Episode Title: Pressure Points
Season 08, Episode 08
Episode 168 of 344
Directed by Nick Havinga
Original Airdate: Thursday, October 30th, 1986
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Police go to Phil's motel, but he's across the street, and people yell to the police where he is. Phil runs into the street, and is hit by a car. At the hospital, Phil tells Mack that Greg was behind the kidnapping, but Mack knows he's lying. Phil dies. Peter is upset with Sylvia's drinking, because she talks too much. Sylvia says she wants Peter to get money from Abby for her, or she will tell a tabloid the truth, because she doesn't care who pays her as long as she gets money. Lotus Point has a grand re-opening. Paige spots Peter, and is definitely interested in him. Sylvia makes a drunken spectacle of herself. She has a "spell" and asks Peter to pick up a refill of her prescription. The pharmacist tells Peter that if Sylvia takes too many pills, it will cause cardiac arrest, so Peter purposely gives her too many. Both Greg and Abby pressure Peter to join certain committees, but he stands up to each of them and refuses.
Welcome to Pressure Points, which actually begins be showing us the last two or three minutes of All Over but the Shouting one more time. After the scrolling squares set to the sounds of the very worst version of the theme song ever recorded, we start right away with that pizza boy arriving at Phil’s motel room and catching a glimpse of his face in the mirror, and then we again see him calling the police to inform them of Phil’s location. Oh wait, did I say “call the police?” I must be drunk again, because that’s actually not what happens. Instead, he calls Mack directly and says, “I’m not gonna call the police; I’m not gonna get involved.” Actually, this pizza boy seems hellbent on remaining anonymous and I’m not entirely clear on why. It’s not like he did anything bad; all he did was deliver a pizza to a fat guy in a shitty motel room, so why all the secrecy? Oh well, who gives a fuck, it doesn’t matter; what matters is that Mack calls the police and they say they’re going to check it out and that he’d better stay put, which Mack translates to mean he had better immediately drive over to the hotel, as well.
All this is playing out concurrently with Greg getting materials ready for Phil to leave the country. He see him packing a little suitcase with Vista and BankMaster cards and then calling up Phil to inform him of where they should meet. Greg confirms that he will pick Phil up personally and orders him to go wait in the phonebooth and not come out, which seems like a kinda crappy plan. After all, this is 1986 and people still use pay phones regularly (although I was just on Whidbey Island in the year 2018 and they still have pay phones everywhere, so there you go), so I imagine a creepy guy hanging out in a phonebooth and not moving at all would call attention to himself, which he does. See, everything sorta happens at once, with Mack arriving at the same time as the police and using one of those big loudspeakers to tell Phil to come out, only Phil is lurking in the phonebooth across the street. However, the phonebooth is already the place to be, the social scene of 1986, because there are a bunch of people hanging out outside the phonebooth (well, three), wondering what the deal is with the guy in there. Then Greg comes rolling up in his car, but when Phil decides to exit the phonebooth and make the voyage to Greg’s vehicle, the really angry guy outside the phonebooth pulls Phil’s sunglasses off and screams, “That’s the guy who kidnapped that woman!” Then he just keeps shouting it over and over again, so Greg decides to take off before anyone sees him, Phil runs frantically into the street, and he is immediately mowed down by a screaming woman in a very unintentionally funny scene. Why is this moment so funny? I think it has something to do with the woman’s scream and then the abrupt cut to an obvious dummy being smacked by the car and thrown aside onto the street. It’s all done rather quick, but it still looks like a dummy and it still makes me laugh. Again, this is in stark contrast to my response upon watching this for the first time, back in college, because I remember reaching this scene and actually gasping aloud when Phil got hit by the car and thinking how amazing it was. Now it seems rather silly to me, but I am grateful that our time with Phil is about to come to an end.
Phil’s final scene on the show takes place as he lies on his deathbed at the hospital. Horrible music is playing on the soundtrack (typical at this juncture, I know), while the one cop friend of Mack’s holds a gigantic tape recorder over Phil’s face and Mack leans in all close to hear every word Phil has to say. Phil asks if Karen is okay and says, “I never meant to hurt her, Mack.” This is a nice thing to say, but it’s a little hard to believe after we saw him lock her in a room and light the building on fire. I guess he could argue that he was just trying to make a nice warm fire to keep her cozy and it got out of hand, but I doubt that would stand up in court. Then Phil gets his last words in when he declares, “I know what you want to ask me, and the answer is yes, Sumner put me up to it, Sumner made me kidnap Karen,” and then he dies. Anyway, if you’re thinking this little twist will lead to some big, epic storyline in which Mack and Greg become sworn enemies because Mack thinks he tried to have his wife kidnapped and killed, well, it doesn’t. Instead, Mack is almost immediately shown to not believe what Phil has said, which I guess is also fine. I’m of two minds on this. On one hand, I like that Mack is smart and doesn’t believe the lies of this silly man that he used to be friends with way back in the ‘60s. On the other hand, I’m left kinda wondering what the point was, then. Why have Phil make this big declaration right as he’s dying only to have Mack dismiss it out of hand?
Anyway, that’s the last we’ll see of Phil, so perhaps I’ll take this moment to reflect back on this character who’s been with us since the season premiere. Suffice it to say I was rather underwhelmed by this character, and I continue to struggle to figure out why. While I kinda liked the fact that he was inauspicious and not a moustache twirling villain stereotype, the character also never quite took off for me; he was just sorta there. I’m sure Louis Giambalvo is a fine actor, but I think something just never quite clicked with this guy. Honestly, I think what I really wanted was for him to be creepier; I was never scared by this character or frightened of what he might do to Karen, because he just never seemed that threatening. After Karen managed to escape from his clutches at the end of Slow Burn, I also wouldn’t have minded the character being retired right away, perhaps arrested or perhaps killed somehow in that ep, but instead he hung around for another three eps (well, more like two, since he dies almost right away at the start of this one) and continued to underwhelm me. Now he’s dead and I’m glad, because I was ready to move on. I stress one more time that I didn’t hate this character or even dislike him, necessarily; he simply never managed to take off or do much for me.
Okay, that’s it for Phil; what else is going down this week in Pressure Points? Well, this is another one of those eps in which there’s some sort of big political function running through the center of the story as a way to keep the cast gathered and linked together. In this case, it’s, um, some sort of political function, or maybe it’s the reopening of Lotus Point, or something involving Peter and the whole senate race thing. Anyway, who cares, it’s a function, and I’m gonna say it’s probably the Lotus Point reopening because we are told early in the ep that the resort is coming back from the dead. I’m looking at my notes and immediately realize I must note Cigar #19 on the Sumner Cigar Counter, this one smoked at the political event, but we’ve also got Cigar #20 in this ep, as well, and this one is smoked later in the ep when he’s in his office late at night with Peter. Anyway, aside from Sumner’s cigar(s), we’ve also got another brilliant meta line that I’m quite convinced Devane improvised on the spot. See, Paige comes walking by and Laura informs Greg that this is Mack’s daughter. Greg says, “I didn’t even know Mack had a daughter,” to which Laura says, “Neither did he,” to which Greg says, “Spare me the details; I already have this weird sensation that all of your friends live soap opera lives.” Oh God, it’s so brilliant, right up there with Eric’s immortal, “Living on this cul-de-sac is like being in a soap opera” from season seven.
We’ve also got Gary and Val at this function, leading us to an absolutely sizzling scene between the two in which he pays a compliment to her fantastic hat. The scene begins beautifully when he comes up to say hi to her and she positively beams with delight and a smile lights up her entire face and she says, “Gary!” Ugh, can you feel the love tonight? Then Gary says, “Nice day, nice party, nice hat,” and Val thinks he’s teasing her about the hat but he assures her that he really likes it. Then they talk a bit about the election and Val says how Gary always hated going to cocktail parties and mingling with strangers, so perhaps it’s better this way. It’s another one of those Gary and Val scenes that might seem small when I describe it, but is just dripping with so much feeling and love. I’m trying to put myself into the mindset of a person watching this week to week in the ‘80s and I’m sure these scenes would be even more stunning back then, because you would just watch them and think, “Will this couple ever accept their love of each other and get back together?”
Also occurring at the political function: Olivia’s wanting to get stoned. Now, I’m not entirely sure what drugs she’s hoping to enjoy today, whether it be the grass or the nose candy or perhaps both. See, she is introduced to Paige for the first time via Sexy Michael, who then runs off to get Paige a cold drink. Then Olivia says how boring this party is, she and Paige discuss Peter for a minute and how he’s slime (“cute slime, state senator elect slime,” as Paige says) and then Olivia says, “I’ve got some stuff here that would make this party really interesting; want some?” Paige dismisses this with a simple, “I don’t do drugs; I think they’re stupid.” I kinda love the way she just blows off Olivia’s offer with such a simple declaration, and I also note a second later when Abs offers Paige a drink, Paige tells her that she doesn’t drink, either. Hmmm, I wonder if this tracks? I feel like we’re going to see Paige drinking on the show somewhere in the next seven years, but perhaps at this point in time, she is not a drinker.
The most noteworthy thing to occur at this function is that Sylvia indulges a bit too much in the alcohol and starts to act a little goofy. For those who have forgotten, Sylvia is Peter’s “mother” who is played by Ruth Roman. Again, I like watching this actress and I like this character, even though I’m not entirely sure why. There’s just something about her that I find watchable and real and she brings that certain old Hollywood style to proceedings. Anyway, she gets a bit sloshed here and starts to act rather silly, dancing around with other men and so forth. She also starts to slur out a speech about, “I can remember when Peter was just six years old and Bob Loblaw,” at which point Peter gently takes her champagne glass out of her hand and sits her down. Sylvia complains of feeling faint and asks Peter to get her one of her pills, which are for her blood pressure. There’s only one pill left, so she asks Peter to go to the pharmacy and pick up her refill, which he agrees to do. From here, we cut to the pharmacy where Peter meets the nice pharmacist behind the counter who provides lots of helpful exposition, saying how blood pressure medicine can make her feel dizzy, how if she takes too few, she might as well not take any at all, but if she takes too many, blocking agents can build up and cause cardiac arrest. He’s giving Peter this information as a bit of a warning, but we all see the lightbulb go on over Peter’s head as he hears this “cardiac arrest” business. This leads us nicely to our final scene of the ep, in which Peter and Sylvia are hanging out at her little apartment and she’s again feeling faint. Oh yeah, earlier in the ep we saw her little pill dish and she told Peter how she puts the pills into the dish at the start of the day and takes them throughout the day. Well, when Peter goes into the kitchen, he has a little moment of wrestling with his morals and then he decides to put an extra pill in the dish and then declares to her, “You did not take your blood pressure medicine this morning; there’s still an extra pill in the dish.” He says how from now on, he’ll call her in the morning and come by every night to make sure she’s taken her pills, but we all know he’s tricking her and he’s going to start slowly poisoning her with too many pills. Sylvia gets the final line of the ep, which is, “Now you’re acting like a real son,” a nice little bit of irony to close out our ep for the week.
Hmmm, did I forget anything? I’m looking through my notes and it looks like I covered just about everything that needed covering. The best thing about this ep is that it killed Phil off and allowed us to move on to new business. Phil was testing my patience at five eps but stretching him into eight was way too many. Anyway, I liked the reopening of Lotus Point and how it gathered the cast together, I liked Gary and Val’s sizzling chemistry, and I adored Devane’s “soap opera” line. Even so, I’d say I’m still feeling a little underwhelmed about this season as a whole. There’s just something a tad off about proceedings as we are making our way through the season, although I feel it will improve and I already know there are some truly magnificent storylines on the horizon. With that said, let us now move on to Brothers and Mothers.