Wednesday, May 31, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 127 of 344: A PRICE TO PAY


Episode Title:  A Price to Pay

Season 06, Episode 27

Episode 127 of 344

Written by Loren Reichman

Directed by David Jacobs

Original Airdate: Thursday, May 2nd, 1985

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Abby calls Greg for the notebook pages, but he says he'll only give them to her if she gets Gary out of Empire Valley. She can't, so then Greg says he'll exchange them for her broadcasting license and Empire Valley TV station. Jill Bennett goes to Mack's office and says the Governor would like to appoint him to Greg's vacant senate seat. Mack thinks Greg is behind it. Home from their honeymoon, Cathy's alarmed that Joshua wants to live at Val's and she wants to get their own place. Ben proposes to Val, but she tells him she can feel her babies cry at night, and can't marry him with that going on. Ben thinks that Val is losing it, so Mack and Karen tell him about their investigation.

                The first thing I noted as My Beloved Grammy and I started A Price to Pay was the director of this particular ep, a certain genius named Mr. David Jacobs, the man who created this series and brought it into the world.  God created the Heavens and the Earth, but David Jacobs created KL, so I think he actually wins the fight.  Anyway, I always note whenever the creator steps behind the camera for an ep, and this is his fourth effort (out of what will turn out to be eight eps) following Willing Victims, One Kind of Justice, and Finishing Touches.  I often wonder what prompts him to pick which eps he directs, and I suppose I’ll never know for sure unless I can manage to track down the man and sufficiently harass him enough to agree to an interview (David, my E-mail is and I eagerly wait to hear from you). 

                There’s a lot going on this week, but let’s start with Joshua and Cathy, who are returning from their romantic (?) honeymoon in wherever, I’m imagining someplace really boring like Utah or some other lame religious place.  Joshua doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that would take his new bride to some place super fun and awesome like Vegas; he seems more like a guy that would rather go somewhere unbelievably dull where he can, like, be religious and watch 7th Heaven eps all day (even though that show has not been invented yet, but you get my point).  Joshua and Cathy actually sat out last week’s ep, which I put in my notes but think I forgot to mention in the my actual summation of the ep.  Honestly, I felt there was a hole in the show from these two characters being absent for a week.  Is anyone else as big a fan of these two together as I am?  When I say “together,” I don’t mean that I’m sitting there on the couch really rooting for this couple and hoping they’ll be together.  Rather, I mean that I just find them fascinating in their dysfunction, much the way I found Richard and Laura fascinating throughout the first four seasons.

                Okay, so Joshua and Cathy return from their getaway, and the drama and conflict is of course fairly immediate.  The central problem in this ep is that Joshua wants his new wife to go ahead and move into Val’s house and the two of them can live there with Val and Lilimae and just be one great old happy family.  Cathy wants to go out and find a place for just the two of them, and of course I agree, but Joshua seems to just be going along under the assumption that of course they’ll stay at Val’s; why wouldn’t they?  If I am remembering correctly, I believe he gives Cathy some excuse about how they don’t have enough money yet (even though most people who work in shitty minimum wage retail jobs are still able to find enough money for a shitty little apartment and Joshua is, you know, the host of a religious cable show and a bit of a minor celebrity and probably has plenty of money for a nice place), but Cathy isn’t buying it.  Also, Joshua does the asshole manipulative thing where he deliberately twists Cathy’s words around to make them sound all mean and bad, saying things like, “I get it, you don’t wanna live with my mother cuz you think her ass is fat and she should go and kill herself,” and Cathy has to be like, “That’s not what I meant at all.”  All Cathy wants is for them to start their new life together free and independent, on their own, not freeloading off of Val the way that, erm, certain family members with names that start with ‘L’ may have been doing for several years.

                Oh yes, and I almost neglected to mention one fantastic scene that occurs between the two in the wee hours of night.  Cathy is wearing a nice sexy outfit and Joshua is sitting in a chair and reading.  She sorta straddles him and kisses him and is clearly in the mood for a good deep dicking, but instead of giving his wife said deep dicking that she so desperately needs and deserves, Joshua glares up at her, looking all evil, and then says, “Excuse me” in a rather haughty voice.  Cathy is taken aback and is all like, “Huh?” and so he repeats himself, “Excuse me,” looking even more evil and even more frightening.  Yes, we know have official confirmation that this marriage will be anything but smooth sailing, as the man won’t put out for his wife (because I’m sure God wouldn’t approve) and he’s also trying to force them both to live eternally in the house of Val.

                Speaking of Val, we’ve got some big developments in her relationship with Ben this week, as well as a fantastically stylish and unique scene between the two of them.  Yes, the two have now known eachother for about two years, as Ben first entered the scene right at the start of season five.  They haven’t been consistently dating for that entire two years, but they’ve dated quite a bit and, at this point, they are back to being a couple, and this week Ben proposes marriage to her.  Now, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard Ben ask Val to marry him, am I right?  I’m immediately flashing back to somewhere in late season five when Ben was eating, I think, a bacon and avocado sandwich that Val had prepared for him and he blurted out, “Marry me; this is the best bacon and avocado sandwich I’ve ever had.”  That was only a year ago, but amazingly I’m already struggling to remember how all that turned out.  Val accepted his proposal, right?  And then did the whole engagement get called off after Ben found out the truth about Val’s babies and their father?  But wait, that doesn’t make sense, because Ben already knew Gary was the father since Val wasted no time in telling him such as soon as she got knocked up.  In any case, the show is packed with characters and drama and a lot of shit has gone down since the bacon and avocado sandwich and, at this present time, I can’t remember precisely what ended the engagement plans of Ben and Val. 

                Ben’s proposal doesn’t occur until the middle portion of this ep, and before it happens we get a fabulously romantic sequence between the two of them in which Val’s wearing a nice dress and Ben is wearing a studly suit and they dance together at his Plant House to the sweet sounds of Send in the Clowns, which I had forgotten all about (I also read that Michele is the one doing the singing, so good on her).  When I think of the fantastically fantastic musical motifs of KL, I usually just flash immediately to Ciji’s or Cathy’s songs, but throughout the series, there are quite a few instances of needle drops in which pre-existing popular songs show up to set a mood (much later in the series, we get some of my sweet, sweet Carpenters with We’ve Only Just Begun, for instance), and I feel like this might be one of the first examples.  The song is just one facet of the romance of the scene, however; the other facets are the sheer joy that Val and Ben seem to display towards each other after returning from a romantic dinner at, you know, someplace.  Their dance is also slow and romantic and the whole thing is just good, and it’s also one of those instances where we are going to see this scene moved into the scrolling squares next season, so we are going to see the clip before every single episode for an entire year (maybe even two), and I always like to spot those things when we hit an ep and see a shot that’s gonna be part of the opening later.  So yeah, good scene.

                After the song and dance, that’s when Ben proposes marriage, but we don’t get to see Val’s answer.  She sorta stares at him in silence for a moment and then we cut to a commercial.  When we return, Val is sitting at her favorite place, the beach, late at night, staring at the ocean, watching and pontificating.  She’s also holding this small little glass elephant thing, and I’m pretty sure this is the first time we’re seeing this elephant, no?  Later, Val tells Ben that this elephant is significant because she was going to hang it up over her babies’ crib, but just looking at it, we immediately know that it’s symbolic of her absent twins.  It’s also significant that Val is out so late, wandering around outside and being restless.  At first, I thought this was just because she was surprised by Ben’s proposal or still trying to decide how to answer, but later we find out that she’s been waking up at the same time every night, that she feels in her gut that it’s time for her babies to be fed and that’s what’s waking her up.

                An event of earth-shattering importance occurs in this ep, and it happens so quickly and so inauspiciously that I had completely forgotten it even occurred, and that is the introduction of one Jill Bennett.  The eyes of any and all hardcore KL fans should immediately widen when this magnificent character first comes walking into the series, because as soon as you see her, you know you’re in store for some seriously great drama for the next four years.  Yes, Jill Bennett is going to wind up being a huge part of the series all the way up until 1989, and by the time she exits the series, oh boy has a lot of shit gone down, and it’s all getting started right here.  I confess that I had actually forgotten that she makes her first appearance here in late season six; I thought we wouldn’t be seeing her until, oh, maybe the middle point of season seven, but I am completely wrong.  To set the scene, Mack is hard at work in his office (he’s not working out on his rowing machine right now, but rather just sitting at his desk and going through papers) when the doors open and in walks Jill Bennett.  As soon as she entered, I actually gasped out loud and then sorta moaned her name two or three times, saying, “Oh, fuck, yes, Jill Bennett,” and My Beloved Grammy was probably confused about why I was getting so excited, but I went ahead and told her to pay attention to this character, that she’s going to be with us for awhile and be very important.

                Real fast, let’s cover the magnificently splendid actress who will be bringing Jill Bennett to life right before our eyes for four glorious years.  She is played by Teri Austin, who is in, you know, stuff, but I’m sure will go to her grave being best remembered for playing this fantastic character.  In addition to KL, she also pops up in two really early Seinfeld eps as a girlfriend of George’s (The Stranded and The Revenge) and she also has a brief role in the Brian De Palma movie (one that I don’t actually like very much) Raising Cain.  She hasn’t acted since 2001, but that’s because she got out of acting to go run an animal shelter, which I can get behind, as cats are cool.  One day, if I’m ever rich and famous and have my own nighttime soap opera going all hot and successful, I will absolutely track her down and give her a call and demand that she come to be part of my series, and I'll pay her several million dollars per episode, because she is so utterly amazing.

                All of this gushing really doesn’t make any sense at this point, since for the purposes of the ep we are discussing at this precise moment, Jill Bennett shows up for one scene, has some dialogue, then exits the scene and isn’t seen nor mentioned for the last batch of eps of season six.  I’m just getting all excited because, seeing her now for the first time, I know how much greatness is in store for us.  Anyhow, to set the scene, Mack is working in his office one fine day when in walks Jill Bennett with a message from the governor.  Turns out he thinks Mack would be just perfect for a seat in the Senate, and she tells Mack how people perceive him as a real good guy, how his quote “flaws” are actually positives in the eyes of the public; that he is seen as a dude who is tough on crime and who doesn’t give up until he has successfully nailed the bad guys.  Mack is taken aback by this invitation and doesn’t really know what to say, so he sorta delays it and says how he’ll think about it and Bob Loblaw. 

                Uck, I love KL and I love Mack and I love Jill Bennett and these are all things that are very close to my heart, but I confess I didn’t love the very last two seconds of this scene, which struck me as sexist and, well, weird.  Now, I don’t know if I’m just being a little pussy liberal who is oversensitive about absolutely everything and can’t relax and enjoy anything in life (it is highly possible), but as Jill Bennett is about to exit the office, Mack stops her and is like, “The next time the governor sends someone to talk to me, ask him to send someone who isn’t so beautiful,” or something like that.  To me, it really comes out of nowhere and then he mumbles something about, “I guess I’m being kinda sexist,” and I’m like, “Um, yeah Mack, you are.”  Where does this declaration even come from?  Is Mack just bored and horny?  Is he just naturally flirtatious with all women, the way I overtly flirt with total strangers even when I’m out on a date with some other boy?  Or are the writers planting seeds for future events involving these two characters together?  I’m not so sure, but I kinda hated the way that this woman comes to his office just to deliver a simple message from the governor and then Mack has to be like, “You have a vagina and you’re hot!” 

                The last thing on Jill Bennett for now, and this gets us into some slight SPOILER TERRITORY, so go ahead and skip ahead a paragraph or two if you don’t wanna hear it.  Anyway, any KL fan should remember that Jill Bennett starts off seeming like a pretty normal and pretty nice human being, but that she slowly morphs over time into a completely homicidal psycho, which is a very beautiful thing to witness, but I digress.  My point is that during this scene, in my notes I wrote, “She actually already seems slightly wicked,” and I don’t think I’m wrong in that regard.  She sits down in a chair to talk to Mack and she’s just going over the information, but her eyes have a certain glint in them that seem evil, and she also does this thing with her mouth that I’ve always noticed and appreciated in which it stays slightly open and sorta shows her teeth in a way that looks rather deliberate.  I don’t know how far in advance the writers were planning (I’m willing to bet that in 1985 they weren’t planning all the way ahead to 1989), but I think it’s interesting that she struck me as slightly wicked right off the bat.  I’m gonna keep my eyes open for her next appearance and pretty much all her appearances throughout season seven to see if I continue to have this feeling or not.

                Meanwhile, we’ve got plenty of drama percolating over at Greg’s ranch.  Last ep, Greg gave Abs full permission to go through all the Galveston files she needed to, but then we the audience saw he was secretly holding out on one vital page that had all the answers, keeping it secret.  This ep, Abs asks him for that one page and Greg refuses, at least for the moment.  He proposes that they work out a deal, that she can have this information if she manages to successfully get Gary to back off of his obsession with Empire Valley.  Seems that Gary’s been spending all his time over there, annoying the workers and asking a lot of questions and yada yada yada.  Greg doesn’t care for this, as this was supposed to be his big secret government conspiracy operation or whatever and he doesn’t want to share.  Can Abs manage to divert Gary’s attentions to other matters?  Wait and see.

                Meanwhile, the deliciously wicked Ava Gardner is still hanging around and being amazing, giving Laura some really fabulous material.  To explain a little more, we’ve already established that Ava does not like Laura one bit.  Laura is sassy, she’s sarcastic, she doesn’t take any crap, and she talks back, all qualities Ava does not care for.  Ava is much more interested in her dear son forming a more perfect union with one Abby Fairgate Cunningham Ewing Sumner (sorry, right now she’s Abby Fairgate Cunningham Ewing), a woman she can understand and get along with, someone who thinks and behaves as she does, someone with her same penchant for evil and manipulations. 

                I’m noting that the dialogue, which is always terrific on KL, is positively sparkling whenever Ava and Laura are onscreen together, and not just sparkling but also rather risqué.  One of the first exchanges of the ep involves Ava telling her, “You look rather self satisfied this morning,” to which Laura replies, “Self had nothing to do with it,” which made me turn to My Beloved Grammy and say, “God damn, this is some sexy dialogue.”  Later, we have a line that all KL fans and Laura fans should remember vividly and think about at least once a day, and that is when the two are at some fancy lunch or dinner or whatever and Ava makes some sort of comment about how she doesn’t know what Greg sees in Laura and Laura, with fabulously quick wit and delivery, just says, “What can I say; I’m great in the sack.”  My Beloved Grammy laughed really hard at this particular witticism, as did I.  Oh Laura, I love you so, and I always have, but this viewing is really causing this character to skyrocket in my estimation; who else could deliver that perfect line in that perfect way and just be so amazingly unbelievably perfect?

                Last thing I wanna note on Ava, and it’s a small detail but one I like a lot, and that is her smoking.  She smokes three cigarettes in this ep, and I like it.  Let’s throw out the quick disclaimer that smoking is bad and it kills you and it makes you teeth brown and all that stuff, but I’ve always liked watching characters smoke in movies.  There’s just something about it; it’s fun to watch, and it gives the actors this extra prop to work with.  Also, I often find myself wondering when a character is smoking if that was a part of the script, if that was planned out in advance, or if the actor/actress just showed up and wanted to smoke.  In the case of Ava, I’m willing to bet she was a real life smoker (mostly because of her great cigarettes-and-cocktails raspy voice, and also cuz I did research and found out she got emphysema late in life cuz of too much smoking ) and I’m willing to bet that she showed up on set and was like, “My character is going to smoke.”  This is a big famous actress who’s been working since, like, the fucking ‘40s, and I’m pretty sure that she held a lot of sway with things like this, and I’ll bet having Ruth smoke was an Ava-mandated decision; what do you think? 

                That pretty much does it for A Price to Pay.  Clearly it was quite fantastic, as well as stylishly shot by David Jacobs (I particularly noted one cool bit where he begins a scene with the screen all black but then has Sumner walking away from the camera and into an open door, sorta using the movement of the character to open up the frame and reveal the space).  Plus, the writing this week (Loren Reichman) is really quite divine and sparkling with a very special wit.  So yeah, yet another incredibly solid season six ep to add to the myriad of solid season six eps we have seen thus far.

                And we’ve only got three to go!  Coming up next, it’s One Day in a Row.

KNOTS LANDING Episode 126 of 344: FOUR, NO TRUMP


Episode Title:  Four, No Trump

Season 06, Episode 26

Episode of 126 of 344

Written by Melanie Mintz

Directed by John Patterson

Original Airdate: Thursday, April 11th, 1985

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Gary tells Greg he will be part of Empire Valley, and then lies to Mack, telling him it's a legitimate business. Dr. Ackerman won't talk to Karen, so Mack tells her he'll help her to get evidence. Val sneaks out of Ben's, and then cancels dates with him. Ben's frustrated, and Val tells Karen she's trying to act normal, but feels like she's going crazy because she knows the babies are alive. Karen hires Eric to be the Assistant General Manager at Lotus Point. Abby tells Greg about Scott Easton and the babies, and tells Greg she needs the missing notebook pages. He gives her some pages, but they don't have the information on them. Greg goes to the Fishers and watches them from his car. Ruth makes snide comments to Laura about Greg spending so much time with Abby, and tells Greg that she likes Abby much better.

When My Beloved Grammy and I finished up our last disk of KL eps, Karen had finally managed to successfully track down Dr. Ackerman in Vegas after cleverly having him paged to come to the pay phones.  He answered the phone and said, “This is Dr. Ackerman,” and Karen spun around all epic-like and then our ep concluded.  Happily, today’s ep up for discussion, Four, No Trump, picks up at literally that exact same second and we just keep on continuing with the scene.  I’ve noticed this a lot lately, by the way, where eps end and then the next ep just picks right up in the same scene.  By this point, the show is so fully serialized that it’s almost easy to forget about the first three seasons and all those standalone eps contained within, since we’ve now had three solid seasons of the show being a serial in which one must watch every ep in proper order to understand what’s going on.  This also prompted a little thought in my brain, which is how easy or difficult it would be to just string a whole ton of eps together and turn them into one giant-ass movie.  Could it be done?  Would it flow?  I dunno, and in any case, it’s not important; Dr. Ackerman and Karen and Val’s babies are important, so let's talk about that.  Karen immediately confronts Ackerman and he obviously denies everything, which is to be expected.  I think what’s significant in this scene is the fact that he’s clearly nervous and in a hurry to get away from Karen.  He tries to present it as, “I’m a big fat important doctor guy and I’m busy and you’re a crazy woman and you’re harassing me and Bob Loblaw,” but Karen can see how sweaty and panicky he truly is.  Dr. Ackerman is all like, “Hey, crazy bitch, you know I can’t discuss another patient’s medical information or whatever, so get away from me,” and he quickly evacuates the proceedings, leaving Karen standing alone and looking sly. 

Ah, lovely Karen.  While I’m not sure if Karen is still my absolute 100% favorite character on the show the way she used to be upon my first viewing (and this is mostly because on second viewing I am realizing how absolutely everyone in the cast at this point in the series is just fucking perfect and amazing and bringing all their own special, unique, wonderful qualities of brilliance to their character, so I feel like I really can’t single out just one person and declare them my favorite), God, do I still love her dearly.  The thing that I love most about Karen, aside from her inherent decency and goodness, is that she is a force to be reckoned with when she puts her mind to accomplishing something.  When she gets serious about doing something, there’s no stopping her, and now that she has declared that she believes Val’s babies are alive and she believes Dr. Ackerman is involved in this whole conspiracy, she is going to attack full throttle and do whatever needs to be done to find the truth.  She is not going to half-ass it, she’s not going to go to Vegas and talk to Dr. Ackerman and then immediately give up after he denies everything, no, definitely not, no way.

When Karen returns home from Vegas, she officially has a partner in this investigation via Mack.  In the past few eps, we’ve seen Mack express some hesitation about whether Val’s babies could still be alive or not, but I think by this point he believes they are just as strongly as Karen does, and ever the supportive husband and world’s most perfect man, he’s gonna help her out now, too.  He also gives her some very good advice when he says what she needs to do now is sorta lay low as far as Dr. Ackerman is concerned.  It wouldn’t be wise for her to continue to harass him and chase after him; all that would do is put him further on the defensive.  What they need to do now is a lot of research and a lot of connecting the dots, but quietly, without making a big fuss of it, until they are absolutely sure that they are right and that they can prove it.

Karen’s little trip to Vegas scared Dr. Ackerman enough that he immediately calls up Abs to tell her about who he bumped into after his bridge tournament.  He tells Abs that she’d better get Karen off his back or else she’s going to be in big trouble; “If I go down, you go down with me,” he tells her, reminding her of her kinda-sorta involvement in this whole thing.  When Abs reminds him that she did not really have any involvement, that she never wanted this to happen, that she just made one simple offhand comment to ‘80s Rapist Beard Scott Easton and then poof, the babies were gone, Dr. Ackerman reminds her that no jury is going to care about that or even believe her, that her hands will look just as dirty as his do.

We get a lot of good Abs stuff in this ep, by the way, so let’s sorta walk through the different moments.  One of the first scenes involves her getting a phone call informing her that Olivia and Brian were both in a car crash.  I guess they were driving with some random white guy for some reason (it was never really clear to me who this random white guy was or why he was driving them, but whatever) and they got in a crash and their car flipped over.  We have this brief moment of suspense after Abs gets this phone call but before we confirm that the kids are still alive.  Gary and Abs rush to the scene of the accident and Abs is visibly shaken to her core, praying out loud to God that the kids be alright.  When they arrive, they discover the flipped over car but, very fortunately, Brian and Olivia are both unhurt (I’m glad Olivia’s alright; I still really don’t give a shit about Brian and never have and probably never will).  We learn that it was a drunk driver who hit them after falling asleep at the wheel, prompting the black cop at the scene to say, “When will people learn that you can’t drink and drive?”  I put this in my notes because to me it signified a change in attitudes towards drinking and driving as we move through the ‘80s.  Remember way back in Pilot when Diana and Marion Ravenwood got drunk and went swimming in the ocean and then drove back home?  In my writeup, I noted how nobody really gave a shit about the drinking and driving, that they were more concerned with them swimming in the ocean while drunk, and I said how this reflected an older era where we still weren’t that serious about the dangers of drinking and driving.  This was also displayed in Bottom of the Bottle: Part One, when a very drunken Gary hopped in his car and sped away from the cul-de-sac and Sid casually said something like, “Oh, he’s probably going to an all night movie,” and, again, nobody said anything about how Gary probably shouldn’t be driving.  Well, those eps were 1979-1980, and now we are officially at the precise midpoint of the ‘80s, 1985, and I think this is really the time when things like MADD started to come to prominence and people started to actively speak about and care about the dangers of intoxicated motor vehicle operating.  I also note this because it’s not the last time we have a little bit of a “drive sober” message on this disk; there was an ep a little after this one (blanking on which one it was) in which Ben and Mack are drinking giant beers at a bar and then Mack declares how he’s going to order a cab and not drive his car.  If these eps were airing in 1980, I feel like nobody would be saying a God damn word about it.

The truly significant thing about this scene is that we again see how complex and three-dimensional Abs is, and that when all is said and done, her children will always be the most important thing in the world to her.  She sleeps around, she screws people in business deals, she’s always looking out for number one, she’s ruthless, but she loves her children deeply and she cares for them well.  We’ve seen this displayed many times throughout the series, always done in such a fabulously subtle way that it sorta sneaks up on you; at this point you think back over Abby’s time on the show and realize how many times we’ve seen her being a good mother to Olivia and Brian.  While watching this ep, My Beloved Grammy even said, “Abby’s one redeeming quality is that she’s a good mother.”  Okay, so this scene is good for that reason, but it’s also got more going on beneath the surface; I think this scene is something of a wakeup call to Abs, because for that couple of minutes in which she worries that her kids might be hurt or killed, she is able to better understand the way Val must feel at this exact moment. 

There are a significant amount of callbacks to past events on the series in this ep, something I really appreciated, and one of the first callbacks involves Abs sitting down to talk to Greg and telling him about that time back in early season three when her Transmorpher ex-husband stole her kids from her and she didn’t know where they were for several weeks.  She talks about how lonely and desperate and awful she felt during this whole time, how all she could think about was wanting them back with her.  This scene really made me happy and made me respect KL’s unbelievably talented writing staff all the more.  If you’ll recall, way back in season three, when I was still pretty critical about many aspects of the series and things hadn’t yet turned into an insane orgy of amazingness (the orgy of amazingness started in season four and, so far, has still not let up one bit), I really didn’t care all that much for the story of Olivia and Brian being kidnapped by their father.  I believe I was kinda sorta indifferent to it, that I said how it was a story, it was whatever, it was fine, but it wasn’t all that compelling.  However, by having Abs bring up that story (which, at this point, is over three years in the past) in order to relate it to our current drama with Val’s babies, well, it’s genius.  It takes something that has already happened, that seemed to come and go, and that is now in the past, and it uses it to remind us that Abs can actually understand what Val’s going through.  The writing is so good that, now, if I were to return to that early juncture of the series and watch again, that story would take on much greater meaning and significance because of what I know is going to come in the future.  Amazing, amazing writing.

By the way, the reason Abs even tells Greg this story from season three in the first place is because, finally, she decides to sit him down and give it to him straight.  She goes to his ranch to meet him and asks to have a private conversation with him in his office, and she tells him everything about Val’s babies, including the real, true father.  Let’s compliment the writing some more, because not only does this move the plot forward and give us a new character knowing the truth about what’s going on, propelling us onward to further exciting drama, but it’s also a helpful recap in case some people have missed eps or if maybe they are just starting to tune into the series because their 1985 friends are saying, “You gotta watch KL; it’s so fucking great and it’s so much better than Dallas.”  Rather than just doing some kind of tacky recap or bringing in that cheesy narrator guy I love so much to remind us of past events, they do it organically by having Abs talk to Greg and inform him on everything that’s gone down throughout this season. 

Abby’s main reason for being so direct with Greg is that he has access to the Galveston files and papers that she needs, the ones that could help her find out where the babies are and how to get them.  Greg agrees to give her full access to these papers, but only on the agreement that, after she leaves the room, they never speak about this again.  Abs grabs a big stack of papers and leaves, but then we linger for a moment with Greg alone and see him open a drawer and, GASP, pull out that ripped out sheet of paper that we saw a little earlier in the season, the one with the address of the Fishers on it.  Now, what is Greg’s motivation for hiding this vital piece of information?  Let’s keep watching to find out.

Meanwhile, what’s going on with Val this ep?  Well, the first time we see her, she’s having a fantastic attack of sexuality and horniness that I appreciated seeing.  Since I’m all liberal and free-spirited and an “Every human being is a sexual human being” kind of person, I always enjoy it when a television series shows a woman as blatantly and unapologetically sexual, and Val has a fabulous scene this week.  Basically, she’s hanging out at Ben’s Plant House and they’re having a nice conversation and she just kinda attacks him.  She makes some sort of flirtatious remark that I’ve already forgotten and then she sorta climbs on top of him as he lies on his back on the floor and, well, there you go.  It’s really fun to see a horny Val, I must say, and this scene brought me much joy.

However, Val starts to act a little strange later on, getting up in the middle of the night to sneak out of Ben’s Plant House.  He awakes and catches her and, being a true gentleman, gets up out of bed to drive her home.  The next day, he stops by her house because they are supposed to have a date to go to a museum or something, and Val claims she forgot all about it because she was on a big roll working on her third book (you’ll recall that her last two books were Capricorn Crude and Capricorn Crude 2: Capricorn Cruder, and now she’s ready to finish the trilogy with Capricorn Crude With A Vengeance).  Ben is cool and sweet and says he’ll leave her alone to work on her novel, but after he leaves, Val walks over to her typewriter and we see that she hasn’t written a word at all.  Hmmmm, what’s going on here?  My Beloved Grammy hypothesized that Val is uncomfortable and unsure about the way things are heating back up in her relationship with Ben, that after their on again/off again drama, maybe she’s not sure if she wants to be back together or not.  I don’t think this is really the issue, however, and as we move through this ep and the final four eps of the season, we learn that Val has been waking up at the same time of night every single day because she feels, deep down in her core, that it’s the babies’ feeding time.  She doesn’t know where they are, but that natural maternal instinct speaks to her and tells her that, somewhere in the world out there, her babies are hungry. 

Let’s talk about what’s going on with Laura for awhile, shall we?  Laura’s material this week is really some sparkling stuff, and she’s helped immeasurably by the fabulous presence of Ava Gardner as Ruth Sumner (although, I remind you, I’m just gonna keep calling her Ava because I feel like it).  You’ll recall that Ava first popped up (meaning actually showed her face on the series and wasn’t just a stand-in walking around with a big hat covering her face) in The Deluge and we had some good material with her and good banter between her and Sumner, and then she sat out a couple of eps, but now she’s back in a big way and I gotta say, I’m fucking loving this character.  The last time I watched the series, I don’t know that I even really took much note of Ava at all aside from knowing that she was a big deal actress from old movies and that the show getting her was probably a big get at the time.  Now, however, I’m loving every single second between Laura and Ava and their instant distaste for each other that they don’t even attempt to hide.  See, we first catch up with Laura this ep while she’s out on a shopping spree with Lilimae (and Lilimae got a fantastic new haircut that both My Beloved Grammy and I approved of; My Beloved Grammy said, “She looks much less old fashioned now”) when they just happen to bump into Ava (wearing a fabulous hat), who invites them to go for lunch with her.  Laura tries to be like, “No, we’re busy, we gotta go,” but Lilimae smiles all wide and is like “Oooooooooooh, we’d love to go to lunch with you!”

From here, we cut to a great scene of the three ladies who lunch, Lilimae smiling and looking chummy with Ava while Laura squirms, looking uncomfortable and annoyed at the whole thing.  After awhile, Laura evacuates the premises (after a nice little exchange in which she makes some sort of sarcastic comment and Ava says, “Laura, don’t quip, ladies shouldn’t quip”), leaving Ava and Lilimae alone to share stories, and we get yet another wonderful callback to days long past.  See, Lilimae fills Ava in on the full history of Laura and Richard and tells her how Richard was a lawyer who lost his practice, had a mental breakdown, tried to open a restaurant, and then blew town two years ago.  This reminds me of how the writers are never afraid to bring up dearly departed characters from past seasons, such as Sid.  Considering that Richard pretty much just vanished from town and hasn’t been heard from since, on another show this kind of dialogue would make me think the writers are getting ready to bring the character back, giving us a reminder of their existence before they unexpectedly turn up, but KL doesn’t play that way.  This scene really shows that the show has a rich past history and that it never forgets that past history, that the characters will still mention other characters who aren’t in the cast anymore, instead of shuffling them under the rug as if they never existed.  God, I love this writing.

Our last scene of the ep is a quick appearance by Sheila Fisher, shown out walking the twins in their double strollers, providing a reminder for the audience of where these babies have wound up.  As she walks into her house, we see that someone is watching her from a car, and after a second we reveal that it’s Greg, and that’s how the episode ends.  This is another one of those great endings where I’m sitting there, I’m watching the show, my eyes are all big and excited and I’m just watching and enjoying the shit out of it, and then it’s over and I’m like, “Oh, it’s over,” and I mean that in a good way, in the complimentary way, because it simply doesn’t feel like 48 minutes have passed.  It’s been so brisk and so entertaining and so packed with information and drama and character moments and I’ve been so thoroughly entertained that it only feels like maybe fifteen minutes have passed, so to realize, “Wow, the ep is already over, that felt fast,” shows that I’m so invested in the proceedings that I lose track of time. 

In my notes for this ep, I wrote, “While a bit more mellow than some eps, still extremely compelling,” and I’ll stick to that.  This ep maybe doesn’t have as much HIGH DRAMA as other eps do, but it’s got a lot going on, has fabulous dialogue and witty exchanges, absolutely great costumes and hair, and a whole bunch of wonderful little callbacks to past events, not to mention those great character moments like Abs hearing about Olivia and Brian in a car crash.  Since I’m paying attention to airdates and such now, it’s interesting to note that this ep aired on April 11th of 1985 and then there was a big long gap without another new ep until May 2nd of 1985, nearly a whole month of waiting.  I say that because I can tell you that, after watching this ep, I would definitely be making sure to tune in for the next ep, whenever it may be, and it would be painful to have to wait that long to see the next ep.

Fortunately we don’t have to wait that long to talk about our next ep, so let’s move right along and start discussing the David Jacobs-directed A Price to Pay.more

Thursday, May 25, 2017


Episode Title:  For Better, For Worse

Season 06, Episode 25

Episode 125 of 344

Written by Roberto Loiederman

Directed by Robert Becker

Original Airdate: Thursday, April 4th, 1985

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Gary tells Abby that because he bought the notes when his investors backed out, they now own all of Empire Valley. Coblenz doesn't want Gary as their landlord. Greg takes Gary to meet some of Galveston's men, and they tell him that something big is taking place, and they ask him to join them. Gary tells them to go to Hell. Coblenz implies to Gary that he is a government agent and asks Gary to infiltrate the group. Gary agrees to this. Joshua breaks Ben's Wesphal story on his show, and says that Ben is trying to make a conspiracy that isn't there. Ben is livid. Abby tells Joshua he's losing ratings. Cathy tells Joshua she's not sure if she wants to get married, and they need to decide things together, but decides to marry him. Joshua asks Ben to be his best man because despite what he thinks of him, he considers him family. Joshua and Cathy get married.

                When we last left off, Gary was teetering on the brink of a total credit score meltdown, due in no small part to Greg Sumner’s interference, but he found quick relief when he got a phone call announcing him as being the sole inheritor of the entire Empire Valley land, courtesy of the late Paul Galveston, who may have been evil, but who certainly seemed to love Gary in a special way.  That was how we concluded our last episode, A Man of Good Will, and it’s pretty much how we pick up here with For Better, For Worse.  Actually, one of the first things we see in this ep is a very amusing sequence in which Gary, Abs, and the kids are all dressed up in super fancy clothes as if they’re going to the opera, except Gary has taken them to some shitty, greasy burger place for a celebration dinner.  The image of this alone is amusing, but add in Abby’s somewhat confused and somewhat annoyed face and you have comedic gold.  She assumed that since Gary had just inherited all this land and power, he would be taking her to a fancy schmancy place with Dom Perignon and Beluga caviar, but instead he’s taken her to a place with your choice of hamburger or cheeseburger and vanilla or chocolate shakes.  The scene culminates with Gary, who is in fabulous spirits, announcing that he will pay for a meal for absolutely everybody in the place, a nice act of generosity that shows why Gary is my favorite Ewing.  I always enjoy him when he’s super happy and cheerful, and I like how he spreads his generosity around.

                Gary’s pretty busy in this ep, although I once again confess that some of these plot points are sorta flying over my head, despite the help of My Beloved Grammy.  Basically, this whole episode is set against the backdrop of Cathy and Joshua’s wedding (which should be sorta “duh” because of the title of the ep), but when Gary is on his way to the wedding, he gets intercepted by Greg, who asks him to take a ride with him.  I feel like the timing is a bit strange, as the wedding is close to starting and yet Greg takes him on what appears to be a rather far-off drive, so he can meet some random creepy men in business suits standing in front of a wire fence.  Greg’s like, “I want you to meet these men in fancy suits, cuz they’re like a big deal or something, and Empire Valley is a big deal because of some sort of Patriot Act-esque conspiracy something or other, and we want you to join us on this project or whatever.”  Gary isn’t into it, telling them to go to Hell and announcing that he will walk himself back to the wedding.

                While walking back (and, again, I found myself wondering if Gary was gonna miss the whole thing, as he already took a long drive with Greg and now he’s trying to return to the chapel on his feet), Cheesy British Guy comes pulling up in a limo or something and asks Gary to get in.  When Gary obliges, Cheesy British Guy (Coblenz, for those of you who have forgotten, the guy who likes to say “everybody” a lot) goes into this weird speech about how he’s actually a secret government agent…..or something.  This ep had a lot going on, and truthfully all the Empire Valley stuff has been a bit hard for me to follow throughout the season.  Is Cheesy British Guy really a government agent?  I’m not too sure, but I have a feeling that he’s not.  He’s just too Cheesy and too British, and I get the feeling that he must be evil.  Oh yeah, one little touch that I really appreciated about this scene was that we get a Ciji callback, our first since somewhere in season five, if I’m remembering correctly.  Basically, Cheesy British Guy is trying to throw some vague threats at Gary about how he knows everything about his life, that he’s so powerful in his secret government work that he knows all of the secrets of every person, and he says something like, “You became rather obsessed with a singer named Ciji Dunne.”  I kinda thought Ciji had been left in the past and would never be mentioned again, so I appreciate seeing that she may be gone, but she’s not forgotten, and then we also get a reminder of how Cathy is, you know, Ciji’s exact twin when Cheesy British Guy mentions how Gary started to pull a James Stewart back in season five by trying to morph Cathy into Ciji. 

                Meanwhile, over at Pacific World Whatever, Ben is getting real excited as he announces that he’s gonna do a story on Galveston and West Fall (by the way, the synopsis spells this as “Wesphall,” which just looks weird and is probably not right, and whenever they have said it on the show, I have always heard it as “West Fall” and that’s how I’m gonna refer to it from now on unless I'm proven to be incorrect) and the poisoned water and all that good stuff.  Ben says how he has been working on this story for awhile, and he feels almost bad about doing this tell-all five minutes after Galveston dies, as it will seem like he waited until the man couldn’t defend himself.  Again, it’s these small little touches that make the characters so rich and so intricate.  The fact that Ben says this aloud shows that he’s a decent dude and a man of ethics, that he feels bad about almost kicking a man after he has died, but at the same time the truth must be known.  But then Joshua does something evil.

                Before Joshua does this evil thing, though, he sucks Ben’s ass a little bit (but only a little bit) by asking him to be his best man at the wedding.  It’s sorta a weird, backhanded compliment, because he says something to the effect of how he may not see eye to eye with Ben on many things, but he still considers him family.  Ben, who is proving to be so much funnier than I ever noticed upon first viewing, has this great line delivered with his typical dry humor where he basically says that Joshua has left him no choice, so he’ll have to do it.  Still, it seems to be a small moment of peace between the two men, a peace that is abruptly shattered when Joshua goes on his little religious program and immediately uses the whole West Fall story as a part of his sermon.  So not only does he take the wind out of Ben’s sails by talking about this story on television first, but he also uses it in this weird twisted way to make it seem like nothing evil or duplicitous was going down at West Fall.  Instead, he uses it to point out, “Gee, these people had something really shitty happen to them with the poisoned water and all that, but look at the great positive attitude they all had and how they persevered!  And look at how nice Galveston Industries was for helping them relocate and find new homes!”  By doing this, Joshua has effectively sabotaged Ben’s story.  Why does he do this?  I don’t know that I’m even entirely sure.  Joshua doesn’t have any particular loyalty to Galveston; in fact, I can’t recall that the two ever even shared screen time together.  I think he really just does this to be evil, to show the power he’s getting at Pacific World Whatever, to basically just take a big piss in Ben’s face and say, “I’m doing this because I can.”  I don’t mean to get into spoiler territory (if that even applies; is there anyone reading this blog who hasn’t seen the series start to finish at least once?), but I will say that Joshua hasn’t reached the level of evil that we are going to see in the early stages of next season, but he’s getting closer.  He’s not just suffering from an inflated ego, not just getting a bit of a big head, but rather becoming a legitimate monster and very unlikable person. 

                On that subject, another good deal of the drama in For Better, For Worse concerns whether or not Joshua and Cathy are even going to have a wedding at all.  The entire engagement has been, um, rocky, to say the least, starting right away with how Joshua proposed (or didn’t propose) to Cathy, choosing instead to just announce to the television viewers that he and Cathy would be married.  After that, he managed to win her back by giving the more traditional, down-on-his-knees-style wedding proposal, but two minutes after she accepted that, he returned to being a controlling douche.  First off, he announced to everyone that Cathy wouldn’t be singing at all once they were married, which came as news to the singer in question, and then he went off to the dressing rooms of the recently cancelled Little House on the Prairie, poked around through all the old outfits, and found the most conservative, boring, and unsexy wedding dress he could possibly find, then boldly proclaimed that this would be the dress Cathy would be wearing for the ceremony.  Understandably upset about never having her opinions valued, Cathy did a peaceful protest by not showing up for the rehearsal last ep, and this ep she gets much more direct in her anger towards Joshua.

                Cathy tells Joshua that she’s no longer sure she wants to get married, and says she’d be much happier if they could postpone it for a little while.  Joshua does something that I positively hate, and the sad thing is that you don’t have to be a psycho douchebag religious televangelist asshole to pull this move, as regular human people also do it all the time and it’s severely annoying, and that is being like, “We must get married RIGHT NOW, we MUST!  Why won’t you marry me RIGHT AWAY?!”  Ugh, I hate this, and I hate when anyone does it.  Straight people obviously do it all the time, but I’m ashamed to say that my fellow gay people have started to fall into this trap ever since gay marriage became legal in all the states.  If you really believe that you are truly and 100% in love with a person, then who gives a shit when you get married?  You could get married tomorrow or ten years from now, but isn’t the whole idea that you are going to be with the person for the rest of your life?  So why all this hurry to be married as soon as possible?  It’s creepy and a total turnoff, and yet people do it all the time, and Joshua does it here.  Cathy makes much more sense as she argues that, by postponing, they will have some time to get things sorted out and see if they can truly be happy together, but Joshua pulls the guilt trip on her about how all these people are coming and are expecting there to be a wedding.  Now, for the life of me, I can’t remember precisely how Joshua convinces Cathy to marry him, but somehow he does, because the episode culminates with their wedding ceremony (although, thank God, Cathy shows up wearing the sexy dress that is way more becoming on her, not the one that Dr. James Dobson would pick out for his wife).

                Oh yeah, I was about to move on to Karen’s big story for the ep and then sorta wrap it up there, but I almost forgot of the weird little mini-storyline with Eric that’s been going for a few eps.  I think I’ve neglected to mention this at all in any of the previous eps, but for something like five or six eps, Eric has been sorta sneaking off and being weird and secretive about this girlfriend he has.  Karen and Mack have teased Eric about when they are going to get to meet this girl, and it finally happens when Eric shows up to the wedding with her and, GASP, she’s black!  Honestly, I’m not sure what to make of this.  I guess that in 1985 it would still be sorta a big deal for a white guy to date a black girl, I guess, but was it really that big of a deal?  Also, even if it were a big deal, at no point have I ever seen Mack and Karen as being racist people in any way, so I’m not entirely sure why Eric felt the need to hide this black girlfriend for such a long stretch of eps, but I remember this character (Whitney is her name) popping up in a few more eps, so perhaps it’ll be better explained there. 

                Now, I said that Karen and Mack get to meet the black girlfriend this week, but that’s not entirely true.  Mack does, but Karen’s a little too occupied with other business and isn’t actually able to attend the wedding of Joshua and Cathy.  See, she has successfully managed to track down the evil Dr. Ackerman, and it turns out he’s in Las Vegas for a big bridge tournament.  Karen heads off and we get a fabulous stock shot of old Vegas (we are about four years away from the beginning of the modern Vegas strip as we know it today being born) and then a whole lot of her hanging around the lobby of some hotel.  Which hotel is it?  I don’t think they ever tell us, and of course it’s quite obvious that no cameras ever went to Vegas for this little storyline; instead they just used some existing set or space of a different hotel and called it a Vegas hotel, but it’s not a big deal; it’s the storyline that counts.  Karen has found out that Dr. Ackerman is playing in this tournament, but then she has a hell of a time getting to him.  First, she shows up and finds out that he’s not even staying at the hotel, although the lady at the desk tells her this is hardly unusual, that lots of the players don’t stay at the hotel where the tournaments take place, and she even lets her in on a little secret by telling her that doctors are the cheapest of all and usually find some shithole to stay in during their visit. 

                Karen keeps checking every couple of minutes to see if the lady has seen Dr. Ackerman, and she starts to annoy the lady a little bit, as she keeps reiterating that she hasn’t seen him.  However, after a good long chunk of time has gone by and Karen is growing more and more impatient, she finds out that the lady made a mistake and Dr. Ackerman is inside the big secret room where the bridge tournament takes place, but that Karen can’t go in now; she has to wait for the game to end.  Now, at this point My Beloved Grammy and I started to rack our brains trying to remember if Karen actually knows what Dr. Ackerman looks like, and we couldn’t quite remember.  I feel like maybe maybe Karen saw him at some point in past eps, but I could be mistaken or remembering it incorrectly.  In any case, we were both wondering how Karen was going to recognize the man, but it turns out she has a pretty brilliant plan.  As soon as the players start filing out of the room, the game completed, she rushes to the pay phones and has him paged, asking him to come and pick up one of the phones or whatever, which he does.  He goes walking up to the big wall of pay phones, looking super evil, looking like the kind of guy who would steal your babies from you, and he answers and says, “This is Dr. Ackerman,” and then we get this image of Karen spinning around, holding her pay phone in her hand, and the camera going into a zoom in on her face, realizing that she has found him.  What’s going to happen next?  Well, I don’t know, because that’s how the episode ends, a pretty great ending that leaves one aching for more, wouldn’t you agree?

                I feel like we are now at the last lap of season six of KL, as My Beloved Grammy and I now have only one disk consisting of five eps left to watch, and then that will do it for the season.  This ep did a great job of moving us closer along to the season finale, building anticipation and excitement, and leaving me wanting to tune in for the next ep.  Everything about it was good, from the main story of Joshua and Cathy’s engagement turmoil to Gary at the burger place or speaking with Cheesy British Guy to Ben and Joshua’s rivalry and going right down to Karen’s trip to Vegas; everything works.  Coming up next, we’ll get started with that final disk of season six with the bizarrely titled, Four, No Trump.