Thursday, June 25, 2020

KNOTS LANDING Episode 205 of 344: ANOTHER MODEST PROPOSAL


Episode Title: Another Modest Proposal

Season 09, Episode 15

Episode 205 of 344

Written by Robert Porter

Directed by Lorraine Senna

Original Airdate: Thursday, January 21st, 1988

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): The MacKenzie's miss Meg when Greg takes her home. Later, Greg asks them to watch her again. Johnny cons his way into staying at Lotus Point, and spies on another guest. He steals money from this man, then tells him, and gives it back. The man says he'll get Johnny a job. Charles brings Abby to meet his friends, and Judith shows up. She is very snide to Abby, so Charles tells Judith he has asked Abby to marry him. Val and the twins decorate the house for Gary's birthday, but Jill has planned a surprise party for him, so Gary doesn't get to Val's until the twins are asleep. Val's furious, and yells that he has no sense of responsibility. Their argument wakes the twins, and they call Gary "Daddy." Jill's upset that Gary didn't come home with her. Gary tries to make up with her, but she tells him he has to make a choice. Later, she apologizes and says that he doesn't have to abide by Val's terms. She reminds him she is a lawyer, and says she will help him.

                Welcome to Another Modest Proposal, and as I sit here, looking at my notes, I see that the very first thing I jotted down, right after the ep title and airdate, was “Sexy Michael with shirt unbuttoned at breakfast table.”  Yes, this is easily the most important development of the ep, so let’s discuss it in great detail.  It’s even better than it sounds in my notes, because it’s not just that he has the shirt unbuttoned; it’s that he has it fully unbuttoned, like Mark Patton in Nightmare on Elm Street 2, and omigod I love it.  This is a great way to start this ep.  Aside from that, I don’t have to much to say about him right now.  I should note that I’ve been kinda ignoring the story of him and his new girlfriend, the super clingy and needy Kristy Swanson, but I’ll discuss it a little later, as it becomes a more important part of the plot a few eps down the line.



                The majority of this ep concerns itself with Gary and Val (yay!), but we also get a smidge of stuff with the MacKenzie family.  See, the main story for them right now is the whole Meg thing.  Last ep, Greg took Meg back, so we begin this ep with the family in the kitchen (Sexy Michael with shirt unbuttoned) and Mack talking about how much he misses Meg.  It should be obvious to anyone with eyes, or even people without eyes, that Mack has fallen hopelessly in love with this little girl.  It’s not hard for me to sympathize with Mack, who would now be 45 years old.  He’s getting closer and closer to 50, he never even knew he had a daughter until she was a fully grown, super sexy Nicolette Sheridan, and so he’s never had the chance to create a human being and watch it grow before his very eyes.  Of course he would be starting to feel a special kind of love for Meg, who the family has been watching for quite awhile.  I also like the sweet way that Mack’s feelings are presented; for instance, early in the ep, he’s visiting Sumner at his ranch and noting the new paintings and general look of this very white-walled and sterile living space (a quick note: I really like all white walls and sterile houses; I’m also a big fan of Miles Dyson’s house in Terminator 2).  I did notice that when Greg asks him what he thinks of the space and the general feng shui, Mack nods and says, “It’s interesting, it’s different,” which usually is a nice way of telling someone you don’t like their place without actually saying so.  Then Mack whips out Meg’s little baby bib and is like, “Look what I found around the house, her little bib.”  It’s that last part, her little bib, that I find so cute, just the way Mack delivers the line, like he’s already nostalgic for the days of having Meg in the house even though that was only something like a week ago.



                However, a little later, during one of those classically KL bedroom scenes of a couple preparing for slumber together, Karen and Mack are talking about Greg and Meg and the whole thing, and Mack tries to make pretend like he doesn’t want Meg coming back again.  When Karen says how they’ll probably be seeing a lot of Meg because of Greg being a single parent, Mack is like, “No, not in this house, I’ve reached my limit.”  I don’t think he’s fooling Karen and I don’t think he’s fooling the viewing audience; he’s only trying to fool himself.  What he really can’t handle is the idea of having Meg for awhile and then having to say goodbye again when Greg returns to get her, so he’s trying to pretend like he was just being a good sport with the baby this whole time and that he’s actually relieved she’s gone now.  If anyone had any doubt that Mack is fudging the truth, we need look no further than the final scene and the freeze frame ending of this ep, in which Greg shows up again asking for the family to take care of Meg.  Rather than reject the request the way he claimed he would to Karen mere hours ago, Mack takes the baby and starts kissing her cheek and is like, “We’d just love to have her.”  Everyone in the room can feel the sheer love pouring through Mack’s soul as he holds this little baby girl.

                Meanwhile, new arrival Johnny Rourke gets some alright material this week, including the introduction of one Leland Palmer.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s Ray Wise himself, roughly two years before the mystery of “Who Killed Laura Palmer?” would sweep the pop culture.  I’d like to note that in addition to being Leland Palmer, Mr. Wise is also a Transmorpher who had already popped up on Dallas several years beforehand.  Over there, he appeared in eight eps, all in 1982, as Blair Sullivan, who was Lucy’s modeling agent.  Ray Wise is easily one of my favorite actors, and he’s one of those actors who has appeared in five thousand different things and it’s often just teeny tiny parts, but when you give him a big juicy role like on Twin Peaks, he really shows off his chops.  For those who are not Peaks fans, you may have seen this actor in Robocop, as one of the bad guys who brutally annihilates Frank Murphy at the start of the film.  He also showed up a few times on Mad Men and he just overall keeps busy.  Here, he is playing “The Dealer,” and I don’t believe we ever get a name, but he’ll be around until Bouncing Babies.  I would say that “The Dealer” is a drug dealer and we first see him when Johnny Rourke camps out outside of his little motel room and takes photos and shit.  Later, Johnny sits down with Leland Palmer at Lotus Point and exchanges random vaguely threatening dialogue and, you know, stuff happens.  I’ll return to Johnny Rourke and Leland Palmer a little down the line, when they have more scenes of consequence.



                Oh blah, Basil Exposition is still on the show (and will be until Lawfully Wedded), so he and Abs share some more generally uninteresting material this week.  Is it bothering any of you that I’m barely even attempting to write about this storyline?  I know I’m getting lazy, because if this was happening n the first batch of seasons, I’m sure I would go into great, big, agonizing detail about why I don’t like the story and why I think we need to move on.  Well, now we are past the 200 ep mark and I’ve written about all the eps before this one, and I’m tired.  At this point, if I don’t like a storyline such as this one, I’m more in the mood to just say it sucks and glaze over it.  Honestly, I’m not even entirely sure what this storyline is about.  It’s something involving big business and, well, murders and executions mostly (mergers and acquisitions), the sort of generally uninteresting business affairs that would usually occupy the Dallas plots.  In this case, I think Basil is trying to screw Abs (metaphorically) in some way and I think he’s in cahoots with The Ice Queen to do so, but again, I’m not really paying much attention.  We have Abs until the concluding hours of season ten, and with time ticking away rapidly on this character, I hate to see her bogged down in such a drivel storyline.  The interesting thing is that I don’t remember disliking this storyline much at all upon first viewing.  I again think this boils down to me watching so many eps in a single day; I would just power through so fast that if I didn’t like a story, I barely had time to notice it before it moved on.  Now, looking at each ep individually and in great detail, a storyline like this becomes far more noticeably boring.  Also, I remind you that my problems never lie with Donna and her fabulous acting; the main problem is that the story is dull and they picked a horrible person to pair her with, a person who looks like he’d really be on absolutely any other set for absolutely any other movie or TV show than the one he is currently on.  If I was running things, I would have fired Basil after one ep of him not even trying to give a performance.  If you think you’re so much better than the show just because you’re snooty and British and were in a famous Shakespeare movie, then I say take a hike and go make another Shakespeare movie.  Shakespeare is great, but we all know he’s lying in his grave bemoaning the fact that, in his entire career, he never managed to create anything quite as sublime as KL.


                So that does it for Abby’s boring storyline, but fortunately the material for Gary and Val is sizzling this week.  One of my favorite things about this season so far, in addition to an overall feeling that the show is returning to its roots and to what it is always meant to be about, is that we are getting such a heavy focus on Gary and Val.  I wonder if Ben had left in the closing hours of season seven, as originally planned, if this storyline would have come to us in season eight and saved us from the debacle of Hackney.  In any case, perhaps the pain of sitting through Hackney has only elevated my joy at getting such great Gary/Val stuff this year.  The main plot for them this ep is that Gary is having a birthday party, and yes, I have something to say about that, something I brought up eons ago and which is now finally paying off.  You all remember our backdoor pilot to KL, the Brief Dallas Interlude entitled Return Engagements?  Well, in that ep, we began with Miss Ellie being sad and mopey (so what else is new?) because it’s Gary’s birthday and she wants to see him.  Well, that ep aired December 20th of 1979 and, in my essay for it, I wrote this:

                “Let’s take a quick parlay here, shall we?  This episode aired on December 20th, right?  Now, presumably it takes place on or around that day.  Obviously the episode spans a couple of days in total (I think just two or three), but for the sake of argument, let’s just say December 20th.  I am very curious to keep my eyes open and see if Gary’s late-December-annoyingly-close-to-Christmas-birthday is ever mentioned again, or perhaps even contradicted on the KL series.  In fact, I’m thinking really hard now and I can’t even remember if Gary ever celebrates a birthday on KL.  Still, as we follow along, I shall pay strict attention to see if his birthday is ever mentioned again, and if it remains consistent with what is established in this episode, okay?”

                Well, here we are, and Gary is celebrating a birthday now, but the timeline doesn’t quite add up.  That was December 20th and this ep is airing January 21st.  Hmmm, should I just go with it because the birthdays are at least fairly close together?  Could I perhaps hypothesize that Gary is celebrating his birthday a little late now?  Or should I retroactively go back to that Dallas ep and declare that it was, in fact, not taking place on December 20th?  I don’t think I’m gonna do that, so I’m afraid I have to call this out as a flaw.  We already passed the Christmas ep this season, so we know it’s officially a new year and December came and went without a Gary birthday, which is now happening in January.  It might also be worth asking how old Gary is supposed to be by this point.  In real life, the man was born in 1946, which would make him 42 years old at this point, although I think the character is perhaps supposed to be older.  They say he was 17 years old when Lucy was born, somewhere around 1962, so actually I suppose his birthday does make sense and he’s probably playing a 42 year old character.  Probably nobody else besides me cares as much about this stuff, but it’s the little details I look for in a show, and one of my big peeves is when writers can’t even keep birthdays straight.  As you’re doing your first ep, you should write the characters down, give them official birthdays that always stay the same, hang that information on a wall in the writers room, and ensure that you will always stay accurate to what’s already been established.



                However, the age of Gary isn’t the focus of this ep, but rather his relationship to Val and the twins.  See, the twins are all excited to prepare a birthday party for Gary, only he doesn’t show up until way later.  I had forgotten the exact circumstances leading to his tardiness, but I did a quick review over the ep and now I remember what happens.  Basically, he’s wanting to head out the Lotus Point doors to get to Val’s house for the party, but it turns out there’s this big epic surprise party for him being thrown at Lotus Point, and he gets sucked into it.  We see him trying to get away, telling J.B. how he really has somewhere to go, but it’s futile and he winds up being late to Val’s house, leading to a fabulous confrontation between the two.  You could play a drinking game for every time I go on about how “both characters have valid points of view,” so take a shot now, cuz I’m gonna say it again.  Gary did try to shuffle out of Lotus Point and he did give Val a call to tell her he’d be late, but I still understand why Val’s mad.  How do you just forget your husband running off on you with another woman?  You probably can’t, not really, and so even though that was six years ago, I think the memories are still painful for Val, and she’s worried about putting trust in Gary again only to have it betrayed.  In this case, she is trusting him to show up on time for a birthday the twins are throwing themselves, and then he tells her he’ll be a little late and actually shows up tremendously late.  After the twins have been put to bed, we have the confrontation, and it’s a doozy.  If I had more energy, I would transcribe the whole thing down, because Gary gets a tremendous speech detailing all the past history.  I noticed this speech and appreciated it because I think it does a great job of keeping viewers, especially potential new viewers, up to speed on what’s been going on for the last few years.  This is the ninth season, so a lot has gone down, and while a speech like the one Gary gives, going over how he and Val split up, slept together one last time, how she got pregnant and didn’t tell him about the truth, all of that is brought up in his speech, but it’s done elegantly, never feeling like the writers being like, “We need a quick exposition dump.”  Gary makes a valid point when he says he never got the chance to be their father because Val didn’t tell him the truth way back in 1983.  One of the main takeaways of this scene is that Val still views the true father of the twins as a deep dark secret nobody can ever know about.  When Gary brings it up, she covers his mouth with her hand and tells him never to say that again.  Then Gary says how he knows for sure that they are his kids and he goes marching off, leading us smoothly into what’s about to go down in our next batch of eps.

                Meanwhile, lurking in the background quietly and growing and growing in my esteem is one J.B.  One of my favorite little scenes in this ep involves J.B. coming home, only to nearly slip on a little toy truck that certain twins left on the floor.  She kicks the truck in frustration, which I loved, and that only prompts the toy to land on the ground and start taking off driving, to which J.B. says, “Great, so now the place is haunted.”  This is, like, a twelve second scene, but what a great way to show J.B.’s growing frustrations, because not only is it kinda funny, but also good foreshadowing.  Anyone who has seen season nine vividly remembers where things are heading for the season finale, and it’s all percolating right here before our very eyes, but in small, subtle ways.  Later, when Gary returns, J.B. says how, “We are all leading the same life, one great big Gary Val Jill Bennett Ewing life and I am sick of it,” to which Gary says dejectedly, “I don’t blame you.”  Later, J.B. fucks Gary in the car, which seems to be like a method to make sure he stays in her life.  She’s getting worried about his increasing interactions with Val, his one true soul mate, and while Val is sweet and great and wonderful, I imagine she isn’t too kinky or wild in the sack, so J.B. is going to be the wild woman that Val can never be.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Seasons nine and ten are where it’s at as far as the J.B. character is concerned.  These are the seasons she truly comes alive, much as I may have enjoyed her in the past.  When any KL fan thinks of J.B., I’m sure they head straight to these two seasons.  Everything that’s happened and everything that’s going to happen is unfolding in that fabulous slow burn KL way, and it’s going to pay off big time as we finish this season and begin the next.


                Aside from the boring and stupid Abs/Basil storyline, I really liked this ep.  I possibly liked it the best of the five eps housed on this disk.  I think the stuff with Mack and Meg is building nice and slow and I’m liking everything I’m seeing there, but it’s really the Gary/Val stuff that makes this ep come alive.  Both actors are doing great work and they play off of eachother so well now that they’ve been working together for so very long.  We also got Leland Palmer and that’s pretty exciting and so, yeah, I liked it a lot and thought this was a real good ep.  Let’s move right along to a new disk, beginning with If Not Now, When? 

Thursday, June 11, 2020

KNOTS LANDING Episode 204 of 344: TIES THAT BIND


Episode Title: Ties That Bind 



Season 09, Episode 14



Episode 204 of 344



Written by Lou Messina



Directed by Joe Coppoletta  



Original Airdate: Thursday, January 14th, 1988



The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Johnny wants to blackmail Paige for helping her with her fake death, but she tells him everyone already knows. Mack invites Johnny to stay with them, much to Paige's chagrin. While Karen is out of town, Meg gets really sick. Pat comes to the rescue and tells the hospital what's wrong in medical terminology. Mack asks if she's a nurse, but she says no, the same thing happened to Julie. Paige tells Greg about what happened, and he and Mack stay with Meg at the hospital. Greg sings to her. Karen rushes back, and Greg and the MacKenzies realize what a bond Mack and Karen have to Meg. Meg is okay. Judith comes to town, and Abby is upset that Charles jumps at her every command. Judith tells Abby he will never leave her, and Charles packs to go home with Judith. Abby is really angry. At the last minute, Charles decides not to go home, and asks Abby to marry him.


Welcome back and welcome to 1988; what was going on when last we talked about our beloved friends on the cul-de-sac?  Well, the mysterious bearded “Irishman” Johnny Rourke showed up, so let’s get started by talking about him.  Oh wait, actually, before we start talking about him, let’s talk about the title.  We have already had, I believe, one recycled title on the series (there were two eps called, A Change of Heart, one in season five, another in season seven; the season five one was better), and this one comes close.  There was an ep back in season four called Cutting the Ties that Bind, and so I guess someone decided that was a good title that could use a little trim, and now here we are with just Ties That Bind.  Anyway, moving on.




 This ep, Johnny meets up with Paige and we get some random mysterious dialogue exchanged between the two of them, although one line I jotted in my notes comes from Paige directed at Johnny and it’s, “You still can’t keep your accent straight.”  I don’t remember if we find out that Johnny is an imposter Irishman or not, but I have the feeling that we do, or else why would this line be here?  I guess perhaps it could be here to make up for the fact that this actor is not really Irish, and the writers were worried his accent might slip?  Also, Johnny tells Paige, “I know all your dirty little secrets,” which is….interesting.  Are the writers still trying to keep Paige as this character constantly draped in mystery?  Must we do this?  When are they just gonna let her be Paige, the Paige I know and love?  A big part of the problem with season eight was all the Paige stuff, because we had to spend so much time deciding whether she was really Mack’s daughter, whether she was really alive or dead, whether she was the real Paige Matheson or an imposter, and then of course we had the Mack/Sumner baby daddy drama at the start of this season.  I’m ready for the writers to drop the mystery act around Paige and just let her live and breathe as Paige.



Speaking of Paige, I also jotted in my notes, “We’re getting a lot more of Paige + Sumner one-on-one,” and we are.  I already let the cat out of the bag and said these two start shagging at some point in the future, though for the life of me, I can’t remember when.  Does the shagging commence this season?  The next season?  The season after?  I honestly can’t remember, and since both Paige and Sumner will be with us until the curtain call in 1993, I have a hard time remembering when their time together begins or ends or what have you.  Ironically, I put that little bit in my notes, yet I can’t even remember the two of them sharing a scene in this ep, although perhaps they did and I just wasn’t paying enough attention.  See, the majority of Sumner’s action in this ep occurs by being absent.  See, Meg gets sick at some point (with….some….disease?) and so she has to be rushed to the hospital (a development which involves Pat Williams, but we’ll get to her) and during the whole drama, it becomes achingly clear that Mack has very special feelings for Meg, feelings of parental love towards the small little product of the recently departed Laura’s loins.  Yup, looks like Mack is turning into the father for Meg while Sumner stays out of the picture on his pretend vacation.  However, Greg does show up at the hospital at a certain point and stay with Meg, even singing to her at one point (Anything Goes, which always makes me think of Debra Winger singing it in Terms of Endearment and Kate Capshaw singing it in the opening of Temple of Doom), but the general point is to show that Karen and Mack are sorta turning into the unofficial parents of Meg.  How much longer can this go on?  I feel like I’m kinda brushing over this story, and part of that is the fact that I’m writing this at the library on a computer with time limit, and another part of it is that I have so many damn eps to write about, so I wanna make it clear that I really like this storyline.  I believe I predicted at some point that season nine would be Greg Sumner’s most interesting season, and I feel like that was an accurate prediction.  Watching the way he tries to move on from the loss of Laura and how he behaves towards Meg is just fascinating stuff.



I mentioned how the Meg hospital drama coincides with the Williams family, so let’s discuss that.  First off, I want to say that I just love the certain sense of paranoia that’s in the air as we first meet these characters.  See, right near the start, Johnny Rourke is hanging around the cul-de-sac, looking bearded and slightly creepy, playing his stupid little guitar (I forgot to mention how Johnny later graces us with his musical talents, which can’t even hold a sad little Bic lighter to Ciji’s or Cathy’s brilliant work), and little Julie is out in the front yard.  Patricia comes out and tells her to get inside and then sorta whispers, “Because there’s someone here,” and then as they go inside, the camera just sorta stays on Johnny and, I dunno, but I just liked it.  I like the idea that the cul-de-sac is supposed to be a safe space, but it’s really not, and I like the kinda creepy aura of this stranger waiting on the street along with the new neighbors who have just arrived and seem to have secrets of their own.



Meg suffers a temperature or whatever for a good chunk of the ep, and then Mack is on the phone with her doctor when Pat and Julie come walking in.  Pat kicks into action immediately, getting all serious and saying, “She’s convulsing,” and then taking the phone from Mack and delivering some lines straight out, well, if not ER, then perhaps General Hospital.  See, Pat goes all doctor and is like, “Call E.R. STAT, we’ll be transporting a ten to twelve month old female who’s undergone generalized seizures through all extremities, also experiencing high fever.”  I guess maybe I shouldn’t make fun of the dialogue, but it’s just that “STAT” part that makes me laugh, like the writers were sitting around like, “We gotta kinda subtly show that this character used to be a doctor or nurse, how about we have her say ‘STAT’, all official like?”  Also, I’m pretty sure that later in the ep, when Mack and Julie are talking in the hospital, we hear someone over the intercom say “STAT” like seventeen times, which further amuses me.  Anyway, after that, we get an intense scene of baby transportation as they all take off in Mack’s Jeep, bound for the hospital.  After Meg is all taken care of, Mack says something to Pat about, “It sounds like you were a nurse,” or something like that, and Pat deflects and says that Julie had the same problem.  As I’ve said, I’m a big fan of the entire Williams family, and this ep gives them some good material, but I’ll save a lot of my thoughts for a little later, when we meet the glory that is Frank, a character we should be meeting, oh, STAT!



We’ve been getting some great Gary/Val stuff this year, but my notes don’t make any mention of them, nor does the TV.com summary, so I think they take a bit of a backseat this ep.  However, to the joy of absolutely nobody in the viewing audience in 1988 or in the present day, we do get a shit ton of Abs and Basil Exposition, plus we also get Basil’s cunty wife, The Ice Queen.  I looked the actress up on IMDb and her name is Eileen Barnett and she’s in, well, stuff.  She looks like one of those actresses who’s in one ep of every TV show ever, plus it also says she was in Days of Our Lives.



Anyway, I’m not a big fan of this character nor am I a big fan of this storyline.  Mostly what happens in this ep is that Abs goes out to dinner with Basil (and I did really like how an early scene of her getting ready in front of the mirror was shot) and then The Ice Queen shows up to ruin it.  Then she has a random bitchy encounter with Abs in the bathroom and they exchange bitchy dialogue.  Actually, before that, Basil does a super weird thing that makes me dislike him even more where Judith (that’s The Ice Queen) shows up and he’s just like, “Abs, this is my wife!” and then they try to…..sit down to a pleasant dinner?  This just makes Basil look like a spineless coward, or at least a total douche.  Anyway, this storyline is boring and I didn’t really even bother to pay that much attention to it and I don’t really feel like writing that much about it, so let’s just move on.


Actually, I do have one thing to say about this storyline, and it’s a compliment towards Donna, who always comes out smelling like a rose.  Through the course of this rewatch, my esteem for the character of Abs and the acting of Donna has only risen.  She was always in my top five characters, but I’m pretty sure she’s gonna make it to #1 by the time all is said and done.  The reason that I think she deserves special mention is because she never looks bad, no matter what the writers give her.  In all her time on the show, the only bad moment I can think of is “Noooooooo” from somewhere in season two (actually, I remember it was the season finale, Squeezeplay) but aside from that, if you asked me to think of moments of bad acting from Donna, I would have nothing.  I think the writers are doing her a disservice with this boring storyline, but she doesn’t look bad within it.  I feel like Shack has a similar power to always come out looking good, and it’s something I appreciate about him, as well.  Basically, I could see why Donna would be getting bored playing the character by this point if this is all the writers are gonna give her to do, but she doesn’t ever give a bad performance; she’s always bringing top quality.


You know, aside from that, I don’t think I have much else to say.  I thought this ep was good, even if, at the moment, I can’t really think of anything in particular that was, say, too visually interesting about it (aside from the mirror shot).  It’s more of a feeling of overall satisfaction with the series at this point.  I might not love every story, but in general, I like the way the show is making me feel right now and the paths we are headed down, so let’s just head on down to the next ep, Another Modest Proposal.