KNOTS LANDING versus DALLAS versus the rest of them week by week

Discussion in 'Knots Landing' started by James from London, Sep 18, 2016.

  1. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    05 May 88: KNOTS LANDING: The Perfect Alibi v. 06 May 88: DALLAS: Things Ain't Goin' So Good at Southfork, Again v. 06 May 88: FALCON CREST: Last Dance

    Following Manny’s orders to “get rid of them”, his mob spend much of this week’s KNOTS trying various methods of spooking the Santa Tecla gang into abandoning the archaeological dig. These include threatening letters, a snake in Paige’s sleeping bag (before we can learn if it’s as deadly as the black mamba Sean Rowan frightened Leslie Carrington with, Johnny entices her into his sleeping bag and it slithers away) and, most effectively of all, a dead dog in the water supply. Towards the end of the episode, they also blow up a reporter in his car to prevent him filing a story about the dig that could jeopardise the highway. Meanwhile on FALCON CREST, Richard warns Angela that, “Our friendly little group, the Thirteen, they wanna terminate the two of us … They know that … we’ve got enough on them to send them away for a while.”

    There’s a rich seam of cynicism running through this week’s Ewing-verse. When Mack’s police contact tells the Lotus Point crew that the reason Manny cannot be prosecuted is “a matter of national security”, Gary launches into a terrific rant: “Ah, the magic words that are supposed to justify anything! The Russians invade Afghanistan, the French blow up a boat in New Zealand, we invade an island, any island, in the Caribbean — anything anyone ever needs to justify is under the heading of National Security … Every dishonest, incompetent, bureaucrat politician invokes National Security in order to cover up crimes, stupidity and mistakes.” The cop dismisses Gary’s speech as “some left-wing diatribe”, but it is later echoed by Greg Sumner: “Every bozo dictator with a Swiss bank account or a chateau in France trots out the old National Security excuse whenever it suits his purposes … The phrase National Security has kept a lot of righteous guys out of the can.” (Greg does some digging of his own and learns that “Mr Vasquez is in the business of transporting tactical devices to friendly armies … guns, bazookas, missiles, nuclear warheads — who knows? … If the price were right, I suppose he’d just as soon supply both sides with arms.” After Sean Rowan and Richard Channing, that makes Manny Vasquez the third gunrunner of the season. It’s like 85/6 when suddenly every other character was a Greek shipping magnate.)

    The scepticism continues on DALLAS, albeit on a more local level when JR produces a court order overturning Sue Ellen’s court order obliging him to produce John Ross at Southfork. Instead, he instructs a couple of marshals to escort her off the ranch. Sue Ellen later tells Nick that JR and the authorities “concocted the grounds [for his court order] between them … With all the judges JR has got in his pocket, they can manufacture legal bases for anything that he wants.” This resonates with what Val told her neighbours back in “Land of the Free” (KNOTS Season 1) about her experience of turning to the authorities for help against JR: “I can’t tell you what that was like — knowing that anything at all could be done to me, and there wasn’t nothing the police would do about it because there wasn’t any difference between [JR’s] old boys and the police.” When the marshals manhandle Sue Ellen off Southfork, they could just as easily be the same old boys who snatched Lucy back from Val.

    While Sue Ellen has Nick to turn to (he assures her he knows a top-notch PI who can track down John Ross — what self-respecting investment broker doesn’t?), who do the KNOTS gang have? Ordinarily, Mack’s the one with the answers but not this time. “I feel helpless,” he admits. “I can’t do anything. Karen, I’ve never felt like this in my life … There’s no-one to help us and if anyone tried, it wouldn’t make a difference.” The “little man” at the mercy of bureaucratic red tape has been a bugbear of KNOTS throughout its run — from Karen’s clash with school authorities while trying to get Michael’s hyperactivity diagnosed to the stonewalling the Lotus Point gang received when attempting to clean up the toxic waste at Empire Valley — but this is as isolated as they’ve ever been.

    Sometimes, however, it’s the good guys who are corrupt and the politicians who are morally disgusted. One of the latter manages to take the glow off the moment Bobby gets the Ewing Oil name back. “The penalty your company was assessed was light enough. In my opinion, it should have stuck — but then, you’ve got a lot of powerful friends,” he tells him bitterly. Bobby is unrepentant: “I don’t appreciate your sentiments and I’m not here for one of your lectures.”

    Just as KNOTS LANDING’s Jill Bennett started out as a perky do-gooder from the DA’s office, Eric Stavros arrived in FALCON CREST as a well-meaning, mountain-climbing rich kid cast from the same mould as Clay Fallmont. Both have since well and truly crossed over to the dark side. Eric, now firmly under the control of the Thirteen, spends the season finale lurking first around Angela’s and then Richard’s houses trying to shoot them. Jill’s behaviour in this week’s KNOTS (the penultimate ep of the season), is a tad more subtle, but no less sinister.

    In one way, Jill’s actions here parallel those of Abby’s in last season’s finale, “Cement the Relationship”. Tasked with covering up Peter Hollister’s murder, we delighted in Abby’s quick-thinking, resourcefulness and ability to cover her tracks as she went along. We understood what she was trying to do and we willed her to succeed. Here, we’re just as transfixed by Jill’s behaviour, but have absolutely no idea what she’s up to. Whereas Abby was thinking on her feet, Jill’s plan is clearly calculated down to the last second. First, she picks a fight with Gary over some imaginary infidelity and announces her intention to attend a computer conference in San Francisco, before hiring a car and parking it at the airport, planting a gun under the back seat, buying a pack of cigarettes and disposing of its contents, striking up a conversation with a fellow passenger on the plane (“Let me tell you, in real life people are never the sophisticated killers you read about in novels. They’re always making a million mistakes”). She then picks up a guy at the convention, slips him a Mickey while he is replenishing her cigarette supply, and so on. All the while, her hair goes from curly to straight and back again seemingly of its volition before she finally stuffs it into a wig, dons some librarian glasses, returns to California, retrieves her gun and finally let herself into Val’s house while her oblivious target is upstairs drying her hair in preparation for watching a movie with her neighbours.

    Lest one thinks one is imagining the Hitchcock vibe, the film Pat has invited Val over to watch is STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (“It was 99¢ night at the video store”). If Jill were fleeing away from a crime rather towards one, she’d be Marion Crane in PSYCHO, just as the shot of a hand wielding a knife at the end of last week’s DALLAS qualifies Ray’s stalker Connie as Norman Bates. Meanwhile, the toll-booth gunfire scene in this week’s FALCON CREST, where the Thirteen take aim at a car carrying Richard and his family, is clearly borrowed from THE GODFATHER but is nowhere near as exciting. It’s one of three gunfire scenes in this week’s ep and as Angela quips, “It’s getting monotonous.”

    The second takes place at Falcon Crest where a wounded Angela collapses into Richard’s arms, just as Alexis did into Blake’s when she was shot during this season’s DYNASTY. Ray Krebbs is also attacked in his own home — the opening scene of this week’s DALLAS shows him staggering down the stairs after being stabbed by Connie.

    While Angela’s injuries turn out to be even more superficial than Alexis’s, Ray is admitted to Soap Land Memorial where he is visited by Bobby, who doesn’t quite buy his story that he was attacked by a random intruder. “Is there something you’re not telling us?” he asks. Ray smiles at him sadly. “Don’t worry about it, Bob,” he says. With Steve Kanaly heading out of the show, this is the last exchange of the series between the brothers (returns, reunions and reboots notwithstanding) and so, as with Jack Coleman’s final scene with Jeff on DYNASTY, it carries an extra level of poignancy. (Who knows? Maybe for the actors involved it’s just another day at the office, but it doesn’t feel that way.) Their exchange is cordial, even affectionate, but there’s a distance between them now that won’t allow Ray to confide in Bobby the way he once might have done. It’s kinda sad — after all their years of friendship, this is how they’ve ended up.

    Later, however, Ray feels the need to confess and, following her brush with death, so does Angela. “I was not stabbed by a burglar,” Ray tells Jenna. “I knew the woman … I had an affair with her.” Angela’s disclosure, meanwhile, is grudgingly delivered. “There’s a part of me,” she tells Richard, “a very small part, that cares a great deal about you and I’m getting bored of hiding it.” It’s a hard-won concession — we’ve been waiting all year for some evidence of maternal feeling from Angela towards her son and here it is. I’m kind of ambivalent about what she says next, however: “Sometimes I really enjoyed it when you came barging into Falcon Crest, waving your arms all around and shouting at the top of your voice.” While I can appreciate the sentiment, it somewhat undermines the dramatic nature of her conflict with Richard. It’s the same as if Cliff Barnes were to confess that he secretly enjoyed feuding with JR or Blake Carrington admitted that he privately found Alexis’s attempts to destroy him a bit of a laugh. I feel that it’s for us to enjoy the characters’ conflicts and feuds rather than the characters themselves.

    Unexpectedly, the best scenes of this week’s DALLAS are the ones dealing with the fallout from Miss Ellie’s decision to make Clayton co-owner of Southfork (which, in turn, was a consequence of the Laura Ellis storyline. I’ve always regarded Laurel as somewhat inconsequential in the scheme of things, but her relationship with Clayton actually sets in motion a significant chain of events). I love JR’s response — it’s everything we’ve been wanting him to say since Donna Reed and Clayton returned from their honeymoon back in ’84. “This is a disgrace to my daddy’s home!” he tells his mama. “He saved this ranch from the auction block when your daddy went broke … and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna watch some carpetbagger from San Angelo reap the rewards of his hard work!” He then turns on Clayton: “If you keep at Mama the way you have been, that wimp rodeo rider son of yours is gonna be sitting my chair right there.” He even pays back Miss Ellie for her killer line from a year ago (“As far as Ewing Oil goes, it should have died with your daddy … Don’t you ever, ever speak his name in front of me again”) when he tells her: “You have dishonoured my daddy’s name and everything he stood for!”

    “You call giving a Ewing birthright away fair?” JR asks during his tirade. “Falcon Crest is my birthright,” echoes Melissa Agretti following the discovery of some random never-seen-before-last-week document. Her Uncle Frank tries to dissuade her from taking Angela’s home away from her which prompts a shrill, whiny rant (“You tell him, Lance, tell him about all the years she’s interfered in my life … how she tried to blackmail me, how she tried to drive me crazy, how she tried to drive me out of this valley!”) that doesn’t carry the half the weight of JR’s reaction to Clayton now co-owning Southfork.

    The lamest scene of this week’s DALLAS is the surprise party April throws for Cliff where a crowd of extras applaud his existence. “You deserve it,” April gushes, her voice all trembly with emotion. I guess the point of the scene is that it establishes her as Cliff’s best pal (not that there was much competition for the title). Two scenes later, she extends JR an olive branch and consoles him over his West Star defeat — the first time anyone’s shown him any sympathy since it happened and he appreciates it. This is also the first time a DALLAS character has had the ear of both Cliff and JR at the same time without anyone involved having a hidden agenda.

    There is no shortage of goodbyes for Bobby Ewing this week. Aside from his unofficial goodbye to Ray, he also breaks up, amicably but sadly, with Kay Lloyd. However, it’s his farewell to his other brother which proves the highlight. At fifty-something years of age, JR is finally cutting the apron strings. “I’m leaving this place. Southfork is no longer my home,” he announces at the end of his confrontation with Clayton and Ellie. When Bobby later comes to his room, he finds him packing his things. What makes the scene between the brothers so effective is that Bobby doesn’t try to change JR’s mind about leaving, nor does he roll his eyes cynically. He understands why he needs to go. “I worshipped that man, Bobby,” JR says, looking at a picture of his daddy. “I still miss him.“ Yep, six years after Jock’s death — a lifetime in soap years — JR’s still grieving. “This is not the same Southfork we grew up in. I guess it never will be again,” he concludes — a simple enough line, but one that somehow reaches across time, resonating not only with DALLAS’s past but also its future when John Ross and Christopher are grown and JR himself is no longer around. “Well, I guess this is it,” he tells his bro. “You might not believe this, Bobby, but I’m gonna miss you.” “I do,” Bobby replies. Adding an extra layer to the scene is the knowledge that Bobby has secretly regained the Ewing Oil name and has no intention of sharing it with his brother.

    In the same week that JR leaves the ranch, Angela, Lance and Emma are evicted from Falcon Crest. Angela is granted one last look around, which is played as A Big Moment. Because, however, the events leading to this moment have been depicted with such haste, with scant reason given for exactly how or why Melissa now owns everything (much less how and when Chase came by the necessary proof before his death), it carries far less resonance than JR’s voluntary departure from the Southfork, which, on paper, should be the lesser story. If ever one was looking for evidence that the Soap is in the details, all one need do is compare the slapdash execution of this FALCON CREST story with the tension and intrigue KNOTS ratchets up by following each step of Jill’s painstaking journey from Gary’s ranch to Val’s front door.

    Amidst all these goodbyes, there’s a surprise “Hello?” as Lucy Ewing Cooper arrives back at Southfork after an absence of three years. Somewhat symbolically, there’s no-one around to welcome her, save Christopher who has no idea who she is. “I don’t think Mitch has even noticed I’ve gone,” she later admits to Miss Ellie who immediately starts doling out the very same marital advice she did the first time Lucy left her husband: “Running back to Southfork isn’t gonna solve your problems.” Ironically in an episode with so much upheaval, for a moment it’s almost as if the last seven years haven’t happened. (Also, after an extended period of instability and histrionics, it’s nice to have Miss Ellie reestablish herself as Southfork’s voice of reason this week.)

    Towards the end of FALCON CREST, Richard meets with the Thirteen and makes an unusual proposition: “In exchange for ending all hostilities, I’m offering you my life … I only ask that you give me twelve hours so that I may say my goodbyes.” What follows echoes the departures of both Laura Avery from KNOTS and Mark Graison from DALLAS. First, Richard kisses his sleeping kids goodbye (très Laura) before enjoying what Mark would have described as “one perfect night” with Maggie, who is as much in the dark now as Pam was then. “You gave me the greatest gift a person could receive … You taught me how to love,” he tells her. “I was locked in a world of preconceptions and flannel pyjamas … You woke me up and gave me wings,” she replies. Again like Mark, he waits till she’s asleep before taking his leave and then walks outside to where Eric Stavros is waiting to fire several bullets in his direction. Have the Thirteen really succeeded with Eric where Jean Hackney failed so spectacularly with Ben Gibson and turned him into “the ultimate killing machine”? Or is Richard’s death an elaborate ruse intended to smoke out the Thirteen in the same way that Gary Ewing’s was meant to expose the Wolfbridge Group? As with Gary, there is a funeral where the grieving appears genuine — save that Angela (like Cathy Geary before her) seems to know something the others don’t. Does that mean Richard is alive somewhere, plotting his eventual return the way Greg Sumner did after his fake execution, or is he really dead? On one hand, this is FALCON CREST where they’re not afraid to kill off major characters. On the other, this is FALCON CREST where they’re not afraid to bring back major characters they’ve only just killed off. The episode factors viewer awareness of each of these possibilities into its final moments, essentially making that the cliffhanger. The penultimate scene has Maggie telling Michael and Kevin a bedtime story about their “two daddies” (“both very, very brave and everyone loved them very, very much”) which is the equivalent of the “Daddy Bear” fairytale fellow writer Val Gibson has been telling her kids throughout this season’s KNOTS as a way to explain Ben’s absence. Then we cross-fade to what looks like a church or monastery in some remote place — not unlike the Tibetan monastery where Richard’s former self Michael Tyrone made his return from dead at the end of FLAMINGO ROAD. Finally, we see Angela lighting a candle and asking an unseen someone, “When are you gonna tell Maggie you’re alive?” I’d kind of love it if it turned to be John Remick again.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    12 May 88: KNOTS LANDING: The Perfect Crime v. 13 May 88: DALLAS: The Fat Lady Singeth

    For its ninth season finale, KNOTS rips up the rule book by opening with the longest unbroken scene in Soap Land history, a two-hander between Jill and Val lasting more than fifteen minutes, before travelling back in time to pick up the Santa Tecla storyline precisely where the penultimate scene of last week’s episode left off. Were this not unconventional enough, four of the show’s six principle players — Karen, Mack, Gary and Abby — don’t show up until the final third of the ep while a fifth — Greg — doesn’t appear at all.

    Prior to Jill and Val’s big scene, the last time Soap Land spent so long under one roof was in “Stormy Weather”, FALCON CREST’s jokey murder mystery episode. While tonally very different, the two share some technical similarities. Both eps employ oblique camera angles (the technical term for which is, apparently, a Dutch tilt, “often used to portray psychological uneasiness or tension in the subject being filmed” — in this case, Jill). While Angela Channing looked almost straight at the viewer to deliver the line, “I love this game!”, Jill does indeed stare directly into the camera lens to bark some of her orders at Val. In fact, Jill is shot from so many different angles that the scene is occasionally in danger of seeming tricksy — as if the programme-makers aren’t totally certain that the conflict between the two women is sufficient to maintain viewers’ attention without the aid of some fancy visuals. For the most part, however, the sense of disorientation the camera work provides is very effective.

    Jill sets her store out early on. She wants Val to commit suicide and if she doesn’t, Jill will shoot her dead anyway, and let her kids find her with her brains splattered over the wall. When Val asks why, Jill replies by dissecting her personality in a way that feels almost taboo: “You must know why. You can’t not know how you get under people’s skin … You have the gift of making people, especially Gary, but not only Gary, say, ‘Poor Val. Poor Val isn’t responsible for the way she feels or the way she acts or the way she is. You can’t blame poor Val — because she’s poor Val. She can’t help being just a little bit crazy.’ … They forget that Poor Val takes advantage of their pity, how Poor Val’s as self-centred as they come, how Poor Val needs them to keep saying, ’Poor Val’ because it’s her excuse to be a child and it absolves her of her absolute selfishness!” Needless to say, this isn’t how characters in Soap Land ordinarily insult each other, even at their most vicious. Jill's speech is the psychological equivalent of the words Val used to describe her own physical appearance in that motel room in Season 6 (“You’re as flat as a board! … You look like a man!”). No-one in Soap Land usually talks like that! The specificity of Jill’s words feels equally organic. I very much doubt that "Poor Val" is how David Jacobs originally envisaged the character for her first appearance on DALLAS, but it’s a harsh but fair description of the high-maintenance soap diva she has evolved into — albeit from the point of view of someone who hasn’t received the memo that this is how all high-maintenance soap divas are obliged to behave, otherwise there would be no story.

    For a more soapily conventional, if no less derogatory, reference to Val, I refer you to JR’s exchange with Lucy during their very enjoyable reunion squabble on this week’s DALLAS. JR: “You’ve got a nasty mouth, just like that tramp mother of yours.” Lucy: “Well, coming from the expert on tramps, I take that as a compliment.”

    The longer Val’s ordeal goes on, the more the personal violations pile up: Jill sweetly promising to give the twins what she knows they like for breakfast after Val is dead (“Apple slices on wholewheat toast with little bits of tofu and raisin made into a face”). Val’s suicide note, which Jill has already composed (“‘Dear Gary,’” she reads aloud, before breaking off angrily. “Isn’t that just like Valene, to address her suicide note to Gary? Can you imagine the insensitivity?”). Jill’s rubber-gloved fingers probing the inside of Val’s mouth to make sure she’s swallowed all the pills she’s forced her to take.

    While Val is suitably stunned and terrified, Teri Austin is quietly excellent as Jill. Having watched her closely as she painstakingly established her alibi in last week’s episode, it feels like we are now complicit in Jill’s crime and, oddly, she turns out to be more relatable in this situation than Val — it’s easier to understand what it’s like to be driven to distraction by someone who plays on their victim status than it is to be terrorised by a madwoman in a funny wig. There’s a darkly comic moment after Val protests that no-one would ever believe she’d kill herself. “Everyone’ll believe it!” Jill assures her, almost laughing. “Just listen to how the words roll trippingly off the tongue — ‘Poor Val committed suicide.’” It’s funny because it’s true.

    Jill’s cheerful revelation that she was responsible for Ben’s letters and phone calls leads Val to quietly conclude that, “If you wrote those letters, then he is dead.” However, now that she is facing the end of her own life, she barely has time to acknowledge this fact. And so Ben’s faux-resurrection is snuffed out almost as cruelly as Mark Graison’s was after Pam woke up to find Bobby in the shower. Back then it was the audience, rather than Val, who barely had time to process the realisation that he must be dead after all.

    Ben might not be coming back, but someone else could be. “I saw Pam!” announces Jordan Lee on DALLAS. Just as FALCON CREST toyed with viewer expectations at the end of last week’s finale (“When are you gonna tell Maggie you’re alive?”), this revelation is followed by a scene of Bobby taking a shower — a reminder, perhaps, not to take things at face value.

    Compared to KNOTS, DALLAS’s season finale is on reassuringly familiar ground. JR has a run in with almost every member of his family — taunting Clayton (“You just can’t seem to keep your zipper up, can you?”), insulting Lucy (“I suppose your being here means that you and that nitwit husband of yours are having trouble again”), provoking Sue Ellen (“Call off your gigolo, honey”) and gloating at Bobby (“I got it all back, Bob, all the Ewing property … It’s all mine now”) only for the latter to turn the tables on him (“There is a Ewing Oil again, JR, but this time it’s not you, it’s me”). There are several references to the show’s history, as well as call-backs to DALLAS’s two most infamous cliffhangers — following Bobby’s shower scene, JR gets shot all over again.

    For his departing episode, Ray Krebbs is given a touching speech that recalls his previous personas as “the town drunk’s son”, “the skinny little kid” who arrived at Southfork and wondered what it would be like to belong to a real family, and “the half-breed brother” who felt unworthy of either the Ewing name or being married to Donna, and then links them to his present-day problems with Jenna. Meanwhile, Jenna turns for marital advice to Miss Ellie who responds with some of her own backstory — her reaction to Jock’s wartime affair and her later resentment towards Ray when she found out he was Jock’s son. “[Ray] has never been able to realise what a good man he is,” she says feelingly. Jenna concludes that she and Ray need to make a fresh start away from Dallas. “There’s too much here that’s bad for us, Ray," she reasons, "you thinking of yourself as a second-class citizen — you’re never gonna get away from that, Ray, not as long as you can see Southfork from your front porch.” After Ray’s ten years of service to Soap Land (and Jenna’s five), it’s a low-key send-off, but a fitting one — and it’s more than either of Ray’s “good son” equivalents, Cole Gioberti and Steven Carrington, got when they left their shows.

    After Jeff Colby, JR becomes the second unfathomably rich oilman of the season to finally move out of the family home and into his own apartment — in his case, the Ewing condo. Even though it’s de-rigueur for Soap Land to keep as many of its characters living under the same roof as possible, it’s kind of cool to see Jeff and JR in their swinging bachelor pads. They almost seem like grown men. Oddly, the exterior of JR’s place is Alexis’s former apartment building magically transposed to Texas.

    The last scene of DALLAS’s finale ep strongly resembles the penultimate one of DYNASTY’s. In each case, a woman (Alexis/Sue Ellen) watches helplessly from the sidelines as her estranged husband (Sean/JR) and current lover (Dex/Nicholas) fight to the death. Both pairs of men are struggling over a gun when it suddenly goes off. On DYNASTY, we cut to Alexis’s stricken face and then the scene ends. On DALLAS, the gun falls the floor and the two men carry on fighting out towards the balcony of JR’s condo. We then cut to the exterior of the balcony from where, four years earlier, Mark Jennings plunged to his death. Now it’s Nick’s turn. Even after he has fallen, the scene does not end.

    A theme linking both Ewingverse finales: Girls with guns. As well as the one Jill keeps trained on Val until she loses consciousness, Paige has another pointed at both Chava and Johnny in Santa Tecla after realising that neither man is what she thought: Chava’s an undercover agent for the DEA while Johnny is working for the bad guys. Which deceiver can she trust? Johnny’s really good here, all his irritating faux-folksiness forgotten as he urgently tries to convince Paige that he’s on her side (“I’m the only one who can get you out of here!”). Eventually, she sides with Chava, but by the end of the episode, they, along with Michael, have fallen into Manny’s clutches.

    Back on DALLAS, having watched her lover die at the hands of JR, Sue Ellen picks up the gun and, following the example of Eric Stavros, who shot an unarmed Richard Channing at point blank range on last week’s FALCON CREST, starts firing in JR’s direction. As on FC, the scene doesn’t cut back to JR once the trigger has been pulled — but lest there be any doubt that Sue Ellen has hit her target, she then calls the police: “I’d like to report a double murder. This is Sue Ellen Ewing.” Val’s prone body, meanwhile, lies on her bedroom floor, Jill’s disembodied voice gently singing a nursery rhyme on the soundtrack.

    So: Nicholas dead. JR apparently dead. Val pretty much dead. Jill gets away scot-free while Sue Ellen makes a full confession. In each case, the cliffhanging question is not so much “whodunnit?” as “how the hell are they gonna write themselves out of this one?”

    And this week's Top 2 are ...

    1 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (1) DALLAS
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2018
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  3. Daniel Avery

    Daniel Avery Super Moderator Staff Member

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    While Sue Ellen is phoning the cops, Val is seen lying next to a phone as if she'd tried to call the cops too, but passed out before she could reach them...and the camera pans across to show Jill had planned everything so well, she had even unplugged the phone.
     
  4. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    And if Sue Ellen was calling the cops at the same time, it probably would have been engaged anyway. Oh well.
     
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  5. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    There's a funny pause and for a moment it looks as if he'd swing back to the balcony à la Spider-Man.
    upload_2018-7-22_20-4-46.png
    (or is that an alteration made by the uploader?)
    Gosh, I don't think I noticed that the phone was unplugged, or maybe I did and I assumed that Val had accidentally caused the unplugging herself.
    But if Jill did it then it clearly shows the weak spot because a perfect crime should not have a "just in case".
    Of course, since Val wasn't going to die (how cruel would that be, after being completely de-glamourized by Jill?) they had to show that she had awaken from her deadly sleep, at least long enough to try to reach for the phone.
    The viewer would feel cheated if they had done this in the first episode of the next season.
     
  6. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    I don't remember it being there when the show originally aired on the BBC, but it's certainly cropped up in reruns and on the DVD. It's weird, but I kind of like it. Maybe it was a deliberate tease: maybe at that point we're not meant to know whether it's Nicholas or JR and they're tricking us into thinking this is the cliffhanging freeze frame. But then wait, there's more!
     
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  7. Steven Wayne

    Steven Wayne Soap Chat Member

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    It must have been like this when the episode originally aired for exactly the reason that you mention. I seem to remember Leonard Katzman explaining the short freeze like that, but can’t recall where exactly I read or heard that. It’s not in Barbara Curran‘s book.
     
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  8. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    27 Oct 88: KNOTS LANDING: Suicidal v. 28 Oct 88: DALLAS: Carousel v. 28 Oct 88: FALCON CREST: Changing Times

    New season, new lineups in the opening credits. Ray Krebbs, Jenna Wade, Dan Fixx and Eric Stavros are gone, Jill Bennett, Paige Matheson and April Stevens have been promoted, Lucy Ewing is reinstated and Pilar Ortega appears out of nowhere.

    Last season’s Ewingverse ended with JR shot and Val unconscious following an overdose. Is it too late to save them? Sue Ellen having already alerted the authorities, JR gets a head start on his ex-sister-in-law and is at Soap Land Memorial when this season begins. Val isn’t found by her twins until the following morning and they just assume “Mommy’s asleep on the floor.” Eventually, she is taken to hospital where Soap Land meets Real Life. “Does she have insurance?” a woman with a clipboard asks Pat Williams. “Do you have her insurance information with you? … Do you know the name of the company she has a policy with?”

    There’s a first-class example of When Storylines Collide on KNOTS. Still reeling about Manny Vasquez holding Paige and Michael hostage in Mexico, Karen is at Lotus Point with Gary and Abby when Marsha pulls up in a golf buggy with even more horrible news: “Val tried to commit suicide.” Karen is stunned but quickly realises, “I can’t leave” — because of what’s going on with Manny. In the equivalent DALLAS scene, Bobby and Clayton are out on the range introducing a new plot about the effects of a drought on Southfork when a helicopter descends and out rushes Charlie the ranch-hand. “JR’s been shot!” he announces. “From what they say, he must be near dead!” Gary and Bobby both rush to the hospital. FALCON CREST, meanwhile, has jumped forward a month from the end of last season (that’s in addition to the two-month jump that occurred midway through the finale ep) so the atmosphere’s less urgent, more melancholy than in the Ewingverse. Having lost both her son and her empire, Angela is suffering from a severe case of soap fatigue. “I’m tired of fighting,” she sighs wearily. There’s a frailty about her now — along with Frank Williams’ and Lance Cumson’s shorter haircuts, it’s most visible “between seasons” change — and it becomes her, making her seem more human and vulnerable than she has in a long while.

    Back on DALLAS, JR’s doctor informs him that he is “the luckiest man I’ve ever known, or your wife is the worst shot … You’ve got two clean holes here, nothing vital has been hit.” Things are less straightforward on KNOTS where Gary arrives at the hospital to learn that Val has had her stomach pumped, but has yet to regain consciousness. There is also a possibility of brain damage. He is then informed that “if she recovers and stabilises, she’ll be transferred to county hospital … They’re equipped to handle uninsured patients.” “I’ll pay,” he replies coldly, tossing a credit card on the desk. Money talks for JR too. When he asks for his condition to be announced as “extremely critical” and for his room to be filled with “monitors … and tubes and drip bags and all the stuff that makes you look bad,” his doctor objects: “It’s wrong and it’s cruel.” “Doctor, do you have any idea how much money I contribute to this place?” JR asks. He gets his way.

    When Sue Ellen and Jill hear that JR and Val aren’t as dead as they’d assumed, they are both disappointed, to say the least. “You mean to tell me that bastard is still alive?” Sue Ellen snarls, before remembering that she’s talking to the cop investigating the shooting. Jill, meanwhile, hears the happy news about Val from Gary over the phone. She manages to keep it together during their conversation, but then immediately starts to unravel, throwing the phone across the room and later throwing up in a sink.

    By the time Jill joins Gary at Soap Land Memorial, Val has been transferred to the psychiatric ward (“They weren’t supposed to move Val out of ICU until she became conscious, but they got so backed up in there,” Gary explains — another reminder of the real world going on outside of this soapy drama). While Bobby enters JR’s more private hospital room, looking almost as sad as JR did when Bobby was on his deathbed back in “Swan Song”, Gary leaves Jill alone with Val for a few moments. In both scenes, things then get kinda meta. On KNOTS, Jill has one of those thought-bubbles sequences, where we can hear her thoughts without her actually speaking them aloud. “What are you going to tell them?” she “asks” Val. “What will they believe? … It won’t matter what you say about me. I’m safe. I’m home free. No-one saw me.” Just then, Val’s heavily rouged, possibly psychic roommate pops her head around the curtain. “I heard every word you said!” she declares. Jill looks worried — which is interesting. I had kind of assumed that thought-bubbles were meant to convey whatever random thoughts were going through a person’s head, as opposed to a precise inner monologue that requires them to think articulately and in full sentences, but Jill’s reaction suggests otherwise. Back in JR’s room, he is saying his goodbyes. “Bob, I think this is it … Shake my hand. Tell me we’re partners again. Let me go meet my Daddy with my head held high.” At this point, Bobby can keep up the pretence that this is a conventional life or death scenario no longer and starts to laugh. A soap opera undermining its own drama with humour? When this kind of thing happens on FALCON CREST, I purse my lips in pious disapproval — so why has this scene always amused me? Perhaps it’s because the characters’ relationship and motivations ring true. JR still wants what he’s always wanted: Ewing Oil. He’s just going about trying to get it in a different way (i.e, by pretending he’s dying). And the two brothers play off each other well — they’re still recognisably them: they aren’t performing a watered-down sitcom version of themselves. By the end of the scene, Bobby has grown serious again and tells JR flatly, “I’m not gonna make you my partner.” Then, referring to the medical equipment, he adds: “Why don’t you send all of this stuff back to the people who really need it?” Like the ones in that backed-up ICU ward Gary was talking about, perhaps.

    DALLAS manages to slither out of the "double murder" corner it painted itself into at the end of last season by having Sue Ellen and JR each claim self-defence while accusing the other of (attempted) murder. After Bobby points out to Sue Ellen the impact a trial would have on her son (“Now that would make wonderful headlines for John Ross to read, wouldn’t it? ‘Mother Accuses Father of Killing Her Boyfriend.’ That’s real love, Sue Ellen”), she drops all charges against JR and he then does the same. I’m not sure how much legal scrutiny this would hold up to in the real world, but it keeps the story barreling along and by the end of the ep, they’re back to fighting over John Ross. (“You’ll get him back over my dead body.” “Whatever it takes, Sue Ellen.”) There’s a similar disregard for legal niceties when Peter Stavros, last seen fleeing the US after confessing to the murder of Roland Saunders, returns to FALCON CREST. “I didn’t think you were welcome in this country anymore?” Angela enquires. “The charges were dropped. I’m a free man,” he replies breezily. “Oh well, I suppose money and friends can make anything possible,” she shrugs.

    The authorities are equally ineffectual on KNOTS, but not in a way that’s advantageous to the characters. When Karen suggests contacting the police about Manny Vasquez, Mack scoffs: “In Mexico? He owns them. The Feds? That’s why we’re in this in the beginning!”

    Everyone’s looking for someone this week. Mack heads for Mexico in search of his daughter and stepson (“We even don’t know if they’re alive!”), Cliff Barnes flies north hoping to find his sister (“I just want to let her know that we love her”), Sue Ellen comes to Southfork looking for her son (“I’m gonna get him back one way or the other”), Peter Stavros has returned to the Tuscany Valley to investigate the disappearance of his son (“He’s gone so far underground, no-one can find him”) and Carly Fixx takes off for Oklahoma to find Dan, formerly her brother and now “the guy I’m nuts about.”

    These searches yield mixed results. Mack arrives in a Santa Tecla that’s suddenly as dangerous as Moldavia after the revolution and soon finds himself a prisoner in the Mexican equivalent of Krystle’s royal dungeon, only hotter and sweatier. Peter Stavros has no luck either. Not only does he find no clues to Eric’s whereabouts, but Vicky manages to shatter whatever remaining illusions he has left about him: “Your son was a liar and a gambler and a wife-beater and a thief.” Sue Ellen receives a cool reception from Bobby, who comes down firmly on JR’s side. “He’s my brother and that’s the bottom line. I love him,” he tells her. “You don’t know a damn thing about it!” she snaps. (It’s always fascinating to see these two at odds.) Sue Ellen does find an unexpected ally in Lucy, who eventually reunites her with John Ross as a helpless JR watches, fuming, from his hospital window. Cliff also finds Pam. Well, sort of. She’s Pam but not she’s Pam. She looks similar, but she’s not the same. She claims that she has no interest in returning to her family (“Forget you ever had a sister … We’re never gonna see each other again”), then after Cliff leaves we learn that she “only has a few months to live.” The fact that this has all been corroborated on New DALLAS makes a strange scene even stranger — and sadder. “It’s better this way,” Pam explains to Dr Gordon, who will himself relay the story to Christopher in 2013. “They won’t look for me anymore and if there is pain in the end, in my mind I’ll have Cliff and Christopher, and Bobby will be with me. My love for them is all I really need.” Boy oh boy — it’s Laura’s decision to die alone to the power of ten.

    In spite of his firm refusal to readmit JR into Ewing Oil, Bobby gradually softens throughout the episode and ends up, inevitably, inviting him back into the fold. Now that Sue Ellen is cutting the ties once and for all — she consults a lawyer about “a clean and fast divorce” and insists that she has no interest in a settlement (“I don’t want JR to have a claim on me at all”) — Bobby seems to be replacing her as JR’s codependent partner. His proviso that JR can return to the company so long as he has no dealings in oil is a bit like Sue Ellen’s previous agreement to stay married to JR on the condition that they have separate bedrooms.

    It’s unusual for Soap Land to establish an entire family of new characters all at once, but following the Williamses' arrival on last season’s KNOTS comes the Ortegas on FALCON CREST. Significantly, neither family is white, which means Soap Land is now more racially diverse than it ever has been. Whereas the Witness Protection Programme storyline essentially wiped out any identity Pat and Frank may have had before showing up in Seaview Circle, it turns out the Ortegas have always been in the Tuscany Valley — we’ve just never seen them before. This device of widening the view of an existing community to introduce fresh faces was deployed very effectively by both FLAMINGO ROAD and PEYTON PLACE back in the day. We learn that the Ortega patriarch, Cesar, had worked at Falcon Crest for thirty-five years until he is unceremoniously fired by Melissa this week. His eldest son Tommy works for Dan Fixx’s trucking company and his daughter Pilar, already elevated to opening credit status, went to school with Lance and Melissa. She now returns to the valley after an absence of several years, bringing with her some of Kirby Anders’ below-stairs bitterness (“I used to play with Lance and Melissa [but] I never once got invited to their homes”) and Lane Ballou’s social ambition (“I’m gonna be on everyone’s guest lists now”). “Your own kind was never good enough for you. That was always your problem,” Cesar tells her, adding a hint of racial divide into the mix. It’s also intimated that she has Something To Hide. “Pilar ran away when she was sixteen. Cesar didn’t say why,” recalls Angela.

    Having realised her dream of owning Falcon Crest, Melissa is now living there, alone and miserable, just like Alexis after she fulfilled her ambition of taking over the Carrington mansion. Gratifyingly, everyone onscreen finally seems to be losing patience with her. “I could ring Melissa’s neck,” says Frank Agretti. “You’re gonna have to stand in line,” Angela replies.

    At the end of last season’s DALLAS, Jenna persuaded Ray to move to Europe by arguing that he would never escape the shadow of the Ewings “as long as you can see Southfork from your front porch.” On this week’s FALCON CREST, Peter Stavros uses similar reasoning when he asks Angela to return to Greece with him: “As long as you’re living in this valley, you’re gonna be fighting the same old battles.” To Lance’s astonishment, Angela agrees. “This is my life we’re talking about and I’m going to live it any damn way I please!” she barks — but then she sees the sorry state of the vines at Falcon Crest. It’s not the result of the drought currently afflicting Southfork’s cattle, but mildew brought about by Melissa’s neglect. Angela immediately changes her mind about leaving. “I can’t stand by and see you ruin everything my family has worked for for generations,” she tells her. She then echoes what Kimberly Cryder told JR in her final scene on DALLAS: “Melissa, you’re such a fool. You could have had it all.”

    KNOTS climaxes with a terrific shoot-out in Santa Tecla — the kind of gun battle that’s grown increasingly meaningless on FALCON CREST over the last couple of seasons, but that really matters here. While poor old Chava is killed, Harold Dyer saves Mack by switching sides at the last second and shooting his Uncle Manny dead instead. This barely registers with Mack. “WHERE ARE MY CHILDREN?!!” he yells. “I don’t know” mumbles Harold from offscreen, still shocked at what he has just done. “I don’t know.”

    A grieving Maggie is obliged to take control of Richard’s empire on FALCON CREST, just as Pam was Bobby’s at the start of the Dream Season. And in the same way that Mark Graison returned from the dead just as Pam was reaching crisis point so Richard reappears just as Maggie finally loses it with Garth and fires him. For a second, it looks as if she will faint into her dead lover’s arms the way Pam did, but instead she slaps him across the face. “You son of a bitch!” she shouts.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    02 Nov 88: DYNASTY: Broken Krystle v. 03 Nov 88: KNOTS LANDING: Borderline v. 04 Nov 88: DALLAS: No Greater Love v. 04 Nov 88: FALCON CREST: Farewell, My Lovelies

    No less than six Soap Land characters make their final appearances this week. On DYNASTY, Dana Carrington walks out on husband Adam, and it turns out she’s saved her best scenes till last. I’ve always found the actress’s need to emote at every opportunity a bit distracting, but in her final scenes she’s too drained, too defeated to do much more than simply deliver her lines and that’s all that’s really needed. When Adam tries to stop her leaving by taking her to bed, she silently acquiesces, then quietly makes her exit once he’s asleep. Our final glimpse of Dana is particularly striking: Fallon spots her as she descends the Carrington staircase with her cases and calls her name. Instead of replying, Dana simply walks out of the scene and off the show. Meanwhile, Fallon is immediately distracted by the news of Krystle’s disappearance and so doesn’t even acknowledge her departure. It reminds me of how no-one noticed the Wards leaving KNOTS at the end of Season 4 because they were too caught up in the events unfolding around them.

    There’s another abrupt departure on DALLAS where, after ten years’ loyal and crooked service, JR unceremoniously shows Harry McSween the door after he refuses to snatch John Ross from Sue Ellen. “If a cop can’t break the law, what the hell use is he?” JR asks. “Get outta here. I don’t wanna see you round here anymore.” And that’s that. Mitch Cooper also makes one last appearance on DALLAS as he tries, like Peter Stavros did on last week’s FALCON CREST, to persuade his estranged wife to return home with him. Lucy doesn’t give him a definitive response, but now she’s back in the opening credits, it doesn’t look hopeful. Angela, meanwhile, lets Peter down gently. “If I ever leave the valley, it’ll be with you,” she tells him. Peter has more success persuading Vicky to leave Tuscany in order to visit Eric, currently recovering in a Swiss clinic after being mentally “hung out to dry” by the Thirteen. “Come back soon, OK?” Maggie asks her daughter, but their tearful goodbye suggests a more permanent parting. Lastly, Carly Fixx bids an equally emotional farewell to Angela before leaving the valley to be with Dan. Now that they’re no longer brother and sister, they’re free to hook up — kind of making them Clay Fallmont and Leslie Carrington in reverse.

    The most conspicuous absence of the week, however, is Krystle’s. In the same way that the Pam we met on last week’s DALLAS was an unfamiliar looking woman who claimed to have turned her back on her family — almost an Anti-Pam — so the Krystle that is spoken of on this week’s DYNASTY resembles no Krystle we’ve ever encountered on screen. While Krystina tearfully claims that her mother has turned into a witch (“She said she was going someplace where nobody could find her, not even me!”), the figure described by an anguished Jeanette sounds positively ghostlike (“It was the middle of the night … All she had on was a thin little nightgown. I called out to her, but she just kept walking … She turned and I can’t describe the look in her eyes …”). Blake’s search for his wife leads him into a nightmarish version of Skid Row (not unlike the alley Sue Ellen found herself in during Pam’s Dream or the Mission District Joshua ended up on in KNOTS), full of graffitied walls and overflowing trash cans, where the woman he thinks is his wife turns out to be a grotesque parody dressed in a Krystle wig and a leather don’t-be-a-slave-to-fashion mini-skirt. The closest we get to the Krystle we know are some pictures in a photo album Blake looks through. The first couple of images, from their original wedding, are reassuringly familiar, but the next, from their second wedding, has Krystle’s face torn out of it. Presuming this is the Anti-Krystle’s handiwork, does that mean she isn’t a fan of Season 4?

    “These past few years, she hasn’t been herself,” says Jeanette. “I think it’s started and I don’t know what to do,” Blake tells someone over the phone. “She could be capable of almost anything,” warns Krystle’s doctor. We have no idea what any of them are talking about. We don’t even know why Blake was so upset that Krystle had apparently gone out for the day that it became last season’s finale cliffhanger. Yet this very “not-knowing” is what makes the story so bizarrely fascinating. It’s almost as if, while we’ve been watching Krystle on screen all these years, there’s been a whole other Krystle existing just beyond our field of vision. It turns out there’s a lake she likes to visit (“She goes there when she wants to be alone,” claims Sammy Jo) and a diary she’s kept religiously for years — who knew? Arriving at the lake at the end of the episode, Sammy Jo and Jeff spy a body on the shore. Is it Krystle’s? Or is Krystle somehow responsible for it? “She could be capable of almost anything,” remember, so at this point, it seems possible.

    On the way to this never-previously-mentioned lake, Jeff manages to drop in an intriguing bit of info-dumping: “I was here once when I was a kid. It wasn’t a lake then. It was a mine or some kind of excavation that Jason and Blake’s father were involved in.” Not to be outdone, Miss Ellie delivers an equivalent tidbit about a never-previously-mentioned river while showing prospective buyer Carter MacKay round Ray’s ranch on DALLAS. “It’s very soothing. I think the river’s even prettier here than when it reaches Southfork … This used to be part of Southfork long ago,” she continues, referring to the surrounding land. “My first husband gave a section to Ray Krebbs years ago and I gave him another section when he got married this year.” At the start of Season 9, we were given the impression that Ray had moved off his Southfork land and bought an entirely separate ranch as a statement of independence. Now, suddenly, it was part of Southfork all along. DYNASTY and DALLAS are rearranging their narratives in front of our very eyes and it’s quite exhilarating to watch.

    This seems to be part a growing trend in Soap Land — events, even entire lives, going on under our noses that we weren’t privy to at the time: Punk’s affair with his secretary that Mavis Anderson disclosed to Miss Ellie on last season’s DALLAS, Michael Fairgate admitting to Olivia on KNOTS that he contemplated suicide after being dumped by Paige, Cesar Ortega working at FALCON CREST for thirty-five years without anyone noticing. Along the same lines, Ben Gibson’s death is suddenly being treated as fact by everyone on KNOTS.

    “There are people in this world that have no conscience. They don’t think they’re bad people, they’s just practical. They do what they do because it’s good business … I understand the mentality, Karen … I was so selfish and self-centred that it took my daughter trying to kill herself before I realised there was anything wrong with that kind of thinking.” While KNOTS LANDING’s Abby is newly repentant and FALCON CREST’s Angela is newly frail, DYNASTY’s Alexis is newly frivolous. It takes her a couple of scenes to recover from the shock of her husband trying to kill her in her bathroom, but then she’s rolling around on the floor drunk, singing Cole Porter songs and cooing over Dex’s muscles before abruptly passing out. This is part of a new lighter atmosphere running counterpoint to the graver Krystle-Not-Krystle mystery. Yes, the same playfulness that infected DALLAS and KNOTS in the immediate post-dream era has finally filtered through to DYNASTY. When else in the show’s history could one expect to find Dex Dexter squeezed into a small bathtub, one leg hanging over the side, chomping on a cigar and flicking through a copy of Sports Action? Or Fallon, currently competing with Sammy Jo over Jeff, pulling down the zip of her top to emphasise her ample cleavage before coming face to face with her less endowed rival who responds by self-consciously buttoning up her own outfit?

    Whereas Cliff Barnes wants out of the rat race on DALLAS (“I’m getting out of the oil business,” he tells Bobby, offering to sell him Barnes Wentworth. “I just don’t enjoy the stress and the battle of it anymore”), Greg Sumner wants back in on KNOTS. (“I can’t control the things that are near and dear to my heart,” he complains to his new publicist Ted Melcher. “I’m a former United States senator … I wanna find out what my options are.”) Such is the fickle nature of Soap Land that Clayton Farlow and an off-screen Dan Fixx also decide to sell their businesses — the very same business they went to great lengths to start up only a few months ago (while Clayton risked his marriage, Dan risked his life). Like Cliff, Clayton offers Bobby first refusal on his refineries, while Pilar Ortega makes Dan an attractive offer on behalf of “a consortium of local Hispanics, people who thought they’d never have a chance to work for themselves. Now, with the help of the bank, they do.” It’s notable that while the Ortgeas are free to acknowledge their ethnicity on FALCON CREST, the Williamses have yet to do so on KNOTS.

    Bobby and Gary Ewing are both taken aback when one woman in their lives makes an outrageous claim about another. While a spiteful April accuses Pam of abandoning her family (“She doesn’t wanna know about you … nor even about Christopher … She’s gonna marry her surgeon. Isn’t that sweet? I guess he was taken by his own handiwork!”), a desperate Val accuses Jill of attempted murder (“She’s insane, Gary. She was wearing a wig and those rubber gloves and she threatened to kill our children … and then she held a gun to my head and prised my mouth open and poured those pills down my throat”). Bobby responds angrily to April’s outburst (“Get out of my office!”), but her words hit home (“Why don’t things work out the way you think they should, ever? Why can’t two people just fall in love and get married and live happily ever after?” he asks Tammy Miller after showing up drunk on her doorstep.) Gary is a lot gentler with Val, but that doesn’t mean he believes her (“Val honey, what happened to you was awful … but honey, you took an awful lot of pills and you’ve had some kind of nightmare”).

    In fact, nobody believes Val, including the cops. In other words, it’s “My babies are alive!” all over again. This becomes an issue when, in one of those interesting Soap Land collisions where melodramatic events have “real life” consequences, Val receives a visit from child services. In an effort to appear rational enough to look after her own children, Val claims her overdose was an accident. The social worker knows she’s lying, but thinks she’s trying to cover up a suicide rather than murder attempt. In the end, rather than let them fall into Jill’s clutches, she sends the twins to stay with Lilimae. Val’s behaviour is fascinating here. On one hand, she’s terrified for her life; on the other, she’s trying desperately not to act like the professional victim that Jill (accurately) accused her of being.

    There’s further upheaval for Soap Land’s kids this week. FALCON CREST’s Michael freaks out over Richard’s return (“You’re not my daddy! My daddy’s dead!”) while on DALLAS, Sue Ellen now has custody of John Ross and together they move into a big new house. Like Abby’s current beachfront property on KNOTS, it’s impressive, tasteful and somewhat anonymous, lacking the idiosyncratic charm of both the town house Sue Ellen lived in after her first divorce from JR and Abby and Gary’s original beach house back in Season 4. Things ain’t goin’ too good at the new house between Sue Ellen and John Ross, partly because she shot his daddy. JR’s mama may be able to forgive and forget what Sue Ellen has done (“Let that be an end to it,” she decrees), but it’s not so easy for his son. The sweet little scene where he confronts Sue Ellen was reenacted by Linda Gray and Josh Henderson twenty-five years later:



    In addition, John Ross clearly misses his life at Southfork. This storyline is ultimately resolved the same way it was in the Dream Season, with Sue Ellen allowing her son to remain at the ranch with JR. Back then, however, Sue Ellen was depicted as boringly pious. Here, contradictory aspects of her personality are allowed to co-exist (a trick New DALLAS would also cotton onto, with fascinating results) which results in a great scene at the end of the ep where she switches from self-sacrificing (“I’m willing to let him stay here if that’s what makes him happy”) to vengeful in a heartbeat. “If you think that by him being here settles any score between the two of us, you are sadly mistaken,” she tells JR. “The one thing I have to look forward to is evening the score and, believe me, I will!” There follows a terrific freeze frame of her walking away from JR (and her past at Southfork), all smouldering eyes and Medusa-like curls.

    While Blake searches frantically for Krystle on DYNASTY, Mack is still looking for Paige and Michael on KNOTS, only now aided by Harold Dyer. The Mackenzie kids are being held by a couple of Manny’s goons who are waiting for the order to kill them. This kind of hostage stuff is generic TV fodder, but KNOTS manages to put a fresh spin on it. (“What would you like me to do — hit him over the head with a lamp?” Paige asks Michael sarcastically. “Do you know how hard it is to knock somebody out by hitting them over the head? It’s practically impossible. They do it on TV, not in real life.”) Johnny unexpectedly rides to their rescue and decides the best way to make it back to US soil safely is by hitching a ride in the back of a truck carrying illegal immigrants over the border. Back at Lotus Point, Gary and Abby find Karen wailing at her desk and assume the worst. Then they realise she’s not crying, but laughing with relief at the news that Michael and Paige are alive and well. It’s the same switcheroo DALLAS pulled last week when it looked like Bobby was trying to hide his tears at JR’s bedside when really he was trying not to laugh — only KNOTS doesn’t pull it off quite so well. The truck makes it across the border, but its occupants aren’t out of the woods just yet. First, they are greeted by some armed racists who rob them. Then they find themselves locked in the back of truck in the middle of nowhere with no means of escape. Meanwhile, the sun beats down relentlessly — the first time sunlight has been used as an end of episode cliffhanger.

    Among those trapped inside is a young mother played by Isabel, Melissa’s last remaining servant on FALCON CREST. Arguably, Isabel’s better off in that truck. On FC, she’s obliged to watch as Melissa spends the ep ticking off the remaining items on her Random Crazy Person Behaviour checklist: singing nursery rhymes to a stuffed toy in the middle of the night, having a panic attack halfway during a one-night stand, firing a gun at the furniture, planning a birthday party for a child who won’t be able to attend because he lives on the other side of the world and, finally, setting the house on fire while still inside it.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (2) DALLAS
    2 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (-) DYNASTY
    4 (3) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2018
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  10. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    Thanks for posting that video, it put a big smile on face.
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  11. Steven Wayne

    Steven Wayne Soap Chat Member

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  12. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    09 Nov 88: DYNASTY: A Touch of Sable v. 10 Nov 88: KNOTS LANDING: Deserted v. 11 Nov 88: DALLAS: The Call of the Wild v. 11 Nov 88: FALCON CREST: Dust to Dust

    Following a rash of Soap Land departures, it is time for some new faces. While Sergeant Zorelli shows up on DYNASTY to investigate the dead body at the lake, the search for Krystle is concluded when her cousin Virginia appears to inform Blake that Krystle, somewhat dazed and confused, has returned to her hometown of Dayton. Over on DALLAS, the Ewing boys are on a hunting trip when JR spots “a little beautiful unspoiled thing” called Cally slinging hash. (We also glimpse an as-yet-unnamed woman on Carter Mackay’s staircase before she is sternly ordered back up to the bedroom.) And on FALCON CREST, Nick Agretti, the long-lost son of Melissa’s long-lost uncle shows up at her funeral, with his own son Ben in tow.

    Whereas Zorelli immediately picks up on Sammy Jo’s last name (“Carrington? Any relation to …?”), Cally looks at JR blankly after he proudly introduces himself. “That supposed to be some famous name or something?” she asks. And while DYNASTY’s Virginia has fond memories of growing up with her cousin Krystle (“She made my sister’s dress for the senior prom — she was up all night to make sure every stitch, everything, was perfect”), FC’s Nick is no memories of growing up with his father Frank at all (“Where the hell were you — some emerald mine, some country thousands of miles away from me?”).

    KNOTS and DALLAS take parallel walks down memory lane this week. Waiting for news of her son Michael, Karen looks through old family photo albums with Val and regrets the Little League games and Tooth Fairy moments she missed out on when he was a kid. Val looks wistful — might she possibly be thinking of the things she never got to experience with her own firstborn? “You can’t make that time up to them,” Karen sighs. “I know,” Val agrees. “I know you know,” Karen replies meaningfully and we realise that, yes, Val really was thinking about Lucy. Back on DALLAS, it’s Lucy herself who interrupts JR and Bobby’s cosy anecdotes about the hunting trips they took with Jock and Ray back in the good old days. “What about Uncle Gary, huh?” she asks. “I didn’t hear anybody mention his name.” “Gary wasn’t interested in things like that,” JR replies. “The first time he had to bait his own hook, he almost fainted!” “I don’t like that much either,” admits John Ross. “Careful, John Ross,” warns Lucy, tongue only partially in cheek, “your daddy’s liable to disinherit you.” Like Lucy, DYNASTY's Fallon manages to inject some spice into the family cocktail hour by evoking the memory of an absentee member. Slapping a glass out of Adam’s hand, she accuses him of taking advantage of Steven’s non-appearance at a Denver Carrington board meeting: “You deliberately tried to humiliate him in front of an entire board of directors … The look on your face was pure glee!”

    The parallels continue. While Adam sneers at the farewell letter Steven left for Blake (“Oh how touching — baby brother’s bi-annual bye-bye,” he scoffs before throwing it on the fire), JR is equally dismissive of his own brother’s literary efforts. “He used to like to write poetry,” he says of Gary. “Now can you imagine a real man who would rather write poetry than go hunting? Not me!” When Lucy argues with him, JR suggests she cross over to KNOTS LANDING (“Darlin’, if you feel so strongly about it, why don’t you move in with your daddy in California and stop inflicting yourself on us?”) in the very same week that Sable Colby crosses over to DYNASTY.

    Sable is actually one of three Soap Land returnees this week, all of whom have been in some way transformed since we last saw them. To quote April Stevens, “A whole new brash, cocky Casey Denault” is back in DALLAS, having struck it big in Oklahoma. (“It may not be Spindletop, but it is a gusher!” he crows.) Senator Peter Ryder returns to FALCON CREST, now sporting a moustache and acting shadier than usual. As for Sable, she’s swapped her magnificent obsession with husband Jason for a more malevolent one focused on cousin Alexis. After spying on her in a Los Angeles restaurant, Sable issues the following order over the phone: “I want you to find out what that witch is doing here … Alexis holds a very special place in my heart.” She then arranges to bump into Alexis and Dex at a nightclub where she offers her sympathies over the loss of Alexis’s husband. “I see you’re grief-stricken,” she observes archly, eyeing Alexis’s low-cut party gown. “I understand you lost your husband too,” Alexis responds. “Traded you in for your sister, didn’t he?” This is the episode’s only reference to Sable’s former life on THE COLBYS. Back on DALLAS, April becomes the first character to offer condolences to Sue Ellen following the season finale death of her big-haired love interest. “I’m so sorry about Nick,” she says. “I know how hard this is for you.” “It is,” Sue Ellen concedes, but neither she nor Alexis have time to sit around weeping. While Alexis is intent on retrieving her oil tankers from the Natumbe government, Sue Ellen is focused on getting back at JR. To that end, she suggests to Cliff that they reignite their old affair, but he has no interest in revenge. “I don’t want it anymore,” he says — nor does he want anything else, it would seem. “I could care less,” he says when April tells him about Casey’s strike. “I just wanna be left alone.” This is the severest case of soap fatigue we have yet seen.

    As Paige and Michael cross the Mexican border only to find themselves locked in the back of a truck and the Ewing brothers embark on a hunting trip with their sons, it’s goodbye Santa Tecla, hello Haleyville. Both towns are quaintly old-fashioned on the surface, but share an undercurrent of violence. Granted, that’s pretty much how all small towns have been depicted in Soap Land, from Landsdowne (where Jock and co went hunting in DALLAS Season 2 and ended up getting shot at) to Shula (where Val found refuge as Verna and Gary got beaten up when he came looking for her) to the close-knit community where Dan Fixx’s in-laws lived on FALCON CREST and Chase Gioberti found himself digging his own grave.

    The Ewing boys are in town to ostensibly hunt wildlife, but it soon becomes clear that Cally, aka “the belle of the ball around these parts”, is JR’s real quarry. “I’ll bet you all your life you’ve had men around you hemming and hawing, afraid to tell you what they really think,” he says to her. “I knew what they were thinking by the time I was fourteen. It don’t matter where they come from or how old they were, they all acted the same,” she replies, exhibiting the same self-awareness that Mandy Winger did when she and JR first met. (“I’ve always known I was beautiful. That’s the reason men come onto me.”) Whereas Mandy had already channelled her appeal into a career prior to meeting JR, Cally has yet to realise her potential.

    “I’m gonna open a whole new world for you, a world you have never seen,” JR promises her. It’s a world Deanna, the Mexican mom presently trapped in the back of that truck on KNOTS, along with her daughter, Paige, Michael, Johnny and three others, has probably never seen either, except on TV. “All of my daughter’s teachers say that she is very smart,” she says. “She could be a doctor or a scientist [or] a ballerina. Also, she’s a very good writer. In the United States, she can choose what she wants to be, no? … We plan to live near a bus line until we get a car … and we hope to have a yard with a strong fence … and maybe we hope to have a microwave and a Maytag.”

    Where Paige dismisses Deanna’s “bloody dreams”, JR encourages Cally’s. “I can get you anything you want, anything you’ve dreamed of. You have dreams, don’t you?” “Sure I have them,” she admits, “but when I wake up I’m right back here in Haleyville. Reckon I always will be.” These words are echoed later in the same ep by JR wannabe Casey as he dumps Sly: “Honey, you’re just a secretary and that’s all you’re ever gonna be. I got my eye on a lot bigger game.” Back in Haleyville, JR refuses to accept Cally’s gloomy prognosis for herself. “I don’t think the good Lord intended that for you,” he insists. Back on KNOTS, Deanna also invokes a Higher Power. “God will not permit us to die,” she tells the others as they languish inside the truck for a day and a night.

    “I’ve been special all my life. There isn’t anything I wanted I didn’t get,” JR brags matter-of-factly. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that the reason he can have whatever he wants is that he was born rich. (Remind you of anyone?) But then, isn’t that what the American Dream is all about — believing that if you want it badly enough, it’s yours for the taking? “Most people are afraid to go after what they really want,” JR continues. Going after what they want is what put Deanna and her daughter on that truck and prompted Casey to dump Sly for Lucy Ewing. “Damn, do I love this place,” he says to himself as he eyes up Southfork.

    After Mack finally frees everyone from the truck, the Mexican passengers are immediately rounded up for deportation back to where they have just come from. “If it is God’s will, we will return,” declares Deanna. However, it is the will of the scriptwriters that Deanna and her daughter be given a hopeful ending. Mack reaches through the fence separating them and hands her the bundle of cash he swiped from Manny’s body at the beginning of last week’s ep. We can’t see how much is there, but Michael’s line “Here, take it — you want her to be a doctor, don’t you?” suggests it’s a life-changing amount of money. While there’s something neatly ironic about a disadvantaged family becoming the ultimate benefactors of Manny Vasquez's heinous deeds, it also lets everyone else — the remaining characters, the show's writers and us viewers alike — off the hook. We need no longer concern ourselves with the social and racial inequalities we have just witnessed because, hey, in the end, nice things happen to nice people — and so we are free to refocus our attention on the pretty folks on the cul-de-sac with their glossy lives and exciting problems. Heck, they even live near a bus line! Such liberal handwringing doesn’t concern Bobby Ewing who happily talks to the desk clerk at the Haleyville hotel like he’s subnormal. I get the nasty feeling we’re meant to share Bobby’s sense of superiority and amusement towards the local yokels. When Paige turned on Deanna in the truck (“She is the one who needs a lecture about bringing a kid into a situation like this — what kind of a mother would do that?!”), Michael was at least there to oppose her: “Paige, I swear to God, if you don’t shut up, I’m gonna slap your face!” If only there was somebody in that hotel lobby to challenge Bobby in the same way.

    Blake Carrington is less overtly patronising than Bobby when he sits in Virginia’s modest front room and watches her darning a shirt. “Till I met Krystle, it never crossed my mind that somebody could find pleasure in sewing — she enjoys it, even now,” he smiles, romanticising the kind of domestic drudgery Soap Land’s rich need never concern themselves with. But while Mack’s generous gift and Blake’s rose-coloured anecdote wrap up the lives of those less advantaged with a tidy little bow, the promises JR has made in his pursuit of Cally (“You belong where I come from, not working in some little backwater bar. You need your own place with fine clothes and jewellery, servants to wait on you,”) have awoken a dormant restlessness in her: “You’ve got my head so swimming, I don’t hardly know what’s real.” There is no going back for Cally after this — she can no longer be content sewing like Krystle or dreaming of a Maytag like Deanna.

    Elsewhere in Haleyville, the scenes where JR teaches his son to hunt are a little hard to stomach. When faced with the reality of shooting a defenceless animal, John Ross is initially reluctant. After JR scolds him for “acting like your Uncle Gary”, he overcomes his reservations, pulls the trigger and hits his target. Lo, a new Ewing hunter is born. While the boy is all smiles from then on, his prior hesitation apparently forgotten, his fleeting ambivalence seems to lay the foundation for the adult John Ross’s inner struggle over how much like his father he really wants to be.

    The Mackenzie kids return to a seemingly endless (but not unenjoyable) get-together back at the cul-de-sac where virtually every member of the cast, save Gary and Jill, shows up at Karen and Mack’s and they all get on like a house on fire (no disrespect to Falcon Crest intended). Abby embraces everyone from Val to Paige to Harold without so much as a sardonic eye-roll. (There’s further un-ironic bonding on FC where Richard consoles Angela as they stand in the ruins of her burnt-out family home.) For a while, it looks as if KL Season 10 might be turning into one of those “everyone likes everyone else” seasons (see also: DYNASTY Season 7, DALLAS Season 8). However, running counter to all that harmony, there's a mounting tension as word of Val’s overdose spreads around the party. Finally, she erupts, sending a tray of hors-d’oeuvres flying in the process.

    Not counting the deer slaughtered by John Ross, there are three dead in this week’s Soap Land. Two are nameless — the young man whose body is found by the lake on DYNASTY and the elderly man who expires during the truck ordeal on KNOTS. The third is more familiar: FALCON CREST’s Melissa Agretti Cumson Gioberti Cumson Agretti. While nowhere near as devastating, her death recalls Sid Fairgate’s on KNOTS in that both tragedies ignore some unspoken rules of TV grammar, occurring at the start of a new season while both characters are still in the opening credits. Each has survived the climactic incident (her fire, his crash), only to later die as a result of their injuries in hospital. Even more unusually, Melissa expires midway through an episode.

    When it does come, I have to admit that Melissa’s death, or more specifically, Lance’s reaction to it, is quite touching. The fact that we see her dead body means there’s no chance of a Richard-style return from the grave anytime soon (or is there?) In the aftermath, the ep achieves a few moments of real gravitas — the scene where Maggie calls Cole in Australia to break the news is particularly affecting. This sense of genuine emotion carries through to the storyline involving Frank Agretti and his son Nick. Estranged parent/child plots are as old as the Soap Land hills, but this one feels freshly poignant, due in part to the presence of Nick’s son Ben — a likably awkward and believable teenager, as opposed to the more traditional Tiger Beat pinup.

    The last time a Soap Land madwoman set herself and the building she was in on fire for no discernible reason — DYNASTY’s Claudia — Blake found himself under arrest for arson and causing wrongful death. In the final scene of this week’s FALCON CREST, its Lance’s turn. DYNASTY likewise ends with a regular character suspected of murder. Even though Krystle has been found, she remains stubbornly off screen for the entirety of this week’s ep. Instead, we are continually assured that she, like Death in that poem, is in the next room. While she is sleeping, Virginia casually mentions to Blake that Krystle told her “something about running away from a lake … and that she had killed a man … but it’s ridiculous. I mean, Krystle committing murder?” Virginia’s incredulity is matched by Gary’s on KNOTS when Jill tells him that she’s “worried about what Val might do … As scared as she says she is of me, I’m equally scared of her.” “Val would never hurt anyone,” he insists.

    At the end of last season’s Ewingverse, Val and JR were each left for dead. The closing scene of this week’s KNOTS finds a terrified but vigilant Val sitting up all night in her living room, a knife clutched in her hand. In contrast, the end of this week’s DALLAS finds a complacent JR, having fallen asleep after seducing the town virgin, waking to find himself staring down the barrel of yet another gun. "You're a dead man," Cally’s brother Japhet informs him. As Sue Ellen remarked to April earlier in the episode, “I guess he’s destined to die in bed.”

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    30 Nov 88: DYNASTY: She's Back v. 01 Dec 88: KNOTS LANDING: Sex and Violence v. 02 Dec 88: DALLAS: Road Work v. 02 Dec 88: FALCON CREST: Tuscany Venus

    In the opening episode of this season’s DYNASTY, Blake spotted a woman with Krystle-style hair standing with her back to him. Believing her to be his missing wife, he approached her. She turned around — and was revealed to be someone else entirely.

    The back-of-the-head tease is one we’ve become familiar with in Soap Land over the years. FALCON CREST deployed it twice towards the end of last season. “I thought you were dead,” said Maggie to a man with his back to the camera. “When are you gonna tell Maggie you’re alive?” Angela asked another, likewise positioned. In both cases, the show was playing with audience expectations of a genre in which the dead do not necessarily stay dead by implying that Chase Gioberti might have risen from his watery grave. In both cases, this turned out to be a red herring.

    (Ironically, this soap trope actually worked against FC two weeks ago when it wanted to show John Remick’s execution on screen, but due to the actor’s unavailability, could only show him from behind. Our hardened Soap Land instincts told us this must be a back-of-the-head tease, and so even after we were told the dead man was Remick, we were still waiting for a twist — only this time there wasn’t one.)

    This week’s DYNASTY opens with Blake waking up in Virginia’s house and looking for Krystle in the room where she apparently spent the previous episode resting. She’s not there. He calls her name. No answer. He walks into the backyard to see … a woman with familiar-looking shoulder-length blonde hair, her face turned away from the camera. Again, our soapy instincts kick in and we steel ourselves for another impostor or maybe even a recast. Even Blake himself looks wary. But no, she turns around and this time it is really her, it is really Krystle, back on screen for the first time in eight months and looking as radiantly serene as ever — seemingly unaware that circumstances surrounding her (including her own history) have significantly altered in the intervening time. Now, as we observe her saying and doing the same old lovey-dovey things she always has, it’s as if we’re doing so from a distance, through a piece of gauze. The effect is oddly poignant and slightly surreal.

    This feeling of surreality continues in a more nightmarish way on DALLAS where JR has suddenly landed in a TV spinoff of COOL HAND LUKE (the 1967 prison movie for which the Ewings’ new neighbour, Carter McKay, won an Oscar), full of downtrodden prisoners, chain gangs and sadistic prison wardens. “This is your only world and I am your only God!” bellows the man in charge known only, as was his equivalent in COOL HAND LUKE, as the Captain. And the penal camp JR now finds himself in really does feel like a fully-realised, self-contained world — the setting, location and the casting all solid and believable. Perhaps the least believable element is JR himself. Like Krystle, he remains fundamentally unchanged in spite of his change in circumstances, intent on bragging and bribing his way back to freedom. Eventually, however, the physical reality of their respective situations catch up with both Krystle and JR.

    Krystle’s return to the mansion is marked by a family dinner, a typically ornate Soap Land occasion where a typical Soap Land argument is underway (Sammy Jo and Fallon are accusing Adam of burning Steven’s letters). Almost unnoticed at first, Krystle begins to lose control. “Please stop,” she whispers, trembling and clutching at the tablecloth, pulling it towards her. (Disrupting the place settings in a show that some would say is all about place settings? How blasphemous!) “Stop it, stop it, stop it!” she finally cries, as if she were somehow malfunctioning, rejecting the trappings of the Soap Land world in the same way Jaime Sommers rejected her bionics on THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN. JR, meanwhile, is brought to his knees, literally, when he is locked overnight in a tortuously confined space known as “the box” (another plot element familiar from COOL HAND LUKE).

    If the penal camp is a direct lift from COOL HAND LUKE, then Emma’s story on FALCON CREST owes something of a debt to Daphne du Maurier’s REBECCA. The forbidding housekeeper speaks of RD Lang’s dead wife in the same reverential terms that Mrs Danvers spoke of the first Mrs de Winter. (“No-one has played this piano since Mrs Lang died.”) And like Mrs de Winter, Mrs Lang died in a mysterious boating accident caused by her husband. FC even goes so far as to name the housekeeper Mrs Anderson, a likely nod to Judith Anderson, the actress who played Danvers in Hitchcock’s movie adaptation of REBECCA.

    The bodybag tease, a lesser-known variation on the back-of-the-head tease, is deployed in the opening moments of this week’s FALCON CREST when someone’s corpse is wheeled out of Richard’s house following on from last week’s “Who did Maggie shoot?” cliffhanger. It comes as no surprise to learn that she hit her target, Senator Ryder, rather than her husband — although that’s not much comfort to Maggie herself in the immediate aftermath. “How do I ever live with myself?” she sobs. “I’ve done the most horrible thing one human being can do to another!” This is more remorse than JR, Sue Ellen, Dex Dexter and Jill Bennett combined have shown for the people they killed (or almost killed) at the end of last season.

    While Maggie is freaking out over killing someone, Krystle is starting to freak out that she may have killed someone. No sooner has her dinner table outburst subsided (“What happened? I don’t know what happened to me!”) than Sergeant Zorelli arrives to question her about the body at the lake. The scene where the Carringtons meet Zorelli by the mansion staircase is filmed in a strikingly interesting way, with the characters shot from below. Even though Zorelli is courtesy itself, the low-angles makes him an imposing, ominous presence. These shots and the hand-held camera that follows a panicky Krystle up to her bedroom evoke feelings of urgency and claustrophobia, which is very different from the stately camerawork we’re used to seeing on DYNASTY. Conversely, a sense of wide-open space help to sell the big set-pieces on this week’s DALLAS. As well as the scenes in the penal camp, the sequence where Clayton, on horseback, finds that Carter McKay has dammed up the river that runs between their two ranches and is then shot at from a helicopter (“Mr Farlow, you are on Mr McKay’s private property! Please leave at once!”) is very impressively staged.

    Lance Cumson is also discovered to be trespassing this week, but when Nick Agretti, now the executor of Melissa’s estate, finds him sitting by the Falcon Crest river, he reacts more magnanimously than Carter McKay’s foreman did. “You don’t need an excuse [to be here],” he tells him. “When Melissa and I were teenagers, this used to be our favourite spot,” Lance recalls. Pilar later reminds him that they too used to swim there — in such a way as to suggest swimming wasn’t all they got up to. Along with the Carrington lake on DYNASTY and the Southfork/McKay river on DALLAS, this becomes the third stretch of water to be imbued with historical significance this season.

    As well as Krystle, a re-energised Angela Channing also returns this week — with a new target in her sights. “Everyone has a skeleton in their closet,” she tells an underling. “You find Nick Agretti’s and make sure that skeleton rattles.” Two notable female characters are absent, however. While Alexis is in Africa, wheeling and dealing, Miss Ellie is upstairs. (“Grandma still isn’t feeling well,” Christopher explains.) Whereas there is so much going on in DYNASTY that you don’t really notice Alexis isn’t there, Southfork is looking so underpopulated these days (“I remember when this place used to be packed before dinner — where is everybody?” asks Bobby) that it needs all the familiar faces it can get. Poor Sue Ellen has to resort to taking her real-life daughter out to lunch in order to have someone to confide in.

    Three weeks ago, JR Ewing seduced a woman young enough to be his daughter. Last week, Paige Matheson seduced a man old enough to be her father. “It’s just a cultural hang-up,” she shrugs. “What difference does twenty years or so make?” Her seduction technique involved skinny-dipping in Greg’s pool, a move which echoed the flashback scene from a couple of years ago when Paige’s mother (also played by Paige) fooled Young Mack into thinking she was swimming naked, but then lifted herself out of the water to reveal the skimpiest of bathing suits. However, when Paige stepped out of the water in front of an appreciative Greg, there was little doubt that she was completely naked — as is Pilar Ortega when Nick Agretti finds her taking a late night swim on this week’s FALCON CREST. Later in the same ep, she and Lance decide to go skinny-dipping for old time’s sake and there are some rather daring close-ups of jeans being unzipped and underwear sliding down legs followed by what looks like the briefest glimpse of bare Soap Land buttock before they jump into the water. Over on DALLAS, Casey Denault suggests to Lucy that they likewise take an impromptu dip in the pool. While he strips to his underwear, Lucy chastely dives in in jeans and a T-shirt. Whereas Lance and Pilar make post-swim love on the riverside, Lucy explains to Casey that she’s “not ready for that just yet.” He smiles understandingly, then calls her a bitch as soon as she’s out of earshot.

    Also on last week’s KNOTS, Mack challenged Paige to a game of one-on-one basketball. She claimed to be a novice but turned out to be suspiciously adept. Something similar happens on this week’s DALLAS when Bobby and Cliff encounter a sexy pool hustler called Tracy. When her opponent turns nasty and refuses to pay up, she declines Bobby’s offer of help. “I can handle Mr Macho myself,” she assures him before whacking Mr Macho in the nuts with a pool cue — a Soap Land first. Another notable moment follows when Tracy asks Bobby if he and Cliff are “an item.” Bobby laughs in reply, without any of the moral indignation that greeted previous suggestions that DALLAS characters (Cliff in Season 1, Peter Richards in Season 6) might be gay.

    Speaking of basketball, Nick Agretti’s son Ben and Pilar Ortega’s kid brother Gabriel bond while shooting hoops, forging a narratively useful connection between their two families. There’s something surprisingly appealing about FALCON CREST’s new batch of wholesome, down-to-earth characters. After that long succession of glitzy but ultimately hollow guest stars, they're a welcome change.

    The Williamses’ Witness Protection Programme plot reaches a climax of sorts on this week’s KNOTS. When Nicholas Pearce’s cover was blown during his equivalent storyline on DALLAS, April’s nosiness was to blame. This time, Julie’s literacy is the cause, as her success in a local spelling bee leads to unwanted exposure for the family. The parts of the episode where they are terrorised in their own home and Pat is blackmailed at the bank where she works are really gripping, but after Mack rides to their rescue, the story becomes hopelessly far-fetched. While I’ll happily go along with underground satellite surveillance systems at Empire Valley or Ben Gibson being ordered to assassinate someone, I draw the line at Mack posing as a movie director and talking knowledgeably about cold reads and Stella Adler. As for the annoying Peggy mugging furiously as his assistant — as unfunny comedy goes, her performance ranks alongside FALCON CREST as its lamest.

    Dead bodies play an unusually prominent role in two of this week’s soaps. In the final scene of DYNASTY, Krystle views the corpse found at the lake to see if it triggers any memories for her. “I’ve never seen him before,” she declares. However, from the expression on his face, it’s clear that Blake has. The second body shows up on KNOTS, somehow planted by Mack and Frank in the apartment of Vincent Donnelly, the hospital orderly-cum-actor-cum-extortionist who’s been menacing Pat and Frank all episode long. Frank uses the same gun Mack tricked Donelly into firing at an audition to shoot the corpse and — oh, it’s just ridiculous really.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (-) DYNASTY
    2 (1) FALCON CREST
    3 (-) KNOTS LANDING
    4 (2) DALLAS
     

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