Episode Title: Rise and Fall
Season 07, Episode 10
Episode 140 of 344
Written by Parke Perine
Directed by Robert Becker
Original Airdate: Thursday, December 5th, 1985
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Elliot's widow tells Gary that Elliot was there because he was dissatisfied with how things were going at Empire Valley. Gary tells Mack. Val and Lilimae are really worried about Joshua. They find him preaching in the mission district. Val offers to take him to a psychiatrist. Joshua tells Lilimae he's come up with a plan for Cathy and him to be together forever. As Cathy drives home from the station, Joshua pops up from the backseat. Holding a knife to her neck, he instructs her to drive to the mission district. He takes her to the roof of a building. He tells her he's going to throw her over and kill himself, so they'll always be together. Laura calls Val, worried that Cathy isn't home. Lilimae drives to the mission district where she saw Joshua preach, and seeing Cathy's car, follows them to the building. Lilimae reaches the roof and yells at Joshua to let Cathy go. She screams that Joshua is cruel and a liar. Joshua puts Cathy down, and starts backing up as Lilimae yells that he's a monster, and that she is no longer his mother. He continues backing up, and then trips over the edge of the building, and falls to the ground. Dead.
“Cathy’s not going to be in our lives very much longer,” sayeth Joshua to Linda (the random waitress he’s currently shagging) in the closing moments of our previous episode, Until Parted by Death. This cryptic and scary line serves as the central plotline of the episode up for discussion right here and right now, Rise and Fall, an immortal, unforgettable, and very important episode in the grand KL canon. Fuck, KL is so stylish and cinematic. I said that way back in the very first episode; in my Pilot dissertation I said, “I always found KL to be a more interesting show visually than Dallas,” and I stick to that original opinion, which has only increased as we have entered the golden years starting with season four. In the case of Rise and Fall, after the thirty second preview and opening credits (which, I’d like to note, suddenly have a version of the theme that sounds a bit different than what we’ve had for the previous nine eps; don’t know what that is about), we are immediately grabbed by the balls and assaulted with the most stylish, most amazing, most visual, and most dazzling opening scene in any KL ep ever. There’s nary a gap between the conclusion of the opening theme and the beginning of this great great Cathy song, a most fabulous cover of Dancing in the Street, obviously sung better than anyone else has ever sung it, all played over this fantastic music video montage of Cathy singing intercut with footage of Joshua pathetically preaching on street corners. Oh God, yes, my words can’t describe it or do it justice; you just gotta see it.
I don’t just love this opening because of the song and the music video style cutting, but also the way it’s able to use visual storytelling to help us understand the plot, all without dialogue; Brian De Palma would be very pleased with this. For instance, we start out on this gigantic billboard of Cathy with an ad for her show, “Cathy Geary Rush: A Better Tomorrow,” and then we cut to the footage of Joshua preaching. In addition to the crosscutting from one character to the other, we get lots of footage of Cathy applying makeup, walking around the set of Pacific Cable Whatever, getting ready to film footage, singing her fabulous song with her fabulous band and a fabulous smoke machine going crazy all around her, and we even get some clever use of recycled footage from our previous ep in a super fast clip of her signing autographs for some fans while Joshua glares from elsewhere. This is done so fast it’s almost subliminal, but I immediately recognized it as a scene from our last ep (a scene I neglected to mention because I am lazy and worthless) in which we thought Joshua was going to assault Cathy and throw her into a pile of garbage in the parking lot, but Cathy was blessedly saved at the last minute by a whole mob of fans demanding autographs. Last thing I’ll say about this fabulous first three minutes is that I’m also glad they don’t run the episode credits over this footage. You know what I mean, the title of the ep, the guest stars, the director, all that stuff; they are smart enough to not play that stuff until after the fantastic music video has concluded, so our eyes don’t get distracted by text on the screen when we should be strictly focused on Cathy and her song. So yes, in conclusion I am declaring this the greatest opening sequence in all of KL history, and I’m gonna get bold and say right now that I mean in the entire history of the show, not just up to this point, but for all 344 eps in total. If, somewhere down the line, we are somehow given the most fabulous gift of an opening sequence that’s even better than this one, I will note that and then bump this one to the number two spot, but I highly doubt that will occur, since there’s simply no way to top the brilliance of this first three minutes.
By the way, since I can’t seem to rest comfortably until I spread my ass-cheeks and take a big shit on Dallas every time I do one of these write-ups, I feel I must point out that there was never anything this good over on the parent series, not in 357 eps spanning over fourteen (well, thirteen) years. Nope, never gonna happen. In fact, having just concluded watching the 1985-1986 season of that show (I will be doing a small writeup on it at some point in the future, so stay tuned), I can confirm that the show looked like total ass that year, washed out and ugly and visually drab, with really horribly staged scenes and awkward action scenes that seem to be directed by people who have never held a camera in their life. So please, for the love of God, I beg you, all those crazy people out there who continue to proclaim Dallas as superior to KL, all you have to do is watch one scene from the 1985-1986 season of Dallas and then compare it to one scene from the 1985-1986 season of KL and then you know you would not possibly be able to look me straight in the eyes and still claim that Dallas is better.
Most of this ep is focused strictly and 100% on Joshua, and I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that this is his last ep on the series. Despite knowing that most of my loyal and devoted readers are hardcore fans who have seen all 344 eps at least once before, I still try to stay sorta spoiler free here just in case there is someone out there on the planet who is doing what I originally envisioned could be and should be done when I started this blog, and that is watching an ep, reading my thoughts on the ep, and then proceeding onward to the next ep, all the way from the first ep to the last. If you are one of those people, and you are reading this right now, then I don’t believe I’m spoiling it to say Joshua dies in this ep since, you know, you just fucking watched it. So yeah, anyway, this is going to be our last 48 minutes with Joshua and I think it’s appropriate that we spend most of that 48 minutes focused on him, but we still got stuff from our other characters that I’d like to discuss first. Let’s get started with Abs and Sumner.
In our last ep, we saw The Most Interesting Man in the World make the very poor choice of climbing down underneath that secret James Bond underground lair thing that’s being built at Empire Valley for, um, some reason. Then big scary flashing red lights came on and we cut to a new scene, but later found out that The Most Interesting Man in the World had been killed. Who killed him and how? Well, I think I can tell you who, but I’m not so sure I can tell you how, mostly because I don’t remember. I think he got crushed to death or, um, something. In any case, he’s dead now and so the characters are dealing with the fallout from this.
Near the middle of the ep, Abs and Gary pay a visit to The Most Interesting Man in the World’s widow (The Most Interesting Woman in the World?) to talk about his death. This woman (Leigh French, who I note was in Halloween II as “Gary’s Mother” and I think that means she’s the mother of the boy who swallowed the razor blade and is trying to get medical care at the hospital) really seems to be taking The Most Interesting Man in the World’s death pretty well. Like, she seems kinda sad about it, but she also seems remarkably calm and very courteous to both Gary and Abs. We learn that she got a really really huge batch of money right after her husband’s death, so maybe that’s why she’s not too upset. Or hell, maybe she wasn’t all that happy in the marriage? We know that The Most Interesting Man in the World’s son got in trouble with drugs somewhere in the past, so perhaps that’s just one of my many family secrets harbored and kept private throughout The Most Interesting Family in the World; who can say? In any case, this is yet another example of a very small, not-even-that-important character showing up and yet feeling fully realized and very interesting to watch. Classic KL on display right here. Anyway, probably the most important part of this scene is that the widow says how The Most Interesting Man in the World was highly dissatisfied with how things were going over at Empire Valley and that’s probably why he was snooping around there late at night.
As Abs and Gary leave the home of The Most Interesting Family in the World, Gary talks about how the settlement seemed like a lot of money, but he’s also not upset about it and he says how the family deserves that money. However, the words that the widow said to him echo in his brain and he wonders why The Most Interesting Man in the World was unhappy and why he never spoke up to him about it. After all, whenever Gary would speak to him, The Most Interesting Man in the World would tell him things were running like a dream over at Empire Valley, nothing to worry about, boss. This contradiction leads Gary to Mack, whom he expresses his concerns to. Uh oh, is Mack gonna be on the case? This would not be good news for either Abs or Greg, since Mack is a sharp investigator and could get to the bottom of this and figure out what is going on and then helpfully explain what is going on to the confused viewers sitting at home in 1985-1986.
We get a pretty killer Greg scene in this ep when he’s visited in his sexy high rise office building by Cheesy British Guy. There’s no cigar in this scene for us to add to the Sumner Cigar Counter (damn!), but it’s still a cool scene because Greg leads Cheesy British Guy out onto the balcony and is like, “Let’s take a look at the view,” all while Cheesy British Guy poops in his pants and says, “I don’t really like heights.” Way to keep your cool, Cheesy British Guy. Anyway, after Greg finds out that Cheesy British Guy is aware of the death of The Most Interesting Man in the World and that he even orchestrated it himself, more or less, Greg dangles him over the edge of the balcony and threatens to drop him like Arnold dropped Jerry Horne in Commando (my God, it was the same year! Do you think Greg went and saw Commando and decided to steal this move from Arnold?). However, he doesn’t wind up dropping Cheesy British Guy; he just scares him a little bit and then tells him that when he signed up for this operation, he did not plan on getting involved with murder and that this will never happen again. Good strong Greg scene, acted well by Devane and Madison Mason (that’s Cheesy British Guy, in case you didn’t know).
Honestly, that’s about it for our non-Joshua stuff this ep, so let’s move back to him. At this point, his life is complete shit, but it’s hard to feel too sorry for him. When you systematically lie to your family and abuse your wife and throw her into a pile of garbage, your family is justified in cutting you out of their life. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget that he’s also carrying on with another woman by shagging Linda on the side, despite all his religious preaching about sin. At the same time, I feel kinda sorry for Joshua and that’s due to many factors, but the two key ingredients are the writing and the acting. After that phenomenal Emmy worthy scene between him and Lilimae last ep, we now better understand what has shaped Joshua to become the man he is right now. Knowing that Jonathan would simultaneously attack him with Bible-gibberish and fill his head with notions of original sin while also beating and abusing him, we now have more backstory on Joshua. Everyone knows that the cycle of abuse tends to repeat itself unless someone is strong enough to break that cycle in their own life. Usually, however, the abused child grows up to be the abusive adult, and that’s what has happened here with Joshua.
This episode gives us many memorable Joshua moments, but I think my favorite occurs around the midway point, and that’s Joshua and the dolls. This scene has stuck with me forever and I actually misremembered and thought it took place in our previous ep. Basically, Joshua is at the apartment of Linda The Waitress and she comes in and, like, bumps a desk or something and causes the little wedding cake figurines of the bride and groom from Joshua and Cathy’s wedding to fall to the ground and shatter. Joshua gets mad and yells at her about what she’s done, scaring her a little, at which point she vacates the room. Then Joshua picks up the dolls and starts to, like, talk in their voices, sorta Norman Bates style. Ominous music comes up as Joshua talks to the dolls and then knocks the little Cathy doll off the table and says, “Goodbye, Cathy” and then does the same to the Joshua doll and says, “Goodbye, Joshua.” Yikes, why do I smell a ritualistic murder/suicide in the near future?
Real fast, since I’m obsessed with picking minor characters and creating elaborate backstories and character motivations for them, let’s discuss Linda The Waitress (pictured below). Do you think she yet realizes that Joshua is sick and dangerous? Or, do you think she’s so used to asshole boyfriends after all her years with Arthur Fonzarelli that she doesn’t even notice she’s traded one asshole for another one? I get the feeling that Arthur Fonzarelli was just 100% asshole all the time, whereas Joshua tends to switch back and forth and is pretty good at appearing gentle and caring when he wants to. So, when Joshua snaps at her for breaking the dolls, do you think she sees hints of his evil or do you think she just dismisses this as a guy getting mad because she broke something he cared about? Also, what do you think could possibly happen to Linda if Joshua didn’t die at the end of this ep? Would he marry her and then continue the cycle of abuse on her instead of Cathy? Or does Joshua even care at all about this woman? I kinda get the feeling he’s just using her as a tool so he has a place to live at and a woman to shag, but I don’t know if he really particularly cares about her or even views her as a full person. What do you think?
As I mentioned, Joshua has now been reduced to preaching on street corners, and he is spotted by Val and Lilimae while they are out doing their grocery shopping. Val tells Lilimae to stay away from him, but Lilimae can’t resist going up to him and trying to speak with him. She tells him how they need to get him some help, get him to a doctor, Bob Loblaw, but Joshua is really far gone by this point, and it’s these small little touches that Baldwin brings to his performance that really help to demonstrate how crazy Joshua is at this point. He almost seems stoned in this scene, talking all slow and mellow, spouting nonsense about having some sort of vision from God, shit like that. Another series might just portray Joshua as a raving lunatic, constantly screaming and breaking things. On KL, we see the physical abuse and him yelling and being scary, but we also see him being sincere and crying and talking about his past, we also see him acting stoned and weird and faraway, and we see these weird moments where he seems to sober up and act like a decent person for a couple of seconds. It’s all very fascinating to watch and acted to perfection by Baldwin.
Somewhere near the middle of the ep, we have a scene of Joshua alone, climbing up to the roof of this big tall building, the big tall building with the gigantic poster of Cathy behind it, and looking down and sorta grinning. Uh oh, I think we all know where this is going to lead us, and we don’t have to wait long to see Joshua’s plan in action as he kidnaps Cathy and forces her to come to this big tall building with him. By the way, remember how I went on and on about our last ep being a 48 horror movie? While I don’t think this ep is as frightening as Until Parted by Death, I definitely think it continues along that same horror movie vein in many ways, and this sequence is a good example. See, Cathy leaves the station, she asks the security guard to keep an eye on her while she walks to her car, she gets in the car, and then Joshua pops up from behind while she’s driving. This didn’t really surprise me because, well, I remembered it happening from my previous viewing, but I don’t think it surprised me on first viewing either, and I blame that more on my deep love affair with horror movies that started at a very early age (you could say I lost my horror movie virginity when I was five years old and first watched the original Halloween). Anyone who’s seen one horror movie knows the trope of the bad guy randomly popping up from the back seat when someone is driving, and this might even go as far back as the original urban legend about the woman driving her car and the car following her and flashing the lights at her.
Anyway, as Joshua leads Cathy to the big tall building, we also have Lilimae searching for him right around the same area. Only problem is that she drives away from the big tall building two seconds before Joshua and Cathy arrive at it, but then she sees their car passing her and pulls a Frank Drebin and crashes into some random trashcans on the side of the road. This crash renders her car inoperable, I guess, so she goes running back to the big tall building to find Joshua. Talk about your suspense, by the way, because we keep cutting from Lilimae running to Joshua dragging Cathy up the stairs, holding a knife to her throat. Fuck, this is intense, and we even get good action and suspense when Cathy briefly manages to get away only to be intercepted by Joshua, who returns the knife to her throat and successfully gets her up on the roof.
Here, though, we get another great scene where, instead of just having Joshua rave and be scary, he sits down and gets all quiet and reflective and starts to talk about the disintegration of their relationship and why it occurred. This only goes on for a smidge of time, and then he returns to trying to throw Cathy off the roof (where, you know, she could very possibly land in a pile of garbage). He is interrupted at the zero hour by Lilimae, who screams at him to let Cathy go and stop being such a psycho. Then we get another just-give-her-an-Emmy scene from Lilimae where she just goes crazy on Joshua and starts screaming about how she is not his mother, how she could never have a son as cold and cruel as Joshua. Ugh, it’s all so good, and she plays the scene so perfectly. She says, “I don’t care anymore, I don’t care that I was a bad mother, or that Jonathan beat you; I only care that you have become a monster and you trample on everybody, you devour everything you touch. Don’t call me Mama; I’m not your mama!” Oh Jesus, such strong words, and just look at the pain in Joshua’s face as she screams these things at him, at the tears in his eyes, omigod. As Lilimae screams at him (and as I scream at the Emmy voters for the season for not giving her an Emmy and instead giving it to, you know, some random bitch I don’t even care enough about to look up), Joshua starts to back up, getting perilously closer to the edge of the roof, and we all know what’s going to happen here. My Beloved Grammy even said right here, “I think we’ve seen the last of Joshua,” and then a few seconds later he falls off the roof and he dies. As Lilimae and Cathy scream and cry in horror, the camera pans up and goes into a closeup of that “Cathy Geary Rush” sign that was our first image in the ep, a fantastic stylistic bookend to a fantastic episode.
Oh God, I have so much to say and I don’t even know where to begin. Clearly this episode was a work of profound genius and clearly it was a brilliant final episode for Alec Baldwin as Joshua. It also serves as a great little mini-finale, if that makes sense. This particular disk of eps we watched (it spanned from A Question of Trust through Rise and Fall) is really probably my favorite disk we’ve watched, because it was so unbelievably exciting and yet also rich with amazing character moments. It was so good it felt like it’s own little five-episode miniseries of joy. Ugh, I just wanted to hug myself as I watched through these five eps. Since this is Baldwin’s last hour, we definitely need to take some time to reflect on how perfectly he played this character over the course of roughly 40 eps (give or take a few; I think when you add it all up he actually appears in something like 36 eps). I heard an interview with Baldwin where he said that, when he was hired, they told him he would be killed off in about a year, which is fascinating information to have, because it makes me wonder how far in advance the KL team generally plotted their stories. When Joshua first comes to the door in Calculated Risks, do you think the writers already knew everything that was going to happen with this character? Or do you think they had some general basic outline and they knew the character would be killed in the near future, but they connected all the dots as they proceeded along through his time on the series? Such questions I have. In any case, though, I think this is Baldwin’s best work of his entire career and I think it immediately shows that he had star power and charisma to spare, because he’s only like 26 or 27 years old at this point, yet Joshua feels so complex and fully realized. I also think Baldwin brought out the best material from Julie Harris that we have ever seen; whenever they had big emotional scenes together, it was absolutely gripping television.
Before I wrap up my thoughts for the ep, I also wanna do a quick summation of how I’m feeling about season seven thus far. I’m starting to realize that a lot of fans don’t like this season, and so far I have no idea why. In fact, I’m gonna get bold and say that, so long as you can get over the silliness of the Empire Valley stuff and not let it bother you too much, I think these first ten eps of season seven have been just as good as season six, and really I feel like these first ten eps fuse really well with season six and kinda feel like they are all part of the same season, if that makes sense. I’ve been focusing really hard to see if David Paulsen brings a more Dallas flavor to proceedings, and while I think he does do that, I also feel like it never stops being KL in all its glory and beauty. However, I will pay strict attention as we move through the next twenty eps of the season, because I think that’s where a lot of fans start having problems with the year. I don’t remember having any problems with it, but I remind you that the first time I watched through the series, I seriously binged and would devour about five eps per day and get through an entire season in about a week cuz I was so obsessed. Now, holding a microscope to each ep, will the latter 2/3 of the season be as strong as I remembered? Well, that’s what we’re going to find out as we move right along to our next ep, To Sing His Praise.