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.