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?