Episode Title: Weighing of Evils
Season 06, Episode 13
Episode 113 of 344
Written by Scott Hamner
Directed by Lorraine Senna
Original Airdate: Thursday, January 3rd, 1985
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Karen finally agrees to have the operation and checks into the hospital. Abby wants in on Empire Valley, but Galveston tells her to go home and raise babies. Greg wakes up and Galveston is in his room and says that he is dying and it's time for him to forgive and forget. Galveston says his money has more power than being a senator, and Greg craves power. Greg tells Laura his divorce is final. People mob the station wanting to see Joshua, so Abby gives him a regular segment on Reverend Kathryn's show. The detective reports to Abby on Val, but Abby tells everyone he has no leads since Nevada. In Shula, Val goes to a "social" with Parker, but walks out when people tell her he has a girlfriend. Parker tells Val that they broke up, and he kisses her.
Welcome back. When we last left off in the closing seconds of Uncharted Territory, Karen had finally told the truth to Mack about her medical condition and her fears about seeking surgery, to which he powerfully and unforgettably responded with, “When the choices are slim or none, you go with slim, always; I won’t let you die.” Omigod, what an episode ending, and thank the good lord above that My Beloved Grammy and I didn’t have to wait a whole week to continue this story, but rather just dove right in immediately with the next glorious KL experience, Weighing of Evils.
I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m gonna mention it again, so deal with it. For me, one of the most interesting and enlightening experiences of doing this rewatch has been realizing that, even in the midst of this full serialized nighttime soap storytelling, each episode is still managing to stick out as its own individual snowflake. Upon my first viewing of the series, it was such a madcap dash to watch the entire series that the whole experience kinda blended together. I would watch these whole 30 episode seasons in just a couple of days, powering through a shit ton of eps in one viewing, unable to stop myself from watching more. Now, however, holding each and every ep under a microscope and trying to deeply explore all the different facets, I am seeing that even though we’re in an era where you can’t just dive right into the show and take a sample of an ep here or there, the eps are still standing out as unique and special, and Weighing of Evils is no exception. I’ve said that prior eps like Distant Locations and, most especially, Tomorrow Never Knows, almost feel like little 48 minute horror movies, and I’d say this one has the flavor of something like, say, Terms of Endearment, something very dramatic and serious and sad and profoundly well acted by all involved, something that really speaks to the human condition and the way we behave towards other people as well as the way we face the possibility of our own deaths. Let’s just dive right in.
Most of this ep is concerned with Karen and her getting ready for surgery, and that’s the absolute best stuff in the ep and the stuff I want to explore the most, so let’s go ahead and save it for later and explore some of the other characters and what’s going on this week. I vote for starting with Val/Verna, who, as we catch up with her, is starting to get pretty comfortably established in Shula, continuing her work as a waitress. I have to say that, aside from the big red flag that we’re gonna further explore this week (the red flag named Parker), I actually think things look rather pleasant in this little town and think Val/Verna could be perfectly happy staying here forever. Am I wrong to see things this way? Obviously I want her returned to California because her friends and family are concerned about her and also because Gary is her one true soul mate and she needs to stay close to him, but at the same time I’m not seeing much bad about her current living arrangement. She’s got a nice job waitressing, which she does well, and I’ll bet the money she makes, particularly through tips, is enough for her to afford that cute little apartment that she moved into last week. She seems to be popular with the regulars at the diner and she seems to get along with the boss, plus the town is just sorta cute and small and seems right up her alley, so I don’t really see why Val/Verna couldn’t continue to live here forever and be happy.
Another thing I love about this storyline is that I almost feel like we get to branch off into a whole new series whenever we jump over to Shula. Honestly, it seems like this could maybe be the backdoor pilot for some sort of Val/Verna television spinoff, the way that the Dallas episode Return Engagements served as a backdoor pilot into the wonderful world of KL. I just love whenever we cut away from the gang in California and return to Val’s/Verna’s cozy little life here in Shula, and I feel like I can’t get enough of this. I’ve heard some fans say that this stuff goes on for a little too long, but I disagree; I could have easily lived with even more of it. Also, and this might have something to do with this being the first season to clock in at 30 eps (our last season had 25 eps, while the two prior seasons had 22 eps), but I feel like we really have time to move around and breathe and get comfortable in this world; we’re not just rushing along to the next storyline. Do not mistake this for me saying the season is slow or boring in any way, cuz I’m doing the exact opposite. I just feel like the length of the season really gives us time to get into the intricacies of stuff that might have to be moved along faster if this was a shorter season. I like me some deliberate pacing, so I’m a big fan of this.
The most significant thing to happen to Val/Verna this week is that she officially meets Parker Winslow, the dry cleaner guy that she briefly interacted with in our prior ep. He gave me a sleazy feeling in that ep and that sleazy feeling continues this week, when he formally introduces himself to Val/Verna and invites her to the town social. He doesn’t really do anything particularly lecherous right off the bat, but right away I just get a funny feeling about him, and I think that’s intentional. When we get to the town social, which looks like a fun gathering, we find out that Parker is a bit of a two-timer, at least according to what the other town locals say to Val/Verna. I can’t remember the exact circumstances of how this all comes about, but I believe Val/Verna and Parker are hanging out on a bench, enjoying the meal, when some random people come up and are like, “Hey Parker, where’s that girl that you’re currently cheating on with Val/Verna?” Upon hearing this, Val/Verna marches off and tells Parker that she isn’t interested in being the other woman, but he assures her that that isn’t so, that he actually dumped this girl awhile back and she’s just having a hard time getting over it. Reassured, Val/Verna allows herself to continue trusting Parker, at least for the time being.
Oh yeah, and one other very significant thing. Two weeks back, we were introduced to this P.I. character that Gary hired to go find Val. The only problem is we quickly realized he was in cahoots with Abs, with strict orders to report to her and only her about the locations of Val, if and when he finds her. This week, he manages to track her down to Shula, but then he walks into the diner to find her totally in her element, not only waiting tables but also making kissy faces with Parker. It maybe doesn’t sound too incriminating on paper, but I understand what the P.I. would assume when he sees this, as Val/Verna and Parker are looking pretty cozy as they kiss. Hence, he immediately calls Abs and reports on the whereabouts and also tells her that it doesn’t look like Val/Verna will be returning home anytime in the foreseeable future.
I wanna talk about Greg and Laura real fast since I feel like I’ve been giving them the shaft the last few eps (indeed, I don’t think I even mentioned either of them in the two previous write-ups, even though they were indeed in both eps). For me, Greg and Laura also feel a bit isolated from the rest of the cast at this point, but once again I don’t mean that as a criticism. It’s appropriate with Greg being busy with the senate stuff that he and Laura would be kinda out of the cul-de-sac most of the time, although in all honesty I confess I’m having a hard time figuring out if they’re still in California or hanging out in Washington together; anyone want to help me with that? In any case, Greg actually gets the introductory scene this week, as the ep credits play over footage of him riding his horse and a nice epic sounding musical score. Next, he has a little meeting with Gary in which he tells him he shouldn’t get involved with Galveston, and this is nicely crosscut with a scene of Galveston speaking with Abs.
Galveston may carry an aura of authority and old-fashioned masculinity about him and I may find myself liking the character because of Howard Duff’s charisma and the fact that he kinda reminds me of my Grampy, but his true colors certainly start to come out this week in all sorts of ways, most obviously his blatant sexism. Make no mistake, this isn’t that fun old fashioned just-sorta-out-of-touch sexism that a lot of really old men tend to demonstrate even when they aren’t aware that they’re doing so; this is the serious sexism of a man who truly believes women are inferior and need to stay in the kitchen.
During his meeting with Abs, I kid you not, he actually asks her why she isn’t at home having babies, and it’s a real wow man moment to see a man speaking with such obvious disrespect towards another woman. He also constantly calls her ‘Cookie,’ which could be endearing, but he’s not doing it in an endearing way; he’s doing it in a condescending way. Fortunately, Abs is able to hold her own against Galveston and give a little hint of how tough she can be when she jumps into her car and says how his ideas are hopelessly out of touch and then, just as she’s got the engine starting and purring along, she says, “And one more thing; don’t call me ‘Cookie.’” Then she speeds away, and we know that Galveston probably has no idea who he’s messing with. He hasn’t seen seasons two through five, but we have, and we are privy to the information that Abs is one woman you do not want to piss off in any way.
I guess Laura is gonna continue to get the shaft from me this week, because I’m looking in my notes and all I have scribbled for her is, “Laura’s awful librarian glasses!” Yes, I believe this is the ep in which The Librarian Glasses first make their appearance, and it’s a really quite awful thing to have to witness. What the hell could Laura have been thinking when she got these? What the hell could Constance have been thinking when she agreed to wear them on the show? What the hell was Travilla thinking when he allowed them to film footage of Laura wearing these? What the hell was CBS thinking when they allowed that footage to be aired? What the hell were the opening credits geniuses thinking during season seven when they actually put footage of Laura in The Librarian Glasses into the amazing scrolling squares? It’s truly just a horrible thing all around, but perhaps I should give some context about what I’m so distressed about. Basically, when we catch up with Laura this week, she’s hanging out in Sumner’s office during some big important meeting or other, and she’s wearing this ridiculously huge pair of, like, square shaped glasses that completely take up her entire face and are exceptionally unflattering. My Beloved Grammy and I both almost spit our red wine out onto the carpet when these monstrosities first showed up onscreen, and we both began to question how God could possibly exist if we live in a world in which these glasses could be made and manufactured and in which a beautiful woman could actually put them on her face and then allow the footage of them on her face to be aired on network television. Yes, The Librarian Glasses are so upsetting that I may, in fact, have to renounce my very belief in the existence of God.
Aside from the introduction of The Librarian Glasses, Laura isn’t too busy this week, but Greg is. Next up, we have him receiving a nighttime visit from Galveston while he’s trying to get some shuteye. This occurs in a hotel, although I am not sure if it’s Greg’s usual California hotel or a different hotel located in Washington. In any case, he wakes up and Galveston is sitting by the bed, totally draped in shadow, being creepy. Now, I’ve never woken up in a hotel room to find a veteran character actor sitting in a chair beside me, but I’ll bet if I did, it would be rather startling. Greg takes it like a champ though and doesn’t seem particularly disturbed by the fact that this man somehow managed to get into his hotel room in the middle of the night. He does, however, seem angry at him and we get the sense that he wants nothing to do with Galveston. We also get some cryptic dialogue about how Galveston can give Greg the power he wants and needs, power that a mere senate seat cannot get him. It’s all very vague, and that’s of course intentional, though I will say that My Beloved Grammy is one sharp cookie (you see what I did there?) and immediately asked, “Is Galveston Greg’s father?” Well, I didn’t answer one way or the other and I don’t plan to answer one way or the other on this blog, but let’s just say we shall be finding out whether or not that is indeed so in just a few short eps.
Let’s explore Joshua and Cathy a bit, and in doing so I am going to expand way beyond the confines of this ep and start talking about the next television season (1985-1986) and that whole producers-switch that Dallas and KL did, so get ready. Anyway, Joshua’s popularity at Pacific World Whatever is really skyrocketing and he’s already starting to get tons of fan letters saying how they love him and how they wanna help find Val and all that good stuff. Because of this, Abs wants Joshua to become, like, a full time sermon-giving guy on one of their shows. I’m unclear as to whether she wants him to preach along with the other reverend (the guy who was the voice of Jon in Here Comes Garfield) or if she wants to replace that reverend with Joshua. In any case, Joshua is like, “Nah, I don’t wanna; I just did that one show one time to be helpful,” but Abs is persistent and says how she got a letter from Sunny Acres Day Camp from a bunch of kids who just love the shit out of Joshua. With this information, Joshua and Cathy actually travel to Sunny Acres Day Camp, where they meet a bunch of kids with down syndrome.
I bring this up because I’m having flashbacks (or I guess technically flash forwards, since this particular story takes place during the next television season) of the famous dream season of Dallas, in which Donna and Ray were worried they might be pregnant with a down syndrome baby. You all remember how this went, right? After finding out she might be carrying a, um, special child (which they referred to as "retarded" over and over and over again because it was the '80s), Donna had to consider abortion, and for the only time in Dallas history, they didn’t immediately opt to kill the fetus (oh no, wait, they did, but that came a little later in the season), but rather had Donna and Ray meet with the mom from Gremlins, who explained to them how down syndrome kids rock and are cool and awesome. Anyway, what’s interesting to me is that the 1985-1986 dream season of Dallas was run by none other than Peter Dunne, the genius who runs seasons four, five, and six of KL. That was actually one of the only stories I liked during that season (although I know it was contentious with some fans), but I find it fascinating that we’ve got down syndrome kids running around this week on KL and in less than a year we are going to have a significant storyline involving down syndrome when Peter Dunne moves over to run that season of Dallas. Is Peter Dunne really into down syndrome or something? Perhaps someone else came up with the story on both shows, but I kinda doubt it; I feel like this is something he’s really into, something that’s near to his heart. If he ever responds to that message I sent him on LinkedIn (which he probably won’t because, even though I told him he was a genius and that season six of KL is the greatest season of television ever made, I also said, “I don’t blame you for the dream season of Dallas because they took you away from a significant work of art and put you in charge of the Titanic after it had already scraped that iceberg,” and perhaps he won’t quite understand the humor I am expressing through that little sentiment), perhaps I can finally get an interview with him and ask him if I’m crazy for noticing these things. Until then, I may never know.
Anyway, we also get a Cathy/Joshua fight this week because he doesn’t show up to some meeting or other; I forget the exact details of what they’re supposed to do together, but suffice it to say that he doesn’t show. Later he comes to visit her at Isadora’s and they have a rather bizarre but kinda cute little fight in her dressing room in which he actually picks her up and sorta flings her over his shoulder while she pounds on him and is damn mad. Joshua knows that the best thing to do when a woman is mad at you is to force sex on her, so that’s what he does, and their fight quickly turns into a passionate makeout session complete with swelling music in which he declares, “One thing that’s never gonna change is the way I feel about you.” I have to say that at this precise juncture, I am pleased with Joshua for managing to get over his sex issues, at least for the time being. It seems that he and Cathy are both happy as clams to have shags in the back dressing room at Isadora’s, with no need for Joshua to break down into tears of religious guilt or start talking about how their love is sinful. Ah, I like this, and I like Joshua and Cathy being cute with each other. I’d forgotten how easy it was to get sucked into their romance, and again that’s a credit to these brilliant writers, all of whom obviously are getting some special brownie points when they finally make it to Heaven. After all, Joshua has only been on the show for thirteen episodes now (and not even that, since he wasn’t in the premiere ep of the season), yet I totally buy their relationship and their love; it doesn’t feel rushed or inorganic to me even though it very easily could, considering that in the last few eps of season five, Cathy seemed madly in love with Gary.
Well, I’d say we’ve pretty much covered everybody except Karen, wouldn’t you agree? Let’s dive right in, since Karen provides the emotional core and the real heart of this ep, along with a real sense of impending doom that I did not remember one bit. See, we start this ep with Karen still doing the whole “I just wanna die” thing, saying how it’s now too late for the surgery since her chances are officially way less than 50%. Even so, Mack gives a tremendous speech that has always stuck in my brain, the kind of speech that comes flying into my brain in the middle of the night when I’m suffering from insomnia and suddenly find myself thinking about KL. In the scene, Karen says how dying is natural, and Mack says, “Death is natural, but accepting death before it comes isn’t natural; fighting death is natural.” Oh God yes, I know I’ve already said we need to give an Emmy to J.V.A this year, but let’s also get one polished up for The Dobsonator here. You know what, fuck it, let’s just go ahead and break the Emmy rules and give absolutely every cast member on the show this season an Emmy, cuz they fucking deserve it, and let’s get some Emmys going for all the writers and all the directors and even the guys who brought coffee to the set, because that coffee must have been really damn good if it was able to elicit such incredible performances out of these actors. But seriously, folks, The Dobsonator is on this week, and I almost cried during that speech of his, cuz he’s just so fucking good and I love him so much.
Okay, so Karen agrees to have the surgery, but what surprised me is that we have to wait until the next ep to actually see her go through with it. After, “I won’t let you die” at the end of the last ep, I thought this was the ep where she has her surgery, but actually this ep is all about prep, another example of that fabulously long 30 episode season really enhancing affairs. We don’t need to rush right to the surgery because we’ve got time to let things unfold, so let’s do an entire ep in which Karen merely prepares for the surgery, because you know what? That’s where the real stuff is; that’s where the heart of the show comes from. Other shows would go right for that surgery, saying, “We need to keep it exciting, keep it moving!” On KL, we have time to explore how this surgery is effecting everyone in the vicinity of Karen, most especially her family.
There’s just so much good stuff here, but let’s start with another scene that has remained seared into my brain since first viewing, and that’s Mack and Sexy Michael in the kitchen, talking about Karen. Sexy Michael says how he’s angry that Karen kept all this a secret from them, but Mack gives another awesome speech where he looks into Sexy Michael’s eyes and kinda holds his shoulders and says, “Listen, you don’t get to be mad at your mother right now.” Oh God, yes, he’s such a good, strong, decent man, and I would marry him on the spot if I wasn’t already engaged to marry Sexy Michael. Speaking of Sexy Michael, even though I recognize that this is an amazingly acted scene with fabulous writing and that I should probably be paying attention to that, I probably was annoying the shit out of My Beloved Grammy this whole scene, because as the dialogue is going on and she’s trying to pay attention, I just kept going on and on about, “Oh fuck, look at Sexy Michael and his sexy chest and that sexy gold necklace and oh fuck, can you imagine what he must look like naked?!” Sometimes it’s hard for me to focus on the immediate storylines right in front of me when a creature as beautiful and as otherworldly as Sexy Michael is on the screen right in front of me, dripping with raw male sexual charisma.
Next up is a really moving scene between Karen and Gary and Abs at Lotus Point. First off, Karen starts by giving a little speech to Abs about how they haven’t always gotten along, but in the end they are still family and always will be. This is obviously tremendous but not as tremendous as what she says to Gary in private, which is thanking him for keeping her secret this long. Yes, oh God, yes, I had almost forgotten that Gary even knew the secret, but he did keep it sacred and behaved like a true friend for Karen all through this time. To think that just about two years ago, Karen was firing Gary from Knots Landing Motors and seemed completely disgusted by his very existence, it’s so beautiful to see that they are truly now and forever will be good, close friends. Omigod, it’s just so deep.
And let’s just say what this all really felt like to me upon this viewing: Karen is going to die. This is something that flew completely over my head upon first viewing, because I knew well before I ever started watching the series that Karen is the one and only cast member to be in every single episode of the series, all 344, start to finish, there’s not one ep of KL that doesn’t feature Karen. Since I knew that in advance, I think I just viewed all this surgery stuff as good, solid drama, but I didn’t see how expertly the writers are leading us to think Karen will die until this viewing, and it was thanks in no small part to My Beloved Grammy. Way back when we started the series, I believe I told her that Karen is in every ep, but fortunately she must have forgotten that little spoiler I gave her, because she really seemed nervous at this point that Karen would die, and can you blame her? This also causes me to flashback to the death of Sid in early season three and makes me maintain that it was one of the key most important decisions the show ever made. If you’ll recall, Sid was pretty much the main male character on the cul-de-sac in seasons one and two, and you would never watch those seasons and think he was gonna die right at the start of season three. Then the season two cliffhanger had him flying off the cliff, so you’d think they’d probably kill him between seasons, right? Nope, instead he lived through that car crash and was still in the opening for the first two eps of the season and then he died during a risky surgery in the second ep of the season. Gee, sound familiar? Because of that, not only did the show nicely establish the idea that nobody in the cast is safe, that anyone could be killed off any second, but it also caused some real anxiety for My Beloved Grammy watching this ep. The whole time she kept sorta mumbling to herself, “Well, they can’t kill Karen, but then I didn’t expect them to kill Sid, either.” See what I mean? That death has ripple effects that are felt well into the end of the series, and we are seeing them right now. In another show, we would feel that Karen is untouchable, that she is too important a part of the series to be killed off, but then we remember Sid and we start to think that maybe this could actually happen.
I didn’t actually cry at the last scene of the ep, but I came close. We end on a scene of pure emotion with Karen and Mack in the hospital room talking about their love of each other. I wish I had put more in my notes so I could give a better description of this phenomenal scene, but I do remember the amazingly cute and touching way that they don’t have to actually say the words, “I love you,” to each other, but rather they just sorta open their mouths to say it and then the other one says, “I know.” Please don’t misunderstand my lack of description for a lack of loving the scene, because it’s quite the opposite. When my notes peter out and I am clearly writing less and less, it only means I am so invested in the world in front of me that I can’t possibly tear my face away from the screen to scribble down a note, not even a brief one, and that’s the case here. Oh my, what a scene, and what a way to end the ep, a tremendous ep that may actually have been the highlight of the disk.
I loved this ep. Maybe you guys are getting tired of hearing me say that every week (and if that’s the case, I’d highly recommend going back in time to read my thoughts on such turds from the early days as Land of the Free, Kristin, Man of the Hour, or the absolutely retched and unwatchable Silver Shadows, just to prove that I don’t slavishly love absolutely everything KL presents me with), but the bottom line is that this season is a master class on all fronts. You watch one episode and it’s just this incredible quality, better than anything you’ve ever seen, and then that quality just keeps on going upward into the next episode and the one after that and the one after that. So forgive me if I just keep saying I love the eps, because what can I say? I do love them. Even so, I thought this ep stood out especially and was extremely emotional, one of the most powerful we’ve watched in some time (though not quite as reduce-me-to-tears powerful as We Gather Together a few weeks back). This episode really demonstrates what makes KL special and especially what makes it stand out from its contemporaries, and that’s the heart. At its core, the show is about people who love each other and who value each other and that’s exemplified by the relationship between Karen and Mack but also by the relationship of Karen and Gary and, yes, even Karen and Abs, who seem to reach some form of peace before Karen heads off the hospital and, possibly, to her death.
But will Karen die? I guess we’ll all have to tune in to our next episode to find out, and I’m sure it will be a splendid experience that will change us very deeply and profoundly. Get ready for the fourteenth episode of the season, aptly titled #14 With a Bullet.