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.