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.