like these magical, wonderful bullets of love out of some magic and amazing gun.  The first scene to spring to mind is a wonderfully touching, actually-brought-tears-to-my-eyes scene between Lilimae and Val in which they make up.  Val’s all dressed up in her wedding outfit and Lilimae is looking real pretty with a nice outfit and a nice hairdo, and they talk about the whole something old, something new, something borrowed Bob Loblaw stuff.  Then Lilimae starts crying and she tells Val how she loves her and always will and they embrace and it’s just glorious.  This is a situation where nothing I write can possibly exemplify the magic of this scene, you really just need to watch it (after watching the 137 eps that come before it, of course, although you have my full permission to skip Silver Shadows).  This is just two actresses inhabiting their characters and really bringing them to life, acting their asses off together, and it’s a fabulous thing to witness.  In my notes I simply jotted down what I so often think to myself while watching the series, “These characters are soooooooo interesting.”

                Let’s get back to Gary and his moral dilemma, since that jets us right along to our final scene of the ep.  Okay, so there’s something confusing going on over at Empire Valley, something I’m not bothering to pay any attention to or write about at this point, but basically because of this top secret thing that’s going on over there, Greg wants Abs to get Gary out of town for awhile, so she convinces him that they need to run off together for some sort of wild weekend of nonstop shagging in a super fancy hotel.  The day of the wedding comes and it’s also the day that Gary and Abs are supposed to leave town, but first Gary has to give Olivia a ride to the wedding.  He takes her there and then he decides to also take a stroll through Lotus Point and see all the proceedings and shenanigans, maybe, just maybe, talk to Val and ask her for the truth about the babies.  When Mack sees Gary at Lotus Point, he comes up to him and tells him how he doesn’t want to screw this up, all that stuff, but Gary is now set in his decision to speak with Val, so he walks up to her, all while Ben glares at them from off in the distance, and he asks Val if there’s somewhere they could go to talk and then BOOM, the ep is over, a most fabulous ending to a most fabulous episode.

                Fuck, this episode was good.  With the talent involved in writing the script (and in this case I really think that Michael Filerman, pictured below, is something of an unsung hero behind the scenes of KL for all fourteen seasons and I think he probably deserves most of the credit for this ep being so great), one shouldn’t be surprised at how brilliantly this turns out.  Scene by scene, beat by beat, this episode was killer, without a second of dull footage, with a million fantastic and fascinating character moments, with the drama just powering along, totally riveting, yet at the same time a fabulous feeling of reflection from all the people involved, of the cast and crew taking this opportunity to kinda look back at their previous work and how far they have come in the last six years. 


                As I seem to be saying for every ep at this point, the most amazing thing about all this is that, as great as this episode was, the next episode is even better.  Our next ep shows the triumphant return of my favorite KL director, Larry Elikann, giving us his penultimate episode of the series with Until Parted by Death.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 137 of 344: AWAKENINGS



 

Episode Title:  Awakenings

Season 07, Episode 07

Episode 137 of 344


Directed by Lorraine Senna

Original Airdate: Thursday, November 7th, 1985

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Jill tells Mack that she loves him. Peter listens in as Abby tells Greg that Gary called the surveyor to come into town. Peter has a man call Gary pretending to be the surveyor and rectifies the situation. Karen offers Laura a job overseeing the next phase at Lotus Point. Joshua doesn't show up for a taping, so Ben has Cathy sing for the whole show. Joshua sees it, and is really upset. He meets a waitress, Linda, and makes out with her. Joshua has Cathy meet him and he beats her up. She runs to Ben's. They have a heart to heart talk, and Ben tells her to leave Joshua. Cathy points out that he doesn't leave Val. Val tells Ben she loves him and is ready to get married. He says that's not a solution, but she convinces him. He says he will, but that he wants to be the twins’ father - their only father, and Val agrees. Gary stops by to see the twins, and begins to suspect that he may be their father.

 


                When we last left off, J.B. had announced to Mack that she would be shortly returning to Sacramento, Mack had opined that he wanted her to stick around a little bit longer, and then he threw his tie over that picture of him and Karen together in one of my favorite ep endings, well, ever.  This glides us nicely into the episode up for discussion today, Awakenings, in which the sexual tension between Mack and J.B. continues to escalate.  Will Mack stumble and fall inside of J.B.?  What will happen?  Let’s explore and find out.  There’s so much going on this ep, as with pretty much every ep of KL since the show made the leap from pretty good to Undisputed Masterpiece of Television in season four.  While I’m tempted to begin by discussing some of the sizzling drama going on with our other characters, I’ll keep the focus on Mack and J.B. for awhile before I move on, so let’s see; what are they up to in Awakenings?

                As a result of the hideously long gap I’ve allowed to occur between the viewing of these eps and my actual sitting down to write about them, I’m already forgetting certain details, and here’s one right off the bat: I can’t remember if J.B. flew back to Sacramento and now she’s back just for the day to finish up the whole baby snatching investigation or if she has stuck around the area this whole time because of what Mack wants.  In any case, I don’t know that it’s particularly important to the events at hand; for the time being, all that matters is that she’s here right now and she and Mack are arguing a lot.  Oh God, such interesting characters, and yet again I bow at the feet of the KL writing staff that all these characters, whether they are well established members of the cast or fresh new faces just arriving, are always so super interesting and complex.  J.B. has been on the show for, what, like five eps?  Yet she’s already compelling to watch and a fully fledged character, and this is all before she’s even gotten very much “interesting” material to work with.  When you think about where this character will wind up by seasons nine and ten and how fucking amazing all that stuff is sure to be, this romance stuff with Mack seems kinda not-so-interesting in retrospect, but while staring at it, watching it happen before my eyes, it’s already great.  Compare this to Dallas where they were constantly introducing crap characters like, say, Jack and Jamie Ewing (remember them?  No?  Exactly) and then asking us viewers to care about them.
 
 
 

                Anyway, J.B. has a bug up her ass right now and is being extra grumpy towards Mack.  I was watching all this play out and trying to decide if Mack is acting any differently than usual, and no, I don’t really think so, but I think we’re all smart enough to see what’s really going on here.  J.B. has gotten a little boner for Mack during their time working together, and these feelings scare her, so she lashes out by acting extra nasty in an effort to drive him away.  Of course, I don’t have to stretch that hard to make this argument, since it’s pretty much explicitly stated by her near the end of the ep.

                Basically, the whole baby snatching investigation thing goes off without a hitch.  There’s some sort of trial or, you know, something, and I guess whatever the goal set forth by Mack and J.B. was, it is reached by the conclusion of this ep.  Wicked Dr. Ackerman already took matters into his own hands by wrapping his lips around a revolver (okay, he didn’t literally do that, since he shot himself in the brain, but I’m just trying to be clever by quoting an old Seinfeld), but this whole investigation was really more about the evil adoption guy (Cavanaugh) who was involved in snatching Val’s babies as well as a bunch  of other babies.  I don’t know if he’s hauled off to prison or what, even though I’m sure it was stated in the ep, but suffice it to say that Mack and J.B. are happy about how things turn out, and it’s at this point that J.B. lays it on the line for Mack. 
 
 
 

She tells him that she loves him, but even this is done in a fabulously KL way.  Again, if this was Dallas (sorry I keep doing that, but I just can’t help myself!) I feel like the female character would get this big dramatic closeup, the music would swell and get really ridiculous, and then she would boldly and slowly announce, “I love you!” right before we cut to a commercial.  However, on KL we always keep things a little more grounded, a little more realistic, so J.B. just speaks directly and she says something like, “I went off and fell in love with a married guy.”  She says it very flat like that, kinda sounding mad at herself that she ever was that stupid, speaking in a tone that tells us she wants to forget about this, go back to her home, and move on, which she does for the time being, and that’s another thing I’d forgotten, by the way.  In my memories, even though J.B. doesn’t get to join the opening credits until season ten, I felt like once she’s introduced, she’s pretty much a main character that’s in every episode for all of seasons seven, eight, and nine.  I can’t speak to eight and nine yet, since we haven’t reached that juncture quite yet, but in this case she leaves town and she really is gone for awhile.  I can’t say how long she’s gone, since I don’t remember when she returns, but I will say she was gone for the entire remainder of the disk we watched, and she might even be gone for the next disk as well; I’ll report back once we’ve watched that.  I just think it’s very interesting to see that she’s here, she’s been introduced, she’s had this little ongoing flirtation with Mack, and now she’s leaving for awhile.  Obviously I’ll be extremely pleased when she comes back since I could watch J.B. taking a shit and I would still be very entertained, but I also respect the slow burn quality of KL which rewards us for our patience, so for the time being, J.B. is gone. 
 
 
 

Even though I love Mack and I love J.B., it’s a testament to how incredible this cast is that I wind up finding their material this ep the least interesting stuff; everyone else is just getting such great drama to cut their teeth on.  Let’s catch up with Greg and Laura and discuss what’s going down with them right now.  The answer is not a whole hell of a lot.  They are still broken up and Laura is still mad at him.  I’ve been thinking about this (since I think about KL on a daily basis and the characters are real people to me and I’ll go about my day and still be thinking about their choices and their decisions and asking myself why they do certain things; I’m far more interested in them than in any of the real people I interact with on a daily basis), and I’ve definitely decided that Laura isn’t even necessarily mad at Greg because of the whole Ava/Abs setup from late season six.  In my opinion, Laura is smart enough to know that was a setup devised by those two wicked women, so I don’t think she’s mad at Greg for that.  I think that incident just served to remind her that Greg is mixed up with a lot of different people and that he refuses to be completely and 100% honest with her, and that’s the real rift in their relationship right now.

Greg enjoys Cigar #6 on the Sumner Cigar Counter late one night when he decides to call up Laura at home and declare, “I’m coming over.”  Laura tells him no, shooting him down in classic Laura fashion; I’m sure she had some brilliant line that I’ve sadly forgotten, so Greg is left alone in his office with Cigar #6, probably wondering if he should dial the number to get another call girl (although I’m not so sure that the “whatever” call girl would be too willing to return to service him after his lack of enthusiasm last time).  I mostly mention this scene not just to get the next cigar into the Sumner Cigar Counter, but also because, like all the J.B. stuff, I’d forgotten this.  My memories were that Greg and Laura got together somewhere in season six (those memories were wrong, since they actually hook up somewhere in late season five for the first time) and then stayed hooked up until Constance left the series in 1987.  I had completely forgotten about this long period in which they are broken up and she’ll barely talk to him, and indeed I can’t remember when they are gonna get back together again.  And of course, as I’ve said a million times before and will continue to say a million more times, both of these  characters are sooooooo interesting that I can’t even take sides with them.  I understand Laura’s frustrations with being left in the dark with Greg, yet I also understand the complexities of Greg’s character and I can see that he really loves Laura in a special way that even he himself probably doesn’t understand.  Sigh, it’s all so good.
 
 
 

Oh God, one last thing that I just noticed written in my notes and that we simply must discuss before I move on to other matters, and that is of course The Librarian Glasses, which make an unfortunate appearance in this ep when Laura is sitting in bed and gets a call from Peter Hollister.  Constance, if you’re out there and if you’re reading this (and I’m absolutely positive that she is), please E-mail me so that we can setup an interview and I can ask you in great detail about The Librarian Glasses.  I have to know who decided to put these on your face; was it you, my dear Constance?  Did you arrive on set one day and say, “I’m wearing these glasses; my 900 year old Aunt Muriel just died and she left these to me in her will”?  Or was this inflicted on you by the wardrobe department?  Did Travilla show up and say, “I just got finished dressing Barbara Carrera in a lavish nightgown made entirely out of shower curtains and now I want you to put these Librarian Glasses on your face”?  I need to know who to blame for these, who decided it was okay for these to be worn and shot and broadcast on primetime television for all of America to see, who decided that Constance should be wearing them in the opening credits of the entire season.  Why?!  Why, God, why?!
 
 
 

Meanwhile, there’s still lots of drama going on with the whole Empire Valley thing, but at this point I’m not even sure I’m gonna bother describing what’s going on, since I don’t fucking understand it.  Okay, I guess the time has come, I guess if I have to do it, I’m finally ready to kinda sorta insult a storyline on KL, something I’m pretty sure I’ve haven’t done since way back in the schizo season three (I believe the last time I entirely shit on a KL ep was Silver Shadows, and that’s now 90 eps in the past).  It hurts me to do this since we have been enjoying such a triumphant glory run of seasons four, five, and six of KL in which I feel like it’s honestly nearly flawless, but I’m willing to go ahead and say that, okay, yeah, this Empire Valley storyline isn’t all that great. 

At the same time, though, I just sorta don’t really care, if that makes sense.  At this point I feel like I’m risking losing my credibility, cuz I’m pretty sure if this storyline showed up on Dallas I would rip it apart, but when it’s here, I’m sorta an apologist, but follow me along here and let me explain it.  My problem with this Empire Valley thing is mostly the fact that I don’t understand what’s going on, and usually I would just dismiss that as my own stupid brain that doesn’t follow basic plot points very well, but the fact that My Beloved Grammy is equally confused by this story leads me to believe that it’s a flaw in the writing.  At the same time, however, I don’t find this story toxic at all.  It’s confusing and it’s going on too long, yet at the same time I’m never bored by it as I would so often by bored by Dallas, and I’m still enjoying watching it.  Also, and I suppose I’m venturing into spoiler territory here, but whatever, but I have the knowledge from first viewing that this storyline will wrap itself up in a, shall we say, explosive way somewhere near the middle of the season.  In fact, I’ll be eager to discuss that even when it occurs, cuz I get the feeling that the writers saw they were digging themselves into a hole with it and then decided to just blow the whole story up.  In any case, if you think I’m being too nice and gentle with the show by not shitting really really hard on this storyline the way some fans like to do, go ahead and tell me, but for the time being I’ll just say that I’m still enjoying watching it, even if I’m confused.

Most of my attention for this entire disk was focused on Joshua and Cathy and all that drama, so let’s explore that for awhile.  There is so much good stuff in this ep as far as this story is concerned.  When we start off, we have Cathy singing a fabulous song at Pacific Cable Whatever, a song called, um, I don’t know what.  In my notes I scribbled, “Cathy sings Just A Little More Time or maybe it’s called Never Surrender.”  I still don’t know what the song is called, but I do know that I like it.  I’m sitting here not remembering the lyrics or the music or the production or any of that, but I can guarantee you beyond the shadow of a doubt that I liked it, as I like all of Ciji’s/Cathy’s songs from seasons four through seven of the show.  In any case, I don’t think the song is as important as what’s going on while she sings the song, namely Ben staring at her and looking like he’s falling in love. 
 
 
 

Oh, God, yes, so much to discuss here.  We are three for three on my not-remembering stuff this ep, because here’s another example and another spoiler for you.  Somewhere within the 30-episode confines of season seven, Ben and Cathy shag.  I remember that happening but I remember it happening way near the end, like somewhere in the last five eps, and I also remember it coming out of nowhere.  Turns out I was probably drunk the last time I watched the series (maybe I should also note that I’m drinking vodka while writing this essay, so perhaps things haven’t really changed all that much), because the seeds are clearly being planted right here and right now.  As Cathy sings her song, we watch Ben watch her, we see his eyes light up, we see a special kind of joy in his face, and we see that he is starting to get eyes for Cathy.  All of this is playing as very organic for me, by the way, because we’ve already seen that Ben is one of the few characters to have no bones about calling Joshua on his shit.  We know he doesn’t like Joshua, and I think he feels bad that Cathy is now trapped in this marriage to a maniac.  Also, I think he just likes Cathy, and can you blame him?  Now might be a good time to ask where Cathy ranks amongst most KL fans.  Lately, I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to like Ciji a whole hell of a lot but not really like Cathy that much, and I have to say I don’t understand this at all; I’m incredibly compelled by Cathy whenever she’s onscreen, whether she’s singing or just interacting with the other characters.  I think she’s beautiful and sexy and also warm, you get a sense of her as a real person and you feel bad for her from the stuff she’s going through.  In the past I’ve expressed some reservations about how much she puts up with from Joshua, but I still love the character.  Am I alone here?  Is this mostly rooted to my obsession with her songs and I’m turning her into a more interesting character than she actually is because I love listening to her sing so much?
 
 
 

Joshua is extra out of control this ep, and I hardly know where to start.  I guess I should start by backtracking and saying that the reason Cathy sings on the show is because Joshua fails to even show up.  I guess he’s trying to make some sort of bold statement about how the show can’t go on without him, sorta like when J.R. got shot and Hagman disappeared to Europe to be photographed with adoring fans from all over the world.  In that case, however, Hagman was right, because he was vitally important to Dallas, but I’m not so sure that Joshua is vitally important to, um, whatever the hell this religious show on Pacific Cable Whatever is called.  By not showing up and instead having Ben give the spotlight to Cathy, Joshua is only serving to commit career suicide.
 
 
 

Joshua does what all healthy red-blooded American straight men do when they are upset with their wives, and that is disappear to a diner to hit on the waitress.  Again, KL is so well written that, even though I’m pretty sure we’ve never seen this waitress before this ep, we immediately can tell that she knows Joshua and that he’s come into this diner before.  Basically, he comes in for a cup of coffee or a sandwich or something and he’s making polite chit chat with the waitress (who’s name is Linda Martin and who is played by Leslie Hope) when her asshole greaser boyfriend who didn’t get the memo that the 1950s died 25 years ago shows up to start making trouble.  This guy is a clown and I got a good laugh out of watching him.  Seriously, were tough guy greasers still a thing in 1985?  I’m flashing back to an unforgettable scene in Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, which also came out in 1985, and there are two ridiculous greasers in that movie, so maybe greasers had actually made a comeback due to the popularity of one Mr. Arthur Fonzarelli, who would have only just exited the airwaves about a season ago (not to imply that anyone was still watching by the time that show hit its eleventh season).  Also, I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m obsessed with Stephen King and I don’t think there’s one trope he loves to return to more than asshole greaser bikers, so you know, maybe they never actually left and I’m the one who’s wrong for thinking they did.
 
 
 

Anyway, the boyfriend shows up, he’s clearly a jerk, he says some degrading things towards Linda, and then her fat boss comes out and says how if she can’t control her boyfriend, she’s gonna be out of a job.  The interesting thing about this scene is that Joshua steps up to defend Linda’s honor and put the boyfriend in his place, and I have so much to say about this.  First off, let’s question what’s going on in Joshua’s brain.  Does he truly believe that the way this greaser is speaking to his girlfriend is wrong?  If he truly standing up to him because he doesn’t like the way he speaks?  If that is the case, does Joshua not recognize that he and the greaser are the same person?  Does he not recognize that the way he speaks to Cathy is just as degrading?  Religious people are world famous for their hypocrisy, so this could just be another exemplification of that, but I actually believe that Joshua is so mentally ill that he doesn’t even realize his own hypocrisy.  I think that he truly believes to his very core that he’s trying to be a good husband to Cathy and he just doesn’t understand why it’s not working.  I think that he is just that fucked up.

In any case, he and the waitress (who I had also kinda forgotten ever existed) take a nice drive out to the ocean and, I’m pretty sure, have a shag.  I had to ask My Beloved Grammy about this, cuz they just go off walking towards the ocean and then later we cut back to them, so I asked her if she thought they shagged and she said yes.  Rather hilariously, I also got a glimpse of some of her own possible dangerous liaisons from her youth, cuz I started going on about how I don’t know how you could shag in the sand by the ocean in the middle of the night, and then she just shrugged and said very matter of factly, “You gotta do it; you find a place.”  I can’t even describe the joy that this little statement brought me.  Anyway, after they shag (possible shag), they walk back up to Joshua’s Jeep and they’re driving away when we zoom out to reveal that they’re being followed by, you guessed it, Arthur Fonzarelli.  At this point, My Beloved Grammy started to do the super cute thing she does where she narrates what she thinks is going to happen, and she really seemed to believe that Arthur Fonzarelli was gonna catch up to the two of them and kill Joshua.  Spoiler alert, but that’s not what winds up happening, but I can see why her mind went there, since it makes sense as a possibility.  Even so, I vastly prefer where things actually go in the next three eps, but we shall discuss that when we discuss it.

The next Cathy/Joshua scene is a doozy and it brought me such joy and it also did such a fabulous job of misdirecting me.  I’ve probably said this a million times before, but who cares, so I’d like to remind the readers that even though I have watched all 344 eps of KL once before and even though I can remember a lot of THE BIG STUFF, a lot of the smaller details slip my mind and I wind up forgetting them, which leads to such delightful surprises as this fabulous scene.  See, Joshua sneaks back into the house all quiet in the middle of the night, and at first he seems nice and Cathy seems nice and everything seems cool.  Then Cathy starts to perform a seduction and I of course narrated and said, “Ah, but he’s not gonna be able to get it up for her,” and My Beloved Grammy agreed with me.  As Cathy walked Joshua into the bathroom and turned on the shower, I really believed this would turn into a scene about him not being able or willing to have sex with Cathy cuz his energy would be all spent from shagging that waitress, but then instead Cathy pushes him, fully clothed, into the shower and declares, “Next time, have the decency to wash off that cheap perfume before you come home.”  Oh God, yes, the writers and directors and cast all lead me to believe one thing would happen and then something totally different and much better happened, and I thank them for it, as I thank them every single day in my prayers before I go to sleep, when I clasp my hands together and gaze upward and say, “Thank you God, thank you, for creating KL and for creating all the fabulous and wonderful people who made KL come to life.” 

This ep also gives us a truly incredible fight scene between Val and Lilimae, another scene I’d completely forgotten that should have immediately earned both actresses some well deserved Emmys.  Fuck, this scene is so good, and it’s another instance where I wish I had the entire scene transcribed so I could give you all the dialogue and stuff, but I don’t because I was too busy staring at the screen and drooling and moaning and saying, “Oh, this is so amazing.”  In any case, the scene boils down to Lilimae saying that Val and Ben and everyone else is ganging up on Joshua and driving him away and then Val arguing logically back at her that Joshua is a complete psycho who needs to be kept away from them.  Again, I feel I can just copy and paste my thoughts from so many previous essays by saying that both of these characters are so interesting that I understand both of them. 

Okay, so Val is the one who is right in this situation, but I understand Lilimae as well.  Remember how My Beloved Grammy had such a hard time warming up to Lilimae?  Well, when this scene rolled around and Lilimae started screaming at Val about how everyone is trying to drive Joshua away, she said something like, “I was finally starting to like Lilimae, but she’s lost me.”  The thing is, I don’t think Lilimae actually believes what she’s saying.  Only a complete idiot could not see what a crazy person Joshua is, and I’m sure Lilimae sees it, too.  She prefers to blame others for these problems because she doesn’t know what to do about it.  She only just got Joshua back into her life a little over a year ago, and this is the son that she walked out on when she was young and he was only a baby.  Imagine the emotions that must be going on inside of her!  She’s finally got the son back, he’s accepted her forgiveness for abandoning him, they seem to have started to build a good relationship, but now he’s going crazy.  I think Lilimae just doesn’t know what to do; how can she suddenly start telling Joshua how to behave after so many years of being an absent mother?  I believe she’s truly afraid that, if she starts talking to him about his behavior, she could lose him forever.  So even though Lilimae is the wrong one in this argument, I still defend her cuz I think she’s got a lot of issues and a lot of guilt and she doesn’t know how to process all these developments. 

But going beyond these deep character motivations and stuff, as just a simple scene of two women fighting, this scene is stellar and some of the best acting from both actresses ever.  I feel like we’ve reached that special point where these two actresses know their characters inside and out and truly inhabit them, that they’ve developed a shorthand from years of working together and are now both performing at the absolute top of their game, working off of each other in a most splendid way.  It’s the kind of fantastic acting that only comes along rarely, and it’s only when a show is on for a real long time and it is still maintaining a high quality and the actors have reached the point where they truly are able to go inside the heads of their characters.  Overall, rather sublime stuff.
 
 
 

Joshua winds up meeting Cathy in a creepy dark alley, which is always the best place to meet your wife or lover when you wish to apologize for something.  Things don’t go very well, since he winds up assaulting her and throwing her into a pile of garbage in a rather harrowing scene.  I say this with sincerity, by the way, since I know my tone can seem sarcastic or flip sometimes, but rest assured, this scene was legitimately frightening and I was scared for Cathy and afraid of what Joshua might do to her.  At this point, the storyline is almost drifting into horror movie territory, and believe me, this is only going to increase as we move forward, probably peaking two eps away with Until Parted by Death.  As I watched this scene, I was actually scared and nervous about what was going to happen, and it’s a testament to both actors how effective this is, not to mention how not campy it plays.  I feel like if this was any other show, it could probably come off as campy or overly serious, but here it plays real and it feels frightening, and a lot of that has to do with how fucking stellar Alec Baldwin is in this role and how I truly believe I am watching a man coming completely apart.
 
 
 

Fortunately, Cathy manages to escape from all this garbage (you see what I did there?) and seeks solace in the arms of Ben at his Plant House.  She tells Ben what happened and he of course tells her that she needs to divorce Joshua and get away from him, at which point Cathy chooses to completely avoid the subject by saying how he’s still sticking with Val even though she won’t marry him.  Hmmm, I guess it’s kinda shitty that Ben’s been getting strung along with the whole Val’s babies drama for the last year and all that, but Val has certainly never attacked Ben and thrown him into a pile of garbage, so the two relationships seem mutually exclusive to me.  I think what’s really going on here is that Cathy is feeling somewhat stupid for getting married to Joshua in the first place, and she knows she’s in a bad situation but since she’s not completely ready to admit that yet, she brings up Ben being strung along by Val as an attempt to avoid discussion.  The scene is good for that reason, but it’s also good for planting more seeds towards what will happen with Ben and Cathy a little later.  Again, I think some fans don’t dig on this storyline, but so far I’m totally fine with it because it feels like it’s organic and building out of the storylines going on right now, not just made up and invented on the spot to create some new drama.

The last thing to discuss about Awakenings is the very last scene, and we’re on a real roll here because I think this ending is also gonna make it into my favorite endings of the series list.  See, Gary shows up at Val’s house with a cowboy hat for baby Bobby (maybe he brings two cowboy hats; I can’t remember) and then he’s hanging out with Lilimae in the nursery while playing with the babies.  Both of these babies are starting to grow up and slowly begin their transition into real actual people, so they are starting to sport some nice blonde hair that bears a fairly striking resemblance to Val’s, obviously, but also to Gary’s.  Gary is sitting on the ground playing with one of them (I think baby Bobby) while Lilimae talks, and she’s going on and on about how Ben never acts like a real father to the babies, how he never comes over just to play with them and visit with them, how you would think, get this, that he’s not even the real father to the babies.  Meanwhile, we keep doing some fabulous crosscutting between Lilimae and Gary and Ben and Val on the beach.  See, as they sit at the beach and look at that great ocean in front of them, Val finally says to Ben, “I think it’s time that we get married.”  Then we return to the nursery as Lilimae is chattering away and the camera is going into a slow closeup of Gary’s face and we realize that he realizes, he is starting to put the pieces together, he’s thinking, “Wait a minute, what episode was it that Val and I shagged and what episode was it that she found out she was pregnant?”  It’s on this image that we end the ep, and I don’t fucking know how anyone in 1985 could watch this sublime 48 minutes and not just be dying to see what’s gonna happen next week.

Man, so that was Awakenings and obviously it awakened some very passionate feelings deep in my soul.  Fuck, this was a good ep, and even though I liked our previous ep, it feels like a real step up from that one, with so much drama going on and all of it so very compelling.  I should note before wrapping up that this ep was penned by Latham all by herself, much like her husband worked without her last ep.  Honestly, I know their era is contentious amongst the fans, but if we are just looking at the eps the two have written up to this point, I’d say they’re doing pretty stellar work so far, and this ep is just another fine example of that.  I loved everything about this ep and the most amazing thing is that I think the next three eps coming up are even better.  With that said, let’s just move right along to Ben and Val’s nuptials with Pictures at a Wedding.