Episode Title: The Emperor’s Clothes
Season 06, Episode 20
Episode 120 of 344
Written by Joel J. Feigenbaum
Directed by Ernest Pintoff
Original Airdate: Thursday, February 21st, 1985
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Gary wants to shut down construction on Empire Valley until he can talk to Galveston. Galveston’s men try to placate Gary. A Minister marries a mystery woman and Galveston, who is on life support. Val cuts her hand at Empire Valley, so Ben takes her to the clinic in the town of Wesphall. Ben talks to the doctor and patients, who tell him that industrial chemicals from Galveston Industries got into the ground water and caused an epidemic, but that Galveston bought everybody out and paid medical bills. They say that one woman came to town and claimed that Galveston did it deliberately to drive them off of their property. Ben and Mack show them a picture of Lila Maxwell, and they identify her as the woman. Mack finds Jamison, who said that Galveston ordered the murder of Lila Maxwell. Val remembers going in to labor, and tells Karen that she "knows" the babies are alive. Karen asks Mack to consider the possibility of Val's babies being alive.
I’ve gone on at great length numerous times about my love affair with these thirty-episode seasons of KL, how I consistently marvel at the way the writers and directors and everyone else is able to juggle all these separate balls in the air for that enormous length of time. Nowadays, so many of our TV shows clock in at, like, ten to fifteen eps per season, and while that is generally the way to do it, I just love being in the world of KL in which we have thirty episodes in a season and plenty of time to let the drama unfold naturally. To be clear, KL is probably the only show I’ve ever seen in which I feel like thirty episodes per season is done well; at this same point, Dallas was also doing thirty eps in their seasons, but there would always be some arduous and painfully boring stretch in the middle in which absolutely nothing is happening (Jenna Wade’s trial) or in which it’s mostly just scenes of people getting together for lunch or drinks or boring business deals, all filling time until things can get exciting in the last five eps of the season. Here on KL, I feel there’s not a wasted moment, that every ep is building towards something bigger, that the length is really giving us time to explore these characters and their complexities.
What’s my point? Oh yeah, as we dive into The Emperor’s Clothes, we are gonna see the storyline of Val’s babies and what precisely happened to them really returning in a big way, coming back to center stage to be the focus of attention. Now, if this was some modern show with only ten to fifteen eps in a season and they were trying to do a story like this, I just don’t know that it would work as well, because everything would have to be so accelerated; everything would be moving at such a rapid pace that we would have no time to breathe or get to understand our characters. To better illustrate my point, let’s observe that Val gave birth to her twins in the eighth episode of the season, Tomorrow Never Knows. Then the babies “died”/were taken away from her, so we had a few eps of her hanging around the cul-de-sac and being really upset about what happened. Then, in the eleventh episode of the season (Distant Locations) she vanished to parts unknown, hanging around Nevada for awhile before officially settling in Shula, and then she made herself a cozy little life over in Shula all the way until the start of the eighteenth ep of the season, Fly Away Home. The next ep, Rough Edges, primarily concerned itself with Val’s psychiatric sessions and retrieving her lost memories, and now that brings us up to our current ep, The Emperor’s Clothes. So, it’s been twelve eps since Val gave birth to the twins and now, with typically perfect KL timing, it’s time for that storyline to really return to the forefront. Thanks to that great season length, we’ve really had the time to let this stuff unfold, to have the drama come naturally and with perfectly deliberate pacing, rather than having to rush through everything.
Most of our last ep concerned itself with Val, but The Emperor’s Clothes really concerns itself with everybody in the cast. Thinking on it, I think absolutely every person in those glorious scrolling squares gets some good material to work with this week, so who to start with? For now, I’ll start with Joshua and Cathy, but there’s not quite as much to say about them. We first catch up with them having a romantic little picnic together, leading me to assume that they are officially back together. Of course, perhaps I’m wrong; perhaps they are just trying out the tentative relationship thing, a nice picnic in the park here, a romantic walk there, see if they can get along. Even though things appear outwardly pleasant, there is still some darkness lurking beneath the veneer of this romance. See, Cathy has to get to her band practice or whatever; the band is waiting for her, and if there’s no singer, well, there’s not really any band. However, Joshua cleverly manages to keep her occupied this whole time, doing it in such a subtle way that Cathy doesn’t really seem to notice until later that she completely missed her practice. To her credit, however, she doesn’t just sit idly by and allow this to happen; she confronts Joshua directly about it, saying how she thinks he only wants to be with her so long as they continue to do the things he wants to do. She says how she thinks he deliberately tricked her into missing her practice, that if they’re gonna be together, he’s gotta accept her life as it is, that she likes singing at Isadora’s and so forth.
In looking at my notes, I see I wrote down something of earth-shattering importance, and that is “Mack’s rowing machine!” Yes, I even wrote it in my notes with that exclamation point, just like that. Thinking back on it, I can’t quite remember the exact contents of the scene in which the rowing machine makes its appearance, but I’m willing to bet that Mack and Jamison were probably having some sort of conversation about the Tidal Basin murders or whatever and that, the whole scene, Mack was working out on his rowing machine on the floor. Why does this amuse me so much? I think it’s just the inherent ‘80s-ness of it all, that he has a rowing machine in his office, that he works out on it frequently all while wearing a full business suit and talking to his partner. I love the silliness of it, I love the whole HYPER MASCULINE vibe this rowing machine gives off; I just love this rowing machine and I wish we could see Mack working out on it in every single episode.
Aside from working out on the rowing machine, Mack and Jamison are also busy with getting some information out of that ‘80s Rapist Beard. Now, one last time just to make it clear, this is the second ‘80s Rapist Beard we’ve seen this season, with the first one being Scott Easton, and I feel fairly comfortable saying with 100% certainty that we have seen the last of Easton, that he went skydiving without a parachute earlier this season and that we shall never be seeing him again. So, for now, this is the only ‘80s Rapist Beard we have to concern ourselves with, and this particular gentleman is the one who was caught on that videotape when Gary Loader got shot or whatever. Okay, so basically at the start of this ep, Mack gets a call from some guy that he, like, doesn’t particularly like all that much but that I think he did some sort of legal favor for once a long time ago. The guy is like, “Hey Mack, I have some good secret information for you, so why don’t you meet me in a creepy warehouse with no working lights in the middle of the night?” Obviously, Mack agrees, since there’s nothing strange about this scenario. Actually, the surprise in this case is that nothing bad happens. As Mack and Jamison headed into that dark warehouse with no guns or nothing to protect them (I’m wondering if Mack is a pro-second amendment kind of guy or if he doesn’t care to have guns around; with all these secret meetings and dudes beating him up in parking lots, you’d think he might start packing heat), My Beloved Grammy declared, “These people are always meeting in creepy dark warehouses,” and she was right. I was expecting that any second, some random thugs would pop out of the blue and start kicking Mack’s ass, but instead he and Jamison just meet up with his old acquaintance and the acquaintance is like, “I got something for you,” and then he presents them with ‘80s Rapist Beard, all tied up and gagged in a chair, utterly defenseless.
The next time we see these guys, they are in Mack’s office (I think) and ‘80s Rapist Beard is doing the whole, “I don’t talk without my lawyer present” thing, but they quickly manage to break him down and he starts to sing like a canary. This is important plot stuff, because ‘80s Rapist Beard finally confirms that Lila Maxwell was, indeed, killed by someone from Galveston Industries, but the real kicker comes when Mack asks where the order for her murder was coming from and ‘80s Rapist Beard says something like, “From the very top.” Yup, basically it was Paul Galveston himself who was ordering to have his own employees killed, but why? We shall continue to explore this mystery a little later in the ep.
Speaking of Galveston, he’s still kinda sorta around, but not really. We are still having lots of scenes of dudes hanging around a bed with a vaguely human-looking shape in the bed that we are told is Galveston, but the actor Howard Duff is officially out of the picture at this point. However, The Emperor’s Clothes introduces a new character into the mix, although we don’t get to see her face quite yet. Yes, indeed I had some sense memory of Ava Gardner showing up on the series during the sixth season, and quite frankly I didn’t expect it to take this darn long; I thought she showed up right and quick near the start of the season, but here we are in episode twenty and she still hasn’t shown up. This week, however, she arrives, um, sorta. What really happens is we get a lot of shots of some stand-in, a lady all dressed up in black with her face nicely obscured, getting off of a plane, going to visit Galveston on his deathbed, stuff like that. We the viewers don’t know who this person is yet; she’s just a mysterious stranger, but I have the retroactive knowledge from my previous viewing, so when I first saw this mysterious lady make her appearance, I knew it’d be Ava Gardner. The most surprising thing to happen in this regard is that the lady and Galveston, um, well, get married. See, even though Galveston is pretty much a vegetable at this point, his lackeys all gather together and are talking and one of them asks if he is cognizant of the events going on around him and another guy confirms that he is. Seconds later, Ava Gardner’s stand-in comes walking into the frame and some guy produces a Bible and starts to do the “Dearly Beloved” wedding speech and we the viewers are left thinking, “Hmmmm……okay?”
This stuff is still confusing me, to be frank. My brain often gets confused when big business and big money enter the equation, but I guess all this stuff has something to do with the estate of Galveston and where all his money is gonna go. For the last few eps, Galveston has been bugging Greg about how he needs to “take what’s his” or whatever, and then we had his lackeys giving the same speech to Greg, but Greg wasn’t interested. So now we’ve introduced this mysterious woman who is here to marry a man who is less than a month away from death and we’ll just have to keep watching to figure out what all this really means.
Meanwhile, Ben and Val are starting to get along nicely again after her remembering his orchids last ep, so when we catch up with them now, they are heading out for a nice tour of Empire Valley. Gary meets them there and is very excited to give them the tour of the whole operation, but then Val cuts her hand on a piece of barbed wire and has to be rushed to the emergency room. Actually, I’m exaggerating when I say it that way, because the whole thing plays out in a remarkably mellow and realistic way. Gary sorta holds up the barbed wire so they can squeeze through, but Val accidentally cuts her hand, Ben is concerned about it and says they should take her to a doctor, Val is like, “Oh no, it’s fine,” but Gary agrees with Ben and so they decide to go off to a doctor and aren’t able to really take the Empire Valley tour. When they arrive at the doctor’s office, the doctor proves himself to be a positive fountain of useful information (it reminded me of Chris Farley as the security guard in Wayne’s World; “You know, for a security guard, he had an awful lot of information”). He fixes up Val’s hand real good, and then he starts to tell Ben, ever the inquisitive reporter, about how a few years back, there was this big problem with the ground water in the area, that it was poisoning people and making them sick, that a lot of them moved away, that indeed Galveston Industries even paid people for their troubles and helped them to move away. Hmmmm, suspicious much?
Now, as soon as Ben and Val declared they had to go to the doctor’s, My Beloved Grammy said, “Val’s gonna hear a baby crying and that’s gonna stir up her memories.” My Beloved Grammy’s a sharp cookie, and that kinda almost happens, but not quite. Instead, Ben and Val meet up with a nice lady who has a baby and she also starts to give them lots of information about the area and the strange water problems that have occurred in past years. At one point, I think she even hands her baby over to Val to hold for a moment, and we all think this will be the moment where Val has a sudden flash of memory, but it’s not. Instead, this moment is about Ben continuing to get information. See, the lady with the baby says how there was a lady running around town screaming about how Galveston Industries was evil and intentionally poisoned the water. Ben’s antenna goes up when he hears this. Could this lady have possibly been Lila Maxwell? And could someone have possibly killed Lila Maxwell in order to shut her up? The answer to both questions is, of course, yes, because later they show a picture of Lila Maxwell to this baby lady and she confirms that this is the same woman from some time back screaming about the ground water poisoning. The plot is thickening!
Later, Val finally has a flashback to the night of the birth, and we get to see some quick clips from Tomorrow Never Knows again, that scary ass scene where Val was all alone in her dark house, sitting in the living room and suffering horrible labor pains. It pains me to say that I can’t precisely remember how Val’s flashback winds up occurring; I don’t think it’s initiated by holding that lady’s baby, but perhaps that planted a seed in her brain that grew later, after she and Ben had left that area. In any case, after having her flashback, Val is more than ready to discuss things with her friends. She talks to Joshua, Karen, and Ben about how she can remember going into labor, how she can remember getting drugged up, and how she distinctly remembers hearing the sounds of the babies crying; she knows for a fact that she didn’t hallucinate that part, no matter how many drugs the doctor may have given her. After hearing this story again, Karen starts to do some research. She begins by talking to Eric and Sexy Michael about the events of that night. You’ll recall that Eric and Sexy Michael were the two that took Val to the hospital and they were the only people around during the birth, albeit hanging out in the waiting room. Karen asks them if they remember hearing anything strange that night, if there were any announcements over the loudspeaker about “Code Blue” or whatever, and they said they didn’t hear anything like that. After they leave the scene, the camera sorta stays on Karen’s face as she contemplates and we all know wheels are turning in her head, prompting My Beloved Grammy to say, “Watch out, Karen’s on the case.” Next time we see Karen, she’s making phonecalls and trying to track down Dr. Ackerman. She says his name at pretty much the precise time that Abs comes walking into her office, causing Abs to get big wide eyes and look super guilty as she wonders why Karen could possibly be trying to track down Dr. Ackerman. Even so, Karen doesn’t seem to notice Abby’s super guilty face, and at this exact moment in time, I think Abs is safe when it comes to how many people know about her involvement (her accidental involvement, I stress) in these missing babies, although I believe Greg is aware.
Oh yeah, here’s one more little Abs related thing I wish to explore. This is going to demonstrate some piss poor writing on my part, and I apologize for that, but I neglected to bring it up a few eps back, when it actually occurred. Okay, so in Fly Away Home, we had a quick scene of Abs visiting Greg at his hotel room, kinda scared about Val returning home, about the babies, about all that stuff. The two had a little chat and then the scene concluded with them making out against the wall (an awesome shot that I'm fairly certain makes its way into the scrolling squares next season). It was a very strange little scene that I did not remember at all and I bring it up now because I’m not entirely sure that it’s ever gonna pay off. That was two eps ago, it hasn’t been mentioned at all in either Rough Edges or The Emperor’s Clothes, and the whole thing just came and went so fast that I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. All we saw was the two characters making out, but the way the scene cut indicated to me that a shagging was imminent, yet Greg is with Laura now, right? I kinda assumed that he and Laura were officially exclusive since he seems to be developing some deep feelings for her, wouldn’t you agree? I would even argue that Greg is officially in love with Laura at this point, but he’s in love in his strange, mysterious Greg Sumner way. So what to make of him and Abs having a make out and a presumable shag? Will Laura find out? Will she be pissed? Is it ever gonna be brought up again? I guess we have to stay tuned to find out.
Speaking of Laura, she gets a small but memorable scene in this ep in which she returns home, where she left Daniel and Jason 3 in the capable hands of Cathy. Only problem is that when she gets into the house, she finds two scary Galveston henchmen hanging out in the living room with Cathy and the kids, and then they make some sort of vague threats to her about how Greg had better cooperate with them or else they’ll be paying another visit to Daniel and Jason 3. They leave and Laura apologizes to Cathy, who says how scared she was and how she didn’t know what to do since they just sorta showed up and started hanging around. I’m starting to wonder how cognizant Daniel and Jason 3 are to their mother’s sordid life. I guess Daniel is only like two years old at this point, so he probably doesn’t have any idea what’s going on. Jason 3 is a little older, however (although due to the morphing, he seems to be perpetually trapped at the same age forever), and just last season we had Wolfbridge sending creepy phonecalls out towards Laura’s house, and now we have creepy dudes showing up to hang out with the kids. Does Jason 3 think this sort of thing is normal? Is he concerned about the people his mom is getting involved with? Laura is a great, great character and I love her, but one flaw I continue to note is that she doesn’t seem to get a lot of storylines that are just for her, pure 100% Laura. She’s generally always attached to someone else, first with Richard and now with Greg; she sorta functions as an extension of these male characters and doesn’t get a whole lot of solo stories, which is a bit of a bummer cuz I find her character very interesting.
The Emperor’s Clothes doesn’t end on a big, grand, epic cliffhanger, but rather a more quiet one, laying a path for the rest of the season. Basically, it just ends with Karen and Mack having a talk and her finally bringing up out loud the possibility that Val’s babies are still alive. Then we have our “Executive Producers” credit and the ep concludes and we all just have to wait for the next one.
We haven’t seen a bad ep in season six yet, and I predict that we won’t ever see a bad ep in season six because it’s just such a strong year of television. The quality continues here with another excellent episode. If Rough Edges was about taking it slow and giving us some time to live and breathe and explore Val’s character, The Emperor’s Clothes is about getting things revved up again, returning to the storyline that’s been sorta lurking in the background for about twelve eps now, saying, “It’s time for us to really figure out what’s going on with Val’s babies,” and then doing it. The pacing is perfect because we the audience are now completely ready to solve this mystery along with the characters. With ten eps left to go in the season, we know it’s time for things to get super exciting and juicy.
Next up, My Beloved Grammy and I shall start a whole fresh disk of glorious eps as we explore The Deluge.