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.