Episode Title: A Change of Heart
Season 07, Episode 27
Episode 157 of 344
Written by Parke Perine
Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan
Original Airdate: Thursday, April 17th, 1986
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Greg takes Laura to Las Vegas to get married at the Wedding Chapel of Joy. She's reluctant, but he tells her how much he loves and needs her. Later, Karen and Abby ask Laura if there's anything she can do to get Greg to help with the cleanup of Lotus Point, and Laura remarks that a wife should have some influence over her husband. Abby's taken aback. Laura asks Greg to clean up Empire Valley for her wedding present. Greg tells Karen he will clean up Empire Valley in four months if she will get him all of Empire Valley back, or she can kiss Lotus Point goodbye. Eric comes home from the hospital. Jill again tells Peter that she wants out, and that she doesn't care about Empire Valley anymore, she just wants to stop lying to Gary. Ben and Cathy sleep together. Cathy tells Ben she doesn't want to leave him. Ben feels guilty, but Cathy says he should let himself feel happiness instead of always putting other's first. Val invites Cathy over for a good-bye dinner.
Welcome back for another fun filled episode of KL. I immediately have two things to note about this particular episode we’re discussing today, starting with the title. This is actually the second time we’ve had a KL ep with this title; our first Change of Heart (click on that title to read my thoughts on that one) was back in season five, right at the peak of all the Chip Roberts drama after Lilimae had hit him with the car. I’m fairly certain that this isn’t the only time we’ll see an ep title being reused a few years later, although at the moment, I can’t really remember what they might be. The second thing to note about this ep is that it starts with one of those longer recaps narrated by that cheesy narrator guy, so instead of our usual thirty second preview, we start with the narrator saying, “In Knots Landing,” and then giving us a summation of what’s been going on, all very corny and old fashioned, which I enjoy. I always wonder why they choose to do this style of beginning for certain random eps; I don’t think we’ve had a recap in this style since near the start of season six. When I first saw this, I assumed that there was a big gap between this ep and our prior one and the powers that be were just hoping to keep everyone caught up, but then I did some checking and it looks like this just aired one week after the last one, so I dunno. Anyone have any ideas? Anyone have a preference? Would you rather see your thirty second preview or would you rather see footage from the previous ep narrated by the cheesy narrator guy, saying things like, “Meanwhile, were Ben and Val drifting apart?”
About two eps ago, we had the brilliant exchange between Greg and Laura in which he asked if she’d like to get married and she answered, “I appreciate the offer and I’ll seriously consider it.” In A Change of Heart, Greg finally manages to convince Laura once and for all that they are meant to be married, and I wanna start out by talking about that plot point. All of these proceedings unfold in a gloriously KL way, very grounded and down to earth and quick. There’s no corny scene of Greg making some big, bold romantic gesture to Laura, begging for her hand in marriage, nothing like that, but instead a fabulously, let us say, almost businesslike arrangement of their love for eachother. We start off with a nice little scene of Greg and Laura playing with Daniel on Laura’s back patio, and then as Laura sends Daniel off to bed, Greg says they should take a trip tomorrow. When Laura points out how there’s a lot going on at Lotus Point and Empire Valley, Greg says, “I think that they can get along without us for a couple of days,” which kinda doesn’t make sense since Greg and Laura only wind up being gone for a couple of hours, but whatever. Greg also tells Laura that he’ll “pick out a nice dress for you; you never know who you might run into,” and when she asks him where they’re going, he stays mum, only telling her that it’s a surprise. Through this scene, Greg is wearing his glasses, and I’d like to take a moment to note how much I like Greg’s look whenever he’s wearing his glasses. This viewing of the series is really showing me that Greg Sumner is very sexy and charismatic, and an impressive part of that sexy charisma is his ability to look good in any attire, even a pair of glasses that are kinda made for old square white guys.
A little while later, we cut and, boom, we’re in Las Vegas. Of course, when I say, “In Las Vegas,” I mean we see a few quick stock shots of old Vegas hotels, just like previous eps when characters have gone to Vegas. In fact, now that I think about it, disappearing to Vegas is kinda ingrained inside the core fabric of this series, because when you go back through the old eps, we have had Karen tracking down the evil Dr. Ackerman in Vegas in season six, we have had Karen and Mack running off to Vegas to elope in season four, we have had Lilimae and Jackson Mobley (remember him?) taking Lilimae’s autoharp to Vegas in season three, and then, I remind you, we had Bobby and Pam Ewing going to Vegas in the very first Brief Dallas Interlude and that was how they ran into (Fake) Gary for the first time and we first got started with this whole epic KL adventure. Perhaps if Bobby and Pam had chosen not to go to Vegas in that Dallas ep from so long ago, we wouldn’t even have a KL series to watch and enjoy at all and life would be completely meaningless and without worth.
I always like to try and spot the hotels that we see in the Vegas stock footage, and we get a few in this instance, starting with The Las Vegas Club. Now, I’ve been to Vegas many times and don’t recall ever seeing a Las Vegas Club, but according to Wikipedia as I’m typing this, the club was opened in 1930 and only shut its doors in the middle of 2015, not all too long ago. So, at this moment, there is no Las Vegas Club, but apparently it has now got new owners who are considering revamping and remodeling it. Right next to this hotel, we have the classic Golden Goose and, well, that’s about it, cuz then we cut to inside of Greg and Laura’s limo as he convinces her to marry him. Laura is nervous as we start the scene and asks Greg to explain why he picked this exact random moment for them to get married. Greg says, “You want me to straighten out my life, I want to make an honest man out of myself,” which is a great line that made My Beloved Grammy laugh. He adds, “I do love you, and you want me to be a mover and a shaker, so I think you’d better step up to that and keep me moving and shaking. I love you and I think I fail to tell you I need you, and that’s probably the strongest drive of all.” See how fantastically honest Greg is in this moment? In a way, his lack of gushiness towards Laura makes all of this only more touching, because he’s being honest about his emotions in a very direct way. Oh yeah, and he finishes up with a bit of humor that I hope was improvised by Devane in which he says, “By the way, did I fail to mention my winning smile?” Laura is convinced and the two step out of the limo and head into The Wedding Chapel of Joy.
My only problem with this development? We don’t get to actually see the wedding, and that bugged me and it also bugged My Beloved Grammy. Thinking back over all the weddings we’ve had on the series, I’m pretty sure that we’ve always been allowed to physically see them take place, jumping all the way back to our fourth Brief Dallas Interlude, Return Engagements, in which Gary and Val tied the knot for the second time and Miss Ellie gifted them with their own TV show. Since that fateful day that launched us off into this great television adventure, I’m fairly certain that we’ve seen four weddings on the series up to this point, though please write in to correct me if my number is off. We saw Karen and Mack get married (in Vegas, of course) in To Have and to Hold, and then we saw Gary and Abs get married at Westfork in Sacred Vows, followed by Joshua and Cathy in For Better, For Worse, and then Val and Ben earlier this season in Pictures at a Wedding, and then that brings us up to date with Greg and Laura here. All four of those previous weddings we got to witness, but Greg and Laura don’t get the same courtesy, which bugs me. I suppose you could say our not seeing their wedding ceremony is in keeping with the whole style of how Greg and Laura have chosen to get married, which is quickly and quietly. On the other hand, I think this also demonstrates a problem that I have with the way the writers handle Laura’s character at this point in the series, a problem that started either in season five or six, and that is that as much as I love Laura and the way Constance plays her, she is often put on the sidelines while other characters get the majority of the focus. Laura at this point exists more to be a part of Greg’s story, whereas I feel she got more of her own, independent stories to work with back in the first four seasons.
Laura and Greg do not even bother to enjoy one night of a honeymoon together, instead choosing to return to California later that same day. Yikes, talk about rushed, right? It’s a busy day when you wake up, fly from California to Vegas, get married, and then immediately fly back to California in order to go to work and deal with toxic waste buried under the ground and all that good stuff. Anyway, Laura returns to Lotus Point just as Abs and Karen continue to bicker over how to handle the pollution. In case I didn’t mention it last ep (I didn’t), it was revealed that Galveston Industries actually buried that toxic waste in sealed, lined containers, so it wasn’t leaking into the ground until Gary chose to blow up all of Empire Valley in All’s Well. Now we’ve got a bit of a moral quandary to deal with; after all, who is truly responsible for this pollution? The toxic waste wouldn’t have even been there in the first place were it not for Greg Sumner’s father, but the barrels would not have exploded and started leaking pollution were it not for Gary, yet at the same time, Gary was only blowing up Empire Valley after Greg allowed it to get so out of hand with James Bond villains and secret lairs and evil British people running around, causing trouble. Gary just did what he had to do in order to get rid of all those problems.
When Laura returns to Lotus Point, she drops the news of her marriage in the most fabulous way possible. See, Abs and Karen are talking about how they need Greg’s help with paying for the cleanup and asking if Laura can do something about that. To this, Laura answers, “I’ll do my best to see that he does; after all, a wife should have some influence on her husband, right?” This is a great little moment as we get to see the reaction of both Karen and Abs. Karen gives her best wishes and Abs says, “Congratulations,” but she says it somewhat through gritted teeth, which made me smile, and then when Laura says, “Thanks,” do I detect a certain something in her tone? Flashing way back to the early days of the series and Abby’s first arrival on the cul-de-sac, we should all remember how she went after Richard, Laura’s first husband. Is Laura now boasting a bit to Abs because she has married the man that Abs clearly finds so charming and sexy? Do you think perhaps Abs was even thinking of trying to woo Sumner now that her and Gary are splitting up? Instead of going along with that plan, she instead has to watch Laura and Greg get married and realize that, yes, they are really and truly in love. I like to imagine that Laura is getting some smug satisfaction out of all this.
Even though Abs can be wicked and duplicitous, she’s on a roll lately when it comes to expressing honest emotion at unexpected times. Near the start of the ep, she has a little meeting with Gary in which she says that perhaps they should slow down the divorce proceedings for a little while; wait until all the Empire Valley problems are cleared up before they start splitting up assets and all that stuff. When Gary shrewdly asks, “What’s in it for you?”, Abs at first is like, “Oh, nothing,” but then she sighs and admits, “If you want the truth, I’m scared.” I love Gary’s face when she tells him this, because he just looks sorta disbelieving and even amused. Abs tells him, “In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve had a few things to be scared about lately. I made a bargain for some land that turned out to be totally polluted. I’m getting divorced. Lotus Point is all I have; I don’t want to lose it.” Now, on paper this might just sound like the usual Abs web of lies, precisely calculated in just such a way as to get her whatever she most desires, but I don’t see it that way. Based on how the scene plays out and based on Donna’s acting, I think Abs is being honest here in much the same way she was honest last ep, reflecting on the death of her brother and how much she misses him.
The only other thing Abs related this ep is a rather bizarre scene between her and Olivia. We begin this scene in an abrupt way, with Olivia just screaming and thrashing around in her bed. Abs comes rushing in and there’s a big hug and Olivia keeps crying and all that for a little while. She explains to Abs that she just had a horrible nightmare involving her, um, teddy bear. Hmmm, okay, a little strange for a fifteen year old girl to be having a dream about her teddy bear, but let’s hear her out. She says how the dream was about people (“everybody”) destroying her teddy bear and tearing him apart, that she tried to scream and yell at them to stop, but nobody would listen. At first, I was going to write about how I fail to see what the point of this scene was, but after doing some double checking and watching the scene again, I noted the line of dialogue where Olivia says, “And Gary was on the couch, just watching; he didn’t do anything, he just watched.” Now I think this scene is really about Olivia’s life being thrown into turmoil thanks to the impending divorce, as well as probably her problems with drugs. Honestly, at this exact point, I’m not sure if Olivia is using drugs. Not to get into spoiler territory, but her drug problems come back in a big way somewhere in the eighth season, but I don’t know if we are currently witnessing her in an in-between stage or not. Anyway, even if I’m able to find something to talk about regarding this scene, I didn’t love it and it’s probably the second worst moment of the ep (we’ll discuss the number one worst moment shortly), mostly because it seems tonally weird for the Olivia we are currently watching. This scene really feels like something that should be in season two or three, when Olivia was just a little girl. Now she’s a bit too old for this sort of thing, but whatever, it’s still not a terrible scene, just kind of a weird one that comes rather out of the blue in the context of this particular ep.
Meanwhile, Karen is still hard at work trying to figure out exactly how to handle this pollution business. A lot of her footage this ep is basically her and other characters wrestling with the decision of how to deal with the cleanup. The fact that so much time is devoted to this whole environmental spill story might come off as boring to some people, but I actually like it, mostly because I’m pleased to see environmental consciousness on the series. This relates more to my own terror and panic over current world affairs and certain “Presidents” who clearly have no regard for our environment or for protecting the planet. It’s rather sad to watch this episode of television from 1986 and see more environmental consciousness here than you see from your current “President” or his creepy collection of white supremacist and Neo Nazi advisors and confidantes. As we were watching this ep and characters were talking about the environment and calling the EPA for help, I said to My Beloved Grammy, “At least they still had an EPA in 1986.”
Karen’s quest for a solution leads us directly into the worst scene of the ep, a scene all KL fans should remember vividly and immediately start peeing their pants with laugher as soon as they remember it. Oh dear, what a bad scene this is, a scene that goes down like an absolute lead balloon. The badness actually starts in the scene right before this scene, in which Eric triumphantly returns to the Fairgate/MacKenzie house healthy as a horse while really loud piano music plays dramatically on the soundtrack. This scene has no dialogue; instead, Karen gives Eric a big hug and then we dissolve right to her walking around Empire Valley or Lotus Point or, you know, wherever the hell she’s walking (honestly, I find the geography of the exact locations for Lotus Point and Empire Valley to be rather confusing and I’ve kinda stopped trying to figure it out), wearing a red dress, shot in a closeup. Then we cut real fast to a shot of the lake, the source of all this poison, and then back to Karen in her closeup, at which point she shouts, “DAMN YOU, PAUL GALVESTON!” and the camera does a super quick zoomout and it’s just all kinds of bad. Seriously, what were they thinking with this scene? How did Michele manage to film this scene without getting violently ill? When they were filming this, do you think everyone was like, “Oh yes, this is gonna be a really good dramatic moment and Michele will finally get her Emmy”? Obviously that’s not the case, because this scene is a joke, although its camp merits are high enough for me to still enjoy it. This gets to join the ranks of such KL camp classic scenes as “IT’S TEA!” and “WE’RE RUINING LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVES!”
Karen’s absurd moment of damnation for Mr. Galveston leads her to an eventual decision to do business with Greg Sumner, um, I think. Honestly, I found this scene (the last one of the ep) a little hard to follow, but I’ll give it a shot now. Basically, Greg says how it would take two and a half years to clean up Lotus Point with the help of the EPA, and that’s “without litigation.” Then he announces that he can personally clean it all up within four months, using all of his influence with Galveston Industries to call in whatever favors are necessary. Then he reveals, “I want Empire Valley. Your job is to get it for me. Of course, I’d like it at a reduced price, let’s say fifty cents on the dollar.” When Karen asks, “Why would I do anything to help you win?”, Greg answers, “Get me Empire Valley or you can kiss Lotus Point goodbye,” and yes, obviously he is sucking on a cigar while he makes this bold statement, meaning we are now at Cigar #15 on The Sumner Cigar Counter.
This is an interesting scene to end the ep, and after rewatching the scene and now writing about it, I think I understand it better. It’s scenes like this that keep Greg Sumner so interesting to watch. In a way, what keeps him interesting is sorta the influx of what keeps Abs interesting. Abs is, for the majority of the time, wicked and up to no good, but then occasionally she’ll let her human side show and we realize how complex she truly is. With Greg, he’s generally charming and charismatic and funny, sorta taking the piss out of everyone around him, being witty and making his jokes, not an evil person, but then every now and then he’ll pull a move like this one, which is straight out of the playbook of either J.R. or Abs or both (and I'm willing to bet this type of ep ending was a big David Paulsen influence, as this feels like it would be right at home as the ending of any given Dallas ep). Every now and then, we’ll see how calculating he can truly be, and this is one of those moments. It’s almost like sometimes Greg is our hero and sometimes he’s our villain, but even saying it that way doesn’t seem to do justice to the intricacies and complexities of this fabulous character.
That’s the way we end the ep, but there’s still one more plot point worth discussing, and that’s the affair between Ben and Cathy. Yes, indeed, the two have finally shagged, an event that’s been a long time coming, an event that I’ve seen coming since the last few hours of season six. I repeat that this is a storyline that most fans seem to hate, but at the moment I think I’m okay with it. Some people just really hate adultery storylines; you ever notice that? My Beloved Grammy has already expressed that she wishes the show would have “a little less adultery,” although I fear her wish will never completely come true as adultery and affairs are just part of the series’ soul. I think this is because I go easier on people having affairs than a lot of other people do. I’ve just never felt as harshly judgmental about cheating because I think we are all people and we are all sexual and it’s very difficult to be 100% monogamous with one person. I also understand and sympathize with Ben, who feels like he doesn’t have a full spot in Val’s heart, and Cathy, who I imagine is feeling confused about nearly every decision she’s ever made.
In this ep, Val invites Cathy over for a nice dinner as a way of saying goodbye to her before she goes off on tour. However, Cathy finds a moment to corner Ben in a hallway when he’s all by himself and tell him, “Maybe instead of this being a farewell dinner, it should be a postponement dinner.” See, now that she and Ben have had a shag, she’s thinking maybe she doesn’t want to run off on tour after all; maybe she’d rather stay around and keep shagging Ben. It seemed to be this particular development that bothered My Beloved Grammy the most; she thought it was rather shameful for Cathy to accept Val’s dinner invite while she’s shagging Val’s husband in secret. Again, I just don’t feel so judgmental. I think Cathy is desiring to be with a nice person like Ben after years of abuse at the hands of different men (let’s not forget the freckled Ray from back in season five) and Ben is the first man to truly treat her well and act like he cares about her. Is it kinda bad form to be trying to steal your friend’s husband at the same time that your friend is inviting you to her home? Yeah, sure, but we all make bad choices and I can understand the wheels turning in Cathy’s head, so I don’t condemn her.
That about does it for this ep. I’m sure I’ve forgotten certain details, such as Peter doing sit-ups shirtless and showing off his ridiculous muscles (he has a nice body but he's no Sexy Michael) or a small scene between Peter and Sylvia near the start of the ep (they’re giving a statement to a lawyer or something like that), but I think I got most of the big developments. This ep was pretty good, although again lacking a certain punch, a problem with pretty much all the eps in season seven at this point. There are only two bad scenes in the ep, one of which is merely bad (Olivia and her teddy bear nightmare) and one of which is so bad that it transcends badness to become some new form of badness never before seen on this earth (“DAMN YOU, PAUL GALVESTON!”). Aside from those two scenes, however, everything else is fairly solid. I’d say my favorite part of this ep is the fact that Greg and Laura get married, a development I’ve been anticipating for quite some time. Now that I’m officially declaring Laura and Greg an even more interesting couple than Laura and Richard, it pleases me to see them finally agree to marry and settle down together. I also liked the focus on the environment, although I remind you that this might have more to do with me bemoaning the current state of our country and less to do with the actual storytelling. Overall, A Change of Heart is a pretty good ep of KL, but not one of its best, and it’s certainly not as good as the other Change of Heart from season five.