Episode Title: Thicker Than Water
Season 07, Episode 29
Episode 159 of 344
Written by Lawrence Kasha
Directed by Kate Tilley
Original Airdate: Thursday, May 8th, 1986
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Gary offers to take back Empire Valley from the twins. He then agrees to sell it to Greg if he will guarantee the cleanup. Greg tells Laura that he wants Peter in politics, because then he will be back in politics. Peter's resistant, so Greg says if he will run, he will publicly acknowledge him as his brother and give him a big settlement. Greg also stops Sylvia's monthly check. Abby also tells Peter to accept Greg's offer, and she sleeps with him. Mack is worried when Karen misses lunch and he can't locate her. Ben tells Cathy he will go on tour with her, and Cathy is excited. He tells Val, who is stunned. Val tries to talk him out of it, and is scared he is leaving her. Ben assures her it is only for six weeks, and he really needs the time away to think about things. Lilimae is angry at Cathy and slaps her. Ben leaves. Paige Matheson shows up at the MacKenzies’. When Mack gets home, she says "I've wanted to meet you for a long time. I'm your daughter." Paige has arrived.
When we last left off, we found out that Charlie Lee, that unforgettable character so vital to every single episode of KL since the very first episode, had died due to arsenic poisoning. As America gasps and sheds tears for this unbelievably important and resoundingly popular character’s death, Karen goes to work shutting down Lotus Point, and that’s how we first catch up with her at the beginning of this episode. Our first scene of the show demonstrates some fine crosscutting as we keep alternating between Abs giving a press conference, ensuring absolutely everybody that the water is safe and non-toxic, and Karen driving angrily to Lotus Point, intent on putting the kibosh on this press conference and, for the time being at least, the entire Lotus Point operation. I enjoyed how this scene was done, not just with the crosscutting that I am obviously so fond of, but the way they show footage of Karen doing her thing with Abs doing the voiceover on the soundtrack. Also, we have that whole sorta call-and-response thing going on, such as when Karen is telling some worker how they are going to have to shut down, and she says, “We have a problem,” and then we immediately cut to Abs telling the reporters, “There is no problem.” They use this device a lot at this point in the series, but I never get tired of it because I think it consistently keeps scenes more alert and more interesting than if you did it in a more generic and typical television way.
I also think this crosscutting helps to further demonstrate the vast differences between Abs and Karen. When a crisis like this occurs, Abs goes to work assuring the press and everyone else that there is no problem, even drinking the water herself to prove it. It’s not that she’s lying, necessarily, but she’s sorta fiddling with the truth in order to keep up appearances of everything being alright, almost surely thinking about all the profits that would be lost if Lotus Point was shut down. Conversely, as soon as Karen hears that fan favorite Charlie Lee has died, she decides they are going to shut the resort down. As soon as a human life has been lost, Karen puts all other matters aside, not caring about issues like image or profit; all she cares about is solving the problem and making sure nobody else gets sick. Karen operates through ethics while Abs operates through money. We all remember Abs saying how, if it came to a choice between love and money, money would win every time. Well, I also think that holds true for most other things in her life. If it comes to the death of the amazing Charlie Lee versus the profits that Lotus Point brings in, the profits are gonna take precedence in Abby’s mind.
Now, you all know I love Karen with all my heart and always will. She is a vital part of the series and one of the most important aspects of the saga and I also love how Michele plays her. That said, this rewatch is showing me that sometimes she can be a bit much, and this ep has a scene that’s a real doozy. Basically, Karen has another one of her histrionic fits (similar to “What is an A.P.B.?” from, um, you know, somewhere near the start of season five), this time directed towards her doting and loving family. See, she comes home from a long day at Lotus Point and Sexy Michael is ready to be a perfect son, offering her some coffee or tea or whatever, and Eric and Mack are also there, trying to be nice. Eric suggests they go see a 1986 movie and then Sexy Michael says how they can go for Chinese food afterwards. Mack agrees with this plan and then, very abruptly, Karen starts yelling, screaming, “For God’s sake, can’t you just let me be miserable?!” She adds how she had to walk around all day pretending to be happy, “Telling everybody we’re reopening when I don’t even believe it myself.” It’s this line in particular that I found a bit extreme, because Michele, well, she just way overacts in her delivery of this line, her face contorting and expanding and her eyes getting all big and wide. It’s moments like these that make me wish Karen could mellow out a bit and be more like her fabulous seasons-one-through-four self. She didn’t used to have histrionic fits quite so often, but it seems to happen rather frequently nowadays. To be clear, I understand why Karen is stressed and I don’t judge her for being stressed, but I just found Michele’s acting in this scene to be a bit much and I could have lived without the yelling (also I think I'm still dealing with a hangover from "DAMN YOU, PAUL GALVESTON!").
The only other story Karen-related this ep is that she, um, disappears. This sets the stage for our next episode, in which we reveal that she’s been kidnapped. In my brain, Karen didn’t vanish until that season finale, but it actually happens here. See, she’s lying in bed one morning, being kinda mopey, and Mack is on his way off to work. He says how she owes him a lunch since she didn’t show up for breakfast, and he says how they’ll meet at one o clock at the beach. By the way, a random sidenote, but I like the way Karen smiles and says, “Okay,” to Mack’s request; it’s a sweet moment of love between the two characters. The problem is that when lunchtime comes, Karen is nowhere to be seen. Honestly, I didn’t connect the dots in my head and I assumed that Mack and her would have some confrontation later about how she forgot to show up, but that’s not so, because she’s been kidnapped. Is it a spoiler to say that Karen’s been kidnapped? We don’t get that reveal in this exact ep, so perhaps I am spoiling things, but we find out she’s been kidnapped in the next ep, so it’s not like we have to wait that long to find out. Also, let’s be real, even though I try to keep these essays spoiler-free, if you’re sitting down and reading all of these, you’re probably already a fan and have seen every ep, no? Leave me a comment if I’m wrong, which hopefully I am. It would be killer if I found out someone really was watching each ep one by one and then reading my essays after watching the eps. If someone like this is out in the universe and I just spoiled the fact that Karen’s been kidnapped, well, I’m sorry about that.
The affair between Ben and Cathy only intensifies in this ep. First, we see Val and Lilimae sitting at home together and watching the press conference from earlier. When Val sees the part where one reporter asks Abs about why Ben’s twins are getting a big chunk of the land or whatever, she’s all like, “Oh crap, I’d better call Ben,” but there’s no answer at the station. Next, we cut to Ben watching Cathy as she listens to audio of herself singing Words, a song we’ve heard her sing once before, somewhere in season six. Can I just say Ben looks really and truly miserable here? The scene starts with him facing up towards the sky, his eyes closed, his face solemn. This is a man who just does not know what to do with his current situation, and I do feel sorry for him. From here, we cut to a quick other scene, but then we return to Ben and see that he’s at The Plant House, visiting Cathy as she prepares for her tour. She’s packing her bags up and getting ready when Ben asks her if she’s found a new manager for the tour (oh yeah, she fired the asshole manager from our prior ep, in case I forgot to mention that) and then he volunteers for the role, saying, “I guess I’d be the best man for the job.”
Cathy’s reaction here is very sweet, as she cheers and says, “Oh Ben, that would be so great,” clearly very excited about it, and then she throws her arms around Ben in a big embrace right before we go to commercial. As I keep saying, I don’t condemn either of these characters for having an affair, and I especially think that Cathy’s behavior here shows that she’s infatuated with Ben in a special way, not just trying to steal him away from Val to be wicked. Cathy needs someone like Ben to treat her well and make her feel special and the two clearly bring out a fun side in each other. I can remember a scene from earlier in this season (I think it was somewhere near the start of the season, when Joshua was still alive) in which Cathy and Ben played the organ together and acted silly at the station, and I think that’s a good way to be. However, I think we can all clearly see from Ben’s pain-filled face that the man is wracked with guilt. That’s because he is a good person and he knows he’s doing a bad thing and being dishonest with his wife. I imagine he’s wrestling with his own confusion, wondering if he loves Val or if he loves Cathy, or perhaps if he loves both, maybe trying to figure out which one he loves more.
There’s an interesting scene near the midway point of the ep in which Lilimae pays a visit to The Plant House to speak with Cathy. Now, at first I thought this was going to play out differently. At first, I thought Lilimae was just casually stopping by The Plant House for whatever reason and that she would be shocked to walk in on Ben and Cathy in the middle of a shag, but it turns out that Lilimae knows more than she lets on and she’s coming to tell Cathy that she's aware of what’s going on. Actually, Lilimae starts off by being somewhat discreet about things, basically telling Cathy she knows what’s going on without telling her she knows what’s going on. For instance, she brings up the subject of Ben going on tour with Cathy and says, “I’m sure he decided in a moment of passion when he was disturbed about something else or just not thinking clearly.” See what I mean? It’s that “moment of passion” line that really sticks out to me, and I noticed a subtle detail in Julie Harris’ acting here in which she says, “I’m sure he decided in a…” and then there’s a very small pause, almost unnoticeable, before she says, “moment of passion.” I wonder if that small pause is Lilimae debating with herself whether to use a phrase as obvious as that one.
She starts to speak much more candidly a second later, saying, “This tour of yours is going to take him away from Valene; it could ruin their life together.” Cathy says how she isn’t trying to ruin anybody’s life, but that this is Ben’s decision, and then things get rather heated when Lilimae starts sorta shaking her and says, “It’s not; you don’t realize what you’re doing,” and then she slaps Cathy. This slap is a little odd, seeming to lack a certain something. By this point in the saga, we have seen a lot of slaps but the two most memorable ones for me are Richard slapping Laura in Best Intentions and Eric slapping Diana in, um, the episode where Eric slapped Diana. This slap isn’t up there with either of those, mostly because it’s shot in kind of a strange way, to the point that I didn’t realize Lilimae had slapped Cathy until My Beloved Grammy said so, at which point I rewound a few seconds so I could watch it again. After the slap, we get some great acting from Julie in a tight facial closeup as Lilimae says, “Those are two good people, and they’ve been good to you and me. I’m sure when you think this through, you’ll know what to do,” and with that, she walks off. I really liked this scene and thought it was a highlight of this ep. I think this mostly has to do with the fact that I believe Lilimae and Cathy are the two least-serviced characters at this point, the ones who aren’t getting too much of anything to do. Therefore, I am pleased to see a good, juicy scene of conflict between the two and I think both actresses play the scene well. Also, we only have one more ep with Cathy in it and then she’s gone forever, so I think I’m just trying to appreciate her for as long as she’s around.
Meanwhile, as far as Gary and Val are concerned, we have a lovely scene between the two soulmates when Gary pays a visit to Val’s house and announces that he’s going to take back his gift to the twins. At first, Val is all shocked, but then Gary explains how this was an example of “the proverbial road of good intentions,” that he was giving the twins something for them, but it was also something for him, and he adds, “You know how I feel about them, no matter what you say.” He says how this whole business must be awkward for Ben, that he’s sorry about it, and then Val says, “We know that you wanted to do something special for the twins, and we will always be grateful for that.” Obviously simply writing down the dialogue and a description of the scene can’t do it justice, but suffice it to say that love is in the air, that love is positively dripping from the walls as Gary and Val talk. Looming in the background, ever watchful and full of knowledge, is Lilimae. Now, how are we to take Lilimae’s face at the conclusion of this scene? When Gary first arrives at the house, Lilimae seems genuinely happy to see him and says, “What a nice surprise,” but here she doesn’t look so happy. Does Lilimae want Gary and Val to get back together or is she purely a Val and Ben shipper? She talked a lot of shit about Gary all throughout the fourth season, but ever since season five, she has seemed to be quite the Gary Ewing fan, so it’s confusing to me.
One last thing that’s confusing to me is whether or not Gary takes the gift back. The scene concludes with Val saying, “We know you wanted to do something special,” and Bob Loblaw, but we don’t have an actual line of dialogue where she’s like, “Okay, Gary, you can take the gift back, no problem!” However, I’m fairly certain that Gary does retract the gift, because the next time we catch up with him, he’s meeting with Peter and Greg in Greg’s big skyrise office building (all while Greg enjoys Cigar #16 on the Sumner Cigar Counter) and declaring to them that “Empire Valley is all yours, lock, stock, and toxic barrel.” By the way, both My Beloved Grammy and myself really enjoyed that “toxic barrel” detail and we both laughed aloud at it, showing that there’s a fine and subtle wit infused into so very much of the KL writing. Anyway, this is an important little scene because not only does Gary sell Empire Valley to Greg, but he also learns that Peter is Greg’s brother, or at least Greg says he’s his brother. Can we all agree that Greg does not actually believe this at all? Greg is up to something duplicitous and, whatever his plan is, it’s important that he have Peter and everyone else believing that he accepts Peter as his brother.
That pretty much does it for our main cast, but Thicker Than Water is a real important ep in the grand KL scheme of things because it introduces us to a new character who will be very important to the series for the entire second half of its run. About halfway through the ep, we see Mack’s secretary, Peggy, answering calls at the office when in walks a beautiful young blonde girl with a short haircut that I don’t particularly love, even though I usually love short hair on the ladies. Anyway, this mysterious blonde asks Peggy where Mack is and when he’ll be back and so on and so forth. She tells Peggy she has personal business with Mack and that her name is Paige Matheson, and that’s how we meet, um, Paige Matheson.
Who is this person? What business could she have with Mack? It did not take My Beloved Grammy long to figure out this one, yet again demonstrating her eerie ability to predict plot points two seconds before they kick into action, because as soon as Paige left the office, My Beloved Grammy said, “She’s Mack’s long lost daughter, isn’t she?” and I just admitted, “Yeah.” I might have held off revealing this spoiler if I didn’t know that Paige herself would reveal it in the closing seconds of this ep. Next time we see her, she’s stopping off at the Fairgate MacKenzie house and meeting Sexy Michael for the first time. Ugh, how fucking hot and dripping with male sexuality is Sexy Michael right here? He’s wearing this sorta purple shirt with the top buttons undone, showing off some chest, making me want to just push my hand through the television set so that I can squeeze his almost-certainly-hard-as-a-rock muscles. When he first lays eyes on Paige, you can actually hear his penis stiffening up at the same time that his eyes bug out and he acts all funny and awkward. I can’t blame the guy, because Paige is looking very fine right here, aside from the bad haircut, and if I was into chicks, I would most definitely be into her. My future husband, Pat Petersen, plays the scene very well, cute and awkward and realistic, and I remind you that, in addition to being very possibly the sexiest man ever sculpted by God’s omnipotent hands, Pat is also an underrated actor. It’s not like he’s dealing with anything super complex or emotional right here, but in this simple scene of a boy infatuated with a new girl, he is perfect and I believe him to be smitten. Oh yeah, and we also get another good example of wit infused into the script when Sexy Michael offers a juice or soda to Paige and she says, “No, I’m fine,” and then Sexy Michael whispers to himself, “You sure are.” Cut to a little later that night when Mack is arriving home. We begin the scene with Eric and Sexy Michael positively fawning over this new lady who has suddenly arrived in their lives, a very cute image. Then Mack comes home and Paige really doesn’t waste any time getting to business, as she states, “I’m your daughter.” Yikes, you’d think she’d at least give Mack a chance to sit down before dropping that bomb on him, but whatever, she doesn’t, and this shocking revelation is how we end the penultimate episode of the season.
I always get rather excited when we meet new characters who are going to be very important to the rest of the series, and that’s how I’m feeling right here. Paige is played by Nicollette Sheridan and she will wind up appearing in the next seven seasons of the show, spending seasons eight and nine as a guest star (with enough storylines to justify just being a cast member) before being bumped to main cast member status for the last five years of the show. According to IMDb, which of course can often be slightly off because of those “Credit Only” listings, she will be in 181 eps of the series when all is said and done, which accounts for more than fifty percent of the series. It’s rather strange to think that here we are, getting finished up with season seven, discussing the 159th episode of the series, and this new character that we’ve never seen before will actually wind up being in more eps than we’ve even watched up to this point. Pretty amazing when you think about it, no? Anyway, I remember just loving the character of Paige and thinking she was a highlight of the series, although I understand that some fans disagree. We have already seen me change a few of my opinions as I’ve made my way through the series again, so perhaps I won’t be as enthused with Paige as I was upon first viewing? I think the problem that fans have with her is that they feel she comes into the series and immediately starts getting too much attention, taking the stories away from our seasoned veterans. I can see their point, but I don’t remember it bothering me since I found the character interesting and played well by Nicollette.
That’s about all I have to say about Thicker Than Water. As I’ve been saying for most of the eps at this point in the season, this one was good but not great. Much like the eps before, I found this one very watchable and with plenty of good qualities and things to talk about, but still lacking a bit in punch. I guess I feel like things should seem a little more exciting considering we are now coming to the season finale. While the three previous seasons all built to a fantastic cliffhanger that I could believe had been planned out way in advance, before the seasons even got rolling, I’m not getting that same feeling here. Actually, the feeling I’m getting at this point is that we are about to go through a change, that we are meeting a new character, Paige, but we are also gonna say goodbye to an old one, Cathy. I kinda feel like the season is just going to sorta end and then we will start fresh with season eight; what do you guys think?
In any case, we’re not quite done yet. Coming up next, we have our season seven finale, The Longest Night.