Episode Title: The Trouble With Peter
Season 09, Episode 02
Episode 192 of 344
Written by Parke Perine
Directed by Nick Havinga
Original Airdate: Thursday, October 1st, 1987
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Laura tells Greg that Richard has remarried and she's going to bring the boys to visit him. Jill tells Gary about memories of Peter growing up. Police find Olivia's locket on Peter's body, but don't know who "OC" is. Police question everyone at Lotus Point, and several people tell them about Abby's fight with Peter. Abby explains it was just a spat, that she felt Peter was taking up too much of Olivia's time on the drug committee. A lot of people personally suspect Abby. Olivia doesn't want to go to the funeral, but Abby tells her it would look suspicious. Gary hears Olivia begging Abby not to make her go inside. Gary tells Abby that he thinks Olivia killed Peter and Abby is covering for her. Abby slaps him.
QUICK NOTE: USUALLY I TRY TO AVOID SPOILERS FOR FUTURE EPS, BUT FOR THE PURPOSES OF DISCUSSING SEASON NINE, I WILL BE SPOILING SOME FUTURE EVENTS THAT HAPPEN AROUND THE 10TH AND 11TH EPS OF THE SEASON. IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THAT FAR, I HIGHLY SUGGEST GETTING THERE BEFORE YOU READ THESE ESSAYS ON THE SEASON’S OPENING EPS
Welcome to The Trouble with Peter and before we discuss the ep in question, let’s discuss the title. I don’t know that I’ve ever mentioned this before, but I’m a great admirer of Alfred Hitchcock (my friend and I like to refer to him simply as “Cock” because we’re super witty and funny) and I’ve seen the vast majority of his movies, though not all 53. Anyway, the title of this ep is obviously a play on the title of The Trouble with Harry, Cock’s 1955 dark comedy about a dead body. I’m gonna confess that I’ve never really enjoyed The Trouble with Harry all that much, although I appreciate its uniqueness amongst Cock’s body of work. For me, and I know this is such a clichéd opinion but it is my true opinion, it never gets better than Psycho, which for me will always be the greatest movie Cock ever made. After that, though, I’d go for pretty much anything from that ten year period that spans 1953 to 1963 (basically everything from I Confess through The Birds). However, of that glorious ten years window of unmitigated genius, I would probably place The Trouble with Harry at the bottom, mostly because it doesn’t really amuse me all that much. Anyway, that’s all I have to say about Cock for the time being and that’s why I enjoy the title of this ep so very much.
Let’s get started by talking about Abs and Olivia. Last ep, Abs thought she was maybe home free with the whole burying-Peter-in-cement business, but then in the last second of the ep, his body was discovered. Now we’ve got a detective on the case trying to solve the mystery of who killed Peter Hollister, a detective played by James Luisi. I bring him up because I spent most of this ep and the next three eps to follow staring at this guy and wondering why I recognize him so much. Well, here comes a little bit of real-time research, because I have not yet looked at this gentleman’s IMDb page but I am about to do so right this moment. Here it comes. Well, as soon as I looked at his IMDb, I immediately became very excited to see this actor was in The Hidden, one of my favorite movies, which also came out in 1987. Okay, so I’d definitely recognize him for that, but anything else? Let’s see here. Actually, what’s very strange is that out of his vast resume of film and television, The Hidden is the only thing I recognize. He was in Norma Rae and I know that’s a big famous movie, but as of this writing, I have not seen it. Okay, so I guess I recognized him from The Hidden and that’s about it. In any case, how do I feel about this character? He’s good, if perhaps a smidge corny. I often have a hard time taking police seriously (both in movies as well as in real life) because they tend to deliver dialogue that’s a little bit too tough guy or over-the-top in its attempted masculinity. However, I think I’m okay with this detective, although he doesn’t have quite the memorability of Detective Morrison from season five (that would be Richard Donner’s cousin). Anyway, he’s on the case and it’s up to him to solve this mystery. The first important clue he obtains is a locket found on Peter’s person that bears the inscription “To O.C. From P.H.” Detective The Hidden stares at this inscription and then muses out loud, “Now who the hell is O.C.?” before we cut to a commercial. Us sharp viewers of course know that “O.C.” stands for “Olivia Cunningham” but it takes Detective The Hidden a little longer to figure that out because he assumes Olivia’s last name is Ewing.
Abs has to kick into action and start spinning a story about what happened with Peter, but it’s harder to do that with Olivia constantly hanging around and acting weird. See, the whole development of Olivia kinda regressing to behaving as a small child continues this ep, when she insists on going to Lotus Point with her mother during the workday. Abs lets her stay home from school assuming she’ll just hang out and watch some 1987 daytime soaps (hey, The Bold and the Beautiful was just starting this year!), but Olivia is all like, “No, I wanna go to Lotus Point with you.” After Abs tells her that Detective The Hidden will be there asking questions, Olivia finally decides she’d best stay home.
Over at Lotus Point, Detective The Hidden is hard at work interrogating everybody in the cast, starting with Gary. I liked this little scene because we get a nice reminder of one of my favorite stories from season eight, the senate race between Gary and Peter. That was something that I thoroughly enjoyed in season eight and there wasn’t a lot I thoroughly enjoyed in season eight, so it stands out. While the story kinda wound up fizzling into nothingness as we got deeper into the year, I still appreciated its existence and I appreciate it being brought up here. I also like when Detective The Hidden says how he heard the campaign got vitriolic and Gary says that vitriolic isn’t the word he would use but he would use the words, “mean, personal, petty, cheap, you know, the usual political garbage.” Oh Gary, how very right you are.
Like I said, Detective The Hidden goes through Lotus Point interviewing everybody, and I appreciated how this is all done quickly and efficiently. We’ll see him talking to Gary for a minute, then we cut to him talking to Karen, and then Paige, and so on and so forth. It’s a nice way of speeding things along and showing us that he’s getting a lot of work done without having to take up a ton of time on the show. Through all his investigating, he’s able to discover that, much like J.R. Ewing in 1980 right before he took several bullets to the gut, Peter had made a lot of enemies and pretty much anyone could have motive for wanting him dead. I think since I’ve decided to go ahead and spoil events for the near future involving Laura, I might as well just go all out and also spoil this mystery and, if you don’t know the answer, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Anyway, over the course of the next few eps, we will eventually learn that Paige is the one that killed him, and I actually think that checks out pretty well for what’s going on right here. Watching through the series the first time, I don’t think I really bothered to try and solve this mystery or think about who could have done it; I just cheerfully watched the proceedings unfold until I was given an answer. Now, focusing hard on the way Paige behaves, I think it’s pretty easy to tell she’s the true culprit. When Karen first tells her about what happened to Peter, Paige starts crying and acting hysterical in a way I found rather over the top, rather thou-doth-protest-too-much. It seems more like she’s trying to give a certain kind of performance in order to create the illusion that she is shocked about Peter’s death. The same is true when Detective The Hidden is speaking with her and she says how they were in love and came close to marriage. Oh yeah, and we also get a quick scene early on of Paige in bed, tossing and turning and looking very upset. Now, a person watching this for the first time could assume that she is just upset because Peter is dead, but watching it now, I interpret it as her being unable to sleep because she is the one who killed Peter.
Things reach an exciting crescendo of drama in the last scene of the ep, in which Abs and Olivia prepare to attend Peter’s funeral. First, on the night before the drama, Olivia positively declares that there’s no way she can go to Peter’s funeral, especially not if there are a bunch of police there. Abs reminds her that it’s very important that they keep acting normal, and that she had a relationship with Peter through the whole anti-drug committee thing and it would be weird if she didn’t show up for his funeral. The next day, they are all dressed up (Abs wearing a fabulous huge blueish/blackish hat) and at the cemetery, ready for the funeral, when Olivia freaks and says how she just can’t go, that she can’t look at the detective, Bob Loblaw. Abs quickly shuffles her into the car where they can talk with some degree of privacy, but Gary sees them having their little chat and he’s able to put two and two together. He yanks the door open and tells Abs to get out of the car, at which point he says, “I know Olivia killed Peter” and Abs gives him a pretty decent soap slap, hops into her car, and drives away, right in time for our “Executive Producers” credit.
Last ep, I neglected to mention J.B. and that is a humongous damn shame because season nine is going to prove to be the year that J.B. fully forms into the J.B. I know and love and cherish the most. Gone will be the days of J.B. falling down cliffs and then lapsing into stupid comas for an ep or two, this is the season where things really kick into gear with her. What I’m seeing as we work our way through these first five eps is lots of seeds being planted in a slow and subtle way to propel us towards our season nine finale (which might be my very favorite cliffhanger of the whole series; I’ll report back after I see it again). Okay, so J.B. finds out that Peter was killed in this ep and she is, of course, upset. By the time of his death, J.B. and Peter weren’t exactly getting along and I’m sure he wasn’t her favorite person, but he was still her brother so she has a right to be upset. What also upsets her is the fact that Gary rushes to the defense of Abs as soon as J.B. implies that maybe Abs killed him. J.B. is probably remembering the one good line from Nightmare in which Abs told her, “The first Mrs. Ewing doesn’t go away, ever.” I imagine that she’s already been stressing about the effect Val has on Gary’s life, but now she also sees that he’s so quick to defend his second wife. Will she ever be able to truly have Gary to herself if he’s constantly tied up in shenanigans involving his two ex-wives?
Mack asks J.B. if she’d like to be part of the team investigating Peter’s death and she tells him yes, leading us to lots of scenes of the two together talking about the circumstances of his death, how long he’s been under that concrete, and where his car ended up, amongst other things. I note this bit of business because I think we should take a moment to get a handle on who knows what about the truth of J.B. and Peter’s relationship. Okay, so we the viewers know that J.B. and Peter were siblings, and Gary also knows that, but I think everyone else has been given the false story that J.B. and Peter used to date. When Mack comes into Gary’s office to ask J.B. if she wants to help, Gary says, rather emphatically, “Mack, she used to date the guy.” At first I was confused, wondering why Gary would think that, and then I remembered that Gary knows the truth but not many other people do, so he’s saying she used to date him because he assumes that’s the story Mack has been told. Now, so far as I can remember, the only folks to know this are Gary and J.B. himself or am I forgetting someone? I’m not sure how much it even matters now that Peter is dead and about to be buried (again), but I’m still trying to keep a handle on this convoluted storytelling.
Let’s talk about Laura, shall we? Again, I remind you that I’m gonna spoil some shit and I’m not gonna hesitate to say that Laura will be dying very shortly. Not only that, but I happen to know that Laura’s death will lead to a brief but beautiful return appearance from The Plesh as Richard Avery. Knowing this, I find myself paying close attention when Laura and Greg are onscreen together and they are talking about Richard. See, Greg is enjoying a cigar (and don’t worry, I will keep The Sumner Cigar Counter going, but I just happen to be writing this particular essay without the aid of my trusty notes) one night when he asks Laura, “What’s this about the kids going to visit Richard?” Laura explains that she received a letter from Richard, who is now remarried and, according to her, “has really cleaned up his act.” Greg responds to this with an amusingly sarcastic, “Yeah, and I’m Pope John,” and then Laura tells him, “He wants to see the boys and I’ve agreed to it.” To this, Greg says, “Thanks for discussing it,” and walks off. Now, my personal opinion is that Greg is being unfair to Laura right now. Richard is the biological father of Jason 4 and Daniel and I think Laura has the right to let him see them whenever she so desires. She believes that Richard has changed his behavior and that it would be okay for the kids to see him, and she is their mother, so I think that’s all that needs to be said. However, I also understand Greg, especially remembering that he’s never actually met Richard, that Richard took a hike in the concluding hours of season four and then Greg was introduced in the opening hours of season five. All that Greg knows about Richard would be things that Laura told him, and I can imagine it would be hard to wrap your head around it. He’s probably thinking of that story Laura told him about how Richard went crazy and held her up at gunpoint for several hours in their house way back in season three, wondering why Laura would allow her kids to go spend time with a man who would do that. Greg didn’t watch the first four seasons, but we did, so we can better understand Richard’s complexities and how Laura would feel about him. Also, knowing that Laura is not long for this world, I take this scene to be very significant. I think Laura knows she’s got that damn brain tumor, she knows her time is running out, and she’s working on tidying up affairs before she has to die. If I’m remembering correctly, after she dies, Jason 4 and Daniel go to live with Richard, so I imagine that’s what Laura’s getting worked out right here and right now. She may love Greg, but I think she has some reservations about his abilities as a father and would rather have her two sons with their biological father.
I feel like I kinda zoomed through this ep, but I think I’ve covered everything I wanted to say. I enjoyed this ep very much and thought it was an improvement over the premiere, which I also enjoyed. We are two eps deep and season nine is delivering for me so far, so let’s proceed right along to Under Pressure and see if we can keep up the quality.