Thursday, June 14, 2018


Episode Title: No Miracle Worker 

Season 08, Episode 17

Episode 177 of 344

Written by Bernard Lechowick

Directed by Kate Tilley

Original Airdate: Thursday, January 8th, 1987

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Mack flies to New York to see Anne. Under house arrest, Olivia sneaks out and does drugs in the barn. Olivia locks herself in the bathroom, so Abby chops the door down and finds drugs which Olivia tried to flush. Olivia makes calls, and tells Brian that her friends will bring her homework to his school. Abby catches Olivia stealing money from her purse, and they fight. Olivia trashes Abby's room, and Abby has to restrain her. Olivia gives Brian an envelope and tells him it's her homework to give to her friends. Lilimae brings Brian to school, but comes back with Olivia's "homework." It is actually money. Upset, Olivia says she had to give it to Brian, or her friends would beat him up. Abby rushes to Brian's school, but he's already been beaten up. Abby brings him home and forces Olivia to face her bruised and bloodied brother. Upset, Olivia runs to the chicken coop and gives Abby all of her drugs.

                Welcome back.  When we last left off, Abs was boldly declaring to Olivia that she wasn’t going to lock her out of the house; she was going to lock her in the house and keep her on a strict house arrest.  This plot development pretty much propels us through No Miracle Worker, which wisely focuses the majority of its attention on all this drama between Abs and Olivia.  As with our last ep, I feel like there’s not a whole lot to say about the other characters, but I’ll start with Mack and Anne.  Actually, Mack and Anne are about the only characters besides Olivia and Abs to get any attention this week, so once I’m done with them, I’ll just glide right over to Olivia and her coke.

                Okay, so last ep the grumpy old man Winston came to the Fairgate/MacKenzie house and confirmed that Paige is, indeed, Paige.  He also confirmed that her mother is still alive and well and living in New York, prompting Karen to tell Mack he should fly to New York to see her and tell her about Paige.  My Beloved Grammy and I were both immediately confused by this; wouldn’t a simple phone call be more than sufficient?  Why must Mack fly all the way to another state in order to meet his old ex-lover from twenty years ago and tell her that her daughter’s alive?  I get that it’s big news, but you call the person on the phone, you tell them you have big news, you give them the big news, and you’re done.  Is it perhaps just the fact that it’s been so long since Mack’s seen her?  Has it been so long that he thinks it would be inappropriate to reintroduce himself into her life without a little gentleness?  Now this is starting to make more sense to me.  In any case, not all that much happens with Mack and Anne this ep, and we don’t even physically see Anne until two seconds before the ep ends, but the basic gist of it is that Mack flies to New York to see her, even returning to the big, epic, scary mansion where their entire romance once started.  We are treated to a Sepia Toned Flashback, although in this instance the creative team is recycling flashbacks we’ve already seen.  See, this flashback is the one in which Young Mack is sitting by the pool and Young Anne is in the pool, trying to pretend like she’s naked under the water.  Then she sorta lifts herself up out of the water in this slow motion shot, water dripping off of her, and for just a second we think we might see some boobage, but then we reveal that she’s wearing a top.  I can’t remember what prior ep this comes from, but it’s somewhere in the eighth season.  I don’t mind seeing it again, however; if these are Mack’s flashbacks and memories, it makes sense that he would keep remembering the same incidents over and over again.  When we return to 1987 and Mack knocks on the door of the mansion, it is answered by the butler we saw in a previous ep (his name is Philip), before Mr. Winston shows up and announces to Mack that Anne is not here and he has no idea where she is.

                A little later, Mack calls Karen and explains that Anne is actually on a trip in the Caribbean and that she changed her plans without telling anybody.  Now I guess Mack just has to hang around and wait, leading us to an interesting scene in his hotel room between him and Winston.  I rather enjoyed this little window into Winston’s life as he makes an attempt to give Mack some form of apology.  He talks about how, “To someone like you, someone from my generation must seem from a different planet,” to which Mack replies, “Some of my best friends are from other planets.”  Then Winston adds how things were done different back in the olden days, how societal norms change, Bob Loblaw.  It would be hard to apologize to someone for taking the love of their life away, but Winston goes for it here and I’d say it’s pretty genuine.  This doesn’t make me like the character, but I appreciate his complexities and that the writers don’t just pen him as a one dimensional old villain. 

                We finally get to see Anne in the last two seconds of the ep, in Mack’s hotel room.  There’s a knock at the door and he answers to find Anne standing there, declaring, “Daddy told me you were here,” and that’s pretty much how we end the ep.  It’s our first sighting of the fabulous Michelle Phillips, who I remember enjoying very much my first time watching the series and I’m eager to see if I feel the same way this time.  However, I think I’ll save my thoughts on her for our next ep, when she gets a lot more attention, more than a door opening and her delivering one line of dialogue.

                The only other aspect worth noting in all this Mack/Anne business is a real hint of jealousy and insecurity coming from Karen.  There’s a scene in this ep that I had forgotten about, but which came right back at me as soon as I saw it again, and that is Karen and her sweater.  See, we catch up with Karen and Val hanging out in Karen’s bedroom, where Karen is positively horrified to find that a sweater which used to fit her perfectly fine doesn’t slide on quite so smoothly anymore.  She declares, “I’m fat!” and Val asks if the cleaners shrunk it.  When Karen says this used to be a big sweater, Val asks, “Have you gotten to be a big girl?”  This is a funny line that made me smile, but I also feel sorry for Karen when she says how she’s afraid to weigh herself.  Now might be a good time to get super personal and start talking about some aspects of my own life and how they help me relate to this scene and Karen’s feelings.  I’ve had my share of issues with weight and body image throughout my life, and I used to be a pretty big boy, peaking somewhere near the end of high school, when I was over 200 pounds.  Then, after college, I went on this diet and lost a shit ton of weight and was going to the gym all the time and was super skinny.  As soon as I lost my weight, people couldn’t shut up about how good I looked and how handsome I was (see super sexy picture below for an example), and it is a rather interesting feeling after so many years without anyone really making any comments on such things.  Of course, I got a little nutty and obsessed with my weight and my diet and ended up hitting a bottom of 120 pounds (which is not a lot) when the doctor told me I need to eat more and said she thought I had a minor eating disorder.  Okay, so since then I have eaten more, but now I know I’ve gotten fatter, and even though I know I was way too skinny beforehand, it still bums me out to gain any weight and, much like Karen, I’m too afraid to step on the scale myself.  The point of my long and boring personal story is that I can relate to Karen and her body image issues.  She’s worried about her husband going off to a see the former love of his life, she’s looking at her own body for any sign of imperfection, and she’s thinking too much about her weight and this sweater that used to fit her.

                This stuff is all good, pretty interesting and compelling and well acted, but the real stuff that everyone remembers from this ep is Abs and Olivia, so let’s return over to them.  Honestly, in my memories, this entire ep is all about Abs and Olivia, never cutting away from them for anybody else, although obviously that’s an inaccurate recollection.  It’s just that all this material is so compelling that it sticks in the memory more than anything else going on, starting right away, as soon as we begin the ep.  See, we all saw Abby’s attempts last ep to clear the house of all drugs and drug related paraphernalia, but Olivia remains two steps ahead of her, as she’s actually got a secret coke stash hidden away in the barn, or at least one of the barns (I don’t know how many barns Westfork actually as), so late at night, when nobody else is awake, she sneaks out to get her little coke fix that she so desperately craves.  However, Abs quickly catches her as she’s attempting to climb back into her bedroom window and slide into bed.  Now, this scene mildly confused me, but it’s not a big thing.  Basically, Abs can tell that Olivia’s already been outside even though Olivia is saying she was about to go outside just this moment, hoping to take a nice walk.  Then Abs grabs her robe and starts going through the pockets and such and we get a closeup of Olivia slipping the baggie of coke out of her pocket and hiding it.  The first time I watched this, I didn’t understand and thought the closeup was showing us Abs discovering the coke in her pocket, but it’s not that at all, so my bad.  In any case, even though Olivia manages to get the coke out of sight right and quick, Abs is sharp and decides she’s going to spend the night with her daughter, sleeping in the same bed and keeping an eye on her, leading us to the very best scene of the ep.

                We return to Westfork a little later that night to discover Abs sleeping alone, Olivia having snuck off into the bathroom for some midnight coke.  Abs knocks on the door and tells her to unlock it, which Olivia refuses to do.  Again, my memories prove slightly inaccurate because I was 100% convinced that we actually see Olivia doing the coke, that we see her breaking it up into different lines and actually snorting it up her nose, but that’s not accurate.  We can tell that she’s working with the coke and then she will lower her head down out of frame and we hear her snort before her head returns back into frame, so we definitely get the picture with what’s happening, but it’s not quite as explicit as I had remembered.  Anyway, Olivia just wants to finish doing her lines and go back to bed, but Abs has other plans, plans involving a hammer to the bathroom door.  Oh, what sweet bliss this scene is, as Abs starts smashing through the door like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.  Olivia has enough time to toss her baggie into the toilet and flush it, but she doesn’t count on the baggie floating, so once Abs gets into the bathroom, she quickly discovers what Olivia was hiding.  From there, she goes to work taking the door off its hinges and declares, “You want to get high, you let us watch you get high.” Ooooh baby.

                What a glorious scene.  Everything is firing on all cylinders in this scene, although obviously the best part is Donna’s acting.  Her frustrations are palpable and you truly feel sorry for her as she tries to stop Olivia from using.  This prompted My Beloved Grammy to say, “This is the first time I’ve ever felt sorry for Abby since we started watching the show.”  These are bold words from her, although I have had several moments of sympathy for Abs throughout the last years, mostly in those moments where she lets her guard down and shows her true emotions.  That’s what we’ve got going on here and that’s why it works so well.  I can actually remember watching this scene for the first time back in college and finding it so amazing and so exciting that I immediately ran upstairs and found my friend and forced him to come back to my room and watch the scene with me, which he did even though I’m sure he didn’t particularly care about the show or this scene from the show.

                Brian is figuring fairly prominently in this storyline, which makes it a glaring oversight that I have barely talked about him or the new actor playing him, Brian Austin Greene (BAG.).  When Brian and Olivia first made their way to the cul-de-sac back at the start of season two, Brian was played by the kid from Tremors, who played him from Hitchhike: Part One in 1980 through Finishing Touches in 1984, racking up 26 appearances (at least according to the not-always-accurate IMDb). Then we entered this weird period through all of seasons six and seven in which Brian might occasionally be mentioned but we never, ever saw him, not once.  I wouldn’t really notice or care about this development were it not for the fact that My Beloved Grammy would constantly bring up, “Where the hell is Abby’s other kid?”  Like I said, he remains offscreen for an entire two year period, and sometimes I wouldn’t really notice, but sometimes it would stick out more, like when Gary was getting ready to blow up Empire Valley and he was shuffling the whole family out of the state and yet we still didn’t see Brian.  Then we started season eight and Brian officially morphed into BAG with the episode Past Tense.  In my notes for that ep, I even scribbled down “Note that Brian has morphed into BAG,” but then I forgot to talk about it when I wrote about that ep.  In any case, here’s BAG and he’s here to play Brian until the end of season ten in 1989, so we’ll be seeing him fairly frequently until he decides to move to West Beverly.  I will need a few more eps with this Brian to decide which one I prefer, but right now I’ll venture a guess that I like BAG more than the Tremors kid, because he seems sweeter.  Tremors Brian seemed like kinda a brat, being introduced playing that annoying horn constantly and just being irritating.  This Brian is a lot nicer to Abs and to Olivia, trying to make them both feel better, which in turn makes me feel kinda sorry for him.  Abs doesn’t sit him down and have a nice long talk about the exact problems Olivia is dealing with, so I feel the kid is probably pretty confused when he walks into his sister’s bedroom at night and finds his mother busting down the bathroom door with a hammer. 

                I finally bring up Brian because Olivia ends up using him to further her means of getting more coke.  See, she tells him how she wants to do all of her homework in great secret so that Abs will be pleased when she finds out, and she says how she needs Brian to pick up textbooks from her friends, except her friends are actually Bobby Briggs and the textbooks actually have coke cleverly slipped into the spine.  As soon as Brian arrives with the books, Olivia carefully removes the baggie of coke and she’s set for, well, at least the next couple of hours.  This ruse doesn’t last long, however, because later we get a fabulous scene of Abs dropping Brian off at school and then starting to cry behind the wheel.  The scene would be fabulous enough if it was just Abs crying, since I love all these new layers to the character that we are witnessing visa vis this storyline, but then Brian returns to the car and tries to comfort her by being like, “Look, Olivia’s doing all her homework and everything!”  He shows her the “homework” that he is supposed to deliver to the friends, but Abs sees that it’s an envelope filled with money.  Uh oh! 

                Abs takes the money from Brian and says how she’ll deliver it herself, but the problem of course is that Bobby Briggs is waiting for his money and he’s not gonna be pleased when Brian doesn’t deliver.  Abs returns to Westfork, where Lilimae is hanging out with Olivia and boring her with stories about what a trotline is, and barges in demanding to hear an explanation for this money.  See, she assumes that Olivia was having Brian deliver the money in order to return with drugs, but really Olivia owes Bobby Briggs a lot of money from working with him as a salesperson.  From here, we cut to a little scene of Bobby Briggs roughing up Brian.  There’s some style here, as most of the violence is implied when Bobby Briggs pulls Brian into a school-bus and slides the door shut.  We can imagine that Brian is not having a great time in that bus, but we don’t get all the gory details. 
                We do, however, see the aftermath, in which Brian returns home with his face all bruised and ugly.  Abs grabs Olivia and forces her to look at her brother and see what her drug use has caused to happen.  This is the big emotional climax, as Olivia goes running off to the barn, grabbing her stash and handing it all over to Abs.  She’s crying and all out of sorts and the acting is very good from both actresses, as always.  One thing worth noting is that my copy of this ep appears to be a smidge shorter than the originally aired version; if you watch the CBS version from 1987, after Olivia hands the drugs over, Abs hugs her and the two sorta slide onto the ground and stay in this big dramatic embrace for a few seconds before we cut to Mack in New York.  The SoapNet version cuts before the hug occurs, which is a shame, because I do think that added a nice touch of finality to this storyline.

                Okay, so it looks like seeing her baby brother all beat up and bloody was all Olivia needed to fully renounce her habit.  Her handing the drugs over pretty much finishes this storyline, although I’ll pay attention to see how events play out in the coming eps.  I’m thinking really hard right now and I’m fairly certain Olivia behaves herself for the rest of her time on the series and never slides back into her coke habit, but I’ve been proven wrong before.  For now, let me just say that this is still a highlight storyline of the series, and it arrives like a cool breeze of air on a hot day.  With so many stories going on that I am not interested in (Paige and Sexy Michael) or that I just flat-out dislike (Hackney), having a story this good arrive in the middle of the season is a real tonic.  There’s a lot to love about this stuff, starting off with how it humanizes Abs and continues to keep her character interesting.  This is Abby’s seventh year on the series, and for most other shows, by this point, her character would be established as being one certain way and the writers would stick to that.  With KL and the writing of Abs, the writers are always keeping us on our toes, showing Abs being duplicitous and wicked but then surprising us by showing a very human side of her here.  Also, I just think it’s ballsy that the show tackled teenage drug abuse in 1987.  I would be curious to know what the reaction to this was upon first airing; I know the ratings right here are not what they used to be, but the show is still in the top 30, so I’m sure it’s getting plenty of viewers.  Did people talk about this story?  Did it seem cutting edge at the time?  I have to imagine it did.  If I have a complaint, it’s that this all felt much faster than I remembered.  If you had asked me to tell you based on memory how long this storyline spanned, I would have said something like ten eps, but it’s really more like four.  I actually think there’s enough dramatic weight to this material to stretch the story out way longer, and I kinda wish they had since I find it so compelling.  But no, when looked at in the grand scope of the season, this actually doesn’t go on nearly as long as I had remembered, but I think it could have.

                Because of the strength of the Abs/Olivia storyline in this ep, I think I’m gonna go ahead and declare No Miracle Worker to be the best ep of season eight thus far, and I have the feeling it will remain the best one when all is said and done.  Now it’s time to shift the attention away from cocaine and over to a potential romantic triangle between Karen, Mack, and new arrival Anne.  Next up, we shall discuss the romance of Mack MacKenzie and Anne Matheson with My True Love.


  1. Love this recap. Great job, as always!

  2. Your personal story was very heartwarming. Hugs!

  3. I agree. Best episode so far of the season, but there's a better one coming. I remember checking back in and watching this drug thing play out, then quickly losing interest again until the last few episodes of the season. I look forward to your take on "Cement the Relationship"

  4. I forgot about the extended scene with them falling on the ground. Damn, I wish they would release this series on some format!

  5. "Gimme the keys. Just gimme the keys. C'mon. You know you want to." A classic. Though, I agree. Wish they would have stretched all this good stuff over 6-8 eps...