Episode Title: Half Truths
Season 09, Episode 04
Episode 194 of 344
Written by Joel J. Feigenbaum
Directed by Nick Havinga
Original Airdate: Thursday, October 15th, 1987
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Laura returns home and tells Greg she left the boys with Richard. Jill's angry that Gary doesn't think Abby killed Peter and she tells him to stay out of the investigation. Olivia tells Gary that Abby killed Peter because of her. Gary laughs with relief, because he knows that Olivia didn't kill him. Gary calls and tells Abby, who then sits down with Olivia to talk. They explain how they each thought the other had killed Peter, and laugh and cry and hug. They go to the police and tell the truth. Paige continues having nightmares, and Mack asks her about her friendly phone messages to Peter. He asks her to tell him everything that happened at her last meeting with Peter.
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
We are back and ready to discuss the continuing mystery of “Who Killed Peter Hollister?” Our last ep ended with Abs claiming she was the one who did it, and Half Truths picks up right where we left off. We begin at Abs and Olivia’s new house, the cops are there, including Detective The Hidden along with good old dependable Mack, and Abs is continuing her impromptu confession that she’s the one who made Peter buy the farm. She makes up a lie right and quick and says that she and Peter were arguing and then he slipped and fell on the spindle, but we can tell that Detective The Hidden is not buying it. It’s not that he doesn’t believe Abby’s story about it being an accident; it’s not that he’s saying he thinks she just murdered Peter in cold blood. Rather, I think Detective The Hidden is sharp enough to see that this is clearly a mother desperate to protect her daughter at all costs, even if it means her own incarceration. Anyway, they take Abs away to the police station, where we get a lot of crosscutting between Olivia being interrogated and Abs being interrogated.
While Abs was being interrogated, I found myself hyper-focusing on her lawyer, a slim white man with a classic ‘80s Rapist Beard who looks creepily like the late Scott Easton, that character who was so pivotal to the unforgettable “Val’s babies” proceedings of the great season six. I again found myself wondering just how many white guys with ‘80s Rapist Beards were running around in the ‘80s, an the answer seems to be a lot of them. This actor looks so much like Scott Easton that I honestly thought perhaps the show was recycling old actors, but then I looked up the actor (J. Patrick McNamara) and realized I’ve seen him in lots of stuff. The one that popped up immediately is Brian De Palma’s brilliant Blow Out from 1981, where he plays a sorta sleazy cop who interrogates John Travolta near the start of the movie. In fact, this man appeared in Brian De Palma films not once, not twice, but thrice, as he also showed up for Obsession in 1976 and camp classic The Fury in 1978. He was also in Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind and finally, and obviously most importantly, he is a Transmorpher who appeared in three eps of Dallas in 1982, playing Jarrett McLeish. Ladies and gentlemen, J. Patrick McNamara.
Anyway, Abs has to stay in jail overnight, or maybe it’s for two nights, whatever, but she is quickly let out on bail and returns to see her two beloved children, who are staying at Karen and Mack’s. Brian (who used to be the kid from Tremors but is now BAG and will remain BAG all the way through the 1997 reunion movie) asks Abs if she really killed Peter, to which Abs says it was a horrible accident and he says, “I knew you couldn’t kill anybody.” It’s nice to know Brian doesn’t believe his mother a murderess, but we then cut to a shot of Olivia’s guilty face, and even though I continue to believe/know that Paige killed Peter, I think this quick shot is meant to keep us thinking it was Olivia all along. In any case, the mystery finally starts to resolve itself here when Gary pays Olivia a visit and finds her terribly upset because she really believes Abs did it. Gary realizes that if Olivia truly believes Abs did it and Abs truly believes Olivia did it, then it actually means neither of them did it. He tracks Abs down and is like, “This is the fourth fucking episode of the season and you and Olivia still haven’t bothered to get together and go over what actually happened when Peter died?” and Abs is like, “Yeah, I guess when you put it like that, it’s kinda crummy writing,” and then Gary is like, “But at least it’s so, so, so, sooooooo much better than season eight,” and Abs is like, “Oh God, that Hackney bullshit, what the hell was that?”
From here, both ladies are pretty much let off the hook, which is cool but also obviously very silly. Whether or not Abs physically did a murder, she still stumbled upon a dead body, removed it from the murder scene, and then dumped it into a pit to be buried with cement. Whether she’s guilty of the actual physical murder is not really important because I’m pretty sure it’s highly illegal to move a corpse and try to bury it in cement. Even if you didn’t kill him, you sure as hell look pretty guilty. However, the cops don’t seem to care about this little detail and are like, “Eh, whatever, she didn’t kill him, let her go.” Definitely very silly, but I confess it’s not bothering me too much. Even at its very, very best, every now and then KL would take some shortcuts or maybe gloss over certain details. You all know I love season six and think it’s the greatest season of television ever made, but I can still admit it’s a little strange that Val is told her babies are dead and nobody is like, “Can we have a look at the bodies?” Instead, everyone (except Val, of course) just accepts what the doctor says and that’s that. That’s not as glaring an example as this one, but I’m just saying that little writing flaws are pretty par for the course for any series, even the best of them. I think I’m just so grateful to be out of season eight that I’m willing to forgive things I might not be so gentle on if the season were overall weaker.
By the way, we don’t get official 100% confirmation that Paige killed Peter in this ep, but we come damn close and end in a way that leads us to believe it’s her. See, Mack thinks it’s strange that, after having a fight with Peter, Paige would then leave a jolly message on his answering machine, a message in which she not only acts very nice, but also makes sure to note the time and say, “I’ve got fifteen minutes to get to work.” Hmmm, is this the truth or rather a clever manipulation to cover her tracks? We also get some crosscutting of Mack running around Lotus Point and interviewing the staff there, such as the bartender (who’s a Transmorpher, by the way; he appeared in a 1983 Dallas called A Ewing Is A Ewing and he’s also a Tangled Knot who will return as a male nurse in 1990 in The Grim Reaper) who says Peter came to him for an early-in-the-day scotch and that he and Paige were arguing. Then Paige comes walking in and Mack is like, “I want to know the truth about what really happened” and we end there. So yeah, if I was watching this in 1987, I would expect the story to finish up next week and I would predict that Paige did it. I’ll save my final thought on the whole saga of Peter’s murder and who did it for our next ep, There Are Smiles.
I’ve been neglecting J.B., and that is completely unacceptable because we have arrived in the season where J.B. truly spreads her wings and flies. I feel like the characters on the show are so focused on who killed Peter that nobody is noticing how this death is affecting J.B. Last ep, she gave a big speech to Gary about how, as kids, they would go get donuts every Sunday and Peter would always get the jelly, no matter what. Then she sadly concludes, “Now I can have all the jelly donuts I want,” but this is obviously more metaphorical and not literal. This is a universe where the women all weigh 98 pounds soaking wet, and I highly doubt a jelly donut has ever seen its way into the inside of J.B.’s stomach. In the ep before that, she told Gary how she and Peter shared a special sorta psychic bond as children, that she could figure out and predict what he was going to do before he’d do it. Even though I was done with Peter long before he got killed, I still find this stuff interesting because I find J.B. so interesting and I like to think back over the characters’ backstories. In this case, knowing that Peter and J.B. were siblings and that their parents died long ago, we can understand how they’d have a special closeness. Even if Peter became a (not very interesting) jerk by the end of his time on the series, it doesn’t mean he’s not still a huge part of J.B.’s life and past.
More importantly, I think we are seeing J.B. wrestling with that nagging suspicion that Gary is never going to be free of his two previous wives. She may become the third Mrs. Ewing, but the first Mrs. Ewing and the second Mrs. Ewing are always going to be hanging around. Not only does Gary go running to Val whenever she calls, but now he’s doing the same with Abs. J.B. can’t fathom the idea that her brother was killed by Abs and that Gary rushes to her defense. We viewers have watched the previous eight seasons and so we can understand Gary and all his convoluted relationships, but J.B. can’t understand it quite the same way. I think she’s starting to think that she’ll always be third place in terms of Gary’s priorities. Late in the ep, Gary awakes all alone and finds J.B. sitting in front of the fireplace and reading a book, or at least holding a book in front of her and pretending to read it. He gives her a little kiss on the neck and all that, but then he returns to bed and she doesn’t follow. I sense a rift developing in this relationship and I think that rift shall lead us ever so smoothly to the fabulous season nine finale.
When we catch up with Karen and Val, we get a run of dialogue that tickled my funny bone to no end and also made MBG laugh. See, we start the scene with Karen declaring, “I can’t believe this is happening; a man I know personally is killed at Lotus Point and my sister in law is charged.” Now, just as that line risks falling flat because it’s such an obvious bit of exposition-dumping to the new viewers, it suddenly elevates itself upwards when Karen says, “I mean, this is something that happens on television; it’s a soap opera.” Oh God yes, what a gift this line is from the writers to the viewers, and how fabulously it works to keep the proceedings from feeling hopelessly melodramatic. There’s always that sparkle of wit in the writing, where the writers can wink at us and say they know they’re being a little silly, but just go with it. I immediately flash back to somewhere in season seven when Eric boldly declared, “Living in this cul de sac is like being trapped in a soap opera.” I still like that line better, but this line is great, too. I again ask if Dallas ever had a line like this in which it told us it was self aware and knew it was a soap. I’m fairly certain we never got one, but there’s a lot of damn eps of Dallas, so perhaps there’s some meta line buried somewhere within those 357 eps. Anyway, the other important part of this scene is that Karen finds out Val’s been working on a bit of fiction to read to her kids. I guess it’s almost not fiction, but more an allegory to help them deal with their real life issues. See, Val has written this story about Mama Bunny and Daddy Bunny and Bobby Bunny and Betsy Bunny and how the Daddy Bunny left them at the end of season eight and is never coming back. I have to say that Val is taking all of this remarkably in stride, helping to underline that even if she did love Ben (and I believe she did), she never could love him with the same intensity and star-crossed-yearning that she reserves for Gary.
Laura sat out last ep (which hurt me deeply since our time with her is now so limited and I don’t want to see her sitting out eps when she’s going to sit out the final 143 eps of the series) because she was taking the kids to visit Richard. This ep, she returns, but she doesn’t have the kids with her. I again take this as a bit of foreshadowing for what’s going to go down in the eps coming up in the near future. We still don’t know that Laura is dying because she hasn’t said it yet (we find out next ep), but I can see she is continuing to get her affairs in order as she prepares for death. She loves Greg, but I think she distrusts him being responsible for Jason 4 and Daniel after she dies. Even though she returns home and casually says how she left the kids with Richard, we get the sense that something deeper is going on beneath the surface. I also think this treatment is hurting Greg’s feelings, as evidenced when she explains, “Richard’s not such a bad guy these days, and after all, he is their father,” to which Greg retorts, “So what am I, chopped liver?” He’s being kinda sarcastic because that’s his style, but we see that this does wound him. Why doesn’t his wife seem to trust him with her children? I think this is all great stuff and I also think this will lead to further great stuff later in the season, after Laura is no longer with us. Greg has been one of our most interesting characters ever since he first came on the scene, but I’m gonna make a bold prediction and say this will probably wind up being his most fascinating season.
You know, that’s about all I got for this ep. This is probably one of my shorter write-ups, but why bloat something up unnecessarily when you’ve already said everything you need to say? We are coming very close to finishing up this Peter Hollister mystery, so let’s proceed right along to see how things wrap up with There Are Smiles.