Thursday, July 20, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 134 of 344: THE CHRISTENING


Episode Title:  The Christening

Season 07, Episode 04

Episode 134 of 344

Written by David Assael

Directed by Larry Elikann

Original Airdate: Thursday, October 17th, 1985

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Mack decides to investigate adoptions and asks the governor to send him someone to help him with the red tape. He sends Jill Bennett. She and Mack flirt and they kiss. Greg sees Laura with a co-worker and is jealous. Greg gives Abby a phony report that says the site for the TV station is better than where Gary wanted it. Ben tells Joshua that his ratings are slipping. Joshua apologizes to Cathy and asks her to sing on his show again. Val plans the babies' christening. She asks Mack and Karen to be the godparents. Val decides to name her daughter Elizabeth (Betsy) after Ben's mother. Lilimae's shoulder hurts, and so she goes to a few doctors' appointments, but it's nothing serious. Joshua tells Cathy that Lilimae's dying, so he can't move out. Sheila Fisher follows Val and the babies around. Harry's worried about her. They go to Val's and tell her they're moving, but will always love the babies. Val lets them say goodbye to the twins.

 

                Hello my beautiful readers, it’s time to discuss The Christening.  Does anyone care if I just blow my wad right away and say, right here in the very first paragraph, that this episode is brilliant and I loved watching it and it was clearly the best of the first five eps of this season?  Well, I’m saying it, cuz fuck, this episode was good, which is exactly what I’d expect from the genius Larry Elikann, who is back in the director’s chair for the first time since Distant Locations 23 glorious eps ago.  My sphincter is tightening up a little, though, because a peek at Mr. Elikann’s IMDb page confirms that he’s only got two more eps to contribute, Until Parted by Death and His Brother’s Keeper, both here in season seven, and then he goes off to make other things that are probably brilliant and that I probably need to see right away.  I won’t cry just yet about losing Elikann, but I will cry when we reach His Brother’s Keeper and I have to say goodbye to Elikann, Sheila-and-Harry-style.

                Speaking of Sheila and Harry, we actually open on Sheila, who is clearly not coping well with the loss of the babies.  Time for an immediate compliment for KL and all its brilliance; don’t you guys think any other show would have had Val get her babies back and then Sheila and Harry would be utterly forgotten and never mentioned again?  In fact, didn’t that happen over on Dallas?  During the good seasons of that show (I believe this particular story occurred at the start of season three), didn’t some lady kidnap John Ross from the hospital and then the characters, like, tracked her down and took the baby back?  And then wasn’t she never mentioned again?  That’s all I’m saying.  Over on KL, we get to witness the ramifications of Sheila and Harry raising the babies for several months and then having to return them back to Val, and we see how difficult that must be for both of them.
 
 
 

                But wait, I kinda wanna save all that for last because the Sheila and Harry material is clearly the best stuff in this episode and it provides the best scene of the episode and, honestly, one of the best scenes of the entire series, so I kinda wanna save the best for last.  Let’s go ahead and get started by talking about Mack and Jill Bennett (who, for the same of brevity, I am going to henceforth refer to as simply “J.B.”), who is making her second appearance right here in this ep.  You might recall that she had a small but amazing scene near the end of season six with A Price to Pay.  She came to Mack’s office, she told him the governor was interested in him having a seat on the senate or something, she was sexy, she looked slightly wicked to me, and she left the office.  For all intents and purposes, I’m pretty sure that J.B. was only meant to be a little one ep character and then someone brilliant working on KL decided to bring her back for season seven and, well thank God they did, because now we get to see the amazingness and wonderment of J.B. all throughout seasons seven, eight, nine, and most of ten.  Truthfully, J.B. peaks for me (at least based on memory) during seasons nine and ten, so perhaps a new viewer watching through for the first time would spend seasons seven and eight wondering why I’m so damned excited by this character, but just wait and see.
 
 
 

                Honestly, though, and this is probably the only criticism I have about this ep (and it’s a small one), I think J.B.’s stuff this ep moves a bit too fast for my liking.  You’ve got 30 eps this season; why rush it?  See, her and Mack seem to have this instant rapport going on, where they’re sorta flirtatious and they also sorta act like they don’t like each other at the same time.  The thing that happens too fast is here is that they kiss.  Interestingly, it’s initiated by J.B., who gives this big speech to Mack about how he’s a good guy, he’s got a nice wife, a good reputation in the community, Bob Loblaw, but that his big problem is that he’s a flirt.  Then she gets up all close to him and says something about how it’s dangerous to be a flirt and one day he’ll have to act on it, or something, and then she plants a big wet kiss on him.  Yikes!  See what I mean about this being a little fast?  However, I ain’t complaining too hard, because then the music sorta swells in an uplifting tone and Mack looks super happy and puts on this fabulous Hat; God, I wanna have a love affair with The Hat.  I wanna meet The Hat in cheap motel rooms and have a torrid romance with it.  I wanna take The Hat into Abby’s hot tub and pour champagne all over it and lick it.  I fucking love The Hat.  It’s hard to describe The Hat except to say that it looks like something a gentleman might wear in the 1920s, when all the men always wore hats, and it’s just sorta goofy looking, but the goofiness is part of its amazing charm.

                Now would be a good moment to do a quick reminder of how much I adore Mack.  Already, those first three Mack-less seasons seem like this distant memory and I can hardly imagine KL existing or functioning without the shining brilliance of Mack and the insanely charismatic charm The Dobsonator brings to the role.  Part of that charm is his often strange sense of fashion, such as this amazing Hat.  Travilla is still the man behind the scenes handling costumes and wardrobe, so I wonder if The Hat was his contribution or The Dobsonator’s.  Honestly, I wanna think it was The Dobsonator, that he showed up on set with The Hat and was like, “I’m wearing The Hat whether you like it or not.”  The beauty of The Hat, and indeed any of Mack’s unique clothing choices (I also love whenever he rocks a bow tie), is the way that he just owns it; he puts on the goofy thing with such confidence that he immediately looks cool. 

                By the way, should we the audience be upset with Mack for being so pleased with the J.B. kiss?  Like I said, happy music swells and his face really lights up before he puts on The Hat, and then he walks away looking very pleased with himself.  Again, I’m gonna come at this from the perspective of an unbelievably slutty gay man and say this doesn’t bother me.  I’m sorry to let the cat out of the bag here, but all men like getting some sexual attention from other people, whether it be a woman or another, whatever’s your bag, baby.  If I was in some significant relationship and some male J.B. planted a kiss on me one day, I’d be happy about it.  One difference though (and I don’t know if this relates to me being a gay person or it just relates to me being me) is that I would go home and immediately tell my significant partner about it, “Guess what happened to me today.”  Mack doesn’t do that, and I wonder what would happen if he had.  What if he’d gone back to Karen and been like, “J.B. kissed me today; isn’t that wild?”  I wonder if Karen would be upset or if she would appreciate the honesty and the two could just share a nice laugh over the situation.
 
 
 

                Meanwhile, things are getting heated over at Val’s house.  Joshua is descending to new depths of awfulness with every ep we watch, and one of the first scenes of the ep is a rather intense family fight at the house in which Joshua declares that the babies need to have a christening and be baptized because, “They were conceived in sin.”  Val’s growing bigger balls this season, I’ve noticed, and I appreciate it, because she’s really not standing for any of Joshua’s crap at this point.  I feel like if he made a comment like that in mid-season six, Val would look uncomfortable but probably keep her mouth shut; now she yells at him and reminds him that they’re not his children, that it’s her business whether they are baptized or not.  Also, fuck Joshua and his “conceived in sin” nonsense; the babies were conceived by Gary and Val, who are soul mates and meant to be together forever and the greatest couple in television history, so fuck you, Joshua, and fuck all the religious people who act like you.  Of course, Joshua doesn’t know Gary is the father; he still thinks it’s Ben, but in any case, he’s wrong and he’s stupid.
 
 
 

                Now might be a good time to provide my readers with some insight on where I stand on religion, since I know I talk a lot of shit about religion whenever Joshua’s stories come up.  I’d like to state that I do believe in God, although I don’t necessarily believe that God is a man or a woman or any sort of physical thing; I think God is more of a spiritual thing.  I think all religions are equally stupid, so I think I can get away with talking shit because, to me, they’re all dumb.  The main thing I hate about all religions is all the shame involved; I think sex is the most beautiful and life affirming thing in the entire world (my great aunt, who is essentially the exact same person as me if I were a 60-something Italian woman, says “sex is the closest we can ever come to reaching God”), and I hate the way that religions have made people feel so guilty about their 100% normal and natural sexual urges; we are all sexual beings and it’s the most essential thing that keeps the world going on.  But I just want to make it clear that if I talk a big game and make fun of religions, I do consider myself spiritual and I do believe there is a God, so now you guys all know where I stand on that.  Okay, rant over; let’s move on to more KL.
 
 
 

                Joshua really really really does not want to move out of Val’s house anytime soon, perhaps ever.  I’m not entirely clear on why, so maybe you guys have some opinion; what is it with Joshua’s obsession with staying in the house?  Is it because he gets off on having the control and he likes being able to hurt and degrade Val?  I think that might actually be it; I think he likes being sorta in the center and able to stir up trouble with everyone around him, and that wouldn’t be nearly so easy if he wasn’t living under the same roof.  Anyway, Cathy is acting like a sane, rational person and saying how they need to find their own apartment and go off and live independently, not turning Val’s house into the fucking Camden house from 7th Heaven, but Joshua is so desperate to stay put that he works up a rather wicked plan this ep.  See, throughout the ep we get references to Lilimae having a hurt arm or shoulder or something.  At first, I didn’t know what was going on here, but it all comes together in the end.  See, she goes to the doctor, she finds out there’s nothing wrong, he tells her to take aspirin (“And for that he charged me forty dollars!” she says in her fabulously inimitable Julie Harris way) and that’s it, no big deal.  However, Joshua sees an opportunity here, so at the end of the ep (I’m hopping around, cuz this is actually the very final scene of the ep), he gets all quiet and serious with Cathy and tells her that the real reason he wants to stay in the house is because Lilimae is dying.  As he says this, Lilimae is mingling and socializing and having a nice time, looking perfectly happy, so I’m moderately surprised that Cathy buys this lie so easily, but eh, whatever.  This little development is something that’s clear flown out of my memory; I don’t remember it happening and I don’t remember where it will lead.  Let’s all stay tuned!

                The title of this episode is The Christening so obviously that event is sorta the central plot point, the nucleus of this 48 minutes.  I think I might have mixed up some stuff when writing about our last ep, because I said that was the ep where Val says they should name the girl Betsy and asks Ben if they can name the boy Bobby, but I think that actually occurs here.  In any case, one person who does not support this Bobby idea is Lilimae, who tells Val, “You can’t name him after a member of Gary’s family, and when he comes back from the dead in a year, it’s gonna really screw up our continuity from show to show!”  Val tells Lilimae that she doesn’t give a shit if Bobby is coming back from the dead in a year, that no legitimate television writer would ever write anything that stupid, that for all intents and purposes, he’s dead right now and she’s gonna name her little baby boy Bobby. 

                While all the storylines are going on, we keep returning to Harry and Sheila Fisher.  As soon as we started this ep, I immediately remembered THE BIG SCENE from it based on the title alone, but I’d forgotten how the writers do a clever job of misleading us throughout the ep.  See, we get a lot of cryptic scenes of Sheila and Harry together, saying stuff about how they’re gonna leave town, and it’s done in this tone where it seems to imply they’re gonna snatch the babies before they run off.  Also, Sheila is getting a little stalky on Val, following her around when she takes the babies out to the park or what have you.  Last ep, Karen said to Mack about the Fishers, “Their loss is like Val’s,” and that’s what I think is so interesting about this.  The show could have easily portrayed them as villains, but I feel really sorry for both of them.  They spent something like half a year loving these babies and raising them and caring for them, and now they have to give them back.  Turning them into snarling, scary villains would be one way to go on a series with less subtlety, but KL keeps it more real, presents them as real people with feelings who are hurting and suffering a loss like the one Val suffered in season six.

                The day of the christening comes and everyone’s invited.  Joshua answers the door for Laura and we have a brilliant exchange of dialogue that I immediately wrote down in my notes.  Joshua says something like, “Don’t worry, Laura, you’re always welcome in my house,” to which Laura replies, in her fantastic Laura way, “Yes, I know I’m always welcome in Valene’s house.”  God, yes, go Laura, you rock, and this exchange made both My Beloved Grammy and I laugh aloud in joy.  Anyway, Sheila and Harry show up (and I might be screwing up the flow of events; I think this might occur before the christening, but whatever, who gives a fuck, let’s talk about this scene) and we think they are probably gonna snatch the babies.  See, Harry is talking to Sheila and says how he’s gonna go up to the house and that Sheila should “wait for the signal.”  Hmmm, “wait for the signal” usually doesn’t mean anything good in a movie or TV show, so we viewers are being lead to think something awful’s gonna happen.  Instead, we get one of the most powerful and moving scenes of raw emotion ever presented on KL.
 
 
 

                See, since Sheila has been scaring Val by following her all over town, nobody is too pleased to see Harry showing up at the door.  At first, Lilimae tells him to go away, but Val lets him come in, and then Harry gives this fabulous, give-the-guy-from-Murphy-Brown-a-best-guest-actor-in-a-drama-series-Emmy-right-away speech that started to bring tears to my eyes.  He tells Val how he and Sheila are moving far far away to start a new life together, figure things out, but they just want to see the babies one last time and say goodbye to them.  His speech is very moving, and he says how they raised the babies and loved them for six months or whatever (remember continuity is weird on these shows cuz of summers not existing in TV land), that Val is going to have the opportunity to see them grow up and become adults, all that stuff.  God, this is a good speech, and the actor from Murphy Brown does a great job, but it’s nothing compared to the rest of the scene, in which he signals to Sheila that it’s okay for her to come in.  I’ll see if I can find this scene on YouTube or somewhere (I’ll bet it’s there cuz it’s so memorable and some good soul has to have put it up) so everyone can just watch it and not have to depend on me doing a shitty job of describing it.  Basically, it’s just this very tender and emotional scene, underscored by some really beautiful music, and Sheila and Harry have these two stuffed animals they give to the babies, and then they both get to hold them for a minute and kiss them on the head, then they hand them back and go away to drive off together.  Again, it doesn’t sound like much when I describe it here, but it’s a very moving scene, one of the most emotional in KL history, and it definitely made me cry; I can tell you that.  I think it made My Beloved Grammy cry but I was too captivated by the screen to turn over and look at her.  I will say that when the scene was over, she said, “Well, that was very touching,” and she sounded pretty choked up, so there you go.
 
 
 

                Fuck, this scene is so emotional.  What a gut punch, and what a brilliant ending to the whole “Val’s babies being taken” story, which I think we could say officially ends here, with this ep.  Yeah yeah, it kinda sorta ended with the second ep of the season, but this is the last we see of Harry and Sheila and this scene is really the last little button on the greatest storyline in KL history.  I’d like to take another moment to shit on Dallas and add further compelling evidence to my “KL is better than Dallas” argument by saying that I never cried in an ep of Dallas (although I do remember being moved by a really early ep in which Bobby sorta falls in love with one of the vampire boys from ‘Salem’s Lot but then the boy and his father have to move away and he and Bobby hug; I liked that one).  KL is able to make me cry, and if I’m counting correctly, this is the second time upon this rewatch that I’ve cried.  I surprised myself by not crying when Sid Fairgate went to Heaven back in Critical Condition, although that was amazingly genius and moving, as well.  My first cry (and My Beloved Grammy’s first cry) was in season six, in the incredible We Gather Together, when Val was sitting in the empty nursery and Gary came in and spoke to her.  Ugh, I don’t know which scene is more sad, that one or this one; they’re both so amazingly brilliant (and I just thought of this, they’re both directed by Elikann!  Maybe he’s the man for the job if you’re doing an ep that you want to be really hard hitting and emotional).  In any case, they’re both astounding scenes and I can easily point to both of them and say, “Nothing this good ever happened on Dallas; I rest my case.” 

                So that was The Christening.  Fuck, what an episode.  As I sat down to write about it, I knew that I loved it, but now I’m realizing how much I loved it in the greater context of the entire KL story.  Like, I think this might be a top ten episode and maybe even a top five; it’s really up there.  I love everything about it, all the stories for all the charcters, the seeds being planted as well as the stories being wrapped up, and of course the big kicker is that final goodbye from the Fishers to the babies, which is just stunning.  I think when all is said and done and I’ve gotten through all 344 eps (I’m starting to think it might actually happen!), I’ll compile my top ten or top twenty for the whole series, and I have no doubt this ep will be on it. 

                Let’s move right along now to an ep that probably won’t be as good as this Undisputed Masterpiece of Television, but which should still be really solid, and it’s called A Little Assistance.
 
 
 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 133 of 344: WHILE THE CAT'S AWAY


Episode Title:  While the Cat’s Away

Season 07, Episode 03

Episode 133 of 344

Written by E. Jeffrey Smith

Directed by Lorraine Senna

Original Airdate: Thursday, October 10th, 1985

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Greg tells Abby he's having problems with Elliot, the construction foreman. Abby tells Elliot they had new soil samples done so he can blast. Gary returns home, and breaks down over Bobby's death. At the station, Abby promotes Ben to General Manager, so now he's Joshua's boss. Mack meets with the Fishers and says they are victims, too, and they should work together. The Fishers weren't approved for a conventional adoption because Sheila had had a nervous breakdown. Val is having a ball with the babies and doesn't have much time for Ben. Joshua does his show on how the power of prayer brought back the babies. Val's angry and tells him that SHE kept the faith, not him or his viewers. Ben finally spends time with Val, but is upset when Gary comes by and she invites him to stay. Val tells Gary she is naming her son after Bobby, and Ben is really hurt.

 


                In our previous episode, Here In My Arms, we didn’t actually even see Gary and it was, I think, the first time that Shack has sat out for an ep of KL.  I know there are one or two eps where he appears physically but doesn’t actually have any speaking lines (I think way back in season one with Let Me Count the Ways?), but I do believe our last ep marked the first time he just didn’t show up at all.  Am I mistaken?  Write in and yell at me if I am.  In any case, he’s back in a big way for this ep, so let’s get started with discussing him.
 
 
 

                There’s a lot going on with the KL characters and the KL stories, so if I seem kinda obsessed with that Dallas Interlude and Bobby Ewing’s death, I apologize, but I’m surprised by how directly it’s affecting stories over here, as well as how organic the Interlude was overall.  See, this week we learn that Gary is returning to California, but he’s doing it the slow way, taking a big road trip.  When we first catch up with Abs this ep, she’s talking to The Most Interesting Man in the World, who asks her where Gary is, what’s going on, etc. etc.  Abs tells him, “It’s really been hard on Gary since his brother died,” but assures The Most Interesting Man in the World that Gary’s gonna be back soon.  Not too long after that, we get to see Gary, apparently having some car trouble, as he’s in a shop with a mechanic fiddling with his car.  A little seed is planted here, because Gary picks up a drill-bit and looks at it like it’s the most beautiful, most wonderful, most fascinating thing in the world, and then he asks the mechanic if he can buy it from him.  At first, I was like, “Huh?”  What’s the big deal about a drill-bit?  I am not a mechanic or a car expert by any means, but aren’t these common things?  Aren’t these drill-bits the kind of material you would find lying around any auto shop or car dealership?   In any case, we don’t get the payoff to this setup until a little later in the ep, after Gary has returned to California.
 
 
 

              See, back in Empire Valley, Abs and Greg are doing, um, something wicked.  Honestly, does anyone know what’s going on here?  They’re trying to build some sort of James Bond secret lair or something so they can, I guess, act like George W. Bush and spy on everyone’s private conversations and do highly illegal things under the guise of doing it for the government…..or something?  Honestly, as I have said previously, I’m not understanding this storyline and neither is My Beloved Grammy, who is usually so sharp at following all plot machinations in all shows (whenever we were watching Dallas and there was some sort of boring business deal going on as there so often were and I would tune out for awhile, she would always help me get back on track and figure out what was going on in the plot), so I think I might have to do something I hate to do and blame the KL writing team for this being so confusing.  If Peter Dunne was still around and not busy over on the sinking ship series, perhaps this storyline would make a bit more sense?  Anyway, suffice it to say that Abs and Greg are doing something evil, something they don’t want Gary to know about, something that involves Empire Valley, and most notably something that involves blasting, um, something.
 
 
 

                My basic point is that Abs and Greg are happy without Gary around checking up on what they’re doing, and therefore Abs is not terribly pleased when Gary returns home and immediately announces that he wants to go out to the Empire Valley site.  Abs gets one of those fabulous looks on her face where you just know she’s peeing her pants but she has to try and maintain her composure, and then she calls Greg up real fast.  This is a funny little bit, because Gary’s hovering right over Abs, so she makes up some sort of fake lady name when she’s talking to Greg and then she’s like, “I can’t go out to lunch today or whatever cuz me and GARY are going to the site.  That’s right, I’ll be at the Empire Valley site with GARY and that’s where I’ll be!”  On the other line, Greg gets the message (if I’m not mistaken, I believe he’s talking on one of those amazing 1985 cell phones like William Petersen in Manhunter) and immediately orders The Most Interesting Man in the World to blast that area that he wants to blast for, you know, whatever reason.
 
 
 

                From here, Gary and Abs hop in the car and he starts driving.  Abs briefly tries to detour him by being like, “Do you wanna go to McDonalds?” or whatever (she doesn’t really say that; clearly I just can’t remember what she actually says so I’m just using that as a stupid example), but Gary is determined.  I love Shack here, because he’s got this cool, sexy look of a man on a mission, not getting deterred by any possible distraction.  However, when they get to the site, things get a little weird.  Gary’s looking around,  making chit chat, and then he finds another drill-bit on the ground.  As soon as he sees this, we go into a closeup of his face and then a very interesting audio flashback that I had completely forgotten about.  Basically, we hear some audio of Gary and Bobby as little boys, discovering a drill-bit somewhere, and they have this exchange about whether they should take it or not.  I liked this whole scene just because I liked it but also because I think it has a pretty super continuity with the Brief Dallas Interlude.  I think I forgot to mention this back in The Family Ewing, but Miss Ellie and Clayton were hanging out by this old tree house (a tree house that only exists within the confines of the dream season) and Ellie says something about, “This was always Bobby’s favorite place to go, and that’s why we’ve never ever ever mentioned it in almost 200 episodes.”  Well, during this scene right here, we hear audio of one of the little boys saying, “Let’s just go back to the fort.”  Could this fort be the tree house we saw in that Interlude?  I like to think so, and if that is the case, I like the continuity a lot; it makes it seem like the two shows are still trading notes with each other so they can flow organically, something which will obviously change very soon.
 
 
 

                Also, this audio flashback demonstrate that Gary is just not coping well, cuz he stares at the drill-bit for about seventeen days, going into a trance state, and then he tells Abs they can leave and he marches off like Terminator and he and Abs drive off together, but then it gets even stranger.  See, as they drive off, Greg tells The Most Interesting Man in the World to blast, and blast he does.  There’s a great big loud exciting explosion and Abs looks behind, all startled, but Gary doesn’t react at all.  At first I was a little confused and asked My Beloved Grammy if Gary hears the explosion but just doesn’t care, and she told me that Gary is so lost in his own head that he doesn’t even hear the big explosion.  Yikes!  Clearly Gary’s going a little nutty over Bobby’s death (and clearly it’s being handled much, much, much, much better over on this series than, say, Jenna Wade going nutty over Bobby’s death on the parent series).
 
 
 

                Meanwhile over at Val’s place, she’s real happy to have her babies back with her, but that doesn’t mean the drama is over.  See, now the problem is that she’s so busy with the babies that she doesn’t have any time for Ben (this is why you should never have babies).  Ben is a true gentleman, though, and doesn’t get angry with her or yell at her or anything like that, but we viewers can see that he’s upset.  After all, he is one of the few people to know the truth about the father of Val’s babies (it’s getting hard to remember who all knows what’s going on, but if I’ve got my facts straight, I believe the people who know THE TRUTH are, at this point, Val, Ben, Mack, Abs, Karen, and Greg), so that’s probably hurting his self esteem a bit.  Not only that, but now that the babies are returned, Val’s forgetting that she has dinner dates with him, or she’s falling asleep and not showing up at his house like she promised to, stuff like that.  I feel really sorry for Ben, which is a pretty consistent feeling for me since he’s been introduced.  Talk about a decent guy, and he really gets pissed on quite a lot due to all of this drama, yet he always handles it very maturely, one of the reasons why he’s elevated so high up in my esteem from my first viewing when, in my drunken stupor, I so callously labeled him as “boring.”
 
 
 

                Bobby’s death effects something permanently on KL, and it happens right here, when Val decides she’d like to name her baby Bobby.  Oh, how I love this (especially since, as of right now, I’ve officially decided that I recognize seasons 1 through 9 of Dallas as canon and refuse to recognize 10-14 as canon because I just hate how it fucks up the KL continuity so badly, plus those seasons are just so shitty and boring and horrible).  I love this for so many reasons, the first of which is that we are maintaining a fantastic continuity with what we saw going down in so many of our previous Interludes.  For instance, Val tells Karen, “Bobby was the only one who ever acted like he was on my side.”  This isn’t just something the writers are making up to propel a story forward; it’s actually true and we saw it way back before KL even existed, in our third Brief Dallas Interlude, Secrets, when Bobby helped Val to reunite with Lucy.  Also, Bobby came to visit Val when she had her one-episode-and-then-never-mentioned-again cancer in season two’s The Loudest Word.  So what Val is saying about how Bobby treated her holds up well under scrutiny if one were to go back and look at those eps. 

                Anyway, when Val tells Ben she’s thinking about naming the baby boy after Bobby, we can tell he doesn’t love it, but again, he handles it like a grown up and doesn’t get mad and yell.  Instead he says, “Bobby’s a good name,” and Val does work out a good compromise in which they’ll name the baby girl Betsy after Ben’s mother.  I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, really, but I also understand Ben’s discomfort.  Now, not only is Val raising two kids that Gary planted inside of her, but she’s also gonna name one after Gary’s brother.  There’s just a whole lot of Gary in Val’s life and I might be uncomfortable if I was Ben, as well.  Actually, Ben’s discomfort provides our last scene of the ep, which is fabulously quiet and subtle in that wonderful KL way.  See, Ben and Val finally have some time alone to themselves to enjoy having intercourse with each other when, wouldn’t you know it, the doorbell rings and it’s Gary coming by to say hello and see the babies.  Val leads Gary upstairs, announcing that she’d like to name her baby boy Bobby, leaving Ben all alone downstairs, looking sad.  Ah, yes, so good.
 
 
 

                That’s how the ep ends, but there are a few details I’ve forgotten.  First off, even though Harry Fisher did the decent and moral thing by giving Val her babies back in our last ep, he and Sheila are still a part of the story here, as we see them having a meeting with Mack.  I like this a lot, because another show might be tempted to just toss these characters away now that they’ve served their plot function, but instead KL shows us some follow up and, in doing so, helps to answer a few questions I’ve had.  See, Mack is having this meeting to remind them that they are, in fact, victims too, just like Val.  Neither Harry nor Sheila knew that their babies were coming to them via theft.  Yeah, they were doing some illegal stuff by looking into black market babies, but honestly lots of people have done that since adoption is so unbelievably stupid and makes it so hard for so many people (including my own people, the gays) to have kids.  It’s totally fine for some sixteen year old girl to have seven kids in a row even though she works at Burger King and can’t even take care of herself, let alone seven kids, but if some gay dudes wanna adopt a kid and the adoption agent inspects their house and finds a dildo in the closet or something, it’s all over for them. 
 
 
 

This double standard doesn’t concern me too much personally, since I don’t think I ever wanna have kids, but I feel protective of my people and I think it shouldn’t be so damn difficult to adopt a kid.  Harry and Sheila didn’t have a dildo in their house (at least not that we know of), but apparently Sheila had a bit of a mental breakdown in the past and that affected their ability to adopt.  In this scene, Sheila gets real upset and starts to go on about how they were deemed “unsuitable” by the adoption agent.  In this scene, she starts to scream and shout a bit and she messes up Mack’s desk by, like, throwing a big pile of papers down, something like that.  Again, I like the subtlety here.  If this was Dallas (and I apologize if I seem to be shitting on Dallas a lot this week, but, well, it’s just so damn easy to shit on when you’re experiencing the sheer genius and glory that is KL), I’ll bet Sheila would, like, destroy the office in a big over-the-top scene while loud, annoying music blared, but here it’s more quiet.  All she does is throw some papers, but Mack does give her a look kinda like, “Yikes,” and later he tells Karen that he can see why they were denied the adoption in the first place.

Joshua’s disgusting behavior continues to escalate.  In this ep, Pacific Cable Whatever airs a really big sermon from him in which he essentially takes all the credit for Val’s babies being returned and goes on about how he “kept the faith” the whole time.  Obviously this is crap, since what really happened is that Val’s babies went missing and Joshua gave her such comforting advice as “It was God’s plan,” or decided to go take a big piss in her face in that one ep where she was sitting in the kitchen late at night.  Fortunately, Val is really toughening up lately and she’s not putting up with Joshua.  After the program airs, Val gets angry and tells Joshua she didn’t want him to talk about that and she very directly reminds him that he did not keep the faith, nor did he have anything to do with her babies being returned to her.  Fuck yeah, go Val, I love seeing her all tough and direct, and my God is Joshua ever a creep.  I had forgotten how truly wretched he becomes in this season; it makes the last few eps of season six seem like he was a really great, swell guy by comparison.  I was also amused when My Beloved Grammy said, “What a creep, I can’t wait to see him fall.”  I thought to myself how (SPOILER ALERT!) that will be happening most literally, and not too long from now.

Let’s talk about Greg and Laura last and then I’ll wrap this up.  I don’t remember anything too exciting from the two of them this ep, aside from one absolutely brilliant scene that made me pee my pants in laughter.  See, the two are still broken up and Sumner is clearly, um, broken up about it.  Since he’s Sumner, he doesn’t cry or give big emotional speeches; we just have to pay attention and watch the subtleties and complexities of this fantastic character.  The scene in question occurs at his home or his office or some damn place, and some random call girl comes out of the bedroom, looking all sexy, while Greg is occupied with pouring himself a drink or whatever and looking disinterested.  The girl comes out and says, “You know, you were really great,” and then Greg just says, “Whatever.”  Honestly, it’s only funny if you see how he delivers the line, cuz it’s just the most dismissive, blasé, I-don’t-care-about-you delivery of a line that you can possibly imagine, and both My Beloved Grammy and myself laughed out loud.  I consistently marvel at how fucking funny KL is and how underrated it is for its wit and its humor.  I also consistently wonder which lines Devane improvised, and I really hope this was one of them.  Fuck, it’s all just so good.
 
 
 

I think that about does it for While the Cat’s Away.  Clearly it was great and, three eps deep, I’m still waiting to see why so many fans seem to consider this season to be so weak.  I remember thinking it was great and, so far, I still do.  Perhaps these feelings will change as I work my way through the season, but honestly, while this is not as good as season six (but no season of television is as good as season six of KL), it’s still super high quality, in my opinion.

I’ll kinda spoil my thoughts on our next ep real fast by saying that it’s gonna be a good one, the kind of ep that you watch and then never forget, when the genius Larry Elikann returns as director for The Christening.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 132 of 344: HERE IN MY ARMS


Episode Title:  Here in My Arms

Season 07, Episode 02

Episode 132 of 344

Written by Parke Perine

Directed by Nicholas Sgarro

Original Airdate: Thursday, October 3rd, 1985

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): At the studio, Cathy tells Joshua she's getting an apartment - with or without him. Joshua grabs her really hard and says to NEVER speak to him in public like that. Gary goes to Dallas for Bobby's funeral. Greg tells the Empire Valley foremen, Elliot, to blast for the TV station in another position, but he won't without Gary's okay. Val waits outside of the Fishers' house. Ben tells Harry that the twins might not be Val's, but either way they need to clear it up. Nurse Wilson finally shows up at the Judge's, and Mack gets a court order barring the Fishers from leaving. Sheila is really losing it, so Harry agrees to run away with her. Karen drives by the Fishers' house. She sees Sheila leaving, and Mack's men follow her. Karen sees that Harry is inside, so she tells him she knows that Sheila doesn't really have the babies with her. Karen pleads with Harry and tells him that even if he didn't know the babies were stolen before, he knows now. She says they have no moral choice but to give them back to Val because how could they raise the children knowing the truth of the situation? Lilimae answers the door and screams for Val. It's Karen and Harry with the babies. They hand them to Val who hugs and kisses them, crying and laughing at the same time. Choked up, Harry slips out the door unnoticed.

 
 

Well, now that we’ve finished our brief stop over in Texas for Bobby’s funeral, how lovely and exciting it is to return to the wonderful world of KL and all the amazing characters and great drama of this fabulous series.  When we last left off in the KL world, the quest to determine the truth about Val’s babies was still underway, but the characters had just stumbled into a roadblock when they went to the hospital Val delivered at (on either November 18th or November 24th or November 29th; it clearly seems to vary from episode to episode), only to be told that there no records of any twins born in that hospital at that time.  Oh shit, what to do now?

We shall talk about what the characters do now, but first I want to talk about Joshua and Cathy, whom I neglected to mention last ep (did they even have any scenes last week?).  Over the course of the stunningly brilliant season six, we watched Joshua make a transition from meek and mild to scary and mean.  I’m not sure if he had made the switch to officially 100% evil quite yet, but he’s definitely on his way now.  By this point, Joshua is actually rather frightening.  When we catch up with him and Cathy this week, they are at Pacific Cable Whatever and Joshua is getting his makeup applied (and acting like a prima donna about it) while talking to Cathy, who is understandably upset because, you know, they’re still living in a house with Val and Lilimae and, if everything goes well in the rest of the ep, two little twin babies.  She wants them to find an apartment and she’s getting frustrated at the way Joshua constantly makes up excuses for why he can’t go see the apartments or why such and such an apartment isn’t right for them.  Cathy’s finally getting some sass and speaking her mind to Joshua, which I appreciate, but Joshua certainly doesn’t appreciate it.  After Cathy says how he’s making excuses, he grabs her arm and pulls her aside and gets really scary and angry and says, “Don’t you ever talk to me like that in front of someone else.”  At this point, he’s squeezing Cathy’s arm really hard and she tells him to stop, then she sorta shoves him and he flies back and cuts his hand.  Oooh, I like this bit, because my asshole is all tensed up as I prepare for some sort of epic explosion from Joshua or for him to start beating her mercilessly, but instead the scene ends quietly, with him sorta staring at his bleeding hand.  This is a small scene, but a significant one, and it sets the tone nicely for a lot of the Joshua/Cathy stuff that we’re gonna be seeing in the next batch of eps.
 
 
 

Meanwhile, we’ve got all sorts of exciting but confusing shit going on over at Empire Valley.  Honestly, a lot of this stuff is just flying right over my head, and My Beloved Grammy appears to be having the same problem.  Usually she’s a lot sharper than I am with following the basic plot machinations and twists (whenever I watch overly plotted and complicated movies with tons of twists and turns, I usually just get bored pretty quickly and tune out; it’s just part of the bizarre way that I’m wired), but in this case when I told her how confusing all this stuff is for me, she agreed and told me she’s not entirely clear on what’s going on.  Basically Greg wants to blast, um, something.  I’m not sure what he wants to blast, I’m not sure why he wants to blast it, and I’m not sure what the significance of this blasting is.  I don’t know if the confusion I’m feeling with this storyline is the fault of the show or the fault of me.  I tend to just blame myself, but the fact that it’s confusing My Beloved Grammy as well may reflect badly on the writing; what do you think?  Anyway, Greg is talking to this guy named Frank Elliot and Elliot is saying how he won’t blast stuff or do whatever until he hears from Gary personally.  Greg says that Gary is in Texas for his brother’s funeral (again I stress how smoothly that Dallas Interlude squeezed in between two KL eps) and tells a fib by saying that Gary is cool with all this stuff and, you know, whatever. 




While being confused with what’s going on in this storyline, I also became transfixed on the actor playing Elliot.  He sounds like Humphrey Bogart when he speaks, he’s always chewing on a pipe for some reason, and whenever he would show up onscreen, I’d ask My Beloved Grammy, “Who is this guy and why do I recognize him?”  Imagine my surprise when I went and looked up the actor, Jonathan Goldsmith, and discovered that he is, in fact, The Most Interesting Man in the World.  Amazing!  It’s kinda hilarious to think that a guy can appear in (according to Wikipedia) 350 episodes of television and then wind up being best remembered for a series of television commercials, but I guess that’s just the nature of the business sometimes.  However, I can tell you that I didn’t recognize him as The Most Interesting Man in the World while watching this eps; I just recognized him for, um, something else.  He doesn’t even look or sound the same here; he doesn’t have the beard or that rugged older man look that he has now, and, as I said, he sounds a hell of a lot like Humphrey Bogart.  My research did show that he is a Transmorpher, and a pretty big one, because he’s one of those Transmorphers who played two characters over on Dallas.  He was in three 1982 episodes playing Joe Smith and then he showed up again from 1986 to 1989, making his last appearance in the ep And Away We Go!  I remember neither of these characters one bit and would greatly appreciate it if someone could remind me of who they were and what they did within the context of the Dallas story, but I’ve concluded that my subconscious mind must just have some sort of sense memory of him being on that show and that’s why I recognized him right here.
 
 
 

I’m gonna talk about one more thing involving Bobby and his death before I return my focus back to Val’s babies, and that’s a small little scene between Karen and Abs that I appreciated.  Basically, Abs is visibly stressed and upset about something and Karen comes in to talk to her and Abs tells her that Bobby died and that’s why Gary is in Texas right now.  Good acting here from both of my girls, and I liked Karen’s quiet little response where she says, “I met him.”  This slipped my mind, by the way, or perhaps the writers are kinda sorta lying about past events.  See, Karen says how she met Bobby when he was dropping Gary and Val off at their new house way back in Pilot, but I’m fairly certain that we didn’t actually see these two characters interacting; am I mistaken?  Even if we didn’t see it, it of course stands to reason that they interacted offscreen.  It’s much like I’ve said in the past; we never see the characters taking a shit, but that doesn’t mean they don’t do it, right?  Or for another example, we never see Sexy Michael masturbating, but we all know he does, in fact, masturbate frequently and we all know that we really, really, really wanna watch him do so, now don’t we?  The same could be true of Karen interacting with Bobby back in that first episode from so long ago.
 
 
 

Okay, let’s get back to Val’s babies, which we are now in the last lap of.  Basically, the characters return to the hospital and this time they are presented with a very official looking certificate of fetal death.  Hmmm, last ep they got a certificate of live birth from Harry Fisher and now a certificate of fetal death from the hospital; the deck is really starting to stack up against them, isn’t it?  I think it’s worth noting that Karen and Mack don’t believe this certificate for a second but Ben seems to really have some doubts now.  How strong is his conviction in the truth of Val’s claims?  He seems to fluctuate a bit lately from believing her strongly to sorta doubting her, but I can understand his point.  Oh yeah, I also wrote in my notes, “Ben rocking the Miami Vice look,” because he’s wearing a white suit and I’m pretty sure he had the sleeves rolled up.  Now, that series would have been very fresh and hot at this point, in its second season and ranking at #9 in the Nielsen ratings, and so at first I assumed that the costume designer for this season (still Travilla, also busy at the same time creating ridiculous gowns for Barbara Carrera over on Dallas) was ripping off Miami Vice, but then I remembered that Ben was shown rocking this look way back in the fifth season, which would have been before Miami Vice was even on TV.  Therefore, Ben got there first and is, therefore, the originator of this look way more than Crockett and Tubbs and this only further escalates my newfound love affair with Ben Gibson.
 
 
 

Mack catches a lucky break around the middle of this ep when he meets up with Judge Spaulding and insists that Nurse Wilson is on her way, even though he doesn’t know for sure.  Last ep I think I neglected to mention that Mack met Nurse Wilson’s brother (Jesse D. Goins, who was in the Seinfeld ep The Hamptons as well as Robocop) at her trailer park and he said how she wasn’t home or whatever.  In this ep, Mack meets up with him again and says how he’d better tell Nurse Wilson to show up to this meeting with the judge because she’s the key witness in this case.  Then we get some nice suspense where Mack and Judge Spaulding are waiting for Nurse Wilson to show up and we don’t know if she’s going to, except we sorta do, cuz My Beloved Grammy announced, “She’s going to show up at the exact last minute,” and of course she was right.  Just as Judge Spaulding is saying how she’s gotta get going, in walks Nurse Wilson to speak the truth, yay!  This is the last appearance of Nurse Wilson on the series, and even though she was a small character and not some vital and essential part of the main cast, I kinda dug her and I’m gonna miss her.  I also think that, from a morality standpoint, she has redeemed herself from her involvement in the baby snatching by speaking up and helping Mack and everyone else get Val’s babies back. 

Meanwhile, Val is still lurking around the Fisher house, making sure they don’t try to blow town.  We get a very interesting and well acted scene between Val and Sheila, a character I’m rather fascinated by.  Sheila is in her back yard doing, um, something or other with the babies, and Val is peering at her through the chainlink fence.  At first Sheila is angry and is all like, “Go away; you’re not supposed to be here,” but then she sorta softens and tells Val how the kids have ear infections (good continuity, by the way, because in the season six finale, Sheila told Harry he had to go and pick up ear medication for the kids).  Then Val gives her some advice about how to help the kids with their ears (I can’t remember the advice; sorry) and her and Sheila have this brief moment of bonding that’s pretty interesting to watch.  It’s quick, though, because Sheila gets angry and says, “I’m sorry your babies got taken from you, but these are my babies, not yours,” and she also says this line that I noted, which is, “You don’t really want to talk.”  There’s a loneliness in her tone when she says this, indicating to me that Sheila probably doesn’t have many friends.  This coupled with Harry’s line about “Don’t lose it again” from our last ep really make me wonder what’s going on with Sheila.
 
 
 

Because of Nurse Wilson’s last minute appearance in Judge Spaulding’s office, the judge has ordered that Harry and Sheila are not to leave town.  Even so, when Karen comes driving up to their house late at night to, I dunno, trade places with Val on who gets to stake out the Fisher house for the night, she sees Sheila hopping into the station wagon, presumably with the babies, and speeding away with Mack’s guys hot on her tail.  Now here’s an example of some fine KL writing, because as we see the station wagon speeding away, I said to My Beloved Grammy, “These people deserve to have the babies taken away just for driving so recklessly with them in the car,” but then Karen marches up to Harry at the front door and she says, “She would never drive like that if the babies were really in the car with her,” and this is how she comes to realize that the babies are in the house and this was a deception to distract the cops Mack hired so Harry would have enough time to sneak the babies out of the house unnoticed.  A very clever plan, but Karen is a very clever woman and she was able to piece it together, and I appreciate that she points out the speeding car as her big clue.  From here, Karen gives a terrific speech delivered fabulously by Michele, a speech so good I wish I had transcribed it word for word but, again, I was just staring at the screen in awe and not taking notes by this point.  The basic gist of the speech is that Karen says she can tell Harry and Sheila are good people, that she knows they weren’t aware they were receiving stolen babies snatched away from their birth mother, but that they can’t possibly live a moral life and raise moral children if they continue to raise them after knowing this truth.  Clearly the way Karen says this is much more eloquent than the way I have described it, but whatever, I’m tired. 
 
 
 

In any case, we can tell Karen’s speech works because our next scene is her and Harry arriving at Val’s place, each brandishing a baby and presenting them to her.  Ah, yes, what a good scene this is, as Val comes rushing down from the upstairs and she’s on the stairs and then she sees the two holding the babies and realizes what is happening.  Karen gives her one baby and Harry gives her the other and then Harry slips quietly out the door while Val holds them.  One thing I liked about the scene was that the babies are screaming and crying and freaking out, much like babies do in real life.  I don’t like screaming babies in real life because they are awful, but I recognize that, in real life, they do scream, and I like that they are screaming here.  On another show, this would probably all be very graceful; Val would just be handed this angelic, super duper silent babies and it would all be very smooth and elegant.  On KL, it’s more real, because the babies are crying as they probably would be if this was happening to them.  After all, they are being taken away from their home (I should probably say “home” in quotation marks) in the middle of the night and brought to a new home with this new lady who is now going to hold them, so it’s easy to imagine this would be frightening for two little babies. 

I liked everything about this scene and I really appreciated it as a culmination of a story that has been going on for a very long time now.  Think about it, the saga of Val’s babies really kicked off when she gave birth in Tomorrow Never Knows, and that was episode 108 and aired on November 29th, 1985.  Now here we are with episode 132 on October 3rd, 1985, a gap of about ten months and 24 eps.  Pretty cool, huh?  And you really feel it here, that this is a big moment for Val and for the series and for the storytelling and that we are wrapping up a big thing that’s been going on for nearly a year.  It’s a nearly perfect scene with my only complaint being the music, which I just thought was too damn loud.  Is it just me or is the music really blaring as we get started with season seven?  I tend to think of very overdramatic and blaring music as more of a Dallas thing but there is a chance that I am glamorizing the KL music because of my deep love affair with the series; perhaps the KL music can be just as blaring and I just ignore it or let it slide cuz I love the show so much.  Basically, I just feel the scene would be even better if it had played maybe a slower, quieter, more emotional bit of music instead of this music that indicates BIG LOUD DRAMA.
 
 
 

So that was Here In My Arms and obviously I enjoyed it very much.  When Val finally got her babies back in the last scene, My Beloved Grammy said that she was ready for that story to be done, that she thought they were drawing it out too long, but I disagree.  This is only the second episode out of a 30-episode season, so in the great context of the year as a whole, they really didn’t draw this out long at all and I’d actually argue the pacing is perfect.  By this point, we should be getting used to the first batch of eps of any given season being concerned with wrapping up the big stuff from the season beforehand.  Season four opened with Gary and Val starting out their lives without being together before Ciji came along a few eps in and became a central focus of the season, then season five spent its first eps wrapping up the whole “Who Killed Ciji?” mystery from season four before moving on to Mack and the Wolfbridge investigations and all that good stuff, and then season six opened up by finishing off the Wolfbridge story before shifting its focus over to Val and her stolen babies.  This is the way the seasons are designed and it’s worked brilliantly for the past three seasons in a row, so of course season seven should follow the same template.  In fact, I’m gonna say I admire their restraint, because you just know that if another series had a storyline this good and this dramatic going on, they would be like, “How about the Fishers escape to Europe and then we can spend the rest of the season trying to track them down?” or something like that.  I’m glad that KL gives Val her babies back good and early in the season, because if they had drawn it out just a few episodes more, it would have become tiresome.  By wrapping it up here, I think Val’s babies officially becomes the greatest story in KL history; do you agree or disagree?

Gary actually sat out this episode, quite possibly the first time he has done so in KL up to this point (is this true or am I making it up?), but his absence shall propel us into the central plot for our next ep, the aptly titled While the Cat’s Away.