Friday, December 27, 2019

KNOTS LANDING Episode 185 of 344: DEADLY COMBINATION


Episode Title: Deadly Combination 


Season 08, Episode 25 


Episode 185 of 344


Written by David Marlow

Directed by Beth Brickell

Original Airdate: Thursday, March 26th, 1987


The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Laura's furious with Val over the whole incident, and even quits Lotus Point so she won't run into her there. Ben is still paranoid, and wants the family to go into hiding, but Val says that is no life for the twins. Ben has an elaborate security system installed. Lilimae accidentally sets it off, and Ben, thinking she's Jean, gets her in a choke hold. Peter appoints Olivia as his youth advisor. He tells her she is prettier than Abby, and asks if she's heard from Sylvia. Anne and Mack discuss old times, and she tells him that she still loves him. Karen and Mack argue over Anne. Karen tells him to tell Anne to leave. Mack tells Anne that he loves Karen and will never leave her. Anne asks Mack to meet her for a goodbye breakfast. Anne then takes a bunch of pills. Mack decides to eat breakfast with Karen instead of meeting Anne. Anne is passed out on her living room floor.






                 When we last left off, Anne was luring Mack into her house and, she would hope, into her vagina.  Will he fall inside of it?  That’s what Deadly Combination is all about, so let’s discuss.


                This ep is pretty strictly focused on Karen/Mack/Anne, but there’s a smidge of stuff involving the other characters, primarily Ben.  Hackney may be out of the picture (and “actress” Wendy Fulton mercifully makes her very final appearance ever on the series with this ep), but that doesn’t mean Ben isn’t having an explosion of paranoia.  This story is stupid and all that, but I don’t think Ben is out of line to be concerned about this.  Just because Sumner “neutralized her operation” and sent her to Paraguay, Ben is supposed to relax and go about his life?  Wasn’t this, like, a whole big epic evil group that had the power to have people assassinated?  Who’s to say Hackney won’t just send someone she meets in Paraguay to whack Ben and Val and the twins?  Even so, Ben might be getting a tad nutty at this point, as exemplified by a hysterical scene near the end of the ep involving him and Lilimae.  


                A detail I had forgotten is that Laura is super pissed at both Ben and Val and wants them out of her life.  This makes sense, as it’s not very nice to try and murder a pregnant woman’s husband, no matter what the reason.  But for whatever reason, this had all slipped my mind, so I was a little surprised to see Laura yelling at Val and even quitting Lotus Point, not even wanting to risk running into her in her daily life.  I hope Laura gets over this soon, because she is not long for the show.  We’ve got something like fifteen eps until we say goodbye to Laura forever, and I don’t want her to still be bitter with Val when we reach that point; it would hurt me deep down in my core.  But anyway, the shunning of Val and Ben courtesy of Laura fuels Ben’s desire to blow town completely.  Somewhere in the ep, he tells Val how there’s no reason for them to stick around California, that they should move somewhere else and take a million bucks with them.  I had also forgotten about this million bucks, mostly because I stopped paying close attention to the Hackey storyline somewhere around the first or second ep of the season because it’s so unbelievably stupid.  But yeah, I guess at some point, Hackney gave Ben a million bucks in cold, hard cash, and he’s still got it stashed in the closet.  I like how Ben doesn’t even bother to hide the briefcase, that it’s just sitting right inside of the closet. Really?  If I had a million bucks, I would put it in a super-secret hiding place, hidden under a floorboard or behind a trick picture or something like that; I wouldn’t just place it casually in the closet.  Val doesn’t want to have anything to do with the money, saying how it’s blood money to her and Bob Loblaw.  Again, I wouldn’t be too concerned about it being blood money if I was in her shoes; I would still be happy to spend this million bucks.


                Ben is still having that problem where he thinks he sees Hackney everywhere he goes.  Any white woman with slightly brown hair is going to morph briefly into Hackney as soon as Ben looks her direction.  In fact, even 62-year-old women are morphing into Hackney in Ben’s eyes, and let me explain why.  Ben has an elaborate alarm system installed in his house, reminding me of the alarm system my parents had when I was a kid and all the times I’d accidentally set it off (if you opened our basement door while it was set, that terrifying sound would flood the house and give everyone a heart attack).  So yeah, Ben gets the alarm installed and the guy gives all the deets on how to use it and what buttons to push and, like an old person, Lilimae says something like, “Oh, that’s too many buttons for me.”  I must be feeling nostalgic lately, because this caused me flashbacks to my dear Grandma Lorraine, rest in peace, who didn’t buy a VCR until 1999, at the precise moment that they were going extinct, and then constantly said, “One day I’m gonna sit down and figure out all those buttons,” but never actually did.  There’s something about old people and buttons that just terrifies them, and nobody can explain why.


                Anyway, it’s late at night and the silent alarm is triggered because, spoiler alert, Lilimae went to the kitchen for one of her midnight snacks.  Ben snaps to attention and sneaks downstairs to see who’s lurking about.  Since he’s going insane with paranoia, not only does he think he sees Hackney in the kitchen, he’s even seeing her whipping out a little pistol and fiddling with it.  Well, obviously this is not Hackney, it’s Lilimae, and Lilimae is in for a rather rude surprise when Ben comes up from behind and grabs her and puts her in a chokehold in a scene of hysterically high camp.  I remember being fascinated with Chip Roberts “beating up old ladies in Seattle” way back in season four, and this feels like it’s in the same family, as Ben assaults this kindly old woman and almost rips her head off.  To be clear, I don’t think it’s funny to beat up old people (unless you’re beating up, like, Newt Gingrich or something).  While I feel bad for Lilimae for almost having her neck snapped, it’s still a funny scene because it just is.  I laugh at this scene (as did My Beloved Grammy and Brother) but it also made me feel kinda sad only because we have just a few eps left with Ben and I’m bummed that his legacy as an awesome character who delighted me for seasons five through seven has been soiled by a whole year of solid turd storylines.  



                Let’s get back to Anne.  We pick up with her and Mack having pizza and beer together at her house.  Karen is occupied at Lotus Point working on something with Paige (who I know I haven’t bothered to mention in awhile, but I will again at some point).  Paige, by the way, is sharp and knows her mother’s behavior and tries to give Karen some fair warning, saying how she knows her mother’s up to something and has probably lured Mack into a sexual trap at her house.  She’s right, because when we cut back to Mack and Anne (Manne?), they are laughing and dancing to some Mamas and the Papas.  Now this I liked a lot, not just because I like the idea of Anne listening to her own band sing, but because I’m so very grateful to be hearing real music on the show again.  Oh God yes, we see the vinyl laid out, we see the record spinning, and we hear real music and it’s bliss.  I’ve had just about enough with the public domain nothingness that this season has been throwing at us, all the terrible symphonic abortions blasting at Lotus Point or, in general, throughout the whole show.  This is real music, and though I confess I don’t know much about Mamas and the Papas, I wanna give them a closer look now, because this song, Dedicated to the One I Love, is really fucking pretty and sets the mood of the scene nicely.


                Oh yeah, also, is Mack supposed to be drunk?  What kind of a lightweight is he?  Anne has a six pack of beer sitting out on the counter (which is disgusting, by the way; why isn’t it in the refrigerator where it belongs?) when he arrives and I assumed they split the sixer, which would mean Mack only has three beers.  Hell, even if he has all six of the beers, he’s acting especially goofy and I don’t see Mack getting so goofy just from six beers.  But then, maybe he’s not necessarily drunk on alcohol; maybe he’s just drunk on life right now, feeling kinda elated from dancing around and listening to his ex-lover’s band on the record player.  Sometimes I get kinda goofy if I’m cooking in the kitchen and listening to my records (I like to play my vinyls of ABBA when I’m cooking).  I also think Mack is getting a little thrill out of being naughty, even if he maybe doesn’t know it.  This doesn’t mean Mack is a bad guy, cuz he’s not, but it means he’s just getting a little kinky kick out of hanging out dancing with Anne when he knows he probably shouldn’t.  Anyway, Mack and Anne dance for awhile, and we cut back to them later as they gaze into eachother’s eyes lovingly and we wonder if they might shag.



                I don’t know what the fan consensus is on this story, but I like it and I always have.  I liked it back in college and was eager to see what was going to happen.  Even though I didn’t believe Mack would cheat on Karen, I was still interested in this in terms of his character, in terms of how the man must be feeling after having an ex-love from long ago reenter his life after twenty years.  I think I like the story a little bit less now, mostly because I’m paying more attention to everything and I’m starting to feel like the writers go to the “Will Karen’s husband cheat or not?” well a bit too much.  Going down the list, I think this marks something like the fourth time we’ve had this situation.  Our first was way back in Civil Wives, when Sid’s Police Squad! ex-wife showed up to cause trouble (she wound up having to settle for shagging Richard, if you’ll recall).  The writers returned to this again in season two when we had flirtation between Sid and the lady mechanic, Linda Stryker.  Next, we had a pretty brief one when Body Double chick came walking out of Mack’s bathroom and Dirty Diana saw her.  And after that, of course, we had J.B. enter the scene and try to shag Mack hardcore for a good chunk of season seven.  This brings us up to date, but I have memories from my previous viewing of the series and I know the writers are going to return to “Will Mack cheat?” at least one more time.  If this was the very last time they did it, I might like the story better, but since I know they’re going to return to it in the future, it’s beginning to feel like a bit of a crutch, a bit like Sue Ellen going back to the bottle over on Dallas, just sorta repeating the same tracks over and over again.


                When Mack returns home, Karen is in the kitchen doing needlepoint, declaring, “I always do needlepoint when I’m upset.”  Hmmmm, do you?  Have we ever seen Karen do needlepoint before?  I’m fairly certain we have not, and I’d say she’s had plenty of upsetting situations throughout the last eight years.  Anyway, her and Mack have a little fight that I liked a lot because I like both characters and both actors and I liked the organic way this flowed.  It doesn’t start as a big fight, but rather just Mack casually strolling in and mentioning how he had pizza with Anne.  Karen yells that pizza doesn’t take thre hours, and Mack is like, “Three hours, Karen?” and then he sorta glances at the clock and sees that it’s about 10:30, a nice little detail that shows how time flew for Mack while he was drinking that great warm beer and listening to that great music.  


                This isn’t quite the last straw for Karen, but she’s finally had enough after the next day, in which she’s trying to enjoy a nice lunch with Mack (who won’t shut the hell up about the Boston cream pie), only for Anne to come walking in and plant her ass down at the table with them.  Karen gets pissy and goes off to Lotus Point, stewing with anger and jealousy.  Even that’s not quite enough, what finally does it for Karen is the garbage.  See, Anne shows up at Mack and Karen’s house and says how tomorrow is, in the immortal words of Eric Freeman, garbage day.  She says how she’s never had to take out garbage before and doesn’t know how it works and asks Mack to come over and help her.  Then she walks out of the room and Karen throws a fit, saying how this is sick and weird.  I really like this whole thing and it helps underline my point that I feel the show is correcting itself, righting the tracks right before our very eyes.  Having the characters take out their garbage is just such a KL thing, something that wouldn’t happen on any of the other nighttime soaps, and one of my problems over the last year or so (since around mid season seven to the point we are at now) has been a feeling that the cul-de-sac has been forgotten.  We’ve been so concerned with Hackney silliness and goofy international intrigue, but I feel we are shifting back to the show’s core, which is the neighborhood.  You can have all the soapy drama you want, but you also gotta have scenes of characters taking the garbage out (or plunging out a clogged sink, a scene I enjoyed so much somewhere in season six) in order to keep it feeling grounded.



                Anyway, like I said, Karen has finally had enough.  She tells Mack that Anne’s got to go, and he reluctantly agrees.  He goes over to Anne’s and finds her working with lighting a fire in that most wonderful fireplace, and he tells her she’s gotta go, that her being here is, “making my life miserable.”  Anne is hurt, but the person I really feel bad for in this scene is Mack.  My personal opinion is that Mack wouldn’t shag Anne no matter how hard she tried to seduce him.  She could pour a whole keg of beer down his throat and play the entire Mamas and the Papas discography and he still would remain loyal to Karen; that’s just the kind of guy he is.  But I still think he has a type of love in his heart for Anne, the kind of love that comes from having a person be a very important part of your life in your youth.  I’ve never been one of those boring heteronormative people who thinks you only love one person in your life; I think love is very fluid and there’s all sorts of type of love.  Mack can love Karen as his wife and companion but he can also have a different love for Anne as the love of his youth.  It’s sorta like how I’ve been in love with two men in my life, and then I love my parents in a different way, and I love My Beloved Grammy and Brother in a different way, and I love all my kitties in their own special kitty way.  In this scene, you can tell it hurts Mack to have to be mean to Anne; she’s important to him and he doesn’t want to hurt her.




                As soon as he leaves, Anne takes a page out of the books of both Play Misty For Me and Fatal Attraction by deciding to do an attempted suicide and force Mack to come and find her.  This is a classic; everyone knows if you’ve been spurred by an ex-lover, an attempted suicide is the best way to keep them in your life.  Now, in those two movies (I prefer Misty, by the way), the ladies decide to slash their wrists, but Anne decides to pop some pills (I’m not sure what kind).  She lays out the pills, she makes herself a nice strong martini, and she starts popping them.  She also gives Mack a call and asks if he can have one final friendly breakfast with her before she returns to Europe or wherever the hell she came from.  Mack agrees, but wait, there’s a twist!  The next morning, Mack goes for a jog and comes back all sweaty to find Karen cooking up bacon and eggs and the works.  Rather than go to visit Anne and have breakfast, he sticks around with Karen, breaking an egg in the process.  Let’s talk about this egg breaking, by the way, because I am absolutely 100% convinced that this was an accident and they left it in the show for authenticity.  See, Mack is holding an egg and saying how he’d like to have breakfast with Karen, and then he sorta throws the egg up and catches it, you know?  Only problem is that the egg shatters in his hand and the yoke starts to run down his hand.  Both Karen and Mack sorta stare at this broken egg and I can totally tell that The Dobsonator broke the egg on accident and they just kept rolling with it.  I love this, by the way; I’m a big believer in using happy accidents on the set to keep a show feeling real.  




                Anyway, we end the ep on a pretty decent cliffhanger, which is Anne all sprawled out on the floor with vodka bottles (or gin bottles; I can’t really tell the difference) and empty pill bottles strewn about, and nobody coming to find her.  The plan has backfired; what will happen now?  Will Anne die?  Well, no, I think I already spoiled that when I said how she comes back to the series from 1990 to 1993 as a main player, but I’m still eager to see how Mack is going to react to this when he finds her (and the thirty second “Next on KL” preview showed a little flash of Mack pulling a William Petersen and crashing through the window).  Overall, a solid way to end the ep.


                In fact, overall, a solid ep all around.  I didn’t really have any problems with this ep aside from the high camp of Ben and Lilimae in the kitchen, which needs to be seen to be believed.  Maybe I’m getting a little tired of Mack flirting with adultery, but I still find this interesting because I’m interested in all the characters involved.  Also, like I said, as we step further and further away from Nightmare, I get the sense the show is fixing itself and will slide us nicely into a much better season nine.  


                Okay, we’ve got five eps left to go in this season, so let’s move right along to Our Secret.