Episode Title: For Appearance’s Sake
Season 08, Episode 06
Episode 166 of 344
Written by Bernard Leckowick
Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan
Original Airdate: Thursday, October 16th, 1986
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Gary moves back to the ranch to help out his family image. Gary catches Abby in bed with Peter, but doesn't care. Olivia smokes pot and is suspended from school and steals Abby's car. She's in a minor accident and picked up for driving without a license. Gary gets her, and misses a debate. Mack tells Karen about Paige and they invite her to dinner. Roses are delivered from Phil with a card that says "You won't get away next time." Greg changes his tires and gives Phil's name to police, saying he recognized him from the police sketch. They show his picture to Karen, who ID's him. Mack is shocked. Seeing his picture on TV, Phil shows up at Greg's office and says that police think two people were in on the kidnapping, and he'll tell police that Greg hired him unless he will help him get out of the country.
Welcome back to the wonderful world of KL and I am so very pleased to be here. For those who are curious about my own brain and the way things operate in there, I should say that I often experience this bizarre thing when it comes to these essays in which I know that I love the show and I know that I love writing about the show and sharing my thoughts with the world and I especially love it because once I’ve written these thoughts down, it means My Beloved Grammy and I can gather again for another viewing. However, sometimes we will watch our eps, I’ll be ready to write about them, and then I just keep putting it off and putting it off, and by the time I sit to write about them, I have forgotten and need to look at them again to refresh my brain. That’s what happened last time and the time before and the time before that and it becomes this thing where I start to dread writing about them because it’s become this scary thing that I’ve put off doing for so long. Happily, this time I made sure to start writing about them right and quick when we were done viewing, because I really want to finish this damn series with her and we are still not officially halfway through (I did the math and we will be officially halfway through after we pass episode 172, Touch and Go). So anyway, this time I was good and well behaved and got to writing as soon as possible, so let’s dive right in.
I’ll blow my wad right away and say that, overall, this disk of eps, spanning For Appearance’s Sake through Over the Edge, was a vast improvement over our last disk, which kicked off the season and I found myself enjoying it very much, although I recognize there are still some problems. I feel like this is probably what I will be saying a lot throughout this season as we deal simultaneously with storylines and characters that I love along with ones that I do not care for very much at all. Anyway, we actually pick up this ep following on a storyline that I’m not exactly in love with, that of Karen and her kidnapper. We start on Karen and Mack alone in their bedroom, shot in a rather stylish silhouette. I noted this because, even though I’m shitting on the picture quality and the music of the series at this point, I still see the directors striving to keep the show looking stylish. It’s a hard thing to explain, but basically I like the way this is shot, I appreciate the artistic camerawork, but I confess that the show is a little sullied for me right now by the inherent cheapness within its look. I still see the directors working to be arty, but there’s just something about how the show is being made right now that irritates me. I really want to know if they did flip from film to video at this point, because the show just continues to look so damn ugly. However, similar to the absolutely atrocious season eight theme song that makes me ears bleed, I’m just starting to get used to it now, so it’s not bothering me as much. I think it was making that jump from season seven to season eight and being like, “Oh, suddenly everything looks dark and washed out and shitty,” that made the first disk a bit hard for me, but now that we are on the second disk, I’m just getting used to it. Will the show ever look as vivid and cinematic as it did during its glory run of seasons four through six and 1/3 of seven? Probably not, but I’ll pay attention to see if it starts to look better in future seasons on the horizons.
Anyway, like I said, we open on Karen and Mack, so let’s focus on them for awhile. Since Karen was kidnapped for seven hundred years (meaning five eps), she’s already missed a lot, such as the fact that Mack actually has a daughter. We cut to her repeating the news to herself, “You have a daughter,” without actually hearing her receive it, which I thought was kinda cool, and then I also thought it was cool how she doesn’t freak out or act weird about it. I would never assume Karen to behave that way, anyway, since we all know she’s a cool liberal chick who understands that people have pasts and lives before they come together. In this case, she does say it’s gonna take awhile for her to process this, but she also says that should invite Paige over to dinner so she can get to know her. That’s all fine, well, and good, but there’s still the danger of Phil Harbert lurking, as evidenced by the closing moments of our previous ep. In this one, Karen meets Paige for the first time (and Paige is wearing a very unflattering shade of lipstick that’s hard to describe except to say it’s really ugly), she gives her a hug, everyone’s happy, Sexy Michael is standing in the background looking sexy as ever (even more so, as a matter of fact), when the doorbell rings and Karen receives a rather lovely bouquet of red roses. What a thoughtful gift! However, when Mack takes a peek at the card, it says, “You won’t get away next time,” and he quickly hides the card from Karen’s sight.
What is the motivation for this card, by the way? You know, let’s just take a moment to dissect Phil Harbert and explore why I’m maybe having such a problem with him. I don’t understand his psychosis and I just don’t really get what the deal is. Is he just an angry man who still feels like Mack screwed him way back in the long ago Sepia Toned Flashbacks? If that’s the case, then why this nasty, creepy, serial-killer type behavior with the roses and the card? Why is he playing with fire (no pun intended) in this way by continuing to send evil little messages to Karen? Why not just cope with the fact that he really sucks at kidnapping and killing a person and try to move on? Why not listen to Greg’s advice and get out of town and start a new life somewhere else? I just don’t get Phil and I don’t understand what kind of psycho he is and I’d say that’s my problem with the character along with him just being generally uninteresting.
In this ep, Greg learns from Laura that the police found two sets of tire-tracks leading up to the barn where Karen was hiding out. Additionally, Karen gives a description to the police sketch artist and the photo shows up in the paper the next day, stressing out both Greg and Phil. Greg decides to do the somewhat noble thing and call the police and name some names, claiming he just recognized the face in the newspaper and remembered his old law school buddy. This leads us to our climactic scene of the ep, in which Phil pays Greg a visit at his skyscraper office and asks him to help him get out of the country, threatening to expose him as the owner of the other car if Greg refuses. Greg asks, “Who’s gonna believe an ex-con over an ex-senator?” and Phil says how Greg probably can’t afford this bad publicity during Peter’s campaign, and then adds, “For appearance’s sake,” before trailing off. I only note that because it’s the title of the ep and Phil is hardly the only person to drop the title within the ep this week; Olivia also does at some point and I’m pretty sure at least one other person does. Actually, I found this kinda annoying even though usually I appreciate stuff like this. I like when the title of the ep serves as a theme for what’s going on throughout, but here I feel like people just keep dropping the title and you can sense the writers (Leckowick this week) grinning and being like, “You see what we’re doing there?” Okay, anyway, that doesn’t matter; what does matter is that just as Phil is threatening Greg, who should come walking out of the elevators leading directly to Greg’s office? Why, it’s Karen and Mack and what will happen if they see Greg conspiring with Karen’s kidnapper?! This is how the ep ends and this is another ending that I remember being mesmerized by upon first viewing, but has somehow lost its luster for me. Like, you know, it’s fine, it works, it gets the job done by leaving us on a cliffhanger, but for some reason, watching it now, I’m just kinda wanting all this Phil stuff to be done and over with so we can move on to new material.
We haven’t seen Olivia smoke pot in a stretch of eps by this point, but she’s clearly fallen off the weed wagon this week, when we see her sneak into the bathroom and blaze up a joint from her stash that she keeps hidden in a band aid box (clever girl). This is following a whole series of Olivia scenes in which we see that she’s sorta spiraling out of control. First Gary gets called to her school because she was caught cheating on an exam. The principal suspends her for three days and tells her that, should she ever cheat again, she will be expelled. From there, we go to a rather excellent confrontation scene between Olivia, Gary, and J.B., who also came along to pick her up. See, Gary forgets his speech notes or something and so he runs back into the school to get them, at which point J.B. tells Olivia to remember that what she does effects Gary’s election chances. To this, Oliva retorts with, “What you do effects our family.” Gary comes back and Olivia declares that she isn’t riding in the same car as J.B., that she knows what she’s reading about Gary and J.B. in the newspapers is true. Gary says, “I thought you understood that the reason I moved back to the ranch was for the sake of appearances” (there it is again!), but the scene ends without a productive resolution to this issue. Later, Abs has a little chat of her own with Olivia, also equally unproductive, but she makes the mistake of walking off and leaving her keys still in the engine of the car. Uh oh! Olivia eyes the car, the music swells up, she contemplates her choices, and then she decides to go for it and takes off in Abby’s car.
There’s this big senate debate scheduled for the night, a kind of backdrop to the entire ep, but when the time comes for Gary to go out there and speak, he isn’t able to do it because, you guessed it, Olivia got into a little card accident and of course didn’t have a license. In a way, this is a relief, because when we first see her speeding off, our minds are tempted to go to her getting horrible maimed or even killed, so this is fairly light. Gary goes to pick her up in a scene that I appreciated, because the first thing he does when he sees her is not yell at her, but give her a big hug. I kinda loved this, because it shows us a number of things all at once. First, it shows us that Gary is inherently relieved that Olivia is alive. He knows it’s not the time to yell and scream and say, “You were so stupid!” Instead, he’s just grateful she’s alive and he gives her a hug to show that. It also shows that Gary has some special understanding of Olivia. After all, it was not so long ago (only three years ago, really, although it feels like way longer) that Gary was a drunken mess screaming, “WE’RE RUINING LIIIIIIIIIIIIIVES” and waking up on the beach next to dead bodies himself. I think he looks at Olivia and sees himself in his wayward youth and he sympathizes and wants to help. This is different from Abby’s reaction to Olivia at this point, which is mostly one of anger and frustration. Since Abs doesn’t have a crazy alcoholic past like Gary, she can’t quite understand what her daughter is going through in the same way.
While we’re on the subject of Olivia, I wanna say that I continue to feel sympathy for her and feel no need to condemn her for her actions. Am I being too soft on her? My Beloved Grammy often refers to her as “a brat,” but I don’t see her that way at all. I see a mixed up girl who’s had a lot of abrupt change throughout her life and has an extremely contentious relationship with her mother, who she justifiably has a lot of trouble trusting or respecting. Now she feels she’s losing Gary as her father figure to J.B., all at the same time that Gary is moving back onto the ranch “for appearance’s sake.” This would all be very confusing for me, so I can understand Oliva and not feel too judgmental towards her. Also, I feel we are witnessing a real uptick in Olivia-related stories right now, something that started in season seven. I honestly feel like it would be justifiable for her to be in the opening credits at this point, although of course they don’t choose to put her there until her very final season, when she is given way less to do. I think Olivia is going to be a consistent shining light in this season, someone I always find compelling and watchable, and any fan should know that it’s only gonna get more intense and dramatic and amazing as we make our way through the season.
Let’s see, what else is going on this ep? Oh yeah, Abs and Peter, duh! How could I forget this one? In this ep, we have a very memorable scene that begins with a sensual foot massage from Peter to Abs. I’ll take this moment to retract some comments I made way back in season six somewhere. In some ep or other, we saw Greg rubbing Laura’s feet and I wrote about how I find that gross and not sexy. Well, things have changed for Brett since I wrote those words and now I totally love foot massages. They feel awesome, tingly and tickly sensual, and they are also awesome to give to other people, so long as they have nice feet. It’s totally awesome to rub someone’s foot and give them that special pleasure, and also lately I find myself on this whole body kick where I love to explore another person’s entire body, not just one or two certain parts. So yes, as of right now, I officially like foot massages and am no longer repulsed by seeing them in movies or TV shows.
Okay, anyway, Peter’s giving that foot massage and saying something about how he needs an endorsement from Mack in order to win the election, but then things kick into sexy mode and the style of the scene gets rather, well, intense. Remember way back in the season five premiere (The People vs. Gary Ewing) when we got INTENSE EYEBALL CLOSEUPS from Karen towards Laura? Well, this scene kicks it up 1000% because we don’t just get INTENSE EYEBALL CLOSEUPS, we get INTENSE CLOSEUPS OF EVERYTHING. We start with Abby’s eyes (those luscious baby blues) and then we cut to an INTENSE CLOSEUP of Peter’s eyes and then an INTENSE CLOSEUP of Abby’s lips, which are draped in a fabulous soft pink lipstick, and then as her lips start talking, we cut to an INTENSE CLOSEUP of Peter’s chest as he unbuttons his shirt and then an INTENSE CLOSEUP of Abby’s white outfit being untied and opened up and then return to another INTENSE CLOSEUP of Abby’s pink lips as she says, “Olivia and Brian are away with friends,” then an INTENSE CLOSEUP of Peter’s shoes being kicked off. There might be two or three more INTENSE CLOSEUPS in this scene, but I’m getting tired of writing about them. Anyway, in case you couldn’t tell from all these INTENSE CLOSEUPS, Peter and Abs are getting ready to shag, but then we cut to Gary’s car speeding up to Westfork. Now, we can all predict that Gary’s gonna walk in on Peter and Abs in the middle of their shag, but I don’t think we can predict his reaction, which is utter indifference. He walks in, he looks over at the two of them, they pause in the middle of their shag, Peter’s peter most likely still lodged firmly into Abby’s special lady parts; they’re looking all guilty, but then Gary just walks over to his closet and grabs two ties and says, “Tell me, which one do you think will look better on camera?”
Oh, what a glorious scene in so many regards. Obviously the INTENSE CLOSEUPS are amazing and hilarious (they remind me of the brilliant scene in Weird Science where Ilan Michell Smith and Anthony Michael Hall are hiding in the shower in the bathroom), but Gary’s reaction is really the best part. Once again, I could write volumes on this one sequence alone, but I think the most striking thing about it is that we see, by this point, nothing about Abby shocks Gary. He can walk in on her fucking anyone and hardly bat an eye. He’s known her for six years now, been married to her for three years, and he’s well aware of her nympho ways. If this had happened in season four, Gary would walk in and go, “My God, Abby! What are you doing?!” Here, however, he’s not shocked at all, just resigned to expecting her to behave this way.
One last thing I wanna ask: Does Abs even like Peter? Yeah, we get the INTENSE CLOSEUPS to emphasize how hot and sexy this is, and I’m sure Abs likes getting fucked because she’s a nympho, but does she really like Peter in any way at all? I honestly don’t think so; I think she just needs a penis and Peter happens to have one, so she’s happy enough with that to deal with a guy that she really doesn’t care all that much about. As for this business about helping him out with his campaign? Again, I think she just really doesn’t care. I don’t think she’s felt any particular passion for Peter as a human being ever, but he’s there, he’s around, he’s willing to do her, so she’ll put up with talking to him or helping him out with his race to the senate.
You know, that oughta about do it for this ep. How was it? Well, it was pretty good. I do wanna note that I find myself just feeling a little less passionate about everything going on right now. I happen to be putting my season six essays at the same time that My Beloved Grammy and I are working through season eight (yesterday I put up Message in a Bottle, for those who wanna get some timeline of how things are going down), and reading over my essays from that brilliant year, you can just tell how enthused I was about the whole thing, what passion I felt for every single fucking second of that year. I’m not feeling that same passion at this point, even though I still enjoy watching the show and I still enjoy writing about it. I maintain that season six was such a triumphant work of art and the greatest season of television I’ve ever seen, so perhaps anything to follow after it will pale by comparison, or perhaps my own life changes are distracting me from enjoying the show in the same way as I was before, I dunno. I suppose this is just my way of saying that if my writing feels a little lacking now, it’s because it probably is, because watching the show doesn’t fill me with quite the same awe inspiring joy that it did back in those glory years.
One thing that was refreshing about this ep was the total lack of Hackney. Sadly, that trend does not continue as we move on to our next ep, All Over but the Shouting.