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 Star

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    28 Sep 89: KNOTS LANDING: Up the Spout Again v. 29 Sep 89: DALLAS: Cry Me a River of Oil v. 29 Sep 89: FALCON CREST: The Price of Freedom

    To mark the new season, each of the surviving soaps has boldly revamped its opening title sequence. After eleven years, DALLAS has dropped its signature three-way splits of the actors’ faces in favour of bursting dams, exploding oilfields and flash shots of the actors synced to the thump of the theme music. Thirty years on, it still packs a shock-of-the-new punch. KNOTS has been even more radical, dispensing with images of its actors altogether — a Soap Land first. Instead, there’s a beach-themed montage with sandcastle representations of the cul-de-sac and surrounding buildings, accompanied by a new mid-tempo arrangement of the theme. The overall vibe is less “dramatically soapy ‘80s” and more “tastefully sophisticated [if somewhat anonymous] ‘90s”. In contrast to the Californian outdoorsiness of the KNOTS opening, FALCON CREST’s new titles evoke a feeling of darkness and claustrophobia. Familiar footage of vineyards is juxtaposed with ominous glimpses of door handles turning, guns pointing and couples cavorting in silhouette. Hardly any of the actors are smiling in their close-ups — Richard looks positively haunted while poor old Chao Li is in tears. A slowed down, more brooding version of the theme music adds to the mood.

    As for who’s actually in and out of the opening credits, it’s goodbye to Jill Bennett (finally), Abby, Sue Ellen, Nick Agretti and Maggie Channing (who, for reasons that will become all too apparent, is downgraded to “Also Starring …” status). And it’s hello to KNOTS LANDING’s Olivia and Michael (promoted after nine and ten years respectively — even if their faces don’t appear), DALLAS’s Carter McKay and Cally (after one season each) and two brand new arrivals, Michelle Stevens (marking the first time a new DALLAS character has gone straight into the opening titles) and Michael Sharpe, who not only swipes Maggie’s “And …” position at the end of the FC credits, but does so aping Angela Channing’s patented “looking out of a limousine window” pose.

    DALLAS returned a week earlier than the other soaps with a double bill of episodes that swiftly drew a line under Sue Ellen’s cliffhanging exit. The repercussions of the mess Abby left behind her can still be felt on KNOTS, however. This week’s premiere carries seamlessly on from a “Previously on …” recap with Paige choosing to drive away with Ted rather than stay at the ranch with Greg. Over on FALCON CREST, an unspecified amount of time has elapsed since the end of last season, when Richard was about to be arrested, and the start of this one, which opens with a montage of him arriving at the state penitentiary while the judge’s sentencing speech from his trial plays in voice-over:

    “Richard Channing, you have been found guilty by a jury of your peers of the following crimes — five counts of unlawful manipulations of the securities markets for personal financial gain; three counts of fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud; three counts of evasion of the income tax laws of the United States; two counts of embezzlement and one count of conspiracy to violate the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.”

    Curiously, this list of offences doesn’t seem to quite tally with those that led to Richard’s arrest in the first place. There’s no reference to his kidnap of Angela, for instance. According to falconcrest.org, which despite a clear antipathy for this season does an admirably thorough job of detailing it, his convictions have been adjusted to mirror the real-life white collar crimes of Michael Milken, “a controversial American investment dealer” who, like Richard, was subject to an SEC investigation in the late ‘80s. (Milken is even mentioned by name in this episode, along with some of his real-life contemporaries.)

    “Somewhere on the books of this nation, Mr Channing,” continues the judge’s voiceover, “there may be a law relating to financial integrity that you haven’t trampled on or ignored, but I can’t imagine what it is. I’ve seen too many people walk out of here smiling like they were headed to country club prisons and I’m sick of it. So you’re not going to a country club, Mr Channing. I’m sentencing you to three years in the federal penitentiary, a REAL prison where you’ll do REAL time like the REAL criminal you are.”

    Again according to falconcrest.org, the “country club prison” reference alludes to the minimum-security facility Michael Milken was sent to.

    A distinction can also be made between the real prison Richard is sent to and the archaic Cool Hand Luke-style penal camp JR ended up in a year ago. For all the discomfort and hard labour JR endured, it never felt like “a real prison” in the way that the one in FALCON CREST does — JR wasn’t made to strip alongside his fellow prisoners and then undergo some kind of decontamination process the way Richard is and there were no close-ups of grimy toilet bowls like the one in Richard’s cell. Nor did he ever look as genuinely terrified for his life as Richard does later in the ep.

    “I hope you and your Wall Street playmates get the message,” concludes the judge’s speech. Substitute “Soap Land” for “Wall Street” and this could almost be regarded as a message for the likes of Alexis and Abby — other white-collar fraudsters who have managed to elude prosecution altogether, and whose equivalent of a “country club prison” is a swanky governmental post in Japan.

    Two “Mystery Key” storylines cropped up at the end of last season’s Ewing-verse — one involving Paige, the other Clayton and Miss Ellie. Thanks to last week’s DALLAS double bill, the Farlows have edged ahead of Paige in the race to solve their respective mystery. They have learned that Jock’s key was sent to him by an old wartime buddy, now deceased, and that it fit a safety deposit box in Massachusetts. When opened by Ellie, this box was found to contain a second key which, as she explains to JR and Bobby this week, “opens something in your daddy’s past.” Before she can learn what, she must find out the name of the town where Jock hit his first big gusher (which, for the purposes of this storyline, none of the Ewings can remember).

    The equivalent story on KNOTS is even more complicated. First, Paige snatches the key from Greg’s bedroom, then Ted strong-arms her into giving it to him, then Greg has his security guy force Ted to hand it back to him. Meanwhile, Paige, Ted and Greg have each arrived in the small town of Spring Lake, having separately concluded that the key must open a safety deposit box in the local post office. One final twist: Paige has had the real key hidden in her shoe all along! Back on DALLAS, Miss Ellie gets the break she’s been hoping for when Jordan Lee tells her that Jock first hit it big in Pride, Texas. (Well, anyone who’s seen “DALLAS: The Early Years” could have told her that.)

    Throughout their adventures, both the Farlows and Paige have encountered a selection of likably offbeat character actors — a lugubrious key-cutter here, a Catholic priest (DALLAS’s first) there. Best of all is Officer Jim, a goofily flirtatious cop whom Paige approaches when she first arrives in Spring Lake. His response when she asks where the nearest motel is is my favourite line of this week’s KNOTS: “Be still my heart — you big city women, you move so fast!” There’s another funny line from a minor player on FALCON CREST when Michael Sharpe, a former associate of Richard’s, arrives at the penitentiary with his entourage to visit him. As their two stretch limos pull up, a bemused security guard asks, “Who’s this — Johnny Cash?”

    The first we hear of Michael Sharpe is when Richard offers to testify against him in return for a reduced sentence. “No-one knows him better than I do,” he insists. “We go back a long way … Sitting in that million dollar IM Pei office, wearing his $5,000 Brioni suits, staring at his original Rauschenbergs and Jackson Pollocks on the wall is a very guilty man.”

    Cut to Michael in said office, lecturing a subordinate about the meaningless of cash. “What is this?” he asks, holding up a thousand dollar bill. “Does anybody think this is money? They don’t even print this anymore. This is what you take to the stationery store to buy a Mother’s Day card. Microchip manufacturers in Singapore, oilfields in Venezuela, genetic engineering, satellite communications — that’s money.” Here, Sharpe seems to be singing from same “There are no more borders, there are no more countries” hymn sheet as Carter McKay did in Vienna. (By comparison, the aims expressed by JR on DALLAS seem even more quaintly parochial than usual: “We’re on the verge of something big here, Bobby, something’s that gonna open up a whole new world of competition and why? Because I wasn’t afraid to take a risk, a risk that’s gonna make us the biggest oil company in Texas!”)

    Sharpe’s environment — an office as impressive as Richard’s description complete with a personal gym, one of those electronic boards you see on the Stock Exchange and a bunch of preppy looking flunkies, eager to high-five the latest big deal — isn’t the kind of Ewing Oil/Denver Carrington-style business setting we’re used to seeing in Soap Land. It belongs more to the high-octane, corporate-raiding, machismo world of Gordon Gekko and The Wolf of Wall Street. All that’s missing is a pile of cocaine on a glass table. The brutal misogyny of that world is also evident in Michael’s behaviour. Later in the episode, he confronts a female former employee who has betrayed him to Richard. “You know what your trouble is, Jane?” he asks. “You never quite grasp the subtext, what’s underneath it all.” With that, he makes a sudden grab for a part of her anatomy that’s hidden below camera level. She gasps in shock and he steps away. “Don’t worry, you’re not my type,” he assures her, before catching the eyes of the other men in the room. “You’d be too grateful.”

    The season’s other new arrival, DALLAS’s Michelle Stevens, is a much more familiar Soap Land figure — the gold-digging little sister who shows up without warning and immediately become a thorn in the side of her older, wealthier, more respectable sibling, in this case, the increasingly prim April. “We used to be hookers. Called ourselves the Calendar Girls. She was April, I was May,” she informs Bobby in her very first scene, wisecracking like a junior Mae West. She may be cut from the same cloth as Kristin Shepard and Terry Hartford, but she nonetheless feels like a breath of fresh air. And in the same way that DALLAS’s new opening titles still feel exciting after all this time, so Michelle’s pixie-ish, Purdey-ish cropped hairstyle still feels distinctively new and modern, even three decades on. Maggie Channing sports a very similar cut on this week’s FALCON CREST — a symbolic demonstration, perhaps, that she is putting the past, i.e., Richard, behind her, even if that proves harder to do in practice.

    Alongside these new faces, three well-known characters have undergone a significant transformation — most notably, Tommy McKay who returns to DALLAS an almost unrecognisably changed man: slicked back hair (not unlike Michael Sharpe’s), a business suit and a sincere, moist-eyed desire to make up with his father. “I’m sorry, Dad,” he tells him, “for everything … all the lies, the drugs, the craziness … I need you to forgive me, I need that from you … You think I can come back, live with you for a while? I’d be home early for dinner, I’ll vote Republican, I’ll even drink my coffee decaffeinated … I love you, Dad.” He delivers all this with a kind of evangelical intensity we’ve not seen in Soap Land since the days of Joshua Rush. This is certainly not the same snarling greaser junkie who skipped town after beating up April last season (or the same Alexis-smacking architect who got shot dead by a five-year-old girl, for that matter). He attributes his transformation to a rehab facility in Florida, but it feels more as if he’s undergone some sort of futuristic reprogramming to turn him into the ideal Soap Land son — a Soap Land son who loves and reveres his daddy above all else. However, Stepford Tommy quickly begins to short-circuit: he’s not content to simply win Mack’s approval, he must take revenge against anyone who has ever crossed his father. It’s no surprise, therefore, to learn that he was the one behind April’s crank calls. He has something even more fiendish planned for Bobby — an attache case rigged with a bomb. And he also finds time in his busy schedule to push Rolf Brundin, another associate of his father’s, under a moving truck. This is the first of three shock deaths in this week’s Soap Land.

    While April’s mystery caller has been identified on DALLAS, Pat Williams has a ball teasing Gary about his “hot telephone conversations” on KNOTS. “You’re practising the ultimate in safe sex!” she tells him. (There’s also a reference to AIDS prevention on DALLAS — a close up of a poster with the message: “Guess who else can get AIDS if you shoot drugs.”) It looks as if Gary is finally about to meet Sally’s Friend at the end of this week’s ep, but events take an unexpectedly Hitchcockian turn when he hears her being attacked over the phone. “Say your number! Tell me your number! … What’s your name?!” he yells helplessly.

    Bobby Ewing and Richard Channing both narrowly avoid getting blown up this week. While Richard successfully foils an attempt by Michael Sharpe to bump him off with a lightbulb full of nitro-glycerine the night before he is due to testify against him, an unwitting Bobby hands Tommy McKay back the attache case he “accidentally” left in his office without realising it was rigged to explode.

    Like Tommy, DALLAS’s Lucy and FALCON CREST’s Emma have both also undergone a reinvention of sorts. In order to accommodate Cally’s emergence as an up-and-coming artist (an even less convincing development than Ciji becoming a pop sensation on KNOTS, but just as enjoyable), Lucy has been recast as a societal mover and shaker who knows everyone who’s anyone on the Dallas art scene. And after introducing Cally to suave gallery owner Alex Barton, she also takes up Sue Ellen’s former mantle as the Ewing family cynic. “It’s not gonna last long,” she tells Alex, referring to Cally and JR’s marriage. “When the real JR Ewing finally comes out of his shell … she’s gonna need all the friends she can get.” If this slightly more worldly version of Lucy is an improvement, then Emma’s transformation from a whimsical daydreamer into a woman fixated with a man who knocks her about is downright fascinating. “One minute, he’s tender and loving and the next he’s frightening,” she admits to Maggie. “He pushes me over the edge and then he catches me when I fall.” When Maggie insists she break away from this man, Emma becomes suddenly angry, perhaps more angry than we’ve ever seen her. “This is coming from Richard Channing’s wife?!” she shouts. “You tell me how easy it is to break away from the wrong man!”

    After a season in which things mostly happened to him, JR is back to being DALLAS’s principal mover and shaker. With West Star shipping all their oil to OPEC, he is keen for Ewing Oil to replace them as the sole supplier to a large refinery owned by a formidably moustachioed man named Shaughnessy. Bobby doesn’t think they can make the deal without cutting off supply to some of their existing customers — “and Ewing Oil would never do that.” Bobby vetoes the deal, JR goes ahead with it behind his back … and pretty soon, the problems start piling up. Cue plenty of fast-talking and double-dealing from JR while angry men in hard hats shout furious ultimatums: “Either I get my oil as promised or you pay the penalty — a million dollars a day for every day any shipment fails to arrive!” In other words, quintessential DALLAS.

    Just as JR is back where he belongs, so Southfork is restored to its rightful place at the centre of the action, instead of merely being the set of Sue Ellen’s movie. There’s a really good scene where JR returns to the ranch to find April in the living room which could almost be an Adam/Fallon encounter from last season’s DYNASTY. Annoyed with his “good, decent, kind little brother”, JR starts making derogatory remarks about him: “Bobby’s never gonna make Ewing Oil a company my daddy would be proud of because he thinks small and he works small and he’s keeping Ewing Oil small.” When April comes to her man’s defence, JR turns on her, remarking that, “the Bobby I used to know would never be caught dead touching a woman I’d slept with [but] he doesn’t seem to mind you being my leftovers.” April retaliates the way Fallon used to when Adam twisted the knife, by trying to slap him. Meanwhile, Cally has overheard their exchange and is devastated to realise that JR and April once had a fling. “It didn’t mean anything,” JR tells her — but because Cally is new to the rules of the Soap Land game, she still equates sex with love and is convinced that April harbours feelings for her husband. “JR is a very attractive man and I don’t think any woman can just walk away from him,” she insists. It’s to the actress’s great credit that Cally comes across as innocent (“even sweeter and more naive than she seems,” as Lucy describes her) rather than idiotic.

    An old affair also resurfaces to haunt a pair of newlyweds on FALCON CREST. In a fantastic scene, Pilar admits to Lance that “Richard and I were involved once … It was before we were married.” (File this revelation in the ‘Offscreen Events We Knew Nothing About At The Time’ folder, alongside Krystle’s diagnosis, Abby’s discovery of oil and Alexis revealing Monica and Miles’s paternity to Jason.) Echoing what JR told Cally about April (“I never loved that girl”), Pilar insists that “it wasn’t about love”, but Lance is too angry to listen. What makes this marital spat so remarkable is that it is happening at the Falcon Crest dinner table with the rest of the family in attendance. Angela, seated at the head of the table, is loving it. “Look at how happy you’re making your grandmother,” Pilar shouts. “Look at her! My God, Lance, her plan is working — we’re at each other’s throats!” This scene also succeeds in deftly resolving last season’s outstanding cliffhanger in just two lines of dialogue. “Where were you the other night?” barks Lance. “I went to visit Tommy and Kelly,” Pilar replies. “I know you don’t trust Tommy since the accident at the lake and I don’t blame you for it, but don’t blame me for loving my brother or caring about what happens to my family!” This is the only reference to any of the non-returning regulars from last season. “Wow,” says Emma at the end of the scene and I can only concur.

    While DALLAS plays to its familiar strengths — sexy gold diggers, wheeling and dealing, family feuding — KNOTS’ season opener feels somewhat less knotty than usual. Although each of this week’s plots — the Karen/Mack/Paula and Ted/Paige/Greg triangles; Val and Gary’s respective romances — are individually strong and full of wit and enjoyable idiosyncrasies, none of the characters interact with anyone outside of their own storylines (aside from Pat and Gary’s fun little scene outside Val’s house). Meanwhile, almost everything on FALCON CREST feels different. The cosy quippiness has gone, replaced by dialogue that is faster, snappier and more business-literate (what’s an LPO?). In this first episode, only two characters’ objectives are recognisable from the previous season: Richard wants Maggie back and Angela wants Pilar out of Lance’s life.

    Quite a few of Soap Land’s iconic couples have recently shared their last scenes together and most ended on an upbeat note: Blake and Alexis had called a halt to their feuding by the end of DYNASTY, Abby and Greg parted on amicable terms on KNOTS and Sue Ellen at least walked away from JR with a smile on her face on DALLAS. The last scene between Maggie and Richard on FALCON CREST, however, could scarcely be more downbeat. Having reluctantly agreed to Richard’s request for a conjugal visit, Maggie meets with him in a dingy cell. “You got forty-five minutes till the next couple comes,” the guard tells them. “Bottle of wine for forty bucks, clean sheets for ten.” Richard sends him away and explains to Maggie that he’s going to testify before the SEC: “It’s the only way I can get out of this hole. Things may get a little rough for a while. There’s a few people out there who'd like to shut me up … I wanted to see you one last time, just in case … I knew someday I was going to have to pay the price for all the things I did … I’m hollow inside. I’ve got to make amends. Maggie, I need you.” She is moved, they kiss, she starts to lie down on the unclean bed and the scene ends. That night, she finally puts on the ring Richard had sent to her at the start of the episode.

    Previous Soap Land seasons may have peppered their scripts with references to real-world events (DYNASTY in its first year, DALLAS during the post-dream BD Calhoun era), but FALCON CREST’s attempt to weld together Richard and Michael Sharpe’s storyline with contemporary non-fiction events is something else entirely. Take this line of Richard’s, which combines fact with fiction: “The cowboy days are over, Sal. The SEC is coming down hard. See, once Dennis Levine opened his mouth, the dominoes started to fall. And the last domino falls tomorrow.”

    As if long-established soap characters rubbing up against an approximation of present-day reality was not enough, there is also the significance of the dead falcon in the pre-title sequence (“There’s evil in the air!”), which adds a kind of supernatural element to the storytelling. The combination of, and the sparks created by, these opposing dramatic forces is utterly fascinating — and they all come together in the final few minutes of the ep.

    It’s the morning of the day Richard is due to testify against Michael Sharpe. Maggie is at home, assuring Richard’s son that she’ll retrieve his toy soldiers (the same toy soldiers Richard was fixated with when he first arrived on the show) from the bottom of the swimming pool. We then cut to Richard shaving in his cell. Then we go back to Maggie, putting on her diving mask and going under the water. Then it’s back to Richard, now fully dressed and on his way out of the prison. We see Maggie swimming towards the soldiers. She grabs the grate at the bottom of the pool with one hand to steady herself and reaches for the soldiers with the other. Richard is now in the back of a cop car, smiling. (Suddenly, Richard's and Maggie’s timelines are no longer sequential. Time is moving faster for him than it is for her; she is now in his past.) Maggie realises that Richard's ring has trapped her hand in the grate. Cut back to Richard in the car — he turns abruptly, looking worried. Cut back to Maggie, struggling to free herself, then there's the briefest of flashbacks to her putting on the ring the night before. Back in the pool, she drops the soldiers, panicking. Cut to Richard, smiling. Cut to a flashback of Maggie’s tearful face in the prison. Then there’s a succession of quick cuts, almost too quick to process: Richard lying awake in his prison bed, Maggie struggling under the water, Richard arriving at court and getting out of the car, back to Maggie. Then flashing back to the pre-title sequence — the boy running, the dead falcon. Richard’s lawyer approaching him, taking him by the arm. Maggie still struggling. Richard smiling as the lawyer talks to him. Maggie’s body floating upwards in slow-motion, her hand still lodged in the grate. Richard suddenly collapsing in his lawyer’s arms.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (2) FALCON CREST
    2 (3) DALLAS
    3 (1) KNOTS LANDING

    http://www.falconcrest.org/english/master.php?path=show/episodes/ai/bts/9/206
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2019
  2. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    05 Oct 89: KNOTS LANDING: Poetic Justice v. 06 Oct 89: DALLAS: Ka-Booooom! v. 06 Oct 89: FALCON CREST: Charley

    Back in the day, to be English in Soap Land was mostly to be an elegant, to-the-manor-born female with a nice line in crisp one-liners. These days, you’re more likely to be an arty, non-traditional (by Soap Land standards) male. DALLAS’s limey du jour — replacing filmmaker Don Lockwood (who was laidback to the point of nondescript) is gallery owner, and Cally’s would-be Svengali, Alex Barton (quietly spoken and a bit creepy). He is now joined by FALCON CREST’s Charley St James, who combines Alex’s accent and mullet with a flamboyant personality and a terrible taste in clothes — even by late ‘80s standards. A yellow string vest is one hideous highlight.

    Charley first appears when he steps into the Falcon Crest driveway, blocking the path of the limousine transporting Maggie’s family to her funeral. Emma gets out of the car to greet him and we realise this is the violent lover she told Maggie about last week. Like Emma, DALLAS’s Carter McKay is surprised by the return of an old flame this week, when the nameless woman in heavy makeup and tight skirts whom he kept barking at during the range war shows up at his office. We learn that her name is Rose and she’s recently opened “a little beauty shop in Follett.” Mack is pleased to see her and invites her to stay at his ranch.

    Over on KNOTS, Val is rapidly falling head over heels in love with Danny the computer guy. Reality bites when the twins walk in on them kissing. “You don’t love us anymore,” Bobby accuses her. “I don’t want him over here anymore,” Betsy adds. “They’re very protective, possessive,” Val explains to Danny. “They don’t want someone to come between them and their mommy.” Swap the gender of the parent and the same could be said of Tommy McKay. “In Tommy’s new role of father protector,” warns his rehab counsellor, “he could be capable of almost anything.” So it proves. “What’s a cheap little trick like you doing, latching onto my father?” he snarls at Rose, grabbing her and smearing her lipstick all over her face. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll cut your little vacation short and clear outta here!” While a frightened Rose scurries back to her Follett beauty parlour, Danny comes up with an unexpected way to combat the twins’ resistance to him. “Marry me,” he tells Val.

    Back on FALCON CREST, the situation between Charley and Emma’s family grows increasingly bizarre. First, he invites himself along to Maggie’s funeral as if it were the opening of a new nightclub. Plonking himself in the back of the funeral car next to Emma, Angela and Frank, he indulges in a spot of man-spreading before sparking up a fag. Maggie’s kids end up coughing instead of weeping for their mom. It’s cruelly funny. The family are dismayed by Charley’s behaviour, but seemingly too shocked to stand up to him. A terse “Would you mind putting out the cigarette?” is all macho Lance can manage.

    In a Soap Land first, Maggie lies in an open casket at her funeral. The only other major Soap Land character I can recall seeing in a coffin (aside from a drunken Mack in “Noises Everywhere” and FC’s Meredith Braxton when she burst out of a casket firing a machine gun) was Chip Roberts on KNOTS. That scene provided Lilimae with an opportunity to deliver a powerful goodbye speech. Here, however, the dramatic function of showing Maggie’s body isn’t to allow the characters to emote around her, but so that Charley can reach into the box and yank the ring off her finger — the very same ring that Richard bought for her and that led to her death last week.

    Charley isn’t the only one at the funeral with no sense of occasion. When Richard arrives at the church in handcuffs accompanied by a prison guard, he finds Michael Sharpe waiting for him. Without a word of sympathy, Michael orders him not to testify against him: “It’s a big waste of time. Back off.” So it is that these two interlopers, Charley and Michael, have by their monstrous insensitivity, deprived both the characters and the audience of their chance to mourn Maggie — even though the show has gone to the trouble of bringing the actress back for her own funeral scene! It’s so perverse.

    We are granted one emotional moment when Angela, who hasn’t spoken to her son since before Maggie died, approaches him after the funeral. “It’s amazing how death can shake even the firmest resolve,” she says. Broken, Richard falls into her arms. “What am I going to do?” he whispers. “You’re going to survive,” she replies.

    Charley subsequently adds insult to injury by re-gifting Maggie’s ring to Emma. Later on, when she and Richard are visiting Maggie’s grave (which is situated next to the old Alexis v Krystle lily pond), Emma shows him the ring. We wait for Richard to recognise it and explode, but he doesn’t. Instead, he remarks, “It looks like the ring I gave Maggie … The first time I saw it on her finger was at the funeral.” Once again, Charley has prevailed and the audience is denied its cathartic moment. The injustice of it all!

    There’s more jewellery stealing on DALLAS. About a third of the way through this week’s ep, Tommy sneaks into Ewing Oil to plant a bomb in Bobby’s attache case and spots a pendant Bobby has bought for April. “A going away gift for me — how nice!” he says before pocketing it. The bomb has been rigged to go off as soon as someone opens the case and the remainder of the episode is spent teasing the audience (in a cartoonish but nonetheless suspenseful way that’s quite unusual for DALLAS) with moments where Bobby, or Christopher on his behalf, is about to open the case, only to be distracted at the last second. “By tomorrow night, they’ll be scraping Mr Bobby Ewing off the ceiling!” predicts Tommy. Instead, the case eventually topples over April’s balcony, and she and Bobby watch in amazement as it goes boom on the street below.

    Angela is no happier when Emma invites Charley to stay at Falcon Crest than Tommy was when Mack asked Rose to stay at the ranch. Instead of smearing Charley’s lipstick, Angela leaves a plane ticket and an envelope full of cash on his bed, hoping he’ll take the hint. When that doesn’t work, Pilar tries a more direct approach: she hires a couple of thugs to beat him up. Charley’s reactions to these various attempts to get rid of him are fascinating. First, he comes uninvited into Angela’s room while she is asleep and sits on the edge of the bed. “Nice nightie — silk?” he asks when she wakes up and stares at him open-mouthed. “You don’t like me very much, do you?” he continues. “But I like you, and the smell of this place, and of Emma’s body, but most of all, I love the smell of those grapes.” Then he leans forward and kisses her on the lips. Later, a steamy bed scene between Pilar and Lance is rudely interrupted when they pull back the sheets to find they’ve got company, GODFATHER-style: the thugs Pilar sent to beat up Charley are at the bottom of the bed, bound and gagged.

    Bobby had bought April the pendant to celebrate “the four-month anniversary of the Great Waltz in Vienna.” Time seems to be moving a lot faster on DALLAS than on KNOTS this season. Abby and Sue Ellen departed Soap Land in the same week, but while it’s already time for John Ross to visit his mother in England, Paige hasn’t had a chance to change out of the jeans she’s been wearing since Abby caught that flight to Japan. Either way, Sue Ellen and Abby are both thousands of miles away now, but each continues to further the plot on the shows they left behind. In another neat little KNOTS twist I’d forgotten all about, Paige learns that Abby was responsible for the ransacking of her apartment at the end of last season. “My wife stole your key,” Greg explains — and then he stole it from her. Meanwhile on DALLAS, Cally’s concern that she is “still a girl and JR’s used to women — sophisticated, powerful, rich women like Sue Ellen” is what drives her to succeed as a painter so she will become “someone JR can be proud of.”

    As for the Ewing-verse’s rival Mystery Key storylines, Paige wins the race to solve hers when Miss Ellie, who had victory in her grasp, slows down at the final hurdle. Instead of flying to Pride, Texas to “unlock something from Jock’s past”, she suggests to Clayton that they turn it into a road trip: “I haven’t seen that part of Texas in years. It’d be fun.” By contrast, Paige, Greg and Ted spent this week’s KNOTS outwitting and chasing each other all over the town of Spring Lake. The ep does a really good job of sustaining the tension throughout. Even though Paige is the one who succeeds in unlocking Rick Hawkins’ safety deposit box, she has to lock herself in a gas station bathroom before she can examine its contents. Her haul includes evidence that Ted killed Nagata and that Abby owned Murakame all along. “She knew there was oil at Lotus Point before she bought it!” Paige murmurs. So maybe it’s still not too late, to paraphrase the judge at Richard Channing’s trial, for Abby to end up in a REAL prison where she’ll do REAL time like the REAL criminal she is. In the meantime, Ted is breaking down the bathroom door, Paige is clambering through a window — and the chase is back on. By the end of the ep, Paige and Greg believe that Ted has been killed after his getaway truck goes out of control, even though his body has yet to be found. KNOTS knows that we hardened viewers won’t fall for that one and so makes no secret (to us) that Ted is alive and hitching his way back to civilisation. Conversely, the open coffin on FALCON CREST proves that Maggie is definitely dead. It doesn’t prevent her from showing up later in Richard’s bedroom, but this turns out a dream version of Maggie — sadly no more real than Jeff Wainwright’s fantasy version four years ago.

    You’d swear some of Charley’s scenes on FALCON CREST were ripped off from TWIN PEAKS — if Charley’s arrival didn’t predate the pilot episode of TWIN PEAKS by six months. In one scene, he’s playing the piano in a club (possibly the Del Oro Spa) while crooning the old Dean Martin number ‘Everybody Loves Somebody’ like a slightly rubbish lounge singer, before suddenly speeding the song up and turning it into a frenetic, out-of-control Jerry Lee Lewis style boogaloo. It’s nuts but, just like one of those nutty musical numbers on TWIN PEAKS, it’s made all the nuttier by the fact that no-one else in the scene reacts as if it were nuts. Instead, they all just go along with it as if it were normal.

    Charley subverts the rules of Soap Land at every turn, behaving as if he neither knows nor cares who the real stars of this show he’s just sauntered into are. During dinner at Falcon Crest, he sits at the head of the table opposite Angela, happily conversing with Chao Li in Chinese while the family look on appalled, yet strangely helpless. Is Charley “the evil in the air” heralded by the dead falcon at the start of last week’s episode? He must be — otherwise why else do they all seem so powerless against him? Maybe it’s because he’s not evil in the way that one has come to recognise evil in Soap Land. If he were a powerful oil or shipping magnate played by some old Hollywood star or an enigmatic European woman with a big hat and a vendetta, then Lance and Angela would be better equipped to deal with him. But instead, Charley is funny, vulgar and just doesn’t give a shit — which makes him all the more nightmarish.

    Michael Sharpe takes a more conventional Soap Land route to strike back at Richard, blackmailing a judge over an indiscretion with a teenage cheerleader into having Richard’s kids taken into care. Just like the folks up at Falcon Crest, all Richard can do is stand impotently by and watch. Suddenly, he looks much older.

    There’s more male helplessness on KNOTS where Gary is essentially playing Jimmy Stewart in a telephone version of REAR WINDOW. Of all the characters on KNOTS, and maybe all of Soap Land, Gary is the best choice to ground this crazy plot in some kind of reality. He’s not a super sleuth like his buddy Mack or a natural hero like his brother Bobby, and instead becomes, in spite of his chequered past and famous last name, a frustrated, reluctant Everyman with whom we can identify in this scenario.

    For the second week in a row, the final scene of FALCON CREST is both extraordinary and extraordinarily bleak, shot through with a grotesque weirdness that again is pure TWIN PEAKS. It’s late at night. Angela is in bed reading. The phone rings, she answers, but there’s no-one there. The lights flicker on and off. There’s someone lurking downstairs, but it’s too dark to make out who. Angela takes a gun from her bedside drawer. Someone is creeping up the stairs — we see that it’s Charley, a demonic look on his face. Angela waits in bed, watching the door knob slowly turn. He enters. She points the gun at him and tells him to get out. “I can’t leave you alone in this great big dark empty house,” he replies. “Can’t you see how I’m attracted to you?” “You’re a sick man!” she shouts. “Don’t shoot, Mother!” he replies mockingly. She pulls the trigger, but there are just clicks. She keeps firing, but the barrel’s empty. He pretends he’s been shot anyway, collapsing to the floor dramatically like a kid playing Cowboys & Indians. Then he takes the bullets from his pocket, shaking them as if they were dice before tossing them onto the bed: “Gimme a lucky seven for Uncle Charley … It’s a winner!” She throws the gun at him and picks up the phone, but the line is dead. Meanwhile, Charley calmly picks up a pillow, takes the phone out of her hand and places the pillow over her face. She struggles for a while … and then stops.

    The suffocation of an elderly woman, the sound of another woman being attacked and possibly killed over the phone, yet another woman trapped in a bathroom as a dangerous man batters down the door with a metal bar, an attache case rigged to explode upon opening … all in all, it’s been a pretty violent week in Soap Land.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    12 Oct 89: KNOTS LANDING: Prince Charming v. 13 Oct 89: DALLAS: Sunrise, Sunset v. 13 Oct 89: FALCON CREST: Flesh and Blood

    The strange powerlessness of FALCON CREST’s regular characters continues. After Chao Li discovers her comatose in her bed, Angela is rushed to Soap Land Memorial Hospital. This is as close to a conventional Soap Land scenario as FC has gotten so far this season, but even here it deviates fascinatingly from the norm. Remember last year, when Ben Agretti and Gabriel Ortega were admitted to hospital after their car crash and the medical staff pretty much ignored Gabriel’s father until Lance arrived on the scene? Well, now it’s Lance who’s ignored. Upon arrival at the hospital, he asks the nurse on reception about his grandmother, but she’s too busy chatting on the phone to reply. Only when he takes the phone out of her hand does she grudgingly give him her attention. Later on, when Charley sidles up to her desk, the same nurse is transfixed by him, almost as if she were hypnotised — so when he asks about the life support system Angela is attached to, she thinks nothing of telling him all about the back-up generator in the basement that keeps the machine going in case of a power outage.

    Next thing we know, Charley is down in the hospital basement cutting the generator like some demented BATMAN villain and thus depriving Angela of oxygen for a few vital moments. “We can keep her breathing, but I see little possibility of her coming out of this now,” the doctor subsequently informs the family. Compared to the patience and sensitivity with which Krystle’s equivalent condition was treated on DYNASTY, this prognosis feels very abrupt. Lance immediately votes to pull the plug: “She wouldn’t wanna just lie there, like a vegetable.” This allows Charley, of all people, to deliver the obligatory “x is a fighter” line. “I knew her long enough to know that she was a fighter. Let’s give her a fighting chance,” he says — practically smirking as he does so. He knows it’s a cliché.

    Ted Melcher exhibits a similar awareness of banal dialogue during a terrific scene on KNOTS where Greg returns from his cross-country caper to find Ted waiting for him in his darkened office. “You know, Greg, I hate it when people say, ‘Let’s talk’ or ‘We have to talk’,” Ted begins. “It’s the dialogue of the thoughtless, of the shallow, the glibly shallow, the illiterate. It’s the emotional equivalent of ‘Let’s do lunch’ and the intellectual equivalent of ‘HEY YOU!’ Yet, at this moment, I can’t think of conveying to you in a better way what needs to be done: We have to talk.” He then proceeds to draw a comparison between Greg and Geraldine Ferraro, the real-life Democratic politician whose career and reputation was tainted by scandal five years earlier. “Nobody believes that she didn’t know what her husband was doing,” he tells Greg. “Nobody believes someone could be so removed from a spouse’s activities. She suffered for her husband’s sins. I don’t want you to suffer for your wife’s little felonious transgressions.” “You have the Murakame papers,” Greg realises. “Which prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your beloved wife defrauded her partners … You don’t wanna be another Geraldine Ferraro,” Ted replies. So it is that Ted persuades Greg to trade the photographs incriminating him in Nagata’s death (which Greg is obliged to steal from Paige) in return for the Murakame documents.

    Back on FALCON CREST, an even more interesting parallel between a fictional and real-life figure is drawn. Charley and Emma are lying in bed when he asks her, not if she remembers Geraldine Ferraro, but if she knows her ancient history: “Claudius was a fool, a stutterer. Caesar, Tiberius, Caligula — none of them took him seriously. He took over Rome and cleaned up after their mess. That’s you, baby … You are the one who should be running Falcon Crest, not that bozo nephew of yours.” Emma as the Claudius of the Tuscany Valley — how brilliant is that?! As well as linking the power struggles at Falcon Crest to the early days of the Roman Empire, the analogy also applies to I, CLAUDIUS, the internationally successful BBC series of the 1970s. A saga of a bloodthirsty, backstabbing dynasty, it’s a logical precursor to the '80s soap genre and one which the increasingly dark FC, with its casually dispatched lead characters, resembles ever more closely as the weeks go by. And how does Charley follow this fascinating cultural allusion? By declaring his intention to “go and point Percy at the porcelain.” (It scarcely needs saying that no-one in Soap Land has ever come remotely close to uttering this phrase before.) Out in the hallway, Lance has just returned from a business meeting when he sees Charley clad in just his tighty-whities. “Why don’t you show a little respect?” he snaps. “You don’t walk around this house like that.” So says the man who, when he wasn’t bringing his one-night stands back to “this house”, used to strut around the pool in a pair of budgie smugglers.

    Like Emma, Paige Matheson and Cally Ewing are also on the receiving end of some career advice this week. “Self-righteousness doesn’t become you,” Greg tells Paige after she walks in on his trade-off with Ted and voices her disapproval. “If you wanna be part of the Sumner Group, and I hope you do, you have to wise up to the ways of the world. You don’t like the way I do business, you go work for Mother Teresa.” Undeterred, she follows Ted out to the elevator where she accuses him and Greg of blackmailing each other. Following “She’s a fighter” and “We need to talk”, a third cliché is then knowingly deployed: “Such an ugly word, blackmail,” says Ted. “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck —“ Paige retorts. “I can still call it a waterfowl,” counters Ted. “So what’s your other name for it — quid pro quo?” she asks. “Or maybe a long term business deal, mutually beneficial to both parties?” “By George, I think you’ve got it!” he exclaims. “Suddenly I feel like Henry Higgins!” Over on DALLAS, a Pygmalion scenario is playing out for real as Alex Barton seeks to reinvent almost every aspect of Cally’s identity. From her name (“I want to promote you as Cally Harper; I’d like you to drop the Ewing name”) to her dress sense (having asked her to choose between two gowns in a shop window, she chooses the red, gaudy one that is quintessentially ‘80s; he agrees that it’s “sexy and fun … but it’ll be out of fashion in six months” — as will the ‘80s themselves) to her creative process (“I want you to paint from your imagination, I want to see what’s in your mind”). It all feels like a mini-version of the makeover Bess Riker attempted on Val when she starting her writing career back in KNOTS Season 4 — but whereas Bess wanted to capitalise on the Ewing name, Alex sees it as a liability. “It makes you sound like the dilettante wife of a rich man,” he tells Cally. Although his interest in her work seems more genuine that Bess’s in Val’s, Alex is also, to borrow Greg’s phrase, wise to the ways of the world: “There’s a certain reality to hyping the modern artist. The art can be primitive or raw or untamed, but the artist must be at ease with the jet set.” He also charges a 40% commission on all sales — nothing comes for free in Soap Land.

    It’s the end of the road for two Ewing-verse bad boys this week, Ted Melcher and Tommy McKay. On KNOTS, Ted’s quid pro quo/mutually beneficial business deal with Greg enables him to get off scot-free with his crimes (which include two murders), thereby making him the show’s first guest villain not to end up impaled on a pitchfork, shouted off a roof or buried in cement. Instead, he’s on his way to Japan — watch out, Abby. (But not before delivering some parting words of wisdom to Paige: “Maybe you don’t love Greg anymore, I don’t know … At least now you know that you can’t trust him. If you’re smart though, you’ll stick around here because he’s vulnerable to you. You are his weak spot … You’re in the perfect position to take advantage of him.”) Tommy doesn’t fare as well on DALLAS, sadly. During an office confrontation parallel to (if slightly dumber than) Ted and Greg’s, Bobby surprises him by showing up at West Star with “a business opportunity for you”, whilst carrying the booby-trapped attache case (actually, a replica thereof). As he goes to open it, Tommy panics and calls security — “Get this guy, he’s got a bomb!” — thereby alerting them to his own crime. That night, Daddy McKay tries to stop him going after Bobby with a gun. They struggle, the gun goes off and, just as in Fallon’s flashback, Roger/Tommy is shot dead while intent on inflicting harm on a major character — Alexis then, Bobby now.

    Over on FALCON CREST, Richard also makes an abortive attempt to shoot someone. He gets as far as aiming his gun at an oblivious Michael Sharpe, but cannot bring himself to pull the trigger. Instead, he throws the gun away and screams his dead wife’s name in an empty parking lot — another example of an FC character’s impotence. (Richard’s fleeting reference to Garth elsewhere in the episode is a reminder that he no longer has his Man Friday to turn to either. It’s a sad loss, but one that makes sense for the same reason that DOCTOR WHO eventually had to write out its genius robot dog, K9. K9 was so clever that made the Doctor’s job too easy. Likewise, Garth was so capable he could always be relied upon to lighten Richard’s load — and nothing is allowed to be light or easy for Richard anymore.)

    The FC characters’ sense of weakness extends to their business. To quote Michael’s attorney, “Richard Channing’s family empire is drier than their white wines.” To make matters worse, their distributor, Ned Vogel, expresses a lack of confidence in Lance as Angela’s successor and threatens not to renew their contract. “Without proper distribution, you’re out of business,” he gloats. “You’re on the back shelf of some 7-11 next to the Stridex pads.” The old Lance wouldn’t have stood for this putdown, but now he just has to sit there and take it.

    Distribution also becomes an issue on DALLAS when the tanker carrying JR’s crude from Venezuela is delayed by bad weather. Not being able to supply Shaughnessy’s refinery on time means a million dollar a day penalty. JR is, therefore, eager to buy up Marilee Stone’s oil reserves — but she’ll only sell under certain conditions. She explains these to JR while speaking almost entirely in double entendres: “I love to see a man on his knees, it offers such interesting possibilities … There is one dotted line that you’ll have to sign on first and you know where to find it … Your money is only the second best thing about you.” This results in JR reluctantly wading into her swimming pool fully dressed (“You never minded getting wet before,” she purrs). Back on FC, Pilar realises that there is a similar way she can persuade Vogel to renew his deal with Falcon Crest — so she does for her man what Laura Avery and Afton Cooper did for theirs in “Community Spirit” (KNOTS Season 1) and “Fringe Benefits (DALLAS Season 5) respectively. “Let’s get this over with,” she tells Vogel in his office. Cut to her back at Falcon Crest, crying in the shower.

    In both storylines, there is a twist — at the very last minute, JR receives a phone call telling him his oil has arrived at Shaughnessy’s refinery, which allows him to escape Marilee’s clutches with his virtue intact. The situation is less comedic on FALCON CREST when Vogel refuses to deal with Lance even after Pilar has slept with him. This is a Soap Land first: in all previous storylines where sex and business have intertwined, no man, however slimy, has ever double-crossed the woman after she’s put out. But this is the treacherous, all-bets-are-off world of FALCON CREST Season 9 where the old rules no longer seem to apply. The situation does, however, afford Pilar the opportunity to transform herself from sexual victim to aggressor. When Vogel tells her he’ll only make the deal if she continues to have sex with him (“One bite of candy isn’t enough, I need the whole box”), she threatens to file rape charges against him unless he honours their agreement. It works. “We made the deal!” Lance later crows, as oblivious to how he landed the contract as Cliff Barnes was when he bought Gil Thurman’s refinery seven years ago. ”I knew I could pull this thing off. You should have seen me, honey, I was beautiful! I was in control, a deal maker!” He hugs Pilar, who has the same expression on her face that Afton did then.

    There are two contrasting gatherings in this week’s Ewingverse — the Mackenzie barbecue on KNOTS and Tommy’s funeral on DALLAS. Whereas Paula is reluctant to attend the former (“This is going to be dreadful”), JR is looking forward to the latter (“I’ve cut some of my best deals at funerals”). While Karen finally starts putting two and two together about Mack and Paula at the barbecue, yet another innuendo-laden remark from Marilee at the funeral (“I’m sure [JR] didn’t tell you about the other night … we really got up to our hips in fun”) starts Cally worrying about JR’s fidelity. Both wives confront their husbands with their suspicions. “Something happened in that motel and I wanna know what,” demands Karen. “I wanna talk now,” Cally insists after the funeral. “Did you sleep with Marilee Stone?” Mack responds by flashing back to the night in question when he admitted to being attracted to Paula but told her that, even if he could get away with it, he would never cheat on his wife. This reaffirmation of his love for Karen puts him firmly back in her good books. In contrast, the first cracks in JR and Cally’s marriage surface as JR starts to lose patience with his wife. “Cally, you are developing a bad case of sexual jealousy and I’m getting a little tired of you seeing a mistress behind every tree,” he tells her. “Monogamy is not exactly second nature to me so I want full credit for my efforts!” That’s such a great line.

    Two recent parent/child reconciliations — between Carter McKay and Tommy on DALLAS, and Angela and Richard on FALCON CREST — have both now been cut tragically short due to Tommy’s death and Angela’s coma. Over on KNOTS, Mack and Paige manage to put their differences aside long enough to enjoy a reunion that lasts all of thirty-one seconds before she tells him she’s going back to work at the Sumner Group. He calls her stupid, she calls him brainless and that’s the end of that. More poignant is the way DALLAS’s Mack turns his back on daughter Tracey when she returns for Tommy’s funeral. “Not a tear for Tommy, not a hug for me? Don’t you dare turn back into the old Carter McKay,” she pleads. After the funeral, she offers to stay and look after him, but he won’t hear of it. “I’m glad you’re going,” he tells her coldly. “I’m your last chance and you know it, Dad,” she insists. “There’s your cab … Goodbye, Tracey.” It’s a desperately sad ending to the MacKay family, who at one point seemed set to be the new Barneses, especially when one remembers that it was McKay’s desperate need to reconcile with his daughter that brought him to Dallas in the first place. Tommy and Tracey’s arc mirrors that of a previous brother/sister act on DALLAS, Jack and Jamie. Whatever hang-ups they arrived with, each pair ended up considerably worse off for having encountered the Texas Ewings, with one sibling dead and the other left full of grief and regrets.

    Back on KNOTS, we get our first insight into Olivia and Harold’s married life since Abby left for Japan taking Olivia’s credit cards with her. With Olivia determined to prove that she can survive without her mother’s millions, their situation becomes the inverse of DALLAS’s equivalent “rich girl marries poor boy” storyline from nine years earlier. Whereas Lucy’s insistence on living like an heiress frustrated the proud and principled Mitch, Olivia’s scrupulous budgeting starts to bug Harold when she begrudges him a night at the movies or a tub of fancy ice cream. “I’m never gonna be a rich man. We’re never gonna be rich,” he tells her. “We could be — if you tried,” she argues. This is the first indication that she has inherited more of Abby’s ambition than previously suspected. Over on DALLAS, Michelle Stevens delivers a neat little speech about the haves and have nots to Cliff, as part of her ongoing scheme to rewaken his bitter and twisted side. “It doesn’t seem fair,” she complains. “Bobby, JR, April — they all have that inherited money. Nobody gave you anything — or me. We have to do it on our own … The Ewings are still dumping on you and April’s still dumping on me.”

    Random trend of the week: Ewing-verse characters describing each other as saints. Sometimes they’re being sarcastic, as when Michelle describes her sister to Cliff as “St April, Queen of Goodness and Light. Didn’t you meet her when she first came to Dallas? She was hell on high heels!” or when Paige reminds Greg how badly he’s treated her. “I never asked you to go skinny-dipping in my pool,” he points out. “I never said you asked … You’re blameless, you’re a saint,” she replies. And sometimes, they’re speaking out of genuine admiration. “You are a saint … You shouldn’t invite a single young lady to go away on vacation with you and your husband,” Ginny tells Karen. “You really are a saint, aren’t you — going to the funeral of the man that tried to kill you!” JR tells Bobby.

    In the first Soap Land Song Wars of the new season, Amanda, the twins’ kindergarten teacher on KNOTS, bursts into a chorus of ‘Never Never Land’ from Peter Pan. The kids are spellbound, Val is charmed (“Amanda’s so sweet”), and Danny prefers to wait it out in the car park for some reason. Over on FC, Charley apes Dean Martin for the second week in a row with a bespoke version of ‘Houston’, a minor 1965 hit penned by Lee ‘These Boots are Made for Walking’ Hazlewood: “It’s so lonesome in Tuscany town, everybody’s gotten me down. I’m a face without a name, just walking in the rain.” Whereas Amanda’s number is a bit too jazz hands for my taste, Charley’s number is both creative and stupidly funny — a bit like the man himself. Ergo, Charley’s the winner.

    Speaking of Danny, Val is stunned by his marriage proposal but admits to Karen that she is considering it. Over on DALLAS, April likewise surprises Bobby by proposing to him. He doesn’t give her a straight answer but, as with Val and Danny, the signs are positive.

    There are two late additions to the opening titles, James Beaumont on DALLAS and Lauren Daniels on FALCON CREST. Another tall, good-looking twenty-something, James feels like an instant replacement for Tommy McKay, but whereas Tommy was snarly and intense, James is full of goofy charm. His first scene takes place at Ewing Oil. Sly is not happy to hear from the other secretaries that he’s made himself at home in JR’s office and marches in to confront him. But then he does a “the chair swivels round to reveal …” thing and says, smilingly, “I was wondering what a Sly Lovegren would look like”, and she sort of melts.

    But that’s not the whole story: James is Vanessa Beaumont’s son! And he gets the freeze frame! Not even Casey Denault got one of those!

    Lauren’s introduction is more complicated. Having arranged for Richard Channing’s sons to be taken to “the dog pound” (his nickname for a children’s shelter), Michael Sharpe pulls even more strings to have them adopted by a childless couple, Walker and Lauren Daniels — thereby making them Harry and Sheila Fisher to his Dr Ackerman. In contrast to the rest of FALCON CREST, the Walkers are like something from a Lifetime movie. They live a rural existence — there are logs everywhere — and Lauren, in particular, oozes wholesomeness. Their backstory — they decided to adopt after their own children died in an accident — is suitably heart-tugging.

    But that’s not the whole story: Lauren is Michael Sharpe’s sister!

    After learning who the boys’ father is, Lauren arranges to meet Michael for the first time in five years. “Why do I have Richard Channing’s children?” she asks him. “I’ve got to know — did you have anything to do with me getting those children? … Because if you did, I can’t keep them. I can’t get attached to them and then have them taken away from me.” He swears “on Papa’s grave” that it’s a coincidence — just like the one that is revealed at the end of this week’s KNOTS: Danny the computer guy’s other woman is Amanda, the twins’ Peter Pan-singing teacher. What are the odds of that?

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    19 Oct 89: KNOTS LANDING: Close Call v. 20 Oct 89: DALLAS: Pride and Prejudice v. 20 Oct 89: FALCON CREST: Payback

    After all the death and darkness of recent weeks, Soap Land takes its foot off the gas a little. The stakes aren’t quite so high on this week’s episodes and each show includes what could be described as a "filler" storyline. On KNOTS, something that could be dealt with in a couple of lines — Val telling Danny that Gary is the twins’ father — instead plays out over the course of the episode as Val worries about his reaction (“What if I tell Danny and he doesn’t wanna stick around?”). The show succeeds in making it feel like a big deal, assisted in no small part by Val herself, who could make a drama out of anything. DALLAS includes a cute little subplot about Christopher going on his first date while FALCON CREST has a stand-alone storyline where Charley hijacks the family limo, picks up a couple of girls in town (wide-eyed Valley girls as opposed to slutty stereotypes, which makes a refreshing change) and brings them back to the house for an afternoon of vase-smashing, pillow fighting and blasting out ‘That’s Amore’ by Dean Martin on the stereo (Charley’s third homage to Dino in as many episodes and the very song that Zorelli sang in the shower on last season’s DYNASTY). Compared to his previous acts of desecration in the family home, it’s pretty mild, but it’s a desecration nonetheless.

    Last week, James Beaumont made his first appearance on DALLAS via a “chair reveal”. This week, DALLAS ends and FALCON CREST begins with a character making their entrance using another soap trope, the “feet-first introduction.” In both instances, the camera focuses on a woman’s feet as she steps out a car, then pans up her legs. Technically, it’s a reintroduction on DALLAS as the woman climbing out of the limousine and onto the cardboard patio at Southfork, clad elegantly in black, is revealed to be Vanessa Beaumont. On FALCON CREST, the woman who steps out of a red convertible outside of the Agretti house, dressed all in white, is an entirely new character, Genele Ericson.

    Placing an introductory scene before the opening titles has become something of a fixture on this season’s KNOTS. This week's has Paige using Carlos as a sounding board as she weighs up her options regarding her relationship with Greg. Carlos’s inability to get a word in could be read as an ironic acknowledgement that Soap Land’s servants mostly exist to be seen and not heard. FALCON CREST’s opening scene is also an exchange between a glamorous blonde and a domestic that underlines the difference in their social status. Having arrived at the Agretti house, Genele knocks on the door. “Can I help you?” asks the maid. “I doubt it,” she replies, walking in uninvited. While sizing up the joint, she passes the maid her jacket without bothering to look at her: “Careful, it wrinkles.” Instead of answering the maid’s questions or obeying her polite request to leave, Genele dismisses her (“I’d like to be alone now. I’ve had a long trip and I’m tired … Go, go away”), stretches out on a couch, kicks off her shoes, chuckles to herself and says to a photo of Frank, “Honey, I’m home.” There is no equivalent servant action on DALLAS, but after seven years of answering phones and walking back and forth to Sly’s desk, Ewing Oil receptionist Kendall is finally rewarded with her first ever close up when James takes her out for drinks and quizzes her for information about JR. (She’s late for work the next day, which suggests that’s not all they got up to.)

    The way Genele makes herself at home on FALCON CREST, it’s as if she’s heard there’s a vacancy for a Soap Land villainess (the original triumvirate of Alexis, Abby and Angela having all dispersed) and is determined to land the job. Luckily for her, her nearest rival, DALLAS’s Michelle Stevens, has the week off. As soap bitches go, Genele is a bit New Alexis — vampy rather than subtle. When Frank Agretti, who turns out to be her former brother-in-law, arrives home, he finds her doing that most Alexis of things: taking a bubble bath. “What in the name of God are you doing here?” he asks. “I do very little in the name of God,” she purrs before standing in front of him, as naked and wet as Marilee Stone was when JR abandoned her in her swimming pool last week. “You must be out of your mind to come here,” he says. “Please, Frank,” she murmurs. She kisses him and when he responds, she rewards him by biting his bottom lip, drawing blood. She goes on like this throughout the episode, alternately teasing and taunting him, while tossing out the occasional veiled remark about his dead wife, until you’re not sure if Frank wants to shag her or strangle her. Just as Angela did with Charley a few weeks ago, he eventually wakes up to find her sitting on his bed in her best Valentine Lingerie. She’s found the document that gives him Angela’s power of attorney. He tries to grab it, but she’s too quick. “Frank, you’re so stupid,” she tells him. “It’s one of the things I like best about you … A goldmine right under your nose and you probably weren’t planning to do anything at all with it, were you?” By now, she’s kneeling on the bed on all fours, practically wiggling her behind in his face. “I know what you want and you can have it,” she says — and she’s not talking about the document. “Then I’ll tell you what I want.” “No,” he replies. “Yes,” she insists. Then he throws her back onto the bed, she laughs, he undoes his robe and — blackout. To be sure, theirs is a lot more twisted, even masochistic, than either of Soap Land’s other May/December relationships, JR and Cally or Paige and Greg.

    It’s the first day of a new job for Paige on KNOTS and Richard on FALCON CREST. While Paige dictates the terms of her employment to Greg (“I want your ex-wife’s old office,” she begins, “an expense account, and I want a company car with a parking space next to the elevator to park my company car, I want my own secretary, a computer and I want $120,000 a year salary with six months guaranteed severance pay”), the terms of Richard’s are laid out to him by his new boss at Murdy and Sampson (some sort of investment brokers): “I’m only gonna say this once, Channing, so I hope you’re paying attention. We do things by the book around here. We don’t lie, we don’t cheat and we don’t steal. I know this may seem like a novel approach to you, but that’s the way we do business.” “I’ll try to get used to it,” replies Richard with his customary wryness. “Skip the wisecracks,” snaps the boss.

    Paige’s return causes some literal office politics at the Sumner Group as Mort is under the misapprehension that he is to inherit Abby’s executive suite. While he is measuring up the walls to redecorate, Paige sweeps in and takes over. Meanwhile, Richard is obliged to downsize his workspace from his executive office at the New Globe (just as JR was when he returned to Ewing Oil last season). “The private shower in your old office was bigger than this,” a colleague points out, “but golly, it’s the best we could do. Sorry about the parking lot view.” Not that Richard’s complaining: “My old office had iron bars and a toilet in the middle of the floor.”

    There is scant sympathy for Soap Land’s recently bereaved. Not only does Richard receive a cool welcome from his new employer, but when Carter McKay approaches April on the street, scarcely a week after his only son died in his arms, she tells him he’s “a cold cruel arrogant man … I wouldn’t sell you yesterday’s newspaper.” Satisfyingly, he gives as good as he gets, telling her she’s “a busy little opportunist that goes from man to man the way a bee goes from flower to flower.”

    Some big numbers are bandied about this week. First, Greg Sumner presents Michael Fairgate with $100,000 for his computer vaccine (the one that Johnny Rourke ripped off), then the Tuscany bank demands the immediate repayment of a $20,000,000 loan or they will foreclose on Falcon Crest, and finally $42,000,000 is the amount Michael Sharpe is obliged to pay Richard’s new bosses when a business transaction that I was just about able to follow as it was happening but couldn’t begin to explain now backfires. (Sharpe throws the most spectacular tantrum when this occurs.)

    After a week’s absence, we catch up with Miss Ellie who is proving just as dogged in her search for the lock that her second Mysterious Key will open as her son Gary is in his mission to track down Sally’s Friend. Both rise above the negative opinions of those they have enlisted in their search. “Looks like another dead end to me,” says Clayton as he and Ellie stand outside a boarded up boarding house in Pride. “Does the phrase ‘needle in a haystack’ mean anything to you?” Frank Williams asks Gary as they go from door to door, asking people if they know a woman with a friend called Sally and a dog named Chester. “At least we’re reducing the size of the haystack,” says Gary while Ellie goes so far as to buy up the entire town of Pride in order to gain access to the boarding house.

    The leisurely pace of this week’s KNOTS makes the head-spinning pileup of coincidences in the show’s final scene all the more unexpected. Frustrated by his search, Gary accepts an invitation to watch Frank perform at a club called Stage 25 (the first indication we’ve been given of any musical proclivities on Frank’s part). Amanda, the twins’ teacher who just happens to be sleeping with Danny, just happens to be singing there as well (that same cheesy Peter Pan number from last week). Gary doesn’t know her but just happens to see Danny kissing her in the club. He follows them outside where he just happens to hear Amanda talking to her dog who just happens to be called Chester, which just happens to be the name of the dog belonging to the woman he’s been desperately searching for for the past three episodes. Cut back to Gary with a “Holy Shit, it’s Sally’s Friend!” expression on his face. Ellie and Clayton look similarly open-mouthed when their search leads them from a cuckoo clock in Pride to a farmhouse in Montana where the mailboxes read “Ewing” and “Mallory”.

    There are also twists galore in the final minutes of FALCON CREST. The bank is about to seize the family business when Richard arrives to save the day with a $20,000,000 cheque (“If you want, you can write a thank-you note to Michael Sharpe,” he tells Lance and Pilar. “He’s the one that came up with the money. He didn’t want to, but he did.”) This gives Lance what he’s always wanted (except when he hasn’t): control of Falcon Crest — for about five seconds. Frank Agretti appears with his power of attorney and apologetically insists on exercising his right to take over, “effective as of right now.” “Why are you doing this?” asks Lance. Frank can’t give him a straight answer, but the episode ends with Lance looking out of the window to see him driving away with Genele in her red-for-danger convertible.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (3) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (1) FALCON CREST
    3 (2) DALLAS
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2019
  5. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    02 Nov 89: KNOTS LANDING: When Push Comes to Shove v. 03 Nov 89: DALLAS: Fathers and Other Strangers v. 03 Nov 89: FALCON CREST: Soul Sacrifice

    Ecology is a hot topic in this week’s Ewing-verse. On KNOTS, Paula and Greg meet cute in the Sumner Group elevator and immediately start bickering about the ruination of California. Greg then goes on to debate fossil fuels with Karen in the more formal setting of OPEN MIKE, a TV talk show. “I suppose I’m in favour of hydro-carbons — I prefer driving to walking,” he ruminates beforehand. After the show, he runs into Paula again and she congratulates him on his performance: “For an opportunist and a huckster, you managed to side-step the issues pretty well.” There’s more moral indignation on DALLAS where “a West Star tanker has just had some sort of accident. It’s leaking oil all over the Gulf.” “This day is turning out better than I thought it would!” laughs JR, revelling in Carter McKay’s misfortune. “That’s not funny, JR,” admonishes Bobby. “You know what that’s gonna do to the Texas coastline, not to mention the pollution in the Gulf?” ”… This isn’t a comedy, it’s a tragedy!” adds Cliff. “What’s a few dead ducks?” JR shrugs, calling for champagne. Interestingly, the Ewing-verse’s younger generation, represented by Michael Fairgate and James Beaumont, seem to side with Greg and JR’s more conservative views. “He’s making a lot more sense than she is,” Michael observes while watching Greg debate his mother on TV. James, meanwhile, chuckles happily at JR’s jokes.

    Michael and James’s respective mothers are worried about the influence these two powerful men are having on their sons. As if Michael working at the Sumner Group wasn’t bad enough, he then splashes out $1,200 on a watch which just happens to be identical to Greg’s. “This is not extravagant spending, Mom — it’s investing,” he argues after Karen voices her disapproval. “Oh, is that what your new boss is telling you?” she asks. “I don’t need Mr Sumner to tell me how important appearances are,” he replies. “The problem with Michael is, he’s too young to realise what you represent,” Karen later tells Greg.

    Vanessa Beaumont, meanwhile, scolds James for “taking off for Dallas, not telling me.” “I don’t have to ask your permission every time I want a piece of candy,” he insists. “And this is quite a piece of candy, isn’t it?” she retorts. Her chief cause of concern is, of course, different to Karen’s. “You were worried I’d tell JR he’s my father,” says James. Notably, this game-changing bombshell is dropped not in the episode’s final scene, but a third of the way through, just as the discovery that Ray was Jock’s son was also revealed midway through an ep. “What if you decide to stay here permanently?” Vanessa worries. “What if you like being JR’s son? What if he likes being your father? I’ve already lost one man I love to this damn city, I don’t want to lose another one!”

    As for Greg and JR, they each seem uncharacteristically taken with the young man who has entered their respective orbit. Greg tells Karen that Michael is “a fine young man … he’s bright, he’s attractive and he’s got a great new watch.” JR, without realising that James is his son, describes him to Vanessa as “delightful … a man after my own heart.” While Michael’s situation brings out Karen’s self-righteous side (“Oh gosh, to think all my life I thought people were judging me on my actions and not on my watch!”), James suggests that Vanessa might have ulterior motives for showing up in Dallas: “Were you really looking for me or was I just an excuse for you to look up JR again?”

    In the same way that Karen takes a dim view of her son’s extravagance (“He may not be in college but thank goodness he has an impressive timepiece”), so FALCON CREST’s Walker Daniels disapproves of his brother-in-law Michael showing up with expensive gifts for the children in his care. “You really think an eight-year-old boy needs a Mercedes Benz?” he asks, referring to a replica toy car. “No, but then I don’t think a forty-year-old man should be driving a garbage pail on wheels either,” Michael snaps back, alluding to Walker’s beat up old van. Walker would be even less thrilled if he knew that his wife Lauren has been taking the kids to see their real father, Richard, behind his back. (By the way, how Richard’s son, also called Michael, qualifies as “an eight-year-old boy” when he was only born four seasons ago is unclear. Perhaps it’s something they’re putting in the Soap Land water — over on this week’s DALLAS, Bobby feels obliged to talk to his son Christopher about the birds and the bees, which seems a little premature given that Christopher was born in 1981 and so should only be eight years old — or even seven, if you subtract the year that turned out to be a dream.)

    Since returning to the Sumner Group, Paige has gone from being the pursuer to the pursued in her relationship with Greg. This has led to a workplace game of cat and mouse between them, which mostly entails Paige politely declining Greg’s invitations to dinner in favour of working late, usually with a tall, young and handsome client named R. Peter Christopher, Greg then observing their body language from the other side of his and Paige’s adjoining glass-walled offices, and later sabotaging her plans for the weekend with a last minute assignment that simply can’t wait. Nowadays, this would probably have #MeToo stamped all over it, but in 1989 it has the wit and sophistication of a Hepburn/Tracey movie.

    DALLAS has its own office flirtation storyline this week. The Ewing Oil set isn’t as an expansive as the Sumner Group's so it takes place on a more modest scale (DALLAS’s corporate offices are now smaller than KNOTS LANDING’s? When did that happen?), with a nice little running gag that starts with James suggesting to Sly that she invite him over for a home-cooked meal. “Sorry, my microwave is broken,” she tells him cheerily. Later on, he stops by her desk with a cookbook: “My favourite recipe’s on page 21 and you don’t need a microwave to cook it.” A few scenes after that, JR passes by and notices her reading said book. “You’re not going domestic on me, are you?” he checks. “No, I still have a black thumb when it comes to baking,” she assures him. “I’m glad to hear that!” he chuckles. Meanwhile, poor old Kendall is left out in reception, wondering if and when James is ever going to call her following their night together.

    Last week’s KNOTS introduced us to Oakman Industries, yet another corporation run by shadowy, sinister figures. Unlike the Wolfbridge Group or Empire Valley storylines, however, this one was not initiated by a wicked, wicked blonde with blue eyeshadow and limitless ambition, but a random friend of Val’s Aunt Ginny, a sixty-three-year-old “minimum wage worker who could never even afford a home of her own” named Jeri Maddux. In her very first scene, Jeri swiped $17,000 from the company safe, which she later insisted was the pension she’d been cheated out of. She was subsequently arrested. Mack took her case, but the episode ended with her lying dead outside her apartment building, having either jumped or been pushed out of a window. The last time a minor Soap Land character met such fate, Roger Grimes’s son turned out to be the guilty party, but the fact that he’s now trapped in a disused mine shaft for all eternity gives him a firm alibi this time around.

    Instead, the finger of suspicion points at Aunt Ginny herself. Aunt Ginny — a killer? It sounds ridiculous — but then Val finds her wearing a solid gold bracelet of Jeri’s. She claims she and Jeri had made a pact (“Whoever went first, the other one could choose whatever they wanted”), but helping oneself to a dead, or potentially dead, woman’s jewellery is an act that one has come to associate with those of evil intent: Charley St James on FALCON CREST (Maggie’s ring, Angela’s necklace); Tommy McKay on DALLAS (April’s pendant). While Mack is convinced that Oakman bagman Mark Baylor (a terrifically conflicted performance by Adam Arkin) is “the son of a bitch who did it”, Ginny is the one who ends up behind bars at the end of the episode.

    Like KNOTS, this week’s FALCON CREST shows that you’re never too old to be suspected of cold-blooded murder. The mystery surrounding the death of Frank Agretti’s wife combines with Soap Land’s first ever Hallowe’en themed episode to create the nightmare sequence to end all nightmare sequences. As thunder roars, a hand-held camera follows Frank through a graveyard at night, a dead woman in his arms. He then falls into an open grave, the woman’s body landing on top of him. A demented Genele appears and proceeds to bury him alive while leering at the camera in a distorted, fisheye lens closeup that only serves to make look her even more insane. Frank wakes up in a cold sweat. What happens next isn’t a dream (at least I don’t think it is), but it still feels like one. Spooked by his nightmare, he drives to a forest and, armed with a shovel and a torch, searches for the shallow grave where his wife is buried. Meanwhile, disembodied screams and gunshots play on the soundtrack. “Renee, be there,” he pleads as he starts digging. Just as in his nightmare, Genele appears out of nowhere. “Looking to dig up the evidence, Frank?” she asks. “She’s not there anymore. I dug her up a long time ago. She’s in a box, safe and sound and as long as you do what I tell you to do, she’ll stay that way.” As she laughs, Frank cries, telling she’s “some kind of a witch from hell.”

    It later transpires that Genele, rather than Frank, bumped off his wife/her sister (“I did it because I knew you loved me”) — but she used his gun and he helped her to bury the body (“the greatest mistake of my life”). Genele uses this to blackmail Frank into finishing off Angela so she can get her hands on his inheritance. “The courts say Angela won’t recover anyway,” she reasons. “She probably wants somebody to pull the plug.” As with Charley St James, it’s the sheer lack of respect for the show’s biggest star (an elderly woman, to boot) from a trashy, murderous outsider that both thrills and impresses. “Just a little air bubble. She won’t feel a thing,” Genele urges, handing Frank a syringe. He gets as far as Angela’s hospital room but ultimately can’t go through with it.

    Back on KNOTS, the coroner in charge of Jeri’s autopsy turns out to be an old buddy of Mack’s from Vietnam. (“Well, if it isn’t the most laidback medic that ever crawled through a rice paddy. You know, we should have let you fight for the other side — we’ve have been out of there a hell of a lot sooner!” Mack joshes.) Just as it took until DYNASTY’s final season before we learned that Dex Dexter was a Vietnam vet, this is our first indication that Mack served in the same war.

    Further military exploits are revealed on DALLAS as the riddle set by Jock’s old air service pal, Tom Mallory, is finally solved. Miss Ellie and Clayton’s search has led them to a Jewish family that Jock and Tom rescued from Nazi-occupied Holland during World War II and who have since settled in the States. The crux of DYNASTY’s recent Nazi-related story was Blake’s fear that the Carrington name would be forever tarnished. Here, that situation is reversed as the saved family explain that they have proudly adopted their rescuers’ names, Ewing and Mallory, in their honour. “None of these people would be alive today if it wasn’t for the heroism of Jock Ewing,” declares Sarah Ewing, introducing the Farlows to her extended family. This is an atypical story for DALLAS to be sure, but a nice one. Lest all this warm-hearted fuzziness prove too much, however, it is handily offset by the dysfunctional goings on back in Dallas itself.

    “Will you really pay a small fortune to get Cliff outta Ewing Oil?” Michelle asks JR. “That’s probably the most serious offer I ever made to anybody in my life,” he replies. “Then it’s Michelle with two ‘l’s,” she grins. “I wanna make sure you spell my name right on that huge cheque you’ll be writing me!” There are similarly soapy shenanigans in the opening scene of FALCON CREST. A three-way family court battle is underway to decide who gets conservatorship of the winery while Angela is a coma. Her husband Frank, her son Richard and her grandson Lance have all thrown their hats into the ring.

    “There’s a better than fifty-fifty chance the judge will hand Falcon Crest over to Frank,” Genele tells Richard before proposing a similar deal to the one Michelle’s just made with JR: “If Frank drops the suit and you end up with Falcon Crest, I wanna half a million dollars.” Unfortunately for Genele, such a deal proves irrelevant when Lance, prompted by Charley, persuades the judge to base her decision on Angela’s will, i.e., whomever Angela bequeathed Falcon Crest to after her death gets to control it while she’s on life support. Lance is confident it’ll be him.

    Back on KNOTS, Danny the computer guy is angry because, thanks to Gary, Val now knows that he is married to, albeit separated from, Sally’s Friend, aka Amanda, and is refusing to talk to him. The scene from Danny and Amanda’s estranged marriage where he comes by her place late at night is very interesting. Because they’re not regular characters, their situation is allowed to be more messily complicated, more stuck-in-the-past than the relationships of those who are required to drive the show’s action forward. Their marriage might be over, but their lives and emotions are still intertwined. “You sleep with the cowboy yet?” Danny asks Amanda, before ranting sarcastically about what a catch he is: “My wife left me because I’m a stifling person … ‘Hi, I’m a jerk, obnoxious, oppressive. Would you like to be the next woman that I smother? Would you like to be the next woman that I systematically destroy?’” He then tells Amanda, “I would do anything to keep you. I hate this divorce.” “… You’re the one who’s dating,” she points out, “and oh boy, you’ve found the woman you’ve always wanted!” I love the description of Val that follows: “A housewife who cooks and cleans for you during the day and watches Johnny Carson with you at night, perfect makeup, perfect Miss Junior League, with kids to boot.” It’s the Valene we know, yet seen through the eyes of someone with her own issues and insecurities. “Why are you even over here?” Amanda asks. “For the same reason you haven’t filed the divorce papers,” Danny replies. When they wind up in each other’s arms, it feels less like some huge soapy betrayal of Gary and Val than simply unfinished business between the two of them.

    The following morning, Val comes by Danny’s place. She’s in a conciliatory mood. “Every year,” she begins, “I vow to become a stronger person, a new me, every year, and then I slowly slide back into my old ways. I become more reclusive and I stop taking chances. You see, I’ve been hurt a lot and I don’t put myself out there to get hurt again … I cut you off because of one mistake … I’ve made a few mistakes myself before … but I think the biggest mistake that I could ever make would be not seeing you again.” Like Amanda’s description of her, this doesn’t really tell us anything about Val that we didn’t already know, but it somehow presents what we do know in a fresh way, and it shows her relationship with Danny as part of a bigger picture: her ongoing attempt to be something other than Poor Val.

    Over on DALLAS, Bobby is given a speech that serves a similar purpose. It’s prompted by James, who is eager to know what makes his secret father tick. “JR’s gotta be a part of the company that Daddy built,” Bobby explains, “no matter what his position is … JR made Daddy his obsession … It tore him up when Daddy died. He lost all sense of direction, he had no drive.” “… What got him back on track?” James asks. “His son, John Ross … JR decided that if he couldn’t please Daddy anymore, he could be Daddy. He could build his own empire and pass it along to his boy.” Once again, none of this is new information, but hearing it anew through the ears of JR’s eldest boy adds a different perspective.

    In the lieu of the annual Oil Barons Ball, the Ewing clan, plus April, James and Vanessa, assemble at the Oil Barons Club for a big family dinner. Bobby’s toast to absent friends is JR’s cue to start badmouthing Ray — whose conception is a timely reminder of one of Jock’s less heroic war efforts. “Daddy’s big mistake,” JR explains to the ever curious James, “a half-breed, born on the wrong side of the blanket … He’s a bastard in every sense of the word.” James’s response is brilliantly soapy. “I heard you wanted to take after your daddy in every way … Well, congratulations then, because you have … I’d like to propose a toast to JR Ewing — my daddy!” Cut to everyone’s individual reaction shot as they each turn to look at JR.

    While Danny and April are still waiting for Val and Bobby to make up their minds, Charley St James becomes the latest Soap Land character to propose marriage. “Emma, my darling, my sun, my moon, my galaxy, make my universe complete and marry me,” he asks her. She sadly explains that she can’t because her divorce won’t be final for another six months. Next thing we hear, Emma’s ex has mysteriously committed suicide offscreen. She is suitably devastated for about a scene and a half, but then Charley cheers her up by pretending to rob a gas station. The final scene of the ep sees them arrive in court just in time to hear the judge rule on who gets Falcon Crest. According to Angela’s will, “the one person whose integrity I trust to take care of the family legacy” is Emma — who then tops that with a bombshell of her own: “I’m Emma St James. We just got married last night!” While Charley snogs his new bride's face off in the middle of the courtroom, Lance seethes. “The guy knew! He knew!”

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (3) DALLAS
    2 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (2) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2019
  6. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    09 Nov 89: KNOTS LANDING: Mixed Messages v. 10 Nov 89: DALLAS: Black Tide v. 10 Nov 89: FALCON CREST: God of the Grape

    Some significant players make their Soap Land debuts this week. The first appears entirely out of the blue. While Paige is saying goodbye to a client outside the Sumner Group, a young couple are noisily breaking up nearby. After the woman takes off in a cab, the man walks angrily away, passing Paige as he does so. “Here, you take these,” he says, handing her a small gift bag evidently intended for his ex. “I can’t use them.” As he disappears, Paige reaches inside and pulls out a brand new pair of stockings. As meet-cutes go, this one takes some beating.

    The new arrivals on FALCON CREST are introduced with a lot more fanfare. As a small plane touches down at a private airstrip, Charley St James performs a ridiculous improvisatory dance of welcome on the runway. A subdued Emma looks on. His performance is for the benefit of his brother Ian and wife Sydney who, in contrast to the hyperactive Charley, are sombre to point of funereal, and pretty much monosyllabic. Ian affects a kind of burnt-out rock star cool — all dark glasses, leather jacket and dangly earring, as if Tommy McKay had lived to spend the next fifteen years touring the world with Motley Crue — while the eighteen-year-old Sydney is even more of a child bride than Cally. Charley takes them on a tour of the valley, starting with a visit to his comatose mother-in-law. Ian is quite taken with Angela’s life support system. “Incredible how much money can be made pumping oxygen into a lifeless set of lungs,” he muses — a remark which turns out to be his longest speech of the episode. If Emma finds this observation in poor taste, it pales in comparison to the moment when she and Charley are busy having sex and she suddenly becomes aware of Ian sitting on the edge of the bed watching them.

    Perhaps it’s the absence of DYNASTY or just the new directions the remaining shows have taken this season, but the contrasts in tone and atmosphere between KNOTS, DALLAS and FALCON CREST seem greater than ever. This is neatly illustrated by the parties thrown in each of this week’s episodes. When DALLAS opens, the Ewing gathering at the Oil Barons Club — an Oil Baron’s Ball in all but name — is still ongoing. The family are reeling from James’s revelation at the end of last week’s ep that he is JR’s son when Carter McKay, flanked by an army of reporters and cameramen, descends on their table. “My supertanker, completely filled with heavy crude, was rammed dead on by a Ewing Oil tanker,” he bellows. “Oil is leaking out all over the Gulf!” It’s not just oil tankers but storylines that collide in this scene and the fall out from these two bombshells — James’s paternity and the tanker collision — fuels the rest of the episode, creating a domino effect where one plot development sparks off another, then another — with betrayals and new alliances forged along the way. This is classic '80s soap.

    Meanwhile, the office party Greg throws for his staff on KNOTS, “to thank them for making me so rich”, is a much lighter affair. The vibe is more romantic comedy than melodrama, with the emphasis on comedy. Surprisingly, the funniest character of all turns out to be Michael Fairgate. Having played “earnest teenage son” for the past decade, he smoothly transitions into the role of “socially awkward office new boy” whose attempts to get a date for the party come to nought. His air of deadpan bemusement is reminiscent of Dustin Hoffman's in The Graduate. Eventually, his newly blonde sister-in-law Linda takes pity on him and offers to pose as his date, and they end up enjoying each other’s company more than they were expecting to. In fact, almost everyone at the party pairs off, from Harvey the messenger guy and Polly the new receptionist to Bob and his third cousin Carol. The exception is Mort, whose date, a runner-up Miss Malibu, is a no-show.

    If DALLAS’s party is excitingly soapy and KNOTS is playful and fun, FC’s is utterly and uniquely insane. Now that Emma has “inherited” Falcon Crest, Charley is drunk on power. “I’m Emma’s husband. I’m running this circus. Deal with it!” he declares, even though the winery is falling apart and he has no clue what he’s doing. Instead, he comes up with the brilliantly terrible idea of throwing “the biggest kick-in-the-butt bash this valley has ever seen” in honour of Bacchus, aka Dionysus, the God of wine. As Pilar points out, “This party is a disaster waiting to happen. With all the problems Falcon Crest is having, especially financial, it doesn’t look good to the people we do business with to be celebrating abundance.” (The Ewings have a similar perception problem at the start of this week’s DALLAS. “Oil is leaking out all over the Gulf and you’re sitting here having dinner?!” McKay asks them incredulously as cameras click and flashbulbs pop.)

    Falconcrest.org describes this week’s instalment as “an extremely bad and disgusting episode.” If you apply those adjectives specifically to Charley’s party, most of the guests in attendance would surely agree. Charley makes his entrance carried on a throne by burly men in centurion drag. He himself is dressed as Caligula in a Roman toga and blond wig (plastic ray-bans optional). As handmaidens scatter rose petals in his path and musicians play lyres and whatnot, he waves regally to the crowd. It’s a logical extension of those DYNASTY parties where Alexis would make a grand entrance and then bask in the appreciation of a bunch of extras — except that here, everyone just looks confused. He then delivers a speech about “Bacchus, Bacchus, God of the grape, God of fruitfulness and vegetation, wine and ecstasy, promoter of civilisation and lover of peace” that Richard describes as “very eloquent … but I don’t have any idea what it was about.” Richard then advises Emma that “this whole thing, I’m afraid, is getting out of control.” And how — a crew of vineyard workers, angry at not being paid, gatecrash the party, and then a bunch of Charley’s friends, apparently played by the biker gang from “Land of the Free," show up and proceed to trash the place. Pretty soon the bikers, the workers, the caterers in togas and the guests in bowties are having the most almighty brawl. The regular cast look on in dismay. They’re all dressed in black, as if in mourning for their series.

    Next to Ewing Oil’s current crisis and the madness at Falcon Crest, KNOTS’ current business storyline — Oakman Industries scamming old ladies out of their pensions — might seem a bit dry, but it’s peppered with satisfying little details. It’s kind of surprising to realise that, even though Mack Mackenzie is Soap Land’s most well-known attorney, we’ve yet to see him strut his stuff in a courtroom. But now that he is defending Aunt Ginny (following her arrest for Jeri Maddux’ murder) we get a glimpse of his cross-examining style as he questions Mark Baylor during a deposition. (“Mr Baylor, was it a good thing for your career that Jeri Maddux died? … Look, Mr Baylor, you did benefit from Jeri Maddux death!” “My client is not in trial!” “Not yet!”) When law student Frank asks why he pushed Baylor so hard, Mack offers the following explanation: “The practice of law is theatre. Every trial is a play, every threat is a bluff, every speech is a performance. I just wanted to strike the fear of God into that son of a bitch.”

    The fact that the Oakman story is such an atypical one for Soap Land means that it’s also unpredictable, and this ep contains a few surprise twists along the way. The first comes when the charges against Ginny are suddenly dropped and Baylor is arrested for the murder instead after the $17,000 Jeri stole is found in his home. Twist #2 swiftly follows — Baylor asks Mack to defend him. “I need an attorney who’s stubborn and tenacious and self-righteous and competent,” he tells him. Mack is reluctant, but Baylor makes him an offer he can’t refuse: “You could use me to get at Oakman Industries … I know where a lot of skeletons are buried and I’ll take you to them.” So Mack agrees to take the case even though he thinks Baylor is guilty. Twist #3 comes at the end of the episode as Ginny is taking a nostalgic look through the box of jewellery she took from Jeri’s apartment. Right at the bottom, she finds what looks remarkably like $17,000 in cash. It would appear that Baylor has been set up to take a fall for the bad guys. Back on DALLAS, JR is hoping to pull a similar trick following the tanker collision in the Gulf. “You’re taking the fall on this,” he orders Al ‘The Pal’ Halliday, the amusingly shifty tanker guy “who sold me that substandard piece of tin … Don’t worry, I’ll cover your losses.” Al plays along but ends up switching sides. “If West Star will just take a few inexpensive tankers off my hands,” he tells Carter McKay, “Al ‘Your Pal’ Halliday will give you, as a special bonus, some real interesting facts on Ewing Oil’s sad little ship.” This leads to McKay calling a press conference where he provides evidence that the Ewing tanker was unseaworthy and its captain a drunk. He also denounces JR and Bobby as “the greedy profit-mongers of Ewing Oil, which now must bear full responsibility for the black tide that is headed towards our beautiful Texas coast.”

    Pretty soon, the Ewings are being attacked on all fronts. “The dollar loss is pretty staggering,” Bobby tells April. “The cleanup is expensive and impossible, the press is trying to lynch me, and the federal, state and local authorities are fighting to see who can put a noose around my neck.” While the Ewings’ associates seek to distance themselves from the family (“The public just doesn’t want Ewing Oil’s head — they want the heads of everyone doing business with Ewing Oil”), Cliff quits the company (“I am deeply ashamed of ever having any association with Ewing Oil,” he announces publicly), taking his money with him and joining forces with West Star. “We were cash poor to begin with,” admits Bobby, “now we are deep in the lurch.” Over on FALCON CREST, Lance can relate: “We just don’t have enough money to pay the workers, the truckers or the pickers.”

    In contrast to the business woes at Ewing Oil and Falcon Crest, the Sumner Group is in rude health. This week, Paige brings in a deal worth $500,000. Greg’s initial response (“How did you close the Christopher deal — a little set of strip croquet?”) might sound shockingly sexist in a present-day context, but he then demonstrates his confidence in Paige by assigning her the account of Mrs Richfield. An elegant older woman of considerable wealth, Mrs R is the KNOTS equivalent of Mrs Evander, DALLAS’s patron of the arts who has recently bought some of Cally’s paintings. Both dowagers are equally impressed by the talented blonde twenty-something in their midst.

    Ladies’ legs are a recurring visual motif in this week’s Ewing-verse, and it all starts with those new stockings of Paige’s. When she wears them during her lunch break the following day, the camera does a slow pan up her legs. And who should happen to stop by but “the man who bought your underwear”, whom we’ve yet to learn is called Tom Ryan? “I can’t believe you’re wearing them … They look great on you,” he tells her. Later, he sidles up to her at the Sumner Group party. “I just can’t get the image out of my mind … what’s holding up those stockings,” he murmurs. This is immediately followed by a shot of another woman’s legs: Paula Vertosick’s, as she perches on the edge of a desk in Greg’s office. Despite her sexy new image (a short Michelle Stevens-style hairdo and a tight little black dress which is a long way from the frumpy ranger’s outfit she was so attached to last season), Paula nonetheless suspects that Greg only invited her to the party to make Paige jealous. “So did I play my part all right?” she asks him. “Why do you assume you’re here to play a part?” he replies. “I’m not blonde and twenty-two,” she points out. “Those are your good points,” he grins. “We have nothing in common … I hate everything you stand for,” she says. “You have incredibly long legs,” he tells her. This short scene ends as it begins, with another shot of those incredibly long legs. Then it’s back to Paige’s legs. By now, they and Tom are in the elevator and he is silently satisfying his curiosity by hitching up her skirt to reveal a tantalising glimpse of the garter underneath. (Who needs strip croquet?) They end up back at her place where they kiss, he lowers her onto the sofa and there’s a final shot of, yes, you guessed it, her legs in those stockings.

    Over at Ewing Oil, Jackie is kneeling on the floor packing up Cliff’s files when a woman approaches her. We’re on the same level as Jackie and so only see the woman’s legs. “Cliff’s moved out — but I’m sure you know that already,” Jackie tells her. “I’m not looking for Cliff. It’s JR I want,” the woman replies, the camera following her legs as she strides purposefully towards JR’s office and enters without knocking. Only then do we see that the pins belong to Michelle Stevens. She cheerfully informs JR that she’s there to collect on their deal: “You promised me the big payoff — getting rid of Cliff, remember?” But JR’s angry with her for pushing Cliff into West Star’s arms. “I didn’t think you were that stupid,” he snaps. “I want my money,” she insists, her good mood evaporating. “We had a deal!” “And you screwed it up!” he replies. The scene concludes with Michelle issuing JR one of those dramatic office threats in the grand DALLAS tradition of Vaughn Leland and Katherine Wentworth: “Think of Cliff as a missile pointed at your head, only it’s my finger on the button. You made a bad mistake, JR!”

    When Michelle subsequently pays a visit to Carter McKay’s office, she is once again introduced legs first. “I figure you owe me for shoving Cliff your way,” she tells him, still angling for a payout. Whereas JR was dismissive, McKay’s attitude is oddly paternal. It’s as if this new cold-as-ice McKay requires an equally soulless progeny to replace the children he genuinely loved. “I like you, Michelle,” he says. “You’re sharp and you’re hungry. I won’t insult you by offering you money … I’m gonna give you something that money can’t buy. You can call on me for one favour — anytime, anything.” “And what if I ask for that favour in cash?” she asks. “Then it’ll prove to me you’re a nickel and dime player and you don’t belong in the game,” he replies.

    Everywhere Gary turns on this week’s KNOTS, he finds Danny the computer guy. He’s in the cul-de-sac when he stops by to see the twins and at Amanda’s place when he arrives to pick her up for a date. “Are you still seeing him?” Gary asks her. Over on DALLAS, Cally is similarly troubled by the presence of JR’s ex. “You planned this whole thing all along, didn’t you?” she accuses Vanessa, referring to James’s paternity revelation. “You are still in love with JR and this is your way of stealing him away from me!” But while it’s Danny pursuing Amanda rather than the other way around — he keeps trying to kiss her even after she tells him their going to bed together was a mistake — it’s JR who won’t let go of Vanessa. “Don’t leave,” he pleads as she makes plans to return to Vienna. “Dammit, Vanessa, you owe it to me to stick around … You stole the life we could have had together … I should have married you and not Sue Ellen. I should have been allowed to raise James as my son.” James also tries to persuade his mother to stay: “It’s our chance to become the family we always should have been.” But, like Paula on KNOTS, Vanessa is acutely aware that she is not blonde and twenty-two: “JR is married … she’s young and she’s very pretty.” “… We belong together — you and me and JR,” James insists. “It’s too late for a happy childhood, James,” she tells him sadly. This is only Vanessa and James’s second conversation on screen, but there’s something very likeable and poignant about their mother/son relationship. Just as Vanessa cannot be dissuaded from returning to Europe, Gary also thinks that distance might be the best solution to his situation. “Come away with me for a week, a weekend, a night — let’s just get out of here,” he suggests to Amanda.

    Two pairs of newlyweds — JR and Cally on DALLAS, Emma and Charley on FALCON CREST — have their first row this week. Both take place in the marital bedroom and both stem from the bride’s concerns about a male relative of the groom getting too close for comfort. “Why don’t you just say goodbye to James and exchange Christmas cards?” says Cally to JR. “Your brother and his underage bride can visit any time they want, but they are not moving in,” Emma tells Charley. “Now that you know Vanessa’s the mother of your child, are you gonna let her walk away or are you gonna try and keep her here, too?” Cally continues. “I love you, darlin’,” JR replies wearily. “I’ve told you that a thousand times … James is my son. There’s nothing I can do about that … Now I am tired, darling. My business world is falling apart and instead of the love and support I need at a time like this, I come home to a load of CRAP!” “Now listen to me, little girl,” Charley tells Emma. “your mother left some very big shoes to fill … and that’s why brother Ian is here, to make us strong again … He’s gonna help us run the business.” “What do you mean he’s gonna help run the business? You don’t make a decision like that without consulting with me!” Emma argues.

    Both Emma's and Cally’s objections ultimately fall on deaf ears. JR invites James to move onto Southfork without informing Cally while the arrival of Charley’s family at Falcon Crest proves too much not only for Emma but also for Lance. “Emma, there are more strangers in this house than family,” he mutters during another of FC’s buttock-clenchingly awkward dinners. “I can’t believe you’re letting this happen to us.” “Sit down, cowboy!” Charley orders him, deploying the same condescending, faux-friendly nickname Danny uses on Gary on KNOTS. “Save your energy for your perky wife.” This last crack sends Lance over the edge and the two men get into a terrifically messy, grunty, edgy, real fight.

    The irony behind James’s wisecrack at the very end of DALLAS — “Cally, there’s one more thing: do I call you Mom?” — is the first acknowledgement that JR’s son and wife are more or less the same age. Meanwhile, the one time Sydney, FALCON CREST’s new “underage bride”, comes close to smiling is when she is introduced to Frank Agretti’s nephew Chris, the only other FC character who is anywhere near her own age — a fact that doesn’t go unnoticed by her husband. (After all the recent changes on FALCON CREST, it’s nice to know there’s still an inexhaustible supply of long-lost Agretti relatives.)

    While Charley’s guests are trashing Falcon Crest, Southfork is also vandalised. “A bunch of bleeding heart idiots dumped crude oil and dead birds in our pool” in protest at the mess the Ewings created in the Gulf. “I longer deserve to be at Ewing Oil," JR concludes. "I’m getting out, Bob … It’s all yours.” Bobby, however, refuses to let him go: “You really think I’m gonna let you quit now, let me be the fall guy so you can dodge the heat? … We’re in this together till death do us part.” This is an interesting shift in the brothers' dynamic.

    Back on FALCON CREST, Lance is also on the verge of giving up, but then things get so bad at Charley’s “extremely bad and disgusting” party that he realises he has to take a stand: “This is our family, this is our land. I have to fight for it.” Emma likewise begins to despair at the mess she’s gotten them all into and goes to visit Angela in the hospital. “Oh God, Mother,” she weeps at her bedside, “everything is spinning out of control … I’ve failed you miserably. What am I gonna do?” To her amazement, Angela replies! “Emma, you’re in danger. He’s the one who put me here, Charley. Stop him,” she murmurs. Emma rushes to get help, but by the time the medics return, Angela is comatose again and there is no evidence that she ever regained consciousness. This is a familiar scenario for Emma: no-one believed her when she said that Jason “died twice” or that Julia had come back from the dead — but the medical fact that “there is no register here of any recent brain activity” suggests a supernatural element at play — has Emma just received a visitation from some Soap Land netherworld? Either way, she has learned from previous experience that it is best to play along with the authorities. “I guess I just wished so hard for it that I actually saw it,” she tells the doctor — but when she and Angela are alone again, she leans towards her and whispers in her ear, “I won’t let you down, Mama.”

    And this week’s Top 3 are … very, very close. They could almost be in any order.

    1 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (3) FALCON CREST
    3 (1) DALLAS
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2019
  7. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    16 Nov 89: KNOTS LANDING: The Good Guys v. 17 Nov 89: DALLAS: Daddy Dearest v. 17 Nov 89: FALCON CREST: Doctor Dollars

    Tom Ryan, Paige’s new boyfriend on KNOTS, is a policeman — just as Fallon’s was on last season’s DYNASTY. But whereas Fallon’s father strongly disapproved of that relationship, Mack could not be happier about his daughter’s new man: “He’s a nice guy! I approve!” This infuriates Paige. “You approve of him, Mack approves of him, everyone approves of him,” she complains to Karen. “That bothers you?” Karen asks. “Yes!” she replies. But in the same way that Blake was wrong to suspect Zorelli of being a dirty cop, Mack is wrong to assume that Tom is a clean one. In fact, as we slowly come to realise during this week’s episode, he’s as dirty as they come.

    The $17,000 Aunt Ginny discovered at the end of last week’s ep is all Mack needs to prove Mark Baylor innocent of Jeri Maddux’ murder. He and Baylor arrive at the Soap Land courthouse to submit the evidence to a judge when Baylor tells him, “I gotta make a pitstop. Had too much coffee this morning.” While this is a more discreet euphemism than the one Charley St James used for the same function on FALCON CREST last month (“pointing Percy at the porcelain”), it does lead to Soap Land’s very first depiction of urination, albeit occurring below camera level, as Tom Ryan joins Baylor in the men’s room and strikes up a conversation with him. We aren’t privy to their entire chat, but by the time Baylor has rejoined Mack, he has had a dramatic change of heart. “I don’t want you to get me off … I want you to plead me guilty,” he tells him. When Mack refuses, insisting that he has proof Baylor is innocent, Baylor threatens him: “You turn in that money, I’ll have you disbarred. I’ll say it’s manufactured evidence.” This is our first big clue that Detective Ryan may not be the stand-up cop everyone thinks he is.

    Ewing-verse trend of the week: Macks filing lawsuits. On KNOTS, Baylor pleading guilty means that Mack has lost his opportunity to expose Oakman Industries — until Frank suggests he look for “some other Jeris … people in her situation, people who have lost a pension they thought they had, people who hate Oakman Industries because of it.” Enter Mr Artie Zimmer, a former colleague of Jeri’s. “You lost your pension too,” Mack reminds him. “I have a chance to get it back with a class action suit … If I can prove malfeasance or mismanagement or fraud, Oakman Industries may be forced to compensate everyone under the pension fund.” Zimmer is persuaded and Mack files the suit on his behalf. Meanwhile, DALLAS’s Mack, Carter McKay, marches into Ewing Oil and informs JR and Bobby that he is slapping them with a civil lawsuit “for negligence, for operating an unsafe tanker, maliciously ramming a West Star tanker, damages for all the oil I lost, for the total cost of the cleanup and FOR ANY OTHER DAMN THING I CAN THINK OF TO BREAK EWING OIL ONCE AND FOR ALL!”

    Back on KNOTS, Mack’s suit suffers a serious setback after Mr Zimmer is badly injured. “He’s pretty beat up … He fell down the stairs,” says Detective Ryan, who just happens to be at Zimmer’s apartment when Mack arrives. “No lawsuit,” mumbles Mr Zimmer, looking at both Mack and Tom as he is carried away on a stretcher. And that’s our second big clue about Tom. (This isn’t turning out to be a good season to be old in Soap Land — first Angela gets suffocated on FALCON CREST, then Jeri is tossed out of a window and now Artie takes a mysterious tumble down a flight of stairs. Watch out, Mrs Evander and Mrs Richfield.)

    Thus far, the main players in the Oakman storyline have been elderly people and lawyers. While this has been dramatically rewarding, it’s not quite what one expects of a glossy ‘80s supersoap. Now, however, the story takes a more traditional turn with the introduction of one of the soapiest tropes of them all: “You’ve done a terrific job, but we don’t need any more surveillance of Mack Mackenzie so you’re off the case,” one of the shadowy bosses at Oakman tells Tom Ryan. A few scenes later: “You were taken off the Mackenzie case … but you’re still dating his daughter … Your actions jeopardise our position.” “Don’t even think that you can tell me who I can and cannot see … or who I date. You do not own me,” Tom insists. Yes, it’s the welcome return of “the spy who loved me” syndrome, where one character seduces another character for business reasons, usually at the behest of a third party, only to find themselves developing genuine feelings in the process. (In spite of Tom’s defiant words to his Oakman boss, the episode ends with an artful montage of Paige being stood up on a date. Of all the soaps, only KNOTS could make an artful montage out of someone being stood up on a date.)

    The spy in “the spy who loved me” syndrome is traditionally a woman. Prior to Tom, I can recall only one who was male — Zach Powers’ nephew Sean who slept with Bliss on THE COLBYS in order to spy on her father and then fell in love with her. But on this week’s FALCON CREST, there is an all-male, strictly platonic, variation on this scenario as Richard is approached by Sal Tortino, a fellow inmate from his time in the Soap Land Penitentiary. Sal is recently out of prison and so Richard offers him a job, not realising that Sal has been hired by Michael Sharpe to bump him off.

    Sal is kind of irritating — he’s excitable, never shuts up and makes a lot of crappy jokes. He also keeps bungling his attempts to kill Richard, but just when the whole thing starts to feel like one of those tiresome would-be assassin storylines I’d hoped FC had dispensed with after Season 7, there's a twist. Richard summons Sal to his office and hands him “a little bonus to help you get set up.” Sal is blindsided by both the amount of money (“You got four digits in here, man!”) and the genuine faith Richard seems to have in him. Confused, he pulls out a gun and points it at Richard: “You don’t get it, man, do you? I was gonna take you for a ride so I could blow your brains out! … I’d better leave. Just forget I got out of prison, all right?” But just as Bobby wouldn’t let JR simply walk away from Ewing Oil last week, Richard isn’t about to let Sal go so easily either. So Sal makes another suggestion: “Michael Sharpe wants a war. Why don’t you give it to him? I’ll help you.” From that point on, an apparently dull storyline becomes gripping. Wearing a wire, Sal meets with Sharpe in the back of his limo and tries to lure him into saying he ordered the hit on Richard. But Michael’s no fool — he realises what Sal is up to and has him driven to an alley and beaten up. Sal then tries to make a run for it so Michael calmly instructs his chauffeur to first run him down and then drive over him. It’s pretty brutal. By the time the police and Richard arrive on the scene, it’s too late. “Just another dead scumbag,” concludes one of the cops. “He was my friend,” Richard insists, and the episode ends with him cradling the body of a man who was pointing a gun at him only ten screen minutes earlier — proof, if it were needed, that Richard really is a changed man.

    While Sal mostly spoke a lot of rubbish, he did come out with one memorable salutation during this week’s FC: “Peace, love, Phil Donahue.” Donahue, along with Oprah, Geraldo and a few others, is presumably the inspiration for Karen Mackenzie’s latest storyline, which finds her becoming the stand-in host of OPEN MIKE, the TV talk show she guested on a couple of weeks ago. Whereas Sue Ellen’s excursion into movie-making on last season’s DALLAS never felt remotely believable, it’s much easier to accept Karen sitting on a cheap-looking TV set being bombarded with instructions from the floor manager, ending with the ominous reminder that “there’s no post-production budget on this thing.” Despite having no experience of television presenting whatsoever, Karen inevitably proves a total natural in front of the camera (just as Joshua Rush did). In this regard, the storyline is just as much a fantasy as Cally Ewing’s overnight transformation into an accomplished artist. But it feels real and so we’re happy to suspend our disbelief.

    In the same way that Karen breaks the fourth wall by looking straight at the camera to welcome viewers, both real and fictional, to OPEN MIKE (“The subject is credit cards — it seems we can’t live with ‘em, we can’t live without ‘em”), Cliff Barnes does the same thing when he announces to the press his appointment to a committee that will “investigate the Ewing/West Star disaster … Those guilty will answer for their crimes and … we will be able to take safeguards so that these kind of disasters don’t happen again, even if that means shutting down the companies responsible for what’s happening in the Gulf today.” In spite of the gravity of what he is saying, Cliff is unable to suppress a delighted smirk as he looks directly down the camera lens, directly at us.

    Prior to his unexpected fall down the stairs, Arnie Zimmer touchingly admits to Mack that he and Jeri had been lovers before she was killed. “Stupid young people think they’ve cornered the market on passion,” he says. Actually, young couples are surprisingly thin on the ground in Soap Land these days. Instead, younger women are paired with older men almost as a matter of course: Paige and Greg, Cally and JR, April and Bobby, Michelle and Cliff, Sydney and Ian, Genele and Frank — even Olivia and Harold qualify. That leaves Pilar and Lance on FALCON CREST and Tom and Paige on KNOTS as the only “hot young couples” in Soap Land — until they are joined by a third: DALLAS’s James and Michelle. As with Tom’s initial interest in Paige, instant sexual attraction is accompanied by an ulterior, business-related motive, but in this case, both parties are aware of it. Michelle has already turned down JR’s request to spy on Cliff when James shows up at her door, hoping to change her mind. “I wanted to see if there was maybe some way I could convince you to help my father,” he explains. “I hear the Lord helps those who help themselves,” she replies invitingly. They kiss. “My father could really use you,” he continues, slipping off her jacket. “Cliff’s becoming a very important man,” she counters, unbuttoning his shirt. “You’re smart enough to know which side to back,” he replies, removing her blouse. (It’s a toss-up as to which “hot young couple” provides the sexiest moment of the week — Paige and Tom as she builds a house of cards on his bare chest, or James and Michelle as he unhooks her skimpy black bra. Lance, conversely, has a decidedly unsexy moment when he finds himself watching a videotape of Pilar going at it with Ned Vogel.)

    Although Cliff and Michelle have been dating since the beginning of the season and even started living together as of last week, it’s been made clear that they do not share the same bed — yet no specific reason has been given. “He’s dumber than I thought!” concludes James when he finds out. It’s perhaps significant that each of Cliff’s relationships since Pam’s disappearance — with Lisa Alden, Tammy Miller and now Michelle — have been non-sexual.

    While relationships between older men and younger women remain commonplace, Soap Land’s infatuation with older woman/younger man pairings seems to have died out in the post-DYNASTY era. So it’s perhaps fitting that this week’s DALLAS should see the final appearance of Marilee Stone, often depicted as the most predatory of man-eaters and whose interest in younger men was established long before the likes of Alexis and Sue Ellen started acquiring “toy boy” love interests. Insatiable to the end, Marilee’s last scene sees her flirting with the next generation of Ewing man, aka James. She also delivers one final zinger to JR: “Your son? Funny — at first, I thought he might be your wife’s older brother.”

    Just as Abby continues to cast a shadow over Olivia and Harold’s marriage (“Did you ever discuss budgeting when you were rich, when you were using Mama’s credit cards … or is it just since you’ve become poor that money’s become so important, huh?”), there is also much talk of Ewings past on DALLAS. Now that James is living at Southfork, he receives a crash course in family history. While Lucy fills him on his father’s first wife (“He cheated on her so much, he made her an alcoholic”), JR tells him about Bobby’s: “Talk about a trouble maker.” “What happened to her?” James asks. “She’s long gone,” JR replies. “Good riddance to bad rubbish as far as I’m concerned.” This offhand dismissal of such a significant character feels cruelly effective, even more so in hindsight when one realises this is the series’ first reference to Pam since her death which, according to New DALLAS, fell between last season and this one. There’s also a sweet little scene where John Ross admits to his daddy that he feels excluded now that James is on the scene. “It’s gonna change everything, isn’t it?” he asks sadly. JR is sympathetic, recalling how he felt when he first learnt that Ray was a Ewing. But the mood of the scene changes when JR makes the outrageous claim that he was “the first one in the whole family to treat Ray like a real brother.”

    The most significant reference to a past DALLAS character comes in the final scene of the episode. Just as last week’s FALCON CREST ended with an other-worldly message for Emma when her mother briefly awoke from her coma to warn her against Charley, DALLAS ends with JR receiving a letter from his long-dead daddy, originally written during World War II when Jock thought he was dying. Before hearing from their respective parents, both Emma and JR are at a particularly low ebb. “You trusted me and I failed you miserably,” wept Emma at Angela’s bedside. “I hurt the company and I hurt Bobby … Right now, I think my daddy would be ashamed to call me his son,” JR tells Miss Ellie. Both Jock and Angela’s words serve the same narrative purpose: to inspire their discouraged child into rededicating themselves to their primary Soap Land objective: fighting the good (or not so good) fight, all in the name of family. While Angela makes Emma promise to stop Charley, Jock’s letter reminds JR that “the future of the family and Ewing Oil is in your hands.”

    Among the rallying words in Jock’s letter are two phrases I’ve always associated with movies that weren’t made until long after the second world war was over. The first, “Keep your friends close but your enemies even closer,” is an oft-repeated maxim in Soap Land. In fact, Pilar said it to Lance on FALCON CREST only last week. I’ve always connected it to The Godfather Part II (1974), where Michael Corleone quotes it as a piece of advice handed down from his own father, just as Jock does to JR in his letter. The second phrase, “Never let the bastards get you down”, is a variation on “Don’t let the bastards grind you down”, a line delivered by Albert Finney in the gritty British working class drama Saturday Night, Sunday Morning (1961), which is about as far away from DALLAS as you can get. However, a quick google suggests (although no-one seems certain) that both phrases were first coined somewhat earlier, by Machiavelli and in the trenches of WWII respectively — so it seems that, sadly, we can’t yet add time travel to Jock’s list of achievements. Conversely, when Tom Ryan accuses Paige of being a “cop kisser” on KNOTS, I so wanted it to be a play on ‘Cop Killer’, the massively controversial Death Count song penned by Ice-T, but apparently, that wasn’t even written until 1990.

    This week’s Ewing-verse contains a couple of interesting ‘what if?’ scenarios. “Did you ever wear a dress like that going to your father’s house on a date?” Mack asks Karen indignantly after Paige shows up with Tom for a family dinner wearing a particularly revealing outfit. “My father would have grounded me for a year!” Karen laughs. “I wonder if he’d have been like that if he’d married my mother?” wonders James after Lucy tells him how notoriously unfaithful JR was to Sue Ellen. “He’d have been like that if he married the Queen of England,” she replies.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (3) DALLAS
    2 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (2) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2019
  8. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    30 Nov 89: KNOTS LANDING: Perfect Couples v. 01 Dec 89: DALLAS: Hell's Fury v. 01 Dec 89: FALCON CREST: Luck Wave

    Everywhere you look in Soap Land this week, marriages are in crisis. Mostly, these involve couples to whom we’ve only recently been introduced — KNOTS LANDING’s Danny and Amanda, FALCON CREST’s Ian and Sydney, and Walker and Lauren. These relationships have been in trouble long before the characters arrived in Soap Land and now we are playing catch up, getting to know them just as their lives are falling apart.

    Danny and Amanda have been separated so long one might have assumed their marriage was beyond the crisis stage, but when Amanda finally files for divorce at the beginning of this week’s ep, it seems to bring all their problems to a head. Danny calls Val to tell her the good news (“I am beyond happy! I’m thrilled! Let’s celebrate!”), but then breaks down in tears as soon as he’s off the phone. Then, after hearing that Amanda is planning to go away with Gary, he snaps. “I don’t want her to get a thing,” he tells his divorce lawyer. “I want the furniture, I want the books, I want the pictures, I want the record albums.” “You don’t even own a stereo,” the lawyer points out. “I don’t care!” he shouts. (The material stakes are somewhat higher than a few LPs for Charley St James who is after the $14,000,000 Emma will receive if he can persuade her to sell Falcon Crest to Michael Sharpe.) Amanda agrees to Danny’s demands (“That’s how much I want to get out of this marriage”), adding that all she wants are her grandmother’s dishes — which he promptly smashes. There is a similarly petulant outburst on FALCON CREST when Sydney returns from an afternoon walk that was not sanctioned by her husband. “You were with someone, weren’t you?” Ian insists, refusing to believe she was alone. (She wasn’t — she was with Chris Agretti.) “You’re hurting me!” she protests as he grabs her wrist. Then he chases her upstairs to their room where he breaks a doll she appears to hold as dear as Amanda does her grandmother’s dishes. Then he too breaks down. “Tell me my angel forgives me,” he pleads. When Sydney doesn’t reply, he repeats himself, only now there’s an angry edge to his voice. “Your angel forgives you,” she replies through gritted teeth.

    While Ian doesn’t know who to be jealous of (“Who was he? Who was he?” he keeps asking), self-employed Danny and unemployed contractor Walker Daniels both have a target for their resentment: the rich supersoap businessmen who have recently entered their wives’ lives. “You can’t stand the fact that I’m making it on my own!” argues Amanda. “Your own? You got a millionaire cowboy picking up the tab!” Danny sneers. “Gary does not give me money,” she insists. “When you go out to dinner, who pays? Who you go to the movies, who pays? When you go on a trip, who pays?” he asks her. “You’re a bastard,” she replies. Walker, meanwhile, hits the roof when he discovers Richard Channing has been helping his family out financially. “What did you do to get him to pay these bills — did you sleep with him?” he asks Lauren angrily. “Well, you won’t sleep with me — maybe I should!” she yells. “Try being someone I might wanna sleep with instead of chasing after millionaires every day!” he yells back. Danny and Walker also accuse their wives of living in a dream world. While Danny dismisses Amanda’s singing career as “a going nowhere fantasy”, Walker criticises Lauren for walking around “in this lah-di-dah, Alice in Wonderland existence.”

    Whereas Danny is pettiness personified in front of his estranged wife, he is far more generous towards his new girlfriend and her family. This week, he finally gains Bobby and Betsy’s affections by buying them a pair of bunny rabbits. Over on DALLAS, James uses the same tactic to win over the twins’ cousin when he presents John Ross with a Kawasaki four-wheel bike (product placement included). After making us feel so sorry for him in last week’s episode when he was worried James had replaced him in JR’s affections, John Ross delights in rubbing his new friendship with his big bro in Christopher’s face: “I’m really glad I don’t have to hang out with you, you little drip!” This leads a satisfying mini-fight between the two kids in the Southfork living room which JR and Bobby, ironically enough, are obliged to break up. Back on KNOTS, what Danny gives with one hand — the rabbits — he takes away with the other — Amanda’s dog Chester — whom he insists belongs to him.

    The final scenes of KNOTS and FALCON CREST both deal with marital violence, but in very different ways. Having been persuaded to sell the winery to Michael Sharpe, Emma has a last minute change of heart, so Michael gives Charley and Ian an ultimatum. “Loan sharking is a tough business,” he tells them. “I admire the way you’ve kept one step ahead of the law in country after country … Within twenty-four hours, I want Mary Poppins’ autograph on this piece of paper or you two are gonna spend the next twenty years as prom queens in the nearest penitentiary.” Ian comes up with a plan: he’ll forge Emma’s signature on the sales agreement while Charley kills Emma and makes it look like a suicide. Accordingly, the episode ends with Charley entering the marital bedroom with the intention of blowing his wife’s brains out, only to be stopped in his tracks by the news that she is pregnant.

    However, this is mild, even laughable stuff compared to the closing minutes of KNOTS where Amanda’s argument with Danny over the dog escalates into the most graphic and violent depiction of rape we’ve yet seen in Soap Land. When this season of KNOTS was originally broadcast by the BBC, the sequence was heavily cut, and this is only the second time I’ve seen the unabridged version. The sheer length of the onscreen assault still feels shocking, but not in the same way that, say, Charley’s suffocation of Angela on FC was shocking — there is no vicarious thrill in watching what Danny does to Amanda, nor is there meant to be. I’m not really inclined to rewind the scene in order to itemise each gruesome detail, but the moment that made the strongest impact this time around is when Danny is pulling Amanda across the floor and her skirt rises above her waist, exposing her underwear. This would be a horribly degrading moment under any circumstances but viewed in a Soap Land context, there is an added dimension to it. Amanda’s underwear is plain and ordinary, and utterly unlike the sexy lingerie female characters are invariably seen to be wearing whenever they are in a state of undress (the scene on this week’s FC where Michael Sharpe starts peeling off Genele Ericson’s dress only seconds after meeting her for the first time being a case in point). It underlines the fact that Amanda is as unprepared as she is unwilling for her body to be put on display. Unlike almost every other young (and not so young) woman in Soap Land, she does not dress to titillate at a moment’s notice.

    The contradiction between the ordinary and the glamorous, the mundane and the escapist, between “us” and “them”, is a quintessential KNOTS paradox. There is another, far more trivial example elsewhere in this week’s ep. After splitting up with Tom Ryan in the opening scene, Paige returns to the Sumner Group where she continually asks Polly the receptionist if he has called. At the end of the working day, the two women share a friendly conversation. The following day, in the mistaken belief that they have now forged a sisterly bond, Polly drops by Paige’s office and offers her a chocolate bar: “When I’m depressed, chocolate’s the only thing that works.” “Who said I was depressed?” Paige asks. “Well, he didn’t call today either,” she replies. “Did I ask you if he called today?” Paige retorts haughtily, reverting to her default setting of ‘ice princess’ and thus making it clear that, whatever Polly may have assumed, they are not of equal status. After Polly makes her apologies and leaves, she unwraps the chocolate bar anyway and takes a bite — and so we see that, underneath her icy exterior, Paige is an ordinary girl after all! We assume that’s the punchline of the scene, but it’s not. When she tosses the wrapper into the trash can, we see it is already full of identical wrappers — at least a half dozen. That’s the punchline: she’s even more of an ordinary girl than we could have guessed! Except, of course, she can’t be: that amount of chocolate and the size of her waist simply do not compute. There’s yet a further element of unreality to the scene. Unlike DALLAS, which proudly displays the Kawasaki logo on John Ross’s new bike, KNOTS appears keen to disguise the brand of chocolate favoured by ordinary girls in their hour of need (it looks like Snickers to me), which would explain why Paige discards the wrapper before consuming its contents. While there’s something fundamentally sexy about Paige nibbling on a naked chocolate bar as she holds it between her fingers, it’s also an impractically messy thing to do, especially in an office environment.

    Polly’s attempt to bond with Paige may have fallen flat, but she’s making good progress in other areas. Whereas it took Ewing Oil's receptionist Kendall seven years to achieve a close up and a one night stand with James Beaumont, Polly has only been at the Sumner Group for three weeks and she’s already dated Harvey the messenger guy, Paul from business affairs and now Jack from accounting, and she gets more screen time in this week’s episode than her big boss Greg. Meanwhile, the latest configuration of the Ewing Oil offices means that the desks of the secretaries, Sly, Phyllis and Jackie, now all face each other, which allows them to function as kind of a silent Greek chorus, exchanging knowing looks when an upset Cally shows up looking for JR, or when Bobby is taken aback by a surprise visit from Kay Lloyd.

    While Tom and Paige have split, Soap Land’s other hot young couple, DALLAS’s James and Michelle, are having a great time together, both on the dance floor and in bed. “Isn’t life perfect?” Michelle sighs. “Almost,” James replies, before admitting that he’s worried about his mother. “She still loves [JR], Michelle. She should be with him … It’s not that I have anything against Cally … I just wish she’d go away somewhere, forever.” This last remark has a similar effect to the comment Abby once casually made about Val’s babies to Scott Eastman on KNOTS. While Michelle doesn’t go as far as kidnapping James’s stepmother and selling her to a childless couple, she does delight in confirming Cally’s worst fears after Cally spots her and JR together at a hotel. “Are you sleeping with my husband?” Cally asks her tearfully. “Yes, I am,” lies Michelle with a big smile on her face.

    Just as Cally immediately jumps to the wrong conclusion about her spouse, so does Lance Cumson. Since watching Ned Vogel and Pilar’s sex tape last week, he has been licking his wounds in a sleazy bar in Juarez. Finally, he calls his wife — only to hear Richard Channing’s voice on the other end of the line. While DALLAS ends with Cally showing up at Alex Barton’s door looking for revenge (“I’m gonna hurt him, Alex, just like he hurt me”), Lance takes even more drastic action: he volunteers himself for a game of “Scorpion in the Slipper”, which is like Russian roulette, only instead of shooting yourself in the head, you run the risk of being bitten by a fatally poisonous arachnid. When Lance beats the odds and survives unscathed, it has a similarly reinvigorating effect on him as Jock’s letter did on JR at the end of last week’s DALLAS. “You caught a luck wave, man,” his hippy barfly pal tells him. “I'm gonna ride that wave home,” Lance replies.

    While Mark Baylor is given three years for a murder he didn’t commit on KNOTS, DALLAS introduces us to Jack Bouleris, the captain who was allegedly drunk in charge of the Ewing tanker at the time of the collision in the Gulf. “I haven’t had a drink in four years,” he tells Bobby. Instead, like Baylor, he has become the fall guy for a big corporation: “I was railroaded out of my job. I was called a drunk, I was made a laughing stock in front of my family because you fired me.” But whereas Baylor is anxious that no harm should come to Mack (“I don’t want to fall out of a seven storey window. I don’t want Mack to either,” he tells Karen, urging her to persuade him “to give up his holy crusade against Oakman Industries” ), Bouleris is less magnanimous when Bobby asks him to help him get to the bottom of how the collision really happened. “You’ve got the noose around your neck and you want me to cut the rope?” he scoffs. “I hope I take you down with me!”

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (1) DALLAS

    2 (2) KNOTS LANDING

    3 (3) FALCON CREST
     
  9. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    07 Dec 89: KNOTS LANDING: Never Judge a Book By Its Cover v. 08 Dec 89: DALLAS: Cally on a Hot Tin Roof v. 08 Dec 89: FALCON CREST: Merry Christmas, Charley

    While there’s nothing as graphic as what occurred at the end of last week’s KNOTS, a strong atmosphere of violence continues to permeate this week’s Soap Land. KNOTS picks up where it left off, with a traumatised Amanda huddled on the floor of Danny’s apartment. “You raped me,” she tells him. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t see it the same way. When she threatens to call the police, he mock-calls them himself: “My ex-wife came over and we made love … and she initiated it,” he sneers before telling her to get out. Later in the episode, Paige is violently mugged in broad daylight (“I told him he could have my purse and he hit me anyway”). The mugging is Oakman Industries’ way of letting Tom Ryan know they are unhappy that he has ignored their orders to stop seeing Paige.

    On paper, the pairing of Tom and Paige is a plot-driven contrivance that serves both as an obstacle to Paige getting back together with Greg and as a way of tying her into the Oakman storyline. On screen, however, the attraction between them feels both genuine and complicated. Prior to reconciling, they have a really good shouting match in her office. “You have no idea about real relationships. In fact, you have no idea about the real world,” she informs him. “Like you do?” he scoffs. “You, with your silk stockings and fancy job and prep school background — you have no idea about the real world. I grew up in it. My mother was a drunk who locked me out of the apartment so she could make it with her boyfriends … I got smacked in the head if I spilt my milk, so don’t go talking to me about the real world.” Paige’s counter-argument is surprisingly strong. “You know nothing about me, nothing,” she insists. “I went to prep schools so my mother could dump me there. You spent Christmas on the streets? I spent Christmas forgotten about in some out-of-the-way hellhole of a school and every year was a different school because my dear mother couldn’t afford to pay the bills. So I was dragged from one end of Europe to the other escaping bill collectors. I never had any friends. I never even knew Mack was my father.”

    Aspects of this conversation are mirrored elsewhere this week. Tom’s assertion that Paige has been cushioned from the harsh realities of life is echoed by Walker Daniels on FALCON CREST. “To you, there’s no relationship between work and money, and eating,” he tells his wife Lauren. “It’s always been there for you — Daddy, Mikey, me … and let’s not forget Richard Channing. We get handouts from him too now, don’t we?” Paige’s sense of rootlessness is matched by both James Beaumont on DALLAS, another Soap Land kid who grew up without knowing who his father was, (“I was kicked out of three different schools in three different countries … I just always felt like I didn’t belong anywhere”) and FC’s Sydney (“God, I wish I had a life like yours,” she tells Chris Agretti, “friends and high school and going out. Do you know what it’s like to be sneaking out of hotels at four o’clock in the morning, bribing people for passports?”). Sydney also wins the prize for the week’s grimmest tale of childhood woe: “When I was fifteen, I moved to England with my father … He was running from gambling debts … He owed money to this man in London who threatened to kill him. The only reason Ian didn’t kill my father is because my father had something Ian wanted as much as money.” “He paid off a gambling debt — with you?” asks Chris, horrified.

    The closest DALLAS gets to physical violence this week is JR deliberately driving over Cally’s vegetable garden after boasting to her about a recent affair: “I figured it was open season to have a little fun so I had myself a fling down in Austin — a damn fine one too, I’m here to tell you.” His cruelty stems from the mistaken belief that she has slept with Alex Barton. “I loved you, Cally,” he tells her. “We made a garden of gold here, honey, and you turned it into just plain dirt.” “I loved you and you killed it,” echoes Lance on FALCON CREST, referring to Pilar’s all too real infidelity with Ned Vogel. “I married a damn whore,” he adds for good measure. Upset, Pilar tries to hit him but he grabs her arm. “I should break it off so you can’t touch another man again,” he snarls. Walker makes a similar threat during his fight with Lauren. “It’s everyone’s fault but yours, isn’t it? Who are you gonna beat on now — me?” she shouts. “Maybe I should,” he replies.

    There is some marital harmony on FALCON CREST, if only fleetingly. Emma is delighted by the effect of her pregnancy on Charley, who suddenly cannot do enough for her and even populates their bedroom with fluffy toys. Alas, her happiness is short-lived when new sister-in-law Sydney drops the bombshell that Emma’s late husband Daniel did not commit suicide after all: “Ian killed him and when I asked why, he said, ‘A favour to Charley'.” Desperate to be free of Ian, Sydney asks Chris to go to Las Vegas and find the gun Ian used to kill Daniel. “Otherwise, he’ll come after us wherever we go. We’ve gotta put him away,” she explains. Chris and Sydney’s love story has been told in big broad strokes — they’ve only shared three scenes prior to deciding to run away together — but it works. In contrast, the story of Michael Fairgate’s unspoken attraction towards his sister-in-law Linda on KNOTS has been gradually built up over several episodes. This week, he confesses all. “I have a crush on you and I’m miserable,” he tells her. Her response is unexpected. “Eric and I are getting divorced,” she informs Karen and Mack. As spurned husbands go, Eric is a far less dangerous proposition than Ian St James, and so the stakes are somewhat higher for Sydney and Chris than they are for Linda and Michael.

    Unaware that Charley has overheard them talking, Chris agrees to Sydney’s plan. He is on his way to Vegas to look for Ian’s gun when he realises he is being followed — and that’s the last we ever see of him. Charley later tells Ian about the scheme and that he “took care of it.” Realising that Sydney has betrayed them and that they cannot sell Falcon Crest to Michael Sharpe while Emma is alive, the St James brothers decide to kill their wives, unborn baby and all — but as it’s Christmas Eve, they agree to wait until after dinner. Then Charley takes Emma upstairs, leaving Ian and Sydney alone. “I shall never forgive you and I shall never forget you,” Ian tells his wife, giving her one last kiss before starting to strangle her. Upstairs, Emma hears Sydney struggle and tells Charley they have to rescue her from Ian: “He is evil!” “He and I are the same person,” Charley replies chillingly.

    Frank Agretti proves an unlikely knight in shining armour, crashing through a window and dragging Ian off of Sydney. The two men brawl, overturning a Christmas tree in the process. Ian is in the process of choking Frank when Sydney stabs him to death. Back upstairs, Charley cannot find his gun and vents his frustration by striking Emma across the face. Calmly, she unzips a stuffed rabbit and pulls out the weapon he is looking for. (This is the second bunny/violence juxtaposition in as many weeks. On last week’s KNOTS, Danny surprised Bobby and Betsy with a pair of rabbits and then raped his wife.) “Is this what you’re looking for?” asks Emma, pointing the gun at her husband. “Merry Christmas, Charley,” she adds, pulling the trigger. A Christmas episode with no less than three violent deaths (including Chris Agretti’s offscreen demise)? EASTENDERS would surely approve.

    Not only is it the end of the road for the St James brothers, but also for Soap Land’s remaining Englishman, Alex Barton. “You’ll never see that limey face again,” JR promises Cally before running Alex out of the country in much the same way as he once ran Alan Beam out of Texas. While Alan was set up on a bogus rape charge by Harry McSween, here Detective Rattigan manufactures evidence of Alex’s “depraved sexual habits” — a bogus sex tape “of you and two underage innocents, both of whom are willing to testify that your sexual tastes are, to say the least, a little bizarre.”

    So it’s out with the English, in with … the Japanese? There are a couple of enjoyably random references to the Far East this week. “The Japanese are gonna write a management textbook on you, Mr McKay,” a West Star sycophant tells his boss on DALLAS. “They can entitle it Sayonara, Ewing Oil!” McKay replies, chuckling malevolently. Meanwhile, it’s Christmas dinner at Falcon Crest where the show’s new breed of barbarian — the St James boys, Michael Sharpe and Genele — are seated around the same table for the first (and only) time. Michael is delivering his version of McKay’s “there are no more borders, there are no more countries” speech from last season’s DALLAS. “It’s not mom and pop anymore,” he tells Emma. “It’s computers, it’s micro-marketing, it’s targeting your customers on an international level. You’re sitting on the Pacific Rim. When the trade dam bursts, and it will, Falcon Crest had better be ready.” Emma is clearly out of her depth, but gamely replies, “You know, I was thinking that exact thing — there’s lots of people in China and Japan.” An awkward silence follows. “Really? Where did you hear that?” Michael replies dryly.

    In spite of his Oakman bosses ordering him to stay away from Paige, Tom manages to convince them that they need him to remain close to her: “Her father is back on the case. He is digging into Oakman Industries in a major way and the only way I am gonna be able to find out what’s happening is through her.” The reality is that Mack’s investigation is “at an absolute dead end” and so Tom himself supplies him with the information he needs to reignite it. Meanwhile, the Ewing-verse’s other double agent, Michelle Stevens, also uses her position to her advantage. Having pretended to Cally that she was sleeping with JR, she now finds herself on his bad side. “You interfered in my personal life,” JR tells her, “that’s one line I don’t let anybody cross.” “Don’t threaten me, JR. I’m still your spy in the house of Barnes,” she reminds him. Like Tom, she then proves her worth by furnishing him with a titbit about his enemy. JR’s grateful for the information, but makes it clear that he hasn’t forgiven Michelle. “It’ll be a chilly morning in hell before I let a money-hungry little bitch like you into my bed,” he tells her coldly. The last woman he took such an intense dislike to without sleeping with her first was Pam.

    While Michelle continues to conceal her affair with James from sugar daddy Cliff (there’s a close shave when James shows up at Cliff’s place to see Michelle, only for Cliff himself to answer the door), FC’s Genele simply can’t be bothered to hide her dalliance with Michael from her sugar daddy. Even as Frank grows increasingly concerned about the disappearance of his nephew Chris, Genele casually licks Michael’s ear in front of him.

    It’s not just young men like Chris Agretti and Michael Fairgate who are declaring their feelings this week. “I could love you,” Richard Channing says suddenly while looking at Lauren. She is so startled, she pretends she’s misheard him. “Oh, everybody loves Christmas,” she replies hurriedly. However, the boldest romantic claim of this week is made by Val during KNOTS’ pre-title scene. She is talking to Karen about Danny when she says, “I have never loved anyone this much. Not Ben, not even Gary” — a statement as controversial as JR’s recent description of Vanessa Beaumont as “the love of my life.”

    Just as JR is inextricably linked with Sue Ellen in viewers’ minds, so Val is with Gary. And so Bobby is with Pam. Therefore, following Val’s unabashed declaration about Danny, it’s interesting to hear Bobby choosing his words more carefully when describing his feelings for April. “April is a wonderful person,” he tells Kay Lloyd. “I trust her. She’s loyal and she’s always been there for me … As old-fashioned as it may sound to you, there’s something real nice in knowing I’m April’s number one priority — before ambition, money, anything.” “And is she your number one priority?” asks Kay. He changes the subject.

    Right at the other end of the Soap Land scale from April is Genele, who this week lays out the terms of her relationship with Michael. Whereas April fears Bobby might not want to marry her as much as she does him (“I don’t want you back here until you really, really want me, until you want me like I want you,” she tells him tearfully), Genele has zero interest in the subject. “Wife? God, that’s a horrible word!” she shudders. Whereas April is all about loyalty, Genele is more concerned with royalties. “What I won’t be is your girlfriend — a girlfriend is even worse than a wife because there’s no backend,” she explains to Michael. It’s as if Genele has studied all the Soap Land gold diggers that have gone before and learned from their mistakes. “I know what I’m good at and I’m more than happy to oblige, but the return has to be worth it,” she says. “You are so refreshing,” Michael tells her. “As of today, you are on the payroll — ten gees a month. Apartment, car, clothes come out of that. You can keep them when we’re done.” “… Oh come on, Michael,” she replies, “a man of your calibre deserves more than a ten-thousand-dollar-a-month mistress! … Twenty-five-grand-a-month and we’ve got a deal.” “This is not about sex,” he clarifies. “It’s about convenience … and combat. I am constantly at war. You have to understand that.” “I do and I can help you,” she assures him, “but for me, it is about money.

    Now that Cally’s Svengali is out of the picture, where does that leave her painting career? JR seems to think the two are indivisible: “You think you’re pretty clever, don’t you, Barton? Telling my wife she’s got talent then luring her up to this little love nest.” Karen Mackenzie’s new career, meanwhile, receives a boost when she is offered the job of OPEN MIKE’s full-time host. Meeting her predecessor on his way out, she is struck by his cynicism. “If you have so little regard for the content of talk shows, why on earth did you choose this profession?” she asks. “Do you have any idea how much Oprah Winfrey is worth?” he replies. This reference to Oprah feels unusually blatant — almost like an on-screen acknowledgement that she now occupies the same space in American pop culture that the ‘80s soaps once did.

    As chance would have it, the subject of Karen’s first show is rape — nothing like throwing the new girl in at the deep end. Her guest is a psychiatric expert whose description of yer average rapist (“These men look perfectly normal, behave like anybody else on the street … they’re consummate conmen and manipulators, that’s why they can be so charming”) plays over a shot of Danny strolling up to Val’s front door. Needless to say, the profile fits him like a glove.

    This somewhat didactic approach to the subject is in contrast to previous depictions of rape in Soap Land where the word itself is never mentioned (such as Blake’s attack on Krystle), or where the characters involved, and sometimes even the shows themselves, don’t quite seem to realise that a rape has taken place (Laura in “The Lie”, JR’s encounters with Holly Harwood and Laurel Ellis), or where the act is treated as an almost abstract event, only revealed to the audience some time after it has occurred (Lucy Ewing and Maggie Gioberti during their kidnapping ordeals). Although the closest Danny gets to acknowledging his guilt is squirming uncomfortably while watching Karen’s show with Val (“what a depressing subject,” he murmurs), neither Amanda, who is also watching in her apartment, nor KNOTS itself is in any way hesitant in identifying what occurred between her and Danny at the end of last week’s episode as rape.

    At the very end of the episode, in a pleasingly knotty way that brings the “social issue” tone of this storyline back into the world of soap, Gary is also drawn in. He too is watching OPEN MIKE, and his ears prick up when he recognises a caller’s voice during the phone-in section of the show. It’s the same voice that called his number looking for Sally at the end of last season and that he listened to helplessly as she was being attacked at the beginning of this one. Here, he listens just as helplessly as she describes being raped by someone she knows. (“I thought he was gonna kill me.”) Ted Shackelford is really, really good at these “Holy shit, it’s …” moments of realisation — which is probably why they keep giving them to him.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (3) FALCON CREST
    2 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (1) DALLAS
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2019
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  10. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    14 Dec 89: KNOTS LANDING: Twice Victim v. 15 Dec 89: DALLAS: Sex, Lies and Videotape v. 15 Dec 89: FALCON CREST: Danny

    This week’s KNOTS is unusual in that it focuses on a single storyline — Danny’s rape of Amanda, which Gary persuades her to report to the police — and four characters: Amanda, Danny, Gary and Val. Mack, Karen and Aunt Ginny show up briefly, but strictly in a supporting capacity. The episode is interested in highlighting various preconceptions and attitudes that exist around the subject of rape, including those of the victim herself. “I didn’t think of him as dirty, I thought of myself as dirty,” she tells Gary. “I ‘admitted’ I was raped … Are there any other crimes we ‘admit’ happened to us? … It’s as though I’m guilty of something.” Gary, meanwhile, addresses a minute-and-a-half long monologue to Mack where he first admits to having doubts about Amanda’s claims and then castigates himself for those doubts: “I wish I didn’t feel this way, but I can’t help it … I know better than to blame the victim, I’m ‘enlightened’ … so why do I have all these questions, why do I have even the slightest doubt?”

    When the police inform Amanda of the decision not to press charges against Danny due to lack of evidence, their reasons serve as an illustration to the viewer of what not to do following a rape: “There is no physical evidence because you took a shower … you delayed reporting the crime for more than seventy-two hours, you admit you freely went to his apartment, etc.”

    As with previous “social issue” storylines in Soap Land, the writing in this ep is somewhat heavy-handed. Amanda and Gary sometimes feel like mouthpieces for the writer to get certain ideas across to the viewer. But as these ideas are both interesting and worthwhile, the story doesn’t feel as patronising or sensationalised as, say, Ray and Donna’s Down’s Syndrome story or Olivia’s drug addiction plot. Besides, Gary’s character is certainly strong enough to withstand a little plot-driven self-analysis.

    KNOTS’ previous rape-themed episode, “The Lie”, aired some ten years before this one. Whereas that episode used the subject of rape in order to explore and develop its characters, “Twice Victim” uses its characters in order to inform and educate the audience on the subject of rape. Both approaches are valid, but the former is more dramatically rewarding and explains why the reaction of the character least involved in Amanda’s situation is also the most interesting. “That woman is irresponsible and vengeful!” Val declares when she learns of Amanda’s allegations against Danny. “She needs counselling or therapy or some kind of professional help. I know I might feel sorry for her because of that, but I don’t!” It’s not stated directly, but one senses Val’s tough stance towards Amanda partly stems from her previous experiences with manipulative, duplicitous women — most obviously Jill Bennett, but also Jean Hackney and maybe even Abby. The irony is that mousy little Amanda is actually far less reminiscent of Jill or Jean or Abby than she is of Val herself, specifically the “Poor Val” side of her persona that Val has been trying so hard to distance herself from. (“Each year I vow to be a stronger person,” as she told Danny a few weeks ago). This could be another factor in her refusal to engage or empathise with Amanda.

    Gary’s monologue to Mack contains an “if only” sub-speech which makes a neat counterpart to the one Sue Ellen delivered to Nicholas Pearce’s father ten months ago. “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,” Sue Ellen said then. “If only she hadn’t gone to his apartment, if only she’d divorced him earlier. ‘If only’ — if only I’d exercised perfect judgment all my life!” says Gary now.

    At the beginning of the episode, Gary, once again representing the out-of-his-depth Everyman, calls the rape expert from Karen’s talk show to ask for advice. Twice, the doctor asks if he is one that was raped. “No, what the - what are you talking about?” he replies incredulously. The doctor’s question is ambiguous: it’s unclear if she genuinely thinks Gary could be the victim and is too embarrassed to say so, or if she is making the point that he needs to think about the person who was attacked and not about himself. Either way, this is Soap Land’s third reference to male rape in as many weeks. “Within twenty-four hours, I want Mary Poppins’ autograph on this piece of paper or you two are going to spend the next twenty years as prom queens in the nearest penitentiary,” Michael Sharpe told the St James brothers on FALCON CREST two weeks ago. “Either you get out of this country for good within forty-eight hours or you’re going to the local jail where some of the larger inmates just might take a liking to your kind of artistic fella if you get my meaning,” JR told Alex Barton on DALLAS last week. These kind of prison rape gags are now commonplace in TV and films (I even remember one in a mobile phone ad a few years ago), but it was fairly fresh territory for Soap Land back in ’89. In the penultimate scene of this week’s KNOTS, Gary takes it upon himself to exact a rape-once-removed style punishment on Danny by luring him to his ranch under false pretences, trapping him in a barn and then terrorising him with a baseball bat until he’s a quivering, pleading mess on the ground. “Did you enjoy it, Danny?” he asks afterwards, just in case the symbolism wasn’t already clear.

    Last week’s DALLAS ended with JR finding Cally unconscious in their bedroom, having taken an overdose of sleeping pills. This week’s KNOTS concludes with Amanda about to do the same thing in her apartment, only to be interrupted by a knock on the door from two highly enthusiastic teenage girls, Sylvia and Lisa, who are selling magazine subscriptions to help with their college tuitions. “I wanna study music … I wanna be a singer,” says one. This strikes a chord (no pun intended) with Amanda who impetuously agrees to purchase multiple subscriptions. The girls squeal with delight and she smiles at their excitement: in that instant, life is worth living again. It’s a genuinely sweet, touching moment and the first time in the episode that Amanda feels like more like an actual person than a textbook case study.

    In fact, and remarkably for Soap Land, especially during such a dark and violent season, all three shows conclude on a positive note this week. “I think we should get married,” Bobby tells April at the end of DALLAS before the frame freezes on her laughing and hugging him. FALCON CREST’s happy ending is perhaps the most unexpected and rewarding of the three, but we’ll get to that.

    FC and DALLAS each open with an establishing shot of an ambulance outside the family home — a response to the dramatic events at the end of last week’s episodes: Cally’s overdose, Sydney’s fatal stabbing of Ian and Emma’s shooting of Charley (who isn’t as dead as I previously assumed; instead, he has disappeared, never to be seen again). After having her stomach pumped, Cally’s not in bad shape, all things considered. “I didn’t mean to try to kill myself,” she tells JR. “I never took any pills before … I guess I took too many …” “Pills never solve anybody’s problems,” states JR categorically, having seemingly caught the Public Service Announcement bug from KNOTS. “Let’s just try to forget all that’s happened. Let’s just be us again,” she suggests and he agrees. Lance and Pilar attempt the same thing on FALCON CREST but are not successful. “I just can’t forget,” says Lance.

    Whereas Lance cannot get over seeing a videotape of his wife having sex with a man for business reasons, Carter McKay fetches his girlfriend Rose back to Dallas for the express purpose of making a videotape of her having sex with Cliff Barnes so that he can blackmail him with it, also for business reasons. While Lance called Pilar “a damn whore” last week, Rose makes it clear to Mack that “I may have been free and easy, honey, but I was never no whore.” Nevertheless, she goes along with his plan. “I don’t care about that tape,” shrugs Cliff when Mack shows it to him. “So I got lucky with some bimbo. It’s not like I’m married …” “That may be,” Mack concedes, “but how do you think it would look if it got out that you were sleeping with the wife of the Head of West Star? … The young lady who co-starred with you in that film has, for three days now, been Mrs Carter McKay.” As untimely marriage reveals go, this isn’t quite as sensational as Emma announcing her union with Charley mere seconds after being awarded conservatorship of Falcon Crest, but it’s still fun.

    It’s Bring Your Son and Heir to Work Day on both DALLAS and FALCON CREST. No sooner has JR reconciled with Cally than he must take another overnight trip to Austin, the scene of his recent indiscretion, to “try to do something about Barnes.” To pacify his wife, he offers to “take James down there with me. I won’t get any trouble with him hanging around and it’ll give him a chance to see the wheeling and dealing side of the business.” Meanwhile on FC, there’s a brand new father/son storyline with the arrival of Danny Sharpe, Michael’s college-age kid. Like DALLAS’s James, KL’s Paige, and FC’s Sydney, Danny has recently spent some time in Europe, and has his own unique take on the place: “Too many old buildings and the women don’t shave their pits.”

    Also like James, Danny is eager to learn how his father’s business works. Michael is wary at first, thinking Danny might harbour some resentment towards him for not being around much when he was growing up. “What d’you come here for, to throw darts at me?” he asks him. “No, Dad — to throw darts with you,” Danny assures him. So Michael allows him to tag along to his next business meeting, which just happens to be at Falcon Crest. As far as Michael is concerned, he now owns the winery, but Emma claims she was tricked into signing it over by Charley and Ian. “Watch me,” Michael instructs his son. “This broad’s gonna put on the innocent face and we’re gonna clean her out.” JR, meanwhile, is intent on showing his son that “there’s a lot more to the oil business than just sucking it out of the ground.”

    However, matters are soon complicated, for both James and Danny, as business gets mixed up with pleasure. In Austin, James is dismayed to realise that he is there as a smokescreen for JR’s fling with Diana Farrington, a member of the committee set up by Cliff to investigate the tanker disaster. “If it takes a little roll in the hay to keep Barnes off my back …,” JR shrugs. “What about Cally?” asks James. “This doesn’t have anything to do with Cally,” JR insists, “it’s strictly business.” “Then it’s pretty lousy business,” decides James.

    Meanwhile, no sooner does Danny clap eyes on Sydney at Falcon Crest than he finds himself in a full-blown, double-sided “spy who loved me” storyline. Realising he is attracted to her, Sydney decides to take advantage of his interest by persuading him to talk to his father about not pursuing his claim for Falcon Crest. “Emma’s the only person in my whole life who’s ever been kind to me and if I can do anything to help her, even a little bit, it’s worth it,” she explains. ”It’s a dangerous game, Sydney,” cautions Pilar, speaking from experience. Pilar may be right, but it’s a game everyone in Soap Land seems to be playing right now. Danny and Sydney, Michael and Genele, JR and Diana, James and Michelle, Cliff and Rose, Paige and Tom — they’re all mixing business and pleasure, either knowingly or otherwise.

    JR makes that very point to his disapproving son. “Come on, James,” he says, “don’t be so self-righteous. What about you and little old Michelle? … It didn’t take me long to figure out why she changed her mind and decided to help me. You convinced her and I know you how you persuaded her.” “… It’s what we both wanted,” James argues. “And you didn’t use what you both wanted to persuade her to see things our way?” persists JR.

    Likewise, Michael soon becomes aware of Danny’s interest in Sydney. In spite of his fatherly advice (“Drill her brains out, but don’t lose yours”), it becomes increasingly difficult to ascertain where Danny’s true loyalties lie. While visiting Sydney at Falcon Crest, he has a snoop around the study and manages to find the incriminating document Michael needs to win his lawsuit against Emma. He steals it but then doesn’t show it to anyone. Instead, he starts asking his father about the morality of the situation: “Suppose we’re wrong about this Falcon Crest thing? … What if the St James woman is telling the truth?” Michael isn’t impressed: “The truth is whatever we can make the judge believe,” he snaps. “I thought you were cut out for this. I hope I’m not wrong.” JR similarly begins to tire of James’s criticisms. “I certainly don’t need your holier than thou attitude,” he tells him. But whereas Michael loses his temper when he discovers Danny has been confiding in Lauren (“Don’t you ever talk about what goes on inside this room to anybody outside of this room! I don’t care if it’s your aunt, your mother or your slut of the month!”), JR is unperturbed when James threatens to spill the beans to Cally about his little fling. “You won’t,” he says confidently. “You’ve got my blood running through your veins, boy. You may not like what I’m doing but you won’t do anything about it.” Michael is less certain. "I find myself wondering just who’s side you’re on,” he tells Danny.

    Finally, in the FALCON CREST courtroom, just as the judge is about to rule in Emma’s favour, Danny produces the document he swiped and saves the day for his father. He is rewarded by a kiss on the cheek from Michael and a slap across the face from Sydney: “You used me!” “And you used me,” he replies. “I just did a better job of it.”

    This week’s DALLAS and FALCON CREST are the shows’ final episodes of the 1980s, the decade that defined them (and that they helped define). There is a perceptible end of an era feel on FC as Emma surrenders to Michael and allows him to keep Falcon Crest. Even more surprisingly, she decides to leave the show. “I have lost a mother and two husbands,” she tells Richard. “I am not gonna lose this little baby growing inside me. We are gonna go somewhere where it’s peaceful and safe and don’t you dare try to stop me.” She then drives out of the series for good, leaving Lance, along with the scarcely seen Chao Li, as the last remaining members of the original cast. As we move into the ‘90s, the future of FALCON CREST looks fascinatingly uncertain. After dominating so much of this radically altered season, Emma and Charley are suddenly and permanently gone. Meanwhile, Sydney, who scarcely spoke during her first few episodes, has emerged as the closest thing the show now has to a romantic heroine — but who’s to say she won’t be killed off next week?

    While there isn’t a comparable turning point on DALLAS, James’s reaction when JR tells him how alike they are foreshadows the father/son dynamic between JR and John Ross in New DALLAS. “You know what your problem is, James?” JR asks. “You’re just too much like me. You may not realise it but you’ll see.” “No way … That’ll never be me,” James replies emphatically. Conversely, when Michael Sharpe’s lawyer tells him that Danny “sounds just like you,” both father and son take it as a compliment.

    While James ends this week’s DALLAS somewhat disillusioned by JR (“You’re a great father but a lousy husband”), Michael refers to Danny as “my new lieutenant” when he drops by his office late at night during FC’s final scene. Michael tries to explain the kick he gets from business to his son: “There’s a drug your body produces when you’re working productively. It starts out as a buzz, then this buzz becomes a rush and then you’re standing on top of it, riding that rush.” Danny asks him what he was like when he was younger. “I’ll tell you what was exciting,” Michael continues. “Being twenty years old and having Wall Street titans twice my age pulling out all the stops just to get next to me, hanging on my every word, throwing money at me.” Suddenly Danny realises something: “That’s how old you were when I was born. Now how does that compare?” And all of a sudden, we’re in one of those familiar Soap Land scenarios where an adult child is confronting the estranged parent they feel abandoned or neglected them when they were growing up. We’ve been here countless times before, of course — from Lucy dealing with Gary and Val at the beginning of DALLAS all the way through to Nick and Frank Agretti airing their grievances on last season’s FC. What’s striking about this particular scene is that neither character has planned to have this conversation — Danny has spent the entire episode trying to match his father’s bravado, insisting he has no hang ups or grudges about the past. Suddenly, that’s all gone. “How do you think I felt — growing up knowing you were too busy to give a damn?!” he yells. “I gave a damn,” Michael replies. “I did. I just didn’t think that you’d want to see me again. Danny, I wanna make things right between us … Let’s you and me go for a ride around the city all night, huh? You can tell me all about the things I missed, those years I wasn’t there.” Danny hesitates, then agrees — this is all he really wants, but he’d never admit it. They’re on their way out when Michael’s phone starts to ring — it’s the overseas business call he’s been waiting for — and your heart sinks on Danny’s behalf because you just know Michael’s going to turn round, pick up the phone and choose business over his son once again. But, surprisingly, he doesn’t. “Forget it — they’ll call back, they always do,” he says. As with Amanda and the subscription sellers, it’s a simple moment, but a touching one — all the more so for being so unexpected. The episode ends with father and son walking out of the office, the phone continuing to rung even after the frame has frozen.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    04 Jan 90: KNOTS LANDING: Oh, Brother v. 05 Jan 90: DALLAS: Tale of Two Cities v. 05 Jan 90: FALCON CREST: Time Bomb

    The first Soap Land scene of the ‘90s has Greg Sumner waking Paula Vertosick with a late night phone call. “I’m thinkin’ about ya bod,” he informs her. It’s a terribly modern form of courtship for a terribly modern sort of decade.

    DALLAS and FALCON CREST each welcome in the new year with a more traditional scenario: a scene in which a father impresses upon his son the importance of winning by any means necessary. On DALLAS, James is reluctant to return to Southfork after witnessing JR’s infidelity with Diana Farrington in Austin. “Maybe you can go in and face Cally. I can’t,” he tells his father. “What I did was business,” JR insists. “Well, your way of doing business stinks,” James replies. “It’ll save Ewing Oil and that’s all that matters,” maintains JR.

    FALCON CREST opens with a scene in Michael Sharpe’s office where he stuns Danny by giving him Falcon Crest to run. Greater love hath no Soap Land father than this, that he cedes control of a business asset to his son — but instead of the usual guff about legacies and heritage, Michael channels his emotions into an aggressively motivational speech based on Sun Tzu’s The Art of War which would sound utterly ridiculous were it not delivered with such conviction. “From this moment on,” he tells Danny, “you are in training. I’m not just gonna show you how to wield a spear, ride a horse, kill a lion; I’m gonna teach you how to become the lion. You must learn how to become your enemy in order to beat your enemy and everyone is your enemy — including me. By the time we’re done, you’re gonna know more, have more and be more than I ever dreamed of. And if not, then you’ll have failed and I’ll have failed — and I don’t fail.”

    There’s a very different, but equally juicy, office scene between a parent and child on KNOTS when Karen Mackenzie stops by the Sumner Group to confront Michael about his involvement in the breakup of Eric and Linda’s marriage. This is where an enjoyable if somewhat vanilla story about Michael’s latest inappropriate crush turns into something meatier: the first major conflict between Karen and her youngest son. “I don’t even know you anymore,” she tells him. “You quit college, you spend money as if it’s an endless supply and then you break up your brother’s marriage!”

    While Michael Sharpe preaches an amoral way of life to his son and Karen Mackenzie preaches moral righteousness to hers, DALLAS’s equivalent office scene explores the grey area that lies between the two. Here, the conversation is between an uncle and his nephew. Since arriving in Soap Land, hardly a week has gone by without James seeking Bobby’s perspective on either the oil business in general or JR in particular. Such scenes are an effective way of fleshing out James’s character and establishing his position within the wider Ewing family, but they also show us an interesting side to Bobby. He’s harder-edged, more cynical with James than we're used to seeing him. It’s as if he’s wary of allowing his newly acquired nephew to get too comfortable too quickly. Accordingly, he doesn’t sugar-coat the harsher realities of Ewing life. In this scene, James is still brooding about JR’s affair when he asks Bobby if he too would do anything for Ewing Oil. “Yes — just about,” Bobby replies. “The end always justifies the means, right?” James asks. “You can’t bribe an honest man,” Bobby shrugs. “It’s a pretty damn weak excuse, I admit … There are boundaries. You can bend them, but you never cross over them.” “… Who decides what these boundaries are?” James persists. “We’re playing in a game that doesn’t have any rules,” Bobby tells him. “We have to set our own — just like you’re going to have to set yours.”

    While Cally remains blissfully unaware of JR’s betrayal on DALLAS, Eric Fairgate has no idea that Linda and Michael have fallen in love on KNOTS. And just as James’s discomfort is compounded when Cally reveals her latest painting is of the husband she adores, so Michael squirms silently every time his big brother tries to confide in him about his troubled marriage. Eric’s ignorance is short-lived, however.

    Each of this week’s episodes features at least one variation on the lover-catches-their-partner-in-bed-with-someone-else scenario. Michael and Linda have yet to consummate their relationship so instead of finding them together, Eric overhears Michael assuring Mack that “I’m not gonna walk up to him and says, ‘Hey Eric, I’m in love with your wife.’” Eric then confronts his brother: “Now I know what the problem with my marriage is — you!” What follows isn’t the kind of furniture-destroying fraternal fracas one might have expected. Instead, Eric delivers a single punch to Michael’s gut before storming out of the house and returning to his job in Saudi Arabia. Linda subsequently relocates to a motel and the episode ends with Michael also moving out of the family home. The final shot, of Karen’s troubled face, feels like the suburban equivalent of Miss Ellie’s tearful close up following Bobby and Pam’s departure from Southfork at the end of DALLAS’s second season.

    As well as Eric and Linda’s on KNOTS, another marriage comes to an end on FALCON CREST. “Walker, things haven’t been good with us for a long time … I cannot do this anymore,” Lauren tells her husband. Walker reckons the real reason for her decision is the new man in her life. “Does Richard know you only want to be in his bed because you can’t get in your brother’s?” he asks her. Lauren responds the same way Monica Colby did when Adam Carrington made incestuous jibes about her and Jeff: she whacks him across the face. Walker has taken a job in Oregon, but unlike Eric on KNOTS, doesn’t leave right away. Instead, he sticks around long enough to peek through a window at Richard and Lauren making love for the first time, just as Miles Colby did when Fallon and Jeff first got reacquainted.

    While everyone else seems to be breaking up (including Olivia and Harold, who split just before Christmas), KNOTS LANDING’s Danny and Val and DALLAS’s Bobby and April are busy making wedding plans. For both couples, however, there is a fly in the ointment: Amanda’s accusations of rape and the ongoing investigation into Ewing Oil’s role in the tanker collision. Whereas Val refuses to allow anything to delay her plans for wedded bliss (“I am gonna marry this man and there is nothing that either one of you can say or do that’s gonna change that,” she tells Gary and Amanda), April suggests to Bobby that they put theirs on hold: “Why don’t we wait until this whole thing with Cliff Barnes blows over and the pressure’s off?”

    Taking Bobby’s advice about setting his own moral boundaries, James comes up with an unusual proposition. He approaches Diana Farrington and offers to replace JR in her bed for the remainder of their arrangement. “At least he can look his wife in the face,” he reasons. Here, James is essentially volunteering to do with Diana what FC’s Pilar did with Ned Vogel and DALLAS’s Rose did (at her husband’s urging) with Cliff Barnes, i.e., prostitute himself for business reasons. But because the genders are reversed, and Diana isn’t a fat old sleaze bag like Vogel, it doesn’t feel as degrading. In the event, Diana turns him down. “You can’t do what JR can do,” she explains. “He got Charles [her husband] a very important job … I love my husband very much and I go to bed with JR so he keeps that important job.” So it turns out Diana, rather than James, is the one prostituting herself.

    As far as we can tell, Diana takes this arrangement in her stride — unlike Pilar and Rose who are both still suffering the consequences of their sexual encounters. In a terrifically acted scene, Pilar bares her soul to Lance one last time: “When I was little and working in the fields, I’d watch your family up in this big house and I’d dream that one day I’d live here … and I dreamed of having the handsomest man in the valley too … So I studied and I scraped and I worked my way up from the fields and you know what? One day, I realised I didn’t need you anymore because I was somebody, all by myself. There was just one small catch — I’d fallen in love with you. I loved you so much, I’d do anything to keep you …” “Even sleep with Ned Vogel?” asks Lance, through angry tears. “Yes!” she replies. “If that’s what it took to keep Falcon Crest, yes. Look at me. Look at me! Do you think I enjoyed it? Do you really think I enjoyed it? It was wrong, I know it was wrong and if I could change it I would, but I can’t … All I can do is ask you one last time to forgive me.”

    While Pilar wants Lance to forget what he saw on her sex tape, Rose wants McKay to remember what’s on hers. In fact, she even puts it on for him. “Why don’t you look at it, not as some business move, but as your wife in bed with another man?” she pleads. “Doesn’t that bother you? ... When you married me, I thought it was gonna be the start of a whole new life, not just you using me.” Her words sink in. “When I lost Tommy, something in me died,” Mack admits. “I did use you, Rose, and I’m sorry.”

    While Rose gets through to Mack, Lance walks away from Pilar. She ends up drowning her sorrows at Delta Rho where she encounters a psychic chess champion from Yugoslavia (“He’s got a mind like a computer and a camera rolled into one!”) and they wind up in bed together. When she sobers up, she is full of remorse and hurries home to Lance — only to find him in bed with a nameless redhead.

    On DALLAS, JR, Diana, James, Cally and Michelle all end up at the same Hotel of Adulterous Liaisons where JR once took Kristin for a dirty weekend, Gary began his affair with Jill Bennett and Field Carlyle used to hook up with Lane Ballou on FLAMINGO ROAD (I’d recognise that blood red carpeting anywhere). The sequence that follows takes the catching-your-lover-in-bed-with-someone-else scenario to a whole new level.

    It starts off with JR in his hotel room, about to climb into bed with Diana. James interrupts them with the news that Cally is on her way up from the lobby (having flown in from Dallas to surprise her hubby). JR manages to intercept her in the hallway, leaving James and Diana alone in the bedroom. Then there’s a knock on the door followed by a female voice asking for JR. Assuming Cally somehow got past JR, James hastily takes his clothes off to make it look as if he’s the one about to bed Diana. He then opens the door to find … Michelle! Seeing James and Diana in a state of undress, she jumps to the same conclusion as Eric Fairgate, Walker Daniels and Pilar Cumson: that she has been betrayed by the one she loves. She runs off, James tries to chase after her — but then realises his trousers are down around his ankles. Perhaps surprisingly, this is the first time Soap Land has ventured so fully into bedroom farce territory — complete with lies, panic, mistaken identities and James as the quintessential fall guy — and even more surprisingly, it works really well. Crucially, no-one plays the situation for laughs (although there's an inherent goofiness about James) and there are lasting dramatic consequences for James and Michelle. “We’re finished, over, through!” she tells him.

    James finds himself in the same gloomy position as Michael Fairgate at the end of this week’s KNOTS. “I didn’t do anything wrong,” Michael tells his mother. “I didn’t mean to fall in love with a woman I shouldn’t fall in love with. Eric didn’t do anything wrong, Linda didn’t do anything wrong. We all did what we thought was the right thing to do.” “You two are the cheaters and I’m the one that gets caught,” James tells Diana.

    In DALLAS’s final scene, Cliff receives a visit from a nervous young naval officer who knows what really happened the night of the tanker collision. “I was on radar,” he explains. “The West Star tanker started drifting out of its lane and the Ewing tanker was just barely in its lane … With the weather conditions and all, I don’t think it was anyone’s fault, sir. They just sort of collided in no man’s land.” He cannot come forward as a witness for fear of being court-martialed and so Cliff is left with a moral dilemma: does he keep this information to himself and frame the Ewings or does he put his personal animosity to one side and Do the Right Thing? This question results in Cliff getting the freeze frame for the first time in about two and a half seasons — which, following Ken Kercheval’s recent death, feels like a touching bit of synchronicity.

    Jovan the psychic chess master on FALCON CREST isn’t the only Soap Land character with mysterious mental abilities. On KNOTS, Aunt Ginny impresses the twins with her psychometry skills. “I can get feelings and pictures of things [by holding objects] that have been close to people,” she claims. Val is sceptical, but when Ginny picks up a belt Julie Williams has borrowed from her mom and 'sees' Pat “working as a doctor in a hospital,” we realise that she, like almost every other psychic in Soap Land, is genuine. (Of course, if she’d seen Pat appearing on screen for longer than five minutes every other week, we’d know she was faking.) Later, when Ginny picks up Danny’s watch, her vision is predictably alarming. “I have never felt such anger, such violence!” she tells Gary — but when he offers her a gun as protection, she is even more appalled. “No, Gary, no! … I will not allow a gun like that loaded in a house with children! Shame on you!” It’s a testament to KNOTS’ versatility that this storyline can veer from the “social issue” earnestness of “Twice Victim” to the psychic visions of a wacky aunt, incorporating a punchy message about gun control along the way.

    While Ginny declines Gary’s pistol, Walker Daniels practically buys out an entire gun store on FALCON CREST. “Planning to invade a small country?” enquires the storekeeper conversationally. Instead, he hijacks the second half of this week’s FC as, just like the Danny/Amanda storyline on KNOTS last month, a marital crisis involving a couple we scarcely know reaches a violent climax.

    “Did you think I was just gonna slink away and let you take my wife and my home?” Walker asks, brandishing a shotgun, as he takes Richard and Lauren hostage in his former home. When Lauren’s brother Michael and girlfriend Genele show up unexpectedly, Walker takes them hostage too. (“This must be my lucky night,” he says.) Lauren explains that she had arranged a surprise dinner party to bring Richard and Michael together. “I wanted you two to be friends again,” she tells them, exhibiting the same streak of insane Soap Land optimism which decrees that if you put two lifelong enemies together at the same dinner table or barbecue, everything’s gonna work out fine. The next plot reveal — that Walker has rigged his own body with explosives which are set to go off in thirty minutes time — seems almost logical in comparison.

    A couple of seasons ago, FALCON CREST kept putting its characters in elaborate life-threatening scenarios so often it became monotonous. But this situation is different, more personal. “You lose your children, you don’t think you can go on living,” Walker tells his assembled guests. “You don’t want to, but you do. Your marriage starts to go bad, but you go on. Your career comes apart at the seams, you lose everything you’ve worked for fifteen years, but you go on. That’s the trouble with being human, you can always go on. Well, I just don’t want to anymore.” This mirrors McKay’s words to Rose on DALLAS: “When I lost Tommy, something in me died.”

    There are echoes of previous hostage situations in this one. Like Richard Avery in “Night” (KNOTS Season 3), Walker is a suicidally desperate man faced with losing what remains of his family. Like Luther Frick in “Winds of Vengeance” (DALLAS Season 1), he’s also a blue collar worker consumed with resentment for the millionaire he believes has taken his wife from him. When he orders Genele to sit on his knee, it recalls Frick forcing Sue Ellen to parade in her bathing suit. The dirty look Genele shoots Michael when he makes no effort to help her matches the angry glare Sue Ellen gave JR when she was made to pay for his sins. And Genele kissing Walker recalls Abby making out with one of the gunmen in “Moments of Truth” (KNOTS Season 2), or Leslie Carrington doing the same thing at the start of DYNASTY Season 8, only there’s no suggestion that Genele is taking one for the team the way Abby did: she is solely interested in saving her own skin.

    As Walker’s wife, Michael’s sister and Richard’s lover, Lauren is theoretically at the centre of this scenario, yet she's the least interesting character involved — just as Amanda was during the recent rape-themed episode of KNOTS.

    Just as Laura struck Abby in "Moments of Truth", the hostages also turn on each other in this situation. “I’ll pay you a hundred thousand cash to kill him,” Michael tells Walker, referring to Richard. “If you were half a man, you’d do it for nothing. He took your wife … pull the trigger!” But Walker is just as angry at Michael for destroying his career as he is at Richard for wrecking his marriage. Then Richard delivers a game-changing speech which ties several plot threads together in a way that suggests this season has been more carefully thought out than it might previously have seemed. He begins by comparing Walker’s grief to his own: “The day I got out of prison, I lost my wife in a freak accident … A couple of days later, they came and they took my boys away from me. I knew who was behind it [points at Michael] but I couldn’t prove it … I hit bottom, just like you have now … It is not possible to hate this man as much as I do. I followed him one night. I had a gun. I pointed it at his back for a good thirty seconds but I couldn’t pull the trigger … because I couldn’t do it to the memory of my wife. Now Walker, do you wanna do this to the memory of your children?” He gets through to Walker who agrees to call the whole thing off (at which point, Genele bolts for the door) — but then, just as it did when Julia and Angela finally reached a moment of understanding during the spring house siege (FC Season 3), fate intervenes and all hell breaks loose: Walker discovers the detonator on the explosive vest he is wearing has malfunctioned and he cannot turn it off. “I’m so sorry, Lauren … I really love you,” he says, backing away into the woods. Then Richard, Lauren and Michael watch in horror as what Tommy McKay hoped would happen to Bobby Ewing when he opened his attache case happens to Walker.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    11 Jan 90: KNOTS LANDING: Road Trip v. 12 Jan 90: DALLAS: Judgment Day v. 12 Jan 90: FALCON CREST: Madness Descending

    There’s a strong sense of finality about this week’s DALLAS. It really feels like it could be the last episode of the series. It opens with Cliff talking to Digger at his graveside. His words then continue over various shots of the investigative committee in Austin arguing amongst themselves. Montages are almost unheard of on DALLAS so straightaway we get the feeling this is not your average episode. “Digger, what the hell am I gonna do?” Cliff is asking his daddy. “I finally have the power to crush JR Ewing and get this — he might not even be guilty. But dammit, he has committed a crime. He knowingly bought that shoddy tanker just to fatten his own purse without giving a single thought to the environmental destruction it might cause … He acted immorally and unethically, but still, he didn’t do anything legally wrong … What would you do, Digger? Would you just say the hell with it — the only good Ewing is a dead Ewing?” This is a throwback to the Cliff Barnes of early Season 1, which was the last time the character seriously considered putting morality before revenge. It has as much connection to the Cliff of a few episodes ago who was solely motivated by childlike spite as it has to the Cliff who will descend into Shakespearean evil on New DALLAS. Yet all three incarnations are hugely compelling — a testament to the mercurial nature of both of the character and the actor playing him. Speaking of New DALLAS, the dilemma Cliff wrestles with throughout this episode — whether or not to convict JR of a crime he didn’t commit — acquires an added layer of irony when one remembers that this is exactly what the Ewings will end up doing to him, i.e., framing him for JR’s murder as a way of punishing him for his other sins.

    Throughout the ep, there is an acute feeling of nostalgia. As well as Cliff talking to his dead father, Miss Ellie delivers an angry speech to Jock while standing on the spot where he first struck oil: “This is where your dream started, but sometimes I wish it had never ever started at all!” “Cliff, you and I have been up and down together a lot of times over the years but this is the first time my fate rests in your hands,” Bobby tells his former brother-in-law during a pivotal scene towards the end of the episode. He also refers to Pam without mentioning her by name: “We have family ties that bind us, Cliff.” Even Carter McKay catches the bug. “When I first came to Dallas, you were a good friend to me,” he reminds Bobby. “If things had gone differently, we might have stayed friends.”

    KNOTS doesn’t delve into its past to the same degree, but Mack does mention Anne while talking to Tom Ryan and there’s a brief but poignant moment when Karen is sorting through Meg’s old clothes and says to Val, “I already have boxes of her things out in the garage - things that - Laura bought her.” This is followed by a silent beat where the two women look at each other before carrying on with their conversation — which, somewhat inevitably, is all about Val and her complicated life: “I never thought that I would be married three times. It’s just so not me. I mean, I’m divorced twice and I’m marrying a man no-one else likes!” One can only imagine Laura’s eye-rolling response to that.

    Meanwhile, in Hot Young Couple Corner: Just a few weeks ago, DALLAS’s James and Michelle were all over each other while KNOTS LANDING’s Tom and Paige weren’t even on speaking terms. Soap Land being the emotional rollercoaster that it is, their relationship statuses have now reversed. While Michelle and James blank each other in public, KNOTS begins with an oddly sexy pre-credit sequence that cuts between Paige and Tom each putting their clothes on while a classy slice of yacht rock, ‘Synesthesia’ by Peter Himmelman, plays over the top — a rare use of contemporary (as opposed to ‘60s) pop in Soap Land.

    Paige then arrives for dinner at Tom’s place. This is our first look at his bachelor pad. It’s sort of blokey but artsy, glamorous yet macho — and about three times the size of fellow cop Zorelli’s apartment on last season’s DYNASTY. Given that Tom is on the take and Zorelli wasn’t, this makes sense. (The espionage business evidently pays well — DALLAS’s Michelle Stevens also shows off her big new apartment this week, although how she’ll continue to afford it now she’s quit her role as JR’s spy in the house of Barnes is anyone’s guess.)

    Tom is also a more sophisticated chef than Zorelli. Instead of impressing Fallon by throwing spaghetti at the ceiling to see if it’s cooked, he has prepared Paige a menu of “wild greens and baby lettuce, duckling in a black bean sauce and, for dessert, creme brûlée.” Alas, dinner is interrupted when he receives an urgent phone call, from Paige’s father no less. “I’ve found Pomerantz,” Mack tells him. “I’ll meet you outside your apartment in ten minutes … We’re going to Canada.” In the first of umpteen lies Tom will deliver in this ep — not since Chip Roberts in “Man in the Middle” (KNOTS Season 4) has one man uttered so many untruths in a Soap Land hour — he tells Paige he has to meet his partner (“it’s work”), but that she should stay and eat without him. When said partner later drops by the apartment looking for Tom, Paige becomes suspicious. (Like Zorelli’s cop partner, Tom’s is non-Caucasian. Rudy was black, Ricardo is Hispanic.)

    En route to Canada, Mack makes it clear how highly he thinks of Tom: “Until you showed up, I didn’t think that anyone was good enough for my daughter … Today, being a cop is pretty damn noble.” (This is ironic, given that Tom has just been instructed by his Oakman boss to kill both Pomerantz and Mack.) JR may not feel as kindly disposed towards Michelle, but he nonetheless urges James to make up with “Little Miss Tight Skirt” because he needs her back in Austin spying on Cliff. “Get off your butt and start working on that girl,” he tells his son. But neither James nor Tom are in the mood for blindly following orders. As Bobby says elsewhere on this week’s DALLAS, “everything is down to your conscience” and so, while Tom goes to great lengths to avoid killing Mack and preventing his trigger happy sidekick Joe from doing the same, James makes it clear to JR he wants nothing more to do with his machinations. “I came to this city looking for a family and a home, and all I find is a combat zone fill of people trying to stick it to one another,” he complains. Whereas Tom succeeds in keeping Mack alive without arousing Oakman’s suspicions, James only succeeds in disappointing his daddy. “You don’t know what family is,” JR tells him. “All I see is a globe-trotting brat who’d skip out on his own flesh and blood the first time they put the wrong flavoured popsicle in the icebox.”

    When Mack and Tom meet Pomerantz, the supposedly dead bookkeeper for Oakman Industries, he turns out to be Fritz Heath, Colby Co’s controller from last season’s DYNASTY, living under an assumed name. Like Fritz, he is a morally compromised number-cruncher who knows where the skeletons are buried. Just as Fritz gave Sable the dirt on Alexis in return for her writing off his gambling debts, Pomerantz trades Mack evidence that the Oakman fat-cats were embezzling their own employees’ pension fund in return for his freedom. But whereas Fritz was all trembling hands and flop sweat, Pomerantz is all swagger and sarcasm. He couldn’t really give a toss about Mack, Tom, Oakman, the pension fund or any of it.

    It’s a significant week for Soap Land’s ruthless blonde gold-diggers, DALLAS’s Michelle and FALCON CREST’s Genele, and their relationships with their respective sugar daddies. Last week, Michelle moved out of Cliff’s condo and now Genele decides she too needs her own space — only she’s not going anywhere. “You’re going to have to move out,” she casually informs Frank just after they’ve had sex. “I am the breadwinner now and I need this place.” “… I’m not gonna move out of this house, not in a million years!” he insists. “I own you, Frank. Let’s not forget that,” she replies. Back on DALLAS, Michelle admits to Cliff that she’s been spying on him for JR, but manages to make herself look like the injured party: “It was a horrible mistake! He tricked me!” Her confession assists the indecisive Cliff in making up his mind. “You’ve helped me end a battle I’ve been having with my conscience,” he tells her. “It’s time to burn that man at the stake.”

    There are two offscreen deaths this week. While Miss Ellie and Clayton watch in dismay as a TV news reporter announces that “Jack Bouleris, the captain of the Faraway Hill, was found dead in his Galveston home earlier this afternoon — the victim of an apparent suicide, he left a signed note explaining that he could no longer live with what had happened in the Gulf”, Frank Agretti finally receives word of his nephew Chris from the new FALCON CREST sheriff: “The Las Vegas police department just found his body. Apparently, he was murdered.” To add insult to injury, Frank then returns home to find Genele and Michael Sharpe going at it hammer and tongs in his bed — a common enough occurrence in Soap Land, but no-one’s responded quite the way Michael does here: “Take a hike, old man — we’re busy!”

    Whereas Chris Agretti’s murder isn’t mentioned again, Carter McKay predicts that Captain Bouleris’s suicide will have life-changing consequences for the Ewings. “Bouleris’s death is going to cost you your company,” he tells Bobby, “but there is a way out … I’m willing to buy your company right now before the Barnes committee makes their decision, and for a fair price … If you sell out to me, you’re going to be able to start out all over again … with your dignity, with your future intact, not to mention those footsteps for your son to follow.” It looks like an offer Bobby can’t refuse (“Maybe I should sell Ewing Oil now, instead of letting the vultures pick it clean”), but at the eleventh hour he turns McKay down — and in so doing, returns us to the heart of the DALLAS mythology. “You know who founded this company, McKay?” he asks. “Sure, Jock Ewing was a legend,” Mack acknowledges. “And you know what he’d be doing if he was standing here right now?” Bobby continues. “He’d be escorting you out of this building headfirst through this very window, and I’m just embarrassed I didn’t do the same thing when you first brought me this stinkin’ deal!”

    The animosity between Frank and Genele accelerates throughout this week’s FC. “You picked a bad time to push me, Genele,” he warns her after finding her in bed with Michael. “I’m gonna take you down with me.” He then, oh so conveniently, finds a safety deposit key in her purse. Rick Hawkins’ and Tom Mallory’s similar keys led Paige and Miss Ellie to such conventional items as contracts, photographs and maps earlier in the season. But when Frank opens Genele’s box, he finds the skull of his dead wife, aka Genele’s sister. He presents it to the police, tells them where the rest of the body is buried and explains that Genele was the killer: “She shot her … Then she came to me. All I did was cover up.” But Genele has tricked him — she wanted him to find the key and she put the safety deposit box in his name. And whereas there is no evidence linking her to the crime, the sheriff now has “a three-page confession of Frank’s participation” in the murder.

    What a difference three episodes make. Before Christmas, Frank was a hero, having saved Sydney from her homicidal husband. Now, as far as the police are concerned, he is the homicidal husband. “I didn’t do it!” he cries as they drag him off to a jail cell. “Genele, tell them! Tell them the truth! GENELE!” And that’s the last we ever see of him — or any of the Agretti family for that matter. To be sure, the world of FC Season 9 is a cruel one. At least Genele has the decency to do a little cry while saying his name at the end of the ep.

    Like Frank, JR makes a legally binding confession this week. As he explains to Bobby, it is to be read to the press after Cliff’s verdict is announced: “In short, it absolves you and all your employees at Ewing Oil from any responsibility in the collision … I take full responsibility … I dragged you through hell with me, Bobby, and God knows it wasn’t the first time but I guarantee you, it’s gonna be the last. I’m prepared to go to jail for ten years … to take the blame off Daddy’s company. I haven’t been the kind of brother I’d like to have been — or son for that matter … He placed the future of Ewing Oil in my hands and I obviously failed him so I’m passing the torch on to you.” Not only the torch but Jock’s portrait as well: “This belongs on your wall, not mine.” Did I mention how final this episode feels?

    In the event, Bobby’s last-minute heartfelt appeal to Cliff has the desired effect and Cliff declares the tanker collision “an act of misadventure” for which no-one is to blame. Having been about to fall on his sword, JR wastes no time in snatching his confession out of Harve’s hands and tearing it up. The episode concludes with a sweetly touching look of acknowledgement between Cliff and Bobby across a crowded courtroom.

    Meanwhile, KNOTS ends on a great we-shoulda-seen-this-coming reveal: Greg Sumner is Oakman Industries!

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (2) DALLAS
    2 (3) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (1) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2019
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  13. kenneth

    kenneth Soap Chat Member

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    What a hypocrite that James is. Where were his precious ethics when he tried to drive Cally away?

    Frank should have called Genele's bluff and refused to move.
     
  14. Karin Schill

    Karin Schill Super Moderator Staff Member

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    That Dallas episode really is a great one. I like how Cliff did the right thing. How he let his moral compass win over his desire to get revenge. It shows how the character had grown on the show and also fits with the shoe box scene with Miss Ellie that we'd seen I think two years before.
     
  15. Jimmy Todd

    Jimmy Todd Soap Chat Member

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    James, I'm new to the forum, but I have to tell you I really enjoy your postings. Very clever and witty
     
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  16. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    Well, he didn't really try to drive her away. All he did was say it would be nice if she wasn't around. The only action he took towards Cally was to try to protect her from seeing JR with Diana.

    He kind of did, which is why she set him up.

    Thanks a lot, Jimmy! And welcome to the forum!
     
  17. kenneth

    kenneth Soap Chat Member

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    Well. Michelle's lies about sleeping with JR was every bit as much James' doing

    And you are right about the Frank thing, I should have written "Frank should have called Genele's bluff and refuse to move, and let the matter of his wife stay in the past."
     
  18. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    18 Jan 90: KNOTS LANDING: My First Born v. 19 Jan 90: DALLAS: Unchain My Heart v. 19 Jan 90: FALCON CREST: Four Women

    When Polly the receptionist interrupts Greg Sumner’s meeting to tell him he has a call from his daughter, he assumes it’s the one he gave away (“Meg?”). Instead, it’s the one he (and we) had forgotten all about. (“No, it’s me, Dad, Mary Frances.”)

    Greg isn’t the only KNOTS character with a daughter they haven’t seen in years. The last time either Gary or Val saw Lucy was at Jock’s will reading six years ago; Diana hasn’t been back to visit Karen since she left for New York five years ago. Neither of these separations seemed planned by the writers — they’re simply a result of the actresses in question proving surplus to requirements. All the same, there’s something organic, something “real” about the way each of these estrangements has developed over the years. While Val and Lucy have each made fleeting, wistful allusions to their lack of contact, Karen has admitted to Abby that her and Diana’s relationship has never fully recovered from their feud over Chip Roberts. They do keep in touch by phone — this very week, in fact, Karen mentions calling Diana regarding Eric’s whereabouts.

    There has been no suggestion of any such contact between Greg and Mary Frances since her last appearance in Season 5. Indeed, their scenes in this episode are all about their lack of contact. When Mary Frances talks to Mack and Karen, for instance, it becomes apparent that she had no knowledge of Greg’s marriage to Laura, much less that she now has a half-sister whom the Mackenzies are raising as their own. Meanwhile, Paige is equally taken aback to learn that her former lover has a grown daughter the same age as she is.

    So far this season, Greg has had a pretty easy time of it — quipping his way through both the tail end of the Murakame storyline and his “opposites attract” affair with Paula. But now, with Mary Frances reappearing and Mack’s discovery that Oakman Industries is a subsidiary of the Sumner Group, it feels like his chickens have come home to roost. These two plot strands converge when Mack confronts Greg in his office: “Oakman Industries is your company … You’re the one who’s been robbing these people blind. You’re the most corrupt man I’ve ever known. You’re slime.” By this point, Mary Frances has arrived and is standing the doorway, unnoticed by the two men. “Guess you haven’t changed much,” she says, looking at her father.

    Greg may not have changed, but Mary Frances is played by a new actress. During a flashback to the period when she was last on KNOTS, she retains her new face. Later on, however, when Greg flashes back to her childhood, she is played by a much younger actress and he by his real-life son, just as he has been in previous flashbacks. All of this works well. Slightly more complicated is the last scene of this week’s DALLAS in which Bobby looks across the bar of the Oil Baron's Club, sees a woman leaving and murmurs, “I swear I just saw Pam!” This recalls previous “Holy shit, it’s …” moments in Soap Land, when Gary Ewing and Richard Channing each thought they’d just clapped eyes on, respectively, the resurrected Ciji and Melissa. But whereas those lookalikes were identical to the originals, by virtue of being played by the same actress, the woman Bobby sees clearly isn’t Pam — at least not as he (and we) remember her. She does, however, bear a striking similarity to the post-reconstructive surgery Pam we glimpsed (but he didn’t) at the beginning of last season who, in turn, looked a bit like the pre-car crash Pam. So who has Bobby seen — the reconstructed Pam? A lookalike of the reconstructed Pam? A recast Pam whom Bobby instantly “recognises” as the woman he was married to in the same way Greg instantly “recognises” the recast Mary Frances as the daughter he abandoned? Or is she a lookalike of this hypothetical recast? Or simply a random woman with reddish-brown hair? Tune in next week, folks!

    On a more prosaic level, Mary Frances’s reappearance echoes Danny Sharpe’s arrival on FALCON CREST last month. Each is the young adult offspring of an emotionally withdrawn business tycoon; each shows up unannounced to confront their father over his neglect. “You were too busy to give a damn,” said Danny. “You don’t even know one thing about me,” says Mary Frances. Cornered yet contrite, these powerful men can offer only flimsy explanations. “I was too young to be your father,” said Michael. “Your mother didn’t think I was suitable father material,” says Greg. “I just didn’t think that you’d want to see me again,” Michael added. “Maybe he thought you didn’t want to see him either,” suggests Paula to Mary Frances.

    There are also differences. Whereas Danny has dropped out of college, dismissing it an even bigger waste of his time than adolescence, Mary Frances informs Greg that she has a degree in biology. Whereas Danny is now doing everything he can to emulate Michael, including making a pass at his girlfriend (Genele blows his mind by almost succumbing, but then changes her mind at the last minute, prompting Danny to deliver the funniest line of the week: “I’m nineteen years old," he protests, "do you know what this is gonna do to the rest of my day?!”), Mary Frances makes it clear that she despises Greg’s values. “How can you stand being so rich?” she asks him when he takes her to lunch. “I’ve worked for two years in Africa with families who have to watch their children die of hunger and I hate coming back to someone like you.” Over the past few seasons, Soap Land has paid periodic lip service to the plight of the homeless, but this is the first time it has shoved famine in the face of one of its billionaires. Greg is relatively unfazed. “I may not be the best father, but I’m not to blame for all the ills in the world,” he replies evenly. “You don’t have any idea, do you?” Mary Frances retorts. “Because you never see the end results of your actions. You are just completely isolated. Like a B-52 pilot dropping bombs, you don’t see what happens when those bombs fall.”

    It’s a striking analogy, and an accusation that has been levelled against Soap Land’s rich throughout its history. "You people up here in your ivory tower don't recognise the faces of the people you hurt,” Nancy Scotfield told Bobby Ewing three years ago on DALLAS. “He was too small, too insignificant — an insect for your father to crush without even realising it,” Zach Powers told Jason, referring to his own father, on THE COLBYS. Only last week, DALLAS opened with Cliff Barnes accusing JR of buying “that shoddy tanker just to fatten his own purse without giving a single thought to the environmental destruction it might cause.”

    The charge of turning a blind eye to the wider reality, of choosing to isolate oneself for the sake of a cushy life has also been made against Soap Land’s stay-at-home good guys: Miss Ellie sitting at the head of the big Ewing dinner table and watching, Krystle radiating the passive acceptance that made her the most dangerous Carrington of them all, Gary occupying himself with the role of gentleman rancher and thus allowing Abby to get up to all sorts in chicanery in his name. Mary Frances’s accusatory “How can you stand being so rich?” question could be asked of any of these characters; they are all complicit.

    In this context, it’s interesting that JR should choose this week to climb down from his ivory tower and slog it out in the actual oilfields. He, John Ross and Cally surprise Miss Ellie and Clayton in Pride, Texas where the Farlows have reopened Jock’s first drill site in the hopes of striking oil for the local townsfolk. This provides JR with an opportunity to romanticise his profession. “There’s more to it than just making money,” he tells John Ross. “Our heritage started here, son. Ewing Oil started here … Your granddaddy is the greatest oilman that ever lived and not just because he made us rich.” “What else is there?” John Ross asks in surprise. “Oil,” replies JR. “Getting it out of the ground to the refineries, making fuel to power our cars and warm our homes in the winter.” “I thought you did all that in an office.” Yeah … but the hard work and the important work is done right here … Whether you work in the office or in the fields, you’re gonna get dirty, but out here, the dirt’s a lot cleaner.” So while Greg circles above in his B-52 bomber, JR is down in the soil, getting his hands dirty in a cleaner way.

    Even though Greg looks at Mary Frances as adoringly as JR does John Ross, if not more so, he does not seek to sentimentalise his business practices for her in the same way. Even after making a televised statement acknowledging Oakman’s wrongdoings (“Sometimes what’s legal isn’t moral. I was unaware of the instability of the fund”) and pledging to make full restitution to those concerned, he makes it clear to his daughter that he did not do so out of the goodness of his heart. “It’s good business, it’s good public relations,” he explains. “Listen, I like you and it would be really neat if you liked me, but I can’t pretend to be somebody else just so we can be friends.” This honest approach seems to suit Mary Frances who suggests they “try another lunch.”

    JR, however, cannot deliver on what he has promised John Ross — to strike it big on Jock’s land. (“By the end of the week, we’ll be swimming in oil!” he vows.) “I”m sorry, Mr Ewing,” his twenty-something, college-educated oil expert who wears tortoiseshell-rimmed glasses tells him. “If I could dig a tunnel from here to Saudi Arabia I would. There just isn’t any oil.” John Ross looks up at his daddy with disappointed eyes. JR may have climbed down from his ivory tower and gotten his hands dirty the old-fashioned way, but he has failed. Moreover, he has failed in front of his new wife and young son — the son who reveres him the way he once did Jock.

    Like Greg as he addresses Channel 11’s viewers about the pension fund, Cliff breaks the fourth wall on DALLAS when he appears as a guest on AUSTIN TODAY, the Texas equivalent of OPEN MIKE. Turning to the camera, he announces, “There is a new soldier in the American trenches and his name is Cliff Barnes.” His appearance gains the attention of a public relations whizz called Stephanie Rodgers who dresses in Katherine Wentworth’s hand-me-downs and has been catapulted straight into DALLAS’s opening titles. She reckons Cliff has what it takes to make it as a political candidate. “You are the right age, religion and party,” she informs him. “I’m simply the woman that can take you where you want to go.”

    While Greg is instructing the Sumner Group’s substitute receptionist on the finer points of booking a restaurant table, Mary Frances waits in his office. Sitting behind his desk, she reaches out to turn on his computer. Suddenly, it appears to explode. Greg hears the noise and rushes back in. At first, his attention is caught by the window; he doesn’t seem to notice Mary Frances slumped at the desk, bleeding from a head wound. Then, as he turns to look down at his daughter, the camera shows us what he was looking at previously: a bullet hole through the window.

    In happier news, there are reconciliations for both James and Michelle on DALLAS and Lance and Pilar on FALCON CREST. One minute, both couples are squabbling; the next, they’re making wild crazy love — in a bath full of bubbles and aboard a luxury yacht respectively.

    This week’s FALCON CREST is pretty nuts. It opens with Genele suffering from the post-I-just-framed-my-lover-for-my-sister’s-murder blues, which mostly involves her rocking back and forth in her underwear then crawling across the floor to eat from a tin of cat food. Luckily, Lauren, who only last week was hospitalised with the post-I-just-saw-my-husband-blow-himself-up blues, is now sufficiently recovered to help nurse her back to health. There’s more unlikely female bonding on DALLAS as Michelle consoles big sister April following her break up with Bobby. Over a few drinks, both pairs of women reach the same conclusion: men are bit crap. “Men are all just big babies. When they don’t get what they want, they pout,” declares Genele, pouring herself and Lauren each a large glass of wine. “If no other man stepped into my life again, I’d die a happy woman,” April concludes as she and Michelle swig cocktails in a bar.

    Having failed to ruin the Ewings last week, Carter McKay likens the oil business to a chess game. “You managed a draw — good for you,” he tells Bobby philosophically. Meanwhile, Jovan the Yugoslavian psychic chess master, whom Pilar refers to as her “irrelevant one-night stand”, is still hanging around on FALCON CREST. Genele utilises his photographic memory to obtain some top secret information from Richard’s office so that Michael can swipe a $50,000,000 deal out from under him. Genele then repays Lauren’s friendship by making it look as if she (Lauren) is the one who has betrayed Richard and passed the info onto her brother. A Soap Land good girl caught in the middle of a feud between her brother and the man she loves, falsely accused of spying on one for the other — it’s a tale as old as the third ever episode of DALLAS (“Spy in the House”).

    The inevitable confrontation comes when Richard arrives home to find Lauren has surprised him with a candlelit dinner. However — proving that you just cannot second guess this season of FALCON CREST — instead of the expected fireworks, it leads to a quietly spoken character scene. “It’s not gonna work, Lauren,” Richard says gently. “I’ve got this thing in my head, this little seed of doubt because I don’t know who to trust. It’s my problem, one of my problems. I don’t know who to love, who to hate, who to kiss, who to hit … No matter how much I care for you, love you, no matter how much I want to believe you, I’ve got this little seed of doubt up here saying, ‘Whoa, Richard’ — because Michael Sharpe is your brother. And he’ll always be your brother.” “Is this about money … some deal that you are Michael are competing for?” Lauren asks him. “It’s not about money,” he explains, “it’s about something in me, it’s about trust. Can I trust you? … Tell me you wouldn’t betray me, even if your brother asked you. That’s what I want to know.” When she refuses to answer, telling him she won’t be interrogated, he asks her to leave. After she’s gone, he blows out the candle on the table. Only then does he lose control, sending a few plates flying. Meanwhile, who should be lurking outside in the dark, waiting for Lauren to drive away, but her new best friend Genele. She then comes to Richard’s door. “I wanna help you,” she tells him before saying the three little words he’d been so desperate to hear from Lauren: “Please, trust me.”

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (3) FALCON CREST
    3 (1) DALLAS
     
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  19. kenneth

    kenneth Soap Chat Member

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    Ah, yes, Mary Frances shot, a moment sadly spoiled for me before I saw Knots the first time.
     
  20. Karin Schill

    Karin Schill Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I believed she actually was Pam when I first watched that episode and I was so excited to see the next episode. Then when it turned out to be just a look-a-like I thought it was ridiculous. I was so disappointed as I had been waiting for Pam to return. :(
     

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