Episode Title: A Piece of the Pie
Season 06, Episode 22
Episode 122 of 344
Written by Parke Perine
Directed by Robert Becker
Original Airdate: Thursday, March 7th, 1985
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Karen meets with Val's original obstetrician, who tells her that she and her partner were called away to a conference when the babies were born, and that Dr. Ackerman plays in a lot of bridge tournaments. Cathy sings on Joshua's show, and he announces on air that they are getting married. Cathy's upset with him for assuming things and not asking her first. Mack finds an address in some of Galveston's papers. He and Ben go there. Mrs. Fisher invites them in, but says she has no idea who he is or why he'd have their address. Then she has to go check on her twins who are crying. While there, they see a press conference that Greg has called on TV. Greg announces that Galveston was his father, had died, and he's resigning from the Senate and taking over his company. Laura is furious because Greg didn't tell her any of this. Abby tells Greg that she wants a piece of Empire Valley, the "real" Empire Valley.
When we last left off in the concluding moments of The Deluge, I was peeing my pants laughing over the Cheesy British Guy saying “Everybody” over and over and over again. Happily enough, this comedy continues right away in the opening moments of A Piece of the Pie, as we pick up directly where the last one ended, with Sumner and Cheesy British Guy continuing their conversation in Greg’s little hotel room that he currently lives in. They talk a little bit more about the whole issue of what Empire Valley really is, and then Greg says, “You say everybody is depending on me; who is ‘everybody?’” To this, Cheesy British Guy replies “Everybody,” and I peed my pants all over again. This, added to him saying “everybody” three times in our last ep, successfully manages to fuse things together so that Cheesy British Guy says “everybody” four times within the space of seconds. I honestly can’t explain why it’s so funny in writing; you just have to see the show and the way he delivers the line (or perhaps I should say the way that the folks in editing managed to re-loop him saying the line just one time so that he says it four times and sounds exactly the same every time he says it).
Okay, enough about “everybody.” Let’s talk more about this whole issue of what Empire Valley really is, and then I’ll explore some more developments in the Sumner story this week. Even with My Beloved Grammy sitting beside me and helping to explain these developments, I’m still having a hard time getting a grasp on the whole Empire Valley situation, except for the basic gist that what would appear to be a planned community is really some sort of secret service James Bond-type spy shit in which Galveston Industries would be able to keep tabs on, um, everybody (it’s becoming hard to even say that word without starting to giggle). As we were watching this, My Beloved Grammy said how it’s interesting to watch these old shows and see how often they are able to accurately predict the future. In this case, what is presented as a bad and scary thing in 1985 is now just the way we live our lives. There was a time when people valued privacy and having parts of their lives that they kept to themselves, but that’s long gone now, as we are all now more than happy to have the government tapping our phones for The Patriot Act or have our entire lives plastered out onto the internet for everyone in the world to see in the form of FaceBook. Nowadays, it seems like people know that the government is watching their every move and they just don’t care. Personally it makes me sad, but whatever, I guess it’s the way the world’s changing.
It must have been that fourth “everybody” that finally pushed Sumner over the edge, because not too long after his little chat with Cheesy British Guy (reminder: This character’s name is actually John Coblenz), he gives a nice little press conference in which he announces to the world that Galveston was his father, that he has died, and that he is going to ditch the whole moving-to-Washington-to-work-in-the-senate plan in order to continue his father’s legacy with the Empire Valley project. Honestly, maybe it’s just my confusion over the whole Empire Valley thing, but why does Greg really choose to do this? Ever since Galveston first showed up on the series, Greg has been vehement in his hatred and disregard for this man and all he stands for, but after the chat with Cheesy British Guy, he’s ready to do it, but why? I’m sure it’s shown within the series and it’s just my own stupid brain that’s having trouble figuring it out, but I am a smidge confused in any case.
When Laura finds out that Greg isn’t moving to Washington, she’s livid, and rightfully so. This is the first she’s heard of any of this, she has been working on doing a big move and pulling her kids (Jason 3 and Daniel) out or school in order to move them, and now none of that is happening because Greg has abruptly changed his mind, all without speaking to her about it. First, we have a nice scene of angry Laura at the office, sorta yelling to her secretary or whatever about how angry she is, but then we have an even better scene in which she confronts Greg in her kitchen. He walks in and she rips into him about how pissed she is, and Greg does something that I’m almost positive William Devane improvised (when I interview him one day, I’ll be sure to ask him), he runs over to the refrigerator and opens the door and then hides behind it, letting the door protect him like body armor. It’s really rather cute and makes him seem like he’s not such a jerk for making these big decisions without consulting the woman he loves (and by the way, we have heard him tell Laura he loves her at least once this season, and I believe it was actually in our previous ep). However, the playfulness of this hiding-behind-the-refrigerator-door move keeps him endearing and then, as a viewer, I’m not mad at him, although I think Laura remains pretty pissed.
As usual by this point in the series, there’s just a ton going on with all the characters in this ep, so let’s move on over to Karen, who is continuing her aggressive pursuit to find out the truth of what happened to Val’s babies. In this ep, she manages to secure a meeting with Val’s original obstetrician, the lady doctor named Dr. Kellin. If you’ll recall, Dr. Kellin was Val’s first doctor and she was lovely and sweet and nice, but then she went off on a vacation or some sort of medical conference or whatever and the evil Dr. Ackerman took her place, forcing Val into premature labor and, well we’ve all seen the eps (hopefully), so we know what went down. In this scene, Karen learns that it’s not uncommon for Dr. Ackerman to fill in whenever Dr. Kellin is absent, and she says how Dr. Ackerman is a professional and very respected and Bob Loblaw. When Karen says how she’s been having a hell of a difficult time getting in contact with him, Dr. Kellin tells her that he’s semi-retired and “bridge takes up most of his time.” As soon as I heard this, I had a vivid flashback to what is about to transpire later this season, but I shan’t spoil that particular development just yet, as we are still a good chunk of eps away from it happening.
The babies are the topic of conversation for pretty much everybody this week, as we also get a nice scene of Val having a little psychiatry session with Dr. Michaels, making his second and final appearance in this ep. I must say I’m gonna miss this character, even if he was only in two eps, and it’s another powerful example of how KL so wonderfully manages to make all of its characters, even peripheral ones who are only in an episode or two, seem so real and so interesting. In this case, I just thought Dr. Michaels radiated a warmth and gentleness and if I ever go looking for a psychiatrist, I would be looking for a doctor just like this. The big take-away from this scene is that Val says how she’s been dreaming of the babies, sorta reliving what happened to her on the night of the delivery, her vivid recollection of hearing the babies cry, all that stuff. At this point, it’s very clear to me that Val is absolutely confident in what she heard and what she experienced that night. If I was living in the universe of this show (and God, how I wish I was), I would probably be like Karen and start to really believe Val at this point, as she no longer seems crazy or nutty (she doesn’t think she’s Verna anymore, for one thing); rather, she just seems very firm in her assertion that those babies are alive, that she heard them crying, and that she knows they are out there in the world somewhere.
There’s a random Val-related scene that I want to address real fast just to use it as an example of why KL is so amazingly good and so amazingly brilliant. I’ve often marveled at the way that, even as the storylines on KL have gotten much more glamorous and dramatic and exciting and soapy starting in season four, the show has never stopped feeling grounded and real, and I think one of the key ingredients in the show maintaining that perfect balance is the way that, even in the midst of all this baby-stealing and big Empire Valley secret spy cover-ups and Ava Gardner showing up in town and all that great drama, they will still take the time to show scenes of the characters just acting like real people. In this episode, we get a terrific scene of Val helping to give Lilimae a perm and then having a grand old time and acting silly and laughing, and it just feels fabulously real. In our next ep, The Forest For the Trees, we are going to see a scene of Mack using a plunger to try and unclog the flooding sink in the kitchen, and that’s another perfect example. Who hasn’t had to deal with a broken sink in the kitchen before? Who hasn’t helped someone try out a new hairdo? It’s all super relatable stuff, so it feels realistic, and then therefore all the more soapy shenanigans going on don’t seem too especially ridiculous; since the world of KL feels grounded, so too does the big season-long drama feel grounded.
We get a very important development in the Val’s babies storyline this week, and it comes along (perhaps a bit too conveniently; we’ll discuss it) when Mack and Ben decide to pay a visit to a random address that they found in one of Galveston’s files. The house belongs to the Fishers, a nice married couple, although we only meet one half of that couple this week, Sheila Fisher, played by Robin Ginsburg. Real fast, I wanna mention this actress and say that I am shocked when I look at her IMDb page and see that, aside from her KL appearances (IMDb lists her for five eps, but as we’ve learned in recent days, IMDb can no longer be trusted to be accurate about the guest actors of KL and how many eps they may or may not have appeared in), she’s only been in three other things, and her last credit is in 1990. This surprises me because whenever I look at this woman, I find myself thinking that she sure looks familiar and I need to go look her up, but I just kept forgetting to. To see that she only has four credits altogether and that I haven’t seen any of those credits aside from KL was a bit surprising, as she just has a look about her and I was convinced I’d seen her in a myriad of other movies and TV shows.
I’ll let the cat out of the bag right away: The Fishers have Val’s twins. This is revealed to us in an absolutely brilliant scene that, the first time I watched it, was actually too brilliant for me to comprehend (or perhaps I was just too stupid and vodka-influenced to comprehend it). Follow along, here. Basically, Ben and Mack pay a visit to the house, they knock on the door, Sheila Fisher greets them nicely, they explain how they found this address in a Galveston file and were hoping to find out why that should be, and then Sheila explains that she doesn’t know Galveston and doesn’t know why her name or address would be in any file, but she mentions that perhaps her husband would know. Then we hear a baby crying off-screen and she disappears up the stairs to take care of it, leaving Ben and Mack alone. The TV is turned on and, at this point, that big Sumner press release comes on with him announcing his true father and his desire to pick up on the Empire Valley project and Bob Loblaw, and this gets Ben and Mack all excited and upset and they’re like, “Oh shit, we gotta rush out of this house right away!” By this point, Sheila has returned to the room and she’s holding a baby, but just one baby. There’s nothing too surprising or notable about this, because people have babies, right? We already met a lady with a baby a few eps back, when Val cut her hand on that barbed wire and went to the doctor’s office to get it looked at, and of course we saw the lady with the twins that Val made so uncomfortable back in Distant Locations. However, the big kicker comes after Ben and Mack leave and Sheila is by herself. We see her coming down the stairs carrying a baby and we assume it’s the same baby from before, but then she puts the baby down in a high chair in front of the table and the camera sorta zooms out to reveal, GASP, A SECOND BABY! She has twins! Obviously we viewers are meant to be smart enough to know what this means, but honest to God, the first time I watched this ep, and I remember it vividly, I was home from college for some break or other and I was watching this in my parent’s basement while drinking vodka and when the second baby was revealed, I actually said out loud (since I talk to the TV and I talk to myself even when I’m all alone), “Oh, how cute, she has twins, too.” Then the scene switched to something else I didn’t even think about it at all, because that’s how dumb I am. The rest of the episode came and went and I still didn’t manage to put the pieces together, but then after the ep is over and they run the closing credits, instead of doing the credits over that shot of the California landscape, they run them over a picture of the two twins sitting in their high chairs, and I remember thinking, “Gee, that’s a strange picture to put at the end of the ep,” and then a second later the light bulb finally went on in my head and, I kid you not, I actually gasped aloud as I realized what this means. I think this story both aptly demonstrates how exciting it is to watch KL for the very first time and see all these magnificent plot points unfolding before your very eyes as well as demonstrating how very, very dumb I can be sometimes, particularly when I’ve consumed a lot of vodka.
I’ll present a micro-criticism of this development real fast just to be fair and show that I am still able to be a critical person, even when discussing such a sublime work of transcendent art as season six of KL. My criticism is that it’s perhaps a smidge convenient that Mack and Ben just happen to find this random address in some random file of Galveston’s and they just happen to decide to pay the house a visit and the lady that lives there just happens to not unveil her second twin baby while the two gentlemen are in the room and then it just happens that this is the very house and the very family that Val’s babies wound up at. Honestly, if Galveston was as powerful as we were lead to believe he was, he could have had the babies sent off to anybody in the world, right? Why not send them to the complete other end of the world and keep them as far away from Val as possible? Isn’t it a bit too easy that the babies wound up, like, a couple of feet away from where they were originally born? Now, I remind you that this is just me being a critic; this didn’t affect my enjoyment of this plot point and this terrific reveal in any way. Instead, I’m just demonstrating objectively that, yes, this plot point is a little convenient, but I’m not decrying it or saying it ruins the story at all. At this point, I’m so hooked (as anybody watching this season would be), that I’m just honored that I get to watch this and experience it again and I’m not gonna make a big deal over on slightly convenient bit of plotting.
The last folks we need to talk about in A Piece of the Pie are, of course, Joshua and Cathy, and this is a big one for them in terms of story developments as well as in terms of giving me one of my favorite Lisa Hartman songs ever. To set the scene, Joshua has successfully managed to convince Cathy to sing religious music on his little religious show over at Pacific World Whatever (I’m pretty sure it’s now officially Joshua’s show, by the way, as our last ep had Joshua and Abby discussing firing Reverend Kathryn and he’s certainly not here right now, so I’m kinda assuming he got the axe), and so we get to see her sing a song this week, and I fucking love it. The song is called Jehovah and is a cover of an Amy Grant song, if I’m not mistaken. Now, just to make this clear real fast in case I haven’t yet, I am not a religious person by any means and I wouldn’t be caught dead in any church of any sort for any reason, but I do believe in God and I do believe in Jesus; I just don’t dig on the organized religion and all the finger wagging and shaming and telling us fags that we’re all going to Hell along with basically everyone that isn’t a straight white man (according to most religions, absolutely anyone who is different is going straight to Hell). My basic point is that religious music is not my bag, baby, and I would never listen to an Amy Grant song by choice, but for some reason this scene of Lisa Hartman singing Jehovah has always stuck with me as one of KL’s most unforgettable moments and one of Lisa’s best songs on the show; I just love the shit out of it. In fact, for a long time I called this my favorite song that she ever sings on the series, but now I’m not so sure of that, because I forgot just how many songs she actually sings and they’re all just soooooooo good; who could possibly pick a favorite?
I think one of my main reasons for loving this song and this scene is the way it’s shot, which is of course brilliant and cinematic, the way all the eps are by this point. Here, we start in a closeup of her singing, shot from the side, but then the camera starts to pan out and it sorta pans over the television equipment that’s filming her, so we are seeing her displayed on the TV, if that makes sense. It creates this cool effect where it seems like there are multiple Cathys singing in the scene, and it’s great, but the cherry on top of the scene is how we keep cutting to Joshua sitting in the corner and glaring while she sings. He is starting to look truly villainous whenever he’s onscreen, and he’s kinda chilling to look at here, honestly, because you can tell he is keeping a careful eye on her every move to make sure she remains under his control. Also, there’s a real sadness to the last few notes of this song, when it slows down and she finishes with a slow repeat of, “And Jehovah, I love you so,” before the music slowly fades out, and Lisa does some great acting here, where we can see a real sadness in her eyes. We know that singing songs like these doesn’t make her happy; she wants to be over at Isadora’s singing Beat of a Heart or Words or any of the other amazing and genius and brilliant songs that we’ve seen her singing throughout the season.
Last of all, I do think Jehovah is just a really pretty song, although I listened to the Amy Grant original for comparison purposes and she’s got nothing on Lisa’s version. But the song is just pretty, and if I was a more religious type of person, it’s the kind of religious song I would like to sing, and it’s actually a real earworm that gets stuck in your head for a long time. I’ve found myself randomly singing it in public, like when I’m at the gym, and then I have to stop myself before someone else hears because I’m afraid they’ll think I’m some scary religious nut Jesus freak, and I simply don’t have the time to explain to them, “No no, I’m not religious; it’s from KL!” Oh yeah, and also I love how the lyrics are contradictory to what’s really going on in Cathy’s life, how she sings, “You set me free,” but at the same time we keep cutting to Joshua glaring at her and keeping her under his control. At this point, Cathy is anything but free.
Right after that terrific song that I could clearly write an entire term paper on, Joshua comes up on the stage in front of the cameras and thanks Cathy for singing and then he boldly announces to all the viewers at home that he and Cathy are going to get married, but any discerning viewer watching Pacific World Whatever’s fine religious programming at home should be able to look at Cathy’s face and see that she had absolutely no awareness of this plan. Once again, Joshua has made some major decision all without her involvement, as if her opinion is of no value at all. Later, Joshua tries to argue that he was trying to be romantic and surprise her with this announcement, but of course that’s not true; he’s just making sure to keep control of her.
Oh yeah, the very last important development of this ep comes in our final scene, in which Abs meets up with Greg Sumner and declares that she wants a piece of whatever it is that Empire Valley truly is. Perhaps she doesn’t know precisely what’s going down with Empire Valley, but she knows it must be a pretty big deal for Greg to drop his senatorial dreams to stick around California and work on it. We end the ep on a freeze frame of Abs face after this bold declaration, and we can only imagine what could possibly come of this development.
While I of course enjoyed The Deluge very much since it’s a season six episode of KL and is, therefore, inherently and unquestionably brilliant and ingenious, I still declared it one of the less amazing eps of the season thus far, but A Piece of the Pie is a terrific improvement from that ep. God, this ep is good, and it’s good in so many wonderfully subtle ways. Perhaps after you have watched the entire work of sublime art that is season six of KL, this exact ep won’t particularly jump out at you as one of the season’s best, but it’s just so well put together and so well crafted as its own little episode. We get lots of important new information on Dr. Ackerman and Karen’s pursuit of him and the truth, along with the wonderfully real moments of Val giving Lilimae a perm or Greg hiding behind the refrigerator door, we get the awesome Jehovah song from Cathy along with futher developments in her story with Joshua, and then of course we have the brilliantly subtle (or perhaps just subtle to me upon a first viewing) reveal of where Val’s babies are. Overall, it’s a terrific episode and keeps up the quality of the season splendidly.
Things should continue to unfold nicely as we jump into our next episode, The Forest for the Trees.