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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 email@example.com 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.