Sunday, February 12, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 096 of 344: NO TRUMPETS, NO DRUMS


Episode Title: No Trumpets, No Drums


Season 05, Episode 21


Episode 096 of 344


Written by Scott Hamner


Directed by Larry Elikann


 Original Airdate: Thursday, February 23rd, 1984


The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Val is upset as Ben leaves for El Salvador. She finds out she's having twins. She gets a call saying Ben and two others were on their way to a rebel encampment and their jeep was hit and the men are missing. Cathy gives Ray $5,000.00 to leave, but he won't. He grabs Cathy by the hair and Gary sees and beats him up. Ray says they'll pay for this. Gary and Cathy sleep together. Mack, back on the crime commission, pretends he's no longer going after Wolfbridge, but tells Abby he'll grant her immunity if she'll help him go after them. Abby tells Greg. Mack tells Tom Jessick that Abby thought that he needed her help and has already probably told Wolfbridge. Gary has Abby's assets frozen, and St. Claire tells Greg that it's his problem to unfreeze them.

 
 


               Welcome back!  Our episode up for discussion today, No Trumpets, No Drums, served as the first episode of our final disk of KL season five eps.  Oh, what sheer bliss it was to watch these; please allow me to set the scene a bit before I dive into the episode proper.  Back when we were still watching Dallas, My Beloved Grammy and I would often split a bottle of champagne (we like Cooks, not to be mistaken with Bill "Cooke" Duke) during the viewing and then I would spend the night in the guest bedroom and sleep off my little champagne buzz.  In any case, due to one thing or another, it’s been awhile since we’ve done it that way; in fact, I dare say we haven’t had a bottle of champagne at all during our KL viewing.  However, with my excitement to conclude season five as well as my realization that we were getting ever closer to the 100th episode, I decided this disk of eps would be the perfect time for another sleepover and some champagne, and it was.  We concluded season five and we sipped champagne and it was all so very glorious. 




                Oh yeah, and one last thing before we get started: If I seem to skip any details or gloss over things from this batch of eps, it’s certainly not intentional.  I usually give this little caveat and say how it’s because we watch five eps at a time and it’s simply hard to remember every detail, and while that’s true, in this case the drinking also may have played a factor.  Make no mistake, I didn’t get drunk and throw up and start rolling around in my own vomit, like a certain college story from my more wild days.  Instead, I just nursed two big beers during our first two eps and then we opened the champagne on the third ep, so I got a rather lovely little buzz without ever going into full-on drunk mode.  However, this is my first time upon this KL rewatch to drink more than one beer while watching, and so the booze may have made me a little giggly and silly and not quite as focused as I could have been, but I suppose we shall see.


                So when we last left off, Abs had officially turned into the pariah of California, with everything crumbling all around her and Gary throwing her off Westfork, declaring he wanted a divorce.  To add insult to injury, Olivia also announced that she wanted to stay at Westfork with Gary.  Well, we actually open this episode on a nice little chat between Abs and Olivia, and I want to note that, for what I believe is the very first time, Tonya Crowe’s name has been moved to the start of the episode as a guest star; she’s no longer relegated to the ending credits with the coastal shots and the replay of the theme.  I know I’m an obsessive nerd for noticing such things, but I find crediting and all that stuff very interesting, and what this indicates to me is that Olivia’s character is finally on the rise.  She’s been around since season two and I actually would argue Tonya has been a pretty good little kid actress right from when she was first introduced, but she has mostly been somewhat in the background, functioning as one of Abby’s children, kinda sorta the way Jason 3 functions in relation to Laura (although obviously Olivia is not nearly as in-the-background as poor Jason 3 is).  Now, however, I’m starting to see the seeds being planted that will grow into some really fabulous central stories for Olivia; she’s starting to rise up and be a real character of her own, and I honestly don’t remember it this way.  In my memories, it wasn’t until around season eight that she became more important and started to get her own stories, but now I can see it starting right here in late season five, and I’m gonna assume that’s why she also gets this credit bump to the head of the episode.




                Okay, so what are Abs and Olivia talking about?  Well, Olivia is still mad and she’s not holding back about it.  She’s not yelling or screaming or anything like that, but she’s making it pretty clear that she is mad at her mother and disapproves of what she’s been doing the last year or two.  We get a couple of fabulous lines of dialogue that are worth noting at this point, the first of which is when Olivia says something to the effect of, “Lilimae says that Gary’s right to throw you off the ranch,” something like that, and then Abs dismissively says, “Lilimae doesn’t know anything about anything,” and I confess I laughed aloud at this little gem.  The open distaste shared mutually between both Abs and Lilimae makes me smile (remember Lilimae’s hilariously mean “Hussies like you don’t deserve children” speech over the phone from our last ep?), and this line is a good example of that.




More significant, however, is a little speech Abs delivers a second later, a speech that I happen to agree with.  She tells Olivia that if a man did exactly the same things she’s been doing, he would be admired for it, but since she’s a woman, it makes her wicked.  What do you think, my readers?  I like to think I’m a good little liberal feminist, and I certainly believe that in the world of both business and politics, ruthless men are praised while ruthless women are condemned.  When men do duplicitous things in order to get ahead in a business, it’s considered tough, but when women do it, it makes them bitches (this is very similar to how it's apparently the crime of the century for Hillary to have a private E-mail account but it's totally okay for "President" Trump to suck Putin's dick constantly while attacking U.S. allies at home and abroad and sexually assaulting every woman he sees).  Now, just to elaborate a bit on this, I will also say that Abs is probably using this as a justification for all her behavior.  Now that she’s been caught doing bad things, she has to backtrack a bit and be like, “Well, if a man did that, Bob Loblaw,” but I don’t believe those were the thoughts going through her head when she first started being all wicked.  So, while I think she’s bringing this up as an excuse, sorta like if a kid gets caught doing something bad and then says how his brother does the same bad thing all the time and never gets in trouble, I do also believe her declaration is pretty much true.




Abs is pretty busy this week, because after her little chat with Olivia, we also get a meeting between her and the diabolical James Bond villain Mark St. Claire.  St. Claire is losing patience with Abs and the whole business of how she can’t get to any money or assets because Gary has frozen everything.  St. Claire makes some vague threats, as is his wont, although I can’t remember the precise gist of what he says, but basically it’s all very evil and scary.  Now might be a good time to say how much I’m still enjoying this character.  There’s something so delightfully nonchalant about his evil; he’s not a snarling moustache twirling villain, but rather just a white guy with glasses in a nice business suit who sits in offices and very calmly makes threats to people, that is when he’s not making threats to them over the phone.  Of course, if he’s calling to threaten someone over the phone, it’s more than likely that he’s in a very dark room surrounded by evil faceless men smoking cigars, and that just makes everything so much better.  I don’t mean to get into spoiler territory, but I believe our time with St. Claire is pretty short lived (and indeed, I took a little peek at Joseph Chapman’s IMDb and note that he’ll be making his last appearance in the second episode of season six, Calculated Risks), but I just wanna say that while he’s not the most amazingly unforgettable character in KL history, I enjoy the casual, white-collar evil that he brings to proceedings and I feel he is just perfectly right for this juncture in the series.



As if Abs did not have enough people pissing in her face over the last two eps, she gets yet another rather rude awakening a little later in the ep.  See, she’s hanging out at the palace office with Laura and they’re having a little chat.  I wanna note that I find it interesting that Laura and Abs are still interacting, and that even though Abs is mad at her for going to Mack and telling everything, it doesn’t appear to be some unforgivable sin in her book.  Or am I mistaking this?  Is Abs perhaps only keeping Laura around because, at this point, she’s in too deep and Laura is all tangled up as part of this too?  Is this continued relationship a sign of some sort of loyalty on Abby’s part or is it merely the fact that she and Laura have been in cahoots all season and she has to keep  her around at this point, no matter what?  Well, in any case, the scene concludes nicely with Laura reminding Abs that Gary is about to divorce Abs, to which Abs casually replies, “Gary’s been known to change his mind.”  Two seconds later, there’s a knock at the door and it’s a man serving Abs with divorce papers.  We can physically sense Abby’s mood deflating like a balloon while Laura looks on with that little “I told you so” smile on her face.  Fabulous.




The last bit of business relating to Abs this week comes in the form of a visit from Mack, who tells her that he’s at the end of his rope with the whole Wolfbridge investigation and that if Abs will help him bring them to justice, he will see that she gets immunity for her own involvement in these shenanigans.  Now, at first I thought Mack was being serious with this, that he really was reaching out to Abs as his last hope, but then Abs refuses to helps him and we see a little teeny tiny smirk on Mack’s face.  What to make of this?  Well, a little later we see Mack meet up with Tom Jessick in a dark little room with only one very stylish circular light hanging over his head.  You all remember Tom Jessick?  He was the guy who was in jail for some sort of not-real-crime like tax evasion or something and Mack got him out to help with the investigations and then he got scared and blew town.  Well, now he’s been snuck back into California by Mack to continue helping, and it’s here we learn that Mack was just playing Abs.  He’s not really about to give up on the Wolfbridge stuff, and Abs is not really his last chance to bring them to justice, but he wanted her to think so and then reiterate the information to St. Claire.  Such a sordid state of affairs, yet one that I’m understanding and appreciating a lot more than I did upon first viewing.



Meanwhile, poor Olivia is going through a lot of different conflicting emotions.  We have a lovely scene between her and Gary that starts with her playing some Liberace on the piano (it’s the same piece that is played during that super stylish montage of James Cann typing away in Misery) while Gary sits on the couch and listens to her play.  Try as she might, she keeps screwing up the notes and getting frustrated with herself, and then she starts to cry.  Gary comes to sit beside her and have a chat, at which point Olivia says how there’s no point in her continuing to practice piano because pretty soon she’s gonna have to move off the ranch and never see Gary again.  Oh, what a touching scene, as Gary assures her that, no matter what, she’ll always be welcome at the ranch.  Olivia doesn’t particularly believe him and keeps crying for awhile, and I must say I really feel bad for her.  I’ve read some fans being rather critical of Tonya’s acting and particularly her crying.  I might agree with that in certain scenes (including one in an upcoming episode), but for the most part I think she’s very real and I believe her sadness and I feel for her.  I also just love the relationship between Olivia and Gary that we’ve watched grow throughout the last few years and which shall continue to grow until Olivia finally has her exodus from the series in 1990.  Gary is such a legitimately good surrogate father to her (well, I suppose he’s a good surrogate father to both Olivia and Brian, but Brian is the absent child at this point and barely ever shows up to do anything, to the point where it’s easy to forget that Abs has two children) that it truly warms my heart. 



Sadly, Olivia’s love of Gary is tested a little bit later in the ep, when she spots he and Cathy having a little make-out session together.  Again, it’s a scene that’s rich on so many different levels, because it actually begins with Cathy getting ready to cut Gary’s hair and noticing that he has a pierced ear.  She asks him about that and he seems kinda embarrassed and is finally like, “Yes, okay, I had a pierced ear; it was the ‘60s.”  What a funny little line, and one that made me pause to reflect on the timeline and the actual ages of both Gary and Val.  Follow me along for a minute while I take this detour.  IMDb says that Shack was born in 1946, and based on my calculations, Gary is roughly the same age and was probably born in 1945, while Val would have been born in 1947.  My estimation is based on the characters’ ages when they met and had baby Lucy, and I’m assuming Lucy was born in 1962 or thereabouts (Lucy’s age over on Dallas always confused me and, in fact, might even be contradicted between the two series if I were paying better attention).  Therefore, if Gary was born in 1945, he would be ages 15 to 25 throughout the span of the ‘60s, the perfect age to be a wild alcoholic running off and getting ear piercings.  Little details like this ear piercing and his “It was the ‘60s” comment just send my mind spiraling off in all sorts of fantastic new directions, wishing David Jacobs would create a new show called Gary and Val: The Lost Years that explores their lives between 1962 and 1978.  Omigod, just imagine the possibilities of such a prequel series!




But wait a minute, I’m getting off topic.  Okay, so Cathy’s getting ready to give him a haircut, they’re exchanging some cute and flirty dialogue with eachother, and then the second that Cathy sorta hops onto his lap and they start kissing, in walks Olivia to speak with Gary about something, catching them right in the middle of their kiss.  Cathy and Gary don’t see Olivia, however, and she’s able to make a quiet exit without them being any the wiser, but she’s obviously very upset, and again, I understand her.  Think of how sad and mixed up Olivia’s life is at this point.  She’s about thirteen years old (at least that’s how old Tonya would be in real life at this point; I’m assuming Olivia is meant to be the same age as her portrayer), and has already experienced losing one father figure in her life, her actual biological Transmorpher father that we haven’t seen since early season three (and won’t ever be seeing again, as I believe by this point he had officially Transmorphed over to Dallas to play Mark Graison’s doctor and give him health advice about his moustache).  After that, she has had the very strange and whiplash-inducing experience of moving from a fairly middle class suburban cul-de-sac to first The Beach House and now Westfork.  For two years, she has been living a rather rich life and enjoying all the benefits of having a man with a shit-ton of money serving as her father figure.  Now, of course, she fears that she will be losing him, as well, and seeing him kissing Cathy like it’s no big deal must be a rather horrifying thing to witness. 

 

The whole kissing thing provides the impetus for Olivia to move off of Westfork, but not before she screams and yells at Cathy for taking Gary away from her mom.  She says how she hates Cathy and then she goes running out of the room, and while I could understand how a viewer might call Olivia a brat at this point, I don’t personally believe it.  I’m with her and I feel for her and her turbulent life.  If Gary was my surrogate father, I wouldn’t want to be losing him, either.  At the same time, the writing is just so damn good that I also feel sorry for Cathy in this scene.  She’s just as mixed up as Olivia, really, but just in a different way.  In fact, that leads me rather smoothly into our next big event for the episode, which is the continuing abuse of Cathy by Ray.  Oh man, is Ray ever wicked, though I confess I’m ready for him to go away at this point.  I’m gonna be super shallow for a minute and say that I just find this actor extremely ugly and unpleasant to look at (those freckles are just gross and he looks, like, half-ginger or something and it’s just icky), but I also think the character is maybe not one of KL’s most developed.  He’s evil and he’s nasty and he’s pretty stock, just here to cause trouble and be mean to Cathy.  Early on, when Cathy tells him how she doesn’t want to continue with this plan of trying to get money out of Gary (I’m still not entirely sure what Ray’s exact plan actually is, by the way, but why fret?), he gets real mad and slaps her and tells her to remember that she’s nothing but a whore and that she’s here to do a job and that’s it.  Then he throws her violently down on the bed and Cathy starts to cry and I did not enjoy watching it; Lisa looks so sweet and kind and has such pretty eyes and I don’t like seeing her treated badly by a man (which should make me nervous for the impending arrival of one Alec Baldwin to the cul-de-sac….).



One thing I will say:  I guess it’s maybe kinda sorta ridiculous that both Ciji and Cathy are abused by evil, manipulative boyfriends.  Perhaps this is stretching credibility a bit that not only is Cathy Ciji’s exact twin, but also an equally great singer and also suffering from a nasty boyfriend/husband.  On the other hand, there’s a lot of nasty men in the universe who like to hurt a lady, so perhaps it’s not that far-fetched.  And just to show my miraculous ability to spin a KL criticism into more KL praise, I also think it’s a credit to the writing that I didn’t really even think about this until sitting down to write this.  Upon first viewing and even upon this viewing, I am just captivated by the story and everything is able to unfold in this way that feels so bizarrely realistic when perhaps it should be coming off as completely absurd. 



If I remember correctly, Chip pulled Ciji’s hair once, and now Ray does the same thing to Cathy, but fortunately Gary comes walking in at that moment and catches him in the act.  From there, we get a fabulous 72-minute chase scene all throughout Westfork.  Seriously, this fight goes on forever with a blaring Ron Grant score that’s actually fairly comical.  Also, Ray attempts to kill Gary in a way rather similar to poor Chip’s death some episodes back, by using a pitchfork.  He stands at the door of one of the stables with pitchfork in hand and is ready to strike, but fortunately he misses and Gary isn’t hurt.  Then the chase and fight continue for another couple of hours until finally Gary gets the upper hand and really beats the shit out of Ray, punching him in the face over and over again.  One has to admit that Gary can be a pretty good fighter when he puts his mind to it, and I wonder if this comes from his myriad of barroom brawls during his drinking days.  The scene also ends with a fantastic little humiliation of Ray, because once Gary is done punching him, he turns his face over and rubs it in the mud (or is it mud?  It would be almost better if it was cow shit), and then he tells him to get off the ranch and never return.




Here comes a criticism, and you know it hurts me to criticize my most beloved and cherished KL, but I can’t always be cumming in my pants over absolutely every detail, much as I may like to, and this is something of a micro-criticism anyway, so it’s not such a big deal.  However, it is a bit of a contrivance that Gary does nothing else besides order Ray to get out.  Really, he probably should have called the police and reported this crazy and really ugly ex-husband guy who randomly showed up to beat the shit out of Cathy before trying to murder him with a pitchfork.  For the convenience of the plot and the unfolding events of the next few eps, it’s important that Ray not be arrested or incarcerated, but I guess I just don’t buy that Gary would beat him around a little bit and then simply tell him to leave.  Come on Gary, cover your bases and call the police to tell them what happened.




After several eps getting prepared for his big trip, Ben finally leaves for El Salvador this week, and my recently discovered appreciation for this character continues to grow.  Seriously, why did I think he was so boring upon first viewing?  Was it just that I was drinking so much vodka and was hopelessly devoted to Karen and her storylines?  I honestly can’t explain it, but I reiterate that the character of Ben has gone way up in my estimation while re-exploring this fifth season.  In this ep, the day before he leaves for his big trip, he and Val lie in bed talking and he tells her about his first big new assignment and how he had to go to, um, somewhere far away.  He says how he had some friends over to do a bit of drinking that night, then he tried to get some sleep and found himself too keyed up for sleep.  Then he decided to just try resting his eyes for a few minutes and, instead, he fell asleep and missed his flight and got fired from his very first news story.



This story from Ben’s past that he shares with Valene kinda exemplifies my new appreciation for him.  I think on first viewing I was just annoyed that this new character came out of nowhere and was immediately added into the opening credits and served as Val’s new love interest.  Perhaps at that point I was like, “Eh, this generic white guy is just here to fill the role of love interest until Gary and Val get back together.”  Now, however, I really appreciate his whole backstory and the fact that, really, we don’t know all that much about him.  We know that he’s had an exciting life and been all over the world and explored lots of different countries and cultures and what have you, but that’s about it, so then whenever he drops a little story like this one or the one he told about his father’s mental breakdown, it’s like new little clues that we can put together to form our own backstory for him, little pieces of a puzzle that we the viewers get to attach together, and I really like that.  I also feel sorry for Ben, by the way, because if you’ll recall, the last image from our previous ep, High Ideals, was a shot of Ben looking at Gary and Val as the two stared into each other’s eyes and positively radiated true-soul-mate-love all throughout the room.  Now Ben is starting to see that Gary is always going to occupy a special place in Val’s heart and he’s realizing that, even if she does in fact love Ben (and I believe she does), she will never love him with the same fiery passion and thigh-melting intensity that she loves Gary; it just ain’t gonna happen.




Okay, so Ben flies off to El Salvador and leaves poor Val (POOR VAL!) alone.  We have a sad little scene of Val alone at The Plant House, having been given strict instructions on how to care for each plant (I would be terrible at this job, by the way, because aside from giving them water, I’m clueless on general plant care).  Karen pops in for a visit and the two have a good heart-to-heart and Karen asks Val if she told Ben that she loves him and Val says that she did.  Nothing too exciting or thrilling occurs in the scene, but it’s another one of those small scenes that says a lot, reminding us of what good friends Karen and Val are, and I also reiterate that it’s refreshing to have them getting along again after such a stretch of episodes in which Karen was crazy on pills and being nasty towards all of her friends.



Oh man, and one very important bit of information that I almost completely forgot to write about also occurs in this ep.  Yes, it’s true, for this week we officially learn that Val is pregnant with twins.  I’ve been waiting for this ever since she announced her pregnancy back in Witness, and now it’s finally here.  I can finally stop writing “Val’s baby/babies” every time the subject comes up and simply write “Val’s babies;” oh joy.  Also, this development just moves us ever closer to the sheer brilliance that is season six and probably the greatest storyline in all of KL history.  Oh yeah, and now might also be a good time to mention that My Beloved Grammy is utterly convinced that Val is going to suffer a miscarriage.  I guess she was off the nighttime soaps by the 1984-1985 season, for she has absolutely no memory of the unbelievably brilliant Val’s-babies storyline and just keeps saying how, any second now, Val’s gonna have a miscarriage.  Of course, watching this as a new viewer, I can also see that predication feeling accurate.  After all, these nighttime soaps loved to introduce pregnancies into the equation in order to get some juicy drama flowing only to then throw a miscarriage in there to avoid having to deal with cute babies and child labor laws (indeed, KL has already done this way back in the early days with Small Surprises).



The episode concludes on an ominous note in which Val gets a phonecall from El Salvador.  We don’t know that at first, as we just get to hear her end of the conversation on the phone.  Karen and Lilimae are sitting at the kitchen table and then Val hangs up the phone and announces that Ben was in a jeep and the jeep was found crashed but his body is nowhere to be found and that’s our exciting cliffhanger for the end of the ep.  Watching this, I tried to wash my brain out and erase all my retroactive knowledge of what happens on the show and pretend I’m a viewer in 1984.  Honestly, if I was one of those oh-so-lucky original viewers who got to see the show grow and evolve week-to-week, I think I would probably believe that Ben is dead.  Why?  Well, the death of Sid way back in early season three effectively set the tone that nobody is safe; just because your name is in those opening credits does not mean you can’t be killed off from the series unexpectedly.  Secondly, we’re rapidly approaching the season finale, with only four more eps left in the season, so I think I would figure if they’re gonna kill a character, now would be the time to do it.  Of course, I’ve watched the series once before and, SPOILER ALERT, I know that Ben stays on the show clear through the end of season eight in 1987, but getting myself into the mindset of a new viewer, I think I would place my bets on his corpse showing up pretty soon.




I say this a lot, but I really didn’t have all that many notes about this ep and I thought this would be a fairly brisk writeup.  Perhaps I just suffer from what Stephen King calls “diarrhea of the word processor” or perhaps the show is just so genius that I could write about it for thousands and thousands of pages, but in any case, once I started writing about this I found a lot more to say.  While this is perhaps not the most EXCITING episode of KL, serving more as setting up dominoes to fall throughout the next four eps of the season, it is still tremendously well done and also continues my deep love affair with Larry Elikann (who I’m actually starting to think might be my favorite KL director).  I was too busy writing about characters and shit, but make no mistake, because this episode is still dripping with style and technique in a way that I’ve started to grow accustomed to.  I feel like Elikann’s big directorial flourish that he always brings to the table is the use of intense close-ups, stylish use of mirrors (in this one we have a cool shot of Cathy in the mirror looking at herself while Ray looms in the background), and those super cool shots where one character’s head is framed really big in the foreground while another characters takes up the space in the background.  That’s all on display here, along with generally interesting character moments and some witty dialogue and even some pretty great camp with the super duper long and intense chase scene between Gary and Ray.  So, while I think this episode might kinda recede into my memory as we move further along through the series and maybe won’t be one I necessarily immediately think about, it was still solid.



Okay, we’ve got four episodes to go until we finish season five, so let’s propel forward and talk about our next episode, Silent Missions.

2 comments:

  1. I have a different take on Abby's little speech. What I loved about the Abby character was that she was a woman of action, not words. She proved she was equal to any man with her ambition, hard work..and yes her many ethical lapses...without giving some sanctimonious speech about it. In fact, she rolled her eyes when Karen got on her high horse and started preaching to people.

    That is why this "If a man did it..." speech rings hollow to me. If a man screwed over his spouse who he supposedly loved (as Abby did to Gary with the whole Appaloon thing), he would not be admired. He would be viewed as a slimy louse. It was a rationalization ...nothing more.

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  2. Grammy is in for a wild ride. Do keep us updated on her.

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