Episode Title: The Inside Man
Season 08, Episode 13
Episode 173 of 344
Written by Linda Salzman
Directed by Paul Tucker
Original Airdate: Thursday, December 4th, 1986
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Greg makes out a will for Peter with him as the beneficiary. Abby brings Sylvia to stay with the Sumners. Jill tells Peter that she'll cover for him, but their relationship is over. Paige rejects Sexy Michael (!) and he takes it out on Karen. Paige agrees to go to a movie with him as "friends," but stands him up when Peter asks her out. Peter cancels a date with Abby to meet Paige. Jean gives Ben cash for his "services." Lilimae finds it while doing laundry and shows Val. Ben tells her it's the office pool. Val's worried about Ben's strange behavior. Greg offers Ben a job. He doesn't want to take it, but does when Jean threatens his family. Karen finds a letter that Anne wrote to Mack about Paige's birth, but they suspect Paige wrote it herself, and wonder if she's lying about anything else. In a cemetery, there is a tombstone that says "Paige Matheson, 1967-1985."
Welcome back, and let us now discuss The Inside Man, starting with, hmmm, let’s see here, let’s talk about J.B. first. In my notes, looks like I wrote, “Open on J.B. telling Peter she lost the baby; why introduce the pregnancy in the first place?” Well, I agree with myself and my notes, so let’s further explore this. Why do the writers introduce this pregnancy only to abruptly kill it? For some context, we were told in the culminating moments of A Turn of Events that J.B. was pregnant and it was the first time, as viewers, that we were privy to such information. Then J.B. lost the baby in the very next ep, Touch and Go, and that brings us right up to date, with me continuing to bitch about this pregnancy. I’m holding out hope that the writers will use this to give us something interesting and organic within the grander context of the saga, but I also have a sneaking suspicion they will let me down. The fact that I don’t even remember this whole J.B. pregnancy thing sends me a hint that it’s going to very quickly fall into the background and then just turn into this thing that happened that is never mentioned again. However, I have already somewhat SPOILED proceedings by saying that we are getting closer and closer to Psycho Jill, my very favorite J.B., and I think it’s because of this bump on the head she just suffered that she’s going to begin the metamorphosis into Psycho Jill. Perhaps this pregnancy and its very abrupt conclusion could also contribute to Psycho Jill? Let me just say for the record that I hope this happens, because then I’ll be able to better understand why this is happening at this precise moment. If her pregnancy just fades away and is never mentioned again, I will not be a satisfied viewer.
That’s about it for J.B. (since all she does on this entire disk of eps is hang around the hospital, getting only one or two scenes per ep), so let’s move over to some other folks. I’ll start with Sumner, and that branches off into how he sorta tangles with other characters this ep, like for instance Ben. Also, I want to make sure and note that Sumner smokes two cigars in this ep, meaning we must add two more cigars into the grand Sumner Cigar Counter. Only problem? The Sumner Cigar Counter is enclosed within my other notebook, full of notes about pretty much the last three seasons or so, and I have moved on to a new notebook at this point (only five pages deep!) and I forgot my other notebook at home. To set the scene, I am currently sitting in a quiet coffee shop (a different one than I usually like to go to), my computer all plugged in and charging, my new notebook on my lap, but my older notebook left at home for the time being. Rest assured that I will quickly get us back up to date on the Sumner Cigar Counter by going through how many he smoked on our last disk, adding the cigars from this disk, and then having a nice total all prepared and ready to go when I begin discussing the next disk.
In addition to smoking two cigars, Sumner is also busy with offering Ben a job. I’m a little unclear on all this, mostly cuz I was still pretty bored and not really making a tremendous effort to pay attention, so I can’t tell you precisely what job Greg offers to Ben. I do know that Greg has some ulterior motives to what he’s doing, but he’s also kinda sorta doing the right thing. I think he’s offering for Ben to come and work on his team as a way of protecting him, really, but it’s all very circuitous and somewhat confusing. It also relates to Hackney, of course, because we can’t go one episode without having to see and hear and deal with this this character. Basically, Ben doesn’t want to take Greg up on his offer, but he ends up doing it after Hackney, like, threatens his family again, or something. Hackney threatens his family a lot, and we all remember (or, better yet, perhaps we don’t) when she kinda sorta kidnapped Bobby at the grocery store and then was all like, “Ben, hello, what a coincidence seeing you here!” I guess that was a not-so-subtle way of being like, “Watch your ass, because we can fuck your shit up good if you’re not paying attention.” Do I really believe Hackney or any of her lackeys who I’m not paying any attention to would kidnap little Bobby and Betsy and murder them? No, not really, but I guess Ben is nervous enough about these threats to keep doing the things Hackney asks of him.
This bad storyline is stressing Ben out a lot, so he starts drinking a bit of scotch. This immediately raises Val’s antenna when the two are sitting in bed together and Ben is sipping a glass of scotch and, when Val questions him on why, he answers, “Because I want to sleep.” Val gets rather upset by this and starts fretting about how never used to have a scotch before bed, and quite honestly, while I understand where she’s coming from, I think she’s being a little silly. It’s probably because of the fact that my dad would always come home from work and have one or two glasses of some liquor, and it was usually scotch, so I don’t really see it as something all that strange. Also, Ben’s drinking a glass of scotch; he’s not pulling a Gary and grabbing an entire decanter full of booze and just throwing it down his throat as quickly as possible. I’m also amused by a later scene in which Ben is on the phone and Val sorta takes a peek at him and sees that he’s, GASP, refilling his glass of scotch with more scotch while somewhat ominous music plays on the soundtrack. I get that Val is sensitive to alcohol because of the whole being-married-to-Gary thing, but for some reason I just found all of this rather amusing.
I also have to wonder if Douglas Sheehan had real scotch in that glass or if he, perhaps, insisted on his character beginning to drink scotch just because he, himself, wanted to be drinking scotch while having to film the footage for this miserable, miserable storyline. Fuck, I am suddenly seeing sooooooooo much wrong with everything Ben is doing this year, and it makes me just wish achingly that he had left at the end of season seven, as was so clearly the original plan. Now that I’ve spent the last three seasons going from thinking Ben was boring to becoming rather in love with him and all the fantastic charisma and realism Doug brings to the proceedings, it hurts me ever the more to see one season of bad stories soil the character in such a way. It’s kinda like how I felt about Cathy in the latter eps of season seven; watching this character I love get shuffled around with bad storylines all before she leaves the show just kinda hurt me to watch, but Ben’s treatment is even worse, cuz he came back for a full, solid year and now he has to suffer through the entire year with all this Hackney nonsense. Yup, I’m willing to bet that after nearly half a year of filming this footage and scene after scene of having to act alongside this ridiculous cartoon known as Hackney, he probably brought his concerns to the powers that be and said, “I’ll finish the damn season and this damn storyline, but you’ve gotta let me drink a little scotch to get through it, please, for the love of God.”
Let’s move our attentions over to Olivia, the character who is very soon going to bless us with the very best storyline in all of season eight. That storyline has been nicely percolating and getting ready to heat to a boil, slowly but surely, all the way since somewhere in mid season seven when we first saw Olivia blaze up a doobie. We thought Mary Jane was the worst vice Olivia had going for her, but with The Inside Man, the careful observer will begin to notice through Olivia’s behavior that she has most likely moved on to a much harder drug. In this ep, she comes rolling up to, I think, Westfork, along with Paige, super duper excited to announce to Abs that she officially has her license. Now, this scene I liked very much, and let me explain why. Peter is also hanging around the area since I think he might have just shagged Abs or something like that, and then Olivia hops out of the car and is like, “I got my license, omigod, it’s so exciting,” and everyone’s happy, but then her little car starts to roll backwards down the hill because, wouldn’t you know it, she forgot to put the parking brake down. Then Paige and Peter sorta run after the car and are able to get the brake down safely and nobody is hurt, and that’s when their eyes lock and we see the mutual interest the two immediately have in eachother. I like this because the scene seems to be about one character, Olivia, but then we have this parking brake business, which helps to alert us that Olivia’s mind is not clear and focused, and then the parking brake business also helps to organically get Peter and Paige to meet. This is the kind of skilled, organic writing that I’ve come to expect from KL and which has been rather lacking as we’ve been working our way through this season.
Later, we see the continuing frustration of one Sexy Michael as he struggles to understand why Paige is shutting him out. We get a pretty good little scene in this ep in which we see poor Sexy Michael tapping on Paige’s bedroom door and whispering to her, trying to get her attention, trying to get her to come out and talk to him. Then we go inside of Paige’s room and see that she is happily ignoring Sexy Michael, choosing instead to lie scantily clad on the bed and peruse a magazine article all about Peter. Again, I like the way this flows, that we are able to see Sexy Michael’s frustrations and we are also able to see that Paige now has her eyes set on someone new, and it’s done relatively free of dialogue, which I also appreciate.
While we’re on the topic of Sexy Michael, he’s definitely having a hard time with all of this and he’s choosing to direct his anger at his mother, whom he’s convinced has sabotaged his relationship with Paige. This I don’t care for, mostly because I think Sexy Michael is acting like a little whiny bitch. Is it wrong that I just fail miserably to even get inside of his head and understand what he’s going through? Despite his beauty, his absolutely stunning, monumental, earth-shattering beauty, I’m starting to believe Sexy Michael was a virgin before he met Paige, because why else would he be carrying on like this and acting like such a twelve year old girl? Just because they slept with each other, he’s now convinced he’s in love with her? I just find this terribly silly, and so, for my own sanity, I must make my own personal version of events in which Sexy Michael was a virgin, lost his virginity to Paige, and since he has not yet learned how to separate sex and love, he’s now convinced he’s in love with Paige. Also, I want to feel sorry for Sexy Michael; I look at this happening and him being sad and in pain and I want my heart to go out to him, and I want to understand him, but somehow I can’t. This might be because I’ve spent so much time creating an elaborate fantasy in which Sexy Michael is actually gay, deeply, deeply, deeply gay, so gay that he makes me and all my gay friends look like fat straight white men who drink beer and beat their wives by comparison. I would just so much rather live in a world where Sexy Michael is gay and there is the possibility that I could violate him, so perhaps it’s causing my brain to block out his heterosexual behavior and reject it as some sort of weird mirage, something that’s not actually happening in front of me. Finally, I think it just hurts me to see a creature as beautiful and divine as Sexy Michael get so tied up in knots (tee hee) because of one girl. Does Sexy Michael not even look in the mirror? Does he not know what powers and gifts God has blessed him with? Does he not realize that he could screw absolutely any man or woman in the entire world that he set his sights on? He’s wasting so much time by fretting about his relationship dramas with Paige when he could be showering with the entire high school football team and then letting them all take turns gang banging him.
The last real important bit of business this week involves a love letter that Anne apparently wrote to Mack back in the long long ago. This letter emerges when Paige gives it to Mack and is like, “My mother wrote this for you, but my evil grandparents who I hate hid it from you for all these years.” Mack reads it and then the letter is just sorta hanging around and Karen is constantly eyeballing it. Mack gives her full permission to read the letter and doesn’t seem too worried about it one way or the other, but it seems like it’s this great big moral thing for Karen, who can’t decide whether to read it or not, and even Val chimes in with her opinion and tells Karen that she should not look at the letter. Even so, Karen eventually does read the letter, and while it’s a lovely little affair, full of yearning and talk about how Anne wants so desperately to be with Mack forever, something about the letter leaves Karen with a bad feeling. She explains this bad feeling to Val later and says how it’s odd that Anne had just given birth to a new baby girl, yet she hardly mentions the baby at all in the letter. It takes her awhile to get to her point, but basically Karen says how she’s very suspicious that Paige wrote this letter herself, and she admits that she’s having a hard time trusting Paige. Well, our last shot of the ep shows that Karen has good reason to be suspicious. See, she and Mack are talking about Paige and the whole issue of trust, and then Mack says some line or other about how they need to trust her, but then we cut to this random cemetery and the camera pans down to a headstone and, wouldn’t you know it, it’s got Paige Matheson’s name on it, and right underneath the name, the dates of 1967-1985. Well gee, that’s weird, because if Paige is lying dead in this grave, who’s the woman played by Nicollette Sheridan that’s currently residing with the Fairgate-MacKenzies in their home? I actually like this mysterious ending a lot, and it’s an ending that has stuck with me from my first viewing, one that I’ve always remembered, because I think it does a very effective job of making you want to tune in next week to see what’s really going on.
I do have a bit of a problem with the dates on the headstone. Are we to now infer that Paige was born in 1967? That makes her only nineteen years old here, yet she feels much older, plus I’m almost certain that when she first showed up in the closing moments of season seven, she gave her age as 21 or 22. If that was the case, her birthday would be more around 1963 (which happens to be the real year Nicollette was born). If Paige is really nineteen, then why all this business about how she’s too old to have a relationship with Sexy Michael? How old is Sexy Michael supposed to be, anyway? I’ve been trying to keep track of his age, and while the human equivalent of a gigantic throbbing penis, Pat Petersen, was born in 1966, I think Sexy Michael is supposed to be two years younger than that. Okay, so that would make Sexy Michael born in 1968, right? So Paige is only one year older than him? And that makes her too old to fool around with him? I’m just getting very confused, and I predict my confusion will only grow larger a little later down the line, since I think Paige is suddenly afflicted with some minor SORAS and ages four or five years at some point in our future. (EDIT: I DID MY RESEARCH AND PAIGE SAYS SHE'S NINETEEN IN HER FIRST EP; I'M STILL PRETTY SURE SHE'S GONNA GET SORAS AT SOME POINT)
The last thing I want to note about this ep is how it’s got a real Christmas spirit thing going on. In fact, I think our last ep also had the Christmas spirit, and the whole Christmas theme seemed to really permeate this disk. I like this because there were never any seasons on Dallas and certainly never a celebration of Christmas, and I like seeing the holidays acknowledged over here. It’s also interesting because, in my brain, KL had Christmas eps nearly every year, but now I’m seeing that my memories are way off, as we haven’t had a Christmas ep since way back in season three with One of a Kind. Anyway, this ep gives us lots of little moments of merriment, such as a scene with Ben and Val putting up Christmas lights together, a visit from Abs to Sumner’s ranch that causes Laura to say, “I’ve suddenly lost my holiday spirit,” and a particularly dreadful sweater that Abs wears which, I must believe, she is only wearing in order to win some sort of Lotus Point ugly Sweater Contest.
That’s all I got for this ep. I liked it fine and thought it was much better than the last two eps, but it’s of course got problems. Hackney remains the festering boil on the face of this entire season. I want to just ignore the boil and try to focus on the other aspects of the face, because I usually love the face, but the boil is just getting bigger and bigger and more full of pus and we all know that, any moment, when we least expect it, it’s going to explode and send a bunch of nasty goo and mucus running down this otherwise lovely face. I liked the ending of this ep very much and a few of the other smaller details, but I also remain underwhelmed in general, suddenly realizing just how flawed and problematic this year truly is, and that’s honestly kind of a bummer, since I’ve heard fans bitch about this season a lot and, prior to this rewatch, I remembered it as being brilliant as usual. Now I’m seeing that’s not quite accurate.
In any case, we’re finally almost ready to move into a storyline that I truly and 100% love, and that storyline is going to really kick into gear with our next ep, Gifts.