Thursday, February 16, 2017


Episode Title: Silent Missions

Season 05, Episode 22

Episode 097 of 344

Written by Angelo Pizzo

Directed by Lorraine Senna

Original Airdate: Thursday, March 1st, 1984

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Greg tries to get Gary to unfreeze his assets. Gary reports this to Mack, who tells him to keep the assets frozen, as it will force Wolfbridge's hand. Ray spies on Gary and Cathy. Gary tells Karen that if Abby cheated her, he will make it right. Val finds out that the other two men with Ben were found dead. She wants to go to El Salvador, but Karen says she will only be putting her babies at risk. Val's upset and calls Gary, sobbing, who tells her to come out to the ranch. Mack drives out to the ranch and is talking to Cathy when a shot rings out. Mack calls Karen and tells her that Gary has been murdered.  Just then Val drives up.


When we last left off, poor Val (POOR VAL!) had just gotten a scary phone call from El Salvador indicating that Ben might be dead.  After all, his jeep crashed and no bodies were found at the scene, so where could he have gone?  One thing to remember about nighttime soap land is that if you don’t actually see a death, you should always assume there’s the possibility that a person can come back unexpectedly.  Hell, even if you do actually witness the death and even if it seems like the person is 100% dead and gone, they could still come back (Bobby on Dallas), although I suppose that’s not the way KL likes to play it; generally the show is a little bit more realistic than all of that.  But anyway, as we hop into Silent Missions, needless to say that Ben is still missing and Val is driving herself crazy trying to figure out where he is.

In fact, one of our very first scenes in Silent Missions is a real doozy in which Val is on the phone in the kitchen, calling El Salvador, all panicked and freaked out, when in walks Gary to visit her.  There’s a terrific pause as the two look at each other and we the viewers can positively feel the love floating in the air.  I think I’ve gone on this little rant before, but I don’t really care, so here it comes again.  I believe that you can love more than one person at the same time, so I do believe that Val actually loves both Gary and Ben, but just in a much different way.  Ben is good and decent to her and she loves him and wants to make sure he is safe, but the love Val feels for Gary is, like, Epic Love, the Romeo and Juliet kind of love, the Jack and Rose kind of love, the kind reserved for real soul mates; I don’t think Val could ever meet another man who would make her feel the way Gary does, and it’s been that way since she was fifteen.  Little details like this pause and the eye contact when Gary enters the house really speak volumes about this relationship, and all with hardly any dialogue.

Val’s worried and that is making her act a little crazy.  A little later in the ep, she and Karen are walking on the street and Val is saying how she’s going to fly to El Salvador herself and try to find him.  It’s a very romantic idea, but fortunately Karen is pragmatic and reminds Val that she doesn’t even speak the language (I’m a dumb white guy who has never learned any language other than English so I actually have no idea what language they even speak in El Salvador) and, of course, she also reminds her of her babies, those twins growing in her stomach.  She tells her how going off to El Salvador will only put her babies lives at risk, and what good would that be?  Karen is smart and sharp and manages to sorta talk Val off the ledge, get her to stay in California for the time being.

How’s this story working for me upon this viewing?  As with many things, much, much better.  I remember this story being a bit of a snooze upon my first viewing, that the whole saga of “Where is Ben and is he alive?” just kinda left me cold, but I reiterate that most of the Ben-related storylines just sorta left me cold upon first viewing.  I don’t know how to explain why this has all become so much more compelling upon a rewatch, but it has.  Am I just a different person than I was the last time I watched these?  Is my mind just ready to focus on and appreciate different things?  I don’t know, but I do know that the first time I watched this, I was having a ball with the series and all the stories but I found all this stuff kinda boring.  Now, I’d say it’s not THE MOST EXCITING STORYLINE OF ALL TIME, but it works for me and I care about all the characters involved.  Also, I remind you that getting myself into that mindset where I pretend I’m a new viewer in 1984, I continue to stress that I would probably think Ben is dead.  He doesn’t appear in this ep at all, for one thing, and that season finale is fast approaching, which presents the perfect opportunity to kill off a character and remove his pictures from the scrolling squares at the start of the next season.  The only reason I might doubt his death, like I’ve already stated, is because we didn’t witness it ourselves; we just heard about it over the phone (and it’s not even a “He died!” phonecall; it’s a “He’s missing!” phonecall).  So, I can see the storyline going either way.

Oh yeah, and one last thing about how all these El Salvador shenanigans relate to the central storyline of Gary and Val’s love: If I was watching this in 1984, without the retroactive knowledge that it’s actually going to take years and years and years for Gary and Val to get back together, I would probably predict that the writers are moving towards a reunion of the couple.  They’ve been split up for two years now, since the last episode of season three, and in that time Gary has married Abs and Val has started to see Ben seriously.  However, at this point Ben might be dead and Gary is working on divorcing Abs, so the possibility of a reunion with Gary and Val seems eminent.  Also, I try to remind myself of how differently it would feel to be watching this week-to-week in the ‘80s, seeing the stories unfold so slowly, versus the way My Beloved Grammy and I are watching, which is in five-episode chunks at a time.  With the way we are viewing it, I can say, “It’s been two years since Gary and Val split,” but it doesn’t feel  like that to me, whereas if I was watching in real time, it would feel much longer.

Speaking of Gary, he’s busy as a bee at the head of this episode working on some investigations into the books of Gary Ewing Enterprises, trying to get to the bottom of all of Abby’s wicked behavior.  Abs comes walking into the office to find Gary hanging around with some white guy and going through files and she’s damn mad about it, saying how if the companies assets are supposed to be frozen, these two shouldn’t even be here tampering with evidence or whatever, but then the white guy says how Westmont is free to hang around the offices and watch them work, if he’d like to.  They’ve gotten a court order, you see, so they can investigate as much as they want.  I also want to make note of the white guy in this scene, because he’s got a very distinct face and yet I’m not entirely sure what I recognize him from.  The character’s name is Pearson and he already previously appeared in High Ideals, and the actor who plays him is named Peter White.  The guy’s got quite a roster of credits, but what stuck out to me is the fact that he’s a Transmorpher, and not even one of your regular, usual Transmorphers, but he’s one of those Transmorphers who played two different characters over on Dallas.  He appeared in the 1984 episode Fools Rush In as Ellis Newton and then came back for five episodes in 1990 and 1991 as Breslin.  I don’t remember him in any of these Dallas eps, but that’s probably because by that late in the game, I was just fidgety when we watched the show, eager to finish the damn thing and move on to KL, so that whole era is just kind of a boring blur in my memory. 

In addition to Gary’s continued investigations, we also get heavy implications that his life may be in some serious danger from this evil Wolfbridge group.  First off, we have Laura accidentally catching a bit of a conversation between Mack and Sumner at his campaign headquarters.  She’s not snooping or anything; rather, she is told that the copy machine is not working or something and then one of those political assistant people is like, “Have some coffee while we fix it,” and while she sips her probably shitty 1984 coffee, she hears Mack and Sumner talking.  It’s a quick little scene, but the gist of it is that they establish Gary’s life is in danger.

A little later, Greg drives up to Westfork to visit with Gary, and I must ask: Is this the first time we’ve seen Greg on Westfork?  I think it is, and I think Gary might even make some mention of how it’s unusual to see him out here.  It’s an interesting little scene in which Greg tries to subtly dissuade Gary from keeping his assets frozen, saying how he’d be best off unfreezing the accounts and allowing business to proceed.  Gary reasonably says, “You know, I’m getting a little tired of everybody telling me what to do with my money,” and I certainly see where he’s coming from.  It is, after all, his money, and his daddy did leave it to him when he died.  The fact that the money is now such a primary concern of Abs and Sumner and whoever else is pestering Gary at this point would definitely make me grumpy if I were in Gary’s shoes.  In any case, Greg also makes a cryptic mention of how, “These are not nice people you’re dealing with,” but when Gary tries to get direct and asks Greg is he’s ever met a man named Mark St. Claire, Greg dodges the question and sorta acts like he didn’t even hear it, then he excuses himself from Westfork and drives away.

Meanwhile, we’ve got another visitor on Westfork, but this one is lurking in the shadows.  Yes, it’s Ray, the freckled monstrosity that Gary beat the shit out of last week before rubbing his face in the mud and ordering him to stay away forever.  Like I said back then, I feel Gary should have also called the police and had the law handle this situation properly, because his words clearly had no effect on Ray, who spends most of this episode hiding behind a tree and avoiding being caught by all of Gary’s visitors.  The fact of Ray’s presence helps to provide an unsettling feeling throughout most of the episode; he’s around and we don’t know precisely what he intends to do.  Is he going to hurt Cathy or does he have his sights set on Gary, now? 

I feel like I’m ignoring Karen and Mack this particular episode, but that’s because the couple doesn’t have quite as much to do this week as we’ve gotten used to by this point.  They do, however, share one fabulous scene in the bedroom together in which Karen gets wonderfully naked in her emotions and tells Mack how she couldn’t handle losing him.  Mack hugs her and delivers a fantastic line, which is, “We’re gonna grow old and cranky together.”  I wrote that down in my notes cuz I found it so adorable and it made me laugh, yet at the same time the scene has an underlying tension to it because we know Mack is fibbing a bit, that he’s been continuing his Wolfbridge investigations and not telling Karen about it.  It’s pretty easy to see what’s concerning Karen and why she delivers her little line about losing Mack, by the way.  This whole situation is uncomfortably similar to Saint Sid’s attempts to bring those mobsters to justice way back in season two, and we all remember how that turned out.  Karen has already lost one husband who chose to mess with the wrong kind of people, and she doesn’t want to lose another one.

Everything sorta comes to a head at Westfork this week, as we see multiple characters heading to the ranch at the same time for one reason or another.  Most importantly, early in the ep Gary gives Val a lovely speech in which he tells her that she can call him anytime, even just to talk, “Even if you don’t have anything to say.”  Oh my God, can you feel the love in the air?  I sure can.  Now Gary’s functioning as not only the obvious true love of Val’s life, but also as a great friend who gives her the open invitation to talk about whatever’s on her mind whenever she wants to talk about it.  Late in the ep, Val gets another scary El Salvador phone call, and this time she finds out that the two people Ben was travelling with were found dead.  Uh oh, so now we know that this little car crash must have been fairly violent and killed at least two of the men, but what of Ben?  Where is he?  His body is still nowhere to be seen, so does that mean he could be alive or does it mean he crawled away to suffer a slow death somewhere?  Val is probably asking such pleasant questions herself, prompting her to call up Gary and tell him how upset she is.  She’s crying and stuff and Gary is about to head over to the house to comfort her when he realizes that Mack is coming up to the ranch for a visit, so he can’t leave.  He tells Val to drive out to Westfork and she does so.

Meanwhile, we’ve still got Ray hiding in the woods, cooking up something evil.  The episode starts to get clever and interesting in the way it’s constructed here, by the way, because we start to get lots of shots of a person’s legs walking through the woods, and this person, whoever he or she may be, is holding a big old sniper rifle.  Is this Ray about to get a final revenge on Gary?  Is it some new person from the Wolfbridge group sent to shut Gary up once and for all?  These are all questions and plot twists that will continue to unfold throughout our next episodes, so patience to all.  Basically, we get a lot of crosscutting to different people showing up at the ranch.  Cathy is hanging around when Mack arrives and comes up to have a chat with her, while concurrently we see Val driving her car up, getting closer to the ranch but not arriving just yet.  In the middle of the Cathy/Mack talk, a gunshot rings out and Cathy screams all horrified (it’s maybe a little bit extreme, but I’ll give her a break) and then some rather quick cutting to Mack and Karen speaking on the phone.  At this point, Mack announces to Karen that Gary is dead, but we hear this news played out over the image of Val in her car, driving up to meet him, a pretty stylish little way to end the episode, wouldn’t you say so?

Okay, so that’s Silent Missions, concluding with the exciting “Gary is dead” cliffhanger.  Before I wrap up my thoughts on the episode in question, I do wanna address how this plot twist works for me.  Again, trying to go into a 1984 mindset and pretend that it’s the original airdate and I have no knowledge of what’s going to come in the future, would I believe Gary is dead?  I’m not so sure on this one, but I get the sense that I wouldn’t be entirely fooled.  The fact that they killed Sid at the start of season three has certainly helped set a tone in the years to follow that nobody is safe; just because your name and your image are included in the opening credits is no guarantee that you’re going to be sticking around forever.  Even so, something keeps me at a distance from believing this one, and I think it’s the simple fact that Gary and Val are just so important to the show that I couldn’t believe they would just blow Gary away and retire his character at this point.  I know, I know, Sid was a super important character, too, and he went to Heaven, so why not Gary?  I’m not really sure why it feels different, but it does; I just don’t really believe Gary is dead.  Oh yeah, and of course there’s the fact that we don’t see this “death.”  We see some shots of feet creeping through the woods, we hear an off-screen gunshot and then Cathy screaming, and then we get the announcement that Gary is dead, but we don’t see the death or the resulting dead body; it’s all information we are told.  Because of all these different facets, I maintain that I would probably always assume Gary is alive, but I suppose there’d be an inkling of doubt in my brain just because of the way the show has unfolded in the past.

So what of the ep?  Well, one thing that surprised me as I went through it was how brisk it truly was; it didn’t seem like there was nearly as much to write about with this ep as there was with the last one, even though before I sat down to write, I would have felt the opposite to be true.  For the most part, this ep is pretty focused on just a couple of things, and it hones in on those things rather strongly and doesn’t really lose focus from them.  Also, because of the way stories are going right now, we are missing two main cast members from this ep, Douglas Sheehan (which makes sense, as we are going through an “Is Ben dead?” period right now) and Claudia Lonow (who barely even qualifies for main cast member status at this point, as she’s been sitting out a ton of eps in a row and is about five minutes away from being shipped off the series forever).  So in addition to missing two characters this week, I would also say the majority of the action is heavily focused on Gary and Val, with the other characters sorta circling around them, not necessarily getting the center of attention.  In fact, thinking back now, I can’t even really remember Abs getting anything much to do this week; the only big scene of hers that I remember is when she gets mad at Gary for going through the offices with that Transmorpher white guy.  Because of these factors, I’m gonna say this episode is, well, not “slight,” because I don’t like the connotations of that word, but perhaps “brisk.”  It’s heavily focused on what it wants to focus on, but it doesn’t feel quite as busy as so many eps we’ve had in the past and will also have in the future. 

In any case, we shall now move on to explore the fallout of Gary’s “death” with our next show, Finishing Touches.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


Episode Title: No Trumpets, No Drums

Season 05, Episode 21

Episode 096 of 344

Written by Scott Hamner

Directed by Larry Elikann

 Original Airdate: Thursday, February 23rd, 1984

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Val is upset as Ben leaves for El Salvador. She finds out she's having twins. She gets a call saying Ben and two others were on their way to a rebel encampment and their jeep was hit and the men are missing. Cathy gives Ray $5,000.00 to leave, but he won't. He grabs Cathy by the hair and Gary sees and beats him up. Ray say's they'll pay for this. Gary and Cathy sleep together. Mack, back on the crime commission, pretends he's no longer going after Wolfbridge, but tells Abby he'll grant her immunity if she'll help him go after them. Abby tells Greg. Mack tells Tom Jessick that Abby thought that he needed her help and has already probably told Wolfbridge. Gary has Abby's assets frozen, and St. Claire tells Greg that it's his problem to unfreeze them.


               Welcome back!  Our episode up for discussion today, No Trumpets, No Drums, served as the first episode of our final disk of KL season five eps.  Oh, what sheer bliss it was to watch these; please allow me to set the scene a bit before I dive into the episode proper.  Back when we were still watching Dallas, My Beloved Grammy and I would often split a bottle of champagne (we like Cooks, not to be mistaken with Bill "Cooke" Duke) during the viewing and then I would spend the night in the guest bedroom and sleep off my little champagne buzz.  In any case, due to one thing or another, it’s been awhile since we’ve done it that way; in fact, I dare say we haven’t had a bottle of champagne at all during our KL viewing.  However, with my excitement to conclude season five as well as my realization that we were getting ever closer to the 100th episode, I decided this disk of eps would be the perfect time for another sleepover and some champagne, and it was.  We concluded season five and we sipped champagne and it was all so very glorious. 

                Oh yeah, and one last thing before we get started: If I seem to skip any details or gloss over things from this batch of eps, it’s certainly not intentional.  I usually give this little caveat and say how it’s because we watch five eps at a time and it’s simply hard to remember every detail, and while that’s true, in this case the drinking also may have played a factor.  Make no mistake, I didn’t get drunk and throw up and start rolling around in my own vomit, like a certain college story from my more wild days.  Instead, I just nursed two big beers during our first two eps and then we opened the champagne on the third ep, so I got a rather lovely little buzz without ever going into full-on drunk mode.  However, this is my first time upon this KL rewatch to drink more than one beer while watching, and so the booze may have made me a little giggly and silly and not quite as focused as I could have been, but I suppose we shall see.

                So when we last left off, Abs had officially turned into the pariah of California, with everything crumbling all around her and Gary throwing her off Westfork, declaring he wanted a divorce.  To add insult to injury, Olivia also announced that she wanted to stay at Westfork with Gary.  Well, we actually open this episode on a nice little chat between Abs and Olivia, and I want to note that, for what I believe is the very first time, Tonya Crowe’s name has been moved to the start of the episode as a guest star; she’s no longer relegated to the ending credits with the coastal shots and the replay of the theme.  I know I’m an obsessive nerd for noticing such things, but I find crediting and all that stuff very interesting, and what this indicates to me is that Olivia’s character is finally on the rise.  She’s been around since season two and I actually would argue Tonya has been a pretty good little kid actress right from when she was first introduced, but she has mostly been somewhat in the background, functioning as one of Abby’s children, kinda sorta the way Jason 3 functions in relation to Laura (although obviously Olivia is not nearly as in-the-background as poor Jason 3 is).  Now, however, I’m starting to see the seeds being planted that will grow into some really fabulous central stories for Olivia; she’s starting to rise up and be a real character of her own, and I honestly don’t remember it this way.  In my memories, it wasn’t until around season eight that she became more important and started to get her own stories, but now I can see it starting right here in late season five, and I’m gonna assume that’s why she also gets this credit bump to the head of the episode.

                Okay, so what are Abs and Olivia talking about?  Well, Olivia is still mad and she’s not holding back about it.  She’s not yelling or screaming or anything like that, but she’s making it pretty clear that she is mad at her mother and disapproves of what she’s been doing the last year or two.  We get a couple of fabulous lines of dialogue that are worth noting at this point, the first of which is when Olivia says something to the effect of, “Lilimae says that Gary’s right to throw you off the ranch,” something like that, and then Abs dismissively says, “Lilimae doesn’t know anything about anything,” and I confess I laughed aloud at this little gem.  The open distaste shared mutually between both Abs and Lilimae makes me smile (remember Lilimae’s hilariously mean “Hussies like you don’t deserve children” speech over the phone from our last ep?), and this line is a good example of that.

More significant, however, is a little speech Abs delivers a second later, a speech that I happen to agree with.  She tells Olivia that if a man did exactly the same things she’s been doing, he would be admired for it, but since she’s a woman, it makes her wicked.  What do you think, my readers?  I like to think I’m a good little liberal feminist, and I certainly believe that in the world of both business and politics, ruthless men are praised while ruthless women are condemned.  When men do duplicitous things in order to get ahead in a business, it’s considered tough, but when women do it, it makes them bitches (this is very similar to how it's apparently the crime of the century for Hillary to have a private E-mail account but it's totally okay for "President" Trump to suck Putin's dick constantly while attacking U.S. allies at home and abroad).  Now, just to elaborate a bit on this, I will also say that Abs is probably using this as a justification for all her behavior.  Now that she’s been caught doing bad things, she has to backtrack a bit and be like, “Well, if a man did that, Bob Loblaw,” but I don’t believe those were the thoughts going through her head when she first started being all wicked.  So, while I think she’s bringing this up as an excuse, sorta like if a kid gets caught doing something bad and then says how his brother does the same bad thing all the time and never gets in trouble, I do also believe her declaration is pretty much true.

Abs is pretty busy this week, because after her little chat with Olivia, we also get a meeting between her and the diabolical James Bond villain Mark St. Claire.  St. Claire is losing patience with Abs and the whole business of how she can’t get to any money or assets because Gary has frozen everything.  St. Claire makes some vague threats, as is his wont, although I can’t remember the precise gist of what he says, but basically it’s all very evil and scary.  Now might be a good time to say how much I’m still enjoying this character.  There’s something so delightfully nonchalant about his evil; he’s not a snarling moustache twirling villain, but rather just a white guy with glasses in a nice business suit who sits in offices and very calmly makes threats to people, that is when he’s not making threats to them over the phone.  Of course, if he’s calling to threaten someone over the phone, it’s more than likely that he’s in a very dark room surrounded by evil faceless men smoking cigars, and that just makes everything so much better.  I don’t mean to get into spoiler territory, but I believe our time with St. Claire is pretty short lived (and indeed, I took a little peek at Joseph Chapman’s IMDb and note that he’ll be making his last appearance in the second episode of season six, Calculated Risks), but I just wanna say that while he’s not the most amazingly unforgettable character in KL history, I enjoy the casual, white-collar evil that he brings to proceedings and I feel he is just perfectly right for this juncture in the series.

As if Abs did not have enough people pissing in her face over the last two eps, she gets yet another rather rude awakening a little later in the ep.  See, she’s hanging out at the palace office with Laura and they’re having a little chat.  I wanna note that I find it interesting that Laura and Abs are still interacting, and that even though Abs is mad at her for going to Mack and telling everything, it doesn’t appear to be some unforgivable sin in her book.  Or am I mistaking this?  Is Abs perhaps only keeping Laura around because, at this point, she’s in too deep and Laura is all tangled up as part of this too?  Is this continued relationship a sign of some sort of loyalty on Abby’s part or is it merely the fact that she and Laura have been in cahoots all season and she has to keep  her around at this point, no matter what?  Well, in any case, the scene concludes nicely with Laura reminding Abs that Gary is about to divorce Abs, to which Abs casually replies, “Gary’s been known to change his mind.”  Two seconds later, there’s a knock at the door and it’s a man serving Abs with divorce papers.  We can physically sense Abby’s mood deflating like a balloon while Laura looks on with that little “I told you so” smile on her face.  Fabulous.

The last bit of business relating to Abs this week comes in the form of a visit from Mack, who tells her that he’s at the end of his rope with the whole Wolfbridge investigation and that if Abs will help him bring them to justice, he will see that she gets immunity for her own involvement in these shenanigans.  Now, at first I thought Mack was being serious with this, that he really was reaching out to Abs as his last hope, but then Abs refuses to helps him and we see a little teeny tiny smirk on Mack’s face.  What to make of this?  Well, a little later we see Mack meet up with Tom Jessick in a dark little room with only one very stylish circular light hanging over his head.  You all remember Tom Jessick?  He was the guy who was in jail for some sort of not-real-crime like tax evasion or something and Mack got him out to help with the investigations and then he got scared and blew town.  Well, now he’s been snuck back into California by Mack to continue helping, and it’s here we learn that Mack was just playing Abs.  He’s not really about to give up on the Wolfbridge stuff, and Abs is not really his last chance to bring them to justice, but he wanted her to think so and then reiterate the information to St. Claire.  Such a sordid state of affairs, yet one that I’m understanding and appreciating a lot more than I did upon first viewing.

Meanwhile, poor Olivia is going through a lot of different conflicting emotions.  We have a lovely scene between her and Gary that starts with her playing some Liberace on the piano (it’s the same piece that is played during that super stylish montage of James Cann typing away in Misery) while Gary sits on the couch and listens to her play.  Try as she might, she keeps screwing up the notes and getting frustrated with herself, and then she starts to cry.  Gary comes to sit beside her and have a chat, at which point Olivia says how there’s no point in her continuing to practice piano because pretty soon she’s gonna have to move off the ranch and never see Gary again.  Oh, what a touching scene, as Gary assures her that, no matter what, she’ll always be welcome at the ranch.  Olivia doesn’t particularly believe him and keeps crying for awhile, and I must say I really feel bad for her.  I’ve read some fans being rather critical of Tonya’s acting and particularly her crying.  I might agree with that in certain scenes (including one in an upcoming episode), but for the most part I think she’s very real and I believe her sadness and I feel for her.  I also just love the relationship between Olivia and Gary that we’ve watched grow throughout the last few years and which shall continue to grow until Olivia finally has her exodus from the series in 1990.  Gary is such a legitimately good surrogate father to her (well, I suppose he’s a good surrogate father to both Olivia and Brian, but Brian is the absent child at this point and barely ever shows up to do anything, to the point where it’s easy to forget that Abs has two children) that it truly warms my heart. 

Sadly, Olivia’s love of Gary is tested a little bit later in the ep, when she spots he and Cathy having a little make-out session together.  Again, it’s a scene that’s rich on so many different levels, because it actually begins with Cathy getting ready to cut Gary’s hair and noticing that he has a pierced ear.  She asks him about that and he seems kinda embarrassed and is finally like, “Yes, okay, I had a pierced ear; it was the ‘60s.”  What a funny little line, and one that made me pause to reflect on the timeline and the actual ages of both Gary and Val.  Follow me along for a minute while I take this detour.  IMDb says that Shack was born in 1946, and based on my calculations, Gary is roughly the same age and was probably born in 1945, while Val would have been born in 1947.  My estimation is based on the characters’ ages when they met and had baby Lucy, and I’m assuming Lucy was born in 1962 or thereabouts (Lucy’s age over on Dallas always confused me and, in fact, might even be contradicted between the two series if I were paying better attention).  Therefore, if Gary was born in 1945, he would be ages 15 to 25 throughout the span of the ‘60s, the perfect age to be a wild alcoholic running off and getting ear piercings.  Little details like this ear piercing and his “It was the ‘60s” comment just send my mind spiraling off in all sorts of fantastic new directions, wishing David Jacobs would create a new show called Gary and Val: The Lost Years that explores their lives between 1962 and 1978.  Omigod, just imagine the possibilities of such a prequel series!

But wait a minute, I’m getting off topic.  Okay, so Cathy’s getting ready to give him a haircut, they’re exchanging some cute and flirty dialogue with eachother, and then the second that Cathy sorta hops onto his lap and they start kissing, in walks Olivia to speak with Gary about something, catching them right in the middle of their kiss.  Cathy and Gary don’t see Olivia, however, and she’s able to make a quiet exit without them being any the wiser, but she’s obviously very upset, and again, I understand her.  Think of how sad and mixed up Olivia’s life is at this point.  She’s about thirteen years old (at least that’s how old Tonya would be in real life at this point; I’m assuming Olivia is meant to be the same age as her portrayer), and has already experienced losing one father figure in her life, her actual biological Transmorpher father that we haven’t seen since early season three (and won’t ever be seeing again, as I believe by this point he had officially Transmorphed over to Dallas to play Mark Graison’s doctor and give him health advice about his moustache).  After that, she has had the very strange and whiplash-inducing experience of moving from a fairly middle class suburban cul-de-sac to first The Beach House and now Westfork.  For two years, she has been living a rather rich life and enjoying all the benefits of having a man with a shit-ton of money serving as her father figure.  Now, of course, she fears that she will be losing him, as well, and seeing him kissing Cathy like it’s no big deal must be a rather horrifying thing to witness. 


The whole kissing thing provides the impetus for Olivia to move off of Westfork, but not before she screams and yells at Cathy for taking Gary away from her mom.  She says how she hates Cathy and then she goes running out of the room, and while I could understand how a viewer might call Olivia a brat at this point, I don’t personally believe it.  I’m with her and I feel for her and her turbulent life.  If Gary was my surrogate father, I wouldn’t want to losing him, either.  At the same time, the writing is just so damn good that I also feel sorry for Cathy in this scene.  She’s just as mixed up as Olivia, really, but just in a different way.  In fact, that leads me rather smoothly into our next big event for the episode, which is the continuing abuse of Cathy by Ray.  Oh man, is Ray ever wicked, though I confess I’m ready for him to go away at this point.  I’m gonna be super shallow for a minute and say that I just find this actor extremely ugly and unpleasant to look at (those freckles are just gross and he looks, like, half-ginger or something and it’s just icky), but I also think the character is maybe not one of KL’s most developed.  He’s evil and he’s nasty and he’s pretty stock, just here to cause trouble and be mean to Cathy.  Early on, when Cathy tells him how she doesn’t want to continue with this plan of trying to get money out of Gary (I’m still not entirely sure what Ray’s exact plan actually is, by the way, but why fret?), he gets real mad and slaps her and tells her to remember that she’s nothing but a whore and that she’s here to do a job and that’s it.  Then he throws her violently down on the bed and Cathy starts to cry and I did not enjoy watching it; Lisa looks so sweet and kind and has such pretty eyes and I don’t like seeing her treated badly by a man (which should make me nervous for the impending arrival of one Alec Baldwin to the cul-de-sac….).

One thing I will say:  I guess it’s maybe kinda sorta ridiculous that both Ciji and Cathy are abused by evil, manipulative boyfriends.  Perhaps this is stretching credibility a bit that not only is Cathy Ciji’s exact twin, but also an equally great singer and also suffering from a nasty boyfriend/husband.  On the other hand, there’s a lot of nasty men in the universe who like to hurt a lady, so perhaps it’s not that far-fetched.  And just to show my miraculous ability to spin a KL criticism into more KL praise, I also think it’s a credit to the writing that I didn’t really even think about this until sitting down to write this.  Upon first viewing and even upon this viewing, I am just captivated by the story and everything is able to unfold in this way that feels so bizarrely realistic when perhaps it should be coming off as completely absurd. 

If I remember correctly, Chip pulled Ciji’s hair once, and now Ray does the same thing to Cathy, but fortunately Gary comes walking in at that moment and catches him in the act.  From there, we get a fabulous 72-minute chase scene all throughout Westfork.  Seriously, this fight goes on forever with a blaring Ron Grant score that’s actually fairly comical.  Also, Ray attempts to kill Gary in a way rather similar to poor Chip’s death some episodes back, by using a pitchfork.  He stands at the door of one of the stables with pitchfork in hand and is ready to strike, but fortunately he misses and Gary isn’t hurt.  Then the chase and fight continue for another couple of hours until finally Gary gets the upper hand and really beats the shit out of Ray, punching him in the face over and over again.  One has to admit that Gary can be a pretty good fighter when he puts his mind to it, and I wonder if this comes from his myriad of barroom brawls during his drinking days.  The scene also ends with a fantastic little humiliation of Ray, because once Gary is done punching him, he turns his face over and rubs it in the mud (or is it mud?  It would be almost better if it was cow shit), and then he tells him to get off the ranch and never return.

Here comes a criticism, and you know it hurts me to criticize my most beloved and cherished KL, but I can’t always be cumming in my pants over absolutely every detail, much as I may like to, and this is something of a micro-criticism anyway, so it’s not such a big deal.  However, it is a bit of a contrivance that Gary does nothing else besides order Ray to get out.  Really, he probably should have called the police and reported this crazy and really ugly ex-husband guy who randomly showed up to beat the shit out of Cathy before trying to murder him with a pitchfork.  For the convenience of the plot and the unfolding events of the next few eps, it’s important that Ray not be arrested or incarcerated, but I guess I just don’t buy that Gary would beat him around a little bit and then simply tell him to leave.  Come on Gary, cover your bases and call the police to tell them what happened.

After several eps getting prepared for his big trip, Ben finally leaves for El Salvador this week, and my recently discovered appreciation for this character continues to grow.  Seriously, why did I think he was so boring upon first viewing?  Was it just that I was drinking so much vodka and was hopelessly devoted to Karen and her storylines?  I honestly can’t explain it, but I reiterate that the character of Ben has gone way up in my estimation while re-exploring this fifth season.  In this ep, the day before he leaves for his big trip, he and Val lie in bed talking and he tells her about his first big new assignment and how he had to go to, um, somewhere far away.  He says how he had some friends over to do a bit of drinking that night, then he tried to get some sleep and found himself too keyed up for sleep.  Then he decided to just try resting his eyes for a few minutes and, instead, he fell asleep and missed his flight and got fired from his very first news story.

This story from Ben’s past that he shares with Valene kinda exemplifies my new appreciation for him.  I think on first viewing I was just annoyed that this new character came out of nowhere and was immediately added into the opening credits and served as Val’s new love interest.  Perhaps at that point I was like, “Eh, this generic white guy is just here to fill the role of love interest until Gary and Val get back together.”  Now, however, I really appreciate his whole backstory and the fact that, really, we don’t know all that much about him.  We know that he’s had an exciting life and been all over the world and explored lots of different countries and cultures and what have you, but that’s about it, so then whenever he drops a little story like this one or the one he told about his father’s mental breakdown, it’s like new little clues that we can put together to form our own backstory for him, little pieces of a puzzle that we the viewers get to attach together, and I really like that.  I also feel sorry for Ben, by the way, because if you’ll recall, the last image from our previous ep, High Ideals, was a shot of Ben looking at Gary and Val as the two stared into each other’s eyes and positively radiated true-soul-mate-love all throughout the room.  Now Ben is starting to see that Gary is always going to occupy a special place in Val’s heart and he’s realizing that, even if she does in fact love Ben (and I believe she does), she will never love him with the same fiery passion and thigh-melting intensity that she loves Gary; it just ain’t gonna happen.

Okay, so Ben flies off to El Salvador and leaves poor Val (POOR VAL!) alone.  We have a sad little scene of Val alone at The Plant House, having been given strict instructions on how to care for each plant (I would be terrible at this job, by the way, because aside from giving them water, I’m clueless on general plant care).  Karen pops in for a visit and the two have a good heart-to-heart and Karen asks Val if she told Ben that she loves him and Val says that she did.  Nothing too exciting or thrilling occurs in the scene, but it’s another one of those small scenes that says a lot, reminding us of what good friends Karen and Val are, and I also reiterate that it’s refreshing to have them getting along again after such a stretch of episodes in which Karen was crazy on pills and being nasty towards all of her friends.

Oh man, and one very important bit of information that I almost completely forgot to write about also occurs in this ep.  Yes, it’s true, for this week we officially learn that Val is pregnant with twins.  I’ve been waiting for this ever since she announced her pregnancy back in Witness, and now it’s finally here.  I can finally stop writing “Val’s baby/babies” every time the subject comes up and simply write “Val’s babies;” oh joy.  Also, this development just moves us ever closer to the sheer brilliance that is season six and probably the greatest storyline in all of KL history.  Oh yeah, and now might also be a good time to mention that My Beloved Grammy is utterly convinced that Val is going to suffer a miscarriage.  I guess she was off the nighttime soaps by the 1984-1985 season, for she has absolutely no memory of the unbelievably brilliant Val’s-babies storyline and just keeps saying how, any second now, Val’s gonna have a miscarriage.  Of course, watching this as a new viewer, I can also see that predication feeling accurate.  After all, these nighttime soaps loved to introduce pregnancies into the equation in order to get some juicy drama flowing only to then throw a miscarriage in there to avoid having to deal with cute babies and child labor laws (indeed, KL has already done this way back in the early days with Small Surprises).

The episode concludes on an ominous note in which Val gets a phonecall from El Salvador.  We don’t know that at first, as we just get to hear her end of the conversation on the phone.  Karen and Lilimae are sitting at the kitchen table and then Val hangs up the phone and announces that Ben was in a jeep and the jeep was found crashed but his body is nowhere to be found and that’s our exciting cliffhanger for the end of the ep.  Watching this, I tried to wash my brain out and erase all my retroactive knowledge of what happens on the show and pretend I’m a viewer in 1984.  Honestly, if I was one of those oh-so-lucky original viewers who got to see the show grow and evolve week-to-week, I think I would probably believe that Ben is dead.  Why?  Well, the death of Sid way back in early season three effectively set the tone that nobody is safe; just because your name is in those opening credits does not mean you can’t be killed off from the series unexpectedly.  Secondly, we’re rapidly approaching the season finale, with only four more eps left in the season, so I think I would figure if they’re gonna kill a character, now would be the time to do it.  Of course, I’ve watched the series once before and, SPOILER ALERT, I know that Ben stays on the show clear through the end of season eight in 1987, but getting myself into the mindset of a new viewer, I think I would place my bets on his corpse showing up pretty soon.

I say this a lot, but I really didn’t have all that many notes about this ep and I thought this would be a fairly brisk writeup.  Perhaps I just suffer from what Stephen King calls “diarrhea of the word processor” or perhaps the show is just so genius that I could write about it for thousands and thousands of pages, but in any case, once I started writing about this I found a lot more to say.  While this is perhaps not the most EXCITING episode of KL, serving more as setting up dominoes to fall throughout the next four eps of the season, it is still tremendously well done and also continues my deep love affair with Larry Elikann (who I’m actually starting to think might be my favorite KL director).  I was too busy writing about characters and shit, but make no mistake, because this episode is still dripping with style and technique in a way that I’ve started to grow accustomed to.  I feel like Elikann’s big directorial flourish that he always brings to the table is the use of intense close-ups, stylish use of mirrors (in this one we have a cool shot of Cathy in the mirror looking at herself while Ray looms in the background), and those super cool shots where one character’s head is framed really big in the foreground while another characters takes up the space in the background.  That’s all on display here, along with generally interesting character moments and some witty dialogue and even some pretty great camp with the super duper long and intense chase scene between Gary and Ray.  So, while I think this episode might kinda recede into my memory as we move further along through the series and maybe won’t be one I necessarily immediately think about, it was still solid.

Okay, we’ve got four episodes to go until we finish season five, so let’s propel forward and talk about our next episode, Silent Missions.

Thursday, February 9, 2017


Episode Title: High Ideals

Season 05, Episode 20

Episode 095 of 344

Written by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman

Directed by Robert Becker

Original Airdate: Thursday, February 16th, 1984

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Gary freezes the assets of Gary Ewing Enterprises and seals the office. When Val is overcome by pain from her pregnancy, her doctor forbids her to accompany Ben to El Salvador. After Abby orders Cathy off the ranch, Gary tells Cathy that she may stay as long as she wishes. When Gary says that he intends to file for divorce, Abby says she doesn't want a divorce. Later, Gary and Cathy consummate their relationship. When Mack resumes his job on the crime commission upon a request from the governor, Sumner becomes suspicious of Mack's intentions.


                Last time, with …So Shall You Reap, we watched Abby’s entire life turn into pure solid human waste.  Now here we are with High Ideals, ready to see how she deals with this turn of events in her life and, of course, ready to find out what’s going on with everybody else on the series, as well.  Why don’t we just start with Abs, shall we?  This week, we get to see once again that Gary wasn’t kidding when he ordered her off the ranch and out of his life.  If Abs thought Gary was just getting a little heated and he would calm down after some time alone, she was sorely mistaken.  This week, Gary is hard at work with getting the divorce proceedings rolling along, and anytime he happens to see Abs, you can actually see the smoke starting to come out of his ears.  See, early on near the start of the ep, Gary returns to Westfork and is not pleased to see Abby’s car parked out front.  He wastes no time in finding her and demanding to know what she’s doing here and why she hasn’t gotten the hell out already.  Well, Abby’s here to visit the kids (Olivia, who is present and accounted for, and Brian, who continues to be absent and constantly off-screen and I doubt any viewers actually care).  Okay, so she’s checking up on her kids, which is reasonable, but she’s still on Westfork property and that is completely unacceptable for Gary so he orders her to leave.

                Okay, I’m gonna get into some minor spoiler territory, so either bear with me or just skip ahead by a paragraph or two.  In the back of my mind, I’m quite sure that Gary and Abs get back together again, and I don’t think we even have to wait that long to see it.  I’m pretty sure that, by the opening eps of season six, they are a couple again.  The thing that I simply can’t remember at all is how this turn of events occurs.  Remember I was drinking a lot more the first time I watched these (I loved my vodka on the rocks with a squeeze of lime, mmmmm) and also it was several years ago, so I’ve forgotten lots of the details of the series and how events unfold.  But anyway, watching this current juncture of eps, it’s really hard to imagine Gary forgiving Abs, because he is so damn mad, and justifiably so.  He hasn’t cooled down at all from last week; he still wants her off the ranch, he still wants to be divorced from her, and he still can barely even stand to look at her.  When will this change?  And how?  I’m curious to pay strict attention and find out for myself, because right now it’s hard to believe Gary could ever forgive Abs.

                The betrayal Gary has experienced from Abs (and, by extension, also by Laura and Cathy, who were both telling him lies because of Abby’s manipulations) have turned him into a bit of a bitter, cynical man this ep.  See, we get an early scene of him and Cathy walking along the ranch, going up a big hill or something, kinda pacing real fast, and Gary is just so damn mad.  He’s kinda berating Cathy for something she did (something work related) and she’s like, “Boy, you’re in a mood,” or whatever, and at one point she says how Gary’s gonna have to trust her, and Gary has a really great action-movie-hero line in which he declares, “I don’t trust anybody.”  A moment later, Mack stops by for a visit and Gary is super short and grumpy with him, not too terribly helpful at all.  See, Mack wants to look at, like, all the files from Gary Ewing Enterprises that could possibly relate to the Wolfbridge group somehow, and Gary just says how he has all the files locked up and doesn’t want to touch them now.  We also learn that he has frozen all assets, meaning Abs will have no money to throw around at this point in time.  If she wants to present herself as the head of the company and a big shot, it’s gonna be kinda difficult since she has no money and, um, no phone (yeah, we learn that the phone has been disconnected this week and there’s a humorous scene in which Abs meets with the evil St. Claire and has to act like everything’s cool and St. Claire is all sly and like, “Why don’t you call me when your phones are hooked up again?”).

                I wanna talk about Gary and Cathy, by the way, because with High Ideals we’ve reached another one of those blackouts in my memory, an episode I hardly remember watching and one particular development that I had completely forgotten.  Before I got started with this blog and decided to examine, in exquisite and painful detail, all 344 eps of KL, if you had come up to me and asked, “Do Cathy and Gary ever sleep together?” I would have answered, “No.”  In my memory, they came real close to sleeping together on that ranch a few eps back, they didn’t do it, and that was the end of it.  However, shocker of all shockers, the two do indeed shag, and right here in this particular episode, to boot.  How does this come about?

                While Gary is having a hard time forgiving Abs for her betrayal, he’s making peace with both Cathy and Laura (the Laura one is off-screen, much to my disappointment; it’s just that we get a later comment from Abs in which she says, “You forgave Cathy and Laura; why can’t you forgive me?”), and here we see that forgiveness of Cathy in action.  For instance, she’s still allowed to stay at the ranch as both a worker and a friend.  I think the reason Gary is cool with her is because he knows her betrayal was mostly a manipulation of Abby’s.  He know that Cathy’s had a hard life, is not a rich woman, and that whatever money Abs offered her to keep him good and distracted must have been a fortune to this nice, mixed-up young girl.  In case I haven’t mentioned it yet (I probably have, but there are a lot of damn episodes), I’m just so glad that Lisa Hartman is back on the series, and I’m not even bothered by the inherent ridiculous of Ciji being reincarnated a handful of eps later as this completely new character.  Yeah, it’s ridiculous, but somehow it doesn’t seem ridiculous when you’re watching it, you know?  Also, there’s just such a warmth to Lisa as either Ciji or Cathy.  Even if Cathy has had a messed up life, she just seems like a sweet, genuine, nice person, and if I was Gary I would like having her around, as well.  I also feel like she seems to come out of the real world; she seems like a real person that I would meet in my daily life, even though at the same time she gets to rock the best of the ‘80s fashions.


                Okay, anyway, let’s get to that shag that I had completely forgotten about.  The scene starts out wonderfully with Cathy slipping into Ciji’s alien dress (we last saw her rocking the alien dress back in Homecoming) and putting Ciji’s album onto the old record player.  As a proud owner of Lisa’s Letterock album on vinyl, it definitely made me smile that this record Cathy holds is clearly the exact same record from real life, with a very simple “Ciji” sticker plastered up on the corner to hide Lisa’s real name.  However, when Cathy puts the needle down, we get to hear a song that does not exist on the real-life Letterock album, or indeed on any real life home media, that fabulous cover of Open Arms.  Oh how I wish there was some version of this song I could just listen to in my daily life, because I would argue that Lisa’s cover of it is superior to the actual original Journey version.  Anyway, that’s the song Cathy starts listening to, she’s rocking the alien dress, she’s looking like Ciji, she stands in front of the mirror and admires herself, and I’m wondering what exactly is going on here.

                At first My Beloved Grammy theorized that this was part of Ray’s wicked plan, that he sent her back to the ranch to become Ciji or whatever, to continue to mess with Gary’s mind.  I’m not sure what the exact benefit of this behavior could be, how it would relate to getting any of Gary’s money or whatever, but in any case that’s not what’s actually going on in this scene.  Rather, Cathy has become convinced that Gary only really loves/loved Ciji and that, to get his love, she needs to embrace that and just become Ciji.  However, Gary comes into the room and he’s mad about this, asking her to take off the ridiculous H.R. Giger dress and stop acting like Ciji.  He screams, “I hate Journey covers!” and takes the record off the player and then Cathy starts to say how she thought this is what he wanted, that he wanted Ciji back from the dead.  The music starts to swell as the two get all close together and Gary says no, it’s not that at all, that at first it was about that, but then it turned into him simply wanting Cathy, Cathy just as she is because that’s the person he cares about.  The two start very passionately making out (I think Gary actually gets on top of her and rolls around and stuff) before we cut to a commercial.

                When we return from commercial, my mind is absolutely blown because Gary and Cathy are now lying naked in bed together post-shag.  Like I said, absolutely all of this had disappeared from my mind, so I found myself wondering both how I could have forgotten such an important plot detail and also how long this could last.  Again, here’s a minor spoiler alert, but next season we are gonna get Alec Baldwin added to the cast as Joshua and he pretty much immediately serves as Cathy’s romantic interest; so when does this Gary thing end?  It must be either near the end of this season or the very start of the next one.  I just find it shocking that I totally forgot about all this happening but, again, there are 344 episodes and a lot of stuff happens in that big batch of eps, so I guess I can cut myself a break.

                So what’s going on back at the cul-de-sac with Val and Ben?  Well, as we begin the episode, things are still in order for the two of them to head to El Salvador together, and Val is enquiring about all the things that will be different there from over here.  She wants to know if they’ll have plumbing, running water, electricity, stuff like that.  Ben gives a kinda nice speech this week about how he finds it humbling to go to third world countries (I guess this is when we still used that term before we moved on to the allegedly more P.C. term that I think actually sounds way more condescending and snooty, “Developing countries”) and “Get away from the gadgets and gizmos” and sorta see how other people in the world live.  I’m with Ben here; if I had the money and the resources (I have neither and I’m so poor that I ate my shoes this morning), I would like to go to lots of different countries and see how things are, get away from all the stupid technology that has overrun our world and that we really don’t need all that much.  Again, I stress how much my appreciation of Ben is growing; this character could be such a dud, or such a non-character; he could easily just be a repeat of the dreadfully boring Jeff Munson from last season (I can actually hear all of you as you furrow your brows and say, “Jeff who?”), but instead the writers make him a real character.  I believe he has a past back story and I believe that it’s what has lead him to being the person we see before us today.

                There’s one little secret Val’s keeping, however, and that’s the fact that she’s experiencing some mysterious chest pains.  Will she have a miscarriage?  Well, um, no, and I barely even feel that’s a spoiler because I think any KL fan inherently knows what we have coming on the horizons next season, arguably the greatest storyline in the entire fourteen season run of KL, Val’s babies.  Yes, for all KL fans, those two words, “Val’s babies,” are enough to immediately know what is being discussed, what it means, why it’s so amazing and great and brilliant.  However, if I wasn’t convinced before, I am convinced now that My Beloved Grammy either never watched this series or has simply forgotten everything or never made it all the way to the sheer masterpiece that is season six, because she really seems to believe that Val’s going to have a miscarriage.  Kinda trying to wash my brain out and pretend I don’t know what stuff is coming, I could see why someone would predict that’s going to happen.  After all, don’t these ‘80s nighttime soaps just love to introduce a complicated pregnancy and then kill it off before the baby can actually be born?  Indeed, we’ve already seen KL do this to Karen way earlier in the run (you all remember Small Surprises?), so it’s a sensible prediction to make.

                Val tries to keep these chest pains on the D.L., but it gets a little harder to do that when she’s seeing Ben off in his car and then she immediately collapses in the middle of the street.  Both Lilimae and Ben come rushing over to see what is wrong, and Val tries to dismiss it as nothing, just simple pregnancy pains, no big deal, but of course they are concerned and call the doctor over.  I do think it’s worth discussing Val’s age as a character as well as J.V.A’s age in real life, because that’s one aspect of this pregnancy that nobody seems to discuss.  J.V.A. was born in (allegedly) 1943, which would put her at around 40 or 41 at this point; isn’t it generally kinda considered a risky thing for women over 40 to have babies?  Am I being old-fashioned in that question?  Do I not know what I’m talking about?  Also, is the real-life age of J.V.A. reflected in the character of Valene?  We all know that she had baby Lucy when she was real young, about fifteen, and if we were to track Lucy’s age from over on Dallas, I believe she would be around 23 or so, does that sound accurate?  And if that’s the age of Lucy, that would put Valene at around 38, right?  Am I way off in my math?  Somebody help me, please!

                In any case, the lady doctor comes by to see Val (and I took a look at the IMDb of this actress, Nancy Jeris, pictured both above and below, and am pleased to see that she’ll be back as the same doctor character for two more upcoming episodes not too far into the future) and then declares that she can absolutely not go to El Salvador.  Hmmm, I’m not so sure I’d need the doctor to come by and tell me that, but I’m glad she does.  Ben gets straight with the doctor and asks directly if Val is going to have a miscarriage, and the doctor says, “Probably not.”  Okay, so that’s good news, mostly, but that use of the word ‘probably’ is also disconcerting.  Certainly we get the sense that Val needs to relax and take it easy for awhile, or she could be putting her pregnancy at risk.  Thusly, no El Salvador for her, although Ben is still going to have to go. 

                Let’s talk Mack and Karen for a minute, because I fear I’ve been neglecting them.  Karen is now nicely clean and sober for five episodes straight, having finished melting the drugs out of her system back in Reconcilable Differences.  Now she’s back to being the Karen we love: sharp, smart, quick-witted, and always ready for a healthy confrontation.  This week, Mack gets himself a new job, working for the governor this time, and Karen is deeply unsettled by this and fears that he will be reigniting his vendetta against the Wolfbridge group.  We get another fantastic Sid callback in which Karen says, “I already lost one husband because of his ideals, and I’m not gonna lose another one.”  Yes, this is fantastic, for let us not forget that Sid Fairgate’s entire death was predicated on his belief in doing the right thing, in not letting those pesky mobsters escape from justice.  Now here’s Mack, equally obsessed with the idea of justice, that bad people need to pay for their crimes.  Of course Karen is upset; can you imagine if she managed to find a second husband who is equally as amazing as the first (or, I would argue, even better, not to besmirch the fine legacy of Sid) only to have him die because of the same kinds of principles that killed that first husband?  It would be awful, and so I fully understand why Mack chooses to tell a fib and inform Karen that he’s done with Wolfbridge; he’s dropped his investigation.  At first I was like, “Oh, he has?” but then the two hug and we see the look in Mack’s eyes as he has his head over Karen’s shoulder.  He is not telling her the truth and this could lead to some very bad consequences in the near future.

                The last major plot point I wish to discuss for the week involves Olivia running away from Westfork.  Early in the ep, we see her going through the motions of leaving for another routine day of school, but then she hides behind a big bush when the bus comes pulling up.  The bus driver who probably hates his life and wants to kill himself (especially since he’s driving one of those buses that seem to only exist in movies or television shows in which absolutely all the children on the bus are complete monsters fighting and throwing paper airplanes and carrying on like social deviants; I can recall that none of my daily school bus rides were so exciting or action packed), just honks his horn once or twice and then proceeds onwards, and Olivia begins the long walk all the way to Val’s house.

                The thing is, however, that we don’t know she’s going to Val’s house.  Olivia’s walk really takes up a lot of time this ep, as we keep cutting back to her moving through the mean streets of California, walking through shady corners and back alleys and avoiding creepy characters.  At one point, some guy pulls over and offers her a ride and we fear that she might get in, but she tells him no and continues walking.  The fact that it takes her so damn long to reach Val’s house also serves to remind us of how isolated Gary has managed to make himself from all the cul-de-sac shenanigans.  Westfork really is a huge block of land kinda placed into the middle of nowhere, away from the city and the suburbs both.  It’s easy to forget that wide divide at this point, because in my brain I kinda just assume that Westfork and Seaview Circle are right down the street from each other, but it takes Olivia all day to walk from the former to the latter, so we get a reminder that they are quite far apart.

                Okay, so she gets to Val’s and of course Val is glad to see her.  Much like Gary’s special relationship with Olivia, I would say Val has the same thing.  She took an immediate liking to her when they first met at the start of season two, and they still get along famously.  Sometimes I find myself wondering if Olivia would be happier living in a world in which Gary and Val are her parents and Abs just sorta, you know, goes away.  What do you think, my gentle readers?  In any case, Lilimae calls up Abs to tell her where her daughter is, in a fabulously fast and funny scene that made me laugh aloud.  See, we just begin the scene with Lilimae already on the phone to Abs and in the middle of berating her for being a horrible person.  It’s a fantastically nasty speech, with such memorable comments as “Hussies like you don’t deserve to have children.”  I think what makes this scene so funny is that when we cut to shots of Abs on the phone, she’s not even saying anything, just sorta standing there and listening to Lilimae rather expressionlessly.  All in all, very humorous.

                Abs and Gary both show up at the house to get Olivia, which zooms us into our concluding scene and it’s a fantastic one, as I’m obviously getting used to at this point.  At this point in the saga, the chemistry whenever you put Gary and Val onscreen together is absolutely palpable.  There’s no doubt in any viewers mind that Gary and Val love each other and are meant to be together, and in this instance, she’s lying in her bed on pregnancy bed-arrest, and when she and Gary speak, she just smiles so wide, clearly so happy to see him.  Of course, things turn awkward due to the fact that both Abs and Ben are also in the house at the same time.  When Abs goes to pick up Olivia and her and Gary both leave at the same time, our final image is Val just beaming from the staircase as Gary goes away, staring at him with all the love in her heart clearly plastered onto her face, and then we get a closeup shot of poor Ben, standing off to the side, just staring at that face, recognizing the look of love in Val’s eyes, and realizing that, deep down, he’s never gonna rank in her heart the same place that Gary does.  It’s really a rather sad final image to go out on, and my heart went out to Ben.  The poor guy is so decent and kind and he’s been good to Val all season, but now it’s become clear who Val truly loves and wants, and it’s of course Gary.

                Oh boy, that was an action packed disk, wasn’t it?  As usual for when we power through a solid disk of five eps, I find myself reflecting on how damn much happens in the course of those five eps.  The show has officially become so dense and so rich and so layered that the changes from one episode to the next can often feel very substantial, yet everything still continues to unfold in such an organic way that it never feels rushed, never feels like the writers are just trying to keep the drama flying at us as fast as possible.  We are now 20 episodes deep into a season of 25 altogether, meaning that our next disk shall tidily finish up the season and leave us on a gripping cliffhanger.  I shall return very shortly with the beginning of that disk, the episode entitled No Trumpets, No Drums.