Episode Title: Our Secret
Season 08, Episode 26
Episode 186 of 344
Written by John Leasure
Directed by David Jacobs
Original Airdate: Thursday, April 2nd, 1987
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Anne is rushed to the hospital, but the doctor says she's fine. Paige tells the MacKenzies that it's only a stunt, but Mack says it's still a cry for help. Guilty, he is extra nice to Anne, which doesn't sit too well with Karen. Sylvia is dead, so Peter really comes on to Olivia, giving her a locket and even kissing her. Olivia leaves lots of messages for Peter, which Peter and Paige make fun of. Michael tells Olivia that Paige is dating Peter, but Olivia says Paige would have told her because they are best friends. Gary and Jill plan to go away, but they meet Peter at the airport picking up Sylvia's body. Thinking it is Jill's mother too, Gary decides they should stay in town. Ben flips out when Lilimae turns off the security system, and she and Val are really worried about his paranoid behavior.
Welcome welcome, one and all. With Our Secret, we (mercifully) begin the last lap of season eight, the final five eps of this most arduous and annoying season. As I said with our last two eps, I do think we are hitting an upswing now that Hackney is out of the picture and we can turn our attention over to characters we actually like, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all the eps from here on out will be brilliant. Is Our Secret brilliant? No, but it’s, you know, okay. Let’s explore.
The first thing I noted about this ep was the director, one landmark genius auteur of the television landscape known to us mere mortals as David Jacobs. Yes, the man who conceived the entire series is the man behind the camera this week, and yet, I confess, I find myself strangely underwhelmed by his directorial style, much as I was underwhelmed by his last effort, the early season eight ep Slow Burn. I once again maintain that the problem is not the man in question, who has directed brilliantly artistic eps in the past such as Willing Victims in season four and One Kind of Justice in season five, but rather the problem is the inherent cheapness in the series at this point. I’ve bitched and moaned about the visuals of this season in the past, but here it comes again, cuz I feel it needs reiteration: This season looks cheap. I’m gonna pay attention hard to the next six seasons to see if the general look improves or not, but I fear we’ve left the super cinematic and visual seasons in our past as soon as we finished up season seven.
David Jacobs seems to be going for an arty style this week, demonstrated right away in the very first shot, which is Anne sitting on the ground in what appears to be the ice cave level from Super Mario 64. The ice cave seems to be Anne’s version of Heaven, because we see it frequently as Anne lies unconscious and flirts with going to Heaven. We also get to see some of Anne dancing (first alone and then with Mack) in front of the ice cave, all mixed with lots of half dissolves to the real-world Anne lying on the ground with an empty pill bottle next to her. As a way to start the ep, this is alright, I suppose, and I appreciate D.J. trying to be more visual and more artistic, but I have two problems already. One of those problems is that it still looks cheap; you can do all the half dissolves and slow building classical music that you want, but it still looks like the budget got a major slashing courtesy of Jason Voorhees’ machete and then another extra slashing for good measure courtesy of Freddy Krueger’s claws. My other problem is that this dancing ice cave stuff would be fine if we just saw it once or twice, but we just keep returning to it over and over again throughout the 48 minutes and it quickly gets old. Once again, even with the presence of D.J. behind the camera guiding the proceedings, I can sense that the whole team is just trying to fill time. We have now gotten through 25 eps and we only have to get through five more and I can just smell everyone behind the scenes being like, “Hmmmm, if we just keep cutting over and over again to this weird Heaven ice cave fantasy with Mack and Anne dancing, that will fill up the time!”
In fact, if you remove the dancing and the ice cave from proceedings, you’re really not left with a hell of a lot in this ep, and I predict this will be one of my shortest writeups. Going down the list of characters, there’s really just not much going on this week. Obviously we got the majority of the attention focused on Karen, Mack, and Anne, and then we have some stuff involving Val and Ben and the whole family in their house of paranoia, and then we have a blossoming new romance between Olivia (a great character) and Peter (I fell asleep in the middle of typing his name). Oh yeah, and we have a really truly lame story for Peter and Greg and, um, Sylvia (remember her?). That’s about it, so let’s go ahead and get started by talking about, oh, let’s say, Anne.
So our previous ep ended with Mack announcing to Anne that she’s gotta go, that she’s making his life miserable. Then she called him and asked if he’d have breakfast with her the next morning, followed by her proceeding to swallow a whole bunch of pills. I’m not entirely sure what pills she swallows and I don’t know that they ever even tell us in this ep. They may very well have told us and My Beloved Grammy, Brother, and I may have been too busy making fun of the Super Mario 64 ice cave to hear the dialogue, but I feel fairly confident that we are never told. Perhaps when that glorious day comes that all 344 eps of KL get the supreme frame-by-frame 3D conversion courtesy of James Cameron for a complete, sexy BluRay release, we may be able to read the label on the pill bottle and find out exactly what Anne swallowed, but sadly that day is not today. In any case, what’s important is that Anne has taken the pills, is lying passed out on the living room rug, and Mack is nowhere in sight. What happened to their breakfast date? Well, Mack decided he’d rather stay and have breakfast with his lovely wife, and we do get an interesting bit of business right near the start where Karen asks Mack why he broke the breakfast date with Anne. Mack says, “It wasn’t a date; it was more of an appointment,” and Karen looks sorta guilty and says how she hopes he didn’t break it because of her, and he says that he did not. I noted this because, even though Karen clearly doesn’t like Anne and would rather have her out of her hair, she’s still a good person and she’s still a thoughtful person and she doesn’t want Anne to be hurt. This is a nice way to show us that, while Karen may have jealousy towards Anne, she’s not bitter and she is still considerate of the feelings of others.
Anyway, Anne continues to lie there for quite a bit longer because Mack gets distracted pretending to be a burglar (we’ll discuss that when we move over to the Val/Ben portion of this ep). Finally, just as we are about to hit our first commercial break, Mack heads to Anne’s to meet up with her. When she doesn’t answer the door (she’s still dancing in the ice cave), he peeks into the window and sees her all passed out and decides to pull a Manhunter and jump through the window. Actually, that’s not quite accurate, cuz you’ll all remember that, in Manhunter, William Petersen just comes barreling up to the window and smashes his entire body right through. Mack chooses a different tact, grabbing a potted plant and throwing that through the window before he himself climbs through to rescue Anne.
After commercial, we return to this story, with the whole gang hanging out at the hospital while Anne lays in a coma. Poor Mack looks super ashamed and guilty and says to Karen how he thinks this is his fault, that he marched on over to her house and declared that he doesn’t love Anne and would never leave Karen. Karen tells him not to blame himself, but it’s no use, and Mack walks off angrily. I feel legit sorry for Mack here, by the way, because I think he’s dealing with a lot of mixed up emotions. First off, you have the confusion of having this previous love of his life return to his life after twenty years, reminding him of this special relationship they shared way back in the ‘60s. Now he thinks this woman has tried to kill herself directly because of his own harsh words, and that would be a hard thing to square. I know I’ve said this before, but I don’t think I bring it up enough, and that’s the fact that I love how moral so many of these characters try to be. For a nighttime soap from the ‘80s, a genre that is generally concerned with rich, awful people doing terrible things to each other in the name of money and power, I’ve always appreciated that KL is full of characters who wrestle with decisions of morality, of doing what is right. In this case, Mack did do the right thing; Anne had her eyes set on him and wanted to steal him away from his wife and it was time for her to hit the road. Even still, now Mack feels he has hurt her so deeply that she tried to buy the farm, and that’s a hard thing to deal with.
Mack is a good person who cares about the feelings of others, so therefore he might be wearing slightly rose colored glasses as far as his relationship with Anne is concerned. He never even takes a moment to think that perhaps she planned out this little suicide attempt as a way to get attention, but fortunately Paige is around to give him the straight dope. Mack and Paige engage in a little pre-bedtime talk in which Paige points out a few facts, such as that Anne was planning to go to breakfast with Mack and, if he wound up not showing up, she also had a later date with Paige, guaranteeing that somebody would find her in time. Mack finds this idea inherently distasteful, but then Paige asks how he thinks she got the idea to fake her own death. Hmmm, a fine point, young Paige.
Let’s move over to the house of Val and Ben and Lilimae. Last ep, we had Ben getting the entire house secured with a bunch of cool, sexy 1980’s alarm systems. This ep, his paranoia continues to grow when he tells the whole family that the alarms must remain set all day, not just at night. He says how just cuz the sun’s out does not mean the bad guys go away, but even so, he might be freaking out a little too much. For instance, he flies off the handle when Lilimae sneaks down for a midnight snack (this is one woman who loves her midnight snacks), turns off the alarm system, and then forgets to turn it back on again. By the way, this alarm system is remarkably easy to crack and I have to wonder if an alarm system this simple ever actually existed. Growing up, we had an alarm system and my parents showed me how to use it and you had to hit the * button and then enter a four digit code and then finish off with the # sign, at which point the house would be secure. The system Ben has had installed is decidedly less complicated, because all you have to do is, um, turn it off and on. This is pretty funny, actually, because we get so much of Lilimae whining about, “Ooooooooh, all these buttons, I’m so confused,” and yet we’ve been told that literally all she has to do is flip the button to “On” or “Off.” I know Lilimae is old and all old people are afraid of buttons, but let’s get it together, girl. You switch it to “Off” when you go downstairs and then you flip it back “On” when you go upstairs. Thank God Ben has installed this super high tech security system, because I’m sure that if Hackney were to ever return from Paraguay and bust into the house, she could never crack the code of flipping the alarm from “on” to “off.”
Let’s get to the weakest portion of this ep, and that’s the shit involving Sylvia. Yikes, is this some bad writing, and let me explain why. Sylvia, you’ll all recall, was played well by Ruth Roman. She was figuring prominently into the latter half of season seven and the first half of season eight, and then she just sorta vanished. She made her last appearance onscreen in, I think, The Inside Man. IMDb lists her last ep as My True Love, but I feel almost 100% confident that this is yet another IMDb error, that Sylvia was long gone by the time we hit that ep. In any case, she’s been gone awhile, and we’ve just been told that she’s, like, out of the country or something like that. Okay, that’s poor writing, but it only gets worse in this ep when they decide to kill her offscreen. The first problems is that it’s been so long since we’ve seen her that we have basically forgotten she was even a part of the story, so killing her off like this only creates audience confusion. Secondly, an offscreen death? Really? Did Ruth Roman just decide to not finish doing the season? Or was there some sort of contract renewal that needed to be done halfway through the year and she decided not to continue filming eps? Why oh why do you focus so heavily on this character and then shuffle her offscreen and kill her off something like fifteen eps later? Oh yeah, and the way they kill her is also a total writeoff, as we are told she slipped in the bathtub and hit her head. Jeez, really? All this focus on Sylvia and Peter and all these deep secrets and then you just have her slip and hit her head? Lazy lazy lazy.
Gary and J.B. are ready to get married, and if I’m remembering correctly, they’re getting ready to fly out to Vegas or Tahoe or something like that, when they conveniently happen to bump into Peter at the airport. Ugh, this also reeks of Dallas level writing, in which characters would constantly just happen to bump into other characters at restaurants or whatever, all for the sake of getting the plot moving. Here, Peter says how Sylvia died and he’s arranging the funeral, and when J.B. doesn’t seem too terribly upset by this, Gary is suspicious. After all, if Sylvia was Peter’s mother, she was also J.B.’s mother, right? I’ll go ahead and say that this has all become far too complicated and I think getting Peter off the show is a great idea at this point, because all this shit about who the real parents of J.B. and Peter are, of whether Peter is actually related to Greg Sumner at all, of whether he has any relationship whatsoever to Paul Galveston, all this shit has been going on for way too long and has just become confusing. It’s basically been two years of plot twists and convolutions, or revelations that Peter and J.B. are siblings and then further revelations that they are not actually related to Sylvia or Galveston or, you know, whatever, and nobody can keep track of what’s going on anymore. Also, remember this is coming from someone who’s watching the eps in great big five-episode-at-a-time binges; imagine how confusing all this shit would be if you were really watching it week to week in real time on CBS back in the ‘80s? Here we are in episode 186 and the writers still want us to be able to remember and keep track of shit that happened somewhere around episode 140 or thereabouts. It’s too confusing, it’s been going on too long, and it’s time to flush all this stuff out of the series and move on to new and better business. For the purposes of what’s going on right now, this very moment, the important thing about this scene is that J.B. seems remarkably unconcerned about the death of her “mother” and that, of itself, concerns Gary.
The death of Sylvia brings this stupid letter business back into the foreground. Remember how, before she took a walk from the series, Sylvia handed a letter to Olivia and told her it was to be given to, um, someone (Gary?) in the event of her death, or something like that? Well, now Sylvia is dead and Olivia still has this letter. Peter is shagging Paige and, since Paige is getting close with Olivia, he learns of the existence of the letter and knows he has to get it back. I really should care more about this, but I don’t. Like I said, we only have a few more eps with Peter on the series and I’m ready for him to go, so it’s hard for me to stretch my interests to accommodate whatever’s going on with him and this letter and all that. I’m ready for new stuff and this letter business is just something we need to get through before we can flush Peter out of the series.
Let’s see, is there anything else? When it comes to the main characters, I think I about covered everything, but I’ve got a few small details in my notes that I should bring up. First off, we have Sexy Michael rocking the Don Johnson look in this ep when he talks to Olivia about her work with the anti drug council. Actually, let’s take a quick detour to criticize that. Olivia is already getting involved with an anti-drug council as some sort of spokesperson? Hasn’t she been sober for, like, fifteen minutes? Shouldn’t one usually have a longer stretch of sobriety before they start speaking and giving lectures about getting off drugs? Look, Olivia, I’m proud of you for kicking the nose candy, but I think you should give it at least a year before you become this big role model for the community, wouldn’t you agree? This reminds me of 1990's brilliantly terrible The Bradys, in which (fake) Marcia became an alcoholic, bottomed out, and then became a spokewoman for alcholics, all in the same episode.
The only other detail I wrote in my notes is that we get a Diana shout-out, and actually a fairly substantial one. This scene occurs at Lotus Point between Karen and Abs (a scene in which, Brother commented, Karen appears to be wearing something from The Marcel Marceau Collection). Basically, Karen is trying to gently tell Abs that she thinks Olivia is swooning over Peter even though Peter is not a very interesting character, and she says, “You know how close Diana and I once were.” She goes on about how hard it is to see that your little daughter is turning into a mature woman until it’s too late, and you start having fights that you think are mother to daughter fights, but really they are woman to woman fights, that the daughter is fighting with you to assert her independence as a free woman. I liked this speech because I always like it when KL remembers its past. Diana was on the show for five years and was a big part of those early seasons. Even though absolutely nobody wants to see Diana return to the show (least of all My Beloved Grammy, who has said repeatedly that Diana was her least favorite character ever on the series), it’s nice to hear her brought up and discussed here, to remember that Karen went through a lot with her and those things she went through are fueling her character to this very day.
That about does it for Our Secret. While I maintain that we’re on an upswing that’s going to lead us into a much stronger season nine, I do think this was the weakest ep of this final disk. It’s not even that it’s a bad ep, cuz it’s not; it’s just kinda a blah ep. Nothing much happens and we spend so much time in the ice cave with Anne and Mack filling up time, even ending the ep with an ice cave scene, something that feels very anticlimactic. Then the other shenanigans this week are, you know, okay, but nothing too riveting. We’re definitely marking time until we get to that season finale, but it’s still not a terrible ep like Nightmare was.
Let’s move right along to Breakup. more