Episode Title: A Question of Trust
Season 07, Episode 06
Episode 136 of 344
Written by Bernard Lechowick
Directed by Linda Day
Original Airdate: Thursday, October 31st, 1985
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Joshua is upset that Cathy gets more fan mail than he does. Ben shows Cathy how much the ratings rise when she is on. Cathy asks if Joshua knows that and Ben says yes. Gary's upset that the TV station was built on the wrong site. Greg tells Abby that she'd better get Elliot to back up their phony report (as Peter listens in on the phone). Abby tells Elliot that she found out his son was once arrested on a drug charge. He's graduating from law school and Abby threatens to tell his employers, so Elliot lies to Gary about the phony report. Karen's jealous of Mack working with Jill, and tells Val that the way they argue reminds her of she and Mack when they first met. Jill tells Mack she is going back to Sacramento, but he says he'd like her to stay.
Welcome back. I feel like it’s been a long long time since I was sitting down to write about KL, and that’s probably because it has been. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before or not, but now’s as good a time as any to say how I always make sure to have a tremendous back catalogue of eps watched and written about and all prepped and ready to go, to the point that My Beloved Grammy and I are consistently a couple seasons in the future and ahead of where the blog is. See, I didn’t start putting up my posts until we were beginning season four, so I already had a solid 53 eps of back catalogue, which is important to me. Because of this, I’ve always strived to post consistently and not miss days, and if I have missed a day, I try to make up for it by posting two eps at once when the next blog day rolls around, know what I’m saying?
My point is that, to the outside observer simply reading my blog, it probably seems all planned out and on-schedule, but to provide a little example of how My Beloved Grammy and I watch the series and how I then write about it, I’ll provide a little context. Basically, we gathered to watch this entire glorious disk of five eps (spanning A Question of Trust through Rise and Fall) and I took my notes and then I went back home. That was about two weeks ago (maybe even three, dammit!) and yet I am only just sitting down to write about these. See, sometimes My Beloved Grammy will be like, “Why don’t you just come back next week and we’ll watch more?” and then I’ll rush home and write my essays all fast and excited, but sometimes when we’re both busy and don’t schedule an immediate next visit, I feel less energy to go write about the eps. Mostly it’s because I’m a tremendously lazy person and would rather go out and do other things, although whenever I sit to write about the eps, the words usually just come pouring out of me. Anyway, I just wanted to provide a little context so my lovely readers will know it’s been a bit of time since we watched these eps, so if I’m lacking on the details in some regards, well, I’m sorry about that.
As we open A Question of Trust, I immediately note two things and one of those things is the really cheap looking onscreen text for the credits. Am I totally nerding out for even noticing such things? Does anyone else know what I’m talking about? Our previous ep was like this, too, in which the text doesn’t present itself with the, shall we say, elegance I am used to. I don’t really know how to describe this except to say that the text looks choppy and just jumps from one thing to the next. For instance, usually you would see the episode title and then that would fade away and then a second later the “Also Starring” text would come in and then that would dissolve, but now the credits just jump from one thing to the next, almost like a computer shouting text at you with no gap in-between. Ugh, what a micro-thing to even notice or care about, and I’m almost sorry that I’m even bringing this up because it’s so stupid, but this is how my brain works. Even when I was a little kid (and just FYI, I was always a movie obsessed little kid, from right around the time I was four), I would notice the way credits look or how the words presented themselves on the screen. In any case, I’m pretty sure the text returns to looking pretty normal after this ep, so I guess it’s just this brief two-episode thing where the ep credits look especially cheap and crappy. Does anyone else in the world besides me even care about stuff like this?
The second thing I noted about this opening is the writer, Bernard Lechowick. As I’ve said before, the husband and wife team of Latham/Lechowick is going to pretty much run the show from seasons eight through twelve, with some fans really loving their era and some fans having real problems with it (I fall into the former half, but we shall see if my feelings change at all upon this rewatch), so I’m always noting whenever one or the other provides the script for an ep during this season. They contributed their first script together near the end of season six with A Man of Good Will, and I really enjoyed that ep and especially noted the way it kept the new stories flowing but still respected the past history of the show and the characters, specifically by having Karen and Eric go to visit Sid’s grave at one point. It’s interesting to see that this ep is written solo by Lechowick, showing that he and his wife don’t necessarily need to exclusively write together at all times.
I’m gonna begin my summation of the ep by discussing Cathy and Joshua. In many ways, this particular disk felt like it was all about Cathy and Joshua, so even though they don’t have a ton of material in this particular ep, it’s still important and everything is building towards a greater story that will be expanded upon as we move through this disk. Basically, Joshua’s ratings are falling (I’d be curious to see what the peak ratings truly are for a religious Bible thumping show airing on a random cable network in California, by the way), but they always seem to go up whenever he brings Cathy on to sing. People like watching Cathy sing; she has energy and a good voice and she doesn’t talk about stupid shit like religion. However, jealousy is steadily wrapping its fingers around Joshua, and we see a pretty clear manifestation of that jealousy near the middle of the ep when some assistant or whatever hands him a whole stack of letters and is like, “Cathy’s really really popular!” Clearly she’s more popular than him, because Cathy’s got a whole shit-ton of fan letters and Joshua barely has any (in fact, if I’m remembering correctly, I think poor Joshua gets zero fan letters this week). After the assistant wanders off, Joshua takes it upon himself to break a federal law by opening up Cathy’s mail and reading some of it. We don’t see or hear what is written on the letters (although I’ll bet it goes a lot like, “Hi, I’m a big fan of your singing and you really remind me of that singer Ciji Dunne from a few years ago who got brutally murdered; are you related?”), but we can tell it perturbs Joshua, who quickly dumps all the fan letters in the garbage.
Meanwhile, the plot is thickening over at Empire Valley and both My Beloved Grammy and myself are growing more and more confused by the shenanigans over in this storyline. Basically, in this ep, Gary is upset about the location of, like, the TV station they are building or, um, something. Abs and Greg have cooked up a phony report or, um, something, and they need The Most Interesting Man in the World to back up this phony report. The only problem is that The Most Interesting Man in the World doesn’t always back up phony reports and when he does, it’s usually not for Abs. Clearly he’ll need a little convincing, so Abs pulls a positively wicked J.R. move that could easily have happened over on Dallas. In fact, this whole scenario feels very Dallas to me, although I don’t mean that as a criticism, just an observation. As we got revved up for season seven, I made a mental note to pay strict attention to this as “the David Paulsen year” and see if the show started to have a more Dallas flavor. This is the same reason that I’m currently re-watching the Peter Dunne dream season of Dallas, to see if my hero Peter infuses a little KL into the Dallas fabric (and to answer the question, yes, they both bring their influences from their regular shows and bring them into the other series, although I think Paulsen is way more successful with KL than Dunne is with Dallas).
Let me try and explain why I see a lot of Dallas in this scene. Basically, Abs calls up The Most Interesting Man in the World for a friendly drink and maybe some dinner, and they meet in a big fancy whites-only club that looks pretty much exactly like the club J.R. and the gang were always hanging out at (EDITOR'S NOTE: I LEARNED THAT IT IS) and then, wouldn’t you know it, The Most Interesting Man in the World just so happens to run into his son having a drink at the bar. He makes sure to ask his son if he’s drinking a Dos Equis and his son assures him that, much like his father, he doesn’t always drink beer, but when he does, he prefers Dos Equis. The Most Interesting Man in the World is pleased and returns to his table to visit with Abs, who immediately starts dropping some threats about how she knows that his son was caught with drugs (I think just weed, but that was still considered a drug back in the 1980s) and that he got in trouble with, “Possession with intent.” From there, the understanding is clear that The Most Interesting Man in the World will continue to back up whatever Abs tells Gary, lest his son get in trouble for past indiscretions and lose his license to practice law.
You all see what I’m saying, right? How many eps of Dallas have J.R. meeting someone at the bar and then throwing threats at them to get them to go along with whatever he says? Now, obviously Abs has done this many many times herself since she arrived on the series (I’m immediately flashing back to her threatening Richard with foreclosure of his restaurant way back in season four’s Investments), so it’s not like this is a new thing. Plus, I’ve always said Abs is the female J.R. and that’s why they got along so splendidly whenever he would cross over. I’m just observing that it feels way more Dallas influenced than it has in the past, and I definitely think the influence of David Paulsen in the role of supervising producer is the reason for this.
Oooh, and before I move on to the story of Mack and J.B., I need to pause to add to the Sumner Cigar Counter, which reaches five cigars this ep. Greg enjoys his fifth cigar of the series while speaking on the phone with Abs, doing something wicked and confusing involving Empire Valley. I wonder if Sumner’s cigars were written into the scripts or if Devane just liked smoking the cigars and chose to incorporate them into his character. I’m going with the latter option, mostly based on my research about how Devane liked to operate and improvise a lot of his material. Also, I read an interview with him once where he said how he liked smoking the cigars and that Latham/Lechowick didn’t like it, but he’d do it anyway. So, yeah, I think it’s pretty clear that Devane just showed up on set and said, “Get me some cigars, Greg’s gonna smoke cigars.” What do you think?
Let’s get to what is probably the central focus of this ep, and that is the romantic tension between Mack and J.B., which continues to escalate rapidly. This ep, we start off with the two of them annoyed and bickering. See, Mack has decided that the sixth season really inspired him to work on investigating evil doctors and illegal adoptions and black market babies and all that good stuff, so that’s where his interests are currently lying. So, as we first catch up with him in this ep, he’s on his way to talk to some lady who had a baby and went through Cavanaugh (that’s the evil adoption guy who gave the Fishers the twins, in case you’d forgotten). However, when Mack arrives at her house, he finds J.B. already there and deep into the conversation. The lady is telling J.B. about how Cavanaugh got real creepy about the baby and started to heavily encourage her to give the baby up for an illegal adoption, stuff like that. This is all good information but Mack is upset that J.B. got there first and started talking to the lady without him.
This bickering continues, more or less, until Karen decides to pull out a tried-and-true method from her old bag of tricks and invites J.B. to a lovely family dinner. Is this giving anyone else flashbacks to one of our very first episodes of the entire series? Yes, I definitely agree that this reeks of some Civil Wives, in which’s Sid’s vamping ex-wife came to town to stir up trouble and Karen decided to kill her with kindness by inviting her to dinner and letting her stay at the house for awhile. I like seeing Karen returning to this method now, showing consistency to her character, although I’d say the results are about the same. You’ll recall that Sid was less than pleased when Karen invited the Police Squad! lady over for dinner, and Mack is equally displeased to find J.B. at the house waiting to be served. In both cases, I get the feeling that Karen thinks she’s terribly clever, but really she’s pretty transparent. She’s even more transparent in this instance, since she chooses to come to dinner wearing, um, basically nothing. I honestly can’t remember what outfit Karen puts on for this occasion, but let’s just say it leaves nothing to the imagination and makes her look good and sexy. It’s a nice way of inviting this potential other woman into her house but then making sure to spray thoroughly throughout the whole place as a way of saying, “This is all mine.”
I’m less interested in this little triangle between Karen, Mack, and J.B. and much more interested in what’s going on in the kitchen, which is that Sexy Michael, first of all, is cooking a big Chinese dinner for everybody, and secondly, that he is doing so with a girlfriend. Okay, where did this come from and why haven’t we been following the developments of this all season? When did Sexy Michael get a girlfriend? Have they had sex yet? Well, duh, of course they have cuz Sexy Michael is like seventeen and he’s a horny high school senior, so let’s be real. Oh God, can you imagine how fucking lucky this girl is to get to have Sexy Michael slip inside of her on a regular basis? Do you realize this bland, vanilla, totally boring white chick gets to see Sexy Michael naked?! Do you realize that she gets to see things that I can only dream about (and, rest assured, I mean that most literally)? Just to show how weird and creepy my obsession with Sexy Michael is, I was actually legitimately jealous when this bitch appeared onscreen. My rational brain tells me that this is an actress working on a television show in which there are scripts and stories and everything is planned out in advance, but my not-so-rational brain saw this girl and was instantly jealous as I found myself angry and thinking, “How come she gets to have sex with Sexy Michael and I don’t?” As I said, it’s a rather sick love that I harbor for Sexy Michael, but what can I say, he’s just fucking perfect.
Ugh, and it’s not even that he’s the most fucking perfect slice of All American Twink that’s ever walked the earth, but look at how fucking nice he is, too! He’s working hard to cook a meal for everybody in the family; how sweet is that? What other white teenager in the ‘80s would give a crap about something like that? Who else would take the time to prepare a meal? Okay, granted, the joke turns out to be that Michael sucks at cooking Chinese food and they wind up ordering Chinese take out in the end, but the thought is still there and you know that he will get better with just a little bit of extra practice. Imagine if Sexy Michael was my boyfriend; he would get finished fucking the shit out of me and then he would retire to the kitchen to prepare me a delicious meal made with his own two loving hands; can you think of anything better?
Even though I’d rather write another seventeen pages about what the tip of Sexy Michael’s cock-head probably looks like, I suppose we should shift our focus back to the main plot of this love triangle. Basically, the dinner party goes fairly smoothly, aside from the failure of the main course. Everyone seems to get along okay despite Karen’s obvious behavior, but then J.B. has to run off for, you know, some reason or other. Then the conversation shifts and Sexy Michael is going on and on about how beautiful and sexy this woman is, and Karen’s like, “Yeah, your forgettable white chick girlfriend is very nice,” and Sexy Michael is like, “Her?! I was talking about J.B.!” This is funny and all, but it also turned my insanely jealous because I don’t want Sexy Michael lusting after J.B.; I want him lusting after me!
Things escalate quickly the next day when Mack and J.B. are hanging around the office, doing whatever, and there’s some sort of a gap in which they need to kill a few hours, or perhaps I’m misremembering it; I think maybe they finish doing some big important bit of business and decide to go out together. Next time we see them, they’re at a smoke-filled bar (oh God bless the 1980s, when you could still go to a bar and smoke without shame) playing pool and I believe J.B. is winning. Hmmm, what to make of this? Should we assume Mack is treating J.B. like “one of the guys” by taking her out for a game of pool, or is there a smidge of romance going on here? I’ll throw in my two cents here, which is that I think J.B. is very smitten with Mack and I think that Mack likes J.B., but I honestly don’t think he views her in a romantic way. He’s a decent dude and he loves his wife; he can be attracted to another woman, but that’s because he’s a human being and we are attracted to lots of people (I don’t subscribe to the hetero-normative theory that once a man is married, he can not so much as look at another woman or feel any attraction for another woman lest he have his wife leave him forever). At this exact, precise moment in time, I would say that Mack isn’t thinking too much about this situation and isn’t smitten, but J.B. most certainly is.
I like the last shot of this ep, which has engraved itself into my brain and stuck with me ever since I first watched the series. I didn’t know that this particular ep would be the one to have the ending, but I was pleased when I saw it and remembered how much I enjoyed it originally. Basically, our final scene takes place in Mack’s office and J.B. is saying how she needs to get back to Sacramento soon and Mack doesn’t want her to go. This might sound fishy, but I maintain that Mack doesn’t want to shag J.B.; I think he just sorta likes having her around and isn’t ready for her to leave. However, she maintains that she’s gotta go, and then she wanders off and Mack takes off his tie and throws it aside, where it lands on top of a framed photo of him and Karen standing together and smiling, then we flash our “Executive Producers” credit over that image and I really dig it. Ah, such elegant simplicity; only on KL could a shot like that be both so simple and yet so perfect and stylish all at the same time.
So that was A Question of Trust and obviously I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I’m gonna make a sorta surprising statement and say that I found it to be least engaging ep on this disk. This is not a reflection of this ep being lacking, however, but more a reflection on how fucking juicy and exciting this whole disk was and that, by the end of the disk, things have gotten sooooooo good that this particular ep looks less interesting in retrospect. There’s still plenty of great stuff in here, though, with probably my favorite stuff being Abs pulling her J.R. move on The Most Interesting Man in the World, although I also enjoyed all the Mack and J.B. stuff.
Let’s power right along to our next episode, which is entitled Awakenings.