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. 

                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 leaving 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 last ep of 1983, 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.

1 comment:

  1. Visually pitting the success of Sumner's campaign against the complete annihilation of Karen, Mack and family is a wonderful statement about where these characters are at and how they've affected one another. One of my favorite moments in the run of the series.

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