Thursday, November 30, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 151 of 344: IRREVOCABLY YOURS


Episode Title: Irrevocably Yours

Season 07, Episode 21

Episode 151 of 344

Written by Sara Ann Friedman

Directed by Robert Becker

Original Airdate: Thursday, February 20th, 1986

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Val and Ben think Gary's gift is out of line, but he's given it to them in a trust, so they can't do anything about it. Ben's furious, and tells Gary that there's a lot more to being a father than genes, and he is the twins' father. Greg and Abby are furious when they find out Gary gave away Empire Valley. Mack finds out that Jill hounded the Governor for months to work with him, but she says it was just a career move. A woman comes up to Mack and Jill, and calls her Dottie Simpkins, and says they went to Franklin High together. Jill says she must be mistaken. Mack finds out that Franklin High is in Wesphall. Michael can tell Olivia is stoned, but she denies it. She goes out to dinner with Abby and smokes pot in the bathroom. Michael drops Olivia off at school, and is then pulled over by the police. They find a joint in his car.


                Welcome back, my dear readers.  As I get started with discussing the next five eps, spanning Irrevocably Yours through The Legacy, I’d like to take a few moments to provide some context for my viewing of these eps, as I sometimes do.  See, I understand how, to my readers, it might just seem like I’m a magical machine consistently producing essays on the brilliance of KL every Thursday, but there are some behind-the-scenes shenanigans that the reader may not be privy to.  The best example is the fact that I’ve always strived to maintain a generous back catalogue of ep essays so that I never reach a point where I’m simply out of eps to discuss, where I haven’t gotten together with My Beloved Grammy in some time and so my blog does dark for awhile.  That’s why I didn’t actually start putting up essays until My Beloved Grammy and I were just getting started with season four, ensuring that I had lots of work already written and needing only to be plugged in.  As an example, I’m sitting here now getting ready to write about Irrevocably Yours from season seven (duh), but as of this exact moment in time, the blog is up to late season five, with the next ep ready to be published being Second Chances.

                Also, as I’ve stated many times before, the general outline for how we handle watching eps is that I go over to My Beloved Grammy’s house, we watch five eps, and then I return home and start writing about them.  In the case of this particular span of five eps, however, I had some personal problems on the night of our viewing and feel they drastically effected my ability to watch and appreciate the eps, plus my notes were unusually sparse.  In addition to that, we finished the eps, I went home, and then I was so damn lazy and waited so damn long to start writing about these eps that I pretty much forgot all the details and all the things I might usually write about.  Therefore, I decided to try something a little different; I decided to rewatch these five eps all by myself and then write about them directly afterwards, refreshing my view on them and giving me a chance to better explore them.  So, this morning I acted like a completely pretentious douche by going to a Starbucks with my laptop and hijacking one of those big pretentious leather chairs and ordering a big pretentious overpriced coffee drink (actually, I just ordered a regular coffee, but I still felt pretentious) and then I plugged in my headphones, attempting to drown out the noise of spoiled entitled white people complaining that their latte wasn’t properly steamed or whatever, and watched two glorious KL eps in a row, Irrevocably Yours and High School Confidential.  Now I plan to write about these two eps, and then later I shall return to Starbucks and repeat my pretentious behavior from this morning by watching the next three eps, as well, and then I shall write about them, and then I’ll be all ready for another disk of eps.  With all that explaining out of the way, let’s now discuss Irrevocably Yours.



                In the concluding moments of A Very Special Gift, Gary gave the twins, well, a very special gift, basically leaving them half of Empire Valley in some sort of a trust, and it’s this decision that continues to brew such controversy as we begin this ep.  See, after our thirty second preview and glorious scrolling squares, we begin the ep in the kitchen of the, um, Val household (the Ewing household?  The Clements household?  The Gibson household?) with Ben and Val giving the twins their morning feeding.  Again, it’s small details that I appreciate on KL, and something I’ve been consistently appreciating this whole season is the fact that the twins are ever present.  How many TV shows have used a pregnancy and babies to create some big drama and then, once the babies are alive and well, proceeded to shuffle them offscreen for the rest of the series?  Shows do that all the time, but ever since Val got the twins back in Here in my Arms, they have always been around and we’ve always gotten the sense that Val’s house is now a house of babies.  Having this ep start with both Ben and Val in the kitchen, feeding the twins, just adds a nice touch of realism that other shows would ignore.  After all, it would be very easy to just throw in a line like, “Gee, we’d better wake the babies up soon,” or “Gee, wasn’t it nice of Cathy to take the babies out for a walk this morning?” and then have Ben and Val talk alone, but KL doesn’t do that.


                I also appreciate the fact that the babies are present because Ben and Val’s conversation/confrontation revolves around the babies.  All season (as well as the season before this one, and of course the season before that one), Ben has been dealing with some jealousy issues in regards to Gary.  This gift only reinforces that, no matter how much Ben hates it, Gary is always going to be a part of his life because he’s always going to be a part of Val’s life.  At this point, I see Ben being a little more open in his hostility towards Gary.  For the majority of his time on the show, I’d say Ben’s resentment has been sorta simmering beneath the surface, an elephant in the room that everybody was well aware of.  Now, however, he’s speaking directly to Val about how Gary’s gift is inappropriate, questioning what his motivations could have been, saying how he needs to stay out of their lives.  To her credit, Val agrees, saying that leaving half of Empire Valley to the twins is way out of line.



                This leads us to a fabulous Gary/Val confrontation taking place at some race track.  You’ll all recall how Gary has decided to get into racing as a sport, channeling a little bit of the grown up Bobby Brady from The Bradys, although that “drama” series is still a few years into the future.  In this scene, Val arrives with the sole purpose of giving the gift back to Gary, but he refuses to back down, saying how Val never even told him that the twins were his, or, to use his exact quote, “You never even told me you were having my babies.”  Hmmm, now this is worth discussing, wouldn’t you say?  I find Gary to be an endlessly complex and fascinating character, much like all of my loved and cherished KL characters, but this is the first time I’ve really thought about the alternative possibilities that could have occurred if Val had chosen to go about her pregnancy differently.  For instance, what exactly would have happened if Val had told Gary right away, as soon as she found out she was pregnant back in season five, that she believed the babies to be his?  Gary had just married Abs a couple of eps beforehand, and so obviously that provides some motivation for Val to keep mum, but what if she hadn’t?  Would Gary have ditched Abs to go back to Val and raise the babies with her?  Would they have stayed divorced, but worked out some sort of a custody arrangement?  Or would he have agreed to leave her alone even knowing the truth?  It’s hard to say, but I guess I’d predict that he would stick with Abs, mostly because of how recent their wedding was and how, at that point in the saga, Gary was still really wanting to be a good husband and make it work with Abs. 



                In any case, it’s the fact that Gary didn’t know that is really getting to him at this point.  I try to climb inside of his brain and understand his feelings and his motivations, and what I see is a man who feels he was shut out, that he wasn’t even given the opportunity to try and be a father to these kids because nobody told him that he was, in fact, their father.  I think Gary is feeling some serious guilt about not being around the twins very much but I think he’s also feeling some anger for the fact that he was shut out and not given the full truth in the first place and this anger is fueling his decisions at this point.  Even though it’s obvious how the gift of half of Empire Valley could be taken offensively by someone like Ben, taken as an insult by another man who is handling over millions and millions of dollars to the twins and effectively undermining Ben’s ability to be a responsible parent, I can also see Gary’s perspective.  He feels impotent, unable to express love for these kids he knows are his, and so when he gives a big fat gift like that, he’s not thinking of it like, “Look at how much money and power I have!”  He’s thinking of it as something he can do to make the lives of the twins better in the future, something he can do to help.




                One last thing worth noting on this Gary/Val confrontation at the race track: Throughout the entire conversation, J.B. looms in the background, quietly watching and listening.  Hmmm, what to make of this?  The scene ends before she can come out and say hello to Gary, but what’s the significance of her seeing this little altercation?  I’d say it’s an apt demonstration of the fact that, if she’s gonna wanna be part of Gary’s life, she’ll have to accept that Val will always be there, as well.  I don’t know if this is exactly news to J.B., as I imagine she figured this out pretty right and quick upon arriving on the series, but maybe this is just a firm reminder of that fact, a demonstration of how deeply entwined the two soulmates really are in each other’s lives.  All that said, I don’t know that anything directly comes out of this; rather, we just see that J.B. witnesses their argument and that’s the end of it.



                Gary is pissing off a lot of people this week, however, because near the end of the ep, on that same old racetrack where he likes to spend the majority of his time lately, Gary has a fight with Ben.  This fight is even more intense than the one he had with Val earlier, since that was clearly a case of two soulmates having a disagreement, whereas here it’s two men who don’t particularly like each other finally having a one-on-one confrontation.  As I’ve said pretty much since day one, the beauty and the joy of KL lies in the wonderful three-dimensional complexities of the characters, so usually when I see a fight like this one, I find it impossible to pick a side and I also just sorta don’t want to, because I love both characters and I understand them.  However, in this case, if I absolutely inherently must pick a side, I’m going with Ben. 

See, I understand Gary’s emotions, as I just discussed, but Ben’s feelings and needs are also valid, so let’s look at it from his perspective.  He’s already gotten kind of a raw deal ever since he first met Val, since it was pretty obvious right off the bat that she would always carry a torch for Gary, no matter how much time passed or how much her life changed.  The whole time he’s been with the series, Ben has been having to compete with Gary for Val’s love, even at the same time that the dynamic duo is split up and leading separate lives and even marrying other people.  It only got worse after Val became pregnant, because now Ben is competing with Gary not only over who Val’s heart belongs to, but also who is the actual biological father of these babies.  That brings us up to date, where now, even after Ben and Val have been married and agreed to raise the children together as their mother and their father, Gary still won’t go away; he’s still showing up with big expensive gifts and sorta pissing on Ben’s efforts to create a family with Val.  If I was Ben, I can tell you exactly the way I would view Gary, and that’s basically what Ben does for us in this scene.  He points out how being a father is about more than genes, that it’s about the responsibilities and duties of looking after the children, of raising them.  Everything he says is brilliant and also very cutting, things like, “You don’t drink anymore, but that’s the only thing about you that’s not acting like a drunk,” “Your idea of masculinity might go down great with a couple of sixteen year old kids, but it doesn’t cut it with grown ups,” and “Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say you never considered how this would hurt Val?”  Oh yeah, and the big piece de resistance comes with, “You’re trying to soothe your ego by calling my kids bastards.”  In my newfound role as President of the Ben Gibson Fan Club, I greatly relish all of this stuff and would say that this scene is probably my favorite of the ep.  I just love how Gary and Ben get real here, get direct, speak frankly about the problems that have been brewing for the last nearly three years.  Both actors are great in their anger and I understand both of them.  All in all, a solid little scene.


While we’re on the topic of Ben, let’s also discuss his impending affair with Cathy, which has been getting cooked up for a really long time now.  Seriously, this is going on forever and it’s not the way I remembered it at all.  In my memories, Ben and Cathy had an affair right near the end of season seven and it was really quick and it seemed to come out of nowhere.  Watching now, I realize the exact opposite is true.  The seeds have been being planted for this affair since near the end of season six, since Ben went up to Joshua and confronted him on the way he treats Cathy and then punched him.  As we’ve moved through season seven, we have seen a ton of scenes and little dropped lines indicating that Ben and Cathy are gonna shag, yet here we are in episode 21 and they still haven’t done it yet.  I mention this because we get a quick little scene between the two of them in this ep that continues to build sexual tension, at least in my opinion.  It takes place at the Ewing/Clements/Gibson household and involves Ben offering Cathy “a cup of milk,” only for her to request a “cup of beer” instead, which he promptly brings her.  Next, the two characters talk about how Cathy is considering going off on tour and Ben tells her not to, which I find a tad vexing.  How is a rising singer going off on tour a bad thing?  Isn’t that the way you build a fan-base and get your audience?  Or is Ben saying it’s better for her to stick to her little cable show (the one that used to be a religious program but was quickly tweaked and changed into a pop rock show starring a scantily clad woman bearing a striking resemblance to another popular singer who was violently killed in 1983) and the fan base she’s building right there versus taking a gamble and going out on tour?  Or, let’s be real, is Ben just attracted to Cathy and considering having an affair with her and he doesn’t want her to run off on him right now?  I’d say we can safely go with option number three.





Lilimae is still on the series, although I’m not entirely sure why at this point.  Ever since Joshua took that plunge off the roof, the writers have seriously put the brakes on the very possibility of Lilimae getting something interesting to do.  This is now the eleventh episode since Joshua died and yet we are still watching Lilimae mope around and do nothing and act all sad about her dead son.  Now, some might be tempted to say I’m contradicting myself, as I am always the first one to go on and on about the brilliance of KL’s slow burn storytelling.  Why would I compliment that and then complain that this fallout from Joshua’s death is going on too long?  Well, mostly it’s because nothing is happening and nothing has been happening since he died.  Rest assured, I did not want Joshua to die and then immediately be completely forgotten about, but I certainly didn’t think we would have eleven eps in a row of Lilimae just sorta doing nothing and being sad.  Yeah, we had that little storyline about her and Cathy lying to the police, but that was way drawn out and hardly very interesting at all, and even after they wrapped that up, they still continued to draw out Lilimae’s sadness ever-longer.  Now here we are with an episode that finally decides to wrap this up, but it’s not done in an exciting or interesting way; rather, it just sorta fizzles.


Okay, so what is Lilimae up to this week?  Well, we are told early in the ep that she crept out of the house right at the crack of dawn, and then we proceed to follow her around throughout the day as she just sorta wanders through the highlight spots of Joshua’s last few days on this earth.  She returns to the preaching district and looks around and we are treated to a generous sprinkling of audio flashbacks from the last ep or two that Joshua was alive in.  We get to rehear the tremendous speech from Until Parted by Death in which Joshua describes living in a house with an abusive father and no mother, and then later we actually get to see Baldwin again when we get a visual flashback to the ending of Rise and Fall.  This is all fine, I guess, but what’s really being served in terms of story?  You could say that this is further emphasizing Lilimae’s heightened emotional state, but weren’t we viewers already well aware of that state?  Not only is this the ELEVENTH ep since Joshua died, but we’ve also already seen Lilimae, alone in her bedroom, giving that big soliloquy to, I guess, Joshua’s spirit or whatever.  In any case, Lilimae’s material this week feels completely like the writers trying to fill time.  She wanders from place to place, we rehear things we’ve already heard, we re-see things we’ve already seen, and then basically she comes home and announces that she’s finally feeling better.  Actually, saying she “announces she’s finally feeling better” is a bit of an understatement.  Instead, what really happens is that she returns home to find Ben and Val hanging out with the twins and she starts to give this great big speech about how she lost a son and she would very much like to have another one, eyeing Ben.  Now this I like because I’m ready for Lilimae and Ben to be solid friends who get along with each other, but what I find a little bit more vexing is Lilimae’s assertion that the twins “will have a guardian angel named Joshua.”  Hmmm, didn’t Lilimae see the sixth season and the first ten eps of the seventh season?  Would you want abusive psychotic demented religious nut Joshua to be the guardian angel of your children?  Well, I certainly wouldn’t, plus I would also question if Joshua wound up in the place that angels wind up and not, you know, the other place that’s a few miles below.  In any case, I’m willing to bet that Lilimae knows Joshua didn’t wind up becoming no guardian angel, but this is just a little spin on things that she needs to do in her own brain in order to move forward.



Lilimae and Cathy are both suffering from the same problem at this juncture, and that is the fact that the powers that be clearly do not know what to do with them.  Who to blame for this?  I’m tempted to blame David Paulsen, who is coming over after years of working on Dallas, a show hardly renowned for having great, complex, super interesting female characters.  The ladies of Seaview Circle have always been way more interesting than any woman over in Texas, but perhaps Paulsen just doesn’t understand how to write for them?  Perhaps his talents lie more in the big business stuff and so he’s more comfortable writing scenes of Sumner up in his skyrise, smoking cigars and making plots, versus trying to figure out how to write for established female characters like Lilimae and Cathy.  I could try to throw some of this blame around, but you know what, I’m just gonna stick to my assertion and blame Paulsen.  I remind all of you that I was not on set, that I wasn’t even alive at this time, so obviously I have no actual idea of what the hell I’m talking about, but even so, as a person who has watched all fourteen seasons of Dallas as well as all fourteen seasons of KL, I feel like I can spot some of the usual Dallas storytelling problems creeping into KL at this point, and they are displayed most significantly in the lacking storylines for Lilimae and Cathy.


In fact, having eleven straight eps in a row dealing with the fallout from Joshua’s death without really, you know, propelling any new storylines forward, well, this has made me reflect that this is the first season of KL in which I can sense the creative powers struggling to fill their entire season.  This is only the second season of KL to contain that massive episode count of thirty, but it’s already suffering in the shadow of the brilliant season six.  Season six also had thirty eps, but at no point did I feel like the series was struggling to fill time or meandering; every episode of that season was a delight and every episode pushed forth the stories and also gave us plenty of time with our fascinating characters.  Season seven is definitely lacking that grace at this point.  Instead, I’m seeing writers saying, “Oh God, thirty episodes, um, well, we just killed off Joshua, so why don’t we, um, have some sort of a police investigation into his death that can fill four or five eps?  Then maybe after that we can have a super lame storyline involving Cathy dating a saxophonist who’s really a reporter?  Yeah, that should fill up another four eps.  After that, um, let’s just sorta have Lilimae mope around and do nothing interesting for awhile, then we’ll have a flashback to Joshua’s death and then Lilimae will, um, kinda, um, you know, just get over it?”


But enough bitching about that; let’s focus on someone I love very much, and that would be J.B.  Fuck, not only is J.B. just as good as I remembered from my first viewing, but she’s actually better.  In my memories, J.B. didn’t really and truly blossom until seasons nine and ten, but now I’m loving her from the moment she was first introduced.  In this ep, the plot thickens ever more as far as J.B. is concerned, starting with a little scene in Mack’s office taking place between Mack, Karen, and, um, some guy.  “Some guy” could also be referred to as “Lou from Fight Club,” by the way, and the basic gist of the scene is that Lou from Fight Club (actor’s incredibly strange real life name: Peter Iacangelo) asks Mack how he’s liking working with J.B., Mack says something like, “Ugh, it’s terrible; all she does is whine about how she got assigned out here,” and then Lou from Fight Club tells him how that’s real strange because J.B. specifically requested to come out here and work with Mack.  Hmm, why the lies?



Later, Mack and J.B. are walking out of the office when they bump into a strange woman who sees J.B., gets very excited, and says, “Oh hi, you’re Dotty Simpkins from Franklin High!”  J.B. looks very uncomfortable at this comment and says how she doesn’t know the woman, who quickly vacates the premises.  An interesting little scene, although I would have preferred to see Mack a little more visibly suspicious of J.B. right here.  After what Lou from Fight Club told him, shouldn’t this random stranger mistaking J.B. for someone else strike him as especially curious?  Instead, Mack is shown to be distracted with something else on his mind, so this woman barely registers with him.  In any case, we viewers should be able to see that a big fat seed is being planted right in front of us.


Oh yeah, and real fast on the subject of this strange woman (who tells J.B., “It’s me, Sheree!” but is merely credited as “Woman” on the IMDb page), let’s discuss the actress playing her.  Well, her name is Dinah Lenney and, first of all, she is a Tangled Knot who will return to the series in 1988 for the episode Lawfully Wedded (season nine, episode nineteen) playing “Meter Reader.”  I’ll keep my eyes open for her when we get to that ep (watch me forget all about it by the time we actually get there), but what I found most interesting about this actress is that she played Nurse Shirley on ER all the way from 1995 to 2009, appearing in 74 eps.  This would be another one of those characters who is just sorta around for the entire run of the show, never a main character, never a huge focus of storylines, but just consistently showing up over the course of the run.  Also, earlier in this essay, I made a reference to the first episode of The Bradys, a CBS show from 1990 that absolutely nobody else in the world besides myself knows about or cares about.  Well, I made my little reference just to amuse myself, really, but now here I am looking at Dinah Lenney’s acting credits and, GASP, it says she also appeared in the pilot episode of The Bradys!  She plays the pregnant chick who cheesily gives birth during Bobby's wedding ceremony to Martha QuinnHow cosmic is that?

 

Our last batch of eps demonstrated Karen having some trust issues with Mack after finding the key to J.B.’s hotel room in his pocket.  Well, it seems that the two have mended fences since then, and I think Karen’s trust issues with Mack are in the past, but now we’ve got a new problem: Karen’s burgeoning frigidity, although I suppose the two could be directly related.  See, in this ep, we see Karen and Mack crawl into bed and Mack attempt to get busy with Karen, who is simply not in the mood.  After a few awkward moments of Mack kissing Karen and her having none of it, he finally resigns himself to a night of blue balls as Karen snuggles up to him and says, “But I do feel like cuddling,” words no horny man ever wants to hear.  Once again, I love and respect both characters and can sympathize with both of them.  I’d say Karen’s frigidity is based in her still feeling hurt by Mack holding on to that room key, so she is currently unable to get completely close with him and be intimate and tender.  Meanwhile, Mack is trying to show his love for his wife and he’s trying to do it in the most time honored way, through a  healthy shag, yet she’s not on the same wavelength as him.  Will these problems be resolved?  Well, spoiler alert, but yes, they will be resolved, and it won’t take too long to resolve them, either.  I take issue with that, but perhaps I’d better save my thoughts on this for a few eps down the line.


All that’s really left in the character roster for Irrevocably Yours is Olivia, who is continuing to blossom nicely into an out-of-control teenaged rebel.  One of our very first scenes this ep is Olivia in her room, spraying some air freshener around.  As soon as we see that air freshener, we know what’s up, but I’m gonna poke some major holes in Olivia’s pot smoking habits and say that no seasoned stoner would be as obvious as she’s being.  Okay, we all know that the smell of pot doesn’t linger in the air and the walls and the carpets in the same way that the smell of tobacco does.  Even so, that obviously doesn’t mean there’s no smell.  The smell fades faster and should basically be completely gone by about 24 hours later, but during the time that you’re physically blazing up, the smell is rather potent.  Why would Olivia be so stupid as to continue smoking within the confines of the Fairgate house and then think that a measly little spray of air freshener will take care of the problem?  A seasoned stoner would know that you don’t blaze up in the house unless you are all by yourself and know that you’re gonna be all by yourself for many hours, and then a seasoned stoner would also make sure to leave several doors and windows open in order to de-smellify the house as soon as possible.  Olivia instead chooses to blaze up in her bedroom two seconds before it’s time to go to school.



Is it any wonder that Sexy Michael walks in and immediately knows what’s going on?   He walks in wearing a fabulous white shirt that somewhat shows off his neck (mmmmm, I just wanna bite his neck, mmmmm) and immediately declares, “You’re stoned, aren’t you?”  Olivia goes on about how she doesn’t smoke grass and then Sexy Michael finds himself once again possessed by the spirit of Nancy Reagan as he goes on about all the evils of pot and how Olivia will get in trouble at school just for having it.  As I said before, this is really the only flaw in the entire character of Sexy Michael Fairgate.  Absolutely everything else about him would make him the most perfect boyfriend/husband that a boy could ask for, but the fact that he is such a square as far as Mary Jane is concerned is a bit of a problem.  Fortunately, I have complete confidence in myself and my own powers and I know that, if I suddenly found myself trapped inside the television ala Pleasantville and was living and breathing within the KL world, I would immediately use my powers to turn Michael gay, get him to blaze up a doobie, and then I would do things with him in a hot tub that would make Abby herself blush.



While I’m kinda making fun of Sexy Michael for being a square, he’s actually not totally out of line.  See, Olivia clearly is smoking weed too much and it’s clearly starting to affect her schooling and her general demeanor.  As we see throughout this ep, she has to blaze up several times throughout the day just to make it through, because the next time we catch up with her, she’s out at a fancy dinner with Abs, clearly yearning to be anywhere else.  Abs asks the waiter to give all the anchovies to Olivia, which seems gross and weird, saying how it’s important for Olivia to try new things.  Olivia counters with, “I hate Caesar salad and I hate anchovies,” and bemoans the fact that she even has to talk to her mother at all before quickly retreating to the bathroom.  Once again, I point out that Olivia is taking quite a risk here that a seasoned stoner probably would not take.  In this instance, she’s lucky that the bathroom is completely unoccupied and that nobody comes in while she’s enjoying her toke, but it’s still a big risk.  What if someone did come in?  What if this was one of those restaurants that has a restroom attendant?  I guess we can take this to mean that Olivia needs her weed so bad that she doesn’t care what risks she takes to get it.  Oh yeah, and one last note on this scene: I absolute adore the scary-ass electronic sci-fi music that plays when Olivia puts the joint in her mouth, suddenly making this scene feel way scarier and way more dramatic than it actually is.



Even as I bitch about Paulsen not knowing how to write for women, I see an immediate contradiction to my statement in the fabulous way that Olivia has blossomed this year.  She’s gone from being Abby’s daughter who I always liked and always cared about but who was just sorta, you know, there, and she’s turning into a rather important character in her own regard.  In fact, even though she’s credited as a guest star and is not a part of the scrolling squares, I would argue that she’s a more important character at this point than either Lilimae or Cathy.  Certainly she is getting a lot more to do and her stories are a lot more interesting than either of those two, and I again praise Tonya Crowe’s acting, which I feel is vastly underrated in the grand KL scheme of things.  She’s figuring heavily into the stories now and has to show herself as, yes, rebellious, but also as a teenaged kid confused about her own life and about the moral integrity of the people around her.  I think she’s doing a great job at all of this and it’s only going to get better as we move into the eighth season. 


Olivia’s joints propel us towards our exciting episode cliffhanger, in which Michael is driving and is stopped by The T-1000, who tells him he has a broken tail light.  Michael is apologetic, but as he’s talking, The T-1000 spots two joints lying on the floor of the passenger side, his eyes get all big and wide as if he’s never seen joints before, he orders Michael out of the car, grabs the joints, and then holds them up and asks, “Are these yours, Mr. Fairgate?”  While it’s a little bit strange and unrealistic to watch a cop harass a white person in such a way, it’s still a pretty good ep ending that leaves me wanting to watch more.



Okay, so that was Irrevocably Yours.  How did I find it?  Hmmm, it’s actually kinda hard to say.  I guess what I will say is that, at this point, at this exact juncture in the series, while the eps are fine and have great moments individually, I am having some problems with the storytelling of the season overall.  What I mean is that if you watch this episode all by itself and then just judge it all by itself, it’s pretty good despite a few problems, but if you start to look at the way the stories are moving in the context of the overall season and the eps that came before this one and the ones that are going to come after it, you start to see more flaws.  I’ll elaborate on this more as we move closer and closer to the end of the season, but for now I’ll say that this was a good episode, but not great.  It had some great moments like the confrontations between Gary and Val as well as Gary and Ben, but it also had meandering parts like every scene involving Lilimae.  It had great stuff for Olivia and her grass problem, but then it had almost nothing interesting for Cathy to do.  It had great stuff involving J.B. and a possible secret identity, but then it had Karen and her frigidity, a storyline I’m not entirely sure I like or not at this point.  So overall, a pretty mixed bag, although of course I must make sure and remind you that I love KL yesterday, today, and tomorrow and I will love it until the end of time.  If I was just watching the show the way I did back in college, I’ll bet I wouldn’t even notice any of these problems.  It’s the fact that I’m going episode-by-episode in such minute detail that’s making flaws stand out to me.  They appear bigger than they perhaps actually are, and that’s totally a result of me paying such strict attention.  Also, I remind you that, even if the eps are suffering from some story flaws, it’s still good.  This is still a good show that everybody should watch and I also feel very comfortable saying I’m sure it was the best nighttime soap on TV in 1985-1986 (although I remind you that I still haven’t seen Dynasty or Falcon Crest, though rest assured that I will one day soon).  It’s just suffering from a few problems that the show either hasn’t had in years or hasn’t had at all yet, but that is simply the nature of a series that lasts so long.


Next up, we shall further explore the shock of Michael being found with marijuana in his car with High School Confidential. 


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 150 of 344: A VERY SPECIAL GIFT

Episode Title: A Very Special Gift

Season 07, Episode 20

Episode 150 of 344

Written by Lawrence Kasha

Directed by Nick Havinga

Original Airdate: Thursday, February 13th, 1986

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Karen and Mack make up. Greg asks Peter to start a social relationship with Abby. Peter tells Sylvia that Greg wants him to spy on Abby and Abby wants him to spy on Greg. Sylvia is concerned that Peter's double dealing will backfire on him. Gary and Jill sleep together. Later, they run into Peter, who asks Jill if Gary suspects anything. She says no. Mack and Ben think that the Governor must be opening the Westfall case, since Jill is so interested in it. Abby hires a detective to check out Jill. Michael finds that Olivia has a joint, but she says she's holding it for a friend. Val throws a party for the twins' first birthday. As a birthday gift, Gary deeds the twins half of Empire Valley.


Welcome to A Very Special Gift, the episode that served as the final one for another fun filled disk of KL joy that began with The Confession.  When we last left off, it looked like Karen and Mack might be suffering from much deeper problems than would appear at first glance as they had one of their biggest and most intense fights ever.  Will they be able to reconcile and make up with each other?  That’s only part of the joys contained within A Very Special Gift

I’d actually like to get started by discussing Karen and Mack, since their story captivated my interest the most in our last ep and since it reaches some form of catharsis in this ep.  See, as we get started with this ep, Karen is still being cold and doing the silent treatment to Mack.  This is another example of KL’s fairly perfect timing when it comes to how long they let stories draw out before they wrap them up, cuz I think if this went on for just one episode longer, it would become tiresome.  It’s just threatening to get tiresome as we head into this ep, but I feel like that’s probably the point, since this ep is gonna wrap that up and allow Karen to forgive Mack.  See, we start off with her still being cold and Mack asking her, “How much longer is this gonna go on?”  I’m with Mack, by the way, even though I understand both characters.  The two had their big fight last ep and all that, but if I was Mack, I would be much more aggravated by this point than he is.  All things considered, aside from smashing a lamp last ep, I think he has the patience of a saint.  After all, how much longer can things go on with Karen being all silent towards Mack over awkward family breakfasts?


Fortunately, Karen’s catharsis comes in the form of Abs, of all people.  In a scene near the middle of the ep taking place at Lotus Point, Abs is trying to be all hurtful and nasty to Karen and she says something about how Karen should be very careful with Mack because J.B. and him are having an affair, or something like that.  At first, I thought Karen would get mad and defensive with Abs and yell at her, but instead she starts to laugh openly, and the most fabulous thing is that it’s not meant to be a mocking laugh; she’s really just sorta surprised into laughter and so she laughs a big, genuine, uncontrollable burst.  This confuses and annoys Abs, who was clearly trying to be hurtful and has failed, as she just sorta marches out of the room while Karen’s in the middle of her hysterical laughing fit.  Later, Karen goes home and finds Mack and the two have a nice chat that they’ve been needing to have.  Karen explains how hearing Abs accuse Mack of cheating when Karen knows for a fact that J.B. is currently sleeping with Abby’s husband, Gary, helped her to form some release of all her anger and be ready to move on. 


I’m pleased to see Karen and Mack ready to get along again, but their problems are not entirely over, as we see within the confines of this ep.  See, Karen may have forgiven Mack for the whole hotel room key thing, but it seems that she’s starting to go frigid with him now.  We get a scene of the two of them in bed together and Karen saying something how she wants to make love, but she just can’t right now.  Later, she reiterates the same information to Val in a candid conversation they have in Val’s kitchen, telling her how she wants to do it with Mack, but it’s something about her body, that she’s having a physical problem with actually doing it.  I’ve heard about this happening, and it happens to lots of people, not just women, and I’m glad to see it happening on the show now.  I suppose some people might be annoyed with this and say they just want Karen and Mack to be happy and move on already, but I quite like this for many reasons.  One reason is that just because Karen and Mack have sorta dealt with their previous problem, that doesn’t mean they won’t have new problems to contend with in the future.  The other reason is that I like how this organically plays out from what’s happened in our prior eps.  Karen is dealing with problems of trust when it comes to her husband, so even if they’ve had a good talk and worked their problems out, that doesn’t mean these trust issues aren’t still inside of her, and I’d say they are manifesting themselves in a physical way at this point.  Just because her brain has forgiven Mack doesn’t necessarily mean her body has, if that makes any sense at all.


The Sumner Cigar Counter reaches Cigar #12 this ep when Greg lights one up in his office while talking with Peter.  And speaking of Peter, he’s a busy boy this week, because in addition to hanging out with Greg while he smokes Cigar #12, he’s also got a lunch meeting with Abs, a meeting that shows Peter pulling a duplicitous move that is right out of the book of either J.R. or Abs.  See, Abs agrees to go to lunch with him at some fancy schmancy whites-only place, and then we see Peter pick up the phone and talk to someone on the other end, but we don’t know who.  He tells this mysterious person where he and Abs are going, and wouldn’t you know it, as soon as they arrive, they are right in time to witness J.B. and Gary together, sharing a passionate kiss over an intimate lunch.  Hmmm, the timing seems rather convenient, wouldn’t you agree?  Could Peter have possibly been making arrangements with someone on the phone to ensure that J.B. and Gary would both be at the same lunch venue at the precise same time?  When this occurs, we see Abby’s eyes get all big and wide in that fabulously Donna way, which helps us to understand how much or how little she knows about this affair.  Even though I feel like Gary has been carrying on fairly openly about his relationship with J.B., I believe this ep marks the first time that Abs becomes truly aware of it.  Add to that the fact that, just a little while before this scene, we had Karen laughing at Abs and you can imagine how she must be feeling right now.


Later, as Gary prepares to slip inside of J.B., he tells her, “It’s nice being with a woman who has no ulterior motives.”  One can see where he is coming from, but we viewers should already be starting to have some doubts about J.B. and her lack of ulterior motives, and our suspicions should only grow in the last scene of the ep.  See, in that final scene, we see J.B. meeting up with Peter and exchanging mysterious dialogue about how Gary “doesn’t suspect a thing.”  Hmmm, well this is a fabulous little twist, no?  So now we know who was in on the arrangement to get Abs to that restaurant at the exact right moment, but we still don’t know why.  It’s fabulous twists like these placed at just the right moments that keep the viewer wanting to come back every week.  If I was alive in 1986, by this point I would have been long converted to a fulltime KL fan (I would say if I had been alive and watching both shows at the same time, my conversion would have become cemented somewhere around 1982 or 1983 and would have only grown stronger in the years since) and, if I was still watching Dallas this season, I feel like this would probably be the point that I would have jumped shipped on Dallas and just stuck to KL as my one show of choice. 


Sexy Michael is again rocking a pink shirt in this ep, further adding to my theory/hope that Sexy Michael is actually secretly gay and in the closet and doing all sorts of naughty things with the other closeted boys in the locker room after 1986 gym class.  While I would greatly prefer that the entire series just shift its focus to that and devote 100% of the storytelling to Sexy Michael exploring his sexuality, the writers instead choose to go another way that I also greatly enjoy, and that is in focusing on the continuing streak of rebelliousness within Olivia.  I think I was wrong in my writeup for my last ep when I said that was the ep where she whips out the makeup and lipstick and then meets up with the cigarette smoking motorcycle riding boy; it’s actually in this ep.  Okay, so we know that likes wearing slutty makeup (and there’s a hysterical scene in this ep where Abs yells at Karen, “You’re turning my daughter into a tramp!” and you can tell Karen has to hold in her acid comments about how Olivia probably got all her lessons in being a tramp from her village bicycle mother) and that she likes talking to the “cool” boys who smoke cigarettes and ride motorcycles, but the plot thickens ever more when Sexy Michael accidentally knocks Olivia’s purse off a table and, GASP!, a JOINT falls out!  The last time a joint made its way into the Fairgate house, it was way back in 1981 with the undisputed masterpiece of television, Man of the Hour, and we all remember how that joint opened a Pandora’s box of problems.  Fortunately, the writing has improved so significantly by the point in the saga that we are currently at that this joint is handled much better than Eric’s joint from way back then.  While that episode was a silly and campy anti-drug message, this ep doesn’t feel nearly the same.  Instead, I think this joint is just serving to further demonstrate Olivia’s all around rebelliousness.

 
I do wanna make note of Sexy Michael’s reaction to the J and say that this is perhaps Sexy Michael’s only flaw.  I believe I’ve gone on and on in the past about not only the myriad of ways I wish to violate Sexy Michael, but also how I believe Sexy Michael would probably be the perfect boyfriend.  Let’s go down the list, shall we?  Sexy Michael is clearly one of the most beautiful and stunning male human beings to ever be created by God.  I feel like if I was God and I created Sexy Michael, I would just stop creating people after that because I would know I couldn’t possibly top my work with him.  However, you can also tell that Sexy Michael is super humble and probably doesn’t even realize how fucking perfect and stunning his body is; he probably thinks he just looks like a regular dude.  This is attractive because you know he wouldn’t have a big head just because he’s so stunningly beautiful, so that’s a good positive attribute for having him as your boyfriend right there.  Another positive attribute is that he’s clearly just a super nice and sweet person.  He’s never mean or nasty to anyone (aside from that silly bit of A.D.D. business from back in season two that the writers just sorta forgot about right away) and he’s always sweet and caring and you can tell he has a sensitive soul.  He also loves his mom and is good to her and he was able to be patient living with mega bitch sister Diana for all those years.  There’s basically nothing bad about Sexy Michael and I wish he would be my boyfriend, but his reaction to finding the J in Olivia’s bag is a little, well, square.  I feel like he sorta turns into Nancy Reagan as soon as he finds the J, because he holds it up in Olivia’s face and says, “We don’t do this kind of thing here,” all while Olivia gives him that tired old, “I was just holding it for a friend,” excuse.  I feel like if it’s 1986 and you’re Sexy Michael and you find a J in Olivia’s bag, you don’t give her a lecture on the evils of marijuana, you get her naked and take her to the nearest hot tub and light that J up and share it together, don’t you agree?  In any case, I can’t be too critical of Sexy Michal in this scene, because he is a child of the 1980’s and Ronald Reagan (who I now love, showing how fickle my opinions can be) had launched his stupid little “war on drugs” by this point and I’m sure he’s been filled with lots of propaganda about how smoking one J will turn him into a violent cocaine dealer or something like that.  So even though I kinda wish Sexy Michael didn’t have to be such a square, I can also understand where his mentality is coming from.


This whole ep plays out over the backdrop of the twins’ impending first birthday.  I like the use of this as a story throughout the ep, although of course I wouldn’t feel like I had done my proper duty unless I pointed out that the timeline of events isn’t quite adding up.  The twins were born in Tomorrow Never Knows, original airdate November 29th, 1984, and now here we are with A Very Special Gift and it’s February 13th, 1986 and they are just turning one.  Of course, I point out these little errors and then I always have to add that headache inducing little caveat about how summers don’t exist in TV land, so the whole layout of birthdays and events like that can often get very confusing.  So anyway, the twins are now one year old and Val is getting a big party prepared for them.  At first, it might seem like this party is a bit extravagant for a couple of one year olds who won’t even remember it happening, but after you reflect on how much Val has gone through with the twins, you realize how warranted this party really is.  This isn’t just, “Oh, you guys turned one; good for you,” but rather a celebration of the fact that the twins are alive and well and living with Val by this point. 


I loved the use of the twins’ party as a way to get the characters linked and interacting.  KL is always so good at this, at finding something central to the ep that they can use to make sure all the characters are getting material.  I will point out, however, the conspicuous lack of Lilimae, who I believe does not even appear in this ep.  Hmmm, that’s odd; what to make of this?  Is Lilimae’s lack of appearance a result of the storytelling or did Julie just need to sit out an ep?  Certainly, I feel that Lilimae’s material has been lacking ever since Joshua fell off that roof; she’s either been whining about the way people remember her dead son or just kinda hanging out and doing nothing.  I criticized the writers a bit for not seeming to know what to do with Cathy post-Joshua and I fear I’m seeing the same problem right here with Lilimae.  We’ve got roughly two more years left with Lilimae, and I’m hoping to see some good, strong material for her before the sad day comes that she leaves the show and our lives forever. 


We can tell that the twins are on Gary’s mind this ep, because somewhere in the middle of the ep, he rolls up to Olivia and Val in his sexy new 1986 car and says, “Wish the twins a happy birthday for me.”  However, it doesn’t stop there, because when all the adults gather around to open the presents, they discover that Gary has left, well, a very special gift.  The gift Gary has chosen to give is not a gift certificate to Denny’s, but rather he has deeded half of Empire Valley to the twins.  Yikes!  I’m eager to see where this development leads us in the coming eps, because we can tell that this business does not please poor Ben one bit, who makes an angry face and says something like, “What the hell does he think he’s doing?”  The writing is so good and the characters are so interesting and the plots are so complicated that my mind is abuzz as I try to explore all of this.  On one hand, you can easily understand Ben, who is trying to be father to these twins that he knows are not biologically his and is constantly dealing with Gary showing up to make big, lavish gestures like this, so you can understand his frustrations.  On the other hand, you can imagine how Gary must feel looking at these little blonde twins and knowing that they are a part of him and trying to find some way to express his love to them.  Such a sordid state of affairs.


One last little bit that I especially enjoyed about this party is that we get a really lovely shout-out to the Fishers.  This is a detail I did not remember and I thought the Fishers were gone and never to be mentioned again, but I was wrong.  See, one of the birthday cards for the twins comes courtesy of Sheila and Harry along with the announcement that they are expecting a child of their own.  Yay!  I can’t even explain how happy this made me, but it really warmed my heart.  That last scene of the Fishers saying goodbye to the babies back in The Christening was so sad and I have been thinking how heartbreaking it is to imagine them just going off to be alone with no children around them, but now we see that they have successfully conceived their own child and will soon be parents.  See, it’s the little details like this that make KL so special.  Other shows would be comfortable never mentioning Harry and Sheila again after they left town, but KL lets us have some extra information about what’s going on in their lives sixteen eps later.


Overall, I really loved this ep.  Right now, I can’t make up my mind on whether I enjoyed this ep or The Key to a Woman’s Heart more.  Hmmmm, let’s think real hard.  The Key to a Woman’s Heart had that great Karen/Mack fight scene, but I really dug the overall style of this ep, courtesy of one of my current favorite KL directors, Nick Havinga.  I forgot to mention it, but this ep even starts out in a fabulous way that grabs your attention, Gary racing his new car along a deserted street to some truly fabulous New Wave music while J.B. waits for him.  I also loved the backdrop of the twins’ birthday, the shout-out to Harry and Sheila, and the big twist with Peter and Jill in the final scene.  Yeah, thinking over it, I’d say this is my fave ep of the last disk watched, because it just had so much going for it, including Sexy Michael in a pink shirt.  Mmmmm, yummy.

So that does it for A Very Special Gift, which I thought was a very special episode (I’m Gene Shalit!).  Next up, we shall start a whole fresh disk of excitement and joy with Irrevocably Yours.