Wednesday, May 31, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 126 of 344: FOUR, NO TRUMP


Episode Title:  Four, No Trump

Season 06, Episode 26

Episode of 126 of 344

Written by Melanie Mintz

Directed by John Patterson

Original Airdate: Thursday, April 11th, 1985

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Gary tells Greg he will be part of Empire Valley, and then lies to Mack, telling him it's a legitimate business. Dr. Ackerman won't talk to Karen, so Mack tells her he'll help her to get evidence. Val sneaks out of Ben's, and then cancels dates with him. Ben's frustrated, and Val tells Karen she's trying to act normal, but feels like she's going crazy because she knows the babies are alive. Karen hires Eric to be the Assistant General Manager at Lotus Point. Abby tells Greg about Scott Easton and the babies, and tells Greg she needs the missing notebook pages. He gives her some pages, but they don't have the information on them. Greg goes to the Fishers and watches them from his car. Ruth makes snide comments to Laura about Greg spending so much time with Abby, and tells Greg that she likes Abby much better.

When My Beloved Grammy and I finished up our last disk of KL eps, Karen had finally managed to successfully track down Dr. Ackerman in Vegas after cleverly having him paged to come to the pay phones.  He answered the phone and said, “This is Dr. Ackerman,” and Karen spun around all epic-like and then our ep concluded.  Happily, today’s ep up for discussion, Four, No Trump, picks up at literally that exact same second and we just keep on continuing with the scene.  I’ve noticed this a lot lately, by the way, where eps end and then the next ep just picks right up in the same scene.  By this point, the show is so fully serialized that it’s almost easy to forget about the first three seasons and all those standalone eps contained within, since we’ve now had three solid seasons of the show being a serial in which one must watch every ep in proper order to understand what’s going on.  This also prompted a little thought in my brain, which is how easy or difficult it would be to just string a whole ton of eps together and turn them into one giant-ass movie.  Could it be done?  Would it flow?  I dunno, and in any case, it’s not important; Dr. Ackerman and Karen and Val’s babies are important, so let's talk about that.  Karen immediately confronts Ackerman and he obviously denies everything, which is to be expected.  I think what’s significant in this scene is the fact that he’s clearly nervous and in a hurry to get away from Karen.  He tries to present it as, “I’m a big fat important doctor guy and I’m busy and you’re a crazy woman and you’re harassing me and Bob Loblaw,” but Karen can see how sweaty and panicky he truly is.  Dr. Ackerman is all like, “Hey, crazy bitch, you know I can’t discuss another patient’s medical information or whatever, so get away from me,” and he quickly evacuates the proceedings, leaving Karen standing alone and looking sly. 

Ah, lovely Karen.  While I’m not sure if Karen is still my absolute 100% favorite character on the show the way she used to be upon my first viewing (and this is mostly because on second viewing I am realizing how absolutely everyone in the cast at this point in the series is just fucking perfect and amazing and bringing all their own special, unique, wonderful qualities of brilliance to their character, so I feel like I really can’t single out just one person and declare them my favorite), God, do I still love her dearly.  The thing that I love most about Karen, aside from her inherent decency and goodness, is that she is a force to be reckoned with when she puts her mind to accomplishing something.  When she gets serious about doing something, there’s no stopping her, and now that she has declared that she believes Val’s babies are alive and she believes Dr. Ackerman is involved in this whole conspiracy, she is going to attack full throttle and do whatever needs to be done to find the truth.  She is not going to half-ass it, she’s not going to go to Vegas and talk to Dr. Ackerman and then immediately give up after he denies everything, no, definitely not, no way.

When Karen returns home from Vegas, she officially has a partner in this investigation via Mack.  In the past few eps, we’ve seen Mack express some hesitation about whether Val’s babies could still be alive or not, but I think by this point he believes they are just as strongly as Karen does, and ever the supportive husband and world’s most perfect man, he’s gonna help her out now, too.  He also gives her some very good advice when he says what she needs to do now is sorta lay low as far as Dr. Ackerman is concerned.  It wouldn’t be wise for her to continue to harass him and chase after him; all that would do is put him further on the defensive.  What they need to do now is a lot of research and a lot of connecting the dots, but quietly, without making a big fuss of it, until they are absolutely sure that they are right and that they can prove it.

Karen’s little trip to Vegas scared Dr. Ackerman enough that he immediately calls up Abs to tell her about who he bumped into after his bridge tournament.  He tells Abs that she’d better get Karen off his back or else she’s going to be in big trouble; “If I go down, you go down with me,” he tells her, reminding her of her kinda-sorta involvement in this whole thing.  When Abs reminds him that she did not really have any involvement, that she never wanted this to happen, that she just made one simple offhand comment to ‘80s Rapist Beard Scott Easton and then poof, the babies were gone, Dr. Ackerman reminds her that no jury is going to care about that or even believe her, that her hands will look just as dirty as his do.

We get a lot of good Abs stuff in this ep, by the way, so let’s sorta walk through the different moments.  One of the first scenes involves her getting a phone call informing her that Olivia and Brian were both in a car crash.  I guess they were driving with some random white guy for some reason (it was never really clear to me who this random white guy was or why he was driving them, but whatever) and they got in a crash and their car flipped over.  We have this brief moment of suspense after Abs gets this phone call but before we confirm that the kids are still alive.  Gary and Abs rush to the scene of the accident and Abs is visibly shaken to her core, praying out loud to God that the kids be alright.  When they arrive, they discover the flipped over car but, very fortunately, Brian and Olivia are both unhurt (I’m glad Olivia’s alright; I still really don’t give a shit about Brian and never have and probably never will).  We learn that it was a drunk driver who hit them after falling asleep at the wheel, prompting the black cop at the scene to say, “When will people learn that you can’t drink and drive?”  I put this in my notes because to me it signified a change in attitudes towards drinking and driving as we move through the ‘80s.  Remember way back in Pilot when Diana and Marion Ravenwood got drunk and went swimming in the ocean and then drove back home?  In my writeup, I noted how nobody really gave a shit about the drinking and driving, that they were more concerned with them swimming in the ocean while drunk, and I said how this reflected an older era where we still weren’t that serious about the dangers of drinking and driving.  This was also displayed in Bottom of the Bottle: Part One, when a very drunken Gary hopped in his car and sped away from the cul-de-sac and Sid casually said something like, “Oh, he’s probably going to an all night movie,” and, again, nobody said anything about how Gary probably shouldn’t be driving.  Well, those eps were 1979-1980, and now we are officially at the precise midpoint of the ‘80s, 1985, and I think this is really the time when things like MADD started to come to prominence and people started to actively speak about and care about the dangers of intoxicated motor vehicle operating.  I also note this because it’s not the last time we have a little bit of a “drive sober” message on this disk; there was an ep a little after this one (blanking on which one it was) in which Ben and Mack are drinking giant beers at a bar and then Mack declares how he’s going to order a cab and not drive his car.  If these eps were airing in 1980, I feel like nobody would be saying a God damn word about it.

The truly significant thing about this scene is that we again see how complex and three-dimensional Abs is, and that when all is said and done, her children will always be the most important thing in the world to her.  She sleeps around, she screws people in business deals, she’s always looking out for number one, she’s ruthless, but she loves her children deeply and she cares for them well.  We’ve seen this displayed many times throughout the series, always done in such a fabulously subtle way that it sorta sneaks up on you; at this point you think back over Abby’s time on the show and realize how many times we’ve seen her being a good mother to Olivia and Brian.  While watching this ep, My Beloved Grammy even said, “Abby’s one redeeming quality is that she’s a good mother.”  Okay, so this scene is good for that reason, but it’s also got more going on beneath the surface; I think this scene is something of a wakeup call to Abs, because for that couple of minutes in which she worries that her kids might be hurt or killed, she is able to better understand the way Val must feel at this exact moment. 

There are a significant amount of callbacks to past events on the series in this ep, something I really appreciated, and one of the first callbacks involves Abs sitting down to talk to Greg and telling him about that time back in early season three when her Transmorpher ex-husband stole her kids from her and she didn’t know where they were for several weeks.  She talks about how lonely and desperate and awful she felt during this whole time, how all she could think about was wanting them back with her.  This scene really made me happy and made me respect KL’s unbelievably talented writing staff all the more.  If you’ll recall, way back in season three, when I was still pretty critical about many aspects of the series and things hadn’t yet turned into an insane orgy of amazingness (the orgy of amazingness started in season four and, so far, has still not let up one bit), I really didn’t care all that much for the story of Olivia and Brian being kidnapped by their father.  I believe I was kinda sorta indifferent to it, that I said how it was a story, it was whatever, it was fine, but it wasn’t all that compelling.  However, by having Abs bring up that story (which, at this point, is over three years in the past) in order to relate it to our current drama with Val’s babies, well, it’s genius.  It takes something that has already happened, that seemed to come and go, and that is now in the past, and it uses it to remind us that Abs can actually understand what Val’s going through.  The writing is so good that, now, if I were to return to that early juncture of the series and watch again, that story would take on much greater meaning and significance because of what I know is going to come in the future.  Amazing, amazing writing.

By the way, the reason Abs even tells Greg this story from season three in the first place is because, finally, she decides to sit him down and give it to him straight.  She goes to his ranch to meet him and asks to have a private conversation with him in his office, and she tells him everything about Val’s babies, including the real, true father.  Let’s compliment the writing some more, because not only does this move the plot forward and give us a new character knowing the truth about what’s going on, propelling us onward to further exciting drama, but it’s also a helpful recap in case some people have missed eps or if maybe they are just starting to tune into the series because their 1985 friends are saying, “You gotta watch KL; it’s so fucking great and it’s so much better than Dallas.”  Rather than just doing some kind of tacky recap or bringing in that cheesy narrator guy I love so much to remind us of past events, they do it organically by having Abs talk to Greg and inform him on everything that’s gone down throughout this season. 

Abby’s main reason for being so direct with Greg is that he has access to the Galveston files and papers that she needs, the ones that could help her find out where the babies are and how to get them.  Greg agrees to give her full access to these papers, but only on the agreement that, after she leaves the room, they never speak about this again.  Abs grabs a big stack of papers and leaves, but then we linger for a moment with Greg alone and see him open a drawer and, GASP, pull out that ripped out sheet of paper that we saw a little earlier in the season, the one with the address of the Fishers on it.  Now, what is Greg’s motivation for hiding this vital piece of information?  Let’s keep watching to find out.

Meanwhile, what’s going on with Val this ep?  Well, the first time we see her, she’s having a fantastic attack of sexuality and horniness that I appreciated seeing.  Since I’m all liberal and free-spirited and an “Every human being is a sexual human being” kind of person, I always enjoy it when a television series shows a woman as blatantly and unapologetically sexual, and Val has a fabulous scene this week.  Basically, she’s hanging out at Ben’s Plant House and they’re having a nice conversation and she just kinda attacks him.  She makes some sort of flirtatious remark that I’ve already forgotten and then she sorta climbs on top of him as he lies on his back on the floor and, well, there you go.  It’s really fun to see a horny Val, I must say, and this scene brought me much joy.

However, Val starts to act a little strange later on, getting up in the middle of the night to sneak out of Ben’s Plant House.  He awakes and catches her and, being a true gentleman, gets up out of bed to drive her home.  The next day, he stops by her house because they are supposed to have a date to go to a museum or something, and Val claims she forgot all about it because she was on a big roll working on her third book (you’ll recall that her last two books were Capricorn Crude and Capricorn Crude 2: Capricorn Cruder, and now she’s ready to finish the trilogy with Capricorn Crude With A Vengeance).  Ben is cool and sweet and says he’ll leave her alone to work on her novel, but after he leaves, Val walks over to her typewriter and we see that she hasn’t written a word at all.  Hmmmm, what’s going on here?  My Beloved Grammy hypothesized that Val is uncomfortable and unsure about the way things are heating back up in her relationship with Ben, that after their on again/off again drama, maybe she’s not sure if she wants to be back together or not.  I don’t think this is really the issue, however, and as we move through this ep and the final four eps of the season, we learn that Val has been waking up at the same time of night every single day because she feels, deep down in her core, that it’s the babies’ feeding time.  She doesn’t know where they are, but that natural maternal instinct speaks to her and tells her that, somewhere in the world out there, her babies are hungry. 

Let’s talk about what’s going on with Laura for awhile, shall we?  Laura’s material this week is really some sparkling stuff, and she’s helped immeasurably by the fabulous presence of Ava Gardner as Ruth Sumner (although, I remind you, I’m just gonna keep calling her Ava because I feel like it).  You’ll recall that Ava first popped up (meaning actually showed her face on the series and wasn’t just a stand-in walking around with a big hat covering her face) in The Deluge and we had some good material with her and good banter between her and Sumner, and then she sat out a couple of eps, but now she’s back in a big way and I gotta say, I’m fucking loving this character.  The last time I watched the series, I don’t know that I even really took much note of Ava at all aside from knowing that she was a big deal actress from old movies and that the show getting her was probably a big get at the time.  Now, however, I’m loving every single second between Laura and Ava and their instant distaste for each other that they don’t even attempt to hide.  See, we first catch up with Laura this ep while she’s out on a shopping spree with Lilimae (and Lilimae got a fantastic new haircut that both My Beloved Grammy and I approved of; My Beloved Grammy said, “She looks much less old fashioned now”) when they just happen to bump into Ava (wearing a fabulous hat), who invites them to go for lunch with her.  Laura tries to be like, “No, we’re busy, we gotta go,” but Lilimae smiles all wide and is like “Oooooooooooh, we’d love to go to lunch with you!”

From here, we cut to a great scene of the three ladies who lunch, Lilimae smiling and looking chummy with Ava while Laura squirms, looking uncomfortable and annoyed at the whole thing.  After awhile, Laura evacuates the premises (after a nice little exchange in which she makes some sort of sarcastic comment and Ava says, “Laura, don’t quip, ladies shouldn’t quip”), leaving Ava and Lilimae alone to share stories, and we get yet another wonderful callback to days long past.  See, Lilimae fills Ava in on the full history of Laura and Richard and tells her how Richard was a lawyer who lost his practice, had a mental breakdown, tried to open a restaurant, and then blew town two years ago.  This reminds me of how the writers are never afraid to bring up dearly departed characters from past seasons, such as Sid.  Considering that Richard pretty much just vanished from town and hasn’t been heard from since, on another show this kind of dialogue would make me think the writers are getting ready to bring the character back, giving us a reminder of their existence before they unexpectedly turn up, but KL doesn’t play that way.  This scene really shows that the show has a rich past history and that it never forgets that past history, that the characters will still mention other characters who aren’t in the cast anymore, instead of shuffling them under the rug as if they never existed.  God, I love this writing.

Our last scene of the ep is a quick appearance by Sheila Fisher, shown out walking the twins in their double strollers, providing a reminder for the audience of where these babies have wound up.  As she walks into her house, we see that someone is watching her from a car, and after a second we reveal that it’s Greg, and that’s how the episode ends.  This is another one of those great endings where I’m sitting there, I’m watching the show, my eyes are all big and excited and I’m just watching and enjoying the shit out of it, and then it’s over and I’m like, “Oh, it’s over,” and I mean that in a good way, in the complimentary way, because it simply doesn’t feel like 48 minutes have passed.  It’s been so brisk and so entertaining and so packed with information and drama and character moments and I’ve been so thoroughly entertained that it only feels like maybe fifteen minutes have passed, so to realize, “Wow, the ep is already over, that felt fast,” shows that I’m so invested in the proceedings that I lose track of time. 

In my notes for this ep, I wrote, “While a bit more mellow than some eps, still extremely compelling,” and I’ll stick to that.  This ep maybe doesn’t have as much HIGH DRAMA as other eps do, but it’s got a lot going on, has fabulous dialogue and witty exchanges, absolutely great costumes and hair, and a whole bunch of wonderful little callbacks to past events, not to mention those great character moments like Abs hearing about Olivia and Brian in a car crash.  Since I’m paying attention to airdates and such now, it’s interesting to note that this ep aired on April 11th of 1985 and then there was a big long gap without another new ep until May 2nd of 1985, nearly a whole month of waiting.  I say that because I can tell you that, after watching this ep, I would definitely be making sure to tune in for the next ep, whenever it may be, and it would be painful to have to wait that long to see the next ep.

Fortunately we don’t have to wait that long to talk about our next ep, so let’s move right along and start discussing the David Jacobs-directed A Price to Pay.more


  1. One of the many reasons I love Michele's portrayal of Karen are her facial expressions. She has no poker face. Every expression is genuine, and you don't have to even hear a word to know what she is thinking.

  2. I love whenever you quote Lilimae you lead with, “Oooooooooooh!" Right on the money.

  3. I've never seen two more awkwardly positioned babies than those two in that stroller. They looked like they were going to fall out at any moment!

  4. That final scene revealing Greg in the car was great. Loved Abby coming clean with him. It intensifies their relationship and shows Abby is not a complete monster.

    I'm not loving Ava Gardner. She seems to be acting on an entirely different TV show than the rest of the cast. Almost as if her scenes are being filmed separately. Or perhaps she's had a few too many morning cocktails. In any event, Ruth is not a powerful presence on the show. Certainly not the powerhouse that Howard Duff was as Paul Galveston. I realize he had to die to move the plot forward, but I sure wish he had stuck around for awhile longer.

  5. I thought it was a very strong script by first time "Knots" writer Melanie Mintz. According to IMDB, she only penned one other script for the show. And then not much of a career after that. I wonder why? This was a very strong entry.

  6. What about Mack suddenly giving back his Galveston file? Seemed rather convenient with the change of heart of Abby to now have the files in Greg's possession... doesn't he care about prosecuting for the Wesphall poisoning? 🤔

    The scenes with Ruth and Laura were delicious. And Abby was a delight in this ep.