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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    14 May 87: KNOTS LANDING: Cement the Relationship v. 15 May 87: DALLAS: Fall of the House of Ewing v. 15 May 87: FALCON CREST: Desperation

    It’s season finale time and on each show, a central character is attempting to cover up and/or get away with a major crime.

    KNOTS LANDING’s Abby, believing that her daughter Olivia has killed Peter Hollister, spends most of the episode trying frantically to hide all evidence of the murder, including the body itself, while simultaneously covering both Olivia’s tracks and her own. She’s in a comparable position to DYNASTY’s Alexis back when she discovered son Adam was poisoning Jeff Colby, but whereas Alexis allowed herself the luxury of panicking, Abby must keep a cool head. In fact, much of the pleasure of the instalment comes from watching her think on her feet and deal with each new complication as it arises. From dragging Peter’s corpse into the DJ booth in the Lotus Point clubhouse, only for his foot to trigger the switch that operates the turntable, thereby causing loud music to suddenly burst through the speakers, to digging up the body she has already buried in order to retrieve Peter’s car keys, there’s a rich seam of Hitchcockian black comedy running throughout the ep.

    In contrast to KNOTS, which is as carefully plotted as Abby is thorough, the FALCON CREST finale is somewhat slapdash, reflecting Melissa’s ill-thought through scheme to flee the country with Chase and Maggie’s baby. Whereas the sight of the petite Abby struggling under the weight of Peter’s body as she attempts to bury it contributes to the tension (and humour) of her situation, FC offers no such attention to detail. The baby Melissa is running around with is clearly a fake and she is able to physically overpower the bigger, stronger Dan Fixx (to whom she has stupidly confided her plan) whenever the storyline requires. (That said, the stunt where Dan climbs from his moving motorcycle into the back seat of Melissa’s speeding car is pretty darn cool.)

    Over on DALLAS, with the government still breathing down his neck, JR looks for a way to bury the proof of his involvement with BD Calhoun. He meets again with his Deep Throat contact, but realising in the nick of time that he is being set up, makes his excuses and leaves. “I nailed the Abscam people, I’ve nailed senators, congressmen. How the hell did this Texan get off the hook?” complains his would-be entrapper. “This was just gonna be the icing on the cake anyway,” his associate assures him. “We got enough to nail this guy.”

    Indeed, whereas Abby’s and Melissa’s luck holds out almost until the end of their respective episodes, JR is pretty much doomed from the outset. This brings us to Donna Krebbs’ last scene of the series. Senator Dowling comes to her with the bad news: “The charges are coming in and they’re gonna bury the Ewings.” However, there is hope. “Justice can be served in a number of ways,” he explains. “Not everyone’s out for blood.” For instance, he could try to persuade the parties involved to come up with an alternative deal that doesn’t involve jail time for the Ewing boys. The implication is that Andrew will do this if Donna wants him to. “This doesn’t have anything to do with me anymore,” she tells him, almost pleadingly, as if she does not want to be given this responsibility. “Well, you can tell me how you feel,” he persists. “I think a thousand years behind bars would be just great for JR Ewing,” she replies, “but I don’t want to see the family hurt.”

    No previous character has been written out of Soap Land in quite the way Donna has. She moved away from Dallas and the Ewings some fifteen episodes ago which is when, theoretically, her story should have ended. Instead, the show travelled with her to Washington and has, in effect, watched over her until she has become settled in her new life. Now we know that she’s happy (“I think I’m very fortunate to have you, Andrew Dowling”), we can leave her there. However, there’s something poignantly open-ended about the fact the Ewing brothers will never know they have her to thank for keeping them out of jail.

    Two-thirds of the way through the episode, Ewing Oil is lost. What’s so striking is that this hugely significant moment comes not with a bang — with the DALLAS equivalent of Joan Collins standing atop a staircase gloating about the fact that she’s destroyed JR once and for all — but with a whimper, in a poky little office where some pissed-off day player informs JR and Bobby that the only way for them to stay out jail is to hand over one third of the company’s two billion dollar fortune. “Ewing Oil would be required to divest itself of all assets [including] the Ewing building … and the name must be retired.” There are no fireworks, no sentimentality. Harve Smithfield’s insistence that the Ewings are “patriotic American citizens” cuts no ice. The family’s credibility is down the crapper, and it’s really very satisfying.

    Actually, the Joan Collins moment comes in the penultimate scene when Jeremy Wendell shows up at Ewing Oil to deliver his equivalent of Alexis’s “Take this junk and your blonde tramp and get out of my home” speech to JR: “Take your boy and get out of my building … and take this eyesore with you.” The latter refers to the portrait of Jock he starts to remove from the wall. Instead of rushing up the staircase to throttle Jeremy as Blake did Alexis, JR manages to stop his opponent dead with a bark: “WENDELL! You touch that painting and I’ll kill you where you stand.”

    Back on KNOTS, Abby has buried Peter on the construction site of the children’s playground at Lotus Point. Construction then continues, the playground is finished and it looks like she’s got away with it — until the final scene when Karen notices a crack in the cement. “I hope it’s a settling crack, or else it could be structural … What do you think, Abby?” she asks. The season ends before Abby can reply.

    Elsewhere on KNOTS, Val has an eerie presentiment about the missing Ben, almost as if she has read next season’s script in advance. “I’m gonna be waiting by that phone tomorrow night at nine and the next night and every single night after that, hoping that I am wrong, but he won’t call because he’s not coming back,” she tells Lilimae.

    Watching these episodes in hindsight makes one even more precognitive than Val. One already knows that this is the last week we’ll see Victoria Principal or Chase Gioberti on screen, and so their scenes carry an extra weight. Upon hearing Pam’s final, reassuring words to Christopher (“You’re our son and you’ll always be our son”), one mentally fast forwards twenty-seven years to Jesse Metcalfe learning about her death on New DALLAS.

    At the end of the episode, Pam gets the news she’s been waiting for. “The doctor says everything looks fine. He thinks I can carry a baby the full term,” she tells Bobby over the phone just seconds before her car drives into a truck and explodes. (Even though I know it’s coming, the suddenness of the collision still shocks.) In a way, this is a variation of what happened at the end of “Swan Song”: Pam is too happy, she is flying too close to the sun — and so she must burn.

    Chase is also happy on FALCON CREST (missing baby notwithstanding) and he tells Gabrielle that he’s looking forward to “planning our future together.” However, it’s his vow to Angela that really resonates. “I’ll be haunting your every move,” he tells her.

    As well as being the most meta Soap Land season thus far, 1986/7 has also been the year of the flashback. KNOTS’ contribution has been the saga of Young Mack, Young Anne and Young Greg set in New York, 1967, which has been a rich ongoing thread spanning the entire year. The casting was creative too — Anne played by her onscreen daughter, Greg by his offscreen son and Doug Savant giving a spot-on version of Mack. DALLAS and DYNASTY, meanwhile, each flashed back to an iconic scene from their own backstory: Bobby and Pam’s 1978 wedding in New Orleans and Blake confronting Alexis in 1964 over her affair with Roger Grimes. On these occasions, the original actors gamely played younger versions of themselves. Now FALCON CREST does something even more inventive by flashing back to a young Angela Channing played by a young Jane Wyman (in actuality, a clip from her 1951 movie, The Blue Veil) for a scene in which her doctor tells her that her baby has died. Along with Anne and Mack dancing to ‘Dedicated to the One I Love’ on KNOTS, it’s the most pleasingly meta moment of the Soap Land year and helps sell the huge revelation that Angela’s firstborn child was … Richard Channing. (“He didn’t die. Douglas and Jacqueline Perrault stole him to hurt you. They faked the death certificate and sent him off to be raised in Europe. The boy grew up fed on hate.”) The loss of Ewing Oil may be what today’s TV kids call a game-changer, but Richard as Angela’s son? That’s the biggest Soap Land bombshell, like, ever.

    The final scene of FALCON CREST contains several familiar-seeming moments. First, Melissa’s car plunges into the water and sinks just as Alexis’s did on DYNASTY last week. Then Chase and Richard dive in after her, just as Jeff Colby did to save his mother in the penultimate episode of THE COLBYS. Then Maggie, waiting anxiously on the pier, wraps up the season by re-enacting Val Ewing’s slow-motion head-spin from the finale of KNOTS Season 6.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (2) DALLAS
    2 (1) KNOTS
    3 (4) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2018
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  2. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    30 Sep 87: DYNASTY: The Siege (2) v. 01 Oct 87: KNOTS LANDING: The Trouble with Peter v. 02 Oct 87: DALLAS: The Son Also Rises v. 02 Oct 87: FALCON CREST: Opening Moves

    At the end of last week’s DYNASTY and DALLAS, Blake Carrington entered the Carrington mansion to find his entire family had disappeared while Bobby Ewing discovered his son Christopher was missing from Southfork. Who will be the first man to track down his loved ones? While it takes Blake eighteen screen minutes to trace the remaining Carringtons to the old Lankershim/Blaisdel drill site where Matthew is still holding them hostage, Bobby learns within six screen minutes that Christopher has hitched a ride to Soap Memorial Hospital in the hopes of seeing his mother.

    During the DYNASTY siege, the Carrington servants confront their own mortality. “Oh Gerard, I don’t think we’re ever going to get out of here,” whispers Jeanette before lamenting all the things they had talked about doing but never gotten round to (“a Sunday afternoon picnic … ice skating at Christmas”), presumably because their lives revolve around serving their rich masters. Similarly, as Chao Li lies at the bottom of the FALCON CREST staircase after taking a Clayton Farlow-ish tumble at the end of last season, his priority is not himself but his employer’s daughter Emma, currently teetering on the edge of the roof in a white nightdress as if she was Joan van Ark in a remake of “Three Sisters”. Things aren’t quite so extreme for Phyllis on DALLAS, but when Bobby gives her the go-ahead to start furnishing his new offices, she nonetheless breaks into a smile of disproportionate joy.

    Falling down stairs isn’t the only thing Clayton and Chao Li have in common. Each refuses to take medical advice this week. “It’s my body and my life!” insists Clayton after being warned against over-exerting himself. “It’s my body! I won’t allow it!” echoes Chao Li when his doctor tells him surgery is “unavoidable”.

    DYNASTY’s Morgan Hess becomes the latest character to exhibit signs of soap fatigue this week when he refuses to fulfil his primary dramatic function — in this case as a money-hungry private eye. “Why don’t we forget it?” he suggests when Alexis orders him to find the man who saved her life in last week’s episode. “You know, every time I get involved with you, I end up in nothing but trouble … Sometimes the bucks just aren’t that important.” Hess’s DALLAS equivalent, Harry McSween, reacted similarly last season when JR told him to dispose of Garrett Gordon’s body and, for the first time, he refused to take orders. Just as JR was able to change Harry’s mind, Alexis wins Hess round by admitting that this is “a personal thing, an affair of the heart.” JR similarly opens up when Harry reappears on this week’s DALLAS, explaining his decision not to hang Jock’s painting in his new office until “I do something he’d be proud of.” But while JR is candid about some things, he is less forthcoming about others. “It would help if I knew why you wanted all of this,” Harry ventures, regarding his latest assignment. “All you need to know is that you paid for your last house in cash,” JR replies tersely. Over on FALCON CREST, Angela sends out similarly mixed messages to her consigliere, Jay Spence. First, she entrusts him with the highly sensitive revelation that Richard Channing is her son, but then blackmails him over an unspecified marital infidelity into making sure Richard never finds out: “I want that evidence buried so deep it’ll take another earthquake to dig it up.”

    During his discussion with Steven about AIDS at the end of last season, Blake painted a grim view of the outside world: “I’m worried about you being out in that kind of a world … I don’t want to see you die.” This week, Matthew suggests to Steven that the world outside is not as dangerous as the one he is currently living in. “You can’t survive in Blake Carrington’s world,” he tells him, “a jungle where men kill each other for sport or gain or survival.” Whereas Blake begged Steven to stay in Denver, Matthew asks him to accompany he and Krystle to “a place your father never allowed you to know … a good place, no war, no greed.”

    Is Matthew talking about the jungles of Peru or somewhere more otherworldly? Since his return, we’ve seen him endure a series of painful-looking headaches. As this is Soap Land where a headache is never simply a headache, might we assume that he is dying and this whole escapade has been some kind of elaborate suicide mission? Speaking of unexplained symptoms, Laura Avery suffers a slight dizzy spell on KNOTS. While in the real world, this could easily be the result of low blood pressure, the ominous musical score suggests otherwise. Could Laura’s light-headedness be somehow connected to the news that she has reestablished communication with her ex-husband?

    Yes, following Matthew Blaisdel and Katherine Wentworth, Richard Avery is the third character from Soap Land’s past to resurface unexpectedly in recent weeks (albeit offscreen). Just as Katherine insists on this week’s DALLAS that she has seen the error of her ways (“Bobby, I’ve changed … I was sick before. A sick person can get better … I’m me now”), Richard has apparently also turned over a new leaf. “I really think he’s cleaned up his act,” says Laura. “Yeah, and I’m Pope John,” Greg retorts. Equally cynical about Katherine’s claim, Bobby challenges her to turn herself over the authorities “and give up the plush life you’ve been leading in Europe.” “Bobby, my life has been anything but plush,” she replies.

    If anyone in Soap Land has been leading a plush life in Europe it’s the mysterious French woman we are introduced to in this week’s FALCON CREST via an impressive montage sequence: an establishing shot of London (Big Ben, the House of Parliament) followed by a woman, her features obscured, in a luxurious apartment, stepping out of her bath then plunging her face into an ornate bowl of ice. We see a maid setting out her clothes then lighting her cigarette, followed by an expensive perfume bottle smashing to the floor as the news of Chase Gioberti’s death is announced by a radio newsreader with a cut-glass English accent. (Would the news of Chase’s apparent demise really make the morning news on the other side of the Atlantic? For the purposes of this montage, yes, dammit, it would.) Finally, the camera pans across the room to a signed photograph of a poignantly youthful, beardless Chase.

    Having made her way to San Francisco (by private jet, inevitably) Mysterious French Woman checks into the Del Oro Spa. “I won’t be staying long,” she declares, as two full luggage carts are wheeled on behind her. C’est très Dominique Devereaux — only this time it’s not just the name that’s French-sounding. Whereas Dominique waited for a few episodes to land her shock pronouncement on Blake (“We have so much in common — our blood, our genes, our daddy”), Mysterious French Woman lets Maggie have it straightaway: “You may be Chase Gioberti’s widow, but I own you — lock, stock and vineyard.”

    Chase’s “probable” drowning dominates this week’s FALCON CREST as Peter Hollister’s murder does KNOTS. When questioned by the police, most KL characters are keen to distance themselves from Peter. “I didn’t know the guy personally,” says Gary. “I didn’t really know him — I mean, not personally,” echoes Karen. “I can’t say that I was intimately involved with every aspect of my brother’s affairs,” adds Greg. Conversely, we see the news about Chase impact people all over the world — a past amour in London, a wartime buddy in North Africa, an indolent daughter in Morocco.

    Gaining access to Pam Ewing’s last will and testament was relatively straightforward for JR on last week's DALLAS — all he needed to do was blackmail a nameless underling over some unknown misdemeanour. When it comes to sneaking a peek at Peter’s and Chase’s wills, Greg and Richard Channing do not find it so easy. Greg fails to persuade his attorney to break the law and show him the relevant documents. (The lawyer does reveal this much: “It seems Mrs Ewing owns slightly more than half of your brother.”) Richard, meanwhile, has henchman Garth break into Chase’s office to steal what appear to be the pertinent files, only to find a handwritten note from Chase instead. “Guess I’ve always been one step ahead of you,” it reads.

    When JR learnt that Bobby would gain control of Pam’s fortune in the event of her death, he decided that the best strategy would be to make nice to his brother. Greg takes the opposite approach: “Abby figures she’s gonna inherit a small fortune, but don’t bet your mortgage on it. It’ll be a cold day in hell before that woman sees a penny.” To that end, he tries to pin Peter’s murder on her: “Something good ought to come out of all of this and hanging Abby Ewing out to dry might just make Peter’s death seem worthwhile.” Richard also takes action — he summons John Remick, that old soldier pal on the North African frontline, to the Tuscany Valley to fulfil his duties as the executor of Chase’s estate.

    Back on DALLAS, even as JR tries to take advantage of Bobby’s crisis, he still insists that his gift of a new office came “from the bottom of my heart”. On FALCON CREST, Richard exhibits a similar duality towards Chase. Even as he schemes to gain control of his sometime cousin-sometime brother’s estate, he still refuses to stop looking for him. (“What do you mean you’re giving up the search? … I’ll hire my own damn navy if I have to!”) “I don’t know why I get so damn sentimental about family. I sure as hell never had any reason to,” he tells Garth ruefully before suddenly losing control and smashing a picture frame.

    Maggie’s reaction to the loss of Chase is just as intriguing. It mirrors Val’s attitude to Ben’s recent disappearance on KNOTS. Both women seem almost eager to believe their husbands have gone forever. “I don’t wanna be filled with false hope,” Maggie insists, even as the search for Chase continues. “Last night I had this feeling … an emptiness, a coldness … Chase is probably dead. I need to come to terms with that.” This odd trend flies in the face of Soap Land convention. Usually when a soap character — be it Jock Ewing, Mark Graison, Steven, Fallon or Val’s twins — is presumed dead, those closest to them simply refuse to accept it. Val and Maggie’s behaviour could be another version of soap fatigue — worn down by all the traumas they have suffered over the years, it’s simply become easier to assume the worst.

    Maggie is the most compelling Soap Land character at present. In one fell swoop, she finds herself reunited with her lost baby, in love with Richard and in mourning for Chase. While juggling these different emotions, she has gone from being balanced and reliable to volatile and unpredictable. When John Remick offers his help, she is suspicious. When Angela offers her condolences, she is hostile (“You come in here, you expect me to embrace you? As far as I am concerned, your hands are as bloody as Melissa’s … You turned your back on Chase a long time ago. Don’t you think I’m ever gonna forget that”) and when Chase’s grieving girlfriend Gabrielle comes calling with an olive branch, she’s even more coldly dismissive than Jenna was towards Pam at the end of last season’s DALLAS. “I am not your friend. I am never going to be … Maybe in time, I will learn to forget you,” she informs her briskly, showing her the door.

    While this week’s DALLAS concludes with a pleased-looking JR hanging up Jock’s portrait following his first meeting with Casey Denault, the final scenes of the rest of the soaps each focus on a tense gathering of characters. Alexis joins Blake outside the bunkhouse for the climax of the siege on DYNASTY, everyone but Val and Lilimae convenes at Greg’s ranch for Peter’s memorial service on KNOTS, and Richard meets with Angela for a poolside summit at Falcon Crest to discuss “the interesting repercussions” of Chase’s death.

    Each of these scenes culminates in an act of violence — Steven stabs Matthew to save Blake and Krystle, Abby strikes Gary when he accuses Olivia of killing Peter, and Angela’s pool man tries to shoot Richard (Jay Spence’s somewhat drastic way of ensuring Richard never learns who his real mother is). This puts Angela in the peculiar position of saving the life of the son she is trying to deny. “Tell him, Mother. Tell Richard who he really is,” urges Emma as the episode ends.

    Back in DYNASTY’s first season, when relations between Steven and Blake were at their worst, Matthew became something of a surrogate father for Steven. If one thinks of Blake and Matthew as Steven’s two fathers, then perhaps there’s something symbolic about the fact that Steven ends up killing Matthew — as if he were killing the part of himself that Matthew represents (the Al Corley part, perhaps). Nor is that the only moment on this week’s DYNASTY that might be read metaphorically. Directly after Fallon flashes back to her UFO experience, she tells Jeff that she wants to move to Denver — almost as if her alien abduction and THE COLBYS’ cancellation are one and the same thing. There is literally no going back after that.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    07 Oct 87: DYNASTY: The Aftermath v. 08 Oct 87: KNOTS LANDING: Under Pressure v. 09 Oct 87: DALLAS: Gone with the Wind v. 09 Oct 87: FALCON CREST: Obsession, Possession

    It’s Flashback Central on this week’s DYNASTY. With Matthew’s words from last week echoing in his ears (“You can’t survive in Blake Carrington’s world!”), Steven drives dangerously close to the edge of a cliff, Fallon flashes back to her alien encounter yet again as she plucks up courage to recount the experience to Jeff, and Alexis’s preoccupation with the Mystery Wood-Chopping Man manifests itself in her reliving their encounter from the season opener.

    Whereas Steven becomes withdrawn and depressed after killing Matthew, KNOTS LANDING’s Olivia grows increasingly nervy and erratic in the aftermath of Peter Hollister’s murder, for which everyone — her mother, the viewers and, by the end of this week’s episode, even the police — thinks she is responsible. Their respective parents are concerned, but while Blake and Alexis cordially agree to differ over whether or not Steven requires psychiatric help (“Why don’t I talk to him? Maybe he’ll confide in me,” Alexis suggests), Gary infuriates Abby when he goes against her wishes and hires Olivia a defence attorney. (“Do you want her to look guilty? Then get rid of him. And stop trying to help, Gary. Every time you to try to help, you just make things worse!”) While Steven’s eventual decision not to drive off that cliff (“You’re wrong, Matthew — I can survive!”) and get on with his life effectively draws a line under last season’s DYNASTY cliffhanger, the situation surrounding Peter’s death on KNOTS grows ever more complicated. In the final scene of this week’s episode, Abby finds Mack gently explaining Olivia’s rights to her as she is being arrested and suddenly announces that she killed Peter herself.

    Fallon’s UFO storyline is one of two current Soap Land scenarios that have often been cited as examples of the genre at its most campily bizarre — the other being Pam’s mummified state on DALLAS. In each case, it’s the husband’s response, Jeff’s on DYNASTY and Bobby’s on DALLAS, that is most revealing. Having inherited the UFO scenario from THE COLBYS, DYNASTY is quick retrieve it from the realms of science fiction and turn it into a more conventionally soapy drama. The burning question is no longer, “Does intelligent life exist elsewhere in the universe?” but, “Will Jeff support Fallon through her latest trauma?” The immediate answer to that would appear to be “No”. “His skin was leathery and there was a scent of cinnamon,” says Fallon, earnestly describing the creature who beckoned her aboard the spaceship. “Cinnamon?” repeats Jeff with a straight face. “Was he baking?”

    Jeff’s amusingly dismissive attitude to Fallon’s story gives the audience permission (as if we needed it) not to take it seriously either. Conversely, the times Pam’s situation on DALLAS feels most believable is when we see Bobby’s heartbroken reaction to it. It’s when he’s emoting tearfully, either with family members at Southfork or at his wife’s hospital bedside, that I can most strongly believe that the person under all those bandages is the same character Victoria Principal played for the previous nine seasons, and the awfulness of her predicament comes into focus.

    Although Alexis tracks down Mystery Chopping Man in the final scene of this week’s DYNASTY, we still don’t know his name. The identity of Mystery French Woman, however, is revealed in the second scene of this week’s FALCON CREST. “My name is Nicole Sauguet,” she informs Maggie, adding that she and Chase were lovers during the Vietnam War: “For five years, Chase was like a husband to me. We didn’t stop loving each other just because he came home to you.” As if this were not shocking enough, we also learn that during some offscreen interlude at the very beginning of the series, “Chase came to see me in Paris. He was moving to California and needed money to start a new business. I loaned him thirty-million dollars.” First, the revelation that Richard is Angela’s son, and now this: not only does the marriage of the most wholesome couple in the Tuscany Valley turn out to have been a lie all along, but Chase’s mistress secretly financed FALCON CREST’s first six seasons! It’s exhilarating stuff — as if the rug were being pulled out from under the series itself. Is anything in FC still as we thought it was?

    Soap Land’s dead are commemorated in interestingly ambivalent ways this week. Nicole tells Maggie that, unless Chase’s loan is repaid within seven days, she will take control of his assets. “All this will be mine,” she declares. “I will tear up the vineyard and I will build a hospital, the Chase Gioberti Children’s Hospital, in remembrance of the man who saved little children. That was the man I loved.” The idea of Chase as two different men, the one Nicole loved and the one Maggie remembers, is echoed on DYNASTY. “The Matthew you knew never left the jungle. Whoever that was wasn’t the man I remembered,” Steven tells Krystle. Meanwhile, Greg takes receipt of Peter’s ashes on KNOTS. “As long as you’re gonna be hanging around the house, you might as well make yourself useful,” he says, mixing some of Peter’s remains in with the contents of a flower pot. “You had an opportunity to make this entire country grow. Now you’ve been relegated to fuel for these flowers, these dumb distractions,” he muses, managing to make this little speech sound both irreverent and wistful. “You never asked me why I let you be my little brother. I guess you must have known I was using you … You were my ticket to the White House. And you were perfectly willing, for a price, to be my stand-in.” Over on DALLAS, JR Ewing has acquired a Peter Hollister of his own. With his business reputation once again in tatters following the dissolution of Ewing Oil, he uses Casey Denault, posing as a young Oklahoman oilman “with a lot of old money newly acquired", as a dummy corporation in human form, secretly fronting for the deals that are going to “buy me back into power.”

    DYNASTY may have cornered the market in flashbacks this week, but there are other ways for Soap Land to convey its characters’ innermost thoughts. While Mack puzzles over the cheery messages that Paige left on Peter’s answering machine the day he died (“She was furious [with him], but on her phone messages she was friendly”), we see Paige herself thrashing anxiously about in her sleep before waking up in a cold sweat as if she’s just realised … something. Like Fallon following her alien abduction dream-cum-flashback on last week’s DYNASTY, it looks as though Paige just might have gained access to a memory her subconscious had conveniently repressed. Meanwhile on FALCON CREST, Richard suffers a creepy, hall-of-mirrors-style nightmare in which his newly acquired mother Angela snatches his baby son from his crib. Much like Ben Gibson after he awoke from the dream in which Jean Hackney shot Val, Richard’s relief upon waking is eclipsed by his real-life anguish. “She didn’t want me … She’s my mother,” he weeps in Maggie’s arms. There are some brilliant, emotionally raw turns from both Richard and Maggie in this week’s FC as each grapples with their own recent life-changing events.

    Back on DYNASTY, Blake’s servants politely decline his offer to take time off following the siege. “We belong here, Mr Carrington, with you and the family,” Gerard insists. So much for the Sunday picnics and ice-skating at Christmas he and Jeanette were pining for last week. Over on FC, Angela informs Chao Li that, as he refuses to undergo the life-saving surgery he requires, she’ll have to replace him as her manservant. Miss Ellie gives Clayton a similar ultimatum: either he starts taking care of his health or he leaves Southfork. Their bluffs called, Chao Li and Clayton each give in and agree to follow doctor’s orders.

    The Ewing-verse’s grumpy old men, Al the messenger guy and Dandy the boozy old wildcatter, have both taken to hanging around the offices of their new pals, Mack and Cliff respectively, and making presumptuous remarks. “Do me a favour — put more coffee in your coffee,” Al tells Peggy. “You better start getting in earlier — it’s the middle of the day already,” Dandy tells Cliff. They each then take a further liberty. On KNOTS, having persuaded Mack to hand over the keys to his office for the night (unlikely much?), Al invites a dozen or so shabbily dressed extras up for a sleepover. On DALLAS, Cliff finds Dandy making business calls from behind Pam’s desk and angrily throws him out. The topic of homelessness arises during both storylines. Mack’s altruistic gesture arises from a concern that Al might be living on the streets (his hurt expression when Peggy asks him, “Don’t you have a home to go to?”) while Cliff goes looking for Dandy following their altercation fearing “he might be asleep on the streets someplace.”

    “I don’t know what I should be feeling right now,” admits Angela to Father Bob on FALCON CREST. “How can I love the baby I lost and hate the man he’s become?” Later, sparks fly at Chase’s memorial service just as they did at Peter’s on last week’s KNOTS. “You are my mother — you cannot walk away from that!” Richard tells Angela. “As far as I’m concerned, my son died forty-five years ago,” she replies through clenched teeth. Jenna, Ray and Bobby don’t really know what they should be feeling regarding their current baby situation either. When Bobby is finally granted access to his baby son at Ray’s ranch, he is surprised to find Jenna just as hostile towards him as she was before Pam’s accident. She explains that she is making this concession “not for you, [but] for Ray … Do you know how much your brother loves and worries about you? … Do you know what he’s going through just letting you see your son?” Indeed, Ray’s attempt to do right by his brother takes a personal toll. “I thought I could handle it,” he admits to Jenna afterwards. “I saw Bobby here. I felt like an outsider in my own living room.” But it’s too late to turn back now. “Tell Bobby he can’t see his own child again after he’s already seen him? It would kill him!” Ray exclaims. So where does that leave Jenna? “It’s not just you that has to live with it. It’s me too,” she reminds him. I never realised before just how multi-faceted this situation is. Let’s call it the Ben Gibson Factor: everyone involved is trying to behave as selflessly they can (Ray by putting Bobby’s feelings before his own, Jenna by putting Ray’s before hers), but each is too flawed (i.e., human) to be able to deal smoothly with the consequences.

    Speaking of soap characters behaving suspiciously like actual human beings, I’ve always found the conversation between Bobby and his mother, where he talks about Pam seeing her face in the mirror for the first time since the crash, very interesting. “I’m scared about the way she’s gonna feel,” he says. “You remember how you felt after you had your mastectomy, the problems you and Daddy had because you didn’t think you were the same woman he fell in love with? … What if Pam has those same feelings?” It’s always felt to me as if, by focusing on Pam’s reaction, Bobby is deflecting his concerns about his own response to her burns. Perhaps the most relevant comparison here isn’t between Pam and Miss Ellie, but between Bobby and Clayton when Clayton quietly confided to Ray his fears about seeing Ellie in a state of undress after first learning of her mastectomy. However, such considerations are rendered seemingly moot when Bobby turns at Soap Land Memorial Hospital to find Pam’s bed empty. “I’m sorry, Mr Ewing. She’s — she’s gone.”

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (4) DALLAS
    2 (2) FALCON CREST
    3 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    4 (3) DYNASTY
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2018
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  4. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    14 Oct 87: DYNASTY: The Announcement v. 15 Oct 87: KNOTS LANDING: Half-Truths v. 16 Oct 87: DALLAS: The Lady Vanishes v. 16 Oct 87: FALCON CREST: Redemption

    Three episodes into the new season, DYNASTY feels freshly invigorated, its characters more sharply defined than they have in a long while. Last year, Adam was the helpless victim of an identity crisis. Following Blake’s announcement that he is running for governor, he’s back to his former competitive, paranoid self. “I wasn’t seated next to Father at dinner — Fallon was,” he broods. “I was not invited into the library for an intimate chat — it was Steven. What will it take to be treated like an equal around here?” Last year, Leslie was a cloyingly irritating good girl. This week, she overhears Fallon explaining her extra-terrestrial encounter to Jeff and then makes fun of her to Dex — officially reclassifying herself as a bitch. The most notable character transformation is Steven’s. After years of being uptight and conservative, he’s suddenly full of outspoken opinions and insights. “Politics requires an acceptance of, and a commitment to, the rules of society … I have no interest in serving a society that brands me a misfit,” he declares, turning down Blake’s invitation to manage his campaign. He also offers Fallon a fascinating assessment of her relationship with Jeff: “He’s a great guy, but if there aren’t any lines on the pad he gets very nervous, and you have always coloured outside the lines — until you married him … You have become more like Jeff and now he’s forgotten who you really are.” And there you have it — Fallon’s evolution from the whip-smart heiress of DYNASTY’s first two seasons to the conservative businesswoman of the La Mirage era to the meek damsel-in-distress we saw in THE COLBYS to the confused but defiant alien abductee she is today, summed up in a few short lines.

    If Steven and Fallon have been recast as DYNASTY’s nonconformists who believe in little grey men, then Sammy Jo and Jeff are by default the show's new conservatives. “Ever since we were kids, if it didn’t come in a neat little package he couldn’t deal with it,” says Steven of Jeff. “I’m not sure I understand all the ground rules,” Sammy Jo frets anxiously when her laidback gay ex-husband returns home from a late-night chat with his sister about spaceships. It seems that if Steven did really kill off a version of himself when he stabbed Matthew Blaisdel, it was the stuffy, repressed Steven of the last four seasons. (On the subject of different Stevens, it’s ironic to hear 1987 Steven declare, “I don’t have the time or the inclination for public service” in the same week that 2018 Steven announces his candidacy for city council on New DYNASTY.) Out of nowhere, Steven is now the coolest person on the show. Even his new slicked-back hairstyle is cool — or at least when compared to the silly late-80s bouffants favoured by Soap Land’s latest slabs of beefcake: Sean Rowan, Nicholas Pearce and Casey Denault.

    One of the advantages of new characters is that we are reintroduced to familiar characters through their eyes. “I’ve seen your kind before,” Sean tells Alexis on DYNASTY. “You’ve got self-indulgence written all over you. You enjoy making people dance … You come on very strong, lady, very strong. I know you’re rich and I know you’re powerful, but don’t play games with me. I’m nobody’s puppet.” “We’re a perfect match, you and I,” Nicholas Pearce informs Sue Ellen on DALLAS. “You want to prove to the world that you’re a winner, that you don’t need anyone else. Well, so do I.” For all that Alexis and Sue Ellen are independent businesswomen of the ‘80s, yadda, yadda, yadda, each responds favourably to being told who she is and what she wants by these younger men. Alexis immediately falls into Sean’s arms and when ordered to ignore a ringing phone, she complies. Meanwhile, Nicholas’s straight talking convinces a previously wary Sue Ellen to consummate a business deal that will guarantee Valentine Lingerie “instant coast-to-coast recognition.”

    Elsewhere on DALLAS, the arrival of protege Casey Denault affords JR the opportunity to explain the basics of his business philosophy as he rebuilds his empire from scratch (well, sort of from scratch — everyone who drops by his new offices makes a point of saying how much swankier they are than the ones he had at Ewing Oil, and they’re right). In truth, “JR’s golden rules” consist of little more than a few well-worn cliches: “‘Don’t forgive and don’t forget’ and, ‘Do unto others before they do unto you’ and most especially, ‘Keep your eye on your friends because your enemies will take care of themselves.’” “You’re everything my daddy said,” Casey replies. While Casey’s admiration for JR seems to be genuine, it’s hard to overlook his observation that while his own father, JR’s onetime partner, “died broke … you always rode high on the hog.” Back on DYNASTY, it looks as if Sean Rowan has daddy issues of his own. “The sins of the father,” he murmurs enigmatically at one point — which, as Michael Tyrone, Nick Toscanni and Zach Powers have taught us, is never a good sign.

    Whereas the siege at the end of last season’s DYNASTY is now a thing of the past (Matthew who?), the other soaps haven’t moved on quite so fast. Although FALCON CREST is still getting plenty of mileage out of Chase’s disappearance, it feels as if KNOTS LANDING and DALLAS have each painted themselves into a corner, dramatically speaking, as a result of last season’s cliffhangers. Abby confessing that she killed Peter at the end of last week’s KNOTS means that she now faces the prospect of a fifteen-year prison sentence, while the long road to recovery stretching ahead of Pam on DALLAS following her car accident has already been established. Neither scenario fits very well into the fast-paced world of Soap Land and this week, both are hastily circumvented. In each case, a Ewing brother gets to play detective. A chance remark from Olivia on KNOTS leads Gary to quickly deduce that she and Abby are each protecting the other over Peter’s murder, which means neither of them could have committed it. Over on DALLAS, Bobby uncovers the truth behind Pam’s disappearance via a series of flashbacks involving day players in medical scrubs. The episode does its best to shroud the clunkiness of Pam’s exit in as much mystery as possible and it sort of works.

    When Bobby learns that Pam was accompanied on her flight out of Dallas by a woman wearing a hat, he fears it was Katherine Wentworth. This foreshadows Christopher’s assumption twenty-six years later that the woman he sees with Dr Gordon in Zurich, also wearing a hat, is Pam herself. In each case, the mystery woman turns out to be Pam’s nurse — maybe even the same nurse.

    Following hot on the heels of Ben Gibson and Chase Gioberti, Pam is the latest major Soap Land character to disappear without a trace. A letter delivered to Bobby at the end of this week’s DALLAS explains that, like Ben, she has left of her volition because she believes her family is better off without her. “I have done the best thing for all of us,” she writes. “When I saw myself in the mirror, I couldn’t stand the thought of you or Christopher ever seeing me that way … I couldn’t stand to destroy our love by having you see me the way I am.” (This point will be underlined by Dr Gordon in 2013: “She felt she was hideous. She didn’t want to scare her little boy.”) As Bobby cries, Val Gibson and Maggie Gioberti cope with their respective spouse's absence in contrasting ways. While Val turns Ben into Daddy Bunny, the hero of a bedtime story she reads to her kids (“The idea is that Daddy Bunny, Ben, still loves us very much and he’s just out there somewhere taking care of us”), Maggie has Chase swiftly declared dead at a court hearing similar to the one pertaining to Jock Ewing five years earlier.

    As well as Pam, FALCON CREST’s Nicole Sauguet also departs this week after just three episodes. She is yet another Soap Land character tainted by her connection to the Vietnam War. When we learn that she made her fortune by hijacking medical supplies and “letting American soldiers die”, it’s not hard to imagine Phillip Colby or even Pam’s teenage husband somehow mixed up in her scheme. It’s implied that Nicole also fabricated her wartime affair with Chase, but I prefer her version of events so I’ll stick with it.

    AIDS gets its second Soap Land mention this week, this time on DALLAS. In contrast to the serious discussion on the subject that took place between Blake and Steven on DYNASTY, it’s pretty much a throwaway remark that arises as JR catches up with Serena, his favourite call girl, after a gap of three years. “These days, the girls I know are out of business,” she tells him. “We’re all scared to death of the AIDS thing. It’s done what the police couldn’t — put most of us into retirement.” JR’s less interested in discussing a health crisis than in hearing about the drilling equipment that Serena’s strapped-for-cash boyfriend needs to offload.

    KNOTS LANDING’s Paige and FALCON CREST’s Melissa both suffer nightmares this week, prompted by the deaths of Peter and Chase respectively. Paige cries out in her sleep a couple of times, which is enough to bring Mack to her bedside. “It’s just a dream, it’s just a dream," he tells her gently. Melissa, meanwhile, succumbs to full-blown hysteria, first screaming the house down and then yelling maniacally when Dan Fixx tries to comfort her. This is par the course for Melissa. Almost every time she appears on screen, she ends up either screeching or screaming or laughing hysterically, or some combination thereof. Frustratingly, it never occurs to any of the other characters to tell her to shut the f**k up.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (4) DYNASTY
    2 (1) DALLAS
    3 (3) KNOTS LANDING
    4 (2) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2018
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  5. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    22 Oct 87: KNOTS LANDING: There are Smiles v. 23 Oct 87: DALLAS: Tough Love v. 23 Oct 87: FALCON CREST: The Big Bang

    While watching recent Soap Land events unfold onscreen, one can sometimes sense the influence of different sometimes conflicting, pressures from behind the scenes.

    For example, the inflationary demands of the genre mean that, in order to retain (or possibly regain) viewer interest, characters’ actions must grow increasingly more extreme. Hence Sammy Jo has her aunt kidnapped and replaced with a doppelgänger, JR pays a terrorist to blow up Saudi Arabian oilfields, Abby buries a dead body in cement and Melissa switches blood samples in order to steal a baby. Most recently, we learn on this week’s KNOTS that Mack’s daughter Paige is a killer (or, at the very least, has left a man to die).

    Although the guilty party in each instance is known to the authorities, none are required to stand trial, much less go to prison. In most cases, charges aren’t even filed. The reluctance to prosecute is due to another backstage consideration — the need to keep the stars of the show on screen. We may want to see JR and Abby behaving outrageously, but not if it means them spending the next fifteen years in the offscreen slammer. But if there are no legal consequences when a character is caught redhanded, where is the dramatic payoff — how to stop the audience feeling as cheated as they did following the Moldavian massacre that wasn’t or when Bobby stepped out of the shower? Each show addresses this conundrum differently.

    Blake and Krystle’s saintliness means that DYNASTY gets away with them pardoning Sammy Jo, who then repays their kindness by essentially turning into a different character. Over on DALLAS, the dissolution of Ewing Oil felt like a suitably seismic punishment for JR’s misdeeds. Granted, he has learnt absolutely no moral lessons as a result, but would we really want him to? JR’s lack of repentance was DALLAS’s original USP and starting over with a new company has at least provided him with a fresh context in which to scheme his schemes. On the other hand, it’s hard not to notice that he seems suddenly older, greyer and maybe a little more complacent (particularly in his scenes with Casey Denault) this season.

    On last week’s FALCON CREST, Maggie Gioberti agreed not to press charges against Melissa either for kidnapping her baby or for the reckless behaviour that led to her husband’s death. While one can just about buy Maggie's reasoning — she wants to spare her grandson’s feelings — it’s harder to believe that Melissa’s nemesis, Angela, would then agree to put her in charge of The Max, the new Del Oro Spa nightclub, just because Dan Fixx asked her nicely. Nevertheless, there is Melissa at the beginning of this week’s episode, vamping it up on stage at The Max in a ridiculous looking outfit as if nothing had ever happened. At least on KNOTS, Paige gets the sack from Lotus Point after killing Peter Hollister. (“Your severance pay is in the business office,” Abby informs her.) Otherwise, Paige, like Melissa, seems blithely unaffected by her crime. The key difference is that Paige’s attitude is addressed and then challenged by the characters around her. “You’re acting like this is a parking ticket,” observes Mack. “You think none of this matters? You think you’re so far above everyone else that you don’t have to play by the rules? … What the hell’s wrong with you? … Look what you’ve done to these people … I don’t just want you to apologise, I want you to feel sorry.” This is precisely the kind of confrontation (or “tough love”, to borrow the title of this week’s DALLAS) that would have benefited Melissa. Instead, FALCON CREST indulges the character as much as she indulges herself. While getting ready to attend the reading of Chase’s will, for example, she turns looking for a lost shoe into a high-pitched drama. Then when she finds it, she laughs hysterically. Her behaviour is witnessed by Dan Fixx, but instead of taking her to task the way Mack does Paige, he laughs right along with her — and presumably, we’re meant to be as charmed by her behaviour as he is.

    While Mack makes Paige toe the line, it is Greg Sumner who cuts through her defences. “You’re working a little too hard to show us how tough you are,” he says after she mutters a grudging apology for her part in what happened to Peter. “You saw a man die and it didn’t affect you, did it? Like hell, it didn’t. Pretending you don’t care is what little kids do. You’re lucky Mack’s your old man. If I were your father, I’d hang a little snot like you out to dry in the wind.” His words hit Paige where she lives and when she cries in Mack’s arms, this time she’s genuine. Greg critiquing someone else’s detached response to a death is doubly ironic — first when one recalls how casually he himself responded to the deaths of his own father and Mark St Clare, among others, and secondly, when one fast-forwards to the last scene of this episode, and the wrenching close-up of his confused face as he listens to Laura’s out-of-nowhere bombshell.

    Cleverly, KNOTS supplies Jill Bennett as a conduit for any remaining viewer frustrations about Paige and Abby escaping their just desserts. “She buried a man in a cement!” she exclaims. “Am I the only one who finds it outrageous that a man was killed and then dragged through a construction site and left to rot?” The cruel irony, she is then informed, is that the one person able to file damages against Abby for burying Peter is his next-of-kin, “but the guy’s only relative is Greg Sumner and he is disinclined to pursue the matter”. Of course Greg’s disinclined: he isn’t really Peter’s next-of-kin, Jill is, only she is unable to publicly acknowledge that fact. “Who was this guy to you?” Mack asks her impatiently. “You’ve lost all perspective on this case!” And of course, she cannot reply. This aspect of the plot arises so naturally out of what has come before that it almost feels as if Jill's situation were writing itself.

    Another external factor influencing what we see on screen is what might be termed “real life soap fatigue” — that mysterious combination of reduced budgets, sliding ratings and actor restlessness. However much Soap Land may wish to keep its opening titles intact, there has been an unprecedented exodus of key players recently. Ben Gibson, Ben Carrington, Dominique Devereaux, Donna Krebbs, Pam Ewing, Peter Hollister, Chase Gioberti and the Californian Colbys have all departed without so much as a goodbye scene between them. And it’s not over yet: the closing scene of this week’s KNOTS finds Laura Avery talking circuitously about finally being able to eat all the pizza she wants because she won’t be around long enough to put on weight. What is potentially even more disruptive to a soap than the departures of its leading players is the impact (or lack thereof) those departures then have on those characters left behind. Just as JR and Abby cannot be sent to prison for their crimes, Val Gibson and Bobby Ewing cannot drop everything to go looking for their newly vanished spouses who, even though they are still alive and still love their families, will definitely not be returning — because the actors playing them have not had their contracts renewed. Consequently, Val and Bobby must each be seen to mourn their loss, but must then also move on pretty darn quickly.

    By herself on this week’s KNOTS, Val allows herself the indulgence of playing a one-fingered version of ‘Send in the Clowns’ on the piano (a call-back to her and Ben’s romantic dance in Season 6) before being subjected to Lilimae’s well-meaning lecture on smile therapy. By himself at the beginning of this week’s DALLAS, Bobby allows himself the indulgence of one last look at a photo of Pam (the image of which we are contractually denied) before putting it away in a drawer. He then heads to the nearest cowboy bar where he gets into a drunken brawl with a bunch of stuntmen.

    With that out of the way, Val and Bobby must each “move on”. Val goes on a shopping spree, treating herself to a red convertible (the Ewing-verse’s subconscious replacement for the one that went up in flames at the end of last season’s DALLAS perhaps?) and a femullet, the likes of which KNOTS hasn’t seen since the days of Ciji Dunne. She also acquires a kind of sad optimism about her future: “I love Ben and I miss him terribly, but … I can make it on my own. I’m not saying that I want to, but I know that I can.” Bobby, meanwhile, faces some blunt questioning from his son: “Why don’t you find her? I know you could if you really wanted to.” “If we love Mama, we have to let her go,” Bobby replies, conceding that “it’s a tough kind of love to understand, at any age.” His words are echoed by an equally on-message Miss Ellie in a later scene: “We just have to do what Pam asked, put it behind us.”

    Sometimes in Soap Land, “letting go” and “moving on” can mean coming full circle — especially when you share a child with your first love. “Don’t worry,” Val assures Gary when he asks about Ben’s absence, “I’m perfectly able to take care of your kids.” “It’s the first time she’s ever said they were my kids,” he later marvels. Meanwhile, Jenna lets her guard down in front of Bobby for the first time since he dumped her for Pam: “Isn’t it ironic? Now that it seems I’ve gotten my life in order, yours has become so painful … Bobby, for the longest time, I tried to hate you … I never could and I never will.”

    “What a cruel trick fate’s played on him, one little boy losing two mothers,” sighs Sue Ellen with regard to Christopher. Laura is in a similarly reflective mood on KNOTS. “I cannot stand the fact that things happen and you have no control over them,” she tells Greg. “Don’t you ever think about car accidents or kids falling into swimming pools or people taking them away somewhere?” Hmm, car accidents — like the one that disfigured Pam last season or the one that leaves Dina badly hurt on this week’s FALCON CREST. “There are a number of complications associated with spinal injuries,” her doctor warns Lance.

    Back on KNOTS, Paige’s newfound contrition has its limits. “I’m so sorry,” she tells Abby, “that you ever got off the hook … If you hadn’t made Peter break up with me, none of this would have happened … You were afraid of losing him to a younger woman. You couldn’t stand the competition.” The only character cattier than Paige this week is DALLAS’s Wilson Cryder when he drops by JRE Industries specifically to throw shade on JR’s new office. “West Star’s thinking of buying the building,” he tells him. “We have some low-level executives we need to find space for … We would prefer a more prestigious property.” Both Abby and JR wait until the end of their respective scenes before returning fire. “Sooner or later, I’m gonna make you pay … just don’t sleep too soundly,” warns Abby. “Cryder, you just joined the crowd … the crowd of people who have lived to regret underestimating JR Ewing,” declaims JR.

    While Steven’s assessment of Fallon and Jeff’s relationship on last week’s DYNASTY was great, Jill’s analysis of Gary, as he attempts to do right by both his ex-wives and their offspring on this week’s KNOTS, is even better. “I think you’re exactly where you wanna be,” she tells him, “you’re right in the middle of a crisis with everybody depending on you … You like having dependents. You cultivate them. You don’t know how to commit to people so you compensate for it by making everyone dependent on you … and you’re there for them, you stick it out, self-righteously living up to your responsibilities … If they’re dependent on you, Gary, it’s because you made them that way. You just can’t walk away.”

    Jill’s speech combines the weak, commitment-phobic Gary we first met in 1978 (“He’s over his head with a shopping cart in front of him!”) with the part-time knight in shining armour he is today, making sense of how he has changed in the intervening time. Is this a natural evolution or are the writers skilfully working backwards to disguise that the fact that Gary has been transformed by the dictates of his storylines? To ask that question in a broader sense, do the characters in Soap Land drive the plot or do the demands of the plot forge the characters? For example, Bobby Ewing passively accepts Pam’s decision to disappear, not because it is “in character” for him to do so, but because that’s what the storyline requires of him. On the other hand, if one accepts what F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, that “action is character”, i.e., we are defined not by what we think or say but by what we do, then Bobby’s action (or lack thereof) simply becomes part of who he is now. Likewise, Fallon’s alien abduction is part of who she is now — only the writers were smart enough to have Steven link it with the non-conformist character she was when DYNASTY began.

    Over on FALCON CREST, Maggie has been given a dossier on Richard’s past. “It scared me,” she admits. This prompts Richard to deliver a speech about himself, not entirely dissimilar to the one Jill makes about Gary, where he attempts to reconcile who he used to be with who he is now. “I don’t know if you have any idea why I came out here to Tuscany,” he says to Maggie. “I was trying to save my life. I was involved with evil, the worst kind of evil. They wouldn’t let me go. They wanted to take my soul. And it took every damn trick I know to escape my old life and settle here … I am what I am, and either you accept me or you don’t.” Whether or not Maggie can accept Richard, and whether or not Jill can accept Gary, are the big questions here. Jill walks out on Gary during this week’s KNOTS but later returns to him. Maggie is just as ambivalent. “I love you,” she tells Richard, “but sometimes you frighten me. Sometimes I feel that we don’t have a chance, and then when I’m with you, I’m just so swept away by you.”

    “Meet cutes” have become a minor Soap Land trend of late. According to Wikipedia, “a meet-cute is a scene in which a future romantic couple meets for the first time … This type of scene is a staple of romantic comedies. Frequently, the meet-cute leads to a humorous clash of personality or of beliefs, embarrassing situations, or comical misunderstandings that further drive the plot.” Leslie Carrington’s first encounter with Clay Fallmont on last season’s DYNASTY — they get into an argument over whose car has the right of way, not realising that he is, in fact, her new boss — would qualify, as would her first meeting with Jeff Colby a couple of weeks ago — they get into a disagreement outside Dex’s hospital room over who should be allowed to visit with him first, not realising that they are, in fact, related. Both scenes have the feel of a rom-com without being actually funny — unlike the meet-cute that occurs between Lilimae and Al the messenger on this week’s KNOTS where she eyes him suspiciously as he hovers outside the Mackenzie house. It’s also a rare instance in Soap Land where the workings of someone’s bladder advance the plot. “I was wondering, could I use your bathroom?” he eventually asks her. “I should say not!” she replies, affronted, before hurrying back inside her house.

    Both Al and his DALLAS equivalent, Dandy Dandridge, (played, of course, by Lilimae’s previous romantic interest, Jackson Mobeley) inadvertently catch their respective benefactor at the wrong time this week. “Boy, you look terrible,” observes Dandy. “Shut up and stay out of my way!” snaps Cliff, preoccupied with Pam’s disappearance. “You’re tense lately,” remarks Al. “Al, not today!” snaps Mack, preoccupied with Paige’s culpability in Peter’s death. Once again, both men’s living arrangements are also a matter for discussion. Annoyed by Dandy’s insensitivity towards Cliff, April tosses him a few bucks “to find someplace to flop tonight.” Meanwhile, Al explains that he is not homeless and instead lives out of the back of his impressively pimped-out ride. “Great car!” says Mack, admiringly.

    While Abby tries to blackmail Greg into handing over what she refers to as “my share of Peter’s estate”, the Giobertis go the more straightforward route of holding a reading of Chase’s will. While son Cole gets five million — half of what the Ewing boys got when their daddy died, but still not too shabby — daughter Vicky receives the Gary treatment: “Like your brother, I leave you the sum of $5,000.000 — with one distinction: it shall remain in trust … for a period of five years.” It’s Vicky’s husband Eric who takes this news hardest, resulting in a scene of marital violence more brutal than anything we witnessed between Joshua and Cathy on KNOTS. Eric only stops punching Vicky when she screams at him that she’s pregnant. There’s a rawness to this scene that’s light years away from the self-congratulatory, back-slapping sit-com of Dan and Lance going undercover at Angela’s behest to expose Sweethearts — the dating agency Emma has invested in and which, like Valentine Lingerie, has a heart-shape as its company logo — as a front for a prostitution ring.

    DALLAS includes no less than three, albeit slightly roundabout, references to the AIDS crisis this week. Two are quips about safe sex that extend the relevance of the issue beyond the "high-risk groups" previously acknowledged by Soap Land — gay men and prostitutes — to also cover sexually voracious older women. “Don’t forget to stop by the drugstore,” JR smirks after pimping Casey out to Marilee Stone. “Don’t worry about a thing — I’m totally prepared,” Marilee herself assures Casey just as she’s about to have her wicked way with him.

    At the end of last week’s FALCON CREST, Angela gloatingly informed Maggie that she had bought Chase’s thirty-million dollar loan from Nicole Sauguet. On this week’s DALLAS, having heard from former call girl Serena about the financial hole her boyfriend Walter Hicks had gotten himself into, JR purchases Hicks’ $5,000,000 bank loan, but unlike Angela, keeps quiet about it. While Angela informs anyone who will listen that “if Maggie doesn’t come up with $3,000,000, their house and the land will belong to me,” JR discreetly forecloses on Hicks and pockets his entire inventory worth $15,000,000 more than what he paid for the loan.

    Richard Channing and John Remick spend most of this week’s FALCON CREST competing to be the one who rides to Maggie’s rescue with the money she needs to stop Angela. In order to get Remick out of the picture, Richard goes so far as to supply arms to the African government John’s soldiers are fighting against. “Let slip the dogs of war,” he murmurs, quoting Mark Antony in ‘Julius Caesar’. (Lest we forget, Greg Sumner once played Brutus in a college production of ‘Julius Caesar’ — imagine Richard Channing playing opposite him as Marc Antony. Oh, what a Shakespearean/Soap Land mashup that would be!) Richard is later pleased to learn that “Remick’s band of merry men are losing ground faster than a racehorse.” (The “band of merry men” bit is, oddly enough, one of two Robin Hood references in Soap Land this week. The other is on DALLAS — John Ross and Christopher are on a school trip to a museum where an employee in period costume, presumably representing Bonnie Parker, delivers the following monologue: “Pictured as some kind of Robin Hood, they had me stealing from the rich to give to the poor. Well, yes, I stole from the rich, but I don’t remember giving a thing to the poor!”) Richard’s plan having succeeded, he manages to foil Angela’s attempt to evict Maggie from her home in the nick of time. However, the Gioberti house (or more accurately, a cute little model version of it) is then blown sky high with all three of them inside.

    Back on DALLAS, Walter Hicks losing his business also spells the end for his relationship with Serena. This leads to the third AIDS reference of the week. “I have no choice. I’ll have to play Russian roulette back in my old profession,” Serena says gloomily. Is JR really willing to risk her life, in the same Richard is prepared to gamble with the lives of the unknown soldiers fighting in the unknown war somewhere in Africa, just to further his own ends? For a moment, it looks as if he is, but then he comes up with an offer — he’ll set Serena up for life if she’ll use her old contacts to find the dirt he needs to bring down Wilson Cryder. That’ll teach Cryder to diss the office decor.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    28 Oct 87: DYNASTY: The Surrogate (1) v. 29 Oct 87: KNOTS LANDING: The Gift of Life v. 30 Oct 87: DALLAS: Last Tango in Dallas v. 30 Oct 87: FALCON CREST: Dead End

    Not only does Laura’s imminent departure dominate every scene of this week’s KNOTS, it pretty much overshadows the rest of the week’s soaps as well. Her situation does, however, resonate curiously with storylines on the other shows. The last time we saw Adam Carrington, for instance, he had just made a grave discovery about his wife’s medical condition. At the end of last week’s KNOTS, Laura dropped her own bombshell on Greg. The opening scenes of this week’s DYNASTY and KL find both couples having very similar discussions.

    “Adam, do you know what it’s like for a woman to hear those words: ‘You cannot have a child’?” Dana asks her husband. “And now you are asking me to face more doctors.” “You’ve only talked to one doctor, you’ve only had one opinion,” Adam argues. Greg is equally sceptical when Laura tells him about her brain tumour: “It’s cancerous, it’s inoperable, it’s terminal.” “Just because one lousy quack says it’s terminal?” he counters. “What we have to do is find a decent doctor.” While Dana asks Adam to “face the fact that I cannot have a child”, Laura asks Greg if he’ll accept a terminal prognosis from another doctor. The men’s responses are pretty much identical. “I won’t accept it, dammit. I can’t,” says Adam. “No, I will not accept it,” replies Greg.

    Prior to this week’s KNOTS, Laura had already taken the decision to send her two sons to live with their father without consulting Greg. On this week’s DYNASTY, Jeff learns that Fallon has arranged for their two children to move from California to Denver without discussing it with him. “You’ve already made all the decisions,” he tells her angrily. “You’ve probably already made the funeral arrangements,” Greg tells Laura on this week’s KNOTS, and her silent response suggests that she has.

    Wives making life-changing decisions without telling their husbands — as well as Laura and Fallon, this also applies to Pam Ewing. The audience has been kept similarly in the dark. In the same way that we only learned of Pam’s decision to leave her family after it had already happened, we only hear of Laura’s plan to go away to die after she has told Greg. “I just don’t want you to watch me. It’s that simple,” she says. Pam gave a similar explanation to Bobby in her goodbye letter two weeks ago: “I couldn’t stand the thought of you or Christopher ever seeing me that way.” “I want to be alone. It’s my choice,” Laura continues. Greg’s response is what Bobby might have said had Pam given him the right of reply: “It is not just your choice … What the hell am I — nothing, a zero?” This question echoes Bobby’s lighthearted retort to Pam way back in the very first episode of DALLAS: “What am I now — a bowl of chilli?”

    Bobby finally voices his feelings during a visit to Wentworth Industries. “I am living a charade,” he tells Parker Ellison. “I’m trying my best to cheer up my son. I’m putting up a front to my mama, my brothers, the people I work with, explaining very logically to them how Pam has made the right decision when I can’t even explain it to myself … I want to see her.” Ellison responds by handing over documents from Pam that give Bobby control of her Wentworth shares. It’s one more example of a Soap Land wife pulling the rug out from under her husband, and Bobby acts like it’s the final straw. “I guess I’ve got my answer,” he says coldly. “She never really intends to come back.”

    Back on KNOTS, Greg continues to consult with doctors while Laura makes preparations for Meg’s baptism. It’s science versus religion. “Sounds like a lot of mumbo-jumbo,” Laura says, looking over Greg's shoulder as he ploughs his way through a medical encyclopaedia. “What am I supposed to do — go and watch some guy in a funny costume hustle his mumbo-jumbo?” asks Greg, opting out of the christening. “You’ve seen your last doctor, I’ve seen my last church.” Likewise on DYNASTY, Dana and Adam disagree on how best to address their dilemma. When she proposes adoption, he insists that “I want a child who’s my own flesh and blood!” The episode ends with her watching a talk show about surrogacy and then whispering to her sleeping husband, “You can have a baby, Adam. You can.” Ah, surrogate parenting in Soap Land — what could possibly go wrong?

    “Tests — that’s all that people talk about these days is tests!” That’s not Dana or Laura complaining, it’s DALLAS’s Dandy Dandridge as he tries to persuade Cliff to take a punt on his East Texas oilfield, even though, like Laura’s brain and Dana’s uterus, it has already been scrutinised by experts and found wanting. “It was a damn stupid test!” Dandy insists. “They couldn’t find oil in a gas station … but you, you’re Digger’s son, you should know better — you can’t find oil with tests, you find it with a drill.” Unlike Laura and Dana, Cliff is willing to indulge his friend’s fantasy. Not only does he finance further tests, but when they also come back negative, he hides the truth from him. “There’s no oil there [but] I’m gonna drill it anyway,” he tells April. “I’m just gonna humour him a little bit, give him his last hurrah.” Like Greg with his medical books and Laura with Meg’s baptism, Cliff is looking for meaning in something greater than himself: “Maybe if Digger is walking around up there looking down on me, he’ll know who I’m really doing it for.”

    While Cliff makes an altruistic gesture towards an old wildcatter, Laura makes one towards a young painter. About to purchase an expensive picture by a well-known artist for $37,000, her eye is caught by another painting by an unknown, worth only $400. Impulsively, she decides to buy this painting instead but insists on paying the original amount. Greg goes along with her decision without batting an eyelid. “Who do I make the cheque out to?” he asks the salesperson. It’s a small moment, but the first indication that he might be willing to see things from Laura’s point of view.

    There are two parties this week, Laura’s leaving do at Lotus Point and the annual Oil Baron’s Ball on DALLAS. In each case, the festivities are blighted by ill-health. Although Laura keeps her condition a secret from everyone but Karen, Clayton’s becomes public when he collapses onstage with an apparent heart attack while presenting Punk Anderson with the Oilman of the Year Award.

    Instead of attending the Lotus Point party, Greg makes yet another discouraging visit to yet another doctor’s office. Upon leaving, he sees his car being towed away. For once, he is obliged to walk amongst the people, and it seems to be this change of environment that forces him to face the reality of Laura’s condition. Meanwhile, instead of going to the Ball, Bobby arranges to meet Lisa, the perky blonde from out of town who “accidentally” bumped into him at the skating rink at the end of last week’s DALLAS in the same way that Sean Rowan “accidentally” chanced upon Alexis in DYNASTY’s season opener. Thanks to her furtive interest in Christopher, we know that Lisa, like Sean, has a secret agenda. We just don’t know what it is yet.

    The first two marriage proposals of the Soap Land season occur this week. With the ink hardly dry on their respective divorce papers, DALLAS’s Ray and FALCON CREST’s Lance pop the question to Jenna and Dina, but in very different circumstances. While Ray offers Jenna a ring (“I went into Dallas and I bought this for you”) amidst the glitter and glamour of the Oil Baron’s Ball, Lance presents Dina with a ring (“Dad and I spent hours picking this out”) while she is in a hospital bed, her head clamped and unable to move following last week’s car crash. Neither man gets the answer he was hoping for. “The decision to be married is a big one,” Jenna tells Ray hesitantly. “Our situations are still so confused.” Dina is more direct. “I can’t marry you. I can’t marry anyone,” she tells Lance. The rest of the words she uses to push him away echo what Pam might have said to Bobby a couple of weeks ago had she been able to speak: “I can’t love you, not the way I want to. I may never walk again. We may never be able to make love. I may never be able to have a baby.”

    KNOTS lays on the symbolism on a little thick as the episode progresses — the band playing 'When I Get to Heaven, Will There Still Be Rock and Roll?' at Laura’s party, the skate-boarder whizzing past Greg in a 'Life is Hard ... and Then You Die' T-shirt, the unintentionally ironic leaving presents (travel clocks, desk calendars and things with lifetime guarantees) — but they can’t dilute the impact of the story.

    While Laura prepares to leave her old life behind, Maggie Gioberti finds that hers was destroyed in the explosion at the end of last week’s FALCON CREST. The two women have parallel scenes in which each holds her baby and tells them gently about their family history and all things they’ll never get to share with them. “You’re named after your grandmother, you know — Marguerite Catherine,” Laura tells Meg. “You’re a fourth generation redhead … I’m not gonna see who you take after … I’m not gonna be able to pass on all those things my mother said to me.” “I’ve lost all the things I wanted to give you — no pictures, no letters,” Maggie tells Kevin. “You know, your father wrote some very beautiful letters … I’m just gonna have to write everything down so I don’t forget and then when you come to me and you want to know about your dad, I’m gonna have everything right there at my fingertips.” As the women speak, they are each unaware of Greg and Richard hovering in the doorway, listening.

    There are two striking, unusually long love scenes in this week’s Ewing-verse — one depicts Laura and Greg’s last night together, the other Jenna and Ray’s first. The Greg/Laura scene is the kind of tasteful love-making montage we’ve seen a hundred times before, but the context makes it poignant. “In everyone’s life there should be one perfect night,” Mark Graison told Pam the night before he went off to die and this is in the same vein. Neither Greg nor Laura speak during the sequence and Jenna is also silent during the scene where she approaches and then slowly seduces Ray in the stables of his ranch. It’s a sultry, steamy scene by DALLAS standards — and the barn setting evokes memories of Ray and Lucy getting it on at the start of the series. (There’s an also a hint of ambiguity, thanks to the moment beforehand where we see Jenna looking at a picture of Ray and Bobby together — it’s not a hundred percent certain which Ewing brother she’s got on her mind.)

    “It’s always rough when you lose someone you love,” sing-songs perky Lisa on DALLAS. “Rough” doesn’t seem adequate to cover the final moments of this week’s KNOTS. After all the arguing, the partying, the christening and the love-making, it comes down to the moment where Laura picks up her suitcase, takes one last silent look at her husband holding their baby daughter, gets in her car and then drives away forever.

    “I just don’t want you to watch me …” “I couldn’t stand the thought of you or Christopher ever seeing me …” As well as being each woman’s own choice, Laura’s and Pam’s departures are motivated by the glossy aesthetic of Soap Land itself. There is simply no place on screen for the sight of a woman disfigured by burns or ravaged by disease. (DALLAS could make an exception for Miss Ellie following her mastectomy, partly because of her age and partly because the injured area would never be shown on screen anyway.) KNOTS' great achievement in this episode is making Laura’s departure feel like a believable character choice as much as a plot contrivance. Indeed, it’s consistent with the “I don’t know why, but I just don’t want to be touched” aspect of her personality that has run through the series. Likewise, there are examples from Pam’s past that are compatible with her decision to leave her family. "If I went away, you'd find someone else, someone who could give you a family,” she told Bobby following her breakdown in Season 4. “I’d probably run away if I could,” she admitted when struggling with Jenna’s pregnancy last year. Now she has gone away, but without the actress who played her around to help sell us on the idea, it’s that bit harder for the audience to believe in her choice. For me, what we learned of Pam’s fate in New DALLAS adds an extra dimension to her story. Albeit unintentionally, she has also gone away to die.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    04 Nov 87: DYNASTY: The Surrogate (2) v. 05 Nov 87: KNOTS LANDING: Say Uncle v. 06 Nov 87: DALLAS: Mummy's Revenge v. 06 Nov 87: FALCON CREST: New Faces

    On the whole, it’s a lighter, gentler Soap Land this week, with playful kids and budding romance emerging as the two most common themes.

    Bobby and Betsy celebrate their third birthday on KNOTS where the most notable gifts they receive are from the show’s writers — scripted dialogue and a matching pair of goofy personalities. Their refusal to sit still for Goomah’s camera during their party immediately marks them out as less compliant than either of their DALLAS cousins or their DYNASTY counterparts.

    Speaking of whom, LB and Danny interrupt Blake’s working day by bursting into his office and squabbling over who gets to sit in his chair. “Someday, they’re going to be running Denver Carrington,” predicts Grandpa fondly. “This chair is going to be theirs.” Jeff and Steven look on proudly while childless Adam is left out in the cold. Not to be outdone, Bobby and Betsy also race into Gary’s office, disrupting a meeting he’s having with Karen and Abby, and rush to sit on his knee. Here, the odd one out is Jill who arrives to take Gary to lunch only to find him surrounded by another of his ex-wives and her kids. This week also sees Soap Land’s inaugural children’s art competition. Krystina Carrington represents DYNASTY with a piece entitled “Governor Daddy” — i.e., Blake as a stick figure with brown hair. “She certainly captured him,” nods Dana politely before bursting into tears over her own inability to conceive a child. Meanwhile on KNOTS, Gary critiques Bobby’s contribution thusly: “That’s a great drawing … Jackson Pollock lives.” We don’t get to see Bobby’s effort on screen, but it gets my vote for the Pollock reference alone.

    In lieu of bursting into an office or drawing a picture, Christopher Ewing stars in his very own montage on DALLAS, which shows him partaking of the various amusements at Penny Whistle Park (whatever that is). Over on FALCON CREST, Joseph Gioberti makes his first appearance for about half a season when his mother Melissa tracks him down to the Australian outback.

    Following the recent exodus of lead characters, Soap Land is suddenly awash with single parents. “Beats mopping hot tar,” Greg Sumner replies when asked how he’s coping with Meg. “It’s a little difficult, but it’s nice,” admits Bobby Ewing in response to a similar question about Christopher. “Must have been rough, raising two kids on your own,” suggests Adam Carrington to Karen Atkinson, his and Dana’s prospective surrogate, on DYNASTY. Back on KNOTS, Val gets defensive when Gary asks to spend time with the twins. “I can raise my children on my own,” she insists.

    DYNASTY embracing its surrogacy storyline leads to the kind of terminology we’re not used to hearing in Soap Land — test tube babies, artificial insemination and sperm all get a shout-out in this week’s episode. Not to be outdone, Clayton’s heart condition gives DALLAS the opportunity to bandy medical jargon like “heart catheter” and “angioplasty” around. There’s no such sophisticated talk on FALCON CREST, but we are afforded a glimpse of Dan Fixx shearing a sheep which at least constitutes some kind of Soap Land first.

    Clayton’s collapse onstage at the Oil Baron’s Ball at the end of last week’s DALLAS recalled Dominique Devereaux’s while performing at La Mirage on DYNASTY a few years ago. Both were the result of heart problems and rank equally as Soap Land’s most vanilla medical crises to date — a dash to the hospital where family members in formal evening wear are told to go home and rest, followed by a straightforward operation and no major repercussions for the show as a whole. On DALLAS, the best line comes from JR on the phone to Harry McSween. “I sure hope Mr Farlow makes it out all right,” ventures Harry. “Yeah well, if he does, he does. If he doesn’t, he dies. Never should have married my mama in the first place,” JR replies briskly. A moment later, we see him consoling Miss Ellie with the words, “I respect Clayton very much and I’m happy you married him.” I kind of like that we don’t know for sure which statement reflects JR’s true feelings.

    Needless to say, all of the kiddy coverage in this week’s soaps exists to generate conflict amongst the surrounding adults. Gary, frustrated at being denied access to the twins by Val, turns to Lilimae for help, admitting in the process that he is their father — yes, four years after this storyline began, Lilimae is literally the last to know. This, in turn, leads to friction between her and Val: “You’re my daughter. You’re supposed to come to me for help!” While Gary simply wants to visit his children, FALCON CREST's Melissa wants to take her son back to the States. Cole, remarried and settled, is understandably reluctant to agree. In contrast, this week’s DALLAS ends with an offscreen Pam surprising Bobby once more by granting him full custody of their son (while also filing for divorce). And in FC’s final scene, Richard’s little boy Michael toddles into the arms of the show’s latest unspeakably wealthy, unspeakably ruthless guest character, Carlton Travis, who only releases him when Maggie agrees to his ultimatum: “Your life or Richard Channing’s. It’s an interesting choice, isn’t it?”

    So much for babies. Now, where’s the romance? On DYNASTY, Sammy Jo is none too impressed by Steven’s prize football player Josh, dismissing him as “a loud-mouthed, self-centred, dull-witted jock.” Only when she learns that he’s scared of horses (ironic, given Josh’s previous Soap Land incarnation as THE YELLOW ROSE’s born-in-the-saddle Whit Champion) does she soften and they kiss. Likewise on KNOTS, Lilimae has a change of heart about Al the messenger guy after he charms the twins with a magic trick at their party, and agrees to go on a date with him. Elsewhere on KL, six weeks after Sean Rowan rescued Alexis from a river and two weeks after Bobby ran into Lisa Alden at the skating rink, Michael Fairgate has his own water-based meet-cute when he saves a sweet little blonde from drowning in the ocean. Whether she too will turn out to have a secret agenda (“Everything’s going beautifully. There is only one problem — you never told me what a nice guy Bobby is,” Lisa sighs to an unknown caller on DALLAS) remains to be seen.

    The paths of the Ewing-verse’s senior citizens, Al and Dandy, diverge this week as their individual storylines start to kick in — each in their own eccentric way, of course. While Dandy begins drilling for oil at Cliff’s expense but insists on using a dousing rod (i.e., two twigs taped together) to “feel” where to drill, Al treats Lilimae to a candlelit date, round the back of his car.

    Still on the subject of romance, Lilimae might be at the opposite end of the generation gap from DALLAS’s Charlie Wade, but each has a similar theory about their nearest and dearest this week. Lilimae suggests that the real reason Val won’t let Gary see the twins is more to do protecting her than them: “It sounds to me like you’re afraid Gary might walk out on you again … Are you sure you don’t love him?” Charlie, meanwhile, doesn’t buy that Jenna needs time to consider Ray’s marriage proposal: “Come on, Mom. You’re still in love with Bobby. That’s why you said no.”

    Meanwhile, back on FALCON CREST: Carlton Travis is revealed to be responsible for the explosion that wrecked the Gioberti house a couple of episodes ago. Not only that, but he’s also a face from Angela’s past. “A woman never forgets her first love,” she tells him. “You walked out on me … the night we announced our engagement.” This is the first we’ve heard of such an event — unlike the story of Charles, the boy who broke Abby’s teenage heart ("I thought we were going to get married"), which KNOTS was clever enough to allude to at the end of last season. He turns up this week as well — sort of. In the final scene of the ep, Karen knocks on the tinted window of a limousine in order to welcome a new client to Lotus Point. The window lowers and we see her surprised expression from the unseen passenger’s point of view. “Abby, you’re not going to believe this,” she says, turning to her sister-in-law. Abby looks down at the window and … “Charles?”

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    12 Nov 87: KNOTS LANDING: Love In v. 13 Nov 87: DALLAS: Hustling v. 13 Nov 87: FALCON CREST: Sweet Revenge

    Bobby may consider Pam “a closed subject” following her request for a divorce, but there’s still a gaping hole in DALLAS left by her absence. In contrast, FALCON CREST has absorbed the loss of Chase Gioberti very smoothly — by pushing Richard together with Maggie and making Angela his mother, the show has effectively sealed the gap Chase previously occupied.

    Though visibly wounded, DALLAS staggers manfully on. Of this week’s shows, it’s the one that sticks most closely to its traditional format with JR continuing to marshal his forces in order to launch a revenge attack against West Star later in the season. FALCON CREST, on the other hand, has become a show that’s as much about a revolving door of vaguely motivated guest characters trying to kill off the main stars as it is about the core cast interacting with each other. KNOTS LANDING, meanwhile, somehow manages to make each episode feel freshly inventive, with its own tone and sense of identity.

    This week’s KL is a romantic soufflé of an ep which unfolds leisurely over the course of an evening. It starts with Abby accepting a dinner invitation from her old flame Charles and ends with them sitting across from each other in a restaurant a few hours later. In-between, the episode cuts back and forth between Abby getting ready at home while chatting to Olivia, and other regular characters, either in couples or as families, eating dinner and/or hanging out together. I think the last Soap Land episode to be structured around such a concentrated time period was the DYNASTY ep immediately preceding the first instalment of THE COLBYS, which took place over a single, stormy night.

    This week’s KNOTS even comes with its own catchphrase. “It’s not a date, sweetpea — we’re just going out for dinner,” Lilimae insists as she waits for Al to pick her up for the evening. “Mama, it’s not a date with Gary … He’s just coming over here to see the kids,” clarifies Val. “Honey, it’s not a date really — it’s just dinner with an old friend,” Abby tells Olivia. Even the twins get in on the act: “Mommy, are we on a date?” Bobby enquires over dinner. “No, honey, we’re not — we’re just having a nice time together,” Val replies, smiling at Gary. Contrarily on DALLAS, Bobby surprises Miss Ellie by announcing: “I’m taking you out on a date!” Clayton plays along: “I got strict rules about the curfew — no later than midnight, Bobby!” Bobby whisks his mama off for hot dogs where the forced jollity briefly recedes. “I’ve got a lot of things inside me now that I just don’t feel like I wanna talk about right now,” he admits, “but … everything’s gonna be all right.” Then it’s back to the faux flirting. “More than any other woman, you look dynamite in denim!” he tells her.

    While out dancing, Al asks Lilimae to marry him. “Marry you? I don’t even know you!” she exclaims. “Well, we’re bound to get acquainted if you marry me,” he replies logically. Over on DALLAS, Jenna decides to follow Miss Ellie’s advice (“Marry a good man and wait for the bells to ring later”) and so finally accepts Ray’s proposal. Meanwhile, there’s news from Washington of Donna’s engagement to Senator Dowling.

    When Melissa travelled to Australia on last week’s FALCON CREST, she was surprised to find Cole with a new wife, Kathleen. When Eric arrives home from college on this week’s KNOTS, Karen is utterly gobsmacked to find that he too has a bride, Linda. While Kathleen was a minor character with only a few lines, the same cannot be said for the awesomely opinionated Linda. Put her and a lovestruck Eric on one side of the Fairgate/Mackenzie dinner table, Michael and his uninhibitedly affectionate new girlfriend Jodie on the other, and a traumatised Karen in the middle trying desperately to bite her tongue, and hilarity — genuinely, for once — ensues.

    In-between courses, Karen seeks refuge in the kitchen where Mack tries to console her: “You haven’t lost a son, you’ve gained a —” “Spokesperson for the FDA,” she interrupts. She even threatens to “open the oven, blow out the pilot, turn on the gas.” Mack argues that a bad first impression doesn’t mean Karen has to kill herself. “I’m not talking about me,” she explains. “Call those two women in here, then we’ll run out and toss in a match.” Where the suicide/murder mislead is a fun gag on KNOTS, it’s a grimly bizarre reality on FALCON CREST.

    Just as Pam is officially “a closed subject” on DALLAS, the story of FC’s Dina, another former aerobics instructor horrendously injured in a car crash, also comes to an end this week. Poor, poor Dina: having narrowly escaped death at the hands of one homicidal maniac (an ex-boyfriend who tampered with Lance’s car), she is then placed in the care of another, entirely unrelated homicidal maniac (her nurse) who manipulates her into writing a suicide note and then force-feeds her a fatal overdose of pills. Even by Soap Land standards, that’s pretty bad luck.

    The other major aspect of this week’s KNOTS is its flashback sequences. Just like last season’s, they are set in 1967 and accompanied by a Motown soundtrack, but instead of focusing on Mack and Anne’s teen romance in New York, they're about Abby and Charles’s love story in Philadelphia. We also get to see Young Karen (still campaigning) and Young Sid (still tinkering with engines). In truth, these sequences aren’t quite as evocative as last season’s, but they’re interesting nonetheless and it’s especially nice to see a youthful version of Sid. There’s another blast from the past on FALCON CREST where Michael Channing’s second birthday party (a far grander affair than the twins’ bash on last week’s KNOTS) is juxtaposed, GODFATHER-style, with Richard’s henchmen abducting Carlton Travis’ associate Colonel Anand so that Richard can interrogate him over the reasons behind Travis’ vendetta against him. Anand explains, in the first Pakistani accent we’ve heard in Soap Land, that Travis wishes to avenge the wrongs done to him by Henri Denault, Richard’s late guardian. “The sins of the father are visited on the sons,” says Richard ruefully, echoing Sean Rowan, echoing Zachary Powers, etc., all the way back to Michael Tyrone, i.e., Richard himself.

    Travis claims he wants to call a halt to the feud, but then Anand keels over with a heart attack while in Richard’s custody, and the episode ends with Travis holding both Richard and Angela at gunpoint. There is also talk of a ceasefire between JR and West Star on DALLAS. JR even invites Wilson Cryder and his wife Kimberly to dinner where, in the episode’s final scene, he suggests they “let bygones be bygones.” “You must know that Wilson has no intention of giving up the feud,” Kimberly tells JR once they are alone together. “Of course I do,” he replies, “but the way I figure — if he’s free to go after whatever’s mine, I’m free to go after whatever’s his.” He and Kimberly clink champagne glasses and exchange knowing looks as the episode ends. KNOTS concludes similarly. Like JR and Kimberly, Abby and Charles are sitting opposite one another in a restaurant. “Tell me that … your life has been miserable and leaving me was the biggest mistake you ever made,” Abby asks. Charles replies by proposing a toast. “To the most miserable man in the world — me.” Then the clink of champagne glasses, the knowing looks, the freeze frame.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    18 Nov 87: DYNASTY: The Primary v. 19 Nov 87: KNOTS LANDING: Flight of the Sunbirds v. 20 Nov 87: DALLAS: Bedtime Stories v. 20 Nov 87: FALCON CREST: Man Hunt

    Alexis Colby and Abby Ewing both put romance before business this week. While Alexis allows Sean to whisk her away to an idyllic island just three days before the primary election on DYNASTY, Abby cancels an important board meeting to have dinner with Charles Scott on KNOTS. Conversely on DALLAS, Sue Ellen’s business and not-quite- romantic-yet interests are perfectly in sync — when Nicholas Pearce talks about taking her away, it’s to Miami to open the latest branch of Valentine Lingerie.

    Neither intimate interlude goes according to plan. Alexis is left alone on the island overnight when Sean, having gone to fetch supplies from the mainland, is prevented from returning by bad weather. As the storm rages, Alexis screams and panics and ends sobbing on the floor. Abby is also abandoned when work commitments prevent Charles from making their date. Angry, she flashes back twenty years to when she learnt of Charles’s engagement to another woman. Like the present day Alexis, the teenage Abby falls apart, sobbing and throwing things — but then there’s a shift. She suddenly stops crying, looks at herself in the mirror and vows, “Never again,” before starting to brush her hair in a determined fashion. In a way, this is Abby’s equivalent of Val’s transformative “mirror moment” in Season 6 where she turned herself into Verna. Abby likewise becomes her own creation — the very character we have been watching for the past seven seasons. While it’s interesting to see this turning point in her life play out on screen, it also begs the question: does Abby’s quintessential Abby-ness really need explaining? Unlike the behaviour of JR and Alexis, which we’ve always known to be a result of their respective backstories (a son’s dysfunctional need to prove himself to his father; a scorned woman’s obsessive wish to avenge herself on her ex-husband), Abby has always seemed unfettered by her past; she’s not tortured — she wants more simply because she wants more. It’s kind of refreshing. By comparison, this new explanation, that she is the way she is just because of a broken heart, seems a little commonplace. (In fact, this very cliché was referenced during last week’s DALLAS — “What makes you so tough?” Nicholas Pearce asked April Stevens before concluding, tongue in cheek, that “someone, or lots of someones, hurt you way back when.”) Nonetheless, Gary’s question to Abby later in the episode — “Are you ever not performing?” — feels especially resonant given this fresh insight into her history.

    KNOTS’ sudden wish to root Abby’s ruthless behaviour in a sad experience from her past echoes another scene from DALLAS, this one involving Casey Denault. Casey has always felt to me like a latter-day version of Alan Beam, a previous lackey of JR’s with his eye on the main chance and one of DALLAS’s most effective supporting characters ever. Whereas we were given no insight into what motivated Alan beyond his own greed (“I was born devious, JR, just like you,” he boasted), the current era of the show feels the need to explain Casey’s ambition by giving him a sentimental speech about his father. “My daddy died last year,” he tells a sympathetic realtor with a sob in his voice and violins on the soundtrack. “Spent most of his life working hard, making other people rich. He never had an office, he never had a view, he never had much of anything … I’m not gonna live like my daddy did or die like he did.”

    On last week’s KNOTS, Al Parker proposed marriage to a woman he’d only known for a few episodes. Sean Rowan does the same thing on this week’s DYNASTY. “Marry you? I don’t even know you!” Lilimae exclaimed in response to Al’s question. “How can I marry you? I hardly know you,” echoes Alexis in reply to Sean’s. Each man discounts this argument, citing a similar example from his own family. “You wanna know how long my father knew my mother before they got married? Two weeks and not one day longer,” Sean tells Alexis, “and they spent all of their lives together and it was the best marriage I ever knew or heard about.” “My great-grandparents met the day they married and they stayed married till they died,” Al informs Lilimae. “Were they happy?” she asks, perhaps expecting a tale of unequivocal bliss similar to Sean’s. “I never met them,” Al shrugs. “You’ve known men, Alexis, and I’ve known women,” Sean continues breathlessly, “what we have together, where would we ever find it again?” Again, Al puts his own spin on this argument. “I know you well enough to know I know you well enough,” he tells Lilimae.

    While Alexis yields, Lilimae comes up with a counter-proposition. “I’m very flattered by your marriage proposal, Al,” she begins. “Don’t say ‘but’,” he pleads. (There’s a similar exchange on this week’s DALLAS: “Lisa, you’re a very special person,” says Bobby. “There’s a ‘but’ coming, isn’t there?” she anticipates correctly.) “I think we should live together,” Lilimae continues. “Is that what they call it?” By the end of this week’s episodes, Alexis has married her fourth husband and Lilimae and Al have driven away into the sunset, never to be seen again. Their departure is funny and touching — a rare combination in Soap Land, but one entirely befitting Lilimae’s character.

    “The bride wore red … It’s the only dress I packed,” explains Alexis at her impromptu nuptials. DALLAS’s bride-to-be Jenna dispenses with formality also. “The whole idea of a fancy full-dress wedding … It’s just not us. That’s for the people at Southfork,” she tells Ray. Back on KNOTS, Linda may have already married Eric Fairgate, but like Jenna has firm ideas about what she doesn’t want at her wedding reception: “Who needs hundreds of dollars worth of flowers and a champagne fountain … and an orchestra … and prime rib …?” This sounds like a blatant rejection of Soap Land convention. The DYNASTY wedding is also notable for the fact that the ceremony is conducted entirely in Spanish — with Sean translating for Alexis’s (and our) benefit. (Who could have imagined back then that New DYNASTY would contain entire scenes delivered in Spanish without so much as a concessionary subtitle?)

    This week’s DYNASTY and KNOTS each end with a one-sided phone call. “Why did you call me here? It’s too late. It’s already done — I married the woman,” mutters Sean to an unknown someone. What could he mean? “It’s just you and me, kid,” Greg tells his baby daughter following his own middle of the night call — and we realise only too well what he means.

    While Sean Rowan receives a mysterious call, his big-haired DALLAS counterpart, Nicholas Pearce, makes one. He calls his papa to warn him that, “I bumped into some guy called Pete something-or-other from the old neighbourhood” during last week’s episode. “He thought he recognised me, but I think I convinced him he was wrong.” After witnessing this meeting, April Stevens was so intrigued that she got a private detective on the case — the first instance on DALLAS of two second-tier characters with their own storyline that’s entirely separate from the main cast.

    Elsewhere on DYNASTY, Fallon drags Jeff along to a UFO encounter group where Vernon Weddle, one of Soap Land’s best character actors, appears as an alien abductee: “I boarded the spacecraft and I thought, ‘Who are these forms — devils of some sort? Is this Hell?’” It's a long way from Pride, Texas, which is where we last saw Weddle, playing a weary foreman pleading with Bobby not to put his town out of business, and even further from his role as Afferton the snooty wedding planner in the DYNASTY pilot.

    “I know it was wrong with Sammy Jo,” admits Josh on this week’s DYNASTY, referring to the kiss Steven witnessed between them at the end of the previous episode. “It was just a friendly little pass,” insists Sammy Jo in another scene. Gary and Val, who also shared a guilty smooch during last week’s KNOTS, spend this week’s ep telling everyone who’ll listen that the only reason they’re seeing each other is “for the kids’ sake.” However, despite all protestations to the contrary, both sets of blondes end up facing temptation again in their respective episodes’ penultimate scenes. “You shouldn’t be here,” Sammy Jo tells Josh. “I know,” he replies. “I guess I better leave,” Gary tells Val. “Yeah,” she replies. But then both couples end up in each other’s arms all over again. DALLAS ends on a similarly illicit note, minus the blonde hair, with JR on the brink of an affair. “If I choose, I can help you beat West Star,” purrs Kimberly Cryder, in that girlish but steely way of hers. “Why would you do that?” JR asks. “Your husband is the new chairman.” “Perhaps I’d like to see the two of you in combat, see who really is the strongest — winner take all,” she replies.

    Carlton Travis arranges a more literal form of combat to observe on this week’s FALCON CREST. He casts Richard Channing into the wilderness and orders his henchmen to track him down and kill him. Don’t ask me why, but he agrees to call off the hunt if Angela and Maggie can prove within twenty-four hours that he isn’t responsible for the murder of his brother which took place fifty years before. This results in a vague mashup of JR and BD Calhoun’s fight to the death on DALLAS, and Caress Morelle’s attempt to solve the mystery of the fire that killed Ellen Carrington on DYNASTY, with an added against-the-clock deadline. Maggie’s appalled reaction to the insanely convoluted world she now finds herself in rings true, but the rest of the story is lame. In particular, the sight of Richard Channing as a kick-ass survivalist, complete with a RAMBO-style bandana, is kind of embarrassing. At least when JR went up against Calhoun, we weren’t expected to buy him as a credible opponent.

    Following Abby Ewing and Angela Channing, DALLAS’s Bobby becomes the latest Soap Land character of late to run into someone from his youth. Rather than a former sweetheart, Tammy Miller is a classmate from the University of Texas, who confesses to a secret crush on Bobby back in the day. Tammy functions primarily as a pretty blonde plot point, but to make her seem sympathetic and vulnerable rather than just some anonymous pickup, she is written as an insecure divorcee, acutely aware of the ageing process and the double standards that exist between men and women. “Here I am, a woman in my thirties and I’ve only made love to one man in my life,” she admits. “Men just seem to get better with age. It's true - a woman has to worry about every pound and every wrinkle.” Abby touches on the same topic, albeit more glibly, after Gary compliments her appearance. “Ah do try,” she says in her phoney southern belle accent. “God knows, it gets mow and mow difficult.” Gary chuckles. “I do hope you’re laughing with me and not at me,” she adds in her normal voice.

    While we’re on the subject, it feels as if DALLAS has indeed been laughing at rather than with Marilee Stone recently. While she’s always been a cartoonish, larger than life character, the combination of her age and sexual appetite has made her the object of JR and Casey’s shared derision of late in a way that feels a little nastier than it has in the past. While it’s hard to imagine two female characters making fun of JR for the same reasons, the subject of his age vis-à-vis his sexual reputation is raised this week. “I wonder if all the wonderful things I’ve heard about you could possibly be true?” Kimberly Cryder enquires. “Oh, I was a pretty fair long-distance runner in my time,” he replies. “Not any longer?” she asks teasingly.

    When Tammy invites Bobby back to her place at the end of their evening together, one assumes he’ll politely turn her down, just as he has so many women before (the first two Jennas, Joanna Cassidy, Marilee, Holly, Katherine, etc.), and at first he does (“I don’t think I should”) — but then he changes his mind. On one level, this is unremarkable — one-night-stands in Soap Land are hardly new — but on another, this is uncharted territory. We’re talking about Bobby Ewing here, the genre’s original Romeo. There again, in the prequel novelisation of DALLAS by Lee Raintree, his nickname was “the screwing Ewing”. Finally, after all these years, he has the chance to live up to it. But he also has competition — for the first ever time in the onscreen Ewing-verse, all three brothers are at it simultaneously: Gary’s cheating on Jill with Val, JR’s cheating on Sue Ellen with Kimberly, and even though Bobby might not technically be cheating on Pam with Tammy, it still kind of feels like it.

    Synchronicity of the week: “You’re becoming like a surrogate mother for him [Christopher] — and that’s just not right,” Bobby tells Lisa on DALLAS in the same week that Karen Atkinson becomes a surrogate mother for Adam’s baby on DYNASTY — and that just doesn’t feel right to Dana. “I might be the biological mother of Adam’s child, but that’s where it ends,” Karen assures her. Turns out Lisa Alden is the biological aunt of Bobby’s child, but that isn’t where it ends — not if the shot of her watching Christopher from a distance after Bobby has given her her marching orders is anything to go by.

    Back on FALCON CREST, Dan Fixx acquires his very own Dandy Dandridge, a borderline vagrant who does his best to make himself indispensable (helping Dab rebuild his house) while simultaneously availing himself of the contents of his wallet. But whereas Dandy merely reminded Cliff of his long-lost daddy, this guy actually is Dan’s long-lost daddy. Suffice to say, he’s more Amos Krebbs than Paul Galveston.

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

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    I didn't attach too much weight to that scene since she already proved to be a resourceful and persuasive person in those very flashback scenes.
    And after Charles, she did marry another man and have his children, which probably isn't the best example of "revenge against love".
    Is it überhaupt possible to deliberately change your personality?

    I see that "never again!" as something that is going to happen again.
    Excellent, it makes him more real, and maybe even manlier than his brother ever was because it suggests a physical need. It doesn't get sexier than that.
     
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  11. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    25 Nov 87: DYNASTY: The Testing v. 27 Nov 87: DALLAS: Lovers and Other Liars v. 27 Nov 87: FALCON CREST: Hunter's Moon

    On last week’s DYNASTY, Blake channelled the Miss Ellie within as he fought (successfully) to save an area of natural beauty from being ruined by big business. This week, he connects with his inner Jock while he deliberates over which of his children to entrust with control of his company (the divestiture of his holdings being a soap-friendly requirement of Blake's running for governor). Just as taking a ride in a spaceship seems to have restored some of Fallon’s former spikiness, killing Matthew Blaisdel has likewise reinvigorated Steven’s personality. Adam, meanwhile, remains as competitive as ever and so when the siblings convene to learn of their father’s decision, there is a perceptible crackle between them. “I don’t trust you,” Adam tells Steven. “I don’t trust you,” Fallon tells Adam. “Doesn’t that make us a neat little triangle?” And she’s right, it does.

    As Blake contemplates surrendering control of his empire, he recalls striking oil as a seventeen-year-old boy, “grimy, work blisters on my hands, and in my head, dreams — dreams about oil being down there somewhere under that ground. Then all of sudden, it happened. It was there, gushing out of the ground, a hundred feet in the air ... It was beautiful.” What Blake describes on DYNASTY, we witness on DALLAS, but this time it's the dreams of a seventy-odd-year-old man, Dandy Dandridge, coming true — for all of about thirty seconds. “You mean your wonderful nose just found me one cubic foot of oil? All those millions for a thimbleful?!” yells Cliff amusingly as the oil disappears just as suddenly as it erupted out of the ground.

    Elsewhere on this week's DALLAS, Nicholas Pearce drags Sue Ellen to the Fairview Hotel to pitch the idea of a Valentine boutique in every lobby of a chain of hotels. “Sex and hotels — what a natural combination,” she nods — just in time to see her own husband in an embrace with Kimberly Cryder as they ride the glass elevator up to the penthouse suite. She later retaliates in kind, summoning Nicholas to her hotel room in Miami and kissing his face off. Meanwhile, in a hotel room in New York, Leslie Carrington is doing the very same thing to Jeff Colby. While Jeff cheating on his wife with her cousin doesn’t seem quite as transgressive as what Bobby Ewing got up to with Tammy Miller in her hotel room on last week’s DALLAS, it’s still somewhat eyebrow-raising. If Bobby and Pam were DALLAS's Romeo and Juliet, then Jeff and Fallon were THE COLBYS' equivalent — the soft focus golden couple elevated above the dysfunction surrounding them. However, since re-inheriting the couple, DYNASTY has depicted Fallon and Jeff’s relationship with an irreverence similar to the way post-dream DALLAS immediately set about undercutting some of the more precious aspects of that show's previous season: Sue Ellen’s pious sobriety, JR’s solemn reverence for his beloved bro Bobby.

    In the penultimate scene of this week’s DYNASTY, we find Sean Rowan and his sister standing in a familiar-looking house. “This is the room where he shot himself, Victoria … Joseph Anders, servant to the Carringtons. They bought him off and then they betrayed him. Our father gave his life waiting upon them and not one single damned Carrington mourned him.” In the final scene of this week’s DALLAS, JR asks Kimberly Cryder what she knows about Dr Herbert Styles, aka West Star’s biggest shareholder. “Styles is from Austin,” she replies. “He was a handsome man with a big powerful voice, a man who could do anything … but now he’s old and sick and he doesn’t have long to live … He’s my father.”

    Even though we only learned of Kimberly’s existence a few episodes ago and this is the first week Dr Styles has been mentioned, DALLAS nonetheless manages to make the discovery of their relationship feel at least as significant as that of Sean and Joseph on DYNASTY. Plot-wise, both revelations are linked to Sean and JR’s respective masterplan for the season, each of which is unveiled this week. “Why look for revenge by hurting other people?” Sean's sister Victoria asks him. “I have no intention of hurting a single one of [the Carringtons]," he replies. "They’re going to destroy each other — father, mother and children — and I’m only here to help them do it.” Meanwhile on DALLAS, it gradually becomes apparent that JR’s plan is to take over West Star. Destroy the Carringtons, assume control of West Star: those are the objectives, we don’t quite yet know how Sean and JR intend to achieve them.

    Another week, another marriage proposal: this time it’s Richard Channing popping the question to Maggie on FALCON CREST. Just like Jenna on DALLAS a few weeks ago, Maggie is unsure, concerned about rushing into something new too quickly, and so explains to her suitor that she needs time to think. Richard takes her response about as well as Ray did Jenna’s, but instead of flying off to Washington to visit his ex-wife and newborn baby, he busies himself by helping out a long-lost teenage pal. Yep, following hot on the heels of Charles Scott, Carlton Travis and Tammy Miller, Liz “Stretch” McDowell (played by Colette Ferrier from PAPER DOLLS) is the latest teenage pal from someone's past to arrive in Soap Land. Following her father’s recent death, she needs help fending off a takeover bid for his baseball team from the Japanese. (The Japanese?? Looks like the concept of globalisation has just arrived in Soap Land.)

    While FC gives us a glimpse of Stretch’s baseball team via an onscreen practice session, DYNASTY has thus far chosen to evoke the authenticity of the Carrington football team by focusing on the action in the locker room. Whereas Stretch is all too aware of the problems facing her team, Steven Carrington has no idea that his prize-quarterback is not only screwing his ex-wife but apparently has a drug problem too (Soap Land’s first since Olivia Cunningham’s).

    FALCON CREST is the Soap Land equivalent of whiplash, constantly veering from the borderline unwatchable to the comparatively sublime and back again. On one hand, the scenes between Richard and Maggie, as he waits for an answer to his proposal, are as rich with tension and emotion as anything you could hope to see on KNOTS LANDING — it’s all about what isn’t said. On the other, the sequence in which Melissa throws a leaving party for herself at The Max (the club where she’s worked for all of five episodes) and invites Angela to be the guest of honour so she can embarrass her is excruciatingly unfunny and as feeble than anything Soap Land has offered us thus far. Elsewhere, Lance’s race-against-time storyline, in which he rushes to find an antidote to the fatal poison he’s been injected with (a vague ripoff of the 1949 film noir, DOA), is marginally better than the race-against-time story involving Richard in last week’s episode, but by now all the convoluted but short-lived FC plots in which a major character is almost-but-not-quite murdered by a passing guest star are starting to merge into one. However, just as one is tempted to write FALCON CREST off altogether, in strides Lauren Hutton, a breath of fresh air as Stretch McDowell. Unsurprisingly, Stretch is a globetrotting photojournalist — the profession of choice for such free-spirited Soap Land women as Ruth Sumner Galveston and Lady Ashley Mitchell. However, Stretch is in an idiosyncratically sexy, tomboy-ish class of her own, exemplified by that gap-toothed smile of hers. Briefly, one imagines that she might be the one to turn FALCON CREST around -- but then comes her line to Richard at the end of the ep: “I think someone just tried to kill me!” Oh great: yet another FC murder storyline about people we don’t really know.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

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

    That's very true ... but, whereas the Abby we first meet has just arrived in Calfornia and doesn't seem to know anything about business, KNOTS readjusts Abby and Jeff's history after Charles arrives ("My first husband and I started a small business here in California. It grew and I grew and we grew apart") which kind of suggests that she might have had business ambitious from the off.

    Agreed!
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2018
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  12. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    02 Dec 87: DYNASTY: The Setup v. 03 Dec 87: KNOTS LANDING: Noises Everywhere (1) v. 04 Dec 87: DALLAS: Brothers and Sons v. 04 Dec 87: FALCON CREST: Lovers and Friends

    “Governor? You can’t even run your own family, let alone Colorado!” And with that, the half-season long truce between Alexis and Blake on DYNASTY is officially over. “That damn paragon of virtue, that saint among saints,” Alexis seethes, her sarcasm matched by Richard Avery’s on the following night’s KNOTS LANDING. “What we got here is a whole town full of saints,” he says to a room of former friends and neighbours. “I just hate to see you people sitting around calling a heel a saint,” counters Abby after Val expresses some sympathy for “poor Richard.” “I never claimed that I was a saint,” Tucker Fixx tells his son Dan on Friday’s FALCON CREST. Fixx and Richard are both guilty of abandoning their wives and young families several years before. “He was a lousy husband who walked out on Laura and her two sons,” Abby reminds the KNOTS gang. “I was ten years old. You told me with tears running down your face that it wasn’t my fault, that you just weren’t cut out to be a father,” Dan reminds Tucker. Both men have had more success the second time around. Richard tells his former neighbours that he is happily remarried to a “wonderful lady, wonderful wife”, while Dan is hurt to learn that his father “started a whole new family” less than a year after walking out on him: “You stayed with them. I bet you didn’t even tell them about me.”

    Blake’s decision to give three of his children an equal say in the running of Denver Carrington ensures that Adam and Steven are back at each other’s throats by the end of this week’s DYNASTY. “You resent me so much, you would do anything to make me look bad,” Steven accuses his brother. “You don’t need me to make you look bad, Steven — you’re doing a wonderful job all by yourself,” Adam replies. Over on DALLAS, another long-dormant sibling rivalry twitches back into life as Bobby rediscovers his passion for the oil business. “JR was the oilman,” he recalls. “He was the one that was always supposed to follow in Daddy’s footsteps, but when it comes right down to it, I have just as much oil in my veins as he does.”

    Following Jeff Colby’s and JR Ewing’s respective “sex and hotels” indiscretions last week, it's now time for the aftermath. Events unfold swiftly for Jeff: Fallon surmises correctly that he has slept with Leslie, he does a lousy job of denying it, she tells him their marriage over, they agree to keep up appearances for the sake of Blake’s campaign (just as Gary and Abby did when Gary was running for the Senate last season), and he moves into his own bedroom at the mansion. Whereas Fallon seems unsurprised by the end of her marriage (“We’ve both tried, but it doesn’t work anymore”), Sue Ellen is shocked by her husband’s latest infidelity. “Things have been so good between me and JR this year,” she tells Nicholas Pearce. “I really felt that he believed in us and our marriage — and then he goes off with another woman!” Unlike Fallon, Sue Ellen keeps her discovery of JR’s affair a secret — she doesn’t cry or yell or pick up a drink or demand an open marriage. Instead, she carries on as if nothing has happened and even invites JR’s bedmate, Kimberly Cryder, to the Ewing barbecue. “It’s called setting the stage,” she explains when Nicholas asks what she’s up to.

    Ray Krebbs, meanwhile, keeps his romantic rival even closer by asking Bobby to be best man at his wedding — thus affording Jenna the opportunity to finally walk down the aisle towards her first love (as well as the man she’s actually marrying). Over on FALCON CREST, Richard angers Maggie by inviting Stretch McDowell to move in with them, following Stretch’s claims that she is being stalked by gravity-defying ninjas. (Well, how else do you expect the Japanese do business in Soap Land?)

    Fallon’s UFO adventure having expanded Soap Land’s paranormal boundaries, the concept of ninjas in the Tuscany Valley works as a sort of prototype X-File, with Maggie playing the bemused sceptic (“Do you believe that cockamamie story?” she scoffs) to Richard’s free-thinking investigator (he visits a martial arts wise man to inquire about the existence of ninjas).

    “I’ve spent my entire life being someone’s little girl — first Daddy and then you … I just don’t wanna be that little girl anymore, I can’t,” Fallon tells Jeff on DYNASTY. “I went from my father’s house to Chase’s house to your house. I have never felt independent in my entire life and I am afraid that if I marry you now, I never will,” Maggie tells Richard on FALCON CREST. Over on KNOTS, Val Gibson makes her own bid for independence — but hers is not sparked not by an infidelity or a proposal of marriage, but by a pot of coffee. “You act like you think I’m not capable of anything,” she snaps at Karen. “No matter what you think, I am capable … I got news for you, Karen. I can make the coffee as well as you can and I can live my life as well as you can!” This isn’t really about coffee, of course — it’s about the fact that Karen knew Laura was dying but chose not to tell Val.

    By any standards, this is A Very Special Episode of KNOTS LANDING — ‘Episode 200’, in fact, as a caption at the beginning of the ep makes a point of informing us. When DALLAS reached the same landmark a couple of years ago, it marked the occasion with an expansively shot, almost cinematic instalment centred around the thrills and spills of the Southfork rodeo. KNOTS goes in the opposite direction, narrowing its focus to a single location and concentrating solely on the show's six remaining principal cast members, plus one returning character from the early years.

    As commemorative episodes go, it is not without ironies. An instalment to mark 200 episodes about the lives of a suburban community, it doesn’t once set foot in the cul-de-sac itself. Instead, Seaview Circle residents past and present turn up at the home of the show’s most anti-social character and expect him to play host. (While Greg remains impenetrable behind dark glasses, the rest of the characters emote around him.) Moreover, the gathering is a wake without a body. (“Mrs Avery’s remains have been inadvertently delivered to the wrong mortuary,” runs the official explanation. Mack has his own: “You know, Laura left here and she’s determined never to come back.”)

    Not only is Laura corporally absent, but this is the very first week Constance McCashin has not appeared in the show’s opening credits. (DALLAS marked its bicentennial ep with a similarly curious omission — it was the first ever episode in which Bobby Ewing’s name was not mentioned.) As the instalment unfolds, two seemingly contradictory impressions of Laura emerge. On one hand, there’s the Laura who made a success of her life (“A lot of people talk about turning their lives around, but Laura did it,” acknowledges Gary), while on the other, there’s the Laura who chose to end her life in such a solitary way (“She was alone when she died?” asks Richard uncomprehendingly). How to reconcile these opposing aspects of her character? Richard implies that the answer may lie in the rotting heart of Seaview Circle itself: “God, all these years I’ve lived with this guilt for what I did, but you guys — well, we all know that Knots Landing is the world’s most perfect community, I mean a veritable utopia, the solar system’s ideal community, but Laura left here to die.

    The suggestion that the Knots gang are all somehow culpable in Laura’s decision is an intriguing, if not wholly substantive one, just as Sean Rowan’s claim on last week’s DYNASTY that the Carringtons are all equally to blame for Joseph Anders’ downfall (“They bought him off and then they betrayed him — our father gave his life waiting upon them and not one single damned Carrington mourned him”) is exciting, without being altogether accurate. Ultimately, it’s an open verdict: “We don’t know why Laura chose to do what she did,” says Karen simply. Perhaps it isn’t Greg, but Laura who is/was KNOTS’ most ambiguous character.

    Another unanswered question: what exactly is Abby doing at Laura’s wake? Laura only died the night before the events of this episode which means Abby would have had to have dropped everything in order to spend the day with a group of people she doesn’t especially like to commemorate a woman she actively disliked. Maybe it's the same reason JR is at Ray and Jenna’s wedding on this week’s DALLAS (“Mama, how long is this going to take? I got things to do”), i.e., social obligation, or maybe it’s the same reason Cliff is at the Southfork barbecue (“Barnes, this is a Ewing barbecue — who invited you?” JR asks him), i.e., plot requirement. Or maybe this is just KNOTS turning back the clock to a time when Abby would voluntarily choose to spend time with her old neighbours (like in “Three Sisters” where she practically stowed away in Laura’s car in order to be in on the ghostly real estate action). Whichever, putting Abby in close proximity to the likes of Val and Richard for the best part of an hour is one of the episode’s highlights.

    Richard’s return acknowledges the gap between the comparatively down to earth KNOTS he was once a part of and the supersoap the show has since become. “How are we all — richer?” he asks his former neighbours. Likewise on DALLAS, Sue Ellen’s attendance at her first meeting of the Daughters of the Alamo for eight seasons illustrates how much things have changed since those early episodes when her days revolved around charity luncheons. “Darling, do you know how many girls wish they had the guts to do what you did?” asks a DOA gal, echoing Gary’s tribute to Laura (“A lot of people talk about turning their lives around, but Laura did it.”)

    Also present at Laura’s wake is Meg’s new nanny Barbara. As she quietly goes about her business, she acts as kind of a sounding board for the characters, much as caterers Sam and Tilly did for the Ewings at the original DALLAS “Barbecue”. Where Tilly regarded the Ewings with a cynically arched eyebrow, Barbara is more neutral. She listens in near silence as, one by one, Greg’s guests drop by the kitchen and start talking, mostly about themselves — Gary tearfully reflecting on the mistakes he’s made, Mack making drunken wisecracks, Abby delivering some witheringly incisive observations on Greg (“the man with a black hole where his soul ought to be”) and Val (“Laura sure knew what she was doing leaving this group — if you were dying would you want Valene Gibson dressed in her latest teenage fashion standing next to your bedside telling you every personal problem she’d ever had in the world?”). Barbara’s presence has the effect of distancing us slightly from the characters we know so well as we start to view them through her eyes instead. Consequently, the scene where Karen cries over Laura’s death, which could easily have been the emotional climax of the episode, instead becomes just as much about Barbara’s awkward reaction to a stranger bursting into tears as it is about Karen and her feelings. The characters’ surprise upon learning that Barbara has two kids and a home of her own is also revealing — like servants and secretaries, Soap Land’s domestic staff aren’t supposed to have lives independent of their employers.

    “I don’t know why her death has brought out the worst in everyone,” sighs Karen and indeed, this episode highlights the flaws, the self-involvement and the shrill histrionics of the KNOTS characters. It even exposes the lie at the heart of the show that they are just like us, only richer and prettier with more dramatic lives — which means they’re not like us at all. However, underneath all their “bad” behaviour and self-indulgences lie some basic human fears (fear of death, fear of facing the end alone — hell, the fear of being abruptly written out of a hit TV series after nearly two-hundred episodes), which suggests that, deep down, they are just like us. Well, kind of.

    Back at the ranch, DALLAS brings Dandy Dandridge’s storyline to a close by reaching back into the distant past — “DALLAS: The Early Years” to be precise — to the time when Digger pulled a gun on Jock at the Ewing barbecue, 1951. History repeats itself when Dandy does the same to Cliff at this week’s barbecue. Unlike Digger and Jock, Dandy and Cliff manage to resolve their differences and Dandy limps off into the sunset, maybe not quite as happily as Lilimae and Al did a couple of weeks ago, but close enough. Angela also hosts a barbecue on this week’s FALCON CREST. It only lasts one scene, but that’s long enough to bring Tucker Fixx into her orbit. Pretty soon, she’s uncovered the truth about his secret family and he is too headed out of town. Other familial revelations this week: Christopher learns that Lucas is Bobby’s biological son during Ray and Jenna’s wedding, Bobby learns that Lisa is Christopher’s biological aunt during the Ewing barbecue, and Sean Rowan learns that Adam was the father of the baby Dana secretly aborted as a teenager during a fact-finding mission to Billings, Montana.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (-) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (1) DALLAS
    3 (2) DYNASTY
    4 (3) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2018
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  13. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    09 Dec 87: DYNASTY: The Fair v. 10 Dec 87: KNOTS LANDING: Noises Everywhere (2) v. 11 Dec 87: DALLAS: Brother, Can You Spare a Child? v. 11 Dec 87: FALCON CREST: Across the Bridge

    Another week, another marriage proposal: This time, Josh Harris gets down on one knee in front of Sammy Jo in the stables of Delta Rho. Instead of hesitating like DALLAS’s Jenna and FALCON CREST’s Maggie (who, after three weeks, still hasn’t given Richard a straight answer) or accepting like DYNASTY’s Alexis or even suggesting an alternative like KNOTS LANDING’s Lilimae, Sammy Jo unequivocally refuses. “Josh, it can’t be,” she tells him.

    The centrepiece of this week’s DYNASTY is Ye Olde English Fayre hosted by Alexis at the Carlton Hotel. It has much in common with the farewell party Melissa threw for herself at The Max on FALCON CREST a few weeks ago — eagerly overacting extras, silly costumes, stilted dialogue and a general sense of forced gaiety. For some reason, however, it made me laugh all the way through (even as my toes curled at the terrible English accents) whereas Melissa’s bash just made me lose the will to live. Perhaps it’s because the party shenanigans on DYNASTY exist as part of a bigger picture rather than an end in themselves — it still feels as if I’m watching a soap opera rather than a stiflingly unfunny sitcom.

    KNOTS LANDING is also dominated by a social gathering this week, albeit with a very different atmosphere. Given that it’s Laura’s funeral, that’s hardly surprising. (“You might try a different theme next time,” Jill advises Greg). Just like at the fair on DYNASTY, there are clueless extras in attendance, but here they are acknowledged as such by the script. “I don’t know half these people and the half I do know I don’t even like,” says Greg.

    As this is Soap Land, there are adversaries as well as friends present at both gatherings. Indeed, Blake and Krystle are obliged to attend Alexis’s party as it is a fundraiser for the drug rehabilitation centre of which Krystle is chairman. Meanwhile, a suspicious Gary asks Abby what she’s doing at Laura’s funeral. “I came for the food,” she replies. At the start of this week’s DALLAS, where the Ewing barbecue is still in full swing, Miss Ellie sees Krystle’s rehab centre and raises her a shelter for the homeless as she agrees to head up the DOA’s latest fundraising project.

    Dana Carrington and Mack Mackenzie are conspicuously late arrivals to the fair and funeral respectively. Dana, currently being blackmailed over her convoluted past by Alexis’s new husband, tries to duck out of the party altogether, but finally cedes to Adam’s wish that she attend. Mack’s crisis is more existential. “Spare me the song and dance about counting your blessings,” he tells Gary when he eventually shows up at Greg’s ranch, the worse for drink and owing $112 in cab fare. “I’ve been doing that for two days and you know what? I still feel like feeling sorry for myself.” He arrives in time to overhear Paige describing Laura as “a very worthwhile person.” “Who talks like that?” he sneers. “It’s a lucky thing that she didn’t grow up with me. She’d be finishing all her sentences with prepositions.” One wonders what Mack would make of Paige’s funeral etiquette now that she’s turned into Alexis on New DYNASTY. Would her announcement at Tom Carrington’s send-off last week — “Sorry I’m late, traffic was a bitch” — be more to his liking?

    The DYNASTY and KNOTS parties both feature a physical altercation between two women. While Alexis ends up cleavage down in the mud following a tug of war with Krystle, Jill Bennett whacks Paige in the back with the bag in which she had hidden the urn containing Peter’s ashes, which feels all kinds of appropriate. Fallon’s powder room spat with cousin Leslie is strictly verbal, but she nonetheless manages to draw blood with this observation: “Poor Leslie, you have no idea how obvious you are. Look at yourself. You may see Alexis, but everyone else sees a pathetic imitation. You have no identity, Leslie. You’ve tried to take one woman’s style and another woman’s husband and you’ve failed at both.”

    No Soap Land party is complete without a gatecrasher. Last week’s DALLAS ended with Lisa Alden showing up at the Southfork barbecue to tell Bobby she’s suing him for custody of Christopher. (More excitingly, this week’s DALLAS ends with the revelation that JR is secretly behind her lawsuit.) While Josh Harris staggers uninvited into the DYNASTY fair still reeling from Sammy Jo’s rejection, Michael Fairgate’s admirably clingy girlfriend Jodie turns up at Greg’s, miffed that Michael didn’t bring her along as his date in the first place. “If we’re going together, we should be together all the time,” she reasons. Meanwhile on DALLAS, Ray and Jenna return from their honeymoon to find that Charlie and boyfriend Randy are “being together all the time” a bit too much for their liking.

    “I don’t even touch the stuff!” laughs Josh when Steven accuses him of drinking too much at the fair, but he’s clearly high on something. Jill has definitely been putting the booze away at Laura’s remembrance, but the reason she tells Gary to stop the car on the way home isn’t so she can throw up — it’s so she can scatter Peter’s ashes over a clifftop. It’s a moment that manages to be funny, sad and slightly campy all at the same time. Back on DALLAS, April Stevens gets drunk too — not at the Ewing barbecue, but because she wasn’t invited to it. “Last year, when I was flat broke,” she sobs to Nicholas Pearce, “I went to that barbecue — with Cliff Barnes!” Yeah, and she was a lot more fun then too.

    While Blake won’t hear of Fallon and Jeff staying together for the sake of his campaign (“Please don’t live any more lies because of me … Be honest with yourselves”) Sue Ellen admits to Nicholas during the best scene of this week’s DALLAS that she fully intends to live a lie: “I’m going to play the devoted, caring wife … until I find out exactly what it is that will hurt [JR] the most.”

    Turns out Jeff Colby and Richard Avery were raised with similar expectations of marriage. “I grew up expecting that the husband works hard and he takes care of the family. The wife is there to support him. It’s just not that way. I feel lost,” Jeff tells Krystle. Same goes for Richard. “Ten years ago it was all women’s lib, women were leaving their husbands," he tells Karen. "For us, the shoe was on the other foot. [Laura] started making all that money. I just couldn’t handle it. I wasn’t brought up that way. None of us was.”

    The barbecue, the fair, the funeral — each gathering throws up at least one unusual combination of characters. Despite co-existing on DYNASTY for six seasons (albeit on and off), Jeff and Sammy Jo have never shared a conversation before now — and it emerges that they have a thing or two in common. “You look as if you’re having as much fun as I’m having,” observes Jeff. “Why is it so hard to let go?” Sammy Jo asks him. “You’re asking the wrong person,” he sighs. Meanwhile, eras collide on KNOTS when Richard gets into conversation with Jill. “I see Gary Ewing,” she explains. “You’re certainly in good company,” he replies. “I think my ex-wife is the only woman in this town who didn’t see Gary Ewing. Then, she’s dead so I’ll never really know for sure.” The unusual meeting on DALLAS doesn’t occur at the barbecue but because of it. Following his run-in with Dandy at Southfork, Cliff meets with Miss Ellie to tell her he got that whole Barnes/Ewing feud thing completely wrong. “Jock was telling the truth, Cliff,” Ellie tells him. “I know that now!” he agrees. “I tell you what would have about made this day perfect … if Pam could have been here, just to see her brother learn his lesson.” Then they hug it out.

    While Cliff and Miss Ellie achieve a kind of bittersweet closure in Pam’s absence, Richard and Karen attempt to do the same in Laura’s. The main difference is that in the process of burying the hatchet on DALLAS, the ambiguity that gave the Barnes/Ewing feud its potency is lost — Jock was right, Digger was wrong and that’s that (at least until New DALLAS). Over on KNOTS, Richard also is trying to come to terms with the past, but here there are no easy answers, no clear-cut rights and wrongs. “People keep looking at me like, ‘Am I sad enough?’,” he tells Karen. “I am sad, I guess, but probably not as sad as most of you. Laura was too strong for me … I still can’t wait to get out of here. Being here brings it all back. Being here is worse for me than Laura dying.” Somehow their conversation gets back to the manner in which Laura died. “We are not responsible for Laura’s decision,” Karen insists. “She chose to die alone.” But Richard still can’t accept this, even after the screening of Laura’s videotaped messages has created a kind of collective catharsis amongst the group. “I've figured out why you all stick together,” he tells the Mackenzies. “No-one else will have you … I can’t stand it that she died alone! … I left her, but you let her down.” By now, Mack has emerged from his two-episode funk to deliver a touchingly open-ended coda. “We didn’t let her down,” he tells Richard. “She let us down … I’m not blaming her. I’m saying she was wrong. I’m also saying ‘so what?’ … It was her right to be wrong … You spend the time you can with the people that you can. You don’t look ahead, you don’t look back and you be damn grateful for the time you had together.” “I am,” Richard replies, kinda choked up, and then he leaves.

    It hit me during this re-watch that “Noises Everywhere” is as much Richard’s farewell as Laura’s — it’s the goodbye he wasn’t able to articulate when he left the first time around. For me, his last words are the most moving part of the episode — save for Laura’s final message to Greg where he talks back to the TV screen, which is so intimate, so personal, it feels almost intrusive to write about it.

    After watching Laura’s tape, Val ends up sobbing on the kitchen floor surrounded by broken crockery (that darn coffee pot again) just as Miss Ellie did after the realisation of Jock’s death hit her on DALLAS. Karen joins her on the floor and pretty soon they’re emoting their heads off. Abby walks in and hovers uncomfortably (“It’s difficult to make a graceful exit out of this place”). Abby looking down on Karen and Val, both literally and figuratively, yet at the same time aware that she doesn’t really understand this bond that they share — it’s a perfect illustration of the dynamic between the three of them.

    KNOTS ends with one last glimpse of Laura, reading “Goodnight Moon” to her daughter Meg. I always remembered this as being one of the video recordings she leaves behind, but it isn’t — Meg is actually present as she is reading, and Laura is looking at her rather than the camera. So I guess that makes it a flashback, except nobody's remembering it -- it's just between her and us. (Regardless of whatever offscreen politics may have surrounded Constance McCashin’s departure from KNOTS, both this episode and "The Gift of Life" feel like very respectful, even loving, tributes to the character, just as the very gentle, gradual writing out of Susan Howard’s Donna did on DALLAS. There are plenty of Soap Land characters whom one feels have been unceremoniously bundled off of their respective show, but that’s not the case here.)

    Videotape is also a plot point on this week’s DYNASTY. At the end of the episode, Alexis screens a doctored tape to her party guests that makes it appear as though Blake is a regular visitor to Cora van Heusen’s house of prostitution. There’s a whiff of Scooby Doo about this dastardly scheme just as there is in the final scene of this week’s FALCON CREST where Stretch McDowell rips the mask off her ninja assailant to reveal a caucasian woman whom she herself has hired to, well ... do whatever it is that ninjas do, I guess. There’s further Scoobiness elsewhere on FC as Angela enlists the aid Foster Glenn, some sort of pyrotechnic wizard-cum-Vegas illusionist, to gaslight Melissa (who’s already pretty much lit, if you ask me). For this role, FC grants Buck Henry a unique “Cameo Appearance by …” at the beginning of the episode. By contrast, Brad Pitt is buried amongst the secretaries and receptionists in the end credits of this week’s DALLAS.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (2) DALLAS
    3 (4) FALCON CREST
    4 (3) DYNASTY
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2018
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  14. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    17 Dec 87: KNOTS LANDING: Weak Moment v. 18 Dec 87: DALLAS: Daddy's Little Darlin' v. 18 Dec 87: FALCON CREST: Twist and Shout

    This week’s KNOTS and FALCON CREST are both named after songs that feature during their respective episodes. KNOTS opens with ‘Weak Moment’, a country number that plays over a montage of Gary leaving Val’s bed and getting dressed, and Abby taking receipt of some flowers from Charles Scott and throwing them onto an open fire. On FALCON CREST, a generic version of ’Twist and Shout’ is playing at The Max as Eric Stavros sends his wife Vicky off to dance so that he can talk to FC’s latest murderous guest star in private. ‘Twist and Shout’ is the latest example of Soap Land’s preoccupation with sixties pop music. Classic Motown tracks accompanied both KNOTS LANDING’s recent run of flashback sequences and Melissa’s farewell party on FALCON CREST, while DALLAS's Ray and Jenna returned from their honeymoon last week to find Charlie and Brad Pitt cavorting to the sound ‘Mony Mony’, a 1968 hit for Tommy James and the Shondells. Given that it’s pretty much unheard of for DALLAS to use well-known music in its scenes, it felt like a significant choice. The song gave a kind of retro vibe of Charlie and Randy’s relationship which continues in this week's ep. The scene where Ray gives Randy a fatherly talking to before allowing him to escort Charlie to a dance feels like something out of the fifties. “I don’t want Charlie in any car where the driver’s been drinking,” he tells him firmly — might he be thinking back to Mickey and Sue Ellen’s fateful car crash five years earlier?

    DALLAS makes several other references to its own past this week. The ep opens with Bobby flashing back to the moment in Season 4 where he bought Christopher from his real father. (As with pop music, flashbacks might be commonplace on the other soaps, but are something of a novelty on DALLAS.) His subsequent visit to Sue Ellen at Valentine Lingerie to tell her “there’s a girl in Dallas who claims she’s Jeff Farraday’s sister … and she’s suing me for custody of Christopher” echoes their conversation in her townhouse six years earlier when he admitted that Kristin was Christopher’s real mother. In both scenes, Bobby uses the phrase “it’s a long and complicated story” to skim over any unnecessary exposition. “If this goes to trial,” he warns Sue Ellen, “a lot of Ewing dirty linen is gonna be aired all over again … I’m worried about you and JR.” Bobby’s previous revelation had left Sue Ellen in bits, but she’s not the same lip trembling pushover she was then. “Believe me, nothing could come up in the trial that would change our relationship,” she assures him coolly. Her parting line to Bobby, “I told you before, I married the wrong brother” recalls another conversation between them, this time at Brooktree Sanatarium at the end of Season 1. “If I’d only met you first, Bobby, I’d have married you instead of JR,” she told him then.

    Back at Southfork, Miss Ellie hosts a DOA meeting, just as she used to in the show’s early days. This leaves Clayton, still recovering from a heart operation, feeling as redundant as Jock did following his bypass surgery in Season 1. Whereas Jock gravitated towards a younger woman (Julie Grey), Clayton is drawn to a painting of a young woman hanging in an art gallery. “It’s almost haunting,” he murmurs. So taken is he that he buys the picture for $6,000 — small potatoes next to the $35,000 Laura shelled out for the Fuentes painting on KNOTS shortly before her death. Greg returns to the gallery where Laura bought the painting during this week’s ep and the owner informs him that, thanks to Laura’s generosity, Fuentes has been able to quit his job and take up painting full-time. “I hope I get first crack at what he produces,” Greg replies. “I’m very interested in this man’s work,” echoes Clayton with regard to his up and coming artist. To my untrained eye, both paintings are very pretty — the Fuentes looks more like "art" art while Clayton’s is kind of "soap opera" art.

    This being Soap Land, however, aesthetics take second place to matters of commerce. On DALLAS, the gallery owner assures Clayton he has made a sound investment: “The artist will be famous one day.” On KNOTS, the gallery owner’s assistant — who just happens to be Paige Matheson — is more circumspect. “He’s got a lot of potential,” she says of Fuentes. “Artistic potential or investment potential?” asks Greg. “Investment art would be nice.”

    Only a week after we heard Laura refer to Greg as Ace for the final time, Paige calls him Pops for the first time. He looks amused — and a new double act is born. There’s a similar “out with the old, in with the new” vibe on FALCON CREST where Lance, on his way home from pushing his dead girlfriend’s car off a cliff as a sort of symbolic tribute (or maybe just as an excuse for a cool explosion), meets his next romantic interest, Shannon, who just happens* to have broken down by the side of the road. Meanwhile on DALLAS, it’s Pam who? “I am getting on with my life now,” Bobby tells April just before they share their first kiss.
    (*In other words, she's been planted by Lance's grandmother.)

    Whereas DALLAS is full of familiar moments, there is a strange reversal of roles on KNOTS. It's as if Laura’s passing has somehow upset the series’ delicate “earth, wind and fire” ecosystem, causing "wind" and "fire" to swap places. Val is now the other woman while Abby has claimed the role of the victim. “You could give lessons in manipulation to Abby Ewing,” Jill tells Val (the KNOTSian equivalent of Afton Cooper’s kiss-off line to Cliff: “You make JR Ewing look like a saint”) after learning that she and Gary have been sleeping together. Abby, meanwhile, is plagued by romantic indecision over Charles Scott. “I was the real victim of your lousy decision,” she cries towards the end of the episode, “the woman who loved you, who trusted you, who would have done anything for you, the little coed who cried herself to sleep every night for weeks and weeks and weeks because of what you did to her!” There’s also a tinge of Alexis Colby’s irrationality in this unfamiliar version of Abby as she allows her personal feelings for Charles to influence their business dealings. And it’s somewhat dismaying to catch her reading a novel by slimy old Jeffrey Archer (come on, Abs — you’re better than that!). This must be the first reference to a Tory politician in Soap Land, in spite of a hastily applied piece of tape across the cover of the book in a vain attempt to conceal the author’s name (come on, KNOTS prop department — you’re better than that!) Another Soap Land first is the use of “thought bubbles”, i.e., voiceovers that allow us to hear what the characters are thinking even as their dialogue suggests the opposite, in a scene between Charles and Abby. For such a fascinating character, Abby’s thoughts are disappointingly generic: “God, his eyes are blue!” By the time we find her in Charles’s bed at end of the ep, Abby has become a kind of Judith Krantz mini-series version of herself, her jagged edges rubbed away in order to fit more smoothly into this extravagantly romantic storyline.

    Val, Gary and Jill are the new Frankie, Jason and Sable. After leaving Val’s place, guilty Gary goes home to break the news to Jill. “I guess I don’t love you,” he admits. Jill reacts bitterly (“Well, there’s backbone — you can’t even commit to non-commitment!”) before giving Val the kind of tongue-lashing Sable would have approved of: “You’re the one who keeps this victim routine going, Valene. Everyone thinks you’re so sweet, so put upon, so all alone in the world, so victimised, so damn pathetic.” Whereas Sable proved impossible to dislodge from the Colby mansion, Jill is packed and gone from Gary’s ranch within a matter of screen minutes. By the end of the episode, however, she’s back, suitcase in hand. “I don’t wanna beg,” she tells Gary who looks as helpless as Charlton Heston used to.

    Soap Land has been in the party mood of late — the Ewing barbecue and Alexis’s English fair last week, and now a black-and-white themed surprise party in honour of Maggie and Richard’s engagement on FALCON CREST and the second annual Lotus Point Christmas party on KNOTS. (As has become customary, KNOTS is the only soap to acknowledge the Yuletide season.)

    The final scene of this week’s DALLAS — the first meeting between JR and Dr Herbert Styles, the country doctor who wound up owning fourteen percent of West Star — is great: darkly lit and full of atmosphere. The doctor’s proposition to JR — that he’ll help him assume control of West Star on the condition that he divorce Sue Ellen and marry Kimberly — is another DALLAS déjà vu moment, strongly echoing Leslie Stewart’s similar ultimatum to JR back in Season 3. A wheelchair-bound despot playing God with his children’s lives, Dr Styles reminds me of Martin Peyton in PEYTON PLACE (who, in turn, reminded me of Angela Channing at her most ruthless). But then the final twist of the ep suggests that Dr S is simply following his daughter’s orders (“How’d I do, darlin’?” he asks after JR has gone. “Perfect, Daddy. Just perfect,” replies Kimberly, emerging from the shadows) and that she is the real power behind the wheelchair.

    It’s a bit of a stretch perhaps, but I’ve always thought that as an ageing Texas belle with daddy issues, Kimberly is the closest DALLAS gets to an archetypal Tennessee Williams’ heroine. During this re-watch, I’ve also noticed some implications regarding her marriage to Wilson that add an extra layer of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof-style complexity to their situation. In last week’s episode, there was the couple’s obvious discomfort as Sue Ellen gushed over what a passionate marriage they must have and now here’s Dr Styles, voicing his distaste for his son-in-law: “Never thought Kimberly should have married him ... Man pays too damn much attention to the way he looks.”

    Styles might be played by a minor member of the DALLAS repertory company (he previously appeared in a small role as a retired senator in Season 5), but he exudes a kind of effortlessly sinister authority that KNOTS LANDING’s Charles Scott and FALCON CREST’s revolving door of ruthless tycoons, for all the big name castings, lack. FC’s latest big bad, a European high roller by the name of Dimitrov, is an honourable exception. He’s played by Theodore Bickel who is as charismatically menacing towards Eric Stavros as he offers him a way to pay off his gambling debts as he was to Dominique Devereaux following the Moldavian massacre. The ultimatum he gives Eric — commit murder or we'll kill your entire family (“I have seven passports. I can be in Bulgaria before the police can even identify your wife’s body”) — is the same one Jean Hackney gave Ben on last season’s KNOTS. I have to admit, I’m kind of a sucker for these reluctant assassin stories. Surprisingly, Eric’s intended target isn’t a central character like Greg Sumner (my money was on Richard Channing) but a judge we’ve never previously heard of.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (2) DALLAS
    2 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (3) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2018
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  15. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    06 Jan 88: DYNASTY: The Interview v. 07 Jan 88: KNOTS LANDING: Only 'Til Friday v. 08 Jan 88: DALLAS: It's Me Again v. 08 Jan 88: FALCON CREST: Rescue Me

    When the rest of Soap Land shut up shop for Christmas, DYNASTY kept working — administering a fatal cocaine overdose to Josh Harris (who turned out to be a far more convincing drug addict than KNOTS LANDING’s Olivia), inventing an entire West African country called Natumbe and pitting Alexis against Blake in the race for governor, thereby turning up the heat under that particular storyline.

    Indeed, the same cynicism that Soap Land exhibited towards political campaigning during the senatorial battle on last season’s KNOTS now resurfaces on DYNASTY. Gone are the days of stand-alone election episodes of DALLAS and FLAMINGO ROAD when all it took to knock Cliff Barnes or Elmo Tyson out of the running was for their opponent to dig up their deepest darkest secret. These days, it’s all about public perception and media manipulation and characters suddenly espousing opinions about issues that have never previously had any relevance in Soap Land. Apparently, Blake is “strong on educational needs and on aid for senior citizens” — who’d’ve guessed?

    During last year’s election on KNOTS, Gary Ewing was forced to miss a TV debate due to a crisis involving his stepdaughter. The same thing happens to Blake this week, but this time he has been deliberately sabotaged by Sean Rowan. The situation is given a fun twist when Krystle takes his place in the debate. Pitting Krystle and Alexis against each other within the confines of a televised political discussion gives their rivalry a shot in the arm resulting in a great have-your-cake-and-eat-it exchange where they denounce sexism via an exchange of bitchy one-liners (“Before you took over Colby Co on the death of your second of four husbands, tell me, did you ever hold down a job?” asks Krystle. “If you’re asking me was I ever a secretary whose main job it was to bring coffee to a male chauvinist boss, the answer is no,” Alexis replies) which has the same kind of facetious zing New DYNASTY is full of.

    Nobody is where they’re meant to be on this week’s DYNASTY and KNOTS: Blake’s stranded in the middle of nowhere when he should be on television, Sean’s in bed with Leslie while his wife is announcing her candidacy for governor, Abby and Charles are also in bed together when they should be sitting across from each other at a formal business meeting. Meanwhile, everyone at Lotus Point assumes Mack and Karen are vacationing in Tahiti when they’re really babysitting Meg for Greg who’s in New York on business — except he’s secretly hiding out at his ranch. Paige, in her new capacity as art gallery assistant, discovers his deception when she stops by to drop off a painting. She keeps his whereabouts a secret from the Mackenzies, thus becoming his co-conspirator. This has the effect of making a storyline about parental neglect feels sexily intriguing rather than upsetting.

    While Greg is receptive to Paige’s ideas about the art he should purchase (“I can tell the top from the bottom,” he says approvingly of a picture she shows him. “You are gonna be a big-time art patron, Pops,” she predicts), Clayton Farlow seems a bit out of his comfort zone during his art-related storyline on DALLAS. When meeting David Shulton, the artist whose painting he bought in last week’s ep, he is curt and defensive, unable to explain why he is so drawn to the picture or why he feels the need to meet the beautiful girl depicted in it. “I just wanted to meet her and I don’t want any preconceived ideas,” he insists huffily.

    The girl in question is Laurel Ellis whose own taste leans towards 60s pop art, specifically Roy Lichtenstein, if the prints on her walls are anything to go by. Happily, DALLAS does not feel the need to crudely obscure Lichtenstein’s name the way KNOTS did Jeffrey Archer’s when we caught Abby reading one of his novels in last week’s episode. Weirdly, KNOTS does the same thing again in this week’s ep:

    [​IMG]

    When not reading crudely disguised populist blockbusters, Abby allows Charles to persuade her to play hooky from work in order to do “anything you want to do.” There follows a montage of the couple indulging in such non-Abbyish pursuits such as foosball, wearing double denim and horse-riding along the beach. (I’m pretty sure we never saw Abby atop a horse during the entire time she lived on Gary’s ranch.) Perhaps this montage makes the most sense if we think of it as an alternate universe version of Abby — this is the carefree, outdoorsy person she might have become if she and Charles had never split up.

    As this is the first week of a new year, it’s fitting that we should be introduced to several new characters — most of whom are twenty-somethings from out of town. First off, there’s Johnny Rourke who flies into KNOTS LANDING from overseas. The elderly lady sitting next to him on the plane is pleased with herself when she correctly guesses that he’s not a native American, but it’s not exactly hard to figure out. While Sean Rowan’s Irish lilt fades in and out on DYNASTY, Johnny lays his Irish accent (and accompanying stereotypical charm) on with a trowel. “You have the gift of gab!” exclaims the old woman, too busy swooning to notice him swipe her credit card. Just as Johnny plays the Irish card, Laurel Ellis plays the English one on DALLAS, referring to her bonsai trees as “little buggers” and inviting Clayton to join her in “a cup of tea”. FALCON CREST newcomer Shannon shares Laurel’s plummy Sloane Ranger accent as well as her English Rose looks. (One can easily imagine either of them having a spell as Princess Di’s lady-in-waiting on her résumé.) By way of contrast, Dan Fixx’s long lost sister Carly, aka “Tuscany’s newest rebel without a cause”, also arrives in FALCON CREST this week. She dresses like early Madonna and is prone to dancing in parking lots and taking tractors for joyrides. As is rapidly becoming the Soap Land custom, her rebellious exploits are soundtracked by sixties Motown: ‘Dancing in the Streets’ (the Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’ original as opposed to Cathy Geary’s cover from ’85) and Fontella Bass’s ‘Rescue Me’ (which, like last week’s ‘Twist & Shout’, supplies this week’s FC with its episode title). The only soap to remain immune to the ‘60s revivalism is DYNASTY. Instead, the recent scene in which Sammy Jo discovered Josh Harris following his fatal overdose was accompanied by an elevator muzak version of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ — a bizarre, if at least contemporary, choice at the time, but one that feels more poignantly appropriate in retrospect.

    Following the departures of Dominique Devereaux, Nick Kimble and Emma Channing’s adopted son Wendell at the end of last season, Soap Land has become a whites-only enclave once again (servants and bit players notwithstanding) — or at least until Pat and Julie Williams move into the cul-de-sac on this week’s KNOTS. Their arrival mirrors Gary and Val’s eight years earlier, i.e., they immediately find themselves in the middle of a crisis involving Karen’s surrogate daughter (in ’79, that was Sid’s daughter Annie getting arrested; in '88, it’s Greg’s daughter Meg momentarily disappearing before Julie spots her behind the sofa). Two scenes in, it’s evident that the new neighbours have Something to Hide. Johnny Rourke’s under-the-counter acquisition of a gun upon arriving in LA suggests he does too. So does FC’s Shannon. “You’re very unhappy and you’re hiding something and you need to talk about it!” Lance tells her while standing in front of Soap Land’s fakest looking backdrop since the cardboard patio at Southfork circa ’78. Meanwhile on DYNASTY, Dana finally confesses her big secret to Adam, which bears an eerie resemblance to Channing’s fake big secret on last season’s COLBYS: a high school pregnancy leading to a botched abortion resulting in infertility. Dana does at least give the scenario one original twist: the father of the baby she got rid of was Adam himself!

    Elsewhere on this week’s DYNASTY, Fallon goes blonde. This could read either as a post-separation symbol of female emancipation, like Val’s femullet on KNOTS (“I feel like someone who has been released from a cage. I’m finally myself … my own person,” she announces solemnly), or as the latest whim of a directionless heiress with too much time on her hands, like pretty much everything Melissa has done thus far on this season’s FALCON CREST. (“It may be gone by tomorrow,” Fallon admits.)

    Soap Land’s childhood sweethearts aren’t fairing too well this week: Fallon starts divorce proceedings against Jeff on DYNASTY, Val ends her fling with Gary on KNOTS (“For the first time in our lives, let’s just be to each other what we really are — ex-husband and wife,” she suggests) and after Jenna admits to Bobby that she’s still in love with him on DALLAS, he throws it back in her face: “If you’re still in love, it’s with the Bobby that you grew up with. He just doesn’t exist anymore so you can forget him.”

    This week’s ‘Did he really just say that?’ award goes to Jeff Colby as he explains to Fallon why he’s moving out of the Carrington mansion: “You can’t expect me to live under the same roof after you’ve served me divorce papers, can you?” Can’t she? Wow. I guess we really aren’t on THE COLBYS anymore.

    On last week’s DALLAS, Bobby flashed back to a Season 4 scene involving Jeff Farraday. On this week’s DYNASTY, Sean Rowan flashes back to a Season 4 scene involving his sister Kirby. Much like DALLAS, DYNASTY has leant heavily on its past this season. We’ve already had the returns of Matthew Blaisdel and Chris Deegan, a clip of Alexis testifying at Blake’s trial and Sean recalling his father’s suicide and sister’s rape. This week, Dana’s confession prompts Adam to remember the baby he and Kirby lost, and the episode ends with Krystle flashing back to both her own miscarriage and a five-year-old conversation between her and Alexis regarding the suspicious circumstances of Cecil Colby’s death. Meanwhile at Southfork, Sue Ellen looks daggers at JR when Kristin’s name is mentioned during a family discussion about the custody battle Bobby is facing over Christopher. “I hope he handles it better than you did when I took John Ross away from you,” she adds for good measure.

    FALCON CREST celebrates the New Year with a white slavery storyline (well, ninjas are just so 1987) as Theodore Bickel whisks Vicky off to the Adriatic Sea to sell her into the sex trade. Once again, it is Maggie’s reaction to the craziness going on around her that proves most compelling. On this occasion, she pulls a gun on a man she believes might know something about her daughter’s abduction. ”What’s happening to me?” she asks later. “I don’t like what I’m turning into … I put a gun in a man’s ribs … I saw my dark side, Richard. It scared me.” In a way, her behaviour mirrors Jill Bennett’s upon finding her brother’s ashes on Greg Sumner’s coffee table — sometimes, the only sane response to the madness of living in a soap opera is to go a little nuts. Meanwhile, the revelation that Richard is culpable in Vicky’s abduction (thanks to an unholy alliance he’s made with a shadowy syndicate known as the Thirteen) is as juicy a twist as JR turning out to be behind Lisa Alden’s custody suit on DALLAS.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    13 Jan 88: DYNASTY: Images v. 14 Jan 88: KNOTS LANDING: Ties That Bind v. 15 Jan 88: DALLAS: Marriage on the Rocks v. 15 Jan 88: FALCON CREST: Hornet's Nest

    This week’s DYNASTY includes a graveyard scene that relies solely on a series of soap tropes to advance the plot without any concession to external logic. The result is absurd, surreal and dreamlike. First, we observe Sean Rowan speaking aloud at his father’s graveside — a familiar Soap Land device — reiterating his vow of revenge against the Carringtons: “I won’t stop. I’ll never stop until they have destroyed each other. I promise you, Dad, I’ll make them pay.” No sooner does he exit the scene than Leslie Carrington appears from behind a tree and it’s clear she’s heard every word of his soliloquy. (Where would Soap Land be without such moments of opportune eavesdropping?) Then comes a convention that seems to belong to DYNASTY alone — the exposition-spouting gravedigger. He materialises out of nowhere and proceeds to fill Leslie in on Joseph Anders’ backstory: “He was butler for those rich Carringtons … The man shot himself in the head, clear to oblivion. Mr Carrington must have said to himself, ‘Why? Why did he do it?’ … Well, nice talking to you.” This perfect storm of contrivances provides Leslie with the ammunition she needs to blackmail Sean into giving her a promotion at Colby Co: “And I want it real soon or else!”

    Whilst being threatened by Leslie, Sean finds he has lost his own leverage over Dana now that Adam knows about her secret abortion. There’s further redundant blackmail on KNOTS LANDING where Johnny Rourke offers to keep silent about Paige faking her own death in return for $20,000. Only trouble is, everyone already knows about it. When Adam accuses Sean of blackmailing his wife, Sean distracts him by dangling a bright future at Colby Co in front of his eyes: “I want you to think about new horizons, new opportunities.” (Sean may be a cardboard villain, but he’s a really good one.) Johnny Rourke likewise takes his failure to extort money from Paige in his stride and instead charms her father into offering him a place to stay.

    The theme of blackmail continues on FALCON CREST with the arrival of the show’s latest guest character, Madame Malec. She’s played by Honey Ryder, the original Bond girl from Dr No — and FC can’t resist an in-joke on the subject. “You keep acting like James Bond, you’re gonna wind up going home in a body bag,” Richard warns Eric as they argue over the best way to free Vicky from her luxury prison in Dubrovnik. (In fairness, both DALLAS and EMERALD POINT NAS made similar references when they had Bond girls on the payroll. “You had to play James Bond,” Holly Goodhead (Moonraker) chided Bobby Ewing in 1983. “This is real life, not some James Bond movie,” Tiffany Case (Diamonds are Forever) reminded Harlan Adams in 1984.) “You’re such an easy woman to blackmail,” Richard informs Madame Malec just before threatening to expose her lavish lifestyle to her fellow communist party members unless she aids him in rescuing Vicky. Evidently, Mme Malec doesn’t have the same reservations about being addressed by the M word that Alexis expressed on last week’s DYNASTY: “I resent the appellation ‘madam’,” she informed her opponent during their televised political debate. “My home is not a house, as it were, and I consider that to be a sexist remark.”

    To further her election campaign this week, Alexis consults public relations expert Russ Kelton who proceeds to critique her dress sense. “I’ve seen photos of you in Vogue and Harpers Bazaar,” he tells her. “You’re going to have to change your style somewhat … You’ve got to start to underplay. Go for pastels.” “Pastels?” she repeats, her look of utter dismay an episode highlight. “Stay away from blacks and reds and yellows, and too much white,” he continues. (Inevitably, black, red and white are the very colours Alexis is wearing at this moment.) “Don’t forget, most of the voters out there can’t afford your cleaning bills.” The merest suggestion that a soap diva’s wardrobe might not meet with universal approval feels positively transgressive. There’s an equivalent moment on this week’s KNOTS when Charles Scott’s wife Judith (a less neurotic version of Cash Cassidy’s wife Adrienne on THE COLBYS) shows up, interrupting her husband’s cosy little dinner with Abby to remind him of an imminent dinner party with an ambassador. She and Abby are all smiles until the obligatory powder room showdown. “Charles didn’t forget about the ambassador’s dinner,” Judith explains. “He just couldn’t show up with someone like you.” There’s something about those three words — or more specifically, Abby’s wounded reaction to them — that makes us suddenly see Abby as Judith sees her -- not a glamorous soap villainess, but a garishly made-up middle-aged woman wearing a short dress with a puffball skirt that's about ten years too young for her. (In the same way that Alexis “just happens” to be dressed in the precise colours her publicist is critical of, Abby’s choice of outfit for her unplanned meeting with Judith doesn’t seem to be a coincidence on the part of KNOTS' wardrobe department.) Sure, Abby later gets one over on Judith by showing up at the ambassador’s dinner on Greg’s arm, but it’s the “someone like you” moment that lingers in the memory. It suggests that Abby’s real Achilles heel isn’t so much the guy who dumped her when she was nineteen as the fact that he did so for someone of a higher social standing.

    The deconstruction on DYNASTY continues as Alexis’s publicist runs an equally critical eye over a campaign video she’s had assembled that shows her striking various opening titles-style poses: answering the phone in a variety of outfits, studying papers at her desk and generally looking important. Again, it does not pass muster. “You’re coming on too strong, like a Mack truck,” he insists. “Well, I think that strength is an attribute in a leader,” she argues. “Look at Mrs Thatcher.” In spite of having been Britain’s prime minister since just after John Ross Ewing was born, this is the first mention of Thatcher in Soap Land. (With Abby reading Jeffrey Archer books on KNOTS, there’s clearly something Tory in the air.) “There are strengths and there are strengths,” Kelton replies ambivalently. It would be nice to imagine this line as a dig aimed just as much at Thatcher as at Alexis, but alas, the former was riding high at this point having just become the century’s longest-serving British PM (a position she would retain until the day of April Ewing’s death in Paris in 1990), so it seems unlikely.

    Elsewhere on DYNASTY, Fallon ditches the blonde wig and puts on her business hat, flying off to Natumbe with Dex to find out more about the Vitron oil deal. Like Dubrovnik on this week’s FALCON CREST, Natumbe is depicted as an unstable, murky place full of bribery, corruption and intrigue. There’s talk of the government being “pretty shaky” and a threat of revolution is in the air. This evokes exciting memories not of DYNASTY’s last fictional land, Moldavia, but of the unnamed country in South East Asia that caused the Ewings so much drama when their oil wells were nationalised on DALLAS eight years ago. Business concluded, Fallon gets drunk in a bar and over-excites the locals when she tries her hand at belly-dancing. Dex intervenes, punches are exchanged and he ends up throwing a protesting Fallon over his shoulder before making a hasty exit. Fallon remains cute and funny and sexy throughout the scene — one can only imagine how excruciatingly loud and shrill it would have been with FALCON CREST’s Melissa in the same scenario.

    The mysteries surrounding Soap Land’s newcomers deepen. When Meg is taken ill on KNOTS, Pat Williams displays a surprising amount of medical expertise for a banking clerk (“Mom, you’re not supposed to be doing this,” whispers Julie as she assists Mack). Over on DALLAS, Sue Ellen’s curiosity is piqued by Nicholas. “His home is beautifully decorated,” she tells April, “but the strange thing is except for one photograph of him with his brothers, there’s no sense of family, no feeling of where he came from.” Meanwhile on FALCON CREST, we discover what Shannon has been hiding. She has a secret baby! And Lance’s father is the daddy! Which means that, by sheer coincidence, she is now sleeping with her baby’s brother — which, I think it’s safe to say, must be a Soap Land first.

    Trend of the week: characters acting as parents to children who aren’t theirs. Karen is out of town for most of this week’s KNOTS, leaving Mack to cope with Meg’s medical crisis. By the time she returns, he is well and truly smitten. “I was afraid you’d get too attached to her,” she tells him. “I knew it would happen.” While Richard is in Dubrovnik on FALCON CREST, Maggie defies his instructions and allows Angela access to her grandson Michael. “Your son … is soon to be my stepson,” Maggie argues upon Richard's return. Having caught Charlie in the barn with Brad Pitt on DALLAS, Ray asks Jenna if he can be the one to give her The Talk. “She’s my stepdaughter,” he reasons. “If I’m gonna be a father to her, I better start acting like one.”

    Whereas Soap Land’s references to AIDS originally focused on high-risk groups like gay men, prostitutes and Marilee Stone, they’ve gradually shifted towards young people in general. When forced into an awkward conversation about pre-marital sex with Michael’s girlfriend Jodie a couple of months ago, KNOTS LANDING’s Karen vaguely alluded to the dangers facing the younger generation. “You have to be very careful. It’s not a question of morals today, it’s a question of … health.” During his scene with Charlie this week, Ray makes the same point more explicitly. “Are you telling me that you never went to bed with a woman you didn’t care about?” Charlie asks him. “Yeah, OK, I did, but that was a long time before I heard about AIDS,” he replies. FALCON CREST made its own contribution to the discussion a couple of weeks ago when Richard made a throwaway comment about the New Globe running a series of articles about safe sex.

    Judith Scott and Abby’s faux friendly behaviour during their initial meeting on KNOTS mirrors Kimberly Cryder and Sue Ellen’s over the past few weeks on DALLAS. Eventually, the veneer cracks for both sets of women. Under the guise of “girl talk”, Kimberly informs Sue Ellen during a DOA meeting that she has filed for divorce. “I keep marrying these powerful men — I probably will again,” she smiles. This is her disingenuous way of letting Sue Ellen know she has JR in her sights. “Well, Kimberly,” Sue Ellen replies, smiling back, “I’m sure you’ll be able to muddle through for the next couple of months until you find the man of your dreams. You know, you’re not unattractive in an obvious sort of way.” (Interestingly, “obvious” is what Fallon called her husband’s mistress, Leslie, a few weeks ago.) For all her cool, Sue Ellen is clearly rattled and walks out of the meeting, ignoring Miss Ellie as she does so. During their powder room tête-à-tête, Judith casually asks Abby if she and Charles are sleeping together. Abby is blindsided by the question just as Nicholas Pearce is when JR invites him to lunch and cordially informs him that “your acquisition of my wife is my top priority.” While Abby plays dumb (“What?” she asks), Nicholas plays innocent (“I’m not in the habit of acquiring other men’s wives”). Between them, however, Kimberly and JR have succeeded in more or less driving Sue Ellen and Nick into bed. There’s a sitcom variation on this scenario on FALCON CREST, where a Mrs Haberman asks Emma — in her new capacity as agony aunt of the New Globe — to “cure” her husband’s sexual problems by going to bed with him. (This later turns out to be a scam cooked up by the couple in order to blackmail Emma.)

    This week’s Soap Land marriage proposal is deemed significant enough to warrant an end of episode cliffhanger. “Marry me,” Charles urges Abby just before the closing credits of KNOTS. DALLAS, meanwhile, ends with a remarkably sexy scene where Sue Ellen comes to Nicholas’s apartment and immediately starts peeling off his clothes while he’s on the phone, causing him to respond in kind. (So sexy is it that someone I know watched the scene as a child while receiving a haircut from his babysitter and was left with a lifelong haircutting fetish as a result.) As with Jenna’s similarly steamy seduction of Ray earlier in the season, it’s notable that the woman is the initiator.

    Back on FALCON CREST, in an effort to save wife Vicky from being auctioned off to the richest sex monster in the Balkans, Eric Stavros becomes the latest Soap Land character to transform himself into a wall-scaling, explosive-detonating action hero, and a reasonably credible job he makes of it. The whole rescue sequence is like a less boring reenactment of Lance’s attempt to rescue Peter Stavros from his evil son-in-law back in Season 5. I couldn’t swear to it, but I think Vicky is even being held in the same villa Peter was.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (1) DALLAS
    2 (2) DYNASTY
    3 (3) KNOTS LANDING
    4 (4) FALCON CREST
     
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  17. Matthew Blaisdel

    Matthew Blaisdel Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    What? :crazy:
     
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  18. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    20 Jan 88: DYNASTY: The Rifle v. 21 Jan 88: KNOTS LANDING: Another Modest Proposal v. 22 Jan 88: DALLAS: Anniversary Waltz v. 22 Jan 88: FALCON CREST: The Uncertainty Principle

    There are two fraternal punch-ups in Soap Land this week — one between Steven and Adam on DYNASTY, the other between Bobby and JR on DALLAS. The first takes place in the Carrington gym, a familiar setting for a DYNASTY fight, and arises from familiar buttons being pushed. “How much do you wanna to prove yourself to Dad?” sneers Steven as he and Adam argue over the Vitron oil deal. “How much do you need to use this company to assert your manhood?” counters Adam, prompting Steven to land the first punch. Even though we’ve been here before, some handheld camera work gives the brawl a fresh sense of urgency and the brothers even manage to shatter some windows before Blake arrives to break them up. This is a pretty evenly matched fight whereas Bobby is clearly the aggressor during the Ewing brawl. He snaps after realising that JR has masterminded Lisa Alden’s custody suit for Christopher and ends up trying to drown him in the Southfork swimming pool — just as he did three seasons earlier upon learning that JR had sent Pam to the Caribbean to search for Mark Graison. As with the DYNASTY scene, the show tries to ring the changes with shaky camera work and then raises the stakes by using the fight for its end of episode cliffhanger. “Son of a bitch! You don’t deserve to live!” Bobby yells, holding his brother’s head under the water in time for the freeze frame. There’s more pool-related violence on FALCON CREST when Dan Fixx interrupts Melissa and Carly’s catfight, which is taking place in the middle of Maggie and Richard’s wedding, to push them both in a pool as well.

    A week after Alexis’s mention of Margaret Thatcher on DYNASTY, Dave Culver shows up on DALLAS with some even more topical political references: “What with all the headlines the last couple of months — this Iran business, the Contras, the mess in the Gulf — it started me thinking about that dumb thing JR pulled in Saudi Arabia last year … That was really kind of minor compared to what’s being going on lately.” In other words, truth is even stranger than soap, which is a clever way of downplaying JR’s terrorist activities (“I don’t know if anyone really cares about that anymore,” shrugs Dave) and raising the possibility that the Ewings might be able to trade under the name of Ewing Oil once again. Such are the demands of Soap Land storylines that while some old plots can be conveniently dismissed, others resurface when you least expect, such as the dubious circumstances surrounding the adoption of Christopher Ewing and the death of Cecil Colby.

    As well as Bobby drowning his brother on DALLAS and Maggie shoving a gun in someone’s ribs in a recent episode of FALCON CREST, DYNASTY’s Krystle has also exhibited a darker side of late, interviewing minor cast members who were around for Cecil’s deathbed scenes back in Season 3 in the hopes of uncovering a scandal that will discredit Alexis’s political campaign. Blake objects, insisting that he can win the election without resorting to such dirty tricks, and for about half a scene, things are distinctly frosty between husband and wife.

    Alexis is considering pulling out of the election anyway, not least because of her enforced change of wardrobe. “I’m going have to wear those awful pastels that I hate!” she complains. Abby is likewise dressed more conservatively at the start of this week’s KNOTS than she was when Judith Scott looked down her nose at her in last week’s ep, although she later changes into a bright pink frock — just in time for a scene where Judith tries to embarrass her in front of Charles’ social circle.

    The recent loss of some of the Ewing-verse’s major players, Pam and Donna on DALLAS and Laura and Lilimae on KNOTS, means that less significant characters have ended up with more screen time — sometimes in scenes and situations entirely separate from those involving the main cast. April Stevens’ investigation into Nicholas Pearce’s past is ongoing on DALLAS and in this week’s episode, we’re privy to a scene between David Shulton and Laurel Ellis, the respective artist and subject of the portrait recently purchased by Clayton. Over on KNOTS, there’s a lengthy sequence in which enigmatic newcomer Johnny Rourke (“You still can’t keep your accent straight,” notes Paige this week) observes from his cabin at Lotus Point the furtive comings and goings of an even more mysterious newcomer, who doesn’t even have a name. (He’s played by Ray Wise, midway through his soap evolution from enthusiastic modelling agent Blair Sullivan on DALLAS to the tormented and terrifying Leland Palmer on TWIN PEAKS.) In order to denote the passing of time and to keep the sequence — which essentially consists of Johnny watching the stranger opening his cabin door to various “customers” — visually interesting, KNOTS employs a succession of transition wipes. According to Wikipedia, “a wipe is a type of film transition where one shot replaces another by travelling from one side of the frame to another.” The STAR WARS movies are full of them.

    There are no less than five surprise parties in this week’s Soap Land — two for Gary’s birthday on KNOTS, one to celebrate Miss Ellie and Clayton’s anniversary on DALLAS and a stag do and wedding shower ahead of Richard and Maggie’s nuptials on FALCON CREST. Gary’s first party, at Lotus Point, is a low-key affair. The only people in attendance are Jill, Michael Fairgate, Marsha the recurring dogsbody (i.e., the KNOTS’ equivalent of Sherilyn Katzman), a passing Johnny Rourke and an assortment of extras. The drama comes later when Gary ends up arriving too late for his second surprise party at Val’s house, by which time the disappointed twins have gone to bed. This leads to a fierce argument between him and Val.

    The anniversary bash on DALLAS, meanwhile, is a family affair. (Jenna arrives at Southfork with Ray, leading to some uncomfortable glances between her and Bobby.) The party is a surprise for Clayton in more ways than one — he has been too preoccupied with Laurel Ellis to even realise it’s his wedding anniversary. Then comes the small matter of Bobby trying to kill JR.

    The gatherings on FALCON CREST are both of Emma’s devising. The shower at Angela’s house is gushy and girly and not terribly eventful. The stag at The Max is odder and more interesting. The guest list is a curious mix of Richard’s past enemies and people with whom he has no real association: Lance, Eric, Dan Fixx, Tony Cumson and — because no stag party would be complete without the groom-to-be’s estranged mother’s manservant — Chao Li. It feels terribly awkward, but some of that awkwardness arises naturally out of the situation — it appears that the guests are only there out of obligation to Emma — but then, somewhat uncharacteristically, Richard decides he’s in the mood to party. “I think we should have some fun!” he declares. There’s a loose, kind of improvisatory feel to what follows, almost as if this were a guys-only version of “Noises Everywhere” (even if the bonhomie between the actors doesn’t necessarily jibe with their ongoing screen relationships). However, FC’s weakness for lame sitcom humour is never far from the surface — for example, Chao Li’s confession during a truth game that he once served cat food at a party of Angela’s. On the plus side, Eric Stavros emerges as the Jill Bennett-style loose cannon of the group, sending Dan into a rage when he drunkenly observes that, “we all have something that we share … all of us have slept with Melissa!”

    The most painful part of the party is Lance’s hip-thrusting version of Eddie Floyd’s ‘Knock on Wood’ (yet more ’60s soul in Soap Land). Factor in Richard’s dad dancing and you have possibly the most excruciating musical performance in Soap Land history. By comparison, Johnny Rourke’s singing debut on last week’s KNOTS was quite a tranquil experience.

    The post-party fight between Gary and Val on KNOTS is really juicy — and they have a lot to fight about. “You lied to me for years about the kids,” Gary reminds her. (It’s kind of cool that their onscreen history is now as rich as their original backstory.) “You’re lucky that I let you see them at all,” Val snaps. “Lucky? I don’t feel lucky. I feel like some jerk who’s been run over by a truck with you as the driver,” he replies. It’s strangely satisfying to see Gary standing up to Val for once: “I never know what you’re gonna say or do. I don’t think you know what you’re gonna say from one minute to the next … There are other divorced couples who manage to work it out with their kids,” he continues. “Why the hell can’t we? … This is the uncleanest break in the history of marriage!”

    Tell that to Jeff and Fallon on DYNASTY. This week, their son LB overhears them arguing over the best way to tell him about their impending divorce. “I just don’t know how to tell him his world’s coming apart and everything he thought would last forever is over,” says Jeff. “I did something bad,” LB later concludes. “Now my mom and dad don’t wanna be my mom and dad anymore.” Back on DALLAS, Christopher eavesdropping on his father and Ray has a more positive effect. “He’s my boy ... I have to try and protect him any way I can,” says Bobby and Christopher is finally convinced that his daddy loves him after all. The boot is on the other foot elsewhere on DALLAS as Jenna overhears Charlie scheming to spend the night with Brad Pitt. Charlie and Olivia on KNOTS are very much the yin to each other’s yang — whenever one is well-behaved (as Olivia has been of late, dreamily mooning over her mom’s romance with Michael York), the other becomes a teenage nightmare. “I hate you, I hate both of you and I’m not gonna take any more lectures from you!” Charlie yells, prompting Jenna to air slap her as hard as Krystle did Alexis during their big showdown two weeks ago.

    There are several adulterous liaisons presently underway in Soap Land. In each case, the other woman, or man, is proving somewhat demanding. DYNASTY’s Leslie is the epitome of the clingy mistress, inviting herself along on Sean’s business trip to Natumbe and then whining because he has no time to spend with her there. DALLAS’s Nicholas pouts when Sue Ellen refuses to stay the night and accuses her of sleeping with him to make JR jealous: “Some people enjoy being used like a tool. I’m not one of them.” DALLAS’s Kimberly and KNOTS LANDING’s Abby both make it clear that they’re not prepared to play “the other woman” for long. While Abby is angry that Charles has asked her to marry him without bothering to end things with Judith first, Kimberly offers JR an ultimatum: “If you want to get your hands on West Star, listen well. Without my daddy, you don’t have a prayer. Without me, you don’t get Daddy. And without leaving your wife, you don’t get me. So if you care about West Star, I suggest you give Sue Ellen a quick kiss goodbye.” Whereas Charles meekly complies with Abby’s wishes, finally standing up to Judith just because she’s told him to, JR’s reaction to Kimberly is less predictable. He grabs her by her hair and tells her she can’t twist him around her finger the way she does her father and husband. “You’ll never touch me again until you leave Sue Ellen!” she insists. He calls her bluff by kissing her roughly. Despite her protests, she clearly likes it (don’t they all?), but as soon as she responds, he pushes her away, leaving her high and dry. There’s a similarly visceral quality to the row between Val and Gary, especially when she tries to puts her hand over his mouth to physically prevent him from saying he’s the twins’ father.

    DYNASTY ends with a thrillingly twisted variation on the end of KNOTS’ fifth season. Instead of taking a bullet intended for her estranged husband in the lobby of the Belmar Hotel as Karen Mackenzie did, Alexis takes one meant for her ex-husband Blake on live TV during a political debate. Not only that, but the shooter is her new husband Sean! Husband shoots wife (albeit by mistake) — it’s a Soap Land first!

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (2) DYNASTY
    2 (3) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (1) DALLAS
    4 (4) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2018
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  19. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    03 Feb 88: DYNASTY: The Warning v. 04 Feb 88: KNOTS LANDING: In Too Deep v. 05 Feb 88: DALLAS: Brotherly Love v. 05 Feb 88: FALCON CREST: A Madness Most Discreet

    Instead of confronting JR when she found out about his affair with Kimberly Cryder earlier in this season’s DALLAS, Sue Ellen chose to keep quiet and bide her time. Having discovered Sean’s infidelity with Leslie Carrington at the end of last week’s DYNASTY, Alexis now does the same thing. Where Sue Ellen went out of her way to befriend her husband’s mistress, to the point where it made both JR and Kimberly uncomfortable, Alexis lavishes praise on Leslie, while still keeping her off-balance by indulging in some New DYNASTY-style double entendres: “Leslie darling, you must have been on the job morning, noon and night … It takes a tremendous amount of energy to do what you’re doing, Leslie. I hope Sean appreciates it … It’s so reassuring to know that I can leave everything in your capable hands, Leslie … etc.” And just as Sue Ellen set aside her hurt feelings to become the public face of Valentine Lingerie, Alexis also puts on a show, providing “the entire Colorado press corps” with some witty soundbites about the election. Back on DALLAS, Sue Ellen has now given up any pretence at playing the devoted wife. “You are dirt, JR!” she informs her husband upon learning at the start of this week’s episode that he is behind Lisa Alden’s custody suit.

    His plan to enlist Bobby in his fight against West Star having backfired, JR sends Lisa packing. “We’re not gonna take him to court. We never were,” he tells her, handing her “a one-way ticket out of town.” No sooner does one custody storyline draw to an apparent close than another springs up. “Do you know what this could mean? A custody battle,” predicts DYNASTY’s Adam after hearing that Karen Atkinson’s not so ex-husband Jessie has resurfaced. Like Lisa Alden, Jessie Atkinson is secretly in the pay of a villainous character with a season-long masterplan: Sean Rowan. “I want Adam Carrington to think he’s gonna lose his child,” Sean tells Jessie. Their methods may have been suspect, but Lisa and Jessie each insist their aim is true. “I just want enough money so Karen and me can make a fresh start,” Jessie explains to Sean. “I really care about Christopher now. He’s all I’ve got,” Lisa tells JR.

    “I am just protecting my children because they’re all I’ve got,” echoes Val on KNOTS LANDING. To that end, she refuses to legally acknowledge Gary as the twins’ father. He retaliates by slapping her with a lawsuit. Karen finds herself caught between them when Gary subpoenas her to answer under oath whether or not Val ever told her he was the daddy. (“You probably knew before I did,” he guesses correctly.) Val, meanwhile, begs her to lie. “You shouldn’t put me in the middle of this,” Karen protests, but neither of them is listening and so she delivers a touchingly effective soliloquy to Laura instead. (In lieu of a portrait or a headstone, she uses Laura’s daughter as a stand-in).

    The 1988 presidential election, the Iran–Contra affair and Margaret Thatcher have all been alluded to by various Soap Land characters in recent weeks. This week, it’s the turn of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. And who better to raise such a sensitive, complex issue than KNOTS LANDING’s teen airhead Olivia Cunningham during some lighthearted flirtation with phoney Irishman Johnny Rourke? “What about all the killing … weren’t you a part of —?” she asks him. “You mean was I IRA or UDF? That’s something you never ask an Irishman and if you do, he’ll never tell ya!” he replies teasingly. “This much I will say — everyday life there has a way of reminding you to be careful. You begin to develop a sixth sense. You start to see things that are there that shouldn’t be.” “Kind of like in the comics when they say, ‘What’s wrong with this picture?’” Michael’s now ex-girlfriend Jodie chips in brightly. “Exactly, lass!” Johnny laughs. “Wouldn’t you love to go out with him?” Olivia later asks Jodie dreamily. “I bet he was in the IRA or something.” While this all feels deeply ignorant on many levels, I guess it’s more indicative of America’s romanticised “one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter” view of what was happening in Northern Ireland at the time than anything else — and character-wise, there’s no reason why either Olivia or Johnny should really know (much less care) what the hell they’re talking about. Still, it’s perhaps telling that in at least one syndicated version of this ep, all of this dialogue has been excised.

    Johnny appears to be enjoying an innocent day out at the seaside with Olivia and Jodie, but it’s a front. In reality, he is undertaking a shady transaction for his equally shady new boss (referred to in the end credits only as The Dealer) and gets beaten up by some extras in the process. It’s a well-staged brawl, but as Johnny’s the only character involved that we know, and we don’t even know him very well, it all feels somewhat anonymous. It certainly lacks the frisson and sense of danger that comes from two striking scenes involving Soap Land’s other untrustworthy Irishman, Sean Rowan. (“The Dublin police locked me up for a while,” is as much as we know about his disreputable past across the water.) In the first scene, he terrifies his mistress by holding an African mamba (“one of God’s deadliest creatures … they strike very quickly and it’s a slow agonising death”) inches away from her face. In the second, at the end of this week's ep, he stares at his sleeping wife while wrapping his tie around his fists until he has fashioned a makeshift garrotte. “No-one gets away, Alexis. No-one, not even you,” he murmurs. Such sadistic behaviour recalls that of FLAMINGO ROAD’s Michael Tyrone — another demonic character out to avenge his father’s death by pitting almost an entire cast of characters against each other.

    Speaking of Michael Tyrone, aka Richard Channing, FALCON CREST returns to its noirishly sinister glory days with a couple of scenes in which Richard is summoned to a darkened office and asked to make a pact with the devil, aka a mysterious organisation known as The Thirteen. “Join us,” a shadowy bald man asks him. “We can offer you wealth, influence, power … more than you ever dreamed of.” (Key to the appeal of such scene, I think, is the juxtaposition between the sparseness of the scene itself — which consists of little more than a desk and some dark shadows — and the intoxicatingly extravagant world Richard is being tempted with.) From the sublime to the pitiful: the same ep also includes a dumb sitcom subplot about a honey trap that requires Melissa to adopt a “hilarious” southern accent while sporting a Dolly Parton wig twice the size of the one Fallon wore during her recent foray into blondness on DYNASTY.

    More resonant is the dead body of a blonde girl washing up on the beach in KNOTS LANDING. The sight of Michael struggling through a crowd of extras to see who it belongs to (he fears it could be Jodie) not only echoes Gary Ewing stumbling upon Ciji’s body five seasons earlier, but eerily foreshadows the discovery of Laura Palmer’s corpse on the shoreline of TWIN PEAKS in two years’ time — a connection compounded by the fact that Laura and the unnamed KNOTS girl have the same killer: Ray Wise, aka The Dealer.

    For once, the Ewing-verse’s teenage girls are in sync. On KNOTS, Olivia is beyond thrilled by Abby’s engagement until she overhears her mother trading bitchy remarks with Judith and realises Charles is married, whereupon her romantic bubble promptly bursts. She then spends the rest of the episode moaning to gal pal Jodie (“Why do parents lie? Maybe they don’t feel their children are worth telling the truth to!”). On DALLAS, Charlie is busy moaning to her gal pal Marnie about her mom grounding her for two months: “Parents! I’m never gonna treat my kids like this!” In the battle of the truculent teens, Charlie gets my vote. She’s less self-righteously strident than Olivia and, more importantly, has a picture of Pee Wee Herman in her school locker.

    Two long-running female characters reach the end of their tethers this week. “I am so angry, I could scream!” exclaims Miss Ellie, fists clenched, after finding one of her sons trying to drown the other at the beginning of this week’s DALLAS. “Believe me, I want out,” Maggie tells Angela on FALCON CREST. “I’m sick to death of this endless feud between you and Richard. My God, the man is your son and you treat him like he has some kind of contagious disease!” Whereas Miss Ellie’s tantrum makes her seem weak and oddly babyish (Clayton tells her off for once again living through her sons and she meekly agrees), the ultimatum Maggie delivers to her brand new mother-in-law is full of righteous anger and makes her seem strong and compelling: “You wanna reunite your family? Then go to him and prove to him that you love him. You want my winery? Work for it!”

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    10 Feb 88: DYNASTY: Adam's Son v. 11 Feb 88: KNOTS LANDING: The Blushing Bride v. 12 Feb 88: DALLAS: The Best Laid Plans v. 12 Feb 88: FALCON CREST: Stormy Weather

    There was a photo of Pee Wee Herman in Charlie Wade’s locker on last week’s DALLAS. Maybe she got it from the same “movie-star mag” Jeff Colby is anxious to show Sammy Jo on this week’s DYNASTY (“Bruce Willis, Tony Danza’s in it, Pee Wee Herman, Tom Cruise!”). This is the flimsiest excuse any man in Soap Land has yet used to gain access to a woman’s hotel room, but it works and pretty soon they’re kissing each other’s faces off. Aside from this blossoming relationship and a reconciliation between Jessie and Karen Atkinson, it’s nonstop conflict on DYNASTY at the moment — the show is a world away from the “everyone likes everyone else” vibe of this time last year. Things are heating up on DALLAS too. Save for Charlie’s conflict with her parents and Clayton’s Laurel Ellis storyline, every scene in this week’s episode is in some way connected with JR’s plan to take over West Star. It’s pleasingly KNOTSian. This week’s FALCON CREST is concentrated in a different way with the entire episode taking place in one location. It’s a little bit “Winds of Vengeance” (instead of being stranded at Southfork during a hurricane, all the major characters are trapped in Angela’s house during a rainstorm), a little bit “The Three Sisters” (instead of a haunted house story, the ep turns into a murder mystery pastiche) and there are some half-hearted attempts at “Noises Everywhere”-style character introspection (the best of which is a brief cessation of hostilities between Angela and Richard during a game of chess) thrown in for good measure. FC deserves points for trying something different, but I don’t think the ep really works. (The show’s fans seem to love it though!)

    One of the best bits of this week’s DYNASTY is an antagonistic board-of-directors meeting at Denver Carrington. Adam and Steven turn on each other, Fallon turns on both of them, Jeff patronises everyone and Adam tells him to go to hell. Satisfyingly, all these conflicts arise out of the characters’ pre-existing relationships. There’s also a falling out between Jeff and Blake, who disapproves of his son-in-law “secretly buying up enough Denver Carrington stock so you could force your way into running the company.” This results in Jeff resigning as Blake’s campaign manager. Two other long-term male friendships also take a battering this week. Mack and Gary argue about the twins on KNOTS (“Those kids are mine and you know it and you’re gonna have to testify to it!”) while Ray loses his temper on DALLAS when Bobby tries to intercede between him and Charlie. (“Maybe you don’t think I’m a very good father. I really don’t care what you think anymore … This is my house and I make the rules around here!”)

    Elsewhere on DALLAS, Bobby thinks that Lisa Alden has left town — but she is still lurking in the shadows. Meanwhile on DYNASTY, Adam is angry when Jessie Atkinson refuses to leave Denver even after he’s paid him to. The two men come to blows, Karen gets caught in the middle and the next thing you know, everyone’s at Soap Land Memorial Hospital waiting anxiously for her to give birth. No sooner is she delivered of a baby boy than she utters the words we’ve been expecting to hear ever since DYNASTY first introduced this storyline: “I can’t give him up.” Surprisingly, when we do hear them, they feel dramatically (or at least soapily) justified. In any case, this surrogacy-gone-wrong scenario doesn’t seem quite as silly as FALCON CREST’s equivalent did a few years ago.

    Over on KNOTS, Gary prepares to take his child-based dispute to court. “I had my first daughter taken away from me but I am not gonna give up on these twins,” he vows. This isn’t the only reference to the past in this week’s Ewing-verse. “It’s not like the old days, is it?” sighs JR over breakfast in the opening scene of this week’s DALLAS. “There was a time there wouldn’t be an empty chair at this table.” “… Your daddy was here then to control you boys,” Miss Ellie remembers. Also, the name of Holly Harwood is evoked in two separate (though ultimately connected) storylines. First, Kimberly Cryder and JR lure Sue Ellen to a hotel room so she can find them in bed together — just as Holly once did. “It’s amazing how similar it is,” Sue Ellen later remarks. Meanwhile, JR is threatening to tell Bobby that he and April slept together unless she continues to buy West Star stock on his behalf. “He’s got this old-fashioned notion about not sleeping with anybody I’ve slept with,” he explains, citing Holly as an example. Bobby confirms as much when April discreetly enquires about his past relationship with Holly: “Anything JR touches, he fouls. The thought of being involved with one of his ladies — well, it would never happen.” Back on KNOTS, there’s a surprisingly affectionate moment between Gary and Abby which silently acknowledges their history as he walks in on her dress fitting, wishes her good luck for the wedding (“I hope you’ll be very happy”) and then lifts up her veil to kiss her tenderly on the lips.

    Among those stranded at Falcon Crest this week is the recently appointed Sheriff Buckman, a somewhat glum, not especially authoritative figure. His immediate predecessor, Sheriff North, arrives at Lotus Point this week as Charles Scott’s shady associate. There is no shortage of shady associates in Soap Land at the moment: Harry Thresher on DYNASTY, the nameless Dealer on KNOTS and the other twelve members of The Thirteen on FALCON CREST.

    Two nautically-themed mysteries emerge on DYNASTY and KNOTS this week, involving Alexis and Abby’s respective love interests. Regarding the Natumbe oil deal, Dex notes that Denver Carrington’s ship is loaded, but only half the hold is filled with oil — so what else is Sean planning to transport? And why is Charles Scott suddenly so keen for Abby to expand the marina at Lotus Point? He even offers to put up the investment capital. Abby reacts enthusiastically and pitches the idea to Karen and Gary. Everything is going swimmingly until the scene in her office where she is being fitted for her wedding gown. (Big mistake — it is an unwritten law in Soap Land that every time we see a bride-to-be in her dress prior to the ceremony, disaster is just around the corner: just think Fallon and those headaches, Jamie Ewing and those oil barrels.) Here, it’s a chance remark from her architect that makes Abby realise that Charles had the plans for the marina expansion drawn up long before he ever arrived at Lotus Point. Back on DALLAS, Miss Ellie makes an alarming discovery of her own when she spies Clayton in the company of a younger woman.

    Echoing Sue Ellen and Alexis’s reactions to their husbands’ recent infidelities, neither Abby nor Ellie confronts her man directly, choosing instead to discreetly sound him out. When Abby suggests they move away from Knots Landing after their wedding, Charles insists on staying put: “I’ve decided to relocate my company here … I don’t wanna live anywhere else.” This confirms Abby’s worst suspicions — that he’s only marrying her because of the marina. Miss Ellie and Clayton have the opposite conversation when he tells her he regrets giving up his business when they got married (“Selling my refineries was the biggest mistake I ever made”) and that he plans to go back to work. While Miss Ellie frowns anxiously, Abby blinks back tears during a Johnny Rourke power ballad.

    As Abby cries over Charles’s deception — we see her sobbing alone in the powder room, then staring tearfully into an open fire — Sue Ellen laughs (and laughs and laughs) after finding JR and Kimberly together. Instead of hitting the bottle as she did when Holly set her up, she feigns disgust and then shows up at Nicholas’s apartment with a fit of the giggles. Turning a hugely dramatic scenario into a joke is a risky business. One need look no further than this week’s FALCON CREST. A series which has had its fair share of murder mysteries, this week’s ep sees the characters eagerly participating in a murder mystery game, scampering about Falcon Crest as if murder were something they had no personal experience of. (“I love this game!” exclaims Angela, all but looking at the camera.) As a result, when somebody is (inevitably) murdered for real, it’s hard to care because everything just feels so trivial. Sue Ellen’s amused reaction, however, works — partly because it serves to complicate, rather than dilute, the ongoing storyline. Also, it’s a way of portraying her newfound independence (“I hate him so much right now that nothing he could do could bother me”) in a way that’s dramatically interesting (as opposed to simply depicting her as boringly sober and well-adjusted the way the Dream Season did).

    Once her tears have dried, Abby tasks some unknown minion with investigating Charles’s finances. “I want to know more about Charles Scott’s business than he does,” she declares. “That could be pretty tough to do,” the minion replies. “The next time you see a labourer up on a roof mopping hot tar for minimum wage, call me, tell me how hard your job is,” she snaps. I’ve always found this response interesting. It seems to be a way for Abby to distance herself from Charles’s blue-blood world of privilege and ally herself with her own blue-collar upbringing. Abby Ewing, class warrior? Unlikely perhaps, but this is the most recognisably “Abby” she’s been in weeks.

    Back on DYNASTY, Alexis continues to toy with Leslie and Sean over their affair. She makes Leslie squirm by enquiring about the bracelet she gave her — the same one she then found under her own bed. For a while, it looks as if Alexis is playing the same game of cat and mouse that Blake did when he found out about the emerald necklace Krystle pawned back in Season 1 — but then she blows her cover by accusing Sean directly: “I think you’ve been having an affair with her in our bed and in Africa and God knows where else!” Sean comes up with a lame excuse which, interestingly, Alexis chooses to believe (how very vintage Sue Ellen of her). But in the penultimate scene of the ep, Dex tells her about Sean’s real parentage and then gets down on one knee to deliver the soapiest line week: “Alexis, he married you to destroy you!” Over on KNOTS, it looks like Abby has something similar in mind for Charles. Far from ending their marriage plans when she (like Alexis) discovered Charles (like Sean) had been deceiving her from the beginning, she is proceeding with them. “I don’t want Charles to get away,” she smiles ambiguously. Sue Ellen ends this week’s DALLAS on a high note too. When JR finds her in their bedroom packing, he assumes she’s about to leave Southfork and file for divorce. “That’s the last thing I’m gonna do,” she tells him cheerily. Instead, she explains, she’s moving back into her old room across the hall: “See you at breakfast!”

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (3) DALLAS
    2 (2) DYNASTY
    3 (4) KNOTS LANDING
    4 (1) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2018
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