Thursday, April 30, 2020

KNOTS LANDING Episode 199 of 344: FLIGHT OF THE SUNBIRDS


Episode Title: Flight of the Sunbirds  



Season 09, Episode 09



Episode 199 of 344



Written by Bernard Lechowick



Directed by Roy Campanella II


Original Airdate: Thursday, November 19th, 1987



The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Karen plans a reception for Linda and Eric, but doesn't warm to her. Michael is irritated at Jody's neediness and insecurities. Al proposes to Lilimae, who says she can't leave Val. Finally, Lilimae tells Al she won't marry him, but will live with him. They buy a motorhome and leave Knots Landing. Gary spends lots of time with Val and the twins. They laugh about how everyone thinks they're having an affair. Abby tells Jill that Gary and Val are using the twins as an excuse to see one another, and that Jill no longer excites Gary because the cheating excites him, not the woman. Abby waits at a restaurant for Charles, but then his secretary calls and says he's overseas. She remembers trashing her room after she left Charles, and vowing that she would never let a man hurt her again. Greg misses Laura terribly, and tells Meg about all the things they'll do together when she's back. Then he gets a call from the clinic that Laura is dead.





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 Flight of the Sunbirds and oh boy, is a flight ever accurate in this instance, as we get the official final appearance of the brilliant and immensely gifted Julie Harris as Lilimae Clements, a character introduced way back in January of 1980 with  Will the Circle Be Unbroken?  Lilimae has been a consistently enjoyable aspect of KL, in my opinion, someone who was always very dependable for a funny comment or an emotional speech or just the consistently solid acting of Julie.  The only flaws of Lilimae were those inflicted upon her by the writers, such as turning her far too nagging and delusional in the second half of season seven or giving her virtually nothing to do throughout season eight.  Even in those instances, whenever she was onscreen, she did a good job.  I also found the entire arc of her relationship with Valene to be very moving; the fact that they start out as nearly enemies and Val harbors such hatred for her mother, yet the two manage to become friends as adults a little later down the line.  That, for me, is the most important aspect of Lilimae’s character, watching her grow and evolve along with Val.  Well, here we are now and the writers are getting rid of her in a big 1987 budget slash.



                I’m clearly on a Lilimae kick right now and wanna keep talking about her, so let’s focus on her storyline first before moving on to everyone else.  Okay, so Special Guest Star Red Buttons was introduced as Al Baker in the premiere ep of the season, and now here we are in the ninth ep and he’s whisking Lilimae away into the sunset with him.  As an objective viewer who watches too many movies and too much TV, I recognize that this is all moving tremendously fast in an effort to get Lilimae off the show as soon as possible, and yet I still enjoy watching it as a viewer.  I watched this block of eps twice, once with MBG and again with Brother, and Brother and I talked about how charming old people having sex on TV is.  Why is it so cute?  If you show me a movie or a TV show where old people fall in love and have sex, my heart will melt, and it's possibly a reason that Terms of Endearment is one of my very favorite films.  Now, I don’t think we ever get confirmation that Al and Lilimae consummate their relationship, but we do get a lot of charming scenes of them out on dates and talking and having adventures, and I enjoy all that stuff.  It’s better material than anything Lilimae got in all of season eight, so at least if she’s getting fired, she’s getting material to work with before she gets fired, you know? 



                The big material with Al and Lilimae this week is that Al asks her to marry him and go off to, I assume, live in his car with him.  I guess Lilimae was a homeless shopping cart lady when she was brought into the cast in season three, so perhaps living in a car is a step up from that.  Even still, she’s spent the last six years living in the much nicer and much cozier confines of Val’s home on Seaview Circle; who would want to leave that for a teeny old car, even if it does have a coffee maker?  The whole idea is a bit hard to swallow, but I again forgive it because of the charisma between the actors.  Also, Al is good with the romantic talk.  As he takes Lilimae home one morning (presumably they have spent the whole night out, perhaps having sex), he says, “I’ve only felt this way about one other woman, and I married her.”  This scene takes place in his car, and they are sitting and watching Gary and Val and the kids play around in the front yard.  I get the feeling that Al is also noticing how much Gary is a part of this picture, and thinking that if Lilimae leaves, Gary will just naturally move in and start shagging Val.  Perhaps Lilimae is aware of this, too?  Oh yeah, and one quick detour related to this scene: For a big bundle of eps, the twins have been referring to Lilimae as “Gooma.”  Now what the hell is that?  Is this just totally made up?  Has anyone in any culture ever heard of “Gooma?”  Why don’t they just call her “Grandma?”  If anyone ever referred to their grandmother as "Gooma," please let me know immediately.



                Lilimae is fairly easily sold on the idea of a small car as a home, saying, “Well, this is a home, Al,” before adding, “But it’s a home for one person; there’s not enough room in your car for two people to live comfortably.”  Despite the whole homeless shopping cart lady thing I just brought up, I’m still surprised Lilimae is so easily sold on the vehicle, mostly because of the bathroom situation.  Look, I like peeing outside as much as any other person with a penis, but I don’t like going #2, and I don’t think ladies like going #1 or #2 outside at all, let alone having to find the nearest McDonald’s as fast as possible just to use their restroom.  Does Lilimae want to get a reputation as the lady who goes to McDonald’s every day just to poop?  In any case, Al must have more money stashed away than I thought he did, because he returns to the cul-de-sac a little later with a big RV.  He takes her for a ride (and I enjoy the cute little scene where he asks her to take a ride and the camera sorta goes into a closeup of Lilimae’s face and she says, “Don’t mind if I do”) and they continue to discuss marriage.  Al says how it seems Gary is always around for Val and he also says his grandparents got married real fast and they stayed married until the day they died. 



                Later that night, Al is sipping coffee with Lilimae and Val in the kitchen when he decides to just flat tell Val that he asked her mother for her hand in marriage.  Thankfully, Val does bring up the whole “Lives out of his car” thing, and says it in a kinda horrified way, but then she quickly moves on to “Do you love him?” and “Does he love you?” and Bob Loblaw.  Lilimae also brings up, “I am not about to abandon you, here with the children, alone,” a valid point.  Lilimae has been around consistently since 1981, and the kids have never known a house without Lilimae in it.  I joke about Lilimae being a freeloader (because she kinda is), but I also think she provides an important contribution to the household and some much needed warmth in a soap filled cul-de-sac.  The scene culminates with a nice speech from Val about how she doesn’t want to be responsible for keeping her mother away from happiness, how if Al makes her happy, Lilimae should be with him. 



                There’s a comedic bit of business in which Al and Lilimae go for an RV drive together and Al refuses to ever back the RV up.  They find a parking place that requires backup parking and he insists against it, his voice piped into the audio via bad ADR while we see shots of the RV driving around.  When they finally decide to just try and back it into a spot, Lilimae directs him, but he still winds up hitting the wall.  A little later, they return to the cul-de-sac and Al’s car is waiting for him there, and Lilimae says how she bought it for him or something.  Al is very touched by this, as I guess it means he gets to keep his car (which he traded for the RV) and the RV, as well.  The next time we see the two, they are packing up and hitting the road.  They are taking the RV with the smaller car attached behind.  Lilimae says goodbye to the twins and says she’ll call them every night (I’m gonna be counting her offscreen phonecalls in future eps and I’m pretty sure I’m gonna come up almost empty).  Then Lilimae says goodbye to Val in a scene that probably should have been more touching than it actually is, and she and Al drive off fairly inauspiciously. 



                Much like Laura’s exodus, I’m sorta split on how I feel about this.  I mean, boy, is it fast.  This is the ninth ep of the season and Lilimae is leaving town with a guy who has barely been introduced and she’s never coming back.  Another weird thing about this ep is that, for me, it doesn’t feel all that final.  It seems more like Al and Lilimae are taking a little vacation and they’re gonna be back, at least as guest stars, but then we hit next ep and Lilimae is gone from the opening credits.  I even remember watching this in college and seeing her name disappear and being like, “Oh, I guess she’s gone.”  With so many of the other departures (especially the deaths like Sid or Joshua), it was like, “Yup, that was definitely their final episode,” but this one just felt like Lilimae was going on a little trip and would be back soon.  I say that also because I feel Val and Lilimae parting should be more emotional than it actually is, considering all they have gone through in the last six years.  They hug and they say goodbye and that’s about it.  I kinda wish I was busting out the tissues for Lilimae’s big final exit, but it’s not quite that way.  One cynical hypothesis I harbor is that perhaps Val is glad to see her mother gone?  Perhaps she’s gotten tired of her mother living rent-free and taking up space and playing her God-awful songs on her auto-harp?  That’s obviously a mean thing to say, but Val has also been going through a grouchy time lately, so I do wonder if she kinda wants her mother gone.



                There’s other stuff going on in this ep, so let’s shift away from Lilimae for, well, forever, I guess, and talk about some other characters.  Last ep the earth shifted on its axis due to the introduction of the one and only Linda Fairgate, the brilliant Lar Park Lincoln who will be with us until (according to IMDb) I, Claudia in 1991.  IMDb also tells me she will be in 48 eps, and what a magnificent 48 eps they shall prove to me.  However, my college memory that Linda was introduced in 1987 and then was immediately important all the way until 1991 was very inaccurate.  According to IMDb, this is her last appearance in 1987 or 1988 and then she comes back in 1989 for Dial M For Modem as Sally’s Friend (you all know what I’m talking about) and she doesn’t show up again as Linda until Prince Charming in 1989.  So, for the time being, Linda will seem an insignificant character, but fear not, for she will be back.



                Within the confines of this ep, I think Linda only functions to irritate Karen.  Karen’s already mad enough that Sexy Michael has a horny nymphomaniac airhead for a girlfriend, but then you add the fact that Eric got married offscreen to this bossy hippie dippie health nut.  I’d be irritated, too, plus Linda does that super obnoxious thing where she greets Karen with, “Good morning, Mom.”  Bitch, please.  Karen ain’t your mom and she never will be.  Linda also does the annoying thing where she asks questions about which kinds of food they will serve at this wedding reception and says, “If I have to look at another dead carcus.”  Ugh, just shut up, Linda (I say all this with love, of course).  Anyway, Linda and Eric have their wedding reception, which is a nice reason to gather the cast all together at Lotus Point, and then after the reception, they leave town, with Linda telling Karen how much she reminds her of herself, baffling and, I think, offending Karen.  Then Linda leaves and, I’m not gonna lie, I’m sad.  I can’t believe we have to wait like two years to see Linda again; I became so excited when I was watching these eps and she came onscreen.  Oh well, she lies in our future and that means our future is bright.



                One of the most moving aspects of this ep is Greg being alone with Meg.  At the Lotus Point party, there’s a rather touching scene in which Greg looks around and sees all the little kids with their mothers, and we just sorta hold on his face looking sad.  I’m gonna make a bold prediction right now and say that I think this will prove to be Devane’s finest year on the series, the year he gives his very best acting ever.  It’s already starting with the way he’s dealing with losing Laura, and the way he can say so much with just his face while looking at the other kids, all with their mommies.  Last season made the horrible mistake of roping Sumner into the abominable Hackney storyline, but I feel this season is returning him to where I want him, quiet and sarcastic and never letting his feelings show, but rather deep and sensitive on the inside.  The ep ends with Greg getting a late night telephone call.  Rather pretty piano music starts to play on the soundtrack as Greg puts the phone down and walks over to Meg’s crib.  He puts his chin down on the bars and says, “It’s just you and me now, kid, just you and me.”  Oh boy, and the way Devane delivers this line, like for a second he threatens to sob and then he quickly stops it, is fabulously subtle and touching all at the same time.  We knew Laura was going to die, but something about the confirmation hurts extra bad, and already I’m fascinated by watching Greg react to it, something we will continue to focus on in upcoming eps.



                In the continuing saga of Gary and Val, I’m pretty sure they shag in this ep.  I mean, I think they shag.  What happens is that, in the very last few minutes of the ep, they’ve just enjoyed a lovely evening together as a big happy family along with the twins, and then Gary is going to leave, but he and Val get into some intense yearning and then the music starts to play and they look at each other with, yes, intense yearning, and then the scene just kinda cuts there.  As I said, our next ep was the final one on our disk, and I don’t know if that ep mentions whether or not Gary and Val had a shag.  Whether they had a shag or not, most of the ep focuses on how they are forming together to become quite the picture perfect little nuclear family.  Gary’s hanging around all the time, Val likes having him around, and the twins obviously love him.  Can I just say it’s obvious that the twins love Gary way more than they ever loved Ben?  I wonder if this is just because Ben left at the precise moment the twins started to talk and move around and have little personalities, but I also think that’s put there by the writing.  Deep down in their souls, the twins know Gary is their real father; they can just tell.  Anytime they show the whole family gathered together, my heart melts.  As Lilimae and Al drive off, we get this shot of the whole gang waving them goodbye, and oh my what a pretty picture they make.



                Let’s do a quick Gary/Val recap and reflect on where we are in the saga.  This is the ninth season and Gary and Val have been split up since the closing seconds of the third season.  This is our sixth season of them as a split couple both suffering from a serious case of yearning.  If Cosmo Kramer were to ask Gary and Val directly, "Do you yearn?", they would have to answer affirmative.  I feel like we are at a point where this could all start to become very tiresome, the constant wondering of whether Gary and Val will get together, what new roadblock will come up in their potential relationship.  However, I’m still riveted by all of this, and I remember an interview I read with Michael Filerman where he talked about how the goal was to keep them split up as long as possible.  So far, I think they did a great job; none of the roadblocks have felt like easy TV roadblocks.  A character like Ben who could have easily been a block of nice, boring wood just shipped in to keep Val occupied for a few years, wound up being a very enjoyable character in his own right.  I also feel that the longer you keep Gary and Val apart, the more I want them together, so I can handle a few more years of intense yearning, although I understand if some fans are getting a little restless with this couple at this point in the saga.



                The only other storyline worth talking about is Abs and Basil Exposition.  I gotta say, this is only the second ep to feature Basil, and I’m already kinda bored.  Basically, in this ep, he stands Abs up for a date and she’s real upset and has a Sepia Toned Flashback about how he broke her heart back in the ‘60s.  Bob Loblaw, isn’t this just kinda boring?  I’m not sure why it’s so boring, but of all the stories going on right now, Abs and Basil Exposition is easily the least engaging for me.  I’m gonna keep paying attention and see if this storyline brings us some new insight into Abby’s character that makes it valuable, but the fact that I remember almost nothing about this story except for the very first second that Michael York showed up tells me it’s not going to be a storyline worth remembering.



                And that’s about it for this ep which, despite my complaints, I still enjoyed very much.  Now might be a good time to say that I have somewhat shifted my perspective on KL at the point we’re at now.  I now recognize that it will never again hit the heights of seasons four, five, six, and, yes, even the opening batch of eps in season seven.  That was definitely the peak of the entire KL run, when the show really went into high art territory.  Then we had the depths of season eight which showed me just how quickly things can go off the rails, and now we’re in a season nine that I feel is doing an excellent job of course correcting and returning the focus to the things I care about, not silly spies played by vamping wannabe femme fatales, but the core characters like Karen and Mack and Gary and Val and Sumner, the folks we tune in for.  I’m so grateful to see the focus shifting back to what I care about and the show getting good again, that I am more forgiving of the little flaws.  Is it a little silly that Lilimae meets Al and then a couple of eps later is taking off forever with him in an RV?  Perhaps, but I still enjoyed it and it went down easy.  Is the story between Abs and Basil a little bit boring?  Sure, but I like most of the other stories going on around it.  So yeah, I know we’re never gonna hit the sweet, nonstop perfection that was the glory run of seasons four through six, but I still love being in this world with these characters, and I think most shows have turned to pure shit by their ninth seasons, so I’m impressed KL still keeps up a quality that most shows in a season nine could never achieve.



                Coming up next is a big fat landmark, our 200th ep.  Previous landmarks have included the 50th ep (season three’s Night), the 100th ep (season five’s Negotiations), the 150th ep (season seven’s A Very Special Gift) and now here we are with the biggest one yet.  I’m excited to discuss this very unique and experimental ep, entitled Noises Everywhere: Part One.  


Thursday, April 23, 2020

KNOTS LANDING Episode 198 of 344: LOVE IN


Episode Title: Love In



Season 09, Episode 08



Episode 198 of 344



Written by Diane Messina Stanley



Directed by Kate Tilley



Original Airdate: Thursday, November 12th, 1987



The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Eric visits and has a surprise - he's married! Karen doesn't like his wife, Linda. She also doesn't like Michael's new girlfriend, Jody. Val invites Gary to dinner, and after the twins are asleep they kiss passionately, but he leaves. Abby meets Charles for lunch and asks him if leaving her was the worst mistake he made in his life. He says he's the most miserable man in the world.



Flashback Scenes: Young Abby meets Charles when Sid fixes his car. He asks her out, but is angry that she won't sleep with him. She eventually gives up her virginity to him, and tells Karen she is going to marry him. Later, Karen shows her the Society Page, which has an announcement of Charles marrying someone else. Charles explains to Abby that Judith will be a more appropriate wife for him, and they'll all be happier in the long run, but he'd like Abby to continue to be his mistress. Abby leaves him, but is devastated.





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






                If our last ep, Say Uncle, was light and flowery, the ep we’re discussing today, Love In, is even lighter and even flowery-er, but I confess I like it that way.  Like I said, we’ll get back to Laura and her brain tumor and her lonely death very soon, but for now we’re getting a little trilogy of lighter fare and my tender little heart needs it.  Who to focus on first?  Hmmm, I guess I’ll start with Abs.





                Abs gets an intense focus this ep, and what’s interesting is that we get not only our old veteran Abs in the form of Donna Mills, but we also get to see a young Abs from the ‘60s in the form of Cynthia Bain.  A quick look at her resume shows me that she was in the dreadful Pumpkinhead that people seem to like for some reason, and let’s see, what else?  Eh, nothing really else, and she’s not a Transmorpher, either, which I thought she might be.  I actually am not sure how much I buy this Young Abs that we get in all these flashbacks, but she’s not the worst of the young cast (we’ll get to it).  Anyway, we start this ep right where we last left off, with that mysterious limo in front of Lotus Point opening its windows to reveal a new guest star, Michael York.  Yes indeed, Basil Exposition is playing Charles Scott, the one true love of Abby’s life from way back when, and Abs is positively enraptured to see him again after all these years.





                Let’s talk Michael York real fast.  I’m a fan because I like the Austin Powers movies and I like Romeo and Juliet and I like Logan’s Run.  He’s, for me, a very classy and elegant actor, but I’m not sure he’s appropriate for this series.  I’ll withhold my thoughts for a little while, until we’ve had a couple of eps with him, but as soon as he’s introduced, I do think he feels a little off in this universe, and I also get the feeling that Michael York thinks he’s better than this and shouldn’t be here.  However, if I have possible reservations about the casting of Michael York, I detest the Young Charles we see in the flashbacks, who I and Brother both feel looks and sounds nothing like Michael York.  Young Charles is played by a guy named Joseph Kell, but seriously, who cares?  Let’s not even bother dignifying this by looking up his IMDb page; the casting directors should be so embarrassed by this casting choice. 





                We get nearly eight Sepia Toned Flashbacks in this ep, if I’m not mistaken, and perhaps even more, which is why I’m discussing this so much.  Let me say that the casting of Young Karen rings fairly believable for me.  She is played by Liane Curtis of Sixteen Candles (Molly Ringwald’s friend who is so shocked when she thinks Molly Ringwald wants to have sex with a black guy; that movie is not aging well) and Critters 2 (Bradley Brown’s girlfriend).  We see Young Karen as a real spitfire ‘60s political activist type, precisely how I would imagine her.  We also get to see Young Sid, which makes me happy.  Sid died in season three, yet here we are in season nine and he’s still mentioned, not just mentioned but actually depicted in a young form via flashback.  I’m not so sure how the ages of Young Karen and Young Sid match up with the ages we saw them at the start of the series, and I'm also pretty sure none of this actually makes sense since Sid had a first wife long before he met Karen, but whatever.  I think these flashbacks perhaps over-dominate the ep, but I still enjoyed them well enough.  Their basic function is to show that Charles Scott first met Abs when she was working at Sid’s garage and he had his car in for a tune-up.  She pulls a nicely Abs move by fucking around with the engine so it doesn’t start when he returns, and then she can pretend like she’s the one who knows how to fix it and look all sexy. 



                I think we are meant to believe that Charles eventually takes Abby’s virginity, that she was a virgin and had some fairly conservative sexual values before he came into her life.  Is this correct or am I misunderstanding?  In one flashback, we have Young Karen telling Young Abs how every woman has the right to have sex and Young Abs is acting like she isn’t so sure.  When are we to infer that Abs became the village bicycle?  I like to think it wasn’t until she got married to boring square Jeff Cunningham and probably started stepping out on him frequently. 



                Enough about the flashbacks.  Over in the year of 1987, Lilimae and Al are going out for a romantic dinner and a movie date while Val and Gary have a date of their own at the house.  Lililmae and Al begin their date by seeing some sort of black and white classic picture starring John Garfield.  I don’t think we’re ever given a title, but we see the two coming out of the picture and talking about how all the black and white movies were better (Lilimae saying how the movies today all have characters with pink and green hair).  Then Al makes a nice cultural reference to Saturday Night Fever as well as Garfield The Cat, saying how he loves that when he asked Lilimae to go to a Garfield movie, “You knew it was John and not the cat.”  Later in the ep, since this storyline is moving fairly rapidly for the purpose of getting Lilimae off the show, Al proposes marriage to Lilimae.  I think Lilimae says she’s not sure, mostly because Al lives in his damn car, but Al presses her on how they would make a great couple and Bob Loblaw; we’ll further explore it next ep.



                Meanwhile, we have a temporary peace in the relationship of Gary and Val.  She got the bug out of her ass at the end of last ep, so this ep she invites Gary over for dinner with her and the twins.  Any time we cut over to Gary and Val and the twins, I’m beaming with delight.  For me, we are coming ever closer to my very favorite era of Gary and Val, which is the much later season era in which they always have the kids around them and feel like a real family.  We’re definitely not there yet (few years), but we are getting closer and this scene is an example.  I think when you put Gary and Val together with these kids, they just look so perfect and so very in love.  Additionally, we have Val telling the kids they can say “Uncle Gary” from now on and my heart melts a little.  Later, we even get a passionate makeout between Gary and Val, something we haven’t had in a very long time.  Last time they got passionate, they actually shagged, but this time they hold off and manage to stop themselves and send Gary home before any penises come out of any pants.  Let me just say that this is probably my favorite aspect of this ep and this particular block of eps; whenever you hone the focus in on Gary and Val and whether or not they might get back together, I am riveted. 



                Something else very important is happening over at the MacKenzie house, and that would be a great big family dinner to celebrate the return of Eric from college.  Also present at this dinner are Sexy Michael and his needy new girlfriend, Jody.  When Eric arrives, he comes with a brand new bride, one Linda Fairgate played by the psychic Tina from Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Lar Park Lincoln is here as Linda Fairgate, a character she will play all the way until the opening hours of season thirteen in 1991.  I feel the arrival of Linda to the proceedings marks a new era of the show, although I also have a sneaking suspicion that Linda is going to vanish for a little while before coming back to the series a year or two down the line; we shall see.  Anyway, as introduced, we immediately get that Linda is annoying, constantly nagging everyone about healthy foods to eat and how they shouldn’t drink or smoke or Bob Loblaw.  She’s also a bit too open about sexual intercourse for Karen’s tastes, even as liberal and open minded as Karen may be.  Yeah, I wouldn’t like Linda either, if I was Karen, because she’s naggy and she speaks in a very know-it-all voice.  As soon as she arrived onscreen, Brother said, “I don’t like her,” and I told him I think that’s kinda the point, but to also be patient because Linda is going to prove a highlight of the later years of KL, in my opinion. 



                Mack and Karen are being a little too cutesy for my tastes in this ep, as manifested in a little bit of business involving the oven and the gas.  See, the two keep disappearing to the magical kitchen in which they can speak as loudly as they want about other characters without those other characters ever being able to hear them from the other room.  Karen hates both new loves in her boys’ lives, Jody and Linda.  She hates how Jody climbs all over Sexy Michael and gives him a lapdance, and she hates Linda’s stupid little comments about tofu and granola.  She keeps making this joke about how she’s going to put her head in the oven, and the cutesy bit involves her and Mack continuously flipping the oven on and off.  I didn’t like this part just because it was, eh, I guess I just have to say cutesy again.  It’s like Karen and Mack are playing to a live studio audience; I expect to hear the Happy Days audience start screaming and clapping at these antics and I don’t like that feeling.



                We end the ep on a mysterious little dinner between Abs and Basil Exposition.  After spending the entire ep taking a luxurious TV Bubble Bath while Olivia asked her questions about love, Abs finally arrives at the fancy restaurant to meet Basil Exposition, only for him to tell her he can only have a quick drink and then run off to catch a plane or something or other.  Then the two sit down and I think Abs starts to act a bit out of character because she kinda immediately lays her cards on the table.  She gives this little speech about how she just wants to know that Basil has been miserable his entire life ever since he lost Abs.  Doesn’t this seem a little on-the-nose for her?  I think the writers want to explore Abby’s different vulnerabilities and I like that, but I also think this might be a little quick for that.  Then we end on a freeze frame of the two toasting champagne glasses and, yeah, I’m sure this will grow into more material later.



                This is hardly one of the best eps of the series, and I recognize that, but I appreciated it specifically for its gentle touch.  I liked the flashbacks (with some reservations), though I do think we could have trimmed out two or three or perhaps mushed them together a little more so we didn’t have to keep cutting back and forth.  Anyway, yeah, I liked this ep, and I enjoyed the running theme of new love blooming and new romance and all that crap.  Coming up next, we get what I’m pretty sure is Lilimae’s very final appearance on the series with Flight of the Sunbirds

Thursday, April 16, 2020

KNOTS LANDING Episode 197 of 344: SAY UNCLE


Episode Title: Say Uncle



Season 09, Episode 07



Episode 197 of 344



Written by Erica Byrne



Directed by Robert Becker



Original Airdate: Thursday, November 5th, 1987



The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Michael saves a girl - Jody - from drowning and is embarrassed when she makes him out to be a hero. Greg hires a nanny, stressing it's only until Laura returns. Lilimae warms to Al, who asks her out. She's shocked that he lives in his car and they have dinner by the side of the road, but she warms up to him. Olivia still grieves for Peter, so Abby tells her about her first love, Charles. Gary is hurt when Val doesn't invite him to the twins' birthday party. He tells Val he wants to be in their life, but she says no. Gary implores Lilimae's help. Val tells Lilimae that Gary is unreliable and the twins can't lose another father. Val finally relents and brings the twins to Lotus Point to see Gary, just as Jill is bringing in lunch. Karen meets with some men to arrange a convention for them at Lotus Point. She's shocked when she meets their boss. It's Abby's old boyfriend Charles.





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 back and let me just say that I am grateful we’re discussing a much lighter ep this week than we were last time, with Laura heading off into the sunset in The Gift of Life.  Make no mistake, we’re going to be needing the tissues again when we hit the 200th and 201st eps of the series, Noises Everywhere: Part One and Noises Everywhere: Part Two, in which’s Laura’s life and death will return to the forefront one last grand time.  For the time being, however, we get a little bundle of lighter eps that I found actually quite delightful, starting here with Say Uncle and spanning Love In and Flight of the Sunbirds.  For these three eps, we get to move away from brain tumors and death for a little while and have some easier-to-take stuff like romances blooming and Sexy Michael without his shirt on and nice, happy stuff like that.  Make no mistake, there’s still drama, particularly as it pertains to this fairly recent triangle of Gary, Val, and J.B., but that stuff feels very cozy and familiar, and I mean that in the best way of course; I go to KL for that sort of drama.  I’m just saying that last ep was scene after scene of emotional gut punches and this one shouldn’t make any of us cry at any point.



                We start the ep in a way that organically slides us from last week to this week, as Meg is crying and making a fuss and Greg is all alone with her.  This scene is both emotional and funny, because we feel bad for Greg and the loss he is experiencing, but we also laugh because of how he talks to the baby.  See, he gets up to see her in her little crib and asks if she misses her mama, and then he says how she can sleep with him tonight.  Now, we think he’s gonna pick her up and take her into the bed, but instead he just wheels her crib over into his room and parks it next to his bed, where he can sleep and watch her all night.  Funny and sad all at once; my heart aches for Greg, who had finally found a life that seemed to make him happy, only to have it now ripped away from him. 



                Aside from that, we don’t get too much with Greg and Meg (intentional rhyme?) this ep, instead focusing more on a blooming romance between Lilimae and Al Baker (that would be Special Guest Star Red Buttons, don’t you know).  I think most people could see, as soon as Al was introduced, that he would serve as a romantic interest for Lilimae, or perhaps I am wrong.  I suppose Al did have that little bit involving how he didn’t like Peggy’s coffee at the office and how he turned the place into a homeless shelter, but certainly as soon as he and Lilimae had their little scene back in There Are Smiles, I knew Cupid was afoot.  In this ep, Val is throwing a big birthday party for the twins’ third birthdays (this pretty much tracks with the timeline well, as they were born somewhere in November of 1984 back in season six) and everyone is invited (except Gary; we’ll get to that).  The place is positively booming with bodies, making me wonder where the hell all these people have come from.  These are three year old children; how do they have so many damn friends?  There’s like a jillion people at this party, one of those glorious TV tropes where, for the sake of a party, suddenly a character has five hundred friends, but in all other eps, the character only has a handful of friends.  Anyway, at this booming party that’s busier than Studio 54 on a Friday night in 1977, Al Baker shows up with a package marked “RUSH” (no, not Joshua Rush) and when Mack points out that “RUSH” is clearly written in Al’s handwriting, Al’s just like, “Well, yeah, it looked important.”  Clearly he’s here to find Lilimae and charm the pants off of her, both literally and figuratively.  In any case, he does find Lilimae and the two do exchange some dialogue and Lilimae is much nicer to him now than she was last time.  The relationship is only gonna grow (a bit quickly, I will admit) in our next two eps, so I’ll further discuss it there.





                For me, the most interesting bit about this party is a fight Gary and Val have in the kitchen.  I feel the show is heavily shifting the focus back to Gary and Val this season, and I like it that way.  Gary and Val are the core of the show, the foundation from before this show was even in existence, and I felt the last season or two got us all too focused on other nonsense like, eh hem, Jean Hackney.  Gary and Val are of course always getting some focus of attention, but the stories also sometimes drift away from that achingly suspenseful “Will they or won’t they?” to focus on other things, and I think season nine is getting us back to what I love from Gary and Val.  To set the scene, the twins are having their massive blowout third birthday party in which fucking Van Halen have been booked to play for three hours, but Val has conspicuously not invited Gary.  Hmmmm, this behavior compounded with a few eps back when she said, “Gary, I’m perfectly capable of taking care of your children,” lets us know that Val is feeling some serious anger towards Gary right now.



                I’m gonna take a little detour to get inside of Val’s head before I kinda get annoyed with her and make fun of her (always with love, of course) as we discuss this storyline.  Okay, so when you go down the list of everything that’s happened in Val’s life, it’s been pretty shitty and people have treated her fairly awful her entire life.  First, you have her dad dying when she was super duper young (I mean, I think; I have a hard time remembering what happened with Val’s dad and whether it’s been talked about; anyone wanna help me out here?).  Next up, you have her falling madly in love with Gary at age 15 only to get knocked up, have drunken Gary run off on her, and have his wicked Texas Ewing family ostracize her from the house and even steal her baby from her.  After that, she finally reunited with Gary in 1979 only for him to run off on her for Abby in 1982, now five long years ago.  After that, she met and fell in love with Ben, who also ran off on her at the end of season eight.  Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention how Lilimae was a constantly absent mother when Val was a kid and Bob Loblaw.  So yup, overall Val has been treated like shit; can you blame her for being angry and resentful?  Why risk putting her trust in Gary when he may very well just abandon her again?  So yeah, I understand Val’s feelings.





                Even so, she’s pretty unfair in this ep and I think Gary deserves better.  Gary’s been so improved from where he was at the start of the series that I think he deserves the credit.  He’s a real adult now who takes accountability, not the crying baby of, say, season two’s The Loudest Word.  In addition, we all know he’s the real father of the twins, and of course Ben is no longer a member of the cast, meaning he ain’t coming back anytime soon.  Rather than accept these facts and treat Gary nicely, Val is rather nasty all ep.  As the epic third birthday party commences, Gary pulls Val aside into the kitchen to ask why she’s treating him so poorly.  Val says how she doesn’t want him seeing the kids anymore, how she doesn’t want him coming around the house anymore and bringing gifts.  Gary says how the kids can call him “Uncle” for all he cares (and the title of the ep is Say Uncle; you see what the writers did there?) and Val says, “No, it wouldn’t be good for them.”  Then Gary says, “Are you telling me I can’t see my children?” and Val responds by, well, contradicting what she said a few eps ago, because she says, “I am telling you you can’t see my children.”  Back in There Are Smiles, it was, “I’m perfectly capable of taking care of your children,” and now it’s, “I’m telling you you can’t see my children.”  Well, which is it?  This is part of why I think Val’s being mean, because she’s only being hurtful and confusing by both making Gary feel guilty about not being around for “his” children and now saying he can’t spend time with “her” children.  Not very nice at all.



                Since Lilimae is going to be leaving us very soon (a couple of eps), I am grateful to see her getting far more material in early season nine than in the second half of season seven and the entire run of season eight, when she was essentially a side character doing nothing compelling.  I also enjoy how Lilimae’s story collides with Gary and Val’s story, because she’s on Team Gary when it comes to whether the man has a right to see his kids or not.  When Val proves irrational and not even willing to discuss it, she sets up a secret play date with Gary in the park.  She brings the twins and they head to the park and they meet Gary and everyone has a wonderful time.  The only flaw in the day is that Gary thinks the kids are in trouble and, running up to get them, he slips and, I guess, breaks his arm.  If he breaks it, it sure heals fast, because we get one scene of him in a cast later and that’s about it.  Anyway, for the record, I’m also on the side of Lilimae and Gary; I think Gary loves the children and he deserves to see them.  If he was still sniveling season four drunken Gary waking up next to dead bodies on beaches, I would say no, but that Gary’s in the past and this Gary warrants the respect of seeing his own kids.



                One other big development this week comes when Gary and Lilmae go out to lunch together.  I’m going slightly out of order here, because this scene comes before the park scene, but what I find very significant is that Gary finally tells Lilimae the truth about the babies.  All these years, only a few people have known that Gary is the real father, and none of those people were Lilimae.  Here, Gary tells her directly and Lilimae is fairly shocked.  In fact, she confronts Val on it right away in a scene where Val’s putting up laundry outside, another one of those fabulously KL details in which the drama appears amidst a background of normal, everyday domestic chores.  This fight is good, demonstrating fine acting from both of our ladies, and I again appreciate that J.V.A. and Julie are getting some good material before Julie leaves us forever.





                Meanwhile, we get more material from Abs than we did last week, when we kept the focus pretty squarely on Laura.  Here, we get a good long ADR walk in front of the ocean between Olivia and Abs.  Boy is the ADR bad here, and I say that with love.  I appreciate the fact that the two lovely actresses are walking in front of the real ocean and really being filmed outside, and if that means terrible ADR is necessary, than terrible ADR is necessary.  I think I also mentioned my love of terrible ADR as far back as the Pilot, so nothing has changed now.  In any case, we get a hint of convenient writing here when Olivia, still apparently grieving the loss of Peter (I have no idea why; I feel his evacuation from the series was a much needed flush that has nicely improved the storytelling already), starts to ask Abs about her first true love, apparently named Charles.  I say this is convenient because, spoiler alert for later in the ep, but Charles is going to suddenly show up in a limo at the very end, two seconds after Abs talks about him for the first time in, oh, twenty years or so.  I forgive this convenience for one reason, and that’s the fact that I believe we had a little talk back in late season eight where Abs brought up this one true love of hers, so I guess the writers were planting seeds back there.



                Anyway, when we hit the last two minutes of the ep, we’re at Lotus Point and Bruce Campbell is there for some reason.  This is amongst the most baffling appearances of an actor on KL, because Bruce Campbell is playing an unnamed character (the end credits tell us he is Joel Benson) who has about two lines and then exits the scene and the series forever.  If this was a pre-famous Bruce Campbell, I would understand him showing up for two lines, but this is after not just the original Evil Dead but also Evil Dead II.  What is he doing showing up here?  Was he desperate for a paycheck that week for some reason?  I just don’t get it, and I’m also gonna take a moment to shit on Bruce Campbell because I read a super douchy interview with him where he took a big shit on my beloved KL, and he couldn’t even get his facts straight while taking a shit on my one true love.  He goes on and on about how Michele was a huge bitch (which, you know, is maybe true, but I don’t really care) and then he’s like, “The show was in its last season and was about to get cancelled and you could tell.”  Okay, this is one serious alternative fact, because this isn’t even close to the final season; we have five fucking more to come after this.  So fuck you, Bruce!





                Our final storyline to discuss also kinda comes out of nowhere and is, um, odd, but since it involves Sexy Michael being shirtless, I am immediately awarding it four stars.  We’re in the middle of something or other and then suddenly we cut to the beach, where Sexy Michael is tanning his beautiful work-of-art dark body while blasting some of the worst Public Domain Music we’ve heard yet on this series from his little radio.  Seriously, this is some offensive shit, and don’t we all wish he could have been playing a Ciji or Cathy record?  That would be such cool, sexy continuity across several different seasons and actually seems like the kind of thing KL would do, but no, instead we get the Public Domain Music.  In any case, the music is not important; what’s important is that Kristy Swanson is here (please see picture below which isn't even from this show, but rather Pretty in Pink) and that she goes out into the ocean for a swim and then almost drowns.  In a very drawn out scene that seems to go on forever, Kristy Swanson (character name Jody) flails and thrashes in the water while Sexy Michael swims out to the rescue and manages to get her safely back to shore, making me again decide Sexy Michael would make the best boyfriend in the world.  Aside from sometimes acting like a little whiny bitch back in season eight, Sexy Michael is a swell guy.  He’s beautiful, he’s sweet, he’s kind, and he’s heroic.  Anyway, the sudden appearance of Jody to the story will be further explored next ep.



                In fact, I’m about ready to move on and discuss that next ep.  For the time being, I will say that I very much enjoyed this ep and the lighter touch it brought to the table.  While our previous ep was much better in most regards and far more emotional, this one just went down easy like a cold 7UP on a hot day and I enjoyed spending time with the characters.  My favorite stuff was definitely the Gary/Val material and I shall further explore that later.  Anyway, let’s go ahead and move on to a, shall I say, lovely ep, one entitled Love In.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

KNOTS LANDING Episode 196 of 344: THE GIFT OF LIFE


Episode Title: The Gift of Life



Season 09, Episode 06



Episode 196 of 344



Written by Bernard Lechowick



Directed by Kate Tilley



Original Airdate: Thursday, October 29th, 1987



The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Laura has an inoperable cancerous brain tumor. Greg drags her from doctor to doctor, who all say the same thing. Laura finally tells Greg he needs to accept it. Laura takes Karen shopping and buys dresses for Meg's 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th birthdays. Karen guesses Laura is dying and is very upset. Laura asks Mack and Karen to be Meg's godparents. Greg is late to the Christening, as he's outside in his car sobbing. Laura makes a schedule for Greg to follow with Meg, such as when to get her a library card. She tells him that if he's great to Meg, it'll make up for all the times Greg was rotten to her. Greg's furious that Laura wants to go to a clinic to die - he wants to be there for her. She says she doesn't want him to see her die or remember her that way. Greg is devastated as Laura packs. She leaves some video tapes in a hatbox. Meg is crying, and Laura brings her to Greg. She watches Greg feed Meg, and then gets into her car, and drives away crying.





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 start of a brand new disk, a disk that shall prove very eventful for the show and our beloved friends on the cul-de-sac.  Before I begin discussing the ep in question, I should tell you that there was some awkwardness to the arrangement of eps within this particular disk.  Really, the only thing that bugged me is that we watched The Gift of Life through Noises Everywhere: Part One and I do think including Part Two in our marathon would have improved the flow of things.  In fact, I thought of just jumping to the next disk and watching only that one ep before departing, but I decided to stick with watching whatever’s contained within any given disk, the way we've done it since the beginning.  In any case, I’m gonna spoil my thoughts right away and say that this exact ep, The Gift of Life, was easily the best and most powerful ep on our disk.  It was so powerful, really, that I was relieved to get to some slightly lighter fare with the next few eps, Say Uncle and Love In, because this ep is so much about life and death and it was just really emotional to watch.  Okay, let’s just dive right in.



                Our last ep ended with Laura announcing to Greg that she was going to die, and that’s pretty much what this ep is gonna be all about.  In fact, I was about to type, “So let’s quickly talk about the other characters before we get to Laura,” but then I read through my notes and realized that, really, Laura is the total focus.  The other characters are around to respond to events, but we keep the attention on Laura for nearly the whole 48 minutes, and I think that’s appropriate.  This is actually our penultimate ep to truly feature Laura in the cast.  She drives off at the end of this ep and then sits out the next four eps and finally makes her very last appearance via videotaped messages in Noises Everywhere: Part Two.  Being that we are so achingly close to losing Laura forever, I am glad that this ep keeps the focus squarely on her and gives her the respect she deserves.





                Or does it?  I’m of two minds about this particular block of eps and I have been since the first time I viewed this.  On one hand, this ep is gonna prove to be chock full of hardcore emotional gut-punches, the kind of heartrending moments I associate with KL and not the other nighttime soaps.  I appreciate this 48 minutes as this piece of art, nearly an art movie about the end of a person’s life, but it also feels pretty fast, right?  I doubt that I need to go into the behind-the-scenes details about what was really going on with the show right now.  I think most fans know that, as the series was coming into its ninth season and its 200th ep, the producers were looking to slash costs and had to evacuate two veteran characters right and quick, and they chose Lilimae and Laura to get rid of.  All shows have behind-the-scenes politics and I really don’t begrudge the KL team too much for firing the two actresses.  It’s not pretty, but it’s not all about art; there is a business side to the film and television world and the producers are definitely thinking about the bottom line.  Even with this knowledge of them terminating Constance McCashin and Julie Harris, I still get the feeling that the KL team was overall kinder and gentler than the folks over at Dallas, who seemed to treat their cast members more like cattle.  Anyway, my point is that this brain tumor of Laura’s certainly feels a bit like the producers shuffling her out the door as quickly as they can, but then I also sorta like it because, in real life, sometimes people just get brain tumors out of the blue and die.  In real life, things happen suddenly and without warning or foreshadowing, where one day you’ll feel fine and then you die the next day.  So I like the fast pace of this in that regard, but I also recognize it feels a little bit like the penny pinchers looking at their watches and being like, “Alright, let’s get Laura off the show, and right now now now!” 



                We pick up in a strange way, in my opinion.  After the cheesy glory of the painting opening credits and The Constance McCashin Spin, we cut right to Laura and Greg standing on the street and arguing.  Greg is looking off into the distance and says, “How long does it take to bring up one lousy car?”  Immediately after that, Laura (adorned in fabulously Laura sunglasses) says, “Greg, I’ve got a brain tumor.  It’s cancerous, it’s inoperable, and it’s terminal.”  Then Greg says, “Just because one lousy quack says it’s terminal?” and the scene proceeds from there.  The reason I find this a little strange is because we ended our last ep in Greg and Laura’s bedroom with her using pizza as the big analogy for her impending death.  Now we start out on the street with her saying, “I have a brain tumor, Bob Loblaw.”  Are we to infer that she’s only just now telling Greg this?  I do not think so; I get the feeling that some stuff happened inbetween the “I was thinking about ordering a pizza” scene and this scene.  I think Laura has explained to Greg what’s going on, and they talked about it and fought, and then they went to some sort of lunch to discuss what’s going on, and then they left the restaurant to get their car brought up and drive away, and I think that’s where we are now.



                This is an ep where I have a hard time keeping a handle on the timeline.  I feel like quite a lot of time passes within this ep, sorta like back in season three’s Aftermath when Sid had died and we saw a series of dissolves to indicate that time was passing.  Is the same thing happening here?  I ask because we have a few Rapid Cuts where we see Greg and Laura at a couple of different doctor’s offices, and then after that we have a dissolve to a scene at Lotus Point.  Anytime I see a dissolve, I notice it, because I feel like they’re kinda rare on TV.  Anyway, what’s going on over at Lotus Point, you ask?  Well, Laura announced last ep that she wanted to step down from her job there, and so we catch up with her packing up her office while Gary shows her blueprints and tries to convince her to keep her job.  The scene is going along pretty mellow and then it gets very emotional for me when Laura says, “I’ve really enjoyed working with you, Gary.  You’re a good guy, you know that?” and she gives him a little kiss on the cheek.  Gary sorta laughs and makes a joke about how that would make a great epithet, but I found this extremely moving.  Even though we have five more seasons after this one to further explore the intricacies of Gary Ewing, I feel he’s already evolved amazingly from where he first started off.  He was kinda a shit back in the first four seasons, and this Gary that we’re seeing now feels very different, like a much better and more confident and honest man.  Since Laura saw him from the very first episode all the way up until this one, she has seen that growth herself.  When she tells Gary he’s a good guy, she really means it and it's rather profound.  Also, the little friendship of Laura and Gary that we really started to see in the early half of season five, when they were always riding horses and taking walks together, was one of my favorite little friendships on the show.  It’s one of those we didn’t really hyper-focus on, but it was there and I thought it was significant.  I liked how Laura would talk straight to Gary and I liked how Gary would actually listen to her and consider what she said and respect her opinion. 



                Things get heated in our next batch of scenes, in which Laura and Greg pay another visit to a doctor’s office, and afterwards they fight on the street.  Laura says that she’s seen her last specialist, that she’s tried everything she can, that she is going to die.  She wants to go out to a romantic lunch and enjoy the day, but Greg wants them to keep seeing doctors, to find someone who can help them.  As with all the best of the KL stories, this one works so well for me because I understand both characters.  Greg just married Laura a little over a year ago and he really, truly loves her, probably much more than he ever loved Jane, if he ever really did love Jane.  He was all ready to have a life and raise a kid with Laura, and now Laura’s gonna die.  I think what hurts him is that she has accepted it so quickly, that she seems almost defeatist, but I also understand Laura.  She is gonna die and she knows it, so why spend her last days getting painful tests and needles stuck in her arm and Bob Loblaw?  I’m sure I’ve said it before, but if I found out I was going to die, I would totally accept it and just have a good time until I died.  I think this is what Laura wants, and I think that’s what she tries to do in this ep.



                A big item on the agenda before Laura leaves is Meg’s baptism, which takes up a good bit of the time this ep.  I always find it interesting when religion is explored on the show, and when I think back on it, it’s actually been a fairly prevalent theme throughout the series.  Certainly the whole character of Joshua and everything that went on with him is one of the most memorable examples of religion being part of the story, but we’ve also had smaller moments like Mack going to church to give a thumbs up to Jesus in #14 With A Bullet and now we’ve got this business here.  It’s been awhile since I’ve taken a shit all over religion, so let me take a moment to do it here.  Obviously I think this whole baptism thing is super stupid and the idea that a baby would die and go to some sort of purgatory because you didn’t splash some stupid water on their head is goofy, but I still like baptisms in movies and stuff.  Everyone loves the big baptism scene in The Godfather, and in some ways the baptism here is presented similarly, though minus a mass slaughter.  In The Godfather, we have the baptism intercut with a bunch of mob bosses getting gunned down, and here we have the baptism of Meg intercut with Greg sitting out in the car and crying and debating whether to go in.  He does finally go in, which I found very moving.  Greg is a complicated character and I’m sure he has his own issues with organized religion, but he knows going to the baptism is the right thing to do and he needs to do it for Laura.





                I’m going out of order, by the way, so let’s backtrack a bit.  Another very significant thing about this baptism is that Laura wants Karen and Mack to be the godparents and they agree to it knowing Laura’s dying.  See, Karen and Mack are the only characters besides Greg to know the truth, and the way Karen finds out is also a very powerful scene.  We start with Karen and Laura out shopping, looking for outfits for Meg.  Laura starts to show her hand when she also picks out outfits for her second, third, and even fourth birthdays.  Karen says, “I’ve heard of planning ahead but this is really planning ahead,” and then Laura says, “I have to plan ahead because there’s a lot of things I’m not going to be able to do with Meg.”  The way Karen’s eyes change as she realizes what’s going on is a good bit of acting from Michele, who doesn’t devolve into histrionics the way she is sometimes prone to do after season four.  No, she keeps it subtle here and I found it very moving.  Again, the reason this ep as a whole is so moving is because Laura is one of our true veterans, a character who has been around all the way since the Pilot.  Even a character like Abs, as important and essential to the fabric of the show as she is, didn’t show up until the second season, but Laura was there all the way from the first.  We only have four veterans of season one left on the series, and Laura’s departure will drop that number down to three.  The fact that she’s been friends with Karen since the first moment we saw them makes her dying all the more significant.  Another random fact that I find interesting is that the two very first characters we ever saw on the series in the very first scene were Laura and Sid, and both of those characters die.  I know there was no pre-planning to any of this, much as I would like to imagine David Jacobs sitting down and writing the Pilot script and saying, “Oh yes, I’ll introduce these two characters first because I’m going to kill both of them later down the road.”  No, I’m sure there’s no great serendipitous meaning to this fact, but it’s just a spooky little observation that I focused in on.




                Laura telling Karen that she’s dying makes Karen feel a little awkward about the fact that she’s throwing her a big surprise going away party bash, but Laura doesn’t seem to mind.  A little side story going on in the background is that Sexy Michael desperately wants to play with his band at the event, and for some reason Karen keeps saying no the whole ep, but then finally she says yes.  Sexy Michael and his band stand up, all the vaginas in the room become wet and all the penises in the room become hard at the very sight of Sexy Michael playing the keyboards while adorned in a blue blazer that comes straight out of Don Johnson’s wardrobe, looking so positively delighted to be showing off his music with his band.  I do have to say, however, that I kinda hate the song they play, something called When I Get To Heaven, Will There Still Be Rock and Roll? that I tried to do some research on and barely found anything about, except that the song is also in a 1988 movie called Kandyland.  Just to explain my feelings, let me say that I don’t mind the song in the context of the show, and of course I see what the writers are doing here with a song like this.  I’m just saying that I think it’s an annoying song and, if I lived in the universe of the show, I would tell Sexy Michael that his band needs to play better music. 




                Artistically, however, I like the use of the song and the way it’s all cut together.  See, we crosscut between two separate events, the playing of the song and the dancing and shenanigans going on at Lotus Point and then Greg walking down the street and looking all sad.  I like this because he’s wearing big dark sunglasses to hide his eyes, but as he sits down on a bench, we see a tear start to fall out from behind the glasses.  It’s a pretty moving way of showing Greg’s emotional state, but doing it in a kinda arty way that also speaks to Greg’s character.  When you think about it, Greg is actually a rather sensitive man who spends most of his life hiding that sensitivity behind his sarcasm and his money.  Having him cry but hiding his eyes from the viewers seems kinda symbolic to the way Greg processes all of his emotions.  Also, I’m just happy to hear some music on the show again; it reminds me of those glorious days of seasons four through seven when we had Ciji/Cathy just singing away with her amazing ‘80s Explosion Band all being brilliant together.  Obviously this Heaven song isn’t even worth the lint from the ass-crack of any of Ciji’s/Cathy’s songs, but I still like the fact that it’s a real song being played on the show and not the generic non-music that seemed to dominate the soundtrack throughout the aural assault that was season eight.





                Again, I’m jumping all over the place when it comes to describing what things happen in this ep, but I don’t give a fuck, so let’s talk about another significant scene in which we have a lovely moment between Laura and Val that takes place in the twins’ room.  We start the scene off with Val saying something true, which is that she missed Laura, and then we move on to Laura saying something demonstrably false, which is, “Your hair looks great.”  As I said, no sane, sentient person could truly look at Val’s Flock of Seagulls do (which I am officially renaming Flock of Val for as long as she shall sport this monstrosity upon her scalp) and tell her, “Your hair looks great.”  I laugh at this line, but I also enjoy the followup, when Laura says, “You finally made it into the ‘80s, huh?”  I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I always enjoy a movie or a show making some comment about the decade it is coming from.  KL has only done it a few times, but I usually notice and I think I can remember a few of them right off the top of my head.  The first that springs to mind was in late season two when Abby’s Transmorpher ex-husband (Dr. Kenderson) was giving her shit about being a huge slut sleeping with married men in the middle of the day and Abs said something like, “For God’s sake, it’s the 1980s.”  The next reference that comes to mind is when boring block of wood Kenny (I can actually hear everyone’s brow furrowing as they try to remember who this character of Kenny was and what significance he played to the show) said of him and his wife, “We’ve got a real ‘80s marriage.”  I’m sure there are other examples, but those two spring to mind right away.  When we eventually cross over into the ‘90s, I will pay strict attention to see if we ever have a line from a character saying, “It’s the ‘90s!” or something similar. 




                Okay, anyway, the scene proceeds with Val saying how Flock of Val represents “The new me,” and then Laura says, “I kinda liked the old you,” and then she says, “The first time I saw you in the cul-de-sac, I knew there was a kindred spirit.”  This is not an invention; this actually tracks with what we saw in the first season.  When I think of the first season, one of the first scenes I think about is Laura and Val talking on the stairs in The Lie, when Laura confessed to how unhappy she was in her marriage and how badly Richard made her feel.  I think that was a real kindred spirit moment and I think Val is responsible for giving Laura a little boost of strength that led to the much tougher and more independent Laura we have before us now.  I’ll also take this moment to say I have a bit of a bone to pick with the show, and that is the fact that I wish we’d gotten more of Laura/Val.  Sure, they’re friends and they are good friends, but I wish we could have further explored that dynamic that was introduced in The Lie; I wish we could have had more one-on-one Val and Laura.



                As we rapidly approach the climax of the ep, we get a few more gut punching scenes.  I think I’ll go in order of emotional-ness, from least to most, starting with Greg and Laura at an art gallery.  Laura wants to buy this really expensive painting from this really famous artist that’s like a hundred million jillion dollars (in the show, we are actually told it is $35,000.00).  Laura’s all set to buy the expensive painting, but then she comes upon a different painting from an unknown artist that is selling for only four hundred dollars.  She chooses to support this artist by buying his painting and paying $35,000.00 for it, a nice bit of generosity that, as an arty fellow myself, I appreciated.  Laura is thinking about how this money could greatly help some struggling young artist, and she wants to leave the earth with some good done on her part. 



                Next up, we have an agonizing scene of Laura holding Meg and giving a great long speech about how she’s not going to be around anymore.  I would transcribe the whole speech, but that would require watching it again and it already made me cry when I watched it with MBG.  In fact, it made MBG cry, as well, and I don’t think she’s cried since season six’s We Gather Together.  I think the reason this scene made me cry is because, duh, Laura is gonna die and that’s sad, especially since she’s going to be leaving her brand new little baby and never getting to see her grow up and have important stories on the show later down the line, but I also cried because of the subtle way this scene creeps up on you.  Laura talks quietly the whole scene, just holding Meg and talking in a somewhat stream-of-consciousness way, and the music is subtle and pretty and always there in the background to make me feel moved.  We also have a cliché that I sometimes hate but which I’m okay with here, and that is Greg listening in from just offscreen, Laura unaware that he’s there.  A lot of times movies pull this out when it’s convenient and when they need the audience to cry, having a character in one room being like, “I wish my father knew I loved him!” or something similar all while the father in question lurks right outside the room, listening.  It works here, though, because this is KL and KL is better than anything else in this entire universe. 




                Next, we get something I found very artistic and daring and touching all at the same time, and that’s a very tender love scene between Greg and Laura, their final time being together as intimate lovers.  The scene brings us right back from a commercial break in a very arresting way, starting out in front of the fireplace with Greg and Laura kissing.  Then we get a whole love scene, lots of dissolves and a soft tender bit of music on the track, and I appreciate how loving it is.  Americans in general are so frightened of sex thanks to our puritanical past and so we feel this need to make it this dirty, awful thing, but sex is a wonderful thing and should be the most beautiful thing in the world.  As a very gay man, I also know that there’s a big difference between fucking and making love and both are a great thing, but there is definitely something to be said for truly making love, and that’s what Laura and Greg do here.  I like that it’s presented honestly and tenderly and that we feel like we are seeing a very private and special moment.



                That scene almost makes me cry again, but not quite.  The next scene, however, is unforgettable and I remember it made me cry back in college, too.  The scene in question involves Laura making her final phone call to Karen, saying how she couldn’t come and see her face to face for a moment like this.  Ugh, both ladies are just perfect in this scene, as we see the tears well up in both of their eyes and this big long pause before Laura finally says, “Goodbye, Karen,” and then Karen says, “Goodbye, Laura, you have my love.”  It’s that last bit that really gets to me, that it’s the last thing Karen says to her, and what a beautiful and perfect last thing to say.  Again, the fact that these are two veterans from the very beginning and they are never going to see each other again really adds to the gut punch, as well.



                The final scene of the ep approaches Terms of Endearment level tears, as Laura prepares to drive off and leave Greg alone.  There’s a bit of business here that I find very significant and also gloriously subtle, and that’s the fact that Meg is quiet as a mouse when Laura is holding her but, as soon as Laura hands her over to Greg, the baby starts screaming and crying.  I noticed this and I’m sure Greg notices it and I’m sure Laura notices it and I’m sure it’s on her mind.  Part of her is wondering whether Greg can handle this, if he’ll be able to take care of this child the way he needs to.  Then Laura grabs her suitcase and heads off, getting into her car and driving away.  The music swells and Laura starts crying as she’s driving, along with the entire 1987 viewing audience, and we get our “Executive Producers” credit and conclude there. 



                You know what, despite some of my reservations about Laura getting evacuated from the show so quickly, I’m gonna go ahead and declare this ep a winner, an emotional powerhouse that made me cry super hard.  Even if I maybe don’t love the behind-the-scenes politics of getting rid of a veteran character due to budget, I appreciate the artistic way they pulled off her departure here.  The ep makes me reflect on life and death and what’s going to happen after we die and I found it to be chockfull of artistic moments, moments I associate with KL.  When someone died over on Dallas, it would be soapy and melodramatic, but they would never show a long, tender love making scene between two characters who are about to part forever.  That, to me, is strictly the stuff of KL and that’s why we watch KL.  I’d like to take some time to reflect on the character of Laura as a whole and the way Constance brought her to life for eight solid years, but I think I’ll save that for Noises Everywhere: Part Two, her official very final appearance on the series, which still lies slightly in our future.  For the time being, I will say that I thought The Gift of Life was terrific, fantastically artistic and crafted with skill, like a film.  I would say it’s the best ep of season nine up to this point, a season I’ve been enjoying tremendously so far. 



                Coming up next, we get a blessed break from all these high emotions with Say Uncle.