Thursday, December 14, 2017


Episode Title: Distant Rumblings

Season 07, Episode 23

Episode 153 of 344

Written by Tom Citrano and Joel Okmin

Directed by Michael Preece

Original Airdate: Thursday, March 13th, 1986

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Abby finds a joint in Olivia's purse, and makes her tell the truth. Olivia threatens her with the twins, and Abby says to go ahead and tell. The judge lets Olivia off, but says she has to join a support group. Greg offers Peter five million dollars. Peter doesn't accept, and tells Sylvia it's a test. Jill tells Mack that her father used to own Empire Valley, and Galveston swindled him out of it, so her father shot himself. Cathy tells Ben she wants to leave the show. He confides in her (and later Mack) that he is tired of Gary being in his life whichever way he turns. He and Cathy kiss. Mack tells Gary that his little trust fund stunt could cost Val her marriage, and he needs to think of consequences before he does things. Abby tells Gary that he failed Olivia, Lotus Point, and their marriage. Gary says he's decided to divorce her.

Welcome back to my blog and I’m sure you all must be very excited to hear my thoughts on Distant Rumblings.  Continuing with my decision to rewatch the five eps on this disk before doing my writing, I pretentiously went to Starbucks again this morning and watched the episode we are about to discuss, along with the two that follow it.  I am pleased to say that I made the right decision, as I had obviously forgotten a ton of the little details throughout these five eps and watching them again did a good job of refreshing me and getting me back into the world I know and love.  Let’s dive in.

In our last ep, Gary crashed his car in a very dramatic scene and wound up in the hospital, ignoring Abs and shagging J.B. in his hospital bed.  Fittingly, we begin Distant Rumblings with Gary receiving a visit from his one true soulmate, Valene.  Right off the bat, we get some real great Gary/Val footage this ep, keeping their characters super interesting and fascinating, as always.  In this case, Val has come to express her concern for Gary’s rather reckless lifestyle as of late.  She says how Gary is not drinking anymore, but his love affair with racing cars is very similar, that he is suffering from the need for a thrill high.  

          It’s lovely to watch Val try to say these things in a way that is gentle, and we can all feel the love that is just permeating this entire room, but Gary reminds her of their chat last ep in which she asked him to stay out of her life, and now he’s asking her to do the same thing.  I like the gentle but firm way that Shack plays this scene, and I like the way J.V.A. portrays Val as realizing that she’s potentially out of line and respecting Gary’s wishes that they don’t talk about it.

Another thing I noted about this scene is that, just as Val first arrives, Gary is in the middle of what looks like a very pleasant chat with Cathy.  This image made me smile, something about how happy these two are to be around each other and talking to each other, and it also made me reflect on their relationship.  What exactly is Gary and Cathy’s relationship at this point?  Is there any threat of sexual tension anymore?  Back in season five, the two were getting pretty hot and heavy before Gary put the kibosh on it right near the start of season six.  Since then, I feel like we haven’t had a lot of footage of the two characters together, so perhaps that’s why I liked this little bit.  Since Cathy has been gearing up (she’s been Cathy Gearing up; I’m Gene Shalit!) to have an affair with Ben nearly the whole season, I think it’s safe to assume that she’s no longer viewing Gary as a romantic interest, but just a really good friend.  Finally, I’d say I liked this scene because it shows that Gary is a beloved person.  I feel like if this was season four and Gary was in the middle of his gigantic bender and he crashed his car then, the only person coming to see him at the hospital would be Abs and, probably, Val.  Here, now that Gary is a good person and an ethical person and Bob Loblaw, he’s a more popular guy and more people are concerned for his well being.

Val’s hospital visit provides for some good drama between her and Ben a little later in the ep. See, Ben hears through the grapevine that Val came to visit Gary, so he confronts her with it first chance he gets.  I like the way he does this, by the way, because he doesn’t wait around long.  He arrives home to find Val spread out on the couch, looking tired and worn out, and he sits in a chair and when she asks how his day was, he says, “Good; how was Gary?  You went to see him today, didn’t you?”  I like how Ben doesn’t hold it in forever, but instead gets straight to the point upon arriving home.  After Val admits to it, Ben delivers a little speech that I found rather interesting, a speech in which he seems to take more understanding of Val and her emotions.  He basically talks about issues of right and wrong, asking, “Is it right for me to be so angry about this trust fund?  Is it right for my normal anger to deprive my kids of the kind of security it would take me ten lifetimes to be able to give them?”  Ugh, I really like this scene and it only makes me prouder to hold my new role as President of the Ben Gibson Fan Club.  With only the rest of season seven and then the span of season eight left to go before Ben leaves the series forever, I am finding myself appreciating him more and more with each ep that we watch.  In this case, I admire the way he is able to step back from his anger and his resentment and be reflective about his own feelings and decisions and talk about them in a very open way.  Other people would just hold in their resentments or hope that, by not mentioning them, they might magically go away, but Ben instead tries to lay it all out and discuss it openly.  To think I could have ever dismissed this character as “boring;” surely I must have been out of my mind to reach such a conclusion.  Ben is way more multifaceted and interesting than I ever gave him credit for upon first viewing, and this excellent little scene is just one of several that I’ve spotted and appreciated upon this rewatch.

Later in the ep, we see Val taking out her garbage.  I immediately jotted it in my notes, as I tend to always jot in my notes when we see the characters taking care of some domestic chore.  Once again, when on Dallas did we ever see anybody taking the garbage out?  The fact that KL shows the little details of life on the cul-de-sac is one of the many reasons I love it so much, and I kinda loved this scene, I must admit.  See, Val is taking out the garbage and Laura is getting ready to go to work, but then Val spills the garbage everywhere and Laura comes to help her with it.  At this point, Val breaks down and starts crying and I had an immediately brilliant thought because I’m super smart and I’m a genius and all that.  My thought was that this scene of a strong Laura comforting a crying Val is the mirroring of a memorable scene from one of our very earliest eps, The Lie.  Way back in that ep, Laura was the one sitting on the stairs, crying and acting weak, and Val was the strong one who came over to give her emotional support, but now it’s been reversed.  I loved this scene for that reason as well as J.V.A.’s acting when she cries and asks, “Laura, why doesn’t anything ever work out the way you planned?”  Oh yeah, I also liked this scene because we get a callback to Richard when Laura announces that her divorce is final.  See, as I’m always saying time and time again, it’s the small details I appreciate most.  Richard has been absent since the end of season four, nearly three years ago, so the writers don’t really need to bring him up here, but they do it anyway and I appreciate that.  I also appreciate that we learn the divorce is final because, in real life, it takes forever for a divorce to become final.  On another show, I feel like Richard would leave the series and Laura would just, you know, somehow be divorced from him in the next ep.  Here, it’s been natural and it’s taken the appropriate amount of time that it would actually take to finalize the divorce.

The next person to come visit Gary is perhaps the person he wishes to see least, Abs.  I really love how openly hostile Gary is being towards Abs at this point; for some reason it just really makes me smile.  In this instance, Abs comes walking into the hospital room, attempting to look all jolly and happy to see her husband, but Gary only turns around, sighs, and then bemoans, “I thought you were the nurse.”  I just find it hilarious how clearly unhappy Gary is to even have to look at his wife, and I think by this point, we can all smell what’s going to happen in the concluding seconds of this ep.  I am also amused by watching Abs attempt to kinda sorta pretend like everything is alright.  She still speaks to Gary with a certain tone in her voice, as if she can simply will their marriage back into some semblance of happiness if she just pretends hard enough.

Abs is busy this ep and gets lots of great material, but her best material has to come via her confrontation with Olivia.  The jig is finally up for the confused fifteen year old girl when Abs finds a joint in her purse.  Even though the presence of this one joint should seem inalterably incriminating for the girl after all the shenanigans of the mysterious joints in Sexy Michael’s car, Olivia still tries to grasp at straws by giving Abs the old story of, “It’s not mine; I was just holding it for a friend!”  Honestly, this excuse has never held much water for me.  How many kids run around handing joints to each other and saying, “Just hold this for me for awhile”?  It’s always the excuse kids seem to go to, but I would certainly never buy it if I was a parent.  Abs is a sharp cookie and so after the “holding it for a friend” nonsense, she busts out another baggie filled with even more joints and asks, “‘It’?”  A second later, she tells Olivia to get her coat and take a ride with her to the Fairgate/MacKenzie house, where she will tell Karen and everybody else the truth.

It's shit like this that keeps Abs such a fascinating character to watch.  Other wicked female characters on television dramas would most likely be portrayed as far more snarling and far more one-dimensional.  Abs has never been that way and this little scene further proves it.  As soon as she realizes that her daughter lied to her and that Sexy Michael is taking the fall for something Olivia did, she doesn’t even think twice about marching her over to Karen and Mack’s to tell the truth.  This shows a sense of ethics that is almost surprising considering the way Abs behaves in the other aspects of her life, most specifically her duplicitous business dealings.  What I think it really boils down to is that, for all her flaws and lies and backstabbing, when it comes to her kids, Abs is a very decent and responsible mother.

The scene only gets more exciting when Abs and Olivia arrive at the house.  Olivia doesn’t want to go in and is throwing around any excuse she can to get out of it, when finally she settles on using Val’s babies as her weapon.  But wait, there’s more!  Right before Olivia brings up Val’s babies, we get a Sid callback.  See, Abs says, “Sexy Michael is my brother’s son and I won’t have him go to jail for something you did.”  Olivia retorts with, “Since when do you care so much about Uncle Sid’s family?” and Abs replies, “I loved my brother and you know that.  Whether you believe it or not, I love you, too.”  All of this is very genuine; Abs isn’t using the memory of Sid for some sort of manipulation but is only stating plain facts, yet another example of keeping the character consistently three-dimensional and interesting.  It’s at this point that Olivia brings out the big guns, saying, “Maybe I should tell them the whole truth, including your part in the kidnapping of Val’s babies.”  Abs barely even blinks at this, merely saying, “You tell them whatever you want to.”  Ugh, I have so many thoughts on this part.  First off, it’s kinda amazing to watch Olivia pull a move right out of Abs playbook, threatening her with information about what she knows.  There’s a real like-mother-like-daughter thing going on here, and that certainly brings me a lot of joy, but even better is how calmly Abs reacts to the whole thing, brushing off Olivia’s comments and knocking on the front door.  We should all be feeling good and tense at this point, but we breathe a sigh of relief when Olivia decides not to go through with it and doesn’t say one word to anybody about any babies.  She does, however, confess to the fact that the joints really belonged to her and not Sexy Michael.

Remember when Lilimae ran Chip over with the car and then her trial wound up taking place off-screen and we were just told that the judge gave her a suspended sentence or whatever?  That kinda bugged me back when that happened somewhere in season five, and a similar thing happens here, though it bugs me less.  In this instance, Olivia and Sexy Michael both go to court to talk to the judge together, but all of this stuff occurs off-screen.  Through the dialogue from certain characters, we learn that the judge let Olivia off but made her join a program, or something like that.  Why doesn’t it bother me that we don’t see this?  I’d say probably because of the allergic reaction I tend to have to storylines involving courtrooms.  There is just something about putting a scene in a courtroom that inherently makes me want to go to sleep, unless we are talking about some really excellent piece of art like Kramer vs Kramer.  If it’s just some random terrible episode of one of the five hundred thousand Law & Order shows, then I’ll probably start throwing up, however.  Therefore, I’m kinda fine with not actually seeing the courtroom, although I also suppose it wouldn’t have killed them. 

The fact that Gary doesn’t show up for Olivia’s little chat with the judge is also pretty significant.  Later in the ep, Mack visits Gary while he’s working on his race-car and chews him out for not acting like a father to Olivia.  Gary isn’t even aware of the drama with the joints, showing how isolated he has made himself from his Westfork family.  This provides the impetus for our fabulous final scene of the ep, in which Gary returns home to Westfork and an angry Abs.  Abs yells at him for never being around, for only thinking of himself, for creating lots of problems for the family, but she gets a real shocker when Gary calmly answers with, “You’re right,” and then flatly declares, “I’m divorcing you, Abby.”  I think this is a great ending not just because we know it will create great drama in the future, but also because it’s presented in that gloriously undramatic and down to earth KL way.  I don’t think anyone viewing the show is going to GASP when Gary calls for a divorce, but I also don’t think we are supposed to.  We have smelled this divorce coming for a long time now, arguably since the moment Gary and Abs stood at the altar together in Sacred Vows.  If we weren’t thinking of divorce at that point, I’d say we were all thinking of divorce near the end of season five when Gary found out what Abs was really up to with his inheritance money and threw her off the ranch.  The fact that it’s been two years since that occurred and Gary is only now asking for the divorce is actually kind of surprising, yet it’s another example of KL’s slow burn storytelling that I love so much.  I’m glad that Gary didn’t divorce Abs back in season five over the Wolfbridge stuff, because having him divorce her now makes a lot more sense for me.  In the marriage of Gary and Abs, I see a man trying very hard to be patient and understanding with a wife that he knows he can’t trust.  He let her off the hook several times in the past, but her behavior regarding Empire Valley and his realization that the two of them are, at their core, completely different people, is what I think has finally landed him on the decision of divorce.

Meanwhile, Karen’s frigidity that’s been going on for about three eps gets pretty quickly wrapped up in this ep.  I’ll set the scene a little bit by saying that we catch up with Karen and Mack having a nice lunch together at Lotus Point.  Mack mentions how he took the rest of the afternoon off and it’s too bad that Karen has to work, but then Karen sneaks off and has a waiter deliver a note to Mack asking to meet her in room 503, which he promptly does.  When Mack arrives, he finds Karen dressed in a nice little outfit, a sexy little red nighty with a sorta see-through black thing that she’s wearing on top.  She says, “I thought we could use some time alone,” and then also adds, “I’m not sure this is going to work,” to which Mack replies, “We won’t know until we try.”  This is a superbly sweet little scene set to some rather lovely background music, and it’s a scene that’s always stuck in my brain as very memorable, so yes, I like this scene very much.  At the same time, I’m feeling slightly critical, not of the scene necessarily, but of this little story.  I’ll attempt to collect my thoughts in an eloquent enough manner to explain myself.

I specifically remember really liking this storyline the first time I watched the show, and I even remember that the reason I liked it so much was because I appreciated that, even this deep into the series when the show might be tempted to just copy what all the other nighttime soaps are doing, KL still manages to keep it simple in the most wonderful way by presenting regular adults having regular adult issues.  In this case, a husband and wife not being on the same page sexually, having a hard time getting their sex life back on track, that all feels very adult to me and I appreciate the show for being about adult issues.  Also, I appreciate the acting from both parties, as always.  However, taking another look at it now, I’m not so sure I like this story all that much anymore, and I think my problem with it might boil back down to that feeling I’m getting that the creative powers are just trying to fill time, to fill the thirty episode season at all costs.  When you look at in the big picture way, in the scope of the whole season, this frigidity storyline was really just a tiny little blip on the radar, only taking up three eps out of thirty.  While I can see the logical storytelling that lead us from Karen discovering J.B.’s room key to her and Mack fighting for several eps to her going frigid for a few eps, it still feels a little bit like something coming out of nowhere and then returning quickly back to where it came from.  I hate to say it, but it sorta feels like the writers saying, “Okay, we gotta give Karen something to do for a few eps, um, how about she and Mack are sexually incompatible for like two or three eps and then they get over it and move on?”  Perhaps I’m just spoiled by the absolutely masterful storytelling structure of seasons four, five, and six, in which you felt that not a single storyline was wasted, and now that we are drifting through a rather more meandering season and so it’s making these issues really stick out to me much more.

There’s a lot of really important information revealed about J.B. in this ep, starting when Mack confronts her about the Franklin High yearbook and her original name.  J.B. asks, “Did you ever have a past, Mack?” and then she proceeds to explain herself, saying how her name used to be Dorothy Jill Simpkins but she became J.B. after a short marriage and she decided to keep J.B. because, well, it’s such a fucking great name that just rolls off of the tongue and is super fun to say and it's also the same name as an actress who was in For Your Eyes Only.  The big reveal, however, comes when J.B. confesses that she has a personal vendetta against Paul Galveston and Galveston Industries because it was his evil and immoral business dealings with her father that lead to daddy dearest eating a bullet when she was only ten years old.  Apparently Galveston decided he wanted the land that J.B. and her family lived on, and he found some way to screw them out of their land and their very home, leading to Papa J.B. killing himself.  Hmmmm, so now we see along with Mack that J.B. has a bone to pick with Galveston Industries, although she claims, “Somewhere along the line, I went from revenge to a social consciousness.”  She also says she plans to prove that Galveston destroyed her family and the entire town of Wesphall.  All pretty interesting stuff, no?  I have to say, right off the bat, from the moment she entered the show, I’m just loving J.B.  I loved J.B. the first time, but I don’t know if I loved her character in season seven the way I’m loving her now.  There’s just something about the way Teri Austin plays her character; she’s inherently watchable and always interesting, even when she isn’t really doing anything.  The fact that the character is so draped in mystery and we’re still not really sure if she’s altruistic or duplicitous only keeps her more fascinating.

The last story point worth bringing up is also probably my least favorite one, and that would be Eric feeling sick.  I’m cool with Eric and he’s had some fine moments throughout the show, yet I think I must just be too busy drooling whenever his much sexier younger brother walks onscreen, because I seem to just never be thinking much about the character of Eric at all, although every now and then he’ll slap Diana and I’ll be like, “Oh yeah, I forgot, Eric is cool!”  In this case, Eric announces he’s been feeling poorly and we get some dropped lines about how lots of the workers at Lotus Point are getting ill lately, how there must be some sort of a bug going around, Bob Loblaw.  Nothing particularly exciting happens within the confines of Distant Rumblings, but the writers are planting seeds for some future eps and a storyline that I’m willing to bet is nobody’s favorite, as it’s certainly not mine.  We’ll discuss it when we discuss it.

I think that’ll do it for my thoughts on Distant Rumblings.  What was my opinion?  Well, I liked it, and I’d say I liked it better than the previous two eps right before it.  This one had a lot going on and enough excitement to keep me happy, yet it also had those little bits of grounded and relatable stuff that keeps the show feeling fairly realistic.  My favorite part of the whole ep was Abs ordering Olivia to go tell the truth, acting like a tough, badass mother and making her daughter take responsibility for her actions.  I would classify that as big drama, but then I equally appreciate those little things like Val taking her trash out and crying to Laura.  While I’d say this isn’t an ep that, years and years down the line, I will think back on and remember specifically, it still felt like an upswing from our last two and I predict that this upspring will continue in our next ep, Phoenix Rising.


  1. Loved the Laura and Val scene. And what is interesting is that one of the last scenes of the series involved Val taking out her garbage and talking with Kate about Gary. Love the cul-de-sac scenes. Speaking of...I visited Crystalaire Place on Sunday when I was in LA and grabbed a pic (see link). Yes, I did the typical middle-aged white guy thing, and rented a Mustang convertible :) I also ate at a little restaurant right down the road from "Seaview Circle"

    1. I took a cue from you, David. And yesterday I wsnt to the cul-de-sac for the first time. I was impressed with how similar the houses still look, and got a good look at the house to the left of Valene's, which I've always found distracting in the wider shots. And, probably like most who go there, I was surprised at how small it really was.

    2. I'm glad you went! It really is smaller than expected. The houses look very similar, but they are a lot closer together than they appeared in the show.

      When I was there, I wondered if all of the people who live there now know about Knots. Because, even if I never heard of the show, I would go back and watch it just because I now live in that neighborhood.

  2. I just stopped reading and jumped down here to celebrate your reference to Jill Bennett, the actress from For Your Eyes Only, as I am the only other person in the world who knows what you're talking about.

    Also, if you ever watch the Kirk Douglas movie "Lust for Life" about Van Gogh, she's in that too. She's much younger, still every time she walks into a scene I expect her to scream, "BIBI! IT IS TIME FOR YOUR RUBDOWN!"

    1. I've spent a lot of my life pondering the relationship between Jacoba Brink and that, um, young chick that tries to shag Bond (Bibi?). I think there is some serious lezzing out going on in the ladies' locker room between Bibi and Jacoba and I think this mysterious "rubdown" is just the tip of the iceberg.