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.