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

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

  1. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    23 Jan 85: DYNASTY: Foreign Relations v. 24 Jan 85: KNOTS LANDING: Out of the Past v. 25 Jan 85: DALLAS: Bail Out v. 25 Jan 85: FALCON CREST Acid Tests

    Let the battle of the bizarro wedding storylines commence: On DYNASTY, Jeff Colby sheepishly introduces his third wife Nicole, whom he can’t actually remember marrying, to his first wife’s family who immediately invites the happy couple to move in with them. On KNOTS LANDING, Gary arrives in Shula, Tennessee where he tries to stop his amnesiac ex-wife from marrying the local dry-cleaner.

    The scenes dealing with Nicole’s first few days at the Carrington mansion feel like a Hall-of-Mirrors version of Clayton’s initial attempts to acclimatise to life at Southfork earlier in this season’s DALLAS. Just as Clayton’s bid to assert his authority over step-granddaughter Lucy proved somewhat heavy-handed, Nicole comes on a bit too strong where ordering maid Jeanette around. Also, Nicole is as troubled by the prominence of her predecessor Fallon’s portrait in the family home as Clayton was by Jock’s. And in the same way that Bobby impulsively attempted to remove his father’s painting out of consideration to Clayton, Nicole’s drunken pal Bill tries to dislodge the picture of Fallon — only to be reprimanded by Krystle just as Bobby was by JR. “It’s still your house,” Clayton conceded to Jock’s portrait on his first night at the ranch. “You win again,” murmurs Nicole to Fallon’s picture in her last scene of this week’s DYNASTY.

    Two slow-burning relationships that have been shrouded in ambiguity so far this season are finally consummated in this week’s Soap Land. On DYNASTY, Steven turns up unannounced at Luke Fuller’s door and on DALLAS, Mandy Winger accepts JR’s invitation to Club 1900 — which, when she steps out of the elevator, turns out not to be a club at all but a dimly-lit hotel penthouse. Whereas Steven’s mood is solemn and earnest ("I've thought about us and I know what I want to do, where I want to be and with whom,” he tells Luke), Mandy's is volatile and angry (“You've been using me since you first met me,” she hisses at JR, "I hate you!”). While Luke and Steven stand facing each other in silence, JR lunges at Mandy after she throws a glass of champagne in his face and starts kissing her. Where Luke discreetly closes his apartment door leaving us on the other side of it, JR chuckles knowingly as he lowers Mandy out of shot and the screen fades to black.

    This week’s DYNASTY also sees the arrival of Lady Ashley Mitchell, Soap Land’s first titled character since Lady Jessica Montford in last season’s DALLAS. Although Jessica lived in London and Ashley resides in Paris, each is the American widow of an English lord. DYNASTY being DYNASTY, Lady Mitchell isn’t quite as down-home as Lady Montford was — where Jessica boasted of wrestling mountain lions in Virginia, Ashley speaks rhapsodically of her vineyard in Bordeaux — but the show is nonetheless keen to depict her as more relatable than her grand title might otherwise suggest. When Blake asks what she misses most about her homeland, Ashley replies without hesitation: “An all-American big juicy hamburger.”

    The final scenes of Jessica and Ashley’s debut episodes also share some similarities. Just as Jessica forged an immediate friendship with Miss Ellie (or at least appeared to) so Ashley strikes up an instant rapport with Blake (even going so far as to kiss him impulsively, if somewhat chastely, on the lips). At the end of their respective scenes, Miss Ellie and Blake each take their leave of their new acquaintance. ”I’m so happy that we’re going to be family,” smiles Ellie as she exits Jessica's bedroom at Southfork. “Good-bye,” says Blake as he departs Ashley’s suite in Paris. Left alone, Jessica and Ashley repeat these parting words questioningly, before contradicting them. “Family? Oh, I don't think so,” said Jessica back then. “Good-bye? I'm not so sure about that,” says Ashley now. The frames then freeze on Ladies Montford and Mitchell — Jessica scowling malevolently, Ashley smirking mischievously.

    Two of the best scenes of the week take place between the Ewingverse’s most perennially thwarted couples, Gary and Val on KNOTS and Bobby and Pam on DALLAS. Each pair of soulmates are seemingly destined to be together but are separated by a series of obstacles — the most extreme being Val’s current inability to recognise Gary or recall any aspect of their life together when he approaches her at the coffee shop where she is working. There is a fleeting breakthrough when Gary, watching as Val gets swamped by customers, comes to her assistance, thereby re-enacting the circumstances under which they met as kids all those years ago. Past and present collide (with the aid of flashbacks and two really well-cast actors as the teenage Gary and Val), the couple's eyes meet, and just for a second Val recalls something of her past life — before quickly shutting it out again. Pam describes a similarly transient moment on this week’s DALLAS when she tells Bobby how she felt when she first heard that his wedding to Jenna hadn’t taken place. "I guess I let my fantasies take over,” she admits. "You know, the dream — that you and I would get back together.” Like Gary and Val’s, Bobby and Pam's romance has been impeded by a succession of storyline complications and misunderstandings, one of which is cleared up when Pam explains that she accepted Mark’s marriage proposal not because she was in love with him, but because he was dying. “You were going to marry Mark because he needed you?” realises Bobby. "Now he's gone!” But just as one obstacle disappears, another materialises to take its place. “And now Jenna needs you," Pam points out, her eyes glistening. "Yes she does," Bobby agrees. "Right now, I'm just about all that she's got." Finally, Bobby and Pam are privy to all the secrets that have kept them apart since the beginning of the previous season ... only the information has come too late for them to be together. By contrast, Val’s subconscious is actively erecting barriers to keep Gary at bay — this week’s KNOTS ends with her telling Parker that they should get married immediately.

    At the beginning of this Soap Land season, two young denim-clad innocents, KNOTS LANDING’s Joshua and DALLAS’s Jamie, showed up out of nowhere on their families' doorsteps. Having just crossed the midpoint of the season, this seems an opportune time to see how they're progressing. Appearance-wise, both are more sophisticated than they were. Gone is the double-denim — as well as, in Jamie’s case, the girlish party frocks Sue Ellen subsequently dressed her up in. This week Jamie unveils her new post-Southfork image — a shorter hairstyle (a tamer version of the sexy Debbie Harry bob currently sported by Abby on KNOTS) and a more tailored wardrobe. Joshua too looks slicker, as befits his current role as in front of the TV cameras. There’s a brief but telling moment this week that would have been unthinkable only a few episodes ago — just before going on air, Joshua checks his appearance in a make-up mirror and nods approvingly. (It’s tempting to imagine Alec Baldwin based this on the behaviour of the KL actresses surrounding him on set.)

    Having arrived in Soap Land to be with their families, both Joshua's and Jamie’s horizons have now broadened. Joshua has embarked on a promising career in television and Jamie has joined forces with Cliff Barnes to fight the Ewings for two-thirds of their company. Yet both characters are conflicted. Throughout this week’s DALLAS, Jamie expresses misgivings about the path she has chosen. "It's hard for me to fight my family,” she frets. Joshua’s girlfriend Cathy, meanwhile, is worried about Abby’s influence over him. “She’s using you!” she tells him. "She’s helping me!” he insists. Cathy’s right, of course. What’s especially chilling about Abby’s behaviour here is that making Joshua a star is almost a sideline for her — something to keep her occupied while she waits for Gary to get back from Tennessee or for Paul Galveston to make his next move in their ongoing game of cat and mouse. Almost as an amusement, she is feeding Joshua’s ego (“You must know that you’re very special … When the Creator has set you apart, endowed you with special gifts …”), without noticing or even caring that she’s slowly turning him into a monster in the process.

    Jamie and Joshua’s nearest FALCON CREST equivalent, Lorraine Prescott, is also caught in the middle — between step-daddy Richard and secret lover Lance, whom Richard is currently in the process of framing for attempted murder.

    DYNASTY’s Ashley, DALLAS's Pam and FALCON CREST’s Maggie are each asked to take sides in an ongoing feud within their respective shows this week. When Alexis hears that Blake has flown to Paris to resume negotiations with the Chinese regarding his South China Sea oil leases, she asks the politically-connected Ashley to keep her informed of his progress. Ashley turns her down. "I'd be thrilled not to be a party to her manipulations,” she later confides to Blake. On DALLAS, Cliff and Jamie ask Pam to join them in their fight for Ewing Oil, but she too declines. "Fighting JR is one thing, but I'd have to fight Bobby too, and that company means so much to him,” she explains. Then comes Maggie’s turn on FALCON CREST. During a particularly dynamic scene (credit goes once more to director Larry Elikann), Richard assigns her the job of reporting on Lance's trial full time: “Think about the premise — ’Spoilt young heir to a wine fortune tries to kill his rich powerful grandmother.’" Following Ashley and Pam’s lead, Maggie refuses point blank to join Richard's crusade. “I am willing to cover the story for you, but I am not going to exploit it,” she says. When that doesn’t satisfy Richard, she resigns. By the end of the ep, she's even testified as a character witness for Lance. Lady Ashley similarly winds up helping Blake instead of spying on him, interceding between him and the Chinese over a diplomatic hiccup. Only Pam remains on the fence — at least until the last scene of this week’s DALLAS when the pilot who claimed he flew Mark Graison to the Caribbean for treatment admits he was lying, and that JR was behind the whole thing. The final shot of the episode — Pam's face contorted with a mixture of shock, fury and disgust - is a freeze frame for the ages.

    Unintentional tribute of the week: as Jane Greer makes her bittersweet final appearance as Charlotte Pershing on FALCON CREST — daughter Maggie having tracked her down to a halfway house where she has decided to face up to her gambling addiction — the name of Greer’s most famous movie, the film noir classic Out of the Past, is adopted as an episode title by KNOTS.

    Soap Land’s accused — DALLAS’s Jenna and FALCON CREST’s Lance — both head back to the courtroom this week. For Jenna, it’s for another bail hearing while on FC, it’s already time for Lance's preliminary hearing. Jenna’s lawyer Scotty Demarest warns that the presiding judge is "an ornery son of a gun” while Greg Reardon informs Lance that his case will be heard by "a tough new judge elected on a law and order platform”. In each instance, the message is the same: this is one time the Ewings’ and Channings’ power and influence will count for naught. In the event, Jenna is finally released on bail while Lance, in spite of Angela's testimony that she does not believe he tried to kill her, is bound over to stand trial for attempted murder.

    However, there’s a twist. At the end of this week’s FALCON CREST, we learn that the judge in question is in Richard Channing's pocket. This is quite an achievement: successfully bribing a trial judge, be it in a murder case or even a mere child custody battle, is something JR and Alexis, for all their resources and ruthlessness, have never quite managed to pull off. For that reason alone, Richard is more than deserving of this week’s FC freeze frame. (Greg Sumner also manages some fancy legal manoeuvring on this week’s KNOTS when he presents Mack with a warrant to search Galveston Industries in relation to the Tidal Basin killings, i.e., Soap Land’s third currently ongoing murder investigation. “How did you manage that?” queries Mack. “Don’t ask,” Greg replies, adding for good measure, “Get Paul Galveston!” Lest we forget, he’s talking about his own father here.)

    This week’s KNOTS and DALLAS each contains a juicy two-hander scene where one female character gives another some unwelcome advice about her love life. “If you really care about Joshua, you’ll stop seeing him,” Abby tells Cathy. “Our relationship is none of your business,” Cathy replies. ”Joshua is my business,” Abby shoots back. Meanwhile, Sue Ellen is at her jaundiced best during a scene in which she congratulates Jenna on her decision not to elope with Bobby. "You can live here at Southfork and see exactly how the Ewings operate, without being locked in 'till death do you part'. It's a rare opportunity, Jenna … Maybe you’ll do yourself a huge favour and decide never to marry a Ewing."

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    30 Jan 85: DYNASTY: Triangles v. 30 Jan 85: KNOTS LANDING: Lead Me to the Altar v. 01 Feb 85: DALLAS: Legacy of Hate v. 01 Feb 85: FALCON CREST: The Showdown

    It’s a tough week for relationships in Soap Land. "We're through!” Brady Lloyd shouts at wife Dominique on DYNASTY. "It's over, isn't it?” guesses Luke Fuller correctly during a scene with Steven Carrington in the same episode. “This is over,” echoes Joshua Rush on KNOTS LANDING, walking out on girlfriend Cathy. “Now I'm going to do exactly what I want, and that's to have nothing to do with either of you,” declares Mandy Winger to JR on DALLAS.

    In each case — and as the title of this week’s DYNASTY suggests — a third party is involved. Brady believes that Dominique has chosen her newfound brother over him ("My wife doesn't need me anymore! She's got Blake Carrington!”), while Joshua’s boss is having a similarly destructive impact on his relationship (“Don’t let Abby do this to us!” Cathy pleads). Meanwhile, Steven is torn between his feelings for Luke and his marriage to Claudia in much the same way that Mandy is caught between arch enemies JR and Cliff. "I'm afraid of losing any sense of who I am or what I want,” explains Steven to Luke. "You don't understand what's happening to me!" Mandy tells Cliff.

    An interesting parallel emerges this week between Steven and Luke on DYNASTY and Joshua and Cathy on KNOTS. Although Joshua started off the season as shy and innocent, and was near-traumatised following his first sexual experience with Cathy, he has since grown in confidence, and that has been reflected in the evolving physicality between he and Cathy on screen. A recent play-fight between them in Laura’s house inevitably ended up the bedroom, and during an argument a couple of weeks ago, Joshua impulsively picked Cathy up and threw her over his shoulder before laying her down on a couch and straddling her. As a result, we’re left in no doubt as to the passionate nature of their relationship. By contrast, due to the constraints of the era, Steven and Luke have done little more than pat one another on the arm. Prior to this week’s episode, Luke straightening Steven’s tie was as intimate as it got between them. In this ep, in lieu of an actual love scene, they share a sweaty game of racquetball, and even then, when Steven puts out a hand to help Luke to his feet at the end of the match, there is a shared awkwardness, even a guilt, in response to this chaste contact. This partly reflects Steven’s conflict within himself. Indeed, the restrictions of the period and Steven’s own inhibitions inform one another till it's hard to know where one ends and the other begins. Strangely, this seems much clearer to me now than it did when these episodes first aired: not only is this Soap Land’s first depiction of two men falling in love (Steven’s previous male relationship having commenced before the series even began), but one of the men is married with a child and the other is his workplace subordinate. As such, the show and its characters find themselves navigating both a narrative and emotional minefield simultaneously.

    "I'm starting to care for you a great deal,” Steven admits to Luke before ending their relationship. “Joshua, I love you and you love me,” insists Cathy on KNOTS — only Joshua isn’t listening. While Steven is willing to suppress his own feelings in order to conform to the expectations of those around him, Joshua chooses to deny his feelings in order to transcend those around him. “I don’t think it would be fitting for my viewers to see me in a saloon … I’m sure that’s hard to understand for someone like yourself,” he murmurs, barely looking at Cathy, intoxicated instead by his own power and success. Such arrogance should render Joshua laughably absurd but it doesn’t — because there is something genuinely mesmeric about him.

    So where do Steven's and Joshua’s self-absorbed self-denial leave Luke and Cathy? As if confused and heartbroken weren’t enough, both are cast in the default role of sexual predator. After all, it can’t be Steven's and Joshua’s faults that they each succumbed to their basest desires, can it? As Luke delivers his “Normal is loving someone” speech, we can sense both the actor and character pushing against the restraints that the show and the relationship with Steven have placed upon him. Meanwhile, Joshua pretty much slut-shames Cathy when he refuses to believe her claim that Abby paid her to make Gary fall in love with her. “Maybe it’s what you wanted to have happen — did you try to seduce him too?” he asks. And just as we don’t laugh at Joshua’s egotism, neither do we sneer at Luke's and Cathy’s tearful helplessness. Both characters have a truthful dignity about them.

    While DYNASTY treats Steven and Luke’s relationship with the utmost solemnity, KNOTS finds room for a more flippant gay reference: “What the hell are you doing with Mackenzie?” demands Paul Galveston. "We’re having an affair,” quips Greg Sumner.

    Just as Joshua breaks up with Cathy in the dressing room of the club where she sings, so DALLAS’s Mandy Winger attempts to sever ties with JR in the dressing room of the restaurant where she models. “We can just say goodbye and forget we ever met,” she coolly suggests. Interestingly, JR’s response is similar to Cathy's. “You can't say you don't feel somethin' for me,” he insists. But whereas Joshua manages to completely disregard Cathy’s words, Mandy’s resolve begins to crumble as soon as JR starts nuzzling her neck.

    Poor Mandy Winger! As well as being caught between JR and Cliff, she also finds herself a reluctant part of another triangle, in which her already shaky relationship with Cliff is being encroached upon by the constant presence of Jamie, alongside whom Cliff is fighting for control of Ewing Oil. Mandy does a better job of extricating herself from this situation than from her involvement with JR. “I'm getting out - because three’s a crowd,” she informs Jamie and Cliff before walking out the door. Amanda Carrington does something similar on DYNASTY. Finally tiring of flashing back to her night of passion with step-father Dex while he and Mummy get it on upstairs, she turns up at the Carrington mansion in the early hours of the morning with a suitcase.

    Over on FALCON CREST, Greg Reardon offers some contrary advice to an even more antagonistic trio — Chase, Angela and Richard. “Perhaps it’s time for the three of you to work together for once,” he suggests. Such counsel proves sound, for no sooner do the threesome pool their knowledge than they fathom that cartel honcho Gustav Reibmann and Tuscany Valley newcomer Jean Louis de Bercy are one and the same. This seems to be the week for aliases to unravel — just as Reibmann’s true identity is about to exposed on FC so Val Ewing finds it increasingly difficult to cling to the delusion that she is really Verna Ellers on KL.

    … which leads us to yet another triangle, between Val/Verna, fiancee Parker Winslow and outsider Gary Ewing — whom this week materialises out of nowhere in the reflection of Val’s bedroom mirror as she is trying on her wedding dress. Then he appears in the room itself, clad in full morning dress, and he and Val dance lovingly together like two figures atop a wedding cake. This is Val’s more extreme version of what Pam described to Bobby in last week’s DALLAS as her fantasy taking over — “you know, the dream — that you and I would get back together.” It's also an inversion of the nightmare sequence experienced by Fallon when she looked at her wedding-dress reflection at the end of last season’s DYNASTY. So many conflicting perceptions rub up against each other in this Val/Verna story-line — fantasy and reality, past and present, dreams and nightmares, even fact and fiction: for as Gary points out this week when he shows her a copy of Nashville Junction, Val has now become a character in her own novel.

    Elsewhere on this week’s KNOTS, Mack’s Tidal Basin murder investigation closes in on Galveston Industries. Meanwhile, in the cracking opening scene of this week’s DALLAS, Pam blames JR for sending her to the Caribbean on a wild goose chase looking for Mark. Paul Galveston and JR both then deftly shift the blame away from themselves: Galveston has two of his employees confess to the murders while JR plays a tape of a phone conversation that makes it appear as if Cliff were the guilty party. No one is entirely convinced by either manoeuvre, but there’s nothing they can do to prove it. Little wonder that both men are referred to as snakes — Galveston by Karen during a conversation with Mack, JR by Pam during their aforementioned confrontation, in which she also vows to get revenge by joining Cliff and Jamie in their fight to take Ewing Oil away from him.

    Adam calling Luke a little troll prompted a punch up between he and brother Steven in the Carrington gym on last week’s DYNASTY. Pam telling Bobby about the wild goose chase JR sent her on leads to a fight between the Ewing brothers in the Southfork pool on this week’s DALLAS. And there’s further sibling violence on FALCON CREST when Richard takes a swing at half-brother Chase. Whereas the Carrington brawl was witnessed by Claudia, who pleaded ineffectually with Steven and Adam to come to their senses, the Krebbses and Farlows prove more proactive on this week’s DALLAS. Clayton and Ray jump fully-clothed into the pool to pull Bobby off JR while Miss Ellie and Donna shout disapprovingly from the sidelines. Over on FALCON CREST, Angela is the bystander — at least until Chase ducks and Richard’s fist inadvertently connects with her jaw. Each of these altercations is very enjoyable in its own way (and let us not forget poor old Gary Ewing, who has taken a pasting from Parker Winslow’s good ole boys two KNOTS eps in a row), but for sheer entertainment value, absolutely nothing beats a duel in the Southfork pool.

    Unusually, this week’s Ewingverse episodes each makes reference to its sister show. On KNOTS, Gary tries to jog Val’s memory (before literally jogging with her) by talking about his family in Texas (“My mother’s still living there — so are my brothers, JR and Bobby”), while DALLAS ends with those very same mother and brothers being served with a subpoena (courtesy of Cliff and Jamie, suing them for their shares of Ewing Oil) over breakfast. “Gary Ewing is being served in California,” the process server confidently informs them. As a matter of fact, Gary Ewing is currently in Tennessee, trying to stop a wedding. In so doing, he goes where no previous Soap Land wedding guest (or wedding-crasher in this case) has gone before. It has long been a soap trope on such occasions for the words, “If any man can show just cause why these two may not lawfully be joined together ...” to be accompanied by a close-up of a spurned love interest (Matthew Blaisdel during Krystle’s first wedding to Blake, Cole Gioberti during Melissa’s to Lance, Amanda at Alexis and Dex's, Cliff at JR and Sue Ellen’s), who ultimately decides to hold their peace rather than stop the ceremony altogether. Gary, however, speaks out, interrupting the wedding in a final bid to remind Val who she really is. The episode ends with Val at the altar looking back and forth between Gary and Parker — that triangle shape again.

    While Parker Winslow is happy to wed Val by pretending not to know she isn’t really Verna Ellers, FALCON CREST’s Gustav Reibmann is happy to date Emma Channing while pretending that he really is Jean-Louis de Bercy. This week Emma tells him about the secret tunnels built underneath the Tuscany Valley: "In the old days, all wineries had storage rooms dug deep into the hills. They hired Chinese labour gangs to do the digging ... During the Prohibition, they used them to run illegal wine and brandy. Falcon Crest is honeycombed with all these tunnels.” I really like the way the tunnels, with their strong historical context (the themes of Chinese immigrants and Prohibition having already been established in the show’s early days), recur at pivotal moments in the FALCON CREST saga — enabling Carlo Agretti’s murderer to access his house and Julia to escape the spring house fire. Now Gustav hopes they will lead him to his unholy grail — the Nazi treasure hidden under Falcon Crest. In this regard, FALCON CREST's secret tunnels serve a similar purpose to DYNASTY’s China Sea oil leases, which have proved a useful thread upon which to hang several disparate story-lines during the past two years. This very week, Blake prompts the interest of Alexis and Dex, and the dismay of Krystle, by announcing an auction in Acapulco where he aims to sell off some of his China Sea leases. That’s the same Acapulco that FC’s Gustav describes as one of "the most romantic ports in the world,” promising to sail Emma there on his yacht.

    Emma’s tunnel revelation also inspires Soap Land’s wackiest therapy session to date when Gustav subjects Julia, who is still labouring under the illusion that he is her psychiatrist rather than her jailer, to a most unusual line of questioning: “Tell me about the tunnels, Julia - the tunnels!”

    Speaking of Julia, Pam’s shock at the end of last week’s DALLAS upon hearing that Mark Graison hadn’t come back from the dead after all is matched by Angela’s astonishment at the end of this week’s FALCON CREST when she hears (at gunpoint, no less) that Julia has!

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    6 Feb 85: DYNASTY: The Ball v. 7 Feb 85: KNOTS LANDING: Fly Away Home v. 08 Feb 85: DALLAS: Sins of the Fathers v. 08 Feb 85: FALCON CREST: Retribution

    This week’s DYNASTY is written by KNOTS LANDING’s Richard Avery. The closest his script comes to a direct Knotsian reference is Krystle comparing her baby daughter to a Dresden doll in the opening scene. Richard’s former sanatarium roommate Nicholas, who memorably observed that “we’re all just china dolls”, would doubtless concur.

    It’s very much business as usual this week for Alexis on DYNASTY, still trying to get her hands on Blake’s offshore leases, and for Cliff on DALLAS, still trying to prove that Jock stole Digger’s share of the Ewing fortune. To those ends, half the cast of DYNASTY travel to Acapulco for an oil lease auction while the majority of the Barnes and Ewing clans assemble in court where Cliff and Jamie attempt to get an injunction to freeze the assets of Ewing Oil.

    While in Acapulco, the Carringtons encounter Prince Michael of Moldavia, Soap Land’s very first royal character. Whereas previous aristocrats, DALLAS’s Lady Montford and DYNASTY’s Lady Mitchell, turned out to be more down to earth than other characters were expecting, here the opposite proves true — Amanda initially mistakes the prince for a waiter, but he proves every inch to the palace born, comporting himself regally and speaking in a self-consciously formal manner, even when asking her to dance. "I would be the saddest of princes if you turned me down,” he tells her, "a melancholy Mediterranean Hamlet."

    Sitting at the other end of the social scale is Alf Brindle, one of my all-time favourite DALLAS guest characters, who also makes his debut appearance this week. Brindle is a shambling old drill site worker who knew Jock, Jason and Digger back when they first struck oil. The Ewing brothers thrust him into the spotlight at the end of this week’s ep so that he can give Cliff, Pam and Jamie a first hand account of the early days of the Barnes/Ewing feud. He is by turns nervous, giggly, excitable and shy, and it’s a really great, funny and eccentric performance.

    Over on KNOTS LANDING, the Verna-in-Shlua story draws to a close, with the surprise twist that jilted bridegroom Parker’s aim was true after all — the real reason he wanted Val’s true identity kept under wraps is because he didn’t want to lose her. (This doesn’t stop Mack, the closest KNOTS has to a moral arbiter, later referring to him as "a louse”.) Meanwhile on DALLAS, Lucy and Eddie’s equivalent story-line literally breaks new ground as construction commences on their land development venture. Alas, Eddie’s motives turn out not to be as pure as Parker’s, for we now know that he has been sleeping with Betty Lou all along and his involvement with Lucy is merely a front for a get-rich-quick scheme.

    KNOTS' Tennessee based soap-within-a-soap was fun, but things get really interesting as soon as Val returns to California. For starters, there’s some wonderfully nuanced awkwardness in her homecoming scene, with everyone behaving as if everything were fine, while silently unsure of how much Val even remembers of her old life (Laura and Ben look particularly uncomfortable - does she even know who they are?), and Joshua later ordering everyone onto their knees to give thanks for Val's return.

    Having accepted that she is now Val not Verna, Val nonetheless clings to a time in her mind when she and Gary were still married. “We’ve always loved each other,” she tells him. Indeed, ex-wives with a hold on their former husbands is something of a theme in this week’s soaps. “You still love Fallon,” Nicole tells Jeff on DYNASTY, while Krystle is none too pleased to learn that Alexis is in Acapulco with Blake. JR’s reminder to Bobby on DALLAS that Pam is “not your wife anymore” is echoed by Abby on KNOTS pointing out to Gary that, “I’m your wife — Valene isn’t.”

    Unintentionally and/or otherwise, each of this week’s soaps contain several references to their own history. On DYNASTY, Nicole tries on the very dress that Fallon used to wear in the opening credits (a similar shade of red to the outfit Gary had Cathy slip into when he was attempting to turn her into Ciji on KNOTS — although Jeff is less than impressed to find his third wife dressing up as his first: “Take it off!” he shouts). And as well as Krystle calling Blake in Acapulco, only to hang up in surprise when Alexis answers the phone just as she did in Season 2, there’s a scene of Daniel teaching her how to skeet-shoot, an activity that recalls another memorable scene between Alexis and Krystle from the same year. Krystle then frets to Daniel about being left behind while Blake and Alexis are in a foreign country together (another familiar scenario). "She's there in Acapulco and I'm not,” she broods. "Amanda's there and I'm not ... I feel left out and it hurts.” Krystle’s sense of isolation gets to the root of the character’s self-doubt, as established in the show’s early days. Likewise, during a beach scene between Val and Gary in this week’s KNOTS, Val reveals some of her own deep-seated insecurities. Recalling the moment in the pilot episode when she saw the ocean for the first time, she also remembers her fear that it wouldn’t live up to expectations: “Even when I was little I always knew that the ocean would probably be the biggest and the most beautiful and the most powerful thing I’d ever see. I thought just by being close to it, it would make me better — make me think clearer and feel deeper and know more.” After Gary gently explains that they are now divorced, Val starts to wade into the ocean, perhaps hoping Gary will join her like he and Lucy did back in “Home is for Healing”, but he doesn’t.

    DALLAS in particular is chockfull of references to its past this week: Cliff makes mention of Bobby’s temper (calling to mind the punch he gave him at the end of Season 1), Ray Krebbs alludes Cliff and Donna’s near-forgotten fling in Season 3 (thereby strengthening his motives for joining his brothers in the fight against Cliff for Ewing Oil), and Cliff and Sue Ellen have their first conversation in almost three years when she comes to Barnes Wentworth to resurrect her friendship with Pam. Mention is even made of the pilot who witnessed Jock’s helicopter crash in South America three seasons earlier. Best of all is the scene between JR and Sue Ellen that recalls some of their classic bedroom battles in DALLAS’s early years. When JR mistakenly assumes she’s arranged to have dinner with Cliff, Sue Ellen does not disabuse him of the notion. Instead she taunts him with it. “Well, he must have something," she tells him. "Look at all the women the two of you have shared — Julie Grey, Afton, myself.” Lance and Melissa similarly remind each other of past infidelities during an argument in front of their priest in this week’s FALCON CREST. First, Melissa accuses Lance of sleeping with “every floozy in town” during their marriage. Then Lance shoots back smartly with, “What were you doing with Richard Channing — playing ping pong?” As retorts go, Melissa’s “Your crazy mother murdered my father!” is hard to top, but back on DALLAS Sue Ellen manages it. "As a matter of fact, Cliff is a wonderful lover,” she informs JR devilishly. Thus provoked, he grabs her, pins her to the bed and kisses her, thereby following the current trend of Soap Land men trying to force themselves sexually on their wives or partners (Naldo/Jenna, Steven/Claudia, Greg/Laura, JR/Mandy). Sue Ellen comes up with the most effective way yet of fending him off — and it seems especially fitting that she should choose the very week that royalty makes its Soap Land debut on DYNASTY to finally knee JR in his crown jewels.

    There’s an equivalent scene to the JR/Sue Ellen bedroom encounter in this week’s KNOTS LANDING. Terrified that Paul Galveston will make good on his threat to reveal all to Gary about Val’s babies, Abby shows up at Greg’s hotel room at night (dressed, as Sue Ellen was in her scene, to the absolute nines) and begs for his help. When Greg tells her to scram, she abruptly changes tack, threatening to expose what she knows — or thinks she knows — about his connection to Galveston. She’s bluffing, of course — she has no idea that they are father and son — but Greg’s response to her blackmail is just great. He pushes her up against the wall and kisses her face off. She responds in kind; end of scene. With no subsequent reference to this passionate interlude, save for Abby tenderly asking Gary the next night to make love to her as if to cleanse her of her infidelity, this is a rare Soap Land instance of consequence-free sex between people otherwise committed to long term relationships. The last time it happened was when Lance and Melissa marked their divorce with some impromptu office-bound intercourse despite them each being in love with other people.

    Another familiar situation on this week’s DALLAS sees Pam caught between the Barneses and the Ewings once again. "Bobby wouldn't do the kind of illegal, underhand things that JR would,” she insists to her brother in an early scene. "A Ewing is a Ewing is a Ewing,” Cliff replies. Later, when Bobby suggests Cliff might have been the one who sent her to the Caribbean looking Mark, she finds herself having the same argument in reverse. ("Cliff would never do something like that to me.” "What wouldn’t Cliff do to get Ewing Oil?”) Not only does this recall the kind of debates Pam and Bobby used to have when they were first married ("Pamela, when are you gonna realise just how much your brother hates my family?!”), it also points the way forward to the events of New DALLAS, when it’s only after the deaths of both Pam and JR that we finally discover just how far Bobby and Cliff will go to defeat one another.

    In recent weeks, Val and Pam have each experienced their own version of "the dream — that you and I would get back together” with regard to their respective Ewing exes, Gary and Bobby. This week, it transpires that neither has entirely given up the hope of that dream becoming a reality. When Gary arranges to meet her the day after she returns home, Val is so excited, she dresses up especially for the occasion. “How do I look?” she asks nervously, waiting for him to arrive. “Beautiful, sweetpea,” Lilimae assures her. (It’s notable that she chooses the kind of simple summer dress she used to wear when she and Gary first moved to Knots Landing.) Meanwhile on DALLAS, after Bobby calls Pam at her office asking her to meet him for a drink, she surprises her secretary by deciding to go home and change first. "Might as well look my best,” she says girlishly. However, instead of realising "the dream — that you and I would get back together”, Val and Pam are each forced to face the fact that they cannot recreate what they’ve lost, no matter how much they might want to. “It didn’t work for us,” Gary tells Val sadly. "Our trouble was we always lived in our past, when you were fifteen and I was seventeen. It was so good then that we tried to recapture it and we just couldn’t.” “A part of me always feels like I belong at Southfork,” Pam admits to Sue Ellen. "I know that can never happen now that I’ve thrown in with Cliff.”

    It’s interesting that Val’s memory is fully restored not during her conversation with Gary, but in a subsequent scene in her own kitchen. This calls to mind the scene from DALLAS Season 4 where Miss Ellie overcame her own denial about Jock’s death, which was also set in a kitchen. Whereas Ellie ended up on her knees smashing crockery, this scene opens with Val on her knees scrubbing the floor. Jenna Wade has a mini-breakdown in the Southfork kitchen this week too. Like Val, she’s performing a domestic task — baking bread — when she drops a hot pan and sinks tearfully to the floor. Like both Val and Ellie, she is struggling with an issue of memory, but whereas the two other women achieve a kind of breakthrough, she remains tormented by the unknown: "Maybe he did try to rape me, maybe I did grab a gun and shoot him ... I just don't know anymore ... God, what if I really did kill him?!” Where Val has Mack to help her through her kitchen crisis, Jenna has Donna — DALLAS’s nearest counterpart to Mack in the robust common-sense stakes. The main difference between the two pairings is that Val and Mack have previous experience of this kind of thing — the scene where he finds her on the beach towards the end of Season 4 springs to mind — whereas this is the first time Donna and Jenna have had a scene alone together. If this week’s FALCON CREST has an equivalent, it’s the scene where Maggie (practical yet compassionate) breaks the news to Emma (emotional and highly-strung) that the dashing Jean Louis de Bercy, for whom Emma has fallen, is really the highly dangerous Gustav Reibmann. Emma is devastated and refuses to accept this, even though deep down she knows it’s true.

    While Abby orders Gary to stay away from Val on KNOTS (“a clean break — or we’re through”), Claudia orders Luke to stay away from Steven on DYNASTY. Interestingly, she employs the same emotional blackmail tactics that Abby tried on Cathy two weeks ago. “If you really care for him, you’ll stop seeing him,” Abby told Cathy then regarding Joshua. "I'm going to believe you genuinely care for him and I'm going to ask your help — stay away from him,” Claudia tells Luke now regarding Steven. Luke complies, but his caveat, “I think you’re fooling yourself, Claudia,” is, in turn, echoed by Cathy in this week’s KNOTS, if not word for word then certainly in sentiment. "You see things in black and white — things aren't that simple,” she tells Joshua.

    Random trend of the week: minor mishaps with major repercussions. In DYNASTY's final scene, Krystle is out riding with Daniel Reece when she is thrown by her horse. She tumbles down a slope and Daniel rushes to her side, but no bones have been broken. Instead, it leads to a freeze-frame kiss. Over on KNOTS, Ben Gibson is out driving with the delectable PK Kelly when he gets a flat tyre. A passing delivery truck on its way to Empire Valley pulls over to lend a hand. While the delivery guys are changing the wheel (and ogling Kelly’s legs), Ben takes a peek in the back of their truck and is intrigued to discover a vast supply of highly sophisticated transmitters, "very powerful and super hi-tech”. From this, he concludes that “Empire Valley’s being used as a cover."

    Whereas two of Soap Land’s “I see dead people” characters appear to have lost faith in their own convictions — DALLAS's Pam angrily dismisses Dr Matsuda’s claim that he saw Mark Graison in Hong Kong as a lie while DYNASTY’s Jeff is now sufficiently resigned to Fallon’s death to start a new life with Nicole — a third is finally vindicated when Angela sees Julia alive and well in this week’s FALCON CREST. “Emma was right all along,” she acknowledges.

    While being held hostage by the cartel, Angela and Julia manage to forge a reconciliation. This is more or less a retread of their spring house reunion at the end of last season when Julia was the one holding Angela hostage, only somewhat less effective. “In my whole life, that’s the first time I can ever remember you saying you were sorry,” marvels Julia. While Angela softens in the present, Jock Ewing is softened retroactively when Alf Brindle reveals in the final scene of this week’s DALLAS how he (Jock), contrary to perceived wisdom, protected Digger from Jason rather than exploited him. "Digger was a weak man but Jock cared for him,” Brindle maintains, describing Jock as “near a saint, putting up with the two of them."

    In order to save Angela, Chase and Greg Reardon embark on a Daniel Reece/Dex Dexter-style rescue mission — scaling walls, jumping hedges and overpowering gunmen with a single karate chop to the neck. There hasn’t been this much generic derring-do in Soap Land since the misconceived episode of THE YELLOW ROSE that required LC Champion to be sprung from a paedophile sex ring. It would seem that the same genre convention that allows Soap Land characters to periodically become super-sleuths also turns them into first-class action heroes whenever the need arises.

    Not that Angela herself is simply a passive bystander in this scenario. Instead, she fakes a heart attack in order to get the attention of her captors, thus providing Chase and Greg with a chance to overwhelm them. Conversely on this week’s KNOTS, Paul Galveston suffers a similar sort of attack for real, but fails to elicit the concern of Abby Ewing, whom he has discovered rifling through his papers in the early hours of the morning. Despite his pleas, Abby refuses to call his doctor. “Call him yourself — cookie,” she wisecracks on her way out the door, leaving him to his freeze frame.

    But however grim things are looking for Galveston, they’re even worse for FALCON CREST’s equivalent villain Gustav Reibmann, who ends this week’s ep buried alive alongside his coveted Nazi treasure. As this season’s long-lost-treasure stories go, DYNASTY’s ended on a more positive note a few weeks ago when the Inca statue in question was ultimately restored to its rightful place in a museum.

    And this week’s Top 4 are … this was a close one. For the majority of their respective episodes, DALLAS and KL were neck and neck, but then at the final furlong DALLAS pulled ahead thanks to the great Alf Brindle taking centre-stage in Cliff’s condo: "Beggin' your pardon, Miss Jamie, and I hate to say it, but your daddy was a black-hearted man.”

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

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    13 Feb 85: DYNASTY: Circumstantial Evidence v. 14 Feb 85: KNOTS LANDING: Rough Edges v. 15 Feb 85: DALLAS: The Brothers Ewing v. 15 Feb 85: FALCON CREST: Forsaking All Others

    KNOTS LANDING's Val and FALCON CREST’s Julia find themselves in parallel situations this week. Previously, both ran away, from Seaview Circle and the State Institute for the Criminally Insane respectively, reinvented themselves as Verna Ellers and Kay Adams, and even found love, each with an “ordinary”, i.e., non-leading-man kind of guy. (Along the way, of course, Julia also managed to fake her own death and get kidnapped by the cartel.) Now both are now back in the bosom of their families, but the problems they ran away from in the first place still exist. Val is still mentally unstable following the loss of her babies, while Julia is still a convicted killer with a sentence to serve — even if her mental problems seem to have largely evaporated.

    Where Val’s first instinct upon her return home was to lean on Gary, Julia’s is to turn to Lance. Indeed, the most touching scenes in this week’s FALCON CREST involve Lance’s reaction to his mother’s resurrection. Ultimately, however, he comes to the same conclusion as Gary did on last week’s KNOTS. “I’ve gotta get out of your way,” Gary told Val. “Mom, I can’t try to pull you out of any more fires,” Lance tells Julia.

    Like nature, Soap Land abhors a vacuum and so a week after Julia’s shrink was buried alive in a disused gold mine, another psychiatrist emerges on KNOTS LANDING, this time to support Val as she gradually tries to face up to the harsh realities she ran away from before. Where Dr De Bercy, aka Gustav Reibmann, was sinister and homicidal, Dr Michaels is reassuring and avuncular, and the scenes between he and Val are really lovely. Meanwhile, as DYNASTY’s Luke Fuller resigns from his public relations post at Colby Co following his split from Steven, another publicist, Cassandra Wilder, materialises on FALCON CREST touting for Richard’s business. And oh look — Cassandra’s male assistant is an exact replica of Racine’s Man Friday on PAPER DOLLS, only now he’s called Damon instead of Sandy.

    Watching this week’s Soap Land, two scenes, in particular, leapt out at me. One, on DYNASTY, never made much impression on me before. The other, on KNOTS LANDING, I have never forgotten, even though it must be roughly ten years since I last saw it. If there’s a theme linking the two scenes then it’s sibling, or at least quasi-sibling, rivalry.

    The DYNASTY scene is the kind of "Cain vs. Abel in the executive suite" scenario that has been a staple of Soap Land ever since JR politely but firmly refused Bobby access the Red Files in the DALLAS mini-series, but here stripped to its fundamental basics — Adam storms into Blake’s office and is outraged to see Jeff sitting in his father’s chair reading a confidential file. Adam rails and taunts, Jeff coldly asserts his authority, Adam storms out to wreak havoc elsewhere.

    The KNOTS LANDING scene takes place in the Ewing kitchen late at night — Val can’t sleep and comes downstairs to make tea, only to find Joshua sitting at the table in the dark. Unlike the Adam/Jeff scene, there’s nothing familiar about this scenario — it’s a chance meeting between two mentally fragile characters in the middle of the night. Val has tentatively begun piecing her life back together while Joshua is just starting to take off on his own megalomaniacal power trip. Whereas Adam and Jeff aren’t actual sibling rivals but for dramatic purposes might as well be, Joshua and Val are genuinely brother and sister but don’t actually know each other very well. Joshua's behaviour towards Val as he enquires about her therapy is as riveting as it is paradoxical. He seems kind yet threatening, supportive yet undermining, sometimes all at once.

    Each of these scenes is at the heart of what I love about Soap Land, yet they work in polar opposite ways. The Adam/Jeff confrontation is great because it is the soap equivalent of the stranger in a western walking into a saloon and the whole place going quiet. In other words, it is a quintessential genre scene played with absolute conviction that could occur in almost any soap at any time — from the earliest days of DALLAS to the most recent season of EMPIRE. While the pleasure of this scene comes from the familiar beats it hits, the fascination of the KNOTS scene is derived from its lightning-in-a-bottle uniqueness. The Valene/Joshua exchange could only take place between these two specific characters played by these two actors on this particular night at this precise point in their individual journeys. It couldn’t exist at any other time or in any other soap — or indeed any other piece of fiction. Yet if watched in isolation, most of its nuances probably wouldn’t register. It only works as part of an ongoing genre piece.

    "Father was against psychiatry,” Joshua tells Val during the scene. "He believed in prayer.” The same might be said for the authorities dealing with Julia’s case on FALCON CREST. Hence it’s "good-bye, Institute for the Criminally Insane, hello, Magdalena Convent.” Yes, Julia is to be allowed to serve out the rest of her life sentence for murder on a religious retreat with some nuns. It’s bonkers of course, but you could say that about this whole storyline, and what a fun ride it’s been.

    Val, meanwhile, bounces around her timeline on this week’s KNOTS, flashing back to her life in Shula, recounting an anecdote about a Cajun cooking disaster involving Sid, Karen and Gary that we never saw on screen, shouting at Lilimae as if she were still a teenager ("How do you think I feel having a mother who’s a tramp? When I get married I will never ever do the things you’ve done, never ever!”), as well as recounting other, more bittersweet childhood reminiscences about her mama. Over on DALLAS, Sue Ellen makes a rare reference to her childhood this week. "When I was a little girl, I used to dream about going to the Far East,” she tells Pam who takes the hint and invites her along on her trip to Hong Kong to look for Mark Graison.

    Both Julia's and Valene’s stories are concluded this week with an emotionally loaded question about the past. “How are your orchids doing … is it still the red food and the green food?” Val shyly asks Ben at the end of KNOTS, as a way of indicating that she now fully remembers who he is and the precise nature of their relationship. "Do you remember my First Communion?” Lance asks Julia during her farewell scene before handing her his childhood missal to take with her to the convent.

    Emotional mother/daughter scenes of the week: After Val has lashed out at Lilimae on KNOTS, she then hears her sobbing in her room, but cannot bring herself to go to her and comfort her. On FALCON CREST, after saying good-bye to Julia, a heartbroken Angela declines to be consoled by Emma and Lance, instead climbing slowly up the staircase to her room alone. For the first time, she looks genuinely frail.

    Last week’s FC ended with the unfamiliar sight of Angela embracing both of her daughters — the one who kept trying to kill her and the one she used to keep locked in the attic — while declaring, “We’re a family.” This week’s DALLAS ends with Angela’s matriarchal contemporary, Miss Ellie, doing pretty much the opposite. "I don’t want to turn my back on my family or Ewing Oil but if a choice is to be made, I choose my husband,” she informs her sons, who have been trying to persuade a reluctant Clayton to help hide Ewing Oil assets from Cliff Barnes. One is tempted to say that Miss Ellie’s declaration here is as uncharacteristic as Angela’s was, until one remembers that it was only two years earlier that she took her sons to court in order to break Jock’s will and sell the company and two years before that when her decision to start divorce proceedings against Jock also placed Ewing Oil in jeopardy. In fact, Miss Ellie’s defiance in this scene is the most "Barbara Bel Geddes” the character has felt since Donna Reed took over the role.

    If Miss Ellie’s behaviour isn’t atypical then Alexis Dexter’s in this week’s DYNASTY certainly is. After Dex pulls off some sort of manoeuvre I don’t begin to understand that persuades the Chinese government to offer all of its offshore oil leases to her, Alexis turns the deal down in favour of a partnership with Blake. "You could have had it all — why are you settling for less?” Blake asks her. "Maybe because I'm tired of being constantly at war with you," she replies. "I think it would be nice if we could finally be friends.” She then goes on to finally acknowledge him as Amanda’s father. There’s further uncharacteristic magnanimity on FALCON CREST where Lance pays a visit to ex-wife Melissa on the morning of her wedding to his old rival Cole and tenderly wishes her the best. Elsewhere in the same episode, despite her best efforts, Angela reveals a few more chinks in her armour, as recent events take their emotional toll. There’s a particularly nice moment where Greg Reardon discreetly offers her a handkerchief and she lets her guard down long enough to accept it — only to hand it back seconds later. “It’s silk - I pay you too much!” she snaps. Back on DALLAS, Miss Ellie is optimistic that the fight for Ewing Oil will likewise bring out her eldest son’s softer side. "I know JR very well,” she tells Donna. "I know that he’s capable of all sorts of things, but somehow I’m hoping that, because of what’s at stake, he’ll act differently.” Fat chance: "This is no gentleman’s game,” JR informs his brothers when first broaching the subject of hiding assets. “I’m talking about getting down in the mud and slugging it out."

    Back on DYNASTY, while Blake is in Acapulco and Krystle is in Denver, each is sent photographs of the other in a compromising position with a third party. Krystle receives a picture of Blake dancing with Lady Ashley; Blake opens an envelope to find a snap of Daniel Reece kissing his wife. Ordinarily in Soap Land, the unsolicited taking of photographs is the prerogative of the obsessed stalker — Roger Larsen on DALLAS, Peter Horton on FLAMINGO ROAD, Michael Brandon on EMERALD POINT. This time, however, DYNASTY has turned the photographer’s identity into a whodunnit. Deepening the mystery, how can the anonymous snapper be in two countries at the same time? And as well as the suspense aspect of this storyline, the photographs themselves become a paranoid symbol of the growing distrust in Blake and Krystle’s marriage. I’ve said it before, but the dynamic between these two is never more interesting than when they’re estranged. Even an awkward overseas phone call between them is coldly compelling. In the ep’s final scene, Krystle greets Blake politely upon his return home and he shows her the picture of her and Daniel. "Do you want him or me?” he asks. The frame freezes before she can answer, and even though she already made her feelings quite clear in an earlier scene, ("You'll always be special to me,” she tells Daniel, "but I love [Blake]”), it still feels like a suspenseful moment. Perhaps it’s because Blake and Krystle’s mutual devotion is so hardwired into their show’s DNA, more so even than Bobby and Pam’s or Gary and Val’s are into theirs, that when that relationship — the bedrock upon which the DYNASTY saga is built — starts to crumble, it feels almost as if the series’ whole world could come crashing down.

    There are other juicy marital spats in Soap Land this week — a very funny one between Alexis and Dex where she finally broaches the subject of his attraction towards her daughter. Unlike, say, Lute-Mae on FLAMINGO ROAD who promptly lost her mind when she found her fiancee and her daughter together, Alexis remains intriguingly cool and collected about this equivalent scenario. “No one understands the working of the male psyche better than I do,” she drawls airily, "and nobody's more tolerant or even amused at a little casual harmless flirtation, but this time I think you might be going a little too far, husband dear." "There's an implication, an unsavoury one, hiding somewhere in that haystack of words,” replies Dex. "How clever of the Wyoming farm boy — can you find it?” she sneers before accusing him of "playing psychological mother/daughter games.” Meanwhile, on DALLAS, the escalating battle with Cliff over Ewing Oil provides a backdrop for further marital conflict. While Sue Ellen continues to withhold her wifely support from JR in his hour of need ("From now on, you’re gonna have to turn to all your other girls for comfort — let them hold you, listen to you, try to understand you like I did all those years”), Ray and Donna (DALLAS's most supposedly “solid” couple in the same way as Blake and Krystle are DYNASTY's) argue over his decision to side with JR against Clayton during a family squabble — only they’re not really arguing about that at all. There’s something else, more significant but as yet unarticulated, going on beneath the surface.

    Watching these conjugal disputes side by side, it occurs to me that there is a basic difference in tone between the ones on DALLAS and those on DYNASTY. The DALLAS scenes have a kind of melancholic wistfulness about them — the women especially seem weary, almost resigned — while the equivalent ones on DYNASTY have a colder, more brittle quality. Between Blake and Krystle, in particular, exists a kind of icy formality. I wonder if, at least in part, this difference is informed by the shows’ respective environments. DALLAS has the backdrop of all that never-ending Texas land — useful for staring out onto in misty-eyed regret. On DYNASTY, the characters feel somehow more closed in, trapped inside their golden palace of Ming vases and priceless paintings. Whereas Krystle and Blake’s dignified coldness is partially informed by the possibility of one of the servants walking in on them at any moment, the only company Ray and Donna have to worry about during their argument is a barn full of smelly horses.

    While Daniel and Krystle’s kiss at the end of last week’s DYNASTY is exposed by the mystery photographer, the cerebral haemorrhage suffered by Paul Galveston at the end of last week’s KNOTS is successfully kept under wraps by some anonymous businessmen. Although Abby has a tenuous grasp of what’s going on, only Greg Sumner knows for sure. This puts him in the same position that Blake Carrington was in four weeks ago — bitterly estranged from a powerful but dying father. Whether there’ll be an eleventh-hour reconciliation this time remains to be seen. “No matter how much you hate him, he is your father and he is dying,” says Laura. “And not a moment too soon,” Greg replies.

    The FALCON CREST plot in which a shouty Lance tries to prevent girlfriend Lorraine from getting an abortion starts out like the similar Jeff/Fallon scenario from DYNASTY Season 2, but then takes an unexpected detour when he acquires a temporary restraining order preventing her from going through with the op. As a result, the assets of Lorraine’s womb are currently as frozen as those of Ewing Oil were in last week’s DALLAS.

    Just as Naldo Marchetta stopped Bobby and Jenna’s wedding on DALLAS and Gary disrupted Val and Parker Winslow’s big day on KNOTS, it’s now Greg Reardon’s turn to sabotage Cole and Melissa’s nuptials on FALCON CREST. However, although he abducts Melissa from her bridal shower to whisk her off in a chauffeur-driven, champagne-filled Rolls Royce (“Consider yourself kidnapped!” he laughs, coming on like a light-hearted Naldo), Greg stops short of actually interrupting the ceremony, even if he does get the “If anyone has any objection to this wedding …” reaction shot. In the event, just like Bobby and Parker before her, Melissa ends up getting left at the altar anyway, after Angela reveals to Cole on the morning of the wedding that she (Melissa) is now barren — a titbit the bride herself had neglected to mention. This is the first time the "will they, won’t they” device, whereby some controversial secret is revealed to either the bride or groom shortly before the exchange of vows, has been deployed at an 80s Soap Land wedding. These days, it’s an essential component of almost every wedding and/or engagement party on soap operas in the UK, having first been popularised on EASTENDERS (the very first episode of which, incidentally, aired four days after this instalment of FALCON CREST was originally shown in the US).

    Legal trend of the week: DALLAS’s Scotty and FALCON CREST’s Greg each moves for a change of venue regarding the impending murder/attempted murder trial of his client, Jenna Wade and Lance Cumson respectively.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    20 Feb 85: DYNASTY: The Collapse v. 21 Feb 85: KNOTS LANDING: The Emperor’s Clothes v. 22 Feb 85: DALLAS: Shattered Dreams v. 22 Feb 85: FALCON CREST: Recriminations

    This week’s FALCON CREST opens with Melissa, having been “rescued” from her wedding by Greg Reardon, giggling, “I feel like Katherine Ross in THE GRADUATE!” — an unintended reference to Jeff’s future mother in DYNASTY II: THE COLBYS. Over on DYNASTY, Blake’s new private investigator shares the same name as Larry Hagman’s character in I DREAM OF JEANNIE. One would be inclined to put this down to coincidence were it not for Dominique being in Blake’s office when he receives a call from the PI and asking, somewhat unnecessarily, “Do I know the name Tony Nelson?” Well, if Milly Cox watched much TV while growing up in her Aunt Bessie’s house, then the chances are that yes, she probably does.

    A few weeks after DYNASTY became the first soap to conjure up an entire fictional country for Michael of Moldavia to be heir to, DALLAS becomes the first soap to film in a real life foreign country, as Pam and Sue Ellen arrive in Hong Kong to look for Mark Graison. In this regard, they are the female equivalent of DYNASTY’s Dex Dexter and Daniel Reece, currently on an unspecified rescue mission in Paraguay — not that JR has much faith in their sleuthing abilities: "Can you imagine Sue Ellen and Pam trying to find Mark Graison in Hong Kong? They'll be lucky if they can find their way out of the airport.” Whereas the jungles of Paraguay are depicted in time-honoured Soap Land fashion by some ethnic-sounding panpipes on the soundtrack, an establishing shot of a forest and a studio-bound camp site, DALLAS has the real world locations of Hong Kong Harbour and surrounding vistas at its disposal.

    In the same way that Ben Gibson’s assignment in Central America during last season’s KNOTS was represented by a single scene of him sweating feverishly in a cot, so our view of Paraguay in this week’s DYNASTY is limited to a scene of Dex doing the same thing. Dex’s delirium results in the most intense Soap Land dream sequence since Val imagined her family colluding with Dr Ackerman to take her babies from her. Here, Dex’s mother/daughter love interests - Alexis and Amanda — are transformed into pouting predators, taking it in turns to leer down the camera lens while addressing him directly ("I want you, Dex!” “I love you, Dex ... You're mine!”) back and forth, faster and faster, till a tormented Dex can take it no more and wakes up with a cry of “NOOOO!”

    As KNOTS LANDING’s Abby discovered during her recent visit to Shula Tennessee, the Ewing name tends to attract unwanted attention when one is away from home. “You wouldn’t happen to be some of them oil-rich Ewings from down in Texas, would you?” Parker Winslow asked her. “I’m afraid not,” she replied. This week, it’s Sue Ellen and Pam’s turn when a fellow Texan approaches them in the bar of their Hong Kong hotel. “The name Ewing’s not entirely unfamiliar to us down in Waco and I was wondering if you might be related to old JR?” he asks before offering “to buy you two ladies a drink". Sue Ellen gives him such short shrift that when he retires defeated, one can’t help but feel a little sorry for him. There’s an equivalent moment on this week’s FALCON CREST when a less sympathetic barfly propositions Lorraine Prescott, only for Pamela Lynch to ride to her rescue, telling him to “get lost” in no uncertain terms. Assuming the two women to be a couple, the drunk backs off — which ranks as Soap Land’s first case of mistaken lesbianism since the days of Richard, Laura and Ciji on KNOTS.

    Even though their reconciliation occurred only a few episodes ago, Pam and Sue Ellen’s excursion to the Far East consolidates theirs as one of Soap Land's firmest female friendships. In fact, each of this week’s episodes includes at least one notable scene between two women. DYNASTY has no less than four, all of them confrontational. The two between Alexis and Dominique, dealing with the former’s attempts to take over the latter’s company, are the most conventional — all big hats, ultimatums and put-downs.

    More unusual is a scene between Alexis and Krystle. It starts off on familiar territory with Krystle barging into Alexis’s office with an accusation ("Someone is sending photographs to me of Blake and another woman”), only to develop into something more unusual when Alexis offers her erstwhile rival a genuine piece of advice: "Look for the person behind the camera.” This in turn leads to a scene where Krystle visits Ashley (who has been photographing Blake for a feature in Life Magazine, no less) in her hotel room and cagily quizzes her about marriage and camera lenses. Ashley is clearly bemused. "Krystle, why is it I get the distinct feeling you've come here to accuse me of something?" she eventually asks her. Krystle apologises and leaves without actually saying what’s on her mind.

    While Krystle and Ashley’s conversation is cryptic to the point of abstraction, its equivalent on this week’s DALLAS, where Betty the waitress drops by Southfork to tell Lucy that Eddie has been sleeping with both of them all along, is far more direct and straight-talking. "I just came out here to see if you rich girls hurt as much as us poor ones, and I am damn pleased to see that you do,” says Betty, displaying the same kind of broken-hearted-yet-head-held-high chutzpa that other short-lived but memorable Soap Land characters, KNOTS’ Janet Baines and DALLAS’s Betty Lou Barker, did in their final scenes.

    This week’s FALCON CREST, meanwhile, includes a female confrontation scene that manages to be both abstract and direct at the same time. Upon discovering that Angela was responsible for sabotaging her wedding to Cole, Melissa pays her arch nemesis a visit. After some polite but insincere chit-chat, she presents Angela with her bridal dress (“for your trophy case”) and calls her a bitch. Angela then tosses the dress onto an open fire and glowers malevolently as the background music swells dramatically around her. It feels like some kind of primal Soap Land ritual has taken place, even if its exact meaning is unclear.

    KNOTS, meanwhile, gives us two of the kind of domestic heart-to-heart conversations we’ve not seen for a while, each of which helps to reestablish Karen as the lynchpin of the cul-de-sac, and therefore the show itself. First we see her and Laura taking a walk to the mailbox as Laura expresses her mixed feelings regarding her future with Greg. Karen's response is impartial yet supportive: “I’m not the one who should tell you what to do, but whatever you do, it won’t affect our friendship.” This is followed by a bike-riding scene between Karen and Val, with Val — whose memory of the night she gave birth has now fully returned — once again insisting she heard her babies cry after they were supposedly stillborn. Not only is Karen again depicted as nonjudgemental and caring, there is also a strong indication that she might be starting to take Val’s claim seriously. Whereas Sue Ellen remains pretty much neutral on the subject of Mark Graison’s resurrection — her sole dramatic purpose during the Hong Kong excursion is to act as a sounding board for Pam — the possibility that the oh-so-rational Karen Mackenzie might believe the unbelievable regarding Val’s twins is presented as a major turning point on KNOTS. “What if Val’s babies didn’t die?” she asks Mack in the closing moments of the week’s ep.

    While Karen resumes her role of her queen of the cul-de-sac, Miss Ellie has never seemed less concerned about keeping her dynasty intact on DALLAS. “If anyone feels it necessary to leave Southfork they can, but it won't be us,” she tells Clayton at the beginning of this week’s episode. And just as the rest of Seaview Circle fall into line behind Karen, the remaining members of the Ewing family take their lead from their matriarchal figurehead. In fact, I don’t think we’ve seen the Ewings this disunited since the days when Jock and Ellie were battling over Takapa and Bobby was preoccupied with running Ewing Oil. "The Ewings always used to close ranks whenever there was trouble from anybody outside the family but now things have changed,” frets JR — or as Donna puts it even more succinctly, "Looks like none of us are too comfortable eating at home these days.” The strength of family unity on this week’s FALCON CREST ranks somewhere in-between those on KNOTS and DALLAS: Lance is touched when Angela finally gives his relationship with Lorraine her blessing, but really she’s doing it to spite Richard.

    For the first time since the days of Afton Cooper and Lane Ballou, Soap Land now has two songstresses performing semi-regularly on their respective shows. When not foiling takeover bids by huge conglomerates, DYNASTY's Dominique has an ongoing singing engagement at La Mirage, while KNOTS LANDING's Cathy continues to perform at Isadora’s, a saloon-type establishment, despite boyfriend Joshua’s pious disapproval. This week, however, both singers’ shows are disrupted. While Dominique at least makes it to the stage before starting to cough up blood, Cathy cannot tear herself away from an especially amorous picnic with Joshua to attend a rehearsal with her band. Only after she has missed the session does she accuse Joshua of deliberately distracting her — not out of desire but in order to assert his power over her.

    While Dominique’s onstage collapse is an end in itself, insofar as it brings this week’s DYNASTY to a close, a far less serious ailment, Val cutting her hand on some wire fencing during a guided tour of Empire Valley, opens up a whole can of dramatic worms on KNOTS. While waiting for her to be treated in a clinic in the small nearby town of Wesphall, Ben stumbles upon a water contamination cover-up involving Galveston Industries. On one hand, this is an unusual plot for an '80s soap, containing as it does traces of consciousness-raising movies such as SILKWOOD and THE CHINA SYNDROME while also anticipating the likes of ERIN BROCKOVICH; on the other, it ties into an already knotty conspiracy in a way that suits KL perfectly.

    Legal trend of the week: Witnesses coming forward in return for protection. On KNOTS, Mack makes a breakthrough in his attempts to nail Paul Galveston for the Tidal Basin murders when the hitman himself tells him he was following Galveston’s orders. Meanwhile, on DALLAS, Veronica Robinson contacts Bobby and offers to fly to Dallas to testify for Jenna at her trial. Mack and Bobby are initially excited by these developments, unaware that each will lead to a more or less dead-end — while Veronica is killed before she can make it to court, it looks like Paul Galveston will be equally dead before Mack can arrest him (although Mack doesn’t realise that yet).

    What are the odds of two "Dead Woman on a Plane" storylines in the same Soap Land week? While Bobby and Jenna wait anxiously at the airport to greet Veronica Robinson at the end of DALLAS, Chase and Maggie do the same thing as they watch the plane carrying Mary Giannini (the widow of a local vintner murdered by the cartel earlier in the season) touchdown on FALCON CREST. Whereas Veronica’s death is discovered when her corpse falls out of the bathroom, Mary’s body makes a slightly more dignified appearance when her coffin is wheeled off the plane and into a waiting hearse. (Like DALLAS, this week’s DYNASTY also ends with a woman falling to the floor as a concerned crowd gather round, only here it’s an unconscious Dominique onstage at La Mirage rather than a dead Veronica onboard a plane.)

    Nor is there any shortage of live women making dramatic entrances by plane this week. As well as Pam and Sue Ellen touching down in real life Hong Kong, Mary Giannini’s coffin is escorted by her daughter Connie in full mourning. Most intriguing of all is the unknown woman arriving at a private airstrip on KNOTS, her face and body obscured by a fur coat and strategically placed hat.

    The same woman reappears throughout the episode, but each time her appearance and identity are obscured. This is the hoariest of clichés and one that has been rendered with more sophistication on other soaps — DYNASTY of course, and also PAPER DOLLS — but it’s nonetheless effective. In fact, KNOTS almost seems to relish the contrived nature of this plot device. (The fact that it is tied into the same storyline as the Wesphall water contamination is a great example of just how broadly encompassing KNOTS’ story-telling can be.) The mystery woman’s arrival culminates in the wackiest wedding thus far in a Soap Land season full of wacky weddings, as she marries Paul Galveston on his deathbed. Not only does the bride’s face remain obscured but the groom himself is also off screen for the ceremony. And even during the exchange of vows, we still don’t learn the lucky lady's name. Instead, the scene ends abruptly on the words: “Paul Galveston, do you take — ”. To put this plot development in broader terms, it's the equivalent of DYNASTY going from Alexis’s mysterious entrance at the end of Season 1 to her bedside wedding to Cecil Colby at the beginning of Season 3, all within the space of one episode but without either showing or explaining who she is. Only weirder.

    Meanwhile, Gary, unaware of Galveston’s terminal condition, reacts to his business partner’s continued absence in the same way that daughter Lucy does to the news of Eddie’s infidelity on this week’s DALLAS — they each call a halt to their current building project. Where Lucy tells Eddie to "fire your crew, cancel your concrete”, Gary issues the following ultimatum to Galveston’s underling: “Nothing moves forward on Empire Valley until Paul and I talk.” (While there are no repercussions for Lucy following her snap decision to put an entire crew of men out of work, Gary choosing to halt production on Empire Valley incurs him the enmity of a group of sinister men in suits — just as it did a year earlier when he did the same thing to Lotus Point.)

    This week’s FALCON CREST is a bit odd. For the majority of the episode, its tone is light and flippant, even a bit silly, but towards the end, it becomes unexpectedly gutsy and emotional. There’s a great fight between Greg Reardon and Cole Gioberti in Melissa’s living room which is probably the most "real” brawl Soap Land has seen since the days of THE YELLOW ROSE. (If any stunt men were involved, I couldn’t spot them.) There’s a nice little twist at the end of the fight when Greg — who has behaved like a heel throughout Cole and Melissa’s engagement, undermining their relationship at every turn — unexpectedly takes the high road and informs Cole that he (Cole) is the one Melissa really loves. The next thing we know, Greg is acting as Cole’s best man when he and Melissa are finally hitched in Soap Land’s second, and surprisingly touching, wedding of the week.

    The final scene of this week's FC sees Richard Channing at his electrifying best. Having heard from a gloating Angela that his beloved step-daughter is pregnant by Lance and is planning to marry him, he flies into a rage. ”How could you do this to me??” he yells at Lorraine before disowning her. "You belong to them now!!”

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    27 Feb 85: DYNASTY: Life and Death v. 28 Feb 85: KNOTS LANDING: The Deluge v. 01 Mar 85: DALLAS: Dead Ends

    Death, in various guises, looms large in this week’s Soap Land: Dominique Devereaux faces life or death heart surgery on DYNASTY, Paul Galveston finally expires on KNOTS LANDING and Bobby and Jenna deal with the consequences of Veronica Robinson’s shock demise on DALLAS.

    Dominique’s heart valve problem is unique in the history of Soap Land ailments insofar as it exists, from a dramatic perspective, entirely in isolation. While the illness that led to Paul Galveston’s brain haemorrhage may have been nonspecific, the reverberations caused by his death are positively Shakespearean. Dominique’s condition, however, has no ramifications on any other story line nor will it yield any. Whereas Miss Ellie’s and Val’s respective brushes with cancer at least impacted their marriages, Dominique’s decision (echoing Karen Mackenzie's at the beginning of the season) not to inform her estranged husband of her medical situation (“I don’t want his pity”) means that that dramatic avenue is also sealed off. Even Maggie Gioberti’s random brain tumour in last season’s FALCON CREST provided Dr. Ranson with an opportunity to face his demons on the operating table. Maybe the fact that a black character has now been deemed sufficiently important for her fate to carry an entire story-line is significant enough.

    Nevertheless, Dominique’s plight affords us the pleasure of observing the small traditions that almost always accompany a medical emergency in Soap Land. The following are all present and correct: anxious family members in full evening dress congregating in the hospital corridor; a doctor’s plea that everyone "go home and get some rest" falling on deaf ears; someone (in this case Blake) insisting on personally calling the best medically-relevant specialist in the country (in this case a cardiologist); ongoing familial conflicts being played out against a backdrop of hospital hallways and waiting rooms.

    Amongst the latter, the most interesting involves Steven effectively coming out to his father for the second time when he admits his feelings for Luke (“I think I love him”). This time around, Blake responds with a display of acceptance rather than anger (“No matter who you are or what you are, I'll be damned if I'm going to lose you,” he tells his son before embracing him). However, this doesn’t stop Blake later urging Claudia not to give up on Steven, describing her as "his only chance”. More unusually, DALLAS also touches on the subject of homosexuality a couple of times this week, albeit fleetingly. First Bobby and Jenna question Mr. Parrish, an enjoyably fastidious antiques dealer with a John Waters-style pencil moustache, who was on the same plane as Veronica Robinson when she was killed. When he recalls a "well-dressed” man who was also on the flight, there’s enough of a flicker on his face to suggest that the man’s clothing wasn’t necessarily what drew his eye. And a week after Pamela Lynch and Lorraine Prescott were mistaken for a gay couple on FALCON CREST, DALLAS comes up with a faux-lesbian reference of its own. In Hong Kong, Sue Ellen comments that the romance of the city's nightlife is wasted on her and Pam. “Wait a minute — aren’t I a fun date?” asks a mock-offended Pam. “A million laughs, you’re just not my type,” she replies.

    No Soap Land week is complete without a weird wedding story these days, and this one is no exception. While there have been non-divorces before — DYNASTY’s Krystle and FALCON CREST’s Terry have both been dismayed to find themselves still married to their ex-husbands — it’s now time for Soap Land’s first non-wedding. “What do you mean the marriage never happened?” asks Jeff on DYNASTY when Alexis tells him that his wedding to Nicole was entirely fabricated by the bride: "You were drunk, Jeff. She shoved a piece of paper in your face, said you were married and you bought it … She lured an innkeeper to proclaim you man and wife.” When confronted, Nicole admits the whole thing. "I've been in love twice,” she tells Jeff sadly. “The first time Peter de Vilbis destroyed it and this time it looks like I did it all by myself.” Over on DALLAS, Eddie Cronin is equally remorseful regarding his recent deception. "I wish I hadn't done what I did,” he tells Lucy, "and I wish that you and I could start over again, but I know that ain't gonna happen.”

    On this week’s KNOTS, as part of his regular segment on Reverend Catherine’s religious cable show, Joshua Rush delivers a powerful sermon direct to camera in which he movingly exhorts his audience (which includes us real life KNOTS viewers as well as the fictional ones watching Pacific World Cable) to take the road less travelled (“Easy doesn’t do it … It is not the way that is difficult, but difficult that is the way”). It’s a truly captivating performance by both Alec Baldwin and the character that somehow combines compassion and morality with Joshua’s increasing megalomania. In fact, one can almost glimpse the seeds of Baldwin's 30 ROCK character from twenty years in the future, the loopily autocratic TV executive Jack Donaghy, being sewn. In place of Liz Lemon tearing her hair out on the studio floor as one of her star turns runs amok on live TV, there is a floor manager who is mesmerised by the beauty of Joshua’s words while also signalling him frantically as he heedlessly exceeds his allotted time limit, leaving no room for Reverend Catherine to appear on his own show.

    Joshua doesn’t stop there. He insists his lover Cathy be given a regular singing spot on the show. Over on DALLAS, Cliff Barnes likewise appoints his new girlfriend Jamie as his company's cold weather drilling expert. Neither Cathy nor Jamie is too enthusiastic about these arrangements — Cathy is particularly reluctant — but both men are determined to get their own way. While Cliff’s motives are easy to follow (he wants to keep Jamie close so that he can eventually get his hands on her third of Ewing Oil), Joshua’s are harder to pin down, but it's something to do with asserting control over Cathy — and in the process, he’s finally becoming Chip to her Ciji.

    Pam Ewing’s quest for Mark in Hong Kong and Karen Mackenzie’s search for answers about Val’s twins both receive setbacks this week — Mitchell Swanson, the hospital patient Pam believes to be Mark, refuses to see her while Karen is stonewalled by various people she talks to who were involved in Val’s delivery. Those close to Pam and Karen also suggest it might be best to let sleeping dogs lie. “What if Mark is bad?” asks Sue Ellen hesitantly. "Maybe he wants you to remember him the way he was rather than the way he is.” Gary, meanwhile, is more forthright in his opposition to Karen’s investigation: “Just stop it!” he snaps. (For some reason, it’s always satisfying to see Gary and Karen at loggerheads — maybe because he’s one of the few characters who's never afraid to directly challenge her.) Pam and Karen each responds by digging her heels in. While stubborn determination is typical of Karen (“I’m going to put Val’s mind to rest if it’s the last thing I do,” she vows), it’s far less common to see Pam on the offensive. "I'm very rich and very determined, and if I have to, I'll buy that damn clinic and walk in as the owner!” she declares, sounding more like Dominique Devereaux than her usual self. "Well, what good is the Ewing name and all that power if I don't occasionally use it?” she later reasons. Abby would surely concur.

    DYNASTY and KNOTS LANDING each currently boasts a big name movie actress (Ali McGraw and Ava Gardner respectively) in the guest role of a photographer. "I love what I do — I have a career, independence, adventure. What more could a woman want?” Ashley Mitchell tells Jeff Colby enthusiastically. "It’s a funny occupation, photography — eternities of planning for one five-hundredth of a second,” purrs a more reflective Ruth Galveston during a conversation with Gary Ewing. While Ashley's pictorial studies are mostly of successful businessmen in their natural habitat ("The last time I did a photo essay on someone for Life, his company’s stock jumped three points and Wall Street adored him!”), Ruth’s speciality is wild animals in theirs (“I wait, I watch, I spend day after day waiting for the perfect opportunity and then when it comes and if the light’s right, I get a fine picture of a rare beast”). Whereas Ashley is perky and positive, Ruth is exotic and predatory — the similarity between the hunter and her prey underlined by a striking shot of Ruth’s profile next to that of a lion she has photographed.

    Where Ashley notes Jeff’s potential with characteristic enthusiasm ("You always were a downhill racer — ‘watch out for Jeff Colby, coming through!’”), it quickly emerges that Ruth’s primary purpose on KNOTS is to convince her son Greg that he is the right — the only — man fit to continue his father’s work. “You were brought up to be powerful and you love it and you want it,” she insists. “And now, baby, it can all be yours.” “Nuts to you, Mother,” replies Greg succinctly. "Nuts and bolts."

    A son unwilling to embrace the legacy he was born into — it's a fascinatingly atypical variation on a traditional Soap Land theme. More familiar father/son scenarios can be found in this week’s DYNASTY and DALLAS. Like Greg, Adam Carrington is filled with resentment towards his father, but that’s because he would dearly love to be his chosen successor, the very role Greg is so dismissive of. Instead, as he bitterly complains to Claudia, he is merely one of Blake’s tin soldiers: “Wind us up, we march to his command.” Over on DALLAS, Ray Krebbs recalls how he, like Greg, grew up believing the wrong man to be his father — but where Greg was proud of his fake daddy ("My father served his country”), Ray was ashamed of his ("I was Amos Krebbs’ kid, the town drunk’s son”). The two men have similarly opposing attitudes towards their real fathers as well. Whereas Greg continues to deny his true paternity ("Paul Galveston was your father,” Ruth reminds him. "Not to me he wasn’t,” he replies), Ray cherishes his ("Being Jock's son gave me … the only identity I could ever really be proud of”).

    While Ruth attempts to explain to Greg the arrangement she had with his "two fathers” on KNOTS, a private investigator hired by JR delivers a potted account of Jason Ewing’s life story on DALLAS. Where Jason’s biography is strictly factual and plot-centric, Ruth’s story is poetic and characterful — but to a Soap Land geek like me, both accounts are equally intriguing. It’s always fascinating to slot the Ewings’ backstory into a real world historical context and here we learn, among other things, that Jason served in the navy during World War II until "he was thrown in the brig for alleged black market activities". Ruth, meanwhile, makes it sound as though Greg were the secret love child of Frank Lloyd Wright and Howard Hughes: "We were all in love, the three of us. I married the romantic one, Sumner, who flew planes, Galveston built them, but they were both your father, Gregory. It worked. Your genes and your upbringing — you were brought up to be powerful.” It seems as if Greg, much like Sue Ellen and Kristin on DALLAS and Richard Channing on FALCON CREST, was not so much raised as programmed to fulfill a specific destiny. "We were like little dolls created to fulfill all the things she wanted,” Sue Ellen once said of her mother. “You were nothing but a blank slate when I adopted you — I created you,” Henri Denault once told Richard.

    Two of this week’s three soaps conclude on an international note. DYNASTY has Alexis on the phone to the unseen King of Moldavia in an attempt to pair up their children ("I'll wager a kingdom, Galen, if we got them together it could be mutually beneficial to all parties!”) while DALLAS concludes in Hong Kong with a close up of the enigmatic Mr. Wong who appears to be in league with the Mark Graison non-lookalike against Pam. (Spooky coincidence of the week: The last minor character — i.e., one with neither opening title nor "Also Starring” credit status — to whom DALLAS awarded an end-of-episode freeze frame was Alex Ward — played the very actor who will soon appear as King Galen of Moldavia on DYNASTY.)

    However, both fictional Moldavia and real life Hong Kong pale into insignificance next to the out-of-this-world revelation at the end of this week's KNOTS LANDING when Greg finally learns what’s cooking at Empire Valley. “There are hundreds of satellites orbiting in space carrying messages,” Galveston emissary John Coblentz informs him, "some essential to the security of the world. With our installations at Empire Valley, we will be able to send such messages and receive them and to monitor messages between parties, between countries … Imagine knowing virtually everything that’s being said everywhere at any time.” “And if you don’t like it, you can change it,” Greg adds. "Think of it, think of what it means,” Coblentz urges him. If I understand correctly, what it means is that whoever controls Empire Valley could potentially control the entire world — not just Moldavia, not just Hong Kong, but the whole shebang. But this is KNOTS we’re talking about here — the supersoap supposedly rooted in everyday suburbia! Cleverly, this precise juxtaposition, between the normal and the bonkers, is part of the story as Karen theorises that “Gary’s Shangri-la” would make the perfect cover for “whatever they’re doing out there … Kids on bikes, tennis tournaments, garage sales — who would suspect?” “You are one of the few men who could genuinely make it work,” Coblentz tells Greg. "Everybody is counting on you to help us out — everybody.” Greg says nothing but his face twitches slightly, not unlike the way Mr. Parrish’s did on this week’s DALLAS when he recalled the well-dressed man on the plane.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    6 Mar 85: DYNASTY: Parental Consent v. 7 Mar 85: KNOTS LANDING: A Piece of the Pie v. 08 Mar 85: DALLAS: Trial and Error v. 8 Mar 85: FALCON CREST: House Divided

    Earlier in this season’s KNOTS LANDING, Val transformed herself into Verna Ellers, a fictional character in her own novel. This week’s DYNASTY goes one better by transporting Alexis to the fictional kingdom of Moldavia. What we see of the country — a royal chateau in wintry surroundings — looks quite Austrian, so it's appropriate that King Galen himself should strongly resemble Christopher Plummer, aka Captain Von Trapp from THE SOUND OF MUSIC. This minimal view of Moldavia — Alexis and Galen in cosy seclusion — is typical of what we see whenever Soap Land characters travel abroad. There’s rarely a genuine sense of the country or city we’re in, which makes the opening scene of this week’s DALLAS, where a tearful Pam and a concerned Sue Ellen appear lost and bedraggled amidst the hustle and bustle of a rainy Hong Kong street, all the more fascinating. A couple of real life passersby steal awkward glances at the camera in a way that never usually happens in Soap Land simply because there never usually are any real life passersby. Both in spite and because of its limitations, DYNASTY’s attempts to conjure an entire fictional country out of nowhere are so audacious as to be really funny. I particularly like the scene where Alexis laments Prince Michael’s betrothal to “the Duchess of Breena”. “Branagh,” King Galen corrects her. “Whatever — it’s so small a duchy that I never remember its name,” she shrugs, casually dismissing an entire dukedom as if it were one of her interchangeable male secretaries.

    The first Soap Land Song Wars for two seasons takes place this week between DYNASTY’s Dominique Devereaux and KNOTS LANDING’s Cathy Geary. Admittedly, it’s not really an equal fight as Dominique is still convalescing in her hospital bed where we find her listening to a recording of herself singing “The Very Thought of You" and wondering if she’ll ever be able to perform again. “Listen to that - that’s the late great Dominique Devereaux,” she tells Blake. Over on KNOTS, Cathy makes her debut on Joshua’s TV show singing “Jehova”, a very pretty, overtly Christian song (“Jehovah, I love you so and Jesus, I want you to know all you’ve done for me …”). Unlike Joshua, Cathy has never expressed any strong religious views of her own, yet she imbues the song with an aching sincerity. At the same time, the cutaway shots of a glowering Joshua scrutinising her performance like an old-time movie director combine with Lisa Hartman’s innate vulnerability to suggest an underlying ambiguity — is Cathy singing to praise her creator or to appease Joshua? Either way, her sweetness and humility win out over Dominique’s showboating (even if it is only on tape).

    Cathy’s performance is immediately followed by this week’s display of bizarre wedding-related behaviour. After the revelation of Jeff Colby’s non-wedding on last week’s DYNASTY comes Joshua's non-proposal as he announces his and Cathy's engagement on live TV, without having consulted the bride-to-be beforehand. Peter de Vilbis pulled the same stunt on Fallon during last season’s DYNASTY, but whereas Blake was unhappy to learn of his daughter’s engagement via the medium of television, Lilimae “is full to bursting with joy” that her son is to marry "the nicest girl in the whole wide world” (Cathy, like Fallon before her, having fallen passively into line).

    Joshua isn’t the only character on this week’s KNOTS to pull the rug out from under those closest to him via an announcement on live television. Greg Sumner calls a surprise press conference (very much like the one last season in which he accused Mack of corruption and then asked for his resignation from the crime commission) to announce, in one fell swoop, Paul Galveston’s death, his own relationship to Galveston, and his decision to resign from the senate in order to take over his father’s company. No one saw this coming, least of all Greg’s closest confidante and girlfriend Laura. “I can’t believe it! All the effort, all that work down the tubes and not a word!” she shouts, before smashing a framed photo of the two of them in happier times.

    There’s an equivalent situation in this week’s DALLAS when a similarly angry Ray Krebbs comes home drunk after finding out he was the last to know that wife Donna has "hit the big gusher” with her first oil well. He accuses Donna of being embarrassed by their marriage and lifestyle (just as he described his own shame at growing up as “the town drunk’s son” in last week’s ep). Like Laura’s outburst on KNOTS, this scene also ends with a shot of a "happy couple" photograph as Ray storms out leaving Donna to pick up their wedding portrait and look at it plaintively.

    During the scene, Ray tells Donna, “You belong in the big house with the real Ewings, where the power is, not with the half-breed.” By “big house” he is speaking of Southfork itself. The line echoes what Richard Channing told Lorraine at the end of the last episode of FALCON CREST: "You belong to them now!” By “them”, he was referring to Angela, Lance and co. in their big house. And just as Donna has indeed moved in with “the real Ewings” by the end of this week’s DALLAS so Lorraine is now living with “them” at Falcon Crest. But where Miss Ellie and Clayton welcome Donna with open arms, Lorraine’s stay with her in-laws-to-be is proving somewhat frostier. It’s during a scene where Angela takes her to the same kind of restaurant as Sue Ellen took Jamie to earlier in this season’s DALLAS, where models parade in expensive designer dresses that diners can then purchase, that Lorraine realises that all Angela is interested in is turning her unborn child into the next heir to Falcon Crest.

    There’s also a parallel between Ray and Donna’s conflict and a late-night kitchen conversation between Chase and Maggie on FALCON CREST. Where Donna insists that she is "not going give up my ideas, my hopes and my dreams to try and fit in with what Ray's ideas of what a perfect wife should be,” Maggie recalls a time when being a perfect wife was all she aspired to: "All I wanted then was to be a good wife and mother and roll out a flaky pie crust.” "If Donna wants to spend her time turning a profit in the oil business, she's just going have to do it alone,” Ray tells Clayton angrily. "Do you resent all this?" Maggie asks Chase, referring to her work as a journalist. "Occasionally," he admits. The Gioberti marriage is nowhere near as rocky as the Krebbses’ at this point, but it’s nonetheless telling that at the end of the scene Chase is telling Maggie about his work when he realises that she’s stopped listening. (This is one of those odd moments, a bit like when Dominique started coughing on DYNASTY a few episodes ago, that in real life would be inconsequential — after all, people cough and stop listening to each other all the time — but in the simplistic world of Soap Land seem quite portentous.)

    Her search for Mark having reached a dead end, DALLAS’s Pam prepares to return home. “I've finally got to accept that he's gone from my life,” she tells Sue Ellen. “I know they’re gone,” echoes Val on KNOTS LANDING in regard her twins. Both shows then conclude with what might be termed a "resurrection tease”. As Pam and Sue Ellen leave Hong Kong, they are unaware that they are being observed by Mr. Wong. "The plane just took off,” he is reporting to someone over the phone. "Tell him it went exactly as he planned.” Tell who? Might it be … Mark Graison? Meanwhile during this week’s KNOTS, Mack and Ben pay a chance visit to an address listed amongst Paul Galveston’s papers. A young housewife answers the door and invites them in, but is unable to supply a connection between herself and Galveston Industries. Mack and Ben are then distracted by Greg’s surprise announcement on television and so fail to register that the woman has twin babies in her kitchen. Lest we at home aren’t quite sure what to make of this, KNOTS pulls a Soap Land first and places a freeze frame of the twins underneath the end credits, circumventing narrative convention to make it clear to us that, “yes, they really are who you think they are.” This kind of direct communication between programme maker and viewer would nowadays most likely be done via Twitter.

    Throughout this week’s FALCON CREST, Greg Reardon is hopeful that his appeal for a postponement regarding Lance’s trial will be granted. In the final scene of the ep, we learn that it hasn’t. “Your trial starts Monday,” Angela informs her grandson gravely. Meanwhile, on DALLAS, Jenna’s trial is already underway. As the prosecuting attorney, Scooter Warren, Laura Avery’s former real estate mentor, is pitted against Angela Channing’s first husband Douglas (aka defence lawyer Scotty Demarest). While Scooter is as brisk, sharp and witty as he was on KNOTS, Douglas/Scotty is as laid back and slow-talking Southern as ever. It’s a great contrast.

    Synchronicity of the week: In the same week that Greg S gives up his senatorial career on KNOTS, Greg R announces his intention to make a run for the governor’s office on FALCON CREST.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

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    13 Mar 85: DYNASTY: Photo Finish v. 15 Mar 85: DALLAS: The Verdict v. 15 Mar 85: FALCON CREST: The Trial

    It’s a courtroom heavy week in Soap Land with the trials of DALLAS’s Jenna and FALCON CREST’s Lance now both underway. In each case, the jury is more ethnically diverse than the show’s cast as a whole, while the bailiff at Jenna’s murder trial is played by the same black actor who was the bailiff at Alexis's murder trial on DYNASTY four months ago. The hearings begin similarly, with each prosecution’s first witness being the cop who found the accused in possession of the offending weapon (Naldo’s gun, Lance’s car) at or near the scene of the crime. More police and legal experts are then called, creating a strong case against the defendant. After the prosecution rests, Bobby Ewing and Angela Channing each take their turn as a witness for the defence, although neither fares very well under cross-examination. Bobby produces a letter written by Veronica Robinson to her sister Ann shortly before her death in which she states Jenna’s innocence. (The letter has been obtained by Bobby during a flying visit to California where he finds Ann McFadden living in what could easily pass for the same not-too-shabby, not-too-swanky neighbourhood as Sheila Fisher, the housewife with twin babies whom Mack and Ben dropped in on during last week’s KNOTS LANDING.) Prosecuting attorney Scooter Warren easily discredits this evidence as the word of "a woman who was a kidnapper, an extortionist and a drug addict.” Meanwhile, the equivalent prosecutor on FALCON CREST (recently the paediatric surgeon who saved Krystina’s life on DYNASTY) riles Angela to the point where she calls the jury a bunch of idiots. Both Bobby and Angela end up appearing uncharacteristically impotent on the witness stand.

    With things looking grim for both defendants (“There's a strong case against you, and I don't have much to counter it with,” confesses Scotty Demarest to Jenna. “The trial is not going according to plan and we are fast running out of our supply of friendly witnesses,” admits Greg Reardon to Lance), the suggestion is made to call a controversial witness to the stand. In Jenna’s case, this means her daughter Charlie. "It's vital that the jury understand that the one goal in your mind was to get your daughter back,” Scotty explains. However, Jenna won’t consider it. "Charlie's been through enough," she insists. On FALCON CREST, Angela is equally opposed to the idea of Lance testifying on his own behalf. “I am absolutely against it — you’re making a terrible mistake,” she insists. However, her objections are overridden by Lance himself.

    At this point, it becomes apparent that Lance’s story is about more than whether or not he will be found guilty of attempted murder. The overarching storyline is the character’s redemption, his journey from semi-villainous playboy (“You have a reputation that Genghis Khan would envy,” Angela reminds him) to reformed good guy, wrongly accused (“It’s all in the past now,” he insists). When an emotional Lance explains to the jury how much he loves his grandmother (a speech reminiscent of Blake Carrington’s sentimental testimony about his son Steven at his own murder trial), the transformation appears to be complete. There is no such character journey for Jenna. She has already taken the stand at her trial, but with no memory of the night Naldo died, had little to offer (“All I know is I didn’t kill him!”). In terms of DALLAS as a whole, the primary function of Jenna’s trial is the obstacle it presents to a reconciliation between Bobby and Pam.

    In the event, Jenna is found guilty not of murder but of voluntary manslaughter, just Blake was following the death of his son’s gay lover on DYNASTY four years ago. Now that Steven has a new boyfriend, Blake is handling the situation rather differently. In this week’s ep, instead of dashing Luke Fuller's brains against a fireplace fender, he invites him to dine with the family at the Carrington mansion. As might be expected, the dinner table conversation is exquisitely excruciating, but somewhat less predictably, never devolves into a petulant spat with somebody storming out in a huff.

    Interestingly, while Blake makes an overt display of acceptance towards Steven and Luke, he is less tolerant of Claudia whom he seems to blame for failing to keep Steven on the strait and narrow. This allows Adam to play Claudia and Blake off against one another. I’d completely forgotten how much fun it is to watch him going from to other, slyly dripping poison in their respective ears in order to drive a wedge between father and daughter-in-law.

    A week after Lilimae’s long-lost son Joshua announced his engagement to Cathy on KNOTS LANDING, Blake and Alexis’s long-lost daughter Amanda receives a marriage proposal from Prince Michael on DYNASTY. Whereas Cathy, despite her reservations, meekly consented to Joshua's wishes, Amanda is less compliant. “You’re buying me,” she accuses Michael, echoing her near namesake Mandy Winger’s recent response on DALLAS when JR tried to buy her an apartment: “I’m not for sale.” Like JR, Michael insists that his motives are genuine. “I swear that I love you,” he tells Amanda. When this fails to impress her, he tries another tack. "You’ll change your mind — you’ll have to,” he snaps coldly, sounding more like the domineering Joshua than the gallant prince.

    The idea of Amanda as a piece of property for sale recurs throughout this episode of DYNASTY. “How much does a daughter go for on the open market these days?” Amanda asks Alexis during a very enjoyable confrontation scene. "Why would a mother sell her own daughter?” wonders Blake. In fact, the story surrounding this royal engagement is surprisingly layered. As chief matchmaker, Alexis has multiple motives for wanting to marry her daughter off to royalty. Some are self-serving — the marriage would indeed seal a business alliance between Colby Co and the Moldavian government, plus it would put Amanda safely out of reach of Alexis's own husband Dex — but she also believes Amanda and Michael are well-suited. “Even if I were the monster you think I am … don’t let that obscure your real feelings,” she urges her daughter. "Don’t throw away the chance of a lifetime because you feel it was pushed a bit by others.” And then there’s the whole fairytale-come-true aspect of marrying a handsome young prince. Alexis describes the proposal as “a dream, not for myself but for my daughter, a dream that comes once in a lifetime.” When Amanda still isn’t convinced, Alexis becomes amusingly exasperated: "Amanda, he’s kind, he’s intelligent — he’s a prince! What more do you want?!" All these motives are interestingly jumbled together until it’s hard to see where Alexis’s self-interest ends and her concern for her daughter’s happiness begins.

    Eventually, having been spurned yet again by Dex during a clandestine meeting which is staged more like an espionage scene from EMERALD POINT N.A.S. (two cars pull up alongside each other in a dark and rainy side-street, Amanda darting out of her car and into the back of Dex's) than a lovers’ tryst, Amanda agrees to marry Michael, but with an air of cynical older-then-her-years resignation reminiscent of Kirby when she accepted Adam’s proposal last season. However, she adds a Sue Ellen Ewing-style proviso: “that it be a marriage in name only." Michael reluctantly agrees. Back on DALLAS, Mandy Winger is proving equally hard to get. Like Amanda with Michael, she has already succumbed to JR’s charms once but is determined not to make the same mistake again. “I won’t go to bed with you, not while you and Sue Ellen are together,” she tells him flatly. “Well, we may not be together much longer,” comes JR's intriguing reply.

    Amanda’s not the only DYNASTY female who’s been taking a leaf out of Sue Ellen’s guide to marriage of late. A few weeks after Sue Ellen moved back into her own room at Southfork, Krystle did the same at the Carrington mansion. This week, Krystle goes a step further and follows the example set by Donna Krebbs in last week’s DALLAS by moving out of the marital home completely. This week’s DYNASTY ends with Blake standing in her wake, imploring her to change her mind. In a beautifully acted scene in this week’s DALLAS, Ray Krebbs picks up where Blake left off. He follows Donna out to the cardboard Southfork patio to ask her to come home. "Can't we just have things the way they were?” he asks. "People grow and they change," she explains tearfully. "Otherwise they just stay the same, Ray, and they die.”

    If Alexis can be accused (at least in part) of trying to sell her daughter, she’s not the only one. There’s a similar dynamic between Lila Cummings, an old flame of JR’s whom he runs into at the Oil Barons' Club, and her daughter Rhonda whom she allows JR to more or less pimp out to Nathan Billings, the head of the Texas Energy Commission, in front of her very eyes.

    This week's DYNASTY and DALLAS both use the familiar soap trope whereby a spouse or partner walks into a scene to find their other half in an apparently compromising situation with a third party. DYNASTY has deployed this device numerous times already this season — in fact, the Luke/Steven/Claudia and Alexis/Dex/Amanda storylines would be nowhere without it. Indeed, this week’s episode picks up exactly where last week’s left off when Alexis returned to her penthouse from Moldavia with Prince Michael in tow to find Amanda with her arm around Dex (the truth being that Dex had fainted after discharging himself from the hospital and Amanda was merely helping him). On this week’s ep, Adam spots Claudia and ex-fling Dean Caldwell in an embrace (it’s a platonic farewell) and Krystle sees Blake and Ashley Mitchell together by the La Mirage tennis courts (just a chance meeting). Over on DALLAS, Jenna is dismayed when she walks past the Southfork nursery to see Bobby hugging Pam (a comforting embrace following her fruitless search for Mark). Reversing the trend somewhat, the big reveal at the end of the Rhonda Cummings/Nathan Billings seduction is JR and Lila watching the scene via a hidden camera. “If she were my real daughter, I’d be very upset,” laughs Lila. So that explains that.

    An even bigger discovery is that Sammy Jo was behind the mysterious photos sent to Blake and Krystle of each other’s misleading liaisons, with Ashley and Daniel Reece respectively. Turns out it was a scheme to break up her aunt’s marriage. Over drinks with Morgan Hess in a New York bar, Sammy Jo pulls the plug on the operation. “They’ll split up the day the North Pole has a heatwave and melts,” she says gloomily. I love the sheer ballsiness of what happens next — no sooner has one far-fetched story-line been resolved than another one begins, as Sammy Jo’s attention is drawn to a red-haired woman who has been arguing with her boyfriend at the bar since the beginning of the scene. Her observation — “My God, that woman, she reminds me of my Aunt Krystle” — may not be quite as momentous as Gary Ewing's “Holy shit — it’s Ciji!” reaction the first time he saw Cathy Geary on KNOTS, but there is still something thrilling about that initial reveal of Linda Evans sporting a red wig and a Southern accent.

    There’s a late entry to this season’s long-lost-relative parade in the final scene of this week’s FALCON CREST. College dropout Robin Agretti shows up at her cousin Melissa’s door, simply dressed and carrying a backpack. So far so Joshua Rush and Jamie Ewing — but the way her eyes light up when she meets Melissa’s new husband (“What a hunk!”) and takes in her fancy new surroundings (“I’d do anything to have a place like this!”) suggests she’s actually cast from the same sexy young gold-digger mould as Kristin Shepherd and Sammy Jo Dean.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    27 Mar 85: DYNASTY: Reconciliation v. 28 Mar 85: KNOTS LANDING: A Man of Good Will v. 29 Mar 85: DALLAS: Sentences v. 29 Mar 85: FALCON CREST: Justice For All

    Following an almighty explosion (probably the biggest in Soap Land history) in the opening scene of this week’s DYNASTY, Blake Carrington and Daniel Reece find themselves in the same position as previous Soap Land plane crash survivors — JR and Bobby in early DALLAS stand alone episode “Survival”, Sam and Field in a Season 2 ep of FLAMINGO ROAD -- that of erstwhile adversaries obliged to put their differences to one side for the sake of their mutual survival.

    As is tradition, the Carrington women remain anxiously at home while the remaining male characters join the search party. Usually, it’s the female scenes that carry more weight, but this time the drama is pretty much evenly distributed between the genders, with enough macho rivalry to keep the rescue scenes bubbling along nicely. Inevitably, the search is hampered by adverse weather conditions and the men bicker over how best to proceed.

    Just as it was honorary Ewing son Ray Krebbs who came to JR and Bobby’s rescue by helicopter back in ’78, so it is Blake’s surrogate son Jeff who locates he and Daniel in their hour of need. (This is preceded by a laugh-out-loud scene in which Jeff lands a sucker-punch on Steven to prevent him coming along on the precarious 'copter ride.) Also like Ray, Jeff spots the men thanks to three distress-signal fires lit by Blake (and before him JR). Oddly, this is the second time in as many episodes that Daniel Reece has been rescued from a life-threatening situation. Last week, Dex went undercover to spring him from a military prison in Paraguay — but whereas that entire operation scarcely took up two minutes of screen time, this week’s rescue spans two-thirds of an episode.

    Despite their estrangement, Krystle has been keeping vigil for Blake at the mansion. Her joy at his safe return is tempered when Blake politely thanks her for her concern and offers to have her driven back to La Mirage. This is the same lesson that Sue Ellen learnt when JR returned home after his plane crash — not all marital differences can be healed with an “I’m so glad you’re all right” hug. Blake and Krystle are reunited later in the episode, however — an inevitable development, perhaps, but one that feels surprisingly earned and believable.

    Another DYNASTY reconciliation takes place when the ordinarily aloof Amanda, having realised that she does love Prince Michael after all, tells him she wants to go ahead with their wedding. Conversely, on KNOTS LANDING, the previously passive Cathy Geary shows signs of rebellion regarding her engagement. First, she angrily rejects the wedding dress Joshua has picked out for her, and then fails to show up for a meeting with Reverend Catherine to discuss their vows.

    If Cathy’s starting to question her choice of men, she’s not the only one. Having recently dated a con man and a madman respectively, it’s not too surprising that DALLAS’s Lucy and FALCON CREST’s Emma should both be feeling a tad dejected about their love lives this week. "I keep picking men who are wrong for me,” laments Lucy. “Romance is just not in my plans,” says Emma firmly. However, you can’t keep a good victim down for long and by the end of this week’s FC, Emma has fallen head over heels once more, this time for Damon Rossini (yet another Tuscany Valley newcomer with a secret identity and an ulterior motive). Meanwhile, all it takes is the mention of her ex-husband Mitch Cooper to make Lucy’s eyes light up all over again.

    Back at the Carrington mansion, a recuperating Blake receives a visit from Alexis. His anger over her involvement in Amanda’s engagement (“You sold her!” “I bought her a chance at happiness!”) reignites their feud, prompting Krystle to order Alexis out of the house. “This was my house while you were living in a shack somewhere!” Alexis snarls as Krystle manhandles her down the stairs and tosses a bouquet of flowers after her. It’s been a long time since the two rivals have interacted so physically and I’d forgotten how much fun it could be. Over on DALLAS, another classic conflict also comes back into focus. Following her return from Hong Kong, Sue Ellen is unhappy to hear that JR has been “flaunting” his relationship with Mandy Winger in her absence. He has a solution: “You can divorce me … but no matter what, John Ross stays here with me.” He hasn’t spoken to his wife this coldly in years and there is an immediate sense of urgency. “I’ve got to do something before JR drives me over the edge again,” Sue Ellen tells Pam.

    DYNASTY’s Ashley Mitchell may share a title with DALLAS’s Lady Jessica and a profession with KNOTS LANDING’s Ruth, but it turns out the Soap Land character she most resembles is recent FALCON CREST arrival, Connie Giannini. Both are American women who became experts in their chosen fields while living in France — Ashley was "the best young photographer in all of Paris” according to Dominique, while Chase hails Connie as "the first woman winemaker at Montret”. They also share a perpetually sunny disposition (in spite of Ashley’s widowhood and the recent untimely deaths of both of Connie's parents) as well as an inappropriate interest in the husband of their respective show’s most wholesomely married couple. Upon hearing of Blake’s plane crash on this week’s DYNASTY, Ashley finally stops smiling long enough to admit to Dominique that she came to Denver to seduce him, before realising how hopelessly in love with Krystle he was. Meanwhile, the neck rub Connie elicits from Chase on FC is at least as provocative as the kiss Ashley gave Blake at the end of her first ep. It is followed by a bedroom scene where Chase, still aroused from being in such close proximity to Connie, takes Maggie by surprise by getting into bed and kissing her passionately. (“Where’s this coming from? Are you on new vitamins or something?” she asks) By Soap Land standards, this is pretty frank stuff. This is a genre in which the concept of a “happy marriage” has been so idealised that the very notion of a husband fantasising about another woman while having sex with his wife (a wife played by a beautiful Hollywood star!) is all but inconceivable. Even in KNOTS LANDING, for all its self-consciously “down to earth” depictions of married life — for example, the running gag in last week’s ep regarding a blocked sink in the Mackenzies’ kitchen — it is unthinkable that Mack would ever find Karen anything less than highly desirable. Therefore, in its own quiet way, Chase’s libidinous behaviour feels as subversive as Val Ewing lacerating her own appearance in that motel room scene earlier in the season.

    Speaking of quiet subversion, it transpires on this week’s KNOTS that, in contrast to virtually every other red-blooded male in Soap Land (with the possible exception of Ray Krebbs), neither Eric nor Michael Fairgate has any interest in taking over their father's business. In a genre where father-to-son legacies are of paramount importance, Michael’s matter-of-fact dismissal of Knots Landing Motors (“I work there part time and I hate it") sounds a similarly blasphemous note to Donna Krebbs' recent exasperated plea to her husband on DALLAS: “Jock is dead, Ray — do something for the living!”

    The Fairgate boys’ attitude comes to light after Sid’s widow Karen receives a very handsome offer for the dealership. In spite of the offer and her sons’ feelings, she still finds herself unable to let it go — in contrast with Miss Ellie’s recent conclusion on DALLAS that Ewing Oil is "just a company.” At first glance, given what else is happening at this point in the KNOTS saga, specifically the somewhat space-age developments at Empire Valley, this hearkening back to Sid’s era feels slightly incongruent but is actually quite timely. The scene at his grave where Karen relieves Eric of any filial obligation towards KLM (“Your father … never thought you had to do what he did — he just wanted you to be happy”) seems to signify a passing of the torch: the days when Sid was the dead patriarchal figure whose shadow loomed largest over KNOTS are at an end. Thanks to the shock twist at the final scene of this week’s ep, that distinction now belongs to Paul Galveston.

    In fact, these week’s DYNASTY and KNOTS have similar endings. Adam Carrington is dismayed to overhear Blake telling hero of the hour Jeff Colby (not even his real son!) that he intends to leave him control of Denver-Carrington in his will. Meanwhile, Laura Avery is a bystander when Gary Ewing informs Abby that Paul Galveston (not even his real father!) has left him and not Greg all of Empire Valley in his will. Adam goes nuts, ranting at a framed photograph of Blake (“Denver Carrington is mine! It’s mine! IT’S MINE!”) which he then smashes. Gary goes nuts in a different way, unleashing his high-pitched hysterical laugh as he embraces Abby and lifts her off the ground. With no photograph of her own to smash (she did that last week), Laura just hovers awkwardly then does an interesting sideways look with her eyes.

    Soap Land’s current trials both reach their conclusion this week. While the Ewings file into court for Jenna’s sentencing on DALLAS, the Channings and Giobertis anxiously await the verdict in Lance’s case on FALCON CREST. The icy blonde judge on DALLAS (who slightly resembles the icy blonde prosecuting attorney on FALCON CREST) casts a dispassionate eye over Jenna's complicated history. "You have woven yourself quite a tangled web, Mrs Marchetta,” she coolly observes, making no allowances for the fact that Jenna lives in a soap opera world where tangled webs are unavoidable. Indeed, the juxtaposition between Jenna’s melodramatic ordeal at the hands of Naldo and the coldly sceptical scrutiny she has received from the legal system since her arrest has been the most interesting and satisfying aspect of this storyline.

    Conversely, on FALCON CREST, the legal system is part of the melodrama by virtue of the fact that the judge presiding over Lance’s trial is being bribed-cum-blackmailed by Richard Channing into ensuring a guilty verdict. Jury deliberation subsequently becomes a Soap Land plot point for the first time when the jury in Lance’s case declares themselves unable to reach a unanimous verdict. Defence lawyer Greg Reardon moves for a mistrial but under pressure from Richard, Judge Holder orders them to continue deliberating until they have reached a definitive verdict. Eventually, Lance is found guilty.

    Having proved ineffectual on the witness stand, Bobby Ewing and Angela Channing each now attempt to pervert the course of justice on behalf of the accused. Angela tries to bribe Judge Holder into granting Lance a suspended sentence but is unsuccessful. Lance, like Jenna, is sent down for seven years. Bobby, meanwhile, perjures himself during Jenna’s sentencing hearing. Fearing her daughter Charlie will be made a ward of the state, he claims to be the girl’s real father. Jenna having already told the same lie on Charlie’s birth certificate, he is believed.

    As well as the same prison term, Jenna and Lance are awarded similar freeze frames. FALCON CREST’s shows a stunned Lance being led away from his fiancée Lorraine in the courtroom while DALLAS ends with jailbird Jenna instructing her fiancé Bobby never to visit her again. “You’re free!” she tells him bravely but tearfully.

    Freudian flubs of the week: During a conversation with her daughter Amanda, DYNASTY's Alexis mistakenly blames King Galen himself for sabotaging their teenage romance instead of his father (“When Michael’s father forced us to separate, I thought I’d never love another man again …”). Over on DALLAS, while talking to Lucy, Ray erroneously refers to Mickey Trotter as his nephew rather than his cousin.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    10 Apr 85: DYNASTY: Kidnap v. 11 Apr 85: KNOTS LANDING: Four, No Trump v. 12 Apr 85: DALLAS: Terms of Estrangement v. 12 Apr 85: FALCON CREST: Devil’s Harvest

    DYNASTY's Alexis and KNOTS LANDING’s Abby find themselves in similarly helpless situations when their children’s lives are endangered in this week’s Soap Land. “Oh my God — Amanda!” Alexis gasps as her youngest daughter is snatched away by kidnappers in front of her eyes. “Please God, don’t let anybody be hurt,” mutters Abby as she and Gary rush to the site of a car accident involving both of her children. Amanda is ultimately rescued and Olivia and Brian are found uninjured, but both mothers are left shaken. “When those men grabbed her, I felt part of my life was being dragged away,” Alexis tells Dex. “I just can’t help thinking what could have happened,” Abby tells Gary.

    Each incident reawakens memories of past abductions. "All I remember is a loneliness, isolation, a feeling I didn’t quite belong,“ says DYNASTY’s Adam of his own kidnapping. "I never felt so alone or empty in all my life,” echoes Abby, referring to the time her ex-husband Jeff “stole” her children. “It’s the most awful feeling in the world to see something happen to your child and be absolutely helpless to do anything about it,” Alexis agrees.

    While the kidnapping prompts Alexis to take Amanda to Moldavia ahead of her wedding in the mistaken belief that she will be safer there than in Denver, the car accident has an even more profound effect on Abby who decides she can no longer live with her complicity in the disappearance of Val’s babies. In order to get her hands on Paul Galveston’s papers, which she believes contain the answer to the twins’ whereabouts, she is obliged to tell Greg Sumner everything. While it’s fascinating to watch her finally come clean, it’s even more interesting to observe Greg’s implacable reaction to her lengthy tale. At its conclusion, he agrees to give her his father’s papers with one proviso: “I don’t ever want to hear another word about this again. Ever.” Abby gratefully agrees and that appears to be the end of Greg's involvement in the situation. However, once she has left, we discover that he has given her all of his father's documents except the torn pages revealing the babies’ location!

    Meanwhile, as a falsely accused Lance Cumson becomes a fugitive from the law on FALCON CREST, it emerges that two genuinely dangerous men are also currently at large in Soap Land. While one is hiding in plain sight, the other could be anywhere in the world. The former is Yuri, Prince Michael’s head of security on DYNASTY, who was behind Amanda’s botched kidnapping. The latter is Andre Schumann, whose murder of Veronica Robinson on DALLAS comes to light via in-flight security footage. While neither Prince Michael nor the Carringtons have any idea of Yuri’s duplicity and continue to entrust him with Amanda’s safety, Schumann is identified by the Dallas police as a professional hitman, "and professional hit men are nearly impossible to find”. In each case, a bigger question is raised: who are Yuri and Schumann taking their orders from?

    “I'm acting the way everyone thinks that I should, the way I think everyone wants me to act … from the moment I wake up in the morning till the moment I try to close my eyes at night.” So says Val to Karen on KNOTS LANDING, but her words could just as easily apply to Bobby and Pam on DALLAS or DYNASTY’s Jeff Colby, each of whom is trying valiantly to put the past behind them and move on with their lives, only to find themselves being pulled back to the place where their heart secretly lies.

    Emboldened by catching Cathy’s wedding bouquet last week, Val jokes with Ben about getting married and even goes so far as sleep with him for the first time since her breakdown. But then he awakens in the middle of the night to find her staring broodily out at the ocean, and she continues to keep him at arm’s length for the rest of the episode. “I know those babies are alive,” she confides to Karen. "I felt their life inside of me and it didn’t stop.”

    Even as Bobby continues to battle for Jenna's innocence and Pam reasserts her commitment to Cliff and Jamie's fight for Ewing Oil, each is given a lingering tell-tale close-up at the end of a scene that indicates their real devotion still lies with each other. Even JR is aware of it. "Don't you deny you love Pam more than you do Jenna,” he challenges Bobby, who doesn’t reply.

    Likewise, on DYNASTY, Jeff tries to move forward with his romantic life, declaring his love for Ashley Mitchell and insisting that he no longer has any interest in Fallon, irrespective of whether she is alive or dead. Later, however, we see him staring at the portrait of Fallon that has been hanging in the Carrington mansion since Christmas — only now the face in the portrait belongs to someone else! As he looks at the painting, he flashes back to a love scene that took place between he and Fallon almost two seasons ago — only now the Fallon in the flashback resembles the woman in the painting! Adding to the feeling of disorientation, Jeff’s eyes are super-imposed over the flashback as though, like the audience, he is trying to make sense of what he is seeing. If this were an episode of DARK SHADOWS, the painting itself would have psychic properties and would be hypnotising Jeff (and us) into believing this unknown woman is the real Fallon and has been all along. There are many layers of reality going on here: Fallon used to be played by one actress, but now looks like another. Fallon was believed to be dead, but now possibly isn’t. Jeff insists he no longer loves Fallon, yet clearly, he does.

    Elsewhere on DYNASTY, Luke Fuller is taken aback when Steven invites him to the royal wedding in Moldavia. “Flaunting our relationship that publicly? It can’t do anything but hurt your family!” he exclaims. Eric Fairgate seemed to be anticipating a similarly strong reaction when he brought Whitney, his black girlfriend, to Joshua and Cathy’s wedding in last week’s KNOTS. However, when he anxiously asks people their opinion of her in this week’s ep, the only word they use to describe her is “cute”. This would suggest that, with the possible exception of Eric himself, the good folks of Seaview Circle are all as colour blind as, well, the Carringtons of DYNASTY were at the beginning of this season when Dominique Devereaux claimed to be their blood relative and no one even thought to mention her skin colour. However, there’s no mistaking the double meaning in Mack’s line when he says to Karen, with reference to Whitney, “Guess who’s coming to dinner?” — this, of course, being the title of a 1967 movie in which the liberal views of a married couple (Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn) are put to the test when their daughter brings her black fiancé (Sidney Poitier) home to meet the family.

    Back on DYNASTY, a possible consequence of Dominique's race never being referred to on screen is that it becomes the elephant in the room that no one talks about; one starts to see its significance everywhere. For example, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the speech in this week’s episode where she refers herself as two separate people — one rich, successful and embraced by the Carringtons, the other poor, hungry and married to Billy Dee Williams — reflects, on some level, her own mixed race background. “I have accomplished a great deal [in Denver],” she tells Ashley, "and I have my family name now, but what about the other me, that little Milly Cox who clawed and fought her way to get here? Brady would say that I have betrayed her, sold her for thirty pieces of silver."

    "What's going to happen to us as a family if we lose two-thirds of Ewing Oil?" Miss Ellie asks her husband in this week's DALLAS. Clayton's eloquent reply echoes the rallying speech Blake delivered to his family at the beginning of this season's DYNASTY. "It's when things are bad," Blake said then, "that's when we Carringtons are tested. We have to pull ourselves together. We have to be strong. We have to be what we always are — an example to others." "This family wasn't built on wealth," Clayton says now. "It was built on character. And you have to make sure that no matter what happens to the Ewing fortune, nothing happens to the Ewing spirit. With it, the family will survive and without it, it doesn't stand a chance." "I don't know if I have the strength," replies Ellie. "Together we do," Clayton concludes decisively, mirroring the end of Blake's speech: "We Carringtons will prevail." Whereas the Carringtons were united by Blake's words, the opposite occurs on DALLAS when Clayton subsequently becomes embroiled in a near fist-fight with his stepson after JR verbally attacks Sue Ellen in front of the family.

    A week after Joshua married Cathy on KNOTS LANDING, his poor relation counterpart on DALLAS, Jamie Ewing, accepts a proposal of marriage from Cliff Barnes. Just as Lilimae acknowledged how far her son has evolved within the space of season — from "a shy country boy who'd just left home not knowing much about the world outside" into "a man that people listen to, respect, are drawn to and seek out" — so a figure from Jamie's past shows up this week and observes the change in her: "New wardrobe, new hairdo, new you … Looks like we're moving uptown, baby!" Yep, in the same week that Emma Samms materialises on DYNASTY as New Fallon, Dack Rambo arrives on DALLAS as cousin Jack.

    Joshua and Jamie have each come a long way in less than a year, but Soap Land's newest long lost relatives — cousin Jack on DALLAS and cousin Robin on FALCON CREST — move even faster. In his very first scene during this week's ep — before he's even divulged his identity — Jack makes JR a compelling proposal: "If I can stop Jason Ewing's daughter and Digger Barnes's son from stealing two-thirds of Ewing Oil, I think fair compensation would be 10% of Ewing Oil for myself." Over on FALCON CREST, Robin offers Cole and Melissa her services as a surrogate mother. When Cole refuses, she seduces him anyway.

    While the exotic Ruth Galveston and homely Lilimae make unexpected lunch partners on this week's KNOTS, the level-headed Donna Krebbs and neurotic Sue Ellen make even less likely accomplices during a late-night milk-and-cookie binge on DALLAS. Both pairs of women find common ground when the subject of men is inevitably raised. "Have you ever met a man who wasn't trouble?" asks Ruth. "Well, I never met one who was worth a damn who wasn't!" Lilimae replies and the two women laugh. Meanwhile, on Southfork, the joke is more bitter than sweet as Donna surveys the fates of the Ewing wives: "Poor Pam, poor you, poor me." (The unspoken addition of "Poor Val" feels almost implicit.) "The Curse of the Ewings," diagnoses Sue Ellen. "It wasn't supposed to happen to me," Donna whispers tearfully. There's another unusual female pairing on FALCON CREST when Pamela Lynch drops in on Melissa — only not to break bread, but to blackmail. "You can help finance my new life," she suggests. "If you don't, I'm sure Angela would pay a great deal of money to know who hired Joel McCarthy to run her off the road ... Shall we say $100,000?" (Compared to what Jack Ewing's asking of JR, this seems a mere pittance.) Suffice to say, none of these scenes would score very highly on the Bedchel test, but they're all as juicy as can be.

    Each of this week's eps concludes with an exciting reveal. "Who are you?" a sympathetic cop in a Los Angeles police station asks a young woman with her back to the camera at the end of DYNASTY. When she turns around, we see it's the same woman in Fallon's painting and Jeff's flashback! "How can I tell you when I don't know myself?" she asks helplessly. At the end of KNOTS, we see Mrs Fisher, the woman Mack and Ben visited a few episodes ago, returning home with her twin babies. Who should be watching her from a discreet distance but … Greg Sumner! At the end of DALLAS, Dack Rambo shows up at Jamie's apartment to divulge his true identity. "Get lost? Just like that? Your own brother," he whispers sinisterly — a reveal almost as good as Dominique's equivalent quip to Blake at the beginning of the season: "We have so much in common, our blood, our genes, our daddy."

    FALCON CREST's cliffhanger employs the same back-of-a-woman's-head gimmick as DYNASTY's. This time, however, the big reveal is not the character's identity — we already know that she is Cassandra Wilder's mother. Instead, the big news is what she has written on her notepad before falling asleep in her wheelchair: "Final Phase — The Destruction of Falcon Crest!"

    And this week's Top 4 is … kind of hard to decide. Aside from FALCON CREST which is further away from the finishing post, each show now has its end-of-season groove on. While DYNASTY boasts a succession of sinfully thrilling pop culture moments (Krystle lookalikes! One-eyed Moldavians! Emma Samms in a raincoat!) and KNOTS its own specific dramatic richness ("I do what I have to to get what I want, but I don't do this — I don't take babies away from their mother"), it's DALLAS, with its interdependent story-lines, fast-moving pace and driving emotional score, that best captures the sense of a show careering inexorably towards a predestined but as-yet-unknowable climax. No matter how many times I've seen this ep, and I've seen it a lot, it still feels intoxicating.

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

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    19 Apr 85: DALLAS: The Ewing Connection v. 19 Apr 85: FALCON CREST: The Decline

    There are two police man-hunts in this week’s Soap Land, each shown from a different perspective. On DALLAS, the search for hitman Andre Schumann takes place entirely off screen with Bobby’s police lieutenant pal keeping him abreast of the situation via intermittent bulletins. Meanwhile Bobby and Pam seem to be drifting towards a reconciliation (they even kiss!), creating an exciting tension between the two story-lines — for the nearer the police get to arresting Schumann, the closer Jenna is to being released from prison.

    While Schumann travels halfway across the world (he is spotted first in Brussels, then at Kennedy airport in New York), his fellow fugitive, FALCON CREST’s Lance, is reluctantly sequestered in a small room in San Francisco’s Chinatown. (A section of Chinatown has been recreated on the studio backlot for this story-line. With its assortment of Asian bit players and extras, it feels a little like a low-budget version of the real Hong Kong recently visited by Pam and Sue Ellen on DALLAS.) If Pam and Bobby are Soap Land’s original star-crossed lovers, then Lance and Lorraine are its latest version, and it is their enforced separation that this week’s FC chooses to focus on. Indeed, the episode ends with Lorraine, rather than the police, tracking down Lance to his hiding place.

    In Lance’s absence, Angela offers Maggie the job of acting publisher of the New Globe. This is pretty much the same situation that Maggie’s DALLAS counterpart, Donna Krebbs, found herself in at the beginning of the season when she was asked to substitute for Bobby at Ewing Oil. The scene where Donna strode into the Ewing offices and took her position behind Bobby’s desk was pretty much the pinnacle of that story-line. Similarly, much is made of the moment where Angela persuades Maggie to sit behind Lance's desk: “The world looks a little different from this angle, doesn’t it?”
    As if to underline the similarities between Donna and Maggie, their respective show’s matriarch uses the same ‘c' word to describe them this week. “Part of the reason Ray loves is that you are so capable,” Miss Ellie tells Donna, while Angela is confident that she is "placing the New Globe in capable hands”. "Everything was fine until I started being successful in my work,” Donna reflects as she contemplates a divorce from Ray. Meanwhile, Chase is no happier about Maggie’s new job than Ray was about his wife’s recent oil strike. “I think it’s a terrible idea,” he tells her. “It’s crazy!”

    Chase’s main objection is that Maggie will be working for Angela. “You had an opportunity to sell out of Falcon Crest, never to work with Angela again,” counters Maggie in reply. "Not only did you not turn that down, you got in deeper.” In a roundabout way, this line echoes something Pam says to Bobby regarding their former marriage on this week’s DALLAS: "We could have gotten a house of our own. I think it would have been better for us.” Soap Land characters questioning why mortal enemies would choose to work together or why married billionaires continue to live with their parents is a little like a crew member of the Starship Enterprise asking why they don’t need to wear a space helmet — these are the unspoken rules of the genre. By making these points, it’s as if Pam and Maggie are gently prodding at the edge of the Soap Land bubble in which they exist. It’s refreshing, and makes all the characters in these scenes seem suddenly more aware, more three-dimensionally “real" than usual.

    It’s telling that Chase and Maggie's quarrel takes place while they are preparing dinner in the Gioberti kitchen. As Maggie is arguing her point of view, she simultaneously struggles to prise the lid off a jar before passing it to Chase who opens it with ease. It’s a minor, but quintessentially KNOTSian — specifically Mackenzian — bit of business.

    This is followed by an even more interesting scene where Maggie tells Richard she is resigning from the radio station. He is angry, partly because she is leaving to take control of the newspaper he used to own, but mostly, like Chase, because she will involved with Angela. (“Do not go to work for that woman,” he snaps. "She’ll corrupt you like she corrupts everyone else.” “What — you offer a better brand of corruption?” Maggie retorts.) As they argue, one becomes aware of an oddly indefinable something taking place between these two very different characters, a depth of emotion that even they aren’t yet fully aware of. (In fact, current story-line requirements oblige Richard to be besotted by Cassandra Wilder.) While Richard and Maggie have interacted for three seasons, there has never been any heavy-handed foreshadowing or scripted flirting between them. Instead, their undefined connection has grown, slowly and naturally, over a long period. I can think of no previous example of this in Soap Land. (Gary and Abby, Steven and Claudia, Cliff and Sue Ellen — all were slow-burn relationships with strong chemistry, but in each case one can point to an early scene which at least hinted at a future relationship between them.) Perhaps such a truly organic development could only happen on FALCON CREST — its somewhat sketchy, scattershot approach to story-telling having enabled this relationship to evolve untended, like a weed growing up through the cracks in the plot. DALLAS and KNOTS are too well-structured, too well-organised for such an “accident” to occur under the watchful eyes of their respective script editors.

    On her very first day at the Globe, Maggie finds herself on the receiving end of an equivalent confession to the one Abby made to Greg Sumner on last week’s KNOTS. Where Abby stood in Greg's study and explained her involvement in the chain of events that led to the disappearance of Val’s twins, Terry now stands in Maggie’s office and admits her involvement in the chain of events leading to Lance’s arrest for attempted murder. Abby had to go back almost to the start of the season to explain how she became aware that Gary was the father of the babies, while Terry reaches back even further, admitting to Maggie how she and Joel McCarthy were once married, "a long time ago in Florida”. There are other differences between the two confessions. Whereas Abby told Greg everything she knew, Terry neglects to mention that she and Joel were never divorced, or the fact that she is now being blackmailed by Richard because of it. And while Abby’s revelation felt like a long-awaited dramatic payoff — we always knew she couldn’t outrun the truth forever — Terry’s admission comes out of nowhere. (If anyone involved was going to come clean, one would have assumed it would be Melissa.) Again, this is characteristic of the seeming randomness of FALCON CREST’s plotting. However, Terry’s confession is no less interesting for being unanticipated. Her motives are a surprise too. While Abby simply wanted Greg to provide her with the documents pertinent to the babies’ location, Terry begs Maggie to intercede with Greg Reardon, Lance’s lawyer with whom she has fallen unexpectedly in love, on her behalf. The scene where Terry eventually faces Greg and asks his forgiveness for keeping Joel’s involvement in Lance’s case a secret is surprisingly touching.

    Elsewhere on FALCON CREST, the scene where Melissa hands over $100,000 in hush money to Pamela Lynch is given the same noir-ish setting as Dex and Amanda’s secret encounter on DYNASTY a few weeks ago, i.e., a parked car on a dark and rainy street, thunder rumbling overhead. An old cliché it may be, but it’s an undeniably effective one.

    "Ewing Oil was given to us by our daddy — it's a family business,” explains Bobby on DALLAS as he and JR prepare to sign over ten percent of the company to their cousin Jack as a way of preventing Cliff Barnes from getting his hands on it. “After all, this is a family business,” echoes Angela on FALCON CREST, trying to talk Chase and Richard into to a lucrative but risky deal she secretly hopes will bankrupt them, thereby forcing them out of said business.

    Also on DALLAS, John Ross undergoes surgery for appendicitis — another of those random, could-have-happened-to-anyone ailments like Dominique's recent heart valve problem on DYNASTY. But whereas Dominique’s medical crisis was a dramatic end in itself, John Ross’s functions primarily as a springboard for JR to lash out at Sue Ellen, accusing her of neglect and condemning her as “a totally unfit mother,” thereby pushing her over the edge and back to the booze.

    And this week’s Top 2 are …

    1 (1) DALLAS
    2 (4) FALCON CREST
     
  12. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    02 May 85: KNOTS LANDING: A Price to Pay v. 03 May 85: DALLAS: Deeds and Misdeeds v. 03 May 85 FALCON CREST: And the Fall

    "We could have gotten a house of our own. I think it would have been better for us,” said Pam to Bobby on last week’s DALLAS. KNOTS LANDING’s Cathy has similar feelings this week when she and Joshua return from their honeymoon to find Lilimae expecting them to move in with her and Val. When Cathy puts her foot down, Joshua doesn’t object outright. Instead he finds more indirect ways to undermine her — abruptly walking out on her just as they’re about to make love; arranging to look at a prospective apartment with her, only to then send Lilimae along in his place. Shitty behaviour to be sure, but I wonder how differently JR or Bobby would have responded had either Sue Ellen or Pam really pushed for a life away from the Ewing ranch? (“Are you going to move out of Southfork?” Mandy Winger asks JR this week when he insists that he will not be living under the same roof as Sue Ellen for much longer. From her mocking tone, it’s clear that she already understands what an unlikely scenario this is.) For her own part, Lilimae proves to be as emotionally manipulative as Miss Ellie when it comes to keeping her loved ones around her. “It’s all right, Cathy,” she sighs when her new daughter-in-law tries to explain her position. "I finally get all my family under one roof and - I guess I’m being selfish.”

    Random trend of the week: morning-sex innuendo. “You’re looking very self-satisfied this morning,” Ruth tells Laura coolly when she and Greg eventually surface for breakfast on KNOTS. “Self had nothing to do with it,” Laura assures her. "I haven’t been to the office this morning,” Cassandra Wilder admits when her brother catches her playing hooky on FALCON CREST. "Richard and I have been firming up some things between us.” There are no such double-entendres on DALLAS, but there is an equivalent exchange which sounds positively chaste in comparison. “Good morning! I haven't seen you smile like that in I don't know how long,” Jackie observes as Pam arrives for work at Barnes Wentworth. “Well, I haven't felt like this in I don't know how long,” beams Pam, still aglow from the single kiss she and Bobby exchanged in last week’s episode.

    This week’s instalment of KNOTS is one of very few directed by series creator David Jacobs and it contains some very striking camera work — lots of cinematic long takes and lovely deep-focus shots. There’s also a prolonged, exquisitely indulgent sequence in Ben’s beach house during which Val and Ben, both resplendent in evening dress, slow dance to "Send in the Clowns”, sung beautifully by an off-screen Michele Lee.

    Jacobs remains faithful to his original “scenes from a marriage” conceit with a succession of intimate late-night bedroom exchanges between each of the show’s main couples — Ben and Val, Abby and Gary, Karen and Mack, Joshua and Cathy. The one exception is Greg and Laura whose attempts at alone time are invariably scuppered by Ruth. By contrast, none of DALLAS’s primary martial partnerships — JR and Sue Ellen, Ray and Donna, Bobby and Pam, Clayton and Ellie — interact with each other at all this week.

    During one such KNOTS scene, Ben proposes to Val. Meanwhile on DALLAS, Cliff springs a surprise wedding on Jamie. If the “almost a dress” Cathy married Joshua in a few weeks ago qualifies her as Soap Land’s most sexily dressed bride to date, then Jamie’s sweater-vest-and-jeans ensemble places her pretty much at the bottom of that list. Meanwhile, as part of her plan to help Lance to elude the authorities on FALCON CREST, Angela arranges for he and Lorraine to be smuggled aboard a ship bound for Italy and to be then married by the ship’s captain once they are safely out to sea.

    During another prettily shot KNOTS scene, this time on the beach, Val gently turns down Ben’s proposal, explaining that she is still preoccupied by her lost babies. She admits to regularly waking in the night, sensing instinctively that they are hungry. “I know they’re crying, but I can’t find them,” she says. If Val's maternal impulses are thwarted on KNOTS, then Sue Ellen's have become twisted on DALLAS as she insists on blaming herself for not being at home when John Ross was taken into surgery. "How could I neglect my little baby like that?” she broods. “You’re creating something that is very self-destructive,” Miss Ellie warns her. What’s interesting about this situation is that the alcoholic part of Sue Ellen needs to feel guilty so that she has a reason to continue drinking. There is yet further maternal drama on this week’s DALLAS as Donna deliberates how best to tell her estranged husband that she is carrying his baby, a predicament previously faced by both Ginger and Laura on KNOTS.

    While JR responds to the news of Sue Ellen’s drinking with a barely suppressed smile and immediately starts hinting of his plans to send her back to the sanatarium ("Your mama's real tired, John Ross, and we may just have to send her someplace where she can take a nice long rest”), Ben is appalled to realise Val still believes her babies are alive (“I thought she was getting better and she’s getting worse … She’s cracking up, man. I’m losing her”). Such is Ben’s despondency that Mack brings him home to see Karen, who tells him that she too is now convinced the twins were not stillborn. It’s a strangely moving moment.

    Whenever Sue Ellen has previously fallen off the wagon on DALLAS, Gary has done the same on KNOTS, but these days he has a new obsession — Empire Valley. “It’s his big chance to prove to himself and the world that he's capable of doing something great,” is how Abby describes it. As Greg Sumner is threatening to tell Gary the truth about Val’s babies unless Abby finds a way to get him out of Empire Valley, this puts her in a very tricky position.

    Meanwhile, in an attempt to distract Mack from his investigation into Galveston Industries, Ruth pulls some strings to have the governor offer him Greg’s former senate seat. Tracy Kendall was behind a similar scheme to have Blake named “chairman of the party" during last season's DYNASTY. While Blake took the bait straightaway, Mack is initially flattered (especially as the invitation is delivered by one Jill Bennett), but he is also suspicious that Greg himself is behind the offer.

    Earlier on this season’s KNOTS, Gary showed up at Val’s wedding in Shula to try to coax her out of her fantasy world and back to reality. On this week’s DALLAS, Bobby does the opposite when he shows up at the Rolling Hills sanatarium in Colorado and deliberately plays into Amanda Ewing’s delusion that is he is her young husband Jock returned to her. He does this so that the Ewing boys can get their hands on the evidence that proves Cliff and Jamie have no claim to their company. Likewise on FALCON CREST, Greg Reardon also visits a sanatarium (Camp Mary Jane in Canada) in the hopes of finding the man who can exonerate Lance. However just as Jenna’s key witness died of a heroin overdose before she could testify at her murder trial, so Joel McCarthy, who similarly holds the proof of Lance’s innocence, has also now died from a cocaine overdose.

    The end of this week’s FALCON CREST resembles the final scene of last season’s KNOTS, with several characters converging on the same location with disastrous, possibly even fatal, results. Rather than the lobby of the swanky Belmar Hotel, this time the action culminates outside Lance’s hideout — “a three-storey building in Chinatown, a laundry on the ground floor, a newsstand on the corner,” to quote loose cannon Pamela Lynch (who, after two years of loyal service to Richard, has spent the last half a dozen episodes selling everyone out to everyone else). Where Karen MacKenzie went to the Belmar to save Mack and wound up getting shot, a pregnant Lorraine goes to the hideout to help Lance and ends up being chased by Richard and the police. She climbs out onto the fire escape, loses her balance and falls to the ground below. Where Mack cradled Karen helplessly, Richard cries out in horror.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    08 May 85: DYNASTY: The Heiress v. 09 May 85: KNOTS LANDING: One Day in a Row v. 10 May 85: DALLAS: Deliverance v. 10 May 85 FALCON CREST: Cold Comfort

    This week, DYNASTY begins as DALLAS ends, with a front-page headline in the Chronicle (New York and Dallas editions respectively) devoted to a significant character. “MULTI-MILLIONAIRE PUBLISHER AND HORSE BREEDER DEAD,” announces the first headline, on DYNASTY, referring to Daniel Reece. Like his guest-starring tycoon equivalent on this season’s KNOTS LANDING, Paul Galveston, Daniel has died off screen (in Libya, to be exact). Sammy Jo spends much of the rest of the episode convinced that she has inherited a fortune, and it’s great fun to see her lording it over Krystle and Steven, ordering Daniel’s staff around and quaffing his champagne. While her father has indeed left her the bulk of his estate, there is an unexpected stick-in-the-craw proviso — just as there was for Paul Galveston's illegitimate offspring in his will. Where Greg has had to contend with Gary inheriting Empire Valley, Sammy Jo is informed by her father’s lawyer (former FALCON CREST cartel leader Norton Crane) “that all monies involved [are to] be held in trust, with Mrs Krystle Grant Carrington as executrix."

    Like Greg, Sammy Jo is prepared to play dirty to get her hands on what her father has left so tantalisingly just out of reach. Greg spends this week’s KNOTS blackmailing Abby into handing over her stake in Empire Valley in exchange for the information she needs about Val’s babies. Sammy Jo, meanwhile, stumbles on an idea to get her hands on her father's money when she overhears Rita, aka the Krystle lookalike, practicing her vowel sounds for a commercial audition ("I find your fondness for fondue phenomenal!”). “That dumb lawyer said there was nothing I could do, but you talking like that makes me think …” Sammy Jo breaks off mid-sentence, before we get to hear what she’s got in mind. Likewise, we're left wondering what Ruth Galveston has planned when she assures Abby, “I can get you what you want … and you won’t have to give up a thing.”

    Much of the action on this week’s DYNASTY takes place in King Galen’s summer palace in Moldavia. This proves to be a soap-within-a-soap equivalent to the Hot Biscuit, the diner where Lucy Ewing worked at the beginning of this season’s DALLAS. Just as it took Lucy a while to differentiate between fried and scrambled eggs when taking an order, so bride-to-be Amanda has lessons to learn about diplomacy and protocol. (“One of the first things you’ll have to realise, my darling,” her fiancé explains, "is that here state affairs take precedence over personal feelings.") And just as Lucy soon found herself in a blue-collar love triangle with Eddie and Betty the waitress, Amanda is quickly involved in a blue-blood variation with Prince Michael and Elena, the Duchess of Branagh.

    Meanwhile, in this week’s Ewing-verse, Gary and Bobby deviate from their more traditional roles of rancher and oilman to play at secret agent and detective respectively. KNOTS has Gary spying on Greg at Empire Valley then meeting covertly with a government operative in order to report his findings. Gary has trouble taking this cloak-and-dagger routine seriously and the show initially plays the whole thing for laughs, as if self-consciously acknowledging the spy movie cliches it has fallen prey to. As the episode progresses, Gary becomes increasingly convinced that someone really is out to get him — first his car is pursued by an anonymous driver (leading to a chase sequence similar to one involving Krystle on DYNASTY a few months ago), then he discovers a bug in his phone (just as Bobby Ewing and Chase Gioberti did earlier in the season). Even then, KNOTS can’t resist undercutting the intrigue with comedy by having Gary unable to reassemble the phone he has just dismantled. DALLAS, meanwhile, plays the interrogation scenes between Bobby and hitman Andre Schumann deathly straight and is all the more effective for it.

    While Ben Gibson, or rather his researcher Meredith, spends most of this week’s KNOTS digging for Dr Ackerman’s Achille’s heel (which turns out to be his gambling debts), Bobby intuitively realises that Schumann’s wife is his weak spot. "I will make sure that your wife has all the money she'll ever need,” he says in order to persuade Schumann to come clean about his involvement in Naldo's murder. "You help my lady and I'll help yours.” The equivalent information comes a lot cheaper on this week’s FALCON CREST where all it takes is a large tip for the bartender at the Turf Club to tell Greg Reardon about Melissa’s financial arrangement with Joel McCarthy.

    So it is that Bobby and Greg, after four months of fighting to prove the innocence of Jenna Wade and Lance Cumson respectively, have both finally achieved their goals. However, neither man is feeling especially victorious. "I thought you'd be happy,” says Schumann, observing a look of dismay on Bobby's face after he has confessed to killing Naldo and framing Jenna. "I wish to God I'd never found out the truth,” says Greg bitterly after Melissa’s role in framing Lance is confirmed. Bobby’s dismay comes from the understanding that freeing Jenna from prison will cost him a future with the woman he really loves — Pam. Meanwhile, Greg’s bitterness stems from the realisation that the person who must now confess all and go to prison if justice is to be served is the woman he really loves — Melissa. The scene where he confronts Melissa at the Turf Club (on the exact same spot where she bribed Joel in the first place) is really good. Simon MacCorkindale does a great job of conveying not just Greg’s fury but also his sorrow and heartache towards Melissa over her actions, whilst simultaneously preserving his English stiff upper lip. (MacCorkindale is yet another Soap Land actor I now realise I’ve shamefully misjudged in the past.)

    “I will get my money free and clear even if I have to drag you through a hundred courts to get it!” Sammy Jo snarls at Krystle on DYNASTY. However, she might want to reconsider such a David-and-Goliath-in-a-courtroom scenario following the humiliating defeat suffered by Cliff and Jamie on this week's DALLAS. Their case against the Ewings collapses following the testimony of businessman Wallace Windham who explains on the witness stand how he bought Jason and Digger’s shares of Ewing Oil back in the thirties before secretly selling them on to Jock. The thumbnail character sketches Windham provides along the way of Jock ("the brains of the outfit”), Jason (“greedy and stupid”) and Digger (“we met three times, I think he was drunk every time”) point towards the forthcoming DALLAS: THE EARLY YEARS prequel — as does the appearance of the future Young Miss Ellie on this week’s KNOTS in the guise of Meredith, the plucky researcher given such a hard time by Ben.

    The highlight of this action-packed episode of DALLAS is probably the scene where Pam and Bobby finally admit their true feelings for one another. "I love you,” says Pam. "I love you more than I ever did before, and I didn't think that was possible ... Maybe it’s not fair to say it to you, but I couldn’t go on without telling you. I love you, Bobby. I love you so much my heart hurts." "I never stopped loving you and I never will,” Bobby replies simply. Then they kiss and he takes her in his arms for a big old Hollywood-style embrace. It’s a moment that might seem excessive were it not so long-awaited and emotionally heartfelt.

    There’s a contrasting, but equally excellent, love scene in this week’s KNOTS between Laura and Greg. It is preceded by an altercation in a restaurant where Laura, after weeks of being belittled by Greg’s mother (“You’ve never really done anything with your life, have you?"), finally snaps over dinner (“You are probably one of the cruellest women I have ever met in my life”) and gets up to leave. When Greg starts to follow her, Laura delivers the best line of the Soap Land week, if not the season: “No dear, why don’t you stay here and have dinner with Mommy? Because if she’s left here with nobody to pick on, she just might start gnawing on her own arm." When Greg finally catches up with her, Laura is at home soaking in the bath. “Tell me something I wanna hear,” she asks, trying to pin him down about his feelings for her. In contrast to Bobby and Pam’s moist-eyed sincerity, Greg is all prevarication and ironic wit. “Some things are not easy for me … I need you,” he finally admits, squirming. “Is that the best you can do?” she replies. He nods. “That’s what I wanted to hear,” she says, and he reaches into the tub, still in his shirtsleeves, to kiss her.

    Elsewhere on Seaview Circle, there's an impromptu late-night conversation between Val and Cathy, similar to Sue Ellen and Donna’s recent encounter on DALLAS. They speculate about the impact growing up as only children has had on both Val and Joshua (“Brothers and sisters shouldn’t grow up alone. Maybe we’d both be better people if …”), and whether this has any bearing on Joshua’s present reluctance to move out of the family home. By contrast, Val’s daughter Lucy is now ready to put her childhood surroundings behind her, albeit with some help from her ex-husband. "Southfork was a great place to grow up, but what I want now is my future,” she tells Mitch during a post-coital love scene in front of an open fire. Meanwhile on DYNASTY-in-Moldavia, the Duchess of Branagh refuses to let go of the past and attempts to win back her former fiancé Prince Michael. Her strategy of abruptly stripping nude in front of him is the same one adopted by Lucy to gain Mitch’s attention while he was studying to become a doctor, all those years ago. Like Prince Michael, FALCON CREST’s Cole is also disturbed by a previous romantic entanglement when Robin Agretti reappears in the Tuscany Valley with the news that she’s pregnant. Nor is Robin the only unexpected face from the past this week. A drunken Sue Ellen catches a glimpse of Dusty Farlow during the Ewings’ victory party near the end of DALLAS … or does she? He vanishes from view as just as quickly as he appeared and so one is left with a similar sensation as at the end of the last episode of DYNASTY: Was that really Dusty/Fallon I just saw?

    Recent episodes of both DYNASTY and FALCON CREST have concluded with a scene involving a woman sitting with her back to the camera. On DYNASTY, she turned around to reveal herself as (apparently) New Fallon. On FALCON CREST, her face remained concealed but her identity was established as Cassandra and Damon’s mother. This week's DALLAS ends with a shot of a third facially obscured woman. "No!” she mutters, reading the second Chronicle headline of the week — JENNA WADE FREED: EWING FIANCE CLEARED OF MURDER CHARGES — and clawing at the picture of Jenna underneath it. This time, however, the back-to-camera-woman’s name and face remain a mystery. For all we know, she could be another Krystle lookalike.

    And this week’s Top 4 is … again, it's a toughie. DALLAS is the clear winner, but there’s not much to choose between the other three — all are a blast, each in a very different way.

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

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    15 May 85: DYNASTY: Royal Wedding v. 16 May 85: KNOTS LANDING: Vulnerable v. 17 May 85: DALLAS: Swan Song v. 17 May 85 FALCON CREST: Confessions

    With two season finales, three weddings, three deaths and an onscreen massacre, this has to be Soap Land’s most eventful week yet.

    The first time DALLAS’s Lucy and Mitch got married, their wedding on the cardboard Southfork patio was upstaged by the splendour of Blake and Krystle’s nuptials in the DYNASTY pilot a week earlier. Something similar happens this week when the Ewing-Coopers retie the knot in an intimate gathering in the Southfork living room two days after DYNASTY's Amanda and Prince Michael are married and then immediately gunned down along with their guests in Soap Land’s most stunning, shocking, surreal and disorientating set-piece to date. Simultaneously artful and tacky, it’s like an episode of THE A-TEAM directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, only stranger. The third wedding of the week is a sweet and simple hospital-bound affair on FALCON CREST between Lance, fresh out of prison, and Lorraine, fresh out of a coma.

    “Swan Song” — the longest individual Soap Land episode since the DYNASTY pilot — re-enacts storylines and situations from DALLAS's previous seven years (Lucy marrying Mitch, Bobby proposing to Pam, Dusty riding to the rescue after JR threatens to send a drunken Sue Ellen back to the sanitarium, the return of Katherine Wentworth, etc.). Likewise, “Royal Wedding”, focusing as it does on the buildup to Michael and Amanda’s nuptials, contains several echoes of that DYNASTY pilot, which centred around Blake and Krystle’s wedding. Elena listing the bride-to-be’s shortcomings (“You’ll never be able to stand this life, Amanda, it’s too demanding, it’s too hard and you don’t have what it takes”) could just as easily be Fallon talking about Krystle before her wedding. Steven looking across the palace grounds to see Adam kissing Claudia recalls the moment he spotted Fallon with Michael from his bedroom window. An angry Blake summoning Adam on the morning of the wedding to discuss his inappropriate choice of partner recalls his equivalent confrontation with Steven before his own ceremony. And, just as there was a sense of impending jeopardy during Blake and Krystle’s wedding as an armed and dangerous Walter Lankershim sped towards the Carrington mansion, so there is during Michael and Amanda’s, thanks to Yuri and his henchmen plotting their military coup. Where Matthew was the outsider trying to stop Walter, here that role is taken by Dex. However, both Matthew and Dex arrive too late to prevent the violence. (The quick cutaways during the ceremony to Dex trying to free himself from his bonds also echo of those of Matthew brooding on a hillside during Blake and Krystle’s exchange of vows.)

    “A spokesman for the government expressed outrage at the senseless killing of innocent people, calling those responsible nothing but a bunch of cowardly assassins who are like a pack of wild dogs,” says a television newsreader on KNOTS the night after the Moldavian attack. “They don’t care who they kill, do they?” sighs Abby. It’s rare for Soap Land characters to show much interest in events outside their own hermetically-sealed bubble, but Gary and Abby both seem mildly depressed by this unspecified international calamity. Meanwhile, the Mystery Blonde Woman we glimpsed at the end of last week’s DALLAS is even more upset by an early morning news report of the Ewings’ victory party, so much so that she hurls a glass of blood-red tomato juice at her TV when a happily reunited Bobby and Jenna appear onscreen. Like the Moldavian thunder that rumbles early on in this week’s DYNASTY, this outburst introduces an ominous sense of foreboding to the episode.

    Donna finally tells Ray about her pregnancy on this week’s DALLAS, leading to a meaty dilemma ("You're pregnant, we're separated, so what the hell are you gonna do now, Donna?”) and some heartfelt scenes between them. Over on FALCON CREST, there’s a very neat and quite amusing gender reversal of the same scenario as Cole coolly informs a dismayed Melissa that, “Your plan for surrogate parenthood paid off — Robin’s pregnant!” The surrogacy storyline has probably been my least favourite of this entire Soap Land season — it’s just so silly — but if this scene is the punchline, then perhaps it was worth it.

    Meanwhile, two newly-married couples discuss the prospect of not having children this week. Again the tone of each scene is quite different. KNOTS goes for the serious angle with Joshua turning away from Cathy after she explains that she isn’t yet ready to start a family. Meanwhile on DALLAS, Cliff admits to Jamie that he’s had a vasectomy in the hopes that she’ll ask for an annulment. However, his plan backfires amusingly when it turns out Jamie is no more interested in becoming a mother than Cathy is. "Oh Cliff!" she gasps sympathetically. "I understand how hard that must have been for you to tell me. It only makes me love you more. I really respect your honesty!”

    “It’s hard to think of leaving Southfork,” admits Lucy, as she prepares to start a new life in Atlanta with Mitch. “She doesn’t know how lucky she is,” Sue Ellen mutters enviously, lacking the emotional strength to make such a break herself — even though JR is virtually kicking her out the door. "Why don't you leave me and John Ross and Southfork and inflict yourself on somebody else?” he suggests. By contrast, Alexis is furious when Dex announces he’s catching the next plane out of Moldavia. “Don’t you walk out on me, you bastard!” she shouts. We’ve been here before, of course — I’ve lost track of how many times Dex and Alexis have separated since getting married at Christmas, but this time it sounds as if he really has had enough — not just of Alexis but of life inside a soap opera. (“I got mixed up in a world I never should have become a part of — Alexis, the Carringtons, the Colbys, all of you,” he complains, sounding a lot like Mack in last season’s KNOTS.)

    Of all of these comings and goings, however, none is more interesting than Pamela Lynch’s on FALCON CREST. “I’m in the process of burning my bridges,” she tells Maggie, handing her a tape-recording that proves the judge at Lance’s trial was in Richard’s pocket all along. She then buys up a small company that Angela, Chase and Richard desperately need for their new venture and charges them $50,000,000 for it. Even Angela’s impressed. "You know, my dear, I've never liked you, but I've always admired enterprising young women,” she tells her. It’s always a thrill to see a secondary character suddenly emerge as a major player — before being cruelly but inevitably punished for getting ideas above their station. "Poor Pamela,” Richard tells her at the end of the episode, "you were always too close to the surface, too exposed. It wasn't my work you were doing, it was the cartel's. I turned your name over to the authorities when I found out you had betrayed me. They were fascinated by your dossier. It must have weighed ten pounds.” Pamela's victory may have been short-lived but at least she gets the freeze frame as she snarls at Richard, "I'll kill you! I swear I'll blow you off the face of the earth!” This is the same scenario as Alan Beam and Kristin trying to blackmail JR at the end of DALLAS Season 2 only for him to have them charged with rape and prostitution, but with even higher stakes.

    If Dex's suspicions are aroused by the unexplained goings-on on DYNASTY (“What are you doing delivering wine at this time of night? What the hell is going on here?” he asks before being clonked on the head), then so are Val's on KNOTS. However, it’s not the behaviour of dodgy-looking delivery men, but that of her closest friends — Karen, Mack and Ben — that is giving her cause for concern. The real reason for their preoccupation is that they are trying to find her babies, but don’t yet want her to know for fear of getting her hopes up. Joshua, meanwhile, preys on his sister's insecurities, suggesting that she has driven her friends away with her neurotic behaviour: “I hate to be the one to tell you this, Val, but you make them feel uncomfortable." When Ben gets wind of this, it prompts a juicy confrontation between he and Joshua, and a very satisfying sock to the jaw. There is an equally long-awaited, if somewhat curtailed, brawl between Dex and Prince Michael on DYNASTY, while FALCON CREST provides an interesting variation by having Melissa punch her pregnant cousin in the face (definitely a Soap Land first).

    DYNASTY’s Lady Ashley and DALLAS’s Jenna might have been two of the blander characters of this Soap Land season, but each has a lovely scene this week in which they let go of the man they love with unexpected dignity. "There was a time that I was absolutely sure our getting married was the right thing to do, but I'm not so sure anymore … I really would understand if things weren't the same,” Jenna tells Bobby, thereby setting him free to be with Pam. Meanwhile, Ashley turns down Jeff’s proposal of marriage, because of his feelings for his ex-wife: “Can you honestly say that you don’t still care about her, that you’re not hoping she’s alive somewhere?” Interestingly (not to say unusually), each woman also makes touching reference to her age. "Do you know what it's like being my age and to have loved only one person all that time?” Jenna asks Bobby. That's always struck me as a poignant line, not least because it's one of the rare instances of a Soap Land woman acknowledging she is no longer in the prime of youth. Back on DYNASTY, Ashley refers to herself half-jokingly as “a beautiful older woman” before pointing out to Jeff the decidedly non-soapy reality that, “you love children, I can’t have any.” Ashley’s behaviour is somewhat less dignified when the bullets start flying at the royal wedding, however. “Are you crazy??” asks Jeff incredulously as he sees her snapping pictures amidst the chaos. Before she can answer, they are both shot.

    “Be a family," requests Bobby Ewing just before he dies. So it’s fitting that the extended DYNASTY and DALLAS clans should each be united in their respective season finale freeze-frames — the Carringtons in death, the Ewings by death.

    Random trend of the week #1: Unlikely detective duos harassing “minor” criminals in order to achieve a larger objective: On KNOTS, Karen and Ben invite themselves into the trailer home of Nurse Wilson (lowly, frightened) in order to persuade her to implicate Dr Ackerman in the theft of Val’s babies. On FALCON CREST, Greg Reardon and Maggie climb into the back of the car carrying Judge Holder (arrogant, outraged) in order to coerce him into dropping all charges against Lance for skipping bail and expediting his release from prison.

    Random trend of the week #2: Slow-motion shots from the point of view of a deranged driver. On KNOTS, we see Dr Ackerman reach into his glove compartment to pull out a gun. For a second, it looks as if he might be about to shoot Mack and Karen, but instead, he turns the weapon on himself. On DALLAS, we see the Blonde Mystery Woman heading down Pam’s driveway towards her and Bobby. For a moment, it looks as if she’s going to hit Pam, but then Bobby pushes her out of the way and takes the impact of the car himself. Like Dr Ackerman, the Blonde Mystery Woman then takes her own life, by driving into a gardener’s truck (although whether this is by accident or design is hard to say).

    Random trend of the week #3: The use of blonde wigs as a revelatory device. On DYNASTY, Sammy Jo places one on Rita’s head and voila — instant Krystle! Then one is pulled off the head of the Blonde Mystery Woman on DALLAS and lo — a dead Katherine Wentworth!

    And this week’s Top 4 is … surprising. While the season finales of DYNASTY and DALLAS both feel momentous — more like television events than regular episodes — and this week’s KNOTS is a solid four-star instalment, it’s actually FALCON CREST, by sticking closest to the Soap Land penultimate-ep-of-the-season blueprint (lots of twists, turns and people being dragged out of rooms shouting, "I'm ruined, Channing, thanks to you ... I swear you'll pay! I'll get even with you if it's the last thing I do!”) that proves the most irresistible of them all.

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

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    25/Sep/85: DYNASTY: The Aftermath v. 26/Sep/85: KNOTS LANDING: The Longest Day v. 27/Sep/85: DALLAS: The Family Ewing/Rock Bottom

    A strong feeling of powerlessness runs through this new Soap Land season. On DYNASTY, where it appears that the extended Carrington clan didn’t so much die during the Moldavian massacre as collectively fall asleep, it’s as if they have now awakened to find themselves prisoners in a nightmarishly topsy-turvy world. Any attempt to assert their customary authority is met with derision — or worse. Similarly, the opening third of this week’s KNOTS LANDING finds the majority of the cast hovering uncertainly outside a strange couple’s house, unable to prove that the babies inside have been stolen from Val. The cops are called but quickly concede that they too are in over their heads. In his attempts to get a court order against the Fishers, Mack spends the remainder of the episode increasingly entangled in bureaucratic red tape, only to be told in the final scene that there is no legal evidence that Val’s twins ever existed. The Ewings of DALLAS are at least on familiar ground in their opening scene, having returned to Southfork from the hospital after Bobby’s death, but they too remain helplessly grief-stricken for much of this week’s two episodes.

    There is a collective sense of worlds being turned upside down — the accepted rules no longer applying. This is especially true on DYNASTY. When Steven’s boyfriend Luke appears on screen critically injured, Blake launches into a variation of his familiar “I want the best surgeon in the state!” routine, but instead of a flurry of white coats and concern, his words are met with mockery and indifference, and Luke subsequently dies untreated from his injuries. When Prince Michael calls royal bodyguard-turned-revolutionary Yuri a traitor, his response — “I wiped your nose as child” — recalls Joseph’s Season 2 reminiscence about changing Steven’s diapers when he was a baby. Where Joseph’s tone was dryly affectionate, Yuri’s drips with contempt. This is a world where seemingly faithful family retainers harbour murderous intent. Even the Carrington wealth counts for naught. “I know these revolutionaries,” Dex tells Amanda when she suggests trading her jewellery in return for her family’s safety. “They can’t be bribed — at least not for the next year or so.”

    Adding to the sense of strangeness, not only are these the first ever episodes of DALLAS in which Bobby Ewing does not appear, but this instalment of DYNASTY is the first since the Season 1 finale not to include Alexis, who has mysteriously vanished during the coup. Nor are there any scenes set in Denver. Although four scenes in this week’s KNOTS take place in the familiar surroundings of the cul-de-sac, Val cannot settle there (Joshua’s overbearing presence doesn’t help) and she is compelled instead to return to her round-the-clock vigil outside the Fisher house. Meanwhile, Bobby’s absence leads JR to feel similarly ill-at-ease in his spiritual home of Ewing Oil. Even Southfork itself feels somewhat unfamiliar — specifically, the area of the ranch Ellie visits the morning after Bobby's death and where he is subsequently laid to rest. With its treehouse, wildflowers and small lake, it is depicted as a childhood idyll (“of all the places in Southfork where he used to play, this was his favourite”) and looks unlike any part of the working cattle ranch we’re used to seeing. In fact, it resembles Gary’s picturesque ranch on KNOTS more than it does Southfork.

    This week, the timelines on KNOTS LANDING and DALLAS converge for the first time since the reading of Jock’s will three seasons ago. Towards the end of KNOTS, Abby tells Gary that “a call came in from Dallas a little while ago. Your family's been trying to reach you ... It's Bobby. There's been a terrible accident.” "I just heard about Bobby," Gary subsequently tells Miss Ellie near the beginning of DALLAS. "It can't be true, it just can't be!” “I’m afraid it is,” she replies gravely. Indeed, the very fact that Bobby’s death is acknowledged on KNOTS serves to make it more “true” than Gary’s apparent death on KNOTS a year earlier. Back then, the non-attendance of any Dallas Ewings at his funeral provided a narrative clue that he might not be so dead after all. Here, Gary’s presence at Bobby’s only underlines the finality of his passing.

    Viewed through the prism of New DALLAS, particularly those instalments pertaining to JR’s death, a lot of this week’s DALLAS feels freshly significant and poignant. The minor fact that Bobby is dead here but will be alive in the future is no impediment to this. In fact, after watching Bobby mourn JR in 2013, JR’s grief for Bobby in 1985 feels somehow more real and moving than it ever did before. Likewise, the scene at John Ross’s bedside where JR turns to his young son for solace ("You're all I got”) acquires a deeper significance when one connects Omri Katz’s John Ross to Josh Henderson’s.

    Shortly before his death on DYNASTY, Luke regains consciousness long enough to describe a dream he has just had in which he and Steven meet each other as children on a beach. It recalls Val’s dream from last season’s KNOTS where she and Gary frolic like teenagers on a beach before Abby appears to lead Gary away. (That dream was also echoed in the KNOTS season finale when Abby finds Val, again on a beach, and takes her to find her babies. If memory serves, the two women are each wearing the same colours as they were in Val’s dream.) “Us as kids — it was as if we’d known each other our whole lives,” Luke tells Steven, expressing the same longing as Mark Graison the night before his death on DALLAS ("I wish I'd met you when I was ten,” he tells Pam, "I wish we'd had all that time together”) and Bobby Ewing just before his death (“All that wasted time — we should have been married,” he says, looking at Pam and/or Jenna).

    Not only does Bobby’s death prompt Gary’s first visit to DALLAS for three years, it also triggers the return of Miss Ellie to her former self. While it’s kind of sad to see the back of Donna Reed’s quietly unassuming incarnation of the character, it feels an appropriate time for Barbara Bel Geddes to wrench back control of both the character and the Ewing family itself. "Sue Ellen, it's about time you stopped this," she snaps when her hungover daughter-in-law berates herself for not being with the rest of the Ewings at Bobby’s deathbed. "We have a lot more to worry about than your guilt … This family is going have a terrible time facing up to the loss of Bobby. If you can't help us, don't make it worse.” The acuity of Ellie’s words, if not their harshness, is matched during an interesting exchange between Ben and Karen on this week’s KNOTS. Like Miss Ellie, Ben cuts straight to the truth of the matter when Karen refuses to accept the possibility that the Fishers’ babies might not be Val’s at all. “You don’t want to believe it,” he tells her. "You’ve got too much invested … You’re not infallible.” Whereas Karen reacts with absolute certainty when challenged (“I know I’m right about this”), Sue Ellen simply crumbles.

    As the rest of the Ewings band together in the aftermath of Bobby’s death, with even Ray and Donna reconciling, Sue Ellen drifts further and further away until she finds herself in a strange world, just as bizarre and alien as the one currently inhabited by Carringtons on DYNASTY, where her status as a Ewing and privileges as a rich man’s wife count for nothing. While Krystle ends this week’s DYNASTY sobbing on the floor of a Moldavian jail cell, looking increasingly bedraggled in the once immaculate outfit she wore to Prince Michael and Amanda’s wedding, Sue Ellen, looking equally dishevelled in the previously chic ensemble she wore to Bobby’s funeral, ends this week’s DALLAS sharing a bottle of meths in an alley. Both women have lost their wedding rings as well as their dignity by this point. While Krystle used hers to bribe a guard to take her to Blake (instead, he shut her in a room with the corpse of King Galen, who turns out to still be alive), Sue Ellen's was snatched from her finger while she was passed out drunk in a motel room.

    There’s also a parallel between Sue Ellen’s motel meltdown after she loses her ring and Val’s in last season’s KNOTS. "How could anybody love you? How could anybody want you?” sneered Val, looking at herself in the mirror. “You are disgusting! I hate you!” shouts Sue Ellen at her own reflection. While Val lambasted herself for her physical appearance (“You look like a man, as flat as a board!”), Sue Ellen has other people to do that for her. "She looks like a Dallas Cowboy!” laughs a jive-talking black guy, fondling one of her shoulder-pads (another Soap Land taboo broken). “It’s Nancy goddamn Reagan!” a hooker then jeers as she passes by. The guards in Moldavia make fun of Krystle’s appearance too: “This rich American is pretty!” “She won’t be for long! Ha ha ha!”

    Elsewhere on DALLAS, the Ewings emerge from their Southfork cocoon long enough to attend the reading of Bobby’s will. As predicted by JR, he has left his shares of the family business to his son Christopher. Inevitably, there is a twist in the tale. Just as Krystle was recently appointed the executor of Sammy Jo’s inheritance on DYNASTY so Pam becomes the administrator of Christopher’s thirty percent of Ewing Oil. JR is no happier about this development than Sammy Jo was, but there’s nothing he can do. “There are no legal grounds to contest here,” his lawyer tells him flatly — another example of powerlessness in this week’s Soap Land. Sammy Jo, however, has a Krystle lookalike in her arsenal and this week proposes to Rita that she “go to Denver and play her for a while … It’ll be quick and easy and no one will get hurt.”

    Currently in Los Angeles with no memory of her true identity, DYNASTY's Fallon has adopted the name of Randall Adams, thus making her a sister of sorts to Kay Adams, Julia Cumson’s alias during her time on the lam on FALCON CREST. Both Kay and Verna Ellers, Val Ewing’s alter ego during last season’s KNOTS, found fulfilment in their new lives by taking on humble domestic chores — Kay happily playing housewife to boyfriend Lucas while Verna contentedly waited tables in a coffee shop. Randall/Fallon, however, is intuitively drawn to the other extreme of society when an article in a newspaper sends her to a polo match where she meets Miles Colby.

    It feels significant that our introduction to the Californian Colbys should be in such surroundings. On DALLAS, Mark Graison was the first character to be seen enjoying the gentleman’s game of polo, thereby distinguishing him from the comparatively unsophisticated Ewing boys. On KNOTS, Greg Sumner's interest in the sport was our first clue that his background might be somewhat grander than had previously been indicated. The fact that we have never seen a Denver Carrington or Colby wield a polo mallet implies that however rich and powerful the Colorado branch of the family are, the Colbys of California are even more so.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (-) DALLAS
    2 (-) DYNASTY
    3 (1) KNOTS LANDING
     
  16. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    02/Oct/85: DYNASTY: The Homecoming v. 03/Oct/85: KNOTS LANDING: Here in My Arms v. 04/Oct/85: DALLAS: Those Eyes v. 04/Oct/85: FALCON CREST: The Phoenix

    This week, Krystle and Alexis share a Moldavian prison cell on DYNASTY, Sue Ellen rattles the bars of a police station drunk tank on DALLAS and Melissa serves time in the Tuscany County jail on FALCON CREST. Whereas the DYNASTY women are released soon after their episode’s opening scene, Sue Ellen is transferred to the detoxification ward of the county hospital after going into convulsions. Melissa, meanwhile, remains in jail throughout her episode, but still finds time to make out with husband Cole and trade insults with ex-husband Lance. However, she is keenly aware that all the while she is behind bars, another woman — her cousin Robin — is raising her son. (“I only like Robin,” Joseph states this week.) This puts Melissa in a similar position to Val Ewing, who continues to wait outside the house where her children are being raised by another couple for most of this week’s KNOTS LANDING. There is a striking scene where Val speaks to Sheila Fisher through a locked garden gate. As she peers through the railings, desperate for a glimpse of her babies, she looks just as much a prisoner as any of the other Soap Land jailbirds. But while the rest of them want out (“GET ME OUT OF HERE!!” Sue Ellen screams), Val is pleading to be let in.

    As Val and Sheila talk, a mutual empathy develops between them. Indeed, what makes this particular episode of KNOTS so strong is the growing understanding (on the part of both the viewer and the regular characters) that the Fishers are not bad people and that their feelings towards the babies are as genuine as Val’s.

    There are no equivalent insights into the "enemies" responsible for the violence at the end of last season’s DYNASTY and DALLAS. We're privy to neither the political circumstances that led to the Moldavian massacre nor the psychological issues that compelled Katherine Wentworth to mow down Bobby. Blake Carrington’s dismissal of the rebels as terrorists and Pam Ewing’s conclusion that her sister’s actions were “just so crazy” are as in-depth as it gets. With the Carringtons now free to leave Moldavia and Katherine’s journal revealing her to be responsible not just for Bobby’s death but also those of Naldo and Veronica plus Jenna’s kidnapping, both shows’ end-of-season cliffhangers are now essentially resolved.

    Not so that of FALCON CREST, which may have returned a week later than the rest of the soaps but narratively jumps ahead of them by resuming its story six weeks after the explosion at the end of last season. It’s a nifty approach which ensures the action is already up and running as the new season begins. Instead of a “Previously on …” recap, we’re quickly brought up to speed by a gossipy television news report explaining that Richard and Maggie both survived the explosion, and that Richard is now "a reclusive figure refusing to grant interviews or even to cooperate with law enforcement agencies seeking to solve the crime that nearly killed him.” We watch Angela Channing and Greg Reardon watching the news report disapprovingly. Over on DYNASTY, Sammy Jo and Rita are watching live news coverage of the Carrington wedding party landing back in Denver where they are greeted by a barrage of reporters. To JR’s dismay on this week’s DALLAS, Sue Ellen’s lost weekend has also made the six o’clock news. “Unfortunately, you are a famous man. That makes her a famous wife,” Mandy points out.

    While Sammy Jo is openly hostile towards the woman controlling her inheritance (“Forget the sermon, Aunty Krystle,” she snaps, "I need ten thousand dollars”), JR is far more tactful when dealing with the woman controlling Christopher’s share of Ewing Oil. (“I know Bobby meant well when he named you administrator,” he tells Pam, "but frankly, I think that choice was a little more romantic than it was smart … I want to buy back his shares in Ewing Oil. It would be the best thing we could do. Christopher would have all the money he’d ever need and you’d never have to worry about Ewing Oil again.”) Krystle and JR put forward similar arguments — that neither Sammy Jo nor Pam are experienced enough to handle such vast fortunes. The same cannot be said of FALCON CREST’s Angela Channing, of course, but this week she finds herself in the same situation as Sammy Jo — obliged to seek Cassandra Wilder’s permission before she can draw on the Falcon Crest bank account. This is a result of the uneasy business partnership between Angela and the vengeful Rossini family, who also announce their intention to turn the Falcon Crest vineyards into a hotel complex. “If you think you’re going to plough under my vineyards and build that instant slum, it’ll be over my dead body!” barks Angela.

    Season finales being what they are, there have been several Soap Land fatalities of late, but most do not warrant an onscreen funeral. DYNASTY’s Lady Ashley was possibly too minor a character, while Katherine Wentworth and Dr. Ackerman are simply too undeserving. FALCON CREST’s time-jump means that Lorraine Cumson’s burial has been skipped over — although there is a juicy confrontation at her graveside this week when Richard accuses “my grieving son-in-law” Lance of blowing up his house. Bobby Ewing was, of course, given a memorable send-off in the DALLAS season opener, but, more surprisingly, so is Luke Fuller on this week’s DYNASTY. Whereas JR, ordinarily the most outspoken of Soap Land characters, waited until the rest of the funeral congregation had departed before delivering a private eulogy to his brother, Steven Carrington — a far more reserved personality — summons up the courage to pay public tribute to his dead lover. (“So much of what passed between Luke and me was private that it’s very hard for me to express my emotions publicly, but Luke was too important to be mourned in silence … He knew that love doesn’t grow in a closet, it needs air.") That such overt declarations don’t come easily to this repressed stuffed-shirt of a character (nor possibly to the actor playing him) only serve to make them more touching.

    Private-versus-public issues also arise for two of Soap Land’s newlywed couples this week. On KNOTS, Cathy commits the error of snapping at Joshua in front of his TV crew. As soon as they are alone, he grabs her roughly by the arm. “Don’t you ever talk to me that way in front of other people — do you understand?” he snarls. “If you have something to say to me, you save it for the privacy of our own home.” She pushes him away and he cuts his hand. Meanwhile on DYNASTY, Prince - nay, King - Michael’s hand is already bandaged, a result of an injury sustained during the massacre. That’s not all the two men have in common. Just as sudden celebrity went to Joshua’s head, so Michael’s abrupt change in status — from playboy prince to monarch in exile — has made him pompous and domineering, and he too lectures his blonde bride about speaking out of turn. “When it comes to affairs of state, you leave the thinking to me … Lower your voice, someone might hear … You are no longer simply Blake Carrington’s daughter, you’re my queen and you will act as one.” Michael then goes one better by forbidding Amanda to speak her mind even in private. “Michael, we’re in our bedroom,” she points out. "We’re lovers here, not the King and his queen.” "I learned at a very young age that whether a door is open or closed, I was a prince and future king,” he replies.

    No Alexis in last week’s DYNASTY, no Gary Ewing on this week’s KNOTS. He is literally between two soaps, driving cross country from Texas to California. Having left Southfork directly after Bobby’s funeral, his journey has thus far taken two episodes of DALLAS and one of KNOTS with still no sign of his return. In his absence, Abby and Greg each turn DALLAS’s recent tragedy to their own advantage. Abby breaks the news of Bobby’s death to Karen as way of deflecting her awkward questions regarding Abby's knowledge of the twins’ whereabouts. “I met him,” Karen recalls. "He was here when Val and Gary moved in." This nice call back to the very beginning of the series is amusingly undercut by a roll of the eyes from Abby, as if to suggest that Karen is trying to make even Bobby’s death all about her. Meanwhile, Greg uses Gary’s absence to countermand some of his orders concerning Empire Valley.

    Last week, there was some refreshingly straight-talking when Ben Gibson on KNOTS and Miss Ellie on DALLAS dished out a few unwelcome home truths to Karen Mackenzie and Sue Ellen respectively. There are equivalent scenes in this week’s episodes, again involving Karen and Miss Ellie, but this time they are even more powerful. Karen is firmly on the front foot as she delivers a compelling speech to Harry Fisher about the babies he claims are his. Miss Ellie, meanwhile, is on the receiving end of a stern talking-to from the doctor presiding over Sue Ellen’s detox. Harry is determined to somehow elude the authorities and keep the babies; Miss Ellie is equally determined to take Sue Ellen away from the grim surroundings of the county detox ward (“I won’t let her rot in this place!”). Karen and the nameless doctor are consequently tasked with cutting through Harry’s and Ellie’s respective denial and making them face the reality of their situations. For Harry, it’s a moral reality; for Ellie, it’s a medical one.

    “You have no choice,” Karen tells Harry. "Excuse me, you’ve got no moral choice. Think what it would be like now, raising them, that you know the truth … How can you be decent parents? How can you raise them morally knowing that you’ve gotten them immorally? … Oh God, Mr Fisher, I feel so awful for you, I really do, but don’t you see, nothing about this is right except the babies being with their real mother. You see that, don’t you? Of course you do, I know you do.”

    "Sue Ellen is an alcoholic,” the doctor tells Miss Ellie. "For her, alcohol is lethal. It's one of the strongest drugs man uses and she overdosed. If she’d been left out there in the street, unsupervised, her withdrawal could have been fatal. Now Sue Ellen beat the odds this time, but unless God gave you a talent He hasn't given anyone else, you're not gonna keep her from taking that next drink, and that's all it'll take. If I let you sign that release form now, I'd be watching you sign her death certificate.”

    “You’ve got no moral choice … ” “Unless God gave you a talent He hasn’t given anyone else …” Beware the sin of hubris. Ignore this warning at your peril. That seems to be the message common to both speeches, one the likes of King Michael and Joshua Rush would do well to heed.

    I’ve always regarded this KNOTS scene, specifically Michele Lee’s performance, as the pivotal turning point of the entire year-long stolen-babies saga. If we don’t believe in Karen’s ability to persuade Harry to voluntarily surrender the children he thinks of as his own, then the whole storyline collapses at the eleventh hour. And Lee does indeed come up trumps, delivering a passionate yet selfless performance. For once, the scene isn’t about Karen. She is merely acting as a conduit, a vessel for her friend, and the actress understands that. But perhaps even more crucial than Karen’s appeal is Harry Fisher’s near silent but very truthful response to it. As a result, the big emotional payoff at the end of the episode — which is also the end of the storyline — is not just about Val’s unabashed joy at finally being united with her babies, but also Harry’s corresponding (if more understated) pain at relinquishing them. Somehow, we’re rejoicing in Val’s happiness and grieving the Fishers’ loss simultaneously.

    Meanwhile on DALLAS, in Miss Ellie’s reaction to the doctor’s speech, we see the glamorous, rarefied world of the Ewings come slap up against the ugly realities of life that even they are not immune from. As the soaps become increasingly interchangeable (Greg Sumner acquires his own Ewing Oil-style executive suite in this week’s KNOTS) and the hair grows even bigger (and that’s just the men — Mack Mackenzie, Chase Gioberti and Lance Cumson are each looking more bouffant this season), such moments of clarity as these become all the more striking, slicing through the Soap Land artifice to touch upon the basic human truths underneath.

    The new DALLAS season might only be three episodes old, but Sue Ellen's identity has already been redefined several times. “She was never a Ewing,” JR declared in the season opener, lashing out at her in the aftermath of Bobby’s death. Following Bobby’s funeral, he downgraded her yet further: “You don’t exist — you’re just a bad memory that doesn’t know when to go away.” By the time she makes it to the detox ward this week, any vestige of her individuality has been lost (“lady had no ID on her”) and in the eyes of the medical staff, she is reduced to her most basic human credentials: "Jane Doe, female, Caucasian, weight approximately 110, height approximately 5'10", eyes green, hair brown, all her teeth.” Following her scene with the doctor, it falls to Miss Ellie to restore Sue Ellen's former identity: "She's a woman that we have loved and a woman that has loved us. She’s the mother of your son who still needs her. She’s a member of this family, JR. She is a Ewing.” His mama’s words hit home — as much he might want to, JR can no longer dismiss Sue Ellen as nonexistent. Later in the episode, he delivers a touching monologue in which he reverently recalls the first time he ever laid eyes on her and concludes it by conferring upon her her original title of “Miss Texas, 1967.” (This tribute also makes a fitting counterpart to the one Sue Ellen delivers at JR’s graveside nearly thirty years later.)

    The final scenes of this week’s KNOTS LANDING and DYNASTY dovetail rather neatly. “Nightmare is not a strong enough word to describe what she’s been through,” Karen Mackenzie tells Harry Fisher during their scene together. “Dreams are my business,” Rita's movie director boyfriend Joel Abrigore informs Sammy Jo during their first meeting. Yes, just as Val gets her babies back on KNOTS, thereby signalling the end of one kidnapping-related nightmare, another is about to begin on DYNASTY.

    Similarly, no sooner has one “back from the dead” storyline (that of Val and her supposedly stillborn children) been finally laid to rest than others arise from the grave to take its place. On FALCON CREST, we learn of a another woman falsely informed that her baby was stillborn — this time, by her own mother. Unlike Val, Julia Cumson still believes that the illegitimate son she gave birth to years earlier was born dead. Instead, as we discover in the exciting last moments of this week’s episode, he is now a Catholic priest living in Connecticut! Meanwhile on DYNASTY, Alexis is haunted by nightmares that King Galen is still alive, just Val was by dreams of her twins last year.

    On last week’s DALLAS, a jive-talking street guy broke an unwritten Soap Land rule by directly referring to Sue Ellen’s shoulder-pads. (“She looks like a Dallas cowboy!” he laughed, prodding them.) On this week’s DYNASTY, as if in direct response to that transgression, Alexis sports what must surely qualify as the genre’s most outrageous outfit to date. In place of shoulder-pads, she wears shoulder-spikes, and looks less like an American footballer than a human firework. Most incongruously, she wears the item to a business meeting with Dominique Devereaux. Unlike the incident on DALLAS, no reference is made to the strangeness of Alexis’s appearance, but this does not prevent the viewer at home from being entirely distracted from the scene’s dialogue. This reflects Alexis’s own state of mind as she is too preoccupied by thoughts of King Galen’s fate to pay attention to what Dominique is saying to her (something about timberland). This is signified by her childlike doodling of Galen’s name on a pad. Similarly, the spikes on each of Alexis’s shoulders create the shape of a crown as if crudely drawn by a child. So while the scene is ‘all about the dress’, it does at least have some thematic logic.

    Also back from the dead this week, fresh from blowing his brains out on KNOTS LANDING, Dr. Ackerman resumes his original Soap Land role of JR’s banker, Franklin Horner. We see him helping to arrange a handsome offer for Christopher’s share of Ewing Oil (and not a bridge tournament in sight). He declares that if Pam accepts the deal, “She will be one of the wealthiest people in the state, in the country.” Impressive, but not as much as Joel Abrigore’s description of Blake Carrington on DYNASTY: “I read about him in Fortune. He's one of the world's wealthiest men."

    While Jack Ewing lends Ray a hand with the cattle-branding on Southfork, his erstwhile PAPER DOLLS lover Racine shows up as the daughter of a famous lawyer on FALCON CREST. As JJ Roberts, Morgan Fairchild combines her PAPER DOLLS work ethic (“I made my first million before I was thirty”) with an interest in her former FLAMINGO ROAD flame, Michael Tyrone aka Richard Channing - only this time she's offering him her expertise as an attorney rather than as a bed partner. On PAPER DOLLS, Jack was a member of a prominent family while Racine was an enigmatic character whose background was shrouded in mystery. Now their situations are reversed. We learn more of Jordan Jennifer Roberts’ history in her introductory scene than we did about Racine's in all thirteen episodes of PAPER DOLLS. By contrast on DALLAS, Jack is proving to be a master of the inscrutable one-word answer. "You thinking of putting some roots down, Jack, or you be heading back to where you came from? Where was that anyway?” asks Ray. "Nowhere,” he responds. "You ever marry?” Ray persists in a later scene. "Almost,” he replies.

    Jordan Roberts has a question of her own, regarding the night of the explosion at the end of last season’s FALCON CREST. "What was Mrs. Gioberti doing at your house?” she asks Richard. This query echoes Miss Ellie’s to Pam last week, regarding the morning of Bobby’s death at the end of last season’s DALLAS: “It was so early. How did he happen to be here?” Whether or not Richard will able to keep dodging the question as deftly as Pam did remains to be seen.

    Elsewhere, it’s time for Soap Land’s very first Battle of the Amnesiacs. In the DYNASTY corner, we have Randall Adams, whose past is an entirely blank slate — all she knows about herself is that she can speak French with an accent and has an affinity with the name Colby. In the FALCON CREST corner, we have Maggie Gioberti who, by way of contrast, is surrounded by family and friends, but no longer has any memory of them following last season’s cliffhanging explosion. Save for her budding friendship with Miles, Fallon is all alone in the world, but even that seems preferable to the position Maggie finds herself in. “I am going home with a total stranger,” she says nervously as she prepares to leave the hospital with her husband. When told that she and Chase have a wonderful marriage, she replies, “I can’t remember it and I can’t feel it.” “It was like it wasn’t her there. It was like it was somebody else in her body,” says JR of his encounter with Sue Ellen in the detox ward this week. Although their circumstances are different, that could just as easily be Chase describing his situation with Maggie.

    This leads to some fascinating scenes from a soap marriage. In the absence of a shared history, the Giobertis’ relationship is reduced to its most basic elements. Without knowing why, Maggie intuitively recoils whenever Chase tries to touch her until, in an explosive combination of wounded male ego and a genuine desire to get through to her, he comes dangerously close to forcing himself on her. A soap’s most heroic character almost raping his wife just one episode after she shared a romantic kiss with its most villainous one — how upside down is that? This is another instance of what is arguably Soap Land’s vaguest show tapping into something unexpectedly primal and subversive.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (1) DALLAS
    2 (3) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (-) FALCON CREST
    4 (2) DYNASTY
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2016
  17. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    09/Oct/85: DYNASTY: The Californians v. 10/Oct/85: KNOTS LANDING: While the Cat’s Away v. 11/Oct/85: DALLAS: Resurrection v. 04/Oct/85: FALCON CREST: Unfinished Business

    It’s embarrassing to admit, but, when I saw the title of this week’s DYNASTY, my heart skipped a beat. There’s something thrilling about the introduction of the Californian Colbys. I love everything about it — the beautifully shot locations, the way scene-setting backstory is shamelessly shoehorned into conversation, the sight of veteran Hollywood actors tearing into expositional dialogue as if they were dogs devouring raw meat. Upon being informed that he is terminally ill, Jason Colby’s immediate response (after yelling, “Damn it all to Hell!” at the ocean as if he were still in PLANET OF THE APES) is to list the publications that will carry his obituary, just so we’ll know how prominent and successful a businessman he is: “All those long goodbyes in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek — those bastards hate my guts anyway,” he adds with a macho chuckle.

    "I got thrown out of the White House once — you ever hear about that?” Jason asks Blake later in the episode. Blake’s dismissive response (“No, and I’m not anxious to") suggests he considers himself above such braggadocio. Not so KNOTS LANDING’s Abby — at least not according to Greg Sumner. “I bet you’d just kill to get invited to the White House, wouldn’t you?” he asks her. "You’d love to have your kisser planted all over the cover of Time … My bet is that you’ll do anything to get on that A-list.” A tightly wound Pam Ewing also weighs in on the subject towards the end of this week’s DALLAS. “I don't care that you're the President of Wentworth Industries. I wouldn't care if you were the President of the United States. In fact, I don't care!” she yells down the phone before hanging up.

    During a phone conversation between Jason and Blake on DYNASTY, we learn that they are former business associates who fell out years before over some oil leases that Jason and Blake’s estranged brother Ben may or may not have stolen from their father. It’s all very Jock, Jason and Digger Barnes on DALLAS, but while Digger and Jason Ewing both ended up as impoverished drunks, the same cannot be said of Blake and Jason Colby. As Jason points out, “You own half Colorado, I own half of California.”

    The parallels between the Colby and Ewing backstories don’t end there. When Jason and his sister Constance discuss how things might have turned out had their brother Philip lived to inherit his share of Colby Enterprises ("Philip would have lost every nickel, you know that,” Jason insists. "Maybe he marched to a different drummer than the rest of us,” counters Constance), they could almost be Jock and Ellie disagreeing about Gary.

    If Philip is now the Colby family black sheep, that puts his son Jeff in a different position to the one he has always held on DYNASTY. Within the context of the Carringtons, Jeff has always been the fair-haired son, a more deserving heir than any of Blake’s real children. Within the context of the Californian Colbys, however, he is something of an outcast. When he recalls this week how his father’s family "never had time for an unimportant relative like me”, he sounds not unlike Valene in last season’s KNOTS describing her status within the Ewing family: "Last thing they wanted was him [Gary] being married to a nobody like me.” Prompted by the news of Bobby’s death, Val makes further reference to her former in-laws this week. "Bobby was the only one who ever treated me like a — who ever acted like he was on my side,” she remembers. If Bobby has a Colby equivalent in this regard, it would appear to be Constance. Towards the end of this week’s episode, she makes contact with Jeff, apologises for past neglect and summons him to California.

    And just as DALLAS’s spin-off commenced with a beach-set epiphany from Val ("I’ve never seen the ocean before”), so too does DYNASTY’s. "I used to find the beach a sad and lonely place, but walking here with you now, I can understand why people find it beautiful,” Miles tells Fallon before taking her in his arms and kissing her against the backdrop of a beautiful Californian sunset.

    This week’s DYNASTY and DALLAS are each dominated by a controversial business proposition. Whereas Jason Colby shows up at Blake’s office without an appointment, Jeremy Wendell is the model of courtesy when he calls Miss Ellie to invite her to lunch. Jason offers Blake a partnership in a pipeline that “will deliver oil faster and cheaper, more secure from sabotage and acts of God than any pipeline in this continent, in the world.” "West Star wants to buy Ewing Oil,” Jeremy tells Miss Ellie. "I'm prepared to make you a substantial offer for your 10% right now and I intend to extend a similar offer to the rest of your family." While Jason appeals to Blake’s business sense, presenting him with "the chance of a fortune that would put you in the twenty wealthiest, most powerful men in the world”, Jeremy appeals to Ellie’s sense of family: "Ewing Oil has become a burden to you, to all of you ... Think what you would be putting behind you once and for all.” Where Blake turns Jason down flat (“Not interested … I don’t trust you”), Miss Ellie admits to an alarmed JR that, "Jeremy's argument made more sense to me than I thought it would ... I think we should consider it.” While West Star’s proposition puts JR on the defensive, Jason backs Blake into a corner when he tells him he has done a deal with the Chinese government: "That oil you got can only be shipped out in my tankers … You can’t move it, I can.”

    In the same week that DYNASTY starts to hatch its own spin-off series, KNOTS LANDING and DALLAS truly feel, for the first time, like two halves of the same whole. With the saga of Val’s missing babies no longer dominating all other storylines, the news of Bobby’s passing moves to the forefront on KNOTS, where it also remains on DALLAS. And so we have everyone in the Ewing-verse, from Jeremy Wendell to Ben Gibson, offering their condolences. The central business storyline on each show has also been sparked by Bobby’s death — West Star’s bid for Ewing Oil on DALLAS, Abby and Greg taking advantage of Gary’s grief to relocate the site of the Empire Valley broadcast centre without his approval on KNOTS. (Gary had previously nixed their location choice on environmental grounds.) Both storylines take place against an outdoorsy backdrop — while Greg and Abby scamper around the construction site, JR drives around Southfork, petitioning various family members as they go about their daily business not to sell out to West Star. However, while the DALLAS characters’ motivations couldn’t be clearer — we understand what Ewing Oil means to each of them — we don’t really know why it is so imperative for Greg and Abby to build on X parcel of land rather than Y (it’s clearly a Maguffin) and so it’s harder to share their sense of urgency.

    Pam and Gary each return to work this week for the first time since Bobby’s death. While Cliff welcomes his sister back to Barnes Wentworth with open arms (“This is the best thing for you — it’s better than moping around the house all day”), Abby is less enthusiastic about the idea of Gary showing up at the construction site on the very morning blasting is due to start (“You’re exhausted … you ought to at least take a couple of days off”). However, it soon becomes apparent that neither Pam nor Gary are equipped to give work their full attention. Pam is distracted by a photo of Bobby on her desk, Gary by an abandoned drill bit at the site that triggers flashbacks of him and Bobby playing together as kids. Whereas Pam lasts almost a full working day before abruptly leaving the office in tears, Gary is only at the site for a few minutes before losing his temper and storming off. As a relieved Abby keeps a watchful eye on him, Pam is also observed, by an anonymous private detective, as she drives away from Barnes Wentworth.

    Pam and Gary are each headed for an emotional meltdown at the end of their respective episode. Along the way, their fragile states manifest themselves physically — a shaky Gary drops his playing cards during a game with Abby and Olivia, a stressed-out Pam knocks over a coffee cup during a meeting with JR. “Business doesn’t come to a standstill because this family’s in mourning, you know,” JR tells her. Greg Sumner makes the same point to Elliot, the construction foreman at Empire Valley, who is reluctant to implement his orders without Gary’s direct say so. "We can’t wait, we have to blast tomorrow!" Greg yells at him. While JR is uncharacteristically diplomatic in his dealings with Pam, the normally cool and contained Greg spends most of this episode at the point of exasperation, ranting and raving at the hapless Elliot.

    Greg and JR also share similar problems away from work. We see each of them listening impatiently to his girlfriend’s answering machine message, while Laura and Mandy refuse to take their calls. Greg deals with his frustrations in an extremely JR-like manner, hiring a hooker to come to his office.

    As a respite from all the recent melodrama in the Ewing-verse, there are scenes of baby-themed bliss in both shows. While Val and Lilimae happily attempt to feed the twins their squash on KNOTS, Donna and Jenna bond over blueberry muffins and baby clothes on DALLAS. There is no such maternal harmony on FALCON CREST where the first thing Melissa does upon her release from prison is order her pregnant cousin out of her house.

    Almost a year after Pam Ewing initiated a salvage operation to look for Mark Graison’s plane in the Gulf, Alexis Dexter proposes a rescue mission to look for King Galen in Moldavia. Just as Pam’s brother Cliff attempted to shock her back to reality (“What do you think’s going to be down there except a lot of rusty metal? The fish will have gotten everything else, believe me!”), Alexis’s husband Dex now does the same thing with knobs on: "If your former royal pal is still alive,” he tells her, "he’s probably being held captive and being tortured. No food, no water, maybe with bloodsuckers crawling over him while the revolutionists laugh and watch him expire slowly … Do you want to hear about the maggots eating out his eyes?!"

    Both KNOTS and DALLAS save their best scenes till last. When the reality of Bobby’s death finally catches up with Gary, it results in a far more raw and visceral manifestation of grief than we’re used to seeing in Soap Land — almost as if he were having a seizure. Abby seems genuinely concerned, hastily ushering Olivia from the room before cradling Gary’s head in her lap and trying to comfort him. Then gradually, out of Gary’s line of vision, a sly smirk appears on her face as she realises he is still too fragile to take notice of what she and Greg have been up to. The juxtaposition between the harrowing, anguished expression on Gary’s face and the soapy scheming one on Abby’s (“I’ll take care of everything,” she assures him knowingly) is striking. It’s like they’re in two different genres even as they inhabit the same frame. Over on DALLAS, Pam Ewing comes face to face with a back-from-the-dead Mark Graison. (Guess the fish didn’t get him after all.) Like Gary, Pam collapses. Like Abby, Mark takes her in his arms. Pam can’t see his expression in the final shot any better than Gary could see Abby's, but this time there’s no ulterior motive. Instead, Mark gently rests his head on hers and closes his eyes, as if he has finally come home.

    Meanwhile, in this week’s Battle of the Amnesiacs, there are glimmers of recognition for both women. On DYNASTY, the sight of a toddler wandering towards the ocean causes Fallon to flash back to a scene where her own son was in a similar situation — only she doesn’t can’t identify him. Conversely, FALCON CREST’s Maggie is able to name Emma on sight, but can recall nothing more about her. A second name provokes a much stronger reaction, however. "Why should the name Connie Giannini send chills up my spine?” she asks. In the final scene of her respective episode, each woman takes a decisive step that seems more to do with determining her future than recapturing her past — Fallon kisses Miles and Maggie leaves Chase.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    16/Oct/85: DYNASTY: The Man v. 17/Oct/85: KNOTS LANDING: The Christening v. 18/Oct/85: DALLAS: Saving Grace v. 18/Oct/85: FALCON CREST: Blood Brothers

    Although mention of any specific disease is scrupulously avoided, the subject of terminal illness is raised in three of this week’s soaps, each time providing a strong motivation for a character’s behaviour. "I watched my father waste away from a debilitating disease,” Mark Graison tells Pam on DALLAS. "I was helpless to do anything but suffer along with him. I couldn't put you through that.” And thus we are finally given the reason why Mark staged his own death two seasons ago. “My mother is dying,” Joshua tells Cathy at the end of this week’s KNOTS LANDING, thereby explaining the real reason he is reluctant to move out of his family's house. (Except it isn’t the real reason at all — save for an achy shoulder, Lilimae is as fit as a fiddle.) Meanwhile on DYNASTY, Constance Colby explains to her brother Jason that it is because of his illness that she is giving her half of Colby Enterprises to their nephew Jeff. "If I’m going to lose you, I’ll be damned if I’ll see all of your hard work die with you,” she tells him, pointing out that his own son Miles "is not interested in running this company” and, more intriguingly, "doesn’t have the integrity to run it.” Constance’s action proves as controversial as Bobby Ewing’s instruction that Pam should preside over Christopher's share of Ewing Oil on DALLAS. "Accept Jeff Colby as my partner? That boy?!” barks Jason. "I don’t even know if he can pour beer out of a boot with the directions printed on the heel!"

    The week after DYNASTY introduced us to Jason Colby, FALCON CREST brings us Peter Stavros, yet another hugely successful businessman of the kind Soap Land is so fond. (Indeed, Jason and Peter would appear to be this season's Paul Galveston and Daniel Reece.) While Joel Abrigore recently described Blake Carrington as "one of the world's wealthiest men," Greg Reardon refers to Peter this week as "almost the wealthiest man in the world.”

    Like Jason and Blake, Peter Stavros and Angela Channing are old acquaintances. "How long’s it been — twenty years, give or take a few?” Jason asked Blake last week. "How long has it been — ten years, eleven?” Peter asks Angela this week. “You stole some oil leases from me,” recalled Blake. "You broke my heart,” Peter remembers. Unlike Blake, Peter harbours no ill-feeling towards his former associate and even agrees to help Angela foil the Rossini family's attempt to turn Falcon Crest into a resort.

    His meeting with the Rossinis provides Peter with plenty of opportunity to make grandiose reference to his own reputation, just as Jason Colby did last week. “What did you expect — that Peter Stavros spends all his time buying and selling boats, shipping bananas, courting movie stars? You read too many magazines, my dear!” he mock-chides Cassandra. Where Jason casually recalled getting thrown out of the White House, Peter happily admits to a high-status indiscretion of his own. ("Is it true about you and the princess?” asks Anna Rossini. "Every word,” he replies.) While Constance reminds Jason on this week’s DYNASTY that, “You have worked hard to build Colby Enterprises and I’ve been with you every step of the way,” Peter is happy to brag about his own achievements: “I'm a man who does his homework — that’s why I was able to take my little fishing boat and turn it into an empire.”

    Boastful Peter may be, but there is also a twinkly-eyed warmth about the character, and such is the chemistry between him and the customarily austere Angela that one accepts their long-term bond without question (even though we’d never heard of him before last week). In fact, theirs is perhaps the most instantly convincing rapport of any Soap Land couple since Karen and Mack on KNOTS.

    DYNASTY's Claudia and KNOTS LANDING’s Laura have been leading parallel lives of late. Each received a marriage proposal under less than ideal circumstances — Greg popped the question to Laura during a row over his supposed affair with Abby, Adam proposed to Claudia in the immediate aftermath of the Moldavian massacre — which she has since turned down. Having returned to her former profession of realtor, Laura has now succeeded in building a life not only away from Greg but also outside of the interconnected world of Seaview Circle. (The main downside of this is that she gets less screen time.) Uncertain of her future at La Mirage, Claudia makes a similar strike for independence this week. "I’ve spent my life leaning on people,” she tells Steven, "on Matthew, on you, on your family. Maybe in San Francisco, by myself, I can find what I really need, what I want.”

    However, neither Greg Sumner nor Adam Carrington is willing to let go of his respective woman so easily. Greg turns up at Laura’s place of work this week and is physically aggressive towards a co-worker with whom he thinks she is involved. (Such violent behaviour from Greg is as uncharacteristic as the punch-up instigated by JR after he found Dusty at Sue Ellen’s bedside on DALLAS two weeks ago.) Meanwhile on DYNASTY, Adam tracks Claudia down to her hotel room in San Francisco. Whereas Laura stands her ground with Greg (“What are you hounding me for? I can do what I damn well please!”), Claudia, in spite of her protests, ultimately capitulates to Adam’s demands. “There’s a current in him — it pulls me,” she admits.

    Elsewhere, FALCON CREST’s amnesiac and DALLAS’s alcoholic also make a bid for independence this week. While Maggie Gioberti moves into a secluded cabin, Sue Ellen Ewing enters a voluntary rehabilitation programme. (Let us overlook for the moment that Maggie's cabin is owned and Sue Ellen’s rehab bills are paid for by their respective husbands.) "I may never know who I was before the accident, but if I’m going to find out who I am now, I have to do it by myself,” Maggie informs Chase. “She’s started the programme on her own. She’s going to get better on her own … She’s finally chosen to take control of her life — let her!” Miss Ellie tells Dusty on Sue Ellen’s behalf. Mama Farlow is impressively tough-talking in this scene. Ironically, however, she later hands over control of her own affairs to her husband — as JR discovers when Clayton takes her place at a lunch meeting. “Whatever you have to say to her, you’re just going to have to say to me,” Clayton tells him, “and don’t even think about going around me.” Similarly, Pam is only too happy to let the newly resurrected Mark Graison take over her dealings with JR. Meanwhile on KNOTS, Abby is relieved when Gary, still in mourning for Bobby (as are Ellie and Pam), asks her to continue managing his affairs at Empire Valley. (Gary does, however, find time to lend his mama a sympathetic off screen ear. On DALLAS, we see Miss Ellie’s half of their phone conversation as she debates the pros and cons of selling her shares of Ewing Oil to West Star.)

    Several moments in this week’s Soap Land made me laugh out loud. “Well, I’ll be damned,” says JR after Mark Graison walks into his office. “You probably will,” Mark replies. “I thought he was dead!” exclaims Sly when Mark leaves. “I hope I don’t end up wishing he was,” counters JR. Meanwhile, just the sight of Linda Evans, aka Rita, aka Krystle-to-be, sporting dark glasses and a bandage across her face to signify the surgery she has undergone to remove what is essentially a bit of clay from the end of her nose is endlessly amusing.

    Towards the end of this week’s DYNASTY, Joel and Sammy Jo wait impatiently for Rita to return home from having her bandages removed and her hair styled to make it look more like Krystle’s. When she finally arrives, she explains that she has been window-shopping. “One of the things you see when you look in the window is your own reflection,” she says. "I kept going from store to store, looking for myself, but I couldn’t find myself, Joel. Rita doesn’t exist anymore.” Over on DALLAS, we hear of another transformation. "Mark Graison bailed out of the plane and before he hit the ground he became Mitchell Swanson,” Mark tells Pam. He goes on to explain how he later paid someone else to assume the identity of the fictional Swanson in order to convince Pam that he (Mark) was really dead.

    This comes at a point in Soap Land where the concept of identity, and even reality, feels ever more transitory. Characters believed to be dead are coming back to life on an almost weekly basis. Actors are replacing (and occasionally re-replacing) other actors in the same role. While some characters lose their memories, others adopt new identities. Little wonder then that references to dreams and nightmares, both literal and metaphorical, should be cropping up with such regularity. Last week’s DYNASTY opened with Jeff Colby waking from a nightmare about his supposedly dead fiancee. “Tell me I’m not dreaming,” says Pam Ewing looking into the eyes of her supposedly dead fiancee at the beginning of this week’s DALLAS. On FALCON CREST, Anna Rossini admits that since returning to the Tuscany Valley, she has had recurring dreams that her late husband is still alive: “I dream I’m back with Dominic. We’re tending our own vineyards. I even reach out for him.” “Are you going to risk the lives of other men just to chase a dream?” Blake asks Alexis when she talks of launching a rescue mission to find King Galen.

    In the midst of such unreality, there are glimpses of a grittier world that exists beyond Soap Land’s walls. On DYNASTY, having finally received confirmation that Fallon is still alive when a desk sergeant in a Los Angeles police station recognises her photo, Jeff demands to know why her case hasn't been prioritised. “Take a look around this place,” the cop replies. "We got guys strung out on PCP, we got gangs killing each other for control of the street corners. Now this girl comes in and I’m supposed to drop everything?” Over on KNOTS, Mack Mackenzie also finds his current storyline playing second fiddle to more pressing offscreen concerns. “You could have called me last night and told me he wasn’t going to make it,” he complains after travelling to Sacramento for a meeting with the governor. “We would have — if the Lakeshore housing project had burnt down last night instead of this morning,” the governor’s assistant Jill Bennett replies pointedly. Closer to home, Father Christopher brings a social conscience back to FALCON CREST when he highlights the poor living and working conditions of Melissa's and Angela’s field workers. “Most of these men tell me they work ten or twelve hour days, no overtime, no health insurance,” he informs a totally unrepentant Melissa. “A lot of people don’t live quite as well as you do,” he points out to Angela, "like your employees … A lot of them don’t even have indoor plumbing.” FALCON CREST has raised this subject before, back in Season 1, but then it felt as though such exploitation was somehow endemic to the culture of the Tuscany Valley. When confronted by Christopher this week, however, Angela immediately capitulates. “It will be rectified immediately,” she assures him.

    On last week's DALLAS, Pam Ewing was picnicking with her son in a park when she became aware of a man observing them. On this week's KNOTS, Val is unaware of Sheila Fisher watching from a distance as she and her twins also picnic in a park. In each case, the stalker’s intentions prove benign. "He was your guardian angel,” says Mark of the detective he had hired to keep an eye on Pam. Meanwhile, the Fishers explain that all they want is an opportunity to say goodbye to the babies before leaving town.

    The Fishers make their farewells and, as a final gesture, Sheila hands Val two pairs of knitted booties, presumably homemade. Both women are too emotional to speak, but Val’s nod as she accepts them seems to indicate some sort of forgiveness and/or acceptance towards Sheila. Over on DALLAS, the gifting of baby booties is also a defining moment between two women. During another maternity-related shopping expedition, Jenna presents Donna with a gift, "for you, Ray and you know who” — a pair of fluffy, duck-shaped baby shoes. They look a lot more expensive than the booties Sheila gave Val and unlike Val, Donna is not lost for words. "They are precious! Thank-you!!" she gushes. She and Jenna hug, thereby cementing their newfound friendship.

    Two semi-naked men are awakened by late-night intruders in this week’s Ewing-verse. On KNOTS, Ben Gibson (PJ bottoms) wrestles his prowler to the floor before realising that it's Val. On DALLAS, Jack Ewing (boxer shorts) creeps up on his intruder, but the man escapes before his identity — or more specifically, the identity of the person who sent him (Jeremy? JR? Cliff?) — can be revealed.

    There are equivalent bittersweet moments between Pam and Mark on DALLAS and Val and Ben on KNOTS this week, each related to Bobby’s death. "I love you, but not the way that I loved Bobby,” Pam admits to Mark. "I've always lived with that," he replies bravely. "Pam, there are all kinds of love. If it never went beyond how we feel right now about each other I'd still consider myself a very lucky man.” It’s a lovely, poignant speech. On KNOTS, the emotion comes from what is unsaid. Following the prowler incident, Val and Ben go to bed together and in the post-coital darkness that follows, Val brings up the subject of the babies’ baptism. In the scene, Ben is facing away from her, but we can see from his sad, disappointed expression that he already knows where this conversation is headed. Sure enough: “Would you mind if I named my boy Bobby?” Val asks. “After Bobby Ewing?” Ben replies, even though he already knows the answer. (This scene is the pay-off for the rather clumsily staged moment in last week’s ep where Ben overheard Val telling Gary offscreen of her decision to call her son Bobby.) He pretends not to mind, but of course, he does. (Now that the stolen baby saga is over, KNOTS has lost some of the dramatic momentum it managed to sustain over the past few seasons, but the trade-off seems to be that we get richly complex scenes like this, full of subtext and depth, instead.)

    While Pam comes clean to Mark about her reconciliation with Bobby just before his death on DALLAS, Richard tells Maggie about the kiss they shared just before the explosion on FALCON CREST. The two couples walk and talk in almost identical surroundings — a romantically pretty lakeside forest. When Chase sees Richard and Maggie together, he is as angry and jealous as Greg Sumner was at the sight of Laura and her workmate. It’s interesting to see all these alpha male characters — Greg, JR, Chase — suddenly so helpless and frustrated.

    A year after Joshua Rush, the innocent son of a preacher man, turned up in KNOTS LANDING’s Seaview Circle, Father Christopher, an idealistic Catholic priest, arrives in FALCON CREST's Tuscany Valley. Joshua had always believed that his mother had died when he was a baby and was therefore shocked when his Aunt Lilimae confessed that she was his real mother. Father Christopher, meanwhile, has grown up believing that Angela Channing is just a kindly philanthropist who made several generous donations to the orphanage where he was raised. This week, he discovers she is really the grandmother who separated him from his mother when he was first born. "It’s all a lie,” wept Joshua then, “my whole life. I don’t know what I’ve done that was good or that was bad. I don’t know if I’ve ever been right. I don’t know what is right.” "I had a mother and you gave me to the priests,” Christopher shouts at Angela now. "I had a family and you gave me to an institution. I had a faith in God and now I don’t know what I have."

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    24/Oct/85: KNOTS LANDING: A Little Assistance v. 25/Oct/85: DALLAS: Mothers v. 25/Oct/85: FALCON CREST: Echoes

    On DALLAS this week, Mark Graison declares his intention to open up a medical research centre that specialises in rare blood diseases. He'd better get his skates on if he wants to find a cure for Lilimae Clements' (admittedly nonexistent) ailment on KNOTS LANDING. In this week’s episode, Joshua tells Cathy that she has six months to live at the most. The sad news obliges Cathy to abandon plans for her and Joshua to move into the cherished apartment she has already paid the deposit on. She takes one last look around the place as her own version of "Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” (a big hit for Rose Royce in ’78, but by this point probably more associated with Madonna) plays on the soundtrack. This marks the first time a song on KNOTS (or anywhere else in Soap Land outside of the modelling montages on PAPER DOLLS) has been used extra-diegetically (i.e., it cannot be heard by any of the characters on screen, only by the viewer at home).

    Elsewhere on KNOTS, a reluctant Jill Bennett has been assigned by the governor to assist Mack in his investigation into illegal adoption rings. The investigation itself takes a backseat to Mack and Jill’s verbal sparring, reminiscent of (but not as funny as) one of those old screwball comedies where the romantic leads trade insults in the workplace to mask their mutual attraction. Mack even starts dressing like something out of the thirties — a straw boater, a bow-tie, old-fashioned pants with suspenders — to evoke a jaunty, Cary Grant-like feel.

    "You're my son and I love you with all my heart, but we don't need to be together to keep that love,” Miss Ellie told Gary when he crossed over to DALLAS for Bobby’s funeral. Since then, both characters have made an effort to bridge the gap between their respective series. On last week’s DALLAS, Miss Ellie received a call from Gary and on this week’s KNOTS, Gary receives a package from his mama containing a framed photograph of himself and Bobby when they were kids.

    The after-effects of Bobby’s demise continue to be felt on both sides of the Ewing-verse. While JR lobbies to have his brother named Oil Baron of the Year, Donna and Ray follow Val’s example by deciding to name their baby Bobby, “if it’s a boy.” Meanwhile, Gary and Ellie each take out their grief on those closest to them. “Tomorrow? What the hell do you know about tomorrow?! Ask my brother about tomorrow!” Gary shouts angrily at his step-daughter Olivia. “I don’t know what the answer is — to anything!” Miss Ellie snaps irritably at her stepson Ray. While Gary "has responded to the recent death of his brother by withdrawing from this mundane and material world,” as Greg Sumner amusingly puts it, the news of Bobby’s death also prompts Sue Ellen’s mother Patricia to pay her first visit to Southfork for six years.

    The subject of Sue Ellen’s mother is also raised during a session with her psychiatrist. Sue Ellen explains how Patricia raised her "to marry somebody important — to love, honour and obey. And she made it very clear to me that if I couldn’t love and honour, I could sure as hell obey.” “That’s valid, Sue Ellen,” the doctor replies. "Years ago, a lot of women thought that way, but the world has changed.” "Not for her — and not for me,” Sue Ellen admits. Not for Joshua on KNOTS either. When Cathy expresses reluctance at singing on his TV show again (an idea that originated with Ben as a way to stave off a decline in ratings), he gets angry.

    Eric Fairgate’s observation that “living in this cul-de-sac’s like living in the middle of a soap opera” is especially applicable to Val’s house. With so many storylines under one roof — the twins’ paternity, Lilimae’s secret illness, Val and Ben attempting to redefine their relationship in one room while Joshua is hitting Cathy in another — it feels like a miniature version of Southfork during the early years of DALLAS. As everyone pretends to believe Cathy's claim that she bruised her face on a medicine cabinet, an atmosphere of secrets and lies set against a veneer of domestic normalcy descends on the household.

    While Patricia Shepard is alarmed to discover that Sue Ellen is receiving treatment for alcoholism, she is even more upset to learn that her daughter’s marriage to JR has deteriorated so badly. Her question to Miss Ellie on the subject, “Where were you when all this was going on — sitting at the head of the big Ewing dinner table and watching?” could also be directed at Lilimae regarding her son’s marriage on KNOTS. Lilimae has been turning a blind eye to Joshua’s increasingly aggressive behaviour for months and when Val suggests that he may have struck Cathy, she insists it can’t be true. In fairness to Lilimae, she does then attempt to broach the subject with Cathy, albeit in the broadest terms. In fact, her generalised advice to her daughter-in-law (“Being married sometimes puts a lot of stress on one partner or the other …“) is mirrored by Patricia’s to her son-in-law JR on DALLAS ("Every marriage has problems …”).

    While Lilimae and Patricia each refuses to acknowledge how seriously wrong her child’s marriage has gone, they react in polar opposite ways. Where Lilimae continues to bury her head in the sand (“Oh, that darn medicine chest — I have done that myself so many times!”), Patricia believes she can bring about a reconciliation between Sue Ellen and JR through sheer force of will (“You allowed that marriage to fall apart,” she accuses Miss Ellie. "I’m going to put it back together again!”).

    Over on FALCON CREST, another woman of a certain age is also in denial of sorts. When Greg and Angela accuse Anna Rossini of setting the fire that killed her husband years before as revenge for him getting Julia Cumson pregnant, she angrily refutes the allegation. In the final scene of this week's episode, however, we see her steal into the Channing house and set fire to the hallway leading to the bedroom where Angela is sleeping. A murderously unstable older woman, a back story involving a house fire that killed a family member and an illegitimate birth that was hushed up, plus a second murder attempt in the present day — this is essentially the Lady Jessica storyline from DALLAS with some of its components reordered.

    One can pinpoint the exact moment on this week’s KNOTS where the depiction of Olivia Cunningham shifts from sweet young girl to troubled adolescent. Halfway through a scene where she is expressing concern over Gary’s state of mind, she abruptly rounds on her mother, accusing her of neglecting the family. If Olivia’s now a teenager, Abby’s status also changes by default, and in a later scene where she appreciatively eyes up Greg’s new assistant, Peter Hollister, describing him as both "a very clever young man" and “young, bright and very attractive”, it becomes clear that she is now officially An Older Woman.

    Peter’s super-efficiency and determination to work closely with his show’s anti-hero suggests he's the male equivalent of Jordan Roberts, Richard’s new attorney on FALCON CREST. Thus far, Jordan’s main function has been to act as a sounding board for Richard as he hatches a plan to coax his would-be assassin out into the open. Unusually for a season finale whodunnit, the question of “Who Blew Up Richard and Maggie?” hasn't dominated the new season. The only person concerned with solving the mystery seems to be Richard himself. Meanwhile, each of the suspects involved continues on about their business, untroubled by either accusations or false arrests.

    What we learn of Angela's past romance with Peter Stavros on this week’s FC mirrors what we already know of Alexis's with King Galen on DYNASTY. Each was a brief teenage entanglement (Angela and Alexis would both have been about sixteen) that neither party has ever fully gotten over. "I’ve thought of you so often during these years, Alexis, of what nearly was, of what might have been,” admitted Galen last season. "Oh Angela, the things we could have achieved together, the wars we could have won, the children we could have had,” sighs Peter this week. He then asks Angela to marry him, but she is too concerned with regaining Falcon Crest to seriously consider the proposal, just Alexis was otherwise occupied with thoughts of marrying Amanda off to Prince Michael when Galen attempted to woo her in Moldavia.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    30/Oct/85: DYNASTY: The Gown v. 31/Oct/85: KNOTS LANDING: A Question of Trust v. 01/Nov/85: DALLAS: The Wind of Change v. 01/Nov/85: FALCON CREST: Ingress and Egress

    During this week’s KNOTS LANDING, Lilimae quotes “that old saw, ‘Keep your friends close and your enemies closer'” — a motto previously attributed by Sue Ellen to JR on DALLAS. Sammy Jo Reece and Karen McKenzie each adopts this advice as part of her respective show’s central storyline this week. On DYNASTY, Sammy Jo pretends to befriend her Aunt Krystle so she can keep tabs on her in the days leading up to her kidnapping, while on KNOTS, Karen makes nice to Jill Bennett, to whom she suspects Mack is attracted, even going so far as to invite her to a family dinner.

    In both storylines, an item of clothing figures prominently. Sammy Jo needs to have a duplicate made of a gown Krystle intends to wear to a charity ball so that Rita can take her place without anyone realising. To that end, she meets with “the best dress maker in Denver”, Mr. Beaumont — presumably the same James Beaumont who came to the mansion to discuss Krystle’s wardrobe in Season 1 (only now he’s played, somewhat eerily, by Mark St Clare from the Wolfbridge Group).

    Meanwhile on KNOTS, the amount of thought Mack puts into his choice of tie indicates that he cares more about making an impression on Jill than he would like to admit. When Jill later makes reference to Mack's taste in ties, it suggests that she is similarly interested in him. In the closing moments of the episode, following Jill’s surprise departure for Sacramento, a frustrated Mack tosses his tie onto his desk and it lands on the corner of a wedding photo of him and Karen. This freeze frame echoes the end of "Let Me Count the Ways”, the Season 1 episode where Karen comes close to cheating on Sid. That ep closed on a shot of a flower given to Karen by her admirer next to a nonstick pan purchased by Sid earlier in the episode. In each ending, the symbols of marital security (the pan, the wedding photo) and temptation (the flower, the tie) are placed side by side.

    While Mack and Jill’s investigation into the twins’ kidnapping draws to a close quicker than expected (“I didn’t think we'd come this far this fast!” exclaims Mack), Sammy Jo and her partner-in-crime Joel Abrigore are forced to implement their kidnapping plan a week earlier than intended after Krystle, arriving unexpectedly at Delta Rho with the gift of a second gown for Sammy Jo, comes face to face with Rita.

    Up until now, the Rita/Krystle storyline has been a bit of a lark. Linda Evans imitating an airhead imitating Linda Evans is just such a silly pleasure, but when Joel knocks Krystle unconscious after she has seen Rita, events take a turn for the genuinely dramatic. This is the point of no return. “From this second on, you are Mrs. Blake Carrington,” Joel tells Rita gravely. She and Sammy Jo both look terrified, but now there’s no going back.

    Jeff Colby and JR Ewing both announce their intentions to take their sons and move away from Denver and Dallas respectively this week. Jeff’s off to Colby Enterprises in California while JR, bitter over Pam selling Bobby’s share of Ewing Oil to West Star, is headed for parts unknown to start his own company. While the Carringtons react positively to Jeff’s news (“I can’t tell you how proud I am of you,” Dominique tells him, "I know how hard it is to leave the people you love, but that’s what sets you apart, Jeff. You’re willing to move on. You’re not afraid to say goodbye”), as far as Miss Ellie is concerned, JR leaving home is the end of everything. “Now, besides Ewing Oil coming to an end, the Ewing family is too,” she concludes mournfully.

    Both of this week’s Ewing-verse episodes have an unusual feel. The script of KNOTS, the second credited to Bernard Lechowick, is light and witty without seeming insubstantial. Running concurrently to Mack's investigation is Karen’s preoccupation with decorating the Mackenzie kitchen. Such domestic subplots can sometimes feel artificially imposed on KNOTS in an attempt to make the characters seems more “real”, but here it feel natural and unforced, the everyday details interlocking with the more dramatic moments very neatly.

    This week's DALLAS, meanwhile, is quite fascinating. The camera work is unusually dynamic for such a traditional-looking series, so full of energy and inventiveness that it almost feels like a different show. A breakfast scene staged on the Southfork balcony is a particular highlight. Even the perennially prepubescent Charlie Wade gets the bug. "Mom, you look outrageous! Jack is gonna die!” she excitedly tells Jenna as she prepares for the Oil Baron’s Ball, sounding authentically teenage for the very first time.

    In the scenes dealing with the news that the Krebbses' unborn child has Down’s Syndrome, DALLAS cross-cuts back and forth between two discussions — one between Jack and Jenna who reflect on the matter quite calmly, the other between Ray and Donna whose response is far rawer and more emotional. KNOTS employs the same convention, crisscrossing between an intimate kitchen heart-to-heart where Karen confesses to Val her insecurities about Mack and Jill, and Mack and Jill themselves enjoying a raucous game of pool in a bar.

    The cultural references on KNOTS and DALLAS are also in sync. On KNOTS, Karen has picked up Mack’s habit of referring to Jill as "Dracula’s sister" while on DALLAS, Jamie contemplates some caviar hors d’oeuvres. “Beluga — what a terrible name for food,” she remarks. "Sounds like that actor that always plays Count Dracula.”

    By the time we get to the Oil Baron’s Ball, this episode of DALLAS is shooting off in all directions — from slapstick (Jamie pushing a cream cake in Cliff’s face) to social issues (Jenna and Jack discussing alternative terms for Down’s Syndrome: “mongolism” is out, apparently, but “retarded” is just fine).

    Just as he did at last year's Ball, JR spies Mandy Winger across a crowded dance floor. Back then she was elusive, an obscure object of desire. Now she’s suddenly compliant. “I won’t make any demands … I’ll be your girlfriend, I’ll be your mistress, I’ll be your wife or I’ll be anything in-between because anything’s better than nothing,” she tells him breathily. This is such an 180-degree turn from the Mandy we’re used to seeing (“I won’t be a kept woman!”), one wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she’s been replaced by a lookalike too.

    Since its first appearance three seasons earlier, the Oil Baron’s Ball has grown increasingly grand with each passing year. At the point in this year’s Ball where a freshly sober Sue Ellen appears, causing heads to turn and camera bulbs to flash as if she were Elizabeth Taylor or Liza Minnelli making her Hollywood comeback after a spell in the Betty Ford Centre, it reaches an apogee. The Academy Awards feel continues with the presentation of the Oil Baron of the Year trophy. With emotional speeches, standing ovations and Bobby’s posthumous win doubling as the In Memoriam section, all that’s really missing is #OilBaronsSoWhite trending on Twitter.

    Following her surprise announcement that she has decided not to sell Christopher’s shares to West Star after all, Pam is approached by JR who fully expects her to sell to him instead. “I’m not selling at all,” she explains. "From now on, it’s going to be you and me. I’ll see you at the office, partner!” When Jason Colby offered to buy Jeff’s share of Colby Enterprises two weeks ago on DYNASTY, he received a similar response: “Instead of buying me out, you just bought yourself a partner!” "Jason Colby’s never had partners,” says Blake this week after Jeff tells him the news. "You’ll come as quite a jolt to him.” Mack Mackenzie, a self-described "nerd who likes to work alone without a partner” would surely sympathise.

    Lydia, the psychic who confirmed Pam’s belief that Mark was still alive during last season’s DALLAS, does pretty much the same thing for Alexis regarding King Galen on this week’s DYNASTY, only this time she’s dressed as a Moldavian nun and calling herself Sister Therese.

    There’s more resurrection news on FALCON CREST. Pamela Lynch was believed to have died in a car crash three weeks ago, but now she’s back. It turns out she’s the one who planted the bomb in last season’s cliffhanger. She makes her reappearance during a Katherine Wentworth-style attempt on Richard’s life while he’s lying in a hospital bed, supposedly recovering from a gunshot wound (a ploy set by Richard himself to catch his would-be killer). Like Fallon upon her recent return from the dead, Pamela has a new face, but this time, the change is acknowledged on screen. Her explanation (“Just a little trick I learned from the cartel — how to kill one identity and give birth to a new one") beats even Mark Graison’s recent remark ("It's not as hard as you may believe to assume a new identity — with my resources there was no problem at all") for understatement. “Not a bad job. You even sound different,” acknowledges Richard casually — his equivalent to Joel Abrigore’s response upon Rita's transformation into Krystle on DYNASTY: “Same engine, different chassis.”

    Refreshingly, Richard does not hand Pamela over to the authorities. Instead, he grants her her freedom in return for the $30,000,000 she tricked out of him, Chase and Angela back when she was played by Sarah Douglas. The $10,000,000 the Moldavians are asking for King Galen suddenly seems quite reasonable in comparison.

    Meanwhile, on this week’s Battle of the Amnesiacs, merry-go-rounds and marriage proposals figure prominently. During a fairground montage in last week’s FALCON CREST, which included a ride on a merry-go-round, Maggie succeeded in reconciling with Chase, even though she still doesn’t remember being married to him in the first place. Chase’s solution to that is that they re-marry and Maggie agrees. Over on DYNASTY, Miles presents Fallon with a miniature carousel which causes her to flash back to the strange headaches she suffered when she was played by Pamela Sue Martin. He too proposes, but Fallon turns him down. Meanwhile, Maggie ends up jilting Chase at the last minute after Angela tells her that he was unfaithful to her.

    DALLAS and FALCON CREST each introduces an exotic-looking (i.e., non-caucasian), flamboyantly dressed Special Guest Star this week, Angelica Nero and Apollonia respectively. From her first appearance, we learn nothing of Angelica other than her interest in Jack Ewing. She is shown comparing a photograph of him with one of an almost identical man with silver hair, which suggests DYNASTY’s Rita isn’t the only lookalike in town. Apollonia, meanwhile, is introduced as a down-on-her-luck singer aspiring to the big time. Lance Cumson runs into her at a club and is soon playing Gary Ewing to her Ciji Dunne.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

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