Episode Title: Yesterday It Rained
Season 05, Episode 24
Episode 099 of 344
Written by Joel J. Feigenbaum
Directed by Bill Duke
Original Airdate: Thursday, March 22nd, 1984
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Ben comes home and Val cries with joy. The hitman actually shot Ray, not Gary. Cathy calls Ray's mom to tell her, and Laura overhears. Laura tells Greg, who asks Karen why none of the Ewings came to Gary's funeral, and tells St. Claire that he thinks Gary is still alive. Abby mourns for Gary. Greg tells Abby to sell Lotus Point to Wolfbridge, but she won't. Greg tells St. Claire that he is through dealing with him, and calls Abby to tell her Gary's alive. Ben figures out what Mack is doing, and is furious with him because Val could have lost her babies. Ben punches Mack. Abby goes to the MacKenzies and tells Karen that Gary's alive and Mack is using him to get to Wolfbridge. Karen feels very betrayed and confronts Mack. She's upset at all the pain he has caused and tells him their marriage is over, and gives him her wedding ring back.
Welcome to our 99th episode of KL, the last double digit episode before we jump gloriously into the triple digits with our next episode, Negotiations. But wait, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, for the ep up for discussion today is not Negotiations; it’s Yesterday, It Rained. Now, before I get started, I wanna remind the readers that I consumed a bit of alcohol during this visit of KL eps, and I’d say that healthy buzz was comfortably settling in by this episode (for I had enjoyed two beers during the first two episodes and then we opened the champagne during the third episode and were still working on the bottle during this ep). I bring this up because this may well end up being my foggiest writeup. In fact, rather hilariously, I was reading through that TV.com plot summary before I started writing and there are a few things I clear don’t even remember happening in this ep, such as Ben punching Mack. That happened? That sounds like a very good, dramatic little scene, and yet sitting here, I have no recollection of it. I have no doubt that it occurred; I’m not saying my copy of the ep was missing the scene, mostly it’s just a reflection on the state of my brain. Before moving on, just in case I’m starting to sound like a Gary-level drunk, I wanna remind the readers that I wasn’t plastered or slurring my speech or throwing up on the carpet or anything of that sort. Let’s think, it was two beers and about three glasses of champagne, so I was pretty much in the land of a happy buzz for most of the time, but a little bit more alcohol might have turned me into a “WE’RE RUINING LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVES” level drunk, and nobody needs to see me in such a state, least of all My Beloved Grammy.
Okay, so where did we leave off? Well, the last few seconds of Finishing Touches allowed us all to breathe a healthy sigh of relief as we realized that Gary was, indeed, alive. Yes, it looks like he’s being kept in a really boring white room in the police headquarters or something. In fact, let’s talk about how fucking boring this all looks. I know it’s 1984 and we didn’t have cell phones and all that stuff to allow us the instant gratification of 24 hour entertainment (I would actually argue this was a better world because the majority of human beings, you know, looked at each other or talked to each other or looked at the beautiful world around them rather than spending their entire days staring at a tiny little cell phone screen just to get constant updates about what their friends had for lunch or whatever people like to look at on the internet these days), but I feel kinda sorry for Gary cuz he’s got nothing to do in this little white room. You’d think they’d wheel in a shitty little antenna TV for him so he could watch Dynasty or Falcon Crest or at least throw a few paperbacks his way, but no, Gary is just sitting in this little room, staring blankly at the wall in front of him, doing literally nothing. Pretending to be dead turns out to be pretty dull, doesn’t it?
Let’s all be grateful that Detective Morrison is back, because this week he approaches a candy/gum dispensing machine and boldly opines, “I want some gum; I got a bad taste in my mouth.” Who would deliver dialogue like this if Detective Morrison wasn’t on the show? This is obviously a fantastic terrible line of dialogue, but I think my favorite scene of Morrison spouting off bad dialogue is still contained within the beginning of the season (Marital Privileges) when he was interrogating Chip on the murder of Ciji and declared, “You killed her and then you cleaned up like your mother was coming to visit.” So yeah, the whole gum/bad taste line is deliciously terrible and campy, but I think it still falls somewhat short of his recounting of poor Ciji’s death. Why does Detective Morrison have a bad taste in his mouth? Well, presumably it’s because of this whole Gary fake death thing, but wait, now we’re hitting our first example of my alcohol-related stupidity. I suddenly can’t remember if Morrison is aware of this subterfuge or not. Surely he must be, right? After all, Gary is hanging out at the police station, and presumably Morrison would be aware of this, because otherwise who was able to get Gary safely stashed away? I also imagine Morrison, for all his corniness, is still a professional policeman and would be able to keep this secret safe, understanding that Mack is trying to catch a bigger fish with this whole lie that he’s got going on right now.
But anyway, even though I may seem a bit obsessed with him and his choice of dialogue, in all honesty Morrison is not an important character and we’re never going to see him again after season five, so let’s move on to more important people, like Val and Ben. Val may be pretty bummed out about Gary’s death, but at least there’s some light in her world when Ben returns to her, which he does in just the same way I would do it if I were ever presumed dead in El Salvador: By simply rolling on up to the cul-de-sac in a taxi cab and walking up to Val’s house. My Beloved Grammy pointed out how she found it odd that he would fly all the way back to California and land at the airport and get a taxicab home and never call Val to alert her to what’s up, but I dig it. He probably reached that point where he was at the El Salvador airport and was like, “Do I call Val now or later?” I like the element of surprise, so I can understand why he’d rather just show up at her doorstep and see her face light up with joy.
Of course, we the viewers know that while Val is happy to see Ben, he would probably be a little more reticent to return to her life had he seen her reaction to Gary’s “death” last week. That scream of anguish told us all we need to know about who Val’s true soul mate is. However, and I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I don’t think there are any rules in place saying that you can only love one person in your whole life. I think Val does love Ben, just in a different way from Gary. Ben is good and decent and treats her right; she loves him for all those things and just for the simple fact that he’s a good person. However, she doesn’t have that past history with him, they aren’t kindred spirits, and they aren’t soul mates the way she and Gary are. It’s love, but just a different kind of love. It’s a lot like the love I’ve felt for the myriad of cats that have been a part of my life since I was born. First there was Gorilla, the cat who was alive before me and was already well established in the family when I was born. She died when I was eight and she’ll always have special love in my heart because she was the first, you see. But then there were lots of other cats and, to this day, the best of those cats was Rosie, the sweetest and most loving creature you could ever hope to meet. Now I live with Connie, and Connie brings such joy and pleasures to my life every day just by her very existence, and so I love her, as well, but deep down, my soul-mate will always be Rosie.
At risk of turning this into a blog all about cats (and we all know that if there’s one thing people just love, it’s listening to gay guys discuss all their different cats), I say we return to the main stories of the show and leave the cat topic for another day. Okay, so Ben is back, and what’s different? Well, he’s sporting a little bit of a beard, which helps to sell the idea that he’s been gone for a little while. It’s not a full on Grisly Adams/John-Lennon-at-the-height-of-his-coked-out-phase beard, but it’s a nice healthy beard that I actually kinda like and want him to keep for longer (I feel like it vanishes in season six). I’m not alone, either, because My Beloved Grammy said how she likes the way Ben looks with a beard much more. She’s of a whole different generation than me, of course, a generation that believed men should be as furry as possible. I’m more of a fan of nicely shaved and virtually hairless men, and I can’t imagine I could ever date a man with a moustache, but My Beloved Grammy loves them (and my late Grampy, rest in peace, had a pretty killer moustache, by the way). So anyway, despite my general preference for clean-shaven men, I think the beard look works pretty well for Ben. It makes him look tougher, actually, and heck, maybe it sticks around for longer than I remembered, or maybe it comes back randomly throughout the next three years.
Bill “Cooke” Duke is back in the director’s chair this week, and as usual I noticed him bringing some cool cinematic style to proceedings. One shot that I jotted down in my notes (but without any context for where it occurs within the confines of the episode, making it hard to point out the exact minute and second of this cool shot) involves a very sexy dissolve from Gary to Abs that actually reminded me of an early shot in Blue Velvet. Do you all remember in that movie (which everyone in the world needs to see and if you haven’t seen it yet, run out and find it immediately, or preferably wait for it to be playing in an art-house cinema somewhere so you can see it the way it was intended to be seen; it will be showing right near me in Seattle on Sunday, April 23rd, 2017) an early scene in which we fade completely to black and then Kyle MacLachlan opens a door in the center of the screen, effectively lighting the new shot himself as he descends from the top of a staircase to the bottom? It’s a hard thing to describe, but if you’ve seen the shot, you know what I’m talking about it, and we get a similar shot here. We dissolve from a shot of Gary’s face to complete pitch blackness, and then that blackness is interrupted when Abs opens a door in the middle of the screen and, well you get the idea. I say this a lot, but how many other shows would just be like, “Okay, let’s cut from the scene of Gary to a scene of Abs; throw in a stock shot of her office or her house or whatever.” Instead, this transition is done in a really cool way that organically links the scenes together very artistically, so you don’t even feel like you’re leaving one scene and entering a new one.
But speaking of Abs, it doesn’t take her too long to figure out what’s really going on here. It’s done in a sorta circuitous way in which we do not necessarily get to see all the stuff happening, if that makes sense. Oh yeah, and also, the TV.com episode summary is not quite right, as it states that Greg is the person to deliver the news of Gary’s non-death to Abs, but actually it’s St. Claire. See, St. Claire is hanging out with his evil friends and he says to a faceless aide to, “Get Mrs. Ewing on the phone,” and the next thing we see is Abs damn mad about it and rushing to Karen’s house to deliver the news. Oh yeah, but wait just a minute, because I almost forgot to mention something that I find very important, and that is a quick scene of Abs crying in bed alone at night. See, it’s the shit like this that really makes Abs come alive and be such a unique and fascinating character. On another show, the writers would very likely be content with keeping Abs as a snarling villainous who lives to deliver pain and break up marriages and have affairs, twirling a figurative moustache the whole time. Instead, KL has always taken great pains to show her as fully fledged and three dimensional, and they never stop doing that (wait until we get to season eight!). In this case, yeah, Abs has been spending the last year lying to Gary and having an affair with Sumner and using Gary’s inheritance money to spin her own wicked webs, but in this private moment, in which it is just her and her alone, lying on her bed, she cries over losing Gary.
Let’s also take a moment to reflect on the fact that, really, Gary could die and Abs could still get everything she “wants.” I put “wants” in quotation marks because I think it’d be easy for many viewers to think that all Abs ever cared about or really wanted out of Gary was his money. Well, unless there’s some legal loophole that would stop Abs from getting the money since Gary was in the process of trying to divorce her, I’m assuming that she would still be entitled to his entire fortune upon his death, right? So, with Gary dead, Abs could take the money and run, or really go to town running her own business and doing whatever the hell she wants with all that money. My point? Abs is not crying because of the loss of money or power or anything like that; she is simply crying over the loss of Gary. She misses him and she did love him in her own twisted way and, thinking that he is dead and gone forever, she cries for him. Awesome awesome character stuff on display right here.
But anyway, the news of Gary’s non-death quickly starts to have ripple effects throughout the neighborhood, but the bulk of the drama comes from Karen’s discovery of his resurrection. With the revelation, Karen realizes the full extent of Mack’s obsession with bringing the Wolfbridge group to justice, and she’s mad. Now, whether or not she’s justified in her anger is a matter up for individual debate with each and every KL viewer. While My Beloved Grammy has said that Karen is her favorite character (we agree!), she thought she was being a bit extreme in this instance. Why? Well, when Karen confronts Mack on the truth about Gary, the scene concludes with her saying that she can’t trust him anymore and removing her wedding ring and returning it to him.
Okay, so it’s another testament to the series’ brilliant writing team that I am completely able to understand both of these characters and I don’t really take a side with either of them; I love them both and I understand them both. On one hand, Mack made Karen a promise that he would drop the Wolfbridge stuff in the interest of his own safety as well as the safety of Karen and the kids, and now that promise has been broken. Also, and I think it’s very important to remember this, but Karen lost her first husband when he took it upon himself to go after some very bad guys and bring them to justice. Can you imagine how it would hurt to lose a husband like that and then, miraculously, manage to find a new husband who is just as great as the first one (or, as I would argue, even better), only for that second husband to also die in his pursuit of justice for some very bad dudes? Finally, and also significantly, I think Karen is mad to see pregnant Val put under such stresses all for a blatant lie.
So I understand Karen fully, but I also understand Mack. Looking at it from his point of view, he has been nothing but a great husband since he and Karen took their vows in Vegas a little over a year ago. Indeed, as soon as he entered the family, suddenly the cul-de-sac became embroiled in a murder mystery that heavily involved his new wife’s crazy daughter (Diana; you all remember her? The character who is still in the opening credits but hardly ever shows up anymore?). After all that murder stuff was wrapped up, he immediately had to deal with his new wife spiraling into a prescription pills addiction, finally having to force her into a rehab center to seek some help. Through all of that, he has been patient and gentle and understanding and loving with her, when so many other men would have gone through a year of marriage like that and decided to take a walk and never see the woman again. Instead, Mack has persevered and been loyal. Yeah, okay, he told Karen a lie when he said he was done with Wolfbridge, but can you not understand his motives? He’s not lying about some sort of a coke problem or an addiction to sex with prostitutes or whether he colluded with the Russians to hack the election; he was lying about something that is being done in the name of justice and that has to be kept on the hush-hush because of that. So, in conclusion, I love both characters so much and I can see their points of views; I judge neither of them, but only watch and hope they can work out this little obstacle in their relationship.
Remember how Laura and Cathy were getting so cozy in our last ep? Well, it continues this week, making me wonder if the writers were flirting with another lesbian storyline for the two. I suppose it’s possible, but if it was an idea and then they chose to ditch the idea, I’m pretty much fine with it. That subversive “Are they or aren’t they?” story from season four was so delicious for me and also so bold for network TV at that time, that on the one hand I’d rather just leave it at that and enjoy the Laura/Ciji relationship for what it was. Also, I feel it might be a bridge too far to bring Cathy into the series as the exact double of Ciji and then also give her an abusive boyfriend and then also have her be a terrific singer and then also have her become a lesbian with Laura, so it’s probably for the best that the writers don’t go there.
However, it’s during a scene of the two lovely ladies hanging out that we get official confirmation of what we probably already suspected, that Ray is the one who got shot, not Gary. This kinda leads me to more questions than answers, but again this might be my own stupid brain and not the fault of the writers. The part I can’t quite figure out is: Was Ray really shot by pure accident? Did the Wolfbridge group send someone out to Westfork to terminate Gary and then this dumb person just got confused and shot the first white guy to come into his vicinity? Or, rather, was this meant as some sort of warning for Gary? Also, how do we deal with the fact that we now have a dead Ray on our hands? Okay, nobody cares about this character and probably nobody besides me would ask what’s going to happen with his body, but I still have those questions. We get a quick scene of Cathy talking to an off-screen mother of Ray’s, and that helps a little bit, but still. When all this is done, what’s going to happen to his body? Will it just be flown back to wherever it came from? Does anyone care about the fact that this guy was actually on the ranch to kill Gary himself? In fact, irony or all ironies, if the Wolfbridge group had just sat still for another fifteen minutes, wouldn’t Ray have carried out the mission for them anyway? The goal was to have Gary dead, and Ray would have accomplished that if he hadn’t been shot to death first.
I mentioned this little storytelling aspect in my last writeup, but it bears repeating here. In this ep, Sumner shows up at Karen’s house and starts to ask questions about Gary’s death. It’s in this scene that he says something like, “Boy, I’ll bet the entire family flew in from Texas.” At this point, Karen tells him that the show isn’t doing crossovers with the parent series anymore and Sumner is like, “Oh yeah, I guess that makes sense; after a certain point it’s important for the spinoff to be able to stand on its own two feet,” but then he goes on a bit to say how darn strange that is. Gary was, after all, one of the Ewing men, and even if he was the black sheep of that family and not too terribly welcome at Southfork, you’d think the family would still show up to his funeral, right? I stress that I appreciate the writers pointing this out at all when they could have easily glossed over it entirely and just hoped the viewers wouldn’t question it; instead, they use this plot flaw to sorta build the storyline up and help other characters put the clues together. So while it’s still a bit inherently hard to swallow that none of the Texas Ewings would show up for this funeral, I’ll give it a pass because of the way the writers deal with it.
You remember how I said I couldn’t remember Ben punching Mack? Well, I still can’t, but I’m gonna go ahead and say that I probably remember all the other parts of this scene very well, because I remember a Ben/Mack confrontation in which Ben picks up where Greg left off and starts to point out all the plot flaws in this supposed death. He rattles off quite a laundry list and unfortunately my pen wasn’t fast enough to get them all compiled into a list in my notes, so I only remember a few. Basically, he says it’s odd how damn fast the funeral was, something like two days after the actual shooting, a bizarrely fast turnaround for funeral arrangements. Then he points out how Gary was buried on Westfork property and not in a regular funeral home and Mack yells something about, “special provisions” or whatever. Ben might even mention the glaring absence of the Texas Ewings; I can’t really remember. In any case, it’s a good little scene and I’m particularly enjoying the way that all these different characters are starting to put the pieces together themselves; the writers aren’t just having one character figure it all out at once, but rather everyone is kinda in on it together.
Now might also be a good time to point out how smart these characters are and how much I enjoy that. Have I brought this up before? I feel like this is the first time I’m mentioning it, but yeah, I love watching shows with smart people on them. I think as a culture we tend to celebrate stupidity and extravagance and really worthless people who just happen to have a lot of money. I’d rather watch a show in which the characters are smart and sharp and able to figure stuff out for themselves, and I’d say pretty much everyone on this series is pretty smart. Ben is a reporter and he’s smart about uncovering mysteries and questioning people, while Mack is smart (if a little obsessed at this juncture in the saga) about his job and even characters like Lilimae and Val, who might seem somewhat backwoods and inbred, are actually very deceptively smart; they tend to have a deeper wisdom about them and their life philosophies are rather intelligent, as well, even if they sometimes come off as a bit naïve. So yeah, smart characters, they’re always better than morons.
Hmmm, let’s see if there are any big story beats I’m missing here. Well, Gary vanishes from the police station at one point, which is, um, odd. The detectives just sorta go into his room at one point and he’s just kinda gone, at which point everyone flips and starts acting like he’s been kidnapped by the Wolfbridge group, but I’m kinda like, “Really?” Who’s to say Gary couldn’t just walk out of the police station whenever he felt like it? After all, he’s in a little white room and all, but it doesn’t appear to be particularly well guarded or anything like that; I can’t even recall seeing one inept guard stationed at his door. I’m pretty sure if he wanted to leave, he could just get up and do so. But anyway, for the time being Gary is missing and now everybody is damn worried about that.
And that just about does it for Yesterday, It Rained. Clearly this was a solid episode, although I feel like all the episodes are solid at this point in the series. I will say this was probably not my very favorite Bill Duke episode, mostly because, aside from that blackout/door shot, I didn’t see quite as much of his little touches as I usually see. I also think this episode sorta feels like the penultimate one of the season; it’s not quite the season finale, but it’s building towards it, so it’s not quite as exciting as our next episode is bound to be.
Oh yeah, and what is our next episode, by the way? I’m glad you asked, because next up we have not only our season five finale, but also our landmark 100th episode of KL, Negotiations.