Episode Title: Reunion
Season 08, Episode 03
Episode 163 of 344
Written by Lynn Marie Latham
Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan
Original Airdate: Thursday, September 25th, 1986
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Jean calls Ben and he tells her never to call him at home. Ben poses Val a hypothetical question: Should he do a report on a man who was once in a subversive group that bombed a building, but had gotten out and was now a responsible man with a family? Val says no, as it would hurt his family. Abby shows up at a speech that Gary gives, and tells Jill that she will be with Gary morning, noon, and night. However, she gives Peter copies of Gary's speeches and schedule. Phil tells Karen that he wants Mack to feel what it's like not to know where his wife is. Phil says that Mack sent him to jail and he didn't know what was happening to his wife, and then she died. He says he'll let Karen go in a year. Greg decides to really clean up Empire Valley. Phil stops by to see Greg. Greg excitedly tells Laura that he's a good friend from law school.
Welcome back, readers, and it’s time to discuss Reunion. But wait a minute, didn’t we already discuss Reunion? Well, yeah, kinda, because you’ll recall that this was also the title of the boring and shitty season three episode in which Jessica Walter came to town to put on a ridiculously God-awful fashion show (remember Diana in that, like, Russian fur hat?) and caused Karen to briefly flirt with moving to New York. Will this Reunion be more interesting than that Reunion? Well, I took a shit this morning that was more interesting than the season three Reunion, so I’m gonna go ahead and say probably.
We open with Karen and her kidnapper, which is pretty much the way we are going to start every ep for these opening five eps of the season. In our last two eps, I said I’m having a bit of a problem with this storyline due to what I perceive as a lack of urgency, and that problem continues this week. Remember how I said it’s hard to feel in suspense when we keep cutting to Karen sitting in a rocking chair? In this ep, we see her cooking herself a nice hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon and whatever, a real classic American breakfast. As I keep saying, this storyline would work a lot better for me if Karen remained locked in that scary basement and Phil actually seemed like a legitimate threat to her. When he comes into her little room/kitchen and offers to serve the breakfast and says something like, “I always served,” it just feels like this regular domestic thing. Honestly, if I was gonna get kidnapped, I’d hope my kidnapper would be as gracious as Phil and let me cook breakfast for myself and have a big soft bed to sleep in. Yeah, it sucks to be kidnapped in any instance, but this is a lot better than the way Ted Bundy liked to treat the women he kidnapped, you know? At least Phil isn’t shoving a bedpost up Karen’s vagina or anything like that.
I’m also having the same problem I often have when watching shitty horror movies (and I watch a lot of them), in which I keep managing to find all these different instances where Karen could hatch an escape plan. Right here, I’m watching her cook the breakfast on the stove in a frying pan and I’m thinking of all the possibilities that yields. Why not keep the pan on the stove for a long time until it’s super super hot and then wait for Phil to show up and give him a big fat whack in the face with it? Or why not use the stove to “accidentally” cause a fire and while Phil is busy tidying it up, she could sneak out while he’s not looking. Perhaps I’m wrong to even be thinking about this stuff, however, and perhaps Karen isn’t ready to fight back or hatch an escape plan quite yet. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that, like I said, Phil is not Ted Bundy. He’s kinda creepy and weird, but he doesn’t seem all that dangerous and maybe Karen is thinking he’s rational enough that she can reason with him after getting to know him a bit.
Indeed, the two do have a bit of a heart-to-heart this ep in which Phil makes it easier for us viewers to put the pieces together for why he has kidnapped Karen. He explains that he wants to make Mack feel the same pain that he felt when he was sent to prison and couldn’t see his wife and, when he came out of prison, his wife had died, or something like that, maybe she just ran off on him, I don’t fucking know. Now, the TV.com plot description that I always copy and paste for these essays says that Phil tells Karen he’s gonna let her out in a year. Um, does he? I watched this ep twice and I don’t remember any line about that, aside from Karen asking him if that’s his plan and him seeming to ignore her. Did I just somehow miss this line twice? In any case, Phil and Karen are enjoying a nice breakfast together and then she says something about his wife that really pisses him off, so he pushes her against the wall and makes some sort of vague threat and, you know, that’s about it for this ep, so let’s move on.
Oh no, wait, that’s not about it, duh, how could I forget this? The big cliffhanger at the end of this episode is that Greg and Laura are sitting in Greg’s palace skyscraper office and talking about Greg and Laura stuff when Greg gets a buzz from his secretary telling him that Phil Harbert is here. Now, to be clear, at this exact moment, we don’t know the significance of that name because for the last two eps and almost all of this ep, the character played by Louis Giambalvo has just been, you know, Karen’s kidnapper. So anyway, Greg hears that Phil Harbert is here and his face lights up like a kid seeing Santa Claus for the first time and he goes, “Phil Harbert?! Well, send him in!” Then a body comes walking into the office, but we don’t immediately see the face at first, and then Greg is all like, “Laura, meet the guy from Real Genius!” and the camera reveals that it’s, GASP, Karen’s kidnapper! The plot thickens, for how does Greg know this person, what’s their history with eachother, and how does it all relate to Karen’s disappearance?
Once again, this just isn’t playing for me the way it was the first time, and I can’t figure out why. I’m not gonna mince words; when I watched this back in college, I was loving this storyline, absolutely everything about it, and I remember getting to this end revelation and literally gasping aloud to myself (I did that a lot while watching the show) and thinking of what a brilliant twist and cliffhanger it was. Later, I would read the IMDb boards (remember those?) or the SoapChat forum and see that lots of fans really don’t like this story and I’d think to myself, “What’s wrong with them? This story is brilliant!” Now I think I’m siding with those fans and seeing their issues with all this stuff. The main problem with this is that it all feels very made up, like the writers are just figuring it out as they go along. I guarantee you that if you took a time machine back to 1986 when they were just wrapping up season seven and said, “So, Karen’s getting kidnapped, huh? What’s gonna happen when you come back in the fall?”, the response you would get from the writing team would be, “I dunno; we’ll figure it out in the fall.” There’s just no way that The Longest Night was written and produced and broadcast with the behind-the-scenes talent actually having this grand idea of Phil Harbert and his past with Greg and Mack all figured out. Again, I know this is not unique, that in Television Land, a lot of the great cliffhangers are done without any idea of how they will be resolved, but the problem is that, in this instance, I’m feeling it.
I’m feeling kinda negative right now, so let’s move on to a storyline I’m loving, my very favorite storyline going on right now, and that’s Gary running for the senate. The wheels continue to spin this week in so many ways when it comes to this storyline, and again, I remind you that I had forgotten all of this. How interesting that the story I remembered vividly and loved upon first viewing (Karen’s kidnapping) has faded so fast in my estimation while the storyline I had completely forgotten is proving to be the best one going on right now. Let’s see, what’s Gary up to this week? Well, he holds one of his first little campaign lunches or whatever you call it when a bunch of your supporters show up to give you money and cheer at your speeches. Trump does this every five minutes and I obviously hate watching his Nazi rallies and his white supremacist supporters cheer and scream and get ready to lynch some dark skinned person, but I am much more approving of Gary and his message. See, Gary says how everyone tells him not to get into politics because it’s a dirty business, but it doesn’t have to be a dirty business unless you make it that way. It’s a good speech and if I lived in the universe of this show, I would certainly vote for Gary.
Unfortunately, Abs shows up at this event wearing one of her very worst outfits ever just to make things awkward and weird for Gary. Before I talk about what she does, let’s just talk about the thing that she’s wearing and what she could possibly have been thinking. Okay, so it’s a red outfit, and there’s nothing wrong with the color; red is a great color and Abs usually looks fabulous in red, but first off, this thing is covered in, like, weird white spots that make it look like she just superglued some rice all over herself in a random pattern that makes no sense, but that’s not all. Don’t even get me started on her hat, which is one of those huge flying saucer hats that absolutely nobody looks good in (“You buy a hat like this, I’ll bet you get a free bowl of soup”) and it’s also red and it’s just so comically huge and it’s awful. Abs is so stunningly beautiful (and still is today at well past age 75) that no bad outfit can take away from her inherent beauty, but fuck is this a bad outfit, and I’m gonna go ahead and declare it her worst outfit ever, barring some unforeseen wardrobe event in the future. Ugh, fuck this outfit. But anyway, the outfit is just one awkward thing about this scene, the other one being that she is running around, shaking hands and saying, “Hello, Abby Ewing, nice to meet you,” to everyone she sees, even though I think most of the people at this event know that Gary is slipping it inside of J.B. nightly. So now Gary’s got two women at his shoulder, one he actually likes and wants to continue slipping it inside of, and one his treacherous about-to-be-ex-wife wearing an awful outfit that looks like it came out of a dollar bin at Wal Mart.
Abs knows what she’s doing, because she saddles up to J.B. and, in her classically sounds-nice-but-is-actually-wicked voice, tells J.B. something like, “Mr. Ewing can count on Mrs. Ewing being at his side morning, noon, and night.” She gets even more wicked later when speaks with Peter Hollister at Lotus Point and, after explaining her reasons for continuing to be seen publicly with Gary as his wife, she slips Peter some of Gary’s stock speeches as well as his yet-to-be-announced endorsements and his schedule for the foreseeable future. Yikes! Now Peter will be able to take the wind out of Gary’s sails by knowing what he’s up to as well as what his speeches are gonna say. Will Abby’s wickedness never cease?
I’m wondering why I’m loving this storyline so much even though, so far in the season, really not all that much has happened with it. I think it might be my sudden spurt of interest in politics that took over my life on November 9th, 2016 (a day in which I woke up crying). I used to be very dismissive of political stuff and that tone can probably even be found in some of my early essays (see, another one of the fascinating things about my amazing and brilliant blog is that you readers can track my growth and maturity as a human being from the infantile and sad creature that I was when I first began this voyage). Now, I’m finding myself much more interested in this stuff, and especially interested in the ethics of politics and whether a good person can get into politics and remain good and uncorrupted or not. I think I’m also so horrified by our current political climate and afraid that someone wearing a MAGA hat is going to tie me to a tree and gut me and then get away with it because my gayness was offending their Christian values or whatever, and I'm so horrified and disgusted by the man in the White House that I just yearn to see a person like Gary Ewing show up in real life and run for politics, so that makes me enjoy this storyline ever the more. I’ll return to this stuff next ep, when we get some really great stuff that I truly appreciated involving Gary’s run for the senate.
Another enjoyable storyline going on right now? Everything involving Paige. I feel I’ve neglected to mention Paige the last few eps, and I’m sorry about that. It’s just that there’s other stuff going on and I know we’ve got something like 181 eps with Paige, so I feel we’ll have plenty of time to talk about her and how much I enjoy her. Anyway, the really important thing about this ep is that Paige finds Sexy Michael running on the high school track and then the two sit to enjoy, I think, a box of donuts together, although I have a hard time believing that a specimen as perfect and sublime as Sexy Michael would ever go anywhere near donuts, let alone put one in his mouth. If I had Sexy Michael in my presence as well as a box of donuts, the possibilities are endless, but suffice it to say that I would get started by squeezing some jelly out over his perfect dark nipples and then licking it off. Mmmmmm, Sexy Michael. Oh wait, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, Paige catches up with Sexy Michael running and then they sorta hang out and she helps him do some sit-ups, which gave me a boner. When Sexy Michael lies on his back to do his sit-ups, he puts his arms behind his head, exposing that perfect little poof of dark hair under his armpits, hence my boner. This is the one of the best scenes ever put into a film or television show, and the glory of it is that, in addition to allowing me to leer at Sexy Michael, it also provides some good plot information and another Sepia Toned Flashback.
This Sepia Toned Flashback gives us another chance to see Doug Savant as Young Mack (doing a fabulous job, in my opinion) as well as Nicolette as Young Anne. Even though this stuff still looks pretty cheap visually and even though most fans seem to hate it, I’m still kinda loving it and finding it rather charming. I think I just appreciate the ambition of it, that KL has always had and will always have an artier sheen over it than the other nighttime soaps of its era. I can’t imagine Dallas ever attempting to do this level of Godfather: Part II storytelling. I also enjoy watching Savant and Nicolette act together (two future Desperate Housewives stars, oh my God!) and I enjoy the whole thing. In this instance, Mack catches up with Anne on the train and she is sad and says how she expected him to call her the other day and he never did, and she looks sad and kinda cries a little, if I’m remembering correctly. It’s not like we get a whole lot of this flashback, but it’s all building towards this greater story and, no matter what the other fans think, I still really like all this stuff.
Laura gets a bittersweet scene this ep in which she begins to officially move off of the cul-de-sac. I feel like she’s been sorta half moved off the cul-de-sac since the start of season six, always kinda splitting her time between the house she lived in with Richard for so long and Greg’s ranch or skyscraper office. This ep, she catches up with Val out in her driveway while she’s piling things into her car and getting ready to evacuate. She tells Val how it’s gonna be pretty weird not living here anymore, how there are a lot of memories, and of course she adds, “Not all of them good.” Yeah, I’m willing to bet her mentally unstable husband holding her hostage at gunpoint in the house is not one of her finest memories, nor is that biker invasion from way back in 1980 or the burglars taking over that baby shower in 1981 or, well, you get the idea. Seaview Circle may look cozy from the outside, but when you add up all the different events that have happened in just seven years, it’s actually kinda a war zone.
I think I’m probably gonna spend most of season eight angry and bitter that Laura is not getting serviced better. Spoiler alert, but the great Constance McCashin will be leaving us somewhere in early season nine, so season eight is our last full year with her in which she is a cast member from start to finish, and I really wish she was given more to do. Even with seasons six and seven, when I made the point that she functioned more as a part of Greg’s plots than for her own individual plots, she was still dynamic to watch, had great lines delivered with that impeccable air of sarcasm, and she still felt well serviced. Reunion gives us a truly pathetic scene that has to be seen to be believed, although I shall try to describe it now and perhaps you readers can understand what I’m talking about. See, Greg is standing in his bedroom at night, dressed in his robe, talking to Abs on the phone, and in the bed, we see a vague shape underneath the covers that, I suppose, is meant to be Laura. In the whole scene, however, we never actually see Laura, for the covers are never pulled back from over that lump in the bed. Then, Greg sits down on the bed and says, “You would think that a guy who’s clearly as upset as I am, you would think that his wife would have the common courtesy to at least stay awake until he is finished bellyaching!” Then the lump sits up in the bed, remaining completely covered by blankets, and we hear Laura’s voice in what absolutely has to be a bit of A.D.R. work saying, “I’m sorry you’re so upset; is there anything else?” Then the lump returns to its resting position. Seriously, what the hell is this? Did Constance get sick or something and wasn’t able to make it to the set? Did they just decide it was too much effort to actually put her in the scene so they threw some P.A. under the sheets and said, “Just make sure not to show your face and we’ll pipe her voice in later”? I mean, seriously, what is this? Where is Laura? Why don’t we see her face? I feel like this scene is sorta a symbolic representation of how Laura will be used, or not be used, throughout the entire eighth season, and it makes me sad.
You know what else makes me sad? The Ben/Hackney storyline, which continues to escalate this week when Hackney calls Ben at home and, you know, makes some sort of vague threat about, you know, something. Then we get more bad A.D.R. when Ben meets Dr. Silverman at a bus stop and inquires about whether Jean is back to work for the C.I.A. or, you know, something. Dr. Silverman says something vague and boring about, “All I can tell you is that her code name is active,” and then a bus goes by and when it passes the camera, we see that Dr. Silverman is gone and Ben is sitting all by himself.
Oh yeah, and since some of you might be wondering who Dr. Silverman is, I shall explain. This random one-scene character that Ben meets at the bus stop is played by veteran character actor Earl Boen, best known for being in every single movie ever made. His most prominent role is as the wicked Dr. Silverman in both The Terminator and Terminator 2. You’ll recall that he interrogates Kyle Reese in the first movie and then he’s got Sarah Conner locked up in a mental hospital in the second film. I think he also showed up in the third film, but that was a colossal piece of shit that I only watched once, projectile vomited all over the place, and never watched again. Let’s do a quick rundown of his IMDb credits and you will see that I’m definitely right about him being in every movie ever made. Let’s see here, we’ve got 9 to 5, Airplane II: The Sequel (although I have a very strong feeling that you only see him if you watch the old TV version of that with the extra scenes in it), and the dynamic conclusion to the Naked Gun trilogy, Naked Gun 33 and 1/3: The Final Insult (maybe the best title to a movie ever). When it comes to TV, he’s also shown up in every TV show ever made, but what surprised me when I looked it up is that he’s, you guessed it, a Transmorpher. Apparently he plays Cliff’s doctor in two 1988 eps of Dallas, To Have and To Hold and Dead Reckoning. Earl Boen, ladies and gentlemen.
You know, that oughta do it for Reunion, our second Reunion of the series. Yes, it was much better than the last one, and I also enjoyed it more than the first two eps of season eight. I still continue to have problems with Karen and her kidnapper and, most especially, the Hackney storyline (which is hackneyed), which I’m already seeing is clearly ridiculous and I simply must have been wearing severely rose colored glasses the last time I watched it. Despite my bitching, however, I don’t think I can ever stress enough that I’m still enjoying the series. There’s probably never going to be a point in the series where I’m not enjoying watching it; I’m always gonna love being in this world and surrounded by these characters and I’ll never hit a point where I’m like, “I wish I was watching something else.” I’m just trying to be even and point out the flaws as I see them, and let’s face it, fourteen straight years of me saying, “This is genius!” would get real old real quick.
Let’s move on to our future episode, which is called Past Tense.