Discussion in 'Knots Landing' started by James from London, Sep 18, 2016.
They did a nice job of quietly turning them into actual characters - something that isn't always accomplished in like situations.
They never really did accomplish this with Jason Avery. It wasn't until Olivia's drug story that they managed to give Brian Cunningham much of a personality, and even then he was not what one would call a well-rounded character.
Yes, quiet as a mouse....
At first I didn't realize he was a child, I thought he was one of Abby's fashion accessories.
Abby: "Go to your room!"
Brian [walking away, muttering to himself]: "I don't need this *&^%, I'm gonna move to Beverly Hills..."
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
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
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
That plot hole was kind of the weak point of this episode. We all knew that Laura wouldn't really have left them all to die - it went against her instincts as a mother, wife and friend to her neighbors. The decision was all forced by budget cuts and writer's decisions. But Richard bringing it out in the open did shine the spotlight back on the remaining cast - She was culled, but you guys are still left. Did she deserve that?
Yes, you hit the nail on the head there. I felt a kind of fear watching that episode first time round, as it really was a turning point in the show. With the sudden departure of two such iconic characters - Lilimae and Laura, the viewers also felt that fear for the future of their show. If these two have really gone, could Abby, Karen or Val really be next?
When the series originally aired on CBS, they had the first version of season nine opening credits (with CM and Julie Harris in it) until episode 200 because Julie Harris was still around, even if CM's last episode was 196. It was too expensive (I guess) to do an interim version when CM left (at the end of episode 196). Given how cheap this opening looked, I can't imagine it would have been that hard to customize.
The whole concept of Laura dying off-camera where no one saw her die certainly had the hallmarks of "keeping options open". On daytime, if a popular character dies but no one sees them die, it's almost guaranteed they will return "from the dead" in the future, a victim of mistaken identity or some nefarious plot. Perhaps the writers feared the (considerable) fallout from killing her off and wanted to give themselves an "out" if they had to undo their mistake. The plotline certainly launched a thousand fanfics. Of course the prevailing wisdom seems these days to be that they did this because they just wanted to be rid of the character and/or the actress, and this "choice to leave" was just their way of getting it done quickest while denying CM the opportunity to act the hell out of a longer, terminal illness plotline before her departure.
I'm sure she would have done a great job, but personally I'm not eager to watch a long, slow cancer-death.
I don't mind crying a little (or a lot) when I watch my stories, and the whole implication of her departure and how it was done was sad enough imo.
But when it's so overwhelmingly sad and depressing it could even take the melodrama out of it. I like the sad moments ,but dying of cancer is too much of a process and I'd end up waiting for that final moment.
Isn't it typical of Knots Landing to do something that could be questioned or frowned upon by the audience, and then have their characters frown upon that very same issue albeit from a story's point of view? And then even manage to make it look good?
In cases like these, no matter how "offensive" the reason behind it was, all is forgiven! (imho)
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
It never felt like a plot hole to me. It felt plausible that Laura, of all people, would do what she did.
But what made Laura such a unique character -- her realism, her lack of melodrama -- is also what made her expendable in a way that Karen, Val and Abby weren't. The same could be said of Claudia on DYNASTY and Donna on DALLAS.
But long lingering illnesses and 80s supersoaps aren't really compatible. Those characters who were terminally ill (Garrison Southworth, Laura, even Pam Ewing) tended to die off screen. Those that expired on screen were characters we'd only just met: Kate Torrance, Tom Carrington, Andrew Douglas from "Silver Shadows".
And then there's the whole issue of using a terminal illness just to give an actor a chance to show how well they can suffer which feels kind of exploitative.
Also, to put it crudely, where's the story? Soap Land was too fast-paced, too plot-driven for that.
And it looked as if it was filmed in a tiny corner of the studio, sort of a small hobby theater for the local town's folk. That itself may be a charming idea except that I'm pretty sure that was not how it was supposed to look.
Then at least you got something out of it.
In this case I agree with Fallon, but she could have said something similar to Krystle in season 1. This is definitely not The Colbys-Fallon anymore.
I really liked this accidentally on purpose "attack", it's one of those things you rarely see in soaps.
That's what I meant with great-sad moments, but one time is enough. If it would happen week after week it would diminish the strength of such scenes.
It's...I was going to say something like "beyond rock bottom" but even those words wouldn't suffice. Nevertheless, that moment when Melissa thinks she's going to be hit by a train (in her bedroom!) is so-bad-it's-good. And that's better than just bad.
You may hate Melissa at this point, but I think this nonsense (and all that singing stuff) affected Angela's character much worse.
I recall being icked out by this, but not because Jill hit Paige in a sorry/not sorry way. Greg was seen in a previous episode re-potting an azalea on his patio, scooping ashes from Peter's urn into the flower pot. If Peter's urn was unsealed, Jill trucking that thing around in her purse made me wonder just how much of Peter was in the urn, how much was in the lining of her purse, and how much ended up on that roadside.
James In London, I love your posts and this thread. I really enjoy how you weave all the shows together and we can see the similarities going on week to week, or how some shows did the same stories in very different ways. One day, if I were able to find the time, I'd love to do my own personal nerdy viewing of all the shows week to week as you are doing, starting with the first ep of DALLAS and ending with final ep of KNOTS, including DYNASTY and FALCON CREST and COLBYS as they come along. I don't think I would watch ALL the shows you watched for this, but I also think I'd spice it up by adding TWIN PEAKS in there during the 1989-1990 and 1990-1991 season.
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
Yeah, it wasn't as much of an ordeal as I remembered. And the teddy bear turning its head 360 degrees like Linda Blair in The Exorcist was kind of fun.
I really do! I dislike her far more than any other Soap Land character I've encountered this time around. It's such a shame because in the first three seasons especially, she's just great.
I don't know ... in her scenes with Melissa and Emma, it feels like Angela's stuck, repeating the same eye-rolling punchline over and over, like a character trapped in the same scene of a never-ending sitcom. But in her scenes Richard and Maggie, and to a lesser extent Lance and Dan, she's still reasonably interesting.
You should -- it's really fun!
What a good idea -- and then you could watch TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN alongside New DYNASTY — what an amazing double bill that would be!
Now I want Alexis to say, "but the Fuentes is mine!"
This reeks of desperate improvisation.
I think they simply used a book that one of the actors was reading at that time (during make-up or something). Maybe they couldn't find the ready-for-camera fake book.
It's hard to think of Abby as a victim, and it's even harder to think of Abby to think of herself as a victim, let alone to say it.
Valene has been victimized over and over again, but Jill doesn't know everything we know so I can understand her frustration.
I think this is the moment where she gets to the next stage of her character. Her return to the ranch becomes a point of no return. From that point on none of her arguments will carry any validity.
Easy for them, without snow.
Yes, and I also think that in these kind of stories the disadvantage (being disabled) automatically suggests the opposite.
Soaps like victims, but not when they actually look like victims, it's sort of "not done" (I think).
That's why Dinah's death (FC) looks so terribly, terribly cruel. They did it before South Park.
Incidentally, the Peyton Place DVD mentions Dallas, Knots Landing and Twin Peaks (but not Dynasty!)
I dunno....there is another situation where a character (I think it's Mack) is on a street, with one of those distinctive USA Today newspaper boxes clearly visible behind him. The same prop guy (?) put a conspicuous piece of black tape through the newspaper's title, but left the rest of the paper alone. This happened much later in the run, but it stuck in my mind because the black tape did nothing to disguise the identity of the paper since the dispenser box (at that time) and USA Today's full-color printing style was well-known.
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:
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
Ha! For a minute, I thought you'd photo-shopped the Fuentes into New DYNASTY, but then I spotted it on last week's episode!
And there's also, I think, a (possibly subconscious) fear of people who are crippled or deformed in some way that manifests in having them appear in fiction as villainous and/or monsters (Davros and the Daleks in Doctor Who spring to mind) -- although I don't think that's the case here.
In what context?
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