Discussion in 'Falcon Crest' started by James from London, Sep 23, 2016.
Adam's rape of Kirby was also not referred as one until the next season.
There's nothing unusual about mentioning things from the past, but in your Versusverse it's almost uncanny that these specific things are being discussed on three soaps in the same week.
14 Dec 89: KNOTS LANDING: Twice Victim v. 15 Dec 89: DALLAS: Sex, Lies and Videotape v. 15 Dec 89: FALCON CREST: Danny
This week’s KNOTS is unusual in that it focuses on a single storyline — Danny’s rape of Amanda, which Gary persuades her to report to the police — and four characters: Amanda, Danny, Gary and Val. Mack, Karen and Aunt Ginny show up briefly, but strictly in a supporting capacity. The episode is interested in highlighting various preconceptions and attitudes that exist around the subject of rape, including those of the victim herself. “I didn’t think of him as dirty, I thought of myself as dirty,” she tells Gary. “I ‘admitted’ I was raped … Are there any other crimes we ‘admit’ happened to us? … It’s as though I’m guilty of something.” Gary, meanwhile, addresses a minute-and-a-half long monologue to Mack where he first admits to having doubts about Amanda’s claims and then castigates himself for those doubts: “I wish I didn’t feel this way, but I can’t help it … I know better than to blame the victim, I’m ‘enlightened’ … so why do I have all these questions, why do I have even the slightest doubt?”
When the police inform Amanda of the decision not to press charges against Danny due to lack of evidence, their reasons serve as an illustration to the viewer of what not to do following a rape: “There is no physical evidence because you took a shower … you delayed reporting the crime for more than seventy-two hours, you admit you freely went to his apartment, etc.”
As with previous “social issue” storylines in Soap Land, the writing in this ep is somewhat heavy-handed. Amanda and Gary sometimes feel like mouthpieces for the writer to get certain ideas across to the viewer. But as these ideas are both interesting and worthwhile, the story doesn’t feel as patronising or sensationalised as, say, Ray and Donna’s Down’s Syndrome story or Olivia’s drug addiction plot. Besides, Gary’s character is certainly strong enough to withstand a little plot-driven self-analysis.
KNOTS’ previous rape-themed episode, “The Lie”, aired some ten years before this one. Whereas that episode used the subject of rape in order to explore and develop its characters, “Twice Victim” uses its characters in order to inform and educate the audience on the subject of rape. Both approaches are valid, but the former is more dramatically rewarding and explains why the reaction of the character least involved in Amanda’s situation is also the most interesting. “That woman is irresponsible and vengeful!” Val declares when she learns of Amanda’s allegations against Danny. “She needs counselling or therapy or some kind of professional help. I know I might feel sorry for her because of that, but I don’t!” It’s not stated directly, but one senses Val’s tough stance towards Amanda partly stems from her previous experiences with manipulative, duplicitous women — most obviously Jill Bennett, but also Jean Hackney and maybe even Abby. The irony is that mousy little Amanda is actually far less reminiscent of Jill or Jean or Abby than she is of Val herself, specifically the “Poor Val” side of her persona that Val has been trying so hard to distance herself from. (“Each year I vow to be a stronger person,” as she told Danny a few weeks ago). This could be another factor in her refusal to engage or empathise with Amanda.
Gary’s monologue to Mack contains an “if only” sub-speech which makes a neat counterpart to the one Sue Ellen delivered to Nicholas Pearce’s father ten months ago. “If only I hadn’t insisted on him helping me look for John Ross, if only we hadn’t gone to JR’s condo that night, if only I had stopped the fight between JR and Nicholas before it got so violent. ‘If only, if only’ — they’re such empty words,” Sue Ellen said then. “If only she hadn’t gone to his apartment, if only she’d divorced him earlier. ‘If only’ — if only I’d exercised perfect judgment all my life!” says Gary now.
At the beginning of the episode, Gary, once again representing the out-of-his-depth Everyman, calls the rape expert from Karen’s talk show to ask for advice. Twice, the doctor asks if he is one that was raped. “No, what the - what are you talking about?” he replies incredulously. The doctor’s question is ambiguous: it’s unclear if she genuinely thinks Gary could be the victim and is too embarrassed to say so, or if she is making the point that he needs to think about the person who was attacked and not about himself. Either way, this is Soap Land’s third reference to male rape in as many weeks. “Within twenty-four hours, I want Mary Poppins’ autograph on this piece of paper or you two are going to spend the next twenty years as prom queens in the nearest penitentiary,” Michael Sharpe told the St James brothers on FALCON CREST two weeks ago. “Either you get out of this country for good within forty-eight hours or you’re going to the local jail where some of the larger inmates just might take a liking to your kind of artistic fella if you get my meaning,” JR told Alex Barton on DALLAS last week. These kind of prison rape gags are now commonplace in TV and films (I even remember one in a mobile phone ad a few years ago), but it was fairly fresh territory for Soap Land back in ’89. In the penultimate scene of this week’s KNOTS, Gary takes it upon himself to exact a rape-once-removed style punishment on Danny by luring him to his ranch under false pretences, trapping him in a barn and then terrorising him with a baseball bat until he’s a quivering, pleading mess on the ground. “Did you enjoy it, Danny?” he asks afterwards, just in case the symbolism wasn’t already clear.
Last week’s DALLAS ended with JR finding Cally unconscious in their bedroom, having taken an overdose of sleeping pills. This week’s KNOTS concludes with Amanda about to do the same thing in her apartment, only to be interrupted by a knock on the door from two highly enthusiastic teenage girls, Sylvia and Lisa, who are selling magazine subscriptions to help with their college tuitions. “I wanna study music … I wanna be a singer,” says one. This strikes a chord (no pun intended) with Amanda who impetuously agrees to purchase multiple subscriptions. The girls squeal with delight and she smiles at their excitement: in that instant, life is worth living again. It’s a genuinely sweet, touching moment and the first time in the episode that Amanda feels like more like an actual person than a textbook case study.
In fact, and remarkably for Soap Land, especially during such a dark and violent season, all three shows conclude on a positive note this week. “I think we should get married,” Bobby tells April at the end of DALLAS before the frame freezes on her laughing and hugging him. FALCON CREST’s happy ending is perhaps the most unexpected and rewarding of the three, but we’ll get to that.
FC and DALLAS each open with an establishing shot of an ambulance outside the family home — a response to the dramatic events at the end of last week’s episodes: Cally’s overdose, Sydney’s fatal stabbing of Ian and Emma’s shooting of Charley (who isn’t as dead as I previously assumed; instead, he has disappeared, never to be seen again). After having her stomach pumped, Cally’s not in bad shape, all things considered. “I didn’t mean to try to kill myself,” she tells JR. “I never took any pills before … I guess I took too many …” “Pills never solve anybody’s problems,” states JR categorically, having seemingly caught the Public Service Announcement bug from KNOTS. “Let’s just try to forget all that’s happened. Let’s just be us again,” she suggests and he agrees. Lance and Pilar attempt the same thing on FALCON CREST but are not successful. “I just can’t forget,” says Lance.
Whereas Lance cannot get over seeing a videotape of his wife having sex with a man for business reasons, Carter McKay fetches his girlfriend Rose back to Dallas for the express purpose of making a videotape of her having sex with Cliff Barnes so that he can blackmail him with it, also for business reasons. While Lance called Pilar “a damn whore” last week, Rose makes it clear to Mack that “I may have been free and easy, honey, but I was never no whore.” Nevertheless, she goes along with his plan. “I don’t care about that tape,” shrugs Cliff when Mack shows it to him. “So I got lucky with some bimbo. It’s not like I’m married …” “That may be,” Mack concedes, “but how do you think it would look if it got out that you were sleeping with the wife of the Head of West Star? … The young lady who co-starred with you in that film has, for three days now, been Mrs Carter McKay.” As untimely marriage reveals go, this isn’t quite as sensational as Emma announcing her union with Charley mere seconds after being awarded conservatorship of Falcon Crest, but it’s still fun.
It’s Bring Your Son and Heir to Work Day on both DALLAS and FALCON CREST. No sooner has JR reconciled with Cally than he must take another overnight trip to Austin, the scene of his recent indiscretion, to “try to do something about Barnes.” To pacify his wife, he offers to “take James down there with me. I won’t get any trouble with him hanging around and it’ll give him a chance to see the wheeling and dealing side of the business.” Meanwhile on FC, there’s a brand new father/son storyline with the arrival of Danny Sharpe, Michael’s college-age kid. Like DALLAS’s James, KL’s Paige, and FC’s Sydney, Danny has recently spent some time in Europe, and has his own unique take on the place: “Too many old buildings and the women don’t shave their pits.”
Also like James, Danny is eager to learn how his father’s business works. Michael is wary at first, thinking Danny might harbour some resentment towards him for not being around much when he was growing up. “What d’you come here for, to throw darts at me?” he asks him. “No, Dad — to throw darts with you,” Danny assures him. So Michael allows him to tag along to his next business meeting, which just happens to be at Falcon Crest. As far as Michael is concerned, he now owns the winery, but Emma claims she was tricked into signing it over by Charley and Ian. “Watch me,” Michael instructs his son. “This broad’s gonna put on the innocent face and we’re gonna clean her out.” JR, meanwhile, is intent on showing his son that “there’s a lot more to the oil business than just sucking it out of the ground.”
However, matters are soon complicated, for both James and Danny, as business gets mixed up with pleasure. In Austin, James is dismayed to realise that he is there as a smokescreen for JR’s fling with Diana Farrington, a member of the committee set up by Cliff to investigate the tanker disaster. “If it takes a little roll in the hay to keep Barnes off my back …,” JR shrugs. “What about Cally?” asks James. “This doesn’t have anything to do with Cally,” JR insists, “it’s strictly business.” “Then it’s pretty lousy business,” decides James.
Meanwhile, no sooner does Danny clap eyes on Sydney at Falcon Crest than he finds himself in a full-blown, double-sided “spy who loved me” storyline. Realising he is attracted to her, Sydney decides to take advantage of his interest by persuading him to talk to his father about not pursuing his claim for Falcon Crest. “Emma’s the only person in my whole life who’s ever been kind to me and if I can do anything to help her, even a little bit, it’s worth it,” she explains. ”It’s a dangerous game, Sydney,” cautions Pilar, speaking from experience. Pilar may be right, but it’s a game everyone in Soap Land seems to be playing right now. Danny and Sydney, Michael and Genele, JR and Diana, James and Michelle, Cliff and Rose, Paige and Tom — they’re all mixing business and pleasure, either knowingly or otherwise.
JR makes that very point to his disapproving son. “Come on, James,” he says, “don’t be so self-righteous. What about you and little old Michelle? … It didn’t take me long to figure out why she changed her mind and decided to help me. You convinced her and I know you how you persuaded her.” “… It’s what we both wanted,” James argues. “And you didn’t use what you both wanted to persuade her to see things our way?” persists JR.
Likewise, Michael soon becomes aware of Danny’s interest in Sydney. In spite of his fatherly advice (“Drill her brains out, but don’t lose yours”), it becomes increasingly difficult to ascertain where Danny’s true loyalties lie. While visiting Sydney at Falcon Crest, he has a snoop around the study and manages to find the incriminating document Michael needs to win his lawsuit against Emma. He steals it but then doesn’t show it to anyone. Instead, he starts asking his father about the morality of the situation: “Suppose we’re wrong about this Falcon Crest thing? … What if the St James woman is telling the truth?” Michael isn’t impressed: “The truth is whatever we can make the judge believe,” he snaps. “I thought you were cut out for this. I hope I’m not wrong.” JR similarly begins to tire of James’s criticisms. “I certainly don’t need your holier than thou attitude,” he tells him. But whereas Michael loses his temper when he discovers Danny has been confiding in Lauren (“Don’t you ever talk about what goes on inside this room to anybody outside of this room! I don’t care if it’s your aunt, your mother or your slut of the month!”), JR is unperturbed when James threatens to spill the beans to Cally about his little fling. “You won’t,” he says confidently. “You’ve got my blood running through your veins, boy. You may not like what I’m doing but you won’t do anything about it.” Michael is less certain. "I find myself wondering just who’s side you’re on,” he tells Danny.
Finally, in the FALCON CREST courtroom, just as the judge is about to rule in Emma’s favour, Danny produces the document he swiped and saves the day for his father. He is rewarded by a kiss on the cheek from Michael and a slap across the face from Sydney: “You used me!” “And you used me,” he replies. “I just did a better job of it.”
This week’s DALLAS and FALCON CREST are the shows’ final episodes of the 1980s, the decade that defined them (and that they helped define). There is a perceptible end of an era feel on FC as Emma surrenders to Michael and allows him to keep Falcon Crest. Even more surprisingly, she decides to leave the show. “I have lost a mother and two husbands,” she tells Richard. “I am not gonna lose this little baby growing inside me. We are gonna go somewhere where it’s peaceful and safe and don’t you dare try to stop me.” She then drives out of the series for good, leaving Lance, along with the scarcely seen Chao Li, as the last remaining members of the original cast. As we move into the ‘90s, the future of FALCON CREST looks fascinatingly uncertain. After dominating so much of this radically altered season, Emma and Charley are suddenly and permanently gone. Meanwhile, Sydney, who scarcely spoke during her first few episodes, has emerged as the closest thing the show now has to a romantic heroine — but who’s to say she won’t be killed off next week?
While there isn’t a comparable turning point on DALLAS, James’s reaction when JR tells him how alike they are foreshadows the father/son dynamic between JR and John Ross in New DALLAS. “You know what your problem is, James?” JR asks. “You’re just too much like me. You may not realise it but you’ll see.” “No way … That’ll never be me,” James replies emphatically. Conversely, when Michael Sharpe’s lawyer tells him that Danny “sounds just like you,” both father and son take it as a compliment.
While James ends this week’s DALLAS somewhat disillusioned by JR (“You’re a great father but a lousy husband”), Michael refers to Danny as “my new lieutenant” when he drops by his office late at night during FC’s final scene. Michael tries to explain the kick he gets from business to his son: “There’s a drug your body produces when you’re working productively. It starts out as a buzz, then this buzz becomes a rush and then you’re standing on top of it, riding that rush.” Danny asks him what he was like when he was younger. “I’ll tell you what was exciting,” Michael continues. “Being twenty years old and having Wall Street titans twice my age pulling out all the stops just to get next to me, hanging on my every word, throwing money at me.” Suddenly Danny realises something: “That’s how old you were when I was born. Now how does that compare?” And all of a sudden, we’re in one of those familiar Soap Land scenarios where an adult child is confronting the estranged parent they feel abandoned or neglected them when they were growing up. We’ve been here countless times before, of course — from Lucy dealing with Gary and Val at the beginning of DALLAS all the way through to Nick and Frank Agretti airing their grievances on last season’s FC. What’s striking about this particular scene is that neither character has planned to have this conversation — Danny has spent the entire episode trying to match his father’s bravado, insisting he has no hang-ups or grudges about the past. Suddenly, that’s all gone. “How do you think I felt — growing up knowing you were too busy to give a damn?!” he yells. “I gave a damn,” Michael replies. “I did. I just didn’t think that you’d want to see me again. Danny, I wanna make things right between us … Let’s you and me go for a ride around the city all night, huh? You can tell me all about the things I missed, those years I wasn’t there.” Danny hesitates, then agrees — this is all he really wants, but he’d never admit it. They’re on their way out when Michael’s phone starts to ring — it’s the overseas business call he’s been waiting for — and your heart sinks on Danny’s behalf because you just know Michael’s going to turn round, pick up the phone and choose business over his son once again. But, surprisingly, he doesn’t. “Forget it — they’ll call back, they always do,” he says. As with Amanda and the subscription sellers, it’s a simple moment, but a touching one — all the more so for being so unexpected. The episode ends with father and son walking out of the office, the phone continuing to rung even after the frame has frozen.
And this week’s Top 3 are …
1 (1) FALCON CREST
2 (2) KNOTS LANDING
3 (3) DALLAS
And she did it to help him, but there's a big difference between prostitution and the spite & revenge sex that happened in the early seasons. Because that's the kind of adultery that most soap characters understand.
If Pilar is capable of adultery without feeling the kick or pleasure, then what does that say about her relationship with Lance.
I guess it creates a different kind of insecurity because there's no competition. Ned Vogel is not a threat.
And I'm not sure we had seen this before i.e. calculated prostitution by one of the romantic leads. I found it quite shocking (in a good way, of course) and it makes sense that Lance (the former Mr. Soap Slut) struggles to deal with it.
I'm trying to think of an equally shocking adultery storyline...maybe Gary and Judy Trent, she was also not a serious threat. I don't remember exactly what it was all about, maybe to prove himself that he was indeed that weak person, sometimes it's more comfortable to hide behind your weaknesses (real or not).
Reading about Michael Sharpe, I think he's one of SoapLand's more realistic corporate predators.
The plots and results may be similar, but it's without the romantic themes like feuds, parentage and whatnot.
Even the gold diggers appear to be more practical. Sammy Jo was also very much "all about the money", but mostly she just wanted to make her own choices, even if that choice was to pose for sleazy magazines.
I'm not saying that this is better than the stories from the golden era, but it's nice to see a different kind of greed.
The Good Wife was also a very greedy show, have you watched all of it James?
Yeah, Michael Sharpe and Carter McKay aren't weighed down by back stories and family legacies so they feel more modern, more ruthless, less sentimental, colder. It makes an interesting contrast with the regular characters we've known for ages and who seemed so shocking to begin with but are now almost comfortingly familiar.
I've just started the final season.
04 Jan 90: KNOTS LANDING: Oh, Brother v. 05 Jan 90: DALLAS: Tale of Two Cities v. 05 Jan 90: FALCON CREST: Time Bomb
The first Soap Land scene of the ‘90s has Greg Sumner waking Paula Vertosick with a late night phone call. “I’m thinkin’ about ya bod,” he informs her. It’s a terribly modern form of courtship for a terribly modern sort of decade.
DALLAS and FALCON CREST each welcome in the new year with a more traditional scenario: a scene in which a father impresses upon his son the importance of winning by any means necessary. On DALLAS, James is reluctant to return to Southfork after witnessing JR’s infidelity with Diana Farrington in Austin. “Maybe you can go in and face Cally. I can’t,” he tells his father. “What I did was business,” JR insists. “Well, your way of doing business stinks,” James replies. “It’ll save Ewing Oil and that’s all that matters,” maintains JR.
FALCON CREST opens with a scene in Michael Sharpe’s office where he stuns Danny by giving him Falcon Crest to run. Greater love hath no Soap Land father than this, that he cedes control of a business asset to his son — but instead of the usual guff about legacies and heritage, Michael channels his emotions into an aggressively motivational speech based on Sun Tzu’s The Art of War which would sound utterly ridiculous were it not delivered with such conviction. “From this moment on,” he tells Danny, “you are in training. I’m not just gonna show you how to wield a spear, ride a horse, kill a lion; I’m gonna teach you how to become the lion. You must learn how to become your enemy in order to beat your enemy and everyone is your enemy — including me. By the time we’re done, you’re gonna know more, have more and be more than I ever dreamed of. And if not, then you’ll have failed and I’ll have failed — and I don’t fail.”
There’s a very different, but equally juicy, office scene between a parent and child on KNOTS when Karen Mackenzie stops by the Sumner Group to confront Michael about his involvement in the breakup of Eric and Linda’s marriage. This is where an enjoyable if somewhat vanilla story about Michael’s latest inappropriate crush turns into something meatier: the first major conflict between Karen and her youngest son. “I don’t even know you anymore,” she tells him. “You quit college, you spend money as if it’s an endless supply and then you break up your brother’s marriage!”
While Michael Sharpe preaches an amoral way of life to his son and Karen Mackenzie preaches moral righteousness to hers, DALLAS’s equivalent office scene explores the grey area that lies between the two. Here, the conversation is between an uncle and his nephew. Since arriving in Soap Land, hardly a week has gone by without James seeking Bobby’s perspective on either the oil business in general or JR in particular. Such scenes are an effective way of fleshing out James’s character and establishing his position within the wider Ewing family, but they also show us an interesting side to Bobby. He’s harder-edged, more cynical with James than we're used to seeing him. It’s as if he’s wary of allowing his newly acquired nephew to get too comfortable too quickly. Accordingly, he doesn’t sugar-coat the harsher realities of Ewing life. In this scene, James is still brooding about JR’s affair when he asks Bobby if he too would do anything for Ewing Oil. “Yes — just about,” Bobby replies. “The end always justifies the means, right?” James asks. “You can’t bribe an honest man,” Bobby shrugs. “It’s a pretty damn weak excuse, I admit … There are boundaries. You can bend them, but you never cross over them.” “… Who decides what these boundaries are?” James persists. “We’re playing in a game that doesn’t have any rules,” Bobby tells him. “We have to set our own — just like you’re going to have to set yours.”
While Cally remains blissfully unaware of JR’s betrayal on DALLAS, Eric Fairgate has no idea that Linda and Michael have fallen in love on KNOTS. And just as James’s discomfort is compounded when Cally reveals her latest painting is of the husband she adores, so Michael squirms silently every time his big brother tries to confide in him about his troubled marriage. Eric’s ignorance is short-lived, however.
Each of this week’s episodes features at least one variation on the lover-catches-their-partner-in-bed-with-someone-else scenario. Michael and Linda have yet to consummate their relationship so instead of finding them together, Eric overhears Michael assuring Mack that “I’m not gonna walk up to him and says, ‘Hey Eric, I’m in love with your wife.’” Eric then confronts his brother: “Now I know what the problem with my marriage is — you!” What follows isn’t the kind of furniture-destroying fraternal fracas one might have expected. Instead, Eric delivers a single punch to Michael’s gut before storming out of the house and returning to his job in Saudi Arabia. Linda subsequently relocates to a motel and the episode ends with Michael also moving out of the family home. The final shot, of Karen’s troubled face, feels like the suburban equivalent of Miss Ellie’s tearful close up following Bobby and Pam’s departure from Southfork at the end of DALLAS’s second season.
As well as Eric and Linda’s on KNOTS, another marriage comes to an end on FALCON CREST. “Walker, things haven’t been good with us for a long time … I cannot do this anymore,” Lauren tells her husband. Walker reckons the real reason for her decision is the new man in her life. “Does Richard know you only want to be in his bed because you can’t get in your brother’s?” he asks her. Lauren responds the same way Monica Colby did when Adam Carrington made incestuous jibes about her and Jeff: she whacks him across the face. Walker has taken a job in Oregon, but unlike Eric on KNOTS, doesn’t leave right away. Instead, he sticks around long enough to peek through a window at Richard and Lauren making love for the first time, just as Miles Colby did when Fallon and Jeff first got reacquainted.
While everyone else seems to be breaking up (including Olivia and Harold, who split just before Christmas), KNOTS LANDING’s Danny and Val and DALLAS’s Bobby and April are busy making wedding plans. For both couples, however, there is a fly in the ointment: Amanda’s accusations of rape and the ongoing investigation into Ewing Oil’s role in the tanker collision. Whereas Val refuses to allow anything to delay her plans for wedded bliss (“I am gonna marry this man and there is nothing that either one of you can say or do that’s gonna change that,” she tells Gary and Amanda), April suggests to Bobby that they put theirs on hold: “Why don’t we wait until this whole thing with Cliff Barnes blows over and the pressure’s off?”
Taking Bobby’s advice about setting his own moral boundaries, James comes up with an unusual proposition. He approaches Diana Farrington and offers to replace JR in her bed for the remainder of their arrangement. “At least he can look his wife in the face,” he reasons. Here, James is essentially volunteering to do with Diana what FC’s Pilar did with Ned Vogel and DALLAS’s Rose did (at her husband’s urging) with Cliff Barnes, i.e., prostitute himself for business reasons. But because the genders are reversed, and Diana isn’t a fat old sleaze bag like Vogel, it doesn’t feel as degrading. In the event, Diana turns him down. “You can’t do what JR can do,” she explains. “He got Charles [her husband] a very important job … I love my husband very much and I go to bed with JR so he keeps that important job.” So it turns out Diana, rather than James, is the one prostituting herself.
As far as we can tell, Diana takes this arrangement in her stride — unlike Pilar and Rose who are both still suffering the consequences of their sexual encounters. In a terrifically acted scene, Pilar bares her soul to Lance one last time: “When I was little and working in the fields, I’d watch your family up in this big house and I’d dream that one day I’d live here … and I dreamed of having the handsomest man in the valley too … So I studied and I scraped and I worked my way up from the fields and you know what? One day, I realised I didn’t need you anymore because I was somebody, all by myself. There was just one small catch — I’d fallen in love with you. I loved you so much, I’d do anything to keep you …” “Even sleep with Ned Vogel?” asks Lance, through angry tears. “Yes!” she replies. “If that’s what it took to keep Falcon Crest, yes. Look at me. Look at me! Do you think I enjoyed it? Do you really think I enjoyed it? It was wrong, I know it was wrong and if I could change it I would, but I can’t … All I can do is ask you one last time to forgive me.”
While Pilar wants Lance to forget what he saw on her sex tape, Rose wants McKay to remember what’s on hers. In fact, she even puts it on for him. “Why don’t you look at it, not as some business move, but as your wife in bed with another man?” she pleads. “Doesn’t that bother you? ... When you married me, I thought it was gonna be the start of a whole new life, not just you using me.” Her words sink in. “When I lost Tommy, something in me died,” Mack admits. “I did use you, Rose, and I’m sorry.”
While Rose gets through to Mack, Lance walks away from Pilar. She ends up drowning her sorrows at Delta Rho where she encounters a psychic chess champion from Yugoslavia (“He’s got a mind like a computer and a camera rolled into one!”) and they wind up in bed together. When she sobers up, she is full of remorse and hurries home to Lance — only to find him in bed with a nameless redhead.
On DALLAS, JR, Diana, James, Cally and Michelle all end up at the same Hotel of Adulterous Liaisons where JR once took Kristin for a dirty weekend, Gary began his affair with Jill Bennett and Field Carlyle used to hook up with Lane Ballou on FLAMINGO ROAD (I’d recognise that blood red carpeting anywhere). The sequence that follows takes the catching-your-lover-in-bed-with-someone-else scenario to a whole new level.
It starts off with JR in his hotel room, about to climb into bed with Diana. James interrupts them with the news that Cally is on her way up from the lobby (having flown in from Dallas to surprise her hubby). JR manages to intercept her in the hallway, leaving James and Diana alone in the bedroom. Then there’s a knock on the door followed by a female voice asking for JR. Assuming Cally somehow got past JR, James hastily takes his clothes off to make it look as if he’s the one about to bed Diana. He then opens the door to find … Michelle! Seeing James and Diana in a state of undress, she jumps to the same conclusion as Eric Fairgate, Walker Daniels and Pilar Cumson: that she has been betrayed by the one she loves. She runs off, James tries to chase after her — but then realises his trousers are down around his ankles. Perhaps surprisingly, this is the first time Soap Land has ventured so fully into bedroom farce territory — complete with lies, panic, mistaken identities and James as the quintessential fall guy — and even more surprisingly, it works really well. Crucially, no-one plays the situation for laughs (although there's an inherent goofiness about James) and there are lasting dramatic consequences for James and Michelle. “We’re finished, over, through!” she tells him.
James finds himself in the same gloomy position as Michael Fairgate at the end of this week’s KNOTS. “I didn’t do anything wrong,” Michael tells his mother. “I didn’t mean to fall in love with a woman I shouldn’t fall in love with. Eric didn’t do anything wrong, Linda didn’t do anything wrong. We all did what we thought was the right thing to do.” “You two are the cheaters and I’m the one that gets caught,” James tells Diana.
In DALLAS’s final scene, Cliff receives a visit from a nervous young naval officer who knows what really happened the night of the tanker collision. “I was on radar,” he explains. “The West Star tanker started drifting out of its lane and the Ewing tanker was just barely in its lane … With the weather conditions and all, I don’t think it was anyone’s fault, sir. They just sort of collided in no man’s land.” He cannot come forward as a witness for fear of being court-martialed and so Cliff is left with a moral dilemma: does he keep this information to himself and frame the Ewings or does he put his personal animosity to one side and Do the Right Thing? This question results in Cliff getting the freeze frame for the first time in about two and a half seasons — which, following Ken Kercheval’s recent death, feels like a touching bit of synchronicity.
Jovan the psychic chess master on FALCON CREST isn’t the only Soap Land character with mysterious mental abilities. On KNOTS, Aunt Ginny impresses the twins with her psychometry skills. “I can get feelings and pictures of things [by holding objects] that have been close to people,” she claims. Val is sceptical, but when Ginny picks up a belt Julie Williams has borrowed from her mom and 'sees' Pat “working as a doctor in a hospital,” we realise that she, like almost every other psychic in Soap Land, is genuine. (Of course, if she’d seen Pat appearing on screen for longer than five minutes every other week, we’d know she was faking.) Later, when Ginny picks up Danny’s watch, her vision is predictably alarming. “I have never felt such anger, such violence!” she tells Gary — but when he offers her a gun as protection, she is even more appalled. “No, Gary, no! … I will not allow a gun like that loaded in a house with children! Shame on you!” It’s a testament to KNOTS’ versatility that this storyline can veer from the “social issue” earnestness of “Twice Victim” to the psychic visions of a wacky aunt, incorporating a punchy message about gun control along the way.
While Ginny declines Gary’s pistol, Walker Daniels practically buys out an entire gun store on FALCON CREST. “Planning to invade a small country?” enquires the storekeeper conversationally. Instead, he hijacks the second half of this week’s FC as, just like the Danny/Amanda storyline on KNOTS last month, a marital crisis involving a couple we scarcely know reaches a violent climax.
“Did you think I was just gonna slink away and let you take my wife and my home?” Walker asks, brandishing a shotgun, as he takes Richard and Lauren hostage in his former home. When Lauren’s brother Michael and girlfriend Genele show up unexpectedly, Walker takes them hostage too. (“This must be my lucky night,” he says.) Lauren explains that she had arranged a surprise dinner party to bring Richard and Michael together. “I wanted you two to be friends again,” she tells them, exhibiting the same streak of insane Soap Land optimism which decrees that if you put two lifelong enemies together at the same dinner table or barbecue, everything’s gonna work out fine. The next plot reveal — that Walker has rigged his own body with explosives which are set to go off in thirty minutes time — seems almost logical in comparison.
A couple of seasons ago, FALCON CREST kept putting its characters in elaborate life-threatening scenarios so often it became monotonous. But this situation is different, more personal. “You lose your children, you don’t think you can go on living,” Walker tells his assembled guests. “You don’t want to, but you do. Your marriage starts to go bad, but you go on. Your career comes apart at the seams, you lose everything you’ve worked for fifteen years, but you go on. That’s the trouble with being human, you can always go on. Well, I just don’t want to anymore.” This mirrors McKay’s words to Rose on DALLAS: “When I lost Tommy, something in me died.”
There are echoes of previous hostage situations in this one. Like Richard Avery in “Night” (KNOTS Season 3), Walker is a suicidally desperate man faced with losing what remains of his family. Like Luther Frick in “Winds of Vengeance” (DALLAS Season 1), he’s also a blue collar worker consumed with resentment for the millionaire he believes has taken his wife from him. When he orders Genele to sit on his knee, it recalls Frick forcing Sue Ellen to parade in her bathing suit. The dirty look Genele shoots Michael when he makes no effort to help her matches the angry glare Sue Ellen gave JR when she was made to pay for his sins. And Genele kissing Walker recalls Abby making out with one of the gunmen in “Moments of Truth” (KNOTS Season 2), or Leslie Carrington doing the same thing at the start of DYNASTY Season 8, only there’s no suggestion that Genele is taking one for the team the way Abby did: she is solely interested in saving her own skin.
As Walker’s wife, Michael’s sister and Richard’s lover, Lauren is theoretically at the centre of this scenario, yet she's the least interesting character involved — just as Amanda was during the recent rape-themed episode of KNOTS.
Just as Laura struck Abby in "Moments of Truth", the hostages also turn on each other in this situation. “I’ll pay you a hundred thousand cash to kill him,” Michael tells Walker, referring to Richard. “If you were half a man, you’d do it for nothing. He took your wife … pull the trigger!” But Walker is just as angry at Michael for destroying his career as he is at Richard for wrecking his marriage. Then Richard delivers a game-changing speech which ties several plot threads together in a way that suggests this season has been more carefully thought out than it might previously have seemed. He begins by comparing Walker’s grief to his own: “The day I got out of prison, I lost my wife in a freak accident … A couple of days later, they came and they took my boys away from me. I knew who was behind it [points at Michael] but I couldn’t prove it … I hit bottom, just like you have now … It is not possible to hate this man as much as I do. I followed him one night. I had a gun. I pointed it at his back for a good thirty seconds but I couldn’t pull the trigger … because I couldn’t do it to the memory of my wife. Now Walker, do you wanna do this to the memory of your children?” He gets through to Walker who agrees to call the whole thing off (at which point, Genele bolts for the door) — but then, just as it did when Julia and Angela finally reached a moment of understanding during the spring house siege (FC Season 3), fate intervenes and all hell breaks loose: Walker discovers the detonator on the explosive vest he is wearing has malfunctioned and he cannot turn it off. “I’m so sorry, Lauren … I really love you,” he says, backing away into the woods. Then Richard, Lauren and Michael watch in horror as what Tommy McKay hoped would happen to Bobby Ewing when he opened his attache case happens to Walker.
And this week’s Top 3 are …
1 (1) FALCON CREST
2 (3) DALLAS
3 (2) KNOTS LANDING
Couldn't she find a less descriptive guy for her sorrow sex? Or is there a reason why he's all these things?
I got the feeling the sex might not have happened without the description.
Not really, but I quite liked it that he was all those things. He's a character that you feel could only exist in this season of FALCON CREST, a bit like the hippy-ish bar buddy Lance made during his Scorpion Roulette adventure a few weeks ago.
Or the netflix series MANIAC
11 Jan 90: KNOTS LANDING: Road Trip v. 12 Jan 90: DALLAS: Judgment Day v. 12 Jan 90: FALCON CREST: Madness Descending
There’s a strong sense of finality about this week’s DALLAS. It really feels like it could be the last episode of the series. It opens with Cliff talking to Digger at his graveside. His words then continue over various shots of the investigative committee in Austin arguing amongst themselves. Montages are almost unheard of on DALLAS so straightaway we get the feeling this is not your average episode. “Digger, what the hell am I gonna do?” Cliff is asking his daddy. “I finally have the power to crush JR Ewing and get this — he might not even be guilty. But dammit, he has committed a crime. He knowingly bought that shoddy tanker just to fatten his own purse without giving a single thought to the environmental destruction it might cause … He acted immorally and unethically, but still he didn’t do anything legally wrong … What would you do, Digger? Would you just say the hell with it — the only good Ewing is a dead Ewing?” This is a throwback to the Cliff Barnes of early Season 1, which was the last time the character seriously considered putting morality before revenge. It has as much connection to the Cliff of a few episodes ago who was solely motivated by childlike spite as it has to the Cliff who will descend into Shakespearean evil on New DALLAS. Yet all three incarnations are hugely compelling — a testament to the mercurial nature of both of the character and the actor playing him. Speaking of New DALLAS, the dilemma Cliff wrestles with throughout this episode — whether or not to convict JR of a crime he didn’t commit — acquires an added layer of irony when one remembers that this is exactly what the Ewings will end up doing to him, i.e., framing him for JR’s murder as a way of punishing him for his other sins.
Throughout the ep, there is an acute feeling of nostalgia. As well as Cliff talking to his dead father, Miss Ellie delivers an angry speech to Jock while standing on the spot where he first struck oil: “This is where your dream started, but sometimes I wish it had never ever started at all!” “Cliff, you and I have been up and down together a lot of times over the years but this is the first time my fate rests in your hands,” Bobby tells his former brother-in-law during a pivotal scene towards the end of the episode. He also refers to Pam without mentioning her by name: “We have family ties that bind us, Cliff.” Even Carter McKay catches the bug. “When I first came to Dallas, you were a good friend to me,” he reminds Bobby. “If things had gone differently, we might have stayed friends.”
KNOTS doesn’t delve into its past to the same degree, but Mack does mention Anne while talking to Tom Ryan and there’s a brief but poignant moment when Karen is sorting through Meg’s old clothes and says to Val, “I already have boxes of her things out in the garage - things that - Laura bought her.” This is followed by a silent beat where the two women look at each other before carrying on with their conversation — which, somewhat inevitably, is all about Val and her complicated life: “I never thought that I would be married three times. It’s just so not me. I mean, I’m divorced twice and I’m marrying a man no-one else likes!” One can only imagine Laura’s eye-rolling response to that.
Meanwhile, in Hot Young Couple Corner: Just a few weeks ago, DALLAS’s James and Michelle were all over each other while KNOTS LANDING’s Tom and Paige weren’t even on speaking terms. Soap Land being the emotional rollercoaster that it is, their relationship statuses have now reversed. While Michelle and James blank each other in public, KNOTS begins with an oddly sexy pre-credit sequence that cuts between Paige and Tom each putting their clothes on while a classy slice of yacht rock, ‘Synesthesia’ by Peter Himmelman, plays over the top — a rare use of contemporary (as opposed to ‘60s) pop in Soap Land.
Paige then arrives for dinner at Tom’s place. This is our first look at his bachelor pad. It’s sort of blokey but artsy, glamorous yet macho — and about three times the size of fellow cop Zorelli’s apartment on last season’s DYNASTY. Given that Tom is on the take and Zorelli wasn’t, this makes sense. (The espionage business evidently pays well — DALLAS’s Michelle Stevens also shows off her big new apartment this week, although how she’ll continue to afford it now she’s quit her role as JR’s spy in the house of Barnes is anyone’s guess.)
Tom is also a more sophisticated chef than Zorelli. Instead of impressing Fallon by throwing spaghetti at the ceiling to see if it’s cooked, he has prepared Paige a menu of “wild greens and baby lettuce, duckling in a black bean sauce and, for dessert, creme brûlée.” Alas, dinner is interrupted when he receives an urgent phone call, from Paige’s father no less. “I’ve found Pomerantz,” Mack tells him. “I’ll meet you outside your apartment in ten minutes … We’re going to Canada.” In the first of umpteen lies Tom will deliver in this ep — not since Chip Roberts in “Man in the Middle” (KNOTS Season 4) has one man uttered so many untruths in a Soap Land hour — he tells Paige he has to meet his partner (“it’s work”), but that she should stay and eat without him. When said partner later drops by the apartment looking for Tom, Paige becomes suspicious. (Like Zorelli’s cop partner, Tom’s is non-Caucasian. Rudy was black, Ricardo is Hispanic.)
En route to Canada, Mack makes it clear how highly he thinks of Tom: “Until you showed up, I didn’t think that anyone was good enough for my daughter … Today, being a cop is pretty damn noble.” (This is ironic, given that Tom has just been instructed by his Oakman boss to kill both Pomerantz and Mack.) JR may not feel as kindly disposed towards Michelle, but he nonetheless urges James to make up with “Little Miss Tight Skirt” because he needs her back in Austin spying on Cliff. “Get off your butt and start working on that girl,” he tells his son. But neither James nor Tom are in the mood for blindly following orders. As Bobby says elsewhere on this week’s DALLAS, “everything is down to your conscience” and so, while Tom goes to great lengths to avoid killing Mack and preventing his trigger happy sidekick Joe from doing the same, James makes it clear to JR he wants nothing more to do with his machinations. “I came to this city looking for a family and a home, and all I find is a combat zone fill of people trying to stick it to one another,” he complains. Whereas Tom succeeds in keeping Mack alive without arousing Oakman’s suspicions, James only succeeds in disappointing his daddy. “You don’t know what family is,” JR tells him. “All I see is a globe-trotting brat who’d skip out on his own flesh and blood the first time they put the wrong flavoured popsicle in the icebox.”
When Mack and Tom meet Pomerantz, the supposedly dead bookkeeper for Oakman Industries, he turns out to be Fritz Heath, Colby Co’s controller from last season’s DYNASTY, living under an assumed name. Like Fritz, he is a morally compromised number-cruncher who knows where the skeletons are buried. Just as Fritz gave Sable the dirt on Alexis in return for her writing off his gambling debts, Pomerantz trades Mack evidence that the Oakman fat-cats were embezzling their own employees’ pension fund in return for his freedom. But whereas Fritz was all trembling hands and flop sweat, Pomerantz is all swagger and sarcasm. He couldn’t really give a toss about Mack, Tom, Oakman, the pension fund or any of it.
It’s a significant week for Soap Land’s ruthless blonde gold-diggers, DALLAS’s Michelle and FALCON CREST’s Genele, and their relationships with their respective sugar daddies. Last week, Michelle moved out of Cliff’s condo and now Genele decides she too needs her own space — only she’s not going anywhere. “You’re going to have to move out,” she casually informs Frank just after they’ve had sex. “I am the breadwinner now and I need this place.” “… I’m not gonna move out of this house, not in a million years!” he insists. “I own you, Frank. Let’s not forget that,” she replies. Back on DALLAS, Michelle admits to Cliff that she’s been spying on him for JR, but manages to make herself look like the injured party: “It was a horrible mistake! He tricked me!” Her confession assists the indecisive Cliff in making up his mind. “You’ve helped me end a battle I’ve been having with my conscience,” he tells her. “It’s time to burn that man at the stake.”
There are two offscreen deaths this week. While Miss Ellie and Clayton watch in dismay as a TV news reporter announces that “Jack Bouleris, the captain of the Faraway Hill, was found dead in his Galveston home earlier this afternoon — the victim of an apparent suicide, he left a signed note explaining that he could no longer live with what had happened in the Gulf”, Frank Agretti finally receives word of his nephew Chris from the new FALCON CREST sheriff: “The Las Vegas police department just found his body. Apparently, he was murdered.” To add insult to injury, Frank then returns home to find Genele and Michael Sharpe going at it hammer and tongs in his bed — a common enough occurrence in Soap Land, but no-one’s responded quite the way Michael does here: “Take a hike, old man — we’re busy!”
Whereas Chris Agretti’s murder isn’t mentioned again, Carter McKay predicts that Captain Bouleris’s suicide will have life-changing consequences for the Ewings. “Bouleris’s death is going to cost you your company,” he tells Bobby, “but there is a way out … I’m willing to buy your company right now before the Barnes committee makes their decision, and for a fair price … If you sell out to me, you’re going to be able to start out all over again … with your dignity, with your future intact, not to mention those footsteps for your son to follow.” It looks like an offer Bobby can’t refuse (“Maybe I should sell Ewing Oil now, instead of letting the vultures pick it clean”), but at the eleventh hour he turns McKay down — and in so doing, returns us to the heart of the DALLAS mythology. “You know who founded this company, McKay?” he asks. “Sure, Jock Ewing was a legend,” Mack acknowledges. “And you know what he’d be doing if he was standing here right now?” Bobby continues. “He’d be escorting you out of this building headfirst through this very window, and I’m just embarrassed I didn’t do the same thing when you first brought me this stinkin’ deal!”
The animosity between Frank and Genele accelerates throughout this week’s FC. “You picked a bad time to push me, Genele,” he warns her after finding her in bed with Michael. “I’m gonna take you down with me.” He then, oh so conveniently, finds a safety deposit key in her purse. Rick Hawkins’ and Tom Mallory’s similar keys led Paige and Miss Ellie to such conventional items as contracts, photographs and maps earlier in the season. But when Frank opens Genele’s box, he finds the skull of his dead wife, aka Genele’s sister. He presents it to the police, tells them where the rest of the body is buried and explains that Genele was the killer: “She shot her … Then she came to me. All I did was cover up.” But Genele has tricked him — she wanted him to find the key and she put the safety deposit box in his name. And whereas there is no evidence linking her to the crime, the sheriff now has “a three-page confession of Frank’s participation” in the murder.
What a difference three episodes make. Before Christmas, Frank was a hero, having saved Sydney from her homicidal husband. Now, as far as the police are concerned, he is the homicidal husband. “I didn’t do it!” he cries as they drag him off to a jail cell. “Genele, tell them! Tell them the truth! GENELE!” And that’s the last we ever see of him — or any of the Agretti family for that matter. To be sure, the world of FC Season 9 is a cruel one. At least Genele has the decency to do a little cry while saying his name at the end of the ep.
Like Frank, JR makes a legally binding confession this week. As he explains to Bobby, it is to be read to the press after Cliff’s verdict is announced: “In short, it absolves you and all your employees at Ewing Oil from any responsibility in the collision … I take full responsibility … I dragged you through hell with me, Bobby, and God knows it wasn’t the first time but I guarantee you, it’s gonna be the last. I’m prepared to go to jail for ten years … to take the blame off Daddy’s company. I haven’t been the kind of brother I’d like to have been — or son for that matter … He placed the future of Ewing Oil in my hands and I obviously failed him so I’m passing the torch on to you.” Not only the torch but Jock’s portrait as well: “This belongs on your wall, not mine.” Did I mention how final this episode feels?
In the event, Bobby’s last-minute heartfelt appeal to Cliff has the desired effect and Cliff declares the tanker collision “an act of misadventure” for which no-one is to blame. Having been about to fall on his sword, JR wastes no time in snatching his confession out of Harve’s hands and tearing it up. The episode concludes with a sweetly touching look of acknowledgement between Cliff and Bobby across a crowded courtroom.
Meanwhile, KNOTS ends on a great we-shoulda-seen-this-coming reveal: Greg Sumner is Oakman Industries!
And this week’s Top 3 are …
1 (2) DALLAS
2 (3) KNOTS LANDING
3 (1) FALCON CREST
So many twists and turns - I think I need to lie down for a while.
The Knots in Canada scene was very tense, I remember that.
Why does this make me chuckle?
I really hated the way they wrote Frank out of Falcon Crest. Somehow Frank Agretti seemed to be still the same character we knew from the better seasons 6+7 before while other characters as Richard and Lance inexplicably acted hapless towards the crazy St. James. The only weird addition to Frank's character was Genele, an otherwise fascinating character but even that made him still recognizable. At least Rod Taylor's career ended with Winston Churchill in Inglourious Basterds and not in Tuscany Valley's jail. Of course the way they got rid of Chris Agretti was worse but that was a ruined character from the start. That season of Falcon Crest really was a mixed bag for me, way more entertaining than season 8 but too many new characters that I didn't care for (all the St. James, Walker and Lauren).
At that time on Knots Landing I mostly enjoyed Paige and Tom's scenes, they really had chemistry and I would have preferred them to Paige and Greg. The Fairgate brothers drama would have been way better if the acting abilities of Michael and Eric had grown at least the size their bodies did during the show's run... And they missed a chance keeping Olivia and Harold - both capable actors - on board. They really had no ideas to write stories for older teens or young adults on any of those prime time soaps.
Whatever: In the past weeks I've read a lot of @James from London's summaries. Absolute insightful and I cherish the interesting analogies between the plots and characters. Thank you, @James from London!
Yes, it's proper espionage/thriller stuff and a real contrast to the episodes preceding it: the earnestness of the Danny/Amanda story, the soapy Michael/Eric/Linda triangle.
I really liked the cruelty of it!
Oh, I had a soft spot for Chris - he was a sweet kid. And again, the casual brutality of his murder was kind of a thrill.
I think Michael's great! He has this deadpan sincerity which can be both funny and poignant.
I really enjoy their scenes from a marriage. They really add a different perspective to the series. On one end of the scale, you've got admiral of industry Greg in his ivory tower and at the other, you've got Olivia and Harold bickering over which brand of ice cream they can afford.
Thanks a lot, Brian!!
18 Jan 90: KNOTS LANDING: My First Born v. 19 Jan 90: DALLAS: Unchain My Heart v. 19 Jan 90: FALCON CREST: Four Women
When Polly the receptionist interrupts Greg Sumner’s meeting to tell him he has a call from his daughter, he assumes it’s the one he gave away (“Meg?”). Instead, it’s the one he (and we) had forgotten all about. (“No, it’s me, Dad, Mary Frances.”)
Greg isn’t the only KNOTS character with a daughter they haven’t seen in years. The last time either Gary or Val saw Lucy was at Jock’s will reading six years ago; Diana hasn’t been back to visit Karen since she left for New York five years ago. Neither of these separations seemed planned by the writers — they’re simply a result of the actresses in question proving surplus to requirements. All the same, there’s something organic, something “real” about the way each of these estrangements has developed over the years. While Val and Lucy have each made fleeting, wistful allusions to their lack of contact, Karen has admitted to Abby that her and Diana’s relationship has never fully recovered from their feud over Chip Roberts. They do keep in touch by phone — this very week, in fact, Karen mentions calling Diana regarding Eric’s whereabouts.
There has been no suggestion of any such contact between Greg and Mary Frances since her last appearance in Season 5. Indeed, their scenes in this episode are all about their lack of contact. When Mary Frances talks to Mack and Karen, for instance, it becomes apparent that she had no knowledge of Greg’s marriage to Laura, much less that she now has a half-sister whom the Mackenzies are raising as their own. Meanwhile, Paige is equally taken aback to learn that her former lover has a grown daughter the same age as she is.
So far this season, Greg has had a pretty easy time of it — quipping his way through both the tail end of the Murakame storyline and his “opposites attract” affair with Paula. But now, with Mary Frances reappearing and Mack’s discovery that Oakman Industries is a subsidiary of the Sumner Group, it feels like his chickens have come home to roost. These two plot strands converge when Mack confronts Greg in his office: “Oakman Industries is your company … You’re the one who’s been robbing these people blind. You’re the most corrupt man I’ve ever known. You’re slime.” By this point, Mary Frances has arrived and is standing the doorway, unnoticed by the two men. “Guess you haven’t changed much,” she says, looking at her father.
Greg may not have changed, but Mary Frances is played by a new actress. During a flashback to the period when she was last on KNOTS, she retains her new face. Later on, however, when Greg flashes back to her childhood, she is played by a much younger actress and he by his real-life son, just as he has been in previous flashbacks. All of this works well. Slightly more complicated is the last scene of this week’s DALLAS in which Bobby looks across the bar of the Oil Baron's Club, sees a woman leaving and murmurs, “I swear I just saw Pam!” This recalls previous “Holy shit, it’s …” moments in Soap Land, when Gary Ewing and Richard Channing each thought they’d just clapped eyes on, respectively, the resurrected Ciji and Melissa. But whereas those lookalikes were identical to the originals, by virtue of being played by the same actress, the woman Bobby sees clearly isn’t Pam — at least not as he (and we) remember her. She does, however, bear a striking similarity to the post-reconstructive surgery Pam we glimpsed (but he didn’t) at the beginning of last season who, in turn, looked a bit like the pre-car crash Pam. So who has Bobby seen — the reconstructed Pam? A lookalike of the reconstructed Pam? A recast Pam whom Bobby instantly “recognises” as the woman he was married to in the same way Greg instantly “recognises” the recast Mary Frances as the daughter he abandoned? Or is she a lookalike of this hypothetical recast? Or simply a random woman with reddish-brown hair? Tune in next week, folks!
On a more prosaic level, Mary Frances’s reappearance echoes Danny Sharpe’s arrival on FALCON CREST last month. Each is the young adult offspring of an emotionally withdrawn business tycoon; each shows up unannounced to confront their father over his neglect. “You were too busy to give a damn,” said Danny. “You don’t even know one thing about me,” says Mary Frances. Cornered yet contrite, these powerful men can offer only flimsy explanations. “I was too young to be your father,” said Michael. “Your mother didn’t think I was suitable father material,” says Greg. “I just didn’t think that you’d want to see me again,” Michael added. “Maybe he thought you didn’t want to see him either,” suggests Paula to Mary Frances.
There are also differences. Whereas Danny has dropped out of college, dismissing it an even bigger waste of his time than adolescence, Mary Frances informs Greg that she has a degree in biology. Whereas Danny is now doing everything he can to emulate Michael, including making a pass at his girlfriend (Genele blows his mind by almost succumbing, but then changes her mind at the last minute, prompting Danny to deliver the funniest line of the week: “I’m nineteen years old," he protests, "do you know what this is gonna do to the rest of my day?!”), Mary Frances makes it clear that she despises Greg’s values. “How can you stand being so rich?” she asks him when he takes her to lunch. “I’ve worked for two years in Africa with families who have to watch their children die of hunger and I hate coming back to someone like you.” Over the past few seasons, Soap Land has paid periodic lip service to the plight of the homeless, but this is the first time it has shoved famine in the face of one of its billionaires. Greg is relatively unfazed. “I may not be the best father, but I’m not to blame for all the ills in the world,” he replies evenly. “You don’t have any idea, do you?” Mary Frances retorts. “Because you never see the end results of your actions. You are just completely isolated. Like a B-52 pilot dropping bombs, you don’t see what happens when those bombs fall.”
It’s a striking analogy, and an accusation that has been levelled against Soap Land’s rich throughout its history. "You people up here in your ivory tower don't recognise the faces of the people you hurt,” Nancy Scotfield told Bobby Ewing three years ago on DALLAS. “He was too small, too insignificant — an insect for your father to crush without even realising it,” Zach Powers told Jason, referring to his own father, on THE COLBYS. Only last week, DALLAS opened with Cliff Barnes accusing JR of buying “that shoddy tanker just to fatten his own purse without giving a single thought to the environmental destruction it might cause.”
The charge of turning a blind eye to the wider reality, of choosing to isolate oneself for the sake of a cushy life has also been made against Soap Land’s stay-at-home good guys: Miss Ellie sitting at the head of the big Ewing dinner table and watching, Krystle radiating the passive acceptance that made her the most dangerous Carrington of them all, Gary occupying himself with the role of gentleman rancher and thus allowing Abby to get up to all sorts in chicanery in his name. Mary Frances’s accusatory “How can you stand being so rich?” question could be asked of any of these characters; they are all complicit.
In this context, it’s interesting that JR should choose this week to climb down from his ivory tower and slog it out in the actual oilfields. He, John Ross and Cally surprise Miss Ellie and Clayton in Pride, Texas where the Farlows have reopened Jock’s first drill site in the hopes of striking oil for the local townsfolk. This provides JR with an opportunity to romanticise his profession. “There’s more to it than just making money,” he tells John Ross. “Our heritage started here, son. Ewing Oil started here … Your granddaddy is the greatest oilman that ever lived and not just because he made us rich.” “What else is there?” John Ross asks in surprise. “Oil,” replies JR. “Getting it out of the ground to the refineries, making fuel to power our cars and warm our homes in the winter.” “I thought you did all that in an office.” Yeah … but the hard work and the important work is done right here … Whether you work in the office or in the fields, you’re gonna get dirty, but out here, the dirt’s a lot cleaner.” So while Greg circles above in his B-52 bomber, JR is down in the soil, getting his hands dirty in a cleaner way.
Even though Greg looks at Mary Frances as adoringly as JR does John Ross, if not more so, he does not seek to sentimentalise his business practices for her in the same way. Even after making a televised statement acknowledging Oakman’s wrongdoings (“Sometimes what’s legal isn’t moral. I was unaware of the instability of the fund”) and pledging to make full restitution to those concerned, he makes it clear to his daughter that he did not do so out of the goodness of his heart. “It’s good business, it’s good public relations,” he explains. “Listen, I like you and it would be really neat if you liked me, but I can’t pretend to be somebody else just so we can be friends.” This honest approach seems to suit Mary Frances who suggests they “try another lunch.”
JR, however, cannot deliver on what he has promised John Ross — to strike it big on Jock’s land. (“By the end of the week, we’ll be swimming in oil!” he vows.) “I”m sorry, Mr Ewing,” his twenty-something, college-educated oil expert who wears tortoiseshell-rimmed glasses tells him. “If I could dig a tunnel from here to Saudi Arabia I would. There just isn’t any oil.” John Ross looks up at his daddy with disappointed eyes. JR may have climbed down from his ivory tower and gotten his hands dirty the old-fashioned way, but he has failed. Moreover, he has failed in front of his new wife and young son — the son who reveres him the way he once did Jock.
Like Greg as he addresses Channel 11’s viewers about the pension fund, Cliff breaks the fourth wall on DALLAS when he appears as a guest on AUSTIN TODAY, the Texas equivalent of OPEN MIKE. Turning to the camera, he announces, “There is a new soldier in the American trenches and his name is Cliff Barnes.” His appearance gains the attention of a public relations whizz called Stephanie Rodgers who dresses in Katherine Wentworth’s hand-me-downs and has been catapulted straight into DALLAS’s opening titles. She reckons Cliff has what it takes to make it as a political candidate. “You are the right age, religion and party,” she informs him. “I’m simply the woman that can take you where you want to go.”
While Greg is instructing the Sumner Group’s substitute receptionist on the finer points of booking a restaurant table, Mary Frances waits in his office. Sitting behind his desk, she reaches out to turn on his computer. Suddenly, it appears to explode. Greg hears the noise and rushes back in. At first, his attention is caught by the window; he doesn’t seem to notice Mary Frances slumped at the desk, bleeding from a head wound. Then, as he turns to look down at his daughter, the camera shows us what he was looking at previously: a bullet hole through the window.
In happier news, there are reconciliations for both James and Michelle on DALLAS and Lance and Pilar on FALCON CREST. One minute, both couples are squabbling; the next, they’re making wild crazy love — in a bath full of bubbles and aboard a luxury yacht respectively.
This week’s FALCON CREST is pretty nuts. It opens with Genele suffering from the post-I-just-framed-my-lover-for-my-sister’s-murder blues, which mostly involves her rocking back and forth in her underwear then crawling across the floor to eat from a tin of cat food. Luckily, Lauren, who only last week was hospitalised with the post-I-just-saw-my-husband-blow-himself-up blues, is now sufficiently recovered to help nurse her back to health. There’s more unlikely female bonding on DALLAS as Michelle consoles big sister April following her break up with Bobby. Over a few drinks, both pairs of women reach the same conclusion: men are bit crap. “Men are all just big babies. When they don’t get what they want, they pout,” declares Genele, pouring herself and Lauren each a large glass of wine. “If no other man stepped into my life again, I’d die a happy woman,” April concludes as she and Michelle swig cocktails in a bar.
Having failed to ruin the Ewings last week, Carter McKay likens the oil business to a chess game. “You managed a draw — good for you,” he tells Bobby philosophically. Meanwhile, Jovan the Yugoslavian psychic chess master, whom Pilar refers to as her “irrelevant one-night stand”, is still hanging around on FALCON CREST. Genele utilises his photographic memory to obtain some top secret information from Richard’s office so that Michael can swipe a $50,000,000 deal out from under him. Genele then repays Lauren’s friendship by making it look as if she (Lauren) is the one who has betrayed Richard and passed the info onto her brother. A Soap Land good girl caught in the middle of a feud between her brother and the man she loves, falsely accused of spying on one for the other — it’s a tale as old as the third ever episode of DALLAS (“Spy in the House”).
The inevitable confrontation comes when Richard arrives home to find Lauren has surprised him with a candlelit dinner. However — proving that you just cannot second guess this season of FALCON CREST — instead of the expected fireworks, it leads to a quietly spoken character scene. “It’s not gonna work, Lauren,” Richard says gently. “I’ve got this thing in my head, this little seed of doubt because I don’t know who to trust. It’s my problem, one of my problems. I don’t know who to love, who to hate, who to kiss, who to hit … No matter how much I care for you, love you, no matter how much I want to believe you, I’ve got this little seed of doubt up here saying, ‘Whoa, Richard’ — because Michael Sharpe is your brother. And he’ll always be your brother.” “Is this about money … some deal that you are Michael are competing for?” Lauren asks him. “It’s not about money,” he explains, “it’s about something in me, it’s about trust. Can I trust you? … Tell me you wouldn’t betray me, even if your brother asked you. That’s what I want to know.” When she refuses to answer, telling him she won’t be interrogated, he asks her to leave. After she’s gone, he blows out the candle on the table. Only then does he lose control, sending a few plates flying. Meanwhile, who should be lurking outside in the dark, waiting for Lauren to drive away, but her new best friend Genele. She then comes to Richard’s door. “I wanna help you,” she tells him before saying the three little words he’d been so desperate to hear from Lauren: “Please, trust me.”
And this week’s Top 3 are …
1 (2) KNOTS LANDING
2 (3) FALCON CREST
3 (1) DALLAS
Genele eating cat food is the scene I remember most vividly from S9 FC. It sticks in my head like no other. Her character was the one I was most partial to that season: to me she was the not-a-bad-seed Terry, resurrected more sexually uninhibited and reimaged in the mould of psychologically damaged Eric Stavros. (David Selby was once asked why Richard would marry someone like Terry and he replied: “She’s a good kid.”)
What’s the evidence Genele framed Frank for her sister’s murder other than Frank’s denial and accusatory finger pointing back? She obviously wanted him caught, yes, but did she frame him? Why are we to believe Frank?
There's this exchange in an earlier episode --
Frank: I didn’t commit murder, dammit. You killed her all by yourself.
Genele: With your gun. I did it because I knew you loved me. You proved it after we buried her which, by the way, makes you an accessory.
Frank: It’s the greatest mistake of my life.
Ah, thanks, James. I'd forgotten that exchange. For a long time now I'd thought he'd dunnit.
01 Feb 90: KNOTS LANDING: My Bullet v. 02 Feb 90: DALLAS: I Dream of Jeannie v. 02 Feb 90: FALCON CREST: Brotherly Love
The centrepiece of both KNOTS and FALCON CREST this week is a compellingly awkward gathering at the home of each show’s richest and least predictable character — respectively Greg Sumner, aka “a major imperialist exploitative capitalist pig,” according to his dead daughter’s boyfriend, and Michael Sharpe, aka “one of the most influential financial barons of our century,” according to his son.
Greg’s gathering is a mini-“Noises Everywhere” with added ghosts. It’s a more impromptu affair than Laura’s wake, but again features a disparate group of characters brought together by a death. Greg’s behaviour as a bereaved father has been no more conventional than it was as a bereaved husband so a concerned Carlos calls Paige and asks her to come over. She’s with Tom, who has only just learnt of her past relationship with Greg and thinks she’s still hung up on him, so she pretends she has a work emergency. (Call this karma for Tom telling her the same lie the night he went to Canada with Mack.) While she is on en route to the ranch, Paula arrives to check in on Greg. Carlos tries to reach Paige to dissuade her from coming but gets her answering machine instead. He leaves a message which Tom hears and realises Paige has lied to him.
So it is that Greg finds himself surrounded by Paula, with whom he doesn’t really have anything in common, but who by virtue of their affair has become his de-facto next-of-kin; Paige, whose feelings for him run deep but who cannot, for all sorts of reasons, fully express them; and Tom, who ostensibly shows up in his capacity as one of the cops assigned to Mary Frances’s murder, but is really there to catch Paige out in a lie. As if this were not sufficiently uncomfortable, the ghosts of Greg’s father Paul Galveston (fresh from haunting that Scottish castle he blackmailed Bobby Ewing into buying for him a couple of years ago) and Mary Frances herself also put in an appearance.
But are they ghosts or merely figments of Greg’s imagination — a means of articulating the thoughts he is unwilling or unable to acknowledge by himself? Either way, he’s the only one who can see or hear them. It would be cool to think of Jean O’Brien, the Pam look-slightly-alike on DALLAS, existing in the same way, i.e., only in Bobby’s mind, but as if to dispel this notion, he quickly introduces her to Cliff who sees what he can see. “So it’s not my imagination,” Bobby concludes. “Well, if it is, we’re both hallucinating — she is the spitting image of Pam,” Cliff replies. Intriguingly, he later modifies this assessment to, “She looks just like Pam would have after her surgery” — apparently forgetting that she looks exactly how Pam did after surgery when he met her last season. Adding to the mystery, Bobby later shows Jean a picture of Pam, presumably taken prior to her accident. Her immediate response? “It’s me!”
The Jean O’Brien story is far more interesting than I remembered. The fact that she clearly isn’t Pam immediately throws the focus back on Bobby. He’s pretty much the last DALLAS character one would expect to fall prey to such an irrational, dreamy fixation. If anything, he’s the anti-dream man, the one who informed Pam (and millions of viewers) that “none of that happened.”
Then there’s Jean herself. Whereas previous Soap Land doppelgängers Cathy Geary and Samantha Ross had an air of mystery about them, at least initially (DYNASTY’s Rita not so much), Jean is depicted as one of the ordinary “us”, as opposed to the rich and powerful “them”. Whilst talking to a girlfriend, she describes herself as “a middle-class Dallas girl who’s been driving used cars all of her life, not exactly what you’d call a prime catch — especially for somebody like Bobby Ewing.” When Bobby enquires about her background, she tells him she “grew up on the wrong side of the tracks” — a phrase Pam used about herself on at least one occasion. She also has a Texas accent similar to the one Pam had in the series’ early days before years of soapiness washed it away. So while Jean may not be Pam’s identical twin, she is perhaps what Pam would have become had she and Bobby never met.
According to New DALLAS, Cliff is the only person at this point who knows that Real Pam is dead. For reasons that will become apparent in about twenty-four years time, he has chosen to keep this information to himself. His decision is paralleled in two contrasting storylines in this week’s Ewing-verse. On KNOTS, Meg is thrilled to have won a goldfish at the fair. She and Mack bring it home and put it in a tank, but then the fish stops moving. It’s dead — as dead as Mary Frances and Real Pam — but like Cliff, Mack and Karen elect to keep this news to themselves. Instead, they replace the fish with a doppelgänger and Meg is none the wiser.
What the Mackenzies do for a three-year-old girl with a goldfish, JR attempts to do for an elderly man with a prostitute. Blackie Callahan is a wildcatting contemporary of Jock and Digger whose expertise JR requires in order to locate oil in the town of Pride. Blackie agrees to come out of retirement on one condition: he wants a night with Beth Anne Templeton, aka “the prettiest thing in Tulsa.” The only snag is, as Blackie’s daughter explains to JR, he hasn’t seen Beth Anne for over fifty years. So, in order to indulge the fantasies of “a crazy old man who wants to spend one night of love with his eighty-year-old ex-girlfriend”, JR enlists the aid of a look-not-very-much-alike hooker who greets her trick with the pre-arranged opening line: “Blackie, at last, we meet again!” Blackie is as satisfied with Fake Beth Anne as Meg is with her fake fish, even though he is not as easily fooled. “Beth Anne? You think I’m crazy? That old broad must be ninety if she’s a day!” he cackles.
When the Ghost of Mary Frances recounts a childhood memory of a toy bird she cherished then lost, only for Greg to replace it while she was asleep (a story which directly echoes Meg’s goldfish saga), is she describing something that really happened or is Greg, as the Ghost of Paul Galveston insists, “making this up — you don’t know what you remember. You wish this had happened”? Over on DALLAS, Mr None of This Happened is having his balloon similarly popped by Cliff who accuses Bobby of “chasing some fantasy.” “Every time I look at her,” Bobby replies, referring to Jean, “I flash back to the times Pam and I had together.” If Bobby is chasing memories, then Greg is inventing them. “If you haven’t got any authentic Norman Rockwell memories, you can always paint a few of your own,” his father’s ghost tells him.
There’s one more doppelgänger this week: when Bobby follows Not Pam out of the Oil Baron’s Club at the start of this week’s DALLAS, the restaurant’s never-before-seen lobby turns out to be identical to that of the Sumner Group. One almost expects Mort and Bob to emerge from the elevator.
Over on FALCON CREST, Michael throws a small dinner party to commemorate Lauren splitting up with Richard and moving in with him. This new living arrangement allows the somewhat intense nature of Michael’s feelings for his sister, which have only been previously hinted at, to come to the fore in a storyline falconcrest.org describes as “crazy and disgusting.” It starts off like a slightly darker version of Monica and Jeff’s relationship during last year’s DYNASTY, with some titillating taboo-prodding: Michael telling Lauren that, as a teenager, “I used to wish that we weren’t brother and sister, that we were both adopted from different families and thrown into the same house, that it was God’s way of putting us together.” Later in the ep, he calls her from his office to tell say, “I’m just sitting here with about $32,000,000 worth of business to take care of and all I can think about is you.” But as the episode unfolds and we start to realise how suffocatingly possessive he is, whether or not he’s physically attracted to his sister becomes almost beside the point; this isn’t a juicily sensational storyline about incest, but a grimly fascinating portrait of a man with an obsessive need to control. At one point during his dinner party, he casually informs Lauren that he has made arrangements to have “your name changed back to Lauren Sharpe … That’s who you are now. You’re Lauren Sharpe. Lauren Daniels doesn’t exist anymore.” “I don’t exist anymore?” she asks, recoiling. “Michael, you live in a tunnel and it is a dark narrow tunnel that goes round in circles … You don’t wanna be a dictator, you wanna be a god, a master of the universe.”
There are two declarations of love this week. On KNOTS, Tom surprises Paige mid-argument with the admission that “I’ve never felt like this before … I’ve never been in love before.” On FC, Genele does the same thing to Richard over breakfast. “I’ve loved you since the first moment I saw you in the courtroom,” she admits. While Paige is pleased, Richard is circumspect. Nonetheless, Genele seems to regard this as an opportunity to turn her life around. She even goes to confession to redeem herself. (Father Bob and Genele in the same scene? It’s like two worlds colliding.) “I wanna start over,” she weeps. “I believe I have the chance to be happy, but I need first to be absolved of my many sins.” And so she joins the list of Soap Land characters trying in some way to escape their present reality — either by reinventing the past (“If you haven’t got any authentic Norman Rockwell memories, you can always paint a few of your own”) or by retreating into it (“Every time I look at her, Cliff, I flash back to the times Pam and I had together”) or by eradicating it (“Lauren Daniels doesn’t exist anymore”) or, in Genele’s case, by being absolved of it.
Back at the FC dinner party, Michael’s son Danny brings new girlfriend Sydney over for coffee. He is anxious that she and his dad hit it off, but the encounter goes about as well as Greg’s with his daughter’s boyfriend Robert. “You didn’t deserve Mary Frances,” Robert declares. “She caught your bullet. You should have been sitting in that chair.” “You should be put in jail for what you did to Emma,” Sydney snaps at Michael. Greg and Michael react to these displays of youthful self-righteousness sardonically. “I’m not real happy having met you either, Robert,” replies Greg drily. “I’ll have to be content with the notion that you were simply a lapse in my daughter’s good judgement.” “Uh oh, she’s getting angry — get rid of the knives and forks!” wisecracks Michael, referring to Sydney’s recent bout of husband-stabbing. After Sydney storms out, Michael gets serious, ordering Danny to fire his girlfriend from her job at Falcon Crest: “Drop her from the payroll and if I find out you’re still seeing this ungrateful little twist, then you’re off the payroll too.”
Mary Frances was sitting in Greg’s office chair when she was shot, just as Bobby Ewing was in JR’s when he took a bullet at the end of DALLAS Season 6. Back then, JR was presumed to be the intended target and so he quickly surrounded himself with bodyguards. The same thing happens with Greg now. (The withering contempt with which he regards his security staff is really fun to watch.) But in each case, this proves to be a red herring. Just as the DALLAS shooter turned out to be after Bobby all along, so Mary Frances's, it transpires, was after her. But why?
Mary Frances’s death, rather like the discovery of Roger Grimes’ body on DYNASTY, is the beginning of a storyline rather than the climax of one. Greg finds a fake passport and a notebook full of indecipherable data amongst her belongings. In an enigmatic yet touching end to the ep, Mary Frances (or the spectre thereof) appears to her father one last time and listens patiently as he lays out the questions her death has left him with: “What were you doing that got you killed? What was in that notebook? What were you doing in my computer …? What were you researching? I run one of the largest privately held corporations in the world, I can’t even begin to estimate my net worth, and I can walk the streets at night. You? You run around the globe with a dirty duffel bag to your name and somebody wants you dead — you, not me. What were you doing?” Without replying, Mary Frances slowly fades away.
Guest of honour at Michael’s dinner is an old high school buddy, Joey Walts. Like Guzzler Bennett, Bobby’s pal in “Fallen Idol” (DALLAS Season 1), Joey was a sporting hero in his youth who has never recaptured his former glory (“We all just stood there staring at you, wishing we were you — it was biblical,” Michael recalls). Again like Guzzler, he has since fallen on hard times and is now reaching out for financial backing for a new business venture. So too is James Beaumont on DALLAS. Whereas James is pitching “an upscale, extremely trendy New York-style bistro”, we’re never told directly what Joey’s project is. While James promises a couple of good old boy Texas bankers that “this is the best investment you’ll ever make”, Joey assures Michael that his is “an idea whose time has come … The franchise possibilities are international.” It’s clear that Michael derives some satisfaction from seeing his former hero coming to him hat in hand, while the DALLAS bankers quickly lose interest in James’s proposition once they realise the rest of the Ewings aren’t involved (“The only reason we even agreed to this meeting is we thought we were doing business with JR”). Michael, however, agrees to help Joey out — on his terms. “This deal will work if I make it work … Companies don’t make me, I make companies,” he crows.
But then Michael slowly becomes fixated on the idea that Joey is sleeping with his sister behind his back. (“Thinking you’d slip her one while you were in town, is that it?”) When he finds they’ve had lunch together without telling him, he loses it completely and tells Joey at the last minute that the deal is off. When Joey tries to salvage their twenty-five year friendship, he yells at him to get out. By the end of the episode, Michael has lost Lauren too. “I have just got to get away from you,” she tells him. “You are a deeply disturbed person and you need help … I am not a thing you can own, I am just a person who happens to be your sister … YOU CANNOT OWN ME!”
There is further financial disappointment on KNOTS when Harold, who’s gotten himself into hot water over some gambling debts, asks Mack for a $13,000 loan. Not realising how serious the situation is, Mack turns him down.
“No wonder this city’s falling apart,” huffs James, after the bank declines his proposition. His pessimism is shared throughout Soap Land. “These are sad days for Dallas,” Jean O’Brien’s realtor boss tells Bobby. “We’re putting up more houses than we can sell. It’s like living in a ghost town.” “Wineries are going under all the time these days,” echoes Joey on FALCON CREST.
When a disillusioned Cally complains to James about JR (“I don’t have to worry about him and other women, I have to worry about him and Ewing Oil!”), she joins a long line of Soap Land wives who have found themselves playing second fiddle to their husbands’ work. “Your damn all-consuming business was your mistress,” Alexis once told Blake. “I was closer to you, closer to the core of your life, when I was your secretary,” Krystle once told Blake. And although Pam once conceded that “Bobby’s never been unfaithful to me”, Sue Ellen was quick to point out it was “because he has a new mistress, Pam — Ewing Oil. It’s the same mistress that JR has.”
Minor trend of the week: Random presidential references. On FALCON CREST, Lauren jokingly accuses Michael of being “knee-deep in some of the most amoral, shameless business deals since the Teapot Dome scandal.” Having no idea what a teapot dome scandal could be, I googled it. According to Wikipedia, it was “a bribery scandal involving the administration of United States President Warren G. Harding from 1921 to 1923.” Over on DALLAS, Blackie Callahan refers to the incumbent President, George Bush Sr (like Blackie, a former Texas wildcatter) as an old friend: “To quote an old oilfield buddy of mine, ‘Read my lips’ — there is oil under Buck Flat.” Granted, it’s not quite Alexis Colby reminiscing about Portofino with Henry Kissinger, but still.
And this week’s Top 3 are …
1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
2 (2) FALCON CREST
3 (3) DALLAS
15 Feb 90: KNOTS LANDING: The Grim Reaper v. 16 Feb 90: DALLAS: The Crucible v. 16 Feb 90: FALCON CREST: Finding Lauren
Following on from Greg’s shooting at the end of last week’s KNOTS come the traditional hospital waiting room scenes. Normally, these are populated by concerned family members, but in this case, there is no family and precious little concern. “Greg used to be your best friend … He could die!” Karen exclaims after Mack declares that he has no interest in visiting him. So instead of loved ones waiting anxiously for news of his condition, we have the Mackenzies debating whether or not “the world would be diminished by Greg Sumner’s death.” “I think all life is to be cherished,” Karen argues. “Oh yeah? What about Idi Amin or Hitler?” retorts Mack, giving the Führer his first Soap Land shout out since the DYNASTY finale. (“Does the name Adolf Hitler ring a bell?” Alexis asked Sable.)
While Bobby Ewing continues to date a woman who willingly dresses up as his ex-wife on DALLAS, Lauren Daniels embarks on her own whacky voyage of self-discovery on FALCON CREST. Following Val’s example in KNOTS Season 6, she leaves her wealthy family to become a waitress in a diner — only she forgets to switch personalities first, and instead of a sweet little town like Shula, she decides to slum it in the scuzziest part of Chinatown she can find. As so often happens when Soap Land ladies venture outside of their glamorous comfort zone, almost every man she encounters is a predator of some kind — all her customers at the diner want to either date her or rape her. To start off with, her waitressing skills are as poor as Lucy Ewing’s at the Hot Biscuit, but by the end of her first shift, she’s slinging hash like Verna Ellers on a good day. Returning to the flophouse where she’s staying, she is approached for help by her neighbours, a Chinese couple, the wife of which has gone to labour. They speak only enough English to convey to Lauren that she must not call for help, which suggests they are in the country illegally, and so she ends up delivering the baby herself. FALCON CREST isn’t interested in this couple or their predicament; they exist solely to make Lauren feel good about herself in the same way that the Down’s Syndrome kids who appeared on DALLAS during the Dream Season were only there to make Ray feel better about the baby he and Donna were expecting.
There is a different kind of Asian stereotyping on DALLAS when Carter McKay encounters Mr Inagaki, the front man for a highly powerful Japanese investment firm — Abby’s fictional Murakame Corporation come to life. Mr Inagaki delivers a speech to Mack very similar to the one Mack himself gave the Ewing brothers last season. “The days of the American oil barons are over,” Inagaki announces. “You are dinosaurs. I represent the real money in this world now … My countrymen are now travelling by the hundreds and thousands, spending millions of dollars abroad … We are building hotels and buying others, and malls and stores, so these millions of dollars that are spent are spent in our stores, our hotels, and that money returns to our homeland.” Yes, those “damn foreigners” that JR and Jordan Lee were so concerned about taking over their town last season have arrived!
Back on KNOTS, we are introduced to Dianne Kirkwood, the producer of Karen’s talk show. The two women clash after Karen spontaneously introduces her son Eric to the audience halfway through her show. “You know that I’m your biggest fan,” Dianne begins, “but there is a fine line between being spontaneous and being corny, and that was just a bit much.” Dianne might be a little cold, but interestingly, every point she makes to Karen has a kernel of truth to it. When Karen argues that she cannot be “effective on the show unless I do it my own way”, Dianne accuses her of pulling a star trip. “Star trip — just because I’m interested in the content of my own show?” Karen argues. “‘My show’? -- The programme is called OPEN MIKE not THE KAREN MACKENZIE SHOW,” Dianne points out. Like Cliff’s new image-maker Stephanie Rodgers on DALLAS, Dianne is a big-haired, ball-busting throwback to the kind of female executive who ruled the Soap Land roost way back in Ye Olde ‘80s. Indeed, now that Angela’s in a coma, Abby’s in Japan and DYNASTY’s off the air, Dianne and Stephanie are the only two female bosses left. While Dianne clashes with Karen, Stephanie does the same with JR. “Why aren’t you home fixing lunch for your husband instead of taking up parking spaces?” he yells at her during a parking lot skirmish. “You need teaching a lesson, you truly do,” she tells him in a later scene after he calls her “a woman’s libber” — a term that was fashionable in the 70s but sounds decidedly archaic in 1990. There’s a similar feeling of the feminist clock being turned back on FALCON CREST when Lauren, after half an episode of starring in what feels like a pilot for her own insane spinoff series, returns home and tells Richard that she’d quite like to continue working for a living. “I want my independence,” she says. “I don’t know what that means,” he replies. “Separate bedrooms? … Separate lives? … What about the children?” “There are a lot of families that have both working parents and they do OK,” she explains patiently. This conversation is taking place twelve whole years after Pam Ewing introduced the concept of a working wife to Soap Land. It’s almost like the ‘80s never happened.
No sooner is Lauren home than she finds herself caught up in another bizarre storyline as Richard takes a leaf out of Bobby Ewing’s book and tries to make her over in his dead wife’s image. First, he buys her clothes that resemble Maggie’s and then drops hints about her appearance: “Have you ever had your hair short? … A lighter colour?” “Unless I’m very much mistaken, most of the places we’ve gone are places you took Pam,” Jeanne O’Brien tells Bobby on DALLAS this week. “Did you ever go there with Maggie?” Lauren asks when Richard suggests they stay at a bed-and-breakfast in Santa Barbara. “Probably,” he admits. “I don’t wanna go,” she tells him. So he books them somewhere else to stay — the place, it turns out, where he and Maggie went on their honeymoon. Whereas Jeanne is willing to go along with the charade (“How else was someone like me gonna have a chance with someone like you?” she says to Bobby), Lauren is not (“What are you doing to me? I’m not Maggie … I can’t compete with a dead woman,” she tells Richard). Both situations come to a head in their respective show’s final scene. Bobby realises that, in order to say goodbye to Pam, he needs to say goodbye to Jeanne. In other words, he’s subconsciously created their entire relationship in order to end it — which makes a pleasing sort of emotional sense. After breaking things off, he leaves Jeanne’s apartment and then whispers into the night, “Goodbye, Pam”, which feels like a much sadder and more significant moment now we know for sure that Pam is dead. Richard isn’t quite as ready to let go of Maggie as Bobby is of Pam. “It would be like having her die all over again, I can’t bear that,” he tells Lauren. “I don’t want you to forget her, ever … I just don’t wanna have to be her,” she replies.
There are two offscreen drownings in this week’s Ewing-verse. On KNOTS, former Oakman Industries executive Robert Willis is found floating face down in the ocean — eerily foreshadowing the death of his real-life lookalike, newspaper magnate Robert Maxwell, the following year.
Robert Willis, pension fund fraudster, drowned 1990 in KNOTS LANDING:
Robert Maxwell, pension fund fraudster, drowned 1991 in REAL LIFE:
Meanwhile on DALLAS, we learn that Atticus Ward, a never previously mentioned acquaintance of Clayton, “was deep sea fishing in Florida when his boat went down in a storm.” The Farlows attend his will-reading where another old pal, Curly Morrison, mysteriously drops dead mere seconds after learning that he was to be the principal inheritor of Atticus’s estate. However, the real mystery is: what the hell does any of this have to do with us?
Greg’s storyline takes a turn for the traditional at the end of this week’s KNOTS when his would-be assassin shows up at Soap Land Memorial Hospital to finish the job, thereby following in the footsteps of Katherine Wentworth, Pamela Lynch, Charley St James and whoever it was that tried to suffocate Alexis with that pillow. “There’s a chance you’ll die from your gunshot wound but I want to make sure,” Mary Frances’s boyfriend Robert (for it is he) explains to his victim, as he injects his IV with poison — Camaride, to be precise — the very product that Greg himself, by turning a blind eye, enabled Oakman Industries to manufacture in Africa where it fatally infected hundreds of people including his own daughter. “I want you to suffer the way your victims suffered,” Robert continues. “Robert Willis, he didn’t suffer much when I killed him today … but it was satisfying. I hated killing Mary Frances, but I had to. We needed the publicity for the cause. Besides, she was dying anyway. She had Camaride poisoning — like you do now.”
“What I don’t understand … is what are we trying to do with Falcon Crest?” Ed, Michael’s lawyer, asks him this week. He’s talking about the winery, not the series itself, of course, but the question still applies. “I haven’t decided yet,” Michael shrugs. “Meanwhile, it’s a good training ground for Danny.” “It’s a slap in the face to have a teenager running the show,” Ed replies. Long term viewers may feel the same way, but for me, the wanton disregard Michael displays for the legacy at the heart of the series is absolutely fascinating. “I never used to think much about wine,” he says during a great scene with Pilar. “I never drank the stuff. Occasionally, I’d look over in a restaurant and see people performing this silly ritual. I never quite got it. I mean, we’re Americans. We don’t care.” In nine years of listening to Angela speak so reverently and proudly about the many generations of Giobertis who toiled in the fields and nurtured the vines and passed down the heritage, it’s never previously occurred to anyone, friend or foe, to question the importance of it all. Now, finally, someone is saying, “So what — who cares?” As if to counteract such heresy, Lance goes the other way and gets a tattoo of what appears to be the show’s logo on one of his biceps. “Now you’re a warrior,” his tattooist assures him. Pilar’s initial reaction when he takes off his shirt is one of alarm and disbelief: “I don’t understand you! … What did I marry?!” She looks at him as if he’s gone completely nuts. What a difference twenty-nine years make — these days, getting a tattoo is about as shockingly unconventional as applying for a mortgage.
James Beaumont and Danny Sharpe both stand up to their interfering fathers this week. “I’ve had it — to hell with you and the horse you rode in on,” James tells JR after he nixes his deal with Duke Carlisle. “You are an ungrateful little pup so if you wanna piece of me, boy, come and get it!” snarls JR in reply. Michael likewise accuses his son of ingratitude after he refuses to dump Sydney. “What have I done to you that you should treat me like this?” he asks him. “I gave you a place to live, a car, a job, a whole company to cut your teeth on. I ask one small thing in return.” “… I really don’t feel you have the right to ask that,” Danny replies. “You’re right,” agrees Michael. “It’s always a mistake to ask so I’m ordering you — get rid of Little Lady Macbeth.”
And this week’s Top 3 are …
1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
2 (-) FALCON CREST
3 (2) DALLAS
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