Thursday, July 26, 2018

KNOTS LANDING Episode 182 of 344: IN MOURNING


Episode Title: In Mourning

Season 08, Episode 22

Episode 182 of 344

Written by Alan Goldfein

Directed by Nicholas Sgarro

Original Airdate: Thursday, February 19th, 1987

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Val and the kids are brought home in a catering van. Val is frantic about Ben. Mack hires bodyguards posing as construction workers to protect Val and instructs Val to say that Ben is on a business trip. Lilimae asks Karen if she knows what's going on as Ben had her close her bank account, they drove around in a stolen car, then in a catering van all night, and now there are two carpenters at the house who aren't doing anything. Karen asks both Mack and Val what is going on, but neither will tell her anything. Greg's death is in the paper. Abby rushes to Peter's and says he'd better be prepared to take over Galveston Industries and pressures him to make a public statement. Gary and Jill had planned to marry in Las Vegas, but he postpones it. Val goes to the ranch to comfort Laura, then Greg walks in, and Val suddenly wonders if Ben is dead.




                Welcome back to the total turd sandwich that is The Jean Hackney Show.  I can already tell you even before I start writing that this is going to be one of my shortest essays.  I barely have any notes on the ep, almost nothing of significance happens in the ep, and to waste my time over-analyzing it and talking about all the different aspects of it would just be silly and futile.  My notes finish up with, “Kind of a blah episode,” and I suppose that’s how I felt after finished watching it with My Beloved Grammy and Brother, but after giving it a second watch all by myself, I think it’s gone from “kinda blah” to “just plain bad.”  Let’s discuss.


You should all recall where we last left off in the climactic moments of Survival of the Fittest, with Ben and Greg sitting up in Greg’s office and Ben holding him at gunpoint.  Hackney was listening down below on a big old pair of headphones and we heard a gunshot and then the credits rolled.  Is Greg dead?  Obviously not, but we’re going to have to spend an entire ep acting like he maybe might be dead and having all the characters running around and fretting, only for him to show up in the last two seconds and be like, “Hey, I’m not dead,” and every viewer in America in 1987 saying, “Yeah, duh.”  Ugh, let’s just talk about this as quickly as possible and then we’ll move on to an ep that manages to be even worse.



                We open on Hackney driving her car while terrible synth music plays on the soundtrack.  She parks the car and meets one of her co-conspirators (I think his name is Nick) and says how she knows Greg is dead.  Obviously she doesn’t really know this, and her co-conspirator is quick to point it out, saying how she just saw a body-bag and not an actual dead body.  He says how it could have just been a sack of potatoes and he’s absolutely right.  Hackney is really, really stupid and really really bad at her job.  She’s supposed to be all wicked and evil and she can’t even manage to confirm whether a person was shot and killed or not?  She hears a gunshot and sees a body bag and is just like, “Case closed”?  And I know I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating; this woman playing Hackney is just about the worst actress I have ever seen.  I can’t believe she managed to squeeze out four more years of acting work after this performance.  Every line of dialogue she’s given to deliver is terrible, yet she somehow makes it even more terrible by the sheer force of her atrocious acting.  When the dude says, “You didn’t even go inside,” Hackney responds in this way over-the-top and overacted manner, “Have you ever heard of security guards?”  Oh yeah, and the scene also flashes back to the last two minutes of the previous ep, showing them to us again (ugh), only this time adding a little echo sound to the dialogue.  It’s shit like this that makes the show feel like a daytime soap.  You take the bad picture quality, combine it with the dreadful synth soundtrack, and then throw in super corny dialogue and bad flashbacks with echoes and it’s just all kinds of wrong.  There’s no way that the genius Peter Dunne would allow this kind of crap to fly, let me tell you. 

                Through the course of the bad expository dialogue, we learn that a van took the body-bag out to Sumner’s ranch and deposited it there.  Let’s take a quick detour to explore whether, if Greg was to actually be really and truly dead, he would want to be buried on his ranch.  Bobby Ewing got to be buried at Southfork under his “beloved treehouse” during the dream season, so I wonder if the same could be true of Sumner.  If you own property, can you bury yourself in that property?  Well, anyway, that’s not important, but what is important is that Hackney claims the death was legit and that they are just keeping it quiet “until the Stratadine acquisition goes through.”  I’m gonna go ahead and admit something, and that’s that I have no fucking idea what “the Stratadine acquisition” is and I’ve long ago stopped trying to pay attention to why Hackney even wants Greg assassinated.  The story is so stupid that it’s not even worth expending mental energy on trying to pay attention; all I’m doing now is waiting for it to end. 



                As I said, basically the whole ep is everyone fretting about whether Greg Sumner is dead or alive.  Laura gets a newspaper that blares the headline, “Sumner Rumored Dead.”  Mack tells Val that Ben successfully killed Greg, and also assigns two fake carpenters to come to her house and hang out with her for some indeterminate amount of time.  Lilimae goes to Karen’s and further fuels her suspicions by telling her all the weird shit going on, about how they rode home in a catering truck and now have carpenters at the house who aren’t even doing any carpentering.  As I said before, Lilimae is really getting the shit end of the stick with storylines by this point, and in this scene she’s only functioning as an exposition dump and to help get Karen further involved in the story. 

                Val tells Karen that Ben is off on a business trip and “will be gone for some time” and if I was Karen, I’d be immediately suspicious, too, because Val is really terrible at lying.  Sean Spicer would do a better job of convincing Karen that Ben is off on a business trip, because Val looks fidgety, avoids eye contact, and stammers all of her dialogue.  I reiterate that it hurts me to see Val being forced to act this way, and I can already see what J.V.A. meant when she said that L & L turned her into “the village idiot.”  I knew things might get a little silly for Val circa season twelve when she’s got that brain tumor or whatever, but this is only the first season to be shepherded by L & L and already Val is suffering tremendously under their leadership.  This particular scene is just the tip of the iceberg, because Val goes even more village idiot in our very next ep.    



                  The final scene of the ep begins with Laura and Val watching the news and seeing a press conference with Peter (yeah, he’s still on the show, and yeah, you are pretty safe running off to take a piss whenever you see his face pop up in a scene).  Peter aggressively pushes that everything is going just swimmingly with the business or whatever, then Laura says, “I just can’t handle it,” and to the surprise of absolutely nobody, Greg comes strolling into the scene and says, “Can’t handle what?”  Oh thank God, Greg is alive, I was in such massive suspense on that one.  Then Val gets this look on her face like, “Oh, shit, where’s Ben?!” and we run our “executive producers” credit over that.  So, now that we have successfully filled an entire ep with a “Is this character dead or not?” mystery, looks like we’re going to have to repeat that again, only with Ben this time.  I’m in about as much suspense about whether Ben is alive as I was about whether Greg was alive.  Good God, I've never been so bored with this show before.



                Let’s look through my notes here and see if there’s anything else worth talking about.  Oh yeah, I make mention of this really bizarre little montage that occurs at about the twenty minute mark of the ep.  Hackney is giving some sort of anonymous tip to the newspapers, and then we keep switching over to different characters reading the paper and we hear their inner monologue as they read, know what I mean?  Like, Hackney says, “Okay, newspaper, you can print that…..” and then we swish over to Peter reading a paper and hear his inner monologue saying, “…well informed sources have confirmed that Galveston Industries has been rocked by internal rumors in the last 24 hours….” Then we swish (and I do mean swish; the camera flies from one image to the next, if that makes any sense at all) to Abs reading the paper and hear her inner monologue saying, “…that chairman and chief executive officer Greg Sumner,” and so on and so forth.  We swish to a lot of characters.  What’s weird is that I’m looking at my notes and I wrote, “A bit corny, but I like it.”  What?  Why would I have written that?  This is awful!  My conclusion is that I was probably in a good mood while I was watching this with My Beloved Grammy and Brother, and I think we all had a good laugh over the corniness of this storytelling device, but watching it alone, I see how stupid and awful it is. 

                Karen and Mack go out to dinner at Lotus Point and Karen challenges Mack to answer her questions about what’s really going on.  While watching, I found myself intensely aware of how boringly the scene was shot and how much it looks like TV.  Instead of doing something interesting with the camera, they just keep cutting from headshots of Karen to headshots of Mack.  I’ll bet you a million dollars the two weren’t even delivering their dialogue to each other when they filmed this, that Michele is probably talking to nobody and that the same is true of Mack and then it’s all just edited together to look competent.  I will say that we all got another great big laugh out of this scene, and let me tell you why.  The scene begins with Karen and Mack having their dinner and there are obviously other people around, but no reason to think Anne is merely three feet away watching the whole conversation.  We have no idea Anne is even in this building when the scene starts, right?  Then Karen is like, “Fuck you, Mack, you won’t tell me the truth, this storyline sucks, I’m going home!”  She takes off and Mack sorta sighs and starts to stand up from his chair, at which point My Beloved Grammy said, “Now he’s gonna be tempted to have an affair with Anne.”  Mack walks over to the bar and Anne is just there.  She looks super duper happy and immediately saddles up next to Mack to try and seduce him and it was just hysterical how this happened mere seconds after what My Beloved Grammy said.  None of us thought that Anne would just appear suddenly in the scene, but appear she does.  Oh yeah, and she also says, “A beer for the gentleman,” and the bartender just hands over a bottle of beer since it’s Television Land where nobody needs to specify what kinds of beer they like; they just say “a beer” and a beer appears.  It's not like there’s any different types of beers in the world or anything like that.



                Looking at my notes, it looks like Peter and Paige also shag in this ep, but who cares?  I don’t even have the energy to write about them right now, so let’s just wrap this up.  I did not like this ep because it was boring, it had no forward momentum, and it was obviously just killing time until we can get to the next ep (a common theme of the season).  So it’s a bad ep and I really didn’t like it, but fuck me if it doesn’t look a whole hell of a lot better after you watch what’s coming up next, a truly truly awful ep called Nightmare.


Thursday, July 19, 2018

KNOTS LANDING Episode 181 of 344: SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST

Episode Title: Survival of the Fittest

Season 08, Episode 21

Episode 181 of 344

Written by William Devane

Directed by Michael Preece

Original Airdate: Thursday, February 12th, 1987

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Jean catches the Gibsons, and they know that their house is bugged. She instructs Ben to kill Greg at the Lotus Point Club Opening. At the opening, Greg and Laura make up. He says he's happy about the baby. Anne hangs all over Mack at the party, and Karen pretends not to mind. Mack is amused at Karen's jealousy. Ben tells Val that they'll escape in a catering truck after the party. Jean tells Ben that if he doesn't kill Greg, she has people at the party who will kill Val. Ben says the time isn't right, so Jean tells him to make an opportunity. Gary and Jill tell Val that they're getting married and Val runs off crying. Ben confronts Greg in his office and pulls out a gun. He tells Greg to help him find a way out of this, because if he doesn't kill him, they'll kill his family. Jean listens in on the bug. Ben can't bring himself to kill Greg, but then a shot rings out.


                Welcome back, everybody, and also sorry for the late posting but I was, well, lazy last week and just didn't feel like posting.  We’ve got a lot to talk about before getting started with the ep in question.  Generally, I don’t like to forecast my opinions too far in advance before doing some serious writing about eps, but I’m gonna go ahead and blow my wad right here in the first paragraph of this essay and say, my dear God, this was a bad disk of eps, really bad, really really really incredibly bad, maybe even terrible.  I’ll go even further and say that I think this particular disk (spanning Survival of the Fittest through Deadly Combination) was the very worst disk we have ever watched, and I’ll also say it may have, quite possibly, the very worst ep of KL we have seen up to this point (I’ll keep some suspense by not telling you which one just yet).  This disk was such a turd that I didn’t even wanna write about it and, of course, I let a lot of time go by and then had forgotten so many of the details, I decided I needed to, God help me, watch it again.  Doing this only underlined how bad these eps are, because, and it hurts me to say this, I found myself watching an ep and then not having the mental energy to watch another one.  The eps felt sooooooo long and sometimes I would even start one, watch the first scene or two, and just be like, “I can’t do this,” and turn it off.  Therefore, it took me forever to finally get them re-watched and sit my ass down to start writing about them.  Now you all know how I feel about this ep and the next four we have coming at us, so hopefully I’ll prove myself a skilled enough writer to eloquently explain my problems as we go through the eps with a fine tooth comb and sort out all the problems.


                On a much happier note, I would like everyone to know that there is now a third party watching KL alongside My Beloved Grammy and myself, and that would be Brother(pictured below alongside our father and yours truly).  For the last several years, Brother has been living out of town and I haven’t seen him as much, but now he’s back and I’m very pleased.  Even better, the timing worked out in this weirdly perfect way that he has seen every ep right up until this exact one we’re talking about now, thanks to me forcing him to watch the show in the past, so he moved back to town and we happened to be right at the exact same spot where he last left off and he was able to slide right back into the series smoothly.  I like to throw in what My Beloved Grammy thinks or says about the show, and now I can also add Brother’s thoughts.  I will say that having three people watching was extremely helpful, because we were able to laugh and make fun of the camp and silliness on display in front of us, whereas when I rewatched the eps all by myself, I just found myself bored and sad.


                “Sad” might seem like a strange word to use here, but as I believe I said somewhere in the distant past, the thing which makes me sad is that I’m seeing characters I love and cherish as if they are real people being made to act in stupid and ridiculous ways because the writing is forcing them to do so.  It is now very clear to me that I take these characters and this show much more seriously than I did upon first viewing, when I was still discovering everything.  I have talked about the camp value of KL in the past and said how I think camp is a factor in the show that we can all enjoy.  However, now that we’ve gotten through half of the show, I have really found myself marveling, particularly in that peak period of seasons four, five, and six, at how remarkably not campy the show is.  Sure, every now and then we get an, “IT’S TEA!” or “WE’RE RUINING LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVES!” or “DAMN YOU, PAUL GALVESTON!,” but those instances are actually pretty few and far between in the grand scheme of things.  This rewatch has made me appreciate so much the skilled writing of the series and the way they are able to honor the characters and stay true to them while still delivering great, dynamic drama.  At the point we are at now, the show has drifted into complete camp, and really the only way to enjoy the eps is to just view them as camp, but I don’t want to do that.  I love these characters and I don’t want to laugh at the series, but I confess it’s happening and getting worse and worse with each passing ep of season eight.  Okay, let’s go ahead and dive right in so I can start to explain myself better.


                We open on Hackney.  I’d say that sentence just about says it all with my problems with this ep and this season.  Remember how fucking good those central storylines of seasons four through six were?  Remember how Ciji/Wolfbridge/Val’s Babies were able to form this nucleus of a major storyline going the whole season and involving pretty much the entire cast?  Well, think of how good those stories were and then imagine a story that is just as bad as those stories were good.  Clearly the creative team thought this Hackney nonsense would be a good central nucleus, just like Ciji, just like Wolfbridge, just like Val’s babies.  The problem is that the story is so stupid and so boring and so campy that it infects everything in its path and winds up taking up a massive TWENTY FUCKING FIVE EPS out of the season, leaving only the last five (which we haven’t gotten to yet) Hackney-free.  When a storyline is as good as Val’s babies, you want it to take a lot of time to unfold, you want it to span the whole season, you want to watch all the exciting developments that take place because of it.  When a storyline is as bad as Hackney, the exact opposite is true, so it feels like it’s going on forever and all I want is for it to end.

                So yeah, we open on Hackney.  What’s Hackney doing?  Well, she’s threatening Ben and delivering terrible dialogue and being a horrible actress and a horrible character.  The first line of dialogue in the ep is, “The only way out for you and your family…..is to assassinate Greg Sumner.”  I can barely even type the line of dialogue without simultaneously groaning in disgust, face palming, yet also finding myself peeing my pants with laughter.  If this was just a show I like but don’t love, like Dallas, I could probably roll with the camp and get a good laugh out of it, but I just can’t do it here.  That is just awful dialogue, I’m sorry, and it’s the first line of the ep, and it sets the tone for everything to follow.  To set the scene better, Hackney and Ben are standing outside of the car while Val, Lilimae, and the twins stay cooped up in the car, looking scared.  Lilimae asks if Ben’s having an affair and Val is just like, “No!” and sounds kinda annoyed, and I get that she’s scared and all, but is that not a reasonable question to ask?  Wasn’t Ben shagging Cathy less than a year ago?  Have the writers already forgotten about that?  Well, they may have, but I like to think Lilimae has not and that’s why she’s bringing it up.


                Speaking of Lilimae, let’s talk about that sad feeling I’ve been having and how it relates to Lilimae.  What a truly wonderful character and actress this is, and how I’ve so greatly enjoyed rewatching and appreciating all the different intricacies she’s brought to this character from seasons three through a fair enough chunk of season seven (about a half of the season, I'd say).  I think back on all these fabulous scenes, getting reacquainted with Val after years apart, her amazingly complex relationship with Chip Roberts, her finely honed performance when confronting Jonathan Rush for the first time, her despair at sitting with Joshua and listening to him recount his childhood full of abuse and neglect.  It’s become very clear to me through this rewatch that Julie Harris is easily the best actress to ever be on the series and yet, ever since Joshua fell off that roof, the writers have shuffled her into the background and given her next to nothing to do.  If she hadn’t been involved in the car accident with Olivia a few eps back, I really think she would have done nothing in this season.  She’s just been hanging around the house, making her Lilimae comments, having some dialogue here and there, but she hasn’t gotten anything substantial or juicy to work with since she lost her son, and it hurts me to watch this.  You have a brilliant actress like Julie Harris as a main cast member on your show and you’re gonna give her fucking nothing to do?  You would rather we shift our attentions over to Peter Hollister, who is becoming more and more sleep-inducing by the minute, or to J.B. falling off a cliff and hitting her head and going into a stupid Plot Contrivance Coma, rather than give Lilimae something interesting to do?  These people are not even main cast members, so why are they getting such substantial stories while Lilimae sits around doing nothing?  We are roughly twenty eps away from Lilimae leaving the show forever, and while I’ll of course be sad to say goodbye to her, I would honestly prefer it to having to watch her continue to be so underutilized.


                Speaking of underutilized, the writers recently remembered that Laura is a character on this series and made her pregnant.  Now, when I say, “made her pregnant,” what I really mean is that Constance got pregnant in real life and the writers were forced to bring it into the story.  I’m not complaining, by the way, because I’m pretty sure if Constance hadn’t gotten pregnant, Laura would be joining Lilimae in doing absolutely nothing for the entire season.  Half the season, she’s barely even been around, only functioning as a sounding-board for Greg or an occasional scene with Karen or Val, but now at least this pregnancy is giving her something to do.  Again, this is a main cast member who has been around since the very first ep, a character I love that we have watched grow and change and mature over the last seven years.  Even if I had some complaints about the latter portion of season seven, Laura was a consistent (you might even say constant; tee hee) highlight, delivering great wisecracks and inimitable eyerolls for all of us to enjoy.  This is a character the writers should be respecting; she’s been there since the beginning and she’s an important part of the fabric of the series.  As with Lilimae, we are fairly close to losing this character forever and I honestly don’t think I’m gonna mind because, if you’re gonna give her so little to do, it’s almost offensive to even have her on the show anymore.  By the way, while I’m glad that this pregnancy is giving her something to do, I still have problems with the story, problems that are popping up frequently at this stage in the game.  Once again, I feel the writers are just looking at the episode count for the season and saying, “Oh, shit, we’ve gotta fill 30 fucking weeks?”  So, similar to J.B. and her stupid Plot Contrivance Coma that lasted two or three eps and only existed to take up time, we now have Laura pregnant, Greg upset about it for a few eps, and then Greg getting over it and apologizing.  Nothing is really accomplished but the writers can take comfort in the fact that they filled a couple of eps up and are a little closer to the finish line for the season.


                Okay, so Laura got pregnant and then Greg said how that was not a good idea and he doesn’t want to have a kid, right?  Then he got especially cold and nasty on her and suggested she, “go back to the cul-de-sac,” which she did.  But then in this ep, Greg is walking around his ranch, he picks up a phone, and he calls Laura, only to be greeted by the answering machine.  Well, he immediately launches into a speech about how, “If you were here right now, I would hug you and kiss you and tell you I’m sorry and Bob Loblaw,” you get the picture.  Then a few scenes later, we see Laura checking the machine and we realize the message has been erased due to an unfunny joke from Daniel and Jason 4 (they recorded a message about how they’re going to take off in a space ship and it’s dumb) so Laura doesn’t hear what Greg had to say.  Okay, fine, whatever, but then a few minutes later, the cast is gathered at a Lotus Point party and Greg finds Laura and he apologizes and they decide to get back together.  Okay, so what was the purpose of breaking them up for a couple of eps?  To fill up time, obviously.  Now, in the hands of a writer with the deft pen of one mega-genius Peter Dunne, I’ll bet this could work brilliantly and help show different layers of complexity within Greg Sumner’s character, but Mr. Dunne is gone now and he’s not coming back and I can safely say that we are not in the hands of writers with as deft a pen as he, so something that could have potentially been interesting is, instead, just a time-filler.

                I will say a nice thing, although it might come off more as a backhanded compliment, and that is that Devane always manages to come out looking good no matter what the writers throw at him.  I’m not quite sure how he does it, but no matter how silly the silliness is going on around him, he’s a great actor and he, well, I’m not gonna say he makes it work, since it’s not working, but I’m just gonna say he doesn’t embarrass himself.  It’s kinda like how Michael Caine is a good enough actor that even though Jaws: The Revenge is clearly an absurd movie, he still manages to give a decent performance and not embarrass himself too much.  I’ll try to focus on this a little more in an upcoming ep in which Greg has to deliver some truly wretched dialogue but Devane still, somehow, manages to come out looking alright.


                I mentioned that Lotus Point party, and that’s because most of this ep is centered around it.  Again, I have nothing but complaints, and I’m yearning for the days of the show looking good, sounding good, having a great musical score, and looking like it had some money being pumped into it from behind the scenes.  Just like the Christmas party from a few eps back, whatever that ep was called, this party looks small and cheap, like they only hired the bare minimum of extras necessary to create the illusion that this is a social function.  Then you throw in the “music” that is playing throughout the party and God how I find myself yearning for Ciji/Cathy.  I miss her singing so much, I miss hearing real songs sung beautifully by a real singer, and I never miss it more than when we are listening to this public domain nothingness that blasts out to make the ears of all seven of the extras they hired to be at this broom closet party start bleeding profusely. 


                I’ll just rush through the proceedings real quick.  Basically, Ben seems to have decided and go ahead and kill Greg because, as he tells Val, “It’s the only way.”  As I’ve lamented in the distant past, Ben is not getting good material or good dialogue to work with, and some of the very worst is housed comfortably within Survival of the Fittest.  Here’s a little sample, in a scene of him yelling at Val: “Shut up!  Do not talk to anyone!  Do not call anyone!  Forget about your police! Forget about some white knight riding in here at the last minute to rescue us!  Nobody’s gonna write us a happy ending!”  The dialogue is so bad that I don’t even have the mental energy to ponder whether that “write us a happy ending” bit is supposed to be some sort of meta-joke or not.  Anyway, there’s another bad scene when they’re at the Lotus Point party and he’s hugging and kissing her and saying how he has to go kill Greg and Val is starting to cry and it’s just too silly for words. 

                There’s an ugly bald guy who starts trying to get Trumpy on Hackney, and at first we just think he’s some gross Trumpy rapey dude, but later we realize that he was a purposeful distraction, his job to keep her occupied long enough for Val and Lilimae and the twins to sneak out.  They manage to escape the party (either in this ep or the next one; don’t really remember and don’t really care enough to check), while Greg and Ben head to Sumner’s office for, you know, some reason.  By the time they get there, Hackney is stationed outside in her stupid van with her stupid headphones, so she’s listening into the conversation and hears as Ben pulls out a gun and tells Greg how he’s gonna have to kill him.  There’s a few minutes of “suspense” and then we hear a gunshot, though we don’t see it.   We end the ep on Hackney hearing the shot through her headphones, removing the headphones, and giving a little sigh, clearly assuming that Ben went through with his job as ordered.  Is Greg dead? Obviously not; he’s in the next six seasons all the way until the final ep, but even if I didn’t know that and was watching this in 1987, I’d know he wasn’t dead.  Did anyone in the world actually think he was while watching this first run?  If so, please alert me, because I can’t fathom it.  Once again, this is just something that can effectively take up space for another ep or two. 


                Other shit happens in this ep, but I’m already tired of talking about it, so I’ll just sorta zoom through.  Let’s look at my notes here, let’s see, hmmmm…..  Okay, looks like I added Cigar #26 to the Sumner Cigar Counter and I wrote, “In front yard of Ben + Val, but he doesn’t light it.”  I actually remember this well, because I asked My Beloved Grammy and Brother if I should count it in my notes if we don’t see it lit and they said yes, arguing that since Greg is very clearly about to light his cigar, and probably lights it right after the scene cuts away, it counts.  So, therefore, Cigar #26.  I also noted that Anne continues to chase after Mack; I’ll just save the discussion of that for a few eps down the line when it’s more central to the story.  Looks like I also wrote down a compliment about a scene of Gary and Olivia riding horses.  Ah, okay, yes, I remember this, and I know I’m grasping at straws here, but I do really like any and all of the Gary/Olivia stuff.  Olivia on coke is the highlight of this year and I enjoy any scene in which Gary and Olivia are together, riding horses and talking about her sobriety.  So there you go, one true, legitimate compliment for a very bad ep.


                Yup, that about does it.  We have to suffer through more Hackney as we continue through this disk, and it’s gonna be rough, but I promise you that we will be rid of her soon.  Anyway, now that we’re all in such major suspense about whether Greg is alive or dead, I guess we’d better move on to our next ep, In Mourning.   
               

Thursday, July 5, 2018

KNOTS LANDING Episode 180 of 344: A PLAN OF ACTION


Episode Title: A Plan of Action

Season 08, Episode 20

Episode 180 of 344

Written by Lawrence Kasha

Directed by Kate Tilley

Original Airdate: Thursday, February 5th, 1987

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Paige accepts a job at Lotus Point. Anne asks Karen to arrange for her to live at Lotus Point. Greg and Laura disagree about her having the baby, so she moves back to the cul-de-sac. Abby opens a nightclub at Lotus Point. Peter asks Abby to the opening, but tells Paige it is only for PR purposes. Ben refuses to kill Greg, and Jean says she'll kill his family. After someone tries to run Val off the road, Ben tells her that he was part of a subversive group that bombed a building and an innocent man was killed. Ben says they want him to kill Greg. Ben and Val decide to run away. Val won't tell Lilimae what is up. Ben is being followed, and steals a car to lose them. Val, Lilimae, and the kids follow Ben's plan to meet him secretly. As they drive away, Jean pulls up next to them in her car.




                Welcome to the last ep on a disk of eps viewed by both My Beloved Grammy and myself.  I remind my readers one more time that I’ve actually gotten behind and, once I’m done writing about this ep, I will need to write about five more, a whole entire extra disk of eps, before My Beloved Grammy and I gather again for the final disk of the season.  I’ll try not to get behind like this again, mostly because I know myself and I know how lazy I am and I know that, the more I let the eps pile up, the longer it will take for me to start writing about them.  Also, I remind you of this just so you’ll cut me some slack if I forget details or just seem a little blasé.  Of course, I might just seem a little blasé because this season is severely underwhelming me as I go through it a second time.  Okay, let’s go ahead and discuss A Plan of Action.

                I’m going to spend a lot of time bitching because most of this ep is about stupid Hackney, so let’s try to get started on a positive note by talking about some characters I do not despise, starting with Paige and Anne.  On the Paige front, she gets a new job and, I think, a new hairdo within the confines of this ep.  In fact, I’m gonna take a very unnecessary pause just to discuss how fucking good Paige looks.  I’m starting to think that if I leaned closer towards the heterosexual lifestyle, I would probably be one of those gentlemen-prefer-blondes types, because I think Abs is the most beautiful woman in the world and I’m also feeling a slight stiffness coming on whenever Paige is on the scene, especially in this ep.  She looks fucking fabulous, very much like she somehow stepped out of the ‘50s and then melded with the ‘80s to create some sort of wonderful, fantastic new look.  Her hair and makeup look ‘50s as can be, but her outfit is this sorta blue jacket thing with super long sleeves and all in all she looks great.  Anyway, enough about shallow shit like what the woman looks like; let’s catch up with her story.  When we first see Paige, she’s taking a little stroll around Lotus Point with Olivia and, at some point in the ep, we also learn that she is going to start working there.  Now there’s a detail that slipped my mind; how long does Paige wind up working for Lotus Point?  Whenever I think of the words “Paige” and “working,” I generally picture her working in Sumner’s gigantic skyscraper office with, I think, The Sumner Group, somewhere closer to seasons ten and eleven time.  Whether anything of note is going to come out of her employment at Lotus Point, I can not tell you because I do not remember.



                The icy relationship between Karen and Paige is starting to thaw, I notice.  Right now, Paige is living with Peter in an effort to avoid her mother, who’s been staying at Karen and Mack’s.  Early in this ep, Karen reissues her invitation to Paige, telling her she can move back in with them, to which Paige asks her if her mother is still at the house.  Karen tells her that Anne has gone to a hotel and then we get an interesting bit of business in which Paige says how now Karen is trying to get on her side since they both have a common enemy.  This seems like kinda a bitchy thing to say, but Karen takes it in stride and just assures Paige that Anne is not her enemy.  See what I mean?  A few eps ago, Karen was overacting and screaming at Paige, “WHAT COLOR IS THIS?!”, but now she’s extending an invitation for her to come live with them and, even though Paige is kinda bitchy, it seems like the two are starting to get along better, a development which pleases me. 

                When it comes to this whole triangle of Karen/Mack/Anne, I don’t remember too much happening in this ep; it’s more a lot of hints and insinuations for future events.  Anne doesn’t directly try to seduce Mack within the confines of this ep, but we can tell that she wants to, and we also get several more scenes demonstrating the worlds of difference between Karen and Anne.  In fact, there’s a small exchange between the two that I found endlessly thought provoking, although probably nobody else besides me would hone in on such small details and then obsess over them.  Anyway, it’s right near the end of the ep, and Anne pays Karen a visit at the house.  It’s just the two of them together and the exchange goes like this:



Karen: Well, can I get you a cup of coffee or, um…



Anne: A drink would be fine.



Karen: Oh, diet or regular?



Anne: Scotch.



                Karen seems a little surprised by this request, but quickly goes to work preparing Anne her drink (and Anne takes it neat, by the way), and then when she hands her the drink, Anne asks if Karen will be joining her and Karen says, “No, I don’t drink.”  It’s that line right there that I really want to focus on; is this new information?  And if so, when did Karen join Gary in ditching the alcohol in exchange for a nice club soda?  I can’t flash through the previous 179 eps in my brain and immediately remember if we ever saw Karen drink (although I am suddenly having a flashback all the way back to season one and Let Me Count the Ways, when she drank some red wine with the teacher she almost shagged, as well as at least one of the two Hitchhike eps from season two, in which we saw her nursing a gin and tonic), but I’m sure we’ve seen her have a drink a time or two in the past.  Okay, so when did she stop drinking?  My Beloved Grammy said, very matter of factly, as if this was something we had already seen clearly on the series in the past, that Karen doesn’t drink anymore because of her pill popping problems circa season five.  I said I thought that just meant she had to stop popping pills, but she could keep drinking if she wanted to, but My Beloved Grammy said no, that part of the sobriety meant not drinking, either.  What a headache this is giving me, because I feel almost certain that, somewhere in the gap of eps between when Karen stopped popping pills and the ep we are discussing right here today, I feel we surely must have seen her drink some alcohol, am I wrong?  Anyone with more information should feel welcome to leave a comment or write into me to explain what’s going on with Karen and alcohol.




                While on the subject of alcohol, I also noted the casual way that Anne requests scotch, as if of course every single house in the world comes with a full bar.  When I think of old movies and TV (like circa the ‘50s and ‘60s), I always think of every house having a fully stocked bar and every adult character drinking like a fish and being very casual about it.  By 1987, was this still standard?  Would you walk into someone’s house and just assume they have a full liquor cabinet the way you just assume that everyone has a coffee maker or a TV in their house?  Or does this request for scotch actually serve to underline the differences between the two women?  I think that might be what the writers are going for, that Anne is a rich snooty WASP from a family of rich snooty WASPs who are afraid of any all people who are not heterosexual Caucasians, and when I think of rich snooty WASPs (or any Republicans), I generally think of people who are drunk all day.  So perhaps the writers are showing us that Karen is a person that’s like, “Yeah, we’ve got some liquor in the house, but we don’t just sit around and drink all day,” while Anne is a person that’s like, “Yeah, I’m a rich white woman and I have nothing better to do with my life except drink all day.”  Anyway, aside from my obsession with Anne’s scotch and the etiquette of assuming all houses come packed to the gills with booze, there’s not much going on with Anne this week.  Based on my memory, I’m sure there’s a flirtation between her and Mack and all that, but that’s part of a bigger storyline that’s building around us, so let’s discuss all that drama in more detail a little further down the road.



                Meanwhile, over at Sumner’s ranch, he and Laura finally have a much needed talk, the results of which are Laura deciding she’d best return to the cul-de-sac.  There’s a chance that I might wind up calling this whole development bad writing, but that’s why we should all be very grateful for the skilled acting of Constance and Devane.  See, we first catch up with them in an exchange that I actually quite enjoyed.  Laura is sitting and reading the newspaper (with her Librarian Glasses on, of course) and she says how there’s some woman in the world who prints a newspaper with only good news and she’s planning to get a subscription, but then Greg says, “It doesn’t change the facts,” and when Laura wonders how they can keep all the terrible news about the world away from the children, Greg says, “You don’t, it’s reality, they learn to live with it.”  Just for the record, I’m with Greg on this point.  Children need to know that the world is a dark and horrible place, and the sooner they know it, the better.  Also, deliberately publishing a paper that only reports good news is just stupid; you might as well not report the news at all.




                Anyway, the scene then develops into Laura challenging Greg about some deal he made and how a bunch of people are going to lose their jobs now.  She says how Greg has all this money and no red tape and he could work out a deal to save those people’s jobs, she says something about “What happened to that guy with all the dreams?”, and then she concludes with, “I never know who you are anymore,” to which we get a rather shocking reply from Greg when he says, “Maybe you should go back to the cul-de-sac.”  Laura asks if that’s what he really wants and he answers, “What does it matter what I want?  Did you ask me if I want to be a parent?”  Clearly this whole baby thing is not sitting well with Greg, although I do want to take a brief moment to point out that Greg already is a parent.  We haven’t seen her in a long time, but Mary Frances is still out there in the world somewhere, probably hanging out with Jane, so the idea that Greg doesn’t “want to be a parent” doesn’t really make much sense, since he already has a kid.  Even so, I get his point; he doesn’t want to have a kid with Laura and risk bringing another male from the Galveston bloodline into the universe.  Even so, I think this might be bad writing, just a temporary roadblock needed to keep Laura and Greg apart for somewhere around four or five eps before putting them back together, but that’s why I take special note of these two actors.  Even when the writing is forcing them to do things out of sheer necessity for drama, both Constance and Devane keep it feeling real.  I especially like the way Devane elongates “cul-de-sac,” and really emphasizes all the syllables in the word; it’s almost like he wants to say it sorta silly so it doesn’t sting Laura as much, yet at the same time it’s almost like he wants to sound blasé about it in order to be extra hurtful. 

                I think I’ll also take some time to insult more things about what’s going on within the show’s stories right now.  I will say that I remember Laura’s pregnancy relating to some absolutely fantastic storylines down the line, like years down the line, but I have to say that, as of right now, as of this moment, only taking into account what we are seeing in front of us as we move through season eight, this story isn’t doing much for me.  Laura just sorta announced out of the blue that she was pregnant a few eps back, Greg was upset about it, and that’s pretty much where we still are.  Also, Laura is so hidden in the background by this point in the series that, I kid you not, I will actually forget she’s pregnant for a long space of time until she brings it up again in the dialogue.  Aside from being pregnant, Laura is really not doing much at all on the series right now.  She seems to be only allowed to exist if she’s in the same scene as Greg, and usually she’s just sorta sitting around or listening to him explain whatever it is that he’s doing, but she never gets to singularly command the screen nowadays.  This is a real shame considering our time with Laura is so limited (she’ll be gone before we hit the halfway mark of season nine) and it also keeps me from being able to focus my attentions on her pregnancy and how it affects her feelings. 

                Alright, let’s move over to the mondo turd sandwich that is the Hackneyed storyline.  Oh boy, do things really rev up and head towards the even-more-absurd as we watch this ep.  Okay, I remind you that this is episode twenty of the season and Hackey was introduced way at the start of the season in the very first ep.  She’s been hanging around a lot and taking up a lot of the screentime and absolutely anyone and everyone watching this season should have been able to tell, from her very first seconds onscreen, that she was up to no good.  However, it’s not until this ep, when Ben says how Hackney will have to kill him and she answers, “It’s not just you we’ll kill, Daddy,” that Ben finally puts the pieces together and a lightbulb goes off in his head and he says, “My God, you’re not CIA at all, are you?”  I almost peed my pants when we finally got to this line, because while I’m sure it’s supposed to be this BIG EPIC REALIZATION, I found it absurd that this storyline has drawn out this long without Ben figuring it out.  Once again, I can see the bad writing infecting my beloved and much cherished characters and making them behave stupidly for the sake of the plot.  At no point in the last three years have I ever thought Ben was stupid; I’ve always thought he was really sharp and had a good eye for details and truth.  The man is a reporter and he’s been all over the world and dealt with all kinds of people, yet with this ridiculous, vamping femme fatale wannabe, it takes him an agonizing twenty eps to finally realize, “Hey, wait a minute, CIA operatives don’t usually threaten to murder small children!”




                Now that Ben’s brain has suddenly grown back into his skull after twenty eps in which it was taking a hiatus, he snaps into action and decides to tell Val the truth about everything, in a series of scenes that, well, I just don’t know what to make of them.  When I think of the L&L period of the series, I usually think of a more humor-infused style of writing, and that makes me wonder if we are supposed to get a humorous tone out of these scenes or if they are just more bad scenes that are turning funny because of how campy everything is.  See, when Ben finally spills the details to Val about Hackney and this whole sordid mess, the scene takes place in an outdoor park while they eat popsicles and Ben orders Val to keep smiling and nodding, as he can’t be sure they’re not being watched.  Then the scene ends with him saying how he’s been ordered to kill Greg, and we just cut to a quick shot of Val smiling while looking in horrible pain at the same time, and then the scene cuts there.  Okay, so are we supposed to be amused by Val’s face here?  Are we supposed to be amused by the SUPER SERIOUS DIALOGUE being played out while the actors munch on popsicles?  Or is this actually supposed to be totally serious and it’s just becoming unintentionally funny because of how campy everything is?  Honest to God, I don’t know, so someone please write in and tell me what you think, because I want to believe this is intentional humor, but I just don’t know.




                Let’s just go ahead and speed through the proceedings here, because they are dumb and I don’t want to discuss them at any great length.  Basically, Ben tells Val how they need to gather the kids and Lilimae and all the money they have and hit the road, but they have to do it with secrecy.  Oh yeah, he also tells Val they’re going to have to empty Lilimae’s savings account, to which I wrote in my notes, “Does Lilimae even have a savings account?”  When we got caught up with Lilimae in early season three, she was a homeless shopping cart lady sneaking out of hotels she’d been living in without paying the bill, and then she moved into Val’s house.  Since then, she’s just been living with Val, not doing anything that could earn her a paycheck.  Where is this savings account suddenly coming from?  Or has she always had money stashed away and she was just weird and chose not to ever dip into it, preferring instead to be homeless and pushing a shopping cart around?  Well anyway, emptying Lilimae’s savings account is one of the items on Val’s agenda, along with getting the twins some special vitamins they need.  Ugh, these vitamins.  I’m sure the kids are going to just die if they don’t have their stupid little vitamins for one day, and I’m also sure that these vitamins are so rare and so special and so unique that only one drug store in the entire universe has them, and that would be the drug store Val goes to regularly.  When Lilimae tells her how the drug store was out of the vitamins (I was a Flintstones Vitamins kid myself), Val acts like it’s this big deal and, guess what, spoiler alert, it’s not.  The kids will be just fine, the vitamins are not important, can we all talk about something else?

                I guess we can talk about how annoying Lilimae is right now.  Just like Laura, Lilimae’s days on the show are numbered, and just like Laura, the writers are giving her fucking nothing to do in her last full year on the series, so really she’s just here to be an extra body and make a lot of noise as Val tries to get the whole family out of town.  Seriously, I’m surprised Julie didn’t pipe in with the writers and be like, “Guys, does Lilimae really have to be sooooooooooo annoying in this ep?”  Everywhere they go, Lilimae has something to say, something to complain about, some form of bitching that must be expressed, and it annoys Val and it annoyed me and it annoyed My Beloved Grammy, too.  They all embark on this big epic operation to try and sneak through the drug store and out the backdoor, where they meet Ben, driving a car that he stole, and then they hop in and start speeding away, only for, GASP, you guessed it, Hackney to come driving up beside them, looking wicked and stupid, looking every inch the incredibly lame character that she is.  She honks at them and they stop the car so she can deliver a really bloated, bad line of dialogue in which she says, “You know, I know a store that’s having a sale on vitamins.”  My God, she’s just so wicked and just so knowledgeable about everything going on in the universe that knows not only that Ben and Val are trying to blow town, but that they weren’t able to get the kids their vitamins!




                So this ep was hardly one of the best ever, and the truly agonizing thing is that, as it comes to its conclusion, we viewers must face the fact that we still have Hackney for a whopping five more episodes.  This story already feels hopelessly dragged out, going on way, way, way, way, way too long, and yet we’re still not done.  Hackey is going to pollute our entire next disk of eps!  This story should have wrapped up at least ten eps ago, but instead it’s gone completely contrary and extended so far beyond its sell-by date that it honestly feels like a story that will never end.  Again, I marvel at the fact that I watched this entire season once before and hardly even thought twice about Hackney.  Before doing this blog, if you had asked me to tell you about season eight, I would have told you it was of course brilliant and genius and that I can’t figure out why all the fans hate this Hackney character so much.  Now I see clearly, and there’s no denying that Hackney deserves most of the blame for the lame-ification of the series at this point; she pollutes everything around her and evilly weaves her way insidiously into the very fabric of the series.




                Okay, now that we’re done discussing this ep, we’ve only got, um, ten eps left to go in the season (Jesus…..), so let’s just move right along to a new disk, starting with Survival of the Fittest.