Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Reflection on Season Five of KNOTS LANDING (1983-1984)


A Reflection on Season Five of KNOTS LANDING (1983-1984)

 

Back when I reached the concluding moments of season four and wrote my reflection on that particular season, I declared it to be the best season of the show up to that point and a tremendous step-up from the somewhat schizophrenic and tonally inconsistent season three.  Happily enough, this upward trend continues with season five, which is yet another brilliant year of television that everyone in the world should see and enjoy.

This is the first season that I really noticed the beginnings of something that will become standard by the time the series ends, and that is the way that the first handful of episodes of the season continue the stories going from the end of the previous season, tidying up affairs with all those cliffhangers before starting to move on to new business near the middle of the season.  To reflect a bit, I’ll remind you that season one didn’t end on a cliffhanger and, when we picked up season two, we were just sorta jumping back into the world of KL and seeing our cul-de-sac friends again, but there weren’t any really major story points that had to be continued and addressed at the beginning of the sophomore year.  Then, the big cliffhanger of season two was, of course, Sid Fairgate going off that cliff.  Okay, so yes, season three did pick up directly where that left off as we watched Sid struggle to survive and then not make it in the first two eps of the season.  However, after that, the season went off in many strange, different directions, not necessarily getting new stories all revved up and ready to go, but rather giving us viewers a mix of serialized storytelling (such as the continuing disintegration of Richard and Laura’s marriage or the constant flirting and near-adultery between Gary and Abs) along with bizarrely standalone episodes like, say, The Three Sisters, to name but one example.  Then, the big cliffhanger of season three was Val catching Gary and Abs in bed together and throwing him out of the house.  When we picked up with the start of season four, obviously that was still a very important storyline that was building and growing, but really the first five eps of that season heavily focused on tidying up affairs from the end of season two by finally having Karen see Sid’s killers brought to justice.  Then, of course, all the Ciji/Chip Roberts shenanigans got started right around the time that stuff was finishing up, leading us directly into our season four cliffhanger, which of course leads us directly into season five.  For me, season five is the first season to very clearly spend about half the year continuing and concluding the lingering stories from the year before and then immediately propelling us into a new and exciting story arc with the wicked Wolfbridge group.  This is all done very organically, so that just as you are starting to get tired of all the Chip stuff, BOOM, he dies and they bury him and we move our focus over to new stuff.  I feel like this template will be pretty much followed throughout the rest of the series, though I will keep my eyes open to see if I’m proven wrong.
 
 

One thing that’s very interesting to me as I do this epic rewatch is that I’m discovering every season seems to have its own style and flavor that’s unique to itself, even though in the past I’ve tended to lump certain years together as one era.  So far, I think the two seasons that feel stylistically the most similar are the first two; aside from the lack of Abs in season one and the fact that season two kinda sorta gets us started with serialized storytelling, those two seasons do kinda blur together for me, possibly because they are the two seasons to have the same cul-de-sac opening title sequence, possibly because Don Murray is around for both of them, I dunno.  But anyway, I’d somewhat lump those two seasons together and say they are the simplest years, if that makes sense, probably the years when the show feels the most grounded in the real world, with lots of domestic problems for the characters to deal with that we could probably relate to.  Season three had a distinctly dark and sad quality hovering over it thanks to the death of Saint Sid right at the start; his ghostly presence seemed to hang over proceedings the whole year and I would say this will probably remain the saddest season of the show just because of how we watch Karen cope with being a single woman after nearly two decades of marriage.  Then season four comes along and I would say the flavor of that season is rather transitional.  We are introduced to Mack for the first time but we still have no Sumner and we still have Kenny, Ginger, and Richard in the main cast roster for the entire season.  This season nicely bridges the gap between seasons three and five, because I feel like if you jumped from the style of three to the style of five without a little transition in between, it would be rather whiplash inducing.



Which brings us, of course, to season five.  What’s the flavor of this season?  I’m gonna steal the word used by the brilliant Tommy K in his brilliant television blog (please click HERE to read the brilliance and genius for yourself), in which he described season five as KL’s most “operatic.”  I can’t think of a better term for it, because that’s exactly what it is.  This is easily the most dramatic and soapy season we have seen thus far, and the excitement gets cranked up to a fever pitch that pretty much never lets up, all ending in that cliffhanger-tastic season finale which seems to leave everyone in some form of jeopardy.  However, the amazing thing is that even as the series starts to expand before us, even as we start to see more wealth and money being thrown around by the characters, even as we are introduced to new, lavish settings like Westfork or Abby’s fabulous palace office, even as we start to bring evil mastermind criminal organizations into the picture, the show still does a remarkable job of feeling very grounded even amidst all this drama and I am not quite sure precisely how they do it. 

I’ve mentioned to my friends before how if you just described a season of KL to someone, it would probably sound rather ridiculous, but there’s something about the way the show is put together and the way the actors and the writers and the directors and the showrunners work their magic that always keeps it feeling rather realistic to me.  As a little example of my whole “ridiculous” theory, let’s do a quick rundown of how you would describe the events of season five to someone.  “Oh yeah, it starts with Diana on the road with evil murderer Chip Roberts, and then he gets arrested but let off, so Lilimae hits him with her car, but he doesn’t die; instead, he slips into a coma for awhile and then, just as Diana is ready to testify against him, he awakes from his coma only to fall on a pitchfork and die a few episodes later.  The stress of all these events sends Karen spiraling down into a pill-addiction and she starts popping the pills like crazy until, finally, she overdoses on them in her shower and has to be sent to a rehab center.  Meanwhile, Mack is hard at work trying to bring an evil organization to justice, but they start to threaten him with violence against his family, so he decides he needs to fake Gary’s death and….”  Well, you get the picture.  When you say it out loud like that, it just all sounds so very absurd, but when you’re watching it, it completely and 100% works.

Season five is also a big year of change for the show, which is why many fans continue to designate it as something of a revamping of the show’s style (I continue to argue that this revamp actually began with season four).  We lost Kenny, Ginger, and Richard, but as we started the season we gained first Ben and then Sumner.  Ben was a character I remember being kinda a snooze but he really worked a lot better for me upon this viewing; he brings a certain strange realism to his character and I like the way he’s introduced without us knowing too much about him, so that when he tells us little stories from his past, we feel like we are sorta piecing things together.
 
 

As for Sumner, well come on, what is there to say?  It almost feels weird to think that it took us 78 episodes to get him, because as soon as he’s on the show, he is so vital and brings such wonderful charisma and energy that it’s hard to imagine the show even existing without him.  For the rest of the series, Sumner will remain one of the most fascinating and intricate characters on the whole series, and he is introduced for the first time in season five and immediately fits into the cast as if he’s been there the whole time; it’s really rather remarkable.
 
 

Along with meeting Ben and Sumner for the first time, season five also reintroduced us to Lisa Hartman in the form of Cathy.  Again, this is a storytelling move that really should feel a lot more ridiculous than it winds up feeing; it’s done in such a great, entrancing way that we just sorta buy the idea that Ciji’s exact doppelganger would suddenly appear on the scene just a few eps after Ciji’s death.  I also think getting Lisa back to the series was just a good idea inherently because she radiates a certain warmth and, despite her glamorous ‘80s clothes, always seems like a very real-world character, someone I might meet on the street at any time.  In fact, if there were to be one thing that kinda irked me about season five and could have possibly made me like it less than season four, it’s the fact that Lisa barely sings in this season.  I loved how season four would take time out of its episodes to let her sing entire songs, and I always loved listening to her sing and watching her get that tranced out look on her face where she would close her eyes and sorta thrust her head upwards towards the sky.  In that season, it felt like every episode would unveil a new song for Ciji to sing.  Cathy, however, only gets to sing once in season five, that Journey cover song she does in the bar with her old friends, and we also get a quick scene of her singing while playing the piano, but that’s it.  Mark my words, seasons six and seven will rectify this problem by bringing  her songs back into the focus, but I definitely missed them here.  At the same time, I think the writers were playing it smart by not having her immediately start singing great ‘80s covers in every episode the way Ciji did; they’re biding their time a little bit.  Obviously this is a microscopic nitpick that probably nobody besides myself would even notice, but what can I say, I like listening to Lisa sing and season five didn’t have too much of that.
 
 

Aside from the rather bizarre way that Diana seems to vanish from the show for a period of time near the middle-to-ending portions of the year, I thought all the main cast members were very adequately represented this year; everyone has great material to work with and great stories and the Wolfbridge investigation did a tremendous job, much like the character of Ciji the season before, of keeping everyone in the cast linked together and involved in a storyline as a group.  This is another thing that I’m gonna pay attention for as we move onward to the next seasons: How often do they have a great central storyline that works to link all the characters together?  I can already tell you that season six is going to have a mondo one (Val’s babies), but honestly the rest is kind of a blur.  Will seasons seven and onwards continue the trend that began with season four and the Ciji story?  I really admire this type of storytelling and marvel at how hard it must be to pull off, let alone to do it so well, and I hope to see it continue in later seasons.

Honestly, this season is so good that I almost don’t want to do the highs and lows of the season the way I have done in seasons past.  What could I possibly say was the best episode of the year?  I thought pretty much all the eps were incredible.  However, after going through my notes and reminding myself of the 25 episodes contained within the season, I think I’m gonna pick Secrets Cry Aloud for my favorite ep of the year.  You’ll recall that this ep was absolutely packed with material and I even said how it almost felt like a double-length episode only because, when it was over, I couldn’t believe how much had happened within that 48 minutes.  As for least favorite, I think I’m gonna pick Reconcilable Differences, mostly because I thought it lacked a bit of style and seemed to try too hard to finish storylines and shuffle them out the door as fast as possible.  It was still solid, but if I must pick a worst ep of season five, I suppose it would be that one.

So yes, in case you couldn’t tell, I am pretty over-the-moon about season five.  Of the first five seasons, I’d definitely say it’s the best, and it’s the kind of year that, once it gets going, there’s just no letup.  Of course, the most amazing thing is that I would argue our best season is still lying in our future, our very near future.  I remember thinking season six was the greatest season in all of KL and a total masterpiece of television, but will I feel the same way upon a rewatch?  We shall all find out very shortly when we dive into the season six premiere, Buying Time.
 
 

KNOTS LANDING Episode 100 of 344: NEGOTIATIONS


Episode Title: Negotiations

Season 05, Episode 25

Episode 100 of 344

Written by Richard Gollance

Directed by Larry Elikann

Original Airdate: Thursday, March 29th, 1984

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): A man tells Val that Gary is alive and that she will be receiving a call from Mark St. Claire, but if she mentions the conversation, Gary will be killed. Ben tells Val that Gary is dead. Karen tells Val that Gary is alive, but kidnapped. Val confronts Ben, who says he was happy when he thought Gary was dead, because he's tired of her being in love with him. Val breaks up with him. Mack has Gary stashed away at the Bel Mar motel, and brings Abby to see Gary. Gary's mad at her and doesn't like Mack's plan as it depends on Abby. Mack says he has no choice. Greg calls a press conference and says that he found out Wolfbridge is a criminal organization, and gives credit to Mack. Greg says he will sever all ties with them. Mack tells Abby he is going to wire her, and will bring Gary out to the lobby at 3:30 so that St. Claire will have a chance to shoot Gary again. Abby needs to get him to say something that will link him to the assassination attempt and then get away from him as fast as she can. Abby goes to see St. Claire, and tells him that Gary's at the Bel Mar. He then pulls the wire off of her and says she is going with him to the hotel. St. Claire calls Val and tells her to go to the hotel, and to get into Mack's jeep, which will be out front. He tells her that Gary will come out, and she needs to drive him away. St. Claire then calls Karen and tells her that he has planted a bomb in Mack's jeep. Abby figures out that Karen will tell Mack not to get in the jeep because of the bomb. Then Gary will see Val in the truck, and run out to save her so St. Claire's men will be able to have a clear shot at him. The hotel maid, who works for St. Claire, hides a gun in her cart, and goes to the lobby. Mack and Gary walk into the lobby. Karen runs in and tells Mack that there is a bomb in his car. Gary sees Val, and runs to her. The cleaning woman pulls out a gun and is about to shoot Gary, but Mack grabs her arm and she accidentally shoots Karen instead. Abby sees Gary run out of the hotel. She tries to get out of St. Claire's limo and yells at him to help her. St. Claire pulls her back in and they speed off. Gary runs after the limo. Back inside, the maid is arrested and Mack holds Karen as they wait for an ambulance.

 


                Welcome to Negotiations, which is a landmark KL episode in many ways.  First and foremost, why yes, in is indeed the finale of the glorious fifth season of the series, a season that showed the series reaching new levels of popularity, jumping from #20 in the ratings for season four to #11 for season five.  Perhaps even more importantly, however, it is also the 100th episode of the series.  Ah yes, I can’t describe how I’ve waited for this day to come.  See, way back when I started doing this blog, and I was writing about the very very first episode, and I wrote “Episode 001 of 344,” and I wrote “001” instead of simply “1” absolutely on purpose, knowing that one day we would reach the stage of triple digit episodes, that really the majority of the series is triple digit episodes, which is pretty amazing when you think of it.  When I made it to the tenth episode and I wrote “Episode 010 of 344,” I felt I was a step closer to one day reaching triple digits and not having to put any zeroes before the episode number, and now that day is here, for I can officially say that we are discussing “Episode 100 of 344.”  Oh, what bliss.
 

 

                I wish I could take a time machine back to March 29th, 1984, and see this episode upon original airdate.  More, I wish I could experience the days leading up to the airing, because I’d be very curious to see if CBS made a big deal out of this being the 100th episode.  Did anyone mention it?  Did anyone notice?  I feel like it’s rare for 100th episodes (or 200th episodes or 300th episodes and so on and so forth) to land at the exact same spot as the season finale; usually they are contained randomly somewhere else within the season.  So anyway, when this was about to air, did CBS advertise it as, “Watch the season finale on Thursday!” or did they emphasize the fact that it was the 100th episode or did they perhaps do both?  That seems like a bit too much of a mouthful for a simple television spot, “Tune in Thursday for the season finale that’s also the 100th episode of the series!”  100 episodes is a big deal, so I want to take a few moments to write about that and why it’s an important milestone.  A lot of what made 100th episodes a big deal back in the day is kinda null and void nowadays since all the good stuff is on cable and most cable shows don’t ever make it to 100 episodes and also don’t seem like they really want to.  However, back in the old days, 100 episodes was an important milestone because it meant you had crossed the bracket and were now eligible for being sold to syndication, so most shows would strive to at least produce that many eps.  In addition, I think 100 episodes was just sorta seen as a point of honor for TV shows, like, “We’ve made it, we’re here, we’ve proven ourselves.”  However, with most shows nowadays, I feel like the goal is not to rack up as many episodes as possible just to say, “Look, we beat the record of some other TV show that had a million episodes!”  Rather, the cable shows seem more concerned with quality over quantity, creating a good series that tells a good story for as long as it needs to be told. 

 

In fact, as I was writing this, I got curious about how many eps a lot of the popular cable shows have had, so I’ll give a bit of random info on what I discovered, beginning with what I tend to think of as the first of the big HBO cable shows, Tales From the Crypt.  I could most definitely be mistaken in labeling this as the first, but I feel like this was one of the premiere examples of a television series that could be filmed and shot and shown as if it was a real movie, and it was the first time I can think of in which real directors, big time movie directors who already had movies under their belt, took to the world of television as a way to further express their artistic selves.  Okay, so Tales From the Crypt was on from 1989 to 1996 and had 93 episodes.  Boy, they came close but they didn’t quite hit 100.  Honestly, if I was running that show and it was up to the final season, I would probably just be like “Can we throw an extra seven eps into this run so that we can end the series with exactly 100 episodes?” 
 
 

Boy, this is fun, let’s think, what other shows could I use as examples?  Let’s stick to HBO for the time being and sorta move along chronologically.  The next show I can think of from HBO that I enjoyed was The Larry Sanders Show (one episode of that series featured a guest appearance by The Plesh!).  This ran from 1992 to 1998 and had 89 episodes.  Okay, how about Sex and the City?  That ran 1998 to 2004 and had 94 episodes.  One of my absolutely all time favorite television series, Six Feet Under (allegedly pitched by creator Alan Ball to HBO as “Knots Landing in a funeral home,” and oh God how I hope that story is true) ran from 2001 to 2005 and had 63 episodes.  Boardwalk Empire ran from 2010 to 2014 and had 56 episodes.  Heck, even The Sopranos, which in my mind was one of HBO’s longest running series and, I assumed, had racked up well over 100 episodes by the time it ended, only had six seasons and 86 episodes altogether.
 
 

What about other channels?  HBO was the first big one, but I feel like Showtime and then AMC also came along to give us quality cable programming that continued to put network programs to shame.  For Showtime, I loved the series Queer as Folk and that ran from 2000 to 2005 and had 83 episodes.  Also, I kinda sorta liked some seasons of Weeds (meaning roughly three of the eight seasons), and even that one, which I would argue overstayed its welcome by a good couple of seasons, only clocks in at 102 episodes, just barely hitting that 100 episode mark before hanging it up.  For AMC, we of course had the brilliant Breaking Bad, which ran 2008 to 2013 and had 62 episodes, and we also had the equally brilliant Mad Men, which ran from 2007 to 2015 and finished its run with 92 episodes.
 
 

My point?  I don’t even know if I had a point; I think I mostly just felt like bringing up some other shows and throwing out random trivia about how many eps they produced, but I think I can spin this into an actual coherent point that sounds super smart and intellectual.  Well, I find it very interesting to think that all the shows that I just mentioned (save for Weeds, but we’ve almost watched 102 eps of KL, so why split hairs?) ended their run with less episodes to their credit than we currently have of KL, and the thing that’s so amazing about KL is that we’re now at episode 100, and while many other shows would be at risk of starting to feel tired by this point, I feel like we’ve only just begun to really enjoy the fabulous world that is KL, and it’s kinda amazing to think that we still have 244 more episodes to watch in the series before calling it quits, and even more amazing to think that (in my opinion, of course, and based on my memories of the last time watching the series), the show will still maintain an incredibly high quality all the way until the last episode that is currently nine years and 244 episodes away.  How many other shows can rack up that many episodes and still stay good to the very last drop?  But anyway, that’s enough about that, I can re-explore these subjects and go on another long rant when we hit the 200th and 300th episodes one day, but for now, we are talking about the 100th episode and it’s Negotiations and here we go. 
 
 

Did I mention last week about how Val was going to travel to New York as part of a book tour to promote her newest book?  Well, if I didn’t mention it, I probably should have, because we actually begin Negotiations not in our usual California setting, but in New York with a nice (probably stock) shot of the Statue of Liberty overlooking the ocean (for all those Trump voters out there who are confused, the Statue of Liberty is this famous statue symbolizing the fact [and a little later I can help to explain the concept of what a "fact" is] that America welcomes immigrants and refugees; that's, you know, kinda a core part of our country's values).  After this shot, we move inside some random hotel set that Val is hanging out in.  I feel like Val’s second book, Nashville Junction, is kinda being put on the backburner at this exact juncture in the saga.  Like, she has revealed that she’s written it and we had that touching scene a handful of eps back in which she dedicated the book to Lilimae, and that’s all been very good, but I definitely feel like this book isn’t taking center stage the way Capricorn Crude did.  With that book, so many storylines revolved around it and we spent so much time watching Val write it and prepare it and get it set up for publication and go on Mike Douglas’ show and all of that good stuff.  Perhaps because we’ve already covered those bases once before in the past, the writers are choosing to not to highly emphasize her sophomore effort
 
 

Anyway, Val is in New York for all of fifteen seconds, and I also wanna take a moment to note that there’s clearly no actual on-location New York footage being filmed.  Remember this is still 1984 and pre-Giuliani so probably the producers and directors were afraid of being violently raped and then shot to death by junkies if they tried to film actual footage in the big apple, or perhaps they just didn’t have it in the budget.  In any case, while it may have been nice to see Val gallivanting along the real-life streets of New York and doing touristy things like taking in the Empire State Building, for the purposes of this episode all we get is that quick stock shot and then a bit of footage of Val inside this building.
 
 

The reason Val’s book tour is cut so short comes in the form of some mysterious man who approaches her to tell that Gary is, in fact, alive.  This man also tells her how she will soon be receiving a phone call from James Bond villain Mark St. Claire, but that she needs to keep hush hush about this resurrection or else Gary will be killed.  Who is this man, by the way?  I’m not referring to the actor this time, who I’m not even gonna bother to look up, but rather the character.  I’m assuming that he works for St. Claire and that’s how he has this information, but why warn Val?  Is this out of the kindness of his heart and he’s going over his boss’ head to give Val this information?  Or is this part of some trap set by the Wolfbridge group?  Again, I remind you that alcohol was consumed while viewing this disk of eps and I think we’ve now proven that Brett can’t really follow the plots all too well if he’s been doing a bit of drinking.  The fact that all this Wolfbridge stuff throughout season five has made so much more sense to me upon this viewing versus when I watched it in college and was constantly drinking vodka, also adds validity to this claim.
 
 

In any case, as soon as Val hears this news, she’s back on a plane to California.  I’m gonna hop around on a few details so I can talk about a pretty vital scene taking place between her and Ben later in this episode.  If you’ll recall, Ben has already figured out the ruse cooked up by both Gary and Mack, so he’s well aware that Gary is alive.  However, in a scene taking place at The Plant House, Val also tells him that she is aware, and we get some pretty good Ben stuff in this scene.  See, he finally confesses that when he heard Gary was dead, he was glad about it, because he was tired of Val’s heart always belonging to Gary.  He has some line of dialogue about how, “Your knees go weak when anyone mentions Gary’s name,” and obviously that’s absolutely true; we viewers have spent 99 episodes previous watching Val’s knees go weak.  It’s a very candid little confrontation scene between the two and I applaud the balls it took for Ben to speak so directly when another person would just sorta hold in whatever was bothering them.  Even so, Val is fairly horrified by this news and breaks up with Ben, for the time being, at least.

 

Speaking of people breaking up, things are still rocky between Karen and Mack as Karen continues to hold firm in her decision to divorce him.  Once again, we’ve run into a storyline that I clear forgot existed.  I have no recollection at all of such a rift forming in the MacKenzie union; in my brain, after Karen got over her pills problem, it was smooth sailing for quite awhile.  How long is this going to last?  Whenever we hit storylines that I don’t remember existing (and we’ve had kinda a slew of them lately, such as the consummation of an affair between Gary and Cathy), the next question I ask myself is how long this story will go on.  So here we are in the last episode of season five and divorce bells are ringing out for Karen and Mack, but how long until they are able to fix their marriage?  I guess I’m spoiling future proceedings by saying that they do fix their marriage, but I dunno, I’m starting to figure anyone who is taking the time to read all of these thoughts of mine has probably already seen KL start to finish at some point in their life.  Anyway, for the time being, Karen is holding firm in her split from Mack.  Early in the ep, when the two have a chat, she reiterates, “I don’t want to see you anymore.”  Poor Mack, trying to do the right thing and ending up paying for it.  At the same time, poor Karen for having to deal with the fear that she would lose another husband to his high ideals and his noble goals towards bringing criminals to justice.

St. Claire gets more intimate than ever this week when he personally stops by Karen’s house to make vague threats and also throw out some predictions about how things are going to unfold throughout Karen’s day.  He has quite a roster, but he says, for example, how Diana will call to cancel their afternoon plans together, at which point Karen says, “Why is she even in the opening credits at this point?” and St. Claire says, “Don’t worry, she’ll be gone with season six.”  He also says how Karen will be receiving a call from Uncle Joe (remember him?) and a few other things.  Basically, all of these things wind up coming true throughout Karen’s day, causing her to panic and realize their lives could all be in some serious danger.

Oh yeah, and we also get to hear Diana’s voice on the phone without physically seeing the character, making me wonder what precisely was going on behind the scenes with Lonow at this point.  Does anyone have any info?  Lonow is not shy about her coke abuse back in the ‘80s, so am I wrong in deducing that it was in full flair by this point?  Indeed, the last time we saw her (it was a few episodes back in Finishing Touches), her eyes definitely had that deflated look of the hardcore cocaine abuser, but I don’t want to make random assumptions about things I don’t actually know.  I would be curious to learn when exactly the powers that be decided it was time for Diana to leave the show, because it feels like she’s been getting slowly phased out for half the season.  During the early half of the year, which was so heavily focused on Diana and Chip, I felt her promotion into the opening credits was justified, but as the season wound on, I really started to think it would have been more appropriate to keep her billed as a guest star or as “Also Starring” or however they had it done before.  I also wanna take a quick moment to note that Lonow is the first example we’ve seen of someone being promoted to the opening credits just as their time on the series is starting to come to an end.  As we move further into the future, we are going to see quite a few examples of people’s promotions into the main cast actually being the sign that they are about five minutes away from being shipped off the series forever, a rather fascinating and vexing phenomenon.  I have a lot of questions about Diana and about what was going on behind the scenes, so allow me to take a moment to write an OPEN REQUEST TO CLAUDIA LONOW, who I'm quite sure is reading this blog at this exact moment.  Claudia, if you're reading this, please consider my request that you grant me an interview via the magical internet world.  I have so many questions I want to ask you and I have tweeted at you before and you responded!  What a day that was!  If you are around and willing to do an interview with me, hey, let's do it!  I'm really a very nice person and it would be a real honor to speak with someone from KL directly!
 
 

Meanwhile, I’d say the affair between Gary and Cathy is pretty much dead at this point.  Perhaps one of the reasons I didn’t remember it (in addition to all that vodka I was drinking) is because it didn’t really last too terribly long, only about what, four or five episodes?  It seems like Gary and Cathy finally shag and are getting started with something of a romantic relationship when boom, Gary up and dies on her, um, sorta, and now Cathy is starting to discuss blowing town.  Actually, I could see how upon original airdate, a viewer might actually think that Cathy was leaving the show forever, because she seems fairly serious about it.  In an early scene from the ep, during another one of those Cathy/Laura heart-to-hearts that I had completely forgot about ever existing, Cathy says how she has realized that Gary is really and truly in love with Val, and Laura does nothing to dissuade her, for she knows its true, as does everyone else from Seaview Circle and everyone else who has been following the last 99 episodes of the series.  So anyway, next thing we know Cathy is packing up a bag and talking about going to some other place and finding some crummy job as a waitress or whatever.  Now, I’ll just go ahead and say right away that Cathy is not leaving the show, but rather will be hanging around as a member of the main cast for the entirety of seasons six and seven, but My Beloved Grammy sure seemed to think she was going away.  Generally I try not to spoil future proceedings for her, but in this case I went ahead and told her that we’ve still got 60 more episodes with Lisa Hartman as Cathy, and thank God, by the way, because I’m not ready for her to leave yet and I am ready to hear her sing more fantastic cover songs throughout the next two seasons.
 
 

Okay, the main gist of the episode that’s going to lead us into our very big and very exciting cliffhanger involves Gary, Mack, Abs, and of course the wicked Mark St. Claire.  See, Mack has finally gotten Abs to agree that she’ll wear a wire and then have a meeting with St. Claire, the goal being to get St. Claire to admit he’s going to try and kill Gary before he actually goes and does it.  Then, as part of the whole master plan, Gary is going to be in the lobby of this hotel (I think it’s called the Bel Mar Hotel or something like that, and I have it pictured below in its current 2017 state) at a certain precise time, during which time St. Claire or one of his henchmen will try to assassinate Gary and then, there you go, Mack will have a tape of St. Claire saying he’s going to kill Gary along with the actual attempted assassination, plenty of incriminating material to get the wicked James Bond villain put away for life.  This all leads to some very dramatic and juicy dialogue in which the music (Joel Rosenbaum this week) gets to really swell up and become exciting and Gary gets to grit his teeth and deliver such fantastic lines as, “I agreed to be a target for you guys, but I did not agree to put the gun in her hands,” referring of course to Abs, who has become an essential part of the plan and who Gary is, understandably, having a bit of trouble trusting at this moment.  In any case, Mack tells Gary this is the way it’s gonna be, that it’s a little scary but everything should so smoothly, and then we proceed ever closer to our cliffhanger.

 

As noted, Gary escaped (walked out?) from police custody in the last ep, and now he’s being kept in this somewhat fancy little hotel, which certainly seems more comfortable than that white room from last week.  However, there’s a mysterious chambermaid running around and looking evil, a chambermaid played by Laura Palmer’s mother, also known as one Grace Zabriskie.  Ah, how fabulous to see a familiar face pop up, and indeed when she first showed up on the scene, My Beloved Grammy was all like, “Why does she look so familiar?” and I had to tell her that she was Laura Palmer’s mother.  About four years down the line, we shall have Laura Palmer’s father showing up in the role of some sort of scummy drug dealer, so keep your eyes open for that development!

 

Anyway, this mysterious maid is sorta poking her head into Gary’s room and doing whatever and then we see her make a mysterious evil phonecall to St. Claire in which she informs him that Gary is, indeed, staying at this hotel, and she knows his room number and everything.  At this point, we are going to have to allow a little bit of suspension of disbelief so that the writers can propel us towards our exciting cliffhanger, because really this part is a bit flawed in some storytelling aspects.  Mainly, what’s stopping Laura Palmer’s mother from just walking into Gary’s room and shooting him there?  Why would St. Claire choose to follow through with a very public assassination when this maid could just quietly kill Gary in private and then go about her day?  The real reason is because we need this exciting cliffhanger, and the exciting cliffhanger must take place in the main hotel lobby, not in Gary’s private room, so let’s move on.

 

Things start to move very fast in the last ten to twenty minutes of the episode.  Let’s see, first and foremost, St. Claire kidnaps Abs, um, sorta.  See, they are having that meeting and Abs is trying to get the proper information out of St. Claire, but I’d say she’s a bit too obvious about it, because it doesn’t take long for St. Claire to find the hidden wire on Abby’s person and rip it off before declaring that they are all gonna take a nice drive together.  So whoops, that plan didn’t exactly go off without a hitch.  Meanwhile, St. Claire also pays a call to Valene and tells her exactly the place and the time where she can find Gary.  Also, through a circuitous series of events, we have learned that there is going to be a bomb in Mack’s jeep or something like that, and then for some reason Val decides to go to the hotel and climb in the jeep and she’s gonna start it and it’s gonna blow up and oh my God, we just can’t have that.  Finally, Karen decides to rush to the hotel and tell Mack that there’s a bomb in the jeep or something (I can’t entirely remember the circumstances that lead to her rushing to the hotel, but whatever).

 

Gary gets suited up in some heavy body armor and prepares to march out into that hotel lobby.  Things are getting good and suspenseful when Karen comes running in to tell Mack about the bomb in his car, how he can’t get into the car, how Gary can’t get into the car, how they’re all going to blow up.  However, at this point Gary gets a look at Val climbing into the jeep and he sorta freaks, screaming out her name and saying, “Don’t get in the car!”, like Michael Corleone to the ill-fated Apollonia.  He yells it about five thousand times, but Val must not hear him, because she still climbs in.  At that exact same time, just as Gary comes running out to save her, he spots Abs in the back of St. Claire’s evil car, reaching her head out and screaming for Gary to save her.  Now he’s got a real Sophie’s Choice situation on his hands; should he run to Val in the jeep and rescue her before she blows up or should he go and rescue Abs from the evil hands of St. Claire and his goons?

At that precise moment, just as Gary goes running off to try and save both women, Laura Palmer’s mother pulls out her little silenced pistol and aims it for Gary, but Mack manages to grab her arm and wrestle her and the gun goes off in another direction, which seems like it might be okay, but the only problem is that she winds up shooting Karen instead, oh no!  Fortunately, even if Karen might die (she doesn’t), at least Laura Palmer’s mother is brought to justice, as we see another character (I think cheesy Detective Morrison) pull a gun on her and march her out of the hotel lobby.  Even so, the episode and, to be clear, the entire season come to their conclusion with a rather sad shot of Mack on the ground, holding Karen’s body and saying, “No, no,” over and over again.  Even though Karen’s body is completely bloodless, which might be a smidge unrealistic for someone who was just shot in the stomach, it’s still a touching and sad scene and a rather scary way to end the season and have to wait all summer to see how things turn out.

 

Okay, so let’s try and go through the roster of all the different cliffs we are currently hanging off of, shall we?  First off, we have Val nearly blowing up in the car, but fortunately she’s okay, still pregnant with Gary’s twins and all of that.  We have Abs kidnapped by the Wolfbridge group, currently speeding her off to God knows where.  Most importantly, however, we have Karen shot and at risk for death.  Again, if this was 1984 and I was watching this upon original airdate, I’d be like, “Holy shit, how am I going to wait all summer to see how this turns out?”  Watching now, however, the effect is a bit diluted.  For one thing, I always knew that Karen was the one cast member to remain with the show for all 344 episodes; I think I knew that little bit of trivia even before I ever embarked on the journey of watching this series.  Therefore, the “Will Karen die or not?” cliffhanger doesn’t entirely work for me.  No, she’s not going to die, because she’s also in the next 244 episodes and is on the show all the way to the very ending.  I wouldn’t know this back in 1984, however, and for all I know, perhaps Karen would die between seasons or the writers might even pull a Sid and kill her a few episodes into season six, who knows?

 

Like I’ve said, My Beloved Grammy doesn’t know what lies in the future for us, and the death of Saint Sid way back in season three has always left her feeling that anyone in the cast could die.  When we finished this ep, she said how she doesn’t think Karen will die because she’s such a vital character to the series, but that she also didn’t think Sid would die and he went ahead and died anyway, didn’t he?  Because of that, she really seems to think we might be losing Karen when we hit season six, and since I like suspense, I haven’t told her one way or the other what’s going to happen to Karen.  I will say, however, that I was very pleased the next morning, when I awoke in the guest bedroom of My Beloved Grammy’s home, and she came out of her bedroom and told me she, “Woke up thinking about Knots.”  She said how she woke up wondering if Karen will be alright and wondering what will happen to Abs and all that good stuff and I was like, “Yes!  The show is working its magic!”

This is clearly our most packed cliffhanger so far on the series, and perhaps ever, honestly.  I can’t think of another cliffhanger that puts so many different characters into such different forms of jeopardy all at the same time, can you?  Also, reflecting on the previous four seasons before this one definitely helps to emphasize how exciting this particular ending is.  With season one, we didn’t even have a cliffhanger; we actually ended on some form of catharsis in which Gary entered that Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and announced, “My name is Gary and I’m an alcoholic.”  Our first cliffhanger came in the concluding moments of season two, when Sid and that forgettable F.B.I. agent guy went flying off that cliff together.  For season three, the cliffhanger was Val finding Gary and Abs in bed together and throwing Gary out of the house.  With season four, it was the continuing mystery of “Who killed Ciji?” and we actually ended on a moment of sorta quiet reflection with Gary incarcerated and Abs and Val both sitting in chairs and looking out at the sea, deep in thought.  This season is clearly designed to play in the big leagues alongside its contemporaries, which I imagine were producing exciting cliffhangers of their own this year (although this very easily trumps the super lame Dallas cliffhanger that season, which was just going back to the well and recycling old material with a stupid, “Who shot Bobby?” mystery).

 

Alright, so that was Negotiations, our very final episode of the brilliant season five.  How did I find it?  Well, it was great, obviously.  If I seem to lack any of my usual pep, allow me to take a moment to explain it.  Clearly, all five episodes on this final disk of the season were excellent, super duper exciting and super duper riveting and I loved every second.  The only reason I might seem less enthused (in addition to the drinking that makes it hard for me to follow basic plot points) is because I am just so damn fidgety and excited to dive into the amazing sixth season of the series.  I simply can’t wait to re-experience all 30 magical episodes of the absolutely masterful sixth season, so even though I enjoyed the shit out of this last batch of season five episodes, I was also kinda like, “Ooooh, next time I visit, we get to start the sixth season!”  So please note that any lack of enthusiasm on the part of myself is not a reflection of these episodes, but rather a sign of how excited I am for the next season to come.

Next up, I’ll do another one of my quick “Reflections” essays in which I talk a bit about season five in the grand scope of things (spoiler alert: I’d say it was easily the best season we’ve watched thus far), and then after that we will launch into the sixth season of the series with the very first episode of that season.  Originally airing October 4th, 1984 (jeez Louise, nearly six months after the airing of this season finale!), our next episode up for discussion is Buying Time.

 

 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 099 of 344: YESTERDAY IT RAINED


Episode Title: Yesterday It Rained

Season 05, Episode 24

Episode 099 of 344

Written by Joel J. Feigenbaum

Directed by Bill Duke

Original Airdate: Thursday, March 22nd, 1984

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Ben comes home and Val cries with joy. The hitman actually shot Ray, not Gary. Cathy calls Ray's mom to tell her, and Laura overhears. Laura tells Greg, who asks Karen why none of the Ewings came to Gary's funeral, and tells St. Claire that he thinks Gary is still alive. Abby mourns for Gary. Greg tells Abby to sell Lotus Point to Wolfbridge, but she won't. Greg tells St. Claire that he is through dealing with him, and calls Abby to tell her Gary's alive. Ben figures out what Mack is doing, and is furious with him because Val could have lost her babies. Ben punches Mack. Abby goes to the MacKenzies and tells Karen that Gary's alive and Mack is using him to get to Wolfbridge. Karen feels very betrayed and confronts Mack. She's upset at all the pain he has caused and tells him their marriage is over, and gives him her wedding ring back.




                Welcome to our 99th episode of KL, the last double digit episode before we jump gloriously into the triple digits with our next episode, Negotiations.  But wait, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, for the ep up for discussion today is not Negotiations; it’s Yesterday, It Rained.  Now, before I get started, I wanna remind the readers that I consumed a bit of alcohol during this visit of KL eps, and I’d say that healthy buzz was comfortably settling in by this episode (for I had enjoyed two beers during the first two episodes and then we opened the champagne during the third episode and were still working on the bottle during this ep).  I bring this up because this may well end up being my foggiest writeup.  In fact, rather hilariously, I was reading through that TV.com plot summary before I started writing and there are a few things I clear don’t even remember happening in this ep, such as Ben punching Mack.  That happened?  That sounds like a very good, dramatic little scene, and yet sitting here, I have no recollection of it.  I have no doubt that it occurred; I’m not saying my copy of the ep was missing the scene, mostly it’s just a reflection on the state of my brain.  Before moving on, just in case I’m starting to sound like a Gary-level drunk, I wanna remind the readers that I wasn’t plastered or slurring my speech or throwing up on the carpet or anything of that sort.  Let’s think, it was two beers and about three glasses of champagne, so I was pretty much in the land of a happy buzz for most of the time, but a little bit more alcohol might have turned me into a “WE’RE RUINING LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVES” level drunk, and nobody needs to see me in such a state, least of all My Beloved Grammy.

 

                Okay, so where did we leave off?  Well, the last few seconds of Finishing Touches allowed us all to breathe a healthy sigh of relief as we realized that Gary was, indeed, alive.  Yes, it looks like he’s being kept in a really boring white room in the police headquarters or something.  In fact, let’s talk about how fucking boring this all looks.  I know it’s 1984 and we didn’t have cell phones and all that stuff to allow us the instant gratification of 24 hour entertainment (I would actually argue this was a better world because the majority of human beings, you know, looked at each other or talked to each other or looked at the beautiful world around them rather than spending their entire days staring at a tiny little cell phone screen just to get constant updates about what their friends had for lunch or whatever people like to look at on the internet these days), but I feel kinda sorry for Gary cuz he’s got nothing to do in this little white room.  You’d think they’d wheel in a shitty little antenna TV for him so he could watch Dynasty or Falcon Crest or at least throw a few paperbacks his way, but no, Gary is just sitting in this little room, staring blankly at the wall in front of him, doing literally nothing.  Pretending to be dead turns out to be pretty dull, doesn’t it?

                Let’s all be grateful that Detective Morrison is back, because this week he approaches a candy/gum dispensing machine and boldly opines, “I want some gum; I got a bad taste in my mouth.”  Who would deliver dialogue like this if Detective Morrison wasn’t on the show?  This is obviously a fantastic terrible line of dialogue, but I think my favorite scene of Morrison spouting off bad dialogue is still contained within the beginning of the season (Marital Privileges) when he was interrogating Chip on the murder of Ciji and declared, “You killed her and then you cleaned up like your mother was coming to visit.”  So yeah, the whole gum/bad taste line is deliciously terrible and campy, but I think it still falls somewhat short of his recounting of poor Ciji’s death.  Why does Detective Morrison have a bad taste in his mouth?  Well, presumably it’s because of this whole Gary fake death thing, but wait, now we’re hitting our first example of my alcohol-related stupidity.  I suddenly can’t remember if Morrison is aware of this subterfuge or not.  Surely he must be, right?  After all, Gary is hanging out at the police station, and presumably Morrison would be aware of this, because otherwise who was able to get Gary safely stashed away?  I also imagine Morrison, for all his corniness, is still a professional policeman and would be able to keep this secret safe, understanding that Mack is trying to catch a bigger fish with this whole lie that he’s got going on right now.

 

                But anyway, even though I may seem a bit obsessed with him and his choice of dialogue, in all honesty Morrison is not an important character and we’re never going to see him again after season five, so let’s move on to more important people, like Val and Ben.  Val may be pretty bummed out about Gary’s death, but at least there’s some light in her world when Ben returns to her, which he does in just the same way I would do it if I were ever presumed dead in El Salvador: By simply rolling on up to the cul-de-sac in a taxi cab and walking up to Val’s house.  My Beloved Grammy pointed out how she found it odd that he would fly all the way back to California and land at the airport and get a taxicab home and never call Val to alert her to what’s up, but I dig it.  He probably reached that point where he was at the El Salvador airport and was like, “Do I call Val now or later?”  I like the element of surprise, so I can understand why he’d rather just show up at her doorstep and see her face light up with joy.

                Of course, we the viewers know that while Val is happy to see Ben, he would probably be a little more reticent to return to her life had he seen her reaction to Gary’s “death” last week.  That scream of anguish told us all we need to know about who Val’s true soul mate is.  However, and I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I don’t think there are any rules in place saying that you can only love one person in your whole life.  I think Val does love Ben, just in a different way from Gary.  Ben is good and decent and treats her right; she loves him for all those things and just for the simple fact that he’s a good person.  However, she doesn’t have that past history with him, they aren’t kindred spirits, and they aren’t soul mates the way she and Gary are.  It’s love, but just a different kind of love.  It’s a lot like the love I’ve felt for the myriad of cats that have been a part of my life since I was born.  First there was Gorilla, the cat who was alive before me and was already well established in the family when I was born.  She died when I was eight and she’ll always have special love in my heart because she was the first, you see.  But then there were lots of other cats and, to this day, the best of those cats was Rosie, the sweetest and most loving creature you could ever hope to meet.  Now I live with Connie, and Connie brings such joy and pleasures to my life every day just by her very existence, and so I love her, as well, but deep down, my soul-mate will always be Rosie.

 

                At risk of turning this into a blog all about cats (and we all know that if there’s one thing people just love, it’s listening to gay guys discuss all their different cats), I say we return to the main stories of the show and leave the cat topic for another day.  Okay, so Ben is back, and what’s different?  Well, he’s sporting a little bit of a beard, which helps to sell the idea that he’s been gone for a little while.  It’s not a full on Grisly Adams/John-Lennon-at-the-height-of-his-coked-out-phase beard, but it’s a nice healthy beard that I actually kinda like and want him to keep for longer (I feel like it vanishes in season six).  I’m not alone, either, because My Beloved Grammy said how she likes the way Ben looks with a beard much more.  She’s of a whole different generation than me, of course, a generation that believed men should be as furry as possible.  I’m more of a fan of nicely shaved and virtually hairless men, and I can’t imagine I could ever date a man with a moustache, but My Beloved Grammy loves them (and my late Grampy, rest in peace, had a pretty killer moustache, by the way).  So anyway, despite my general preference for clean-shaven men, I think the beard look works pretty well for Ben.  It makes him look tougher, actually, and heck, maybe it sticks around for longer than I remembered, or maybe it comes back randomly throughout the next three years.

                Bill “Cooke” Duke is back in the director’s chair this week, and as usual I noticed him bringing some cool cinematic style to proceedings.  One shot that I jotted down in my notes (but without any context for where it occurs within the confines of the episode, making it hard to point out the exact minute and second of this cool shot) involves a very sexy dissolve from Gary to Abs that actually reminded me of an early shot in Blue Velvet.  Do you all remember in that movie (which everyone in the world needs to see and if you haven’t seen it yet, run out and find it immediately, or preferably wait for it to be playing in an art-house cinema somewhere so you can see it the way it was intended to be seen; it will be showing right near me in Seattle on Sunday, April 23rd, 2017) an early scene in which we fade completely to black and then Kyle MacLachlan opens a door in the center of the screen, effectively lighting the new shot himself as he descends from the top of a staircase to the bottom?  It’s a hard thing to describe, but if you’ve seen the shot, you know what I’m talking about it, and we get a similar shot here.  We dissolve from a shot of Gary’s face to complete pitch blackness, and then that blackness is interrupted when Abs opens a door in the middle of the screen and, well you get the idea.  I say this a lot, but how many other shows would just be like, “Okay, let’s cut from the scene of Gary to a scene of Abs; throw in a stock shot of her office or her house or whatever.”  Instead, this transition is done in a really cool way that organically links the scenes together very artistically, so you don’t even feel like you’re leaving one scene and entering a new one.



                But speaking of Abs, it doesn’t take her too long to figure out what’s really going on here.  It’s done in a sorta circuitous way in which we do not necessarily get to see all the stuff happening, if that makes sense.  Oh yeah, and also, the TV.com episode summary is not quite right, as it states that Greg is the person to deliver the news of Gary’s non-death to Abs, but actually it’s St. Claire.  See, St. Claire is hanging out with his evil friends and he says to a faceless aide to, “Get Mrs. Ewing on the phone,” and the next thing we see is Abs damn mad about it and rushing to Karen’s house to deliver the news.  Oh yeah, but wait just a minute, because I almost forgot to mention something that I find very important, and that is a quick scene of Abs crying in bed alone at night.  See, it’s the shit like this that really makes Abs come alive and be such a unique and fascinating character.  On another show, the writers would very likely be content with keeping Abs as a snarling villainous who lives to deliver pain and break up marriages and have affairs, twirling a figurative moustache the whole time.  Instead, KL has always taken great pains to show her as fully fledged and three dimensional, and they never stop doing that (wait until we get to season eight!).  In this case, yeah, Abs has been spending the last year lying to Gary and having an affair with Sumner and using Gary’s inheritance money to spin her own wicked webs, but in this private moment, in which it is just her and her alone, lying on her bed, she cries over losing Gary.

                Let’s also take a moment to reflect on the fact that, really, Gary could die and Abs could still get everything she “wants.”  I put “wants” in quotation marks because I think it’d be easy for many viewers to think that all Abs ever cared about or really wanted out of Gary was his money.  Well, unless there’s some legal loophole that would stop Abs from getting the money since Gary was in the process of trying to divorce her, I’m assuming that she would still be entitled to his entire fortune upon his death, right?  So, with Gary dead, Abs could take the money and run, or really go to town running her own business and doing whatever the hell she wants with all that money.  My point?  Abs is not crying because of the loss of money or power or anything like that; she is simply crying over the loss of Gary.  She misses him and she did love him in her own twisted way and, thinking that he is dead and gone forever, she cries for him.  Awesome awesome character stuff on display right here.

                But anyway, the news of Gary’s non-death quickly starts to have ripple effects throughout the neighborhood, but the bulk of the drama comes from Karen’s discovery of his resurrection.  With the revelation, Karen realizes the full extent of Mack’s obsession with bringing the Wolfbridge group to justice, and she’s mad.  Now, whether or not she’s justified in her anger is a matter up for individual debate with each and every KL viewer.  While My Beloved Grammy has said that Karen is her favorite character (we agree!), she thought she was being a bit extreme in this instance.  Why?  Well, when Karen confronts Mack on the truth about Gary, the scene concludes with her saying that she can’t trust him anymore and removing her wedding ring and returning it to him. 

 

                Okay, so it’s another testament to the series’ brilliant writing team that I am completely able to understand both of these characters and I don’t really take a side with either of them; I love them both and I understand them both.  On one hand, Mack made Karen a promise that he would drop the Wolfbridge stuff in the interest of his own safety as well as the safety of Karen and the kids, and now that promise has been broken.  Also, and I think it’s very important to remember this, but Karen lost her first husband when he took it upon himself to go after some very bad guys and bring them to justice.  Can you imagine how it would hurt to lose a husband like that and then, miraculously, manage to find a new husband who is just as great as the first one (or, as I would argue, even better), only for that second husband to also die in his pursuit of justice for some very bad dudes?  Finally, and also significantly, I think Karen is mad to see pregnant Val put under such stresses all for a blatant lie.

                So I understand Karen fully, but I also understand Mack.  Looking at it from his point of view, he has been nothing but a great husband since he and Karen took their vows in Vegas a little over a year ago.  Indeed, as soon as he entered the family, suddenly the cul-de-sac became embroiled in a murder mystery that heavily involved his new wife’s crazy daughter (Diana; you all remember her?  The character who is still in the opening credits but hardly ever shows up anymore?).  After all that murder stuff was wrapped up, he immediately had to deal with his new wife spiraling into a prescription pills addiction, finally having to force her into a rehab center to seek some help.  Through all of that, he has been patient and gentle and understanding and loving with her, when so many other men would have gone through a year of marriage like that and decided to take a walk and never see the woman again.  Instead, Mack has persevered and been loyal.  Yeah, okay, he told Karen a lie when he said he was done with Wolfbridge, but can you not understand his motives?  He’s not lying about some sort of a coke problem or an addiction to sex with prostitutes or whether he colluded with the Russians to hack the election; he was lying about something that is being done in the name of justice and that has to be kept on the hush-hush because of that.  So, in conclusion, I love both characters so much and I can see their points of views; I judge neither of them, but only watch and hope they can work out this little obstacle in their relationship.

 

                Remember how Laura and Cathy were getting so cozy in our last ep?  Well, it continues this week, making me wonder if the writers were flirting with another lesbian storyline for the two.  I suppose it’s possible, but if it was an idea and then they chose to ditch the idea, I’m pretty much fine with it.  That subversive “Are they or aren’t they?” story from season four was so delicious for me and also so bold for network TV at that time, that on the one hand I’d rather just leave it at that and enjoy the Laura/Ciji relationship for what it was.  Also, I feel it might be a bridge too far to bring Cathy into the series as the exact double of Ciji and then also give her an abusive boyfriend and then also have her be a terrific singer and then also have her become a lesbian with Laura, so it’s probably for the best that the writers don’t go there.

                However, it’s during a scene of the two lovely ladies hanging out that we get official confirmation of what we probably already suspected, that Ray is the one who got shot, not Gary.  This kinda leads me to more questions than answers, but again this might be my own stupid brain and not the fault of the writers.  The part I can’t quite figure out is: Was Ray really shot by pure accident?  Did the Wolfbridge group send someone out to Westfork to terminate Gary and then this dumb person just got confused and shot the first white guy to come into his vicinity?  Or, rather, was this meant as some sort of warning for Gary?  Also, how do we deal with the fact that we now have a dead Ray on our hands?  Okay, nobody cares about this character and probably nobody besides me would ask what’s going to happen with his body, but I still have those questions.  We get a quick scene of Cathy talking to an off-screen mother of Ray’s, and that helps a little bit, but still.  When all this is done, what’s going to happen to his body?  Will it just be flown back to wherever it came from?  Does anyone care about the fact that this guy was actually on the ranch to kill Gary himself?  In fact, irony or all ironies, if the Wolfbridge group had just sat still for another fifteen minutes, wouldn’t Ray have carried out the mission for them anyway?  The goal was to have Gary dead, and Ray would have accomplished that if he hadn’t been shot to death first.

                I mentioned this little storytelling aspect in my last writeup, but it bears repeating here.  In this ep, Sumner shows up at Karen’s house and starts to ask questions about Gary’s death.  It’s in this scene that he says something like, “Boy, I’ll bet the entire family flew in from Texas.”  At this point, Karen tells him that the show isn’t doing crossovers with the parent series anymore and Sumner is like, “Oh yeah, I guess that makes sense; after a certain point it’s important for the spinoff to be able to stand on its own two feet,” but then he goes on a bit to say how darn strange that is.  Gary was, after all, one of the Ewing men, and even if he was the black sheep of that family and not too terribly welcome at Southfork, you’d think the family would still show up to his funeral, right?  I stress that I appreciate the writers pointing this out at all when they could have easily glossed over it entirely and just hoped the viewers wouldn’t question it; instead, they use this plot flaw to sorta build the storyline up and help other characters put the clues together.  So while it’s still a bit inherently hard to swallow that none of the Texas Ewings would show up for this funeral, I’ll give it a pass because of the way the writers deal with it.

 

                You remember how I said I couldn’t remember Ben punching Mack?  Well, I still can’t, but I’m gonna go ahead and say that I probably remember all the other parts of this scene very well, because I remember a Ben/Mack confrontation in which Ben picks up where Greg left off and starts to point out all the plot flaws in this supposed death.  He rattles off quite a laundry list and unfortunately my pen wasn’t fast enough to get them all compiled into a list in my notes, so I only remember a few.  Basically, he says it’s odd how damn fast the funeral was, something like two days after the actual shooting, a bizarrely fast turnaround for funeral arrangements.  Then he points out how Gary was buried on Westfork property and not in a regular funeral home and Mack yells something about, “special provisions” or whatever.  Ben might even mention the glaring absence of the Texas Ewings; I can’t really remember.  In any case, it’s a good little scene and I’m particularly enjoying the way that all these different characters are starting to put the pieces together themselves; the writers aren’t just having one character figure it all out at once, but rather everyone is kinda in on it together.

                Now might also be a good time to point out how smart these characters are and how much I enjoy that.  Have I brought this up before?  I feel like this is the first time I’m mentioning it, but yeah, I love watching shows with smart people on them.  I think as a culture we tend to celebrate stupidity and extravagance and really worthless people who just happen to have a lot of money.  I’d rather watch a show in which the characters are smart and sharp and able to figure stuff out for themselves, and I’d say pretty much everyone on this series is pretty smart.  Ben is a reporter and he’s smart about uncovering mysteries and questioning people, while Mack is smart (if a little obsessed at this juncture in the saga) about his job and even characters like Lilimae and Val, who might seem somewhat backwoods and inbred, are actually very deceptively smart; they tend to have a deeper wisdom about them and their life philosophies are rather intelligent, as well, even if they sometimes come off as a bit na├»ve.  So yeah, smart characters, they’re always better than morons.

 

                Hmmm, let’s see if there are any big story beats I’m missing here.  Well, Gary vanishes from the police station at one point, which is, um, odd.  The detectives just sorta go into his room at one point and he’s just kinda gone, at which point everyone flips and starts acting like he’s been kidnapped by the Wolfbridge group, but I’m kinda like, “Really?”  Who’s to say Gary couldn’t just walk out of the police station whenever he felt like it?  After all, he’s in a little white room and all, but it doesn’t appear to be particularly well guarded or anything like that; I can’t even recall seeing one inept guard stationed at his door.  I’m pretty sure if he wanted to leave, he could just get up and do so.  But anyway, for the time being Gary is missing and now everybody is damn worried about that.

                And that just about does it for Yesterday, It Rained.  Clearly this was a solid episode, although I feel like all the episodes are solid at this point in the series.  I will say this was probably not my very favorite Bill Duke episode, mostly because, aside from that blackout/door shot, I didn’t see quite as much of his little touches as I usually see.  I also think this episode sorta feels like the penultimate one of the season; it’s not quite the season finale, but it’s building towards it, so it’s not quite as exciting as our next episode is bound to be.

                Oh yeah, and what is our next episode, by the way?  I’m glad you asked, because next up we have not only our season five finale, but also our landmark 100th episode of KL, Negotiations.