Thursday, January 23, 2020

KNOTS LANDING Episode 189 of 344: DO NOT FOLD, SPINDLE, OR MUTILATE



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

4 comments:

  1. Agree with you. Ben shoulda just ran off with Cathy. Still, I do love the deliciousness with which J.B. plays with Ben's disappearance in the following season.

    I also like the Peter mini-whodunit played out here... though there is a major missed opportunity coming soon. 😕

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  2. Your description of Ben is spot on. I think the reason why his appearances in season 8 are so disappointing is because all of his plot lines revolved around the horrific Hackney character and the stupid story line. What made Ben special in his earlier season was his involvement with the other characters (Helped find Val's babies, all the Westphall stuff, the TV station with Abby, Cathy and Joshua, etc.). In season 8, his scenes were mainly with Hackney other than terrorizing his family with alarms and riding around in vans. He was isolated. One of Knot's few faults was isolating characters they didn't know what to do with. Lillimae, Laura, Cathy, Season 11 Olivia, etc.

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  3. I loved this episode. I had stopped watching the show this season, not only because it wasn't holding my attention, but I think it had been moved up to 9pm for at least a piece of the year and was on against Cheers, which was still holding my attention. I happened to tune in to watch this night and was hooked again. And I stayed with it all the way through the end of Season 14.

    My favorite line here is: "I feel like Doug Sheehan played Ben pretty much perfectly as a regular dude who has somehow become trapped in a soap opera."

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  4. How can I watch all the episodes of Knots Landing? I can't find it on DVD or streaming?

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