Sunday, January 29, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 092 of 344: SECOND CHANCES


Episode Title: Second Chances

Season 05, Episode 17

Episode 092 of 344

Written by Joel J. Feigenbaum

Directed by Bill Duke

Original Airdate: Thursday, January 19th, 1984

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Gary finds out that Cathy was in prison for second degree murder. He asks Abby about it. Abby tells Cathy to leave and threatens to tell her ex-husband Ray where she is. Cathy counters that if she does, she'll tell Gary that Abby hired her to distract him so she could steal him blind. Abby calls Ray. Greg breaks a date with Abby and sleeps with Laura. Mack goes to the D.A. who tells him that he might be disbarred. Mack goes to the Apolune address and finds out it's a mail service. Some guys beat him up. Ben tells Val he is taking a job in South America, and Val doesn't want him to. They hug. Michael, Eric, and Gary talk to Diana about making up with Karen. Finally, Diana and Karen make up. Mack has Eric drop off a bright orange mailer for Apolune at the mail service, and then watches to see who picks it up. He sees Laura go in and come out with the bright orange mailer.

 

                Our last episode, Reconcilable Differences, was good but not great, and I specifically complained about a lack of directorial flair along with some clunky editing choices.  I am happy to announce that for Second Chances, we have the return of the blackest of the black men, Mr. Bill “Cooke” Duke, proudly sitting in the director’s chair and bringing some style and art to the proceedings, as is his wont.  We haven’t had to wait that long to hear from Mr. Duke, by the way, as his last contribution was only two episodes ago with Forsaking All Others.  I did a little looking at his IMDb to see how many  more eps we’ve got from him, and I discovered this falls firmly in the middle.  This is his fifth KL ep following Power Play, A New Family, Celebration, and Forsaking All Others.  He’s got five more episodes to contribute, Yesterday It Rained, Out of the Past, Fly Away Home, The Deluge, and then finally Nightmare in 1987 as his final credit for the show.  Personally, I think it’s a nightmare to have to imagine him no longer contributing to the series, but we’ll deal with that tragedy when we deal with it.  For now, he’s here and I love it.
 
 

                Okay, let’s get started; how did we leave things off last week?  Well, like I said, I felt last week was kinda cleaning house and finishing up some storylines that had been going on for awhile, specifically Karen and her pills.  This week Karen is better and has returned home and is starting to act like her old self that we all know and love.  This is quite refreshing, because even though I loved the pills storyline and thought it was fabulous dramatic storytelling and acting, I also wanted Karen to get better and be sweet and good to people again, and My Beloved Grammy felt the same way.  Every single episode since Karen got prescribed her pills, when we would rev up an episode and the glorious, majestic scrolling squares would start to move across the screen, whenever Michele Lee’s fabulous shot of her smiling in that big square in the middle would float by, My Beloved Grammy would get sorta sad and say, “I want the old Karen back.”  Well, now she is back, and we can all be very grateful.
 
 

                The first order of business for Karen is to do the right thing and go apologize to Gary for what she said last week.  She takes a little drive up to Westfork and we see the two walking along through the great open land (breaking news: If I haven’t mentioned it yet, I’ve officially decided that I would rather live at Westfork than at The Beach House; that’s right!) and having a nice conversation.  What a lovely moment this is, because then Karen starts to apologize to Gary for her behavior last week (“You are a drunk!”) but since Gary is becoming all cool and mellow and self-actualized, he’s just very calm and says, “No need to apologize.”  Again, this is because Gary understands, because he’s been on an alcoholic bender more times than he can count, and he knows what the addiction does to people, how it makes you say horrible things to the people that love and care about you.  I find it so lovely and touching how Gary just gets it and he doesn’t hold it over Karen’s head; he doesn’t need or desire her apology, because he inherently understands her.  This also reminds me of how much I love the friendship of Karen and Gary, and I’m glad it’s back in a good place (remember they didn’t really get along throughout season four, starting out with her firing him from Knots Landing Motors at the start of the season).

                Anyway, a second after Gary and Karen’s lovely little chat, a car comes pulling up and Gary says, “I forget to tell you she was coming back,” and at first I’m like, “Huh?”  I quickly realized who he’s referring to, and that would be Diana, who has been absent for four episodes in a row now.  Well, now she’s back and with a different haircut, to boot (darker).  Gary goes away and Diana gets out of the car and we get an awkward exchange between her and Karen.  Diana says how she’s been in New York with Uncle Joe (nice continuity; I appreciate that they still mention this character we haven’t seen since last season and will never see again; maybe he’s offscreen now but he still exists and they don’t Chuck Cunningham him).  In any case, not much progresses in this scene, as the two characters sorta try to talk to each other and then go on their separate ways.

                Karen successfully mends fences with Val this ep, however, and that makes me happy.  I care more about this relationship than the one with Diana, who is a nasty shrew about to leave the series forever.  Val and Karen’s friendship, on the other hand, spans the entire saga and is one of the central emotional hearts of the series, and it’s been on rocky ground the last few weeks.  Fortunately, in this ep they take a nice bike ride (well, briefly, before hitting some sort of big hill and getting off the bikes to just walk them along the street) and they make peace.  Val is finally able to communicate the information to Karen that she was trying to communicate so many eps ago, when she came over to her house to talk about her pregnancy only for the conversation to shift to addiction before Karen asked her to leave.  Now Val gives her the scoop, telling her how she’s knocked up, but not with Ben’s babies, but rather Gary’s.  I appreciate the non-judgmental attitude in this scene; Karen just listens and they talk a bit.  There’s no lecturing about how Gary and Val shouldn’t have slept together or anything.  Is it possible that all the characters on the series see the same thing we viewers see, namely that Gary and Val are soul mates and kindred spirits?
 
 

                Let’s return to Karen and Diana just to get it out of the way.  Yes, they do finally make peace in this ep after Diana has a good chat with her brothers, raw seething testosterone sex machine Michael and regular old Eric.  Even though I don’t want to violate Eric the way I want to violate his brother, I’m really starting to respect this character a lot, especially when he gets tough with Diana.  In this case, Diana is whining about how Karen treats her like a child (probably because she acts like a child, but whatever), and Eric says, “I just hope when you’re at a low point in your life, people treat you better than you’re treating her.”  Yup, a fine point, and I think this is the impetus for Diana to stop acting like such a psycho and go talk to her mother.

                The chat occurs at the Fairgate/MacKenzie house with the two girls sitting on the stairs.  I think they’ve had a lot of chats sitting on the stairs, but I could be hallucinating that bit.  In any case, the scene felt like a bit of a callback to those conversations they would always be having in seasons one through three (I think their very first one was way back in episode four, The Lie) and it’s actually a pretty productive chat.  Karen asks Diana to, “Take the label of ‘mother’ off of me and don’t live your life out of anger at me.”  After that, Diana gets up to leave, and the scene is shot very well with her body in the foreground and Karen framed in the background, standing on the stairs.  Then Diana’s eyes start to well up and she says, “Mommy” (I could have lived without that part), and then the two finally hug as the music swells and peace is restored in their relationship.

                I shit on the character of Diana a lot, but this season along with the last one has caused me to reevaluate Claudia Lonow’s acting, which I was so critical of in those early episodes.  Here, she’s pretty darn good, particularly with how she has to start out dry eyed and then let the tears start flowing as we watch her, a bit of acting I’m not sure I could pull off.  Michele is also good in the scene and, overall, it’s nice to have peace restored and finally be done with this whole fight that’s been going on since the climax of last season.  Like I said, we’re not completely through with the Diana character, as she’s still gonna be hanging around the show for the rest of the season, but then she gets shipped off to New York at the very start of season six, and I am definitely getting the feeling that the writers are finishing up her story and getting ready to say goodbye to her.  I could be mistaken, as I have no idea when the decisions are made about who’s going to be in the cast lineup for the following season, but that’s certainly the sense I’m getting while watching this scene.

                Okay, so how about our other characters this week?  Well, things heat up nicely in the little affair between Laura and Greg, and it’s a delightful thing to watch, particularly because I thought we still had a good chunk of eps to go before we would see them get together (I swear I thought the two characters barely even interacted until mid season six).  In this case, Greg pulls an old favorite on Laura by knocking on her door and, when she answers, you guessed it, he’s got the rose in his mouth and says, “Bon soire, baby.”  I love Laura’s nonchalant reply in which she simply turns around and walks off and says, “Vodka rocks, right?”  No mushy romance or kissing for Laura; she wants to get right down to business.  This makes sense to me as Laura has been so severely hurt over so many years by Richard; I imagine it would be hard for her to unclench and trust a man again.  If she’s gonna have a torrid romance, she would rather keep it feeling almost businesslike.
 
 

                Meanwhile, drama still sizzles when it comes to both Val and Ben.  Actually, Ben solo this week has a bit of business to take care of, as well.  He wants to speak to the old Marcus couple (the Transmorpher judge from Moving In and the Critters 2 gramma, you all remember), but he has a hard time getting into contact with them.  Now that their house is, you know, burned to the ground, I guess they are living with Mr. Marcus’ daughter or something, so Ben goes to see them at this nice house, but it takes two trips.  During the first trip, the young woman is like, “They ain’t here, so get out of here.”  Oh, by the way, this little actress that plays the daughter is named Jennifer Savidge (pictured below) and she appeared in an episode of the short-lived series James at 15 that I just watched the other day, which is rather cosmic, as well as the 1994 landmark cinematic achievement Clifford (that was a joke, although I did rent that movie a shit-ton when I was a little kid and for some reason my dad really enjoyed it and would always watch it with me).  Okay, anyway, upon Ben’s second visit to the house, she starts to give him the same “They’re not here,” rhetoric, but then we see feet creeping down the stairs behind her (nicely shot, Duke) and then Mr. Marcus is like, “It’s alright, I’ll speak to him.”  The conversation is brief and the old man is clearly terrified of divulging any information because, you know, the Wolfbridge group might come along and torch his daughter’s house or something.  So, he just blames the fire on a grease fire in the kitchen and says it got out of control and refuses to answer Ben’s questions.  Now Ben is getting a true sense of the scope of this evil organization.
 
 

                In case it wasn’t clear that this group was evil from them burning a cute old couple’s house to the ground, we also see them beat the living shit out of poor Mack near the end of this episode.  Actually, I thought this was gonna be the conclusion of the ep, the big cliffhanger to hook us back for next week, but it’s actually just the end of act three before we go to a commercial and return for act four.  See, Karen is at the rehab center with Dr. Reese from Psycho III, ready for a nice counseling session and waiting for Mack to arrive.  The only problem is that when Mack pulls up to the parking lot and gets out of his car, a bunch of thugs come up to him and kick his ass.  I did not enjoy seeing this because I love Mack and I don’t want to see him hurt, but of course for storytelling purposes this is dynamic stuff that further illustrates how insidious and wicked this Wolfbridge group truly is.  Anyway, Karen ditches Psycho III doctor and says that something must be wrong or else Mack wouldn’t be late, and she’s obviously right.  She goes out into the parking lot and notices his car parked, at which point she finds him slumped behind the wheel, all beat up and bloody and out-of-it.  Oh sweet dear Jesus, what has happened?

                Back to Ben and Val: How are they doing right now?  Well, the two have a candid chat on the porch of Val’s house and discuss the whole Gary-impregnated-me drama.  Basically Val asks if this is something Ben can deal with, and the two discuss how they have missed each other in the last few weeks, how it’s been hard not seeing each other or talking, and so on.  The conversation gets heated and honestly I wasn’t sure what to make of it, because it felt like the conclusion of the scene was that Ben can’t deal with this drama, even though the two are hugging.  I took the hugging as a, “We have to be apart but here’s one last hug before we split,” kinda thing, but then in our next ep, the two are together again and everything is cool, so I guess that’s how we’re supposed to interpret this sequence.  Oh yeah, one last thing on Ben: This week he gets a dangerous assignment in Central America, specifically El Salvador.  He has the opportunity to go out and report and have adventures in a far away land, and near the start of the ep he opines how, “It was a mistake to think that I could settle down.”  Now, of course, if he and Val are back together again, the central conflict is both will he go and should he go.  Honestly, I remember this storyline being a snooze, but it’s not so bad so far.  My least favorite storyline going on at the moment?  Oh absolutely, but why sneeze at one less-than-gripping story when a series is offering you such rich rewards in all other departments?  Anyway, we’ll talk more about this saga as we proceed through the culminating episodes of the season.



                Meanwhile, Gary’s investigations into Cathy’s sordid past continue to escalate this week, when he meets with that investigator guy one more time and learns that Cathy served time in prison for second degree murder.  Hmmm, now what could this mean?  In his efforts to get to the bottom of this mystery, he continues to play some nice games with Abs, just like he did last week, kinda sorta dropping hints that he knows something fishy is going on but never coming right out and saying it.  Oh yeah, and we also get a super arty and fabulous shot that I put into my notes in which Cathy is playing the piano and singing.  The scene begins with everything out-of-focus and then the camera slowly comes into focus and we see Cathy’s face reflected upside down in the top of the piano as she plays, and then the camera moves up so that we’re looking straight at her face.  Again, this is ‘80s TV and I’m sure the CBS suits would be perfectly happy with Bill “Green Beret” Duke just shooting this in the fastest, blandest way possible, but instead he takes his time to be artistic.  You just know a suit would probably see effort being put into these shot compositions and be like, “What is this shit?  Just shoot the girl playing the piano and the guy walking into the room and then move down the lot to shoot an episode of some shitty sitcom!”  Instead, Duke takes his time and gives us a cool composition.

                Going into panic mode, Abs meets up with Cathy at her palace office (and Cathy is wearing a most fabulous ‘80s outfit; I feel like Lisa consistently gets to be the most ‘80s character on the show throughout the four years that she is with us) and orders her to get out of town.  The only problem is that Cathy has sorta fallen for Gary and doesn’t want to leave, and Abby’s threats to her are empty anyway because, of course, Cathy can just go to Gary and tell him everything.  Abs tries to threaten her with, “I’ll tell Gary who you really are and what you did,” and without missing a beat, Cathy says, “I’ll just tell him that you hired me to keep him distracted while you stole his money and shagged politicians from Alfred Hitchcock movies.”  Cathy wins this argument and gets up to leave the office all good and triumphant, but the very last thing we see is Abs picking up the phone and asking to speak with Ray.  Hmmm, who’s Ray?  We shall find out next week, so patience dear reader.
 
 

                It’s going to take more than a super violent ass-kicking for Mack to give up on his Wolfbridge investigations, so we conclude our episode with a fabulously clever move on the part of Mack.  See, a little earlier into the episode, he goes into The Beverly Hills Building and, probably wondering what the hell this building is or what that incredibly vague title means, he approaches the black woman working behind the counter (I notice there are always more black men and women in Duke episodes and I like it; I think I counted three in this episode alone; I remind you that black people were not allowed to exist over on Dallas aside from some very rare exceptions) and asks her what exactly The Beverly Hills Building is.  She says how they handle outgoing or incoming mail for all sorts of different people, but she’s very vague about it.

                Later on, Mack parks his car outside the building and then sends Eric in with some big piece of mail in one of those long tubes (like the tube in that episode of The Brady Bunch where the whole family went to that amusement park and Jan stupidly mixed up Mike’s super important blueprints) addressed to the Apolune group.  The receptionist looks at the tube and tells Eric, “The Apolune group is very good about picking up their mail.”  Eric leaves and now all Mack has to do is wait to see who comes to pick up the package and, of course, it’s Laura.  Our very last scene in the episode is Laura coming out of The Beverly Hills Building with the big tube and Mack saying, “Laura,” with some serious disappointment in his voice, knowing now that she is involved in all this and has somehow become a traitor.  From there, our episode ends and, if this was 1984, we would have to wait an agonizing fourteen days for our next ep.  If I was alive at that time, I feel I may have very well killed myself knowing that I had to wait two solid weeks for another KL ep, for what else could possibly make life worth living? 
 
 

                So this was a great episode and really picked up the slack from last week’s not-so-amazing ep.  Even though Duke only directs ten eps of the show, I’m starting to become tempted to say he’s my favorite director, even more than our most consistent and prolific director, Nicholas Sgarro.  I think Duke episodes are possibly the most cinematic and artistic and they also give us some black faces onscreen which, as a good little liberal boy, I appreciate seeing, since I know most white people were still afraid of black people in the ‘80s and would probably rather not see them on TV shows.  Also, this episode was just exciting and dynamic and everyone in the cast was well served with good material.  Overall, a home run that leaves me wanting to dive right into the next one (which we did, of course).  Speaking of which, our next episode which kicks off the 1984 February Sweeps period is Lest the Truth Be Known, so I’ll talk to you about that very soon.

 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 091 of 344: RECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES



Season 05, Episode 16

Episode 091 of 344

Written by Richard Gollance

Directed by Sheldon Larry

Original Airdate: Thursday, January 12th, 1984

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Abby and Westmont scramble to get Apolune off of real estate documents. The audit goes well and Gary apologizes to Abby. Gary sees that Cathy makes much more than the other ranch hands, and that they are dated from before he met her. Gary hires a detective who says Cathy spent the last four years in prison. Ben and Mack discover that Apolune owns all the property at Lotus Point except for Abby and Karen's apartment. They think Apolune is a front for Wolfbridge. Greg and Laura sleep together. Karen suffers from withdrawal. Gary goes to see her and says if he could get through it, she can. Karen is outraged that he would compare her plight with his alcoholism. Karen finally opens up in group. Karen's therapist wants Mack in on her therapy too. Mack feels they're ganging up on him. Ben tells Val to tell people that the baby is Gary's, as he's tired of everyone bugging him about it, and he wants to be free of her.

 


                Welcome back.  Lately, I’ve started to become fond of providing some context for how many episodes and what particular episodes My Beloved Grammy and I watch in a given visit.  We’ve reached a very comfortable spot that should last for many, many years where each disk has five episodes on it.  As far as I can recall, it stays this way until the series ends, with the only exceptions being the last couple of episodes in a season that has an episode count not divisible by five.  But, for now, we’ve got season five, which has 25 episodes, and then seasons six, seven, and eight all have 30 episodes each.  So, for a long time into the future, we shall always watch five eps per visit, and I like it that way.  It’s not just the fact that I want to watch KL and that five episodes makes me happy, but I feel there’s something about that number that just works.  If we watched more than that, I think I would struggle to remember all the proceedings and exciting events, and if we watched less than that, I feel I would leave less satisfied.  In any case, Reconcilable Differences marked the first of five eps we watched upon our last visit, spanning through High Ideals.  So just know that this was our first one and it brought us back into the world of KL and I had my big beer and some spicy chicken teriyaki while starting it up and was all ready for a night of excitement and joy on the cul-de-sac.
 
 

                Karen’s pill problem has been escalating and we’ve been spending a lot of time on it for the last batch of episodes.  It spanned all the way through our last disk and I believe the first inklings of her starting to take too many pills was introduced on the disk before, so that’s something like ten or twelve episodes altogether.  I feel like the main thing Reconcilable Differences wants to do is sorta finish up this storyline so that we can move on to new business and, much like the way they handled the demise of Chip Roberts a few episodes back, I feel the timing is pretty much perfect, because if this stretched on much longer, it would run the risk of becoming tiresome.  The writers always seem to be good about knowing when it’s time to get a storyline finished up.  Even so, I confess I might have some, GASP, criticisms about this episode and the way it handled the Karen storyline.  Read on.

                See, we open on Mack and Karen in her little rehab hospital, sitting in her room, and Mack is rocking a fabulous leather jacket that he keeps around for, I think, the rest of the season and maybe even some seasons more.  Seriously, he looks like Fonzie, kinda ridiculous, but I love Mack so I’m not criticizing.  I also feel sorry for Mack at this juncture because, with nearly a year of marriage to Karen under his belt, things just don’t seem to be going his way.  However, the title of the episode gives me hope; can Mack and Karen figure out their reconcilable differences and manage to move on?  Let’s find out.
 
 

                Karen looks in better condition at the start of this episode than she has in the last few weeks, but it doesn’t take long for us to see that she’s still dealing with a problem.  Early in the episode we see her begging a nurse for some pills to take the edge off, insisting that she only needs one.  In fact, she even goes so far as to say that she’ll pay the nurse for them (fifty dollars!), but the nurse has ethics and remains strong in them, refusing to give Karen anything at all.  Karen’s timing is bad, by the way, because at that precise moment that she starts offering money to the nurse, Eric comes into the room to visit her, and there’s an uncomfortable quiet moment where Karen seems to realize someone’s watching this display of obvious addiction and then turns slowly around to face her son.  However, one thing I appreciated is that this doesn’t explode into some big drama; instead they awkwardly hug and start to exchange chit chat about how things are going.  We all know that Eric saw this and we know that Karen knows he saw it, but much like real life, the two just proceed along and sorta try to ignore that anything happened, and it has that fabulously awkward ring of truth to it.  A solid little scene.
 
 

                I’m not so sure about another scene that comes just a few minutes later.  In it, Karen is lying in the hospital bed, draped in creepy gothic shadow, thrashing around wildly and screaming and clearly just not having a good time at all.  The music is fantastically frightening and coming straight out of a horror movie, and then Karen jumps up and screams and continues her thrashing while a nurse comes in to make sure everything is all right.  We get the sense that Karen’s withdrawal is making her crazy in more ways than one, that she is becoming confused about what precisely is going on in her life and where she is, because she starts screaming, “Where is my daughter?!  Where have you taken her?!”  I guess she’s also wondering why Claudia Lonow continues to be shown in the scrolling squares at the head of the episodes when she has sat out now four episodes in a row (spoiler alert: She’ll be back in the next one), but anyway, that’s what she’s screaming.  

We get some intense close-ups of Karen’s anguished face, her eyes getting all big and wild, her mouth stretching out.  It’s not a bad scene, but I guess I feel it’s maybe a little….much?  I mean, hell, maybe I’m wrong.  I’ve lived a very blessed life and have never suffered from addiction and have never had anyone close to me suffer from addiction, so I’ve never had to go to a rehab center and see someone going through a detox.  For all I know, it could be as extreme as this or even more, but there’s just something about the scene that felt a little over-the-top to me.  Is it my beloved Michele?  Mmmm, maybe.  After giving her criticism for getting a little hammy at the start of the season, I then felt she was improving nicely and was quite impressive during our last batch of eps as she dealt with the onslaught of her pill addiction, but now I think she’s back to being a bit too much.  Make no mistake, I still love her and always will (and yes, she’s still my favorite character on the series), but I just feel this scene isn’t quite as good as it could be.

Next up is a visit from Gary.  This scene moved me and touched me and made me feel very sad all at once, because Gary is coming to Karen as a friend and as someone who understands her, but my sphincter tightened up as the scene started because I knew, I just knew that Karen would be unwilling to listen to him and unable to handle the fact that her addictions are the same as his addictions and I didn’t want to watch her be hurtful to Gary, who is shaping up into quite a man this year and is coming to be her supporter.  Things unfolded as I expected them to, because he starts to tell stories about how, when he was drinking, no matter what was going on in his life, the only thing he cared about was finding that next drink.  Karen flips out and screams about how she is not like him, saying, “You are a drunk!” and she says it with such venom, as if it makes Gary less than human, and it was all rather painful to watch.  Unlike the last scene, which I was kinda complaining about, I’m complimenting this scene.  These are complex characters; they are neither black nor white and they are not only allowed to be consistently great people or consistently bad people.  At her core, Karen is a good person, but she’s got herself into a bad situation and it’s making her be ugly and nasty to the people who love her.  One thing that I found especially moving in the scene was that Gary does not get upset; he just calmly gets up and leaves the rehab center.  Watching this, I realized it’s because Gary knows where she’s coming from and that, really, it’s not Karen that’s yelling at him, it’s her addictions.

Let’s take a break from Karen for a minute to discuss Gary and what he’s up to this episode.  Well, for one thing, he finds out that Val is pregnant, thanks to an even-less-discreet-than-usual Lilimae, who runs into him in the hallway of the rehab center.  Rather than exchanging superfluous pleasantries and then going about her business, Lilimae sorta follows after Gary and is like, “Val is dating Ben Gibson and he’s super duper nice and really sexy and he fucks Val good and Val says his wiener is bigger than yours, so what do you think of that?”  Gary just sorta nods and accepts this bizarre and awkward bit of conversation from Lilimae, who then just flat out states, “And Val is pregnant with Ben’s baby.”  Hmmm, didn’t Val ask her just a few episodes ago not to tell anybody about this?  Of course, after that Lilimae immediately ran to Ben’s Plant House to give him fatty foods and talk about the pregnancy, but I’m willing to forgive that one because I think she just assumed he already knew about it.  With Gary, though, it’s different, and really rather tactless of Lilimae (who I still love, don’t get me wrong) to just go on and blurt out this private information that Val asked her to keep secret, although I suppose it’s possible that there was some offscreen scene between Val and Lilimae in which she gave her mama permission to tell people, though that seems highly unlikely to me at this point.



Remember how in our last ep, Gary announced that he was going to do an audit on Gary Ewing Enterprises?  Well, thanks to some clever finagling that I’m still not quite sure I understand, Abs manages to transfer money from somewhere or something like that and make the books balance okay so that, when the auditor comes, they pass just fine.  The only problem, however, is that after the audit Gary notices that Cathy is getting paid way more per month than she’s supposed to (I think he says something like a thousand a month, though I could be mistaken).  The plot thickens when he is told that she is being paid by Abs, not by him, and the plot thickens ever more when he learns that Cathy has been receiving these checks since before he ever met her on that fateful honeymoon night in the hotel suite.  Now that he’s a wise and sober man, Gary starts to go to work getting to bottom of this little mystery for himself.

Gary is very clever here and both My Beloved Grammy and I are very pleased to see him climbing out of that awful bender from last season and becoming not just clearheaded, but pretty sharp, too.  See, he’s talking to Abs a little later and he just casually mentions how he’s thinking of firing Cathy, just testing to see how Abs will react.  Naturally, rather than being like, “Sure, fire her, whatever, I don’t care,” which is what Abs would probably really say if this mysterious Ciji doppelganger showed up in Gary’s life for no clear reason and became the object of his obsessions, Abs gets all protective of Cathy and is like, “But Gary, you said yourself that she’s one of the best workers and I think you should keep her!”  After this little bit of defense, Gary starts to see what’s going on here.

The last interesting Cathy revelation within this episode comes when Gary goes to visit some private investigator guy he had hired to do some snooping.  The investigator tells Gary that Cathy’s last known residence was not a house or an apartment, but rather, oh my God, a prison.  Now what on earth can this mean?  What was Cathy doing in a prison?  In addition to that, the prison is nowhere near the area Cathy claims to have come from (I think she claims to have come from Wisconsin or something and the prison is in Arkansas, or maybe it’s flipped around the other way, or maybe I’m wrong about both places).  Anyway, the basic gist of it is that Gary is starting to realize Cathy has been lying to him about a ton of things, but why?



How about things on the Val/Ben front?  Well, they’re still not seeing each other at the moment, but currently only Mack and Ben know the real reason, that Val is carrying Gary’s love-child/children.  This is making life hard for Val, but one good thing does happen to her this week, which is that she learns her second manuscript has been accepted.  After the big splash of Capricorn Crude, now she can make an even bigger splash with Nashville Junction.  I must say I like the very natural progression of Val’s career.  If we go all the way back to some really early episode in season one (it feels so far away now that I can’t even remember what episode it was, but I think think think it was The Constant Companion), we learned that Val felt inferior for never having completed high school, so she was studying to get her G.E.D.  She succeeded at that and then spent season two going to college and taking writing courses (including that gloriously uncomfortable writing class where The Other Paul Rudd showed up as a substitute teacher and took a big shit all over her story).  Okay, then in season three we learned that she was working on a big story of her own, a kinda fiction/non-fiction story based on her experiences with the Texas Ewings.  That came out in season four and made a big splash and turned her into a successful author and now here we are in season five and her second manuscript is being accepted for publication.  Again, if this were Melrose Place, Val would randomly decide out of the blue one day that she wants to become an author and then she would have a published book an episode or two later.  KL is so much better at letting these things gradually unfold organically over time.

I don’t think this episode is as well directed or edited as I’m getting used to at this juncture in the series, when every episode seems to be this amazingly stylish art film and we are getting solidly consistent and yet uniquely different work from such standouts as Nicholas Sgarro, Larry Elikann, or Bill “You Know What I Like About This Car? The Price” Duke.  I mean, it’s not a big thing, but I just feel like this one is a little sloppier than usual, and a good example is a scene taking place in Ben’s Plant House.  We get a quick stock exterior shot of The Plant House and then cut inside and Lilimae is, like, in the middle of ranting to Ben.  How did she get in here?  Obviously something was cut out, right?  The problem is that I can easily tell something was cut, and I feel the cut, and there were no clever tricks done to make the cut less noticeable or a little more stylish; instead the scene just starts and Lilimae is just, kinda, um, there.  I recognized the name of this ep’s director, Sheldon Larry (pictured below), and I knew I had seen it before, but a glance at his IMDb shows that he only directs two KL eps, with the other one being a little earlier in this season with …And Never Brought to Mind.  I’m trying to flashback to that one and I’m sure I enjoyed it just fine, but I also don’t seem to recall any cool stylistic flourishes or touches, so maybe there’s a reason Mr. Larry only directs two eps while so many of our other directors seem to be invited back time and time again over the course of years (indeed, I am pleased to announce that Bill “Cooke” Duke will be the man behind the camera for our very next episode).
 
 

This episode has one very significant development that gave me a very significant KL boner, and that is the relationship of Laura and Greg.  So far as I can remember, we’ve only had one scene with the two of them alone together up to this point (the fabulous scene in Greg’s limo in which he made Laura laugh and smile and she was trying to hide it from him), but this episode really speeds up the proceedings with them.  Again, my memories from my first watch are proving inaccurate, because I didn’t think Laura and Greg shagged until well into season six, but it happens right here in this episode.  See, he comes to visit the office and Laura is the only one there and they start to make some chit chat and then he, um, smells her neck.  I guess this is supposed to be sexy, and I suppose it would be if it was happening in real life and if you felt some electric chemistry with the person doing it to you (and I do confess I find Devane kinda sexy, though certainly not the Michael-Fairgate-I-want-to-immediately-fuck-the-shit-out-of-him-and-then-come-right-back-for-seconds type of sexy), but it came off as a smidge creepy for me.  In any case, it must work for Laura because the very next time we see them, they are in bed together.  This was done in a nice way, in which Laura receives a phonecall and we start in a closeup of her sitting up in bed.  Of course, the closeup was so tight that I immediately called out what was going to happen, and I was right; the camera pans out a bit and there’s naked Sumner lying in bed next to her.  Ah, what a fabulous development, though maybe, like my overall criticisms of this episode, moving a smidge too fast?

Speaking of moving too fast, after one night of thrashing around and looking like ass, Karen appears to be doing much better.  At first I wasn’t sure what to make of this, if perhaps we were supposed to infer that she was being kinda manic and way too “look how healthy I’m feeling today!”  But no, I don’t think so, I think the drugs are working their way out of her system and she really does feel better, but still, a bit sudden.  Anyway, there’s a conflict going on between Karen and Mack in this episode in which he feels uncomfortable with the counseling session that she takes him to and then they have a little argument in the hallway where she tells him he needs to come to her with his problems so they can work them out and he says, “You don’t listen!”  This is a good scene with fantastic acting from both Michele and The Dobsonator, definitely no complaints here.  Even if Karen’s detox is maybe moving a little fast for me, I am always enthralled by these two and their relationship and I want them to be happy and work things out because I love them.
 
 

The time comes for Karen to be done with the program and leave the hospital.  However, probably due to nervous feelings about returning home to where her problems started, she starts trying to postpone it, saying how she should stay another day and see what the doctor thinks before she leaves.  This is an interesting inversion to how much she wanted to get out of here in the last episode; in that case she was scared and angry and felt she had only her pills to help her, but now she is afraid to leave this hospital that has become something of a safe haven for her.  Even so, Mack tells her that the program is over and it’s time for her to go home, and he’s speaking rather curtly, almost angrily, but then he says, “You’ll be back for counseling sessions, and I’ll be there with you.”  This is a sweet moment because Karen sees that, even if Mack is uncomfortable with these sessions, he is going to keep coming with her to be her supporter. 

I really liked the very last scene of the episode because I found it tremendously moving and, broken record alert here, very well acted.  Also, we get a callback to Mack’s dad.  This excited me not because I particularly like Mack’s dad (you’ll recall that The Block Party was my least favorite episode of the otherwise brilliant season four), but because I was quite convinced he vanished into the sky without ever being mentioned again by Mack or anyone else for the rest of the series.  Nope, I was wrong, for here we are with Mack speaking to his good old drunken Irish dad on the phone (offscreen, but still, we know he’s talking to the dude). 

 

Anyway, Karen comes wandering into the kitchen while Mack is talking and she overhears his conversation and, I think, finally realizes what kind of stress and pressure Mack has been under this last year and, specifically, these last few months.  The most moving part is that we hear Mack answering his dad’s question about how Karen is doing, and he lies and says, “Karen is the rock of Gibraltar; I couldn’t go through anything without her.”  When the conversation is over, and Mack still thinks he’s alone in the kitchen, he hangs up the phone and sorta leans against the kitchen table and starts to hyperventilate and cry a little bit, just overwhelmed with everything going on in his life (remember that he just got dropped from Greg’s crime commission due to weird and mysterious allegations).  At this point, Karen goes into the kitchen and Mack turns around, and he lets the tears fall right down his face, and the two embrace together and he cries into Karen’s shoulder and boom, that’s our final scene of the episode, and a pretty damn good way to go out.

All that said, though, I’m gonna have to say this is the weakest ep of the season so far aside from maybe our premiere, The People vs. Gary Ewing.  Make no mistake, it’s not bad in anyway, but I just had some problems with the way a few things were cut and edited together and I thought the direction lacked the usual KL flair that I’ve come to expect now.  Also, and most importantly for me, it just felt a little fast in almost all regards.  This might be the result of this being the first episode on our disk, if that makes any sense.  Like, if this had been the last episode on our previous disk after spending so much time watching Karen struggle with her pills, it might have played differently, but hopping back in with a fresh new disk and having her problems seem to be solved so fast (I think, quite literally, overnight) rang a bit false to me. 

Okay, let me backtrack a bit.  It’s not that her problems are solved overnight, since she struggled with addiction for a good long chunk of episodes and since she and Mack are still gonna have some relationship work to do because of this.  It’s mostly the fact that, within the confines of this episode, we get one scene of her having a nightmare and flailing around in bed and acting all crazy and then, next time we see her, she’s better and she’s acting like her normal self.  Perhaps this really is how it works when you detox a drug, I dunno, but it just rang a bit false for me.  Similarly, while I’m glad to see Laura and Greg shag, it sure did come about fast, didn’t it?  One little sniff of her neck and boom, they’re in the sack.  Even so, it’s KL and I love KL and this season has been dynamite so far and, if I wasn’t taking all the time to write these essays and notice all the details of the episodes, this one would have come and gone and I probably wouldn’t have even noticed it was weaker than prior episodes.  It’s only because I’m looking at these under such a microscope now that I see more flaws in this one.

But the good news is that it’s all uphill, as the next four episodes on our disk were fucking tremendous, so let’s move right along to our next one, the aptly titled Second Chances.

 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 090 of 344: FORSAKING ALL OTHERS




Episode Title: Forsaking All Others


Season 05, Episode 15


Episode 090 of 344


Written by Joyce Keener


Directed by Bill Duke


Original Airdate: Thursday, January 5th, 1984


The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Mack has Karen admitted to a hospital chemical dependency program. Karen denies she has a problem. Abby is angry at Greg for getting her involved with Mark St. Claire. Mark tells Abby that the Marcus's house has burned down, so Abby tells Laura to make them another offer. St. Claire tells Greg he has one more chance to drop Mack, or else he will give incriminating information to his opponent. Greg has a press conference and says that Mack abused his power and got a variance for Karen's property on Lotus Point, and so he's asked Mack to resign. Mack questions Karen about Lotus Point. She says she gets checks, but doesn't remember anything else. Gary barges into Abby's office and says he is going to have her books audited. Jane and Mary-Frances apologize to the MacKenzies for Greg and go back to Sacramento. Jane berates Greg for making the election more important than friendship. Greg wins the primary race.



                Welcome to 1984 and another absolutely riveting episode of KL.  What a glorious time it must have been to be alive at this point; the ‘80s are officially in full swing, the music is great, so many great movies have come out or are still a few years away from coming out, and every Thursday night you could sit down to watch KL on CBS.  Aside from everyone having AIDS and a Republican running the White House, it must have been a pretty perfect time to be alive.




                Anyway, I’m excited to discuss this episode because it marks the return of television auteur Bill “This Green Beret’s About To Kick Your Ass” Duke to the director’s chair of KL.  I feel like it’s been awhile since we’ve seen an episode helmed by this fabulous black genius, so I looked at his IMDb to see what the last episode he did was, and duh, of course, how could I forget, it was the fantastic and Undisputed Masterpiece of Television Celebration, which so memorably detailed the last few hours of poor Ciji’s life before Ginger got up onstage to sing a song and bug her eyeballs out and frighteningly contort her face mere moments before we saw Ciji’s dead body lying on the beach.  Oh God, that was a good episode, and it’s incredible to reflect on how damn much has happened on the series since that landmark 48 minutes.  Now Duke is back and I felt his presence right away once we had dispensed with the thirty second preview and greatest opening credits sequence of all time.  Immediately, we start on this extreme closeup of an exhausted Karen’s eyes.  Her makeup is all runny and she looks tired and haggard and she’s just a mess, and at first we just see her eyes and hear a voice talking to her, but then we start to slowly pull back to reveal her whole face and the room she is sitting in, which appears to be part of some hospital, as she is surrounded by doctors. 




                It’s the first shot of the episode and I already have a lot to say.  I feel like I’ve been slacking when it comes to discussing the KL directors and the visual style of the show lately, but that’s because, by this point, I’m getting used to the show always looking so damn good and cinematic that I’m kinda just starting to accept it and not put it in my notes as much as I used to before.  This is an example of me slacking, not the show, because the show is consistently looking great week after week and making me yearn for a full restored BluRay with all the eps cleaned up, looking shiny and new and sounding great.  I can only imagine the possibilities of watching such a fully restored BluRay on my parents' big, epic, expensive HDTV with the great picture and sound.  KL deserves this kind of treatment, damn it!

                But anyway, even though the show is always looking great by this point, I still think Bill “Cooke” Duke really brings his own special element to his episodes, and it shows here right away.  Not only do we begin with this closeup of Karen’s eyes and the slow pullback, but I also noticed and appreciated that we hold off on playing our usual set of episode credits (the guest stars, the writers, who directed, stuff like that) until after this scene.  Usually the credits start immediately following the scrolling squares, but they hold off a few minutes in this episode, which is good, because having big white letters flashing in front of Karen’s eyes during this scene would have served as a distraction from a beginning that grabs you by the balls and says “Fucking pay attention!” 



                I also wanna note my much loved and much cherished Michele in this scene, because I think it takes a special form of courage for an actress to present herself as so ugly, the way Karen is in this scene.  I’m not just saying that actresses have a lot of vanity, because I think a little vanity is a natural part of what makes us human, but in general Hollywood doesn’t like women over 40, and Michele is now, according to my calculations, coming close to 42 years old, so to then play a character on network TV on a top rated show (which KL is at this point; it would finish the season ranking at #11 for the year, just barely almost making the top ten) who looks so haggard and tired and used up and has makeup running down her face, I think that takes a special form of courage and I think Michele should be commended for it.

                Okay, so where the heck is Karen, anyway?  After this first scene, we cut to the hallway and Mack speaking to someone on a pay phone (remember those?) and we learn that he is having Karen put into a drug rehab center where she can detox from her pills and hopefully get some help.  Back inside the little room, Karen is super zonked out and the doctors are trying to question her on what she took and how much she took, but she’s way too stoned to answer directly.  She just sorta mumbles her answers and says stuff like, “I had shoulder pain, such bad shoulder pain, that’s why I needed the pills.”  After a bit of questioning, the doctors are able to deduce that Karen did, indeed, swallow an entire bottle of her pills all at once, resulting in her little trip to the shower that served as last episode’s cliffhanger. 

 

                By the way, while we're on the subject of shower scenes, as soon as I saw Karen’s doctor, I was like, “I totally recognize that guy.”  I did my research and the actor’s name is Gary Bayer (pictured below) and, duh, of course, he was in Psycho III.  If I’ve never mentioned it, I’m actually a huge fan of the two ‘80s Psycho sequels (I’m not much of a fan of Psycho IV: The Beginning, however, and feel that one can be easily skipped) and think they are both massively underrated films that suffer from standing in the shadow of a genius work of Hitchcock art.  Anyway, this actor played a priest in Psycho III who was a friend of Diana Scarwid in the movie, so that’s why I immediately recognized his face.  I glanced through his resume to see if he might also be a Transmorpher, and you bet he is, as he appeared in the 1981 Dallas episode called Blocked (season five, episode seven), although IMDb does not credit him with a character name for this episode.  Finally, not only is he a Transmorpher, but also a Tangled Knot.  He’s gonna play Dr. Reese in one more ep this season (Second Chances), but then we’re gonna have him back for two episodes in 1988, playing Raymond Donner (and those eps are both from late season nine and are Discovery and The Perfect Alibi).

 

                Okay, so Karen’s in this rehab center and she really doesn’t want to be here.  Now, I’ve never been to a rehab center as I’ve never abused any drugs harder than alcohol or weed, so I really have no idea how they operate or if they were different back in 1984 than they are today.  One thing that bugged My Beloved Grammy during this episode was the fact that Karen is so vocal about wanting to leave the center and nobody will let her do so; she kept saying how you can’t force someone to stay in rehab if they don’t want to.  My Beloved Grammy is older and wiser than I, so I’m sure she’s right, but for the sake of enjoying the drama of the show, I’m not gonna let it bother me.  Besides, even though Karen says she wants to get out of here and return to her bottle of pills, we have a very intense scene with some amazingly glorious acting from both Michele and The Dobsonator.  See, Karen is lying in the bed and she’s sorta flailing around and saying how she wants to go home, how she wants to see her regular doctor, the one who prescribed the pills, and so on, but then Mack leans in close to her with his eyes all big and intense and he says, “Karen, if you don’t stay here, I’m walking.”  I think this is the true incentive that Karen needs to hear to understand how serious her situation is and why she has to stay in this center and get help.

 

                Let’s talk about Mack, since I love him dearly and he’s in my top pantheon of characters (probably top five; perhaps I’ll try to compile a top ten list in a few years when/if My Beloved Grammy and I finally finish the show) but I feel like I’ve been sorta giving him the shaft the last few eps, forgetting to talk about how much I love him.  Well, I do, and I’ve also been feeling very sorry for the character for most of the season.  He and Karen have not even been married a year yet (I went and looked at the episode where they got married, To Have and To Hold, which was January 21st, 1983, so it’s been almost a year at this point) and yet already he has become sucked into so much drama that I really don’t think I could handle it.  However, through it all, he is good, decent, loyal, and loving to her.  It has hurt me to watch him try to make a connection with Karen throughout the last few weeks while she just keeps disappearing into her pill bottles and ignoring him.  I think Mack has done everything in his power to be a good husband and I don’t think it’s unreasonable at this point for him to threaten to walk.  Also, this is not him just pulling an empty threat to try and manipulate her or make her feel bad; this is serious stuff and he needs for her to listen to him and understand that.

                I feel like there are some pretty interesting racial undertones going on this week, as well, and I have to wonder if this aspect is being brought to the show by Bill Duke, who is a very, very black man.  See, Karen’s roommate is a young black girl and when Karen arrives at the center, I must say that she gives her quite the look before declaring to Mack, “I don’t belong here with these people.”  Now, I’m not saying Karen is a racist person because that’s just not the way her character is.  She was a little social activist in the ‘60s, after all, and I’m sure she believes in equal rights and all that stuff.  I think this is just that subtle ingrained racism that we all pretty much deal with every day.  Karen is a respectable white lady in a nice suburb who manages her own business and this roommate of hers is, presumably, some street junkie.  I don’t think Karen is saying, “I don’t belong here with this Negress,” but rather she is saying she doesn’t belong with a street junkie.  However, her little black roommate gets a fabulous scene later that has always stuck in my mind.  She basically comes walking into the room and, in a very calm and dignified fashion, is able to call Karen out on her hypocrisy.  She says how the two are really not so different at all.  They are both junkies and the only difference is that she must resort to buying her drugs off the street while Karen gets hers from the doctor and hers are “tax deductible.”  Good little scene, and this little actress plays it very well by not coming across as accusatory or even angry; she’s just calm and stating facts.  I think this speech is what Karen really needs to hear to understand that, yes, despite being a nice white lady and despite the fact that her pills came from her doctor, she is still, indeed, a drug addict.

 

                Meanwhile, the plot is really thickening when it comes to Greg Sumner and Mack.  Once again, I remind you that all of this stuff sorta flew over my head upon first viewing, back when I was in college and drinking a lot of vodka every day.  Perhaps the vodka is to blame, but also this is a convoluted storyline with lots of different players involved (and when I say “convoluted,” I mean that in a complimentary way, of course).  Okay, so basically Greg hired Mack to head up his crime commission, right?  The only problem is he didn’t expect Mack to go after this evil Wolfbridge group so heavily, with such gusto and 100% focus on this and only this.  A few episodes ago, we found out that Greg is actually somewhat in cahoots with Wolfbridge, and they want him to get rid of Mack and to do it fast.  However, Greg and Mack are friends, and not just of the casual variety, either; we’ve already learned that their friendship goes back years (and when we reach season eight we will get some fantastic Godfather: Part II flashbacks sprinkled into the mix in which we get to further see their friendship as young men).  Greg may sometimes have questionable morals, but I think he does love and respect his friend Mack, and he doesn’t want to just eliminate him from his campaign.

                Even so, eliminate him he does, and it gets even more confusing here, because it relates to all those wicked shenanigans Abs has been involved with the last few weeks, Lotus Point and so on.  You all remember the old couple from last week, the Transmorpher old man and the Critters 2 grandma?  Well, this week we learn that their house has burned down, and I think we all know what that really means.  I don’t think either of the old couple are hurt, since it would be extra dark and probably a bit too wicked for the show to have two sweet old people slowly burn to death in a fire, but in any case, their house goes up in smoke.  The implication is clear, that the Wolfbridge group wanted the old couple off the land so they can proceed with developments or whatever, so they torched the house completely.  All this said, I’m still having a hard time wrapping my mind around certain aspects of this.  Last week, when James Bond villain Mark St. Claire came to visit Abs, they had a real short conversation and then she threw him out of her office.  I’m a little fuzzy on why the Wolfbridge group is now so heavily involved in this Lotus Point operation when Abs made no agreement to have them as part of it.  Is it simply because they are evil and they do what they want?  That they don’t really care if someone agrees to take on their business, they’re just gonna go ahead and do it anyway?  That works for me.

 

                Things get even more confusing for me when the press finds out that Mack, like, owns property in Lotus Point and got a variance that was somehow illegal or unethical or, um, something.  Just to show how stupid I am, that despite being college educated and having a degree in Professional Writing and allegedly being a competent writer, I didn’t actually know what the word “variance” means, so I kid you not, I looked it up in the dictionary to figure it out and learned that it’s “an official permit to do something normally forbidden by regulations, especially by building in a way or for a purpose normally forbidden by a zoning law or a building code.”  Thanks to the dictionary, I think I now have a better handle on what’s going down here.

 

                Of course, Mack didn’t do any of this stuff and is completely unaware that he’s involved in Lotus Point at all because, you know, he’s not.  This all links back to earlier in the season when Karen and Abs both inherited that property from the dead uncle or whatever.  However, Karen doesn’t know that Abs is the one now running the whole operation and sending her checks every month.  Instead, she takes the checks and accepts them as checks that she deserves for inheriting some property, and she hasn’t thought much about it at all.  At this point, so far as I can tell, the only two people who truly know what’s going on with Lotus Point are Abs and Laura.

                Greg gives a big press conference on the television and announces that he is dropping Mack from his crime commission.  This is hard for Mack to understand, but a little easier for us because we viewers saw a scene of Mark St. Claire making a threatening phonecall to Greg.  Yes, this is indeed our first glimpse of that dark, smoke filled room that St. Claire seems to spend most of his time in.  The lighting here is fabulous, as he’s really the only one with any light on his face, and all of his evil, cigar smoking friends are draped in shadow and we can’t clearly see their faces.  Anyway, at this point, St. Claire tells Greg he has to get rid of Mack or else there’s going to be trouble, that he’ll sabotage Greg’s campaign by giving some sort of incriminating information to his opponent.

                Real fast, since I forgot to mention this last ep when St. Clair made his first appearance, let’s talk about who is playing him.  The actor’s name is Joseph Chapman (pictured below) and he’s in, um, stuff.  Really the only thing that jumped out for me on his resume was The Crow, but he’s simply credited as “Voice,” which isn’t terribly specific.  Also, for whatever reason, I thought he was a Transmorpher and was surprised to see that I was mistaken, as he never appeared in a single episode of Dallas.  He did, however, appear in one episode of Dynasty, so there you go.

 

                When Greg gives his press conference, it creates real ripple effects throughout everyone in the cast.  We see the Fairgate boys gathered around the TV (with Michael wearing that sexy gold necklace he’s always wearing at this point in the series; I like to imagine how he would look completely naked and wearing nothing except that necklace, mmmm) along with Mack, and when Mack hears the accusations against him, he gets damn mad.  After all, he knows nothing of Lotus Point or this alleged variance he asked for; this is all news to him.

 

                Over at the rehab center, Karen is sitting in the depressing TV room with other depressing drug addicts and, as soon as she sees this, she leaps up and returns to her room and starts packing up a suitcase, insisting that she must leave right away to be with her husband and provide much needed support.  The doctors come piling into her room to stop her (this is when My Beloved Grammy made that comment about how they can’t force her to stay here against her will) and, I think, sedate her or something.  Whether this is completely realistic or not is debatable, but I can still buy it because Karen is acting like a crazy person.  She’s only been in the center a couple of days and she’s still heavy into the withdrawal, so she’s looking and acting like a frantic mess.  If the drugs were out of her system and if she was able to present herself in a more calm and dignified manner, the doctors would probably let her go, at least for a little while, but it’s not so.  By the way, all of this drama is going on concurrently with Greg’s primary.  Greg wins this primary and then we get a fantastic shot of him sitting ponderously in a chair while framed right in front of one of his gigantic campaign posters.  In the campaign poster, he’s smiling big and wide and the slogan this time is not “A man for the ‘80s,” but something else that’s equally meaningless and just a bunch of buzzwords.  Anyway, my point is that the Greg in the picture is smiling and jovial, while the real life Greg sitting in front of the picture is more quiet and thoughtful, probably sad because he had to betray his friend and he doesn’t know how to feel about that.

                On a Greg related note, Forsaking All Others also represents the last time we are going to see Jane for a little while.  She will be back in early season six for a couple of episodes beginning with A Little Help, but for the time being she is exiting town and leaving Greg to do his political thing all by himself, and she’s taking M.F. with her.  This also marks the last time we are going to see M.F., at least for a number of years.  This is certainly the last time we see M.F. portrayed by Danielle Brisebois, because when the character returns to the series in 1990 (in season eleven with the episode My First Born), she has morphed into Stacy Galina.  I don’t really have too much to say about Jane or her little exodus from the series, but I do wanna say that M.F. was a much better character than I remembered her being, and the fact that she was only in seven episodes seems odd to me, because it felt like more.  I remember simply not caring about this character upon first viewing, and while I certainly don’t care about her the way I care about the people in the main cast, I enjoyed her more this time around.  I found her little romance with Eric to be rather cute, and I kinda wish the two could have shagged because I think Eric desperately needs to get laid.  I also enjoyed her sarcasm and the way she would speak to her father, with such blatant anger and sass.  So overall, not the most incredible character that, when you’re done watching all 344 episodes of the show, you say, “My God, I just LOVED that M.F. character,” but she was still pretty solid for her seven episodes and it was kinda nice to have her around.

 

                I’ve forgotten to mention Val at all yet, but that’s because she a little less involved in the story this week than she usually is.  However, we do get one significant scene that is all done silently, no dialogue, in which she and Ben wind up taking an incredibly awkward elevator ride together.  See, Val is leaving, I think, the drug rehab center where she has gone to visit Karen, and only by pure happenstance does she happen to wind up in the elevator all alone with Ben.  They ride down several floors together in silence, with only the music on the soundtrack playing, and you can tell that Val wants to say something to Ben, but just as she’s about to, the doors open and Ben steps out, clearly eager to get away from her.  Not a word is spoken, but I enjoyed this scene very much for the acting from both parties, which manage to say everything without having to actually literally say anything.  You gotta feel bad for Val here, too, because now she is pregnant and, aside from her mama, kinda all alone.  She’s got no Gary and she’s got no Ben; how will she be able to face this pregnancy all on her own?

                One last scintillating plot detail that I’m excited to see unfold occurs right near the end of the ep when Gary marches into Abby’s palace office to talk about Greg’s speech on the television.  He asks her some questions about Lotus Point and she feigns ignorance about the whole thing, using those sexy baby blues of hers to try and fool Gary, but I get the sense that Gary is not fooled, because he announces that he’s going to order a full audit of their books to find out exactly where their money is going and what Abby is up to.  Uh oh.  Watching this, I had a flashback to late season two when Gary and Abs were in cahoots together doctoring the books at Knots Landing Motors, and I wonder if Gary is thinking back to that time, too.  He knows from personal experience that Abs has a fondness for messing with the books, so he presumably knows her well enough to know that she could be up to the same wicked schemes at this point.  I have no memory of this story and I’m very excited to see where it leads, to find out how Gary reacts after the audit when he realizes exactly what Abs is doing with his company and with his big inheritance.  Oh my God, so juicy.

                I also enjoyed our very last scene of the ep, which is one of those classic quiet KL endings in which so much is said without actually saying anything.  In this case, Greg is on the TV, having won the primary, giving a big political speech about how exciting this is and where it’s all going to lead.  Meanwhile, the entire Fairgate/MacKenzie family (sans Diana, who we learn this week is in New York visiting her Uncle Joe) are gathered around that depressing rehab TV room, sitting in the total dark with only the light from the TV to illuminate their faces, and just looking awful.  This is our final image as we get our “Executive Producer” credits and then we fade out and we can cross another exhilarating episode of KL off our list.

                Fuck yeah, this was so good.  While I’m still declaring out last episode, Secrets Cry Aloud, to be the best one of the disk My Beloved Grammy and I last watched, this one keeps up the quality splendidly and is another impressive directorial effort from Bill “Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit” Duke.  Taking a glance through the KL eps he’s done so far, this guy doesn’t have a bad episode to his credit; I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of them since he first took the director’s chair back in Power Play.  While he only directs ten episodes and that doesn’t seem like that much when put up against Nicholas Sgarro (54 episodes) or Lorraine Senna (25 episodes), I feel like he really makes the most of his ten episodes and I’m going to be sad when we one day have to see him go. 


 

                But wait, there's one last thing we gotta discuss before we move on, and that is the year known as 1983.  As this ep marks our first ep of 1984, and I neglected to write about the joys of 1983 in my last ep writeup (sorry about that), it's time to do a little reflecting on what was going on in the world at that time, so let's discuss.  As with my little discussion of 1982, I plan to pretty much just skip any world events that don't relate to television, film, or novels.  I am extremely lazy and there wasn't any big election in 1983 or anything like that, so who cares?  When it comes to books, though, it was a good year to be a Stephen King fan, because you had three novels, Christine, Pet Semetary, and Cycle of the Werewolf, along with three movie adaptations, all coming out in the same year.  The movie adaptations, by the way, were Cujo (directed by the underrated Lewis Teague), The Dead Zone (directed by David Cronenberg) and Christine (directed by John Carpenter). 



                 Speaking of movies, 1983 is actually my second favorite year for movies after the stunning year of 1976.  I just feel like a ton of amazing and important movies came out in 1983 and I always seem to be returning to that particular year when I'm watching movies.  I also feel like this was the last year of "70s filmmaking," if that makes sense, the last year in which mass audiences still went out to see mainstream movies that were about adults having adult problems, movies that were about character and art and not special effects and selling toys.  I immediately think of great dramas like Terms of Endearment and The Big Chill, for instance, movies about regular adults that would never be huge massive box office successes today when pitted up against all the 200 million dollar superhero monstrosities currently clogging our cinemas like rats that you just can't get to go away.  Some of the other great movies to come out in 1983 include Trading Places, the James Bond film with the still-unbelievable title of Octopussy, A Christmas Story, The King of Comedy, National Lampoon's Vacation, Psycho II, Scarface, and Sleepaway Camp. As for the TV world that year, the top ten shows of the 1982-1983 season (going from #10 to #1) were a tie for #10 between The A Team and Monday Night Football, then The Love Boat, Falcon Crest, Simon & Simon, Three's Company, Dynasty, both Magnum P.I. and MASH tied at #3, and then Dallas at #2 and 60 Minutes at #1.



                 Okay, so that about does it for 1983 and I’m sure the plots will all continue to thicken nicely as we move on to our next episode, Reconcilable Differences.