Episode Title: Out of the Past
Season 06, Episode 16
Episode 116 of 344
Written by Neal Bell
Directed by Bill Duke
Original Airdate: Thursday, January 24th, 1985
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Abby decides to lengthen Joshua's segment. She threatens Cathy not to date Joshua anymore, or she will tell him about her affair with Gary and that she murdered someone. Mack can't get a Judge to grant him a warrant for Galveston Industries, so Greg gets Mack the warrant he needs. Karen unwittingly gives Galveston information on the investigation. Gary goes to Val's diner, and recalls how he met her in a diner by helping her out when it was really busy. He tries to talk to Val, who doesn't recognize him and thinks he's crazy. Parker and his friends beat Gary up and tell him to get out of town. Val's confused as to why two people have thought she was Val Ewing. Gary goes back to the diner and helps Val like he did when they first met. For just an instant she recognizes him and says "Gary," but then, confused, runs out, and Gary follows. She insists she's Verna and has never seen him before. She tells Parker she wants to get married right away.
Oh thank heavens we are back. It might be hard for my amazing and loving and devoted readers to get a sense of how timing works out for My Beloved Grammy and I to watch KL eps since I try to put up my essays like clockwork at the same time every week. In real time, however, the gap between our last disk of eps and this particular disk of eps (spanning Out of the Past through The Emperor’s Clothes) was quite possibly the longest ever since we first started doing our KL nights. It took over a month for us to get back together, and let me tell you that it was agonizing. My hands began to shake, I started to wake up in cold sweats, screaming the names of Gary and Val, and my life became a barren, empty wasteland of misery in which all I could think about was one day returning to my friends on the cul-de-sac. Happily enough, just as I was putting a pistol in my mouth and preparing to pull the trigger, My Beloved Grammy called me up randomly out of the blue and asked if I’d like to come over that exact night for another batch of eps, so I of course immediately rushed over, speeding my car and running all the red lights and mowing down a few innocent people in my mad dash to get back into the magical, intoxicating world of KL. I only bring this up in order to point out that we may have lost a smidge of forward momentum when it comes to all the storylines going on, but KL is obviously so good that as soon as we got started again, we were able to remember everything that was going on and slip right back into things. So anyway, let’s go ahead and talk about the first ep on that disk, which is Out of the Past.
As I think I’ve been saying incessantly, my favorite storyline going on at this exact juncture is that of Val/Verna and her adventures in Shula, Tennessee. That story takes up a good majority of the time this week, but I’d like to start with some of the other characters and what they’re up to and then finish by talking about Val/Verna, so why don’t we go ahead and begin by catching up with Joshua and Cathy. What’s going on with them this week? Well, we are beginning to see an unfortunate metamorphosis in Joshua’s personality, no doubt accelerated by his quick rise to fame over at Pacific World Whatever along with Abby’s gentle manipulations. Joshua was introduced onto the series in the second episode of the season, Calculated Risks, and he was gentle and quiet and wide eyed and innocent, but already that Joshua is starting to seem like some distant memory. Now that he’s got that popular segment preaching on Reverend Kathryn’s show, the power is starting to get to his head and it’s negatively affecting his relationship with Cathy. Indeed, we already saw a little storyline that I think I neglected to mention when it was going on (sorry about that) in which Cathy was gonna go off on tour with her band and Joshua said they would have to break up if she did so.
Well, this week Joshua is giving one of his sermons on the show, but he sorta cuts it in half and makes it a much brisker affair, which Abs doesn’t like. Honestly, I think I wouldn’t like that either, since I’m fairly certain when you’re dealing with time slots and commercials and all of that, if someone suddenly decides to take something that’s supposed to take up, say, ten minutes, and cuts it down to just five, doesn’t that fuck up your whole day? Now you need to go to commercial five minutes early or move the next program up by five minutes or whatever, right? In any case, Abs speaks to Joshua about it and he says something about how he just wanted to be brisk, but then Abs starts to give this speech about how, when you get some power, there will be people in your life who want to take that power away, or something like that. Clearly she’s talking about Cathy, although it takes a minute for her to finally just say that, at which point she tells Joshua, “Don’t let Cathy ruin your career.” Honestly, I’m having a smidge of trouble understanding exactly why this is a concern to Abs; does this simply lie in the base fact that she doesn’t like Cathy? Most of the time, her manipulations seem to have some motivation which is easy to track, but in this case it sorta seems like she’s just rocking the boat for the sake of rocking the boat. Am I missing something here?
In any case, this leads to a nice little one-on-one between Abs and Cathy at Lotus Point in which Abs tells her to stay away from Joshua and Cathy gets a nice line of, “Have you ever loved anyone?” On paper that might not read, or it might even sound corny, but the way Lisa delivers that line makes it pretty funny, and I like that Cathy is not deterred by Abby’s threats here and is able to dish it out equally well, because when Abs threatens to tell Joshua that Cathy did time for murder and that she was fooling around with Gary while he was married, Cathy just points out that she could tell Joshua it was Abs who hired her to distract Gary in the first place. It doesn’t take long for Cathy to do just that. She’s having a chat with Joshua when he brings up what Abs said to him back at Pacific World Whatever, how maybe he needs to cut Cathy out of his life. At this point, Cathy tells Joshua about her season five shenanigans, before he was on the show. Joshua doesn’t appear to believe her, or at the very least he’s a bit confused, asking why Abs would purposefully hire another woman for her husband to fall in love with. Clearly this relationship is on dangerously thin ice since Joshua basically refuses to believe anything Cathy, the woman who loves him, is saying to him.
Meanwhile, Mack is still deeply committed to his investigation of the Tidal Basin murders, a storyline that I’m really beginning to follow along with and understand much better than during my first trip through the KL experience. In this ep, Mack is trying to get a warrant to investigate Galveston Industries. I kinda forgot the exact details of what the warrant is for, but I think it’s just to investigate the entire company, generally, to be allowed to snoop around and find some incriminating evidence. However, the judge tells Mack he doesn’t have enough evidence in the first place to warrant getting a, um, warrant, so he turns him down. Mack is upset, but then help arrives in the form of a certain Mr. Gregory Sumner, who shows up at Mack’s and Karen’s to inform them that they now have their warrant; he pulled some strings and used his powers and voila. Karen is a bit suspicious about what his interest in all this is, why he’s being so helpful, and Sumner is like, “Hey, you wanted your warrant, you got your warrant.”
There’s also a quick scene this week between Paul Galveston and Karen that I probably should have paid a bit more attention to, only because I’m having a little bit of trouble understanding the exact contents of the scene. Basically Karen goes to pay him a visit and he’s sipping on a gigantic snifter of brandy (which he always seems to be drinking; brandy must be Galveston’s drink of choice just like J.R.’s was a bourbon and branch) and she says something about how Mack is doing an investigation into the Tidal Basin murders. Honestly, I couldn’t figure out if Karen was being threatening to Galveston in that sorta nice way, where you smile and are chit chatty but you are also saying, “Watch out,” or if she was really just making polite conversation and she sorta let this information slip out. In any case, Galveston’s ears seem to perk up at this and I take it to mean that, prior to this, he didn’t recognize how serious Mack’s investigations were, but now he sees that he’s gonna have to start doing something clever to distract Mack.
Honestly, that’s about it for the non-Val/Verna stuff this week, which is interesting to note. Generally, even if an episode is focusing pretty heavily on one character, there’s still a ton going on with the rest of the cast, but in this ep, they’re not given as much to do since we focus so heavily on the Shula adventures. To be clear, I ain’t complaining; Val/Verna has been in Tennessee for five eps now, and this remains my favorite story going on right now and the one that I remember most from the season. I’m sure I’ve said this already, but I love how Val/Verna essentially seems to wander off into another series for a good chunk of eps, and whenever we cut away to her we get to be part of this other series about the lives of a bunch of friendly folks in a small town in Tennessee. Because of the gloriously huge episode count of the season, it really gives us time to live and breathe with her in Shula rather than just having her drop by for an episode or two. Nope, instead we really get the sense that she is comfortably established here and that, if Abs hadn’t figured out where she was and told Gary about it, she could probably stay living here forever. However, even though Val/Verna is popular amongst the town folks and is a good waitress and gets along with her boss and has a nice apartment, things aren’t all completely sunny, since we’ve got a snake in the grass known as Parker Winslow. You’ll all recall that in our last ep, Parker did a bit of research at the library and discovered who Val/Verna really is. After that, he proposed marriage to her and she accepted, which brings us to where we are now, with the two eagerly planning their wedding ceremony. Now, real fast I do wanna talk about Parker’s motivations. Parker is obviously a sleaze, but I also get the feeling that he’s not entirely motivated by greed in this instance. He was dating Val/Verna before he found out she was a famous author and he did seem to genuinely like her. Still, it was about two seconds after he found that “L.A. Author Val Ewing Missing” newspaper that he went and proposed to her, so I’m assuming that he thinks marrying her will somehow get him a slice of her money, but I just wanna point out that I don’t believe that’s the reason he started up with her in the first place. I’m not saying this as a defense to the character, who I think is slime, but just merely an observation.
Fortunately, Gary is on the scene pretty quickly as we start this ep to try and rescue Val/Verna. Unfortunately, he has a little recreation of the memorable scene between Abs and Val/Verna from our last show. In similar style, he comes walking into the diner and sees Val/Verna working like a busy bee, and when she gets to his table there’s no glint of recognition in her eyes or nothing like that. Instead, she just takes his order and asks if he’d like some coffee and when Gary says how he believes they know each other, she tells him that’s not so, but get this, she also says something about how, “I’d remember a face as handsome as yours,” which I totally loved. Even in the depths of this bizarre amnesia thing she’s got going on, somewhere deep down inside, within the very core of her soul, Val/Verna is still inherently immediately attracted to Gary even though she doesn’t remember him. By the way, I would be absolutely remiss in my duty if I neglected to mention what happens right before Gary walks into the diner. See, he comes pulling up in the parking lot and then we go into a scene which I’ve never forgotten, and that is a glorious flashback to the first time Gary and Val ever met. This has been a major part of their past history ever since their very, very first appearances way back on Dallas with Reunion: Part One, when Val told Lucy the story of how she saw Gary for the first time and, “He was just about the prettiest thing I’d ever seen.” Oh God, yes, and how I’ve been waiting for the day to come when we would finally get to see this first meeting acted out right before our very eyes, and now that day has arrived.
In the flashback, we see a young Gary come walking into whatever diner it was that fifteen year old Valene was working in. She’s overworked, the diner is a madhouse, there’s a thousand things going on at once, too many people to keep track of, and her boss is giving her a hard time. She has her back turned to Gary and is sorta yelling at her boss while holding two plates, but then Gary comes up behind her and gently takes the two plates out of her hands. She spins around, their eyes lock, my thighs melt, and we witness what true love at first sight really looks like. From there, Gary starts to go to work helping her out with her tables and then we return to 1985 and leave that flashback behind, but don’t forget about it, cuz it’s gonna be pretty darned important for a scene later in the ep.
I love the flashback for a multitude of reasons. First off, I love physically seeing this first meeting that we have heard about as a part of Gary and Val’s core histories since day one. I feel like the fact that we are allowed to take a minute and go back in time also adds a feeling of scope and grandeur to the series, really emphasizing the feeling that these characters are real and that their pasts are real, as well. Also, I think it’s just, you know, cool. I think other shows might be content with just telling us about Gary and Val’s first meeting and then leaving it at that, but actually seeing it is so much richer. Finally, it really helps to demonstrate the theme of this episode that’s right there in the title, Out of the Past. In this case, we are seeing something from Gary and Val’s past, and it’s going to be important to see how that past event can affect events within the present day. However, just to show that I’m not a complete groveling sycophant for the show, I do have one small flaw, and that would be the casting of young Gary. Young Val is pretty okay; I can buy that she’s a young J.V.A. (and she’s also a Transmorpher since she appeared during The Dark Years of Dallas as some boring girlfriend of Bobby’s or something), but young Gary doesn’t look much like Shack to me at all, and My Beloved Grammy agreed. This guy’s name is Andrew Fielder and this is his only credit ever. This forces me to wonder if he was actually a real actor or if he was just some friend of someone who worked on KL. Perhaps some Lorimar suit was like, “Can you throw my kid into one of your eps? He really wants to be on TV!” Anyway, I have no idea who he is and no way of knowing where he came from or where he’s gone, but my little micro-criticism of this scene is that he just doesn’t look much like a young Gary. Aside from that, however, the scene is gold.
Val/Verna doesn’t remember Gary and doesn’t understand why he’s hanging around and bothering her. To the other observers in this little drama, it looks like Gary is kinda a weirdo for showing up to bother the nice waitress and claim that they used to be married. Also, Gary tries to get the boss at the diner to believe him, but he’s not really having any of it, and the doctor he talks to says that Val/Verna seems perfectly fine and happy and he can’t force some sort of psychiatric evaluation on her on the word of one stranger in town. Now, you all know I love this storyline and think it’s amazing, but that doesn’t mean I can’t point out some logic holes. All the best works of art have their little flaws, and KL is no exception. The main flaw here is that I don’t know that Val/Verna has any form of I.D. or a social security number or nothing to even prove who she is. I could buy that she’d show up at a little diner and ask for work and the boss would hire her without seeing a social security; I’m willing to believe that he might be paying her under the table for her services. However, now wedding bells are in the air and I’m pretty sure people can’t just show up to get married without having proof of who they are and where they came from and that they are, in fact, who they say they are. So in this case, I’m wondering why nobody is like, “Say, let’s just ask Verna for a picture I.D. to prove who she really is.” If that happened, wouldn’t Gary be able to prove he’s telling the truth? Also, Gary really didn’t come too prepared, did he? He found out Val was here and he just sorta rushed over, but now he’s finding it hard to get anyone to believe him as he goes around claiming that he used to be married to her for years and that they have a daughter in Texas. Why didn’t he grab a quick copy of one of her books to show to people and say, “Look, there’s a picture of her with the name ‘Val Ewing’ underneath it.” Why not bring some pictures of him and her together? Why not bring some reinforcements in the forms of, say, Lilimae or Karen, people who can back up his claim and confirm that Verna is really Val? So yeah, there are certain aspects of this storyline that are becoming a little hard to swallow, but I’m still swallowing it fine because it simply tastes so damn good.
Later, we start to see some wheels turning in Val’s/Verna’s head during a scene in which Parker is giving her a foot massage. Seriously, ick, I’m just not a foot guy and it feels like, for this one scene, Quentin Tarantino suddenly stepped in as guest director and brought his little foot fetish along with him, because not only does Parker massage her feet, but as they discuss their wedding, he even kisses her feet. Oh barf, I am gonna tell you right here and now that, no matter how deeply in love I might be with someone, I would never ever ever kiss their fucking feet. But anyway, I’m focusing on a small detail of the scene instead of the big stuff, and that is the fact that Val/Verna is sorta talking out loud to herself and she’s like, “Isn’t it funny that that man called me ‘Valene’ and that’s what that pretty lady called me?” She’s obviously referring to Abby’s little visit to town last episode (“Boy, you’re sure pretty”), and she then ends the scene with the little question, “Who on earth is Val Ewing?” Just to prove that Parker is a complete sleaze and a worthless piece of crap (“A piece of crap! I find him extremely ugly! He emits a foul and unpleasant odor! I loathe him!”), he and his two goons pay Gary a little visit with a bunch of big, like, wooden oars or something. Oh God, did I hate this, and what cowardice it is to watch three guys beat up one guy. Gary still manages to get a few good swings in, but it’s just not a fair fight and he gets beat up a bit with those big oars and then Parker kneels down next to him and grabs him by the shirt collar and says, “Hands off my fiancé!” Oh boy, things just aren’t going too well in Gary’s world lately, are they?
The best scene of the ep comes right near the end, in which Gary pays Val/Verna another visit at the diner and finds her in a very similar situation as she was the very first time he saw her. As before, the diner is a madhouse and people are screaming at her and her boss is getting sassy. The scene is pretty much exactly the same, and at this point My Beloved Grammy said, “He should come up behind her and take the plates like he did before,” and that is of course what happens. When Gary takes the plates out of her hands, she spins around and they lock eyes and Bill “Cooke” Duke kicks in with some of his trademark brilliance and visual flair as we get these little subliminal flash cuts to the young Gary and Val again. The music swells, Val’s/Verna’s eyes get kinda big, and then she whispers, “Gary,” and we see that, for this one moment, she is remembering. My heart is beating and pounding as if I’ve been doing hours and hours of serious cardio and not just sitting on my ass drinking beer and watching TV, but then the moment shifts when she goes storming out of the diner, returning to her claim that she’s never seen Gary before. Gary follows after her and says how, for a moment there, she was remembering, but she refuses to acknowledge it and asks him to leave her alone. I find it easy to understand Val’s/Verna’s mental anguish in this instance. Somewhere, buried deep down inside of her very soul, she can remember everything about her real life and her true soul mate, but if she allows her mind to remember Gary, that means having to allow her mind to remember all the other details, all the horrible things that have happened to her, the babies that she had and lost, and I think if that happens, she just won’t be able to handle it. So it’s sorta an all-or-nothing thing, and the reason her mind snaps back into Verna mode so quickly is because she’s not ready to take on all those other memories yet; it would just be too painful. Thusly, our final scene of the ep is Val/Verna returning to meet up with Parker and declaring that they need to get married right away.
So that was Out of the Past and obviously it was great, but of course I’m a broken record lately because every fucking episode of this season is great. I didn’t think about it until I looked it up, but this actually our first Duke episode of the season and I’d almost forgotten how much I enjoy his eps and the style he brings. I may have neglected to mention those sorts of directorial details in my writeup, but I noticed lots of cool mirror shots in this one, people speaking to each other while sitting in front of mirrors, for instance, and also those cool shots where someone is sitting in the background and a prominent figure looms in the foreground, like an early shot of Sumner sitting in an office while some guy stands in front of him and holds a file folder. I also liked the use of dissolves that take us from 1985 back to the past when Gary was seventeen and Val was fifteen. Duke always comes through like a champion and I’m deeply saddened to note that we only have three more episodes from him in our future. If this ep has a flaw, it’s just some of those logical holes I brought up, but I love the series so much and this season so much and this storyline so much that it’s not too hard for me to just sorta go along with it.
Next up, we’ll see if Parker Winslow successfully manages to trap Val/Verna into a marriage as we explore Lead Me to the Altar.