FALCON CREST versus DYNASTY versus DALLAS versus KNOTS LANDING versus the rest of them, week by week

Discussion in 'Falcon Crest' started by James from London, Sep 23, 2016.

  1. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    This week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (3) DALLAS
    2 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (1) FALCON CREST
    4 (-) DYNASTY
     
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  7. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    I wonder if Emerald Point N.A.S. was the only soap without emeralds.
    What a fantastic, soapy line. Deserves extra points for this.
    I could see this happen on TNT Dallas too.
    Considering the fact that this was a scenario without any danger (sort of a non-narrative) I'd say that this was quite a progressive approach.
    These days it's not so unusual anymore.
     
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  8. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    29 Mar 89: DYNASTY: Sins of the Father v. 30 Mar 89: KNOTS LANDING: Giganticus II: The Revenge v. 31 Mar 89: DALLAS: April Showers v. 31 Mar 89: FALCON CREST: Resurrection

    One way or another, Roger Grimes aka Tommy McKay causes an awful lot of trouble this week. On DYNASTY, Fallon wakes up screaming from a dream about him. “Looked like you were going ten rounds with Sugar Ray,” observes her bedmate Zorelli. “It’s like he’s inside my head. I can’t get him out!” she replies. On DALLAS, April can’t get him out of her apartment and later wakes up in the hospital looking like she’s gone ten rounds with Sugar Ray too.

    Zorelli suggests Fallon is suppressing some childhood trauma: “Some things are so painful, the mind just blocks things out.” We’ve been here before, of course — Miss Ellie’s denial after Jock’s death, Val becoming Verna after the loss of her twins, Emma flipping out after killing Jason, Fallon’s own incest fantasy-induced amnesia — but when Fallon turns to her mother for answers about Roger (“He did something that really terrified me,” she insists), Alexis is offended: “I hope you’re not suggesting that he molested you … Your father murdered him and now you’re trying to vilify him! He’s dead. For god sake, let him rest in peace!” Similarly, when April turns to Tommy’s sister for help early on in this week’s DALLAS (“He kicked down my front door and threatened me”), Tracey, like Alexis, refuses to take her seriously: “I just don’t believe that … Tommy’s been working very hard to turn things around. I’m not about to let someone like you spoil it all.”

    The seeds of Abby’s and Sue Ellen’s Soap Land departures are sewn this week, with Ted Melcher introducing the idea of Greg becoming the US Trade Representative for Japan (a post Abby will end up taking) and Don Lockwood asking Sue Ellen if she’s ever considered leaving Texas for good. (She claims never to have considered the notion.) More pressingly, it’s only six weeks until the entire Carrington/Colby clan will disappear from our screens without warning and so we must take our sense of closure where we can find it. Handily, there are a couple of scenes in this week’s DYNASTY where characters reflect upon their pasts. Alexis, in an interlude of alcohol-fuelled nostalgia, reviews her four husbands (“What a bunch!”). First, Blake (“He didn’t love me but he’d kill anyone who was going to make me happy”), then Cecil (“He died on the wedding night — and I got the blame!”), followed by “dear, dumb Sean” (“He died and tried to take me with him!”) and finally Dex (“The only feelings he’s got are between his waist and his knees”). She concludes while gazing longingly at a snapshot of Tommy McKay, that Roger Grimes was “the only man who ever loved me.”

    Then it’s Dex’s turn. During a heated exchange with Alexis, he insists that he has “put the last eight years on hold just so I could be there for you!” To be pedantic, Dex has only known Alexis for the past five years, but maybe time moves differently in Soap Land — which could also account for a passing remark of Karen Mackenzie over on KNOTS. After Paula Vertosick complements her on her house, she casually remarks that “we’ve been here about, oh, ten years.” Ten years is how long KNOTS has been running, which suggests that the Fairgates arrived in the cul-de-sac only a short time before Gary and Val moved in. There’s no specific reason why that shouldn’t be the case, but it’s never been mentioned before and with Sid and Karen being the mom and dad of Seaview Circle from the very beginning, it’s just always felt like they’d been there a longer amount of time.

    Back on DYNASTY, Sable finds Alexis, still brooding about the past, looking through some old mementoes, including a painting once gifted to her by Roger Grimes. Sable recognises it as the work of Frederich Stahl, Adolf Hitler’s favourite painter: “Hitler admired Stahl’s work so he stole everything the man ever painted … and none of his paintings were ever seen again.” It then emerges the Collection buried at the bottom of the Carrington Lake consists of precious artworks procured by the Nazis during World War II, and that this is the terrible secret Blake’s been hiding all season (and indeed, for the past thirty-something years). He explains to Sable to his father came by the treasure innocently, without realising what it was. Years later, with the aid of Dex’s father and Jason Colby, Blake hid the loot with a view to one day returning it to its rightful owners. The realisation that no-one we know was guilty of any wrongdoing is just the tiniest bit anti-climactic. It means that there is no cold-hearted, evil counterpart to FALCON CREST’s Nazi gold-diggers (Jacqueline Perrault, Henri Denault, Johann Reibman) for us to be shocked (and secretly thrilled) by. Apparently, the only person who sought to profit from Nazis’ crimes was this week’s resident troublemaker, Roger Grimes/Tommy McKay.

    Speaking of whom, in a brief scene on DALLAS (that I’m pretty sure was cut from the original BBC broadcast), Tommy/Roger becomes the first Soap Land character to snarf cocaine onscreen. Previously, whenever the likes of Olivia Cunningham or Peter De Vilbis were about to indulge, the camera would abruptly cut away. Following on directly from this scene, we see Tommy burst into April’s apartment, trash the place and then beat her unconscious. As far as depictions of male-on-female violence go, this is more brutal than anything Soap Land has previously served up. The only incident that comes close is the beating Sean Rowan gave Leslie Carrington at the end of last season’s DYNASTY.

    Tommy v April is an unfair fight in more ways than one. When April first arrived in Dallas, she was a sexy, witty gold-digger. During the past year or so, she has become an increasingly diluted character. A few weeks ago, she threw herself a one-person birthday party. The moment where she giggled delightedly at the pair of oversized fluffy duck slippers she’d gifted herself ranks as Soap Land’s most toe-curling moment since Melissa Agretti’s final meltdown. Tommy, on the other hand, is currently the most fascinating person on DALLAS. A long-haired, volatile young man, he’s trapped in a show where everyone else is either middle-aged and square or just acts like they’re middle-aged and square. He’s the first Soap Land character who seems to actively hate the programme he’s on and so spends his time frantically pounding on the self-destruct button, trying to find a way out.

    While one could legitimately argue that the scene between Tommy and April is gratuitous, that we don’t need to see every blow (although it’s the dubbed-on sound effects rather than the clearly pulled punches that give the scene its impact), the incident certainly isn’t treated lightly. Unlike the Sean/Leslie assault, after which Leslie was never mentioned again, it proves to be a major turning point for all the characters involved. It reignites both the feud between the Ewings and the McKays, and Bobby and April’s romance. Also, unlike those blurred lines that occur whenever JR coerces a woman into having sex with him, the show makes it clear that April is no way complicit in her ordeal. “I’m gonna press charges against him. I did everything I could to avoid it so I’m not gonna blame myself,” she tells Bobby afterwards. The assault also leads to further violence when Bobby goes after Tommy to give a taste of his own medicine. As the younger and bigger of the two, Tommy manages to get a few decent licks in, but ultimately it’s not his face in the opening credits and so he ends up taking a beating. (One way or another, it’s a week of violent retribution for Roger Grimes/Tommy McKay. As well as Bobby Ewing knocking him out for battering a defenceless woman, Blake Carrington concludes that “it was my father who killed Roger Grimes” after he caught Roger helping himself to the Nazi loot back in ’64.)

    Tommy’s attack on April aside, there is some notably blatant objectification of women on this week’s DALLAS, even by the series’ own standards. For the second time this season, JR meets Detective Rattigan in a PG-13 titty bar chockfull of women in skimpy bikinis and high heels either dancing in front of men or serving them drinks. Later in the ep, JR meets with Tommy, whom he finds at a newsstand ogling the centrefold of Boudoir magazine. Each of these scenes begins with JR making a quip about the other man’s lowbrow tastes and ends with him engrossed in what he has just supposedly disapproved of. In the bar scene, he becomes so distracted by the floor show he doesn’t even notice when Rattigan departs. After Tommy leaves the newsstand, JR picks up his discarded magazine to see what he was looking at. “Well, he doesn’t have such bad taste after all,” he murmurs, chuckling appreciatively.

    The Boudoir centrefold comes to life on FALCON CREST when Richard Channing encounters Samantha Ross, an enigmatic prostitute who just happens to be a dead ringer for the late Melissa Agretti. “Do all hookers hate men?” he asks her. “Yes,” she replies matter-of-factly. Richard, however, turns out to be the exception to the rule. “I am attracted to you,” she admits. “With you, it’s strictly pleasure, no business.” A hooker who doesn’t even charge — who could ask for more? However, the gender stereotype is intriguingly inverted at the end of the episode. “You’re a bigger whore than I am, Richard,” she tells him. “I am indeed,” he concurs, snogging her face off.

    Sexism rears its head on KNOTS LANDING too, this time in the workplace, as Paige finds herself playing gopher for Abby and fixing coffee for minions (“Could you make us a fresh pot, hon?” smarms Mort). Unlike DALLAS’s centrefolds and FALCON CREST’s fantasy prostitutes, she at least gets to voice her frustrations — which sets off a brilliantly (and wittily) plotted chain of events. “I have worked for you for over a year now,” she reminds Greg. “I know I can contribute substantially more to Sumner Group* than I do working as a glorified note-taker and errand-runner.” She then impresses the boss by suggesting he lobby for the Japanese trade representative post by ingratiating himself with Murakame, the corporation that recently bought Lotus Point. There’s only one problem, of course — Murakame is a fictitious company invented by Abby. To keep the charade going, she is forced to hire an actor to assume the role of Mr Nagata, a Murakame representative. (There’s more secret casting on DALLAS where Sue Ellen and Don Lockwood fly to Malibu to audition “a dozen JRs” for their movie.) Abby plans for Nagata to meet with Greg, “pronounce himself insulted at Greg’s offensive western ways” and refuse to have anything more to do with him. Paige unwittingly scuppers this scheme by enlisting a Mr Toyo to instruct Greg in how best “to do business without offending Japanese sensibilities.” While KNOTS is clearly having fun with Asian stereotypes here, the joke is ultimately at the expense of Americans’ ignorance of a culture other than their own. (This ignorance reaches its apotheosis on DALLAS when Gustav Hellstrom introduces himself to Cally as a Scandinavian. She looks at him blankly. “What’s a Scandinavian?” she asks.) At one point during his lesson with Mr Toyo, Greg holds his hands up in confusion: “Lemme get this straight — if Mr Nagata is smiling, it could be because he got the joke, because he didn’t get the joke or because I ticked him off?” “Yes,” replies Mr Toyo, a broad grin on his face. “How come you’re smiling?” Greg asks. “Because you pay me so much to explain these things to you!” he replies. This remark reminds me of an exchange between Bobby Ewing and Tilly, the black caterer at Ewings’ first barbecue back in the DALLAS mini-series. Bobby asks her to please stop addressing family members as “Mr Bobby” and “Mr Jock”. “Time I drop the mister, I have to charge 10% less,” she replies. Eleven years later, Mr Toyo (as well as Mr Nagata) is simply doing what Tilly did back then — making a profit by exploiting rich white people’s cultural preconceptions.

    The whole idea being her brainwave, Paige fully expects to attend the meeting with Greg and Mr Nagata, but is blocked by Abby: “I’ve only made a reservation at the restaurant for four people,” she smiles icily. “We can’t very well spring a fifth person on Mr Nagata. After all, he might think you’re a geisha girl!”

    The shift that occurs in Paige’s character at this point is fascinating. Somewhere during this storyline and without the viewer even noticing, she has been transformed from snooty heiress to plucky underdog. Here, she is essentially channelling Melanie Griffiths’ titular character in Working Girl while Abby mirrors Griffiths’ nemesis boss played by Sigourney Weaver. Who knows if this was mere coincidence, but the movie had been nominated for five Oscars just six weeks before this episode aired so it was certainly in the zeitgeist. Also, the characters’ wardrobe choices for this sequence — Paige circumspect in black, Abby bold in red — match Griffiths’ and Weaver’s in the film’s promotional poster.

    Two weeks ago, DALLAS celebrated its 300th episode by trapping JR and Bobby in an elevator. During this episode of KNOTS, Paige does the same thing to Abby so she can take her place at the meeting with Mr Nagata. Abby gets off easier than the Ewing boys, however. “Bobby and I have been stuck in an elevator for thirteen hours,” JR informs Cally at the start of this week’s DALLAS. “I’ve been stuck in there for over two hours!” complains Abby. Meanwhile, Angela Channing spends the entirety of this week’s FALCON CREST, its 200th episode no less, also trapped, albeit in the rather more spacious surroundings of the New Globe hospitality suite, courtesy of son Richard. She complains to Garth that she’s “a prisoner in a penthouse” after he catches her trying to pick the lock of the private elevator.

    The buried Nazi treasure isn’t the only twist on this week’s DYNASTY to echo an old storyline on FALCON CREST. Turns out Tanner McBride, the sweet guy from the hospital Sammy Jo has the hots for, is a priest. It’s Melissa and Father Christopher all over again, only then we knew from the start that Padre C was a man of the cloth.

    Frederich Stahl’s painting, a landscape of what looks like a country town, looks nice, but I’m not as excited by it as Hitler apparently was. Cally’s latest artwork on DALLAS is also a landscape, more Grandma Moses in style, and gets the thumbs up from Miss Ellie and Clayton. (“This one’s better than the last one!” declares Ellie.) All things considered, I think I’d prefer to have the Farlows rather than the Führer as my fan club.

    50691555_10157028453771532_1801117810005377024_o.jpg

    50600979_10157028454036532_6603970589394731008_o.jpg

    In spite of Blake’s and Abby’s best efforts, this week’s DYNASTY and KNOTS each end with someone stumbling upon the respective secret they’ve worked so hard to keep. On DYNASTY, Blake, Jeff and Dex are at the Carrington Lake checking on the site where the Collection is buried, unaware that Zorelli is observing them through a pair of binoculars. On KNOTS, Paige is watching cable TV in her recently acquired apartment when she spots the Executive Vice President of Murakame being terrorised by Giganticus, the hundred-foot star of his own badly dubbed black-and-white monster movie. Quicker than you or I could whip out a camera phone in 2019, Paige slams a tape into her VCR and records a close-up of Mr Nagata. I really love how this majestically crappy movie bookends this episode of KNOTS. In the first scene, we hear Pat Williams ordering her daughter Julie to turn it off, while the last shot of the ep has Paige looking intently at a close-up of Nagata.

    Trend of the week: Coincidences — or are they? “I thought that everything that happened was just a bizarre coincidence,” Blake tells Sable, “Grimes’s body preserved for all those years so close to where the Collection was buried [but] it all must be connected!” Sure, Roger’s body and the Collection might be connected, but Sable’s diver and Krystle being at the lake at the exact same time remains a coincidence — a pure, undiluted soapy coincidence.

    Likewise, Michael Fairgate just happens to meet Paula Vertosick, the very forest ranger who made a pass at his stepfather earlier in this season's KNOTS. “Isn’t that wild that we both heard her lecture?” he says to Mack. “It’s such a coincidence!” That’s not the half of it: Mack and Michael each meeting Paula separately at White Horse Mountain is one thing, Paula then coming to Knots Landing to teach a class at the same college Michael attends and being an expert in the exact field Karen needs someone to be an expert in so she can oppose the oil drilling at Lotus Point is quite another. But it all slots together so beautifully, so knottily, that it’s not that one merely forgives or overlooks the contrivance, the contrivance becomes an actively pleasurable part of the viewing experience.

    Other characters, meanwhile, use coincidence as a smokescreen for their own premeditated actions — such as when Cally and JR “accidentally” bump into Gustav Hellstrom. “Hopefully, there’s still some money to be made in oil — that’s why I’ve come to Dallas,” Gustav explains. “Well, that’s a coincidence,” exclaims JR. “Ewing’s my name and oil’s my game!”

    However, the biggest, soapiest, nuttiest coincidence of the week occurs on FALCON CREST when Richard Channing looks across a crowded restaurant and happens to see a woman who happens to be played by the same actress who used to play Melissa. It’s his “Holy shit, it’s Ciji!” moment. But while she may look just like the screechily hysterical Melissa who went up in flames, Samantha’s personality is more like Melissa’s when she first arrived in FC — controlled, measured, mysterious. It’s like welcoming back an old friend.

    This week’s Top 4 is … close! DALLAS’s violence and FC’s doppelgänger made their respective episodes memorable, while DYNASTY is a 5-star episode all the way. But KNOTS is even better than that — I’d forgotten how much I love this first era of the Sumner Group with Greg and Abby in adjacent offices and all that scheming in the shadows. It’s as good as soap gets.

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

    *This week’s KNOTS is the first time the Sumner Group has been referred to by name — only minus its definite article.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2019
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  9. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    29 Mar 89: DYNASTY: Sins of the Father v. 30 Mar 89: KNOTS LANDING: Giganticus II: The Revenge v. 31 Mar 89: DALLAS: April Showers v. 31 Mar 89: FALCON CREST: Resurrection

    One way or another, Roger Grimes aka Tommy McKay causes an awful lot of trouble this week. On DYNASTY, Fallon wakes up screaming from a dream about him. “Looked like you were going ten rounds with Sugar Ray,” observes her bedmate Zorelli. “It’s like he’s inside my head. I can’t get him out!” she replies. On DALLAS, April can’t get him out of her apartment and later wakes up in the hospital looking like she’s gone ten rounds with Sugar Ray too.

    Zorelli suggests Fallon is suppressing some childhood trauma: “Some things are so painful, the mind just blocks things out.” We’ve been here before, of course — Miss Ellie’s denial after Jock’s death, Val becoming Verna after the loss of her twins, Emma flipping out after killing Jason, Fallon’s own incest fantasy-induced amnesia — but when Fallon turns to her mother for answers about Roger (“He did something that really terrified me,” she insists), Alexis is offended: “I hope you’re not suggesting that he molested you … Your father murdered him and now you’re trying to vilify him! He’s dead. For god sake, let him rest in peace!” Similarly, when April turns to Tommy’s sister for help early on in this week’s DALLAS (“He kicked down my front door and threatened me”), Tracey, like Alexis, refuses to take her seriously: “I just don’t believe that … Tommy’s been working very hard to turn things around. I’m not about to let someone like you spoil it all.”

    The seeds of Abby’s and Sue Ellen’s Soap Land departures are sewn this week, with Ted Melcher introducing the idea of Greg becoming the US Trade Representative for Japan (a post Abby will end up taking) and Don Lockwood asking Sue Ellen if she’s ever considered leaving Texas for good. (She claims never to have considered the notion.) More pressingly, it’s only six weeks until the entire Carrington/Colby clan will disappear from our screens without warning and so we must take our sense of closure where we can find it. Handily, there are a couple of scenes in this week’s DYNASTY where characters reflect upon their pasts. Alexis, in an interlude of alcohol-fuelled nostalgia, reviews her four husbands (“What a bunch!”). First, Blake (“He didn’t love me but he’d kill anyone who was going to make me happy”), then Cecil (“He died on the wedding night — and I got the blame!”), followed by “dear, dumb Sean” (“He died and tried to take me with him!”) and finally Dex (“The only feelings he’s got are between his waist and his knees”). She concludes while gazing longingly at a snapshot of Tommy McKay, that Roger Grimes was “the only man who ever loved me.”

    Then it’s Dex’s turn. During a heated exchange with Alexis, he insists that he has “put the last eight years on hold just so I could be there for you!” To be pedantic, Dex has only known Alexis for the past five years, but maybe time moves differently in Soap Land — which could also account for a passing remark of Karen Mackenzie over on KNOTS. After Paula Vertosick complements her on her house, she casually remarks that “we’ve been here about, oh, ten years.” Ten years is how long KNOTS has been running, which suggests that the Fairgates arrived in the cul-de-sac only a short time before Gary and Val moved in. There’s no specific reason why that shouldn’t be the case, but it’s never been mentioned before and with Sid and Karen being the mom and dad of Seaview Circle from the very beginning, it’s just always felt like they’d been there a longer amount of time.

    Back on DYNASTY, Sable finds Alexis, still brooding about the past, looking through some old mementoes, including a painting once gifted to her by Roger Grimes. Sable recognises it as the work of Frederich Stahl, Adolf Hitler’s favourite painter: “Hitler admired Stahl’s work so he stole everything the man ever painted … and none of his paintings were ever seen again.” It then emerges the Collection buried at the bottom of the Carrington consists of precious artworks procured by the Nazis during World War II, and that this is the terrible secret Blake’s been hiding all season (indeed, the past thirty-something years). He explains to Sable to his father came by the treasure innocently, without realising what it was. Years later, with the aid of Dex’s father and Jason Colby, Blake hid the loot with a view to one day returning it to its rightful owners. The realisation that no-one we know was guilty of any wrongdoing is just the tiniest bit anti-climactic. It means that there is no cold-hearted, evil counterpart to FALCON CREST’s Nazi gold-diggers (Jacqueline Perrault, Henri Denault, Johann Reibman) for us to be shocked (and secretly thrilled) by. Apparently, the only person who sought to profit from Nazis’ crimes was this week’s resident troublemaker, Roger Grimes/Tommy McKay.

    Speaking of whom, in a brief scene on DALLAS (that I’m pretty sure was cut from the original BBC broadcast), Tommy/Roger becomes the first Soap Land character to snarf cocaine onscreen. Previously, whenever the likes of Olivia Cunningham or Peter De Vilbis were about to indulge, the camera would abruptly cut away. Following on directly from this scene, we see Tommy burst into April’s apartment, trash the place and then beat her unconscious. As far as depictions of male-on-female violence go, this is more brutal than anything Soap Land has previously served up. The only incident that comes close is the beating Sean Rowan gave Leslie Carrington at the end of last season’s DYNASTY.

    Tommy v April is an unfair fight in more ways than one. When April first arrived in Dallas, she was a sexy, witty gold-digger. During the past year or so, she has become an increasingly diluted character. A few weeks ago, she threw herself a one-person birthday party. The moment where she giggled delightedly at the pair of oversized fluffy duck slippers she’d gifted herself ranks as Soap Land’s most toe-curling moment since Melissa Agretti’s final meltdown. Tommy, on the other hand, is currently the most fascinating person on DALLAS. A long-haired, volatile young man, he’s trapped on a show where everyone else is either middle-aged and square or just acts like they’re middle-aged and square. He’s the first Soap Land character who seems to actively hate the programme he’s on and so spends his time frantically pounding on the self-destruct button, trying to find a way out.

    While one could legitimately argue that the scene between Tommy and April is gratuitous, that we don’t need to see every blow (although it’s the dubbed-on sound effects rather than the clearly pulled punches that give the scene its impact), the incident certainly isn’t treated lightly. Unlike the Sean/Leslie assault, after which Leslie was never mentioned again, it proves to be a major turning point for all the characters involved. It reignites both the feud between the Ewings and the McKays, and Bobby and April’s romance. Also, unlike those blurred lines that occur whenever JR coerces a woman into having sex with him, the show makes it clear that April is no way complicit in her ordeal. “I’m gonna press charges against him. I did everything I could to avoid it so I’m not gonna blame myself,” she tells Bobby afterwards. The assault also leads to further violence when Bobby goes after Tommy to give a taste of his own medicine. As the younger and bigger of the two, Tommy manages to get a few decent licks in, but ultimately it’s not his face in the opening credits and so he ends up taking a beating. (One way or another, it’s a week of violent retribution for Roger Grimes/Tommy McKay. As well as Bobby Ewing knocking him out for battering a defenceless woman, Blake Carrington concludes that “it was my father who killed Roger Grimes” after he caught Roger helping himself to the Nazi loot back in ’64.)

    Tommy’s attack on April aside, there is some blatant objectification of women on this week’s DALLAS, even by the series’ own standards. For the second time this season, JR meets Detective Rattigan in a PG-13 titty bar chockfull of women in skimpy bikinis and high heels either dancing in front of men or serving them drinks. Later in the ep, JR meets with Tommy, whom he finds at a newsstand ogling the centrefold of Boudoir Magazine. Each of these scenes begins with JR making a quip about the other man’s lowbrow tastes and ends with him engrossed in what he has just supposedly disapproved of. In the bar scene, he becomes so distracted by the floor show he doesn’t even notice when Rattigan departs. After Tommy leaves the newsstand, JR picks up his discarded magazine to see what he was looking at. “Well, he doesn’t have such bad taste after all,” he murmurs, chuckling appreciatively.

    The Boudoir fantasy comes to life on FALCON CREST when Richard Channing encounters Samantha Ross, an enigmatic prostitute who just happens to be a dead ringer for the late Melissa Agretti. “Do all hookers hate men?” he asks her. “Yes,” she replies matter-of-factly. Richard, however, turns out to be the exception to the rule. “I am attracted to you,” she admits. “With you, it’s strictly pleasure, no business.” A hooker who doesn’t even charge — who could ask for more? However, the gender stereotype is intriguingly inverted at the end of the episode. “You’re a bigger whore than I am, Richard,” she tells him. “I am indeed,” he concurs, snogging her face off.

    Sexism rears its head on KNOTS LANDING too, this time in the workplace, as Paige finds herself playing gopher for Abby and fixing coffee for minions (“Could you make us a fresh pot, hon?” smarms Mort). Unlike DALLAS’s centrefolds and FALCON CREST’s fantasy prostitutes, she at least gets to voice her frustrations — which sets off a brilliantly (and wittily) plotted chain of events. “I have worked for you for over a year now,” she reminds Greg. “I know I can contribute substantially more to Sumner Group* than I do working as a glorified note-taker and errand-runner.” She then impresses the boss by suggesting he lobby for the Japanese trade representative post by ingratiating himself with Murakame, the corporation that recently bought out Lotus Point. There’s only one problem, of course — Murakame is a fictitious company invented by Abby. To keep the charade going, she is forced to hire an actor to assume the role of Mr Nagata, a Murakame representative. (There’s more secret casting on DALLAS where Sue Ellen and Don Lockwood fly to Malibu to audition “a dozen JRs” for their movie.) Abby plans for Nagata to meet with Greg, “pronounce himself insulted at Greg’s offensive western ways” and refuse to have anything more to do with him. Paige unwittingly scuppers this scheme by enlisting a Mr Toyo to instruct Greg in how best “to do business without offending Japanese sensibilities.” While KNOTS is clearly having fun with Asian stereotypes here, the joke is ultimately at the expense of Americans’ ignorance of a culture other than their own. (This ignorance reaches its apotheosis on DALLAS when Gustav Hellstrom introduces himself to Cally as a Scandinavian. She looks at him blankly. “What’s a Scandinavian?” she asks.) At one point during his lesson with Mr Toyo, Greg holds his hands up in confusion: “Lemme get this straight — if Mr Nagata is smiling, it could be because he got the joke, because he didn’t get the joke or because I ticked him off?” “Yes,” replies Mr Toyo, a broad grin on his face. “How come you’re smiling?” Greg asks. “Because you pay me so much to explain these things to you!” he replies. This remark reminds me of an exchange between Bobby Ewing and Tilly, the black caterer at Ewings’ first barbecue back in the DALLAS mini-series. Bobby asks her to please stop addressing family members as “Mr Bobby” and “Mr Jock”. “Time I drop the mister, I have to charge 10% less,” she replies. Eleven years later, Mr Toyo (as well as Mr Nagata) is simply doing what Tilly did back then — making a profit by exploiting rich white people’s cultural preconceptions.

    The whole idea being her brainwave, Paige fully expects to attend the meeting with Greg and Mr Nagata, but is blocked by Abby: “I’ve only made a reservation at the restaurant for four people,” she smiles icily. “We can’t very well spring a fifth person on Mr Nagata. After all, he might think you’re a geisha girl!”

    The shift that's occurred in Paige’s character by this point is fascinating. Somewhere during this storyline and without the viewer even noticing, she has been transformed from snooty heiress to plucky underdog. Now she is essentially playing Melanie Griffiths’ titular character in Working Girl while Abby mirrors Griffiths’ nemesis boss played by Sigourney Weaver. Who knows if this was mere coincidence, but the movie had been nominated for five Oscars just six weeks before this episode aired so it was certainly in the zeitgeist. Also, the characters’ wardrobe choices for this sequence — Paige circumspect in black, Abby bold in red — match Griffiths’ and Weaver’s in the film’s promotional poster.

    Two weeks ago, DALLAS celebrated its 300th episode by trapping JR and Bobby in an elevator. During this episode of KNOTS, Paige does the same thing to Abby so she can take her place at the meeting with Mr Nagata. Abby gets off easier than the Ewing boys, however. “Bobby and I have been stuck in an elevator for thirteen hours,” JR informs Cally at the start of this week’s DALLAS. “I’ve been stuck in there for over two hours!” complains Abby. Meanwhile, Angela Channing spends the entirety of this week’s FALCON CREST, its 200th episode no less, also trapped, albeit in the rather more spacious surroundings of the New Globe hospitality suite, courtesy of son Richard. She complains to Garth that she’s “a prisoner in a penthouse” after he catches her trying to pick the lock of the private elevator.

    The buried Nazi treasure isn’t the only twist on this week’s DYNASTY to echo an old storyline on FALCON CREST. Turns out Tanner McBride, the sweet guy from the hospital Sammy Jo has the hots for, is a priest. It’s Melissa and Father Christopher all over again, only then we knew from the start that Padre C was a man of the cloth.

    Frederich Stahl’s painting, a landscape of what looks like a country town, looks nice, but I’m not as excited by it as Hitler apparently was. Cally’s latest artwork on DALLAS is also a landscape, more Grandma Moses in style, and gets the thumbs up from Miss Ellie and Clayton. (“This one’s better than the last one!” declares Ellie.) All things considered, I think I’d prefer to have the Farlows than the Führer as my champion.

    In spite of Blake’s and Abby’s best efforts, this week’s DYNASTY and KNOTS each end with someone stumbling upon the respective secret they’ve worked so hard to keep. On DYNASTY, Blake, Jeff and Dex are at the Carrington Lake checking on the site where the Collection is buried, unaware that Zorelli is observing them through a pair of binoculars. On KNOTS, Paige is watching cable TV in her recently acquired apartment when she spots the Executive Vice President of Murakame being terrorised by Giganticus, the hundred-foot star of his own badly dubbed black-and-white monster movie. Quicker than you or I could whip out a camera phone in 2019, Paige slams a tape into her VCR and and hits the record button. I really love how this majestically crappy movie bookends this episode of KNOTS. In the first scene, we hear Pat Williams ordering her daughter Julie to turn it off, while the last shot of the ep has Paige looking intently at a close-up of Nagata.

    Trend of the week: Coincidences — or are they? “I thought that everything that happened was just a bizarre coincidence,” Blake tells Sable, “Grimes’s body preserved for all those years so close to where the Collection was buried [but] it all must be connected!” Sure, Roger’s body and the Collection might be connected, but Sable’s diver and Krystle being at the lake at the exact same time remains a coincidence — a pure, undiluted soapy coincidence.

    Likewise, Michael Fairgate just happens to meet Paula Vertosick, the very forest ranger who made a pass at his stepfather earlier in this season's KNOTS. “Isn’t that wild that we both heard her lecture?” he says to Mack. “It’s such a coincidence!” That’s not the half of it: Mack and Michael each meeting Paula separately at White Horse Mountain is one thing, Paula then coming to Knots Landing to teach a class at the same college Michael attends and being an expert in the exact field Karen needs someone to be an expert in so she can oppose the oil drilling at Lotus Point is quite another. But it all slots together so beautifully, so knottily, it’s not that one merely forgives or overlooks the contrivance, the contrivance becomes an actively pleasurable part of the viewing experience.

    Other characters, meanwhile, use coincidence as a smokescreen for their own premeditated actions — such as when Cally and JR “accidentally” bump into Gustav Hellstrom. “Hopefully, there’s still some money to be made in oil — that’s why I’ve come to Dallas,” Gustav explains. “Well, that’s a coincidence,” exclaims JR. “Ewing’s my name and oil’s my game!”

    However, the biggest, soapiest, nuttiest coincidence of the week occurs on FALCON CREST when Richard Channing looks across a crowded restaurant and happens to see a woman who happens to be played by the same actress who used to play Melissa. It’s his “Holy shit, it’s Ciji!” moment. But while she may look just like the screechily hysterical Melissa who went up in flames, Samantha’s personality is more like Melissa’s when she first arrived in FC — controlled, measured, mysterious. It’s like welcoming back an old friend.

    This week’s Top 4 is … close! DALLAS’s violence and FC’s doppelgänger made their respective episodes memorable, while DYNASTY is a 5-star episode all the way. But KNOTS is even better than that. I’d forgotten how much I love this first era of the Sumner Group with Greg and Abby in adjacent offices and all that scheming in the shadows. It’s as good as soap gets.

    (*This week’s KNOTS is the first time the Sumner Group has been referred to by name — only minus its definite article.)

    1. (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2. (2) DYNASTY
    3. (-) DALLAS
    4. (-) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2019
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  10. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    And from this thread, too. It's going to be a bitter pill to swallow (again!)
    Knots Landing Motors seemed like an established business, maybe even an Knots "institution", but it's possible that Sid had bought it from a previous owner.
    I'm still not sure what a Nazi treasure is. Is it art made by Nazis or art made by Jews seized by Nazis?
    They didn't? How disappointing.
    Haha, the Iggy Pop of Dallas.
    What a great comparison. And speaking of zeitgeist, something must have changed. In the middle-eighties it was the Alexises and Sigourneys who were the celebrated "power women".
    It's always nice when they explain the situation.
    I have Bing'd him so many times (misspelled as Frederick) and I still can't find him on wiki. But I found a Friedrich on a Dutch website.
    https://www.simonis-buunk.nl/kunstwerk/stahl-f/7265/#info
    It looks very lovely, I'm sure Sable would have bought a few for Miles' baby.
    And it also reminds me of Running Up That Hill (but not by Kate Bush, although I think Queen have used artwork similar to this one - but I could be wrong)
    upload_2019-1-24_4-24-41.png
    That's very, very resourceful. I mean, I'd probably recognize Charlton Heston or Roger Moore but...well, never mind.
    There was something very upfront and relaxed about Paula (but then again, so was Jill) so it didn't feel like a plotsy plot. She just kinda wandered into it all and it could change nothing or everything.
     
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  11. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    I get the impression that Sid, like all Soap Land businessmen, had built KLM up from scratch. Of course, the family could have lived elsewhere in Knots Landing before moving to the cul-de-sac.

    In this instance, according to Sable, "Hitler admired Stahl’s work so he stole everything the man ever painted from galleries and museums, off the living room walls of the people he had shuttled into concentration camps, and none of his paintings were ever seen again."


    Blake: It all started with my father. He ran a shipping line back in the early fifties. He was approached and asked to transport some German scholars to South America.
    Dex: Scholars — you mean war criminals?
    Blake: The official word was these people were facing persecution by the communists. Anyway, for arranging the transport he was paid in artwork supposedly owned by these people.
    Dex: Then when your father needed a place to hide it all there was the Colterton mining project.
    Blake: Yes, that’s where Sam Dexter and Jason came in. I don’t think either one of them knew about the origins of this collection, but evidently, they didn’t ask questions either.
    Dex: When Blake found out what was really going on, he confronted the others and they agreed to get rid of it. Now what I don’t understand is why you [Blake] didn’t just blow it up to begin with.
    Blake: It wasn’t our treasure. I suppose in the back of our minds was the idea that somehow we would put it back into the hands of the victims’ families.

    Hmm, looking at it again, I'm not as sure as I was.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2019
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  12. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    I just proved that this was not the case at all, unless they are different Stahls. What a fabulous coincidence that would be, sort of a Moldova/Moldavia controversy.
    Yeah, reading your previous post I concluded that they didn't want to tarnish the Carrington legacy but when I watched Dynasty I never got the idea that I was supposed to like Tom Carrington.
    However, I find it surprising that Tom was in cahoots with the much younger Jason Colby rather than his father, Andrew. I think it works better as a sins-of-the-fathers kind of story.
    But then again, with Monica and Miles being de-Colbied I guess they didn't care how it would retroactively affect the ex-spin off.
    Like Falcon Crest changed the Jacqueline/Richard story, and I'm sure there are other examples of soap histories being tampered with.
     
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  13. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    05 Apr 89: DYNASTY: Tale of the Tape v. 06 Apr 89: KNOTS LANDING: Dial M for Modem v. 07 Apr 89: DALLAS: And Away We Go! v. 07 Apr 89: FALCON CREST: Enquiring Minds

    Two of Soap Land’s most memorable songbirds make a comeback of sorts this week. On DYNASTY, Dominique Devereaux gets her first mention since leaving two years ago. “Your father had a black sister. I think that’s interesting,” Zorelli remarks to Fallon. It is interesting — in fact, at the time of discovery, it was utterly unique — yet this is the very first time Dominique’s race has been referred to on screen. (Ditto the Williams family and the description of Frank as “a very attractive black man” four weeks ago on KNOTS.)

    Like Zorelli, Cliff Barnes isn’t afraid to acknowledge the elephant in the room when DALLAS’s own chanteuse, Afton Cooper, returns — as a redhead. “I like the colour of your hair,” he declares fearlessly. Aside from the new ‘do and the synthesised backing track that now accompanies her when she sings (“It takes two-ooo to flyyyy …”), it’s the same old Afton — her unique combination of fluffiness and solemnity still very much intact. As welcome as the returns of Monica and Not-Melissa to DYNASTY and FALCON CREST have been, this is the homecoming of the Soap Land season.

    DYNASTY has done a great job of keeping us guessing this year. No sooner was the “Who is the dead man in the lake?” mystery resolved than it was replaced by “Who killed Roger Grimes?” And now that the question of the terrible secret Blake has been hiding all these years has been answered, a new puzzle emerges to take its place: “Who blew open the vault and stole the Nazi treasure?” Blake thinks the solution could lie with his ex-wife. “Grimes might have given Alexis something besides that painting,” he speculates, “something that might tell us where the Collection had been moved to … I wonder if there isn’t a way we could find out what else she may have?” Sable volunteers for the job: “I do have a passkey to her suite.” Nor is she the only Soap Land character up for a spot of illegal trespass this week. On KNOTS, Karen Mackenzie and Paula Vertosick sneak onto what used to be Lotus Point in the hope of finding something to “keep this land from being destroyed.”

    The possible consequences of getting caught are dealt with in opposing ways on DYNASTY and KNOTS. “Mother, sneaking into Alexis’s suite is illegal!” Sable’s daughter Monica points out. “It’s called breaking and entering … Even rich and powerful people get thrown in jail, you know.” “If we get arrested, it’ll be good publicity for our cause,” Paula tells Karen. “Getting arrested for a cause — the possibility of that hasn’t happened since 1972,” Karen replies nostalgically. “If Mack could see me now, he’d say, ‘way to go!’”

    Karen and Paula get what they came for when they spot surveyors working in an area deemed environmentally off-limits. “They took a lot of pictures and Paula’s been cataloguing all the data on her computer — I think they can stop Murakame from drilling,” Michael later informs his Aunt Abby — not realising, of course, that she is Murakame. Sable’s search of Alexis’s suite, meanwhile, doesn’t yield any concrete discoveries, but she does overhear an urgent phone message from an art expert Alexis has engaged to examine the Frederich Stahl painting. It’s previously been established that the last thing Blake wants is for the existence of this painting to become public knowledge, so we know that this is not good news.

    Fortunately for Blake, all Sable needs to do to erase the message is press a couple of buttons on Alexis’s answering machine. It’s not so simple for Abby when it comes to eliminating Paula’s computerised evidence against Murakame, however. First, she must learn all about modems and viruses and “booting up”. Luckily, the Sumner Group’s computer whizz (they aren’t yet known as geeks) is only too happy to educate on her on such matters. (There was a similar situation during DALLAS’s Dream Season where JR likewise feigned interest in computer technology in order to gain access to Dimitri Marinos’s medical records.)

    While Sable erases messages and Abby wipes data, Lance Cumson favours a more traditional method of destroying evidence — in his case, the real deed proving that Falcon Crest genuinely belongs to the Agretti family. He burns it.

    At present, Lance is one of several characters who is concealing evidence of one wrongdoing while simultaneously investigating another. “Something is wrong!” he insists regarding his grandmother’s trip to Greece — but no-one will take him seriously (including a senatorial aide played by a youthful-looking Walter White from BREAKING BAD). Likewise on DYNASTY, while a federal marshal bursts into Alexis’s office with a warrant in order, as Sable puts it, “to find out some fascinatingly unpleasant things about Colby Co,” Alexis herself puts pressure on the cops to reopen the Roger Grimes murder investigation: “Listen to me, Captain. You keep on sitting on this case and I’m going to blast you right over the front page of my newspaper!” And while Zorelli bugs Dominique’s relatives, someone else is bugging Zorelli. Back on FC, Nick Agretti is trying to get to the bottom of what Lance is covering up (i.e., who really owns Falcon Crest) whilst also avoiding some tricky questions regarding Anna’s death. “There seems to be a question about the medication I prescribed for Miss Cellini,” her doctor tells him. “According to the law, that missing morphine has to be accounted for.”

    KNOTS LANDING’s Paige is likewise playing detective (last week, she was Melanie Griffiths in Working Girl; this week, she’s Nancy Drew), posing as a casting director (just as her father did earlier in the season) in order to track down the name of the actor masquerading as a Murakame executive. (Another Ewingverse blonde can also be seen sifting through actors’ headshots this week — DALLAS’s Lucy flies to Malibu to give her input into the casting of ex-husband Mitch in Sue Ellen’s movie.)

    As if all these unsolved mysteries weren’t enough, more arise throughout the course of this week’s eps: Who is the unknown person lurking outside Elsworth Chisolm’s apartment on DYNASTY? Is it the same unknown person that later pushes him to his death? Who is Gary’s mystery caller known only as 'Sally’s Friend' on KNOTS? And is theirs simply another mistaken identity “meet-cute” like Sammy Jo and Tanner’s on DYNASTY, or is something more sinister afoot? (The way the camera avoids showing her face suggests the latter.) And why does Richard look so pleased at the end of FALCON CREST as he observes Not-Melissa helping Angela escape from her penthouse prison? “Right on schedule and all according to plan,” he smiles enigmatically.

    In lieu of any such mystery on DALLAS, there’s a fake murder. JR and Cally take Gustav Hellstrom out for “an old-fashioned evening of Dallas nightlife.” One thing leads to another and Gustav ends up “killing” a jealous husband (played by the same stunt guy who’s appeared in virtually every barroom brawl on DALLAS since the series began). JR offers to intercede with the cops on Gustav’s behalf in return for “the name of the man behind the European consortium, and when and where the meeting is gonna be held … and the top dollar you’re willing to pay for the oil.” So it is that Gustav becomes the Scandinavian version of Walt Driscoll, but hey, call it Soap Karma for his other self, Hamilton Stone, betraying Alexis to Sable over those tankers earlier in the year.

    “Because of the way you are, everybody you know has to be related until life with you is like living in a soap opera,” Mack tells Karen after she decides to set Paula up on a date with Gary. If you think that’s meta, it’s nothing compared to what’s going on on DALLAS as Sue Ellen’s lover Don attempts to turn her soap opera reality into cinematic fiction. Overhearing him read a scene from the movie with an actress auditioning to play her, she mistakes their scripted exchange for soap opera reality and assumes he’s cheating on her. Just to add an extra layer of artificial reality, portraits of real-life movie stars gaze down at Sue Ellen as she eavesdrops — among them Joan Crawford, one of the prototypes for long-suffering soap heroines like ... Sue Ellen herself. And while we’re on the subject of classic Hollywood, is it mere coincidence, as the Murakame storyline grows ever murkier and Abby ever more villainous, that she should suddenly adopt the peekaboo hairstyle famously associated with film noir femme-fatale Veronica Lake?

    Each of the soaps sounds a note of finality this week. Blake receives his final divorce decree from Krystle. Val announces her decision to give up writing on KNOTS. Jordan Lee, the longest-serving member of the oil cartel on DALLAS, sells out to West Star. And on FALCON CREST, Tommy Ortega tells his girlfriend, Kelly, he doesn’t love her anymore. This last one shouldn’t matter as much as the other three — Tommy and Kelly only arrived in Soap Land this season and aren’t even in the opening credits — and yet somehow it does. The subsequent scene where Kelly approaches Maggie outside her office echoes previous encounters where a heartbroken poor girl confronts her uncomfortable rich rival: Claudia and Krystle at the art gallery in DYNASTY Season 1; Lucy and Betty the waitress on the cardboard patio in DALLAS Season 7. “It’s so unfair,” Kelly tells Maggie. “You have everything. If you let him go, he’ll come back to me.”

    There are other references to past storylines throughout the week: Zorelli’s visit to Dominique’s uncle, Cliff’s reply when Afton asks how he ended up a partner in Ewing Oil (“Pam — with her gone, my whole life changed”), Angela warning Not-Melissa against Richard (“He killed his step-father, the man who raised him from infancy”) and, most subtle of all, a brief reminder of Karen’s pill addiction on KNOTS when Paula turns up at the Mackenzies’ house with a celebratory bottle of wine. Karen politely declines to drink without explaining why, leaving Mack and Paula to share a toast “to the good guys.” There’s an equivalent moment on DALLAS when Tommy McKay’s doctor prescribes him pain medication following the beating he received from Bobby last week. “Don’t give him the bottle,” the doc warns Tracey. “Why?” she asks. “He’s an addict, isn’t he?” “He was.” “Then he still is.” Later, she and Tommy struggle over the medication and she is forced to finally see his drug problem for what it is. This has the effect of waking her up from the walking coma she’s been in ever since Tommy first arrived, making her suddenly interesting again. Alas, it also results in her following Tommy out of the show. Her farewell scene with Bobby (“Tommy’s gone — I have to find him, Bobby. He’s an addict” “… You’re condemning yourself to a terrible life” “… He’s my brother and I believe that he will die without me”) is as poignant as Afton’s and Mandy’s original departure scenes.

    There’s no Frederich Stahl or Cally Ewing painting on display this week, but there is a new portrait of Angela hanging at Falcon Crest (well, sort of new — it’s based on a Season 1 publicity shot). No-one comments on it directly, but its presence helps emphasise the absence of its subject from the family home. Over on DALLAS, Bobby and April get to make fun of modern art when he arrives at her place to find her hanging an abstract painting sent over from a gallery “on approval”. “What is it?” he asks, a comedically pained look on his face. “It’s an imitation Neo-classical interpretation of 1920s Dadaism … It’s pretty awful,” she replies smugly. There were a few equivalent exchanges between Paige and Greg last season when she was working for an art gallery and trying to persuade him to make some adventurous acquisitions. Like Bobby, Greg wasn’t always impressed with her choices, but there was nonetheless a light, witty quality to their discussions. By comparison, Bobby and April come across as narrow-minded and complacent, taking cheap shots at something they don’t understand and which is easy to mock — modern art, what a joke! Way back in Season 1, Jock’s bemused reaction to the abstract sculpture Sue Ellen gave him and Ellie for their anniversary was funny — because the joke was on Sue Ellen and JR, and how their attempts to impress had backfired, rather than the object itself. That’s not the case here. (I realise I’ve overthought what is a very brief scene, but hey — why stop now?)

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (3) DALLAS
    3 (2) DYNASTY
    4 (4) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2019
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  14. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    I love these twists, when things-go-wrong turn out to be carefully orchestrated manipulations.
    I don't remember any of these storylines, so I guess it remains to be seen just how clever Richard's plan is.
    Ha-ha. Sue Ellen often has an air of "being above all that (soap)" but she always learns it the hard way.
    Did she mention or announce it? It's not like she's sitting behind her typewriter 24/7, and although we're meant to believe that she was a very successful author - and it doesn't get more factual than a guest appearance on the Mike Douglas Show - it never really felt that way. There was a plan and then the book, but hardly anything in between.
    Was it really necessary to announce it? Couldn't she just not write another book? Would anyone ask "how come you're not writing?"
    Maybe it's difficult to write soap characters as famous people, unless the viewer himself can attribute that fictional fame to that character based on suggestions and bits of storyline, rather than "facts"?
    Even John Waite on Paper Dolls wasn't believable as a real artist, but Jacqueline Perrault was totally believable as an underground ruler mostly because she wasn't introduced as an underground ruler.
    It was bits of information that allowed me to form my own image of this character.
    I would never have made that connection if you hadn't mentioned it.
    To me it seemed like an insignificant thing that happened for no particular reason, and yet these things often stick out like a sore thumb.

    In a Dutch tv series from the 1980s, the hostess character asks her guest character if she would like to have some tea (or coffee, I don't remember).
    "Yes, please".
    The hostess character also offers her guest a cracker with peanut butter (that's not some weird Dutch custom, btw) because she had run out of cookies.
    But why, why oh why, would a fictional person run out of fictional cookies?
    It had nothing to do with the characters or the story, it wasn't even supposed to be weird, they just did it.
    Maybe we should be thankful that it wasn't Alexis who discovered actress Rita aka Krystle's look-alike. What a circus that would have been.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2019
  15. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    Neither do I.

    Val announced it (her retirement from writing) to Aunt Ginny, mostly to shut her up and stop her interfering in her life. By the end of the episode, she'd changed her mind.

    Oh, I always kind of bought Val as a writer -- when she was writing, that is - i.e., her first two books.

    I think it's hard to convey the act of novel writing or composing dramatically because is writing is such an internal process. By and large, I think the soaps got away with it, with Val, Donna and Maggie*, because their work was set against their every day, i.e., marital, lives, but in bio-pics it's much harder to convince the audience that this is the moment when Dickens had the idea for Great Expectations or this is when Paul McCartney wrote 'Yesterday'.

    He wasn't believable full stop. I don't think real people and soap opera mix unless you're Zsa Zsa Gabor.

    Yes, not showing too much allows the audience's imagination to fill in the blanks.

    Well, it (Karen not drinking) was a clever use of Karen's past in this scene because it forced Paula and Mack into another intimate moment (toasting each other) -- with Karen watching and smiling.

    You mean she might have cast her in Dynasty: The Movie?

    *Hey, that's a good idea for a future Soap battle: who wrote the best Soap Land book (or script) we never got to read?
     
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  16. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    How did that work for Bohemian Rapsody? Have you seen it?
     
  17. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    12 Apr 89: DYNASTY: No Bones About It v. 13 Apr 89: KNOTS LANDING: That's What Friends Are For v. 14 Apr 89: DALLAS: Yellow Brick Road v. 14 Apr 89: FALCON CREST: Grand Delusions

    A streak of paranoia runs through this week’s episodes. On DYNASTY, Blake accuses Adam of framing him (“You called me, told me that man’s name, told me to go over there and now he’s dead … Is this the way you plan to get even with me?”) while Fallon accuses Zorelli of using her (“All you’ve ever wanted to do is prowl around my brain, trying to find a way to hang my father”). On KNOTS, Ted suspects Abby of setting him up (“Was that your plan all along — to drag me into this plot and hang me out to dry?”) while Paige suspects Ted of murder. On DALLAS, JR is suspicious of the brash American tourists who befriend Cally on their honeymoon. “I don’t trust people who become your best friends the first minute you meet ‘em,” he says while searching her purse for a surveillance device he thinks they planted. Over on FALCON CREST, it’s surveillance central: Angela has Richard followed, Richard has Samantha followed, and Pilar discovers that “Richard has recordings of some of our meetings, Malcolm, and on the tapes, it sounds as if we concocted everything the SEC is investigating just so we can extort money.”

    Even in matters of the heart, there is suspicion. Is Sable lying when she says she has no romantic designs on Blake? Is Paula lying when she says she has no romantic designs on Mack? “There’s nothing between me and Blake — except for Jeff’s nasty rumours,” Sable insists. “Honestly, when’s he going to grow up and stop treating me like the wicked stepmother?” “Grow up and quit reading your fantasies into other people’s actions,” Paula snaps at Mack. While the jury’s still out on Sable, Paula eventually confesses all — well, almost all. “There’s this guy that I really like but it’s not gonna work out … He’s that married,” she tells Michael when he finds her listening to ‘All I Want’ from Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ album — a Soap Land musical choice as pleasantly unexpected as The Doors’ ‘Break on Through (to the Other Side)’ would be on New DALLAS three-and-a-half decades later.

    Four weeks before Sue Ellen and Abby both exit by the Soap Land gift shop, the two former Mrs Ewings are in contrasting moods. As Sue Ellen pores over the past and frets about the future, Don advises her to “just take what we have and be happy” — the exact sentiment of the song Abby merrily sings along to in the Sumner Group elevator: ’Don’t Worry, Be Happy’. The Abster isn’t the only character to exhibit a heretofore unseen musical flair this week. But whereas Afton Cooper listens in respectful silence while Cliff plays the piano on DALLAS, Paige, who happens to be riding the elevator alongside Abby, bestows upon her the most contemptuous of eye-rolls during her big number. It’s a really funny moment.

    Speaking of the Sumner Group elevator, it is fast becoming a character in its own right — a space both sufficiently egalitarian for Greg and Abby to rub shoulders with the hoi polloi, i.e., Mort, Bob and Harvey the messenger, and secluded enough for Abby to subvert Soap Land’s recent “stuck in an elevator” trend by deliberately stranding herself and Ted between floors long enough to seduce him.

    In its depiction of the Sumner Group, KNOTS gets to have its cake and eat it. In the executive offices, the story is about “them”, the backstabbing stars of the show; in the lobbies and hallways, it’s about “us”, the everyday workers, with Paige and Ted straddling both worlds. This week, Ted, in particular, embodies both the extraordinary and mundane. While not many of us have taken the afternoon off to murder a Japanese actor, we can all relate to his relief when he says, “It’s great getting out of the office. Between all those fluorescent lights, the air-conditioning and all those cubicles, it can really drive you crazy.” Seeing the corporation from the perspectives of both bosses and employees makes the Sumner Group seem three-dimensional in a way that the other show’s big businesses never really have. Probably the close we’ve come previously is the post-coital conversation between Blake Carrington’s chauffeur Michael and Cecil Colby’s secretary Jennifer back in DYNASTY Season 1. By chance, Jennifer resurfaces on this week’s DALLAS in a role that also combines elements of the extraordinary and the mundane: she’s a West Star agent posing as a loud American housewife who pals around with Cally in Austria.

    “I just can’t believe it, we’re really here in Europe!” Cally marvels. And they really are in Europe. Ordinarily in Soap Land, foreign climes are represented by an establishing shot of a well-known tourist spot followed by an appropriately decorated hotel room, but here we have genuine Bavarian locations. Wintry, mountainous, forbidding — this feels more like the setting for a Cold War spy thriller than an American super soap. The actors’ faces are red with cold, which simply never happens in Soap Land. While Cally gets the best lines (“How come they drive so fast on that auto-barn?” she enquires after arriving in Salzburg; “You mean like a cockroach?” she asks, baffled, when JR talks about the bug in her purse), Carter McKay gets the best scenes. Darkly dressed in a heavy overcoat, hat and gloves, he cuts a far more sinister figure looming in the shadows of a chilly Austrian night than he ever did sweltering under the heat of a Texas sun. April and Cally, meanwhile, combat the cold in massive fur coats, thereby indicating that Greg Sumner’s recently declared moratorium on such items in KNOTS (“Mother here won’t be able to wear her furs anymore”) doesn’t extend to its parent soap.

    Austria is also mentioned on DYNASTY. Visiting the art appraiser whom Alexis recently consulted about the Frederich Stahl painting, Sable persuades him, for a price, to keep quiet about its origins. She also learns that “a number of art dealers have received calls recently asking if his works have surfaced.” “Not that many people even knew about Stahl,” she subsequently informs Blake. “He was a local painter, local to Germany, Austria, and his works disappeared with Hitler. Why would anybody be asking about him?” (Meanwhile on FC, Nick Agretti finds proof that an equivalent appraiser forged the deeds to Falcon Crest at Angela’s behest — all of which suggests that the art world is just as corruptible as the corporate business one.)

    Overseas locations are likewise a subject matter on KNOTS and FALCON CREST as Abby and Richard each attempt to rid themselves of a liability. Much like Sable’s diver Gibson and Jill Bennett’s forger Mrs Bailey earlier in the season, The Actor Formerly Known as Mr Nagata and The Hooker Who Resembles Melissa are former assets who have now outlived their usefulness. While Abby furnishes Mr Nagata with a cab to the airport and an envelope full of cash (“This ought to give you some independence in Japan”), Richard explains to Samantha that “it would be safer for both of us if you went away for a while … Europe, the Far East — where would you like to go?” Neither, however, is in any hurry to leave. Instead of catching his plane, Mr Nagata doorsteps Abby in — where else? — the Sumner Group elevator. “Do you know how expensive things are in Japan these days?” he asks her. Whereas Mr N is motivated by greed, Samantha is motivated by passion. “I don’t want to go, Richard,” she purrs. “Let me show you just how much I can do for you.”

    While Abby submits to Nagata’s blackmail (“Paying him off buys me time,” she explains to Ted), Richard gets heavy with Samantha: “If anyone connected with Angela ever sees you, the trouble that it causes me will be nothing compared to what happens to you.” In both cases, the woman then uses her sexuality to manipulate her man. Samantha distracts Richard from his threats by taking him to bed and Abby charms Ted into delivering the payoff money to Nagata on her behalf. “I don’t think I can afford to be seen with our actor friend,” she coos.

    As chance would have it, Paige witnesses Ted’s meeting with Nagata then sees him getting into his car with him and driving away. She starts to follow, but loses them in traffic and spends the rest of the episode trying to get in contact with Ted. Finally, in the episode’s closing scene, he shows up at her apartment building. After buzzing him in, she sees on a news report that Mr Nagata was “killed instantly” in “a freak incident” on the freeway. This is the second suspicious death of a minor but pivotal Soap Land character in as many weeks. Last week’s DYNASTY ended with the discovery of Elsworth Chisolm, a self-proclaimed witness to the killing of Roger Grimes, lying dead on the ground underneath his apartment window. Did he jump or was he pushed? In the opinion of his granddaughter Phoenix, either Blake or Adam is to blame: “I go out for a couple of hours with Blake Carrington’s son, I come back and find my grandfather dead.” After accepting an invitation from her to come over, Adam opens the door to find her pointing a shotgun at him. Back on KNOTS, Paige is equally suspicious of Ted and before letting him through her door, ensures that she has a kitchen knife discreetly to hand. While Phoenix screams in Adam’s face and then collapses in his arms, Paige and Ted both keep their guard up, making “casual” conversation over a glass of wine as the camera assumes each of their points of view in turn, thus mirroring Jill and Val’s confrontation at the end of last season. It’s exquisitely tense.

    While it took five years for DYNASTY to acknowledge Dominique’s skin colour, Soap Land’s a little quicker off the mark when it comes to remarking on new hairdos. Val’s “reshaping” trim was incorporated into her post-Jill fresh start on KNOTS a few weeks ago, Cliff managed to blurt out “I like the colour of your hair” when confronted by Afton’s redhead look last week, and this week, Tanner McBride observes Sammy Jo’s new shaggy bob thusly: “You got your hair cut. It looks nice.” His face isn’t actually in shot when he’s saying this though, so it’s entirely possible that the line was inserted later as an afterthought.

    As Don Lockwood completes his screenplay on DALLAS (Sue Ellen’s verdict: “It’s wonderful but very difficult for me to read”), Val Gibson comes out of retirement approximately half an episode after giving up writing forever on KNOTS. Aunt Ginny marks the occasion by presenting her with her very own home computer. (Truly, the nineties are just around the corner.) Unlike Abby in last week’s ep, Val does not have a tech whizz on staff to give her a crash course in computers and so enlists the expertise of one Danny Waleska, whom Ginny is convinced Val knew in a previous life (“Danny was a scribe and you were a vestal virgin …”). By the end of his first scene, they’ve arranged a date. Gary, meanwhile, continues to chat to the mysterious “Sally’s Friend” over the phone. As a general rule, I try not to look too far ahead when re-watching the eps, but seeing these two seemingly unrelated storylines unfold simultaneously is even more interesting with the benefit of hindsight than it was without.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    I haven't. People seem to either really love it or ... really not love it.
     
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  18. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    03 May 89: DYNASTY: Blast From the Past v. 04 May 89: KNOTS LANDING: Straight Down the Line v. 05 May 89: DALLAS: The Great Texas Waltz v. 05 May 89: FALCON CREST: Ties That Bind

    “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, Monica, but Jason Colby isn’t your father,” declares Alexis. “It was me, It was me — I killed Roger Grimes!” cries Fallon. “Oh Vanessa, you were the love of my life,” JR informs a woman we’d never even heard of before last week. Each of these shocking statements would seem to overturn everything we’ve been told about a major character’s back story. Looked at a little closer, however, they actually enhance what we already know. If Monica and Miles were never legitimate members of the Colby dynasty, then Sable’s overprotectiveness towards them — or at least towards Miles — and her paranoia that he would lose his “rightful share” of Jason’s empire makes even more sense now than it did when THE COLBYS was on the air. It also finally answers the question as to why Sable is now as obsessed with destroying Alexis as she once was with keeping her family together: it’s thanks to Alexis spilling the beans to Jason about the twins’ paternity (in one of those off-screen events we were not privy to, much like Blake learning about Krystle’s illness or Abby discovering there was oil under Lotus Point) that she no longer has a family to protect, Jason having subsequently disowned both Sable and her children. (It’s interesting that the absent Jason is depicted in a somewhat harsher light on DYNASTY than he was on THE COLBYS, just as the Texas Ewings always have been on KNOTS.)

    Likewise, the discovery that Fallon shot Roger, a trauma she has suppressed since childhood, would surely help explain any number of her previously established neuroses — from the daddy fixation to the incest rape fantasies to possibly even her abduction by aliens.

    Meanwhile, the consequences of JR’s relationship with Vanessa Beaumont are spelt out for us. “You spoilt me for any woman that ever came after you,” he tells her, “and when we split up, I became cynical about love.” One might argue that we don’t require an explanation for JR’s womanising anymore than we needed the story of Charles Scott jilting Abby as a teenager to provide us with an origin story for her ruthless ambition, and that it’s been enough of a blast to watch JR and Abby behaving badly all these years simply for the hell of it. But whereas the casting of Charles Scott had a (temporarily) damaging effect on Abby’s character (why is she be so besotted with this wimp?), the gorgeousness of Gayle Hunnicut’s performance as Vanessa actually enhances JR’s. It’s not just that she's so radiantly romantic and (when JR gently declines her advances) elegantly lovelorn, but that she is so believably all those things. And because we believe in her, we can believe JR was once in love with her and so he becomes a more intriguing, multi-dimensional character in turn. Encountering Vanessa on his honeymoon is possibly the most interesting thing to have happened to JR all season — more than breaking rocks on a chain gang or spending a night in an elevator or even marrying Cally.

    The penultimate episode of DYNASTY contains two fantastic set pieces. As well as the ridiculously thrilling climax in the Carrington cottage, there’s the scene where all hell breaks loose in the lobby of the Carlton Hotel. After Sable informs Jeff that Adam is responsible for the tabloid headlines about him and Monica, he launches himself on Adam. Furniture is overturned, punches are thrown, names are called and accusations hurled (“You’ve been all over her!” “She’s my sister!” “That makes you a pervert!” “You’re slime!”). Then into the middle of the chaos strides Alexis, returning after an absence of three episodes, trailed by bellboys laden down with luggage. Swiftly apprised of the situation, she delivers the mother of all revelations: “It’s just not possible for there to have been incest between Monica and Jeff … Jeff and Monica are not brother and sister.” Cue more threats and insults (Sable: “You monster, I will tear your tongue out of your head!” Alexis: “Look at her, she’s like a rabid bitch!”) and pretty soon Alexis and Sable are scrapping alongside Adam and Jeff, with Monica and several extras running helplessly in-between them. There’s something oddly joyous about the whole thing. The shot where the camera takes a God’s eye view, surveying the mayhem from above, could have made an ideal end to the series: And there we leave them all, brawling and tearing each other’s hair out for the rest of eternity.

    There’s another God’s eye view shot on DALLAS. We’re shown JR’s bedroom from above as if the camera were on the ceiling looking down — except there is no ceiling. Instead, there's Don Lockwood and Sue Ellen perched in the rafters — because this isn’t JR’s actual bedroom, but the movie equivalent of it, which is indistinguishable from the real thing. So why would DALLAS go to the trouble of undermining one of its most iconic rooms (“one of the great battlegrounds of Texas,” as Sue Ellen referred to it a few months ago) by exposing it as a mere set? Maybe because the only way for Sue Ellen to truly break free of Southfork’s grasp is to fictionalise it, to reduce it to nothing more than a few plywood walls nailed together while a bunch of technicians mill around in-between takes. After all, if it’s not real, it won’t be so difficult for her to leave it behind. Sure enough, up in the rafters, she and Don are discussing his awkward relationship with John Ross — the next obstacle to be overcome before she can leave the show.

    Back on DYNASTY, the contretemps at the Carlton is followed by a pleasingly ironic scene where Sable is consoled by, of all people, Jeff. “You and I have been at each other’s throats ever since we first met, but I gotta tell you, I feel for you right now,” he says. That these two characters, who have been JR-versus-Pam-style enemies from the beginning of THE COLBYS, should achieve a level of understanding just one week before the DYNASTY-verse closes its doors for business is as satisfying as it is unexpected.

    Speaking of JR and Pam, Carter McKay delivers a great speech to April in Vienna which mirrors the ultimatum JR gave his sister-in-law at the start of DALLAS Season 6. “If you return to Bobby,” he told Pam then, “all hell is going to break loose. I’ll call off this truce that exists between him and me. We’ll be in a dogfight that will make what went on before look like a love match.” “If Bobby and JR steal this deal from me,” McKay tells April now, “they’re in for an all-out war … A war occupies all of a man’s life. Bobby’s not gonna have any time for you … He’s gonna have his back up against the wall and the only way he’s gonna win is by turning his heart to stone. If you have any hopes of becoming the next Mrs Bobby Ewing, pull him out of this deal.”

    The scene is further enhanced by the grandeur of its location — the State Hall of the Austrian National Library, no less. Sammy Jo finds herself in an equally evocative setting when she tracks Tanner McBride down to a church. FALCON CREST aside, the Catholic church is rarely seen in Soap Land and when it is, it’s invariably shown from the perspective of an outsider: Greg reluctantly attending his daughter’s baptism on KNOTS, Sue Ellen interrupting a grieving Kimberly Cryder on DALLAS and now Sammy Jo, who steals into the pew behind Tanner. “Don’t turn around,” she tells him. “I want to confess to you.” What follows is a her equivalent of Alexis’s recent review of past loves, only with the bitterness replaced by melancholy. “All my life I’ve fallen in love with the wrong people,” she begins sadly, before recounting her misadventures with Steven, Josh Harris, Jeff and now Tanner himself.

    Even rarer than the sight of a Soap Land character in church is to observe one actually praying. Ordinarily, a Soap Land character will offer up his innermost thoughts to a gravestone or a portrait or even an office chair rather than an actual deity. But after Sammy Jo leaves the church, we see an agonised Tanner praying at the altar: “Forgive me, dear God, I feel passion for this woman … Even though I know my thoughts are sinful, I can’t get her out of my heart … Please, dear God, help me.” At a time when every other plot strand on DYNASTY is interconnected, Sammy Jo and Tanner’s story feels weirdly extraneous, yet I find this scene very moving. (But then I’ve always been a sucker for crisis-of-faith stories).

    In Vienna, the Texas Ewings are set to make “one of the biggest deals in the history of the oil industry” as consortium head Rolf Brundin tells both them and McKay that “we will take all your crude for the next five years.” Back in California, the news is not so good for Abby. Rick Hawkins brings her advance word that Murakame’s drilling permits will be denied, which means she will be unable to access the oil under Lotus Point. At the same time, the Mackenzies are applying legal pressure for the real owners of Murakame to declare themselves. “You defrauded your partners out of their holdings,” Rick reminds Abby. “You could end up in jail, and it turns out it was all for nothing.”

    Blake Carrington might also end up behind bars — for the murder of Elsworth Chisolm. “We found your fingerprints in his apartment and a witness who heard you and him fighting just before he was killed,” Captain Handler informs him. “We’ve gotten convictions on a lot less.” By this point, we know that Handler and Roger Grimes’ son Dennis are the ones who bugged Zorelli’s apartment and that they are also after the Collection. (Unlikely alliances clearly run in Dennis’s blood — seven years ago, his grave-digging grandfather conspired with a psychiatrist to kidnap a Carrington baby.) We are also aware that Handler is taking his orders from higher up — but who? Could it be the same mysterious figures who are behind the European oil deal on DALLAS? “The consortium are not who they say they are,” Vanessa Beaumont informs the Ewing boys at the end of this week’s episode. “Before you sign any contracts, you must meet certain important friends of mine … This will all be made clear when you fly to Moscow tomorrow!”

    In a surprise move, Captain Handler blackmails Blake in broad daylight: “Mr Carrington, I’m representing some very important people, people who want to take an old art collection off your hands … Play ball with us and you may not have to go to jail for murder.” Back on KNOTS, it looks as if Rick Hawkins might also be about to blackmail Abby, but she heads him off at the pass. “I never intended to make you an accessory,” she coos apologetically, “[but] since you had prior knowledge of the oil at Lotus Point, you could be named as a co-conspirator with me.” She then comes up with a proposition that could save them both: “Could we predate … all the Murakame documentation … to reflect that someone else owned Murakame?” — that “someone else” being Ted Melcher.

    The brief window of time Abby has before the rest of the world, including Ted, learns that the oil under Lotus Point is worthless means she must move quickly. This puts her in a position similar to the one JR was in back in 1980 when he received advanced warning that his South East Asian oil wells were about to be nationalised. Just as JR managed to offload those leases onto unsuspecting members of the cartel, so Abby now attempts to pull a similar trick on Ted. In return for claiming that he has owned Murakame all along, she promises to split the (non-existent) oil profits with him fifty-fifty (“We can make millions!”). “You’re the only one I trust,” she assures him while whispering a similar tune in Rick’s ear: “You’re the one I depend on.”

    Meanwhile, Zorelli and Paige both return to their former place of employment — the police department and the Sumner Group respectively. “You bugged my apartment! … My ex-partner, my best friend!” Zorelli yells while attacking his erstwhile buddy Rudy. “You are a pathetic drone destined to die a junior vice president,” Paige snaps at Bob while clearing out her desk. In both cases, this behaviour is a smokescreen to mask their real agenda. Zorelli’s fight with Rudy is a stunt he hopes will lead to the genuinely corrupt cop showing his hand while Paige is trying to get to the bottom of Ted’s involvement with Murakame. “Whatever you’re doing, I am going to find out what is going on here,” she promises him.

    As the Murakame story grows increasingly dark, KNOTS starts making direct references to arguably the greatest film noir of them all, Billy Wilder’s 1944 classic Double Indemnity (starring THE COLBYS’ very own Barbara Stanwyck). It manages to do so in a more stylish way than the toe-curlingly contrived gags Bobby and April felt obliged to make about The Sound of Music on last week’s DALLAS just because they were in Austria. Double Indemnity first appears as one of a handful of black-and-white movies Mack and Paula are flicking between on late night TV. Every scene they happen upon shows a couple in a passionate embrace, which serves to exacerbate their own discomfort at being in close proximity to each other. Gary and Sally’s Friend are also watching the film while chatting on the phone. Inspired by the screen lovers’ secret assignation in Jerry’s Market, they arrange to finally meet in a similar location the following day. Abby and Ted, meanwhile, are too busy living their own version of Double Indemnity to watch it on TV. As if the parallels between their situation and Stanwyck and Fred McMurray’s in the movie weren’t clear enough already (a blonde femme fatale, a patsy she seduces into carrying out her dangerously illegal scheme, a crucial piece of legal documentation, murder), they are underlined by the shot of Abby and Ted in bed which turns slowly from black-and-white to colour, and a lush musical score that bears more than a passing resemblance to Miklós Rózsa’s for Double Indemnity.

    While KNOTS goes noir and DYNASTY is shot through with an end-of-season urgency (Blake: “We’re running out of time — we’ve got to find that collection!” Alexis: “They are ruining me — they’re stripping me of Colby Co and everything else I own!”), DALLAS proceeds at a more leisurely pace, with a grand ball and a prolonged making-love-for-the-first-time montage of Bobby and April in Austria. Meanwhile, an amnesiac Clayton goes walkabout in San Angelo. Fortunately, not all law enforcement officials in Soap Land are as rotten as Captain Handler, and a kindly sheriff helps Miss Ellie track her husband down to his first wife’s graveside (“I don’t remember her dying,” he tells her). But while a bewildered Clayton is free to wander the streets, a sane Angela Channing has been committed by her son to a mental hospital run by King Galen of Moldavia. She’s in a similar situation to Val Gibson at the beginning of this season’s KNOTS when no-one believed that Jill had tried to kill her and they all thought she was going crazy instead. Here, everyone thinks Angela’s losing it because of her claims of being imprisoned in Richard’s penthouse and Melissa coming back from the dead. Unlike Val, Angela has never seemed particularly frightened or even upset during her ordeal, just a bit cross. While she is clearly made of sterner stuff than Val and so less likely to show her emotions, her lack of reaction is one of the reasons the stakes on this week’s FALCON CREST don’t seem as high as on the other soaps. Only at the end of the ep, when she appears in court for her mental competency hearing and suddenly blurts out, “That’s the woman — the woman who pretended to be Melissa Agretti!”, only for a perfect stranger to turn around, does the gravity of Angela’s situation seem to impact her — and us.

    While Alexis flashes back twenty-something years to her breakup with Roger in the final scene of this week’s DYNASTY, JR and Vanessa also revisit the 1960s and the end of their own relationship. It turns out that Alexis and JR — Soap Land’s two biggest badasses — were each rejected by the love of their life. “Why weren’t you willing to run away with me? I would have married you,” JR asks Vanessa. “I wanted to go with him wherever he went, but he didn’t want me,” says Alexis of Roger. Whereas JR and Vanessa’s parting was at least bittersweet (“I loved my husband, but God, I loved you too, JR,” Vanessa replies), there was nothing sweet about Roger and Alexis’s final parting: “He was terrible to me — he was violent, he was threatening, he was horrible.”

    We watch in flashback as Roger strikes Alexis, knocking her unconscious, just four weeks after Roger’s other self, Tommy McKay, did the same thing to April on DALLAS. While in broadcast terms, only a month separates the two incidents, narratively, it is more than two decades. It’s as if Roger/Tommy were a Soap Land version of Eugene Tooms on THE X-FILES or Killer Bob from TWIN PEAKS — an evil entity who surfaces once every twenty-five years, unchanged by time, to beat the crap out of a female soap star.

    There’s more violent synchronicity in the Ewingverse as Terrence E. McNally becomes the first Soap Land actor to be murdered twice. As private detective Sam Barker, he was killed on DALLAS three years ago when Angelica Nero’s assistant Grace tampered with the brakes on his car. As Rick Hawkins, he is found electrocuted in his bathtub at the end of this week’s KNOTS. He’s the man who knew too much — about Marinos then, and Murakame now.

    If the Nazi treasure aspect of this season’s DYNASTY recalls a similar storyline on FALCON CREST, then the mystery of Roger Grimes’ death contains several echoes of the Hutch McKinney story on DALLAS: The remains of a long-dead shooting victim are found on the family property (Hutch on Southfork, Roger at the lake). The family patriarch becomes the prime suspect (Jock, then Blake). The campaign to convict him is led by a long-standing enemy (Cliff, Alexis). The truth finally surfaces via flashbacks to a violent argument about a wife’s infidelity (Digger goes nuts after realising Rebecca is about to leave him for Hutch, Roger cruelly rejects Alexis after Blake throws her out). There is a devastating discovery for a principal female character, too young to recall the events of the time (Pam discovers that she is Hutch’s daughter, Fallon realises that she shot Roger to save her mother). In each case, there’s also the added irony of Cliff and Alexis’s vengeance-fuelled schemes backfiring when the real killer turns out to be someone dear to them: Cliff’s father Digger, Alexis’s daughter Fallon.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (2) DYNASTY
    2 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (3) DALLAS
    4 (-) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2019
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  19. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    10 May 89: DYNASTY: Catch 22 v. 11 May 89: KNOTS LANDING: The Heat of Passion v. 12 May 89: DALLAS: Mission to Moscow v. 12 May 89: FALCON CREST: The Last Laugh

    After a season’s worth of accusations and infighting, several of DYNASTY’s warring characters finally reach an understanding — more or less. Take Blake and Alexis, for example. Now that Fallon has been revealed as Grimes’s killer, Blake proposes a truce: “Maybe some good can come out of all this, maybe we can finally put an end to the war between us.” Alexis agrees and they embrace — but there’s still the small matter of “that extraordinary art collection that’s buried underneath this estate.” Alexis goes on to describe it as “community property.” Blake smiles uncertainly — can she really be serious? This is their final interaction of the series and it’s a nicely ambivalent note on which to leave them.

    Similarly, Zorelli is taken into Jeff and Dex’s confidence and the three of them pool their knowledge of Captain Handler and the Collection. This leads to Jeff and Zorelli staking out Handler’s apartment like a pair of mismatched cops in a buddy movie. “You know, Zorelli,” says Jeff dryly, observing his new partner’s eating habits, “had I known you were gonna be having an eight-course meal, we’d have taken your car.” “You don’t like me much, do you?” deduces Zorelli.

    Conversely on KNOTS, nobody can agree about what the hell’s going on. The episode starts with Karen marching into Abby’s office and declaring with total confidence, but only fifty per cent accuracy, “that you and Greg are involved with Murakame.” When Paige and Abby separately conclude that Ted must have killed Rick Hawkins, they can’t get anyone to take them seriously. “You know how paranoid you sound?” Mack asks his daughter. “Do you know how paranoid you sound?” echoes Ted himself, when Abby tentatively suggests the idea. And in spite of Karen and Paula’s repeated accusations, Mack stubbornly refuses to believe that Murakame is corrupt. “You people — concocting this incredible plot because you hate this company,” he tells them. “Large corporations are not inherently evil.”

    In the second half of the episode, however, the discoveries come thick and fast. First, Ted tells Mack about Paige’s affair with Greg, then Paige tells Greg about Ted’s affair with Abby. Meanwhile, Ted realises he’s been tricked by Abby and blabs to a reporter who, in turn, calls Karen for a quote (“I was wondering if you had any comment that one of your former business partners defrauded you?”). The episode then ends as it began, with Karen confronting Abby, only this time in a room full of party guests: “Abby owns Murakame. She has all along. She defrauded me, she defrauded Gary and she is going to jail!”

    On DALLAS, it’s all about trust. Can JR trust what Vanessa says about the Russians? Can the Ewings trust what the Russians say about the Europeans? Can Cally trust JR when he tells he is no longer interested in Vanessa? Can Afton trust Cliff when he tells he isn’t only interested in her because of her daughter? Can Sue Ellen believe any man ever again? “I find it hard to trust and believe anymore,” she says, speaking for practically the entire cast. “I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

    While Blake seems to have finally come to terms with his daughter’s relationship with Zorelli, Mack’s problems regarding his daughter’s relationship with Greg are only just beginning. “Look at ya, Mack — you’re almost jealous!” Paige yells provocatively when she sees how angry he is. “I’m not jealous, I’m ashamed,” he replies. “It’s bad enough you slept with him before he was married, but to have so little pride, Paige, that you let him set you up in this apartment afterwards!” I love the little misunderstandings here: Mack’s assumption that the affair carried on after Greg married Abby and that Paige is now his kept woman. These details don’t make a scrap of difference to the plot, but they add texture, a further layer of miscommunication between father and daughter.

    After Cliff tinkled the ivories for Afton two weeks ago and Ted Melcher did the same for Abby last week, Fallon becomes the third surprise pianist of the season. This time, however, the tune she plays is pertinent to the plot. “I dreamt about a music box,” she explains to Zorelli, “one I used to play with when I a kid, and it was playing this lullaby.” The music box in question contains a miniature merry-go-round, just such like the one Fallon had her slow-motion freak-out on back in Season 4 and later had flashbacks about when she turned into Randall Adams, thus trying all her various mental maladies together.

    In a creepier version of the recent FALCON CREST scenario which found Richard Channing and his son stuck at the bottom of a well, Fallon’s search for the music box ends with her trapped at the bottom of a disused mine shaft with a spooked Krystina, a rapey Dennis Grimes and the long-lost Nazi treasure. “I’ve been in prison a long, long time. You know what that does to a guy?” leers Dennis while breathing down her top. Sure we do, Dennis — your daddy-once-removed, Tommy McKay, gave us a pretty good idea when he got out of jail and started rubbing up against every blonde in Texas. Fallon responds by shooting Dennis, much like she did his original daddy, just before the roof literally caves in on them all.

    No sooner is the murder of one minor Soap Land character, DYNASTY’s Elsworth Chisolm, resolved (courtesy of a throwaway line from Mystery Limousine Lady regarding Dennis: “That man is a lunatic — he killed that witness!”) than another crops up to take its place: the bespectacled appraiser who faked the deeds to Falcon Crest is shown dead on the floor of his shop. (All in all, it’s not been the healthiest season for forgers: as far as we know, Mrs Bailey is still lying in a catatonic state at Soap Land Memorial Hospital.)

    As DYNASTY draws to an end, there’s a sense of closure for some of its characters. Sable is keen to make a fresh start (“I want this baby to come into the world with a clean slate — free of lies, free of vendettas, free of secrets”) while Dex is no longer willing to kowtow to either Alexis or Sable (“Sorry, girls, but I’ve run out of cheeks to turn”). Others, however, seem destined to go on repeating past behaviour: Sammy Jo embarking on yet one more doomed romance, Adam spewing out yet one more vicious one-liner.

    Speaking of one-liners, the news of Sable’s pregnancy in the penultimate scene elicits Soap Land’s first ever reference to the menopause. “So, Sable’s going to have a change of life baby,” Alexis smirks. It’s also fun to hear her talk about the Führer. Her delivery of the line, “Does the name Adolf Hitler ring a bell?” to Sable is hard to beat. Bobby Ewing’s corny jokes about Russian tzars and caviar and fur coats seem puny in comparison. But there’s a certain novelty in hearing JR talk about Perestroika, Glasnost and even Communism: “You know how Daddy used to feel about communists — he used to think that they were behind everything that ever went wrong.”

    Punch of the Week: it’s close, but Monica socking Adam for engineering her and Jeff’s incest scandal narrowly beats Mack taking a pop at Greg for nailing his daughter. That’s not to overlook the thrilling (and possibly fatal) blow Adam inadvertently delivers to both Dex and Alexis that sends them crashing through the balcony railings of the Carlton (their slow-motion screams are a terrific touch). There’s something pleasingly traditional about this cliffhanger — it feels like a throwback to the great Falling Down epidemic of ’81 when Constance Carlyle, Kristin Shepard, Sid Fairgate and Jason Gioberti all plummeted off either a balcony or a cliff towards death or paralysis or, in Sid’s case, both.

    There’s a heatwave on this week’s KNOTS, which builds on the claustrophobic tension of last week’s ‘Double Indemnity’ homage. The scene in Abby’s bedroom where she silently realises Ted has killed Rick explicitly references the 1981 movie ‘Body Heat’ (which, in turn, owed a great deal to ‘Double Indemnity’). ‘Body Heat’ is also set during a heatwave, but it is the sound of wind chimes tinkling outside Abby’s window that directly parallel the wind chimes that play on Kathleen Turner’s balcony throughout the film. While the KNOTS characters swelter and look sultry in the heat, the Ewing boys must battle their way through a blizzard in Moscow. The last time DALLAS saw snow, Lucy was skipping school to fool around with Uncle Ray. The title of Afton’s latest synthesised offering, ‘Through the Eyes of Winter’, is therefore apropos.

    Karpov and Alexi, the two Russians Bobby and JR encounter in Moscow, turn out to be quite jolly, but the way their lip movements fail to correspond with any of their dialogue puts one in mind of Hood, the bad guy puppet with the non-specific foreign accent from THUNDERBIRDS. They tell JR and Bobby that OPEC is behind the big deal that has brought both them and West Star to Europe and that it’s all part of a fiendish plot to stockpile the world’s oil and hold it to ransom. “The idea of OPEC dictating to us just makes my skin crawl,” frets JR, his dormant patriotism coming into play. “You gotta say you care for your country.”

    Carter McKay is less impressed by the Russians’ revelation. “Whatever America used to be, it isn’t anymore,” he tells the Ewing boys upon their return to Vienna. “In a few years, there may be half a dozen corporations that control the country … It’s already half-owned by the Japanese and the Arabs and the Europeans. It’s all a question of investment and profit.” “I don’t know if it’s patriotism or you can call it Texas pride … but I don’t want any foreigners running my state,” says JR flatly. I guess you could also call it xenophobia, but let’s not get hung up on labels. As McKay says, “Like it or not, JR, there are no more borders, there are no more countries. There are just dollars and yen and pounds and marks … We’re making Japanese cars in America, we’re making American cars in Europe and guess where we’re making European cars? In Asia. There’s just one world, there’s just one country, there’s just one language. That language is power. Do you think that people that own West Star stock care where their dividends come from? They only care that they get them. Their only loyalty is to profit and to the man that brings it to them. That man is going to be me.” This extraordinary speech has no precedent on DALLAS but does recall a scene between Richard Channing and his mother a few weeks ago on FALCON CREST where she accused him of selling his children’s valley out from under them. “I haven’t sold their valley,” he replied. “I’m trying to kick its butt into the twenty-first century!” “There won’t be a twenty-first century if you have your way!” Angela insisted. “Don’t let heritage and family pride and all that nonsense keep you on the sidelines,” Richard urged. “You do and the parade’s gonna pass you by. Falcon Crest has to change if it’s gonna succeed in the future.” Richard and McKay seem to be saying the same thing: adapt or die. One might easily imagine Jock Ewing and Old Man Southworth having the same argument about drilling for oil on Southfork back in the ‘30s or recall Cecil Colby challenging Denver Carrington’s upper management policy of “no blacks, no Jews and no women” nine years ago: “I’m not a feminist. I'm not a masculinist. I don't care if a person buttons his fly on the right or the left, but if he's smart, if he puts a dollar's profit in my pocket … I'll hire him — or her.” Forget heritage, forget patriotism, forget gender — “it’s all a question of investment and profit.”

    “So you just sell your soul and to hell with whatever comes after, huh?” Bobby asks McKay. “Maybe that works for you … but it doesn’t for us.” Pilar Ortega says pretty much the same thing this week when Richard boasts that, with him in charge, “Tuscany’s gonna be one of the most prosperous communities in the state.” “… At what cost, Richard?” she asks, anticipating a time when “the valley … becomes so ugly and polluted we can’t live here anymore … You’ve made a lot of enemies, including your own mother … How much is enough?”

    So if Richard Channing and Carter McKay represent the faceless, soulless, corporate future, where does that leave Angela and JR, with their “heritage and family pride and all that nonsense”? In an increasingly globalised business world, is their brand of homegrown, sentimentally justified villainy now obsolete? As Alexi says to the Ewing boys (even as his lips are mouthing something else), “You are very wise in the business of oil, but of international affairs, you know nothing.” It seems very telling that McKay’s “whatever America used to be, it isn’t any more” speech should come just two nights after DYNASTY, a vivid example of something American television used to be but isn’t anymore, ends its run.

    This new sense of global corporate anonymity has also permeated KNOTS — Murakame, anyone? While we’ve been “making Japanese cars in America”, Abby’s been giving American companies Japanese-sounding names she found in the phone book. And there’s also the vagueness of the Sumner Group itself — what sort of business is it, exactly? As viewers, we neither know nor really care — any more than West Star’s stockholders “care where their dividends come from. They only care that they get them.” Greg may have inherited the company from his father, but he has no interest in “heritage and family pride and all that nonsense.” There are no childhood reminisces about the first time he walked knee-high with his daddy through the vineyards or the oilfields and vowed that one day he too would blah, blah, blah.

    But TV abhors a vacuum and the absence of a traditional Soap Land family running the Sumner Group allows its employees to emerge as a kind of ad hoc TV family. We see them in action this week, throwing Ted a leaving party in his office, and lining up to sing Harvey’s praises to Abby. (According to Mort, “he’s been accepted to Stanford on a full scholarship.” According to Bob, “he’s a great athlete, star shortstop on the company softball team”). As in any Soap Land family, there is plenty of room for sibling rivalry and ambition. “If you can’t see the implications in this letter to Paige Matheson,” Mort tells Bob, “if you can’t project the possibilities of this situation, if the raw potential of this opportunity doesn’t leap out at you, I don’t think you’ll ever be a senior vice president.” “It’s just a letter to Paige,” Bob shrugs.

    Ultimately, the Ewing boys back out of the not-so-European-after-all deal, suggesting that when it comes to making money, even JR has a line he will not cross. In Alexis’s final business move on DYNASTY, however, she doesn’t hesitate to use Nazi war crimes to her own advantage. “Drop that lawsuit and I’ll give up all claims to that Nazi treasure,” she tells Sable. “You would use that against Blake?” Sable asks, appalled. “I’m a survivor and nobody brings me down,” she replies unapologetically.

    The final seconds of DYNASTY, following the staircase shoot-out which leaves both Blake and Handler wounded (possibly fatally) are interesting. Zorelli goes to Blake’s side and carefully takes the gun out of his hand without leaving any fingerprints on it. He then passes it, along with his own gun (which might or might not have fired the shot that hit Handler), to his former partner Rudy. Zorelli may no longer be a cop but he clearly hasn’t forgotten police procedure. The same cannot be said for Rudy who simply grabs the guns, instantly putting his own prints all over them. Conversely, the sequence used to depict the discovery of Rick Hawkins’s body on KNOTS is solely about police procedure. It begins with a close-up of a cloth-covered hand unplugging the murder weapon — a hairdryer — before the same cloth is used to retrieve said weapon from the bathtub, while another cop photographs the crime scene, etc.

    During their penultimate week in Soap Land, Sue Ellen and Abby each receives a reminder of her chequered past. At Southfork, Clayton’s memory is jogged when he recognises Sue Ellen. “It seems to tie in with Southern Cross,” he puzzles and she is obliged to admit that she and John Ross lived there for a while. Harold Dyer likewise triggers an awkward memory for Abby when he tells her he’s got a job at Knots Landing Motors. “That’s where you got your start — in the parts department, right?” he asks. “Wrong,” she replies coldly, taking none too kindly to this unintentional reference to Sid’s demise. Back on DALLAS, Miss Ellie is much more forthcoming about Jock’s death. “It was as if a hole opened and swallowed me up,” she tells Lucy. “I always thought that somehow I’d be the one that went first. I used to pray for that.” There are further recollections as Ellie tries to nudge Clayton’s memory by leafing through a family photo album. So it is that we catch our first glimpse of Victoria Principal’s actual face since Pam’s car collided with that tanker. There’s also an unintentional allusion to the nondescript outfit Ellie wore at her and Clayton’s wedding. Pointing at a random picture of the two of them, she says, “That’s the day we were married.” It isn’t, but it might as well have been.

    KL's Abby and FC’s Richard have been at their most ruthless in recent weeks — they’ve each double-crossed a lover (Abby setting up Ted over Murakame, Richard framing Not-Melissa on a drugs charge), and while she’s been defrauding her partners, he’s been gaslighting his own mother. Both, however, have the rug pulled out from under them by a surprise wedding announcement. Abby invites Harvey from the Sumner Group to Olivia’s eighteenth birthday party in the hopes of pairing them off — only for the guest of honour to announce that she and Harold “were married this morning.” Abby is stunned and for all of her wicked, wicked, wickedness, you can’t help but feel for her. Meanwhile, in the FALCON CREST courtroom, Richard has succeeded in convincing the judge that Angela is “mentally disabled to conduct her affairs.” He has just been granted conservatorship of her affairs when Angela’s lawyer hands the judge a document which causes him to amend his previous ruling: “Due to evidence just presented, conservatorship is awarded to Angela Channing’s husband Frank Agretti.” While Frank and Angela exchange a conspiratorial wink across the courtroom, Richard glowers and the frame freezes.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (1) DYNASTY
    2 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (3) DALLAS
    4 (4) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2019
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  20. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    18 May 89: KNOTS LANDING: Down Came the Rain and Washed the Spider Out (1/2) v. 19 May 89: DALLAS: Reel Life v. 19 May 89: FALCON CREST: Decline and Fall

    Each of this week’s season finales focuses the departure of a major character. Abby is leaving for Japan on KNOTS, Sue Ellen for England on DALLAS and Richard for prison on FALCON CREST.

    KNOTS opens with Abby and Greg writing off their marriage in a couple of sentences. “We didn’t get married, we made a business deal,” Abby says. “Well, now, doll, all business deals are off,” Greg replies. At the start of FALCON CREST, Richard ends things with Samantha Ross in much the same way: “There was a deal between us, a good old-fashioned business arrangement, that’s all … Forget our paths ever crossed.” Elsewhere on FC, newlyweds Frank and Angela make it clear that theirs is also a union of convenience. “We’re just buying time,” Angela explains to her family. “The marriage will be annulled when it is safe.” By way of contrast on DALLAS, Don Lockwood tells Sue Ellen that he loves her more than he thought he could love anyone “so share your life with me, Sue Ellen. Come back to England with me.”

    Shortly before Krystle left DYNASTY, she had a conversation with Sable where she all but gave her her blessing (albeit not in so many words) to become her romantic replacement in Blake’s life. This week, Abby and Sue Ellen each have their own “passing of the torch” encounter with a younger woman. While Abby runs into Paige outside Olivia’s apartment, Sue Ellen runs into Cally in the Southfork living room. Where Paige is hostile (“For years, you have lied and cheated and conned people and you’ve gotten away with it — well I am not gonna let you get away with this!” she snarls at Abby), Cally is cordial (“You’ve been truly kind to me, considering I’m the second wife and all,” she smiles at Sue Ellen). The older woman responds with a compliment (“You’re good, you really are. If I were rating you on the Abby scale, Abby being a ten, you’d be a six,” Abby tells Paige. “I think you’re very good for JR. You have a way of drilling deep and bringing out the best in him,” Sue Ellen tells Cally), which is then undercut with a reference to her lack of experience — Abby mentions Paige’s “youth and ignorance” while Sue Ellen cautions Cally against being too “sweet and eager to please.” There isn’t the same older/younger woman dynamic on FALCON CREST, but there is an interesting scene where Pilar encounters Samantha, the doppelgänger of the woman she herself has replaced in both Lance’s life and the show’s opening credits. “What kind of woman would have agreed to do what Richard asked?” she asks her. “The kind of woman who’s very interested in money. Something tells me you just might be able to understand that,” Samatha replies knowingly.

    Abby and Sue Ellen each has a final scene with the child she is leaving behind, Olivia and John Ross respectively. Technically, neither of these is a goodbye scene — Abby’s overseas appointment has yet to be revealed and Sue Ellen is still undecided about leaving with Don. Instead, she hands responsibility for the decision to her ten-year-old son, telling him that she wants to move to London and that he can come too if he chooses, but if he’d prefer her to stay in Dallas, she will. In the real world, this would be a ludicrously unfair burden to place on a kid (to quote Paige during the custody dispute over Meg earlier in the season, “It’s not the child’s job to accommodate the parents, it’s the parents’ job to accommodate the child”), but in TV Land, it kind of works. In fact, it’s quite a touching scene — John Ross’s face actually reddens when Sue Ellen talks about leaving.

    Even though the focus of their conversation is Olivia’s new marriage, there is a strong sense of finality about Abby and Olivia’s last scene together. Abby is very relatable in this situation — as she looks around Olivia and Harold’s shabby apartment, you don’t have to be Mommie Dearest to understand her disappointment at the life her daughter has chosen for herself. (The only apartment shabbier in this week’s Soap Land is the dive where Cliff finds Afton’s washed up ex-husband, Harrison Van Buren III.) “I know it doesn’t look like much, but at least Harold and I are sharing it,” says Olivia happily. Her romanticised view of the future (as Abby sees it) affords Abby the opportunity to look back at her own past. “I remember clipping coupons and then going to the store on double coupon day to cash them in. I remember scrimping and saving and worrying every single month if I was going to make the rent or not. Do you want that? Olivia, you don’t even know what a gas bill looks like!” Sue Ellen also reflects on the woman she used to be: “It’s hard not to think about all the years I spent in JR’s shadow, never being myself, always being Mrs JR Ewing — wife, mother and verbally abused punching bag … Never knowing who the hell I really was.”

    Abby and Sue Ellen are equally keen for their children to experience life beyond the Ewingverse. “There’s a whole world out there, just filled with interesting, exciting people and wonderful places,” Abby tells Olivia. “You can go to school in Paris, in London, wherever you want. It’s all out there, just waiting for you. It’s not too late to get an annulment.” “We could do a lot of travelling all around the world,” Sue Ellen tells John Ross. “I’d get you a private tutor and you could see how movies are made and you’d see a lot more of life than you’d see here in Dallas.” Ultimately, however, both kids elect to stay in Soap Land. When Abby asks for Olivia’s credit cards and car keys back, it symbolises a severing of the cord between mother and daughter. Meanwhile, Sue Ellen’s decision to leave without her son feels like an extension of the unspoken distance that has developed between them since she shot his daddy this time last year.

    Now that her ownership of Murakame has become public knowledge, Abby’s head would appear to be on the chopping block. (“And she is going to jail!” as Karen declared last week). However, all it takes is a press conference where she explains that she purchased the company “only a week ago” with the express purpose of donating the land that was once Lotus Point “to the government as a wildlife preserve” for her to come up smelling like roses. She isn’t the first Soap Land character to have gotten themselves out of a tight spot by making such a gesture — JR pulled off something similar at the end of “Community Spirit” (KNOTS Season 1), Angela publicly hi-jacked a good deed of Chase's to claim it as her own (FALCON CREST Season 2), Alexis offset some bad publicity by donating Lake Colby to the state as a wildlife sanctuary (DYNASTY Season 6) and, in a bid to save his parents’ marriage, Bobby declared the Takapa land a wilderness area (DALLAS Season 3). However, Abby goes one better by also swiping the Japanese trade representative post right out from under Greg’s nose. Gary ironically applauds her success from the audience. “She could make the Rape of Poland look like a Sunday school picnic,” he declares loudly before walking out in disgust. (How weird that, a week after Blake and Alexis’s final exchange on DYNASTY, in which Alexis described the Nazi treasure as community property, Gary and Abby’s last interaction should also allude to a crime committed by the Third Reich.)

    Greg’s off-the-cuff response when Abby talks about them moving to Japan — “The raw fish’ll kill ya, I think I’ll take a pass” — contains more wit and bite than any number of Bobby Ewing’s lame Dad jokes about Russia and Austria over the past few weeks. Heck, even Brian Cunningham’s departing line of the series, “I am looking forward to seeing those Geisha girls”, is funnier. (It’s also kind of neat that Brian should hit puberty just as he is exiting left-of-frame for the last time.)

    Abby may have landed on her feet and Alexis might have managed to slither out from under an SEC investigation last week, but Richard Channing is not so lucky. After he is indicted by the SEC for insider trading, things go from bad to worse when a wired-for-sound Samantha tricks him into admitting he kidnapped his mother. You don’t think he’s gonna fall for it; you assume that he’s gonna outwit her at the last minute and have Garth bundle her into in the back of a waiting truck, but no, this time he is actually screwed.

    Back on KNOTS, the scene where Abby drops by the cul-de-sac “to say goodbye, Karen” is a thing of beauty. Karen is already furious at her for “trying to convince everyone that she donated Lotus Point for altruistic reasons … How does she weasel out of everything? How does she do it?!” So when Abby makes the conciliatory gesture of returning the necklace of her mother’s that she borrowed from Karen for her wedding, Karen is not in a very forgiving mood. “Ever since you moved to Knots Landing, you’ve been cheating and stealing,” she snaps. “You stole Val’s husband, you tried to steal Meg and you cheated me out of Lotus Point!” This prompts some very enjoyable self-justification from Abby who is as marvellously unrepentant here as she was when Karen confronted her about her fling with Richard Avery all those years ago. “I did not ‘take’ Lotus Point. I turned it into a park so millions of people could enjoy it. Now, I thought you of all people would be thrilled about that,” she begins. “As for Gary and I, we fell in love. Nobody could help that, nobody predicted that. Nobody could have prevented that and if Val was hurt in the process, I’m sorry. Val’s a nice person, a little dull, but she’s nice and she’s made a very nice suburban life for herself here. She seems to be happy so it all worked out, didn’t it?” Her summation of Val is still laugh-out-loud funny. (Speaking of whom, Val is nowhere to be seen during this KNOTS double bill — perhaps last season’s finale is still fresh in her mind and she figured she'd be better off out of it.) The dynamic of the scene changes when a choked-up Abby asks Karen a favour: “Would you please keep an eye on Olivia while I’m gone?” “Of course .… I’m touched that you want your daughter to be influenced by me,” Karen replies. Even at her most emotionally exposed, Abby can’t resist a dig: “I didn’t say that. I just said I wanted you to keep an eye on her.” The knowing smile she gives Karen on her way out the door is just lovely and says what words can’t.

    There are no equivalent scenes for Sue Ellen, no final words for Bobby or Miss Ellie. Having moved off Southfork over a year ago, perhaps it’s all been said. But there is a similarly bittersweet note when Richard stops by Falcon Crest towards the end of this week’s ep to see Angela. “I wanted to say goodbye," he explains, a wry smile on his face. “They’re coming to arrest me this afternoon … They’ve denied bail … You’ve got your victory.” “A victory I could have done without,” Angela concedes grudgingly. There’s a pause. Then Richard says, “Goodbye, Mother” and leaves. As with Abby and Karen, there are things going on between these characters that can’t be easily articulated and the scene is all the stronger for it.

    At the end of her visit with Karen, Abby is as sweet and as vulnerable as we’ve ever seen her. Two scenes later, she’s back in double-crossing femme fatale mode as she presents Ted Melcher with some oh-so-convenient photos taken by Rick Hawkins of him tampering with the engine of Mr Nagata’s car. “If anything happens to me,” she tells him, “if the brakes go out on my car, if my toaster falls into the bathtub while I’m taking a bath, the photographs that I showed you go to the police.” Sue Ellen departs Dallas with a similarly phrased threat hanging over JR’s head: “If I hear that you’re planning to come after me, or if you cross me for any reason, or if I feel that you’re not doing right by John Ross or anyone else for that matter, or if I get up on the wrong side of the bed one morning, or if I’m simply bored, then I’ll release the movie.”

    So Abby’s outwitted Ted and she’s off to Japan, free and clear — good for her! But then she does something really bad, maybe even evil, just for the malicious hell of it: she shows Ted an oh-so-convenient copy of the note Rick sent to Paige: ’”If you get this key, you were right about Ted.” “I never did find the negatives to those photos,” she tells Ted teasingly. “Maybe he destroyed them — and maybe he didn’t.” Knowing how dangerous Ted is and that he’s already killed twice to cover his tracks, Abby is all but signing Paige’s death warrant here. If I may be so indulgent as to quote myself, this is what I wrote at the end of KNOTS Season 2:
    And here she is, eight years later, doing the very same thing in her final episode.

    When Abby and Greg say their goodbyes, there’s a delicious final twist that I’d completely forgotten about. “I think our marriage fell apart because of lack of communication,” he tells her. “If I had known that you owned Murakame, I wouldn’t have killed the oil permits … See, I thought Murakame were just jerking me around, so I put a kibosh on the oil permits.” Abby’s response is great: “Oh well, the oil was only worth money and I’ve got plenty of that … By donating Lotus Point, I got power. In the long run, power’s a lot more fun.” This chimes with Carter McKay’s memorable speech from last week’s DALLAS: “There’s just one world, there’s just one country, there’s just one language. That language is power.”

    All previous departures of major Soap Land characters have been either tragic (Krystle, Laura, Sid, Pam, Jock, Chase, Melissa, Julia) or lowkey (Dominique, Donna, Ray, Jenna, the Wards, Richard, Cole, Julia again). Abby and Sue Ellen both buck this trend by going out on a high. “Don’t worry, be happy,” sing Abby and Brian on their way out of KNOTS while Sue Ellen leaves DALLAS threatening to one day make JR “the laughing stock of Texas … just for laughs!”

    Abby’s departure is really great, and the sight of her and Brian riding triumphantly off into the sunset would make a nicely equivalent season ending to Sue Ellen exiting victoriously on Don’s arm — but KNOTS isn’t content to stop there. The episode has one further scene where Ted stalks Paige in a parking lot, only for another car to appear from nowhere and narrowly miss hitting him. “They’re trying to kill me!” he insists.

    This is then immediately followed by another full episode of KNOTS in which Ted relentlessly pursues Paige as she dashes frantically from her apartment to the cul-de-sac to her apartment to the Sumner Group, then back to her apartment and finally to Greg’s ranch. What could easily be standard girl-in-peril stuff (and when we see Ted shouting through the gap in her chained-up apartment door, it’s hard not to think of Jack Nicholson in THE SHINING) becomes instead a game of psychological cat and mouse. Rather than hurt her physically, Ted is trying to get into Paige’s head, playing on her existing insecurities about Greg (“He hasn’t exactly treated you with kid gloves, has he? He married Abby, he let her fire you … Listen, I’ve been straighter with you than he has”) in order to turn her against him: “Maybe [Rick] was murdered and maybe Greg Sumner had something to do with it.” What Ted is really after is the key Rick mailed to Paige.

    Paige isn’t the only character to have been sent a key through the post with no real explanation. “How bizarre!” exclaims Miss Ellie in the penultimate scene of this season’s DALLAS, when a birthday card for Jock arrives containing a cryptic message and … a key. Paige has had a couple of episodes’ head start on the Farlows to try and figure out her mystery, but it takes until this week to for her realise that her key belongs to a post office box — and she has to interrupt Harold on his and Olivia’s staycation honeymoon to learn even that much. Clayton, meanwhile, immediately identifies Jock’s key as belonging to “either a strong box or safety deposit box.” (Clearly, his brief spell of amnesia has had no lasting effect on his faculties.) Paige, meanwhile, makes up for lost time by going into plucky-girl-detective mode in an attempt to deduce which safety deposit box in which post office in which city the key fits, variously inventing a grandfather with Alzheimer's and posing as Rick’s sister, at the same time as fending off Ted’s advances.

    There’s a more traditional girl-in-peril scenario on DALLAS where April is spooked by a succession of anonymous calls. (I reckon it’s Dennis Grimes calling from the caved-in mineshaft on that new-fangled mobile phone of his, only the reception’s too bad for him to actually speak.) Bobby rides to the rescue, insisting that she “spend a few days at Southfork … I’m not taking any chances, April.” There’s no such safe haven for Paige. When she comes to Seaview Circle looking for Mack, she finds the cul-de-sac eerily deserted and pretty soon Ted shows up in pursuit. (“I won’t get any satisfaction when you come to realise that I was right about Greg because then it’ll be too late to matter!”) Eventually, Frank Williams appears to scare him off and inform Paige that Mack and Karen have driven to the mountains on vacation.

    The addition of April to the Southfork dinner table causes some interesting ripples. Christopher resents having to give up his chair for her, which amuses John Ross, while Miss Ellie regards her with intriguing disapproval. There’s a similar atmosphere when Angela invites Samantha to stay at Falcon Crest. Lance is transfixed by her resemblance to Melissa, which makes Pilar uneasy.

    Like KL’s Mack and Karen, FC’s newest engaged couple, Tommy Ortega and Kelly, also go away for a romantic few days — but in each case, there’s a complication. When Mack discovers Karen has invited Paula to join them for the first three hours(!) of their car journey, he goes into a sulk. Kelly, meanwhile, gets even sulkier when she realises Tommy’s mind is elsewhere: “You think you can get Maggie Channing now that her husband’s going to jail, is that it?” On both vacations, an accident occurs, but the tones of the two storylines could not be more different. While the FALCON CREST plot becomes increasingly melodramatic, the KNOTS one plays like a screwball comedy. In fact, the car-bound singalong montage, involving Karen, Paula and an increasingly enthusiastic Mack, probably ranks as one of my Top 10 All-Time Funniest Soap Land Scenes. If what happens after that were to be attempted by any of the other soaps — one character sprains their ankle which leads another being sprayed by a skunk and doing an impromptu striptease in the rain — I would probably lose the will to live, but KNOTS succeeds in not only making it watchable but also genuinely funny. The situation ultimately leads to Mack and Paula being stranded in a thunderstorm and having to spend the night in the same motel room. If this makes them Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night, then the brief moment when Tommy Ortega considers allowing his nagging fiancee to drown after their boat capsizes on FALCON CREST makes him and Kelly Montgomery Clift and Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun.

    The climax of KNOTS contains a succession of tiny call-backs to previous episodes. First, Paige finds her apartment has been ransacked and the all-important key, which she had secreted in the tub of Jamoca almond fudge Ted gave her as a peace-offering four episodes ago, is missing. She dashes out, finds Ted lying in wait yet again, makes a run for it and ends up at Greg’s ranch, where she manages to put any misgivings she may have about him out of her mind long enough for them to wind up in bed together. Later, while Greg is sleeping, she sees that the Mayan bowl she gave him at the beginning of the season is still on his dresser. Pleased, she picks it up — only to spot the all-important key next to it! If Greg stole the key, then maybe he did kill Rick after all! Panicking, she throws on some clothes and runs out into the rain. Greg, shrouded in darkness under an umbrella, comes out after her. “Yo Paige, the strip croquet game has been cancelled due to inclement weather!” he yells. The season ends with Paige torn between Ted (“Paige, everything I told you about him was true, wasn’t it?”) and Greg (“You’re not gonna believe him, are ya?”), just as Val was torn between her twins at the end of Season 6 — only Paige’s head spin is rain-soaked rather than in slow-motion.

    Unlike last week’s DYNASTY finale, which left the lives of half the cast hanging in the balance, the only person placed in mortal danger in any of this week’s cliffhangers (unless you count the bonk on the head Cliff Barnes receives from Afton’s ex) is FALCON CREST’s Kelly, a tertiary character who doesn’t even have a surname. In fact, FC is the only ep that actually feels like a traditional season finale — and even that ends on a surprisingly understated note: Richard watching while Maggie drives away with his kids as he awaits his arrest. Aside from Sue Ellen’s departure, DALLAS just feels like a regular episode while the second of the KNOTS’ double bill scarcely feels like a soap at all. Instead, it’s 70% thriller, 25% screwball comedy, with 5% soapiness arising out of the “will they, won’t they?” questions surrounding Greg and Paige, and Mack and Paula.

    And this week's Top 3 are ...

    1 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (4) FALCON CREST
    3 (3) DALLAS
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2019
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