Sunday, January 8, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 087 of 344: DENIALS


Episode Title: Denials

Season 05, Episode 12

Episode 087 of 344

Written by Diana Gould

Directed by Lorraine Senna

Original Airdate: Thursday, December 15th, 1983

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Tom tells Mack that Wolfbridge is bigger than he thought and later calls Mack from the bus station and says he's leaving town because it's not worth giving up his life. Chip's sister Angie comes to town for Chip's funeral. Angie tells Diana that Chip's a louse and Diana's only one in a long line of women that Chip used and threw away. Diana slaps her. Abby talks to Diana and says first loves never last. Diana angrily responds that it wasn't a schoolgirl crush, it was her husband who died. Greg tells Abby that she's telling Laura too much. Abby tells Laura to lay off, because she's a master at the game Laura's just learning to play. Val tells Mack that Karen's in trouble with her pills, and Eric concurs. Karen overhears them and screams at them all that she doesn't have a problem.



                When we last left off, Chip had finally met his comeuppance when he saw Cathy, got frightened, and then fell on a pitchfork and died.  The fact that the pitchfork stabbed all the way through his back and came out of his stomach pretty much ensures that he’s dead, so that just about wraps that up, but Denials serves as something of an epilogue to this character.  It is also another one of those delightful surprises where I had kinda completely forgotten about the episode existing.  See, I remembered Chip and the pitchfork, but then I remembered that being the end of it all; I certainly didn’t recall a whole episode devoted to his funeral and all the drama that occurs because of it, and that’s what we are going to discuss now.

                Everything’s kinda crazy emotional this week as people get the news of Chip’s death.  The big emotional center at the heart of this ep, however, is definitely Lilimae.  Last week I said that she’s kinda annoying both My Beloved Grammy and I at this juncture in the series, acting a tad nutty, and certainly that nuttiness continues this week, but I can somewhat understand it here, and Julie Harris really shines in this particular 48 minutes as she deals with the death of someone that, before she realized how wicked he was, she sorta loved.  Also, as we start the episode, you’re going to have the opportunity, quite rare at this point when the show is firing all cylinders and at the top of its game, to hear me complain about something.

                We learn right off the bat that Lilimae had her trial, where she plead guilty to assault with a deadly weapon, and that the judge gave her a three year suspended sentence and, well, that’s it.  My gripe with this little plot point is that it occurs entirely off screen and we just hear about it from Ben.  Why did we not get to see this trial?  This seems like sloppy writing more aligned with, say, Dallas, where once they were ready to end a story they just killed it as quickly and with as little fanfare as possible before shuffling it under the carpet forever.  I expect a little better from KL than that, although I will say this branches off and kinda shows that nobody was all that interested in dealing with the consequences of Lilimae running Chip over with her car.  Since that occurred, really all that’s happened is Val put her in a sorta loony bin for a few eps and then Lilimae returned home; now that her trial has occurred offscreen and she’s got the suspended sentence, we can just move on to new business.  This is a pretty minor gripe, really, because everything else going on is so exciting.  If the writers felt that spending too much time on Lilimae and a trial would detract from the incredible stories we have going on in all other departments, then I suppose I can respect that and move on. 



                Karen is sinking deeper and deeper into a serious pill problem, yet the show continues to handle this with an elegant subtlety.  Once again, we don’t start with some BIG FAT EPIC SOAP OPERA DRAMA of her popping a million pills at once, but rather she is just lying in bed like a zombie while Mack tries to talk to her, basically looking the way I look every single morning when I realize I’m gonna have to climb out of bed and face the awful world.  Mack tries to get a little conversation out of her, but Karen just says she doesn’t feel well, so she’s not going to work today (at Knots Landing Motors; you all remember that place?).  Next time we see her, it’s a fabulously depressing image of her just sitting in her bathrobe in the living room in the middle of the day watching some sort of game show on the television.  This image alone pretty much tells us all we need to know; that Karen is not herself and she’s in trouble.



                While watching her game show (can anyone tell me which one it is?  I recognize the sounds of it and the announcer saying, “It’s easy money time!” and it’s the same show that that one chick watches at the start of Friday the 13th: Part III, but that’s all I know) when there’s a knock at the door, and who should enter?  Why, it’s a character we’ve never seen before, and we learn that it’s Chip’s sister, although of course she says, “I’m Tony Fenice’s sister,” since that was, after all, his real name.  Real fast, let’s talk a bit about this actress who plays the sister, Angie.  Her name is Cassie Yates (pictured below) and I looked her up and she’s not a great big movie star or anything, but she’s in some stuff.  Her last acting credit is 1995, and before that it looks like she was in a few episodes of Murder, She Wrote (playing a whole slew of different characters, as seemed to be the trend with that series) as well as nine episodes of Dynasty (for those who follow that series, her character’s name was Sarah Curtis).  However, a glance at her IMDb showed something very interesting, and that is that she is a Tangled Knot; she will be back on the series for one episode in 1992, playing Andrea.  The episode is The Torrents of Winter and it’s season thirteen, episode thirteen.  We shall see if I even remember that we’ve seen her before by the time we reach that episode in a couple of years, but anyway, there you go. 

                In her one short appearance here as Angie Fenice, this actress does rather well, giving us a real sense of herself and a better understanding of Chip’s past.  In addition, she helps to underline that subtle realism that KL generally has, because she asks Karen who’s going to pay for his funeral.  I feel like on another show, there would just be a funeral and nobody would ask who’s paying for it and nobody watching the show would really think about it, either.  Here, though, it’s addressed, and I appreciate that, because funerals are certainly not free and, even for wicked, evil people like Chip, somebody has to pay to give them a decent burial.  Karen is out of it and clearly doesn’t want this woman in her house, but Angie goes on a bit about how Chip/Tony was always a louse, how by the time he was eight he was able to con any woman into doing anything.  When Karen tells her that he called himself Chip Roberts to everyone, Angie just sorta scoffs and says, “How typical.”  One gets the sense that this woman is not even kinda sorta sad that her brother died, as she seems to hold nothing but disdain for him and his entire existence.  Karen tells her that Chip was not welcome in her house and, if she wants to talk about the funeral arrangements, she should probably call Diana.



                Ah, that reminds me, what is going on with Diana this week?  Well, before I get into it, I want to address a scene I forgot to mention from our last show, I’ll Tell You No Lies.  Right before all the shenanigans went down involving Chip and the pitchfork, we had a quick little scene of the Fairgates/MacKenzies gathered around the family table playing Monopoly together.  It was a nice little moment of joy and love between the family as they just played this game and enjoyed each other’s company, but then the camera panned over to the window and we saw a sobbing Diana creepily peering in through the window, watching them and yearning to be a part of that.  What do we make of this?  That perhaps Diana is feeling regrets for her behavior over the last year or so towards her mother?  That she wants to be a part of the family again?  That she’s starting to realize what goodness she has lost all in the name of her stupid love?  In any case, if Diana is wanting to get back in good graces with her family, she’s not doing a very good job this week, as she continues to act like a little psycho shrew she-devil.  She has a few really wicked moments this week, as well as some scenes demonstrative of her typical delusions.  For instance, when Abs tries to connect with her a bit and tell her she knows she’s sad and all that, Diana gets all dramatic and declares, “This is not just some school girl crush on a boy who broke up with me; this was my husband and he’s dead!”  A nice little speech, but absolutely nothing compared to what she says to Cathy later on.  See, her and Cathy have a little conversation at Westfork later in which Diana adds fuel to the fire for my mentally ill theory when she says that Ciji was a hateful, awful person who did everything in her power to sabotage the love between Diana and Chip.  She concludes her speech with something to the effect of, “If I looked like someone as hateful as Ciji, I certainly wouldn’t walk around flaunting it.”  Diana sure does live in a little fictitious world all of her own, doesn’t she?  We all saw season four and we all saw that Ciji was in no way a hateful character, but just a sweet, nice, talented young girl who got caught in the middle of a bunch of drama she really didn’t deserve.



                Let’s switch back to Lilimae for a little bit.  See, at a certain point near the middle of the ep, she sorta disappears and leaves Val all worried.  Now that she’s out on a suspended sentence, it’s kinda up to Val to make sure her mama doesn’t go around running anybody else over with a car, so the fact that she has up and disappeared leaves Val understandably upset.  She says to Ben, “I just wish I knew where she was,” and then we cut over to the funeral home and see Lilimae visiting with Chip in his coffin.  Ah, what a scene.  Not only does it provide our very last glimpses of this character who has brought so much drama throughout the last year, but it’s also a wonderful moment of acting from Julie Harris.  She talks to Chip’s body and says how, even in death, he looks so nice, how his smile hides such secrets.  She asks if he ever felt bad for what he did, for the hurt he caused, stuff like that, and she cries as she finally leaves the room and tries to leave Chip behind.  I’ve always really respected good criers in movies and television (I think one of the all time best criers was Julianna Margulies on ER) and Julie Harris definitely ranks up there with the all time greats.  Watching a scene like this, I find myself wondering how many takes they had to do, and if she was able to keep the tears flowing so freely in each take.  What do you think?  When you have someone like Julie Harris in your cast, do you just do one or two takes and trust that she will bring brilliance, or do you still have to do a bunch of takes just because that’s the nature of the business?  Television obviously moves faster than film, but I would be very curious to know about things like this.


                Great acting continues a little later when Lilimae returns home.  We’re at a dinner between herself, Val, and Ben, when Lilimae just sorta flips out and starts crying and then storms out of the room.  Val follows after her to see what’s wrong and Lilimae goes on about how she went and saw Chip lying in his coffin and realized that she could have been the person to put him there, that she almost took a life away from somebody, that she’s so deeply ashamed of herself, and so on.  This is a very moving scene but Lilimae still has a moment in it that’s a bit reprehensible.  See, Ben comes nervously walking into the room to see what’s up and Lilimae shouts at him, “You don’t belong here; get out!”  Yikes, a little harsh, don’t you think?  Doubly harsh when you remember that, were it not for Val allowing Lilimae to live rent-free in her house, Lilimae would still be a homeless shopping cart lady.  Despite this, Lilimae still feels she has the right to scream at her daughter’s romantic interests and order them out of the house.  Really, this may be one of her most despicable moments (and also because I’m really liking the character of Ben a lot more than I remembered and I feel bad for him having to deal with all this nonsense), but I’ll cut her a bit of a break because she’s got a lot on her mind and is dealing with some pretty severe emotional crap. 

                The day of the funeral comes and it reminded me, actually, of Episode 3 of Twin Peaks (the one called Rest in Pain if you happen to follow those episode titles, which I do).  For those who watched that brilliant series, you’ll recall that Episode 3 was the one dealing with Laura Palmer’s funeral.  The funeral was the big emotional center of the episode, and getting ready for it and going to it served as a way to check in on all of our main characters and see what was going on with them.  It’s done the same way here, because the funeral of Chip/Tony is sorta the nucleus for everyone else’s stories this week.  For instance, Val comes to Karen’s house to pick her up and catches her in the bathroom, popping a quick pill.  She looks concerned and asks, “Karen, what are you doing?”  Karen says how she is getting ready to go to a funeral and she can’t face it without a pill.  Again, we’ve got a good slow burn going on here, because Val gets a look on her face and we can tell that she knows what’s up, but the scene ends here without some big dramatic confrontation, but rather just this ominous feeling in the air.

                When we get to the funeral, the priest is reading from, presumably, The Bible (I don’t know my Bible very well since I’m a filthy homosexual bound for Hell), and I feel I should have paid more attention to what he was saying, since I always find it interesting when someone truly reprehensible dies and people have to try and give it a spin to make it sound like the person wasn’t all that bad.  In this case, the priest basically says how Chip was a diamond in the rough, but he died too soon to smooth out his rough edges; he says how if he had lived, the diamond would have eventually been exposed.  A nice little spin on it, I suppose, but I greatly enjoyed what happens next, which is that Angie Fenice basically drops her pants to take a big dump all over Chip’s coffin.  After the priest is finished up, Angie just starts going on about how worthless Chip was and how he was a user and how he had everyone fooled.  Diana’s eyes get all big and wide and she looks all super offended and is like, “Will somebody please make her stop?”  The verbal berating goes on awhile longer as Angie says that Chip had everyone fooled, including Diana, and she says something real nasty that I enjoyed to the effect of, “If you think he loved you, he had you fooled, honey,” and then of course Diana slaps her.  It’s been a slap-happy season so far, and this one doesn’t rank as high up as Diana being slapped by Eric, which was glorious, but it’s still solid, since I just love me a good slap.  In any case, Angie manages to sorta keep her dignity as she walks off post-slap and the funeral concludes.


                My Beloved Grammy said that Angie was tactless for speaking that way at the funeral, and yeah, she’s probably right, but then I was like, “Really?”  See, one of my biggest pet peeves is when worthless pieces of shit die and then suddenly everyone comes out of the woodwork to say how great they were or how, deep down inside, they were decent people.  I certainly believe there are plenty of people who are better off dead, and Chip would be one of them.  He was an evil and unfeeling sociopathic liar and he took Ciji away from us.  If this was real life, I would be glad he was dead, and I actually thought it was kinda cool of Angie to just talk such shit about him at his very own funeral.  My Beloved Grammy said that she agrees with my point, but that there’s a time and a place for things and that a funeral is not the place to start saying such things.  She is older and much wiser than I am, so I think we should agree with what she says, but as someone who kinda loves and admires bold and tactless acts, I really dug Angie’s behavior here.

                One other thing from the Chip/Diana department.  This week, Diana boldly declares to Abs that she’s holding onto her hate, that she’s not going to let it fade or disappear, that her hate is all that she has left at this point, something like that.  This is interesting when we remember her leering into the window of the Fairgate/MacKenzie house one episode ago, clearly yearning to be a part of that world.  It’s also interesting because Diana is about to kinda disappear for awhile.  This is something I vaguely remembered from my first viewing, that after some really heavy time with the stories focused on her, Diana just kinda went away.  I don’t know how long Diana is going to be disappearing for, but I do know that this was the last time we saw her on the particular disk we watched and that she sits out the next three eps in a row, at least.  I don’t know if Claudia Lonow’s drug problem (which is not a revelation; she has a joke about it posted as her self description on Twitter) may have had something to do with Diana taking a little vacation from the next batch of eps, but I suppose it’s possible.



                Let’s talk Wolfbridge for a minute.  Like I’ve said before, this is a big, exciting storyline that spans all season, and yet the first time I watched the series, I had a bit of trouble focusing on what was going on here.  I was still interested and excited by the proceedings, but in a way where I was fairly certain I wasn’t following it all as well as I could.  This time, I told My Beloved Grammy that she’s going to have to help me along with this story as we go through it, since it gets convoluted and confusing.  She’s a smart lady and is better at following plot twists and stuff like that.  Anyway, basically the deal is that the Wolfbridge group that Mack is investigating (in his new job as Sumner’s crime commissioner, you’ll all recall) is this sorta corrupt organization that has its hands in all sorts of different “legitimate” activities, including construction, rather similar to a certain recent president-elect who shall remain nameless.  I don’t know if it was in this episode or one of the others on the disk, but at some point Mack goes to a construction site and meets up with a guy working there and questions him about a building that collapsed a few years back because of shoddy construction.  He uses big, complicated construction words that straight men who drink beer out of a can would probably understand, but which went completely over my head.  Basically, the gist of it is that the Wolfbridge group is doing this construction job and they are purposefully doing a shoddy job of building things in order to save a buck; this method of cost cutting is what lead to that other building collapsing, and Mack yells a bit about that, which is cool.  The big thing to note this week is that Mack’s little friend that he got out of prison and hired to work on crime with him, well, he blows town, calling Mack from a bus station and saying how this whole operation is bigger than he knows and he needs to get out to protect himself while he can.  That’s about all that occurs for this storyline with Denials, but it’s important because it shows Mack definitively that these people he’s trying to bring to justice are real wicked and a legit threat to him and anyone close to him.  This will be expanded upon in the coming episodes quite nicely.

                One other thing I jotted in my notes with delight and excitement was our very first one-on-one scene between one Laura Avery and one Gregory Sumner.  See, at a certain point in this ep, the two wind up bumping into each other without the interference of Abs or anyone else, so Laura goes on a little car ride with Sumner in his limo, at which point the two talk a bit about work and life and what have you.  While I can’t recall exactly verbatim the content of their conversation, what I put into my notes is the fact that, at one point, Sumner makes a comment that makes Laura both smile and laugh and it’s undeniably cute, particularly the way that she tries to hide her face while she smiles, like she doesn’t want this man to know he is charming her in any way.  I don’t know if this counts as SPOILER territory, but whatever; watching this scene with the knowledge that Laura and Greg will eventually become an item (and I don’t think we have to wait all that long, by the way; it happens either somewhere in this fifth season or during the sixth season) made this scene really radiate for me.  If this was my first viewing, I probably wouldn’t note much about the scene aside from that the two characters are talking.  Watching it now, seeing the chemistry the two have, I think of all that’s coming up in the next few years and I just feel so warm and fuzzy inside.


                Other big news this week: Gary and Cathy kiss.  Again, we are in a land of stories and occurrences that had completely slipped my mind.  I didn’t remember Gary and Cathy having any sort of a romance aside from his little Vertigo obsession with her that probably peaked in Homecoming.  In the case of this episode, we have a few things worth noting, probably the most exciting of which is that we get to hear Cathy sing a song!  That’s right, we get an early scene in which Cathy is at a bar and the band, all old friends of hers from high school, launches into a rousing cover of Journey’s Separate Ways.  The band gets all excited and asks Cathy to jump onstage and sing with them, which she does.  I noted that this is the second time Lisa has covered a Journey song (she did Open Arms way back in early season four somewhere), and in both instances I think she improves them.  Am I the only one who is not that big of a Journey fan?  The music is solid, but it might be the fact that you seem to hear the same four or five songs from the band played on a constant loop on the radio and I’m just kinda sick of them.  However, Lisa’s cover is dynamic and I was so excited to finally hear a song from her again; it feels like it’s been forever!  Only sad thing is that they don’t do the whole song, just the first verse and first chorus and then the song abruptly ends.  I would have been fine with devoting a whole five or six minutes to listening to her sing, but alas.


                Anyway, during the big cover, Gary wanders into the bar and is delighted to learn that not only does Cathy look exactly like Ciji, but she is also able to sing exactly like Ciji; how amazing!  He inquires to why she doesn’t try singing more and she says how this is just something she does for fun with the old boys from high school (since we later learn that Cathy comes from Arkansas, I'm willing to admit that this "boys from high school" business really makes no sense, but I'll forgive it cuz it's KL and I love KL more than life itself).  Anyway, the big kiss that I mentioned a minute ago doesn’t occur here, but rather back at Westfork, and it’s actually not that big of a kiss, though it is worth noting.  Are Gary and Cathy falling in love?  Will Gary destroy the sacred marital vows he took with Abs mere episodes ago?  Abs is already doing the same thing with Sumner, so why the hell not?  In any case, there’s no shagging between Gary and Cathy this week, just the kissing.


                The final scene of the episode is a doozy.  Val comes by Karen and Mack’s house to speak with Mack about Karen’s problem.  As we start the scene, Karen is nowhere in sight; we just have Val, Mack, and Eric, standing around the living room and discussing their concerns.  I think Mack knows that this is a problem but he is, at first, very slightly reticent to really get into it, trying to dismiss Val’s concerns and tell her the pills are no big deal, that the doctor prescribed them, but then Eric walks in and says that Val is right; Karen is acting weird and has not been herself in a long time.  As they all talk, Karen materializes at the staircase behind them, and we get Val saying, “Mack, I’ve seen her take a pill and then….” At this point, they all realize that Karen’s been listening and she is not pleased.  She goes on about how her friends are conspiring against her and meeting up to discuss her behind her back.  She boldly declares that she has no problem, but then of course she rushes right upstairs and heads immediately into the bathroom to take another pill.  It’s this particular part that I really appreciated.  I get a boner for any cool use of mirrors to heighten the intensity of a scene, and I liked the way Karen was photographed in front of her bathroom mirror as she opens it up to get more pills.  Also, small detail that I appreciate, but I like the fact that Karen always drinks water along with her pills.  One of those annoying little tropes that you see in every movie or TV show if you start looking for it is that people are constantly dry-swallowing their pills.  Not the case here; whenever Karen has a pill, she takes it with water.  Anyway, as she takes her pill real fast, she then looks at herself in the mirror with her eyes all big and wide and we get the sense that she is recognizing that this is, indeed, a problem, but is she going to do anything about it?  That’s the mystery, because this shot of Karen at the mirror serves as our final image for this week’s episode.

                Overall, this was a dynamite little episode, and a real delightful surprise considering how I had completely forgotten about its existence.  Before this rewatch, if you had asked me what happens after Chip falls on the pitchfork, I would have said that’s all we get for him, as I had no memory of a funeral or an angry sister coming to town, but all that stuff is right here and it’s all very juicy.  In addition, everyone in the cast roster is being served with plenty of grand material (and I didn’t even mention the fabulously bitchy verbal exchange between Laura and Abs that we get early in the episode, pictured below) and while some plot points are coming to their conclusion, new ones continue to grow and build all around us.  Oh, it’s all so very good.  Next up, we shall continue to explore Karen’s addiction to prescription pills with Witness.

2 comments:

  1. You can only tolerate Ben on second-viewing because you don't have to fret about his ongoing presence because you know how things eventually turn out. Week-to-week in the 1980s watching him was a real chore.

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  2. I didn't put two-and-two together that this was Cassie Yates until you called it out. She also played a "down home" character on Dynasty, and she does a good job of it.

    Brett...you know I love you, but I have to call you out about Journey. They were awesome! I know they are overplayed on the radio, but they go much deeper than the 4 or 5 songs you know. Steve Perry's voice was pure emotion, and I dare anyone to name a better road song than "Faithfully". Ok, I'll stop now :)

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