Episode Title: Rough Edges
Season 06, Episode 19
Episode 119 of 344
Written by Richard Gollance
Directed by Nicholas Sgarro
Original Airdate: Thursday, February 14th, 1985
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Joshua apologizes to Cathy and says he's making a lot of mistakes as he's never had a girlfriend before, but he's unhappy without her. Galveston's men contact Greg and want to transfer power to him, but he refuses. Meanwhile, Gary's frustrated he can't get in to see Galveston and is told he's away on business. Abby finds Scott Easton's notebook, but the pertinent pages about Val's babies are ripped out. Val starts therapy with Dr. Michaels, but misses a lot of sessions and Karen tries to convince her to go. She hears Lilimae and Ben talking about having her committed, so she yells at Lilimae for abandoning her and calls her a tramp. She hears Lilimae crying, but is unconcerned. Finally Val opens up to her doctor and then feels bad about attacking Lilimae. Ben gives Val a ride home, and she suddenly remembers his beach house and orchids. He is overjoyed.
Val disappeared to Shula and turned into Verna for such a good long stretch of episodes that one can easily assume it won’t be a completely smooth reintegration into her normal life, and that’s what the majority of the story for Rough Edges is about. Interestingly, the writers and directors choose to start this episode out in a rather unusual way, with Val back at her little Shula apartment, walking around and seeming happy as a clam. This caused some brief whiplash for me, as we just watched Fly Away Home in which Val, well, flew away home, so to then start this episode and have her back in Shula was a bit off-putting and I could see this opening sequence confusing viewers way back in 1985. However, it’s actually a rather brief scene and then we sorta get out of Shula to reveal that Val is back in California and is talking about her adventures over the past few months with a new psychiatrist, Dr. Michaels. Now, as soon as My Beloved Grammy and I both saw this doctor, we knew we recognized him but we didn’t know why. Well, after a glance at his IMDb page, I’m still not entirely sure what it is I recognize him from so strongly, but my conclusion is that this actor, Charles Aidman (pictured below), has just been in five thousand movies and TV shows, so it must be buried in the back of my unconscious somewhere that I have seen him in something once before, like perhaps two eps of Dallas (Ray’s Trial and The Oil Baron’s Ball, both from 1983) as Judge Emmett Brocks.
Okay, I’ll say right off the bat that my favorite scenes from this ep all occur between Val and her doctor, and I am pleased to note that he will be returning one more time a little later this season in A Piece of the Pie. I’ll be curious to see how the Val/Dr. Michaels scenes are filmed when we get to that ep, because here in Rough Edges, they are actually filmed in a rather interesting way. Essentially, Dr. Michaels hardly speaks, so we get to see Val go off on a lot of long speeches about her life, about her time in Shula, about her relationship with Gary, stuff like that. I liked the way the camera would generally just stay on Val’s face as she speaks and we didn’t really see or hear much from Dr. Michaels, who just listens patiently. Even without speaking or doing too much, I do get a sense that I like this doctor; he just seems pleasant and sweet, like he really cares about his patients, and of course it goes without saying that J.V.A is exceptional in these scenes, just as she’s exceptional throughout the entire length of the sixth season. I think some of the hardest acting a person ever has to do is when they are just sitting and talking, not really getting another actor to bounce off of, just having to carry the material all by themselves, and I think J.V.A does a fine job of that here. Mind you, this is all just the first damn scene of the ep; I may be getting a little ahead of myself, but I’m just trying to stress that I liked the unorthodox way this ep started. As we are working our way through this monumental sixth season, I’m noticing that the entire creative team is really having no problem with trying out new things, new styles, with starting episodes in strange or unconventional ways, with having surreal dream sequences thrown in every now and again (not just the start of this ep right here, but also Val flying the kite with Gary back in Message in a Bottle or that awesome dance sequence the two of them shared back in Lead Me to the Altar). To me, this symbolizes that the show has reached a point where, six seasons deep and with more than 100 episodes under their belt, the creative team is feeling the freedom to experiment and kinda do whatever they want with each episode; there’s a rich feeling of possibilities and exciting ideas floating around in a way that I frankly never really felt over on Dallas.
Honestly, my notes on this ep are very sparse, and that’s not because I was drinking and got dumb or anything like that, but because in many ways this is a rather simple ep with one thing it’s focusing heavily on: Val. The vast majority of this ep is Val with her doctor or something else occurring with Val that forces her to examine her own character. However, there are still of course other stories going on, so let’s focus on those for a few moments, starting with the saga of Gary and Galveston and all that. If you’ll recall our last ep, we ended on a pretty great cliffhanger with Galveston having what appeared to be a stroke, asking Abs to call his doctor for him only for her to respond with, “Call him yourself, Cookie.” Now, I don’t mean to get into spoilers here, but I am fairly certain that we have seen the last of Galveston now, that Fly Away Home represented his last appearance on the series (with the exception of just one more surprise appearance in a 1990 ep entitled My Bullet, an ep I remember being very arty and interesting). However, even if we don’t get to physically see Howard Duff the actor in this ep or the next one, the character isn’t dead yet. This was a surprise to me, because after the ending of our last ep, my memory was that Galveston just died. Nope, instead we have a scene of a bunch of his lackeys gathering around to discuss the state of affairs and helpfully telling the audience that Galveston had a cerebral hemorrhage and is very near death. We are told he could die pretty much any minute but that he could also last, at the very most, one month before he dies. So in any case, the man is at death’s door, and whether it happens right this second or a month from now, it’s inevitably going to happen. Meanwhile, Gary is having a hell of a time trying to get in contact with Galveston. He stops by the ranch, he makes calls, he tries all he can just to go see him, but he keeps getting the runaround from the henchmen, who tell him that Galveston had to fly off somewhere to do something related to business, that eventually he’ll be back. Gary is starting to get suspicious; after all, he and Galveston were getting pretty tight (I believe in this ep, Gary declares that he now sees Galveston as a good personal friend), so for him to suddenly just vanish like this doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, does it?
I’ll confess that some of these plot points continue to fly over my head, but I also must stress that this is not the fault of the show, but rather the way that my own stupid brain works. Actually, I’m doing a lot better when it comes to following storylines and plot convolutions upon this viewing versus my previous viewing back in college. Back in college, all the stuff with Mack investigating Wolfbridge and then the Tidal Basin murders and how this shit connected up with Galveston Industries, that all went flying over my head and didn’t register at all, since I was probably too busy making another martini. Now I’m following it a lot better, but I still get a little confused with this whole Galveston-in-a-coma-or-whatever thing and how it relates to Greg. See, in this ep, the henchmen are trying to convince Greg that he should take on the power with Galveston about to expire, I guess meaning that he should sorta step in to fill his old daddy’s shoes now, but Greg’s not interested. In fact, there’s some rather fabulous dark humor going around at this juncture with the sheer delight Greg seems to feel towards Galveston’s impending death. Seriously, there’s some funny stuff here displaying how Greg does not care one bit that his father is about to die; he cracks jokes and seems to take such relish in this inevitability. Greg has been with us for roughly a year and a half now, and he’s feeling comfortably established as part of the core cast, but we are also starting to unwrap those different layers of his character, to find out all the different complexities brewing inside. Thanks to the great writing and Devane’s brilliant acting, Greg is quickly elevating up to become one of the most interesting characters on the entire series.
Meanwhile, Joshua and Cathy I think get back together in this ep, and the reason I say “I think” is because in looking at my notes, I begin the next episode (The Emperor’s Clothes) by scribbling, “Joshua + Cathy +romantic picnic/are they back together now?” So, based on that, I do believe they get back together in this ep after a nice little speech from Joshua about how he’s never had a girlfriend and this is all new to him. At this juncture, I’m supporting Cathy and not liking Joshua too terribly much. I think Cathy is sweet and wonderful and I love listening to her sing; she could easily do better than some preacher’s son with a ton of religious guilt and repression issues. I believe it was only our previous ep in which Joshua basically said that singing at Isadora’s made Cathy evil, and those are pretty strong words, so I think I’d rather see Cathy dump him and get with a boy who is more on her wavelength, maybe another musician or something, maybe a member of KISS, perhaps?
Joshua’s true colors are really starting to come out in this ep, by the way. It’s kinda amazing to think that he was only introduced to the series at the start of this season, that he seemed like a sweet, innocent, wide-eyed young man, and now he’s making his metamorphosis into darkness and evil, yet none of it feels rushed. Somehow, the way storylines unfold over the course of the season and the way Joshua makes his transition from sweet to nasty all feels very organic, not too fast or too slow. On another series, I do think this would feel a bit accelerated, but here it all seems to be occurring in a very natural way. Anyway, the true colors scene that I’m referring to actually occurs not between Joshua and Cathy, but rather Joshua and Val. See, Val is up late in the kitchen, getting herself a midnight snack or whatever, and Joshua comes down to, presumably, do the same thing. I wish I had transcribed his entire speech to her down, because sitting here now I can’t entirely remember the exact things he says, but basically he starts out by seeming sweet and listening to her talk about her problems, but then he starts to get sorta creepy. Basically, it starts to seem like Joshua wants to hurt Val, that he wants to bring up all her traumas and life problems just to grind some salt into her wounds. The one thing he doesn’t bring up, and it’s very fortunate, is Val’s babies. You get the sense that any second he’s gonna be like, “So Val, do you remember how you had those babies and the doctors stole them away from you and said they were dead?” He never gets that far, but he does bring up some other things, and he seems to be getting some sort of pleasure out of Val’s pain, yet it’s all draped in this act of, “I’m here to listen to you and be your friend.” However, after he’s done, he leaves her all alone in the kitchen and turns the lights off, which is sorta odd, but definitely creates a spooky effect as we see poor Val (POOR VAL!) sitting all alone in the dark.
One of the most painful emotional scenes in this ep takes place between Val and Lilimae. When Val gets the idea that people are conspiring against her to get her sent to some sort of mental institution (and it’s more than an idea; the other characters actually are discussing putting her in a sanitarium or whatever), she flips out on Lilimae and attacks her in the living room, saying really horrible and nasty things to her. She says she’s a tramp, a bad mother, that she should be ashamed of herself, stuff like that. While Lilimae certainly wasn’t mother of the year when Val was a young girl, it seemed the two had reached a peace with eachother by this point that was rather lovely to see, so it’s painful to see Val attack her mother and hurt her feelings here. Julie Harris always does a brilliant job of conveying her emotions with her eyes, and this was a good one, since as Val attacks her, we can see the tears start to form in her eyes. When we get to the next scene, Lilimae is in her bedroom, crying real loud, and we see Val sorta stop by the door, listening to her crying, clearly thinking about going inside to apologize, but she chooses not to.
Why doesn’t Val go inside and comfort her mother? My conclusion here is that she is still having too much trouble remembering exactly who she is and what her life is like. She’s confused by her own relationships with people she only has vague memories of. She’s starting to have flashes of memory thanks to her psychiatric sessions, so perhaps one of those flashes is of something shitty that Lilimae did when Val was small. Because of this, she gets angry and attacks Lilimae, and I do believe she feels bad about it just a few minutes later, but I think she doesn’t have enough memory of events to know how to properly speak to her mother and apologize, at least not yet. I’m trying to view this as if Val is a real person (the way I try to view all the characters) and I’m trying to understand what’s going through her mind, but I also try to see it through the fresh eyes of some first time 1985 viewer who has no idea what lies in the future. Perhaps it would seem like Val is simply going crazier and crazier? Sure, she’s not claiming to be Verna anymore, but she seems to be having a hard time controlling her emotions and she’s acting, well, a smidge odd. Watching this scene, My Beloved Grammy declared that she thinks Val is going to turn really mean and nasty all the time, after all these years in which she was good and kind to everyone. It doesn’t quite work out that way, but it is interesting to see how My Beloved Grammy predicts what might occur in the future.
I’m kinda sad that we never get an official apology scene between Val and Lilimae, because I would have liked to see that, mostly since I feel so damn sad for Lilimae, but we do get a real great scene of Karen and Val visiting that I greatly enjoyed. In this scene, Karen is being all encouraging and telling Val how things will work out okay, that she’s gonna start to get her memories back and feel more like herself, and then we get a fabulous callback to Karen’s pill popping a season ago. See, she’s talking to Val about the act of burying your problems, trying to ignore them and hope they will go away, and then she says, “I had a drug problem,” and Val looks all surprised, her eyes get all wide, and she’s like, “You did?” It’s kinda a cute reaction, because not only is it just kinda funny that Val has forgotten these details from season five, but also because we get the sense that, in her eyes, Karen is the last person in the world who would have a drug problem. I also love the upfront way that Karen speaks about it, she just nods and is like, “Yes, I had a drug problem.” It’s a good thing to bring up, though, because she is able to make the point that she faced her problems, got over her drug problem, and now everything is okay, showing that we can all persevere. I also like this scene just because I like when past history is brought up on the show. I love how the writers never seem to have a bunch of drama happen and then immediately forget about it and never mention it again. Instead, everything the characters do and experience is added on to their life story and can be brought up again and again in the future. Karen’s pill popping problem was a part of her life and now it’s part of her past, but she’s not gonna just forget about it like it never happened; it’s always gonna be something that shapes her.
Okay, to the last scene of the ep. Val returns to the caring Dr. Michaels and has one of those real breakthrough sessions. I hope Dr. Michaels didn’t have any other appointments scheduled for the day, because Val seems to take up quite a bit of his time. I’m making that assumption mostly because we have a lot of dissolves in this scene, parts where Val is telling some story and then the frame dissolves and she’s sitting in some new position, telling some new story. Heck, perhaps all of this could occur in fifty minutes, but I feel fairly comfortable saying the dissolves are meant to indicate a large passage of time. So what does Val talk about? She discusses how she went off on Lilimae the other night, how she hurt her feelings and made her cry, how she doesn’t really know why she did it or why she said what she did. My Beloved Grammy’s prediction about Val turning evil is already proving to be not entirely accurate, because we see that Val still has a good heart and she feels bad about hurting her mother. Then she starts to tell stories about Christmas when she was a kid, about stringing up popcorn on the tree with Lilimae, stuff like that. As before, most of this scene is just Val sorta talking into the camera, having to act all by herself, and of course J.V.A delivers. The very very ending of the ep is actually sorta hopeful, one of the more happy endings we’ve had in a good long time on the series. Val goes outside to meet Ben (and I get confused about exactly how long this session lasted because he doesn’t say anything like, “Why were you in there for seventeen days?”) and as she climbs into the car, she says something like, “How are those orchids at your house doing?” We see that Val’s memories of things like Ben’s orchids are rapidly returning, and then if I recall correctly, we actually get a freeze frame ending on Val’s smiling face, indicating hope for the future.
Even though my notes on this ep were sparse and I didn’t think I’d have all that much to say about it, I continue to surprise myself. Sometimes the things that seem the most simple actually have the most going on beneath the surface, and that might be the case with Rough Edges. I found a lot to appreciate in this ep, not the least of which was J.V.A’s great acting and long soliloquies. In addition to that, we had the creepy scene of Val and Joshua in the kitchen, the super emotional scene of Val calling Lilimae a tramp, the callback to Karen’s drug problems, all sorts of good stuff. One other thing I forgot to note elsewhere is the very look of this ep. For whatever reason, this ep looked especially bright and sunny, and the costumes and hair were especially out of control here. Seriously, it felt like every time we saw Abs, she was rocking a completely new outfit and a completely new hairdo. Additionally, there was a small scene in which Karen and Mack got dressed up to go to an, um, opera or something, and they both looked rather fine in their nice clothes (prompting sex pot Michael to walk in and tell Karen, “You look nice, like a lady in a scotch ad”). So not only do you get good emotional character stuff here, but also some fabulous costumes and bright cinematography. Last of all, I like the slow burn, which KL does so often and so well. I like that the writers don’t rush Val home to California and then immediately try to reset the status quo; instead, we are allowed to slow down for awhile and explore Val’s memories along with her as she tries to regain some semblance of normal life. Overall, quite satisfying.
Next up is the last ep My Beloved Grammy and I watched on our most recent visit. After all this time with Verna and Shula and now these psychiatric sessions and repressed memories coming back to the forefront, it’s now time to get back into the main thrust of the season, that being Val’s babies, with The Emperor’s Clothes.