KNOTS LANDING SEASON 7 (1985-1986)
THE CAST ROSTER
ALEC BALDWIN, WILLIAM DEVANE, KEVIN DOBSON, JULIE HARRIS, LISA HARTMAN, MICHELE LEE, CONSTANCE MCCASHIN, DONNA MILLS, TED SHACKELFORD, DOUGLAS SHEEHAN, JOAN VAN ARK
Episode Title: The Longest Day
Season 07, Episode 01
Episode 131 of 344
Written by David Paulsen
Directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman
Original Airdate: Thursday, September 26th, 1985
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Laura gets a call to show a house, but it's really Greg, who has a romantic dinner set up. At the Fisher's, Mack and Ben follow Harry, but lose him. Val meanwhile tries to break down the door. Mack says he'll get a court order so the Fisher's can't leave, but the Judge won't grant it until there's more evidence. Mack stations men outside their house. Val refuses to leave, so Ben waits with her. He tells Val that Karen believed her all along, and worked for months to find the babies. Val's upset that no one told her they believed her. Harry arrives home with a police escort, who tell Val she has to leave. She loses it. At home, Joshua tells Val that her babies were found because he and his viewers prayed that she would be forgiven of her sins. Val drives back to the Fishers and waits all night in her car. Mack has Karen bring Val to the hospital to get the birth records, but the clerk says there are no records of the twins. Abby tells Gary that there was a call from Southfork and Bobby is dead.
Welcome back to a fresh new season of KL. There’s nothing quite so exciting as getting started on a brand new year of KL, is there? It’s always such a feeling of joy to know you are embarking on another year long voyage with these amazing actors and these incredible characters and this dynamic storytelling, and I’m willing to bet that no season premiere of the series could have ever been more anticipated than this one, coming an agonizing four months after the concluding moments of season six way back in May of 1985. Can you imagine just having to sit around for four entire months not knowing what’s going to become of Valene or her babies? Oh, the suspense and agony of waiting must have been just crushing, but, I’m willing to bet, also terribly exciting, as well.
Oh man, there’s always so much to talk about with the season premieres, and this one is obviously no exception, and I really don’t know where to start. I suppose I’ll start right at the beginning, which is of course our classic opening credits sequence. Actually, the very first thing we see is our usual thirty second preview (and it looks pretty darn exciting; there are car chases and stuff in it!) followed by the opening, so let’s talk about the glory that is the season seven opening and how it stacks up to the previous batch of seasons. Well, in the layout, we are still comfortably within the era of the scrolling squares, and we’re gonna stick to the scrolling squares through season seven and eight before getting a big change in the opening with season nine. Also, the cast layout is exactly the same as with season six (and that’s a good thing; if you’ll recall, I believe I declared the season six cast lineup to be the very finest in the entire series’ history) and also the basic gist of the theme song is about the same, although with some changes. I always seem to struggle when it comes to trying to describe how a piece of music sounds. In my brain, I can hear the music and understand that it sounds different than the previous seasons, but when I try to articulate why, I seem to fail. My Beloved Grammy helped me out here as we were watching, cuz I tried to point out the little intricacies and differences from this theme to the season six version, and she said that the season six one was more sweeping and orchestral while this one is more jazzy, and I’d say that’s right. Also, this version sounds louder than the previous two, like more booming and bombastic, a little more grab-you-by-the-balls. Also, this is without a doubt the longest version of the opening, because at about the 1:07 mark, right about as Donna Mills' name is scrolling past us, it sorta reloops and starts to play the theme, like, again, if that makes any sense. Honestly, it’s almost comical how long this goes on (nearly two minutes!) but I say that with love, and I’m so deeply and sickly obsessed with this style of opening that I feel I can just watch it all day. In terms of pure sound, I don’t know where I’d rank this version. In case I haven’t made it clear, the trilogy of openings that span seasons five, six, and seven are my three favorite versions of the opening, and I seem to alternate constantly between which of the three I like the best. Right now, I think I might like season five and six better than this version, but this could easily change day in and day out, all based on nothing more than my moods.
Okay, how about those squares? Well, I’m glad you asked, because we actually get quite a bit of new shots this season, which is a cause for celebration. Some of the credits seem to look pretty much the same, but it seems like we get some more new footage as we move further through the cast. Some of my favorite shots within this title sequence are one of the very first squares we see, Abby and Gary taking a stroll through Westfork, and then I also love Laura wearing her huge, ridiculous Librarian Glasses, mostly because I don’t know who could have possibly been drunk/stoned enough to think that The Librarian Glasses were glamorous enough to be in the fabulous opening credits. Do you think this was a Constance decision? Do you think the actors were consulted about what they wanted their credits to look like? Do you think Constance went to the powers that be and said, “I’m wearing The Librarian Glasses in the opening credits and you can suck my dick if you don’t like it”? Or do you think the images in the titles were decided by somebody else altogether? Such mysteries!
Let’s think of a few other images I especially like. Oooh, after getting kinda obsessed with that random one-off sex session that Greg and Abs had somewhere in mid season six, I now noticed right away that the shot of Greg pushing Abs up against the wall is now in the opening, and yay! I also like Abs trying to walk away from Gary and him grabbing her arm and I like the shot of Val and Ben dancing together (Ben peeking out from behind the tree is now gone forever). I’ve ranted on about the sheer genius that is these opening credits quite enough, I think, but suffice it to say that I still never get bored watching them and I love trying to focus my eyes on all the different images at once, although it proves impossible. What a brilliant opening this really is, and so vastly underrated in the grand TV landscape.
After the credits are over, we get a very long recap of the concluding five episodes of season six. This might be annoying if My Beloved Grammy and I had finished season six and then immediately put in season seven, but it’s helpful when you remember the big gap of time between seasons, that 1985 viewers in the fall needed a little reminder of what went down last season. In fact, the recap remains helpful to this very day, because there was a gap of a few weeks between My Beloved Grammy and I getting together to finish season six and then getting together to start season seven, and she herself had forgotten some details. Rather surprisingly, when they recapped the part where Dr. Ackerman blows his brains out, My Beloved Grammy said she had forgotten about that part, which is funny just cuz it’s stuck in my brain ever since I first watched the series. Also, this recap is actually done very smoothly cuz we are getting all this old footage we’ve already seen, leading us right up to the concluding moments of season six, but instead of making it obvious where the new footage begins, it all just sorta keeps going and we’re into new footage without even feeling the switch; very clever. Oh yeah, also, and perhaps wisely, we do not see the slow motion “Harry; they’re gonna take the babies” again; instead, she just says this line like normal, not in slow motion.
As soon as we enter the new footage, Harry goes speeding off in his station wagon with one of the babies (I think the boy one?) and Mack and Ben hop into a car for an exciting high speed car chase. I’m noticing that the season premieres tend to be very action packed; have you noticed that? When I say ‘action packed,’ I mean that in the literal way; there is always a lot of pure action going on. The season four premiere already feels so far away and from such a long time ago, and I remember that one being very slow and deliberate in its pacing, but then seasons five and six have both premiered with big, exciting eps in which people are speeding along in cars and having adventures, and season seven continues that tradition. In this instance, we get quite a lot of Ben and Mack pursuing Harry, all while some very loud music blares over the soundtrack. I’m immediately seeing a good case for why Harry and Sheila should have the babies taken away from them, and that is the fact that Harry is driving a car with a small baby in it like an absolute madman and nearly causing some wrecks (I appreciate that this is pointed out in dialogue when Mack screams at him, “Don’t be crazy; you’re gonna kill that kid!”). Anyway, the chase goes on for awhile until Harry manages to lose Mack and Ben, who return to the Fisher home to report on their failure.
Back at the Fisher place, we’ve got a lot going down. First off, there’s Val pounding and screaming at the door like a crazy person, shrieking about, “Give me my babies; they’re mine!” We also have Karen trying to explain the situation to a cop, which I enjoyed. This is another good example of that special KL writing style that allows soapy and over-the-top things to occur without ever drifting too far out of the realm of reality. If this was some other series, I feel like the characters might just, sorta, you know, walk into the house and snatch the babies back and then the writers would find someone to end the story all fast and abrupt. Here, interference comes in a realistic way from this cop, because when Karen tries to explain to him what’s going on, she has a hard time. She says how the couple in the house have twin babies that don’t belong to them, that they belong to her friend, that the babies were taken from her friend when she delivered, Bob Loblaw. The problem is that the cop is like, “Well, do you have any actual proof of this?” and Karen of course has to say that she does not. It also doesn’t help that, a few minutes later, Harry shows up with a certificate of live birth. Hmmm, now where the heck did he get this? In between the high speed car chase and his return to the house, we saw a quick scene of him stopping to talk to that sleazy adoption guy (Cavanaugh, last seen in the ep One Day in a Row when he made an evil phone call to Dr. Ackerman), so I guess that Cavanaugh pulled some strings real fast and was able to forge a certificate of live birth. I feel like once you get into the business of baby stealing and illegal adoption, you just keep shit like this lying around in case of an emergency, so that must be how Harry got it.
By the way, I feel like I’ve got a shit ton to say about both Harry and Sheila, but I feel like perhaps now is not the best moment. They are obviously very active and very important to this ep, but it’s really the next three eps that provide me with such fascinating thoughts and questions about this couple. I will say that, right here, right at this exact juncture meaning this exact episode of the series, I like Sheila but I don’t like Harry, but we’re gonna see some stuff in the next three eps that may cause me to change my mind. We get just the barest hint of it here, and it’s when Harry calls Sheila from a payphone after the high speed car chase and he makes a comment about, “Don’t lose it again.” As soon as I heard that, I got very intrigued and was like, “Lose it? What does that mean?” We didn’t have any dialogue like that in the previous season, although of course we barely spent any time with the Fishers in the previous season. Again, I reiterate how much I love the KL writing and I love how they aren’t giving us all the details of the Fisher marriage or how they came to obtain Val’s babies in the first place; they let these things unfold very organically over the course of time whereas other shows would be making this as painfully clear as possible right away.
Oh yeah, and one more thing before I move away from the Fisher house and focus on some other stuff for the ep: I just love any shot of Sheila at the window, peeking through the blinds. Again, who to credit for the fact that KL always looks so God damned good? The shots of Sheila peeking through the venetian blinds and the light coming through in that fabulous pattern on her face, almost like Janet Leigh in that famous publicity shot from Psycho, just marvelous, simply marvelous. Is shit like this decided simply by the director while they’re shooting? Or does it come from an overall team of creative people who work together to make sure the show consistently looks good? In any case, it’s one of those things that I just love and adore about the show, and it’s nicely on display here.
Basically, Harry showing up with that certificate of live birth makes him look like the one who’s in the right and Val and her friends the ones who are crazy. The cops tell them to take a hike and Val has a big meltdown where she screams and freaks out and the music pounds and I think we might go to a commercial from there, but I can’t remember for sure. While on the subject, I’m not sure how much I like Val’s screaming at this point. I’m cutting her a break since she’s gone through a lot and this is a big moment in her life, to be near her babies and close enough to touch them but to then be told that she must leave. Obviously it must be real hard but I think I might prefer to see this displayed in a slightly more mellow way. The problem is that I’m trying to decide how this could play better for me, and I’m just not sure. All I know is that I didn’t exactly love watching her scream and freak out and maybe if Peter Dunne was still here, he would use his magic to find a way to demonstrate the same emotions in a more quiet and subtle way.
After their exoneration from the Fisher neighborhood, the characters all go off to do their own thing in the pursuit of Val’s babies. Val decides to drive her car to the neighborhood and hang out there all night like a stalker, which is really not that bad an idea considering how quickly Harry tried to make a run for it earlier. Who’s to say the Fishers won’t disappear to Europe or something as soon as they have the chance? Also, Mack goes to visit the lady judge, Judge Spaulding (who I really like a lot for some reason and who’s also a Transmorpher cuz she was in a 1982 episode of Dallas called Where There’s A Will…) but she tells him they need more evidence before they can forbid the Fishers from leaving the area. Again, I like these little realistic touches of the characters running into regular bureaucratic problems. I’m sure we’d all like to think that if our babies were stolen from us and we managed to track them down, we could just waltz in and say, “Hey, these are my babies and I’m taking them back,” but it would probably prove to be much less simple than that. In real life, you would wind up bumping into the same kinds of roadblocks are characters are experiencing right now.
The big final scene of the ep is Karen and Val going to the hospital where Val delivered to get proof that she gave birth at this hospital on this particular day (which I notice keeps changing; in this ep, Karen says it was November 18th but somewhere back in season six, they said it was November 24th, although the episode in which she gave birth actually aired on November 29th, so who the hell even knows?). The big roadblock they run into at the hospital is the front desk lady saying the hospital doesn’t have any records of twins being born in this hospital on that day. Hmmm, where do we go from here, then? It’s a good little cliffhanger ending to the episode, but I’ve also got two other very important things I wish to discuss before I wrap up my thoughts for the episode.
First off, let’s talk Greg Sumner and Laura Avery; what are they up to as we premiere our seventh season? Well, you’ll recall that Ava Gardner and Abs teamed up at the end of last season to effectively terminate the relationship between Greg and Laura, and so far it appears to still be working. Laura has gotten back into real estate (which strikes me as super fast, because hasn’t it just been, like, a week since she saw Abs at Greg’s ranch and went running off?) and when we first catch up with her, she’s getting back into the groove since I think it’s been, what, three years since she did this? In any case, she’s working closely with some very ugly guy and this very ugly guy tells her how she has to go and show a house that evening, which she does. However, she gets to the house and it’s all dark and empty and scary and there’s no one there to meet her, and just as I’m starting to worry that Laura might be about to get raped again, some dude in a fancy suit pops out of nowhere and says how Mr. Sumner would be honored to have dinner with her, and then of course Greg appears looking all charming and sexy in a tux, making me realize that, yes, I would definitely let William Devane put his penis in me. The guy in the suit whips out a violin and starts playing for them while they sit down to this really nice and elegant meal that includes fancy wine and everything. Laura is a much stronger woman than I am (oh wait, that sentence didn’t really make sense…) because she is able to kinda resist his charms, at least for the time being, saying how she’ll enjoy the nice meal and the music, but that doesn’t mean they are getting back together. I have honestly forgotten about this entire development; I’ll go ahead and do a minor spoiler and say that I know, at some point in the future, probably within this season, Greg and Laura will get back together, but I didn’t remember them splitting up at all, so this is playing as all new for me.
The other development, and the one I am actually most eager to discuss, is the death of Bobby Ewing. You all remember Bobby Ewing? Even if a person has only watched KL and never seen an episode of Dallas in their life, they could still conceivably know this character cuz he showed up three times on the series. First off, he was in Pilot dropping Gary and Val off at their brand new house, then he showed up in season two for The Loudest Word and actually wound up being one of my favorite parts of that ep (mostly because as soon as Bobby Ewing is put into the KL world, he suddenly transforms into a far more interesting character than he ever was in over 300 eps of Dallas) and then he made his final appearance in a very brief little scene in season four’s New Beginnings. Anyway, for those who have also watched Dallas, you should all vividly remember what went down in the concluding moments of the 1984-1985 season of that series, which is that Bobby got hit by a car and died. It was a big fat deal upon first airing and, of course, nobody knew that a little over a year later, the car crash and resulting death would be erased and written off as a dream and the whole thing would just be the worst thing to ever happen on TV, ever. But that’s in the future. At this exact time, late September of 1985, Bobby Ewing was dead and nobody expected him to come back in a super shitty and awful retcon that effectively undoes the entire series around it.
Our penultimate scene of The Longest Day is Abs talking on the phone at Westfork, looking real upset before she puts the phone back down. Then Gary comes walking in and he’s got something on his mind and Abs has to kinda get his attention, and then she says, “I just got a call from Dallas. It’s Bobby. There’s been a terrible accident.” I wrote this down in my notes, by the way, because I noticed that she doesn’t say he died, just that there was a terrible accident. Make no mistake, he did die and I’m actually gonna have a lot to say about this in our next Brief Dallas Interlude as well as the coming KL eps, but I just noted with interest that all she says is, “There’s been a terrible accident,” before we cut to a new scene.
Man, I don’t know how much or how little to say about this development. I’ve been kinda weirdly waiting for this moment ever since My Beloved Grammy and I embarked on this wonderful voyage together. I even think as we were just getting started with Pilot and Bobby was dropping Gary and Val off, I said to her, “By the way, Bobby dies on KL, too, except he stays dead on this show.” Ever since I first discovered Dallas, I’ve been obsessed with Bobby dying and coming back from the dead, and then I got even more obsessed when I found out that he died on KL, too, and now that I think back on it, that might have been part of the reason I even got interested in watching the spinoff in the first place. Basically, what we are seeing now is going to result in what I like to call The Bobby of Two Universes, a Bobby Ewing who can be alive and well on Dallas but remain dead on KL, effectively turning the two shows into parallel universes in which a member of the family might be dead in one universe but he’s fine in the other. Uck, it all gives you such a headache. I think I’ll save most of my thoughts on Bobby’s death and how it affects the two shows and specifically Gary’s character as we proceed forward to our next eps.
That about does it for The Longest Day. The very last thing I wanna note (I promise) is the fact that this ep is written by our new showrunner, David Paulsen (pictured below). This is something I’m gonna focus on real hard as we move through season seven, because this is the year of the big producer swap, of David Paulsen moving from Dallas to KL while the genius Peter Dunne moves over to run Dallas. I guess I wanna focus on David Paulsen’s contribution to see if he brings a more Dallas flavor to the proceedings (much like I’m considering watching the dream season of Dallas again just to see if Peter Dunne brings a KL flavor to proceedings over there). The first time I watched the series, I just powered through it so fast I couldn’t even focus on who was writing and producing and directing and running the show and all that stuff; I just devoured the whole thing really fast. Now, having really grown to love and respect Peter Dunne’s contribution to the series, I think I’ll notice what changes David Paulsen brings, and we’ll see if I find it good or bad; at this point I’m not really sure.
The Longest Day is clearly a solid 48 minutes of KL although it does suffer from a bit of that “season premiere” feeling. They never seem to be my favorite eps of any season, probably because they are getting us caught up with what’s gone down previously, reminding us of stuff, and hardly have time to proceed forward with new business. However, that doesn’t mean it’s bad in any way; this was a great ep of KL and did a great job of continuing from where season six left off while also kicking off the new season in an exciting way. Honestly, I remember really loving this season upon my first viewing of the show, so let’s see if my feelings stay the same or not as we move forward.
Our next KL ep is called Here In My Arms, but I’m not ready to talk about that quite yet. See, this ep aired on Thursday, September 26th, 1985, and then the very next day, Friday, September 27th, 1985, Shack crossed over to Dallas for the first time in three years so that Gary could go to his brother’s funeral. Therefore, we shall be taking a small detour to Texas for our penultimate Brief Dallas Interlude, this one the season nine premiere of the series entitled The Family Ewing.