Discussion in 'Dallas - The Original Series' started by James from London, Sep 18, 2016.
That line is soooo cringey and meaningless, and from Alexis too !!
Well, they could also have characters light candles for those they killed: Blake for Ted Dinard, Alexis for Krystle's miscarriage and Dex whom she landed on, Fallon for Roger Grimes, Steven for Matthew . . .
13 Jun 12: DALLAS: Changing of the Guard v. 07 Jan 15: EMPIRE: Pilot v. 27 Sep 15: BLOOD AND OIL: Pilot v. 11 Oct 17: DYNASTY: I Hardly Recognised You
Three of the four soaps include a shock medical diagnosis in their opening episodes. For the DALLAS and EMPIRE patriarchs, the news is grave. Both are dying — Bobby Ewing of “a gastrointestinal stromal tumour, a fairly rare form of cancer”, Lucious Lyon of “ALS … a rare autoimmune disease.” Meanwhile, the young heroine of BLOOD AND OIL, Cody LeFever, learns she’s pregnant. This is good news — or would be if she and her husband Billy weren’t living in a tent after the half dozen washer-dryers they were transporting to North Dakota to embark on their new lives as laundromat tycoons hadn’t been written off following a vehicular collision with a dirty great oil tanker.
Will Bobby and Lucious prove as fortunate as Jason Colby, who began his own family saga with an equally terminal diagnosis — one that later turned out to be false? And will the old Soap Land curse which decrees that the first pregnancy of a new series must inevitably end in miscarriage (as it did for Pam Ewing, Krystle Carrington, Karen Fairgate and Emma Channing) apply to Cody? Only time will tell.
As it did with Jason, the news of their impending demises prompt Bobby and Lucious to start putting their houses in order. Lucious is all about expanding. “I am proud to announce that Empire Entertainment has filed to become a publicly-traded company on the New York Stock Exchange,” he declares. This leads to the question of which of his three sons should take over the empire when he’s gone. “In order for it to survive, I need one of you Negroes to man up and lead it,” he tells them. “I will start grooming someone soon and it can only be one of you.” “… We King Lear now?” his middle son Jamal asks. Meanwhile, Bobby Ewing, having lived through his own King Lear thanks to the terms of his father’s will in 1982, has no desire to visit the same kind of conflict on the next generation. “All those fights, JR, over Ewing Oil and Southfork,” he recalls wearily, “those fights changed me, changed me in a way I don’t like. I worry about Christopher and John Ross … I don’t want them to be like us.” So while Lucious expands, Bobby retracts. “The time has come to sell Southfork,” he announces.
The Bobby we see here is sad-eyed and battle-scarred (“I am sick to death of this family devouring itself over money!”). There’s none of the self-satisfaction or lame humour that crept into his personality during his relationship with April and then resurfaced during “JR Returns”. The moment where he tenderly kisses his catatonic brother on the forehead and quietly murmurs, “I hope you know — always loved ya” is very moving.
Over on DYNASTY, Blake Carrington also has a pivotal announcement to make. To this end, he summons his children home to Atlanta. Estranged son Steven speculates that Blake might be in the same boat as Bobby and Lucious. “Maybe he’s dying?” he wonders. Daughter Fallon, meanwhile, is convinced that Blake’s announcement, like Lucious’s, pertains to the future of the family company. “Today my father gives it to me,” she predicts confidently at the start of the episode.
Just as the opening instalments of the original DALLAS and DYNASTY both centred around a new marriage — the aftermath of Bobby and Pam’s elopement, the preparations for Blake and Krystle’s big day — wedding arrangements also provide a backdrop for the premiere episodes of twenty-first century DALLAS and DYNASTY.
In each case, the happy couple are introduced to the viewer in a roundabout way. In Christopher Ewing’s first scene on DALLAS, his business meeting at a country club is interrupted by a young woman who, speaking in French, asks for his help. He follows her into the ladies’ locker room where they proceed to make out. “I hope that’s your fiancee in there with you, Christopher,” calls out a society matron who has overheard them. While hastily tucking his shirt in, Christopher embarrassedly introduces the woman to his bride-to-be, Rebecca Sutter. “May I suggest that you save something for the honeymoon?” she tells them. In Blake Carrington’s first scene on DYNASTY, he exchanges tense words during a board meeting with an employee who suggests his company is “out of touch”. The employee, Miss Fuentes, is later summoned to his house to discuss the matter further. When Fallon and Steven arrive home, they walk into their father’s office to find him and Miss Fuentes having MELROSE PLACE-style sex on the desk. While hastily tucking his shirt in, Blake embarrassedly introduces his children to his bride-to-be. “This obviously isn’t how I intended you to meet … Fallon, Steven, this is Cristal, my fiancee.” Alas for Fallon, this is his big announcement. As she flounces off, Steven apologies to Cristal on her behalf: “Forgive my sister, she thought she was getting a promotion not a stepmother.”
Actually, none of these patriarchal pronouncements go down too well with the next generation. John Ross is no happier about the idea of his uncle selling Southfork than Fallon is about her father acquiring a new wife. Likewise on EMPIRE where Lucious’s eldest, and most calculating, son Andre is angry at having to compete with his younger brothers to become his father’s successor when he considers himself “the most qualified to run the company”.
In EMPIRE’s opening scene, Lucious watches as a singer in a recording booth renders a heartfelt ballad. It sounds fine to me, but Lucious wants more. “I need you to sing like you are going to die tomorrow, like this is the last song you will ever sing,” he insists, urging her to reach deep into her emotions. It takes her a couple more tries, but then she nails it. What sounded good before now becomes spine-tingling. The opening episode of New DALLAS is shot through with a similar feeling of urgency. Bobby, John Ross and Christopher in particular are bristling with emotion. One gets the sense of them fighting back tears of angry frustration in almost every scene.
Bobby’s decision to sell Southfork clashes headlong with John Ross’s discovery of oil on the property. This opens up a whole can of historical worms. Indeed, New DALLAS is layered with family history. Back story we were given at the start of the original series now sounds like ancient lore. “This ranch has been in my mama’s family a hundred-and-fifty years,” declares Bobby. “Miss Ellie threw Jock’s rig off the ranch,” Christopher reminds John Ross. “Eighty years ago, Christopher!” an exasperated John Ross yells back. In the old days, JR made a habit of quoting Jock (“Like my daddy always said …”); now it’s John Ross who quotes JR: “If there’s one thing my daddy taught me, it’s to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.” And there are the aims and ambitions that John Ross and Christopher have acquired in the twenty-odd years the series has been off the air. “All my life, I’ve been trying to put the Ewing name back on top,” says Christopher of his quest for alternate energy. “I’ve staked everything on this — all I’ve ever wanted,” says John Ross of his determination to drill on the ranch.
The stakes are indeed high. Everything on New DALLAS matters — and the tone is set by the gravity of Bobby’s prognosis, which he chooses not to reveal to his family. This creates a complicity between him and the viewer: we share his secret. The same applies to Lucious and his condition on EMPIRE. An immediate connection is also forged between Fallon Carrington and her audience. New DYNASTY begins with her delivering an introductory voiceover (the first in Soap Land history) in which she fallonsplains this brash new world to us.
While DALLAS takes its mood from Bobby, DYNASTY takes its attitude from Fallon — which means it’s witty, glib and defensive. Things matter on DYNASTY too, but you’re gonna have to wade through a barrage of sarcastic one-liners and ironically arched eyebrows to find them. “Cristal seems nice,” Steven tells his father. Blake frowns. “That wasn’t sarcasm — I really like her!” he insists.
When we first encountered Jason Colby in 1986, he bragged about how he was once thrown out of the White House. The clear implication was that here was a big shot and a maverick. We get a similar idea of Lucious Lyon’s importance in 2015 when his assistant informs him of an invitation from the President to attend a state dinner. He sighs before replying, “OK, tell Barack, yes, but this is the last one for the next few months.” A Soap Land patriarch on first name with the sitting president — not even Jason Colby could match that!
By the time DYNASTY arrives two years later, there’s a new president in town. “Like it or not, we live in an age of dynasties,” begins Fallon’s voiceover, followed by footage of three real-life examples: the Trumps, the Kardashians and the Murdochs. The wording here is very telling — for all of New DYNASTY’s flippancy, it actually opens on a note of apology: “like it or not …” While Lucious is on first name terms with Barack, Fallon can’t even bring herself to say his successor’s surname. “Look at everyone we know,” she says to Steven later in the episode, “the Kochs, the Murdochs, the president Dad voted for — all of those businesses were passed down to the next generation.” Again, Fallon’s choice of words is revealing. “The president Dad voted for” — as if she were handling Trump with a pair of verbal tongs to prevent herself being contaminated. Steven’s reply is also striking. “Worth noting — all of those people are evil.” OK, that’s the show’s most unambiguously sympathetic character casually referring to the incumbent American president as evil. So while the series, via Fallon, has twice identified its own dynasty as a fictional equivalent of Trump’s real one, it also clearly despises him.
Back in the ‘80s, DYNASTY crossed the moat to show us the romance and mystery of the rich and beautiful. Now, there is no moat. With the grotesque Trump in the White House and on Twitter and the ubiquitous Kardashians on television, being rich has never seemed less romantic or mysterious than it does in the late 2010s. In the absence of romance and mystery, the vibe of New DYNASTY is brittle and ironic.
“Strong intelligent women are the future of business in our country,” predicted Alexis Colby in ‘DYNASTY: The Reunion’. “As for the idea that the future is female,” continues New Fallon twenty-six years later, “Daddy likes to say that the future’s not here yet, but he’s wrong about that.” As if to prove this point, Elena Ramos (DALLAS) and Carla Briggs (BLOOD AND OIL) are the ones on their respective shows responsible for sniffing out a hitherto unsuspected reserve of oil. (Rather than Digger Barnes’s nose, they rely on “a seismic survey” and “new thermal mapping technology”.) It’s Elena who discovered what lies beneath Section 18 of Southfork. “If I’m right, you’re sitting on a couple of billion barrels of light sweet crude — the most sought-after crude oil in the world,” she informs Bobby. “This will make us richer than we ever imagined!” adds John Ross. “The Bakken reserves are at least ten times previous estimates, bigger than the Saudi Ghawar field,” Carla informs her husband, oil tycoon Hap. (I’ve no idea what a Saudi Ghawar field is, but it sounds impressive. Hap thinks so too.) Back on DYNASTY, it’s Fallon herself who learns that a company named Windbriar is ripe for take-over (“We’re talking over a billion in assets”).
Environmentalism has been a useful plot device in Soap Land ever since Cliff Barnes began using his position in the Office of Land Management to make life difficult for the Ewings in 1979. In the 2010s, however, ecology is more than a mere Maguffin. It has become an intrinsic part of the drama. On New DALLAS, Christopher’s determination to develop a viable source of alternate energy is central to both his conflict with his wildcatting cousin (“Oil is the past, alternatives are the future,” he tells John Ross earnestly) and his need to prove himself to his daddy. “All my life,” he tells Bobby, “I’ve been trying to put the Ewing name back on top … This may be hard for you to understand, but I always felt like I needed to earn my way into this family.”
DYNASTY’s Steven is singing from the same environmental hymn sheet as Christopher. At the start of the new series, we learn that he and Blake are estranged, not because of his sexuality this time, but because of his ecological beliefs. Blake “was literally planning to frack a Native burial ground” before Steven led a protest that cost his father “a lot of money, his respect within the community and, he’d say, his son.” Steven then quit the family company, vowing “never to return … unless we balanced our portfolio with fifty percent renewable energies.”
On EMPIRE, ecology is less of a factor than the rise of digital technology. During a press conference, Lucious explains how the music business provided him with a way out of the ghetto he was born into. “Music saved my life,” he says. However, “the internet has destroyed the musician’s ability to make money because our work is downloaded for free online, and now it’s impossible for the disenfranchised kids growing up in the projects to overcome poverty the way that I did.” Ironically, another impoverished black Soap Land character, a self-described “financial aid kid”, made his fortune developing the very technology Lucious sees as such a threat. DYNASTY’s Jeff Colby “developed a music software that would go on to earn him his first billion.”
Ecology and the internet are not the stumbling blocks to making a fast buck in C21st Soap Land. Just as Blake came a cropper when trying to extract gas from a Native burial ground, the land with the all-important oil reserves on BLOOD AND OIL belong to an Indian reservation. And while Miss Ellie may not have been a Native American, her wishes are just as sacred to the Ewings — at least to some of them. “I promised Mama there would be no drilling on Southfork,” insists Bobby. “You don’t think we’re long past caring about Miss Ellie’s precious little wishes?” is John Ross’s thrillingly blasphemous response. “Don’t you ever speak my mama’s name in my presence again,” Bobby snarls. “You have dishonoured her.” John Ross isn’t the only entitled rich kid with a mouth on him. On EMPIRE, Cookie Lyon, Lucious’ ex-wife and the mother of his kids, is freed from prison after seventeen years. “I ended up where I ended up for you and your brothers,” she tells her youngest son Hakeem. “You want a medal, bitch?” he asks in reply. She responds by beating him upside the head with a broom. On BLOOD AND OIL, Hap Briggs puts his foot down after his screw-up son Wick disgraces the family name once too often. He tells him the time has come for him to learn the oil business from the bottom up. “You think I'm just gonna toss you the keys to the kingdom and watch you drive it over the cliff? … You’re gonna work on a rig.” “So the bitch got to you, huh?” Wick replies, referring to stepmom Carla.
“I guess everyone wants to kill their old man sooner or later,” says a minor character on BLOOD AND OIL. Indeed, dysfunctional father/son relationships are everywhere you look in Soap Land. “You’re a mess … you’re a disappointment,” Lucious tells Hakeem on EMPIRE. “The next time I’m proud of you, Wick, it’ll be the first,” Hap tells his son on B&O. When Wick screws up yet again and tries to pin the blame on someone else, his father calls him “a lying son of a bitch” and knocks him down in the mud in front of the other men. Wick then takes a swing at his dad, but misses. “You are out, boy,” Hap tells him, “no cards, no clubs, no cash … You don’t deserve to be my son.” Things are comparatively cordial between Blake and Steven — at least for now. “It’s good to have you back,” Blake tells his son. “Thanks,” Steven replies warily. “Let’s see how long it takes for you to kick me out this time.”
“I’m out of the house, I’m out of the will, I’m cut off,” complains Wick to Jules, B&O’s sexy local businesswoman with a somewhat incongruous London accent. “He’s kicked me off the ranch … Bobby’s cut me off,” echoes John Ross, turning to his father in his hour of need. As recently as “JR Returns”, JR sincerely complimented Bobby on raising Christopher to be “a fine young man”. On New DALLAS, his first words upon awakening from his dormant state (almost like a vampire) are: “Bobby was always a fool, stubborn as a mule and particularly harebrained about that foundling, Christopher — he’s not even a Ewing.”
New JR is something of an enigma — he acts the doddery old man, the good ol’ boy, but what’s behind it? Is he out to help John Ross or exploit him? We can’t tell anymore. This is neither the glumly suicidal JR we left at the end of the original series or the fun cartoon one we found in the reunions. He’s become unknowable, inscrutable, for the first time since the 1970s.
In 1978, JR described homosexuality as “a growing phenomenon” that he couldn’t understand. Three years later, Blake Carrington suggested “faggotry” was a condition one could be treated for. Now, according to Jamal’s boyfriend on EMPIRE, “it’s 2015, nobody cares. There’s football players coming out.” Or maybe it’s not quite as simple as that.
There’s an extremely potent flashback on EMPIRE to when Jamal was just a little kid and the Lyon family were still poor. Lucious and Cookie are laughing and having fun with friends when Jamal totters into the room in his mom’s high heels and headscarf. Lucious sees red and yells, “Are you out of your damn mind, walking in here like a little bitch?!” He picks up the boy, carries him outside and dumps him in a trashcan. There’s something so primal, so real about all of it — the child’s innocence and then his fear, the father’s fury, the mother’s rage at what her husband has done to her boy. You can believe all three characters still carry the scars of that night years later, 2015 or no 2015.
“Your sexuality — that’s a choice, son,” Lucious informs Jamal calmly in the present. “A sissy can’t sell records to the black community — I get it,” Jamal shrugs. “You really need to stop calling yourself that,” Lucious tells him. “Well, that’s what I am, Dad,” he insists quietly. New Steven is unapologetically gay too, but his father doesn’t appear to view it as either a condition that needs treatment or as a business liability. If anything, it’s an advantage. “I didn’t realise you were whoring me out, Dad,” Steven says angrily after Blake sends him to meet a prospective client who comes onto him. (The word whore comes up a lot: “I ain’t a virgin but I ain’t a whore either,” Christopher Ewing tells a couple of would-be investors when they offer him a lousy percentage on a deal. “Those plots have been drilled harder than a Tulsa whore,” Hap Briggs insists when his wife first tries to convince him there’s oil under that there land.)
As chance would have it, Jamal’s boyfriend Michael on EMPIRE is also Steven’s pickup Sam on DYNASTY. Whereas Michael is supportive and domestic (the first time we see him, he’s cooking dinner), Sam is a thief who, immediately after having sex with Steven, goes through his pockets and steals his cash. When they later run into each other at Blake and Cristal’s wedding (Sam turns out to be Cristal’s nephew), Sam apologises, but Steven doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
As well as the same love interest, EMPIRE and DYNASTY’s gay sons share other characteristics. Each is the “good” child and both are shown playing the piano while their high-maintenance siblings rap over the top. While Jamal’s musical collaboration with Hakeem takes place in the present, we see home movie footage of Steven as a geeky teen diligently playing the original DYNASTY theme while Fallon upstages him by reciting Salt-N-Pepa’s ‘Doper than Dope’ in front of the camera. (At least it’s not ‘Henry the VIII, I Am’. And what is it with DYNASTY and home movies all of a sudden — first at the end of the reunion and now here?) While Hakeem and Fallon are openly hostile to the family outsider in their midst — long-lost mother Cookie and step-mother-to-be Cristal — Jamal and Steven offer them the hand of friendship. And as if to prove that it’s no longer the ‘80s (or even the ‘90s), Jamal and Steven are both are shown kissing a man — the same man, come to that. Steven and Sam even get a bed scene.
“Look at us — outside the gates, looking in,” broods John Ross on DALLAS, while literally outside the gates of Southfork, looking in. “You and I are black sheep, Elena. I’ll always be JR’s son to them, no matter what. And no matter how smart or educated you are, you are always gonna be the cook’s daughter.” On DYNASTY, Steven describes himself the same way: “I guess I’m the black sheep looking to come home to greener pastures.” “Are you the black sheep of your family too?” he asks Sam hopefully towards the end of the ep. “No, she is,” Sam replies, meaning Cristal.
1980s Soap Land was an overwhelmingly caucasian place and, despite coming out in ’97 and ’98 respectively, ‘Back to the Cul-de-Sac’ and ‘War of the Ewings’ could only muster one significant non-white supporting player between them. Twenty-first-century Soap Land is another story. The very first face we see in any of the new soaps is DALLAS’s Elena Ramos whom, we later learn, grew up on Southfork with John Ross and Christopher — just another of those invisible Hispanics who failed to register on the original series. Meanwhile on DYNASTY, Krystle, now Cristal, is also Hispanic, as is her niece Sammy Jo, now her nephew Samuel Josiah. Michael the chauffeur is now black. And the Colbys, the only family richer than the Carringtons in the original and very white DYNASTY-verse, are now extremely rich and extremely black. As is pretty much the entire cast of EMPIRE.
It feels like there’s a direct line from Tilly and Sam, the first black faces in Soap Land (DALLAS ’78), to Dominique and Brady, the first black couple (DYNASTY ’85), to the Williamses, the first black family (KNOTS ’87) to Lucious and Cookie helming the first black soap in 2015. And it’s only taken the best part of forty years.
Nor is it like those strangely colour-blind ‘80s where no-one seemed to notice Blake Carrington’s half-sister was black. Race is openly acknowledged in all sorts of interesting ways. On EMPIRE, Andre is married to Rhonda, the only significant non-black cast member — a fact that does not go unnoticed by his mother Cookie. “Why you marry that white girl?” she asks. “We met at school,” he explains. “She’s brilliant.” “Pretty white girls always are, even when they ain’t,” Cookie replies drily. (Rhonda is at least smart enough to suggest that Andre divide and conquer in order to gain his father’s empire — in other words, pit Jamal and Hakeem against one another in the hopes that they destroy each other, leaving him “the last man standing.”) Meanwhile, Fallon makes a point of referring to Blake as “an old white guy” who “made his fortune doing deals with old white guys at private clubs.” Jeff’s suggestion that Fallon befriended his sister at school “because you thought hanging with the financial aid kids made you seem edgy” helps explain her Salt-N-Pepa home movie routine. But it’s Jeff’s sister Monique who finally acknowledges the thirty-nine-year-old elephant in the Soap Land room when she describes the Carrington wedding as “beautiful — very white, but …”
At times, preconceptions about race and class overlap. There’s a very interesting exchange at the Carrington wedding where Jeff Colby sees Michael with Fallon and asks him to fetch him a drink. “He’s not a waiter,” Fallon replies. “Oh man, I’m sorry,” says Jeff. There’s an awkward pause as he waits to be introduced. “This is Michael Culhane,” Fallon explains, before reluctantly adding, “he’s the chauffeur.” “Oh, well, perfect … he can give us a ride,” smiles Jeff. And then Michael has to watch as the (black) billionaire walks off with the (white) girl he’s sleeping with. And things get seriously complicated when stereotypes about race, class and sexuality collide. Cookie’s reaction upon meeting Jamal’s boyfriend Michael: “Oh honey, you didn’t tell me you was dating a little Mexican! Look at her, she’s adorable! … You need to get La Cucaracha to clean up around here a bit.”
EMPIRE is full of references to black cultural figures. As well as the shout out to Obama, there are photos on display of Lucious with Tina Turner and Oprah Winfrey. He makes a gag that conflates Don King with Martin Luther King. Cookie contemptuously refers to Lucious’ current squeeze as “little Halle Berry” (not to be confused with “actual Halle Berry” from KNOTS Season 13) and claims James Brown was her uncle.
While Cookie is back in her children’s lives after seventeen years, the absences of two other Soap Land mothers, Pam and Alexis, are shrouded in mystery. Boldly, it’s Elena, the character we can’t recall from the original DALLAS, who remembers Pam in a little anecdote about how she used to turn a blind eye when Elena would make coffee for Christopher when they were kids. “I miss her,” says Elena sadly. “So do I,” replies Christopher. “Ever since the day she took off,” says Steven to Fallon regarding their absentee mother, “you’ve done whatever you can to fill the hole she left.”
The underlings in the new series are more outspoken than their ‘80s counterparts. Whereas former Southfork staff Raoul and Teresa never ventured an opinion on anything, Carmen Ramos, Elena’s mother and the Ewings’ cook, makes no secret of her disapproval of Christopher’s choice of bride. “She’ll never make mole like Elena,” she sighs. “You and my daughter made such a beautiful couple.” On EMPIRE, Lucious’s plus-sized assistant Becky is a blast. Jamal is curious to know how she gained entry to a gay bathhouse. “I told them I was pre-op and they didn’t wanna check,” she explains — which isn’t exactly the kind of thing Peggy used to say to Mack. DYNASTY majordomo (Joseph) Anders is as hostile to Cristal as his predecessor Joseph (Anders) was to Krystle — but possibly a tad more threatening. “I know everything,” he tells her darkly towards the end of the episode.
Soap Land weddings being what they are, there are romantic complications. It emerges that Christopher is still hung up on Elena, his former fiancee, who is now dating his cousin/rival John Ross. Just before his wedding to Rebecca, he and Elena both realise they were duped, Katherine Wentworth-style, into ending their engagement. (“I never sent you any email!”) Meanwhile, Cristal is still hung up on her married ex, Matthew Blaisdel, who works for Blake.
Convinced Bobby is selling Southfork to finance Christopher’s alternative energy venture, John Ross looks for ways to discredit his cousin. When he fails to persuade Elena to spy on him, he hires someone to break onto the ranch and look for dirt. An intruder in the house prompts the new mistress of Southfork, Bobby’s wife Ann, to get the gun out of the hall closet as Miss Ellie once famously ordered Ray to. “Next time, Mrs Ewing, shoot him,” a cop advises after the intruder escapes. “Oh I will,” she replies. And she will.
Meanwhile, Fallon instructs Michael keep tabs on Cristal. He gets a photo of an intimate-looking moment between her and Matthew (a farewell kiss) and Fallon sends it to Blake in the hopes of busting up the newlyweds-to-be. Having likewise got the dirt he needs on Christopher, John Ross waits until the morning of the wedding to blackmail the groom. “Your team in China just caused an earthquake!” he crows. “What do you think your dad would say if he knew your little experiment had caused the deaths of thousands of people? … Unless you convince your father to take Southfork off the market, I will expose you for the fraud that you are, Christopher!”
John Ross and Fallon’s schemes both backfire. Christopher and Cristal elect to come clean with Bobby and Blake, thereby strengthening the respective bonds between them. Christopher’s conviction that he “can make Ewing Alternative Energies the next Exxon” (that’s the same Exxon Fallon claims tried to poach her on a recent trip to Dallas) strengthens Bobby’s determination to sell the ranch to a land conservancy, and he seals the deal with a handshake right under John Ross’s nose. Meanwhile, not only does Blake decide to bring his wedding to Cristal forward, but he offers her the job of COO of Carrington Atlantic. “That was supposed to be mine!” cries Fallon, ripping Cristal’s wedding dress (while she’s actually wearing it). Cristal gets the last word. “Call me, Mom,” she smiles — a variation on James Beaumont’s “Do I call you Mom?” to Cally and Michelle Stevens’ “Is it all right if I call you Daddy?” to JR during Old DALLAS’s last two seasons.
Early on in this week’s DALLAS, John Ross volunteers Elena as Rebecca’s bridesmaid in front of the entire family. Elena squirms, but can’t get out of it, any more than Bobby could when JR publicly appointed him his best man at the height of their battle for Ewing Oil back in ’82. This is our first example of John Ross behaving like a rascal, just like his daddy, just for the hell of it. Conversely on DYNASTY, when Steven volunteers himself as Blake’s best man at the last minute, as the bride is on her way down the aisle, it’s one of the few genuinely sincere moments of the episode (and all the more touching for it).
(Spoiler alert: Neither of this week’s brides — Rebecca Sutter Ewing and Cristal Fuentes Carrington — is really who she says is, but we won’t know that for ages so forget I said anything.)
New DYNASTY’s ambivalence towards the lifestyle it portrays can be seen in its depiction of Blake and Cristal’s wedding. To begin with, the show lingers on the elaborate preparations for the big day, but then these are rejected in favour of a comparatively simple ceremony: a path of rose petals, bouquets of wildflowers, Cristal in trousers and, as per her request, “Bowie on Spotify”. The end result is neither as grand as either of the original Blake and Krystle weddings nor quite as stripped-down-simple as their Season 9 ceremony.
The use of original recordings of recognisable pop songs was something of a novelty during ‘80s Soap Land. FALCON CREST and KNOTS LANDING each went through a ‘60s Motown phase, DALLAS dabbled no more than twice during its entire run and DYNASTY, not at all. By the 2010s, the “pop montage” has become a TV cliche. To accompany its big wedding, DALLAS goes slo-mo conventional and gives us an Adele album track, ‘Turning Tables’. Given that TV dramas that didn’t feature an Adele song were likely in the minority during 2012 this could easily seem a generic choice, but it complements the lingering close-ups of longing and confusion between Christopher and Elena very effectively. It also sets us up for characters turning the tables on each other during the closing moments of the ep. (I’m talking about that fantastic reveal where we learn that Marta Del Sol, who is supposedly in business with Bobby but is really in business with JR, is really really in business with John Ross.)
The semi-informal nature of DYNASTY’s wedding, meanwhile, allows Cristal the opportunity to press shuffle on her David Bowie playlist. Happily for her, it lands on ‘Modern Love’ — Bowie at his most ‘80s (all the better to evoke the era of the original series) and weddingy (“Get me to the church on time!”) — rather than, say, ‘V2-Schneider’ from his more austere Berlin period. Unsurprisingly, specially written R&B and hip-hop tracks run throughout EMPIRE and it all sounds great.
Towards the end of both BLOOD AND OIL and DYNASTY, there is a freak accident that might be the result of an ancient superstition. Early on in B&O, Wick Briggs angered the local Native American townsfolk by shooting dead a white moose that had wandered onto his father’s property. “Whoever kills a spirit animal is cursed!” one of them says. Fast forward to the last scene of the ep where Wick is attempting to rip off his father by siphoning oil from one of his tankers. Hap and Billy catch him in the act but don’t recognise him because he’s wearing a mask. Wick then pulls a gun on his father. Billy makes a grab for him and the three men end up in scrapping in a puddle of oil. The lights fuse, there’s an explosion and a single cinder (digitally rendered) casually floats down toward the puddle of oil. Hap’s eyes widen in horror when the cinder lands beside him. Suddenly, everything is engulfed in flames.
Meanwhile on DYNASTY, Matthew is inspecting the Windbriar land on Blake’s behalf when a truck explodes, injuring Matthew and sending a wind turbine thingy out of control. One of the propellor whatnots breaks off and (digital rendered) heads straight for Matthew. While he is lying injured, Cristal has her wedding guests perform a ritual known as “the kissing bells” for the newly married couple. “The ringing is supposed to scare away the Devil,” Cristal explains to her groom, “and then once the Devil is gone-" “We live happily ever after,” Blake concludes. By the time the ringing is over, Matthew is dead.
There’s more death towards the end of EMPIRE, but it’s far more premeditated. Lucious’s driver Bunky, whom he’s known since they were kids, turns nasty when Lucious refuses to pay any more of his gambling debts. He visits Lucious at his home, pulls out a gun and threatens to expose his shady past. “Them four dealers you killed back in the day? … I’ll light a match and I will burn this bitch down to the ground,” he tells him. The subsequent scene where Lucious meets Bunky down by the docks and shoots him in the face marks the first time a Soap Land patriarch has unequivocally committed murder — although Claudia Blaisdel has an inkling Blake might have had something to do with what has happened to Matthew. “YOU KILLED MY HUSBAND!” she screams at him in front of his wedding guests.
“Blood may be thicker than water, but oil is thicker than both,” quips JR in the penultimate scene of this week’s DALLAS, thereby paving the way for BLOOD AND OIL — which kind of feels like the underdog soap, partly because it’s about underdogs. There’s something vaguely KNOTSian about the premise: an “ordinary” young couple (Billy and Cody LeFever, high school sweethearts no less) embarking on a new life in a strange town, hoping to strike it rich. There’s an echo of THE YELLOW ROSE as well in its harsh, gritty landscape (a chilly North Dakota) and the episode’s interest in depicting the lives of the riggers and day workers as well as the bigwigs that employ them. How long that’ll last is hard to say — it took three or four seasons for anyone to strike it rich in KNOTS; Billy and Cody are millionaires by the end of the first ep.
“The fun is just beginning,” John Ross promises Marta at the end of DALLAS. “There’ll be plenty of time for this after the wedding,” Cristal assures Fallon following their brief tussle before the nuptials. Oh goody!
And the Top 4 are …
1 (1) DALLAS
2 (-) EMPIRE
3 (-) BLOOD AND OIL
4 (2) DYNASTY
13 Jun 12: DALLAS: Hedging Your Bets v. 14 Jan 15: EMPIRE: The Outspoken King v. 04 Oct 15: BLOOD AND OIL: The Ripple Effect v. 18 Oct 17: DYNASTY: Spit It Out
Two major characters were shown committing serious crimes towards the end of last week’s episodes. EMPIRE’s Lucious Lyon shot his lifelong friend Bunky in the face while BLOOD AND OIL’s Wick Briggs made off with a tanker full of oil belonging to his own father (inadvertently causing a fire in the process). Meanwhile, a third incident — Matthew Blaisdel’s death on DYNASTY — may or may not have been deliberate, and in this week’s ep the finger of suspicion is variously pointed at Blake, Fallon, Steven and Jeff Colby.
As the news of their crimes spread, Lucious and Wick both do a first-class job of feigning innocence. When Bunky’s disfigured corpse is fished out of a river, Lucious’s tears appear as genuine as the rest of his family’s. “I’m gonna find the person that did this to my friend and when I do, I’m gonna —” he begins. Likewise, Wick looks genuinely appalled when he sees the burns sustained by his father in the fire he caused. “I say we string the bastards up,” he says of the perpetrators.
There’s no rest for Soap Land’s newlyweds. Because of Bobby’s decision to sell Southfork and the police enquiry into Matthew’s death, the honeymoons of Christopher and Rebecca on DALLAS and Blake and Cristal on DYNASTY, to Tahiti and French Polynesia respectively, are postponed indefinitely.
Father/son relationships in C21st Soap Land are proving as complicated as they were back in the '80s. On DALLAS, Christopher takes Bobby’s decision to sell the ranch personally. “You don’t trust me to take over,” he tells him. Bobby denies this to his face, but not very convincingly. “He left here … like I’d personally kicked him in the gut,” he later admits to Ann. Meanwhile, even as John Ross and JR collude to steal Southfork from under Bobby’s nose, cracks in their alliance begin to show. “Dad, I’ve made it this far without your advice. Don’t start now,” John Ross warns his daddy. “Son, never pass up a good chance to shut up,” snaps JR in reply. Over on EMPIRE, Lucious gets his eldest and youngest sons to do his bidding by promising each of them total control of the family company, while threatening to disown his middle son if he publicly announces that he’s gay. “I’m sorry, Dad, the world does not revolve around you,” Jamal tells him. “Your world does,” Lucious points out. “I pay for everything — your clothes, that $12,000-a-month loft you live in, the credit card bills … Come out and you’re on your own.” The injuries sustained by Hap Briggs in the rig fire on BLOOD AND OIL bring his estranged son Wick to his side. “I’m really sorry for all the messed up stuff between you and I,” Wick tells him. “In spite of it all, you’ll always be my boy,” he replies. When his wife suggests that Wick might have been his anonymous attacker, Hap refuses to consider the idea. “No son of mine would put a gun in my face”, he insists. But later on, he starts to develop suspicions of his own.
Matters become further entangled towards the end of this week’s B&O when we discover that Wick’s new girlfriend Jules is an ex-flame of Hap’s. Moreover, it’s a flame may not have entirely burnt itself out: when Hap visits Jules to tell her to stay away from his son, they have as much trouble keeping their hands off each other as another secret ex-couple, John Ross and Marta Del Sol, do on DALLAS. John Ross, however, manfully resists his desires because of his involvement with Elena — an involvement that becomes strained when Elena accuses him of sending the phoney email that split her and Christopher up a couple of years earlier. In spite of his vehement denials, she tells him she wants to keep their relationship on a strictly professional basis, which suddenly leaves him free to have wild and crazy hotel room sex with Marta after all.
While Marta and John Ross are busy slamming each other against walls and tying each other up (not to mention the mickey she slips him or the secret camera she uses to record their assignation), there’s a slightly more perfunctory sex scene in EMPIRE where Andre’s wife Rhonda, her hair in curlers, ties a bib around her neck before going down on him. This is the second depiction of oral sex in C21st Soap Land after Michael the chauffeur gave Fallon a good seeing to in the back of a limo during the DYNASTY premiere. This week, Fallon returns the favour — during Matthew Blaisdel’s funeral. Rhonda’s act of fellatio is an attempt to persuade Andre to keep an important appointment: “For most people, cancelling a doctor’s appointment is just lazy, but for someone who’s bipolar it’s life-threatening … You need to recalibrate your meds again.” Andre’s manic behaviour later in the episode suggests her efforts were in vain. Hearing her ordinarily contained husband referring to himself in the third person (“Andre got it going on, baby!”) prompts her to adopt another approach. “I swear to God I will have you committed if you do not take those damn pills,” she snarls, grabbing him by the nuts.
As well as learning of Andre’s condition on EMPIRE, we also find out the source of Claudia Blaisdel’s mental health problems on DYNASTY. Whereas in the original series, the implication was that Claudia’s condition stemmed from her sensitive, even poetic nature — Steven comparing her to Emily Dickinson amongst others — here the explanation is far less romantic as New Steven explains to the police that New Claudia’s “impaired memory, paranoia, delusions” are due to a car accident she suffered the previous year (with the suggestion that the accusations she has made about Blake killing her husband should be discounted as the ravings of a madwoman).
On EMPIRE, Cookie, trailed by her galumphing new assistant Porsha, walks in on Jamal having sex with Michael. “Come on, boy, get up, we got work to do,” she urges, sitting on the edge of the bed without batting an eye. “Shut up, Dora,” she adds when Michael objects to her presence. Michael is also seen in a state of undress in his DYNASTY guise of Sam where he climbs out of the Carrington pool and invites Steven to join him in the hot tub. Steven declines, suggesting that they “press pause" on their relationship. ("We’re practically family.”) In a reversal of the KNOTS LANDING flashback to 1968, where Young Anne tricked Young Mack into believing she was swimming naked before emerging from the pool in a strapless swimsuit, we don’t realise until Steven’s line at the end of their conversation (“If you wanna borrow a swimsuit next time, you can ask me”) that Sam has been standing in front of him fully naked the whole time.
Back on B&O, when Wick and his accomplice Garry try to offload their tanker full of stolen oil onto a potential buyer, they are told that it is too hot a property for anyone to touch: “There’s oil that makes you a profit and there’s oil that puts you in a corner cell at Leavenworth.” On DYNASTY, Blake Carrington is likewise concerned with concealing evidence. “We need to erase any traces of Matthew beyond his employment at Carrington Atlantic,” he explains to his family — specifically referring to Matthew’s affair with Cristal. To this end, Fallon enlists the aid of Jeff Colby’s tech wizardry to destroy any evidence of the photo she emailed her father of Matthew and Cristal together. There is a reverse situation on DALLAS where John Ross hires a detective to trace the identity of the person who sent Elena the fake email from Christopher's account. (Rather stylishly, John Ross’s secret meeting with the private eye takes place on a funfair ride.)
DYNASTY refuses to let Cristal, and by extension the audience, grieve for Matthew’s death. Every time she tries, she is undermined by brutal wisecracks from Fallon (“I know it’s a little gauche in the wake of a man’s death, but I feel like one little decapitation shouldn’t blow the whole deal”), cold-hearted pragmatism from Blake (“If I don’t put my emotions aside, this family will bleed millions”), flashbulbs from the press and stylistic flourishes from the show itself — slow-motion sequences, flashbacks, jump cuts — that leave no time for her (or us) to process a genuine emotion. Each time Cristal comes close to any kind of catharsis, she is denied it. Moments after learning of her lover’s death, she is obliged, in her role as Carrington Atlantic’s Head of PR, to make a statement to the press about Matthew. This proves too much and she collapses — a collapse which is immediately turned into online gossip for Fallon to gloat over. Later, she returns to her old apartment to look through keepsakes of her time with Matthew — only to find Anders standing over her. “Anything that needs to be removed, I can take them off your hands,” he tells her coldly. During Matthew’s funeral, she steals away from the ceremony to weep in solitude — but Fallon won’t allow her even this moment of privacy. “You do know you’re not the star of this Lifetime movie right? The role belongs to his actual wife,” she tells her before removing Cristal’s dark glasses from her face and tossing them into an open grave. Cristal retaliates by pushing Fallon into the grave after them and then walking away with a slight smirk on her face. It’s a cool, funny moment, and you get the sense Cristal is starting to get the hang of what it means to be a Carrington in New DYNASTY — it’s not about having feelings, it’s about going for the cool, funny moment. Even Steven, the show’s Mr Nice Guy and Cristal’s one ally in her new home, can’t resist a snappy one-liner when the news of Matthew’s death first breaks. “Cristal was screwing the dead guy,” Fallon informs him. “I assume Claudia doesn’t know? Surely she would have led with that,” he quips in front of his new step-mom.
The idea of a corrupt, obsessively self-interested family who won’t rest until they’ve made over their vulnerable new addition in their own image sounds deliciously dark, and New DYNASTY is kind of fascinating to watch, but it lacks the vital component to make us connect emotionally with the characters. This is because the show continues to mirror Fallon’s attitude — most specifically, her humour. This is isn’t the same kind of bad sitcom humour that infected some of the ‘80s soaps, particularly FALCON CREST. That humour was broad, smug and lazy. Fallon’s (and therefore DYNASTY’s) humour is smart, brittle and almost neurotic in its determination to keep everyone (the audience included) at an emotional distance.
Soap Land's weddings may be over, but a couple of the guests have got left behind. In both cases, it’s a relative of the bride. While Rebecca Ewing’s brother Tommy gets a job at Southfork, Cristal Carrington’s nephew Sam moves into the Carrington manor and proceeds to eat everything in sight.
Only one episode into their respective marriages, it becomes apparent that neither Rebecca nor Cristal are who they claim to be. A cryptic conversation between Rebecca and Tommy makes them sound like a modern-day version of Jill Bennett and Peter Hollister. “I just wonder sometimes what the point of all of this is,” says Rebecca to her brother. “You know what the point is,” he replies. “We spent the last two years of our lives working on this job. There’s a ton of money on the line here … Keep your eye on the ball, sis, and don’t get too comfortable being Mrs Ewing.” Meanwhile, Anders wonders how Cristal will sign the guestbook at Matthew’s wake. “So many choices,” he muses. “Miss Flores? Mrs Carrington? Or did he know you best as Miss Celia Machado?” And just like Cristal isn’t really Cristal, JR discovers in the closing moments of this week’s DALLAS that Marta Del Sol isn’t really Marta Del Sol. Realising John Ross has double-crossed him, he grimly acknowledges that “he’s a chip off the old block.”
Marta, Cristal and Rebecca aren’t the only ones who appear to be hiding something. The final scene of EMPIRE reveals that the mighty Cookie Lyon isn’t quite who she seems to be either. “We had a deal. I did my part,” she tells an Agent Carter of the FBI. “I know we had a deal,” the agent concedes, “but you know what, Cookie? … We need you to testify in front of a grand jury.” Cookie looks worried: “If I testify I’m dead. You gonna get me killed.” Likewise on BLOOD AND OIL, Billy LeFever is warned that there is more to his brand new benefactor and business partner Hap Briggs than he realises: “You’re in bed with the Devil now.”
On last week’s DALLAS, Ann Ewing found a bottle of tablets prescribed to her husband Bobby, looked them up on the internet and concluded that he must be dying. On this week’s EMPIRE, Lucious’s assistant Becky finds a bottle of tablets prescribed to her boss, looks them up on the internet and concludes that he must be dying. When Ann confronts Bobby with what she has learnt, he modifies the grim diagnosis he was originally given. “There is a seventy percent remission rate … I’m gonna fight this with everything I’ve got,” he assures her. When Becky does the same to Lucious, he doesn’t pull any punches. “There’s no cure. I’m dying,” he tells her flatly.
The seemingly insignificant character who knows too much and threatens to become a liability is a familiar soap figure, and he crops up a few times this week. On DALLAS, Bobby’s attorney Mitch Lobell is the man who helped John Ross commence drilling on Southfork behind his uncle’s back. In return, he was paid $500,000. Now he wants more. “Son, if you don’t figure out how to get me $2,000,000 by the Cattleman’s Ball, not only am I gonna tell Bobby you set him up, I’m gonna tell JR you’re planning on screwing him over,” he threatens. On BLOOD AND OIL, Garry was Wick’s accomplice in the robbery that led to the fire at the end of last week’s ep. Upon learning that Hap has offered a reward for information about those responsible, Garry panics and frames a third party, shooting him dead for good measure. On DYNASTY, Matthew Blaisdel’s best buddy Willy gets drunk at Matthew’s wake and starts shooting his mouth off about Blake’s whitewashing of the truth: “You really are a great salesman, Carrington. You told Claudia what she wanted to hear and she fell for it!”
In contrast to Blake’s policy of “Carringtons unite” at the expense of everyone else (“The lengths he’ll go to and the lies he’ll tell to protect his own family — it’s like the rest of the world doesn’t matter,” observes Cristal), Lucious and Cookie actively try to pit two of their sons against each other on EMPIRE. “Your daddy’s got Hakeem performing at Leviticus on Saturday. I’m gonna get you up on that stage too,” Cookie tells Jamal. “He don’t want me there,” Jamal points out. “I don’t care what he wants,” she replies. “You are gonna show everybody you are just as talented as your brother … We gotta figure out a way to steal focus from Hakeem.”
Over on the other two soaps, quasi-sibling rivalries are brewing. On DALLAS, Christopher appeals to his cousin to bury the hatchet (“You and I, we’ve been on opposite tracks since we were born and for what? We’re family”), only for John Ross to throw it back in his face. “We ain’t family, bro,” he replies. “I’m a Ewing, deep in my DNA. Everything I am, everything I’d die for has the name Ewing on it.” On BLOOD AND OIL, there’s a brief but telling exchange between Wick and Billy, after the former realises the latter is his father’s new partner. “Well, I guess my dad will work with anyone these days, huh?” Wick says. “Yeah, anyone except for you,” counters Billy.
Save for the saintly black couple Billy and Cody befriended, the cast lineup of BLOOD & OIL’s pilot episode was a largely caucasian one. This week, however, we are introduced to the black sheriff, Tip Harrison, who heads the investigation into the rig fire and oil theft. (B&O is clearly keen on monosyllabic non-name names — Tip, Hap, Wick.) We also meet Hap's’ Hispanic daughter Lacey. Like Fallon at the start of last week’s DYNASTY, Lacey makes her entrance by private jet. Just as Fallon was, she is met by her father’s hunky driver, AJ. Unlike Michael Culhane, AJ stops short of immediately going down on her in the back of a limo, but by the end of the episode, they’re kissing passionately in the hallway as Lacey’s stepmother watches disapprovingly from the shadows. Like Michael, AJ lives in a back house on his employer’s property which could prove handy for sexy assignations. One extra twist is revealed in the final moments of the episode: AJ is spying on Hap! But for who?
Like Sheriff Tip on B&O, Sheriff Derrick on DALLAS is black. Both appear to be honest cops whereas Stansfield, the black police chief investigating Matthew’s death on DYNASTY, is in so deep with the Carringtons he’s referred to as "Blake’s pocket cop". Meanwhile, Monique Colby once again has some pointed observations to make about race as she queries her brother Jeff’s interest in her best friend: “Wherever this obsession with Fallon comes from, it’s a little cliche — recent billionaire chasing after a white chick?” But the really complicated racial stuff is still on EMPIRE. “Pay that Pakistani,” Cookie tells Lucious as she steps out of a cab without a backward glance.
After watching the opening episodes of EMPIRE and New DYNASTY, I came up with a nifty little theory about the two series based on their attitudes to their respective American President: Lucious Lyon being on first name terms with Barack Obama reflected EMPIRE’s confidence and swagger; DYNASTY making a blatant comparison between the Carringtons and the Trumps while simultaneously describing the President as evil without being able to mention him by name indicated a certain confusion about its own identity. So far, so neat and tidy. But then comes the scene in this week’s EMPIRE where a drunken Hakeem is caught on video urinating in the middle of a restaurant while declaring, “All you white people that voted for the first black president to make you feel good about not being racist — the joke’s on y’all cos Barack Obama ain’t nothing but a sellout!” Like Cristal’s collapse on New DYNASTY, Hakeem’s outburst swiftly goes viral. (“What’s viral?” asks Cookie — as well she might after seventeen years behind bars.) Lucious is then shown grovelling to the White House over the phone (“Mr President, I am so, so sorry … We all love you … Come on Barack, you know you don’t have to use that kind of language with me!”) before the line goes dead. Ironically, the scandal works in his son's favour: “Everyone wants to see Hakeem perform since that video went up. This bad boy thing has launched him,” reports Anika. So, rather than suggesting a similar kind of existential crisis to DYNASTY’s, EMPIRE’s irreverence towards Obama, as well as other black icons (“Who’s Diana Ross?” asks rising hip-hop star Kidd Fo-Fo) only reinforces its confidence about what it is and what it wants to say. While EMPIRE has all the trappings of a trashy soap, a character as flawed as Luscious Lyon can still refer to a real-life seventeen-year-old killed by the police eight months before this episode aired (“The Empire artists are telling the next generation that even though they live in a world where Trayvon Martin can get shot down like a dog …”) without it feeling crass or exploitative.
Back on DALLAS, Elena asks Sue Ellen to use her influence with the bank regarding a loan she needs to finance an oil exploration venture. Instead, Sue Ellen offers to finance the deal herself. “I’d be thrilled to work with such a smart and independent young woman,” she gushes before inviting Elena to be her date to the Cattleman’s Ball — which constitutes some kind of Soap Land first. This conversation might be the closest DALLAS has ever come to passing the Bedchel Test, i.e., a scene between two women where they discuss something other than a man. However, their conversation does include some endearingly clunky exposition about Elena’s father (“I was so impressed with the way you handled your daddy’s tragic passing on that rig”) as well as Sue Ellen suggesting a different alternate universe scenario for herself to the one she played out in “Conundrum”. “If I hadn’t met JR, I’d like to think that I could have been like you,” she tells her new best friend.
Most of the other female encounters in Soap Land are less mutually supportive. Every time Cookie encounters Lucious’ younger girlfriend Anika (aka “Little Halle Berry”) on EMPIRE, there’s an antagonism between them that really crackles. When Cookie shows up at Lucious’s house uninvited, Anika makes a point of “accidentally” walking in on them in her undies. Later, when Anika sniggers behind her back in a crowded elevator, Cookie loses control and has to be restrained from attacking her. Over on BLOOD AND OIL, there’s clearly no love lost between Carla Briggs and her stepdaughter Lacey. She has yet to push her into a grave the way Cristal does Fallon, but one senses she wouldn’t be entirely averse to the idea.
It’s party time on all four soaps. On DALLAS, the Ewings attend the Cattleman’s Ball. Unlike the Oil Baron’s Balls of the ‘80s, the dress code is more Stetsons and jeans than bowties and shoulder pads, but it still has all the trappings of a movie premiere — red carpets, paparazzi, TV cameras. Just as glam is the opening of Lucious’ new club, Leviticus, on EMPIRE. While the Cattleman’s Ball doubles as JR’s coming out party (it’s evidently the first time he’s been seen outside of his nursing home for quite some time, possibly years) Cookie’s new assistant Porsha suggests a different kind of coming out for the Leviticus party: “Jamal should come out as a big queen the same day Hakeem is playing and that’d steal his whole thunder for sure!” Cookie goes for the idea, but in the event, Hakeem and Jamal turn the tables on their competing parents by performing at the club together, presenting the kind of united front of which Blake Carrington would be proud. The big party on DYNASTY is Matthew’s wake, hosted by Blake at the manor. “He turned this whole thing into a PR event to control the narrative,” says Cristal. In fact, the only gathering of the week that doesn’t feel like a publicity stunt is a family dinner at the Briggs’ house — the definition of family extended to include all the major players.
The ghosts of Bobby and Blake’s first wives continue to hover over the proceedings. “It’s no secret I didn’t approve of the first Mrs Bobby Ewing,” recalls JR, before giving the third Mrs Bobby Ewing his seal of approval (“You’re his soulmate, Ann. I’m happy to have you as my sister-in-law”). Meanwhile, Fallon's entrance at Matthew’s wake in a revealing red dress prompts one guest to remark that “Fallon really is her mother’s daughter, isn’t she?”
Two of the oldest soap conventions — the mute servant and one character storming unannounced into another’s office — are verbally acknowledged on EMPIRE. After Cookie shows up at Lucious’s swanky house (the house she helped pay for by spending seventeen years in prison), she demands to be fed. Chowing down on some chicken, she whispers to a maid who appears to be a silent extra, “You ain’t got no bacon?” The maid does not respond. “Oh, you don’t talk?” Cookie asks her. “I do talk,” the maid replies haughtily before continuing to ignore her. In a later scene, Lucious tells Cookie to “stop barging in my office”. She responds by taking off a shoe and hurling at his retreating back. It misses, prompting the memorable line, “Porsha, get my damn shoe!” There’s an equivalent moment on DYNASTY when Fallon’s relentless bitchiness finally prompts Blake to hurl a glass in her direction. “Aw, Daddy, you missed,” she responds without batting an eyelid.
Alongside JR, Bobby and Sue Ellen on DALLAS, the most recognisable face in this new breed of soaps is another icon of ‘80s television, Sonny Crockett from MIAMI VICE, who plays Hap Briggs on BLOOD AND OIL. MIAMI VICE’s position as a time-slot rival to DALLAS led to possibly the most enjoyable meta-reference in all of ‘80s Soap Land — the Mandy Winger screen test in which she played the long-suffering girlfriend of a Crockett lookalike (played by Roger Grimes/Tommy Mackay). This week, Hap gives a sly nod to the same era when he surveys the damage caused by the rig fire and concludes, “I survived the ‘80s. I can survive this.”
Authenticity — specifically, how much of it one should sacrifice to get ahead — is a theme on three of this week’s soaps. While Hakeem accuses Obama of selling out on EMPIRE, Cookie makes a parallel observation about Lucious. “Sounds like you grew a vagina,” she tells him after listening to him being coached by media consultants prior to a TV interview. “I liked you better when you was a thug.” “Cookie, I got to go on white TV and try and talk in a way that don’t frighten these folks to death,” he explains. Being white already, Sue Ellen Ewing can afford to take a bolder stance. In fact, she makes it a condition of her running for governor. “No-one has more skeletons in her closet than I do,” she tells a group of potential backers in a scene deleted from this episode of DALLAS. “I want the people of Texas to know everything there is to know about me — that I was a drunk, an adulterer, almost homeless.”
Conversely on DYNASTY, Cristal only proves herself a Carrington when she betrays her own integrity (and her dead lover) in public. ”Matthew was in love with me,” she tells Willy in earshot of a reporter at the wake, “but as I’m sure he was too proud to tell you, it was completely one-sided.” “How can you say that about him at his own funeral?” Willy asks her. “The truth’s not hard to say. You just spit it out and kick sand over it,” she replies coolly. This last line is an echo of what Matthew told her during a flashback earlier in this same ep: “Lying is easy. You just spit it out and kick sand over it.” And that line was, of course. an echo of what the first Matthew told the first Krystle in the very first episode of Original DYNASTY when he was trying to pretend he was no longer in love with her: “The truth isn’t hard to say. You just spit it out and kick sand over it.” So by the time Cristal says it, the line has become a betrayal of a homage of a line that was a lie in the first place. “You are one of them,” Willy realises.
And the Top 4 are …
1 (1) DALLAS
2 (3) BLOOD AND OIL
3 (2) EMPIRE
4 (4) DYNASTY
20 Jun 12: DALLAS: The Price You Pay v. 21 Jan 15: EMPIRE: The Devil Quotes Scripture v. 11 Oct 15: BLOOD AND OIL: Hustle and Flow v. 25 Oct 17: DYNASTY: Guilt Is for Insecure People
Three episodes in, we find each of the soaps digging further into their backstories, the better to illuminate and explain their characters’ actions in the present. And once again, the overriding theme is father/son relationships.
A good example of both is the terrific opening scene of DALLAS. JR is treating himself and John Ross to an old-fashioned shave in some kind of exclusive gentleman’s club. While a towel covers John Ross’s face, JR recounts a childhood anecdote about his own father that paints a much darker picture of Jock as a parent than we’ve ever heard before: “When I was eight years old, I asked my daddy for a horse and he said when I came up with the money, he’d sell me one. So all that summer, I worked in the oilfields, digging trenches and such, twelve hours a day, and true to his word, Daddy sold me a horse. I learned quick enough that horse was blind. Now I loved my daddy and I respected my daddy, but most importantly, I feared my daddy.” By the time JR has finished his story, he has taken the blade from John Ross’s barber and is holding it to his son’s throat. John Ross opens his eyes. “I went down to Mexico and talked to Mr Del Sol about the Southfork deal,” JR continues. “I know Marta is not Marta. Were you going to cut your daddy out of two billion barrels worth of oil? Hmm?”
Meanwhile, EMPIRE’s Lucious Lyon imparts his own cheerful childhood tale to a tearful little boy at Bunky’s funeral. “My daddy died when I was little, just like you,” he tells him, “but you know, men don’t cry.” He hands the kid a hundred dollar bill. “You wanna be a rapper when you grow up? Here, I believe in you so here’s an advance on your first album. When you’re ready, come see me.”
Lucious expands on his “men don’t cry” message during a blistering confrontation with his own son Jamal. “I tried to tell you since you were a baby that it’s not about black eyes or bloody noses in this world, it’s life and death and if you don’t toughen up, these streets will eat your ass alive!” “Since I was a baby, you beat me,” Jamal replies. “You told me that was to toughen me up. That was a lie. You beat me because you hate me and you always will because I’m always gonna be who I am.” “I don’t hate you,” Lucious counters. “I don’t know you. I didn’t bring any women into this world and to see my son become somebody’s bitch?! I don’t understand you!” Soap Land’s only previous example of a homophobic father was Blake on Old DYNASTY. Whereas his disparaging remarks about his son’s “lifestyle” were delivered with a kind of icy distaste, Lucious’s in this scene are impassioned, confused and strangely moving.
After unnerving John Ross with the razor blade, JR abruptly changes tack. “I was never much of a father during your formative years,” he admits, “and I’d like to make up for that. I’d like to teach you all the things my daddy taught me about big oil. Can you find in your heart to give me that chance? I won’t let you down this time.” Hap Briggs makes a similar overture to his son Wick on BLOOD AND OIL. “You must have asked me a thousand times, ‘Daddy, how d’you get that oil out of the ground?’” he remembers. “I was so damn busy back then, I never answered you … Well, now it really is time for me to teach you. I want you as my partner.” “Pop, I want that … more than anything in the world,” Wick replies. John Ross accepts JR’s offer too and they embrace. Over his father’s shoulder, he permits himself a shy smile — clearly, this is the relationship with his daddy he’s always craved.
This is all very nice, but can either father really be trusted? Just as we’re not sure if JR really has forgiven John Ross for trying to double-cross him, we’re also uncertain whether or not Hap has figured out Wick is the one who attacked him at gunpoint and is now setting him up for a fall. For now, Hap continues to pull on his son’s heartstrings as he explains why he named a particular oilfield Koala #1. “You were born premature,” he recalls. “Koala was the incubator they had you in and I bought this parcel of land the day you came home. It was always meant to be your first well.” Over on New DYNASTY, Blake also recalls the birth of one of his children. “I was on the golf course,” he tells Fallon, “when Anders called to tell me that your mother’s waters broke … Your being born was one of the greatest days of my life.” As he speaks, he gestures to a framed photo of himself as a young man, looking remarkably like Jake Hansen from MELROSE PLACE, cradling his newborn daughter.
JR, meanwhile, finds a snapshot of Miss Ellie and Bobby when she was a young mother and he was a little boy, i.e., long before Barbara Bel Geddes and Patrick Duffy had been cast in their roles. This gives us a glimpse of a period of Ewing history we’ve never seen before. “She doted on that boy something fierce,” JR remembers “I spent a lot of my life hating how much she loved him — wasted years.”
Now he knows Carlos Del Sol is not really involved in the Southfork deal, JR tells John Ross he wishes to meet “the real money men”. This leads to the introduction of Venezuelan businessman Vicente Cano in a great scene where it becomes clear that JR has lost none of his ability to negotiate a deal. “I wanna make sure we’re on the same page on this deal,” he tells Vicente. “After you buy Southfork from my brother, you’ll convey that property to me and my son for 14% of all profits received from the oil recovered from our wells.” At this, John Ross and Fake Marta exchange nervous looks. “The deal was 15%,” Vicente points out. “That was when I thought I was dealing with Carlos Del Sol — he’s a trusted old friend,” explains JR calmly. “If that oil should stop flowing to us for any reason … that would be unacceptable,” warns Vicente ominously. “The best way to understand a man is to talk to his friends and his enemies — my friends are in the statehouse. My enemies are gonna be harder to find,” parries JR. Vicente laughs and agrees to the 14%.
Over on EMPIRE, Lucious demonstrates a more direct method of negotiation after he is approached by Mel, the manager of one of the singers on his label. “I’m-a hold you to all those promises you ain’t kept when you signed her or you gonna need some more protection,” Mel snarls. Lucious casually invites him to continue their discussion in his trailer. On his way inside, Lucious picks up a metal bar. We remain outside with Lucious’ security guards and overhear various thumps and groans coming from within. After a moment, Lucious emerges. “Mel had a little accident,” he informs one of the guards. “You might wanna clean that up.”
But it is BLOOD AND OIL’s Hap Briggs who proves the week’s most devious businessman. The more the show’s ambitious young hero Billy LeFever hears about Hap and Wick’s new Koala venture, the more he wants a piece of the action. When Hap informs him that “the minimum buy-in on that piece is $500,000,” Billy offers to trade him his entire stake in the McCutching field (the deal he originally made with Hap). Hap accepts the offer — but then Koala turns out to be a bust. The whole deal was a trap by Hap to sucker Billy into handing over his fortune. “You used me, Pop!” Wick realises. “Damn right I used you,” admits Hap. “I needed to get McCutching back. That’s the prize — a trillion dollars worth of oil … That’s the one we do together.”
Along with all the double-dealing, there’s plenty of espionage this week. On DALLAS, Tommy Sutter slips his sister Rebecca a little gizmo to plug into Christopher’s laptop so they can keep tabs on his gas hydrate research. However, Rebecca is suffering from the Spy Who Loved Me syndrome, i.e., she’s fallen in love with her own husband, and is reluctant to betray him any more than she already has. Meanwhile, her past crimes are catching up with her as John Ross’s detective informs him that it was she who sent the fake email that split up Christopher and Elena two years earlier.
Meanwhile on EMPIRE, another private eye, hired by Anika, provides Lucious with photos of Cookie’s clandestine meeting at the end of last week’s episode. “I would bet my bottom dollar that those two are Feds,” the detective declares. Lucious duly confronts his ex-wife (“Did you snitch on me so you could get out of jail early?!”) which is bad news for Cookie’s FBI contact, Agent Carter: “Lucious can’t know we’re FBI. We’ve spent five years building this case … We won’t have it compromised by your nosy ex-husband.”
Back on BLOOD AND OIL, Hap’s driver AJ has been spying on his boss for a no-nonsense bespectacled middle-aged woman who, like Cookie’s Agent Carter, looks a bit like Edna in The Incredibles. Is AJ’s Edna an FBI agent too? We don’t know yet, but she is not impressed by the snaps he took of his boss at the end of last week’s episode. “Those photos prove nothing,” she snaps at him during their secret meeting. “There’s a lot of people that you’re letting down. Get those soil samples and get what we need!”
Blake’s chauffeur Michael is also being pumped for “front-seat intel” about his boss, this time by Fallon, who wants something she can use against her father now that he has taken out a cease-and-desist order to prevent her from trading under the Carrington name. Jealous about her close working relationship with Jeff Colby, Michael refuses. He does, however, divulge to Steven that Blake has had Matthew Blaisdel’s phone lifted from police evidence. This is of particular relevance to Steven as he was arrested for Matthew’s murder at the end of last week’s ep. When he asks his father why he has the phone (“The only reason that makes any sense is because there’s something on it that incriminates you!”), Blake gets defensive: “How dare you question me? … I am protecting you and this is the thanks I get!” “There it is,” snaps back Steven. “There’s that Carrington temper again. You think your name means that you can give everything with one fist and then smash it with the other? That’s why I don’t answer your calls, that’s why I left. And as soon as I’m exonerated, I’m gone for good!”
Following some minor surgery, Bobby’s terminal condition ain’t so terminal anymore. However, he’s not entirely out of the woods — his doctor warns that the medication he’s on to prevent a relapse could have serious side effects. “Hair loss isn’t one of them, right?” Bobby joshes — but Ann is concerned, which suggests maybe we should be too. In fact, prescription medication is everywhere this week. Fake Marta is shown nervously popping a couple of pills on DALLAS while on EMPIRE, Cookie catches Lucious struggling to take the lid off his medication, which he pretends is merely for hypertension. And on BLOOD AND OIL, Lacey makes an intriguing jibe at her stepmother: “Careful Carla, I don’t think wine mixes well with anti-depressants.”
Bobby’s remission leads to a change of heart about selling Southfork — bad news for JR and John Ross who have just made their deal with the scary Venezuelans. So they cook up a scheme that entails JR moving back to the ranch and getting his hands on Miss Ellie’s diary. He then passes this on to John Ross, who threatens to use its contents, including the fact that his grandmother “spent some time in a mental institution” after Jock’s death (presumably the Takapa resort had a psychiatric wing), to contest her will unless Bobby go ahead with the sale of the ranch. “There is nothing in Mama’s journal that will help overturn her will,” argues Bobby. “Maybe it won’t,” John Ross concedes, “but it’ll get me my day in court and if you push me, I will use that day to tell all of Dallas every private thought and secret shame Miss Ellie ever had … If I don’t hear from you in twenty-four hours, I’m filing!”
JR feigns outrage at John Ross’s ultimatum and they stage a showdown in front of Bobby and Ann (although the shock on John Ross’s face when JR lands him a right hook looks real enough). There’s more play-acting on EMPIRE when Agent Carter pretends to be Cookie’s probation officer in order to put Lucious off the scent of whatever it is they’re really up to.
A few more tantalising tidbits are revealed about Blake’s and Bobby’s first wives this week. “Secrets are what killed things between me and Alexis,” Blake tells Cristal. “Pam just disappeared one day,” Elena tells Rebecca. We also learn that Blake had the Carrington name trademarked after Alexis “tried to use it to start a line of lip-plumping kits," that she encouraged Steven to learn the piano as a child, was given to reading “crazy feminist books” and once presented Blake with some cufflinks “for Guy Fawkes”. As Guy Fawkes Night is a specifically British celebration (albeit one more associated with bonfires than gift-giving), this seems to suggest that the writers intended Alexis to be English at this point.
Back on DALLAS, Elena goes into further detail about Christopher’s upbringing. “Both of his real parents died before he ever got to meet them … It was just him and Bobby. When Christopher found out he was adopted, he started to feel he had to earn being a Ewing — Ewings don’t fail.” This serves to explain Christopher’s strong reaction when he walks in on Bobby signing Southfork away, John Ross’s blackmail having had the desired effect. Bobby insists that he’s doing “what needed to be done, what’s best for everybody.” “That’s bullshit!” Christopher argues. “You’re selling because you don’t think I can beat John Ross … Stop protecting me like I’m still a little boy. I’m a grown man!” This prompts Bobby to tell him about his cancer. Devastated by the news and angry that his father kept it from him for so long (“I didn’t wanna burden you,” Bobby explains. “Telling me you have cancer isn’t being a burden, it’s letting me be a part of your life. Stop shutting me out!” Christopher yells), he breaks down in Elena’s arms. Their inevitable kiss is caught on camera phone by Tommy who sends the resultant snaps to Rebecca, in the hopes that they will turn her against Christopher once and for all. However, in the same way that the compromising photo of Cristal with Matthew Fallon sent Blake ultimately brought him and Cristal closer together, the same thing happens with Christopher and Rebecca. (Three weeks in, and it’s hard to imagine how Soap Land ever got along without camera phones. But, as Michael Culhane points out to Fallon this week, “There was definitely no texting in the ‘80s.”)
“I’m a grown man!” Christopher tells his father on DALLAS. “I’m a man!” Jamal tells his father on EMPIRE. “My obedience is no longer for sale.” “Nice speech, kid,” Lucious replies cynically, “especially hearing it in the apartment that I pay for.” Jamal responds by moving out.
From Zsa Zsa Gabor to Henry Kissinger, from Mary Lou Retton to the Mayor of Texas, ‘80s Soap Land was no stranger to the occasional, almost invariably awkward, appearance by a real-life celebrity “as themselves”. This week, EMPIRE ups the ante by having the Empress of Soul, Gladys Knight, perform at Bunky’s funeral as … Gladys Knight. The show has her do what she does best, i.e., sing up a storm, with an impassioned “Hallelujah for you, Bunky!” her only non-musical line.
To use Cristal’s terminology from last week, Lucious “controls the narrative” at Bunky’s funeral just as Blake did at Matthew’s wake — even going so far as to deliver a eulogy for the man he murdered. But then an eyewitness to the shooting steps forward. Fortunately for Lucious, he’s a paranoid schizophrenic with a drink problem. But despite his Irish accent and silly hat, something about him moves the investigating officer (in a way that nothing about the disturbed Claudia moves anyone on DYNASTY) into paying his quasi-religious ramblings about Daniel and the lion’s den some heed. “Is this the lion?” he asks him, showing him a picture of Lucious. Of course, Lucious Lyon!
When Lucious learns of a witness, he asks his son Andre to find out more details from “your contact down at City Hall.” Andre elicits this information while bending said contact, Deputy Mayor Alvarez, over her desk and taking her from behind. When he gets home, his wife Rhonda is curious to hear about the meeting. “It must have taken a lot of persuading for you to get her to dig up police privileged information,” she remarks. “I would love to know how you did that.” “You know the deputy mayor, babe,” he replies smoothly. “She likes it like this.” He then proceeds to do to his wife what he has just done to the deputy mayor. “Call me her name,” moans Rhonda, like nobody in Soap Land has since Lucy Ewing in that hayloft thirty-seven years earlier. He obliges, even though “Deputy Mayor Alvarez” is more of a mouthful for him than “Pam” was for Ray Krebbs.
There’s further role play on EMPIRE as it emerges that Andre’s little brother Hakeem is two-timing his new girlfriend with an older woman. “Tell me, who am I to you?” she asks as they make love on a pool table. “You’re my mama,” he replies. “Tell me again,” she insists. Adding to the craziness, Mama is played by none another than Streatham’s finest, Naomi Campbell. (Combine this with Gladys Knight and a two-scene appearance by Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr, and Old DYNASTY at its most guest starriest pales by comparison.)
The kinkiness continues on BLOOD AND OIL where Jules Jackman achieves a Soap Land first by sleeping with a father and a son in the same episode. (I know we got pretty used to mothers and daughters bedding the same man back in ‘80s Soap Land, but when you switch the genders around, it somehow feels even more grubbily salacious.)
And there’s even more sexy role play over on DYNASTY as Fallon straddles Michael while dressed as ‘Like a Virgin’-era Madonna. “You like it when I pretend to be someone else, don’t you?” she observes.
The ‘80s just happens to be the theme for DYNASTY’s charity ball this week. Curiously, whereas Cristal’s and Fallon’s gowns pay homage to the sparkle and taffeta of the original series, the ball’s other period references belong more to the New Pop era of early ‘80s Britain — Sam’s pork pie hat recalls the ska revival heralded by 2-Tone and Madness, while the soundtrack is provided by UK acts like Billy Idol, the Human League and New Order. (In addition, Steven is shown playing Soft Cell’s version of ‘Tainted Love’ on the piano.) Anders, conversely, is dressed as a TV icon from later in the decade — no, not Jim Robinson from NEIGHBOURS, but Sonny Crockett from MIAMI VICE, aka Hap Briggs in BLOOD AND OIL. And while we’re on the subject, might Hap’s son’s habit of turning up the collar and pushing up the sleeves of his jacket also be a homage to Don Johnson’s former self?
Speaking of the ‘80s, there are some notable references to DALLAS’s onscreen history this week. As well as the Pam stuff, JR assures Ann that “bullets don’t seem to have much of an effect on me, darlin’," after she mistakes him for an intruder and pulls a gun on him. And while New DYNASTY has already made a habit of repurposing dialogue from the original series, JR quotes the 1980/81 season of DALLAS directly when he says to John Ross, “I’m going to tell you the truest thing my daddy ever told me — ‘nobody gives you power, real power is something you take.'”
There’s no sign of Sue Ellen Ewing or Monique Colby this week. As if to compensate, a few long lost relatives emerge out of the woodwork. Most exciting is Cliff Barnes — noticeably older, smaller and richer than the Cliff we last saw in “JR Returns”. The familiar goofiness and bluster have been replaced by an aura of power and mystery. Whereas he would once have been provoked by JR’s introductory greeting (“Time has not been kind to that face, but I do recall the smell of brimstone and crazy”), it now washes over him. Seems he’s been away from Dallas for some years, and no-one knows why he’s back or what he wants. Bobby looks pleased to see him, but JR and Christopher are each unnerved by his return. “You think it’s coincidental that he shows up in Dallas just when Southfork is for sale? If that land is in play, he’ll destroy everything in his path to get it!” JR warns. When Cliff offers to invest in his gas hydrate project, Christopher is openly hostile: “This isn’t about supporting me, is it, Uncle Cliff? It’s about screwing my family.” Cliff replies with an ominous warning about the Ewings: “You are never gonna be one of them, Christopher, and don’t let them destroy you like they did Pam.” Just like JR, this once familiar character has become dark and unknowable, and it’s absolutely fascinating.
We are also introduced to Cookie’s and Cristal’s sisters, Carol and Iris respectively. Carol attends Bunky’s funeral while Iris appears in a Venezuelan flashback of Cristal’s. As we know from Caress Morelle on Old DYNASTY and Vicente Cano on New DALLAS, Venezuela is a dangerous place. We see Cristal in a squalid room twelve years earlier, frantically bundling wads of cash into a bag, then arranging with Iris for them to both flee the country. Then, for some unknown reason, she is forced to leave her sister behind. In the present day, Sam (Iris’s son) tells Cristal that his mother is in trouble and needs money fast. Cristal wants to help, but worries that a large cash transaction will alert Blake to the fact that “my entire past is one big lie.” She’s not alone there. “He’s in love with a lie,” says Tommy reminds Rebecca on DALLAS, referring to her husband Christopher.
In the first episode of BLOOD AND OIL, Hap Briggs battled with a masked intruder, not realising it was his own son. In the first episode of New DALLAS, Ann Ewing chased a trespasser away from Southfork, not realising he had been hired by her husband’s nephew. On this week’s DYNASTY, Blake is attacked by a burglar in his own bedroom, not realising that the break-in was arranged by his wife’s nephew. “My husband got hurt!” Cristal tells Sam when she finds out. “He got in the way — and a little cut is nothing compared to what could have happened to my mom,” Sam replies. “My friends will sell the stuff. She’ll have the cash in the morning.” During the attack, Steven comes to Blake’s rescue, leading to a cessation of hostilities and a nice heart-to-heart between father and son.
Blake admits to Steven that he procured Matthew’s phone from the police out of “morbid curiosity about Cristal’s affair … I returned it to evidence … If there was anything on there that would have helped exonerate you, I would not have hesitated to admit what I’d done … There is nothing I wouldn’t do to protect you.” His next words are in stark contrast to what Lucious told his gay son in their big scene (“If you don’t toughen up, these streets will eat your ass alive!”): “The thing I admire most about you is how much you care about other people, how you love.”
Blake’s conflict with Steven in this ep is more interesting than his feud with Fallon, but she nonetheless has some great one-liners. On whether Blake is capable of killing Matthew: “I know Dad’s a Cristal addict, but do you really think he’d go that far?” On Steven’s credibility: “You don’t know anything — you wear a belt with jeans.” On the 1980s: “Ah, the ‘80s — when greed was good. I wasn’t born yet, but I do miss it.”
EMPIRE and BLOOD AND OIL each end with a worm turning, as nice guys Jamal Lyon and Billy LeFever vow to get back at Lucious and Hap respectively. “I’m going after his empire,” Jamal tells boyfriend Michael. “I did not see this coming today, but you know what? When the time comes, neither will Hap Briggs,” Billy tells wife Cody.
Just as Billy has seen through Hap (sooner than I was expecting — but then the series only has ten episodes so I guess they’re wise to get a move on), so Bobby sees through JR’s ‘reformed character’ act. In other words, he knows it was JR who was behind John Ross’s blackmail over Miss Ellie. His weary acceptance of the fact is unexpectedly moving. “Honey,” he tells Ann, “the fact that JR did it and he thinks he can make me believe he didn’t do it — that’s just who is he is and who he will always be.” And yet he loves him anyway.
“I grew up in a family where stabbing everybody in the back was encouraged,” Bobby tells Christopher on New DALLAS. “Thanks for being so honest — kind of rare around this house,” Steven tells Sam on New DYNASTY. And as if to prove Steven’s point, we discover at the very end of this week’s ep that when Blake seemingly confessed all to his son during their reconciliation scene, he still wasn’t telling the whole truth. He didn’t return Matthew’s phone to the police — and now the burglar has it! “If what’s on that phone gets out, it will ruin the Carrington name!” he tells Anders.
And the Top 4 are …
1 (1) DALLAS
2 (3) EMPIRE
3 (2) BLOOD AND OIL
4 (4) DYNASTY
Oh, it's all just so ... delicious. There's no better word for these than delicious. Now I wish I had watched Blood And Oil when it aired (and I had just moved to the other, non-oil producing end of North Dakota). Maybe it would still be on.
27 Jun 12: DALLAS: The Last Hurrah v. 28 Jan 15: EMPIRE: False Imposition v. 18 Oct 15: BLOOD AND OIL: The Birthday Party v. 01 Nov 17: DYNASTY: Private as a Circus
It’s a significant week for Soap Land’s recently marrieds. On DALLAS, after dreaming of Elena while lying next to Rebecca, Christopher Ewing realises he has to make a definitive choice between them. Likewise on DYNASTY, Cristal Carrington feels that the time has come to take control. “All I’ve done is jump from one crisis to the next — Matthew, a murder investigation, now my nephew’s felony,” she tells Sam, referring to the robbery he engineered in last week’s episode. “It’s no way to start a marriage … I’m going on my honeymoon.” Accordingly, she whisks Blake off to a remote cabin for the weekend. While his struggle to cope without a phone or Wifi signal for just a couple of days demonstrates how consumed by business he is, it also shows how similar he is to the rest of us. In fact, the Carringtons as a whole seem a lot more identifiably human in this ep than they have previously.
The cops investigating Bunky’s murder on EMPIRE and Hap Briggs’ robbery on BLOOD AND OIL each have a new lead — Bunky’s car is found, with Lucious’ fingerprints inside, while Wick’s pal Garry inadvertently lets slip that he had an accomplice during the robbery. And so Lucious and Wick are asked to account for their whereabouts at the time of their respective crimes. Whereas Lucious’s son Andre comes to his aid without being asked (“We were together at his house watching the Mayweather fight,” he volunteers), Wick’s puny alibi — that he was passed out drunk — alerts Hap’s suspicions. “I hate to say it, but you might have been right about him,” he tells wife Carla. Over on DYNASTY, Steven is still under suspicion for murder. “Without an airtight alibi to prove I didn’t kill Matthew, the FBI are saying we need to provide them with a credible alternative suspect,” he tells Fallon.
There are several “issues” that JR brushes up against on this week’s DALLAS — race, learning difficulties, addiction and mental health. Despite knowing Elena Ramos since she was a child, he makes a point of referring to her as “that Mexican girl.” Then, during their first exchange of the series, he attempts to get her onside by poking fun at John Ross: “He always had a crush on you, even when he was a little boy. You’re the only one that could get him to study — I doubt if he’d have ever finished a whole book if it wasn’t for you.” “He was dyslexic, not stupid,” she replies pointedly. “Yeah,” he mutters before abruptly changing the subject — a dismissive response that tells you everything you need to know about JR’s attitude both towards dyslexia itself and his son’s struggle with it.
Back in ‘80s Soap Land, those afflicted with a mental illness were either romanticised (Claudia on DYNASTY) or, more commonly, demonised (Katherine Wentworth, Jessica Montford, anyone else who could be categorised as “an evil psycho”). Nowadays, Soap Land feels the need to present such conditions in more prosaic terms: New Claudia’s problems stem from brain injuries sustained in a car crash while Andre on EMPIRE and now Fake Marta on this week’s DALLAS are described as bipolar. While Soap Land itself may have become more sensitive, JR has not. “Our girl is as crazy as an outhouse rat,” he concludes after hearing of Fake Marta’s condition and that she has a history of stalking ex-boyfriends.
He also learns, from trusty private eye Bum (aka “the only one who never lets me down”), that the son of Mitch Lobell, Bobby’s lawyer who is blackmailing him and John Ross, has “a pretty healthy drug problem, even has two felony possessions on his record … If we get evidence implicating him in one more felony, we can threaten Lobell to put his son away for a long time.”
JR views both Fake Marta’s condition and Rick Lobell’s addiction the same way he once did Edgar Randolph’s child molestation secret — clinically and without moral judgement, merely as a weakness to be exploited with no regard for the human cost. When Michael Culhane describes Fallon on this week’s DYNASTY as “a human bulldozer … You just don’t see people,” he could just as easily be describing JR.
Fallon and Lucious Lyon each stumble upon another hot topic — environmentalism and religion respectively — while they are trying to close a business deal. On DYNASTY, Fallon tells Jeff of her intention to swipe the city of Atlanta’s utility contract from Carrington Atlantic. “It would show people that clean energy could scale up in a big way,” she says. “And screw over your dad,” he adds. Fallon’s plan runs into difficulty when the official she has to persuade turns out to be a high school nemesis, Kori, who is not impressed by her pitch: “Atlanta is not a means to an end. This is my home, my city … and not some pawn in the Carrington family feud,” she tells her. Meanwhile on EMPIRE, Lucious is eager to sign rap genius Titan to his label, but also runs into problems. Not only has Titan been arrested following a shooting incident in a nightclub, but he is managed by Billy Beretti, with whom Lucious has historical beef.
Just as Jeff acts a buffer, using his charm and diplomacy to persuade Kori to give Fallon a second hearing, Cookie intercedes on Lucious’s behalf by paying a visit to Titan’s mother. The two women connect, but it turns out that Titus’s family are devout members of the Nation of Islam — the same Nation of Islam that Lucious blames for his father’s death. “Nothin’ but racist views,” he says of them. “And? So is America,” counters Cookie. Soap Land has never really “done” religion before (KNOTS' psychotic televangelist and FALCON CREST’s Father Bob’s occasional words of wisdom notwithstanding) so it’ll be interesting to see where this goes. Thanks to Cookie, Lucious moves closer to signing Titan and he starts to regard his ex-wife with newfound respect. Fallon, however, blows the deal with Kori when she gets distracted by an opportunity to screw over Cristal.
It all starts when the guy Sam enlisted to burgle the Carrington manor last week tells him that included in his bag of swag is Matthew Blaisdel’s phone (the same phone Blake swore to Steven he had returned to the police) which contains a video of Cristal and Matthew having sex. “That’s Kardashian level filmmaking right there. We’re gonna have a bidding war for it!” he crows. He threatens to release the tape to the press unless the Carringtons fork over $20,000. With Cristal and Blake out of town and unreachable, Sam relays this ultimatum to Steven (while neglecting to mention that he himself instigated the burglary in the first place). Steven turns to Blake’s pocket cop, Stansfield, and they hatch a plan whereby Steven will trade the money for the phone before the police swoop in and arrest the guy. “Silver Spoon’s first sting — your dad would be proud,” Stansfield quips. Steven reminds him that it was he who stole Matthew’s phone in the first place, from police evidence: “You tampered with a murder investigation when you should have been actually figuring out who did it.”
There’s more murky blackmail on DALLAS where John Ross, having been entrusted by JR with the job of setting up Rick Lobell, outsources the task to his new cousin-in-law, Rebecca. He threatens to tell Christopher about the phoney email she sent Elena unless she entraps Rick. “I need you to get pictures of him doing drugs,” he tells her. Reluctantly, Rebecca tracks Rick to a 12-Step meeting (Soap Land’s first since Gary Ewing sought help after his near relapse in KNOTS Season 13) with the intention of persuading him to get high with her. However, when she sees that he has gotten his life together, she realises she hasn’t the heart to wreck his hard-won sobriety and backs out of the plan.
Ultimately, the efforts of both Steven and Rebecca to do the right thing are wasted. When Rebecca refuses to set Rick up, Fake Marta simply takes her place — taking him to bed, getting him stoned and then presenting JR with the photographic evidence he then uses to threaten Lobell Sr with. Meanwhile, no sooner does Steven (somewhat foolishly) show Fallon the tape of Matthew and Cristal he has retrieved from the blackmailer than she copies it to her own phone and then leaks it online — and because she’s so busy furnishing the media with bitchy soundbites about her stepmother, she messes up the deal Jeff arranged with Kori.
“What kind of a friend robs your aunt’s house and then tries to blackmail her with a sex tape?” Steven asks Sam, a tad self-righteously. “Have you ever broken a law?” Sam retorts. “I’ve never extorted anyone,” Steven tells him. “Because you haven’t had to,” he points out. “You don’t know what it is like to worry about making rent or what you’re going to do if your car breaks down.” The kind of life Sam describes is precisely what his other Soap Land self, Michael in EMPIRE, is having to endure now that boyfriend Jamal has insisted they move out the loft apartment paid for by Jamal’s father. Thus they find themselves living in “a rat hole” in a noisy, sleazy neighbourhood on the wrong side of town. But damn if Jamal doesn’t proceed to turn the soundtrack of his new environment (fighting neighbours, breaking glass, blaring sirens) into the beginnings of what could be a hit song! Is this genuine creative inspiration or poverty tourism? Or both? On the subject of (in)authentic artistic expression, Cookie advises Jamal’s pampered young brother Hakeem “to stop rapping like you from the streets cos you not about that life.”
The sex tape blackmailer on DYNASTY asked for $20,000, the exact amount Christopher writes Elena a cheque for as payment for “helping me with the gas displacement fix.” “… I didn’t do this for the money,” she tells him. “I did this because you’re my friend, because you asked for my help.” Jamal reacts the same way when Lucious gives him a cheque for accompanying his brother onstage at the opening of Leviticus. “I didn’t expect to get paid for helping out Hakeem,” he protests. “He needed me so I helped him. No charge, no strings.” “… You get paid like everybody else,” Lucious insists, but Jamal won’t hear of it. Meanwhile, it becomes apparent Christopher is less concerned about paying Elena her due than severing all ties with her. “I want to make sure there’s never any legal dispute about who owns what,” he tells her coldly. “You’re ambitious, Elena, out to prove yourself and prove to everyone else that you’re more than just the help’s daughter … It’s pretty clear how quickly you’ll compromise your integrity for money.” Stunned, Elena stands there and says nothing. It’s only when Christopher walks away from her that we see how upset he is and realise that this is his (soapy) way of choosing his wife over the (other) woman he loves.
The families of Soap Land’s two chauffeurs are both threatened this week. On BLOOD AND OIL, it turns out that the people strong-arming AJ into spying on his boss are Hap Briggs’ Saudi Arabian competitors. They have told AJ they will kill his son if he doesn’t cooperate. On DYNASTY, Michael is on the receiving end of a stern talking-to from Anders. “I don’t have to remind you that this incident doesn’t reflect well on those of us who are employed here,” he says, referring to the recent robbery at the manor. “We all have a stake in putting this to bed — especially those of us with families that depend on our salaries.” Michael assures him that he will keep his ear to the ground. “And your mouth off Fallon,” Anders snaps — his way of indicating that he knows about their affair and does not approve.
Back on DALLAS, JR orders Bum to keep tabs on John Ross and Elena. Bum returns with some intimate looking (but in fact innocent) pictures of them together which JR then presents to Fake Marta. “I’m sorry,” he tells her. “My boy was just using you.” JR is aware of how dangerous Fake Marta can be to men who cross her (she went after one of her exes with a skinning knife), but all that matters to him is getting her onside: “What do you say you and me make a new deal for Southfork and that oil?”
While Fake Marta is looking at compromising photos, Claudia Blaisdel is staring at her late husband’s sex tape. Over on EMPIRE, rising star Tiana finds out about boyfriend Hakeem’s infidelity the old-fashioned way when she walks in on him taking a bath with Naomi Campbell. Bucking the caught-with-his-trousers-down trend, Hap Briggs continues to sleep with his son’s girlfriend Jules without arousing suspicions. His wife is so oblivious she even throws Jules a surprise birthday party. (The diamond necklace Hap gives Jules for her birthday rivals the pearl necklace JR presents to Sue Ellen, which belonged to Miss Ellie no less. While Sue Ellen looks touched, a conflicted Jules accepts her gift but makes a point of leaving it behind at the party.)
AJ is caught redhanded when Hap’s daughter Lacey realises he’s been using her to gain access to her father’s computer. “The CEO of Exxon’s kid took me to the prom in high school, got me really stoned, tried to get me to spill on my dad’s next big play — I have been schooled in corporate espionage my whole life,” she assures him. (This is the third time Exxon has been referenced in C21st Soap Land — New DALLAS’s Christopher and New DYNASTY’s Fallon each name-checked it in their opening episodes.) “If I don’t give these people what they want, they’re gonna kill my son,” AJ tells Hap desperately. “You’re gonna give ‘em what they want,” Hap replies. “I’ve always wanted an inside man on my payroll — one the Saudis trust.”
While Cliff continues to get under JR’s skin — this week, by taking Sue Ellen to lunch — New DALLAS has yet to explain to the uninitiated the root of the enmity between them. On EMPIRE and BLOOD AND OIL, however, the origins of two similarly long-standing feuds are revealed. “You were the one that broke the trust between us,” Lucious tells his former manager, Billy Beretti, who now represents rapper du jour Titan. “That’s why I left you …” “Without me, you’d still be selling CDs out of the trunk of your car,” replies Billy, before taking credit for the success of Lucious’s breakout record. “Did you write one lyric on that album?” Lucious asks him. “Or play a single note? Was it you that performed it all around this planet and made it famous? No, but you saw fit to put your name on my words without even consulting me … I don’t care how many artists you steal from … you will never be an artist!” Yes, it’s Digger and Jock all over again, only fighting over music rights instead of mineral rights. Among EMPIRE’s achievements, of which there are many, it has succeeded where the likes of PAPER DOLLS and MODELS INC failed, by making the intangible — in this case, music rather than fashion — as dramatically tangible as crude oil.
Over on B&O, the tale told to Billy LeFever by Clifton Lundegren, the old-timer who warned him against doing business with Hap in the first place, could almost be Jock and Digger’s backstory transposed from the ’30s to the ‘80s. “January 1983,” he begins, “a young fella, not much older than you, knocking on that front door, freezing his ass off. He came in, said, ‘I’ve got the equipment, you know the land.’ That’s how we became partners, me and Hap Briggs. First well came in, my share come to practically nothing. He referred me to his lawyers. His lawyers referred me the small print on the contract.” “Seems like the only one to get rich in a deal with Hap Briggs is Hap Briggs,” Billy observes.
While we’re on the subject of Jock Ewing, there’s a fascinating deleted scene from this week’s DALLAS where Bobby describes his father in a way he simply couldn’t have done during the original series — certainly not after Jock’s death and subsequent sanctification. “Your granddaddy Jock was the most intimidating man I think I ever met,” he tells Christopher. “We locked horns on just about everything … It just seemed like he was always second-guessing me, never really cared about what I thought.” Christopher’s response is equally interesting: “You were lucky to have someone like Jock as a father. Everybody said that he was an ass-kicking, hard-drinking son of a bitch. But my father? My father’s the great Bobby Ewing. You try living in that shadow.”
If Christopher feels as if his life has been defined by his father’s presence, Fallon feels hers has been defined by her mother’s absence. After four episodes of treating everyone like crap, she is finally confronted about her behaviour. “You took your eye off the prize to take a swing at Cristal. You really can’t help yourself, can you?” Jeff asks her after she botches their deal. “I was there for you, Fallon. I put myself on the line for a deal you had to have, but you made me look like an idiot because you’re only out for yourself.” Michael has also run out of patience with her. “Someone should defend the world from Fallon Carrington … You just don’t see other people,” he tells her. “Kori just hates me because I was a bitch in high school and I was a bitch because when your mom leaves in the middle of sophomore year, it kind of messes with your head. I mean, if I didn’t defend myself, who would have?” she reasons. “That is heartbreaking,” Michael replies coolly, “but it was almost ten years ago. Maybe you should stop blaming your mom and figure out why you’re so screwed up now.” We can see from Fallon’s reaction that his words have hit home and suddenly she seems real, human, a character one can empathise with. Just like those occasional scenes where Greg Sumner or Abby Ewing would let down their guard in private, allowing only the audience to see how vulnerable they were, there follows a scene where a solitary Fallon looks through a collection of postcards she wrote but presumably never sent to her mother before tossing them onto an open fire.
Speaking of vulnerable moments … last week’s DALLAS opened with that thrillingly menacing shaving scene between JR and John Ross. This week’s EMPIRE contains a shaving scene that’s just as significant but in a different way. Lucious is in his bathroom holding a razor to his face when his hand starts to shake uncontrollably. When girlfriend Anika notices, he finally tells her that he’s dying. Up until now, Anika’s been mostly been depicted in relation to business matters, with the occasional bitchy gesture towards Cookie thrown in for good measure. We don’t yet know what makes her tick or how she truly feels about Lucious. So her response here is significant. She doesn’t say anything. Instead, as her eyes fill with tears, she takes the razor from Lucious and gently starts to shave him herself.
Brief as it is, JR and Elena’s exchange about John Ross’s dyslexia hints at years of impatience and disappointment from a father towards his son. The same sentiment is reflected elsewhere. “I wanted to teach my son all the things a father teaches his son, but Wick, he didn’t care … I spent my whole life expecting that boy to be something that he just wasn’t born to be,” Hap reflects on B&O. And in the final scene of this week’s DYNASTY, Blake tells Cristal how such expectations can result in tragedy: “Before Steven ran off to dig wells in Haiti, he was with the company. He didn’t want the job and I pushed him up the ladder too fast. Out in the field one day, he missed a faulty pressure valve and he signed off on the inspection … Later when they put it online, the pressure shook the rig. A man fell off and snapped his neck.” He goes on to explain the real reason he had Matthew’s phone taken from police evidence: “Matthew was the field engineer onsite. I asked him to write it off as a structural defect … Matthew claimed to have a record of it on his phone. I knew that if Steven ever found out he had something to do with a man’s death, he would never have stopped blaming himself. I was trying to protect him.”
Having made this confession, Blake is keen to start over with a clean slate. “I don’t want us to have secrets,” he tells his bride. “I want to trust you and I want you to trust me … No more lies.” “No more lies,” Cristal agrees, lying. And at the end of DALLAS, having ended his friendship with Elena, Christopher also wants to make a fresh start with his bride. “I love you,” he tells her. “Nothing’s ever gonna get in the way of that.” But unlike Cristal, Rebecca can’t keep the truth to herself any longer. “There’s something I need to tell you,” she replies, “about the email Elena got two years ago …”
And this week's Top 4 are ...
1 (1) DALLAS
2 (4) DYNASTY
3 (3) BLOOD AND OIL
4 (2) EMPIRE
Thanks! I really like BLOOD AND OIL. Of the four, it feels the closest to an old-fashioned '80s soap. North Dakota looks cold!
That first winter was my introduction to prolonged double-digit below zero weather.
04 Jul 12: DALLAS: Truth and Consequences v. 04 Feb 15: EMPIRE: Dangerous Bonds v. 25 Oct 15: BLOOD AND OIL: Rocks and Hard Places v. 08 Nov 17: DYNASTY: Company Slut
There are two car accidents in this week’s Soap Land. In the first, BLOOD AND OIL’s Garry is on his way out of town when he crashes his getaway car in a drunken stupor. He approaches Wick once more and asks for another $20,000 (the exact amount DYNASTY’s blackmailer demanded for the return of the Cristal/Matthew sex-tape last week) to lay low and keep his mouth shut.
But like Rebecca on DALLAS, Wick has had enough of being blackmailed and decides to tell the truth — up to a point. He admits to the sheriff that he lied about the night of the robbery, but pins the blame solely on his accomplice. “Garry said that if I didn’t cover for him, he was gonna tell my father I was the one that gave him the rig codes — which I did not.” (Even though he did.) Meanwhile, in the opening scene of DALLAS, Rebecca confesses to Christopher that their initial meeting in China was prearranged — but insists she had nothing to do with breaking up him and Elena. “All I knew is that you were going to be on the train, that you had just broken up with someone, but … I swear I didn’t know what Tommy had done,” she tells him. “He sent the email to Elena and made it look like it had come from your computer.”
After they have been exposed respectively as email fakers and sex-tape leakers, Tommy and Rebecca on DALLAS and Fallon on DYNASTY are each given their marching orders. Bobby instructs a ranch hand to “get this punk off my ranch,” pointing at Tommy. “Make sure I never see you again!” Christopher tells Rebecca. “I want you out of this house!” Blake informs Fallon. Strangely, Sam is permitted to remain at the Carrington manor, even though everyone knows he was responsible for the robbery there two episodes ago. He is nonetheless shunned by Steven. “Cristal and Blake already forgave me,” he protests. “That’s their mistake,” Steven replies. “I’m not making the same one.”
Actually, it seems that no C21st soap is complete without a robbery and/or break-in that turns out to be an inside job. This week it’s the turn of EMPIRE where Andre ingeniously orchestrates the hold-up of one of his brothers, Jamal, while pinning it on his other brother, Hakeem. Rather than get his own hands dirty, he manipulates Hakeem’s dumb but fun entourage into robbing Jamal at the rundown, ghetto ass studio where he is recording (so rundown, it’s actually called Ghetto Ass Studios). Inevitably, the hold-up turns uglier than intended and a minor character is shot. This leads to a juicy sibling showdown where Jamal accuses Hakeem of deliberately sabotaging his recording session. Hakeem protests his innocence, but Jamal is too angry to listen. “You ain’t nothing but Lucious’s little puppet and that’s all you’re ever gonna be,” he tells him before punching him in the stomach for good measure. As soon as Hakeem has got his breath back, he calls Andre and instructs him to rush-release his new video before Jamal’s new single has a chance to drop. Thus, the two brothers go from being friendly competitors to bitter rivals — just as Andre intended.
We’re only five episodes in, but this week’s DALLAS has all the momentum and urgency of a really good season finale. No sooner have Rebecca and Tommy been thrown off the ranch than Bobby receives legal notification that JR is the new owner of Southfork and intends to start drilling for oil on the property immediately. “They warned me. My whole marriage, they told me about you,” Ann tells JR, “but in my wildest imagination I never thought you could stoop to this.” “Well, Annie, you’re just gonna have to work on your imagination,” he replies evenly.
JR’s new deal for Southfork has cut John Ross completely out of the picture — Bad Dad! Or is he? “The deed to Southfork is still yours for the having,” he assures his son. “You and I were supposed to be partners now. That was the deal,” John Ross insists. “The deal was to teach you the oil business — and I am,” he replies. To JR, double-crossing John Ross over their family home is the equivalent of Jock selling him a blind horse when he was eight years old — how else is a son supposed to learn but the hard way? Billy LeFever might not be Hap Briggs’s son on BLOOD AND OIL, but Hap justifies suckering him out of a fortune the same way. “One day you’ll thank me for giving you your first lesson in the oil business,” he tells him.
“Smile for the camera,” JR orders an angry John Ross when they are caught on-screen during a football game at Texas Stadium. Hakeem applies the same dictum during a red carpet interview on EMPIRE, masking his frustration at being continually referred to as “Lucious Lyon’s son.” And on DYNASTY, Fallon and Cristal are obliged to make nice while being honoured at Atlanta Digest’s Upcoming Women in Business luncheon, even as they exchange under-their-breath putdowns. (Eventually, Cristal snaps and sprays Fallon with a bottle of Cristal, but no-one seems to notice.)
Jerry Jones, real-life owner of the Dallas Cowboys, who was briefly seen in War of the Ewings, makes an equally brief appearance welcoming JR to the stadium. Wide receiver Dez Bryant is also shown making a peace sign in JR’s direction. Over on EMPIRE, Lucious presents “your favourite, Mr Anthony Hamilton” as a surprise treat for Anika. I’d never previously heard of Mr Anthony Hamilton, but from Anika’s awed reaction (“Oh my God! Are you kidding me?!”) and his own “aw shucks” persona, you can immediately tell this is another Real Life Cameo. Mr Anthony Hamilton plays the piano and croons in the background as Lucious asks Anika to marry him, presenting her with “an 18-carat diamond ring — same ring that Richard Burton gave to Elizabeth Taylor” to boot. So far so romantic, but during a later conversation with Anika’s father, who just happens to be a prestigious doctor, it emerges that Lucious has an ulterior motive in proposing. After informing the doctor of his terminal condition, Lucious explains that “Empire is going public, but in order for that to happen … I need a doctor to certify that I’m in good health.” “You’re asking me to commit fraud,” the doctor realises. “You’re just a thug!” “Dr Calhoun,” Lucious persists, “if the IPO goes through and I die, Anika will become a billionaire in her own right.” Doc C is persuaded but insists that no-one, including his daughter, can ever find out about their arrangement.
Having turned everyone’s lives upside down, JR abruptly departs Dallas midway through this week’s ep, leaving John Ross to manage things in his absence. “I’m throwing you in at the deep end, just like my daddy did to me,” he tells him before ascending into the clouds in a helicopter. John Ross’s cover story is that he had no prior knowledge of his father’s arrangement with Fake Marta to steal the ranch from Bobby, and is now just trying to make the best of the situation. This claim becomes a relationship deal-breaker for him and Elena. “Promise me that you had nothing to do with stealing Southfork, that it was all JR. Promise me you’re the man I think you are,” she tells him. “I swear none of it was me,” he insists. And with that, they’re back in each other’s arms again.
It’s the first day at work for John Ross (overseeing the drilling on Southfork), Cristal (as COO of Carrington Atlantic), Steven (presiding over the Carrington Foundation) and BLOOD AND OIL’s Lacey, who has been persuaded by father Hap to join the family business. “God knows we could use the help,” he makes a point of telling her in front of her brother Wick — the better to make Wick feel like crap. While his daddy’s power of attorney gives John Ross the upper hand over Bobby (“At my father’s request, I am moving into Southfork to keep an eye on things in his absence … I’m hoping you and I can stay out of each other’s way — last thing I’d want is to have to kick you off this ranch like you did to me”), Cristal finds her work cut out for her when it comes to winning her new subordinates’ respect. One of them, Kylie, helpfully explains why: “You know the conversations happening about women in the workplace — we can’t even get mentors because guys like Mike Pence are too afraid to have dinner with us. So when you sleep with the boss and when your wedding ring comes with a promotion, it kind of feels like you proved them right.” Or, as Claudia Blaisdel puts it even more succinctly when she confronts Cristal in the lobby of Carrington Atlantic, “Get back to work, you company tramp — or is it company slut?!”
While Elena praises John Ross’s ability to keep his men on side (“Never met a crew that didn’t like you. A tycoon who gets his hands dirty — who can resist that?”), hapless Wick Briggs does not possess the same touch. Indeed, he manages to alienate the crew he’s in charge to the point where they walk off the job. To add insult to injury, Lacey manages to rectify the situation with the minimum of fuss. She even tries to cover for Wick in front of their father, but Hap sees through the charade.
Meanwhile, Steven’s first day on the job is complicated by a visit from an old flame, Ted Dinard. He’s ostensibly there for business reasons, but really to impress upon Steven how much he’s changed. “I get it, you don’t trust me … I screwed up in the past,” he acknowledges. “My dad told me … that he offered you a quick payoff to go away and you took it,” Steven reminds him. “What kind of person does that?” “What kind of person offers an addict that kind of money?” Ted shoots back. Seems New Ted has been a lot wilder than Square Ted ever was back in ’81. Ted and Steven aren’t the only pair of exes to take an awkward trip down memory lane this week. To transport the oil from Southfork, JR has enlisted the services of Ryland Tankers. “I’m the only one in Dallas with enough trucks to move that kind of oil,” brags Harris Ryland, who just happens to be the ex-husband of Bobby’s wife Ann. “As I remember, I make your skin crawl. Of course, you always were prone to hyperbole,” he recalls when she visits him. Nevertheless, when she asks him to cancel his tanker contract with JR, he agrees: “I like your husband. I always thought his brother was a prick.” Meanwhile, in spite of Ted’s claim that he has got his act together, he hurts Steven all over again by going to bed with Sam.
Oil tankers also factor as a plot point on BLOOD AND OIL when Billy pitches his latest get-rich-quick scheme to buddy Clifton: “Picks and shovels, baby — that’s how people got rich during the gold rush … You know what our picks and shovels are? Tanker trucks. We don’t drill the oil, we move it. I got us a crazy cheap deal on four of ‘em!” Alas, Clifton then rains on his parade by keeling over with a heart attack.
Soap Land has gone sex-tape crazy of late. A week after the video of Matthew having it off with Cristal went viral on DYNASTY, two more compromising recordings emerge. The first, of John Ross and Fake Marta, is left as a parting gift for the former by the latter before she skips town — only for it to be intercepted by an angry Christopher. He tells John Ross he is especially interested in the pillow talk “where you call Marta by her real name, Veronica. It proves you knew who she was before the deal was made, that you were conspiring against my father … Fraud and conspiracy, that’s still a crime in the state of Texas. I want proof from you that JR was in on the fraud, enough proof to undo the deal, or you’re going to jail!” Meanwhile on EMPIRE, Andre’s wife Rhonda films Hakeem’s pop singer girlfriend Tiana canoodling with her own girlfriend, India. (A lesbian couple in Soap Land and an interracial one at that! Whatever next — a black female Doctor Who?) Rhonda then does what Fallon did with the Matthew/Cristal video — leaks it to the media.
“Million Dollar Tramp!” yelled the Los Angeles Ledger, next to a picture of Cristal in throes of passion with Matthew on last week’s DYNASTY. “Shocking New Photos of Tiana and India!” gasps Perez Hilton’s website on this week’s EMPIRE. “You my girl. You ain’t supposed to be kissing no damn India chick and you know that,” Hakeem tells Tiana sulkily. “You got a sidepiece too,” she points out, lest he forget she caught him taking a bubble bath with Naomi Campbell last week.
(Whereas Matthew & Cristal’s and Tiana & India’s indiscretions were caught on camera phone before being uploaded onto the net, John Ross and Fake Marta’s coupling has been preserved on Ye Olde DVD. This is the first real reminder that five years separate Episode 5 of New DALLAS from Episode 5 of New DYNASTY — the equivalent of watching an ep from the original DALLAS mini-series alongside an episode from La Mirage-era DYNASTY.)
Just as Wick agrees to wear a wire in the hopes of extracting a murder confession from Garry on BLOOD AND OIL, Cookie reluctantly cooperates with the authorities on EMPIRE — testifying in a confidential hearing that she witnessed drug dealer Frank Gathers (presently incarcerated) shoot a man dead seventeen years earlier. Only after she’s given evidence does she learn that the dead man was an FBI agent. “Do you know what kind of animal kills a federal agent?!” she asks her handler in alarm. “Dead bitch walking — that’s me … Men like Frank Gathers reach right from prison and drop people dead every day!” After finding a single rose on her doorstep, she assumes the worst: “That’s Frank’s trademark — he marked all his product with a rose … Somebody’s trying to kill me!” As far as Cookie is concerned, an anonymous rose at her door is the equivalent of ‘80s Claudia receiving violets from Lancelot or Karen Mackenzie finding a box full of snakes courtesy of My Love Always. But rather than collapse in a dead faint or scream the house down, Cookie simply hires a hitman to take care of “Frank’s boy on the outside” and carries on with her day, which entails producing Jamal’s new song over the phone (“Baby, scrap that intro — talking before the record starts is dated”) and dealing with Tiana’s sapphic sex scandal (“Look, girl, I don’t judge, but you’s a freak. That’s a good thing. We can sell that.”) All is well until the end of the ep when Lucious casually mentions that it was he who left her the rose to mark their anniversary. Realising she had no reason to arrange the hit on Gathers’ man, she tries to call it off, but it’s too late — she may have just inadvertently instigated a gang war!
When Jamal calls Hakeem “nothing but Lucious’s little puppet," it hits a nerve. Hakeem’s already decided that for his career to progress, he “can’t be Lucious Lyon’s son no more.” Likewise, John Ross talks about how he has “spent my whole life trying not to be [JR’s] son.” Conversely on BLOOD AND OIL, Clifton advises Billy from his hospital bed that “to beat Hap Briggs, you got to be Hap Briggs.”
There are no sex-tapes currently doing the rounds on B&O, but Cody, Billy’s nice but forgettable wife, has figured out that Hap and her gal pal Jules are sleeping together and confides her discovery to Billy. With Clinton’s words ringing in his ears (“To beat Hap Briggs, you got to be Hap Briggs”), he uses this tidbit to try and blackmail Hap. “I want my 5% of McCutching back … or we add Carla to this conversation,” he tells him. Hap calls his bluff, inviting him to say what he has to say in front of his wife — but when push comes to shove, Billy’s too nice a guy to carry out his threat. Following through on the mentor/student theme, Hap then describes Billy as “a student flunking his final exam.” Christopher Ewing exhibits a similar failure of nerve on DALLAS. He shows up at Elena’s door with the DVD proving that John Ross was in on the Southfork swindle burning a hole in his pocket, but when he hears her say how much John Ross means to her (“More than anyone, he has always had my back”), he cannot bring himself to show it to her.
Carla’s suspicions have been aroused, however. “Billy may have been too weak to tell me, but I’m not an idiot and we both know old habits die hard so who is she?” she asks Hap. He manages to deflect the question, but it seems he isn’t the only serial philanderer in C21st Soap Land. When Anika queries her mother’s lack of enthusiasm regarding her engagement to Lucious, she is reminded of “all the times you came crying home to me — all his other women.”
When Cody hears that Billy used what she told him in confidence to threaten Hap, she is furious. “I am trying to make a life here, I am trying to put down roots and you are alienating anybody who tries to get close!” she yells during the first onscreen fight between B&O’s golden couple. She then abandons the argument to put in an extra shift at the pharmacy because “one of us has to work.” This leads to a classic ‘When Storylines Collide’ climax as Garry, still on the lam and injured following his car crash, pulls a gun in the very pharmacy where Cody is working late, demanding money and pain medication. He gets nasty and she pulls off his mask, causing him to panic and knock her to the floor, where he starts kicking her in the stomach. Just as DYNASTY ends with Blake hovering anxiously over Claudia Blaisdel’s prone body after knocking her down outside her house (the second of the week’s two car accidents), B&O ends with Billy crouched over his similarly unconscious, and also pregnant, wife.
Although the Lyon and Carrington clans have now been the subjects of two online scandals apiece, the Ewings of DALLAS don’t seem to attract media attention in the same way. The popping flashbulbs at the Cattleman’s Ball and JR making it onto the big screen at the Cowboys game this week are as celebrity as New DALLAS has gotten. Christopher and Rebecca’s breakup plays out against the semi-public backdrop of the Ewing barbecue, but there’s nobody surreptitiously filming it on their phone. Thus it doesn’t go viral and from a dramatic standpoint, it doesn’t need to. The open-mouthed reactions of Christopher’s family and a few shocked extras are enough to convey the gravity of the situation. “How could you do that to him, use us all like this?” demands an appalled Ann of Tommy, with whom she had previously bonded. “I just did,” he mumbles — and it’s the one time he shows even a flicker of remorse. (Notably, Ann is the one member of the family to whom Rebecca later looks for absolution.) And even though there’s no love lost between Christopher and either John Ross or Elena at this point, neither of them derives any amusement from the situation the way Fallon did from the news of Matthew’s death at Blake and Cristal’s wedding.
While the characters on EMPIRE and DYNASTY are depicted as belonging to a wider, more contemporary world (see this week’s references to Perez Hilton and Mike Pence), the world of the Ewings feels more enclosed and intense, just as it did on the original DALLAS. There’s a similar vibe in this week’s B&O where it’s suggested that the “boom town” environment that the characters inhabit is starting to affect their behaviour — or more specifically, their morality. “Out here, the rules are different,” insists Billy when Cody confronts him about his blackmail attempt. “This place, all the temptations, it’s easy to lose your way,” admits minor character Ada, who began the series as a model wife and is now on the brink of an affair. It’s precisely this kind of moral murkiness that Bobby has been trying to pull his family out of on New DALLAS. When Christopher argues that to combat JR’s appropriation of Southfork, “we need to start fighting fire with fire,” Bobby insists that “we are not breaking the law to fix this … The whole point of selling Southfork in the first place was to stop this family’s descent!”
And this week’s Top 4 are …
1 (1) DALLAS
2 (3) BLOOD AND OIL
3 (4) EMPIRE
4 (2) DYNASTY
11 Jul 12: DALLAS: The Enemy of My Enemy v. 11 Feb 15: EMPIRE: Out, Damned Spot v. 01 Nov 15: BLOOD AND OIL: Convergence v. 15 Nov 17: DYNASTY: I Exist Only for Me
Medical matters make strange bedfellows this week. When DALLAS’s Rebecca suffers a nosebleed and dizzy spell at Southfork, her former love rival Elena offers to drive her to Soap Land Memorial Hospital. When DYNASTY’s Claudia is discharged from hospital, following a collision with Blake’s car last week, her former love rival Cristal insists on bringing her back to the manor to recuperate. This situation, of course, recalls the original Claudia moving into the Carrington mansion after her suicide attempt in 1982. But the medical scenario that most evokes the spirit of ‘80s Soap Land is on BLOOD AND OIL. After her brutal attack at the end of last week’s episode, pregnant Cody is rushed to Soap Land Memorial where frantic husband Billy is joined in the waiting room by almost the entire cast — including his nemesis Hap Briggs. “She’s gonna get the finest medical care there is,” Hap promises him. “Carla and I chartered a plane out of Aspen. We got the finest thoracic surgeon there is in the country to roll his ass out of bed … Listen, I may be a son of a bitch in business, but when it comes to family, it’s everything to me. I know you feel the same.”
Soap Land being what it is, the odds on Cody’s baby surviving are not good — yet survive it does. She and Cody breathe a sigh of relief. Alas, later in the episode, events take a turn for the worse and, cruelly, she miscarries after all. But as one pregnancy ends, two more materialise. During an argument with Tommy about Christopher in the final scene of DALLAS, the cause of Rebecca’s symptoms is revealed: “You’re right, I am in love with him — and I’m pregnant!” Back on DYNASTY, Claudia declines to take morphine in the hospital because she too is with child. “Even though we lived our separate lives,” she informs Cristal regarding Matthew, “we never stopped sleeping together.” No-one’s up the duff on EMPIRE, but a major character is shocked to acquire an offspring in the final scene when Olivia, a former acquaintance of Jamal, shows up with a cute little toddler named Lola. “She wanted to meet her daddy!” she tells him. However, as end-of-episode long-lost-relative reveals go, the most intriguing is on B&O where Billy’s buddy Clifton places a call to an unseen woman in New York, “with a plan for crushing your ex-husband — Hap Briggs.”
Three major storylines, all introduced in the first episodes of their respective series, are seemingly resolved this week. On DALLAS, Rebecca finds a legal loophole that prevents JR from drilling on the family ranch. It seems that Grandpa Southworth set up a trust “separating the mineral rights from the land rights of Southfork.” This is pretty much the same last-minute get-out clause JR himself used in War of the Ewings to prevent Carter Mackay from drilling on Ray’s property (“When my daddy gave Ray that land, he deeded the mineral rights to our children’s trust fund”). On EMPIRE, after Lucious confesses to his attorney Vernon that he shot in Bunky in cold blood (“Everything that we built, he was gonna tear it down …” “So you play God?!” “No, he played God from the moment he showed up here and tried to shake me down — he chose his fate!”), Vernon magics the problem away by paying someone who’s already “facing a murder beef they can’t beat” to take the rap. And on BLOOD AND OIL, after Cody identifies Garry as her attacker, Wick finally alights on a way to get him out of his hair once and for all — he’s gonna kill him. Whereas Lucious’ murder of Bunky came out of the blue, Wick’s decision involves a degree of soul-searching. “My whole life, I’ve made every bad choice possible … What if I could do one thing, just one thing … that would put all this bad stuff behind me?” he asks his sister enigmatically. We don’t get to find out if Wick really is capable of murder, however, because Billy, eager to avenge his wife and the child they lost, follows him to where he is holding Garry at gunpoint and insists on pulling the trigger himself. As Wick tries to dissuade him (“Billy, one bad choice and it never ends!”), Garry makes his escape. Wick and Billy give chase, causing Garry to stumble, fall and impale himself on a conveniently sharp branch. Chip Roberts would be proud. Billy’s first instinct is to call for help, but Wick persuades him to leave Garry to die. Problem solved.
However, as any seasoned Soap Land watcher knows, a storyline is never truly over. Rebecca may have provided Bobby and Christopher with the ammunition they need to prevent JR and John Ross from drilling on Southfork, but the sinister Venezuelans still expect to receive the oil they negotiated for. Indeed, Vicente has already started breathing down John Ross’s neck, both figuratively and literally, in a scene that’s as close to homoerotic as DALLAS has ever got. “Promises have been made, Mr Ewing. I intend to make sure that they’re kept,” he tells him darkly. Meanwhile on EMPIRE, Vernon may have cleaned up Lucious’s mess, but he assures his AA sponsor that “things are gonna be a lot different” from now on. (Oh yeah — Vernon’s a recovering alcoholic. In Soap Land terms, that means he’s a ticking time bomb.) On B&O, Wick makes a pact with new ally Billy: “We never turn on each other. We stay tight, we stay loyal.” “We take this to the grave,” Billy agrees. All well and good — but then Wick’s girlfriend Jules (who’s also sleeping with his daddy) finds the mask he wore when he and Garry robbed Hap back when this whole mess started.
On last week’s EMPIRE, the gift of a single rose led Cookie to order a hit on someone. This week, three more Soap Land women receive flowers and, even though no-one ends up dead as a result, none of them reacts exactly positively. “Freesias, my favourite!” exclaims Ann on DALLAS, assuming the bouquet she has just received was sent by Bobby. Then she reads the accompanying card and realises they’re from her ex, Harris Ryland. However, it’s the additional gift of a locket that prompts her to collapse to the ground in tears. When Bobby finds her, he doesn’t know what the problem is any more than we do, but it doesn’t stop him from bursting into Harris’s office and backhanding him across the face. “You stay away from Ann!” he snarls. The second bouquet is delivered to Lacey Briggs on BLOOD AND OIL. Like Ann, she seems pleased until she realises who they’re from — in this case, AJ the chauffeur — whereupon she dumps them in the trash. “Flowers and a card — really? God, you apologise worse than you spy,” she tells him over the phone. Finally on DYNASTY, Cristal hand-delivers a vase of red roses to new houseguest Claudia (just as Krystle did back in the day). These get my vote for Flowers of the Week, but Claudia still ends up hurling them at a wall while shouting, “You have everything! I have nothing!” just as the previous Claudia did back in ’82.
“The Costume-Test Montage” — in which a character, feeling the need to dress to impress, tries on and rejects a selection of outfits in front of a mirror before alighting on the ideal one — is a well-worn screen trope. I can recall seeing it on everything from DOCTOR WHO to FRIENDS to Educating Rita, but only once during ‘80s Soap Land — in a cloyingly cutesy sequence on KNOTS LANDING involving Frank Williams and his date Charlotte. In C21st Soap Land, however, there have been no less than four such montages in the past two weeks. Last week’s DYNASTY opened with Cristal trying out a variety of looks in preparation for her first day as COO of Carrington Atlantic. Her final choice had her looking and feeling immaculate — until she reached the office and found herself undermined by her staff and humiliated by Claudia. This week’s EMPIRE starts with Cookie likewise dressing up in a selection of outfits (accompanying music: ‘The Jump Off’ by Lil Kim & Mr Cheeks). Unlike Cristal’s, her chosen look is not revealed straight away. Instead, she arrives at a restaurant in a buttoned-up sable coat where she is greeted by Lucious. It is apparent that, following that rose he sent her last week, she is expecting an intimate dinner for two. However, like last week’s dressed-to-the-nines Cristal, she receives a rude awakening when it turns out to be a big family gathering to celebrate Lucious and Anika’s engagement. While the rest of the guests offer the happy couple their congratulations, Cookie asks for clarification. “So lemme get this straight,” she calls to Lucious across the table, “last Wednesday you come to my house and give me a rose after you propose to that bitch?” “… The rose was a friendly reminder of where we used to be,” he replies tactfully. “Friendly? You think I came here dressed like this for a friendly get together?!” she barks, opening her coat to reveal nothing but some eye-poppingly skimpy lingerie. As her sons stare openmouthed, she turns to leave, delivering one last line as she goes, “Oh and Anika — this is an ass.” Indeed it is.
On BLOOD AND OIL, it’s Carla Briggs who goes through the Costume-Test Montage (accompanying music: ‘Give it to Me’ by Maggie Eckford) before deciding on a striking all-leather ensemble. “You could still walk any runway in the world and turn every head,” Hap tells her admiringly. She explains that she’s dressed for an important meeting — but once again, all is not as it appears. The meeting turns out not to be business but personal — she’s off to confront Hap’s mistress Jules. (“Does he love you?” “Who?” “My husband.”) Unlike Cristal or Cookie, Carla retains her ice-cool composure throughout. She promises Jules that if she doesn’t end the affair, she (Carla) will tell Wick all about it, “and it will destroy him.”
It’s back to DYNASTY for the week’s final costume montage, which is really just about dressing up for the sake of it. “They hit you with their rich-people car. Take what you deserve — it’s payback,” Sam urges Claudia as they raid Cristal’s closet (and credit card) and try on a bunch of blingy outfits (accompanying music: ‘Drinkee’ by Sofi Tukker). It’s fun, in a surreal Hall of Mirrors way, to imagine Heather Locklear and Pamela Bellwood playing this scene in Linda Evans’ walk-in wardrobe.
Actually, it’s kind of difficult to picture the likes of Pam Ewing or Alexis Colby doing a “Costume-Test Montage” back in the day. The women in '80s Soap Land mostly just glided into a scene, their image fully formed. That was part of their glamour, their status. So what’s changed? Maybe reality TV and social media have blurred the boundary between “them” and “us”, creating an illusion of accessibility around the rich and famous. Watching Cristal, Carla, Cookie and Claudia watching themselves playing dress up in the mirror, it’s almost as if they have become their own viewers, living out the fantasy of being let loose in a rich woman’s closet.
EMPIRE also presents us with the inverse of a dressing-up scene as Cookie, in her capacity as record producer, persuades a washed-up diva (played gutsily by Courtney Love) to remove her all her finery — fur coat, jewellery, hair extensions, “fake-ass eyelashes”, even her lipstick — to deliver a raw, heartfelt version of ‘Take Me to the River’ in the recording studio. The contrast between Cookie’s behaviour here and the dinner table scene where she disrobes illustrates the different sides of her personality — she balances the “authentic” with the flamboyant.
It’s been a turbulent week for rich girls sleeping with their daddy’s drivers. While Lacey tries to keep AJ at arm’s length, Hap insists they work together to outfox the Saudi Arabians. After much bickering, Lacey weakens and they kiss. But then the shutters go up again and she goes back to being mean to him. Meanwhile, Fallon reacts to Michael turning up to her company’s launch party as Kori’s plus one by getting drunk, following him into the john and groping him before he has a chance to zip up (“No need to put that away just yet”). After he rejects her advances (“Stop, you’re being ridiculous … You may not have any respect for yourself, but I’ve got respect for me and for Kori”), she emerges from the bathroom, catches Kori’s eye and makes a point of wiping her mouth, as if to say, “I just blew your boyfriend.” Michael manages to convince Kori that Fallon’s blow job was, in fact, a faux-job and they exit the party in disgust. Even by C21st Soap Land standards, this is pretty explicit stuff and Fallon’s behaviour is, depending on your point of view, either some of the most pitiful or some of the most unapologetically outrageous the genre has yet seen. So why do I neither cringe for her (as I have done previously for Gary Ewing or Maggie Gioberti when their drinking led them to make fools of themselves) nor relish her boldness (as I do Cookie’s when she flashes her ass at Anika)? I guess it’s because there aren’t any consequences for Fallon. After Michael leaves the party, she consoles herself by insulting a couple of tech gurus, but instead of taking offence, they are charmed by her forthrightness and want to make a deal with her. Their acceptance cancels out Michael’s rejection and nothing changes.
There is no shortage of advice-givers this week. Dismayed to learn that Christopher used Fake Marta’s sex tape to threaten John Ross, Bobby counsels his son against such behaviour. “A lifetime of dealing with JR has put me on both sides of blackmail,” he tells him. “It never pays off in the end. It’s not just that it’s wrong, it’s bad business.” Meanwhile on B&O, Emma, Clifton’s granddaughter (and recent graduate of the same School of Sexy Geologists as Elena Ramos), overhears Hap offering Billy a job and cautions him against accepting. “The Devil doesn’t come at with you with a pitchfork. He helps you when you’re down and then he sucks you in with empty promises until he destroys you,” she warns him. On EMPIRE, Jamal’s star is on the rise and so Cookie gives his boyfriend Michael some relationship advice. “You need to start preparing yourself,” she tells him. “Fame changes people … Try not to be all up in his business, you know? Make sure you got your own thing going on.” Michael’s reply — “I’m at the culinary institute, studying to be a chef” — is a little ironic when one considers the large appetite of his other self on DYNASTY (“I don’t know if you can hear me over the sound of your digestive tract,” Anders tell Sam this week). “I hope that cooking school is gonna keep you busy because Jamal is gonna have less and less time for you,” predicts Cookie.
Back at the Carrington manor, Blake joins Cristal in the bath before realising she isn’t Cristal, she’s Claudia in a face mask. Then Bo the dog overdoses on Claudia’s medication, which turns out not to be her medication after all. Small wonder Sam describes keeping an eye on Claudia as “crazy-sitting”. “You’re crazy,” echoes John Ross when Fake Marta shows up at his door and suggests they go away together. “You screwed me with my father, undid our business deal, drugged me and then took videos of us having sex … I wouldn’t wanna go across the street with you.” Later on, there’s a break-in at Elena’s and John Ross finds a photo of them together with a knife through it. Is this Elena’s handiwork? Or Vicente’s? Either way, he’s taking no chances and, in time-honoured Soap Land tradition, “beefs up security” by paying a couple of ranch hands, Ace and Buck, to keep an eye on Elena. “Keep your guns handy,” he tells them. Ace and Buck are just a couple of extras — unlike Malcolm DeVeaux, Lucious’s new security chief on EMPIRE. In the same way that the doctor Hap flies in to look after Cody on BLOOD AND OIL is “the finest thoracic surgeon there is in the country," Malcolm is introduced as “the best in the business” who was “awarded the Silver Star of Excellence for courage while under fire while stationed in Iraq.” The way Cookie responds to Malcolm’s charms as he escorts her through security suggests an older woman/younger bodyguard romance of Alexis and Mark Jennings proportions might be imminent.
And this week’s Top 4 are …
1 (2) BLOOD AND OIL
2 (1) DALLAS
3 (3) EMPIRE
4 (4) DYNASTY
And something like that will also happen on Dallas!
I don't remember this, but I will look it up.
I think Joseph Cumson and Paige Matheson also got the Very Best Surgeons in the country. And maybe both doctors were "unavailable" due to attending a conference or something - but I'm not 100% sure about that.
Great! (but at this point I don't think it will happen again).
Actually, it's not as homoerotic as I remembered, but it's an interesting little scene nonetheless, with Vicente prowling round John Ross's bedroom, touching things.
And '80s Blake was always shouting that he was gonna get the best damn X in the whole Y flown in whenever a member of his family was bleeding internally or somesuch.
I wonder who did the job on Rita, was it the plastic surgeon from Singapore or Nick Toscanni?
18 Jul 12: DALLAS: Collateral Damage v. 18 Feb 15: EMPIRE: Our Dancing Days v. 08 Nov 15: BLOOD AND OIL: Fight or Flight v. 29 Nov 17: DYNASTY: A Taste of Your Own Medicine
On this week’s DYNASTY, Steven takes a keen interest in his father’s so-called charitable activities. “I’ve seen the books. I know that donation isn’t all going where you’re saying it does,” he tells Blake. Later on, he confides to Fallon that he’s “pretty sure Dad’s been using foundation money to pay off Stansfield.” On BLOOD & OIL, Wick learns that his father Hap is also under suspicion. “A classified geological report was stolen from the North Dakota Oil and Gas Office,” two FBI agents tell him. “We believe your father was the recipient of that document.” They try to enlist his cooperation in building a case against Hap, but Wick tells them to stick it up their collective ass.
As always, the importance of family is a recurrent theme. The focus on EMPIRE is a “make or break” investor showcase. “Nothing can go wrong,” Lucious declares. He is advised that the best way to appeal to his biggest potential investor is “through family. He’s a real family guy.” “Well, Empire is family,” Lucious replies. “That’s what we’re selling. Family is the whole showcase.” On BLOOD AND OIL, Hap plays the “family first” card too as he rallies his clan to keep the Feds from finding out any inconvenient truths about the company during their investigation. Meanwhile, it’s Thanksgiving on DYNASTY. “Today’s about family and winning this football game,” says Blake referring to the annual “family versus staff pigskin toss”. (It’s nice to see the Carringtons kicking back and hanging out for once instead of continually moving from one glossy crisis to the next. I also like how Blake’s staff have no choice about how they spend their Thanksgiving holiday. “I’m only here because I have to be. For some reason, your father thinks we actually enjoy this,” Michael grumbles to Fallon.) Over on DALLAS, John Ross also attempts to play the family card. “Lucy, you were and always will be my favourite cousin,” he declares before asking Lucy to use her influence with Gary to get the Southfork mineral rights away from Bobby in return for “a significant stake” in Ewing Oil.
(The cousins also find time to reminisce about the time Lucy found John Ross passed out drunk for the first time. “All the grownups were drinking — I wanted to be grown up too,” he reasons. New DALLAS has already made reference not just to Sue Ellen and JR’s history of boozing, but other family members' as well. “I can hardly remember half of the parties I was at here at Southfork,” Lucy admitted a few weeks ago. “That’s because you spent most of them sneaking liquor from the bar,” replied Ray. Meanwhile, Christopher recently described Jock as “an ass-kicking, hard-drinking son of a bitch.” Maybe, looking back at the Ewings’ alcohol consumption in the ‘80s from a 2012 perspective, they all qualify as drunks.)
Ultimately, Lucy disappoints John Ross by siding with Bobby. “Is she in your pocket now?” John Ross asks his uncle. “How’d you play her — tradition, family, Miss Ellie and all that crap?”
“These charges are bullshit!” growls Bobby after he is arrested for the slap he gave Harris Ryland last week. (Swearing on DALLAS — I just love it.) His lawyer then explains that Harris will drop the charges if he apologises. “Ryland is a smug son of a bitch and I refuse to go to him and kiss his ring!” Bobby snarls, before accepting that he has no choice. A similar scenario occurs on DYNASTY when Blake tells Fallon she will only be welcome back at the manor if she apologises to Cristal for leaking her sex tape. “You can’t just waltz back in here and expect everything to be forgotten,” he says when she turns up uninvited for the family football game. Cue two somewhat half-hearted expressions of regret. “I apologise,” Bobby tells Ryland through gritted teeth, before adding a clarification: “My apology doesn’t mean I take back what I did. You mess with my wife in any way and I will beat you into next Sunday.” “I’m sorry for ever having seen your sex tape — and for leaking it,” Fallon tells her stepmom grudgingly. Before Cristal can graciously accept this apology, they are interrupted by a succession of football players eager to greet Fallon with a kiss and/or cuddle. Most of these players give off a “real-life person playing himself” vibe, which probably explains why they don’t all play tonsil hockey with Fallon as freely as those in the equivalent scene back on Old DYNASTY (during Blake and Krystle’s wedding reception) did. Nevertheless, Cristal gets the idea. “The whole team,” she observes drily. “And yet not one sex tape,” replies Fallon sweetly. At this, Blake snaps and sends his daughter packing. “If you can’t respect this family, everyone in this family, then you can spend Thanksgiving with another one,” he tells her.
Some interesting titbits emerge about various characters this week. For instance, Olivia, the woman who turned up at the end of last week’s EMPIRE claiming to have Jamal’s daughter turns out to be his ex-wife. (“Why would you make him marry some stupid-ass backup singer? … He was eighteen, a baby!” yells Cookie at Lucious.) We also learn that DYNASTY’s Michael was a promising football player until a back injury brought his career to a premature end, Claudia Blaisdel was an engineer, Anders’ middle name is Winifred and the C21st version of Cecil Colby is better known as Prisoner 2F529. (Oh, and he’s Jeff’s father rather than his uncle.) Over on DALLAS, Bobby learns that JR’s private eye Bum has a criminal record and JR discovers that Frank Ashkani was “plucked off of the streets of Islamabad” circa 1982 by Cliff who “took a real shine to the kid.” Most intriguingly of all, it appears that Ann Ewing harbours a major secret involving a baby. “There’s a lot about Annie you don’t know,” Harris Ryland tells Bobby gloatingly.
Just as Jamal is doubtful that he can be Olivia’s baby daddy (“The kid can’t be mine — I slept with that girl once!”) so Christopher Ewing greets Rebecca’s claim that she is carrying his child with hostility and suspicion: “You’ve been lying to me for the past two years. How am I supposed to trust a single word that comes out of your mouth?” Adding to Jamal's and Christopher’s frustrations, the children they refuse to claim nonetheless serve as obstacles in their romantic lives. “Elena, I still wanna be with you,” Christopher insists. “You and your child, I can’t get between that,” Elena replies. For Michael on EMPIRE, who is already feeling sidelined by Jamal’s career (“I love you but you’re in love with your music”), the arrival of a long lost daughter is the final straw. “It’s better to end this now before I have to walk out you and a kid,” he tells Jamal tearfully. Back on DALLAS, medical tests prove that not only is Rebecca telling Christopher the truth, but they are expecting twins. One look at the ultrasound and Christopher melts. Back on DYNASTY, Blake is also getting broody. “I think we should have a kid,” he tells Cristal. “This is our chance to put everything behind us and start something new.”
As Michael moves out of Jamal’s place on EMPIRE, his DYNASTY self Sam is becoming more and more ensconced at the Carrington manor. This week, a disapproving Anders finding him in the kitchen cooking “a Venezuelan dish my mom makes for the holidays — pan de Jamon” in preparation for Thanksgiving and later on, Blake even ropes him in as Fallon’s replacement on the family football team.
Trend of the week: the Rise of the Ex-Wives. JR is surprisingly laid back when Bum tells him about John Ross’s problems at Southfork. “A hundred-year-old trust is not gonna hold up in court,” he assures him. “If my boy doesn’t find a way to dissolve it, his mama will.” This casual reference to Sue Ellen tells us more about JR’s faith in her abilities than all those romantic “You’ve changed, Sue Ellen, and so have I” speeches we got used to hearing on the old series. Lucious similarly puts his faith in his ex-wife when, midway through the investors’ showcase, he is struck down by a symptom of his ALS that leaves him unable to deliver his all-important speech. “I need someone who can go and excite these people,” he croaks, ignoring his fiancee and eldest son and looking straight at Cookie. “I need you to go out there and remind them that Empire is a family business built for our sons.” Both Sue Ellen and Cookie rise to the occasion. When Elena is reluctant to help John Ross keep his head above water by supplying enough crude to the scary Venezuelans “to tide them over until John Ross can get his operation [at Southfork] fully going”, Sue Ellen turns the screws ever so slightly. “As the sole investor in your growing enterprise, I hope you will always make the wise choice,” she tells her with a cold smile. Next thing we know, Elena is offering John Ross all the oil he needs. Cookie, meanwhile, goes off-script to deliver a characteristically ballsy yet sufficiently soapy speech that has the rich old white guys reaching for their cheque books: “I’m not gonna be standing up here telling you all what a fine man my ex is … Lucious and I had three sons before he dumped me … He’s also a crazy son of a bitch that had a dream … Empire is more than one man’s dream. It’s a dream come true that’s ready to be passed down to the next generation and the next. And you all can be a part of it.” BLOOD AND OIL, meanwhile, introduces yet one more former wife. This one has bags of money and a score to settle with her ex: “Well, Hap Briggs, look at you — every bit as handsome as the day you walked out on me … I’m coming after you.” To that end, she explains, she has teamed up with Billy LeFever. “Annie Briggs — well, at least it won’t be dull,” Hap chuckles.
The climax of both EMPIRE and DYNASTY is a family gathering where a dramatic secret is revealed. We viewers have been in on one of these secrets since Day One, but the other comes as a complete surprise. Following the showcase, Lucious finally sits his sons and ex-wife down and tells them that he’s dying. Meanwhile, the Carringtons assemble for Thanksgiving dinner whereupon Claudia pulls a gun on them. During the subsequent showdown, Fallon deduces that it was Claudia who killed Matthew way back in Episode 1. Whereas Fallon is pretty much unfazed by “the crazy lady with a gun,” Lucious's sons fall apart when they hear of their father’s illness, first turning on and then embracing each other. The reaction of Andre, both the most ruthless and the most damaged of the three, is particularly moving. He angrily storms off and his wife later finds him sitting in the shower, fully clothed and hyperventilating. (It goes without saying that we don’t get to see this kind of naked vulnerability on New DYNASTY, not even when the characters are being held at gunpoint.)
Lucious’s bombshell brings him and Cookie closer and, with Anika out of town on business, they wind up in his bed. However, Anika returns home unexpectedly and sees them together — but makes sure they don’t see her. Likewise on B&O, Carla discovers that, despite Hap’s assurances to the contrary, he is still sleeping with Jules. So she makes good on her threat to ensure Wick finds them together. Like Anika, he does not confront them directly. Instead, he heads back to the FBI agents investigating his father. “OK, I’m in,” he tells them. “What do you need me to do?” There’s a similar moment near the end of DYNASTY where Steven calls Jeff Colby to ask for his help: “I’m going after the police chief, Stansfield.” “Blake’s pocket cop? … I’m down to hear more,” Jeff assures him.
It’s bye-bye to Soap Land’s two psycho bitches. DYNASTY husband killer Claudia is escorted to a sanatarium over Steven’s objections (“What are you doing?” he asks his father. “Her fate isn’t up to us. You can’t make a plea deal in the living room!”). But as one whodunnit is resolved, another begins as Fake Marta falls, jumps or is pushed from the window of a hotel room that has John Ross’s fingerprints all over it. We know he’s not responsible, but there’s still a satisfying inevitability in the final scene as the police arrive at the ranch to take him away — Bobby, Ann and Elena looking on gravely. Meanwhile, two nondescript characters on BLOOD AND OIL — Ada and Kess — are hastily written out when somebody notices they’re still on the show. They decide to go back to where they came from (Nigeria) after Kess is caught peddling drugs from their food truck to pay his gambling debts.
There are more food-truck-as-a-cover-for-something-nefarious shenanigans at the end of DYNASTY as a Venezuelan bad guy (not to be confused with the Venezuelan bad guys seen approaching Fake Marta’s hotel room shortly before her death) stops by a truck selling arepas to ask about Celia Machado (aka Cristal)’s whereabouts. Vera, the proprietor, pulls a gun on him and tells him to “get back to whatever hole you live in.” Then she calls Cristal to warn her, but Cristal and Blake are busy making babies in soft focus.
And this week’s Top 4 are …
1 (2) DALLAS
2 (3) EMPIRE
3 (1) BLOOD AND OIL
4 (4) DYNASTY
Her baby secret on Desperate Housewives was so dark and vile that suicide was the only option.
You can modernize soap operas all you want, but some things never change. It's either a bad or a wholesome feeling that keeps the lovers apart.
Don't jinx your soap, Hap!
Hmm, there's some genuine drama on NuDynasty, but it sticks out like a sore thumb.
I'm not going to say anything but for myself I'll try to predict if "this or that" episode will win the top 4 (it'll be a top 3 by then).
It's just that Dallas didn't have one bad episode at all (as far as I recall) so it's going to be a tough battle nonetheless.
I have no idea what the Empire sons look like. Jamal = Smolly Jussett?
Ah, and that's the end of B&O's answer to The Hot Biscuit. And since B&O had a relatively small cast it seemed a bit strange to me that Ada & Kess had to be an isolated sub-plot.
They could have intertwined them with the Briggs family, Jules and the town, or even the Indians.
There's going to be talk of something super-big, and yet I felt the B&O universe started to shrink.
Oh I'm intrigued!
You've never seen it? I'm surprised. It's really good.
Yeah, that's him.
They always felt a bit redundant to me. B&O already had one innocent couple who arrived in town to seek their fortune. It didn't really need another.
No. But I enjoy reading it. I'll look up the cast to improve my visualization of the scenes.
I guess it wasn't a great idea to share that angle with another couple. Maybe it could have worked if it had been a town/community soap, then they could successfully alternate between unrelated storylines.
I've watched all of these and I'm surprised at your placing of Blood & Oil - I just remember it as very bland.
I guess you can replace it with Star once the stars align.
The nice wholesome couple the show ostensibly centres around are a bit generic, especially compared with all the other shadier characters, but all the juicy twists and turns mostly make up for that.
Separate names with a comma.