Thursday, May 28, 2020


Episode Title: Only ‘Til Friday

Season 09, Episode 13

Episode 203 of 344

Written by James Stanley

Directed by Lawrence Kasha

Original Airdate: Thursday, January 7th, 1988

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Greg grieves for Laura. Paige is suprised to find Greg at home, but he tells her he's still in New York. He calls the MacKenzies and says he's been delayed and will be gone longer. Abby and Charles have a romantic day at an amusement park and horseback riding, but then Judith calls and Charles says he has to leave. Instead, Charles comes back and tells Abby he can't leave her and make the same mistake twice. Johnny Rourke, an "Irishman," tells a woman on an airplane that he is flying to see his girlfriend Paige Matheson. He steals the woman's credit cards and later buys a gun in a bar. Val tells Gary about Jill's visit and that they should just remain ex's. Gary's angry with Jill, but Jill says she told Val he's a free man, so Val must not want him. The Williams family, Pat and daughter Julie, move into Laura's house.

                Welcome to Only ‘Til Friday, an ep I’m very eager to discuss.  Now that Laura is dead and buried, Rest in Peace, we are ready to have some new characters move into her empty house, and yes, they are black.  As a smug little liberal, this makes me happy, because even though we have had black people in the previous eight seasons of KL, and even though I’ve always generally liked the way they were portrayed, not as horrible stereotypes, but as interesting characters in their own right (Karen’s amazing black Liar Liar doctor from season six comes to mind), we’ve never had main characters who were black, and now we do.  Should I discuss the new neighbors first or should I get some of the other storylines out of the way?  I think I’ll go with the latter, so let’s begin by discussing the dullest storyline right now, Abs and Basil Exposition.  Be sure to get your pillow and your nightcap.

                Oh sigh, how sad it is to watch a great character like Abs drift through such a boring and meandering storyline.  Even in the depths of season eight, when everything seemed to be going wrong with the show, I think Abs still came out smelling like a rose, being given the great storyline of Olivia on coke and working wonders with it through her topnotch acting.  Now, however, as the show rapidly improves itself from last year’s problems, Abs is feeling adrift.  Again, I get it, I can see what the writers were trying to do; they are trying to both explain how Abby’s first love turned her into the woman we see before us now, while also showing a more vulnerable side of Abs.  Unfortunately, it just isn’t working for me, mostly because she and Basil Exposition have absolutely no chemistry.  I’m a bit of a Basil fan from Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet and Logan’s Run and of course the Austin Powers movies, but could he possibly be less interesting on this series?  You just look at the man and you can tell that he thinks this series is beneath him, even though it’s obviously the greatest thing he will ever appear in and he should be honored to be around television royalty like Donna Mills.  I think Donna is doing her best to make this work, but she has a bad acting partner who doesn’t even want to try.

                Okay, so what do they do in the confines of this ep?  Well, mostly it’s a bunch of the same old shit about how Basil is still married to his cunty wife and how he keeps promising to leave her, but then he doesn’t, Bob Loblaw.  One thing I put in my notes is that Basil shows up ready to take Abs to see Baryshnikov dance, but it’s the same night as Brian’s school play, so then we cut to the two of them at the play.  I guess that’s kinda funny, but I also found it almost offensive, and perhaps that’s the result of being raised by a mother who owns a dance studio and has danced her entire life.  To me, if you have the chance to see Mikhail Baryshnikov dance, you go and see him dance and you drop whatever else was on your agenda.  It’s sorta like how if a Kubrick or a De Palma film is screening in a theater; you drop what you are doing and you go fucking see it because it’s art and it needs to be seen.  I get that Brian might have been upset if Abs didn’t go to his play, but it’s Baryshnikov; go see him dance.  At the same time, I guess the fact that Abs chooses her child over a dancing legend further demonstrates that she’s not a shabby mother.  She has her problems elsewhere, but she loves her kids and treats them right.  Anyway, aside from that, Abs tells Basil he should go back to his wife, and then at the end of the ep, he shows up and is like, “Abs, I love you!”  Anyway, it’s boring and that’s pretty much all I have to say about that.

                Meanwhile, Greg is still enjoying his little staycation, having left Meg at the MacKenzie’s house last ep.  Everyone assumes Greg is in New York doing whatever you do in New York in the ‘80s (try not to get raped and murdered, I imagine), but really he’s just hanging around his house and enjoying some time alone.  However, his ruse, his cunning attempt to trick everyone, is discovered by one Paige Matheson, who is now enjoying her job at an art gallery and drops by Sumner’s ranch to leave him a painting.  Before this occurs, however, I would be remiss in my duty if I did not point out Cigar #32 on the Sumner Cigar Counter, this one smoked while he calls up Mack and lies about his whereabouts.  Anyway, after the scene with the cigar, Paige shows up to drop off the painting, she grab the phone to make a quick phone call, only to hear Greg’s voice on the line.  He comes marching out into the living room (wearing a Hawaiian shirt; I love it) and when Paige says, “I thought you were in New York,” he says, “I am in New York, in spirit,” another great line.  So now Paige knows his little secret, but I’d say the secret is safe with her.

                Let me take a radical and probably unexpected detour to discuss how stunningly beautiful Nicolette looks in this scene and, in general, during her entire tenure on the show.  I’m still gay and I’ll always be gay; I love having sex with men, but I’m starting to think that I could get it up for Nicolette and could probably have sex with her successfully (whether she would enjoy it or not is debatable, since I’ve never been with a woman and have no idea what the hell is going on down there).  I’ve often said Donna Mills is the only woman I would shag (in a hot tub, of course), but fuck, Nicolette is hot.  Her hair is the greatest, her outfits rock, and she just has this commanding presence about her.  I’m gonna go into some extreme hyperbole and say that I think she’s one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen, and she’s at her most beautiful here.  I suppose this somewhat relates to the stories on the show, because we are clearly started to get a romance sizzling between Greg and Paige, something a lot of fans don’t like.  Yeah, they are decades apart in age, but the first time I watched the show, I don’t remember it bothering me.  I’ve never been as obsessed with age as some people are; if someone is a consenting adult, I think they can have sex with whoever they want.  Is it a little creepy that Sumner is 24 years older than Paige (who hasn't gotten SORAS yet but I think is going to next season), that he would have been a young adult when she was just a newborn?  I guess so, but whatever.  My point is that Nicolette is so beautiful and so stunning that I could totally understand why Sumner would get a boner for her, and I don’t judge.

                I was so excited about the black people being introduced into the series that I almost forgot about another character, one who, well, I’m not sure I like him or not.  This character would be Johnny Rourke, a bearded Irishman (although I think he’s not really Irish cuz Paige has some line about how he was never good at keeping his accent straight).  Anyway, this character is played by Peter Reckell, and somehow I watched the entire series through once before and never bothered to look at this guy’s IMDb page.  Well, I just took a look at it turns out he wound up on a daytime soap (no judgment there, acting is hard and daytime soaps are good work if you can get it), Days of Our Lives, playing Bo Brady.  Actually, it turns out he started playing that character in 1983 and he’s still playing him as of 2015, pretty impressive.  So I guess his time on KL is kinda mixed in with his Days of Our Lives time.  Anyway, we first meet Johnny on an airplane, talking to an old woman about how he’s going to California to see his girlfriend, Paige Matheson.  However, after telling Granny this story, he also steals her credit card and uses it to pay for another flight (I guess the airport guy doesn’t notice that the credit card says “Granny” on it).  So right away, we are not quite sure about this character; on one hand, he yoinked the old woman’s credit card, but on the other hand, he subtly slips it back into her purse a moment later, so I guess he’s not completely wicked?  I’ll be honest and say I remember almost nothing about what Johnny Rourke contributes to the show (aside from some lousy singing that we will discuss in a few eps), but I do know he’ll be around for roughly 30 eps and will make his final appearance in The Perfect Opportunity in 1989.

                By the way, I feel like it’s been awhile since I shined a spotlight on a random one-episode character and discussed the person playing that character, so let’s go ahead and do that now with Granny, who is credited as “Mrs. Johnson” and is played by Natalie Core.  Well, I looked at her IMDb and she is in not one, but two childhood favorites of Brett’s, the first being landmark cinematic accomplishment Clifford and the other being the even more brilliant Dunston Checks In, a movie I watched so much as a kid that the VHS actually disintegrated.  And hey, look at this, she was also in Airport 1975 (that’s the most famous one cuz it’s the one where Karen Black lands the plane and it’s the one Airplane! spoofs the heaviest).  Anyway, Natalie Core, ladies and gentlemen. 

                For the time being, I’m fairly indifferent to Johnny Rourke, but we shall see how I feel throughout his time on the show.  Now, let’s move our attention over to the new neighbors on the block, the Williams family.  There are three members of this family, but we only meet two this ep, mother Patricia and daughter Julie.  The father will be showing up a few eps down the line, and I love him, too, but for the confines of this ep, we only meet these two.  Pat Williams is played by the exceptionally gorgeous Lynne Moody.  Seriously, not to sound like I’m objectifying women (although I also objectify men; look no further than every single thing I’ve ever said about Sexy Michael), but how gorgeous is Lynne Moody?  She’s so beautiful that every single time she comes onscreen, My Beloved Grammy says, “Oh, she’s just so beautiful.”  Also, she has a very impressive resume, with credits including Roots (which I’ve actually never seen, but has always been on my list of things I gotta watch) and All in the Family (interestingly, she was the only person recast when they spunoff into The Jeffersons) and she was also a Playboy Bunny, which is pretty awesome.  So that's Pat, but we’ve also got daughter Julie, played by Kent King.  It’s nice to see this actress is still busy, with her most recent credit being in 2017.  She’s also got credits for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and The Wayans Brothers and a whole bunch of other stuff.  


                The two Williams ladies don’t do very much in this ep, but there is a certain cloud of suspicion over them when we first meet them.  Karen is being welcoming by bringing them a chocolate cake, but she’s also being kinda nosy.  I’m flashing back to the Pilot and the way that Karen greeted Gary and Val as soon as they arrived, and I guess the same is true here, but she didn’t seem quite as nosy way back in 1979 as she does now.  What makes the Williams seem kinda suspicious is that Pat just seems a smidge too prepared to answer questions about where they’re from and how they wound up here on the cul-de-sac.  She sorta gives off this big speech about how she got laid off and needed a new job and it just sounds a smidge too rehearsed, like some kids who have worked to get their story straight before having to talk to the school principal.  I’ll just let the cat out of the bag right now, mostly because I’m now pretty sure nobody is reading this blog without having a full knowledge of the series and all the things that happened, so I’ll give a minor spoiler and say that, a few eps down the line, we find out that the Williams family is in witness protection.  I bring this up because pretty much the very second that Pat and Julie arrived, My Beloved Grammy was like, “I’ll bet they’re in witness protection,” and I was just like, “Yeah.”  When My Beloved Grammy makes her eerily accurate predictions, I usually just tell her if she’s right or wrong, and in this case, she called it almost right away.

                You know, that’s about it for this ep, which I found very enjoyable.  I think I liked Weak Moment better cuz it started with that ‘80s song and had a little more cinematic flair, but I also probably liked it because it was so heavily focused on Gary and Val, who are not as prevalent in this ep.  This one is more about getting new stories going, bringing us Pat and Julie Williams as well as the mysterious Johnny Rourke.  Now that both Lilimae and Laura are gone from the series forever, I can feel us shifting into a somewhat new era of the show, but I’m fine with it because I think these new characters (well, maybe not Johnny Rourke) show a lot of promise.

                Alright, that’s all I have to say about Only ‘Til Friday, so let’s move right along to Ties That Bind

Thursday, May 21, 2020


Episode Title: Weak Moment

Season 09, Episode 12

Episode 202 of 344

Written by John Leasure

Directed by Lorraine Senna  

Original Airdate: Thursday, December 17th, 1987

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Greg hires Paige to buy him investment art. Charles tells Abby that marrying Judith is a mistake he's lived with for 20 years. She screams that she hates him, but he kisses her and they sleep together. Gary and Val make love. She feels guilty about Jill, and rejects Gary after he helps her and the twins decorate the tree. Val tells Gary it was a mistake and she doesn't want him coming over anymore. He storms out. Gary tells Jill that he doesn't love her, but wishes he did. Jill confronts Val, and tells her that she could give Abby lessons in manipulation. Jill moves out of Gary's, but then returns. Greg drops Meg off at the MacKenzies, saying he has business in New York.

                Welcome to Weak Moment, a return to the style of KL we all know and love after the more experimental nature of the Noises Everywhere double whammy.  While there were things I liked and things I didn’t like about those improvisational eps, I still respect the show for doing something new and different, but I’m also happy to get back to the style I am used to.  The question now is, will Weak Moment prove to be a weak episode?  Let’s find out.

                Well, I totally love the way this ep starts, and I have ever since I first watched the series.  We begin with a glorious night of nonstop passion between Gary and Val, all set to a delightful song called, well, Weak Moment.  I’m pretty much gripped right away as we begin the ep with a nice, slow pan across the bedroom and the reveal of Gary and Val in bed together, doing some serious cuddling.  Oh, what an image, enough to make the coldest of hearts thaw out a little bit.  You can tell just by looking at the two of them that they just had the kind of sex you can only have with someone you feel totally comfortable with, someone you’ve known for years and years.  It’s the kind of sex a person craves when they’re lying in bed by themselves on some lonely night, wishing for companionship.  Let’s just call it what it is: Sweet Lovemaking.  This isn’t just Gary and Val fucking; they are doing some Sweet Lovemaking like Jack and Rose in the back of that old car and you can tell they both love it.  Also a nice bit of business in this scene is the way that the director (Lorraine Senna, the second most prolific KL director after Nicholas Sgarro) crosscuts to some footage of Abs, receiving a nice bouquet of flowers from Basil Exposition.  Rather than put them in water and on display on her coffee table, Abs flings the flowers into her fireplace, and the little card from Basil Exposition, as well.  A small flaw I noticed in this scene is that, while Abs manages to get the flowers into the fireplace, the card doesn’t quite make it.  She tosses it towards the fireplace, where it lands on the ground right in front of the fireplace, and then we cut away.  It’s not exactly a mistake, but I do think they could have done a second take where Donna managed to get the card all the way into the fireplace.  Of course, I wasn’t on the set, and maybe that was the last bouquet of flowers they had to burn up and, when Donna failed to get the little piece of paper into the roaring fire as well, the powers that be probably just said, “Fuck it,” and proceeded to their next bit of business for the day.

                Oh yeah, and let’s discuss the song that’s playing, which I kinda loved.  The song is so much better than the general music we’ve been getting on the show for the last year or so that it was like slipping back into a warm bath, having a good female singer sing a good little ‘80s song.  The song even sounds kinda Lisa Hartman-ish at first, but I did my research and found out it’s a singer named Gail Farrell and that she will contribute a few more songs to the series, Surprise Me In the Middle of the Night and Are You Over Her?  I’ll keep my ears open for these songs a little down the road, but yeah, suffice it to say I kinda love this first one we’re hearing right now.  I will say it doesn’t come anywhere close to the quality of Ciji’s/Cathy’s songs from the orgiastic musical odyssey that was seasons four through seven, but it’s still pretty good and I love how it synchs up with the action onscreen.  If there’s any flaw to this beginning, I guess it’s that it’s a bit jarring to immediately start with Gary and Val in bed together post-shag.  We’ve seen the signs that the dynamic duo is starting to get close again, but our last ep ended with Gary leaving Laura’s funeral reception along with J.B., going up into the hills to toss Peter’s ashes away.  Somewhere inbetween that scene and the start of this ep, Gary and Val started shagging again.  This is a very small complaint, and perhaps it’s not even really a complaint.  I think this ep maybe starts that way deliberately to kinda surprise the audience into being like, “Oooooh, look who’s getting busy.”

                Next up, we have a little scene of misunderstanding between Gary and Val, a scene where, I confess, I think Val is being somewhat deliberately hurtful.  See, Gary shows up at the house with a pizza (and bemoans the fact that Val made him order a pizza with green peppers, broccoli, and zucchini, although that sounds totally delicious to me) and then Val puts on her coat and is like, “Cool, see you later; the babysitter should come by a little later.”  Gary is confused and says how he got the pizza for all of them, how he thought they were all going to spend time together, and Val is like, “Well, don’t assume stuff; see ya!” and she takes off and leaves Gary alone with the twins.  Do you guys think this is a bitch move?  I kinda do.  Val could have easily told Gary over the phone that she’s going out tonight and she needs someone to watch the twins, and Gary would have said yes because he loves the twins.  Instead, she deliberately invited him over and told him to get a pizza but didn’t tell him that she’d be taking off as soon as he arrived.  I imagine Gary is kinda bummed, waiting all day to spend time with his soulmate and one true love only to realize she’s just looking for a babysitter for the night.  I am a person who gets very excited about whatever plans I may have made with someone else for the day, and if that someone then bails on me, it makes me feel super sad and also kinda angry, so my sympathies lie with Gary in this scene.

                Next up, Gary pays Val a phonecall, but she’s sitting in her kitchen and screening.  He leaves a message about how he’d like to see her and he’s sorry if he got the wrong idea the other night, but this message doesn’t work to put Val in a nicer mood, because the next time we see them together, they’re having a fight.  Val says something about, “Did you expect to come here and jump in bed with your ex-wife for old time’s sake?” and then Gary says how he’s not embarrassed or ashamed by anything they’ve been doing, to which Val retorts, “Well, maybe I am.”  When Gary says he just wants to be able to see the twins, Val says he can, but not in the house.  At this point, Gary marches off and I have about a million things to say about this fabulous scene.  First off, I’m glad that we are getting so much Gary/Val footage in this season.  Gary and Val are the heart of the show and they always will be; indeed, there would be no series without them, as they provided our gateway from parent series to spinoff series way back in 1979.  Now it’s almost 1988 and we have reached a point where these characters are so familiar to us that they really do seem like old friends, and I again note that we’re at that point where the separation between actors and characters really starts to blur.  I imagine that both J.V.A. and Shack understand their characters better than anyone who comes on to write or direct the eps; they’ve been living with them for all these years now and probably know them inside and out.  Also, as I’ve said five hundred thousand times before, the brilliance of all of this lies in the fact that both characters are sympathetic.  Val has just recently been abandoned by her second husband and it was six years ago that Gary ran off with Abs and left Val all alone.  Can you blame her for having a hard time trusting men, especially Gary?  No matter how friendly their relationship may be at any given point, Val can still vividly remember the way he walked out on her and left her feeling so sad and lonely.  Conversely, I sympathize with Gary because he’s really cleaned up his act in the last six years; it’s been five years since he took a drink, five years since "WE'RE RUINING LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVES!" and he’s turned himself into a very stable and upstanding person with a great sense of ethics.  To him, it probably hurts to make all this effort at improving himself and his life only to be rejected by Val and told he can only see the twins at limited times.

                All this drama of course coincides with one of my very favorite characters, J.B.  This is the season that J.B. really starts to come alive and reveal her full potential, and it’s already happening right before our very eyes.  I’d say these seeds started being planted in late season eight when J.B. paid Val a visit and asked if she’s still in love with Gary.  Those seeds have been growing into beautiful flowers ever since and they will continue to grow and grow until somewhere in 1989.  Anyway, in the case of this ep, J.B. can’t quite make up her mind about how she feels about Gary.  First, she storms out of Westfork and leaves him all alone, but then later, as Gary works to build a little playhouse for the kids (a detail I loved because I am fairly certain I had the exact same playhouse when I was small) and J.B. comes walking in quietly and says, “I don’t want to beg, Gary.”  Okay, so for the time being, the affair between Gary and Val has ended and Gary is just going to stick with J.B. for awhile. 

                Let me go ahead and say that everything involving Gary, Val, and J.B. is not only my favorite part of this ep, but my favorite part of what’s going on in the season right now.  Whenever the writers turn their focus back on Gary and Val and explore that relationship, I am going to be happy and I am going to be riveted, two things I can’t say about Abby’s current storyline, which is a gigantic dose of Nyquil mixed in with some Xanux.  I’ll just let the cat out of the bag right now and say that everything involving Abs and Basil Exposition is just completely boring, plus it goes on forever.  In my memories, Basil Exposition showed up for four or maybe five eps and that was it, but no, IMDb says he’s actually in eight.  That number looks a little light to me and I’m fairly certain he’s in more than eight, but perhaps I just think that because he’s sorta shown intermittently, sometimes sitting out an ep or two before returning into the story.  In any case, the whole thing is boring and I think I might hate it, or at least intensely dislike it.  I’m starting to understand why Donna was eyeing the exit doors around this time, and I heard an interview with her once where she said she didn’t care for what the writers were giving her around this time and that provided the impetus for her exodus at the end of season ten.  I can’t say I blame her, because none of this is interesting and I kinda don’t even wanna bother writing about it.  I can see what the writers are attempting to do here; they are attempting to show a new, more vulnerable side to Abs, to show that there was once a man in her life who had the power to sweep her off her feet.  The problem is that I just don’t buy it, not after all we’ve seen Abs go through in the last years.  I can believe that she would be easily be manipulated by a man back in the ‘60s, but not now in the '80s.

                Anyway, what happens in this dull storyline this ep?  Well, there is one interesting scene that I kinda appreciated in which we get to hear both Abby’s and Basil Exposition’s inner monologue.  He pops into her Lotus Point office and hands her a file and says how he wants to work with her, and then we hear Abby’s inner monologue saying, “He can’t really believe that I’d do business with him,” and then we hop inside of Basil Exposition’s brain and hear, “How can anyone do business with her?”  This continues for a little while, and I liked it.  I don’t know that we’ve ever had inner monologue before (aside from Val’s absolutely awful, “Ben, I love you” scene from the wretched Nightmare), so I appreciate the show trying something new.  Also, it provides a light and comedic touch to the scene, something I associate with the L&L years, something I still appreciate.  By the time you’ve reached a ninth season, I think it’s okay to be more flexible with the storytelling structure and there’s no reason everything has to be super serious all the time, so I like this, but it’s about all I like in this storyline.  Giving a close look at this, I think the main problem lies with Michael York.  Let’s face it; he and Donna have basically no chemistry and you can tell that York thinks this show is beneath him and he’s only doing it for a check.  In addition to that, it’s just kinda boring writing, like the characters keep having fights and then he comes back to Abs and declares his love and then they embrace and, indeed, we end the ep with them in bed together (I did like how that was edited).  In any case, IMDb says he’ll be making his last appearance in Lawfully Wedded, so I guess we’ll just have to tolerate this until we get there.

                You know some characters who are way more interesting than Basil Exposition?  The answer is Karen, Mack, and Sumner, and we’ve got a storyline going on with them that’s really cooking, involving Laura’s baby, Meg.  We catch up with Sumner pouring himself a drink one night when Carlos, his faithful servant (another rather underrated character who’s consistently hanging around in the background) comes walking in.  Carlos says how he thinks they should hang up some Christmas decorations for the baby, but Greg just says, “Not this year, Carlos.”  Later, he pops up at Karen and Mack’s house just as they are getting ready to head off to Tahiti, claiming he needs to run off to New York and asking if they’d watch Meg for awhile.  Instead of being annoyed that Greg has ruined their vacation plans, Mack is delighted to have Meg around.  I like how both Karen and Greg say, “But what about Tahiti?” at the exact same time and Mack is just like, “Ah, whatever,” and goes walking off with Meg in his arms.  The sheer cuteness of Mack’s love for Meg more than makes up for his strange behavior in the last two eps; this is the Mack we all know and love, a nice, strong man who is also very loving.  For the purposes of this ep, that’s about all that’s going on with these characters, but rest assured this stuff will continue deeper and deeper into the season.

                Anything else?  Well, it’s worth noting that this is a Christmas ep, I believe our third Christmas ep of the series after season three’s One of a Kind and season eight’s Gifts.  This whole ep drips with Christmas spirit, as we’ve got mistletoe punctuating every scene, a big Lotus Point Christmas party (“big” meaning our main cast members and a couple of random extras and the party is, once again, being thrown in a broom closet) and I always like when the holidays are acknowledged on this show.  So yeah, this is a Christmas ep; anything else worth noting?  Well, Paige has some good footage in this ep, but she doesn’t really do anything too terribly interesting.  In my notes, I mostly focused on her absolutely dreadful fashion sense this ep, which is pretty much all red plaid.  See, Sumner is hanging around the art gallery that Paige works at, staring at some painting or other, when she comes walking up and quips, “Forget your bifocals, Pops?” to which I retorted, “Did you?”  Seriously, this is bad, and usually I’m a big fan of Paige’s fashions.  She has a fabulous quality that’s all her own and she usually wears fantastic outfits that are unique and cool, but this one missed the mark.  What the hell was she thinking?  In any case, I forgive her because I’m sure she’ll be adorned in much more proper attire in our next eps.

                Oh yeah, I almost forgot!  This is our very last episode of 1987 and our next ep will leap us right into 1988.  I always try to do some summation of what went on during the year before we finish it up on KL, so what all happened in 1987?  Well, I was still three years away from being born, but I do research and I am a learned person, so I can name some of the big things that happened this year.  First off, we had a new Brian De Palma film and readers may know that I love BDP, although this movie is hardly one of my favorites. The film in question is The Untouchables.  This is one of BDP's biggest financial successes, grossing 106 million dollars and winning an Oscar for Sean Connery.....for some reason?  I like Connery as much as the next guy but I don't know why this was an Oscar worthy performance.  This movie is fine and it's technically well shot and well put together and it's definitely better than the bottom dwellers of BDP's package like Mission to Mars or The Black Dahlia but I just don't feel like it comes from his soul.  Movies like Sisters, Carrie, Dressed to Kill, or Body Double are coming from the man's soul but this one feels like a paycheck.  My favorite thing about it is that the famous train sequence is spoofed wonderfully in the opening moments of The Naked Gun 33 and 1/3: The Final Insult, so that's definitely an important cultural thing to note.  Actually, the release of a new BDP movie is really the only thing that happened in 1987 that I particularly care about (along with the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) so let's just go ahead and list the top ten shows of the 1986-1987 season and move on.  The top ten shows, going from #10 to #1, were Who's The Boss?, Moonlighting, Growing Pains, Night Court, 60 Minutes, The Golden Girls, Murder, She Wrote, Cheers, Family Ties, and, eh hem, The Cosby Show.  Since this is a blog about KL and, in a way, the entire nighttime soap genre, I think it's worth noting that 1986-1987 mark the first season that absolutely none of the big four nighttime soaps are in the top ten.  Dallas almost makes it in, ranking at #11, but its days of ratings glory are in the past and the ratings for all the shows will continue to sink from this point forward.  The cultural landscape is shifting away from the nighttime soaps that dominated the first half of the '80s and are starting to flip way more towards sitcoms.

                I think that’s all I have to say for Weak Moment.  I quite enjoyed this as a nice refresher after the high drama and death of our last two eps.  This ep moves a little fast, which I found a bit odd, but it still worked for me, the scenes flowing from one to the next, the characters (sans Basil) remaining as fascinating as always.  With that said, let’s move along to our next ep, an important introductory ep for a whole new family on the block, Only ‘Til Friday.

Thursday, May 14, 2020


Episode Title: Noises Everywhere: Part Two

Season 09, Episode 11

Episode 201 of 344

Written by Lynn Marie Latham

Directed by David Jacobs

Original Airdate: Thursday, December 10th, 1987

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): After Laura's funeral, everyone goes to Greg's. Mack is belligerent and snide and acts like a giant douchebag. He spends all his time with Meg. Karen overhears him tell Gary that he's a father who never got to raise his kids. Richard tells Karen that Laura emasculated him, but he's matured a lot since then. Jill's upset that Gary is taking care of fragile Val. Jill starts to drink heavily and gets drunk. She tells Val that she lost her family and wants to help with the twins. She steals Peter's ashes and puts them in her purse. Jill then drunkenly goes up to Paige and asks her how she can sleep at night. Jill whacks Paige in the back with her purse. Everyone watches Laura's videos and cry their eyes out. Val and Karen cry and make up. Greg watches his video of Laura by himself, and sobs. He asks how she could leave him all alone, because he loves her. On the way home, Jill scatters Peter's ashes off a mountainside. On tape, Laura reads "Goodnight Moon" to Meg.

                Hello, all, and welcome to Noises Everywhere: Part Two.  When we last left off, I was slightly underwhelmed but still appreciative of certain aspects of Part One, and I predicted that Part Two would be better.  Was I correct?  Read on.

                First off, this continues in the same style as our previous ep, feeling improvised and freewheeling.  When we hit our next ep (Weak Moment), we will return to the more usual style, but for now we are still in this strange land of improv.  Again, I’m having trouble figuring out just exactly how improv these two eps are, if they just started shooting footage and let the cast do whatever they wanted or if they had some layout of the way things should go.  Since this ep is less confined to the ranch than our previous one and we do get to cut away a few times, it feels slightly more plot-driven than our last ep, but it also still feels kinda funny and slightly off.  I think I’ll just go down the list of characters and see what’s going on with them, starting with Mack.  Thankfully, Mack appears to have sobered up from last ep, and I don’t think he’s still acting like a big ole’ drunk this ep, although it can be tough to tell.  See, he first shows up at Greg’s place in a cab, climbing out and asking the driver to shut the meter off.  It’s this line delivery that caused me to think Mack might still be drunk, because he looks a smidge out of sorts, kinda stumbling, and he just delivers that line in a strange way.  Also, if you ask a taxi cab to just hang out outside of some building while you go in, doesn’t the cab driver usually leave the meter running?  Isn’t that how the man gets paid?  What if Mack just left him sitting out there for hours; would he not have to pay him for his time?  Also, Mack’s got a piece of paper stuck to his chin, like he cut himself shaving.  Look,  I cut myself shaving five thousand times every single time I try to do it, so I’m not judging, but why is he still walking around with that glob of toilet paper stuck to his face?  He tells Karen he needs $112.00 to pay the cab driver, and that’s a fucking lot, indicating that he’s been driving around with him for awhile, and so in all that $112.00 worth of driving, did Mack never bother to take the paper off his face?  For these reasons, I briefly think Mack might still be drunk, but then he talks to Karen and, while slightly belligerent, he seems sober minded again. 

However, he’s still being a bit of a jerk, and I gotta say that this double whammy of Noises Everywhere probably presents Mack at his worst.  See, after he shows up and Karen manages to pay the cab driver (courtesy of Sumner, causing Mack to declare “I hate that Sumner paid for my cab ride”), Karen asks Mack where he’s been and he’s very blasé and dismissive, saying he was with the cab driver and he didn’t call cuz they weren’t near a phone.  Then he just sorta walks off, like he doesn’t even respect Karen enough to explain things.  Some people might say Karen is being a nag, but she’s right.  They are at a gathering to honor the life and death of their friend, so death should be on everyone’s minds, and for Mack to just up and vanish like that without telling Karen where he went is super douchy.  Also super douchy is his continuing narcissistic behavior in which he makes little snide comments about Sumner and how he’s not expressing his grief in the proper way.  Super douchier still is a scene where Karen tries to discuss his feelings with him and says she doesn’t understand his behavior and Mack goes on a mean rant about, “Karen MacKenzie doesn’t understand something; that’s gotta be a first!”  This is your wife, man, and you love her and you’re not talking to her the way a good husband does.  I’d like to note that when I said I didn’t care for drunken Mack, both MBG and Brother agreed.  I’m gonna blame the whole thing on the improvisational nature of the eps and say that I’ll bet The Dobsonator wanted to show some different side to his character, but it just doesn’t quite work.  Also, I have the strong feeling that Val’s angry line in the previous ep (“Shut up, Mack, you’re the only one who thinks you’re being cute!”) was J.V.A.’s little improvisational way of saying, “This shit you’re doing with your character is not funny or cute; it’s just weird.”  Of course, I was not on the set while they filmed this and was still but a thought inside of my parents’ heads, still three years away from bursting into the world, so I have no idea what really went down while they were filming this stuff, but I like my theory.  I’m gonna go ahead and declare that, of all the actors doing their cool sexy improv thing for this ep, The Dobsonator comes out looking the worst, and I would declare his take on the character to be an interesting experiment that simply does not work.

J.B. sat out last ep, but now she’s here and she’s drinking hard, pounding the vodka tonics back after discovering that Sumner has got Peter’s ashes in an urn on display in the middle of the coffee table.  This discovery comes courtesy of one Richard Avery, who I will discuss at length a little later.  He opines, “Gruesome, isn’t it?” while looking at the urn and then explains to J.B. that “He keeps the ashes of his brother on the coffee table.”  This sets off a rage in J.B. that permeates the ep and then concludes with her yoinking Peter’s ashes and flinging them off a cliff later (I’m pretty sure it’s the cliff that J.B. herself fell down in the dreadful Over the Edge, although it could just be another generic cliff up in the Hollywood hills).  Before the stealing of the ashes, however, J.B. gets drunk and confrontational with, well, lots of people, but starting with Val.  Actually, she’s not too terribly confrontational with Val (the scene even ends with them embracing in a hug), but she is confessional, holding her glass of vodka tonic sloppily off to one side while talking about how she lost her parents when she was ten and then lost her brother when she was grown.  I’m gonna pay attention to this, by the way, because I’m not sure if it’s going to pay off in any way.  Val doesn’t know that Peter was J.B.’s brother, and when she tells J.B. she didn’t know he had a brother and asks when he died, J.B. just says, “I was grown.”  From Val’s perspective, J.B. is telling her about some brother she had that died, but she doesn’t know it’s Peter.

Next up on J.B.s confrontations is a nice little altercation with Paige, one that I’d say is deserved.  It’s really pretty hilarious to note that Peter’s only been dead for a teeny tiny bit and that we only just recently ended the story of who killed him and found out it was Paige.  Rather than going to prison or, you know, at least a courtroom where she discusses what happened, Paige seems to have gotten off scot-free, only having to stop at Greg’s ranch to apologize.  Here, drunken J.B. comes saddling up to Paige and asks, “How can you sleep at night?” and then says a bunch of stuff about how she doubts that Paige even cares about Peter’s death.  For the record, I agree with J.B.  As much as I like the Paige character, and I do, especially since she escaped her season eight bad storytelling problems and started to be a compelling character in her own right (a compelling character with great fashion sense), I don’t think Paige has stopped to think twice about Peter’s death.  I think she’s just relieved she didn’t really get into much trouble and she’s happy to start sleeping with new people and never think about Peter again.  J.B. pulls a nice move here by “accidentally” hitting Paige really hard with her purse as she turns to walk away.

Before we move on to the big emotional center of the ep, which is Laura’s videotapes, let’s talk about Richard Avery, the one and only Plesh, who has been gloriously reintroduced to our lives for this brief run of two eps.  Oh, how very lovely to see him again, and how very lovely that he slides back into proceedings with such grace.  In some weird way, it feels like he never left, even though he did leave, and a long time ago at that.  While talking with J.B., he says how he and Laura split up a long time ago, “Before you were born,” he says.  I wonder if this is an improvisational bit of business from The Plesh, if he’s kinda making his own meta-statement on the show, on how the last time he was around, J.B. wasn’t even a thought in any of the writers’ minds.  Later, he’s having a smoke (the first time we’ve seen him smoke a cigarette since way back in season two’s Hitchhike: Part One and, since I love watching people smoke, I adored this) when Karen comes out to catch up with him.  We get a fabulous performance from The Plesh and he tries to explain his feelings to Karen, telling her how he is sad but he’s having a hard time processing it.  He gives a nice speech, a real display of naked truth, in which he says how, “Ten years ago it was all women’s lib, all women leaving their husbands; she started making all that money and I couldn’t handle it.  I wasn’t brought up that way; none of us were.”  I think this line is a lot deeper than it might appear at first glance.  I think Richard is showing his own growth as a person but also managing to explain how society brought him up to believe it’s inherently wrong for a woman to make more money than a man.  I’d say now, with his new wife that we never see, but who is probably a very nice person, Richard has realized he was wrong way back when, but he is also able to see what lead him to feeling that way in the first place.  As my readers probably know by now and through my essays chronicling the first four seasons, I tend to have a very hard time condemning Richard.  While it’s shitty to up and leave your wife and children one night and never come back until the woman is dead, there’s something about Richard’s honesty about himself and his own flaws that keeps him sympathetic.  I still find Richard so interesting and The Plesh’s portrayal of him so brilliant and multifaceted that, if the powers that be at CBS decided to spin Richard off after this ep and make a show about, oh I dunno, Richard’s new life with his new family, I would totally watch it.

Let’s get to the big emotional centerpiece, the videotapes that Laura made for everyone before she died.  Greg announces that he’s got tapes to show everyone, and then we get nearly seven straight minutes of Laura’s goodbye messages and all the characters watching them.  Again, I wish I knew the circumstances of all this being filmed.  I want to think that Constance recorded these messages and none of the cast got to see them until they were ready to film them, that their reactions are totally genuine, and that’s probably true, but I just don’t know for sure.  Anyway, all the stuff Laura says on her tapes is great, as she pretty much just moves through all the important characters and says her goodbyes, starting with Daniel and Jason 4 (who we will never be seeing again after this ep concludes, by the way) before moving on to Val.  I think her message to Val is my favorite because it includes a fantastic callback to one of my very favorite early eps, The Lie.  You all remember when Laura and Val sat on the stairs and talked about life and Laura cried and talked about how she felt trapped in her marriage?  Laura remembers it, too, and she brings it up to Val and says how Val gave her the inner strength to make her a tougher person, which is a highly complementary thing to say.  I would say Laura’s arc over her eight years was going from the meek and mild wife of Richard to a strong and independent and sarcastic career woman who made her own decisions and didn’t take shit from anybody.  For her to say that her entire arc owes a debt to Val’s words from way back in season one is, I think, pretty tremendous.

Her words to Richard are also very moving.  She says how they shared a life together once and she doesn’t fully understand all the problems they had.  She says, “It was pretty tough sometimes; I really don’t know what to say.  I really don’t know how I feel about our time together, except that I didn’t want to leave this planet without telling you that I forgive you and I hope you forgive me.”  I find it moving that Laura allows some form of catharsis for Richard, that she doesn’t use her last words to shame him or tell him what a lousy husband he was.  Instead she tells him to let Daniel and Jason 4 enrich his life and says how their existence means their marriage was not in vain.  Ugh, yes, so good, and what a nice thing to do for Richard when she could easily make him feel bad.  Then she moves on to Karen and says how she’s probably the best friend she ever had and then, most important, she says how she wants Karen to be there for Meg.  This Meg business is really going to be important as we continue to work our way through season nine, and while it’s been important since the season began, I’d say this line to Karen is a good bit of foreshadowing about things which are about to occur.

I like this scene a lot, but it’s also got flaws.  Perhaps my criticisms about this scene boil down to watching it alone versus watching it with others present.  When I first watched this ep, I was all by myself and I cried like a little whiny bitch.  I loved the character of Laura and I was sad she was leaving, but I also loved all the acting and the grief and just the whole package.  Watching it again with MBG and Brother, there was no crying; I didn’t cry and neither did either of them.  This time, I appreciated some aspects but felt more critical of other things, most specifically Michele’s acting.  Oh sigh, remember when I first started this blog and I said Karen was my favorite character and always would be?  Well, that has changed as we’ve moved through the seasons, and while I don’t dislike the character at all the way that some fans seem to, I am frequently finding Michele to be a bit much in scenes of high drama.  Now, I don’t want to make fun of anyone’s grief or the way they express their grief; it’s an individual thing.  I also don’t wanna make fun of anyone for crying a lot considering I cry and make loud choking noises every single time I watch Titanic.  But I do get the feeling throughout this scene that Michele really really really really wants to win her Emmy and she thinks this is the scene that’s gonna get her the big win.  Pretty much as soon as Laura’s messages start playing, Karen starts crying and sobbing and making loud noises and, well, it’s just all a bit much.  I think the crying of everyone else feels natural, but it feels to me like Michele is trying to drown out everyone else with her BIG EPIC PERFORMANCE and secure that Emmy win that she actually deserved to win way back in season three.  Also, there’s a bit of business where Laura addresses Abs and says, “Just to show I haven’t lost my sense of humor, I have nothing to say,” and then Karen has this rather annoying little laugh that she lets out.  It’s just all a bit much, and I’m fairly certain that, by this point in the saga, 200 eps deep, there ain’t nobody on the set telling Michele to take it down a notch the way they might have during the first four seasons. 

The best acting is easily Devane’s.  See, just as Laura starts to address Greg on the video, he shuts it off and dismissively says, “I thought there’d be more jokes” (a great line), but later we catch up with him watching the video alone in his bedroom.  The thing I like best about this scene is the way it’s filmed; we mostly just hear the audio from the tape while the camera slowly circles around Devane and shows us his reaction to her words.  The way Devane struggles to hold in his tears is very natural, and the little choking sound in his voice when he talks feels natural, as well.  I like how he sorta responds to things on the video sometimes, and then the big kicker is the end when he starts to cry and says how he can’t figure out why Laura left him all alone.  Then he says, “I love you; I hope I don’t end up hating you,” another beautiful line dripping with complexities.  I’m not nearly smart or talented enough to go into those complexities, except to say that Greg seems to be expressing the way that humans sometimes turn towards hating people who have died because it makes it easier to deal with the loss.  Greg is saying he hopes he never allows that to happen, that he always remembers how he loved Laura and how she made him feel, not just the way that she left him and went off to die.

I’m about ready to wrap this up, but let’s finish by discussing Laura and how brilliantly Constance McCashin brought her to life for eight glorious years.  This is it, her official very final appearance on the series ever.  She is one of our very original season one cast members who has been around since the Pilot, and her exodus leaves us with only three season one veterans left (Gary, Val, and Karen), so that’s a pretty important thing to note.  Through my rewatching of the series, Laura really grew in my eyes.  Constance had a fabulously subtle style of acting that made her look very natural; sometimes she was giving a great performance and it was so great precisely because it was so subtle.  I think back over her growth throughout the series and how beautifully it evolved with that fabulous KL slow burn style.  To look at the Laura on the videotape here and remember it’s the same woman from The Lie is pretty remarkable, but the evolution happened so gradually that you hardly notice it while it’s going on.  I also think Constance, overall, felt exceptionally real in her performance.  As much as I love all these characters, some of them (Karen) tend to get a little hyperventilating during moments of high drama, but I don’t really recall any instances of Constance doing that; she always felt naturalistic.  I also think nobody could deliver an acid line quite like Constance, and her smart mouth only got more and more clever the longer she and Sumner stayed together.  I think part of what makes KL so special is that, rather than feeling like any typical nighttime soap opera, it feels like real people from the real world trapped in a soap opera, and perhaps nobody better exemplified that than Constance.  Her character will be greatly missed, but I think I remember liking all the stories that came out of her death, so I don’t think it will be in vain.

Well, that about does it for Noises Everywhere: Part Two.  I’d say it’s a big improvement over Part One, although still flawed in parts.  However, I’m not hard on these flaws because I think a lot of them are a result of these two eps’ experimental natures.  If they had chosen to do just the regular old thing with the regular old script, it might not have some of these strange little problems, but I like the experiment anyway.  I like that KL does new things and takes chances and that sometimes those chances don’t work.  Unleashing the actors to do whatever they felt like with their characters is very bold, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate 200 eps than to remind everyone that KL is a show where character is paramount.  Character always comes before drama and I feel like that is still true here, at the 200 ep mark, and will remain true all the way past the 300 ep mark and into our final ep. 

Next up, we return to more standard fair with Weak Moment.

Thursday, May 7, 2020


Episode Title: Noises Everywhere: Part One

Season 09, Episode 10

Episode 200 of 344

Written by Bernard Lechowick

Directed by David Jacobs

Original Airdate: Thursday, December 3rd, 1987

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Everyone gathers at Greg's, who pretends he is fine. Richard shows up with the boys, and says it is very telling that Laura chose to die alone rather than with them. Val is furious that Karen didn't tell her Laura was dying, and she goes off and screams at everyone that they all treat her like she can't handle anything, but she has news for them - she can. She rejects Karen's attempts to talk to her. She later talks to Gary, who is miserable that he always screws up everything in his life. Abby slams everybody to the maid. Mack gets a little drunk and makes unintentionally funny remarks that crack everyone up. Greg and Mack go to pick out a casket. Greg sees an old man who can't afford a nice casket for his wife, so Greg tells the mortician he'll pay for the woman to have a top-of-the-line funeral. Mack confronts Greg on his lack of emotion, and Greg is offended.

                Welcome to the 200th ep of KL.  Reflecting on the fact that MBG and I have now officially watched 200 eps of this series, I feel a whole mix of different feelings.  Part of me is amazed we are this far into the series, and then another part reminds me that, while 200 eps is a lot for any show, we still have another 144 left to go.  Imagine how I’ll feel by the time we reach the 300th ep, buried somewhere in season twelve.  Anyway, we’ve got a lot to discuss with this ep, so let’s get started.

                Jeez, where to start?  There’s a lot going on this ep, but I think I’ll start by reminding everyone that this ep, which ideally should be viewed back to back with the following ep, served as the end of a disk for MBG and myself.  So, we finished up with Noises Everywhere: Part One and we won’t watch Noises Everywhere: Part Two until the next time we gather together for a disk full of joy.  This is certainly not the best way to do things, but I stick to obeying whatever is on a disk and not going onto the next disk until we are ready to watch the entire thing.  Part of me thought of squeezing in Part Two and then just watching four eps on our next visit, but I decided not to do that.  I bring that up because I feel like I really can’t give my complete and full thoughts on this ep until I’ve watched the next one.  I even wondered if this had originally aired as a 2-hour event and then been split into two for syndication, mostly because of the weird and abrupt ending, but I looked it up and, sure enough, the two eps aired one week apart. 

Okay, so that’s the first thing to note about this ep; the second thing to note is that this ep (and the next) is apparently improvised.  I’ve always found this fascinating, but I also haven’t done enough of a deep dive to figure out exactly how improvised this ep was.  Did they start with some story outline of the major events they wanted to occur and then told the actors to improvise their way into that result, or did they start with absolutely nothing and just improvise the whole thing?  I know that the cast gathered at David Jacobs’ ranch and I know that they were told to stay in character for, like, a solid week, and I know that the footage was then edited together to serve as the 200th and 201st eps, but that’s about all I know.  My instinct tells me that there was a story outline, that David Jacobs probably was like, “Okay, Joan, we need Val to get really upset at Karen for some reason and we need Mack to do this and we need Greg to do this and Bob Loblaw,” and then he let them run with it.  In any case, this ep definitely has a unique flavor and I credit that to the improvisational nature.  Some of the uniqueness in this ep is very good and some of it not so much, but we will discuss all that shortly.

The last thing I want to note before I dive into the episode proper is that these two eps are directed by series creator and undisputed television genius David Jacobs, the only man in the world who can walk into a room and say, “I created both Dallas and KL.”  You just know that when David Jacobs passes away, he’s going straight to Heaven and God is going to give him some very special VIP treatment and give him the best corner apartment in Heaven, or however things work up there.  Anyway, the two parts of Noises Everywhere serve as his final directorial contribution to the show, a legacy he began back in season four, when he directed the season finale, Willing Victims.  Even though I know he stays involved with the series all the way through to the end, I do think it’s worth noting that he never directs an ep after this one.  Why do you think that is?  Did he just get busy with other things?  I notice he’s credited with creating another show called Guns of Paradise that ran from 1988 to 1991, so perhaps he was busy with that series for awhile and drifted a bit away from KL.  Obviously all these questions could be answered if David Jacobs would just call me and let me do an interview with him.  Anyway, this is his first directorial effort since the mediocre Our Secret in season eight (that was the one where Anne was inside the Super Mario 64 ice castle the whole time).

The first thing I noticed in this ep is the opening, which is basically the same as the opening we’ve been watching the last nine eps except that now Lilimae and Laura are both gone.  I confess this annoys me, because I already remember that, in the next ep, they flip back to the opening that has both actresses and then they retire them for good after that.  Why switch it for just one ep only to switch it back for the next?  Why not just stick to the opening that has both Lilimae and Laura and then use that until you’ve concluded Part Two and then switch over to the opening without them?  A stupid thing to get nitpicky on, but at least I know I’m not the only nerd, because Brother also noticed how Laura had been hanging around the opening credits even though we hadn’t seen her since The Gift of Life and he observed how this opening got rid of her as well as Lilimae.  Then I told him they’re back in the opening for the next ep and he agreed with me that this is both annoying and stupid.

After the credits, we start the ep and get the title and, engraved proudly above the title: “Episode 200.”  This is the first time we’ve had the episode number above the title; even back in the 100th ep (Negotiations), they didn’t put the number over the title.  This tells me that 200 is a way bigger deal than 100.  True, 100 means you’ve got enough eps to get sold to syndication, and that’s a big deal, but 200 is like, “Fuck yeah, we’re still around and we’re still awesome.”  Anyway, we get the title and the credits and, most exciting of all, we see “Special Guest Star: John Pleshette.”  Oh God yes, let’s just go ahead and talk about him right away, because I’ve been excited to see him return to the fold since pretty much the second he left the cul-de-sac in the closing hours of season four.  I think he’s back not just because it makes sense for the story, but also because this is the 200th ep and the creative team wants to look backward a bit before they continue moving the series forward.  The Plesh was an original veteran from the very first ep and he was a consistent highlight of the first four seasons, so I think it’s very appropriate to bring him back for the 200th ep.

How does Richard get reintroduced after over four years away?  It’s all gloriously simple and fabulously nondescript; we are told via dialogue that he will be arriving at Greg’s ranch soon and when he shows up, he just comes walking into the room.  It reminded me of when George Clooney showed up for a very special guest appearance in the last season of ER and, rather than making some big epic deal of him or teasing his arrival with lots of closeups of his feet or whatever before a face reveal, he just came walking right into the room and was like, “Hey, what’s up, I’m Dr. Ross.”  It’s similar here, because Richard just comes walking in and the strange thing is that it really feels like he never left.  It’s amazing to think that, when Richard took a hike, Kenny and Ginger were still on the show and Greg hadn’t been introduced yet.  Since that time, Kenny and Ginger have been rightfully flushed down into the sewer where they belong, Greg has joined the cast, and we’ve had a whole bunch of cast ups and downs throughout the last four years, yet here comes Richard and he doesn’t feel out of place; he feels right.

There’s so much to chew on involving Richard.  First off, when it’s announced that he’ll be showing up, Val says, “Poor Richard,” kinda mumbling it to herself, sending Abs into a minor fit where she reminds everyone that Richard walked out on his wife and children and was a big jerk and that we shouldn’t be feeling sorry for him.  Abs certainly has a point, but I do wonder why she gets so bent out of shape.  Is it because she feels like she’s always labelled as the wicked one and it makes her mad to see Richard be a jerk and then get a pass?  I also understand Val’s perspective, because Val is just a kindhearted person.  She is certainly aware of what went down between Richard and Laura, but that doesn’t mean she can’t still feel some sympathy for Richard.  Another thing I loved is that, when Richard arrives, Karen is so happy to see him and gives him a big hug and says his name in this elongated way that radiates with love (it’s like, “Richaaaaaaard!”).  God, how I loved this.  For those who have been following the blog from day one (or who have at least gone back through my previous 199 ep write-ups at some point), you should know that one of the things I loved most in the first four seasons was the relationship between Karen and Richard, the way Karen could recognize if he was being a jerk but still be a good friend to him.  There’s this fabulously non-judgmental quality to Karen as it pertains to Richard.  After he went nutty in Night, Karen defended him to the police and said how he would never do anything to hurt anybody, and then she visited him more than anybody else while he was in the sanitarium.  It goes both ways, too, because even though Richard could be cruel to Karen, let’s also remember him bringing her that big gourmet breakfast in the hospital in The Vigil or helping Karen deal with the grief process after Sid died.  I’m gonna make a slightly surprising statement and say that, while I still love Karen and always will, I now recognize why some fans get annoyed with her somewhat sanctimonious attitude, and I feel that she had more shades of gray back in the early years, exemplified by her relationship with Richard.  Back in those days, she was a little more multifaceted whereas I feel like, now, the writers would not present her as having any sympathy for a jerk like Richard, but back then she was able to.

Richard is mellow at first, making chitchat about how Jason 4 has only had plane food to eat today, stuff like that, but he kinda loses it after he finds out that Laura left town to go die alone.  He delivers a pretty stinging rebuke of the entire community by saying something like, ah fuck it, let’s just transcribe the entire speech.  “God, all these years I’ve lived with this guilt for what I did, but you guys!  Well, we all know that Knots Landing is the world’s most perfect community, I mean a veritable utopia, the solar system’s ideal community, but Laura left here to die.”  Then Abs yells at him and they argue and all that, but let’s explore what must be going on in Richard’s mind right now.  If you go back and read my writeup on The Burden of Proof, which was the last time we saw Richard until now, you’ll see that, much like Karen, I always found it hard to completely condemn the man.  He did horrible things, but there was something about him that kept me sorta in his corner, something very subtle and very brilliant about the way The Plesh played him, and so I always felt sorta sympathetic towards the character.  Now, I feel the same way.  I think Richard left town because he knew he was not suited to be a good husband to Laura or a good father to Daniel and Jason 3, that sticking around would only harm them; he even says so right here in this ep when he says, “If I’d stayed, I would have hurt them.”  While it’s shitty and cowardly to just abandon your whole family, I understand his perspective.  Then I imagine he spent four years creating this new life for himself with this new wife and new kids, yet always in the back of his mind thinking, “What a horrible person I am for what I did to Laura.”  Now he returns to town only to find out that Laura chose to die alone and that none of her friends were there with her.

I love the character of Richard and I would be very happy to discuss him for thousands and thousands of pages, but we’ve got other characters to talk about, so let’s move over to, say, Val.  There’s a memorable bit of business in this ep involving coffee.  See, Val is in the kitchen getting ready to make the coffee (in what appears to be a pour over method of brewing), but then Karen sorta saddles her way in and takes control of the coffee making process, leading to a big Val freak out in which she says, “If you want to make the coffee, Karen, you make the coffee.”  Then she goes barreling out of the house and Karen chases her and the two have a big old argument, a pretty good one.  I can see the threat of Village Idiot Val looming for pretty much the entire time that L&L will be running the show, but I like her performance right here, in which she expresses her anger at the fact that Karen knew about Laura dying and never told Val.  I believe Karen did the right thing by honoring Laura’s wishes, but I also understand why Val’s mad.  The part of her speech that I found really moving is when she says, “I had a right to know; she was my friend, too; there were things I had to say to her.”  I’ve lost my fair share of people in my life (lots of family and one friend who killed himself when we were teenagers), and I do tend to obsess over the things I wish I had said to people or the things I wish we had talked about.  I wish I had told my grandpa that I was gay before he died; back then I thought he was too much of an old straight white man and would not have understood, but now I think I didn’t give him enough credit.  That’s a tangent that is better relayed to some sort of psychiatrist, but I’m just bringing it up to point out that I understand Val’s feelings.

You can’t talk about Val without talking about Gary, and Laura’s death appears to be bringing out a lot of introspection on the part of Gary.  There’s a scene between him and Val in the kitchen (along with Greg’s baby nurse, who has to suffer through listening to the entire cast cry and talk about their feelings all while she just wants to get those damn sandwiches made).  In the scene, Gary goes on about how Laura managed to completely change her life between season one and season nine, saying something like, “Back in season one, Laura was scared and weak, but by the time the writers killed her off in the season we are currently occupying, she had become a really strong woman.”  Then he goes on about how he wishes he could be like her, that he’s never been able to turn his life around, and then there was this nice bit of synchronicity where I said out loud, “Now, that’s not true,” and then Val immediately said the same thing to Gary.  Val points out how he’s no longer drinking, how he’s way more responsible than he was at the start of the series, but Gary is being hard on himself, saying, “I’m still an alcoholic; I’m just a sober one.”  I totally agree with Val that Gary is not giving himself enough credit (think of how far he’s come since, “WE’RE RUINING LIIIIIIIIIIIIIVES!”), but, again, I get where he’s coming from.  He’s having a hard time seeing the forest for the trees and recognizing that, over the last four years, he’s really managed to fix his life up nicely. 

Let’s move over to Greg and Mack, mostly because I don’t know if I like this or not.  To set the scene, Greg is acting very stoical and emotionless about this whole development, kinda reciting the same speech about how he’s glad everyone could come but they don’t have to stay if they don’t want to, Bob Loblaw.  I think it’s very easy to see that Greg is in a state of shock and that he’s not the kind of man who is going to start crying and sobbing in front of everybody; if he needs to cry, he’s going to go off and do it alone.  However, Mack gets uncomfortably judgmental about Greg’s reaction to Laura’s death and then decides to get drunk, for some reason.  Now, the first time I watched this ep, I don’t remember having any problem with Mack getting drunk, because I believe people are allowed to get drunk after someone dies.  I got drunk after one of my family members died, and I think that’s okay, but now I think there’s just something off about Mack behaving this way.  See, the whole ep he is just pounding back beers, drinking them right out of the bottle, even bringing a bottle along with him when he and Greg go out casket shopping.  In fact, he even lifts the lid of one of the caskets and drops his empty bottle in there, which is just…..I dunno.  Is it supposed to be funny?  Is it supposed to show that Mack is not himself?  Is it supposed to explore some new avenues of his character that we haven’t explored before?  Whatever it is, I don’t think it works for me anymore, although I again think I need to sorta hold my tongue until I’ve seen Part Two.

There’s a lot of Mack drinking and sorta philosophizing throughout the ep, but I’d say these aspects probably worked the least for me throughout the ep.  Like, there’s this long montage of Mack and Karen walking around the ranch and talking about life, and I think it’s supposed to seem deeper than it actually is.  When you really listen in on what Mack is saying, it’s just kinda nonsense.  He starts out with, “What I want to know is: Why am I feeling so bad?” and then he rambles on for another two minutes and goes on about how hard it is to deal with loss and then finishes up by telling Karen, “That’s why I’m going to die first.”  Um…..okay?  I don’t even know what to make of this line except to say that I think I hate it.  I get that Mack is drunk and all that, but isn’t he being super duper selfish by declaring, “I’m going to die first” even though Karen has already gone through the crushing loss of one husband?  Does Karen really need to have her second husband die before her and send her through a repeat of her season three grief process?  Anyway, this whole montage of them walking around was probably my least favorite aspect of this particular ep; it feels like it’s struggling to be deeper and more profound than it actually is, and what winds up happening is I just get annoyed with Mack, a character I usually love.

Earlier I said how I can see why some fans find Karen a bit sanctimonious, and now I’m starting to see the same thing in Mack.  I have a real distaste for the way he judges Greg because Greg is not expressing grief in the way Mack thinks it’s appropriate to express.  The man’s wife just died; cut him a fucking break.  I’m sure Greg doesn’t need to hear Mack walking around and saying how Greg has no feelings or how Greg needs to get more visibly upset about this.  Who is he to tell someone how to express their grief?  Grief is a very private and very personal thing; some people cry, some people laugh, some people are stoical for a long time, and some people don’t cry until way later.  It’s way douchy of Mack to show up at Greg’s ranch, get drunk, and then fling judgments at Greg about how he should express himself.  Also, isn’t it also just kinda douchy to get drunk in front of Gary?  I know Gary is one of those cool alcoholics who doesn’t care if people drink in front of him, but do you really need to get hammered?  If you’re hanging out with some friend who doesn’t smoke weed because they have a big problem with addiction or something, it’s not good form to bust out a giant bong and blaze up in front of them, even if they tell you it’s okay, and I feel that’s what Mack is doing here.  Yeah, you know what, I’m just gonna go ahead and declare it: I love Mack and I love how The Dobsonator plays him, but he is my least favorite aspect of this ep; we will see if he improves in the second part.

I could write a bit more, but I think I’ll save it for Part Two, which will mark our official final appearance of Constance McCashin as Laura.  For the time being, having only watched this first part of a two-part story, I am kinda all over the place with this ep.  I appreciate it and respect it for being bold and artistic and trying to do something totally new, and I actually do think the improvisational nature brings out a real naturalism to the entire cast.  I like that and I like certain aspects of the ep more than others.  I love seeing Richard again and I enjoy the scenes with Gary and Val and Karen and the big fight over the coffee, but then I really didn’t care for Mack’s rather holier-than-thou attitude or his out of character (in my opinion) binge drinking.  Anyway, let’s all move right along to the second part of our story, Noises Everywhere: Part Two.