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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    09 Mar 88: DYNASTY: The Trial v. 10 Mar 88: KNOTS LANDING: Full Disclosure v. 11 Mar 88: DALLAS: To Have and to Hold v. 11 Mar 88: FALCON CREST: Channing Vs. Channing

    “What gives you the right to take a child from its mother? I carried him for nine months!” cries Karen Atkinson on DYNASTY. “I feel like a victim!” wails Pat Williams on KNOTS LANDING. “What about me?! … I’m getting older and I have an ego!” weeps Ellie Farlow on DALLAS. Suffice to say, there’s a lot of emotional grandstanding in this week’s Soap Land.

    Adam and Dana on DYNASTY, Richard, Maggie and Angela on FALCON CREST and Pat on KNOTS all testify on the witness stand this week. The first two cases deal with child access (Karen Atkinson is suing to have her surrogacy agreement with Adam overturned and Angela is demanding access to her grandson) while the trial on KNOTS is the reason Pat and the rest of her family are in the Witness Protection Programme. Meanwhile, DALLAS’s equivalent Witness Protection Programme story, involving Nicholas Pearce, reaches its own climax.

    Whereas the court proceeding on FC is relatively low-key — the set up is similar to John Ross’s second custody hearing during the DALLAS Dream Season where each witness testified privately in front of the judge — DYNASTY throws everything but the kitchen sink at its hearing: an impassioned argument from Karen’s attorney (“I’m speaking about the morality of a very rich family trying to buy my client’s child!”), Dana’s past exposed under cross-examination, a smoking gun (“documented evidence that shows that [Jessie Atkinson] was paid $2,500 to instigate a custody suit”) revealed midway through the trial and Karen interrupting the judge’s summation to thrust her newborn baby into his line of vision: “I wanted you to see him … You’re going to decide who keeps my child and you’ve never even seen him!” Finally, Dana derails the whole shebang by standing up and declaring, “I’m sorry, but I can’t go through with this, Adam … The baby belongs with Karen!”

    Unlike DYNASTY, the really dramatic stuff pertaining to the KL and FC trials takes place outside the courtroom. After the judge on FALCON CREST grants Angela visitation rights to her grandson Michael, Richard arranges to have the boy temporarily snatched during their first outing together in order to make her appear negligent. Meanwhile on KNOTS, Pat is leaving the courthouse after giving evidence when she is stabbed by a nameless associate of the men she is testifying against. Meanwhile, the anonymous associates of the men Joseph Lombardi testified against twenty-three years ago pull a knife on April at the start of this week’s DALLAS. The threat of disfigurement (“Money won’t buy you a new face after I’m finished with it”) is enough to persuade her to spill the beans on the whereabouts of Joseph Junior, aka Nicholas Pearce.

    The opening scene of this week’s KNOTS also contains a strong threat of violence. The ep starts off peacefully enough — a portrait of neighbourhood bliss, in fact: Mack cuddles Meg on the lawn while Pat and Val watch their kids play hopscotch together on the sidewalk. There’s even a definitive moment of community acceptance as Val asks Julie to babysit the twins. Then a workman arrives at the Williams’ house and accidentally breaks a window. Suddenly, all hell breaks loose. Frank emerges from his house wearing a vest and pointing a gun at the workman. The camera work becomes unsteady as Mack and Frank get in each other’s faces, bellowing at one another, spit flying (“You don’t run around the neighbourhood with a gun in your hand, not with kids around! Brandishing a firearm is breaking the law!” “So is trespassing which is what you’re doing — you’re on my property!”). While Frank takes off in his car, Mack goes home to report him to the police. “That clown’s running round out there with a loaded .38 revolver and there’s kids playing in the street … I just can’t believe that that’s happening in this neighbourhood … I just can’t believe it,” he mutters. I’m not saying it’s intentional, or even conscious, but it feels like there’s a subliminal subtext in Mack’s reaction to the loose cannon living next door to him. To put it crudely, if not grotesquely: a black family moves into a respectable cul-de-sac like this one and next thing you know, it’s turned into Boyz N The Hood.

    Of course, we know that Frank’s rage has nothing to do with racial or cultural stereotypes. The source of his pain is identical to Solid Old Ben’s at the end of last season. “While trying to protect my family, I have become the enemy … My family needs protecting against me,” he tells Pat. Also, when Pat is on the witness stand, we learn that she is, or was, a doctor. What could be more respectable, more … white? This being an ‘80s soap, the Williamses’ skin colour is never mentioned, just as Dominique’s wasn’t on DYNASTY, not even in passing. Well, there is one reference later in the ep when the Mackenzies come round with a peace offering of bagels. “Soul food,” replies Pat, which at least acknowledges the elephant in the room.

    By this point, Karen and Mack have figured out Frank and Pat’s big secret. “They’ve done everything they can to hide their past,” Mack realises. “We’ve done everything we could to uncover it,” adds Karen. In other words, they are to the Williamses what April has been to Nick on DALLAS. Just as Frank grabbed for his gun when he heard the sound of breaking glass so Nick goes for his pistol when his apartment doorbell rings. His visitor turns out to be Sue Ellen, confused as to why her new boyfriend has been given his own storyline.

    When the bad guys do track him down, Nick tries to convince them that his father (the one they’re after for testifying in the first place) died in prison years ago. When that doesn’t work, he brings them to his parents’ house — the place we met them in last week’s ep. This time, however, the man who answers the door tells Nick that “Mr and Mrs Pearce were killed” in an automobile accident six months earlier. We know this must be a lie, but confusingly, Nick’s fake breakdown, performed for the benefit of the thugs, is even more moving than Pat Williams’ real “I was a doctor!” one on the witness stand. It’s undeniably clunky and not a little hammy, but nonetheless effective. I guess it’s down to Nick’s innate likability which manages to transcend both his stupidly big hair and tendency to say cheesy things like, “Nothing confuses a beautiful woman more than a man who won’t mix business with pleasure.” There’s also some compelling faux emotion on display on FALCON CREST when an enraged Richard interrupts Angela’s birthday party to berate her for allowing his son to wander off while in her custody — an incident he himself engineered.

    Elsewhere on DALLAS, Ray Krebbs banishes his recently acquired step-daughter to Switzerland just as Richard did his on last week’s FC. The difference is that Charlie is being sent to boarding school while Vicky is currently languishing in prison — although one suspects the distinction may be lost on Charlie. (“You wanna control how I think, how I look, how I feel!” she yells at Ray. “Don’t I get to say anything about my own life?!”) To his dismay, Jenna decides to accompany her daughter abroad and stay “for as long as Charlie needs me.” Maggie Channing, on the other hand, has no idea her daughter is even in Switzerland, much less a jail cell. According to the postcard she receives this week, Vicky and Eric are “doing Paris, London, Rome.” Out of her earshot, Richard compliments his henchman Garth on the convincing handwriting on the card. “The man I use is the best,” Garth replies. In the last scene of this week’s KNOTS, Val also receives some significant mail from overseas — significant enough to cause her to drop her groceries in shock. “Finally out of danger. I miss you, I love you. Hug the kids for me. See you soon, Ben,” it reads. DYNASTY likewise ends with an apparent communication from a seemingly lost husband. Having been informed that the man killed in the tanker explosion was not Sean Rowan but Harry Thresher (shame, I liked Harry), Alexis insists that Sean must still be dead — until she receives an anonymous call at the end of the ep. “Sean? Sean, is that you?” she asks. Cut to a tantalising shot of a bright red London telephone box with the receiver left dangling. While Val and Alexis each appear to have regained a husband, DALLAS ends with Miss Ellie dispensing with one. “I want you out,” she informs Clayton after finally confronting him about his relationship with Laurel. His explanation is almost a carbon copy of the reasons Jock gave for consorting with Julie Grey ten years earlier: “She made me feel like a man again. Everyone else was making me feel like a damned invalid, most of all you.” Whereas Ellie met Jock’s indiscretion with authority and stoicism, times have changed. Now she’s older, more vulnerable, more frightened. “What about me? What about me?” she keeps asking.

    Back on DYNASTY, Leslie Carrington surprises Jeff by showing up at his new apartment with all her belongings. Now that he and Fallon are divorced, she explains, she expects to move in with him — even though they only slept together once several months ago. Leslie plays the scene like she’s in a screwball comedy, but it’s more like an inept version of Fatal Attraction as Jeff politely shows her the door. Meanwhile on DALLAS, Kay Lloyd surprises Bobby by showing up at his office with what looks like all her belongings. “Sometimes I get a little crazy and impulsive,” she smiles. However, she assures him, “I’m only here for the day.” They subsequently share their first kiss while dancing the Texas Two-Step to ‘Lookin’ for Love’ by Charlene Tilton’s ex-husband (Johnny Lee, not Mitch Cooper).

    Over on FALCON CREST, Lance’s determination to get to the bottom of Richard’s role in Curtis Esterbrook’s death and John Remick’s disappearance leads him to the Justice Department where he encounters his own Kay Lloyd equivalent named Catherine (played by a future Dr Who girl!). Like Kay, she’s industrious, eager to help and hides her glamorous looks behind a pair of bookish glasses. While Kay calls herself impulsive, Catherine insists “she’s a bit of a rebel.” But that’s where the similarity ends. The final scene of the ep finds her talking to Rosemont, the head of the Thirteen. “If [Lance] gets too close to the truth, you will have to kill him,” he tells her. Whereas all the would-be murderers during the first half of this season’s FC began to blur into one, this revelation feels quite exciting — probably because it’s part of a more focused narrative.

    Maggie’s overnight transformation into a fully fledged alcoholic is fascinating. On last week’s FC, she had her first proper drunk scene in which she polished off a decanter of brandy and then fell over. This week, she’s sworn off the booze, suffers withdrawal symptoms and gets defensive when Richard gently suggests seeking help for her “problem.” By the end of the ep, she’s secretly nipping from the bottle of cooking wine stashed in her bedside cabinet. It’s as if Sue Ellen’s first year on DALLAS had been compressed into two episodes. As a realistic portrayal of addiction, therefore, it’s somewhat lacking. As a way of externalising the loss of Maggie’s psychological bearings since her marriage to Richard, it works perfectly.

    Speaking of out-of-nowhere ailments, Krystle suddenly feels faint on this week’s DYNASTY and has to sit down. It could be nothing, of course, but this is Soap Land — and come to think of it, wasn’t dizziness the first symptom of Laura’s brain tumour on KNOTS …?

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (4) FALCON CREST
    3 (3) DYNASTY
    4 (1) DALLAS
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2018
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  2. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    16 Mar 88: DYNASTY: The Proposal v. 18 Mar 88: DALLAS: Dead Reckoning v. 18 Mar 88: FALCON CREST: False Faces

    Last week’s DALLAS opened with the bad guys threatening April Stevens with a knife. This week’s DYNASTY opens with Sean Rowan about to knife Alexis in her sleep. This turns out to be a dream, of course, because Sean’s dead — right? Wrong! He shows up alive and vengeful later in the episode and steals into Alexis’s hotel suite with a gun. When she returns from walking the dog (not a euphemism), he hides in the bedroom. Rio’s no fool and starts growling at the bedroom door. Sean stands poised on the other side, ready to pull the trigger. Unless I’m very much mistaken, this is the first time in Soap Land history that a dog has been in mortal danger. In the event, Sean exits through a window and Alexis remains unaware of his visit. Instead, she summons Leslie Carrington to her office where she returns “the bracelet that you dropped in my bedroom when you were doing whatever it was you were doing”, calls her the company tramp, the company slut and the company whore and then fires her. There’s an equivalent scene in DALLAS that’s almost as satisfying where Nicholas Pearce reads April the riot act after she threatens to report last week’s bad guys to the police. “Hasn’t that mouth of yours gotten us into enough trouble already?” he barks. “You got me in trouble, you got people I love in trouble. Now I want you to take that nose while you still have one and keep it out of my business!” He’s less verbally insulting than Alexis but does slam April up against a wall to get his point across.

    Nick shares a far more affectionate scene with his younger brother Sal, which serves to tie up the loose ends of their Witness Protection Programme storyline. It’s one of those scenes that becomes unexpectedly touching when watched in hindsight as you suddenly remember that Nick is not long for this soap opera and this is probably the last time the brothers will ever see each other.

    Back on DYNASTY, only a week after his divorce from Fallon, Jeff asks Sammy Jo to marry him. This is her second marriage proposal of the season. Offhand, the only other character I can recall receiving such an honour is Sue Ellen during DALLAS’s fourth season when JR and Cliff were vying for her hand. As she mulls over her decision, she turns to her aunt. “You should know there are gonna be some problems,” Krystle points out. “Why?” Sammy Jo asks, an edge of defiance in her voice. “Is it gonna be uncomfortable on the holidays when the whole family’s here at the house? … Blake will be angry if I separate Jeff from Fallon.” “Sammy Jo, Fallon will always be a reality in both your lives,” Krystle replies. These objections are similar to the ones raised by the Ewings a year ago when Jenna and Ray decided to live together. Back then, they had the close proximity of Pam and Bobby to contend with. Here, it’s Fallon and Steven who are the problem. Steven confronts Jeff on the subject in a scene that is as interesting and juicy as any between Bobby and Ray when they were at odds over Jenna. He calls Jeff’s proposal “a big mistake” and accuses him of rebounding from Fallon. Jeff, in turn, accuses Steven of trying to control Sammy Jo: “For the past year, you’ve had her under your brand of protective custody and it’s smothering her.” As with Nick and Sal’s exchange on DALLAS, knowing Steven is on his way out of the show adds an extra layer of poignancy to the confrontation. “What are we doing anyway?” asks Jeff. “We’ve known each other a long time, we’ve been friends and buddies and we’re standing here yelling at each other and looking like a couple of jerks … If you tell me you’re the right one for Sammy Jo, the best thing for her, I’ll back away.” Proud to the last, Steven exits the scene without replying.

    On the subject of departing characters, Charlie Wade makes her final appearance on DALLAS this week. “I can’t wait to get out of here,” she declares before flouncing off to Switzerland. Ray is on his way back from driving her and Jenna to the airport when he spies his next storyline, a pretty gal named Connie, standing on the side of the road with a flat tyre. FALCON CREST’s Lance and Shannon recently met-cute in pretty much identical circumstances. They looked set for a big romance until the revelation that Shannon was the mother of Lance’s half-brother whereupon she disappeared as abruptly as she had arrived. Time will tell if something similar is in store for Connie and Ray.

    The wheels of justice are currently grinding slower in Denver than they do in the Tuscany Valley. In the time that Adam Carrington and Karen Atkinson have been waiting for the judge to make a ruling about the future of their baby, Angela Channing has already been awarded visitation rights to her grandson, had those rights revoked and is now planning to sue for full custody of the child on the grounds that “the mother drinks [and] the father is an inch away from prison.”

    Maggie’s headlong descent into alcoholism continues apace. By the start of this week’s FALCON CREST, she’s already drinking in the mornings and hiding bottles in the plant pot. If this seems accelerated, so is Cliff Barnes’s overnight addiction to tranquillisers on DALLAS. After popping a couple of pills during last week’s ep, he’s suddenly begging his doctor for repeat prescriptions and nodding out on the office couch. He blames it on the stress caused by the fluctuating value of the West Star stock JR is forcing him to buy, but he’s surely been through worse crises over the past ten seasons. More likely, he’s simply worn out. Now that DALLAS has taken away the two things that meant the most to him — his sister and the Barnes/Ewing feud — the character is running on empty. “I just can’t take it anymore! I don’t even feel like fighting!” he complains. If that isn’t a sign of soap fatigue, I don’t know what is.

    Whereas Sue Ellen’s alcoholism was largely depicted (Pam’s Dream notwithstanding) as decadent and kinda glamorous, even when she was seven months pregnant and passed out, Maggie’s feels almost pathetically real. Instead of drinking from crystal glasses in fancy restaurants, she’s nipping from coffee mugs in the kitchen. Rather than deliver cynical one-liners at cocktail time, she snaps at her toddler children and nags the housekeeper until she resigns. Instead of trading thrillingly vicious insults with her husband the way Sue Ellen used to, she pretends to be sober and cheerful in front of Richard while slurring her words. Rather than rub her face in her misery as JR would, he looks silently back at her, a mixture of confusion and disappointment on his face.

    So it is that in the same week that Richard Channing, with some assistance from the Thirteen, gets into the Empire Valley business, acquiring “television stations, a movie studio … and a communications satellite”, he also finds himself as helpless as Poor Val when she was trying to deal with Gary’s drinking in “Bottom of the Bottle”. There’s something uniquely poignant about the last scene of this week’s FC which reveals the usually omnipotent Richard standing at the back of an Al-Anon meeting listening to “ordinary” people talk about experiences that mirror his own.

    DYNASTY and DALLAS each end with a central character suspected of a serious crime. Karen and Jessie Atkinson, who have sort of become the DYNASTY equivalent of Harry and Sheila Fisher (only this time the husband is the liability rather than the wife), arrive at Soap Land Memorial Hospital to discover Karen’s baby is missing. “How could this be? Adam couldn’t take my baby!” she shouts hysterically. Clayton Farlow, meanwhile, opens his hotel room door to find himself surrounded by cops and “under arrest for the murder of David Shulton.” Has Adam gone from kidnappee to kidnapper? Was the beating Clayton gave Shulton earlier on really enough to finish him off? There’s another a murder on FALCON CREST, but here we’re left in no doubt as to who is responsible. Catherine, Lance’s new pal from the Justice Department, has travelled with him to Africa, supposedly to help him find out what really happened to John Remick. When Remick’s mercenary buddy Westcott figures out she’s up to no good, she shoots him in cold blood. This is the second time Westcott has been shot dead in Soap Land. A decade earlier on DALLAS, he was Al, the weirdo member of the gang who abducted Bobby Ewing and then got mown down at the end of the episode.

    Last week, Nicholas Pearce led the bad guys to the graves where his parents were buried. The graves were fake, but the bad guys bought it. At the end of this week’s FALCON CREST, an African general points Lance in the direction of the military gravesite where John Remick is buried — only Lance isn’t buying it. “Remick died six months ago … This grave ain’t near that old,” he tells Catherine. He starts digging, and for a minute it looks like we might be about to see Soap Land’s first exhumation, but the grave turns out to be empty. Were that not twist enough, Catherine then pulls a gun on him. “Too bad. I was really starting to like you,” she says. Were that not twist enough either, Lance then produces the bullets he has taken from her gun. “I was really starting to like you too,” he replies, “but I stopped trusting you.”

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    30 Mar 88: DYNASTY: Colorado Roulette v. 31 Mar 88: KNOTS LANDING: Mother Knows Best v. 01 Apr 88: DALLAS: Never Say Never v. 01 Apr 88: FALCON CREST: Flying Blind

    The same lakeside cabin where Lute-Mae Sanders fought off her rapist on FLAMINGO ROAD and Chase watched Dr Lantry take a fatal overdose on FALCON CREST this week becomes a hideout on DYNASTY for Sean Rowan, who has snatched Adam’s baby, aka “Blake and Alexis’s precious little grandson.” Leslie is his accomplice-cum-hostage who gets on his good side by serving up a breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast. “I never knew you were such a good cook,” he remarks — which is probably the nicest thing he’s ever said to her. This is one of several noteworthy breakfasts in this week’s Soap Land. On KNOTS, Mack whips up a romantic feast of blueberry pancakes for Karen which she runs out on because of a prearranged breakfast meeting with Manny Vasquez. That breakfast takes an unexpected turn when Manny kisses her. The following morning, Karen cooks breakfast for Mack in return and he jokingly accuses her of having a guilty conscience. He doesn’t know how right he is. “I enjoyed it,” she confesses to Pat, referring to Manny’s kiss. On FALCON CREST, the mere sight of Garth’s home-cooked breakfast has Maggie, undergoing alcohol withdrawal, running for the bathroom. On DALLAS, it isn’t breakfast but dinner that is the significant meal as Connie, aka “the lady with the flat tyre”, shows up at Ray’s door with groceries and offers to cook for him. Feeling lonely and abandoned in Jenna’s absence, he accepts.

    When Sean overhears Leslie revealing their whereabouts over the phone, he becomes demented with anger. As the character teeters on the verge of madness so the man playing him, James Healy, reaches the edge of his acting abilities. Consequently, there’s an out-of-control quality to his performance that is quite compelling. Healy reminds me of George Lazenby, the weakest actor to play James Bond who nonetheless starred in the best Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Just as Lazenby’s limitations worked for that film (or at least didn’t impede it), Healy has proven a perfect fit for this B-movie revenge storyline. Ergo, Sean Rowan is the George Lazenby of Alexis’s husbands. (Broadly speaking, that means Blake is Sean Connery, Cecil is Roger Moore, Dex is Pierce Brosnan and New Blake is Daniel Craig.)

    Sean then beats up Leslie in Soap Land’s most overt display of male-on-female violence yet. It’s brutal without being very realistic and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it.

    The Farlows on DALLAS have been married almost as long as the Mackenzies on KNOTS and there’s a sense that both couples have been taking each other for granted of late. Last week, when Karen told Mack that Manny had been flirting with her at Lotus Point, she was disappointed by his lack of reaction and miffed by the suggestion that Manny’s attentiveness might simply have been a business tactic. Whereas Karen and Mack’s relationship insecurities result in small moments of character observation (Mack comparing Manny’s dress sense with his own) and humour ("What'd you do?" asks Pat when Karen tells her about Manny's kiss. "I shot him," she replies), Clayton and Ellie’s marital disharmony manifests itself plot-wise. Clayton’s discontent was first signified by his preoccupation with a painting. This led to the introduction of a whole new subset of characters, resulting in blackmail, accusations of an affair, a marital separation and now Clayton being arrested on a murder charge.

    “The Ewing family has always banded together against trouble from the outside,” Ellie says when Clayton thanks her for standing by him following his arrest. That attitude is reflected on DYNASTY where Adam and Steven finally bond after banding together to rescue Adam’s baby. “I never thought I needed you,” Adam tells his brother. “You’ve always struggled to belong and in my own way, so have I,” Steven replies.

    Towards the end of this week's DYNASTY, Steven leaves an envelope addressed to Blake in the library. We’re not privy to its contents, but from the “Goodbye, Dad” he utters to an empty room, we can make a pretty good guess. KNOTS kicks off with the discovery of another letter. “My housekeeper found a note from Olivia saying she and Harold had run off to get married,” Abby informs Manny Vasquez before ordering him to stop the wedding. There’s more letter action elsewhere in the ep as Jill drops by the airport and persuades a man on his way to Honduras to mail a letter addressed to Val once he arrives. Over on FALCON CREST, in the Swiss prison where she and Eric are being held without trial as if they were starring in a unisex version of Midnight Express, Vicky goes to even more circuitous lengths to send a letter to Maggie — of which more later.

    Three of this week’s soaps include a scene where one female character visits another to discuss a man with whom they are mutually involved. “You called?” asks Fallon sarcastically after being summoned to Delta Rho by Sammy Jo. “I know I should have called first, but it was hard enough for me to come over here at all,” Jill says after surprising Val in the cul-de-sac. “If you’re looking for Clayton, he’s at the office,” says Miss Ellie after Laurel Ellis shows up at Southfork. Sammy Jo, Jill and Laurel each then offer an olive branch. “You don’t like me and I don’t like you, I wouldn’t be so dumb to suggest we’d ever become friends, but we can’t be enemies,” says Sammy Jo to Fallon. “I’m not saying that I think we could ever be friends, but I would really like to try to stop being enemies,” echoes Jill, extending her hand to Val. “It’s you I want to talk to,” Laurel explains to Miss Ellie, “to tell you the truth about Clayton and myself … Nothing ever happened between us … I’m truly sorry I’ve been responsible for any of this.” While Fallon is unconvinced by Sammy Jo’s words (“You wanted to be a Carrington so you married Steven — now you wanna be a Colby so it’s Jeff’s turn,” she replies), Val is taken in by Jill’s and agrees to a truce (“Maybe when Ben gets back, we can all go for pizza,” Jill suggests wickedly). Meanwhile, Ellie’s discussion with Laurel about Clayton mirrors one she had with Julie Grey about Jock a decade earlier. “There aren’t many women who intimidate me — you’re one of them,” Julie told her back then. These days, Ellie cuts a less imposing figure. “At my age, it’s hard to put your dreams back together once they’ve been shattered,” she tells Laurel.

    Laurel’s visit to Southfork serves another narrative purpose — it brings her into the orbit of JR, who immediately propositions her and later has Harry McSween bring her to his office where he can behave like even more of a pig. “I don’t know about Clayton, but if you’d have been with me, you would have been properly and frequently bedded, my dear,” he leers. JR’s on excitingly obnoxious form this week.

    Following her scene with Sammy Jo, Fallon winds up in bed with Jeff. They are enjoying a full-blown montage sex scene (the first we’ve seen since Greg and Laura’s last night together) when the doorbell goes — it’s Sammy Jo accepting Jeff’s proposal! Meanwhile, Johnny Rourke and Paige are rolling around in bed in the Mexican village of Santa Tecla when the phone rings — it’s Manny Vasquez ordering Johnny to prevent Harold and Olivia’s marriage! Later in the same episode, Paige is the one who does the interrupting when she finds Johnny in bed with Debbie, a sexy archaeologist whose interest in pre-Colombian artefacts Paige shares. Refreshingly, Paige takes Johnny’s dalliance in her stride and by the end of the ep, they’re canoodling once more.

    The penultimate scene of this season’s DYNASTY includes a moment that couldn’t be soapier if it tried — Alexis is taking a bubble bath when the champagne glass she holds is shot at point blank range by her back-from-the-dead husband. “That’s for my father!” he snarls. A struggle over the gun then ensues between her third and fourth husbands as Alexis, now clad demurely in a peach bathrobe, watches in alarm. Suddenly the gun goes off! But before we can see who took the bullet, Claudia or Krystle — I mean, Dex or Sean — it’s all over. Bye-bye, everyone; see ya next season. But wait! There’s one more scene to go! Back at the mansion, Blake finds his and Krystle’s bedroom in a state of disarray. (In reality, it’s no more untidy than the average teenager’s. However, this is Soap Land.) Jeanette tells him that Krystle left the house a little while ago and he swears her to secrecy. But it’s the season’s final line — “My God, Krystle, I thought we had more time!” — that pulls the narrative rug out from under us, in the same way that Bobby Ewing’s “Good morning” and the disembodied voice asking, “You want out, Mrs Mackenzie?” did at the end of the 1985/6 season.

    The ailing Dr Styles is also running out of time on DALLAS. In this episode’s penultimate scene, his daughter Kimberly brings Cliff Barnes to meet him in the hope that he will join forces with them to defeat JR. But Cliff no longer seems to care about winning. “You know what I hope?” he asks the doctor. “I hope this war between you and JR just explodes and blows the both of you all to hell and back.” He flounces off and Styles reaches for his oxygen supply. “I think we’ve lost,” he tells Kimberly. She then goes to JR and essentially begs him to spare her father’s life. “I’ll convince my daddy to back you. You can have West Star,” she promises. (Anyone else getting a vaguely Shakespearean vibe from all this?) “What about you?” JR asks. “You don’t have to marry me,” she replies. “I’ll be yours whenever you want.” “What makes you think I want you at all?” he sneers. “And as far as calling it off, I’m afraid that’s impossible … Your daddy wanted a war and he got one. There’ll be no truce. I want an unconditional surrender. I’m gonna break him and take West Star away from him.” As one Soap Land war rages on, another is declared. At the end of last week’s FALCON CREST, Richard learned, to his alarm, that the Thirteen are “plotting the economic destruction of the United States … There are going to be riots in the streets, people are going to be killing each over a slice of bread. You’ll be destroying everything this country stands for and for what?” “For us,” Rosemont replied simply. (Anyone else getting a not so vaguely Trumpian vibe from all this?) This week, Richard decides to stop them. “I will do whatever is necessary,” he vows. “Very well — so shall we,” counters Rosemont.

    While Vicky Stavros is in Geneva bribing a prison orderly into mailing a letter to her mother, Paige Matheson is in Santa Tecla “making a donation to the preservation of Mexican national treasures”, i.e., bribing the local police into delaying the construction of a highway through the site of the archaeological dig. The political system in Washington proves no less corrupt as Kay Lloyd introduces Bobby to Senator O’Dell, with a view to getting the Ewing Oil name back. In his previous Soap Land incarnations, O’Dell was Titus Semple on FLAMINGO ROAD and Paul Galveston on KNOTS LANDING and appears to share their amoral streak. And like Galveston, he’s not particularly keen on discussing business matters with women, referring Kay as “a mighty pretty little thing” (at least he didn’t call her Cookie) and instructing her to leave him and Bobby to talk man-to-man. “I was mighty fond of your daddy,” he tells him. “Some of my fondest memories are of deals that he and I put together — JR too, for that matter.” (Paul Galveston wheelin’ and dealin’ with JR and Jock — now there’s an image to conjure with.) “Yes, sir, the two of them really knew the bottom line when it came to making a deal,” he continues. Whereas Galveston encouraged Gary to believe himself the equal of his Ewing brothers, O’Dell challenges Bobby to show his true Ewing mettle by forking out for “a little retirement place” — a castle in the Scottish Highlands worth $2,000,000. (This rare Soap Land reference to Scotland partially compensates for Karen describing Mack to Manny as “a smiling Irishman who makes terrific blueberry pancakes.” When he first arrived in KNOTS, Mack identified himself as Scots-Italian.)

    After a full FALCON CREST hour of sleep-walking, sweats, nightmares and mood swings, Maggie Channing appears to licked her four-episode booze problem and she and Richard are happy once again. Back on KNOTS, Gary and Jill have their first argument about her drinking. “Do you think I have a problem?” she asks challengingly. “You tell me,” he replies. “You’re the one that’s been sitting around here all day drinking — alone.” This culminates in Jill holding out a glass of wine to Gary, inviting him to drink with her. (“That’s an incredibly sick stupid way of trying to get my attention.”) Jill’s gesture is mirrored by Maggie in the final scene of this week’s FC when Richard returns home to find her nursing a bottle of brandy, as yet unopened. What has happened? She’s received Vicky’s letter, that’s what. (“Eric and I are in jail in Geneva,” it reads. “I don’t know anyone but Richard who could be doing this to us.”) Bitterly, she opens the bottle, pours a drink and raises it towards Richard, just as Jill did her glass to Gary: “What we need here, Richard, is a toast — to my daughter in Switzerland.” Then she spills it on the floor.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (-) DYNASTY
    2 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (2) FALCON CREST
    4 (-) DALLAS
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2018
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  4. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    07 Apr 88: KNOTS LANDING: With a Heavy Heart v. 08 Apr 88: DALLAS: Last of the Good Guys v. 08 Apr 88: FALCON CREST: Key to Angela

    Bobby Ewing having reminded the audience of the three Bs — booze, broads and booty — a couple of weeks ago, Sue Ellen now introduces her own “formula for living with JR” known as “the three Ds … Drink, divorce and doing unto him what he’s done to me.” “I take it drink and divorce didn’t work for you?” ventures Kimberly Cryder.

    Drink hasn’t worked for Maggie Channing when it comes to living with Richard either and so this week she tries a separation. “If I stay … I am going to end up either hating Richard or drinking again,” she explains. “She needs to be in a caring environment,” best pal Emma decides. “She needs love and support and friends.” And so she naturally invites Maggie to move into Falcon Crest.

    While Emma has suddenly acquired a rose-coloured view of life at Falcon Crest, Clayton Farlow has developed a cynical opinion on life at Southfork. “I really appreciate the ‘spirit of the Ewings’,” he tells Miss Ellie, “how the whole clan just gathers around when one member’s in trouble, but obviously, that is nothing but a show for the people of Dallas because, inside this house, I’ve felt like a pariah, an untouchable.” It’s always interesting to see the Ewings’ double standards exposed, especially Ellie’s, even if it does turn Clayton into the injured party. “It was lovely of you of you to dine publicly with me at the Oil Barons' … like I was a discredited presidential candidate,” he continues. This is an even more direct reference to the Gary Hart scandal than Gordon Wales’ “digging up dirt on candidates may be hot right now” line to Alexis on DYNASTY a few months ago. “I am not going to live a sham,” Clayton concludes self-righteously. “I have to know if we are genuinely together or not.” Ellie capitulates meekly. “I want you here … for me,” she tells him in a small voice, and so it is they are reconciled.

    Elsewhere on DALLAS, drink still seems to be working for Ray Krebbs and Connie whose unexpected fling appears to be fuelled as much by alcohol as by desire. However, KNOTS LANDING’s Olivia, whose fiancee Harold has been banished to Miami, refuses to assuage her heartache with cocaine. “Drugs wouldn’t do any good,” she declares. Meanwhile, Cliff Barnes’ pill-popping continues. This has yet to have any major dramatic consequences, only an amusing effect on his speech patterns — during a business meeting with Casey Denault, his voice sounds like a warped cassette tape, first getting slower and slower and then suddenly speeding up.

    Like Maggie, Jill Bennett is back on the mineral water, but her relationship seems to have improved as a result. Meanwhile, a curious thing has happened to her hair. During her scenes with Gary, and any others in which she appears bubbly and cheerful, it is curly and untamed. During the scenes where her behaviour is calculated and secretive, such as when she is splicing together recordings of Ben’s voice to make a fake phone message for Val, it is dead straight. It’s almost as if she were Krystle and Rita combined in one person.

    Like Miss Ellie, Bobby is also accused of double standards this week — by loyal secretary Phyllis, of all people. To counter Senator O’Dell’s demand for a Scottish castle, he asks her to look into his past dealings with Jock and JR so he can find something to use against him. “I don’t see the difference, as far as morality goes, between blackmail and bribery,” says Phyllis. Bobby concedes her point and gives into O’Dell — well, sort of. Instead of buying him the castle, he presents him with a ninety-nine-year lease for it, only to be activated “the day Ewing Oil is mine again.” For some reason, Bobby seems to think this means he’s scored some kind of moral victory over O’Dell, but I’m not sure what it is. Still, O’Dell plays along and tells him what he wants to hear: “Nice touch, Bobby Ewing … I think you’re almost as smart as your daddy.”

    Over on FALCON CREST, Lance also has a meeting with a senator in Washington. (For all we know, he and Bobby are in the same government building at the same time.) While Bobby wants help getting the Ewing Oil name back, Lance has a different kind of favour to ask. “I am not gonna let Richard Channing get away, but I need your help. Together we can nail him,” he tells Senator Ryder. Whereas Bobby tried and failed to find dirt on O’Dell, Lance already knows Ryder’s secret: “You’re John Remick’s brother.” When Ryder, like O’Dell, appears reluctant to get involved, Lance appeals not his greed but to his conscience: “You’ve got a choice, Senator. You can help me, help your brother and maybe help your country, or you can sit there behind your desk.” Later in the episode, Ryder confirms that “Richard Channing made an illegal arms shipment to an African dictator my brother’s been fighting against.” He assures Lance that the FBI has been informed and an arrest is imminent. But then right at the end of the ep, Richard himself contacts the FBI. “I’d like to spill my guts if it’s not too late,” he says. Likewise, at the end of this week’s DALLAS, JR also appears to have turned over a new leaf — but we, the audience, know better. True, he does prove Clayton innocent of David Shulton’s murder (it was the future Charley St James whodunnit), but only as a means of getting Laurel Ellis into bed.

    The interest JR takes in what is really a B-List storyline gives this ep the feel of a stand-alone instalment from DALLAS’s early days. Indeed, one could imagine the whole Clayton/Laurel/Shulton/Lomax/JR plot being edited rather neatly into one hour-long episode.

    Ostensibly to shield her from the media scrutiny surrounding Clayton’s arrest, JR instals Laurel in the Ewing condo — more of a penthouse these days than when Kristin and then Mitch and Lucy lived in it. Laurel is grateful, even more so when JR tells her he can prove Clayton’s innocence. But then he drops the other cowboy boot. “If Harry doesn’t get a call from me,” he explains, pressing himself up against her, “he’s gonna put Lomax on a nonstop plane to London … Clayton’s fate is in your hands.” “So now the payoff,” she realises. “sex in return for freeing Clayton … You bastard!”

    JR’s rape of Holly Harwood five years earlier had a similar dynamic: the woman makes her position clear (Holly: “Take your hands off me, JR — I don’t want this”; Laurel: “Don’t touch me — I can’t stand you”), JR persists, not by using physical violence but a different form of coercion to force her into submission. The main difference between the two events is that this is not part of a bigger narrative for JR. Having dominance over Laurel isn’t tied to his season-long quest to take over West Star in the way that teaching Holly a lesson was a part of his ongoing efforts to win control of Ewing Oil. He rapes Laurel simply because he wants to. The show doesn’t refer to it as rape, of course. Instead, the episode ends on an ironic note with Clayton and Miss Ellie thanking him for saving the day. “My only motive was to help the family,” he insists (evoking the same ‘Spirit of the Ewings’ ideal that Clayton was so cynical about earlier). As far as everyone onscreen is concerned, it’s a happy ending. However, there remains a complicity between JR and the viewer — we alone understand the double meaning of his final line: “Oh Mama, you have no idea what getting Clayton off the hook meant to me.” And it’s this very complicity that first drew us to this man, this show, this genre nearly a decade earlier and kept us coming back week after week, season after season. A lot has happened since then, of course — characters have grown older and softer, the spectacle of Rich People Behaving Badly has lost most of its shock value and the genre as a whole has become increasingly familiar, even cosy at times. But as the frame freezes on an unrepentant JR chuckling, it’s almost, almost as if the episode is reminding us of those early days and saying, “This is what you fell for back then. This is the monster you created.”

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (4) DALLAS
    2 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (3) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2018
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  5. Laurie Marr

    Laurie Marr Soap Chat Member

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    Captivating as always. Thank you James. For me, however, Dallas was already rather preposterous by this point in its run. JR particularly so. Looking forward to your summary of the the Hagman/Scalia Imbroglio on the balcony: big hair versus little hair in a duel that demanded no hair be touched, teased or squeezed at any point during the deadly encounter.
     
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  6. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    14 Apr 88: KNOTS LANDING: Just Desserts v. 15 Apr 88: DALLAS: Top Gun v. 15 Apr 88: FALCON CREST: King's Gambit

    Following her father’s fatal collapse at the end of last week’s DALLAS, Kimberly Cryder wastes no time in assigning blame. “You killed him, you bastard! You killed him!” she yells at JR in this week’s opening scene. Somewhat creatively, JR then shifts the responsibility to Sue Ellen. “If you’d have given me a divorce when I asked for it, that old man would be alive today,” he tells her.

    Underneath her anger, the person Kimberly really blames is herself. “I feel so awful, responsible,” she admits later in the ep. “If hadn’t tried to force [JR] to marry me, then maybe …” Self-recrimination is a bit of a trend in this week's Soap Land. “This whole thing between Shulton and Lomax was entirely my fault,” Clayton tells Laurel Ellis, somewhat bizarrely, in her final scene. Meanwhile on KNOTS, characters are lining up to take the blame for Olivia’s suicide attempt. “I should have spent more time with her … All the symptoms were there and I didn’t do anything,” frets Michael. “I should have seen it coming, I should have known,” insists Karen. “She did this because of me,” concludes Abby. All this angst is nicely undercut by Manny Vasquez who dismisses Olivia as “some screwed-up little teenybopper with a hormone problem … As far as I’m concerned, anyone stupid enough to try to commit suicide should succeed.” Perhaps to discourage any screwed-up little teenyboppers watching from trying the same thing at home, when Olivia is found following her overdose there is dried vomit around her mouth and nose. There was no evidence of anything so unglamorous when Amanda Carrington or Anne Matheson or even Cliff Barnes OD’d.

    Abby and Kimberly are each burdened by guilt. While the former keeps a vigil at her daughter’s bedside, Sue Ellen finds the latter praying in a Catholic church. (This is the Ewingverse’s second venture into Catholic territory this season following Meg’s baptism on KNOTS.) Both women attempt to atone by pulling out of a business venture. Abby, who has been cooking up a shady takeover scheme with Greg, changes her mind at the last minute. “It’s just not right,” she declares. “Right? What the hell has right got to do with anything?” asks Greg, baffled. Meanwhile, Kimberly chooses to withdraw from the battle for West Star just as it is about to reach its climax — until, that is, Sue Ellen persuades her otherwise. “JR’s drive to get West Star is what killed your daddy and that’s why we have to stop him,” she insists. “If we let JR win, it’ll be as if your father died for nothing.”

    Just as Abby appears to have drawn a moral line in the sand on KNOTS so Richard Channing does the same thing on FALCON CREST. Having contacted the FBI at the end of last week’s ep, he now warns them about “the economic holocaust” the Thirteen are planning to unleash upon America. There’s only one problem: all evidence of his association with Rosemont — in fact, all proof of the Thirteen’s existence — has been mysteriously erased, leaving the FBI with no-one to prosecute but Richard himself.

    Back on KNOTS, Jill Bennett is also wiping evidence. Having copied a key, she lets herself into Val’s house and proceeds to erase the recording of Ben’s fake phone message. How tense when Val and the kids arrive home unexpectedly and she has to make a dash for it! There’s more home invasion on DALLAS when clingy Connie steals into Ray’s house in the middle of the night, climbs the stairs to his bedroom and playfully puts a pillow over his face. He is not amused. An unusually ugly scene follows where Connie refuses to get the message and Ray has to spell it out for her: “I don’t want you, now or ever!” Even then, she gets the last word — the following morning, he finds a big red heart with both their initials painted on his front door. Like Ray, FALCON CREST's Maggie is asleep when she too is disturbed by an intruder. This time, it’s husband Richard and there is a happier outcome: he comes clean about the mess he’s in and promises to not keep any more secrets from her, and she agrees to return home with him.

    With David Shulton dead, Brett Lomax behind bars and Laurel on her way back to England, it’s farewell to the artsy youngsters on DALLAS and hello to a whole new set on KNOTS as Paige joins the archaeology dig in Santa Tecla. The two guys, Chava and Joel, immediately have the hots for her (“That woman’s gonna marry me and bear my children!” "I saw her first!") while the two girls, Rebecca and Debbie, roll their eyes as soon as her back is turned. (“I wonder how long she’s gonna last?” “Till she breaks her first nail.”)

    Among other things, this plot serves to show that, contrary to appearances, there’s more to Paige than just being a spoiled princess. Her interest in the dig seems genuine, she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty and, in order to keep the excavation from being closed down by the authorities (who are in the pay of Manny Vasquez), is resourceful enough to steal a piece of sculpture from the gallery where she works, smuggle it into Mexico and plant it on the site to make it look like “a genuine pre-Colombian artefact finally found in Santa Tecla.” None of which prevents her and Johnny from being caught red-handed by Chava in a really well-staged scene at the end of the ep. The handheld camera work, the fire set by Johnny to cause a distraction, the general sense of chaos and urgency all serve to turn a potential non-event (why, exactly, should we care about any of this?) into something quite exciting.

    While most foreign settings in Soap Land are depicted by little more than an establishing shot and a couple of hotel ceiling fans, we’re given what looks like an entire village to represent Santa Tecla. With its array of secondary characters (the young students, a corrupt police official, a kindly professor), it feels like a soap-within-a-soap — a Mexican version of the Hot Biscuit in DALLAS or Shula, Tennessee in KNOTS, if you will.

    “It’s probably gonna sound like it’s out of a movie,” Nicholas Pearce tells Sue Ellen before filling her in on his family’s Witness Protection Programme storyline. “It sounded like science fiction,” scoffs one of the FBI agents Richard is trying to convince of the Thirteen’s existence. Of course, Soap Land adapting scenarios from cinema and other literary sources is nothing new: William Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams and Alfred Hitchcock have all proved recurring influences over the years. The current Ray/Connie storyline on DALLAS, as well as being a gender reversal of the familiar stalker scenario (Jeff Wainwright and Maggie Gioberti, Roger Larsen and Lucy Ewing) echoes both FATAL ATTRACTION (a hit movie only the previous year) and PLAY MISTY FOR ME. Even more blatant is the resemblance between a current plot on FALCON CREST — Dan Fixx, strapped for cash, agrees to drive a truck of highly explosive nitroglycerin across the country — and that of the 1953 movie THE WAGES OF FEAR — Yves Montand, strapped for cash, agrees to drive a truck of highly explosive nitroglycerin through the mountains. FC being FC, there’s an obligatory murder/revenge twist tacked on for good measure. On the plus side, this means a groovy explosion, and as with Paige in Santa Tecla, an opportunity for Dan’s kid sister Carly to show her moxie as she rides to his rescue, but otherwise it’s just more anonymous would-be killer filler.

    Two devious faces from the past resurface unexpectedly this week. Jeremy Wendell makes a victorious return to West Star at the end of DALLAS — turns out he’s joined forces with Kimberly and Sue Ellen to stop JR getting his hands on the company. Meanwhile, Ursula Andress’s Madame Malec pops up in the back of a limousine with Eric Stavros on FALCON CREST — turns out she’s connected to the Thirteen and they have assigned her and the enjoyably unpredictable Eric to silence Richard once and for all!

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (1) DALLAS
    3 (3) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2018
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  7. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    28 Apr 88: KNOTS LANDING: Discovery v. 29 Apr 88: DALLAS: Pillow Talk v. 29 Apr 88: FALCON CREST: As Tears Go By

    If the archaeological students in Santa Tecla are KNOTS’ equivalent of Laurel Ellis and her artsy pals on DALLAS then Chava would appear to be the David Shulton of the group, i.e., the blackmailer — at least, that’s Paige’s assumption after he keeps silent about her planting the statue at the dig site. “How much do you want?” she asks. “You’re gonna make me pay sooner or later and I’d rather it be sooner.” Interestingly, Chava interprets this as a racial slur: “Oh, I see. You’re in Mexico so you take one look at me and you assume that I want a bribe.”

    While Miss Ellie and Clayton’s Laurel-induced crisis is officially resolved when Ellie unexpectedly hands over half of Southfork to her husband (“I’ve found a good man to help me run the ranch, a man that my daddy would have been proud of”), Mack and Karen’s more lighthearted squabbles over Manny Vasquez take a surprisingly dramatic turn after Karen chastises Mack for being unnecessarily rude to him over dinner. “Manny Vasquez is dirty eight ways from Sunday!” Mack suddenly yells. “He’s running drugs through Lotus Point!”

    Karen’s realisation that she, Abby and Gary are in business with a serious crime organisation puts them in a similar position to the one Richard Channing has been for the past few weeks on FALCON CREST. Now, they must fight back. For Richard, the line the Thirteen crossed was when they revealed their plan to unleash economic devastation across the United States. (However much of a despot Richard may be in his own backyard, he evidently feels a sense of obligation to America in general. “If I don’t stop the Thirteen, who will?” he asks.) Abby’s motivation for stopping Manny’s operation is more personal: “Olivia was hooked on drugs. Well, somebody made a profit on those drugs. Those are the ones I wanna get — the people who are responsible for what happened to her … I want the one at the top.”

    The Lotus Point crew turn to the authorities who advise them to sit tight and do nothing. (“Don’t let these people know you’re suspicious … We’ll do everything we can. You tip our hand, they’ll bolt.”) Meanwhile, Richard, Maggie and Angela have yet to convince the authorities that the Thirteen even exist. To this end, they hatch an elaborate scheme which involves Angela infiltrating the Thirteen as their newest member.

    Gary Ewing, unhappy at the prospect of “sitting on our thumbs”, recalls a similar storyline from seven years earlier: “When I got involved in the stolen auto parts ring, they told me to wait. I waited. Sid died.” Meanwhile on DALLAS, Ellie takes Clayton to visit the grave of her brother Garrison (after whom Gary was named, of course) and recounts almost the entire plot of “Home Again”, a stand-alone episode from Season 1, as a prelude to gifting him half the ranch. (One of the fascinating things about this season has been watching DALLAS digging into its onscreen history to illuminate the present: Bobby comparing Pam’s burns to his mama’s mastectomy, Sue Ellen basing her three Ds on Jock’s three Bs, the flashbacks to Jeff Faraday and Kristin during the Lisa Alden story, recalling Jock’s relationships with Digger and Julie Grey through Cliff’s with Dandy Dandridge and Clayton’s with Laurel Ellis.) FALCON CREST, meanwhile, delves even further back into the past via an old map and a key that Melissa believes will unlock an ancient secret regarding the Agretti/Gioberti feud. This treasure hunt leads to some disused tunnels which provide her with plenty of opportunities to squeal, screech, scream and, inevitably, fall down a hole — very, very loudly. No Paige Matheson she when it comes to roughing it.

    While Miss Ellie is telling the story about her brother, I’m struck by Clayton’s complete lack of reaction to the part where Garrison comes back from the dead — but maybe after you’ve experienced your own son’s resurrection, anyone else’s isn’t that big of a deal. There’s another such return over on FALCON CREST. “I thought you were dead,” says Maggie to the back of a man’s head. Who could she be speaking to (or rather, who are we being teased into thinking she’s speaking to)? It's John Remick, now minus a leg, thus making him Soap Land’s very first amputee. It looks as if he may be the only person who can prove the Thirteen's existence — but will he testify to what he knows in front of a Senate committee in order to get Richard off the hook? A year ago, it was Donna Krebbs’ decision as to whether or not Andrew Dowling interceded with a Senate enquiry to keep the Ewing brothers out of jail. Now it’s Maggie turn. “I wanna hear it from you,” Remick insists. “Tell me that getting your husband off the hook is really gonna help you.”

    Maggie’s daughter Vicky is also called to testify at the hearing and finds herself caught between her mother (“I am asking you not to hurt Richard, … You owe me. I am calling in that debt”) and her husband (“Now it’s time to get Channing”). In the end, she sides with her mom, denying that Richard had her falsely imprisoned in Geneva, and she and Maggie are reconciled. Likewise on DALLAS, Jenna calls Ray from Europe to tell him she and Charlie are “a mother-daughter team again.” Conversely on KNOTS, relations between Olivia and Abby at an all-time low. “Everything she does makes me feel bad … I hate her,” seethes Olivia.

    The Senate hearing on FALCON CREST is impressive. The atmosphere is both more imposing and less formal than the courtroom set-ups we’re used to seeing in Soap Land, there are microphones and TV cameras everywhere, and the wearily cynical reactions from the Senate committee as various characters recount some of the season’s more bizarre events under oath are great. I wouldn’t be surprised if these scenes were based on the Senate committee hearings in THE GODFATHER, PART II; they’ve got the same kind of vibe. There’s something missing from the storytelling itself, however. It seems sort of fuzzy and vague. I’m not sure if my own ignorance is to blame — I’m still not entirely certain what a Senate committee hearing is — or if the plotting itself is unnecessarily convoluted.

    The fight for West Star may be over on this week’s DALLAS, but two figures are left slugging it out on the battlefield — JR and Sue Ellen. Watch these two go at each other with no holds barred is Soap Land at its most primal. All the familiar yet thrilling beats are here: Sue Ellen packing her bags and making a triumphant exit from Southfork, later returning for her son only to find JR has outwitted her (“Where is my son?” “Safe from you — now get the hell out of here!”), JR throwing her belongings over the balcony as the sheriff waits to escort her off the ranch, Sue Ellen bursting into his office with a writ (“You’re being ordered to produce John Ross within three days”), him retaliating with a below-the-belt wisecrack about her sex life (“How’s your young stud, Sue Ellen? Is youth everything it’s cracked up to be?”) — all accompanied by close-ups of glowering, hate-filled faces and a deliriously insistent, escalating score that adds to the intoxicating sense that the show is about to drive itself off the edge of a cliff.

    As we move ever closer to that edge, two of year’s most enjoyable, if slightly ludicrous, supporting characters make contrasting departures this week. After John Remick testifies in Richard’s favour at the hearing, Maggie follows him into the hallway outside to thank him. “You remind me so much of Chase,” she says before being momentarily distracted by some reporters. When she turns back around, Remick has seemingly disappeared into thin air. Over on DALLAS, JR is on the warpath after losing West Star — evicting Sue Ellen, firing Casey Denault and telling Bobby, “I’m the only real Ewing my daddy ever had.” He is rendered speechless, however, by the sight of Kimberly Cryder standing naked in his office telling him he could have had it all if he hadn’t been so greedy. FALCON CREST has a vaguely equivalent scene where Richard’s henchman Garth is about to fit Angela with a recording device prior to her meeting with the Thirteen. “Where does this go — under my jacket?” she asks. “Well, actually,” he replies hesitantly, “it would be better — you know, it would be much safer for you if — um — under your blouse.” Angela takes this in her stride and starts to undress. “Oh, don’t look so terrified,” she tells him casually. “I’m not gonna bite you.” This is a rare example of a comedic scene in FALCON CREST that is actually funny: the humour is allowed to arise naturally from the characters’ behaviour without anyone feeling obliged to "sell" the joke.

    When JR dumps him, Casey pleads for another chance to prove himself. “Don’t beg, boy,” chides JR. “I wasn’t begging!” he insists. But he was. When I first watched this season, I wanted Casey to be as cunning and ruthless an operator as Alan Beam had been, but I now see that the whole point of his character is that he isn’t like that, as much as he wants to be. He’s too desperate, too needy and too naive to make it in Soap Land. After leaving JR’s office, he tries to interest April in investing in the land he inherited from his father, but she dismisses him as “just another hustler”. “Who do you think you are, talking to me like that?” he snaps. “I heard when you came to Dallas, you had about a nickel to your name … If I had a pretty face like yours and a nice fine-looking body, I might not be in the position I’m in right now.” (From someone who spent almost the entirety of EMERALD POINT NAS walking around without a shirt on, that’s kind of ironic.) April’s response is fantastically cold: “You know something, Mr Denault? You’re just all the other bitter little people on the outside — you’re just trying to figure out how to get what you don’t have. Well, you’re not gonna get it from me.”

    Two of this week’s soaps contain a scene where one character plays a cassette tape for the benefit of another, fully confident that it will back up their previous claim. On KNOTS, Val asks Gary to listen to the answerphone message Ben left her. On FALCON CREST, Richard has Garth play the recording of Angela’s meeting with the Thirteen for Senators Ryder and Horton. In each case, the tape turns out to be blank. “This doesn’t make sense,” Val exclaims. “His voice was right here on this tape … Maybe one of the kids erased it … I didn’t make it up, I didn’t imagine it.” “I don’t understand,” mutters Garth. “The transmission was perfect … How could this be? Perhaps at the airport, the guard with the metal detector, if he had a demagnetiser …” “Either somebody erased it or it was never there in the first place,” Gary later speculates to Jill who, as we’ve already seen, stole Ben’s tape and then burnt it. “Obviously, somebody told the Thirteen about our plan. The question is who?” muses Richard.

    A revelation towards the end of their respective episodes pulls the rug out from under Karen, Abby and Gary on KNOTS, and Richard, Angela and Maggie on FALCON CREST and makes it clear that the situation they are caught up is even bigger than they thought, perhaps even exceeding the jurisdiction of Soap Land itself. “We’ve been asked to halt the investigation of Manny Vasquez,” the Lotus Point gang’s police contact tells them. “He’s an essential part of several covert operations outside our borders … Manny Vasquez is working for us.” Meanwhile, Senator Ryder admits to the FALCON CREST gang that he’s known about the Thirteen’s existence all along. “I’m just the fall guy in this little charade,” Richard realises. “The more it looked like the Thirteen didn’t exist, the safer they would feel …” “We were waiting for them to make their move and fall into our brilliant trap,” Ryder explains. Now that they’ve gone back underground, he wants to postpone the hearings. This puts the FC gang in the same “sit tight and do nothing” position as their KL counterparts. For once, Gary Ewing and Angela Channing are on the same page. “Look, if the government’s not gonna do something about it, I think we should,” says Gary. “Senator Ryder, if you don’t pursue this immediately, we will,” says Angela.

    KNOTS and DALLAS each end on a note of violence: “We’ve been subtle long enough. Just get rid of them. Make it look as if the Mexicans did it,” orders Manny Vasquez, referring to the archeological group which now includes not just Paige, but Karen’s son Michael. Meanwhile, Ray Krebbs wakes in the middle of the night to find Connie hovering over him, a carving knife poised in midair. Funnily enough, FALCON CREST starts almost exactly where DALLAS left off, with Richard waking up in his Washington hotel room next to the dead body of Madame Malec — the Thirteen’s equivalent of leaving a mint on the pillow, presumably.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (2) DALLAS
    2 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (3) FALCON CREST
     
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  8. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    05 May 88: KNOTS LANDING: The Perfect Alibi v. 06 May 88: DALLAS: Things Ain't Goin' So Good at Southfork, Again v. 06 May 88: FALCON CREST: Last Dance

    Following Manny’s orders to “get rid of them”, his mob spend much of this week’s KNOTS trying various methods of spooking the Santa Tecla gang into abandoning the archaeological dig. These include threatening letters, a snake in Paige’s sleeping bag (before we can learn if it’s as deadly as the black mamba Sean Rowan frightened Leslie Carrington with, Johnny entices her into his sleeping bag and it slithers away) and, most effectively of all, a dead dog in the water supply. Towards the end of the episode, they also blow up a reporter in his car to prevent him filing a story about the dig that could jeopardise the highway. Meanwhile on FALCON CREST, Richard warns Angela that, “Our friendly little group, the Thirteen, they wanna terminate the two of us … They know that … we’ve got enough on them to send them away for a while.”

    There’s a rich seam of cynicism running through this week’s Ewing-verse. When Mack’s police contact tells the Lotus Point crew that the reason Manny cannot be prosecuted is “a matter of national security”, Gary launches into a terrific rant: “Ah, the magic words that are supposed to justify anything! The Russians invade Afghanistan, the French blow up a boat in New Zealand, we invade an island, any island, in the Caribbean — anything anyone ever needs to justify is under the heading of National Security … Every dishonest, incompetent, bureaucrat politician invokes National Security in order to cover up crimes, stupidity and mistakes.” The cop dismisses Gary’s speech as “some left-wing diatribe”, but it is later echoed by Greg Sumner: “Every bozo dictator with a Swiss bank account or a chateau in France trots out the old National Security excuse whenever it suits his purposes … The phrase National Security has kept a lot of righteous guys out of the can.” (Greg does some digging of his own and learns that “Mr Vasquez is in the business of transporting tactical devices to friendly armies … guns, bazookas, missiles, nuclear warheads — who knows? … If the price were right, I suppose he’d just as soon supply both sides with arms.” After Sean Rowan and Richard Channing, that makes Manny Vasquez the third gunrunner of the season. It’s like 85/6 when suddenly every other character was a Greek shipping magnate.)

    The scepticism continues on DALLAS, albeit on a more local level when JR produces a court order overturning Sue Ellen’s court order obliging him to produce John Ross at Southfork. Instead, he instructs a couple of marshals to escort her off the ranch. Sue Ellen later tells Nick that JR and the authorities “concocted the grounds [for his court order] between them … With all the judges JR has got in his pocket, they can manufacture legal bases for anything that he wants.” This resonates with what Val told her neighbours back in “Land of the Free” (KNOTS Season 1) about her experience of turning to the authorities for help against JR: “I can’t tell you what that was like — knowing that anything at all could be done to me, and there wasn’t nothing the police would do about it because there wasn’t any difference between [JR’s] old boys and the police.” When the marshals manhandle Sue Ellen off Southfork, they could just as easily be the same old boys who snatched Lucy back from Val.

    While Sue Ellen has Nick to turn to (he assures her he knows a top-notch PI who can track down John Ross — what self-respecting investment broker doesn’t?), who do the KNOTS gang have? Ordinarily, Mack’s the one with the answers but not this time. “I feel helpless,” he admits. “I can’t do anything. Karen, I’ve never felt like this in my life … There’s no-one to help us and if anyone tried, it wouldn’t make a difference.” The “little man” at the mercy of bureaucratic red tape has been a bugbear of KNOTS throughout its run — from Karen’s clash with school authorities while trying to get Michael’s hyperactivity diagnosed to the stonewalling the Lotus Point gang received when attempting to clean up the toxic waste at Empire Valley — but this is as isolated as they’ve ever been.

    Sometimes, however, it’s the good guys who are corrupt and the politicians who are morally disgusted. One of the latter manages to take the glow off the moment Bobby gets the Ewing Oil name back. “The penalty your company was assessed was light enough. In my opinion, it should have stuck — but then, you’ve got a lot of powerful friends,” he tells him bitterly. Bobby is unrepentant: “I don’t appreciate your sentiments and I’m not here for one of your lectures.”

    Just as KNOTS LANDING’s Jill Bennett started out as a perky do-gooder from the DA’s office, Eric Stavros arrived in FALCON CREST as a well-meaning, mountain-climbing rich kid cast from the same mould as Clay Fallmont. Both have since well and truly crossed over to the dark side. Eric, now firmly under the control of the Thirteen, spends the season finale lurking first around Angela’s and then Richard’s houses trying to shoot them. Jill’s behaviour in this week’s KNOTS (the penultimate ep of the season), is a tad more subtle, but no less sinister.

    In one way, Jill’s actions here parallel those of Abby’s in last season’s finale, “Cement the Relationship”. Tasked with covering up Peter Hollister’s murder, we delighted in Abby’s quick-thinking, resourcefulness and ability to cover her tracks as she went along. We understood what she was trying to do and we willed her to succeed. Here, we’re just as transfixed by Jill’s behaviour, but have absolutely no idea what she’s up to. Whereas Abby was thinking on her feet, Jill’s plan is clearly calculated down to the last second. First, she picks a fight with Gary over some imaginary infidelity and announces her intention to attend a computer conference in San Francisco, before hiring a car and parking it at the airport, planting a gun under the back seat, buying a pack of cigarettes and disposing of its contents, striking up a conversation with a fellow passenger on the plane (“Let me tell you, in real life people are never the sophisticated killers you read about in novels. They’re always making a million mistakes”). She then picks up a guy at the convention, slips him a Mickey while he is replenishing her cigarette supply, and so on. All the while, her hair goes from curly to straight and back again seemingly of its volition before she finally stuffs it into a wig, dons some librarian glasses, returns to California, retrieves her gun and finally let herself into Val’s house while her oblivious target is upstairs drying her hair in preparation for watching a movie with her neighbours.

    Lest one thinks one is imagining the Hitchcock vibe, the film Pat has invited Val over to watch is STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (“It was 99¢ night at the video store”). If Jill were fleeing away from a crime rather towards one, she’d be Marion Crane in PSYCHO, just as the shot of a hand wielding a knife at the end of last week’s DALLAS qualifies Ray’s stalker Connie as Norman Bates. Meanwhile, the toll-booth gunfire scene in this week’s FALCON CREST, where the Thirteen take aim at a car carrying Richard and his family, is clearly borrowed from THE GODFATHER but is nowhere near as exciting. It’s one of three gunfire scenes in this week’s ep and as Angela quips, “It’s getting monotonous.”

    The second takes place at Falcon Crest where a wounded Angela collapses into Richard’s arms, just as Alexis did into Blake’s when she was shot during this season’s DYNASTY. Ray Krebbs is also attacked in his own home — the opening scene of this week’s DALLAS shows him staggering down the stairs after being stabbed by Connie.

    While Angela’s injuries turn out to be even more superficial than Alexis’s, Ray is admitted to Soap Land Memorial where he is visited by Bobby, who doesn’t quite buy his story that he was attacked by a random intruder. “Is there something you’re not telling us?” he asks. Ray smiles at him sadly. “Don’t worry about it, Bob,” he says. With Steve Kanaly heading out of the show, this is the last exchange of the series between the brothers (returns, reunions and reboots notwithstanding) and so, as with Jack Coleman’s final scene with Jeff on DYNASTY, it carries an extra level of poignancy. (Who knows? Maybe for the actors involved it’s just another day at the office, but it doesn’t feel that way.) Their exchange is cordial, even affectionate, but there’s a distance between them now that won’t allow Ray to confide in Bobby the way he once might have done. It’s kinda sad — after all their years of friendship, this is how they’ve ended up.

    Later, however, Ray feels the need to confess and, following her brush with death, so does Angela. “I was not stabbed by a burglar,” Ray tells Jenna. “I knew the woman … I had an affair with her.” Angela’s disclosure, meanwhile, is grudgingly delivered. “There’s a part of me,” she tells Richard, “a very small part, that cares a great deal about you and I’m getting bored of hiding it.” It’s a hard-won concession — we’ve been waiting all year for some evidence of maternal feeling from Angela towards her son and here it is. I’m kind of ambivalent about what she says next, however: “Sometimes I really enjoyed it when you came barging into Falcon Crest, waving your arms all around and shouting at the top of your voice.” While I can appreciate the sentiment, it somewhat undermines the dramatic nature of her conflict with Richard. It’s the same as if Cliff Barnes were to confess that he secretly enjoyed feuding with JR or Blake Carrington admitted that he privately found Alexis’s attempts to destroy him a bit of a laugh. I feel that it’s for us to enjoy the characters’ conflicts and feuds rather than the characters themselves.

    Unexpectedly, the best scenes of this week’s DALLAS are the ones dealing with the fallout from Miss Ellie’s decision to make Clayton co-owner of Southfork (which, in turn, was a consequence of the Laura Ellis storyline. I’ve always regarded Laurel as somewhat inconsequential in the scheme of things, but her relationship with Clayton actually sets in motion a significant chain of events). I love JR’s response — it’s everything we’ve been wanting him to say since Donna Reed and Clayton returned from their honeymoon back in ’84. “This is a disgrace to my daddy’s home!” he tells his mama. “He saved this ranch from the auction block when your daddy went broke … and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna watch some carpetbagger from San Angelo reap the rewards of his hard work!” He then turns on Clayton: “If you keep at Mama the way you have been, that wimp rodeo rider son of yours is gonna be sitting my chair right there.” He even pays back Miss Ellie for her killer line from a year ago (“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”) when he tells her: “You have dishonoured my daddy’s name and everything he stood for!”

    “You call giving a Ewing birthright away fair?” JR asks during his tirade. “Falcon Crest is my birthright,” echoes Melissa Agretti following the discovery of some random never-seen-before-last-week document. Her Uncle Frank tries to dissuade her from taking Angela’s home away from her which prompts a shrill, whiny rant (“You tell him, Lance, tell him about all the years she’s interfered in my life … how she tried to blackmail me, how she tried to drive me crazy, how she tried to drive me out of this valley!”) that doesn’t carry the half the weight of JR’s reaction to Clayton now co-owning Southfork.

    The lamest scene of this week’s DALLAS is the surprise party April throws for Cliff where a crowd of extras applaud his existence. “You deserve it,” April gushes, her voice all trembly with emotion. I guess the point of the scene is that it establishes her as Cliff’s best pal (not that there was much competition for the title). Two scenes later, she extends JR an olive branch and consoles him over his West Star defeat — the first time anyone’s shown him any sympathy since it happened and he appreciates it. This is also the first time a DALLAS character has had the ear of both Cliff and JR at the same time without anyone involved having a hidden agenda.

    There is no shortage of goodbyes for Bobby Ewing this week. Aside from his unofficial goodbye to Ray, he also breaks up, amicably but sadly, with Kay Lloyd. However, it’s his farewell to his other brother which proves the highlight. At fifty-something years of age, JR is finally cutting the apron strings. “I’m leaving this place. Southfork is no longer my home,” he announces at the end of his confrontation with Clayton and Ellie. When Bobby later comes to his room, he finds him packing his things. What makes the scene between the brothers so effective is that Bobby doesn’t try to change JR’s mind about leaving, nor does he roll his eyes cynically. He understands why he needs to go. “I worshipped that man, Bobby,” JR says, looking at a picture of his daddy. “I still miss him.“ Yep, six years after Jock’s death — a lifetime in soap years — JR’s still grieving. “This is not the same Southfork we grew up in. I guess it never will be again,” he concludes — a simple enough line, but one that somehow reaches across time, resonating not only with DALLAS’s past but also its future when John Ross and Christopher are grown and JR himself is no longer around. “Well, I guess this is it,” he tells his bro. “You might not believe this, Bobby, but I’m gonna miss you.” “I do,” Bobby replies. Adding an extra layer to the scene is the knowledge that Bobby has secretly regained the Ewing Oil name and has no intention of sharing it with his brother.

    In the same week that JR leaves the ranch, Angela, Lance and Emma are evicted from Falcon Crest. Angela is granted one last look around, which is played as A Big Moment. Because, however, the events leading to this moment have been depicted with such haste, with scant reason given for exactly how or why Melissa now owns everything (much less how and when Chase came by the necessary proof before his death), it carries far less resonance than JR’s voluntary departure from the Southfork, which, on paper, should be the lesser story. If ever one was looking for evidence that the Soap is in the details, all one need do is compare the slapdash execution of this FALCON CREST story with the tension and intrigue KNOTS ratchets up by following each step of Jill’s painstaking journey from Gary’s ranch to Val’s front door.

    Amidst all these goodbyes, there’s a surprise “Hello?” as Lucy Ewing Cooper arrives back at Southfork after an absence of three years. Somewhat symbolically, there’s no-one around to welcome her, save Christopher who has no idea who she is. “I don’t think Mitch has even noticed I’ve gone,” she later admits to Miss Ellie who immediately starts doling out the very same marital advice she did the first time Lucy left her husband: “Running back to Southfork isn’t gonna solve your problems.” Ironically in an episode with so much upheaval, for a moment it’s almost as if the last seven years haven’t happened. (Also, after an extended period of instability and histrionics, it’s nice to have Miss Ellie reestablish herself as Southfork’s voice of reason this week.)

    Towards the end of FALCON CREST, Richard meets with the Thirteen and makes an unusual proposition: “In exchange for ending all hostilities, I’m offering you my life … I only ask that you give me twelve hours so that I may say my goodbyes.” What follows echoes the departures of both Laura Avery from KNOTS and Mark Graison from DALLAS. First, Richard kisses his sleeping kids goodbye (très Laura) before enjoying what Mark would have described as “one perfect night” with Maggie, who is as much in the dark now as Pam was then. “You gave me the greatest gift a person could receive … You taught me how to love,” he tells her. “I was locked in a world of preconceptions and flannel pyjamas … You woke me up and gave me wings,” she replies. Again like Mark, he waits till she’s asleep before taking his leave and then walks outside to where Eric Stavros is waiting to fire several bullets in his direction. Have the Thirteen really succeeded with Eric where Jean Hackney failed so spectacularly with Ben Gibson and turned him into “the ultimate killing machine”? Or is Richard’s death an elaborate ruse intended to smoke out the Thirteen in the same way that Gary Ewing’s was meant to expose the Wolfbridge Group? As with Gary, there is a funeral where the grieving appears genuine — save that Angela (like Cathy Geary before her) seems to know something the others don’t. Does that mean Richard is alive somewhere, plotting his eventual return the way Greg Sumner did after his fake execution, or is he really dead? On one hand, this is FALCON CREST where they’re not afraid to kill off major characters. On the other, this is FALCON CREST where they’re not afraid to bring back major characters they’ve only just killed off. The episode factors viewer awareness of each of these possibilities into its final moments, essentially making that the cliffhanger. The penultimate scene has Maggie telling Michael and Kevin a bedtime story about their “two daddies” (“both very, very brave and everyone loved them very, very much”) which is the equivalent of the “Daddy Bear” fairytale fellow writer Val Gibson has been telling her kids throughout this season’s KNOTS as a way to explain Ben’s absence. Then we cross-fade to what looks like a church or monastery in some remote place — not unlike the Tibetan monastery where Richard’s former self Michael Tyrone made his return from dead at the end of FLAMINGO ROAD. Finally, we see Angela lighting a candle and asking an unseen someone, “When are you gonna tell Maggie you’re alive?” I’d kind of love it if it turned to be John Remick again.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (1) DALLAS
    2 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (3) FALCON CREST
     
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  9. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    12 May 88: KNOTS LANDING: The Perfect Crime v. 13 May 88: DALLAS: The Fat Lady Singeth

    For its ninth season finale, KNOTS rips up the rule book by opening with the longest unbroken scene in Soap Land history, a two-hander between Jill and Val lasting more than fifteen minutes, before travelling back in time to pick up the Santa Tecla storyline precisely where the penultimate scene of last week’s episode left off. Were this not unconventional enough, four of the show’s six principle players — Karen, Mack, Gary and Abby — don’t show up until the final third of the ep while a fifth — Greg — doesn’t appear at all.

    Prior to Jill and Val’s big scene, the last time Soap Land spent so long under one roof was in “Stormy Weather”, FALCON CREST’s jokey murder mystery episode. While tonally very different, the two share some technical similarities. Both eps employ oblique camera angles (the technical term for which is, apparently, a Dutch tilt, “often used to portray psychological uneasiness or tension in the subject being filmed” — in this case, Jill). While Angela Channing looked almost straight at the viewer to deliver the line, “I love this game!”, Jill does indeed stare directly into the camera lens to bark some of her orders at Val. In fact, Jill is shot from so many different angles that the scene is occasionally in danger of seeming tricksy — as if the programme-makers aren’t totally certain that the conflict between the two women is sufficient to maintain viewers’ attention without the aid of some fancy visuals. For the most part, however, the sense of disorientation the camera work provides is very effective.

    Jill sets her store out early on. She wants Val to commit suicide and if she doesn’t, Jill will shoot her dead anyway, and let her kids find her with her brains splattered over the wall. When Val asks why, Jill replies by dissecting her personality in a way that feels almost taboo: “You must know why. You can’t not know how you get under people’s skin … You have the gift of making people, especially Gary, but not only Gary, say, ‘Poor Val. Poor Val isn’t responsible for the way she feels or the way she acts or the way she is. You can’t blame poor Val — because she’s poor Val. She can’t help being just a little bit crazy.’ … They forget that Poor Val takes advantage of their pity, how Poor Val’s as self-centred as they come, how Poor Val needs them to keep saying, ’Poor Val’ because it’s her excuse to be a child and it absolves her of her absolute selfishness!” Needless to say, this isn’t how characters in Soap Land ordinarily insult each other, even at their most vicious. Jill's speech is the psychological equivalent of the words Val used to describe her own physical appearance in that motel room in Season 6 (“You’re as flat as a board! … You look like a man!”). No-one in Soap Land usually talks like that! The specificity of Jill’s words feels equally organic. I very much doubt that "Poor Val" is how David Jacobs originally envisaged the character for her first appearance on DALLAS, but it’s a harsh but fair description of the high-maintenance soap diva she has evolved into — albeit from the point of view of someone who hasn’t received the memo that this is how all high-maintenance soap divas are obliged to behave, otherwise there would be no story.

    For a more soapily conventional, if no less derogatory, reference to Val, I refer you to JR’s exchange with Lucy during their very enjoyable reunion squabble on this week’s DALLAS. JR: “You’ve got a nasty mouth, just like that tramp mother of yours.” Lucy: “Well, coming from the expert on tramps, I take that as a compliment.”

    The longer Val’s ordeal goes on, the more the personal violations pile up: Jill sweetly promising to give the twins what she knows they like for breakfast after Val is dead (“Apple slices on wholewheat toast with little bits of tofu and raisin made into a face”). Val’s suicide note, which Jill has already composed (“‘Dear Gary,’” she reads aloud, before breaking off angrily. “Isn’t that just like Valene, to address her suicide note to Gary? Can you imagine the insensitivity?”). Jill’s rubber-gloved fingers probing the inside of Val’s mouth to make sure she’s swallowed all the pills she’s forced her to take.

    While Val is suitably stunned and terrified, Teri Austin is quietly excellent as Jill. Having watched her closely as she painstakingly established her alibi in last week’s episode, it feels like we are now complicit in Jill’s crime and, oddly, she turns out to be more relatable in this situation than Val — it’s easier to understand what it’s like to be driven to distraction by someone who plays on their victim status than it is to be terrorised by a madwoman in a funny wig. There’s a darkly comic moment after Val protests that no-one would ever believe she’d kill herself. “Everyone’ll believe it!” Jill assures her, almost laughing. “Just listen to how the words roll trippingly off the tongue — ‘Poor Val committed suicide.’” It’s funny because it’s true.

    Jill’s cheerful revelation that she was responsible for Ben’s letters and phone calls leads Val to quietly conclude that, “If you wrote those letters, then he is dead.” However, now that she is facing the end of her own life, she barely has time to acknowledge this fact. And so Ben’s faux-resurrection is snuffed out almost as cruelly as Mark Graison’s was after Pam woke up to find Bobby in the shower. Back then it was the audience, rather than Val, who barely had time to process the realisation that he must be dead after all.

    Ben might not be coming back, but someone else could be. “I saw Pam!” announces Jordan Lee on DALLAS. Just as FALCON CREST toyed with viewer expectations at the end of last week’s finale (“When are you gonna tell Maggie you’re alive?”), this revelation is followed by a scene of Bobby taking a shower — a reminder, perhaps, not to take things at face value.

    Compared to KNOTS, DALLAS’s season finale is on reassuringly familiar ground. JR has a run in with almost every member of his family — taunting Clayton (“You just can’t seem to keep your zipper up, can you?”), insulting Lucy (“I suppose your being here means that you and that nitwit husband of yours are having trouble again”), provoking Sue Ellen (“Call off your gigolo, honey”) and gloating at Bobby (“I got it all back, Bob, all the Ewing property … It’s all mine now”) only for the latter to turn the tables on him (“There is a Ewing Oil again, JR, but this time it’s not you, it’s me”). There are several references to the show’s history, as well as call-backs to DALLAS’s two most infamous cliffhangers — following Bobby’s shower scene, JR gets shot all over again.

    For his departing episode, Ray Krebbs is given a touching speech that recalls his previous personas as “the town drunk’s son”, “the skinny little kid” who arrived at Southfork and wondered what it would be like to belong to a real family, and “the half-breed brother” who felt unworthy of either the Ewing name or being married to Donna, and then links them to his present-day problems with Jenna. Meanwhile, Jenna turns for marital advice to Miss Ellie who responds with some of her own backstory — her reaction to Jock’s wartime affair and her later resentment towards Ray when she found out he was Jock’s son. “[Ray] has never been able to realise what a good man he is,” she says feelingly. Jenna concludes that she and Ray need to make a fresh start away from Dallas. “There’s too much here that’s bad for us, Ray," she reasons, "you thinking of yourself as a second-class citizen — you’re never gonna get away from that, Ray, not as long as you can see Southfork from your front porch.” After Ray’s ten years of service to Soap Land (and Jenna’s five), it’s a low-key send-off, but a fitting one — and it’s more than either of Ray’s “good son” equivalents, Cole Gioberti and Steven Carrington, got when they left their shows.

    After Jeff Colby, JR becomes the second unfathomably rich oilman of the season to finally move out of the family home and into his own apartment — in his case, the Ewing condo. Even though it’s de-rigueur for Soap Land to keep as many of its characters living under the same roof as possible, it’s kind of cool to see Jeff and JR in their swinging bachelor pads. They almost seem like grown men. Oddly, the exterior of JR’s place is Alexis’s former apartment building magically transposed to Texas.

    The last scene of DALLAS’s finale ep strongly resembles the penultimate one of DYNASTY’s. In each case, a woman (Alexis/Sue Ellen) watches helplessly from the sidelines as her estranged husband (Sean/JR) and current lover (Dex/Nicholas) fight to the death. Both pairs of men are struggling over a gun when it suddenly goes off. On DYNASTY, we cut to Alexis’s stricken face and then the scene ends. On DALLAS, the gun falls the floor and the two men carry on fighting out towards the balcony of JR’s condo. We then cut to the exterior of the balcony from where, four years earlier, Mark Jennings plunged to his death. Now it’s Nick’s turn. Even after he has fallen, the scene does not end.

    A theme linking both Ewingverse finales: Girls with guns. As well as the one Jill keeps trained on Val until she loses consciousness, Paige has another pointed at both Chava and Johnny in Santa Tecla after realising that neither man is what she thought: Chava’s an undercover agent for the DEA while Johnny is working for the bad guys. Which deceiver can she trust? Johnny’s really good here, all his irritating faux-folksiness forgotten as he urgently tries to convince Paige that he’s on her side (“I’m the only one who can get you out of here!”). Eventually, she sides with Chava, but by the end of the episode, they, along with Michael, have fallen into Manny’s clutches.

    Back on DALLAS, having watched her lover die at the hands of JR, Sue Ellen picks up the gun and, following the example of Eric Stavros, who shot an unarmed Richard Channing at point blank range on last week’s FALCON CREST, starts firing in JR’s direction. As on FC, the scene doesn’t cut back to JR once the trigger has been pulled — but lest there be any doubt that Sue Ellen has hit her target, she then calls the police: “I’d like to report a double murder. This is Sue Ellen Ewing.” Val’s prone body, meanwhile, lies on her bedroom floor, Jill’s disembodied voice gently singing a nursery rhyme on the soundtrack.

    So: Nicholas dead. JR apparently dead. Val pretty much dead. Jill gets away scot-free while Sue Ellen makes a full confession. In each case, the cliffhanging question is not so much “whodunnit?” as “how the hell are they gonna write themselves out of this one?”

    And this week's Top 2 are ...

    1 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (1) DALLAS
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2018
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  10. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    27 Oct 88: KNOTS LANDING: Suicidal v. 28 Oct 88: DALLAS: Carousel v. 28 Oct 88: FALCON CREST: Changing Times

    New season, new lineups in the opening credits. Ray Krebbs, Jenna Wade, Dan Fixx and Eric Stavros are gone, Jill Bennett, Paige Matheson and April Stevens have been promoted, Lucy Ewing is reinstated and Pilar Ortega appears out of nowhere.

    Last season’s Ewingverse ended with JR shot and Val unconscious following an overdose. Is it too late to save them? Sue Ellen having already alerted the authorities, JR gets a head start on his ex-sister-in-law and is at Soap Land Memorial when this season begins. Val isn’t found by her twins until the following morning and they just assume “Mommy’s asleep on the floor.” Eventually, she is taken to hospital where Soap Land meets Real Life. “Does she have insurance?” a woman with a clipboard asks Pat Williams. “Do you have her insurance information with you? … Do you know the name of the company she has a policy with?”

    There’s a first-class example of When Storylines Collide on KNOTS. Still reeling about Manny Vasquez holding Paige and Michael hostage in Mexico, Karen is at Lotus Point with Gary and Abby when Marsha pulls up in a golf buggy with even more horrible news: “Val tried to commit suicide.” Karen is stunned but quickly realises, “I can’t leave” — because of what’s going on with Manny. In the equivalent DALLAS scene, Bobby and Clayton are out on the range introducing a new plot about the effects of a drought on Southfork when a helicopter descends and out rushes Charlie the ranch-hand. “JR’s been shot!” he announces. “From what they say, he must be near dead!” Gary and Bobby both rush to the hospital. FALCON CREST, meanwhile, has jumped forward a month from the end of last season (that’s in addition to the two-month jump that occurred midway through the finale ep) so the atmosphere’s less urgent, more melancholy than in the Ewingverse. Having lost both her son and her empire, Angela is suffering from a severe case of soap fatigue. “I’m tired of fighting,” she sighs wearily. There’s a frailty about her now — along with Frank Williams’ and Lance Cumson’s shorter haircuts, it’s most visible “between seasons” change — and it becomes her, making her seem more human and vulnerable than she has in a long while.

    Back on DALLAS, JR’s doctor informs him that he is “the luckiest man I’ve ever known, or your wife is the worst shot … You’ve got two clean holes here, nothing vital has been hit.” Things are less straightforward on KNOTS where Gary arrives at the hospital to learn that Val has had her stomach pumped, but has yet to regain consciousness. There is also a possibility of brain damage. He is then informed that “if she recovers and stabilises, she’ll be transferred to county hospital … They’re equipped to handle uninsured patients.” “I’ll pay,” he replies coldly, tossing a credit card on the desk. Money talks for JR too. When he asks for his condition to be announced as “extremely critical” and for his room to be filled with “monitors … and tubes and drip bags and all the stuff that makes you look bad,” his doctor objects: “It’s wrong and it’s cruel.” “Doctor, do you have any idea how much money I contribute to this place?” JR asks. He gets his way.

    When Sue Ellen and Jill hear that JR and Val aren’t as dead as they’d assumed, they are both disappointed, to say the least. “You mean to tell me that bastard is still alive?” Sue Ellen snarls, before remembering that she’s talking to the cop investigating the shooting. Jill, meanwhile, hears the happy news about Val from Gary over the phone. She manages to keep it together during their conversation, but then immediately starts to unravel, throwing the phone across the room and later throwing up in a sink.

    By the time Jill joins Gary at Soap Land Memorial, Val has been transferred to the psychiatric ward (“They weren’t supposed to move Val out of ICU until she became conscious, but they got so backed up in there,” Gary explains — another reminder of the real world going on outside of this soapy drama). While Bobby enters JR’s more private hospital room, looking almost as sad as JR did when Bobby was on his deathbed back in “Swan Song”, Gary leaves Jill alone with Val for a few moments. In both scenes, things then get kinda meta. On KNOTS, Jill has one of those thought-bubbles sequences, where we can hear her thoughts without her actually speaking them aloud. “What are you going to tell them?” she “asks” Val. “What will they believe? … It won’t matter what you say about me. I’m safe. I’m home free. No-one saw me.” Just then, Val’s heavily rouged, possibly psychic roommate pops her head around the curtain. “I heard every word you said!” she declares. Jill looks worried — which is interesting. I had kind of assumed that thought-bubbles were meant to convey whatever random thoughts were going through a person’s head, as opposed to a precise inner monologue that requires them to think articulately and in full sentences, but Jill’s reaction suggests otherwise. Back in JR’s room, he is saying his goodbyes. “Bob, I think this is it … Shake my hand. Tell me we’re partners again. Let me go meet my Daddy with my head held high.” At this point, Bobby can keep up the pretence that this is a conventional life or death scenario no longer and starts to laugh. A soap opera undermining its own drama with humour? When this kind of thing happens on FALCON CREST, I purse my lips in pious disapproval — so why has this scene always amused me? Perhaps it’s because the characters’ relationship and motivations ring true. JR still wants what he’s always wanted: Ewing Oil. He’s just going about trying to get it in a different way (i.e, by pretending he’s dying). And the two brothers play off each other well — they’re still recognisably them: they aren’t performing a watered-down sitcom version of themselves. By the end of the scene, Bobby has grown serious again and tells JR flatly, “I’m not gonna make you my partner.” Then, referring to the medical equipment, he adds: “Why don’t you send all of this stuff back to the people who really need it?” Like the ones in that backed-up ICU ward Gary was talking about, perhaps.

    DALLAS manages to slither out of the "double murder" corner it painted itself into at the end of last season by having Sue Ellen and JR each claim self-defence while accusing the other of (attempted) murder. After Bobby points out to Sue Ellen the impact a trial would have on her son (“Now that would make wonderful headlines for John Ross to read, wouldn’t it? ‘Mother Accuses Father of Killing Her Boyfriend.’ That’s real love, Sue Ellen”), she drops all charges against JR and he then does the same. I’m not sure how much legal scrutiny this would hold up to in the real world, but it keeps the story barreling along and by the end of the ep, they’re back to fighting over John Ross. (“You’ll get him back over my dead body.” “Whatever it takes, Sue Ellen.”) There’s a similar disregard for legal niceties when Peter Stavros, last seen fleeing the US after confessing to the murder of Roland Saunders, returns to FALCON CREST. “I didn’t think you were welcome in this country anymore?” Angela enquires. “The charges were dropped. I’m a free man,” he replies breezily. “Oh well, I suppose money and friends can make anything possible,” she shrugs.

    The authorities are equally ineffectual on KNOTS, but not in a way that’s advantageous to the characters. When Karen suggests contacting the police about Manny Vasquez, Mack scoffs: “In Mexico? He owns them. The Feds? That’s why we’re in this in the beginning!”

    Everyone’s looking for someone this week. Mack heads for Mexico in search of his daughter and stepson (“We even don’t know if they’re alive!”), Cliff Barnes flies north hoping to find his sister (“I just want to let her know that we love her”), Sue Ellen comes to Southfork looking for her son (“I’m gonna get him back one way or the other”), Peter Stavros has returned to the Tuscany Valley to investigate the disappearance of his son (“He’s gone so far underground, no-one can find him”) and Carly Fixx takes off for Oklahoma to find Dan, formerly her brother and now “the guy I’m nuts about.”

    These searches yield mixed results. Mack arrives in a Santa Tecla that’s suddenly as dangerous as Moldavia after the revolution and soon finds himself a prisoner in the Mexican equivalent of Krystle’s royal dungeon, only hotter and sweatier. Peter Stavros has no luck either. Not only does he find no clues to Eric’s whereabouts, but Vicky manages to shatter whatever remaining illusions he has left about him: “Your son was a liar and a gambler and a wife-beater and a thief.” Sue Ellen receives a cool reception from Bobby, who comes down firmly on JR’s side. “He’s my brother and that’s the bottom line. I love him,” he tells her. “You don’t know a damn thing about it!” she snaps. (It’s always fascinating to see these two at odds.) Sue Ellen does find an unexpected ally in Lucy, who eventually reunites her with John Ross as a helpless JR watches, fuming, from his hospital window. Cliff also finds Pam. Well, sort of. She’s Pam but not she’s Pam. She looks similar, but she’s not the same. She claims that she has no interest in returning to her family (“Forget you ever had a sister … We’re never gonna see each other again”), then after Cliff leaves we learn that she “only has a few months to live.” The fact that this has all been corroborated on New DALLAS makes a strange scene even stranger — and sadder. “It’s better this way,” Pam explains to Dr Gordon, who will himself relay the story to Christopher in 2013. “They won’t look for me anymore and if there is pain in the end, in my mind I’ll have Cliff and Christopher, and Bobby will be with me. My love for them is all I really need.” Boy oh boy — it’s Laura’s decision to die alone to the power of ten.

    In spite of his firm refusal to readmit JR into Ewing Oil, Bobby gradually softens throughout the episode and ends up, inevitably, inviting him back into the fold. Now that Sue Ellen is cutting the ties once and for all — she consults a lawyer about “a clean and fast divorce” and insists that she has no interest in a settlement (“I don’t want JR to have a claim on me at all”) — Bobby seems to be replacing her as JR’s codependent partner. His proviso that JR can return to the company so long as he has no dealings in oil is a bit like Sue Ellen’s previous agreement to stay married to JR on the condition that they have separate bedrooms.

    It’s unusual for Soap Land to establish an entire family of new characters all at once, but following the Williamses' arrival on last season’s KNOTS comes the Ortegas on FALCON CREST. Significantly, neither family is white, which means Soap Land is now more racially diverse than it ever has been. Whereas the Witness Protection Programme storyline essentially wiped out any identity Pat and Frank may have had before showing up in Seaview Circle, it turns out the Ortegas have always been in the Tuscany Valley — we’ve just never seen them before. This device of widening the view of an existing community to introduce fresh faces was deployed very effectively by both FLAMINGO ROAD and PEYTON PLACE back in the day. We learn that the Ortega patriarch, Cesar, had worked at Falcon Crest for thirty-five years until he is unceremoniously fired by Melissa this week. His eldest son Tommy works for Dan Fixx’s trucking company and his daughter Pilar, already elevated to opening credit status, went to school with Lance and Melissa. She now returns to the valley after an absence of several years, bringing with her some of Kirby Anders’ below-stairs bitterness (“I used to play with Lance and Melissa [but] I never once got invited to their homes”) and Lane Ballou’s social ambition (“I’m gonna be on everyone’s guest lists now”). “Your own kind was never good enough for you. That was always your problem,” Cesar tells her, adding a hint of racial divide into the mix. It’s also intimated that she has Something To Hide. “Pilar ran away when she was sixteen. Cesar didn’t say why,” recalls Angela.

    Having realised her dream of owning Falcon Crest, Melissa is now living there, alone and miserable, just like Alexis after she fulfilled her ambition of taking over the Carrington mansion. Gratifyingly, everyone onscreen finally seems to be losing patience with her. “I could ring Melissa’s neck,” says Frank Agretti. “You’re gonna have to stand in line,” Angela replies.

    At the end of last season’s DALLAS, Jenna persuaded Ray to move to Europe by arguing that he would never escape the shadow of the Ewings “as long as you can see Southfork from your front porch.” On this week’s FALCON CREST, Peter Stavros uses similar reasoning when he asks Angela to return to Greece with him: “As long as you’re living in this valley, you’re gonna be fighting the same old battles.” To Lance’s astonishment, Angela agrees. “This is my life we’re talking about and I’m going to live it any damn way I please!” she barks — but then she sees the sorry state of the vines at Falcon Crest. It’s not the result of the drought currently afflicting Southfork’s cattle, but mildew brought about by Melissa’s neglect. Angela immediately changes her mind about leaving. “I can’t stand by and see you ruin everything my family has worked for for generations,” she tells her. She then echoes what Kimberly Cryder told JR in her final scene on DALLAS: “Melissa, you’re such a fool. You could have had it all.”

    KNOTS climaxes with a terrific shoot-out in Santa Tecla — the kind of gun battle that’s grown increasingly meaningless on FALCON CREST over the last couple of seasons, but that really matters here. While poor old Chava is killed, Harold Dyer saves Mack by switching sides at the last second and shooting his Uncle Manny dead instead. This barely registers with Mack. “WHERE ARE MY CHILDREN?!!” he yells. “I don’t know” mumbles Harold from offscreen, still shocked at what he has just done. “I don’t know.”

    A grieving Maggie is obliged to take control of Richard’s empire on FALCON CREST, just as Pam was Bobby’s at the start of the Dream Season. And in the same way that Mark Graison returned from the dead just as Pam was reaching crisis point so Richard reappears just as Maggie finally loses it with Garth and fires him. For a second, it looks as if she will faint into her dead lover’s arms the way Pam did, but instead she slaps him across the face. “You son of a bitch!” she shouts.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (2) DALLAS
    3 (-) FALCON CREST
     
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  11. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    02 Nov 88: DYNASTY: Broken Krystle v. 03 Nov 88: KNOTS LANDING: Borderline v. 04 Nov 88: DALLAS: No Greater Love v. 04 Nov 88: FALCON CREST: Farewell, My Lovelies

    No less than six Soap Land characters make their final appearances this week. On DYNASTY, Dana Carrington walks out on husband Adam, and it turns out she’s saved her best scenes till last. I’ve always found the actress’s need to emote at every opportunity a bit distracting, but in her final scenes she’s too drained, too defeated to do much more than simply deliver her lines and that’s all that’s really needed. When Adam tries to stop her leaving by taking her to bed, she silently acquiesces, then quietly makes her exit once he’s asleep. Our final glimpse of Dana is particularly striking: Fallon spots her as she descends the Carrington staircase with her cases and calls her name. Instead of replying, Dana simply walks out of the scene and off the show. Meanwhile, Fallon is immediately distracted by the news of Krystle’s disappearance and so doesn’t even acknowledge her departure. It reminds me of how no-one noticed the Wards leaving KNOTS at the end of Season 4 because they were too caught up in the events unfolding around them.

    There’s another abrupt departure on DALLAS where, after ten years’ loyal and crooked service, JR unceremoniously shows Harry McSween the door after he refuses to snatch John Ross from Sue Ellen. “If a cop can’t break the law, what the hell use is he?” JR asks. “Get outta here. I don’t wanna see you round here anymore.” And that’s that. Mitch Cooper also makes one last appearance on DALLAS as he tries, like Peter Stavros did on last week’s FALCON CREST, to persuade his estranged wife to return home with him. Lucy doesn’t give him a definitive response, but now she’s back in the opening credits, it doesn’t look hopeful. Angela, meanwhile, lets Peter down gently. “If I ever leave the valley, it’ll be with you,” she tells him. Peter has more success persuading Vicky to leave Tuscany in order to visit Eric, currently recovering in a Swiss clinic after being mentally “hung out to dry” by the Thirteen. “Come back soon, OK?” Maggie asks her daughter, but their tearful goodbye suggests a more permanent parting. Lastly, Carly Fixx bids an equally emotional farewell to Angela before leaving the valley to be with Dan. Now that they’re no longer brother and sister, they’re free to hook up — kind of making them Clay Fallmont and Leslie Carrington in reverse.

    The most conspicuous absence of the week, however, is Krystle’s. In the same way that the Pam we met on last week’s DALLAS was an unfamiliar looking woman who claimed to have turned her back on her family — almost an Anti-Pam — so the Krystle that is spoken of on this week’s DYNASTY resembles no Krystle we’ve ever encountered on screen. While Krystina tearfully claims that her mother has turned into a witch (“She said she was going someplace where nobody could find her, not even me!”), the figure described by an anguished Jeanette sounds positively ghostlike (“It was the middle of the night … All she had on was a thin little nightgown. I called out to her, but she just kept walking … She turned and I can’t describe the look in her eyes …”). Blake’s search for his wife leads him into a nightmarish version of Skid Row (not unlike the alley Sue Ellen found herself in during Pam’s Dream or the Mission District Joshua ended up on in KNOTS), full of graffitied walls and overflowing trash cans, where the woman he thinks is his wife turns out to be a grotesque parody dressed in a Krystle wig and a leather don’t-be-a-slave-to-fashion mini-skirt. The closest we get to the Krystle we know are some pictures in a photo album Blake looks through. The first couple of images, from their original wedding, are reassuringly familiar, but the next, from their second wedding, has Krystle’s face torn out of it. Presuming this is the Anti-Krystle’s handiwork, does that mean she isn’t a fan of Season 4?

    “These past few years, she hasn’t been herself,” says Jeanette. “I think it’s started and I don’t know what to do,” Blake tells someone over the phone. “She could be capable of almost anything,” warns Krystle’s doctor. We have no idea what any of them are talking about. We don’t even know why Blake was so upset that Krystle had apparently gone out for the day that it became last season’s finale cliffhanger. Yet this very “not-knowing” is what makes the story so bizarrely fascinating. It’s almost as if, while we’ve been watching Krystle on screen all these years, there’s been a whole other Krystle existing just beyond our field of vision. It turns out there’s a lake she likes to visit (“She goes there when she wants to be alone,” claims Sammy Jo) and a diary she’s kept religiously for years — who knew? Arriving at the lake at the end of the episode, Sammy Jo and Jeff spy a body on the shore. Is it Krystle’s? Or is Krystle somehow responsible for it? “She could be capable of almost anything,” remember, so at this point, it seems possible.

    On the way to this never-previously-mentioned lake, Jeff manages to drop in an intriguing bit of info-dumping: “I was here once when I was a kid. It wasn’t a lake then. It was a mine or some kind of excavation that Jason and Blake’s father were involved in.” Not to be outdone, Miss Ellie delivers an equivalent tidbit about a never-previously-mentioned river while showing prospective buyer Carter MacKay round Ray’s ranch on DALLAS. “It’s very soothing. I think the river’s even prettier here than when it reaches Southfork … This used to be part of Southfork long ago,” she continues, referring to the surrounding land. “My first husband gave a section to Ray Krebbs years ago and I gave him another section when he got married this year.” At the start of Season 9, we were given the impression that Ray had moved off his Southfork land and bought an entirely separate ranch as a statement of independence. Now, suddenly, it was part of Southfork all along. DYNASTY and DALLAS are rearranging their narratives in front of our very eyes and it’s quite exhilarating to watch.

    This seems to be part a growing trend in Soap Land — events, even entire lives, going on under our noses that we weren’t privy to at the time: Punk’s affair with his secretary that Mavis Anderson disclosed to Miss Ellie on last season’s DALLAS, Michael Fairgate admitting to Olivia on KNOTS that he contemplated suicide after being dumped by Paige, Cesar Ortega working at FALCON CREST for thirty-five years without anyone noticing. Along the same lines, Ben Gibson’s death is suddenly being treated as fact by everyone on KNOTS.

    “There are people in this world that have no conscience. They don’t think they’re bad people, they’s just practical. They do what they do because it’s good business … I understand the mentality, Karen … I was so selfish and self-centred that it took my daughter trying to kill herself before I realised there was anything wrong with that kind of thinking.” While KNOTS LANDING’s Abby is newly repentant and FALCON CREST’s Angela is newly frail, DYNASTY’s Alexis is newly frivolous. It takes her a couple of scenes to recover from the shock of her husband trying to kill her in her bathroom, but then she’s rolling around on the floor drunk, singing Cole Porter songs and cooing over Dex’s muscles before abruptly passing out. This is part of a new lighter atmosphere running counterpoint to the graver Krystle-Not-Krystle mystery. Yes, the same playfulness that infected DALLAS and KNOTS in the immediate post-dream era has finally filtered through to DYNASTY. When else in the show’s history could one expect to find Dex Dexter squeezed into a small bathtub, one leg hanging over the side, chomping on a cigar and flicking through a copy of Sports Action? Or Fallon, currently competing with Sammy Jo over Jeff, pulling down the zip of her top to emphasise her ample cleavage before coming face to face with her less endowed rival who responds by self-consciously buttoning up her own outfit?

    Whereas Cliff Barnes wants out of the rat race on DALLAS (“I’m getting out of the oil business,” he tells Bobby, offering to sell him Barnes Wentworth. “I just don’t enjoy the stress and the battle of it anymore”), Greg Sumner wants back in on KNOTS. (“I can’t control the things that are near and dear to my heart,” he complains to his new publicist Ted Melcher. “I’m a former United States senator … I wanna find out what my options are.”) Such is the fickle nature of Soap Land that Clayton Farlow and an off-screen Dan Fixx also decide to sell their businesses — the very same business they went to great lengths to start up only a few months ago (while Clayton risked his marriage, Dan risked his life). Like Cliff, Clayton offers Bobby first refusal on his refineries, while Pilar Ortega makes Dan an attractive offer on behalf of “a consortium of local Hispanics, people who thought they’d never have a chance to work for themselves. Now, with the help of the bank, they do.” It’s notable that while the Ortgeas are free to acknowledge their ethnicity on FALCON CREST, the Williamses have yet to do so on KNOTS.

    Bobby and Gary Ewing are both taken aback when one woman in their lives makes an outrageous claim about another. While a spiteful April accuses Pam of abandoning her family (“She doesn’t wanna know about you … nor even about Christopher … She’s gonna marry her surgeon. Isn’t that sweet? I guess he was taken by his own handiwork!”), a desperate Val accuses Jill of attempted murder (“She’s insane, Gary. She was wearing a wig and those rubber gloves and she threatened to kill our children … and then she held a gun to my head and prised my mouth open and poured those pills down my throat”). Bobby responds angrily to April’s outburst (“Get out of my office!”), but her words hit home (“Why don’t things work out the way you think they should, ever? Why can’t two people just fall in love and get married and live happily ever after?” he asks Tammy Miller after showing up drunk on her doorstep.) Gary is a lot gentler with Val, but that doesn’t mean he believes her (“Val honey, what happened to you was awful … but honey, you took an awful lot of pills and you’ve had some kind of nightmare”).

    In fact, nobody believes Val, including the cops. In other words, it’s “My babies are alive!” all over again. This becomes an issue when, in one of those interesting Soap Land collisions where melodramatic events have “real life” consequences, Val receives a visit from child services. In an effort to appear rational enough to look after her own children, Val claims her overdose was an accident. The social worker knows she’s lying, but thinks she’s trying to cover up a suicide rather than murder attempt. In the end, rather than let them fall into Jill’s clutches, she sends the twins to stay with Lilimae. Val’s behaviour is fascinating here. On one hand, she’s terrified for her life; on the other, she’s trying desperately not to act like the professional victim that Jill (accurately) accused her of being.

    There’s further upheaval for Soap Land’s kids this week. FALCON CREST’s Michael freaks out over Richard’s return (“You’re not my daddy! My daddy’s dead!”) while on DALLAS, Sue Ellen now has custody of John Ross and together they move into a big new house. Like Abby’s current beachfront property on KNOTS, it’s impressive, tasteful and somewhat anonymous, lacking the idiosyncratic charm of both the town house Sue Ellen lived in after her first divorce from JR and Abby and Gary’s original beach house back in Season 4. Things ain’t goin’ too good at the new house between Sue Ellen and John Ross, partly because she shot his daddy. JR’s mama may be able to forgive and forget what Sue Ellen has done (“Let that be an end to it,” she decrees), but it’s not so easy for his son. The sweet little scene where he confronts Sue Ellen was reenacted by Linda Gray and Josh Henderson twenty-five years later:



    In addition, John Ross clearly misses his life at Southfork. This storyline is ultimately resolved the same way it was in the Dream Season, with Sue Ellen allowing her son to remain at the ranch with JR. Back then, however, Sue Ellen was depicted as boringly pious. Here, contradictory aspects of her personality are allowed to co-exist (a trick New DALLAS would also cotton onto, with fascinating results) which results in a great scene at the end of the ep where she switches from self-sacrificing (“I’m willing to let him stay here if that’s what makes him happy”) to vengeful in a heartbeat. “If you think that by him being here settles any score between the two of us, you are sadly mistaken,” she tells JR. “The one thing I have to look forward to is evening the score and, believe me, I will!” There follows a terrific freeze frame of her walking away from JR (and her past at Southfork), all smouldering eyes and Medusa-like curls.

    While Blake searches frantically for Krystle on DYNASTY, Mack is still looking for Paige and Michael on KNOTS, only now aided by Harold Dyer. The Mackenzie kids are being held by a couple of Manny’s goons who are waiting for the order to kill them. This kind of hostage stuff is generic TV fodder, but KNOTS manages to put a fresh spin on it. (“What would you like me to do — hit him over the head with a lamp?” Paige asks Michael sarcastically. “Do you know how hard it is to knock somebody out by hitting them over the head? It’s practically impossible. They do it on TV, not in real life.”) Johnny unexpectedly rides to their rescue and decides the best way to make it back to US soil safely is by hitching a ride in the back of a truck carrying illegal immigrants over the border. Back at Lotus Point, Gary and Abby find Karen wailing at her desk and assume the worst. Then they realise she’s not crying, but laughing with relief at the news that Michael and Paige are alive and well. It’s the same switcheroo DALLAS pulled last week when it looked like Bobby was trying to hide his tears at JR’s bedside when really he was trying not to laugh — only KNOTS doesn’t pull it off quite so well. The truck makes it across the border, but its occupants aren’t out of the woods just yet. First, they are greeted by some armed racists who rob them. Then they find themselves locked in the back of truck in the middle of nowhere with no means of escape. Meanwhile, the sun beats down relentlessly — the first time sunlight has been used as an end of episode cliffhanger.

    Among those trapped inside is a young mother played by Isabel, Melissa’s last remaining servant on FALCON CREST. Arguably, Isabel’s better off in that truck. On FC, she’s obliged to watch as Melissa spends the ep ticking off the remaining items on her Random Crazy Person Behaviour checklist: singing nursery rhymes to a stuffed toy in the middle of the night, having a panic attack halfway during a one-night stand, firing a gun at the furniture, planning a birthday party for a child who won’t be able to attend because he lives on the other side of the world and, finally, setting the house on fire while still inside it.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (2) DALLAS
    2 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (-) DYNASTY
    4 (3) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2018
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  12. Steven Wayne

    Steven Wayne Soap Chat Member

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    Thank you for another great analysis. “No Greater Love” always strikes me as the last really good material for the character of Sue Ellen on the original show, and in many ways as the last really good episode of classic DALLAS itself - before it descended into Haleyville, and the range war, and Sue Ellen’s movie, and all the rest of it...
    So, for me, it got better again in 2012.
     
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  13. Karin Schill

    Karin Schill Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Another great analysis James. I really enjoy how you compare the original weeks episodes as I had no idea of what went on at the same time in the soaps before reading your reviews.

    Also gotta love that clip where Linda and Josh reenacts that scene as it's so funny. :rlol:
     
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  14. southfork88

    southfork88 Soap Chat Addict

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    Sure ... the last scene of Dallas'finale episode strongly resembles (is a perfect copy !) the penultimate one of Dynasty's.
    Bravo !!


     
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  15. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    09 Nov 88: DYNASTY: A Touch of Sable v. 10 Nov 88: KNOTS LANDING: Deserted v. 11 Nov 88: DALLAS: The Call of the Wild v. 11 Nov 88: FALCON CREST: Dust to Dust

    Following a rash of Soap Land departures, it is time for some new faces. While Sergeant Zorelli shows up on DYNASTY to investigate the dead body at the lake, the search for Krystle is concluded when her cousin Virginia appears to inform Blake that Krystle, somewhat dazed and confused, has returned to her hometown of Dayton. Over on DALLAS, the Ewing boys are on a hunting trip when JR spots “a little beautiful unspoiled thing” called Cally slinging hash. (We also glimpse an as-yet-unnamed woman on Carter Mackay’s staircase before she is sternly ordered back up to the bedroom.) And on FALCON CREST, Nick Agretti, the long-lost son of Melissa’s long-lost uncle shows up at her funeral, with his own son Ben in tow.

    Whereas Zorelli immediately picks up on Sammy Jo’s last name (“Carrington? Any relation to …?”), Cally looks at JR blankly after he proudly introduces himself. “That supposed to be some famous name or something?” she asks. And while DYNASTY’s Virginia has fond memories of growing up with her cousin Krystle (“She made my sister’s dress for the senior prom — she was up all night to make sure every stitch, everything, was perfect”), FC’s Nick has no memories of growing up with his father Frank at all (“Where the hell were you — some emerald mine, some country thousands of miles away from me?”).

    KNOTS and DALLAS take parallel walks down memory lane this week. Waiting for news of her son Michael, Karen looks through old family photo albums with Val and regrets the Little League games and Tooth Fairy moments she missed out on when he was a kid. Val looks wistful — might she possibly be thinking of the things she never got to experience with her own firstborn? “You can’t make that time up to them,” Karen sighs. “I know,” Val agrees. “I know you know,” Karen replies meaningfully and we realise that, yes, Val really was thinking about Lucy. Back on DALLAS, it’s Lucy herself who interrupts JR and Bobby’s cosy anecdotes about the hunting trips they took with Jock and Ray back in the good old days. “What about Uncle Gary, huh?” she asks. “I didn’t hear anybody mention his name.” “Gary wasn’t interested in things like that,” JR replies. “The first time he had to bait his own hook, he almost fainted!” “I don’t like that much either,” admits John Ross. “Careful, John Ross,” warns Lucy, tongue only partially in cheek, “your daddy’s liable to disinherit you.” Like Lucy, DYNASTY's Fallon manages to inject some spice into the family cocktail hour by evoking the memory of an absentee member. Slapping a glass out of Adam’s hand, she accuses him of taking advantage of Steven’s non-appearance at a Denver Carrington board meeting: “You deliberately tried to humiliate him in front of an entire board of directors … The look on your face was pure glee!”

    The parallels continue. While Adam sneers at the farewell letter Steven left for Blake (“Oh how touching — baby brother’s bi-annual bye-bye,” he scoffs before throwing it on the fire), JR is equally dismissive of his own brother’s literary efforts. “He used to like to write poetry,” he says of Gary. “Now can you imagine a real man who would rather write poetry than go hunting? Not me!” When Lucy argues with him, JR suggests she cross over to KNOTS LANDING (“Darlin’, if you feel so strongly about it, why don’t you move in with your daddy in California and stop inflicting yourself on us?”) in the very same week that Sable Colby crosses over to DYNASTY.

    Sable is actually one of three Soap Land returnees this week, all of whom have been in some way transformed since we last saw them. To quote April Stevens, “A whole new brash, cocky Casey Denault” is back in DALLAS, having struck it big in Oklahoma. (“It may not be Spindletop, but it is a gusher!” he crows.) Senator Peter Ryder returns to FALCON CREST, now sporting a moustache and acting shadier than usual. As for Sable, she’s swapped her magnificent obsession with husband Jason for a more malevolent one focused on cousin Alexis. After spying on her in a Los Angeles restaurant, Sable issues the following order over the phone: “I want you to find out what that witch is doing here … Alexis holds a very special place in my heart.” She then arranges to bump into Alexis and Dex at a nightclub where she offers her sympathies over the loss of Alexis’s husband. “I see you’re grief-stricken,” she observes archly, eyeing Alexis’s low-cut party gown. “I understand you lost your husband too,” Alexis responds. “Traded you in for your sister, didn’t he?” This is the episode’s only reference to Sable’s former life on THE COLBYS. Back on DALLAS, April becomes the first character to offer condolences to Sue Ellen following the season finale death of her big-haired love interest. “I’m so sorry about Nick,” she says. “I know how hard this is for you.” “It is,” Sue Ellen concedes, but neither she nor Alexis have time to sit around weeping. While Alexis is intent on retrieving her oil tankers from the Natumbe government, Sue Ellen is focused on getting back at JR. To that end, she suggests to Cliff that they reignite their old affair, but he has no interest in revenge. “I don’t want it anymore,” he says — nor does he want anything else, it would seem. “I could care less,” he says when April tells him about Casey’s strike. “I just wanna be left alone.” This is the severest case of soap fatigue we have yet seen.

    As Paige and Michael cross the Mexican border only to find themselves locked in the back of a truck and the Ewing brothers embark on a hunting trip with their sons, it’s goodbye Santa Tecla, hello Haleyville. Both towns are quaintly old-fashioned on the surface, but share an undercurrent of violence. Granted, that’s pretty much how all small towns have been depicted in Soap Land, from Landsdowne (where Jock and co went hunting in DALLAS Season 2 and ended up getting shot at) to Shula (where Val found refuge as Verna and Gary got beaten up when he came looking for her) to the close-knit community where Dan Fixx’s in-laws lived on FALCON CREST and Chase Gioberti found himself digging his own grave.

    The Ewing boys are in town to ostensibly hunt wildlife, but it soon becomes clear that Cally, aka “the belle of the ball around these parts”, is JR’s real quarry. “I’ll bet you all your life you’ve had men around you hemming and hawing, afraid to tell you what they really think,” he says to her. “I knew what they were thinking by the time I was fourteen. It don’t matter where they come from or how old they were, they all acted the same,” she replies, exhibiting the same self-awareness that Mandy Winger did when she and JR first met. (“I’ve always known I was beautiful. That’s the reason men come onto me.”) Whereas Mandy had already channelled her appeal into a career prior to meeting JR, Cally has yet to realise her potential.

    “I’m gonna open a whole new world for you, a world you have never seen,” JR promises her. It’s a world Deanna, the Mexican mom presently trapped in the back of that truck on KNOTS, along with her daughter, Paige, Michael, Johnny and three others, has probably never seen either, except on TV. “All of my daughter’s teachers say that she is very smart,” she says. “She could be a doctor or a scientist [or] a ballerina. Also, she’s a very good writer. In the United States, she can choose what she wants to be, no? … We plan to live near a bus line until we get a car … and we hope to have a yard with a strong fence … and maybe we hope to have a microwave and a Maytag.”

    Where Paige dismisses Deanna’s “bloody dreams”, JR encourages Cally’s. “I can get you anything you want, anything you’ve dreamed of. You have dreams, don’t you?” “Sure I have them,” she admits, “but when I wake up I’m right back here in Haleyville. Reckon I always will be.” These words are echoed later in the same ep by JR wannabe Casey as he dumps Sly: “Honey, you’re just a secretary and that’s all you’re ever gonna be. I got my eye on a lot bigger game.” Back in Haleyville, JR refuses to accept Cally’s gloomy prognosis for herself. “I don’t think the good Lord intended that for you,” he insists. Back on KNOTS, Deanna also invokes a Higher Power. “God will not permit us to die,” she tells the others as they languish inside the truck for a day and a night.

    “I’ve been special all my life. There isn’t anything I wanted I didn’t get,” JR brags matter-of-factly. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that the reason he can have whatever he wants is that he was born rich. (Remind you of anyone?) But then, isn’t that what the American Dream is all about — believing that if you want it badly enough, it’s yours for the taking? “Most people are afraid to go after what they really want,” JR continues. Going after what they want is what put Deanna and her daughter on that truck and prompted Casey to dump Sly for Lucy Ewing. “Damn, do I love this place,” he says to himself as he eyes up Southfork.

    After Mack finally frees everyone from the truck, the Mexican passengers are immediately rounded up for deportation back to where they have just come from. “If it is God’s will, we will return,” declares Deanna. However, it is the will of the scriptwriters that Deanna and her daughter be given a hopeful ending. Mack reaches through the fence separating them and hands her the bundle of cash he swiped from Manny’s body at the beginning of last week’s ep. We can’t see how much is there, but Michael’s line “Here, take it — you want her to be a doctor, don’t you?” suggests it’s a life-changing amount of money. While there’s something neatly ironic about a disadvantaged family becoming the ultimate benefactors of Manny Vasquez's heinous deeds, it also lets everyone else — the remaining characters, the show's writers and us viewers alike — off the hook. We need no longer concern ourselves with the social and racial inequalities we have just witnessed because, hey, in the end, nice things happen to nice people — and so we are free to refocus our attention on the pretty folks on the cul-de-sac with their glossy lives and exciting problems. Heck, they even live near a bus line! Such liberal handwringing doesn’t concern Bobby Ewing who happily talks to the desk clerk at the Haleyville hotel like he’s subnormal. I get the nasty feeling we’re meant to share Bobby’s sense of superiority and amusement towards the local yokels. When Paige turned on Deanna in the truck (“She is the one who needs a lecture about bringing a kid into a situation like this — what kind of a mother would do that?!”), Michael was at least there to oppose her: “Paige, I swear to God, if you don’t shut up, I’m gonna slap your face!” If only there was somebody in that hotel lobby to challenge Bobby in the same way.

    Blake Carrington is less overtly patronising than Bobby when he sits in Virginia’s modest front room and watches her darning a shirt. “Till I met Krystle, it never crossed my mind that somebody could find pleasure in sewing — she enjoys it, even now,” he smiles, romanticising the kind of domestic drudgery Soap Land’s rich need never concern themselves with. But while Mack’s generous gift and Blake’s rose-coloured anecdote wrap up the lives of those less advantaged with a tidy little bow, the promises JR has made in his pursuit of Cally (“You belong where I come from, not working in some little backwater bar. You need your own place with fine clothes and jewellery, servants to wait on you,”) have awoken a dormant restlessness in her: “You’ve got my head so swimming, I don’t hardly know what’s real.” There is no going back for Cally after this — she can no longer be content sewing like Krystle or dreaming of a Maytag like Deanna.

    Elsewhere in Haleyville, the scenes where JR teaches his son to hunt are a little hard to stomach. When faced with the reality of shooting a defenceless animal, John Ross is initially reluctant. After JR scolds him for “acting like your Uncle Gary”, he overcomes his reservations, pulls the trigger and hits his target. Lo, a new Ewing hunter is born. While the boy is all smiles from then on, his prior hesitation apparently forgotten, his fleeting ambivalence seems to lay the foundation for the adult John Ross’s inner struggle over how much like his father he really wants to be.

    The Mackenzie kids return to a seemingly endless (but not unenjoyable) get-together back at the cul-de-sac where virtually every member of the cast, save Gary and Jill, shows up at Karen and Mack’s and they all get on like a house on fire (no disrespect to Falcon Crest intended). Abby embraces everyone from Val to Paige to Harold without so much as a sardonic eye-roll. (There’s further un-ironic bonding on FC where Richard consoles Angela as they stand in the ruins of her burnt-out family home.) For a while, it looks as if KL Season 10 might be turning into one of those “everyone likes everyone else” seasons (see also: DYNASTY Season 7, DALLAS Season 8). However, running counter to all that harmony, there's a mounting tension as word of Val’s overdose spreads around the party. Finally, she erupts, sending a tray of hors-d’oeuvres flying in the process.

    Not counting the deer slaughtered by John Ross, there are three dead in this week’s Soap Land. Two are nameless — the young man whose body is found by the lake on DYNASTY and the elderly man who expires during the truck ordeal on KNOTS. The third is more familiar: FALCON CREST’s Melissa Agretti Cumson Gioberti Cumson Agretti. While nowhere near as devastating, her death recalls Sid Fairgate’s on KNOTS in that both tragedies ignore some unspoken rules of TV grammar, occurring at the start of a new season while both characters are still in the opening credits. Each has survived the climactic incident (her fire, his crash), only to later die as a result of their injuries in hospital. Even more unusually, Melissa expires midway through an episode.

    When it does come, I have to admit that Melissa’s death, or more specifically, Lance’s reaction to it, is quite touching. The fact that we see her dead body means there’s no chance of a Richard-style return from the grave anytime soon (or is there?) In the aftermath, the ep achieves a few moments of real gravitas — the scene where Maggie calls Cole in Australia to break the news is particularly affecting. This sense of genuine emotion carries through to the storyline involving Frank Agretti and his son Nick. Estranged parent/child plots are as old as the Soap Land hills, but this one feels freshly poignant, due in part to the presence of Nick’s son Ben — a likably awkward and believable teenager, as opposed to the more traditional Tiger Beat pinup.

    The last time a Soap Land madwoman set herself and the building she was in on fire for no discernible reason — DYNASTY’s Claudia — Blake found himself under arrest for arson and causing wrongful death. In the final scene of this week’s FALCON CREST, its Lance’s turn. DYNASTY likewise ends with a regular character suspected of murder. Even though Krystle has been found, she remains stubbornly off screen for the entirety of this week’s ep. Instead, we are continually assured that she, like Death in that poem, is in the next room. While she is sleeping, Virginia casually mentions to Blake that Krystle told her “something about running away from a lake … and that she had killed a man … but it’s ridiculous. I mean, Krystle committing murder?” Virginia’s incredulity is matched by Gary’s on KNOTS when Jill tells him that she’s “worried about what Val might do … As scared as she says she is of me, I’m equally scared of her.” “Val would never hurt anyone,” he insists.

    At the end of last season’s Ewingverse, Val and JR were each left for dead. The closing scene of this week’s KNOTS finds a terrified but vigilant Val sitting up all night in her living room, a knife clutched in her hand. In contrast, the end of this week’s DALLAS finds a complacent JR, having fallen asleep after seducing the town virgin, waking to find himself staring down the barrel of yet another gun. "You're a dead man," Cally’s brother Japhet informs him. As Sue Ellen remarked to April earlier in the episode, “I guess he’s destined to die in bed.”

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (3) DYNASTY
    2 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (4) FALCON CREST
    4 (1) DALLAS
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2018
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  16. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    18 Nov 88: DALLAS: Out of the Frying Pan v. 18 Nov 88: FALCON CREST: Jeopardy

    Bad boys JR Ewing and Lance Cumson end up behind bars this week, but this time round are more sinned against than sinning — falsely accused of rape and arson/wrongful death respectively. “I didn’t rape anybody — she’s the age of consent. She consented, that’s all,” protests JR. “I wouldn’t hurt Melissa. You know that,” Lance insists. True to form, JR tries to bribe his way out of trouble — “if you help me, you could end up a real fat cat,” he tells the local sheriff — but as Sheriff Hanks soon makes clear, the normal Soap Land rules don’t apply in this situation: “This ain’t Dallas or whatever you’re from, this is Haleyville. You break the law here, you’re gonna pay for it — but our way, not yours.” Alarmed at the prospect of a trial presided over by a Justice of the Peace, JR promises to marry Cally if she helps him break out of jail. She agrees, but it’s all for naught when the sheriff catches up with them. During a makeshift hearing in the lobby of the local hotel, JR is pronounced “guilty on all counts brought before this court.” He protests that “this is the biggest miscarriage of justice I’ve ever heard of” but for once, no-one’s listening.

    By contrast, Lance’s storyline contains all the ingredients we’ve come to expect from a Soap Land arrest scenario: an opening montage where his mug shot and fingerprints are taken (the very indignity we saw Sue Ellen, Val and Lance’s own mom subjected to in Soap Land’s early years), a DA with a personal grudge against the accused’s family who sets bail at a million dollars, the hiring of “the best criminal attorney in the country” who comes complete with idiosyncratic personality, a mouthy reporter who goads Lance (“Hey Cumson, they’re calling you the billion dollar baby!”) into punching him on the courthouse steps, and even a sexy star witness, Pilar Ortega (“Hispanic - that could work for us,” muses the attorney). Curiously, the last time Lance was a murder suspect, following the death of Roland Saunders at the end of Season 6, I was so bored I can hardly remember what happened, but this time around, it’s really fun — even though we already know that Melissa started the fire and therefore killed herself. Sometimes in Soap Land, the story itself is less important than how it is executed — and this week’s FC is tight, focused and moves along at a fair lick.

    While JR is in Haleyville, the rest of this week’s DALLAS feels a little lost without him. Cliff sells Barnes Wentworth to West Star while Sue Ellen accepts an offer to sell Valentine Lingerie to some big corporation, and both deals feel more depressing than dramatic. The most notable business development is Miss Ellie’s strange suggestion that Bobby make Cliff a partner in Ewing Oil. This makes as little sense to Bobby as it does to the viewer at home (“I can’t imagine JR and Cliff even being in the same building together!”), but by the end of the episode he has somehow come around to the idea — and then it’s Cliff’s turn to act incredulous. “Bobby, that’s gotta be the dumbest idea I ever heard!” he exclaims.

    Whereas DALLAS misses JR being in the middle of things and last week’s DYNASTY felt kind of strange with Krystle existing just off screen, this week’s FALCON CREST manages just fine without Angela. Apparently, parts of the episode had to be rewritten at the last minute when the actress became ill on set, but it really doesn’t show. In fact, this is the best episode of FALCON CREST in ages. (The fact that Melissa is no longer around to screech the house down is a big plus.)

    Like JR and his adventures in Haleyville, FC’s Emma has her own storyline that is completely extraneous to the rest of the show’s action. That’s nothing new — most of Emma’s stories over the past couple of years have been self-contained subplots that involve her being fleeced by one comedy conman or another, to not very hilarious effect. Her current story, which entails her posing as a secretary in the hopes of nabbing an interview with a reclusive novelist, is no less farfetched, but feels more focused, more substantial than the kind of half-hearted sitcom stuff she’s usually given. In fact, lame comedy is entirely absent from this week’s FC — although I did laugh at the scene where Garth breaks the news of John Remick’s death to Richard. “Somebody shot him.” “When?” “On Monday.” “Where?” “In the head.” “What part of the world?!” Garth’s very funny in this sort of scene precisely because he plays it so straight.

    JR’s and Lance’s situations take a turn for the (even) worse at the end of their respective episodes. In the final scene of DALLAS, JR is transported to the county penal camp. “How long is Mr Ewing going to be staying with us?” the guard asks. “Ten years,” replies the sheriff. Cut to a free frame of JR looking absolutely horrified. Meanwhile, Lance is informed by his lawyer in the penultimate scene of FALCON CREST that “the DA’s gonna ask for murder in the first degree. It could mean the death penalty.”

    FC ends with a variation on the fatal showdowns that ended last season’s DYNASTY and DALLAS. Back then, Alexis and Sue Ellen watched helplessly while Dex and Sean, and JR and Nicholas, fought to the death. Now it’s Maggie’s turn as Richard and Senator Ryder (the surprise Big Bad behind the murders of the Thirteen) attack each other in front of her. The exciting variation this time round is that, instead of waiting for the fight to end before picking up a gun the way Sue Ellen did, Maggie already has one in her hand. As Ryder grabs a poker and prepares to deliver a fatal blow to Richard’s skull, everything goes into slow motion and Maggie pulls the trigger. But who has she hit?

    And this week’s Top 2 are …

    1 (3) FALCON CREST
    2 (4) DALLAS
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2018
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  17. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    30 Nov 88: DYNASTY: She's Back v. 01 Dec 88: KNOTS LANDING: Sex and Violence v. 02 Dec 88: DALLAS: Road Work v. 02 Dec 88: FALCON CREST: Tuscany Venus

    In the opening episode of this season’s DYNASTY, Blake spotted a woman with Krystle-style hair standing with her back to him. Believing her to be his missing wife, he approached her. She turned around — and was revealed to be someone else entirely.

    The back-of-the-head tease is one we’ve become familiar with in Soap Land over the years. FALCON CREST deployed it twice towards the end of last season. “I thought you were dead,” said Maggie to a man with his back to the camera. “When are you gonna tell Maggie you’re alive?” Angela asked another, likewise positioned. In both cases, the show was playing with audience expectations of a genre in which the dead do not necessarily stay dead by implying that Chase Gioberti might have risen from his watery grave. In both cases, this turned out to be a red herring.

    (Ironically, this soap trope actually worked against FC two weeks ago when it wanted to show John Remick’s execution on screen, but due to the actor’s unavailability, could only show him from behind. Our hardened Soap Land instincts told us this must be a back-of-the-head tease, and so even after we were told the dead man was Remick, we were still waiting for a twist — only this time there wasn’t one.)

    This week’s DYNASTY opens with Blake waking up in Virginia’s house and looking for Krystle in the room where she apparently spent the previous episode resting. She’s not there. He calls her name. No answer. He walks into the backyard to see … a woman with familiar-looking shoulder-length blonde hair, her face turned away from the camera. Again, our soapy instincts kick in and we steel ourselves for another impostor or maybe even a recast. Even Blake himself looks wary. But no, she turns around and this time it is really her, it is really Krystle, back on screen for the first time in eight months and looking as radiantly serene as ever — seemingly unaware that circumstances surrounding her (including her own history) have significantly altered in the intervening time. Now, as we observe her saying and doing the same old lovey-dovey things she always has, it’s as if we’re doing so from a distance, through a piece of gauze. The effect is oddly poignant and slightly surreal.

    This feeling of surreality continues in a more nightmarish way on DALLAS where JR has suddenly landed in a TV spinoff of COOL HAND LUKE (the 1967 prison movie for which the Ewings’ new neighbour, Carter McKay, won an Oscar), full of downtrodden prisoners, chain gangs and sadistic prison wardens. “This is your only world and I am your only God!” bellows the man in charge known only, as was his equivalent in COOL HAND LUKE, as the Captain. And the penal camp JR now finds himself in really does feel like a fully-realised, self-contained world — the setting, location and the casting all solid and believable. Perhaps the least believable element is JR himself. Like Krystle, he remains fundamentally unchanged in spite of his change in circumstances, intent on bragging and bribing his way back to freedom. Eventually, however, the physical reality of their respective situations catch up with both Krystle and JR.

    Krystle’s return to the mansion is marked by a family dinner, a typically ornate Soap Land occasion where a typical Soap Land argument is underway (Sammy Jo and Fallon are accusing Adam of burning Steven’s letters). Almost unnoticed at first, Krystle begins to lose control. “Please stop,” she whispers, trembling and clutching at the tablecloth, pulling it towards her. (Disrupting the place settings in a show that some would say is all about place settings? How blasphemous!) “Stop it, stop it, stop it!” she finally cries, as if she were somehow malfunctioning, rejecting the trappings of the Soap Land world in the same way Jaime Sommers rejected her bionics on THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN. JR, meanwhile, is brought to his knees, literally, when he is locked overnight in a tortuously confined space known as “the box” (another plot element familiar from COOL HAND LUKE).

    If the penal camp is a direct lift from COOL HAND LUKE, then Emma’s story on FALCON CREST owes something of a debt to Daphne du Maurier’s REBECCA. The forbidding housekeeper speaks of RD Lang’s dead wife in the same reverential terms that Mrs Danvers spoke of the first Mrs de Winter. (“No-one has played this piano since Mrs Lang died.”) And like Mrs de Winter, Mrs Lang died in a mysterious boating accident caused by her husband. FC even goes so far as to name the housekeeper Mrs Anderson, a likely nod to Judith Anderson, the actress who played Danvers in Hitchcock’s movie adaptation of REBECCA.

    The bodybag tease, a lesser-known variation on the back-of-the-head tease, is deployed in the opening moments of this week’s FALCON CREST when someone’s corpse is wheeled out of Richard’s house following on from last week’s “Who did Maggie shoot?” cliffhanger. It comes as no surprise to learn that she hit her target, Senator Ryder, rather than her husband — although that’s not much comfort to Maggie herself in the immediate aftermath. “How do I ever live with myself?” she sobs. “I’ve done the most horrible thing one human being can do to another!” This is more remorse than JR, Sue Ellen, Dex Dexter and Jill Bennett combined have shown for the people they killed (or almost killed) at the end of last season.

    While Maggie is freaking out over killing someone, Krystle is starting to freak out that she may have killed someone. No sooner has her dinner table outburst subsided (“What happened? I don’t know what happened to me!”) than Sergeant Zorelli arrives to question her about the body at the lake. The scene where the Carringtons meet Zorelli by the mansion staircase is filmed in a strikingly interesting way, with the characters shot from below. Even though Zorelli is courtesy itself, the low-angles makes him an imposing, ominous presence. These shots and the hand-held camera that follows a panicky Krystle up to her bedroom evoke feelings of urgency and claustrophobia, which is very different from the stately camerawork we’re used to seeing on DYNASTY. Conversely, a sense of wide-open space help to sell the big set-pieces on this week’s DALLAS. As well as the scenes in the penal camp, the sequence where Clayton, on horseback, finds that Carter McKay has dammed up the river that runs between their two ranches and is then shot at from a helicopter (“Mr Farlow, you are on Mr McKay’s private property! Please leave at once!”) is very impressively staged.

    Lance Cumson is also discovered to be trespassing this week, but when Nick Agretti, now the executor of Melissa’s estate, finds him sitting by the Falcon Crest river, he reacts more magnanimously than Carter McKay’s foreman did. “You don’t need an excuse [to be here],” he tells him. “When Melissa and I were teenagers, this used to be our favourite spot,” Lance recalls. Pilar later reminds him that they too used to swim there — in such a way as to suggest swimming wasn’t all they got up to. Along with the Carrington lake on DYNASTY and the Southfork/McKay river on DALLAS, this becomes the third stretch of water to be imbued with historical significance this season.

    As well as Krystle, a re-energised Angela Channing also returns this week — with a new target in her sights. “Everyone has a skeleton in their closet,” she tells an underling. “You find Nick Agretti’s and make sure that skeleton rattles.” Two notable female characters are absent, however. While Alexis is in Africa, wheeling and dealing, Miss Ellie is upstairs. (“Grandma still isn’t feeling well,” Christopher explains.) Whereas there is so much going on in DYNASTY that you don’t really notice Alexis isn’t there, Southfork is looking so underpopulated these days (“I remember when this place used to be packed before dinner — where is everybody?” asks Bobby) that it needs all the familiar faces it can get. Poor Sue Ellen has to resort to taking her real-life daughter out to lunch in order to have someone to confide in.

    Three weeks ago, JR Ewing seduced a woman young enough to be his daughter. Last week, Paige Matheson seduced a man old enough to be her father. “It’s just a cultural hang-up,” she shrugs. “What difference does twenty years or so make?” Her seduction technique involved skinny-dipping in Greg’s pool, a move which echoed the flashback scene from a couple of years ago when Paige’s mother (also played by Paige) fooled Young Mack into thinking she was swimming naked, but then lifted herself out of the water to reveal the skimpiest of bathing suits. However, when Paige stepped out of the water in front of an appreciative Greg, there was little doubt that she was completely naked — as is Pilar Ortega when Nick Agretti finds her taking a late night swim on this week’s FALCON CREST. Later in the same ep, she and Lance decide to go skinny-dipping for old time’s sake and there are some rather daring close-ups of jeans being unzipped and underwear sliding down legs followed by what looks like the briefest glimpse of bare Soap Land buttock before they jump into the water. Over on DALLAS, Casey Denault suggests to Lucy that they likewise take an impromptu dip in the pool. While he strips to his underwear, Lucy chastely dives in in jeans and a T-shirt. Whereas Lance and Pilar make post-swim love on the riverside, Lucy explains to Casey that she’s “not ready for that just yet.” He smiles understandingly, then calls her a bitch as soon as she’s out of earshot.

    Also on last week’s KNOTS, Mack challenged Paige to a game of one-on-one basketball. She claimed to be a novice but turned out to be suspiciously adept. Something similar happens on this week’s DALLAS when Bobby and Cliff encounter a sexy pool hustler called Tracy. When her opponent turns nasty and refuses to pay up, she declines Bobby’s offer of help. “I can handle Mr Macho myself,” she assures him before whacking Mr Macho in the nuts with a pool cue — a Soap Land first. Another notable moment follows when Tracy asks Bobby if he and Cliff are “an item.” Bobby laughs in reply, without any of the moral indignation that greeted previous suggestions that DALLAS characters (Cliff in Season 1, Peter Richards in Season 6) might be gay.

    Speaking of basketball, Nick Agretti’s son Ben and Pilar Ortega’s kid brother Gabriel bond while shooting hoops, forging a narratively useful connection between their two families. There’s something surprisingly appealing about FALCON CREST’s new batch of wholesome, down-to-earth characters. After that long succession of glitzy but ultimately hollow guest stars, they're a welcome change.

    The Williamses’ Witness Protection Programme plot reaches a climax of sorts on this week’s KNOTS. When Nicholas Pearce’s cover was blown during his equivalent storyline on DALLAS, April’s nosiness was to blame. This time, Julie’s literacy is the cause, as her success in a local spelling bee leads to unwanted exposure for the family. The parts of the episode where they are terrorised in their own home and Pat is blackmailed at the bank where she works are really gripping, but after Mack rides to their rescue, the story becomes hopelessly far-fetched. While I’ll happily go along with underground satellite surveillance systems at Empire Valley or Ben Gibson being ordered to assassinate someone, I draw the line at Mack posing as a movie director and talking knowledgeably about cold reads and Stella Adler. As for the annoying Peggy mugging furiously as his assistant — as unfunny comedy goes, her performance ranks alongside FALCON CREST as its lamest.

    Dead bodies play an unusually prominent role in two of this week’s soaps. In the final scene of DYNASTY, Krystle views the corpse found at the lake to see if it triggers any memories for her. “I’ve never seen him before,” she declares. However, from the expression on his face, it’s clear that Blake has. The second body shows up on KNOTS, somehow planted by Mack and Frank in the apartment of Vincent Donnelly, the hospital orderly-cum-actor-cum-extortionist who’s been menacing Pat and Frank all episode long. Frank uses the same gun Mack tricked Donelly into firing at an audition to shoot the corpse and — oh, it’s just ridiculous really.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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