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Five things about "Her Letter"

Discussion in 'Knots Landing' started by Toni, Nov 8, 2018.

  1. Toni

    Toni Soap Chat Mega Star EXP: 18 Years

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    Aspiring writer and factual webmaster
    Fletcher Sanitarium, Barcelona, Spain
    I am in the middle of re-watching all "Knots" in English (for the first time in this language) with the respective episodes of "Dallas" using the date reference, in this case, Season 10 of "Dallas" (the first Pam-less year!). So far it´s turning out to be a fascinating and rewarding experience, though Season 9 (and prior to that, also Season 8) is getting too hard for me to finish. I have already watched the whole series once, most of it dubbed into Catalan, my second language since it was never aired in a Spanish network beyond Season 3. I do know what will happen to everybody and remember most of the dialogues, so it´s being relatively easy to me.
    What shocked me about this season is how worn out most classical characters seem to be: first of all, Gary and Val. Gary has always been a reactor: he doesn´t start things, he usually reacts to them and ends them (best example: Empire Valley!). He is a kind of character that works extremely well in a show where females are stronger than males. He manages to be appealing and also tremendously flawed: the kind of man that women (or gay men) would love to meet in a parallel universe, but couldn´t stand in real life.

    Gary Ewing: The man women wanted,
    men wanted to be and...
    gay men wanted to look like​

    One of the things that have surprised me this third time is that since Valene got her babies back, she has been given second (or even third) rate subplots. She clearly is the cul-de-sac idiot, no matter we like it or not. I think it´s ludicrous the fact that they had such an amazing actress as Joan Van Ark, and they have been misusing her in the second half of the series, no wonder she left in the penultimate year! The problem is that now, in Season 9, they are treating Val and Joan the way they treated Lilimae and Julie Harris for years: as a supporting character who can be pivotal once a season, and a revered actress who so obviously is not getting any juicy part to play. Poor, poor Lilimae. You might as well as have been slaughtered by Al Baker and Val never find it out.

    Now I have resigned to it and won´t expect anything new from Val, because I remember that this didn´t change. There will always be 2 or 3 amazing scenes with Joan every season, but that´s all. Another thing that I didn´t remember was how good Teri Austin is in her role, and she is chewing up the scenes she is in. The Catalan voice was quite cringeworthy and didn´t do justice to Austin´s chops at all. This time I´ve grown up to like Jill more and more, and I know she´ll be the best in the rest of the season and also in the first half of Season 10. I´ve just watched "Her Letter". To all of you who don´t recall exactly what was going on apart from Ben´s letter to Val (with a devious kiss from Jill), this is the summary:

    "Still thinking of Peter, Oh-lee-vi-ahh?"
    "Peter who? Now I´m into Tacos!"​

    Val is elated at the prospect of Ben coming home. Mack fears something may have happened between the time of the letter's mailing in Guatemala and its delivery. Pat thinks Val is not very realistic. Pat and Karen suggest Karen buy a mini skirt, and she shows up for a meeting with Abby and Manny wearing it. Olivia says she will not go to college and will be a traditional stay-at-home woman, the kind Harold wants. Abby expresses concern that Harold and Olivia's relationship is moving too fast. Karen advises Abby to be so overly kind to Harold, Olivia will tire of him. Harold proposes to Olivia. Abby forbids Olivia to see Harold anymore and makes it clear to Manny that his contract with Lotus Point is contingent on him keeping Harold away from Olivia. Paige tells Greg that she's available if he needs dates. Jill continues to drink in response to Gary's newfound preoccupation with being a father to the twins. Gary expresses concern about how Ben's supposed return may affect his access to the twins. Karen is disappointed when Mack shows no concern that Manny flirted with her. Jill negotiates a plea deal for an elderly forger. Later, she forges another letter, this one for Jill and signed by "Ben." Harold and Olivia announce they are eloping.

    So this is it. And why am I devoting a thread to "Her Letter"? Because I think that this is the best episode so far, aside from the 3 episodes dedicated to Laura´s passing. These are the 5 things that called my attention, I wanted to share it and know what your opinion is:

    1) The Williamses. I don´t know where to start, but this subject has been handled by all of you much better before. I just want to know a couple of things: Why is the infamous witness plot actually related to a case of medical corruption? I mean, really dear writers? How lame is that? It´s funny that, at the same time, "Dallas" was doing the Nicholas Pearce storyline, which, as simple and unrealistic as it was, was a lot better written than this mess. And why a person like Mack, who has a history of what, over 10 years as investigator minimum, doesn´t get to the conclusion that those neighbors who have occupied Laura´s old house are in the witness protection program? What does he need, to listen to his walls (at some point I thought that Karen would do that!) using a glass? And finally, when the truth comes out, the person who helps him out is none other than Jill. So really Mr. Mackenzie? Did you really need her help to find it out?

    2) The key to the letter plot. Another case of underestimating the people´s intelligence. Why so many scenes with the sweet old forger woman? Jill has been defending her and she obviously will use her services to get to that wonderful hyper-long scene that closes the season, but...did we need to be spoon-fed about the what/why/how etc. Jill will do it? Shouldn´t it have been better to have happened off-screen and come as a complete surprise, or include a flashback to explain it later on? I know that KL usually likes to do things in their own way, but here I feel I´m being treated as a stupid, the only thing that they didn´t do was putting a warning in the middle of the screen saying: look, you absent-minded public, what Jill is doing! She is so wicked, and has such bad hair!!! Wrong for the writing staff (and the hair-stylist too).

    3) Harold is a dumba*s. So here is the man who breaks arms for money and is dating the daughter of his uncle´s business associate (the Abster, as gorgeous as ever). He goes out with poor Olivia once, and the second time he asks her to marry her...and she says yes (and no, they haven´t done dirty things yet, so it´s not a matter of "spring awakening", "size matters" or whatever). The problem is that, as the plot goes, both characters come across as total jerks. He may be pressured by his boss and she may be longing for independence from a possessive mum, but it´s very hard to believe that those two really want to elope to marry (as they announce in the last scene). Since Olivia started seeing Harold (who is played by a guy who can act and tries hard to make it believable, Paul Carafotes), Abby has rolled her eyes more times than Laura in 9 seasons (!!). Besides, poor Olivia, who turns out to be more dependent than Val herself, tells her that she agrees with Harold about staying at home and raise a family! Who needs trigonometry?? Hey, these are the 80´s and she is what, 16? Livvy has now found out that there´s something much better than coke: being slave to love. Lame lame.

    "You´re all tramps! Olivia is dating the Mexican
    gardener and Gary sleeps with Laura´s cleaning woman!"
    *This line is not meant to be offensive, Un-PC or vulgar. We have to laugh, for the Soap Gods´ sake! :danc:

    4) And now for the good things: The first scene between Gary and Patricia. I´m sure you must remember this little scene. So far it´s the best scene after the "shark infested", "corpse reappearance" and the cliffhanger. If you don´t remember the details, it´s just Gary knocking on the Williams´ home to ask about Karen. And why is this scene so special? Because there are sparks between them. They overlap their lines, they stare at each other, they smile at each other, they have a little flirtation (with Gary that is implicit!). I know that there will a mini-sub-plot that goes somewhere very briefly, with a little attraction between them, but I think it was a pity they didn´t dare to make them (Frank & Pat) apart or have an affair. And with no doubt, this is the kind of things that the KL writers were good at, after the interweaving business plots.

    5) And last but probably the best scene of the episode: yes, the mini-skirt scene. Here are the Abster, Pollyanna and Charles Scott´s (RIP in soap limbo, if you can, the worst guest star ever!) former associate Manny Vasquez (nice the way to show how good Mexican immigrants are integrated into the US society in creative jobs as drug-dealing using the Lotus Point marina, shame you writers, TNT and Cidre would be pride of you). But here we have a couple of scenes that show us Val, Karen and Pat shopping at some store (probably not as big as "Dallas"´ "The Store"!) and Karen attending a meeting with the leather mini-skirt that she has been eventually bought (literally this was a "prêt-à-porter" acquisition!). And in she comes Karen with the very mini-skirt and Abby´s cracking up! The way the scene is staged, there is no way that Manny (sitting in the middle, with both women sitting next to him in other chairs) can´t see her knees and beyond!
    Slave to Love. Always.​

    The funny thing is that Manny doesn´t blink at all (a nice acting detail) and stares at Karen while he talks. And well, there is another bit scene where Abby is told a parenting advice by Karen (who has suddenly remembered that has another daughter out somewhere, She Who Must Not Be Named!!) and the Abster, in return, gives her another advice, re the two things she knows best: fashion and bitchiness. "Don´t be a slave to fashion!" Karen gulps and walks away, and then I cracked up too in front of the TV set!! Why couldn´t the rest of the season be like these two scenes?

    What will come now is the Jill plot and the pathetically outdated Mexico/drug storyline, so I can´t wait to see Jill entering Val´s room in the hospital after the "suicide attempt". That´s another scene and another season...and so funny too!! Opinions, pleease!

    "Now go to N.Y. and never come back!"
    "Shut up, You Who Must Not Be Named!"​
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018
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  2. Daniel Avery

    Daniel Avery Super Moderator EXP: 19 Years Staff Member

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    Sunny South Florida
    I have no way of knowing for sure, but I think the Lechowicks wanted to lay out all the various clues in their eventual two-stage mystery plot with Jill and Val. Whether this was their way of showing how well they can plot in advance ("See? We left that clue two seasons ago!") or just a way for them to 'call back' plot points from the past ("Remember that throwaway scene two seasons ago? Let's use it to push this week's plot along"), I don't know...but I'm inclined to believe they planned these things that far ahead. Keep in mind that in the first viewing, there needs to be a lot more "emphasis" on the various clues that are dropped because people often watch while distracted by other things. In successive viewings, those clue-drops might seem more heavy-handed because you are expecting them and have an eye out for them.

    You hit the nail on the head in one regard: she was likely using her insta-relationship with Harold as a replacement 'addiction' of sorts. I think Olivia's willingness to throw herself into a half-baked relationship with a guy of questionable background shows that she was an easy mark for anyone who was able to show her any sort of affection. She similarly fell hard for even-more-unsuitable Peter Hollister, who manipulated Olivia right up until Paige got "right to the point" with him. Perhaps they just didn't view her character as important enough to have a fully-rounded characterization, choosing instead to make her storylines revolve around Abby (who, after all, was a principal character, whereas Olivia was secondary at best in this period). Her actions were therefore mainly written to give Abby stuff to react against. Harold was under even less pressure to behave like a fully-rounded character, since he revolved around a secondary character (Olivia). I'm sure the show was already hoping to build up her character into something more than "Abby's troubled daughter," but this whole "fool for love" thing was covered quite well by her cousin Diana, and we all saw how that stunted the character's growth. Later on, it would have a similar effect on Michael (with his evil sister-in-law).
    I guess what I'm trying to point out is that you can't really put much stock in what they're writing for Olivia because she's not meant to be a major character at that point. Her misadventures are more to give Abby something to do rather than just giving Olivia something to do.
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  3. Karin Schill

    Karin Schill Super Moderator EXP: 15 Years Staff Member

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    @Toni I am delighted that you are also re-watching Knots Landing at the moment. It is a great show and I wish it was all out on DVD. :)

    I have gotten further along in my rewatch than you though but since I've watched the same episodes that you are now commenting on within the past year I remember them well. :)

    I agree that they didn't give Joan enough to do on the show during some of those seasons. It was like she was being sidelined by some of the new characters and that's a shame since as you pointed out she is an amazing actress.

    I have never thought of that Gary reacts to things, but I think you have a point there. It's interesting since on Dallas that was a role that was reserved for the women while on Knots it was the opposite with Gary. I guess that's why it was a more female driven show whereas Dallas was a more male driven show.

    I really liked the Williamses and what they brought to the show. I didn't find the witness protection plot lame at all.

    I agree with you that Harold and Olivia are lame. But I loved them as a couple the first time I watched the show. I guess that means that this kind of young romance is meant to appeal to a young viewer and I am no longer in that age group so now I mostly go :re: at them.

    The mini skirt scene was funny in my opinion! :rlol:
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2018
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