Episode Title: Friendly Enemies
Season 07, Episode 18
Episode 148 of 344
Written by Diana Kopald Marcus
Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan
Original Airdate: Thursday, January 30th, 1986
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Peter tells Greg that he's his brother, and brings Sylvia to meet him. Laura thinks Peter is up to something, and is frustrated that Greg seems unconcerned. Abby overhears Laura telling this to Karen, and she asks Peter out for a drink. Gary decides to go into racing. Karen finds Jill's hotel key in Mack's pocket and confronts him with it. He tries to explain that he would never use it, but it made him feel younger, more alive, like life wasn't passing him by, and he hopes Karen will understand. Crying, she says no. Mack's upset that Jill went through his Westfall file without permission. Sonny accidentally drops a tape marked "Cathy #3." Val plays the tape, and hears Sonny's notes about his articles. Meanwhile, Sonny is out to dinner with Cathy. She tells him how Joshua tried to throw her off of the roof, and that Lilimae saved her life. Sonny says he's sorry for what Joshua did to her.
In our last episode, Alterations, we saw some serious changes taking place in the relationship between Abs and Olivia when Olivia found out the truth about Abby’s knowledge of Val’s babies and that she kept that fact secret. Thanks to this newfound information, Olivia is going to be staying at Aunt Karen’s for awhile, where she’ll hopefully experience a little less dysfunctional family drama, hopefully.
That glides us nicely into the very first thing I wish to discuss when it comes to this episode, and that is the relationship between Karen and Mack. While these two have had a few setbacks since Mack was first brought into the fold in season four, for the most part they have been a strong, stable, and loving couple, but this week, Karen finds the key to J.B.’s hotel room in Mack’s pocket and it causes a pretty serious rift in their marriage. It should be noted that the key is discovered innocently enough, I believe when Karen is doing some laundry and emptying pockets in preparation; it’s not like she goes snooping through Mack’s clothes and belongings in an attempt to find something incriminating. After her discovery of the key, she turns to Val for advice in a scene that I found very interesting. See, Val’s immediate advice to Karen is to either put the key back where she found it or throw it away and to not bother mentioning it to Mack, pretend nothing happened. Then Karen says, “Could you?” and Val gets kinda quiet and answers, “No.” This made me reflect back to an earlier Val, a season two Val who somewhat managed to look the other way while Gary cheated on her with Judy Trent. Do you think Val’s current advice about ignoring the presence of the key stems back to how she would ignore Gary’s adulterous romances in the past? Do you think Karen is thinking about these past events when she talks to Val about these issues?
In any case, it doesn’t take long for Karen to confront Mack, and I appreciated how this scene played out. We begin with a pretty awkward Fairgate MacKenzie family dinner (or perhaps I should say Fairgate MacKenzie Cunningham Ewing due to the presence of Olivia). While everyone makes nice dinner chit chat, Karen just sorta sits quietly at her end of the table, not engaging with the others, looking upset. When all the kids run off, Mack asks Karen what’s wrong and she simply gets up and lays the key on the table as the music gets ominous, all before we cut to a commercial. I liked the silent way this played out, that Karen is able to show Mack what’s wrong all without having to open her mouth. On another show, the writers might be tempted to make this a very wordy scene or have Karen doing a lot of speaking about the way she found the key, but here it’s so gloriously simple; she just puts the key on the table and that’s it.
I also found the next scene very interesting for many reasons, and I must confess that I’m quite tempted to take sides in this argument, but I’ll try not to. I’ve long extolled the virtues of KL’s ability to keep every character feeling dynamic and multifaceted, for being able to present situations of conflict without presenting one character as right and the other character as wrong. I think they are still doing a good job of that here, but in terms of my own personal views, I’m definitely agreeing with Mack in this case. See, basically he tells Karen that he never meant to use the key, that he never even wanted to use the key, but he needed to know that he had the key. He tells her how he sometimes feels that life is passing him by, that he’s not young and fresh the way he used to be, and that J.B.’s attraction to him helped him to feel young again. He concludes by asking Karen if she can understand that and she flatly says no and then walks off. Okay, it was at this moment that I paused the ep and pointed out to My Beloved Grammy that Karen is being quite the hypocrite here. Let us all flash back to episode three of the entire series, the brilliant Let Me Count the Ways. In that ep, Karen was tempted to have an affair with the sexy and exciting and unconventional new teacher from Diana’s high school. She even got herself all dolled up and looking sexy and went to his apartment for an afternoon delight, you all remember that? Then, when she was at his apartment, she gave a speech that was remarkably similar to the one Mack is giving her now. She told the teacher that she just needed to know that she was still attractive to men and that it made her feel young again, but that she can’t go through with the affair, and then she returned home to Saint Sid and the kids. Yup, I’d say it’s pretty much the exact same scenario, wouldn’t you? Now the situation is reversed and Mack is the one needing a little boost to remind him that he’s sexy, yet Karen is shutting him out and refusing to understand his feelings. Has she really forgotten all about her almost affair from back in season one? Yeah, that was six years ago, but it’s still not that long ago and you’d think she’d remember a big event like that, no? I’m quite sure that she remembers that episode just as vividly as I do, so I have to take issue with Karen being so harshly judgmental of Mack just for carrying around J.B.’s hotel room key.
I also feel bad for Mack because I feel like he’s put up with a lot of shit since marrying Karen. This is not to say it’s Karen’s fault or to blame her for the dramas that arise, since I still love Karen and always will until the day I die and dramas are par for the course when you live in a nighttime soap opera, but let’s just go down the list real fast. As soon as Mack was introduced to the series, he immediately had to deal with Karen going to great lengths to get Sid’s murderers sent to prison, even putting her own life at risk to do so. Then they dated for awhile and then they got married and Mack immediately had the joy of dealing with Hell-spawn Diana and all the drama with her and Chip Roberts. Then, once that was over, Karen had her pill popping saga and had to be sent to rehab to detox. After that, the Wolfbridge stuff really came to a head and lead to Karen declaring that she wanted a divorce from Mack, a story that ran through a good 1/3 of the sixth season, and that brings us right about up to date. Through all of this, Mack has been a very loyal and loving husband, always by her side, and now I see Karen shaming him for something that is really not that big a deal. Mack didn’t use the stupid key; all he wanted to do was hold onto it and know that he had it. I understand his feelings completely and there’s nothing wrong with his feelings. God only knows what a neurotic mess I will be by the time I am 43 and I am starting to show wrinkles in my face; I’ll probably have a complete nervous breakdown.
Anyway, all the Karen/Mack stuff this week is good and bears interesting fruit, but let’s shelve it for the time being since it’s gonna get more interesting in the following eps and lead to some really great stuff. Let’s go ahead and shift our focus over to Peter and Greg and Sylvia. Peter surprises me this ep by letting the cat out of the bag right and quick with Greg. See, the two are sitting in Greg’s office, talking about whatever, when Peter starts to talk about his troubled childhood and what a rough time he had. Greg has some funny line where he’s like, “All this personal backstory is fascinating, but why are you telling me this?” From there, Peter just answers, “Because I’m your half-brother.” Honestly, I was surprised to see him bring it up so fast. It was only two eps ago that we viewers were let in on this little secret through Peter’s conversation with Sylvia, and I kinda expected them to draw this out a little longer, let the suspense build, let us wonder what Peter is up to, but I prefer it this way. I like how Peter just gets right to it and then we get to see how Greg reacts to it.
Let’s talk about that reaction, because it’s positively fascinating and I’m still not entirely sure what to make of it. Basically, he believes Peter right off the bat and tells him he accepts what he has told him as fact. My question of course is this: Is Greg lying? Is Greg suspicious of Peter’s claims and just acting super friendly to keep on good terms with him and continue to get more information out of him? Or does he truly believe him? We all know that Greg has no great regard for his biological father, Paul Galveston, and we also know that Galveston was a pretty busy guy having a myriad of different affairs with a myriad of different women. After all, Greg’s very conception and existence is based on Galveston having an affair with his mother while she was married to the fighter pilot daddy guy. Because of this, it’s not inconceivable that Peter is telling the truth, and perhaps Greg sees it that way, as well. Laura is immediately suspicious of this claim and makes it clear to Greg, but he continues to act like everything is fine. Has he got something up his sleeve? This is the stuff I probably find most interesting throughout this ep, by the way, and my love for Greg Sumner is only growing larger as I make my way through this rewatch. I always loved the character, but God damn if he’s not one of TV’s best characters ever; what a fascinating and complicated character and played so perfectly by Devane. Oh yeah, and while we’re on the subject, I should note that we see Greg sucking on a big cigar late at night while sitting on the couch and talking with Laura about Peter, so we all know what that means; it means we have now reached Cigar #11 on the Sumner Cigar Counter.
The plot thickens over at Lotus Point when Laura asks to have a private conversation with Karen. She goes into Karen’s office and shuts the door, but the two women forget to watch out for Abs, who remains posted outside of the door, quite literally listening at keyhole. Thusly, Abs is let in on the little secret about who Peter Hollister really is, or at least who he claims to be. Abs has been extra frustrated lately with all the different ways her life is turning to shit, including being pretty much voted out of Lotus Point and no longer getting an opinion on any matters in that department. Add to that the fact that her daughter is no longer living with her and her husband is getting ready to have an affair and you can understand why Abs would be feeling a little unloved this week, a little eager to strike up some new connection with a new person, someone like Peter, perhaps. Again, nothing much happens in this department within the confines of this ep, but keep watching, because it’s planting some seeds for a possible alliance between Abs and Peter.
Let’s go ahead and talk about my least favorite storyline going on at this juncture, that of Cathy and Sonny. Oh snore, this thing is still dragging on, and get comfortable because it’s also gonna drag on into our next episode, as well. See, early in the ep, through some series of circumstances, Sonny winds up accidentally dropping some cassette tape on the ground that is simply labeled, “Cathy #3.” Then, through some other series of circumstances that I really can’t remember, the tape winds up in the possession of Val. Oh yeah, actually I think I remember it now. Ben is the one who finds the tape lying around the studio, and then later when he hears that Val is going off to run some errands, he gives her the tape and asks her to drop it off with Cathy, who is still living at Ben’s Plant House. Okay, so that’s all fine, but the trouble comes when Val finds herself trapped in traffic and decides to pass the time by listening to the tape, probably assuming it’s some new awesome Cathy cover song. Instead, she finds that it’s an oral dictation by Sonny discussing all the dirt he’s managed to dig up from Cathy. Oh no!
Meanwhile, Cathy is all sick with laryngitis or whatever. In my notes, when Cathy first showed up and was suffering from a lost voice, I wrote, “Cathy’s voice: Plot point or real life Lisa problem?” At first I thought maybe Lisa was just sick that week and so they threw in a quick scene about her having laryngitis so that they could shuffle her off for the rest of the ep, but I don’t think that anymore. Her laryngitis provides the impetus for Sonny to show up at The Plant House and be “charming” with her, so I think that was always written as a part of the script as a plot function. Anyway, yeah, so Sonny shows up at The Plant House holding a pizza and then he puts on some big production and tries to look like this great, sweet, caring guy, but then he accidentally drops the pizza on the ground. Cathy laughs at this (and even though I don’t like anything about this storyline, I do like the way Cathy laughs and think she seems very genuine and warm) and then the two decide to go out to a restaurant for awhile.
Ugh, I just hate this storyline, and I just hate it more the more it goes on. How stupid is it that Cathy is so immediately trusting of this douchebag? They go out to dinner and she continues to be completely trusting in a way that simply does not feel organic. I maintain that the writers should have gone a whole different way with Cathy’s storylines following Joshua’s death, not just immediately repeat the storyline with her getting involved with some new bad dude. And of course, since she’s known Sonny for all of five minutes, she lets it spill what really happened up on that roof with Joshua. Sure, Sonny is a nothing character and he’s only been on the show for two or three eps, but he bought her a pizza, damn it, and that means she can trust him with all of her deepest, darkest secrets. She hasn’t confided in anyone about what Joshua was really trying to do to her right before he died, not even Laura, whom she seems especially close to, but she’s ready to confide in Sonny. Stupid stupid stupid.
Also, in terms of basic nighttime drama, isn’t this story just kinda boring? What is really so bad about a newspaper finding out what really happened? It would be one thing if Lilimae and Cathy had actually conspired together to murder Joshua and now they were afraid of that being revealed, but all that happened was Joshua went psycho and tried to kill Cathy. If a newspaper finds out about this, they will run the story, it will be a little scandal for five minutes, and then people will move on to the next exciting bit of news. Yeah, it will suck for Lilimae to have to explain to people that her son was a psycho, but aside from that, what are the stakes? Why should we feel nervous or in suspense with any part of this story? This is clearly the worst storyline going on right now and I just wish the writers had killed it off before it even had the chance to be born; they should have completely scrapped the whole idea of Sonny and Cathy and tried a completely different type of story.
That’s about all I’ve got for Friendly Enemies. If I sounded dismissive of this particular ep, please note that it’s not the ep’s fault, but rather my own. I’m just feeling a little tired and out of it and had a hard time remembering all the events of this particular ep, although I remembered the big stuff. I’d say I liked this ep better than The Confession but not as much as Alterations. I’m eager to see the Sonny storyline go away but everything else about the ep was pretty good, with the best stuff being the material between Karen and Mack. Even so, I don’t recall anything in particular leaping out at me about this ep, like I can’t remember anything especially amazing or wonderful or exciting about it, nor can I remember any cool stylistic touches, although I’m sure there were some. So I guess I’d say that this was a perfectly easy to watch ep, but just a little ho hum.
Next up, we continue to explore the subject of J.B.’s key with The Key to a Woman’s Heart.