Episode Title: The Unraveling
Season 08, Episode 16
Episode 176 of 344
Directed by Nicholas Sgarro
Original Airdate: Thursday, January 1st, 1987
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Mr. Winston flies into town and confirms that Paige really is his granddaughter. Paige is upset to see him. Karen convinces Mack he needs to fly to New York and tell Anne that Paige is alive. Paige cooks a romantic dinner for Peter. Jill admits to Gary that Peter is her brother. Gary thinks she means she is Galveston's daughter. Gary asks Jill to marry him. Abby demands Olivia give her all of her drug paraphernalia, but Olivia gives her baking soda. Gary invites her to AA, but Olivia refuses. Gary tells Abby they'll have to wait until she hits bottom. Abby finds out that Olivia has drained her and Brian's bank account, has been skipping school, is failing all of her classes, and didn't pay her tuition. Out of money, Olivia decides to sell drugs, and her dealer hits her when she uses them instead. Abby takes Olivia's house and car keys and puts her under house arrest.
Welcome to 1987 and a whole fresh batch of exciting KL eps to sink our teeth into. I wanna go on a long and pointless rant real fast about how much I like it when the eps just happen to coincide with January 1st, the start of a brand new, fresh year full of possibilities and excitement. I don’t think a year in history could possibly be bad if it started with an ep of KL on the very first day. I’m also pretty sure this is the first time we’ve seen this occur in six years, that the last time was the season two ep Step One, airing January 1st, 1981. Now, aside from one very memorable scene in a hot tub, that ep kinda sucked and had one of the worst/creepiest ending sequences in all of KL history (Karen and Diana dancing around in KISS makeup and singing some stupid song together). Happily, this ep proves to be a large improvement over that season two ep, but I’d also say it proves to be a large improvement over a lot of our more recent season eight eps, mostly thanks to one very significant and very exciting storyline involving Olivia and Abs. In fact, I’ll be kinda frank and say that, really, probably most or all of the non Olivia/Abs stuff in this ep is just okay, nothing too special and nothing too terrible, just perfectly fine and dandy, but the Olivia/Abs stuff is so strong that it elevates the entire episode upwards.
Since I care so much more about what’s going on with Olivia and Abs and so much less about what everyone else is up to, I’m gonna just sorta zoom through the other characters real fast and then put the majority of my focus over on Abs and her daughter, and I’ll probably wind up doing the same for our next episode, as well. Let’s go ahead and get started by talking about Paige and Sexy Michael and the whole Fairgate/MacKenzie/Matheson clan. Okay, so when we last left off, Paige was giving Sexy Michael the cold shoulder and, rather than taking a look in the mirror and realizing that he could easily have sex with absolutely any man or woman in the entire universe if he wanted to, Sexy Michael instead chose to act like a 12 year old girl and mope around and blame Karen for his problems and use words like “love” towards Paige ad nauseam. I don’t know why I continue to be so bored and disinterested by this story, but I am, and I also feel I can’t properly explain why I’m so annoyed with Sexy Michael, a creature so divine and so beautiful that it’s really just plain wrong for me to dare to criticize anything about him, since he exists at a level so far beyond us mere mortals. In any case, in this ep I think think think think we pretty much finish up the lovey dovey drama with these two characters, although perhaps they hook up again a little later down the road; I honestly can’t remember. Like I said, I think this might be it for them, as we see Sexy Michael approaching Paige for a little candid conversation and saying, “Just tell me one thing; why did you sleep with me?” Paige’s response? “Because you were there.” Ouch! I’d say that’s definitely more than a bit cold, and honestly, I’m having a hard time understanding how Paige could actually have Sexy Michael’s penis inside of her not once, but several times, and then just write it off as, “Oh yeah, you were there.” If I had sex with Sexy Michael, I can tell you right away that I wouldn’t be ignoring him and saying things about how I only slept with him cuz he was there; I would be begging to continue sleeping with him for the rest of my life and desperately worrying that at any moment he might realize he is far too beautiful for me and run off with someone more on his level. Paige must think she’s pretty hot shit, because after knowing a divine pleasure that most of us can only dream of, she casually dismisses this sexual relationship as no big deal.
That’s hardly all Paige is up to in this ep, however. You’ll all recall how our last ep ended with Mack calling the wicked Winstons and learning about how Anne is actually alive and played by Michelle Phillips (well, Mack learned that she was alive, but I suppose he doesn’t know she’s played by Michelle Phillips yet, since he and we don’t actually meet this character until our next ep). That was our big cliffhanger for our last ep, the shocking reveal that Anne is actually alive. As we pick up with this ep, Karen and Mack are talking in the living room about how to handle this situation, and then a little later Paige comes in and they have a bit of a fight. Let me just take a moment to say that, as much as I love Karen and always have and always will, I really wish Michele was showing the same subtlety and natural talent that was well on display for all of season three. Right now, I’m starting to get a little tired of the overdramatic way that Karen likes to make pronouncements, and this scene has a good example of it. See, Paige comes walking in and then Karen gets the very dramatic, very somber tone in her voice and says, “Paige, you had to know we’d find out about you.” That line is, you know, okay, but then she raises her voice way more and says, “YOU HAD TO KNOW WE’D FIND OUT ABOUT YOUR MOTHER! WHAT DID YOU THINK YOU WERE DOING?!” You all see what I mean? Does anyone else remember when Karen was a little more mellow a little more frequently? The scene gets worse when Karen feels the need to yell even louder and then grabs some, like, red thing (it honestly looks like a hemorrhoid pillow) and blares, “WHAT COLOR IS THIS? BECAUSE IF YOU SAY IT IS RED, THEN IT MUST BE BLUE!” I feel like we’re getting way too much of the “WHAT IS AN A.P.B.?!” Karen right now, and I wonder/doubt if it’s ever gonna go away.
Fortunately Mack enters the scene to act a little less nutty, and he just quietly says, “You’ve got a lot of explaining to do.” Karen says how she doesn’t believe anything Paige says, Bob Loblaw, and she goes marching off (even doing a total prima donna head thrust as she makes her exodus) and leaves Paige and Mack alone, at which point Paige continues to lie, telling Mack how she made up this story only because “I knew how you felt about her and I didn’t want to jeopardize your marriage to Karen.” Well, we can all clearly see that this is a lie, but then the lies keep coming as Paige declares that her mother didn’t care when, “I told her about my stepfather, about all the horrible things he did….in private.” Mack is pretty perfect in this scene and I love the way he manages to keep nice and balanced, because he says how if this whole stepfather business is true, “I’ll tear him apart limb for limb,” but then he adds, “If you’re lying to me, if you’re telling me things that aren’t true to cover up your lies, nobody does that to me, nobody.” In an interesting contrast to Michele’s hyperventilating overacting at this juncture, I actually think The Dobsonator does a swell job of taking what could be an incredibly corny bit of dialogue and making it seem genuine and grounded in reality. I also like how at first you think Mack is going to be fooled by Paige’s new lie, but he quickly shows that he’s not that stupid and that she’s going to have to go about earning his trust back.
A little later, Paige is dressed in a sexy green leather outfit and heading out the door when Mack stops her and says there’s someone here to see her, and it’s her evil, wicked grandfather, Mr. Winston, who the hell cares what his first name is. We go to a commercial just about here, as Karen says, “Mr. Winston, this is the woman who claims to be your granddaughter,” but when we return from that lovely 1987 commercial break, we see Winston asking, “Paige, why did you do this?” Ah, so we now have official confirmation that Paige is Paige, just like she says. Then we get a decent little confrontation between her and Mack in which she confesses that she hates how he never went after her mother, never rescued Anne from the evil grandparents, never came looking for his daughter, to which Mack says, “I never even knew you existed,” to which Paige starts sobbing and saying, “That’s what I hate the most!” Then she starts crying on Mack’s shoulder. I would say I like Paige a lot more whenever she’s not crying and I do not think crying is one of Nicolette’s strong suits, so here’s hoping the writers don’t keep asking her to do it.
Also, now that Paige has dumped Sexy Michael (bad choice), she quickly shifts her attentions over to the far less sexy, rather bizarre looking Peter Hollister, randomly showing up at his apartment to cook a fancy dinner complete with candlelight. He shows up looking tired and slightly put off (he probably just got the memo that he won’t be returning for the ninth season), but Paige declares how he’s not gonna believe how good her pasta primavera is and says to prepare himself for a seven course meal. Jesus! There’s a little exchange of dialogue that made me smile, in which Peter says, “This could take all night,” and then Paige sorta hops into his lap and says, “So could dinner.” Oh my! In any case, I’m still not too terribly interested in this development or this story. In fact, I’m gonna go ahead and take the time to say I don’t really care about Peter at all anymore. Like I said, he’s about to be shown the exit door (and actually, I misspoke slightly because he just barely bleeds into season nine, making his final official appearance on the series in the fifth episode of the season, There Are Smiles), so it’s not like I’m going to have to talk about Peter too much more once we’ve finished up this eighth season. I believe that somewhere within the massive season seven run, I declared that I like this character a lot and that I like the energy he brings to proceedings and Bob Loblaw. I’m not entirely sure when those feelings went away, but it may have started when we concluded the whole senate storyline from the start of the year and started to turn our attention to Peter poisoning Sylvia (and where the hell is she now, by the way?). Right now, Peter is existing and he’s moving around and he’s getting some focus of the attention, but I just kinda don’t care. He’s not a bad character like Hackney is, and he plays the part fine, but it’s just sorta blah. I also wonder if part of the problem is the slow drip drip drip of information that’s been going on since the start of season seven. It took so damn long to finally figure out precisely who Peter is and precisely what he’s up to, and I feel like by the time we’ve finally got all that squared away, he’s just about ready to leave. For now, I’ll hold off on further thoughts until we get closer to his last appearance.
Tangentially related to Peter: In this ep, J.B. finally tells Gary the truth about how Peter is her brother. This goes over fine, although I think that Gary misunderstands slightly. If I’m following the proceedings alright, I think that Gary believes J.B.’s story, but he takes it to mean that she is Galveston’s daughter. I’m having a hard time keeping track of who all knows the real truth about Peter not even being kinda sorta related to Galveston in any way, shape, or form. So far, I’m pretty sure the only people to know the truth are Peter, J.B., Sylvia, Greg, and Abs (remember her clever blank paper trick?). Also, in this ep, Gary decides to marry J.B., which is pretty exciting. The most exciting part is that I can’t remember if the two actually wind up getting married, but I know we’ve still got J.B. until we are deep into the tenth season, so that’s about two more solid years with her, so I’m betting they will get married somewhere in those two years. Let’s find out!
Okay, that’s enough about the less interesting stuff. Now, you understand, I still find this stuff kinda interesting, although obviously a pretty far cry from how interesting I found seasons four through six, but I’m saying it becomes significantly less interesting when put up against the epic and fabulous Olivia/Abs story. Okay, so we all know Olivia is having a bit of trouble with the nose candy, right? And we all saw how she crashed her car while she was driving with Lilimae, right? Then we all saw how Lilimae handed some cocaine to Abs and, rather than saying, “Let’s sneak into the bathroom and snort this together,” she declared that she had found it in Olivia’s car. Then Abs caught Olivia trying to buy some coke last ep, and that brings us nicely up to date. As we start this ep, Abs and Olivia are arguing in Olivia’s bedroom, and I gotta say Olivia’s excuses are stretching credibility more than just a little bit. When Abs says, “I saw you buying drugs,” Olivia says, “I was only doing it so the other kids would think I use it; they all say I’m too straight.” Does she honestly think this crappy lie is going to fool Abs? Probably not, I guess, but that’s because Olivia is deep into her addiction, in which you’re just lying your ass off constantly in your obsessive quest for more coke.
Right away, this is clearly the best story going on, and it starts just as soon as the ep starts. See, Abs is being a clever girl, but Olivia is already several steps ahead of her, having planned for this moment. Abs orders Olivia to show her all her hiding spots where there might be coke, declaring how, even though she already searched her room, “I’ll search it again, and this time you’ll think a bomb went off.” So then Olivia makes her circle around the room and pulls coke (or what we and Abs think is coke) out of a myriad of hiding spots. She starts with a big boot positively stashed with delights, and I note with interest that it’s not just coke. She also has caffeine pills (which feels slightly weird and Saved by the Bell-ish) and, I think, even some pills? Basically, by the time she’s done emptying her stash, there’s a nice little collection of different things piled up, and am I completely crazy or did I also see a needle? It is very possible that I’m hallucinating this needle, and it also doesn’t help that the picture quality is less than perfect on my copies, but I even paused the image of all the crap Olivia has dumped and I am pretty sure I see at least one needle. Jesus, what all is Olivia doing to her body besides filling in with massive amounts of white powder? In any case, Abs takes all the paraphernalia out of the bedroom and seems satisfied, but then later we hear Olivia on the phone with a friend, declaring how she filled most of those bags up with baking soda, knowing her mother would search her room again. Ooooh, clever coked out girl!
This is only the first confrontation of the ep, but it immediately sets the tone for brilliance. I love everything this storyline for as long as it goes on (which is not long enough, in my opinion), but obviously the first important bit of business is the tremendous acting from the two ladies. I’ve said how much I like Olivia since pretty much the moment she arrived at the cul-de-sac. Back then, she was mostly just a cute little girl that would occasionally have a few lines in eps, but didn’t do all that much. Now it’s seven years later and she’s really blossomed into an important character and Tonya’s acting chops show that she can hold her own. While a lot of this stuff threatens to become over-the-top, I feel it stays nicely grounded because I believe in Tonya as a real teenager with a real drug problem. Also, while it goes without saying that Donna is always perfect as Abs, this is some of her finest work. I love seeing Abs kick into mother lion mode and be harsh with Olivia in the name of helping her. I also love how Abs stays sharp and watchful over Olivia, not being easily fooled. This is demonstrated even in small ways, like the way Olivia is very slowly emptying her boot of all her drugs and Abs just grabs it from her and starts emptying it herself, or the way she stands next to her afterwards and says, “There’s got to be more.” We are also seeing a fabulous new side to Abby’s character, as her mission here is not to sleep with some senator in order to get a business deal or screw someone out of money they deserve or whatever else she might be doing in another ep of the series. Instead, we are shifting our focus strictly to Abs trying to save Olivia before her problems get even more out of hand, and we are focusing on Abs strictly as a mother and I really like that.
Over the course of the ep, Abs comes to realize that Olivia’s problem is even more serious than it first appeared. This starts when she gets a phonecall from some richie rich clothing store, saying they are sorry that they weren’t able to return Olivia’s clothes for cash. Turns out that Olivia showed up at this store wanting to return a whole ton of clothes and get some cash back, but the store doesn’t play that way. Oh, by the way, I like how this is shot, and even though I’ve bitched throughout the season about how everything looks and sounds way cheaper than it used to, the directors still consistently throw some stylistic flair into the eps. In this case, Abs gets the call from the department store, and then as the lady on the phone is describing what happened, we see it play out in front of us, like we see Olivia trying to return the clothes and being told no, only we can’t hear her dialogue, since the lady on the phone is speaking over it, you all follow? I don’t know if they filmed a whole big Olivia-trying-to-return-clothes scene and then cut it out and then decided to sorta cleverly use it for different purposes within this sequence or if it was always planned out that way, but in any case, I like it. I also like it later in the ep when Abs pays the high school a visit and finds out that Olivia still has several unpaid tuition fees on her record, and I like the next scene where she finds out that Olivia sold Brian’s little pocket TV for coke money, and I really like the next scene where Abs finds out that both Olivia and Brian’s bank accounts have been drained. Jeez, how did Olivia manage to get Brian’s money out of that account?
Meanwhile, Olivia is hanging around the high school and going to work for Bobby Briggs (pictured below), who is only allowed to exist in movies or TV shows if he plays a teenaged kid selling drugs to other teenaged kids. Actually, I got pretty excited when I saw Bobby Briggs on the show, and I love how he is in many ways very similar to the way he’ll be in a few short years on Twin Peaks. In this case, dressed in a leather jacket and wearing sunglasses, he tells Olivia how if she wants some of his drugs, she’ll need to give him some cold hard cash. She says that she doesn’t have any cash, so he offers her a “sales job.” At first, Olivia says no, prompting Bobby Briggs to say, “You rich kids can always find money somewhere, right?” Later, Olivia’s resolve crumbles as we see her agreeing to work for Bobby Briggs, but then sneaking off into a back alley to steal some of the coke for herself. Unfortunately for her, Bobby Briggs quickly catches her and takes the coke back and then shoves her against a wall, all while that stylistic device I liked so much from earlier returns with another character piping dialogue over the soundtrack (in this case, it’s a cop giving a lecture about teenage drug use at some sort of seminar Abs is attending).
My other favorite scene in this ep is a grand conversation between Abs and Gary. Ever the wise and seasoned recovering alcoholic, Gary says how Olivia is supporting a coke habit now, a word which frightens Abs. Then Abs has one of her fabulous moments of naked emotion when she just says, “I don’t know what to do,” and then Gary sorta sighs and says, “I don’t know what to do, either,” and then he adds, “I know it’s awful, but Olivia may have to hit rock bottom before she realizes what kind of trouble she’s in.” These are wise words, and Gary of course knows that of which he speaks. I think it’s obvious that Gary’s rock bottom was waking up on a beach in 1983 all hungover and lying just a few short dashes from Ciji’s dead body. Will Olivia suffer a similar fate? Watch on!
Oh yeah, and the very last thing I wanna talk about with this episode before wrapping it up: Urine. Once again, KL doesn’t shy away from talking about their characters’ urine and I continue to appreciate it. Everybody in the world goes pee and poop, yet these bodily functions are hardly ever seen or talked on network TV, and especially not in this era, so I really like the scene where Abs orders Olivia to give her a urine sample and Olivia declares, “This is really gross,” to which Abs retorts, “You’re right; this is really gross.” Anyway, Olivia gives the sample, but before giving it to her mother, we have a quick scene of her telling Brian that she needs some bleach right and quick because she spilled something on the carpet. Later, she passes the drug test and I didn’t understand why, but My Beloved Grammy helpfully said how you can use bleach to mess with the results of a urinalysis (apparently My Beloved Grammy does a lot more coke than I do).
That oughta about do it for this ep. If my enthusiasm seems lesser as of late, I apologize for that and I want to stress that I think all the Abs and Olivia material is stellar this ep and it’s only gonna get more stellar in our next ep, the classic No Miracle Worker.