Episode Title: To Sing His Praise
Season 07, Episode 11
Episode 141 of 344
Written by Lynn Marie Latham
Directed by David Paulsen
Original Airdate: Thursday, December 12th, 1985
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Cathy wants to tell the police what happened, but Lilimae tells the police that Joshua and Cathy were getting back together, and that he called her to meet him, but was dead when she arrived. Jonathan comes to town to perform Joshua's funeral. Gary confronts the surveyor, who tells him that Greg and Abby paid him off. Gary confronts Abby, and wants to know what is "really" going on at Lotus Point. He shakes his head at Abby and says, "God, we're different." Coblenz wants Gary out of Empire Valley and hires a hit man to kill Gary and Abby. The hitman tries to run Gary off the road. Gary snoops around and finds the underground chamber. He goes into a room that is filled with technical equipment and white coated technicians.
When we last left off, we were given one of our most exciting KL eps with Rise and Fall as we said goodbye forever to the brilliant and dynamic young Alec Baldwin (who just won an Emmy the other day, a long delayed honor that he should have been given way back in 1985) as Joshua Rush. Now, some shows would kill off a main cast member, quickly shuffle it under the carpet, and then proceed along to business, trying to pretend like the character was never on the series in the first place. KL is not that kind of show, however; it’s a far better and far richer show in which the ramifications of an established character’s death will have far-reaching consequences and continue to effect storylines well into the future, and that’s what To Sing His Praise is all about.
Before I get started talking about the stories and events of this ep, I gotta get past one major Nerd Alert moment and point out something that I observed in the amazingly brilliant and classic opening credits sequence as My Beloved Grammy and I powered through this disk. Now, I didn’t notice this right away with this ep, but I noticed it somewhere near the middle of the disk. Now that Joshua is dead, obviously Baldwin’s name has been removed from the opening credits and, due to the beauty of “Starring (In Alphabetical Order),” William Devane is back to being the first name we see at the start. However, if you pay close attention, you can still spot a real quick shot of Baldwin’s face near the middle of the credits, during Lisa Hartman’s credit. Pay attention to the shot that’s at the very top of the screen, the one that is inbetween Lisa’s text credit and Michele’s text credit, and you shall see some footage of Cathy yelling and angry, and then for just a second, it cuts to Joshua’s face reacting to her before it goes back to Cathy’s face. Probably nobody in the entire planet would notice or care about this besides me, but I’m always interested when someone leaves a series and then kinda sorta hangs around in the opening credits. An example that springs immediately to mind is George Clooney on ER. He left the series in season five, but then for three more seasons, if you were paying attention, you could spot the back of his head during the “Starring Anthony Edwards” part of the opening, because as they show Anthony Edwards sliding back in his chair, Clooney is actually sitting in a chair to the left of him. I know this is all totally nerdy and it’s sad that I even notice this stuff, but whatever, it interests me and I noticed it happening here.
We pick up To Sing His Praise seconds after the end of Rise and Fall. Lilimae is standing around outside of the big tall building that Joshua took a fall off of, there are cops around, some detective is interviewing her about what happened, Bob Loblaw. Lilimae is already fibbing to the police, claiming that Joshua and Cathy were going to get back together, that Joshua called her and asked her to come out to this area, and that when she arrived, he was already dead. Murder? Suicide? At the moment, Lilimae isn’t saying one way or the other, but she is lying by pretending that her and Cathy were not there and that they did not witness everything. A small detail I appreciated about this scene is the way that we firmly establish that Joshua is dead, because as Joshua’s body is being loaded into an ambulance, Lilimae says, “I should go to the hospital to be with him,” but then the officer says, “That car’s not going to the hospital,” and then we see someone slam the back door and the word CORONER is on the back of it in big bold letters. Yup, Joshua’s definitely dead, and unless the season is going to end with Lilimae waking up and finding him in the shower, I think it’s safe to say that he’s going to stay dead.
The central conflict of this storyline at this point is that Cathy believes she and Lilimae need to go to the police and tell them what happened, but Lilimae staunchly refuses, her reasons being that nobody needs to know how sick and demented Joshua really was by the end of his life, that it’s better he’s remembered as a good person who touched people’s lives in a positive way. She argues that, at this point, what could be gained by telling everyone what a monster he’d really turned into? Interestingly, My Beloved Grammy actually agreed with her, and usually she disagrees with Lilimae on pretty much everything. My Beloved Grammy said that Joshua is dead now and it wouldn’t help anyone to know that he had become an abusive, psychotic, homicidal monster in the last weeks of his life. However, she also opined that it’s not good to lie and that this kind of lie is only going to unravel and create more trouble than it’s worth, which is obviously true.
Since Joshua had become something of a celebrity throughout the last year or so with his stupid little religious show at Pacific Cable Whatever, the news is having a field day talking about what happened. Pretty much all the characters gather at Val’s house to watch the news and show their support to Val and Lilimae. I noted this because it pleases me to see that still, deep into the Super Soap years of the show, we still have that sense of community, that everyone gathers in the neighborhood to support their friends. When I was talking about the first three seasons of the show, I kept saying how I predicted that sense of community would be lost around season four or five, but really it’s not. Yeah, the show has definitely gotten bigger, and yeah, there’s more intrigue and political stuff and dramatic big business dealings, but I am still seeing that community spirit right here in front of me as we watch the characters gather together to deal with Joshua’s death.
The writing is also still so good that multiple different storylines are consistently being juggled and woven together fantastically, and a good example of that comes when Gary pays a visit to the house. First off, I found myself very touched when Val is speaking to Gary and says, “Well, now we’ve both lost brothers.” It’s true, as Gary lost brother Bobby not too long ago (and, as I keep going over ad nauseam, Bobby will not be coming back from the dead over here on KL; that kind of crap writing is strictly the work of the Dallas folk). Also, during this whole event, we have a heartbreaking shot of Gary watching Val playing with the twins, knowing what he now knows about their true father. We can see the longing in his face, that he wants to go and play with them and raise them alongside his true soul mate, Val, but he also doesn’t want to mess up her life when she’s finally happy and married to a nice man who treats her well. Ugh, my heart just goes out to Gary, yet the writing is so good and so complex that I don’t know what the right thing for him to do in this situation is.
The big surprise for me in this ep was the return of Jonathan Rush to the proceedings, Joshua’s scary religious father played by Transmorpher Albert Salmi (he sported a goatee and tried to get rapey on Sue Ellen over on Dallas back when that show was still good). I’m glad he’s back for this ep because I found him an incredibly fascinating character during his one appearance in season six, back in Love to Take You Home. I also like when the writers clearly remember past history and don’t just skip over things and hope we won’t notice them. For instance, as we were watching the ep, My Beloved Grammy said, “Where’s Joshua’s father? He should be here,” and then just a second later Lilimae said, “I’d better call Jonathan,” almost as if she had heard My Beloved Grammy remind her to do so. Another show might be tempted to just bury Joshua and forget about it; after all, we last saw Jonathan on November 22nd, 1984, and now it’s December 12th, 1985, so a lot of the viewers could very well have forgotten about him by this point and probably wouldn’t question if he didn’t show up for the funeral. However, the KL writers are a better class of writers than most who write for television, so they remember the past history of all the characters and they make sure to cross their t’s and dot their i’s.
The return of Jonathan is nearly as intimidating as his first appearance back in season six. He shows up climbing out of a taxicab, looking very old fashioned and well dressed, like a man from the 1920s (an underrated look, in my opinion). He walks up to Lilimae, looking simultaneously distraught, heartbroken, angry, and frightening, and he says, “I had to hear it on television; what happened to my son?” If I’m remembering correctly, even though Lilimae is going to shortly start declaring, “He did not kill himself,” to anyone who even implies such a thing, I believe she tells Jonathan that that’s what happened, that Joshua committed suicide. You can tell this really wounds Jonathan and we all know why. Suicide is a mortal sin and I think that’s equally true of all religions, although obviously I’m not a scholar on such things (I have more important shit to study than religion, like for instance KL episodes).
Fuck, these characters are so interesting. For the 900th time, I’m gonna say how even the small, one-or-two-episode guest stars on KL manage to feel rich and fully fleshed out. Jonathan is just a guest character and he’s only in two episodes (IMDb claims he’s in three, but IMDb is wrong), yet he is so complex and feels like a full human. There’s the temptation to just dismiss him as a scary religious guy who beat his son, but there’s so much more to him than that, and this is well demonstrated in one of his first scenes. As he talks to Lilimae about what happened, he turns scary and angry and potentially violent, saying something like how he could strangle the life out of her, and he even starts to walk up close to her like he is, in fact, about to strangle the life out of her, but fortunately Val intervenes and yells at him and tells him to stay away. From here, Jonathan turns sad, heartbroken, really, saying how his son’s soul is now in Hell because he took his own life.
The day of the funeral arrives and I feel like this is the big emotional center of the ep and easily the best scene of the whole ep. Jonathan is of course a trained minister, so he’s the one delivering the eulogy, but it proves very hard for him. He sorta starts out by quoting all that generic boring Bible stuff that is always quoted at funerals (but which will be forbidden completely from my own funeral; I can assure you of that), but then he starts to get more real and talk about the pain of losing your own child, of trying to understand why God would do something like this, and that’s where he starts to cry and break down. Lilimae steps up to the plate and helps Jonathan along with the eulogy, saying a bunch of amazing, interesting, super touching stuff that I probably should have written in my notes but didn’t (I was too captivated to take notes), and they sorta join together in this moment of shared grief, and then Lilimae starts singing Amazing Grace, which I kinda sorta have a problem with. I don’t have a problem with Lilimae singing and I don’t even necessarily have a problem with the song being used in the scene, since it’s a classic cliché funeral song. I guess my problem just stems from the damn song itself; I’m so sick of hearing it at every funeral I go to, and this is another thing that will be forbidden from my own funeral (at my own funeral, I want two songs played, I Have A Dream by ABBA and Only Yesterday by Carpenters). So yeah, I guess my problem mostly lies with the fact that this song exists, but not with its inclusion in the ep.
Let’s move on from all the Joshua proceedings for the ep and focus on some other characters. The Empire Valley storyline continues to grow, and even though I’m confused by it, I’m currently enjoying watching it because I like how the actors play it and all that. In this ep, Greg is desperate to get the land back from Gary, and one of the highlight scenes comes when he pays Gary a visit over at Lotus Point. He gives an exceptionally impassioned speech about how this is his land, about how he turned down his chance at the United States Senate to have the land, about how it’s his birthright from his true father, Paul Galveston, and that he wants it back and he’s willing to pay a whole shit load of money for it. Everyone is on fire in this scene, because I love the way Devane plays this speech, doing it so well that you really kinda believe he means it even though you know logically he does not, but even better is Shack as Gary, who sits quietly and blandly listening to this whole speech and then says, “Well, that was a very nice speech.” Then there’s a little pause and he goes, “Oh, but you expect me to believe it?” Gary is honestly at the coolest we’ve ever seen him on the series, in my opinion; I just fucking love this Gary, and so does My Beloved Grammy, as well. Actually, this branches off interestingly into a discussion of why watching all fourteen seasons of Dallas before watching KL really enhances KL in a very special way (and not just because it helps demonstrate how much fucking better KL is in every single way), because My Beloved Grammy kept going on and on about how, if you just watched Dallas, you would think Gary was nothing more than some pathetic drunk who can’t keep his life together, all based on the way the Texas Ewings would constantly refer to him, but seeing him here, all grown up and mature and no longer drinking, it really helps to demonstrate his fantastic character growth.
While we’re on the topic, let’s talk about what a fantastic fucking actor Shack really is. Seriously, how underrated is Shack? It seems like nobody ever really talks about him, but think of all the different layers he brings to Gary and think of all the different Garys we have already seen, and we’re not even halfway through the series yet. Think of how different it is to play the drunken mess Gary of the Bottom of the Bottle eps in season one or the entire second half of season four and then compare it to the Gary before us here. Heck, it’s not even just the difference between drunken Gary and sober Gary, go back to any random early ep like season two’s The Loudest Word and look at what a small, weak, little man he is, unable to handle any sort of a crisis, and then compare him to the Gary here, cool and confident and smart, able to handle his problems like an adult. Ugh, it’s just all so good and I think it’s time to declare that Shack needs an Emmy, too. I’ve already said we should go back in time to give Michele an Emmy (for season three) as well as J.V.A. (for season six) and Julie (for every season she’s on the show), but let’s go ahead and go back in time to give Shack one for right here, what do you think?
Some more vitally important plot information concerning Gary and Empire Valley this ep: He talks to the, like, surveyor guy who’s in charge of, um, surveying the operation, and at first he’s all mad at him and yelling about what a piece of shit he is for, you know, some reason or other, but then the surveyor guy tells Gary that he was paid off by both Abs and Greg to keep his mouth shut about whatever is really going on over at Empire Valley. Enraged, Gary heads home, but he does not immediately confront Abs; he’s smart enough to kinda let her get caught in her lies by briefly pretending everything is cool. However, when the confrontation comes, it’s a real good one, and I feel we are finally witnessing an irreconcilable difference within their marriage. Gary has put up with a lot of crap since he first inserted himself inside of the sweet nectar of Abby’s vagina, but I think this might finally be it, finally time for a divorce. When he realizes what Abs has been pulling over in Empire Valley while he’s been distracted with his brother’s death, he says something about how he feels guilty that his land is being used for something evil, and he says (I’m paraphrasing), “Look at me, feeling guilty for something I didn’t even have anything to do with,” and then he sorta glares at Abs and says, “God, are we different.” Shack delivers the line perfectly, underlining my theory that this might be the last straw for him. He is starting to realize that he and Abs are, at their core, completely different people, that their sense of ethics and morals are completely out of whack with each other, that while his concerns lie in helping others and making the world better, her concerns only lie in looking out for herself and doing whatever she can to protect herself. I’m not gonna bother to put a spoiler warning up, since I’m just narrating what’s going on in my mind here and I don’t remember at all what’s gonna happen as we proceed through the season, but I think Gary and Abs get divorced this season, and that’s certainly what I’m predicting is lying on the horizon after this little talk they have.
Oh yeah, someone also tries to murder Gary this ep. He’s trying to take a drive in his truck when some other big ass car comes along and tries to ram him off the road. See, the driver of the big ass car is some scary hitman hired by Cheesy British Guy to take care of Gary, to help him buy the farm, to make sure he sleeps with the fishes. This is a good little action scene, the music swelling, the intensity increasing. While it’s still TV action and is obviously not at the level of, say, The Terminator or Die Hard, it's still a good scene that keeps us hooked to stick around for the 1985 commercial break, and it also establishes that this hitman means business and he ain’t fucking around.
Gary misses Joshua’s funeral because he’s now obsessed with uncovering the truth about what’s going on at Empire Valley. During the funeral, he’s busy sneaking around the area, going into the secret basement hallway and uncovering the secret James Bond underground lair. This part is maybe a smidge convenient, as Gary just sorta, you know, walks in. He even has to put a code in to get the door to open, which he does, and I do kinda wonder how he knows the code. Did he originally pick some sort of secret code when Empire Valley was first being established and they’ve just never bothered to change it? Or is the secret code perhaps the same as Arnold’s top secret code for his weapons room in Commando (for those who have forgotten, Arnold’s uncrackable code was “1-3”)? Oh well, whatever, it’s a teeny tiny plot contrivance that I’m willing to overlook because it’s KL and KL has brought me such joy and happiness throughout my life. Anyway, Gary’s discovery of this top-secret room is the last scene of the ep. See, he enters the “1-3” code and enters the room and then the camera kinda does a full 360 pan around the room, revealing a bunch of people working at computers and, you know, looking secretive. Honestly, they’re not looking too secretive, as they all just sorta go about their business and walk past Gary even as he stares at everything with big wide eyes and says, “Incredible” to himself. I’ve seen some fans being pretty critical of this set for looking cheap, but it didn’t bother me. Yeah, I guess it does look sorta cheap, but it got the job done for me; it looks like a secret room with a lot of secret buttons and TVs and stuff, so I’m fine with it.
So that was To Sing His Praise. Obviously, it was brilliant and I loved it. Even if the Empire Valley stuff remains kinda confusing, it’s not particularly annoying me at this point, unlike some fans who seem to just deeply despise this storyline and think it’s the pits (I invite those people to hop on over to the 1985-1986 season of Dallas that was going on at the exact same time and then think hard about which show they would rather be watching). All of the material dealing with Joshua’s death was stellar, the return of Jonathan was a fabulously delightful surprise, and all the material with Gary being all tough and cool and sexy as he dealt with Abs and Sumner was divine. I keep waiting for season seven to turn bad the way fans claim it does, but sorry, so far I ain’t seeing it. While it’s not quite up there with season six, I remind you that I think season six is the greatest season of television I have ever seen in my life, so nothing in the world can possibly compare to it in my eyes.