Thursday, February 18, 2021



Episode Title: Just Desserts


Season 09, Episode 26


Episode 216 of 344


Written by William Devane and Don Mueller


Directed by Kevin Dobson


Original Airdate: Thursday, April 14th, 1988


The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): In Mexico, Johnny has orders from Manny to make sure the archaeological dig doesn't stop highway construction. Paige wants the highway stopped to find art. Hoping to stop it, she buries one of Greg's pre-Colombian statues for the students to dig up. Johnny sets the encampment on fire. Karen's furious that Mack is checking out Manny, and thinks it's out of jealousy. Frank tells Mack that the yachts are a front for bringing cocaine in from Mexico, but they don't have enough proof to hold up in court. Val listens to the tape from Ben over and over. Jill steals the key to Val's house and replaces the tape with a blank one. Olivia is found passed out at Harold's after overdosing on pills. Abby's very upset and waits at the hospital with Karen and Gary. Olivia wakes up and screams for Abby to get out. The doctor tells Abby that it's better if she doesn't visit Olivia.




                Hello to all my lovely readers out there in the internet world and welcome to Just Desserts.  This ep marked the first of season nine’s final disk of eps for myself, MBG, and Brother.  We all gathered together in the evening and powered through the final four eps in a binge of excitement and joy.  Anyway, when we last left off, J.B. was starting to go a little nutty and was turning into the J.B. that I know and love so well, the J.B. I’ve been waiting to see since she first emerged in the tail end of season six.  That story is going to continue blossomly nicely this week and I have no complaints in that department, but unfortunately the other stories are far more lacking and sorta kill the momentum we’ve been building throughout the season.  Let’s start with the negative stuff and just get that out of the way first and then we can focus on the brilliance that is the one and only J.B.  Oh yeah, and before I dive in, one thing I’d like to note is that this ep was written by two people, Don Mueller and the divine Devane.  I must have not been paying attention to the ep credits as we got started, because I didn’t notice he worked on this one until I started to write this essay.  I wish I had known in advance, because then I would have focused in on that aspect of it more.  Devane has written, at this point, two eps, Survival of the Fittest (which was terrible) and Bouncing Babies (which was great).  I’d say his work on this ep falls right in-between those two; this is not as good as Bouncing Babies but it’s miles above Survival of the Fittest


                We open on a panicked Abs talking to a cop about how Olivia vanished and she has no idea where she is.  Honestly, even though Olivia related drama was a big factor in our last disk of eps, I had kinda forgotten all that, and so had MBG and Brother, so perhaps the story was just not that compelling for any of us. In this ep, we have a lot of Abs fretting and wringing her hands about Olivia, and then we find out that Olivia overdosed on, um….pills?  She doesn’t return to the nose candy, probably because that takes forever to kill you and she wants to do her suicide right and quick.  She’s discovered all overdosed and passed out and then, I think, she might slip into a Plot Contrivance Coma.  Even though I just watched this the other day, I can’t quite remember, mostly because I wasn’t paying that much attention to her storyline this ep.  Maybe she doesn’t slip into a Plot Contrivance Coma, but I’m pretty sure she does, or is it just that she’s overdosed and she’s gonna be passed out until they get the drugs out of her system? 


                In any case, when Olivia wakes up, she is not happy to see her mother and she screams at her to get out and, a little later, the doctor tells Abs that she’d best leave Olivia alone for awhile so that she can get better.  That’s about it for the storyline, which is kinda boring, but what I found most notable about it was the use of not one, not two, but three flashback scenes featuring Abs and Olivia.  I am ashamed to say that I can’t recognize which eps these clips are coming from, but I know they’re all from seasons two and three, when Abs was still fresh and new to the cul-de-sac and Olivia was just a tiny little girl.  I like the use of the flashbacks because, first of all, they aren’t too overpowering, meaning we don’t enter the territory of the dreaded clip show.  Around this period, Dallas had completely run out of gas and the tank was empty and running on fumes and they started to way overdo the use of clips from old eps; it became this almost comical, constant thing.  This isn’t nearly the same since the clips are short and they actually do relate to the story at hand.  I also liked seeing this cuz it just kinda reminds us of how long we’ve been watching the show.  It’s fun to see the younger 1980 Abs and just get a quick reminder of how the show looked and sounded at that period.  I’m not jumping around in the show at all; we are watching start to finish and I don’t sneak back to look at old eps again and I won’t do so until we’ve finished the series, so this sorta stuff is like a friendly reminder of times gone by. 


                The other thing that I enjoyed in this storyline was Abs getting very sad and reflective and saying, “Back in Philadelphia, I had things under control.”  I wrote this in my notes and also wrote, “I forgot where she came from.”  If I went back to early season two, would I discover that they told us way back then that Abs was arriving from the city of brotherly love?  If they did, I had totally forgotten it, so this was also a nice reminder.  Also, as I’ve said before, I always enjoy those moments where Abs shows her naked emotions, and this is one of them.  She is sad that her life is this way now, that her daughter hates her and wants nothing to do with her and has almost killed herself, and so she’s reflecting back to simpler times, when Olivia was small and untroubled.  I’m pretty sure Abs is wearing some rose colored glasses in this regard, because back in Philadelphia she was married to boring square Transmorpher Jeff Cunningham and I’ll bet she wasn’t too happy with that, but we all tend to do this when we’re in the middle of a crisis and we think back over our pasts; suddenly we forget all the bad stuff about that era and only focus on the good stuff.


                Meanwhile, we’ve got continuing developments in the storyline of Manny Vasquez and his cocaine shipping and Karen’s weird little romance and all that crap.  Let me just blow my wad and say that none of this is compelling and I know that’s why I had forgotten all of it.  Throughout this whole disk, this storyline is Nyquil, plus it feels too much like a repeat of the stolen auto parts of season two and the evil Wolfbridge corporation of season five.  Anyway, in this ep, Karen is still going about thinking that Manny Vasquez is this great, awesome guy, refusing to believe Mack when he tells her that he thinks the man is dirty.  Now that Mack and Frank Williams have teamed up to be awesome together, we get a lot of Frank lurking around Lotus Point while wearing sunglasses inside and listening to Manny’s conversations.  Yeah, nothing says inconspicuous like a gigantic black man walking around and wearing sunglasses inside.  Considering that black people can’t even walk down the street in the year 2021 without being shot or slowly strangled to death for nine minutes by the police, I’d say this is a pretty unrealistic scene, but whatever, it’s still Frank and I love Frank and I’m glad to see him getting something to do.  Anyway, Frank quickly discovers that, yes, Manny is dirty and mixed up in cocaine and all sorts of bad things and he reports that to Mack, who reports it to Karen and, yeah, that’s about it for now.  This storyline is boring but it’s gonna stick with us for the rest of the season, so I’ll focus more on it in future eps.


                Let’s see, what else have I got in my notes.  Hmmm, looks like I wrote, “Oh Sexy Michael,” and that was the entire notation.  I wonder what Sexy Michael was doing that prompted me to write that.  Oh yeah, of course, it was because we had a scene of him and Karen talking in the kitchen and he’s wearing a white shirt and some of his chest is showing and he just looks unbelievably sexy, as always.  He gives a pretty bad performance in this scene, pounding his fists on the table and saying, “I should have spent more time with her!”, but I don’t really care because he’s so beautiful that it doesn’t matter whether he can act or not.  Also, I usually think he’s a pretty good actor and very natural; it’s only every now and then when he has to get really emotional that he comes up short. 


                Meanwhile, back in Mexico, absolutely no viewer could possibly care about what’s going on with this storyline involving Paige and Johnny.  I remembered the Mexico stuff, but I guess I forgot how long it goes on and how stupid it is.  I’m pretty sure this is also gonna stretch into the start of season ten, so yikes, prepare for boredom and lots of trips to the bathroom and to the kitchen to brew some strong coffee, black as midnight on a moonless night.  I don’t remember hating this storyline, and even right now, sitting here and thinking about it, I don’t hate it, but I certainly don’t like it all that much.  Part of it is the fact that this is clearly not Mexico, it’s that fake and kinda offensive Hollywood version of Mexico where there’s just a lot of sand and random chickens running through the roads.  The other part is that the story is just stupid, even though it involves Paige, a character I really like.  Johnny I’m fairly indifferent to but, you know, he’s fine, I guess.  Also, the powers-that-be are very foolish to allow the Mexico-related story to serve as the cliffhanger for the ep.  See, what happens is that Paige needs to prove that there are actually artifacts at this archeological dig or whatever, so she steals an artifact from the art gallery she worked at, the one that is called “Art Gallery” (MBG quipped at this, “Art Gallery is my favorite art gallery”).  Alright, so she and Johnny manage to smuggle this artifact out of America and into Mexico and then their plan is to bury it in the dig so that someone else can “discover” it the next day.  The big cliffhanger is that they are in the middle of burying the artifact when they are spotted by, um, some guy.  Yeah, not exactly the most thrilling climax, and the writers would have been smart to make a J.B. scene the last one of the ep, as that would better hook in the viewers for next week’s ep.


                Oh yes, and before I move away from Mexico and over to the glory that is J.B., I would be remiss in my duty if I didn’t note a Tangled Knot who shows up in this ep.  The character is named Dr. Robert Hayland and the actor is Thom McFadden (sometimes Tom).  Well, in 1988 he may be Dr. Robert Hayland, but in 1982 he was Chris Wilson in Expose'.  If I’m remembering correctly, he was the guy who was giving the assignment to that hooker or whatever to tape record her conversation with Richard.  He’s also a Transmorpher (and appears to have played two characters over on that show, so wow) and he was in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge as the father of Meryl Streep Lookalike (there’s a hysterical scene where he points a shotgun at Freddy Krueger and then misses the shot by like two miles even though Freddy is right in front of him).  So yeah, Thom McFadden, ladies and gentlemen.


                Okay, so that does it for the boring parts of the ep, now let’s move on to the brilliant stuff, the stuff I’ve always remembered ever since first watching the show.  J.B. continues to be up to no good this week, and I feel it is time to change her name, at least the name I use for her on this blog.  Obviously the character’s name is Jill Bennett, but since she’s been introduced, I’ve just been referring to her as J.B.  Well, as we enter this era of her character, I think it’s finally time to rechristen her into Psycho Jill.  I’m so glad Psycho Jill is here to entertain us all, and entertain she does in this ep.  What’s on the agenda for Psycho Jill?  Well, she’s continuing to work on her plan to drive Val insane, so she shows up at her house to make nice, saying something about how she came for the twins’ stuffed animals or whatever, but her true motivation is to steal the key to the house, which she does successfully.  As soon as she stole the key, I remembered what was going to happen and how brilliant it is, and that is Psycho Jill returning to the house later to erase the “Ben tape.”  It helps that Val labelled it, “Ben’s tape” and then put it right in the center of the table like a trophy. This is a good scene of suspense because Psycho Jill is doing her thing when she realizes that Val is about to return home.  Since Brother hates Val and is completely in support of Psycho Jill, he found this very exciting and was like, “No, Jill, get out of there!”  He really wants her evil plans to work out, you see.


                Actually, I think that’s about all Psycho Jill does this week.  Maybe it seems like I’m getting too excited for her stuff, but it’s more about the slow burn and the buildup, how this entire disk was a buildup to that finale, so everything Psycho Jill is doing is leading us closer and closer to that occasion, and that’s why I love it all so much.


                Anything else worth noting?  Oh, yeah, I was about to wrap things up when I took another glance at the cast and crew for the ep and realized that The Dobsonator directed this ep.  This is his first directorial credit for the show and it looks like he’ll end up behind the camera for nine eps, ending with The Invisible Man in 1993.  Again, I didn’t notice his name at the start of the ep, so I didn’t do a very good job of paying attention to the directorial style of this ep.  I remember the ep being well shot and all that, but I don’t particularly remember anything that unique or special in the way it was shot.  I’ll pay more attention to his future efforts (the next one will be Double Jeopardy in 1989).


                That does it for Just Desserts.  This ep actually serves as kinda a microcosm of my problems with this final run of eps for the season, and that would be that while we have the absolutely stunning Psycho Jill storyline going on, everything else is pretty blah, even downright boring.  Mexico is boring, Olivia’s overdose is boring, and the evil cocaine dealing Manny Vasquez is pretty boring.  So while the episode isn’t bad, it’s a little schizophrenic and I would feel very alert whenever Psycho Jill was onscreen and then rather bored whenever anything else was going on.  Anyway, let’s go ahead and move right along to Discovery.

Thursday, February 4, 2021



Episode Title: With a Heavy Heart


Season 09, Episode 25


Episode 215 of 344


Written by Lawrence Kasha


Directed by Michael Preece


Original Airdate: Thursday, April 7th, 1988


The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Gary sees Manny unloading a yacht in the middle of the night, and thinks it's suspicious. He tells Mack, who asks Frank to investigate. Jill apologizes to Gary, and he says he'll give her another chance. Jill edits an old news tape of Ben's, and then leaves a message on Val's answering machine that says "Hi, it's Ben. God, I've missed you and the kids. I want to, I hope you can hear me, this phone system is..." then Jill cuts it off. When she hears it, Val's elated. Olivia tells Karen about Abby breaking her and Harold up. Karen tells Abby she knows. Olivia is too controlled, which worries Abby. Olivia starts giving away her possessions, and gives Manny a letter for Harold that says how much she loves him, and she'll think of him at the end. Manny shows Abby, who thinks Olivia will commit suicide.




                Welcome to With a Heavy Heart, the last ep on a disk of eps for MBG, Brother, and myself.  After this, we’ll just have four more eps left in the season and I’m very eager to talk about them, but for the time being, let’s talk about this one.  Okay, so let’s think, when we last left off, Val was freaking out and hyperventilating about the return of Ben; she got that mysterious letter saying he was “out of danger” and assuring her that he would be home soon.  Well, we viewers know something Val does not know, which is that the letter really came from J.B. and that she’s enacting some sort of wicked plan.  This ep, J.B. really expands on her evil plans by paying a visit to Pacific Cable Whatever to do a bit of editing of her own.  She tells the random lady who lets her in that the governor is wanting them to make a documentary about, oh, something, and then the lady gets a little nostalgic by saying, “Well, Ben Gibson was the best we ever had,” and then she asks, “Do you know how to work a VCR?”  What joy this line brought me, as learning to work the VCR is perhaps my first cogent memory, and I can remember the feeling of sheer power when I mastered the VCR and knew I could watch anything I wanted whenever I wanted. 


                Anyway, we cut away for awhile and then we return to J.B. hard at work in the editing room.  She’s going over an old speech of Ben’s that actually comes from an ep we’ve seen before, somewhere in early season eight.  I can’t remember the exact ep it comes from, but it’s the one where Ben goes on TV and endorses Peter Hollister because Hackney (vomit) told him to do so.  We see J.B. watching the footage over and over again, specifically the part where Ben says, “Voter turnout is high.”  Note that word, “high,” and note how perhaps J.B. is going to cleverly take that word and edit it into, oh I dunno, some type of phone message.  We have that fact confirmed for us right near the end of the ep when Val plays her phone messages and comes upon an especially choppy sounding one saying, “Hi, it’s Ben; gosh, I miss you and the kids,” and so on and so forth.  It’s a pretty quick fake message because J.B. is smart and knows how to build suspense and has the message cut off abruptly.  I gotta say it’s kinda funny in a campy way when we hear this message, because it’s sooooo choppy and sounds very edited; I guess Val just assumes that it has something to do with a bad connection when you’re making a call from Soap Land Hell of South America.  I wish I could better explain why all this footage gives me such a giddy joy.  When we see J.B. doing her editing and when we see Val receiving the phone message, it just lifts my spirits so much, even though J.B. is doing an evil thing to a character I love.  There’s something about seeing J.B. kick into action after all this time that is just rather thrilling, and even though I love Val and wish her happiness, I gotta say I get a real kick out of everything going on here and I even feel like sharing an evil laugh with J.B. at Val’s expense as she enacts this wicked plan.  Oh yeah, and also, one last little thing, but we do actually hear the voice of Douglas Sheehan as Ben when Val is reading the letter, so my question is: Does this count as an appearance?  I always said his last appearance was Do Not Fold, Spindle, or Mutilate, but we hear his voice here delivering dialogue that he presumably had to step into a recording booth to do, so I think it counts.  IMDb lists him as “Archive Footage,” presumably for the footage J.B. watches in the editing room, but I think we can also pseudo-count his voice as an appearance; what do you guys think?


                Meanwhile, things aren’t exactly rosy in the relationship of Abs and Olivia.  Last ep, Olivia found out that her mother was the one pulling the strings to end her little quickie Mexican marriage, and now she’s damn mad about it.  Actually, rather than acting damn mad, Olivia just kinda drifts into a mellow, depressed mood.  She’s not really freaking out about anything, and that concerns Abs, who buys her an unbelievably cute puppy as a way of lifting her spirits.  I like the scene where Olivia gets the dog for many reasons, starting with the fact that Abs asks, “You’re not doing drugs again, are you?” and Olivia replies, “Drugs wouldn’t do any good right now,” which seems to satisfy Abs.  As I said ad nauseum, one of my favorite things about the series is the callbacks and the fact that the characters have a past history and, when stuff happens, it becomes a part of their past history and can still be talked about.  Also, let’s recall that Olivia’s coke days are really only about a year in the past, so I imagine Abs would still be feeling a little worried about all that stuff.  Anyway, then Abs unveils the puppy, which is just the cutest thing I’ve ever seen, but Olivia isn’t so enthused.  She’s just like, “Oh, it’s great, a puppy instead of Harold,” and pretty much by the end of the ep, it’s become clear that BAG has adopted the puppy as his own, as we see him walking it and taking care of it.  The part where BAG comes home from walking the dog is just the cutest, cuz the dog is soooooo small and walks soooooo slow as it comes into the house and it just made my heart melt. 


                I think seeds are being planted that Olivia may go off and kill herself.  I don’t remember this story at all and I have the feeling that, when I first watched the series, I never suspected Olivia would off herself.  I think I already knew retroactively that she would be on the show until 1990 so I knew she wouldn’t kill herself here and, if she was going to kill herself, it probably wouldn’t happen until 1990.  But anyway, we get a whole lot of fretting and worrying about what Olivia is up to this ep.  Sexy Michael takes her out and tries to cheer her up, but fails, and Karen and Mack also take her out for a lunch that includes a healthy dose of recycled dialogue.  What do I mean?  Well, I mentioned it last ep, but here it is again: Karen is talking about her life and she says, “You know, when your Uncle Sid died, I thought it was the end of the world; my life stopped, I was all alone, I had three kids to raise.  Then, in time, I realized that life goes on, and that you have to learn to live even with a tragedy like that.  Then along came this fast talking Irishman who made my life wonderful again.”  This is almost exactly the same speech that Karen gave to Manny Vasquez in our last ep, except just a little longer, and sans any mention of Mack's amazing blueberry pancakes.  What’s going on here?  I can make this make sense in my mind, and my explanation for it is that, in real life, people recycle their speeches and their conversations all the time. You will tell somebody some story and then, maybe later that same day, you’ll tell the exact same story to a new person, so it’s possible that Karen is just recycling this speech because it’s a good speech and she thinks it will work on Olivia.  But let’s be real, this is some sort of a behind-the-scenes mistake; somebody didn’t notice that Karen gives essentially the same exact speech, almost word-for-word, in one episode and then immediately again in the next one.  Somebody wasn’t paying attention and that’s why we get this speech yet again.


                Speaking of Manny Vasquez, he is spotted late at night by Gary and J.B. (Gary has forgiven J.B. for that little, “I don’t want to drink alone,” scene from last ep, by the way).  They’re enjoying a nice late night walk around Lotus Point, feeling romantic, when they see Young Tessio hanging around by the docks.  One killer aspect of this scene worth noting is that J.B. really wants to shag in public, something we’ve seen her do with Gary at least once before, according to my recollections (I think it was somewhere in season seven and it was in a car), so she must like the public shagging.  When Gary says how they should get home to shag where it’s comfortable, she’s like, “Oh, I think we can find a place that’s comfortable here,” but then the conversation gets derailed by Gary noting Manny hanging by the docks and unloading mysterious stuff.  This is all fine, well, and good, but I’m much more intensely focused on J.B. in this scene.  Has she knocked back a few?  The two characters are strolling around after a romantic dinner together, and during that romantic dinner, we see that J.B. only orders a mineral water, so I assume she’s sober, but she’s sure acting pretty silly.  Is she just drunk on Gary?  Did she get bored with the mineral water and switch back to wine at some point in the dinner?  In any case, she’s acting a tad askew. 


                The other big development this week is something I’ve been anxiously waiting for, and that is Mack and Frank finally teaming up.  In my brain, when I think of Frank Williams, I think of him working side by side with Mack as buddies, busting bad guys and being this awesome little ebony and ivory team, so it was kinda odd to return to the block of eps where Frank seems scary and mysterious and hostile towards Mack.  This week, Mack comes upon Frank in a bar, working on a bunch of job applications, and then he asks Frank how he’d like to team up with him and go to work against the bad guys.  Oh sigh, such joy this brought me, watching the friendship officially begin.  I’ve said this before, but I’m very glad we’re done with the “What is the mystery of the Williams family?” story.  I liked that story, don’t get me wrong, it was very compelling, but now we’re in the point where Frank and Pat and Julie can just settle in as part of the cul-de-sac and I really like that a lot.


                That oughta do it for With a Heavy Heart.  I feel like I’ve been a little more blasé when writing about these eps than they perhaps deserve, so I’d like to note that everyone, myself, MBG, and Brother, we all thought this whole disk was slam dunk.  We just loved it, and it was a joyous night of KL excitement to go through this disk.  The stories are exciting, the drama is heating up, and we’ve got lots of great stuff, the greatest of which is everything involving J.B.  I can’t wait to see where this all leads us, so let’s move along to a new disk, our final disk of season nine, with the ep Just Desserts.