Episode Title: Bouncing Babies
Season 09, Episode 20
Episode 210 of 344
Written by William Devane
Directed by Nicholas Sgarro
Original Airdate: Thursday, February 25th, 1988
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Paige tells Johnny that he's just for sex, and she won't go out with him. Abby loans Lotus Point the $2 million to build the marina. Olivia's really upset that Abby called off the wedding, and yells at her for stealing husbands and not keeping a man or giving her a normal life. The MacKenzies are very upset and miss Meg terribly when Greg brings her home. Greg builds a playhouse for Meg, but realizes how tough it will be to raise her. Upset, he brings Meg back to the MacKenzies and asks them to be Meg's parents. He wants them to tell Meg about Laura, but says he will stay out of their life. Seeing how upset Mack and Karen are without Meg, Val has a change of heart. She signs the paper saying Gary is the twins' father. She gives it to him and says she knows he loves them, and would want him to raise them if anything ever happened to her. He says she's a good mother and rips the paper up. They hug.
Welcome to Bouncing Babies, an episode that I predict will be a highlight of season nine. Now that we’ve evacuated the toxically boring Basil Exposition storyline out of the show, we can move our focus over to more interesting affairs and we’re also gonna get to do some serious exploring of the character of one Gregory Sumner. It’s worth noting that Devane penned this ep himself, his second writing effort for the show after season eight’s very mediocre Survival of the Fittest. Season eight seemed to cultivate badness around it, so I won’t blame him much for that episode being pretty forgettable, especially since this one is going to prove so much better. As you can probably tell from reading that TV.com description, this ep is gonna heavily focus on Greg, so I suggest we begin by talking about the other characters first and saving Greg for last.
Probably last on my list of currently compelling characters would be Paige and Johnny Rourke. Now, please understand that I love Paige and the way Nicollette plays her and all her fabulous outfits, but I’m fairly indifferent to Johnny’s existence and he’s kinda sucking Paige into his material right now. I guess some fans really hate Johnny, but I don’t hate; I just sorta don’t care. Anyway, in this ep, he meets up with Leland Palmer in the happiest place on earth, the men’s locker room. Johnny compliments Leland Palmer’s little ‘80s yuppie tennis outfit and says something about how he spends a lot of money on clothes just to chase rubber balls around and sweat, to which Leland Palmer says, “I don’t sweat.” Obviously this line is meant to come and go and we’re supposed to not think about it much, but I obsessed over it forever and wondered what it’s supposed to mean. Is Leland Palmer just trying to sound cool? If so, he has failed, because why else do you go a health club and play tennis or racquetball or whatever unless you’re going to, you know, sweat? If you do an entire workout and don’t sweat at all, have you really had a workout? Isn’t that why they provide the showers for you to clean up after you’re done working out and sweating? In any case, I guess the line is meant to sound cool, but I just thought it was weird and dumb, but I still love Leland Palmer and I note with sadness that this is the last time we’re going to see him on this series. While he didn’t really do all that much except give Johnny money and kill a blonde chick, I enjoyed looking at him and his unique face and line delivery, mostly because Ray Wise is such a great actor who can make anything interesting, even the tiniest of characters. Anyway, let’s all say goodbye to Leland Palmer.
Aside from his rendezvous with Leland Palmer, Johnny also inserts his penis inside of Paige and then we later catch up with them in the morning. Paige is getting dressed and complaining about her crumpled dress and getting ready for whatever her day entails (“Meeting a client” is all she says). Then Johnny starts talking about how Paige only wants sex, not romance, not love, and Paige says affirmative, telling him, “I like to think of it as quality time, and when I do see you, I don’t want to waste any of it.” Honestly, I don’t understand why Johnny is acting like such a girl here; what kind of a man turns down the opportunity for guaranteed no-strings-attached sex? I would imagine straight men spend their lives trying to find that kind of arrangement, so why complain about it when you get it? If I was able to plow Paige nightly, I would just be happy for the opportunity and I wouldn’t give a shit about having some deeper relationship with her. I suppose Paige has some sort of magical sexual powers because she also turned Sexy Michael into a groveling twelve year old girl last season, something I hated to witness, and now here’s Johnny wanting some sort of deep, meaningful relationship with her.
Later, we get a quick scene between Paige and Greg where Greg is running off to the MacKenzies to pick up Meg. It’s actually kinda a douche move, in my opinion, because Paige has gone through the effort of driving all the way out to Greg’s ranch (which, geographically, I’m having a hard time getting a handle on as far as its distance from Seaview Circle, but I get the feeling that it’s pretty far away) and when she arrives, he’s already speeding away in his own car. When Paige says how she thought Greg wanted to see a sculpture, he just says another time. Couldn’t he have called her? Nothing pisses me off more than getting all prepared and going off to meet somebody only for them to ditch on you; it’s totally bad form. However, I still enjoy the scene because of the sizzling chemistry between Nicolette and Devane, particularly when Greg gets wind of the fact that Paige never came home the night before and, when she tells him she was having a pajama party, he asks, “Who’s pajamas were you in?” I’m gonna take a guess and say that this line was probably in the script, mostly because Devane wrote the script himself, but I also still wonder if he just improvised it on the set as they were filming. Oh sigh, how I wish I could sit down with Devane to have a beer and discuss all ten glorious years of his time on the show. How I would love to go through each and every line of dialogue with him and ask, “Was this improv? Was this? How about that?” Bill, please, I know you’re out there, I know you’re reading this, please call me and we’ll set up a nice lunch date.
The big drama of Gary and Val and the battle for parental rights continues and, I think, concludes in this ep. We first catch up with Val and her lawyer, and real fast, I want to note that I was trying to figure out the actor who played this lawyer, but I couldn’t because I don’t remember the lawyer’s name (if they ever even say it) and I just sorta looked through the IMDb credits for this ep and tried to find a definite match but had no luck. I have a feeling that this actor may have been in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, playing the crazy teacher that Lisa Zane meets up with when they go to explore Springwood. Am I way off on this? What is this actor’s name? In any case, I suppose that’s not as important as the contents of this scene, in which he sorta goes over the timeline of the babies with Val. He asks if Gary raped her, and I really like Val’s reaction, which is like total horror, and the way she says, “What?” I like the fact that rape is not this thing that happens on KL and then gets shuffled under the carpet like on, say, Dynasty. I feel like on other nighttime soaps, they might have had Gary rape Val at some point and then they would have just sorta gotten over it and Gary could still be our lead male protagonist (again, look no further than Blake Carrington flat-out raping Krystle in early season one of Dynasty, and let's not even get into Adam raping Kirby and her proceeding to fall in love with and marry him), but KL is a better series that doesn’t use something awful like rape for such crass purposes. I like that you can tell from Val’s reaction that Gary would never rape her or anybody. Gary has his flaws but he would never do something like that, so it’s a small detail of the scene that I liked. I also like how the lawyer asks her if she was married to another man when they conceived the babies and all that stuff. Remember that this baby stuff has been going on since late 1983 and we are now in early 1988, so the writers are doing a good job of keeping us up to date and explaining how things went down without it feeling like a big exposition dump. I also enjoy Val’s timid reaction to the questions; it’s like she’s kinda embarrassed to have to admit all this stuff to her lawyer.
Anyway, the basic plan via Val’s lawyer who may or may not have been in Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare is that they will go to court, but the judge will probably dismiss the case. However, things don’t quite work out that way, because after a bit of waiting, Val’s lawyer comes out and tells her the judge wants to keep reviewing some elements of the case; he didn’t just throw it out. At this point, Val kinda freaks and starts screaming at Gary and J.B., telling Gary how he’s not going to win, that he doesn’t have a chance, and then she asks, “Did she put you up to this?” I’d say this officially makes Val and J.B. into mortal enemies, something that will only grow and expand beautifully as we propel ourselves through the rest of season nine and then hit season ten. I appreciated this scene because, even though there’s of course drama with Val yelling, it’s still done in that fabulous KL way in which it’s not too over-the-top. Val screams and yells a little, but then Gary and J.B. leave and she sorta calms down and we move on to a new scene. On the other nighttime soaps, I feel like Val would pick up a chair and throw it at J.B. and then they’d have some big cat fight right in the courtroom or something like that. On KL, we get a little more subtlety.
Another thing I love about this storyline is the way it concludes, which is also done in that most fabulously down-to-earth KL way. On another show, this business with Gary and Val and the twins could lead into an entire year-long custody battle or something like that. Instead, Val talks to Mack at the midway point of the ep, just after Greg has taken Meg back, and when she sees how sad Mack is to not be around Meg anymore, she realizes the cruelty of what she is doing to Gary. Our next scene is her meeting up with Gary and, at around the 34 minute mark of the ep, something very significant happens. Val gives Gary an official, notarized piece of paper and when he asks her what’s going on, she says, “The truth is that you are their father.” Wow, this is big. We viewers have known who the real father is and Val has known who the real father is and Gary has known who the real father is for some time, but this is the first time that Val has said it officially, out loud, and now there’s no going back from it. This kinda concludes something that’s been going on all the way since 1983 with …And Never Brought to Mind, when Gary and Val shared their night of nonstop passion and conceived the babies. Now here we are and Val is finally making it official; there shall be no more questioning about the true father of the twins, for we now confirm out loud that it is, in fact, Gary. This scene is also very touching because Val tells him that, if anything ever happened to her, she would want Gary to raise the twins, saying, “I know you love them, and whatever differences we have, it’s just not fair to keep your children away from your love.” I love that Val chooses to do the right thing without a lot of lengthy drama, and I love how she tells Gary the truth, and I love how she confesses that the twins love him and want to see him. The whole thing is just mondo moving and almost brought tears to my eyes. As I say over and over again, Gary and Val are the heart and soul of the series, and whenever the stories are really shining a spotlight hard on them, we get great material and I thought this whole storyline was great material.
Let’s get to the main meat of this ep, which concerns Greg taking back daughter Meg from Karen and Mack. Meg has been staying at the MacKenzie house for quite awhile now, a good long stretch of eps, although I can’t remember exactly how many. At the start of this ep, Greg’s nanny (Barbara) tells him she is quitting, that there’s really no reason for her to hang around if Meg is never here. When Greg says how she could go work at the MacKenzie house and he’ll keep paying her, she says, “I don’t want to be around when things blow up,” and then she elaborates by saying, “You can’t just keep bouncing Meg back from home to home; she’s going to be a very confused little girl if she doesn’t have a stable home life.” At first, Greg is kinda dismissive of her opinion, being like, “Well, whatever, I grew up at the MacKenzie house and Mack’s mother raised me and I turned out alright,” and then he dismisses her for the night. However, Barbara’s words clearly ring in his ears, because next up he calls Mack and says how he’d like to come over the next day and take her back home. Next, we see Greg enjoying Cigar #34 while lying on his outdoor patio bed, looking at the stars and telling Carlos that Meg will be returning home tomorrow. He also tells Carlos he’s going to sleep outside, something that sounds just lovely to me. I think I want to live on Greg’s ranch more than any other current location we’re seeing on the series at this point. While I think my heart will always belong to The Beach House from season four, Greg’s home is pretty boss, too, and I love the idea of having a bed outside that you can just sleep in when the weather is nice. Another thing I appreciate about the scene is that we see Greg looking sadly at a photo of him and Laura and Meg. It’s a lovely photo and my heart goes out to Greg, who had finally found the true love of his life and was just getting started with her and their new baby only for her to be taken from him so abruptly. This might be a bit of an interruption from my train of thought, but I have to say that, so far, I have no problem with Laura’s character being killed off. I think it was perhaps done a little too quickly in the opening hours of the season, but aside from that I think her death is bearing rich fruit now, great stories that can keep us going all the way until 1993. I lamented Laura’s lack of material in season eight, how she was still part of the main cast but barely got anything to do, so I think I would honestly rather have her character be killed and lead us to great stories instead of just sorta hanging around and not getting any stories of her own, you know what I mean?
Anyway, Greg shows up at the MacKenzie home to pick up Meg, and we get some immediate tension between him and Mack. See, Meg is having her afternoon nap, but Greg is like, “Well, whatever, I’ll just wake her up,” and then Mack gives him a scolding about how you don’t just go around waking up a sleeping baby. Greg says something about, “She’s my baby and I’ll do what I please.” I like the acting from both Devane and The Dobsonator and I like how they’re both conveying their own different emotions. Mack is obviously sad that he’ll have to give up Meg, who he has fallen in love with over the course of the last five eps or so, while Greg is looking at it more like she’s his damn kid and he’ll do what he wants; he doesn’t need Mack’s judgment. Anyway, he does eventually take Meg home and then he gets to work building her a big epic playhouse. The playhouse is cool enough, I suppose, although Greg tells Meg that he modeled it after Gone with the Wind and says, “You’ll be the only kid on the block with a playhouse like Scarlett O’Hara’s.” Now would be a good time to take a radical detour and say that I kinda hate Gone with the Wind and think it’s a terrible, annoying, bloated, racist movie that sucks. To be clear, I’ve only seen the film once and I’ve been known to change my opinions when I rewatch things and find more to appreciate in them, but I don’t know that I’ll ever watch that movie again. My distaste for this film also links well with My Beloved Grammy, the same Beloved Grammy I’m watching this series with, because I took her and a bunch of her friends to see Gone with the Wind in the theater a few years ago when they were screening it. I had never seen it and had always been waiting for a theatrical screening since I’m a pretentious film douche and I think moves are meant to be seen on the big screen, especially really old epic ones like this. Anyway, I think I started to turn on the movie almost immediately when we first got started with a scene of jolly whistling black slaves working in the plantations and I was like, “Uh oh, are we going to be spending this whole movie being asked to sympathize with a bunch of white plantation owners?” The answer is yes, and Scarlett O’Hara has got to be one of the worst characters ever put onto film. What an annoying, shrill, awful, disgusting human being, and why the fuck are we supposed to care about her romance with Clark Gable? Plus the movie is four fucking hours long and has absolutely no reason to be that long, and of course it’s super racist and the character of Mammy is just…..no. I wonder if my age and youthful beauty had anything to do with my hatred for this movie, because all of the 70+ year old white women I took to see it loved the shit out of it and didn’t think it was racist at all, but my research later showed that, yes, anyone with a brain in 1939 would be able to see this was racist the day it came out, but since white people have never exactly been the sharpest knives in the drawer, most of them probably didn’t realize it in 1939 and maybe don’t even realize it today, since white people are so insulated and unaware of other people with different skin colors. Anyway, that’s the end of my rant about Gone with the Wind; take my word for it and never watch this film, because you could make the much better decision to spend four hours watching KL and you could probably squeeze five eps in and have a much better experience with much more interesting characters.
Later, Karen pays Greg a visit while he’s working on the playhouse and basically takes a big shit in his face. Well, maybe I’m being unfair here, but I’m not quite sure. Meg is Greg’s daughter and I personally believe that, if given the chance, Greg could shape up and be a great father. The man just recently lost his wife and he needs some time to grieve for her, but I’m not sure that means he’s a totally lousy father who should give his baby away, but that’s kinda what Karen says. I do appreciate that there are subtle things within this scene to show that, perhaps, Greg is just kinda inattentive with the baby. See, he’s running a saw to cut some wood, and he says how he knows it’s kinda loud but that Meg shouldn’t be able to hear it from her bedroom on the other side of the house. Then Karen asks if Meg is sleeping now and Greg says, “I don’t know,” and continues working on the playhouse. It’s a small thing, but I think it shows that, while Mack would always know throughout all 24 hours of the day what Meg is up to, Greg isn’t as interested in things like that. Anyway, Karen gets straight to the point and says how she thinks she and Mack should raise Meg. Greg says, “You’re a very presumptuous lady,” and I think I agree with him. Have I turned on Karen? I don’t think I have; I still love Karen and find her an endlessly watchable and complicated character, but she’s definitely no longer my favorite character, the way I declared way back in season one. She can be annoying and she definitely has moments of a superiority complex and, you know what, I think this might be such a moment. Aren’t you even gonna give Greg the chance to be a father before you shit all over the idea? Greg has had Meg back for two seconds when Karen shows up and says how she’d be better off with the MacKenzies.
Now, the episode concludes with Greg giving Meg back to Karen and Mack, but I wonder if he would have even ever thought to do this if Karen hadn’t shown up and planted the idea in his head. Right after Karen leaves, Barbara brings Meg down to see the playhouse and Greg is trying to get her all excited about this wonderful tribute to a boring and racist movie that he has built for Meg, but Meg seems to want nothing to do with it, crying instead of going into the playhouse to explore. We’ve seen a scene like this before, back in TheGift of Life when Laura was driving away to go die and, just as soon as she handed Meg to Greg, Meg started to cry. We see that again here and I think Greg notices it big time, because next up, he’s standing in Karen and Mack’s living room and giving a speech about how giving Meg to them will be the right thing. It’s really a tremendous speech and some of Devane’s best acting, particularly how he says, “I’m nowhere near as bad as you all think, but I guess Laura was the only one who knew that.” He says how Meg will be happier and safer growing up with the MacKenzies and then the really sad line comes when he says, “I’ll do this for Laura and for Meg; somewhere along the line, you might wanna tell her what a wonderful mother she had. You won’t need to mention me.” Then we cut to the final scene of the ep, which is him torching Meg’s playhouse. This has always stuck with me as one of the most memorable episode endings; ever since I first saw the series, the image of Greg staring at the flames with his face in the background and the flames dancing in the foreground has always stayed in my brain. It’s a very sad ending that could possibly make me cry, but I think I just wasn’t in the crying mood either time I watched this. I felt moved, but no tears spilled.
I really loved this ep, but are there any flaws? The only possible flaw I can think of is that perhaps things move a little bit quickly in this ep. Meg has been staying with Karen and Mack for a good long stretch of eps, but then we have Greg taking her back, spending a bit of time with her, and then returning her to Karen and Mack, all within the same ep. I think we could have possibly stretched this out a little longer, maybe had a few eps of Greg trying to be a father and not being very good at it, but it’s all packed tightly inside of this one single ep. However, it’s very well written and I think Devane shows a tremendous improvement from his last effort. I’m always very interested in the blending of the actors and the characters, how the cast was allowed to have so much involvement in their stories and the way their characters would behave. In this case, much like the brilliant eight scripts that The Plesh delivered to us throughout the first four years, Devane is being given the opportunity to write his own script to really explore his own character, a character he’s been playing for nearly five years now. I feel other shows would just prefer to move their characters around like chess pieces and wouldn’t particularly care about how the actors feel, but on KL, the actors get to have some say in what their characters do, which I appreciate.
This was the best ep on the disk and one of my faves of season nine so far. Great script by Devane, some solid directing from veteran Nicholas Sgarro, and just a lot of interesting character moments. Next up, we’ll start a new disk of excitement and joy with A Fair Race.