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

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

  1. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    07/Nov/85: KNOTS LANDING: Awakenings v. 08/Nov/85: DALLAS: Quandary v. 08/Nov/85: FALCON CREST: Sharps and Flats

    Two of Soap Land’s newest marriages are in trouble this week. On KNOTS LANDING, Joshua and Cathy’s relationship grows increasingly violent. First, Cathy pushes Joshua fully-clothed into the shower after smelling another woman’s perfume on him. Then later, Joshua, believing Cathy has upstaged him on his own TV show, lures her to an alley where he slams her against a wall. She manages to fight him off before he can inflict further damage on her. The tone is more comedic on DALLAS where Jamie, angry over Cliff’s continued obsession with beating the Ewings, moves in with her brother and repeatedly puts the phone down on him, just as Laura continues to do to Greg on KNOTS.

    The prospect of marriage is raised in all three soaps this week, each time met with a qualified response. When Peter Stavros proposes to Angela for the second time in two weeks, she is hesitant — until he makes it clear that she won’t get her hands on the rest of Falcon Crest until they are man and wife. “I want to be with you … and someday, lady, hopefully, to marry you,” a newly divorced Dusty tells Sue Ellen on DALLAS. “In AA, they teach me to take it one day at a time,” she replies. "There are no promises.” Meanwhile, the romantic lives of Ben Gibson in KNOTS and Mark Graison in DALLAS continue to run parallel. Each is in a relationship with a former Ewing wife still tangibly tied to her ex — Val by the twins she conceived with Gary, Pam by the partnership in Ewing Oil she inherited from Bobby. This week, both men verbalise the obstacles they’re facing. “We don’t do anything anymore. We don’t talk anymore. You don’t have time for me anymore,” Ben tells Val. "How are you going to put him in the past when you’re sitting in his chair every day?” Mark asks Pam. “You have chosen Bobby over me … I can’t compete with a ghost.” While Pam is unrepentant (“Maybe you shouldn’t have come back into my life,” she replies), Val is more conciliatory. “I think it’s time that we get married,” she suggests. This allows Ben to set some ground rules: “I want to be the babies’ father, Val … I want your promise that as far as you’re concerned, as far as everyone is concerned, I’m their real father.” It looks like Ben has the advantage over Mark here, but then the balance shifts in their respective episode’s final scenes. Just as Val is promising Ben that he will be the children's only father, we see the possibility finally dawn on Gary — who has stopped by the cul-de-sac with the decidedly DALLAS-style gift of mini-Stetsons for the twins — that he could be their father. Meanwhile, DALLAS concludes with a sexy make-up scene between Pam and Mark. She doesn’t apologise; she just barges into his bedroom, kicks off her shoes, climbs onto his bed and kisses him. This week’s FALCON CREST also finishes with a freeze-framed kiss, between Lance and Apollonia.

    In this week’s episodes, DALLAS’s Ray and FALCON CREST’s Angela each encounters a minority group that they would have just as soon avoided. Ray’s prejudices about Down’s Syndrome kids are overturned when he and Donna are introduced to a group of them playing soccer and their coach explains that “they really are a lot more like other children than unlike them.” Meanwhile, Angela happens upon Apollonia and a bunch of her musician friends at a pool party thrown by Lance at Falcon Crest. In spite of Lance’s insistence that “they’re talented and very successful … Someday I hope to be as good," she dismisses them all as aliens and layabouts. She is no more impressed by an abstract painting she later finds Peter hanging in their future marital bedroom. "Pablo gave it to me one summer when we were fishing in France,” he tells her.

    Real life kids with Down’s Syndrome bussed in for one scene just so that Ray Krebbs can have a personal insight; Susan Howard’s almost overpoweringly intense performance; violins playing sentimentally on the soundtrack — it’s easy to be cynical about the Krebbs’ current storyline on DALLAS. This time around, I've really tried to watch these scenes with an open mind, but they still leave me kind of cold. Perhaps it has less to do with the scenes themselves than the wider context in which they appear. This week’s DALLAS is also the episode that formally introduces the series' most gloriously absurd character thus far, Angelica Nero. The contrast between the earnest sincerity of the Krebbses' story and the inherent superficiality of Angelica slinking around in her Travilla gowns (“A lot of people are surprised at me being Chief Executive Officer of Marinos Shipping” — ya don’t say) is just too jarring. Watching both concurrently is a bit like eating alternate mouthfuls of roast chicken and apple pie.

    In the new-character-with-a-mysterious-agenda stakes, DALLAS’s Angelica (“For our plan to work, JR Ewing must come to us!”) just edges ahead of KNOTS LANDING's Peter Hollister whom we see lurking in doorways eavesdropping on Greg and Abby, then taking it upon himself to cover their tracks in order to prevent Gary finding what they’ve been up to at Empire Valley.

    While JR has dinner with Angelica Nero to discuss doing business with Marinos Shipping (aka "the biggest oil tanker company in the world”), FALCON CREST’s Chase breaks bread with Connie Giannini to discuss a joint venture with Antoine Du Mauriac (aka "the greatest champagne maker in the world”). In both scenes, the business details take second place to more soapy matters. While Angelica is distracted by Jack Ewing’s arrival in the restaurant ("Jack is definitely our man!” she subsequently informs her assistant over the phone), Maggie is silently fixated by Connie who sits across the table from her. Her preoccupation is conveyed very effectively by a high-pitched ringing on the soundtrack, which recalls — appropriately enough — the sound of a finger rubbing the rim of a wine glass. The scene leads directly to Maggie getting her memory back and thereby triumphing over DYNASTY’s Fallon in the Soap Land Battle of the Amnesiacs.

    This brings us to the 85/86 season's first round of Soap Land Song Wars, which pits KNOTS LANDING’s Cathy against FALCON CREST’s Apollonia. Cathy appears on Joshua’s TV show singing a cover of Corey Hart’s generic rock ballad, 'Never Surrender’. Its theme of empowerment isn't especially religious — an indication, perhaps, of Joshua’s waning importance in his own show (which we finally learn has the daytime soapy name of A Better Tomorrow). While Joshua angrily resents Cathy’s singing career, Lance Cumson is financing Apollonia’s — hence, the recording studio scene where she performs a pretty candyfloss confection called (I’m guessing) 'Real Life Romeo’. A second, more forgettable Apollonia number, 'Fire in My Eyes’, plays over a montage of Lance touting her demo to various record companies without any success. (Too bad for him he doesn’t have a Kenny Ward living at the bottom of his cul-de-sac.) Therefore, the winner of this week’s Song Wars is, surprisingly, Apollonia.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    13/Nov/85: DYNASTY: The Titans v. 14/Nov/85: KNOTS LANDING: Pictures at a Wedding v. 15/Nov/85: DALLAS: Close Encounters v. 15/Nov/85: FALCON CREST: Changing Partners

    It’s a major week in Soap Land. In a specially extended episode (complete with a specially extended opening title sequence), DYNASTY throws “the party of the year” to spin the California Colbys off into their own show. Meanwhile, DALLAS commemorates its 200th episode with Southfork's biggest bash ever and KNOTS LANDING stages its most soap-tastic wedding to date, in terms of both splendour and drama. There’s no equivalent event on FALCON CREST, however, although Emma does accompany Lance and Apollonia to a honky tonk bar where she falls in love with a guy who calls his truck Ursula.

    DYNASTY's Blake is adamant that he, rather than Jason Colby, should host the party where their joint venture is to be announced. KNOTS LANDING's Karen, meanwhile, insists on throwing Val and Ben a big wedding at Lotus Point. The contrast between Blake’s speech at the party and Karen’s to Laura where she explains her dream for Lotus Point neatly illustrates their (and perhaps their shows’) differing sensibilities. “It’s a momentous time,” declares Blake, "in which the future of our country, not to mention the future of generations of Americans to come, will be affected by this, the first pipeline from California to the nation’s heartland … Good luck to those dedicated men and women across these beautiful United States of ours who will be taking over the task of making this dream come true!” While Blake’s ambitions are grand in scale, Karen’s are more personal: “I just want Lotus Point to be different, a place people come back to, not because they closed some business deal here, but because they fell in love here all over again twenty years ago, or maybe got close to their teenage kids again after a year of battles. I just want it to be joyous … If we can accomplish that, the profit will take care of itself.”

    Blake and Jason’s isn’t the only partnership forged this week. Against the backdrop of the Southfork rodeo, JR and Angelica Nero agree to go into business together on DALLAS and Terry Ranson becomes Richard’s equal partner in the Tuscany Downs racetrack on FALCON CREST.

    When invited to Blake’s party, Alexis feigns disinterest. “I have a previous engagement, something that takes priority,” she says airily. Abby, meanwhile, wants nothing to do with Val and Ben’s big day. “I’m really sick of them all,” she snaps at Gary. "I want you to take me away from here this weekend … That way, your ex-wife can have her wedding with her children and her mother and her brother and all her little friends, and maybe once and for all, I’ll have them out of my life!” Both women, however, are hiding their real motives. Alexis and Dex are off to Moldavia on a top secret mission to rescue King Galen while Abby needs to get Gary out of town so that the equipment for the equally top secret communications centre at Empire Valley can be installed without his knowledge. Over on DALLAS, the reason Sue Ellen gives for not attending the Ewing rodeo is more straightforward (“I don’t want to go to Southfork ... I don’t belong there"), but she is nonetheless pressured into doing so by her mother and Dusty.

    With Alexis out of the country for most of this week’s DYNASTY, her only interaction with the California Colbys is a phone call from Jason’s wife Sable. Turns out the two have more in common than a cut-glass English accent — “Our mummies were sisters,” Sable reminds Alexis. Intriguingly, both women are nude for their conversation. Sable’s modesty is preserved by a bubble bath, Alexis’s by a strategically placed towel on her massage table. After hanging up the phone, we see Sable’s naked back as she steps out of the bath in full view of her appreciative husband. Not to be outdone, Alexis later removes her blouse for Dex’s benefit during their flight to Moldavia.

    “Gone are the days when a pregnant woman just sat around eating everything she wanted,” says Donna on DALLAS. So it is that Soap Land’s pregnancy-with-a-twist storylines — the Krebbs' Down Syndrome plot on DALLAS, the Cumsons’ surrogacy one on FALCON CREST — continue this week with an exercise class for one expectant mother and a Le Mars class for the other. While Robin harbours doubts about living up to her side of the surrogacy agreement after the baby is born, Ray and Donna are newly optimistic about their future. “Everything’s going to work out fine — I know it,” Donna insists.

    Things go from bad to worse for Soap Land’s newlyweds this week. On DYNASTY, Prince Michael attempts to make love to Amanda and when she refuses, he responds in customary Soap Land fashion by pinning her to the bed and trying to force himself on her. “I’m getting a divorce,” Amanda subsequently tells her father. Over on KNOTS, Joshua shows up at the door of his estranged wife Cathy, first tearfully pleading to be let in, then snarling threats when she refuses. “It’s definitely over between us," Cathy later tells Ben. Meanwhile on DALLAS, Jamie gives her husband the brush off when they run into each other at the Southfork rodeo: “You have a real bad habit of doing whatever you want to do and then thinking that if you apologise, it’ll all be OK, but that’s not going to work anymore, Cliff.” It falls to DYNASTY’s Blake to counter these young people's fickle behaviour with a lecture on good old-fashioned perseverance. "It always seemed to me that marriage was not something that you jump into and then jump out of,” he tells Amanda. "Marriage is a commitment that has to be worked at.”

    Elsewhere on the marriage front, Adam and Claudia return from their surprise wedding in San Fransisco to face Blake’s stony-faced disapproval. When Adam hears that Jeff is moving to California, I half-expected him to burst out laughing the way JR did when Sue Ellen told him the same thing about Gary and Val all those years ago, but he’s too busy reeling from the news that Blake has reduced his inheritance to one dollar. Meanwhile, Claudia is furious when she returns to work to find herself usurped by Michael of Moldavia, aka the newly designated Chairman of La Mirage.

    That isn’t the only controversial appointment of the week. Over on KNOTS, Abby is more successful than Claudia at masking her displeasure when she finds that Karen has given Laura a job at Lotus Point. Meanwhile, to say that Joshua is unhappy at Ben’s attempts to replace him with his own wife on his TV show is something of an understatement. In order to prevent Cathy from singing on air, he literally pulls cables out of walls, Incredible Hulk-style. In this regard, his behaviour is the opposite of Lance's on FALCON CREST. Lance does everything he can this week to further his girlfriend's singing career, from paying a guy in a bar to let her perform with his band to trading his holdings in the New Globe for Richard’s radio station so that he can turn it into a showcase for her music. On DALLAS, JR enlists cousin Jack as his right-hand man at Ewing Oil in an attempt to undermine Pam’s authority. Cliff, meanwhile, hasn’t gotten over the fact that Pam defected to the enemy camp in the first place. “You haven’t even cleaned your desk out at Barnes-Wentworth and you’re over trying to stake a claim at Ewing Oil!” he shouts.

    Appropriately for such a landmark episode, several elements of DALLAS’s early days are recalled this week, most obviously when Dusty reminds Sue Ellen that it was at the previous Southfork rodeo, six years earlier, that they first met. Dusty’s victory at the end of this week’s rodeo also echoes that episode, as does the satisfaction Sue Ellen derives from JR’s dismayed reaction to it. Meanwhile, in place of Kristin Shepard scheming in a Stetson, we have Angelica Nero doing the same in an enormous pink hat. Other moments recall scenes from the mini-series: Sue Ellen and Dusty getting it on in the hayloft brings back memories of Lucy and Ray’s tryst in “Digger’s Daughter” while Donna's miscarriage amidst the Southfork celebrations recalls Pam’s at the end of “Barbecue”.

    There are further references to the past elsewhere in this week’s Soap Land. Listening to Karen enthuse about Lotus Point, Laura is reminded of Sid, "the only person I knew who could make the automobile business sound like a mission.” Over on DYNASTY, Rita's first scene as Krystle in the mansion plays almost as a parody of the real Krystle’s first mansion scene back in the pilot episode. Rita's bafflement when Mrs. Gunnerson asks whether she’d prefer paupiette de veau aux champignon or escalope de veau sautée aux truffes to be served at the party mirrors Krystle’s confusion when Mr. Afferton asked which arrangement of the Wedding March she’d prefer to walk down the aisle to. Back then, Krystle had Steven to come to her rescue. Now, Rita relies on Sammy Jo to talk her out of a sticky situation.

    Later, at the Carrington party, there is a Steven/Claudia library scene, which recalls the one between them during “The Dinner Party” back in Season 1. Their relationship has changed a lot since then, however. In the original scene, Claudia drew strength and comfort from Steven’s recitation of the Emily Dickinson poem "Much Madness is Divinest Sense” and his implication that they were both outsiders. In the present scene, Claudia rejects the idea that she and Steven are alike. “Your world is foreign to me,” she declares. “You hate it because you’re jealous of it,” he replies. “I’m not jealous of it. Why should I be jealous? I have Adam. Who do you have?” she snaps back. It’s clear that she immediately regrets this remark, but it’s too late — she’s already drawn blood.

    While his bereaved contemporaries, DALLAS’s Pam and FALCON CREST’s Lance, have both now moved on to new relationships, Steven continues to mourn Luke. After his altercation with Claudia, we see him return to Luke’s darkened apartment where he contemplates his photograph before flashing back to a scene of them together. Then he angrily smashes some lamps and knocks over a pile of books before putting his head in his hands despairingly. (Admittedly, his loss of control is not as extreme as Joshua Rush's genuinely frightening rampage through his sister’s house on this week’s KNOTS, Val and Lilimae watching in shock as he overturns furniture and breaks ornaments.) In contrast to Steven’s grief, Miss Ellie’s line to her party guests on this week’s DALLAS, “Thankyou for bringing Southfork back to life again” officially draws the mourning period following Bobby’s death to a close. In fact, as well as being its 200th instalment, this DALLAS ep is notable for being the first one ever in which Bobby’s name is not even mentioned.

    Over on KNOTS, we see Gary comparing the photo of himself and Bobby as boys recently sent to him by Miss Ellie with a recent one of Val's twins. Both sets of children are equally “fair-skinned, blond-haired”. Running alongside the preparations for Val and Ben’s wedding is the possibility that Gary will ask Val if he is the twins’ father. Karen spells out the consequences of such an act clearly: “If Gary asks Val point blank, I don’t care what she promised Ben, she’s going to tell him the truth … and I’m not sure Ben wouldn’t just walk away”. There’s a sort of reverse situation on this week’s FALCON CREST where Cassandra Wilder shows her half-brother Christopher a photograph of their late father. "I don’t know who’s worse off — the little girl who lost her father or the little boy who never had one,” she ponders.

    Perhaps the most blatant echo of the past comes at the end of this week’s DYNASTY. A tuxedoed Jeff stands outside the Carrington mansion, watching helplessly as Fallon drives away into the night, just as he did before their wedding at the end of Season 4. This time, however, she’s with Miles Colby. This week’s KNOTS ends with a similar triangle — Val coming face to face with Gary just before her wedding as Ben watches them. The composition of this final shot — Gary and Val looking at each other on either side of the frame, unaware of Ben standing in-between, but at a distance, is virtually identical to the moment on DALLAS where JR presents Dusty with his all-around cowboy prize. Both men are in the foreground shaking hands, unaware of Sue Ellen standing between them in the background.

    DALLAS has easily the best-looking episode of the Soap Land week. Corey Allen, who also directed the Oil Baron’s Ball instalment a couple of weeks ago, has a style as distinctive as Larry Elikann's — lots of energetic, fluid camera moves, with an emphasis on the actor’s faces, and a knack for making familiar sets and locations look excitingly new.

    I love Angelica Nero’s girlish glee when she talks to her assistant about Jack Ewing (which is in stark contrast to the enigmatic persona she cultivates in front of JR): “It’s amazing, it’s fascinating … the way he talks, the way he moves, even the way he smiles. Grace, it’s gonna work!” Joel Abrigore is rather more grim-looking in DYNASTY's opening scene when he tells Rita she’s ready to assume the role of Krystle: “You already know everything you need to know … You’ll sail through it.”

    All of Rita’s scenes in the mansion are funny, but the two that really made me laugh are when she momentarily loses her accent after Blake presents her with a priceless necklace (“Oh ma Gawd! That’s fantastic!” she exclaims in a Southern accent as thick as Donna Krebbs') and her bewilderment when Sable compliments her on her divine Boucher. (As double entendres go, it’s up there with Alexis declaring her intention to pour champagne on her kumquats.) When Rita, as Krystle, expresses a preference for contemporary art, Sable looks as unimpressed as Angela Channing was when faced with an apparent Picasso in last week’s FALCON CREST. She then makes a sarcastic comment about graffiti artists, the irony of which is lost on Rita.

    Whereas Rita’s lack of French almost proves her undoing with Mrs. Gunnerson, Alexis’s ability to speak the same language enables her to pass herself off as a French nun in Moldavia, thereby evading capture by the military. Dex is not so fortunate and thus, we are treated to the unusual sight of Alexis, in full nun regalia (plus lipstick), praying in front of an altar for her husband’s safe return. Over on KNOTS, Val and Ben’s wedding prompts Greg Sumner to suggest Abby adopt a similar position: “I’d be down on my knees praying if I were you, and I’d stay on them until the ring was securely on her finger.” Meanwhile at the Southfork rodeo, Sue Ellen has an alternative suggestion for JR: “For all I care, you can throw Mandy Winger down in that arena and make love to her in front of your family and friends.” I don’t think I've ever fully appreciated the magnificence of that line before.

    In three of this week’s soaps, we learn that a character’s past is racier than might have previously been supposed. At the party on DYNASTY, Dominique runs into Colby lawyer Garrett Boydston, a married man with whom she had a Mediterranean affair twenty years earlier. At the rodeo on DALLAS, Mark reveals that he knew Angelica Nero "in Paris about ten years ago. She was quite a party girl.” (This intriguing tidbit and the jealous response it triggers from Pam makes me wish the idea of a Pam/Mark/Angelica triangle had been further developed.) At the FALCON CREST dinner table, Peter Stavros reminds Angela of "a time when we were considered weirdos. You were the first to wear a two-piece bathing suit and learn all the latest dance steps. Remember the Lambeth Walk?” Hearing a Soap Land shipping tycoon refer to the inner-city London borough in which I live is a profoundly incongruous moment.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    20/Nov/85: DYNASTY: The Decision v. 20/Nov/85: THE COLBYS: The Celebration v. 21/Nov/85: KNOTS LANDING: Until Parted by Death v. 22/Nov/85: DALLAS: Suffer the Little Children v. 22/Nov/85: FALCON CREST: Storm Warning

    Sandwiched between last week’s extended edition, which introduced the Colby clan en masse, and the debut episode of DYNASTY II: THE COLBYS, which begins with that family's return to California, this week's DYNASTY takes place over the course of a single stormy night, giving it an unusual, almost introspective atmosphere, reminiscent of those occasional editions of EASTENDERS where a handful of characters ponder their fates during a sleepless night in the Square. Here, that role is taken by Jeff, reconsidering his move to California after glimpsing Fallon at the end of last week’s episode.

    While Blake is worried by Jeff’s preoccupation with his ex-wife on DYNASTY, the Mackenzies have a similar concern on KNOTS. This week’s episode opens with them looking on anxiously as Gary steals a moment with his ex-wife just as she’s about to marry someone else. “Why can’t weddings ever go smoothly?” wonders Karen. “It’s the law of nature,” Mack replies. “Weddings and volcanoes never erupt smoothly.“ This time, however, they have nothing to fear. Dressed all in white, Gary looks and behaves like a benevolent ghost from Val’s past. All he wants to know is if she’s happy. When she assures him that she is, he wishes her the best and leaves. There’s an awful lot of emotion and a great deal left unsaid between Gary and Val here, but Karen's insistence that Val is doing the right thing by marrying Ben makes logical sense.

    Back on DYNASTY, the same thunderstorm that Jeff looks out onto forces Miles and Fallon, driving back to California to meet Miles’s family, to seek shelter at a motel where they finally become lovers. It’s a scenario similar to the one once described by Bobby and Pam on DALLAS — following their elopement, they drove back to Southfork during “the coldest winter in the history of Texas”, spending their wedding night in a motel along the way. Just like Pam and Bobby when we first saw them in DALLAS, Miles and Fallon are travelling in a red convertible and there’s even a scene in THE COLBYS where they stop at a gas station, just as Bobby and Pam did in “Digger’s Daughter”. But whereas Bobby and Pam were on their way from an elopement, Miles and Fallon are heading towards one. If Ben and Val’s wedding on KNOTS feels weighted down by the past, Miles and Fallon’s, revealed at the end of THE COLBYS, carries no historical baggage at all. How could it when the bride can’t even remember who she is and the groom doesn’t care?

    As well as announcing his marriage to Pam in that first episode of DALLAS, Bobby also declared his intention to start work at Ewing Oil. JR responded by sending him to Austin on a glad-handing mission. When Jeff reports for work at Colby Enterprises in the first episode of THE COLBYS, Jason reacts similarly, telling him he’s booked on a diplomatic trip to Hong Kong. Like Bobby before him, Jeff stands his ground. “I’m not your errand boy. I’m your partner, your equal partner,” he tells him. (Conversely, Jason’s daughter Monica, who combines the language skills of Kirby Anders, the diplomatic know-how of Ashley Mitchell and the untapped potential of early Fallon Carrington, is angry at not even being considered for the Hong Kong assignment.)

    At the end of the first DALLAS ep, JR admitted that he’d “underestimated the new Mrs. Ewing. I surely won’t do that again.” Now that Pam, as JR’s new partner, is in the situation Bobby was then, it appears that he has indeed learned from past experience. “Pam, I don’t like it but I’m willing to accept that you have a right to be here,” he tells her this week before going on to patiently explain his business methods in a way we’ve never really heard before: “I get five hundred offers a day come across my desk, everything from wacky inventions to racehorses, and if I think there’s any merit in these things, I try to get as much information as I can on them. I have my experts double check and triple check all the specs and if I think Ewing Oil should proceed with it, then and only then do I consult my partner.” By the end of the scene, he’s pretty much convinced Pam that they are on the same side.

    During the equivalent scene on THE COLBYS, Jeff wins his uncle’s grudging respect by reeling off the many, many assets of both Jason and his company in an impressively deadpan monologue ("Jason Colby, personal wealth 1.2 billion dollars ... Colby Enterprises, total gross assets estimated to be slightly more than 42 billion dollars …”). This useful bit of info-dumping leaves us in no doubt as to how formidable the Californian Colbys are. As Jason points out, “This is not like that cosy corner grocery you were used to over at Denver Carrington. This is Colby Enterprises, a somewhat larger undertaking." By contrast, JR has never sounded so self-deprecating as when he dismisses Ewing Oil as “just a little independent company, not bad for Dallas, but compared to the Seven Sisters and even West Star, we’re small potatoes” during a meeting with Angelica Nero and Jack this week.

    An unusual Soap Land trend has developed of late. Let us call it Songbird Interruptus. It began two weeks ago on FALCON CREST when Angela put a stop to Lance’s pool party by turning off a tape-recording of Apollonia’s latest song. Then in last week’s KNOTS, Joshua sabotaged the electrical equipment at the TV studio, thereby preventing Cathy from singing. And on this week’s DYNASTY, Dominique finds Garrett Boydston in her hotel suite listening to one of her LPs and indignantly turns it off. (Dominique silencing her own vocal performance? How very uncharacteristic.)

    There is no shortage of predatory males on the loose in this week’s Soap Land. A knife-wielding intruder breaks into Apollonia’s bedroom on FALCON CREST, a random drunk tries to rape Fallon in her motel room on THE COLBYS and Linda the waitress receives an unwelcome visit from her ex-boyfriend Ken on KNOTS. While Lance and Miles ride to Apollonia’s and Fallon’s respective rescue, Joshua sees off Ken — which, given that Joshua spends much of this week’s ep stalking his own estranged wife Cathy, is kind of ironic. Instead of a knight in shining armour, Cathy turns to Laura who invites her to move back into her house.

    When Laura tells her that “Joshua poses a physical threat” to Cathy, Karen’s first instinct is to turn the situation into a Movie of the Week (“Oh my God! … I should have known! … What are we gonna do?!”). Laura calmly assures her that “the hardest thing and the most important thing has already been done. She left him. Now all we can do is offer moral support and a safe place for her to be." If Laura sounds like she’s quoting from a pamphlet on domestic violence, then that's entirely in keeping with the situation. It's also part of a growing Soap Land trend towards a more “issue-based” — for want of a less all-purpose term — form of story-telling, which carries a message that there is information and help available to the characters (and by extension, the viewers at home) outside of their shows’ traditional parameters.

    Soap Land is now halfway through the '80s and so we’ve reached the Oprah era where buzz words like sharing and openness come into play — the direct opposite of the secrets and lies that have fuelled Soap Land’s drama for the first half of the decade. We see the change most clearly in the way Sue Ellen’s recent recovery from alcoholism has been depicted on DALLAS. When she was first committed to a sanitarium back in 1979, it was primarily to cut off her supply of alcohol and as a way for JR to ensure that she wouldn’t blurt out the “truth” of her unborn child’s paternity while drunk. There was no mention of AA, the Twelve Steps or the possibility that she might become a more well-balanced human being as a result of her treatment. Nor did we hear her talk about learning to love herself or becoming her own person, or any of the other self-help phrases that now come out of Sue Ellen's mouth every time she’s on screen. Likewise in ’79, when Pam Ewing was faced with the possibility that her baby could be born with neurofibromatosis, she was left to suffer in isolated anguish. By contrast, following the recent discovery that their unborn child had Down’s Syndrome, Ray and Donna have been surrounded by experts offering comfort, support, and real-life statistics. Lilimae tries to convey the same message to her son on this week’s KNOTS. “There is help for whatever problem you have. There are places —” However not all situations can be so neatly resolved. “Do you see any irony in a mother telling her son to go somewhere else, to go to someone else, for help?” Joshua asks her bitterly in reply.

    But what exactly is Joshua and Cathy’s story? Is it a domestic abuse storyline or is it a mental illness storyline? Or, deep down, is it just a good old-fashioned crazed-stalker/girl-in-peril exploitation storyline? Is it the plot of A Star is Born transposed to an '80s supersoap or simply KNOTS sticking to its original remit by portraying scenes from a marriage in extremis? (Indeed, the scenes where Joshua, unwittingly aided by Laura’s son Jason, traps Cathy in the Avery house recall the circumstances that led to Richard taking his family hostage in Season 3.) The story is a combination of all of these elements, but it also transcends them in the deeply poignant and beautifully acted kitchen scene between Joshua and Lilimae, which suggests that Joshua's present behaviour is rooted in his mother’s absence and father’s violence towards him when he was a boy. Whenever I think of Alec Baldwin’s description of working opposite Julie Harris ("She's like an emotional swimming pool, you just want to jump in when you act with her”), it's this scene that comes to mind. (Conversely, Larry Hagman's admission that there was one screen mistress with whom he disliked working always makes me think of JR and Angelica's mutual seduction scene in this week's DALLAS.)

    “I was too late, Cathy honey,” Lilimae tells her daughter-in-law. "Too late for him, too late for me ... I’m sorry for all you’ve been through and I’m sorry for my part in it … I knew something was wrong. I think a part of us always knows if we’d just admit it, but … there was just so much mixed up in my mind … hoping things weren’t as bad as I sort of knew they were. Forgive me.” Patricia Shepard is similarly contrite about her own child's marriage on DALLAS. “Power, money, all the prestige that went with being Mrs. JR Ewing, I thought that would make you happy,” she tells Sue Ellen. "I was wrong … It’s time for you to get on with your life, away from JR, away from Southfork … I just want you to be happy.”

    On last week’s KNOTS, Val ordered Joshua out of her house after witnessing his violent behaviour first hand. On this week’s FALCON CREST, Angela orders Lance from her house after learning that he has handed the New Globe back to Richard. Both men subsequently move in with their latest girlfriends — starry-eyed waitress Linda and ambitious star-to-be Apollonia. This isn’t the first time Angela has thrown Lance out and he doesn’t take her anger very seriously. Indeed, he’s back under her roof by the end of the episode. Things aren’t so simple for Joshua.

    “That show was all that I had,” he tells Cathy tearfully. "I came to Knots Landing with nothing … I came from a place that it would be hard for you to imagine. Things you presumed on growing up, I never had ... I only know the ministry.” Father Christopher is in a parallel situation on FALCON CREST. Like Joshua, his sheltered religious upbringing has left him ill-equipped for life in a prime time soap opera. “Maybe I shouldn’t have transferred here … Everything that’s happened since I came here has been pulling me away from the spiritual life and pulling me toward worldly things, worldly temptations." Intriguingly, FC’s priest-in-residence, Father Bob, takes Christopher’s dilemma in stride, suggesting that such struggles are a rite of passage for men of the cloth. “Just don’t go thinking you’re the first priest to ever question his commitment." (I’d love to know more about Father Bob’s own conflicts. It might help to make him more of a rounded character rather than just a dispenser of spiritual advice.)

    Father Christopher’s "worldly temptation” takes the lustful form of Melissa Gioberti. Presumably, the inspiration for this storyline came from THE THORN BIRDS, the hugely successful mini-series broadcast a couple of years earlier. Although I never watched it, I can still recall the trailer where an elderly Barbara Stanwyck demands that a young priest kiss her “on my mouth, as if we were lovers!” This week, in her new guise as tearful but tough Constance on THE COLBYS, it emerges that Stanwyck is involved in another unconventional relationship. While the rest of her family think she’s off doing charity work, Constance is conducting a secret affair with a younger (if not exactly young) cowboy named Hutch. As an added twist, he has no idea that she is a rich Colby. “You come and you go just like a will o’ the wisp,” he says to her. "I don’t know where you come from or where you go to. All I know is that you’re my mystery lady.” In contrast, FALCON CREST’s Emma is charmingly uninhibited about her equally unlikely romance with a sweet hillbilly called Dwayne, even in the face of her mother's disapproval. “He’s too young for you,” Angela barks. Angela refers to Dwayne as “that truck driver” in the same contemptuous manner that DALLAS’s Patricia speaks of Dusty Farlow as “that cowboy”.

    Without being issue-based in the same way as KNOTS and DALLAS, each of this week’s DYNASTY-verse episodes makes some attempt to place its characters in a wider societal context. While Alexis’s line to the Duchess of Branagh, "If people like your father would stop envying Americans and start trying to emulate them, Moldavia and its king would not be in this sorry situation,” sticks out like a sore thumb, the subject of sexual equality recurs throughout THE COLBYS’ first episode. "I seem to have sired a woman of the '80s, God help me,” says Jason after an argument with his daughter Monica.

    There is a very interesting scene between Sable and Monica which clearly establishes mother and daughter’s differing views on the gender divide. Sable: “There is nothing devious about using your femininity … When it comes to men, no two women are ever on the same team … There is no sexual equality. There never has been and there never will be, at least not as far as the men are concerned.” Monica: “I’m tired of being treated like a second class citizen, especially by my own father … Marriage isn’t going to be the end of the line for me, Mother. When a man gets married, he doesn’t give up his career, his ambitions, his dreams. I don’t see why it should be any different for a woman.”

    Sable is a fascinating mixture of contradictions — adversarial (“Handing Jeff half the Colby empire on a silver platter? Well, I am not going to let her get away with it!”) but also entirely dependent. “I’m here to share with you,” she tells Jason. "That’s my role. Without that, what am I?” This sounds like something Sue Ellen would have said only a few weeks ago (“I don’t know anything but being Mrs JR Ewing”). Sue Ellen isn’t the same woman she was then, however. “I’m not ready to put my life into somebody else’s hands again so soon,” she tells Dusty firmly. "I’m not gonna give up myself to get you.”

    Soap Land’s cultural references are noticeably contemporary this week. "You look like you’re going to a Madonna concert,” Jason tells his youngest daughter Bliss before adding, “I have a fella I pay just to keep me up-to-date on those names.” “You’ll probably have more airtime than Bruce Springsteen, how does that sound?” radio station owner Lance asks Apollonia on FALCON CREST. “It sounds like I’m gonna be a star!” she replies. “I think she’s going to be a big star,” echoes Linda the waitress on KNOTS, referring to Cathy. Even as she is beset by adoring autograph hunters, Cathy continues to hover somewhere between reluctant and ambivalent at the prospect of becoming a singing star, just as Ciji did before her. Apollonia’s unabashed desire for fame and fortune is kind of refreshing by comparison.

    At the end of this week’s KNOTS, Joshua watches Cathy singing on TV, but with the sound turned down. He doesn’t hurl a glass of blood red tomato juice at her image the way Katherine Wentworth did at Bobby’s at the end of last season’s DALLAS, but the way he smiles as he talks about her impending demise is even more eerie: “For as long as I could, I kept her from dying … She’s chosen a life that leads to spiritual death … The next time that she tries to kill herself, I won’t be able to stop her." This week’s DALLAS also ends with a husband threatening his wife. Upon receiving a lawsuit for custody of their son, JR warns Sue Ellen that if she succeeds in taking John Ross away from him, “there’s not enough room on this earth to keep you safe from me, honey.”

    All this plus a death by electrocution: The scene in KNOTS where a fatally inquisitive Frank Elliot infiltrates the broadcast centre at Empire Valley is creepily effective, the almost ALIEN-like atmosphere conveyed by little more than shadowy lighting and a subterranean, clanking sound design.

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    27/Nov/85: THE COLBYS: Conspiracy of Silence v. 27/Nov/85: DYNASTY: The Proposal v. 28/Nov/85: THE COLBYS: Moment of Truth v. 29/Nov/85: DALLAS: The Prize v. 29/Nov/85: FALCON CREST: The Naked Truth

    THE COLBYS might be a spinoff from DYNASTY, but in many ways, it feels more like a wackier version of early DALLAS. The first of this week’s two episodes begins with the family reacting to the news of Miles and Fallon’s elopement with the same kind of stunned politeness as the Ewings did to Bobby and Pam’s in “Digger’s Daughter". “I said, ‘I love you,’” explained Bobby back then, “and then she said, ‘I love you,’ and so I said, ‘well, let’s get married, right here in this old city of New Orleans.’” “We said, 'I do’ this morning, Lake Tahoe,” Miles explains now, a tad more succinctly. As Fallon’s ex, Jeff is in a similar position to the one Ray Krebbs was in when he was obliged to congratulate his old flame on her marriage, but at least Pam remembered who Ray was. Whereas the Ewings merely had to contend with the fact that their son had married the daughter of their enemy, the Colbys must digest the news that Miles has wed the presumed dead ex and future wife of his own cousin and that she has no memory of who she is.

    Sable’s exclamation about Fallon, “She has absolutely no idea she’s Blake Carrington’s daughter!" is a hall of mirrors version of Miss Ellie’s about Pam, “She’s also Cliff Barnes’s sister and Digger Barnes’s daughter!” And where Jock once urged JR to practice “the art of subtlety” in his dealings with Pam, Jason tells Miles and Jeff they had "both better walk softly” with regard to Fallon. “She doesn’t know who she is … When she does, she’ll make a choice.”

    Worried that Fallon will choose Jeff over Miles if and when her memory returns, Sable turns into Sue Ellen-by-proxy, urging her to have Miles’s baby as soon as possible. Elsewhere, she plays JR to Jeff's Pam, adopting the role of sympathetic aunt even as she tries to usher him out of the family home: “If you stay here under the same roof, you’ll end up destroying three lives." Where Bobby interrupted JR’s attempt to buy off Pam in the first episode of DALLAS, here it’s Constance who interferes. “Jeff, under no condition are you to leave this house,” she tells him.

    The first of this week’s COLBYS episodes ends with Miles pinning Jeff against a wall — “an indication of what to expect if you ever, ever lay your hands on my wife again,” he snarls. Again, this recalls an incident from “Digger’s Daughter”, the moment where Bobby comes to Pam’s defence, grabbing JR by the scruff of the neck and yelling, “It was a dumb stupid trick, JR. If you ever ..."

    Miles’s wedding gift from his parents of 10% of Colby Enterprises and a position with the company ensures that he and Jeff are to be business as well as romantic rivals. However, Miles doesn’t seem cut out for the corporate world in the way that other executive-come-latelys, Bobby Ewing and Adam Carrington, were. It’s not that he’s ethically opposed to his father’s business (no FLAMINGO ROAD’s Skipper Weldon nor early Steven Carrington he), more that his heart and temperament simply aren’t in it. Perhaps he’s got a bit of Gary Ewing in him or perhaps Miles is the real CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF-style playboy rebel Bobby Ewing was originally intended to be. Petulant and hotheaded as he is — he flounces out of his father’s office in a temper twice this week — there is also something sympathetic about him. He projects a kind of innocent narcissism.

    It’s very interesting to observe how the impact of Fallon’s return is felt across the DYNASTY-verse. This week’s DYNASTY is sandwiched between two episodes of THE COLBYS, allowing Blake enough time to nip over to California to greet his back-from-the-dead daughter (even though, sadly, she doesn’t recognise him) before returning to his own show in time to see Alexis touch down in Denver with an equally back-from-the-dead Moldavian monarch in tow. Amidst all the excitement, Blake finds time to tell Alexis that their daughter is alive if not exactly well and to caution her against to visiting Fallon herself as her mental state is too fragile. (Essentially, Alexis is prohibited from crossing over to THE COLBYS on medical grounds.) The matter addressed, Blake and Alexis return to their more immediate storylines and Fallon is not mentioned for the rest of the episode. The whole thing is fascinating and fun, but one can understand why DALLAS and KNOTS LANDING have chosen their crossover moments so sparingly.

    Crossovers aside, there are plenty of parallels between the two DYNASTY-verse shows. While everyone in the Colby mansion pretends to Fallon that she is really Randall, Rita pretends to everyone in the Carrington mansion that she is really Krystle. Into each household comes a doctor. On THE COLBYS, Fallon consults with Dr. Paris, “one of the best psychiatrists in the country,” while on DYNASTY, Rita is administered to by Sammy Jo’s physician Dr. Travers, who is really Rita’s lover Joel in disguise, as part of a scheme to explain why Rita is so reluctant to perform “her" conjugal duties with Blake.

    Each show features an equivalent argument between a grownup child and the mother who abandoned them years before. “You ran out on me when I was three years old,” Jeff tells his mother Francesca (also known as Frankie) on THE COLBYS. "You wouldn’t even claim me as your daughter all those years I was growing up and really needed you,” Amanda reminds Alexis on DYNASTY. While Frankie makes a weak attempt to explain herself (“There were reasons … life gets complicated”), Alexis is downright unrepentant. “I’m sick and tired of your pathetic little Oliver Twist routine,” she snaps at Amanda. "How dare you give me that I wasn’t there as a mother when I was, every step of the way and I reared you fit for a prince. Dancing lessons, singing lessons, tennis lessons, French lessons — I paid for them all and I couldn’t afford it because I wasn’t Mrs. Colby or Mrs. Dexter then, but I was the exiled Mrs. Blake Carrington. Well, that was my kind of mother love!” While Amanda retreats into pouty silence, Jeff isn’t impressed when Francesca tries to make a similar point to him. "I’ll admit you sent the proper gift at the proper time,” he concedes, "but gifts are a poor substitute for a mother. You know what I used to tell my friends when I was in school growing up? I used to tell them you were dead.”

    At least Jason is happy to see Francesca. When Sable walks into a room in the Colby mansion to find them playing the piano together, she is all smiles — but what lies beneath that brittle exterior? (“I am Mrs. Jason Colby. I can’t afford to let my guard drop for one single minute,” she admits elsewhere.) By contrast, when Sammy Jo walks into a room in the Carrington mansion to find her son Danny and his former step-mother Claudia also playing the piano together, she makes no attempt to mask her hostility. “You’re not Mrs. Steven Carrington anymore,” she reminds Claudia, "and you no longer have the right to drop by.” “I happen to be Mrs. Adam Carrington and I will come and go as I please,” Claudia retorts.

    Interesting how these women of the ‘80s repeatedly use their husbands' names to define themselves: “I was the exiled Mrs. Blake Carrington …” “I am Mrs. Jason Colby …” “I happen to be Mrs. Adam Carrington …” The only wife in this week’s Soap Land to actively resist this trend is Jamie Ewing Barnes, freshly reconciled with hubby Cliff on DALLAS: “I’m not the kind of girl that can be happy living in a big fancy home and having her nails done all day long. That might be fine for some people, but it’s just not my way."

    Suddenly, international shipping magnates with salacious pasts are all the rage in Soap Land. We already know about FALCON CREST’s Peter Stavros ("I’ve had three wives and more lovers than I can count” — not forgetting the affair with the princess that Anna Rossini read about in the tabloids). This week, it’s the turn of another nautical tycoon. "I subscribe to all the worst scandal sheets. How could I not recognise Zachary Powers, the notorious womaniser?" coos Sable on THE COLBYS. DALLAS’s shipping equivalent, Dimitri Marinos, is more reclusive than either Peter or Zach, to the point of existing entirely offscreen. He too has had his share of indiscretions, however, as Angelica Nero informs JR: “When he was twenty-one years old, Dimitri inherited his fortune. He ran wild all over the world, jet-setting from here to there, from there to Texas,” which is where he met and fell in love with Jason Ewing’s wife. “Jack is Dimitri’s son,” she reveals.

    This leads to Angelica explaining to JR that their deal will make Jack "one of the richest men in the world.” King Galen goes one better at the end this week’s DYNASTY by promising to make Alexis "the most powerful woman in the world." (“The most powerful woman in the world,” she repeats in a tantalised whisper).

    Dimitri Marinos may have inherited his wealth, but Zach Powers’ and Peter Stavros’s beginnings were both more humble. "My father was a fisherman,” says Zach. "I was able to take my little fishing boat and turn it into an empire,” recalls Peter. Meanwhile, Zach’s death-related flashback (a boy crying over his father’s body, washed up on the beach) and the vengeful look he throws in Jason Colby’s direction recalls Nick Toscanni’s long-simmering vendetta against Blake on DYNASTY.

    Zach’s first encounter with Sable takes place in the art gallery she runs. Sable’s evident passion for fine art adds another facet to her character, making her somewhat unique amongst Soap Land wives. (For all of Alexis’s and Amanda’s dabblings at their easels and on sketchpads, one has never heard either of them speak about Picasso and Modigliani with the understanding and authority that Sable does.) Soap Land being what it is, art and commerce inevitably collide. Sable asks Jason for permission to bid $2,000,000 for a Matisse at auction as if she were requesting an advance on her weekly housekeeping allowance. (“This one piece would make the Colby Collection one of the most important and prestigious collections in the country,“ she adds persuasively.) Meanwhile on DYNASTY, no sooner has Joel Abrigore infiltrated the Carrington mansion in his guise of Dr. Travers than he immediately begins coveting the art on display. (“The paintings in the west gallery alone are worth millions — Modigliani, Rivera, Monets, Manets … we’re sitting on a goldmine!” he tells Rita.)

    There is much talk of inherited wealth in this week’s Soap Land. Sable and Frankie (who somehow manage to be sisters as well as sisters-in-law, thereby making Miles and Jeff cousins twice over) exchange barbs about each other’s son's respective start in life. "He was handed power and fortune on a platinum platter. He’s hardly worked for it,” says Sable of Jeff. “Unlike Miles, who had to work very hard, of course, over a hot polo mallet,” counters Francesca. Meanwhile on DYNASTY, Sammy Jo taunts Claudia, calling her “a nobody," while she herself, by virtue of the fortune she inherited from her father, is "the winner here … I’m a rich woman with my own power and I don’t have to live off other people’s handouts.” Later in the same episode, Claudia receives a windfall of her own when Season 1’s Walter Lankershim bequeaths her his and Matthew’s oilfield. Then and only then does she consider herself worthy of moving back into the Carrington mansion. (“Now I’m an equal to the Carringtons, to any one of them,” she tells Adam.) Without the wholesome presence of the real Krystle (who is still languishing, all but forgotten, in that attic), it feels as if the Carrington mansion has lost its moral compass. Consequently, the price of admission into the family home is no longer love or even marriage (“A wedding band on your finger doesn’t mean anything around here,” Sammy Jo insists), but how much wealth one has managed to accrue.

    Claudia’s return to the mansion means that DYNASTY and THE COLBYS each now boasts a newly married couple living under the same roof as the bride’s ex-husband who is also a blood relative of the groom. Fallon, Miles and his cousin Jeff are in the COLBY mansion; Claudia, Adam and his brother Steven are in the DYNASTY one (where, just for good measure, Steven’s other ex-wife, Sammy Jo, is also in residence). Miles speaks of Fallon possessively as “Mrs. Miles Colby," while Adam gloats to his brother about his new wife thus: ”It’s not just ‘Claudia,' Steven. She’s ‘Mrs. Carrington' again, ‘Mrs. Adam Carrington.'"

    Following KNOTS a year ago, THE COLBYS becomes the second Soap Land show to celebrate Thanksgiving. Then as now, the shadow of death looms over the festive dinner table. Last year, it was the recent loss of Val’s twins, now it's Jason’s impending death. At the end of the week’s second episode, THE COLBYS pulls the ultimate cop out when it transpires that Jason isn’t dying as we’d been led to believe on DYNASTY — it was simply a clerical error. However, by this point, we’re in far too deep to really object.

    Two of DALLAS and DYNASTY’s youngest cast members, John Ross Ewing and Little Blake Colby (aka “LB”) each plays a significant role in the action of his respective show this week. On DYNASTY, LB is the one character who is openly suspicious of Krystle (aka Rita)’s recent change in behaviour. This is compounded when he finds her and her doctor (aka Joel) in mid-embrace. Meanwhile, John Ross is the focus of a nightmare (DALLAS’s first dream sequence, in which Sue Ellen and her son are pursued by an omnipresent JR), a search party and a custody hearing.

    John Ross isn’t the first Soap Land kid to run off midway through an episode only to be found safe and sound in time for the end credits — we’ve been there before with Olivia Cunningham and Charlie Wade — but the scenes where the family and ranch hands search for him on Southfork, mostly on horseback, are shot through with drama and urgency. Once again, credit goes to director Corey Allen who recalls in these sequences his exciting work at the beginning of “Bypass” (Season 1) when a herd of cattle charged past the camera, sending mud and dirt flying into the lens.

    This second battle between JR and Sue Ellen for custody of their son is very much the no-frills version. Unlike in the equivalent storyline four years earlier, there is no double-dealing from JR and no last-minute plot twists. The press, instead of swarming outside the courtroom, are conspicuous by their absence. There aren’t even any attorneys visible on-screen. (This is in contrast to the court hearing on this week’s FALCON CREST regarding Angela’s suit against Lance and Richard over the New Globe, which focuses on a game of legal oneupmanship between lawyers Greg Reardon and Jordan Roberts.) Instead, the emphasis is on the three principle characters — JR, Sue Ellen and especially John Ross — who are questioned individually by an off-camera judge. While DYNASTY’s LB, bless him, is largely incomprehensible when delivering his dialogue, DALLAS’s John Ross gives a consistently cute, funny, touching, and believable performance, despite the camera being trained on him for long periods. There’s a fascinating moment where the judge asks him if he’s a good swimmer. Instead of replying immediately, John Ross hesitates, which develops into an unusually long pause. The camera seems to wobble slightly, as if the take is about to be abandoned, but then John Ross suddenly says something about his mother, which may or may not have been his next scripted line, and the scene continues. It’s so interesting that an episode as full of camera trickery as this one — Corey Allen employs cross-cutting, dissolves and even time-lapses with the kind of abandon that would have been unthinkable in DALLAS’s more traditional era — should also have room to accommodate a little boy gathering his thoughts mid-scene.

    Random trend of the week: matriarchs in transition. Since turning back into Barbara Bel Geddes at the beginning of this season’s DALLAS, Miss Ellie has appeared tough and stoical in almost every scene. This week, however, she crumples. First, in a scene where she tries (somewhat ineffectively) to console Donna over her miscarriage and then later when she finds John Ross hiding in Bobby's treehouse, she is uncharacteristically emotional, her tears flowing more freely than they ever have before. It's as if, now that the mourning period for Bobby’s death has officially passed, she no longer feels compelled to remain “strong" for her family and so, ironically, is finally able to let go emotionally. Meanwhile on FALCON CREST, the once humourless Angela Channing seems to be turning into a sitcom version of herself. Not only has she taken to making self-referential quips about her own fearsome reputation, but this week, her grudging reluctance as she admits to actually loving the man she is about to marry recalls an eccentric heroine from a screwball comedy. Such a transition could easily fall flat, and if it wasn't for the delight with which her fiancee Peter (who combines the stature and authority of Clayton Farlow with the warmth and humour of Mack Mackenzie) receives her declaration, it probably would. Likewise, the scene where Angela’s car is obliged to blow a tyre just so that Emma and her he-man boyfriend Dwayne can come to her rescue (Dwayne holds the car up with his bare hands while Emma changes the tyre) is so clearly contrived that it shouldn’t work, but is just so charming and funny that it does.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    04/Dec/85: DYNASTY: The Close Call v. 05/Dec/85: THE COLBYS: Family Album v. 05/Dec/85: KNOTS LANDING: Rise and Fall v. 06/Dec/85: DALLAS: En Passant v. 06/Dec/85: FALCON CREST: Inconceivable Affairs

    This week’s KNOTS LANDING opens with Soap Land’s most striking montage sequence yet. As an attempt to appropriate pop video-style visuals into its storytelling, it works far better than anything ever attempted on PAPER DOLLS. With her version of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’ "Dancing in the Street” playing on the soundtrack, footage of Cathy Geary looking every inch the shiny MTV pop star is juxtaposed with the sight of estranged husband Joshua, plainly dressed and sweaty, preaching to indifferent passers-by in the street. Even as he does so, a giant billboard of Cathy’s face advertising the TV show he used to host is erected on the roof of a nearby building. While effectively setting the scene for what is to follow, there is an interestingly nonlinear, dreamlike quality to the sequence — some of the clips of Joshua are lifted from the previous episode while some are from scenes that will appear later in this ep. Meanwhile, both Cathy’s suddenly sexy image and her secular song choice are somewhat at odds with the religious nature of the TV show in which she is currently starring. (Like “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore”, the Rose Royce song Cathy sang over a previous montage a few weeks ago, “Dancing in the Street” is an old soul classic recently revived by a mainstream pop act. The cover of “Street” Mick Jagger and David Bowie recorded for Live Aid would have reached the US Top 10 only a couple of months before this episode first aired.) So how much of what we see in this montage is “real" and how much is pop video fantasy? It’s hard to say, but given Joshua’s increasingly slippery grasp on reality, the sense of confusion feels appropriate.

    Joshua, whose story reaches its tragic climax this week, has gone from zero to psycho within in the space of a year. A tad implausible perhaps, but Alec Baldwin’s performance has been so transfixing throughout — even the rambling sermons he delivers on the street this week are genuinely interesting — that one has been simply pulled along by it unquestioningly.

    Such character transformations are grist for the Soap Land mill. While DYNASTY’s Claudia Carrington has turned from an achingly sensitive woman into a vengeful, money-obsessed diva almost overnight, DALLAS’s Sue Ellen Ewing, once a status-driven trophy wife, is now a piously recovering alcoholic. Whereas Claudia’s oil well inheritance last week led her to jubilantly declare that, “job hunting's a thing of the past,” Sue Ellen now reveals her intention to finally join the working class. "A lot of nice people have helped me get back on my feet and I want to do more than just stand around on them,” she explains. And while Claudia’s first action upon learning of her inheritance was to move back into the Carrington mansion, “because now I’m an equal to the Carringtons, to any one of them," Sue Ellen has now transcended such worldly concerns. She listens with a condescending smile as Patricia prattles on about the kind of house she should live in after her divorce (“You have to have the right address and who your neighbours are is very important”), before replying loftily, “Would you believe, Mother, that I haven’t given any of that a moment’s thought?”

    This week, Claudia finds herself starring in a one-woman version of the Jock/Jason/Digger storyline from last season’s DALLAS when Blake explains that the oil well she has “inherited” really belongs to him. “Some time back, Matthew and Walter … came to me for a loan … They defaulted and that well was their collateral,” he tells her — only we didn’t see any of that on screen. Instead, like Claudia, we remember “the pressure that you put on Matthew and Walter when they started out. You would have done anything to get that well!” Blake takes offence at this and indeed, within the context of present day DYNASTY, it is unthinkable that he could ever have behaved so dishonourably. “I don’t do things illegally,” he states firmly. This leaves Claudia, recalling something that did happen but couldn’t have happened, stranded in a sort of narrative no man’s land. Grasping for some kind of tangible identity, she turns herself into an archetypal Soap Land vixen as she teams up with Adam for revenge against Blake. “And we will play by his rules,” she vows. "The only thing that counts is winning!” However lacking in logic, this new Claudia is a lot more gripping than the new Sue Ellen, whose change of outlook might be commendable, but also feels somewhat priggish and a bit dull.

    There’s a scene in this week’s DALLAS where Sue Ellen dines with Dusty at a downmarket Mexican restaurant — all laminated menus and condiments on the table. “This place doesn’t have strolling mariachis, does it?” she asks at the beginning of the scene. “I hate strolling mariachis." Then, following a serious discussion about JR’s custody appeal, some strolling mariachis do indeed appear, and she and Dusty laugh. This all feels like an attempt to make Sue Ellen down-to-earth and relatable, but it doesn’t really work. There’s a similar, but more successful, scene in FALCON CREST where Dwayne takes Emma to a burger joint. Emma chowing down on Pearl's Super Chilli-Cheeseburger might seem as incongruous as Sue Ellen ordering a burrito, but here the unlikeliness is incorporated into the scene and becomes part of its charm and humour. Nor is the DALLAS mariachis’ rendition of “Guantanamera” the only Spanish-language song we hear in this week’s Soap Land. The night before their wedding, Peter Stavros turns up at Falcon Crest and awakens an indignant Angela. “It’s the tradition in romantic countries for the bride and groom to have the last dance together before they’re married,” he explains as a Spanish guitar player serenades them with a love song and Angela succumbs to his charms. It’s a very sweet scene. So it is that, in this week’s special Spanish edition of Soap Land Song Wars, FALCON CREST clearly triumphs over DALLAS.

    As well as characters, we also see actors transform themselves this week. On DYNASTY, a dark and dramatic scene in the Delta Rho attic where Linda Evans plays Krystle as sobbing and terrified as she is bound and gagged by Joel is followed immediately by a comedic scene in Blake and Krystle’s bedroom where the same two actors are now giggly and flirtatious. The contrast is effective and slightly mind-bending. And it’s not just Linda Evans playing a dual role here. Even when he’s not pretending to be Dr. Travers, Joel is almost like a completely different person when he’s with Krystle than when he’s with Rita. With Krystle he's a sinister, obsessive Norman Bates type figure — childlike one minute, frightening the next. With Rita, he’s more reminiscent of Cary Grant — a suave, debonair lover, if also somewhat manipulative.

    The DYNASTY-to-COLBYS crossovers continue with no less than three characters — Blake, Dominique, and LB — making the trip from Colorado to California this week. LB, having stumbled upon one secret on DYNASTY — he finds Rita and Joel rolling around in bed together — inadvertently exposes another on THE COLBYS when he shows Fallon, a lady whom he thinks only looks like his mommy, a family photo album, which makes her realise that she is his mommy. “I am Fallon, but I don’t remember!” she cries. Maggie Gioberti is in a similar situation on FALCON CREST when she discovers she wrote an entire novel that she has no recollection of while suffering from amnesia, and now it’s about to be published, Moreover, it appears to be based on people she knows. (“There’s a delightful villainess in it, a woman who runs the valley like her own kingdom,” her publisher informs her). As is increasingly the case on FALCON CREST, this is more the stuff of sitcom than soap opera, but Chase and Maggie’s bemused reactions as they receive the news did make me laugh out loud.

    Meanwhile, the question of whether Dominique and Garrett Boydston will rekindle their past romance now spans both DYNASTY-verse shows. Whereas on DYNASTY Dominique seems weighed down by the past (“There’s a certain sadness about you. Something has gone very wrong in your life,” observes Garrett — and what’s with the photograph of Eric Fairgate’s girlfriend Whitney she keeps hidden in a box?), she seems freer on THE COLBYS, happily flirting with Garrett on the dance floor even after finding out that he was behind the attempted takeover of her record company. Oh yes — Dominique has a record company, which this week she invites Monica Colby to run. With Lance managing Apollonia on FALCON CREST and Cathy a singing star on KNOTS, this means that all three of Soap Land’s California-based shows now have ties to the music business. It turns out Apollonia even has her very own Joshua Rush as part of her back story — a songwriter ex-boyfriend called Walker who used to beat her up. Now he’s back in town and down on his luck. A pathetic figure with bad hair still pretending to be a big shot (he claims to be working with Neil Diamond), Walker reminds me of Guzzler Bennett, Bobby’s old college football pal, from early DALLAS.

    Now that Joshua has now been cut adrift from the cul-de-sac (“If you ever show your face in this neighbourhood again, I’ll file so many complaints against you, it’ll make some defence attorney rich,” Mack promised him in the last episode), he’s in a similar position to the one Sue Ellen was in after JR told her to get lost following Bobby’s funeral. But where Sue Ellen disappeared from the Ewings’ view, thus sparing them the sight of her gradual deterioration, Joshua continues to hover on the periphery of the KNOTS characters’ world. However, even though he is still visible to them, they cannot reach him. Val and Lilimae run into him preaching in a supermarket parking lot and there’s a moment where Joshua starts to cry and Lilimae makes the same kind of small, futile gestures of comfort towards him as she did when she first saw the twins at the Fishers’ house before Val sternly leads her away. Later, as Val sits in her living room with Karen and Mack freely discussing what a danger Joshua has become and what should be done about him, Lilimae listens silently in the kitchen. One wonders if this is what it would have been like for Miss Ellie two decades earlier, mutely standing by while Jock and JR drove her son away from Southfork. Talk eventually turns to having Joshua placed in an institution. This time, the discussion is a lot messier than the recent one that took place between Miss Ellie and JR over Sue Ellen. “I will not have my son committed!” Lilimae insists, regarding Val, Karen and Mack with the same kind of anger and suspicion that Val did her family a year ago when none of them would believe her children were still alive.

    Joshua ends up preaching in a rundown neighbourhood known as the mission district, which kind of feels like the KNOTS equivalent of the alley where Sue Ellen encountered those jive-talkers, hookers, and winos, except this place does have its own code of conduct. When Lilimae follows Joshua there, she gets into an argument with Ken, the ex-boyfriend of the waitress Joshua is now living with. When Ken threatens her, a Hispanic guy comes to her defence. “You don’t come down here threatening people, man,” he tells him, “not in this neighbourhood. And especially not a woman." (Adding another dash of MTV to the cultural mix, Ken is played by the same guy who'll get Madonna pregnant in her “Papa Don’t Preach” video.)

    If Fallon swiping the happy couple from atop Blake and Krystle’s wedding cake and biting off the bride's head in the DYNASTY pilot was one kind of metaphor, then the scene on KNOTS where Joshua accidentally knocks his and Cathy’s equivalent decorations — this time breakable rather than edible — to the floor is another. Watching them smash, he becomes obsessed with the idea of uniting his and Cathy’s souls in eternity by killing them both. The one union his plan does achieve is between the two extremes of his own character: his fervent desire for spiritual meaning and his overwhelmingly violent rage.

    Four out of five of this week’s soaps features a moment of car-related drama. THE COLBYS ends with a freaked out Fallon, shocked at finally learning her real identity, speeding out of a driveway yet again. This time, Miles is left standing in her dust alongside Jeff, both looking on in helpless despair. If Fallon keeps driving long enough maybe she’ll end up on the same Soap Land mean streets where Lilimae is looking for Joshua on KNOTS. Meanwhile, JR, driving at a similar speed to Fallon as she tears out of the Colby estate, pulls into the Southfork driveway in the final scene of this week’s DALLAS, in a bid to stop Sue Ellen taking John Ross away from him. Over on FALCON CREST, Peter Stavros is on his way to marry Angela when his chauffeur abruptly stops the car and pulls a gun on him. He is then forced out of his limo and bundled into the back of a waiting van. Back on KNOTS, there’s another abduction-by-car when Joshua emerges from Cathy’s backseat, then holds a knife to her throat and orders her to drive to the mission district. Lilimae does a sort of vehicular double take when her car passes theirs and she crashes into some trash cans. A minor accident by Soap Land standards, she emerges unharmed and follows Cathy and Joshua on foot.

    Joshua forces Cathy up the staircase to the roof of the building where her billboard is on display. At one point, she manages to break free and runs past him, back down a flight of stairs, only for him to suddenly appear in front of her, having leapt over the bannister from above. It’s like a moment from a horror movie — or from Sue Ellen’s nightmare in last week’s DALLAS where she and John Ross are running away from JR and he suddenly materialises before them. That’s what’s so gruelling about the scene: It feels something from a horror movie or a nightmare, but for Cathy, it is really happening.

    Even by Soap Land’s melodramatic standards, the suffering endured by Cathy in KNOTS and Krystle in DYNASTY during their respective rooftop and attic ordeals this week is notably extreme, perhaps more extreme than might have originally been intended. In the case of the DYNASTY storyline, one imagines that the original pitch was comedic — “let’s put a Krystle lookalike in the mansion!” — with Krystle’s own ordeal something an afterthought. From an audience perspective, while we're still getting our weekly dose of Linda Evans on Blake’s arm it’s easy to overlook the real Krystle, all but forgotten in the Delta Rho attic. Only now that the Colbys have been spun off into their own show and DYNASTY is free once again to concentrate on its own characters does Krystle’s situation come sharply into focus. “That woman who looked like you has replaced you and Blake hasn’t paid any ransom because he doesn’t even know you’re gone,” Joel tells Krystle coldly. “No-one’s looking for you so no one’s going to find you.” Meanwhile on KNOTS, had Joshua been merely the two-dimensional “monster” Lilimae describes him as moments before his death, Cathy's story might have been little more than a marital variation on the familiar psycho-stalks-girl scenario (e.g., Lucy and her crazy photographer in DALLAS). However, Alec Baldwin’s ability to make his character as believable and heart-wrenching as his actions are deplorable makes the whole story even more desperate and tragic (which isn’t to downplay the contributions of Julie Harris and Lisa Hartman, who match Baldwin in emotional intensity on that roof. Hartman is particularly impressive, given that her character was far less developed in the first place.)

    Cathy and Krystle aren’t the only Soap Land characters being held against their will. On DALLAS, Pete Adams, the private eye dispatched to Greece by JR to dig into Marinos Shipping, is now a prisoner of Nicholas, Angelica Nero’s deputy in Athens. Meanwhile, FALCON CREST’s own shipping magnate Peter Stavros is abducted on the morning of his wedding by one of his own employees, his daughter Sofia’s lover Philippe. Nicholas and Philippe are cut from the same Soap Land cloth — both are shifty Europeans with dark Mediterranean colouring who sport equally bouffant mullets. In other words, each could easily pass for Naldo Marchetta’s wayward brother.

    As Joel says, no one’s looking for Krystle on DYNASTY so no one’s going to find her. DALLAS and FALCON CREST’s captors have each taken similarly elaborate steps to ensure no one realises a kidnapping has taken place. In the same way that Joel has infiltrated the Carrington mansion in the guise of Krystle’s doctor, Angelica’s assistant Grace assumes the role of temporary secretary at Pete Adams’ detective agency, the better to arrange a phone conversation where Pete can assure his partner — at gunpoint — that everything is fine. This week’s FALCON CREST, meanwhile, ends with Angela in her wedding dress reading a letter, supposedly sent from Peter, that expresses a similar sentiment to the letter Jenna didn’t send to Bobby on the day of their wedding on DALLAS: “Angela, the wedding is off. I don’t love you enough to marry you, Peter."

    Elsewhere on FALCON CREST, Cole and Melissa have their marriage formally blessed in a church ceremony. There is no “If anyone can show just cause ...” moment this time around, but given that the bride is secretly in love with the priest performing the ceremony and the woman lurking at the back of the church is pregnant by the groom, there are no shortage of meaningful close-ups during the exchange of vows.

    All five soaps conclude with a moment of high drama between a married couple. In ascending order of crisis: Sue Ellen stuns JR on DALLAS by allowing John Ross to remain at Southfork (“Clearly, he’s happiest here — this is where he’ll stay”), DYNASTY ends with Blake ordering “Krystle” to see a doctor of his choosing (“Then we’re really going to find out what's wrong with you, once and for all!”), FALCON CREST has Peter apparently jilting Angela on the morning of their wedding ("I’ve been stood up!”), THE COLBYS finishes with Fallon running away from Miles after discovering her true identity (“If anything happens to that girl,” Miles tells Jeff, “I swear to God I’ll kill you!”) and on KNOTS, Cathy watches in silent horror with Lilimae as Joshua fall to his death just after he has tried to throw them both off the roof.

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    11/Dec/85: DYNASTY: The Quarrels v. 12/Dec/85: THE COLBYS: Shadow of the Past v. 12/Dec/85: KNOTS LANDING: To Sing His Praise v. 13/Dec/85: DALLAS: Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen v. 13/Dec/85: FALCON CREST: Strange Bedfellows

    “Love is secondary,” snaps King Galen when talking to his son Michael about his marriage to Amanda on DYNASTY. “Love doesn’t conquer all,” cautions Sable (quoting Donna Krebbs) when talking to her son Miles about his marriage to Fallon on THE COLBYS. “And the greatest of these is love,” concludes Reverend Rush (quoting Corinthians) at his son Joshua’s funeral service on KNOTS LANDING.

    Galen and Sable describe their sons' new marriages in similarly unromantic terms. “Your marriage was arranged to strengthen our position … We need Alexis and her fortune,” says Galen. “You’ve created a dynasty — a Colby Carrington dynasty. With this marriage, anything is possible,” says Sable.

    Galen’s newly apparent ruthless streak (“That girl and her mother can be very useful to us”) opens up the possibility that the Moldavian revolution wasn’t quite as morally black and white as has previously been implied. (“Did you ever ask yourself why there was a revolution? Did he govern, or did he merely rule?” Dex asks Alexis.) It’s clear that Galen, while assuring Alexis that he will make her "one of the richest, most powerful women in the world," considers her more expendable than she realises. Similarly on DALLAS, Angelica Nero continues to claim that her co-venture with Ewing Oil will make Jack "one of the richest men in the world” whilst going to extreme lengths to prevent JR from finding out the real truth about Marinos Shipping — whatever that might be. So it is that Soap Land’s two most notorious villains, Alexis and JR, have each been seduced by a duplicitous foreigner's promise of untold wealth and power into making an international deal where all is not as it seems.

    Speaking of shady deals, Gary’s suspicions are now on full alert regarding Empire Valley, especially when Greg offers to buy it from him at twice its value on this week's KNOTS. At first, Greg is his customarily cool self, appealing to Gary’s sense of family history. “You know what land means, what land has meant to the Ewings. Land is the foundation of your family’s fortune, your family’s dignity.” It’s really interesting to hear Greg’s take on the Ewings here, especially his choice of the word dignity. Somehow, one can’t imagine the Ewings themselves, or anyone else in DALLAS, using the word in such a context. Gary, however, remains unimpressed, causing Greg to get increasingly wound up. “Empire Valley was my father’s land, my family’s land,” he continues. "I want it back … Listen, Paul Galveston should never have given you that land in the first place and in your heart, you know that to be true … I gave up the United States senate to run Empire Valley for my father. My father died. Now it belongs to me. Now Paul Galveston was a bastard, but he was my father, not yours. The United States senate for THAT LAND. I became a Galveston for THAT LAND. I admitted to the world that I was his son for THAT LAND. And after I gave up the senate, after I gave up everything I ever wanted in this world, he turned around and he gave the land to YOU.” Still nothing from Gary. Finally, Greg explodes. “IT’S MY LAND AND I WANT IT BACK!!” he yells. In this childlike, red-faced outburst, he could be speaking for every Soap Land character that’s ever felt they’ve been robbed of what is rightfully theirs. If anyone on KNOTS should understand where Greg is coming from, it's Gary — he is a Ewing, after all. Instead, he responds with total cynicism. (“That was very well said. Oh, but you expect me to believe you meant it, don’t you?”). Even more ironically, Greg’s motive might ultimately be heroic — Coblentz has already told him he is prepared to kill Gary and Abby unless Greg can persuade them to sell. In amongst all of this, Gary discovers that Abby has been in cahoots with Greg all along — but what’s a little marital betrayal now that their lives, and maybe their children’s lives, are in danger? (Krystle finds herself facing a similar situation on DYNASTY when Steven arrives unexpectedly at Delta Rho and Joel threatens to hurt her daughter if she calls out to him.) If this scenario is almost identical to the one Gary, Abby and Greg found themselves in towards the end of the Wolfbridge saga two seasons ago, and if the subplot where Gary became some kind of double agent for Coblentz has now mysteriously evaporated, then that’s fine by me. The scenes where Gary faces off with Greg and then with Abby in this ep are a more than fair trade-off. Speaking of that forgotten plot, there’s a tidy symmetry in Gary missing Joshua’s wedding last season so that Coblentz could tell him “the truth” about Empire Valley and Gary missing Joshua’s funeral this week so he can uncover "the truth" about Empire Valley first hand.

    Having already established that she is acting out of maternal devotion to her son, this week’s episode of THE COLBYS has Sable carry out her first wicked scheme. Hoping to cast doubt on Constance's soundness of mind when she gifted her half of Colby Enterprises to Jeff, Sable tries to gaslight her sister-in-law with a disappearing then reappearing bracelet. When her efforts go unnoticed by Jason, she is obliged to up her game by tampering with the saddle on Connie's horse. (The parallel here with the riding accident Alexis arranged for Krystle in early DYNASTY is an obvious one.) However, there's an unexpected twist when her own sister Frankie rides off on the horse. Pretty soon, Frankie’s in trouble, but then Jeff rides to her rescue. Even though nothing has gone quite the way she intended, Sable ultimately achieves the effect she was after when a distressed Constance takes responsibility for the loosened saddle herself. (“Oh my God, Francesca, you could have been killed!”) “You’re shaking,” Jason observes of his wife, which suggests she isn’t as practised at Soap Land deception as Alexis or the rest of the Soap Land schemers. All of these little details add interesting shades of grey to Sable’s personality. Is she really THE COLBYS’ equivalent of Alexis, Abby and Angela, or is she simply a more resourceful version of early Sue Ellen — a desperate, co-dependent wife who has no identity beyond her family and is, therefore, willing to do anything she can to preserve it?

    Adam is the latest DYNASTY character to show up on THE COLBYS. As with Dominique last week, there are minor differences in how he is depicted in each show. On DYNASTY, Blake has designated him the task of dealing with a court injunction against the construction of the Carrington/Colby pipeline. On THE COLBYS, his assignment is to find out why Jason is using Zach Powers’ tankers to ship Blake’s oil out of the South China Seas. And while no one mentions Fallon’s return on this week’s DYNASTY, Adam spends most of his scenes on THE COLBYS demanding to see his sister. When he does and she hurls possibly the most sensational accusation in Soap Land history in his direction, he probably wishes he hadn’t been quite so insistent.

    The subject of Fallon might be off-limits on DYNASTY, but the toy car LB acquired during last week’s trip to California does make an appearance when he accidentally drives it into Rita’s legs. Her angry response (“Dammit, you little creep! Why don’t you watch where you’re going?”) is witnessed by Alexis, thereby kickstarting the long dormant Alexis/Krystle feud. “Krystle is not and could never be the kind of woman that you think she is! One day you’ll regret that you didn’t listen to me!” Alexis rants at Blake. He doesn’t take her seriously — this is the kind of paranoid stuff she’s been saying for years — only this time, of course, she’s speaking the truth: Krystle isn’t who Blake thinks she is because she isn’t Krystle at all! The lookalike plot results in further ironies. While Krystle fends off the advances of an increasingly fixated Joel at Delta Rho, Rita is doing the same thing with Blake at the mansion. The episode is also bookended rather neatly. It starts with the real Krystle banging on the door of one room (the attic at Delta Rho) pleading to be let out and ends with the fake Krystle locking herself in another (a guest room at the mansion) in order to escape Blake’s romantic attentions.

    Krystle and FALCON CREST’s Father Christopher find themselves in similarly uncomfortable positions this week. Joel grants Krystle the privilege of taking a bath but refuses to leave the room while she does so. Similarly, Melissa discovers Christopher skinny-dipping on her property but refuses to avert her gaze so he can retrieve his clothes. Instead, she jumps, fully clothed, into the water with him and pretty soon they’re kissing passionately. Meanwhile, the weird DYNASTY bath scene gets even weirder as Joel, his eyes trained on Krystle’s voluptuous cleavage, laments how “movies today … rely on shock and exploitation, the lowest common denominator.” (Just as Christopher’s impromptu strip is filmed from a discreet distance, Krystle’s onscreen modesty is preserved by an impregnable layer of bath time bubbles.)

    The aftermath of Joshua’s death on KNOTS LANDING is full of the kind of small moments we didn’t see after Bobby’s on DALLAS — awkward silences, people wondering what they should say and how they should feel. In the same way that Miss Ellie concerned herself with staying strong for her family in the wake of her son’s death, Lilimae’s first priority is to keep the truth of how Joshua died a secret. (“I don’t want people to think my son was a killer.”) In order that they get their stories straight, she gives the same instruction to Cathy as Ellie gave to Sue Ellen: “You must pull yourself together.”

    (Something that never previously occurred to me: It’s established this week that Joshua was twenty-four when he died, making him a year younger than Lucy. This means Lilimae might well have been pregnant when Val turned up at her door with Lucy seeking refuge from JR and his good old boys.)

    “Now we’ve both lost brothers,” Val tells Gary, thus creating yet another bond between them that Ben can’t share. Dusty Farlow likewise finds himself frozen out on this week’s DALLAS when Sue Ellen decides to move back to Southfork for the sake of her son. While Ben reminds silently stoic, Dusty packs his bags and leaves. There’s another, more bitter break-up on this week’s FALCON CREST between Richard Channing and his fiancee Cassandra after he refuses to believe he could be the father of the baby she’s carrying. It results in one of those unexpectedly powerful, emotionally complicated FALCON CREST scenes you just didn’t see coming. (“I wouldn’t marry you now for all the money in the world and give some other man’s bastard my name!” Richard shouts. “You are more evil than I ever could have imagined,” Cassandra replies.) Richard’s rush to judgement turns out to have been premature when it transpires his vasectomy didn’t take — a medical error on a par with the one that recently led Jason Colby to believe he had only a few months to live. He tries to find Cassandra and apologise to her, but it’s too late — she’s already skipped town for parts unknown. Perhaps she’s hooked up with Dusty Farlow on the rodeo circuit.

    This week’s KNOTS becomes even more poignant with the arrival of Joshua’s father Jonathan J. Rush who is intimidating, bewildered, angry and heartbroken all at the same time. It makes me wonder how different the atmosphere might have been on DALLAS had Jock had still been around when Bobby died. The scene between Lilimae and Jonathan in Val’s living room is electric. At first, Lilimae is so scared of being left alone with him that she grabs onto Val so she can’t leave the room, as if she were the child and Val the parent. Moments later, she’s brushing a tear from Jonathan's face. Soon after that, she’s angrily criticising him for the way he raised Joshua. "I tried to mould him in God’s image,” he insists. "You mean in your image,” she argues. "You waved him like some kind of trophy in front of your congregation.” Just as the burden of living up to his father may have proved too much for Joshua, a similar dilemma is expressed by Bliss on THE COLBYS: “Tell me, Mother, how do you shine in this family, how do you get any attention when your father is one of the richest men in the world, your mother’s one of the chicest, your sister’s a legal brain and your brother’s an international champion?” The same topic crops up on FALCON CREST too. “I guess it must be difficult growing up with famous parents,” suggests Greg Reardon after witnessing an icy exchange between new girlfriend Jordan and her politician father. “More than you know,” she replies cryptically.

    Soap Land’s mothers also come under heavy criticism for the way their children turned out this week. As an example of Patricia Shepard’s heavy-handed style of parenting, Sue Ellen recalls a dress she forced her to wear to her seventh birthday party — “blue and white dotted swiss.” (This chimes with a memory of Frankie’s in last week’s episode of THE COLBYS about her similarly controlling sister: "Sable, the last time you helped me choose 'something more fun' [to wear], it was polka dots and crinoline.”) “Oh for heaven’s sake, what does it matter what happened when you were seven?” snaps an exasperated Patricia. “Because you were still planning for me when I was seventeen,” Sue Ellen replies. "The night of my senior prom, you picked out my dress and the boy I went with. I came home drunk that night for the very first time.” Jonathan levels an even worse accusation at Lilimae: "You taught [Joshua] to seek after fame and glory and it killed him, body and soul.” If Patricia was too controlling a mother and Lilimae too influential, then Frankie was too neglectful. “Francesca, did it ever occur to you that a boy would rather have his mother than the Colby education or the Colby money?” Jeff asks her. "Right or wrong, I did what I thought was best for you,” she replies. “I did the best I knew how,” echoes Patricia on DALLAS. While Patricia and Sue Ellen end up in a tearful embrace, Jeff and Frankie are brought together after he rescues her from her runaway horse. “You called me Mother!” she gasps happily — a polar opposite moment to Lilimae’s cry of “I'm not your mama!” to her son on last week’s KNOTS. Although Joshua’s no longer around for a parental reconciliation, there’s a very touching moment at his graveside during his funeral when Jonathan’s recitation from Corinthians becomes too much for him and so Lilimae comes to his side, and they struggle through the rest of the passage together. Soap Land doesn’t get much more moving than that.

    Meanwhile on FALCON CREST, Jordan Roberts’ parent/child estrangement storyline is only just beginning. In contrast to her former selves, man-eaters Constance Carlyle on FLAMINGO ROAD and Racine on PAPER DOLLS and would-be seductress Jenna Wade on DALLAS, Jordan is giving out decidedly mixed signals to Greg, repeatedly encouraging his advances only to recoil from them at the very last minute. Likewise, the present incarnation of Jenna Wade withdraws from her relationship with Jack Ewing on DALLAS after he declares his romantic intentions. While Jenna’s reluctance is clearly tied to her grief over Bobby, Jordan’s seemed to be linked to her troubled relationship with her father.

    A couple of seasons ago, JR ironically referred Southfork as "a house of domestic bliss.” By the penultimate scene of this week’s DALLAS, in which three generations of beaming Ewings, Farlows, Krebbses and Wades assemble for a welcome home dinner in Sue Ellen’s honour, it appears to have genuinely become one. The contrast between Sue Ellen and Miss Ellie’s syrupy exchange (“I seem to need this family” “And this family needs you, Sue Ellen") and the shocking accusation at the end of this week’s COLBYS (“You’re the one who raped me — my God, my own brother!”) could hardly be greater. With the extended Ewing clan a suddenly functional family, Sue Ellen and her mother reconciled and Dusty Farlow headed back to the rodeo circuit, the only character in this storyline still behaving like they’re in a soap opera is Mandy Winger. Having come close to being officially acknowledged as JR’s partner, Sue Ellen’s return to Southfork means she’s now back on the outside looking in. This puts her in a similar position to DYNASTY’s Claudia whose inheritance from Walter was meant to legitimise her position as a Carrington, but instead she’s still bitterly referring herself as the poor relation. While Claudia has already joined forces with Adam to get back at Blake, this week’s DALLAS ends with Mandy coming to a similar arrangement with Cliff regarding JR. “Don’t get mad, get even,” he tells her as they clink champagne flutes.

    I totally love the juxtaposition on KNOTS between the funeral scenes and those of Gary discovering what looks like a futuristic underground laboratory hidden on Empire Valley. A cave full of sliding metallic doors, bleeping machines with flashing lights and extras in white coats going about their business, it’s reminiscent of THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN at its 70s sci-fi best. You almost expect Bigfoot or an assembly line of Fembots to appear round the next corner. “Incredible!” Gary whispers to himself just before the end credits. Damn straight it is.

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

    Message Count:
    2,229
    Trophy Points:
    6,327
    Ratings:
    +3,607
    18/Dec/85: DYNASTY: The Roadhouse v. 19/Dec/85: THE COLBYS: A House Divided v. 19/Dec/85: KNOTS LANDING: All's Well v. 20/Dec/85: DALLAS: Curiosity Killed the Cat v. 20/Dec/85: FALCON CREST: False Hope

    Events on DYNASTY and THE COLBYS now seem to be happening concurrently. While Jenna Wade laments that she “can’t go back in time and be with Bobby” on this week’s DALLAS, time travel’s no problem for Adam Carrington. He sticks around for the first seven minutes of THE COLBYS — long enough to get into an unusually sweaty (by Soap Land standards) fist fight with Jeff — before catching a flight back to the previous night’s DYNASTY, showing up two-thirds of the way through the episode for a meeting with Bart Fallmont, the would-be senator behind the pipeline injunction.

    That the explanation for everything that’s happened to Fallon during the past two years — her paralysis, her headaches, her hallucinations, her disappearance, her amnesia and the accusation of rape levelled at her brother — should turn out to be “a guilt fantasy your subconscious created to explain feelings you couldn’t accept, feelings your mind labelled incestuous" is both giddily insane and surprisingly satisfying.

    There’s an exchange between Jason and Sable as they mull over these latest developments that mirrors a moment between Gary and Abby during their confrontation about Empire Valley in last week’s KNOTS. Whereas Gary felt a moral obligation to stop whatever was happening at the site, even though he had done nothing to cause it, all Abby wanted was to take the money and run. “God, are we different,” realised Gary. This week, while Jason is worried for Fallon herself, Sable’s main concern is that Miles will lose out to his cousin: “Jeff wants Fallon back and the Carrington fortune that goes with her.” “My God, that girl’s walked through hell and all you can talk about is her money,” says Jason, regarding her with the same level of dismay that Gary did Abby.

    The titular scene in this week’s DYNASTY, where Alexis encounters the real Krystle in the Big Oaks Lodge, feels like an equivalent to the scene on KNOTS almost a year ago where Val served Abby coffee in the diner in Shula, Tennessee. As well as the novelty of seeing Abby and Alexis in less than salubrious surroundings (“Is this the new ‘in’ place?” asks Alexis sarcastically), we're also presented with the unusual sight of Abby and Krystle trying desperately to communicate with their arch enemy — Abby to ascertain when and if Val is planning to return to California, Krystle to convey that she is being held against her will — but without success. All Val can see is a stranger with real pretty eyes, while as far as Alexis is concerned, she has caught Krystle in flagrante with a man who claims to be her doctor. (“Psychiatrist, no doubt,” she says archly. Could this be a reference to Nick Toscanni?) If anyone is suffering from Verna-style delusions in this scene, it’s Joel Abrigore, who seems to believe that he and his hostage are out on a genuine date.

    There’s an equivalent double-identity scene on this week’s DALLAS where Pete Adams’ detective partner Sam Barker sees Grace at the Oil Baron’s with JR, Pam and Angelica and realises his temporary secretary is an imposter. Thus, Sam becomes the DALLAS equivalent of KNOTS LANDING’s Frank Elliot — an innocent bystander who stumbles onto something that neither he nor we fully understand and must be disposed of. When the news of his death in an automobile accident makes the morning paper, Angelica congratulates Grace on a job well done. “I don’t know why they say that auto-mechanics is a masculine hobby,” drawls Grace in her light Dutch accent. “I’ve always thought it was rather useful." A ruthlessly efficient Girl Friday who seems to enjoy her work, however murderous it becomes (although it’s hard to be certain as she is so coolly inscrutable), Grace is a character one might more typically expect to find on cartel-era FALCON CREST. On DALLAS, she and Angelica are a welcome astringent antidote to the increasingly cosy Ewings.

    “What a dump,” says Alexis, quoting Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf quoting Bette Davis in Beyond the Forest, upon entering the roadhouse. “A stupid little trick … from an old movie. It never works,” says Joel of Krystle’s attempt to alert Alexis and Dex to her plight by writing HELP on a matchbook. “I feel like I’ve died and gone to a science fiction movie,” says Mack on KNOTS when Gary shows him the futuristic control centre at Empire Valley. "I saw you on the four o’clock news, you looked as handsome as Robert Redford in The Candidate,” Emma tells aspiring senator Greg on FALCON CREST.

    Still coming to terms with her past and now caught between Jeff and Miles, Fallon describes herself as two people. She’s not the only one. Joel’s decision to furnish Krystle’s attic with a TV set backfires when she sees news footage of her imposter on Blake’s arm, causing her to lose control and smash the set. I’m not sure Soap Land gets more meta than this — a fictional character on a TV programme watching an even more fictional version of herself on a fictitious news programme, then destroying a representation of the medium on which they both appear. The meta-madness continues on FALCON CREST as Maggie’s novelised version of events in Falcon Crest is serialised in the New Globe. The amused reactions of everyone but Angela reflects the comedic tone of both the storyline and, increasingly, the series itself. Chase’s description of Andrea Chandler, the book’s villainess, as “a hoot” also mirrors the recent shift in the show’s depiction of Angela from sinister to comical.

    As one amnesia-related mystery is resolved on THE COLBYS, Maggie’s novel sparks another on FALCON CREST. If all the characters in her book are based on people she knows, does the heroine’s mystery lover mean that Maggie had an affair during her period of memory loss? Chase fears the worst and Maggie has no recollection of that period with which to assuage his anxieties.

    Marriages “in name only” are this week’s big trend. “It’s clear we’re married in name only,” Blake tells his fake wife on DYNASTY. “Right now you’ve got a marriage in name only," Jeff tells Miles on THE COLBYS. And while the opening scene on DALLAS reestablishes JR and Sue Ellen’s new-old arrangement — presenting a united front as they put their son to bed before returning to their separate bedrooms (or in JR’s case, the beds of Mandy Winger and Angelica Nero) — THE COLBYS ends with Jason refusing to sleep in the same room as Sable. "I don’t think I know you anymore and I don’t sleep with strangers,” he tells her.

    Although Blake and “Krystle’s" present estrangement feels like a pastiche of all of their previous marriage-in-crisis storylines, it is nonetheless played completely straight. In contrast to the overtly comedic tone on FALCON CREST, there is nothing in the acting, direction or score to signal whimsy or comedy to the audience. Quite the opposite, in fact. “Am I going to have to force you into remembering what we have together?” snarls Blake, grabbing Rita, pinning her to the bed and kissing her against her will. Then he stops himself. “Once before, just this way, I almost destroyed what we had,” he remembers. How utterly fascinating that it should be in this parodic storyline that Blake recalls something one assumed had been whitewashed from DYNASTY’s history — his rape of Krystle in Season 1. Meanwhile, Blake’s Hall of Mirrors counterpart, Joel Abrigore, tries to force himself on the real Krystle. She manages to fend him off — for the time being. “You can’t begin to know what it’s like to be loved by a man who knows women the way I do, but you will,” he promises her, sounding laughably absurd and genuinely threatening at the same time.

    Over on KNOTS, Abby also becomes a hostage of sorts when Gary takes control of the threat hanging over his family. After sending Olivia and Brian into hiding, he instructs Abby to join him at Empire Valley. (“They’d never think of looking for us there.”) When she refuses, he explains that she has no choice: “You’re coming with me if I have to tie you up and carry you. You got me into this mess and you are, by God, gonna be with me when it’s over with.” Thus, she must clamber into the shapeless overalls he has assigned her and allow him to smear mud over her immaculately made-up face. (Alexis isn’t the only soap diva slumming it this week.) When they infiltrate the underground site at Empire Valley, it feels like we’re back in Bionic territory. Specifically, we’re in one of those crossover episodes where THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN and THE BIONIC WOMAN join forces -- only in this episode, Steve and Jaime are really, really pissed off with each other. When Gary orders Abby to train a gun on a security guard, there’s a fleeting moment where it looks like she's considering using it on him (Gary) instead.

    The other main storyline on this week’s KNOTS is the continuing aftermath of Joshua's death. Whereas Jenna gratefully accepted Miss Ellie’s invitation to stay on at Southfork after Bobby died on DALLAS, the prospect of remaining under the same roof as Joshua’s family fills Cathy with dread. She tries to explain as much to Lilimae in a brilliantly awkward post-funeral scene in Val’s kitchen: “I thought it might be good for me to get away. There are a lot of memories in this house and they’re painful.” Belatedly, Jenna finds herself in a similar situation this week. “I’m stuck, Miss Ellie,” she admits. "I can’t go back in time and be with Bobby and I can’t seem to go forward.” While Ellie gently advises her to look to the future (“Don’t punish yourself for having new, different good times with someone else”), Lilimae is less willing to let her daughter-in-law move on with her life. “Cathy, I would dearly love for you to stay here ... I know Joshua would want us to be together. Family always came first with Joshua.” When Val and Karen take Cathy’s side, the scene erupts into a terrific four-way argument. “You stay out of this, Karen Mackenzie. You are not family!” barks Lilimae.

    While Cathy gratefully accepts Ben’s offer to stay at his beach house, Jack Ewing takes Jenna’s request to leave her alone to heart. “I’ve got to get away, alone,” he decides before taking off for some unknown destination. It's reassuring to know that such well-travelled guys as Ben and Jack have their priorities sorted. “Would you water my plants?” Ben asks Cathy on KNOTS. “I appreciate that you’re gonna come by and water the plants,” Jack tells Jamie on DALLAS.

    Just as Jack’s feelings for Jenna prompt him to leave town, thereby abandoning his new post at Ewing Oil, so Father Christopher’s feelings for Melissa on FALCON CREST cause him to take a leave of absence from the priesthood. But whereas Jack’s trip takes him offscreen and out of JR’s reach (much to Angelica’s frustration), Christopher ends up at the heart of his show as he moves into Falcon Crest itself. Meanwhile, the convalescing King Galen moves into Alexis's penthouse on DYNASTY, and Ray and Donna move in with the rest of the Ewings at Southfork after their own house is flooded due to a plumbing-related mishap. While a suspicious Dex strongly resents Galen’s presence, the Krebbses’ move is greeted with uncomplicated laughter from all concerned, even though it’s only a matter of months since Ray bitterly informed Donna that she belonged in “the big house” and he didn’t.

    Minor trend of the week: men of a certain age offended at the idea of taking financial help from their women. On THE COLBYS, Hutch Corrigan is annoyed when Constance deposits $200,000 in his bank account and insists she take it back. (It is this flurry of monetary activity that alerts Sable to their relationship.) Meanwhile on DALLAS, Clayton Farlow, having admitted to his lawyer that he is in serious financial trouble, is angered by the suggestion that he should turn to his wife for help. Interestingly, Miss Ellie’s hesitant, eager-to-please behaviour towards her clearly preoccupied husband this week is very similar to Donna Reed’s when she and Clayton first returned from their honeymoon. This suggests Reed’s and Barbara Bel Geddes’s instincts weren’t that far apart after all when it came to playing the new Mrs. Farlow.

    In contrast, when Steven Carrington defends his father against Bart Fallmont’s allegations of raping the land and poisoning the environment on this week’s DYNASTY, he could just as easily be arguing against his Season 1 self. "I think you sold this country out,” Al Corley’s Steven told Blake back then. "You didn't develop this country's resources when you had the chance to. No, you developed the Arabian fields instead because it was cheaper. You made billionaires out of the oil sheiks.” “My father’s a man who's done a hell of a lot to make this country grow, to create jobs, to supply necessary energy where there was none,” counters Jack Coleman’s Steven this week.

    While Bart’s bid for the senate on DYNASTY mirrors Greg Reardon’s political aspirations on FALCON CREST, his environmental objections to the Carrington/Colby pipeline parallel those of Bliss’s boyfriend, and Clean Earth campaigner, Sean McAllister on THE COLBYS. “You are your father’s daughter,” teases Sean when Bliss comes to Jason’s defence. “You’re your father’s son,” says Bart contemptuously when Steven comes to Blake's. Whereas Bart’s family background is well known (both his father and grandfather were senators), it emerges this week that Sean is the secret nephew of Zach Powers who harbours an as yet unexplained grievance against the Colbys.

    Gifts of expensive jewels and jewellery recur throughout the week. Blake tries to bridge the gap between himself and “Krystle" with a pair of diamond earrings. Rita’s tearful reaction ("No man’s ever loved me the way he does and it isn’t me he loves!”) is very funny. Meanwhile, JR presents Mandy with an equally glittering bracelet as compensation for Sue Ellen moving back to Southfork. After finding out he has spent the night with Angelica Nero, Mandy flushes it down the toilet. Elsewhere in the same episode, Pam opens a package sent for Bobby containing a large uncut emerald, “the first return on Bobby’s investment.” Phyllis explains how Matt Cantrell, an old friend of Bobby’s, stopped by Ewing Oil a year earlier and asked him to finance his emerald-hunting expedition. Overriding JR’s objections, Bobby agreed. Much like the pivotal altercation between Fallon and Adam on the night of her wedding to Jeff, none of the events Phyllis describes were depicted onscreen at the time.

    This week’s KNOTS culminates with one of those classic scenes where several different parties converge on the same location at the same time. Previous examples include Gary's ranch, the Belmar Hotel, and the Fisher residence. This time, the destination is the transmission tower adjacent to the Empire Valley complex, and those headed towards it are Gary and Abby, Greg, an anonymous hitman and the Mackenzies. This time, instead of anyone getting shot or driving off with a baby, Gary pulls the rug out from under the rest of the characters (and us) by blowing up Empire Valley. Even when you know it’s coming, it’s still a thrill. In a way, this is KNOTS’ belated equivalent of DYNASTY’s Moldavian massacre or Katherine running over Bobby on DALLAS — a moment, a possibility, a symbol of extreme grandeur, absolute happiness, ultimate power (or some combination thereof), shattered by an act of wanton violence and destruction. In each case, there’s a sense of a price being paid: this is what happens when you fly too close to the sun.

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    02/Jan/86: THE COLBYS: Fallen Idol v. 02/Jan/86: KNOTS LANDING: Unbroken Bonds v. 03/Jan/86: DALLAS: The Missing Link v. 03/Jan/86: FALCON CREST: Fair Game

    The characters on THE COLBYS grow ever more interesting. The “good” ones (Jason, Frankie) are now the most morally compromised, the “bad” ones (Sable, Miles) the most vulnerable. A few years ago on DALLAS, Bobby Ewing described Sue Ellen as living “in a fantasy world where everything is perfect. She’d rather crawl into a bottle than face reality.” This week, Sable admits to Miles that she too has spent her life seeking perfection. Having failed to find it in life, she has sought refuge, not in alcohol, but in art. “Do you see that world in there?” she asks, indicating a painting. “That is perfect. It needs nothing. It asks for nothing. No one can spoil it or change it or touch it … That’s what the Colby Collection means to me. If I can’t give your father perfection in his marriage, I can give it to him here." Although Sable is presently unaware of Jason’s romantic involvement with her sister, Miles is not.

    Last week’s KNOTS LANDING ended with Greg Sumner delivering the most scathing of speeches to his father’s portrait ("I swear on your face never to have a son that I might treat as brutally as you have treated your son”). This week’s episode of THE COLBYS concludes with Miles issuing a similarly powerful dismissal to his own father (so powerful, in fact, that Jason is reduced to tears). Whereas Greg has always despised Paul Galveston ("I probably even hated you before I knew who you were”), Miles has had his father on a pedestal from childhood. “I spent my life trying to be like you, act like you, think like you,” he tells him. “I loved you, Dad. You were my idol, a man to be proud of, the man I wanted to be proud of me." His parting words, “You don’t have a son anymore," echo Lilimae’s to Joshua on KNOTS three weeks ago: “I’m not your mama.” From Sue Ellen's conflict with her mother on DALLAS to Lilimae’s disavowal of her son and Greg’s of his father on KNOTS, to Miles’s confrontation with Jason this week and whatever is going on between JJ and Jordan Roberts on FALCON CREST (“Some secrets are best kept in the family,” mutters Jordan darkly), the wounds inflicted by parents and children upon each other during this Soap Land season feel somehow deeper and rawer than ever before.

    Having conquered the business world over the last couple of seasons, Soap Land’s women now find themselves on the receiving end of more diverse job offers. On this week’s DALLAS, Sue Ellen and Donna embark on new careers as charity fundraiser and helper at a special school respectively. Meanwhile on KNOTS, Karen Mackenzie is surprised to receive an invitation to join the state planning commission. In each case, it is the woman’s personal rather than professional experience that qualifies her for the job in hand. While Sue Ellen’s hunch that “people seem more generous when they’re dressed up” is based on “years of dressing up”, Donna is assured that all the requirements she needs for her new position are “love, love, and more love.” Over on KNOTS, Jill Bennett explains that Karen's “concern for the environment” is what has brought her to the governor’s notice.

    While KNOTS' depiction of Karen as a concerned conservationist is a wholly positive one, the DYNASTY-verse portrays the environmentalists campaigning against the Carringtons and Colbys as either unreasonable or untrustworthy, or possibly both. On last week’s DYNASTY, Bart Fallmont's refusal to even consider Steven’s suggestion of a compromise regarding the pipeline implied that his main interest in pursuing a court action was to enhance his own political reputation. Meanwhile on THE COLBYS, Clean Earth campaigner Sean McAllister has been using his relationship with Bliss to spy on her father for his uncle. Indeed, it is the information Sean has been feeding Zach Powers that leads directly to an oil spill in this week’s episode. Unaware that Zach deliberately engineered the spill, Jason is ready and willing to take full responsibility for the clean up. “We’re not going to try and duck out from under this,” he insists, apparently more concerned about the environment than the environmentalists themselves.

    Soap Land sons Bobby Ewing and Joshua Rush may be gone, but new storyline developments ensure that neither will be forgotten just yet. On KNOTS, the investigation into Joshua's death is reopened after his girlfriend Linda alleges he was killed by Ken Forrest. Meanwhile, Bobby’s “best friend ever since we were kids”, Matt Cantrell, shows up in DALLAS. While Pam offers to continue financing Matt's emerald-mining expedition as a way of keeping Bobby’s dream alive (“Bobby was stuck here so he put all of his dreams with Matt”), Lilimae refuses to tell the police the truth about Joshua’s death. “The only thing my son has left is his good name and I am not gonna stand by and let you or anyone else take it from him,” she tells daughter-in-law Cathy. When Cathy protests that they can’t let an innocent man go to prison, Lilimae reminds her that she has her “career to think of and it’s going so well. I would hate for a scandal to ruin it."

    Indeed, Soap Land’s girl singers are on the rise: While Pop View magazine puts Cathy on its cover under the banner "Hot New Teen Star”, FALCON CREST's Apollonia is off on a worldwide tour and Lance, in his capacity as her manager, is going with her — or is he? “If I decide not to go back to the priesthood,” his half-brother Christopher tells him, "I could be here [at Falcon Crest] indefinitely … Sometimes brothers are asked to share things that an only child can keep all for himself.” “You mean like land and wineries and all that sort of thing?” asks Lance. So it is that Lance and Christopher replace KNOTS' Greg and Gary as Soap Land’s sibling rivals du jour as Lance elects to remain at Falcon Crest to protect his interests. (This echoes Pam's description of Bobby’s situation at Ewing Oil: “Bobby was stuck here.”)

    Apollonia thinks Lance is confused. “You don’t want [Falcon Crest] when it’s yours, you want it when someone’s trying to take it away from you … You don’t know what you want in life.” Fresh from blowing up Empire Valley on KNOTS, Gary Ewing admits to feeling the same way. “I don’t know how to look ahead,” he tells Mack. "I know a lot of guys have got a masterplan … but I don’t do that. I walk around and I say, ‘OK, what’s next? Surprise me.’” No sooner are these words out of his mouth than Jill Bennett appears from nowhere and asks Mack to help fix her car. Despite never having met her before, Gary volunteers for the job instead and they exit the scene together. Blatant proof, if it were needed, that as one Soap Land storyline draws to a close, another Soap Land storyline begins.

    Donna Krebbs’ first day at the Woodgrove School on DALLAS is not the week’s only disability-themed storyline. Monica wanders into a cowboy bar on THE COLBYS (a culture shock equivalent to Alexis’s recent roadhouse excursion on DYNASTY) and commits the faux pas of ordering a Perrier water. This attracts the derision of a guy at the bar, Wayne Masterson, who first turns out to be blind and then turns out to be a singer. The song he subsequently performs, a country and western number with the exquisitely torturous title of "Maybe You Should Try Getting Over You”, is the first of two sappy ballads in this week’s Soap Land. The second is a cover of Michael Bolton’s "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?” performed by Cathy for her cable TV show on KNOTS. While Wayne’s song is enjoyably hokey, Cathy’s is dull and generic. Also, for the star of a religious TV programme who doesn’t wish to draw attention to her recent personal tragedy, a secular ballad about grieving for a lost love seems an odd choice (not to mention the see-through black top she performs it in). Therefore, the winner of this week’s Soap Land Song Wars is … Wayne Masterson.

    When Monica decides she wants to sign Wayne to Dominique’s record label, she encounters resistance from her fellow executive, Neil Kitteridge, just as Donna did from Ray when she decided to keep their Down’s Syndrome baby. However, it is not Wayne’s blindness that Neil has a prejudice against, but his musical genre.

    Disability may not be a theme on this week’s FALCON CREST, but with a bizarrely dressed pop singer and a lapsed Catholic priest currently residing under her roof, no one can say Angela Channing isn't doing her bit for diversity. There’s also a whiff of social concern when a distraught teenage girl bursts into Richard’s office looking for Jordan (“He beat me! I can’t go back there! He’s gonna do it again!"), her messy hysteria quite at odds with the glossy Soap Land surroundings.

    Popular innuendo of the week: “Dominique’s put us in bed together and I’d like to make that work,” Monica tells co-worker Neil on THE COLBYS. “Problem is, we can’t both be on top, can we?” he replies knowingly. “I like a woman who’s on top of things,” JR tells Angelica flirtatiously during a business call on DALLAS. “Where my number one client is concerned, I always like to stay on top of things,” smirks Lance with regard to Apollonia an hour later on FALCON CREST.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    08/Jan/86: DYNASTY: Suspicions v. 09/Jan/86: THE COLBYS: The Letter v. 09/Jan/86: KNOTS LANDING: Web of Lies v. 10/Jan/86: DALLAS: Twenty-Four Hours v. 10/Jan/86: FALCON CREST: Conundrum

    Freak accidents and social issues are the prevalent themes in Soap Land this week. Following the disaster that befell Jamie in last week’s DALLAS when a load of oil barrels randomly fell on top of her, much of the drama in this week’s ep centres around her worsening condition at Soap Land Memorial Hospital. Towards the end of this week's COLBYS, Constance is also whisked away in an ambulance after being knocked down by Sable's car. Less seriously, KNOTS LANDING’s Ben arrives home on crutches after an offscreen incident involving a swivel chair. As this arbitrary occurrence serve no narrative purpose, one assumes it was added to the script in order to accommodate a real-life injury sustained by the actor. Indeed, the non-dramatic way it’s dealt with — everyone’s just sort of amused by the whole thing — feels refreshingly naturalistic. (This isn’t the only real-life ailment to impact onscreen events this week. A back complaint suffered by Victoria Principal means Pam is conspicuous by her absence from several key scenes on DALLAS, most notably those at the hospital involving Mark, Cliff and Matt Cantrell where Sue Ellen seems to be filling in for her.)

    While Sable and Constance’s collision on THE COLBYS is partly a chance occurrence — eager to speak to her sister-in-law, Constance is running unseen towards her car when she is hit — it also arises out of the ongoing conflict between them. Certainly, Jason makes it clear that he holds Sable responsible. “I don’t want you anywhere near her,” he snarls when she attempts to accompany the rest of the family to the hospital. By contrast, all the central characters on DALLAS — be they Ewing, Barnes, Wade, Graison or Farlow — are united by Jamie’s accident. Indeed, the ongoing absence of inter-family conflict during this period of DALLAS renders it almost unrecognisable from the series it has been for the past seven years. However, viewed on its own terms, the episode’s “the next twenty-four hours are critical” structure, which is punctuated throughout by close-ups of ticking clocks as the Ewings embark on a race against time to locate Jamie’s brother Jack so that she can be given a life-saving blood transfusion, works well enough. Nevertheless, the story’s only real frisson derives from JR’s silent belief that Jack’s blood won’t be able to save Jamie because he isn’t her real brother.

    While this week’s DALLAS feels unfamiliar, FALCON CREST makes a pleasing return to its Season 1 roots with Angela and Lance sabotaging Chase’s harvest and the Giobertis fighting back with pluck and ingenuity. The main difference is that the characters are far more openly antagonistic now than they used to be. “I’m gonna bury you. Get out of my house!” Chase yells at Angela unambiguously.

    Issues of race, sexuality, disability, child abuse and even blood donation are all touched upon in this week’s Soap Land. This can sometimes feel a little incongruous — such as when Sue Ellen, aka Miss Self-Involved 1967, earnestly implores the rest of the Ewings to donate blood (“It won’t do Jamie any good, but it’ll help replenish the blood bank's supply”) or when The Bitch Formerly Known As Racine on PAPER DOLLS and Constance on FLAMINGO ROAD is depicted as a volunteer counsellor at a halfway house for abused children on FALCON CREST. While Donna Krebbs takes up sign language in preparation for her new volunteer position on DALLAS, singer Wayne Masterson accuses Monica on THE COLBYS of pitying him for his blindness. (“Hey, don’t feel sorry for me,” he chides. "I got a head full of visions and a way to make people see them … I can see without eyes, Ms. Colby, just like I can sing without your company’s help!”) More subtly, during a scene on DALLAS where JR is speaking to a police contact over the phone, there is a poster, strategically positioned on the wall behind the cop’s desk, of a black man in a police uniform with the heading, "Why not make a difference?” Doubtless it was this recruitment initiative that inspired New DALLAS’s Sheriff Derrick to take up a career in law enforcement.

    “Isn’t this whole abused children thing turning into another Salem witch hunt?” asks gubernatorial candidate JJ Roberts on FALCON CREST. In a way, this feels like a response to the recent trend for Soap Land characters (Joshua Rush, Greg Sumner, Sue Ellen Ewing) to blame their parents for the way they've turned out. The "I’m not your mama!”/“You don’t have a son anymore!" theme continues when JJ’s wife tells their daughter Jordan that her father is on the verge of disowning her following her announcement to the press that she won’t be voting for him in the upcoming election. “He disowned me when he forced himself on me, Mother,” Jordan replies angrily. "Three damn years of hell … Those nightmares never stop!” If Morgan Fairchild seemed out of place as a volunteering do-gooder, then the emotional force with which she delivers this revelation is all the more powerful for being so unexpected.

    Bart Fallmont’s public remarks about the Carringtons and the Colbys ("It’s time those people realised they don’t own this state, that they cannot put profits in their pockets at the expense of our quality of life!”) leads to an equally memorable confrontation on this week’s DYNASTY. The fight scene between him and Steven Carrington, who is outraged about this slur on his family’s good name, is fascinatingly bizarre. It takes place in an otherwise empty gym and culminates in the two men circling one another, each pushing against the other while gripping each other’s shoulders. The camera is placed in-between them, alternately representing each man’s point of view as they stare into each other’s eyes (i.e., down the camera lens). The struggle intensifies until both men’s faces contort in a grimacing climax. Then they collapse to the floor, Steven on top of Bart. He rolls off him and the two men lie next to each other as if coitally spent, still making lingering eye contact. To describe the sequence as homoerotic doesn’t really do it justice; it’s more surreal than that. The whole thing feels simultaneously coy and explicit as though the two men have just engaged in some kind of telepathic sex act right in front of us. The only other Soap Land fight scene this week is a martial arts session between Lance and Chao Li on FALCON CREST. Needless to say, it doesn’t carry quite the same sexual charge.

    Elsewhere on FALCON CREST, Soap Land’s least romantic, and probably funniest, wedding to date takes place when Terry blackmails Richard into marrying her. The ceremony takes place in his office, they impatiently skip over the vows and the minister has to cajole the groom into kissing the bride. (“At least give me that much,” he pleads.) When Richard finds Terry waiting in his bed on their wedding night, he points her in the direction of the guest room down the hall — thus making it clear that they will be joining Blake and “Krystle", Jason and Sable, Miles and Fallon, and JR and Sue Ellen on the “married couple, separate bedrooms” bandwagon. KNOTS LANDING’s Gary and Abby might still be sharing the same bed, but that’s about it. “There's no us,” Gary tells his wife this week. "There’s only you and what you want. That’s all there ever was.” Jason has a similar speech about his marriage on THE COLBYS, but it is spoken more in sadness than anger. "Sable’s happiness is a family fiction,” he tells Frankie. "We want her to be happy, we pretend she’s happy, but she isn’t and she never will be. Nothing’s ever right. Nothing’s ever enough."

    At the same time, other romantic partnerships are beginning to blossom. While Sable shares an illicit kiss with Zachary Powers in his New York penthouse, Gary Ewing has dinner with Jill Bennett in the same Hotel of Adulterous Liaisons previously frequented by JR and Kristin on DALLAS and Field and Lane, and Constance and Julio on FLAMINGO ROAD. Meanwhile, Sable's daughter Monica and her associate Neil Kitteridge mix business with pleasure and Peter Hollister flirts with Abby (albeit clumsily) in the elevator of Galveston Industries.

    While KNOTS’ Greg and Abby agree that their enduring association is forged on mutual suspicion (“I don’t trust you any more than you trust me,” he tells her. “That’s why it works — we have the perfect system of checks and balances,” she replies), FALCON CREST’s Lance insists that Richard and Terry’s marriage is based on love: “She loves his newspaper, he loves her vineyards.” “My sister is marrying my husband’s brother — I feel like I’m in a soap opera,” quips Maggie Gioberti, echoing Eric Fairgate’s observation from earlier in the season: “Living in this cul-de-sac’s like living in the middle of a soap opera.”

    There's more self-referencing with the introduction of DYNASTY's Caress Morelle whose forthcoming book, Sister Dearest, is "the true story of Alexis Morelle Carrington Colby Dexter, as told by her sister”. With Sudden Friendship, Maggie Gioberti’s fictionalised account of life in the Tuscany Valley, awaiting publication on FALCON CREST, it’s like 1982 all over again when Donna Krebbs’ biography of Sam Culver went head to head with Capricorn Crude, Val Ewing’s thinly veiled account of her experience with her Dallas in-laws. On this week’s KNOTS, Val’s sister-in-law Cathy reveals that she too has been approached to write a tell-all book (“the life and times of Joshua Rush”), but has declined the offer. She does, however, have a record deal. In contrast to her KNOTS predecessor Ciji’s recording contract, which was significant enough to fuel a season’s worth of storylines, this fact is mentioned only very briefly in passing. Nevertheless, it puts her on a par with Wayne Masterson, who signs with Titania Records on this week’s episode of THE COLBYS, and FALCON CREST’s Apollonia who bids a bittersweet backstage farewell to Lance on the opening night of her tour, even as the audience can be heard clamouring for an encore. It reminds me of the scene in DALLAS’s fourth season when Sue Ellen breaks up with Dusty upon his victorious return to the rodeo circuit.

    It’s a busy week for Adam Carrington who pulls a diabolical double shift on DYNASTY and THE COLBYS. On the parent show, he takes advantage of Blake’s ill health by “laying the legal groundwork to take over the entire company!" On THE COLBYS, he goes one better by showing Jeff an old letter sent from Philip Colby to his brother Cecil (and hidden in Cecil's Logan Rhinewood file, no less) that includes the following titbit: “And I know that the baby Francesca is carrying is not my child.” “It turns out you’re not even a Colby!” laughs Adam. Conversely on DALLAS, it turns out Jack is a Ewing after all, in spite of Angelica Nero’s claims to the contrary, when his blood proves a perfect match for Jamie’s.

    Angelica isn’t the only Soap Land female whose scheme suffers a serious setback this week. In fact, the final shot of each of the remaining four shows is of a woman faced with the consequences of a foolhardy plan she embarked upon some weeks earlier. At the end of DYNASTY, Sammy Jo, who conceived the idea of a Krystle lookalike in the first place, begins to suspect that Rita is poisoning Blake. On FALCON CREST, Melissa, who came up with an ill-thought through surrogate mother scheme at the end of last season, learns that her chosen surrogate has now absconded with the baby. Over on KNOTS, her attempts to keep the truth about Joshua’s death having resulted in the arrest of an innocent man, Lilimae finally goes to the police to change her statement. Best of all, Sable on THE COLBYS is shown appearing to do the right thing by praying for Constance’s recovery in front of her portrait (“I’ve never begged for anything in my life, but I’m begging you now — you mustn’t die. Please, oh please don’t die!”), but then finding the crumpled up letter which reveals that Philip was not Jeff’s father. Just before the freeze frame, her expression thrillingly transforms from one of tear-stained remorse into something harder and more calculating.

    It's the Rise of the Teenager in this week's Ewing-verse where Olivia Cunningham's request to wear coloured nail polish on KNOTS and Charlie Wade’s to go to boarding school on DALLAS are stonewalled by their respective mothers. "All the other kids are wearing it,” insists Olivia. “What all the other kids are wearing doesn’t matter,” replies Abby firmly. “Dana and Elizabeth are going to Whitley Academy. Can I go too?” pleads Charlie. “Absolutely not,” retorts Jenna. While it’s fun to see Jenna laying down the law to her cosseted daughter, I kind of miss Abby’s less conventional parenting style from the days when she was more likely to laugh at her children’s precocious behaviour than forbid it. Admittedly, her newly conservative stance makes sense given her change in social status. In any case, Olivia and Charlie each gets the last word by referencing her erstwhile Ewing father figure. “No wonder Gary doesn’t want to come home anymore,” Olivia huffs. “If Bobby were here, he would let me go,” Charlie pouts.

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    15/Jan/86: DYNASTY: The Alarm v. 16/Jan/86: THE COLBYS: The Turning Point v. 16/Jan/86: KNOTS LANDING: The Confession v. 17/Jan/86: DALLAS: The Deadly Game v. 10/Jan/86: FALCON CREST: Checkmate

    There are two contenders for Eccentric Soap Land Cameo of the Week — one a lascivious, cackling pawnbroker to whom Robin Agretti hocks her watch on FALCON CREST (“top quality merchandise,” he says, eyeing her breasts), the other a portly, middle-aged, camp newspaper researcher who describes himself as "a great admirer of Mrs. Dexter” on DYNASTY. “If a business tycoon could have a fan, I’m one,” he boasts. While the pawnbroker reinforces FALCON CREST’s depiction of the big city, outside of its air-conditioned offices, exclusive restaurants and luxury penthouses, as a sordid, dangerous place, populated by crackpots and weirdos, DYNASTY’s researcher is the closest Soap Land has gotten to putting one of its own viewers on screen. “Wasn’t that something?” he says to Caress Morelle, recalling Alexis’s first onscreen appearance at Blake’s murder trial. "I can personally quote it all to you, chapter, verse, and cross-examination.” He even recalls her outfit: “She was dressed in black and white with a picture hat, black veil and dark glasses.” Still researching her biography of Alexis, Caress relishes these tidbits, as well as the revelation that her sister married Cecil Colby on his deathbed. “That woman has a thing about death,” she concludes, "an obsession. They call it necrophilia." In fact, there is a rich seam of what one might term “necrophiliac comedy” running through this week’s DYNASTY, including a scene where Joel makes love to Rita as they plot Blake’s murder. And is it mere coincidence, following the mention of the monochromatic outfit Alexis wore to Blake’s murder trial, that Rita is dressed in the same colours when she administers Blake his final fatal dose of poison? Then there’s the terrific final scene where Blake staggers onto the Carrington staircase complaining about a pain in his chest and reaches out to “Krystle” for help. To his bewilderment, she backs away from him. After he tumbles past her down the stairs, Rita forces herself to keep walking up them as if he weren’t there. We then see her from below, peering through a crack in a door, shrouded in guilt and shadows. Without a doubt, it’s the freeze frame of the week.

    There are plenty of references to past events in this week’s Soap Land. As well as Alexis’s exploits at Blake’s trial and Cecil’s deathbed, the St Denis Club and the burnt champagne Alexis served Dominique at their first meeting also get a mention on DYNASTY. Caress’s account of Alexis and Blake's first encounter — "They’d had nothing more than one dance together when she waltzed over to me and she whispered, 'I have just met my husband and the father of my children’” — is echoed by Cole telling Melissa on FALCON CREST, "I’ve been in love with you since the very first day I met you. I knew there was something special between us.” “You should have forgotten me the day I married Lance,” Melissa tells him. On KNOTS, Cathy’s previous murder conviction and Lilimae’s attempted murder of Chip are brought up by the cop in charge of the ongoing investigation into Joshua’s death, and Abby raises the subject of Karen’s drug problem as they compete for a seat on the state planning commission. As an added bonus, we’re given a glimpse of the origins of Abby's feud with Karen. "She and I have never agreed on anything, including the fact that she married my brother,” she recalls.

    Three of last week’s soaps — DYNASTY, KNOTS and FALCON CREST — ended on a shot of a female character — Sammy Jo, Lilimae and Melissa — being faced with a crisis of her own making. It takes Sammy Jo most of this week's episode to confirm her suspicions that Rita and Joel have been poisoning Blake. “What’s happened to you?” she asks Rita when she finally admits the truth. “Why’d you have to change? … What took over?” echoes Lilimae on KNOTS during another of those speeches to an inanimate object (this time, a photograph of her son) that that have become increasingly prevalent this Soap Land season. Already we’ve had Miss Ellie talking to Bobby's grave and JR to his office chair on DALLAS, and Jeff Colby, Greg Sumner and Sable Colby speaking to the portrait of their respective ex-wife, dead father and sister-in-law. In each case, it’s a way of conveying the character’s innermost thoughts to the audience.

    On last week’s KNOTS, after an innocent man was arrested for Joshua's murder, Cathy admitted to Mack that she and Lilimae had been covering up the truth of his death. On last week’s DALLAS, Angelica Nero’s claim that Jack was Dimitri Marinos’s son was found to be false when Jack’s blood proved a perfect match for Jamie’s. This week, Lilimae and Angelica are each compelled tell the truth — or as little of it as they can get away with. While Lilimae confesses to the police that she was with Joshua when he died, she leaves out the fact that Cathy was there too and that Joshua tried to kill her. Meanwhile on DALLAS, in order to win back JR’s trust, Angelica discloses the real reason Jack Ewing is so important to her — his uncanny resemblance to Dimitri Marinos. “You want Jack to impersonate Dimitri — that’s it, isn’t it?” JR realises. Yes, as one lookalike scheme is exposed on DYNASTY (“Steven, it’s about your father — I think he’s gonna die!” exclaims Sammy Jo), another is revealed on DALLAS. What Angelica fails to mention is her ultimate plan “for JR and Jack Ewing.” We don’t know what it is yet either, but judging by the ominous music that wells up on the soundtrack whenever she and Grace refer to it, we know it’s Something Bad.

    After wrestling with her conscience, Lilimae eventually makes a full confession to the police, only to find that she and Cathy are now in the frame for Joshua’s murder. This unwieldy (by KL standards) storyline seems to chiefly exist to provide a dramatic context for Lilimae’s grief, of which her monologue to Joshua’s picture is the climax.

    Meanwhile on FALCON CREST, there’s nothing Melissa can do about surrogate mother Robin running off with her baby other than offering a $10,000 reward for information on their whereabouts. (That is precisely half the amount put up by JR on last week’s DALLAS to help find Jack, and which he subsequently donates to Graison Research this week.) As she waits anxiously for news, Melissa follows Sheila Fisher on KNOTS and Ray Krebbs on DALLAS to become the third Soap Land character of the season to be depicted staring tearfully into an empty crib as a music box tinkles plaintively in the background. Although helpless in this situation, Melissa does make a moral decision on another matter, electing to end her affair with Father Christopher in favour of saving her marriage to Cole. Thus far, Melissa and Christopher have managed to keep their relationship a secret — that is until Angela walks in on their farewell embrace at the end of the episode.

    On THE COLBYS, Sable decides to drop the incompetency suit against Connie, but the damage has already been done — Jason tells her he wants a divorce. The speech she subsequently delivers to her lawyer ("I like being Mrs. Jason Colby. I like the way she lives: her home, her art, her friends, her children, her husband. It’s a good, very good life. Help me keep it”) reminded me of Sue Ellen's speech to Pam after JR and Bobby’s plane crash in DALLAS Season 1 (“The country clubs, the committees, the invitations — it is all because I am Mrs. JR Ewing … Everything is because I am Mrs. JR Ewing”).

    Compared to previous instalments, this week’s episode of THE COLBYS is a little slow. It only really catches fire two-thirds of the way through, after Miles drunkenly lets slip to his mother about Jason’s involvement with Frankie, but when it does, it takes off like a rocket. There are further echoes of JR and Sue Ellen’s dynamic in the explosive final scene. When Jason comes home late to find Sable waiting with an intimate supper for two, it feels like one of those doomed seduction scenes from early DALLAS where Sue Ellen fails to entice JR into her bed. Then when Jason rejects her, it turns into one of those later scenes where Sue Ellen fights fire with fire. “If you divorce me, I will tell the world just what kind of woman my sister really is,” snarls Sable. “I’m not divorcing you because of Frankie,” Jason replies. “It’s because I can’t stomach you.” Wow. Of all the cruel things JR has ever said to Sue Ellen, he's always stopped short of suggesting he’s physically repulsed by her. Not surprisingly, Sable slaps Jason and he grabs her by the wrists to restrain her. As well as resembling one of JR and Sue Ellen’s more visceral altercations, one can imagine this being the kind of fight Blake and Alexis would have had during their marriage. And when Jason walks out, leaving Sable to whisper vengeance to an empty room, it directly parallels the moment where Blake did the same thing to Alexis four years ago. “Oh no, Blake,” vowed Alexis under her breath, "it’s not gonna end this way, I may have lost you now, but I’m not gonna lose everything!” “You had your chance, Jason,” an equally breathy Sable promises, "and now by God, I’ll make you eat your words!”

    JR and Sue Ellen and Blake and Alexis aside, the soap couple Jason and Sable most strongly remind me of at this point are Den and Angie Watts. During this same period, early 1986, Den and Angie were becoming the breakout stars of the BBC’s fledgling soap EASTENDERS, just as Jason and Sable’s marriage is emerging as the most dominant storyline on THE COLBYS. (Whether it was originally intended to be that way I don’t know, but it feels like THE COLBYS’ writers are now responding organically to the chemistry they’re seeing on screen, in the same way KNOTS might have given Joshua those direct-to-camera sermons last season as a direct response to Alec Baldwin’s remarkable intensity.) Like Den Watts, Jason Colby has had enough of living with a neurotic, co-dependent wife. He longs for a future with the cooler, more contained woman he has always loved (Den’s posh mistress Jan, Sable’s sister Frankie). Like Angie, Sable clings on tenaciously, desperately, lashing out like a cornered animal. There’s an unpredictability, a sense of danger Sable and Angie share — the ability to turn from brittle laughter to white hot fury in the space of a sentence. Sable does it here: “Oh my God, it’s almost funny!” she laughs. “Even now, I am meant to ask you for forgiveness after what you have done to me.” By the time she’s reached the end of that line, she’s angry enough to hurl a book at Jason. Sable’s cut-glass English accent is a lot more refined than Angie’s East End cockney one, of course, but while there’s no evidence that Sable was ever anything but to the manor born (save for Zach’s suggestion a few episodes ago that they each married into money), there’s nonetheless a sense that “Mrs. Sable Colby” is a construct, a facade, and whatever lies beneath it isn’t quite so elegant. It’s a feeling one doesn’t get from her All-American sister Frankie, so effortlessly serene even as she solemnly assures her new fiancee Roger Langdon that she isn’t marrying him to escape her feelings for Jason. Heck, she may have even convinced herself that that’s true.

    There’s a certain irony that the fur coat JR gives to Mandy on this week’s DALLAS should be, of all things, a Russian sable. Behind the smiles and kisses, this relationship has also become a mockery of its former self: Mandy is presently spying on JR for Cliff and JR knows it.

    In the best scene of this week’s DALLAS, Mark Graison gets a touch of the Dex Dexters, barking jealously at Pam over her deepening involvement with Matt Cantrell and his Colombian emerald mine, just as Dex continues to disapprove loudly of Alexis’s financial involvement in King Galen’s Moldavian counterrevolution. We already know that Dex’s suspicions about Galen are justified and the final scene of this week’s DALLAS reveals that Mark is right to be wary of Matt as well.

    In fact, KNOTS and DALLAS each concludes with a similar reveal. In the same way that Pam has recently formed a platonic bond with a man connected to her dead ex-husband, so Cathy strikes up an innocent friendship with saxophonist Sonny who offers a sympathetic ear as she continues to mourn her husband’s death. The ends of this week’s eps reveal that neither Matt nor Sonny has the grieving widow’s best interests at heart. While Matt is in JR’s pocket, the recording device hidden in Sonny’s pocket suggests he is some sort of undercover reporter.

    Elsewhere on KNOTS, the scene that introduces Peter Hollister’s money-minded mother hints that he isn’t exactly who he appears to be either. “I need that cheque. It doesn’t buy half as much as when Galveston first started sending them,” she says mysteriously. Meanwhile on THE COLBYS, Sean McAllister bucks the young-man-pretending-to-be-someone-he-isn’t trend by admitting to Jason that he is really Zach Powers’ nephew.

    Angela and Richard each makes a separate but similar appeal for family unity in this week’s FALCON CREST. “In life, the most important thing is the family and without it, we’re nothing,” declares Angela to Emma, Lance and Christopher. “This is a time for family to stick together, Chase,” Richard tells his half-brother. "Now that I’m married to your wife’s sister, we’re really family ... two brothers married to two sisters — a united family striving together against insurmountable odds!” What Angela and Richard appear to be after is what the Ewings of DALLAS have now achieved. Without any apparent effort or narrative explanation, they have somehow been transformed into a happy, functional family. The nearest we get to conflict during a picnic-cum-barbecue on the Southfork patio this week is Sue Ellen gently chiding John Ross for helping himself to too many cookies. Things aren’t as harmonious when Emma’s fiance Dwayne shows up at an equivalent family gathering at Falcon Crest without Angela’s approval. She orders him to leave, but when Julia (on a one-episode visit from the Convent Magdalena) stands up to her, she backs down — further proof that Angela’s bark is now worse than her bite and that Falcon Crest, like Southfork, is no longer the lion’s den it once was.

    The scene between Richard and Chase is more intriguing. "Together we can crush Angela, everybody in this valley — crush 'em all!” insists Richard eagerly. Once again, Chase coldly snubs his brother's offer of friendship. "Every time I hold my hand out to you, you slap it away,” says Richard, looking hurt. It’s interesting how one’s sympathies go to Richard, the rejected orphan, in such situations, even though one can’t fault the logic of Chase’s argument: “To go into business with a man who can speak so glibly about crushing people makes me wonder about when he might turn on me."

    This week’s DYNASTY, KNOTS and FALCON CREST all boast juicy scenes of confrontation between two women, each following in a different Soap Land tradition. On DYNASTY, Alexis strides into Blake’s office and immediately starts talking to him, even though his chair is turned away from her. In due course, the chair spins round to reveal … Dominique sitting in his place! A crisp exchange of insults, threats and vague ultimatums follows. (“If you persist in pursuing this rather reckless course of action, you better be looking behind you because I’m going to be watching you every step of the way!”). The equivalent scene on KNOTS is the only one of the week to pass the Bedchel test (i.e., it features a conversation between two women which isn’t about a man). This time, it’s Karen barging into Abby’s office (“Don’t bother knocking, Karen, just come right in”), armed with accusations, to deliver what Abby describes as “this morning’s tirade.” (“You couldn’t resist, could you? … You knew I was gonna get that appointment so you went after it yourself … I’m gonna fight for it, with every bone in my body!”). Back on DYNASTY, Amanda follows Elena, aka the Duchess of Branagh, aka the leader of the Moldavian underground resistance, into the La Mirage ladies’ room for a “Keep your hands off my man” showdown. Amanda’s complete disregard for the revolution itself is very funny: “You may be able to fool other people with your political idealism and your love for Moldavia, but you can’t fool me because I know it’s my husband that you want!”

    Maggie and Terry’s scene on FALCON CREST occurs in a more domestic environment, the Gioberti kitchen. Over coffee, Terry explains to her sister why she married Richard: “I have been snubbed, laughed at and called a slut by just about every person in this entire valley. Now I am Richard’s wife, maybe not totally respectable yet, but I’m on my way … Power is the one thing that people understand and I have power.” (This is the opposite scenario to the one on THE COLBYS where Sable promises to destroy Frankie’s reputation: “I know what you think about Frankie — dear, sweet saintly Frankie … The truth is my sister, your mistress, is a tramp … Jason, if you divorce me I will tell the world just what kind of a woman my sister really is.”) When Maggie expresses misgivings about the marriage, Terry gets defensive. “Maybe what you really want is to have Richard for yourself,” she suggests. “It’s no secret he’s always had the hots for you.” “Is that why you married him?” counters Maggie. There’s no reply and the scene ends with several unanswered questions left hanging in the air. There’s further ambiguity later in the episode when JJ Roberts begs his daughter Jordan's forgiveness for the sexual abuse he inflicted on her as a child. “Every day I wake up and realise I lost my daughter and it’s my own fault,” he weeps. It’s a disturbing, pathetic sight, but Jordan is moved (“I never heard you accept any blame for it before”) and they embrace. Then something happens as he strokes her hair and calls her his special little girl that causes Jordan to recoil in horror — it’s unclear as to whether their close proximity has triggered a childhood recollection of hers or a sexual response in him. Either way, it’s a succinct illustration of how terribly damaged both of these characters are. For all the glossiness, superficiality and general lightheartedness surrounding it, there is something about this storyline that rings emotionally true.

    Business trend of the week: secret acquisitions. While Greg Sumner anonymously acquires three banks on KNOTS, all of whom do business with Lotus Point, Miss Ellie turns out to be the secret buyer of the holdings Clayton has had to sell off to keep his main company afloat. Elsewhere on DALLAS, JR surreptitiously sells all three members of the cartel a third of his share of the Marinos deal, each without the others’ knowledge, while arranging some healthy percentages for himself along the way. “In other words, you’ll get all of the benefits with none of the risks,” spells out Sly for our benefit. It’s reassuring to know that at least one DALLAS Ewing hasn’t entirely mellowed out.

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    22/Jan/86: DYNASTY: The Vigil v. 23/Jan/86: KNOTS LANDING: Alterations v. 24/Jan/86: DALLAS: Blame it on Bogota v. 24/Jan/86: FALCON CREST: Collision Course

    “I don’t like watching good people get hurt in the name of Falcon Crest … I will never go back there,” vows Christopher Rossini to his grandmother — but even as one illegitimate Soap Land son turns his back on his family legacy, another emerges to claim what is rightfully his. “Won’t it be great to see me sitting here, finally getting what’s due me — my birthright?” crows Peter Hollister while showing his mother around Greg's office on KNOTS. Adam Carrington echoes this sentiment on DYNASTY. Following his collapse at the end of last week’s episode, Blake Carrington spends most of this week’s ep lying unconscious at Soap Land Memorial Hospital where Adam visits him. "I am your son, a true heir. I am a Carrington and you owe me so don’t you dare die!” he commands, standing over his father’s bed.

    Alexis is concerned about Blake too, much to the annoyance of Dex who complains about having to “wait in line” for her attention. "I’ll leave you to your memories of Blake and your future with Galen,” he huffs. Mark Graison is in a comparable situation on DALLAS as Pam flies off to Colombia to look for emeralds with Matt Cantrell, but he deals with it very differently. "I have to let her get this trip of her system,” he explains to Sue Ellen. “She’s doing it for Bobby. It may be the last trip she needs to take or it may be only the first. I love her, but this is the only way for me to find out if I belong in her future.”

    Dex is also angered when Galen asks Alexis for another $2,000,000 to help him regain his Moldavian empire. Cliff Barnes, meanwhile, eagerly offers the exact same amount to become Pam’s partner in the emerald mine. Alexis and Cliff are both being duped. Galen, who has regained the use of his legs but contains to feign paralysis in order to take advantage of Alexis's hospitality, plans to dump her as soon as he is back in power, while JR uses an unsuspecting Mandy Winger to feed Cliff false information about the mine’s value — Cliff thinks he and Pam are sitting on a fortune when in reality it’s worthless.

    The Carringtons pace the floor of Soap Land Memorial while awaiting news of Blake’s condition just as the Ewings and Cliff did on DALLAS two weeks ago while awaiting news of Jamie's. The scene where Blake’s doctor tells Krystle, aka Rita, the good news (“Your husband’s going to be all right”) plays like a parody of the equivalent scene in DALLAS. Where the Ewings beamed smiles of undiluted joy for Jamie, Rita struggles to do the same thing when this prognosis is actually the last thing she was hoping to hear.

    Rita and Cliff are at Blake and Jamie’s respective bedsides when they regain consciousness for the first time since their ordeals. The scenes that follow, however, are very different. Blake is more frightened, more enfeebled than we’ve ever seen him as he finally realises the truth. “You’re not my wife!” he shouts weakly at Rita, who is possibly even more terrified than he is. In contrast, when Jamie wakes up on DALLAS, Cliff burbles on sweetly about how she’s going to be all right until they’re both in tears. It’s a touching little scene and, at the risk of damning with faint praise, probably the highlight of the episode. Indeed, I find myself rooting for Jenna Wade this week as she withdraws mentally from this strange new DALLAS in which she now finds herself — humming dreamily in an empty boutique instead of lunching with the beatific Donna; insisting on talking about Bobby at the Ewing dinner table when the rest of the family would sooner chit-chat about emerald mines or discuss day-trips to Southfork for disadvantaged kids.

    While this is by no means my favourite period of DALLAS, there are still small pleasures to be gleaned from it. There’s a nice scene where JR drops by Southfork in the middle of a working day, hoping to ascertain why his mother is making unusually large financial transactions. Miss Ellie isn’t giving anything away so he’s obliged to behave as if he’s simply there to enjoy her company. It’s as close to an unguarded moment between mother and son as I can remember. Also, the faded opulence of the hotel in Las Gatos where Matt Cantrell and Pam pitch up at the end of the episode is quite evocative (“What an odd place for the middle of nowhere,” Pam observes) while the dramatic emphasis placed on the warning Matt receives from the local chief of police just before the freeze frame (“The last time you did business in our city, you made many enemies. They remember you well. Be very careful, amigo”) is unusual and intriguing.

    I especially like the dynamic between Angelica Nero and her subordinates, particularly the amused glances she and Grace exchange while the humourless Nicholas fusses over the details of their master plan. FALCON CREST’s Angela now has a Grace equivalent of her own, a deviously efficient Girl Friday known as Miss Jones. As well as their ruthlessness and work ethic, Grace and Miss Jones share the same taste in knowing one-liners. “I’m a woman who enjoys her work,” Grace purrs, referring to her on-the-clock seduction of Jack Ewing. “I do like an incentive programme,” quips Miss Jones when Angela tells her how handsomely she’ll be rewarded for sabotaging Chase’s wine shipment.

    While Ben Gibson hobbles manfully back to work on this week’s KNOTS, Victoria Principal’s offscreen ailment means that Pam remains almost entirely absent from DALLAS. In fact, she doesn’t appear until literally the very last minute when she and Matt arrive in Los Gatos. As if to compensate for the Pam deficit, Soap Land arranges for her DYNASTY equivalent, Krystle Carrington, to have a knock down drag out fight with … herself. Yes, at long last the two Krystles come face to face and immediately pay homage to the show’s own past by knocking seven bells out of each other in Krystle’s attic prison just as Krystle and Alexis did in Alexis’s studio four years earlier. (This act of self-referencing is the DYNASTY equivalent of Bobby being shot in the Ewing Oil offices four years after JR was — while no one on screen acknowledges the allusion, any semi-regular viewer will get the gag.) The fight itself is a dizzying blur of drama, pastiche and unintentional comedy (the dish mop wigs obscuring the stunt-women’s faces), with echoes of '70s sci-fi (Jaime Sommers battling her own double on THE BIONIC WOMAN) thrown in for good measure. Plus there’s the same subversive kick that made the original Krystle/Alexis catfight worth referencing in the first place. The inelegant sight of two DYNASTY women scrabbling about on the floor — hair mussed, legs splayed, clothing torn — serves as an antidote to the very thing that gives the show its USP: the poise and glamour of its female protagonists. The one function the Krystle/Rita fight serves that the Krystle/Alexis original didn’t is to further the plot. Fake Krystle may have been the one who entered the attic when the fight began, but Real Krystle is the one who leaves it (having rendered her opponent unconscious) — only to run into her captor Joel just before the closing titles!

    A week after Sable delivered her ultimatum to Jason on THE COLBYS — “If you divorce me, I will tell the world just what kind of woman my sister really is” — Olivia Cunningham comes up with an equivalent (albeit more clumsily phrased) threat on KNOTS. Having decided she’d sooner live with the Mackenzies than her mother, she tells Abby, “If you force me to go back with you, I will tell any court in the world that you knew that Gary was the father of Val’s twins and you knew that they were alive and kidnapped and you didn’t do anything about it.” Olivia's accidental discovery (she overheard Greg threatening Abby over on the phone) serves two narrative purposes. On one level, it means that Abby’s chickens have come home to roost, and that's great — it’s always interesting to see Abby backed into a corner. On another, it functions as a Maguffin for Olivia to act like any normal fifteen-year-old who wakes up one morning and suddenly decides she hates her parents.

    Likewise, the ongoing tabloid interest in Joshua’s death serves as a dramatic catalyst for Lilimae to behave as irrationally as any real life grieving mother might. This week, she has something of a breakdown in a supermarket when she sees her picture plastered all over the front page of World Secrets. "People in the media have no sense of responsibility,” she complains. "We have got to stop these scandal papers telling lies about our family.” Her sentiments are echoed by Angela on FALCON CREST. “Chao Li, will you take that rag out and burn it?” she requests after the New Globe prints a gossipy article about Peter Stavros becoming a recluse. “The next Howard Hughes,” Lance suggests (or indeed, the next Dimitri Marinos — another Greek shipping magnate who has vanished mysteriously from public view). Angela proves more sanguine about the printed word elsewhere in this week’s FC, surprising Maggie by showing up at her book signing to request an autographed copy of her novel just as JR did at Val's on KNOTS three seasons earlier.

    Child abuse, a hot-button topic in mid-80s America due in part to the likes of Oprah and Donahue, has once again succeeded in penetrating the insulated walls of Soap Land’s fantasy world. While Greg Sumner jokes about being accused of such a crime while babysitting Laura’s two sons on KNOTS, Abby angrily informs the Mackenzies that her runaway daughter is “not some battered child that needs to be protected from a couple of monster parents” — a line that chimes with JJ Roberts’ question on FALCON CREST a couple of weeks ago: “Isn’t this whole abused children thing turning into another Salem witch hunt?”

    When Olivia runs away from home, she has a near miss with a sinister looking man who encourages her to get into his car. (The same thing happened the last time she made the crosstown trek from Gary’s ranch to the cul-de-sac.) This is yet another example, like Robin Agretti’s interaction with the pawnbroker on last week’s FALCON CREST or Sue Ellen’s misadventures during her lost weekend at the beginning of this season’s DALLAS, of how Soap Land's mean streets are paved with predators. However, the houses of the rich and respectable can just as perilous. As we discovered in Season 6 of DALLAS, it was behind such doors that Edgar Randolph molested Barbara Mulgravy, the daughter of his family’s housekeeper, and on this week's FALCON CREST, Jordan Roberts has an even worse story to tell. “His hands, his breath, they’re all over me. I can’t wash them off after all these years,” she tells Greg Reardon, referring to her own father — pillar of the community JJ Roberts.

    When Jordan speaks of the authority figures who failed her when she turned to them for help ("I tried to tell people when I was little, my mother and a counsellor and our minister. No one helped me, no one believed me”), one thinks of the similarly named Jonathan J. Rush on KNOTS — another respected member of his own community, another minister, another father who violently abused his own child. In that case, the abused became the abuser. In this one, the abused became Morgan Fairchild.

    Indeed, Jordan’s backstory resonates strongly with those of her previous Soap Land selves. “He gave me everything as a child,” she remembers, "beautiful dolls, beautiful dresses, a pony … He was the perfect father, so everyone said.” DALLAS's original Jenna and FLAMINGO ROAD’s Constance were both also largely defined by the pampering they received from their fathers — until Lucas Wade died, leaving his heiress daughter with nothing but debts, and Constance discovered Claude Weldon had been lying to her about her parentage for her entire life. And while Jordan’s wilderness period (“I went through a pretty self-destructive couple of years … too much dope, too much booze”) neatly coincides with Jenna’s jet-setting in Europe after she jilted Bobby, PAPER DOLLS was cancelled before we could learn the dark family secret Racine was running away from before she, like Jordan, reinvented herself as a successful career woman.

    That FALCON CREST, often so jaunty and trivial in tone, should prove capable of producing a character as utterly wretched and bleak as JJ Roberts (at least Jonathan J. Rush had his faith) is impressive. While JJ is cursed with a clear understanding of the horror he has inflicted upon his daughter, he continues to view himself as a victim. (“Don’t do this to me,” he pleads after Greg resigns from his political campaign.) In the final scene of the episode, he calls Jordan from his office. After apparently taking full responsibility for what he did to her (“You were just a child … You trusted me and I betrayed that … It was never your fault”), he commits the unfathomably cruel act of killing himself while she is still on the other end of the line.

    When the gun goes off, the camera freezes on Jordan and Greg’s reactions, just it did on Karen and Mack's after Dr Ackerman blew his brains out on last season’s KNOTS. This week, the baby-stealing gynaecologist resurfaces in his other guise of DALLAS banker Franklin Horner. Even though Horner predates Ackerman, such is the sinister impression he made on KNOTS that when Miss Ellie visits his office to request a loan, one can’t shake off the feeling that he’s about to reach across his desk and do something terrible to Mama.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    29/Jan/86: DYNASTY: The Accident v. 30/Jan/86: THE COLBYS: Thursday’s Child v. 30/Jan/86: KNOTS LANDING: Friendly Enemies v. 31/Jan/86: DALLAS: Shadow Games v. 31/Jan/86: FALCON CREST: Shattered Dreams

    This week’s DYNASTY opens with a nifty bit of role reversal as Krystle impersonates her own impersonator in order to escape her kidnapper Joel. She then hotfoots it to Blake’s bedside at Soap Land Memorial Hospital — but how to convince him she’s really the Real Krystle? By recounting an intimate conversation that took place aboard his private jet, way back in the pilot episode, that’s how. Sable attempts a similar move on THE COLBYS in order to rekindle Jason’s ardour. She tries to recreate their first scene together (was it only two and a half months ago?) where she stepped naked out of the bathtub and he dried her off. This time around, however, he hands her a towel and lets her get on with it. Meanwhile on KNOTS, Mack recalls the beginning of that series, albeit unintentionally, when he delivers the male equivalent of Karen’s midlife speech from “Let Me Count the Ways" to explain why he has Jill Bennett’s hotel key in his pocket. (“One day I looked in the mirror and realised much of my life had gone by. The things I dreamed of doing I wasn’t going to do … It’s not about using the key, it’s about having it … It made me feel just a little more alive.") Karen is no more impressed by Mack’s efforts than Jason is by Sable's. Clayton Farlow has more success explaining his male identity crisis to Miss Ellie on DALLAS ("I left a lot of things behind so I could take up life with you at Southfork. I gave up Southern Cross, I left Houston … Farlow Industries is all I have left that I can point to and say, ‘That’s mine’”), even if their “scene from a marriage" takes place in the somewhat unconventional setting of a ladies powder room.

    Elsewhere on DALLAS, Jenna Wade would dearly love to return to the past. “Do you think if I wished hard enough, I could go back to before all the mistakes were made?” she asks Bobby at his graveside. “I wanna go back ... I just don’t know how to get there.” Over on FALCON CREST, the original Jenna, aka Jordan Roberts, has the opposite problem. She is haunted by nightmares of herself as a little girl dancing with her abusive father to a tinkling music box tune. It's like a more sinister variation of Val Ewing’s dream of waltzing with Gary when she was in Shula.

    There is much coming and going at Soap Land Memorial this week. While DYNASTY’s Blake and DALLAS’s Jamie each returns home from the hospital, THE COLBYS’ Constance remains behind, making slow progress after her collision with Sable’s car. Following an altercation on last week’s FALCON CREST when she and Dwayne surprised some bad guys who were after Chase’s wine shipment, Emma Channing is also admitted and, like Constance, diagnosed with a concussion. Over on KNOTS, Cathy is off work with laryngitis — a comparatively minor complaint which nonetheless sets in motion a chain of (somewhat contrived) events leading to the exposure of the undercover reporter in her midst.

    In the meantime, Lilimae continues to brood over the tabloid articles written about her son’s death. “Pretty soon they’ll find something else to write about,” Val assures her. Well, they will if Alexis Dexter has anything to do with it. “KRYSTLE CARRINGTON — LOVE SLAVE!” is the headline she pitches to the editor of the National Informer at the end of this week’s DYNASTY. “There’ll be a stampede to every supermarket in the country,” she tells him. Over on FALCON CREST, Jordan gloomily predicts that the New Globe’s next big front page story will be “THE BIG UNSOLVED MYSTERY OF JORDAN ROBERTS!” after Richard tells her he knows about her father abusing her. However, he promises her he won’t make the information public. (Let us call this soap karma — during Richard and Jordan’s previous incarnations on FLAMINGO ROAD, he took great delight in sadistically rubbing her face in her family's deep dark secrets.)

    With Ben Gibson’s foot still bandaged on KNOTS and Pam Ewing still largely absent from DALLAS (the facially obscured stand-in used for most of her scenes, while obvious, is nonetheless more convincing than Krystle and Rita’s bewigged stunt replacements during last week’s DYNASTY), I find myself on the lookout for other real life injuries and ailments that might have made it onscreen. While Cathy’s hoarse voice on KL certainly sounds authentic, it’s surely too integral to the plot to have been unplanned. The surgical dressing on Miles Colby’s hand, however, is another matter. It serves no narrative purpose and when Zach Powers comments on it in passing, Miles attributes it to an injury sustained during a brawl in the last episode. “I didn’t know I actually broke it until the day after,” he adds as if to explain away its sudden appearance. This suggests that Maxwell Caulfield might have fallen prey to the same off screen Soap Land curse as Doug Sheehan and Victoria Principal. Miles’s fight took place while he was slumming it in a merchant seamen’s bar, looking for evidence that Zach himself was behind the recent oil spill from one of Colby Enterprises’ tankers. Miles’s FALCON CREST equivalent, Lance Cumson, follows his lead this week, posing as a dock worker to find out information about Peter Stavros’s whereabouts. (Well, it’s more plausible than the tabloid reporter currently masquerading as a saxophonist on KNOTS.) By the end of the episode, Lance is preparing to travel to Monte Carlo to question Peter’s son-in-law Philippe, “a high-stakes gambler who doesn't like to lose.”

    Hopefully, Lance will have better luck than Jeff Colby who this week flies to Athens to speak with Captain Lavados, the man whom Zach blackmailed into doing his dirty work, only to find him dead in his apartment. Conversely on DALLAS, Angelica Nero’s accomplice Nicholas flies in from Athens with the news that another shipping tycoon, Dimitri Marinos, is also dead. Angelica’s instinctive response is not dissimilar from the “million dollar spit in the ocean” game that Fallon introduced Krystle to in DYNASTY’s first season (“the poor cut back in hard times — that’s why they’re poor; the rich know that’s the time to spend”). She takes to the stage at Sue Ellen’s charity auction and pledges a million dollars to Graison Research on behalf of Dimitri, whom she assures everyone is alive and well.

    Elsewhere at the party, JR gets the better of Cliff by outbidding him to the tune of $12,000 on a crystal duck which he then magnanimously donates back to the auction. This is a lighthearted variation on the recent art auction on THE COLBYS where Zach anonymously outbid Sable on a prized Matisse painting before presenting it to her as a gift. This week, Sable angrily orders him to take it back after she discovers his nephew has been using Bliss to spy on Jason: “I want your painting out of my collection and you out of my life immediately.” She slaps him, he slaps her, they passionately kiss, he exits the scene and she’s left smouldering in close up.

    Two of this week’s soaps contain a scene where a woman sides with a rapist against his victim. At JJ Roberts’ funeral on FALCON CREST, his wife Harriet blames their daughter Jordan for his suicide, despite being aware of the abuse he inflicted upon her as a child. The situation is a little different for Sable on THE COLBYS. When she accuses Fallon, whom she learns is planning to return to Denver, of deserting her son, she is unaware that Miles had raped her the night before.

    Like Kirby after her rape by Adam in DYNASTY’s third season, Fallon chooses to keep her ordeal a secret, at least for the time being. The viewer is kept at the same emotional distance as the other characters onscreen and so it is hard to get a real sense of her suffering (aside from a flash of anger towards Sable when she tries to persuade her to stay with Miles: “I’m not his property!”). In contrast, when Miles wakes up the morning after the night before, his shame and self-disgust are written all over his face. By Soap Land standards, Miles is a relatively complex figure whereas Fallon, due in part to her recast, her memory loss and subsequent identity crisis, remains something of a blank canvas. Weirdly, this puts the viewer in a position of being able to identify, and maybe even sympathise, more easily with a rapist than his victim. Intentional or not, this sense of imbalance, this moral lopsidedness where we're not quite sure who we’re meant to be rooting for at any given moment, is part of what makes THE COLBYS so fascinating and unique among the soaps.

    Over on DYNASTY, Jackie Devereaux explains to her mother Dominique that she has gotten herself expelled from her Swiss finishing school so that,“I can be near you … I love you and I want to get to know you more.” By way of contrast on this week’s KNOTS, Abby is obliged to wait outside Olivia’s school to even catch a glimpse of her. “I don’t want to talk to her,” Olivia insists. As Abby tries to explain about her participation (or lack thereof) in the kidnapping of Val’s twins (“I didn’t even know about it until after the fact”), DYNASTY’s Sammy Jo attempts to explain her role in Krystle’s abduction (“I was angry and I wanted my money ... but it got out of control.") While Olivia screams in her mother’s face, Krystle tells her niece she’s “so angry with you, I’d like to shake the hell out of you if I thought it would do any good.” However, she grudgingly agrees not to press charges against her and Sammy Jo’s genuine contrition seems to mark a turning point for her character.

    As one Soap Land heroine’s abduction ordeal ends on DYNASTY, another’s begins on DALLAS — and is it mere coincidence that just two days after Krystle’s kidnappers, Joel and Rita, mysteriously disappear (last known destination: South America), Pam Ewing is snatched by person or persons unknown in the jungles of Colombia?

    Also on this week's DALLAS, the disabled pupils from Donna's school enjoy a trip to Southfork. The kids themselves are sweet, their interactions with Ray, Clayton and the horses as cute and unaffected as you’d expect from any unscripted child performers. However, Donna and Miss Ellie’s responses to the children are so gushy and mushy, it kind of kills the sequence stone dead. THE COLBYS, meanwhile, uses the making of Wayne Masterson’s debut pop video to combine Soap Land’s ongoing interest in disabled characters with its current trend for MTV-style music montages. After the shoot, Monica raves about the video to Wayne — “Wait till you see it!” — then catches herself and apologises. Again, Wayne accuses her of pitying him his blindness and asks her to describe the video to him. This develops into a kind of romantic moment between them. Sure, it’s a little hokey, but it’s still preferable to the moments on DALLAS where Miss Ellie gets uncharacteristically teary listening to Donna rhapsodise about how “special” her kids are. While Wayne’s story is, to an extent, about Monica’s well-intentioned but patronising attitude towards him, the DALLAS equivalent simply is well-intentioned but patronising. Crucially, Wayne has a voice with which to challenge Monica’s behaviour (“Come on, girl, quit walking on eggshells because I’m blind”) whereas the Woodgrove kids must necessarily play second fiddle to Donna and her emotions.

    Questions have been raised over the past few weeks regarding the paternities of Jeff Colby, Peter Hollister and Hope Gioberti, but no one is quite sure who or what to believe. (It’s almost as if everyone involved was watching DALLAS when Angelica Nero suckered JR with her convincing yarn about Dimitri Marinos being Jack’s real father and has since realised such things can’t be taken at face value.) On THE COLBYS, Jeff flies to Rome to ask his mother the truth about Phillip’s letter from Saigon. She insists that Phillip “was exhausted, under pressure, sick with malaria” when he wrote it and that he is indeed his real father. Jeff seems satisfied, but the final line of the episode, delivered by Jason, puts a whole new spin on things: “Frankie, I have to know. Is Jeff my son?” “I’m your brother ... Paul Galveston was my father too,” announces Peter on KNOTS. He is somewhat unnerved at how casually Greg accepts the news. (“He said he believed me,” he tells his mother, “but what Greg Sumner says and what he believes are rarely the same thing.”) Meanwhile on FALCON CREST, the jury (or more specifically, the DNA analysis) is still out on who the heck fathered Robin Agretti’s kid.

    There is a broad selection of cultural references in this week’s Soap Land. On DYNASTY, Alexis compares Krystle to Patty Hearst to bolster her argument that she must have slept with Joel Abrigore while he held her captive in the attic. And while Zach Powers assures Sable that, “I’m not Machiavelli, I’m just a simple man who wants a very complicated woman” on THE COLBYS, Mack Mackenzie describes the realisation that “I was never gonna stand in a gin mill in Casablanca and watch Ingrid Bergman walk in“ during his midlife speech on KNOTS. Over on DALLAS, Cliff tells Jamie how “the scene with the mother” in Bambi “gets me every time” — which kind of makes it the Disney equivalent of Cliff’s own “scene with the mother", i.e., the one with Rebecca and the liquorice.

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    05/Feb/86: DYNASTY: Souvenirs v. 06/Feb/86: THE COLBYS: The Pact v. 06/Feb/86 KNOTS LANDING: A Key to a Woman's Heart v. 07/Feb/86: DALLAS: Missing v. 07/Feb/86: FALCON CREST: Gambit Exposed

    “I feel betrayed,” Karen confides to Val. “I feel so violated,” Krystle admits to Steven. Indeed, it’s been an emotionally volatile week in Soap Land, especially on DYNASTY and KNOTS LANDING. While Alexis smashes Dex’s picture against a wall (“Damn you!” she yells to an empty room), Mack breaks a bedside lamp during a shouting match with Karen. While Alexis scratches Dex’s face when his jealousy towards Galen erupts once again, the Mackenzies draw blood metaphorically as each aims for the other’s Achilles heel. “You think you can joke your way out of everything. You think it’s cute,” mocks Karen. “I’m married to the standard bearer — Miss Self-Righteous-Make-The World-A-Better-Place,” sneers Mack.

    Meanwhile, Krystle Carrington and Cathy Geary both behave erratically after finding themselves front page news. "CARRINGTON ABDUCTOR - POLICE STILL STYMIED: Will He Strike Again?” asks the Denver Chronicle. "Evangelist Rush Tried To Murder Songbird Wife,” reveals World Secrets. While Cathy trashes her dressing room after learning that Sonny betrayed her to the tabloids, Krystle startles Steven by frantically pulling dresses from their hangers and throwing them across her bedroom: “You were here, you saw her — did she wear this, or this?"

    The creepy scene where a kindly nanny turns out to be a reporter hungry for a salacious quote from Krystle is DYNASTY's equivalent of the Sonny the saxophonist storyline on KNOTS but told succinctly and effectively in one scene instead of being spread out over several episodes. The nanny’s warning as she is led away by security (“You people in your mansions with your fancy cars and your jewels, you’ve forgotten what it’s like to live in the real world … You cannot isolate yourselves in an ivory tower!”) echoes the sentiments of Susan, LB's real nanny from Season 3.

    By the end of their respective episodes, Krystle and Cathy have each achieved a kind of catharsis. Krystle revisits the attic where she was held prisoner (“I had to know that I could be in this room and be able to walk out … that I’m free,” she explains to Blake), an act which has always rung psychologically true to me regardless of the far-fetched circumstances leading up to it. Cathy, meanwhile, achieves closure by simply punching Sonny in the face.

    There’s more punching when Mark Graison and Matt Cantrell come to blows on DALLAS. The brawl is kind of fun but compared to the recent DYNASTY-verse fights between Steven and Bart Fallmont, Jeff and Adam, and Krystle and Krystle, a little conventional. Outbursts of emotion are no longer permitted at Southfork itself, however, as a grieving Jenna discovers when she attempts to visit her fiancee’s grave one evening. She is forcibly prevented from doing so by Clayton and after she has been bundled upstairs, he and the rest of the Stepford Farlow-Krebbs-Ewing clan discuss how best to suppress such behaviour. Mention is made of “something to quiet her” and “getting her some help.”

    Following the recent run of DYNASTY to COLBYS crossovers, the traffic flows the other way this week, with no less than three characters making the trek from California to Denver. While Fallon gets reacquainted with her relatives, Miles apologises for raping her and Zach drops by Alexis’s penthouse to inform her that she’s the most exciting woman he has ever known — in other words, the same thing he’s been telling her cousin Sable on a weekly basis since THE COLBYS began.

    Dominique, on the other hand, guests on THE COLBYS, but doesn't appear on her “home" show, which is a first of sorts. She also becomes the first person to compete with themselves in a round of Soap Land Song Wars. At the opening night of her new Los Angeles nightclub, Dominique sings two songs, jazz standard “Come Rain or Come Shine” as a solo, and Willie Nelson’s wistful country ballad “Crazy” as a duet with Wayne Masterson. Perhaps eager to prove she still has what it takes (her last musical performance on DYNASTY having ended abruptly when she collapsed to the floor mid-song), she delivers both numbers at full-throttle. While she steamrollers over “Crazy”, all but drowning out her singing partner in the process, “Come Rain or Come Shine” proves more resilient to her take-no-prisoners style. It also benefits from some good old-fashioned Ciji-at-Daniel’s staging, whereby the camera cuts to significant reaction shots of Jason, Sable, Fallon, Miles and Jeff (who are all sitting in the audience) whenever is most lyrically appropriate.

    Back on DYNASTY, King Galen once again offers to make Alexis his queen. She is clearly tempted but insists she loves her husband. Nevertheless, a quasi-coronation takes place when Galen persuades her to try on the royal tiara. As she kneels before him and he places it on her head, church bells toll on the soundtrack. Meanwhile, Sue Ellen is anointed “the new queen of Dallas fundraising” by the rest of the Ewings on DALLAS and Richard Channing predicts on FALCON CREST that “Angela’s days as the great queen are numbered” now that he and Chase have joined forces against her.

    Elsewhere on DYNASTY, King Galen is so outraged to learn Amanda has asked his son Michael for a divorce that he forgets to pretend he’s paralysed and leaps out of his wheelchair. (Constance Carlyle once made a similar faux pas on FLAMINGO ROAD.) Michael is appalled by the deception. "All my life I looked up to you and respected you … You make me sick!” he tells his father, sounding as disillusioned as Miles Colby did when he discovered Jason's involvement with Francesca a few weeks ago. (For his part, Galen’s power mad ravings resemble those of Cecil Colby during his Logan Rhinewood period.) Over on THE COLBYS, Miles’s own marriage to Amanda’s sister isn’t faring any better. When he begs Fallon not to file their annulment papers and she does anyway, one feels genuinely bad for him. Miles’s later line to his sister Bliss — “You ever feel like something inside you pushing you to the edge and you think, ‘Maybe, this time, I’m going over'?” — recalls the demise of KNOTS LANDING’s Joshua. Both Miles and Joshua are (or were) arrogant, self-destructive and guilty of extreme violence towards the wives they claimed to love, yet somehow they remain sympathetic. Following his death, a reporter compared Joshua’s celebrity and untimely passing to James Dean's. Miles also displays elements of Dean’s persona — his quasi-‘50s quiff, a history of reckless driving (Sable describes to Fallon this week how Miles once nearly killed himself in an auto wreck) and a profound disappointment in his father which resembles the father/son dynamic in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE much more than it does the traditional Soap Land equivalent — Miles is openly contemptuous of Jason in a way that neither JR Ewing nor Adam Carrington would ever dream of being towards their daddies.

    “I feel like a drive,” a skittish Miles tells Bliss. "Wanna come along? … Come on, let’s just leave the world behind us, huh?” Miles isn't the only character seeking to escape reality by speeding dangerously down Soap Land’s highways in a red convertible this week. “When I’m behind the wheel of a car,” Gary explains to Jill on KNOTS, "I can’t worry about anything but the road. Everything else just vanishes.” FALCON CREST’s Lance started out the season this way too — as a fast-driving thrill seeker trying to block out the death of his wife. Over the course of the season, Lance has gradually grown more responsible (even playing musical Svengali to Apollonia just as Gary once did to Ciji) while Gary has grown less so. Now, while Gary is driving fast cars and pursuing an extra-marital affair with Jill, Lance is focused on his family. This week, he goes to extraordinary lengths to learn what has become of his grandmother’s erstwhile fiancee.

    And just as Lance flies to Monte Carlo to find out whatever the hell happened to Peter Stavros, JR travels to Los Gatos to find out the same about the recently abducted Pam Ewing. Both trips require a degree of subterfuge — Lance adopts an alias while JR uses the same cover story as Jason did to explain his visit to Frankie in last week’s COLBYS: as far as anyone is concerned, he has taken a quick business trip to Europe. The best moments of this week’s DALLAS come when Sly delivers this cover story to Angelica Nero and Mandy Winger. While Angelica twitches nervously, afraid that JR has somehow gotten wind of Dimitri Marinos’s death and has flown to Athens to find out more, Mandy's dismay when she realises JR didn’t even bother to let her know he was leaving the country is a poignant indication of how far out of favour she has fallen.

    When I first watched this ep, I remember being disappointed by JR’s concern for Pam’s safety: “If something happens to that woman … I’ll never be able to look at myself in the mirror again." I saw it as yet another example of how the Ewings were being softened at this point in the series. I would have preferred JR to derive the same sort of sadistic pleasure from Pam's abduction as Alexis has from Krystle’s on DYNASTY. (This week, she taunts Krystle by speculating about how Blake and Rita got along “in their more intimate moments” together.) However, we do get an enjoyable cat and mouse scene between JR and Rueda, the local chief of police. (“I always like dealing with a man who can't be bought too cheap or too fast,” JR tells him approvingly.) And it’s not as if JR’s desire for Pam’s safe return is entirely selfless: “Nobody who knows how she and I felt about each other will ever believe I wasn’t responsible for this whole damn thing."

    Lance, meanwhile, goes undercover as a high-stakes gambler, complete with fake identity and 007 tuxedo, in order to infiltrate the guarded villa where Peter is being held captive by his son-in-law Philippe. This scheme contains elements of other recent Soap Land storylines. Where Sable and JR have each tried to prove that neither Constance nor Pam is sufficiently competent to manage her own business affairs (making Connie appear senile, tricking Pam into investing in a worthless emerald mine), Philippe and his wife Sofia have taken the even more drastic step of holding Peter against his will till they can force him into signing control of Stavros Shipping over to them. “The company needs a visible leader,” insists Philippe, echoing what Angelica Nero has been saying about Marinos Shipping on DALLAS. After several scenes where Lance feigns drunkenness at Philippe’s card table (whereas JR’s encounter with Rueda is brief but enjoyable, Lance’s with Philippe threatens to drag on forever), he finally manages to rescue Peter — only for the two of them to be apprehended by armed guards just before the freeze frame.

    And so to this week’s Soap Land Paternity Watch: While Sable has a vested interest in proving Jeff isn’t Phillip’s son on THE COLBYS, Abby has a stake in helping Peter Hollister prove he is Greg’s brother on KNOTS. Both ladies strike a deal. Sable promises not to challenge Jeff’s paternity (or Frankie’s reputation) in court on the condition that Jason drops divorce proceedings against her. Conversely, Abby agrees to fund Peter’s bid to prove his paternity in court in return for information about Galveston Industries. Likewise, FALCON CREST's Angela offers to foot the bill for Robin’s custody battle with Cole (who turns out to be Hope’s biological father after all) for no apparent reason other than to spite the Giobertis.

    Mack Mackenzie and Sue Ellen Ewing each delivers a similar line this week, but with a very different meaning behind it. "I don’t know how the world knew what it was doing until you came along,” a bitterly sarcastic Mack tells Karen during their big fight. “I don’t know what the world would even be like without Pam being around,” a super-earnest Sue Ellen tells Jamie in the wake of Pam's disappearance. Miss Ellie’s response to the news, meanwhile, sounds somewhat disingenuous. “I feel as if we were living under a curse — first Jock, then Bobby and now Pam,” she says. It’s the DALLAS equivalent of Maggie Gioberti’s and Eric Fairgate’s “I feel like I’m living in a soap opera” quips from earlier in the season.

    Dietary fad of the week: dessert. On DYNASTY, Alexis suggests to Fallon that they celebrate her return from the dead with a helping of “the most divine chocolate mousse pie" at La Mirage. When a heavily laden dessert trolley pulls up in front of them on KNOTS LANDING, Laura proposes to Greg they order “one of each, sport." Contrarily on DALLAS, Christopher is surprised when Miss Ellie tells him what his daddy’s favourite food was as a child. “He liked broccoli?” he asks in wonderment.

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    12/Feb/86: DYNASTY: The Divorce v. 13/Feb/86: THE COLBYS: Fallon’s Choice v. 13/Feb/86 KNOTS LANDING: A Very Special Gift v. 14/Feb/86: DALLAS: Dire Straits v. 14/Feb/86: FALCON CREST: Finders and Losers

    Bad girls Alexis Dexter and Abby Ewing are both on the receiving end of some unpleasant surprises this week. On DYNASTY, Alexis's latest catty exchange with Krystle results not in her getting the last word, but her breakfast tipped in her lap. Meanwhile on KNOTS, Abby can’t have predicted that this week's confrontation with Karen, where she tells her that Mack is having an affair with Jill Bennett, would conclude with Karen literally laughing her out of her office.

    And that ain’t the half of it. Early on in this week’s episode, Alexis finds her husband and daughter in bed together at La Mirage. She wastes no time in divorcing one and disowning the other. “I have nothing to say you,” she tells Amanda. "Stay out of my life.” Peter Stavros similarly renounces his daughter Sofia on this week’s FALCON CREST (“I have nothing to say to her,” he informs a servant. "See that she leaves this house at once”) in spite of her having killed her husband to save his life. (Given that this is the first instance of a Soap Land wife — and a heavily pregnant one to boot — shooting her spouse, one only wishes it was bit more exciting.) Abby's equivalent discovery to Alexis’s at La Mirage comes when she calls Jill’s room at the Bryant Hotel and hears Gary’s voice coming from the shower. (A Ewing brother taking a shower in the same week that Cliff Barnes utters the line, “It was Bobby’s dream, now it’s Pam’s nightmare” on DALLAS — hmmm, I’m sure one could find some unintentional foreshadowing in there somewhere if one looked hard enough.)

    Abby’s immediate response is to assign a detective to “find out everything you can” about Jill Bennett. "Let me be the judge of whether it’s of any value,” she adds. Over on DYNASTY, Adam Carrington is a little more specific when he likewise contacts a PI after witnessing some intriguing body language between his brother Steven and Bart Fallmont: "I want to know where he went school, who his roommates were, anything you can find out about the man’s personal life.” Meanwhile on DALLAS, JR tells Sly “to dig every piece of information you can on Dimitri Marinos … I want to see every frame of newsreel footage available and read every article ever written about him.” Sly proves a faster worker than either Abby or Adam’s detectives and by the last scene of the episode, JR is wading through newspaper clippings and fast-forwarding through video tapes. My own attention was caught by the clip of a British newsreader who mentions in passing a “closely contested match" where "Worcester defeated Surrey by three runs.” A reference to English county cricket in Soap Land — what could be more incongruous?

    Romantically speaking, it's an eventful week for the DYNASTY-verse women. As fast as Alexis divorces Dex in the Virgin Islands, her cousin Frankie weds Roger Langdon in London. Alexis’s plans to then “marry a king” are quickly abandoned when she discovers Galen has been faking his paralysis all along. Her daughter Amanda’s hopes of divorcing a prince to marry her stepfather are similarly dashed when Dex tells her he still loves her mother. Meanwhile in California, Fallon finally chooses Jeff over his cousin Miles.

    Having broken the bad news to Miles, Fallon rather unwisely accepts a ride from him in his red convertible. In a parallel scenario on KNOTS, Gary has finally persuaded Jill to join him for "a fast stretch" in his red convertible. Pretty soon, both women are hanging on for dear life. Each car’s acceleration is indicated by a close up of the speedometer. Even though Miles’s only climbs from 65 to 80, compared to Gary's 70 to 120, THE COLBYS’ sequence is by far the more thrilling of the two — erratically swerving both oncoming traffic and cliff edges. The shaky camera work reflects the driver’s state of mind. While Gary is having a ball (“Tell me you’re not excited!” he shouts gleefully at Jill), Miles is in a rage ("You’ve just turned this whole world ugly!” he yells at Fallon). When Jill asks Gary to stop ("I’ve had enough, please!”), he does so, laughing that whooping laugh of his the whole time. When Fallon pleads with Miles to do the same ("You’ll kill us both! … Stop the car! Let me out!”), he ignores her. Finally, she pulls the key from the ignition, jumps out of the car and runs dangerously close to the cliff edge to escape him. He chases after her. “Now you know what it’s like to have your life taken out of your control!” he snarls. In a way, this sequence — Miles’s aggression, Fallon’s helplessness, him ignoring her cries to stop — functions as a more graphic substitute for the rape scene in last week’s ep. Whereas this incident appears to draw a line under Fallon and Miles’s relationship, the KNOTS' equivalent serves as foreplay for Gary and Jill’s. “I’m not riding with you,” Fallon tells Miles, before throwing his car keys back at him and flagging down a passing car. “Wanna do it again?” Gary asks Jill and she nods mischievously.

    Soap Land is indeed a fast-paced world and the fact that Steven Carrington, Lilimae Clements and Jenna Wade are each still mourning for a departed loved one (Luke Fuller, Joshua Rush and Bobby Ewing respectively) is deemed as a cause for concern in this week’s Soap Land. “There is such a thing as too much grief, too much pain, more than you are able to bear,” Donna Krebbs informs Jenna with evangelical certainty on DALLAS. Krystle expresses the same sentiment in milder form on DYNASTY. “I know what it is to grieve,” she tells Steven. “That doesn’t mean we shut out the rest of the world forever.” Lilimae has been doing a pretty good job of shutting everyone out on KNOTS recently (“Whenever I go by her bedroom, the door’s closed,” observes Ben), to the point where she hasn’t appeared on screen in the last two episodes. “I’m getting worried about her,” frets Val.

    Like Lilimae, DYNASTY’s Claudia has been a no show for the last couple of weeks. Her onscreen absence, explained by a letter sent to her husband (“It’s goodbye, Adam — don’t try and find me”), is really due to Pamela Bellwood's offscreen pregnancy. Likewise, Pam’s abduction storyline on DALLAS has been constructed to accommodate Victoria Principal's own medical condition. In Pam's absence, the focus of the story shifts to Matt Cantrell who has been chosen to deliver the ransom money to her kidnappers. In this respect, the story plays out like a Colombian variation of “Kidnapped”, the story of Bobby’s abduction in Season 1. Back then, the designated go-between was Cliff Barnes whom the Ewings didn’t trust any more than Cliff and Mark trust Matt now. They suspect he is either in league with the kidnappers themselves or plans to make off with the ransom money ($100,000 — a mere pittance compared with the million dollars that Krystle discovers Rita and Joel withdrew from her account during their kidnapping scam). Eventually, we learn that Captain Rueda, the local chief of police, was the real mastermind behind Pam’s kidnapping. Perhaps one shouldn’t be surprised — the actor playing Rueda also orchestrated the abduction of Field and Constance during their honeymoon on FLAMINGO ROAD. (He got away with it that time as well.) Then as now, Sam Curtis, aka Mark Graison, was part of the rescue team.

    Speaking of actors recurring in similar roles, remember Oscar Stone, the “old coot” whose land Alexis wanted so badly she ended up singing 'See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have' for him in a saloon? Well, he had previously shown up in DALLAS’s first season as Wally Kessell, another “old buzzard" whose oilfields Cliff and the Ewings squabbled over. This week, he appears in FALCON CREST as Carl Beck, owner of yet another much-coveted piece of land. This time, however, there’s a twist — his vines have been infected and the land is now worthless. Facing ruin, he offers to sell out to Chase at a rock bottom price. Instead, Chase takes pity on him and so fools Angela into believing the land is still valuable and that he himself plans to buy it for a healthy sum. Eager to beat him to it, Angela makes Carl an offer of $75,000. He gladly accepts, then hightails it out of the country before Angela realises she’s been tricked into paying a small fortune for a worthless property.

    Elsewhere on this week’s FC, Emma and Dwayne follow the example set by Mark and Cliff on DALLAS by travelling south of the border to investigate a kidnapping — that of Dwayne’s truck Ursula. They even find a characterful police chief of their own with whom Emma flirts into helping them retrieve Ursula safe and sound. It’s a slight but amusing subplot and a lot more entertaining than the episode’s main abduction drama unfolding in Peter Stavros's Monte Carlo villa, which is possibly Soap Land's most boring storyline to date.

    More excitingly, it’s a three-horse race in this week’s Soap Land Song Wars. After her two-song stint on last week’s COLBYS, Dominique crosses back to DYNASTY for an impressive, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink rendition of 'I've Got You Under My Skin'. (It’s supposed to be a casual run-through with a pianist, but she gives it all she’s got.) In contrast, the lullaby Fallon delivers at her son’s bedside is barely audible. Ultimately, however, THE COLBYS’ Wayne has them both beat with a genuinely lovely ballad entitled 'Sweet Monica'. “You were my inspiration,” he tells Monica somewhat unnecessarily.

    Soap Land’s two disability-themed storylines each takes a turn for the personal this week. While blind Wayne kisses Monica on THE COLBYS (after that pretty song, how could she resist?), DALLAS's Donna bonds with a deaf boy at the Woodgrove School.

    On last week’s DALLAS, Angelica Nero ordered Grace to “get close to Jack, get him in bed.” On this week’s KNOTS, a rather more discreet Greg Sumner suggests to Peter that he “cultivate a relationship with Abby — a little social intercourse could prove invaluable to our team." What Greg doesn’t yet realise, however, is that Peter and Abby are already in bed together, metaphorically speaking. While Peter is confident he can play one off against the other, his mother Sylvia is less certain: “I’m not sure I like all this double dealing. It’s dangerous.”

    Indeed, there are examples in this week’s Soap Land of how easily such deceptions can backfire. While Sean McAllister explains to Bliss how he came to spy on her on THE COLBYS ("I thought I was doing the right thing — you, the spoilt daughter of a capitalist bandit, and me, the defender of the environment — except I fell in love with you”), Mandy confesses to the same crime on DALLAS. (“I was hurt,” she tells JR. "I had to punish you … [Cliff] told me there was a way to get even … There’s no excuse for what I did.”) Alas, there doesn’t seem to be a way back for either couple. “I can’t forgive you, not for using me,” Bliss tells Sean. “Maybe we can’t fix what’s gone wrong between us. I’m not sure I even want to,” JR tells Mandy. And when Peter runs into Gary and Jill at the end of this week’s KNOTS, we learn of yet another lover with a secret agenda. “Does he suspect anything?” Peter asks once Gary is safely out of earshot. “No, I don’t think so,” Jill replies.

    Just as the shadow of James Dean continues to loom over Miles on THE COLBYS — it's there as he speeds recklessly through the California hills with Fallon, and again during the electric father/son confrontation at the end of the ep where Jason backhands Miles across the face then immediately regrets it (“I've never hit you in your life, this is the first time, the first time, I’m sorry”) — there is also a late '50s vibe in the way teen rebellion is depicted on KNOTS LANDING. Watching Olivia Cunningham, who closely resembles the young Natalie Wood, defy her mother by applying lipstick on the way to school and then flirting with a Hispanic boy on a motorbike, she's could easily be a character from GREASE or WEST SIDE STORY. While her defiant attitude qualifies her for membership of the Pink Ladies, the reaction of her wholesome cousin Michael when he finds a joint in her bedroom is pure Sandra Dee. “This kind of thing doesn’t go on here,” he tells her solemnly. (There again, perhaps he’s recalling the trouble his brother Eric got into when faced with almost the exact same scenario during "Man of the Hour”, back in Season 2.)

    And this week's Top 5 is …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    19/Feb/86: DYNASTY: The Dismissal v. 20/Feb/86: THE COLBYS: The Trial v. 20/Feb/86: KNOTS LANDING: Irrevocably Yours v. 21/Feb/86: DALLAS: Overture v. 21/Feb/86: FALCON CREST: Flesh and Blood

    The Moldavians may be gone, but pomp and protocol live on in the DYNASTY-verse thanks to arrival in California of the British vice counsel and his wife, Lord and Lady Langdon, aka Frankie and her new husband Roger. The reception to welcome them to Los Angeles is the centrepiece of this week's COLBYS and strongly recalls Blake and Krystle's wedding at the start of DYNASTY. The procession of fancy cars through the gates, the oh so civilised ambience, the characterful bit part players (let's hear it for Mary, "the diplomat's wife who can sense a chilly silence at five hundred paces") — they all combine to create a strong backdrop against which the hushed conversations and stolen moments between Jason and Frankie, Jason and Roger, and an especially sizzling showdown between Frankie and Sable, can play out.

    The latter is one of two long-awaited sisterly confrontations to take place in Soap Land this week. After lurking around the periphery of DYNASTY for the past few episodes, Caress Morelle finally comes face to face with her sister Alexis. Whereas Sable and Frankie's encounter takes place in an ultra-refined public setting, Alexis and Caress’s meeting takes place in private, over lunch in Alexis’s office. On THE COLBYS, the dramatic tension arises from Frankie and Sable's efforts to retain their outward composure even as they level accusations and insults at one another ("Why do you hate me so much?" "Stop playing Bo Peep!"). On DYNASTY, the tension works the other way around. Caress and Alexis each maintain a facade of politeness, even though it is clear they loathe each other. The condescending way Alexis pities Caress ("Darling, my life's been a fairy tale compared to yours") recalls a line Sable delivered to Frankie earlier in the season: "Life hasn’t been very kind to you, has it, poor darling?”

    There are no sisters in DALLAS. Instead, we have Donna and Jenna who have forged, to borrow the title of Maggie Gioberti's novel, a sudden friendship that is as intense as it is unlikely. (At least, it's intense on Donna’s side; Jenna appears to have no say in the matter.) They too have a private conversation which threatens to turn public this week as Donna accuses Jenna during a restaurant scene of lying about attending her therapy sessions. Jenna stands up to leave, but then a weepy Donna grabs her by the arm and begs her to sit down. Jenna complies. "I don't know what's happening to me anymore," she admits. Watching the scene, I kind of know how she feels.

    Indeed, it’s an indication of how upside down this period of DALLAS is that Donna, a character I’ve always really, really liked, due in no small part to Susan Howard’s truthful, no-nonsense approach to the role, has now become so cloying and needy that I almost hate her. Her only real competition for the Most Irritating Person in Soap Land Award at present is her furniture-rearranging accomplice Miss Ellie. “I can't think of many things I like more than taking a long walk and picking flowers," trills Ellie this week. I'd find that line far more acceptable, and believable, from Donna Reed's version of the character.

    Over on FALCON CREST, the original Jenna, Jordan Roberts, is also under pressure to seek therapy, this time from boyfriend Greg who is frustrated by her continued avoidance of any intimate physical contact. KNOTS LANDING's Karen is similarly uncomfortable with the idea of making love with Mack and avoids the act almost as strenuously as Rita did Blake's advances earlier in this season's DYNASTY. When questioned by Mack, Karen isn't able to explain herself any better than Rita did. “It’s … um …,” she manages weakly. Whereas Blake threatened Rita with divorce, Mack pretends he'd sooner watch TV anyway. FALCON CREST's Greg, meanwhile, storms off in a huff after being rejected by Jordan who then transforms herself into her vampy alter-ego Monica. This recalls Val's attempt on last season's KNOTS to turn herself into a sexy man-eater, dragging herself up as if she were a regular TV viewer who had watched one too many Morgan Fairchild movies. “You are beautiful and there isn’t a man in town who wouldn’t want you just the way you are,” she told her reflection. Where Val failed miserably at being Morgan Fairchild, Jordan/Monica proves rather more adept at it - that's if the string of one night stands she's accrued over the past few episodes is anything to go by.

    This week's FALCON CREST delivers its own version of Abby and Val/Verna's coffee shop meeting on KNOTS when Terry approaches Jordan in a night-club, only for Jordan to fail to recognise her. "Sorry lady, you've got the wrong number. My name is Monica Smith," she tells her. "I'm afraid you've mistaken me for someone else," echoes Jill Bennett on KNOTS when a passer by on the street interrupts her and Mack, addressing her as Dottie Simpkins. The woman then apologises and Mack and Jill continue their conversation without skipping a beat. There’s a similar moment on DALLAS where JR meets with Harry McSween at a street-side coffee shop and asks him to dig into Jerry Kenderson's past. It’s the kind of scene we’ve seen a dozen times before, but the director adds a little flavour to it by having a vagrant come up to their table. Harry hands him some change and then he and JR, like Mack and Jill, carry on talking without referencing him. While the DALLAS encounter is of no narrative consequence, the one involving Jill later provides us with a clue as to her real agenda.

    This is the first time we've seen Harry McSween on DALLAS since he apprehended Katherine Wentworth at the beginning of last season. Likewise, recurring PI Morgan Hess makes his first appearance of the season on this week's DYNASTY. It’s never occurred to me before, but with their similar height, age, colouring, narrative function and taste in jackets, Harry and Hess could almost pass for twins.

    While Blake is still looking for the mysteriously vanished Rita and Joel on DYNASTY ("You people have had enough time on this thing ... Try harder!" he shouts at the police), Richard Channing continues his search for the equally elusive Cassandra Wilder on FALCON CREST ("You let her slip through your fingers ... You're fired!" he shouts at his detective). Whereas reformed bad girl Sammy Jo tries to make amends by helping Blake with his quest (hence the return of Morgan Hess), the not so reformed Terry deliberately sabotages Richard’s search by keeping crucial information about Cassandra's whereabouts from him. This leads to Richard and Terry putting their own spin on the Soap Land fight scene. Last week, Krystle tipped Alexis’s breakfast in her lap and that theme continues as Richard pours a glass of milk over Terry’s head. They then proceed to pelt each other with soft furnishings, leading up to the inevitable anger-turns-to-passion moment ( “I despise you!” “I wouldn’t have it any other way!”).

    On this week's DYNASTY, Alexis undergoes a dramatic turning point while she is asleep. It occurs during a dream sequence which is part flashback (a montage of past fights with Dex followed some of her more romantic moments with Blake), part fantasy ("I've never stopped loving you and I never will," Blake tells her during a stylised, soft focus embrace). She then awakens with the realisation, “Oh Blake, it’s always been you, always!” KNOTS LANDING similarly relies on flashbacks and voiceovers to convey what is taking place in Lilimae’s mind. Firstly, we see her in her bedroom where she has spent the last couple of episodes. Her actions — the way she puts down her bible, straightens the bedcovers, looks tearfully at Joshua's photo and adjusts a picture on the wall — have an air of finality abut them. She then comes downstairs where Val and Ben are busy with the twins in the kitchen. Rather than speak to them, she watches them unobserved for a moment before quietly leaving the house. One last hesitation, one last look behind her, and she's gone. It's very much like the scene in Season 4 where Richard Avery leaves the cul-de-sac for the very last time.

    But whereas we never saw Richard again, here we continue to track Lilimae on her journey. Just as DYNASTY's Krystle recently revisited the attic where she was held captive so Lilimae returns to the Mission District where Joshua died, her pilgrimage accompanied by appropriate flashbacks. As she approaches the building from which he fell, she "sees" Joshua's body where it landed in the street. Then she looks up and there's Cathy's billboard as it was on that fateful night. Is she "seeing" this as another flashback or is it there in the present? As with Alexis's dream/realisation (“Oh Blake, it’s always been you!"), there's a sense that the barrier between the character’s conscious and subconscious is breaking down in order to move the narrative forward. As Lilimae climbs the stairs to the roof, her last proper conversation with Joshua plays on the soundtrack, concluding with her line: "I would give my life to make that up to you.” Indeed, the implication is that "giving her life" is what she has planned. However, after reliving Joshua's final moments on the roof and then breaking down, she evidently has a change of heart and returns home to the cul-de-sac. (In the meantime, Val has grown anxious about her unexplained absence in the same way that Miss Ellie and Donna worry when Jenna is late for dinner at Southfork after skipping a session with her psychiatrist.) "I wasn't the best mother to Joshua," Lilimae tells Val and Ben as they are putting to the twins to bed. "I can't do anything about that now ... but there is something else I can do ... I will be the best grandmother that I can be to two little pumpkins." Having made her own pilgrimage, to Bobby’s emerald mine in Colombia, Pam Ewing comes to terms with the past in a similar way this week. “You've been right all along," she tells Mark. "I’ve been following a dream that belonged to Bobby. I guess I had to ... but now it’s time for me to move on." Lilimae and Pam both then pay touching tribute to the men who now serve as Joshua's and Bobby's replacements. "Do you know what makes me the happiest? That you were here to see me through it,” Pam tells Mark. "I lost a son -- I would dearly love to have another son," Lilimae tells Ben. Mark and Ben are both moved. "I don't know what to say," Mark admits while Ben responds to Lilimae with a silent embrace.

    Back on DYNASTY, Alexis has a proposition for Blake. In order to appease environmental concerns about the Carrington/Colby pipeline, she suggests donating "Lake Colby and the surrounding acres" to the state as a sanctuary for wildlife. "If both of our companies did this as a joint venture, it would prove how pro-environment we were and it would totally disarm our critics." (Interestingly, no one on DALLAS raises any environmental concerns when Matt Cantrell explains what constructing an emerald mine in the middle of a jungle entails. "You're practically going to be building a town," Pam remarks cheerfully.) Meanwhile, JR invites Sue Ellen to accompany him to the upcoming oil conference in Martinique. “We used to be a hell of a team,” he reminds her. "We should join forces," Alexis tells Blake. "We could accomplish so much together." In the final scene of their respective episodes, Alexis and JR each makes it clear to their former spouse that what they really want is a reconciliation. "I've divorced Dex. It's over between us," Alexis informs Blake. "Mandy's a thing of the past. It's over with," JR assures Sue Ellen. Neither Blake nor Sue Ellen is interested, but while Blake is adamant ("Whatever we had died years ago and there's no way to breathe life into it") Sue Ellen does at least leave JR with a sliver of hope ("Nothing is going to change between us — until you do").

    "Vengeance can eat a man's guts out ... chewing away till there's nothing left," warns Jason Colby this week. In spite of this, Soap Land has had some exciting end-of-episode vows of revenge recently. At the end of KNOTS two weeks ago, Greg Sumner unveiled his plan to "recover what Gary Ewing stole, Empire Valley, and ... bring down Gary and Abby Ewing." Last week's instalment of THE COLBYS ended with Miles telling his father to "be sorry for that tramp you fell for. I know what she is and I'm going to prove it! Maybe I can't make you help me, but by God I'll make you watch!" This week, it’s Alexis’s turn to join the vengeful fray after Blake rejects her. "I'll make you pay for this, Blake, and I know just the man who's going to help me do it ... your brother Ben. You're going to regret this. Damn you!"

    This week, while Greg is still reeling from the news that Gary has deeded half of Empire Valley to Val's babies ("He what??!"), Miles springs into action on THE COLBYS by instigating the inter-family court case we’ve been teased with since the series began — only instead of Connie’s mental competency, it’s Jeff’s legitimacy as a Colby that is being challenged. But the aim remains the same — to wrest Connie’s half of Colby Enterprises back from Jeff.

    While Miles is out to prove that Jeff isn't Phillip's son on THE COLBYS, Gary Ewing's gift to the twins "amounts to a public statement that you fathered another woman's children" on KNOTS. "You just can't accept it, can you, that Fallon chose me? ... Don't you realise how pathetic this makes you look?" Jeff asks Miles. "You hate your ex-wife so much ... that you decide to humiliate her in public ... You are still so self-centred, you're blind to the rest of the world," Ben tells Gary. Fallon and Val each adopt a more tactful approach when appealing to their ex to change his mind, but to no avail. "You're the cause of all this," Miles tells Fallon. "You never even told me you were having my babies," Gary reminds Val. While Ben finally gets through to Gary with a stirring speech about fatherhood which manages to be sentimental and gritty at the same time ("There's a lot more to being a father than passing genes and a pot of land ... How may teeth does Betsy have? What was Bobby's first word? A father knows ... A father is there"), nothing's going to stop Miles from having his day in court. "I have to do this, I just have to — for me," he explains when Constance suggests a compromise similar to the one Clayton offered Jamie to dissuade her from taking the Ewings to court in last season's DALLAS. “Then God help you, Miles -- God help us all,” says Connie after Miles turns her down. Dex has an equivalent line to Prince Michael on this week's DYNASTY: “I'm sorry for you, Michael — I'm sorry for all of us.” While Dex's words refer to the damage already done by his affair with Amanda, Connie's serve as an ominous warning that the worst is yet to come.

    There are further similarities between the Colby lawsuit and Cliff and Jamie's fight against the Ewings last season. The letter Phillip wrote when he was Vietnam insisting he was not the father of Frankie’s baby serves the same dramatic purpose as Jamie Ewing’s copy of Jason's hand-written agreement splitting Ewing Oil into thirds. Phillip Colby and Jason Ewing are both depicted as unstable, unreliable men, but the veracity of the papers themselves cannot be refuted. Just as the Depression of the 1930s provided a historical context for Jason and Digger's actions, Vietnam in the late '50s does the same thing for Phillip's frame of mind. ("They hated us over there. After two years of that we were all ready to snap," his soldier buddy recalls on the witness stand.)

    Subpoenaed by the prosecution to testify as to her marital fidelity, Frankie is the case's sacrificial lamb, just as Claudia Blaisdel was at Blake's murder trial. "Did you ever cheat on your husband at any time?" she is asked while her present husband Roger sits in the courtroom the same way Matthew Blaisdel did. Will Frankie tell the truth about her affair with Jason the way Claudia did about hers with Steven? We'll never know because before she can answer, a last-minute surprise witness arrives. Instead it being a vengeful ex-wife in a big hat, it's Phillip's medical officer, Captain Timothy Holmes (hey, that's my cousin's name!) who states that medical tests performed on May 23rd, 1957 (hey, that's exactly one year before my parents got married!) revealed Phillip to be sterile. "Therefore, he couldn't have been the father." Cue dramatic music and a succession of stunned reaction shots that seem to go on forever.

    Elsewhere this week, Blake and Sable both attempt to distract their blonde and slightly useless daughters, Amanda and Bliss respectively, from their recent relationship break ups (Dex having dumped Amanda, Bliss having dumped Sean) with offers of trips and jobs. Blake invites Amanda to join him on a business trip to Hawaii while Sable asks Bliss to work at the Colby Collection. "The answer to Hawaii is no ... because I'm in love with Dex," sighs Amanda. "That works for you, Mother, but not for me," sighs Bliss. "You're not happy unless you've someone special in your life," suggests Sable. "What life? I don't have one of my own ... I have nothing to share, nothing to give," replies Bliss, sounding exactly like Lucy Ewing a year ago. Ah, the difficulties of being a blonde twenty-something heiress. In any case, Amanda and Bliss are both back with their unsuitable boyfriends by the end of their respective episodes. "I want you. Only you," Dex tells Amanda. "I love you. I don't care about the rest," Bliss tells Sean.

    Meanwhile on KNOTS, Abby can’t even interest her daughter Olivia in a caesar salad during their weekly dinner date — she'd rather sneak off to the john to smoke grass. Somewhat inevitably, it's her innocent cousin Michael who eventually gets busted after she leaves a couple of joints under his passenger seat. While this storyline continues to echo "Man of the Hour", it's DALLAS's Peter Richards -- another hapless blond pretty boy found by the police with drugs in his car -- whom Michael most resembles here. In contrast to Olivia's slouchy, snarly demeanour, her DALLAS equivalent Charlie could scarcely be perkier or more obedient this week, offering to help John Ross with his homework and dressing up as a Victorian doll for dinner at Southfork. Her sole act of defiance is to decline JR’s arm on the way to the dining table.

    When Olivia ran away from home a few episodes ago after hearing something unpleasant, she sought refuge with the most wholesome couple on her show: Karen and Mack. When little Joseph runs away on FALCON CREST after hearing his parents fight one too many times, he makes a similar choice, turning up at Chase and Maggie's door in the middle of the night. "Olivia is not some battered child that needs to be protected from a couple of monster parents,” Abby subsequently snapped at the Mackenzies and Cole adopts the same defensive tactic here. "What do you think we're doing — abusing him?" he shouts at Maggie. "You bet I think you're abusing him, in one of the worst ways possible," is Maggie's surprising response. She goes on to describe Cole and Melissa as “fighting some kind of a battle to the death.” It's the same metaphor Alexis uses to describe her relationship with her newly ex-husband Dex (“We're enemies on a battlefield"). By the end of this week’s FC, after Cole surrenders legal custody of his daughter to Robin, it looks like his battle is over. "We're lousy parents and we have a lousy marriage," he tells Melissa. She responds by slapping him then telling him that said lousy marriage is over. Likewise on DYNASTY, Amanda finally convinces Michael that their lousy marriage is over when she admits she loves Dex. "I think I always have." Instead of slapping Amanda as Melissa does Cole, Michael takes a swing at Dex, but Dex is too quick and grabs him in a headlock. “I could break you in two. You know that,” Dex tells him. “You already have, Dexter,” he replies. That's Prince Michael of Moldavia's very last line and it's a genuinely poignant one. I’ll miss him — I don’t think a week’s gone by where I haven’t laughed out loud at his specifically English strain of impotence. Still, now we've got THE COLBYS' Lord Langdon to provide that.

    Sudden Friendship, Maggie Gioberti’s thinly veiled expose of her super-soap in-laws, has, of course, much in common with Capricorn Crude, Val Ewing's thinly veiled expose of her super-soap in-laws. In each case, the original manuscript was sent to a publisher without the writer's consent and now, just like its predecessor, Sudden Friendship is well on its way to becoming a national best-seller. As the unassuming author finds herself plunged into the media spotlight, a super-organised, super-enthusiatic PR guy rides to her rescue. Just as Chip Roberts showered Val's book with genuine-seeming praise so Jeff Wainwright does the same thing to Maggie's. Whether Jeff will turn out to be quite so psychotically dangerous as Chip remains to be seen. Given that he's played by Quisto from THE YELLOW ROSE, aka the nicest soap character who ever lived, it seems unlikely.

    Finally, it's the Battle of the B Word with Sable Colby and Abby Ewing each deploying it to maximum effect this week. "You have no right to tell the world that your family means less to you than Val's bastards!" snarls Abby at Gary on KNOTS. "I don't give a damn about your little bastard — or you, you slut!" Sable informs Frankie on THE COLBYS before turning on her heel and walking calmly away, leaving her sister and each of their husbands open-mouthed in shock. Sable wins.

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    26/Feb/86: DYNASTY: Ben v. 27/Feb/86: THE COLBYS: Burden of Proof v. 28/Feb/86: DALLAS: Overture v. 28/Feb/86: FALCON CREST: Law and Ardor

    "I lusted after you before my sister stole you from me,” confesses Caress Morelle to her ex-brother-in-law Blake on this week’s DYNASTY. An intriguing little tidbit to be sure, but one that pales into insignificance next to Jason Colby's courtroom announcement at the beginning of this week’s COLBYS that he fathered his sister-in-law’s child. This revelation, which feels both shocking and inevitable, triggers one dramatic explosion after another, resulting in one of Soap Land's all time great episodes.

    The drama itself is more than matched by some lush, dynamic cinematography. The hilltops and cityscape of LA make for a backdrop as impressive and evocative as the Texan oilfields and skyscrapers on DALLAS. Miles Colby even manages to overturn his car in view of the Hollywood sign. The camera work in this episode is as bold and exciting as Larry Eilikann's at his most insane, but is more stately, more classically cinematic. When KNOTS LANDING is at its best, it will often find ways to subvert and undercut the conventions of the Soap Land genre, both visually and narratively. THE COLBYS, however, is never embarrassed to be a soap opera. Here, it embraces the genre and revels in its melodrama. It's as Sirkian as soap gets.

    Following the revelation of Jeff’s paternity, the Colby family abandon the courthouse, fighting their way past the reporters on the steps outside before scattering in different directions — Jeff takes Frankie one way, Sable commandeers Jason's chauffeur to take her another, while Miles tears off on his own. Jason is left behind, alone and open-mouthed. Finally, his attorney Garrett Boyston offers him a ride home. (If anyone can understand how it must feel to suddenly realise you fathered an illegitimate child years before, it’s Garrett. At some point during the hearing, he somehow manages to cross over to DYNASTY to tell Dominique Devereaux he believes he's the father of her nineteen-year-old daughter Jackie before crossing back to THE COLBYS without anyone in the courtroom noticing his absence.)

    Jason arrives home to find Sable has taken the elephant gun out of the hall closet. "Do you recognise this, Jason?” she asks. "It’s your favourite gun. 'Blow a hole in a man the size of your fist.' How many times have I heard you say that?” This quote can’t help but remind one of Charlton Heston’s famous pro-NRA stance. Likewise, when fellow gun lobbyist Susan Howard’s name pops up as the writer of this week’s episode of DALLAS, one finds oneself looking for any personalised fingerprints she may have left on the script. The tightly structured nature of a show like DALLAS being what it is, there is little room for personal authorial comment, but the episode’s one idiosyncratic touch is in the opening scene where JR's boot supplier shows him a selection of animal skins for his choosing. (“Here’s an old armadillo, would make a good pair of rough out boots!” chuckles JR.) “We have some other skins, very exotic ones,” says the supplier tentatively. “If you’d like to see them, we can arrange it — if you get my meaning” “… I don’t want anything on the endangered list,” JR replies firmly. "I don’t need any of those wildlife fanatics on my back.” It’s tempting to speculate whether Howard is using JR to voice her own opinion on “wildlife fanatics” here — tempting, but also unfair. JR has made similar cracks about vegetarians and homosexuals in the past — it’s well within his character. (In contrast, Alexis is surprisingly enchanted by the kangaroos she encounters during a visit to Australia on this week’s DYNASTY. “I’ve already seen three. They’re adorable!” she gushes — which isn’t to say she won’t be wearing a hat made out of one of them next week.)

    The elephant gun scene on THE COLBYS is the second time in recent weeks where a Soap Land wife has pulled a gun on her husband. However, Sable training a rifle on Jason before randomly opening fire on a flower arrangement is approximately four billion times more exciting than Peter Stavros’s daughter shooting her husband dead on FALCON CREST. The action that follows — Jason chasing Sable through the upstairs hallway, her slamming the bedroom door in his face, him kicking it open — has a thrillingly different feel to the marital disputes we’re used to seeing on DALLAS and DYNASTY. When Blake and Krystle are at odds, a frosty politeness descends over them — it simply wouldn’t do to start screaming in front of the servants — while JR and Sue Ellen’s fights have always been likewise constricted by the unspoken knowledge that Mama’s bedroom is just down the hall.

    “I think I knew. I must have known, deep down,” Jason tells Jeff of their father/son relationship. This recalls what Jock Ewing said to Ray Krebbs in the DALLAS scene where he told him he was his daddy: "I know it’s the truth. I just feel it. I don’t know why in the world I never realised it before.” That, however, is where the similarities between the two situations end. Whereas Ray happily and lovingly accepted Jock as his father ("I want to do what's best for you, that's all I care about”), Jeff does not (“Don’t you ever call me son,” he snaps. "I’ll never accept you as my father!”) And whereas JR and Bobby swallowed their pride along with their bourbon in order to welcome Ray into the family, Miles first disowns Jason (“You may be Jeff’s father, but to me you’re nothing!”) before pushing his newly acquired brother off a cliff at the end of the episode.

    Disowned by both Jeff and Miles, rejected by both Sable and Frankie, Jason is wrong-footed almost continually this week. His authority, both moral and patriarchal, is challenged by his family in a way Jock Ewing's never was by his. Fortunately, it’s an assault that Heston's stature and charisma were built to withstand.

    Jeff and Miles aren't the first pair of feuding Soap Land cousins to learn they’re actually brothers — FALCON CREST's Chase and Richard made the same discovery three years ago. These days, Richard and Chase are partners. That doesn't mean they always see eye to eye. There's a really interesting scene in this week’s ep, for instance, where Chase condemns Richard for intimidating an old man into selling them his harvest, only for Richard to accuse him of hypocrisy. “You tricked Angela into buying [Carl Beck’s] dead vineyards,” he reminds him. "When you do that sort of thing, Chase, you’re just like the rest of us so stop pretending you’re not.”

    Like THE COLBYS, this week DALLAS also ends with characters standing on a clifftop overlooking a beach. Whereas Miles thinks he may have accidentally killed Jeff (his deranged expression in the freeze frame is just great), Angelica Nero and her gang are planning to kill JR and Jack. As a dummy run for what they have devised, Nicholas detonates an explosive aboard a small boat. "And so Dimitri Marinos and his good friend JR Ewing die in a tragic accident," purrs Angelica as the boat is engulfed by flames.

    Nor is Jeff the only DYNASTY-verse character to lose his footing in the middle of an altercation this week -- only when Krystle and Alexis end up covered in mud after tumbling down a hillside, it's played for comedy rather than tragedy. "You stupid bitch!” barks a dishevelled Alexis before staggering amusingly out of shot.

    FALCON CREST’s Maggie and THE COLBYS' Fallon are each presented with some unusual reading material this week. Jeff Wainwright, Maggie’s publicist, asks her to cast a professional eye over his unpublished novel. “I did find some of the imagery a little disturbing,” she later admits. “Oh, great!” he replies with the same puppy dog enthusiasm he had as Quisto on THE YELLOW ROSE. The title of his book, Consumed, pretty much sums up Miles’s feelings towards Fallon. "I'll never let you go,” reads a note he breaks into her bedroom to place on her pillow while she is sleeping.

    No sooner is Pam Ewing back from Colombia than three of Soap Land's chief antagonists also leave the country. DYNASTY’s Alexis flies to Australia to find Blake's long-lost brother Ben taking a shower in the outback while DALLAS's JR travels to Martinique with cousin Jack and the Angelica gang. Over on FALCON CREST, Angela has taken a sudden trip to Italy — or has she?

    While Jack Ewing is surprised to learn he is a dead ringer for Dimitri Marinos, Ben Carrington feigns surprise when Alexis tells him his father has died without leaving him a share of his $500,000,000 fortune. Jack is no more enthusiastic when JR tries to sell him on the idea of impersonating Dimitri than Ben is when Alexis tries to persuade him to sue his father's estate as a way of getting back at Blake. Eventually, both men reluctantly agree to go along with the respective scheme. (Alexis is a particularly fast worker. She manages to fly to Oz, track down Ben, persuade him to join forces with her and then return to Denver — all within the space of eight screen minutes.)

    While Blake dissuades Sammy Jo from moving away from Denver on DYNASTY, Fallon talks Jeff out of moving back to Denver on THE COLBYS. Alexis, meanwhile, is relieved that Caress has decided to go back to Europe. She is therefore dismayed upon her return from Australia to find she has changed her mind and installed herself in the penthouse instead. (Let us call this poetic justice for Alexis moving into the Carrington art studio after Blake’s murder trial in Season 2 instead of returning to Mexico as Blake had hoped.) Over on DALLAS, Mandy tells JR that she's been offered a long-term modelling contract in Canada: “I need to know if I should take it. I need to know if I should leave Dallas.” “Well, I can’t tell you what to do, darlin’,” he replies. "It’s your decision.” Similarly on THE COLBYS, Sable realises the time has to start thinking for herself. "I’ve lived my life looking through your father’s eyes,” she tells Bliss. "I think it’s time I started trusting my own."

    While Jason acknowledges Jeff as his son in the opening scene of THE COLBYS, Cole bids farewell to his daughter Hope in the opening scene of FALCON CREST. He also separates from his wife Melissa. “It's over, it's really over,” he says of their marriage. Following the recent break-ups of Dex and Alexis, and Amanda and Prince Michael on DYNASTY, that means that of the eight Soap Land couples who got married last season, only two are still together. One of those is Cliff Barnes and Jamie Ewing who, ironically, got married for all the wrong reasons, while the other is Lucy Ewing and Mitch Cooper who have the unfair of advantage of no longer living in a soap opera. Speaking of Lucy and Mitch (which nobody in Soap Land has for a while), the subject of their wedding triggers an emotional outburst from Jenna during this week's session with her psychiatrist (played by Mack Mackenzie’s old buddy Tom Jezick, no less) and it emerges that the events of that day somehow hold the key to her depression.

    Over on FALCON CREST, the psychological developments of Jenna Mk 1, Jordan Roberts, are keeping pace with those of Jenna Mk 3 rather neatly. Jordan's equivalent emotional trigger is a man’s tie which she finds in her apartment but can’t account for. “I don’t know what’s happening to me,” she tells Greg Reardon. "I think I’m losing my mind … I need your help.” This is a direct echo of Jenna Mk 3’s plea to Donna in last week’s DALLAS: “I don’t know what’s happening to me anymore. I’m so confused … Help me." Whereas Donna’s weirdly intense concern for Jenna’s welfare is somewhat grating, Terry’s equally out of nowhere fascination with Jordan’s double life, to the point where she hires a private detective to keep tabs on her, is much more fun.

    Speaking of Donna, it's interesting that in her first DALLAS script, Susan Howard should have relegated her own character to the kitchen for the week — baking cookies in one scene, preparing lunch with Miss Ellie and Sue Ellen in another. In fact, Donna, once the most career-oriented of Ewing wives, prepares more meals in this one ep than Pam and Sue Ellen have in their entire Southfork tenures combined.

    The opening episode of this season’s DYNASTY was notable for being the first not to include Alexis since her arrival in Denver five years earlier. More recently, there’s been the first ever episode of DALLAS not to include Pam. Both absences were the result of unexpected real life events (a last-minute contract negotiation, an illness) and each was explained away on screen by a hastily concocted hostage storyline. This week, Angela Channing fails to appear on FALCON CREST for the very first time. I’m unaware of any behind-the-scenes reasons for her absence, but FC comes up with a far more ingenious way of dealing with it than DYNASTY or DALLAS did with their equivalent situations. When Angela disappears with Peter on the day the sheriff comes to arrest her for arranging the hi-jacking of Chase’s truck, the assumption is that she's gone on the lam. Then later Peter reappears brandishing Angela’s power of attorney, explaining that they eloped to Italy to get married and that Angela has remained behind on business. The end of the episode reveals yet another twist when Lance discovers Angela’s passport in her bureau. “Grandmother’s not in Italy. Not without this!” he concludes.

    “He breaks all the rules, but I’m involved. I can’t put it down,” says Maggie of Jeff Wainwright's novel. Broadly speaking, the same critique might apply to FALCON CREST itself. An ongoing saga full of throwaway plots, it shows little regard for the normal Soap Land conventions. When DALLAS does a storyline about an inter-family court battle, for example, it dominates an entire season. When FALCON CREST does the equivalent — as it did when Angela sued Lance over his decision to sell the New Globe back to Richard — it lasts but a handful of scenes and is never mentioned again. Who could have predicted therefore that the “scheme of the week” storyline of Angela hi-jacking Chase’s wine should turn out to have major repercussions, not only for Angela but for the rest of the characters? Emma now finds herself caught in a Pam Ewing-style conflict of loyalties between her family and the man she loves. (“It makes me wonder if you really don’t enjoy her beating up on you,” says Dwayne.) This kind of narrative haphazardness — one can never be sure which of Angela’s, Richard’s or even Chase's schemes will be forgotten and which will come back to haunt them — is part of what makes FC unique among the soaps.

    With FALCON CREST in the ascendant, DALLAS slips to last place in my Top 4. Whenever three or more members of the Farlow-Krebbs-Ewing clan are gathered together at Southfork, one gets the eerie feeling that the show has been taken over by a group of blandly smiling replicants. However, there is still a surprising amount to enjoy. The shifting nature of JR's relationship with Angelica Nero, from business partners to lovers to co-conspirators to cat-and-mouse opponents and now to something more deadly — has been great fun to observe. Now that Mandy Winger is no longer the breathy object of desire she was before JR dumped her, she’s actually more vulnerable and sympathetic than ever. Likewise, the enigmatic Grace has grown increasingly lovely and strange and sad since falling for Jack. And it's reassuring to see that Sue Ellen, for all her newfound sense of responsibility and disconcertingly blonde hair, still enjoys getting under JR's skin. (This week, she delights in once again pointing out his Achille’s heel: “You always want what you can’t have.”) Even Jenna’s insistence on mourning Bobby in defiance of the Southfork robots seems admirable. Best of all, Pam's ongoing conflict between her relationship with Mark and her sense of obligation towards Bobby's memory is both believable and touching.

    1 (1) THE COLBYS
    2 (5) FALCON CREST
    3 (3) DYNASTY
    4 (4) DALLAS
     
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