Episode Title: Until Parted By Death
Season 07, Episode 09
Episode 139 of 344
Written by Bernard Lechowick
Directed by Larry Elikann
Original Airdate: Thursday, November 21st, 1985
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Ben and Val get married and go on their honeymoon, where they act really silly. Abby tells Elliot that all the men need physicals on Monday for insurance purposes. Elliot goes to the site and snoops in the underground chamber. On vacation, Abby gets a call that Elliot is dead, so they come home. Abby asks Greg why Elliot had to die, and surprised, he says he thought she had him killed. Cathy's apartment is filled with flowers from Joshua, and she is scared because he got in. She moves back in with Laura. Jason lets Joshua in, and he begs Cathy to take him back. Laura orders him out of the house. They fight, and he knocks Laura over. Mack says he's filing a complaint and that Joshua better stay out of the neighborhood. Joshua tells them he only hit Cathy to keep her off of drugs. He goes to Lilimae's and talks to her about how Jonathan physically abused him. Joshua is staying with Linda, and he tells her not to worry, that Cathy won't be in their way much longer.
When we last left off, I was getting real excited over Pictures at a Wedding, ranting and raving about what a brilliant piece of television art it was, which is all obviously true. Then I said how the amazing thing is that the next episode would be even better, which is also obviously true. Here we are now with Until Parted by Death, written by Bernard Lechowick, who I really like a lot, and directed by Larry Elikann, my all-time favorite KL director. This is Elikann’s penultimate episode of the series; after this, he only has one more season seven episode (His Brother’s Keeper) and then Larry leaves us forever. I’m not gonna lie; I’m probably gonna cry and contemplate suicide when we reach our final Larry episode, because God damn has this man provided us with so many of the very best KL eps of all time, and Until Parted by Death is right up there with the very best of them. Also, Until Parted by Death is a terrifically scary episode of the series, as scary as Tomorrow Never Knows from back in season six, perhaps even scarier, really. I love how KL is willing to just go full-on horror movie for certain eps, and now I’m realizing this is a tradition started way back in season one with The Constant Companion, although that episode isn’t very good and is kiddy stuff when compared to what we are discussing today. In fact, right away I’m gonna declare Until Parted by Death the scariest episode of KL up to this point and, perhaps, for all time. Let’s go ahead and explore and I can better argue my case.
We pick up this ep right where the last one left off. In fact, not only do we pick up where we left off, but we even get to re-see the last, like, thirty seconds of the previous ep before they jump into new footage. I love whenever the show does this, because it helps to keep all the eps feeling linked together as part of one big, gigantic, amazing, brilliant story, and at the same time it makes it so you could easily fuse the two eps together and turn them into a double whammy of brilliant brilliance. In fact, now might be a good time to take a completely random detour and talk about something that doesn’t relate to KL at all but is, rather, a story from my youth (I like to throw stories like these in here sometimes so my beautiful readers can get some fuller sense of myself as a person). When I was a small boy (we’re talking like maybe seven or eight years old here), I used the old trick of hooking up your 1990’s camcorder to the VCR and burning tapes and I did so in an effort to fuse the entire Back to the Future trilogy together into one gigantic film with no gaps inbetween. I also did the same thing with Critters 3 and Critters 4, since the latter film picks up right where the former left off. I was obsessed with turning these separate movies into one big, gigantic epic, sorta like what Francis Ford Coppola did with the Godfather movies way back in the ‘70s, although at that time my taste leaned more towards Critters 3 than Godfather. Anyway, as a kid I remember being extremely frustrated that I couldn’t figure out some way to remove the opening credit stuff from the start of the latter films, and I knew if I could ever find some way to just remove those credits, I would create the perfect six hour Back to the Future movie and the perfect three hour Critters movie, but I never quite succeeded due to the interference of opening credit titles. The point of this story? I suppose there is no real point, aside from observing that I’ve always loved when two separate entities can be fused together to just be one, gigantic, epic thing, and such is the case with the ending moments of Pictures at a Wedding and the opening moments of Until Parted by Death.
Actually, this whole fusing effect created a bit of an incorrect memory in my brain, because if you had asked me prior to this rewatch how our last episode ended, I would probably have told you it ended with the first scene of this ep, because that’s how I remembered it. While watching Pictures at a Wedding, I was actually somewhat surprised when we got to Gary asking Val for a talk and then the episode just ended. That wasn’t the way it went, according to my memories, but obviously my memories were wrong. So anyway, after we re-see the footage of Mack telling Gary not to fuck things up for Val and Gary finding Val and telling her he wants to talk to her, we get to the new footage, and what positively fabulous new footage it is. See, the suspense is mounting, we are convinced that Gary is going to ruin this wedding by bringing up the big paternity question, but instead he pulls Val aside and asks her, “Are you happy?” When Val seems kinda perplexed by this question, he gets real serious and says, “It’s important to me,” and then Val confirms that she is, indeed, happy with Ben. After this, we can see that Gary has made up his mind on what to do, and instead of talking about the babies, he asks, “Can I kiss the bride?” and Val responds with the immortal line of, “I’m afraid that would create a terrible scandal.” Ugh, it’s just all so good that I don’t even think I have the power to describe it. The scene manages to be exciting, suspenseful, touching, happy, and sad all at once, and I don’t know how the KL team is able to pull it off so amazingly, yet they do. Can we all just go ahead and agree that this scene is easily in the top ten of all time for Gary/Val scenes and maybe even the top five? Can you imagine watching this in 1985? If I was alive back then (to provide the readers with some context, I was negative five years old in 1985), there’s just no fucking way I could not watch this series every Thursday, and by this point I would just be riveted, unable to look away for any reason. Oh God, it’s just all so good.
After this amazingly fabulous scene that could easily propel this ep into the pantheon of all time great KL eps even if everything else in the ep sucked, we move on to the actual ceremony, which is done with terrific cinematic flair as we hear the entire “Sickness and health” speech (you know, the speech where they cleverly trick you into agreeing to a super shitty life with another person no matter what happens) all played over footage of other things happening, things like Abs packing up her bag for her little second honeymoon with Gary, shit like that. The style is so good that My Beloved Grammy even called it out, saying, “Oooh, what a stylish little scene.” I note that because usually My Beloved Grammy’s interests lie in other things like the writing and the characters; usually I’m the one who’s annoyingly pausing the eps every few seconds to say, “Look at this amazing shot!”
Let’s think, what else happens at the wedding? Well, Joshua shows up, something I was absolutely not expecting and something that I’m kinda surprised the characters allow to happen. This is not like when your asshole uncle who you just sorta don’t like but who is essentially harmless shows up for some family function. After all, at the point we’re at now, Joshua has lied to Cathy about Lilimae’s medical condition, has sabotaged Pacific Cable Whatever during Cathy’s musical performance and has, lest we forget, thrown Cathy into a pile of garbage. He’s not just sorta an asshole or sorta a douche; he’s a fucking psychopath and if I was a character in the show (and dear God, how often I lie in bed at night wishing I could go inside of the television set and just live in the world of KL forever and ever, until the end of time), I wouldn’t allow him to set foot in Lotus Point and potentially fuck up this wedding, no matter how nice he looks in a tuxedo. However, the characters do let him sit through the nuptials and he actually does manage to behave himself, never losing control and assaulting Val and throwing her into a pile of garbage or anything like that.
However, a little while after the ceremony, he and Cathy are having a private chat, not knowing that Lilimae is lurking in the vicinity and listening to every word. In this chat, Cathy tells Joshua that she knows he lied about Lilimae and that their marriage is officially over. This is an important scene, I think, because we see Lilimae, standing all alone, starting to come to terms with this real problem that’s been right in front of her for some time now. Hearing that Joshua would make up such a wicked lie about his own mother helps Lilimae to further realize what a real sicko she’s got on her hands.
The last real noteworthy thing about the wedding ceremony is the fact that Laura catches the bouquet. I’m now learning to always believe the series whenever they show a character catching a bouquet, because if I’m remembering correctly, it was Val who caught the bouquet back at Joshua and Cathy’s wedding, am I right? She caught that bouquet and now here she is getting married and Laura is the one catching her bouquet, so I feel confident in saying Laura will be the next character to get married, although my memory is hazy and I could certainly prove myself to be wrong; we’ll just have to wait and see.
So far you might be wondering what I find so damned frightening about this ep, but look no further than our very next scene, in which Laura and Cathy return to Laura’s dark apartment only to find it adorned with, oh I dunno, a million different flowers all throughout the place, courtesy of psycho Joshua who has now managed to find a way to break and enter into Cathy’s place. The music in this scene is super creepy, the lighting is all dark and spooky, and then the scary ass rotary dial phone starts to ring and, as I pee my pants a little bit, Cathy picks it up to be greeted by Joshua’s creepy psycho voice asking, “Did you get the flowers?” Oh burr, pure goosebumps all over my body is what this scene does to me. Not only is it super creepy how Joshua sends her a million flowers, not only is it super creepy how he calls her two seconds after she enters the apartment, but the big #1 creepy thing is that Joshua is basically saying, “I can get into your apartment anytime I want to.” Oh mommy, please hold me.
A little later in the ep, Jason 3 is all dressed up in his baseball gear (another story from Brett’s youth: When I was a wee lad, my dad tried to butch me up and forced me to play baseball with the other boys and I hated it more than anything in the world and I still hate sports and sports fandom more than anything in the world) and heading off to play a game when Joshua stops by and manages to ooze his way inside of Laura’s house. Uck, what a creepy scene this is, too, and I don’t blame Jason 3 or think he’s dumb for letting Joshua in. After all, I’m fairly certain that neither Laura nor anybody else on the cul-de-sac has pulled Jason 3 aside and told him that Joshua is a psycho he needs to watch out for. The last time Jason 3 saw Joshua, he was probably being nice and charming and still dating Cathy and seeming like a cool dude, plus Joshua manages to seem fairly normal and nice while talking to Jason 3 in this scene. What it boils down to is that Jason 3 says it’s cool for Joshua to hang around the house, but he makes him promise to lock the door if he leaves, and then he goes running off to his baseball game, which thankfully we don’t have to watch. All this stuff drips with creepiness, because we viewers don’t know what Joshua possibly has in mind after he infiltrates the Avery household. Is he planning to just talk to Cathy? Something worse? Or is he planning to beat the shit out of her and throw her into another pile of garbage? I kinda sorta remembered what was going to happen in this scene, so I knew Cathy wasn’t in danger of being killed off, but it’s still a spooky and unsettling state of affairs, showing how evil can so easily infiltrate this nice cozy suburban landscape where people are supposed to feel safe and protected.
I had a brilliant thought because I’m super smart and I immediately jotted it into my notes while watching and now I’m going to reiterate it to my faithful readers, and that was, “Jason 3 loses his baseball game/In the midst of all this drama, there are still kid’s baseball games in the park.” I feel this is the essential ingredient that keeps KL feeling so realistic for so long. Similar to Mack using the plunger to try and fix the sink back in, I dunno, somewhere in season six, little things like Jason 3’s baseball game keep the show feeling grounded no matter what else is going on in the show. When I talk to people who have never seen KL about KL, I know that the basic plot descriptions can make the series sound really goofy. In fact, we can do it right now, this very second, and I think it will further prove my point. “At this point in the series, Cathy is married to Joshua, but Joshua is a psycho and he’s going all stalker on her and trashing the place where she works, and meanwhile Val is marrying Ben even though Gary is her true soul mate, and Gary is married to Abs who is working on some sort of confusing evil James Bond plot with Greg, who is like this big political guy who used to be shagging Laura, and Bob Loblaw.” When you say it that way, it all sounds kinda ridiculous, yet when you watch the series, it never feels ridiculous, and I think that’s specifically because of the little touches like Mack with the plunger or Jason 3 at his baseball game. Obviously there are other factors at work like, you know, brilliant writing and directing and acting, but I think it’s those small touches that really wind up making the biggest difference.
Okay, so Jason 3 loses his baseball game and he’s kinda bummed because, you know, we raise kids and teach them that sports are the most important thing in the world, so basically Jason 3 is upset and so Laura takes him out for ice cream or whatever, and they’re having a nice little mother son chat (at this point I’m wondering where Daniel is, but whatever) when Jason 3 casually mentions how Joshua is back at the house. When Laura hears this, she is concerned and begins the trek back to the cul-de-sac, but I also admire the way that she restrains herself and remains calm, not allowing herself to frighten Jason 3. Even though I sorta make fun of the way that Jason 3 and Daniel are hardly ever a part of the show, I still believe Laura is a really good mother who knows how to deal with kids.
When they get back to the cul-de-sac, they find Joshua and Cathy talking. We can all breathe a sigh of relief that Joshua is not throwing Cathy into a pile of garbage, but it’s still weird and unacceptable how he subtly managed to infiltrate Laura’s house, so Laura is certainly justified in ordering him out of the house, leading us into another fabulously fabulous scene that has burned itself into my memory for all time. See, Laura manages to get Joshua out of the house and out into the front lawn, where he proceeds to berate her and make fun of her for the failure of her marriage (which is kinda funny when you consider that Richard left the show a solid year before Joshua entered the proceedings, but I think the point here is that Joshua is just trying to find anything he can use to insult and degrade Laura). Things escalate quickly and then Joshua shoves Laura down onto the lawn, but fortunately this is spotted by basically everyone in the neighborhood, including Sexy Michael, Eric, and Mack, who are enjoying a nice basketball game out in front of their house.
Mack handles the situation like a pro, staying calm and getting the girls away from Joshua, saying “He’s sorry, he didn’t mean it, why don’t you go inside,” but then as soon as the girls are out of earshot, Mack gets all tough and sexy on Joshua and declares, “Never again, pal,” and tells him how he’s gonna call the cops and have him banned from the neighborhood (fucking finally) and all that good stuff. I love sexy tough Mack; he’s such a strong, masculine man, always ready to defend his ladies and I love him for it, and I also love how this scene concludes, with Joshua getting all serious and saying how he only hit Cathy to keep her off drugs, ending the scene by somberly announcing, “My wife is a drug addict.” This certainly comes out of nowhere, and I don’t believe for a second that Mack is buying it, but I see what Joshua is trying to do here. He probably heard all about Karen’s pill popping days from season five and has decided that inventing this lie about Cathy having a drug problem will make Mack believe him or relate to him better or something like that. Like I said, I don’t think Mack believes him for a second, but it’s still a terrific scene.
And the most terrific thing about this scene? It’s not the fabulous acting or the brilliant way all this footage is shot by Larry, but rather it’s the absolutely orgasm-inducing ‘80s cutoff shirt that the wardrobe department have decided to dress Sexy Michael in. Oh God yes, have you ever seen a vision more beautiful than Sexy Michael in this amazing shirt? Not only is he wearing the cutoff shirt that exposes his unbelievably beautiful belly button, but he’s also rocking the absolutely incredible short shorts that he’s so fond of wearing, the shorts so short that you are utterly convinced at any second, his balls might come dropping out of them, and oh God how we all wish for that to happen. If just one teeny tiny little portion of Sexy Michael’s ball-sack were to dip out of the short shorts and if I were to witness that teeny tiny little portion dipping out, I feel I could pretty much die at that very moment and be a happy man with a very fulfilled life. Ugh, has God ever created a more beautiful person than Sexy Michael at this exact instant in time? If I was God and I created this person, I would just hang it up and stop creating people after this, for I would know there is no possible way that I could top my most beautiful and perfect creation.
I’m gonna go ahead and declare the very best scene of this entire episode (after Sexy Michael in the cut-off shirt) as being one that occurs a bit of time later between Lilimae and Joshua. Lilimae disobeys Val’s strict orders to never let Joshua in the house and she has him over for some tea and conversation. As viewers, our sphincters should be tightening up severely as we watch this happen, because who can possibly know what Joshua what might do in the house? However, rather than trashing the place again or doing something awful to the babies such as throwing them into a pile of garbage, instead he bears his very soul to Lilimae and provides us with the best acting ever from both Alec Baldwin and Julie Harris. Seriously, this is another one of those scenes that burned into my memory forever upon first viewing and is just as good, if not in fact better, right now when I rewatch it.
Basically, the two talk about the state of affairs and how Joshua is behaving right now, but then Joshua starts to go on this amazing soliloquy about growing up in a house with a father who didn’t know how to show love, only knew how to hit and hit and hit again, and how through all this hitting, he never had a mother around to protect him, because she ran off on him. As he speaks, tears form in his eyes and fall down his face, and Lilimae also starts to cry as the camera just stays focused in on her face, just listening to Joshua speak, doing all her amazing acting without even having to hardly speak at all. Ugh, can we just go ahead and give both of these actors some long overdue Emmys? Who the fuck was winning the best actor Emmys in 1985-1986, anyway? I don’t even have to look up who won them to boldly and definitely declare that there is no possible way they were as good as Julie Harris and Alec Baldwin are in this scene. This is the best acting we’ve ever seen from either of these two, and they have both impressed me scene for scene on a consistent basis since they were first introduced, but this is as good as they ever get, and it gives us one of the best scenes of the entire series run.
Another thing I wanna note real fast about this tremendous scene: I do believe Joshua is being real here. This is not the Joshua who said Lilimae was dying or said his wife abuses drugs. This is him letting his guard down and being real with her, really expressing what happened to him in his childhood and how it has affected him and turned him into the person he is today. It’s really pretty harrowing to listen to him talk, and you can only imagine how awful it must make Lilimae feel, how the guilt must be eating her up inside to think that she ran off on her son and left him alone with a scary religious nut who hit and abused him and filled his head with notions of sin constantly. Can you even imagine how she must feel? It’s yet another case where I am not a smart enough person to even begin to try and understand the deep complexities of everything going on right here.
The last thing Joshua related for this ep occurs when he’s spending time at the apartment of that waitress chick (Linda?) that he met a few eps back. I suppose he’s living with her now since he is no longer welcome at Val’s and is certainly not welcome at Cathy’s apartment. If I remember correctly, the scene starts with him creepily watching Cathy sing on the TV, but with the sound muted. Linda comes in and says how he should turn it up, how she loves listening to Cathy sing, and then the conversation naturally drifts to Cathy and the marriage and all that, leading to this cryptic line from Joshua towards Linda: “Cathy won’t be in our lives very much longer.” Oh Jesus, what to make of that little declaration?
Meanwhile, even though I said how I’m pretty much gonna just ignore the Empire Valley proceedings until that storyline fizzles out, I do feel I must talk about it in this case because I really liked it and it was really spooky. See, The Most Interesting Man in the World decides to, like, sneak into Empire Valley late at night and, like, explore that super secret, like, James Bond underground spy lair or whatever the hell it is, the thing that Greg has been working on building for several eps now. This scene only ads to my thesis that this ep is a 48 minute horror movie, because the music gets super synthy as he sneaks into this dark, spooky underground lair, and I’m pretty sure a little more pee squirted into my pants as I watched this scene. It’s just scary, what more can I say? It only gets more horrifying as The Most Interesting Man in the World proceeds further along the secret caverns and then a big scary alarm goes off, big scary flashing red lights start to flash everywhere, and then all the lights go off and I’m left clutching myself and reminding myself that it’s only a TV show and it’s not real.
As all of this is going down, we have two different couples far off enjoying their time together. We have Ben and Val off on their honeymoon, being silly and shagging their brains out together, but we also have Gary and Abs hanging out at some fancy schmany whites-only resort, dancing and being sexy and beautiful together. However, their little romantic getaway is quickly interrupted when they get a call that The Most Interesting Man in the World is dead (“I don’t always die, but when I do, I prefer doing it in super spooky James Bond underground lairs”), that his body was, what, crushed or something? Honestly, I’ve forgotten how exactly he died, but who cares, the important thing is that he died. This will be explored more in the next ep up for discussion.
Oh yeah, the last and most important thing in the storyline of Empire Valley and The Most Interesting Man in the World, and that is of course Cigar #7 on the Sumner Cigar Counter. In this case, it’s shown in a scene between him and Abs in which she is all paranoid and freaked out about what’s been going down the last few weeks, and then Greg pulls out a cigar and jokes, “Not a microphone, a cigar.” Then he smokes it. If Greg keeps up his cigar consumption as regularly as he has been the last few eps, we should be in the double digits on the Sumner Cigar Counter in no time at all.
Okay, I think I’m about ready to wrap up my thoughts for this ep. Clearly it was brilliant, but I don’t think I can fully describe how brilliant. It’s so good that I am tempted to declare it the very best Elikann ep, but I had to stop myself after I reviewed over his resume, which is right up there with Stanley Kubrick’s in terms of quality and genius. Just look at his last three episodes alone, which were We Gather Together, Distant Locations, and The Christening, all brilliant and stunning television eps in their own right. Even though I loved this episode so much that I wanna declare it his best ever, I think I’m gonna have to take a step back and be rational and say that We Gather Together remains his best ep, as well as possibly the best ep of the whole series. Even so, this is easily his second best and it’s the scariest ep of KL ever made (barring some very unexpected surprise in the next seven seasons) and has many of the most amazingly shot and acted scenes of the whole series. Honestly, the opening scene between Gary and Val and the really human talk between Lilimae and Joshua are enough to propel this ep into the top twenty, possibly even the top ten. This is as good as television drama can possibly get.