Episode Title: If Not Now, When?
Season 09, Episode 16
Episode 206 of 344
Written by Lynn Marie Latham
Directed by Kate Tilley
Original Airdate: Thursday, January 28th, 1988
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Judith and Charles don't want to divorce until a merger goes through, so Abby enlists Greg's help to mess it up. Judith secretly tapes Abby, and tells Charles that Abby used inside information. Charles says he doesn't care - he loves Abby. Michael fends off Jody's advances and tells her he doesn't love her. She's very upset. The MacKenzies have the Williams over for dinner, and Frank acts strange. Mack is sure Frank is a cop. It's too late for Gary to appeal for paternal rights to the twins, so Jill draws up an official sounding letter for Val to sign, naming Gary as the twins' father. Val's upset and decides to get her own attorney. When Gary comes to visit, Val goes off, screaming that he is not the twins' dad, and to never come back.
Welcome to If Not Now, When?, and I wish to begin with a quick confession, which is that I do not have notes for this episode and so I am, once again, winging it, as I did with a couple of eps back in season eight (I think the really bad one where J.B. fell off the cliff?). I actually kinda liked those essays because I thought they sounded a little less stuffy or something, so maybe it’s not a terrible idea to try it every once in awhile. It also kinda helps demonstrate how much of an impression a certain ep may have given me; if I can’t really remember all the details without my notes, perhaps the ep wasn’t all that great. For instance, sitting here right now, with no notes before me, if you asked me to tell you why, say, season six’s We Gather Together is a brilliant ep, I could immediately rattle off five thousand things off the top of my head that I remember about that ep, but if you picked some random season eight bottom dweller, I might not be able to remember much about it. With that said, let’s get started talking about the ep and let’s start by discussing, oh I dunno, how about Abs and Basil Exposition.
I pick Abs and Basil Exposition both because it is boring and my least favorite storyline going on and I’d rather just get it out of the way upfront, but also because I think some stuff actually does happen in this ep as far as that story is concerned. As we get started with the ep, the first scene we see is Abs in bed and Basil talking to her about how they’re gonna get married soon. Oh yeah, did I mention that at all in the last ep? Probably not, since I’m just glazing right over this storyline and barely paying any attention to it, but yeah, they are now engaged, which only makes it odder that Basil’s cunty wife, The Ice Queen, is still hanging around. In this ep, Judith (that’s The Ice Queen) tells Basil that she’s been tape-recording conversations with Abs and other people, all very Richard Nixon. These tape recorded conversations all involve boring business deals and mergers that I don’t care about. If I wanted to hear about boring business deals and mergers all day long, I would be watching Dallas, thank you very much, and I don’t know what all this boring rich-people nonsense is doing over here on KL. Anyway, later Abs and Basil are hanging out and talking on the bed (I think it’s Abby’s bed), and she says how she can’t wait for Basil to divorce The Ice Queen and kick her to the curb, but then he starts to act like a big pussy and talk about how he can’t divorce The Ice Queen quite yet because they’re about to acquire E.M.G. (Eastern Mining Group), which sounds a lot like a company My Beloved Grammy used to work for (E.G.& G.), which we both noted with amusement. I confess that we both kinda just talk over the scenes between Basil and Abs because we don’t care; My Beloved Grammy doesn’t like this storyline and neither do I. We are both just waiting for it to end.
Anyway, later we get a scene between all three: Basil, Abs, and The Ice Queen. See, a bit before this scene, The Ice Queen said how she thinks Abs is using the information Basil is giving her to commit insider training (which is true, as confirmed by a quick and cute scene between her and Greg Sumner). In the climactic scene, The Ice Queen produces a tape and is like, “This tape shows that Abby’s doing really evil stuff or, you know, something,” and then Basil asks if that’s the only tape and, when The Ice Queen confirms it is, he takes the tape and hands it over to Abs. I guess this means he’s showing his official loyalty belongs to Abs, or maybe it’s all part of some other conspiracy, or maybe I don’t care enough to keep talking about it, so let’s move on to something interesting.
Remember a few eps back when Sexy Michael heroically saved Kristy Swanson from drowning? Well, by this point he’s probably wishing he had just let her drown, because she’s become terribly annoying and won’t shut up about how she wants Sexy Michael to sleep with her and how she, God help us all, thinks she and Sexy Michael are ready to have a baby. Look, I don’t judge the poor girl for wanting to have sex with Sexy Michael; I spend every waking hour wishing I could have sex with Sexy Michael myself, but I do judge her for being annoying and clingy and especially for that ridiculous nonsense about having a baby. What are you, twelve years old? What the fuck are you doing talking about having a baby? Why can’t you just have sex without making a baby, like a normal person? No wonder Sexy Michael doesn’t want to come anywhere near Jody; nothing kills a man’s erection faster than the idea of some disgusting screaming infant, especially when you are nineteen or however old Sexy Michael is supposed to be (I think he’s nineteen). Jody also shows herself to be utterly pathetic and devoid of any self-confidence when she declares, “I love you, and I know that you don’t like to say that you love me, but you don’t have to.” Ugh, the man doesn’t say he loves you because he does not love you. I feel like I might be sounding misogynistic right now, so let me remind everyone that I am a good little liberal feminist and I’ve always voted for Democrats and I’m one of the good guys, and I think a lot of my rage and annoyance towards Jody has less to do with her clinginess and more to do with the fact that I wish Sexy Michael was fucking me and I’m jealous that he’s spending any time with Jody. The fact that I continue to find myself jealous of fictional characters in an old ‘80s nighttime soap that went off the air 27 years ago probably speaks a lot more to my own mental issues than to anything going on in the show.
Let me take a moment to tell everyone that I still love Sexy Michael. I got a little annoyed with him for acting like a whiny little bitch throughout season eight (“Oh, boo hoo, Paige doesn’t want to sleep with me anymore"), but I still love him. I love him not just because he’s so very unbelievably beautiful (although I confess his season nine hair, that kinda mullet look, is not doing it for me and I’d prefer he went back to the hair he had in seasons five and six), but also because he’s unbelievably sweet. Even if I might make fun of him for putting up with Jody instead of just getting rid of her, part of my love for Sexy Michael is that he’s a nice person and tries to treat other people well, which is why he’d make such a fabulous gay boyfriend. Oh yeah, and that brings me to a nice little detour I’ve been meaning to take, which is that I believe this would have been the perfect time for the writers to turn Sexy Michael gay. Rather than waste everybody’s time with stories about Sexy Michael and Kristy Swanson, why not have him finally discover his true calling and become the beautiful homosexual God intended him to be? Not only would it provide us with the opportunity for lots of locker-room hookup scenes between Sexy Michael and any number of beautiful boys, but it could also help to explore complexities within the character of Karen, who I feel has become a bit boring by this point in the saga. I think that Karen likes to bill herself as a good little liberal and I think she would proudly brag to everyone about how it would be no problem if her sons were gay, but I think that, if Sexy Michael really turned out to be gay, Karen wouldn’t be so cool with it. This would have been a good chance to explore liberal hypocrisy (and I’m a big old liberal but I know that we can be major hypocrites on some issues, just like I know we can be annoyingly smug and douchy) and also just, you know, deeper complexities within the characters. Unfortunately, this never happens, and Sexy Michael sticks to the boring, square heterosexual life for the rest of his time on the series. Oh ho hum.
Let’s see, what else is going on in this ep, ah, Gary and Val! As I said before, Gary and Val’s material at this point in the saga is my absolute favorite stuff going on within the series right now, and whenever we return to this story, I am riveted. Things get started this ep when Gary pays a visit to Val, asking her to sign a paper he is planning to send her, a paper that acknowledges one Garrison Arthur Ewing as the true father of twins Bobby Ewing and Betsy Ewing. He gives Val a really lovely speech about how he loves the kids and he has bad dreams at night about losing them somehow, and how he “just wants to know that I’m connected to them officially.” He tells Val her permission has been on again/off again and that he’s worried Ben might come back and suddenly Gary won’t be the father anymore. He says he’s looking for assurance, not custody, just some rights as a father. To the surprise of Gary, Val flat rejects him saying, “No, I can’t sign a piece of paper like that; I just can’t.” I love both characters and I understand both, so I can see where Val is coming from. After a life of abandonment, Val is worried that, by signing this paper, Gary could conceivably show up and take the kids away from her. She’s lost Gary twice before, way back in the ‘60s and then again in 1982, and she just lost Ben, and she just lost Lilimae (kinda) when Lilimae went running off with Red Buttons. At this point, all Val has is her twins, so I’m sure the idea of losing them, especially after the brilliant drama of season six and the babies being taken away from her and all that, I’m sure that idea horrifies her.
Later, when Mack and Frank Williams (more on him in a minute) are meeting for the first time out on the cul-de-sac, they are making nice and exchanging some pleasantries about Frank’s busted couch, when suddenly Gary and Val come bursting out of Val’s house screaming at each other. Val is all like, “You get out of here and don’t ever come back,” and Gary is like, “Those children are mine!” and then Val is like, “You are not their father; Ben is their father!” and then she physically attacks him and Mack has to hold her back while she calls Gary a son of a bitch. I gotta say, this kinda shocked me, which is funny because we’ve heard both “bitch” and “son of a bitch” before on the series, but there was something about hearing Val say it towards Gary that was just like a major whoa, man moment. It also caused my brain to take a radical detour and reflect on how people don’t really say “son of a bitch” anymore. I never quite fully understood that as an insult, because are you insulting the man or are you insulting his mother? If you’re insulting his mother, it’s doubly super offensive, right? If you wanna get painfully literal, I’m not sure it really makes sense for Val to call him that, since I’m sure she doesn’t think Miss Ellie is a bitch, despite all their past drama. The Texas Ewings are hardly Valene’s favorite people, but of that merry band, I’d say Miss Ellie is the one who’s nicest to Val. She even bought the damn house for Gary and Val way back in 1979 and gifted them their own television show and she told Val how she didn’t stand up for her enough back in the ‘60s. In any case, I’m sure Val is just angry and screaming whatever profanity comes into her head at that moment. For the record, my go-to profanity when something bad happens or I stub my toe or whatever is, “God damn it, anyway.” That’s what always pops out when I’m really pissed off, and it just comes out real fast before I even think about it. Also, while on the subject of curse words, my favorite curse word is “bastard,” which I think remains the perfect way to describe someone who is just really evil. To say that someone, “Is a real bastard,” to me means that person is truly vile. Anyway, after the “son of a bitch” (which Val actually says twice), Gary goes speeding off and the music gets dramatic and that’s about all for the Gary/Val footage this week, but it’s obviously leading us into something new and exciting and I’m eager to get to it.
Let’s move on over to the new folks on the block, the Williams family. After a few eps with just Patricia and Julie, this ep we finally meet the father, Frank, played by the wonderful Larry Riley. While at first glance this guy might seem a little scary and intimidating, I’ll just let the cat out of the bag now and say he’s not; he’s a wonderful character and a wonderful person and I just loved him for the entire time he was on the show, or at least I remember just loving him when I first watched the series. Larry Riley is the member of the Williams family who will chalk up the most eps, even being promoted to main cast member status for seasons twelve and thirteen, and IMDb (often faulty, I know) tells me he will be in 99 eps. Very sadly, Larry Riley died of AIDS in 1992, inbetween seasons thirteen and fourteen of the series. He was only 39 years old which just tears at my heart, because I love him on the show and I think he’s a great actor and I also like the music he contributes to the series a little later down the road. Also, some interesting random trivia: I just finished watching Hill Street Blues and the entire Williams family appears on that show at one point or another, so if fans wanna see more of them, there you go. Also, that was just a really good show so everyone should watch it.
But I’m getting way ahead of myself here. At this moment, we the viewers in 1988 still don’t really know what’s going on with this family. When Frank is first introduced, he is wide eyed and consistently looks like he’s going to piss his pants in fright. Also, he gets very mad at the movers when they tell him how his couch is going to be delayed a few days, and then a little later, when the couch actually arrives on time, Frank flips it over and goes to town on it with a knife. He slices the bottom up to shreds, desperately looking for some sort of bug or other recording device in the couch. It’s this bit of couch dissection that leads us to his first interaction with Mack, who observes the gutted couch lying outside on the street. Frank says how the movers were careless, and Mack is like, “Looks like they went at with a knife.” Later, the Williams go a nice dinner at the MacKenzie house and Frank tells them that he sells chemicals like chlorine or whatever to, you know, companies. Then he asks if the neighborhood is pretty safe and Karen delivers the ultimate lie of the 20th century with, “Well, we have to lock our doors, but it’s pretty quiet.” She fails to mention that in the last eight seasons, we’ve had a violent biker invasion, her first husband was killed by mobsters, a crazy sociopath moved onto the block and then killed a popular young singer, who then came back from the dead as a different character who, coincidentally, also became a popular young singer; that a young son of a preacher man moved into the neighborhood and quickly went insane and tried to kill that second iteration of the popular young singer, and that Val’s husband recently disappeared to South America after becoming part of a terrible espionage plot that the very worst of the daytime soaps would never even touch, and that’s just a few of the things that Karen neglects to mention towards the new family. I’m not so sure that “pretty quiet” describes Seaview Circle at all.
I think that’s about all I’ve got to say about this ep. Did I like it? Yes, I did, quite a bit, with the main exception being (of course) the one going on between Abs and Basil, which is pure Nyquil mixed with Enya music. Aside from that (and the Jody-related material that I’m fairly indifferent to), I liked all the stuff going on in this ep. I love the Williams family, so I’m excited to see them all here and to meet Frank for the first time, and I love all the stuff with Gary and Val, who, in my eyes, remain the heart and soul of the series. So yeah, good ep, if not exactly a stunning and brilliant 48 minutes of television. Let’s move right along to In Too Deep.