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.