DYNASTY versus DALLAS versus KNOTS LANDING versus the rest of them

Discussion in 'Dynasty' started by James from London, Sep 20, 2016.

  1. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Thanks to the genius of a fellow forum member, I've been able to retrieve most (maybe even all) of the original posts from this thread. So I'll start re-posting them now.
     
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  2. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    12/Jan/81: DYNASTY: Oil v. 13/Jan/81: FLAMINGO ROAD: Illicit Weekend v. 15/Jan/81: KNOTS LANDING: Scapegoats v. 16/Jan/81: DALLAS: End of the Road (1)

    From DYNASTY's first moments, we are presented with a world far more opulent than that of the Ewings - the huge mansion, the immaculate grounds, the manicured lawns, the chauffeur, the harp, the orchestra. Alex Ward's romantic gestures towards Pam in last week's episode of DALLAS now seem rather quaint. Filling Pam's office with flowers? Blake Carrington buys out an entire florists for fiancee Krystle. Hiring out a restaurant for an intimate dinner? Blake's private jet flies him and Krystle from Denver to San Francisco when she expresses a hankering for Chinese food.

    And yet … if private jets and fancy houses were all there was to the show, it would be nothing. Instead, the celebration of luxury is undercut at every turn. Sure, Krystle regards her new surroundings with wonder, but it's a wonder tempered with fear. The Carringtons may live, or attempt to live, in a fairy tale world, but the show itself does not. The pilot episode addresses "taboo" topics the other soaps have barely acknowledged (if at all), much less spoken about in such irreverent terms: race ("At the upper management level [of Denver Carrington]," announces Fallon airily, "there are no blacks, no Jews, no Eskimos and no women"), gays ("Give a cheer for a queer," rallies Steven sarcastically, while Blake's line about "The Steven Carrington Institute for the Treatment and Study of Faggotry" makes JR's recent description of Lucy's ex-fiancee as "a pansy" seem positively demur), even female masturbation ("Women have sexual fantasies just like men," says Claudia, "except mine were always about you, Matthew"). Factor in references to Oscar Wilde, Ralph Nader, Oedipus Rex, Dorothy Parker, low sperm counts, "The Joy of Sex" and a genuinely witty debate about foreign oil policies, and you've got a sophisticated, intelligent show about sophisticated, intelligent people (or as sophisticated and intelligent as an '80s super soap can be). The closest DALLAS gets to a cultural reference this week is Bobby driving past a PRIVATE BENJAMIN poster on his way to work.

    Aside from the Carringtons, there's the Blaisdel family who, in simplistic terms, provide the KNOTS factor. Like Gary and Val, Matthew and Claudia are the parents of a teenage daughter who are attempting to rebuild their life together after a period of estrangement. (Claudia has been in a psychiatric hospital for eighteen months, Matthew working in Saudi Arabia to pay for her treatment, and daughter Lindsay living with relatives.) Their family reunion, in a restaurant where Claudia has been working as a waitress, echoes that of Gary and co in "Reunion", (DALLAS Season 1) but is far more moving - due in large part to Katy Kurtzman's emotional, if mostly silent, performance as Lindsay.

    The bedroom conversation that takes place between Matthew and Claudia on the day of Blake and Krystle's wedding is a "Scene from a Marriage" to rival any we've seen on KNOTS thus far. In a way, it's the conversation Gary and Val never had, where they address what happened to each of them during the time they spent apart, with specific reference to sex, and admit how disappointing that aspect of their marriage has been since getting back together. ("It's lousy, Matthew. It's got all the flash and fire of two snails mating." "Snails are hermaphroditic - they mate by themselves." "I'm beginning to understand why.")

    Interestingly, the Blaisdel house looks a lot larger than any of those on the cul-de-sac. Maybe drilling for oil for Blake Carrington pays better than running your own car dealership, or maybe the fact that the Blaisdels' place is a real house (as opposed to a set) just means it photographs differently.

    Matthew's old buddy Walter Lankershim is a still-operational, non-alcoholic Digger Barnes, an old school wildcatter who boasts of "finding oil with your nose". Matthew talks about how the last time he and Walter "went smelling for oil, it cost me thirty thousand dollars - plus I just barely missed spending six months in jail for stock fraud." We don't know how long ago that was, but maybe the precariousness of her husband's wildcatting contributed to Claudia's breakdown, just as it did that of Jock Ewing's first wife Amanda.

    To be sure, at thrice the length of a regular episode, "Oil" is slow-going - more a gradual ooze than a series of eruptions. This was the first time I've tried to watch the whole thing in one go and I had to take a nap halfway through. Nonetheless, I love the melancholy pace. It seems to reflect the emotional state of the episode's outsiders -- Steven, Krystle, Matthew and Claudia, each of whom is isolated and lonely in a different way.

    Left alone in the Carrington ballroom with Afferton, the wedding planner, Krystle seems dwarfed by her surroundings. Afferton does his best to humiliate her, sneering at her tentative suggestion that the Wedding March be played as she walks down the aisle. "Which one?" he asks. "The Mendelssohn or the Wagner?" Krystle looks clueless. "Neither is very au courant," he concludes. But then Steven emerges from the shadows to turn the tables on Mr A: "I think what Miss Jennings actually had in mind was something a little more obscure … Bach's Siciliano from his Flute Sonata in E-Flat Major. You do know it, don't you, Mr Afferton?" (You can bet your sweet assets no one at Southfork does.)

    Over on KNOTS, Richard also uses classical music to discomfit. When Laura tries to broach the subject of his relationship with Abby, he drowns her out by playing Ravel's "Pavane for a Dead Princess" on his newfangled Walkman thingy.

    Excitingly, the night after his lovely little turn as the affected Mr Afferton, Vernon Weddle shows up as a hotel concierge on FLAMINGO ROAD, brandishing a Southern accent thick as molasses. The hotel he works at is familiar too: it's the one JR took Kristin to for their "business" trip in "Return Engagements" (DALLAS Season 2) - the same episode where Gary and Val were spun off into KNOTS LANDING.

    This time, the hotel is in Tallahassee, and "the illicit lovers" of the episode's title are Field Carlyle and Lane Ballou. To have FLAMINGO ROAD's Romeo and Juliet embark on an adulterous relationship turns the show's morality on its head. It's as if Bobby were married to the original Jenna Wade while having an affair with Pam on the side. Intriguingly, it also turns Constance, Field's rich bitch bride ("I want it all and I want it right now," she announces proudly), into the innocent party.

    FLAMINGO ROAD and DALLAS both tease their audience this week by having a wife almost catch her husband in flagrante with another woman. Encouraged by Sheriff Titus, (anxious to nip Field's affair with Lane in the bud) an unsuspecting Constance flies up to Tallahassee to surprise her husband while wearing nothing more than a fur coat. As she knocks on his door of his hotel room, Field is in bed with Lane. At Southfork, Sue Ellen excuses herself from Lucy's wedding shower to fetch John Ross from upstairs … where JR is making out with John Ross's future mother-in-law, little Afton Cooper. In each case, the wife's discovery is deferred to a later episode.

    There are two wedding showers in Soap Land this week: Lucy's and Krystle's. Given that Krystle's shower is also the very first time we see her, it's understandable that hers is the more significant occasion. We're introduced to Krystle through the eyes of her friends and work colleagues (including Sue Ellen's former obstetrician) who, when not swooning at a glimpse of the reptilian groom-to-be, cannot hide their sadness that Krystle's new life will inevitably remove her from their social orbit forever. At Lucy's shower, which takes place on the cardboard Southfork patio, everyone just giggles and makes jokes about stethoscopes. In fairness, it is her third engagement in as many years so it's hard for them to get too worked up about it.

    And of course, both weddings have a rich/poor dynamic. Viewed in tandem, Krystle's and Mitch's competing descriptions of their impoverished backgrounds take on a Pythonesque quality: "I grew up in a place half this size," says Mitch, referring to his one room apartment. "I was raised in a town that's smaller than your dining room," Krystle tells Blake. Trust DYNASTY to go one bigger (or smaller).

    DYNASTY's sexually provocative, spoiled princess, Fallon, effortlessly run rings round her prime time counterparts, Lucy and Constance. Her wisecracks are as incisive as they are relentless. (A personal favourite is the one she delivers to Krystle on the morning of her wedding when she has just been presented with a pre-marital property agreement: "Fact is, it reads a lot like the Bible - you brought nothing into this world and it is certain you can carry nothing out.")

    My favourite scene in "Oil" is the one on the hillside where Matthew lies to Krystle about his feelings for her, an act of sacrifice both on her behalf and his family's. It's beautifully shot (Linda Evans never looked lovelier) and beautifully acted, with achingly poignant dialogue: "After you left, I told myself you were dead. Some days I wished you were" … "You've got hold of somethin' good, Krystle. Grab it around the middle and run with it" … "Truth isn't hard to say, just spit it out and kick dirt over it."

    Something I never noticed before, part 1: There's an old-fashioned horse carriage parked in the Carrington garage. I can't imagine what practical use it might serve. Even though I hadn't registered it on previous viewings, I realise it's always given the scenes in the garage (Fallon "handling the servant problem", Blake's men beating up Walter) a kind of retro, UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS quality. For some reason, it also triggers a vague memory of the movie version of THE BETSY, or at least the ten minutes I saw of it when I was a kid. That memory's also there in the scene where Fallon finds Michael in her bath and holds his head under the water after he tries to blackmail her - it evokes a decadent, potboiler vibe that's somehow more Harold Robbins than Jackie Collins.

    Something I never noticed before, part 2: As if to emphasise her defenceless state, Krystle walks up the aisle alone - no bridesmaids or maid of honour, no father figure to give her away.

    Something I've never noticed before, part 3: At the end of the scene where Fallon beats Cecil at pool, there are no cutaways or camera inserts - we actually see Pamela Sue Martin pocket four balls with one shot. Impressive.

    Something I thought I'd never noticed before: Blake referring to Walter as a little dick. Recourse to the subtitles reveals he actually calls him a lunatic.

    While DYNASTY clearly wouldn't exist without DALLAS, what really sets it apart is its scale - not just in terms of wealth and opulence, but context: "Oil" takes place against an international (one might even say, a real world) backdrop: "I think you sold this country out, you and Colby and all the rest of you," Steven Carrington tells his father. "You didn't develop this country's resources when you had the chance to. No, you developed the Arabian fields instead because it was cheaper. You made billionaires out of the oil sheikhs."

    It's hard to imagine dialogue like that on DALLAS, which is more concerned with its own history and mythology than what's going on in the world outside of it, much less on FLAMINGO ROAD which, save for the occasional contemporary reference, (such as Lute-Mae's incongruous attempt at aerobics in this week's ep) is so cut off from the modern world it could almost be set at the time the movie version was made - 1949.

    Or could it? To my surprise, this week's episode of F'RD includes … placards! While not as extreme as the ones the Arab protestors are waving at the Denver Carrington jet as it leaves their country ("America Go Home!"), it turns out there's a strike at the Weldon mill. Already in financial difficulty, Claude Weldon is soon obliged to cede to the union's demands. "We all know that the secret of success in the South has been low labour costs," he sighs nostalgically. "Well, all that's changing now and where are we gonna go for profits? If we're gonna stay alive, we gotta modernise the plant … [New equipment] would cut labour costs in half." This statement neatly encapsulates a certain mindset of the early 80s, and interestingly, there's no counter-argument. Even Claude's wife Eudora - a weepier version of Miss Ellie - calls the workers' demands "exorbitant".

    The union leader, named Jake Polanksi, (which has to be a reference to CHINATOWN: Roman Polanksi/Jake Gittes) appears only fleetingly and is played by DALLAS cartel member Wade Luce. (I tell ya, those cartel boys get everywhere - Andy Bradley, already recurring as a politician pal of Mark Graison's on F'LINGO RD, also finds time to slum it as one of Walter Lankershim's ragtag oil crew on this week's DYNASTY.)

    As much as I love the way KNOTS LANDING will evolve over the years, "Scapegoats" is the one episode that makes me wonder what might have been: What if KNOTS had remained a show about four couples in a cul-de-sac? And what if Sid hadn't died? I would have been fascinated to see how Michael's hyperkenticness impacted the neighbourhood BRADY BUNCH in the long term. Sid and Karen's dynamic in this episode - each blaming the other for Michael's condition, each striking a raw nerve as they do so - is really interesting and rings so true to life. I love how, when passive Sid finally reacts to Michael's volatile behaviour during a beach volleyball game with the neighbours, assertive Karen suddenly thinks he's overreacting. It's classic parental yin and yang stuff, with the bewildered child caught in the middle. The bit where Michael runs off down the beach, Sid chasing after him, neither of them understanding what's happening - there's just something so moving, so primal about that. And the music's beautiful. Guess Claude Weldon must have settled the musicians' strike too. (Or maybe not - they're still using the generic score on DALLAS.)

    As well as being the week DYNASTY arrived on TV and Afton arrived in DALLAS, (her first line: "You really got all that money?") this is also the week that Abby, to paraphrase Richard Avery, begins her climb up the ladder of success, not caring who she'll step on to reach the top. Yep, it's time for the Abster to put down the suntan lotion and start work as a part-time bookkeeper at Knots Landing Motors. For me, Abby's awakening begins when she's sitting in the back of Gary's car on the way to work, listening to Sid and Gary argue about their deal with Frank and Roy (who are sort of the KNOTS equivalent of DALLAS's Jeb Ames and Willie Joe Garr: the thinner, younger one mostly does the talking, the bigger, slower one mostly looks menacing). Later, Abby listens in to Gary's meeting with Frank and Roy and learns what deep doo-doo he's in - but she doesn't tell Gary straight out what she's heard. Instead, she drops hints and lets him come to her. Only then does she set out her stall: "I like what you're trying to do for Sid … I admire the way you go after what you want, and I love a little excitement."

    Shoulder pads of the week: Fallon's one black one, one white one, as she bites the heads off the wedding cake bride and groom.

    On DALLAS, Bobby has a week to raise $12,000,000 or incur the wrath of the cartel. On KNOTS, Gary has a week to raise $50,000 or incur the wrath of Frank and Roy. Enter JR: he's already hatched a plan with Jeremy Wendell to supply Bobby with the money he needs - but with a condition guaranteed to pass off Daddy and cost Bob the presidency of Ewing Oil. Meanwhile, Abby's already snuck a look at next week's cast list and it looks like JR's gonna be town for some big oil conference …

    And the winner is … DYNASTY
    followed by …
    2. KNOTS LANDING
    3. DALLAS
    4. FLAMINGO ROAD
     
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  3. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    19/Jan/81: DYNASTY: The Honeymoon v. 20/Jan/81: FLAMINGO ROAD: The Titus Tapes v. 22/Jan/81: KNOTS LANDING: A Family Matter v. 23/Jan/81: DALLAS: End of the Road (2)

    Two illustrations of just how scarily long ago these episodes first aired: On Monday, Cecil Colby, in an effort to impress upon Fallon how eligible a bachelor his nephew Jeff is, describes him as Denver's answer to Prince Charles. On Tuesday, Ronald Reagan is inaugurated as President. (Fortunately, the latter only happened in real life.)

    As well as swiftly establishing DYNASTY as having the least imaginative episode titles of the soap genre, "The Honeymoon" is also a misnomer - Blake and Krystle's vacation is cut short in the first scene when the Carringtons' foreign oil wells are seized in another of those non-specific revolutions perpetrated by "barbarians" and "fanatics." Yes, it's JR and South East Asia all over again, except this time it's in the Middle East, and instead of being plunged into the thick of the crisis as we were with JR, we're largely kept on the sidelines with Krystle, who finds the door to this part of her husband's life firmly closed in her face, and Fallon, quickly ushered from the room when found to be eavesdropping.

    Overall, DYNASTY's second instalment feels more modest in comparison to that epic pilot episode. This is a period of adjustment as characters establish themselves in new roles. Now partners in an oil rig, Matthew and Walter must win back the confidence of their crew and get them to return to work. In an attempt to prove he's more than Blake Carrington's son, Steven must persuade Matthew and Walter to give him a job. These two plot strands culminate in Steven getting into a barroom brawl with Robert Davi, later a bad guy in the second worst James Bond film ever made.

    On the domestic front, Matthew tries to ease Claudia back into "normality" by buying her a car. Much screen time is given to Claudia overcoming her fear and reluctance to get behind the wheel. Finally plucking up the courage, she drives out to the drill site to surprise Matthew. Instead, she has her first, very sweet, encounter with Steven Carrington. And so begins the gradual dismantling of the normal married life Claudia is trying so hard to build. Remembering what happens to Claudia and Lindsay in the last episode of this season, the introduction of the car in this episode could be read as some Big Old Foreshadowing.

    After Steven leaves her, there is a long, (and I mean long) lingering shot of Claudia at the drill site. Alone in her white dress clutching her picnic basket, she climbs some steps to a seating area and the camera slowly retreats, showing her dwarfed by both the mountainous scenery and the brute machinery of the rig. The juxtaposition evokes an unspecified wistfulness. It's not at all clear what the show is "saying" here, but that vagueness alone is reason enough for me to like it. (Let us perhaps think of it as a pre-Reagan moment that serves no purpose beyond itself, the like of which will be snuffed out soon enough.) Unlike the rest of the '80s soaps, early DYNASTY has no stand-alone episodes in which to test the boundaries of its form. In their absence, this shot stands as DYNASTY's experimental period.

    While Matthew encourages Claudia to get out of the house, Blake teaches Krystle how to become the mistress of hers. To this end, he summons all the servants from their beds in the middle of the night, bullies them in front of Krystle, and then fires his gardener of ten years for some perceived slight against his wife. When Krystle objects, Blake assures her that he will reinstate the gardener the following day, "and they will all say, 'Mr. Carrington is a hard man, but he's a fair man.'" Given the timid, docile performances by the actors portraying the staff, he's probably right. (The exceptions being sinister majordomo Joseph, who becomes more of a feature this week, and Michael the chauffeur, whom Fallon continues to delight in tormenting.)

    As "The Titus Tapes" suggests, Titus has been bugging Lute-Mae's for local pillow talk. The bugs are discovered, everyone knows he's behind it, but there's no proof against him. The mechanics of the plot are a bit dumb, but Titus is great, strutting around in his white sheriff's uniform and hat like a cross between Robert Mitchum in NIGHT OF THE HUNTER and Boss Hogg in THE DUKES OF HAZZARD.

    Both "The Honeymoon" and "The Titus Tapes" save their best scenes for last. On DYNASTY, the romantically set business meeting between Cecil and Fallon is full of atmosphere. The nighttime riverside setting, her feather boa, his tux, her Clenet, their secret pact - that Fallon will marry Cecil's nephew if he bails out her father - all feels very "Great Gatsby" by way of Harold Robbins. Meanwhile, on FLAMINGO ROAD, a bored Titus is listening through his final batch of brothel tapes when his attention is caught by the sound of Lane Ballou blabbing about Her Big Secret, the one she will pay $5,000 to keep quiet. As Titus suddenly snaps into life, so does the episode. His one line soliloquy prior to the freeze frame, "Lane Ballou, you've just made your first mistake" carries the same portentous, declaration-of-war quality as JR's "I underestimated the new Mrs. Ewing, I surely won't make that mistake again" did at the beginning of DALLAS.

    "A Family Matter" is my favourite DALLAS/KNOTS crossover so far. If "Community Spirit" acknowledged the incongruity of JR existing in KNOTS LANDING, then this episode downright celebrates it. Unfettered from his DALLAS story-lines, Larry Hagman is free to just play, and the resultant joys are many. I love his visit to Knots Landing Motors, his brief interaction with a disgruntled deaf customer ("Hey, old timer"), his shaking hands with Sid then discreetly wiping the grease off his palm.

    JR might be in town for some vague oil conference thingy, but Abby is the one responsible for bringing him into Gary's storyline. At this point in KNOTS, JR and Abby have never met before, and we're still getting know Abby ourselves. We know she likes men and she likes not doing very much, and just recently she's taken an interest in Gary's deal with Frank and Roy, but that's about it. So why is she so anxious to involve JR in Gary's deal? "That's what makes business exciting!" she says gleefully at one point. Ah ha, so business (and for "business", let's substitute the word "power") is a game for her, just like it is for the folks on DALLAS - but it's not for a game for Gary and Val. Deprived of raising their own child by JR, they're the human cost of his game playing. Meanwhile, Sid and Karen are simply a willing audience for JR/Larry's performance. So put all these different elements in one room, at Abby's dinner party, and get JR on the subject of Lucy's boyfriends ("the strangest bunch of human beings this side of New York City") and you get a really interesting cocktail of a scene. And I love how his toast at Abby's dinner table is upstaged, repeatedly, by Brian and Olivia's squabbling - talk about worlds colliding.

    This is David Paulsen's second foray into the Ewingverse and using JR as a mouthpiece, he articulates some pivotal home truths about Val, Gary and Abby that up until now have remained hidden (to the characters themselves as well as the viewers). JR identifies Abby as a kindred spirit ("You want my little brother Gary, honey"), Val as an albatross (“Gary’s got a noose around his neck and you’re hangin’ on to the other end, draggin’ him down”) and Gary's hunger for ... well, something other than what he has. "You're not talking Sid," JR tells his bro, "you're talking power." Cecil Colby also lectures a neophyte about the nature of power in DYNASTY: "Passion dies, power remains," he tells Fallon. For JR, however, power and passion seem to be the same thing: "You're talking adrenaline and how it surges through your veins when you've got something that everybody else wants ... You're talking about winning, winning like a Ewing wins."

    The sexual tension between JR and Abby, and Abby and Gary is fascinating, and made all the richer knowing that they're each involved with other people in concurrent storylines: Abby with Richard, Gary with Judy Trent, and JR with - at the last count - Sue Ellen, Louella and Afton. (He and Afton finally do the deed this week at Lucy's wedding and very fun it is too.)

    How audacious of JR - to skip over to KNOTS LANDING halfway through a DALLAS two-parter. "End of the Road, Part 2" discreetly accommodates the trip by keeping JR off screen for the first ten minutes or so, and then jumping the narrative forward a week.

    The central event of this week's FLAMINGO ROAD is a fundraising funfair in aid of Field's campaign. It's a bit weird. As the candidate's wife, Constance sets up a kissing booth. When Sam Curtis presents her with a hundred dollar bill, she rewards him with a full on snog, while everyone else stands around smiling as if this were perfectly acceptable campaign behaviour. Meanwhile, Eudora blows her genteel Southern matriarch cred by dressing up as a gypsy fortune teller, complete with black wig and cod foreign accent. Needless to say, you'd never catch Miss Ellie doing that (unless she were in her Donna Reed period, maybe).

    One thing Eudora and Ellie do have in common is a flair for the dramatic proclamation. In last week's episode of FLAMINGO ROAD, Eudora's husband Claude, acting out a watered-down variation on JR's mortgaging of his mama's ranch, secretly sold some sacred (if non-specific) land belonging to Eudora's family. Eudora's reaction, "I will never forgive you for this", was a more decisive version of what Miss Ellie told JR in Season 2: "I may never forgive you for this." This week, Ellie goes one better, vowing to Jock: "I'll never forgive you for what you've done to him... and to me." This is said in reaction to Gary's announcement that now that Jock has a son, i.e. Ray, running the ranch, he and Val feel able to remain in California permanently. Prior to this, it seems Ellie had it in her head that it was only a matter of time before Gary moved back to Southfork. I blame Abby. In an effort to motivate JR into loaning Gary the $50,000 he needs for his deal, she floats the idea of Val wanting to move back to Dallas - should things go sour for Gary at KLM, she reasons, JR might end up with another brother sitting across the breakfast table. JR sees through Abby's story, but her words seem to have floated across the Lorimar sound stages and ended up inside Ellie's head.

    "End of the Road" features Soap Land's third big wedding in four weeks. Judged purely on aesthetic terms, Mitch and Lucy's is the lamest of the bunch. Despite the best efforts of the art department to disguise the fact, the wedding clearly takes place on the cardboard Southfork patio. And although Alex Ward gamely describes it as "the biggest event of the year", there's no denying it all looks kinda cramped. And what would Mr. Afferton, Blake and Krystle's fussy wedding planner, have said about the cheesy wedding band squeezed into rented tuxedos or Gary walking Lucy down the aisle to a taped organ version of the Wedding March? Neither is very au courant. The most fun moment is everyone making eyes at people they shouldn't during the exchange of vows (JR and Afton, Sue Ellen and Clint, Pam and Alex). The most touching is Donna's line to Ray, "It's just a shame the poets were wrong: love doesn't conquer all," which rivals Andrew Laird's quip to Fallon, "Most little girls realise by the age of six they can't grow up and marry their daddies," for Line of the Week.

    Shoulder pads of the week: Sue Ellen's humungous shiny ones at the wedding.

    And the winner is … KNOTS LANDING.
    2nd: DALLAS
    3rd: DYNASTY
    4th: FLAMINGO ROAD
     
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  4. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    26/Jan/81: DYNASTY: The Dinner Party v. 27/Jan/81: FLAMINGO ROAD: A Mother's Revenge v. 29/Jan/81: KNOTS LANDING: Choices v. 30/Jan/81: DALLAS: Making of a President

    On DYNASTY, in an effort to get his hands on their leases, Blake Carrington invites Matthew and Walter, and Matthew's wife Claudia, to a dinner party at his mansion.

    Given Blake's financial problems, Krystle worries that the cost of her new wardrobe ($75-100,000 for the season, not including furs) is too extravagant - until Fallon tells her that it's all part of the game, and the game is called "Million Dollar Spit in the Ocean." Once Fallon has explained the rules, ("Every card comes down and dirty, and a strong bluff is worth more than a full house aces high") Krystle decides to play - a decision so momentous as to be marked by her breaking the fourth wall and looking directly down the camera lens. (This isn't quite a first for Soap Land - JR does the same thing during the first half of DALLAS Season 2.) Her first move is to stand up to Joseph in front of the other servants, insisting that Matthew is placed next to Blake at the dinner table.

    Krystle might be willing to play the game, and so is Walter - in fact, while feigning drunkenness at the Carrington party, he proves impressively adept at it - but Matthew is not. "Then you better go back to that school of geology and let 'em examine the rocks in your head," Walter suggests, "'cos if you don't play the game and play it well, then they're gonna eat you up."

    Last week's strangely lingering shot of Claudia at the drill site might be explained by a similar one of her at the party, highlighting her loneliness, or at least her solitude, amongst all the snazzily-dressed, heartily-laughing rich people. The programme's silent emphasis on Claudia at such moments suggests an empathy with her - embodied by Steven when she enters the library seeking refuge from the game players and finds him there. After all these years, the "library scene" is still exquisite.

    As with "Oil", "The Dinner Party" is peppered with references both political and cultural, serving to both broaden and deepen the context in which the story takes place. First, Fallon challenges Jeff's view that she should join the Young Republicans: "The Russians are in Afghanistan, the Vietnamese are in Cambodia, and you want me to stay at home and knit booties for orphans? Jeff, the whole world's an orphan." Meanwhile, in conversation with Claudia, Steven name checks historical notables "that have done a little time on the flip side: Nijinsky, Dostoyevsky, Peter the Great," before quoting that verse of Emily Dickinson's that has stayed with me my whole adult life: "Much madness is divinest sense to a discerning eye …" (And who says trash TV can't teach you nothing?) On KNOTS, by contrast, Sid Fairgate quotes George Halas: "It's not work unless you'd rather be doing something else." ("Who's George Halas?" asks Linda the Lady Mechanic.)

    DYNASTY breaks another soap taboo by having two of its characters, Fallon and Jeff, get stoned, go skinny-dipping and have a good time. Not until John Ross at his daddy's memorial service will anyone in Soap Land do drugs with such intoxicating impunity.

    But here's the kicker: it's not just drugs for drugs' sake. It's also Krystle picking up the tab for daring to believe she's got what it takes to play the game. When she follows Blake's lead and tries to persuade Matthew to bring his leases in "under the Denver Carrington corporate umbrella", Matthew turns on her, referring to her in the same way Jock did Bobby back in "Digger's Daughter" - as the company pimp. This leads to a heated exchange where he admits he still loves her. A stoned and giggling Fallon clocks everything and rubs Krystle's nose in it at the end of the episode after Joseph (getting his own petty revenge) has summoned Krystle, as mistress of the house, to deal with the two naked people in the family swimming pool.

    Following on from Fallon's "No blacks, no Jews, no Eskimos" speech in the DYNASTY pilot, this week's FLAMINGO ROAD provides Soap Land's second verbal acknowledgement that there is more than one race on the planet. As Field's election campaign hots up, it emerges that his chief opponent (played by the fat one out of Jeb Ames and Willie Joe Garr) may have once belonged to a white supremacist group. The episode even refers to the American South's history of racism, which is more than DALLAS has ever done.

    If DYNASTY is an airport blockbuster with a glossy, embossed cover, then FLAMINGO ROAD is a yellowing paperback in a second-hand bookshop with a lurid illustration on its front. "A Mother's Revenge" is an unexpectedly terrific episode, with a full-blooded guest performance from Alice Hirson - the future Mavis Anderson on DALLAS. (Her screen hubby-to-be Punk can be seen in this week's DALLAS, huddled in afternoon restaurant meetings with Jock and Ray, muttering strange words like "DOA" and "Takapa".) Hirson plays Mary Troy (if nothing else, the characters on FLAMINGO ROAD have great names) who has come to town looking the truth about her daughter Annabelle, who died in the mill fire back in the pilot episode. The fire was started by Sheriff Titus - whom, it transpires, raped and impregnated Mary twenty years before - yes, he inadvertently killed his own daughter! As befits such a dark and lurid tale, the episode is shot with lots of shadowy lighting and big close-ups - let's call it the soap noir look.

    On KNOTS LANDING, the more of a game player Abby becomes, the curlier her hair gets. In "Choices", it's almost a full-on perm. Val, meanwhile, doesn't even realise there's a game to play. "She tries so hard," Abby observes, "but Gary is growing by leaps and bounds. He knows what he wants and he knows where he’s going. He just outgrows his little country girl more every day."

    Following Sue Ellen, Val becomes the second Ewing wife in as many weeks to find out her husband has been unfaithful - thanks to Abby setting her up to find Gary and Judy together. There follows a great beach scene between Val and Gary where Val reviews their entire history together and tries to figure out where she went wrong, before slapping Gary and then collapsing into his arms. This is by far the most emotional reaction of a Soap Land spouse or partner to being cheated on since Ray Krebbs caught Garnet McGee in bed with JR in "Triangle" (DALLAS Season 1).

    Val's response is contrasted with that of Laura, whose suspicions about Richard and Abby's affair are also confirmed in this week's episode of KNOTS. "When I saw you going next door last night, you know what? I really didn’t care," she tells Richard coolly. Similarly, when we rejoin Sue Ellen and JR a full narrative week after the events of Lucy's wedding, their marriage has returned to the state of chilly indifference it was in before JR was shot. If Sue Ellen bothered to confront JR about him having sex with Afton in their marital bed, she did so off-screen.

    This week's FLAMINGO ROAD and KNOTS LANDING each ends on a question posed by its regular blonde vixen. "What would I have to do to get you to love me the way I love you?" pleads Constance to husband Field. Instead of answering, Field picks up a decanter of booze and exits the room, leaving an emotional Constance to take the freeze frame. It's at this point that Field stops being Bobby Ewing and turns into Brick from CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (which is who Bobby was supposed to be in the first place, according to DALLAS/F'LINGO producer Mike Filerman). Meanwhile, Abby takes an altogether more ambiguous approach. "Are you ready for me now?" she asks brightly, popping her head round Gary's office door only seconds after he has ended his affair with Judy Trent. In answer to her question, Gary won't actually be "ready" for more than a year, but no matter: both Abby and KNOTS are playing the long game here.

    Even though Gary and Val have been reunited by the closing credits, "Choices" does mark the end of one particular era of KNOTS. Laura might not confront Abby about seeing Richard enter her house, but the glare she gives her as they both leave for work the next morning makes it clear that this will never again be a show about a group of neighbours who are all genuinely good friends. The days of unequivocally happy episode endings are over.

    Ironically, in the week that he reclaims the presidency of Ewing Oil, JR is informed by Jordan Lee that he is finished as a power in Dallas. JR has been out of the office for thirteen episodes and things have has changed in the interim. Now it's as if everyone in Dallas watches DALLAS and has therefore cottoned to the fact that, instead of being just another ruthless good ole boy, JR is "the biggest cheat, the biggest liar and the biggest double dealer this town has ever seen." As a result said town refuses to do business with him. Enter Leslie Stewart, media consultant extraordinaire. When she promises to create for him “a halo so big, your shoulders will buckle just trying to carry it around,” it's a funny idea - but funny in a knowing way. JR the saint?? We're all in on the joke, audience and characters alike, because we all now view JR in the same way.

    JR falls for Leslie with unusual haste. It mirrors how quick he was to crown Abby "the most delicious conniver it's been my pleasure to encounter" in last week's KNOTS - yet on KNOTS, JR exhibited both a shrewdness and an insight into other people that are lacking in his dealings with Leslie. "I'm going to put you back on top," she vows and he instantly believes her, as if blinded by an urgent need to regain his power - in the same way that DALLAS itself now urgently needs to regain its mojo. After "Who Shot JR?" what can it do for an encore? To that end, "Making of a President" ends on JR's wildest, most reckless statement yet: "I want a revolution. I want those oilfields again."

    Andy Bradley pulls a double shift this week - labouring on Matthew and Walter's rig in DYNASTY on Monday, then celebrating an oil strike with the cartel boys in DALLAS on Friday. Freeloader of the week has to be Stacy Keach Sr. Three days after attending Lucy and Mitch's Southfork wedding as an unnamed guest, he shows up at Blake's table for "The Dinner Party". Spookiest DALLAS/DYNASTY overlap: Krystle's fashion designer or personal shopper or whatever-you-call-the-man-who-comes-to-your-house-to-plan-your-wardrobe-for-the-coming-season is named James Beaumont.

    And the winner is … DYNASTY
    2nd: KNOTS LANDING
    3rd: DALLAS
    4th: FLAMINGO ROAD
     
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  5. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    02/Feb/81: DYNASTY: Fallon's Wedding v. 03/Feb/81: FLAMINGO ROAD: The Fish Fry v. 05/Feb/81: KNOTS LANDING: A State of Mind v. 06/Feb/81: DALLAS: Start the Revolution With Me

    Much of "Fallon's Wedding" focuses on Fallon reluctantly coming to terms with the Faustian pact she's made. Now Cecil has bailed out Blake, she must fulfil her side of the bargain - to marry Jeff and then "go quietly insane".

    There's a slight Anglophile theme running through the cultural references in Soap Land this week: DYNASTY name checks Harrods, the Beatles and Covent Garden, and Michael lists several famous restaurants on the Fulham Road, (on this show, even the chauffeur is cosmopolitan) while on DALLAS, Leslie Stewart takes out an ad in the London Financial Times on JR's behalf. We also meet Jennifer, Cecil Colby's private secretary, played by Maggie the Dead Waitress from DARK SHADOWS deploying an English accent almost as convincing as Gillian Anderson's.

    Jennifer is one of three secondary characters (alongside Ted Dinard and Ed the bully on Matthew's rig) to emerge in this episode. Michael the chauffeur gets his own subplot too. Seemingly peripheral, these elements will eventually interconnect, helping to propel the story forward to its end of season conclusion.

    Ted, Steven's erstwhile boyfriend from New York, has the same sad-eyed neediness (plus the same flat hair and blazer ensemble) as Sam, the "ex-roommate" of Kit Mainwaring we glimpsed in DALLAS Season 1, (Steven also tries to pass off Ted as an ex-roommate in this ep) but there's also a genuine sense of melancholia about Ted that makes him more than just an obligatory archetype.

    Matthew's reaction when Steven comes out to him is interesting. He's far from comfortable - you get the feeling he'd sooner not know - but neither is he judgmental. It's here that the idea of Matthew as Steven's surrogate father, and the Blaisdels as his surrogate family, starts to develop.

    In an effort to impress Blake, Michael leans on Lankershim/Blaisdel's banker, threatening to hurt his family unless he withdraws their credit. (The banker turns up in this week's DALLAS too, as a member of Punk and Jock's Takapa Lake Development Project.) Blake is furious with Michael when he finds out about his strong arm tactics, then unofficially promotes him for it. If what Leslie says to JR in DALLAS is true - "You can't wheel and deal when you have a public corporation" - then I guess you need someone like Michael to do it for you.

    The most interesting scene of "Fallon's Wedding" is the one between Cecil Colby and Krystle. Cecil describes Blake as "a hunting animal, sleek and fast" for whom, like JR, the chase is all important. He advises Krystle to "find out what Blake wants most and then don't give it to him." Cecil's motives here have always felt ambiguous. Is he, in his own perverse way, genuinely trying to help Krystle (and perhaps spite Blake at the same time)? Or is he setting a trap for her? And does he already know that what Blake really wants from Krystle is a child? What occurs to me this time around is that now he knows Fallon and Jeff are to be married, Cecil doesn't want Krystle to produce an heir before they do (if at all). This mirrors the anxiety felt by Sue Ellen and JR in DALLAS Season 1 that Pam and Bobby will be the first to deliver Jock a grandson.

    Over on DALLAS, Leslie Stewart has figured out what JR wants: her in his bed. (It's become apparent to Sue Ellen too, much to JR's annoyance: "Have you had her yet?" "Leslie Stewart is a highly qualified professional. She’s doing a brilliant job." "That means you haven’t had her.") Leslie continues to keep JR at bay, doing the whole unattainable Hitchcock blonde thing, while simultaneously recording their conversations. Cecil would be proud.

    But while JR's desire for Leslie might be real enough, perhaps his enthusiasm for her PR campaign (which feels vague at best - a couple of slogans and a full page ad and Ewing Oil is suddenly "internationally known and important") is just a smokescreen for what he's really up to: financing the counterrevolution in Southeast Asia. For all his hyperbole about craving "the power to shape history, change the course of things a little so that someday everybody'll know JR Ewing's been here," all he really wants is to be a big shot in Dallas again. On one level, JR's parochiality is part of his (and the show's) charm. On another, it's what makes him so dangerous: if the world outside of Texas is unimportant, even unreal, to him, then it's all the easier for him to instigate an overseas war. After all, what's "a little suffering in a tiny country in South East Asia" if it gets him back into the cartel? "It could get messy," his contact warns him. "I don't wanna know the details," he replies.

    With no Claudia Blaisdel or Joan van Ark this week, it falls to the men of Soap Land to provide the neurotic behaviour - Jeff Cunningham and Richard Avery in KNOTS, Field Carlyle in FLAMINGO ROAD, and to a lesser extent, Cliff in DALLAS.

    This week's F'LINGO RD centres on a crucial speech Field is due to make at the Truro Fish Fry (think Southfork Barbecue, but with catfish and Dixieland jazz instead of steaks and a hoedown). Politically, Field is in early Cliff Barnes territory - idealistic, vaguely liberal, but ultimately compromised by his dealings with big business. Initially, Field writes the speech from his heart - promising "jobs for minorities", among other things - but gets overruled by his backers. "It's the majority that will get you elected," Titus tells him and Sam Curtis, Field's chief financial backer, agrees. Yep, Sam Curtis, aka Mark Graison, might be the show's blue-eyed, strong-chinned action hero, but it turns out he's as motivated by self-interest as the rest of the characters. And perhaps this lack of a fixed moral compass is the most interesting thing about FLAMINGO ROAD.

    It's really good fun watching Field, frustrated by his role as political puppet, unravel, get drunk and have to be put back together in time for the big speech, while the rest of the Weldon family plaster on fake smiles and try to keep up appearances. Constance and Sam, meanwhile, take every chance meeting as an opportunity to do a little flirting, much the way Sue Ellen and Cliff did in early DALLAS.

    "The Fish Fry" also offers Soap Land's campest scene to date as Constance and Lane Ballou vie for the attentions of flamboyant hairdresser Mr. Eddie. It prefigures all those beauty parlour bitch fests on DYNASTY.

    Another mainstay of the '80s soap, the custody battle storyline, makes its debut this week in KNOTS LANDING when Jeff Cunningham, Abby's ex-husband, threatens to fight her for their kids. I love the mock-interrogation of Abby by her lawyer: "You ever smoked grass, snorted coke, been to a porno movie?" This line taps straight into the hedonistic DEEP THROAT/disco period during which Abby and Jeff's marriage would have taken place. (The one recent series I've seen that really feels like a successor to KNOTS LANDING is the short-lived SWING TOWN. Set in 1976, it deals with the impact of sexual and social liberation on three American suburban couples. "A State of Mind", with its glimpses of Abby and Jeff's past relationship, seems like a chronological sequel to that show.)

    "A State of Mind" is a fab episode of KNOTS, and for the third week in a row it's an Abby-centric one. In "A Family Matter", we saw her having fun scheming with JR. In "Choices", she turned properly mean, using Judy to try and break up Gary and Val. This week, it's a whole other situation: challenged by her ex-husband about her independent lifestyle, she becomes a kind of de facto feminist ("Wake up, Jeff, this is the 1980s. Millions of mother's work." Tell that to Sue Ellen in DALLAS: "I find it very interesting that you hired a woman to tell you how to run your business," she says to JR. "It’s always been a Ewing creed that women were seen, not heard.")

    Throughout this episode of KNOTS, Abby refuses to tell Jeff whether or not she's been sleeping with the married man who lives next door, insisting that it has no bearing on her ability to be a good mother. When she does admit the affair to Karen, she is magnificently unrepentant about it. ("Yes, Richard and I have been to bed together! Isn't that deplorable? It's deplorable that that poor, pathetic, insecure man has something, one thing in his life that makes him happy. He has no job, a pitiful marriage, a wife so full of herself she has no time for him anymore. All he has is wicked Abby, who happens to make him a little happy once in a while.") Even 32 years later, Abby's attitude feels fresh and surprising, and has been echoed this month by Gillian Anderson's detective character in THE FALL, a brilliant BBC series I've become slightly obsessed with, who is equally unapologetic about the impact of her sexual conduct on those around her. ("Man f***s woman, OK. Woman f***s man -- that's not so comfortable for you," she suggests to a senior male colleague.)

    There is much marital misery on DALLAS this week: Ellie is icy cold to Jock, again accusing him of favouring Ray above his other sons. Sue Ellen and JR remain fascinatingly indifferent to each other, barely bothering to conceal their respective new love interests. And I really like the binge of reckless behaviour Pam embarks on after Bobby breaks their dinner date for the 476th time this season: yanking her office door almost off its hinges, knocking back the booze at Liz's party, snogging the face off King Galen of Moldavia in a Port Aransas hotel room. The only happy couple in "Start The Revolution With Me" are Lucy and Mitch. They have one really sweet scene where all of Mitch's objections to Lucy blowing their budget on his birthday presents evaporate in the face of her irrepressible enthusiasm.

    KNOTS and DALLAS each ends on a particularly ominous note this week. Having been humiliated by Abby, Jeff backs out of the court fight, but makes it clear to Karen that he hasn't finished with her yet. "You've got a war on your hands," Karen warns Abby. On DALLAS, JR has a genuine war on his hands. His contact in Southeast Asia, Claude Brown, reminds him of the possible consequences to both himself and Ewing Oil if he goes ahead with the counterrevolution, and gives him one last chance to back out. "I never change my mind," JR replies. The episodes close on Abby and JR each wearing their most defiant faces.

    And the winner is … KNOTS LANDING
    2nd: FLAMINGO ROAD
    3rd: DALLAS
    4th: DYNASTY.

    (But why is DALLAS the only show still using the same generic background music ...?)
     
  6. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    I like the first Knots Landing episodes, but it's better for me to start reading here. After all, it was Dynasty that introduced me to the pleasures of soap, and what an introduction it was!
    I hope I'll find out what Lane Ballou's secret was because I didn't understand any of it.
     
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  7. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    16/Feb/81: DYNASTY: The Chauffeur Tells a Secret v. 17/Feb/81: FLAMINGO ROAD: Jealous Wife v. 19/Feb/81: KNOTS LANDING: The Loudest Word v. 20/Feb/81: DALLAS: Lover, Come Back

    Tennis features on both DYNASTY and FLAMINGO ROAD this week. On the Carrington court, a game of mixed doubles serves as a neat illustration of Fallon's relationship priorities - her new husband and stepmother are left twiddling their rackets while she trains all her attention on her father. The exclusive tennis club in FLAMINGO ROAD is used to represent social standing in Truro, as Constance and her bitchy friends just can't believe they're having to share court space with trash like Lane Ballou.

    "The Chauffeur Tells a Secret" might be a clunky title, but it's a really strong episode. While "the chauffeur" is obviously Michael, the "secret" is that Fallon married Jeff so that Cecil would bail out Blake. This leads to a great scene where Blake really lets Fallon have it:

    "I've been able to claw my own way up from setbacks before. I've gone to congressmen and kings and dictators and mob bosses when I needed help and I got it. When you were safely tucked off at school and on jets and in $200-a-night hotel rooms in Rio and Europe and the Caribbean with your beach boys and soccer studs and you name them, you found them, I was here, without you - handling the problems, clawing my way if I had to, and I did it without your damned help."

    I love the kaleidoscope of images this speech evokes: "congressmen and kings and dictators and mob bosses … private schools and jets and $200-a-night a hotel rooms … Rio and Europe and the Caribbean … beach boys and soccer studs." That's a whole (albeit trashy) novel right there.

    The cultural references are equally diverse in this week's DYNASTY: 16th century poetry ("And I will make thee beds of roses"), 70s soft rock ("Supertramp are boring??"), "The Taming of the Shrew", Baryshnikov, Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway …

    My favourite scene is where Michael orders the boss's daughter out of the limo and they take an impromptu walk in the woods. Something I never realised before: Michael's reminiscence about his childhood ("When I was a little kid, we were pretty poor and when my mother used to ask me, 'How much do you love me?' I'd say, 'A million dollars.' When she had to go to my grandmother's back East and she'd come home and she'd ask, 'How much did you miss me?' I'd say, 'A million dollars'") is his sullen way of telling Fallon he's in love with her. It's also the perfect expression of avarice and emotion intertwined.

    Another good scene is Claudia's session with her psychiatrist, Dr. Jordan. Theirs is a very different dynamic than the one between Sue Ellen and Dr. Elby on DALLAS. The Elby scenes, while hugely enjoyable, have mostly become an opportunity for Sue Ellen to grandstand, as befits a rich man's wife who's paying someone for the privilege of listening to her. With Claudia, it's different. Her therapy is presumably part of her ongoing medical treatment, and the relationship between doctor and patient feels more equal. Dr Jordan might tease Claudia as a prod to get her to say what's on her mind; she might evade the issue by complaining about the sunlight in her eyes, but it's not a personal rebuke. Dramatically, however, both doctors serve the same function: they allow Sue Ellen and Claudia to reveal what they cannot say to those closest to them, but what we, the audience, need to hear.

    And so it is we learn that at the Carringtons' dinner party, Claudia recognised, or at least intuited, Krystle as the woman Matthew slept with when she was in the hospital. It's interesting that this wasn't signposted at the time - in the same way that the moment where Laura's suspicions about Abby and Richard were alerted in KNOTS (at the Averys' party) wasn't marked by a big, dramatic close up.

    In FLAMINGO ROAD, Constance's reaction to an equivalent situation is far less subtle. As the titular "Jealous Wife", she spends the whole episode stamping her foot and complaining loudly about her Krystle/Abby equivalent, "that tramp" Lane Ballou. Morgan Fairchild is great fun, but compared to Soap Land's other wronged wives, Constance feels a little lightweight - understandably so, given that she is closer in age and upbringing to the genre's original spoilt princess, Lucy Ewing. In fact, at one point in "Jealous Wife", Lane actually tells her to grow up.

    Constance's attempt at revenge - barring her rival from a fancy reception in Field's honour - backfires when Lane makes a big GONE WITH THE WIND style entrance on Sam Curtis's arm, draped in a fur wrap and wearing a spangly dress that puts all the other women in the shade. Even worse for Constance (but fun for us), Field figures out her plan and forces her to eat crow and apologise to Lane.

    On DALLAS, Lucy also receives short shrift from her new husband for some underhand behaviour, when Mitch discovers she's been employing a cleaning lady on the sly. Sitcom stuff this may be, but it is funny - particularly the scene between Mitch and Dolores the cleaner, who so doesn't get the confidentiality clause in her employment contract.

    Younger than both Constance and Lucy, and sweeter-natured than either, Lindsay Blaisdel nevertheless manages to get into some deep doo-doo on DYNASTY this week. She invites a boy she's sweet on home from school to study Shakespeare, whereupon he gets horny (and disses Supertramp) and she gets freaked out. So far, so Diana Fairgate in "Step One", but instead of getting drunk with a strange guy on the beach, Lindsay drives off in her mother's car. Just as Claudia did when she first got behind the wheel, Lindsay ends up driving to the Lankershim/Blaisdel drill site as if it were a kind of beacon. The scenes that follow are all really good in a KNOTSian sort of way. There's a lovely little character exchange between Lindsay and Walter, then we see Lindsay reunited with her concerned parents, and then she and Claudia truly bond for the first time - think Karen and Diana in "Step One" only less strident - while driving home together. Foreshadow alert: oh, the irony of Claudia and Lindsay forging a connection in the same car in which their relationship will effectively end.

    The scene of Steven breaking bread with the Blaisdels is lovely in its ordinariness. To compare the warmth of this dinner with the chilly, austere one he shared with Blake and Fallon in the pilot episode is quite poignant. There's something so natural, so unguarded about the Blaisdels' reactions to his fairytales of New York, ("bicycling in Central Park on Sunday afternoon, riding a Staten Island ferry at twilight") and so unpretentious about Matthew excusing himself and Lindsay after dinner so that they can work on her homework, that when Steven starts spouting poetry to Claudia in the kitchen it feels like the most natural thing in the world …

    "The Loudest Word" is an exceptional episode of KNOTS. A stand alone episode dealing with something as major as bowel cancer just shouldn't work, but it does. The very fact that Val's diagnosis appears out of nowhere is precisely what makes it so real. This isn't an episode of high drama - there's no time for that. Instead, it's about fear - the kind of clammy, gnawing, intangible fear that turns into terror without you even noticing. The scene where Gary breaks down in front of Sid and Karen just after he's trashed his and Val's bedroom is the most nakedly emotional moment in the Ewingverse (and all of Soap Land) thus far.

    As the Fairgates and Averys wonder aloud what they would do in Gary's or Val's situation, one can't help but flash forward to what lies in store for Sid, Diana and Laura. And then the arrival of Bobby, with his words of comfort for Val and tough love for Gary, creates a connection to JR's death and Pam's fate - both cancer related - in New DALLAS. In fact, it feels like there's an emotional link between this instalment, Sid's death, "Noises Everywhere" and the episodes of New DALLAS that deal with the aftermath of JR's passing - where a kind of reality slices through the gloss and melodrama and the story becomes somehow greater than the sum of its parts. (It feels as though Jock's death should fit into this group, but I'm not sure it does.)

    The way Bobby lays into Gary, telling him he has no courage, is still kind of shocking. It's the sort of thing Bobby could never say on DALLAS, where somehow his moral proximity to his eldest brother - making him perpetually the good guy to JR's villain - means that he must always defend Gary. There simply isn't the space on DALLAS for Bobby to express his own ambivalence. There's an interesting symmetry here in that the only person Val can admit her fear to isn't one of the KNOTS cast, but her trusted crossover brother-in-law.

    Bobby is written in a harsher, less obviously sympathetic way on "The Loudest Word" than he ever was on the original DALLAS, (even during the character's "dark" periods) and Patrick Duffy really steps up to the plate. I'm not sure the character ever feels as three-dimensional again - not until the opening episode of New DALLAS anyway.

    Abby appears only once in "The Loudest Word" when she, Laura and Karen drop by the hospital to see Val the night before her operation. At first glance unremarkable, this is actually a little gem of a scene where everyone puts on their brightest smiles and no one says what they're actually thinking. There now are so many unspoken nuances between these four women, whose relationships have quietly and suddenly become quite complex.

    There's no real attempt to absorb Bobby's KNOTS excursion into this week's DALLAS, where he's run off his ass with campaign strategies, political meetings and whatnot. Like Field's advisers a couple of weeks ago, Bobby's counsel suggest he play safe when speaking to the public, and steer clear of thorny issues like abortion and women's rights. Mention of the latter is kind of ironic given that Pam's role in the campaign has been reduced to that of coffee maker - but at least she does it resentfully.

    "Lover, Come Back" is one of those DALLAS episodes I've never quite got. Sue Ellen's discovery of Dusty alive but in a wheelchair, the revelation of his impotency, the weepy ending where he sends her away - it's always felt too overwrought, too soapy, too far removed from all the wheelin' and dealin' at Southfork and Ewing Oil. However, the DALLAS Decoder site has inadvertently provided me with "a way in" to this ep. I really liked the site's critique of "Prodigal Mother" which likened that episode to the Douglas Sirk women's pictures of the 1950s. Given the parallels between "Prodigal Mother", in which Pam ventures out of town for a bittersweet reunion with a previously dead loved one, and "Lover Come Back", where Sue Ellen does the same thing, I thought I'd see if the same Sirkian comparisons might apply - and they do. The superficial tropes are all present and correct - the fur coat, the runny mascara, the haughty maid and fancy house - as are the more crucial themes of female suffering, sacrifice and redemption. Suddenly, this episode makes sense to me - and it's only taken thirty-two years.

    And that brings me to another parallel: between "Lover, Come Back" and "The Loudest Word". In these episodes, Dusty and Val are each faced with a decidedly unglamorous, unsexy medical condition - impotence for him, a possible colostomy for her. (You wanna know how unsexy? Just watch how quickly Diana Fairgate - usually so keen to make issue-of-the-week stories all about her - exits stage left as soon as she hears the word "colostomy".) Can Sue Ellen and Gary surmount a lifetime of weakness ("My entire life up until this point has been a mockery," admits Sue Ellen; "You have no courage at all," Bobby tells Gary) to assume the burden of caring for a loved one?

    Aside from KNOTS, which resolves its story after Val gets the all clear, this week's soaps each end on, if not exactly a cliffhanger, then a note of tantalising uncertainty:

    At the fancy reception on FLAMINGO ROAD, Constance, having made her apologies to Lane through gritted teeth, takes to the dance floor with Field. So do Sam and Lane. As the two respectable looking couples glide dangerously close to one another, (the orchestra playing a saxed-up version of the title music) Field and Lane share a furtive glance over their partners' shoulders. At that precise moment, the frame freezes on the four of them.

    At the end of this week's DALLAS, Dusty asks Sue Ellen to leave and not come back. It might be intended as a noble, self-sacrificing gesture on his part, but the irony is that he's actually denying her the opportunity to become a better person. The camera freezes on Sue Ellen as she starts to walk away ... back to her self-described mockery of a life.

    Best of all is the final moment of this week's DYNASTY. In the midst of quoting Marlowe, Steven knocks a dish or two from the Blaisdel kitchen table, and he and Claudia find themselves kneeling on the floor gathering the broken crockery. (Here, I can't help but flash to an equivalent scene in a 1989 episode of BROOKSIDE: "I'm used to it, Billy - picking up the pieces.") The kiss that follows, between a gay young man and a non-judgemental older woman, comes as a genuine curveball, and yet it feels so wonderfully, illogically inevitable.

    And the winner is … KNOTS LANDING
    2nd: DYNASTY
    3rd: DALLAS
    4th: FLAMINGO ROAD.
     
  8. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    23/Feb/81: DYNASTY: The Bordello v. 26/Feb/81: KNOTS LANDING: Moments of Truth v. 27/Feb/81: DALLAS: The New Mrs. Ewing

    It's Bizarro Week in Soap Land - midgets become supermodels, suburban baby showers are gatecrashed by terrorists, and the first half of this week's DYNASTY is taken up by a long sequence where Walter and Steven visit a whorehouse in order to alleviate Steven of his "problem".

    DYNASTY's bordello resembles Lute-Mae's in FLAMINGO ROAD - a quaint Western saloon bar vibe with pretty girls in negligees hanging out on the balcony as if life as a sex worker were a never-ending slumber party. The atmosphere of both establishments is more homely than whorehouse, with nary a hint of violence or disinfectant. Given that these are typically sanitised Hollywood takes on prostitution, DYNASTY's has the edge in that its bordello proprietor, Lucy, embodies the "wise maternal madam" persona far more convincingly than the airhead that is Lute-Mae. Plus the scene between Steven and Sarah Pat is very sweet (and all the more interesting when you know she'll be back to bite him in the ass in the season finale), and there's some lovely character stuff with Walter. As with Pamela Sue Martin's pool playing in the pilot, those really are Dale Robertson's hands playing Mozart's "C Major Sonata" on the piano, accompanied by a nice little reminiscence abut his mother, akin to Michael's in last week's episode.

    A neat bit of soapy synchronicity: Last week, JR's financing of a (conveniently bloodless) coup in Southeast Asia resulted in Ewing Oil's and the cartel's wells being returned to them. This week, Denver Carrington's Saudi Arabian oil wells are nationalised - thus putting Blake in the exact same position that JR was in at the end of last season (give or take a zillion dollars or two). He subsequently exhibits a darker side to his personality - humiliating Steven, sabotaging Matthew's rig - which leaves Krystle seriously disillusioned. "How beautiful it is here," she broods, "and how ugly sometimes."

    Elsewhere, this DYNASTY episode is dotted with atypical behaviour, which only serves to make the characters more rounded and interesting. Fallon, having behaved outrageously towards everyone since the series began, exhibits a more tender side during a scene with Steven where she gently persuades him not to return to New York. Doris, Krystle's tactless former colleague whom we met at her bridal shower, proves to be more perceptive than one might have suspected when Krystle, feeling responsible for what Blake has done to Matthew, turns to her for help. "Which one of them are you in love with?" Doris asks. The biggest turn around of all is when Krystle then pawns a necklace bought for her by Blake and gives the money to Matthew to help him keep his business afloat. They end up kissing on his couch before she breaks free. "I can't give you anything else that belongs to him," she says.

    Is "Moments of Truth" the worst episode of KNOTS LANDING thus far? The women of the cul-de-sac trapped together in a hostage situation - it should work, and every time I watch it I think maybe, this time, it will ... but it never does. I can't exactly put my finger on why. I think it's to do with the direction - somehow we never really get a sense of time passing, so the tension doesn't build, and the climax, where Karen and Val grapple with one of their captors over a gun, is clumsily staged.

    Most perplexingly, the female characters are largely underused: Ginger whimpers, Val is relegated to hair-stroking duty, and Abby's description of Laura as "all teary-eyed and helpless" proves disappointingly accurate (that one slap notwithstanding). This leaves Karen free to emote as if it were an Olympic sport (when she's not secreting her wedding ring in various bodily crevices) - and it falls to wicked, wicked Abby to man up and show some genuine guts. If the episode belongs to anyone, it's Donna Mills.

    Holed up at the Averys' house, the cul-de-sac men politely take it in turn to go nuts. Kenny flips out first. Then Gary gets his macho out of the hall closet and flattens a pushy reporter (is there any other kind in Soap Land - Elmo Tyson notwithstanding?). Finally, Richard and Sid have a shouting match which is quite good.

    The bad guys in "Moment of Truth" remind me a lot of the trio who kidnapped Bobby in the first season of DALLAS. Both gangs are a one-girl/two-boys combo, with the woman, in each case a flinty-eyed red-head who has a sexual history with at least one of the men, clearly in charge. It's kind of a Ma Barker/Baader-Meinhof Mash Up - with the added implication that poor, plain-looking women are inevitably eaten up with resentment towards their wealthier, better-looking counterparts. "I bet your wife's hands don't look like these," snarled Bobby's kidnapper Fay in DALLAS. "People like you," sneers Rose, Fay's KNOTS equivalent, "rich pretty privileged people, you buy what you want. People like me, we never could and it gets harder every day."

    In other bizarro news, Lucy Ewing Cooper becomes DALLAS's next top model despite not knowing what a portfolio is. Having landed the job, she spends the rest of the episode communicating solely via high-pitched squeals and burbles. Meanwhile, Uncle Bobby becomes a state senator less than two weeks after taking up politics as a career. His first order of business? To hire his family's arch nemesis, Cliff Barnes, as his legal counsel. While this makes no real world sense, it at least sets a precedent for Bobby inviting Cliff to join Ewing Oil in Season 11.

    "The New Mrs. Ewing" is Dr. Elby's penultimate episode and his advice to Sue Ellen seems to signal a turning point for her character: "Trust your instincts. Put the past where it belongs. It's time to move on." So far, Sue Ellen's idea of moving on amounts to initiating a motel room affair with a married man, but hey - it's early days.

    The most fun bits of this week's DALLAS: Leslie sabotaging a meeting between JR and the cartel (which now includes Marilee) and a couple of classic soundbites from Ellie and Jock: "You both sicken me!" and "I am Takapa!" The latter comes during a family gathering to mark Ray and Donna's nuptials - the fifth Soap Land wedding in nine weeks. "Welcome to the Ewin' family, Donna," Sue Ellen smirks after Jock's outburst. Good to see her "new start" doesn't yet preclude making ironic asides during cocktail hour.

    And the winner is … DYNASTY
    2nd: DALLAS
    3rd: KNOTS LANDING
     
  9. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    02/Mar/81: DYNASTY: Krystle's Lie/The Necklace v. 03/Mar/81: FLAMINGO ROAD: Trapped

    This DYNASTY double bill is presented as one movie length episode, but is in fact two separate instalments welded together - sort of the TV scheduling equivalent of one of those cut-and-shut car jobs that occasionally kill people on EASTENDERS.

    Lucy Ewing's pill-popping pal Annie from DALLAS Season 1 resurfaces here as Lindsay Blaisdel's school friend Tonia - making her somehow four years younger than she was back then. (Blame the drugs.) Like Lucy in "John Ewing III", Lindsay attends a party at Annie/Tonia's house, but it's a far tamer affair this time round - strictly potato chips and ping pong, with no little white pills to make your eyes roll back in your head, your limbs go floppy or render you hysterical with mirth every time you say the word "milk".

    "Krystle's Lie" is all about discoveries - Lindsay learning that she was conceived out of wedlock, Matthew figuring out that Ed is the real saboteur in his crew, Claudia receiving confirmation of Matthew's affair with Krystle, and Blake finding Krystle's secret stash of birth control pills. This final discovery leads to a confrontation between husband and wife culminating in rape. There's none of the "he kissed her till she liked it" ambiguity of JR and Sue Ellen's more volatile bedroom scenes - this is clearly an act of violence predicated on physical strength (as opposed to threat and mental coercion, which would be JR's later approach with Holly Harwood and Laurel Ellis). Probably because both characters are familiar to us, the scene feels somehow even more brutal than the one between Laura and her attacker in "The Lie". Other than that, the actions are the same - man grabs woman, pins her down, rips her clothing and forces himself on her.

    In the early part of this week's second episode, "The Necklace", Blake apologises profusely to Krystle for the "something terrible" he did the previous night, (the word "rape" is never used) and after some initial coldness, she forgives him. This is the first time I have watched the two episodes as originally broadcast - i.e., as one - which means the rape and apology both occur within the same fifteen screen minutes. Given that the matter is never directly spoken of again, the criticism I have read of the storyline being too easily resolved now seems understandable. However, this is not a storyline about rape in isolation. Instead, it's part of the larger story of Blake and Krystle's relationship, and that is far from over.

    It's interesting that this first example of Blake's violent streak should come in the same episode that Ted Dinard's death is foreshadowed twice: first when he declares that he loves Steven more than his own life, and again during Fallon's brilliant speech informing him that "Steven comes from a world where culls and cripples and homosexuals are taken behind the barn and slaughtered before they can be given a chance to breed."

    More foreshadowing: a couple of references to Steven and Fallon's mother, and her unexplained absence from their lives since they were children. This is the first time she's been referred to since the pilot episode. (I wonder if viewers of New DALLAS unfamiliar with the original series felt the same sense of Pam's ghostly presence hanging over the first season of that show as we do of Alexis's here?)

    In "The Necklace", Claudia crimps her hair and treads a similar path to the one taken by Laura in "The Lie". She pays a visit to a singles bar, not unlike the one Laura frequented, only with brighter lighting and a dance floor playing the sort of sucky disco music Bobby and Pam boogied to in "Lessons". Her equivalent of Laura's pick-up is smoother and less arty (and ultimately less dangerous). Following a La Mirage style drinks-and-dancing montage, they end up driving back to his place. In the parking lot, Claudia has second thoughts, he turns mean, they struggle and she manages to get away.

    There are some long overdue showdowns in Soap Land this week. Matthew faces Blake down in his office at Denver Carrington, and we learn what their business feud is really all about - Krystle. And a week after Laura finally stood up to Abby about her affair with Richard, albeit in a roundabout way, ("You are such a slut") Claudia screws her courage to the sticking-place and confronts Krystle point blank: "I think you and my husband slept together while I was in the hospital."

    Ironically, given DALLAS's reputation as the grittier of the two oil-based soaps (the one with dirty fingernails, if you will), DYNASTY is the show more interested in depicting the day-to-day struggles of life on an oil rig, and this week provides Soap Land with its first on screen oil strike. (In fact, I'm struggling to think of many more that occur before the opening scene of New DALLAS.) It's an impressive sight - and I love the bit in the celebration bar scene that follows where Walter silences a bunch of beer-swilling, cigar-chomping roughnecks with a reprise of his Mozart in C Major piano piece from last week's episode. It's a very sweet and funny moment.

    When Matthew returns home from celebrating with the guys, he finds a heartbroken Lindsay sitting at the kitchen table. "Am I a bastard?" she asks tearfully. No sooner does he deal with that zinger than she comes up with an even harder question, regarding her mother: "Do you love her more than anything?" He can't answer. "This could be the happiest night of my life," he proclaims in an earlier scene, and it almost is, but these pesky secrets from his and Claudia's past keep coming back to haunt them and their daughter in the present, conspiring to prevent them from all being happy at the same time. As DYNASTY's first season progresses, it increasingly feels like there's nowhere for its characters to hide - yet even as their secrets are laid bare, new ones are created to take their place:

    Claudia and Fallon both become adulterers this week, and Fallon is Soap Land's second newlywed in as many months to cheat on their spouse with an old flame. It took Field Carlyle three episodes of wedded bliss to get back in the sack with Lane Ballou. Fallon manages to hold out for a week longer before "slumming" it with Michael the chauffeur while Jeff is away on unspecified business in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Claudia winds up in bed with Steven. "You have a beautiful gentleness about you," she tells him as they lie in each other's arms at the end of the double episode, "a tenderness that transcends gender." While that might not be the verdict most men are hoping to hear after their first time, it's probably as much as Steven can realistically expect.

    There's a potency in the title of this week's FLAMINGO ROAD. "Trapped" could apply to any number of soap characters (including a whole bunch of Blaisdels and Carringtons). Here, it chiefly pertains to Skipper Weldon. Skipper, like Steven Carrington, is the blond firstborn son of a rich family who rebels against everything his father stands for - but although Skipper and Steven's principles prevent them from working for their family businesses, they each continue to reap the rewards of the lifestyles they were born into. Poor Steven is so sensitive that, according to Fallon, his biorhythms have screwed up the workings of his digital watch, and so he must seek refuge from this material world … at his family's luxury cabin on Manchester Lake. Meanwhile, Skipper shows his man-of-the-people credentials by hanging out with the working class of Truro at Lute-Mae's ... but when he's stopped for drunk driving, he fully expects the sheriff to overlook it because of his family name. The crucial difference between the two characters is while Steven is complex and well acted, Skipper is just a bit wet and whiny - plus he looks and acts like a THUNDERBIRDS puppet.

    In "Trapped", Skipper makes a bid for freedom by accepting a job as newspaper copy boy in New Orleans. As with Jock and Miss Ellie, the idea of one of their children moving away is almost unthinkable for Claude and Eudora Weldon. But while the scene in "A House Divided" where Bobby tells his parents he's leaving Southfork somehow strikes right at the heart of the Ewing mythology, here Eudora's amusingly hysterical reaction lacks any kind of gravitas. As a result, she appears less the stately matriarch than a complete flake.

    Just as Bobby was summoned home after JR's shooting, so Skipper's plans are also thwarted by a family medical emergency. In this case, it's one inadvertently caused by Skipper himself. After an argument with Claude, Skipper prangs his truck, causing a load of boxes to fall on top of his father. (Yeah, it's as lame as it sounds). Full of remorse, Skipper meekly agrees to remain at home and run the mill while Claude recuperates from his injuries.

    "I almost got away," he sighs in the episode's final, and most interesting, scene where he and brother-in-law Field, still "living the life my father wanted me to live", ruefully discuss the similarities of their situations: familial burdens, legacies laid down for them by their fathers - all that good soapy stuff that still fuels DALLAS even today.

    Interestingly, this week's DYNASTY and FLAMINGO ROAD each make reference to the American Dream:

    Matthew: "The day of the old tycoon, the oil baron, is over. And like them, you don't have any values anymore. You don't give a damn about anybody or anything."
    Blake: "Oh come on Matthew. You're talking about America, the American Dream - laissez faire, mother, apple pie, petroleum."

    Juan Lopez: "My men are proud. They do not take money for nothing."
    Titus: "Why not? It's the American Dream."

    The sheer cynicism on display here reminds me of this observation from Julie Burchill's introduction to the UK reissue of "Valley of the Dolls", the kitsch-classic 60's novel by Jacqueline Susann: Like many mainstream entertainments, "Valley of the Dolls" is far more critical of the American Dream than many avowedly "subversive" projects. As DALLAS showed American big business to be corrupt and filthy through and through, so DOLLS protractedly and minutely picks apart the "magic" of show business.

    (And on the subject of '60s potboilers, Betty Anderson's mother Julie from the early days of PEYTON PLACE shows up in FLAMINGO ROAD in the teeny tiny role of a nurse.)

    And the winner is … DYNASTY.
     
  10. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    09/Mar/81: DYNASTY: The Beating v. 09-10/Mar/81: FLAMINGO ROAD: Bad Girl/Secrets v. 12/Mar/81: KNOTS LANDING: Man of the Hour v. 13/Mar/81: DALLAS: Mark of Cain

    This week, Steven Carrington succeeds where Bobby Ewing and Skipper Weldon failed: he moves out of the family home - and what's more, his father approves. "A young man shouldn't be tied umbilically to the place where he was born," says Blake, even if the unspoken laws of Soap Land dictate otherwise. Admittedly, it helps that Steven simultaneously announces his intentions to start working for the family business - which Skipper also does in "Bad Girl", the first of this week's two FLAMINGO ROAD eps.

    Steven explains to Blake that he wants to become a man with dirty fingernails: "I want to do it the way you did it. I want to get my hands real dirty. I want my muscles to ache. I want to sweat and get dog tired and then come falling in to bed at night knowing that I'm learning, really learning this business the way you did."

    What brings about this change of heart in Steven isn't entirely spelled out, but is clearly linked to his relationship with Claudia. It's as if finding out he's capable of sex with a woman has made Steven believe he's also worthy of becoming his father's heir. Indeed, he seems to be in love not just with Claudia, but also his newly discovered heterosexuality. For the first time, he is able to speak of his future as one of growth and possibility: "Next spring, up at the lake, when this tree I planted begins to show off her leaves, prettier and greener than any single leaf in England, I want you to be there," he tells Claudia during a bedroom scene. Ironically, Al Corley has never looked more feminine than when lying in Pamela Bellwood's arms. At one point, it looks as if Claudia is sharing a post-coital moment with Kim Wilde.

    "The Beating" contains the most moving scene in DYNASTY thus far where Matthew asks Claudia away on a belated honeymoon. By this point, he knows that she knows about his affair with Krystle, but neither can bring themselves to speak of it. He explains that the trip is an attempt to make up for hurting her in the past. What he doesn't realise is that the damage has already been done and Claudia is now sleeping with Steven. There is no anger in the scene, only sadness and regret. At different points, each character is in tears, but still don't say what's really on their minds.

    While on vacation, Claudia and Matthew run into Brian Dennehy, completing his trilogy of Soap Land characters. Previously Luther Frick in DALLAS and Lynn Baker Cargill in KNOTS LANDING, here he's Jake Dunham, an old college football pal of Matthew's turned lawyer. In just a few week's time, Jake will be doing his best to put Blake Carrington away for murder. Points to DYNASTY for tying him into the story ahead of time. Which other soap would make the effort? I can think of only one - PEYTON PLACE.

    One of PEYTON PLACE's great strengths was its flexible structure, in particular, its ability to expand at will, to include never-before-seen characters and locations that we willingly accept were part of the town all along. FLAMINGO ROAD pulls off something similar this week when Skipper takes over his father's position at the mill, and we're straightaway introduced to three characters who have apparently worked there for years - secretary Alice Kovacks, who has nursed a secret crush on Skipper's father for over a decade (echoes of Julie Anderson's relationship with her boss on PEYTON PLACE), Alice's gold digging younger sister Christie (aka Linda the Lady Mechanic from KNOTS who has evidently crossed over to the dark side following Sid Fairgate's rejection of her four weeks earlier) and Christie's horny, possessive boyfriend Tony.

    Christie is a blast - a hundred times more fun than she ever was as mousy little Linda - and brings a much needed element of dime-store novel sleaze to FLAMINGO ROAD. She immediately makes a bee-line for Skipper who is sap enough to fall for her little girl lost routine. Alice disapproves, but Christie doesn't care. "Now I've found him, I've got a shot at Flamingo Road," she says. Like the similarly named Kristin on DALLAS, she delights in taunting her big sister about how she won't make the same mistakes she did: "I'm not gonna be like you, Alice, growing old by myself in some mail order dress. I'm gonna be a Weldon."

    A wayward sister also pops up on KNOTS LANDING - Ginger's youngest sibling Cindy. "She's got rules and regulations and those rules become a prison," says Kenny of his whacko mother-in-law, thereby explaining why Ginger's sisters feel the need to cut loose each time they visit the cul-de-sac.

    The theme of characters being imprisoned - by birth, marriage or circumstance - continues to recur heavily in Soap Land this week. "You make the Weldon house sound like some kind of prison," observes Christie while talking to Field. "The only difference is that the spoons there are made out of sterling silver," he replies.

    Jeff Colby finds himself locked in the same kind of prison as Field this week. Taking a leaf out of Steven's book, he proposes to Fallon that they too move out of the Carrington mansion. Her refusal to even entertain the idea causes Mr. Affable to lose his temper for the very first time. "Most of all, you love your father," he shouts, "so why did you marry me? Why didn't you marry him?" This echoes Andrew Laird's line to Fallon earlier in the season ("Most little girls realise by the age of six that they can't grow up and marry their daddies") and sends her running barefoot from the house … and into the arms of Michael the chauffeur. Later in the episode, Michael is driving a limo containing Fallon and Krystle when he is set upon by two nameless henchmen who give him the beating of this week's episode title. "You know the rules," Michael murmurs to Fallon afterwards as a bewildered Krystle looks on. "I broke the rules. I had it coming." Fallon subsequently confronts her father ("You just can't go around beating up every man in Colorado I sleep with!") who orders her to make her marriage work.

    Elsewhere, we see Lindsay running away from her parents after learning of Claudia's affair with Steven, only for Matthew to catch up with her in order to bring her home. It's hard to think of two DYNASTY characters with less in common than Fallon and Lindsay, but in this ep we see each of them literally running from the truth, only to find themselves back where they started.

    It's interesting how disco dancing is depicted in Soap Land. What in reality began as an underground movement in about 1970 and was later co-opted (around the time of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER) by the real-life equivalents of Jeff and Abby Cunningham and the adventurous suburban marrieds of SWING TOWN no longer has anything to do with any sort of social or sexual subversion (Claudia's whirl around the dance floor with creepy Lawrence in last week's DYNASTY notwithstanding) and has instead become the sole province of white upwardly mobile couples. On KNOTS, it's the way the neighbours choose to celebrate Gary's promotion in "Bottom of the Bottle" and how Kenny schmoozes his contacts in the record business. On DALLAS, it's a harmless way for respectable young couples, Bobby and Pam and then Lucy and Kit, to spend their evenings out. And now that Matthew and Claudia are officially on the up, thanks to his oil strike, they also get a chance to shake their booties, alongside ambitious attorney Jake Dunham and his materialistic wife Louise.

    On FLAMINGO ROAD, it's a slightly different story. For all the talk of non-stop partying at Lute-Mae's, Lane Ballou's covers of MOR standards (more often than not with the word "blue" in the title) are usually as funky as it gets. This week, having been abruptly dumped by Skipper when her slut credentials are verified by the bartender, Christie hits the jukebox and embarks on some of the most libidinous gyrating this side of Betty Anderson in PEYTON PLACE. Meanwhile, the resident hookers, who include DALLAS's Dora Mae, watch from the sidelines with prim disapproval.

    There are a few big marital explosions in this week's Soap Land. As well as Jeff and Fallon's first fight, Matthew erupts when Lindsay fails to return home and all his festering resentments regarding Claudia falling pregnant when they were teenagers come boiling to the surface. His dialogue rings painfully true: "Isn't that what you tell your shrink? That it was both our faults, that we helped take away the best years of your life?" he yells at Claudia. "That's not true," she protests. "Then what is?! That I didn't suffer enough? That the boy doesn't suffer??" Meanwhile on F'LINGO RD, Field, mistakenly believing that Lane and Sam have eloped, has the mother of all fights with Constance, striking her across the face and knocking her to the floor. He heads to Lute-Mae's to drown his sorrows and in a fab little twist, it is he rather than Skipper, who ends up in bed with Christie.

    In this week's KNOTS, Karen finds a joint in Eric's pocket. "When I was a kid, we were taught that marijuana led to drug addiction," recalls Sid. "Then the pendulum swung in the totally opposite direction. Everybody called it harmless." This attitude is reflected in the stance taken by Blake a few weeks earlier with regard to Fallon and Jeff's weed-induced skinny dip. "Perfectly acceptable in this house," he shrugged. It's not so easy for Sid: "I feel betrayed by my own son." The scene where Eric waits in vain for Sid to provide him with some sort of comfort or reassurance after Ginger's sister ends up in a coma (thanks to Eric Stoltz lacing another joint with PCP) is just heartbreaking, even more so when one remembers that Sid has but a few episodes to live.

    However, the episode's best scene is where Abby, convinced that Jeff has abducted her kids, turns to the Averys for help - and finds Laura more sympathetic than Richard. Really good.

    DALLAS feels kinda muddled this week. Much of the episode is given over to Bobby dealing with the fact that he has an inherited a seat on the senatorial committee that will determine who gets Takapa - Jock or Ellie. The obvious conflict of interest does not prohibit his participation. The far-fetchedness of this scenario doesn't worry me - it's no more implausible than Miss Ellie rewriting her will from beyond the grave - but the concept of Bobby as an earnest politician is harder to accept. The idea that he has any kind of social awareness that stretches beyond the confines of Ewing Oil and Southfork just doesn't ring true for me. As he said at JR's graveside, his role as the good brother was always defined by JR's as the bad: that's all he knows.

    The funniest bit of the episode is Mitch returning home to find a camera crew in his living room and Lucy dressed as Little Jimmy Osmond. And isn't that Sheriff Titus's future KNOTS LANDING bastard son Steve Brewer ogling Lucy's cleavage on a magazine cover? This isn't the only interest displayed by the media in the Ewings this week: Louella fields a call from the Wall Street Journal following the release of Ewing Oil's pro-ecology, anti-strip mining policy statement. This plot development has never made sense to me. I get Leslie using reverse psychology on JR by sabotaging his meeting with the cartel, but this statement is reverse psychology with back-flips. Other unexplained weirdnesses: Sue Ellen appearing to drink champagne during an afternoon tryst with Clint, Pam and Ray both referring to "Ellie" without the prefix of "Miss", and Herbert Wentworth conveniently dropping dead so that Rebecca can be reunited with Pam - but without anyone in Dallas having heard of this captain of industry's demise which took place two months earlier.

    And the winner is … DYNASTY
    2nd: FLAMINGO ROAD
    3rd: KNOTS LANDING
    4th: DALLAS.
     
  11. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    Dynasty is winning a lot! I think that should be noted:)
     
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  12. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    16/Mar/81: DYNASTY: The Birthday Party v. 17/Mar/81: FLAMINGO ROAD: They Drive By Night/Hell Hath No Fury v. 19/Mar/81: KNOTS LANDING: More Than Friends

    Once again, DYNASTY leads the way on the cultural reference front with Julius Caesar, Marie Osmond, Jonathan Swift, Ben Jonson and Goldie Hawn all getting a look-in. KNOTS LANDING comes a close second with shout-outs for Henry Higgins, Gloria Steinem, Flannery O'Connor and Carson McCullers - plus there's a poster on a classroom wall for a production of "Equus". (Seems the spirit of David Crane is alive and well at Knots Landing High.) FLAMINGO ROAD's one concession to the outside world, aside from name-checking the Mayo Clinic, is an intriguing bit of advice Titus offers Field: "Read the mood of this country. Morality is becoming a respectable word again."

    In the first scene of "The Birthday Party", Michael gets his revenge for the beating he took last week by telling Blake about the necklace Krystle pawned to bail out Matthew. Later, we see a clearly preoccupied Blake getting beaten at pool by Joseph. "Your mind doesn't seem to be on your game today, Mr Carrington," Joseph observes. "I seem to find myself surrounded by people I can't trust," Blake replies. Then Krystle appears and a plan begins to formulate in Blake's mind. "I think we ought to have a birthday party for Cecil," he tells her. "Would you wear the emerald necklace I bought for you?" Krystle nervously agrees. After she leaves, the men resume their game and Blake wins with ease. "You seem to have turned your [game] around," Joseph remarks.

    There is an equivalent scene in "They Drive By Night", the first FLAMINGO ROAD instalment of the week (boy, NBC were really burning through these episodes back in the day). Titus is playing chess with an unseen opponent, with whom he apparently communicates by letter. (Whereas Blake at least has a paid servant to hang out with, Titus has no direct human contact at all.) He is puzzling over his competitor's latest move when he receives a telephone call regarding his ongoing scheme to rid Truro of Lane Ballou once and for all. It's good news. After hanging up, he looks at the chess board, chuckles and moves a piece. "Checkmate," he announces triumphantly. I guess what the two scenes illustrate is that Blake and Titus are strategists who see everything in terms of winning and losing.

    The weather is bad in Soap Land this week - appropriately so. The storm raging outside Steven's apartment when Ted asks if he can spend the night articulates Steven's turbulent emotions in a way he himself is unable to. Similarly, when Krystle visits the pawnbroker at the end of the episode to buy back her necklace, only to learn he has sold it, the dramatic rainstorm we see through the window tells us more about how she is feeling that she is free to express in that moment.

    Rain pours and thunder rumbles throughout "They Drive By Night" as well - the turbulent weather a fitting backdrop for Field and Constance's tempestuous marriage and the thunder evoking a sense of impending doom as Slade - the creepy Harry Dean Stanton-meets-Andy Warhol assassin who has been hunting Lane Ballou for the past five episodes - edges ever nearer to his prey. Slade is also responsible for Soap Land's grimmest death to date when he casually executes recurring character Frank Coyne, who has bridged the gap between Lane's past and present since the pilot episode, in a seedy motel room.

    This use of natural elements to mirror characters' emotions is known as "pathetic fallacy". According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, pathetic fallacy is the "poetic practice of attributing human emotion and conduct to all aspects within nature" - or as writer Grace Dent once put it, "Now and then someone on EASTENDERS remembers the concept of pathetic fallacy and turns on a bloody big hose." A cliché then, but an undoubtedly effective one.

    Just as the story of Sue Ellen's alcoholism culminated in a near tragic car accident at the end of DALLAS's first season, so Field's drinking seems to be following a similar pattern. Claude and Eudora finally address their son-in-law's booze problem in an equivalent scene to the one that took place between Jock, Ellie and JR in the first part of "John Ewing III" - but unlike JR, Constance won't hear of her spouse being sent to a clinic.

    While the Weldons discuss Field, he is driving whilst drunk with Christie in the passenger seat. Needless to say, it is raining heavily and, just as inevitably, the car crashes and Christie is seriously injured. Faster than you can say Chappaquiddick, the senator abandons the scene and calls Sheriff Titus for help. Titus then rearranges the evidence to make it appear that Christie was driving and Field is as innocent as a new born lamb. (We learn in the following episode that Christie has survived the accident, but has been left with "a face that would scare a lust-crazed sailor," as Titus delicately puts it.) A distraught Field turns to Lane Ballou who drops everything to rush to his side - much to the chagrin of Sam Curtis, who was just about to propose.

    Next week's instalment of DALLAS is the first (of sixty-two) directed by Michael Preece, but this week he makes his Soap Land debut helming "They Drive By Night" - and in this episode, he captures what is for me the quintessential Soap Land look, (prior to Invasion of the Pastels, anyhow) whereby the classic Hollywood glamour and opulence of the 1950s (think Douglas Sirk's women's pictures) is tempered by the low-budget pulp fiction mise-en-scène of film noir. (It's surely no coincidence that this episode title is a play on 1940 noir classic THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT.) This soap-noir look is most clearly illustrated in the final scene of the episode, where Constance finds Field embracing Lane in the darkness of his late father's house. While Donna Mills has been busy flirting with the neighbours and balancing the books at Knots Landing Motors, Morgan Fairchild has been quietly pioneering the classic soap diva look of big hair, thick eye makeup and lipgloss, shiny dresses and twinkly earrings. Speaking purely visually, at this point Constance Weldon rates higher on the Abby scale than Abby does. In this scene, all of Constance's glamour is framed within and contrasted against the dark shadows and lurid, looming close-ups of Preece's camera. Meanwhile, she hisses the kind of dialogue that strikes at the vengeful, passionate heart of Soap Land delirium: "You bastard, I'll never forgive you for this! … I swear on my life, I'll see you both in hell!"

    I swear on my life, I'd completely forgotten - if I even realised it to begin with - how much fun FLAMINGO ROAD could be. Surely the second of this week's double bill, "Hell Hath No Fury …", will prove an anti-climax? But no, the fallout from Field and Lane's reunion means that most everyone is at each other's throats, even former BFFs Lane and Lute-Mae. And once again, Field Carlyle proves he has much in common with Jeff Colby. Each is a newlywed whose marriage this week is revealed to have been predicated on a lie.

    Fallon to Jeff on the real reason she married him: "Because your uncle promised to bail out my father if I did."
    Field to his in-laws on Constance: "I don't love her, I never did and I never should have married her."

    Jeff and Field both have fathers-in-law with whom they have gotten on famously - until now. "Blake Carrington I never did like very much," Jeff drunkenly reveals to a table full of dinner guests at his Uncle Cecil's birthday party, before going on to insult his own wife - just as Field does in front of his father-in-law: "You wanna know the real problem, Claude? … You. You spoiled her rotten. No man could stand her self-centred, wilful, constant manipulation … You've pampered her, given into her, let her walk right over you." Claude's outraged-Southern-gentleman response is simply too much fun: "You ungrateful adulterous drunk! … He's no kin to me. I'm gonna git you, Carlyle!" Conversely, Field's scene with Eudora, where he prepares to move out of his in-laws' house and she speaks of marriage in terms of honour, commitment and duty, is probably FLAMINGO ROAD's first genuinely poignant moment.

    Cecil's birthday party is the DYNASTY equivalent of the first Ewing barbecue - a family gathering where almost everything that can go wrong does. Back then, it took the combined efforts of Jock, Digger, JR and Sue Ellen getting drunk and running off at the mouth to ruin the party. In this case, Jeff does the same thing almost singlehandedly, first by monopolising his uncle's girlfriend and then delivering the mother of all toasts where he annihilates each member of "this emerald studded zoo of ours" in turn. It's probably the character's finest moment.

    "Hell Hath No Fury …" (FL'INGO RD) and "More Than Friends" (KNOTS) both ask the same question: What happens when a man who's been cheated on runs into the wife of the man who cuckolded him? If you're Sam Curtis, you rescue Constance Weldon from a couple of would-be gang bangers in a bar (imagine the scene where Bobby and Ray save a drunken Sue Ellen from those cowboys, and then factor in a flick knife). If you're Earl Trent, you find yourself teaching a creative writing class that includes Val Ewing, then you make her cry by trashing her essay in front of her classmates ("puerile ... a rehashing of the most outdated cliches") before apologising and planting the seed in both Val's and the viewers' minds for the first time that she might just have what it takes to be a genuine writer.

    Both double acts then move up a gear: Sam and Constance retire to a motel to engage in a spot of revenge sex. (In a parallel world once-removed, this is Mark Graison and Jenna Wade doing the nasty - which feasibly could have happened had Mark and Bobby ever been alive at the same time after "Swan Song"). Meanwhile, Earl attempts something similar by luring Val to his apartment and then locking the door behind them ... (My, what a busy month it's been for Val: two hostage situations, surgery to remove a malignant growth, and she still finds time to complete her writing assignment and arrange a visually pleasing fruit salad for Gary - and all without a word of complaint. Not so much Poor Val as Stoic Val.) Actually, the teacher-student section of Earl and Val's story is the more interesting. Once the story tips over into melodrama, both characters become so highly strung they kind of cancel each other out.

    Another question is posed on this week's KNOTS: "Can a man and woman who work well together remain just friends?" Given that the couples surveyed are Gary and Abby, and Laura and Scooter, the long-term answer would seem to be, "No, they can't." The Averys get the bigger slice of the subplot pie, and while Scooter's temporary head transplant is a tad distracting, there's some great interplay - both dramatic and light - between Richard and Laura. I'm not sure the similarities between the Pleshette/McCashin and Woody Allen/Diane Keaton partnerships are ever more apparent than during the bedtime exchange in this episode's penultimate scene.

    And the winner is … FLAMINGO ROAD
    2nd: DYNASTY
    3rd: KNOTS LANDING
     
  13. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    23/Mar/81: DYNASTY: The Separation v. 26/Mar/81: KNOTS LANDING: Designs/Squeezeplay v. 27/Mar/81: DALLAS: The Gathering Storm

    This week on Soap Land, everything's going to hell in a hand cart. Jock and Krystle walk out on their respective marriages, Blake kills Ted, Sid goes over a cliff and JR and Abby indulge in the first recorded case of inter-soap intercourse (well, since Kristin and Kenny anyway).

    The logistics of Ted's struggle with Blake and his instantaneous demise upon head-butting the fireplace fender aren't wholly convincing, but it doesn't really matter. By this point, Ted's death is almost a foregone conclusion. It's previously been established that "Steven comes from a world where culls, cripples and homosexuals are taken out behind a barn and slaughtered before they get a chance to breed." This week, we hear more about this world: "You're so many different people," Krystle tells Blake, "gentle and sensitive one minute, treacherous and brutal the next. Maybe you have to be that way to survive in your world." It appears to be a similar world to the one inhabited by Cliff Barnes. "His world only knows givers and takers and he wants to be a taker," says Pam of her brother in this week's DALLAS. Ted isn't a taker. Nor is he treacherous and brutal. What he is is awkward and gawky (watch him squirm and lie badly as Blake quizzes him about his time at Princeton), maybe a little smug and prissy, (hear how he puts down Denver for its lack of a metropolitan opera house) but fundamentally he's loving and decent. "I wanted you to be wretched, someone I could hate," he tells Claudia helplessly, "but I can't." "I didn't invite you into this house," Steven protests when Ted follows him out to the mansion as if the same rules that govern vampires should also apply to homosexuals. But by entering "my father's house," Ted has transgressed the laws of Soap Land and must pay the price.

    Blake and Krystle aren't the only couple separating in "The Separation". Steven finishes with both Ted and Claudia (although he neglects to inform Claudia), and Krystle and Matthew share one last kiss before she sets sail for Ohio. Of those who remain behind, Claudia wants to leave, but can't. In an achingly poignant scene at the drill site, she asks Matthew if they can go "somewhere far away from here … I just wanna make a fresh start." "Claudia, look around you here," Matthew replies, patient but perplexed, "this is the fresh start." "Not for me," she replies sadly. This a really lovely, mostly sad episode, with camera work and music that give it a full-blooded, cinematic feel. Somewhat incongruously, it's also our first indication of just how bloody weird a character Joseph is. His outburst about Blake, his master, in front of the other servants -- "it OFFENDS ME to see him hurting!" -- never fails to make me laugh.

    "Designs" and "Squeezeplay" make for an interestingly odd KNOTS double bill. Ironically for such a diverse show, they have more or less the same plot. "Designs" serves as a re-enactment of the stolen parts storyline thus far - Abby and Gary deceive Sid, supposedly for his own benefit, (this time patenting his engine design behind his back) with help from JR - as well as foreshadowing what is about to happen in the very next episode - Karen's suspicions aroused by Gary and Abby's behaviour, Sid stubbornly refusing to believe that either his sister or best friend would do him harm. One distinction between the two episodes is Larry Hagman's Special Guest Appearance in "Designs". He even gets the freeze frame.

    "Squeezeplay", in which the stolen parts plot returns with the FBI hot on its tail, gives us the same scenario again: something's afoot at Knots Landing Motors, Karen's suspicious, Sid is trusting, and Gary, Abby and JR (now in absentia) are all involved. In fact, the familiarity of the story lulls us into a false sense of security. The first half of the episode is quite funny, almost a caper, with Karen and Richard breaking into the KLM offices after hours. Then all of sudden, everyone's in serious trouble, with the law and with each other. ("What's terrible is where we are now," exclaims a bewildered Val.) Increasingly preoccupied with the subplot of her missing children, Abby has never seemed more sympathetic and relatable - but when confronted about her involvement with the stolen parts scam, she brazenly lies her way out of trouble and, shockingly, pins all the blame on Gary. Throughout this season, Donna Mills has done a brilliant job of keeping the audience off balance. Just when we think we've got a handle on Abby, she turns around and surprises us again.

    Once the FBI get involved, the episode starts to move very fast - major developments that might take weeks on another soap are dealt with in a few scenes: suddenly Gary has turned himself into the authorities, Sid is taking part in a sting operation, Roy and Frank are arrested, and the FBI are checking the Fairgates' mail for bombs. The story manages to be low-key, matter of fact, and insidiously tense all at the same time.

    Watching in hindsight, the last five minutes are horrible - Abby imploding when she hears Jeff's tape, then Sid taking his last drive with Salmaggio: the small talk, the brakes failing, the shot of the beach rising up to meet them as they go over the cliff and Sid's cry of "Oh my God!" continuing in our ears even after the screen has frozen on his stricken, open-mouthed expression.

    By this point in DALLAS, Jim Davis's decline is unavoidable and poignant to watch, but in a way that adds to the sadness of Jock and Ellie's separation. Miss Ellie might be, as Donna describes her, "a very bitter woman," but she is also a very sad one. Although she has been married to Jock for forty-five years at this point (by Ray's calculations anyway) and Krystle to Blake for only eleven episodes, there is a parallel between the two women. "I love him, I always will," Miss Ellie tells Donna, "but I can't put up with the Ewing ways any longer, never knowing if what he says is true." "I've loved you, Blake. I've loved you the best I could," whispers a tearful Krystle to her sleeping husband, "but I can't live with the suspicion, I can't live with the rage."

    Now we're over the credibility hump of Bobby serving on the senate committee that will rule on Takapa, his situation within the context of the family becomes interesting again. He even attempts to re-enact the bedroom scene in "A House Divided" where he tells Pam they may have to leave Dallas. This time, however, Pam objects, explaining that she has just been reunited with her mother. As with a lot of things to do with Rebecca, there's a strange detachment in Bobby's reaction. He's pleased for Pam and all, but in the same way he'd be if she'd just been contacted by an old school friend on Facebook - he doesn't even embrace her - and by the end of the scene, he's back to talking about his own problems again. Similarly, Rebecca displays an odd sense of entitlement regarding her relationship with Cliff. That he might not want to see the mother who abandoned him as a child seems not to occur to her until they're face to face. However, Victoria Principal is lovely in the scene where she gently warns Rebecca about the consequences of exposing Cliff to all the Wentworth money and power. Everything she predicts will come true in the next season, and then come true again tenfold in New DALLAS.

    "The Gathering Storm", with its several disparate storylines, lacks the end-of-season tunnel vision of this week's DYNASTY and KNOTS, but nevertheless ends on an exciting note, with JR making one of those intoxicatingly reckless pronouncements that have become his stock-in-trade this season. "I'm gonna bring Bobby down if I have to destroy Ewing Oil to do it" and "I want a revolution - I want those oilfields again" are now joined by "Jeremy, I'm here to sell you Ewing Oil."

    Cultural references of the week: Moments before their arrest, Frank tells Roy how much he's looking forward to watching GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES on the hotel TV that night. And in the haunting scene where Ted approaches Claudia at the bookstore, a couple of Beatles-themed books are prominently displayed on a nearby shelf - for some reason, it's kind of a jolt to realise John Lennon has only been dead for a few months at this point.

    And the winner is … DYNASTY.
    2nd: KNOTS LANDING.
    3rd: DALLAS.
     
  14. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    13/Apr/81: DYNASTY: Blake Goes to Jail v. 17/Apr/81: DALLAS: Full Circle

    When Krystle returns to the Carrington mansion in the aftermath of Ted Dinard's death, we see the action from her perspective. However, this isn't the sweepingly cinematic, opulent world she introduced us to in the pilot. This time, the view - of cops on walkie-talkies, corpses on gurneys, family members nervously giving statements, Blake being led away in handcuffs by DALLAS banker Franklin Horner - is shaky and handheld, tense and cramped.

    (Another indication of how far we've come in twelve episodes: "You've got hold of somethin' good," Matthew told Krystle back in the pilot. "Grab it around the middle and run with it." "Run from the both of us," he urges her now, "Blake and me.")

    Blake isn't the only oilman in Soap Land facing possible criminal proceedings this week. With help from West Star, Cliff Barnes has now accumulated sufficient documentation to link JR to the counterrevolution in South East Asia. These two cases provide us with an opportunity to see how the Carringtons and Ewings are regarded in a wider context. When Blake is charged with first-degree murder, Andrew Laird spells out why: "This would normally be a manslaughter charge and you'd probably get probation, but … you stepped on a lot of political toes. You supported a lot of the wrong people in political campaigns, you passed out a hell of a lot of money to causes resented by a hell of a lot of people, and they've been sitting around just waiting for a chance like this - to watch Blake Carrington go under." By contrast, when presented with Cliff's findings, the Senate Investigative Committee in Austin elect to shelve any further enquiry. "The Ewing name still carries a lot of weight in some circles," says Bobby, by way of explanation. With JR apparently no longer the business pariah he was three months ago, perhaps Blake should import Leslie Stewart to Colorado to clean up his image within the political community.

    Cliff's solution is to do what he did with Wild Bill Orloff's trust deed in "Spy in the House" - he calls a press conference. "I'm not without friends," he brags to Afton. This line is echoed by Blake in DYNASTY: "We still have friends," he reminds Andrew. This is a veiled instruction "to try to buy off practically anyone outside of the White House" who can help keep Blake's butt out of jail.

    Sure enough, following Cliff's press conference, the shit hits the front page of the Dallas Press: "Alleged cover-up in Asian Coup by Senate Committee." A strong media presence can also be felt on DYNASTY - the photographer crashing Ted's funeral, the Carringtons fighting their way through a crowd of reporters to get into the courtroom, former rig worker Ed Cleves talking to the TV news about the time he saw Steven and Ted together. "Damn idiot thinks he's a movie star," says Matthew, watching from his office.

    Fallon is called as a hostile witness for the prosecution, but unlike Pam and JR during Soap Land's previous two murder trials, does not fall into the prosecutor's trap of giving away information that will implicate her loved one still further. Despite being an eyewitness to Ted's death, she simply lies her face off, claiming that it was Ted who attacked Blake before tripping over and falling to his death.

    The trial is fascinating from the get-go, clouded as it is by issues of class and sexuality. Prosecutor Jake Dunham derives much amusement from Blake's downstairs maid Jeanette's precise definition of the term "majordomo", which she then admits she learnt from Joseph the majordomo, and scores a cheap point from Fallon when he asks what exactly she does for a living. Defence attorney Andrew, meanwhile, speaks of Steven having "gone awry" during his time in New York and of homosexuality as "a life of shame".

    Jeanette's turn on the witness stand is arguably the only decent scene the actress gets in her nine-year stint as the character - and the poor thing is only there because she had the misfortune of hearing Blake utter the words, "I'll kill him," on the night of Ted's death. JR makes a similar promise this week in front of his divorce attorney, which has the potential to be equally incriminating: "If Sue Ellen took my child, I'd kill her," he vows.

    There is an impending "end of an era" feel about this week's DALLAS. Sue Ellen's admission to Pam, "If it hadn't been for John Ross, I would have left JR last night", feels like another small tear in the invisible fabric that binds the Ewings together. The absence of Jim Davis, who died nine days after this episode aired, is more keenly felt in the light of Larry Hagman's death. In the background of the scene where Miss Ellie calls JR from Paris, we can see Jock's Stetson placed on a table. When the scene cuts back to JR at Southfork on the other end of the line, his hat is positioned in the same way. This little touch seems to resonate all the way to the final moments of "JR's Masterpiece" where Bobby is left holding his brother's Stetson.

    Speaking of the future, Pam's discovery that she can't have children, Kristin's return to Dallas after the birth of Jesse Metcalfe, Julie Gonzalo's future parents getting it on, JR and Sue Ellen each suddenly discovering an interest in Baby Josh, Cliff reuniting with a rich and powerful mother … it kinda feels like the seeds of New DALLAS are being sewn right here.

    I don't think I've ever found the reconciliation scene between Cliff and Rebecca so moving before. With the actors undergoing so many shifts of emotion, especially Ken Kercheval, this is another scene with "Douglas Sirk women's picture" written all over it - which adds a touch of irony to JR's comment elsewhere in the episode, "This is the real world, it's not a 1940s movie."

    The Coopers' story also seems more interesting this time around - Lucy's situation is more sympathetic and Leigh McCloskey's acting far better than I'd previously given them credit for. With Lucy leaving Mitch and Krystle returning to the Carrington mansion but not to Blake's bed, this leaves only two of the five Soap Land couples to have tied the knot since January still living together as husband and wife. (I don't know - young people today, etc.)

    And the winner is … it's a tricky decision as neither show really puts a foot wrong this week. However, only one has Brian Dennehy grandstanding in front of a jury and Al Corley perspiring on the witness stand. And so it has to be … DYNASTY.
     
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  15. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    03/Nov/81: FLAMINGO ROAD: The Arrangement v. 04/Nov/81: DYNASTY: Enter Alexis v. 06/Nov/81: DALLAS: The Sweet Smell of Revenge

    Last season, DALLAS finished a week after any of the other soaps and this season has started back a month earlier. This means that in the time it takes DYNASTY's surprise witness to cross the courtroom and take her place on the witness stand, JR has testified at two different court hearings and been cleared of any wrongdoing in either the counterrevolution or Kristin's death. Additionally, in-between Claudia Blaisdel crashing her car and waking up in hospital a few hours later to find out her spouse has taken away her child, JR has made the same discovery about his own son, made two foiled attempts to snatch him back, and lost a bid for temporary custody at yet another court hearing.

    In this week's DALLAS, a jubilant Sue Ellen returns to the Southern Cross, still in the same eye-catching black and white dress she wore at the temporary custody hearing. It's interesting that for their court appearances, Sue Ellen and Alexis should both favour striking monochromatic outfits that clearly reference 1940s Hollywood, and Joan Crawford in particular. (Not for nothing does Andrew Laird describes Alexis as a "melodramatic, almost cinematic surprise witness.") These are Soap Land's most stylised costumes thus far, and a world away from the prim Sunday school teacher dress worn by Leslie Stewart, the Alexis equivalent at DALLAS's senate hearing at the end of last season.

    JR, meanwhile, embarks on a more elaborate plan to win back his son - starving the Farlows' refineries of oil until they return John Ross to him. As JR's outrageous schemes go, this one is more convoluted than sexy, but it's still good to see him up to his old tricks. "You're really enjoying this, aren't you?" new secretary Sly observes astutely.

    The transition between Seasons 1 and 2 of DYNASTY, two very different animals, is kind of brilliant. In the same narrative day, and in the same courtroom, the believable Blaisdels are wiped out and Blake's mysterious ex-wife arrives, bringing a new flavour to both the series and the genre as a whole. Certainly, her cut-glass English accent is a Soap Land first (unless one counts Samantha Eggar's eerily similar voice in her role of Maggie in the unaired pilot version of FALCON CREST). Alexis also offers a fresh "I knew him when" perspective on Blake. Steven may have spoken contemptuously of his father's business practices in Season 1, but not in the same mocking way Alexis does on the witness stand: "My husband had worked very hard to get where he was, to build his empire, grab his prize, cling to his 'it couldn't be done but I did it'." And then there's the small matter of Roger Grimes, which adds a "he said/she said" dynamic to the Carrington mythology that will continue for the rest of the series.

    Steven's reaction to his mother's return is particularly interesting. With Claudia (apparently) out of his life, he instantly transfers his affections from one non-judgemental older woman to another. Crucially, both Claudia and Alexis are artistically sensitive - and in the same way that the Season 1 Emily Dickinson library scene between Steven and Claudia never gets old, so the "rainbow" conversation in this episode remains a wistful, melancholy highlight. "Did you ever find it, that special rainbow?" Steven asks the mother he has not seen since three days before his seventh birthday. "Almost, twice," Alexis smiles sadly, "once in Hawaii and once in Corsica - but somehow it seemed to vanish into the sun before I could get my easel and my new life together, without you and without Fallon."

    Another meeting of long lost family members, somewhat more low-key but no less portentous in hindsight, takes place in DALLAS this week between Cliff Barnes and half-sister Katherine. Instead of rainbows in Hawaii and Corsica, Katherine speaks of ski slopes in Aspen and Gstaad.

    As if FLAMINGO ROAD's Constance and DALLAS's Kristin both falling through broken railings at the end of last season wasn't Soap Synchronicity enough, the judge at Kristin's inquest now pops up as the doctor administering to Constance after her fall. He'll eventually turn into Leo Wakefield, the controller of Barnes-Wentworth.

    Just as the truth of Constance's biological mother finally starts to emerge - first Eudora overhears Claude comforting Lute-Mae in the hospital chapel, then a distraught Lute-Mae blurts out "My daughter's paralysed!" in front of Sam and Lane - a similarly long-hidden secret is introduced on DYNASTY: a "piece of filth" that only Blake and Alexis know about. "That night you first threw that lie at me," Blake reminds his ex, "I warned you that if you ever repeated that to anyone, I'd …" "You'd kill me," Alexis replies. Meanwhile, on DALLAS, a third long-term child-related mystery commences when an unidentified man contacts Bobby about "little Christopher Shepard."

    Following an impressively shot suicide bid, Pam Ewing joins Constance and Claudia to become the third female patient admitted to Soap Land Memorial Hospital this week. In physical terms, Constance is by far the most seriously injured of the three, but also the most resilient. ("Always did admire your determination," Sheriff Titus tells her.) Pam and Claudia, meanwhile, are neck and neck in the despondency stakes. "I don't believe in anything, Mr. Carrington," Claudia tells Blake. "Not in love, not in understanding, not in trust. Pain, I believe in that. I only believe in pain." "Nothing matters," agrees Pam, talking to her newly appointed psychotherapist. "[It's] like I’m dying or already dead." I've never thought much of Victoria Principal's acting during this period, but I think I've sold her short. Her performance is really the best thing about this story. However, it's hard to square the Pam we're presented with here with the one we were introduced to when the series began, and the plot just seems a bit depression-by-numbers. By contrast, Claudia's loss feels raw and desperately poignant. That Pam remains in full makeup throughout her ordeal while Claudia's anguished face is laid bare neatly illustrates the relative believability of their situations.

    The theme evoked by DALLAS's episode title, "The Sweet Smell of Revenge", permeates Soap Land this week. "You'll get your revenge and it will be sweet," Titus assures a crippled Constance in FLAMINGO ROAD, while Andrew describes Alexis's testimony as "a vengeful lie from the mouth of a woman scorned."

    While on the witness stand, Alexis describes her marriage to Blake. "Ideal, that's the word people used when they talked about us," she recalls. Constance, deciding to take advantage of both the media attention surrounding her accident and Field's guilt for causing it, aims to create a similar perception: "I think we'll concentrate on public appearances," she tells her miserable husband. "Mr. and Mrs. America are gonna show up at every single supermarket opening, every playground dedication, every single political function we can find until we make this country love us, and we'll be able to get anything we want. And I will also have the satisfaction of watching you every time you see me, knowing you put me in that wheelchair."

    "You two will be heroes," adds Titus approvingly, "but behind closed doors, you'll be no more Mr. and Mrs. than a couple of strangers." This gap between public facade and private truth is again echoed by Alexis who remembers the "social fibs, my speciality, taught to me by the Master when I was seventeen years old - 'Oh you look ravishing tonight, Marisa.' 'It's the party of the year, Duffy, the party.'"

    DYNASTY and FLAMINGO ROAD both end this week with a married couple pondering their future. "After tomorrow, if I'm freed, I'll be different," Blake promises Krystle. Senator Field, meanwhile, is given no choice in the matter: "This is your last chance," Constance snarls at him. "One more false move, one girlfriend in the closet, one single Lane Ballou, and you're finished."

    And on the very day that Alexis solemnly swears to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in Colorado, back in her homeland, the Crossroads Motel burns to the ground - thereby ending Noele Gordon's seventeen-year reign as Britain's Queen of Soaps. Joanie couldn't have planned it any better if she'd tried.

    And the winner is … DYNASTY
    2nd: FLAMINGO ROAD
    3rd: DALLAS
     
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  16. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    10/Nov/81: FLAMINGO ROAD: The Victim v. 11/Nov/81: DYNASTY: The Verdict v. 12/Nov/81: KNOTS LANDING: The Vigil v. 13/Nov/81: DALLAS: The Big Shut Down

    "The Victim" refers to Lute-Mae, who is attacked by Lucy Ewing's former drug dealer (Peter Horton) in this week's instalment of FLAMINGO ROAD. Unlike Laura's ordeal in KNOTS LANDING or Krystle's in DYNASTY, what occurs is unambiguously depicted and spoken of as rape. In this week's DYNASTY, Blake refers back to his rape of Krystle, delicately describing it as "the night that I wanted you to have my child." (He brings the subject up in order to tell her he's changed his mind about having children. Too late - she's already pregnant.)

    The use of the word aside, "The Victim" is a crassly inept, cliché-ridden portrayal of the issue. Peter Horton's character is your generic TV movie obsessive, sending anonymous gifts and snapping photos of his beloved from afar before turning nasty. (Like any self-respecting psycho, he has his own dark room where he can develop and display his stylishly stalker-ish black and white 10x8s.) A much bigger problem, however, is Stella Stevens' performance. As Lute-Mae, she is incapable of saying even the most trivial dialogue convincingly and so nothing about her trauma here rings true. Her delivery of the line, "It must have been a man who called rape a sex crime!" as a sub-Mae West wisecrack is a particular low point.

    Sexual exploitation works better on DALLAS where JR introduces a reluctant Afton to Vaughn Leland as "a delightful perk" and orders her to sleep with him. It's all part of JR's plan to buy up the Farlows' oil. Following Kristin and Dusty, Vaughn is the third returnee from DALLAS's Season 2 heyday and his scenes are the smarmy highlight of the episode.

    Lute-Mae reports her attacker to the police, but Sheriff Titus is reluctant to make an arrest because of the the accused's background: "The boy's family helped found this town - they grow more oranges than Florida can eat in a year." This taps into the same "one law for the rich" theme as the sentence Blake Carrington receives for voluntary manslaughter in this week's DYNASTY - two years' probation. When Brian Dennehy, in his role of prosecuting attorney Jake Dunham, denounces the sentencing as "a travesty", I'm reminded of a line he delivered as Luther Frick on DALLAS: "The only kind of justice poor working men like us can get [is] the kind we go out and get on our own!"

    This topic is developed further when Blake, now a free man, runs into Jake at the St Denis Club, DYNASTY's newly established equivalent of DALLAS's Cattleman's Club, only with a fancy maître d' instead of a bevy of buxom cocktail waitresses. He accuses Jake of exploiting "the death of some homosexual" to further his political career. Jake's impassioned response ("I don't care if Ted Dinard was a homosexual or a heterosexual or an asexual, my job is to defend the rights of people, all different kinds of people, by prosecuting violations of the law") elicits nothing but a sneer from Blake. "Now I know what they mean by that expression 'Justice is blind'," he scoffs. "It is blind because of people like you, pal!" Blake's contempt is matched by Constance's in FLAMINGO ROAD: "Rape and Lute-Mae Sanders is a contradiction in terms," she declares, blissfully unaware that she's talking about her own mother.

    Whatever point about social injustice FLAMINGO ROAD might be trying to make is seriously undermined by the description of Lute-Mae throughout the episode as "a former madam". This is news to the viewer: the last we knew, the character was still presiding over a fully operational whorehouse. It would appear that Constance's aborted "Clean Up Truro" campaign has been implemented by the network between seasons. The resultant subtext of this whitewash is that, contrary to Constance's opinion, rape and Lute-Mae are not a contradiction in terms - but only because she no longer earns a living from prostitution.

    Truro's happy hookers aren't Soap Land's only conspicuous absentees this week: Carrington chauffeur Michael is fired offscreen by Joseph at Blake's behest, and Jock Ewing takes his final steps on Texas tarmac during a layover between flights so brief it is missed by JR, Bobby and viewers alike. In hindsight, there is a poignant parallel between the Ewing boys being deprived of a final glimpse of their daddy, and Eric and Michael Fairgate not being allowed to visit their father in the hospital. (Yes, KNOTS is back - behold the scrolling panels! I was genuinely excited to see them.)

    It's interesting that Blake should wait until now to get rid of Michael. Could it be that since his ex-wife's testimony at the trial, Fallon's relationship with her "in-house stud" has served as an uncomfortable reminder of Alexis's with hers, i.e. Roger Grimes? While arguing with Fallon over his decision, Blake even calls her "a carbon copy of your mother". At any rate, it's notable that the four faces now absent from DYNASTY's opening titles - Michael, Walter, Matthew and Lindsay - are all characters who helped ground the show in a wider, more "real world" context.

    Speaking of the real world, the Middle East gets a bad press from Soap Land this week. Dave Culver describes it as "volatile" on DALLAS, while Mother Blaisdel calls it a "hellhole" on DYNASTY. When Matthew returned from there at the start of Season 1, we watched him remove the dust sheets from the furniture in his family's house in what felt like a symbolic gesture of renewal. Now similar sheets, along with cobwebs and shadows, shroud Alexis's old paintings in her long abandoned studio on the Carrington grounds. The sinisterly lit, gothically flavoured scene she shares there with Joseph, "still the impotent voyeur", remains a series highlight, as well as our first real glimpse of what lies beneath her veiled facade.

    One of the soap tropes pioneered by DALLAS back in the day was the idea of several unhappy rich people all living under the same roof while locked in perpetual disharmony. So it's ironic that just as the original Ewing family disperse - Jock to South America, Sue Ellen and Baby Josh to San Angelo, Pam to the funny farm - the other soaps are taking a leaf out of the book that DALLAS wrote. On FLAMINGO ROAD, Field reluctantly moves back into the Weldon house for the sake of his appearances only marriage to Constance, while DYNASTY has contrived an ingeniously ironic way to bring Alexis into close proximity to her ex-husband and his new wife: by moving her into her old studio - the very same studio deeded to her "lock, stock and barrel" by Blake as a gift for giving him the son from whom he is now bitterly estranged, and designed by the architect whom Blake would later cripple when he found him in bed with his wife.

    "The Victim" is probably Soap Land's worst episode to date, "The Vigil" possibly the best. While the week's other shows deal mainly in broad strokes, creating big swooshes of narrative momentum, KNOTS goes the opposite route, piling small detail upon small detail to create something quite exceptional. Just a few examples: Gary lying to Karen about the severity of Sid's condition when he first tells her about the crash, Karen, in turn, lying to her children and to Sid himself, Karen and Abby doing their best to kid around with a completely paralysed Sid, the repeated assurances that the metal tongs attached to his head aren't hurting him, the terrifying reality of the situation coming only intermittently into focus ... The action of the episode unfolds over a couple of days but is so concentrated it feels almost like one long unbroken scene.

    As Karen keeps a jealous, round-the-clock watch over Sid at the hospital, the unspoken sibling rivalry between Gary and Richard resurfaces. After Richard scores a hit with a surprise breakfast, (reducing an exhausted Karen to hysterical laughter in a lovely scene that provides the episode's sole moment of light relief) a guilt-ridden Gary tries to compete by bringing her a change of clothes. Karen, however, sees straight through him: "You wanna be blamed or forgiven and I don't have the energy for either." But it's the Fairgate kids who provide the most quietly heartbreaking moments: Michael falling asleep on his parents' empty bed, Diana singing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" to her comatose father, Eric asking Gary, "Is my dad gonna die?" Even in a family as functional as the Fairgates, everyone's alone, isolated from each other.

    And the winner is … KNOTS LANDING
    2nd: DYNASTY
    3rd: DALLAS
    4th: FLAMINGO ROAD
     
  17. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    17/Nov/81: FLAMINGO ROAD: The Substitute v. 18/Nov/81: DYNASTY: Alexis' Secret v. 19/Nov/81: KNOTS LANDING: Critical Condition v. 20/Nov/81: DALLAS: Blocked

    This week, the FLAMINGO ROAD landscape expands to include a new family, a new side of town and a whole new set of problems. Meanwhile, DYNASTY's world contracts: Steven aside, anybody who's anybody is now living and/or working on the Carrington estate. Both of these approaches works well. DALLAS, however, like FLAMINGO ROAD, has broadened its canvas of late, but with each of the Ewings segregated into their own individual storylines, the underlying tensions between them are dissipated. Sue Ellen flying from San Angelo for an office confrontation with JR, Donna pushing JR into the Southfork pool - these are reminders of how much fun DALLAS can be when the Ewings are in the same place long enough for sparks to fly.

    FL'INGO RD introduces us to the barrio, a large slum dwelling ("Our people are living ten to a room") populated by Cuban immigrants. Among these are the Sanchez family, the stand-out member of which is the son Julio, an archetypal Latino hothead: "I won't spend my life talking orders from Anglos as you do, Papa!" Like another character making his Soap Land debut this week, Italian-American Nick Toscanni on DYNASTY, Julio brings a new flavour, a new energy to Soap Land. Julio and Nick share a passionate, smouldering machismo which is both compelling and borderline ridiculous.

    The Sanchez family bring the topic of race back to FLAMINGO ROAD in the kind of juicy, complicated way the other soaps wouldn't touch. Julio and his father Ernesto work on Sam Curtis's construction site where they are subject to racial harassment from some of the white workers. Meanwhile, Julio's saintly sister Alicia is a volunteer worker at a day centre in the barrio alongside Eudora Weldon. The centre is also a target of racial intimidation, but from another direction - a bunch of barrio boys in bandanas resentful of Eudora's presence in their neighbourhood. This promptly sends Eudora to the brink of a breakdown. Still, for a timid matriarchal do-gooder, she is impressively hands-on. Ellie Ewing might be made of sterner stuff, but for all her committee meetings, you'd never catch her getting down and dirty with the common folk she purports to help.

    There's more slumming it with the hoi polloi in DYNASTY when Blake is obliged to queue outside the probation office with members of the great unwashed, one of whom tries to sell him a television set. It's a very funny scene which reminds me of the bit in "Paternity Suit" where JR and Sue Ellen are dismayed to find themselves in a doctor's waiting room surrounded by ordinary people and their ordinary germs.

    There are two deaths in Soap Land this week - both beloved fathers, each of whom fails to respond to CPR. The first fatality is Ernesto Sanchez who collapses with a heart attack on the F'LINGO RD construction site. Julio is quick to blame Sam for overworking his father (which is kind of true). When Sam tries to help the family out by offering Julio his father's job as crew chief, racial tensions on the site are further inflamed. Things come to a head when Julio is involved in a bar fight and Sheriff Titus wades in. Apparently, he has warned Julio about shooting his mouth off in the past. "According to your government, it's a free country where man is allowed to speak his mind," Julio tells him. "If you was an American citizen, I'd be obliged to agree with you," Titus retorts, "but since you ain't, and the laws of Truro County are my laws, you better consider my warnin'." When Julio refuses to back down, Titus has him arrested and beaten up.

    What does any of this have to do with the rich folks that live on the actual Flamingo Road? Well, Senator Field, anxious to redeem himself for past mistakes, has pledged to improve living conditions in the barrio by investing in urban renewal. The delicious twist is that the barrio is secretly owned by Field's father-in-law Claude and that much of the Weldon fortune is derived from his profits as a slum landlord.

    A highlight on both DYNASTY and DALLAS this week is the first meeting of two long-term adversaries, as Krystle and Clayton take on Alexis and JR. The good guys turn out to be more impressive opponents than might have been expected. Each takes the initiative in trying to ascertain their rival's motives. "You've spent a fortune trying to box me in - why?" Clayton asks JR. "You came back to hurt my husband, first in court, now by moving in ...You want something," Krystle tells Alexis. While JR shows his hand, ("I want Sue Ellen and John Ross off the Southern Cross ranch") Alexis does not ("Motives? That's an ugly implication"). Clayton and Krystle make it clear that they will not be intimidated ("No deal, JR." "I want you out of our house."), and that they will stand between their opponent and their opponent's real target. For Clayton, that means Sue Ellen: "I respect her. And she means everything to my son. And the child belongs with her." For Krystle, it's Blake: "My business is to protect my husband." JR and Alexis fight back the best they can, with threats ("I’ll break you") and bitchery ("Mrs Jennings - oh, I'm terribly sorry, that was your other husband's name, wasn't it?") respectively, but the good guys get the last word. "No, JR, you’re the one who’s going broke," says Clayton. "I was late getting here because I stopped to find out the latest report on oil prices ... By the time your daddy gets back from South America, there just might not be a Ewing Oil." "I want you out of our house," Krystle tells Alexis, "and since you're so familiar with it - the kitchen, the paintings, the missing Ming - I'm sure you can find your own way to the door."

    Children - be they unborn, unclaimed, stolen or estranged - fuel much of Soap Land's narrative this week. While Abby Cunningham's search for her kids leads her into a frustrating maze of bureaucracy and form-filling (a familiar bugbear on KNOTS), Claudia learns on DYNASTY that Matthew has taken Lindsay to South America. It's easy to imagine that he's gone there to join Jock Ewing and Punk on their governmental mission. As Andrew Laird puts it, "Wherever there's oil, there's bound to be Matthew Blaisdel." Upon returning home from the hospital, Claudia stands longingly in the doorway of her child's bedroom, just as JR did after John Ross was taken from him. Lacking his resources to fight back, Claudia goes down the Pam Ewing route instead and tries to kill herself. She later wakes to discover the Carrington mansion has become her Brooktree Hospital and Dr Amerigo Nicholas Francesco Toscanni her Dr Dagmara Conrad. "Dagmara, that's a pretty name," Pam observes this week. "You wanna be my mother's friend for life, call me Amerigo," advises Nick.

    On this week's Pregnancy Watch, Krystle buys her child-to-be an actual silver spoon, Fallon drags Jeff off to the nearest motel for an impromptu insemination and soon-to-drop Ginger complains on KNOTS that "all I am is pregnant." Meanwhile, Jordan Lee proves to Bobby's satisfaction that he is not Christopher's father, and Alexis announces, to Steven's dismay, that Blake is not Fallon's.

    There are plenty of mother/daughter reminiscences this week too: some are bitter ("Fallon, when you were a little girl, you thought you knew everything about everything … You still don't"), some are sweet (Karen recalling how supportive Sid was when Diana was born), some are both (Rebecca fondly recounting the moment when Pam started walking, but unable to say when she began talking as she'd already absconded by then). Her visit with her mother seems to trigger some sort of mental crisis in Pam, with Dr Conrad repeatedly describing her condition as "critical". Of course, there's critical and then there's … Sid Fairgate.

    Karen's superstition in last week's KNOTS, that if she breaks her hospital vigil even momentarily she will lose Sid, is cruelly borne out here. At the start of this week's episode, Sid has awoken from his coma and the effects of his paralysis quickly begin to wear off. A relieved Karen is persuaded to return home for a few hours. No sooner does she than the paralysis returns. Later, during a lengthy high-risk surgery to remove a blood clot from Sid's spine, Karen breaks her intense concentration long enough to laugh and joke about the twenty-four labour she went through with Diana. It is at that moment that Sid flatlines, becoming the second of this week's Soap Land fatalities.

    This episode of KNOTS breaks all the rules of television grammar. Don Murray shouldn't be in the opening titles, but he is. There should be an eleventh-hour miracle, but there isn't. (Even after all this time, part of my brain expects the heart monitor to beep back into life like it always does on TV shows.) And instead of an outpouring of emotion at the end of the hour, there's just the silent ride down in the elevator followed by the weary drive home. It's as if physical exhaustion has won out over grief. An inattentive viewer might assume the family are suffering from jet lag rather than bereavement.

    Not that anything else seems to matter in light of Sid's death, but Lane Ballou and Afton face off again in the latest round of Soap Land Song Wars. Happily, Lane is back to singing semi-obscure songs with the word "blue" in the title. This time, it's a ditty called "Last One Singin' The Blues". What we hear of it is pretty enough, but it serves mainly as a backdrop to Lute-Mae counselling Sam about his guilt over Ernesto's death. Afton, meanwhile, manages to showcase two songs, an angsty little ballad about hearing with her heart and seeing with her soul till it tears her apart, and a jauntier number that ends with a warning that she's "comin' to get yoo-oo-ooo-u". Based purely on screen time, Afton triumphs again.

    Episode-wise, the winner is … KNOTS LANDING
    2nd: DYNASTY
    3rd: FLAMINGO ROAD
    4th: DALLAS
     
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  18. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    24/Nov/81: FLAMINGO ROAD: The Intruder v. 25/Nov/81: DYNASTY: Fallon's Father v. 26/Nov/81: KNOTS LANDING: Aftermath v. 27/Nov/81: DALLAS: The Split

    With Ted Dinard, Kristin Shepard and Sid Fairgate all now dead and buried, Constance Carlyle is the sole survivor of the great Falling Down outbreak that rocked Soap Land in the spring of '81. This week, she starts to regain the use of her legs but swears physiotherapist Steve to secrecy lest she loses her hold on husband Field ("Why throw away a lemon till you've squeezed it dry?"). She does celebrate the occasion by taking Steve to bed, thereby elevating him to the position of Soap Land's latest "in-house stud", a role only recently vacated by Michael the Carrington chauffeur (and previously held by Roger Grimes and Ray Krebbs back in the day).

    While Blake Carrington greets Cecil Colby's private jet in DYNASTY, FLAMINGO ROAD newcomer Michael Tyrone (aka DARK SHADOWS' Quentin Collins and FALCON CREST's Richard Channing) touches down in Truro. Steven Carrington describes Cecil this week as "maybe the richest man in the country", but with holdings in "hotels, airlines and oil", Michael must surely give him a run for his money. It looks like Michael's about to get even richer too, as he reveals his scheme to bring gambling to Truro.

    The snag is that Sam Curtis intends to bid for the same piece of land that Michael needs to put his plan into action. Enter Michael's secret weapon: Sam's ex-wife, Vanessa, now Michael's mistress. Andra Akers, the first actress to play Sally Bullock in DALLAS, becomes the second actress to play Vanessa, the character having briefly appeared in FLAM RD's first season. Viewed from a "DALLAS Through The Looking Glass" perspective, this means that Mark Graison was once married to Mr. Eugene's wife - which doesn't seem too implausible. Akers' version of Vanessa is a blast - a thrillingly brittle blonde seductress. Her performance here suggests she'd have been much more fun wheeling and dealing with JR and Bobby over Venezuelan oil tankers than Joanna Cassidy was.

    Another interesting bit of double casting I never caught before: The reporter who prompted Miss Ellie to get her shotgun out of the hall closet in "Survival" (DALLAS Season 1) is now the architect (well, she did advise him to find another job) who tells Ray Krebbs the land he's invested in "ain't worth a damn" - thereby proving Donna's silent looks of disapproval to have been right on the money. On F'LINGO RD, Sam Curtis is more vocal in his attempts to dissuade Titus and Claude from becoming involved in Michael's land deal - "One of these days you are gonna wish you had never seen Michael Tyrone … When he is through with you, he'll toss you to the alligators without blinking an eye!" - but his words fall on deaf ears.

    "You look at all this and you know why men have fought wars over land," says Michael Tyrone of the property he's after. David Selby is the perfect actor for this kind of stuff - brooding, dangerous, and able to evoke an underlying sense of both tragedy and madness. He can elevate a competition for some land we've never heard of before into something almost Biblical. And even though the details of Michael and Sam's past relationship are sketchy, their showdown in the final scene of the episode feels like a confrontation between Cain and Abel.

    All we really know of Michael and Sam's relationship are Sam's line, "I've known him all my life," the fact that they're now business competitors and that each has a history with Sam's ex-wife. Their triangle is mirrored in this week's DYNASTY by Blake, Cecil Colby and Blake's ex-wife Alexis. Ostensibly Blake's best friend, Cecil clarifies that "the relationship between Blake and me has been based mainly on business." As Vanessa does with Sam, Alexis seems interested in rekindling her old passion with Cecil - but while Vanessa huskily murmurs seductive gibberish as she unbuttons Sam's shirt, ("There are two schools of thought about warm Gulf breezes - some say they're hottest when they blow off a storm, others say they're hottest just before dawn, when the night is the darkest") Alexis and Cecil's sparring is a tad more elegant ("Don't con a con-artist, darling" … "How deliciously May-December").

    Michael has Vanessa do to Sam what JR had Afton to do Cliff at the end of last season's DALLAS - seduce and then drug him. This results in Sam missing the auction and Michael swiping the land from under him. Having got what he wanted, Michael abruptly dumps Vanessa. "I don't need you anymore," he tells her coldly. "You've served your purpose." "I don't deserve this!" she screams, the violins on the soundtrack going as haywire as she does. "Not after what I've done for you! I'll make you pay for this!" Afton makes a similar declaration about JR this week: "I hate him. I wanna get back at him." Unlike Vanessa, however, she is able to follow through on her desire for revenge. To this end, she teams up with Cliff and introduces him to Vaughn Leland. To be sure, Afton is no longer the naive little blonde we were introduced to in Season 3. Who would have predicted when she first appeared that she would be turn out to be savvier than Kristin? (Or that both their offspring would end up living at Southfork in 2013, come to that.)

    At first glance, DYNASTY's Claudia and KNOTS LANDING's Abby are two characters with little in common. However, when each takes inventory of their lives this week, the results are remarkably similar. "I lost Sid too," Abby reminds her occasional nemesis Karen, "and I don't know where my children are, and now I don't even have a job to go to. I don't have anything or anybody. I'm alone." "I've got nothing," Claudia tells her rival Krystle. "Nothing. I don't have my husband, I don't have my daughter, I've got me. Look at me. It isn't very much, is it?"

    The sight of a drunken Steven Carrington being magnetically propelled from the Carrington library all the way through the house and grounds towards the swimming pool, just so that he can hit his head on a railing, almost drown and be rescued by a passing Nick Toscanni just might be Soap Land's weirdest visual to date. He is then rushed to Soap Land Memorial Hospital where he takes Sid Fairgate's place in intensive care.

    "Aftermath" deals with the, um, aftermath of Sid's death, and the whole episode rings emotionally true: Karen coping by ruthlessly keeping everyone, including her children, at arm's length, just as she did when Sid was in the hospital. Eric sitting alone in his dad's car and crying. A desperately eager-to-please Michael following his mom around till she just can't take it anymore. Karen lashing out at Gary. Gary shouting at Val: "I'm sick of being forgiven by you and I am SICK of the way you accept everything!" Karen finally breaking down with Ginger and Kenny's newborn baby in her arms.

    KNOTS being KNOTS, the build up to the delivery of the Wards' baby is unconventionally conventional: we witness the timing of the contractions, the packing for the hospital, the sweating, the pushing, the panting - all the things you ordinarily don't see with Soap Land pregnancies because of the mother being contractually obliged to fall down a flight of stairs in her seventh month. And it's only taken me 32 years, but I finally really, really like Kenny and Ginger.

    Following Sid's funeral, this episode of KNOTS skips forward five weeks, thereby putting it vaguely in the same timeline as DALLAS - which is convenient for the phone call Miss Ellie makes to Gary in the following night's episode of DALLAS. It's kinda weird to see Gary and Val in their own kitchen, but on another show. They're noticeably a lot more tanned than they were in the previous evening's KNOTS - especially Gary, who is suddenly the same colour as Peter O'Toole in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. Gary might be sick of the way Val accepts everything in KNOTS, but her blanket acceptance apparently doesn't extend to a summons home to Southfork. ("Gary, you know what happens every time you go back there.") This request from Miss Ellie is prompted by a missive from Jock in South America dividing Ewing Oil up into voting shares (Gary now has 10%). It's unclear what the implications of this development will be, but the scene where Miss Ellie reads out Jock's letter to the family is full of soapy import. In fact, a sense of urgency pervades all of this week's DALLAS, as if someone has turned up the heat under the entire episode.

    Karen pelting Gary with blows in KNOTS when she finds him sitting at Sid's desk isn't the only bit of violence in this week's Soap Land. The future Mark Graison knocks the future Richard Channing to the ground in the final scene of FLAMINGO ROAD after Richard/Michael impugns Vanessa's honour, and Mitch and Dusty Farlow both sock JR after he refers to Afton and Sue Ellen as, respectively, a tramp and a nymphomaniac.

    Like FLAMINGO ROAD, this week's DALLAS ends with a great mano a mano confrontation. This one takes place between JR and Dusty at the Cotton Bowl. Having mostly been on the back foot so far this season, it's kind of breathtaking to watch JR let rip at Dusty so savagely, taunting him for what is essentially a disability. And however good Larry Hagman is in this scene - and he is very, very good - Jared Martin matches him. In stage fighting, it's up to the person on the receiving end to really "sell" the punch - it's their reaction that's going to convince an audience that the blow has connected - and that's what Martin does here. Every psychological jab, every twist of JR's knife reads on Dusty's face, even as he struggles to keep his dignity intact. "Hell, she can’t go without it forever," says JR of Sue Ellen as Dusty turns and starts walking away. "Maybe she won’t have to. I’ve seen ya daddy. Maybe she’s stayin' with you because she’s not goin' without it. There’s only one person who’s man enough to keep that lady happy and on the Southern Cross. AND THAT SURE AS HELL AIN'T YOU!" Those last words and the laugh that follows are majestically ugly, and maybe a little unhinged.

    FLAMINGO ROAD has a great ending too, reminiscent of DYNASTY's two weeks ago. Everyone assumed Alexis was going back to Mexico, but then she pulled the rug out from under Blake's feet with the revelation that not only is she staying, but: "I'm moving in!" Similarly, Sam expects Michael to return to Miami. "What - and leave when things are just getting interesting?" Michael replies. "No way, Sam. You better get used to seeing me around here. I'm making my home here - up on Flamingo Road!" The episode ends Sam walking away from Michael, just as DALLAS's does with Dusty walking away from JR.

    Song Wars: Last time Lane Ballou went head to head with KNOTS, she totally annihilated Karen and Diana's "Put On A Happy Face" routine. This time, however, her uncharacteristically uptempo choice of country sway-a-long "Could This Be Magic" (nothing to do with Barry Manilow or Take That) is entirely upstaged by Jason Avery's brilliantly incomprehensible trumpet version of "The Sound of Music", punctuated by a sweet little giggle at the end.

    And the winner is … KNOTS LANDING
    2nd: DALLAS
    3rd: FLAMINGO ROAD
    4th: DYNASTY
     
  19. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    02/Dec/81: DYNASTY: Reconciliation v. 03/Dec/81: KNOTS LANDING: Moving In v. 04/Dec/81: DALLAS: Five Dollars a Barrel v. 04/Dec/81: FALCON CREST: In His Father's House

    FALCON CREST kicks off with a late addition to the Fatal Falls Epidemic of '81 when Jason Gioberti (the Digger Barnes of the Tuscany Valley) overreacts massively to a kiss between niece Emma and the brilliantly named Turner Bates. He and Turner get into a fight, Emma intervenes, she and Jason struggle and … Jason falls and/or is pushed through a broken balcony railing, just like Kristin Shepard and Constance Carlyle before him. Alas, without Constance's bouncy curls to cushion his fall, Jason is killed. For reasons that will become clearer (but not much clearer) later in the episode, Emma's mother Angela and her mute manservant attempt to make the suspicious circumstances of Jason's demise look fractionally less suspicious by sticking his body in a truck and driving it off a cliff - thereby re-enacting the circumstances of Sid Fairgate's death, only capping it off with a fiery explosion rather than an unsuccessful surgery.

    The episode crisscrosses between these dramatic events and a somewhat more mainstream domestic set-up in New York. This second set of characters turns out to be Jason's son Chase and his family. This sets up a variation on David Jacobs' "DALLAS was about 'them', KNOTS LANDING was about 'us'" equation, but this time, the contrast is as much between "weird" (the Channings) and "conventional" (the Giobertis) as it is between differing incomes.

    The "us and them" thread runs all through Soap Land this week. On DYNASTY, Frank Dean is surprised to learn from a TV news programme that his humble sister-in-law Krystle has been elevated to the status of a Carrington. Conversely on KNOTS, Val Ewing is shocked (nay, mortified) to see her mother Lilimae described as a bag lady in a local news report on how she helped stop a mugging. The attitudes of Frank and Lilimae towards the rich "them" they're vaguely related to help emphasise the gap between "them" and "us". "They're steak-dinner-for-the-dogs rich!" marvels Frank with reference the Carringtons, while Lilimae airily boasts to a man she owes money to that "my daughter is a Ewin', a Texas Ewin'." "And my cousin's a Rockefeller!" the man shouts after her cynically.

    Throughout this week's episodes, the poor and/or ordinary repeatedly fantasise about being rich and/or famous. When Sammy Jo Dean walks up the Carrington staircase for the first time, she pretends she's Scarlett O'Hara. Over on KNOTS, much fuss is made of Gary's first TV appearance in a commercial spot for Knots Landing Motors. While Richard points out his stiff arms and faltering delivery (which make Gary seem all the more like a regular Joe), Abby and Karen graciously compare him to Kirk Douglas and Robert Redford - which only serves to illustrate how far away Gary is from those legendary names. Lilimae, thrilled by her brief spell in the limelight as a crime fighting vigilante, giddily refers to herself as "some kind of national hero, like an astronaut or one of them Hollywood superstars!" Similarly, airline pilot Chase, aka FALCON CREST's Mr Normal, jokingly describes himself as "Neil Armstrong, home from the moon."

    The theme of family reunions crops up a lot too: Val and her mama, Krystle and her niece, the Channings and the Giobertis … even Gary swings by Southfork for a two scene visit. Steven Carrington is finally reconciled with his father, thereby tying up the one plot thread left dangling from DYNASTY's first season. With Steven happy to be back in the bosom of his family for the first time since, well, ever, the Carrington house becomes its own bubble, sealed off from the rest of the world.

    This lack of an outside perspective is underlined by a scene of Blake and Krystle embracing happily in the Carrington driveway, Blake's chauffeur standing expressionless in the background. In Season 1, that chauffeur would have been Michael, and there would have the slightest hint of a smirk or sneer on his face - just enough to undercut the celebratory nature of the scene. Now the chauffeur is a neutral looking extra with no point of view of his own.

    What prevents DYNASTY from yet becoming too smug is an intoxicating sense of paranoia that directly stems from this newfound insularity. Having inveigled her way into the house, Alexis stands guard over Steven's room, warding off anyone she irrationally suspects may do him harm - with Krystle and Fallon her most likely suspects. Meanwhile, Nick Toscanni, in-between checking on Steven, counselling Claudia and psychoanalysing Krystle, has ominous and unexplained visions of dangling feet whilst murmuring, "We all have debts to pay." Speaking of debts, there's also a sense of the Carringtons being attacked from without as Cecil Colby calls in his $9,000,000 loan.

    This distorted view extends to the episode's depiction of the "ordinary" world: When we're introduced to Frank Dean and his girlfriend Bedelia living in a trailer, it's hard not to notice the deliberately bad hairstyle the make up department have given him, or the depiction of Bedelia as a one-dimensional shrew. (She also sweats. Rich women in Soap Land never sweat.)

    It's kind of ironic that Robert Foxworth missed out on playing JR in DALLAS because he thought the character should be more sympathetic. Taking over the role of Chase Gioberti from Clu Gulager whose portrayal in the unaired FALCON CREST pilot was soft and ineffectual, Foxworth adds an acerbic edge to Chase, making him hard and remote, even cold. In his first scene, he speaks matter-of-factly about habitually missing his children's birthdays because of his job. "They live through it," he shrugs. Up at Falcon Crest, Angela and Lance are even more sinister and removed. Julia and Emma are potentially more good natured but are too cowed to express it. (After killing Jason, a traumatised Emma is banished to her room for the rest of the episode, essentially becoming the mad woman in the attic. And could Angela's description of Julia's drinking problem before we've seen it for ourselves mean that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy? - i.e. Angela has convinced her daughter she's an alcoholic as a way of controlling her.) With Chase's children, Cole and Vicky, beset by the same sorts of problems as any nineteen and seventeen-year-old in the Big Apple (sex, violence and dance classes), it's left to wife Maggie to provide the show with its heart, and she does so admirably.

    Maggie joins Donna Krebbs and Val Ewing as Soap Land's third writer. It's no coincidence that all three are married women - "writer" being one of those TV-friendly jobs that can be done in the home environment while simultaneously fretting about family concerns. In other words, it's the perfect career woman/housewife hybrid. Ironically, when we first meet her, Maggie is writing an article about "Women's Rights in the Male Dominated Office".

    Maggie, Donna and Val are all at different stages of their careers - which are accorded a corresponding amount of respect by the characters surrounding them. Val is still a student and Lilimae blithely dismisses her daughter's creative writing classes, decreeing that such talent (such as her own for music) is God-given and cannot be taught ("Just came to me as natural as singin' comes to birds"). Maggie, meanwhile, is just getting established as a magazine writer in New York. "I love your writing," her husband assures her but is nonetheless insistent they give up everything and move to the Tuscany Valley. Donna Culver Krebbs, conversely, is on her way to New York where her first book is about to be published. Hubby Ray is so supportive he even drives her to the airport - but at what cost to his male ego?

    In the scene where Chase and Maggie argue about his decision to uproot the family to California, there's something appealingly gutsy and robust about their relationship. Could they be Soap Land's new Sid and Karen? (Certainly, Karen and Maggie share the same taste in jumpsuits.)

    As well as the beginning of FALCON CREST, this week also marks the first time Julie Harris and Heather Locklear appear as regular characters in their respective shows. Lilimae, in particular, is such a rich character - as warm, open-hearted and joyous as she is manipulative, dishonest and selfish. Just as Chase's plans for a fresh start in the Valley threaten to derail Angela's plans for Falcon Crest, Lilimae and Sammy Jo disrupt their respective new homes with a similar spirit of optimism, as well as non-conformity: Sammy Jo ordering pizza for dinner then sliding down the bannister and crashing into Alexis; Lilimae turning the kitchen upside down to create a good old fashioned country style breakfast that disrupts Val's running schedule. Lilimae's dreams of fame and her unquenchable belief in her own talent mirror Sammy Jo's almost evangelical enthusiasm for stock car racing ("the draftin' and sling shootin', the caromin' and flip floppin', the frammin' and bammin'!") and her sweetly sincere plans to become a mail order hair stylist.

    In FALCON CREST, we learn that Chase hasn't seen his father's family since his mother took him away from the Tuscany Valley some twenty years earlier - which would be around about the same time Val took Lucy away from Southfork. Interestingly, this week's KNOTS and DALLAS both acknowledge this event, but in different contexts. "I went to her with our baby in my arms and she turned me away," Val recalls bitterly, with reference to Lilimae. "I remember when Val ran off with Lucy, you managed to get her back. Having more trouble with your own child?" says Gary to JR, during a brief reunion with his mama and the rest of the Texas Ewin's at Southfork.

    JR's scenes with Gary and Ray where he tries to respectively bribe and blackmail their voting shares of Ewing Oil out of them are the best scenes of this week's DALLAS, along with the three he has with Cliff Barnes. (This is more one-to-one scenes than JR and Cliff have shared since the series began.) In the episode's final scene, Cliff claims his first major victory over his arch enemy: "After all these years, I've finally whipped JR Ewing." The ep ends with Cliff laughing gleefully at JR, just last week's ended with JR doing the same to Dusty. In the final scene of this week's DYNASTY, meanwhile, Alexis launches her first definitive strike against Krystle: enlisting one Morgan Hess to dig into her past.

    A last example of "them and us": When Chase and Maggie arrive in the Tuscany Valley for Soap Land's second funeral in as many weeks, they do so as Angela's guests and so travel in style - a chauffeur driven limousine ferries them across the San Francisco Bridge, through the vineyards and all the way to Falcon Crest, accompanied by a lushly triumphant version of the theme tune on the soundtrack (a great looking sequence that's immortalised in the show's opening titles). By contrast, when they return to the Valley permanently towards the end of the episode with Cole and Vicky in tow, it's in Sue Ellen's old station wagon.

    And the winner is … FALCON CREST
    2nd: KNOTS LANDING
    3rd: DYNASTY
    4th: DALLAS
     
  20. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

    Message Count:
    2,034
    Trophy Points:
    6,327
    Ratings:
    +3,211
    08/Dec/81: FLAMINGO ROAD: The Stranger v. 09/Dec/81: DYNASTY: Viva Las Vegas v. 10/Dec/81: KNOTS LANDING: The Surprise v. 11/Dec/81: DALLAS: Starting Over v. 11/Dec/81: FALCON CREST: A Time for Saboteurs

    This week's instalments of FLAMINGO ROAD and FALCON CREST both closely resemble stand alone episodes from DALLAS's first season. "The Stranger" is a variation on "Home Again", the one where Miss Ellie is reunited with the long lost brother who deserted her years before, only to find out he's now dying. This time around, it's Lane Ballou and her long lost daddy. Adding to the sense of familiarity, he's played by Ray Krebbs' long lost (sort of) daddy, Amos. Turns out Amos is a singer who abandoned his young family to pursue a career in show business - making him also a male variation of KNOTS LANDING's Lilimae. The episode has the same bittersweet ending as "Home Again", only with Lane talking to Sam instead of Amos because he's already carked it on a bus station floor. Following Ernesto Sanchez, Sid Fairgate and Jason Gioberti, this makes him Soap Land's fourth father to die in the last three weeks. While Amos Krebbs is just as convincing as a loveable old charmer on FL'INGO ROAD as he was a devious drunk on DALLAS, this is a slight and overfamiliar tale.

    "A Time For Saboteurs", meanwhile, closely resembles "Fallon Idol", the DALLAS ep where Bobby's old college pal Guzzler shows up and tries to scam him with a fake business deal. This time around, the visitor is an old flying buddy of Chase's, Paul Salinger (later one of JR's Haleyville brothers-in-law, but let's not worry about that now). Like Guzzler, he holds court at the family dinner table with tales of derring-do, impressing everyone but except Chase's wife Maggie. Maggie also resents Paul and Chase's daredevil stunts the way Pam did Bobby and Guzzler's carousing. Where Guzzler flirted with Lucy, Paul seduces Julia. There's even a secret pact - between Paul and Angela instead of JR and Pam. Ultimately, however, Paul is a far nastier piece of work than his DALLAS counterpart and his falling out with Chase much uglier than Bobby and Guzzler's melancholy farewell. (It also involves a way cool airstrip chase sequence between Chase's jeep and Paul's light plane.)

    This feels like an odd choice for FALCON CREST's second episode. Having just brought the Gioberti and Channing clans together, you want to see them interact. Instead, half of the episode is devoted to a guest character. Still, we're given some insight into Chase's background (as we also learn of Nick Toscanni this week, he served in Vietnam) and Julia's isolation - and delaying the inevitable conflict between Chase and Angela is an interesting move (and a notable variation from the pilot version of the show, which began with the Giobertis and Angela already at war).

    As well his service record, this week's DYNASTY also fills us in on Nick Toscanni's Big Secret: he holds Blake responsible for his brother's suicide and has come to Denver to get his revenge - but how far will he go? "Are you a murderer? asks his sister Terry. "Do you want to kill the man?" "No, I don't wanna kill him," Nick replies. "I want him alive. I want to see Blake Carrington suffer." Nick may not be a killer, but Alexis is. When she pulls the trigger that fires the shot that startles the horse that throws the woman who miscarries the baby inside her, we're finally shown a character (a main character that is, as opposed to a guest-appearing hit man) who really will go to any lengths to get what they want (as opposed to arguing with someone next to a broken railing and waiting for them to fall through it). And the sight of a helpless Krystle being dragged along the ground by her horse, her foot caught in the stirrups, has lost none of its sadistic, melodramatic heroine-tied-to-a-railway-track power in the past three decades.

    Now we know how far Alexis will go, but what about Abby? In this week's KNOTS, having tracked Jeff and the kids to an unspecified location where Californian custody rulings do not apply, she takes her ex-husband to bed, wins his confidence and makes him (and everyone else) believe she wants to marry him again - only to then jilt him at the courthouse and issue him with a restraining order instead. Jeff falls for Abby's plan a little too easily, but it's all worth it for Donna Mills' mean-looking "He hurt me - nobody gets away with that!" freeze frame.

    Abby and Jeff aren't the only divorced couple getting it on in Soap Land. Angela Channing and ex-husband Douglas (previously Jock Ewing's lawyer at his murder trial, now proprietor of the New Globe newspaper) celebrate would have been their wedding anniversary with some discreetly off-screen nookie.

    Lust-at-first-sight rears its swollen head twice this week, and both times between it's between a spoilt, married heiress and a sinister stranger. In FLAMINGO ROAD, Michael Tyrone makes Constance Weldon Caryle purr by rubbing her neck with ice cubes, while on DYNASTY, Fallon Carrington Colby exchanges French pleasantries with Dr Nick whilst wearing only a towel, then later climbs through his apartment window to lie in wait for him. (Constance can't do that bit yet because she's still pretending to be paralysed.)

    There's some interesting stuff about gender roles in this week's Soap Land. "Women are into all kinds of different occupations nowadays," observes Val in KNOTS. Indeed they are - the principle antagonist in three of the five soaps is now a woman: Abby, Alexis and Angela. And the primary business in two of the soaps is female-owned and run. "I declare! A woman sellin' cars?? … What's a woman know about machines?" exclaims Lilimae upon hearing that Karen has taken a proactive involvement in the running of Knots Landing Motors. On the domestic front, FALCON CREST's best scene involves Chase watching smugly as an angry Maggie insists on changing her own tyre. Gender roles remain steadfastly traditional in DALLAS, meanwhile, much to Donna's frustration. "Do you feel it's a sign of weakness to talk to a woman about your problems?" Miss Ellie asks Ray, hitting the nail on the head.

    KNOTS and DALLAS each use a variation on the same gag this week. On KNOTS, Richard turns to Kenny for advice on where he can acquire a couple of call girls. On DALLAS, Bobby Ewing asks an old college pal turned doctor about the best way to determine the paternity of a child. Despite Richard and Bobby's insistence that they are enquiring on behalf of a third party (which they are), Kenny and the doc assume that the "friend" they're talking about is themselves.

    Meanwhile, Soap Land's psychiatric patients grow increasingly frustrated with their shrinks. "Boy, am I getting sick and tired of that!" snaps Claudia in DYNASTY. "I really hate it, you know? ... All of this probing. What are you looking for? What hidden motive?" "There's nothing left to talk about," Pam insists on DALLAS. "This is so futile … We can talk from now until doomsday about why I feel the way I feel and it won't change anything."

    Blake and JR are in both financial straits and each leaves town to try and raise the money he needs. Blake flies to Vegas to sell a share in his football team so he can repay Cecil Colby his $9,000,000. Meanwhile, JR travels to New York to discuss floating Ewing Oil on the Stock Exchange - a desperate attempt to raise the $20,000,000 plus interest he needs to stop Cliff, Vaughn Leland and the cartel foreclosing on the company's assets. (New York is represented by the same establishing shot of the Brooklyn Bridge and Twin Towers used throughout last week's FALCON CREST.) Blake's meeting, involving snarls, threats, haggling and hoodlums, is ultimately successful. JR's is not. However, the main purpose of both trips is to remove Blake and JR from the centre of the action for the majority of their respective episodes. When each man does return home, it's to a major baby-related drama: for in the same week that Alexis Carrington kills a baby, Bobby Ewing buys one - a fact acknowledged thirty-one years later in the brilliant drill site scene of New DALLAS's pilot episode. ("Bobby's not your dad," John Ross reminds Christopher. "Everybody knows your dad sold you when you were a little baby.")

    While the best scene in "Starting Over" is Sue Ellen breaking up with Dusty, (finally she gets to make the kind of noble sacrifice she talked about in "Lover, Come Back") the funnest part is the way all the other storylines - Ray's business problem, JR's stockpile of oil, Bobby's purchase of Christopher, Pam's breakdown and Miss Ellie's current de-facto role as head of the family - converge at the end of the episode to create one almighty misunderstanding that manages to be stupid, funny and thrilling all at the same time. "It happened! Oh, we’ve got a baby to adopt!" cries Pam as she grabs Christopher, her shrill elation hitting the perfect manic note for this nutty twist.

    And this week's Soap Land Top 5 are …
    1 (3) DYNASTY
    2 (4) DALLAS
    3 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    4 (1) FALCON CREST
    5 (-) FLAMINGO ROAD
     
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