Episode Title: Mother Knows Best
Season 09, Episode 24
Episode 214 of 344
Written by Julie Sayres
Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan
Original Airdate: Thursday, March 31st, 1988
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Gary confronts Jill on her drinking, and calls her sick when she tries to get him to drink with her. Karen is shocked when Manny tries to kiss her. In Mexico, Paige meets Debbie, an archeology student, who tells them of a pre-Colombian dig. Paige tells Greg she can get him statues, and he agrees to finance it. Paige is upset to find Johnny in bed with Debbie, but they make up. Manny sends a goon to Mexico to stop the wedding. Harold breaks up with Olivia, blaming it on his uncle. Harold tells her his uncle is dangerous, and he can't cross him. Olivia goes home and cries on Abby's shoulder, and Abby agrees to talk to Manny about letting Harold date Olivia. Olivia goes to Harold, and Manny knocks on the door so he hides her in the closet. Manny tells him he has to leave, as Abby said if he doesn't send Harold packing, Abby will back out of the yacht deal. Olivia hears the entire conversation.
Time to talk about Mother Knows Best, and I say we get started straight away with my favorite storyline, Gary and Val and J.B. In the closing moments of our last ep, we found out that J.B. was the mastermind behind the mysterious letters from Ben to Val, courtesy of that old forgery machine, Mrs. Bailey. We also saw that J.B. was starting to develop quite a fondness for the alcohol, most specifically the white wine, which she poured very liberally throughout our last ep, even pouring it out all over the telephone at one point. Well, the plot only thickens this ep, with J.B. continuing to hit the bottle and act sassy towards Gary. In fact, let’s just jump right to one of the most memorable sequences from the ep, one that has always stuck with me. Basically, Gary comes walking into the Westfork house late one night and J.B. has also tied a few ones on and, once again, Teri Austin’s brilliant brilliant acting is just totally brilliantly brilliant. I think she is playing a drunk person just perfectly, with that bizarre mix of jolly and nasty that drunk people tend to have. I like the way Gary walks in and J.B. is like, “No, wait wait, don’t tell me…..Gary Ewing!” Then he says, “Sorry I’m late, but I was…” and J.B. interrupts with, “Out with the kids.” Then they start to fight when Gary says how Val is having a hard time and J.B. says, “Oh, Gary, Val is always having a hard time,” which is actually a pretty valid point. In case it sounds like I’m turning on Val, please don’t ever think that; I will love Val yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and I will love her for all time, but I appreciate how we viewers can understand J.B.’s point of view, since it’s kinda correct. Val sorta is always having a hard time and Gary sorta is always running to her rescue. Now, to be fair, you could argue that absolutely all the characters on the show are always having a hard time because they live inside of a soap opera and there’s never any shortage of drama. But, there is something way more needy about Val when placed up against other characters on the series.
However, the big drama of the scene is not even what J.B. says about Val, but that Gary confronts J.B. on how much wine she’s had. “Don’t blame me for your drinking; that’s what somebody does who has a problem with alcohol.” It gets way more intense when he says, “You’re the one who’s been sitting around here all day, drinking alone,” and then J.B. pours a second glass of wine and holds it out for Gary and says, “I don’t want to drink alone; let’s do something together.” Gary looks positively horrified by this display, which is probably how I looked the first time I watched this. You all need to picture a younger college Brett lying around his dorm room, probably naked, watching KL and drinking alone (how fitting!) and getting to this scene and, when J.B. held that glass out for Gary, I literally gasped aloud. I would literally gasp aloud pretty frequently throughout my first trip through the series, but this was a big one, and I remember being like, “Where is all this heading?” I could see that something was changing within J.B., but I couldn’t quite figure out what. Possibly I thought, as MBG seems to think right now, that she was gonna head down the alcoholic rabbit hole and go on some big bender or something. But yeah, when I hit this scene, I was like, “Holy shit, what are you doing, J.B.?” Gary tells her, “That’s a very sick, stupid way to get my attention,” and then he tells her that how she lives her life is her decision and nobody else’s, and then he walks off and we end the scene. Overall, a pretty great couple of minutes.
Oh yeah, and also, we get the ep started off good and strong with a killer scene of J.B. at the airport. I love how the writers are crossing their T’s and dotting their lower case j’s with this storyline, because last ep, when we found out J.B. was the one behind the mysterious Ben letters, Brother and MBG questioned two things: How she got the handwriting to match and how she would get the letters to be sent from Soap Land Hell of South America. Well, we saw how she’s getting the letters forged last ep, and this ep we see her at the airport near a gate with a plane departing for South America. All it takes is a simple request from a stranger headed that way; J.B. stops him and asks if he could send this letter from South America, and he agrees. Ugh, I love it. I guarantee you that Dallas and Dynasty wouldn’t even bother with this kind of cleverness; they would just have the letters arriving from South America and we would be expected to go along with it, not questioning anything. Here, you can tell the writers want to make sure everything tracks, that it actually makes sense, even in that melodramatic nighttime soap opera kind of way.
Meanwhile, we’ve got this strange burgeoning romance between Karen and Manny. Honestly, I should probably be way more critical of this plot point than I’m being, but that’s just because I’m in a kinda warm blanket mode with KL right now; after everything seemed to go so hideously wrong in season eight, I’m just so glad that season nine has been such an improvement and I’m just enjoying being in this world with these characters and I’m less inclined to be harsh towards them. However, the Karen/Manny stuff is done in a pretty crappy way, to be honest. It’s way too fast and pretty implausible, too. Basically, we have a scene of the two of them having a lunch together and the powers-that-be choose to do the super lazy thing where you establish a growing bond between two people by just doing repeated dissolves, showing that time is passing. Like, we begin the scene with Karen getting Manny some coffee and they’re talking about whatever, and then we dissolve to a little later and she’s right in the middle of this epic story of her life stuff, saying, “After Sid died, I felt like I couldn’t go on; I had three kids, I was all alone, and along came this smiling Irishman who made terrific blueberry pancakes.” By the way, please note that line because I believe the exact same line is going to be recycled pretty much word-for-word in our next ep, when Karen is having a conversation with Paige. I’ll bitch about that when we get to it, but for the purposes of this scene, it’s just a little silly how we keep dissolving and with each dissolve, Karen is deeper and deeper into her intimate stories with this Manny character, whom she only met, what, three eps ago? Honestly, I can’t really remember where this storyline leads, but I’m just saying for the moment that it’s moving very fast and we are being asked to believe a lot with Karen becoming so infatuated with this guy so quickly.
Speaking of Manny, his nephew Harold starts the ep in Mexico (or a series of sand-filled regions in the California area that we can all pretend is actually Mexico) along with Paige, Johnny, and Olivia. He and Olivia are going to get hitched, at least until Abs marches up to Manny and tells him he must stop this wedding at all cost. Manny takes her seriously and calls up Harold and tells him to abort this marriage plan, even sending some goon along to Mexico to make sure that Harold does as he’s told. After a bit of hemming and hawing, Harold decides to tell Olivia it’s over and, well, she doesn’t take it too well. I love me some Olivia, as you all know, but she pretty quickly turns into a pathetic crying teenager here with such declarations as, “But you said you loved me!” and “Just a half hour ago, you said this was the happiest day of your life!” This obsession women have with getting married has never made any sense to me, but then of course why anybody in the world would ever get married has never made any sense to me. In this case, I think Olivia is being silly and Harold is doing the right thing (even though he’s only doing it so he doesn’t get his fingers busted by his uncle). I think Harold could probably have been a little smoother and maybe told her that there will be marriage in their future, but just not right now. Instead, he lets her down cold and says he doesn’t want to get married and that’s that. Due to this, Olivia returns to California before the ep even concludes.
The big ending of the ep involves Olivia at Harold’s place and her discovery of the true puppet master behind their recent breakup. See, she’s assumed that Manny is the man who put the kibosh on this wedding, but when Manny suddenly shows up to speak with Harold, Harold shoves Olivia into a closet and she is privy to their whole conversation. Through her little Blue Velvet vantage point, she hears Manny confirming that he could give two shits if Harold and Olivia get married, but that he was really working under the direct orders of one Abby Fairgate Cunningham Ewing. Oh my, how the plot thickens!
In Mexico, we’ve also got some generally uninteresting stuff involving Paige and Johnny that I’m gonna quickly gloss over. Basically, Paige catches Johnny with another woman in this ep, but I fail to see what the big deal is. Isn’t Paige yearning for Greg Sumner? Wouldn’t she let Greg Sumner enter her the second he expressed an interest in doing so? And it’s not like Johnny is her one true love and her steady boyfriend right now; she told him herself that he’s only good for sex. With that kind of perfect arrangement in which you get the sex without the messy emotions, why get mad at him for having a fling on the side? In any case, they get over it pretty right and quick, so let’s not dwell on it.
Really the only other thing I wanna note about this ep is that I wrote in my notes, “Nice heart to heart between Pat + Karen talking about Manny’s kiss.” I wrote this down just because I like to see that the Williams family are starting to become a nice, comfortable part of the cul-de-sac life. After Full Disclosure, these characters are no longer so shrouded in mystery and now we all know officially that we can trust them. Indeed, Frank also seems to be in much jollier spirits nowadays, not so prone to come running out of the house in his wife-beater with a pistol drawn. As a big fan of Frank and Pat and Julie Williams, I’m just glad to see them getting nice and established.
So that was Mother Knows Best. Again, despite some storytelling hiccups like the goofily quick romance between Karen and Manny and boring stuff in Mexico, I think season nine is chugging along just fine, a rather remarkable example of self-improvement after things got so silly and so bad in season eight. I’ll write more about this in my reflection essay, I imagine, but I gotta say I’m super impressed by how KL manages to fix itself and stay consistently of a high quality. If I was watching season eight in real time, I would probably have predicted the show has jumped the shark and will be quickly cancelled, or perhaps continue on for another bundle of terrible seasons like the way Dallas turned bad and then just kept going for six more painful years. Instead, I feel like KL has its ups and downs, but even after something really stupid like season eight and Hackney and all that nonsense, they are able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and keep going, a very impressive feat. With that said, let’s move right along to With a Heavy Heart.