Episode Title: Inside Information
Season 06, Episode 15
Episode 115 of 344
Written by Scott Hamner
Directed by Lorraine Senna
Original Airdate: Thursday, January 17th, 1985
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Mack shows a tape of the Tidal Basin murders to Lila Maxwell's roommate who recognizes Scott Easton and tells Mack he worked for Galveston Ind. Then Karen recognizes one of the men as John Woodside, one of Galveston's aides. Greg tells Laura that his father, Sumner, died as a pilot in the Korean war. Then Galveston showed up at his house, and Greg discovered that his mother and Galveston had been having an affair for years. Then Galveston told Greg that he was really his father. Abby flies to Shula and asks Val to level with her about if she is going to come home. Val doesn't recognize her and thinks that Abby is crazy. Parker overhears and researches Val in the library, and knows that she is really Valene Ewing. Parker asks Val to marry him, and she says yes. Gary tells Abby that Galveston called and said he needed to tell him something about her so Abby tells him that she found Val. Gary catches the first flight to Tennessee.
When we last left off, Karen had finally decided to have that risky surgery after putting it off for nearly half the season. After a few moments of unbearable suspense in which doctor’s ran that metal wheel thing over her foot and we briefly thought she might be paralyzed, we realized she was okay and all breathed a tremendous sigh of relief just as Mack entered the church to do a Fonzie-esque thumbs up to Christ. As we pick up with Inside Information, we find Karen in recovery, bored and fidgety as she is forced under house arrest by her doctor’s orders, left with nothing better to do but watch VHS tapes.
Speaking of VHS tapes, we actually open this ep with Mack showing some video footage to some chick who was roommates with Lila Maxwell, one of the murdered women in the whole Tidal Basin murder case that I’m really trying hard to pay more attention to this viewing. We open on the roommate watching this video and both My Beloved Grammy as well as myself became immediately very confused because after a moment, the roommate spots an 80s Rapist Beard in the video and points and goes, “I know that man!” She says how he worked for Galveston Industries and she used to see him hanging around and what not, but of course I’m gonna have to remind my lovely readers that we’ve already had two 80s Rapist Beards on the series very recently and both in rapid succession of one another. First off, we had Scott Easton, the man Abs hired to deal with the whole water problem at Lotus Point, and he took care of that as well as taking care of making Val’s babies disappear, all right before he himself disappeared off the face of this earth. Then, right after that happened, a new 80s Rapist Beard was introduced, this one being the guy that Abs found in that weird office building who gave her that cryptic speech about, “Sometimes people get on planes and they never get off.” So, which one is it in this video? Honestly, I didn’t know, but TV.com says it’s Scott Easton, and that makes sense to me, so I’ll go with it, although I continue to question why whoever was working in the casting department decided that two thin white guys with ‘80s Rapist Beards who look exactly alike should be cast during the same batch of eps. Is it just because this was the mid-80s and when they tried to find another actor for that second role, they discovered that absolutely every single living man in the world had an ‘80s Rapist Beard cuz that was just how the world was in 1984-1985? Sounds reasonable to me, so I’ll go with that.
Meanwhile, Karen is still lazing around the house, being bored, even getting kinda meta for a moment when she declares to Sexy Michael, “I could only take one more day of soap operas,” a line that made both My Beloved Grammy and myself laugh (also a line that I’m fairly certain you would never hear over on Dallas). Then Mack arrives with a Santa Claus sack of VHS tapes and declares, “I rented every movie ever made,” which immediately signified to me that the little Tidal Basin news footage had probably accidentally made its way into his goody bag and would be viewed by Karen very shortly. I also just liked that line cuz it took me back to another time. By 1985, the home video boom had really started to take off, because even though VHS and VCRs (and, lest we forget, Beta) had been around since the late ‘70s, they didn’t really start to become integrated as this standard part of people’s homes until right around this period, and of course having a VCR attached to your TV would just become a part of the household as we leapt into the early ‘90s (the same time that I was brought into this world, and I can definitely tell you that VHS was a tremendously important part of my own childhood, even though now I look back and realize what a shitty, inferior product it was). This is a small detail, but yet another example of the shifting times as we power along with KL all the way through the late ‘70s and into the early ‘90s. I’m willing to bet that when KL first started in 1979, absolutely nobody on the cul de sac had a VCR, but when we hit that final episode in 1993, I’m sure every single character has a VCR nicely established as a part of their living room.
The next Karen/Tidal Basin VHS plot point also confused me, but I’ll try to work it out here. Basically, just as I expected to happen when Mack arrived with all those video tapes, she accidentally puts in the news footage and gives it a good look before seeing something on the tape that gets her very excited and causes her to leap up and rush to Mack’s office. When she gets there, she frantically tells Mack that she knows one of the guys on the tape, that his name is John Woodside and that he was some sort of an aide to Galveston. These are big, long, full seasons we’re dealing with and, if Karen did indeed meet John Woodside at some prior point in this season, I have since forgotten it. Did we see this meeting or is it just being sorta invented and made up right now, in this episode? Honestly I can’t remember, and I confess it’s probably because the whole Tidal Basin thing and its relations to Galveston Industries are the plot point I am having the most trouble following during this sixth season. This isn’t even a criticism, really, because I’ve pointed out incessantly before how my brain often has trouble following long, convoluted plot arcs, but also there’s just so much damn excitement going on elsewhere in this season that my brain is just more focused over on that stuff, on some of my other much loved and much cherished characters.
Characters like Laura and Sumner, for instance. This week it’s time for a big revelation that I think we viewers have all kinda smelled coming for awhile, and that’s the truth about Sumner and his relation to Paul Galveston. See, he and Laura are still gallivanting around, doing political stuff and hanging out in Sumner’s hotel room a lot (have I ever mentioned how much I would love to live in a hotel?), but Laura is beginning to get frustrated with how Greg keeps her firmly in the dark about so many aspects of his personal life. A few eps ago, she declared to Cathy that she was going to continue seeing Greg, was going to continue sleeping with him, but that “That’s it” and that she wasn’t going to get emotionally involved. However, she’s clearly already in too deep with him, and it’s very obvious that the two love each other already (I’d say it’s been obvious since late season five, actually), but this week she gets angry and gives him this speech about how she’s going to get away from him if he continues to keep secrets from her and generally keep her outside of his personal life. From there, we jump into a tremendous speech, a soliloquy really, something almost out of Shakespeare (although obviously KL is much, much better than anything Shakespeare ever wrote) in which he explains the circumstances of his father’s death and the eventual discovery of his true paternal roots. Follow me along here. Greg says how his father, or at least the man who raised him, was a pilot named Sumner who died heroically doing, um, something with his plane. He then tells Laura about how this man Galveston started hanging around his house a lot and how little boy Greg was thinking, “What’s with this old character actor guy and why is he spending so much time with my mom?” He also reiterates walking in on mama and The Duff Man having a nice afternoon shag, or at least I think that’s what he reiterates, how he heard his mom in her bedroom and thought she was crying but then discovered that Galveston was really riding her and she was enjoying the heck out of it. Then, at the end of the speech, as the music swells, Greg confirms that his true father is, in fact, Paul Galveston, as his mother and him had been carrying on an affair for years and years and years beforehand.
I thought this speech was a highlight of the episode and it also had that ring of authenticity to it that makes me wonder if Devane improvised it himself. Ever since I read that Devane would improvise most of his dialogue and that the rest of the cast would just sorta have to keep up, I’ve been obsessed with trying to spot obvious instances in which he is just improvising. Of course, what I would really like to know is just how much of the dialogue he would make up, because some of the quotes I’ve read (like from Michele, who says he improvised “most of his dialogue” and that she thought the other cast members were “kind of afraid of him”) make it sound like he just made up whatever he wanted, while other quotes make it sound like he would go with the script but just throw in his own little curveballs when he felt like it. In this instance, I’m sure the script for this episode dictated that Greg would reveal the truth about who his real father is, but I have the feeling that it wasn’t written out as this long speech. I’m willing to bet the writers were like, “Okay, Devane, you thought your father was this pilot guy, but it turns out it was Duff, Bob Loblaw, go ahead and make something up but try to hit the general points that are pertinent,” and then they just let him go to town with his little speech to Laura. I could be way off, and perhaps the speech was always written in the script in just such a way, but I have the feeling I’m correct, because it has a real ring of freshness and authenticity to it, as if Devane is really delivering these lines for the very first time. What do you think, my dear readers?
Let’s see, what else is going down on the cul de sac this week. Well, in my notes I notice I wrote, “Cathy + ‘80s Explosion Band Play You’d Better Love Somebody.” I’m sure this song is great because Lisa is singing it, but I confess it has slipped my mind as of this reading, unlike her previous ‘80s explosion song, Beat of a Heart. However, as soon as I pulled up the original version of this song (by Rick Springfield, who also sang Hole in my Heart, which is so very popular with both Ciji and Cathy), it returned to my mind and, as I always say, Lisa outdoes the original. Springfield’s is fine, I suppose, but Lisa’s voice is better and she gives the song more energy. I’m really starting to believe that you could give any song to Lisa and she would improve it from its original, except maybe for those cases where the original singer is just on a higher plateau of vocal talent than any other human, like Karen Carpenter, for instance.
Also, Joshua’s popularity is continuing to grow with that religious show on Pacific World Whatever that, apparently, every single person in the world watches. I’ve never thought of boring, stuffy religious programs in which priests sit in front of a camera and give sermons as being the height of excitement, but apparently the population of California disagrees, because they act like Joshua is one of the Beatles or something, writing fan letter after fan letter to him. However, we are starting to see Joshua make a bit of a transition from that sweet, nice, virginal innocent boy who came into the picture at the start of the season into something a tad more, well, malevolent. Most notably, he appears to be displaying some signs of that old jealousy, a jealousy mixed with hypocrisy. There’s nothing wrong with every girl in California opening her vagina in front of Joshua’s face, yet as soon as he sees Cathy having a very short and innocent conversation with some guy at Isadora’s, he doesn’t appear to like that. I get the feeling that, as we propel forward through this brilliant season, we are going to see Joshua’s shift continue.
I love all of these characters and they are all super interesting, but let’s finish up by talking about the best storyline going on this week, which is obviously Val/Verna and Abby’s quest to figure out just what the hell is going on with her. The little thirty second preview for this ep is very enticing because we get just the briefest flash of Abs sitting down at the diner and being waited on by Val. The way this comes about is that Abs tells a bit of a lie to Gary (shocking, I know) about how she needs to go out of town to look at some sort of, um, business related, um, thing. In any case, it’s not important since we all know she’s just making up some lie to cover her ass while she disappears to Tennessee for a day. When she arrives at the diner, she finds Val/Verna really in her element, getting along great with all the locals, clearly already a popular girl despite only living in town for a month. Then we the audience get a nice reminder that Val/Verna’s amnesia is pretty damn real and not just an act when she gives the briefest of glances to Abs and then simply says, “Go ahead and sit anywhere you like, darling.” A moment later, she comes up to take Abby’s order and we get a pretty great line, which is her just giving Abs a look and going, “Boy, are you pretty.” I love this, because obviously Abs is pretty, although a word so simple seems almost unfair to the divine, Goddess-like beauty that is Donna Mills and especially Donna Mills during this particular season, where I feel she looks at her absolute most stunning. Abs looks right into the face of Val/Verna and sorta quietly whispers, “Val?” to which she only gets a confused stare back. A minute later, she continues by whispering, “Just tell me if you’re coming home or not,” and it’s probably at this moment that she realizes Val/Verna has officially gone a bit cuckoo, because she has positively no idea who Abs is and positively no idea what she is talking about. I actually distinctly remember watching this moment for the first time, on a break from college and drinking vodka on the rocks in my parents’ basement, sitting there and being like, “This is just the most brilliant thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” and I meant it then and I mean it now. Watching moments like this, you realize you are staring right into the very heart of genius, of art on television working at the very fullest height of its powers.
The plot only thickens when Abs tries to evacuate the premises and finds her efforts thwarted by Parker Winslow, who has noticed the fancy lady in town and fully intends to give her the third degree. He snuggles up to her car and talks about how nice it is (although both My Beloved Grammy and myself had the same thought at this, which is that this is probably a rental car and not actually Abby’s personal vehicle, but whatever, Parker doesn’t know that) and starts to drop some questions to Abs about what her interest in Val/Verna is. Abs tries to get away and be like, “It’s nothing, you small town hick, get the hell out of my way,” but it’s pretty obvious that this is not what Abs was hoping for. While trying to make a clean escape and leave Val/Verna happy and crazy in Tennessee, she is now being faced with questions; she has gained attention she didn’t want to gain and we all know how bad that can be in a town as small as the fictitious Shula.
The presence of the fancy lady in the sexy rental car coming to visit with Val/Verna sends Parker straight to the library to do a little bit of snooping. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it, but one of my absolute favorite things in movies or TV shows ever is when people go to the library to look at old newspapers and do research. It takes me back to a simpler, better time, and it also reminds me of movies like The Amityville Horror in which people scroll through newspaper headlines, never bothering to read the full articles, and then gasp in horror when they come to some sort of big, epic revelation. Something pretty similar happens in this scene, although Parker doesn’t have to dig back years and years the way they usually do in the horror movies; rather, he only goes back about a month and he stumbles upon an article with a nice black and white photo of Val/Verna and the headline, “L.A Author Valene Ewing Missing.” Uh oh, what’s he going to do now that he has this inside information?! Obviously what he’s going to do is rush to Val/Verna as fast as possible and propose marriage to her. If I recall correctly, this scene takes place in the super cute and cozy looking apartment of Val/Verna, and Parker comes marching in all full of confidence and swagger and makes his case for why he positively loves Verna Ellers and wants to be with her for the rest of his life. To the collective gasps and cries of “NO! NO!” heard from all 15 to 20 million people watching this upon original airdate, Val/Verna accepts his proposal and we have to wait and see how/if she is going to manage to get out of this. Again, I can remember sitting there and watching this for the first time and being like, “Omigod this show is so brilliant; it never stops being exciting!”
Somebody has to come and rescue Val/Verna from these impending nuptials based on lies and deceit, and happily enough for myself, it appears that that person is Gary, the one true soulmate of Val/Verna. See, when Abs gets back from Tennessee, she’s got her ass covered and is ready to take the wind out of Galveston’s sails, since just earlier this ep, Galveston reminded her that he knew where Val was and was planning on telling Gary. In our final scene of the ep, Abs returns to Westfork and announces to Gary, “I know where Val is,” to which you can positively see the love in Gary’s eyes as his face lights up and he goes, “What?! Where?!” Abs tells him all about it at just the exact precise moment that Galveston comes rolling up his car. He comes walking up to them, all ready to tell Gary what’s going on and get Abs into some serious trouble, only to be hit the revelation that Abs already told Gary and, as of this moment, he has no cards to play, although I have the feeling that will change shortly. Anywho, we also end the ep fabulously with a freeze frame (which I notice they are doing a bit more frequently, and they always choose the most perfect eps to do it with) of Abby's smirking face as she looks at Galveston, basically saying, “Yup, I killed your plan; what are you gonna do about it?” Fantastic ending to a fantastic ep.
This was maybe not the best ep on the disk we watched (I think that honor would probably go to our previous ep, #14 With a Bullet), but it’s really splitting hairs at this point to try and pick a best ep out of this season. The whole thing is just so consistently brilliant; every disk is a tour-de-force of joy and genius and this ep is obviously no exception. As I so often say, I can only thank God that I don’t have to wait a whole week between eps like people back in the ‘80s did; we are able to do a nice binge watch of five eps at a time, which is obviously like having five consecutive, unbelievably intense orgasms all in one night, except of course much, much better.
We’ll start a fresh new disk of five eps on our next visit, and we shall be starting with Out of the Past.