Episode Title: The Key to a Woman’s Heart
Season 07, Episode 19
Episode 149 of 344
Written by Lynn Marie Latham
Directed by Robert Becker
Original Airdate: Thursday, February 6th, 1986
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): The tabloid has an article about how Joshua tried to kill Cathy. Ben tells her that Sonny works for the tabloid. She breaks down crying and Ben comforts her. Cathy slaps Sonny, who tells her he had to do it, to tell her side of the story. Greg tells Laura that Galveston kept a file on Sylvia, and sent her monthly checks. Greg tells Peter that he can prove his loyalty by working with him to recover Empire Valley and bring down Gary and Abby. Jill continues to investigate Wesphall, but won't tell Mack why. Mack gives her back the key and it upsets Jill. Mack apologizes to Karen and gives her flowers, but she's still angry, and he accuses her of blowing it out of proportion. Val takes Mack's side, saying he didn't use the key and that she shouldn't lose her marriage because of her hurt pride, but Karen insists she feels betrayed.
In our prior ep, Friendly Enemies, we saw the beginnings of a serious rift forming in the marriage of Karen and Mack after Karen discovered J.B.’s hotel room key in Mack’s pocket. This rift only grows larger as the subject is expanded upon with this week’s ep, The Key to a Woman’s Heart. But first, let’s take some time to discuss our other beloved characters on the cul-de-sac (or off of it) and what they’re up to in this ep.
Let’s start with my least favorite storyline going on right now, which thankfully is coming to an end in this ep. In Friendly Enemies, Sonny bought Cathy a pizza and then immediately dropped it on the ground, which charmed Cathy enough to go out to dinner with him and confess all of her deepest, darkest secrets, even telling him the truth about what happened up on the roof with Joshua. This all happened at the precise same moment that Ben and Val were figuring out the truth about Sonny, that he is actually a reporter working on a story about Cathy and Joshua. The storyline comes to an undramatic conclusion this week when Cathy arrives at Pacific Cable Whatever to do a song and dance number and Ben tells her the truth about Sonny. Cathy gets real frustrated and says, “I sure know how to pick them,” a line that makes me wonder if it’s meant to be meta. Is this the writers saying, “Okay, we know it’s stupid to have Cathy finish up a storyline with one bad dude and then immediately give her a new storyline with a new bad dude”? I appreciate that kind of writing or humor, but if that’s what they’re doing in this case, it doesn’t really excuse it, but only makes it seem lazier. If you know you’re sending Cathy over the same tracks that she’s walked before in previous seasons, then why do it all? Doing it and then throwing in a line like, “I sure know how to pick them,” doesn’t help matters. They should have given her something interesting and new to do following Joshua’s death.
Despite my harping, there was a small detail in this ep that I really appreciated, proving that KL is so inherently good and so inherently genius that even in the midst of a story I don’t care for one bit, I’ll find something to appreciate. In this instance, it’s right after Ben gives Cathy the news about Sonny and she retreats to her dressing room for some private time. As she enters the dressing room, she slams the door hard and a picture falls off the wall. Cathy’s reaction to the picture falling feels so real and so genuine to me that I am utterly convinced it was a total accident; I don’t think the picture was meant to fall off the wall, but then Lisa slammed the door hard enough to make it fall and it did and it created this fabulously authentic moment that feels super real. If I ever have a chance to interview her (Lisa, are you out there?), I will ask her about this scene and see if my instincts are correct and if the falling picture frame was a happy accident.
Also, after the picture falls, Cathy gets real angry and smashes something against the wall, I think a vase. This method of expressing anger through breaking material things has been a popular one with the KL characters lately; I think it was somewhere on this disk of eps that we also saw Abs get mad at Gary and smash something against a door after he exited the scene. I also flash back a few years to our season four finale, Willing Victims, in which Laura realized Richard was gone and she went to town on his kitchen, smashing everything and flinging pots and pans all over the place. Hell, I can trace this even further back to season two with The Loudest Word; remember when Gary trashed his and Val’s bedroom in a moment of private breakdown? Clearly the KL gang likes to smash things whenever they get too stressed out or in over their heads.
Okay, so I really liked that photo frame falling off the wall, but this is still a crap story, and what really seals it as a crap story is the way it, um, well I hesitate to use the word “concludes,” but I guess I’m left with no other choice. After drawing this out for four eps, the storyline comes to an unceremonious end when Cathy simply pays Sonny a visit at his stupid saxophone club where he’s playing his stupid saxophone and she hits him. This comes after Cathy has seen the most recent newspapers and has seen that what she told Sonny has now made it into the papers, by the way, and that is part of the reason why she’s so angry. Anyway, he stops playing his stupid saxophone for a minute so that he can explain how he simply needed to tell the world the truth, or something like that, and then Cathy punches him and walks off. Ugh, watching this, I was not enjoying it, but I also thought there was going to be more to it than this, but only after finishing this ep and watching the next one and then peeking at Buddy Repperton’s IMDb to see if he’d be showing up again did I realize that this is the end of the story. Talk about an unexciting way to end things, huh? What was even the point of this story? I think I honestly would have rather had Lisa just sit out four eps or so rather than be handed this as her follow-up story to Joshua Rush. Pretty much nothing about this story worked for me, starting with the way Sonny came out of nowhere, going through the way that Cathy instantly trusted him way too much and told him way too much private information, and finishing up with the boring and anticlimactic way that this all ends.
Olivia is still living at the Fairgate MacKenzie house as a pseudo-daughter. In our prior ep, Karen smiled at Olivia and said, “I had forgotten how nice it was to have a woman in the house,” a line that made both My Beloved Grammy as well as myself pee our pants with laughter. In what universe was Karen living where it was “nice” to have Diana in the house? After Karen delivered this humdinger, I said, “It was never nice having Diana in the house,” and My Beloved Grammy shuddered and opined, “No, she was awful.” Anyway, as we open up this ep, we have a quick scene of Gary trying to reach Olivia, trying to convince her to come back home to Westfork. Olivia stands strong that she can’t live with Abs anymore, though she doesn’t tell Gary the exact reasons why. I wanna take a moment to talk about Olivia’s motivations here, by the way. In another scene from the ep, we get a pretty great firsthand example of how Olivia is starting to act like a little rebel. As Sexy Michael (wearing a pink shirt that I want to rip off of him using my teeth) drives Olivia to school, she suddenly busts out the makeup kit and starts to go to work on her eyelashes and her lipstick and all that good stuff and, if I recall correctly, she also pulls the classic trick of taking off her modest outfit to reveal her slutty outfit hidden beneath it, all before arriving at school and chatting it up with a cigarette-smoking boy riding a motorcycle. Yes, it appears Olivia looked at every cliché for how to turn into a teenage rebel and decided to live into all the stereotypes. I note these things because I think they demonstrate that Olivia’s desire to live with Karen is not purely based on her horror of what her mother has done; I think there’s definitely some self-interest going on here, that she sees this as an opportunity to be bad and escape from the clutches of her mother, who wouldn’t even let her wear the sexy fingernail polish she wanted to. While I do think Olivia is legit disgusted with her mother and I do think her disgust goes beyond a simple disagreement and more towards something that offends her core being, I also think she’s cashing in on this opportunity to get away from her mother’s prying eyes and start being naughty, maybe even start smoking grass (we’ll have to wait until our next ep to see!).
Meanwhile, Gary is making no bones about wanting to stray from his sacred marital vows to Abs and fall smoothly into the warmth of J.B.’s vagina, and this week I think he finally succeeds. See, Gary and J.B. have been seeing quite a lot of each other as of late, going out to romantic dinners, sitting by candlelight to discuss their lives, heading out to look at sexy 1986 cars for Gary to buy and start racing. With this ep, they finally make out, and I say “finally” with a smidge of reticence since I’m not entirely sure if they’ve made out before or not, but I think they haven’t. This is their first, right? There’s been a lot of heavy flirtation and Gary tried to shag her a few eps back, but J.B. resisted. Now J.B. can resist no longer and even though all we see is the kiss, the music swells up and it’s a very passionate kiss, so I think we can all rightly assume that Gary and J.B. had a shag mere moments after this. I real fast wanna highlight something I’ve said before, which is that I don’t even necessarily see this as Gary “cheating” on Abs. I think that marriage is basically dead and I think that Gary views it that way. I think, after all the confusing Empire Valley stuff and Gary’s, “God, are we different,” comment to Abs, that he’s finally made a switch in his brain where he can’t love her the way he loved her throughout the previous three seasons or so. I think she has finally betrayed his trust in a way that’s irrevocable and it’s only a matter of time before they get a divorce. Because of this, I think Gary’s little affair with J.B. here is more him planning for the future, that this is the woman he might like to leave Abs for, so why not go ahead and get revved up and started with her now?
We’ve also got a lot going on this ep with all the drama involving Greg and Peter and Sylvia and, you know, the whole gang. Laura really gets in on the action this week, because we catch up with her late at night at the Sumner offices raiding Peter’s desk, looking for information. I’m not entirely sure what she’s hoping to find, but I imagine she’s looking for some sort of proof that he’s a liar, that he’s not who he says he is, maybe a Scrapbook Of Evil like the kind that were so popular amongst Wayne Harkness and Chip Roberts back in season four (although I guess Chip didn’t keep a scrapbook of evil, but he did keep an evil newspaper clipping that helped us realize he was evil). Laura doesn’t manage to find anything, but she does get caught red handed by Peter, who walks in and calmly addresses her. I like Peter’s ability to play it cool in any given situation. In this instance, he could throw a big hissy fit about Laura invading his privacy, but he knows that she’s going to be an obstacle to him and he’d better get on her good side, which he attempts to do. He invites her to dinner at Sylvia’s apartment and says how she can meet his mother and see where she lives and get to know them a little bit better.
Interestingly, Laura agrees to this, and the next time we see the characters, they are all sitting down to a nice dinner together. Sylvia is serving and she goes on about her life and the dishes she likes to prepare, stuff like that. This is a fun little scene because you get the sense that Laura is being gracious enough to make polite conversation and enjoy the food with Sylvia and Peter, but you can also tell that she still ain’t buying it. She doesn’t believe either of these characters are who they claim to be, and she still makes that pretty clear to them in the course of this dinner, yet all without necessarily being rude. It’s a really strange, cool balancing act and it’s played well by all the actors in the scene. Again, I stress how much I’m enjoying this particular portion of the stories right now and what a delightful surprise it is. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, can’t find one specific thing that Sylvia or Peter are doing that’s super compelling, but it’s just a feeling. I love Greg, I love Laura, I like Peter, and I like Sylvia and I just like where this is all going.
Where it’s going is apparently back to Empire Valley, which is where Greg takes Peter at the end of this episode. By this point, Empire Valley is no longer a smoking pile of rubble, but rather just a simple, non-smoking pile of rubble. I’m not entirely sure what is conveyed in this scene, but that is probably the result of my own stupid brain and not the fault of the show or the writing. Basically, Greg says how his end goal is to take down Gary and Abs and that he needs Peter’s help to do so. He also continues to seem very trusting towards Peter, and I still haven’t figured out if this is based in his honestly believing Peter’s story or in something more clever and duplicitous. In this ep, he continues to defend Peter to a skeptical Laura, saying how he checked the Galveston files and that there were monthly checks from Galveston to Sylvia for years, which helps to backup Peter’s story. Even so, I’m leaning towards Greg being clever. I think he smells a rat, but he’s smart enough to not tell Peter that. As Don Corelone might say, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” If Greg can stay close to Peter and earn some form of trust, it might make it easier for him to figure out what’s really going on.
Last thing on the Peter roster for this ep is a little meeting he has with Abs at some fancy bar. Again, I think my stupid brain failed to process exactly the contents of this meeting or why Abs is meeting with him, but let’s just assume that Abs wants to get in bed with Peter for some sort of wicked reason. She feels burned by Gary and left out on all things relating to Lotus Point. She’s getting bored sitting around Westfork and she needs something to do to keep her entertained. I do also want to note how, at least as far as this season is concerned, I’m noticing a lot more meetings taking place in big fancy bars and restaurants. I’m wondering if that’s a Dallas influence bleeding over into KL courtesy of David Paulsen, but then I’m also wondering if I’m merely more inclined to notice these things because of his presence. What do you guys think? Oh yeah, and also, one last thing, I am pretty sure the piano player in the background for this scene is playing Karen’s little theme song from way back in season one. Am I crazy about this? If it’s not Karen’s theme, it’s some piece of the series score, some bit of music that we’ve heard more than once as part of the music of different eps. This threw my brain off, because I knew I recognized the music in the background, and I even rewound it so I could hear it again, and at first I thought it was from some famous movie and that’s why I recognized it, but then I realized it was from the show. I like this little touch, because it’s just cool. It’s cool that a piece of the KL score can be a canon piece of music within the world of the show, a bit of music that might be played on the piano at a fancy bar that Abs likes to go to.
Okay, so that pretty much does it for all of our characters except for Karen and Mack, but I’ve been saving them for last because I think their material is easily the best stuff about this ep. Ugh, it’s all so good, and I don’t even know where to start, except at the beginning. As we get started with this ep, Karen is still giving Mack the silent treatment in a way that I feel is a bit much. Mack is trying to communicate with her, bringing her flowers, being loving, trying to be open, and Karen is totally shutting him out at this point. In the previous ep, I talked about how I’m having a bit of a hard time with Karen right now, and that continues in this ep, although the writing is still so good that I of course can understand both characters. Near the middle of this ep, Karen is having a heart to heart with Val and Val tells her she needs to forgive Mack and that the mere fact that Mack had a key to a hotel room does not justify destroying their marriage. Karen kinda sorta agrees with Val, but then she says, “I just feel so betrayed,” and it’s that line that I was able to focus on and understand. I think Karen knows that Mack wouldn’t cheat, but there’s just something about the inherent secrecy of the room key, of the fact that he held onto it, that is making her feel betrayed and unable to get over it and forgive him. Perhaps this whole situation could have been easily avoided if Mack had just come home on the day J.B. gave him the key and said, “Karen, you won’t believe this, but guess who gave me a key to her hotel room and an open invite to shag her whenever I wanna!” If it had been done that way, Karen and Mack could have laughed together about Mack’s powerful sexual charisma and Karen wouldn’t feel betrayed by Mack. I think it’s the fact that he held onto the key in secret that is really eating at her.
All this key drama paves the way for a truly magnificent fight between Karen and Mack in their bedroom in the middle of the night. This is gonna be another instance where I rant and rave about how brilliant a scene is while failing to properly describe it or dictate the incredible dialogue, and that’s of course because I was staring at the screen in awe throughout the whole sequence and barely managed to write anything in my notes except for a few choice bits of dialogue that stuck out to me. This feels like the kind of fight where the couple starts out by fighting about one specific issue, but as the intensity grows, we come to realize that they are really fighting about deeper issues, issues they’ve probably been holding in and not talking about the last few years. I say this because Karen makes a sarcastic comment about Mack trying to be cute, “Just like your flirting is cute,” and as they start to yell and scream more, Mack throws out a few choice phrases like, “Miss Self Righteous,” and Karen tells him, “You have the subtlety of a steamroller.” I think Mack even destroys a lamp, continuing that running theme of damaging your own property in the throes of a fight that I’ve been noticing a lot as of late. This is my favorite scene of the entire episode, mostly because I loved the realistic way that the fight accelerated and also because I love both characters and I think both actors are at the top of their game playing the scene. I also love how the fight can be so intense without being scary, if that makes sense. What I mean is that, yeah, Mack yells and smashes a lamp, but we’re never afraid that he’s gonna start beating on Karen or anything like that. I also loved how we get a sense of the deeper problems underlying this marriage. Karen is getting fed up with Mack’s flirting and his little bits of cute behavior while Mack is getting tired of being judged and held to some impossibly high standard (a standard probably set in Karen’s mind by her long marriage to Saint Sid). I know some fans really seem to revolt on Karen and Mack at a certain point in the series because they think both characters are self-righteous, but I think I disagree. Doesn’t a scene like this show that the writers know their characters are flawed and are addressing it through their actions and dialogue?
That’s another thing to love about this scene and this whole storyline, by the way. As we got revved up with this ep and the thirty second preview showed that we’ve be continuing to explore this whole J.B. key situation, My Beloved Grammy confessed to me that she, “could use a little less adultery on the show.” I quickly defended the honor of the series by reminding her that Dallas had constant adultery and she never complained about it there, but she did tell me that she didn’t love it over on Dallas, either. As we got deeper into the ep and witnessed the sublime and amazing fight between Karen and Mack, I pointed out to her that the brilliance of the show lies not in the adultery or in the possibility of the adultery but in the way the characters react. On another nighttime drama, they would probably have Mack have the affair just because it would make for good drama, but they wouldn’t get deep into his character and explore his midlife crisis in the fabulous way that KL does. On KL, we don’t even have an affair, but just the possibility of an affair, and that is enough to have this fantastic fight and all these fabulous character moments between Karen and Mack, and that’s what makes the show have that special extra magical kick, wouldn’t you agree?
I think that’s about all I got for The Key to a Woman’s Heart, an ep that I enjoyed very much and that might be my favorite of the five we watched on this disk (The Confession through A Very Special Gift). While I don’t like the Cathy/Sonny story, the good news it that this ep ends it, it’s over, it’s done, and we don’t need to think about it anymore. While I didn’t like the way this ep ended it, I’m just glad the story’s over and we can move on to something else, something hopefully better, for Cathy in her final eleven eps on the series. Everything else in this ep was good to great, in my opinion. I enjoyed all the stuff with Abs, Gary, and Olivia, especially the subtle ways that we are seeing Olivia’s bad side manifest itself. I also greatly enjoyed everything with Peter and Sylvia, but the real great stuff in this ep came via Karen and Mack and their amazing fight, which is a scene for the ages. I should take a moment to note that Lynn Latham (pictured below) wrote this one, and I continue to be impressed whenever she or her hubby contribute a script. I know this pair is unpopular with many fans, and I plan to explore that in greater detail during their reign from seasons eight through twelve, but as of this moment, I’m impressed with both of them and think they’ve written some excellent scripts. I also wonder if having a female writer for this ep is why the Karen/Mack stuff is so good. Could Latham understand Karen in a special way that made their fight really come alive as it did? In any case, all the Karen/Mack stuff is clearly the best part of the ep and is good enough that, if everything else in the ep sucked, I would still recommend it. Fortunately, aside from Cathy/Sonny, this was a solid ep on all counts.
Coming up next, we explore the final ep on this particular disk, the 150th ep of the series entitled A Very Special Gift.