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?
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.