Episode Title: The Forest for the Trees
Season 06, Episode 23
Episode 123 of 344
Written by Michael Russnow
Directed by Nick Havinga
Original Airdate: Thursday, March 21st, 1985
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Joshua apologizes to Cathy and proposes. She accepts and Abby decides to throw them a party. Karen finds out who the nurse on duty was the night Val gave birth. Karen finds Nurse Wilson and questions her, but she doesn't say anything. Karen tells Lilimae that Wilson is scared, and brings Lilimae to talk with her, too. Gary decides to go ahead with Empire Valley, but asks Mack and Ben for their reports as he doesn't trust Greg. At the engagement party, Greg warns Coblenz about Abby. Joshua announces to everyone that as soon as they're married, Cathy is going to stop singing. Cathy's angry, and he tells her she doesn't need to make scenes to get his attention. Val comforts Cathy and tells her to stand up to Joshua. Abby meets with Coblenz and pretends to know what's really going on, and Coblenz, thinking she already knows, tells her all. Greg tells Coblenz that Abby faked him out, and Coblenz tells Greg to undo the damage.
We have reached the point where we have, at this exact point and with this episode included, eight episodes total left in season six of KL. Now, for other shows, particularly shows nowadays where a season consists of ten to fifteen eps altogher, eight eps might seem like a lot to have left, but because of the size of this season and the fact that we have watched 22 eps out of a 30 ep season, with eight eps to go I am starting to feel like the show is really starting to power ever closer to its season finale, that things are starting to get extra juiced up and extra exciting as we began our final few laps for this brilliant, brilliant, brilliant season of television. The fact that our last ep, A Piece of the Pie, showed us firmly that Val’s babies are alive and living with the Fishers has certainly helped add to that feeling of acceleration as we get started with The Forest for the Trees, directed by a KL director who is quickly rising in my esteem, Nick Havinga (this is his fourth ep after The Block Party, Tomorrow Never Knows, and Message in a Bottle). Let’s dive right in.
I talked about Joshua and Cathy last in our previous ep, so let’s talk about them first for this ep. You’ll all vividly recall Cathy singing the amazing song Jehovah in an amazing scene in our amazing previous episode, and you’ll all recall how right after she was done singing, Joshua marched in front of the cameras and announced that he had proposed to Cathy (he hadn’t) and she had accepted his proposal (she hadn’t). This week, we continue to explore this relationship, which started out so sweet and innocent and cute at the start of the season but has rapidly turned rather dysfunctional and disturbing. See, as we get started with The Forest for the Trees, Cathy is still pretty upset with Joshua for, you know, announcing that they were getting married without consulting her about it. It’s just common courtesy, really; if you are stepping out of the house to get a quart of milk from the supermarket, you let your girlfriend know, and if you’re planning to marry your girlfriend in a couple of days, you let her know. If I was Cathy, I’d be pissed off, too, but as we’ve already established, if I was Cathy, I would have dumped Joshua long ago and started having violent sex with Sexy Michael (although I think the character of Michael is supposed to be sixteen years old, so I guess Cathy could get in trouble for sleeping with him, even though in real life the actor Pat Petersen would be eighteen at this point). Honestly, I’m getting a little tired of Cathy being so passive; she puts up a small amount of fight every now and then when Joshua is controlling (like when he sorta tricked her into going out on a picnic with him and missing her band practice), but for the most part, I think she’s allowing way too much crap to go on, only putting up a very mild fight, even with something as important as this unearned announcement of marriage. Even so, Joshua is able to sway her back by apologizing for his behavior, giving her some story about how he thought that spur-of-the-moment announcement would be romantic to her, how he thought she’d be pleased. Then he gives her the standard proposal in which he gets down on one knee and it’s all very conventional and Bob Loblaw, and at this point, she accepts. See, I recognize that perhaps I’m being a bit too harsh on Cathy, a character I love just as much as I loved Ciji (perhaps even more, honestly, but that might just be because we spend three seasons with Cathy and we didn’t even have one full season with Ciji), because when you’re really in love with someone, it gets tricky and complicated. I am willing to say that Cathy is in love with the Joshua we met at the start of the season, the one who was sweet and gentle and cute. Now Joshua is starting to turn into this controlling, egotistical monster, but it’s hard to really recognize that something like that might be happening when it’s happening so gradually right in front of you, you know? Indeed, I have never experienced anything like this with a romantic relationship (and I’ve also only been in love twice), but I’ve sorta had it happen with friendships, where you like someone and they are your friend but slowly they start to change, and it’s only after a certain amount of time that you are able to realize this person is not the same person you liked originally, you know?
But fuck, Joshua is such a dick in this ep. Okay, he’s been a dick for, like, maybe the last ten eps that we’ve seen, but he’s really getting out of control this week. See, after Cathy accepts his proposal, Abs decides to throw them a nice little engagement party since, you know, she’s rich now and that’s all that rich people do is throw parties and drink a lot. Anyway, at this party, Joshua once again makes an ass of himself by boldly announcing that, once he and Cathy are married, she will of course stop singing right away and start popping out babies, since that’s of course what women were made to do. Finally, Cathy shows some balls towards Joshua and tells him in front of everybody that that’s not true; she will continue to sing for as long as she shall live. Joshua interprets this as her “making a scene,” but I’m totally with Cathy on this one; you go, girl!
Real fast, I wanna make sure it’s clear that when I insult Joshua, I’m definitely not insulting Alec Baldwin, who entered the series at the start of this season and immediately felt established as a core character and an important member of the cast. He has played Joshua perfectly ever since he first showed up at Val and Lilimae’s door, and watching him start to change and become a huge douchebag has been rather fascinating and is a testament to his inherent acting talent, since this is one of the very first things he ever did. Nowadays he’s more known for his comedy roles and his SNL guest spots and he’s a terrific comedic actor (I will take a moment to say that I adore him as the voice of Leonardo Leonardo on the tragically short lived Clerks: The Animated Series), but I’d say Joshua remains my favorite character he has ever played, perhaps simply because I love the show so much so I automatically choose his character from this as his best ever, but also just cuz I think he plays the part perfectly. Also, while I might make fun of the Joshua character and call him a douchebag, please understand that I love watching him and I love seeing this drama unfold; it’s just all so very good.
Okay, let’s move on to our other beloved characters. Let’s start with Sexy Michael and a scene that I immediately put away in my Private Masturbation Files for later use. I can’t actually remember what is discussed or established or done in this scene, except that it consists of Ben, Mack, and Sexy Michael returning from a nice California jog and they are all of course wearing shorts. Ben and Mack’s shorts are whatever; I love both characters but I don’t want to violate them, you understand, but Sexy Michael is a whole different story, and he’s rocking a pair of short shorts so short that I kept my eyes opened real wide to see if maybe, just maybe, a little teeny smidge of wiener might pop out. Sadly for me, nothing of the sort happened, but I still got to feast my eyes on Sexy Michael in a pair of short shorts with those perfect legs proudly displayed and that magnificent bubble butt just calling out for attention, begging me, talking to me, saying to me, “Please, Brett, please climb inside of the TV and start putting your penis in me.” Mmmmmm, yeah, that was good, mmmmm, okay, moving on.
The Sumner Cigar Counter rapidly escalates from one to two in this ep, as we have his second cigar during a lovely fancy schmancy dinner with him and Laura and Karen and Mack and Ava Gardner (Ruth is her character’s name, as you’ll recall, but I’ll probably just keep calling her Ava). Ah yes, this looks fabulous, and again, this is a world I want to live in. I can’t exactly say what character from KL I would most want to be, as I think I would just like to be myself living in the universe of KL, but if I was living in that universe, I would want to be part of the entire package, meaning that I could spend time hanging out on the cul-de-sac and having cookouts with the neighbors but also spend time having fancy dinners at Sumner’s place with Ava Gardner in attendance. One thing I particularly liked about this scene was the way Mack asks to have one of Sumner’s cigars, as well; he’s very cute and says something like, “Can I treat myself to one of these fancy cigars, here?” I like me a man who can enjoy the rich tobacco taste of a fine cigar without being a constant, daily, smells-bad-all-the-time smoker. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a cigar now and then and I enjoy them very much, and I like that we get to see Mack enjoying one every now and then (I can immediately think of at least one other example much later in the series, but I feel like there are a couple more in addition to that).
Also, I love Sumner’s big open bar on one of those sexy rolling carts and I like how he knows everybody’s drink and he’s respectful of Gary and knows that he drinks nothing stronger than club soda and so he pours him a little warm Perrier. Actually, that’s my only problem with this whole arrangement. One of Brett’s random pet peeves that just irritates the crap out of me is when people have drinks that are really best enjoyed super cold, like Perrier (I love Perrier because I am gay and I must immediately fall into the gay stereotype of loving Perrier), yet they just keep them sitting out at room temperature and then just pour them over ice and call it good, as if that will magically change the taste of the liquid to be cold. Sorry, but all that happens in that instance is that you quickly melt the ice with your room temperature Perrier and then you just have shitty, watered down Perrier with rapidly melting ice cubes floating around in it. See, when I’m serving people drinks, I put the Perrier in the fridge and then I chill the glasses in the freezer and put a bunch of ice cubes in the glass and then pour the super cold and delicious Perrier over the ice cubes in the chilled glass and you have a drink that’s guaranteed to stay cold for a really long time. I do the same with vodka and gin, but your other liquors are not meant to be served out of the freezer, so those stay room temperature. Oh wait a minute, what the hell does this have to do with anything? Oh yeah, nothing, I’m just babbling on about my love of cold Perrier in a glass, so let’s move on.
Last ep, I talked about how KL is so good at showing us those small, realistic little life moments that we can all relate to and how that helps keep the show feeling grounded no matter how outlandish the plots may become. Well, this ep has not one but two examples of that. I already mentioned Mack and the plunger and the broken sink last week, but I’ll bring it up again here. See, Karen mentions how the sink is clogged or whatever, and then later in the ep, while she and Mack are discussing, I think, Val’s babies and all that drama, Mack spends the scene plunging the sink and trying to fix the clog. When did we ever see anything like this over on Dallas? Never, absolutely never. Can you imagine a scene of J.R. talking about how he’s gonna fight for full control of Ewing Oil all while he’s using a plunger to unclog the sink (or, being familiar with J.R.'s less-than-healthy diet, the toilet)? It just would never happen over on that show, but it’s common practice over here on KL. The only other thing I wanna say about this scene is that I really hope the Fairgate MacKenzie family owns two sets of plungers, one for the toilet and one for the sink. If Mack is using the same plunger to plunge the sink that previously was used to unclog Diana’s nasty, bitchy turds from the toilet, well I am just going to have to go off and vomit. So let’s just assume that they have one plunger that lives in the bathroom and is used for toilet related emergencies and then another one that lives under the sink in the kitchen and is used for sink related emergencies, shall we?
The other small moment I like in this ep occurs between Val and Cathy. See, Cathy is vacuuming the Avery living room and singing along to some music on her Walkman (remember those?) when Val comes in the front door behind her. She knocks and shouts at Cathy, but Cathy can’t hear her due to all the noise, and then when Val approaches behind her and taps her on the shoulder, she scares her and Cathy screams out. Then, of course, she turns around and sees that it’s only Val and is all relieved and the scene proceeds forward. I was watching this scene and I actually paused (just like I later paused the Mack/sink/plunger scene) to share my absolutely brilliant observations with My Beloved Grammy. I pointed out how they could have easily just done a scene in which Val walks in and Cathy is like, “Oh, hi, Val!” and then the scene unfolds in whatever fashion. However, by throwing in this small little detail with the vacuuming and the Walkman, it just helps it to feel more real, more like a real neighborhood with real people living in it, and it’s those small details that add up to create a realistic feeling throughout the series. Again, if this was Dallas, I feel like the scene would be shot in a very bland way and there would be a knock at the door and the camera would remain stationary as Cathy answers the door and then she’d say “Hi, Val,” and then Val would walk into frame and it would look super boring and dull and it would just not be interesting at all.
Eric Fairgate is sorta lingering around lately, not being a main cast member (he never gets to be a main cast member, actually), but still being kinda sorta important to proceedings. Remember how two eps back he mentioned that some dude came by Knots Landing Motors wanting to purchase it? That was put on the backburner for A Piece of the Pie, but now it has returned. In this ep, we actually meet the guy who wants to purchase the garage, and he’s a Texan named Boots Connors (great name) and played by Don Hood. As soon as I saw this guy, I became convinced that he must be a Transmorpher because he would have fit in like a round peg in a round hole over on Dallas; he’s Texan and he’s got the accent and the cowboy hat and the whole look and I could easily imagine him sitting down for some sort of boring business deal with J.R. over at the Cattleman’s Club or whatever, and of course, when I looked it up, I discovered I was right. IMDb says he appears in a 1988 ep of Dallas (meaning it would have been deep into The Dark Years by that point) called Marriage on the Rocks. He was also in the Brian De Palma movie Obsession that I sorta love as well as the infamous Brooke Shields movie Pretty Baby (that’s the one where she is twelve but shows her boobs and everything and it’s all very controversial) as well as a Tales From the Crypt I remember enjoying (it’s called The Sacrifice).
Okay, anyway, this character doesn’t do much in this ep. Basically he shows up at the garage because he is supposed to have a meeting with Karen regarding selling it to him, but Karen never shows up, since she is too busy with, you guessed it, investigating the truth about Val’s babies. Karen makes major progress this week, but it’s still not quite good enough. First she shows up at the hospital to speak with one of the nurses who was on staff the night Val’s babies were born. Oh yeah, this scene also helps to tell us the precise timeline of events unfolding, because even though Val gave birth in Tomorrow Never Knows, an ep that aired November 29th, 1984, here Karen says it was November 24th that Val gave birth, so there you go. Anyway, Karen has to wait around a good long while before managing to speak to the nurse, and then the nurse isn’t all that terribly helpful. Make no mistake, she’s not mean or anything like that, just busy and in a hurry and not able to really remember that night all too well. Karen asks her about the other nurse on duty that night, Nurse Wilson, and this lady (she’s just credited as “Nurse” on the IMDb page and I’m not sure if she actually gets a name in the ep or not) tells her that Nurse Wilson got transferred to another hospital and she might be able to find her somewhere else, or something like that.
This leads Karen to a trailer park occupied by Nurse Wilson. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about portraying this black character as living in a trailer park, but then I’ve never been one of those liberals who feels like TV and film need to make sure and keep completely PC at all times, since I really do hate political correctness (that’s why I say “fag” so often, by the way, as a way of trying to take the power out of the word by pointing out that it is, in the end, just a word, and it only holds the amount of power that we give it, although as of lately I have also found myself not wanting to use the word too much and send out hateful rhetoric into the world, so I think I'm officially switching to not saying it anymore), but I’m just not sure. I recognize that all people of all colors are just people and anybody, black or white or whatever, can live in a trailer park, but I do wonder if showing this black nurse having to live in a trailer park might not be an instance of that ingrained racism that is prevalent in so many things from the 1980s. But then, of course, maybe she’s just a regular human character like any regular human character and there is no grand meaning to where she lives; indeed, Karen speaks with a white lady who also lives at the trailer park, so I could just be acting like an overly sensitive 21st century PC liberal douche; what do you think?
In any case, Karen gets nothing out of Nurse Wilson upon first meeting her, but then she manages to convince a reluctant Lilimae to tag along later. Why is Lilimae reluctant? Honestly, I’m having a hard time completely understanding Lilimae right now. Does she really and truly believe that Val’s babies were born dead and that’s all there is to it? I know Val’s been acting, erm, a little bit nutty throughout the middle portions of this season, but she is so vehement in her assertion that she heard those babies crying that I’m not sure how her very own mother could ignore what she’s saying, but here she’s getting kinda pissy at Karen for doing her investigations, saying how she’s just gonna get Val all upset for nothing, that she needs to let it be. Of course, I see Karen as being a true friend who would go to the ends of the earth for the people she loves, so I can’t quite understand Lilimae’s perspective here, but in any case, she does agree to go meet with Nurse Wilson later. Again, they don’t manage to get much information out of her; mostly she just asks them to go away and leave her alone and stop asking her about dead babies and such, but I think the ladies manage to get to her when they talk about all the emotional turmoil Val has dealt with throughout the season, and then Karen leaves her with her phone number on a card.
This leads nicely into our final scene of the ep, in which we see Nurse Wilson sitting in her lovely trailer (imagine the amazing cocktail parties you could have in these incredible living quarters!) and calling up Karen’s house. However, when she calls, Karen is out of the house and Val answers, since she’s there for some reason or other. After she answers, there’s this moment of silence and then Nurse Wilson hangs up without saying anything and tears up the card that Karen gave her. Now, this is a great scene and a great ending to the ep, but I do have a question about it. Does she lose confidence and tear up the card because she hears Val’s voice? Or would it not have mattered who answered, whether it be Karen or Mack or Eric or Sexy Michael (if I was trying to call somebody and Sexy Michael answered, I would just be like, “Get over to my place right away so I can do vile things to your body”); did she simply lose her nerve to speak out about the truth? I don’t know that I believe this nurse would really remember Val’s voice after all these months have passed; I’m sure she’s been in plenty of hospital situations and dealt with plenty of people, but My Beloved Grammy said that she hangs up because she hears Val’s voice and loses her nerve. My Beloved Grammy is older and wiser than I am, so perhaps she’s correct in her assertion.
I guess that about does it for The Forest for the Trees, another stunning episode of this fabulously stunning season of television. I’m sitting here trying to think if there are any last points I wish to address, and I do just have a few quick ones. One is that we continue to see Eric being weirdly secretive of this new girlfriend he’s got that he still hasn’t introduced anyone to (spoiler alert: She’s black), and that’s gonna come back an ep or two later, and the other is that we see Olivia having a bug up her ass about Cathy’s engagement and Abs throwing her a party. This was a rather lovely callback, because Olivia is pissed about how Cathy and Gary were shagging at the end of season five. See, this season is so huge that season five already feels like a really long time ago, even though it really wasn’t, so I’ve almost kinda sorta forgotten about all the Cathy/Gary stuff from last season, and I appreciate that the writers have not. I like that they’ll make callbacks to things that happened over a year ago, and I like that those events continue to dictate how certain characters like Olivia might react or behave now, at this point in the saga. Oh yeah, and last of all, we do have a pretty key development where Abby talks to Cheesy British Guy and manages to get him to basically spill all this secret information about what Empire Valley really is, and it’s really not all that hard, honestly; all she has to do is sorta pretend like she already knows everything and then Cheesy British Guy is happy to talk. I feel like I might be glazing over this plot point, and I don’t mean to, but I feel like it’s gonna pay off in a big way later on, so we’ll discuss it more at that juncture.