Episode Title: Alterations
Season 07, Episode 17
Episode 147 of 344
Written by Parke Perine
Directed by Linda Day
Original Airdate: Thursday, January 23rd, 1986
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): The police decide not to prosecute Lilimae and Cathy, however a story about what happened is in the tabloid that Sonny works at. Peter and his mother discuss her relationship with Galveston, and how Peter is Greg's half
Jill tells Mack that the Governor wants her to work with him, and she'll be
moving into the office next to his. She gives him the key to her room at the
Bryant Hotel. Mack drives by the hotel, but decides not to go in. Greg calls
Abby, and Olivia picks up an extension. She hears Greg threaten to tell Gary
that Abby knew all along that he was the father of the twins, and that she knew
they were alive. Upset, Olivia asks the MacKenzies if she can live with them,
though she won't say why. Abby and Gary go to get her, and she tells Abby that
if she doesn't let her live there, she will tell Gary about the twins. Olivia
asks her how she could do something like that, and Abby leaves, very upset. more
Welcome to Alterations. As usual, we’ve got a lot going on and a lot of characters to talk about, so let’s just get started straight away with, say, Lilimae. Why Lilimae? Honestly, it’s because the material Lilimae is getting to work with at this juncture is, for me, some of the least interesting stuff going on in the saga at this point, although it’s not my least favorite story at this moment (take a guess on what that might be). Anyway, as we head into Alterations, the police have decided to drop the whole case against Cathy and Lilimae, probably because they realize it has been stretched out over far too many episodes as it is and they, like the audience, are eager to get it wrapped up and finished with. Unfortunately, the police dismissing the case does not signify the end of this storyline, because we’ve still got more. See, near the middle portion of this ep, Lilimae is going through the grocery store, doing her shopping, making me wonder who exactly pays the bills for all the groceries needed at Val’s house. Val is a big rich book author now, right? So do you think she just hands a big wad of cash over to Lilimae and sends her off to Safeway whenever they need some groceries? Or do you think, somehow, someway, Lilimae has managed to save up some money in the last few years? I highly doubt that, as when she was reintroduced into the cul-de-sac at the start of season three, she was a homeless shopping cart lady using clever methods of deception to get out of paying her hotel bills, and since moving in with Val, she hasn’t done any work that would earn her some money (aside from a brief career as a Vegas lounge singer back in The Rose and the Briar). In any case, it’s not important, but it’s thoughts like this that fill my head as I watch the drama unfolding onscreen, maybe because, by this point, the drama for Lilimae is not interesting me.
See, she’s at the grocery store, buying whatever, when she realizes that her face is splashed all over the front page of some trashy tabloid paper along with a headline about Joshua’s death, something about how there is a conspiracy and that probably Cathy and Lilimae killed him. Never one to cause a scene, Lilimae runs through the entire grocery store ripping the paper out of everyone’s hands. This scene was very amusing for many reasons, but the thing I noted immediately was how it seems that absolutely everybody in the grocery store is reading this paper. When have you ever been in a grocery store and seen all the people standing around reading papers? The only people I ever see doing that are those 900 year old fat white dudes who live in grocery stores and just spend their whole days sipping coffee and reading papers. Anyway, yeah, Lilimae runs around and rips the papers out of everyone’s hands and, you know, that’s pretty much the scene. The big mystery here is: Why are these articles being published and who is the person responsible for them?
Well, that leads us nicely into my very least favorite storyline currently going on within the show, and that would be, you guessed it, Cathy and Sonny. Buddy Repperton was last seen in the closing moments of The Confession giving Cathy a song and dance about how he would be there for her all before he pulled out an evil tape recorder from his pocket and made an evil face for the camera. In Alterations, we get a little more info on what this guy is really up to. He is seen early in the ep having a meeting with some newspaper editor, talking about how he’s getting good information out of Cathy about the actual circumstances of Joshua’s death. The editor (who I really thought I recognized but, when I looked him up, realized he’s a nobody and I’ve never seen him in anything before) seems less than thrilled with Sonny and this story, telling him that he needs to deliver more exciting news than what he’s currently bringing. Anyway, so far as I can remember, that’s about all we get with Sonny in this episode, and I don’t like it and it’s my least favorite story going on, so let’s move on to some good material.
While I’m underwhelmed by Lilimae/Cathy/Sonny, the good news is that everyone else is getting great material to work with right now, starting with the one and only Greg Sumner. Oh, such joys Greg brings me every time I look at him. I love everything about Greg and I love everything about the way Devane brings him to life, but I think what I love the very most is how multifaceted he is. While we have lots of scenes of him sucking on cigars and sitting around his big office, making some sort of plan, we also get such fabulous bits of comedic gold as him taking care of Laura’s kids for the weekend. See, looks like Laura’s gonna have to be out of town for a few days, so she leaves Greg in charge of the kids, Daniel and Jason 4. Yes, that’s right, we have now reached Jason 4. It looks like Jason 3 (Danny Ponce) made his curtain call earlier in the season with Until Parted by Death, and then of course before him we had Jason 2 (Danny Gellis, who spanned from Community Spirit through Living Dangerously) and then of course the easily forgotten Jason 1 (who was Justin Dana and was only in the Pilot episode). Well, I’d have to say this is our most jarring Jason morph ever, because I was kinda getting used to having Danny Ponce around and didn’t realize he would be morphing randomly in the middle of the season, but here it is. Jason 4 is played by Matthew Newmark and he shall keep bringing Jason to life until the immortal character finally leaves the series with Noises Everywhere: Part Two. His IMDb resume isn’t too impressive, with nothing that really leapt out to me as too terribly interesting. At the moment, I don’t really have an opinion on Jason 4, but stay tuned because I’m sure I’ll have thoughts later (except probably not, since Jason has never really been a compelling character in any of his myriad of incarnations).
In any case, I love seeing Greg play the homemaker with Daniel and Jason 4. When we catch up with them, it’s breakfast time and, in lieu of preparing a traditional American breakfast of eggs and bacon and toast, Greg has instead chosen to prepare hot dogs and beans for breakfast. Devane is in rare form in this scene, being unbelievably funny and charming and charismatic, telling them about how hot dogs and beans are the greatest breakfast known to man, all while juggling a call from Laura and a visit from an amused Karen. A scene like this really makes me wonder how much improvisation Devane was pulling working with these kids. Do you think there was even a script for this scene? Or do you think the creative team just told Devane to act with the kids and do whatever felt natural? Do you think the kids were just sorta allowed to react to him and make up their own dialogue based on his behavior? I must know! Why hasn’t Devane written to me yet requesting to do an interview? I’m more than ready, Bill!
Anyway, moving on from the beans and hot dogs, we also have some interesting new developments with Peter Hollister, who is revealed in this episode to be, GASP!, Greg Sumner’s half-brother. Last ep, we met Ruth Roman as Sylvia Lean very briefly and listened to her and Peter exchange some cryptic dialogue with each other. In this ep, we catch up with Peter giving Sylvia a bit of a tour through the Sumner offices during closing hours. There’s nobody else in the offices, just Peter and Sylvia, and as he shows her around the place, we get some key information revealed. Basically the two are talking about how soon they will be coming into money and Peter says something about how, after Greg finds out who he is, “How can he deny his half-brother his birthright?” or something similar. Honestly, I’m enjoying all this stuff a lot more than I remember enjoying it upon first viewing. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it back then (remember that when I think back to my first viewing of the series, it’s all a blur of constant brilliance and I just remember feeling very, very happy all the time as I worked my way through the saga), but I just remember thinking it was kinda there, a storyline going on that was mildly interesting but not as interesting as the other stories going on concurrently. Now, however, I’m finding all of this very compelling, and I think a lot of that has to do with the actors. I’m not entirely sure why Ruth Roman is a famous actress (although I just did a bit of research and Wikipedia says Strangers on a Train is her most famous role), but I am sure that I find her quite compelling onscreen in much the same way that I found Ava Gardner so compelling last season. Her husky cigarettes-and-cocktails voice holds a certain old Hollywood feeling that I greatly relish and I just enjoy listening to her speak. The surprise for me is how much I’m enjoying Hunt Block as Peter Hollister, a character I really don’t remember having any particular feeling for one way or the other. I don’t know what has changed for me at this point, except to say that I just like the strange, offbeat quality he’s bringing to this character. I like how Peter manages to seem like kinda a square but also kinda duplicitous and untrustworthy but also kinda likable all at once. Now that we are meeting his mother and she seems like a pretty normal old lady, it’s only making this character more interesting. Oh yeah, and one last little thing to note which amuses me: Basically every episode, My Beloved Grammy will mention how much Peter looks and sounds like John Boy and she seems utterly convinced that he is the same actor no matter how many times I assure her that he is not. Since she keeps saying it, however, I do confess I now notice a little bit of John Boy in Peter Hollister, as well.
Moving on from that, we also have fabulous and sizzling excitement between Mack and J.B., who has announced she is here to stay and has also announced that the governor wants her working hand in hand with Mack, basically working in the same office as him. Of course, Mack goes on about how he doesn’t like having to work so close with J.B., but we viewers at home should all be very grateful to have as much J.B. in our lives as humanly possible. Also, a certain key ingredient in our storylines for the coming weeks rears its head in this ep when J.B. gives Mack a key to her hotel room and gives him the open invite, saying how he can stop by anytime. Okay, get ready for me to go on for seventeen days about all the possible motivations within J.B.’s brain. So what’s going on here? When she was first brought onto the show, she was flirty with Mack and then, just before she ran off to disappear for a little while, she confessed that she had fallen in love with him and that she had to return to Sacramento for that reason. Now she’s back on the scene and seems to be making eyes at Gary, who she hit it off with a few eps back, but here she is giving Mack the key to her hotel room. What changed? Is she still “in love” with Mack? Does she just want to enjoy at least one night of nonstop passion with Mack before allowing him to return to Karen and never mentioning what occurred again? Or does she just need to get laid and Mack is near her and she thinks he’d be a good lay? I’d say option three is the least likely, because if she wants a good lay, Gary is right there, ready to go, so why return to Mack? Anyone got any ideas on this one?
Actually, I’d like to parlay this for a moment to discuss the entire character of J.B. and whether she is a good person or a bad person. At this exact instant in time, pretending I’m a fresh viewer in 1986 with no possible way of knowing the sweet joys of what lies in the future, I would say that J.B. seems to be a good person and a person of ethics. I like that she is a strong independent woman with a real job that is important and socially relevant, I like that she seems pretty clear and upfront about her thoughts and her opinions, and I like how she seems to think over her own decisions carefully. Because of this, I do believe that meeting Karen and seeing the whole Fairgate MacKenzie family together made her decide to stop pursuing Mack, but that still doesn’t help explain why she’s giving him her hotel key now. I guess, if I have to make a declaration right now at this very instant, I would say that she simply can’t resist his sexual allure. She’s working with him all day long, she’s smelling that manly cologne or whatever the hell he wears (Dobsonator by Calvin Klein), she’s listening to him make jokes and be super duper charming. For J.B. to stand idly by and resist Mack’s charms would be just as impossible as putting me in a locker room with a dripping wet and naked Sexy Michael Fairgate and asking me to not immediately sodomize him, for I simply would not be able to control myself. In this case, I think J.B. just can’t resist the lure of M. “Mack” Patrick MacKenzie.
So she gives him this key, right? This prompted My Beloved Grammy to get very upset at the very notion of Mack having an affair, saying how he wouldn’t do that, it’s not in his character, he’s too decent, all that stuff. Obviously she’s right, but we do see Mack driving up to The Bryant Hotel and gazing somewhat longingly at it before getting up out of his car and sorta walking towards it. Does he go in? We don’t know because we go to a commercial pretty soon after that, but let’s all wash our brains out and try and decide where we would see this storyline going if it was 1986 and we were watching this first run on CBS. I definitely would not think the chances were high of Mack having an affair, mostly because I know my KL writing team and I know they wouldn’t throw drama in just for the sake of drama. On KL, character comes first, and it’s not in Mack’s character to have an affair. He loves Karen and he tries to be a good husband to her. Why, then, does he drive to the hotel at all? For me, it’s easy to understand this, and Mack also helps to explain it himself as we move further through the eps. Essentially, I think he just needs to know that the possibility is there. He needs to know that, even though he’s now 43, he can still bring it and still be sexy and charming to pretty young ladies (random: I just looked it up to see how old Teri Austin would be here, and she would be around 29). I totally understand all of this because I am an insane narcissist obsessed with my own youth and beauty and I have a constant need to feel that, as I go about my day, I am sexy and desirable to nearly everyone I encounter, which of course I am.
All of these storylines are good, but the very best thing about Alterations is what happens with Olivia and Abs. Oh yes, I had forgotten all about this, and watching it now, I have no idea how I could have allowed that to occur, because this is riveting stuff. See, near the midway point of the ep, Greg and Abs are speaking on the phone. Abs is at Westfork, sitting around and being bored and wondering if Gary will ever come home, and I believe Greg is down at the cul-de-sac taking care of Daniel and Jason 4. They’re going on about all the drama of the last few months and, at the precise moment that Greg decides to threaten Abs with, “I’ll tell Gary that you knew he was the father of Val’s twins and that you knew they were still alive,” Olivia picks up the phone and hears the conversation go down. Let me explain how Olivia overhears this so that I can further compliment the brilliance of this scene. See, Olivia is just hanging out in her bedroom listening to some fantastic new wave music (which seems to be dominating the soundtrack lately and I like it that way) with a friend of hers and they are talking about how positively no one just goes from liking rock to liking new wave. I enjoyed this little exchange because it reminded me of how teenagers will assign a great deal of importance to things that are really completely irrelevant and stupid like what kind of music you listen to. I can remember kids saying stuff like, “Well, you can’t like this kind of music and also like this kind of music, it’s unheard of, Bob Loblaw,” and that’s sorta the conversation Olivia is having with her friend. Then Olivia says something about how some cute boy from school has a sexy new wave album that she wants to borrow, so she picks up the phone to call him and that’s how she overhears the conversation. I don’t really know how to explain why I liked this bit of business so much except to say that I liked how the writers managed to get Olivia to the phone. While watching this scene, I was thinking about the new wave music in the background, about Olivia’s conversation with her friend, and then she picks up the phone and hears all the “Val’s babies” business and I’m like, “Oh shit, shit just got real,” and I love how it managed to catch me off guard. Right after this, we cut to commercial and it’s the perfect place to put a commercial in, because who could possibly not keep watching this?
When we return from commercial, we see that Olivia is sitting quietly, not speaking, appearing to be in shock, and if I remember correctly, her friend just sorta runs off or goes home or something. I like how we can see that this news clearly rattles Olivia down to her core; this is not just some new information that she is kinda surprised to hear, but rather something that is deeply effecting her way down inside of her, and it makes what happens next make a lot more sense. See, after this, Olivia decides to run away much like she did in late season five (and we even get a little shout-out to her running away back then through some dialogue, which I appreciated). We get a pretty creepy little scene where some old fat bald white guy pulls up to the side of the road and asks her if she’d like a ride. They throw this snippet into the little thirty second preview, probably hoping to make the audience think Olivia might get kidnapped and raped and murdered, but nothing like that occurs since Olivia is smart enough to say no thank you to the creepy old fat bald white guy, who drives away all frustrated because he will have to find someone else to rape. With him gone, Olivia continues her big trek and winds up at the Fairgate MacKenzie house.
We have a lot of footage of Gary and Abs being all scared and freaked out about where Olivia could possibly be, making phonecalls to other people to try and solve the mystery, but then we go over to the Fairgate MacKenzie house and see that Eric and Sexy Michael are both helping her hide out, although they have reservations about doing so. Olivia tells them how it won’t be for long, that she just needs a place to stay for awhile, but for one reason or another, it’s not too long before both Mack and Karen know what’s going on and call Abs to tell her what’s up. However, before moving on to those plot points, I want to pause to discuss the character motivation of Eric and Sexy Michael. Okay, so I know that logically, they are related to Olivia, right? Abs is their aunt, so then Olivia would be their cousin. Even so, people used to marry their cousins all the time and I have to wonder if Eric and Sexy Michael view Olivia as something of a sister figure or if they both really want to fuck her. Olivia is now fifteen years old and she is clearly starting to turn into a woman right before our very eyes (just wait for our next ep when she starts busting out the makeup kit), so you have to think that Eric and Sexy Michael are noticing the way Olivia is developing, no? Is part of their willingness to help her out based in their desire to “accidentally” walk in on Olivia in the shower? I know they’re related and all that, but come on, these are two horny teenage boys and horny teenage boys will fuck anything they can manage to put their penis inside of.
Anyway, let’s move on to other topics because I think it’s becoming disturbingly clear where Brett would choose to focus the stories if he were on the writing staff for the season, but that’s not what the writers do. Instead, they have Abs get the call that Olivia is at Karen and Mack’s place and sorta throw a hissy fit about how she’s her daughter and she belongs home with her, but when she comes to pick up Olivia, she sees it won’t be quite as easy as all of that. See, Abs goes up into one of the bedrooms (presumably Olivia is staying in the room that used to belong to demon Hell-spawn Diana back in the early years) and starts trying to convince Olivia to come home with her. Throughout the ep, Olivia has been all pissed off and declaring how she can’t live with her mother anymore, but she hasn’t told anyone the reasons why, but she lays it all out on the table for Abs here and it’s a fabulous little scene. She says how she knows the truth about Val’s babies and she knows that Abs knew all about it, knew that they were alive when everyone else thought they were dead. Ugh, the acting is so good in this scene, reminding me of what an underrated little talent Tonya Crowe was. I think this is the point in the series where the writers are starting to see what an actress they have on their hands and are writing the storylines accordingly, giving her more material to work with than she’s had in the past. The other half of the scene is Abs, and of course Donna plays the part perfectly as she realizes how much her daughter knows and how damaging this information could be to her if it got out.
The most important thing that I take away from this scene is the fact that Olivia’s opinion of her own mother has been severely damaged, perhaps beyond repair. She’s had her little fights and arguments with Abs throughout the last few years, but she’s always looked at her as her mother, yet now she sees precisely how duplicitous Abs truly is and I think it’s changing her very perception of who her mother is. I’m gonna focus really hard in the coming eps and seasons to see if this permanently shifts Olivia’s view of Abs; will they ever be the same again? Any KL fan should know what we’re in store for when we hit season eight and Olivia starts to pick up a new vice, and I feel like that’s all being planted right here in this scene; what Olivia has discovered is so crushing to her that she can’t possibly ever love her mother the same way again. Also, I definitely think it’s worth noting that the tables have turned on Abs at the same exact time that her daughter has clearly inherited her own ability to manipulate and blackmail. After all, Olivia tells Abs that what she wants is to live with Karen, and if she doesn’t get what she wants, she shall tell everyone in the show about Val’s babies, who the real father is and how Abs knew they were alive. It’s weirdly beautiful and exciting to see Olivia turn into a mini-Abs while using that ability to strike out against her mother.
Abs makes the walk of shame out of the bedroom and back downstairs and outside, where a bunch of other characters are waiting around to see what she says. Rather than leave with Olivia as she so boldly declared she would, Abs leaves with only Gary and says, sounding all choked up and emotional and talking kinda slow, “I think Olivia ought to spend some time with her Aunt Karen.” From here, Gary and Abs get into the car and start to pull away while Olivia looks down from the bedroom window. Abs looks up at her, all sad and depressed, the car starts to pull away, and then we actually get a freeze frame ending (which I’ve noticed we’ve been getting a lot more of lately) on Abs face and our “Executive Producers” credit and boom, the episode is over. I really liked this ending and it got me very excited for how things could unfold in the coming weeks. The episode title is Alterations and I feel like the biggest alteration on display in the ep is right here, and that’s the fact that Abs has to alter her relationship with Olivia based on what she knows and how that could damage everything in Abby’s life.
So yeah, that was Alterations. I’d say this was a huge step-up from The Confession, which I enjoyed but had some major problems with, as well. While I’m still not in love with the Lilimae stuff (just because it’s dragging on so God damned long and I’m eager to see her get new material to work with) or the Cathy and Sonny stuff (just because it’s so unbelievably contrived and stupid), all the other stuff worked great for me. I liked the little details such as Greg playing father to Daniel and Jason 4, but I also enjoyed the big story beats like J.B. testing Mack’s loyalty to Karen and, most especially, the big developments between Abs and Olivia. Overall, a solid 48 minutes of KL.
With nothing more to say about Alterations, I suggest we move right along to our next episode, Friendly Enemies.