KNOTS LANDING SEASON 6 (1984-1985)
THE CAST ROSTER
ALEC BALDWIN, WILLIAM DEVANE, KEVIN DOBSON, JULIE HARRIS, LISA HARTMAN, MICHELE LEE, CONSTANCE MCCASHIN, DONNA MILLS, TED SHACKELFORD, DOUGLAS SHEEHAN, JOAN VAN ARK
Episode Title: Buying Time
Season 06, Episode 01
Episode 101 of 344
Written by Kevin Alexander
Directed by Alexander Singer
Original Airdate: Thursday, October 4th, 1984
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Police follow St. Claire's limousine, but lose them. St. Claire has Abby on a yacht. St. Claire calls for Greg and Laura answers. She tells both Greg and Mack that he called. Cathy comes back to Knots Landing and Laura invites her to stay with them again. Val admits to Ben she still loves Gary. Karen has surgery. The bullet entered her ribs and shattered. The doctor says there was one fragment lodged in her spine that he couldn't remove. He tells her that at some point, the fragment will shift and she will become paralyzed, and she will die soon after this.
Welcome back to a brand new season of KL. We have a lot to discuss as we begin what, based on my extremely fond memories, should prove to be the very finest season of KL ever made. Now make no mistake, I’m not saying that this is it, that you should watch season six and then just stop watching the show, God forbid. I maintain that the show is solid and worth watching all the way until the series finale in 1993, but I just think that of all the fourteen seasons, season six represents the show at the absolute top of its quality and I remember it being just a masterpiece of television. Will it hold up upon rewatch? That’s what we’re here to find out.
I can’t get over how long the gap between season five’s finale and season six’s premiere was. Let’s recall that the final episode of season five, Negotiations, aired on March 29th, 1984, while this premiere didn’t come to the small screen until October 4th, 1984, over six months later. Holy crap, does this seem like a really long wait to anyone else, or is it just me? Can you imagine the agonizing six month wait spending the entire time wondering what will happen to Karen and Abs and Val and the whole gang, wondering if everything will be alright from that wild cliffhanger-packed finale (which, by the way, was so much better than that “Who Shot Bobby?” cliffhanger they were doing over on Dallas that same season)? Obviously if I had been alive in 1984, this cliffhanger is all I would be thinking of for six solid months.
We begin Buying Time in the usual way, with the thirty second preview and then the classic opening credits. The design of the opening credits along with the sounds of the theme song are basically the same as they were last season, though with a few little tweaks and changes. I’m bad at describing the way music sounds, but suffice it to say that the season five opening had a little more of a saxxy thing going on, whereas this version seems to ditch the sax in favor of a more grand, sweeping, kinda orchestral arrangement. I could almost imagine this version being played by a band at a football game or something (all the players would play exponentially better if this aural masterpiece was being blasted over the stadium loudspeakers). I think this version is also a couple of seconds longer to account for a few additions into the scrolling squares.
Which brings me to my next point; how is the cast roster different from last season? Well, we ditch Claudia Lonow from the opening, for one thing, and then we have two additions. The first one is, thanks to the glory of alphabetical order, now the first name in the opening, one Mr. Alec Baldwin. He will be playing Joshua Rush, although we don’t know that just yet. In fact, Joshua won’t be showing up on the cul-de-sac until our next episode, Calculated Risks, so for the purposes of this ep, we just see his name in the opening credits but we don’t actually meet the character quite yet. Also, Lisa Hartman has officially been promoted from a guest star to a main player, and we now have a fabulous shot of her singing her heart out into a microphone that looks especially phallic. Since Lisa has been so heavily involved in the show since very early season four, it’s nice to see her finally get a spot in the opening.
After the credits, we have a helpful couple of minutes of recap. The recap basically gets us up to speed on proceedings from the last few eps of season five, taking us right back to those final moments in which Karen was shot, Valene almost blown up, and Abs kidnapped by St. Claire. There was so much going down in those final hours of season five that this recap is very helpful, most especially if one had just waited six God damned months to see a new episode of KL. Even in the case of watching these with My Beloved Grammy, I believe there was only the gap of about one week between our disks, yet we both still found this recap a helpful thing.
Okay, once we’re back up to speed, it’s time to rush to the hospital to find out if Karen is going to make it or not. In my last episode writeup, I talked a bit about whether or not the “Will Karen die?” cliffhanger plays or not, especially considering how easy it is to have that hingsight-is-20-20 thing going on in which we know that Michele Lee is on the series all the way to the end. Watching this episode, I found myself really able to sink into that 1984 mindset and kinda pretend I was watching this on original airdate with no knowledge of how much longer the show will be on the air or who will be in the cast by that point. Looking at it that way, I actually started to see how this could be rather suspenseful to first time viewers, because all of this stuff reminded me so much of Sid Fairgate in the first two eps of season three. Remember how cleverly the show managed to fool us by keeping that character around for the first two eps of the season, killing him in the second? Watching this, I found myself reflecting on that and realizing how similar it feels to Karen here. Sure, she’s still in the opening credits and she gets quickly driven to the hospital for a surgery and all that, but who’s to say she’s not gonna die a few eps down the line just like her husband did? So yeah, if I was watching this in 1984, I don’t think I would feel completely certain that Karen is going to be okay.
The hospital forms the nucleus for everything involving Karen’s story this week. While she’s passed out in a major surgery operation, Mack is pacing the hospital corridors and stressing over her well being, clearly blaming himself for the fact that she’s even in this predicament. A little later, we get a visit from the Fairgate kids, Diana, Eric, and Michael. What’s new with them? Well, let’s note that Diana is now credited as a “Special Guest Star” at the head of this episode and is about two minutes away from being shipped out of the series permanently, something I’ll discuss a bit more in our next ep. Anyway, aside from her, we have Eric, who is starting to look like a fine mature adult man, and of course my much cherished Michael.
Fuck yeah, Michael. I feel like we have officially reached the point where the flower need not bloom any fuller; Pat Petersen is now in full bloom and has officially grown into the raw, seething, testosterone-fueled example of All American Boy Perfection that God always intended him to be. Also, I want to note that while the character of Michael is, I think, still supposed to be 15 or 16 at this juncture in the series, the real life actor would now be 18 (born August 9th, 1966) and officially of legal age, meaning now I can just spend every episode writing about the myriad of different ways that I want to violate him, and believe me, I will do so. In this ep, when the kids arrive at the hospital to find out if their mother is okay, Michael is wearing a pink shirt (oh God yes) and he’s got the short haircut going and he’s still rocking that sexy gold necklace that he wears which you can always see poking out of his kinda-unbuttoned shirt. Why is that gold necklace so fucking sexy? I can’t explain it except to say that every time I get a peek of that necklace, I start to imagine what Michael would look like totally butt naked and wearing absolutely nothing but that gold necklace, and of course when I imagine such things, I usually have to excuse myself from proceedings to go and take a quick whack break.
But anyway, enough about that, we shall return to the topic of how much I want to violate Michael (or how much I would like for him to violate me) many more times over the course of the series, as he continues to become ever hotter every single year, like a fine wine that only gets better with age. Anyway, here we are at the hospital and clearly everyone’s real upset about Karen’s status, although I feel Mack is doing an admirable job of keeping calm and collected. Karen’s black doctor comes out of surgery to keep the family informed to what’s going on, and both My Beloved Grammy and I were like, “Who is that blacktor?” [NOTE: “Blacktor” is a little term that I think I invented which I use constantly to describe a black actor; obviously my word for a black actress would be “Blacktress”]. Anyway, I knew I recognized this blacktor as soon as I saw him, but I wasn’t sure why, but IMDb was very helpful, and it was the case where the first credit I saw for him was exactly what I recognized him from. He plays the judge in the 1997 Jim Carrey comedy Liar Liar that my dad absolutely loved and would watch constantly. His name is Jason Bernard (pictured below) and sadly he died in 1996 (obviously he was alive to film Liar Liar and presumably it was just released a year after his death). Other credits for this man include While You Were Sleeping (which I haven’t seen) and 72 episodes of Herman’s Head (which I have also never seen). Anyhow, he makes his first appearance here as Dr. Garner, but he’ll be back for three more eps within this sixth season, making his final appearance with Uncharted Territory.
I have to say I like this doctor, and not just because he’s black, although I continue to feel like a smug liberal for noticing a ton of black faces onscreen this week, and I also appreciate the fact that all those black faces are playing characters who are professionals, paramedics and nurses and doctors and what have you; it sets a good example on TV. I don’t mean to make the 1980s sound like the slave years, but in my brain I think of white people not wanting to see black people on TV until somewhere in the ‘90s (aside from sitcoms like The Jeffersons or The Cosby Show or something like that), and I again reiterate that you never saw black people over on Dallas, so basically I just appreciate the fact that they’re here and that they are represented nicely; they are not just shipped in to play horrific black stereotypes like they would probably be on another 1980s TV show. Anyway, I also like this doctor simply because he feels real. When he comes out of surgery, he’s kinda grouchy with the family, but then he gently says how he’s sorry, he didn’t mean to be short, but he’s just extremely tired from that long and arduous surgery. It’s a nice human moment that really makes him feel like a real person, and that’s just another one of those little things that I appreciate about KL. On most shows, I think the doctor would just be the doctor; he would be here to serve a plot function by providing us with exposition, but on KL, even a relatively minor role like this kinda comes alive and you believe in the truth of the character.
Dr. Garner advises Mack and the Fairgate kids to go home and get some sleep, which they do. The next day Mack prepares a great big breakfast for everyone and is trying to keep in good spirits. Eric and Michael both come into the kitchen and Mack is all peppy and nice, telling the boys to eat their breakfast, telling Michael he is suddenly filled with a desire to fuck the shit out of him, nice things like that. However, the dark storm cloud arrives in the form of Diana, looking withered and haggard, who enters the kitchen only to yell at Mack that, “You don’t belong here!” Mack says how they need to try to get along but Diana is hearing none of it, prompting My Beloved Grammy to opine, “Oh, Diana’s such a pain in the ass.” This of course made me laugh, but it also made me happy that we are about five minutes away from losing Diana. I’m trying to remember the first time she said it, but I know it was at some juncture very early in the series, like maybe even as early as season two, that My Beloved Grammy declared Diana her least favorite character on the show and said, “If she left the show forever, I wouldn’t even think about her.” Well, we’re just about to that point now, and I knew My Beloved Grammy would be happy to see the back of Diana.
Remember on Roseanne when they were getting ready to ship Becky 1 out of the series? I felt like for a good chunk of eps before she left, she was really portrayed as extra nasty and hateful and just unpleasant to look at, and I developed a theory that the writers were doing this on purpose so that nobody would be all that sad to see the character leave the series. I’m sorta having the same thought here, because Diana had mellowed a bit in the latter half of season five, once Chip was dead and in the ground, yet here she’s back to acting like a complete brat. Do you think the writers were intentionally upping the brat factor just so the audience wouldn’t want to look at Diana anymore and, therefore, be pleased when she leaves the series? It’s a theory, but only that, and it may not even be an accurate theory considering that Diana has pretty much been a brat ever since the freaking Pilot.
One thing worth noting, however, is that Diana and Mack do make up this week, in a way that actually struck me as a bit abrupt, but whatever. After she’s nasty to him when he’s trying to make everyone breakfast, the next time we see them is in the hospital, where Mack continues to pace and worry about Karen. Diana comes in and says how she’s willing to give it a try (meaning try to be peaceful and work it out with Mack) and then the two hug each other. Yeah, okay, this struck me as a bit of a fast turnaround, but I was more concerned with other events going on right now, not with Diana. I’m pretty much ready to lose her at this point, so most of her material in these first two eps wasn’t too interesting to me; I was just ready for her to go away.
Meanwhile, at another end of the hospital, we have a scene that immediately sets the tone for what the central theme of this season is going to be. See, Val has gone wandering off alone and is hanging around the baby nursery, drooling over all the babies and clearly excited to have some babies of her own on the way. Yes, we’ve officially arrived at the “Val’s babies” season, and I like how even though most of this ep is concerned with other stories, we get this quick scene to remind us of Val’s pregnancy and her excitement. Also, we get a helpful scene between her and bearded Ben in which they chat amicably and she even goes so far as to admit, “Everything you said about Gary was true.” Despite her candor, Ben is still not willing to get back together, so he leaves the room with some sort of comment like, “Will it ever be the right time?”
While all this is going on, Abs is still kidnapped and being driven around in St. Claire’s limo. This portion of the episode somewhat lacks, um, excitement? I mean, I feel bad saying that, because maybe the tone is actually intentional. I never feel like Abs is in any true danger from St. Claire, but perhaps that’s the point. He’s really only using her as a pawn in his game to try and get what he wants out of Mack and Sumner; I don’t think he really has any intention of hurting her or anything like that. As the two cruise around in his limo, however, I feel impelled to note that they must have stopped off at a salon right after kidnapping Abs, because suddenly she has a very different haircut. It doesn’t help that we saw how long and flowing her hair was in that end-of-season-five-recap at the start of the episode, and yet, after what is supposed to be only mere minutes, she suddenly has a very short haircut. This kind of thing is rather par-for-the-course in television, so I’m not attacking KL for it. I’ve seen a ton of shows where the season premiere picks up seconds after the finale and yet everyone is rocking new hair. I actually have some memory that KL will start to get clever with this sort of thing at a later date, throwing in little scenes or explanations to explain new hair dos as a new season kicks off.
Let’s talk about Abby’s hair for a moment, because it proved contentious for My Beloved Grammy and I. I’ll say right off the bat that Abby’s hair and general entire look in season six are my favorite of the entire series; I don’t think Donna has ever looked more beautiful than she does within the confines of this sixth season, and that short haircut she gets just drives me crazy. I’m pretty sure my fondness for women with short hair comes down to something very Freudian, which is the fact that my mother has always had short hair, but for whatever reason, this is my favorite Abs look. However, My Beloved Grammy doesn’t like the look at all and says how she misses Abby’s long, gorgeous hair and can’t believe she would cut it all off. Pretty much every episode we watched upon our last visit, I’d just be like, “I can’t believe you don’t like this hair; look how beautiful she looks!” and My Beloved Grammy would reiterate that she doesn’t like Abs with short hair. Well, there’s no accounting for taste.
Moving away from hair for the time being, what are Abs and St. Claire actually up to in the back of this limo? Well, St. Claire is a wily kind of James Bond villain, so he knows how to lose the police tail pretty easy by doing a simple switch into another generic looking dark black car. After several scenes of Gary and Detective Morrison (who is still on the show; I can’t believe it and had no memory of him reaching this far into the series) arguing and bickering about how to best find Abs, they manage to track down the limo to some road or other, so they pile into a car and go out to stop the car. However, when they block the limo off and the police start to raid it, all they find is a driver (a black driver) with absolutely no passengers in the back. Realizing they have been fooled, everyone stays pretty damn upset.
St. Claire and Abs wind up making it to some sexy yacht of his which is currently anchored on the docks. St. Claire wants to pull the anchor up and start speeding out into international waters, but he is afraid of police interference at this point and can’t justify the risk. The thing that I said about this lacking excitement is kinda exemplified in this scene. I mean, look at the way they let Abs just sorta hang out. They plop her down on the sofa and order her to stay put and that’s pretty much it. She’s not handcuffed or nothing, nobody on the boat starts to get rapey on her, St. Claire doesn’t slap her around or threaten her with a gun; as far as kidnappings go, this has to be one of the more pleasant. I reiterate that St. Claire doesn’t seem to have any particular interest in Abs, but merely sees her as a means to an end. He’s really only kidnapped her to get Mack and Sumner feeling good and nervous, not necessarily because he has any particular interest in her at all.
At the end of last season, Ciji-doppelganger Cathy declared she needed to start a new life somewhere else and blew town. I wouldn’t have even thought twice about this development except that My Beloved Grammy made some comment about how she was surprised to see Cathy leaving the series so quickly. Only then did I realize the writers kinda wanna fool us into thinking Cathy is going away (or perhaps they were just covering their bases at the end of the fifth season in case Lisa didn’t want to come back for the sixth season). Jumping from seeing her leaving town to seeing her glorious placement in the classic scrolling squares at the head of this episode is actually a bit jarring when you think of it from that perspective, where you see her name and you’re like, “Oh, I guess she’s not leaving town after all.” So what compels Cathy to return? Why, a nice phone call from Laura, actually, continuing the development of that friendship that I had clear forgotten ever existed. Seriously, why did I forget all this stuff? I remembered Laura and Ciji getting lesbianic with each other back in season four, but in my memories I didn’t think Laura and Cathy really interacted with each other too much at all, and now I’m being proven wrong. In fact, Laura’s interest in Cathy and her desire to have Cathy return to town does make me wonder if Laura’s feeling some of those old lesbian feelings being stirred up in her again. What do you think?
In any case, it’s not hard for Laura to convince Cathy to return. We get a scene of the two talking on the phone and we see that Cathy is calling from the pay phone at a bus station in Redding or whatever, saying how she decided to hit the road. Laura says, “You should come back; you’re in the opening credits now,” and Cathy is like, “Oh, okay.” Next scene we have of them together is a lovely afternoon walk in the cul-de-sac in which they discuss life and all its ups and downs. Cathy says how she has spent her whole life running and now she’s ready to stop. She doesn’t say anything about her recently-shot-to-death husband Ray, and I’m gonna go ahead and take a guess that we’ll never be hearing about him again. In one of the last eps from season five, we saw Cathy calling up Ray’s mother on the phone, but now we’re getting no mention of him or his dead body or a funeral or anything like that. For all intents and purposes, I think we are meant to forget about Ray and I think Cathy is going to do the same thing, and I’m absolutely fine with that, because he was ugly.
Last story beat worth noting this week involves Karen and the bullet in her spine. As the episode comes to its conclusion, Karen wakes up and gets informed on what went down in the last few hours. Her black doctor from Liar Liar tells her how the bullet entered and then it fragmented and split off and they were able to remove most of the fragments from her. However, we learn along with Karen that there’s still a small fragment of bullet lodged in or near her spine and the doctors aren’t able to get it out. The doctor tells her how, for the time being, she’ll probably feel fine, but after a little while, the bullet will shift and she’ll begin to lose sensation in her hands and arms and legs. And what happens after that? “You will die,” he tells her cheerfully, the final words spoken this week before our “Executive Producers” credit pops up onscreen and we leap into the episode ending credits.
Okay, so that was Buying Time. If I seem in any way underwhelmed by it, please don’t mistake that for me not liking the episode. I think if the ep suffers from anything, it’s from that “first episode of the season” feeling that lots of shows tend to get in which we spend most of the premiere sorta getting the audience back up to speed on what’s going on and tidying up affairs from the end of last season. That’s sorta the feeling I got from this one; we need to make sure and cover all the story bases from where we were left hanging at the end of season five, and so a lot of this premiere episode is about that and makes it kinda lack excitement. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the ep (aside from a score that I thought was a bit blaring and obnoxious and certainly much more extreme than the KL musical scores usually sound). I have a feeling that, when all is said and done with this sixth season, I’ll probably pick Buying Time as the worst episode of the season, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means it’s the least good, you know what I’m saying? We’ve got 30 damn episodes this season, our biggest episode count yet, so it’s okay if the premiere ep isn’t the most riveting or thrilling thing ever, since we have 29 more eps to get through and plenty of time to let characters and stories blossom.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I really wanna find out if Karen is going to be okay with that pesky bullet lodged in her spine, so let’s proceed onward to our next episode, Calculated Risks.