Thursday, April 15, 2021

A Reflection on Season Nine of KNOTS LANDING (1987-1988)

 

                     A Reflection on Season Nine of KNOTS LANDING (1987-1988)

 

                Ah, what a sweet breath of fresh air this was after the most unfortunate season eight.  Before I start talking about season nine, I wanna take a moment to go over my thoughts on the previous season, where everything seemed to go so horribly wrong.  To be clear, there is no season of KL that I could ever bring myself to call “Bad,” but season eight came the closest out of all the seasons we’ve watched so far (we haven't gotten to season thirteen yet, but I know many fans shudder in horror at the very mention of that year).  Hackney was a hot wet fart that permeated the entire experience, infecting nearly every character at one point or another.  The cast was way too bloated with too much generally uninteresting stuff with Peter, lacking stories for J.B., and Paige Matheson bulldozing her way into the series and immediately hogging the spotlight from our more seasoned veteran characters.  As I said before, the season bottomed out with the wretched Nightmare, an episode that lived up to its title, and then I felt it actually started to improve itself a little in the concluding hours of the year, and that brings us straight into season nine.

                Season nine is a tremendous improvement, and it’s all the more impressive when you realize that pretty much the entire creative team from season eight also did season nine.  I think the powers-that-be were aware that season eight was a misfire, that things got a little out of hand and the show began to lose its focus on what it had always been about.  The show became too much about silly nonsense like spies and goofy international intrigue, and it was easy to forget that the series was originally about married life on a cul-de-sac.  I think season nine does a very conscious and pretty successful job of shifting the focus back to our core cast and keeping the stories in the cul-de-sac.  This season probably feels the most domesticated since, oh, perhaps season four, when we were beginning that transition from smaller stories to more Super Soap stories. 

                Right off the bat, the show does the smart thing by thinning out the cast quite a bit.  We start with Peter Hollister, who was buried in cement in the final moments of season eight.  The mystery of “Who Killed Peter Hollister?” takes up the first chunk of eps for the season, before we move on to the controversial exoduses of Laura and Lilimae.  Let me just say I’m relieved to be rid of Peter; I thought I liked him as we were working our way through season seven, but by the midpoint of season eight, I was just bored and annoyed with him and his way too overly convoluted storyline.  Now that I look back, I feel like Peter (and, to a lesser extent, J.B. during the seventh season) is a sign of David Paulsen as the showrunner, getting so wrapped up in his own cleverness and slowly revealing all these new layers and secrets about who Peter really is.  However, it just wound up being not that interesting, and I think simply killing off the character and forgetting about him is the right choice.  By the time he died, any interest I once had in him had dissipated and he was just plain boring.




                Okay, so we get rid of him, and I’m glad about that, and then we move on to Laura and Lilimae.  I know this stuff is very contentious with fans; after all, both characters are veterans of the series, Laura having been around since literally the very first scene of the very first ep, and Lilimae having been an important character all the way since season three (she also had that one isolated appearance in season one, but you know what I mean).  At first, I wasn’t sure what I would make of this. The truth is that when I think back over my college viewing of the show, I don’t remember having a problem with either of them leaving.  Watching it again, I still don’t.  I understand it pisses off the fans that the ladies were let go for purely budget reasons, that they were essentially fired and then shown the exit door quickly so that the show could save money.  Yeah, that’s all true, and that’s the unfortunate behind-the-scenes reality that goes on in so many shows.  As a part of the larger story, however, I still think it works.  I’ll start by discussing Lilimae, who meets Red Buttons, falls pretty quickly in love, and then takes off with him for adventures unknown.  You all know I loved the Lilimae character and think that, in all seriousness, Julie Harris was probably the most talented member of the entire cast for the whole time she was on the series.  However, the character wasn’t getting shit to do.  After Joshua took that plunge off the roof, Lilimae spent the rest of season seven moping and even sitting out several eps.  Then we get into season eight and I don’t think I can name one important thing Lilimae did; can you?  The only time that she felt somewhat a part of proceedings was when she got involved in Olivia’s cocaine storyline, and even that felt like the writers being like, “Shit, we haven’t given her anything to do; let’s try to glue her into this coke storyline.”  It just made me sad to watch this great character and this great actress be put in the background and ignored all year, and I would really rather have her drive off to live happily ever after than spend the rest of the series in the background, not getting anything to do.  The only flaw for me is that her exit is very fast.  She meets Al Baker and they take off together just a few eps later.  It does feel a bit like the writers saying, “Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out,” but I still prefer this to the idea of Lilimae moping in the background until 1993.



                That brings us to Laura.  Lots of fans just hate her death, but I’m not one of them.  Laura was suffering from the same problems Lilimae suffered from, not getting shit to do in season eight aside from being pregnant (and that’s just because Constance was actually pregnant in real life).  It’s been a pretty consistent flaw that ever since Greg Sumner was introduced to the proceedings in season five, Laura became more an extension of his stories and didn’t really get her own individual stories to work with.  I would rather see her death lead to good stories, which I would argue it certainly does, then have her continue to just sorta hang around to bounce the occasional witty comment off of Greg.  Also, while it’s tempting to say that her exit has that similar feeling of the powers-that-be just trying to get her off the show as quickly as possible, I actually think it’s tremendously in keeping with the Laura character.  Laura was always a still-waters-run-deep character who seemed to have more going on beneath the surface than you might think at first glance.  She was always somewhat wrapped in mystery, and I think the way she chooses to leave her friends and go die alone fits with the character we established over the course of some 200 episodes.  Yeah, the show could have gone full Terms of Endearment and had Laura slowly suffer from her brain tumor for a good chunk of the season, but instead she takes matters into her own hands, accepts her fate, and then goes off to die alone.  Is it sad?  Absolutely, but that’s also the point, and it brings us to those extra strange Noises Everywhere eps which, even if they weren’t as brilliant as I may have once thought, are still very interesting and give us a chance to explore the characters in a new way.  I also continue to argue that Laura’s death does have tremendous ramifications for the other characters.  Watching Greg cope with the single life after the only woman he ever really loved (sorry, Jane) dies is exceptionally interesting, and all the stuff involving Greg and Meg is just fascinating.



                The cast was too bloated during seasons seven and eight, so trimming some cast members actually helps to give this season a more intimate flavor, bringing memories of season one when there were only eight people in the entire cast.  Even so, we do get some new characters to the cul-de-sac in the form of the Williams family, characters I love a lot and am excited to see here.  I pretty much love everything about this family and their storyline; I love how they arrive draped in mystery, but that the astute viewer can figure out that they probably didn’t do anything bad, that they are hiding from something else.  The writers also do a good job of not drawing this mystery out forever the way they might have been tempted to do during the last two seasons.  We first meet Pat and Julie in the thirteenth ep of the season, Only ‘Til Friday, and then we meet Frank a few eps later, in If Not Now, When?  We get a good chunk of eps in which we’re not really sure what is up with this family, but it’s all resolved by episode 22 of the season, Full Disclosure.  So that’s a span of nine eps from the Williams family making their first appearance to us knowing exactly what’s going on with them, and that’s a good number to stretch out a mystery; I feel like if this was done in the previous year, the writers would have tried desperately to stretch it out over 20 or 25 eps. 



                I think this might possibly be Sumner’s most interesting year on the series thus far.  Losing Laura and wrestling with his feelings towards Meg lets us see a new side of his character, and our heart goes out to him.  He’s been so interesting ever since he arrived on the series, mostly because of his ability to stay likable even while occasionally doing villainous things. Here, we start to see a more human side of him, an emotional side that hurts and feels pain.  Everyone remembers his tremendous scene in Noises Everywhere: Part Two in which he finally breaks down while watching Laura’s last words to him.  This is one of Devane’s finest moments, but he continues to be excellent throughout the rest of the year, even in small ways, like a quick scene of him looking sadly at a photo of himself with Laura.  We know he’s thinking of Laura all year, and that helps to further my case that Laura’s death is not in vain.  She’s not killed and then shuffled under the carpet; instead she continues to hang around with an almost Laura Palmer quality, effecting Greg’s choices all year.



                Another great aspect of season nine is how the writers return the focus to Gary and Val.  Thinking back over season eight, we really didn’t have a lot of great Gary/Val footage. Yes, both characters were on the series and both characters were getting stories, but we didn’t get too much of them together, and season nine really makes up for that.  Honestly, the whole storyline with Gary wanting visitation rights to the twins and Val denying that to him is probably my (second) favorite part of the year.  I just loved this because it felt like classic KL, in which we know both characters and understand both characters and love both characters, so we find it impossible to pick sides.  Val has been burned by Gary too much and she starts the season having been freshly burned by Ben, her second attempt at love, so we understand why she would be distrustful of Gary reentering her life.  At the same time, Gary has shaped up tremendously the last few years and hasn’t had a drink in five years, so he deserves to see the children that everyone knows are rightfully his.  One of the aspects I appreciated the very most about this story was that it wraps up fairly inauspiciously.  Again, the writers could have drawn this out forever if they wanted to.  They could have had this all lead to an epic court battle that takes up half the season or maybe more, but instead they have Val realize that she’s being cruel to Gary and finally admitting to him that, yes, the babies are his. The moment where she finally says that feels amazingly cathartic, because it’s been an ongoing story since 1983 with …And Never Brought to Mind, when Gary and Val shared their isolated night of nonstop passion and created the babies.  While the words “Val’s babies” usually makes me leap to the season six storyline of the babies being taken from her and the doctors telling her that they died, in a way, you could argue that “Val’s babies” is a storyline that goes all the way from …And Never Brought to Mind to The Blushing Bride, when Val finally admits the truth.  That’s a tremendous span of eps, going from ep 81 to ep 208, a gap of 127 eps, which is basically the entire run of any other successful show.  It’s this stuff that makes me so happy that KL goes on so long; we are able to have stories like this that span over five years, so when we reach a conclusion, by God, you really feel it.

                I said the Gary/Val stuff was my second favorite part of the season, and I think you all know what my very favorite part of the year is, and that would be Psycho Jill.  I’ve been waiting for Psycho Jill ever since she was first introduced, and she does not disappoint upon second viewing.  First off, I think everything throughout the season pretty organically leads us to Psycho Jill; it doesn’t feel like it comes out of nowhere.  She starts the year upset over the death of her brother, and then she begins to realize she’s gonna lose Gary to Val, and then the twins start to infiltrate her life and she can’t come home without stumbling over toy trucks or finding Gary and the twins waiting for her.  Then she starts to drink too much, and if this was Dallas, I feel like that would be the entire storyline.  They would just sorta turn Psycho Jill into a sad drunk and then exploit some stories out of it, but KL is the better series and it goes in more surprising directions.  We watch Psycho Jill grow more wicked throughout the concluding hours of the year, and then it all comes to a head with the tremendous scene between her and Val in The Perfect Crime.  Everything about this storyline is just as good as I remembered, if not better, and I especially love the way that, while we viewers love Val and sympathize with her, we find ourselves kinda flipping out loyalties and sorta hoping that Psycho Jill will get away with her crime.  I also think this story unleashes Teri Austin’s talents, that we really get to see her shine.  While I’ve loved the character the whole time, she was really getting the shaft in season eight and I kinda felt bad for the actress getting so little interesting to do.  Fortunately, this season and of course the next one more than make up for it.  Psycho Jill remains a highlight of the entire series for me.



                However, it’s not all perfect this year, and there are still some significant flaws.  I think the worst flaw of the season is that Abs just doesn’t get anything that interesting to do.  I really disliked her storyline with Basil Exposition; in fact, I might even go so far as to say that I hated it.  I never felt a need to be spoon-fed a reason for why Abs is the way she is. She arrived to the cul-de-sac in season two and we didn’t really know much about her life up to that point and I was fine with that.  For whatever reason, life events have turned Abs into Abs, the woman we have been following since 1980.  I really didn’t need to be presented with some fairly lame storyline about her one true love from back in the ‘60s and how that one true love broke her heart and turned her cynical.  First off, it’s too much explaining and I like mystery.  You all remember how much better  Hannibal Lecter was in Manhunter and The Silence of the Lambs, when we really didn’t know very much about him? Then, they kept making more books and more movies and they kept telling us too much about him, information I didn’t really want to know.  I liked that Hannibal was crazy and liked to eat people, and that was all I needed to know.  Finding out that he was in love with some Japanese chick and that he got trained in using swords or whatever, that shit did nothing for me except irritate.  That’s how I feel about Abs this year, and then to top it off, what a boring explanation for why Abs is the way she is.  It really all boils down to her being in love when she was young and her heart being broken?  You couldn’t find a more interesting way to explain things?  And then, of course, we have the fatal miscasting of Basil Exposition, who looks like he’d rather be on any other series besides this one; you can just sense the fact that he thinks this is beneath him, and it permeates the story and ruins it.  Plus, for all the compliments I gave about how this season keeps the stories moving, this one goes on for fucking ever, and it’s also really really dull.  I kept thinking we had seen the last of Basil, and then we would start another ep and, wouldn’t you know it, there he was, still being boring and snooty.  Then, once Basil finally goes away, I feel like Abs just sorta goes into fretting mother mode, mostly wringing her hands and worrying about whatever trouble Olivia has gotten herself into.  Season ten will mark Donna’s last on the series, so I really hope they give her something juicy to work with before she heads for the exit doors.  Oh yeah, and one more thing, but what Donna says in interviews about L & L is absolutely correct; they do make Abs too nice.  I’ve always appreciated that Abs is a multi-faceted character with lots of intricacies, but I feel like if you only showed just this one season to a new viewer, they wouldn’t even know that Abs is supposed to be the villainous character of the series. I feel like she’s just totally neutered and, while Donna always gives a good performance and makes her stories work pretty okay, it’s sad to see her lose her edge. 



                Another flaw is Johnny Rourke.  I don’t detest this character the way so many fans do, but he’s certainly not very interesting, and what the hell was with the singing?  I honestly found myself yearning for Lisa Hartman to return to the series this year as we had to suffer through several Johnny songs.  This man can not sing and I have no idea how the creative team didn’t see that, indeed forcing us to listen to several awful songs from him.  You guys couldn’t even dub him over with a good singer?  Or at least stop after just one song, when you realize it’s not working?  In addition, the shit with him dealing drugs with Leland Palmer is, you know, fine, but it’s also not all that interesting.  I think I like him when he’s with Paige cuz he’s able to tease her and bring out some new aspects of that character, but he’s hardly a character I’ll remember fondly once he’s left the series.  Again, he’s a nice drink of water when put up against Hackney, but he’s still not a very compelling character and he does take up too much attention, and that God damned singing, my God.  It's almost like something out of a ZAZ parody, like Val Kilmer in Top Secret! or something.


  

                Also, the season does start to lose some of its energy in the closing hours.  Everything is going along fine, until the young characters hit Mexico and the older veterans get tied up in that boring ass Manny Vasquez storyline.  The worst thing about these stories is that they mix in with the brilliant story of Psycho Jill.  I’m watching, I’m enjoying the shit out of everything Psycho Jill is doing, but then my boner is immediately killed whenever we cut over to Mexico or to Lotus Point for the Manny Vasquez stuff.  I reiterate that the writers would have been wise to let the last two eps of the season be about just Psycho Jill and nothing else.  Put the other characters on the back burner for awhile and just let us stay with Psycho Jill and her elaborate plan.  There’s so much energy to that storyline and then all the air is let out of the balloon whenever we go back to the boring stuff. 

                Now for season highs and lows.  I had to chew on this one for awhile, because there were a lot of eps I really liked in this season.  I was originally gonna say that either The Perfect Alibi or The Perfect Crime were the best eps of the season, but now that I realize how infected they are by the boring side stories, I can’t do that.  I finally settled on Bouncing Babies, which I think is a tremendously sad ep written very well by Devane.  I always love when the actors write scripts and are able to write for their own characters from a new slant, and I think that’s what Devane does here.  We get to be inside of his head in a new way as he makes the decision to give Meg permanently over to the MacKenzies, and then of course that final shot of him burning the playhouse is one of the most memorable endings of the whole show.  For the worst of the season, hmmmm, let me think.  I decided to pick Discovery, which comes right near the end of the season and is almost a complete and 100% bore. The only good part of this ep is the Psycho Jill stuff, but that’s actually rather small when put up against the boring shit in Mexico or at Lotus Point.  This is the ep that Brother slept through and at first I went into a fit of rage about it, but then later I realized if you were gonna sleep through one ep, this would be the one to choose, as nothing much happens.  Honestly, who cares about Paige and Johnny and Sexy Michael in Mexico?  The only good thing to come out of the entire storyline was Sexy Michael walking around without a shirt on, and while that was obviously a very glorious thing, there’s no reason he had to be shipped into this crap storyline to take his shirt off; he can take his shirt off any old time, as far as I’m concerned, and I will be happy.



                The thing I find most impressive about this season is that it shows KL’s ability to bounce back.  Most shows, if they delivered a season as weak as season eight, they would be beginning their steady decline and never let up on that decline.  I feel like the creators and writers of this show are able to be introspective and say, “Okay, well, that didn’t work out too good,” and then figure out how to fix the problems and move forward.  Most shows would just keep getting worse and then eventually be quietly cancelled, but KL figures out what’s wrong, fixes it, and then proceeds onwards.  I think we will see a similar situation when we hit season thirteen, but that’s a discussion for another day far in the future.

                Alright, let’s talk about the rankings of the nine seasons we have now watched.  I really struggled with whether or not I would put season nine above season seven, but I finally settled on putting season seven ahead of it.  Why?  Mostly because I feel the first ten eps of season seven are so great that they more than make up for some lackluster storytelling in the second 2/3 of the year. Also, season seven has problems, but it still feels pretty linked to my very favorite year, season six, and I also think it has more interesting music and cinematography than season nine.  However, this is definitely a colossal improvement over season eight and I’d still probably rather watch this year than the first three seasons, so I think my ranking is gonna go a little something like this:

1)      Season Six (1984-1985)

2)      Season Five (1983-1984)

3)      Season Four (1982-1983)

4)      Season Seven (1985-1986)

5)      Season Nine (1987-1988)

6)      Season Two (1980-1981)

7)      Season One (1979-1980)

8)      Season Three (1981-1982)

9)      Season Eight (1986-1987)

And that oughta do it for my Reflection.  I’m excited to get to season ten, which I remember being tremendously enjoyable, but I also wanna warn my faithful readers that it's probably gonna be awhile so some patience will be required.  I'll be honest and say I haven't even written anything yet, and this is the first time I've reached a point where I have absolutely nothing written.  I've always had a healthy back catalogue of episode writeups ready to go, but by this point, not so much, so it's gonna be awhile.  Rest assured, the blog will not die; I've got nine seasons done out of the fourteen and I am devoted to finishing up, but it's gonna be some time.  Just be patient and I will return at some point in future, and we will power right along to the season ten premiere, Suicidal. 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

KNOTS LANDING Episode 219 of 344: THE PERFECT CRIME

 Episode Title: The Perfect Crime

Season 09, Episode 29


Episode 219 of 344


Written by Bernard Lechowick


Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan


Original Airdate: Thursday, May 12th, 1988


The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Paige and Sexy Michael find out that Johnny is working for Manny, and their friend Chavas is a DEA agent. They get on a bus. The Federales stop the bus and take Paige, Sexy Michael, and Chavas. Abby and Gary fill all the slips in the marina so that Manny can't dock his boat. Manny calls Karen and says she'd better do something about it if she wants Paige and Sexy Michael to return safely from Mexico. Jill, in disguise, surprises Val. She says the letters and calls from Ben were a hoax, and she had the forger write a suicide note for Val that says Val found out Ben is dead. Julie and Frank come to the door, and Val nervously says she has to stay home because Betsy's sick. Frank remarks to Pat that Val acted strangely, like she was being held at gunpoint. Jill forces Val to take sleeping pills saying if she doesn't, she'll shoot Val, and it's better if the twins find her asleep rather than with her brains splattered all over the room. Val pleads with her, and Jill says she's sick of everyone calling her "Poor Val" and as long as she's alive, Gary will always run to take care of her. Jill forces her to take more pills. David wakes up and Jill comes out of the shower saying she had a great night with him. Back home, Val's passed out on the floor with the phone off the hook in her hands.



 


                And so here we are with The Perfect Crime, our final episode of season nine, an episode I’ve been very excited to discuss since, well, pretty much since the Pilot.  I’ve always remembered this as one of the all time best eps and perhaps the very best cliffhanger of the series.  How does it look upon a second viewing?  Well, let’s explore and find out.  Oh yeah, and also one quick thing.  I have no idea why this particular blog entry has this annoying white color behind it; I tried to make it look nice and pretty and uniform the way all the other entries look and I couldn't do it.  As far as I know, nobody else on planet earth is reviewing all 344 episodes of KL in excruciating detail, so if one of those episode entries has a weird white color going on, I guess we will all just have to deal with it.  Anyway, let's start talking about The Perfect Crime.





                When we last left off, Psycho Jill was sneaking quietly into Val’s house.  As we get started with this ep, we get a fairly helpful little recap that lasts about two minutes, just kinda re-showing us the highlights from last ep.  This kind of thing is annoying when you’re doing a marathon watch the way MBG and I like to do it, but I can see why it’s necessary upon original airdate.  This ep is gonna continue from where we were with Psycho Jill’s perfect alibi, so it helps to see that alibi once again before we get to new footage.  We also start with a stock shot of the Golden Gate Bridge that I’m pretty positive I’ve seen in other movies and shows.  Also, we see a shot of a station wagon that looks just like The Family Truckster from Vacation (one of my favorite comedies).  I’m utterly convinced of this; it has to be, because the Truckster even has the exact same color bags that the Griswold’s had strapped to their car (before all Hell broke loose, of course).  In fact, I’m officially declaring that this is stock footage, because I have been obsessively going over the shot again and again, squinting my eyes really hard, and you can totally see the entire Griswold family in the car if you look really close.  Now, I know stock Vacation footage was used in the opening credits of Married With Children, but I’ve never read about it being used on KL.  Have I officially discovered something that nobody else has noticed?  Am I that brilliant?  In any case, this two second shot that comes and goes almost immediately has filled me with joy, because I’m absolutely positive we are seeing a smidge of Vacation here.





                In any case, we move on from our quick little recap and get to Psycho Jill entering Val’s house.  Val is still busy drying her hair with the leaf blower, and I again marvel at the fact that she just got the twins to bed and now she’s decided to unleash the leaf blower and possibly wake them up all over again.  If this holds up, she’ll never get over to the Williams house for that movie, and what the hell time is it by now, anyway?  It’s gotta be past midnight at this point, especially accounting for all the shit we’ve seen Psycho Jill do before arriving at the door.  Does the Williams family really want to send Julie over to babysit at midnight and then watch a probably two hour movie with Val that will last until 2AM?  Oh well, who cares about that, let’s instead focus on the fabulous Dutch angle used as Psycho Jill enters Val’s bedroom.  I’m a big Dutch angle fan, but they have to be used sparingly in order to be most effective.  Using it here is a fine choice, and one that I think Mr. Hitchcock himself would have approved of.  Since this entire ep (and the last one) have a distinctly Hitchcock flavor, I like to think this is something of a tribute.  Also, while giving this scene a rewatch to prepare for this essay, I got a distinctly Jonathan Demme whiff from the use of closeups and such.  This would actually put the series ahead of its time, because I’m not so sure what Demme was up to in 1988 (I just looked and he was releasing Married to the Mob), but when I think of his most famous movies, The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, I think of his use of tight facial closeups in which the actor speaks directly to the camera.  Everyone remembers Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling having their talks, and he uses the device there, in which Lecter looks directly at the camera and talks, and then we cut to Clarice doing the same.  It’s a very effective technique (although I’d argue it doesn’t work as well in Philadelphia, which is, you know, an okay movie, but one that I have some major problems with) because we understand that the character is speaking to another character, but we also get the feel that the character is speaking directly to us.  During this scene, we have Psycho Jill pointing the gun pretty much directly at the camera and talking directly at us.  We know she’s talking to Val, but we also get this cool trippy feeling that she’s talking to us. 





                Anyway, as soon as Psycho Jill busts in, we viewers are all in for a fabulous, fabulous treat.  At first Val doesn’t know who the hell she is, cuz she looks like a crazy woman with black hair wearing a hideously large pair of glasses and adorned in pink gloves (love those) and pointing a gun at her.  As soon as Psycho Jill is like, “Shut up,” Val realizes who she is, but she still can’t figure out what she’s doing here.  I love Psycho Jill’s immediate vitriol towards Val, how she’s just like, “You really can’t figure out what I’m doing here?  Well, try.  What would Miss Psycho Jill be doing in your house, in your bedroom, in a funny wig, late at night, pointing a gun at you?”  What follows is a very long sequence in which we stay with Val and Psycho Jill for a good long time.  In fact, I worked out the time and Psycho Jill enters the house at the four minute mark and we don’t cut away from the two of them until the 22:30 mark.  So that’s about eighteen straight minutes of Val and Psycho Jill, and I like it that way.  In fact, I’m gonna go ahead and argue that we never should have cut away from the two of them.  At some point, I am going to have to talk about the twin snooze storylines of Manny Vasquez and Mexico, because those are plots that take up time in this ep.  But Heavens to Betsy, how much better this ep would be if we just stuck to Val and Psycho Jill for 48 minutes; I would have really loved that.


                I don’t even know how much I need to describe this scene.  I think any KL fan should remember it vividly, right down to the small details.  Ever since seeing it, this sequence has burned itself into my memory and is one of the first things I think about when I think about the grand fourteen year KL experience.  Basically, Psycho Jill keeps Val held at gunpoint and announces her plan to force Val to kill herself by swallowing those sleeping pills.  We get some dialogue back and forth about how the twins are still asleep, and at first Psycho Jill doesn’t believe Val and Bob Loblaw, but let’s instead focus on Psycho Jill’s tremendous speech to Val.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for the famous Poor Val Speech.  Oh, how I love the Poor Val Speech.  In fact, since I can’t possibly do justice to it by trying to remember what Psycho Jill says and how she says it, let’s just transcribe the entire speech down so everyone can study its brilliance.  Basically, the speech comes after Psycho Jill has described her epic evil plan to Val, how she’s got the gun and she bought it in Val’s name and it will have her prints all over it, all that good shit.  Then Val asks, “Why?” and that is when the speech begins.





                “Why?  Why?  What a stupid question.  You must know why.  You can’t not know how you get under people’s skin.  You’re under Gary’s skin, and as long as you’re around, as long as you’re alive, Gary’s gonna think about you and worry about you and feel protective.  That’s your gift, such as it is.  You have the gift of making people, especially Gary, but not only Gary, say, ‘Poor Val.  Poor Val isn’t responsible for the way she feels, or the way she acts, or the way she is.  You can’t blame Poor Val because she’s Poor Val.  She can’t help being just a little bit crazy.’  Well, you get enough people saying that and pretty soon they forget that Poor Val takes advantage of their pity, how Poor Val’s as self-centered as they come, how Poor Val needs them to keep saying ‘Poor Val’ because it’s her excuse to be a child and it absolves her of her absolute selfishness. POOR VAL!”  





                Ah yes, so very much to say about this glorious speech.  This speech is up there with “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” except it’s obviously better.  Again, let me throw in the caveat that I love Val and always have and always will and that I believe the journey of Gary and Val is the very heart and soul of the KL experience.  However, there is a certain relish I get out of this speech and the wonderful writing and the fabulous performance of the majestic Teri Austin.  Also, I didn’t even have to check to know that either Latham or Lechowick wrote this ep (it was Lechowick).  I’ve read that they hated the Val character and I’ve read how J.V.A. didn’t care for their hatred and felt it effected Val’s character.  But there is some truth to what Psycho Jill says, and maybe that’s why the speech is so good. Yes, every single character on the show goes through an inordinate amount of drama, much more drama than most normal people who live on a cul-de-sac experience.  Even so, some of the characters are able to handle their drama in a different way, and there definitely is something about Poor Val that can grate.  I can’t quite put my finger on it and I can’t quite explain it while also maintaining that I love the character.  It’s a balancing act; I love both Val and I really love Psycho Jill.  She is so entertaining and so clever and so funny and I just love everything about her.  The writers have done the clever thing where our sympathies lie with Val, but as we listen to Psycho Jill and as we watch her enact her master plan, we are kinda rooting for her and we are kinda hoping she will succeed.  Another glorious thing about the Poor Val Speech is that it retroactively provides something to bring us all great enjoyment throughout the previous 218 eps.  Many times over the course of this marathon, when something or other is happening to Val, MBG would say, “Poor Val,” and I would just smile and have to bite my tongue to not immediately scream, “POOR VAL!  POOR VAL!”  This glorious scene means you can go back over every episode from beforehand and insert “POOR VAL!” at any given opportunity.  When Val catches Gary cheating on her with Judy Trent?  “POOR VAL!”  When Val gets possessed by the creepy-ass triplets in The Three Sisters and almost jumps off the roof and kills herself?  “POOR VAL!”  When Val catches Gary and Abs in bed for the first time and storms out of the cul-de-sac?  “POOR VAL!”  When Val wakes up and is told her twins were born dead?  “POOR VAL!”   When Ben ran off on her to go to South America or wherever the hell he went?  “POOR VAL!”  It works consistently and brilliantly and that’s why I love it so very much.





                I also love this scene because of the way they keep the suspense ramped up.  See, just as Psycho Jill is about ready to make Val swallow the pills, there’s a knock on the door and, wouldn’t you know it, it’s the Williams family (just Frank and Julie), wanting to see if Val’s still up for that midnight movie and eager to have Julie babysit the twins all the way until two or three in the morning or whatever the hell ungodly hour this is.  Great scene in all regards, because we get Psycho Jill lurking behind the door while holding a gun to Val’s head, and then we get Val’s strange behavior towards Frank and Julie.  They can tell something’s wrong from the way she is behaving, but since we’ve also just heard the brilliant Poor Val Speech, we can also imagine that perhaps Frank is just thinking, “Damn, that bitch is crazy.”  After all, she’s done plenty of things in the past that could be construed as a trifle nutty.  Anyway, the phone starts ringing and Val is like, “I gotta get that,” so she closes the door on Frank and Julie and is alone once again with Psycho Jill.  In an example of terrible timing, the caller is Gary and he leaves a message for Val saying how, “If you’ve got the machine on, I guess you’re asleep, so I won’t come by,” the exact wrong words to say when Psycho Jill is listening.  Psycho Jill already believes that Gary is mounting Val nightly and I imagine she thinks this little phone message is just further evidence of their shagging.  Also, for all the joy we viewers get out of the Poor Val Speech, how can one’s heart not go out to Val when Gary says, “Goodbye” on the machine and then Val slouches down against the door and sorta moans, “Goodbye, Gary.”  I am pretty easy to make cry, and I confess a few tears squirted out at “Goodbye, Gary.”  I just think about how Val really believes she is going to die and she really believes she will never see Gary again and, no matter what the two characters may have done in the past, we all know that they are soul mates and they are meant to be together.  No man has ever meant as much to Val as Gary, and as she says, “Goodbye, Gary,” we really know that she believes she’s never going to see him again. 


                We cut away from Val and Psycho Jill for a few minutes, but when we return, it really does look like Psycho Jill’s plan has worked. Val is laid out on the bed, Psycho Jill checks her pulse, Val remains motionless, and then Psycho Jill sneaks out of the room, but not before pausing to deliver another brilliant line, “I’ve been trying to feel sorry for you, Val, but I don’t.”  Ugh, yes, I love the mix of tragedy and comedy here.  If Psycho Jill succeeds in her plan, it will be a tragedy.  She will have murdered a woman who is a mother to two little babies and one daughter we never see and never speak of anymore, plus she has friends and other family like, um, Lilimae (wherever the hell she is now).  However, I still laughed aloud (as did MBG and Brother) at this fantastic line, and then the ep continues that device that I love so much in which we follow along with Psycho Jill as she tries to get her ass back to San Francisco for the final part of her perfect alibi.  We get more Hitchcockian suspense as she arrives at the airport only to find that all flights to San Francisco have been cancelled.  This was extra awesome because, in our previous ep, we were talking about San Francisco and MBG was like, “It’s a great city, but it’s impossible to fly there because they’re always cancelling flights due to weather,” and then we hop into this ep and this happens.  If I was watching this alone, I just might think that this device is a smidge convenient, but it seemed totally realistic after MBG made that comment last ep.  Anyway, we cut to Psycho Jill in a rental car, driving frantically back.  If the ep was a smidge longer (or didn’t spend too much time devoted to stupid other storylines), it might have been a nice little extra layer of suspense for her to get pulled over by a cop for speeding and have to charm her way out of a ticket.  In any case, she does make it back to San Francisco in time for Moustache to wake up and see her coming out of the bathroom, at which point she declares, “After last night, you deserve to be tired.”  Ugh, it’s just all so good.  Every single thing about Val and Psycho Jill and the evil plan is just perfect, some seriously A+ material.





                Unfortunately, the other storylines are absolutely not A+ material.  If I had to grade both the Manny Vasquez story and the Mexico story, I think I’d go with a C-.  I pick that grade because none of these stories are, you know, wretched the way that the bad storylines on Dallas were by this point, but they’re both super boring.  I would give the bad Dallas storylines an F, but these are C- because, even though they suck, they’re not as totally stupid as over on the parent series.  Anyway, let’s talk about these stories because we have no other choice; they are presented in front of us and we must talk about them.  However, let me just say that it’s a horrible, horrible mistake to cut away from Val and Psycho Jill at all and return us to these Valium plots.  Everything about that story is just pounding with excitement, and we also get to linger on it until, as I said, about the 23 minute mark, so then when we cut back to Mexico and the flaming car that nobody could care about, it’s like, “Oh yeah, this stuff is still going on.”  Anyway, since it’s boring, I’ll just zoom right through it.  By the end of the ep, Paige and Sexy Michael are on a bus and Johnny is, like, kidnapped or something.  I remember him being tied up and lying on the ground, but I can’t quite remember how he got there and I also don’t care.  So anyway, Paige and Sexy Michael are on this bus, hoping to get back to California, but then the police (Federales) come onto the bus and take them away, meaning we are going to have to spend even more time over in this storyline when we begin season ten.  That is very unfortunate; if the writers simply had to put this Mexico story into this ep, they could have at least done us the good of wrapping it up so it won’t infect and bore us all in the fall of 1988, but no, they couldn’t even do that.  I have no idea how much longer this shit goes on, but if it’s not wrapped up good and quick by the opening hours of season ten, I am definitely gonna throw some feces.


                Speaking of feces, I think the Manny Vasquez storyline might be coming to some sort of a climax, although maybe I’m wrong cuz I also think it intersects with the Mexico stuff.  Basically, we have a lot of boring footage of Karen and Mack fretting and talking about Manny and drugs and just generally overacting.  Remembering that I love both of these characters and both of these actors, but let me just take a minute to shit all over their acting right now.  What the hell happened?  Both Michele and The Dobsonator are giving some of their worst performances ever at this point, as if they both decided that just screaming a lot is how you win your Emmy.  I kinda imagine Michele taking The Dobsonator aside and being like, “I find that I give my best performances when I do seven shots of espresso and then take a long jog right before we roll cameras; then I’m really cooking!”  They’re both really terrible here and it’s the thing where, if someone wandered in while I was watching this and they knew how much I loved the show and the characters, they’d be like, “Seriously, this?” and I would have to be like, “No, it’s usually brilliant, I swear!  Read my blog!”  Anyway, what happens with Manny is that the characters cook up a little plan to fill the harbor with a bunch of other boats so that his coke boat can’t dock, and Manny is damn mad.  He throws some threat at Karen about how he’d better be able to get his coke boats into this harbor or else Paige and Sexy Michael will never be able to get out of Mexico alive.  Nobody cares about this, so let’s move on.  I'll throw in a picture of Sexy Michael shirtless so we can all at least find something worthwhile within all of this, although once again this is just a random picture I found and has nothing to do with this particular episode.





                How was the ep?  Well, I spent so much time writing about the great parts and so little time writing about the bad parts that my final analysis may seem slightly askew.  Basically, while I remembered this as one of the all time best season finales, it actually isn’t, but the thing is that it could have been.  Again, if the writers and powers-that-be had been smart enough to just filter out all the boring stuff and make this a 48 minute ep all about Val and Psycho Jill, it would be perfect; it would be one of the best eps ever made.  However, that Mexico stuff and that Manny stuff is really boring, and it’s just toxic whenever we cut away from the brilliant storyline to the bores.  To continue with my current obsession with letter grades, my memories of this ep was that it was A+ all the way, but due to the boring stuff, I’m gonna say it’s a……let's say a B.  I almost gave it a B+ but then I seriously thought about my lack of interest in the other two stories and I think a B grade is the most appropriate.  B is good; it means you passed the class, it means you’ve got talent, it means you got nothing to worry about it, but it also means that, with a smidge more effort, you could really show your talents off better.  However, I do wanna say that the very cliffhanger, the final image in which the camera pans over the bed to show Val lying on the floor with the open phone sprawled out before her, this is still my favorite cliffhanger.  What I mean by that is that the very image, the very ending, just the cliffhanger isolated unto itself, remains my very favorite.  When you really look at things with an objective lens, seasons four, five, and six all had better cliffhangers cuz the seasons were so well made and had been building to those endings all along.  However, taking this one simply as it is, as the very final image of the season, it’s still my favorite.  Also, and I hate to be a glass-half-empty kinda guy, but I’m gonna say this will probably be our last great cliffhanger.  The honest truth is I’m thinking over the next five years and I can’t really remember what the individual cliffhangers are.  I know they will never reach this level of excitement and brilliance again. 


                Anyway, that’s The Perfect Crime.  I’m eager to move us along to season ten, but first we’ve gotta talk about season nine as a whole, so stay tuned for my Reflection on Season Nine.  After that, we’ll power into season ten with Suicidal.