Thursday, February 6, 2020

A Reflection on Season Eight of KNOTS LANDING (1986-1987)

A Reflection on Season Eight of KNOTS LANDING (1986-1987)

                And so we’ve finally finished season eight, all thirty eps spanning from September of 1986 to May of 1987.  How was it?  Oh jeez, where to even begin?  I guess I’ll say the key word for this season is disappointment; this whole season was just one big disappointment to me and it honestly made me sad to watch a lot of it.  As I said over and over again while writing about these shows, my memory of this season was that it continues the run of brilliance that started with season four, but I was way off.  I think my memories must be based on the fact that I simply consumed so much KL at such a rapid pace back in college; I didn’t really have time to think over the arcs and styles of the seasons because I was just powering through them and then jumping right into the next season as soon as I finished.  Anyway, let’s get started with discussing the season and I’ll try to explain some of its overall problems.

                Let’s start off by saying that I am incredibly nostalgic for the glory run of seasons four through six, when the creative team was consistently able to find some really great, really amazing, really compelling central storyline through which all the other storylines could interact and flow.  Season seven dropped the ball with this run of quality by being sorta all over the place, by seeming to be about one thing and then changing direction as soon as Gary blew up Empire Valley.  With season eight, that problem manifests itself again, only so much worse.  When I think back over how gloriously the creative team were able to fill 30 eps of television for season six, it only makes season eight seem even more inferior.  This is the first time that I’ve found myself thinking a season should be much shorter; I think snipping five or maybe even ten eps out of this season would have gone a long way towards improving the flow of the storytelling.  Instead, we just sorta focus in on a certain story for a certain amount of time, then we quickly dispose of that story and move on to something new before disposing of that in a similar way.  This starts right off the bat with Karen’s kidnapper, which comes out of nowhere and really doesn’t make too much sense.  I’m gonna go ahead and say I am 100% confident that when the writers cooked up the season seven finale, they had absolutely no idea what they were going to wind up doing come fall.  They just had Karen get kidnapped and left us on that cliffhanger.  When we return to the story in the early eps of this season, it’s very clear the writers are having to invent all sorts of past histories and new characters to try and explain this.  Suddenly we find out Karen’s kidnapper was an old buddy of Mack’s from law school, that he used to hang around with both Mack and Sumner.  Okay, I guess, but I’m still not sure I understand why Greg feels the need to keep protecting him in these early eps.  He knows the man has Karen kidnapped and yet he tells nobody about it and I can’t tell you why.  Can anyone tell me why?  What possible instinct could Greg have to find out that an old friend of his kidnapped Karen and do nothing more than advise him to leave town?

                And then, of course, the whole Phil storyline finishes up in about five seconds when he is inauspiciously hit by a car and dies quickly after.  Okay, so, um….what was the point of all of that?  Rather than organically allowing the story of Karen and her kidnapper to then flow into some other, new storyline, the writers just kill Phil as quickly as possible, return Karen home, and pretty much immediately stop talking about it.  In fact, I’m gonna pay some strict attention in the next six years, because I’m willing to bet that we never hear another word about Karen and Phil Harbert ever again after this season is finished.  In my opinion, it would have been much better writing for this multi-ep kidnapping arc to lead to Karen having serious paranoia or trauma.  After all, she was almost burned alive and then she was chased all night through the woods by a maniac; I don’t think you can just return home and immediately get over this kind of an event.  

                Similarly, the writers keep us focused on a burgeoning romantic relationship between Paige and Sexy Michael for a good long stretch of eps.  They build up the tension, they play with the flirtation, and then finally the two characters shag.  After shagging for awhile, they stop shagging, Paige dumps Sexy Michael, Sexy Michael acts like a whiny little bitch for awhile, and then that’s pretty much it.  Again, it doesn’t strike me as a storyline designed to lead to new things or to enhance characters, but just something for the characters to do in order to fill up a certain number of eps until the writers are ready to move on to something new.  Also, I gotta say that all this Paige/Sexy Michael stuff really caused the character of Sexy Michael to plummet in my esteem.  Perhaps it’s because I put his physical appearance up on such a pedestal and think he’s among the most beautiful human beings to ever live and breathe, so when I see him acting like some pathetic 12 year old girl just because Paige rejects him, well, it makes me lose respect for him.  I want to tell him, “You’re Sexy Michael; you could fuck anything you want to and you have no reason to get this bent out of a shape over one blonde girl!”  

                This problem of starting storylines only to let them fizzle out or end abruptly is also exemplified through the characters of J.B. and Peter Hollister and Sylvia Lean.  We start the season with a big senatorial race between Gary and Peter.  I liked this storyline and it was my favorite part of those opening eps, but then what happens with it?  I think it fills up something like seven or eight eps, and then Peter wins the race, and then that’s basically it.  Nothing really changes all that much from him becoming a senator and we focus more on his relationship with Sylvia.  He decides it might be easier to get rid of Sylvia and not have to deal with her anymore, so he starts poisoning her.  This should be exciting but it never really manages to get off the ground.  Peter slips her extra pills awhile, then he has an attack of conscience and stops, but by then Sylvia has found out about it and gone to live with Abs.  Then Sylvia just sorta vanishes from the show for a good chunk of eps, I was starting to assume she’d just never be mentioned again, and then near the end of the season she dies off-screen.  Huh?  Why introduce this character and make her play a big role and be played by a fairly famous actress if you’re just gonna shuffle her off and then give her an offscreen death?  

                Also, my readers should know I love J.B. and she’s one of my favorite characters ever, but I’m realizing that’s based on my memories of the two seasons to come and certainly not on the season eight that we’ve been discussing for so very long.  Boy, is J.B. underutilized this year, with the peak underutilization being, of course, when she falls off the damn cliff and hits her head and goes into a stupid coma for an ep or two only so the writers can tell us she was pregnant but that she lost the baby, and then J.B. has to wear bandages on her head awhile and she hangs out in the hospital for like five eps and then…..she goes home.  Okay, so what was the point of that?  I’m sticking to my theory that the knock she takes on the head is what leads us to the J.B. of seasons nine and ten, but if you remove that theory, the whole cliff/coma thing is just hopelessly lame.  However, I do think J.B. starts to show her promise in the last eight eps or so of this season, when the writers start to focus in on her engagement to Gary and how she’s dealing with jealousy towards Val.  

                The best run of eps in this season spans from Gifts through No Miracle Worker, because this is where the story of Olivia on coke is given to us, this fabulous gift buried in the middle of all these stupid stories.  These eps showcase both Olivia and Abs at their best, showing us a new and more human side to Abs that we’ve never seen before, showing how she is fiercely protective of her children and will do anything to protect them.  The acting from both Tonya and Donna is great and this is the best storyline of the season, but I gotta say, and I hate to say this, it didn’t hit me nearly as hard upon this watch as it did upon first viewing.  I tell you, I was so excited to get to this storyline because I remembered it being one of the best of the whole series, but it just doesn’t work as well as I remembered specifically because it’s one good storyline being mixed in with a bunch of silly, crappy storylines.  If the whole season was going like gangbusters and then we also had this great cocaine storyline, but when it’s just four eps out of 30 placed in the middle of a very spotty season, it loses a lot of the effect.  

                Paige is the big new arrival to the series this year (yeah, she arrived in the last two eps of season seven, but you get my point), and while I remembered loving this character as soon as she arrived and loving her all the way up through 1993, it turns out that I again misremembered things, at least as far as season eight Paige is concerned.  We’ve got six more years with Paige so we’ll see if my memories prove accurate, but for just this season alone, no, this character doesn’t work for me.  I’ve read other people complain about this, but it bears repeating, and that is the fact that Paige comes completely out of nowhere and immediately takes up so much time and attention, to the detriment of veteran characters who have been with us for years such as Laura and Lilimae.  Also, so much of the Paige stuff this year is dependent upon first viewing.  Maybe it worked for me when I first watched it because I didn’t know what was going to happen, so when an ep would end with a Paige Matheson headstone, I would be excited to see where that would go.  However, once you know that Paige Matheson is Paige Matheson, she is who she says she is, she is not an imposter, it’s hard to get excited watching all this shit again.  It’s also annoying how the writers can’t just let the character be.  Rather than just letting us get to know her and decide for ourselves if we like her, they shove her down our throats and keep throwing new “twists” at us.  “Ooooh, she shows up and claims to be Mack’s daughter, but is she lying?  Then she says she faked her death, but is she lying?  Then she says her mother is dead, but is she lying?  Then her mother shows up and declares that Sumner is Paige’s father, but is she lying?”  It just goes on and on and on, and it’s annoying from start to finish.

                And of course, no discussion of season eight would be complete without some vitriol directed towards that abomination of a character known as Hackney.  For years, I’ve read fans shitting on this storyline and saying how awful it is, and I would always kind of shrug and be like, “I didn’t see what was so bad about it.”  Well, now I have seen the light and I recognize Hackney for what she is, the very worst character and the very worst storyline ever on the entire series in all fourteen years.  Mind you, I will pay strict attention to seasons 9-14 to see if anything out-stupids the stupidity of Hackney, but I highly doubt anything will.  This story sucks.  The woman who plays Hackney is awful and I can’t believe she managed to span her career all the way out to 1991 after this dreadful year of acting.  The storyline is stupid and corny and forces our much loved and much cherished characters to behave in very stupid ways (like Hackney randomly showing up at the house and Val and Lilimae being ever so delighted to see her and hear all about the college days with Ben and Hackney).  More, the story isn’t even good camp.  Interestingly, Brother seemed to find a way to enjoy this as camp, and he even told me he did enjoy Hackney because of her corniness.  Perhaps it’s because I take this show much more seriously than I probably should and Brother is just wanting to enjoy the show, but I couldn’t laugh at this storyline as camp because it made me sad to watch it.  I remember watching Nightmare and MBG saying, “This feels way more like a soap opera,” and I know what she meant.  It feels like a crappy daytime soap opera like General Hospital or something, and not the classy and well-crafted nighttime soap opera that David Jacobs invented.  In addition to the stupid Hackney story, you have cheap visuals and a truly wretched score that spans the entire season, all furthering the daytime soap feeling of the proceedings.  

                I will say that I think the season starts to fix itself in the last bundle of eps.  Things bottom out with Nightmare, taking us to a new level of badness we’ve never seen before in a KL ep, making me yearn for such eps as Land of the Free, Kristin, or Man of the Hour.  That ep is total crap and a complete failure from start to finish, but then I think things immediately improve in the next ep (Neighborly Conduct) and continue on that track until the finale, which is a season highlight.  Believe it or not, but it actually reminded me of the dream season of Dallas, which I feel starts out okay, quickly becomes stupid, and then bottoms out to some new level of stupidity around ep 24 of the season, but then starts to improve itself a bit in the last six or seven eps of the season.  Watching this season, I definitely sensed that the last seven eps were trying to right the tracks, to get the focus back on what we care about, and I appreciate that.  We get a little more of the cul-de-sac, we return to focusing on marital relations through the arrival of Anne and Mack’s potential affair with her, and we also have Laura giving birth (offscreen, since the writers disrespect Laura all year), which will lead us to great stories in the seasons to come. 

                Let’s talk season highs and lows.  You should all know my bottom ep for season eight, but I’ll go ahead and repeat it now; it’s Nightmare.  This is the worst ep of season eight and, in my opinion, the very worst ep of the entire series.  The fact that one of my favorite directors, Bill “Cooke” Duke, directed this ep as his swan song just makes me deeply unhappy.  After such a run of brilliance with the previous nine eps he brought us, to go out on such a lame note as Nightmare…..ugh.  I don’t even feel like talking about how shitty it was; if you want to know why I think it’s the worst KL ep ever, just go back and read my essay on it, since I think I covered pretty much all my points there.  As for the best ep, I was having a serious debate between No Miracle Worker and Cement the Relationship.  I think both of these stand out as examples of KL being really strong, and I especially like the dark comedy of Cement the Relationship.  Also, that ep ends on a tremendous cliffhanger that should glide us smoothly into the next season, so it’s got that going for it, which is nice.  However, I finally decided to give the edge to No Miracle Worker for one scene, and that of course is the scene of Olivia in the bathroom trying to flush her coke while Abs pulls a Jack Nicholson on the door through use of a hammer, culminating with her pulling the baggie of coke out of the toilet and flinging it at Olivia and then removing the door from its hinges and declaring, “If you wanna get high, you let us watch you get high.”  A most fabulous scene, a scene so fabulous that the first time I watched it, I immediately rushed upstairs to find my friend and force him to come downstairs and watch this most fabulous scene with me.  In addition to that killer scene, you just have overall great acting from the two actresses and I especially love seeing a new, more sympathetic side to Abby’s character.  So yes, I’ll go ahead and say the best ep of season eight is No Miracle Worker. 

                Okay, so where does this season rank in terms of the full package of eight seasons and 190 eps that we have watched?  This whole rewatch has borne rich fruit for me, because it’s shown me drastically reevaluating my opinions on characters, stories, situations, and seasons.  I’ve already found myself loving characters I didn’t think twice about before (Ben) and I’ve found myself appreciating new, smaller details to the series that I didn’t notice beforehand.  I bring this up because I began this blog by declaring that the first three seasons of the show are the worst and that things immediately get better in season four and then stay great all the way until the final ep.  Well, no, that’s not true, and I was completely wrong to say that.  Through the rewatch, I found so much more to appreciate in seasons one through three and I really think that their main problem is the crappy standalone eps.  If you do some judicious pruning of the lackluster standalones, you could really improve those early years.  Also, those early years get a pass from me because they are finding their footing; they’re still figuring out exactly what the series is and what they want it to be, so if things are a little rocky, it’s just going to make things better when we hit the glory years.  Also, there’s nothing, absolutely nothing, in all of season eight that is as good as Karen grieving Sid’s death throughout the run of season three, so that immediately puts season three above eight in my book.  So get ready for it, I’m calling season eight the worst season thus far and here’s the official breakdown of how I would rank the seasons we have currently seen:

·         1) Season Six (1984-1985)

·         2) Season Five (1983-1984)

·         3) Season Four (1982-1983)

·         4) Season Seven (1985-1986)

·         5) Season Two (1980-1981)

·         6) Season One (1979-1980)

·         7) Season Three (1981-1982)

·         8) Season Eight (1986-1987)

                Reflecting back on it now, I realize that perhaps the major, most vital flaw of this season is that I feel we’ve drifted too far away from what KL was created and conceived to be.  Now, I do think a show needs to evolve and change to stay on the air for as long as KL was on the air, but I also don’t think they should betray their core.  For me, seasons four through six hit that magic sweet spot of good, juicy nighttime drama mixed with a realistic feeling and a neighborhood atmosphere.  Season seven started to derail us a little bit off the tracks, and then season eight took it to new levels.  As I watched Sumner slip into some sort of terrible spy sex thriller in Nightmare and lure Hackney up to a hotel room only to pull out a pistol and deliver that truly awful “pistol in my pocket” line, I realized that this is simply not KL, that it had drifted way too far away from what KL is meant to be.  My prediction is that season nine will correct these errors, so let me declare what I think KL is meant to be at its core and we shall see if season nine delivers.  I believe KL is a drama series about the lives of married people in California.  I believe the cul-de-sac setting is very important.  I want to see lots of scenes of cookouts and block parties and cups of coffee in Karen’s kitchen.  I want to see well done, exciting drama, but I never want the drama to betray the characters; I want the characters to stay true to themselves and for the drama to enhance the characters (this is why I’m glad that Mack didn’t sleep with Anne; I think if he had, I would have found that an unforgiveable error on the part of the writers).  I want the shows to be written with wit and a sharp ear for dialogue and occasionally total humor, and I also want to believe in these characters as real people existing in a real California landscape.  Will season nine give me what I desire?  I’m hopeful, but we’ll have to wait and see, starting with the premiere ep, Missing Persons.  

Thursday, January 30, 2020


Episode Title: Cement the Relationship

Season 08, Episode 30

Episode 190 of 344

Written by Bernard Lechowick

Directed by Nick Havinga

Original Airdate: Thursday, May 14th, 1987

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Val tells Lilimae that she knows Ben went after Jean Hackney and is not coming back. Mack tells Paige that he called Anne and Anne admitted Mack really is Paige's father. Greg can't reach Peter, but is more interested in playing with Meg than finding him. Abby hears that cement is going to be poured for the new children's playground at Lotus Point, so she decides to bury Peter there. With several interruptions and near misses of getting caught, Abby buries Peter, only to dig him up for his car keys and rebury him. She brings his car to the airport and takes the bus home. Olivia tells Abby she is not worth what Abby did (meaning Abby shouldn't have killed him). Abby, thinking Olivia means she shouldn't have buried Peter on her behalf, assures Olivia that she did it for her, and that no one will ever know. The cement is poured in the children's park, and Karen and Abby go to inspect it. Karen points out that there is a structural crack in the cement, and it will need to be done over.

                Well, we’ve finally arrived.  We’ve sat through 29 season eight eps and now we are finally at our season finale.  What exciting cliffhangers lay in store for all of our characters?  Well, even though there’s involvement from pretty much all the characters in the cast this week, it’s hard to argue that the primary focus of this ep is not totally and 100% on Abs as she gets to work taking care of that whole dead Peter situation from the end of our last ep.  Even so, we have a few small things with the other characters, so let’s start with them.

                Actually, before we talk about characters, let’s talk about opening credits.  Why?  Well, because this ep marks the end of an era for KL, the end of the classic scrolling squares that we’ve been seeing since the premiere of season three.  Yes, we will see a return to this style in a slightly different, more 90s way for the last three seasons of the show, but this is it for the style that we’ve grown accustomed to since 1981.  Even though I detest the opening credits and theme for season eight because they look super cheap and computer-y and the theme song is terrible, but I still consider the scrolling squares to be the greatest design of the opening and it’s the opening I always think of when I think of KL, probably because we spent six years in a row with it.  Next season, we will unveil a brand new opening credits sequence, the one involving a painting, but I’ll save my thoughts on that for season nine.

                I forgot to mention in the last ep that Greg and Laura picked out a name for their baby girl, Marguerite Catherine, or simply Meg.  Once I heard that name, “Meg,” I started to get pretty excited, and not just because I enjoy the actress Meg Tilly.  No, it’s more the fact that I know the very existence of Meg promises drama and excitement in the years to come.  The writers didn’t do much at all with Laura’s actual pregnancy, but now that the baby is here, she’s going to affect situations and storylines all the way up to the 1997 reunion movie.  I’m excited for that, but I continue to wag my finger and say "shame on you" to the writers and creative team of season eight, who have given Laura possibly 60 minutes of material total throughout this entire year.  Laura will be leaving the series very shortly and it’s a shame that in her final full season on the series, she is given so little to do.

                Since that’s about all that Greg and Laura are doing this ep, let’s discuss Paige.  In this ep, Mack gives an off-screen phone call to Anne, reminds her not to come back until season eleven, and also learns that his sperm is the sperm responsible for entering her egg and conceiving an embryo that eventually grew bigger and was then expelled out through her vagina as Paige Matheson.  Okay, so Greg’s not the father, right?  We had a Sepia Toned Flashback last ep that I neglected to mention that showed the two of them not shagging, and now we’ve got this development. I think this is pretty much our confirmation, if anyone was in any suspense about this.  Anyway, I’m still completely bored and disinterested by this storyline and I’m just waiting for it to finally finish, which I’m predicting will happen in either the first or second ep of the ninth season.  

                Ben does not appear in this ep or any ep to follow this ep.  The fact that his 9PM phone calls stop coming Val’s way helps alert her to the fact that he’s probably gone forever.  Oh yeah, and there’s also the fact that last ep she called up his boss at the paper or whatever and the boss was like, “Huh, assignment?”  So now Val is convinced that Ben is going after Hackney, but I’m not so convinced.  Ben’s lies about having this great new job opportunity seemed to me like an excuse for him to blow town simply because he was totally unhappy and his life was coming apart.  He had tried to make it work with Val and be a good husband and it’s just not meant to be.  Plus, all that Hackney silliness that took up so much of our time turned Ben into a total paranoid maniac, so I’m guessing he’s gonna move somewhere far away, probably change his name, and then try to make a marriage work with some new girl.  Or hey, now that I think about it, maybe he’s going after Cathy?  I mean, why the hell not?  He’s probably flashing back to a year ago and thinking of how he should have left town with Cathy back then, so maybe he’s gonna track her down and resume the shagging?  You know what, I really really like this idea that just immediately popped into my head as I was sitting here writing.  I am officially going to make my own personal beliefs be that Ben left town, found Cathy, resumed shagging, and the two lived happily ever after, doing nothing but shagging and singing fabulous cover songs.  This is my official belief and I am sticking to it.

                Okay, let’s get to the main meat of this ep.  Peter is dead, he’s got that weird sharp receipt stick thing jutting out of his back (I just looked it up and it’s called a “spindle,” which makes me now realize why the title of our last ep was funny), and the body needs to be disposed of pronto, as there’s about to be a great big Lotus Point celebration.  I confess I simply don’t have the energy to write about all the little details of what Abs goes through in this ep, but just take my word for it that it’s all great.  This ep really cranks up the black comedy in a way that I completely approve of.  I completely approved of it back in college and I completely approve of it now.  I remember thinking that the L & L years of the show were the funniest and used comedy the best, and this is probably the first sign of that instinct that we’ve seen since they became the big people behind the scenes.  Basically, this situation is just inherently funny.  It’s funny to watch Abs, dressed in pearls and a fancy dress and high heels, have to haul a heavy corpse across the room.  It’s also very funny later when Abs, still dressed in the same outfit, drives the corpse out to the Lotus Point construction site where they are about to pour cement. 

                You know what, actually I think I will give some quick details about all the shit Abs deals with throughout these 48 minutes.  Okay, so the first order of business is getting the damn body off the floor of the dining hall.  Abs locks the door and then drags poor lifeless Peter across the floor and stashes him in the little closet where the music comes out of.  Naturally, Abs leaves a big bloody trail all over the previously very tidy floor, so she quickly gets to work cleaning that up, slopping it up with a big towel or maybe a table cloth, and then we get some good suspense when Karen comes to the door and starts knocking and hollering to find out who’s in there.  Then she asks one of her Lotus Point employees to go fetch the key from her office, and Abs finishes up her cleaning by very cleverly throwing coffee all over the floor.  Oh Abs, you’re so wicked smart, for now when Karen comes in, she’ll notice the big mess of coffee on the floor and not any teeny tiny little microscopic bloodstains that might still be lingering about.

                Okay, so then the night of the party comes, and Abs is making sure to stay close to the door of that music room, ensuring that nobody enters and asks, “Hey, how come this not-very-interesting character who’s been on the show for two years is dead in this music closet room?”  We also get some nice humor when Abs says how there’s no music because they are having problems with the equipment, but then suddenly music comes blasting out and she’s like, “Oh, um, let me go fix that,” and she gets into the little room and shuts it off.  By the way, the music that comes blasting out is the same music that Sonny (the evil saxophonist/reporter guy who wasted our time for awhile during season seven) was playing on his saxophone back in the episode The Confession.  Either the powers that be are recycling music again or Sonny quickly became a successful musician.  Oh yeah, and one last little detail, but we learn that this is a double celebration because Eric is now a college man.  It’s a good thing I double checked this scene before I started writing about it, because in my notes I wrote “college graduate” and I was just about to go on a long rant about how Eric couldn’t possibly have had time to go through college while also working as the big cheese over at Knots Landing Motors (which I know he hasn’t been doing for about two years, but you get my point).  However, now I see that Abs actually says, “Congratulations, Mr. College Man,” so I take that to mean he’s going to be heading off to college in the fall.  I remember this because I remember Eric kinda leaving for awhile and only showing up sporadically, and then of course he doesn’t show up at all after 1990 because of Steve Shaw’s tragic car accident and death.  Anyway, it’s a small detail but one I appreciate, and it helps to explain where Eric will be disappearing to next season.

                Once the party is finally finished, Abs returns to Lotus Point late at night to go bury Peter at the construction site.  I love all the detail that goes into this; we really see that disposing of a corpse is not an easy feat, and in many ways it reminded me of a scene from Hitchock’s Frenzy involving a killer trying to pry something out of a corpse’s hands.  In this instance, we just see that all of this is taking a lot of effort for Abs and we get the sense that it’s hard to get the corpse out of the truck and rolled into the big hole, and then we have a fabulous moment in which Abs has to pry the murder weapon (spindle) out of his back.  I gotta say, even though this is network television and there’s nothing too horribly offensive or grisly, I still found this pretty bloody and was somewhat surprised that it made it to network TV.  Did KL just have clout by this time because they’d been on the air for eight years?  Was CBS allowing them to get away with a little more than they might allow for a show in its first or second season?  Again, this isn’t torture porn or anything, but there’s a lot of blood and we see the bloody rag in Abby’s hands when she pries the spindle.  Also, more good suspense when Abs is in the hole, working on burying the body, and a Lotus Point security guard shows up out of the blue and starts poking around.  Abs lays low and waits for him to leave, but it’s a pretty exciting sequence, made even better and funnier when Abs goes through all the work of burying him only to realize she needs his car keys.  Naturally, she has to dig him back up and get the keys.  See, it’s small details like this that I appreciate when KL is really firing on all cylinders, and I’m gonna go ahead and say that the show is really firing on all cylinders in this ep, that this is all really good stuff.  You got action, you got murder, you got suspense, and you got humor.  

                Finally, Abs has gotten Peter’s body buried and has obtained his keys, so she drives his car out to the airport and ditches it there.  Not only does she ditch it, but she even wears her hair up and puts on a big pair of sunglasses to try and hide her face.  See what I mean about little details?  I don’t think the Dallas team would include all these little things if they were having a character dispose of a corpse.  The fact that Abs is able to immediately snap into action and start taking care of business and the fact that she is so cautious about doing so add a nice extra level to proceedings.

                The final scene of the ep is a doozy.  Abs and Karen are surveying things at Lotus Point, taking a look at the new area that’s been built and the fresh concrete.  For all intents and purposes, Abby’s job is finished and it’s a rousing success, but then we get that last curveball in which Karen spots a big crack in the foundation of the cement.  She says how maybe it’s not that big a deal, but that there’s also the chance that all the cement will have to come up, and she finishes with, “What do you think, Abby?” and we get a nice closeup of Abs looking like she’s about to shit her pants.  With that, the season concludes.

                I’m happy to say that this was a fabulous season finale.  I would say it’s much better than The Longest Night, our season finale the previous year, although I don’t think it can compare to the cliffhangers of my beloved 4, 5, and 6 era.  This whole ep is very clever and very funny, and I enjoy the mix of suspense with dark humor, the way the writers show all the different problems Abs encounters as she goes about trying to get rid of Peter’s body.  Also, that very final scene is a perfect button on the whole thing and I remember watching it and eagerly starting season nine right away, wanting to see what happened.  Even so, I can’t be completely complimentary, mostly because I have found this season to be a real slog, so the fact that it happens to finish off with a fantastic season finale doesn’t exactly redeem the season as a whole.  For me, the cliffhangers have the best punch when we’ve been really invested in an exciting story all year and then the cliffhanger is the culmination of that story (think of the fantastic Val’s babies storylines).  When the season has been as spotty and even just-plain-bad as season eight has been, one good finale is not going to erase my memories of the eps that came before. 

                It’s fun to get some other perspectives, so let me go ahead and tell you what MBG and Brother had to say about this whole ep.  Brother said it was a highlight and that he thought it was a hilarious ep, and he also said he’s eager to find out who killed Peter, though he didn’t venture a guess.  MBG, however, said that she thinks Paige killed Peter and, well, I’m not gonna say one way or the other.  We’ll have to wait until season nine to find out.

                That about wraps up my thoughts on Cement the Relationship.  Honestly, this might be my fave ep of the season, though I’ll have to chew on it and think over whether one of the Olivia-on-coke eps might not actually be the best.  In fact, I’ll chew on it and then tell you all what I’ve decided in my next essay, my “Reflection on Season Eight.”  After that, we’ll power right along to the premiere of a brand new season with Missing Persons.  

Thursday, January 23, 2020


Season 08, Episode 29

Episode 189 of 344

Written by Lynn Marie Latham

Directed by  Joseph L. Scanlan

Original Airdate: Thursday, May 7th, 1987

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Laura names her baby Marguerite Catherine (Meg) after her mother. Val calls Ben's news service, and they tell her he's not on assignment for them. Olivia confronts Paige on dating Peter, and Paige tells her about Abby and Peter. Olivia and Abby scream at each other. Peter thanks Jill for burning the letter, and she throws him out. Abby screams at him for leading Olivia on. Paige throws plates at him and screams at him for not telling her that Greg is her father, and Peter laughs at her. At the Lotus Point Club, Abby hears Olivia scream, and comes out of the Ladies room, drying her hands. Abby sees Olivia leaning over Peter's dead, bloody body, and Abby thinks Olivia has killed him. Olivia sees Abby wiping her hands, and thinks that Abby has killed Peter. 

Welcome to the penultimate episode of this most inconsistent and often arduous eighth season, a season that, I confess, has been a real struggle to get through.  In fact, now would be the perfect time to mention that I’ve been putting off writing these essays forever, mostly because I just don’t really feel like writing about them.  This is very sad, but I feel confidence that once we leave season eight behind us and get into some new storylines for seasons nine and beyond, I’ll be able to regain my enthusiasm.  But yeah, as it stands right now, MGB, Brother, and myself watched these last five eps like forever ago, and I immediately wrote about the first one, but then I took forever to write about the next two and then I took even longer to get to writing about this one.  If I can just power through this and the next one and a quick “Reflections” essay, we’ll be finished with this season and we can move on to (hopefully) brighter pastures.  Oh yeah, and also, one last little thing; if it seems like I’m rushing through this essay, it’s because I kinda am.  I made the colossal mistake of dropping my computer on the floor last night and my poor baby is now in a laptop repair shop where, I’m fairly certain, they will conclude there’s nothing that can be done to fix.  Hence, I am currently sitting in the public library and writing this essay on one of their computers and, if my computer can’t be fixed, it’s highly likely that this is how I will be writing all these essays from now until the end of time.

Most of this ep is about Olivia and Peter, but let’s get started by discussing Paige and the recent “reveal” that Greg Sumner is her true biological father.  Okay, so you’ll all remember that Anne threw this claim at Mack right before she blew town, and I’d say that in and of itself proves that this whole thing is a lie.  During her batch of eps, didn’t Anne pretty much immediately prove herself to be deceitful and duplicitous?  She’s lied about tons of things, including faking a suicide attempt to gain Mack’s attention, so why would she suddenly be telling the truth about Greg being the giver of the sperm that created Paige?  I don’t even remember this story coming up from my first watch aside from one very visceral memory of Greg making out with Paige to prove he’s not her father (I feel like that’s gonna happen somewhere in season nine).  But let me just say that even if I was watching this first-run in 1987, I wouldn’t be fooled and I wouldn’t even think there’s a small chance that Greg is Paige’s father. 

Even still, Paige wants to figure out the truth about her upbringing, so we get some scenes throughout this ep of her trying to do so, including calling the Winston family to find her mother, who it turns out is now in France.  It must be great to be a rich white person and not have to actually do anything with your life.  What the hell is Anne doing in France aside from hanging out there and sipping espresso because she has the money and the wherewithal to do such things?  I highly doubt she’s actually gaining anything from the cultural sophistication and fine arts of France; I think mostly she’s just rich and white and bored and she has nothing better to do than fly to France and just sorta hang out there for while before, you know, flying somewhere else.  Anyway, Anne doesn’t show up in this ep and I’m pretty sure we don’t see her again until somewhere around 1990, so we won’t really be discussing her again much until that time comes.

Oh yeah, the only other thing worth noting about this story is that it propels us into another Sepia Toned Flashback, and I feel fairly confident that this will be our last one, although I’m not certain.  In this Sepia Toned Flashback, we get a quick needle drop of I Can’t Help Myself.  In case you’re confused, that would be the song that starts out “Sugar pie, honey bunch, you know that I love you.”  Now, until this very second as I sit here typing this, I thought the title of the song was, in fact, Sugar Pie Honey Bunch, although I’ll go a step further and say that I actually thought it was Sugar Pie Honey Butts.  Only now, as I look at the lyrics online, do I realize that my whole life I have mistaken “Bunch” for “Butts.”  This is not a new problem, as I also always thought the lyrics to How Deep Is Your Love went, “And you come to me on a submarine,” and I also always thought the lyrics to Beat It were, “Show them how funky soldiers fight.”  Oh yeah, and apparently when I was a kid, I would always sing the song Nobody Does It Better wrong by singing, “Like heaven above me, the spy who loved me is keeping all my cigarettes safe tonight.”  Now, I confess I don’t actually remember singing it this way but it’s something my parents said I did a lot.

The Sepia Toned Flashback starts with Paige’s call to Harry Winston, who tells her that Greg and Anne never actually dated, but merely made it look like they were dating so that he could sneak her out and get her to Mack, her true love.  Then we go to the flashback and see Paige getting dropped off by young Greg (played, as always, to complete perfection by Joshua Devane).  Harry Winston (looking exactly the same as he does in 1987, only with his hair dyed black) looms from a high window, watching them, so the two start to talk about how they’d better make it a convincing act, so they kiss.  After the kiss, Anne asks if she thinks her father is convinced and young Greg is like, “I don’t know about him, but I’m convinced,” and then he says something about how one of these days, Mack might not be able to make it and they’ll just have to “go it alone.”  Clearly all this is being presented to us to make us think there’s a possibility that he fathered Paige, but I’m gonna ruin it right now and I don’t care about spoilers: GREG IS NOT PAIGE’S FATHER.  I don’t know how many eps we have to get through before this is finally revealed, but this is not a storyline I’m caring much about at all.  However, MBG was really digging this, showing how there’s different strokes for different folks.  Between eps, she said how she was really hating the whole Hackney storyline (like everyone in the world who has ever suffered through that storyline) but that this whole Greg/Paige business was very exciting for her.  Maybe I’m just impatient cuz I’ve seen this and I know he’s not her father.  Maybe I’m also annoyed because I’m just getting tired of so many quote “exciting twists” being thrown at the Paige character.  She’s barely been on the show a year and yet we’ve already had to deal with “Is this really Paige?” and then, “Is the real Paige dead?” and then, “Okay, I guess she is the real Paige but her mother is dead,” and then, “Oh, never mind, her mother is alive,” and now to, “Her mother’s alive, but Mack might not be her father.”  It’s enough, already; just let Paige be a character and exist and become one with the rest of the cast.  I think this is a Paige related problem that will be solved in coming seasons, but who knows?  All I can say is I remember enjoying the Paige character very much, and yet as we finish up season eight, I’m not liking the character or her stories the way I remembered.  We’ve got six more years with her, so I’m hopeful that I’ll return to liking her the way I did upon first viewing.

Okay, so that’s about it for Paige and all that, how about Val and Ben?  Well, last ep Ben drove away in a taxicab and we all got the sense that he wouldn't be coming back.  Had you asked me before doing this rewatch whether we would ever be seeing Ben again, I would have said no; I would have said that the shot of him driving off is the very last time we see him, but I would have been wrong.  It turns out Ben makes his official last appearance right here, in a scene that starts with some light bickering between Val and Lilimae.  See, Lilimae is cutting up a gigantic cake and Val is hiding her face with a paper and trying to ignore her mother, who’s going on and on about how she doesn’t think Ben will call.  However, two seconds later the phone rings and it’s indeed Ben, being shot in a very tight closeup as he sits at some sort of bar.  I’m willing to bet this is just a teeny tiny bar set and the reason we’re in such a tight closeup is to hide that fact, but anyway, not important.  I think Val starts to get an uncomfortable feeling in this scene, as do all of us, because when she tries to get the number of the hotel Ben is staying at, he deflects and says how he’ll be somewhere different tomorrow, and then when she says she could call the news station in case of emergency, he’s sorta dismissive and says, “Yeah, well, I might be hard to get a hold of.”  Then they exchange the “I love yous” but when they hang their phones up, we hold on Ben for a moment and can tell he’s not being straight with Val.  Also, he’s nursing a drink, and I do wonder if I’m supposed to take any note of this.  On Dallas, all the characters just drank all the livelong day and nobody besides Sue Ellen was ever called an alcoholic, but on KL I feel like there’s much less drinking and, when there is drinking, it’s usually for some purpose.  We saw Ben drinking bourbon near the middle of the season and that Val was unhappy with that, so is it significant that in his last scene on the series ever, he’s also drinking?  I think it is.  The writers could have put him anywhere on the phone; he could have been sitting in a hotel room or speaking from a pay phone or someone’s office or anywhere you like, but they chose to have him call her from a bar while he’s drinking.  I think we should infer that Ben is going to leave her forever (well, duh) but also that he’s drinking because he’s just a deeply unhappy man who is finally giving up on this idea of marriage in suburbia that he’s been wanting since season five. 

Since this is Ben’s last appearance, let us take some time to honor Mr. Douglas Sheehan.  Oh Doug, how wrong could I have been about you?  Before this rewatch, if someone were to ask me about your character, I would have told them Ben was boring but generally inoffensive and that he is the least interesting person in the cast for seasons five through eight.  Well, this rewatch has proven me completely wrong and has elevated Ben way high up in my pantheon of characters.  I’m not sure where I would place him now, but I’m pretty sure he would make the top ten, though probably not the top five.  Now I see what fabulous qualities Mr. Sheehan brought to this character, that dry sense of humor, that silliness that he would occasionally bust out (such as dancing in a kilt while playing bagpipes for Val), and just the fabulous realism he brought to this part.  I feel like Doug Sheehan played Ben pretty much perfectly as a regular dude who has somehow become trapped in a soap opera.  It is specifically that regular dude quality that made him so appealing to me, and it also helped to keep the stories from seeming silly (well, eh hem, most of them) because he kept it feeling real.  Also, he did such an admirable job of filling the role of Val’s lover, a role that could be completely thankless and lacking in personality.  After all, when looking at it in a pragmatic sense, we know that Ben is, at the core, a character designed to keep Gary and Val apart for an extended length of time.  The writers could have made him a total nothing, just a boring dude filling a suit for a few years until the writers are possibly ready to get Gary and Val back together.  Instead of being boring, I really thought this character had a fabulous life of his own, and I love the fact that, even though I want Gary and Val together because they are soulmates, I could also see all the good qualities of Ben and how he tried so hard to make a good husband to Val, even though he knew deep down Val was meant for Gary and he was essentially raising the living, breathing proof of Gary and Val’s star crossed love. 

However, I must point out the elephant in room one more time and say that Ben should never have been a part of the eighth season.  As we moved through season seven, it seemed very clear to me almost from the get-go (not quite at the premiere, but probably somewhere around the time that Ben and Val tied the knot) that the writers were designing that season to serve as an exit for Ben.  His unhappiness at knowing that he’s raising Gary’s children combined with his belief that Val will never love him the way she loves Gary and then his special friendship with Cathy all lead to their affair in the closing hours of that season.  I think the organic thing to do would have been to have both Cathy and Ben leave town together and go off to live happily ever after, Ben being silly and sarcastic and Cathy singing her fabulous cover songs.  Instead, the creative team chose to remove Cathy from the cast and keep Ben around, propelling him and us into the worst storyine ever on the show, Hackney.  I think maybe the worst thing about this whole season (and there have been a lot of bad things) has been watching them soil this character for an entire year.  I suppose some viewers might have thought him soiled if he blew town with Cathy at the end of season seven, but wouldn’t you rather have that than Spy Ben?  Wouldn’t you rather have that than all the horrible dialogue and ridiculous situations the writers placed Ben in throughout the year?  And, if you think him leaving Val for another woman would soil our memories of the character, how about getting him involved in a horribly stupid spy conspiracy storyline and then having him just up and ditch Val and the kids with a blatant lie about how he’s going on assignment?  Is that any better than adultery?  So yeah, I hate the fact that season eight really managed to take a shit on this character and mar his beauty and purity; had he left after season seven, I would have nothing but memories of three great years for this great character, but now we have three great years and one shit year, and it’s just sad to see him leave the series after such a shit storyline that took up so much of our time.  Even so, that’s a negative way to look at things, and I’d rather focus on those three good years and how wonderfully Douglas Sheehan played this character.  Ben Gibson, you were a good man and you tried your best with Val and you will be sorely missed throughout the next six years.

Let’s finish up by discussing Olivia, Peter, and Abs.  This is kinda the big story of this ep and the one that will lead us into our finale.  You should all remember how Olivia paid a visit to Peter’s apartment only to see Paige dressed in nothing but a towel.  Now that she realizes Peter’s been slipping his peter inside of Paige nightly, she’s all distressed and heartbroken, and indeed we even open the ep on an upset Olivia.  It’s a bit much, really, as she’s got several photos of Peter strewn all over her bed and even has a book open with a red rose in it.  It definitely seems like Olivia’s kinda hoping someone will walk in and see her little shrine so that she’ll have someone to whine to.  Okay, so Olivia’s mad at Paige, but she’s not the only one.  Abs is also pretty pissed, as evidenced by a long fight scene at Lotus Point between the two characters.  He says how he managed to get rid of that stupid letter, like anyone cared, and then they start shouting at eachother about how she thinks he’s scum for using her daughter and Bob Loblaw.  Then Gary walks in and has a funny speech about turning up his radio as loud as possible to drown out their noise.  I have to say Gary is really the only character who’s going to be escaping from season eight unscathed and with his dignity intact.  Gary’s the character who’s come off smelling like a rose this whole year while pretty much every other character in the cast has had to suffer at least one horrible scene or bit of dialogue.  Even Devane has had to spit out some truly awful dialogue (“I didn’t want to disappoint you, but that was a pistol in my pocket”), although he has that special ability to make his dialogue work.

Olivia gets an especially rude awakening near the end of the ep when she confronts Paige for shagging Peter.  She says how she’s super pissed and can’t believe that Peter and Paige are “going together” (to which Paige corrects her with, “You mean we’re lovers”) and then Paige drops a big bomb when she says, “I figured if you didn’t care about your mother sleeping with him, you wouldn’t care about me sleeping with him.”  Well, now the cat is really out of the bag, bringing us to our next scene, taking place between Abs and Olivia.  We start with Abs planting some seeds for future storylines, or at least I think she is.  Follow me along here, but when Abs comes upon Olivia crying on a Lotus Point bench, she sits down next to her and starts talking about her first love, “the love of my life, or so I thought.”  We learn he was a graduate student and that Abs thought he loved her very much, but he went and married someone else.  Now, am I crazy, or is Abs bringing this up to get us ready for special guest star Michael York in the ninth season?  I remember Basil Exposition showing up to stir up some drama with Abs somewhere in that year, and I feel fairly confident that this is the person Abs is speaking about right now.  What do my readers think?  Anyway, Abs seems very pleased with her little love story, and as she stands up to depart, Olivia tells her she knows that Abs has been shagging Peter and that she’s damn mad about it.  This turns into an Olivia/Abs shouting match (I always enjoy these) and then Olivia runs off.

We’ve got less than ten minutes to go in the ep and next on the agenda is a big fight between Peter and Paige.  As soon as Peter enters the Lotus Point dining room, Paige starts throwing plates and glasses at him, screaming something about the letter (which she calls “the damn stupid letter,” speaking for the entire viewing audience).  Then she screams about how Greg Sumner is her father and then we just sorta dissolve to a new scene, right in the middle of the fight.  This is an odd stylistic choice, but it helps to give us the sense of time passing.  It was also at this dissolve that MBG did that psychic thing she sometimes does where she said, “If I was writing the story, I would kill Peter right now.”  Well, sure enough, our next scene is Peter dead, another scene that’s shown in an interesting way.  See, we begin the scene with Abs alone in the bathroom, scrubbing her hands.  Then we hear Olivia screaming and Abs goes out into the dining room to find Olivia down on the ground with a dead Peter beside her.  It appears Peter has been stabbed in the back with one of those super scary and super dangerous gigantic blade things that companies use to shove their receipts through (I’ve never understood why this large weapon is acceptable to have on a business desk).  The way the scene plays, we don’t really know what the hell is going on.  Is Peter dead because Abs killed him?  Is that why she’s washing her hands?  Or did Olivia do it and Abs is just discovering it?  Or could it have been some third party?  Reflecting on it a bit, I can see why MBG got the psychic twinkle that Peter was going to be buying the farm soon, because this ep really drips with a “Who Shot J.R.?” feeling.  You’ll all recall back in the final moments of season three of Dallas (back when the show was still legitimately good and exciting television), that the writers set up absolutely everyone in Texas to be super duper pissed at J.R. and have a reason to shoot him.  Here, a real shitstorm is coming down on Peter and everyone hates him, giving possible motive to want him dead.  I’ll go ahead and say right now that “Who killed Peter?” doesn’t hold a candle to “Who Shot J.R.?”, but it’s still a good development, mostly because I was beyond done with Peter and was ready for him to die probably right near the beginning of this season.  Both MBG and Brother agree, by the way, because when I said I was ready for Peter to die, they both said, “Me, too” at the exact same time.

Okay, that does it for Do Not Fold, Spindle, or Mutilate (a title I actually like a lot).  We’re almost there, with just one ep of season eight left to go, so let’s move right along to our season finale, Cement the Relationship.more