Thursday, March 30, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 109 of 344: WE GATHER TOGETHER


Episode Title: We Gather Together

Season 06, Episode 09

Episode 109 of 344

Written by Richard Gollance

Directed by Larry Elikann

Original Airdate: Thursday, December 6th, 1984

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Val insists her babies are alive, but no one believes her. Gary tells Lilimae he had secretly hoped that the babies were his. Joshua asks Reverend Kathryn if the babies were born dead out of retribution for Val conceiving out of wedlock. Abby receives another mysterious phone call requesting Gary's blood type. The caller tells her the babies will be placed in the next two days as she requested. Easton is flying in on Galveston's private jet, so Abby goes to meet him, but he's not on it. Abby makes about a million calls, but can't find him. Mack moves back in with Karen, and they decide to throw Thanksgiving dinner for everyone. While preparing the dinner, Karen's hands go numb. Karen asks Gary to get Val. Mack apologizes to everyone for hurting them. When Val and Gary walk in to the MacKenzie's, Val apologizes for her and Gary being late as usual.




                Before I go into gushing fan boy mode and start masturbating while talking about how utterly ingenious this episode of KL is, I want to clarify one thing right off the bat, and that is the very title of the episode.  I do not know why, but both IMDb (until very recently) and TV.com have this ep listed as We Come Together.  Indeed, that’s what I kinda assumed the title would be just from glancing at IMDb stuff and starting to prep these essays and all that, but the actual onscreen title of the ep is We Gather Together, which really makes a lot more sense and also just sounds better rolling off the tongue.  Why the discrepancy?  I’m not entirely sure.  The title wasn’t changed in post production or in syndication or anything like that, was it?  Anyone know?  In any case, I wanted to make that clear because I’m going to continue referring to this one as We Gather Together from now until the end of time, but if you actually go into the internet world and try to find it by that title via TV.com or something, you’ll come up empty.

                Okay, so We Gather Together is another one of those eps that picks up just seconds after where the last one left off, Back to the Future Part II style, so much so that you could glue the two eps together and create a two hour amazing experience of utterly orgasmic joy.  We begin in the hospital, Val in her hospital bed, the news starting to spread about what happened to her in our last ep.  I think during one of my last 108 writeups, I said something about how I like eps of series that are all about people just finding stuff out, and that’s sorta what’s happening here; we spend a good early chunk of the ep watching people arrive at the hospital and get the news about what’s happened and just reacting to it.  Probably the most memorable reaction comes from Lilimae, in another just-fucking-give-Julie-Harris-her-Emmy moment where the doctor tells her Val’s babies are dead and she flips and starts saying, “Oh my God, oh my God,” over and over again.  Some might say over-the-top, but I say a realistic depiction of devastation.

                I’m not gonna go down the roster of every single character who finds out about Val’s stillborn babies, but suffice it to say that it’s all very very good and very very well acted.  I do wanna note that when Ben and Gary both find out it, Ben tells Gary, “Don’t stay away from her; she needs you now and I think you need her.”  He’s absolutely right, and kudos to Ben for being the bigger man and not getting a stick up his ass about Val being around her ex-husband.  This is a time when she needs the comfort of Gary and Ben recognizes it.  Fuck yes, Ben, I’m so sorry I was dismissive of you upon my last viewing, but I think I was just so busy focusing on the other amazing aspects of the series that I just kinda neglected you, but damn, you rock!  In addition, Mack and Karen receive the news and rush to the hospital to see Val.  Let’s talk about that scene specifically, because it’s time for some long overdue kudos to J.V.A. along with a personal apology for some mean comments I made towards her way way back in season one’s Will the Circle Be Unbroken?  I actually have pulled up my essay on that episode right in front of me so I can sample through what I said and use it as a demonstration of either how wrong I was or how great J.V.A.’s acting has become since that episode.  Let’s see, somewhere near the middle of the essay I wrote this:


Okay, things really start to heat up in this episode when Val is reunited with Lilimae. Let’s just say that Joan Van Arkwell, let’s just say that she sure does pour her heart into this performance. The little thirty-second preview before the episode shows Val’s face contorting like Jim Carrey on coke, turning all grotesque and red as she screams, “MAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMAAAAAAA!”, really drawing that word out longer than I thought anyone ever could. God bless Joan Van Ark, and please, dear readers, please do understand that everything I say about her I say with love. But anyway, Joan is hardly the best actress on the series, and she’s really going over-the-top here, but it’s all part of the fun.”


Oh God, what a horrible thing that was for me to say, but then later on I make this comment:


“Aside from the bad dessert, pretty much everything is going okay until Lilimae starts to sing and talk about her past and all her experiences, making a big awkward speech about how Val never really understood or appreciated what she did for her, and of course this is the big moment where Val has finally had enough. We all saw that thirty-second preview before the show and we’ve all been waiting for it, and Joan Van Ark doesn’t disappoint. The face turns red, the mouth opens up super wide, and she starts to scream and scream about how Lilimae ruined her life by not helping her when she needed help with baby Lucy. ‘I lost her because of you and I hate you I HATE YOUUUUUUUU!’ she screams, followed by that incredible and hilarious, ‘MAAAAAAAAAMMMMMAAAAAA!’ Oh joy, what a scene this is. We the audience feel the uncomfortable-ness just dripping from the walls as everyone is forced to watch this domestic disaster, this unleashing of fury from a woman who has held in resentment at her mother for, well, at least twenty years, but probably more. J.V.A. is glorious in her over-the-top facial contortions and Julie Harris balances her out perfectly by being, you know, a legitimately great actress, and together the two create magic.”


I don’t know if I’m gonna take back what I said about her in that episode, since I’m fairly certain that if I leapt back in time and gave that episode another rewatch right now (which I won’t do, since I’m a start-to-finish kind of guy and don’t believe in hopping around in TV shows), I would probably feel the same way, but that was only episode five and we are now up to episode 109, and during that gap of time, oh how gloriously J.V.A has blossomed, turning into a truly phenomenal actress and putting her entire heart into this incredible performance.

I’ve been really liking Val and J.V.A a lot more since around, say, season three and onwards, but with season six I feel she has elevated to a whole new level and is probably doing her best acting on the entire series, and I think it really begins to show in this ep as she starts to realize that nobody believes her about the babies being alive.  Specifically, it’s the scene with her and Mack and Karen in the hospital room.  They are here to be her good friends, but when Val says the babies are alive, that she saw them and that she heard them cry, Karen gently says how they’ve already spoken to Dr. Ackerman and they can understand her confusion because of all the sedatives.  During the scene, we mostly stay focused on Val’s face as she listens to Karen speak, and it’s heartbreaking.  Val doesn’t even say anything, as far as I can remember, she just sits there, and we don’t have any big facial reactions or anything like that; she says it all with her eyes; we can see that realization come into her face as she sees that nobody is going to believe her, and it’s all silent and done with just her face and was a moment I really noticed and put in my notes and it made me want to write a personal letter to J.V.A (which maybe I will do, because perhaps it could lead to me scoring an interview with her) to say, “I’m sorry for what I wrote about you in episode five; you are BRILLIANT!” 

Everything involving Val in this episode is just sublime and provides the core and heart of the ep, but let’s move our focus over to some other characters for a moment.  First off, let’s talk about Abs, who is frantically running around and trying to track down Scott Easton and figure out what the hell is going on and what the deal is with the babies.  I’m not entirely sure if, at this exact point, Abs knows for sure that the babies are alive or not; I think she is just very confused by everything and not understanding what that phone call last ep was about (and she gets another phone call this ep that’s pretty much the same shtick as before, with the whole “the father’s blood type is essential for our paperwork” bit) or how all of this relates to Easton.  Perhaps she still believes, like everyone else, that Val’s babies are dead and there’s nothing shady going on, but anyhow, she’s got to find Easton.  I confess that some of this Easton stuff is a bit confusing to me.  I’m still not entirely sure on how the whole water-supply-from-Galveston thing relates to the Easton thing which relates to the baby thing.  I am clear on the fact that Easton got Dr. Ackerman to be evil and make Val’s babies disappear, but I don’t quite get how that connects to Galveston and I don’t quite know exactly why it’s heavily implied that he was killed.  See, he gets on this plane and takes off or something, and then Abs goes to see the plane arriving back, but Easton is gone and she is instead greeted by another white guy with an '80s Rapist Beard.

I do wanna complain about this real fast and say, “Seriously, guys?”  The casting agents just had to hire another white guy with an ‘80s Rapist Beard?  Am I the only white person in the world who often can’t tell different white people apart from each other and has a hard time keeping track when there are too many white people in one movie or show?  I think I might be unique in that regard, but I do know that My Beloved Grammy also said she didn’t understand why this new character had to be another white guy with an ‘80s Rapist Beard who looks exactly the same as Easton.  See, this new ‘80s Rapist Beard white guy gets off the plane and tells Abs that Easton wasn’t on the plane or something or other.  Like I said, all this stuff is rather confusing to me but, as I so often say, I don’t blame the show for my confusion, but only my own stupid brain.

The fact that Abs is legitimately concerned about Val’s babies and this whole situation is very important, in my opinion.  I’ve always said that what keeps Abs so interesting and such a great character is that she is always fully fledged and complex, never just a snarling villainous who lives her life to destroy others.  Yeah, she deliberately chased after Gary when he was married to Val and took him away from her, and that was wicked, but now we are seeing genuine concern on her part for Val and her babies.  I also think it’s worth noting (and I’m sure that all KL fans know this tidbit) that when the season was originally mapped out, the plan was to have Abs be deliberately and directly responsible for the loss of Val’s babies, that she specifically would seek to have it done.  Donna wisely said this would be way too far for Abs to go and that the audience would never forgive her for doing it; we would no longer kinda like Abs even when she was wicked, because she would have done something far too evil and far too unforgivable.  She also pointed out that Abs is a mother, she has the maternal instinct, for all her flaws she is a good mother, and she wouldn’t take another woman’s children away from her; it’s just too much.  The writers and producers and creators and all that were wise to listen to her, but this is actually just one example out of many in which the actors get to have quite a bit of input into their characters and their stories, and I think that’s one of the things that keeps the series so strong.

Oh yeah, and one other fabulous moment of naked emotion from Abs this week, the kind of moment I really cherish.  Near the middle of the ep, as everyone is getting dressed up and prepared to go to Thanksgiving at the Fairgate MacKenzie house, Abs comes up to a fully dressed Gary at Westfork and tells him she’s not going to go.  She says how she can’t sit at a dinner table across from Val and says, “I stole her husband from her,” and Gary kinda scoffs at that and says, “You didn’t steal me.”  Fascinating character stuff for both of these guys, by the way, both in the way Gary delivers that line and in the obvious shame Abs seems to be displaying for her behavior throughout seasons two and three.  Again, it’s moments like this that really elevate Abs as a character and keep her from being one-dimensional.  Another trashier show would be perfectly happy to just have a wicked evil adulterous character who is purely and 100% awful all the time to everyone around her, but KL keeps it classier, remembering that we are all people and we all have different emotions and facets to our personalities.




We also have a smidge of Ben and The Desperate Horny Chick this week, and I continue to be bored and annoyed with her.  This time she really is stretching it too far, because Ben is actually, like, sitting atop a cliff and gazing at the ocean and being sad and she has to go out of her way to climb this cliff and find him and harass him by rubbing his arm and snuggling her head up against him while, as always, he continues to look disinterested and think about Val.  What is with this chick?  How long does she stay around?  Why is she here?  Is she only here to function as a cock block and keep Ben and Val apart from each other for awhile?  Usually the writers do a better job of making even the minor characters super duper interesting, but this chick just ain’t doing it for me and I want her to go away.

For me, the ep really kicks into high gear when it’s time for Thanksgiving.  Real fast, I do wanna note that this ep aired December 6thwhich would have been something like one week after Thanksgiving, which is a bit odd.  What’s that about?  I wonder if this relates at all to a bizarre two-week gap I noticed earlier in the season, in which the premiere of the season (Buying Time) aired on October 4th and then there was a two week gap and the second ep of the season (Calculated Risks) aired October 18th.  Why start a season and have the big premiere and then immediately skip a week?  I’m not sure, but perhaps that’s why we’re getting a Thanksgiving ep in early December.  Oh yeah, and one other thing while I’m on the subject of dates: I do want to note that it has been officially over a year of Val being pregnant, since she and Gary had their one special night of nonstop passion way back in …And Never Brought to Mind on November 3rd, 1983, and then Val delivered (after only eight months, we were told in dialogue) on November 29th, 1984.  Of course, I remind you that in television land, there are no summers, and we had a gap of over six months between seasons five and six, which helps explain a lot.  Perhaps my obsession with observing airdates and generally assuming that airdates coincide with the timeframe of the show is completely futile, since this is a universe in which there aren’t summers at all and pregnancies can last nearly thirteen months but be “only eight months” in the storyline of the show.

Let’s get to the Thanksgiving feast, in which nearly everyone in the scrolling squares shows up to celebrate the holiday (I believe the only person missing is Sumner, who we see sitting lonely in a hotel room somewhere in Washington or wherever).  I’m looking at my notes and I see that I wrote, “Michael wearing pink cutoff shirt with sexy arms showing/Must masturbate.”  Hmmm, it’s a shame that I can’t remember the exact context of when I wrote that note, but I’m willing to bet that the sexy pink outfit is not what Sexy Michael chooses to wear to Thanksgiving; this must have been a note I wrote to myself in an earlier scene.  Anyhow, everyone hanging out together at the cul se sac at the same time really made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside and it also made me flash back to our earlier, simpler days on the cul de sac when we’d get a whole lot of the characters just sorta hanging out and having barbecues and nighttime cocktails together and all that good stuff.  I love how, even if that stuff isn’t happening as frequently nowadays just because there’s so damn much going on in the story by this juncture, the show still hasn’t betrayed that original notion and it will still remain true to it with eps like this that remind us of the community spirit of the series.  So far as I can remember, this type of thing is never completely gone from the series, even as far as the final season.




There’s a lot I loved about this latter portion of the ep, but I’ll start with Karen’s hand, which finally goes numb for the very first time at a most inconvenient time, right when she’s in the middle of preparing lots of food in the kitchen.  My Beloved Grammy particularly appreciated this scene and said something about how she loves the timing of the stories on the show, how just when one thing has finished happening, something else kicks in, and she said how just when you’ve kinda forgotten about the whole “your hands will start to go numb” thing from the premiere of the season, boom, it pops back in a big way at just the precise moment; very skilled writing and storytelling.  Fortunately for Karen, nobody notices her little numb hand, but the music swells and we kinda go in on her face and can tell how freaked she is, knowing that those stages of death have finally started to kick in.




Next up, we have a fabulous and touching speech from Mack to everyone gathered at the table.  Mack stands up and raises his glass and says how happy he is to have everyone at the house for Thanksgiving, and then he says how he wants to apologize for any pain he’s caused within the last year.  God, don’t you just want to climb into the TV and give him a big hug and tell him what a good person he is?  It was during this scene that My Beloved Grammy, whom you’ll recall declared Sid Fairgate her favorite character on the series as early as season one (I even remember the ep where she said he was her favorite; it was Civil Wives) declared that not only is Mack a good replacement for Sid, but that he’s better and that she’s no longer missing Sid.  This was lovely to hear since for most of the third season My Beloved Grammy seemed to be in as much grief over the loss of Sid as Karen was, and would say nearly every ep how much she missed him and how the show “wasn’t the same” and stuff like that, but now thanks to the glorious charisma of The Dobsonator, she has been able to move on from that character.

Oh yeah, and Karen also gives a toast that I think might show her hand a little bit too obviously.  Nothing too directly comes from it at this point, and not even in the next episode, so far as I can remember, but I still think we’re planting some seeds here to show that Mack is starting to suspect something.  See, Karen raises her wine glass and gives a little toast that sounds somewhat morbid when she concludes with, “We never know how much time we actually have left,” or something like that, and then we get a shot of Mack’s face looking a little concerned, and I get the feeling that he may be putting the pieces together in his brain, though we’ll have to wait to see how this all plays out.




Time to talk about the best scene in the ep as well as one of the most moving and emotional scenes we’ve had on the series up to this point, and probably ever.  See, earlier in the ep, we had to see the awful sight of Gary and Lilimae cleaning out the baby nursery, getting rid of the crib and all that stuff (a good scene in which Lilimae told Gary, “You’re the continuous thread who runs through Val’s life”).  Now, with everyone together at the dinner table at Karen and Mack’s place, the only absent face is Val, who we catch up with in a phenomenal scene in which she slowly enters the empty nursery.  This is one of the most stylish shots we’ve seen on the series yet, a shot so good that you could freeze it and frame it and display it as a painting.  See, she opens the door to the nursery and everything is fairly draped in darkness and shadow and I especially noted the way that three, like, bars of shadow were splashed across the wall outside of the room, looking kinda like a prison or something.  No music or anything in this scene, just Val slowly walking into the room and running her hand across the wall and looking at the big emptiness where, just a day or two earlier, there was a crib and other baby things and now there’s nothing.  She kinda goes into the middle of the room and then leans back against the wall and sits down on the floor and we get this really magnificent sorta bird’s eye view of Val sitting on the ground.  The camera is able to go up real high, almost like in the scene from Body Heat where William Hurt and Kathleen Turner decide to kill her husband (I remember director Lawrence Kasden saying that the camera goes up way past where the ceiling should be and that when someone asked him who’s perspective this was supposed to be, he answered, “It’s God’s perspective”) and we just have Val framed in center, sad and quiet and alone.




If that scene doesn’t touch your heart, the next one will, because Gary is growing concerned about Val’s absence at dinner and decides to go across the street and see what’s up.  At this point, I’d really like to go into a lot of details about what Gary and Val talk about and how the scene is shot and the style and all of that, but honestly my notes totally stop here because I was so moved by this scene that I just sat and watched it and actually cried a little bit, and so did My Beloved Grammy, in fact.  Watching Gary comfort Val and her hugging him and crying and trying to talk about all of her feelings; it’s just an unbelievably emotional scene and, absolutely shockingly, I honestly didn’t remember this scene that much, or perhaps it didn’t move me as much upon a first viewing, I don’t know.  This scene hit me like a fucking gut punch and while I didn’t go into full on hysterical sobbing mode like, say, when I was a kid and watched Here Comes Garfield, it made me cry the way that The Elephant Man made me cry the first time I saw it, with silent tears just rolling down my face. 




This is one of the best scenes we’ve ever seen on the entire series.  Both Shack and J.V.A are absolutely perfect in the scene and your heart goes out to Val like crazy.  I think it’s safe to say that we’ve reached a point in the series where these actors have been playing these characters for so long that they probably have some inherent and deeper understanding of the characters, like they are almost melding together into the same people.  A scene like this wouldn’t be nearly as touching if it happened in, say, season two; it’s the fact that we’ve had 108 prior eps and of course those early Dallas eps where we first met Gary and Val.  Now we’ve been with these characters for long enough and we know their past history so well that this kind of scene is able to hit home in a really emotional way.  Also, a scene this good pretty much officially has caused me to renounce the Emmys, which I used to actually kinda sorta give a shit about.  The fact that, after throwing two nominations at Michele and Julie way back in season three, the Emmys are now completely ignoring this series and this monumental acting is enough, for me, to completely invalidate the whole stupid awards show.  You can’t look at a scene this good and say that Shack and J.V.A don’t deserve to be awarded for their absolutely incredible acting.

The comfort of Gary provides Val with the motivation to get up off the floor and go over to Thanksgiving, providing us with our extremely cryptic and ominous little episode ending.  See, the turkey’s being carved, the wine is flowing, people are eating and chatting and starting to unwind and have a nice time, including Abs, who did decide to show up for the celebration.  A moment later, Gary and Val enter the house and Val is actually smiling and looking happy; everyone is clearly pleased to see her up and about and on her feet, but then she makes a rather strange comment with, “I’m sorry that Gary and I were late as usual.”  She delivers the line, we get our “Executive Producers” credit, and that’s the end of We Gather Together.  What to make of this?  Well, I’d say it’s pretty clear that all this emotional turmoil is causing Val to come unhinged, something that could come off as extremely campy and silly if done on a much lesser series with much lesser writing, but is playing as exceptionally emotional and deeply sad because of this writing, directing, and, most importantly, this acting.

Oh boy, what a fucking episode.  This episode is so moving that even sitting to write about the Gary/Val scene actually did cause me to well up; no tears rolling down the face, but I got some wet eyes, let me tell you.  I can’t think of any flaw with this ep, nothing I would change, nothing even tiny that could have made it a bit better; it’s a perfect ep of television and exemplifies KL at its very best, great entertainment that has a real heart and soul and is presented to us with style and technique by the amazing Larry Elikann.  In fact, I’m gonna get bold and go ahead and declare that, as of this moment, this is the very best episode of KL we’ve seen.  It was almost something of a surprise to watch it and be so moved by it, because I think a lot of my memories of season six focus more towards the latter half of the season, and this one was actually just kinda a vague blur in my memory, but watching it again, it’s a 48 minute masterpiece of television.  At this exact moment in time, if someone told me to pick one ep of KL to demonstrate everything that makes KL great, I would choose this one.  Will it remain the top ep all the way to the end of the series?  We’ll have to see, because we have some great stuff coming up in both the near future and the faraway future, but right now, with 109 eps under our belt, this is the best episode we have ever seen.  The fact that it made me cry is really not that impressive, since I’ll cry at tons of bizarre things in movies or TV (I actually cry at the end of freakin’ Kindergarten Cop when Arnold is wheeled out on the stretcher and that super cute kid from Picket Fences is crying and says, “Mr. Kimble, are you all right?”), but the fact that when the ep was over I turned to My Beloved Grammy and saw that it had made her cry as well tells me that this ep is really something special.

 

While I don’t think it’s possible for an ep to top this one for some time, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t immediately proceed to our next one, which I’m sure will still be stunning, and that would be Message in a Bottle.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 108 of 344: TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS


Episode Title: Tomorrow Never Knows

Season 06, Episode 08

Episode 108 of 344

Written by Joel J. Feigenbaum

Directed by Nick Havigna

Original Airdate: Thursday, November 29th, 1984

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Karen and Mack talk, but she doesn't tell him she's dying. Scott Easton calls Abby and says he has negotiated Lotus Point's water rights with Paul Galveston, and to expect a bonus within the next few days as a "thank you." Ben is away on a story. Val has pains all day, and Dr. Ackerman tells her to take more pills. Home alone, she goes into labor. Michael and Eric take her to the hospital. They call Gary, who immediately leaves, angering Abby. Ackerman tells Val he's going to put her under anesthesia. She protests but he says there are complications. Everything goes fuzzy for Val. She gives birth, sees the babies, and hears them cry. She hears the nurse say that the babies are healthy. Val wakes up, and Ackerman tells her that the babies were stillborn. Val insists that she saw and heard them, but Ackerman says her mind was playing tricks on her because she was under sedation. Gary calls Abby to tell her that the babies are dead. Abby is genuinely concerned. Then Abby receives a call from a man who tells her he will need the blood type of the babies' father, and he'll be in touch with her later.




I hope my dear readers don’t mind when I continually blow my wad right away by starting my little essays with, “My God, what a work of profound genius this ep is!”  I only say that because I’m about to do it right now, so deal with it.  What a work of profound genius this ep is, continuing the glory run of monumental television artistry that is season six of KL.  With Tomorrow Never Knows, we pick up pretty much where we left off with the continuing saga of Val’s pregnancy and the wicked Scott Easton and Dr. Ackerman, and we wind up getting an episode that is actually extremely frightening and winds up being the most “horror movie” episode of the entire series, I would say, unless there’s one or two down the line that I’m completely forgetting.  Seriously, this episode is scary, much scarier than the last distinctly horror ep I can remember, The Constant Companion from way back in season one. 

God, where to even start with this one?  I think I’ll actually start with Karen and Mack, since I’m afraid if I start with Val’s babies I’ll get too excited and neglect to mention everyone else in the cast, and that would be unfair since everyone is firing on all cylinders right now.  Karen and Mack finally start to make some progress during this ep, and it’s all thanks to a little confrontation Mack witnesses between Val and Ben at Pacific World Whatever.  See, Val comes in and is talking to Ben about how she doesn’t want anyone to know Gary is the father of the babies, and Ben makes the point of how everyone thinks he’s a weirdo for abandoning Val while she’s pregnant with his babies, and so on and so forth, until Mack finally loses his temper and is all like, “I’m sick of listening to you guys and Bob Loblaw,” and then he storms out of the room and slams the door.  I like the fact that even though he’s mad, he’s still funny and, I would argue, cute.  He’s not scary-mad, but more frustrated and finally letting it out for the first time, and I’m starting to really appreciate the comedy and warmth that The Dobsonator brings to this role.

That humor continues the next time we see Mack, when he’s angrily speeding his jeep along and talking out loud to himself.  This could come off as far fetched to some, perhaps, but I drive around all the time and talk to myself, often in a way similar to Mack here.  Your car tends to feel like something of a private, safe place (even though it’s clearly not), so I understand, and I also like how Mack’s angry speech to himself does the job of providing both some humor while also kinda giving us an update on what’s been going down the last year or so.  He actually goes pretty far back and even mentions Diana and Chip, which already feels like it was a million years ago, and he also has one of my all-time favorite lines from the whole series, “I should have taken French, then I would have known: Cul-de-sac , dead end.”  I’ve always loved this line even though I’m not entirely sure why, but whenever I see a cul-de-sac in my real daily life, I usually say this out loud (because every time I see a cul-de-sac I think of KL).  The only bad thing about this scene is a rather obvious dub-job that I’m assuming was some sort of network mandate or perhaps a censor rule.  It comes when Mack says, “Why do I have to be Val’s Lamaze coach?  Why couldn’t she get one of the other guys who mixed her up?”  His lips very clearly say “knocked her up” and his voice suddenly changes sound and is clearly some bad A.D.R.  Were you not allowed to say “knocked up” on television in 1984-1985?  I know I’ve heard the term used on regular network shows later on in television history, but perhaps it was still forbidden at this time (sorta like how “shit” slowly started to become kinda-sorta acceptable to put into network shows aftera while; I vividly remember Dr. Greene yelling “Shit!” on E.R. while he was dying and I was violently sobbing).  Anyway, aside from that bad dub, this is a terrific scene, and I think it’s important to note the humor because of how scary and upsetting the ep is going to get; everyone knows that when you’re doing horror, you need to have some comedy in there to keep things kinda balanced out.

Mack and Karen have agreed to go up the coast together and have some alone time.  I can’t entirely remember how this ends up happening, but I think it’s because of Karen’s little argument with Eric last week.  In fact, that brings up a subject worth discussing, which is what Karen thinks will happen to her kids and to Mack after she dies.  Mack has spent the last two years being a really awesome father figure for the boys (Diana never liked him, but nobody ever liked Diana, so it all evens out) and really skillfully filling the hole in the series that was left by Sid (and winding up being a far more interesting and dynamic character, to boot), so wouldn’t you think that, if Karen died, he would be responsible and, most importantly, willing to continue acting as a father figure to the boys?  I do know that the boys are pretty much all grown up (Steve Shaw would be 19 here, and I think his character of Eric is 19, while Pat Petersen is 18, but I think Michael is supposed to be 16), so maybe she just figures that she’ll die and leave them with an inheritance and the business of Knots Landing Motors and all will be cool, but I dunno.  I have a hard time believing that the boys wouldn’t want to keep Mack around as a part of their lives after their mother died.

I’m actually starting to think I might be being a little too gentle with Karen because of how much I love the character.  When I’m really sitting to think about it, maybe she is being really unfair and unreasonable, and maybe I’m not entirely sure I understand her reasons.  She’s essentially just waiting a year until she dies and then she’s just gonna, you know, be dead.  The fact that she has only told Gary about her illness is also interesting; why hasn’t she spoken frankly with the boys?  Or why didn’t she talk to them about it when she was in the hospital and was first presented with the option of the risky surgery?  It’s one of those things that, sitting to write about it and really analyze it, I find myself able to poke some holes in it, but somehow it plays very well onscreen and I don’t really find myself asking these questions while I’m staring in awe at the television screen and drooling.

I thought Karen and Mack were driving up the coast so that she could finally tell him the truth, but it doesn’t work out that way.  They do have a lovely weekend together and they do make love for the first time in some time, which is definitely good, but she continues to avoid the truth, instead preferring to tell him that she believes his work is very important to him and she doesn’t want to be preventing him from doing what he believes he needs to do.  Ugh, this is maybe maybe maybe the only story at this point that is stretching on a little too long, and My Beloved Grammy does tend to keep shouting at the screen, “Just tell him, Karen!”  I guess it’s been about eight episodes of secret keeping, so maybe it is time for Karen to open up and finally tell the truth to Mack, although it doesn’t happen within this ep.

One last thing on the driving-up-the-coast story this week, probably the very most important thing we need to discuss: When Karen and Mack are getting ready to leave, Sexy Michael wishes them goodbye and he is wearing a pink shirt and an orgasmically fantastic pair of super short shorts that highly emphasize his monumental bubble butt, a bubble butt that I could easily write volumes of poetry about.  While I haven’t masturbated in front of My Beloved Grammy since the ep where Michael wore that cut-off ‘80s shirt that showed off his belly button while he was playing basketball, I came pretty damn close here.  Jesus Christ, is he not just the most perfect slice of twinkish all-American white boy ever committed to celluloid?  How could the actors even be on the same set as him without desperately trying to violate him?  This is maybe the first episode where I really noticed his butt, too, which is probably the most perfect butt that God has ever sculpted, and I found myself achingly wishing that this was some sort of cutting edge HBO series in which we could have Michael disrobe and bare all for the television viewers (it would probably wind up being the most watched episode in television history and it would certainly result in everyone in America subscribing to HBO, if not indeed everyone in the entire world).

This ep is actually doing a clever thing by making sure to keep all the characters besides Val occupied with some sort of business so that nobody can be around for Val when she really needs them.  It’s like when I’m reading Cujo for the seven thousandth time and I note the skill with which Stephen King makes sure to establish that all the characters are going somewhere and are busy and occupied, setting the stage for Donna and Tad Trenton to be trapped in the boiling hot car with the rabid Saint Bernard outside.  I mention this because we already have Mack and Karen going up the coast, along with Greg and Laura presumably doing something or other in Washington (I honestly can’t remember them doing much of anything in this ep, even though I’m fairly certain that they both put in an appearance), Cathy and Joshua and Lilimae occupied by watching Cathy sing at Isadora’s, and finally Ben busy with a news story that requires him to be out and about for some time.

The Desperate Horny Chick that I’m now fairly certain is named Cherie continues to annoy both My Beloved Grammy and myself this week, because it seems like she’s intentionally trying to sabotage a possible reunion between Val and Ben.  See, early in the ep a fucking clown delivers some flowers to Val, effectively scaring the crap out of me (I really wanted to know who played this clown but had trouble figuring it out via IMDb’s episode page, so I gave up).  Anyway, the clown is scary, but the flowers are lovely and they come attached to a note from Ben saying maybe he and Val could, you know, give it a shot.  Excited and happy, Val calls the news station only for The Desperate Horny Chick to answer the phone, get a real stoical look on her face when she hears Val ask her to “Thank Ben for the flowers,” and then she assures Val she will deliver the message but I think it’s pretty obvious that she’s not going to do any such thing. Oh bleh, just go away, Desperate Horny Chick. 

Things start to feel really scary whenever we see Val having her pains and looking upset.  Remember that, for a first time viewer with no idea of where this is leading, we could easily think that these babies are about to die, that these pains mean she is going to miscarry or deliver stillborn or something like that, which just makes the whole episode feel deeply unsettling.  Also, anytime Dr. Ackerman is onscreen, my skin crawls.  We have an early scene where Val is walking along the boardwalk and is struck by pains that are so bad that a nice blonde mother/son pair (who look so identical that I’m convinced they were, in fact, related) stop to make sure she’s alright.  She tells them she’s okay and asks where the nearest pay phone is (remember those?) and calls Ackerman, who evilly answers the phone and looks creepy while assuring her that the pills he gave her are very mild and she should probably take some more whenever she’s feeling pain.  Oh ick, all this stuff is so creepy and horrifying, that a man who took the Hippocratic oath and promised to do no harm to his patients is deliberating lying to this pregnant woman in some attempt to either fuck with her pregnancy or do something else evil.  This remains the scariest thing I can imagine and probably the most reprehensible thing a person can do (this might explain why the movie Beethoven is so upsetting to me).  Also, just like clockwork, as soon as he hangs up with Val, he immediately picks up the phone to call Easton and say something cryptic like, “She’s starting to suspect,” or something equally evil.

Before I get too sucked into talking about Val and her pregnancy, let’s shine the spotlight on Cathy and her fabulous cover song of the week.  This time it’s really a case of two things I love combining forces in a new and fantastically exciting way, because when Lilimae and Joshua enter Isadora’s, Cathy is in the middle of a cover of Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time.  Ah, yes, what bliss, for Cyndi Lauper’s stunning debut album She’s So Unusual became the first album I got really obsessed with when I was a wee lad back in high school.  I remember I would go running and just listen to that album on a loop and absolutely nothing else, which seems rather narrow upon reflection considering there are only nine songs on there, but oh God I loved it, and Time After Time remains one of her most excellent and iconic songs.  I’ve generally declared that Lisa’s covers of songs are always better than the originals, but in this case I must admit that I prefer Cyndi.  Lisa’s version is cool, too, and has a rather different sound to it, like the background instruments are either slightly different or being played in a different way or something like that, and of course I loved listening to it and wish it was available on an album somewhere (shamefully, I don’t think any of Lisa’s songs post season four are available in any sort of physical media), but I’m still giving the edge to Cyndi just for being such an amazing and memorable song.  But this is kinda like having to choose between blowing Sexy Michael or fucking Sexy Michael; in the end, both options are going to be quite excellent and unbelievably satisfying.

Oh yeah, and on the subject of Cathy’s songs, we do have one little detail that I found rather amusing, and that is the fact that Cathy is now doing the same songs that Ciji did.  See, when Val starts having pains in the middle of the night and calls Isadora’s to try and reach somebody, the waitress who answers can’t hear a word she’s saying because Cathy is singing Hole In My Heart so loudly.  Any KL fan will remember that this was one of Ciji’s first songs ever (I think it was her second one right after that cover of Open Arms), and I find it very funny that Cathy appears to have just sorta, you know, turned into Ciji.  We have now reached a juncture in the series where nobody really cares that this doppelganger is running around, to the point that they don’t even notice she’s singing the same songs that poor dead Ciji used to sing two years back. 



The ep cranks into horror film mode with a ferocious intensity as Val wanders around her house all alone, crying out in pain, trying to reach anyone on the phone who can help her before finally managing to reach Eric and Sexy Michael, who are having a little party over at their house with a public domain record blasting (wouldn’t it be much cooler if they were playing the record that Ciji recorded back in season four?).  I want to note that this episode, and indeed this whole period of eps that we are currently in, are actually literally darker than the show has tended to be in the past.  There’s so many dark scenes with no lights on and shadows cast on the walls to look extra creepy, and I have to think that this literal darkness is here to emphasize the metaphorical darkness of what is going on in the storyline at this point.  In any case, it really helps to keep the episode feeling horrific.

Eric and Sexy Michael come to Val’s rescue (one of the reasons Sexy Michael is such a dreamy boy is because he’s not only so unbelievably and stunningly beautiful to look at, but he’s also super sweet and nice and caring and always willing to help, although obviously none of those qualities are as important as his amazing bubble butt) and manage to get her to the hospital, which leads us into the scariest scene of the entire ep.  See, Dr. Ackerman has Val all prepped and ready to deliver, legs up in the stirrups and all that, a couple of nurses to either side of him (including a black nurse; pay attention to her because, if I remember correctly, she’s gonna come back to be an important part of the plot later), when he announces that Val is bleeding violently or something or other and he’s going to need to give her a sedation, which he does.  As soon as he’s got her sedated, things get trippy.  The camera starts to go into this weirdo wide angle lens and everything is distorted and the sounds of voices sound scary and tinny and far away and I don’t even know how to describe the fucking music, which is just horrifying and which I could never possibly listen to as a standalone piece of music, especially if I was all by myself in the dark.  After a little while of this trippy and terrifying insanity, Ackerman says the babies are coming, we hear the sound of babies crying (this is important) and then Val passes out.  When she comes to, she’s all alone with Ackerman, who's looking sleazy and awful.  She asks to see the babies, at which point he announces that they were stillborn, dead on arrival, and that there was nothing he could do to save them.  At this point, My Beloved Grammy said, “But they were crying!” and then two seconds later Val said the same thing, “I heard them crying.”  Ackerman tells her that she was under a heavy sedation and it would be very easy to get confused and think she heard crying at that point, but Val insists that she also saw the babies while she heard them crying, which Ackerman dismisses in similar fashion. 

I thought it was very interesting that, immediately following this scene, we cut to a scene of Abs alone in bed (Gary takes off after he receives the call that Val is in labor), being paid a visit from Olivia who has suffered some sort of horrible nightmare.  Abs lets Olivia sleep in the bed with her and we get a nice little scene of her being a good mother to her daughter, which I found important.  The cut from Val being told her babies are dead to Abs comforting Olivia feels very deliberate to me, and I think it’s important to note that, for all of her faults, Abs has never been a subpar mother.  She loves her kids (Olivia more than Brian, probably, but that might just have something to do with the fact that Brian is a non-character) and she is good with them.  I’m gonna further explore this notion of Abs as a woman who does have a strong maternal instinct when we move into our next episode.

Tomorrow Never Knows ends with Abs receiving a mysterious and creepy phone call in bed.  Olivia is asleep by this point, so she doesn’t hear Abs having this little conversation with a creepy, authoritative male voice on the other end that asks her for “the blood type of the father” and says, “It’s essential for our paperwork.”  We can see that Abs is legit confused as she asks, “What are you talking about?”  The voice remains vague by saying, “The babies in question, Mrs. Ewing,” and then asking that she “obtain the necessary information” as soon as possible.  Then the line goes dead and we end on Abs face and, again, if I was watching this in 1984, I would just be sitting there thinking, “How am I going to wait seven days for another episode?”  Fortunately My Beloved Grammy and I didn’t have to wait seven days and were able to proceed right away to the next ep, but imagine watching this upon original airdate and just having to wait to see what happens.  How could one even function in their daily life?  I would spend all of my time thinking about this, unable to exert any mental energy towards anything else going on in my life.  Indeed, what in 1984 could have possibly been more important than this?!

So it goes without saying that this episode was brilliant and an absolutely incredible experience from start to finish.  I’m gonna go ahead and predict that there’s no way there will ever be a more frightening episode than this one, which was just horrifying in so many regards, but most especially in that delivery scene with the creepy music and the wide angle lens.  Kudos to director Nick Havinga, who has impressed me so much with this effort that I’m going to really keep my eyes open for his future eps (this is only his second after, interestingly, my least favorite episode of season four, The Block Party, but he’ll be back for another fifteen eps starting with Message in a Bottle).  Overall, this ep was nearly perfect for me from start to finish; I can think of almost nothing that would have made it better.  It was scary and intense and beautifully filmed and acted and it was just fucking great.

I predict that this gushing and adoration will only continue as we continue onward to another Larry Elikann helmed and absolutely unforgettable episode, We Gather Together.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 107 of 344: LOVE TO TAKE YOU HOME


Episode Title: Love to Take You Home

Season 06, Episode 07

Episode 107 of 344

Written by Peter Dunne

Directed by Larry Elikann

Original Airdate: Thursday, November 22nd, 1984

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Mack is served with divorce papers. Karen says she wants to explain, but she will need time. Mack finds out that Gary Loader has been killed. Val and Gary feel responsible for the MacKenzies' divorce. Abby and Scott Easton watch them talking from her office. Joshua's father, Jonathan, comes to Knots Landing determined to bring Joshua home with him. Joshua tells Cathy how confused he is and they make love. Afterwards, Joshua feels dirty and disgusted, and is horrified that Cathy doesn't feel ashamed, too. Joshua goes to see Reverend Kathryn, who has a religious show on the station, for advice. Joshua decides to stay and talks with his father. Scott Easton has lunch with Mitch Ackerman. Val goes to see her obstetrician, but she has been called away to a conference, and there is a new doctor - Mitch Ackerman. After Val's appointment, Ackerman calls Easton and tells him that he gave Val the pills, and that it will be two or three days at the most.


                Oh God yes.  In our last ep, which I still thought was very very good, I said how I don’t think Robert Becker is quite up there with “the big guys” when it comes to our KL directors, and so it’s with great pleasure that I note television auteur Larry Elikann is back in the director’s chair this week to give us a little masterpiece of television with Love to Take You Home, and he’s obviously aided immeasurably by the fact that this ep is written by the genius Peter Dunne, my new favorite person in the entire world (even though he never responded to my E-mail asking for an interview, sniff, cry).  Right away this ep is more visually dynamic and stimulating than our last one, as we open up on a preacher guy giving a little sermon to TV cameras for some religious show that Pacific World Whatever plays.  I like how this is shot by beginning in a tight closeup of the guy talking and then sorta pulling out to reveal that we are seeing him through the camera monitor.  Then Joshua comes walking by to deliver coffee (I think we’re still in the era where people pretty much just drank regular old coffee, and the main thing was asking whether they wanted cream and sugar or not; the era of the super snooty and entitled Starbucks customers who drink lattes and stuff feels like it’s about, erm, maybe ten years into the future).  When he sees this guy sermonizing, he pauses to look on with interest; obviously this is something that feels nice and comfortable to him, like if I was walking down a hallway and then saw they were filming a nighttime soap or a gay porno, I would probably feel right at home and pause to watch them continue.

                I’m noticing how, even in the super soap era of the series that we are now cozily nestled into, with long ongoing story arcs and all that stuff, individual eps will still manage to have their own flavor, their own themes running through.  The theme of this one is religion and religious oppression, so I appreciate how it begins right here in our very first scene.  This is not to say that this preacher is into oppression, by the way.  I actually think this preacher guy is pretty cool, kinda having a more modern and open minded aura about him than some religious people can have.  I also wanna note with surprise that this character (Reverend Kathryn, who will wind up being in six eps altogether) is played by Sandy Kenyon, who I was surprised to see was the voice of Jon Arbuckle in the first ever Garfield special, the absolutely soul-crushing Here Comes Garfield.


                You know what, let’s take a moment to go on a wild tangent about Here Comes Garfield and it’s dominance in my life and the fact that even thinking about it can make me cry.  This is a thirty minute short that is mostly fun and shenanigans with Garfield and Odie until the main plot kicks in, which is that Odie gets sent to the pound and then Garfield finds out he’s about to get put down.  From there, we have an agonizing scene in which this super sad song called So Long, Old Friend plays while Garfield flashes back to all the fun times he’s had with Odie.  I first saw this emotional rape when I was about eleven years old and was spending the night at a friend’s house.  We went wandering to the grocery store and found this VHS tape (back when those were still common; you kids today probably don't know what those are) of the special and we bought it for a buck or whatever and went home to watch it.  Little eleven year old Brett wasn’t quite as comfortable with his emotions and feelings back then as he is now (probably also cuz I was still wrestling with my sexuality and all that stuff), and when we hit that scene with the song and the montage, I started to cry uncontrollably, but I was embarrassed and didn’t want my friend to see me, so I spent most of the time hiding my face and letting the tears fall silently down my face.  I was convinced that if my friend saw me cry, he would make fun of me for crying at a thirty minute children’s cartoon, but when the special concluded, I finally turned to face my friend only to see that he was also crying uncontrollably and had tears just streaming down his face.  At that point, I was a little less embarrassed, though I still retired to the bathroom to sit in the bathtub for a few minutes and sob quietly to myself until I felt a bit better.  For years I never watched the special again, simply remembering how much it made me cry and how awful it made me feel, until I rediscovered it in college and decided to face my demons and watch it again and, of course, I cried like a little baby when I watched it again in college, and I probably haven’t watched it since then because it simply makes me feel so awful.  Now, make no mistake, the special ends with Garfield and Odie escaping the pound and living happily ever after, but it’s one of those instances where nothing can take away the pain of what we have seen or the emotions of that beautiful song that plays.



                Anyway, that was an unrelated tangent, but I felt like sharing, and, like I said, it very slightly relates because it appears this guy provided the voice of Jon in that special, although I don’t think he did the voice for the Garfield and Friends TV show that I used to watch which was, generally, much less emotionally rapey to sit through.  As for the character, I like him, although I might be getting ahead of myself and thinking of stuff he does in upcoming eps and not this one.  I’m not a big religious guy and I’m generally afraid of priests (mostly cuz of the whole I-don’t-want-to-get-raped thing), but this guy seems like one of those cool priests who actually believes in love and understanding and all that crap.


                This is in stark contrast to Joshua’s father, who we finally meet this week.  Before I move on to the character and what he does and all that, let’s talk about the actor, Transmorphers, and the fact that I think IMDb is wrong.  Okay, first off, Jonathan J. Rush is played by Albert Salmi (pictured above), a character actor who follows me around and always seems to be popping up in the things I watch.  I was just watching a James at 15 ep and there he was as James’ sleazy uncle.  Now, what’s funny about this guy is that he looks distinctly different to me based on whether he has a goatee or not.  Sometimes he’s got a goatee, and I’m like, “Oh, it’s that guy,” and sometimes he doesn’t and I usually don’t even recognize him without it (like for instance he’s in Caddyshack and I never realized it until I just looked it up).  As for Transmorphing, well, he played the super sleazy and rapey Gil Thurman (probably one of my favorite made-up names ever) over on Dallas during the 1982-1983 season.  This is the guy that J.R. sent to, like have a meeting at Sue Ellen’s little condo and then purposefully showed up real late so that Gil could get, erm, a little bit Trumpy with Sue Ellen.  God, he was a sleazeball on that show, but once you take away the goatee and have him morph into Jonathan, he no longer feels sleazy but, instead, frightening.  The reason I think IMDb is wrong is because they have him credited for three eps of KL; there’s this one, Tomorrow Never Knows, and To Sing His Praise.  Well, I’m not sure about To Sing His Praise because we haven’t gotten to that episode yet, but I’m almost 100% certain he’s not in Tomororow Never Knows, because we did watch that one and I have no memory of seeing him.  Was he cut out but still credited?  Is this a case where my copies are missing scenes?  In any case, I’ve been noticing lots of flaws and problems within IMDb’s cast crediting for eps of KL, so this is probably just another example.


                Fuck me, there’s so much style dripping from this episode.  One of the first scenes we see is Lilimae standing behind the gate of her house (I guess technically Val’s house, but you all get my meaning) and peering out through the bars, looking super sad and scared.  It’s framed in such a way that her face is center stage and the bars are around her, making it look like she’s in prison.  It’s a beautiful shot but also moves the story, telling us that Lilimae is scared about seeing this man from her past again.  When Gil Thurman (sorry, I meant Jonathan J. Rush) arrives at the house, Elikann shoots him from below to make him look tall, imposing, authoritative, and frightening.  The man immediately kills any fun that has the potential to grow in a room, because Joshua and Cathy enter the house in a happy, laughing mood, but as soon as Joshua sees his father, it’s very silent and spooky and Lilimae is just sitting in a chair looking all pale, like she’s going to be sick.  So I loved how Jonathan was shot from below, and then I loved the very next scene even more, in which this incredibly awkward pseudo-family dinner is shot from above, actually making it look like some sort of religious painting.  The sense of tension in the air is palpable, and you know that Jonathan is just not going to approve of anything, starting with this girl his son is running around with.  When he finds out that Cathy is a singer, he asks, “Do you sing religious hymns?” and Cathy kinda smiles and is like, “No, I don’t think Isadora would like that too much.”  Yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and say people who are smoking and drinking in a bar probably don’t want to hear a bunch of crappy religious songs, but hey, that’s just a guess.  After that, Jonathan moves on to Val, asking her about the babies and where the father is.  Right away we establish that we have a night club singer at the table along with a pregnant-out-of-wedlock woman; it’s a table full of sin!



                Jonathan is not just here for a friendly visit; he wants to take Joshua back to wherever they come from (they say it ten thousand times, I’m sure, and I’m just too dumb to pay attention or I’m too busy focusing more on the way some microscopic beam of light in the background exemplifies all the genius of television filmmaking).  He tells Joshua how it’s time to come back home and return to the church and continue his life of not having sex and not dancing and not singing and basically not having any kind of fun at all.  As appealing as that sounds, Joshua gets angry and declares he’s staying here with Lilimae and Val and then he runs off, Cathy hot on his heels.  Cathy finds Joshua up in some cliff area overlooking the water, all upset.  The music starts to swell as Joshua gives this big speech about how his whole life has been filled with shame and nothing was ever good enough for his father, and then the two start to make out and then roll around on top of each other and, well, we cut to a commercial, but I think we can all infer what happened, especially since when we return to the scene Joshua is gazing off into the distance and refusing to look at Cathy while she cries and asks why he thinks their making love is shameful (breaking CNN news alert: I am officially over my problem with the term “making love” and now I actually kinda like saying it, especially if a boy is special to me).  She says how Joshua is making her feel dirty, and he says, “What we just did is a violation of everything,” and Cathy says, “It’s the foundation of everything.”  Well, I’m definitely with her.  We are all sexual beings and sex is the very foundation of all life and existence and without it, we wouldn’t even be here; sorry to offend the delicate ears (or I should say “eyes”) of any potential religious fanatic readers I may have (I’m pretty sure I don’t have any).  While I could understand the temptation to be annoyed with Joshua and be like, “Get the fuck over your issues, dude,” I feel bad for him.  Decades of nicely ingrained shame every single day is a hard thing to shake off.  Obviously Joshua was a virgin until five minutes ago, so he’s probably quite certain he’s on the highway to Hell now and there’s no going back, which could probably ruin anybody’s day.


                Meanwhile, back at the house, Lilimae is much more forward and direct with Jonathan as soon as they have a private moment, which I think is interesting.  She looked like she was going to poop her pants at the dinner table scene and hardly spoke a word, but now that they are sitting alone, she gets rather authoritative and picks up his Bible and says, “I ought to beat you over the head with your good book.”  Then she gives a nice speech about how the foundation of religion is supposed to be love and she says how he doesn’t have any time for love even though, “You read about it and you preach about it; why can’t you feel it?”  What makes this scene extra interesting is that Jonathan just sits quietly and listens to her; this tells me that their relationship is much more complex than it appeared upon first glance.  I think it shows that he still has feelings of love for Lilimae; even though he condemns her as a sinner and says how she abandoned them, I think he still kinda likes being around her and listening to her talk.  He probably likes the fact that she is so direct with him, really. 

 

                God, KL is so good.  I’ve said this before and I’m gonna say it again, so deal with it, but this Jonathan character could have been nothing; he could have easily just been this one-episode guy that is shipped in to create a conflict and then is shipped out unceremoniously, but even he winds up being fascinating to watch, and seeing how Lilimae interacts with him is fascinating to watch, and you know what, I’m calling it right now: If ever there was a season to give Julie Harris her Emmy, it’s this one.  She says so much with her eyes, even when she’s not speaking and you can just see how her eyes are kinda filling up with tears, so very expressive, and I feel like we’ve reached some new level of maturity and high art by this juncture in the series that is exemplified by just how fucking good her incredible acting is.  The way this portion of the ep ends could also have been a write-off, but it works brilliantly for me.  See, Jonathan agrees to let Joshua stay here, and then we get a fabulous final scene between him and Lilimae outside the front door as he’s about to leave, donning a cool fedora and actually looking rather boss.  He turns to her and says, “I forgot what a spitfire you were,” and it’s this moment of rather naked emotion that I found very enjoyable to watch.  Finally, when he turns to walk away, you can see that Lilimae is getting a little misty and she sorta whispers, “Goodbye, Jonathan,” to which My Beloved Grammy declared that she thinks Lilimae still loves Jonathan, and you know what?  I think I agree.  It’s not a love like, “Let’s get immediately back together so I can be part of your church choir again and you can make us all feel really bad all the time,” but a more complex thing, that there was something that attracted these two to each other in the first place and that it’s still there in some small way over twenty years later.


                Okay, I’ve gone on way too long about just this one particular facet of the ep, so let’s move on to our other beautiful and wonderful and fascinating characters, starting with Gary and Val.  I forgot to mention it last ep, but Val has asked Mack to be her Lamaze coach and he has agreed cuz he’s so awesome and cool and fabulous and a good friend.  Also, and this is an easy thing to forget since it happened so long ago, but he’s one of the only people that knows the truth about Val’s babies.  If you’ll flashback to somewhere in season five (can’t remember the exact one, please forgive me), you’ll recall that Val visited Mack at his office and pretty much immediately told him the truth, and Mack has kept that secret very well all the way up to this point.  So, for the purposes of keeping score, let’s go down the list of who knows the truth.  We’ve got Val, of course, as well as Ben, Mack, and, most recently Abs and, by extension, the wicked and creepy Scott Easton.

                Anyway, when Val arrives at Lamaze, she’s surprised to see Gary there, but it turns out he’s not really there to see her (although he expressed his desire to be her coach last week), but rather to talk to Mack and tell him the truth about what’s going on.  What an amusing little scene, and what utter cuteness it is to watch Gary and Val frantically try to explain to a confused Mack what’s going on, how they were trying to hatch a plan to get him and Karen back together, but it’s now backfired since Karen has officially filed for divorce from him.  Ah, such a sordid state of affairs.  The beautiful thing is that Mack has this knowing and rather amused look on his face, and when they’re done explaining things to him, he’s like, “Oh, so you guys think me and Karen should be together, huh?”  To that, Gary and Val both get these really funny expressions on their face and kinda look at each other, suddenly realizing the elephant in the room, which is of course that anyone on the cul-de-sac or near the cul-de-sac or living in the state of California or inhabiting the planet Earth can see that Gary and Val are soul mates who love each other deeply and are meant to be together.


                This whole thing is playing brilliantly for me, by the way, how Gary and Val are really and truly just spending so much time together because they’re hatching a plan, not because they are gonna get back together.  However, we can understand Abby’s growing paranoia as everywhere she looks, she sees Gary and Val talking and looking rather happy together.  There is a tremendous visual scene in which Abs is pacing her office with Scott Easton standing behind her, the shadows from the venetian blinds splashed across the dark backdrop of the wall to make the scene look creepy and secretive.  She goes over to the window and peers out and is able to see Gary and Val talking over in Gary’s office, and the shadows illuminate her face and accentuate her baby blue eyes.  Stunning, simply stunning, this is how you shoot an episode of television.

                The ever creepy 80s Rapist Beard looms in shadow behind Abs as she looks through the window, spending most of the episode reassuring her that “her bonus” should be arriving shortly.  In case it’s not clear, I’m talking about Scott Easton, who is making his penultimate appearance on the series in this episode.  Now might be a good time to sorta re-explain what’s going on with this guy and how it all relates to Val’s babies.  In truth, there are some aspects of this that I’m still having a bit of trouble completely figuring out, so forgive me any lapses, but basically Abs needs to make sure Lotus Point has a water supply and there was some reason or other that they were at risk to not be allowed any of the water, but she hired Easton to figure it out for her and so that’s what he’s doing.  So his main job is supposed to be figuring out the whole water thing, but “the bonus” that he keeps mentioning presumably has something to do with Val’s babies.  I’m not trying to create the impression that I don’t know where this storyline is leading; of course I know because I’ve seen this before and it’s probably the best storyline in the whole series history, but I am trying to explain it the way it’s occurring onscreen, the way this would play to a first time viewer in 1984, who would probably be as confused as Abs is every time Easton cryptically says, “Your bonus should be arriving any time, Mrs. Ewing.”

                What are Laura and Sumner up to this week, by the way?  We get a little less of them than usual, and I think it might even be as little as one scene, a rather lovely moment of intimacy between them at a hotel in….somewhere.  Clearly I don’t know my geography well and I don’t really pay attention to the dialogue when people say they’re going somewhere, but it’s really not all that important.  It’s enough to just say they are out of town, staying in a hotel.  Laura’s telling some story about her youth and a friend of hers that married a super sexy lifeguard and then the lifeguard died and left her with a bunch of money or something.  I love how this story has absolutely nothing to do with the plot; it makes it feel more like real people hanging out and talking.  Also, the way they are interacting definitely tells me that they are starting to feel love for each other, and we also get the sense that even if Greg was mad at Jane for asking for a divorce last ep, his heart is starting to belong to Laura.  My Beloved Grammy also noticed that and said how at first she thought Sumner just wanted another notch on his bedpost with Laura, but now she thinks he’s really falling for her.  The only thing I don’t love about this scene is that Greg is rubbing Laura’s feet.  Ick.  I know it feels good to get a foot massage and all that, but I’m not into feet and I’m not one of those foot fetish people (not naming any names here, Quentin Tarantino).  I don’t judge since I don’t believe in judging peoples’ fetishes and kinks, but it just ain’t for me and I could have lived without seeing him rub Laura’s foot.



                I feel like I glossed over Karen last ep, so let’s focus on her a bit.  Near the start of the ep, we have a heated argument between her and Eric, who is mad at her for seeking a divorce from Mack and doesn’t understand why she is doing this.  I like the way this scene plays, with them talking out on the driveway while he frantically tries to start a car that won’t work properly.  He gets all pissed and is like, “I hate this car!” and has to get out and open the hood and ask Sexy Michael to try revving the engine.  Then he angrily sorta grabs Sexy Michael out of the car and shoves him aside, which I did not approve of.  Look, I know you’re all angry, Eric, but it’s simply not okay to be rude or violent with one of God’s most beautiful and sublime creatures like your brother, Sexy Michael, a brother who is soooooooo unbelievably sexy that I think, in this instance, it would actually be okay to commit incest, and I think if he was my brother, I would simply have to do it; I would have no other choice.  Sexy Michael even gets the last line of the scene, cuz after Eric speeds off, Karen asks him if he’s equally mad, and he says, “No, but I am mad,” and then he gets real serious and asks, “How can you not love Mack?”  Yes, I understand his question, which is almost a rhetorical one, kinda like asking, “How could you not fuck the shit out of Sexy Michael as soon as you saw him?” 


                There are many benefits to watching the show for a second time with some idea of how future events are going to proceed, and I noticed one instance here in this ep.  See, we are at a lovely looking restaurant with Val, but when the scene actually starts, we don’t begin on Val, but on a table occupied by the wicked Easton and the even more wicked Dr. Ackerman.  Now, we haven’t actually been introduced to Dr. Ackerman yet, so upon first viewing, when watching this, all you see is Easton sitting with some old white guy, but watching it this time, I was like, “There’s Ackerman!”  Like I said, we start on the two, then the camera pans over to Val’s table, and then Easton comes over to be creepy with Val and say, “Would you think me immodest if I said congratulations?”  He leers at her pregnant belly for awhile and then he leaves the restaurant, but not before turning around and giving Ackerman a look while Ackerman evilly sips a glass of white wine.

 

                I do wanna talk about the actor playing Ackerman real fast, mostly because he’s a Transmorpher.  His name is Laurence Haddon (pictured both above and below) and I got a big surprise when I peeked at his IMDb because I thought he was only in one episode of Dallas from around 1986 or 1987.  Turns out he’s in seventeen, going as far back as 1980 with Nightmare and spanning all the way to 1986 with The Fire Next Time.  Apparently he’s even in the most famous episode of all time, Who Done It?  He played Franklin Horner on the show, and I honestly remember nothing about the character except that he was, like, an oil guy who worked with J.R. or something (there was a lot of oil on that show; it all blurs).  I’m not gonna bother listing his credits because they are myriad; he looks to be one of those people who’s in every TV show ever made.  What surprises me is that he’s only in six eps of KL; in my mind it was way more.  Anyway, he’s here now and I’m excited/nervous to see him.


                Last scene of the ep involves Ackerman, cuz we see Val having a meeting with a doctor, but we can’t see the doctor’s face right away.  There’s an exchange of dialogue that nicely covers the bases from prior eps by establishing that her lady doctor is out of town for the month for some reason.  The still-faceless doctor gives Val some pills and tells her to take them however many times a day.  Then Val leaves and the camera pans up to reveal the face of Ackerman, who evilly picks up a phone and evilly dials the numbers and then evilly says, “Shouldn’t be long now; two, three days at the most,” and that’s how we end the episode.  What a spooky ending, and if I was watching this on original airing, I would be legit frightened at what’s about to happen, much like I could tell My Beloved Grammy was legit frightened.  Like I said before, she was utterly convinced that Easton and Ackerman were just going to flat out kill the babies, and she believed these pills were going to force Val into a miscarriage or kill the babies while they’re inside of her or something like that.  If I was watching this week to week in the ‘80s, I would probably think the same thing, and I would be scared.  Stuff like this gives me a boner, though (obvious not a literal boner, you understand), and I think it might be from watching Rosemary’s Baby a lot as a kid.  I’m a big fan of the idea of evil doctors or people we are meant to trust as authority figures who are actually duplicitous and lying to us and causing us harm.  It’s such a frightening idea, and it always works well to severely creep me out, and it’s working well here.



                In fact, I’ll just conclude and say everything about this ep is working well.  In my notes where I do the little “Overall Review” part before we move on to the next ep, I simply wrote, “Oh God Elikann,” and I think that says it all.  Elikann may be elevating into my top director, actually, because his eps are always so damn good and so stylish and distinctive; I’m starting to want to watch all his television work to see if he was actually some sort of television auteur that nobody except me is talking about.  The lighting and shadows and compositions throughout this ep were just great, but beyond all that arty farty stuff that I care about, the story is inherently gripping.  No fucking wonder this is the season that leapt to #9 in the ratings (the only year in KL history to hit the top ten, which hurts me deeply); if you were watching this in 1984-1985, could you possibly stop watching it?  I would be cancelling all my potential Thursday night plans for the entire year just to make sure I’d be home to watch this, and I can’t believe there could be anything better on television that year (this happens to be the year that Miami Vice started, actually, but I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: That show sucks).  So fuck yeah, this was clearly a work of genius and I suggest we proceed to the next work of genius, which is entitled Tomorrow Never Knows.