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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    04 Jan 88: DYNASTY: The Last Hurrah v. 05 Jan 89: KNOTS LANDING: A Many Splendored Thing v. 06 Jan 88: DALLAS: Deception v. 06 Jan 88: FALCON CREST: Solomon’s Choice

    It’s a toss-up as to who’s had the weirdest Soap Land dream of late — Val Gibson just before Christmas, when she dreamt that she was being straddled by her ex-husband as his bewigged girlfriend poured an entire bottle of pills down her throat or Fallon Carrington, who dreams this week of lying on a mortuary slab while her mother’s long-dead boyfriend makes sweet, sweet love her.

    To whom does the dead body on DYNASTY belong? What is the real reason behind the range war on DALLAS? The answers to both questions lie at the heart of their respective series’ back stories. As we now know, the dead man is Roger Grimes, the architect whose affair with Alexis is the reason Blake “banished me from my house and from my children” some two decades earlier, as Alexis reminds relative newcomer Dex this week. Carter McKay, meanwhile, has offered to call off his war with the Ewings if they agree to sell him Section 40 of Southfork — which, as JR informs relative newcomer Clayton, “sits on the biggest oil pool in Texas. Daddy discovered it after he saved the ranch for Mama and her daddy.” Behind each revelation lies further complications. Even as Alexis accuses Blake of killing Roger (“He shot him in the back of the head and then he threw his body into the lake”), Sable suggests that Alexis herself could be responsible (“Roger was proposing to leave you — there were so many rows between the two of you, weren’t there?”). The big reveal at the end of this week’s DALLAS is that McKay is taking orders from someone else. Enter Jeremy Wendell. “I want that oil under Section 40 on Southfork,” he tells McKay, “and whatever you have to do to the Ewings to get it, that’s what you do.” Just as Abby is secretly after the oil under Lotus Point, Jeremy is secretly after the oil under Southfork. Come to think of it, Soap Land is presently full of covert masterminds: Jeremy is behind McKay, Abby is behind Apolune, Sable is behind the company who bought out the Carlton Hotel and Richard Channing is behind the Hispanic consortium on FALCON CREST.

    When Pilar Ortega realises Richard has been manipulating her all along, she calls him a bastard. “Is that any way to talk to the man who has made you a power in the Tuscany Valley, young lady?” he asks her. “You know as well as I do, you can’t give power,” she replies. “Whoever wants it has to take it.” Perhaps acknowledging the debt these words owe to Jock Ewing’s famous “real power is something you take” speech, Richard says that he’s “gonna write that down and frame it.”

    There are discoveries this week about both Pilar and her “new girl” counterpart on DALLAS, Tracey Lawton. It turns out that Carter McKay is not Tracey’s husband but her father. His lying, cheating ways led to her mother’s death and that’s why she now has problems committing to a relationship. Pilar’s big secret is that when she was sixteen, she gave birth to a daughter who has since been raised by her (Pilar’s) aunt. Based on these past experiences, both women are faced with a present day dilemma: Should Tracey keep running from her father the way she always has, or stay in Dallas and build a future with Bobby? (What neither she nor Bobby yet realise is that her daddy is also the man behind the range war.) And should Pilar allow her aunt to legally adopt her daughter or should she finally claim her as her own? (What nobody on screen yet knows — although it’s pretty obvious to the seasoned Soap Land viewer — is who Pilar’s baby daddy is.)

    Just as we’re getting to know Tracey and Pilar, a question mark arises over the past of a third Soap Land new girl — cousin Virginia on DYNASTY. It all starts when a socially concerned Krystle takes Virginia and Sammy Jo on a tour of Skid Row. “These people are just like us,” she declares, referring to the elderly man wheeling his belongings in a shopping cart, the old woman rummaging through a trash can and a family living in a doorway. Once again, a collision between glossy Soap Land characters and “the real world” yields surreal results as, out of nowhere, the sugary sweet Virginia turns first hostile (“These people need a firing squad!”) and then violent, spitting in the face of a drug-pushing, knife-wielding pimp before beating him up for good measure. “No-one talks like you did unless they’ve been on the streets,” deduces Sammy Jo.

    Like Krystle, this week’s KNOTS and FALCON CREST also make a show of solidarity with real world folk. Val explains to Karen that she’s getting her kids back — but more because of a bureaucratic glitch than anything else: “I’m gonna get them back because the system screwed up. Kind of makes you wonder what happens to the kids who really need protection but don’t get it.” Maggie Channing, meanwhile, learns a thing or two from Tommy Ortega’s knowledge of the man on the street: “Every Friday on payday, all the Hispanics pick up the latest edition of the Tuscany Exchange. Then on Saturdays, they go out and buy all the used cars and refrigerators that they’ve seen in the ads. Now, if they’re paying seventy-five cents for that paper and yours comes out at twenty-five cents, which one do you think they’re gonna buy?”

    After her walk on the wild side, Krystle returns to the mansion to find Dr Walt Driscoll waiting for her. “Your only chance of survival is surgery,” he informs her. “There is a possibility that you won’t survive the operation.” We’ve been here before, of course, with Maggie’s brain tumour on FALCON CREST and Karen’s bullet fragment on KNOTS — both supposedly terminal situations that ended in a miraculous recovery. Somehow it feels different this time around, however. The fact that Blake kept Krystle’s condition a secret from her (and us) for years, her two-episode absence at the start of the season, her offhand, almost embarrassed admission to Sammy Jo and Virginia that “I’m probably going to die”: none of this fits any recognisable Soap Land blueprint, except maybe the precedent set by Laura’s death on KNOTS just over a year ago — and the vague feeling, as we move into the final year of Soap Land’s defining decade, that maybe anything is possible.

    Another consequence of Soap Land’s “end of an era” vibe is how much sexier the shows have become. After all, one way to distract viewers from reduced wardrobe budgets is to show the characters taking their clothes off. Bobby and Tracey’s sensual love scene on DALLAS three weeks ago was swiftly upstaged by Paige and Greg’s game of strip croquet on KNOTS (a sequence so memorable that it has transcended both series and centuries to become part of New Blake and Alexis’s back story on New DYNASTY) and this week, Old DYNASTY treats us to a full dialogue-free minute of clothes-ripping, camera-shaking, shoving-each-other-up-against-walls passion between Dex Dexter and Sable’s assistant Joanna Sills. Such scenes makes Lucy Ewing’s striptease in Mitch Cooper’s apartment back in 1980 seem positively demure. In the same way, Greg Sumner recalls the Mercury dime collection that he sold when he was twelve “for a couple of girly magazines. I shudder to think what those dimes would be worth today” only for Mack to reply, “And the magazines wouldn’t even be considered soft porn.” (Heck, back in 1980 even the words “soft porn” would have seemed taboo.)

    It’s always interesting when close Soap Land friends or family members fall out — that’s when you know things are getting serious. (KNOTS has provided the most memorable examples in the past: Laura shunning Val following the Jean Hackney affair in Season 8, Val turning on Karen during “Noises Everywhere” in Season 9, Karen giving Gary the cold shoulder for most of Seasons 4 and 5, etc.) At the start of this week’s DYNASTY, Blake is angrier with Fallon than he has been since — well, possibly ever. “I want the picture you showed to your mother … GIVE IT TO ME!” he demands before tossing the snapshot of him and Roger into the fireplace. “I told you to stay out of this … and now you’ve opened up a wound that may never heal!” Over on DALLAS, Sue Ellen and Miss Ellie clash over JR’s decision to send John Ross to stay with Cliff (yes, Cliff) while the range war is in full swing. “JR just didn’t want to add your conflict with him to the fight we’re having over this ranch and frankly, I agreed with him,” Ellie explains. “My conflict with JR — is that what it’s all about now? Miss Ellie, that man has been cheating, lying and double-crossing everyone for years now … but you’re willing to just sit there and side with him no matter what!” argues Sue Ellen. It’s kind of cool to see Miss Texas 1967 suddenly playing the role of outspoken family outsider.

    Miss Ellie also sides with JR’s decision to bring hired mercenaries onto Southfork, even though Bobby disagrees. “Maybe you’d like to tell me how you plan on protecting your son — or do you want that idiot Cliff Barnes to adopt him permanently?” JR snaps at his brother. An even wackier adoption is mooted in the closing scene of this week’s DYNASTY. In their final meeting of the series, Krystle visits Alexis to ask her to desist in her accusations of murder against Blake. “I may not be around much longer and if I’m not and Blake goes to prison, what will happen to Krystina?” she asks. “If worst came to worst, I’d take care of her myself,” Alexis suggests. Faced with the idea of her nemesis raising her child, Krystle snaps and smashes a (no doubt priceless) vase. “Are you crazy?!” yells Alexis. “No,” she replies calmly, “but everybody thinks I am … I could kill you, Alexis, and no jury in the world would ever convict me.” Anne Matheson employs a similar logic over on KNOTS. “Whatever I do, baby doll, people will say it’s because I’m grieving,” she tells Paige as she helps herself to a rose from the floral arrangement atop her father’s coffin.

    It’s unusual for departed Soap Land characters to pop up for a one-off reappearance the way Anne does this week. While her presence doesn’t advance the plot, it does serve to flesh out Paige’s world in the same way that Ray Krebbs’ temporary return to DALLAS helps bolster the Ewings’ side of the range war. It also prompts some nicely acidic lines. “Are you wracked with grief or is it the gin?” Paige asks her when they meet by the casket. “Of course he does — and I’m the Queen of England!” Anne scoffs when Paige insists that Greg loves her.
    But it’s true. Two weeks ago, Greg pulled the romantic rug from under us, not once but twice: first when he declared his love for Paige, and then almost immediately afterwards when he asked Abby to marry him. With the blissfully ignorant Paige out of town, he spends most of this week’s KNOTS trying to persuade Abby to accept his proposal. “Do I have to court you — corsages, hand-in-hand walks in the park? … Don’t you think we’re a little old for that rigamarole?” he asks her. “Experienced. I prefer the word experienced,” she clarifies. Also this week, Blake Carrington and Harold Dyer re-propose to Krystle and Olivia respectively, the reclusive RD Young asks Emma to marry him on FALCON CREST and Casey Denault hints to Lucy about an important partnership he has in mind for her, “just as soon as your divorce is final.”

    As part of his pitch, Greg disparages some of Abby’s previous suitors. Now that Michael York is safely out of earshot, he finally can say what we’ve all been thinking: “Charles Scott? Come on, he makes Pee Wee Herman look like Cary Grant.” This is the soaps’ third reference to Pee Wee (last season, Charlie Wade had his picture in her locker while Jeff Colby spoke of a movie magazine which featured him) which I guess makes him Soap Land’s most significant contemporary cultural figure.

    “I don’t like pizza," smiles Fallon on DYNASTY, letting Zorelli down gently after he asks her out on a date. “You like pizza?” a surprised Sue Ellen asks Cliff on DALLAS when he invites himself round for dinner with John Ross and Christopher. “It’s right up there with Chinese food,” he confirms. Meanwhile on KNOTS, the idyllic staycation the Mackenzies have planned starts to go wrong when the pizza they’ve ordered turns up with the wrong topping (“Anchovies — I hate anchovies!” complains Mack). By the end of the ep, Mack has put in for an indefinite leave of absence from his job and Karen has sent him away to the mountains. “You just need some time alone,” she tells him, before admitting: “You’re driving me crazy.” This might well qualify as Soap Land’s first lighthearted marital separation.

    While Michael Fairgate suggests Karen and Mack might be “victims of too much togetherness”, there is simply no such thing for Krystle and Blake. “Nothing can separate us … you are my heart,” says Krystle simply.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    11 Jan 89: DYNASTY: The Wedding v. 12 Jan 89: KNOTS LANDING: Cabin Fever v. 13 Jan 89: DALLAS: Counter Attack v. 13 Jan 89: FALCON CREST: Suspicion


    It’s Krystle Carrington’s last week in Soap Land and, like Laura Avery and Pam Ewing before her, her departure takes the form of a self-imposed exile, “to keep me from becoming a burden to the people I love.” As Pam did Bobby, she presents Blake with divorce papers: “If I come out of this operation and I can’t hear or speak or recognise you … my divorce from you will become automatic and you’ll place me in an institution where I’ll have no contact with the family.” Unless he sign the necessary documentation, she tells him she won’t have the operation needed to save her life. The ensuing argument between them is the equivalent of Laura and Greg’s “I just don’t want you to watch me” scene on KNOTS when she tells him she has chosen to die alone.


    Ultimately, like both Bobby and Greg, Blake has no choice but to comply with his wife’s wishes. “This is the hardest thing that I’ve ever been asked to do,” he tells her. “All my life in business, I’ve managed to keep out of corners. I’ve always given myself lots of options. I’ve never allowed myself to be pinned down, but now you’re forcing my hand … I have no choice. I’ll sign the divorce papers.”


    Blake is not the only powerful Soap Land magnate obliged to face his own helplessness and/or frailties this week. On KNOTS, Paige finally confronts Greg over his decision to marry Abby. “Why are you doing this?” she asks him. “What are you afraid of — are you afraid I’m gonna leave you? Are you afraid I’m gonna die or that you’re gonna die? What are you so scared of?” It’s fascinating: even though Paige is the one in tears, helplessly pleading with Greg to change his mind, it’s actually Greg — calm, quietly spoken, implacable Greg (“I don’t wanna fight about this. I made a decision. I’m gonna go ahead”) — who ultimately emerges as the more broken and damaged of the two.


    Over on DALLAS, it’s a surprise to find JR seeking help from a psychiatrist after being plagued by “Previously … on Haleyville” style dreams. Paige’s question to Greg, “What are you afraid of?” is echoed by the psychiatrist. “Are you afraid to tell me what you really feel?” he asks. After some prodding, JR starts to open up about how it felt to be held prisoner. “Of course it bothered me — I’m JR Ewing. I’ve got money and power. I could buy that whole state and nobody cared … For the first time, I felt I was mortal. I’d lost my invincibility. I wasn’t any better than anybody else.” Any hopes of him developing further insight into his own psyche are soon dashed, however. Just as Greg shut down Paige’s line of questioning with a measured response of “I don’t think it’s wise to continue this discussion”, JR decides that the solution to his problem is to double down on his previous ruthless behaviour: “I am gonna become so big, there won’t be a hick town in this country that won’t know my name. No sir — no more Mr Nice Guy!”


    Elsewhere in the same ep, Jeremy Wendell’s short-lived alliance with Sue Ellen comes to a bitter end. As with Greg and Paige, you assume the odds will be stacked in the man’s favour, but Jeremy’s familiar threats (“Just remember one thing … you’re either my friend or my enemy”) pale next to Sue Ellen’s more personal observations. “You’ve never had children, have you, Jeremy? … In a way, I feel very sorry for you,” she says coolly and we can see she’s got under his skin.


    The depiction of Sue Ellen we’ve been presented with so far this season is an intriguing one. The last time she and JR split, much was made of the fact that she was living as a single woman for the first time and the show followed her progress as a vulnerable divorcee closely. At least then she had her son with her. This time around, John Ross is living at Southfork and she is really is alone, yet the show views her from a comparative distance. We’re more likely to see her in her office than her home and her grief over Nicholas Pearce’s death has been pretty much unexplored. The glimpses we do get of her life are intriguing: she is clearly unhappy (“He loves me, but he doesn’t want me,” she reflects bitterly while looking at a picture of her son), but is more angry and defiant than tearful and dithery — witness the tellings off she gave Miss Ellie last week and Jeremy in this ep.


    Wedding arrangements feature in no less than three of this week’s soaps. When Blake and Krystle renew their vows on DYNASTY, the pomp and formality associated with previous Carrington weddings is stripped away, leaving the bride to make her journey down the aisle by candlelight while ‘Somewhere’ from West Side Story plays quietly in the background. There isn’t even anyone to officiate the ceremony. “We don’t need a minister to marry us because what I want is for our vows to be blessed not only by God, but all the love I feel in this room,” Krystle explains. In contrast to such minimalism, KNOTS LANDING’s Abby wants her and Greg’s wedding “to be more than a wedding … It should be a media event.” Angela Channing feels similarly when it comes to organising Emma and RD Young’s big day. “That is going to be at Falcon Crest,” she decrees, “with just the family and a few of our close friends — and some of the friends from the valley …” This is all too much for the reclusive groom-to-be.


    Two of our prospective brides observe the “old, new, borrowed, blue” tradition, albeit for their own, other than traditional, reasons. On DYNASTY, Krystle indulges her daughter by letting her play at being the bride which, in turn, allows her to present her with something old — a locket containing a picture of Krystina herself as baby. “I was gonna give it to you when you’re older,” Krystle tells her. “Do you still have that bracelet of Mother’s that Sid gave you?” Abby asks Karen during a really fun phone conversation on KNOTS. “I was wondering if I could borrow it.” “Sure,” replies Karen. “You’re supposed to ask me why,” Abby persists. “I wanna borrow it because I need something borrowed.” Karen is uncharacteristically slow on the uptake, forcing Abby to spell it out to her: “Something borrowed, something blue, something old, something new?” “You’re getting married?” Karen realises. “Yes, and the bracelet can be something old and something borrowed,” she explains. When Abby tells her who she’s marrying, Karen sniggers — before realising it isn’t a joke.


    When it comes to their respective guest lists, Abby is easily persuaded by PR guy Ted to jettison close friends in favour of business contacts (“We have limited space at the church as it is and a lot of players who have to be there”), whereas there is only room for those most precious to Blake and Krystle at their ceremony. “Thank-you for including me,” says Jeanette the maid tearfully. Back on KNOTS, Greg’s manservant Carlos is included whether he likes it or not when it comes to keeping his master’s engagement a secret from Paige. Finally, he can hold his tongue no longer. “I think you should tell her,” he says to Greg. “I intend to tell her,” Greg shoots back. “I’ve always intended to tell her. Who are you — Jiminy Cricket? I’ve got a conscience of my own, thank you.” Over on FALCON CREST, RD Young’s housekeeper, the forbidding Mrs Anderson, also voices an unwanted opinion on her boss’s impending nuptials. “I foresee a disaster,” she declares. “When do you foresee anything else?” he replies.


    In the same way that the handwritten book of stories Krystle gives to Krystina echoes the dresses Laura Avery bought for Meg to wear as she gets older (“There’s something special for each of the birthdays you’re gonna have until you’re a very big girl … stories about me and how I felt at the age you’re going to be”), her and Blake’s wedding is DYNASTY’s equivalent of Laura’s wake in “Noises Everywhere”, i.e., a chance to put series conventions to one side and reveal a more spontaneous side to the characters. After walking down the aisle, Krystle breaks with protocol by tickling the best man. “I can’t tell you how long I’ve waited to do that,” she says to Adam. “Sometimes you’re such a stuffed shirt!” Later, Blake catches her counting aloud as they make their way down the Carrington staircase. “I always wondered how many steps there were. I just never got around to counting them,” she explains.


    The request she makes to her wedding guests — “What I really want tonight is that you share in the vows that Blake and I are going to take, that you promise to care for each other and be bound to each other for the rest of your lives” — is a Krystalised version of Bobby Ewing’s deathbed request nearly four years earlier: “Be a family.” Her final scene, where she and Blake are waved out of a fake driveway as they depart for a second honeymoon in Paris, recalls another DALLAS departure: Jock Ewing’s at the end of DALLAS Season 3. Our very last glimpse of Krystle feels unique to her situation, however. We watch her smiling and waving from the back of the limousine, blissfully unaware of what Jeff is telling Fallon and Sammy Jo: “There’s not going to be a honeymoon … The doctor just called. He wants them to fly directly to the clinic in Switzerland. The operation is scheduled for the day after tomorrow.” “Oh dear God, protect her!” exclaims Fallon as the episode ends on Krystle’s radiantly happy face, forever frozen in time.


    DYNASTY has cousin Virginia, DALLAS has Tracey Lawton, FALCON CREST has Pilar Ortega, and now KNOTS gets its own new girl — Paula the forest ranger, whom Mack encounters during his stay on Wild Horse Mountain. Whereas those other girls arrived in Soap Land with varying amounts of emotional baggage (Pilar’s angst over her secret daughter, Tracey’s problems with her father, Virginia’s admission to Krystle this week that she “slept under porches [and] ate out of trashcans” as a teenager), Paula insists that there’s no great mystery in her past. “You were the one who came up here to run away, not me,” she reminds Mack. Her job as a ranger means she can avoid another Soap Land convention — dressing up. “When I wake up in the morning, I don’t have to worry about what I’m gonna wear. Not only that, but I look great in greys and greens,” she grins. In this regard, she resembles the glamour-resistant Virginia whom Sable turns into her pet project this week, determined to make her over in time for Blake and Krystle’s big night (“Come along, Virginia — now I’m going to torture you with some eye shadow”). Paula also has something in common with DALLAS’s Tracey — an aversion to serious relationships. “I think families are great,” she says, “just not for me … I like my solitary life.” This does not, however, prevent her from giving Mack her room number — just as Joanna Sills did Dex on last week’s DYNASTY. To our surprise, it looks as if Mack will succumb to temptation the way Dex did — we see him enter a darkened bedroom and unbutton his shirt while smiling at someone off screen — but then the camera moves down to reveal Karen as the object of his desire. And so DYNASTY ends up not being the only show to celebrate its most enduring couple this week.


    While Krystina enters into the party spirit at her parents’ wedding — she manages to cajole one of her nephews into dancing with her (LB, I think, but he and Danny are pretty much interchangeable since their most recent recasts) — Abby’s children are decidedly nonplussed by their mom’s latest engagement. “You don’t love him,” Olivia insists. “This is really weird,” Brian decides. Another Soap Land kid, Christopher Ewing, proves a useful plot device when he is shot at during the range war (as an innocent caught up in a much bigger feud, this is a portent of his eventual fate on New DALLAS), thereby spurring Bobby to take matters into his own hands. “I’m gonna take care of this myself … McKay is mine!” he declares. Bobby’s played the hero before, of course — rescuing niece Lucy from various kidnappers, for example — but this storyline requires a whole new level of derring do: jumping out of helicopters, setting explosives, overpowering an entire squad of mercenaries almost singlehandedly. In other words, we’re in Dex-breaking-Caress-out-of-jail or Lance-scaling-walls-to-take-on-the-Cartel territory. Daft as such scenarios invariably are, DALLAS’s visuals give this one the edge, the exterior nighttime shots of Southfork and the McKay ranch covering a multitude of plot holes. Then there’s the quasi-Shakespearean moment where Bobby comes face to face with McKay — and realises he’s the father of his new girlfriend.


    “Can you imagine? My daughter is in love with the son of the family I’m at war with,” sighs McKay. Of course Bobby can imagine it. “That happened to me once before, with my first wife,” he replies. Just as this situation takes us right back to the beginning of DALLAS, so this week’s DYNASTY reminds us of its own beginning, with several references to the first time Krystle married Blake. “How angry I was at Daddy … for marrying you,” Fallon recalls. “I hated you! I thought you were just some opportunist trying to steal him away from me … I don’t think that anymore. I haven’t for years. In fact, you’ve brought us all so much closer as a family than we ever could have been without you.” (If one were looking for a moment of closure from this season of DYNASTY, that speech might just be it.) Virginia goes so far as to superimpose herself retroactively into the pilot episode. “I came to your wedding,” she tells Krystle. “I hitched all the way from Dayton, then I walked ten miles and stood in front of those huge gates. I looked inside and I said to myself, ‘I’m not going inside there. That place is a palace.’” She was lucky not to get mown down by Walter Lankershim.


    Towards the end of this week’s DALLAS and FALCON CREST, there are parallel walk-and-talk scenes where relatively new characters, Carter McKay and RD Young, explain to Bobby Ewing and Emma Channing the circumstances that led to their respective wives’ untimely deaths. Each has been previously implicated in said death, but now insists that the woman’s demise was a direct result of her own infidelity. “You know where she was going on the night she was killed?” McKay asks Bobby. “She was going to meet her lover … All the things she accused me of doing was what she was doing … She turned the kids against me pretty good.” “She took a lover,” echoes RD. “She drowned … She and her lover were on the boat alone. Nobody’s sure how it happened. Neither of their bodies was found.”


    While RD’s hard luck story appears chiefly to be a Maguffin to ensure that the perpetually unlucky-in-love Emma loses yet another chance at happiness (“Emma, I can’t marry you — I don’t think that I could stand to go through that again”), it’s hard to know what to make of McKay’s. In the space of an episode, he turns from villain to hero, when he saves Bobby’s life by shooting one of his own men, and then back into villain when he walks into Jeremy Wendell’s office and tells him to shut his face (“All of these years that you’ve been taking the bows and I’ve been the brains behind you”) before claiming to have “told Bobby Ewing one of the world’s greatest sob stories and he fell for it … I’m gonna get Section 40 for us if I have to kill everyone of the damn Ewings to do it!” Despite having watched this episode periodically over the past few decades, I’m still not entirely sure where the lies end and the truth begins.


    In the same week that Krystle celebrates her love for Blake, her FC counterpart Maggie celebrates the launch of her own newspaper. Whereas Krystle seems more of a rounded character than ever, Maggie is suddenly vapid — declaring everything to be either “fabulous” or “terrific” or both, and delivering lines like “Richard, you always make me feel beautiful, even when my hairdresser’s out to get me” without a trace of irony. Still, when one reflects on the nonstop traumas she’s endured over the past few years — from amnesia to abduction to alcoholism, with rape, widowhood and manslaughter thrown in for good measure — it’s hard to begrudge her a bit of brainless Fembot time. Besides, it looks as if she might be about to inherit Krystle’s mantle as Soap Land’s social conscience. Instead of championing the homeless, she listens sympathetically to Tommy Ortega’s gang battle problems.


    Along with Alexis Colby, Pam Ewing, most of the KNOTS gals and Sue Ellen on a good day, Krystle and Maggie have both helped promote and perpetuate the idea of the ‘80s woman who “has it all”. So it seems fitting, now that the decade is drawing to a close and particularly in the week that we say goodbye to Krystle, that this myth should be debunked by one of Soap Land’s newcomers. “You’re incredible — the hometown girl who feels just as comfortable in a boardroom as in a kitchen,” marvels Nick Agretti on FALCON CREST. “Superwoman — that’s how we’re all supposed to be these days, aren’t we?” Pilar Ortega replies. “But not everyone pulls it off,” he tells her. “I have news for you: nobody pulls it off,” she declares unequivocally. Pilar may not "have it all", but she certainly has a finger or two in more than her fair share of storylines at present: a burgeoning relationship with Nick, a love triangle with Lance and Cookie Nash, a complicity with Richard, a secret daughter, an intriguing flirtation with her predatory slob of a boss. None of these stories has quite caught fire yet, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens when they do.


    And this week’s Top 4 are …


    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING

    2 (2) DYNASTY

    3 (3) DALLAS

    4 (4) FALCON CREST
     
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  3. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    19 Jan 89: KNOTS LANDING: Merger Made in Heaven v. 20 Jan 89: DALLAS: The Sting v. 20 Jan 89: FALCON CREST: There Goes the Bride

    In spite of the traumatic circumstances surrounding it, Krystle and Blake’s wedding went off without a hitch on last week’s DYNASTY. Not only was their nemesis, Alexis, absent from the ceremony, she didn’t even appear in the episode. The same cannot be said of the primary obstacle to Greg and Abby’s big day on this week’s KNOTS. The ep opens in the Mackenzie kitchen with Mack, Karen and Michael all making light of Abby’s impending nuptials (“I wonder if she’s gonna keep her own name?” “Well, she has a choice — Fairgate, Cunningham, Ewing, Sumner.” “Sounds like a law firm!”), but the scene’s focus is firmly on Paige. Her expression is detached and she barely speaks. If one didn’t know better, one might mistake her demeanour for indifference. However, we do know better. This one of those interesting situations where only the viewer at home knows what a character on screen is really going through and so a complicity is forged between her and us. In fact, the aspect of this story that really wins us over to Paige’s side is the way she pridefully conceals her heartache from her family. She doesn’t look for sympathy or succumb to emotional indulgence the way another character might. No-one’s about to pop a bottle of pills down her throat and call her “Poor Paige”.

    She does, however, engage in some classic Soap Land manipulation to keep Greg off balance. First, she shows up with Ted Melcher to the club where he and Abby are in attendance and makes sure he sees Ted nuzzling her neck on the dance floor. The next morning, she arrives for work wearing the previous night’s dress. This is hardly subtle stuff, and Greg’s smart enough to see what she’s doing, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t as rattled by it as any regular soap sap would be. “Don’t start these stunts with me,” he snarls at her. “You come in here dressed like Carmen Miranda. What’s that supposed to signal me — that you’ve been spending the night with Mr Congeniality? … You call that dancing you were doing last night? Looked to me like you were grinding coffee!” (Over on FALCON CREST, Angela makes a similar observation about Lance and Cookie Nash: “The other night at dinner … you were pressed so close together, you could have eaten off the same plate.” The big difference here is that Angela is speaking approvingly.) Paige persists in her campaign by sending the engaged couple a croquet set as an anonymous wedding gift. “Is this what passes for wit in your generation?” responds Greg, all but hurling the mallets back at her. “What did you think was gonna happen when I opened this eight-grade gift — you think a light was gonna pop on in my head and I was gonna decide all of a sudden that I shouldn’t marry Blonde #2, I should marry Blonde #1?” This is the kind of common sense question soap characters in Greg’s position don’t normally think to ask.

    Despite his protests to the contrary, Paige’s behaviour starts to affect Greg’s thinking. “This republic’s in a sorry state when a guy as confused as I am gets to run for elective office,” he broods to manservant Carlos, who is fast becoming a confidante equivalent to Richard Channing’s Man Friday Garth on FALCON CREST. When Carlos asks if he still plans to go through with the wedding, Greg doesn’t reply. His ambivalence is mirrored by FC’s groom-to-be, RD Young. After calling off his wedding to Emma at the end of last week’s episode, he changes his mind this week, only to get cold feet yet again on the day of the ceremony.

    No-one’s getting married on DALLAS this week. Quite the opposite, in fact. “Lucy and I are engaged to be married,” insists Casey Denault. “We’re what?! … You’re nothing but a conman. You always were, you always will be!” Lucy snaps back. This brush-off seems almost gentle compared to Sue Ellen’s response to Jeremy Wendell’s proposal: “I would hope that one day in the future you would consider becoming my wife.” “Let me make my position perfectly clear, Jeremy,” she begins, before launching into Soap Land’s most brutal romantic rejection since Michael Tyrone destroyed Lute Mae Sanders on FLAMINGO ROAD. “I don’t like you. You make my skin crawl when you touch me. I would rather sleep with JR than sleep with you and I’d rather sleep with a carnival geek than sleep with JR. Does that give you any idea as to where you rank in my affections? … As bad as my life is right now, it can only improve with you out of it.” Such is the harshness of this speech that it has the effect of making Wendell, one of the genre’s coldest and creepiest characters, appear fleetingly sympathetic.

    At the beginning of this season’s KNOTS, Harold Dyer shot dead his Uncle Manny in order to save the life of Mack Mackenzie. On last week’s DALLAS, Carter McKay did the same thing to foreman Fred Hughes to save Bobby Ewing. Both men’s actions clearly indicated a desire to renounce his criminal past and start over. But then things went sideways — Harold was arrested on a drugs charge and McKay went back on his word almost immediately when he publicly informed the Ewings of his plan to continue harassing them until they sold him Section 40 of Southfork. Both situations are finally resolved this week, but it takes some credulity-stretching behaviour by our regular characters (not dissimilar to Bobby’s Jack Bauer-style heroics last week) to get us there.

    First off, KNOTS LANDING’s Olivia Cunningham is transformed from teen airhead into Soap Land’s least likely amateur sleuth, quizzing both a Lotus Point security guard and her cousin Michael before deducing that her mother must have framed Harold (something about Abby seeing his arrest record before the cops did). The pay off for this contrivance comes in a cracking scene that marks a sea change in both Olivia’s relationship with her mother and her own evolution as a character. A self-satisfied Abby is soaking in the bubbliest bubble bath you’ve ever seen when Olivia confronts her with her discovery. Instead of the sulky petulance and strident yelling we’re used to, Olivia remains calm and reasonable, even as she blackmails her mom: “We’re gonna go ahead and get engaged … We expect your blessing and if we don’t get it, I’m gonna tell the whole world that you planted the cocaine in Harold’s locker … That would bump your wedding off the front page, wouldn’t it?” Conversely, the ordinarily cool and collected Abby is now so furious that she can barely bring herself to even look at Olivia. “You see? I am your daughter,” Olivia concludes. “I just don’t want the things that you want.”

    Meanwhile, DALLAS goes a bit SCOOBY DOO as we learn that McKay and the Ewings have secretly joined forces to outwit Jeremy Wendell. In his final ever scene, DALLAS’s shrewdest villain is ultimately outwitted by those meddling pensioners, Miss Ellie and Clayton, who goad him into bragging about how far he was willing to go to destroy them (“I told Hughes to kill anyone who stood in my way”). Next thing we know, Jeremy is being dragged away by the police, Angelica Nero-style. “We’ve got enough on tape to arrest you on a dozen charges!” they crow.

    As Wendell is arrested on DALLAS, the drug charges are dropped against Harold on KNOTS. He attends Abby and Greg’s wedding as Olivia’s guest, unaware that the bride was the one who framed him in the first place. McKay, meanwhile, is invited to dinner at Southfork. (The newfound bonhomie between him and the family means that, confusingly, there are now two characters in the Ewingverse who answer to the nickname of Mack.) While Abby is icily polite to Harold at the wedding, Mack receives a more openly hostile greeting from Bobby’s dinner date, his own daughter Tracey. “Leave me alone!” she yells at him.

    Meanwhile, at Emma’s wedding on FALCON CREST, Nick Agretti and Cookie Nash are no happier to see Pilar on Lance’s arm than Abby is to see Olivia on Harold’s. Whereas Nick, who has quietly fallen for Pilar, does his best to mask his disappointment, Cookie, who has been sleeping with Lance on the sly, makes a point of blanking her — before pretending to struggle to pronounce her last name (another example of the casual racism running through the Tuscany Valley this season).

    Mack Mackenzie and Bobby Ewing each tries to repay the man who saved his life by putting in a good word on his behalf. Whereas Mack’s appeal to Abby (“Let’s give Harold a little credit for wanting to change his life … He’s a good guy”) ultimately has little effect, Bobby has more success in persuading Tracey to give her father a second chance. (“He’s an honourable man, Tracey. He helped us put away Jeremy Wendell and that counts a lot in my book.”)

    Like Abby and Olivia, Emma and Angela share a mother/daughter scene prior to the former’s wedding, but theirs is closer in spirit to the affectionate heart-to-heart between Krystle and Fallon on last week’s DYNASTY. Where Fallon acknowledged how much her step-mother has done for the family, Angela admits to her daughter that “I haven’t always done what was right in my time, but I did what I thought was best.” “I think I realise that — finally,” Emma replies. As Abby did with Karen and Krystle did with Krystina, they then observe the “something old” tradition as Angela presents Emma with the string of pearls her own mother gave to her when she married Douglas. “They’re very lucky,” she tells her. So when the necklace subsequently breaks and the pearls fall to the floor, it can only be a bad omen. Sure enough, the groom-to-be then appears in the doorway of Emma’s bedroom with a grim expression on his face. “You’re not supposed to see me before the wedding,” she says nervously.

    We aren’t privy to the conversation that follows, but we do get to witness an equivalent scene on KNOTS where Paige steals into Greg’s room just as he is preparing to walk down the aisle and tearfully begs him not to. Once again, her pleas fall on stony ground. “What I want is for you to get out of my face and marry some nice white bread guy who will ask you to be a better person than you already are,” he tells her. But it’s what he says next that really hits home: “Look, if we spent any time together, the way you feel right now is the way you would always feel. I don’t think that you want that.”

    KNOTS ends ambiguously, with Greg and Abby meeting at the altar while Paige hovers in the background between them. It recalls the freeze frame from DALLAS where Cliff suddenly stood up in the middle of JR and Sue Ellen’s wedding. Back on FALCON CREST, Emma and Daniel both fail to appear for their wedding. Instead, they leave behind a note explaining that they have eloped. Just as Krystle’s wedding doubled as her departure from DYNASTY so Emma’s does from FALCON CREST. “We’re going to go away for a while,” she writes. “I feel it’s better to start off our future together away from so many reminders of the past.”

    Back on DALLAS, Ray Krebbs is also reminded of the past as he too prepares to leave. “Ray, it’s just not the same here anymore,” Bobby laments. “You going off to Europe, Gary out in California, Daddy’s gone, Sue Ellen, Pam — it’s altogether different.” Add Krystle and Emma to that list and he could be talking about Soap Land as a whole. “Maybe I’m leaving here at the right time — it’ll always be the same in my memory,” Ray replies, perhaps speaking for Soap Land's departing viewers.

    It’s not over quite yet, however. We’ll see Krystle and Ray again in their respective series’ reunions and Emma will be back next year. More immediately, this week’s DALLAS and FALCON CREST both conclude with a long-lost relative arriving unannounced at the front door — JR’s shotgun bride Cally and Ben Agretti’s presumed-dead mother Anna. Whereas Anna, in her chic hat and fur stole, is the embodiment of ’80s soap glamour, Cally is so simply dressed it’s as if the 1960s, let alone the 1980s, completely passed her by. While Anna exudes European inscrutability, Cally is all wide-eyed country girl innocence. As the naive hayseed blonde who shows up claiming to be Mrs JR Ewing, it feels like the joke should be on her (and if this scenario were playing out on FALCON CREST a year ago, you could be sure it would be), but instead, it’s JR’s discomfort that we find ourselves enjoying. There’s something fundamentally joyous about watching Larry Hagman stutter and squirm as Miss Ellie asks him, “JR, did you marry this girl? … Then you own up to it and do the right thing!” “Mama, look at her. You think she’s gonna fit in in Dallas?” he protests. When Cally exasperatedly demands to know “what’s so all-fired wonderful about Dallas?!” she (unintentionally) hits the same irreverent funny bone that Krystle did when she tickled Adam at her wedding last week.

    For all that the town of Haleyville and its inhabitants were stuck in a 1950s time-warp, Cally’s arrival at Southfork seems to herald a new era for the Ewings. Her last line before the freeze frame, “I think I’m gonna like it here”, serves as a declaration of intent in the same way JR’s did at the end of “Digger’s Daughter” (“I underestimated the new Mrs Ewing — I surely won’t do that again”). Bobby was more correct than he realised when he said, “it’s just not the same anymore … it’s altogether different.”

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING

    2 (3) DALLAS

    3 (4) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2018
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  4. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    25 Jan 89: DYNASTY: Ginger Snaps v. 26 Jan 89: KNOTS LANDING: Mrs. Peacock in the Library with the Lead Pipe v. 27 Jan 89: DALLAS: The Two Mrs. Ewings

    Will Krystle survive her operation? Will Greg and Abby’s wedding actually take place? These were the burning questions we were left with at the end of the last episodes of DYNASTY and KNOTS LANDING. This week, however, neither show is in much of a hurry to answer them. We’re four scenes into DYNASTY before we learn that Krystle’s surgery took place two narrative weeks earlier and that she’s been in a coma ever since. “Blake, it’s over,” says Dr Walt Driscoll flatly. “Her heart’s still beating, but she’s dead … You’ve got to accept it. She’s gone.” He urges Blake to return home from Switzerland and get on with his life. “So I’m supposed to just leave, not even take time to mourn?” Blake asks. It’s an interesting question — and the point at which DYNASTY’s audacious decision to set Krystle’s prognosis at some unspecified point in the past really pays off. With the honourable exception of the year Karen Fairgate took to mourn Sid on KNOTS LANDING, Soap Land’s never been very comfortable when it comes to portraying the grieving process (Jeff Colby reprimanding his wife Kirby for not being over her father’s suicide on the day of his funeral being a prime example). “Blake, you’ve been mourning her for three years now, ever since I first told you about her condition,” Dr Walt points out. Combine this argument with the terms of Krystle’s living will (“She knew it might come to this and she wanted freedom for both of you”) and it’s clear that DYNASTY has learned from the not-so-final finality of Bobby Ewing’s death and the clunky exit of Pam Ewing two years later and even found a way around the awkward questions surrounding Laura Avery’s decision to die alone, and come up with the departure of a major Soap Land character that gets to have its cake and eat it too — a “death” that feels satisfyingly conclusive while still leaving the door open for a possible return.

    As a consequence, the scene where Blake gathers the Carringtons to tell them that “Krystle is gone [and] I am determined to carry out her wish, that our lives must go on” feels far less jarring than the equivalent moment in last season’s DALLAS where Bobby told the Ewings to consider Pam “a closed subject.” The loss of the family matriarch might be the single most tragic thing to have happened to the Carringtons since the series began, but in the spirit of moving on, Blake goes directly from this scene into a furtive meeting with Dex about an entirely different, more dramatically pressing matter.

    Indeed, now that Krystle is dead on DYNASTY, Greg and Abby are married on KNOTS and the range war is over on DALLAS, it’s time for other storylines that have been simmering quietly in the background — involving the repercussions of JR’s adventures in Haleyville, Jill’s attack on Val and the discovery of the body at the lake — to take centre stage once again.

    DYNASTY’s ongoing mystery, which has already shifted from “Who is the dead man at the lake?” to “Who killed Roger Grimes?”, now expands to include “What else is Blake trying to hide?” His cryptic conversation with Dex provides more questions than answers. “If what happened at the bottom of the lake ever came to light … it would put shame onto the families,” says Dex. “We have to protect that secret,” Blake concurs.

    There’s a great twist on KNOTS, meanwhile, when David Lamb, the guy Jill picked up on the night of Val’s overdose, resurfaces to accuse her of giving him syphilis. (“Do you know how many times I’ve been unfaithful in fifteen years? Once … and I have the stinking luck to do it with a slut that’s got VD!”) Perhaps surprisingly, KNOTS was a little more circumspect than DALLAS and DYNASTY when the soaps started making reference to AIDS and safe sex about a year ago, but it now gives us a lecture that’s practically ‘STDs 101’ — but with a strong sense of irony running through it. Lest we forget, Jill didn’t sleep with David even though he thinks she did. However, for the sake of her alibi, she is obliged to put herself and an extremely pissed off Gary through the indignity of getting tested. In the process, Gary inadvertently learns of Jill’s prescription for secobarbital “and she got the prescription filled the same week she went to San Francisco,” he tells Mack. Watching them finally start to put the pieces of the puzzle together is immensely satisfying.

    Abby and Greg appear only a couple of times on this week’s KNOTS. The first is on their wedding night, which is when we realise that the ceremony must have gone without a hitch. It also becomes apparent that, unlike Richard Channing and Terry Ranson who got married for similar reasons on FALCON CREST a few years ago, they fully intend to consummate their union. “It’s not like we haven’t made love before,” Abby reminds Greg. “Yeah, but that was a long time ago. It doesn’t count,” he tells her. “You mean this is gonna be like the first time — exploration, discovery?” she says provocatively as she starts to unbutton his pyjamas.

    If there’s a certain innuendo in Abby’s delivery of the word “discovery”, it’s pretty mild in comparison to the following exchange on DYNASTY. “As you know, I’m expanding rapidly,” says Dex, explaining his reason for offering Joanna Sills a job with his company. “Yes, I noticed that the other night,” she purrs in reply. For ‘80s Soap Land this is pretty racy stuff and very much in keeping with the ramped up sexiness that’s been on display of late. Likewise on DALLAS, the (brilliant) line JR delivers following a spat with Bobby — “Mama shoulda had her tubes tied together right after I was born” — seems to belong specifically to this era. (It also paves the way for the kind of explicitly gynaecological dialogue we now hear on New DYNASTY almost as a matter of course. New Alexis’s recent putdown — “You low-level vaginal climber" — springs most immediately to mind.)

    Unlike Abby and Greg’s honeymoon, JR and Cally’s new marriage is very much about separate bedrooms. “You’re not gonna sweet-talk me into bed again,” says Cally. “Either you tell everybody I’m your wife or you can just stay away from me.” Whereas Jock encouraged JR to “see to your wife” on Pam’s first night at Southfork ten years ago, Miss Ellie is on hand to make sure JR doesn’t see too much of Cally on hers.

    Greg has another reason to be excited on his wedding night. “Tomorrow morning, I’m finally gonna see what you look like without your eye makeup,” he tells Abby. It’s not like we haven’t seen Abby without her eye makeup before, but maybe that was so long ago it doesn’t count either. Ultimately, she manages to keep one step ahead of both Greg and the cameraman when she steps out of the shower the following morning mascara intacta.

    Makeup — or more specifically, makeovers — play a specific role on this week’s DYNASTY and DALLAS as well. Just as Sable insisted on glamorising a reluctant Virginia prior to Krystle and Blake’s wedding, so Lucy volunteers to do the same for Cally in preparation for her first family dinner at Southfork. (She starts by taking her clothes shopping: “I’m gonna teach you the only two words you need to know … ‘Charge it.’”) When Sable presented Virginia to the wedding guests as “the sleeping beauty who has awakened”, everyone was thrilled. When Lucy presents Cally, looking more like a baby fawn disguised as a hooker, everyone is stunned.

    Cally’s fish-out-of-water situation is funny — it’s not every day you see a Ewing wife reminiscing fondly about pig-feeding or searching for the nearest laundry tub — but it’s not Cally herself we are laughing at. Well, OK, maybe it is — especially when she tries to sit down in that too tight, too low-cut black dress Lucy has wickedly picked out for her (a moment reminiscent of Karen’s “slave to fashion” faux pas on last season’s KNOTS) — but we’re rooting for her nonetheless. She may be a cornpone archetype on paper, but she’s also as vulnerable and real a character as anyone else in Soap Land right now. And while the tone of her storyline is as lighthearted as DALLAS has ever been, the behaviour of nearly all the remaining Ewings is reassuringly in character. By tarting Cally up, Lucy is revelling in the family’s embarrassment just as she did when Bobby first brought Pam back to the ranch and she encouraged Ray to kiss the bride. As for JR, his reaction to seeing his new wife so gaudily attired is the same as when Sue Ellen tried to impress him with sexy lingerie back in the mini-series. “What the hell is that?” he asks in dismay before running for the hills: “Mama, I’ll be having dinner in town tonight.” Most resonant of all is Miss Ellie bestowing on Cally the same lecture she gave Pam in Season 1: “The Ewing men are very tough and the Ewing women have to be even tougher. I had to take a horsewhip to the boy’s father before he’d do right by me and you may have to do the same thing.” I really love how the horsewhip tale recurs all the way through the Ewing saga: from “Old Acquaintance” in ’78 to “The Early Years” in ’86 to this episode in ’89 to, albeit less directly, Cally’s reappearance as a middle-aged woman at JR’s memorial service in 2013.

    Interestingly, the one Ewing who doesn’t react to Cally’s arrival as one might expect is Bobby. In place of moral indignation at JR having taken advantage of an innocent young girl there’s a kind of amused detachment, as if he were a viewer watching at home. This results in some fun exchanges between the brothers. “She’s nothing but a little hillbilly,” JR insists. “She’s hillbilly with a marriage license,” counters Bobby. “Well, I’m gonna take care of that soon enough,” JR replies. “Yeah, I guess you’re right — divorcing her would be a lot kinder than staying married to her,” quips Bobby. This last line is essentially a jokier version of the point Greg made to Paige just before his wedding to Abby last week: “If we spent any time together, the way you feel right now is the way you would always feel.”

    Back on DYNASTY, cousin Virginia undergoes a second makeover in as many episodes, but this time it’s all her own handiwork. After exhibiting an unexplained hostility towards Dex, she shows up at his apartment. “You really don’t remember, do you?” she asks him. While he is distracted by a phone call, she swiftly applies some Abby-style eye makeup, redoes her hair and slips off her raincoat to reveal a dominatrix-style variation on Cally’s tight black dress. “Do you remember now? … I used to call myself Ginger,” she pouts. Dex’s slack-jawed response suggests that he certainly does remember.

    As if one redheaded relative who answers to the name of Virginia was not enough, another arrives in Soap Land this week — Val’s Aunt Ginny Bea on KNOTS. Like her DYNASTY namesake she has secrets, but hers involve homemade cookies and beat poets rather than prostitution and eating out of trashcans. The cookies are those she’s been feeding to Bobby and Betsy on the sly, while her claim that she has never previously visited California turns out to be a fib. “I visited California in the fifties,” she admits to Karen. “I used to listen to Ginsberg read poetry at City Lights.” The real reason for her current visit is to check on Val. “Honey, I didn’t want her to think I was spying on her,” she explains.

    While Ginny has Val’s twins literally eating out of her hand, their cousin John Ross is less receptive to the new relative in his midst. At first, he mistakes Cally for a friend of Lucy’s, but soon learns to follow his father’s lead and regard his new stepmom with contempt: “Don’t expect me to call you Mother … I already have a mother who looks and acts like a mother, not like one of the girls in my class.”

    John Ross putting Cally down feels like a turning point as significant as Olivia calmly standing up to her mother on last week’s KNOTS. Whereas Olivia finally seems to be emerging from her brat phase, John Ross is now entering his. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that these character developments are happening just a few months before Abby and Sue Ellen’s respective departures from Soap Land. Both Olivia and John Ross have been very much defined by their relationships to their moms and without them around, they’ll need to be established as more independent personalities.

    During a talk with Christopher, John Ross admits to a certain ambivalence regarding Sue Ellen: “She shot my dad. But she’s my mom. I don’t know what to think about her.” Needless to say, these mixed feelings will carry over into their relationship on New DALLAS. Over on DYNASTY, Adam makes a similarly interesting admission about Krystle. “We didn’t get that close, but now that she’s gone I miss her,” he tells Virginia.

    Elsewhere on DYNASTY, Zorelli endears himself to Fallon when he shows up at her son’s skating lesson and takes a tumble on the ice. This is a near-identical scenario to Bobby and Lisa Alden’s meet-cute on last season’s DALLAS. One might chalk this up to coincidence if David Paulsen, himself a former ice skater, was not the producer of both episodes. This time around, however, Paulsen resists the urge to make a cameo appearance as a skater unsteady on the ice, leaving the prat falls to Zorelli instead.

    Zorelli and Fallon wind up back at his place for a taking-off-each-other’s-clothes scene that’s a more sweetly uncertain variation on Sue Ellen and Nicholas’s breathy strip from last season’s DALLAS. Zorelli’s apartment isn’t as fancy as Nick’s. Its exposed-brickwork-and-dartboard decor more strongly resembles Mack’s new office space on KNOTS — a suitably “authentic” environment for two macho yet caring Italian-American justice-seekers who don’t always play by the rules. Mack’s realtor makes sure to play the authenticity card in her sales pitch: “This is the original hardwood floor. It’s a real neighbourhoody neighbourhood — no strip shopping centres, no big national chains.” Mack’s first order of business as an attorney-for-hire is a pro-bono case on behalf of a group of homeless people, which he wins with ease. (Krystle would surely have applauded.) The bad news is that despite changing his job, he still hasn’t been able to ditch his perpetually gurning, aren’t-I-just-adorable secretary, Peggy, who has replaced FC’s Melissa as the one Soap Land character who makes me swear irrationally at the screen.

    Other Zorelli/Mack parallels: While Fallon nicknames Zorelli Zorro, Mack recalls “a deli that was on the block when I was growing up on New York called Lazorro’s and I played Zorro because I was always ripping off apples and carrots and stuff.” And just as Mack made a song and dance about finding anchovies on his pizza a few weeks ago, Zorelli also proves somewhat particular on the subject: “A pizza should be hot and dripping with onion and cheese and anchovies, if a person likes that kind of thing.”

    Alexis, a no-show for the second DYNASTY episode in a row, is proving to be a more impressive business woman off screen than on. “She has managed to put out most of the fires we started at her overseas offices,” complains Sable. Sue Ellen, meanwhile, appears impressively assertive onscreen, coolly announcing her intention to own and run a Hollywood movie studio. However, she does lose serious business points for rolling her eyes at a guy who tries to pitch the concept of an ATM machine to her (“We’re gonna go world-wide with these Automatic Teller Machines! They’ll take any credit card, any bank card and they’ll automatically compute the rate of exchange in foreign countries!”) “From now on, I don’t wanna see any more people like that coming in for financing,” she informs her secretary dismissively.

    As an heiress with no discernible talent for business, DALLAS’s Lucy serves pretty much the same purpose as Emma on FALCON CREST — to deliver wisecracks at family functions and get her heart broken on a regular basis. As this role is not compatible with a lasting relationship, it makes sense that Emma should be written out of FC immediately following her wedding to RD Young at the end of last week’s episode. Likewise, Lucy’s return to DALLAS must necessarily spell the end of her marriage to Mitch and thus she receives her final divorce papers in this week’s ep.

    Lucy’s too upset to attend the annual Oil Barons Ball which is a shame because it’s the last Ball of the series and the most fun one since 1983 when Cliff was voted Oil Man of the Year and the Barneses and Ewings beat each other up. This year’s party plays like an extended version of the powder room scene from that Ball when Pam, Jenna, Katherine, Afton and Sue Ellen all came face to face. Here, sparks fly when various combinations of female characters who are or have been involved with Bobby (Tracey, Tammy, April), JR (Cally, Sue Ellen, April again) and even Cliff (Tammy, Marilee Stone) interact. Unlike DYNASTY and FALCON CREST, DALLAS has never been all that interested in bitchiness for its own sake, so each of these confrontations feels specific and dramatically juicy. The best of the lot is the first meeting of Cally and Sue Ellen which, in turn, leads to a showdown between Sue Ellen and her ex-husband: “JR, you got that little girl into bed by telling her that I was a drunk, a cheat and I neglected my child!” She then lands a punch on him even more impressive than the whack Sable gives Jeff Colby at the end of this week’s DYNASTY when he accuses her of trying to get her claws into Blake: “Ever since my father had the good sense to get rid of you, you’ve been on the prowl for a new coat of arms.”

    While DYNASTY ends on a shot of Sable seething and KNOTS with Jill looking scared after realising Gary may be onto her, DALLAS concludes with a great freeze frame of the Ball in disarray, with various characters looking or heading in different directions following the news that Carter McKay is the new Head of West Star. “It won’t be long before we’re wishing Jeremy Wendell was back!” predicts JR.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (3) DALLAS
    2 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (-) DYNASTY
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
  5. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    01 Feb 89: DYNASTY: Delta Woe v. 02 Feb 89: KNOTS LANDING: Colonel Mustard in the Conservatory with the Wrench v. 03 Feb 89: DALLAS: The Switch v. 03 Feb 89: FALCON CREST: True Confessions

    There are more echoes of DALLAS than usual in this week’s DYNASTY. For starters, the post-coital scene between Fallon and Zorelli at the start of the ep is almost identical to the equivalent scene between Sue Ellen and Nicholas Pearce last season (following the cliffhanger where they ripped each other’s clothes off). Back then, the hungry lovers feasted on spaghetti; here, they make do with pizza. Where Sue Ellen looked ravishingly ravished, her hair sexily tousled, while wearing Nick’s bathrobe, Fallon looks even better in just her red underwear. All is well until it becomes apparent that Fallon, like Sue Ellen before her, isn’t planning to stay the night. At this point, Zorelli, just as Nicholas did, cops an attitude and suggests that she had an ulterior motive for going to bed with him in the first place. Whereas Nick accused Sue Ellen of using him to make JR jealous, Zorelli reckons Fallon did the deed to get her father off the hook for murder: “You were hoping that if you and I got together, then I wouldn’t be so hard on your old man.” During a later phone conversation with Zorelli, Blake suggests that the shoe is on the other foot: “I will not tolerate you using my family!”

    There are similar accusations at the start of this week’s DALLAS. Arriving back at April’s condo after the Oil Barons Ball, JR makes it clear he expects to sleep with her, even though he is now married to Cally. April declines, offering him the couch instead. Then she realises: “She’s gonna think we spent the night together. Is that what this is all about?” “Don’t you think I wanna make love to you?” JR asks her. “Not really. I think you’re just using me to get rid of her,” she replies. Across town, Cliff suggests that Tammy Miller also has a hidden reason for inviting him to spend the night at her apartment (which, weirdly, has the same exterior as Jill Bennett’s place on KNOTS). “I think you were ready to prove to yourself that you didn’t care about Bobby anymore. What better way to do that than to go to bed with me?” he asks.

    Fallon makes it back to the Carrington mansion in the early hours of the morning to discover Adam lurking in the shadows — which is just where Sue Ellen used to find JR when she would return to Southfork after one of her trysts with Dusty or Clint in DALLAS’s early years. The exchange that follows sizzles with the same kind of venomous animosity the feuding Ewings shared. “Well, if it isn’t Cinderella … I guess you got your ticket to the Policeman’s Ball,” sneers Adam. “You really are an ass, aren’t you?” Fallon retorts. “And what are you, Fallon — what would you call the woman who’s sleeping with the cop who’s trying to put her own father in jail?” “A lesson in morals from a man who has none!” And on they go, the insults landing thick and fast. They talk over each other too, as people do all the time in real life but hardly ever in Soap Land (KNOTS being an occasional exception), not least because it makes editing a scene a major hassle. The overlapping dialogue works really well, adding both momentum and verisimilitude to their sparring.

    Fallon’s late night doesn’t go unnoticed by her father either. “I don’t know you anymore, Fallon. My own flesh and blood and I swear, I don’t know you,” he tells her coldly over breakfast the next morning. By the time JR gets home to Southfork (having slept on April’s sofa), breakfast is over. His plan to upset Cally by his absence has worked, but when she asks him directly, “Did you make love to her?”, he cannot bring himself to lie, which is the first indication that his attitude towards her might be softening.

    Back on DYNASTY, even the dead are giving Fallon a hard time for sleeping with Zorelli. The most blatant of the episode’s DALLAS references is the scene in which the three most memorable aspects of Bobby Ewing’s resurrection — a dream sequence, a dead man and a shower — are conflated into one: a dream sequence involving a dead man that takes place in a shower. Fallon is doing her ablutions when she is visited once more by Roger Grimes, his appearance distorted by the steamed-up glass of the shower door and his voice by an echoey vocoder-style effect. “If you really cared for me, you wouldn’t be fooling around with him!” he snarls at her. It’s as mental as it sounds, but also really good.

    Another DALLAS-style scene takes place as the extended Carrington family (which now includes Dex, Sable, Virginia, Jeff and Sammy Jo) gather in the library for pre-dinner cocktails. Adam and Fallon continue to bicker like a blood-related version of JR and Sue Ellen, Virginia throws her martini at Dex and storms off, Blake follows her, Jeff, Sable and Dex each make their excuses and leave, and Sammy Jo is left to referee Adam and Fallon over dinner.

    Sable’s discreet exit comes after she hears Sammy Jo describe the intruder who spooked her at Delta Rho in last week’s ep. She realises that it must be Gibson, the man she paid to dive to the bottom of the Carrington lake (for reasons we have yet to ascertain) at the start of the season. She tracks him down to a motel where she finds him in bed with an anonymous blonde and gives him his marching orders: “You were brought here to do a job. You were paid and very well … Time to go home, Mr Gibson.”

    Gibson, the diver, is to Sable on DYNASTY what Mrs Bailey, the forger, is to Jill Bennett on KNOTS — a loose end who needs to be silenced before they can incriminate her. While Sable rams her point home by threatening Gibson with his own knife, Jill does something far worse to Mrs Bailey — but we aren’t told precisely what. Just as DYNASTY ends with an exchange of gunfire between Gibson and Sammy Jo, each of them falling to the ground after being shot, KNOTS also concludes with a life hanging in the balance. Mack and co. discover Mrs Bailey lying in a hospital bed in some kind of catatonic state, unable to answer any of their questions about Jill. “She’s not going to recover,” says Frank. Cut to Jill eavesdropping in the hallway, smirking triumphantly.

    There are no exterior scenes in this week’s DYNASTY, presumably for budgetary reasons, but such limitations work to the show’s advantage. In the same way that Alexis’s continued absence adds to her stature, the resultant hemmed-in, claustrophobic atmosphere only increases the episode’s tension. Again, I’m reminded of early era DALLAS where, towards the end of a season, the show would become increasingly studio-bound just as the dramatic stakes were getting higher.

    While DYNASTY looks inward, the KNOTS and FALCON CREST universes expand. KNOTS does a nice line in one-scene characters as Mack and Frank, during their search for Mrs Bailey, encounter an assortment of her neighbours, past and present, each of whom manage to make an impression in the space of a few screen minutes. My favourite is an eccentrically cantankerous landlord who, upon seeing through Mack’s claims to be Mrs B’s nephew who ran away to sea, calls him a bird brain. FC, meanwhile, introduces some new tertiary characters, one of whom, Cookie Nash’s father Justin, is played by DYNASTY’s dead major-domo, Joseph. Whereas Joseph was vehemently against his daughter Kirby getting involved with a Colby or Carrington, Justin is as eager to marry Cookie off to Lance as Angela is. While Kirby first arrived on DYNASTY after breaking up with a man called Jean Pierre, Cookie hasn’t “slept with anyone since Jean Claude left me. That was six months ago.” Or so she tells Lance when he asks if he is really the father of the baby she is carrying.

    “Any woman who builds her life around her husband is headed for disaster,” declared Sue Ellen on DALLAS a couple of years ago. Exchange the word “husband” for “man” and there’s no shortage of Soap Land gals who have yet to heed her warning. Take Tommy Ortega’s girlfriend Kelly on FALCON CREST, for example. We met her briefly a few weeks ago, but this week’s ep is our first opportunity to see how desperately needy she is. She’s clearly threatened by Tommy’s newfound fulfilment in his work at the Tuscany Herald. “You’ve got a job that you love and that’s great,” she lies. “I have a man that I love and I wanna be with him … Work doesn’t have to be your whole life.” There’s something heartbreaking about the way she clings onto him even as she realises that in doing so, she’s actually driving him away. “Is there somebody else?” she asks. “No,” he replies — but it’s not true. In a gender reversal of the May/December romances between Cally and JR, and Paige and Greg, Tommy has quietly fallen for his boss, Maggie Channing. And as with Peter Richards’ infatuation for Sue Ellen, his feelings are writ large for everyone to see.

    Whereas FC’s Kelly is stuck in a small-town dead-end job, KNOTS LANDING’s Jill is a successful attorney — at least by day. By night, she’s even more unhealthily obsessed by a man than Kelly is. In fact, her behaviour more closely resembles Ray Krebbs’ spurned girlfriend-turned-stalker Connie from last season’s DALLAS. We see her spying on Gary through the window of his house then letting herself in when he’s not there. While Kelly brings up the subject of marriage to a reluctant Tommy, Jill goes so far as to buy and then wear a wedding dress in preparation for her and Gary’s nonexistent big day. (After her thrillingly original campaign against Val at the end of last season, such behaviour feels a tad psycho-for-beginners.)

    Unlike Kelly and Jill, DALLAS’s Cally has already married the object of her desire. She just needs him to acknowledge the fact. To that end, she turns to her predecessor for advice. “To JR, the chase is more important than anything,” Sue Ellen explains. “You have to tease him and tantalise him … The more he can’t have you, the more he’s gonna want you.” As Sue Ellen and Bobby have already stated, we know that Cally “would be better off just forgetting about the marriage and going on back home”, yet we’re still rooting for her to achieve her goal. To borrow Cally’s own phrase, “That’s kind of sick, ain’t it?”

    Jill and Cally each subsequently succeed in turning the tables on her respective Ewing man. When Gary, hoping to find “something that would prove … one way or the other” her involvement in Val’s overdose, is apprehended breaking into Jill’s apartment, she seizes the opportunity to accuse him of harassment: “Gary, can’t you see yourself? You’re acting crazy!” Meanwhile at Southfork, once Cally remembers to leaves her bedroom door open while she’s trying on a pair of silk stockings, JR quickly becomes the one who’s getting hot and bothered over her.

    Sable Colby and JR Ewing each conduct business in a den of vice this week. From behind a one-way mirror in a gambling club (“a temple for illegal pursuits”), Sable and Dex observe Fritz Heath, Colby Co’s controller, “happily racking up debt after debt with no idea that we both have him in our crosshairs … He’s like a science project. Let’s dissect him, shall we?” Meanwhile, JR meets Rattigan, his younger, more physically imposing Harry McSween replacement, in a daytime titty bar — a kind of televisual precursor to Tony Soprano’s Bada Bing, but without the casual nudity. At one point, however, a girl in an itty-bitty bikini dances in front of JR with her back to the camera. After he tucks a wad of notes into her briefs, she removes her top and throws it to him. As Soap Land depictions of the female form go, this is certainly more grubby than glam, but in a way that hearkens back to the DALLAS’s early years. The bar is populated by the same kind of middle-aged male clientele who used to ogle the big-breasted waitresses at the Cattleman’s Club, the show’s original hang out before Soap Land fell under DYNASTY’s designer spell.

    JR’s dancer at the titty bar and Gibson’s bed partner at his motel are both nameless blondes mostly shown naked from behind. We know nothing about them, but that doesn’t prevent characters from referring to them as if they were a lesser species. “Your wit is about on par with your women,” Sable tells Gibson after she has ordered the girl to leave them alone. “You don’t wanna go home with this, JR,” says Rattigan, handing the dancer back her bikini top.

    As the breakout star on THE COLBYS, the decision to bring Sable over to DYNASTY was in one sense a no-brainer. Looked at another way, however, she’s almost the least likely character to cross over. As the ultimate “woman who builds her life around her husband”, Sable’s entire existence focused on Jason and their children. Even after their divorce, she went to remarkable lengths to remain in the family home. How would she, of all people, fare as an outsider in another city in another show about another family? The answer is, of course, remarkably well. But whereas her motives on THE COLBYS were easy to read — everything she did was to protect her family and/or her place within it — here, they are shrouded in ambiguity. Aside from revenge on Alexis, what does she want? And why has she gone to such lengths to befriend the Carringtons — is she after a future with Blake or a tumble with Dex? Or both? And what reason could she have for sending a diver to the bottom of the Carrington lake? Sable’s newly mercurial nature is reflected in her vocal delivery which is both fascinating and ever-changing. In some scenes, her mood seems to shift from one line of dialogue to the next. One second, her voice will be dripping with honey and generosity, the next, it’s suddenly ice cold and full of malice.

    Speaking of unclear motives, I’m not at all sure why Richard Channing spends most of this week’s FALCON CREST in Chicago with Pilar Ortega and a man called Malcolm St Clair while pretending to Maggie that he’s in New York, except that it has to do with banks and consortiums and dummy corporations and takeovers. I’m intrigued, but also plain baffled. I don’t know if that reflects a fault in the storytelling or just my own limited grasp of such matters. Or perhaps we’re not yet meant to fully grasp whatever is going on. We do at least get some kind of explanation at the end of the ep: “We’re gonna have it all — the whole of the Tuscany Valley!” crows Richard to St Clair. The music swells, the frame freezes and it feels like a satisfyingly dramatic end to the episode — even if “the whole of the Tuscany Valley” seems like pretty small potatoes next to “the entire California wine industry”, which is what Richard was after when he first arrived in FC — but I guess times are tough.

    Minor trend of the week: Bosses rejecting their secretaries’ interior design ideas. On DALLAS, Cliff and Jackie bicker over a tastefully scenic painting she thinks “would have looked great hanging in your office.” “… I’m not paying $12,000 for that!” he argues. Throughout this week’s KNOTS, Peggy tries out various trees and plants as decor for Mack’s new office, all of which he rejects. What should be a running gag becomes instead a running irritant thanks to Peggy’s ham-fisted attempts at comedy.

    Krystle Carrington and Pam Ewing cast a shadow over their respective shows this week. “We’re all so fond of Mrs Carrington. It hasn’t been the same since she’s been gone,” laments a touchingly awkward Jeanette on DYNASTY. Meanwhile on DALLAS, Bobby talks to his son about his relationship with Tracey Lawton. “What if Mama came back and you were married?” Christopher asks. “Mama is never coming back,” insists Bobby firmly. Over on FALCON CREST, there’s a sweet little scene where Ben Agretti gets to say the kind of things to his long-lost mother that Christopher will never have the chance to say to Pam: “I always thought that I’d done something wrong and that’s why I didn’t have a mom … I wanted you so much, I didn’t know if I could ever forgive you for leaving me.”

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    08 Feb 89: DYNASTY: Tankers, Cadavers to Chance v. 09 Feb 89: KNOTS LANDING: Without a Clue v. 10 Feb 89: DALLAS: He-e-ere's Papa! v. 10 Feb 89: FALCON CREST: And Baby Makes Three

    As Pam Ewing learnt to her cost way back in the DALLAS mini-series, barns can be dangerous places in Soap Land — and never more so than this week. DYNASTY opens with the stables at Delta Rho not only on fire but with Sammy Jo and her assailant Gibson unconscious inside, each wounded after shooting the other. Over on KNOTS, Jill steals into Gary’s barn and sabotages his saddle. The last person to play such a trick was Sable on THE COLBYS as part of a scheme to gaslight her sister-in-law Constance. We’ve already seen Jill shopping for a wheelchair (“My fiancee broke his leg,” she informs the shop assistant) so she presumably has a more Misery-inspired scenario in mind. (Although the movie version of Misery had yet to be released in early ’89, the original novel had been a big hit the previous year.)

    It’s an unwritten Soap Land rule that characters trapped in a fire must be rescued by one of their show’s leading men rather than an anonymous member of the emergency services. So it is that Jeff Colby joins the heroic likes of Mark Jennings, Bobby Ewing and, most recently, Lance Cumson as he drags Sammy Jo to safety. Gibson makes it out of the barn on his own and, like Sammy Jo, winds up at Soap Land Memorial Hospital where KNOTS LANDING’s Mrs Bailey is also in residence. Whereas Jill is satisfied that Mrs B no longer poses a threat to her (“They can ask you all the questions they want, you’re never gonna be able to answer,” she gloats during one of her thought bubble thingies), Gibson remains a thorn in Sable’s side. “You’ve got something to hide from somebody,” he tells her over the phone. “Either you get me out of here fast or I’m gonna spread my name and yours in every newspaper in this city.”

    Mrs Bailey may not be able to incriminate her verbally, but Jill suspects she has “a lot of interesting things at home — I bet you’re the type of woman that holds onto all sorts of thing that should have been thrown away.” Mack reaches the same conclusion, but while he’s waiting for a warrant to search her apartment legally, Jill simply lets herself in. Back on DYNASTY, there’s a parallel scenario as Adam, intrigued after seeing Dex hand Virginia a letter (“I put some thoughts down on paper — please look it over, maybe you’ll understand what I did”), sneaks into her room to look for it. He and Jill each rifle through the drawers of a bureau (the place where Julie Grey once hid her key to the Red Files), but without success. Jill then finds a shoebox under the bed (Digger Barnes’s hiding place of choice for various legal documents), but this also proves a red herring. Adam eventually hits pay dirt when he locates the letter in a bedside dresser (the same place Jessica Montford and Caress Morelle hid their own highly confidential documents) while Jill gets lucky when she finds copies of Mrs Bailey’s forgeries in a hatbox (where Sue Ellen used to secrete her booze). Before either has time to savour their victories, they hear the sounds of voices and approaching footsteps. Hark, it is Mack arriving with his warrant and Virginia returning to change clothes. Tension mounts: are Adam and Jill about to be caught redhanded? Not likely — while he dives into a wardrobe, she makes her exit through a conveniently placed back door.

    We don’t get to see what is in Dex’s letter, but it apparently contains enough about Virginia’s unhappy past for Adam to pull the same “we’re both outsiders” shtick he used on Kirby in an attempt to get her into bed. Over on FALCON CREST, Anna Cellini uses nostalgia to try to rekindle the passion between her and Nick Agretti. “Let’s be seventeen again,” she suggests. Virginia and Nick each succumb to these methods of seduction. Jill, on the other hand, becomes only further isolated from her former KNOTS friends. Following Mrs Bailey’s all-too-convenient stroke, neither Mack nor Gary bother to conceal their suspicions about her. Ironically, this allows her to play the “Poor Jill” victim card. “It’s Val, isn’t it? … She sucked one more person into her little fantasy … What you think I did, Mack? Do you think I had Mrs Bailey write her suicide note?” she asks indignantly over the phone while burning the very papers she swiped from Mrs B’s closet (and wearing one of her hats for good measure).

    “What do I have to do to prove to you people I’m innocent — take a lie detector test?” she continues. And so Jill Bennett becomes the first Soap Land character to submit such a test since Wes Parmalee on DALLAS two years ago. Just like Wes, she passes with flying colours. In both cases, there is no explanation as to how the character has been able to outwit the machine, beyond a reminder that it is not a hundred per cent accurate. Karen’s suggestion, “Maybe Jill’s so far gone, she actually believes what she said was true”, echoes a similar line about Wes (“Maybe he went back to a time in his mind when he believed he really was Jock”) and is as close as we get. When the results of the test fail to convince anyone of Jill’s innocence, she begrudgingly agrees to see a shrink of Gary’s choosing, played by the same therapist who counselled Sue Ellen during her stay at the Dream Season Sanatarium. Dr Gilbert, as she is now known, turns out to be as wrong about Jill (“It is my considered opinion that she is not a danger to anyone”) as she was perceptive about Sue Ellen (specifically, her tendency to blame others for her problems). Lie detectors, shrinks and psychics — ultimately, they are as accurate as Soap Land’s plots require them to be.

    Just over a year ago, FALCON CREST’s anti-hero, Richard Channing, became a respectable married man when he wed the wholesome Maggie Gioberti. More recently, his Ewing-verse equivalents, Greg Sumner and JR Ewing, have followed suit by marrying Abby and Cally. Whereas JR is unhappy with this state of affairs (“Marriage was not on my agenda and married I do not wanna be,” he informs his new bride, who responds by planting a cream pie in his face), Greg appears to embrace it: “I didn’t think I’d ever get a shot at a life like that again. I didn’t want one. Things have changed. I feel like I’m part of a family now.” Both he and Richard make a public display of their new “family man” image this week.

    Mack watches briefly while Greg and Abby are portrayed as “the perfect American family” during a TV interview before turning his attention to Meg’s diapers: “I’d rather change it than listen to it.” On FC, Maggie has other concerns when she watches Richard being interviewed alongside Pilar Ortega on the 6 O’Clock News regarding his role as “benefactor of the new community centre.” “I told Richard not to wear that purple tie,” she frets. Richard goes on to explain that his newfound altruism is due to “the example set for me by my wife Maggie, to whom generosity is second nature.” Beneath the public facades, however, lie more complicated questions. “Is there anything going on between you and Pilar Ortega?” Maggie asks. Richard assures her there isn’t. “Did you know Pilar before she came back to the valley?” she continues. Again, he says no. Neither answer is the full truth. Back on KNOTS, Ted Melcher broaches an even thornier subject: “Why did Greg Sumner give up his baby?” “… Who cares? It doesn’t relate to the issues,” Greg replies. “That’s what Dukakis said when Bush started to talk about the pledge of allegiance,” retorts Ted.

    This is Soap Land’s first reference to George Bush Sr, who was sworn in as President of America just three weeks before this episode originally aired (Ronald Reagan having held the office since the day before Abby first met JR until the day after she married Greg). In another sign of the times, Michael Fairgate and his latest unrequited crush Ellen more or less invent the internet — or at the very least Google. “First, you start with your knowledge base which is kind of like a library of facts … then you write a programme called an inference engine which uses the knowledge base to draw to conclusions,” Ellen explains. “You guys must have been eating your Wheaties,” marvels their professor. Over on DALLAS, Sue Ellen, after rolling her eyes at the concept of an ATM machine a couple of weeks ago, claws back a modicum of credibility by introducing the term “significant other” to Soap Land. “That’s what they’re calling them these days,” she informs a slightly baffled Carter McKay. (DALLAS seems to be setting McKay and Sue Ellen up as future allies, but I think this ep is the last time we see them together.)

    While Clayton and Miss Ellie are off screen “having a wonderful time” in Europe for the second week in a row, Alexis is finally back from Natumbe. As this is her first appearance since Krystle’s poignant departure, one might have expected an acknowledgement in the same “let bygones be bygones” spirit of JR’s parting words to Ray Krebbs on DALLAS two weeks ago (“Right now, I only remember the good times”). Instead, Alexis’s sole reference to her former bête noire occurs as she is taunting Sable for trying to move in on Blake. “What a pity that Krystle’s still alive; that does cramp your style rather. Maybe you should send one of your henchmen to Switzerland and pull the plug on her,” she suggests. Sable is genuinely taken aback: “I don’t know another soul on earth that would make a remark as low as that.” Maybe not, but JR comes close as he quizzes Sue Ellen about Nicholas Pearce’s background, the first time he’s mentioned the man since killing him at the end of last season: “You two must have talked once in a while — couldn’t have spent all your time in the sack.” But even this remark pales in comparison to what he says after a vengeful Joseph Lombardi abducts him and demands to know who should be made to pay for his son’s death. “If anyone’s to blame, it’s my ex-wife Sue Ellen,” he insists. “If it hadn’t have been for her, your boy would still be alive.”

    The standout scene on this week’s DYNASTY is a mano-a-mano confrontation at the mansion. In front of the assembled Carrington clan, Zorelli angrily accuses Blake of using his influence with the police department to have him removed from the Roger Grimes case. “They put me behind a desk, took my gun … Do you have any idea what that means to a cop?!” he yells. “Sounds a bit like castration, doesn’t it?” snipes Adam on the sidelines. Blake is outraged by the allegation, Jeff and Adam take his side, Fallon defends her boyfriend, Virginia attempts to play peacemaker and pretty soon everyone’s shouting over each other, the camera’s shaking and Blake has to be restrained from physically attacking the younger man. “Get him out of here before I kill him!” he shouts. The whole thing is thrillingly out of control, in a KNOTS Season 4 type way.

    Just as Jill is now an outsider on KNOTS, Fallon’s decision to side with Zorelli places them on one side and the rest of the Carringtons on the other. After all the convoluted romances and storylines Fallon has experienced over the past nine years, it’s kind of remarkable that this relationship should feel as important as it does. While it obviously helps that their affair is tied into a much bigger storyline and that Fallon herself has been revamped so successfully this season, another crucial ingredient is Zorelli — arguably the show’s most rounded and certainly most down-to-earth male character since Matthew Blaisdel back in Season 1.

    KNOTS’ best scene is also a face-off between two men. Whereas Blake and Zorelli’s encounter is loud and chaotic, Greg and Mack’s is measured and controlled and takes place in the privacy of the latter’s office. In place of raised voices and snide remarks, there is small talk (Greg: “I was surprised to hear you were leaving the government” Mack: “I was surprised to hear you wanted back in”), prevarication (Greg: “Time has a tendency to change your perspective” Mack: “When did you become so philosophical?”) and an unspoken tension which is finally broken by Mack saying what Greg cannot bring himself to: “You want Meg back.” It feels significant that for this scene, Greg is dressed the same way he was for the speech in “Bouncing Babies” last season when he formally handed Meg over to the Mackenzies (camel brown overcoat, slicked-back hair). But whereas he stared directly into the camera lens back then, he now hides behind dark glasses, suggesting an inability to look either Mack or himself directly in the eye.

    At one point, their conversation turns to Laura’s death. “You looked like it didn’t matter,” says Mack. “Just because I didn’t flip over backwards and break into tears on the casket doesn’t mean I didn’t care,” Greg replies. The same accusation could be levelled at Sue Ellen following the death of Nicholas Pearce. She hasn’t flipped over backwards either, even though we’ve previously seen her dissolve into a self-piteous heap over far less. Maybe she’s done her grieving in private, away from both the other characters and the audience — as if she’s already started receding from our view, in preparation for her departure at the end of the season. A simpler explanation is provided by Sue Ellen herself in the last and best scene of this week’s DALLAS which, like Mack and Greg’s, is an office-based encounter. “I wanted to shut it out, to forget that evening ever happened,” she tells Joseph Lombardi, who wants to know if her account of the events leading up to Nick’s death matches JR’s. “You’re the only one left who can speak for my son,” he tells her poignantly.

    Given Lombardi’s “eye for an eye” philosophy, Sue Ellen essentially holds JR’s life in her hands — will she blame or exonerate him regarding his role in Nicholas’s death? The scene is also her only opportunity to express her grief on screen and Linda Gray makes the most of it, managing to imbue even a line as clunky as “I hated JR so much, I shot him and when he survived, I was furious” with genuine emotion. Proving how far she’s come since that Dream Season therapy session with Jill Bennett’s doctor, Sue Ellen ultimately takes the high road and admits responsibility for her own role in what occurred: “Nicholas loved me, he’d do anything for me, and because of that, he’s dead … If only I hadn’t insisted on him helping me look for John Ross, if only we hadn’t gone to JR’s condo that night, if only I had stopped the fight between JR and Nicholas before it got so violent. If only, if only — they’re such empty words.” It’s a little gem of a speech.

    FC also saves its best scene for last. Pilar sees Lance’s revelation that Cookie Nash is carrying his child and raises him a nine-year-old-daughter he never knew he had. Heck, he doesn’t even remember it being conceived. In circumstances remarkably similar to Adam and Dana’s backstory on DYNASTY, Pilar was a high school girl from the wrong side of the tracks with a big crush, Lance was a troubled teen too inebriated to know what he was doing, and together they made a baby. While Dana had an illegal abortion, Pilar went the unofficial adoption route (as did Greg with Meg) and gave the kid to her aunt to raise as her own.

    Minor trend of the week: witches. Dex Dexter alludes to Macbeth when he finds himself face to face with Sable and Joanna. “Now all we need is one more witch and a cauldron,” he quips. Meanwhile, Jill Bennett evokes Arthur Miller’s The Crucible during a wonderfully indignant speech to Gary: “During the Middle Ages, if they thought a woman was guilty of witchcraft, they’d bind her hands and feet and throw her in some water and if she sank, she was innocent — she was pretty much dead, but she was innocent — and if she floated, she was guilty. So they took her out, dried her off and burnt her at the stake. It was a no-win situation. Gary, I know exactly how those women felt.”

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    15 Feb 89: DYNASTY: All Hands on Dex v. 16 Feb 89: KNOTS LANDING: The Spin Doctor v. 17 Feb 89: DALLAS: Comings and Goings v. 17 Feb 89: FALCON CREST: Dinner at Eight

    “You are hardly what I imagined a soldier of fortune would look like,” Alexis remarks when she is introduced to Cray Boyd on DYNASTY. “You’re not quite what I imagined,” echoes Sue Ellen when introduced to movie director Don Lockwood on DALLAS.

    Cray and Don are two of four significant male characters making their Soap Land debuts this week. Cray, Adam Carrington’s old pal-turned-mercenary, is played by the same actor as John Remick, Chase Gioberti’s old pal-turned-mercenary, on last season’s FALCON CREST. But for the fact that Remick had only one leg the last time we saw him, Cray could be the same character under an assumed name. Both men come from a fancier background than your average soldier for hire — Remick’s brother was a US senator while Boyd studied international law at Yale (“so I’d know how to break it”). The only notable difference between them is that Cray is somewhat suaver than his FC twin — and a lot flirtier (“I can think of more exciting things to seize than your ships,” he tells Alexis in front of her son). Meanwhile, Carter McKay’s son Tommy, who shows up this week on DALLAS, turns out to be the spit of DYNASTY’s corpse du jour, Roger Grimes. “You look great!” exclaims his sister Tracey when he first appears. “Why not? Haven’t done much but lay around the past couple of years,” he replies. Roger Grimes looked great in his first scene too, and he’d spent the previous twenty years laying at the bottom of the Carrington lake.

    Tommy McKay also has a few things in common with DYNASTY’s other new face, Tanner McBride — similar names, big hair (Tanner wins the battle of the bouffants) and a preoccupation with drugs. Whereas Tommy has just served a prison term for possession, do-gooder Tanner bursts into Sammy Jo’s hospital room, mistakes her for a teenage junkie and proceeds to tear a teddy bear apart looking for her secret stash. (Turns out Tommy keeps his in his suitcase.) Over on FALCON CREST, it looks like Anna Cellini might have a drug habit too, what with all those furtive trips to the bathroom where she injects herself with morphine. However, it eventually transpires that she is dying of cancer and doesn’t want her family to know.

    The subject of drugs crops up again during two parent/child conversations in this week’s Ewingverse. On KNOTS, Olivia disapproves of Abby attempting to take Meg from the Mackenzies. “Why would you wanna start again and screw up some new kid’s life?” she asks her. “Oh I am a terrible mother, aren’t I? Look at the way I got you off of drugs,” replies Abby sarcastically. “Why do you think I started drugs to begin with?” Olivia retorts. Meanwhile on DALLAS, there is an uneasy reunion between Tommy McKay and his father. “Maybe we’ll end up one big happy family,” Tommy suggests, somewhat ironically. “Maybe we will if we try — and if you stay off of drugs,” replies Mack. “Speaking of which, have you quit drinking yet?” Tommy shoots back.

    Cray Boyd and Don Lockwood are central to Alexis and Sue Ellen’s latest schemes, both of which are unveiled this week. Whereas Sue Ellen’s has been hinted at over the past few weeks — her acquisition of a movie studio, clues about the film she intends to make — Alexis’s plot is both hatched and set in motion within the space of an episode. Having had her ships swiped from under her nose by Sable at the end of last week’s episode, she hires Cray to get them back. “What you’re asking is no small operation,” he warns her, sounding not unlike BD Calhoun during his preliminary conversations with JR on DALLAS two years ago. “The Bay of Natumbe is not an easy place to operate. It’s going to take helicopters, armed speedboats, some sophisticated tracking equipment … Some very good men are gonna be on the line, with wives and kids … Whatever comes down, nobody will be able to trace anything to you. I just wanna make sure it works the other way around too.” Meanwhile, Sue Ellen pitches her movie idea to Don as “a Texas version of Citizen Kane” before flashing back to the scene at the end of Season 1 where JR had her committed to a sanatarium. That’s when we understand for sure what (or rather, who) her movie is all about. “It’ll be a dream come true for me — and a nightmare for the person it’s dedicated to,” she smiles.

    Once Don has agreed to write and direct the film, Sue Ellen enlists Lucy, aka “the only Ewing who feels the same way about JR as I do”, to supply him with a few JR-related stories of her own. This leads to a second flashback, between JR and Val from ten years earlier. The Val we see here bears almost no relation to the one in this week’s KNOTS, but there is one connection between them. “Get the hell out of here!” Val tells JR in 1979 after he barges into her motel room. “Would you please leave?” she asks JR’s brother Gary in 1989 after he all but insists on spending the night on her couch (“I don’t trust Jill,” he tells her). Like JR before him, Gary ignores her wishes and spends the night in his car outside her house instead. This leads to a really fun scene the following morning where almost the entire cul-de-sac ends up peering curiously through his car windows, where the camera has assumed his point of view, which means that they’re all peering at us. Back on DALLAS, Lucy concludes her recollection by alluding to an ongoing estrangement between her and Val: “We did get together, but it didn’t last for very long.” Meanwhile on DYNASTY, there is talk of another crossover character after Blake learns that Sable was behind Gibson’s dive to the bottom of the Carrington lake and concludes that she must be in cahoots with her former husband. He orders Jeff “to find Jason, talk to him, tell him that I’ll meet him anytime, anywhere.”

    Blake’s discovery also leads to the best scene of this week’s DYNASTY where he confronts Sable in her suite at the Carlton over what he regards as her betrayal: “We took you into our home, we trusted you. You were even part of our wedding.” Before she has a chance to justify her actions, they are interrupted by Alexis. (Ah, the joys of hotel living in Soap Land: arch enemies barging into each other’s living quarters without any need of explanation.) Whereas Sable is elegantly dressed in a ballgown for this scene, Alexis looks magnificently tacky, as if she were her own drag queen impersonator off to shimmy the night away. “What have we here — a lover’s quarrel?” she drawls. “I simply don’t believe my eyes — poor Krystle barely breathing on life support in Switzerland and her devoted husband breathing heavily down that trollop’s neck … But then you never really did care about your wives, did you, Blake? I was forced into an affair with Roger Grimes because of your indifference, but poor Krystle — she found her own way out just in time.” Poor Krystle — how interesting that Alexis has taken to referring to her blonde rival with the same prefix that Jill Bennett does hers.

    “Are you going to hit me, Blake, like you hit Roger Grimes? I bet if you had a gun, you’d shoot me too,” she continues, the acuity of her jibes making the insults Cliff throws at JR during a showdown on this week’s DALLAS (their first since they started working at Ewing Oil together) appear cumbersome by comparison: “JR, you are a proctologist’s dream — the biggest horse’s behind I have ever seen!” Alexis’s gasp-inducing remark to Sable about Krystle in last week’s DYNASTY (“Maybe you should send one of your henchmen to Switzerland and pull the plug on her”) is matched by Abby on this week’s KNOTS as she and Karen argue over Meg. “Do you think Laura would have you raise her child?” Karen asks. “Well, she doesn’t have much to say about it anymore, does she? She’s dead,” Abby replies coldly. And just as the prospect of Alexis raising Krystina (“If worst came to worst, I’d take care of her myself”) triggered a violent impulse in Krystle during their final scene together, so the idea of wicked, wicked Abby bringing up Meg (“I’ll be a wonderful mother … I promise you”) prompts Karen, after nine years of on-screen animosity, to finally slaps her sister-in-law across the face. Having been similarly struck by Laura in Season 2 (“You are such a slut”) and Val in Season 3 (“I can have him anytime I want him”), Abby has now completed the Seaview Circle hat trick (or hit trick).

    As fun as Karen and Abby’s showdown is, my favourite moment from this week’s KNOTS is a brief but atmospheric scene that occurs on the grounds of Gary’s ranch. Earlier in the ep, Jill’s efforts to injure Gary by tampering with his saddle backfired after he lent his horse to Julie Williams and she took the fall intended for him. (This is another echo of Sable’s saddle-tampering scheme on THE COLBYS in which Frankie became her unintended victim.) Pat has just learned from Pete the ranch hand (not to be confused with Pete the ranch hand from earlier on this season’s DALLAS) that Julie’s supposed accident was no such thing when she spots a figure lurking outside Gary’s boathouse. It’s raining heavily, the view is blurry, we can only see what Pat sees, but the figure appears to be Jill. Pat calls her name and clambers up a hill towards her, but by the time she gets near, the figure has disappeared. And that’s it. But there’s a lingering eeriness about the scene that for some reason reminds me of Magic, the spooky 1978 thriller that starred Anthony Hopkins, Ann Margaret and a demented ventriloquist’s dummy.

    This is the week that Cally Ewing takes up painting and discovers the Southfork exercise room. “It’s a great way to work off whatever’s bothering you,” explains Lucy while lifting a few bars. “Instead of smacking someone, you just start pumping away.” As if to illustrate her point, this week’s FALCON CREST opens with Lance playing an energetic game squash against himself — a neat metaphor for his present inner conflict: Should he try and build a future with Cookie Nash, the mother of his unborn child and the woman Angela wants him to marry, or Pilar Ortega, the mother of a child she hid from him and the woman he actually loves? Adam Carrington has trodden similar narrative ground in recent seasons (the return of a high school lover, the discovery of a secret pregnancy in the past, a conflict over a pregnancy in the present), but DYNASTY has now dropped all that and he’s back to being the vicious twisted bastard he used to be — which is much more fun to watch. This week, he exhibits some hitherto unexplored sexual predilections when he tries to force Virginia to dress up as a prostitute for him — “Madonna by day, hooker by night,” as he puts it.

    In what I think is a Soap Land first, FC’s Pilar receives two marriage proposals in the space of one episode. The first comes from creepy (and married) Malcolm St Clair, with whom she apparently had an affair before her return to the Tuscany Valley. Pilar toys with St Clair’s affections for a while, even trying on the engagement ring for size, before turning him down: “This has nothing to do with marriage, Malcolm. You just wanna make sure I back up your story about Troilus with the SCC.” This is a reference to a business manoeuvre I wish I understood better. Basically, Richard and St Clair each need Pilar on his side. Otherwise, Richard will go to jail for business fraud (or something like that) or St Clair will lose out on a fortune. “I’ll back whoever makes it most worth my while,” Pilar tells them. Her second proposal comes from Lance and she immediately accepts it. The look of triumph on her face as they embrace suggests she might not be motivated by love alone. Not everything goes her way, however. Richard’s way of getting her on side is to threaten the wellbeing of her secret daughter.

    Soap Land’s kids play a prominent role on each of this week’s eps, apart from DYNASTY. Much of KNOTS deals, very believably, with the fallout from Greg’s decision about taking Meg back — Karen and Mack’s bewildered “this can’t be happening” reaction reminds me of Sid’s after he found himself accused of rape back in Season 2. Olivia unintentionally adds to their stress when she takes Meg for a walk and then doesn’t return for hours. The Mackenzies’ role as Meg’s de facto parents parallels Cally’s position on DALLAS. In the absence of both Sue Ellen and Pam from Southfork, she is starting to become a surrogate mother — but to Christopher rather than John Ross. This is a surprisingly touching development that I hadn't really registered on previous viewings. Cally also takes a Kristin-style dive off the Southfork balcony to save John Ross when he knocks himself unconscious and falls into the pool after sassing her (his mixture of cockiness and vulnerability once again anticipating Josh Henderson’s interpretation of the role). Like Cally, Richard Channing’s son Michael exhibits an artistic streak when he presents Angela with a drawing he has done of her while playing in his father’s office. She smiles indulgently — until she turns the drawing over to discover an incriminating memo. “I’ve just discovered that you’ve been running Troilus all along!” she tells Richard at the end of the episode. It’s a suitably dramatic moment, but one I’d enjoy even more if I could fully understand what was going on.

    KNOTS and DALLAS both end with a woman manipulating her (ex) husband’s public image. On KNOTS, Abby overrides Greg’s wishes (“I will not go to the newspapers with a sob story about my wife, I will not use my daughter for cheap publicity”) when she informs a journalist that, “my husband has had a very tragic personal life.” While she hopes to evoke sympathy and support for Greg, Sue Ellen has something else in mind for JR: “When this picture is released, he’s going to be the laughing stock of Dallas … JR is going to be so embarrassed, he’ll never be able to show his face anywhere and that is going to be my ultimate revenge.”

    Headline of the week: “Secretary Swallows Chimpanzee To Save Her Boss From Mauling,” yells the front page of the National Informer we see Sammy Jo reading in hospital.

    This week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    22 Feb 89: DYNASTY: Virginia Reels v. 23 Feb 89: KNOTS LANDING: Poor Jill v. 24 Feb 89: DALLAS: Country Girl/Wedding Bell Blues

    Trend of the week #1: Intruders who turn out to be benign. On DYNASTY, Zorelli is returning to his apartment when he spots a light on inside. He does the whole cop-bursting-through-a-door-with-a-gun thing only to find Fallon making him coq au vin for dinner. On KNOTS, Frank Williams receives a frantic phone call from Val: “There’s somebody outside the house and I think they’re trying to break in!” While she arms herself with a kitchen knife, he does the whole ex-cop-wrestling-a-stranger-to-the-ground thing only to discover that the man is a security guard Gary has hired to keep an eye on his ex-wife.

    Trend of the week #2: Inadvertent discoveries. After finding Fallon in his kitchen, Zorelli takes a shower. Like any self-respecting Italian American archetype, he starts singing ‘That’s Amore’ at the top of his lungs which is why he doesn’t hear Fallon when she asks where he keeps his matches. So she opens a drawer, only to find … a surveillance photo of herself in Zorelli’s office looking at a photo of her father with Tommy McKay — I mean Roger Grimes. Over on DALLAS, Carter McKay is depositing clean shirts in his son Roger’s — I mean Tommy’s — room when he opens a drawer, only to find … a wrap of cocaine. When challenged, Tommy uses the same explanation Gary Ewing once used to explain why he was working as a barman in a casino: “I keep it like some alcoholics keep one bottle — just to remind me the nightmare that stuff was.”

    Trend of the week #3: Soap Land characters physically attacked in their own offices. Adam Carrington’s meeting with Jeff and Fallon is interrupted by an outraged Dex Dexter. “You couldn’t leave her alone, huh? How do you live with yourself? What kind of a warped mind, huh? … I’m talking about Virginia!” he shouts. Adam backs away nervously (“Get out of here! … Call security!”) as Dex pursues him around his desk, knocking over a display stand in the process, before throwing him onto a couch and proceeding to throttle him. “Did you play rough with her, Adam, huh?” he continues, “slap her around a little bit, make you feel like a man?” Jeff intercedes, Adam makes a run for it, but then Dex leaps after him and pins him to the floor. (“Get him off me! He’s trying to kill me!”) Security guards arrive and restrain Dex, allowing Adam to strike back verbally. “Dex is upset because I know all about him and his little whore,” he sneers. Furious, Dex makes one last lunge at him: “I’m gonna kill you, Adam. I’m gonna kill you, I swear!”

    It’s a terrific battle and the fun doesn’t stop after Jeff finally drags Dex away to cool off. The allegations Adam then makes to Fallon are among the most sordid in Soap Land history: “Virginia was Dex’s little plaything years ago. She was fifteen, sixteen … Dex picked her up, made her do things even she hadn’t done before. He called her Ginger. Isn’t that cute?” Fallon is stunned: “Dex never said anything about …” “About what — taking a minor to bed, dressing her up like a whore, doing God-knows-what with her … taking pictures of her?” As anomalous as Virginia’s story has sometimes felt (it’s about the only plot-line of this season’s DYNASTY that isn’t somehow tied to the bottom-of-the-lake mystery), it’s all worth it for this scene. Fallon’s final response — “I always wondered what you were made of, Adam. Now I know: it comes out the back of a horse” — combines the scatological aspects of Mack Mackenzie’s recent comparison between Greg’s TV segment and Meg’s full diaper (“I’d rather change it than listen to it”) and Cliff’s putdown of JR last week (“You are proctologist’s dream — the biggest horse’s behind I have ever seen”).

    There are two more workplace attacks, each of which occurs in Jill Bennett’s office on KNOTS. First of all, Gary appears in the outer office and startles secretary Joy by emptying a box full of the kind of paper cups Red Buttons disapproved of so vocally at the beginning of last season. He then barges into Jill’s office and starts filling the box with objects from her desk. “Time to go,” he informs her. “Time to pack up and move back to Ukiah or Sacramento or wherever the hell you come from.” As Adam did Dex, she tells him to get out of her office. “Get out of my life!” he snarls back. But whereas Dex immediately had Adam on the run, Jill keeps her cool. “I am not gonna give up my career just because you and a cul-de-sac full of your crazy friends wanna get rid of me,” she tells him firmly. By contrast, Gary’s anger builds and builds. “I will make you lose your job,” he vows. “I will make you lose your career unless you go away quietly and forever … I’ll do whatever I have to to get you out of my life. YOU GOT THAT?!” Finally, he sends the box he’s been packing flying across the room, overturns a chair and storms out. Where Adam started yelling for help as soon as Dex barged into his office, it’s only now that Gary has gone that Jill calmly instructs Joy to call the police.

    Jill’s second unscheduled visitor is Val. This time, there is no meeting to interrupt, no secretary in the outer office — Jill is alone. Val strides straight into her office to find her seated behind her desk. “Stay away from my children,” she tells her, referring to Jill’s encounter with Bobby and Betsy earlier that day. Val is as angry as Dex and Gary were, maybe even more so, but her fury is colder and more measured, possibly making her even more intimidating. Certainly, Jill doesn’t wait before attempting to summon help this time around. “Joy, would you call the police, please?” she asks, only Joy isn’t there to hear her. “It’s one thing if you attack me,” Val continues, moving nearer to her, “but don’t you ever threaten my children. Do you hear me? Do you understand?” Jill stands, the shakiness of the camerawork mirroring her own reaction. “I had no intention of seeing your children,” she protests, “and I most certainly did not threaten them.” One can’t be sure, but one gets the sense that Jill’s meeting with the twins was accidental and so, for once, she is innocent of what she is being accused of. Val, however, is too far gone to listen to reason. She picks up a pair of scissors from Jill’s desk and wields them threateningly. “You’re lying, Jill,” she says, “just like you’ve always lied.” Jill calls out for Joy again, before making a grab for the phone, which Val knocks to the floor. “You think you can get away with anything but you can’t,” she continues, “not anymore because nobody believes you anymore, nobody trusts you anymore. This is the last time you’re gonna threaten anyone.” By now truly frightened, Jill picks up a chair with which to defend herself, but Val takes it away from her with ease. “You wanna know what it’s like to feel terror, huh?” Val asks, looking down the camera lens, thereby mirroring Jill’s position when she held Val at gunpoint at the end of last season, “To be afraid of every sound, not just for your own sake, but your children’s and your family’s?” She then casually overturns the desk, fuelled by the same unpredictable, what-have-I-got-to-lose strength as Krystle in her last scene with Alexis where she pushed that book into her throat. As she herself points out, “This is not poor Val talking — poor Val, poor Val, poor Val; from now on, it’s gonna be poor Jill.” Poor Jill then manages to escape by tossing a random bit of stationery in Val’s direction and making a dash for freedom.

    Val is not the only meek and mild character pushed to violent extremes. Nor is Jill the only villainess to get a taste of her own medicine. Sable Colby has been having fun taunting Fritz Heath, Colby Co’s controller and a compulsive gambler whom she has threatened to destroy unless he supplies her with information she can use against Alexis. In the grand Soap Land tradition of “little men pushed too far” (Walt Driscoll and Edgar Randolph on DALLAS, Neil McVane on DYNASTY, Dr Lantry on FALCON CREST), he finally snaps and pulls a gun on Sable at the end of this week’s ep (“You’re pushing me against a wall and I just can’t take it anymore! … I can’t go to jail! I’d go crazy if I were to go to jail!” “Fritz, no!”).

    Elsewhere on DYNASTY, Cousin Virginia packs her bags and leaves the Carrington mansion for good, somehow managing to fashion a happy ending from her humiliation by Adam: “In some ways, Blake, I think he did me a favour. All my life I’ve felt like I was less than everybody else … I don’t feel that way anymore.” Well, good for her. Over on DALLAS, Cally packs her bags and almost leaves Southfork — but is persuaded to stay by JR after casually mentioning that she’s pregnant.

    DYNASTY’s Dex and KNOTS LANDING’s Ted Melcher both find themselves in the delicate position of brokering a meeting between two opposing parties this week. “It’s very important that I talk with Blake,” Sable tells Dex. “I don’t think he will take my call … so I want you to set up a meeting for me.” “The four of you need to sit down and talk,” Ted tells Greg and Abby, referring to their custody dispute with the Mackenzies. “I’ll make the approach.” While Dex’s intercession with Blake occurs offscreen, Ted’s visit to the Mackenzie house, whereupon Mack closes the door in his face, leads to further conflict. First, Mack picks on Paige over her association with Ted (“Is that the jerk you’ve been dating or the clown you just broke up with?”) and then Paige and Ted have a shouting match in the cul-de-sac. “You don’t care about reuniting a family,” yells Paige. “You wanna assemble a portrait, make a better photo opportunity. You don’t care about that little girl in there!”

    However reluctantly, Karen and Mack show up for the meeting with Greg and Abby and their respective attorneys. The glass-walled office it takes place in is our first glimpse of the Sumner Group (although it has yet to be referred to as such). The bureaucratic red tape Tanner McBride must untangle on DYNASTY before he can help a sixteen-year-old girl in need is mirrored by the legal doublespeak the Mackenzies are faced with in this scene. “We’re here to find only mutually agreeable ways to minimise whatever adverse impact attendant publicity might have on Meg,” decrees the Sumners’ attorney. “Do you pay this guy by the syllable or what?” Mack asks Greg. From there, things go swiftly downhill. “This has nothing to do with Meg’s welfare,” argues Karen. “This is the most cynical, self-serving thing I’ve ever witnessed!” “Self-serving?” Abby retorts. “Karen, do you think no-one notices that you are totally unable to deal with the fact that you are not God’s gift to children?” “Who appointed you God anyhow?” echoes JR on DALLAS as he questions Bobby’s claim that going into business with Cliff is “what was best for Ewing Oil and the family.”

    Sable’s scene with Blake is less confrontational than the Sumner/Mackenzie summit but does provide her with an opportunity to delineate her role in various storylines. “My search for what’s buried under the lake, my attacks on Alexis and my friendship with you and Krystle are three entirely separate things,” she explains. She is full of contrition and humility in front of Blake, but when Dex subsequently commends her on her honesty, she is offended: “I resent the implication that my telling the truth is some major event!” Yet for all her moral indignation, there is a darker side to Sable, one that enjoys belittling not only someone of equal standing like Alexis but also those socially and economically beneath her, such as employee Joanna or the hapless Fritz Heath. “Sable Colby is a bully,” Adam declares and he kind of has a point. The likes of Abby or even JR would never humiliate an underling as diligent as Joanna just for the hell of it. So which Sable is the real Sable — or can bad girls be good girls too? Karen asks a similar question on KNOTS. “Is that the new Abby talking or the old Abby?” she wonders after her sister-in-law insists that she would make an equally good mother for Meg. “It’s the new Abby until after the election,” Mack replies. The good intentions of two other so-called bad girls are also met with cynicism this week. “Like your character and nobility of purpose are above question,” sneers Ted during his argument with Paige. “I am no saint,” she concedes, “but I would never do to a child what you are doing to Meg.” Meanwhile on DALLAS, JR dismisses April’s misgivings about their scheme to double-cross Cliff and Bobby thusly: “I thought you were a businesswoman, not some bleeding heart social worker.”

    When the Sumner/Mackenzie conference ends in a stalemate, Greg asks Paige to arrange another sensitive encounter, this time between himself and Meg. Their subsequent meeting strongly echoes a scene from DALLAS’s fourth season where Sue Ellen looked on as JR, from whom she was divorced at the time, played happily with John Ross. Both scenes are set in a park and this time Paige is the silent bystander. We watch as her attitude, like Sue Ellen’s before her, softens in spite of herself while Greg, like JR, merrily improvises his dialogue to accommodate the toddler’s spontaneous reactions.

    Two of the Ewingverse’s morally dubious male characters end up setting self-interest aside and taking the high road this week. Towards the end of this week’s KNOTS, Greg makes a televised announcement that “for Meg’s sake, I have decided to leave her with the Mackenzies … It’s the best thing for her. If that loses me the election, so be it.” On DALLAS, John Ross overcomes his resentment towards Cally as he tells JR about his pool accident in last week’s ep. “She isn’t so bad … she saved my life,” he admits. While Abby and Ted are dismayed by Greg’s actions (“He doesn’t look like he wants to win”), John Ross’s confession brings JR one step closer to publicly acknowledging Cally as his wife.

    Towards the end of this week’s ep, KNOTS does something no soap has done previously. It takes the two characters we’ve known longest and places them in an intentionally ambiguous situation where we’re not sure what they’re doing or why. The sequence starts outside Jill’s apartment building. First, Gary emerges from inside, wiping his hands clean. Then Val pulls up. He tells her to go home, but she persuades him to go for a walk with her instead. After that, the camera pulls away from them. We observe them from a distance talking intently on a park bench — Gary appears to be explaining something, Val gets upset — but their voices are drowned out by the musical score. They then embrace before returning to their cars and driving away separately. What’s going on? What were they talking about and why were we watching them? These questions are followed by more. What is the piece of material protruding from Gary’s trunk as he drives away? Why are the cops following him back to his ranch? Why does he not immediately comply when they order him to pull over? Then comes the shocking reveal when Gary, under police instruction, pops the truck to expose Jill’s body, bound and gagged. Even after the frame has frozen, the camera continues to move in on Jill's face, rotating anti-clockwise, thereby creating the visual equivalent of a stomach lurch. It’s Soap Land’s most disorientating freeze frame since I don’t know when.

    DALLAS also teases us by withholding crucial information from the viewer. It’s not until the last scene of this week’s double bill that we learn of a scheme that has been previously cooked up by Cally and Sue Ellen at some unspecified point in time. Lying in bed after consummating their marriage, JR asks Cally the exact same question he asked Sue Ellen way back in the final scene of “Act of Love” (Season 1): “How long have you been pregnant?” The answer proves as controversial now as it did in 1978: “With any luck at all, about ten minutes.” Instead of slapping Cally round the face as he did Sue Ellen over her pregnancy deception, JR chuckles appreciatively. “This was Sue Ellen’s idea?” he asks. “No, my idea, but she helped me,” Cally replies. “You just might have the stuff to make a proper Ewing wife after all,” he declares.

    Just as it emerged at the start of this season’s DYNASTY that Krystle had been keeping a diary all these years without our knowledge, so we learn the same thing about Sue Ellen this week. “You’ll know more about me than any other person alive,” she tells Don Lockwood grandiosely as she hands him her journals. As chance would have it, the first page he turns to leads to a flashback of DALLAS’s most-watched moment — the reveal of Kristin as JR’s shooter. Within this flashback is another flashback — the shooting itself. This “Russian doll” effect is similar to the scene in Zorelli’s apartment where Fallon looks at a photo of herself looking at a photo of Blake with Roger Grimes.

    While Alexis is off on her travels once again (“Europe for a few days, some kind of business I think,” Adam tells his father), Miss Ellie is back from hers (Europe for a few weeks, visiting Ray and Jenna in Switzerland — one likes to imagine she and Clayton found time to drop in on Krystle). She wastes little time in making her presence felt. In fact, the highlight of the first of this week’s DALLAS eps is a mother/son showdown where she appears to be channeling Jock, first reprimanding JR for not showing up for meals (“Have you forgotten that this family still eats dinner together?”) then ordering him to sort out his marriage: “I want you to go upstairs and tell Cally you accept her as your wife — or divorce her.”

    With its strong backstory and sense of place, its social traditions and array of recurring characters, DALLAS has always had the strongest and most consistent identity of all the soaps. Perhaps that’s why, now that the genre is in decline, it’s also the most visibly wounded. Dwindling budgets means not only the loss of central characters but also familiar supporting players and locations (Punk and Mavis Anderson and Harry McSween have all now made their final appearances, while no more filming in Texas means the end of the Oil Baron’s Ball and the Ewing barbecue, and that the real Southfork won’t be seen again until the reunion movies). What’s interesting, and somewhat touching, is that the series does not attempt to distract from these losses by reinventing itself creatively the way this season’s DYNASTY or FALCON CREST have done (and the way DALLAS did itself did during the Dream Season). Instead, it clings all the harder to what is left of the familiar. Hence this season’s hearkening back to the show’s pre-history — Section 40, the DOA, Miss Ellie’s horsewhip story, and her recollection this week of how raising chickens kept her and her daddy alive during the Depression. Nor is the show afraid to directly recall its glory days via Sue Ellen’s flashbacks — even as they threaten to eclipse the series’ present-day storylines. (This week we revisit the shooting of JR, JR bedding Afton at Lucy’s wedding and the duel in the pool at JR and Sue Ellen’s second wedding.) This isn’t a show that has lost touch with its own history; quite the opposite in fact.

    Key to making the old seem new again is Cally: it’s through her unsophisticated, uncynical, undemanding eyes that we revisit DALLAS’s past afresh. By previous DALLAS standards, her wedding to JR isn’t particularly impressive. April Stevens may call it “the biggest show in town” but the cardboard patio has never looked cardboardier and in spite of Carter McKay’s assurances that there are “some big names here”, there’s not even a cartel member to be seen. In fact, the most notable guests in attendance are the Ewing Oil secretaries, previously considered too lowly to be invited to a Southfork wedding. (“I just love it when someone makes me coffee!” trills Sly excitedly, as well she might.) But through Cally’s eyes, which essentially become our eyes for much of the second ep, the wedding is a fairytale come true, cardboard patio and all. Heck, what does she have to compare it to? She most likely never owned a TV set, much less one that showed the '80s super-soaps in their pomp.

    Running counter to Cally’s wide-eyed wonder is Tommy McKay’s caged-animal restlessness. I’m guessing he didn’t watch the' 80s super-soaps either, but you can still understand why he dismisses the entire state of Texas as “slightly south of boring”, makes a pass at every blonde under thirty (Cally, April, Sly), and ends up on the Southfork balcony during a thunderstorm, half-naked and howling at the moon.

    The DALLAS wedding ep has much in common with “Stormy Weather”, the budget-saving bottle episode from last season’s FALCON CREST. In both cases, adverse weather conditions oblige all the major characters (including a pair of newlyweds who would otherwise be on their honeymoon) to spend the night under the same roof. For me, the FC ep suffered from an excess of winking-at-the-camera style comedy. A similar, if less extreme, self-awareness occasionally surfaces on DALLAS as well. Lucy introduces the idea of the Southfork wedding curse (“If I ever get married again, I’ll be saying my vows at the nearest moose lodge”) and later uses a camcorder to mischievously record a business argument between JR, Bobby and Cliff — something one could easily imagine Emma, Melissa or Carly Fixx doing. Cliff also joins with the larks himself: “I’ve never stayed here at Southfork — I think it might be fun!”

    Sue Ellen’s having fun too. “Being married to JR is like a Hitchcock movie,” she quips. “You start out laughing and then you find yourself screaming in terror.” It’s a good line and also the first time that Soap Land’s most overt cinematic influence has been mentioned by name. (Not to be outdone, Greg Sumner name checks the director of It’s a Wonderful Life, among other films, over on KNOTS. “Me and Frank Capra — we don’t do makeup,” he jokes prior to his TV appearance.) And the episode ends with Sue Ellen popping a balloon outside JR and Cally’s bridal bedroom (insert your own Freudian gag). Aside from the levity, however, Sue Ellen also brings a lifetime of heartache and regret to the wedding. Alongside Tommy McKay’s dangerous restlessness, it provides another counterpoint to Cally’s innocence and optimism and prevents the episode from straying too far into sitcom territory. Just as Krystle’s wedding to Blake served as a backdrop to her departure from DYNASTY six weeks ago, so JR and Cally’s provides an opportunity for Sue Ellen to take one last moist-eyed, bittersweet look around the ranch. (Granted, she’s got nine more episodes until she actually leaves the show, but it’s this episode — where she hands the title of “Mrs JR Ewing” over to Cally — that really feels like the end of an era.)

    Once again, Soap Land’s rich are provided with a glimpse of a grimmer world existing just beyond their glamorous confines. On DYNASTY, a frustratedly desk-bound Zorelli shows Fallon a couple of police files: “This kid here, he got in the way of a street gang fight. This animal, he killed his four-year-old kid … Putting these people behind bars, that’s being a cop.” Meanwhile, Sammy Jo finds her new pal Tanner McBride arguing with a hospital administrator about the teenage addict on his watch: “They’re trying to send her back to her parents, nice sweet folks who enjoy beating her senseless … Maybe she just slits her wrists. She has tried to kill herself twice.” Over at Southfork, Miss Ellie is keen to disabuse new daughter-in-law Cally of the notion that “everyone in Dallas is rich.” “No, they’re not,” she tells her. “That’s why the DOA was invented … We have programmes for the elderly and the homeless.” Following Krystle’s charitable crusade and Mack’s recent court victory, it would appear homelessness has replaced AIDS as Soap Land’s social issue du jour.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (2) DYNASTY
    3 (3) DALLAS
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2018
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  9. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    01 Mar 89: DYNASTY: House of the Falling Son v. 02 Mar 89: KNOTS LANDING: Double Jeopardy v. 03 Mar 89: DALLAS: The Way We Were v. 03 Mar 88: FALCON CREST: Uneasy Allies

    Blake loses his temper with Adam on this week’s DYNASTY, first striking him across the face with the back of his hand, which sends him tumbling down the Carrington staircase, and then banishing him from the mansion: “Go on, get out of here, get out of this house!” Such is his volatile state of mind (“Steven runs off God knows where, Adam drives Krystle’s cousin away and won’t even own up to it and you, you’re cavorting with a cop that’s trying to put me behind bars — you call that a family?!” he barks at his daughter) that it falls to Fallon to play peacekeeper. Over on DALLAS, JR and Bobby are scarcely on speaking terms and so Cally adopts the same role. “I don’t care how many problems we have right now — we are a family and that won’t change,” states Fallon emphatically. As the new addition to the Ewing clan, Cally is on less certain ground, and so turns to her new mother-in-law for some insight into JR and Bobby’s sibling rivalry. However, Miss Ellie proves of little practical use. “They’ve always been opposites, ever since they were children, and it’s just gotten worse since they’ve gotten older,” she shrugs.

    There is no-one left to keep the peace on FALCON CREST after Richard’s wife and mother both turn against him upon learning that he was behind Troilus all along. Angela disowns him (“I don’t have a son”) while Maggie walks out on him yet again. “You can do whatever you want to, but you’re not going to take the children anywhere,” he tells her. Maggie consults an attorney who offers some familiar sounding counsel: “The days are long past when a woman would automatically get custody of the children in a divorce … then there’s your history of alcohol addiction.” Yep, it’s Sue Ellen and JR fighting over John Ross all over again.

    As one custody storyline is introduced, another returns to bite Greg Sumner in the ass. Much to everyone’s surprise, his decision to leave Meg with Karen and Mack plays well with the voters and it looks like he is on his way to winning the election — until someone leaks details of his original suit against them to the press and his popularity starts to plummet. That someone turns out to be Paige, motivated partly by love — she wants to prevent Greg moving away to Washington — and partly by revenge: “You don’t need sympathy — you don’t get hurt, remember?” she tells him coldly after he loses.

    While Paige’s betrayal goes undetected on KNOTS, Pilar’s association with Richard is exposed on FALCON CREST. “He brought her back to the valley to help him buy up all of the land,” Angela tells Lance. Pilar does a good job of talking her way out of trouble. “I swear I didn’t know what Richard was up to,” she insists, “not until a few weeks ago. I tried to stop him … He threatened Lisa.” She then secures her place at the Falcon Crest table by persuading Lance to marry her straightaway, before anyone can talk him out of it. This brings Lance’s wedding tally up to four, making him both Soap Land’s most married male (level with Alexis and Abby) and the character that has tied the knot most frequently on screen.

    Richard’s justification for “buying up the valley” is interesting. “I’m trying to kick its butt into the twenty-first century!” he tells his mother. “Don’t let heritage and family pride and all that nonsense keep you on the sidelines … Falcon Crest has to change if it’s gonna succeed in the future.” But his words fall on deaf ears. “Angela Channing still has her feet planted firmly in the nineteenth century,” he declares. If Angela isn’t willing to move with the times, neither is DALLAS’s Jordan Lee, who announces his decision to quit the oil business: “Too many damn foreigners in Texas already … It’s enough to make any decent oilman turn over in his grave … I don’t wanna stick around to see the end, Cliff.” Cliff responds with a couple of xenophobic remarks of his own: “I suppose before long they’re gonna ask us to trade in our Stetsons for turbans … We’ll be having roast goat for Thanksgiving instead of turkey before long.” While there have been examples of casual racism throughout this season’s FALCON CREST (directed towards the Hispanic community), these have been shown in a wider context. Crucially, the “damn foreigners” on FC are characters in their own right rather than offscreen bogeymen. In the absence of an opposing point of view, Jordan’s and especially Cliff’s comments leave a somewhat nasty taste. (It’s funny — while I have no problem whatsoever with Cliff blowing up his grandkids on New DALLAS, hearing him deliver a couple of lame racist gags is genuinely dispiriting.)

    This week’s DYNASTY and KNOTS each feature some demented behaviour from a female character who is having a delayed reaction to a traumatic event. Sable Colby, recovering from the shock of having Fritz Heath pull a gun on her, shows up at Dex’s apartment and delivers a rambling anecdote about the death of her childhood nanny (“We all heard the collision and we ran — the windshield was just like a spider’s web”) before producing Fritz’s gun from her purse and pointing it, finger on the trigger, at her own face. Meanwhile, Val reacts to the news of Jill Bennett’s death by going for a run then collapsing, not in tears but in hysterical laughter. Not even the fact that her ex-husband is in the slammer on a murder charge can kill her vibe. “I can’t believe it’s finally over!” she exclaims happily as she and Karen await news of Gary’s fate.

    It is very common in British soaps to see characters discussing a storyline they are not directly involved in. They may have no vested interest in the outcome and usually aren’t in full possession of the facts, but that doesn’t stop them speculating and even passing judgement in a gossipy, “over the garden fence” type manner. Such scenes are far more rare in the 80s super soaps but are nonetheless very satisfying. They help widen a show’s canvas and makes the characters seem less compartmentalised. Such a scene takes place on this week’s KNOTS with Greg and Abby discussing Gary’s arrest for Jill’s murder. To begin with, Abby doesn’t think he did it. “Don’t you think it’s a little strange to be caught driving around with a corpse in the trunk of your shiny new jag?” responds Greg drily. “I just can’t imagine him killing anyone,” she replies. “Why do people always say things like that?” he asks. “You take fifty schoolboys who think that killing is immoral — you send them to boot camp, you put a rifle in their hands and you tell them it’s for the greater good and all of a sudden, you have fifty war heroes sitting around telling war stories about the dead they’ve chalked up.”

    I find myself comparing this observation of Greg’s with Cliff’s jibes about “Stetsons for turbans” and “roast goat for Thanksgiving” on DALLAS. Whereas Cliff’s feeble, knee-jerk wisecracks seem even more depressing in a present-day context than they did in 1989, Greg’s remarks sound positively subversive now that we’re living in an era where the prevailing assumption is that anyone who enlists in the armed services is automatically a hero.

    As well as being enjoyable in its own right, Greg and Abby’s discussion also serves to advance the Jill murder plot — for it is in this scene that we are first offered an alternative reason as to why her body ended up in Gary’s trunk. “He could have done it to protect Val,” Abby concedes, “or he could have been stupid enough to cover up if Val had done it.“ And so it gradually emerges that, for the first time since the deaths of Carlo Agretti and Ciji Dunne, Soap Land has two concurrent murder mysteries on its hands: Who killed Roger Grimes and Jill Bennett? That said, save for Adam’s not-so-veiled accusation towards his father this week (“Why are you so concerned because some two-bit cop is nosing around your past? The minute the body was mentioned, you looked as guilty as hell!”), all is quiet on the Grimes front at present, what with Zorelli consigned to desk duty and Alexis out of the country for weeks at a time (all the better to tease the storyline out to the end of the season).

    Theme of the week: Physically estranged exes communicating from a distance. On DYNASTY, Dex is miffed because Alexis left for Paris without even telling him. He still manages to argue with her long distance, however: “I used to have a life of my own before I talked myself into trotting along behind you like some damn little pet lemming … We do have a terrible connection and I’m not just talking about the damn phone line!” Meanwhile on KNOTS, the geographical distance between Val and Gary isn’t as great, but the dramatic stakes are even higher. “The police told me not to talk to you,” he says when she calls him following his release on bail. “They’re gonna be asking me a lot of questions and I don’t wanna have to stand up in court and say we talked the whole thing over.” Hmm, there certainly seems to be some kind of conspiracy between them — but what? We’ve been here, or somewhere very similar, before of course — back when Val believed Gary was taking the rap for Ciji’s murder to protect her. Just as he did then, Mack acts as an unofficial liaison between the authorities and the cul-de-sac gang.

    Flashbacks are an important component of the Ewingverse’s storytelling this week. Last week’s DALLAS included Soap Land’s first flashback-within-a-flashback and this week’s KNOTS brings us another spin on the convention. After Gary has flashed back to what he claims are his final moments with Jill (including his terrific “I hate everything about you” rant: “I hate the smell of your hair, I can’t stand the sound of your voice, I can’t stand the way you dress, I can’t stand your mannerisms, the way you chew your food …”), we are shown what the police think happened next — a “flash-hypothesis”, if you will: Gary knocking Jill unconscious, then tying her up, forcing pills and booze down her throat, gagging her, wrapping her in a blanket and taking her out to his car. This makes Sue Ellen’s flashback to her drunken confrontation with JR over with Holly Harwood followed by her and Mickey’s car crash look a little vanilla in comparison. After recounting the police version of events to Karen, Mack passes judgement on Gary: “He did it!” After filling Don Lockwood in on the sad fates of Walt Driscoll and Mickey Trotter, Sue Ellen kisses him for the first time. End of both episodes.

    In fact, there is no shortage of budding romance this week. Like DALLAS, DYNASTY concludes with a newly paired couple embracing. Its freeze frame has Sable pinned against the wall of her hotel room, eyes closed and mouth open in a portrait of ecstasy as Dex buries his face in her décolletage. DALLAS’s final shot is comparatively clunky with Don, wearing what looks like his best Christmas jumper, rolling on top of Sue Ellen, who is dressed as if to go sailing, while they both lie on a prop bed in a fake bedroom on the soundstage of Sue Ellen’s movie studio. Back on DYNASTY, in spite of her surprise assertion that, “I’m not much of a one for one-night stands”, Alexis insists on giving Cray Boyd a Parisian afternoon to remember before sending him off to battle — or at least Natumbe to steal back her tankers. Rather more chastely, Pat Williams confesses to feelings for Gary on KNOTS. “It’s OK — every woman gets a crush on Gary once in her life,” Karen assures her intriguingly. Even more intriguing is the new pairing hinted at following the mayoral election. Greg is watching the TV coverage in his office when he realises his defeat is inevitable. Fortunately, Abby is on hand to provide first class consolation and support — she’s philosophical (“we may have lost the battle but we’ll win the war”), witty and teasingly affectionate. “You’re so understanding you’re making me horny,” Greg tells her. We then cut immediately to Abby standing in Ted Melcher’s office moments later, all of her twinkly good humour suddenly evaporated. “He didn’t wanna win badly enough,” she snaps coldly. ”Maybe he’s losing it, I don’t know, but I do know I didn’t get into this marriage to lose. I’m interested in winning and if Greg doesn’t feel the same way, I’ll find someone who does.” As she strides out of the room, Ted grabs her by the wrist. “You’ve found him,” he assures her. She looks down at him approvingly.

    Less than a year after KNOTS' excursion to Santa Tecla, clay Colombian objet d’art are a Ewingverse plot point once more as DALLAS’s Tommy McKay starts importing vaguely ethnic-looking sculptures from South America to sell to the arty set of Texas. Inevitably, this turns out to be a front for a drug operation. Tommy’s subsequent meeting with a local dealer, O’Reilly, includes one of DALLAS’s rare gay references. “How’s Gustavo’s wife? Understand she’s been sick,” O’Reilly asks warily as he sounds Tommy out. “He seemed fine when he visited Gustavo in prison, OK?” Tommy replies. “It works for Gustavo, not for me,” chuckles O’Reilly. Gone are the days, it would seem, when’s Soap Land drug dealers (suave Eurotrash like Peter de Vilbis and Naldo Marchetta) conducted their business in swanky hotel rooms. Now, the scuzzier likes of Tommy McKay and Tommy Ortega’s pal Paco on FALCON CREST must convene in public bathrooms.

    Come to think of it, FC’s Tommy O is kinda the anti-Tommy McKay. Whereas Tommy M declines his father’s offer of a job at West Star, preferring to “be my own man”, Tommy O is busting with pride over his respectable job at the Tuscany Herald, even though his girlfriend resents it. “Ever since you got involved with that Maggie Channing you don’t have time for nobody else,” she complains. And while Tommy M effortlessly suckers his sister Tracey into fronting for his import business, Tommy O stands loyally by his no-account pal Paco, even fighting alongside him in a barroom brawl. This decision has serious consequences when the bad guys later take revenge by running Tommy’s baby brother Gabriel and Ben Agretti off the road and over a hill.


    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (1) KNOTS
    2 (2) DYNASTY
    3 (-) FALCON CREST
    4 (3) DALLAS
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2019
  10. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    09 Mar 89: KNOTS LANDING: A Grave Misunderstanding v. 10 Mar 89: DALLAS: The Serpent's Tooth v. 10 Mar 88: FALCON CREST: The Vigil

    Two weeks ago, the Ewing Oil secretaries were conspicuous by their presence at JR and Cally’s wedding. On this week’s KNOTS, Jill’s former secretaries are the chief mourners at her funeral. Whereas Sly, Phyllis and Jackie were at Southfork primarily to boost the numbers now that DALLAS’s well of recurring characters has almost run dry, the prominence of Joy and Peggy at Jill’s graveside is an indication of how unpopular she had become by the time of her death. It’s particularly telling that the only character to shed an onscreen tear at her passing is Joy, an employee she’d known for a matter of weeks.

    We get an interesting insight into another subordinate character on FALCON CREST where everyone’s concerned about Ben Agretti and Gabriel Ortega following their accident at the end of last week’s ep. “There is nothing worse, sir, than to watch your child die,” Richard’s manservant-cum-chief of security Garth tells him. “Do you have a child?” Richard asks in surprise. “Yes, sir,” Garth replies matter-of-factly. “A daughter, Ava. She was five when she died. Measles. The treatment was not so good in East Berlin in those days … Sometimes I like to be reminded that I once had another life.” And with that, the door into Garth’s past shuts as quickly as it opened. But it leaves a lingering impression.

    The juiciest scenes in this week’s Ewingverse occur in a business setting and involve secret pacts and double-dealing. At the Sumner Group (although no-one’s calling it that yet), Abby assigns Ted the task of finding out who leaked the story about Meg — on the understanding that he report his findings to her and not Greg. It doesn’t take Ted too long to learn that Paige was responsible, but instead of turning her in, he covers for her. “Consider it a gesture of good faith,” he tells her. “Our interests coincide. We should work together.” “And what is it you think I want?” Paige asks him. “Greg,” he replies. “And what do you want?” “Abby.” Of the four people involved, Greg is the only one not indulging in any kind of executive duplicity. And when Greg Sumner’s the most innocent person in the room, you know things are getting murky. Speaking of executive duplicity, Tommy McKay makes an arrangement with JR Ewing after he overhears his father talking about meeting with some Europeans (or “damn foreigners” as Jordan Lee likes to call them) to discuss “the biggest single deal in West Star history”. JR has Tommy wear a wire at the meeting in return for enough money to dig himself out of the cocaine-shaped hole he’s gotten himself into. Larry Hagman’s delivery of the line “You really hate your daddy, don’t you?” is a classic.

    At said meeting, Tommy, aka Roger Grimes, is introduced to another refugee from this season’s DYNASTY, Hamilton Stone, who now answers to the name of Gustav Hellstrom. Having helped Sable swipe Alexis’s tankers from under her nose, he now “represents large European industries who never again want to be held hostage by OPEC.” Instead, they want West Star to supply them directly with a billion barrels of oil over the next ten years.

    The main focus of this week’s FALCON CREST is the aftermath of the car crash that has left the lives of its two occupants hanging in the balance. Soap Land convention dictates that one of those involved should be a heavily pregnant heiress and that her family convene in the hospital waiting room in full evening dress while loudly demanding that the best relevant medical specialist in the country be flown in immediately from whatever conference he/she’s attending in whichever city. None of these traditions is adhered to. Instead, the victims in question are two inoffensive teenage boys who aren’t even in the opening credits. In theory, then, the storyline shouldn’t be all that gripping, but the fast-moving camera work, the quick cutting and general sense of urgency all conspire to make us feel that this situation — of which we’ve seen countless Soap Land variations over the years — really matters. In a way, the characters’ lack of status adds an extra element of unpredictably to the story. Ben Agretti and Gabriel Ortega are both sufficiently dispensable to kill off, but not so unimportant that their deaths wouldn’t break the hearts of those they’d leave behind. Plus, you know, they’re kids.

    There are a couple of crucial differences between the two boys — namely, their race and class. Just like Val Gibson following her overdose at the beginning of this season’s KNOTS, Ben and Gabriel are rushed to Soap Land Memorial without any insurance documents. For one of the boys, this isn’t a problem. (“His ID says he’s Ben Agretti.” “Same Agretti they named the wing after?”) For the other, it’s a different story: “What about the Ortega boy?” “We’ll send him on to County.” When Gabriel’s family later question this decision, they are tersely informed: “He has a mild concussion, this is a private hospital” — almost as if the two facts were one and the same. No sooner are these words out of the nurse’s mouth than Gabriel abruptly goes into convulsions in the hospital corridor. It’s a genuinely alarming moment.

    Ben, meanwhile, has already been taken into surgery to remove a ruptured spleen. This scene is particularly striking. It lasts almost two minutes — a surprisingly long time in Soap Land — but there’s no melodramatic music to tell us how we should feel. Instead, the emphasis is on surgical procedure, medical jargon I couldn’t begin to understand and a general sense of gravity which make the whole thing feel as important as hell. As with Jill’s autopsy on last week’s KNOTS, we view the procedure from the medical team’s dispassionate point of view. Paradoxically, the situation becomes all the tenser for being treated so matter-of-factly. Suddenly, Ben Agretti and Jill Bennett aren’t important soap characters who can’t die, they’re just two more anonymous John or Jane Does. All the soapy twists and lipgloss in the world won’t help them now — they’re no different to the rest of us: flesh and blood with a half a digested pizza still inside of them.

    Later, Gabriel also undergoes surgery. When his anxious father Cesar enquires about his progress (“It’s been hours”), the nurse on duty gives him short shrift. But when Lance arrives and asks for the same information Cesar just has, her attitude changes abruptly: “Sorry, Mr Cumson, I’ll see what I can do … The doctor will be right down to talk to you.” “The doctor can talk to this man, his father, Mr Ortega. Do you understand?” Lance replies sharply. It’s notable that all the discrimination exhibited in the episode is by the hospital staff. When the rich white stars of the show realise what’s happening, they ride to the Hispanics’ rescue. “We can’t keep a patient who can’t afford to pay,” insists a nurse. “That’s crazy — you send the bill to me!” argues Nick Agretti. It’s kind of an inversion of what happened on last week’s DALLAS where the racist comments of one of the show’s leading men, Cliff Barnes, went unchallenged.

    The subject of race also crops up, in another context, on KNOTS. While investigating Jill’s death, Mack questions a neighbour who remembers a man that entered her apartment on the day of the murder. He asks her to describe him. “He looked like a football player or maybe a wrestler,” she begins. “He was about this tall. He had a very nice looking sports coat on, short, dark hair and these great big shoulders.” And then finally she comes right out and says it: “He was a very attractive black man.” “A black guy?” echoes Mack. Using deductive reasoning, i.e., the fact that there is only one black man in Knots Landing, he realises immediately she’s talking about Frank Williams. This is the first time any of the Williamses have been directly referred to by their colour.

    In both DALLAS and FALCON CREST, a writer’s work is criticised by their partner, with dramatic results. First, Sue Ellen ruffles new boyfriend Don Lockwood’s feathers when she sneaks a peek at the unfinished first draft of his script. “This scene isn’t exactly the way it really happened,” she tells him. Don is so angered by this intrusion that he immediately quits the picture and has to be gently coaxed into changing his mind. There are bigger fireworks after Maggie writes a front page article for the Herald describing the consortium as “a front for a multi-national corporation whose aim is to turn Tuscany Valley into a heartless, soulless playground for corporate greed.” Richard is so outraged that he brings work at the Herald to a standstill while he confronts his wife. Things rapidly escalate between them and by the end of the episode, he has obtained a court order (by dubious means) granting him custody of their two children. Maggie can only watch helplessly as he takes them back from her. It’s kind of satisfying to see Richard getting the upper hand in their marriage for once.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (3) FALCON CREST
    2 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (4) DALLAS
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2019
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  11. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    +3,672
    15 Mar 89: DYNASTY: The Son Also Rises v. 16 Mar 89: KNOTS LANDING: Guilty Until Proven Innocent v. 17 Mar 89: DALLAS: Three Hundred v. 17 Mar 88: FALCON CREST: Missing Links

    There are two returnees to Soap Land this week. Sable’s daughter Monica shows up on DYNASTY but isn’t quite the same girl she used to be. On THE COLBYS, she was sensible to the point of conservative and by Season 2, almost permanently on the brink of tears. Here, she’s giggling up a storm, flicking rubber bands at the back of Jeff’s head while making meta wisecracks at his expense (“I heard Fallon left you for an alien”), teasing her mom’s new beau (“Would it be all right if I called you Uncle Dex?”) and delivering Soap Land’s very first gag about female contraception (“Mother is so straight she once thought the IUD was a federal agency.”) However, it doesn’t feel as if she’s behaving out of character; more that her character has been expanded to fit into DYNASTY’s newly playful atmosphere. Meanwhile, Frank Agretti returns to FALCON CREST from his emerald mining expedition with hugs and smiles for everyone — and an emerald ring for Angela (not unlike the one Matt Cantrell once gave to Pam Ewing). Asked how long he intends to stick around, he promises to stay “just as long as Nick and Ben need me to.” Monica, meanwhile, insists her visit to DYNASTY will be brief, but her immediate inclusion in the opening credits suggests otherwise. Sure enough, during a girly mother/daughter bathroom chat (which echoes an equivalent scene in the first episode of THE COLBYS), Sable invites her to come and work for her in Denver, pointing out how little she has left to keep her in Los Angeles: “I’m not there, Miles is not there, Bliss is not there … How many times in the last year have you seen Jason?” “I haven’t,” Monica concedes.

    Alexis’s absences from DYNASTY have become so frequent that, as Jeff tells Blake, he is hopeful her travels have “gotten her mind off you and that murder.” Fat chance. This week’s episode ends with her newspaper offering a reward for information concerning Roger Grimes. “The woman’s insane,” exclaims Blake (an assessment that chimes with Gary’s opinion of Jill Bennett on this week’s KNOTS: “The woman was absolutely nuts!”) “She was married to a Carrington, a Colby and a Dexter — and she’s going to destroy all three families.” Similarly, one might be excused for thinking Abby had forgotten all about the oil under Lotus Point she secretly acquired a couple of months ago but hasn’t referred to since. This week, however, she learns that in order to access that oil, she — or rather, her dummy corporation Murakame — must file an environmental impact report. “That means the environmentalists are gonna scream bloody murder,” she frets. So on Murakame’s behalf, she hires Ted Melcher to handle the PR, without letting him know that she is Murakame.

    In fact, Abby is determined to keep her newfound interest in oil a secret from everyone, including her husband. “I don’t want him to know. I don’t want anyone to know,” she tells Rick Hawkins. Likewise, JR on DALLAS. “I don’t want anybody to know about this,” he tells Sly after asking her to bring him “up-to-the-minute figures on [Ewing Oil’s] oil production and known reserves.” Bobby finds out anyway and hits the roof: “You’re through, JR. I want you to take your assets and your lies and get the hell out of my company.” Back on DYNASTY, Blake is also in a firing mood. “You’re throwing me out of the company?!” asks Adam in disbelief. “You’ve thrown yourself out of this company by your actions,” Blake insists. “You’re not going to like having me as an enemy,” Adam warns him. “Couldn’t be any worse than having you as a son,” he shoots back.

    Parent/child conflicts loom large this week, each set against in a business backdrop. As well as Blake and Adam, there’s Carter and Tommy McKay and Angela and Richard Channing. Tommy is angry when his father refuses to advance him any more start-up money for his import venture: “After everything you’ve done to this family, don’t you think you owe me? … You don’t give a damn about anybody but yourself!” Meanwhile, Richard takes drastic measures to prevent his mother from voting against him at a crucial board meeting in Chicago — he kidnaps her. “Feel free to scream all you like. The walls are soundproof so you won’t bother the neighbours,” he smiles.

    All three situations are dramatically juicy, but the confrontation between the McKay men is unexpectedly touching. “I love you with all my heart,” Mack tells Tommy, “but I don’t trust you … All you have to do is show me that I’m wrong.” For the first time since arriving in DALLAS, instead of sneering or bullshitting or losing his temper, Tommy seems genuinely moved. Over on FALCON CREST, Maggie Channing offers Soap Land’s other Tommy (Ortega) a similar challenge when she learns he’s planning to kill the gang member who put his brother in the hospital. “You’d risk everything just to settle a score?” she asks him. “It’s just the way it’s always been!” he insists. “Then try something different — like you did when you came to work here!” she pleads. Her words hit home and Tommy O has a change of heart. For Tommy McKay, however, it may already be too late.

    In his other guise of Roger Grimes, Tommy is still causing problems for Fallon on DYNASTY. “I dream about him all the time,” she admits. “I thought he’d disappeared, but he’s back.” But while Fallon only has to cope with Roger/Tommy in her nightmares, DALLAS’s April has to deal with the real thing kicking her door in after she spurns his advances. “You frozen rich bitches are all alike!” he snarls.

    Back in ’85, DALLAS celebrated its two-hundredth episode with a big rodeo at Southfork featuring a large cast and some impressively sweeping cinematography. This week, the show marks its three-hundredth edition in a contrasting way, by confining its two lead characters, JR and Bobby, to the smallest place possible — an elevator — for the majority of the instalment. FALCON CREST does something similar by trapping Richard Channing and his toddler son Michael at the bottom a disused well. While the latter situation is enjoyably cheesy — I kept imagining the rest of the cast bursting into a chorus of ‘We’re Sending Our Love Down the Well’ from THE SIMPSONS — the former offers up some intriguing moments of introspection as the Ewing boys discuss their differences. “I didn’t start off wanting to hurt anybody,” JR explains, “but I had these goals — goals that were drummed into me when I started to work for Daddy at Ewing Oil. Ewing Oil had to be the biggest, it had to be the best … I wouldn’t have broken any of the rules if people hadn’t have gotten in my way. If they’d just let me alone, nobody would have gotten hurt.” “That’s a lot of self-justifying crap and you know it,” Bobby replies.

    Discussions about why people are the way they are recur throughout this week’s eps. “My own son, my own flesh and blood,” broods Blake on DYNASTY, “who would have thought that he’d turn out —“ “Blake, Adam’s had a rough life, kidnapped as a child,” interrupts Jeff. “You think that it didn’t tear me apart?” Blake argues. “There’s not much love lost between Adam and me,” Jeff continues, “but in a way, I feel sorry for him … In a strange way, we’re almost brothers.” “I know this sounds strange, but I feel sorry for Jill,” echoes Karen on KNOTS. “It’s sad that she didn’t get any help before all this started.” “I’m not convinced that she was sick,” Pat Williams counters. “I believe that there are genuinely evil people out there and that Jill was one of them.” Like Blake, Carter McKay believes his son is ultimately responsible for his own actions no matter what happened in the past. “Whatever I did or didn’t do, you’re the one that got yourself into trouble, not me,” he tells him.

    Just as the reasons behind Jill’s behaviour in life remain unclear — was she sick or was she evil? — we are also left with a tantalising ambiguity about her death after it emerges that she died trying to frame Gary. “Do you think Jill really meant to kill herself?” Karen asks. “I think she was counting on being saved so she could testify against Gary.” Mack doesn’t agree: “She put a gag on her own mouth. I think she knew what would happen.” Jill fully intending to die or Jill hoping to be rescued but dying anyway — I’m not sure which scenario is worse, but either way, the extended flashback sequence where we watch her carry out the plan she has meticulously orchestrated, and which brings about her own death almost immediately, is grimly compelling.

    Minor trend of the week: twice-married exes gravitating towards each other once again. “I see Sammy Jo and him together and I care, I really do,” Jeff says to Fallon after being introduced to Tanner McBride, “but when I see you and Zorelli together, that hurts.” “Can you stay for lunch?” Val asks Gary at the end of KNOTS, last season’s cliffhanging ordeal finally behind them after nineteen episodes. “I was hoping you’d ask,” he admits. As they stroll into her house hand-in-hand accompanied by the twins, Karen and Mack looking on approvingly, the camera pulls up and away from them till they’re just distant figures and it really feels like KNOTS is moving into “happily ever after” territory — or it would be if weren't for all that Paige/Greg/Abby/Ted/Murakame stuff lurking in the shadows.

    The “trapped in an elevator overnight” scenario at the centre of DALLAS’s tricentennial episode is a curious one. On one hand, it’s a light-hearted, gimmicky contrivance to force the two feuding brothers into close proximity. There’s also the crate of Bordeaux (sent courtesy of Ray Krebbs) that they then work their way through, requiring the actors to play drunk. On the other hand, there's their actual conversation which strikes right at the heart of the Ewing saga. These different story elements don’t always gel. “You were [Daddy’s] favourite from the day you were born,” JR tells Bobby at one point. While Jock’s preference for his youngest son has been part of DALLAS lore from the beginning of the series, this is the first time JR has ever acknowledged it, yet the moment is kind of thrown away. But then later comes one of those original series moments that grows more meaningful and resonant when viewed through the prism of New DALLAS. On the new series, where the brothers had grown older and more vulnerable, the real-life affection between Duffy and Hagman seemed to spill over into their onscreen relationship until the two had become almost indistinguishable. Some of that affection now filters back in time to the pivotal point in this ep where Bobby changes his mind about kicking his brother out of Ewing Oil. He watches JR asleep in the elevator, a melancholy expression on his face, before waking him up with the news. “You’re back in, a full partner in Ewing Oil,” he whispers. JR’s so excited, he’s almost like a child on Christmas morning: “Oh Bobby, you just made me the happiest man in the world … I love it, I absolutely love it!” Suddenly, rather than a long-in-the-tooth soap spinning its wheels as it tries to think of different variations on the same old themes, it feels like we’re watching a very personal story about the relationship between these two brothers.

    Pilar Ortega-Cumson also gets what she’s always wanted after Angela (for devious reasons of her own) invites her and Lance to move into Falcon Crest. Just as JR is too thrilled to go straight home when the elevator finally starts working (“Now that I’m in with you again, I wanna take a look at our offices,” he tells Bobby, pressing the “up” button), Lance finds his bride standing in the shadows of the family living room in the middle of the night. “I couldn’t sleep,” she tells him. “It’s the excitement of spending my first night at Falcon Crest … Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed about this and here I am.”

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

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