Episode Title: His Brother’s Keeper
Season 07, Episode 28
Episode 158 of 344
Written by Bernard Lechowick
Directed by Larry Elikann
Original Airdate: Thursday, May 1st, 1986
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Abby wants Karen to take Greg's deal. Gary and Karen try to figure out a way to clean up Empire Valley themselves. They turn to the EPA, Senator Henderson, and even try to get a loan, but nothing works out. Abby tells Gary that Jill's family owned Empire Valley, and that she's only with Gary because she wants Empire Valley back. Later Jill admits to Gary that when she first went out with him, she wanted Empire Valley, but then she fell in love with him. He coolly asks her "Is that it?" Senator Henderson is retiring, and Greg thinks Peter should be the next Senator. The Lotus Point groundskeeper dies of arsenic poisoning, and several people cancel their reservations. Karen decides to close Lotus Point. Val tells Ben that she senses something is wrong, and she'd like to work through it with him. He says he has a lot on his mind. Cathy asks Ben to go on the road with her and be her manager.
When we last left off, Greg was cracking a deal with Karen in which he would be responsible for the entire Lotus Point situation on one condition, that he would get all of Empire Valley for himself. As we begin His Brother’s Keeper, we see our beloved characters of Gary and Karen and Abs trying to figure out whether to take this deal or not. Abs is in strong favor of taking whatever deal Sumner is offering, pointing out to Karen that “he’s offering us a way out,” but Karen is suspicious of his intentions and says she doesn’t trust him. In lieu of doing business with him, Gary and Karen instead meet with some old, generic looking white guy that nobody could ever pick out of a lineup, and learn about how many other responsibilities the EPA has on its hands right now, something like 3,500 different locations that they need to work with. Really random thing to note, but the scene begins with a stock shot of a huge skyscraper and then the camera zooms into a closeup of one of the windows. Am I mistaken to say that I’m quite certain this same stock shot was used over and over again on Dallas? In fact, wasn’t this shot used for transitions that would take us into the Ewing Oil offices? Have those offices now morphed into a lawyer’s office located in California? Or am I just crazy for being convinced that this is the same shot? Someone even more nerdy and obsessive about these details oughta write in and tell me if I am correct or not.
Okay, so the white guy is pretty much useless, but as Karen and Gary prepare to vacate his office, he suggests that they take their problem to state senator Billie Henderson, who chairs the committee on environmental protection and is a friend of Mack’s. All this stuff is presented to us viewers in a delightfully clever and well edited way, courtesy of my favorite KL director, Larry Elikann (more on him later). See, we have a scene of crosscutting between Karen, Gary, and the white guy along with Abs talking to some lady about the pollution. The crosscutting reveals all sets of characters coming to the same conclusion, that Senator Henderson is the man to help them, but then we cut to Greg and Henderson together, getting some roadside hot dogs and taking a walk. We learn that Greg has a relationship with this senator going back years, and now he requests that Henderson join his side and help him out as a consultant for the big cleanup. When Henderson says how there’s no way he could be a consultant, Greg pulls an Abs-type move by smoothly blackmailing the senator, hardly even batting an eye as he does it. When Henderson says, “I don’t want to leave the state senate,” Greg immediately whips out a yellow envelope and announces, “In that case, I think you should read this; it’s about your daughter.” He adds how the information in the envelope is just between the two of them, encourages him to read it over, and finishes with, “We could use a good man like you,” before walking away. See, now that’s how you do a bribery, remaining cool as a cucumber and keeping your language friendly and non-confrontational. Poor Henderson looks rather put off and surprised by this revelation, and I think we all know what decision he’s going to make very shortly.
We are seeing a darker side to Greg’s character at this time, a side that is able to blackmail senators with all the ease of going down to the market for a quart of milk. Because of the consistently brilliant way that Devane brings this character to life, I never have any problems with him alternating between likable and even heroic to lying and duplicitous. I wish I was a more skilled writer and could properly explain how all these intricacies come together to keep the character so interesting, but for now all I can say is that, no matter what Greg is doing at any given time and how moral or immoral the action might be, I always find him likable and fascinating and that’s totally because of how Devane plays him. Now, while it’s easy for me to forgive Greg this behavior, it might not be so easy for his new wife, Laura, who gets a little peek at her new husband’s ways of conducting business this week when she pays him a visit at his office. Greg answers a call from some governor or other and declares loudly, “It’s a real shame you’ll be losing Senator Henderson!” Laura’s face gets all furrowed as she listens to Greg say, “I want to run the name of a candidate by you; we need someone to fill his seat,” followed by a rather amazing laugh that made me laugh myself. Obviously Greg is forcing Henderson out of his senate seat not just to help them clean up the pollution, but also to make room for Peter in the senate, although I am still unsure of Greg’s true motivations for this move; we shall just have to wait and see.
Meanwhile, it’s still a rather sordid state of affairs between Abs, Gary, and J.B. Gary and Abs are in the middle of their divorce, which means Gary should have plenty of time to devote to shagging J.B., but the only problem is that J.B. is being weird and distant, telling Gary, “I love you but I don’t want to be in love with you.” After Abs conveniently overhears Eric and Sexy Michael discussing J.B.’s past at a Lotus Point meeting (a scene that is very contrived, but which I’ll forgive since it keeps the story moving), she realizes the truth about why J.B. got involved with Gary in the first place. With this new information, Abs goes to work trying to destroy this burgeoning relationship, and I have to say she does a fine job of it. Sometimes, I think Abby’s most subtle manipulations are also her best ones, because in this case, she tells Gary how, “I guess I’m the only one who thinks you should sell to Sumner,” and then she adds, “You and Karen and J.B.” When Gary inquires into what exactly J.B. has to do with any of this, Abs is all like, “You do know that J.B.’s family used to own Empire Valley.” Then she asks Gary is his relationship with J.B. ran “hot and cold” after he announced his divorce and J.B. was unsure of whether he’d retain ownership of Empire Valley. This does a fabulous job of planting ideas in Gary’s head, ideas which pay off for Abby’s intentions of sabotage a little later in the ep.
See, the next scene we see is a little chat between Gary and J.B. in the lobby of the hotel Gary is currently living in. J.B. arrives dressed in yellow and feeling very perky about telling Gary the truth. She starts with, “I’ve been dishonest with you; I haven’t lied to you but I’ve been dishonest with you,” and then she tells him the truth about her family’s claim to Empire Valley. Gary nods curtly and asks, “Is that it?” J.B. adds how “Empire Valley doesn’t interest me anymore; you do,” to which Gary gets even more curt and repeats, “Is that it?” J.B. concludes with an uncomfortable, “Gary, I think I love you,” and we get the third “Is that it?” from Gary, this one delivered through gritted teeth. He walks off, leaving J.B. alone and confused and myself feeling very sorry for her. My love affair with J.B. has only grown as I’ve embarked upon this rewatch. What a fantastically fantastic character played to utter perfection by Teri Austin, and I love the way that she conveys all these different emotions of her character. In this instance, I feel genuinely sorry for her. She arrives at Gary’s hotel eager to tell the truth, hoping to clean the slate, but instead her timing aligns perfectly with Abs planting that little seed of mistrust in Gary’s head, causing him to reject her confession of the truth and, for the time being at least, to reject J.B. altogether.
The whole business about what to do with Lotus Point finally comes to a head in the last scene of this ep, when Eric arrives home and solemnly announces to Karen, “Charlie Lee is dead.” If you’re all scratching your heads and wondering who Charlie Lee is and why we should care about him, the answer is “nobody” and “we shouldn’t.” Charlie Lee is a character we have never seen, at least not so far as I can remember, and we are told he’s the groundskeeper of Lotus Point who has been with them “forever,” although Karen has only owned Lotus Point for a little under two years, so I’m not really sure what “forever” means; have they already lost most of their staff in under 24 months and this Charlie Lee guy is the last of the originals? Anyway, this revelation is not coming completely out of nowhere, as somewhere on our last disk, Karen and Mack were having a lunch and she mentioned him and said how he was sick, and then I think his name came up again in our last ep. Now the character is dead and his death provides the impetus for Karen’s decision to shut down Lotus Point altogether. I support Karen’s decision, which is based in good ethics, but I really wish the writers had killed off a character that the audience could possibly care about. Having a major plot point go down because of the death of a character we have never actually seen on the series seems lazy and bothers me.
Next up on our character roster: Cathy and Ben. The affair is still going strong this week, mostly thanks to a series of misunderstandings. Near the halfway point of the ep, there’s this big meeting at Lotus Point (the same meeting where Abs overhears Eric and Sexy Michael talking while she’s standing at the water cooler) and, for whatever reason, Ben is a little late getting to the meeting and so he’s not around when the meeting concludes and Val needs a ride home. This leads to a grand conversation positively dripping with love between Gary and Val. The gist of the conversation is that Val tells Gary it’s okay with her and Ben if he chooses to sell Empire Valley in order to finance the pollution cleanup, that they won’t be upset if the twins wind up without the claim to the land that Gary gave them back in A Very Special Gift. When Gary says, “I’ve pretty much made a mess out of Empire Valley,” Val is ready to go with some encouraging words, saying, “It’s time someone reminds you that you’ve always done a lot for people; you always have, all your life, in your, well, Gary Ewing way,” and then the two laugh and hold hands and, you guessed it, share a loving embrace. Conveniently, this happens at the exact same moment that Ben comes strolling in, so the first thing he sees upon entrance is his wife in the arms of her ex-husband, the same ex-husband who impregnated her with the babies that Ben is now helping to raise. Can you blame the guy for immediately sneaking off to Cathy’s house to have sexual intercourse with her?
I’m not sure I love how Ben just happens to come walking in at this precise moment, which is a contrivance that seems more at home on Dallas. Basically every episode of Dallas has people conveniently bumping into each other at fancy restaurants or in hotels or wherever, all to keep the drama and plots moving along, and that’s how this felt to me. Perhaps I’m glamorizing the way events unfold on KL and perhaps we’ve actually seen this device used many times before, but if so, I’m not remembering it. I don’t know exactly how I would have written this to play out, but I know that I would try to avoid the “one character comes walking in at precisely the wrong moment” plot device that I usually have a problem with.
In addition to Ben and Cathy enjoying another late night shag together, we also get to see Cathy at a big photo shoot, her fabulous ‘80s hair bigger than ever, some amazing generic ‘80s music playing on the soundtrack. This scene is about as ‘80s as anything I’ve ever seen, and is quite possibly the very last time we ever see Cathy get all adorned in great hair and makeup and wardrobe and pose. We also meet her new manager, a huge asshole named Dominick. Ugh, do the writers never get tired of surrounding Lisa with asshole males who treat her like crap? You all know that I loved absolutely every moment in the storyline between Cathy and Joshua, but that’s a different type of thing. This Dominick character feels more aligned with Buddy Repperton from that stupid storyline of the saxophonist/reporter, a guy shipped in totally out of the blue to be a minor plot complication before being shipped back out. I also think he only exists to make Ben look even more appealing in Cathy’s eyes. After all, Ben is one of the only men in her life who doesn’t degrade her and treat her like constant shit.
That’s about all I have to say for His Brother’s Keeper as far as plot points are concerned, but before ending my analysis of the ep in question, I’d like to take a moment to express my appreciation for Larry Elikann, as this is his final directorial contribution to KL. Mr. Elikann first showed up on the cul-de-sac during season four, when he directed Emergency and The Fatal Blow. Altogether, Elikann contributed his talents to fourteen eps of KL, nearly all of which I would describe as brilliant and classic eps of television, but if I had to pick just one ep to highlight this great director’s talents, it would be the stunning We Gather Together from season six, which is an easy contender for best episode of the entire series. After that, I’d say his best eps include Distant Locations, The Christening, and Until Parted by Death. I feel that Mr. Elikann brought a fabulously unique style to his eps that is still on display here, in his final ep. His most notable contribution would probably be a consistent use of tight facial closeups and his fondness for having one gigantic face in the foreground and a smaller face in the background. That’s just one small example of his style, however, and I feel every ep he directed dripped with style and cinematic camera tricks. I will really miss this director as we move through the second half of the series.
Two eps left to go in the season. Our next is gonna be a big one, as we are introduced to a new character who will wind up being very important to the series all the way until the final episode. With that said, let us turn the PAIGE to our next ep, Thicker Than Water.