Thursday, February 1, 2018

KNOTS LANDING Episode 160 of 344: THE LONGEST NIGHT


Episode Title: The Longest Night

Season 07, Episode 30

Episode 160 of 344

Written by David Paulsen

Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan

Original Airdate: Thursday, May 15th, 1986

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Paige tells Mack she looked him up because her mother died. He invites Paige to stay with them, but she declines. Jill and Gary make up. Val's distraught, and goes to Ben's beach house, where she tears up a picture of Cathy and trashes the place. Lilimae, worried about her, calls Gary. Gary finds Val sitting despondently on the beach. They cry together and then start laughing hysterically. Ben tells Cathy that he can't go with her on tour. She admits that she didn't want to hurt Val, but she's in love with Ben and wasn't thinking straight. Mack is out of his mind with worry about Karen, and has an APB put out to find her. Karen wakes up to find herself locked in a strange basement. She finds a tire iron and attempts to break a window to escape, but a mysterious man comes downstairs and gives her an ominous warning.




Welcome to our season finale, The Longest Night.  This title is a nice bookend to our season premiere that feels so long ago, The Longest Day, providing a certain feeling of circularity to the year.  How well does this ep manage to tie up season seven plotlines while also getting us ready for season eight plotlines?  How does this ep compare to the season finales of the past?  Read on.


We open The Longest Night at the precise second that Thicker Than Water left off, with our new arrival on the cul-de-sac, Paige, standing in front of Mack and declaring, “I’m your daughter.”  We start this ep right there, creating that effect where you can glue two eps together and basically create your own double block of KL brilliance.  Right off the bat, I like how this surprise development is presented, most especially Mack’s reaction.  Instead of getting bug-eyed and freaking out or even perhaps denying the idea that he could even have a daughter, he looks somewhat thoughtfully at Paige and says, “You’re Anne’s daughter.”  From here, we learn that Mack had a relationship with a woman named Anne that ended roughly twenty years ago, when her rich evil parents took her away to Europe without even telling Mack about it.  “One day we were a couple of kids madly in love,” Mack tells his living room audience of Paige, Eric, and Sexy Michael, “The next day she was gone, and nobody told me where.”  I like that Mack’s reaction is not one of shock or denial, but rather a certain awe, almost.  He looks at Paige’s face with fascination and says how there are so many questions he wants to ask her. 




A little later, we catch up with Paige and Sexy Michael sitting on the stairs, a favorite spot for all residents of the cul-de-sac, and talking about Anne and Mack’s great summer romance of 1966 or thereabouts (we will discuss the slightly muddied timeline in a moment).  Paige says how her grandparents hated Mack because of class issues, that Mack was working class and Anne’s parents were rich, awful white people who only liked other rich, awful white people.  As soon as Anne turned up pregnant, her parents whisked her away to Spain and that was the end of that, bringing us nicely up to the present day.  Oh yeah, and Paige also tells Mack that Anne died a year ago and Mack looks sad, but whether or not Paige is telling the truth in this regard is a matter for us to explore next season.

I mention the muddied timeline, so please allow me to elaborate.  The timeline is not muddied up yet, not in this particular episode, but I believe it will be a few seasons down the line.  See, Paige tells Mack that she is nineteen years old, meaning she was born in either 1966 or 1967.  That’s all fine, well, and good, but I’m fairly certain, based on my memory and some reading I did on a forum, that Paige gets a smidge of SORAS a few years later and is suddenly presented as a 26-year-old college graduate.  Am I crazy or does this actually occur?  It’s somewhere in 1989 that we learn that she’s 26, which would retcon her age right here in 1986 to be 23, even though she says she’s nineteen.  This irks me, mostly because I appreciate how ages and timelines on KL usually make sense and follow a logical timeline, how Olivia, for instance, is introduced as a nine year old girl in season two and then we get to watch her all the way until she’s nineteen years old in season eleven, not suffering from any SORAS along the way.  If Paige is introduced onto the series as a nineteen year old, then she should age naturally, one year at a time, like all normal humans, and be 26 years old by the time the series ends in 1993.  Having her rapid age to 26 a few years later just annoys the crap out of me and shows a form of lazy writing I don’t expect from KL, although perhaps it’s misplaced for me to complain about that development now, considering it hasn’t even happened yet.  For all intents and purposes, at the exact moment that we are watching Paige right now, she is nineteen.  I’ll complain more about the SORAS when we reach that juncture.

One last thing to note about this Paige/Sexy Michael scene, and that’s the fact that the scene is positively dripping with sexual tension.  Note that Eric is nowhere to be seen, meaning he probably just got tired and went to bed, but it gives Paige and Sexy Michael some one-on-one time in which they can sit and visit.  Sexy Michael can admire Paige’s blue shirt and weird solo gigantic earring that she has on one ear and Paige can admire Sexy Michael’s purple shirt, slightly exposed chest, super sexy wristwatch, and that amazing tan color that permeates his entire perfect, glistening, twinkish body.  I remember finding pretty much any scene between Paige and Sexy Michael to be sexy, and the same holds true now.  As soon as the two are onscreen together, mmmmmm, it’s just sexy to watch and I immediately want them to shag.  The good news is that, based on my memories at least, we don’t have to wait too long before they start shagging.




Meanwhile, Ben is sad and forlorn and moping around his office at Pacific Cable Whatever.  Ben is doing literally nothing in this scene, just sitting in his chair and being sad, wrestling with his choices, when the phone rings and it’s Cathy.  She asks Ben where he is and reminds him that the bus for the big tour leaves tomorrow morning at 7:30 and that she “hoped we could spend some time alone together before that.”  Ben offers a distant comment about how he’ll be over to see her soon, but he sounds disingenuous.  Watching this scene, as well as a scene from last ep in which Ben left and declared to Val, “I have got to get out of here,” I really do feel like Ben Gibson is on his way out the door forever.  As far as I know, that was the original plan, that both he and Cathy would leave the show together and Val would start season eight the same way she started four, as a newly single woman who’s husband has run off on her with another woman.  I wonder if the writers perhaps realized that this would be far too similar to what had happened on the series already, and that’s why Ben winds up sticking around awhile longer.  Or, perhaps the powers that be simply didn’t want to lose two cast members at the same time, so they convinced Douglas Sheehan to expand his contract for another year.

In any case, we get a lot of scenes of Ben moping around and we get a lot of scenes of Val moping around, creating the sense that her marriage is really about to end, but what winds up happening is that Ben shows up at The Plant House to explain to Cathy why he can’t go on tour with her.  I think this scene goes a long way towards helping both characters retain a certain amount of dignity after committing adultery, because when Ben says he can’t go with her, Cathy says she agrees with him and that she’s glad he said it first.  She explains how she fell in love with Ben, but she never meant to hurt Val, and that’s what they would be doing.  Then Ben tells a story about how, when he was in college, he heard some other kids calling him “S.O.B.” and he thought it sounded cool, only for one of his friends to tell him a little later that it stood for, “Solid Old Ben.”  Fuck, Ben looks so sad when he tells this story, almost as if he’s admitting defeat by conceding that, yes, he is indeed always gonna be Solid Old Ben, that he’ll never have enough son of a bitch in him to be selfish and commit to an affair and run off on his wife.  What I see here is a man wondering if he should be proud of himself for doing the right thing or not.  I imagine Ben is thinking about how he could go back to Val only to discover they’d have the same problems, Gary and Val’s special love for each other, the twins who are a constant reminder of Gary’s interference in Ben’s life, whereas if he went off with Cathy, he’d have the chance at a new life.  Indeed, a few eps back (I think it was in Phoenix Rising after the big party where Abs told everyone the truth about Val’s babies), Ben declared to Val, “I wish we lived somewhere where we knew nobody and nobody knew us,” so the idea has clearly been floating around in his head for awhile.

Anyway, even though Ben and Cathy agree that she should leave without him, this is a moment of colossally bad timing, because just as they embrace for a goodbye hug, who should come running up the beach to witness this hug; why, it’s Val!  How did Val get here?  Well, we’ve all known ever since the first episode that Val has a special religious appreciation for the ocean, so that’s always where she goes when she’s upset about something, and that’s where she goes now.  After she and Lilimae have a nice heart to heart about what to do and Lilimae encourages her to take a little vacation by herself, Val goes to the beach and starts running.  She winds up at Ben’s Plant House, presumably wanting to speak with him, but she gets the wrong idea when she witnesses that hug.  I think I kinda don’t like the way this comes about because it’s contrived in such a way that events have to line up just so for Val to witness this hug.  However, I can still appreciate the nice irony that Val is misunderstanding this hug in the same way that Ben misunderstood the hug between Gary and Val an ep or two back. 




A little later, we cut to Val wandering around The Plant House, which is currently unoccupied.  At first, she’s quiet and just pacing, but then she goes crazy and starts trashing everything, starting with the big “Cathy Geary Rush” poster on the wall, which she tears down and crumples up.  Then she goes to town on basically everything that could be placed on a table, smashing his lamps and his plants and even his TV, really fucking shit up.  The whole time, those shrieking Bernard Hermann violins fill the soundtrack as Val screams and it’s a pretty good little scene.  It’s all done in one shot, which I always appreciate, because you know that if they did a take two, all the props had to get rearranged just perfectly so that Val could smash them yet again.  Also, keeping it all in one shot helps us to stay with Val and feel like we understand her intense anger.  This also brought me immediate flashbacks to two prior scenes of characters trashing a room in order to feel better.  The first is Gary destroying his and Val’s bedroom back in season two’s The Loudest Word when he couldn’t cope with Val’s cancer and the second is Laura trashing the restaurant at Daniel in season four’s Willing Victims when she realized Richard had left town forever.  When comparing the three scenes, I’m not sure which one I like the best, but I think I’ll go with Laura trashing the kitchen, mostly because I liked the way the camera did a slow pan out after she was done, as if allowing her a moment of privacy in her grief. 

Next up, we have a lovely scene between Gary and Val taking place on the beach.  Actually, before this scene, we get a quick one between Lilimae and Gary in the kitchen of Val’s house.  I note this scene because of how chummy these two are looking at this point.  Lilimae is holding Bobby on her knee and Gary is holding Betsy on his, all while he and Lilimae sip tea together and talk about current affairs.  Lilimae says how she thinks Val just needs a moment alone, that she’s not worried about her disappearing to Shula, Tennessee, and then she gets sorta reflective and talks about the time Val did just that and Gary went out there to rescue her, finishing her reflection with, “I guess there are just some people you can count on in this world.”  Gary lets the comment come and go without really acknowledging it, but I noticed it big time and found myself wondering if Lilimae just wants Gary and Val back together at this point.  Let’s say that Ben ran off with Cathy and was gone forever.  What if Gary and Val decided, now that they are both single again, to get remarried?  Would Lilimae be happy?  I think she would, as a matter of fact, and we really have to look no further than this scene and her little comment to prove my point.

“I think I know where she is,” Gary tells Lilimae, and of course he is right, because he immediately finds a very depressed Val sitting on the beach, wrapped in a blanket, looking suicidal.  Note the true love oozing out of every crevice of this scene, by the way, because as soon as Gary sits down and says hello, Val sorta moans his name and then immediately lays her head down on his shoulder.  When Gary says, “Where’s that girl who held me together when I was coming apart?”, Val cries and says, “I don’t know where she is, Gary, I don’t know where she went.”  Gary hugs her and assures her, “She’s right here,” a very sweet and tender scene.  Then Gary gets reflective himself and brings up that “full circle” thing I mentioned awhile ago when he says how they are at the beach and it’s “full circle” because that’s the first place they went when they arrived in California.  Now, maybe I’m way off, but I think Gary is misremembering this development.  I remember the first episode vividly and I remember that Val went to the beach with Karen Allen and Gary was nowhere in sight.  Perhaps she enjoyed frolicking on the beach with Karen Allen so much that she immediately went to Gary and brought him to the same spot?  Yes, I like this little version of events I have just created in my brain, so I’m gonna go ahead and stick to my theory as canon. 




On the Laura/Greg front, they are busy with grooming Peter into the perfect next United States Senator.  We first catch up with them gathered at a fancy restaurant together along with Ned Beatty Lookalike, who is giving Peter tips on he can maintain the perfect look for a senator.  He tells him, “No sunglasses, ever,” and when he learns that Peter doesn’t need glasses, he says he’s gonna order some horn rimmed just to “soften that look.”  Then Peter goes on a speech about how they want to change everything about him, including his walk and his clothes and his diction, and then Greg gives a nice little speech of his own about how Peter’s image is everything and people are going to see him a certain way, as an inexperienced guy trying to use his “dead dad’s dough” for his own means or, you know, something like that.  Honestly, at this point I’m rather confused by this story and not sure why Greg truly wants to help Peter get into the senate.  I imagine this stuff will be further developed in season eight, so for the time being, I don’t really have too much to say about it.




Before I move away from the scene, however, I do want to discuss Ned Beatty Lookalike.  Ned Beatty Lookalike follows me around and always seems to pop up in whatever I might be watching.  Whenever he appears, I inevitably get excited and go, “Look, it’s Ned Beatty,” only to wait a couple of seconds and realize it is, in fact, actually Ned Beatty Lookalike, who’s real name is Patrick Cronin.  This guy has been in five thousand things, starting his career with an appearance on All in the Family in 1977, but I’d say it goes without saying that we all know this guy best for his two appearances on Seinfeld, right?   He played Sid Farkus, the bra salesman, in The Sniffing Accountant and The Doorman.  He is the one with the amazing and immortal line of, “Barring some unforeseen incident,” which I still like to say up to the present day in order to amuse myself.  That’s what immediately jumps to mind when I look at this guy, but it was only after taking a careful look at his IMDb that I also discovered he is a Transmorpher, appearing in a 1990 episode (meaning absolutely nobody in the world is watching) of Dallas entitled, Will Power.  The last thing about Ned Beatty Lookalike that I wish to explore is: In addition to being a Transmorpher, is he also a Tangled Knot?  I ask this question because IMDb credits him with five eps of KL, starting with this one and going through four more eps, all contained in 1986.  However, his credit in this ep is “Jules Posner,” and in the next five appearances, he is “Marty Sweeney.”  Okay, so is he the same character but he just underwent a name change?  Or is he going to morph into a completely different character next season?  I’ll keep my eyes open to find out.




The last plot point to discuss is Karen’s disappearance, which kinda permeates the proceedings of everything else this ep.  While all the other characters are doing their thing and having their adventures, this question of “Where is Karen?” looms in the background.  Now, if I was watching this in real time in 1986, I would probably think Karen wasn’t going to be showing up at all in this ep.  She’s been missing since the ending of our last ep and it’s a good long chunk of minutes before we see her face in this ep, so I would probably assume that Michele was taking the week off and the writers were trying to explain why she was gone.  However, that’s not the case, as 20/20 hindsight vision tells us that Michele shows up for all 344 eps of KL, no matter what, but nobody could predict that way back when.  Anyway, in this ep, we get a lot of the characters worrying about where she is and trying to figure it out, starting out with a scene at Lotus Point in which Eric discovers her car parked in a garage.  The mechanic guy says how Karen was having a problem with her brakes and so she asked him to take a look at it and he gave her a loaner car. 



         By the way, this character of the mechanic comes and goes with no fanfare and I certainly didn’t notice him or think much about him at all, that is until I looked on IMDb and realized the actor playing this mechanic is John DiSanti (pictured above).  Since I can hear everyone reading this blog furrowing their brow and wondering who the hell I’m talking about, I’ll explain that he played a scary rapist serial killer in one of my favorite horror movies, Eyes of a Stranger, a 1981 slasher nobody besides me and my brother ever seem to talk about, but a movie I love intensely.  In that, he’s creepy as shit, but since the actor is just a fat white guy, he often shows up in other small appearances and I won’t even notice because he’s, you know, just a fat white guy and I can't tell them apart.  Anyway, here he is now and I am pleased to see him, even though this teeny tiny role of the mechanic providing exposition is totally microscopic and very easy to miss and nobody besides me would even care.




Anyway, at a certain point in the ep, we cut to Karen lying on the ground in some creepy ass little room that looks like a basement.  She looks beaten and bruised and possibly drugged.  How did Karen get here?  Okay, here we are reaching a point where I kinda remember stuff and I kinda don’t remember stuff.  I remember that Karen gets kidnapped, and I remember the actor who plays the guy who kidnaps her, but I don’t specifically remember why she gets kidnapped or what the motivation of the kidnapper is.  In any case, Karen’s kidnapping sets the stage for our cliffhanger.  The last scene of the ep is her scrambling around this basement, looking for any possible escape.  She’s working on getting a window open when this mysterious stranger enters.  We don’t get to see who he is; all we get to see is his arm and we hear his voice as he says, “I wouldn’t.”  Then Karen screams and the scary music gets scarier, starting to sound like the music from The Shining in the scene where Shelley Duvall finds all of the “All work and no play” papers.  Karen tries to run up the stairs only to find the door is locked, then the voice says, “You want out, Mrs. MacKenzie?” and then we do a freeze frame ending on her horrified face and that’s the end of season seven.  Real fast on Karen’s kidnapper: When we start the next season and get to know him better, we will find him to be a wimpy little nerd played by the guy from Real Genius, and obviously the powers that be didn’t know that quite yet.  The unseen kidnapper from the closing moments of this ep has a totally different voice than the guy we are going to see and hear in the coming eps, but actually the difference isn’t quite so striking as I might have believed.  I used to say that the kidnapper sounds like Darth Vader in this scene, but actually that’s not true; he just sounds calm and stoical.  I’ll try to explore this more when we hit season eight.

So that does it for The Longest Night.  There were great moments in this, but it was also kinda meh.  Seems to be my review of the whole last portion of season seven, doesn’t it?  I find myself unable to properly explain my feelings here, by the way, because I want to make it clear that I still enjoyed watching season seven start to finish, all thirty episodes, but there was just something far less engaging about the later eps, and most especially about the last third of the season.  Even though things are happening that I like and the characters are still super interesting and all that, it just lacks that certain extra something that seasons four, five, and six had down to an exact science.  When we reached the cliffhangers of those seasons, they felt totally earned, like we had spent the entire season leading us to that exact moment and it had all been planned out intricately.  With this cliffhanger, it’s more like, “Well, Karen’s kidnapped now, so tune in next season to find out why.”  I still find it compelling because I want to find out who kidnapped her and why, but it’s not written with the same finely tuned style that our previous season finales have been. 




Okay, so this is a pretty exciting moment because we have now watched seven seasons of KL and have seven more to go.  We are pretty much at the exact halfway point (almost; because of episode count and the first few seasons having less eps than the middle to later ones, we won’t technically be halfway through the series until we have watched through episode 172, but you know, that’s just being nitpicky).  We are about ready to start season eight and a new era for the series, but before we do that, I shall post my Reflection on Season Seven and discuss this year in total.  How does KL work or not work under the guiding hand of David Paulsen?  Also, just for fun, I thought I might post a bonus writeup comparing the dream season of Dallas that Peter Dunne ran to this season of KL run by Paulsen (click HERE to read it).  Even though one season of television is clearly miles and miles above the other one (try to guess which show I’m referring to), I actually think we will see both seasons suffering from similar problems.  So anyway, stay tuned for all of that stuff and then we shall get started with the season eight premiere, Just Disappeared.

2 comments:

  1. Val destroys Ben's house while sporting a rubber jumper.

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  2. With Cathy's quiet exit and not much going on with Sumner, Abby or Laura, Season 7 definitely went out with a whimper.

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