Thursday, November 19, 2020

KNOTS LANDING Episode 213 of 344: HER LETTER

 Episode Title: Her Letter


Season 09, Episode 23


Episode 213 of 344


Written by Bernard Lechowick


Directed by Robert Becker


Original Airdate: Thursday, March 24th, 1988  


The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Val is excited and prepares for Ben's return. Paige tells Greg she likes him and he says she must be joking. During a meeting, Manny is taken with Karen and flirts with her. Abby tells Karen to use this to get a better deal from Manny. Mack isn't jealous until he sees Manny. Harold and Olivia declare their love, but he says they can't sleep together until they're married, and he proposes. Abby is furious, and tells Manny she'll back out of the deal if he doesn't stop Harold. Abby calls Gary to help with Olivia, and a drunken Jill is furious. Paige agrees to go to Mexico with Johnny, and Harold and Olivia decide to go with so they can elope. Jill works out a deal for the little old lady forger, and has the woman write another letter to Val from "Ben."




                When we last left off, Val was basically shitting her pants in excitement because she had just received a letter from Ben, the very first letter since he disappeared almost a year ago.  As we begin Her Letter, we pick up right where we left off, with Val rushing around the neighborhood to find Karen and tell her what’s going on.  The fact that Val has received a letter quickly becomes the talk of the neighborhood, although I find myself wondering if perhaps I shouldn’t have announced so boldly to MBG that Ben would never be returning to the series.  When people leave the show, I generally tell her if they’re gone forever or if they’re going to show up again, and when Ben hit the road at the end of season eight, I confirmed that he would never be back.  I suppose knowing that might take some suspense out of this story, but the thing is that we don’t have to wait too long to find out who’s really sending the letters.


                See, we’ve reached a point where something is definitely changing within J.B.  She is growing and blossoming into the J.B. I know and love, the J.B. I think of whenever I think of J.B.  Throughout our last bundle of eps, we’ve seen her growing resentment at all the attention Gary pays to the twins and the lack of attention he pays to her.  Now that Gary is the confirmed father of those two, they’re at the ranch practically every day.  Gary plays with them all the time and he can’t even make time for sweet lovemaking since he’s so occupied with the kids.  Because of this, J.B. has begun to laze around the house and drink and, in the case of this ep, she wears fabulous leather pants while she does it.  The scene begins with her wearing her fabulous leather pants and then Gary comes walking in with the twins in his arms, fast asleep.  He says he took them camping and they fell asleep and he didn’t want them to wake up and not have him there, so he’s gonna sleep with them tonight.  At this declaration, J.B. quietly returns to the couch and pours herself another glass of white wine.  When this occurred, MBG predicted that J.B. was going to quickly fall down the rabbit hole that Sue Ellen fell down so often over on Dallas and become a complete, screaming, “WE’RE RUINING LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVES” drunk.  Turns out that’s not quite what’s going on here; yeah, she’s drinking too much, but I don’t think she’s necessarily an alcoholic like Gary.  Rather, she’s using the alcohol to dull her pain at this moment in time as she feels her place in Gary’s life slipping away. 


                A few minutes later, we return to J.B. for a glorious scene of her sitting alone and drinking.  The phone rings and it’s Val, as predicted by J.B. in a nice bit of dialogue to herself.  See, she looks at the ringing phone and says, “Fifty dollars says that’s Val,” and when she picks it up and it is, indeed, Val, she says, “I win!  I just won fifty dollars.”  I find all of this very amusing and I like the way that Teri Austin plays J.B. as slightly drunken.  I’ve read that the liquor flowed freely over on the set of Dallas, so I wonder what the alcohol policy was here on KL.  In a scene like this, do you think Teri tossed back a few to get her properly into character?  She plays the part so well, like a real slightly drunken person, not over-the-top and not too aggressive, but just aggressive enough to be slightly uncomfortable.  Later on, while talking to Gary and, of course, drinking white wine, J.B. starts to get a little vicious, but she does it in a subtle way.  They’re talking about how Ben is going to be returning home soon and J.B. says how, “What will the invisible man think when he comes back and finds you spending so much time with his kids?”  Note the way that she says his kids; I think she’s doing that to get under Gary’s skin, and you can tell it works. 


                These are all small little clues planted throughout the ep that J.B. is up to something, but it’s all gloriously confirmed in the last five minutes of the ep when we have a sexy dissolve to J.B. working on a fake letter from Ben to Val.  This is beautifully done because, just as I am wondering how J.B. is able to forge his handwriting properly, we find out how.  In A Fair Race, we met up with Mrs. Bailey, an old woman who was in trouble for forging signatures on some checks.  Now it looks like J.B. has called in a favor from Mrs. Bailey; if she helps J.B. with these forged letters, J.B. will tell the judge that Mrs. Bailey is a good lady who cooperated with them.  Whoof, all kinds of wicked, no? 


                The revelation that J.B. is the mastermind behind the mysterious letters excited Brother greatly.  From day one of this series, Brother has had an agenda of rage against Val that I’ve never completely understood; he just hates this character so much and takes great relish in seeing her tortured and in pain.  I confess that, at this point in the series, I can see where those feelings might come from, and I also wonder if some of that is the result of the L&L team hating the character and the fact that they inherited the character.  You all know that I love Val dearly as if she is a real person and I want her to be happy and all of that, but some of her annoying little qualities are becoming more apparent by this juncture.  Even simple stuff like the way she busts into the Williams house while they’re all gathered together with Karen and Mack and starts hyperventilating about how she got this letter and how Ben should be returning.  I could see how it would be annoying to be in the middle of this nice little social gathering of beer and card games or whatever and then have it interrupted by the manic blonde from a few doors down, who has come to make announcements about her long lost husband who disappeared into the Soap Land Hell of South America last year.  I think that somewhat pathetic quality that Val has, that quality of being something of a kicked around puppy, would prove irritating if you had to spend an extended amount of time with her.  I also think that the writers are doing this rather deliberately so that we as viewers can enjoy or even take some relish in the evil plans that J.B. is currently enacting.


                But enough about that.  To be clear, all the stuff with Gary/Val/J.B. is my favorite stuff going on right now, and I’ve been kinda waiting for us to reach this juncture ever since way back in season six’s A Price to Pay, when she first saddled her amazing self into Mack’s office and became a character on the series.  I have been glad to have J.B. around ever since that moment, and I particularly enjoyed her acting and stories in season seven (not so much season eight, when she was a persistent victim of bad writing), but now I feel she’s really coming into her own.  It’s like the writers and directors are just now realizing what a gold mine they have in this actress and this character and they are ready to use her talents to their fullest potential.  So even though I love all this stuff, we must move on because there are other characters on the show worth discussing, starting with, say, Karen. 


                Karen is developing a rather strange and unexpected attraction towards Manny Vasquez.  Now, at first I was just laughing at this cornball Italian stereotype and wondering what gas Karen could possibly be huffing that would make her get a crush on this guy. However, after looking at this man’s IMDb, I have new feelings of respect.  His name is John Aprea and he played Young Tessio in The Godfather: Part II.  Who knew?  He’s also in The Stepford Wives, which I love, so that’s cool.  Actually, I’m getting my eps slightly confused, because I was about to write about a long and intimate lunch scene between Karen and Manny in which the two start to share secrets, but that’s actually our next ep.  In this ep, we get little hints that Karen is getting an infatuation, but nothing too overt.  I’ll save the rest of my thoughts on this for the next few eps.


                Manny intersects with Abs and Olivia this week, as well, courtesy of his nephew Harold.  See, Harold seems to be developing a genuine affection for Olivia, really doting on her and making her feel special.  Near the end of the ep, the two are getting hot and heavy in Harold’s car up at Make Out Point, and Olivia is aching to give up her flower, but Harold stops her and says how, “I want to make this beautiful, I want to make this right, I want you to be my wife.”  Yikes, don’t you think you’re jumping the gun a little bit on that one, Harold?  After all, Olivia is in high school.  She’s only seventeen years old and Harold is…….40?  (EDITOR’S NOTE: I AM KINDA KIDDING, CUZ I JUST LOOKED IT UP AND HE WOULD ACTUALLY BE ABOUT 25 YEARS OLD RIGHT HERE).  From the proposal scene, we then rapid cut to Abs saying, “Over my dead body,” and then we rapid cut to a scene of Harold holding Olivia while she cries.  I actually like how fast this is all done, how we just swing from one scene to another and then right into another one, making things feel fast and alert.  This also glides us nicely into the final scene of the ep, in which Paige, Johnny, Harold, and Olivia all meet up at the airport for a nice little trip to Mexico, a trip in which, presumably, Harold and Olivia will become man and wife. 


                We’ve also got stories involving Paige and Sumner this week, but I’m tired and don’t really feel like writing about that stuff right now.  Suffice it to say that there are hints of romance blooming but that Greg is continuing to give her the cold shoulder, hence why she’s still shagging Johnny and why she’s running off to Mexico with him.  Aside from that, let’s see, what else is in my notes?  Well, I did write that I’m noticing more cool little cinematic tricks as of late, something that I felt was missing throughout season eight.  In this ep, we have a very arty, rather Brian De Palma-ish shot in which Karen and Abs are in their meeting with Manny.  Karen arrives wearing a very sexy leather miniskirt (which she picked up in the scene before while out shopping with Val and Pat), and there’s this cool shot where her legs are in the foreground, in a tight closeup, while Manny’s face is in the background, framed sorta behind the legs.  At first, I was just like, “Wow, random cool shot,” but then I watched the scene again and I see what the purpose of it is.  Karen is feeling a little out-of-character wearing this sexy miniskirt and she seems aware of the fact that, from his vantage point, Manny could probably look up her dress, so she adjusts herself and crosses her legs, which is where we get this cool shot.  I think it’s a way of making us viewers hyper aware of her legs, the way Manny probably is.  Real fast, I also gotta say that it’s nice to see Karen as sexy again; I feel like it’s kinda been forever.  I thought Karen was sexy back in season one when she got all dolled up for her afternoon delight in Let Me Count the Ways, but for the last bundle of seasons, I haven’t really seen her that way, despite my intense burning love for her character.  She’s been more like the rock, the den mother, someone who makes me think of, you know, mothers, women who are maternal and make you feel good.  Seeing her rocking the miniskirt here reminds me that Karen can still be sexy when she wants to.  I used to watch The Love Bug all the time with my dad and I think he had a little crush on Michele cuz he would always say how sexy she was in that movie. 


                Oh yeah, and one last thing related to Karen this week: We get a Diana shout out.  In a scene between Abs and Karen discussing Olivia’s new romantic interest, Karen cautions Abs against pushing back too hard, saying, “I remember what happened with Diana.”  We should all remember what happened with Diana since Diana/Chip Roberts fueled some of the most brilliant storylines during two of the most brilliant seasons of the show.  I also appreciate this, much as I appreciate any and all Sid callbacks, because Diana has been gone from the show since the opening hours of season six, when she hit the road for New York.  So many others shows throughout television history have had a revolving door of cast members, and most of them tend to forget these characters ever existed after they are booted off the show, but KL still mentions Sid and Diane, both of whom are long gone, and I appreciate that little detail.    


                That’s about all I got for this ep.  Things are really heating up and season nine has been shaping up nicely pretty much the whole year, sans some of the boring stuff like Basil Exposition.  I’m excited to discuss where this stuff all leads, so let’s move on to Mother Knows Best.

Thursday, November 5, 2020



Episode Title: Full Disclosure


Season 09, Episode 22


Episode 212 of 344


Written by Alan Goldfein


Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan


Original Airdate: Thursday, March 10th, 1988


The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com):  Paige starts to work for Greg exclusively, and is frustrated when he doesn't pick up on her hints that she'd like to date him. A man can't pay Johnny and Harold money he owes, and gives him a diamond bracelet. Harold roughs him up anyway. Harold gives the bracelet to Olivia, saying it was his grandmother's, and encourages her to respect Abby. Gary invites the twins to a sleepover, and makes Jill stay in the guestroom. They don't include her as they play, and she starts drinking again. Pat is a doctor, and is testifying against another doctor who had mob ties and was a drug dealer. At her testimony, a man stabs her but only gets her arm. Karen and Mack see this on the news, and when Pat returns with a bandaged arm, they realize that she is the doctor. Val gets a letter that says "Out of Danger. I love you and will see you soon. Love Ben."






                Welcome back, everybody.  When we last left off, we were watching A Fair Race, which was a good episode but was missing something very important: The Williams family.  Fortunately, Full Disclosure will rectify that by giving us an entire episode focused on our newest arrivals to the cul-de-sac and we will finally start to get some answers about who they really are and what they’re really doing here in Seaview Circle.  I love the Williams family and am eager to discuss them, but first let’s discuss some of the other characters, starting with Paige and Greg Sumner. 


                In this ep, Paige starts to work exclusively for Sumner, I guess as his secretary or something.  Honestly, I can’t completely remember, but I think that’s kinda the point, because it doesn’t seem like Greg is taking this hiring very seriously.  Paige shows up one morning, adorned in black and looking fabulous, and she says how she’s ready to work, but Greg is being weird and aloof.  When she says, “Don’t you want me to work for you?”, he responds with, “Do you wanna work for me?” and then starts asking if she’ll need filing cabinets or whatever to do her work.  Personally, I get the feeling that Greg doesn’t really need a secretary; that he’s really more interested in keeping Paige close by.  After all, what exactly does Greg do at this point in the saga?  When we first got to know him in seasons five and six, he was a big shot politician running for the senate, but then all that drama with Paul Galveston caused him to give up his senate seat and go to work for the James Bond villain lair at Empire Valley, but then that got blown up and, since then, I feel like Greg mostly hangs around his ranch.  We haven’t even seen him in his big skyscraper in a long time, maybe not since Ben was going to shoot him in the brain during the climax of that appalling Hackney storyline.  Since that storyline disappeared into the gutter where it belongs, I feel like Greg’s been pretty much hanging around the ranch.  Now, I don’t begrudge the man at all; his wife just died and he’s sad and has a right to hang around his ranch as much as he wants.  Mostly I’m just observing and I don’t think Greg has a legit need for a secretary but anyway, Paige is now that secretary. 


                The basic gist of the Paige story this week is that she wants to go out with Sumner and she keeps trying to make that clear but he’s either super dense or just ignoring her.  I go for the latter option; I’m sure Greg can sense that Paige has a little crush on him and he’s kinda enjoying teasing her.  In any case, nothing romantic happens with the two this ep, although I did add Cigar #35 to the Sumner Cigar Counter, but I have to confess I’m not sure if I should add this one or not.  The reason I’m hesitant is because we don’t actually see him light the cigar and begin to smoke it.  See, he’s adorned in his trench coat and is about to head out when he announces to Paige that his date for the opera got sick and can’t come.  This scene is pretty funny, by the way, because Greg is like, “Gee, I don’t want to go to the opera alone and have to talk to people at intermission,” and then he says, “I know this isn’t your job,” and Paige gets a little excited and says, “I’d love to,” but then Greg continues his sentence with, “Will you call Abby Ewing and ask if she’d like to go with me?”  Then he walks off and leaves Paige looking bummed.  Anyway, the scene ends before he lights the cigar, but I have decided to count this one because he puts it in his mouth and he’s holding the lighter in his other hand, so I feel pretty comfortable saying he lit this cigar after the scene concluded.  So yes, that makes Cigar #35, at least according to my calculations.


                Since Paige is not getting it from Sumner, she continues to get it from Johnny Rourke, although I don’t think we see any actual shagging between the two of them this ep.  However, I did wanna note a quick scene in the kitchen because it shows how perverse both Brother and myself are.  See, Johnny is washing his hands at the sink and Paige is doing whatever over at the counter, and then Johnny sorta throws his arms around her and says how sexy she is, to which Paige replies, “You’re getting me wet.”  Both Brother and I sorta gasped at that line and were like, “Wow, how saucy,” before quickly realizing that she is merely referring to Johnny’s hands being wet from the sink.  Oh sigh, I liked my original interpretation of the line much better.


                Meanwhile, romance is blooming between Harold and Olivia.  We first catch up with Harold sitting in a car with Johnny and getting ready to threaten some dude for the money he owes them.  The guy shows up and says how he had a little trouble coming up with the cash, so then Harold shoves him into the back of the car to continue making threats.  The guy busts out a suitcase full of jewelry or whatever to try and sway Harold, but he ain’t impressed.  However, he does keep a bracelet and winds up giving it to Olivia that night when they go out for a romantic car ride together.  I have to confess that this whole romance does strike me as a tad askew, and I’m gonna say it’s because of the age thing.  Everybody always seems to focus on the Paige/Sumner age gap, but that’s never really bothered me too much, but I find it a little harder to believe that Harold, who I believe is supposed to be somewhere in his 20s, goes out with Olivia and nobody really seems to mind.  Olivia is seventeen now.  Abs makes some brief mention about how Olivia should go out with kids her own age, and then she says how Harold is out of college and Olivia is still in high school, and it’s that line that seems sorta creepy.  The idea of Harold rolling up to the high school to pick up Olivia is just kinda icky, for some reason a little ickier to me than him threatening people with mob violence.  Harold’s gonna be around awhile, so perhaps I’ll get used to this and not think about it as much.


                J.B. is really blossoming nicely even as we speak, inching us ever closer to that superb season finale that I’ve been talking about for the last several years.  The jealousy is continuing to brew as it comes to Gary and Val and the twins, and this ep J.B. gets more reasons to be jealous.  See, Greg has twins Bobby and Betsy over for a sleepover and it’s all fun and games and roasting marshmallows in the fireplace, but then as everyone’s getting ready for bed, Gary tells J.B. she oughta sleep in the guest room because they’re not married and he doesn’t want the kids to get the wrong idea by seeing them sleeping together.  In typically fabulous KL fashion, this problem is presented in a fabulously grounded way and I understand the thoughts of both characters.  Gary is thinking of the well being of these kids he loves and not wanting to confuse them, but J.B. is feeling more and more secondary, now being relegated to sleeping in the guest room so she doesn’t risk warping the fragile young minds of these twins that Gary and Val conceived together so long ago.  Also, I don’t mean to sound like a square and I’m not entirely sure what’s happening to me, but I think I agree with Gary.  I’m a free love kind of guy and believe in live and let live and not judging people for what they do in the bedroom, but I guess a little streak of my conservative side comes out sometimes because I do think it’s better that these twins not see Gary and J.B. sleeping together, at least not until the two have decided to finally get married.  In any case, the significant thing to note is that J.B. decides to hit the bottle in order to drown her sorrows, and we see her making an entire bottle of wine disappear, sorta gulping the wine from her glass and looking upset before the scene cuts.  This phenomenon of J.B. drinking too much will be further expanded upon as we move through the disk. 


                Okay, that does it for all the characters not named Williams; let’s move on over to Frank and Pat and Julie over at the house that used to belong to Laura.  As we first get started with the ep, it’s a sun shiny day and everyone is outside having fun and shenanigans, including some guy from Coyote Construction.  He’s here to check, you know, something, and so he gets his ladder ready and leans it against the side of the Williams house and then, wouldn’t you know it, the ladder accidentally smashes through the window.  At this point, in an effort to be more appealing to his new neighbors and to show that he’s a mellow, relaxed guy, Frank comes rushing out of the house with a pistol in hand and wearing a wife beater.  He orders the Coyote Construction guy to freeze and then pins him against the car and holds the gun to his head.  There’s a big commotion as Mack yells at him to put the gun away and Pat tells him that she hired the construction guy herself.  Frank says he’s sorry to Coyote Construction guy but he only gets a “Go to Hell!” in response.  This scene is good and intense, but also rather funny.  The first time I watched this, I didn’t see the funny cuz I was too engrossed in the drama, but now I can see it.  Two seconds before Frank comes busting out with his pistol, we have a conversation between Karen and Pat in which Karen invites her to a comedy club and Pat says, “Frank loves comedy; he’s got a great sense of humor!” Well, that’s kinda contradicted when Frank comes out screaming and nearly blows the brains out of the construction guy, a nice bit of irony that I found amusing.


                If you as viewers are getting tired of this continuing mystery involving the Williams family, fear not, for this ep will finally start to answer our questions.  See, next up, Mack calls the police and informs them that they have a wild and crazy neighbor who loves to wag guns around the neighborhood while children and families are out and about enjoying the morning air.  However, things get more mysterious when the police arrive, talk very briefly with Pat and Frank, and then immediately leave without filing any charges.  Mack is a smart guy and he knows there’s no way the cops would ever pass up the opportunity to harass a black family and ruin their lives, so he knows something must be up, leading him to believe that perhaps Frank used to be a cop.  In that regard, he’s correct, as we find out this ep, but we also get some very useful information about Pat and what has really lead the family to living in Seaview Circle.


                Remember a few eps ago when Pat disappeared in the middle of the night with some random chick?  And remember how Karen and Mack thought that was weird and didn’t know what the hell was going on?  Well, now we know, because this ep we see Pat disappear again to go to, um, some place.  She has to fly a plane to this other place, but I can’t quite remember exactly what place it is that she goes to.  In any case, she is flying to this place in order to testify against some big evil doctor that she used to work for.  It turns out that Pat used to be a doctor (which the smart viewer should have already figured out after Baby Meg got sick and Pat said “Stat!” in that one ep) and that she worked for this big evil doctor who was, like, also a drug dealer and a murderer or something like that, so she and her family have been in witness protection this whole time.  The big trial provides us with lots of helpful information; we learn about how Pat spoke out against this big evil doctor and lost her job and her life was ruined and now she’s in hiding with her whole family.  The courtroom scene is filled with lots of objections and sustained and all of that good stuff, but the big moment comes when Pat tearfully explains how much joy being a doctor brought her and how her life will never be the same again.  She says how her husband used to be a cop but can’t find work now, how her daughter can’t really make friends and settle down the way they want her to, all good stuff.  I love Lynne Moody’s acting and character on this show, but I confess that this witness stand stuff is maybe not her best moment.  I think she does mostly a good job, but I think the camera lingers on her too long as she breaks down and cries and that the director and editors should have snipped a bit out of this scene.  I’m with the scene and the acting for the most part, but then it just goes on a smidge too long and starts to threaten drifting into camp.


                Pat gets escorted out of the courtroom and told, “One more round of cross examination and you’re all done,” but as she heads to the elevators, a scary looking dude dressed like a security guard busts out a knife and goes to slash her to death in the elevator, all very Dressed to Kill.  However, this knife attacker only gets one small stab at Pat, wounding her in the arm but doing no real significant damage.  It’s a nice little sequence and I liked how we get a closeup of the elevator door sliding shut with some blood on the ground.  The first time I watched this, I remember really thinking that Pat would die.  After all, these characters had only recently been introduced and were only credited as guest stars and not main players, so I kinda thought this would be it for Pat, but happily for all of us, she will be okay and she returns to the cul-de-sac with a little sling around her arm and that’s it.  The stabbing in the elevator also leads to news coverage which is very conveniently seen by Karen and Mack late at night in their bedroom.  The sudden emergence of a television in Karen and Mack’s bedroom even though we have, as far as I can remember, never seen a television in there before is part of what makes this a plot contrivance.  It’s pretty convenient that they just happen to hear this news report about a nurse testifying and being stabbed in an elevator, but anyway, it helps them figure out what’s the deal with the Williams family and stop being so damn nosy towards them.  Also, I can pretty easily explain away this television set; sure, we’ve never seen a TV in here before, but that doesn’t mean Karen and Mack didn’t just,  you know, go and buy one at some point within this season. 


                Actually, the very last thing we need to discuss this ep is the ending, in which Val suddenly receives a random letter from Ben.  The letter says only, “Out of danger and will see you soon.”  This is all we get with this story this week, Val opening the letter and reading it and looking all shocked and amazed.  Hmmm, are we to assume that Ben will be returning to the series again?  Well, no, but I can assure you that this letter is big stuff and will continue to grow into bigger stuff as we move through the season.


                So that was Full Disclosure.  As a hardcore fan of the Williams family, I’m glad we got nearly an entire ep devoted to them and I’m glad we got some answers to our questions.  Some of the wrap-up is a smidge convenient, but I still enjoyed watching it and I’m eager to see the Williams family now transition into just being neighbors, no longer so draped in secrecy.  With that said, let’s move along to Her Letter.