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Re-watching the Ewingverse ... alphabetically!

Discussion in 'Knots Landing' started by James from London, Jan 8, 2020.

  1. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star EXP: 18 Years

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    Birds Do It, Bees Do It, but JR refuses to do it, which leads Sue Ellen to adopt a Black Market Baby

    KNOTS (23 Mar 89) v DALLAS (15 Oct 78)

    Birds Do It, Bees Do It, in which the eye of every character, from billionaire tycoon Greg Sumner to schoolgirl Julie Williams, is drawn to an Ann Landers survey claiming that sex goes downhill after marriage, is a special KNOTS-goes-comedy episode. But fear not: this isn't the cutesy or heavy-handed comedy of Season 12, but the kind of comedy that is airy and witty and playful and, you know, actually funny.

    Granted, humour is hard to quantify. What makes Frank and Pat silently turning their newspapers at the same time in Birds Do It funnier than Val and Karen stirring and then sipping their tea in perfect unison during 'Back to the Cul-de-Sac'? It’s hard to say exactly, but I think it’s to do with a lightness of touch. The emphasis of the scene is less on the Williams’ choreographed actions (the way it is on Karen and Val’s) than it is on Julie feeling excluded by her parents and their antagonistic silence. So the scene remains based in character and truth, and the humour feels like a byproduct of that.

    Likewise at the beginning of Black Market Baby, why is Jock’s nonplussed reaction to JR and Sue Ellen’s anniversary gift of a piece of abstract sculpture (“What the hell is it?” he asks blankly) so much funnier than April and Bobby’s smirky remarks about an expressionist painting in And Away We Go! during Season 11? Again, I think it’s a question of emphasis. We’re not necessarily being asked to share Jock’s opinion of the art (as we are Bobby and April’s) because the humour is really about JR and Sue Ellen’s discomfort at having failed to impress their patriarch. As such, it’s not just a gag for its own sake — it’s a symptom of a much larger, more complex problem.

    As Ewingverse episodes go, Birds Do It and BMB could not be more different, yet both feature one half of a married couple trying to seduce the other, and failing miserably until the end of the episode. On KNOTS, Mack is anxious to prove that he and Karen are not part of the 82% of the populace for whom sex has gone downhill and so makes a series of attempts to woo her. But each time, Karen is so preoccupied with her latest disaster (Abby’s appointment to the coastal commission, Murakame’s plan to drill for oil on Lotus Point) that she doesn’t even notice she’s being wooed. Conversely, Sue Ellen’s blatant attempt to get JR into bed during the first act of Black Market Baby is such a turnoff (“Maybe the Ewin' man I married isn’t all the man he claims to be,” she slurs) that he drives off into the night, leaving Ray Krebbs to take advantage of his drunk and rejected wife. While Mack and Karen’s situation is light and amusing in a screwball comedy sort of way, both of JR and Sue Ellen’s bedroom scenes in BMB feel like a Texas version of 'Scenes from a Marriage' — they just drip with atmosphere. The fact that the Southfork interiors in this ep are filmed in a real house is a big help in that regard. You really get the sense of the couple living inside a pressure cooker, hemmed in by the rest of the family, their attempts at keeping up appearances in front of Mama and Daddy becoming increasingly strained, especially when compared to Bobby and Pam’s effortlessly radiant happiness (when they’re not squabbling over Pam’s decision to go back to work).

    KNOTS ends with Karen and Mack lying in bed, having finally done the deed, in a state of blissed-out catatonia. “‘Dear Ann Landers,’” Karen murmurs, “‘if sex was any better —‘“ “I’d be a dead man,” Mack gasps. DALLAS likewise concludes with JR and Sue Ellen having managed to get it together between the sheets — but only after a confused, angry, passionate, borderline violent struggle (“Is that what you want: somebody who doesn’t want you? I don’t want you! I don’t want you!” Sue Ellen moans eagerly) that leaves her unable to look him in the eye. As the frame freezes on Sue Ellen’s inscrutable expression, it becomes evident that, after only ten instalments, DALLAS is already starting to outgrow its stand-alone episode format.

    Similarly, although Birds Do It is a unique episode of KNOTS, as underlined by the bespoke score that also plays over the end credits, it’s more than just a self-contained diversion. In its light and witty way, it cleverly sets up some key plot points that will take the rest of the season into much darker territory — Abby revealing to Ted Melcher that she is really Murakame and Paige inveigling herself into the pink apartment that belongs to the Sumner Group. (Ah, how do I love Vincent Schiavelli’s two-scene cameo as the dog-carrying property manager? Let me count the ways.)

    And the winner is ... Black Market Baby

    BONUS BEATS

     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2020
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  2. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star EXP: 18 Years

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    Blast from the Past (DALLAS, 16 May 86) v Blind Side (KNOTS, 20 Sep 90)

    Blast from the Past mostly consists of characters smiling and telling each other how happy they are. The few moments of intrigue and pathos stem from an on-the-lam Angelica plotting JR’s demise in a variety of ridiculous outfits, Ben Stivers acting all mysterious in front of Miss Ellie and Mark Graison wondering how much longer his remission will last (about twenty screen minutes as it turns out). His and Pam’s wedding is pleasant enough but nowhere near as enjoyable as Pam and Bobby’s will be in nine episodes time when everyone’s back to giving each other filthy looks. It’s not that I necessarily begrudge the DALLAS gang a bit of happiness, but the happiness we see in this ep (save for Pam and Mark’s) lacks nuance, subtext or wit. It’s the kind of generic TV happiness where everyone says exactly what they’re thinking and feeling, and occasionally someone makes a corny joke. Still, the final few minutes — Angelica being led away by the police (“It’s too late, JR, it’s too late!”), a couple of bombs going off and Pam waking up to Bobby’s morning resurrection — make the whole thing worthwhile.

    Blind Side Paige is kind of Blast from the Past Pam in reverse. Whereas everyone looks on with dewy-eyed affection as Pam marries Mark, Paige's work colleagues bombard her with unwanted commiserations following the wedding that didn't happen. Her deadpan response is just great. (“No wonder he left her at the altar,” mutters Mort under his breath.) Whereas Pam assures Mark serenely that however long he has left, they’ll live each day to the fullest, Paige is taken aback when Greg tells her the rumours are true, that he too is dying. She agrees to join him on a six-month cruise but then abruptly changes her mind when she discovers it was he who sabotaged her and Tom’s wedding: “This is perverse ... Am I supposed to be flattered that you went to so much trouble?”

    While Angelica points a gun at JR in DALLAS, Tom Ryan keeps one trained on Greg in KNOTS. Angelica wants $2,000,000 while Tom is after written confirmation that the trumped-up charges against him have been dropped. “What does that gun weigh? Doesn’t your arm get tired holding it up?” Greg asks him. But it’s Danny Waleska wielding a baseball bat in the Barn of Death that you really wanna watch out for.

    And the winner is ... Blind Side

    BONUS BEATS
    :

     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2020
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  3. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star EXP: 18 Years

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    The Block Party (KNOTS, 30 Dec 82) v Blocked (DALLAS, 20 Nov 81)

    In these two episodes, Karen and JR are, in very different ways, each attempting to turn the clock back to a more rose-tinted, harmonious time. “Kind of hard to recognise the neighbourhood,” Karen remarks on KNOTS. “That’s why I wanted to give this block party … for us to all get together as a community, a neighbourhood.” “When you get home, John Ross’ll be here and we’ll all be one big happy family again,” JR assures Jock when he calls from South America, as he explains his scheme for pressuring the Farlows into evicting Sue Ellen and John Ross from the Southern Cross.

    Block Party has a similar vibe to the first Barbecue on DALLAS, with all the cul-de-sac residents involved in setting up the party and the arrival of a significant character’s father. Then it was Digger Barnes, now it’s Pete Mackenzie. He and Mack are so utterly convincing as father and son you don’t even notice how good they are. Theirs is a fascinatingly uneasy relationship — for all the joshing and backslapping, there’s an underlying tension which means you’re just waiting for it all to turn sour.

    “I used to knock you around,” Pete admits after a few drinks. “Big deal, didn’t hurt that much,” shrugs Mack. There’s a direct line between Mack's reply and the moment eight years later where he tells Jason Lochner, “It’s hard for me to say out loud that he abused me and it was wrong, and he was wrong.” Mack is touched that his father wants to make up for the past, but it turns out he has an ulterior motive. Like Miss Ellie’s long lost brother Garrison in Home Again (DALLAS Season 1), Pete is terminally ill. More pertinently, he wants Mack to help him die. Mack is hurt and reacts angrily.

    It’s only been three weeks since The Best Kept Secret (aka The One Where Karen Finds Out Mack’s Been Sleeping With The Woman Down The Hall) and this ep seems partially designed to show Mack (who is, of course, being groomed as St Sid’s replacement) in a more sympathetic, vulnerable light.

    Just as the focus in The Block Party is on the future Sid, it becomes apparent during Blocked that JR’s real adversary at the Southern Cross isn’t Sue Ellen or even Dusty, but the future Jock. It’s still early days for Clayton — he and Ellie won’t be on first name terms for another year — but when he and JR come face to face at the end of the episode, he cuts an impressive figure. He remains calm and unruffled by JR’s threats and ultimatums, and he gets the last word: “By the time your Daddy gets back from South America, there just might not be a Ewing Oil.”

    Cool and collected Clayton is everything in the final scene of Blocked that Mack isn’t during the final scene of The Block Party where he and Pete have a messy, emotional reconciliation and end up doing a jig together. We don’t hear what happens to Pete after this ep, just as we didn’t Garrison after Home Again, and KNOTS won’t return to the subject of euthanasia until Alex Barth shows up to blackmail Claudia Whittaker in Season 12.

    The Ewingverse’s two songbirds, Cathy and Afton, sing two songs apiece in these eps. While Chip urges Ciji to sign 25% of her earnings over to him, JR tries to strong-arm Afton into sleeping with Vaughn Leland, and both seem powerless to resist.

    Elsewhere on DALLAS, Bobby is worried that Pam is headed for “a full-blown psychotic depression” and tells Miss Ellie that adoption might the only solution. Mama is a lot more circumspect about the subject here than she was in Black Market Baby. “If a child can help your marriage, you do what you have to,” she recklessly advised Sue Ellen back then. “Do you think that Pam’s well enough to care for a baby?” she asks Bobby more warily now.

    And the winner is ... The Block Party

    BONUS BEATS:

     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2020
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  4. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star EXP: 18 Years

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    Blow Up (DALLAS, 06 Apr 84) v The Blushing Bride (KNOTS, 11 Feb 88)

    Blow Up has an interesting mixture of styles. A lot of it is really funny. You’ve got JR on high, manipulating the likes of Sue Ellen, Peter and, through Vaughn Leland, Cliff, until they’re all a bunch of twitching nervous wrecks, while also turning Lucy into a human time bomb who explodes drunkenly at Lady Jessica’s party at Southfork. Meanwhile, Pam is engaged to a man who doesn’t know he’s dying, but she does, which is a plot straight out of a three-hankie women’s picture from the 1940s or ‘50s. And then there’s Lady Jessica herself, who has wandered in from a schlocky horror flick and is shown caressing carving knives and defacing polaroid photos from a variety of creepy camera angles. Somehow it all slots together perfectly — the moment where Sad Pam tells Cartoony Cliff to stay away from Mark is particularly lovely — and it all looks gorgeous.

    The Blushing Bride has lots of different plots going on, but feels tonally more consistent. Determined not to let Gary have any legal claim to the twins, Val insists he’s not their father, which puts Karen and Mack right in the middle of things because they know he is. The history of all four characters’ relationships with each other is in play and it all feels very emotional and serious. The same sense of gravity is applied to the Mackenzies’ mysterious new neighbours, Frank and Pat. Karen’s nosiness about them could easily be played for comedy, but the show is eager to impress upon us how much the Williamses have at stake. (However, this is slightly undermined by the geography of the cul-de-sac where, all of a sudden, it seems as if Karen can see into the Williams’ house from her kitchen and bedroom windows, which doesn’t really make sense.)

    Just as Mack rolls his eyes at Karen’s suspicions about Frank and Pat, Ray does the same at Donna’s regarding Lady Jessica, but by the end of their respective eps, Mack has come round to his wife’s way of thinking and we know Donna is bang on the money about Lady J.

    Like Mark Graison, Abby Ewing is engaged to someone who’s keeping A Big Secret. But whereas Mark remains blissfully ignorant, Abby smells a rat when she learns that Charles has had designs on her marina, so to speak, since before he came back into her life. In the same way that Blow Up begins with Pam trying to talk Mark into a fast wedding (lest he finds out he’s dying before the big day), The Blushing Bride ends with Abby just as eager to tie the knot. “The sooner the better — I don’t want Charles to get away,” she says ominously.

    The architect who inadvertently lets Charles’s cat out of the bag isn’t given a name, but is played by Kathryn Leigh Scott who must qualify as minor soap royalty: she was long-suffering Maggie Evans in DARK SHADOWS, Cecil Colby’s English secretary Jennifer in the first season of DYNASTY (her plummy pronunciation of “peanit butter” is a particular highlight) and the loud American tourist (and secret West Star agent) who befriends Cally during her and JR’s European honeymoon on DALLAS.

    Paige doesn’t appear until the final third of KNOTS and brings a more playful element to the ep as she flirts with Johnny Rourke in order to make Greg jealous. Johnny and JR share a distaste for May/December romances — at least those involving women they covet for themselves. “What kind of a woman does she think you are?” JR asks Sue Ellen following Lucy’s hilarious outburst. “Peter’s just a kid. He’s half your age. The things she said about you and him absolutely disgusted me.” “That’s your boyfriend?!” sneers Johnny when he sees Paige looking at Greg across the Lotus Point dance floor. “The man is old enough to be your father. Perhaps you like the paternal type.”

    And the winner is ... Blow Up

    BONUS BEATS
    :

     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2020
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  5. Daniel Avery

    Daniel Avery Super Moderator EXP: 19 Years Staff Member

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    To say that Karen (and the rest of the residents of 16972) can easily overhear the fights/problems next door at 16975 (AKA the Williamses) would mean that they also overheard the numerous arguments and disagreements of the Averys when they lived in that house. Spoiler alert: they didn't. I recall being irked by that plot point in the episode at the time.
     
  6. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star EXP: 18 Years

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    Borderline (KNOTS, 03 Nov 88) v Bottom of the Bottle (KNOTS, 20/27 Mar 80)

    In both episodes, Val is the truth-teller no-one believes (at least, not at first). While everyone else in Bottom of the Bottle assumes Gary has just had one drink too many, she alone knows he’s an out of control alcoholic. While everyone else in Borderline believes Val herself has attempted suicide, she alone knows that Jill is an out of control psychopath who tried to kill her. She eventually manages to persuade the Fairgates and the Averys round to her way of thinking in 1980 (Sid’s reaction is the most moving, Richard’s the funniest) but has a tougher job in '88 where only Frank and Pat are willing to even entertain her story.

    In Bottle, Val keeps an all-night vigil by the phone waiting for news of Gary after he disappears on a three-day bender. In Borderline, Karen is the one not sleeping as she waits in her office at Lotus Point for Mack to call with news of Michael and Paige who have been kidnapped by Manny Vasquez in Mexico. While Karen sits with Val, Abby (of all people) waits with Karen. During a rare (and fascinating) moment of introspection, Abby admits that she “understands the mentality” of men like Manny. “You’re not a gangster,” Karen assures her before adding, “maybe a gangsterette.” Karen likewise reassures Val when she worries that she may not have the strength to deal with Gary’s relapse, calling her “the little engine that could.”

    Another unexpected parallel between the two eps — in Part 2 of Bottle, Laura does a Jill. She stops short of putting on a wig and rubber gloves but nevertheless makes it appear that the injuries Gary sustained while breaking into her liquor cabinet were from a suicide attempt. Gary subsequently ends up an inmate on a psych ward, desperately trying to convince Val there’s nothing wrong with him. In Borderline, their roles are reversed.

    In the hospital, Gary is befriended by Kahil, a basketball-playing alcoholic whose clothes he steals when he makes his escape. Val’s roommate is Sheila, who keeps her makeup with her at all times so Val doesn’t have a chance to steal it. Kahil and Sheila are played by the equally alliterative Happy Hairston and Billie Burke.

    As KNOTS’ first two-parter, Bottom of the Bottle has the same higher-stakes-than-usual vibe as those SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN/BIONIC WOMAN crossover episodes in the 70s. Wildly out of control moments like Gary swinging a pool cue during a bar fight or Ginger smashing Kenny’s groovy stereo equipment feel like the suburban equivalents of Jaime Sommers rejecting her bionics. And Gary furiously driving over his neighbours’ trash cans foreshadows Billy Corkhill furiously driving over his neighbours’ lawns in BROOKSIDE.

    After he drives off, Val tells Sid not to go after him this time. For once, she’s letting him go. She explains that she’s going to an AA meeting on her own because “I need some answers for me.” Of course, Gary shows up at the meeting at the eleventh hour and it becomes all about him again. But what if he hadn’t? Perhaps Val would have continued to put her own well-being first and wouldn’t have ended up as the high maintenance neurotic Jill felt so compelled to terrorise. But what would the fun have been in that?

    And the winner is ... Bottom of the Bottle

    BONUS BEATS:


     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2020 at 11:27 PM
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