Episode Title: A Little Assistance
Season 07, Episode 05
Episode 135 of 344
Written by Melanie Mintz
Directed by Roy Campanella II
Original Airdate: Thursday, October 24th, 1985
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Greg has an underground chamber built at Empire Valley for the communications center. Ben is depressed over whether he and Val will ever get married. Ben tells Joshua he'd better do something to get his ratings up, or he'll cancel his show. Joshua asks Cathy to sing again, but she doesn't want to and they argue. The next day, Cathy has a big bruise. Val thinks Joshua hit her. The governor decides to keep Jill at Mack's office. He's angry and he and Jill continually argue. Greg decides to hire an assistant. A man comes in and says to the other applicants that the position was filled, so they all leave. Abby is there, and he says "Didn't you hear me? I said it was filled!" Abby tells Greg she likes him. He is Peter Hollister and says Greg needs him to run his office properly and that he wants to learn from Greg.
I do believe I declared our last episode up for discussion, The Christening, to be an Undisputed Masterpiece of Television. After that, how does the follow up episode compare? Well, while it’s maybe not an Undisputed Masterpiece of Television, it’s still very good and very rich and full of many things worth discussing, so let’s go ahead and get started right away. Where to even begin? Let’s begin with Greg.
Again, I don’t really understand what’s going on with Greg’s storyline right now and the whole Empire Valley thing. I’m starting to wonder, is this storyline generally considered unpopular with fans? The reason I bring it up is because I notice a lot of fans seeming to have some rather harsh feelings for season seven, but in my memory it was a perfectly great season. However, my memory also doesn’t include all this Empire Valley stuff; did I just forget it or was I so confused by it upon first viewing that I just blocked it all out? In any case, one of our first scenes with Greg this ep is him unveiling some sort of secret, like, tunnel, like, lair, like, thing at Empire Valley….or something. I’ve also heard some fans criticize this set for looking kinda cheap, but I dunno, it didn’t particularly jump out at me as too bad when I was watching. In any case, yeah, now he’s got a secret underground lair or whatever, so I guess he can use Empire Valley to, like, spy on people, Patriot-Act-style, or whatever. Anyone wanna help me out here? Both My Beloved Grammy and I are equally perplexed by all these events at this point.
Anyway, that’s just one small scene of Greg’s story this ep. More importantly, A Little Assistance introduces us to a new character who’s going to be around for awhile, Hunt Block as Peter Hollister. Okay, so I should probably discuss my thoughts about this character as we see him for the first time based on my memories. Basically, I’ve never really thought one way or the other about this character; I don’t particularly like him or dislike him, and I just remember him as a character who is important for seasons seven and eight and, you know, he’s there. However, this blog has shown me having several radical shifts from my original feelings on the series in so many different aspects (not the least of which is that I used to think Ben was boring and now I’m in love with Ben and want to have his babies), so my mind is totally open to the possibility that I didn’t give Peter Hollister the proper attention he deserved upon first viewing, but he’s going to be with us for 53 eps, so this time I shall pay strict attention.
Certainly, he makes a strong first impression as he enters the picture. Basically, Greg is having applicants into his office to be his assistant or whatever, and there’s a good big batch of people out in the hall waiting, but then in walks Peter (and My Beloved Grammy immediately opined, “What a strange looking man”; sorry, Hunt), who takes a look around, then boldly announces to all the applicants that the position has been filled. All the people look kinda annoyed to have wasted their time coming down here, but they start filing out, and then Peter bursts into Greg’s office and announces that he’s the man for the job. I definitely think this tremendous display of ego is what ends up impressing Greg most prominently. It’s a tight rope to walk, but there’s something to be said for showing up to a job interview and completely taking the situation into your own hands and showing that you’re a man of action, and Greg seems reasonably impressed (in his cool, sexy Greg way) and, after getting Abby’s opinion (“Hire him”), he decides to take him on.
Aside from his big introduction, Peter doesn’t do too much in this ep, but we do get our fourth cigar in the Sumner Cigar Counter, at least according to my notes (if I’ve already missed a cigar, please write in and inform me, because I really do fully intent to track how many damn cigars Greg smokes throughout his time on the series). Greg smokes this cigar in the office late at night when things are getting wrapped up for the evening (reminding me of the glory of the 1980s when a gentleman could still enjoy a fine cigar inside a building and blow smoke rings and be all cool and sexy and not have to go outside in the rain and hide behind a dumpster every time he wanted to smoke). Peter and Greg have a pretty cool little chemistry going on right away, where Greg is kinda like, “I like you,” but he’s also kinda sarcastic and sassy and, you know, Greggy. For instance, he tells Peter he’ll see him the next morning at nine and Peter is like, “I’ll be here at eight,” and then Sumner says, “Just show up at nine like everybody else,” and Peter reiterates, “I’ll be here at eight.” Again, I gotta say there’s something about Peter’s persistence that would impress me if I were a boss. In any case, that’s about all he does this week, but rest assured he’s gonna do more; we’ll just have to wait and see what that is.
Meanwhile, Bobby Ewing’s death over on Dallas that I’m so obsessed with continues to affect the stories rather directly over here on KL via Gary. This is all very interesting to me, because in my memory, Bobby’s death was mentioned and Gary went to the funeral and all that, but I didn’t remember it being so important to Gary’s stories in early season seven, and I’ve gotta say (here comes me shitting on Dallas yet again, and maybe I should take this opportunity to mention that I do like Dallas and even love certain seasons of it, but it’s still not even worth one lock of KL’s pubic hair) that I think Bobby’s death is handled much better over here on KL than it is over on Dallas, and I’m not even talking about the dream thing; I’m talking more about the way that the death of Bobby affects stories on both shows throughout the 1985-1986 season. I actually did decide to rewatch the dream season just for fun to try and see the Peter Dunne influences of it as My Beloved Grammy and I worked through season seven of KL, and obviously it’s completely terrible, and there are so many horrible things about it, but perhaps the most glaringly horrible thing is the “acting” of Priscilla Presley as she grieves over Bobby’s death. Well, that obviously sucks, but over here on the way better spinoff series, we’re getting some fabulous acting from Shack as he grieves for Bobby and suffers a bit of a mental breakdown himself. I didn’t remember all this stuff, but I’m loving it, and I’m also wondering how long it’s going to go on.
Since the two shows are soon going to split off into two alternate universes, one in which Bobby is alive and one in which he is dead, it’s real interesting to note this last direct bit of linkage ("The word 'linkage' reminds me of sausage; never cared for the links, prefer the patties, but breakfast is a real good idea!") between the two series, especially considering how linked the shows felt back in the early years, when J.R. or Bobby could possibly stop by for a guest appearance at any moment. Therefore, I like to try and view all this in the context of one great big story, so let’s reflect on the relationship between Bobby and Gary and why he’s getting so nutty right now. Clearly Gary never got on well with J.R. because, well, J.R. is an asshole (a super charming and charismatic asshole, but an asshole none the less), but I think he and Bobby always had a special understanding of each other. Let’s flash back to Brief Dallas Interlude Part 3, Secrets, in which Bobby told Miss Ellie, “Ever since I was a boy, there were only two people I could really talk to, you and Gary.” Let’s also flash back to our Brief Dallas Interlude Part 4, Return Engagements (AKA the pilot of KL before the actual Pilot), in which Bobby was the one who directly helped Gary and Val get remarried and move out to California. Heck, he even crossed over to drop them off in the actual KL Pilot. So, yeah, remembering all that stuff, we can see that Gary and Bobby were close, which helps us understand Gary better. To get personal for a minute, there’s probably nobody in the world I love more than my own brother (pictured below along with Sister and I when we were all much smaller) and we have a special bond and love for each other and if he died, I’d probably go way nuttier than Gary, since I’m already dangerously mentally unhinged as it is.
Gary’s big emotional moment in this ep comes when he’s letting Olivia play hooky so she can learn how to break in a horse. I appreciated this because I didn’t actually know what breaking in a horse entailed as I’ve never ridden a horse (but watching this series really makes me want to). Gary explains to her how some horses are resistant to being ridden at first, so you have to sorta ease them into it until they get used to it, and it’s this whole art thing and Bob Loblaw. However, when we catch up with Olivia and Gary later in the ep, he’s really overexerting the horse, overworking him, perhaps trying to get too much out of him. Olivia says how they should probably put the horse back for the day and go inside and she says something like, “We can break him in tomorrow,” to which Gary just flips and says, “Tomorrow? Tomorrow?! Ask my brother about tomorrow!” Then, if I’m remembering correctly, he kinda goes running off, leaving Olivia alone and scared.
This ep served as the last of the disk of eps My Beloved Grammy and I watched upon our last visit (but rest assured we have a date in a few days to continue watching the season), so I’ll be very curious to see if/when Bobby’s death stops being so directly referenced over on here. I get the feeling it’ll be pretty soon, but I’ve clearly forgotten so many aspects of the series from my first viewing that who knows, maybe this stuff spans the whole year; I guess I’ll find out. In any case, I have the feeling that Gary’s gonna start to get his shit together soon, because the last scene of the ep is him announcing to Abs that he’s ready to go back to work at Empire Valley. Yes, I feel what Gary needs is to get back to work and be busy, not just hang around Westfork with horses thinking about his dead brother all day long. Of course, when Gary makes his announcement, Abs gets one of those fabulous looks on her face where her eyes get kinda wide but she tries to maintain her composure, yet we can all tell she’s shitting her pants and thinking, “Uh oh, what if Gary finds out about the, like, James Bond secret lair or……whatever.”
Oooooh, wait, one last thing Gary related that’s also sorta Karen related and that’s why I bring it up. We get a callback to Karen’s season five pill popping days in this ep, which I appreciated. I can’t remember the exact context of why this comes up, but she’s talking to Gary and I think she’s trying to get through to him about his little mental breakdown and she says something like, “Back when I was using drugs.” Karen stopped pill popping well over a year ago (it was near the end of season five and now here we are at the start of season seven), so other shows would probably decide to just stop mentioning this, but on KL, that’s now an added part of her backstory that gives an extra richness to her character and continues to inform her decisions today, and I like that they’ll still bring it up. In fact, I’d like to pay attention and see how long they keep calling back to her drug problem and when the last reference actually occurs.
While we’re talking about Karen, let’s talk about Karen’s son, Sexy Michael. He is really blossoming nicely. By this point Pat Petersen would be nineteen years old, and holy fuck is he just perfect now. In doing some research on his personal life, I am saddened to learned that he is married with two kids, but I’m also still convinced that if only I could track him down and meet him, I could turn on the charm and use my powers on him and successfully have sex with him, hopefully for many, many hours. He owns a health food store, if I’m not mistaken, so perhaps if I just took a trip to California and stopped by his store, who knows? In any case, Sexy Michael gets to go shirtless in this ep and show off his absolutely perfect brown nipples (in case you can’t tell, I’m just gonna perv out and talk about how much I wanna fuck Michael for the next seventeen pages or thereabouts, so please feel free to skip ahead if you’re not interested in my carnal desires) and he also goes swimming in a skimpy bathing suit and gets to get all wet. God, it’s all so good, and I maintain that the producers and writers knew what an absolutely perfect twink they had on their hands and they knew their audience was probably a bunch of gay dudes just as perverted as me, so they are totally playing into our desires by dressing up the most perfect All American Boy Twink of all time in nothing but some skimpy bathing shorts, getting him all wet in the pool, mmmm, just delicious.
Eric is still dating Whitney, who clearly must be mentally ill because why the hell would you date Eric when Sexy Michael is standing right over there? The only reason you date Eric is so you can get closer to Sexy Michael, at which point you start sleeping with Sexy Michael (foreshadowing of Linda Fairgate?). See, in this scene, they’re all hanging out in the pool, Whitney, Eric, and Sexy Michael, and they’re having a little fun together and being playful, but I’m just thinking to myself, how can Whitney possibly look at shirtless Sexy Michael and not just immediately dump Eric to go start shagging the way hotter younger brother? Obviously she’s got some deep issues (although I clearly shouldn't be throwing stones at anybody when it comes to deep issues). Aside from this scene giving me a virtual cornucopia of whacking material, it also provides one of the greatest meta lines in KL history, provided by Eric (who, for the record, I do sorta like as a character; I just don’t want to sleep with him), who tells Whitney, “Living in this cul-de-sac is like living in a soap opera.” I remember lying in my bed in college, drinking vodka, and when this line came up I actually spit my vodka out and started laughing really hard. How brilliant is this? Can you imagine a line this meta and self-aware ever showing up on Dallas? This shows a sense of humor that is just so perfectly KL and it’s always stuck out to me as a very memorable line.
Let’s talk about our current most dysfunctional couple, Joshua and Cathy. I’m gonna go ahead and blame pretty much all the dysfunction on Joshua, who is a monster, although I think Cathy is currently putting up with too much. This is the ep where Joshua finally crosses the line and starts beating Cathy, and I remember finding this very juicy and exciting upon first viewing and, well, I still do. Obviously I'm a good little liberal feminist and I don’t support hitting women, but this is just great drama and is exactly what you want in your nighttime soap. Essentially, the whole quest for an apartment continues to be this dividing force for the couple, as Joshua wants to stay at Seaview Circle and Cathy wants to move away. Of course, now Joshua’s got Cathy believing that Lilimae is dying, although he still hasn’t told her what exactly is killing her (I guess he watched Love Story and realized it’s okay to just say “She’s dying” and provide absolutely no context for this and not even name a disease and then expect people to get all upset and teary eyed over it and not pause to ask questions like, “Gee, what’s killing her?”).
I can’t remember the exact context of how the beating starts, why Joshua and Cathy are fighting in the first place, but I imagine it’s something apartment related. It’s a scary little scene, taking place in their bedroom, with Joshua getting up close to Cathy and saying something like, “You listen to me when I’m talking to you,” something scary and abusive. Meanwhile, Ben and Val are downstairs having some romantic time, and then they hear this loud thudding sound and they go upstairs to investigate. I wanna take a quick moment to note something small I like that also reflects this different era of TV, when we had 48 minutes and enough time for the little details. See, instead of just cutting to the upstairs and showing Ben and Val knocking on Joshua and Cathy’s door, we get to see them go up the stairs and stop in the baby nursery to make sure the twins are okay before moving down the hall. See what I mean? It’s a small little thing and maybe other viewers wouldn’t notice it, but I’m super duper smart and I notice little things like this and appreciate them. Not only does it reflect a type of pacing that I simply enjoy, but it also gives me a good sense of place, that Val’s house is a real house with different rooms and hallways, a real sense of architecture.
The next morning, Cathy has a big “My husband beats me” bruise on her face and she uses a better excuse than the cliché “I fell down” that’s so popular amongst battered women. Instead, she says how she had the mirror open in the bathroom and she leaned down and when she got back up, she smacked herself in the face. It’s an okay enough excuse, I suppose, but I don’t think anyone is buying it, not even Lilimae. I’ve had some problems with Lilimae (the character, to be clear, not with Julie who plays her perfectly for her entire time on the show) recently due to her being so inactive with Joshua and Cathy. I sorta understand that she’s nervous about alienating her son whom she’s only recently had become a part of her life again, but there’s definitely a line in the sand where you put your foot down and stop putting up with this kind of crap. I think now is the perfect time for Lilimae to start talking to Joshua directly about how, you know, it’s not okay to beat your wife, and just because lots of religious people do it does not make it any better. Lots of religious people molest kids, too, but that’s not okay, either.
Even so, I think Lilimae is finally starting to wise up, because even though she kinda sorta acts like she believes this whole “mirror” story, we viewers can tell that she does not. She has a private moment with Cathy where she sorta casually brings up the mirror and says how she’s smacked her own face on the mirror many times in the past, but you can tell she’s trying to sorta ease Cathy into being comfortable speaking about what’s really going on. It doesn’t work, though, and Cathy keeps silent for this ep about how Joshua is really treating her. This is one of the storylines I remember most vividly about early season seven, and I can assure you it’s only gonna get more exciting, so let’s all stay tuned.
I think that’s about it for this ep. Yeah, we got some stuff involving Val and Ben talking about marriage, and that’s all good and is gonna lead us to more material throughout the year, but why don’t we go ahead and wrap it up; how was A Little Assistance? Well, considering it comes hot off the heels of something as stunning as The Christening, I’d say it’s pretty damn impressive how good this one is. Is it good as The Christening? Well, A Little Assistance does have Sexy Michael in a bathing suit with water dripping down his perfectly dark round nipples, so that might elevate it above The Christening (or any other episode of television ever made) right away, but nah, in all seriousness, The Christening is currently season seven’s best, but this is still a good one. If I was a 1985 viewer, I’d still be hooked and watching faithfully.
What’s next? Well, that would be the episode entitled A Question of Trust.