Episode Title: Neighborly Conduct
Season 08, Episode 24
Episode 184 of 344
Written by Lynn Marie Latham
Directed by Lawrence Kasha
Original Airdate: Thursday, March 12th, 1987
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Ben is upset that Greg sent Jean to Paraguay instead of pressing charges. He is ultra paranoid and thinks he sees Jean everywhere. Greg fires Ben. Jill questions Gary about whether she comes first in his life. Olivia joins Peter's Youth Commission against drugs. She admits to Paige she has a huge crush on Peter. Abby and Paige vie for Peter's affection. To win his affection, Paige tells Peter that Sylvia gave Olivia a letter, and that he can use Olivia's crush on him to get the letter back. Peter sends Olivia flowers, thanking her for her help. Anne rents Laura's house, and hangs out at the MacKenzie's. Karen doesn't like this, and tells Anne to stop coming on to Mack because she doesn't stand a chance. Anne sends herself a package, but has is delivered to the MacKenzies. When Mack brings it over, she tells him she wants him to stay and get reacquainted.more
Hello, all, I hope my lovely readers are still with me even after having to suffer through the 48 minute toxic fart that was Nightmare. I also apologize for missing the last few weeks, but I'm seriously considering turning the blog into a biweekly thing because I am now a busy boy with a part time and a full time job and about 60 hours of work per week, so I'm tired. Anyway, I have officially declared Nightmare the worst KL ep up to this point, but the good news is that I think we’re beginning an upswing in quality now, or at least I hope so. Neighborly Conduct is far from a perfect KL ep, but at least it’s returning to characters I care about and at least it’s starting to feel a little more like that classic KL I know and love. Let me explain.
I’ll get the stupid stuff out of the way first, and that of course is the stuff involving Hackney. Rest assured, for all intents and purposes, this character has been retired after last week’s abomination. She got arrested and taken away and that was pretty much the end of her story. The only reason that “actress” Wendy Fulton is still credited with appearing in this ep and our next one is that we have a couple of microscopic flashes of her face while Ben suffers from an explosion of paranoia. What I mean by that is that we get several scenes where Ben looks at a woman and briefly thinks the woman might be Hackney, and then the camera will cut to reveal that it’s actually just some other white chick and that Ben is going crazy.
The reason this is stupid is because of the sloppy writing and exposition delivery. Our almost first scene is Mack and Ben going for a nice California jog, talking about Hackney. Ben says something about how he’s having nightmares about her coming to kill his family, and then he says, “I know she’s dead and all that,” but then Mack interrupts him to say that Hackney is not dead, but rather she was shipped off to Paraguay. This is dumb because it asks us to believe that, in the gap between the last ep and this one, Ben never bothered to confirm with Mack whether Hackney was killed or not. Hackney has been making Ben’s life and the viewer’s lives miserable since the very first ep of the season, and after 23 arduous eps involving her and her ridiculous schemes, you’re gonna tell me they haul her off in handcuffs and Ben is just like, “Well, good work, guys!” and doesn’t bother to double check that they killed her? Ugh.
Ben also gets fired by Sumner in this ep because, you know, he tried to kill him. Generally, I’d say it’s a bad idea to try and shoot your boss to death, mostly because if your boss lives, you can kiss any chances of promotion goodbye. This is a small scene taking place on Greg’s ranch and occurring between just the two characters. Really, the only reason I bring it up is because Sumner lights a cigar at the end of it, so we can now induct Cigar #27 into the Sumner Cigar Counter. Boy, does Sumner like those cigars. I enjoy cigars as much as the next guy, but I do think Sumner is consuming too much; maybe just one per month or something in that ballpark would be no big deal, but he’s having them every day now, and I’m worried he’s gonna gum and/or lip cancer, or that his teeth will turn brown and Laura won’t want to kiss him.
Also, before Ben arrives on the scene, we get a little bit of Greg and Laura talking to (get out your pillow and your nightcap) Peter, scolding him for a statement he gave to the press while Greg was “dead.” I bring up Peter because, a little later in the ep, the character of Sylvia is finally mentioned again (remember her?). What happens is that Olivia and Paige are hanging out, talking about how much Olivia wants to blow Peter (I do not understand this universe where every single woman wants to immediately shag Peter, who is not an attractive man by any stretch of the imagination) and then she brings up how Sylvia gave her a letter way back in the middle of the season somewhere. She tells Paige she didn’t open it because it’s private and personal and it’s only supposed to be opened in the event of her death. This is a major red flag to me that the writers are going to kill Sylvia offscreen, and I say blah to that. What the hell kind of storytelling is this? This is, like, Dallas lazy writing. It reminds me of the exact season that was going on concurrently this year (it would be season ten of Dallas) and how they spend fucking forever building up this mystery of whether Steve Forrest is actually Jock Ewing back from the dead, and they drag it on and on and on and on, and then it’s all resolved offscreen when Miss Ellie is like, “He told me he’s not really Jock,” and that’s the end of it. In this case, we’ve had major buildup with Sylvia as an important character since the halfway point of season seven, and then she was figuring heavily into the stories at the start of this season what with Peter trying to poison her and all that, and now I can tell they are going to just kill her offscreen and then somehow have this letter business come into the forefront. Did Ruth Roman take a walk and they had to scramble to finish this up? Or did they just not want to hire her on to do the whole year? This is really sloppy and I don’t understand how the writers could let it pass.
But I am actually greatly fond of the main storyline of this ep, so let’s switch over to that so I can say some positive things. I don’t know what the general fan consensus is on Michelle Phillips as Anne or her flirtations with Mack and this building “Will they have an affair?” storyline, but I do know that I like it. I am an Anne fan and think Michelle Phillips brings something special to this character and I just love watching her. Also, even if maybe the writers flirting with another “Will Mack cheat on Karen?” storyline is kinda lazy (after all, it was only last season that he was nearly cheating with J.B.), at least it feels like KL to me and at least it’s moving the focus back into the cul-de-sac and the domestic environment that’s at the heart of the show.
Anne’s been living in California for a few eps now, and in Neighborly Conduct, she decides to rent out Laura’s house and live literally right next door to Karen and Mack. Karen doesn’t like this and phones Laura to yell at her and ask how she could have sold the house to Anne, but Laura reminds her that she turned the house over to a rental agency and has no involvement in who decides to live there. This is a cool little scene because Karen has some bad timing, saying something like, “I don’t even like seeing her occasionally and now she’s right next door!” just as Anne comes walking into the room from behind. Whoops. The scene plays in an interesting way, because even though there’s a sense of awkwardness in the air, it’s not entirely clear whether Anne actually heard Karen or not. Anyway, Anne says how she wants to have Mack and Karen over for dinner to show off the house, and even though Karen doesn’t wanna go, Mack talks her into it.
I like this part a lot, because, again, it’s reminding me of classic KL, and when I say classic KL, I mean really classic KL, like the first three seasons when we barely ever ventured off the cul-de-sac. I’m just glad that we’re hanging around the cul-de-sac more and having those classic neighborly tensions and dramas that were the foundation of the series all the way from the very first ep. Also, I just find the scene funny. Karen wears a very strange outfit that looks like it came out of Prince’s wardrobe. It looks like an ugly brownish reddish bath towel and it happens to have gaudy gold, like, bracelets? It has to be seen to be believed, and it’s as ugly as any of the outfits throughout this ugly, ugly season of clothing. Also, I greatly enjoyed a little part where they enter the house and are looking at these framed black and white nudes that Anne has hung up all over the house, and then Anne says how she did those photos, and at first Karen is like, “Oh, you’re a photographer?” and Anne is like, “No, I’m the subject!” and brags about how some super famous photographer took these nudes. I liked this cuz it reminded me of myself, actually. A few years back, after I lost all my weight and got emaciated and as skinny as I will ever be and I was so unbelievably thin and beautiful, I went and posed for nudes myself, and I had a great time. I met up with this gay accountant photographer who wanted to take nudes just for practice and we took hundreds. Since I am a huge narcissist and obsessed with my own appearance, I was totally pleased with the way this photographer managed to make me look so good in glorious black and white, with all sorts of cool arty lighting and shadows and compositions. It was a total blast and I saved all the nudes to one day show off to my children and my children’s children and say, “Look at how fucking beautiful I used to be way back in my ‘20s!” Honestly, if I ever am rich enough to have my own super nice house, I wouldn’t be above hanging up my nudes on the walls, just like Anne does here. The human body is beautiful and we all have the same basic bits and pieces; why be shy?
You can sense Karen’s sphincter unclenching after there’s a knock at the door and some boring ‘80s white guy comes in and Anne declares him to be her date. Oh yay! No need to be worried about Anne going after Mack if she’s got this boring ‘80s white guy to shag her instead, right? Also, I really honestly think that Anne’s intentions here might be pure, that she really might just want to have Karen and Mack over as her friends and she got this boring ‘80s white guy as a way of showing peace between her and Karen, of helping Karen to relax. I could be way off on this, but I think she might be being truthful, and it’s only after something happens a little later that she decides to change her game plan. For the moment, though, she and Karen go off to talk about girl stuff and Mack is forced to interact with the date (his name is Al) and talk about what all white people in the ‘80s liked to talk about, which is their stocks and how much money they have. I’m with Mack in this scene, because I can’t imagine being trapped in a conversation this boring and having to listen to this block of wood talk about his portfolio or whatever nonsense and verbal diarrhea he has spewing out of his mouth.
Okay, so for a brief period of time, it looks like there might be peace between Anne and Karen, but what could happen to possibly shatter that? What happens is that Karen gets pretty directly confrontational with Anne after Anne stops in for some coffee in the early morning in the kitchen. This caused me flashbacks to season one’s Civil Wives, in which Karen sat down in the kitchen with Sid’s ex-wife and talked directly to her and essentially said to take a hike. It worked in that ep, so I wonder if that’s why Karen does the same thing here, although it backfires in this instance. She basically tells Anne that she knows what she’s doing and she knows that she’s going after Mack, and the scene concludes with a bold declaration from Karen: “You don’t stand a chance with my husband.”
Well, the very next scene is Anne cooking up a plot that would make both Abs and J.R. smile, ordering herself a package and intentionally having it delivered to Karen and Mack’s place. She knows that Mack will come home and find the package and be forced to bring it over to her, ooooh, how devious. The fact that Anne enacts this plan directly after our previous scene adds weight to my theory that she was ready to be nice with Karen and was pushed over the edge by Karen’s comments. I respect Karen for being candid and direct, as she always is, but I think she made a mistake here. By saying what she said, she has opened up a challenge for Anne, and now Anne is thinking, “Oh yeah? I don’t stand a chance? We’ll see about that.” Anyway, Mack comes home to find the package and, right on schedule, takes it over to Anne’s. She answers the door and immediately turns extra flirty, reminding him that his wife won’t be home for hours, that he could sneak on inside her house and hang out for awhile and that she’d never tell Karen about it. I feel like you could substitute the word “house” for “vagina” and still have the same basic outcome. She is telling Mack that whatever they may do together, she’ll keep it a secret between the two of them. Hmmmm, how interesting.
That about does it for Karen, Mack, and Anne, but we do get some pretty big stuff involving Gary, Val, and J.B. in Neighborly Conduct. I’m very glad to see J.B. going in a direction that I approve of this ep, because my God has she been underutilized this season. When she first showed up on the scene in very late season six, I immediately came in my pants and was so excited to see this beautiful and wonderful character be brought to life so splendidly by Teri Austin. I loved her all throughout season seven and thought she was a highlight, but she’s been rather wasted in season eight and it’s a shame. I’ve gone on about it enough, but having her fall off a cliff and slip into a coma for a few eps and then just snap out of it? Really? Clearly the writers are struggling this year with what to do with J.B., but I feel like she’s now beginning a path that will lead us into the J.B. we truly love through seasons nine and ten.
I’ve kinda been neglecting what’s going on with Gary and J.B., so let’s do a quick recap. Basically, the two got engaged a few eps back, somewhere around the time J.B. woke up from her Plot Contrivance Coma, and then they were supposed to get married in Tahoe last ep, but those plans were delayed when Gary had to go and heroically stop Val from blowing away an innocent cleaning woman. The fact that J.B. was neglected so that Gary could go and help out his nutty ex-wife is clearly irking her, and it forms the basis for her material this week. I’d also say that Abby’s immortal line about “The first Mrs. Ewing doesn’t go away,” is eating at J.B., because she tells Gary this ep, “I’m not so sure I want to join the ranks of Mrs. Ewings.” Later, she pays Val a private visit and gets very direct, asking Val if she’s still in love with Gary. Of course we all know Val is in love with Gary and we all know Gary is in love with Val because they are soul mates and they are meant to be together, but Val deflects and says, “I love Gary as a friend and that’s all.” She also deflects when J.B. repeats the question of, “Are you in love with Gary?”, because she just answers, “I am married to a wonderful man.” Note how she doesn’t directly deny loving Gary; she just brings up Ben and kinda moves on. J.B. doesn’t care for this, pointing out that Gary seems closer to Val than to anyone and that he’s always eager to rush out and help her when she’s in a jam, like when she goes crazy and steals his gun to go and almost murder cleaning women. Val gets mad and tells J.B. to leave, and I’m pretty excited about this whole scene. Hmmm, how to get into it without being too obvious or full of spoilers? Let’s just say that the season nine finale of KL has possibly my favorite cliffhanger ever, and let’s just say that I feel like the seeds for that season nine cliffhangers are being planted right here in this scene in this ep.
That’s all I got for this ep. You know, I liked it. I bitched about some bad writing in some aspects, but I was able to get on board with Karen/Mack/Anne and Gary/Val/J.B. I liked all that stuff and I do feel like we are getting back to what KL should be. In a way, I’m reminded of the dream season of Dallas, which I feel hits its rock bottom at around episode 24 or so (the one with the ridiculous masked ball that J.R. and boring-as-fuck Jack Ewing attend with goofy, vamping Angelica Nero) and then it actually sorta seems to correct itself in the last six or seven eps of the season and start returning to what Dallas is meant to be about. In a very similar fashion, season eight of KL has been polluted by a terrible central storyline that ruined everything in its path, but now that the storyline is finishing up, I feel we’re getting back to what I want to see, which is the characters being interesting and dealing with domestic problems and potential affairs and who’s in love with who and all that good, soapy drama.
Next up is the last ep of this particular disk, entitled Deadly Combination.