DALLAS versus KNOTS LANDING versus the rest of them week by week

Discussion in 'Dallas - The Original Series' started by James from London, Sep 18, 2016.

  1. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    07 Jan 87: DYNASTY: The Rig v. 07 Jan 87: THE COLBYS: The Legacy v. 08 Jan 87: KNOTS LANDING: No Miracle Worker v. 09 Jan 87: DALLAS: Tick, Tock v. 09 Jan 87: FALCON CREST: Dark Passion

    “All those terrorists running around … who know where they might strike next?” wonders Sly in this week’s DALLAS. And it’s true — almost without one noticing, this Soap Land season has been gradually infiltrated by all manner of mercenaries (DALLAS), mobsters (DYNASTY, FALCON CREST), drug dealers (KNOTS LANDING) and government agents-turned-bad (FALCON CREST, KNOTS). It’s too soon to say which category COLBYS’ newcomer Hoyt Parker fits into, but he’s clearly up to no good as well. And those on the right side of the law cannot necessarily be counted on to help. “What happens between you and BD is your business,” FBI agent Leo Daltry informs JR after he learns about the body Calhoun dumped in JR's office. Meanwhile, the fact that FALCON CREST’s new sheriff is played by future KNOTS mobster Manny Vasquez only adds to the sense of lawlessness,.

    Soap Land consequently feels a very dangerous place at the moment. The week starts with Ben Carrington shooting his brother Blake at point blank range on DYNASTY (as part of a dream sequence, admittedly) and ends with the gunning down of two unarmed women on FALCON CREST. Characters aren’t even safe in their own beds. No sooner does this week’s DALLAS end with BD Calhoun breaking into Southfork as the Ewings lie sleeping than FALCON CREST begins with a group of armed men invading Richard Channing’s home and snatching his baby son from his crib. Three of this week’s soaps end in cliffhangers that place characters in mortal danger (a gas explosion aboard an offshore rig leaves Blake trapped under some debris on DYNASTY as Ben looks on impassively, Hoyt Parker aims a rifle at Jason and Frankie on THE COLBYS, and JR wakes up to find himself face to face with a bomb on DALLAS). Highlights of this week’s KNOTS include Abby breaking down her daughter’s bathroom door with an axe (“You wanna get high? You let us watch you get high!”) and a drug dealer beating up her twelve-year-old son. There’s more kiddie violence on DALLAS when John Ross and Christopher come to blows for the very first time after John Ross cheats in a swimming race. (JR subsequently congratulates his son on his “competitive edge … Your winning made your daddy real proud of you.”)

    But when it comes to gratuitous violence, this week's FALCON CREST is streets ahead of its competitors. In the first ten minutes alone, there is a threat of infanticide (“Police or FBI = Dead Child,” reads a note Michael Channing’s kidnappers leave for Richard), Guy Stafford threatening to shoot Kit Marlowe unless she commit suicide by throwing herself off a bridge, and a knock-down drag-out fight between Stafford and Tony Cumson which results in Stafford going over the bridge instead. Tony assumes he has killed Stafford, but he later shows up alive — only to be immediately garrotted by his underworld superiors. “Boy finds girl, boy loses girl, boy loses life,” wisecracks his anonymous mobster boss in what is probably the grimmest death scene in Soap Land history — at least until the Jones sisters (Erin and Meredith the undercover nanny) are mown down at the end of the episode by a different group of anonymous mobsters. Oh, and there's also Melissa threatening to slash her own throat with a pair of scissors after finding Lance in bed with Dina the fitness instructor.

    Death hangs over THE COLBYS as well, specifically Connie’s — although let’s not forget poor old Hutch Corrigan who perished alongside her. Connie’s death — overseas, off screen, the result of a mysterious air crash — parallels Jock Ewing’s on DALLAS. In place of an entire episode of Ewings flashing back to memories of their patriarch, roughly a third of this week’s episode is given over to characters recalling scenes they shared with Connie during last season and even quoting her lines. Back on FALCON CREST, Kit Marlowe, with some help from Tony, has managed to convince everyone that she — or rather her alter-ego Skylar — is also dead.

    In the absence of bodies to bury, Connie and Skylar/Kit are granted matching memorial services, each set against a picturesque Californian backdrop. While the minister at Connie’s service assures the mourners that “her spirit is here with us where she lived,” Skylar/Kit really is there. Yes, in a Soap Land first, she’s shown up her own memorial service, watching from a discreet distance.

    In their grief, Connie’s brother Jason and Skylar’s stepfather Peter withdraw from their respective other halves, Frankie and Angela — just as Bobby Ewing will from wife Anne following JR’s death on New DALLAS. Frankie eventually persuades Jason that he needs a break and they travel together to the Colby family ranch where Hoyt Parker lies in wait for them. Peter Stavros also decides to get away, but refuses to take Angela with him. “I need to be alone,” he tells her. Like Angela, Miss Ellie is disappointed when Clayton rejects her idea of a vacation as way of recovering from recent events. It seems as if DALLAS is struggling to move on from some of its recent character departures. “It hasn’t been the same between us, has it, since the Wes Parmalee business,” Miss Ellie tells Clayton. “None of them matches Mandy Winger. Not one of them even comes close,” admits Sue Ellen as her search for a new Valentine Girl proves fruitless. Meanwhile, April is preoccupied with tracking down Jamie Ewing: “She now owns my five percent of Ewing Oil and I want it.”

    Hoyt Parker is one of three significant characters making their Soap Land debut this week. Each appears only briefly. Firstly, DYNASTY’s Adam is in Sydney, Australia when he happens to overhear a young woman in a telephone kiosk trying to track down Ben Carrington. She turns out to be Ben’s daughter Leslie (“I haven’t seen him in a very long time”), but disappears before he can question her further. Then the mysterious Hoyt Parker, whose name has been mentioned in connection with Connie’s death, is seen checking into a modest looking hotel on THE COLBYS (“Welcome to Los Angeles, Mr Parker”). And then finally, at the end of this week’s KNOTS, Mack Mackenzie opens the door of his New York hotel room to find Anne Matheson standing there, a dreamy smile on her face. (“Daddy told me you were here. Hi.”)

    This week’s KNOTS is unusual is that it focuses exclusively on just two storylines — Olivia’s drug problem and Mack’s visit to New York to see Anne — and features no more than a half dozen of its regular adult characters (two of which, Gary and Val, only appear in one scene apiece). Whereas Olivia’s story is full of big gestures and histrionics, the Mackenzies’ scenes are more nuanced, focusing on minor bits of character behaviour. Rather than deal with Mack’s impending reunion with his first love directly, he and Karen distract themselves by discussing insignificant details — what top he’s going to wear, how he plans get from the airport to the Winston residence, etc.

    A Soap Land taboo is quietly broken when Karen, already anxious about Mack and Anne, worries if the sweater she’s wearing is too tight. “I look fat!” she tells Val. My only previous memory of a non-pregnant woman’s weight being directly addressed in Soap Land is the jarring moment in DYNASTY Season 3 when Alexis refers to a nurse as obese. On one level, the “I look fat!” dilemma and the girly chat that follows it (“Have you gotten to be a big girl?” Val teases. “I’m afraid to weigh myself!” Karen kvetches) serve to make the characters seem more relatable to their audience. They have the same insecurities that you do, the scene is saying. At the same time, Karen’s groundless anxiety serves to highlight the fact that no one on KNOTS LANDING, or anywhere else in Soap Land, is even remotely overweight — at least no one deemed worthy of any significant screen time. So in trying to relate to its audience, KNOTS also distances itself from it. That isn’t to say that watching Val trying to stretch the sweater while Karen is still wearing it isn’t good fun.

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

    1 (1) THE COLBYS
    2 (3) DYNASTY
    3 (5) FALCON CREST
    4 (2) DALLAS
    5 (4) KNOTS LANDING
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2017
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  2. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    21 Jan 87: DYNASTY: A Love Remembered (2) v. 22 Jan 87: THE COLBYS: Manhunt v. 23 Jan 87: DALLAS: Night Visitor v. 23 Jan 87: FALCON CREST: When the Bough Breaks

    The search is on for three missing persons in this week’s Soap Land: Blake Carrington on DYNASTY, Scott Cassidy on THE COLBYS and Richard Channing’s son Michael on FALCON CREST. The circumstance of each disappearance is different. Suffering from amnesia, Blake has been spirited away to a secluded villa by Alexis who leads him to believe they’re still happily married. Scott, meanwhile, has run away in response to his parents’ breakup and Michael has been kidnapped by Mr Green (a professional mercenary, like BD Calhoun) who demands fifty million dollars and Meredith Braxton from Richard for his return.

    “I don’t want this part of our lives to end,” Alexis tells Blake in Singapore. “I wish I could freeze this moment forever. I wish I could always feel the way I do right now as though nothing could hurt us or interfere with our lives,” echoes Pam on DALLAS, enjoying some quality time with Bobby and Christopher. While Alexis is acutely aware that her time with Blake is running out, Pam is oblivious to all the misfortune that is soon to befall her. So is the first time viewer. It’s one of those Soap Land scenes that becomes more significant in hindsight.

    In the same week that Clayton Farlow’s private eye (played by none other than DYNASTY’s Ted Dinard) admits that his search for Wes Parmalee has reached a dead end, “the best detective in Singapore” comes up trumps by leading Krystle to Blake. Meanwhile, Monica Colby successfully intuits that Scott at the Griffith Observatory. However, neither Krystle nor Monica is congratulated for their efforts. “I don’t know who this woman is,” Blake tells Alexis when Krystle embraces him. “You’re not my friend. You just pretend to be nice to me so you can be with my dad!” Scott yells at Monica. “I like you very, very much, more than you could know,” Monica insists, mirroring Alexis’s line to Blake, “You’ll never know how much the past few days have meant to me, Blake — being with you, loving you again.” In the event, it is Alexis who tells Blake the truth. “I’ve lied to you,” she admits. “That woman is your wife.” There’s a similar twist elsewhere in the same episode when Sammy Jo, rather than Clay, decides to end their marriage following his discovery that she lied about her pregnancy. “Sammy Jo, all I want is for us to stay married and be happy,” he tells her. “We’re strangers to one another … I have to end this,” she replies. It’s an unexpectedly poignant moment.

    After Fallon, Sammy Jo and Maggie Gioberti, Donna Krebbs becomes the fourth pregnant woman in recent weeks to be admitted to Soap Land Memorial Hospital following a health scare. While Fallon’s turned out to be a false alarm, Maggie’s proved more serious and Sammy Jo’s revealed she was never actually pregnant in the first place, Donna is diagnosed with a serious-but-not-too-serious case of appendicitis. From a dramatic point of view, its main function is to put her soon-to-be ex-husband Ray and potential suitor Andrew Dowling in the same room.

    On last week’s COLBYS, during an oddly retro disagreement reminiscent of Bobby objecting to Pam working at The Store back in ’78, Jeff argued with Fallon’s decision to start an interior design business while carrying a baby. Fallon’s response, that being pregnant is a condition, not a disability, is echoed by Miss Ellie on this week’s DALLAS. “That’s typical, a man telling a woman to take it easy just because she’s pregnant. I remember with my sons, the energy I had! To me, it was a miracle. To my doctor, it was a medical condition.” Ellie is talking to Jenna for the first time since Jenna found out she was carrying Bobby’s baby. “I want only the best for my grandchild,” Ellie tells her. “Miss Ellie, that’s one thing this baby can never be,” Jenna insists. “There can be no ties with the Ewing family, for all our sakes.” This dynamic is mirrored on THE COLBYS. “I am your son’s grandmother,” Sable tells Cash Cassidy. “Let me set you straight,” he replies. “Scott is my son, Adrienne and mine’s legally. That’s all you need to know.” While Miss Ellie stands open-mouthed following Jenna’s pronouncement, Sable immediately calls her lawyer.

    Jeff Colby and Chase Gioberti travel to Boise, Idaho and Ridley, Oklahoma this week, to investigate the pasts of Hoyt Parker and Dan Fixx respectively. Between them, they encounter a virtual whos-who of character actors from Soap Land’s past — among them Jock Ewing’s first wife, Karen Mackenzie’s shooter, the doctor who erroneously informed Jason Colby that he was dying, the cop who investigated the shooting of Claudia Blaisdel and Verna Ellers’ coffee shop boss from Shula, Tennessee.

    Ridley is a particularly interesting location. It’s almost the Soap Land version of S Town: a strange, remote, inward-looking place full of intriguing characters hiding murky secrets. Like previous close-knit communities depicted in Soap Land, it doesn’t take kindly to outsiders asking too many questions. As a result, Chase receives a pasting from some anonymous locals, just as the Dallas Ewings did in Landowne (“The Dove Hunt”, Season 2) and Gary Ewing did in Shula (KNOTS Season 6).

    Once again, violence permeates this week’s episodes. On DYNASTY, after Dominique refuses to let Gary Tildon and his group of mobsters manage her singing career, he sends some boys round to her recording studio to interrupt her rendition of Gershwin’s ‘I Can’t Get Started’ and knock her around a bit. Nick Kimble rides to her rescue using a variety of musical instruments as offensive weapons. Not since Gary drunkenly disrupted Ciji Dunne’s recording session has a Soap Land music studio seen this much chaos. “Those creeps won’t be back,” Nick assures her. The same cannot be said for BD Calhoun who stalks Sue Ellen throughout this week’s DALLAS.

    Following the tabloid article that accused him of betraying his country and made him the target of death threats, Jason Colby has been obliged to beef up his personal security. After JR discovers BD’s little bomb at his bedside, he feels the need to the same thing at Southfork. “Doesn’t anybody read the newspapers?” he asks the rest of the Ewings. “Here we are, an enormously rich family right out in the middle of nowhere. We’re fair game for anybody … In this day and age, anybody with three dollars more than their neighbour is a target … With all the nuts and all the terrorists, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Eskimos started hijacking airplanes.” This rant reminds me of Fallon Colby’s after her son was kidnapped on DYNASTY four years ago: "My father worked very hard for all of this. He had genius and he had guts and he got it all for us, and until now it never occurred to me that people might hate him for that, might hate us, might even hate our baby enough to take him from us. Is this way it really is for people like us, Jeff?” This time, however, JR’s knee-jerk paranoia is a smokescreen for his own wrongdoing. As a further precaution, we also see him practising his aim at the local firing range. It’s kind of refreshing to see JR shooting a gun instead of being on the receiving end of one for once.

    Speaking of shootings, the safeguards taken by Jason Colby cannot prevent the assassination attempt against him at the end of this week’s ep. It takes place at the Jefferson Hotel during a press conference and is the best staged Soap Land shooting since the Belmar Hotel sequence at the end of KNOTS’ fifth season. Now as then, the wrong person is shot as Cash takes the bullet for Jason. (Oh my God — they killed Kenny!) I particularly liked the double-cross moment in the ensuing chaos where the bad guys’ inside man on the hotel security team shoots the assassin dead (“You. You set me up”). DALLAS tried something similar during the Martinique shoot-out last season’s, but that moment was nowhere near as effective.

    The last time I watched the scene of Cash’s shooting, I remember noticing that Monica’s hair had been styled in an unusually ‘60s way and that her clothes resembled those of Jackie Kennedy’s on the day of JFK’s assassination. This time around, the comparison seems less obvious — although the moment where she kneels over Cash’s body, her hand covered in his blood, suggests that perhaps I wasn’t imagining things after all.

    Intentional or otherwise, it’s not the only cultural reference of the week. On DYNASTY, the amnesiac Blake peruses newspapers looking for a familiar name. “The only one I recognise after twenty-three years is Paul Newman,” he tells Alexis who co-starred with Newman in Rally Round the Flag, Boys! back in ’58. There’s more movie magic on DALLAS where a waitress observes Sue Ellen reading Star Struck magazine. “Mandy Winger,” she says, referring to the magazine’s cover girl. “Now she’s a movie star. In real life, she’s very shy. My sister has a friend who used to know the girl that did her nails.”

    There’s also some literary name-dropping in this week’s Lorimar soaps with DALLAS and FALCON CREST referring to the most famous character created by Henry Fielding and Harper Lee respectively. Having gathered his courage to ask Donna out on a date, Senator Dowling suggests a crab restaurant where they “let you get positively Tom Jones-ish about it all.” Meanwhile, Dan Fixx’s former lawyer insists that “Clarence Darrow himself couldn’t have done any better” at defending him.

    Two weeks after Karen’s “I look fat!” outburst on KNOTS, more female bodies are discussed in terms we’re not used to hearing in Soap Land. On THE COLBYS, Kolya wants Georgina Sinclair replaced as his dance partner. “She’s gained weight — she’s getting too heavy for the lifts,” he complains. “She doesn’t weigh an ounce!” replies Sable. Over on DALLAS, Sue Ellen and her PR guy pass comment on a parade of potential Valentine Girls, all of whom are filmed from the neck down, the better to emphasise their lack of identity. “This girl has a very pretty face but no --” “Bust?” “She’s just flat, no --” “Fanny? … It’s all right to use those terms in your presence, Mr Barton. I’m a trained professional,” Sue Ellen assures her colleague. Nevertheless, hearing her critique another woman’s fanny feels as incongruous as the sight of Abby Ewing sticking her hand down a toilet bowl did a couple of weeks ago. Belonging to the same category is the scene in FALCON CREST where Angela Channing explains the workings of a feeding tube to Melissa, who is refusing to eat after being hospitalised for her breakdown: “They put it up your nose and you swallow it down into your tummy. I know it sounds terribly uncomfortable but after a couple of days, you can’t live without it.” Melissa promptly takes a bite of the nearest apple.

    And this week’s Top 4 is …

    1 (-) DALLAS
    2 (2) THE COLBYS
    3 (-) FALCON CREST
    4 (3) DYNASTY
     
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  3. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    28 Jan 87: DYNASTY: The Portrait v. 29 Jan 87: THE COLBYS: All Fall Down v. 29 Jan 87: KNOTS LANDING: Never Trick a Trickster v. 30 Jan 87: DALLAS: Cat and Mouse v. 30 Jan 87: FALCON CREST: The Cradle Will Fall

    Reconciliation is in the air in this week’s Soap Land. On DYNASTY, Blake holds out his hand to his estranged brother: “You saved my life, Ben, I want to thank you for that.” “You saved my life,” echoes Jason on THE COLBYS. He’s talking to Cash Cassidy who intercepted a bullet intended for him at the end of last week’s episode. “I was wrong about you,” he admits. KNOTS LANDING’s Karen likewise sees Paige in a new light after meeting her mother Anne. “I never realised what Paige was up against … I really feel sorry for her,” she tells Mack. With Cash unconscious after the shooting, there’s not much Jason can practically do for him. Blake and Karen, however, offer Ben and Paige a roof over their respective heads. “I’d like you to come home, Ben,” says Blake. “I think Paige should live with us,” says Karen.

    There’s also a thawing of hostilities between various feuding exes. After four years of animosity, DYNASTY’s Steven and Sammy Jo are now sleepover buddies. Even more surprisingly, Blake forgives Alexis for deceiving him while he had amnesia. “I was angry,” he concedes, “but now I’m very grateful to you for all the ways that you helped me then.” And in spite of JR being somewhat culpable in Sue Ellen’s recent abduction, the ordeal serves to bring them closer. “We’ve been through some major battles, Sue Ellen,” he tells her, “but no matter what happens between us, the last thing I wanna see is for you to be hurt.”

    The reconciling doesn’t stop there. Steven also patches things up with Alexis while FALCON CREST’s Emma forgives nephew Lance for using a psychic to trick her into signing over her proxy in the New Globe to him. “I guess I’ll keep you as my nephew after all,” she giggles, hugging him. Lance himself turns to his formerly estranged father Tony for support following Melissa’s “temporary psychosis.” Even Tony and Angela — two FC characters who have despised each other since long before the series even began — are suddenly cordial towards one another.

    As last season’s DALLAS demonstrated, too much harmony between characters can kill a soap stone dead. However, there are enough hostile reactions to these truces to fan the flames of dramatic conflict — at least for now. While Dex is predictably jealous of Alexis and Blake’s newfound understanding, Steven’s friendship with Sammy Jo leads to both a dance-floor punch-up between he and Clay and a bitchy exchange between Sammy Jo and Alexis. Meanwhile, Krystle remains wary of Ben. “As far as I’m concerned, you’re still on trial,” she warns him. However, the juiciest response to a rapprochement belongs to Anne Matheson. “If Paige is staying in Knots Landing, then so am I,” she announces.

    As Paige comes face to face with the mother she hasn’t seen since she faked her own death, DYNASTY’s Leslie Carrington arrives in Denver to confront the father she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl. Whereas Leslie’s meeting with Ben is all raised voices and overwrought emotions (“You walked out on us and I’ll never forgive you for that!” “That’s not true, Leslie! … You must believe me, please!”) Anne’s reunion with Paige is far, far chillier — and, for added social awkwardness, unfolds in front of Karen and Mack. “If I collected on your death, it’s because you abandoned me and I deserved it,” Anne tells Paige. “And where did you go on my death — to Cannes?” Paige asks. ”Rio,” Anne replies.

    On DALLAS, Ray has been advised to curtail his friendship with Jenna in order to increase his chances of winning custody of his and Donna’s unborn baby. This has affected Jenna more than she expected. “You miss him, only you won’t say it — so say it!” challenges Charlie on her way out the door. “Yes, I miss him, very much,” confesses Jenna tearfully to an empty kitchen. Over on FALCON CREST, Vicky Gioberti is even more direct when confronting her pregnant mother about her true feelings for a platonic male friend (who, like Ray, just happens to be the half-brother of the father of her unborn child). “Are you falling in love with Richard Channing?” she asks. Maggie proves more circumspect than Jenna in her reply, however: “I am five-and-a-half months pregnant. I am not gonna be having a romance with anybody.” While Jenna worries that Charlie has grown “too attached” to Ray, Maggie faces the opposite problem with her daughter. “Fair warning, Mother — if this friendship with Richard gets any deeper, I’m outta here,” Vicky tells her.

    This week’s DALLAS and FALCON CREST each include what might be called “a mini-abduction”. When Sue Ellen returns home after a night away from Southfork but cannot remember where she’s been, the family assume she’s fallen off the wagon — but things are not what they seem. When two men burst into Tony Cumson’s office and tell him, “Our employer would like very much to talk to you about Skylar Kimble” and then refuse to take no for an answer, the audience assumes the mobsters looking for Kit Marlowe have caught up with him. Again, things are not what they seem. While Sue Ellen later discovers she had been kidnapped, Tony is taken to Greece, where he finds Peter Stavros desperate for answers about his stepdaughter’s suicide: “Why did she do it, Tony? She had every reason to live.”

    It then falls to Tony to hand-deliver a letter from Peter to Angela. “My dearest Angela,” it reads, “I hope you can understand what I’m going through and why I cannot return to Falcon Crest … I can’t ask you to tear yourself away from your home and your family. The time that we’ve shared has been the happiest of my life … I’ll always love you, Peter.” DYNASTY’s Michael Culhane delivers a similar letter to Blake from Amanda, who has also decided against returning to Soap Land: “Dear Daddy, you and Michael were forcing me to choose between you. Well, I can’t. I love you both too much.” “She says she’s leaving for London and not to try to follow her,” Michael adds. Yet another significant piece of mail is delivered to JR on DALLAS. It contains a set of photos of an apparently naked Sue Ellen unconscious in BD Calhoun’s hotel room. “Thought you might like to know where your wife spent the night,” reads the accompanying note.

    Peter’s rejection of the Tuscany Valley as a whole (“I kept her in the valley,” he says of Skylar. “I let it poison her … I have no desire to go back there“) chimes with Fallon’s outburst on this week’s COLBYS: “Sable and Channing and Miles — these people, this house. I’ve gotta get out of here … I can’t stay locked up in this castle forever!” she yells at Jeff. His response is interesting. “It’s time you grew up,” he snaps. “Ever since I married you, you’ve had everything your way. You married me, you divorced me and you ran out … If you wanna run, go ahead and run, but this time I’m not running after you!” This speech serves to bring the somewhat sugary nature of Fallon and Jeff’s relationship as depicted on THE COLBYS in line with the more volatile version we saw previously on DYNASTY.

    Corporate intrigue of the week: While Hoyt Parker purchases $2,000,000 worth of Colby Enterprises anonymously, Greg Sumner is, as Peter Hollister puts it, “convinced somebody’s hacked into his computer so he’s feeding it false information to smoke out the culprit … trying to trap some imaginary bad guys.” The illicit passing of information continues on DALLAS where Pam innocently mentions Ewing Oil’s interest in acquiring MacArthur Mining to Cliff who then relays this information to Jeremy Wendell who subsequently instructs April to pick up a little pillow talk from JR on the subject.

    Back on KNOTS, Greg’s plan succeeds: “Someone took the bait … a South African named Rudolf Bauer. He’s a shady investor … All of his investments make sense only if he’s got the information I put in my machine. This guy is gonna lose millions … Our friend Rudy hangs around with some nasty people — mercenaries, arms dealers. Rumours have it that he even finances a terrorist group.” Mercenaries, arms dealers, terrorists — these are becoming increasingly common terms in Soap Land with THE COLBYS’ Hoyt Parker, DALLAS’s BD Calhoun and FALCON CREST’s Mr Green fitting at least one of these descriptions each.

    Peter Hollister paints a very interesting picture of Greg this week: “He used to be pragmatic. Now he’s isolated, eccentric, paranoid … He almost never goes to work in his corporate headquarters anymore … His ranch is crawling with electronic sensors.” This sense of paranoia and isolationism is reflected in the other soaps as well. “It could be a conspiracy. We don’t know how many are involved,” says Miles Colby following the most recent attempt on his father’s life. Meanwhile, Bobby Ewing accuses JR of “endangering your entire family” by his involvement with Calhoun. “Do we all have to pack guns from now on?” he asks. Suddenly everyone’s battening down the hatches and “beefing up security”. “You’re safe here,” Miles assures Fallon. “Between the sensors and the guards and the dogs, lord knows, this house is as tight as a drum.” Similarly, the Ewing boys elect to keep their sons home from school (“Calhoun’s just crazy enough to nab one of them”) and Bobby persuades Pam not to go into work either. “Do you know that I’m afraid to leave the house — what if he comes after me again?” asks Sue Ellen, summing up this new atmosphere of intimidation.

    In response, characters start taking the law into their own hands. Bobby’s first impulse after learning that Calhoun kidnapped Sue Ellen is to call the cops. “I wouldn’t do that,” JR tells him. “Why not?” he asks. “Because if the feds find out about this,” JR replies, “Ewing Oil will lose its franchise. They’ll shut us down, Bobby, and you and I will go to prison.” As a result, it’s up to the Ewing brothers to deal with Calhoun themselves. The final scene of this week’s DALLAS finds them both armed and ready to burst into BD’s hotel room. “I’m gonna kneecap him. That’ll slow him down,” JR mutters. “Protecting the family” is leading the Ewings into some very murky waters, both morally and legally. The same can be said for Ben Gibson on KNOTS. “You and the kids are the only things that I care about in my life,” he tells Val. She takes comfort from this statement, but it’s also the reason Jean Hackney has been able to persuade Ben to spy on Greg Sumner. And there’s worse to come. In fact, the final lines of both of this week’s Ewing-verse shows set the stage for an impending fatal showdown. “Your assignment is to kill Greg Sumner,” Jean tells Ben. “Now you’re an enemy worth killing,” Calhoun informs JR.

    Once again, FALCON CREST takes these theme of violence and lawlessness to a whole different level. The majority of this week’s episode is taken up by two separate storylines, one involving Richard, the other Chase, each of whom must do battle with a different set of anonymous bad guys who are out for blood. Bizarre highlights include Meredith Braxton bursting out of her own coffin to gun down a bunch of mercenaries and Chase digging his own grave at gunpoint. For better and/or worse (and this instalment is actually quite engrossing), we’re a very long way from FC’s original soapy premise of a feuding family battling each other for control of their shared legacy.

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

    1 (1) DALLAS
    2 (-) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (3) FALCON CREST
    4 (2) THE COLBYS
    5 (4) DYNASTY
     
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  4. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    04 Feb 87: DYNASTY: The Birthday v. 05 Feb 87: THE COLBYS: Guilty Party v. 05 Feb 87: KNOTS LANDING: A Plan of Action v. 06 Feb 87: DALLAS: High Noon For Calhoun v. 06 Feb 87: FALCON CREST: Topspin

    BD Calhoun quotes the Bible again on this week’s DALLAS. “The sins of the father shall be visited on the sons,” he tells JR (a sentiment THE COLBYS’ Zach Powers would heartily agree with). But it’s another Biblical passage — “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” — that springs to mind elsewhere in this week’s Soap Land. “You have more money and more power than you ever could have imagined,” says Laura to Greg on KNOTS. “I never know who you are anymore.” This sentiment is mirrored on DYNASTY. “In my lifetime, I have made more money than I ever dreamed I would make,” Dominique tells Dex. “Sometimes when I look in the mirror, there is no one looking back at me.” She and Dex are chatting over drinks in a bar. Even though these two characters have coexisted onscreen for about three years, it’s the first significant discussion I can recall between them, yet one immediately buys them as good friends with a shared history. There exists a similar connection between Ray Krebbs and Jenna Wade during this season’s DALLAS. Dex and Dominique are both smarting from tiffs with their respective love interests so it would be the easiest thing in Soap Land for them to wind up in bed together. Instead, the characters — and the show itself — have different ideas. “You just don’t go to bed with a friend to strike out at someone,” declares Dominique, clearly not up to speed on the book of Soap Land clichés. “Even if you find that friend warm and appealing?” teases Dex. “Especially if you find that friend warm and appealing,” she replies firmly, drawing any possibility of romance between them to a close. The situation isn’t entirely devoid of soap tropes, however, as evidenced when Alexis finds them in a friendly embrace and inevitably misreads the situation. An even rarer, more tantalising Soap Land pairing than Dex and Dominique? Greg Sumner and Val Gibson, who share their first scene on this week’s KNOTS. While their conversation is fairly inconsequential, the scene derives its tension from the fact that Val knows, but Greg doesn’t, that her husband has been ordered to kill him.

    Viewed with hindsight, the scene of Dominique taking stock of her life seems to anticipate her low-key departure from DYNASTY at the end of this season. There’s a similarly ruminative quality to the lovely scene on DALLAS where Andrew Dowling asks Donna about her marriages to Sam Culver and Ray Krebbs. This provides Donna, who is also on her way out, with an opportunity to look back to when she arrived on the show, and in particular her first meeting with Ray (her description of which is slightly different to what played out on screen at the time, but no matter). “He was young and vibrant, everything the years had stolen from Sam,” she remembers, her eyes closed in reverie. She is brought sharply back to the present by a kick from her and Ray’s unborn child. Andrew picks up on an unspoken thought. “Ray isn’t gonna let you go easily, is he?” he asks. Over on FALCON CREST, Maggie Gioberti experiences a similar combination of nostalgia and loss after attending her first Lamaze class. She tells Richard about her awkwardness at “being in that class with all those young couples. When Vicky was born, it was such a happy time.” “Just where do you and Chase stand now, if you don’t mind me asking?” Richard asks her gently, displaying a sensitivity similar to that of Senator Dowling in his conversation with Donna. “We don’t really communicate,” she admits. Neither do Greg and Laura on KNOTS. When Laura tries to tackle Greg directly about their problem, he suggests that “if you’re so unhappy around here, maybe you should go back to the cul-de-sac.” So she does, joining Donna and Maggie as Soap Land’s latest middle-aged mom-to-be currently estranged from her husband. (“Pregnant women alone seem to be the fashion nowadays,” remarked Donna at Bobby and Pam’s wedding — in which case, Laura is bang on trend.)

    Things aren’t looking much rosier for the three couples who eloped earlier on in this Soap Land season. The most recent newlyweds, Sammy Jo and Clay, sign their annulment papers on this week’s DYNASTY while FALCON CREST’s Lance and Melissa are now sleeping in separate bedrooms. Over on THE COLBYS, after Miles accuses her of pushing her pregnant sister-in-law down the stairs, Channing announces that “the nightmare’s over and so is this marriage.”

    As if to redress the balance, Vince Karlotti and Adam Carrington pop the question to Emma Channing and Dana Waring on FALCON CREST and DYNASTY respectively. Emma declines but Dana accepts, making her and Adam Soap Land’s third currently engaged couple, alongside Jason and Frankie on THE COLBYS and Gary and Jill on KNOTS. Meanwhile, Zach Powers continues to pressure Sable for an answer to his proposal.

    DALLAS opens with John Ross and Christopher breaking a vase while playing ball in the upstairs hallway of Southfork. A similar misdemeanour on THE COLBYS has far more serious consequences when it transpires that Fallon’s fall down the stairs wasn’t caused by a vengeful Channing, but by LB leaving his marbles on the staircase. While LB, John Ross and Christopher are suitably apologetic, an unrepentant Joseph Agretti/Gioberti/Cumson (delete where necessary) is sent to his room for calling Lance a butthead on FALCON CREST. As contemporary vernacular goes, “Butthead” is up there with Jason Avery’s recent “have a cow” remark on KNOTS. These phrases will, of course, be popularised by BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD and THE SIMPSONS, but interestingly, neither cartoon had made its TV debut at this point.

    This week's FALCON CREST takes a narrative jump forward of about six weeks which means that Maggie is suddenly seven months pregnant. Laura’s pregnancy on KNOTS appears to have accelerated, too, mainly due to the actress’s real-life condition. By contrast, DALLAS’s Donna is still carrying the baby she conceived almost two years ago.

    As a result of her fall, Fallon is taken to Soap Land Memorial Hospital where is she told that the complications surrounding LB’s birth five years earlier mean that her second child must be delivered immediately by caesarian section. This is one of two pregnancies that occurred during the 1981/2 season to impact this week’s Soap Land. The other is Emma Channing’s miscarriage on FALCON CREST which, she is now informed, has left her unable to conceive.

    Fallon’s new baby is a girl, just as we learn Laura’s will be on KNOTS. (“Two boys and now a little girl,” remarks Karen. “Yeah, just like you,” Laura replies.) Exactly like the last time Fallon gave birth, Jeff is nowhere to be found. Back then, he was in bed with Claudia Blaisdel (who is unexpectedly name-checked by Alexis on this week’s DYNASTY). This time, he’s busy tailing Hoyt Parker.

    Birthday parties are comparatively rare occurrences in Soap Land. (As a general rule, this is not a genre that actively seeks to draw attention to the ageing process.) Nonetheless, there have been three such events in recent weeks: Peter Stavros’s seventy-fifth birthday bash on FALCON CREST, Kolya Rostov’s twenty-somethingth on THE COLBYS and, this week, Krystina Carrington’s third on DYNASTY. Somewhat predictably, each celebration ends in relative disaster. Skylar’s nonappearance at Peter’s gathering on FC led those who were in attendance to fear that she had committed suicide. An altercation between Bliss Colby and Georgina Sinclair resulted on Georgina sitting on Kolya’s birthday cake (not so much a cat-fight as a cat-splat). And now Krystina’s party is cancelled after she experiences breathing difficulties and has to be admitted to Soap Land Memorial Hospital.

    This leads to a truly bizarro final scene in which a wheezing Krystina rides maniacally on her rocking horse. As the situation builds, there is some frantic cross-cutting between her and her sleeping parents, followed by her slow-motion collapse. (It’s somewhat reminiscent of her big sister Fallon freaking out on a merry-go-round horse back in Season 4.) “Blake, she’s not breathing!” yells Krystle. Just as last week’s FALCON CREST finished on a slow-mo shot of Angela, her voice echoing as she announced: “Nobody walks out on me and gets away with it — NOBODY!” this scene ends the same way, with Krystle’s pleas reverberating as she cries, “Somebody help me — HELP ME!” By chance, the closing scene of THE COLBYS also takes place at Soap Land Memorial with the news that Fallon’s baby, just like her three-year-old aunt on DYNASTY, is struggling to breathe. “We’ve got her back on the respirator but that’s not gonna help her to live too much longer,” her doctor warns Jeff and Miles gravely.

    The lives of the Ewing-verse children are also in danger, but for them, the threat is malevolent rather than medical. In the opening scene of this week’s KNOTS, Ben Gibson calls Jean Hackney’s bluff by refusing to assassinate Greg Sumner. “Do your worst. Kill me,” he challenges her. “It’s not just you we’ll kill, Daddy,” she replies. In the last scene of this week’s DALLAS, the threat is even more overt. “What I’m gonna do is kill him and let you watch him die,” BD Calhoun informs JR while pointing a gun at his son.

    In fact, this week’s KNOTS and DALLAS run along very similar lines. Following Jean’s threat to Ben and BD’s to JR (“Now I know you’re an enemy worth killing”), both men decide that the time has come to tell those closest to them (Val in Ben’s case, the rest of the Ewings in JR’s) about the dangers they are facing. While Ben tells Val the truth about his previous involvement with Jean, JR spins the facts about his association with BD to make him look like the innocent party. Ironically, in so doing, his and Ben’s stories end up sounding almost identical. Ben describes himself to Val as “a guy that got involved with a group that planted a couple of bombs … this guy had no idea that the bombs were even being planned on.” “Calhoun came to me,” claims JR. “He wanted to get support for his organisation … I thought they were just one of those patriotic outfits, good solid Americans … I gave him some money and then I found out that what he wanted to do was blow up the oilfields in Saudi Arabia.”

    Upon hearing Ben and JR’s stories, Val and Pam react the same way. “We should go to the police,” says Val. “Why not just call the police?” asks Pam. It is impressed upon each of them that this is not a good idea. “We can’t take that chance … The kids could be killed,” insists Ben. “If the police get involved, Ewing Oil may find itself in serious jeopardy,” argues Bobby.

    As far as Ben and the Ewing brothers are concerned, there is only one solution: to get the women and children out of town. “The most important thing is to get those kids and you and Lilimae safely out of their reach,” Ben tells Val. “Our first priority has to be to protect the family. You and Sue Ellen have to take the boys away,” Bobby tells Pam. For the Ewings, “away” means California; for the Gibsons, “out of reach” means anywhere but California.

    While Pam might be angry about the situation (she scoffs at JR's attempt "to convince us he’s just some innocent bystander that this person just latched onto”), she reluctantly goes along with the plan. Over on KNOTS, Lilimae adds an extra complication to the drama. The Gibsons need her help (not to mention her savings) to make their getaway, but cannot risk letting her know what is really happening, and so she is dragged into a situation she has no understanding of. However, having got her cooperation and Ben having dumped his car and stolen another, the Gibsons are finally on their way to safety. Back on DALLAS, with the Ewing wives and sons stashed in California, JR, Ray and Bobby wait armed and ready for Calhoun to make his next move. But for all their precautions, both families have been outmanoeuvred.

    When Jean Hackney and BD catch up with their prey, they each adopt the same faux friendly tone. “Hi, what a coincidence!” Jean calls out cheerily to Ben as she pulls up alongside his car. “I see you’re out shopping with the entire family. You know, I know a wonderful store nearby that’s having a sale on vitamins.” “JR, how you doing, old buddy?” asks BD amiably over the phone. “I knew you were expecting my call so I didn’t wanna disappoint you. I just wanted you to know that I have a couple of other things on my agenda first before I get to you so you can relax a little.“ While Jean’s implication is clear — her reference to vitamins is a way of letting Ben and Val know she’s been keeping tabs on the twins, Lilimae having spent the morning trying to get their prescription filled — BD’s is more subtle. JR doesn’t yet realise it, but Calhoun is calling from the very hotel Pam and Sue Ellen have taken the kids to (it’s also the place where Jill Bennett resides on KNOTS) and “a couple of other things on my agenda” include kidnapping John Ross. When BD contacts JR again, it’s to trade his son for him.

    Throughout this episode of KNOTS, Ben impresses on Val that “the important thing right now is we behave as usual, nothing out of the norm. Remember, when you go into the house there’s a possibility that it could be bugged.” This need to pretend adds a whole extra layer of tension to their situation. By contrast, the Dallas Ewings’ words and deeds are concealed from prying eyes — or so it seems. After they arrive in California, JR, Ray and Bobby also put on an act for the benefit of whoever might be watching — although we viewers don’t realise it at the time. On the morning of JR’s showdown with BD, Ray and Bobby approach their elder brother. “We’re going with you,” Ray tells him. “Oh no you’re not,” JR insists. As eventually becomes clear, they do follow him and are the ones who shoot Calhoun dead just as he’s about to kill John Ross. Thus, another of this season’s bad guys comes to a memorably gruesome end. (See also Phil Harbert and Erin Jones.)

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

    1 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (1) DALLAS
    3 (4) THE COLBYS
    4 (3) FALCON CREST
    5 (5) DYNASTY
     
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  5. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    11 Feb 87: DYNASTY: The Test v. 12 Feb 87: THE COLBYS: Fallon's Baby v. 12 Feb 87: KNOTS LANDING: Survival of the Fittest v. 13 Feb 87: DALLAS: Olio v. 13 Feb 87: FALCON CREST: A Piece of Work

    “I hate to feel powerless,” says Dominique on DYNASTY. “I feel so helpless,” complains Fallon on THE COLBYS. “I’m sick and tired of waiting … feeling helpless,” echoes Jeff. If there’s a theme connecting this week’s DYNASTY, KNOTS LANDING and THE COLBYS, then it’s one of impotence. While Krystina Carrington and Fallon’s as yet unnamed baby are at the mercy of the fates, Ben Gibson’s family are at the mercy of Jean Hackney.

    The message from the medical staff to the characters on both sides of the DYNASTY-verse is the same: everything that can be done is being done, all you can do is wait, etc. Much fretting and pacing of the hallways of Soap Memorial Hospital ensue. Not surprisingly, several characters’ thoughts turn to religion. “I wish I had your faith,” sighs Bliss Colby when boyfriend Kolya introduces her to Catholicism. “Everyone has faith,” he assures her. “It’s just that some people have to reach deeper to find it.” “If there’s a God in Heaven, he’ll hear us,” declares Jeff confidently. Over on KNOTS, in the absence of an explanation for recent events from her family, Lilimae Clements announces her intention to “look for answers in my Bible.” Steven Carrington also reaches for the Good Book, a copy of which he keeps on his mantlepiece, before choosing to commune with the Lord in his own words: “Dear God, Krystina has so much love here ... Please let her live.” His sentiment is echoed by Bliss: “Please let Fallon’s baby live and be healthy.” She then adds a delightfully soapy postscript: “Whichever one of my brothers is her father, please don’t let it destroy my family.”

    On DYNASTY, Krystina is diagnosed with congestive heart failure — one of those occasional Soap Land emergencies for which no one is responsible, no one is to blame. In this regard, it’s reminiscent of Jamie’s freak oil drum accident on last season’s DALLAS. Just as the Ewings were then, the Carringtons are suddenly getting along like a house on fire. This means, with nearly all their family hatchets buried, everyone is free to drop by Soap Land Memorial Hospital and lend Blake and Krystle their support.

    The biggest surprise during the equivalent DALLAS storyline was how concerned JR was about his cousin. Here, it’s Alexis’s concern that stands out. While we knew all along that JR had an ulterior motive, Alexis’s sympathy for Krystina seems quite genuine. This makes Krystle’s unprovoked outburst towards her all the more interesting. In fact, it’s the only point in this week’s DYNASTY where the drama really catches fire. “You don’t care about Krystina,” she tells Alexis. “You never bothered about her, you never asked about her … ” “Believe me, I have nothing against your little girl,” Alexis insists. “Then what’s changed?” Krystle snaps. “You obviously had something against my first child. I’ve lost one child because of you. I don’t want you near Krystina.” “… I’d never harm Krystina,” Alexis replies. “You’ve harmed everyone I’ve ever loved!” Krystle shouts. For once, Krystle is the aggressor and Alexis is the innocent party — it’s a very unusual dynamic. Over on THE COLBYS, Fallon reacts to a hospital visit from Channing with the same degree of hostility and suspicion — “You stay away from my baby … Stay away from this hospital” — and Channing is just as taken aback as Alexis is. Meanwhile on KNOTS, Val is similarly protective of her twins (“Don’t you lay a hand on them … Don’t you touch my children”), but this time the threat posed by Jean Hackney is all too real.

    DYNASTY explores Krystina’s condition with unusual detail. Towards the end of the episode, she undergoes a heart biopsy to determine the cause of her problem. It’s a relatively minor, even pain-free procedure, but one that requires the patient to be conscious throughout, and the show elects to depict it in its entirety. The intention seems to be to portray Krystle and Blake as “every-parents” struggling to master their own emotions and comfort their frightened daughter as she undergoes this bewildering procedure. This sober approach is also reflected in the episode's wardrobe choices. Instead of turning up to the hospital in cocktail dresses, as is customary in Soap Land, everyone’s suddenly in winter coats and scarves.

    However, the soap must go on. On DYNASTY, Blake insists that Adam and Dana continue with their wedding as arranged: “I want you to make your plans. Don’t let anything stop you.” On THE COLBYS, Fallon says the same thing to Frankie about her and Jason’s forthcoming nuptials: “I want you to go ahead with your wedding. Our lives have to go on, all of our lives.”

    If Krystina’s storyline is an attempt to make the rich and glamorous Carringtons seem more accessible by putting them in a situation that the average viewer can relate to, then the Gibsons’ ordeal on KNOTS is the opposite. The suburban lifestyle depicted (however superficially) on KNOTS is readily identifiable to the audience and so the show rings the changes by taking Solid Old Ben and thrusting him into a high-octane nightmare. The cosily familiar trappings of suburbia are still there — neighbours Mack and Ben attending a basketball game, Ben sitting out on the lawn on a Sunday morning fixing his kids’ swing (shades of Richard Avery doing odd jobs around the house just before disappearing out of his family’s lives for good), but nothing is quite as it seems. Even Ben and Val’s more intimate ‘scenes from a marriage’ turn out to be conversations conducted for the benefit of Jean Hackney’s surveillance equipment. Instead, their true communications take place via notepad and pen. Subtext has taken on an unexpectedly literal meaning on KNOTS LANDING.

    While the “normalising” of Krystle and Blake isn’t terribly involving (although far less grating than DALLAS’s attempts to do the same to the Ewings last season), the transformation of Ben into an assassin is gripping stuff. Just as last week’s DALLAS climaxed with the showdown between JR and BD Calhoun followed by the fatal shooting of BD, this week’s KNOTS concludes with Ben aiming a gun at Greg followed by the sound of a shot ringing out. Whereas the DALLAS gun battle took place in an abandoned amusement park, giving JR and BD plenty of room to run and hide, Ben and Greg’s showdown occurs in an enclosed space — Ben’s office — and is far more intense. While Ben might be the aggressor, pointing the gun and issuing orders (“You’re gonna commit suicide, you’re gonna leave a suicide note,” he tells Greg, as if he’s been picking up pointers from the Kit Marlowe story on FALCON CREST), he is also the more overtly terrified of the two men. Greg remains comparatively measured and calm, almost paternal. It’s a fascinating dynamic.

    In spite of all the gun battles, kidnappings and hospitalisations of recent weeks, a feeling of fatigue is detectable in this Post-Dream Soap Land era. It’s understandable — the four big shows have been on the air for the best part of a decade, the budgets aren’t what they were, and it must be hard for long-term characters to sustain the requisite sense of dramatic urgency week in and week out. This sense of ennui manifested itself last week in Dominique Devereaux’s and Greg Sumner’s low-level identity crises. This week, it’s the turn of Alexis Colby and Bobby Ewing. “You should be jumping at this!” exclaims Michael Culhane as he tries to galvanise Alexis into investing in a new deal. “Don’t you ever get tired of jumping?” she responds wearily. “I’m tired of it,” echoes Bobby during a scene with JR. “I’m tired of you getting into trouble and then me and the rest of the family having to pull your fat out of the fire… If you can’t stop this secretive crap [I’m pretty sure that’s the first time that particular c-word has been used in Soap Land, at least in a non-gambling context], then I’m out. We can sell Ewing Oil, we can divide up everything and I’m on my way … There’s not a member of the family with a share in the company that wouldn’t do the same thing. They’re all fed up with you.”

    JR’s response is interesting. First, he delivers his by-now-familiar apologetic spiel (“Don’t you think I realise I almost cost my son his life … and why? Just to get the price of oil back up. Hell, all the oil in the world is not worth a hair on that boy’s head. I never should have got involved with Calhoun … I’m sorry, Bobby”), and then he does what Jock used to do whenever Bobby got a little antsy. He offers him a taste of power: in this case total, if temporary, control of Ewing Oil. “You can run the company any way you want to,” he tells him. Pretty soon, Bobby’s no longer worried about JR’s “secretive crap” — he’s too busy cutting a fast deal for Park Bell Oil and delivering some ‘Ewings Unite’ rhetoric to Jeremy Wendell: “Whatever goes on between JR and me, when it comes to you, we’ll be together and when we’re together, we are one tough family, Wendell.”

    But why does JR feel the need to manipulate Bobby into staying at Ewing Oil in the first place? Possibly, it’s because he isn’t in a position to buy Bobby's, or indeed the rest of the family’s, shares of Ewing Oil and fears the company falling into outside hands. Or could it be that the idea of autonomy has lost some of its lustre for JR? Perhaps some residue of Pam’s Dream, during which JR discovered that his late lamented brother meant more to him than their father’s company, has seeped into this version of reality. Or maybe he’s just grasped that no man is an island — something the reclusive Greg Sumner also seems to realise on this week's KNOTS. Not only does he regret sending his pregnant wife packing, but there’s also his surprising reaction when, while watching a basketball game on TV, he spots Mack and Ben in the crowd. “Hey — Mack and Ben!” he calls out excitedly. “Mack and Ben are on the tube!” The only person around to hear him is his manservant Carlos who is unsure of how to respond. “Perhaps you should have joined them, sir,” he suggests politely. “Yeah, I wasn’t invited,” Greg replies, deflated — it’s a fleeting moment that’s both funny and sad, and one gets the sense of Greg understanding how his lifestyle choices have denied him the mundane pleasures of an ordinary life. (Not that ordinary, of course: Ben has only lured Mack to the game so he can tell him that he has been ordered to murder Greg.)

    Alexis, meanwhile, deals with her listlessness by taking a trip to California. Theoretically, it’s to visit Fallon and her dangerously ill newborn, but Jeff doesn’t even pretend to believe that’s the real reason. “Why else did you come to Los Angeles?” he asks. “I know that it has to be more than being worried about Fallon and the baby.” The Jeff/Alexis scenes are curious, for while Alexis is in Colby Land, she’s not actually on THE COLBYS. Instead, Jeff has been spun back onto DYNASTY. Yet he’s still in California. It’s like they’ve been caught in some no man’s land — or no man’s beach — between their respective shows. Here, both characters are more relaxed and informal than we’ve ever seen them before. Even their speech patterns are different. Jeff teases Alexis affectionately and she responds by laughing at herself in a way that would ordinarily be unthinkable. She lets her guard down sufficiently to relate a rare anecdote about her childhood in wet and windy England where she used to pine for “this fantastic place I’d read about called California.” For a moment, this could almost be Joan Collins describing her young self dreaming of a movie career in Hollywood. (Other surprise revelations in this week’s Soap Land: Richard Channing used to ride a motorbike and Greg Sumner once played Brutus in a college production of Julius Caesar.) Meanwhile, Jeff’s maybe-baby is hovering between life and death, but that seems to be happening in a parallel universe. However, the following night’s episode of THE COLBYS finds him weeping once more in the hallways of Soap Land Memorial as if he’d never left.

    Fascinating-in-hindsight moment of the week: Greg and Paige meet for the first time. “Hi. You’re Mack’s daughter, right?” “And you’re Laura’s husband.”

    This week’s DALLAS deals with the aftermath of last week’s shooting. It's all consequences, recriminations, cover-ups and, most interesting of all, the almost instantaneous rewriting of recent history. No sooner has JR placed his immediate family in mortal danger — resulting in the abductions of his wife and son — than said wife and son hail him as a hero. Meanwhile, his shady CIA contact resurfaces to inform him that all charges against him and his brothers for the death of Calhoun are to be dropped. While Bobby is initially angry at JR, he is soon distracted by the responsibilities of running Ewing Oil. That leaves Pam as the only character with sufficient clarity to see JR for what he is. “JR did it again. He got everybody in trouble,” she declares. “Pamela, that is a terrible thing to say,” Sue Ellen replies. “Well, it’s the truth, isn’t it?” Pam argues. “If he hadn’t gotten involved with Calhoun, none of this would have happened.” It’s a simple truth that is quickly buried in a smokescreen of sentimentality and revisionism. In a way, it’s a dry run for how JR will be deified after his death in 2013. Then it will be Elena Ramos who succeeds Pam as the speaker of truth when she calls the family out on their “rush to sentimentalise” JR. Pam’s stance also parallels Krystle’s attitude on this week’s DYNASTY. While the rest of the Carringtons, including Blake, seem happy to forgive and forget whatever Alexis has done in the past, it falls to Krystle (like Pam and Elena, her show’s original outsider) to hold her accountable for past sins. “I’ve lost one child because of you,” she reminds her.

    While THE COLBYS' final scene resolves one issue of paternity (“Oh, thank God!” gasps Jeff), the closing scene of FALCON CREST makes another more complicated. “No one knows better than you what it feels like to be a bastard in this world and you should have thought of that before you got Maggie pregnant,” says Angela to an incredulous Richard. Just then, Maggie herself bursts through the door and promptly goes into labour in the Falcon Crest hallway. The show’s heroine about to give birth in an enemy territory? It's a quintessential Soap Land scenario. Indeed, when Melissa turned up at Cole’s door in the same condition back in Season 2, it felt like the Soap Land equivalent of a Bronte novel. Alas, the impact of this cliffhanger is spoilt at the last minute by Angela putting her hand to her face and raising her eyebrows in a comedic “I’ve-seen-it-all-now” gesture. It’s one of those increasingly common moments on FALCON CREST that conveys a message of “isn’t this all very silly?” to the viewer and makes the drama that bit harder to invest in.

    It’s interesting to compare this ending with the closing scene of DALLAS which shows Sue Ellen on the phone to an unknown caller. Her melodramatically gobsmacked response (“Oh no! Oh my God! How? … There was an accident … Jamie’s dead!”) is played with endearing earnestness. In spite and/or because of that earnestness, it made me laugh out loud. Angela’s gesture at the end of FC, meanwhile, skips any pretence at sincerity and goes straight for the laugh. As a result, it falls flat.

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (2) DALLAS
    3 (3) THE COLBYS
    4 (5) DYNASTY
    5 (4) FALCON CREST
     
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  6. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    19 Feb 87: KNOTS LANDING: In Mourning v. 20 Feb 87: DALLAS: A Death in the Family v. 20 Feb 87: FALCON CREST: Dance of Deception

    Last week, Ben Gibson shot Greg Sumner dead — or did he? That’s the question running through this week’s episode of KNOTS. It’s a mystery tailor-made for a Soap Land audience who have sat through 32 episodes of Pam’s dream on DALLAS, as well as numerous resurrections from the dead, and subsequently know better than to take anything at face value, the offscreen gunshot at the end of last week’s ep being a prime example. Such scepticism is mirrored by the characters on screen. “He’s dead,” Jean Hackney announces in the opening scene. “If he’s dead, why are you the only one who knows it? No police report, no hospital report, no news report,” responds her unnamed associate, as if pointing out the plot holes on our behalf. Whereas the sight of a body bag being loaded into an ambulance was all it took for Val Ewing’s legs to buckle back in ’84 (during the classic Gary-is-dead episode, “Finishing Touches”), times have changed. “You saw a damn body bag, big deal,” Jean’s cohort shrugs. “You didn’t look inside … For all you know, it could have been a sack of potatoes.”

    This spirit of cynicism carries through to the other soaps. “What are the odds Kit Marlowe’s still alive?” muses Richard Channing on FALCON CREST. “Tony Cumson saw her commit suicide,” answers Meredith Braxton. “He says he did,” Richard counters. Meanwhile on DALLAS, Cliff Barnes greets the news of Jamie’s death with a degree of caution (as well he might, given that her last death turned out to be part of Pam’s dream). “How did they know it was her?” he asks.

    The circumstances of Jamie’s demise turn out to be even more freakishly random than the oil barrel mishap she endured last season. “She was mountain-climbing in Mexico with a girlfriend,” Pam explains. “There was a rockslide … and they were buried … They didn’t find her for a week … They took pictures of her before the funeral.” If some of these details seem a tad grim, they pale next to what we learn has become of garrotted hitman Guy Stafford on FALCON CREST. “He’s been on the slab for seven weeks — no fingertips, no teeth,” Meredith informs Richard.

    While this week’s KNOTS is tightly structured — Greg’s disappearance informs every scene, even those involving characters who have no direct involvement in the story — FALCON CREST seems happy to throw anything and everything at the wall and hope some of it will stick. The opening sequence where Maggie goes into labour, for instance, combines elements of melodrama, farce, soapy sentimentality and sitcom self-parody. While some of it works (Dan Fixx playing Chopin on Angela’s piano as Chase and Richard deliver Maggie’s baby behind some Chinese shutters), some of it doesn’t (turning Angela’s secretary into a posh version of Butterfly McQueen in Gone With the Wind for the sake of a couple of lame gags).

    While Ben’s latest storyline is one of KNOTS’ most improbable to date, it paradoxically returns to the show to its roots. Specifically, the three original cul-de-sac housewives — Val, Karen and Laura — react to the circumstances in which they find themselves with their most defining character traits. Obliged to pretend that everything is normal while wondering if her husband is safe, Val remains tremulous and terrified throughout. Kept in the dark by both her husband and her best friend, Karen becomes ferociously curious. Confronted by the rumour of her husband’s death in the morning paper, Laura retreats once more behind her controlled and defensive veneer. “Just stop. Just don’t say anything, OK?” she says firmly when Karen tries to console her. In a different way, Sue Ellen’s recent abduction by BD Calhoun on DALLAS had a similar effect: there was something positively nostalgic about the scene where she returned to Southfork unable to account for her whereabouts the previous night. “You all think I’ve been drinking, don’t you?” she asked the family accusingly.

    The original cul-de-sac relationships are touched upon too: Karen and Val’s, Karen and Laura’s and, most interestingly, Laura and Val’s. When KNOTS first began, these two had the closest friendship on the cul-de-sac until the demands of continuing drama made Karen the most expedient confidante for both women. This dynamic is illustrated vividly in the scene where the news of Greg’s supposed death becomes a front-page headline. Whereas Val, knowing what she knows (or at least suspects), can’t even look at Laura, Karen dashes across the cul-de-sac to her, leading Laura to politely rebuff her attempts at comfort.

    As Peter Hollister worries about the correct way to respond (“If I make a public statement about his death and he’s not dead, I’m a liar. If I act like he’s alive and he’s not, I look like a fool … It’s a no-win situation”), Cliff Barnes’ duties following the demise of his ex-wife are more straightforward. Peter allows himself to be guided by Abby in her capacity as a corporate Lady Macbeth while Cliff is supported by Pam who travels with him to Los Angeles to sort out Jamie’s affairs.

    Peter’s subsequent behaviour mirrors JR’s attitude to Jamie’s demise. First, both pay lip service to the respective death in their midst. “Laura, I’m so sorry,” Peter tells his fake sister-in-law. “I feel terrible about it,” JR assures April. However, neither is blind to the potential upside. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t make the best of a bad situation,” reasons JR as he points out that Jamie’s death strengthens April’s claim to five percent of Ewing Oil. “I’m only looking after my interests, same as you would yours,” Peter insists as he asserts ownership of Greg’s prized chestnut mare. While April describes JR’s attitude as callous — our first indication that she may not be an entirely bad girl — Laura’s response to Peter is even stronger: “Oh, you’re such a greedy bastard.”

    Of course, there’s far more to Greg’s estate than to Jamie’s. “In the A’s alone, Galveston Industries controls half the businesses in this country,” marvels Peter. Jamie’s fortune, meanwhile, consists of her $2,000,000 divorce settlement and ten percent of Ewing Oil. “It’s no big deal anyway. Jack gets everything she has,” shrugs Cliff.

    However, the final scenes of KNOTS and DALLAS each contain a fab switcheroo. By this point, Val has plucked up sufficient courage to visit Laura at the ranch — whether this is to support her or to make sure Greg is really dead is hard to say. Then suddenly Greg appears. “Oh, brother!” mutters Laura in relief as she embraces him. Cliff also gets a nice surprise at the end of DALLAS when his lawyer informs him that Jamie apparently died before either filing their divorce papers or formalising her will: “It means you were the husband at the time of her death and accordingly, the sole beneficiary of her estate.” Cliff breaks into a smile and then into laughter. “God bless her!” he chuckles as the frame freezes. However, the best ending is on KNOTS when Val turns her head away from Greg and Laura's embrace in alarm — a more abrupt variation on her slow-mo spin the end of Season 6 — and silently asks herself, “If Greg’s alive, where the hell does that leave Ben??”

    DALLAS has a few anomalous moments this week. There are a couple of stabs at comedy — one where Sue Ellen’s associate assures her that he’s found a worthy successor to Mandy Winger as the Valentine Girl, only for Sue Ellen’s face to drop when she lays eyes on the girl in question. We don’t see what she sees so it’s a bit like we’re missing the punchline. Then there’s the scene where Cliff visits Jamie’s rock-climbing pal Mary Elizabeth, who is still on crutches, in LA. Before Cliff appears, we see her struggle across her apartment to answer her phone, only to take so long the line goes dead just as she picks it up. Then she hobbles back to her chair, only for Cliff to knock on the door as soon as she sits down. While neither of these scenes is laugh out loud funny — far from it — there’s a kind of endearing wackiness to them. They don’t undermine the drama in any way, and Sue Ellen’s scene at least serves the purpose of keeping the concept of Valentine Lingerie alive in the viewers’ minds. The same cannot be said for the party scene in FALCON CREST where Melissa angrily cuts the straps off her rival Dina’s dress, leaving her stranded in her sexy underwear as if she were in a 1970s comedy series. As there are no dramatic consequences, the moment seems to exist solely for our amusement. Alas, it’s just not funny.

    The most curious occurrence of the DALLAS week is when Christopher, while playing with John Ross, reaches for his daddy’s real-life gun and fires at his cousin. No one is hurt, the future Josh Henderson and Jesse Metcalfe both cry a lot and are then sent to their rooms, and that’s about it. It’s not terrible, it’s just strange — and again, impossible to imagine occurring prior to the Post-Dream era.

    Another child-related rarity: in spite his premature birth, Maggie Gioberti’s son suffers no ill effects — a refreshing change following the DYNASTY-verse’s recent sick-kiddie pile-up. Instead, the drama comes from Maggie's decision to take a paternity test after all. If Chase is the father, she’ll keep the baby. If it isn’t, she’ll give it up for adoption. All very soapy, but FC manages to make her choice feel both poignant and emotionally mature. (“It’s probably the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do.”) However, the subsequent scene in which a gloved pair of hands open a hospital cupboard helpfully labelled “Blood and Tissue Samples” and switch a vial of Chase’s blood for a fake one is pure nonsensical soap thrillingness.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (2) DALLAS
    3 (5) FALCON CREST
     
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  7. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    Yes, and...
    Describing an off-screen important event in such detail, makes it sound like hilarious fan-fiction, or one of those horrible-death-stories from WILL & GRACE's bartender Smitty.
    I always love to see soap characters being burdened with a secret, it's frustration at its best.
    Hm, I could believe/pretend to believe that Alexis was (one of the) richest woman in the country eventhough Dynasty never excelled in business storylines to support that idea.
    As for Knots Landing, I thought it was a bit unnecessary to make Galveston Industries so big and important, since it wasn't the kind of show that would focus on the 1% of the 1% (whatever that means).
    It didn't bother me, it just felt a bit wasted on a soap that wasn't a Family Saga. Ironically, I found the whole Empire Valley story easy to accept, or maybe I wanted it so that Galveston Industries had something to show for.
    There was nothing shocking about the idea that Greg would simply walk away from it all in one of the later seasons (13? 14?), well, of course he also didn't have it when he was a struggling politician - and in fact, GI was kind of an un-birthright.
    LOL. Sure makes me wonder how much other irrelevant yet funny stuff has gone unnoticed.
    What a heartless bastard!
     
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  8. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    25 Feb 87: DYNASTY: The Mothers v. 26 Feb 87: THE COLBYS: Answered Prayers v. 27 Feb 87: DALLAS: Revenge of the Nerd v. 27 Feb 87: FALCON CREST: Hat Trick

    There are two weddings and two divorces in this week’s Soap Land. Jason Colby is an active participant in one of each. The divorce scene between him and Sable on THE COLBYS is simply a knockout. It’s also one of three recent instances of an estranged couple signing a legal document in a civilised manner that belies the more complicated feelings of heartache and bitterness underneath the surface. On last week’s FALCON CREST, Maggie thanked Chase for signing her son’s birth certificate as the father. “I didn’t expect you to,” she admits. “I was very touched.” “It seemed like the right thing to do,” he replies. However, any hopes that his gesture might lead to a reconciliation are promptly dashed when Maggie apologises for her decision not to have a paternity test performed before the baby was born. “What am I supposed to do — just accept this apology, come running back to you?” he snaps at her. Meanwhile on last week’s DALLAS, Ray and Donna both signed a property settlement in which they each renounced any financial claim on the other. So far so amicable, but when Donna reaches out to him afterwards, Ray proves to be just as resentful as Chase. “If I sound bitter about this, I’m sorry, Donna, but I just can’t help it,” he says. “Why don’t you just go back to Washington, do whatever it is that makes you happy back there? I’m fine. It’s taken me a while, but I think I’ve finally got you out of my system.”

    Chase and Maggie, Donna and Ray — for a long time, these were two of the most dependably solid couples in Soap Land. The Krebbs and Gioberti marriages provided an emotional ballast to the soapy turmoil surrounding them (the relationships of Bobby and Pam, Gary and Val, and Jeff and Fallon, for instance, which seem almost teenage in comparison). To watch these same characters now behaving towards each other with coldness and indifference — well, it’s a bit like watching your mum and dad split up.

    Affecting though these scenes are, they pale in significance next to the divorce-paper-signing-scene in Jason’s office in this week’s COLBYS. It is the moment Sable has moved heaven and earth to avoid, but finally, she gives in and signs on the dotted line. She even manages a brave little joke. “I had a plan,” she admits to Jason. “You know that pen of mine that always leaks? Well, I was going sign with that and then hope a huge inkblot would invalidate everything.” The deed done, she stands to leave. She makes it as far as the doorway before turning around. “Don’t marry her, Jason,” she pleads, referring to Frankie. “Please don’t marry her … You need me.” Begging the man you’ve just divorced not to marry your sister isn’t an experience many viewers can identify with, but the feelings behind them, the pain and humiliation, are universal. The line where Sable acknowledges her loss of dignity is particularly striking. “I do know how ridiculous I’ve made myself for you,” she tells Jason. “There are smiles and whispers when I enter a room. Did you know that?” This is a rare instance of a soap character recognising how their behaviour must appear to the outside world. If DALLAS was happening in real life, for instance, Sue Ellen’s social standing would have been in tatters years ago. As stars of their own TV show, however, she and JR are regarded indulgently as “practically an institution.” Sable continues to implore Jason (“Don’t be my husband — I’ll learn to accept that — but please, I beg you, don’t be hers”), but to no avail. “I will marry her. I will be happy,” he insists, quietly but firmly.

    THE COLBYS’ divorce scene ends with Sable gliding down a hallway swathed in furs, her back to the camera. She appears the image of cool and collected glamour yet we the audience know how broken and defeated she is. It’s a juxtaposition which encapsulates the series’ USP: the messiest of human emotions wrapped up in luxurious artifice and the soapiest of contrivances.

    The Krebbs marriage also comes to an end this week. Their divorce takes place in a courtroom where Ray and Donna have their attorneys to speak for them — not that there’s much left to say. (“It’s all been said,” as Miss Ellie acknowledges during what amounts to a farewell lunch with Donna). In contrast to the emotional nature of Jason and Sable’s parting, there’s a numbness, almost an anti-drama about the Krebbs’ situation which feels as just real.

    In spite of everything, Sable and Ray each make a last minute attempt to act selflessly. Realising that Jason really is going to marry Frankie, Sable manages to find it in herself to wish him well. “I hope that you’re happy … I won’t make it difficult for you,” she promises him. Ray, meanwhile, quietly signals his lawyer to drop any attempt to challenge Donna for custody of their unborn child.

    Following their respective divorces, Ray retreats into the past by drowning his sorrows in the saloon bar where he and Donna first met while Sable looks to the future by vacationing in Morocco with new lover Zach Powers — at least, that’s the theory. In reality, her ex-husband’s wedding is Sable can think about. Meanwhile, Ray returns home from the bar to find his future, in the shape of Jenna and Charlie, waiting for him. Jenna wakes up having dozed off on the couch, but Ray tells her to go back to sleep and then sits next to her in the dark. It’s a touching little moment. Watching this season of DALLAS with hindsight, it’s hard to pinpoint precisely where Ray and Jenna’s relationship shifts from the platonic towards something more intimate, but this scene seems significant in that regard. Likewise, the confrontation between Richard and Chase on this week’s FALCON CREST seems to mark a turning point in the Chase/Maggie/Richard triangle. “What in the hell are you doing running around with some cheerleader while your wife sits home with a newborn baby?” Richard demands of his half-brother. “Maggie is one of the finest women I’ve ever known. She gets raped by a maniac and you turn your back on her … I told you this once before — you turn your back on Maggie and I may just come courting.”

    As for the two weddings in this week’s Soap Land, one is a low key affair (Emma and Vince Karlotti’s on FALCON CREST) while the other, Jason and Frankie’s on THE COLBYS, is anything but. The final scene of this week’s episode takes two show-stopping Soap Land scenarios — the wedding day bombshell (e.g., Pam Ewing learning that Jenna is carrying Bobby’s child just before she walks down the aisle) and a resurrection from the dead (e.g., Pam Ewing finding Mark Graison in her back garden and then collapsing into his arms) — and combines them in one almighty cliffhanger. Midway through her wedding vows, Frankie spots Hoyt Parker in the congregation and freezes. “Oh my God … him!” she finally gasps. Jason follows her gaze and manages to identify the man as “Phil, my brother!” before Frankie, just like Pam Ewing before her, faints in his arms.

    It’s a toss-up as to who looks the more amazed — Jason and Frankie upon seeing the long-dead Phillip Colby at their wedding or Peter Stavros when he spots his more recently deceased stepdaughter Skylar in a hotel lobby on FALCON CREST. Merely with the aid of a curly wig, Skylar — or rather Kit — manages to convince Peter that she’s someone called Madeleine McKittrick and makes her getaway. (Madeleine is Kit Marlowe’s third persona of the season, thus bringing her level with Wes Parmalee/Jock Ewing/Wyatt Haynes.)

    At first, the story of Krystina’s heart condition on DYNASTY was about what happens when the rich and powerful are confronted with a situation over which they have no control. In spite of Krystle’s protests (“Blake, this can’t be happening … It can’t be true, I won’t accept it … She’s my baby, I won’t let them hurt her, I won’t!”), there are basic medical facts that money and prestige cannot override. “Her heart muscle is deteriorating and without a transplant, she’s not going to make it,” her doctor states. However, once the search for a transplant donor begins, it becomes a different kind of storyline. The Carringtons’ name and connections mean they can launch a nationwide appeal. (How convenient that newspaper magnate Alexis turned from bitter enemy to eager ally just in time to assist with this latest crisis!) From this point, the situation plays more like a traditional Soap Land kidnap scenario with various family members huddled tensely round a telephone, waiting for the all-important call. It also makes them vulnerable to those “real world” whack jobs against whom they would otherwise be insulated — perverts, extortionists and crazy people. Or in the case of the wonderfully creepy Adele whom Krystle encounters in a hospital corridor, a crazy person who is also an extortionist. “I can get you a heart,” she tells her eagerly. “You’ll pay me to get you a heart, won’t you?”

    The “real world” people depicted on this week’s DALLAS are generally more benign. When Bobby informs John Carter, a company employee from the town of Pride, that Ewing Oil is shutting down the town’s wells for economic reasons, he greets the news with quiet defeat. “These are some times,” he sighs wearily. “Those oilfields have been the lifeblood of that town.” Things are looking similarly bleak on FALCON CREST where “twenty-six vineyards in the last month and a half” have been swallowed up, Jeremy Wendell-style, by the Tuscany Land Company. “Somebody’s trying to destroy the family vineyards in this valley,” concludes Tony Cumson.

    Then there are the three seemingly nondescript people we meet in the final scene of DALLAS, working in a basement room of the FBI. With its coded entry system, whirring computers and bunker-style surroundings, there’s a bit of a sci-fi/Empire Valley vibe about the place. The people themselves, however, are reassuringly down-to-earth. There’s Agent Leo Daltery, whom we’ve seen before with JR, complaining lightly about the demands of his job and engaging in some low-level flirting with a file clerk called Henrietta, whose status as “ordinary” is emphasised by the fact that she’s played by Gary and Abby’s Hispanic housekeeper Maria from KNOTS. There’s also an anxious-looking character called Alfred who wears a bow-tie and mutters about cross-referencing and different numbered forms. He’s the kind of socially awkward tech geek that’s since become ubiquitous on TV, but this is the first time one has found his way into the glamorous world of Soap Land. His ears prick up when he hears Leo instructing Henrietta to take the evidence the FBI has on Ewing Oil’s association with BD Calhoun and “deep six it forever.” As Leo, Henrietta and all that dirt on the Ewings disappear out of shot, the camera lingers on Alfred long enough for him to get the freeze frame. It’s a unique introduction to a Soap Land character, especially one as unprepossessing as Alfred. I’ve always assumed that the title of this episode, “Revenge of the Nerd”, refers to Cliff getting one over on the Ewings, but maybe it applies to nerdy Alfred too.

    There’s a tenuous but emotive theme running through this week’s Soap Land to do with parents surrendering their children. It’s there in the DALLAS courtroom when Ray gives up his custody fight and in the hospital waiting room on DYNASTY where Blake gently persuades Sarah Curtis to give away what is left of her child’s life. (“You have a child with a healthy heart. I have a child that’ll die if she doesn’t get a strong healthy heart. We have a chance to save one of them.”) It also surfaces in two paternity test denouements, one on THE COLBYS, the other on FALCON CREST. First, a magnificently bitter Miles Colby is obliged to relinquish the possibility that he is the father of Fallon’s baby to his brother Jeff: “First you take my wife, then my dad. Now you want my little girl, my only child.” Then it’s Chase Gioberti’s turn to be informed that “you are not the father of this baby.” Compared to Miles, his response is muted. Of course, the extra twist in this situation is that Chase’s blood sample has been switched so maybe he is the father after all.

    While Madeleine McKittrick, Kit Marlowe’s latest alias on FALCON CREST, is another intertextual reference to Kim Novak’s film ’Vertigo’, the final scene of this week’s DYNASTY evokes the ending of another classic Hollywood movie: an airport runway at night, a small private plane, characters in raincoats, a huge sacrificial gesture, the final shot where the camera pulls up and away to reveal Blake, Krystle and Sarah Curtis as smaller parts of a bigger picture — it feels like the start of, if not exactly a beautiful friendship, then a strange bond between the Carringtons and this grieving woman.

    DYNASTY, dominated as it is by Krystina’s story, currently has more in common with the three-hankie, women’s weepies of old Hollywood than the inter-family feuding we’re used to seeing in Soap Land. However, the episode does contain one deliciously soapy scene where Neil McVane, freshly released from the Soap Land Penitentiary, lies in wait for Adam in his suite at the Carlton Hotel. The lighting is dark and ominous music plays on the soundtrack. A framed photo of Alexis at her most ridiculously glamorous prompts McVane to flash back to the dramatic moment in Season 3 where he tried to strangle her. “No one will save you this time, Alexis, no one,” he murmurs alone in the darkness. The confrontation between him and Adam that follows is just as juicy. “I’m certifiably sane,” McVane insists, looking anything but. He then casually rewrites Carrington history by announcing that “Adam Carrington, the real Adam Carrington, died the day after he was kidnapped.” Adam — if indeed he is Adam — looks stricken, as well he might. The impostor who doesn’t even know if he is an impostor — it’s an interesting variation on the fake identity theme that has been running throughout this season.

    Elsewhere on this week’s DYNASTY, Alexis encounters Dirk Maurier, aka “the man World Finance called a financial genius.” Meanwhile, Angela has a new associate on FALCON CREST, Roland Saunders, aka “the rudest billionaire in the Fortune 500.” Beyond their reputations, little is known of either man, but both seem quite unsavoury, if not downright sinister. In terms of villainy, Saunders gains the advantage when he orders the execution of the mother of his child, Kit Marlowe. Moreover, he wants to watch it happen. “I just want to be there to say goodbye,” he explains.

    The last episode of DYNASTY found a disillusioned Alexis on a beach in California, questioning her life choices. There have been similar moments involving Greg Sumner, Dominique Devereaux and Bobby Ewing in recent weeks, and now Ellie Farlow becomes the latest character to succumb to soap fatigue. “I just can’t bear anymore,” she complains. “There’s been no peace in this family for as long as I can remember.” Clayton responds by calling her “the rock that holds this family together.” “I don’t want to be a rock!” she insists, thereby rejecting her primary dramatic function. As if that weren’t shocking enough, she then says the unthinkable: “Sometimes I think I should just sell the ranch, period, and let everybody go on their way.”

    FALCON CREST heats up this week with several disparate plots — the Kit Marlowe story, Angela’s association with Roland Saunders, the mysterious Tuscany Land Company, Chase’s love life and the ongoing feud between Angela and Richard — starting to converge in interesting ways. It also finds time to go back to its roots with Angela giving Vicky a guided tour of the family gravesite and a brief character sketch of each of the ancestors buried there. (No other soap family is as interested in its forebears as the Giobertis.) The scene is a blast from the past in more ways than one — Angela shared a near identical scene with Vicky’s brother Cole during the first season.

    DALLAS also revisits its backstory as Cliff’s surprise inheritance of Jamie’s ten percent of Ewing Oil reignites the Barnes/Ewing feud. “They cheated old Digger Barnes and they laughed,” he recalls. “Jock Ewing treated him like dirt just like his son JR treats me like dirt and now it’s my turn. There is no price you can put on that.” The manner in which Cliff, after years of scheming and struggling, suddenly lucks into a slice of the company is reminiscent of the way JR was unexpectedly offered complete control of Ewing Oil by Pam at the end of the dream season. Whereas the tone of that story had an end of an era momentousness about it, this one is mostly just fun. Watching Cliff trying to keep his mounting hysteria in check as he realises all his dreams are about to come true is a blast.

    However, one can also detect an underlying darkness to his obsession, especially in the scene where Pam asks him to sell Jamie’s ten percent to her so she can put it a trust for Christopher. “You don’t deserve it and you are going to destroy us. I am begging you to sell me those shares,” she pleads. “No way on earth,” he replies flatly. The Cliff we see here and during a subsequent confrontation with Bobby is a very different man to the one who behaved so generously and compassionately towards Jamie's friend Mary Elizabeth in last week’s episode. As he himself acknowledges, he is now “smelling blood, Ewing blood” and has consequently acquired a tunnel vision where nothing else matters, not even his sister and his nephew. Amidst all the funny stuff, we can glimpse the monster he’ll become in New DALLAS.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (-) THE COLBYS
    2 (2) DALLAS
    3 (-) DYNASTY
    4 (3) FALCON CREST

    Ha ha ha, that's really true!
     
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  9. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    11 Mar 87: DYNASTY: The Garage v. 12 Mar 87: THE COLBYS: Devil's Advocate v. 12 Mar 87: KNOTS LANDING: Neighborly Conduct v. 13 Mar 87: DALLAS: The Ten Percent Solution v. 13 Mar 87: FALCON CREST: Nowhere to Run

    Still grieving for her husband and daughter, Sarah Curtis tries to kill herself on this week’s DYNASTY. Krystle finds her in time, gets her to hospital and then invites her to move into the Carrington mansion to recuperate. At the end of the episode, Sarah speaks to Krystle’s daughter as if she were her own lost child. The loss of her family, a suicide attempt, lodging with the Carringtons, confusing one child for another — this is more or less Claudia Blaisdel’s entire Season 2 arc compressed into a couple of episodes. Whereas we’d had the previous season to get to know Claudia, Sarah’s almost as much a stranger to us as, well, New Claudia on New DYNASTY who has also been bereaved twice over — and what’s the betting she too will to be invited to stay at the mansion after being knocked down by New Blake?

    Old Blake, meanwhile, has his doubts about Sarah’s visit. “I think it’s a bad idea,” he tells Krystle. “It’s not good for her, not good for the baby, not good for any of us.” Frankie feels much the same about Phillip on THE COLBYS: “He shouldn’t be staying at the house … Please, Jason, make him leave. You’re gambling with our happiness.” Karen Mackenzie is just as unhappy on KNOTS when she finds that Anne Matheson has moved into the cul-de-sac: “I don’t even like seeing her occasionally. Now she’s gonna be right next door!”

    If Sarah Curtis is following in Claudia Blaisdel’s footsteps, then Anne is following in Susan Philby’s. Just as the sophisticated ex of Karen’s last husband showed up on her doorstep to find her with dirt on her face and her hair in bunches (back in the Season 1 episode “Civil Wives”), Mack’s old flame arrives in Seaview Circle on the very morning that Karen is clearing out the garage whilst wearing a headscarf. Nor are these the only examples of Soap Land déjà vu this week. Back on DYNASTY, Neil McVane sidles up to Michael Culhane at Dirk Maurier’s cocktail party and tries to enlist him in his anti-Alexis gang (“Welcome to the club. From the inner circle to the bleachers … she tossed you out”), just as he did Mark Jennings at the Carousel Ball three seasons earlier.

    A week after Val Gibson went after Jean Hackney with a gun on KNOTS, Kim Novak pulls a pistol on her tormentor, Roland Saunders, on FALCON CREST. “Go ahead,” Saunders tells her. “Pull the trigger, Susan. Or is it Kit? Or Madeline? You couldn’t still be Skylar.” Indeed, at this point, Novak's aliases are proving almost impossible to keep track of. The double lives led by Adam Carrington/Michael Torrance and Phillip Colby/Hoyt Parker are relatively straightforward in comparison. Both of these DYNASTY-verse “impostors” (the jury’s still out on Adam) receive an unexpected windfall this week. Blake reinstates Adam/Michael in his will while Jeff promises Phillip/Hoyt a third of his shares in Colby Enterprises. Even though this is what both men have wanted all along, their reactions are interestingly ambivalent. “You’re acting like Blake just invited you out for lunch,” observes Adam’s fiancee Dana as he hides his identity crisis behind a veneer of indifference. Phillip’s response to Jeff, meanwhile, is possibly the Soap Land highlight of the week. Upon learning he’s in line for $150,000,000, the normally impassive Phillip doubles over in sudden laughter which subsides as abruptly as it began. He then apologises and seems genuinely moved. “I didn’t expect it, your generosity,” he murmurs. “I wish things were different. I wish you were my son … I don’t know how to thank you.” He embraces Jeff with an edge of desperation, then collects himself again.

    Jeff’s gift provides Phillip with the chance to repay a $2,000,000 debt owed to “some people you don’t disappoint” — unless Jason can find a way to discredit his brother before the transaction is finalised. Cliff faces a similar deadline on DALLAS. When he refuses to sell Jamie’s 10% of Ewing Oil to West Star, Jeremy Wendell calls in his $6,000,000 debt. “You have three days to come up with the money,” he tells him. After an attempt to seduce Marilee Stone into giving him a loan goes amusingly wrong, Cliff contemplates selling his share of Wentworth Tool & Die, a company that has acquired sacrosanct status within the Barnes family almost overnight. (“Wentworth Tool & Die was Mama’s legacy to us!” Pam exclaims. “I can’t believe you would even think of selling it. Do you know what that company meant to her? Don’t you have any integrity?!”)

    Hoping to find some dirt on Phillip, Jason makes a secret trip to Singapore. He soon runs into some red tape and goes to the British Embassy Vice Consul for help. Rather neatly, this turns out to be Roger Langdon — the very man whom Frankie recently divorced in order to marry Jason. “Ironic isn’t it? Her next husband consulting her last husband about her first,” muses Roger. The third Mr Frankie then gives the soon-to-be-fourth Mr Frankie a friendly warning about the woman they both love: “She’s quite a woman, but she does have her flaws … I don’t think she knows herself what she wants. You see, when it comes to men, the latest voice seems to be the most persuasive.” And that’s not the only COLBYS conversation to echo Abby’s advice to Jill on last week’s KNOTS. “I want to give you a tip,” Adrienne Cassidy tells Monica during a drunken late night phone call. “Try stepping down off that pedestal. Cash likes that … You see, he thinks he wants a lady, but what he really wants is a whore.”

    As the episode title suggests, much of this week’s KNOTS is set in the cul-de-sac, with the action taking place against a backdrop of everyday life — spring-cleaning, jogging, a neighbourly dinner party. However, this is less a depiction of suburbia than suburbia-with-a-twist. To the left of the Mackenzie house, we have fish-out-of-water Anne attempting to adhere to the norms of neighbourhood life whilst simultaneously exhibiting a passive-aggressive desire to disrupt the domestic status quo. This results in a kind of sly parody of suburbia, the high point of which is Karen and Mack’s response to the nude photos of Anne hanging on her living room wall: “They’re very … nude.” To the right, we have Ben and Val, each trying to move on from their recent ordeal at the hands of Jean Hackney by retreating behind a facade of normalcy. “It’s like nothing ever happened,” whispers Val, still clearly traumatised, while Ben sits staring into space as Lilimae tries to talk to him.

    Consequently, when a delivery package is left on the Mackenzie doorstep, it is not simply a delivery package left on the Mackenzie doorstep. For Ben, it’s potentially a bomb sent by Jean Hackney to wipe he and his family off the face of the earth; for Anne (to whom the package is addressed and who has pre-arranged for it to be dropped off next door), it’s a way of luring Mack over to her place while Karen is working late. I don’t think this is a precise example what the following passage in @TommyK's fascinating essay describes, but the basic principle still applies:

    ”The brilliance of Knots Landing -- as with the best domestic dramas -- is that the mundane tasks were always a backdrop (and more often than not, an outlet) for issues of real importance. If Val helped Karen stretch a sweater that seemed tight, it wasn't about the sweater: it was about Karen's insecurities, after spending time away from her family and coming back to find so much changed. If Mack and Karen started squabbling about trivial matters -- like what color the living room should be painted, and which way the toilet paper should come off the roll -- it wasn't about paint chips and toilet paper; it was about Mack having a midlife crisis. (As I mentioned in my Season 6 essay, that season's headwriter, Richard Gollance, would always ask, "What is the scene about?" There had to be something simmering subtextually that the actors could play.)”

    http://thatsallsiknow.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/knots-landing-season-13.html

    What happens when there isn’t “something simmering subtextually that the actors could play” is illustrated by a couple of domestic-themed scenes in this week’s DALLAS. First, Clayton chortles as Miss Ellie mock-chides him for eating salsa and chips late at night, then John Ross coos over a puppy in a pet shop as Sue Ellen looks on in mock-exasperation. “What is the scene about?” indeed. Presumably, each of these scenes is intended to show the Ewings as more relatable, rounded characters. Instead, the absence of subtext robs those characters of what made them interesting and unique in the first place and so they end up sounding the same as any other bland, generic characters on any other bland, generic TV show. Scenes of this nature were prevalent on DALLAS during the Dream Season so it’s probably significant that this episode was written by cast member Susan Howard, a vocal champion of that period of the show.

    A more intriguing idiosyncrasy of Howard’s writing reveals itself at the start of this episode. Her previous ep, last season’s “Overture”, began with JR in a meeting with his boot supplier and this instalment also opens by focusing on a major character’s choice of footwear. “I heard they do that in Los Angeles, but this is Dallas,” says secretary Jackie with reference to Pam’s hightop trainers (or the 80s equivalent thereof).

    There are three awkward social gatherings in Soap Land this week. The first is set up, somewhat uncharacteristically, by Jason on THE COLBYS. Upon his return from Singapore, he summons the entire family to a formal dinner party at the house. He then springs a nasty surprise on them: Bianca Jagger. She promptly identifies Phillip as “Hoyt Parker. So this is where you’ve been hiding yourself!” Cue dramatic music, shocked close-ups and a freeze frame of Phillip looking shifty. Anne’s housewarming-cum-dinner party on KNOTS, meanwhile, is played for light comedy rather than melodrama with a reluctant Karen obliged to make nice to her hostess while Mack is slowly bored to death by Anne’s stockbroker date. The engagement party Angela throws for Dan and Vicky on FALCON CREST, meanwhile, is not so much awkward as an unmitigated disaster. The groom-to-be is a no-show while the bride arrives drunk and tries to get Eric Stavros into bed. Not to mention the small matter of Roland Saunders' dead body being found in the winery, after Kit/Skylar/Madeline/Susan has chosen cigar-injected-with-poison over an everyday shooting as her preferred method of murder.

    It’s notable that Maya Kumara, Bianca Jagger’s character on THE COLBYS, is introduced as Hoyt Parker’s “mistress”, despite being the wealthier and more powerful of the couple and the fact that she rather than he was married during their affair. Soap Land’s other current big name guest star, FC’s Kim Novak, is defined in the same way. “You were born to be the mistress of a man like me,” Roland Saunders tells her prior to puffing on that fatal cigar.

    Sartorial trend of the week: Donna Krebbs and Maggie Gioberti each turning up to a black-tie affair in a plain winter coat. In Donna’s case, she unintentionally crashes a formal dinner party in order to apologise to Senator Dowling for rebuffing his offer of support earlier in the episode. Maggie, meanwhile, marches into Angela’s house during the engagement do demanding to see the child Emma has secretly adopted, believing it to be the baby she gave away (and now wants back, having found out Chase is the father after all). She is stunned into silence when a ten-year-old black boy appears. (Unless one counts Dominique Devereaux’s “the same daddy” revelation to Blake back in ’84 or the non-reaction to Eric Fairgate's black girlfriend on KNOTS a year later, this is the first time race has been used as a punchline in Soap Land — and it works, in a DIFF’RENT STROKES sort of way. It’s certainly funnier than most of FC’s recent attempts at humour).

    Just as the first soap of the week ended with a mother addressing someone else’s baby as her own (“Goodnight, my darling,” said Sarah Curtis to Krystina) so does the last. In the final scene of FALCON CREST, we discover that Melissa has somehow taken possession of the child Maggie put up for adoption. “You’re not Maggie’s, you’re not Chase’s — you’re my little Roberto, my little Bobby,” she coos.

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

    1 (1) THE COLBYS
    2 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (-) DALLAS
    4 (4) FALCON CREST
    5 (3) DYNASTY
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2017
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  10. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    18 Mar 87: DYNASTY: The Shower v. 19 Mar 87: THE COLBYS: Betrayals v. 20 Mar 87: DALLAS: Some Good, Some Bad

    Very occasionally on DYNASTY, the Carringtons engage as a member of the household staff someone who displays nothing but contempt for both their employers and their own duties. Mrs Johnson, Krystina’s negligent new nurse, is such a person. “Mrs Carrington, I’ve taken care of children for a long time now. Don’t you think you’re being overly protective?” she asks Krystle coldly, her eyes full of loathing. She’s really fun. For me, her appeal is enhanced by the fact that she is played by the well-meaning Adoption Lady from DALLAS’s Dream Season who paired Donna and Ray with cute deaf kid Tony. It’s as if she has cast off the sentimental shackles of that treacly storyline and embraced the darker side of child care.

    DYNASTY also echoes the Dream Season by continuing to have its central characters behave towards each other with uncharacteristic niceness. Whereas it felt on DALLAS as if the Ewings had been replaced by cyborg replicants, on DYNASTY it’s the other way round: the characters appear less stiff and more human than they did previously. The once smug and preening Dex, for example, is now likably humble while Alexis and Dominique’s exchange of light-hearted bon mots during Dana’s wedding shower make a refreshing change from their countless threats and counter-threats to destroy each other’s companies. Elsewhere, Steven’s nonjudgmental attitude towards Adam’s heavy drinking (“Call it a [wedding] gift,” he smiles after bailing him out of jail) makes him seem more relaxed and, well, just nicer than he has been since he was played by Al Corley.

    If Steven and Adam’s newfound brotherly bond is endearing then the sibling conflict that erupts between Bobby and Ray on this week’s DALLAS is downright exciting. “I just think it’s a little strange — three-and-a-half seconds after your divorce, they move in,” remarks Bobby upon finding Jenna and Charlie living with Ray. “Are you sure you’re not trying to make her a substitute for Donna?” Ray responds by taking a swing at him, thereby finally repaying Bobby for the disco punch he landed on him way, way back in the second ever episode of the series. “There’s not another man alive that I’d let get away with that,” Bobby snarls.

    There’s more sibling rivalry on THE COLBYS. In the opening scene, after Jason exposes his double-life as Hoyt Parker, Phillip has to be physically restrained from attacking his big brother who then orders him to leave the house. At the end of the episode, Jason finds Phillip in bed with his fiancee. (Interestingly, the fact that Phillip and Frankie are both fully-clothed at this point, as opposed to tastefully nude in the Soap Land tradition, i.e., bare shoulders and strategically placed bedsheets, makes their liaison seem unusually grubby — and kinda sexy.)

    Jason’s expose of Phillip was intended to discredit him in Jeff’s eyes. Instead, Jeff finds himself torn between his recently acquired biological father and the man he grew up believing to be his father. “I don’t know Phillip,” he concedes, “but how well do I know Jason?” He still wants to help Phillip out financially, but Jason insists that Phil “doesn’t deserve it.” “Why does he have to deserve it?” Jeff shoots back. “He’s family, he’s broke and he’s in trouble … It makes me wonder. God forbid any of the rest of us should fall out of line.” This is a situation as richly complicated as it is soapily convoluted, and one that places Jeff in a similar position to Ray on DALLAS during the Wes Parmalee storyline — each son caught between the man he has briefly known as his true father and the one that has “returned” to him. “You’re the only good thing that came out of this mess,” Phillip tells Jeff who is moved in the same way that Ray was when Wes told him how proud he would be to have him as his son. Just as Ray wanted to believe that Wes was genuine so Jeff wants, maybe even needs, to believe the best of Phillip. (Adding to the power of this storyline is John James's performance. James is one of those Soap Land actors it’s easy to overlook, but he more than holds his own opposite Charlton Heston and Michael Parks.)

    If Jeff is Ray caught between two fathers, then Frankie is Miss Ellie caught between two husbands: “It was different when I thought he was dead, but now …”

    Ray’s relationship with Jenna returns him to the role of family outsider in this week’s DALLAS: “If the Ewings can’t accept the way I live my life, then they can go hang.” Interestingly, he has company: “I wish to hell I’d never even heard of the Ewing family. They’ve brought me nothing but misery and heartache,” says cousin Jack upon his return to Dallas. And how ironic is Jack describing his sister’s death to Bobby, of all people, as “a nightmare that just doesn't end”?

    So it is that a week after Mack's old flame (Anne Matheson) moved in next door to he and Karen on KNOTS LANDING, an ex of Bobby’s (Jenna) moves in next door to the Ewings. “I don’t even like seeing her occasionally. Now she’s gonna be right next door!” Karen complained to Laura. “Things were bad enough with her living in Braddock. Now she’s living with your brother?” echoes Pam to Bobby. “The next thing you know he’ll be bringing her to dinner right here at Southfork, baby and all!” (The lighting fixture falling off the wall after Pam exits angrily out of the scene is a specifically Season 9 touch.)

    And this week's Top 3 is ...

    1 (1) THE COLBYS
    2 (3) DALLAS
    3 (5) DYNASTY
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2017
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  11. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    01 Apr 87: DYNASTY: Valez v. 02 Apr 87: KNOTS LANDING: Our Secret v. 03 Apr 87: DALLAS: War and Peace v. 03 Apr 87: FALCON CREST: Body and Soul

    Last week, aliens landed in Soap Land for the first time. This week, FALCON CREST’s Melissa declares that “You really can’t believe everything you see on television,” which seems like a timely observation. Following that intergalactic interlude, it’s reassuring to hear characters debating more traditional Soap Land themes. “Power and sex, what else is there?” challenges Dirk Maurier on DYNASTY. “There’s love,” counters Alexis Colby, “and power and sex can never replace that.” While Alexis's idealism is newly acquired, the discussion that takes place between Pam and Cliff on this week’s DALLAS could easily have occurred at almost any point in the past nine years. However, knowing that it comes so close to the end of Pam’s tenure gives it an extra significance. “You’re obsessed with revenge,” she accuses her brother. “You’re a Barnes. You should understand that,” he argues. This allows Pam to restate the position she has held since the DALLAS saga began: “I was raised to hate the Ewings just as much as you were, but from the day I fell in love with Bobby, things were different for me. Why can’t you understand that I don’t want to live my life in the middle of a battlefield?” From the day Pam fell in love with Bobby to the first time Richard Channing saw Maggie Gioberti. “When did you get so damn romantic?” Maggie asks him on what might be regarded as their first official date. “I think it was about five years ago at Angela’s house when I first saw you,” he replies. While Richard and Maggie tentatively acknowledge the changing nature of their relationship (“I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that right now there is no one else I would rather be with,” he tells her), Ray and Jenna do much the same on DALLAS. “Ray and I are not little kids setting up house,” insists Jenna to Miss Ellie. “This isn’t a romance, it’s a friendship — a friendship that no one seems or wants to understand.” Later, she admits to Ray that, “when I was busy defending us to Miss Ellie, I wasn’t thinking about Bobby. I was thinking about you.” “Does that mean you’re finally getting over Bobby?” he asks her. There is no easy answer to this. Instead of replying straight away, Jenna pauses and is then distracted by the baby — Bobby’s baby — kicking inside her. Similarly, back on FALCON CREST, Richard realises that Maggie still has feelings for Chase. “It’s OK. You’re allowed,” he assures her. Things are a little clearer for DYNASTY’s Clay Fallmont. “Something tells me the new you is finally over me and in love with someone else,” Sammy Jo tells him. “It’s as if you had the word Leslie tattooed across your forehead.”

    In fact, it’s almost as if every character on this week’s DYNASTY has their true feelings tattooed across their forehead. No one (with the possible exception of supporting bad guys Dirk Maurier and Neil McVane) says anything they don’t mean. Everybody's dialogue is as literal as three-year-old Krystina’s when she confides to Sarah Curtis that Raggedy Ann is the favourite of her dolls but that she is worried that her other toys will be upset if they find out. (“I don’t like them to be sad.”) Even Sarah herself isn’t so much duplicitous as deluded in the scenes leading up to her kidnapping of Krystina. It appears as if the part of her that tells Krystle and Blake that she is planning to return home to Wyoming has no idea that another part of her has secretly rented an apartment in Denver where she intends to live with “her” daughter.

    “I didn’t realise how desperate she was,” says Mack following Anne Matheson’s suicide attempt on KNOTS LANDING. Equally, neither Blake nor Krystle realises how desperate Sarah is until they discover she’s snatched their daughter — just six days after Krystina’s big sister Fallon was abducted by aliens on THE COLBYS. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to lose one Carrington daughter in the space of a week might be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness. As an increasingly paranoid Ben Gibson rants on KNOTS: “What is it gonna take…? Does somebody have to come in here in the middle of the night and slit your throats or kidnap our children?”

    While the characters on DYNASTY are largely transparent, the atmosphere on KNOTS is decidedly enigmatic. Recurring throughout this week’s episode are dreamlike interludes set in a kind of ethereal ice palace. These appear to be taking place either in Anne’s mind, as she lies unconscious following her overdose, or in some sort of afterlife antechamber where her soul is waiting for the fates to decide if she should live or die. (Heck, following Fallon’s extraterrestrial encounter, this seems as viable a Soap Land scenario as any other.) Each of these scenes is accompanied by the strains of ‘Künstlerleben - Walzer, op. 316’ by Johann Strauss II. We first see Anne sitting peacefully alone gazing into a tunnel of light, then waltzing with an invisible partner and then with Mack in slow-motion. As the dance continues, Anne and Mack slowly turn into younger versions of themselves as seen in the 1967 flashbacks earlier in the season. (Young Anne is, of course, played by Paige who is also Future Alexis, but let’s not think about that now.)

    The walls between cul-de-sac reality and Anne’s dream world dissolve in the scene where Mack, in heroic slow-motion, smashes his way through her living window and takes her unconscious body in his arms. What could be a more classically romantic image? It’s literally a dream come true. Of Soap Land’s three recent suicide rescue missions — Krystle preventing Sarah from gassing herself in her car, Jeff diving into the ocean to save Frankie — this is by far the most dramatic and visually impressive.

    Anne is taken to Soap Land Memorial Hospital where, in addition to the usual anxious-relatives-in-the-waiting-room scenes, there is a very striking shot of Paige walking slowly down an empty corridor towards her mother’s room. She carries a bouquet of flowers, out of which she selects a single rose before allowing the rest of the flowers to drop to the floor and then carrying on her way. There is no music to underscore the scene, just the sound of Paige’s reverberating footsteps (underlying the sense that this is a real corridor rather than a traditional Soap Land set). The sequence feels symbolic of … something, but as this isn’t an episode overly concerned with spelling things out, the viewer is left to their own conclusions.

    The characters’ motives are likewise shrouded with ambiguity. “You don’t think she intended to die, do you?” Paige asks Karen with regard to Anne’s overdose. “Mother is a pro at exhibitions like this.” Anne neither endorses nor refutes this interpretation of events, but her reaction when another bouquet is delivered to her hospital room speaks volumes. “The envelope, please,” she smiles knowingly, as if onstage at the Academy Awards. There’s another theatrical metaphor later in the same episode, again related to deception. “Time for your performance, maestro,” Paige tells Peter Hollister, referring to his seduction of Olivia. “She is ready and tuned. All you have to do is pluck.”

    Unlike the enigmatic Anne or the archly ironic Paige, Olivia is as sincere in her feelings and behaviour as the cast of this week’s DYNASTY. Indeed, the futility of her crush on Peter, a man to whom she is fundamentally unsuited (not only is he much older, but he’s also sleeping with both her mother and her best friend), resembles Sammy Jo’s feelings for Steven, a man with whom she might be sharing her bed, but who can never truly be hers. “Part of me is never going to change, Sammy Jo,” he tells her. “I can’t be the kind of man you want me to be and I can’t lie to myself about it.” “Then what do you want?” she asks. “I don’t know, but it can’t be this,” he replies. Within the heteronormative confines of ‘80s Soap Land, Steven can only be defined by what he isn’t and what he can’t be, rather than who he is and/or might be in the future. This inner turmoil leads to a riding accident that leaves Steven’s son’s favourite horse with a broken leg and being put out to pasture. “I was riding him hard, too hard!” Steven laments. “No one blames you,” Sammy Jo insists. “No one except me,” he replies. This is the one scene in this week’s DYNASTY that can be read metaphorically — it’s clear that by blaming himself for the accident, Steven is really blaming himself for his inability to fulfil the role of a traditional family man.

    Back on KNOTS, Peter’s interest in Olivia is prompted by the news of his fake mother’s off-screen death. Sylvia Lean is the third Soap Land character of the season whose passing we learn of after she has already been written out of her respective show. The circumstances of her demise (“She drowned in a bathtub,” Greg informs him matter-of-factly) might be more prosaic than those inflicted upon Constance Colby Patterson’s (a plane crash in the Far East) or Jamie Ewing Barnes (an avalanche in New Mexico), but the dramatic consequences are no less juicy. Just as Jamie’s death has led to various characters fighting over the ten percent of Ewing Oil she left behind (a fight which reaches its courtroom climax this week), Sylvia’s death has Peter desperate to get his hands on the letter she gave to Olivia before leaving town, to be opened only in the event of something “unusual” happening to her. And in order to get his hands on the letter, Peter must first put his hands on Olivia.

    There are interesting references to a couple of long-departed, rarely mentioned Ewing-verse characters this week. Firstly, in an effort to make Abby take Olivia’s feelings for Peter seriously, Karen recalls her own estrangement from daughter Diana in terms that, in a roundabout but satisfying way, help explain why so little has been heard from Diana since she moved to New York almost three years earlier: “You know how close Diana and I once were … I’m not sure we completely fixed the damage that was done.” Then on DALLAS, after Pam admits to Bobby that she is unable to forget his past relationship with Jenna (“Every time you kiss me, I see you kissing Jenna”), he reminds her of her own involvement with Mark Graison. It’s the first time Mark has been mentioned since his resurrection was obliterated by the dream solution. Since then, we have been no clearer about his fate than we were when Pam went looking for him in Hong Kong. “Oh Bobby, Mark is gone,” she says simply in this ep, which kind of tells us all we need to know about him in the present.

    Towards the end of KNOTS, we return to Anne’s otherworldly ice palace. Strauss is still playing, Young Anne is still waltzing with Young Mack -- until he turns, surprisingly, into Young Greg. Then as the dance reaches its climax, there’s a blurring whirl where Young Greg, Old Mack and Young and Old Anne all seem to be dancing with each other — but the couple we are left with at the end is the present day Anne and Greg. We then fade back to an inscrutable looking Anne in her hospital bed and then to Paige walking back down that same hospital corridor, just as haughty but now also strangely vulnerable.

    The court hearing on DALLAS is one of two in this week’s Soap Land this week. The other is Tony Cumson’s arraignment over his arrest for the murder of Roland Saunders on FALCON CREST. The DALLAS sequence is an enjoyably unruly affair with Jack Ewing (in his final appearance) and Cliff Barnes hurling insults at each other across the courtroom and much gavel-banging from the judge (“Any further outbursts and I will instruct the bailiff to remove both of you from this courtroom!”). While the judge’s decision to award April 5% of Ewing Oil comes as no surprise, the twist is that Cliff is allowed to keep the other 5%. There’s also an unexpected outcome in the Cumson hearing — instead of the case being thrown out, “recently acquired evidence” leads to Tony being charged with first-degree murder. Despite being the end of episode cliffhanger, this is probably Soap Land’s dullest murder investigation to date.

    The final scene of DALLAS and the penultimate scene of FALCON CREST are almost identical this week. On DALLAS, JR is being interviewed by a TV news crew as he leaves the courthouse. “Justice was not served in this case,” he declares. “Not by a long shot.” On FALCON CREST, Maggie is making a televised appeal for information about the whereabouts of her and Chase’s child. Each character is being watched on TV by a woman holding baby who feels no sympathy for their plight. “Oh, justice will be served, Mr Ewing. I can promise you that,” murmurs Nancy Scotfield thrillingly on DALLAS. “You see that lady right there? She and Chase did a terrible thing by sending your little brother Joseph away and they’ve just begun to pay for it,” Melissa tells Maggie’s baby son on FC.

    Speaking of babies, following the longest-spanning pregnancy in Soap Land history (two full seasons), Donna Krebbs finally gives birth on this week’s DALLAS. As befits her character, she does so in a thoroughly no-nonsense manner — there’s no falling down the Colby staircase or going into labour on Angela Channing’s doorstep for Donna. The one moment of dramatic irony takes place after the blessed event when she calls Ray’s house to give him the news. Jenna, herself heavily pregnant, answers instead. “I really wish you the best,” Donna tells her erstwhile rival, gracious to the last. “You too,” Jenna replies. And thus the two women — who in the alternate universe of Pam’s Dream shared the most intense of friendships — bid each other a low-key, bittersweet farewell. There’s a far less civilised scene on FALCON CREST between Maggie and the woman who has moved into her husband’s life, Gabrielle Short. Frantic with worry about the missing baby, Maggie turns up at Chase’s looking for help. “I really admire the way you’re handling this,” Gabrielle tells her somewhat patronisingly. “What an incredibly stupid thing to say,” responds Maggie contemptuously. It’s a hugely satisfying moment and one of the few times this episode really comes alive.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (-) DALLAS
    3 (3) DYNASTY
    4 (4) FALCON CREST
     
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  12. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    08 Apr 87: DYNASTY: The Sublet v. 09 Apr 87: KNOTS LANDING: Breakup v. 10 Apr 87: DALLAS: Ruthless People v. 10 Apr 87: FALCON CREST: Loose Cannons

    “You’re not Paige’s father, Mack,” says Anne Matheson on this week’s KNOTS. “Peter Hollister is not your brother,” Abby informs Greg in the same episode. “Alexis Carrington Colby is not your mother,” Neil McVane tells Adam on DYNASTY.

    Adam’s downward spiral starts to resemble Sue Ellen’s at the beginning of the DALLAS Dream Season. Both are triggered by a loss of identity. “You don’t exist — you’re just a bad memory that doesn’t know when to go away,” JR told his wife back then. “I don’t know my name,” Adam admits this week. Where Sue Ellen staggered dazedly down a sidewalk full of drunks and hookers, Adam staggers drunkenly into a down-at-heel boxing gym and tries to pay someone to fight him. Unlike the predators and opportunists who plagued Sue Ellen at every turn during her lost weekend, the guys in the gym are too honourable to take Adam’s money. At least, most of them are. One man follows him into an alley, beats him and then robs him of his cash and ID. Just as Sue Ellen was subsequently identified by the police as a penniless Jane Doe, the cops who discover Adam dismiss him as “just another drunk, another wise guy.” “Why didn’t you just leave me there?” Adam asks his mother angrily when she collects him from jail. “To let you rot?” Alexis replies, echoing the words of Sue Ellen’s doctor to Miss Ellie last season: “She was rotting out in there in the streets, in your home.”

    Adam’s closest Soap Land equivalent at present is KNOTS LANDING’s Ben Gibson, who is going through his own kind of meltdown. This week, Lilimae persuades him to ask Abby for his old job back, but halfway through their meeting, he changes his mind. “I must be crazy,” he tells Abby. “I would never work for you or anyone even remotely like you ever again.” His sense of liberation is short-lived, however. Upon his return home, he thinks that Val has turned into Jean Hackney.

    With the 86/7 season drawing to a close, that indefinable “end of era” atmosphere starts to permeate some of the shows, most notably DALLAS. “I’ve had it, Pam,” Bobby tells his wife. “I’m getting out … I’m gonna sell my shares of Ewing Oil … They just don’t mean anything anymore.” “… At least we’ll have a chance at a relationship that doesn’t include all this fighting, that doesn’t include JR,” proffers Pam. If one didn’t know better, one might suspect that both Pam and Bobby were about to leave the show. Meanwhile, the Krebbses finally come to terms with their past as Ray and Donna make peace following the birth of their little girl, and Ray reaches a cordial understanding with Andrew Dowling. Over on FALCON CREST, Chao Li is apparently dying, which leads to an unusual, and surprisingly touching, conversation between Lance and Chao Li’s acupuncturist (“That person you’re poking those needles into, doc, is very important to me”). This is Soap Land’s first glance at alternative medicine since Mark Graison’s offscreen search for unorthodox treatments on DALLAS a couple of years ago.

    Sometimes the sense of finality is more apparent in retrospect. The foreknowledge that Ben is on his way out of KNOTS, for instance, turns his meeting with Abby into an unintentional farewell scene (Ben: “You can be guaranteed, I won’t be back ever again.” Abby: “Oh — and I was afraid this meeting was going to end unpleasantly”) in much the same way that Donna and Jenna’s awkward phone conversation on last week’s DALLAS serves as their de facto adieu. Meanwhile, the unexpected reinvention of DYNASTY’s Nick Kimble as a multi-millionaire who sweeps Dominique off her feet in a manner reminiscent of Blake’s courting of Krystle at the beginning of the series (chartering a private jet to San Francisco on a whim, hiring an entire restaurant for an intimate dinner) makes more sense when one realises Dominique only has a few episodes in which to fall in love and leave Denver with her new man. With further foresight, Nick also feels like an antecedent to the fresh batch of young black billionaires on New DYNASTY.

    This week, Krystle and Blake on DYNASTY and Maggie and Chase on FALCON CREST are each the parents of a missing child. Whereas the Carringtons know that it was Sarah Curtis who took their daughter, the Giobertis have no idea that former daughter-in-law Melissa is behind their son’s abduction.

    While Blake finds Krystle in Sarah’s old room, frantically searching through her belongings for clues to her whereabouts, Richard Channing finds Maggie in her and Chase’s marital bedroom, looking for things to smash — keepsakes, ornaments, even pictures of her children: all are up for grabs. Each woman blames herself for her child’s disappearance and neither is interested in being consoled. “Dammit Blake, don’t patronise me!” Krystle yells. “Who are you angry with — God, fate, Sarah? … What about me? … I’m the one who brought her into this house!” “I am not in the mood for cute, Richard,” Maggie snaps. “Giving up my baby was so easy I thought I might as well give up the rest of my past while I’m at it.” Whereas Krystle is eventually able to channel her anger constructively (it is her initiative that leads to Krystina’s discovery at the end of the episode), Maggie remains bitter and pessimistic. “When I came here six years ago with a houseful of furniture, two grown kids, a husband, I had something I could reach out and touch, protect, be protected by, and now I have nothing,” she reflects.

    Krystle and Sarah Curtis make similarly curious wardrobe choices this week. In spite of the claustrophobic situations in which they each find themselves — Sarah holed up in an apartment with a sick child, Krystle waiting tensely at home for news of that same child — both women spend the ep dressed formally, in trouser-suits and buttoned-up blouses complete with fussy ties and bows. (Even when trying to sleep, Krystle does so in a tightly-belted twinset.) Each looks uncomfortably overdressed — but perhaps that’s the point: Krystle and Sarah are both emotionally straitjacketed by their circumstances and that also manifests itself physically.

    It’s hard to say who is the more inappropriate surrogate mother to the child she has abducted — Sarah or FALCON CREST’s Melissa. While Sarah addresses Krystina as if she were her dead daughter Cathy, Melissa treats the newborn Kevin to the following review of her latest nightclub performance: “The audience just adored me. It was almost as if they were making mad passionate love to me with their eyes.” (When Dan Fixx finds out about Melissa’s secret profession this week, she gives him the same “becoming my own person” spiel Lucy Ewing gave Ray Krebbs when he discovered her double life as a waitress, and he promises to keep her secret, just as Ray did Lucy’s.)

    This week’s episodes of DYNASTY and FALCON CREST conclude similarly. Just as Krystle arrives at the door of the apartment Sarah has secretly rented and hears her daughter’s voice coming from inside (“Mommy! … I want my mommy!”), Melissa is scarcely through the door of the apartment she has secretly rented when she discovers Angela holding the baby she (Melissa) has stolen from Chase and Maggie. (“I thought I’d give your nanny the day off,” Angela purrs.)

    There is further doorstep action in this week’s Ewing-verse. On KNOTS, Mack shows up unexpectedly at Anne’s door and hears her on the phone to Karen, mocking her way of life (“Your little tract house, your little dead-end street, your little dead-end life, with your little outdoor barbecue grill and your little ‘Kiss the Cook’ apron — it all makes me sick”) and freely admitting that her suicide attempt was staged (“I never intended to die. I intended to bring Mack to his senses”). Elsewhere in the same episode, Olivia pays an uninvited call to Peter Hollister’s apartment and glimpses a semi-nude Paige coming out of his bathroom. Mack receives a second, even nastier, surprise on Anne’s doorstep in the final scene when she informs him that Greg is Paige’s real father.

    DALLAS, meanwhile, is bookended by house calls from Jeremy Wendell. In the opening scene, he visits April’s condo with the intention of buying her five percent of Ewing Oil, only to find JR waiting for him: “Wendell, you just flat underestimated me … It’ll be a cold day in hell before you ever own a piece of Ewing Oil.” “You made a fool of me,” Jeremy concedes. “I will have to try to see it doesn’t happen again.” He makes good on this intention in the closing scene when he makes another visit, this time to the home of Nancy Scotfield in Navarro. Here, he’s on the front foot, assuring Mrs S that he can do what her local newspaper can’t: expose the evidence against the Ewings she has obtained from the CIA while protecting her and her family: “There’s only one man that’s going behind bars and that’s JR Ewing.”

    The story of the Anne/Mack/Karen triangle culminates in a reaffirmation of both the Mackenzies’ core values and those at the heart of KNOTS itself. “I love our house … I love how quiet it is on a cul-de-sac,” declares Mack after he has invited Anne to witness him present his wife with a string of hot dog sausages while wearing the aforementioned ‘Kiss the Cook’ apron. In fascinating contrast, the core value at the heart of DALLAS — the Ewing family sticking together against outsiders (“That’s what makes us unbeatable,” as Miss Ellie once said) — come under fire from several quarters this week, not least from Ellie herself.

    It starts in an interestingly low-key way, with a minor news report in the Dallas Press: “Navarro Weekly Sentinel Reports Ewing Oil-CIA Cover-Up.” The Ewing boys’ first instinct is the traditional one — to unite against their enemies — and so Bobby and JR visit Mr Harrigan, editor of the Navarro Sentinel to strong-arm him into retracting the story. JR sounds decidedly Trumpian as he rewrites history to suit his own ends: “My family built Texas into the great state it is right now and this is the thanks we get for it?” Harrigan is resolutely unimpressed: “Thanks? You want thanks? What for — putting half this county on the unemployment line? … You’re as guilty as sin and you know it. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be down here.” The brothers, with a little help from the CIA, succeed in shutting Harrigan up, but the damage to the Ewing reputation has already been done.

    There follows a little gem of a scene where Miss Ellie and Clayton, attempting to escape the tense atmosphere at Southfork, arrive at the Oil Baron’s Club for dinner but find no respite. “If I was a member of that family I’d put a mask on before I’d venture out on the street,” proclaims one nameless diner, loud enough for them to hear. Be it small-town newspaper editors tearing a strip off JR and Bobby, day players heckling Barbara Bel Geddes, or Mrs Scotfield storing photocopies of incriminating evidence in her refrigerator the way Mack Mackenzie stores hot dog sausages, there’s something hugely satisfying — not to mention excitingly subversive — about seeing the high and mighty Ewing family knocked off their pedestals by their social inferiors. After nine years, DALLAS still has the power to surprise.

    This all leads to Miss Ellie’s terrific speech delivered to JR and Bobby in which she disavows the whole notion of ‘Ewings Unite’: “I always thought that no matter what happened, I’d always stand by my family. It was always that way with the Ewings ... We always stuck up for each other, even when we knew we were wrong. But no more. It’s gone too far and I won’t defend either of you any longer … You’re both on your own now and as far as Ewing Oil goes, it should have died with your daddy … Don’t you ever, ever speak his name in front of me again.”

    All this and the return of Mandy Winger!

    1 (2) DALLAS
    2 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (3) DYNASTY
    4 (4) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2017
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  13. markymark

    markymark Soap Chat Active Member

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    James - fabulous reviews as always.

    btw did you forget to post the week with the last Colbys episode? Or have I missed it.
     
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  14. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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  15. markymark

    markymark Soap Chat Active Member

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  16. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    29 Apr 87: DYNASTY: The Affair v. 30 Apr 87: KNOTS LANDING: Parental Guidance v. 01 May 87: DALLAS: The Dark at the End of the Tunnel v. 01 May 87: FALCON CREST: The Great Karlotti

    The relationships between Clay Fallmont and Leslie on DYNASTY and Peter Hollister and Paige on KNOTS each move up a notch this week. While Leslie agrees to move in with Clay, Paige drops some heavy hints about her and Peter’s future. “I could be the perfect wife for the rising politician,” she tells him. Both couples are then rocked by a similar bombshell. Just as Anne Matheson claimed that at the end of the last episode of KNOTS that Greg Sumner is Paige’s real father, Buck Fallmont insists at the start of this week’s DYNASTY that Ben Carrington is Clay’s. Not that either Anne or Buck is necessarily a reliable witness. “She’s unstable,” Karen points out on KNOTS. “He’s nothing a drunken liar,” insists Clay on DYNASTY. In both cases, the mother in question is no longer around to give her side of the story: Emily Fallmont is dead while Anne has high-tailed back to Long Island between episodes. But what if Buck and Anne are telling the truth? “It means your niece is sleeping with her brother!” Buck tells Blake. “She’s dating Greg Sumner’s brother!” Karen tells Mack — which would mean that Paige is sleeping with her uncle (except that she isn’t because Peter and Greg aren’t really related). Interestingly, the word incest is avoided on both shows.

    Prior to this week, the pairing of Leslie and Clay has felt a bit forced. Sparring work colleagues whose initial antagonism belies a mutual attraction, it seemed like the writers were aiming for a screwball-comedy battle-of-the-sexes romance with a ‘80s twist, but instead, the characters came across as smug and robotic. Paige and Peter are a pretty smug couple too — smug to the point of narcissistic in Paige’s case (for example, the scene in this week’s ep where she lists her attributes while admiring herself in the mirror: “I’m pretty, but don’t intimidate other women, I’m rich, but not too rich to embarrass the middle class, well-read, properly schooled and always au courant.”) The big difference is that on KNOTS, the characters’ self-regard has been factored into the story-telling. In fact, Abby exploits both Peter’s and Paige’s vanities in order to split them up this week.

    Once Clay and Leslie became caught up in the wider story of Fallmonts and the Carringtons, however, they instantly become more sympathetic. As Blake says, “these are two innocent kids,” which makes it easier to forgive their previous shortcomings. Likewise on KNOTS, for all of Paige’s self-involvement (“You are so spoiled you think that wanting something automatically makes it yours,” Peter tells her), there’s an inbuilt vulnerability about her — due in part to the fact that, for the bulk of this week’s episode, we know, but she doesn’t, about the question mark hanging over her paternity.

    “You can’t believe Mother. She just said it to be vindictive,” Paige insists tearfully when Mack eventually breaks the bad news, echoing Leslie’s reaction to Clay’s bombshell: “This can’t be true! We can’t be brother and sister!”

    There are some noteworthy female encounters in each of this week’s soaps. DYNASTY begins and ends on familiar ground, with Alexis and Krystle clashing over the arrangements for Adam and Dana’s wedding at the mansion. In the final scene, Krystle calls Alexis to complain about the unscheduled appearance of a workman in the house. When Alexis asks to speak to the man, Krystle realises he has disappeared — a situation deemed significant enough to warrant an end-of-episode freeze-frame of her surprised face.

    Over on DALLAS, there’s a great scene where Pam pays a visit to new neighbour Jenna in an effort to “break the ice” now that “we’re going to be moving in some of the same circles.” Jenna remains enjoyably defiant throughout (“We can’t just smoke a peace pipe and be pals — there’s been too much history,” she declares) but Pam still gets the last word. “There’s a new time coming, Jenna — for all of us,” she says spookily.

    Abby and Sue Ellen deal with their female adversaries more circuitously. On KNOTS, Abby reacts to the discovery that Paige has been sleeping with Peter by encouraging her in her belief that Peter wants to marry her. (“Maybe when you two set the date, we can have the reception right here at Lotus Point,” she adds sweetly). At the same time, Abby tricks Peter into thinking that she is willing to marry him herself — but only after he has told Paige to “take a hike”, which he eventually does.

    Over on DALLAS, whatever game Sue Ellen is playing regarding Mandy Winger is less clear. The women share two scenes this week, but without speaking or even making eye-contact. The first is an impressively shot sequence where Sue Ellen observes Mandy from a distance during a sexy photo shoot. She listens as Ozwald Valentine and Bruce Harvey lavish praise on Mandy. While Ozwald refers to her as “the goddess of lingerie”, Bruce describes her as “a very rare and profitable commodity.” As Bruce chatters on about movie scripts (“the usual potboiler detective-psycho-killer-type things, but they could be special if the psycho was to stalk Mandy Winger in the hot tub”), the camera moves in on Sue Ellen, scrutinising her as closely as she is scrutinising Mandy. The scene ends with her face in extreme close-up, her expression giving nothing away. In the second scene, Sue Ellen arranges for Mandy and JR to run into each other in a restaurant. Again, she watches from a distance, unobserved. This is Soap Land Scheming 101, but turned on its head so that the traditional victim, Sue Ellen, is now the one pulling the strings.

    Alas, the scenes between Angela and Melissa on FALCON CREST are memorable for all the wrong reasons. The episode starts promisingly with Angela telling Melissa that she doesn’t intend to inform Chase and Maggie of their missing baby’s whereabouts. “And ease Chase’s mind? Don’t be silly,” she says casually. This would appear to herald a return to the wantonly cruel Angela of FALCON CREST’s early years, a welcome development after the increasingly benign, almost sitcom character she has become over the last couple of seasons. But what happens next is just baffling. As the price for keeping quiet about her baby-napping, Angela orders Melissa to put on a silly dress and record a song in her (Angela’s) living room with some long-haired musicians. That’s it. An equivalent scenario would be Greg Sumner reacting to the discovery that Abby knew about the kidnapping of Val’s twins by forcing her to wear an unflattering shade of eyeshadow and perform a stand-up routine at Lotus Point. Even judged on its own infantile terms, Angela’s punishment makes little sense. The dress she makes Melissa wear is, in truth, scarcely more over-the-top than a regular Soap Land party gown. If the idea is to humiliate Melissa, wouldn’t it be more effective to force her to dress plainly and without makeup? And why order her to sing when that’s what she wants to do anyway? And why would Angela leave Melissa and a bunch of reprobate musicians alone in her own house? I’ll willingly go along with Moldavian massacres, dream seasons, UFOs, doppelgängers and any number of characters returning from the dead, but this plot development has me genuinely stumped — not because it’s far-fetched or illogical, but because it’s just so half-hearted, so limp, that it scarcely qualifies as drama or comedy or anything else. It’s hard to imagine anyone over the age of ten finding it satisfying.

    Three weeks after Donna Krebbs gave birth to daughter Margaret on DALLAS, Laura Avery gives birth to daughter Marguerite on KNOTS. As with Donna, the delivery befits Laura’s understated persona, occurring discreetly offscreen with zero dramatics. The soapy stuff comes later when Mack confronts Greg, busy celebrating his newly acquired daughter, with the possibility that he could also be Paige’s father. “What happened twenty years ago?” Mack asks him. “Whatever happened doesn’t make babies,” he replies emphatically before adding, “one daughter a day is enough.” (Watching this scene with hindsight, the ironies are inescapable. Just as Mack will eventually “lose” Paige to Greg, Greg will eventually “lose” Meg to Mack.)

    “He’s gone,” says Krystle of the missing workman at the end of DYNASTY. “With the wind?” quips Alexis in reply. “We will make Gone with the Wind, but further down the line,” Bruce Harvey assures Sue Ellen during Mandy’s photo shoot. Casablanca is also referenced on DALLAS when the freshly minted April celebrates the acquisition of her new restaurant by first firing the concierge who had previously refused to seat her as an unaccompanied woman (within the parameters of mid-‘80s DALLAS, this pretty much counts as a major feminist victory), and then by telling her pianist to “play it again, Sam.” On FALCON CREST, Vince Karlotti shows up to his and Emma’s wedding rehearsal so heavily disguised that their adoptive son Wendell calls him Inspector Gadget.

    However, the most prominent cultural reference of the week is made by Ben Gibson on KNOTS when he compares himself to the English officer in Bridge Over the River Kwai (“Alec Guinness played him in the movie”) who became so obsessed with the assignment he had been given that he ended up endangering his own men. “I wasn’t protecting my family. I was ruining it,” Ben realises. No sooner does he announce his intention to get back to work than he is offered an overseas assignment. “The old boy is back!” says Val with relief. So why does this feel more like an ending than a beginning? Mostly because of the conversation Ben then has with Gary about the twins. (“It’s kind of nice to know that there’s someone who feels responsible enough for your kids to take over. That’s the kind of insurance that money can’t buy.”) The scene is a bit like a companion piece to the one between Ray Krebbs and Senator Dowling on last week’s DALLAS. There is a similar tone of conciliation between the two men, but whereas Ray made it clear that he will remain Margaret’s father no matter what, here Ben is all but handing parental responsibility for Bobby and Betsy over to Gary.

    As Pam says, “There’s a new time coming … for all of us.” It just might not be coming in a way the characters anticipate. As Val waves Ben off on his trip, she is unaware of the grim expression on his face as his cab pulls away from the cul-de-sac. On DALLAS, the rest of the family follow Bobby’s lead and decide to sell their shares of Ewing Oil to JR. The consensus is that this is a positive move, one that represents a fresh start for all concerned. “I thought I’d be mourning the loss of Ewing Oil but all I feel is relief, like a giant stone has been lifted from my shoulders,” says Bobby. “This breakup of the company, I really think it’s going to be for the best,” declares Miss Ellie who allows herself to believe that, “after all the dust is settled, everything will fall into place and things will be right in this family.” Running counter to the Ewings’ optimism, however, is Jeremy Wendell’s visit to the Justice Department in Washington where he discreetly hands over “some very regrettable information” about “one of my fellow oilmen.” These two storylines collide at the end of the ep when Senator Dowling informs Donna that the government is gunning for Ewing Oil. This sets in motion a slightly bonkers chain of events as Donna calls Southfork to tip off Miss Ellie who then turns into a hysterical, blubbering mess which in turn sends Clayton into a murderous rage. He physically attacks JR and ends up falling down the stairs, Sable Colby-style. “He’s not breathing!” JR exclaims.

    On this week’s DYNASTY, Sarah Curtis visits her daughter’s grave in Wyoming (“Cathy Curtis, beloved daughter of Boyd and Sarah, 1983 - 1987”) accompanied by Krystle. On this week’s FALCON CREST, Maggie Gioberti visits her rapist’s grave in Chicago (“Jeffrey Wainwright 1948 - 1986”) accompanied by Chase. Sarah has been in denial about Cathy’s death since kidnapping Krystina and it’s only now that she is able to face the truth, thus bringing her storyline to a close. Maggie, meanwhile, has been spooked by the sight of Jeff’s identical brother and wants to make sure he’s really dead. She breaks down at the graveside and starts hitting Chase. This leads to a pivotal scene where Maggie and Chase discuss their feelings of resentment towards each another, really for the first time. While bringing them closer together (“All the hard feelings between us just start to take a back seat,” says Chase), it also makes them realise that their marriage is definitely over. (“This is never gonna work out, is it?” Maggie realises). This puts the Giobertis in a similar position to the Krebbses on DALLAS. “Donna and I did a lot of talking while I was in Washington and that part of my life is behind me,” Ray tells Jenna before kissing her for the very first time. Likewise, upon returning from Chicago, Maggie finally admits to Richard that she is “a little in love” with him.

    On DALLAS, Bobby’s claim that he has been “in touch” with brother Gary in California regarding the dissolution of Ewing Oil (“I have his power of attorney. He’s agreeable to the sale on any terms I approve”) is interesting given that, as far as Gary and everyone else in KNOTS LANDING is concerned, Bobby is still dead and buried. There’s another reminder of the Dream Season on FALCON CREST. “Sometimes I wish I would wake up one morning and find this whole past year had been a bad dream,” says Maggie knowingly.

    Two months ago, Francesca Colby became the first Soap Land bride to faint at the altar. In the closing scene of this week’s FALCON CREST, Emma becomes the second. This time, the cause of her collapse isn’t the sight of a back-from-the-dead husband but the appearance of her bigamist groom’s four other wives, one of whom tries to shoot him. This sequence is a slight improvement on the Angela-makes-Melissa-wear-a-dress scenario but nonetheless feels like a soap opera pastiche created by people who don’t really like soap operas. But then, in true schizophrenic FC style, the episode ends with a quintessentially soapy twist as Eric Stavros upstages Emma’s non-wedding by announcing that “three days ago, Vicky Gioberti and I got married!”

    Eric Stavros and Clay Fallmont arrived in Soap Land within a week of each other, roughly two-thirds of the way through last season. Back then, they had a lot in common: an outdoorsy, daredevil reputation, a well-meaning nature and a weakness for young, high-maintenance divorcees. A year or so later, their paths have diverged. While Clay has knuckled down to an honest job working for Dex Dexter, Eric has become a pleasure-seeking playboy since hooking up with the equally wayward Vicky. Traditionally, when one person in a Soap Land relationship is irresponsible or decadent, their behaviour is tempered by that of their more sensible partner, e.g., Fallon and Jeff in early DYNASTY; Lucy and Mitch on DALLAS. This is the first instance I can think of where both parties are equally hedonistic. With no restraining influence, where will Eric and Vicky end up?

    If the new Eric Stavros resembles any current DYNASTY character, it is Dirk Maurier’s enjoyably sleazy nephew Gavin, who’s like a younger Peter de Vilbis with an English accent. He’s in Denver looking for money and so sweeps Alexis off her feet in much the way de Vilbis did Fallon. This week, he takes Alexis for a spin on his motorbike and, in an MTV-style montage scored to Kenny Loggins’ ‘Danger Zone’ (continuing the trend begun by this season’s KNOTS of using original pop recordings for such scenes rather than tinny soundalikes à la PAPER DOLLS), introduces her to the dizzy delights of milkshakes, hotdogs (Mack ‘Kiss the Cook’ Mackenzie would surely approve) and disco dancing. Gavin’s even younger than Dex but, unsurprisingly, there is no reference to the age difference between them, unlike on KNOTS where this week Abby freely describes herself as “an older woman” in relation to Peter Hollister.

    Trend of the week: subordinates in distress. Mrs Gunnerson sulks on DYNASTY when Alexis brings in outside caterers for Adam and Dana’s wedding, Phyllis cries on DALLAS when Bobby tells her Ewing Oil is being dissolved, and Chao Li continues with his duties on FALCON CREST in spite of his worsening physical condition. These people live to serve.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …
    1 (1) DALLAS
    2 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (3) DYNASTY
    4 (4) FALCON CREST
     
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  17. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    06 May 87: DYNASTY: Shadow Play v. 07 May 87: KNOTS LANDING: Do Not Fold, Spindle, or Mutilate v. 08 May 87: DALLAS: Two-Fifty v. 08 May 87: FALCON CREST: Chain Reaction

    The penultimate week of the Soap Land season and there’s a birth on DALLAS, a death on KNOTS LANDING and a wedding on DYNASTY. FALCON CREST weighs in with a murder trial, a couple of kidnappings and a poignant scene in which Chase and Maggie agree to a divorce without actually mentioning the word itself.

    The theme of men abandoning their families for their own good, which began with Ben Gibson driving away from Seaview Circle on last week’s KNOTS, continues in this week’s DYNASTY. First, Ben Carrington decides to leave Denver. “The less you have of me in your life the better,” he tells daughter Leslie. Then Ben’s nephew Steven tells his young son that he too is leaving town “because I have another job in another city.” Alone with Sammy Jo, Steven admits that the job is a lie and that he is moving away for Danny’s sake: “As long as we’re in the same town, Danny will never understand why we’re not living under the same roof.” Back on KNOTS, Val discovers that Ben has been lying about his out-of-town job as well. “He’s not working for us,” say the news agency he is supposedly on assignment for.

    “The girl I’m in love with may be my sister!” says Clay on DYNASTY. “I almost married my uncle!” shouts Paige on KNOTS. Still reeling from last week’s paternity bombshells, both characters confront the men who might be their real fathers. While Clay barges uninvited into Ben Carrington’s office, Paige turns up unexpectedly at the Sumner ranch to find Greg and Laura cooing over their new baby. Where Clay insists on a paternity test, Paige asks about Greg’s relationship with her mother. Each is denied a satisfactory conclusion. On DYNASTY, the blood tests prove inconclusive. “Either Ben or Buck could be my father,” says Clay. “We’ll never know for sure.” Meanwhile, Paige cannot be certain that Greg is telling the truth when he insists that he never slept with Anne behind Mack’s back. (“I always thought there was something there,” Paige’s grandfather tells her when she asks him about the relationship.)

    Blood tests also figure on FALCON CREST. During a punch-up with Lance in the Agretti house, Chase upsets a wastepaper basket and out spills the stolen blood sample that would have proved him to be the father of Maggie’s baby. This leads him to conclude that, not only have Lance and Melissa failed to empty their trash for about three months (looks like Anne Matheson isn’t the only Soap Land character to need the concept of “garbage day” explained to her), but that Melissa must be the one who kidnapped Kevin.

    “I don’t care what Greg Sumner says. You’ve become a daughter to me and … I love you,” Mack tells Paige. Blake and Alexis feel pretty much the same about Adam’s on DYNASTY. “You’re our son. You always have been, you always will be our son,” they tell him, before making it legal by presenting him with adoption papers on the day of his wedding to Dana.

    Clay and Paige might not get to the bottom of their respective paternity mysteries, but DYNASTY and KNOTS each employ the use of flashbacks to answer those questions for the audience. While looking at her photograph, Buck Fallmont recalls his wife’s final words: “Clay is your son, I swear to you.” “I believe you, Emily,” he replies in the present. “Clay is our son and if I had to lie, it was worth it. At least now no more Fallmonts will be sleeping with Carringtons.” Buck’s gesture, however twisted — he has sacrificed his relationship with his own son in order to save him from what he believes to be a terrible fate, i.e., “sleeping with Carringtons” — slots neatly into the ongoing theme of fathers giving up their children for their own good. Over on KNOTS, Greg flashes back to a scene of his younger self making a move on the young Anne. “Even if I weren’t seeing Mack, I still wouldn’t give you the time of day,” she tells him categorically. As with Buck, Greg then confirms the truth of what we have just seen by speaking aloud in the present. “Your dad struck out,” he tells his baby daughter. It’s very cool how the 1967 flashbacks have spanned the entirety of this season’s KNOTS, serving different purposes along the way — from illustrating Mack and Anne’s courtship to explaining Mack and Greg’s past relationship with Phil Harbert to resolving the issue of Paige’s paternity.

    With the Fallmonts’ storyline concluded, Clay becomes the latest character to join the Soap Land exodus. (Dominique Devereaux also makes her final appearance this week, her low-key exit in stark contrast to the grand entrance she made almost exactly three years earlier.) It’s the end of the road for KNOTS LANDING’s Peter Hollister too. The farewell scenes between Clay and Leslie on DYNASTY and Peter and Paige on KNOTS could not be more different. “I’ll try not to think about you,” says Clay as he takes Leslie in his arms for one last tearful embrace. “God, it’s not going to be easy.” “You son of a bitch!” screams Paige, throwing plates at Peter. “My father — your brother. That’s why you didn’t marry me, right?” Peter laughs in surprise; this the first he’s heard of the matter. It’s also the last thing he ever hears — for next time we see him, Olivia is kneeling over his bloodied corpse while looking up at Abby who is frantically wiping her hands. This is one of those scenes that’s even more rewarding to watch in hindsight than it was the first time around.

    Given that it’s the season finale, this week’s DYNASTY is unusually conflict-free. Adam and Dana’s wedding is Soap Land’s most harmonious since Pam Ewing and Mark Graison’s a year ago, with the Carringtons, including Alexis, acting like one big happy family. It’s only in the last three minutes of the episode after the newlyweds have left on their honeymoon and the guests have gone home, that things go suddenly nuts. While Alexis’s car plunges off a bridge and into a river, a bunch of men speaking in a foreign language, each with a strange insignia on his hand, infiltrate the mansion and proceed to take the remaining Carringtons hostage.

    In contrast to the cordial Carringtons, the Ewings of DALLAS are divided following the news that the company is being investigated by the Justice Department. “You’re on your own on this one … As far as I’m concerned, you can go to hell in a handcart,” Ray tells JR. “Let the boys handle Ewing Oil. We’ve got our own lives to lead,” Clayton tells Miss Ellie. “There may not be a Ewing Oil left, get out while you can,” Pam urges her brother. Ironically, Cliff is the one character who cannot bring himself to desert JR’s company in its hour of need. “I just can’t let go,” he admits. But however much they might like to, the Ewings cannot disentangle themselves from one another quite so easily. “They hang, they all hang together,” Senator Dowling tells Donna gravely.

    Consequently, this week’s DALLAS might easily be subtitled “Mr Ewing goes to Washington” as JR spends most of the episode in the nation’s capital calling in markers, trying to make the evidence against him disappear. To that end, he gets to enact his own version of the Deep Throat scene from All the President’s Men, complete with a darkly lit parking garage and anonymous informant. FALCON CREST stages its own movie reenactments too. A week after April Stevens told her pianist to “play it again, Sam,” Richard Channing surprises Maggie with a Casablanca themed dinner for two, complete with costumes and a piano playing ‘As Time Goes By’. (To be honest, it’s a bit naff — Richard and Maggie are strong enough characters to carry a romantic scene without resorting to such gimmickry.) Later in the same ep, as part of a prolonged flashback sequence during Tony Cumson’s murder trial, Kit Marlowe and Roland Saunders deliver their own equivalent of Casablanca’s final airport scene — the same scene referenced by Blake, Krystle and Sarah Curtis on DYNASTY a couple of months ago, only here the “homage” is more blatant. More fun is noting the parallels between Kit’s surprise court appearance and Alexis’s on DYNASTY six years earlier. Like Alexis, she makes her big entrance in a hat and veil, then gives testimony about a prior relationship with a rich man who neglected her, prompting her to seek comfort in the arms of someone else. The rich man found them in bed together, had the lover beaten up and then separated her from her child. However, the best moment of the trial is Peter Stavros suddenly standing up and confessing to Saunders’ murder. First Clayton Farlow trying to kill JR and now this — elderly stepfathers with murderous impulses are becoming something of a trend.

    While cultural references are common enough, it’s more unusual for Soap Land to allude to real-life news events. So the following stand out: On KNOTS, when Karen overrides Abby’s decision to fire Paige from Lotus Point “because she’s had a rough time lately and she deserves a second chance,” Abby argues that “the Ayatollah Khomeini has had a rough time lately and I don’t think he deserves a second chance.” Even more topical is JR’s line to CIA Agent Daltery on DALLAS: “I understand that when the Iran scam broke loose, they shredded enough paper to bury fifty people.” “I remember when Reagan was a Democrat,” quips Bobby in the same episode.

    Even more interesting, and also strangely moving, is Soap Land’s first acknowledgement of the AIDS epidemic. This takes place on DYNASTY during one of those meaty father/son chats that often occur on the morning of a big Carrington wedding. Steven tells Blake that he intends to leave Denver. It’s when he mentions his plan to move to “the East Coast, I was happy there once” that alarm bells start ringing for Blake: the East Coast means New York, New York means Ted Dinard, Ted Dinard means gay sex, and these days gay sex means … “Don’t do it,” he urges. “Suddenly the world out there is different. There are new things to consider. I’m worried about you being out in that kind of a world.” “You’re talking about AIDS, right?” surmises Steven. “I’m talking about a disease that kills,” Blake replies. “It’s no longer just a gay disease. It doesn’t matter if somebody’s gay or straight, it’ll catch up with you if you’re not careful.” But of course, it does matter, otherwise why make Steven the focus of this topic? That contradiction isn’t peculiar to DYNASTY, however; it reflects the prevailing mindset of the time. “Dad, I’m as aware of the problem as you are and I can take care of myself,” Steven assures his father. “I know about safe sex and I know about celibacy if that becomes necessary.” While it’s ironic that Steven, arguably Soap Land’s least sexually active character, should be the one to introduce the concept of safe sex, there’s also something fascinating, and kind of touching, about Blake’s conviction that his son will be OK so long he remains within the glossy, heteronormative confines of DYNASTY itself; it’s only in “the world out there” that the danger lies: “This choice that you’re making is scaring the hell out of me. Son, I love you. I don’t want to see you die.” By the end of the episode, the lives of Steven, Blake and the rest of their family are all in jeopardy anyway, AIDS or no AIDS.

    Whereas Steven plans to leave Denver and venture into an offscreen real world fraught with danger, Mandy Winger expresses a desire to remain in Dallas and leave behind an offscreen fantasy world of Hollywood stardom. Mandy’s agent is almost as alarmed by her decision as Blake is by Steven’s. “You must be out of your mind!” she tells her. “Valentine Lingerie means a lot,” Mandy insists. “It’s given me everything I have.” “It’s given you some things and it’s taken away others,” replies Sue Ellen icily.

    While Sue Ellen retains a veneer of politeness towards Mandy, the gloves are finally off between Abby and her younger rival on KNOTS. Intriguingly, Abby’s opening salvo is aimed at Paige’s background: “You’re nothing but a little spoiled rich kid.” She then proceeds to define herself against Paige’s privileged upbringing: “Everything I have, I’ve earned. Everything you have, you’ve been given. I know it galls you. It galls people of your class to see a woman like me who’s earned what you thought was yours by birth. People like you are threatened by people like me because, deep down, you’re worried you won’t be able to cut it without your trust fund.” Hmm, I guess it’s how you define the word “earned”, but Abby’s depiction of herself here doesn’t quite jibe with the carefree woman who moved into the cul-de-sac seven years earlier with an eye for married men and a work ethic no stronger than Anne Matheson’s on garbage day. There’s a similar disconnect on DYNASTY between Alexis’s portrayal of herself as an independent woman of the ‘80s (“God, what is it with you men? Is it something that feeds your little ego that you think that a woman isn’t complete unless she’s either with one of you or pining for one of you? … I can take care of myself and I don’t need anyone”) and the emotional mess she becomes as soon as Dex calls her “a very lonely lady with nothing and no one in your life.” Minutes later, she’s tearfully driving herself off a bridge.

    While counselling a younger woman — anxious bride-to-be Dana and lovelorn Olivia respectively — DYNASTY’s Krystle and KNOTS LANDING’s Abby each find the time to recall an old love affair this week. “When I went to work for Denver Carrington, I met a man,” Krystle recalls. “He was lonely and needed someone to talk to. We became friends and then, eventually, involved.” “When I was just a little bit older than you are now,” Abby tells her daughter, “I fell in love … He was a graduate student. I knew we were going to get married.” Whereas Krystle’s recollection ends happily (“I met and fell madly in love with Blake and from that moment, the past didn’t matter”), Abby’s story concludes more poignantly: “He went and married someone else. I thought I was going to die. I really did.” In both cases, the writers have ulterior motives for sending their characters down memory lane. Krystle’s story sets us up for the end of the season cliffhanger when the man in question, Matthew Blaisdel, makes a shock return from the dead (almost exactly a year after Bobby Ewing made a shock return from the dead for the end of season cliffhanger on DALLAS). “I’ve come back for what belongs to me, what you stole from me,” he tells Blake while looking at Krystle. Maybe he wants his sex tape back. And the reason behind Abby’s little anecdote? Well, that has yet to be revealed.

    Following Donna Krebbs and Laura Avery, Jenna Wade becomes the third Soap Land mother in little over a month to give birth in a straightforward, non-melodramatic fashion. Once again, the soapy complications arise outside of the delivery room. Bobby, rather than Ray, is on hand when she goes into labour and it falls to Pam, of all people, to track down Ray and Charlie and bring them to the hospital where the nurse inevitably mistakes Ray for the daddy. “Congratulate him. He’s the father,” says Ray pointedly, looking at Bobby.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (1) DALLAS
    3 (4) FALCON CREST
    4 (3) DYNASTY
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2018
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  18. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    14 May 87: KNOTS LANDING: Cement the Relationship v. 15 May 87: DALLAS: Fall of the House of Ewing v. 15 May 87: FALCON CREST: Desperation

    It’s season finale time and on each show, a central character is attempting to cover up and/or get away with a major crime.

    KNOTS LANDING’s Abby, believing that her daughter Olivia has killed Peter Hollister, spends most of the episode trying frantically to hide all evidence of the murder, including the body itself, while simultaneously covering both Olivia’s tracks and her own. She’s in a comparable position to DYNASTY’s Alexis back when she discovered son Adam was poisoning Jeff Colby, but whereas Alexis allowed herself the luxury of panicking, Abby must keep a cool head. In fact, much of the pleasure of the instalment comes from watching her think on her feet and deal with each new complication as it arises. From dragging Peter’s corpse into the DJ booth in the Lotus Point clubhouse, only for his foot to trigger the switch that operates the turntable, thereby causing loud music to suddenly burst through the speakers, to digging up the body she has already buried in order to retrieve Peter’s car keys, there’s a rich seam of Hitchcockian black comedy running throughout the ep.

    In contrast to KNOTS, which is as carefully plotted as Abby is thorough, the FALCON CREST finale is somewhat slapdash, reflecting Melissa’s ill-thought through scheme to flee the country with Chase and Maggie’s baby. Whereas the sight of the petite Abby struggling under the weight of Peter’s body as she attempts to bury it contributes to the tension (and humour) of her situation, FC offers no such attention to detail. The baby Melissa is running around with is clearly a fake and she is able to physically overpower the bigger, stronger Dan Fixx (to whom she has stupidly confided her plan) whenever the storyline requires. (That said, the stunt where Dan climbs from his moving motorcycle into the back seat of Melissa’s speeding car is pretty darn cool.)

    Over on DALLAS, with the government still breathing down his neck, JR looks for a way to bury the proof of his involvement with BD Calhoun. He meets again with his Deep Throat contact, but realising in the nick of time that he is being set up, makes his excuses and leaves. “I nailed the Abscam people, I’ve nailed senators, congressmen. How the hell did this Texan get off the hook?” complains his would-be entrapper. “This was just gonna be the icing on the cake anyway,” his associate assures him. “We got enough to nail this guy.”

    Indeed, whereas Abby’s and Melissa’s luck holds out almost until the end of their respective episodes, JR is pretty much doomed from the outset. This brings us to Donna Krebbs’ last scene of the series. Senator Dowling comes to her with the bad news: “The charges are coming in and they’re gonna bury the Ewings.” However, there is hope. “Justice can be served in a number of ways,” he explains. “Not everyone’s out for blood.” For instance, he could try to persuade the parties involved to come up with an alternative deal that doesn’t involve jail time for the Ewing boys. The implication is that Andrew will do this if Donna wants him to. “This doesn’t have anything to do with me anymore,” she tells him, almost pleadingly, as if she does not want to be given this responsibility. “Well, you can tell me how you feel,” he persists. “I think a thousand years behind bars would be just great for JR Ewing,” she replies, “but I don’t want to see the family hurt.”

    No previous character has been written out of Soap Land in quite the way Donna has. She moved away from Dallas and the Ewings some fifteen episodes ago which is when, theoretically, her story should have ended. Instead, the show travelled with her to Washington and has, in effect, watched over her until she has become settled in her new life. Now we know that she’s happy (“I think I’m very fortunate to have you, Andrew Dowling”), we can leave her there. However, there’s something poignantly open-ended about the fact the Ewing brothers will never know they have her to thank for keeping them out of jail.

    Two-thirds of the way through the episode, Ewing Oil is lost. What’s so striking is that this hugely significant moment comes not with a bang — with the DALLAS equivalent of Joan Collins standing atop a staircase gloating about the fact that she’s destroyed JR once and for all — but with a whimper, in a poky little office where some pissed-off day player informs JR and Bobby that the only way for them to stay out jail is to hand over one third of the company’s two billion dollar fortune. “Ewing Oil would be required to divest itself of all assets [including] the Ewing building … and the name must be retired.” There are no fireworks, no sentimentality. Harve Smithfield’s insistence that the Ewings are “patriotic American citizens” cuts no ice. The family’s credibility is down the crapper, and it’s really very satisfying.

    Actually, the Joan Collins moment comes in the penultimate scene when Jeremy Wendell shows up at Ewing Oil to deliver his equivalent of Alexis’s “Take this junk and your blonde tramp and get out of my home” speech to JR: “Take your boy and get out of my building … and take this eyesore with you.” The latter refers to the portrait of Jock he starts to remove from the wall. Instead of rushing up the staircase to throttle Jeremy as Blake did Alexis, JR manages to stop his opponent dead with a bark: “WENDELL! You touch that painting and I’ll kill you where you stand.”

    Back on KNOTS, Abby has buried Peter on the construction site of the children’s playground at Lotus Point. Construction then continues, the playground is finished and it looks like she’s got away with it — until the final scene when Karen notices a crack in the cement. “I hope it’s a settling crack, or else it could be structural … What do you think, Abby?” she asks. The season ends before Abby can reply.

    Elsewhere on KNOTS, Val has an eerie presentiment about the missing Ben, almost as if she has read next season’s script in advance. “I’m gonna be waiting by that phone tomorrow night at nine and the next night and every single night after that, hoping that I am wrong, but he won’t call because he’s not coming back,” she tells Lilimae.

    Watching these episodes in hindsight makes one even more precognitive than Val. One already knows that this is the last week we’ll see Victoria Principal or Chase Gioberti on screen, and so their scenes carry an extra weight. Upon hearing Pam’s final, reassuring words to Christopher (“You’re our son and you’ll always be our son”), one mentally fast forwards twenty-seven years to Jesse Metcalfe learning about her death on New DALLAS.

    At the end of the episode, Pam gets the news she’s been waiting for. “The doctor says everything looks fine. He thinks I can carry a baby the full term,” she tells Bobby over the phone just seconds before her car drives into a truck and explodes. (Even though I know it’s coming, the suddenness of the collision still shocks.) In a way, this is a variation of what happened at the end of “Swan Song”: Pam is too happy, she is flying too close to the sun — and so she must burn.

    Chase is also happy on FALCON CREST (missing baby notwithstanding) and he tells Gabrielle that he’s looking forward to “planning our future together.” However, it’s his vow to Angela that really resonates. “I’ll be haunting your every move,” he tells her.

    As well as being the most meta Soap Land season thus far, 1986/7 has also been the year of the flashback. KNOTS’ contribution has been the saga of Young Mack, Young Anne and Young Greg set in New York, 1967, which has been a rich ongoing thread spanning the entire year. The casting was creative too — Anne played by her onscreen daughter, Greg by his offscreen son and Doug Savant giving a spot-on version of Mack. DALLAS and DYNASTY, meanwhile, each flashed back to an iconic scene from their own backstory: Bobby and Pam’s 1978 wedding in New Orleans and Blake confronting Alexis in 1964 over her affair with Roger Grimes. On these occasions, the original actors gamely played younger versions of themselves. Now FALCON CREST does something even more inventive by flashing back to a young Angela Channing played by a young Jane Wyman (in actuality, a clip from her 1951 movie, The Blue Veil) for a scene in which her doctor tells her that her baby has died. Along with Anne and Mack dancing to ‘Dedicated to the One I Love’ on KNOTS, it’s the most pleasingly meta moment of the Soap Land year and helps sell the huge revelation that Angela’s firstborn child was … Richard Channing. (“He didn’t die. Douglas and Jacqueline Perrault stole him to hurt you. They faked the death certificate and sent him off to be raised in Europe. The boy grew up fed on hate.”) The loss of Ewing Oil may be what today’s TV kids call a game-changer, but Richard as Angela’s son? That’s the biggest Soap Land bombshell, like, ever.

    The final scene of FALCON CREST contains several familiar-seeming moments. First, Melissa’s car plunges into the water and sinks just as Alexis’s did on DYNASTY last week. Then Chase and Richard dive in after her, just as Jeff Colby did to save his mother in the penultimate episode of THE COLBYS. Then Maggie, waiting anxiously on the pier, wraps up the season by re-enacting Val Ewing’s slow-motion head-spin from the finale of KNOTS Season 6.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (2) DALLAS
    2 (1) KNOTS
    3 (4) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2018
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  19. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    23 Sep 87: DYNASTY: The Siege (1) v. 24 Sep 87: KNOTS LANDING: Missing Persons v. 25 Sep 87: DALLAS: After the Fall: Ewing Rise/After the Fall: Digger Redux

    At the end of last season’s DYNASTY, Alexis Colby lost control of her car and plunged into a river. At the end of last season’s DALLAS, Pam Ewing lost control of her car and crashed into an oil tanker. At the beginning of this new season, Alexis is pulled to safety by a mysterious passerby while Pam is being flown by medical helicopter to Soap Land Memorial Hospital. As Alexis recovers in her hospital bed, her blood pressure is recorded at 100/55 and her pulse at 70, while x-rays indicate “possible internal injuries with no evidence indicating any internal bleeding.” The medic administering to Pam, meanwhile, records her blood pressure as 80/30, her pulse as “very high, erratic”, and reports that she has “extensive third-degree burns … broken bones, internal bleeding.” Pam also suffers a cardiac arrest en route. No sooner does Alexis regain consciousness than she checks herself out of the hospital. By way of contrast, Pam cannot move and her prognosis is bleak.

    In some respects, the siege at the Carrington mansion in this week’s DYNASTY recalls the one at Southfork way back in the original DALLAS mini-series. Back then, the chief hostage taker was Luther Frick, played by Matthew Blaisdel’s old college pal Jake Dunham. This time around, Matthew himself is running the show. Where Luther forced Sue Ellen to don her Miss Texas swimsuit, Matthew insists that the Carrington servants, Mrs Gunnerson and Jeanette, put on Krystle’s jewellery in front of her. Where Pam pretended to Bobby over the phone that she and JR were about to play backgammon in the hopes of making him realise something was amiss, Krystle and Blake fake an argument in order to trick Matthew into believing that Blake is really willing to surrender his wife to him.

    Leslie Carrington, meanwhile, bases her escape strategy on Abby’s in “Moments of Truth”, the baby shower siege episode from Season 2 of KNOTS. As Abby did, she comes onto one of the gunmen in an attempt to grab his weapon. Instead of being told that she is “such a slut” by Laura Avery, Leslie receives an admonishment from Matthew Blaisdel after he foils her plan: “Sex is obviously some kind of plaything to you, Miss Carrington. These men have never met women like you.” In lieu of Laura slapping Abby, the gunman strikes Leslie. Dex intervenes and winds up getting shot, which kind of makes up for him being the only character not to get shot the last time a Carrington wedding was overrun by armed men.

    Bo Hopkins is just as compelling as Matthew as he was seven years ago — maybe even more so now he’s been transformed from a gentle but weary family man into … what? He has emerged from the same South American jungles that Wes Parmalee/Jock Ewing did a year ago. Just as the years away had changed Jock beyond recognition (to the extent that we weren’t even sure if he was Jock), we don’t quite know who Matthew is anymore either. Is he still the same rounded character he used to be or he is now just a two-dimensional villain? Perhaps he’s a bit of both. On one level, he’s angrier, more violent than he was, as well as being some kind of tribal leader. On another, he relates to the Carringtons as if this was still Season 1 and the rules of the show hadn’t changed. For instance, after all the tip-toeing around the topic of Steven’s sexuality last season, Matthew just comes right out and asks him, sympathetically, if he is “still having trouble with the gay bashers, the fag haters — like your father?”

    There’s something weird going on with time in this new Soap Land season. Fallon flew off in a spaceship at the end of THE COLBYS in March, six weeks before the DYNASTY season finale. When DYNASTY visits California in this week’s episode, it’s the same night it was in March and Jeff has only just become aware of Fallon’s absence. I recall Fox Mulder talking about the concept of “lost time” in an early episode of THE X-FILES — a missing period of time that invariably follows an alien abduction — but it’s supposed to last a matter of minutes, not months. There are further time discrepancies on KNOTS. Last season, Peter Hollister’s death took place the day after Ben Gibson left town. In this week’s episode, Peter’s been “gone for weeks” while Ben has been absent for three months.

    Then there are the anomalies in the “Last season on …” recaps at the beginning of this week’s DYNASTY and DALLAS. Amongst the clips of what we saw at the end of last season’s DYNASTY is something we didn’t see — Blake on the phone to Fallon in California, inviting her and Jeff to Adam’s wedding. How could they have spoken while she was in outer space? While Fallon shows up when she shouldn’t, Pam Ewing fails to appear when she should — Victoria Principal is nowhere to be seen in the DALLAS recap. She’s even missing from the clip of Pam’s car colliding with the truck. It’s like she’s been erased before she’s even gone.

    Pam isn’t gone, but she isn’t really here either. She’s not in the opening credits, she’s covered in bandages, she can’t speak, she’s barely conscious and she won’t be able to leave the hospital for a long, long time. “She’s in for a long haul with those burns … She’s got a lot of bridges to cross, some of them very, very difficult,” her doctor tells Bobby gravely. This is not the kind of medical prognosis we’re used to hearing in Soap Land where everything’s usually “a matter of life and death” followed by a speedy recovery. Pam’s not-quite-absence weighs heavily over the show. She’s not dead so no one can mourn her, but there’s no dramatic against-the-clock momentum about her situation either. All that’s left is a kind of oppressive sadness as the rest of the characters continue with their ongoing storylines as best they can. It’s oddly fascinating.

    Speaking of oddly fascinating, KNOTS unveils its new, radically altered opening titles this week. They are slow and dreamlike, the antithesis of all previous Soap Land openings which have been upbeat, fast-moving, bold and vaguely triumphant. Like Fallon in the DYNASTY-verse, Ben Gibson and Peter Hollister are still missing, but again, there is a distinct lack of urgency regarding their absences. While Val is resigned to the idea that her husband has gone for good (“I have to stay healthy for the kids’ sake because they only have one parent now,” she says sadly), Greg has no interest in his fake brother’s whereabouts (“Dead or alive, his career is over,” he shrugs). Meanwhile, Abby and Olivia keep their heads down and pray the whole thing just goes away.

    As one political storyline peters out (“Governor Appoints Hollister Replacement,” reads a small headline), another is just getting started. “That was a reporter from the Chronicle,” Matthew tells Blake after taking it upon himself to answer the Carrington phone. “She wanted to know if the rumour was true, that you’re being considered as a candidate for the upcoming gubernatorial primary?” This is the first we’ve heard of such an idea, but it won’t be the last.

    Blake somehow manages to convince Matthew into letting him leave the mansion long enough to obtain sufficient funds to finance his (Matthew’s) getaway with Krystle. When he subsequently returns (having alerted the authorities), he finds that everyone — his family, the servants, Matthew, his henchmen — has mysteriously vanished. Likewise, in the penultimate scene of DALLAS, Bobby finds that Christopher is missing from Southfork.

    As if to redress the balance, Jeff finds Fallon unconscious in front of the entrance to the Colby mansion. It’s as if she’s collapsed while trying to get back inside her old show, not realising it’s been cancelled. And at the very end of KNOTS, a discovery is made at Lotus Point: “Oh my God … I think it’s a body!”

    There are also some fresh arrivals in this week’s Soap Land. On DALLAS, Jeremy Wendell has, surprisingly, been replaced as the head of West Star by the younger, slightly sassier Wilson Cryder. In the most quintessentially ‘80s soap scene of the week, Cryder informs April Stevens that “The only time JR will cease to be a threat is when JR is dead.”

    The week’s other newcomers can be divided into two categories. In one corner, there are Alexis and Sue Ellen’s soon-to-be love interests. Both are younger men, both are darkly handsome in a slightly artificial, late-eighties sort of way. DYNASTY’s new recruit is the mystery man who saved Alexis from drowning. She tracks him down to thank him and finds him grumpily chopping wood. In spite, or perhaps because of his rudeness (“this wood isn’t going to chop itself,” he mutters, terminating their conversation), their first encounter leaves her looking intrigued while chewing thoughtfully on the arm of her sunglasses. Where Alexis’s nameless hero is surly, Sue Ellen’s prospective new business advisor, Nicholas Pearce, is charm personified and their introductory scene ends with some lingering eye contact.

    There are two more new faces, also male, but neither is conventional love interest material. Each is past the age of retirement and seems to fit the curmudgeonly sitcom stereotype of such elderly men. “You know how many hundreds of thousands of acres of trees are destroyed every year to make cups that people only use once and then throw away?” complains messenger guy Al on KNOTS. He may be new to us, but he’s sufficiently well known around Mack’s office to have gotten under Peggy’s skin. (“He never leaves without helping himself to the coffee,” she huffs.) Al’s DALLAS equivalent is Harrison “Dandy” Dandridge, a boozy old wildcatter. “Don’t you tell me I’m full of hot air!” he shouts in his first scene, knocking down a drinking buddy who has grown bored of his tales of smelling oil under the ground and the rich fields he was cheated out of. As if he didn’t already bear sufficient resemblance to Digger Barnes, the drunk he knocks down is played by one of the same drunks who listened to Digger’s equivalent story in his introductory scene nine years earlier. If Wes Parmalee was the new Jock, then Dandy is the new Digger. The similarity isn’t lost on Cliff who happens to be in the same bar, drowning his sorrows over Pam, and the two strike up a friendship.

    Al and Dandy exhibit a similarly ambivalent attitude towards Mack and Cliff’s respective offers of money. They’ll accept it, or in Dandy’s case simply help himself, but are at pains for it to be known that they aren’t merely freeloaders. “You gave me shoeshine money yesterday,” Al demurs when Mack offers him cash, but then allows him to tuck the notes into his waistcoat pocket anyway. Dandy, meanwhile, avails himself of the contents of Cliff’s wallet — but only so that he can restock Cliff’s refrigerator.

    Two former friendships are restored in this week’s Ewing-verse. Both reconciliations are informed by recent sad events. On KNOTS, prompted by Ben’s disappearance (as well as some cajoling from Karen), Laura stops by the cul-de-sac to see Val, whom she hasn’t spoken to since the whole your-husband-tried-to-kill-my-husband thing. While the dialogue is minimal (“I thought you’d like to see the baby, Val … This year’s been a bitch, hasn’t it?”), their reunion feels very significant, even more so in retrospect. On DALLAS, Ray comes to Southfork to offer Bobby his support following Pam’s accident. These two haven’t seen eye-to-eye since Ray moved Jenna into his house, but Bobby cordially acknowledges his concern. JR, however, is the brother he chooses to break down in front of. “She was so happy, JR,” he weeps. “She was so happy. She’d just come from the doctor and he’d told her that she could carry a baby till term. Do you know how long we’ve waited for that?” Since JR pushed Pam out of that hayloft, that’s how long.

    Bobby and JR’s relationship is suddenly fascinating again. The primary sources of their conflict have always been Pam and Ewing Oil, both of which have now been swept away — so where does that leave Soap Land’s original Cain and Abel? Nine years ago, JR vehemently objected to his brother coming to work at Ewing Oil. This week, he buys him his own office. “Even if we’re not working together, we’re still in the same business,” he reasons. “We need the competition, Bobby. Both of us do … I think it’s time we find out which one of us is the best man to fill Daddy’s shoes.” Even though JR is fully independent at long last, he still needs his baby bro to define himself against. He’ll even manufacture a(nother) contest between them in order to do so. This feels psychologically very rich — until one remembers that JR also has an ulterior motive. He’s already snuck a look at Pam’s will and discovered that “If Pam dies, little Christopher gets it all and Bobby gets to control it for him. Well, I guess Bobby and I will just have to get closer to one another again.”

    Theme of the week: traumatised kids sharing their parents’ beds. Olivia, who has taken to calling Abby “Mommy” since Peter’s death, comes to her room after one of her periodic nightmares and ends up bunking with her. “I’m scared, Daddy … Can I sleep with you tonight?” Christopher asks Bobby who agrees. This week’s scenes between Bobby and Christopher feel a lot more touching to me than on previous viewings. I’m sure that’s partly to do with seeing their subsequent relationship on New DALLAS — and of course, there’s the tragic irony that that series ends with Christopher trapped inside a burning car just as his mother was in this one.

    “I’ve come back for what belongs to me, what you stole from me,” Matthew told Blake at the end of last season’s DYNASTY. At the end of this week’s DALLAS, another forgotten face from the past also shows up to claim what she believes is rightfully hers. “I’m going to have everything that was yours,” Katherine tells Pam. I must admit to being so engrossed in Bobby and Christopher’s story that I forgot she was coming.

    And this week’s Top 3 are … this was a very close round …

    1 (1) DALLAS
    2 (-) DYNASTY
    3 (2) KNOTS LANDING
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2018
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  20. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    30 Sep 87: DYNASTY: The Siege (2) v. 01 Oct 87: KNOTS LANDING: The Trouble with Peter v. 02 Oct 87: DALLAS: The Son Also Rises v. 02 Oct 87: FALCON CREST: Opening Moves

    At the end of last week’s DYNASTY and DALLAS, Blake Carrington entered the Carrington mansion to find his entire family had disappeared while Bobby Ewing discovered his son Christopher was missing from Southfork. Who will be the first man to track down his loved ones? While it takes Blake eighteen screen minutes to trace the remaining Carringtons to the old Lankershim/Blaisdel drill site where Matthew is still holding them hostage, Bobby learns within six screen minutes that Christopher has hitched a ride to Soap Memorial Hospital in the hopes of seeing his mother.

    During the DYNASTY siege, the Carrington servants confront their own mortality. “Oh Gerard, I don’t think we’re ever going to get out of here,” whispers Jeanette before lamenting all the things they had talked about doing but never gotten round to (“a Sunday afternoon picnic … ice skating at Christmas”), presumably because their lives revolve around serving their rich masters. Similarly, as Chao Li lies at the bottom of the FALCON CREST staircase after taking a Clayton Farlow-ish tumble at the end of last season, his priority is not himself but his employer’s daughter Emma, currently teetering on the edge of the roof in a white nightdress as if she was Joan van Ark in a remake of “Three Sisters”. Things aren’t quite so extreme for Phyllis on DALLAS, but when Bobby gives her the go-ahead to start furnishing his new offices, she nonetheless breaks into a smile of disproportionate joy.

    Falling down stairs isn’t the only thing Clayton and Chao Li have in common. Each refuses to take medical advice this week. “It’s my body and my life!” insists Clayton after being warned against over-exerting himself. “It’s my body! I won’t allow it!” echoes Chao Li when his doctor tells him surgery is “unavoidable”.

    DYNASTY’s Morgan Hess becomes the latest character to exhibit signs of soap fatigue this week when he refuses to fulfil his primary dramatic function — in this case as a money-hungry private eye. “Why don’t we forget it?” he suggests when Alexis orders him to find the man who saved her life in last week’s episode. “You know, every time I get involved with you, I end up in nothing but trouble … Sometimes the bucks just aren’t that important.” Hess’s DALLAS equivalent, Harry McSween, reacted similarly last season when JR told him to dispose of Garrett Gordon’s body and, for the first time, he refused to take orders. Just as JR was able to change Harry’s mind, Alexis wins Hess round by admitting that this is “a personal thing, an affair of the heart.” JR similarly opens up when Harry reappears on this week’s DALLAS, explaining his decision not to hang Jock’s painting in his new office until “I do something he’d be proud of.” But while JR is candid about some things, he is less forthcoming about others. “It would help if I knew why you wanted all of this,” Harry ventures, regarding his latest assignment. “All you need to know is that you paid for your last house in cash,” JR replies tersely. Over on FALCON CREST, Angela sends out similarly mixed messages to her consigliere, Jay Spence. First, she entrusts him with the highly sensitive revelation that Richard Channing is her son, but then blackmails him over an unspecified marital infidelity into making sure Richard never finds out: “I want that evidence buried so deep it’ll take another earthquake to dig it up.”

    During his discussion with Steven about AIDS at the end of last season, Blake painted a grim view of the outside world: “I’m worried about you being out in that kind of a world … I don’t want to see you die.” This week, Matthew suggests to Steven that the world outside is not as dangerous as the one he is currently living in. “You can’t survive in Blake Carrington’s world,” he tells him, “a jungle where men kill each other for sport or gain or survival.” Whereas Blake begged Steven to stay in Denver, Matthew asks him to accompany he and Krystle to “a place your father never allowed you to know … a good place, no war, no greed.”

    Is Matthew talking about the jungles of Peru or somewhere more otherworldly? Since his return, we’ve seen him endure a series of painful-looking headaches. As this is Soap Land where a headache is never simply a headache, might we assume that he is dying and this whole escapade has been some kind of elaborate suicide mission? Speaking of unexplained symptoms, Laura Avery suffers a slight dizzy spell on KNOTS. While in the real world, this could easily be the result of low blood pressure, the ominous musical score suggests otherwise. Could Laura’s light-headedness be somehow connected to the news that she has reestablished communication with her ex-husband?

    Yes, following Matthew Blaisdel and Katherine Wentworth, Richard Avery is the third character from Soap Land’s past to resurface unexpectedly in recent weeks (albeit offscreen). Just as Katherine insists on this week’s DALLAS that she has seen the error of her ways (“Bobby, I’ve changed … I was sick before. A sick person can get better … I’m me now”), Richard has apparently also turned over a new leaf. “I really think he’s cleaned up his act,” says Laura. “Yeah, and I’m Pope John,” Greg retorts. Equally cynical about Katherine’s claim, Bobby challenges her to turn herself over the authorities “and give up the plush life you’ve been leading in Europe.” “Bobby, my life has been anything but plush,” she replies.

    If anyone in Soap Land has been leading a plush life in Europe it’s the mysterious French woman we are introduced to in this week’s FALCON CREST via an impressive montage sequence: an establishing shot of London (Big Ben, the House of Parliament) followed by a woman, her features obscured, in a luxurious apartment, stepping out of her bath then plunging her face into an ornate bowl of ice. We see a maid setting out her clothes then lighting her cigarette, followed by an expensive perfume bottle smashing to the floor as the news of Chase Gioberti’s death is announced by a radio newsreader with a cut-glass English accent. (Would the news of Chase’s apparent demise really make the morning news on the other side of the Atlantic? For the purposes of this montage, yes, dammit, it would.) Finally, the camera pans across the room to a signed photograph of a poignantly youthful, beardless Chase.

    Having made her way to San Francisco (by private jet, inevitably) Mysterious French Woman checks into the Del Oro Spa. “I won’t be staying long,” she declares, as two full luggage carts are wheeled on behind her. C’est très Dominique Devereaux — only this time it’s not just the name that’s French-sounding. Whereas Dominique waited for a few episodes to land her shock pronouncement on Blake (“We have so much in common — our blood, our genes, our daddy”), Mysterious French Woman lets Maggie have it straightaway: “You may be Chase Gioberti’s widow, but I own you — lock, stock and vineyard.”

    Chase’s “probable” drowning dominates this week’s FALCON CREST as Peter Hollister’s murder does KNOTS. When questioned by the police, most KL characters are keen to distance themselves from Peter. “I didn’t know the guy personally,” says Gary. “I didn’t really know him — I mean, not personally,” echoes Karen. “I can’t say that I was intimately involved with every aspect of my brother’s affairs,” adds Greg. Conversely, we see the news about Chase impact people all over the world — a past amour in London, a wartime buddy in North Africa, an indolent daughter in Morocco.

    Gaining access to Pam Ewing’s last will and testament was relatively straightforward for JR on last week's DALLAS — all he needed to do was blackmail a nameless underling over some unknown misdemeanour. When it comes to sneaking a peek at Peter’s and Chase’s wills, Greg and Richard Channing do not find it so easy. Greg fails to persuade his attorney to break the law and show him the relevant documents. (The lawyer does reveal this much: “It seems Mrs Ewing owns slightly more than half of your brother.”) Richard, meanwhile, has henchman Garth break into Chase’s office to steal what appear to be the pertinent files, only to find a handwritten note from Chase instead. “Guess I’ve always been one step ahead of you,” it reads.

    When JR learnt that Bobby would gain control of Pam’s fortune in the event of her death, he decided that the best strategy would be to make nice to his brother. Greg takes the opposite approach: “Abby figures she’s gonna inherit a small fortune, but don’t bet your mortgage on it. It’ll be a cold day in hell before that woman sees a penny.” To that end, he tries to pin Peter’s murder on her: “Something good ought to come out of all of this and hanging Abby Ewing out to dry might just make Peter’s death seem worthwhile.” Richard also takes action — he summons John Remick, that old soldier pal on the North African frontline, to the Tuscany Valley to fulfil his duties as the executor of Chase’s estate.

    Back on DALLAS, even as JR tries to take advantage of Bobby’s crisis, he still insists that his gift of a new office came “from the bottom of my heart”. On FALCON CREST, Richard exhibits a similar duality towards Chase. Even as he schemes to gain control of his sometime cousin-sometime brother’s estate, he still refuses to stop looking for him. (“What do you mean you’re giving up the search? … I’ll hire my own damn navy if I have to!”) “I don’t know why I get so damn sentimental about family. I sure as hell never had any reason to,” he tells Garth ruefully before suddenly losing control and smashing a picture frame.

    Maggie’s reaction to the loss of Chase is just as intriguing. It mirrors Val’s attitude to Ben’s recent disappearance on KNOTS. Both women seem almost eager to believe their husbands have gone forever. “I don’t wanna be filled with false hope,” Maggie insists, even as the search for Chase continues. “Last night I had this feeling … an emptiness, a coldness … Chase is probably dead. I need to come to terms with that.” This odd trend flies in the face of Soap Land convention. Usually when a soap character — be it Jock Ewing, Mark Graison, Steven, Fallon or Val’s twins — is presumed dead, those closest to them simply refuse to accept it. Val and Maggie’s behaviour could be another version of soap fatigue — worn down by all the traumas they have suffered over the years, it’s simply become easier to assume the worst.

    Maggie is the most compelling Soap Land character at present. In one fell swoop, she finds herself reunited with her lost baby, in love with Richard and in mourning for Chase. While juggling these different emotions, she has gone from being balanced and reliable to volatile and unpredictable. When John Remick offers his help, she is suspicious. When Angela offers her condolences, she is hostile (“You come in here, you expect me to embrace you? As far as I am concerned, your hands are as bloody as Melissa’s … You turned your back on Chase a long time ago. Don’t you think I’m ever gonna forget that”) and when Chase’s grieving girlfriend Gabrielle comes calling with an olive branch, she’s even more coldly dismissive than Jenna was towards Pam at the end of last season’s DALLAS. “I am not your friend. I am never going to be … Maybe in time, I will learn to forget you,” she informs her briskly, showing her the door.

    While this week’s DALLAS concludes with a pleased-looking JR hanging up Jock’s portrait following his first meeting with Casey Denault, the final scenes of the rest of the soaps each focus on a tense gathering of characters. Alexis joins Blake outside the bunkhouse for the climax of the siege on DYNASTY, everyone but Val and Lilimae convenes at Greg’s ranch for Peter’s memorial service on KNOTS, and Richard meets with Angela for a poolside summit at Falcon Crest to discuss “the interesting repercussions” of Chase’s death.

    Each of these scenes culminates in an act of violence — Steven stabs Matthew to save Blake and Krystle, Abby strikes Gary when he accuses Olivia of killing Peter, and Angela’s pool man tries to shoot Richard (Jay Spence’s somewhat drastic way of ensuring Richard never learns who his real mother is). This puts Angela in the peculiar position of saving the life of the son she is trying to deny. “Tell him, Mother. Tell Richard who he really is,” urges Emma as the episode ends.

    Back in DYNASTY’s first season, when relations between Steven and Blake were at their worst, Matthew became something of a surrogate father for Steven. If one thinks of Blake and Matthew as Steven’s two fathers, then perhaps there’s something symbolic about the fact that Steven ends up killing Matthew — as if he were killing the part of himself that Matthew represents (the Al Corley part, perhaps). Nor is that the only moment on this week’s DYNASTY that might be read metaphorically. Directly after Fallon flashes back to her UFO experience, she tells Jeff that she wants to move to Denver — almost as if her alien abduction and THE COLBYS’ cancellation are one and the same thing. There is literally no going back after that.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (3) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (-) FALCON CREST
    3 (2) DYNASTY
    4 (1) DALLAS
     
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