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

James from London

Telly Talk Winner
23 Mar 86: DALLAS: The Early Years v. 26 Mar 86: DYNASTY: The Trial (2) v. 27 Mar 86: THE COLBYS: The Honeymoon v. 27 Mar 86: KNOTS LANDING: Phoenix Rising

On last week’s DYNASTY, Mr. Crenshaw, Ben Carrington's attorney, dismissed Dominique’s testimony about Ellen Carrington’s death as “a fairytale told to you on your mother’s knee.” In the opening scene of this week's DALLAS (a movie-length prequel to the Ewing saga), JR speaks about the origins of the Barnes/Ewing feud in similar terms: "I’ve heard lots of stories about the early years … Tall tales are an art form in Texas … You see, that’s the trouble in all these stories. You can’t tell what’s real and not real.”

Truth and lies, myth and memory, dreams and reality, fake and genuine — these have been prevalent themes throughout this Soap Land season. Just as Rita replaced Krystle on DYNASTY so Jack Ewing impersonated Dimitri Marinos on DALLAS. While FALCON CREST’s Jordan has divided herself into two personalities to cope with the truth of her incestuous past, DYNASTY’s Fallon changed her identity to deal with the fantasy of an incestuous past. And the climactic moment of this week’s KNOTS has almost all the principle characters — Karen, Mack, Ben, Val, Gary, Abby, Greg — lying to one another about something each of them already knows the truth of (i.e., the paternity of Val’s twins). “It must be very confusing for you, trying to separate the truth from your lies,” suggests Blake to Alexis on this week’s DYNASTY. “Randall — she existed. It happened. You know it did, don’t you?” Miles asked Jeff on last week's COLBYS. "One of the symptoms of my disease is to deny that I even have a problem,” says Gary about his alcoholism on KNOTS.

The final shot of the opening scene of DALLAS: "The Early Years”, before it flashes back to events of the past, is a lingering closeup of Jock’s portrait hanging in the reception area of Ewing Oil. It suggests that the story about to be told is based upon the memories of a dead man — a dead man trapped inside a painting caught inside a dream and filtered through the KNOTSsian sensibilities of David Jacobs (writer and producer of “The Early Years”).

We never learn the identity of the unseen writer JR is speaking to in this introductory sequence. (For all we know, it could be DYNASTY’s Caress shopping for another salacious oil-based expose after Alexis nixed the publication of Sister Dearest.) Likewise at the beginning of this week’s KNOTS, Abby is in a meeting with someone we never see — her attorney. Whereas JR does all the talking in his scene, here the camera concentrates on Abby's silent reaction as the lawyer explains the legal implications of Gary’s divorce petition. Just as Garrett Boydston recently reminded Jason during his equivalent storyline on THE COLBYS that California is "a no-fault divorce state", Abby’s attorney tells her that “in the state of California, both you and your husband are entitled to a divorce if either party wants it. Nothing prevents one partner from divorcing another.”

Abby’s response to Gary’s petition parallels Sable Colby's to Jason’s. Initially, she is shellshocked, then she fights back (“Gary, you have no right to throw away our marriage like this!”), and finally she makes an outrageous demand as part of her settlement. Sable’s insistence that she be granted ownership of the Colby mansion has essentially halted their divorce (at least for the time being), while Abby resorts to blackmail. “If you don’t guarantee me, in writing, that Empire Valley is mine, your divorce will make history,” she promises Gary. "I will drag your precious Valene, her precious Ben and those precious little babies of theirs into the court … It’ll be a long trial, Gary, and it’ll be very messy.” “This isn’t 1956,” counters Gary. “No, but it’ll feel like it,” she assures him. Back on this week’s DALLAS, it isn’t 1956 either. In fact, it's mostly 1933, but sometimes it's also 1951.

Jacobs’ version of the origins of the Barnes/Ewing feud differs greatly from both the account(s) given during the series itself and by Lee Raintree’s novelisation. However, it feels just as valid. The dynamic between Jock, Jason and Digger as depicted in “The Early Years” is less black and white than the one we heard about during last season’s Cliff and Jamie storyline. Of the two Ewing brothers, Jason is presented as the real oil expert (he is referred to as "one of the best mineral men in the business”) whose reckless streak is counterbalanced by Jock's innate conservatism. Moreover, Jason’s belief in Digger’s ability to find oil “with his nose” is initially stronger than Jock’s, and it is he who encourages Jock to keep the faith.

There’s something poetic and poignant about the fact that the Ewing fortune, and by extension the entire Soap Land genre, with all its glamour and grandeur, should be built upon the intuitive gifts of a shabby, drunken and ultimately tragic dreamer like Digger Barnes. In the scenes where Digger divines the oil’s location underneath the ground, his physicality — turning in a circle, eyes closed, arms outstretched — resembles his drunken dancing as an old man in “Barbecue” as seen in the original mini-series. At one point, he even sings the same song in “The Early Years” as he did then, “The Yellow Rose of Texas”.

The topic of alcoholism, or at very least the consequences of very heavy drinking, is touched upon in each of this week’s soaps. During a scene with his stepdaughter Olivia on KNOTS, Gary recalls the very first time he got drunk. While "The Early Years” concludes in 1951 with the first encounter between Bobby and Pam as small children, Gary’s recollection extends the Ewing back story by a few more years. If my calculations are correct, “this isn’t 1956” either. Instead, it's 1957: "I was fourteen the first time I got drunk. One Saturday night I sat down, I had three sixteen ounce cans of beer, got drunk as a skunk, sick as a dog, threw up all over the place, swore to God I’d never do it again. Next Saturday night — boom, right back out there.“

After Digger attempts to shoot him at the Southfork barbecue in 1951, Jock wonders aloud to Ellie, “Why now, why today?" There are a couple of answers to that question. Firstly, it gives David Jacobs a chance to dramatise the drunken claim made by Digger in the very first episode of DALLAS (also written by Jacobs): “I tried to kill Jock Ewing once or twice, but I bungled it”. More immediately, Digger has just discovered, thanks to his infamous nose, that the near-forgotten parcel of Southfork land he inherited from his father — the same section which he has only recently sold to Jock for booze money — is the very part of the ranch that contained the oil Miss Ellie’s daddy needed so badly during the depression. If the Southworths had only drilled that field at the time, they would have had enough money to save the ranch and Miss Ellie would have had no need to seduce Jock into marriage in the first place. This irony is unbearable for Digger and so he aims the gun at his former best friend-turned-enemy. Gary’s speech on KNOTS about his own drinking on KNOTS suggests a third reason. He describes himself as "the kind of drunk that had to hit bottom. I had to hurt everybody I loved. I had to hurt everybody who loved me.” Seeing the strong bond that exists between Digger and Jock at the beginning of “The Early Years”, it occurs to me that one of the people Digger loved, and who loved him, and thus as an alcoholic he felt compelled to hurt, was Jock himself.

Another Digger/Gary parallel: the morning after Digger introduces Jock to Ellie in 1933, he comes to to find that Jock has poured all his booze away. This is Jock’s idea of playing fair: he is giving Digger one chance to sober up and make an honest woman of Ellie before he makes a play for her himself. Instead, Digger is so incensed by Jock’s interference that he gambles away his share of their oil leases with the flip of a coin. This echoes a scene from “Bottom of the Bottle” at the end of KNOTS Season 1 (another episode written by Jacobs) where Gary’s doctor offers him the choice between a shot of booze and a dime to call his wife, and he chooses the booze.

In character terms, Digger is also the Soap Land progenitor of Franklin, the former rigger turned alcoholic who provided an alibi for Ben Carrington on the day of his mother’s death during last week’s DYNASTY trial. In this week’s episode, Blake tracks him down to his seedy one-room apartment where he admits his testimony was bought and paid for. “When you’re a drunk,” he explains, "the truth only comes out of a bottle and then it’s usually paid for by somebody else.” Now two days sober, he is anxious to make amends. And so just as Jock repeatedly trusted Digger before their big bust up, Blake puts his faith in Franklin and brings him back to court to recant his prior testimony. However, when Franklin takes to the witness stand, he is inebriated and incoherent (just Digger is after he tries to shoot Jock) and so the judge rules against Blake.

Meanwhile on THE COLBYS, Miles follows in the unsteady footsteps of Sue Ellen, Gary Ewing and Cliff Barnes to become the latest Soap Land character unable to remember whether or not he committed the murder he is accused of due to an alcohol-induced blackout. He admits as much to his mother Sable when she visits him in jail and her reaction taps into the familiar Soap Land theme of denial and deception. She first pretends not to hear his confession, then refuses to believe it (even though we know that she already harbours her own doubts about his innocence), and then finally orders him to keep quiet: “You must promise me you will never say that again, not to anyone.”

For the past eight years, the issue of race has never once been acknowledged in the Ewing-verse (unless one counts the scrupulous non-acknowledgement of Eric’s girlfriend Whitney’s ethnicity on last season’s KNOTS). However on this week’s DALLAS, there is an impoverished black community, two uses of the N word and a cameo from the Ku Klux Klan. It’s a far cry from Dominique Devereaux swishing imperiously around her La Mirage hotel suite in this week's DYNASTY. The black sharecroppers Jock, Jason and Digger happen across in their quest for oil are largely depicted as long-suffering, humble and stoical — and almost as mutely passive as the special needs children Donna and Ray Krebbs have become involved with during this season’s DALLAS. So why, when the depiction of the disabled kids has consistently grated on me, do I find myself drawn into the sharecroppers’ story? Maybe it’s because these characters exist as part a of a bigger picture rather than just as an object of sentimentality. And while the idea of the wildcatters and sharecroppers teaming up against the ruthless landowners and big oil companies is a romantic one, it also creates a contagious all-for-one-and-one-for-all vibe — certainly, the eleventh hour oil strike that takes place on the land leased by Seth Foster is the most thrilling in Soap Land since Lankershim/Blaisdel #1 came in on DYNASTY — and it means that when the Jock/Jason/Digger partnership begins to fracture, as we know it will, one feels it all the more keenly.

(The sharecroppers and Dominique aside, the only other black faces in this week’s Soap Land belong to the locals Jeff and Fallon encounter during their Jamaican honeymoon. While Jeff attempts to limbo with some smiling extras, Fallon has her palm read by a fortune teller named Odessa who freaks her out by foreseeing “blood" and “trouble” in her future. Given that Fallon lives in a prime time soap opera, I’d say “blood" and “trouble” are the least she could expect.)

During the DYNASTY trial, we learned how the seeds of Blake and Ben Carrington’s feud were sewn on the day their mother was killed in a fire. On DALLAS: "The Early Years", Jock and Jason Ewing’s falling out also takes place against the backdrop of a fire. After Jason gets cold feet and sells out Jock, Digger and the sharecroppers to the racist landowners, the latter show up at the oilfield in their KKK regalia and inadvertantly set the rigs ablaze with their torches. The inferno that follows is easily Soap Land’s grandest, most cinematic to date. As the Ewing brothers watch their dreams go up in flames, Jock turns on Jason, forcing him to look at the damage he has wrought: “This is your work ... You’re my brother and you did this to me, to all of us! … You’re responsible, brother! Look! Look!” “When you look into the flames, Alexis, what do you see?” echoes Ben Carrington at the beginning of this week’s DYNASTY as he gazes into the fire burning in the hearth of Alexis’s penthouse. “Blake at the stake,” she quips. “I see victory rising from the ashes,” he murmurs malevolently.

If one subscribes the theory that Jock and Jason are two halves of the same personality, then the brothers’ final exchange before going their separate ways takes on extra significance. “You and your damn honour,” scoffs Jason. "You think you’re some kind of white knight or something …" “I’m sorry if you think my honour is something I’ve got to overcome,” Jock replies. “Maybe it is. You let me find that out on my own.” While the Jock depicted in “The Early Years” is resolutely noble, the one we got to know in the first few seasons of DALLAS (before his posthumous sanctification) was decidedly less so. Perhaps, once his brother is no longer around to absorb his dark side, Jock evolves into the morally ambiguous character we first got to know. Just as Jason sneers at his brother’s sense of morality on “The Early Years”, so Adam Carrington does the same thing regarding his brother Steven’s idealism on this week’s DYNASTY. “Camelot’s a dream,” he tells him. "I deal in reality.”

Ben Carrington and Peter Hollister are each trying to claim a slice of their father's respective fortune — that much we already know. This week, it is revealed — to the viewers at home if not the characters at large — that both claims are fraudulent. “Trust you — the same woman who lied on that witness stand?” mocks Ben during his fireside scene with Alexis. “I lied for you, Ben,” she reminds him. Meanwhile, a sneaky bluff by Abby on KNOTS elicits the following admission from Peter Hollister’s “mother” Sylvia: “I told Peter he didn’t match my son’s medical history … but then he went ahead with this anyhow.”

Just three weeks after Angelica Nero pointed a gun at JR during a masquerade ball in 1986, Digger Barnes points a gun JR’s father during a Ewing barbecue in 1951. (Fascinatingly, the barbecue depicted in 1933 uses the front exterior of the first Southfork, as seen in the original mini-series, while the 1951 equivalent use the poolside/patio back view of the second Southfork we’re more familiar with.) And just three weeks after the fundraising ball in aid of the environment on DYNASTY, the characters on KNOTS LANDING attend a charity event for the same cause. “I don’t know why they have to have a benefit for wildlife — there’s enough animals in this room to start our own zoo,” wisecracks Greg. Instead of Digger's gunshot, this time the festivities are interrupted by a shock announcement. “I knew about Val’s babies all along, Gary. I knew about the kidnapping!” shouts Abby — a revelation deemed so significant that it is immediately recapped following the ad break, thus creating a Soap Land precedent.

While Jock Ewing catches the bouquet at the wedding of his brother Jason to Dimitri Marinos’s future mistress (give or take a parallel universe or two), THE COLBYS' Frankie and Roger agree to to a divorce, making theirs shortest-lived Soap Land marriage since Vicky Gioberti and Nick Hogan’s in FALCON CREST, closely followed by Claudia and Adam’s on DYNASTY.

Speaking of Claudia, she is very much marching to the beat of her own drum these days. After arbitrarily testifying against Blake on last week’s DYNASTY and then claiming she was tricked into doing so, she pops up in two random scenes in this week’s episode. In the first, she suggests to Steven that they team up to get revenge on Adam. In the second, she appears unexpectedly in Adam’s bed and tries to seduce him. In both instances, Steven and Adam regard her as if she were quite mad.

And this week’s Top 4 are …

1 (3) DALLAS

James from London

Telly Talk Winner
2 Apr 86: DYNASTY: The Vote v. 03 Apr 86: KNOTS LANDING: The Legacy v. 04 Apr 86: DALLAS: J.R. Rising v. 04 Apr 86: FALCON CREST: Unholy Alliance

There’s a sense of impending end-of-season doom as Denver Carrington’s stock plummets on DYNASTY, a direct consequence of the scandal caused by Ben and Alexis’s recent lawsuit. Meanwhile, balloon payments (whatever they are) loom large on both DALLAS and FALCON CREST. “If it were anyone else borrowing this amount of money, I wouldn’t recommend that they take the risks involved,” JR’s banker warns him ominously. "If you default you could lose Ewing Oil." Meanwhile on FC, Peter Stavros offers to postpone Richard’s balloon payment on Tuscany Downs "for another year … contingent on certain considerations on your part.”

Back on DYNASTY, Ben offers to use his newly acquired fortune, gained of course at Blake’s expense, to bail his brother out of trouble, in return for a couple of seats on the Denver-Carrington board of directors. Over on KNOTS, Abby Ewing makes a similar proposition to Greg when she offers to sell him Empire Valley (which Gary has recently signed over to her as part of their divorce settlement). "It’ll only cost me a couple of television stations, several million dollars and a choice seat on the board of Galveston Industries,” says Greg looking over her letter of agreement. While Blake responds to Ben’s proposition with hostility (“I try to deal with clean money and decent people — that’s something you haven’t been since the day you let Mama die in that fire!”), Greg regards Abby’s with suspicion (“You’re too kind to me all of a sudden”). He is right to be wary. Abby has just stumbled on the fact that Galveston Industries "dumped several hundred metric tonnes of acid and arsenic” at Empire Valley and the whole place is toxic.

A week after Abby blackmailed her estranged husband Gary into giving her Empire Valley on KNOTS, DYNASTY’s Claudia blackmails her estranged husband Adam over the power of attorney he tricked Blake into signing when he was ill. Claudia finds the incriminating document when routing through Adam’s desk at Denver-Carrington. The last time we saw her doing such a thing was when she was spying Jeff for his Uncle Cecil in Season 2. Back then, her actions were fully understandable and she was an achingly sympathetic character. These days, the motives for her erratic behaviour are a complete mystery. It’s as if she’s floated beyond our reach. As a result, her present wackiness is both fun and oddly poignant.

“You put my picture on the cover of your magazine … and I’ll have your head!” Blake Carrington tells pushy World Finance reporter Gordon Wales following a combative interview. “I don’t care about those magazines,” declares Mandy Winger on DALLAS, turning down an overseas modelling assignment that would mean appearing on the covers of Paris Match, Elle and Vogue. She'd sooner remain in Dallas on the (increasingly remote) chance of reconciling with JR. Conversely on KNOTS LANDING, Cathy Geary is on the brink of getting involved with Ben Gibson when she decides to leave town to go on tour. FALCON CREST’s equivalent songbird, Apollonia, is currently on tour in Paris from where she sends Lance back the jewellery he gave her as a going-away present — an indication that she won’t be returning.

The alliances between Ben Carrington and Peter Hollister and the women financing their respective (fraudulent) claims to their fathers’ estates have each taken a turn for the complicated. “Alexis, we’ve never really trusted each other. We never will, so why start now?” Ben asks just before attempting to seduce her. “Peter, we’re partners. If you can’t trust me, who can you trust?” coos Abby just before blackmailing him for “51% of everything you get from Greg Sumner." When Ben kisses Alexis passionately, she reciprocates, yet still seems somewhat preoccupied. (I particularly like the way she pauses to reapply her lipstick in the middle of their make out session.) Meanwhile, Abby and Peter continue to flirt even as she urges him to bed Jill Bennett.
Trend of the week: Characters sitting behind someone else’s desk. “May I ask what the hell you’re doing in here?” asks Blake when he finds Alexis seated at the head of the Denver-Carrington boardroom on DYNASTY. “Well, it might be that I’m mentally designing this room,” she replies. "This chair — I think I’d be much more comfortable with something that doesn’t swivel so much." “Get your feet off my desk and get out of my chair,” Police Captain Rueda orders Matt Cantrell on DALLAS. “What is that ridiculous chair doing here?” demands Angela Channing as she returns from Europe to find Peter Stavros making himself at home in her study.

The boardroom showdown between Blake and Alexis is centrepiece of this week’s DYNASTY. While hardly striking any new dramatic ground — he reminds her of the last time she sat at the same table in the same room and made the same vow to take over his company — it doesn’t diminish from the drama of the situation. Somehow the show still manages to make it matter. Ditto on this week’s DALLAS where the scenes in which JR tries to win back Sue Ellen for the umpteenth time are the closest the episode gets to recapturing the show’s former sizzle.

Part of the reason Blake and Alexis’s longstanding feud suddenly feels so fresh is due to Blake’s decision to finally fight fire with fire. “Let’s get ‘em. Let’s get Colby Co!” he snarls as he launches a counter takeover of Alexis’s company. Steven, caught once more between his feuding parents, feels obliged to point the dangers involved: "Colby Co is bigger than we are. A takeover’s a risky move." (There’s a similar David and Goliath vibe in this week’s DALLAS when Pam observes that “this is the first time JR’s ever had total control of Ewing Oil — I don’t think Cliff’s any match for that.”)

Over on KNOTS, Laura Avery attempts to instil some of Blake's can-do attitude in Greg Sumner during a scene that is both unexpectedly excellent and unusually long (a full six minutes!). Greg is being his familiar world-weary self during lunch in his office when Laura suddenly snaps. “Cynicism may be fashionable, but it is really, really boring,” she begins. "You are one of the richest men in the world. At least be good at being rich. I mean, move to Cannes or Scotland or bring irrigation to the Sahara or jobs to the reservation. Do something with your money! … Stop posturing, stop playing at being a shaker and a mover, stop giving lip service to having a passion for something and get passionate!” This outburst elicits two responses from Greg in quick succession. The first is a proposal ("Hey, whaddya say we get married?” he asks. “I appreciate the offer and I’ll seriously consider it,” Laura replies), the other is a sacking (“You’re out,” he casually informs his fake brother Peter).

“It won’t be over till we’ve got the whole town pitted against each other. We’re going to destroy all those people who murdered our father,” Michael Tyrone told Sandie Swanson on FLAMINGO ROAD four years ago. That was how we discovered Michael and Sandie were secretly brother and sister out to avenge the death of their father. "Galveston destroyed our parents. They were a business obstacle to him yet he killed them as sure as if he held a gun to their heads and fired … I’m gonna make them pay for what they did," Peter Hollister tells Jill Bennett at the end of this week’s KNOTS. So it is we learn that Peter and Jill are secretly brother and sister out to avenge the deaths of their parents.

As Peter and Jill’s true identities are revealed on KNOTS, Angelica Nero’s fake one is accepted on DALLAS as she reenters the US brandishing a phoney passport and a cryptic smile on her face. But whereas Angelica’s return goes undetected by the Soap Land authorities, Angela Channing’s does not. No sooner is she back from Europe than she is arrested and subjected to the same fingerprint/mugshot indignity as Miles was on THE COLBYS two weeks ago. She is then placed in a holding cell with a bunch of fallen women just as Sue Ellen was at the beginning of this season’s DALLAS. Whereas an incarcerated Linda Gray howled and writhed for all she was worth, Jane Wyman plays her equivalent situation for laughs. “This cell is becoming a no-smoking area,” she announces crisply, snatching a cigarette from a stereotypically dressed hooker’s mouth and stubbing it out.

On last week’s DYNASTY, the alcoholic Franklin was the key witness who fell apart on the stand — he was too drunk and broken to make coherent sense, much less exonerate Blake of any wrongdoing in his mother’s death. On this week’s FALCON CREST, that role is taken by Miss Jones, the private eye initially employed by Angela to hijack Chase’s trucks and who is currently in Richard’s pocket. Having been promised immunity, Miss Jones was all set to testify against Angela, but now that Richard has struck a deal with Peter Stavros, she instead feigns flakiness on the witness stand — claiming to take career advice from her pet cat and boasting of psychic abilities. As a result, the case against Angela collapses and she is a free woman once more.

Whereas Miles’s arrest followed hard on the heels of Jeff and Fallon’s wedding on THE COLBYS three weeks ago, the same order of events is reversed on this week’s FC. No sooner are the words, "I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last man on earth,” out of Angela’s mouth than we cut to a scene of her and Peter exchanging vows in a church ceremony. As Soap Land weddings go, this is actually quite sweet and is a good deal more affecting than Jeff and Fallon’s much grander ceremony. Instead of Blake and Steven crossing over from DYNASTY in honour of the occasion, Julia is released from her "sanctimonious penitentiary” (as Richard later describes it) to attend the ceremony. “I always enjoy your weddings,” Julia tells her mother, which is a fair indication of the lighthearted tone of much of this week’s ep. More effective for me are the darker scenes — the ones involving Jeff Wainwright, for instance, or the fascinating encounter between Richard and Julia where she asks forgiveness “for all the pain I’ve caused you. Nothing I can ever say will bring your mother back to life.” Richard responds with a compelling combination of compassion and cynicism. “I find all this very touching … You want me to spring you from the convent?" By the end of their conversation, one is left with the sense that Julia is not quite so neatly reconciled to her new life of penitence as has previously been suggested. It’s a great scene, one that recalls the darkly sinister FALCON CREST of old.

A week after Gary recalled his first drink on KNOTS LANDING, Sue Ellen recalls her "last great lost weekend” on DALLAS. “I’m a firm believer that blackouts are a blessing in disguise,” she says wryly. Miles Colby, currently under arrest for a murder he can’t remember if he committed or not, might beg to differ. So might Jordan Roberts on FALCON CREST. As Jenna Wade did a few weeks ago, she is seeing a psychiatrist to get to the bottom of her memory lapses — “the blackouts and the missing hours and days." Also like Jenna, when her doctor gets too close to the truth — in this case, the possibility that she is suffering from some kind of multiple personality disorder — she panics and leaves (“I am not insane! … It was a mistake to come here!”), choosing instead to retreat further into her fantasy world — which leads directly to Angela Channing returning from her honeymoon to find her naked in Lance’s bed.

It’s a cool week to be Soap Land kid. While Danny Carrington gets his own pizza-delivering robot on DYNASTY, John Ross’s daddy takes him for his first lunch at the Oil Baron’s Club on DALLAS. Elsewhere in the same ep, Jack Ewing gives Charlie Wade a shooting lesson, using some old cans as target practice. In this relaxed environment, Charlie is transformed into a totally cool and laid-back young chick chatting about boys and New York and stuff, without a trace of a whine in sight.

Meanwhile, Eric Fairgate and his former girlfriend Whitney are each the subject of a dramatic storyline without having to do very much themselves. Eric spends this week’s KNOTS unconscious in a hospital bed suffering from an unknown illness (which eventually turns out to be arsenic poisoning) while Whitney, now answering to the name of Jackie Devereaux, doesn’t even appear in this week’s DYNASTY, having run away from home after learning that Dominique lied to her about her paternity. In her absence, Dominique finally admits to Garrett Boydston that he is the daddy.

This week’s DALLAS and FALCON CREST throw up contrasting cultural references: “Maybe I watched too many Doris Day films growing up,” sighs Sue Ellen as she frets about her love life. “She always knew what to do in a romance.” (Well, she can’t have watched that many — surely the whole point of those rom-coms Day made with Sammy Jo’s father is that she didn’t know what to do?) Maggie Gioberti, meanwhile, is surprised and then disturbed to receive a first edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy as an anonymous gift. It turns out to be Jeff Wainwright’s way of announcing his arrival in the valley. “Did you know a woman named Beatrice inspired him to write all his work? He even named a character in the book after her,” he tells a freaked out Maggie, evidently better informed about Dante than Sue Ellen is about Doris.

And this week’s Top 4 are ...

4 (1) DALLAS

James from London

Telly Talk Winner
9 Apr 86: DYNASTY: The Warning v. 10 Apr 86: THE COLBYS: Double Jeopardy v. 10 Apr 86: KNOTS LANDING: Arsenic and Old Waste v. 11 Apr 86: DALLAS: Serendipity v. 11 Apr 86: FALCON CREST: Dangerous Ground

In the opening scene of this week’s DYNASTY, Blake is turned down for the same kind of billion dollar loan recently acquired by JR on DALLAS. “The truth is the oil market’s very weak right now. We don’t know what kind of money you’re going to be able to get for your oil,” his banker explains. In the opening scene of this week’s DALLAS, JR informs an underling that “any stripper well producing less than fifteen barrels a day gets shut down … It’s just not profitable anymore. Costs more to produce than we can sell it for." Such remarks suggest that both shows currently occupy the same economic universe. There again, as Blake points out, “that’s the nature of the business. It’s always been that way.”

Immediately following the meeting with his employee, JR receives a visit from an angry Mark Graison. “You stay away from Pam and me and you stay the hell out of my life or I’ll take that head of yours off at the shoulders!” he yells. Chase Gioberti makes a similarly worded declaration to Jeff Wainwright on FALCON CREST: “I want you to stay away from my wife … I want you out of this valley!”

The strongest episodes of the Soap Land week belong to DYNASTY and KNOTS LANDING, but the feel of each is quite different. Where DYNASTY hits the ground running and never lets up — there’s an exciting sense of dramatic urgency driving through the ep — the pace of KNOTS is slower, allowing for interestingly introspective moments such as when Greg Sumner explains to Laura how he spends his day conducting the city from the lofty viewpoint of his executive terrace (“making the cars go in the right direction, softening the sirens, bringing up a crash or two … I conduct the sun up and sometimes I conduct the moon down”). There’s also an impromptu slow dance between Ben and Cathy in his office which feels both illicit and sad, and a rare sentimental speech from Abby about her late brother: “Sid was always so sweet, so strong … Sometimes when I’m alone in the car or in the shower, I think about him and he becomes so real and then I realise he’s gone.” (By contrast, Miss Ellie is unusually clear-eyed when recalling her late husband in this week’s DALLAS. "Your granddaddy in his own way was a very difficult man to live with,” she informs John Ross.)

While Blake Carrington and Greg Sumner are obsessed with taking over Colby Co and Empire Valley respectively, those near to them do not share their vision. “You’re crazy, you know that? Somebody’s got to tell you. It might as well be me,” Blake’s business associate Dex Dexter tells him. "You and Alexis have pledged to destroy each other and you’re willing to kill anything that gets in your way … I am not gonna allow you to take me with you.” Laura puts it more succinctly on KNOTS. "I have had it, I am out of here,” she tells Greg. “Take Empire Valley to dinner … let it poison the rest of your life.”

Caress Morelle gets an unusual amount of screen time on this week’s DYNASTY as she digs into the past in order to learn the identity of the mystery woman Ben Carrington was in bed with on the day of his mother’s death. Her investigation leads her to a bordello in Colorado Springs, the kind of house of ill-repute we haven’t seen since the days of Lute-Mae’s in FLAMINGO ROAD. While the girls themselves are a much fresher looking bunch than the backcombed streetwalkers Angela Channing briefly shared a cell with in FALCON CREST last week, the establishment's flame-haired, luridly made-up madam, the terrifically named Cora Van Heusen, wouldn’t look out of place in a John Waters movie. The subsequent scene where Caress toys with Emily Fallmont before getting a squirming admission out of her that she was "the young bride” married to a senator with whom Ben was having an affair all those years ago is just great.

This week’s KNOTS and DALLAS each feature a scene where a male character takes a shower while his partner competes with the sound of running water for his attention. On KNOTS, the privacy of the shower curtain gives Ben temporary respite from Val as she prattles on about Cathy’s impending departure, oblivious to his feelings on the subject. “You didn’t hear a word I said, did you?” Val challenges him when he fails to respond. Then she probes deeper: "Are you, OK? … You seem so quiet.” By now, Ben has collected himself sufficiently to burst out of the shower singing opera as a way of lightening the situation.

The equivalent DALLAS scene is light-hearted to from the start. It begins in Pam’s bedroom where Mark is complaining about JR, following their run in earlier in the episode. “I can’t believe somebody hasn’t tried to do away with him by now,” he says as he heads for the bathroom. “Somebody has, but he recovered,” Pam replies from her bed. “They ever find out who it was?” Marks calls as he turns on the shower. Ironically, while 30,000,000 viewers shout “It was Kristin!” at their television screens, Pam fails to hear the question. “I’ll bet they had a list of suspects from here to Houston and back,” Mark guesses correctly.

It goes without saying this somewhat disingenuous reference to “Who shot JR?” is a massive wink to the audience. It’s also the first time DALLAS has poked fun at its own history in such a blatant way. While the “Who shot Bobby?” cliffhanger was a spin on the earlier storyline in a way that most viewers would have been aware of, the show itself played it completely straight. With hindsight, we know that the DALLAS shower scene also serves another narrative purpose — it foreshadows what will occur in the final scene of the season in three episodes time. (Pam makes the same journey from her bed to the shower as she will then.) Consequently, this seemingly unremarkable scene becomes significant for the fact that it self-consciously references the two most infamous moments in DALLAS history: the shooting of JR and Bobby’s return in the shower.

However, and at the risk of getting boringly bogged down in continuity, it’s somewhat implausible that Mark Graison — a Dallas native familiar with the Ewings long before his first onscreen appearance in Season 5 — wouldn’t have already known about JR’s shooting. There’s a similar instance in another scene in this week’s episode where Cliff Barnes fills Mandy Winger in on the on/off nature of JR and Sue Ellen’s past relationship. “They’ve been through this before?” she asks in total surprise, in spite of the fact that last season she knowledgeably referred to the couple as “practically an institution — you’ll have your fights, but you’ll never marry anyone else.” There again, looked at another way, might Mark and Mandy’s sudden ignorance of past events be a clue that what we’re currently watching is about to be revealed as a dream?

Ironically, DALLAS is one of only two Soap Land shows in which we don’t see a character dreaming this week. On DYNASTY, Blake has a nightmare, a terrible nightmare, which is essentially a flashback of his brother accusing him of killing their mother in court. “I must have been dreaming that same dream again,” he tells Krystle upon awakening. “I can’t bear to see you go through this night after night,” she frets. Over on FALCON CREST, Chase is similarly concerned about Maggie. “Nightmares? I’m worried about you,” he says when she wakes up from what she describes as "the strangest dream … scary.” Meanwhile on THE COLBYS, Sable’s dreams are more pleasant. Like Blake's, they consist of flashbacks — but this time of happy occasions between her and Jason. As a result, she awakens more determined than ever to effect a reconciliation with her estranged husband.

While the dream sequence is now a convention familiar to each of the soaps (even if DALLAS had never had one before this season), there is another narrative trope unique to the DYNASTY-verse. Whenever a character flies off to Reno or Acapulco or somewhere equally scenic for a quickie divorce, it is an unwritten law that they will be approached at a cocktail bar by either a horny barfly or a hardbitten divorcee eager to bed them and/or share the wisdom of their own marital experience. This week, it's the turn of Frankie, in Acapulco to end her short-lived marriage to Roger Langdon, to encounter Brenda, a divorcee from New York whose hair is as almost as red as Cora Van Heusen’s and who speaks almost entirely in slogans: “A quickie divorce means a quickie recovery … It’s a man’s world, honey … People who feel guilty never get what they want … Life’s too short … This could be your last chance — go for it!” Brenda’s list of cliches ultimately serves the same narrative purpose as Sable’s dream sequence — it gives Frankie permission to pursue a future with Jason with renewed purpose. So it is that Sable and Frankie are set once again on a collision course.

KNOTS gathers pace in its final act after Abby tells Gary and Karen what she knows about the source of the arsenic contamination at Empire Valley. Suddenly, there’s a sense of urgency: “The gas is moving fast … it could contaminate all of Lotus Point! … What are we going to do?” exclaims Karen. Gary declares that Greg must be held accountable for the pollution (“His father buried those chemicals … His company’s still responsible”) only for Abby to turn the tables and argue that Gary himself is to blame. “Those chemicals were buried in containers that were lined and sealed,” she points out, "and they stayed that way until a few months ago when you got it into your head to blow up those buildings at Empire Valley … You did it, Gary. You’re responsible!” Linking this current KNOTS crisis back to Gary’s seemingly heroic act earlier in the season is a very satisfying twist.

While Gary and Abby are one estranged Soap Land couple currently bound together by an external emergency, Sable and Jason are another. (In this instance, it’s the murder charge hanging over Miles.) Whereas Gary has no trouble keeping his wife at an emotional distance, Jason is less successful. In fact, Sable has now convinced herself that they are on the verge of getting back together “I can think of nothing to stand in the way of a reconciliation,” she tells Miles confidently. Meanwhile on DALLAS, JR is on the brink of winning back his estranged wife. “There’s a magic between us, Sue Ellen. I know that and so do you,” he tells her. Over on DYNASTY, Dex favours a similar, if less poetic approach, towards his ex. “Face it, Alexis, I’m the best man you’ve ever had in your bed and you know it and you miss me,” he informs her. But then when she leans in for a kiss, he pushes her away.

There’s a slight sense of deja-vu running through KNOTS this week. Abby stumbling on the truth about the arsenic poisoning at Empire Valley and then keeping it to herself is a rerun of her "missing babies” dilemma, only instead of waiting almost a year to admit what she knows, it only takes her an episode. Elsewhere it’s Season 3 all over again — Laura dealing with Greg’s depression has echoes of her relationship with Richard during his breakdown, while Ben working late in the office to avoid coming home to Val who waits fretfully in the cul-de-sac for him feels like the build up to Gary’s affair with Abby all over again. Lilimae is even on hand to offer the same kind of advice she did then. “Stand by your man, not on top of him,” she counselled Val in 1982. "Sometimes a man needs a little space … Ben’s only human,” she tells her in 1986. This last sentiment is echoed by Sable on THE COLBYS. “Your father is an extraordinary man, but he’s only human,” she tells Miles.

At the end of last week’s FALCON CREST, Angela returned from her honeymoon with Peter Stavros to find Richard Channing’s attorney in bed with her grandson Lance. This week’s episode of THE COLBYS starts with Jeff and Fallon returning early from their honeymoon as a gesture of support towards Miles following his arrest. Miles’s cool response — “You should have called first. I’d have told you stay and work on your tans” — mirrors Angela’s towards Jordan at the beginning of this week’s FC which picks up where last week’s left off. “I would offer you breakfast but I think it would be awkward for one of us,” she tells her. “It’s not what it looks like,” Jordan insists when boyfriend Greg arrives on the scene. “It’s worse,” Angela assures him.

Later in the episode, Greg receives a distraught phone call from Jordan asking for his help, but by the time he arrives at her place, she’s squeezed herself into a sexy cocktail dress and is once again answering to the name of Monica. Likewise in the final scene of this week’s DALLAS, JR answers an emergency summons from Mandy only to find her posed seductively in a bath full of bubbles. “You said you wanted to talk,” Greg reminds Jordan/Monica. “Talk? That’s all we ever do is talk. You like what I have on?” she replies. “When you called, you said it was important,” JR tells Mandy. “It is, but I still have to bathe,” she coos, stepping naked out of the tub.

KNOTS concludes with a similarly sultry scene as Ben shows up at his beach house to find Cathy wearing only an old shirt of his. Whereas DALLAS ends with JR unable to tear himself away from the sight of Mandy's nude form, Cathy and Ben give into their feelings and the ep ends with them kissing passionately in a way that echoes Gary and Abby’s kiss at the end of “China Dolls” (Season 3 again).

Actress Concetta Tomei shows up twice in this week’s Soap Land, as a financial informant DYNASTY and as Jordan's psychiatrist on FALCON CREST. In the former role, she finds herself on the receiving end of Alexis Colby’s sharp tongue ("Miss Robson, you have the reputation for being one of the shrewdest insiders in the Wall Street community and you are not telling me anything I couldn’t find out from a bank teller!”). In the latter, she must deal with Jordan’s provocative alternate personality. “Think I’m attractive, doctor?” Monica purrs. "I’m just wondering what kind of woman I’m dealing with.”

Having established themselves as Soap Land’s most reckless drivers earlier in the season, Miles Colby and Gary Ewing are now preoccupied with other matters. In their absence, DYNASTY’s Amanda Carrington and DALLAS’s Angelica Nero each take a spin in the driver’s seat. Amanda’s behaviour behind the wheel alarms even professional thrill-seeker Clay Fallmont who throws himself into the passenger seat in a Mickey Trotter-style attempt to stop her from harming herself. While he can’t prevent her from crashing, he gallantly takes the blame when the police arrive on the scene by insisting that he was driving. Angelica, meanwhile, is stopped for speeding, but it’s only after the cop spies a gun in her purse that she is hauled in for questioning. There’s more firearms action on FALCON CREST where we see Jeff Wainwright in a gun store after his altercation with Chase. "That’s perfect. I’ll take it," he says gleefully, holding an air rifle in firing position. Back on DALLAS, Angelica’s second scene of the ep ends on a similarly ominous note. Having been released by the police, she is free to continue on her journey. “Which way you heading?” a cop asks her. “Dallas!” she snaps in reply. (In the case of both Jeff and Angelica, the threat they pose is clear to the viewer at home, but not to the people they are speaking to onscreen — the gun store owner and policeman respectively.)

While Krystle pays an unexpected visit to Ben at Alexis’s penthouse on DYNASTY, Jamie Barnes pays an equally unexpected visit to JR at Ewing Oil on DALLAS. Both women are concerned about their husbands. “You’re destroying him,” Krystle tells Ben, referring to Blake. “I’m worried about him,” Jamie informs JR, referring to Cliff. "I thought that he’d finally forgotten about Ewing Oil, but that’s all he ever talks about again.” It soon transpires that Krystle and Jamie are out to make peace. "What would it take for you to give this up?” Krystle asks her brother-in-law. "Is it the money? Then keep the money. Just tell the truth and clear his name.” "JR, I want to strike a deal with you,” Jamie tells her cousin. "If I can promise to keep Cliff away from you and Ewing Oil, will you leave him alone? Can we all just go our own ways in peace?”

While there’s a certain novelty value to seeing JR interact with Jamie for the first time in over a year — he responds to her proposition with the same laid-back attitude he exhibited in the introduction to "DALLAS: The Early Years" a few weeks ago (“That feud has always been one-sided. It’s all in Cliff’s mind … I give you my word that I won’t go after him first. I’ve got more important fish to fry than him”) — Ben's response to Krystle is in another league, dramatically: “Lady, you don’t know what it feels like to be an outcast, despised by your family, a scapegoat for something beyond your control, but Blake did it — blamed me for something I didn’t do. So now he’s suffering? Good! Clear his name? Why should I? I haven’t enjoyed anything so much in years!” “He hates you,” Krystle later tells her husband. "I've never seen anyone so angry … He won’t be satisfied till he’s destroyed you … It’s like Cain and Abel. He wants to see you dead!”

Speaking of death, no sooner do we hear on DALLAS that “a major earthquake has struck Colombia … the town of Los Gatos has been virtually destroyed with the death count in the thousands" (“Oh my God — Matt!” exclaims Pam) than Chao Li’s long lost daughter Lee Ying turns up on FALCON CREST, having been "chosen at the last minute to represent my country at an international symposium on earthquakes.” A dedicated manservant and his overseas-educated daughter, the dynamic between Chao Li and Lee Ying clearly echoes that of Joseph and Kirby on DYNASTY three years earlier. There is an awkward moment when Lee Ying, while dining at Falcon Crest as Angela’s guest, insists on helping her father serve the meal: “I am your daughter. If you serve, I serve.” “Mrs. Channing has been good to me. It is not dishonourable to live this way,” Chao Li tells her in a later scene. “I know, but it makes me sad,” she replies. Issues of race and class are quickly glossed over when it emerges that the real cause of Lee Ying's sadness is a boyfriend she’s just split up with in China. (More echoes of Kirby, who arrived in Denver with a disastrous love affair as a recent part of her back story).

Lance is immediately smitten by Lee Ying, but in a more chaste way than his one night stand with Jordan/Monica at the beginning of the episode might have led one to expect. In fact, his starry-eyed attitude towards her ("She’s so pretty, grandmother!”) mirrors that of Ray and Donna’s prospective son Tony towards Charlie Wade during a getting-to-know-you dinner at Southfork on DALLAS. Between both pairings the subject of pop music arises, but in a way that feels more bobby-sox '50s than MTV ‘80s. “Would you like to learn how to dance?” Charlie asks Tony. "I have to practice anyway.” “Any rock and roll in China?” Lance asks Lee Ying. “We could listen to the latest hits."

And this week’s Top 5 are …

5 (4) DALLAS

James from London

Telly Talk Winner
30 Apr 86: DYNASTY: The Rescue v. 01 May 86: THE COLBYS: The Reckoning v. 01 May 86: KNOTS LANDING: His Brother’s Keeper v. 02 May 86: DALLAS: Thrice in a Lifetime v. 02 May 86: FALCON CREST: Cease and Desist

Alexis Colby rediscovers her maternal instinct on this week’s DYNASTY. First, she saves her daughter Amanda following a suicide attempt and then forgives her her affair with her own husband Dex. In the penultimate scene of the episode, she visits Amanda in her bedroom at the Carrington mansion. “I just want you to know that I love you and I’d give my life for you, darling,” she tells her tearfully. "You’re my daughter and you’re very, very special.” This is as unguardedly sentimental as we’ve ever seen Alexis (she’s certainly never had a conversation as intimate as this with Fallon), and the contrast between her demeanour in this scene and the one that immediately follows with Blake is striking. Ignoring her ex-husband’s angry calls, she sweeps imperiously down the Carrington staircase swathed in fur. Only upon reaching the bottom does she turn to face him and snarl her latest vow of vengeance: “Take a deep breath, Blake, because the children and this house and everything that belonged to me is going to be mine again!” Yes, just like her cousin Sable, Alexis now “wants the house.”

In fact, Sable herself is involved a similar juxtaposition of scenes — a demonstration of maternal devotion followed by one of ruthlessness — near the end of this week’s COLBYS. First, we see her talking to her son Miles in his bedroom where she offers to supply him with a fake alibi for the night of the Mahoney murder. “You are my son,” she insists. "You come before anything — even the law.” A couple of scenes later, she is engaged in a bitter argument with her sister-in-law Constance regarding her marriage to Jason. “I love my brother and I’ll be damned if I’ll stand by and watch you bleed him dry!” barks Connie. “He needs a settlement before he can get a divorce,” Sable retorts. "I can hang on for years — so many years, you’ll never live to see the day.”

The mood at the end of this week’s DALLAS is very different, but also includes a display of parental intimacy. This time it’s JR, reading his son a bedtime story. Once John Ross is asleep, he continues to sit at his bedside. Then he is interrupted by Sue Ellen, who surprises him with a kiss on the lips.

There are major turning points for Soap Land’s two disabled characters this week: blind singer Wayne on THE COLBYS and deaf kid Tony on DALLAS. When I watched the original run of THE COLBYS, I was so convinced that a blind actor had been cast in the role of Wayne that during the scene in this week’s ep where he tells Monica his sight has been restored, I genuinely thought the actor was only pretending he could see. (I also remember thinking that he didn’t do a very convincing job.) Over on DALLAS, there’s a nice scene where Tony hesitantly informs Donna that he has decided to accept her and Ray’s invitation to become a part of their family. It's the first time this storyline has focused on Tony’s feelings rather than the Krebbses’ and the young actor gives a sweetly touching performance. As if in response, Susan Howard dials down her own emotional intensity and seems more like her old down-to-earth self than she has in months.

It’s not often that one finds DALLAS’s Donna and DYNASTY’s Alexis singing from the same hymn sheet, but each dispenses similar maternal advice this week. “It’s safer not to love, isn’t it?” Amanda asks her mother. “Maybe it is,” Alexis replies, "but it’s a lot emptier.” “You can’t be afraid, because loving is the best part of life,” concurs Donna during her scene with Tony.

Two lines in this week’s Ewing-verse have always resonated with me. “I feel as if I were standing at the edge of my life, looking back at all the wonderful things that aren’t there anymore,” Miss Ellie tells JR during a touching scene on DALLAS. Meanwhile, during a conversation with Ben on KNOTS, Cathy makes a simple but achingly acute observation about his relationship with Val: “I know she doesn’t mean to, but she hurts you.”

Cathy's isn’t the only interesting character observation of the Soap Land week. “While the rest of this family manipulates and turns brother against brother, you stand by, radiating this glow of passive acceptance,” Claudia tells Krystle in the best scene of this week’s DYNASTY. Patricia Shepard accused Miss Ellie of radiating a similar glow on DALLAS a few months ago: “Where were you when all this was happening?” she asked her, referring to the disintegration of JR and Sue Ellen’s marriage. “Sitting at the head of the big Ewing dinner table and watching?” In spite of Ellie and Krystle's objections (“I don’t deserve that!” protested Ellie then, “What has this family ever done to you besides loving you, supporting you?” Krystle asks Claudia now), there is a grain of truth in each of these accusations (even if DYNASTY is obliged to depict Claudia as a madwoman for daring to speak out in such a manner). Likewise, the speech Abby delivers to Karen on this week’s KNOTS, while not entirely fair, is not entirely unfair either: “You can’t stand the fact that Greg Sumner can deal with a problem that Karen Mackenzie can’t,” she says in regard to the contamination crisis at Lotus Point. "If you could admit for one minute that he can fix something that you can’t, we would be halfway to saving Lotus Point, but your idealism is getting all mixed up with your pride, Karen, and evidently your pride is more important than Lotus Point, and God knows, we have to save Karen’s pride — even if it costs us Lotus Point. That’s the bottom line, Karen. Admit it.”

Cathy’s observation about Val aside, her affair with Ben isn’t quite as satisfying a storyline as I remember from previous viewings. Like her predecessor Ciji, Cathy has always been a passive character, mainly just reacting to the circumstances in which she finds herself. As long as the plots surrounding her have been sufficiently well-structured, she’s always been a highly watchable and sympathetic presence. Since Joshua’s death, however, she’s felt increasingly exposed — more a plot device than a real character. Rather than merely passive, she now seems a bit blank.

She’s not the only one. Following her cliffhanging overdose at the end of the last ep, Amanda Carrington is the focus of attention on this week’s DYNASTY. Like Cathy, she isn’t the brightest blonde in the hair salon, but there again, nor is she meant to be. Like Lucy Ewing, Skipper Weldon and Bliss Colby, Amanda is one of those endearingly aimless Soap Land twenty-somethings with no real purpose other than to fall in love with the least appropriate person available. Alexis describes her this week as "a frightened, vulnerable little girl” and that’s about the size of it. Certainly, no one would ever mistake Amanda for a rocket scientist — or an earthquake seismologist, come to that, which brings us to Cathy’s and Amanda’s FALCON CREST equivalent in this regard, Chao Li’s daughter Lee Ying. Impressively intelligent she may be, but aside from delivering some carefully enunciated exposition in order set up the end-of-season cliffhanger, there isn’t a lot to her. Yet in spite of Lee Ying's lack of personality, Lance and Cole both seem utterly beguiled by her. If one recalls that the last woman they both became involved with was Melissa at her smouldering, femme-fatale peak then their reactions seem all the more incongruous. When it comes to depicting a young Asian woman on her first journey outside of her own country, FALCON CREST is understandably somewhat out of its comfort zone. In contrast, DYNASTY has been having fun for several seasons with the various Chinese ministers who occasionally pop up as part of the never-ending "China Seas oil lease" saga — the latest of whom, Mr Lui, has spent the last few eps being charmed by Alexis into doing her bidding. However, there’s a twist in the tale. As we learn this week, he is secretly in cahoots with Ben Carrington.

Minor trend of the week: Mystery Bens. On DYNASTY, Dex meets Ben for the first time since the latter's arrival in Denver. “Where do I know you from?” he wonders. "I know your face, Carrington. I saw you once with a group of men … I promise you, I’ll dig to the bottom of the barrel till I find out who you are!” The scene ends with a close-up of Ben, a shifty look in his eyes. Over on DALLAS, old-timer Ben Stivers, a new character hired by Clayton and Ray to work on the ranch, gets a faraway look in his eyes when he is introduced to Miss Ellie. “You’re a lucky man, Clayton,” he murmurs enigmatically.

Blank blondes and mystery Bens aside, if there’s one overriding theme in this week’s Soap Land it’s that the wheels of justice often grind excruciatingly slowly. On DYNASTY, Ben Carrington travels to Caracas, hoping to get the troublesome Caress extradited back to Venezuela in order to serve out the rest of her prison sentence. On THE COLBYS, Jason flies to Athens, hoping to prevent his son Jeff from being extradited on a murder charge. (Typical — you wait eight years for one Soap Land storyline involving extradition charges and then two come along at once.) “Extradition is a long and complicated legal process — it could take years,” the prison governor in Caracas informs Ben. “I’ll take care of the legalities,” he replies, producing a wad of notes. Jason doesn't kowtow to legal niceties to achieve his objective either — but instead of waving money around, he uses his status. "I’m simply making a reasonable request,” he assures the deputy minister in Athens after demanding access to the cab driver who claims to have taken Jeff to the scene of the murder, “and I’ll go on making it, all the way up to the prime minister if I have to.” (Ironically, while Jason succeeds in exposing the driver as a fraud, the very crime he himself gets away with scot free, i.e., suborning a witness, is described by Chase’s attorney on this week’s FALCON CREST as “one of the seven deadly sins” — and it’s this very “sin” which Chase now believes he has sufficient evidence to nail Angela and Richard for.)

Enticed by the promise of a $50,000 payoff, Caress joins Ben one of those clandestine two-cars-pull-up-alongside-each-other-in-a-rainy-side-street scenes. There was a similarly staged blackmail scene between Melissa Gioberti and Pamela Lynch on FALCON CREST almost exactly a year ago. Ever the writer, Caress acknowledges the clichéd nature of the setting: “A parked car in a dark alley, Ben? This is a business deal — I’m not selling state secrets.” But then Ben has his henchman chloroform her, along with the following instructions: “She goes air freight to Caracas.”

Meanwhile on KNOTS, the bureaucratic red tape facing the Lotus Point gang when they turn to government agencies for a solution to their pollution problem is overwhelming. “You may conservatively expect the appeals to last for years,” they are informed. “Because of the size of the thing and the insurance involved, the excavation alone will cost two and a half million dollars,” Laura explains. “Because of the contamination itself, Lotus Point isn’t good as collateral,” Karen adds. "They won’t even give us money to do the research to find out how bad the problem really is.” Nor is the law much use to the Giobertis in FALCON CREST. Even though Jeff Wainwright has already been linked to the murder of one woman, the local sheriff is powerless to protect Maggie from his attentions. “Harassment is hard to prove,” he tells her. A judge eventually issues a cease-and-desist order, “barring Mr. Wainwright from making any direct contact with Mrs. Gioberti” — but even this cannot prevent him following her at a distance, and the episode ends with Maggie and Chase watching Jeff watching them, scared yet powerless. "Until he breaks the law, there’s nothing I can do,” the sheriff explains.

In my mind, DYNASTY’s Claudia and KNOTS LANDING’s Laura both occupy a similar space in Soap Land. Each is (or was) the most relatable, least soap-like female character on her respective show, and therefore receives less screen time than her more flamboyant contemporaries. Now, however, they are on divergent paths. While Laura’s recent marriage to Greg Sumner places her right at the heart of KNOTS’ current crisis, Claudia is intent on cutting her ties with the rest of the characters on DYNASTY. “I really feel caught in the middle here,” Laura tells Karen and Mack. “For the first time in my life, I really feel like I can make it on my own,” Claudia tells her former stepson Danny during a final visit to the Carrington mansion. As a three year old, Danny may not be the ideal confidante, but he’s literally the only person Claudia has left to talk to. And just as former allies Claudia and Krystle part as enemies so Laura finds herself on the receiving end of a couple of bitter jibes from her friends as the tension mounts over the situation at Lotus Point. “Gee, that’d keep it in the family, wouldn’t it, Mrs. Sumner?” snaps Gary when Laura points out the benefits of allowing Greg take over the cleanup. “So long as you’re happy,” sneers Mack when she tells him she believes Greg is genuinely sincere about his offer. “Poor Laura — she’s so confused,” says Karen, more sympathetically. “Well, that’s what happens when a nice person marries a jerk,” Mack shrugs.

In the final scene of this week’s KNOTS, Karen learns that groundskeeper Charlie Lee has died of as a result of the arsenic poisoning at Lotus Point. Just like Dimitri Marinos on DALLAS, Charlie Lee has never appeared onscreen yet his death has significant repercussions. “I’m not gonna be responsible for any more sickness or any more death — I’m closing Lotus Point,” Karen declares. This is her equivalent of Miss Ellie’s “I’ve had enough of this insane competition between you two — I’m going to court to break Jock’s will and then I intend to sell Ewing Oil” bombshell on DALLAS a few years ago, albeit on a slightly smaller scale.

This week, DALLAS is far more atmospheric than it has been of late. A sharper, more interesting script and Lance Rubin’a plaintive piano-based score are contributing factors. The highlight of the ep is a fascinatingly atypical, even subversive scene that takes place between a garrulously enthusiastic bomb maker-for-hire and Angelica Nero. Angelica does not speak in the scene — instead, she stands by looking enigmatic and chic in a Baader-Meinhof beret and raincoat ensemble while the bomb guy chatters on. He isn’t identified on screen — although Angelica later refers to him as “a very patriotic fellow” — but IMDb lists him as ‘Freddie the Bomb Manufacturer' so let's go with that. “Motive’s important to most people, but me — I don’t have motive like you have motive,” Freddie is telling Angelica while putting the final touches to an attache case rigged with explosives for her. "For me, it’s my country. Always been that. Fourth of July, Vietnam — same thing. Lots of people don’t remember their first fourth of July … I couldn’t forget mine if I wanted to … I just couldn’t believe what you could do with a firecracker. I think I blew up everything by the time I was ten.” Then Angelica pays him for the rigged case and leaves. “‘In God we trust,’” Freddie calls after her. "You know we’re the only people that says that on our money? … Some country, huh?”

Sure, Freddie’s a nut job, same as Claudia on DYNASTY, but just as Claudia’s paranoid speech contained an undeniably intriguing critique of Krystle (“You allow the treachery and that makes you the most dangerous Carrington of them all”), so the idea presented within Freddie’s crazy ramblings — that patriotism and war, religion and money, and violence and murder are all somehow inextricably bound together in the American psyche ("Fourth of July, Vietnam — same thing") — also contains an element of truth. If anything, the scene feels more pertinent than ever in late 2016.

And this week’s Top 5 is …

4 (-) DALLAS
Last edited:

James from London

Telly Talk Winner
08 May 86: KNOTS LANDING: Thicker Than Water v. 09 May 86: DALLAS: Hello, Goodbye, Hello v. 09 May 86: FALCON CREST: Consumed

As Soap Land business crises go, there’s something unusual about KNOTS LANDING's “arsenic poisoning at Lotus Point” storyline that I really like. It’s to do with the intangibility of the contamination itself. It’s under the ground, it’s in the water supply, it may even be in the air — but you can’t touch it, you can't see it. As such, unlike the various oil or wine-related dramas that occur on the other soaps, it’s a problem that no one on the show (with the possible exception of Greg Sumer) is equipped to deal with. At the end of the day, no one really knows what the hell to do, which only fuels the urgency and the unpredictability of the situation, and the friction between the characters. I guess one could draw a parallel between what has been going on beneath the surface of Empire Valley without anyone realising and what Lee Ying insists is about to occur in the Tuscany Valley without anyone else in FALCON CREST taking her seriously. “We are almost certain that you are going to have a minor earthquake in the next ten days,” she pronounces solemnly. “I’m not a big believer in earthquake predictions,” Peter Stavros smiles smugly. “This valley could do with a little shaking up!” jokes Lance complacently.

Inbetween episodes of KNOTS, Gary has paid an offscreen visit to Dallas “to see if my family would finance the cleanup … There’s no oil under Empire Valley so they’re not interested.” And even if they were, JR’s not in any position to get involved. According to Marilee Stone, he’s cash poor. “That billion dollar loan is costing you almost two million dollars a week,” adds banker Franklin Horner, who this time last year was busy blowing his brains out on KNOTS as a result of his own financial problems.

JR’s situation on DALLAS and Abby’s on KNOTS are similar. This week’s KNOTS begins with Abby holding a press conference to assure the public that, despite reports to the contrary, “There is absolutely nothing wrong with the drinking water here at Lotus Point.” (Her Eva Peron-style, woman-of-the-people stunt of drinking a glass of Lotus Point water before the assembled media is a particularly nice touch.) Meanwhile, Karen is breaking the news to Lotus Point's employees that she is closing down the resort. Over on DALLAS, due to the drop in oil prices, attorney Alex Garrett has shut down the Marinos/Ewing oil wells — the very wells JR is depending on to stay afloat. Needless to say, Abby and JR are far from happy with these decisions. "Alex, I’m warning you. You’re making a mistake doing this to Ewing Oil … I want those wells uncapped and pumping right now!” barks JR over the phone. “How dare you, Karen — where the hell do you come off, closing Lotus Point? … I’ve got as much at stake here as you do!” yells Abby, barging into her partner’s office.

Unlike JR, who stands to lose everything (“I’ve been counting on the income from the Venezuelan fields — I mean, really counting on it”), Abby still has what she terms “insurance”, i.e., her investment in Peter Hollister’s claim to the Galveston fortune. This storyline takes an unexpected turn when Greg offers Peter an intriguing ultimatum: he’ll acknowledge him as his brother (and make him an appropriate financial settlement) on the condition that Peter runs for the senate. "If you’re ever gonna be a Galveston, kid, now is the time,” Greg tells him. "I’m only gonna let it happen if it happens on my terms.” Abby’s all for the idea, as she indicates when she shows up at Peter’s apartment late at night with a bottle of champagne. ”The sooner you sign that document, the sooner you’re going to learn that being rich and powerful is a very nice way to live,” she says before taking him to bed.

This also being the week that JR and Sue Ellen’s reconciliation is consummated, we are treated to scenes of post-coital pillow talk on both KNOTS and DALLAS. “Feels like New Year’s Eve,” says Peter, nuzzling Abby’s neck between shiny satin sheets. “You’ll never know how happy you’ve made me tonight,” pants JR as Sue Ellen lies beside him. From there, the subject matter of the two scenes diverge. While Abby’s mind is as much on power as passion (“Just think — all that Galveston money behind you,” she purrs to Peter), Sue Ellen makes a declaration of fidelity: “JR, when I came into your bed tonight and we made love, I made a total commitment to you.” JR doesn’t get around to discussing business with his wife until the following morning. “My company’s in trouble, Sue Ellen, and I just don’t know what to do about it,” he admits before dropping her off at her office.

Like Abby and Peter, FALCON CREST’s Melissa Agretti and Eric Stavros are also mixing business with pleasure. They've opened up a winery at the same time as conducting a romance. Melissa’s attitude is more frivolous than Abby’s, however. She’s more interested in putting her enemies' noses out of joint than garnering wealth and power. “Did you see Angela watching us?” she giggles to Eric. "She was green with envy … The Agretti harvest is home to stay. Angela, Chase, Cole, Lance — they can all take a flying jump at the moon!”

KNOTS LANDING’s Cathy and DALLAS’s Mandy are living in similarly self-absorbed fantasy worlds this week. As Ben watches Cathy scrutinising publicity photos of herself while listening to one of her own recordings, Mandy sends JR an album of sexy modelling shots of herself with the message, “Ready when you are, JR.” Each woman is determined to build a future with a married man, but seems to be in denial about the reality of the situation. Just as Cathy wants Ben to accompany her on her tour but refuses to face the implications this would have for Val and the twins, Mandy is still hopeful of a reconciliation with JR even though he is now back with Sue Ellen. By the end of their respective episodes, both have brought down to reality with a bump — Cathy by a slap across the face from Lilimae (just like Krystle and Claudia on last week’s DYNASTY, this pair of formerly close friends also part on bad terms) and Mandy by JR himself (“I only love and want Sue Ellen … goodbye,” he tells her) — and the last we see of either is them bursting into tears.

As Lilimae tries to save her daughter’s marriage on KNOTS, her one-time Ewing-verse counterpart, Aunt Lil, similarly rides to the rescue of Ray and Donna’s family on DALLAS. The Krebbses’ petition to adopt Tony having been declined due to Ray’s criminal record, Lil speaks at an appeal hearing to explain the circumstances that led to the death of her son Mickey. She repeats the testimony she gave at Ray’s murder trial almost word for word and it proves to be just as persuasive as it was then — it prompts the judge to overturn the original ruling and grant the adoption. (Considering how slowly the wheels of justice have been grinding elsewhere in Soap Land of late — the Empire Valley pollution storyline on KNOTS, the Jeff Wainwright stalker scenario on FC — the law moves at lightning speed in this situation, with the Krebbses’ appeal being arranged, conducted and ruled upon all in within the space of a few days.)

While Val begs Ben not to leave her on KNOTS (“I don’t want you to go,” she says, clinging onto him), JR gently suggests to Mandy on DALLAS that “the best thing for you to do would be to leave here, go somewhere where you might meet someone who’s not in love with another woman.” Over on FALCON CREST, Richard Channing orders Miss Jones to “make yourself scarce — as in London.” Whereas JR finally gets through to Mandy, Val and Richard are each met with refusal. "Don’t make this anymore difficult than it is — I have got to go,” Ben tells Val. “I’m not going halfway around the world just so you can forget about me,” Miss Jones tells Richard.

This week’s KNOTS and DALLAS are their penultimate episodes of the season. It’s surprising therefore that both shows find time to introduce a new storyline, each involving a key character’s past. On DALLAS, JR learns that as a young man, Mark Graison was involved in the hushed-up death of a college freshman. On KNOTS, a young self-possessed blonde turns up in various locations looking for Mack, in much the same way that another young self-possessed blonde turned up various places looking for Alexis at the beginning of last season’s DYNASTY. Whereas Amanda Bedford chose the front page of the Denver Chronicle upon which to announce that she was Alexis’s daughter, Paige Matheson elects the Mackenzie living room as a suitable venue in which to smilingly inform Mack that she is his offspring. The dramatic impact is not diminished by the domestic setting.

While Mack fails to recognise his own daughter — at first glance, he assumes her to be a friend of Eric and Michael — DALLAS newcomer Ben Stivers proves strangely familiar. “I could have sworn I’d met him somewhere before,” comments Punk Anderson, echoing Dex Dexter’s words about another Ben on last week’s DYNASTY ("I know your face, Carrington”). “There’s just something about him,” Miss Ellie concurs.

DALLAS’s Angelica Nero and FALCON CREST’s Jeff Wainwright have both been hovering menacingly on the periphery of their respective shows for some weeks now. While Angelica’s actions have been deliberate and calculating — we’ve seen her do business with a bomb-making expert and a couple of first-class forgers — Jeff’s behaviour seems altogether more emotional and impulsive. This week, he enjoys romantic interludes with Fantasy Maggie while sending anonymous bouquets to her real life equivalent. Whatever their differences, Angelica and Jeff both end this week’s episodes the same way — by coming face to face with their prey with a gun in their hand. “Well, Mr Ewing, we have some unfinished business,” says Angelica while pointing a pistol at JR in an underground parking garage. “Come on, Maggie, it’s time to leave,” says Jeff as he steals into the Gioberti bedroom brandishing a hunting rifle. “This is something we both want,” he adds chillingly.

And this week’s Top 3 are …

2 (4) DALLAS

James from London

Telly Talk Winner
14 May 86: DYNASTY: The Triple-Cross v. 15 May 86: THE COLBYS: Anniversary Waltz v. 15 May 86: KNOTS LANDING: The Longest Night v. 16 May 86: DALLAS: Blast From the Past v. 16 May 86: FALCON CREST: Captive Hearts

Two shootings, three kidnappings, a couple of explosions, a wedding, a long lost daughter and an apparent return from the dead — with the season finales of DALLAS and KNOTS LANDING and the penultimate eps of DYNASTY, THE COLBYS and FALCON CREST, it’s been an eventful week in Soap Land.

The centrepiece of this week’s DALLAS is Mark Graison and Pam Ewing tying the knot in a fancy ceremony which bears the distinction of being the series' most harmonious wedding to date. Thanks to the truce engineered by Jamie, even JR and Cliff are getting along. Elsewhere, Angela interrupts Emma and Dwayne’s wacky Vegas wedding (“I want you to come back to Falcon Crest and be married there, where you belong,” she insists) and DYNASTY’s Dominique plans a party at La Mirage (now run by Abby Ewing’s former consigliere James Westmont) to celebrate her forthcoming nuptials to Garrett Boydston.

Over on THE COLBYS, Sable throws a surprise wedding anniversary party for Jason in spite of the fact that they are on the brink of divorce. (“Mom’s hoping it’s gonna bring them back together,” Miles tells Bliss.) Sue Ellen pulled a similar move in Season 2 of DALLAS — i.e, surprising JR with an anniversary party whilst hiding a secret agenda. Just as Sue Ellen also managed to get one over on her sister Kristin (aka JR’s mistress) by announcing that she would soon be returning to California, Sable likewise pulls a trick on her sister Frankie (aka Jason’s love interest) by ensuring that while the rest of the guests are done up to the nines, Frankie is dressed quite plainly. As a consequence, Frankie is rendered virtually invisible — no one at the party even acknowledges her presence. At the end of the DALLAS party, Sue Ellen revealed to JR how the evening was all part of a campaign for her to gain custody of her son by appearing to be a perfect wife and mother. Here, the situation is reversed: it is Sable who is surprised when Jason drags her into a private room and presents her with a tape of a compromising conversation between her and Zach Powers (“Sorry I didn’t have time to wrap it”). The scene that follows is another of those brilliant Jason/Sable confrontations that is somehow melodramatic and gritty both at the same time. Even though Jason clearly wants rid of Sable, he is still devastated by what he perceives as her betrayal. By the end of the scene, both actors have tears in their eyes. As fantastic as Larry Hagman and Linda Gray are together, they’ve never had a scene quite like this.

An interesting sense of history recurs throughout this week’s episodes. “What a waste my life has been — twenty-nine years of loving you, and you loved her all the time," Sable tells Jason with magnificent bitterness. “It’s taken us fourteen years to get to a point where our marriage stands half a chance of working,” Sue Ellen tells JR on DALLAS. “Full circle, huh?” muses Gary on KNOTS and he and Val sit huddled together by the ocean. “Here we are on the beach, first place we came when we got to California.” “… What a mess we’ve made of our lives out here, Gary,” Val replies tearfully — an observation that causes Gary to start laughing hysterically. Less directly, Miss Ellie also reaches back into the past. "You’ve been like a daughter,” she tells Pam touchingly just prior to her wedding to Mark. Elsewhere on DALLAS, I find it very intriguing that when Ben Stivers is in the Southfork living room looking at individual photographs of Miss Ellie’s three sons, it is Gary’s picture which he picks up for closer inspection. Maybe he can finally identify with the outsider.

Following her fight with Jason, Sable seeks refuge on Zach Powers' yacht. At the end of a season in which the shipping business has had such a strong, if mostly offscreen, presence — Marinos Shipping in DALLAS, Stavros Shipping on FALCON CREST, Powers Shipping on THE COLBYS — it’s fitting that the climax of at least one of these shows should have a nautical setting. (Granted, this isn’t quite the season finale of THE COLBYS, but it sure feels like it.)

Zach and Sable are below deck when he presents her with a replica of “the dress you were taking off on Jason’s yacht the day I walked in on you” three decades earlier. He has her recreate the moment first by putting the dress on and then by slowly taking it off again as he watches. There’s more sexy stripping on KNOTS as Abby looks on approvingly while Peter Hollister slowly undresses for her benefit. Alas, both encounters are interrupted — Zach and Sable's by the noise of an intruder (which turns out to be Jason climbing aboard the yacht), Abby and Peter's by the sound of a car (Gary returning home unexpectedly with Olivia in tow).

Dominique Devereaux aside, each of Soap Land's singers bids a bittersweet farewell this week. Both THE COLBYS’ Wayne Masterson and KNOTS LANDING's Cathy Geary admit to wearing romantic blinkers which now have been removed. “A blind man only sees what he wants to see, not what’s there. My eyes are open now and I can see the truth,” Wayne tells Monica after realising that she’s in love with someone else. “I fell in love with you and ever since the moment I did, whenever that was, I haven’t been able to think straight," Cathy tells Ben. “You came through for me, not just as an artist, but as a friend," Monica tells Wayne tearfully. “I'm never going to be able to tell you what these last couple of weeks have meant to me,” Ben tells Cathy, as much in sadness as in gratitude.

Just as Wayne intends “to take some time and drive around the country and see what I’ve been missing for the past few years”, DALLAS’s Jack Ewing is also off "to parts unknown.” He consequently pulls out of his business partnership with Clayton and Ray, but refuses to recoup his original investment. "You guys are gonna have to break both my arms for me to accept a dime from either one of you,” he chuckles. This from the man who swaggered into town a year earlier and immediately sold his sister out for ten percent of Ewing Oil. And while Lee Ying says goodbye to her father before returning to China on FALCON CREST, THE COLBYS’ Constance also has her cases packed. Ostensibly she’s off on a quick business trip to San Francisco, but the air of finality during her farewell exchange with Fallon (not to mention the sheer amount of luggage she’s taking) suggests otherwise.

Trend of the week: the sighting of a car as a key plot point. On THE COLBYS, it emerges that Miles’s old Ferrari, which he totalled earlier in the season, holds the key to his innocence in the Mahoney murder case. He and Jeff join forces to track down what remains of it, finally forging a brotherly bond in the process. And it's after Eric spots Karen’s car abandoned at Lotus Point on KNOTS that the riddle of her disappearance suddenly becomes a lot more serious. “Let’s call the cops,” says Mack gravely. Elsewhere in the same episode, Gary’s discovery of Peter’s car outside his house leads him to correctly surmise that he and Abby are sleeping together. Meanwhile, Bomb Expert Guy reappears on DALLAS, this time masquerading as a valet at Pam and Mark’s wedding. The unexplained interest he shows in Jack’s car is paid off in the closing minutes of the episode.

Whereas Mack takes out his frustrations over Karen’s disappearance on stepson Michael, Chase leans on his son Cole following Maggie’s abduction on FALCON CREST. (Like Jeff and Miles on THE COLBYS, Cole also plays detective, flying to Oregon to speak to the parents of Wainwright’s murdered fiancee.) Over on DALLAS, Sue Ellen doesn’t hear about JR’s joyride-at-gunpoint with Angelica Nero until it’s over. Police involvement in each incident differs. On KNOTS, the law moves more swiftly than it has done recently — Mack’s police connections mean the cops are willing to bend the rules and launch an investigation into his wife’s disappearance even before she’s been missing the requisite twenty-four hours. Conversely, even though it’s clear from the outset that Maggie has been kidnapped and by whom, Chase still has to wait the full amount of time for the FBI to get involved in the case. JR, meanwhile, refuses to tell the police about his encounter with La Nero. “Angelica may have something I need to keep Ewing Oil afloat,” he explains to Sue Ellen. "Now if the police scare her off or pick her up, I may lose the only chance I’ll ever have to turn things around.” It’s only in the penultimate scene of the episode, after JR and Angelica have met at his office to complete their business transaction and she has boasted of killing Grace and Nicholas, that the police burst in and arrest her.

Even as he holds Maggie hostage in his cabin, Jeff Wainwright refuses to acknowledge that she is there against her will. Oblivious to her distress, he enthusiastically seeks her creative input on how best to finish his novel. In this regard, his behaviour echoes that of Roger Larsen, the photographer who kidnapped Lucy on DALLAS four years ago and had her pose for pictures even as she begged to be released. (Come to think of it, a significant number of Soap Land’s most dangerously obsessive characters come from either a creative or media-related background: DALLAS’s Lucy and FLAMINGO ROAD’s Lute-Mae were both stalked and raped by photographers, KL’s Cathy was nearly murdered by her televangelist husband while Ciji was murdered by her publicist. On EMERALD POINT, Maud Adams was kidnapped by an obsessive novelist. As a publicist and a would-be novelist, Jeff Wainwright is doubly qualified.)

By chance, Roger Larsen pops up on this week's FALCON CREST as a one night stand of Jordan Roberts — or rather, her self-destructive alter-ego Monica. This time, with pleasing Soap Land karma, it is Roger who is held against his will as Monica follows in the tyre tracks of Lance Cumson, Miles Colby, Gary Ewing and Amanda Carrington to become the latest dangerous driver of the season. With Roger trapped helplessly in the passenger seat, she tears off at breakneck speed on a reckless drive through the California mountains. The sequence is very reminiscent of Miles and Fallon’s similar excursion on THE COLBYS earlier in the season, but with the genders reversed. It almost goes without saying that Jordan/Monica's car is another red-for-danger convertible, just as Lance’s, Miles’ and Gary’s were.

There are no less than four variations on "the wrong character in the wrong place at the wrong time” scenario in this week’s Soap Land. Two years ago, the season finales of KNOTS and DALLAS ended with Karen and Bobby both taking a bullet meant (or apparently meant, in Bobby’s case) for someone else. Likewise this week, Sable Colby and Chase Gioberti are each unintentionally gunned down during a showdown between two other parties — Jason and Zach on THE COLBYS; the police and Jeff Wainwright on FALCON CREST.

Both scenarios are familiar in different ways. Zach and Jason struggling over the same gun recalls Krystle and Claudia’s similar scene in DYNASTY Season 2 (even down to the enjoyably made-for-TV clumsiness of its staging), only this time the bystander becomes the victim rather than a witness. Meanwhile, the excitingly cinematic use of slow-motion during the FALCON CREST shoot-out recalls the climax of last season’s DALLAS finale when Katherine hit Bobby with her car (another variation on the “unintended victim” scenario). Only after Chase has been shot does the scene return to normal speed as Maggie crawls across the ground towards him and cradles his head in her arms in the same way Pam did Bobby's. She even says the same words — “Oh no!” — but this time in a whisper instead of a scream.

Speaking of FALCON CREST’s Maggie, last season ended with her caught in a bomb explosion intended for someone else. At the end of this season's DALLAS, Sue Ellen and Jamie are similarly innocent victims caught in explosions rigged by Angelica to kill JR and Jack. (Hence Bomb Guy’s fascination with Jack’s car.)

The traditional Soap Land cliffhanger is one where the drama steadily builds and builds, culminating in one event that somehow seems both shocking and inevitable — "Who shot JR?" being the classic example. This time around, however, both Ewing-verse finales deviate from this blueprint. Nothing that’s gone before prepares us in any way for what we’re presented with at the end of this season’s KNOTS and DALLAS. After remaining offscreen for the first two-thirds of this week's KNOTS, Karen finally appears, groggily regaining consciousness in a darkened room, her face and hands bruised. We have no idea where she is and from the expression on her face, nor does she. Then, just as the horror of what is happening begins to dawn on her, the scene is over. The effect is disorientating — it’s as if we’ve been sitting on the remote control without realising it and accidentally switched channels to some TV slasher movie starring Michele Lee.

We cut back to Karen a few more times during the remainder of the episode. As she starts to take in her surroundings, it gradually becomes apparent that she has joined DYNASTY’s Krystle, DALLAS’s Pam and most recently FALCON CREST’s Maggie to become the latest wholesome leading lady to be held hostage this season. (Interestingly, this season also began with several female characters — Alexis, Krystle, Sue Ellen, Melissa — being locked up against their will.) Karen is trapped in a basement even more ominous than the attic that contained Krystle. While Maggie makes her nerve-jangling escape in the final scene of this week’s FALCON CREST by stealing Jeff’s keys while he’s asleep and trying to unlock the door without waking him, Karen attempts to lever open a window using an iron bar. She does not see a man (represented on screen by an arm in the foreground of the shot) watching her. "I wouldn’t,” he warns. She turns and dashes past him up the basement steps, only to realise when she reaches the top that the door is locked. “You want out, Mrs. Mackenzie?” asks the unseen man and right there the season ends. At least when Krystle and Maggie were kidnapped, we knew beforehand who had taken them and why — here, we’re as much in the dark as Karen is.

There’s a similar “rug pulled out from under us” feeling at the end of DALLAS. Having remained offscreen since we watched him die a year earlier, Bobby Ewing is suddenly standing in Pam’s shower, smiling and telling her good morning. And just as there was no cutaway to the man speaking to Karen at the end of KNOTS, there is no reaction shot of Pam before the freeze frame, no clue as to how she, and therefore we, are meant to process this moment. As cliffhangers — and probably television moments in general — go, it simply has no precedent.

And this week’s Top 5 are:

5 (2) DALLAS
Last edited:

James from London

Telly Talk Winner
24 Sep 86: DYNASTY: The Victory v. 24/25 Sep 86: THE COLBYS: The Gathering Storm/No Exit v. 25 Sep 86: KNOTS LANDING: Reunion v. 26 Sep 86: DALLAS: Return to Camelot

“Do you believe what they say about dreams … that they only last for a split second? They have to last longer than that, don’t you think?” asked KNOTS LANDING’s Val a while ago. On the evidence of this week’s Soap Land, the answer would seem to be yes and no. THE COLBYS' Fallon has only been asleep for a short time when she is awakened from a nightmare by her husband Jeff. Meanwhile, on DALLAS, Pam awakens from a bad dream to find her future husband Bobby in the shower. Fallon describes her dream as "too awful, terrible” to talk about. Pam calls hers as “a terrible nightmare”, but is anxious to share it with Bobby: “I dreamed that you were here and you were leaving and Katherine was in her car and she was waiting and when we started to leave she tried to run me down, but you pushed me out of the way and she hit you … and then we took you to the hospital and you died … there was so much more, Bobby, it seemed so real.” “It’s over. None of that happened,” declares Bobby firmly. And so it is we learn a dream can last a lot longer than a split second — it can last thirty-one episodes.

Aside from the pop culture thrill of seeing an entire year’s worth of drama calmly swept aside in a few lines of dialogue, there’s also a real sweetness to this opening scene, as Pam (and we) slowly starts to accept that Bobby really is here and they really are back together. This is the happy ever after we were never meant to see.

“It was a bad dream, that’s all … You’re safe now,” Jeff tells Fallon after her nightmare. However, it is not always easy to draw a line between one's dreams and one’s waking life. (As Olivia Cunningham informed us on last season’s KNOTS, “Dreams are about anxieties.”) “It’s not yours, it’s not yours,” we heard Fallon murmur in her sleep — a manifestation of her fear that Miles might be the father of her unborn child. And just as we don’t always realise we’re dreaming ("It seemed so real,” Pam insists), it can even sometimes feel like we’re dreaming when we’re awake: “La Mirage, it’s gone … The place is a nightmare,” Blake tells Krystle on DYNASTY.

Previous end-of-season fires in Soap Land — the Southfork inferno at the end of DALLAS Season 5, the cabin fire at the end of DYNASTY Season 3 — have been pretty much over as soon as the next season begins. However, the blaze at La Mirage had barely gotten started at the end of last season’s DYNASTY and so is allowed to rage a while longer at the top of this week's opener — and very exciting it is too. As is traditional, it’s mainly the men who do the rescuing: Dex saves Dominique’s daughter Jackie and Amanda is rescued by a man who looks strangely familiar (which is more than can be said for Amanda herself who suddenly has a new face and accent) while Steven rushes around being generally heroic. Sammy Jo bucks the trend by helping boyfriend Clay Fallmont to safety. There’s more fire on THE COLBYS, where Monica is dragged from a burning plane by a kindly ranger, and on DALLAS where Bobby enlists the aid of renowned oil well firefighter Pinky Noonan (a fictional equivalent of the real-life Red Adair) to quell the flames of an explosion caused by an unknown saboteur at the Ewing 12 oilfield. Each of the fires in this week’s Soap Land looks pretty darn good, but DALLAS’s creates the most impressive spectacle.

In the second of this week’s double helping of THE COLBYS, Fallon finally lets Jeff in on her pregnancy secret but asks him not to tell Miles. "He doesn’t know he could be the father. I don’t want him to,” she explains. Nevertheless, Jeff can’t mask his antipathy towards his half-brother and there’s an exquisite Soap Land irony in seeing the sibling bond that took an entire season to forge torn apart after just a couple of episodes. Miles may not understand the reason behind Jeff’s sudden hostility, but reacts snidely after Jeff orders him to stay out of his marriage: “What’s the matter, Jeff — the ratings come in and I’m ahead?” There’s a sibling parallel on DALLAS where JR’s yearlong devotion to his dead brother’s memory is immediately jettisoned now Bobby’s back from the dead and re-engaged to Pam. Like Jeff, Bobby warns his brother to stay out of his marriage: “I’m bringing Pam back here to the ranch as my wife and the first time you step out of line with her, JR, Sue Ellen will be a very attractive widow.” JR’s contemptuous response — “You’re a whole lot dumber than I ever thought a brother of mine could be, with the exception of Ray and Gary, of course” — is a classic. God, it's good to see the Ewing boys at each other’s throats again. In fact, resetting the DALLAS clock back one year means that nearly all the show’s relationships are far more adversarial than they were even an episode ago: Ray and Donna go from being the smuggest couple in Soap Land to the most poignant, Cliff and Jamie stop fawning over each other and start sniping at one another amusingly, former allies JR and Jack are suddenly bitter adversaries, and the recently well-behaved Sue Ellen is back to swigging cocktails at lunch and making cynical wisecracks about everyone in sight. In each case, it’s a big dramatic improvement.

JR’s crack about Ray and Gary is the only acknowledgement on either Ewing-verse show of the other's existence. Now that DALLAS has wiped out a year but KNOTS hasn’t, the connection between the two shows' timelines is unclear. (As if fearing a similar schism in the DYNASTY-verse, Dominique Devereaux begins severing her ties with THE COLBYS — first breaking her engagement to Garrett, then selling off all her business holdings in California.)

Without hitting the reset button as blatantly as DALLAS does, there are some curious alterations to the KNOTS LANDING narrative. Having started back a week earlier than the other soaps with a double bill of episodes, we’re now three instalments into the new season and any direct reference to Empire Valley — the prized piece of land everyone’s been fighting over since the beginning of Season 6 — has been studiously avoided. Nor, if memory serves, will it be spoken of again for several years. Not even Peter Hollister and Jill Bennett, whose family vendetta back-story is entirely based around Empire Valley, have mentioned it. “None of that happened,” Bobby told Pam (and us) clearly at the beginning of DALLAS. There’s no such clarity on KNOTS where it’s unclear if anyone even remembers Empire Valley’s existence anymore (and if they don’t, should we?). With E***** V***** suddenly verboten, that also means no more talk of legacies and birthrights and the sins of the father being visited upon the son. The trade-off for this loss of soapy gravitas is an infusion of playfulness and pace into the characters and storylines. Just two weeks into the season, Gary is suddenly running against Peter Hollister for the state senate and things are as knotty as can be: Abby is married to one candidate while sleeping with the other and Peter’s secret sister is both his opponent’s campaign manager and his mistress. (In fact, the senatorial race has neatly replaced E***** V***** as Jill and Peter’s main source of contention.) Meanwhile, Greg, Abby and even Laura are busy manipulating the election from behind the scenes, and all eyes are on Ben Gibson (last year a mere station manager, now rebranded as a respected political pundit) to see which candidate he'll endorse: his wife’s ex-husband or the brother of the man whose organisation he is under orders to infiltrate.

This brings us to a twist almost as outrageous as turning Bobby Ewing’s death into a dream: giving Ben Gibson, one of Soap Land’s most soulful, thoughtful and believable characters, a terrorist back-story straight out of FALCON CREST. It’s a bizarre juxtaposition, but the tension created by placing such a three-dimensional character inside such a two-dimensional plot is precisely why I’ve always found this storyline so fascinating.

Throwing off the shackles of a year’s worth of storylines means that DALLAS feels similarly liberated. Running parallel to KNOTS’ senatorial story (the lightness of which is best illustrated by the sequence where Gary gets a fit of the giggles while trying to film a TV ad for his campaign), DALLAS has its own political plot which is similarly fun while also incorporating a wide range of characters. In order to combat OPEC’s stranglehold on the oil industry, Jamie comes up with the bright idea of lobbying Washington to place a tariff on all imported oil. Cliff chauvinistically passes off this idea as his own, winning the approval of the Dallas oil community in the process. JR, in turn, steals Cliff’s thunder by persuading Donna to head up the lobby, a decision which threatens to impact her already troubled marriage to Ray, who has developed a bond with Jenna following her split from Bobby, … and so on.

Following its bizarre yet sweet introductory scene, “Return to Camelot” is something of a slow burn ep compared to the other season premieres. Nonetheless, it has a power, a grandeur. The location scenes — a Fort Worth cattle auction, the anti-OPEC meeting at Energy Square — recall past DALLAS glories, while the familiar musical score takes the show back to its roots. Likewise, Bobby and Pam breaking the news of their engagement to their dismayed relatives recalls the aftermath of their elopement at the very beginning of the series. Ironically, while mocking his brother Steven’s idealism on last season’s DYNASTY, Adam Carrington referred to Camelot as a dream. According to the title of this week’s opener, DALLAS regards it as the exact opposite.

Yet DALLAS also feels more aware this season — both of its own history (JR and Cliff’s eye-rolling reactions to Bobby and Pam’s news, while perfectly in character, are laugh-out-loud funny in a way they couldn’t have been in 1978) and of the outside world. Given that “South East Asia” was as specific as the show got during its offshore drilling and counterrevolution storylines of Seasons 2 and 3, JR’s passing wisecrack — “Any chance that Iraq/Iran war’ll spread?” — is surprising, as much for its specificity as its irreverence. Similarly, given how culturally parochial the Ewings have always been, Bobby quoting Woody Allen feels strange — but not strange in the stilted way that Donna and Ellie rearranging the Southfork furniture did last season — just looser and more playful.

Another example of that playfulness is the new depiction of Sue Ellen. During what can now be referred to as "the dream season”, she solemnly underwent a lengthy process of recovery in order to get sober and “become my own person.” This culminated in her reconciling with JR once again, but on a far healthier and more mutually respectful basis than ever before. This week’s episode delights in throwing all of that of the window. Whereas JR stopped her in her tracks towards the end of last season with the simple statement, “There's a magic between us, Sue Ellen. I know that and so do you”, here it’s Sue Ellen who tells JR, “There’s something between us that I’ve never found with another man,” before getting him to admit he feels the same way about her. However, this time it is part of a mock seduction scene designed to humiliate JR. “Well, you’re never gonna have me!” she tells him. Forget rehab and AA and becoming your own person, “hating you the way I do’s enough to keep me sober.” Hallelujah.

Fallon Colby pulls off a Soap Land first this week, appearing in no less than three flashbacks — one on DYNASTY, two on THE COLBYS — each conjured by a different person. On DYNASTY, Amanda’s familiar looking rescuer turns out to be Michael Culhane, the Carrington chauffeur from Season 1. He helpfully jogs viewers’ memories by flashing back to a scene from his murky past where he attempted to extort money from Fallon over their affair. Over on THE COLBYS, Fallon herself flashes back to the night she was raped by Miles — another reminder to the audience of the pregnancy dilemma she now faces. Later, Miles also has a flashback of himself and Fallon, this time in more romantic circumstances. That it takes place while he is on a date with another woman serves to illustrate that he is still hung up on his ex.

Meanwhile, this season’s KNOTS introduces a new narrative convention: an ongoing series of flashbacks that tell the tale of Mack Mackenzie and Anne Matheson’s poor boy/rich girl romance back in 1967. As with DALLAS’s recent prequel “The Early Years", it’s not entirely clear whose memories these flashbacks are based upon. At times, it looks like Mack is thinking back. At others, Paige seems to be recounting the story as it was passed down to her by her late mother. And sometimes the story seems to be running independently of any one individual. Another parallel with “DALLAS — The Early Years”: just as Jock and Digger's friendship was forged while riding the rails back in the thirties so Mack and Anne’s courtship also begins on a train, on which he is a guard and she is a passenger.

In the flashback of the scene between Michael and Fallon on DYNASTY, Old Fallon is played by New Fallon. Meanwhile, in the flashback sequences on KNOTS, Anne is played by her (fictional) daughter Paige while the young Greg Sumner is played by his (real life) son. There’s more duplicate casting on DALLAS where Wes Parmalee is played by Ben Stivers.

I kind of love it when a brand new character shows up out of nowhere at the beginning of a season trailing an entirely new storyline behind them. On last week’s KNOTS’ opener, Ben received his summons from Jean Hackney, a mysterious redhead from his mysterious past. On this week’s COLBYS, Miles's eye is caught by an equally enigmatic redhead in a hotel bar, Channing Carter. What appears to be a chance encounter turns out to be no such thing when we later see Channing in her hotel room, looking through files she has prepared on each of the Colbys. “Nice to meet you too, Mr Miles Colby,” she says to an empty room. Likewise, Michael Culhane rescuing Amanda from the fire on DYNASTY isn’t as accidental as it first seems. “I got to Blake Carrington finally — through his daughter”, he informs someone over the phone. Whereas Blake isn’t pleased to be reunited with his former chauffeur, aka "the most arrogant opportunist that I'd ever come across,” Greg Sumner’s all smiles when "a guy I went to law school with”, Phil Harbert, shows up unexpectedly at his office at the end of this week’s KNOTS. The big reveal comes in the final shot of the ep when we realise that Greg’s old buddy and Karen’s kidnapper are one and the same.

Channing Carter, Jean Hackney, Michael Culhane, Phil Harbert … there is no shortage of new faces with secret agendas. And there are a couple of familiar ones as well. FLAMINGO ROAD’s Claude Weldon shows up on THE COLBYS as powerful publisher Lucas Carter, uncle of the aforementioned Channing. Whatever she’s up to, he’s in on it too. “How you doing with the Colbys, making any progress?” he asks after she returns from a date with Miles. Meanwhile, Ben Stivers, aka Wes Parmalee, has somehow crossed the divide that separates Pam’s dream from the “real” DALLAS world. Again, he takes a job at Southfork. Again, he strikes up a bond with Ray. Again, he appears to have a strange affinity with the ranch. But he too has a secret. In place of the Colby dossiers Channing Carter keeps in her hotel room, he has a snapshot of the young Miss Ellie hidden in the bunkhouse. (In the photo, Miss Ellie is represented by a young Barbara Bel Geddes rather than the version of the character we saw in “The Early Years”.)

Last season’s DYNASTY-verse ended with Alexis evicting her ex-husband Blake from his family home and Sable Colby falsely accusing her estranged husband Jason of trying to kill her. In this season’s openers, we get to see the reactions of their respective children. Blonde bimbettes Amanda and Bliss respond almost identically to their mothers’ behaviour. “How could you do something so horrible?” demands Amanda of Alexis. “Did you really expect me to believe that Daddy did these terrible things?” Bliss asks Sable. Both mothers attempt to justify their behaviour, but neither daughter is buying it. "I think your motive is hatred for my father rather than love for me,” Amanda insists. "I don’t think Daddy did anything. I think you’re doing this to hurt him,” accuses Bliss. Alexis and Sable’s golden-haired sons, while no less disapproving of their mothers’ actions, at least try to reason with them. "Mother, I know how much love you’re capable of,” Steven tells Alexis gently, "but somebody has … to get you to understand that what you’re doing is wrong.” “I’m not judging you, Mother,” Miles tells Sable with equal tact, “but you can’t force him [Jason] to stay with you anymore than I could force Fallon to stay with me … You know it can’t work … Let him go.”

Miles eventually manages to get through to Sable and midway through the second of this week’s episodes, she withdraws her allegation against Jason — inevitable, perhaps, yet every dramatic beat the story takes along the way feels believable and satisfying. Zach Powers' refusal to back up Sable's story — even after she goes to bed with him — is particularly great: “My adorable Sabella, do you really think I don’t know what this is all about? You’re trying to hold onto Jason, get him to drop the divorce … I’m not going to help you hang onto him.”

Alexis, meanwhile, carries on regardless. At the end of this week’s DYNASTY, she takes over as editor of the Denver Mirror. Her dismissive attitude towards the paper’s editorial style recalls Richard Channing’s when he took control of the New Globe on FALCON CREST four years ago. "This paper’s in the nineteenth century. It reads like the Farmer’s Almanac,” Richard complained then. “So dull even fish wouldn't want to be wrapped in it,” is Alexis’s verdict now. Just like Richard, Alexis’s first order of business is to employ sensationalist reportage to wage war against a member of her own family. “Blake Carrington Accused of Arson-Murder in Hotel Fire: 'You Killed My Wife!' Cries Grieving Husband” is her first headline.

On three of this week's soaps, there is a situation where a husband is involved in an extra-marital relationship which his wife knows all about. On THE COLBYS and DALLAS, Sable and Sue Ellen do nothing to hide their contempt for their husbands’ mistresses. “I must say, husband-stealing agrees with you, darling. You are a walking ad for adultery,” purrs Sable after seeing her sister Frankie with Jason the morning after their first night back together. “Don’t tell me JR let you out of bed long enough to have lunch?” Sue Ellen asks Mandy, aka “the Winger tramp”, after running into her at a Dallas restaurant. By contrast, Abby Ewing and Jill Bennett conceal their mutual dislike behind their roles of political wife and campaign manager and are all smiles when they meet at a function where Gary is giving a speech. Behind the scenes, Abby covertly hands Peter Hollister inside information on Gary’s campaign and Sue Ellen gives an unnamed man pictures of JR and Mandy with instructions to do … something to them. “I’ve done some strange things, but I’ve never done anything like this,” he replies enigmatically.

With Alexis now installed in the Carrington mansion and Jason trying to get Sable out of the Colby one, each has an interesting speech about the memories their respective house, specifically the main bedroom, holds for them. Alexis admits to being overwhelmed to be standing in her former marital bedroom at the mansion. “Do you know, it was just twenty years ago that Blake threw me out of this house, out of this room?” she asks Ben. “I love this house,” Jason tells Frankie. "My mother died in that same room. I held her and said goodbye. I will not have those memories spoiled by lies and deceit."

In the original feature-length edit of “Return to Camelot” (which differs from the two-episode version on the DVD), there is a discussion between Sue Ellen, Donna and Miss Ellie in which Sue Ellen declares that “any woman who builds her life around her husband is heading for disaster, and if you want a shining example of that, just look at me.” Or, alternatively, one could look at Sable Colby. Indeed, now that Sue Ellen has been restored to her former dysfunctional glory, it’s interesting how often her situation dovetails with Sable’s. “How can you stand to be with a man who no longer wants you?” Mandy asks her, but it could be just as easily be Frankie asking Sable. “She’s not going to be easy to get off Southfork, JR,” Mandy predicts in the final scene of this week’s DALLAS. Meanwhile, in the final scene of this week's COLBYS, Sable proves impossible to get out of the mansion.

And it’s not as if she doesn’t try. “I wouldn’t spend another night under this roof if you begged me!” she snarls at Jason. Having packed her bags, she even manages to descend the staircase without falling down it. “It’s all yours — lock, stock and baccarat,” she tells Frankie as she heads for the front door, but as soon as she gets there, it’s as if a psychic forcefield has descended. She stops, then sways, then collapses into Jason’s arms in a dead faint. Like FALCON CREST’s Julia at the end of “Tony Comes Home” or one of the characters in Luis Buñuel's THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL, she literally can't leave the house: she is both physically and psychologically trapped. The frame freezes on Frankie's reaction as Jason carries Sable back upstairs, but the real cliffhanger here is: how many more weeks can THE COLBYS keep stringing out this storyline?

If Sue Ellen won’t leave and Sable can’t, others can and do, albeit somewhat reluctantly. As well as Blake and Krystle moving out of the Carrington mansion and into the Carlton Hotel, Val and JR find Laura and Jenna preparing to move off Seaview Circle and Southfork Ranch respectively. (Laura carefully loading an oil painting into the trunk of her car recalls an amusing exchange between Krystle and Alexis where they discuss who owns what in the Carrington mansion. Alexis dismisses “the two oils in the West gallery” as “dreadful calendar art.” “Yes, the Monet and the Turner — pretty expensive calendar art,” counters Krystle.) While the KNOTS gals reflect ruefully at their lives have turned out (“Who would have ever thought things would end up like they did — you know, with you married to Greg and me married to Ben?” sighs Val. “And Gary married to — what’s that broad’s name?” Laura replies), JR is more concerned about the future ("You’re the one Bobby should be marrying,” he tells Jenna. "There’s always hope.”) Whereas Laura’s mood is bittersweet (“I’m really gonna miss this place. A lot of memories here, you know? Of course some of them aren’t so great, are they?”), Jenna is just bitter: “You can’t live on hope, JR. I tried it once. It doesn’t work.”

And this week’s Top 4 is … very close — this is the strongest week in ages:

1 (-) DALLAS
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James from London

Telly Talk Winner
01 Oct 86: DYNASTY: Sideswiped v. 02 Oct 86: THE COLBYS: Jason’s Choice v. 02 Oct 86 KNOTS LANDING: Past Tense v. 03 Oct 86: DALLAS: Pari Per Sue v. 03 Oct 86: FALCON CREST: Aftershocks

A week after the revelation that Pam Ewing dreamt an entire season of DALLAS, three more characters — Blake Carrington, Sable Colby and Maggie Gioberti — have vivid nightmares of their own. They share a common theme, that of an outsider invading the family home and usurping one of its members. “I dreamt that I was back at the old house and I was walking through the halls looking for you and every time I opened a door, Alexis would be there — laughing, mocking me,” Blake tells Krystle. Sable’s dream, which plays out onscreen, is very similar. She too returns to the family home where she finds Frankie’s portrait hanging where her own used to. Like Blake, she runs through the hallways, eventually opening a door to find her equivalent of Alexis — Frankie — in the arms of her own husband. “Get her out of here, sweetheart,” Frankie tells Jason, as the necklace Sable was wearing suddenly appears around her neck. Jason also tells Sable to go. “This is my house, MY house,” protests Sable as she wakes up. Maggie’s nightmare on FALCON CREST deals with a similar kind of domestic violation, but this time it’s Jeff Wainwright who is taking her away from her husband and son.

Whereas Sable’s nightmare resembles a dream sequence from a Hitchcock movie (oblique camera angles, a theremin on the soundtrack and a scene-stealing turn from Enid the maid as Mrs Danvers from REBECCA), Maggie’s is in the style of a mid-eighties soft rock video (lots of dry ice, cross-fades and echoey voices, all set in an abstract no man’s land). This contemporary approach is in keeping with the synthesised musical score favoured by both FALCON CREST and KNOTS LANDING this season. Whereas the orchestral accompaniments still used by the other soaps hearken back to the melodramatic "women’s pictures" of the 1940s and ‘50s (and/or the western genre in the case of DALLAS), FC’s and KL’s new scores scream 1986. Instead of emphasising the emotional nature of a scene in the traditional Hollywood way, they lend an oddly clinical, detached quality. I suspect this is one of the reasons I find the scenes depicting Karen’s kidnapping ordeal on KNOTS strangely uninvolving.

The theme of an angry and powerless “little man” lashing out at the rich and powerful recurs in three of this week’s soaps. On DYNASTY, a man named Thorpe blames Blake for the death of his wife in the La Mirage fire. On KNOTS, a schlub called Phil Harbert blames Mack for the loss of his wife after Mack refused to perjure himself on Phil's behalf years before. We have yet to learn the identity of the Ewing oilfield saboteur on DALLAS, but his motivation is explained to Bobby by another character (played by one of my favourite Soap Land character actors, Vernon Tuttle): “When you got no job to go to, when you got no pay cheque to bring home to your kids, that’s when you start to feel it — like whoever it was that set fire to your Navarro field … Whoever did that was hurting so bad, he just had to let that hurt out the best way he could.”

While KNOTS LANDING’s flashbacks to 1967 continue, giving us the background to Phil’s grudge against Mack, DYNASTY flashes back to a year or so earlier and the source of Alexis's vendetta against Blake — him ordering her to leave their house after finding her in bed with Roger Grimes. It’s Alexis who relives that fateful night, and it’s curious that even though she has achieved her objective of becoming Mistress of the mansion, instead of revelling in her new position, she seems more haunted by the past than ever. So if evicting Blake from his house hasn't provided her with the catharsis or sense of closure she was looking for, what will? Driving him out of Denver as he did her seems to be the answer. It’s noticeable that Denver itself becomes more of a presence in Alexis’s dialogue this week than it has been previously. In her new role of publisher of the Denver Mirror she describes herself as "the city's conscience”, and while we’ve heard her recount the story of how Blake banished her from her children and from Denver numerous times, we’ve never heard her phrase it quite this way before: "You humiliated me in front of my children, in front of this whole city.” (Meanwhile on THE COLBYS, Sable describes her present situation in similar terms: “I can’t very well stay in this town, not with everybody laughing behind my back.”)

"This time tomorrow I will own Denver Carrington,” Alexis tells her ex-husband. "There’ll be no reason for you to stay in Denver anymore so why don’t you save yourselves a lot of misery and leave now?” Blake’s response to this suggestion is as predictable as JR’s when Jeremy Wendell offers to buy his company on this week’s DALLAS: “I’m not gonna sell Ewing Oil to you and you know it.” “You’re never gonna drive me out of this city,” Blake tells Alexis. While Jeremy merely smiles enigmatically in response, Alexis resorts to blackmail: “You sent me into exile once, Blake. Well, now I’m doing the same to you, or else I’ll see to it that you spend the rest of your life behind bars for starting that fire."

We’ve already had Phil Harbert, Michael Culhane, Channing Carter and Jean Hackney appear out of nowhere this season and now FALCON CREST makes the boldest introduction of a Soap Land character yet. Twelve minutes into the season premiere, the action moves away from the aftermath of last season’s earthquake to a restaurant in New York where a group of people we’ve never seen before are having drinks. A news report about the quake playing in the background is the scene's only link to what has gone before. Following some inconsequential chit chat, a man abruptly guns everyone down in slow motion — everyone, that is, but for a glamorous looking middle-aged woman (played by Kim Novak, replacing THE COLBYS' Barbara Stanwyck as this season’s big name Hollywood actress). This is followed by a scene where the same woman is seen sleeping in her car with a gun for protection. Then we’re returned to the Tuscany Valley and FALCON CREST as we know it. If the effect of Karen’s out of nowhere hostage scenes at the end of last season’s KNOTS gave one the disorientating sensation of having accidentally switched channels, then the sudden imposition of this unrelated storyline and its unknown characters makes it seem as if FALCON CREST were being taken over by an entirely different programme — let’s call it “The Perils of Kim Novak" — in front of our very eyes.

Later in the ep, when Peter Stavros casually refers to an estranged step-daughter named Skylar whom we have never previously heard of, the rules of television grammar lead us to assume that Kim Novak’s character and Skylar must be one and the same. The show cleverly subverts this expectation, however. It transpires that Kim Novak isn’t Skylar at all, but Skylar's friend with whom she seeks refuge in Palm Beach when she realises "the mob” are after her. (Presumably, this is the same “the mob” Phil Harbert got himself involved with during KNOTS’ 1967 flashbacks.)

Trend of the week: Characters hurriedly noting down a licence plate as a car drives away, with dangerous consequences. On DYNASTY, we see Thorpe hiding in the Denver Carrington car park and surreptitiously writing down Blake’s registration number as his chauffeur drives off. Over on KNOTS, Greg notes down Phil Harbert’s licence plate after figuring out that he is behind Karen’s disappearance. At the end of their respective episodes, an angry Thorpe and a panicked Phil resort to homicidal measures. Thorpe runs Blake’s car off the road, rendering Krystle unconscious in time for the freeze frame, while Phil burns down his house with Karen trapped inside. Meanwhile on FALCON CREST, Kim Novak, hiding out at Skylar’s apartment, gives Skylar her car registration slip and asks her to sell the vehicle on her behalf. This leads to a case of mistaken identity when Skylar gets into the car and the bad guys blow it up. The shot of the car bursting into flames echoes both Gustav Reibman’s similarly fiery demise in FALCON CREST’s fourth season opener and the end of last season’s DALLAS when Jamie Ewing was also the unintended victim of an explosive-rigged vehicle. Just as there was a striking shot of Jack Ewing’s horrified face set against the flames so there is an almost identical one of Kim Novak’s shocked reaction. In each of these storylines, the primary casualty — Krystle, Karen, Skylar — is yet another innocent female in the wrong place at the wrong time, caught in the crossfire of a battle she knows next to nothing about.

With so much else going on on DYNASTY, Alexis taking control of Denver-Carrington (again) is almost glossed over. Unusually, this plot is advanced on the following night’s COLBYS when Dominique informs Jason that Ben is now running the company on Alexis’s behalf and that it has been renamed Denver Colby. In an attempt to persuade Jason not to continue the business dealings with Ben and Alexis that he started with Blake, Dominique does my job for me by making a direct parallel between Blake’s situation with Alexis and Jason’s with Sable. “He’s a good man,” she says of Blake. "He’s fighting a bitter vindictive woman. I’m surprised you can’t identify with that, Jason."

Nor is that the only point of identification between the two DYNASTY-verse shows this week. Just as Steven Carrington resigns from Colby Co in protest at Alexis taking over Blake's company so Monica does the same thing when she learns that Dominique has sold Titania Records to Zach Powers. The most unexpected takeover of the week, however, occurs on DALLAS. Inspired by JR’s prudish response to an unsolicited lingerie catalogue she receives in the mail (an echo of his angry reaction when she returned home with a skimpy nightie way back in the original mini-series), Sue Ellen purchases Valentine Lingerie for $50,000.

Curiously, this is the second instance in this season’s Ewing-verse of a lingerie-related storyline arriving in the mail. During the KNOTS opener, Jean Hackney's invitation to Ben, scrawled on the back of another lingerie ad, showed up in the Gibson mailbox. But where Jean’s lingerie business is a front for what she’s really up to, Sue Ellen wants her acquisition kept secret and so keeps the store’s former owner, Ozwald Valentine, on as her front man. (A sweaty little fat man, Ozwald's kind of the comedic equivalent of KNOTS LANDING’s Phil — and the chemistry between him and Sue Ellen is instant.) God alone knows where this storyline is headed — a lighthearted plot about an underwear shop is certainly new territory for DALLAS. There’s a similar unpredictability about JR’s preoccupation with the oil fields in Saudi Arabia. He's gone from joking about solving the Texas oil crisis by blowing them up to appearing to seriously contemplate the idea. Even he wouldn’t go that far … would he?

DALLAS does a fascinating job of placing the current oil slump in a larger context — from those references to the Saudi Arabians ("damn tent-dwellers," as JR refers to them) to Jeremy Wendell sounding the death knell for the independent oil industry ("it’s like a tree dying”) to Bobby's visit to Pride, a once thriving oil community (and, according to DALLAS: "The Early Years", the place where the Ewing brothers and Digger first struck oil) now on its way to becoming a ghost town.

FALCON CREST is similarly effective in conveying the wider impact of the earthquake on the Tuscany Valley. Just as last week’s DYNASTY made good use of its extras in showing the scale and urgency of the fire at La Mirage, so prolonged scenes of casualties lining the streets on stretchers and taking refuge in Father Bob’s church make us aware that it isn’t just the glamorous people in FC's opening credits who have been affected by this disaster. And while Angela addressing an ailing extra as “darling" and giving her her jacket might be viewed as grossly out of character (we’re certainly a long way from the coldly imperious matriarch of the show’s early years), it can also be read as an indication of the extraordinary situation in which the town now finds itself.

Both Adam Carrington and Ray Krebbs return to the familiar theme of their outsider status on their respective shows this week. “He wouldn’t listen,” says Adam of Blake, explaining to Alexis why he has quit working for him. "It was like that time I came down from Montana and went to see him, told him I was his son. He wouldn’t listen to me then either. Only you believed me. You were the only one who stood by me … and said, 'Yes, Adam, you are my son.’” “I never felt too comfortable up there at the big house,” Ray tells Wes Parmalee, explaining why he has moved off Southfork and onto his own spread. "I always figured that was theirs. When it came to business, they’re the ones that followed in Jock’s footsteps … When Jock died, I guess I felt more like an outsider again.” While Alexis responds to Adam by giving him a job as director of her legal affairs, Wes responds to Ray by insisting, “I’ll bet your daddy was just as proud of you as he ever was of them.” It’s an odd thing for a virtual stranger to say, but also quite touching. And it seems to embolden Ray to stand up to Donna during a small but beautifully acted, terribly sad encounter that’s right up there with KNOTS LANDING’s finest scenes from a marriage: “All those years, you made me feel like if I could only get myself together, if only I could make something out of myself, then maybe you could be proud of me ... I realise now that you need your freedom and I’d be willing to give it to you, but I need something too. I need someone to be there for me. You’re no longer gonna be that person.”

Meanwhile on THE COLBYS, Jason and Sable strike a rather unusual (if not downright insane) bargain regarding their own marriage. He’ll let her stay on in the mansion, even after he’s married her sister. "We’ll live here too, of course,” he clarifies. "There is a price. I want our divorce to be uncontested. It should be now, right here in California.” There’s a similarly logic-defying moment on DALLAS when Pam casually mentions that she and Bobby will be living at Southfork after they remarry. While JR tactfully points out the practical disadvantages of her decision (“You won’t have the room here you have at your own place”), Frankie hits the roof at the prospect of living with her husband's ex-wife and offers him an end of episode ultimatum: “Dammit, Jason. You can’t have it both ways. You’ve gotta choose!”

Last week, Michael the chauffeur returned to DYNASTY after an absence of five years. This week, Vicky Gioberti does the same thing on FALCON CREST after an absence of three. The last time we saw Vicky was in her father’s hospital room where he was recovering from a gunshot wound sustained at the end of the previous season. Rather neatly, Vicky’s first reappearance also takes place in her father’s hospital room … where he is recovering from a gunshot wound sustained at the end of the previous season. That’s where the similarity ends, however — just as like Amanda on DYNASTY, Vicky has a new head. But whereas the aloof, aristocratic Amanda has been transformed into a much more amiable, girl-next-door version of the character, Vicky’s metamorphosis has gone in the opposite direction. The original freckle-faced Vicky, who looked a bit like someone we'd all gone to school with, has now been replaced with a far more glamorous, sophisticated model. (Meanwhile, KNOTS sneaks in its own recast as the Notorious BAG makes a silent, under-the-radar debut as a new version of Abby’s twelve-year-old son Brian.)

Last season’s Soap Land cliffhangers claimed two significant fatalities — DYNASTY’s Claudia, who died in the fire at La Mirage, and FALCON CREST’s Terry, killed in the Tuscany Valley earthquake. Fragile Claudia and bitchy Terry didn’t have much in common when they were alive, although each did marry her brother-in-law last season with a view to upping her status. (Whereas Claudia sought to become independently wealthy of the Carringtons, Terry was after respect within the Tuscany community). While Adam was shown frantically searching for Claudia during the fire in last week’s DYNASTY, Richard discovers Terry’s body almost by chance in the aftermath of the quake in this week’s FALCON CREST.

Blake was arguing with a member of the press when Adam arrived at his office with the bad news: "Claudia’s dead. I’ve just come from the morgue.” Maggie is similarly preoccupied with Chase’s condition when Richard arrives at the hospital to tell her what’s happened to Terry. However, Richard doesn’t need to say anything for Maggie to realise the truth. The onscreen response to both deaths is somewhat truncated — Claudia simply hasn’t been mentioned since Adam and Blake’s conversation (although I swear I could sense her unacknowledged presence hovering over Adam's short-lived reconciliation with Steven this week) while Maggie goes through at least three of the seven stages of grief in the space of twenty seconds — first shock (“Oh, Richard!”), then denial (“No, no, no!”) and then acceptance (falling into Richard’s arms). Despite the odds, it’s a really touching scene.

Whereas Claudia didn’t have a funeral (“No funeral — celebrate my life, don’t mourn my death,” she apparently told Adam), Terry’s takes place towards the end of this week’s FC. The ceremony is interrupted when Richard is arrested for Chase’s shooting. This feels like a natural end to the episode (just as Miles being arrested for murder at Jeff and Fallon’s wedding was on last season’s COLBYS), but instead we return to “The Perils of Kim Novak” where the explosion is followed by Novak’s character altering her appearance to resemble Skylar's and then calling Falcon Crest ...

And this week’s Top 5 is ...

1 (1) DALLAS

James from London

Telly Talk Winner
09 Oct 86: KNOTS LANDING: Slow Burn v. 10 Oct 86: DALLAS: Once and Future King v. 10 Oct 86: FALCON CREST: Living Nightmare

La Mirage, Monica Colby’s plane, the Ewing 12 oilfield, Kim Novak’s car — three weeks into the new Soap Land season and all four have gone up in flames. Following the cliffhanger at the end of last week’s KNOTS, it’s now time for Phil Harbert’s house to burn. Karen's trapped inside, but after much gasping, coughing and plucky resourcefulness, she escapes. No sooner is she out of the fire than she's into a prolonged chase sequence which is when the action really takes off. Along the way, several horror/thriller movies are referenced. The ones I caught were THE HITCHER (a relieved Karen flagging down a car only to realise the driver is the man she’s been trying to escape from), DELIVERANCE (Phil stalking Karen through the woods), EXTREMITIES (abused woman overpowering her attacker via the judicious use of domestic cleaning products) and THE SHINING (madman chopping down a door with an axe). In his pursuit of Karen, Phil exhibits a clumsy relentlessness that evokes both Frankenstein’s monster and one of the creatures from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.

Following the departure of KNOTS LANDING’s Cathy at the end of last season and the demise of FALCON CREST’s Terry at the start of this one, DALLAS’s Jenna Wade is now the last of the four Soap Land working girls who arrived at the start of the 83/84 season. (The other was DYNASTY’s Tracy Kendall.) After residing at Southfork for the past two years as an honorary Ewing, she’s back to living something approximating an ordinary life after being jilted by Bobby. As if to emphasise her change in circumstances, she and Charlie are renting an old house far more ramshackle than the modern-looking condo she was somehow able to afford as a waitress back in ‘83. This week, a conciliatory Pam drops by to find her cleaning windows in a headscarf (while, admittedly, still looking great). “I just thought one of us should make the first move. We’re bound to run into each other sooner or later,” Pam explains. "Oh, I don’t think we’ll be travelling around the same social circles from now on,” Jenna replies bitterly. Charlie shows up at the end of the scene to scowl at Pam. It's a look every bit as dirty as the one Olivia gives Jill Bennett on this week’s KNOTS. The formerly squeaky-clean Charlie pulls ahead of Olivia in the teen rebel stakes by taking off on the back of a bad boy’s motorbike without her mom’s permission. Whether she’ll turn out to be as big a screw-up as FALCON CREST’s Vicky remains to be seen, however. “I have made such a mess of my life,” Vicky confesses to her family this week. "Two marriages, two divorces, more lies than I can count.” Vicky’s former KL counterpart, Diana Fairgate, who likewise left California for an artistic career in New York, makes an offscreen “reappearance" this week — she's on the other end of the phone with Eric and Michael when Karen (thanks to the timely but discreet intervention of Greg Sumner) finally makes it home from her kidnapping ordeal.

Olivia’s hostility towards Jill on KNOTS is prompted by a gossip item, fed to the media by the Sumner/Hollister camp, about Gary’s affair with Jill. Abby orders Peter to kill the story. “What if I don’t?” he asks. “Well, then we’ll have another nasty scandal on our hands, won’t we?” she replies, conjuring up a series of imaginary headlines: "‘Candidate Peter Hollister a Fraud. Galveston Paternity Disproved. Sumner Vows Prosecution’.” Subsequently, when the subject of the affair is raised during a live TV debate between the candidates, Peter insists it should be dropped in favour of issues more relevant to the voters. Greg isn’t happy, but Peter points out the positive impact on his own campaign: “My statement is being applauded everywhere. I bet it winds up helping me a lot more than Ewing.” “But you’re not smart enough to have anticipated that,” counters Greg, guessing correctly that Abby was the one pulling the strings. For her own part, Abby points out the irony at the heart of her husband’s political success: “Nobody expected Gary to make a race out of this campaign, least of all Gary … and now, all of a sudden, just because he doesn’t give a damn whether he wins or not, he seems fresh and honest."

Much of the enjoyment in Soap Land's political campaign stories — going all the way back to Cliff Barnes running for “Election” during DALLAS's first season — is the characters’ cynical attitude towards the voting public (that’s us, folks) in terms of how susceptible we are, how easily our opinions can be swayed. But whereas the likes of Abby and Greg manipulating public opinion is nothing new, it’s Sue Ellen Ewing who really surprises when she displays a media savvy previously unsuspected in this week’s DALLAS.

“I want a campaign that puts Valentine Lingerie right into the laps of the respectable,” she declares during a meeting with her advertising expert. To that end, she explains, she wants a specific kind of model to front the campaign. It takes the ad guy a little while to grasp the concept of the Valentine Girl, however. “By day, she’s an executive, a modern woman on the go, and by night, men are her slaves,” is his interpretation. Sue Ellen’s eye-rolling response to this is fascinating. After all, the '80s cliché of the sexually voracious ball-busting businesswoman is one that has has been popularised, in large part, by the Soap Land genre itself. DALLAS started the ball rolling with Sally Bullock, Leslie Stewart and Marilee Stone before DYNASTY and KNOTS LANDING took it to greater heights with Alexis Colby and Abby Ewing. These women spawned both imitators — PAPER DOLLS’ Racine and FALCON CREST’s Cassandra Wilder — and wannabes, as everyone from Laura Avery to the recently deceased Claudia Blaisdel Carrington and Terry Hartford Channing demanded their “piece of the pie” as if it were a basic human right. Ironically, it’s through this storyline that Sue Ellen herself will be reinvented as a variation of the exact archetype she so readily dismisses. In spite of her protestations — “Please, spare me ‘Today’s modern woman on the go’!” — a modern woman on the go is precisely what she is about to become.

For now, however, she makes it clear that “I am selling sex … The Valentine Girl — and let’s call her that — the Valentine Girl should exude sex. The suggestion should be that she is in every way available … a sex symbol, a sex object. The look should say, ‘That’s what she’s there for, that’s what she’s good for.’” Placed in a real world context, Sue Ellen’s words — “she is in every way available … a sex object … that’s what she’s there for, that’s what she’s good for” — are breathtakingly misogynistic. Within the world of Soap Land, however, her lack of hypocrisy feels bracing, even exciting. Here is a former beauty queen and trophy wife dismissing the feminist fantasy Soap Land has been paying lip service to (i.e., “today’s modern woman on the go”) in order to expose — and exploit — the sexist reality underneath. “Chauvinistic for the eighties,” nods the PR guy, beginning to get the idea. Indeed, the phrase “chauvinistic for the eighties” might apply to Soap Land’s depiction of women in general. For all Alexis Colby’s rhetoric about being a pioneering female role model in a man’s world, she is fundamentally depicted as an irrational woman scorned. As Sue Ellen says, “some things never change.”

I also love Sue Ellen’s “Trash with Class” slogan. To me, that feels like a pretty fair summation of the entire Soap Land genre.

This season of DALLAS was always a favourite of mine, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it and I was a little concerned it might not live up to my memories. So far so good, however. This episode is crammed full of scenes that give me the same frisson today as they did when I first saw them. Ray, in particular, has some great moments. He and Bobby haven’t exchanged a harsh word since the aftermath of Jock’s death almost five years earlier and so it's fascinating to see him bristle when his younger brother somewhat tactlessly asks him to “look in on [Jenna], make sure she has whatever she needs … whatever the expense, just let me know.” It’s been an even longer period of time (about eight years) since Ray last recalled his pre-series relationship with Pam, but this week, he does. “You wanna hear something funny?” he asks Jenna wryly during a bittersweet late night conversation. “Way back, once upon a time, Pam was my girl. I lost her to Bobby. I guess all God’s children got something in common, huh?” (There’s a very different, but also satisfying call-back on this week’s FALCON CREST. “You are the bastard son of my late husband,” Angela reminds Richard. "I always wondered how much you had to do with that — driving him into the arms of another woman,” Richard replies. Ouch.) Ray also delivers a wonderfully poetic line to his wife as she heads off to Washington to do battle on behalf of the Texas oil community: “Donna, oil goes up and oil goes down and the world goes round and round, but all that really matters is that little baby that you’re carrying."

Then there’s the excellently KNOTSian scene where Mrs Scotfield, the wife of the man who set fire to the Ewing oilfield (played by Karen Carlson, as pregnant here as she was as Roy Champion’s ex-wife on THE YELLOW ROSE), pays a visit to Bobby (and Pam) at Ewing Oil and pleads with him to visit her husband in prison. She explains that he is full of remorse for his actions, that he even surrendered to the police. “He couldn’t bear that he had done that,” she tells them. "That’s why he turned himself in … He was crying. I’d never seen him cry before.” By way of contrast, KNOTS LANDING's equivalent "angry little man”, Phil Harbert, refuses to take responsibility for his crimes, even when caught axe-in-hand by Greg. “It’s not what you think,” he insists. “She’s the one that’s crazy … it wasn’t my fault … it was an accident.” “… You’re the one that’s the accident, Phil,” Greg replies in that laconic way of his. "You burn a house to the ground and you leave your car on the highway in plain sight? … That’s always been your problem, Phil — no master-plan. You were never able to think things through … I guess you’re just an East Coast guy, huh? Lots of cloudy days.” Rather than alert the authorities, he suggests Phil "head back east and set up shop there … because I don’t ever wanna to see you again, Phil. I even don’t wanna hear from you. I don’t even wanna to know you exist."

Bobby doesn’t want to see Mark Scotfield either. “It’s a criminal matter now,” he tells Mrs Scotfield coldly. “I guess you haven’t been laid off in quite a while,” she snaps back. "I guess all your bills are just paid ahead.” “Mrs Scotfield, you’re out of line!” scolds Pam, but in fact this episode of DALLAS is littered with casual, unthinking references made by the Ewings to their own wealth that stand in stark contrast to the Scotfields' tale of hardship ("The bank sent us a letter. They were gonna take our mobile home back. We just got it.”) “Money is no object,” Sue Ellen assures the advertising exec regarding the Valentine campaign. “I'll write a cheque for the whole damn thing if I have to,” boasts Bobby at a meeting of the anti-OPEC lobby. JR doesn't bat an eyelid when his ex-CIA contact tells him he’s "gonna have to have a lot of cash ready at a moment’s notice” if he decides to go ahead with his mysterious plans for the Arabs' oil supply. We later see him casually buy himself what Mandy describes as "the most beautiful car I've ever seen.” Meanwhile, Pam consoles herself over her unfortunate encounter with Jenna by also going on a shopping spree and Jack is decidedly unimpressed when Cliff makes him a gift of $50,000 ("Is it a cheque with my name on it supposed to make me turn into jelly? Come on, I’m not that big of hick!”). To quote Kim Novak’s character in another context on this week’s FALCON CREST: “Isn’t it almost immoral to be that rich?” In fact, the only major DALLAS character who doesn't appear to take his wealth for granted is Cliff ("When I was poor, when I was out there grubbing around, I took a lot of guff from a lot of people, but not today — people smile, they tip their hats”) and he is depicted as a penny-pincher instead.

Bobby is unusually tough and unyielding in his scene with Mrs Scotfield. This interesting, three-dimensional interpretation of the character is more in keeping with how he is portrayed in New DALLAS than in the original series. Pam’s involvement in the situation puts her in an unusual position too, that of appealing to Bobby's conscience, Karen Mackenzie-style. “You can’t just disregard that woman,” she tells him. "Maybe I’m just being female and sentimental, call it whatever you want — just talk to the man."

The leads to a later scene where Bobby has to tell Mrs Scotfield that her husband has committed suicide. This is the third scene as many weeks where a Soap Land character has broken the news of someone’s death. First Adam told Blake about Claudia on DYNASTY and then Richard told Maggie about Terry on FALCON CREST. Remarkably, given that Claudia and Terry were long term characters and Mark Scotfield never even appeared onscreen, the DALLAS scene is by far the more emotionally powerful of the three — a testament to both Karen Carlson’s gutsy performance and the sharpness and clarity of the writing of this ep. I keep coming back to it, but the DALLAS characters seem somehow more “real” this season — but, crucially, not at the expense of their quintessential larger-than-life DALLAS-ness. It’s a tricky balancing act which last year’s “dream season” also attempted, but largely failed, to pull off.

Despite knowing it's coming, Wes Parmalee’s line to Miss Ellie at the end of this episode after she discovers Jock’s buckle, knife and letters in his possession still feels jaw-droppingly momentous: “They’re mine, Miss Ellie. Always have been.” While the frame freezes on Ellie’s expression of astonished disbelief at the implication that this stranger is her dead husband come back to life, Kim Novak manages to convince everyone at Falcon Crest that she is Peter’s step-daughter with relative ease (no pun intended). There are echoes of Rita pretending to be Krystle in the Carrington mansion, but while Rita had the advantage of looking exactly like the person she was impersonating, Peter hasn’t seen Skylar since she was a kid anyway. “I’m embarrassed to say I wouldn’t have recognised you,” he admits. And as ditzy as she may appear, Novak aka Kit aka Skylar is resourceful enough to eavesdrop on Peter recounting anecdotes about “her" childhood and then appropriate them as her own.

The most tantalising moment of last season’s FALCON CREST finale was Jeff Wainwright taking Greg Reardon and Jordan Roberts hostage. That cliffhanger is resolved this week when we learn, via a brief, one-sided phone call, that Greg and Jordan escaped offscreen and won’t be returning to Falcon Crest — or indeed, FALCON CREST — because they’ve decided to start a new life in Boston. It’s interesting to compare this storyline resolution to that of Pam’s dream on DALLAS. Even though that explanation rendered an entire year’s worth of storylines nonexistent, the principal characters who suddenly evaporated into nothingness had at least each been given a conclusive onscreen ending. While Angelica Nero received her comeuppance at the hands of the police, good guys Mark Graison and deaf kid Tony were each granted a happy-ever-after, as Pam’s husband and Ray and Donna’s son respectively. This begs the philosophical question: is it better to achieve onscreen closure yet, retroactively, never to have existed (like Angelica, Mark and Tony) or to burn brightly and significantly and then just fade away quietly offscreen, as Greg and Jordan have?

KNOTS and FALCON CREST end almost identically this week, with a reminder that Karen and Maggie’s respective kidnappers are still at large. While Phil Harbert sits brooding in his car listening to classical music (I think it’s the Winter section of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, but I can’t be sure), Jeff Wainwright alights from a truck at a gas station in the Tuscany Valley. “It’s so good to be home again,” he declares happily.

And this week’s Top 3 is …

1 (1) DALLAS
Last edited:

James from London

Telly Talk Winner
15 Oct 86: DYNASTY: Focus v. 16 Oct 86: THE COLBYS: The Matchmaker v. 16 Oct 86: KNOTS LANDING: For Appearance's Sake v. 17 Oct 86: DALLAS: Enigma v. 17 Oct 86: FALCON CREST: The Stranger Within

While Krystle Carrington is rushed to the hospital at the beginning of this week’s DYNASTY, Karen Mackenzie and Maggie Gioberti are also both recovering from their recent ordeals at the hands of dangerous men. But whereas Maggie is still suffering from nightmares on FALCON CREST — “You’re not eating. You’re hardly sleeping. You’re distracted all the time … Jeff Wainwright’s still holding you hostage,” Chase tells her — Karen puts on a brave face. “I don’t wanna be a victim again. I want to lead a normal life,” she insists.

Meanwhile, the men responsible are all still on the loose. While the police helpfully advised Blake to "keep a low profile", Karen’s and Maggie’s houses are put under twenty-four-hour surveillance. Despite this, all three assailants succeed in making contact with members of their victims' families. Blake receives a call in Krystle’s hospital room from Phillip Thorpe, the man who drove them both off the road at the end of last week’s episode. "So help me God, I am not through with you yet,” he tells him. These sentiments are echoed by another Phillip — Phil Harbert — in the card accompanying the roses he sends Karen but which are intercepted by Mack: “You won’t get away next time, Mrs MacKenzie.” While Harbert's face is splashed all over the front page of the KNOTS equivalent of the New Globe, his FALCON CREST equivalent, Jeff Wainwright, is still able to move freely through the streets of San Francisco. So it is that he approaches Maggie's unwitting daughter Vicky and, using an assumed name, starts flirting with her.

Despite the cops assuring Blake that Phillip Thorpe has “gone back to his hometown somewhere in the east" and Greg’s order to Phil Harbert on last week’s KNOTS to “set up shop back east”, both Phils resurface towards the end of this week’s episodes. While Phillip T surprises Krystle by pulling a gun on her in her hotel suite — “Your husband murdered my wife. Now he’s gonna come here and find his wife dead!” — Phil H shows up in Greg’s office after hours with an ultimatum: “You help me get out of the country … Otherwise, I am gonna have to tell them that you put me up to it, that you hired me [to kidnap Karen].”

Both scenes acknowledge the class divide between the rich Soap Land character and the “angry little man” confronting them. “You never knew her,” says Thorpe to Krystle referring to his wife, "and if you had, what would she have meant to you — a Carrington? Who are we to you? A couple of people you couldn’t care less about.” “You marginal people are extremely difficult to deal with,” Greg tells Harbert witheringly before pointing out the difference in their stations: "Who’s gonna believe an ex-con over an ex-senator?”

For all that KNOTS is the more liberal-minded soap, DYNASTY and DALLAS have portrayed their “angry little men” this season — Phillip Thorpe and Mark Scotfield — with far more compassion than KNOTS has Phil Harbert. DYNASTY’s Thorpe is a truly tragic figure. As if losing his wife in a fire and having his anguish exploited by Alexis’s newspaper were not enough, he tells Krystle that he is also grieving the death of his twelve-year-old son. During their encounter, Krystle succeeds in making the kind of connection with her captor that Karen Mackenzie, for all her dime-store psychology, spectacularly failed to do with hers over the course of three episodes. Such is Krystle’s empathy that she finally manages to persuade Thorpe to relinquish his gun. Over on DALLAS, no one disputes a minor character’s conclusion that Scotfield — the unemployed roughneck who set fire to the Ewings' oilfield and then hanged himself — was “a poor son of a gun". Bobby even pays for his funeral. Phil Harbert, however, is firmly depicted as a dumb ass, albeit a dangerous one. “You’re more stupid than I thought and I thought you were pretty stupid,” Greg tells him.

A week after Cliff Barnes gave Jack Ewing a cheque for $500,000 on DALLAS, Dominique hands one to Blake for $50,000,000 on DYNASTY, which enables him to settle his debt with Alexis. Meanwhile, on THE COLBYS, Sable’s discovery that Jason has set up a $10,000,000 trust fund for Jeff and Fallon’s unborn baby triggers a chain of events culminating in Miles eloping with Channing Carter against her wishes. Back on DALLAS, Cliff’s extravagance last week means that when Jordan Lee asks him for a mere $2,000,000 to shore up their deal, he’s obliged to admit that he’s cash poor. (The scene where he subsequently asks Pam for the money is very funny — “Family? I’m more your own personal banker!”) Over on FALCON CREST, Chase, Richard and Melissa are likewise short of cash which leads to some very soapy business dealings. Chase is in competition with Angela for Melissa's harvest, but the price she is asking is more than he can afford. Meanwhile, Maggie has inherited her sister’s shares in Richard’s racetrack. Chase, who doesn’t approve of Maggie’s friendship with Richard, persuades her to give him power of attorney over the shares which he then sells to Angela (“You wouldn’t be [Richard’s] partner, you’d be his master,” he tells her persuasively). Then he uses the money Angela pays him to beat her to the Agretti harvest. Richard then accuses Maggie of betraying him to Angela while Maggie, in turn, is angry with Chase for manipulating her.

As characters gradually begin to look towards the future and away from the traumas of last season’s finale episodes, a newfound optimism begins to creep into some of the soaps. There are parallel scenes on DYNASTY and THE COLBYS where Blake and Jason excitedly show their lady loves, Krystle and Frankie, around an unspoilt parcel of land for which they have big dreams. “I’ve always loved it here,” enthuses Blake. "There’s something about this place. I can feel it in the dirt.” “The sun goes down behind that ridge,” points out Jason. "In the spring, it’s all covered in wildflowers.“ “It’s beautiful out here!” exclaims Krystle. “It’s beautiful,” echoes Frankie. While Blake aims to rebuild his business empire (“This could be the biggest thing we have ever done!”), Jason’s plans are more personal. ("I’ll build you a house where every day can shine on you,” he promises Frankie.) “You seem happy, Blake,” Krystle observes, “happier than I’ve seen you in a long time.” “I have never seen your father so happy,” Maggie tells Vicky on FALCON CREST. Indeed, now that he has recovered from his shooting, Chase seems like a new man. “There’s so many things I haven’t done,” he tells his wife. "I don’t wanna die saying that … I wanna have a party, a big party … make it a celebration to a new beginning for both of us!" Likewise, on DALLAS, JR and Bobby react to the current oil crisis positively by deciding to buy up smaller companies that are going out of business. "Like Daddy used to say, 'When things get tough, buy don’t sell',” quotes JR, once again adhering to the principle laid down by Fallon Carrington in the first season of DYNASTY: “The poor cut back in hard times. That’s why they’re poor. The rich know that’s the time to spend.” To this end, the Ewing boys pay a visit to their friendly banker, Franklin Horner, to request a loan of $500,000,000 — and are mortally offended when he insists on Ewing Oil as collateral.

This situation becomes kind of ironic when one recalls that Horner only recently extended JR a line of credit for twice that amount as part of the dream season. In fact, there are a few scenes in this week’s DALLAS that strangely echo moments from Pam’s dream. Jack Ewing uses his windfall from Cliff to purchase a red convertible strongly reminiscent of to the one he bought and then gave away to Jamie (with explosive results) during Season 8. (Chase Gioberti takes a similar looking car for a test drive on this week’s FALCON CREST.) And just as Marinos lawyer Alex Garrett made his onscreen debut via some old news footage JR was watching on his office VCR, mercenary BD Calhoun makes his first appearance in the same way. This time JR is watching a PBS documentary about a rescue mission Calhoun undertook in the Persian Gulf. The narrator introduces BD as “a man one state department spokesman termed a rebel who should be hunted down, a man others have hailed as the spirit of America reborn, the embodiment of the word hero”, while the accompanying footage of burning effigies and bombed-out buildings is grimmer than anything we’re used to seeing in Soap Land — and indicates the darker side of the kind of heroic derring-do Daniel Reece and Daniel Reece embarked on during last season’s DYNASTY. After watching the footage, JR is convinced: “He’s the man I need.”

While THE COLBYS' Frankie has a change of heart about living with Sable after she and Jason are married (“I was wrong. I’ve had to cope with her all my life. I can still cope"), JR hasn’t changed his attitude towards the idea of living with Pam after she and Bobby are married. "If there’s anything to give me indigestion, it’s looking across the table at her every morning,” he grumbles. As for Pam herself, her mixed feelings as she prepares to return to Southfork echo those expressed by Laura Avery on KNOTS while she was preparing to leave the cul-de-sac a few weeks ago. “I’m really gonna miss this place,” said Laura then, “a lot of memories here, you know? Of course, some of them aren’t so great, are they?” “I miss Southfork,” says Pam now. "I have some good memories here. Well, not all good memories.” Meanwhile, on DYNASTY, Steven decides to move out of the family mansion and into his own apartment. Alexis, upset as any other Soap Land mother would be when her fully-grown millionaire son attempts to leave home, accuses him of betrayal.

This week’s KNOTS and DALLAS both feature unusually sexy scenes which might be described as playfully fetishistic. A pre-coital bedroom scene between Abby and Peter Hollister becomes a succession of close-ups of body parts as they undress: her eyes, his eyes, her mouth, his chest as he unbuttons his shirt, her waist as she undoes her robe, his feet kicking off his shoes, her bare shoulder as she opens her robe, etc. The DALLAS scene is less stylised but possibly even kinkier. For her Valentine Girl audition, Mandy poses in black lingerie and matching headdress as the offscreen photographer urges her to “think about all those men you’re going to turn on, think about last night.” Even though it's already been established that Mandy spent the previous night with JR, we cut to a reveal of JR’s wife watching the photo shoot, which she herself has arranged, and smiling in approval.

In keeping with this playful post-Pam’s dream/post-Empire Valley atmosphere, both Ewing-verse shows take a conventional Soap Land scenario and then overturn our expectations by having the characters react flippantly rather than melodramatically to it. Last week, JR learned that he and Mandy were being followed a detective hired by Sue Ellen. The last time he made such a discovery, back in Season 2, all hell broke loose and Sue Ellen ended up physically attacking him in front of the rest of the family. This week, when he angrily confronts her, she is simply amused. “So does this mean that we’re not gonna make love?” she teases. Only when she speaks to the detective on the phone at the end of the scene do we realise that she wanted JR to realise he was being followed. It’s all part of a grand scheme we are not yet privy to.

Meanwhile, on KNOTS, Gary enters his marital bedroom to find his wife in bed with his political opponent. Unlike previous characters in his position (e.g., Sue Ellen when she walked in on JR and Holly Harwood or Val when she discovered Gary himself in bed with Abby), he does not flee the scene in distress. Instead, he walks calmly across the room, stepping over Abby and Peter’s discarded clothes as he does so, and picks out a tie from his closet. He then turns to ask Abby and Peter — who remain frozen in mid-coitus — for their opinion on his choice. They don’t reply. After reminding Peter not be late for their televised debate that evening, he retraces his steps and leaves the room. If either the musical score or the acting in the scene was in any way heavy-handed or self-consciously comedic then the humour would be killed stone dead. At is, thanks in large part to Ted Shackelford’s straightforward performance, it works. As with the DALLAS scene, it’s hard to imagine it taking place any earlier in the series. Gary, Sue Ellen — these are battle-scarred characters who have spent several years living inside a soap opera and have now started to learn from the experience.

By way of contrast, DYNASTY offers more traditional Soap Land behaviour when Blake walks into what was until recently his marital bedroom to find his ex-wife in his brother’s arms. “My, what a pretty sight,” he says, “the scorpion and the cobra.” However, he is less concerned with Alexis’s relationship with Ben than with the role she has played in sending Mr Thorpe over the edge. “If Krystle doesn’t come through this, I’m going to finish what she stopped me from doing. I am going to kill you!” he vows as the music builds and swirls madly around them and the screen fades to black. It’s a deliciously quintessential Soap Land moment. Nor is Blake the only DYNASTY-verse good guy to harbour murderous thoughts this week. “I’ll love this baby,” Jeff tells Fallon on THE COLBYS, "but when I think that Miles could be the father because he raped you, I could kill him." Back on DALLAS, I’m not sure if JR’s line about Sue Ellen — “I oughta string that woman up by her thumbs!” — constitutes a death threat, but it certainly made me laugh.

Fallon’s fear that Miles will find out that he could be the father of her unborn child is central to her current storyline. Jeff comes dangerously close to blurting out this secret after he accuses Miles of raping his wife. “That wasn’t rape, we were married … What happened between Fallon and me is our business,” Miles insists. “Not when she is maybe going to have —“ Jeff begins, only to be interrupted by Fallon. “Jeff, stop!” she orders him furiously. A similar situation arises on FALCON CREST after Maggie admits to her daughter that she too was raped while being held captive by Jeff Wainwright. (This revelation echoes the one Lucy made on DALLAS four years ago about the rape she endured at the hands of her kidnapper. Neither rape was alluded to during the kidnapping itself, only coming to light afterwards.) Vicky implores Maggie to tell Chase about the assault, but Maggie cannot bring herself to shatter his newfound optimism and finds herself planning a party instead. Vicky is incredulous. “A party? To celebrate what — being raped?” she asks. Maggie’s instinctive response to this is to put her hand over her daughter's mouth, almost as if she were trying to push the words back inside it. “Never say that again!” she orders. It’s the most powerful moment of the Soap Land week. Maggie’s distress is compounded at the end of the episode when she discovers that she, just like Fallon (and Lucy Ewing and Kirby Anders before them), is pregnant, possibly as the result of rape.

While Jason and Sable’s divorce progresses in a civilised manner on THE COLBYS (“That’s like you — to do the decent thing,” says Sable when he hand delivers her copy of the relevant papers), Gary and Abby have postponed their divorce due to the impending election on KNOTS. Instead, they are once again living under the same roof for the sake of appearances (hence this week’s episode title). Also concerned with appearances is JR on DALLAS who explains to Mandy why, now that Sue Ellen’s stuck a private detective on them, they have to keep a low profile in public. “Sue Ellen knows that I would give her the quickest divorce this side of Juarez … She’s gathering evidence … she’s trying to get custody of my boy.” This puts Mandy in the same position she was with Cliff two seasons ago when all he wanted to do was stay home home and eat take out. “I wanna get out of here for a change!” she complains. “I will not be kept in a prison. I don’t care how much caviar there is.” Just as Cliff’s behaviour drove Mandy into JR’s arms in the first place, JR’s leads her into Sue Ellen’s trap as she begins to seriously entertain the idea of becoming the Valentine Girl.

There are parallel discussions involving THE COLBYS’ Bliss and KNOTS LANDING’s Olivia regarding the women they blame for breaking up their parents’ marriages. “I didn’t cause the split between your mother and father. There were problems long before,” Frankie patiently explains to Bliss. “I wish for the sake of your brother and yourself that your mother and I got along, but we don’t and we haven’t for some time,” an equally patient Gary informs Olivia. “Problems are part of a marriage ... If it weren’t for you, they’d still be together, working them out,” snaps Bliss. “If it weren’t for [Jill], you and Mom would still be working things out,” huffs Olivia.

Since Empire Valley became a dirty word, John Coblentz has washed off the pan-stick he wore in a failed effort make him look older than Greg Sumner and made his way to DYNASTY where he appears as Gary Tildon, a former business associate of Michael Culhane. Surprised to find Michael, now a millionaire, slumming it as Blake Carrington’s chauffeur, he surmises that Michael is planning to avenge himself for past wrongs by seducing Blake's daughter Amanda. “I’d watch out for that Carrington girl,” he warns. "She’s beautiful, very beautiful, and if you end up really falling in love with her, where’s your revenge?” In other words, beware "The Spy Who Loved Me" syndrome, the latest victim of which is Channing Carter on THE COLBYS. This week, she attempts to defect from her controlling Uncle Lucas’s camp to elope with Miles. "You had a job to do for me and it had to do with Jason Colby, not his son,” Lucas reminds her. “I quit,” she replies. "What’s more, I don’t give a damn about Jason Colby and his business with the Red Chinese … I’ve found someone who loves me, who can take very good care of me.”

It is implied that Channing, like Jordan Roberts on FALCON CREST, is also a victim of another kind. “You’ve had everything you could have wanted from me,” Lucas tells her. "I’ve had more than I wanted from you, Uncle Lucas,” she counters bitterly. "Honey, I tried that once a long, long time ago,” he replies.

Michael Culhane isn’t the only first season returnee. This week’s FALCON CREST sees John Saxon returns to the role of Tony Cumson almost exactly two years after he was gunned down as Rashid Ahmed on DYNASTY. Like Michael, Tony is now a rich man, having struck it big in the oil business (Rashid would have been proud) before cashing in his assets and narrowly avoiding the crisis currently afflicting the oil communities on DALLAS and DYNASTY. Angela and Lance are no happier to see Tony back than Blake was to see Michael. And just as Blake has tried to keep Michael away from his daughter Amanda, Angela attempts to keep Tony away from her daughter (and Tony’s ex-wife) Julia, each with a similar lack of success (although to say Julia is happy to see Tony wouldn’t be technically correct as FC's recent earthquake has rendered her blind).

With La Mirage burnt to the ground and Lotus Point closed for business, there’s a gap in the Soap Land market for a swanky new resort or two. Indeed, no sooner does THE COLBYS’ Zach Powers purchase Dominique’s hotel and rename it in his own honour (“How does the name the Powers Excelsior strike you?” he asks Sable) than FALCON CREST’s Angela acquires the River Oaks Spa and renames it Del Oro (“and which I will try to turn into a first class resort,” she promises). Meanwhile, we get our first proper look at the interior of the Carlton Hotel, DYNASTY's comparatively modest replacement for La Mirage, and very nice it is too.

Three major Soap Land characters are currently under suspicion for crimes they didn’t commit. While this week’s DYNASTY ends with the police taking Blake in for questioning over the possibility of arson at La Mirage, KNOTS ends with Mack demanding answers from Greg about his role in Karen’s kidnapping. Meanwhile, on FALCON CREST, Richard is still trying to prove he didn’t shoot Chase.

A week after Vicky Gioberti admitted that her apparently successfully dance career ended in failure, Sable Colby launches a new dance company. Her previously idle daughter Bliss starts working for the company’s public relations department, thus following in the footsteps of the previously idle Amanda on DYNASTY, presently working in PR for her father’s new corporation, Carrington Ventures. Despite their newfound work ethics, both blondes are ineviatbly drawn to unsuitable men they encounter in the workplace — even if neither choice is quite as disastrous as that of Vicky G, currently dating her mother’s rapist. Instead, Amanda and Bliss are attracted to Michael the chauffeur and Nikolai the Russian ballet dancer respectively. While Blake threatens Michael (“If I open a door, any door, and I see you within ten feet of my daughter, I’m gonna see to it that you get booted out of Denver and that you stay out this time"), Nikolai’s choreographer also makes his disapproval clear. Thus far, the DYNASTY scenario is more fun as it contains fewer prolonged ballet sequences and Russian stereotypes.

In what I believe is a first, DYNASTY dips into KNOTSian territory by cross-cutting between Krystle and Thorpe's confrontation and Michael driving Blake back to the Carlton Hotel (Blake threatening him over Amanda as they go). KNOTS itself goes one better by cross-cutting between three different conversations: Paige and Michael (Paige worrying that Karen doesn’t like her), Karen and Mack (Karen insisting that she does like Paige) and Val and Lilimae (Lilimae saying that she doesn’t trust Paige: “Call it a premonition — she’s up to something”).

While Lilimae is the first character to voice suspicions about Paige, Angela heavily hints to Skylar aka Kit that she has outstayed her welcome at Falcon Crest. Meanwhile, Miss Ellie couldn’t be clearer when she orders Wes aka Jock to "get off my land! … I never wanna see your face again!"

Wes’s presence triggers memories of Jock for Ellie just as Paige’s has of Anne for Mack — memories so personal that they cannot be expressed to another character. Instead, they are conveyed to us by extra-diegetic means. Whereas Mack’s state of mind was indicated via flashbacks to his romance with Anne in '67, Ellie’s memories are evoked through a voice over of her reading the letters she wrote Jock in South America in '81.

A recurring theme so far this season: an alteration in hairstyle and/or colour to denote a change of identity. First, Phil Harbert cut Karen’s hair while holding her prisoner in order to make her look more like his late wife. (Although this aspect of the plot wasn’t further developed, the hair-cutting was a physical violation, a rape substitute in the same way that Luther Frick forcing Sue Ellen to parade in her bathing suit or Joel Abrigore watching Krystle take a bath was.) Then Kim Novak cut and dyed her brunette hair blonde in order to transform herself into Skylar Kimble. And this week, we see Wes Parmalee doing the same thing in reverse — washing the brown dye out of his hair until it’s completely white, making him appear, in Ray’s words, “fifteen years older”. Given his claim that he is Jock Ewing back from the dead, the fact that this transformation scene takes place in a shower feels significant. Even more intriguingly, Bobby — who has yet to learn of Wes’s declaration — uncharacteristically refers to Jock in the present tense during his argument with Franklin Horner: "Our daddy’s been doing business with this bank since before we were born … Daddy’s always been loyal to this bank, Franklin. Is this what he gets for his loyalty?”

Speaking of double identities, FALCON CREST is full of them. Not only has Jeff Wainwright adopted the alias of Larry Miller, but Skylar Kimble is interviewed by a New York cop about the murder of her friend Kit Marlowe in Palm Beach. What we know, but nobody on screen does, is that Skylar is really Kit and Kit is (or was) really Skylar. However, the real twist comes when we learn that the cop questioning Skylar/Kit isn’t really a cop but a reporter hired by Richard to dig for dirt on Peter Stavros.

And this week’s Top 5 is …

1 (1) DALLAS

James from London

Telly Talk Winner
22 Oct 86: DYNASTY: Reward v. 23 Oct 86: THE COLBYS: Something Old, Something New v. 23 Oct 86: KNOTS LANDING: All Over But the Shouting v. 24 Oct 86: DALLAS: Trompe L'Oeil v. 24 Oct 86: FALCON CREST: Fatal Attraction

Four significant characters arrive in Soap Land this week — Dana on DYNASTY, April on DALLAS, Cash Cassidy on THE COLBYS and Dan Fixx on FALCON CREST. While none has previously been mentioned onscreen, each has a role in at least one major character's backstory.

Precisely what that role is isn’t always immediately clear. So far, all we know about Dana’s connection with Adam Carrington is an old newspaper cutting about him (“Michael Torrance Revealed as Carrington Heir”) she produces from her purse following their seemingly chance encounter. Just as Wes Parmalee’s keepsake photo of a young Miss Ellie was our first clue that he wasn’t just another ranch hand for hire and Channing Carter’s collection of Colby dossiers provided the first hint that she wasn’t simply a girl Miles had met by chance in a bar, Dana’s clipping is our first indication that is she isn’t quite the agenda-free character she initially appeared to be.

There’s a mystery surrounding THE COLBYS’ new character Cash, too, but it's one that he himself is unaware of. In fact, the episode ends with his old flame Monica on the phone to her offscreen Aunt Connie. “God, I don't know what I'll do if he ever finds out the truth!” she cries.

There’s yet more mystery on FALCON CREST where everyone seems to remember Melissa’s former schoolmate, Dan Fixx (“He always had a dangerous look about him,” recalls Julia — herself no slouch in the danger department), but no one knows what hold he has over Angela that would cause her to provide him with both a place to live and a job at the Del Oro Spa.

In contrast to Dana, Cash and Dan, April Stevens’ first scene on DALLAS tells us pretty much all we need to know about her: she’s sexy, funny and a gold digger. Like Kristin Shepard, Sammy Jo Dean and Terry Hartford before her, her target is a family member from humble beginnings who has struck it rich. Instead of an elder sister or an aunt who has married into a rich family, April is focused on her ex-husband Jack and his ten percent of Ewing Oil.

As well as Dana Waring, this week’s DYNASTY also introduces us to Nick Kimble, aka “the best drill foreman in the business”. While his FALCON CREST namesake Skylar was the daughter of one of Peter Stavros’s ex-wives, Nick is the son of one of Blake’s former wildcatting buddies. Nick is also black, which presumably means his father was too. The idea that Blake Carrington (or at least the Blake we were introduced to when DYNASTY began) would have had a close black friend in the mid-1950s is kind of surprising — as surprising as the notion that the Jock Ewing we knew in the first few seasons of DALLAS would have battled the Ku Klux Klan to defend the rights of black sharecroppers in the 1930s, as depicted in last season’s DALLAS: “The Early Years”. The parallels don’t end there — Blake’s appeal to Nick and a bunch of other riggers to join him in his quest for “gas, natural gas!” carries with it the same kind of pioneering passion that Jock had when galvanising those same sharecroppers into fighting for the oil that lay beneath the land on which they toiled.

However, the present day character Nick Kimble has most in common with is Cash on THE COLBYS. Nick’s and Cash’s fathers were once the business partners of Blake and Jason respectively. Although we aren't given the details of these partnerships, there is a lingering sense of ill-feeling in both cases. “At least he took a chance,” says Blake of Nick’s father. “And lost,” counters Nick. “You fought with my father and lost,” echoes Cash while talking to Jason. “What I lost was faith,” Jason replies. “Your old man was my partner. He didn't level with me.” However, both sets of men agree to set aside these differences for the sake of an exciting new business venture — Blake’s gas field (“possibly the biggest field in the United States!”) on DYNASTY, and Jason’s IMOS Project (not merely “an internationally manned orbital satellite dedicated to scientific research”, but “a star of hope that will shine over every nation on earth”) on THE COLBYS.

IMOS sounds sexily space-age in the same way that Empire Valley once did on KNOTS. (Speaking of which, E***** V***** gets a rare mention this week when Gary reflects on his failed bid for the senate: “I’m glad I ran. I got Sumner to clean up the pollution at Empire Valley.”) That’s not the only connection between this storyline and KNOTS LANDING, of course. It’s hard to ignore the fact that Cash Cassidy is played by Seaview Circle’s very own Kenny Ward and, as such, a couple of his comments take on an unintentional irony. “I never lived in California before: I think I’m going to like it,” he says — this from the same face of whom Richard Avery once said: “Born and raised on a surfboard, right here in California.” But when Cash says to Jason, “You know how hard neighbours are to ignore,” he’s referring not to the suburban Averys and Fairgates, but to the intergalactic Russians: “The Soviets are a major player in outer space. Your satellite and theirs will be neighbours.”

Oddly, two key events in this week’s Ewing-verse — the result of the senatorial election on KNOTS and the moment on DALLAS where Wes Parmalee formally declares himself to be Jock — take place offscreen. We only learn of Peter Hollister’s victory as Gary prepares to deliver his concession speech. Meanwhile, Miss Ellie assembles her family at Southfork to relay what Wes has previously told her and Punk. Her speech is then interspersed with flashbacks of Wes speaking directly to her. This nonlinear approach to narrative is highly uncharacteristic of DALLAS and feels almost as bold as KNOTS’ recent soap-within-a-soap flashbacks to 1967.

On one level, the DALLAS flashbacks are simply an attempt to conceal some pretty heavy-handed info-dumping: the story of what happened to Wes (as Jock) following the helicopter crash of Season 4, the injuries he sustained, the explanation for his prolonged absence as well as his change in appearance and voice. His tale combines elements of the stories once told by Steven and Fallon on DYNASTY to explain away their absences — burns, plastic surgery, amnesia — but somehow feels more harrowing and believable than either. Whether Wes turns out to be Jock or not, Miss Ellie — and by extension, DALLAS itself — cannot help but have compassion for him.

All of the Lorimar soaps have undergone some stylistic changes this season. While KNOTS and FALCON CREST share similarly synthesised scores, DALLAS and FALCON CREST now both employ shorter, punchier scenes than we’re traditionally used to seeing. A scene in this week’s DALLAS between Sue Ellen and her Valentine Lingerie advertising executive, for instance, lasts all of twenty-one seconds. FALCON CREST, meanwhile, introduces a new convention of freeze frames not just at the end of an episode, but before each commercial break.

Running counter to such innovations is a sense of both DALLAS and FC going back to basics — returning to the Camelots of their first few seasons if you will. The reintroductions of Tony and Julia Cumson and Vicky Gioberti, as well as the surprise remarriage of Lance and Melissa at the end of this week’s episode, restore some of the original family dynamics to FALCON CREST. (Lance and Melissa’s is one of two elopements in this week’s Soap Land, the other being Miles and Channing’s on THE COLBYS.) Meanwhile, the Parmalee story on DALLAS puts that show's focus firmly back on the Ewings. As Wes tells JR, “I gotta say, you boys are acting true to form.” Indeed, all the major characters’ responses to Parmalee's claim are reassuringly in character. While JR’s proposition (“What do you want to drop this act and get the hell out of Dallas?”) echoes the one he made to Pam at the beginning of the series (“What sort of settlement you’d require to annul this farce?”), Bobby’s threat of violence (“I’m gonna go over to that motel and beat the truth out of him”) reverberates all the way back to Lee Raintree’s pre-series novelisation (“You always did have a terrible fierce temper,” Wes remembers). Cliff’s response to the idea of Jock coming back from the dead feels equally characteristic (“JR … must be climbing the walls!” he laughs delightedly. “Oh my, the Ewings are finally getting theirs!”) which puts Pam, in turn, in the familiar position of scolding her brother for mocking her precious Bobby. Most intriguing, however, is Ray's quietly ambivalent response to Wes.

Whereas his brothers put pressure on Parmalee to leave town, Ray sets him an interesting challenge. “I’m pretty sure I know what Jock would have done. I’m kind of curious to see if you do the same thing,” he tells him. Ah, but to which Jock is Ray referring — the semi-ruthless one from DALLAS’s early years who would surely stay and fight for what’s his, no matter what, or the more saintly figure the show turned him into after his death, who would sooner walk off into the sunset than cause his loved ones any further distress? We soon get our answer. “Jock Ewing can’t be scared off and he can’t bought off,” Wes snarls. “Like it or not, JR, your daddy’s back to stay!”

Wes and his “boys” aren’t the only ones with father/son issues this week. “We both had, or have, fathers who hated us … Accept your father’s hatred, Adam, because until you do, you won’t be able to control your own life,” Ben Carrington tells his nephew in an almost dizzyingly paranoiac exchange on DYNASTY. Like a kinkily perverse Jock Ewing, Alexis has pitted the two men against each other in order to determine which is her most loyal subject. “Your fantasy’s the same as mine — your father, who never understood you, welcoming you back, promising to make up all for all those wasted years,” continues Ben, trying to get inside Adam’s head. “What the hell is your game?” Adam snaps back. “It’s to send me running back to my father, to try and fulfil that so-called fantasy, and then you can smugly show Alexis you were right all along — no, I can’t be trusted.” Over on FALCON CREST, Tony Cumson would dearly love to fulfil such a fantasy for his own son only Lance isn’t interested. Tony finally loses patience: “It makes me sick to see what Angela’s done to you, you damn playboy! She’s emasculated you!” he barks before father and son start brawling in the Falcon Crest hallway (another scene which ends abruptly in a mid-episode freeze frame).

Unwanted press attention is another theme running through nearly all this week’s soaps. Not only does the Denver Mirror continue to hound Blake with provocative headlines about the fire at La Mirage, but Alexis goes so far as to poach ace reporter Gordon Wales (easily my favourite recurring character on DYNASTY) from World Finance magazine. “Who do I have to kill?” he asks after she promises to triple his former salary. “Blake Carrington,” she replies. “I want you to kill him with your infamous killer prose.” Meanwhile, Phil Harbert’s mug shot is plastered all over the front page of the Knots Landing Tribune under the headline “MAN IDENTIFIED AS KIDNAPPER OF KAREN MACKENZIE”. And while JR is offended when he overhears a couple of men in a bar slavering over Mandy’s Valentine Girl ad (Mitch Cooper suffered a similar indignity when Lucy was Miss Young Dallas), FALCON CREST’s Kim Novak/Kit Marlowe/Skylar Kimble goes to great lengths to avoid having her picture taken by a press photographer at the grand opening of the Del Oro Spa.

The most interesting scenes in this week’s DALLAS and KNOTS take place in motel rooms — those occupied by Wes Parmalee and Phil Harbert respectively. Phil is under strict instructions from Greg Sumner to keep a low profile until he can get him out of the country: “I don’t want you to leave this room. I don’t want anyone to see your face.” Ironically, Phil proves far more fascinating to watch in captivity than his own hostage Karen did a few weeks ago. With only a few cockroaches for company, Phil goes quietly stir crazy, seeking refuge in junk food and trash TV. This culminates in a variation on Katherine Wentworth’s hurling-an-object-at-a-TV-screen moment. Just as the blood-red stain Katherine's tomato juice left on her screen was suitably metaphorical so the sludgy brown smear Phil’s choc-ice leaves on his serves as an effective symbol of how everything he touches eventually turns to shit.

So, while Phil Harbert plans to skip town, Wes Parmalee is “back to stay”. Each arrangement, however, is subject to an end-of-episode plot twist. A craving for carbs leads to Phil’s downfall when he ignores Greg’s orders and calls out for pizza. The delivery guy recognises his face from the newspaper and notifies Mack of his whereabouts. Meanwhile, Wes drops by Ewing Oil with an unexpected announcement for JR and Bobby: “I’ve decided to leave Dallas. I know I’ve caused you all pain but it's hurt me too. None of my family, except maybe Ray, can see who I am so I guess maybe it's better if I leave.” It’s unclear what led to this change of heart — possibly the conversation between Wes and Clayton where the latter impressed upon him his devotion to Miss Ellie — but it doesn’t take much goading from JR for Wes to lose his temper and recount events that took place in “The Dove Hunt” (Season 2) that only JR and Jock were privy to. “You tell me how anyone on God’s green earth but Jock Ewing could know that!” he shouts.

The scene in this week’s FALCON CREST where Maggie finally blurts out to husband Chase that she was raped is unusually raw and powerful, for both FC in particular and Soap Land in general. There have been other rape victims over the years — Lucy Ewing, Lute-Mae Sanders, Kirby, Fallon Colby — but this is the closest a 1980s supersoap has come since Richard Avery found wife Laura with her dress torn in "The Lie" to acknowledging the reality behind those three little words: “I was raped”. Now that her husband knows that either he or her rapist could be the father of her baby, Maggie is in pretty much the same position as Fallon on THE COLBYS (just she was a year ago when both were suffering from amnesia). In each case, an amniocentesis test could determine the unborn child’s paternity. In each case, inevitability, there is a snag. For Fallon, such a procedure would jeopardise the health of her unborn baby, which she is determined to keep. As for Maggie, who is as yet undecided whether or not to continue with her pregnancy, the test cannot be performed for another six weeks, by which time it will be too late for her to have an abortion.

And this week’s Top 5 is …

1 (1) DALLAS
4 (4) KNOTS
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James from London

Telly Talk Winner
30 Oct 86: THE COLBYS: The Gala v. 30 Oct 86: KNOTS LANDING: Pressure Points v. 31 Oct 86: DALLAS: Territorial Imperative v. 31 Oct 86: FALCON CREST: Perilous Charm

Both of Soap Land’s new marriages — Lance and Melissa’s on FALCON CREST, Miles and Channing’s on THE COLBYS — get off to a complicated start this week. During their first marriage, when they mutually despised and cheated on each other, Melissa and Lance resembled a junior version of JR and Sue Ellen. This week, as they return to Falcon Crest to surprise everyone with the news of their elopement, they’re more like Bobby and Pam (or, more recently, Fallon and Miles). Sensibly, but a tad disappointingly, however, they decide to buck the trend for Soap Land newlyweds to live with the groom’s disapproving family and move into Melissa’s house instead. By contrast, Channing agrees to begin married life under the same roof as the rest of the Colbys, including her husband’s ex-wife Fallon, without complaint.

That doesn’t prevent either family from interfering, of course. While Lance’s grandmother instructs him to use his new marital status to secure permanent access to Melissa’s harvest, Channing’s mother-in-law pretty much orders her to get pregnant. “I suggest you get busy. Start a family. Now,” Sable tells her briskly. However, there’s a hitch. “The doctors have told me I can’t ever have children — I’m barren!” exclaims Channing.

Then there’s the small matter of former love interests. Channing may be living in the same house as Fallon, but that doesn’t mean she’ll tolerate Miles carrying a picture of her in his wallet. “Say goodbye to your past, darlin’,” she tells him, ripping the photo in two. Meanwhile, Eric Stavros drops by Lance and Melissa’s place to declare his love for his stepbrother’s new wife.

Clandestine romances are suddenly all the rage for Soap Land’s younger set. While KNOTS’ step-siblings Paige and Michael are busy conducting a teenage affair behind their parents’ backs, Vicky Gioberti secretly sleeps with her mother’s rapist on FALCON CREST (albeit unwittingly) and Bolshevik ballet star Kolya shares a forbidden kiss with American airhead Bliss on THE COLBYS, both of them unaware of choreographer Sasha glowering in disapproval.

Thus far, ambitious attorney Monica Colby has been depicted as the antithesis of her bubble-headed sister Bliss. “A woman of the ‘80s,” is how her father described her in the series’ first episode. Indeed, to borrow a phrase of Sue Ellen’s advertising executive from a few weeks ago, she is an example of “today’s modern woman on the go” — but one who is neither a bitch nor a sexual predator. Instead, she is that rarest of Soap Land creatures — a female character not defined by her relationships with men. This is very laudable, but laudable will only get you so much screen time on an ‘80s supersoap. It certainly won’t get you the end-of-episode freeze-frame two weeks in a row. To warrant that, independent Monica must prove herself as capable of unwise romantic choices as the next glycerine-teared damsel. Happily, she’s up to the challenge. To see her swoon this week in the arms of The Actor Formerly Known As Kenny Ward, cast once again as an unfaithful husband, is to see her get in touch with her inner Ginger — or possibly her inner Sylvie (Kenny’s needy mistress from KNOTS’ early days). Can Monica maintain her feminist exterior whilst also being a fool for love? Stay tuned to find out!

Deathbed scenes in Soap Land are traditionally cathartic affairs: an opportunity for those about to shuffle off this mortal coil to either confess all about a long-buried secret (Digger Barnes admitting to the murder of Hutch McKinney, Kate Torrance to the abduction of Adam Carrington, Tom Carrington to fathering Dominique Devereaux) or simply bid an emotional farewell to their loved ones. One memorable exception to this rule is Cecil Colby, who spent his dying moments raging against his arch enemy Blake. Another is Phil Harbert, whose ignoble passing takes place on this week’s KNOTS.

After being hit by a car while trying to evade the police, Phil is taken to Soap Land Memorial Hospital where he is told that he has but a short time to live. Instead of a flock of loved ones, he has a police lieutenant and his old frenemy Mack Mackenzie at his bedside. “This man is a felony suspect. I need a declaration before he dies,” the cop tells his doctor. But instead of making a clean breast of his crimes the way Digger Barnes and Kate Torrance did, Phil’s final words are, like Cecil’s, a last ditch attempt at revenge. “I know what you wanna ask me, Mack,” he taunts, “and the answer is yes … Sumner put me up to it, Sumner made me kidnap Karen.” True to form, Phil’s final scheme (to frame Greg) backfires. “I knew he was lying,” Mack later tells Karen through gritted teeth, “like he did when I knew him in law school and after school and then whenever he was in trouble, always lying, always blaming someone else … Greg Sumner had nothing to do with your kidnapping.” Good old Phil. A cowardly, self-pitying, pizza-loving incompetent with a paunch and murderous streak, he was never your average Soap Land guest star, which is kind of what I liked about him.

A week after the grand opening of the Del Oro Spa on FALCON CREST comes the grand reopening of Lotus Point on KNOTS. Simultaneously, Sable throws a charity gala in aid of her new dance company on THE COLBYS. Guest of honour Kolya treats the crowd to a balletic variation on Michael Jackson’s 'Billie Jean' moves before inviting Miles and Jeff to join him in some more traditional Cossack dancing. (The sight of two tuxedoed regulars summoned to the dance floor by a flamboyant foreigner recalls Francesca Gioberti involving Lance Cumson in her tarantella a couple of years ago — minus the underlying melodrama.) Surprisingly, stuffy old Jeff proves more adept at the squat-and-kick routine than extrovert Miles, who ends up on his back gamely reenacting the Dying Fly (a short-lived dance craze from ‘70s kids show TISWAS). Over at the KNOTS party, a tipsy Sylvia Lean relives her showgirl youth by jitterbugging energetically with a passing extra. Despite the objections of her newly-elected senator son Peter Hollister — he accuses her of making a spectacle of herself — Sylvia’s reckless shimmying wows the crowd and ultimately outshines Kolya’s more disciplined choreography, thereby making her the winner of the inaugural Soap Land Dance-Off.

In reality, of course, Sylvia is no more Peter’s mother than Kit Marlowe is Peter Stavros’s stepdaughter. Meanwhile, on DALLAS, the jury’s still out on whether or not Wes Parmalee is really Ellie Ewing’s husband. Even as a small part of my brain registers how far-fetched it is, the “Is Wes Jock?” storyline is so persuasively told that I am completely swept along by it. There’s a great scene between a shaken Miss Ellie and best pal Mavis where the same two words keep cropping up. Mavis asks if Ellie believes Wes’s claim could possibly be true. “No, not really,” Ellie admits, “but what if it were? … I have this vision that’s kept me awake every night since he’s appeared — that the man behind that unfamiliar face really is Jock and he’s homeless and rejected by his sons and his wife. My God, Mavis, what if it really is Jock?

“What if …?” That’s really the power of this story. It asks the viewer to put themselves in Ellie’s shoes. “Could you imagine it?” she asks Mavis (and, by extension, us) at the beginning of the scene. “What if it was Punk and you thought he was dead and then he came back?”

I’m not sure how exactly what distinguishes a “What if …?” storyline from a regular one, but I know it when I see it. While it was hard to relate to Karen Mackenzie during her abduction ordeal at the beginning of this season’s KNOTS, the situation faced by her family in her absence felt a classic “What if …?” scenario: “What if your wife just suddenly disappears?” Whereas that kind of gritty, ripped-from-the-headlines nightmare isn’t too hard to imagine, the “What if …?” presently posed by DALLAS is altogether more fantastic. As farfetched scenarios go, “What if a man you’ve never seen shows up at your door claiming to be your dead husband, knowing only things he could know?” is up there with “What if your dad’s ghost appeared and told you he was murdered by your uncle who’s just married your mother?” from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. But DALLAS pulls us into this story the same way Shakespeare did — by having its characters react believably to an unbelievable situation.

There’s a fascinating encounter between Wes Parmalee and Sue Ellen this week. It’s most unlike Sue Ellen to involve herself in storylines that don’t directly concern her. In fact, the only time it’s happened previously was when she accompanied Pam to Hong Kong to look for Mark Graison, and that was more to give Linda Gray some screen time than anything else. These days, Sue Ellen has the unexpected success of Valentine Lingerie to keep her busy, but she nonetheless finds time to drop by Wes’s motel room. “Whether or not you really are Jock, your being here is driving JR crazy and I can’t tell you how much that brightens my life,” she tells him. “I’m here to help … How much do you need?” The idea of JR’s trophy wife offering the founder of the Ewing fortune financial aid is all kinds of ironic, as is the fact that this is a longer conversation than Sue Ellen ever had with the original Jock. As they talk, not only does she start to believe Wes’s story, but he sees through her mask too. “Used to be whenever JR shouted boo, you headed straight for the bottle. Have you turned over a new leaf since I’ve been away?” he asks her. Sue Ellen hasn’t changed that much, however. Her response when Wes invites her to take a seat — she instinctively looks beneath her to make sure she’s not about to sit on anything unpleasant — is the same as the one she gave when she visited Rita Briggs’ one-room apartment in “Black Market Baby” back in Season 1.

Elsewhere, Soap Land’s two bonafide impostors — Peter Hollister on KNOTS and Kit Marlowe on FALCON CREST — are each concerned that their deception is about to be exposed, Peter’s by the increasingly unpredictable Sylvia, Kit’s by Richard Channing who has stumbled on her real identity. This, in turn, leads them to commit further crimes. While Peter tampers with Sylvia’s blood pressure medicine, Kit forges Angela’s signature on a cheque so that she can skip town. At the last minute, she is prevented from doing so by Richard. He tells her he will keep her secret. “In return, I expect you to do whatever you have to do to break up Angela’s marriage.”

Back at the Colby gala, old jealousies resurface between Jeff and Miles and they end up duking it out in the pool, Southfork-style. When some of the guests take this as a cue to rip off their own clothes and jump in after them, the party starts to recall the opening night of La Mirage four years earlier. Back then, Fallon was the principle instigator of the hi-jinx while Jeff looked on with prim disapproval. Now, the situation is reversed — Jeff is the one in the pool while a distressed Fallon watches tearfully from the sidelines.

Fallon is not the only former hostess-with-the-mostest whose status and confidence appear to have diminished. Karen Mackenzie, once the hub of the Knots Landing community and chief architect of the Lotus Point dream, appears at its reopening this week as an ill-at-ease outsider. Abby compounds the situation by making a deliciously condescending speech welcoming Karen back “to her family, to her friends and to our hearts” before sweeping regally past her.

Meanwhile, the competition for most rebellious teen in the Ewing-verse hots up. As Olivia Cunningham offers Paige drugs on KNOTS, Charlie Wade puts makeup on on DALLAS. While Paige coolly declines Olivia’s invitation (“I don’t do drugs. I think they’re stupid”), Jenna turns out to be just as strict about underage eyeshadow as Abby was last season (“You get back in that house and take that warpaint off now!”). Worse follows when Bobby, Pam and Christopher happen upon Charlie hanging with a group of bikers outside a burger joint. The moment where Charlie snubs Christopher is quietly heartbreaking while Bobby suspects her friends might share Olivia’s fondness for “stupid” drugs: “What’s that you’re smoking, son?”

On this week’s FALCON CREST, Julia has her prison sentence commuted for time served, “which means she’s off the hook forever.” Suddenly, she has everything she ever wanted — her freedom, a reconciliation with her mother and a future with the man she loves — and yet she has nothing. “I don’t deserve happiness,” she declares. “It doesn’t matter what the judge said. I killed two people … I’m guilty.” Her decision to leave her family and return to the convent in a kind of self-imposed exile is unexpectedly moving. Sure, FC could have kept her around as its resident nut job — a bit like Claudia in her final season on DYNASTY — but choosing instead to have her acknowledge the consequences of her actions, even if it means her leaving the series, feels like a gutsier move, on the part of the series as well as the character.

While FALCON CREST treats Julia’s need for atonement with sensitivity, it doesn’t extend the same courtesy to her sister Emma’s interest in Eastern religion, which is greeted with smirky condescension by the other characters and, by extension, the programme itself. “I was just telling Skylar about the Raghu Bhasha. He’s the most spiritual man I’ve ever known,” Emma tells her step-father. “Where did you meet this man, Emma?” he asks. “On the San Francisco cable access channel,” she replies. “He’s awakened my kundalini.” “… How nice.” While one could argue that the scene is taking potshots at the peculiarities of cable TV as much as religion, it’s notable that KNOTS managed to critique both topics through the character of Joshua Rush, but without sneering at either. Nevertheless, Emma’s shy enthusiasm is played with sweet sincerity by Margaret Ladd.

Where FALCON CREST has kundalinis, DALLAS has Bedouins. BD Calhoun, the mercenary leader JR is on the verge of hiring, explains that he will be using them to smuggle the equipment he needs to blow up the Saudi Arabian oil fields. Belying his image as a monosyllabic thug, Calhoun speaks of the tribe with intelligence and respect: “The Bedouins are are an interesting group of people. They’re like the gypsies. They’re the only tribe alive who can travel those Arabian sands freely.” Whereas the Hindu references on FALCON CREST are there for the sole purpose of derisive humour, the Arabic ones on DALLAS add a cool sense of authenticity.

And this week’s Top 4 are …

1 (1) DALLAS

James from London

Telly Talk Winner
05 Nov 86: DYNASTY: The Arraignment v. 06 Nov 86: THE COLBYS: Bloodlines v. 06 Nov 86: KNOTS LANDING: Brothers and Mothers v. 07 Nov 86: DALLAS: The Second Time Around v. 07 Nov 86: FALCON CREST: Flashpoint

It’s another very strong week in Soap Land. As the Lorimar shows continue to experiment with form and tone, DYNASTY has now become the most traditional of all the soaps. This week’s ep is pure fun. Nearly all of Alexis’s entrances, of which there are several, made me laugh out loud, either at the ridiculousness of her outfits (such as the wildly inappropriate hat she wears to visit Blake in jail) or at her sheer melodramatic chutzpah. There’s also a terrific, quasi-Shakespearean turn from Christopher Cazenove as Ben Carrington in which he sheds real tears, suddenly overwhelmed with guilt over his mother’s death. Meanwhile, THE COLBYS regains its dramatic momentum, due in large part to Sable sticking her nose into other people’s business, and DALLAS does a great job of balancing nostalgia with forward-looking storylines. KL and FC are no slouches either in the drama department either.

Lying on his hospital deathbed in last week’s KNOTS LANDING, Phil Harbert unintentionally absolved Greg Sumner of any involvement in Karen’s kidnapping. On this week’s DYNASTY, Jackie Devereaux is also in her hospital bed when she inadvertently exonerates Blake Carrington of any involvement in the fire at La Mirage. So it is that two storylines left dangling after last season’s cliffhangers are finally brought to a close.

Just as the fire spelt the end for La Mirage, the equivalent disaster on FALCON CREST — the Tuscany Valley earthquake — has resulted in the closure of Richard’s racetrack. As he explains to Angela after selling her his share of the business, “Tuscany Downs is being condemned … I built the damn thing right on top of on earthquake fault.” This is the second time in as many seasons that Angela has been duped into spending a fortune on land which later turns out to be worthless.

The more of the 86/87 Soap Land season I watch, the more of a divide there seems to be between the years before Pam’s dream and the post-dream period we’re in now. This applies not only to DALLAS but to the genre as a whole. At this point, DALLAS, DYNASTY and FALCON CREST are all well past the halfway point of their respective runs while KNOTS will reach that milestone in three episodes’ time. The gratuitous display of wealth and glamour one immediately associates with the ‘80s supersoap has already reached its peak. “You are talking about boom times. I’m not sure we’re ever gonna see those times again,” says Cliff Barnes after April Stevens tells him how much Ewing Oil was valued at after Jock’s death four years earlier. Even though the characters are still rich, the novelty of displaying their wealth at every opportunity has worn off. The age of La Mirage, Tuscany Downs and Empire Valley is over. This is now the era of the Carlton Hotel, the Del Oro Spa and Valentine Lingerie.

It’s also the era of mullets with frosted highlights and jackets with the sleeves rolled up, as modelled by the newly-sexualised Michael Fairgate on KNOTS LANDING. (One of Michael’s garishly multi-coloured socks even receives its own closeup this week after he leaves it in Paige’s hotel room and she has to conceal it from his mother.) Pam Ewing’s wedding dress in this week’s DALLAS is also an interesting symbol of the times. I vaguely remember reading that the gown in which she married Mark Graison at the end of the dream season was the single most expensive outfit ever worn on DALLAS. As such, it represented a pinnacle of sorts for Soap Land glamour. The dress she wears for her wedding to Bobby, though hardly plain, is comparatively modest. Instead of a bejewelled soap diva, she looks more like a pretty pixie getting married in a woodland fairytale. The raggedy, elbow-length fingerless gloves she wears appear to be have been influenced by Madonna (as well as eerily foreshadowing the bandages she will be covered in at the beginning of next season).

The simpler, lighter dress also symbolises the new post-dream Pam. For the first time in years, she isn’t weighed down by emotional baggage — there’s no desperate searching for Mark, no silent pining for Bobby. Nor is she caught up in a raging feud between JR and Bobby or the Barneses and the Ewings. For once, she’s unburdened by the past and free to enjoy her good fortune — until the end of the episode, that is.

With Lance and Melissa remarrying on FALCON CREST and Pam and Bobby about to do the same thing, there’s a sense of Soap Land revisiting its past, but this time with a kind of ironic self-awareness. “Knowing how much our family members love each other, we’ll be picking bullets out of the wall till Christmas,” quips Lance after agreeing to have his and Melissa’s wedding reception at Angela’s place. Later, at the party itself, Melissa explains to Dan Fixx why she invited him: “I thought you might like to see how the other half lives.” “Apparently, they keep marrying each other. You must have more china than you know what to do with,” he replies.

Pam and Bobby, meanwhile, go so far as to reenact the car journey they made to Southfork at the very beginning of the series. Just as they stopped off at a gas station for a little smooch in “Digger’s Daughter”, so they pull over on the way to Pam’s wedding shower for the same reason. This time, however, Bobby gets tangled up in his seat belt and Pam gets the giggles — a tacit acknowledgement that they’re not quite the starry-eyed youngsters they used to be. It feels charming rather than overtly knowing — even if it’s hard to know quite what to make of Bobby’s throwaway line, “I need a shower”, at the end of the scene.

In fact, there is no shortage of self-referential moments in this week’s soaps. Most blatant is the one on KNOTS where Val sells the screen rights to Capricorn Crude (her thinly-veiled account of life with the Texas Ewings), to Ramilor Studios (KNOTS’ thinly-veiled version of Lorimar Pictures). In effect, this means that DALLAS is being reduced to a made-for-TV movie within its own spin-off show. (Could this be KNOTS’ revenge for DALLAS turning Bobby’s death into a dream sequence?) Meanwhile, on FALCON CREST, Richard’s secretary wonders why he continues to refer to his bride-to-be as Miss Jones rather than by her first name, Erin. “One of the Walton children was named Erin. I can’t seem to get past that,” he explains. This is one of FC’s occasional nods to its creator Earl Hamner’s other hit show. Elsewhere in the same ep, one of Kim Novak’s past successes is also referenced when her character meets Richard Channing by the Golden Gate Bridge in an almost shot-for-shot recreation of a scene between Novak and James Stewart in Hitchcock’s VERTIGO. It’s Jason Colby’s PLANET OF THE APES “Damn it all to hell!” moment on DYNASTY all over again. (The precise term for this kind of pastiche is, apparently, ‘intertextual’.)

Each of this week’s DYNASTY-verse episodes includes a scene from a minor couple’s unstable marriage. In both cases, the husband is a former senator. On DYNASTY, Buck Fallmont upsets wife Emily by railing drunkenly against “my esteemed friends, the Carringtons” in front of their son Clay and his girlfriend Sammy Jo. He also accuses Emily of favouring Clay over their other son Bart. Meanwhile, on THE COLBYS, Adrienne Cassidy breaks up a cosy tete-a-tete between husband Cash and his former mistress Monica by announcing her intention to join him in Los Angeles while he is working on the IMOS Project.

“I read an article that said that some men are intimidated by today’s woman,” Jamie informs Cliff on DALLAS. Perhaps some women are too. While Monica Colby represents “today’s woman”, her new-old adversary Adrienne, a wronged wife in furs, feels a throw-back to the pre-dream era. Adrienne makes the distinction between herself and Monica during their first onscreen confrontation. “Funny, I always imagined you carried your own baggage,” she tells her. “All that independence … You were a college girl, I was a senator’s wife. I’d have done anything to protect that … If you have any ideas of picking up where you left off with my husband, forget it. You’re not an innocent college girl anymore. This time, no kid gloves.”

Trend of the week: characters squabbling about the sacking and/or reinstating of an employee. “I fired Dana Waring as my assistant. You had no right to hire her,” complains Ben Carrington at Denver-Colby. “Who are you to tell me what to do? … I answer only to Alexis!” snaps back Adam. Alexis gets the last word. Describing Dana as “a very valuable contact”, she sides with Adam. Likewise, at the Del Oro Spa on FALCON CREST, Lance is annoyed when Angela promotes Dan Fixx to concierge a week after he sacked him from his position as a bellhop. “I’m the general manager of this place and I want him out of here,” he insists. “Well, I’m the owner and he stays,” Angela replies. Over on THE COLBYS, Jason attempts to remove Cash Cassidy from IMOS for personal reasons. “You can’t fire a man because your daughter got involved with him,” protests Monica. “The hell I can’t,” counters Jason, “I’m making a formal request — Cash Cassidy goes.” This time, it’s Zach Powers who intercedes, secretly using his political influence to block Jason’s decision. “You make sure Cassidy stays on the project,” he instructs an unknown someone in Washington. “He’s too useful to me right where he is.” There are no such hirings and firings on KNOTS, but Abby and Karen nonetheless clash when the former gives Eric the afternoon off from his job at Lotus Point. “Eric reports to me, Abby,” Karen insists. “I thought he was an employee of the corporation,” replies Abby. “An employee who reports to me,” Karen maintains. “Well, golly whizz, Karen, what would you like me to do — get him back?” Abby asks, smiling sweetly.

The DYNASTY-verse’s illicit romances are subject to interference from concerned third parties this week. While Steven plays the protective big brother towards Amanda on DYNASTY (“I want to know what you’re up to,” he tells Michael Culhane. “I’ll stop you before you hurt Amanda”), choreographer Sasha is every inch the autocratic Soviet when it comes to Kolya’s relationship with Bliss on THE COLBYS (“I warn you, Kolya, if you persist in seeing this Colby girl, I shall be forced to report you”). Over in the Ewing-verse, Cliff Barnes’ and Michael Fairgate’s trysts with sexy young blondes are rudely interrupted by disapproving family members. “You bastard!” yells Cliff's wife Jamie, hurling a champagne bottle in the direction of him and April Stevens after catching them "working late" at Barnes-Wentworth. On KNOTS, Eric arrives home unexpectedly to find his younger brother Michael canoodling with their step-sister Paige. While Jamie subsequently walks out on Cliff, Eric and Michael come to blows.

The Fairgate brothers’ fight is nowhere near as embarrassing as I remember from previous viewings. Granted, it’s less conventionally macho and more emotionally messy than Soap Land’s usual sibling fisticuffs (e.g., Jeff and Miles’ duel in the pool during last week’s party on THE COLBYS, Chase punching Richard during this week’s party on FALCON CREST), but when one remembers that this is the first time Eric and Michael have ever physically fought — or even properly argued, for that matter — the fact that they both dissolve into tears makes a kind of emotional sense. Less plausible is the fragility of the Mackenzies’ living room furniture — curtains are ripped and a coffee table demolished within seconds of the brothers starting to trade blows.

If one were so inclined, one could also read a meta-subtext into the boys’ conflict. When Eric calls his brother stupid for getting involved with Mack’s daughter, Michael responds by calling him jealous. Jealous of Michael getting Nicollette Sheridan into bed? Sure — but also, maybe, jealous of the fact that KNOTS is now presenting Michael as a full blown Tiger Beat cover star, complete with a washboard stomach and front burner storyline. Indeed, Michael’s onscreen development from goofy prepubescent to sexually active pinup is a unique one in Soap Land. Over the same period, Eric has progressed from shy skater boy to a square in a suit whose biggest adult plot-line thus far has required him to lie in an arsenic-induced coma. Meanwhile on DALLAS, try as Charlie Wade might, neither her mother nor the series itself will let her grow up. (By my reckoning, the Charlie we met in Season 1 would be about seventeen by now, but the Shalane McCall version been hovering between fourteen or fifteen for about three years at this point.)

Last week’s punch up between brothers Miles and Jeff and this week’s between Eric and Michael leaves Sable Colby and Karen Mackenzie in similar positions. “This war you’re having with Jeff, fighting in the pool like a couple of water rats — what is going on?” Sable asks her son. “I want an explanation and I want one right now!” demands Karen of her sons. While Eric and Michael’s silence turns the newly unconfident Karen inward (“I blame myself for not being able to figure out what’s wrong with the family”), Miles’s ignorance of whatever provoked Jeff makes Sable even more curious. “What is making everyone in this house so sensitive lately?” she wonders.

There are three sort-of weddings and a funeral in this week’s Soap Land. Preparations for Bobby and Pam’s nuptials dominate DALLAS, although the instalment ends before the vows have been exchanged. As well as Lance and Melissa’s reception, FALCON CREST features Soap Land’s first fake wedding since Nicole Simpson tricked Jeff Colby into thinking they were man and wife on DYNASTY two seasons ago. This time, Richard Channing pulls the same trick on Miss Jones for reasons yet to be revealed. Meanwhile, Phil Harbert’s funeral on KNOTS is a low-key affair with only two mourners, Greg and Mack, in attendance. A wistful, not-in-so-may-words truce takes place between the two men (“Are we getting older?” asks Greg. “I hope we’re getting smarter,” Mack replies), marking the scene as a turning point in the KNOTS saga. I really like Greg’s line when one of the organisers asks if he’d like a reading at the graveside. “Sure,” he replies, “if you’ve got Camus or Kerouac — something with a lot of answers.” It’s a nicely inconclusive coda to Phil’s story.

A couple of weeks after a photofit of Phil’s face on the front page of the local paper led to his capture on KNOTS, Jeff Wainwright’s photo on the cover of the New Globe leads Vicky Gioberti to finally realise that the lover she has gone away with on a romantic road trip is the very same man who kidnapped her mother. Can she raise the alarm without arousing Jeff’s suspicions? It’s a familiar but exciting scenario. Just like Diana Fairgate and Jenna Wade before her, we see Vicky making a frantic call for help from a payphone, only for Jeff to disconnect the call in the same way that Chip Roberts and Naldo Marchetta both did previously. There are other echoes of past scenes: Vicky standing helplessly by as Jeff assaults a gas pump attendant recalls the same scenario that featured Lucy Ewing and Willie the crazy trucker back in DALLAS Season 1, while an attempted rape in a motel room recalls Naldo’s attack on Jenna in DALLAS Season 7.

There is plenty of baby-related drama this week. While Jenna turns to her ex’s brother on DALLAS (“Ray, I’m pregnant … it’s Bobby’s!”), Fallon confides in her mother-in-law on THE COLBYS (“Frankie, this is my baby, but I don’t know whether Jeff or Miles is the father!”). Channing, meanwhile, tells Sable about a high school rape which resulted in a pregnancy and botched abortion that’s left her unable to conceive. It’s a quintessentially lurid Soap Land back story, but thanks to a scene where we see Channing secretly taking birth control pills, Krystle Carrington-style, we also know it isn’t true. Just as DALLAS’s Cliff has been pretending to his wife that he is impotent in the hopes of getting an annulment (“You’re not impotent, you’re just worn out!” Jamie concludes after finding him with April), Channing is pretending to her husband Miles that she is barren for reasons that only become clear towards the end of this week’s episode. Impotence, infertility — familiar Soap Land subjects both. Like Sue Ellen’s detective scam at the beginning of the season, these are two more examples of characters in the post-dream era understanding the conventions of the genre and then subverting them for their own ends.

Nor is Channing the only recently arrived character to be shown lying about her past this week. On KNOTS, Paige assures Karen that her mother’s death has left her financially well off: “Money’s not a problem.” We later see her on the phone arguing with her bank about a bounced cheque. We’re also given hints about the secret pasts of two other Soap Land newcomers. On THE COLBYS, Adrienne thanks Monica “for not telling Cash about the agreement you and I reached all those years ago,” while on FALCON CREST, Lance asks Angela with reference to Dan Fixx, “How much longer are you gonna have to pay for what you did to his mother?” “The rest of my life,” she replies gravely.

This week’s COLBYS and DALLAS both end on a pregnancy revelation. So does the penultimate scene of FALCON CREST. THE COLBYS’ scenario is the cleverest, DALLAS’s the most dramatic and FC’s the weirdest. After sending Channing to Dr Waverly for a second opinion regarding her infertility, Sable later drops by the doctor’s office hoping to find out the results. For once, a Soap Land doctor honours her Hippocratic oath and keeps shtum about the fact that Channing can conceive after all. She does, however, inadvertently reveal that Fallon is further along in her pregnancy than Sable had supposed. All it takes is a look at Fallon’s medical file (which Sable browses through as casually as if it were a novel in a bookstore) and a couple of flashbacks for her to figure out the truth. “Why, Miles, it appears you’re going to be a father after all!” she beams delightedly. While there’s no one around to hear Sable’s words, the same cannot be said of Ray’s similarly-themed announcement at the end of DALLAS. “You’re walking down the aisle with Pam while Jenna is carrying your baby!” he shouts at Bobby — loud enough for Pixie Pam (who, unlike Channing, really is barren) to overhear.

FALCON CREST’s pregnancy disclosure, meanwhile, takes place under circumstances even more extreme. Having dressed Vicky up as her mother (complete with a blonde wig left over from the Krystle lookalike story on DYNASTY) and tied her to a chair, Jeff now semi-believes that she really is Maggie. This is conveyed to the audience by Susan Sullivan and Dana Sparks alternating the role of Vicky-dressed-as-Maggie. Jeff then threatens to stab her. Terrified for her life, Maggie-as-Vicky-as-Maggie blurts out the truth: “You kidnapped her, you raped her and now she’s pregnant!” As if this wasn’t sufficiently bonkers, the scene ends on a blackly comic note with Jeff solemnly informing Vicky that “this means we’re gonna have to quit seeing each other.”

Whereas THE COLBYS and DALLAS conclude with Sable and Pam stumbling on the truth about Fallon and Jenna’s respective baby daddies, DYNASTY and KNOTS both end with bedroom scenes. While Dex and Alexis take refuge in each other’s arms during a storm, KNOTS cuts between Ben and Val toasting her movie deal in bed and a post-coital conversation between Jean Hackney and an unknown lover. As Ben and Val laugh happily, Jean’s voice plays ominously on the soundtrack: “It’s been hard enough getting him [Ben] to agree to spy on Sumner. Imagine how he’s gonna react when he finds out his real assignment is to kill the man.” FALCON CREST ends on an even more murderous note as Jeff pulls a gun on Vicky, they struggle, she topples over a cliff and he takes off, leaving her for dead.

And this week’s Top 5 are …

2 (1) DALLAS
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James from London

Telly Talk Winner
12 Nov 86: DYNASTY: Romance v. 13 Nov 86: THE COLBYS: Deceptions v. 13 Nov 86: KNOTS LANDING: Over the Edge v. 14 Nov 86: DALLAS: Bells Are Ringing v. 14 Nov 86: FALCON CREST: Double Jeopardy

Miles Colby and Peter Hollister each admits to a serious crime this week — rape and attempted murder, respectively. Each confesses to a family member rather than the authorities but receives a very different reaction. “I raped my wife,” Miles tells his mother. “I’m not proud of it, but that’s the truth. Are you satisfied?” “Yes, enormously!” Sable replies, beaming with pride. “I can’t believe I actually thought of killing somebody,” Peter tells his sister, referring to his slow poisoning of fake mom Sylvia. “Thought, Peter? You tried to do it!” exclaims Jill in disgust. “You’re no better than [Paul Galveston] was!”

Bearing in mind what we’ll later learn about the circumstances of Miles’s own conception, Sable’s dismissal of her son’s rape of Fallon is fascinating. “Darling, we’re not perfect works of art,” she tells him. “We’re human, You were overwhelmed by your loss, by your love of the girl, out of control. It happens.” Meanwhile on KNOTS, in spite of her anger towards Peter, Jill helps him conceal Sylvia’s sudden disappearance when Ben Gibson comes calling. “You’re innocent, Peter, so act like it,” she tells him. (It later transpires that Sylvia has grown suspicious of Peter and is hiding out at Abby’s ranch.)

Sable, of course, has a surprise of her own to deliver: “Miles, the baby, the baby she’s carrying, is yours. Fallon’s baby is yours!” So it is that Miles Colby, Bobby Ewing and Jeff Wainwright each now knows that Fallon, Jenna and Maggie are — or at least might be — pregnant with their respective babies.

Miles and Bobby confront their corresponding baby-mothers-to-be, both adopting a similarly indignant tone. “Hiding this from me — how could you?” Miles chides Fallon. “Why didn’t you tell me about the baby? … I had a right to know,” demands Bobby of Jenna. Both women make it clear they want nothing to do with these men. “This is Jeff’s baby,” insists Fallon. “I know it’s Jeff’s and nobody else’s opinion counts … Nobody’s!” “As far as I’m concerned, this baby doesn’t have a father,” snaps Jenna. Over on FALCON CREST, Jeff Wainwright’s meeting with Maggie is even less harmonious. After smashing his way into the Gioberti house, killing a cop and knocking Chase unconscious in the process, he attempts to take her hostage again. She pulls a gun on him. “Is this any way to treat the father of your child?” he asks, grabbing her by the hair.

Miles and Bobby must also deal with the feelings of the other women in their lives, new bride Channing (who claims to be barren) and bride-to-be Pam (who really is barren). While Miles favours one approach (“This has nothing to do with you, Channing … This is strictly between me and Fallon and Jeff”), Bobby adopts another. “You’re the one I love,” he assures Pam. “I can’t imagine spending the rest of my life without you.”

“Pregnant women alone seem to be the fashion these days,” observes Donna on this week’s DALLAS. Alone or not, I can’t remember a time when there were so many expectant mothers in Soap Land. And if Laura Avery gets her way on KNOTS LANDING, there’ll soon be one more. “I really wanna do it all again — teething, diapering, potty training,” she tells Karen. But even in this situation, there’s a snag. Laura admits that she hasn’t “had the courage” to broach the subject with hubby Greg.

Amongst all these complicated pregnancy storylines, the subject of abortion inevitably surfaces. “It’s crossed my mind,” Jeff Colby admits to Fallon. She is appalled. “You’re wrong!” she yells. Bobby Ewing, meanwhile, can’t even bring himself to say the word. “You’re not thinking of …?” he asks when Jenna tells him she’s undecided about having the baby. While Jeff apologises profusely (“I don’t wanna hurt your baby,” he tells Fallon, “I wouldn’t do that for anything in the world”), Jenna remains impressively defiant. “It’s none of your damn business what I do,” she tells Bobby.

“If they put this in a movie, you wouldn’t believe it,” complains Gary on KNOTS when Peter shows up at Jill’s door in the middle of the night asking for a heart-to-heart talk. “Romance novels have more truth to them than Parmalee’s story, believe me,” echoes JR in DALLAS. But how much truth does Val’s novel about the Ewings contain? A whole lot, according to Gary. “Read it? I lived it!” he laughs when Val asks him to reread it to see there’s anything he’d prefer left out of the TV adaptation.

While Val and Gary speculate over who’ll play their younger selves in the movie, Bobby and Pam play their own younger selves when this week’s DALLAS flashes back to their original wedding, which occurred just before the series began. This belongs to the same recent trend for prequel scenes as the 1967 flashbacks in KNOTS and DYNASTY’s reenactment of the night when Blake found Alexis in bed with Roger Grimes. The black and white footage of Bobby and Pam exchanging their vows in 1978 takes place as they are exchanging them again in the present day. Like the non-linear Parmalee flashbacks a few weeks ago, it’s an atypical DALLAS sequence that one cannot imagine occurring any earlier in the series. Similarly, the warning that Cliff amusingly delivers as he’s escorting Pam down the aisle — “You’re walkin’ straight into hell” — seems to belong exclusively to the post-dream era.

As DALLAS revisits the origins of Bobby and Pam’s story, Gary and Val also recall their early life together on KNOTS. “The daughter we couldn’t raise, my drinking, the marriage I was too ignorant to appreciate,” recounts Gary. With KNOTS reaching the halfway point of its entire run in two weeks, it’s fitting that Gary should be in such a reflective mood. This week, he looks back, not only on his history with Val, but with JR (“I let my brother mess up my life when I was a kid”), Abby (“Sex was never our problem”) and Olivia, whom he poignantly describes as “the only one I got a chance to raise.” This makes it sound as if he regards her as a sort of Lucy surrogate, which had never really occurred to me before. It also echoes Bobby’s line to Charlie on last week’s DALLAS: “You’re like a daughter to me.”

In fact, the theme of raising someone else’s child recurs throughout this week’s Soap Land. Before learning that he could be the father of Fallon’s baby, Miles is surprised when his father suggests that he and Channing consider adopting a baby. “It wouldn’t matter to you that it didn’t have Colby blood?” Miles asks. “It’s what’s in the head and heart that matters, not the blood,” Jason replies. This sentiment is echoed by both Peter Stavros on FALCON CREST (“I treat you as my own because you are my own — blood has nothing to do with it,” he assures the woman he thinks is his stepdaughter Skylar) and Bobby on DALLAS (“Christopher’s our son, no matter how he came to be,” he tells Pam). However, as Skylar aka Kit points out, “Not everybody’s capable of treating another person’s child as lovingly as they treat their own.” Certainly not Sable Colby, judging by her dismayed reaction to the prospect of an adoptive grandchild. “Of course, I’ve got nothing against adoption — under certain circumstances,” she adds hastily.

At the end of last week’s DYNASTY, divorcees Alexis and Dex unexpectedly wound up in bed together. Even more unexpectedly, exes Gary and Abby do the same thing on this week’s KNOTS. Whereas Dex insists that he and Alexis now have a future (“We were together again last night and we belong together for thousands more”), Mr and Mrs Ewing mutually agree that their reunion was a one-off. “I sure had a good time last night,” Abby tells Gary. “Yeah … but it’s not enough, not anymore,” he replies. “Who said it was?” she shrugs.

As if he has caught the remarrying bug from Lance and Melissa on FALCON CREST and Pam and Bobby on DALLAS, Dex re-proposes to Alexis. “I’ve tried marriage,” she replies, letting him down gently. “It doesn’t seem to be one of my talents … I need my freedom now.” She then adds, as though she’s been casting an envious eye towards her cousin Sable’s dance company on THE COLBYS, that she wants to “endow museums, start a new opera company, become a civic leader.”

While Dex urges Alexis to sever all ties with Ben Carrington (“Will you stay out of this?” “Not until I get him out of your life, Alexis!”), Gary presents Jill with a direct ultimatum: “Peter Hollister or me … I love you and I think we could have a hell of a future together … but we’re never gonna find out until you get rid of Peter Hollister.” What neither Dex nor Gary realises, however, is that Alexis and Ben, and Jill and Peter, are each bound together by a secret — that Peter isn’t Greg Sumner’s brother but Jill’s, and that Ben and Alexis are both guilty of criminal conspiracy and perjury.

“Even you wouldn’t send your own brother to jail,” says Peter after Jill threatens to expose their deception. “I trust you’re ready to go to jail,” Ben tells Alexis, threatening to expose their deception after she orders him out of her life. “We’d probably get ten years … I love you, but I swear I’ll destroy you before anyone else has you,” he continues as Alexis twitches nervously. It’s the juiciest scene of the episode. (And at the end of this week's KNOTS, it starts to look as though Peter might be capable of similarly drastic action in order to keep Jill quiet.)

Blake Carrington and JR Ewing both believe that the only way to regain their former status in the oil business is to stage an overseas coup. For Blake, that means springing Caress Morelle, the only person who can prove Ben and Alexis perjured themselves against him in court, from the Venezuelan prison where she is being held. For JR, it means blowing up the oil fields in Saudi Arabia that produce the cheap crude which is crippling the Texas oil industry. To achieve these ends, they require the services of Dex Dexter and BD Calhoun. “If we could break Caress out of that prison, bring her back here to Denver and prove that Ben kidnapped her, once and for all we’d be rid of Ben,” Blake tells Dex persuasively. “I don’t care about the nuts and bolts, I just want the price of oil to go up,” JR tells BD curtly, handing him a downpayment of a million dollars.

Last week, Jason Colby tried to fire Cash Cassidy after he found him kissing his daughter Monica. This week, Blake Carrington fires Michael Culhane when he finds him kissing his daughter Amanda. Blake isn’t the only character to find Michael and Amanda together. Fallon and Jeff cross over from THE COLBYS to DYNASTY, ostensibly in order for Jeff to finalise some pipeline business with Alexis, but really so that Fallon can catch her sister and her old flame in an embrace. “Amanda, he’s bad news!” she declares. There’s more sisterly interference on THE COLBYS when Russian ballerina Anna pleads with Bliss to stop seeing her brother Kolya: “It is very dangerous for him. If Sasha reports him … they will send him back to Russia and he will not be allowed to leave ever again or to dance again … If he is not allowed to dance again, he will do something terrible!” (Anna delivers this speech with so much tremulous emotion, I can’t tell whether she’s the best actor in this week’s Soap Land or the worst.) While Amanda dismisses Fallon’s concerns with a smile, Bliss heeds Anna’s warning and breaks things off with Kolya. Meanwhile on KNOTS, Karen adopts a less direct approach when she spots new houseguest Paige knocking on her son Michael’s bedroom door wearing just a towel — she buys her a welcoming gift of a robe.

Last week’s FALCON CREST ended with Vicky Gioberti falling off a cliff during an altercation with Jeff Wainwright. This week’s KNOTS LANDING ends almost identically with Jill Bennett plunging off a similar precipice while arguing with Peter Hollister. There’s a further variation on this scenario at the end of THE COLBYS. As on KNOTS, it’s another sibling showdown, this time between Miles and Jeff on top of the Colby building. Whereas Jill and Peter’s altercation is solely verbal, Jeff and Miles’s soon turns violent and here it’s Miles who topples over the edge. After Jill falls on KNOTS, she manages to grab on to a branch and calls out to Peter for help. Miles similarly grabs onto a lower ledge of the building. Whereas Peter hesitates instead of immediately reaching out to his sister, Jeff instantly grabs onto his brother’s hand and tries to pull him up. While Jill’s branch snaps and she continues to plummet down the hillside, THE COLBYS concludes with a shot of with Miles’s hand slipping dangerously out of Jeff’s. (DYNASTY also ends with a close up of two men’s hands, as Blake and Dex seal their agreement to rescue Caress with a handshake.)

Whereas the staging of Jill’s fall on KNOTS feels a little clumsy — you can kind of tell where they’ve used a stuntwoman and her final landing place seems to take place on a studio set rather than a real location — THE COLBYS’ rooftop scene feels impressively cinematic. The inclusion of rain and mist add to the drama and atmosphere, and the cliffhanging moment itself is a real nail-biter in the classic “Saturday Morning Picture Show” tradition.

The climax of this week’s FALCON CREST is even more action-oriented. Following his attack on the Giobertis, Jeff Wainwright is shot in the arm and forced to flee in Chase’s truck pursued by police. A lengthy chase sequence ensues. Then as the truck reaches a bridge, a bomb is detonated by Richard’s fake bride Erin Jones, who mistakenly believes Chase to be the driver. The bridge collapses and the truck goes up in flames. This collision of storylines is a familiar Soap Land convention, but the tone of the sequence itself is more rock video than soap opera. The emphasis is more on the pounding synthesised soundtrack and visual effects — the car chase, the camera lingering on the burning truck in sadistic slow motion as it plunges off the bridge and explodes — than on the characters. It’s not unimpressive; it just feels a bit anonymous. And I’ve kind of lost track as to why Miss Jones would still be trying to kill Chase at this point anyway.

As well as these big action sequences, there’s also room for a couple of fun moments in this week’s Soap Land where Jack Ewing and Melissa Agretti angrily push Cliff Barnes and Lance Cumson into swimming pools. (The DALLAS scene is the funnier of the two, due to Cliff being fully dressed at the time.)

And this week’s Top 5 are …

1 (2) DALLAS

James from London

Telly Talk Winner
19 Nov 86: DYNASTY: The Mission v. 20 Nov 86: KNOTS LANDING: A Turn of Events v. 21 Nov 86: DALLAS: Who's Who at the Oil Baron's Ball? v. 12 Nov 86: FALCON CREST: Nepotism

The secret missions instigated by Blake Carrington and JR Ewing (to break Caress Morelle out of prison and blow up the Saudi Arabian oilfields respectively) both step up apace this week. While BD Calhoun and his gang of mercenaries head to the Middle East on DALLAS, Dex Dexter and Clay Fallmont travel to Venezuela on DYNASTY. Whereas JR has taken care to distance himself from BD’s actions (“Whichever way it goes, I want the trail to stop with you,” he told him last week), Blake has to be actively dissuaded from accompanying Dex and Clay on their undertaking. “I don’t like other people fighting my battles for me and this is my battle,” he protests.

Over on FALCON CREST, Richard Channing instigates an assignment of his own, albeit more locally. Appropriating the Empire Valley toxic-waste-disposal storyline from last season’s KNOTS LANDING, he bribes an official to dump poisonous chemicals from Peter Stavros’s company onto land belonging to Angela which will then seep into adjacent vineyards recently acquired by Chase — neatly sabotaging three of his enemies in one fell swoop.

Bad guys they might be, but JR’s and Richard’s dastardly schemes both come with a similar caveat. “I don’t want anybody hurt on this project,” JR told BD last week. “I want to make sure that any life-threatening chemicals are properly disposed of,” orders Richard this week. Blake voices a similar concern about the rescue mission on DYNASTY. “Explosives? That’s out of the question. There must be a better way,” he tells Dex — only for Dex to insist that there are no other options.

Blake and JR regard these overseas missions as a way out of their present business difficulties. In each case, however, outlandish soap plotting cuts no ice with the legal system. “You’re asking the district attorney’s office to believe that Benjamin Carrington kidnapped you, somehow managed to fly you to Venezuela and had you put into prison — all this when there’s no record that any of it took place?” scoffs ADA Ferguson on DYNASTY when Caress and Blake go to him with their story. “You’re a rich and powerful man, but if the agency ever found out you were involved in something like this, you’d need a lot more than money to keep you out of a federal pen,” an FBI agent warns JR when questioning him about Calhoun on DALLAS.

Last week’s FALCON CREST afforded us our first glimpse into Dan Fixx’s tangled back story. As if the revelation that Angela crippled his mother in a car accident when he was a young boy was not enough, it also transpired that he’s recently completed a prison sentence for killing a police officer. After bedding Adam on this week’s DYNASTY, Dana Waring treats him (and us) to an insight into her own bizarre past. “I went to the same high school as you,” she tells him. “I followed you here to Denver. I got a job at your father’s company … so that in some strange way I might be near you again.” “I don’t remember you,” Adam admits. “Of course not,” she replies. “I was Dana Waring — long straight hair and hand-me-down clothes, the girl who had a dream that one day you would notice me, look at me, make me smile because I was desperately in love with you.” In this regard, Dana’s status resembles that of Dan’s, the classmate Lance tried to bully when they were young — the invisible high school kid from the wrong side of the tracks.

Much of the action on KNOTS and DALLAS currently focuses on a male outsider — Peter Hollister and Wes Parmalee respectively — who is so isolated from the rest of the characters that he has no one onscreen to whom he can confide his innermost thoughts. Consequently, each of this week’s episodes uses a non-linear narrative device to convey these thoughts to the audience. At the end of last week’s KNOTS, Peter’s sister Jill fell off a cliff shortly after threatening to expose his true identity. The opening scene of week’s ep juxtaposes the sight of Peter abandoning the scene of the accident with a succession of flashbacks that illustrate his conflicted state of mind. It’s a great sequence that seems to go on forever: lots of short, sharp shots of Abby, Greg and Jill, variously taunting, threatening and cajoling Peter until he doesn’t know which way is up. In fact, it may be Soap Land’s most effective use of flashbacks yet.

DALLAS, meanwhile, makes the bold choice of a dream sequence in order to give us an insight into Wes Parmalee’s frame of mind. In contrast to DALLAS’s last dream sequence, it’s brief (twenty-seven seconds as opposed to thirty-one episodes) and economical. It takes place in the cockpit of an aircraft during the middle of a storm. Everything is shaking. A hand struggles frantically with a control stick. Altitude monitors spiral like crazy. The helicopter plummets. Waves rise up to meet the camera. Then Wes wakes up in a cold sweat similar to the one Peter’s covered in by the end of his flashback montage. Being a dream, of course, there’s nothing conclusive about it, but the implication is clear. “He went through the same kind of accident that Jock must have had,” as Dr Danvers declares in a later scene after surveying x-rays of Wes’s battered body. “This man deserves our respect,” he tells Bobby and JR. “He endured more pain than you or I hopefully ever will know.”

Back on KNOTS, Peter eventually makes an anonymous call for help on Jill’s behalf. Her retrieval from the bottom of the canyon is depicted using what looks hand-held footage of a real-life mountain rescue, interspersed with more conventional reaction shots of Peter watching from a discreet distance. It’s a far from seamless blending of styles, but there’s something pleasing about it. By now, this storyline is so layered with secrets and lies, misunderstandings and innuendo, that the chopping and changing of camera footage seems somehow appropriate.

Vicky Gioberti’s almost identical accident on FALCON CREST rendered her unconscious for most of last week’s episode and therefore unable to raise the alarm about Jeff Wainwright’s return to the Tuscany Valley. Jill’s even more serious injuries mean that she is in no condition to either expose Peter as a fraud or exonerate him of any involvement in her fall. Nonetheless, speculation is rife: was Jill’s fall a suicide attempt or the result of a lovers’ tiff between her and Peter? This leads to some first-class scenery chewing from Greg Sumner. “The woman is dying in the hospital under mysterious circumstances … If they implicate you, it’s over!” he bellows at Peter. A gloating Jean Hackney puts it even more succinctly: “This is Peter Hollister’s Chappaquiddick and an end to Sumner’s obsessive aspiration to the White House.”

While Greg conjures up the kind of headline that could wreck Peter’s career and his own dreams of power (“You see the papers now —‘STATE SENATOR’S FORMER LOVER PLUNGES OVER CLIFF AFTER SECRET MEETING’”), Blake Carrington and Angela Channing are the subjects of some genuinely bad press. ‘NEW CARRINGTON SCHEME: EXPERTS LABEL CRATER GAS FIELD WILD SPECULATION,’ reads the front page of the Denver Mirror. ‘COP KILLER FINDS PATRON: A well-known killer continues to serve guests at Angela Channing’s Del Oro Spa,’ trumpets the New Globe.

“Everything you’ve written about the crater so far is fiction,” Krystle tells Gordon Wales on DYNASTY. “Isn’t journalism a respectable profession that this woman [Alexis] is defiling? … I used to respect you as a reporter … I’m afraid she’s corrupted you.” The subject of journalistic integrity also comes up on KNOTS. “I never thought of you as a gossip monger. You’re classier, more of a hard news guy,” Greg tells Ben Gibson who is under pressure from Jean Hackney to tie Peter to Jill’s accident. “You put [the insinuation] on the air, the press will print it. That’s what headlines are made of,” she urges him. “I am not a yellow journalist,” he insists. “It has never been nor will it ever be my style.”

Two more Soap Land women are revealed to be pregnant this week, bringing the current total to six. Just as Donna Krebbs, Fallon Colby, Maggie Gioberti and Jenna Wade were, DYNASTY’s Sammy Jo is surprised to find herself with child, but at least she’s happy about it. (“I have a chance to do something right,” she tells Krystle.) She does, however, follow the Soap Land tradition of keeping the father-to-be in the dark. “I’m scared what he’ll say when he finds out,” she admits, echoing Laura’s concerns in last week’s KNOTS about broaching the subject of having a baby with Greg. An even more unexpected pregnancy is revealed at the end of KNOTS when Jill’s condition takes a sudden turn for the worse. A flock of extras in scrubs descend upon her hospital bed and wheel her away, one of them muttering, “I didn’t know she was pregnant.” Cut to Gary and Abby’s shocked reactions.

Back on DYNASTY, Sammy Jo is urged by her obstetrician — a fifty-something woman with a blonde bouffant and kindly face — to make a hospital appointment to have her pregnancy confirmed. Over on FALCON CREST, Maggie is urged by her obstetrician — a fifty-something woman with a blonde bouffant and kindly face — to make a hospital appointment for her amniocentesis and paternity tests. In each case, the pregnant woman fails to keep the appointment.

Abortion continues to be a common Soap Land topic. On DYNASTY and FALCON CREST, it’s referred to somewhat obliquely. “I’m gonna keep this baby,” Sammy Jo states firmly before her Aunt Krystle has a chance to assume otherwise. “The sooner you know the facts, the sooner you and Chase can make a clear-headed decision,” Maggie’s doctor tells her, referring to the tests she needs to take.

Over on DALLAS, the possibility of Jenna having an abortion is tackled head on, generating some meaty — and sometimes surprising — exchanges between various sets of characters. (This is unusual territory for DALLAS. Customarily, it’s only the latest fight for Ewing Oil that would elicit such an array of opinions.) Donna sides with Bobby who wants Jenna to keep the baby. This leads to another disagreement between the Krebbses. “The baby is hers,” says Ray. “Whether or not she keeps it, that is her choice … As far as Bobby goes, he just wants to have everything his own way.” “Don’t we all?” Donna snaps back. Cliff Barnes, meanwhile, suggests to his sister that if he were her, “I’d be sticking pins in a voodoo doll.” Pam guilty admits that “it would be easier if that baby were never born.”

JR, surprisingly, is on the same side as Ray and Pam. He advises Bobby not to interfere with Jenna’s decision: “Just let things run their course … You’d be ruining your marriage before it even got going.” Bobby is understandably suspicious of his brother’s motives. “Maybe you’re more concerned that if I have another child, that adds up to one more Ewing heir,” he suggests. “This may come as a surprise, Bobby,” JR replies, “but not all my motives are selfish. Maybe sometimes yours are.”

Ray and JR both accusing Bobby of being the selfish brother — now that’s something you don’t see every week. And it’s part of a wider trend of showing Soap Land’s heroes to be more fallible than we’re used to seeing them. Bobby and Pam behaving selfishly on DALLAS (“I hate myself for it,” says Pam), Karen Mackenzie thinking uncharitable thoughts about Mack’s daughter on KNOTS (“I hate myself for feeling this way,” she echoes), Chase Gioberti riding roughshod over people’s feelings on FALCON CREST (“It’s time to put aside friendships for the good of the valley,” he declares) — suddenly, these paragons of Soap Land morality have feet of clay. And all are more interesting, and relatable, as a result. As Cliff says to Pam, “Welcome to the human race.”

The most pronounced of these character changes belongs to Chase. “I have never seen you like this before,” Maggie tells him. As this once courageous and selfless character grows darker by the week, becoming ever more arrogant and power hungry, DYNASTY’s Sammy Jo travels in the opposite direction, revealing a surprising vulnerable, even fragile side, as her feelings for Clay Fallmont deepen. Whereas this new Sammy Jo bears little relation to the scheming little minx we’ve come to know and love, the new Chase feels like one we’ve occasionally glimpsed out of the corner of our collective eye during FALCON CREST’s first five seasons — his innate self-righteousness has simply been twisted in a new direction. And it sure makes for some interesting sparks between him and Maggie. “It’s time for a change,” he tells insists. “Does that mean turning your back on everyone who’s ever meant anything to you?” she asks him.

There are further juicy marital scenes in DALLAS where, thanks in large part to the narrative disruption caused by Pam’s Dream, the depiction of Ray and Donna’s estrangement now has an unusual rhythm to it. Almost every week, there’s a scene between them that’s dramatically meaty and/or achingly poignant, and which feels much more character-based than plot-driven. “If two people are willing to compromise, they can work things out,” asserts Ray. “Compromise? Why is it that when people use that word they always mean ‘do it my way?” scoffs Donna in reply. “You don’t wanna compromise, Ray Krebbs. You don’t wanna do it my way — any more than I wanna do it yours.” “When someone does something you hate, do you try to ignore it to save the relationship? How much can you ignore about a person and still call it a relationship?” That’s not a quote from Ray or Donna — it’s actually Melissa talking about her marriage to Lance on FALCON CREST — but the question still applies to the Krebbses.

There are similarly tense bedroom scenes between Soap Land’s recent newlyweds-for-the-second-time this week — Lance and Melissa, and Bobby and Pam. At Southfork, Pam arrives home late, using shopping as an excuse to avoid being alone with her new husband. “There is a problem, but I don’t like my response to it,” she admits, referring to Jenna’s pregnancy. “Lance, when we go to bed at night, am I supposed to forget everything that’s happened all day?” pouts Melissa, alluding to her new husband's mysterious alliance with Richard at the New Globe. Both disagreements are resolved by the end of the scene, at least temporarily. ”I’d probably run away if I could, but I need you too much,” Pam tells Bobby and they kiss. “I know what I’m doing,” Lance assures Melissa and they kiss.

Soap Land’s best-selling novelists, Val Gibson and Maggie Gioberti, are each back at the typewriter this week, struggling to put their real life experiences on paper. On KNOTS, Val attempts to adapt Capricorn Crude for television amidst various distractions. “It’s what you call a backyard pilot,” explains Lilimae to someone on the phone. “If they like it and the ratings are good, they could turn it into a regular series.” (In other words, Val is writing a parallel universe version of the original DALLAS mini-series.) Maggie, meanwhile, is trying to write “an article, an essay, therapy …” based on her ordeal at the hands of Jeff Wainwright. A sympathetic Richard offers to print it in the Globe. Maggie, still angry at the coverage he gave Jeff’s novel (“If you had thought for one moment how those articles would provoke that sick mind …”), points out that Richard himself features in her piece. “Are you gonna print something that calls you what you are?” she challenges him. “Sure, why not, if it’s the truth,” he replies seriously, then adds, “… and if it’ll sell more newspapers.” Maggie laughs despite herself. The scene in DALLAS where Pam confides in her brother about her feelings of anger towards Jenna’s baby has a similar dynamic. Like Richard, Cliff responds with compassion and understanding (“All of us are selfish at one time or another …”) and then immediately undercuts this by making a knowing gag at his own expense (“… even me”). Like Maggie, Pam laughs.

Karen’s instinctive mistrust of Paige on KNOTS is met with scepticism from Val and agreement from Lilimae who takes the opportunity to remind them both of her own clairvoyant abilities. “I know you don’t trust my premonitions,” she tells Val, “but I was right about Karen and all that fire, and I know I’m right about that girl.” Indeed, Soap Land has always approached the paranormal with a surprising lack of scepticism. (The psychics consulted by Alexis, Pam and Blake were all genuine, for instance, and let’s not forget all the supernatural stuff that took place towards the end of FLAMINGO ROAD and in the “Three Sisters” episode of KNOTS.) This week’s FALCON CREST, however, features Soap Land’s first psychic charlatan. When Emma consults a medium named Karlotti in the hopes of communing with her late fiancé Dwayne, he covertly flicks a switch that causes lights to flicker on and off at the appropriate moment. It’s a bit SCOOBY DOO.

Val finding Gary with Abby, Alexis discovering Dex with Amanda, Donna walking on Ray and Bonnie, Sue Ellen catching JR with Holly Harwood, even Angela seeing Lance with Morgan Fairchild — numerous Soap Land characters have walked into a room and been shocked to find a loved one with their shoes parked under the wrong bed. KNOTS recently gave us a variation on this scenario when Gary caught Abby in bed with Peter Hollister but failed to raise an eyebrow. This week, it gives us another. Late one night in the Mackenzie household, Karen creeps into her sleeping son Michael’s room to collect his dirty laundry. So far, so mundane. It’s only when she turns around to straighten his blankets that she realises that he’s sharing his bed with his stepsister Paige.

At the other end of the age range, this week’s DALLAS is bookended by scenes of Clayton accusing Miss Ellie of betraying him with another man. “Ellie, what are you doing here with him?” he demands in the opening scene after finding her and Wes Parmalee at a museum. “How could you stand there while that man makes a mockery of your family, of our marriage?” he asks her in the closing scene after Wes has taken to the stage of the Oil Baron’s Ball and publicly declared himself to be Jock. In each case, Miss Ellie dithers, unable to provide a satisfactory answer — another indication that Donna Reed’s less assertive portrayal of Mrs Clayton Farlow wasn’t so wide of the mark after all.

The TV and movie business seem to have replaced the music industry as Soap Land’s go-to branch of showbiz this season. A week after KNOTS introduced us to the husband and wife team in charge of Ramilar Productions (fictionalised versions of Bernard Lechowick and Lynne Marie Latham, perhaps?) who are making Val’s TV movie about the Dallas Ewings, DALLAS itself introduces its own Hollywood producer — Rocket Films’ Bruce Harvey. Last seen getting electrocuted at Empire Valley, he is now a sleazy “tinsel town dummy” who “does more exploitation pictures than anybody in the business.” Spotting an opportunity to get Mandy Winger out of Dallas once and for all, Sue Ellen engineers a meeting between her and Bruce. Imagine the irony if Rocket Films were to pass on Mandy and Ramilar ended up casting her as Sue Ellen in Val’s TV movie instead.

And this week’s Top 4 are …

2 (1) DALLAS
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James from London

Telly Talk Winner
26 Nov 86: DYNASTY: The Choice v. 27 Nov 86: THE COLBYS: And Baby Makes Four v. 27 Nov 86: KNOTS LANDING: Touch and Go v. 28 Nov 86: DALLAS: Proof Positive v. 28 Nov 86: FALCON CREST: Slow Seduction

The intertexuality is through the roof in this week’s Ewingverse. On KNOTS LANDING, Val is informed by Lorimar — I mean, Ramilar — Productions that the screen adaptation of Capricorn Crude needs to be rushed into production because “another network is working on a similar story … set in Texas.” As Capricorn Crude has already been established as an (even more) fictionalised version of DALLAS (a fiction within a fiction, if you will), then what can be the real life equivalent of this “similar story … set in Texas”? Surely the only candidate is THE YELLOW ROSE — the oil-and-ranching drama in which Mandy Winger made her Soap Land debut. And where do we find Mandy this week? Why, watching her own image projected onto a movie screen as she performs an audition scene on the set of Karen and Mack’s KNOTS LANDING kitchen. To make matters even more meta, the scene itself is a pastiche of MIAMI VICE (not a “similar story … set in Texas” this time, but DALLAS’s real-life time-slot competitor) with Mandy as the long-suffering girlfriend of a Sonny Crockett type played Soap Land’s future Tommy Mackay/Roger Grimes. While the ongoing Ramilar gag on KNOTS feels a bit too broad and knowing, the sly digs at MIAMI VICE (“You drive around in that sports car all night playing terrible music so loud you drive everybody crazy!”) are light and — that word again — playful. The sequence also manages to advance Mandy’s storyline in a way that is both poignant (the success of her screen test means the end of the road for her and JR) and thrilling (Sue Ellen is secretly behind the whole thing!).

This week’s DYNASTY is volatile and fast-paced and slightly mad — in a good way. The scene where Caress lunges at Ben (“You scum!”) as Alexis looks on in alarm has a similarly visceral quality to the brilliant scene in “Divorce Ewing Style” (DALLAS Season 2) where Sue Ellen physically attacks JR during a family gathering. Caress goes on to demand $1,000,000 from Ben and Alexis, “for each of the five years I was buried alive.” Over on DALLAS, April Stevens mentions the same figure when she tries to offload her five percent of Ewing Oil onto Cliff Barnes. “I came into this town with nothing,” she reminds him. “A million dollars would be very nice walkaway money.” While Ben and Cliff each react to their respective propositions with a derisive chuckle, Alexis’s response is more surprising. In the same way that JR caught his brother Bobby off-guard in last week’s DALLAS by giving him some selfless advice about his marriage, Alexis wrong foots her sister by offering her a no-strings-attached job as the Denver Mirror’s new society columnist. The gesture is as satisfying as it is unexpected, as it makes Alexis appear (as JR did last week) a more rounded character. Caress’s response is very interesting too. Even though she accepts the position, it soon emerges that she has no interest in working for a living, however well-paid. In her craving for wealth and luxury, she’s like an addict — she wants it all and she isn’t even prepared to wait for her first paycheque to get it.

Zach Powers is well-utilised in a crossover appearance from THE COLBYS. As well as helping Michael Culhane infiltrate Blake’s latest business venture (a sneaky scheme that is speedily executed within the space of a few scenes), his presence affords Caress the opportunity to call in an outstanding debt. “How much are your past mistakes worth to you, Zach?” she purrs. He responds by writing her a cheque for $250,000. “Is that fair?” he asks. “For now,” she replies smugly. Here, alas, she has overplayed her hand. “It would never end, would it, Caress?” Zach realises, snatching back the cheque and ripping it into pieces. “Therefore, it must never begin.” As much as Caress would love to be a Soap Land femme fatale, she can’t quite pull it off. She’s too pathetic, too needy to compete with the big boys and so Zach — the man she has described as the love of her life — is able to swat her away without so much as a second thought.

As Caress loses out on $25,000 from ex-lover Zach, April tries to offload her piece of Ewing Oil onto ex-husband Jack for the same amount. Jack, however, isn’t biting. “It’s looking more and more like our share of Ewing Oil may come to nothing — which is a hell of a lot more than you deserve,” he snaps at her. Caress is no more successful in her efforts to extort a measly $100,000 from Emily Fallmont. “I can’t raise that kind of money. Every cent I have is in Buck’s name!” Emily sobs.

Thwarted gold-diggers they might be, but Caress and April are very different characters. Whereas Caress can’t help but emit a scent of desperation (she blackmails Emily with tears in her eyes), April has fun as she schemes. In spite of the setbacks she encounters in this week’s episode, her twinkle never wavers and she always has a ready quip to hand. In this regard, and in the carefree way she sashays in and out of scenes, her blonde curls bouncing as she goes, she reminds me of no one so much as early Abby on KNOTS. Caress, meanwhile, is more like DALLAS's Kristin or FALCON CREST’s Pamela Lynch as they teetered on the brink of their respective downfalls. Like Caress, they were both self-described “wronged women” who made the mistake of thinking they could turn the tables on their ex-lovers (JR and Richard Channing) only to be outmanoeuvred at the last minute. But whereas Kristin and Pamela then sought revenge by trying to kill JR and Richard, here it’s Caress who finds herself dodging a hail of bullets (Kit Marlowe-style) in an underground parking garage.

It’s strange to see DYNASTY characters as glitzy as Emily Fallmont and Caress Morelle scrabbling around for a mere $100,000 (the Soap Land equivalent of loose change) and it adds an interesting edge to the show. In fact, DYNASTY as a whole is looking less grand this season. Blake’s latest office suite and Alexis’s new headquarters at the Denver Mirror are significantly smaller than their previous showrooms at Denver Carrington and Colby Co, while most of the Carringtons are still camping out in the comparatively modest surroundings of the Carlton. Indeed, Blake and Krystle’s hotel suite pales next to the swanky one presently occupied by Wes Parmalee on DALLAS. “You’re living high on the hog — and on the cuff,” observes Ray, also making reference to the fact that Wes is now dressing in bespoke suits courtesy of Jock Ewing’s old tailor.

While DYNASTY has the kind of fast-moving momentum one associates with the end of a season, the atmosphere on DALLAS is more sombre, while suggesting that the show is similarly headed towards a point of no return. “There’s a time coming when people are gonna have to decide once and for all,” predicts Wes while talking to Ray about his claim to be Jock.

Then there’s the bittersweet scene between JR and Mandy in his box at Texas Stadium. “This was the first place you brought me when we met,” she remembers. “You were so sweet, the way you courted me. You treated me like a queen.” She goes on to explain that she has been offered a Hollywood movie contract. “It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of.” However, “I’ll turn it all down, I’ll give all that up … if you move off Southfork right now and tell the whole world that I’m to be the next Mrs Ewing …” “We both know that will never happen, don’t we?” JR tells her. “I guess we always knew,” she agrees sadly. On paper, this is a rerun of their breakup scene that took place in the penultimate episode of the Dream Season. Back then, it was an overseas modelling assignment that Mandy was willing to sacrifice if only JR would make an honest woman of her. JR turned her down then too — but whereas that version of events left Mandy in a sobbing heap on the floor, here she gets to keep her dignity. As she turns to leave, JR stops her with the line: “If it woulda happened with anyone, it woulda happened with you.” “But it didn’t,” she replies before carrying on her way, her heart broken but her head held high.

“I guess we always knew …” says Mandy. There’s a similar sense of predestination in the best scene of this week’s FALCON CREST. “It never changes — Cole has the dreams, Lance has the schemes,” Cole sighs when his erstwhile rival drops by for a not-in-so-many-words farewell scene. “Take care, cousin,” replies Lance fondly, giving him a thumbs up. This exchange comes out of nowhere — at this point, Cole hasn’t announced his intention to leave the valley — and yet it manages to silently acknowledge six years of history between these two characters, who could have easily been close friends had the circumstances they were born into not pitted them against each other.

Young love — and the parental disapproval thereof — remains an ongoing theme. In the same way that Michael Fairgate showed up late to an important family dinner on KNOTS a few weeks ago because he was in bed with his stepsister Paige, Amanda Carrington fails to show up to an equally significant family gathering on this week’s DYNASTY because she’s in bed with ex-chauffeur Michael. “I wanna spend all my time with you,” Michael tells her by way of pillow talk. “All I care about is you,” echoes ballet dancer Kolya on the sister show after breaking into the Colby grounds at night to woo Bliss in her bedchamber. Neither Blake nor Jason hold back in voicing their displeasure when they find out what their daughters have been up to. “You chose to be with that man rather than with your family. It’s a sad choice,” Blake tells Amanda sternly. “I don’t want to see you near my house again or my daughter,” Jason informs Kolya emphatically.

In contrast to the strong moral certainty exhibited by the patriarchs of the DYNASTY-verse, Mack and Karen cannot decide how best to confront Michael and Paige over their relationship. The Mackenzies’ discomfort and indecision is both funny and relatable. “I don’t know what we should say,” Karen kvetches. “I don’t wanna say the wrong thing.” “Don’t overanalyse this,” Mack replies. “It’s plain and simple, black and white — they were kids and they were wrong to have sex.” When Karen insists that “the worse thing we could do is to make a big deal out of this,” it’s as if she’s already watched this week’s episodes of DYNASTY and THE COLBYS and doesn’t want to come across as heavy-handed a parent as Blake and Jason have.

Karen’s more considered approach appears to pay off. Whereas the DYNASTY-verse daughters remain defiant in the face of their fathers’ disapproval (“I won’t give him up, Daddy!” insists Amanda; “I’ll never forgive you for this — never!” Bliss vows to her daddy), Paige is downright apologetic when her stepmother tactfully suggests that sleeping with Michael might not have been such a good idea: “You’re right. I’m sorry … It won’t happen again. The last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt you or Mack.” (This doesn’t, however, prevent Paige and Michael from continuing their relationship in secret.)

A grownup child leaving the family home is always A Major Deal in Soap Land and the prospect crops up several times this week. As well as Mandy challenging JR to “move off Southfork”, DYNASTY ends with Amanda announcing, “I’m moving in with him!” when her father forces her to choose between her family and Michael Culhane. “You want us to move out?” asks Michael Fairgate when Mack objects to his romance with Paige on KNOTS. Over on FALCON CREST, Cole Gioberti presents his family with the idea as a fait accompli: “In ten days time, my boat and I have a date with the Pacific. I’m sailing to Australia where I’ve been asked to be a permanent partner in a new wine venture … It’s something I have to do.”

There’s more moving out on DALLAS. “Part of you thinks that Wes Parmalee is your dead husband come back to you and as long as that is so I cannot live in this house,” Clayton tells Miss Ellie before leaving Southfork. And how ironic that JR should be the most vocal about wanting his stepfather back at the ranch! “What’s he doing in a hotel for crying out loud?” he barks angrily. “How could you let him do something like that, Mama? … I’m gonna get him on the phone and you’re gonna talk him into coming back here!” At this, Ellie puts her foot down. “In this house, I’ll tell you what your business is,” she informs him in no uncertain terms. Nor is she the only head of the family to pull rank this week. “Breaking in, sneaking into my daughter’s bed? Not in my house!” decrees Jason Colby. His sentiment is echoed by Mack on KNOTS. “This is a big deal,” he tells Karen. “Your son and my daughter have had sex in our house.” Back on DYNASTY, Blake feels the loss of his own house keenly. “Ever since we’ve moved out of our home, I feel like I’ve lost contact with my children,” he admits to Krystle.

It’s been another busy week in Pregnancy Corner. While Fallon makes a surprise threat to Miles on THE COLBYS (“If you don’t stop [harassing me], I swear to God I’ll have an abortion”), Jenna and Maggie reach identical conclusions on DALLAS and FALCON CREST. “I can’t abort this baby,” Jenna tells Charlie. “I’m going to keep this baby,” decides Maggie after hearing its heart beat during her amniocentesis. Over on KNOTS, Jill Bennett miscarries on the operating table.

There are similarly contrasting reactions to the prospect of fatherhood. Whereas Clay Fallmont’s reaction to the news that Sammy Jo is pregnant on DYNASTY is lukewarm — he manages a smile, but we can see from his expression as he hugs her that he is far from thrilled — Miles wastes no time in asserting his legal rights as the presumptive father of Fallon’s baby on THE COLBYS. (“It looks like the three of us are having a baby and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it,” he tells Fallon and Jeff gloatingly.) And while Bobby Ewing is too busy dealing with the threat posed by Wes Parmalee to deal with Jenna’s pregnancy on DALLAS, his brother Gary spends pretty much all of KNOTS reeling first from the shock of Jill’s pregnancy and then from the news that she’s miscarried. Meanwhile on FALCON CREST, Chase chooses to bury himself in his various business projects rather than face the uncertainties surrounding his wife’s pregnancy. Somewhat inevitably, Maggie turns to Richard for support instead.

As new brides who have recently discovered that their husbands have impregnated other women, Channing Carter Colby and Pamela Barnes Ewing have a lot in common. This week, each approaches her adversary on enemy territory (Channing confronts Fallon in the new Colby nursery while Pam visits Jenna at her boutique) to make a desperate plea. Channing asks Fallon to return to Denver for the remainder of her pregnancy while Pam, unaware that Jenna has already decided against an abortion, tries to persuade her to have the baby and then let her and Bobby adopt it. “I’m not asking you, I’m begging you,” pleads Channing. “This is wrecking my marriage … Please just give us some time.” “Oh Jenna, please,” entreats Pam. “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do … I’m trying to make the best of a horrible situation.” While Fallon tries to point out that Channing’s request is unrealistic (“out of sight is not out of mind, not with Miles”), Jenna accuses Pam of trying to buy her baby and furiously orders her out of the boutique. It’s particularly satisfying to see Jenna — for so long the passive underdog in the Bobby/Pam saga — energised by her anger towards the happy couple and finally regaining the upper hand over her rival.

Elsewhere, Emily Fallmont and Adrienne Cassidy continue to battle it out for the title of Most Long-Suffering Wife of a Former Senator in the DYNASTY-verse. Both are haunted by secrets relating to an extra-marital affair that took place years before. Caress is once again threatening to expose Emily’s fling with Ben Carrington (“My family is my whole life!” Emily wails) while Adrienne delivers the shock revelation that her eight year old son is really the result of Cash’s affair with Monica — only Monica doesn’t know! Turns out it’s all Barbara Stanwyck’s fault. “She said if I didn’t let you adopt Scott,” Adrienne tells Cash, “she’d drive you out of the senate … I loved you. I couldn’t let her destroy you so I swallowed my pride and took in your bastard.” Wow — that’s the plot of a whole Douglas Sirk movie right there.

And this week’s Top 5 are …

1 (2) DALLAS

James from London

Telly Talk Winner
03 Dec 86: DYNASTY: The Secret v. 04 Dec 86: THE COLBYS: Bid for Freedom v. 04 Dec 86: KNOTS LANDING: The Inside Man v. 05 Dec 86: DALLAS: Something Old, Something New v. 05 Dec 86: FALCON CREST: Maggie

Once again, Soap Land’s fathers are out in force, trying to prevent their impetuous offspring from making unwise romantic choices. While Buck Fallmont’s objections to Sammy Jo as a potential daughter-in-law appear to be solely based on her last name (“Her background is Carrington. That means she’s filth … a Carrington tramp!”), Jason Colby’s argument against his daughter Bliss’s “disastrous love affair” with a Russian ballet dancer is more considered. “You and Kolya, baby, it can never happen,” he tells her gently. “They won’t let him stay and they won’t let you follow. Now that is reality … You can’t change the Soviet system.” Chase Gioberti and Blake Carrington, meanwhile, have each based their opinions of their respective daughter’s new boyfriend on his past reputation. “I know who you are and how you operate. I am not going to let that happen to my daughter!” shouts Blake at Michael Culhane after finding that Amanda has moved in with him. ”He’s an ex-convict, he’s a murderer!” yells Chase after reading in the gossip columns that Vicky is now dating Dan Fixx.

Predictably enough, Soap Land’s children remain defiant. “Her name is Sammy Jo and she’s a beautiful decent woman,” Clay Fallmont informs his father. “Kolya and I will be together!” Bliss Colby tells hers. “He is good enough,” insists Amanda on DYNASTY. “There’s a reason for what he did,” argues Vicky on FALCON CREST.

Their fathers’ cases stated, the focus switches to Soap Land’s mothers — can they do a better job of getting through to their lovestruck kids? The results are mixed. FALCON CREST’s Maggie proves surprisingly ineffectual when Vicky turns to her for support in the face of Chase’s disapproval of Dan. “I feel the same way about it,” she admits. Back in the DYNASTY-verse, whereas Sable’s instinct is to defend Jason (“When it comes to your happiness, he’ll do anything,” she assures Bliss), Alexis wins Amanda round by pretending to side with her against her father (“Unlike Blake, I don’t put conditions on your happiness”) even though she and Blake are, for once, on the same side.

Things are even more topsy turvy in the Ewing-verse where once unassailable matriarchs are under fire from their sons. On KNOTS, Karen Mackenzie is the focus of Michael’s anger when Paige’s feelings towards him begin to cool. “My mother interferes with my life and treats me like a baby,” he complains. On DALLAS, Miss Ellie’s refusal to denounce Wes Parmalee as a fraud provokes threats of desertion from her boys. “I’d hate to see you and I come to a parting of the ways,” JR tells her, “but I will never let another man sit in Jock Ewing’s chair.” “I won’t leave under the same roof as that man, Mama,” echoes Bobby.

The missing pieces in two characters’ back stories are filled in this week when Michael Culhane makes a full confession to Amanda on DYNASTY and Dan Fixx does the same thing to Vicky on FALCON CREST. “I’ve cheated people,” admits Michael, “I’ve used them. I was even using you at first … to get back at your father.” Dan, meanwhile, tearfully explains the real reason he killed that cop — because he was supplying Dan’s drug-addicted wife with narcotics in return for sexual favours. (“I found them in my bed. He went for his gun, I dove on him, the gun went off.”)

No sooner are these characters’ histories are explained than fresh cracks appear in another newcomer’s back story. Over on KNOTS, Karen suspects Paige of forging a letter supposedly written by her mother to Mack twenty years earlier. “If Paige is lying about the letter, then what the hell else is she lying about?” ponders Mack as the screen cuts to a graveyard and, specifically, a shot panning down the names on Matheson family headstone. Right at the bottom lies the inscription: “Paige, 1967 - 1985.” Cue the end titles.

If Paige isn’t really Paige then she’s in good company. There are so many impostors, frauds and characters leading double lives in Soap Land, it’s hard to keep track of them all. Aside from Peter Hollister claiming to be Greg’s brother on KNOTS, Wes Parmalee insisting he’s Jock Ewing on DALLAS and Kit Marlowe pretending to be Skylar Kimble on FALCON CREST, this week sees the unmasking of humble chauffeur Michael as a multi-millionaire on DYNASTY (“I have had you investigated … Why the lies?” demands Alexis) and trophy wife Sue Ellen as the mastermind behind Valentine Lingerie on DALLAS (“I created you,” she informs a stunned Mandy Winger). Meanwhile in the Tuscany Valley, you can’t move for fakes. While Richard Channing is too busy blackmailing Kit Marlowe over her deception to notice that his baby son’s sexy new nanny is really Erin Jones’s vengeful sister in disguise, his sister Emma is being conned twice over: firstly, by the psychic Karlotti who is pretending to channel her dead fiancee Dwayne and secondly, by a flirtatious magazine writer who is really one of the gangsters gunning for the aforementioned Kit. Even Val Gibson’s preppy personal secretary on KNOTS is under suspicion — Ben is convinced he’s really a spy planted by Jean Hackney but scares him off before we can get to the truth of the matter.

The letter Anne wrote but never sent in 1967 might well be a forgery (“Something about it just seems wrong to me,” maintains Karen), but the mixed emotions it describes at the prospect of facing motherhood alone (“Today I’m crying for happiness because today I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl — our baby, Mack. But I’m also crying because you’re not here with me now”) chime almost exactly with those expressed by Donna Krebbs regarding her unborn child on this week’s DALLAS. (“There’s this new little person in there and I get very excited, and then I get real sad because Ray and I aren’t sharing it together.”)

On this week’s episode of THE COLBYS, Miles gatecrashes Fallon and Jeff’s ski-lodge vacation, ostensibly to prevent them killing his baby: “They were talking about an abortion … Now they’re going skiing? Wouldn’t it be convenient if Fallon should accidentally fall, losing the baby?” Other Soap Land fathers-to-be are somewhat less protective, however. “I want you to have an abortion,” Clay tells Sammy Jo on DYNASTY. Over on FALCON CREST, Chase is incensed when he learns that Maggie has cancelled the paternity test because she has decided to keep the baby irrespective of who the biological father really is.

After some soul-searching, Sammy Jo informs Clay that, “I love you but with or without you, I’m gonna have the baby.” “You never said how you felt about abortion, but I think I know a little bit about you,” says Jenna to Ray who is visibly relieved upon hearing that she too plans to keep her baby on DALLAS. Back on FC, Richard Channing equips Maggie with an emotive poem “written by a lady down in Los Angeles” which she then reads aloud to her family to explain why she has also decided against an abortion. (“Come to me, all my children that will never be …”) So it is that Jenna, Maggie, Sammy Jo and Fallon have all considered the option of abortion before electing to keep their babies. While each character’s decision has been based on her own storyline, taken cumulatively, the overall message one is left with as a Soap Land viewer with is that choosing to have an abortion simply isn’t something that a morally good person does. The fact that someone as ethically dubious as Richard supports Maggie in her decision to keep her baby while her own husband doesn’t merely serves as an indication of how far towards the dark side Chase has travelled.

Redemption, meanwhile, is a recurring theme in this week’s DYNASTY. After returning to Denver to get revenge on Blake, Michael Culhane has now seen the light. “I love you and I could never do anything to hurt your father now,” he tells Amanda. Blake then appeals to bad brother Ben to mend his ways as well. “You’ve got intelligence and drive and ambition. Why don’t you put those wonderful qualities into something positive, something good and decent?” he suggests. Ben seems momentarily tempted, but then quickly pulls down the shutters. “You live your way and I’ll live mine,” he snaps.

Elsewhere in the episode, Emily Fallmont’s need to confess her affair with Ben Carrington to her husband is driven by her religious beliefs: “If only God would forgive me, but I guess he hasn’t.” Nor is that the only religious reference in the Fallmont household this week. “In church one Sunday,” recalls Buck during a bitter argument with son Clay, “the minister was quoting proverbs … ‘A wise son maketh a glad father.’” He goes on to describe Clay as “a worthless son”. Shortly after this confrontation, Clay has a change of heart about Sammy Jo’s pregnancy and asks her to marry him. And of course, Sammy Jo herself is a prime example of a DYNASTY character trying to make amends for past mistakes. As Krystle reminds her, “You’ve gone through the pain and you’ve grown from it.”

(It’s interesting to compare these various attempts to Do the Right Thing with the gradual, low-key erosion of Ben Gibson’s integrity on KNOTS LANDING. The mysterious wedges of cash Val finds in his pockets, his bedtime drinking, the abandoning of his cherished journalistic career in order to work for Greg Sumner … it’s all quietly, desperately heartrending — all the more so because there’s nobody he can turn to for help.)

After Emily tells Buck about her fling with Ben twenty years earlier, it doesn’t take him long, in spite of his permanently drunken state, to figure out that Clay might not be his worthless son after all. Distraught, Emily decides to flee Denver. Dainty as she is, one would be hard pressed to find anything in common between Emily and Phil Harbert, the slob who kidnapped Karen at the end of last season’s KNOTS, yet each character meets a similar destiny. Both attempt to outrun their past mistakes by leaving town — only for fate, in the shape of an oncoming car, to intervene before they can make their escape.

There are several departures from Soap Land this week. Like Emily Fallmont at the end of DYNASTY, Kolya Rostov appears to die in the final scene of THE COLBYS, having opted to throw himself off a hotel balcony rather than be forcibly returned to Russia. Sylvia Lean, meanwhile, abruptly disappears midway through this week’s KNOTS after Greg offers her the choice of “a condo in Hawaii, a penthouse in Singapore or a little grass shack in Tahiti.” At least DALLAS’s Mandy Winger and FALCON CREST’s Cole Gioberti each get to bid an on screen farewell before heading for a new life in Hollywood and Australia respectively.

If one accepts that Soap Land is a place where women are defined by their relationships with men and that when it comes to the battle of the sexes, revenge rather than empowerment is as much victory as any female character can hope for, then Mandy’s goodbye scene, which takes place between her and Sue Ellen, is about as feminist as the genre gets. Albeit unintentionally, Mandy and Sue Ellen’s effect on each other’s lives has been almost wholly positive. Just as it was Mandy’s affair with JR that led to Sue Ellen’s transformation into a successful creative business woman so it is Sue Ellen who has turned Mandy into a star.

Her plan to get Mandy out of Dallas having succeeded, Mandy acknowledges Sue Ellen as “the winner” — but is she? As Sue Ellen herself points out, “You would have been miserable with JR, in or out of marriage.” She also assures Mandy that “when you become a famous movie star, revenge will seem like such a little thing.” So, having been set free from the shackles of Soap Land and the treadmill of misery and revenge that a life with JR would surely entail, doesn’t that make Mandy the real winner? Fast forward twenty-seven years to JR’s memorial service and there’s a similar ambiguity. “You’re the lucky one, Sue Ellen,” concedes Mandy in 2013 while reminiscing fondly about the man they both loved. Meanwhile, her erstwhile rival is hungrily eyeing up the drinks tray.

While Mandy’s departure is fascinating, Cole’s on FALCON CREST is more conventional as his immediate family line up to wish him bon voyage. However, the emphasis in the scene isn’t really on Cole, but on those he is leaving behind. The estrangement between Chase and Maggie is striking. Far from comforting each other as their only son sets sail to the other side of the world, they barely acknowledge each other’s existence. When Cole observes that “this family’s falling apart,” his mother does not contradict him. Instead, she sets him free from his soap opera existence (“Go, it’s OK”) just as Sue Ellen does Mandy from hers.

The truth is that Cole’s been on the FC sidelines for some time. Much has been made on screen about Angela bringing Dan Fixx into the family fold as a replacement for Lance, but in terms of his role on the series, it’s really Cole’s position that Dan had usurped. Such is the haste with which Cole is written off the show that the fact that he is leaving without his son Joseph — the same son he has fought so hard to gain custody of in earlier seasons — is mentioned merely in passing. Meanwhile, Cole’s DYNASTY counterpart, Steven Carrington — another longstanding “good son” in danger of being overlooked by the series — gets his first independent storyline in ages when a pretty psychotherapist informs him his son Danny has become introverted and withdrawn, for much the same reasons that John Ross was on DALLAS a few years ago. Whether Christopher Atkins will once again show up in a pair of blue speedos to save the day remains to be seen.

At the same time as depicting the Soviet government as tyrannical and corrupt, THE COLBYS is careful to portray its leading man, Jason Colby, as an example of the best the USA has to offer. He is described in this week’s ep as both “one of the most powerful men in the United States” and “a man of principle”. The suggestion is that in America at least, power and principles are not mutually exclusive. This week’s KNOTS offers a more jaundiced view of those in charge. “I know world leaders,” Greg tells Laura. “I do business with them, I’ve danced with their wives in DC. Believe me, they define the term mediocre.” We also glimpse, in a scene where Ben Gibson nostalgically surveys some of his past journalistic successes, an eyewitness report he filed from the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago during which thousands of Vietnam War protestors fought with police. It’s a fleeting reminder that the American way of life isn’t always as rose-coloured as the version served up by THE COLBYS.

There’s more “bigger picture” stuff on DALLAS during a seemingly throwaway scene where Donna lobbies a couple of Washington bigwigs regarding a proposed tariff on imported oil. Their unsympathetic response puts the Texas oil industry, and the parochial world of DALLAS itself, into a wider national context that we have never seen before. “If the oil business is in trouble in this country, it’s getting its just desserts,” sniffs one politico. “While the oil people were riding high, you had nothing but thumbs down for anyone else in trouble,” adds another. However, it’s Donna, a mere woman in a man’s soap opera, who gets the final word: “I am talking about the life of the independent oil company. The majors will never die, but it’s people like you, with the shortsighted view that the Southwest is finally getting its comeuppance, that’s gonna cause us to lose it all — because I believe that without the independent oilman, America does not have an oil industry.” Personally, I’d far sooner listen to Susan Howard deliver this kind of fiery political speech than watch her fawn tearfully over a busload of Down’s Syndrome kids the way she did last season.

Donna’s impressive performance in Washington and Sue Ellen and Mandy’s newfound mutual respect are not the only positive representations of women in this week’s DALLAS. Throughout the episode, female characters repeatedly challenge and/or exceed men’s expectations of them. Shortly after JR dismisses the notion of women in business as “a flock of hens who can barely carry a briefcase”, Sue Ellen reveals that she is the brains behind Valentine Lingerie. Cliff likewise mocks Pam’s complaint about her lack of involvement at Barnes-Wentworth (“Where do you get all that stuff — have you been reading those women’s lib mags?”) before being stunned into silence by a coolly delivered ultimatum: if he doesn’t turn 25% of the business over to Pam, then she’ll withdraw all her financing from the company. Cliff also sneers at estranged wife Jamie when she tries to hand him the solution to his offshore drilling problems: “I don’t want any advice from the oil business, especially from a female, more especially from you.” There’s more sexist behaviour at Southfork. “Have you discussed this with your wives — or don’t they have any say in this?” challenges Miss Ellie when JR and Bobby issue their threats to leave the ranch. While Pam insists that “Bobby respects a woman who does things on her own”, Donna refuses to live her life to suit Ray: “With a husband and wife, if you have to compromise who you are, you become a very empty person.” Even in the most adversarial of female rivalries, the DALLAS women refuse to lower themselves to the usual Soap Land level of tit-for-tat bitchiness. “I can’t hate Pam. She must love him very, very much,” concedes Jenna graciously, echoing Sue Ellen’s line to Mandy, “I never hated you and I never meant to hurt you.” Instead, Jenna’s focus is on becoming emotionally and financially independent of the man who betrayed her. “I’m angry all right,” she tells Bobby. “I’m also going to sell the boutique that you gave me and I’m also gonna hand you the cheque.”

Those who assert that this season of DALLAS, as opposed to the one before it, is where the female characters got a raw deal could do worse than checking out this episode again.

And this week’s Top 5 are ….

2 (1) DALLAS
Last edited:

James from London

Telly Talk Winner
10 Dec 86: DYNASTY: The Letter v. 11 Dec 86: THE COLBYS: Sanctuary v. 11 Dec 86: KNOTS LANDING: Gifts v. 12 Dec 86: DALLAS: Bar-B-Cued v. 12 Dec 86: FALCON CREST: Hot Spots

Soap Land’s mid-season exodus continues. Following last week’s departures of Sylvia Lean, Mandy Winger and Cole Gioberti, this week sees the exits of Emily Fallmont (who survives her collision with that taxi cab long enough to make it through the opening scene of this week’s DYNASTY before expiring discreetly off screen), Caress Morelle, Anna Rostov, Wes Parmalee, and Jack and Jamie Ewing.

While his mother is busy dying at Soap Land Memorial Hospital, Clay Fallmont is busy marrying Sammy Jo in “a room service wedding” in Las Vegas. After Lance and Melissa on FALCON CREST and Miles and Channing on THE COLBYS, this is the third elopement of the season. The tackiness of such nuptials is often played for laughs in Soap Land, most overtly by Karen and Mack on KNOTS who succumbed to a fit of the giggles during their Vegas ceremony a few years back, but this time there’s an unspoken poignancy about the anonymity of the proceedings (“If I can have your first names, I’d be happy to decorate the cake with them?” offers the bellhop). It’s as if this marriage was somehow doomed from the start.

It’s not until the next morning that Clay learns that his mother is dead. He rushes home to be with his father, but it’s too late. By absenting himself from his mother’s deathbed, however unintentionally, Clay has committed the same cardinal Soap Land sin as Sue Ellen when Bobby died and Cliff Barnes when his mother expired. “You’re never around when you’re needed,” snapped JR at Sue Ellen after his brother’s death. “You never were around when you were needed,” snipes Buck at Clay now. Then into the Fallmont living room walks Sammy Jo, and of all a sudden we’re watching a variation on another familiar Soap Land storyline: the son and heir bringing home a surprise bride to meet his dismayed family. Buck combines these two scenarios with his exit line, which echoes JR’s dismissal of Sue Ellen after Bobby’s funeral: “You don’t exist”. “You’re nothing,” Buck informs Clay, “and now you’re married to nothing.”

Although not the most multi-layered of Soap Land characters, one can’t help but feel sorry for Clay in light of his father’s repeated rejection of him — even more so when one compares their relationship to the one Clay’s mountain-climbing counterpart on FALCON CREST, Eric Stavros, enjoys with his father. Whereas Buck blames Clay for events over which he has no control, Peter Stavros strongly defends his son against Angela’s suggestion that Eric is the one framing her for the toxic waste dumping at Tuscany Downs. However, the most poignant father/son exchange of the week occurs on DALLAS when Wes Parmalee shows up at Southfork demanding to see Miss Ellie. “You know, at first I prayed that you were Jock, but now, even if you are, I don’t think I care anymore,” Ray tells him. “You’re a good man, Ray. Any man would be proud to have you as a son,” Wes replies before going inside the house to tell Ellie that he isn’t Jock after all.

Just as DYNASTY recalls DALLAS in the aftermath of Emily’s death, this week’s DALLAS also mirrors events from DYNASTY’s past. In the same way that Blake once travelled to Singapore to quiz a doctor about Ben Reynolds, a patient upon whom he had performed extensive plastic surgery, so Bobby flies to South America to ask another doctor about another patient, Wes Parmalee, whose face has been similarly reconstructed. Whereas Blake desperately hoped Ben would turn out to be his son Steven, Bobby is equally anxious for evidence that will prove Wes is not his father Jock. However, luck doesn’t seem to be on Bobby’s side. “He had lost all memory of everything,” recalls the doctor, “and then one morning, I walked into his room. He looked at me. He had tears in his eyes. ‘It came back to me last night,’ he said. ‘I remember who I am. I’m Jock Ewing.’”

Mandy Winger and Sue Ellen parted on surprisingly good terms on last week’s DALLAS. So do Caress Morelle and Alexis on this week’s DYNASTY. Alexis even tries to persuade her sister not to go: “Cassie, how can you leave? We’ve just started having a relationship like real sisters.” Caress explains that she’s afraid of what Ben will do to her if she stays. “Don’t ever turn your back on him,” she warns before heading off to make a new life in Australia — the same place Cole Gioberti was bound for on last week’s FALCON CREST. Cole may have got a week’s head start, but as Caress is flying and he’s sailing, my money’s on her to arrive first.

Over on DALLAS, Cliff Barnes takes his soon-to-be-ex-wife Jamie out for lunch, with the aim of achieving a similarly cordial farewell to Caress and Alexis’s — and thus dissolving their marriage without paying out a hefty divorce settlement. However, he hasn’t bargained on Jamie billing him for solving his offshore oil problem to the tune of $2,000,000. “Do you know what you’re doing to me?!” he asks angrily. “Oh yes,” she replies with relish. “I’m doing exactly what you haven’t done to me since just after we got married.” Back in the day, this line actually made me gasp in shock. As far as I was concerned, this was the raciest thing anyone in Soap Land had said since Alexis’s quip to Mark Jennings three years earlier: ”I paid you $100,000 to keep your mouth shut. For a tennis bum, that'll buy a lot of balls — and believe me, you're going to need them!”

Before they leave DALLAS, Jamie and her brother Jack have one last twist up their sleeves. In order to prevent his ex-wife April getting her hands on fifty percent of his Ewing Oil shares, Jack sells them to Jamie — for a dollar. Jack presenting April with her half of the proceeds — fifty cents — and her throwing it back in his face makes for a really fun exit scene.

Surprisingly, the saddest onscreen farewell (given that we’re privy to neither Emily Fallmont’s death nor Wes Parmalee’s final words to Miss Ellie) belongs to the most minor departing character, THE COLBYS’ Anna Rostov. Surrounded by assorted Russian and American officials, a team of cops and various members of the Colby clan, she tearfully breaks the news to her brother Kolya, who has chosen to seek political asylum in the States, that she is returning to Russia without him. The ambiguity over whether or not her decision has been coerced makes the situation all the more devastating, and those two Russian kids act the hell out of it.

“Where’s your heart?” appeals Jason Colby to Sasha Malenkov, who seems determined to take at least one of the Rostov siblings back to Russia whether they like it or not. ”I listen to my head, Mr Colby,” Sasha replies coolly, “not my heart, just as you do. I am a servant to one ideology, you to another. We do what we have to do, what we believe is right.”

The ongoing real world tensions between the Soviet Union and America also manifest themselves, briefly, on DALLAS during a news report about a group of mercenaries attacking a major Saudi Arabian oil field. “Syria is blaming the Iraqis who are blaming the Iranians,” says the announcer. “Different factions of the PLO are blaming each other while a spokesman for the Soviet news agency issued a strong statement blaming America.” Bobby’s secretary Phyllis wonders if maybe the Russians are right: “That’d be one way of getting oil prices to rise.” “Americans would never stoop to violence like that,” snaps JR patriotically. In this instance, of course, an American has stooped to violence like that — JR himself. Whereas the Americans on THE COLBYS, as represented by leading man Jason, are fair-minded and pure of heart in comparison to the paranoid fundamentalist Russkies, the Americans on DALLAS, as represented by leading man JR, are hypocritical and dangerous, while the Soviets we hear about are bang on the money.

With so many cast members leaving Soap Land — nine over the past two weeks — there's room for a few new faces. This week sees the introduction of two tertiary characters, both defined by their governmental job titles, Senator Andrew Dowling on DALLAS and EPA Project Director Gwen Fuller on FALCON CREST. While Senator Dowling’s function is to debate the proposed tariff on imported oil with Donna Krebbs, Project Director Fuller’s is to investigate the toxic contamination of Chase’s vineyards. Between Donna and Andrew, and Chase and Gwen is forged an immediate bond of professional respect and courtesy (in sharp contrast to the messy, resentful state of both Chase and Donna’s marriages). In each case, there is just the tiniest suggestion of the professional and personal becoming blurred — Andrew’s polite enquiry about Donna’s pregnancy elicits the information that she and Ray are separated, while Gwen unintentionally overhears a conversation which establishes Chase and Maggie as similarly estranged. Small moments both, but each is significant enough for the dedicated Soap Land watcher to foresee further complications in both the Krebbs and Gioberti marriages.

There is a younger, slightly less formal variation on this character type on DYNASTY. Like Gwen Fuller, Danny’s pre-school teacher-cum-psychologist Clare Prentice is somewhat prettier than she needs to be and this week finds herself in the middle of an argument between Steven and Sammy Jo, aka the new Mrs Clay Fallmont, who renews her threat to sue for custody of their son. In stark contrast to other recent Soap Land newcomers, these characters slip into their respective shows with no fanfare and little emotional baggage. Not for them the convoluted back stories of Dan Fixx (crippled mother, drug-addicted wife, rap sheet for murder), Channing Carter (a mother she saw die in childbirth, the uncle who may have abused her, a teenage rape and abortion) or Paige Matheson (who might not even be Paige Matheson). The only personal information we’ve been given about Andrew Dowling and Clare Prentice, for instance, is that he is a widower and she is new to Denver.

Two weeks after Mack Mackenzie received a posthumous letter written (supposedly) by Paige’s mother Anne in 1967, Blake Carrington receives an equally posthumous letter from Emily Fallmont written shortly before her death but dealing with events that also took place in the mid-sixties. “I was the one [in bed] with Ben Carrington the day your mother died,” she admits. It’s enough of a confession to clear Blake of any wrongdoing in his mother’s death and prove Ben and Alexis guilty of perjury — but can he bring himself to go public with it and smear Emily’s reputation? No, he decides: “She was a warm and wonderful woman and that’s how people should remember her, including her sons.” But by the end of the episode, having learned of Alexis’s latest scheme to destroy him, he has changed his mind. “I’m going to use it,” he decides. “I’ll get them. I’ll get the whole pack of them!” Richard Channing also opens a dramatically significant letter on this week's FALCON CREST, but this one is anonymous. “You won’t get away with this, Channing,” it reads, referring to the disappearance of Erin Jones. What Richard doesn’t know, but we do, is that the letter was sent by his son’s live-in nanny, aka Erin’s sister Meredith.

There is no shortage of significant phone calls in this week’s Soap Land either. Hoping to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding Paige, KNOTS LANDING’s Karen calls the home of her maternal grandparents, the Winstons. They’re not home so she leaves a message. When Mr Winston later returns her call, it is Paige who answers. Once she realises who it is, she hangs up and pretends to Karen and Mack that it was a wrong number. Later, when Karen admits she has made contact with the Winstons, Paige pretends she did speak to her grandfather and that he was abusive to her. “They’ve always hated me,” she sobs. “Oh God, if only you knew!”

There’s more deception-by-phone on THE COLBYS when Channing finds herself stranded in a snowed-in ski lodge with Fallon — the woman who is carrying her husband’s baby. Earlier in the episode, we heard her repeat almost exactly Pam Ewing’s recent words regarding Jenna’s pregnancy on DALLAS: “I wish to God that baby didn’t exist!” Now Fallon is sick, meaning that that baby’s life is possibly in Carter’s hands. She calls a local doctor for help, but after dialling the number, suddenly realises that Fallon suffering a miscarriage could be the solution to her problems. The doctor picks up the call, but Channing pretends she can’t hear him. “The phone’s completely dead,” she tells Fallon. It’s really fun watching her later relay this version of events after Frankie arrives on the scene, only for the phone to abruptly start ringing. “I thought you said the phone was dead,” says Frankie, glaring at her with suspicion.

Meanwhile on FALCON CREST, Maggie, newly separated but equally pregnant, is home alone one evening when she feels her baby kick for the first time. Her first instinct is to call Chase to tell him the news. His phone rings as he’s on his way out of the office. “The work day is over. Let the service take care of it,” he decides. So Maggie calls Richard instead. “I needed a friend,” she explains. “I just happen to be one,” he replies and it feels like a turning point in their relationship. (Admittedly, most every other scene between Maggie and Richard so far this season has felt like some kind of a turning point, as circumstances conspire to bring them slowly but steadily together. In that regard, they’re the anti-Ray and Donna, who seem to be travelling inexorably further apart with every scene.)

Barbara Stanwyck and Ronald Reagan starred together in the 1954 movie The Cattle Queen of Montana and on this week’s Soap Land they’re sort of co-stars again, albeit off screen. We are asked to imagine that each is on the invisible end of a phone call — one on THE COLBYS, the other on DALLAS. Monica Colby calls her Aunt Constance (Stanwyck), who is still on her never-ending vacation (“They told me you and Hutch flew to Agra to see the Taj Mahal”), to ask her a life-changing question: “I need the answer if I’m ever going to get on with my life. Promise me you’ll tell the truth. Connie, is Scott Cassidy mine? Is he my baby?” Meanwhile, Donna Krebbs’ first meeting with Senator Dowling is cut short when he receives a call from none other than “Mr President” himself (Reagan) — one of the world leaders who “define the word mediocre," as described by Greg Sumner in last week’s KNOTS.

It’s nearly Christmas, but KNOTS LANDING is the only show to directly embrace that fact with Lilimae wrapping presents, Greg carrying off the indignity of a Santa suit with aplomb and even a festive flashback to ’67 featuring Young Mack and Young Greg. THE COLBYS gets into the festive spirit indirectly with its snowy ski-lodge scenes while the Ewings of DALLAS throw their equivalent of the Lotus Point Christmas Party, i.e., the annual Southfork barbecue. It’s something of a back-to-basics affair this year — JR takes exception to Pam inviting a member of the Barnes clan just as Jock did in the original “Barbecue”, and he and Cliff subsequently get into a verbal spat just like their daddies did. However, Pam slaps JR before he can get any ideas about pushing her out of a hayloft. Other party memories are evoked when Bobby arrives home from South America by helicopter the way Jock conspicuously didn’t in “Barbecue Two” five years earlier. Just as that was the episode that officially killed off Jock, so this is the one that eradicates his ghost/impostor from our screens as Bobby announces Wes Parmalee’s real identity as Wyatt Haynes, another passenger aboard the same chopper as Jock when it crashed.

The truth, or at least some variation of it, catches up with three of Soap Land’s impostors at the end of their respective episodes. In the penultimate scene of KNOTS, Karen finally speaks to Russell Winston over the phone and explains that Paige is living in her house. “You’re a sick person, Mrs Mackenzie,” he replies coldly. “Paige is dead, my granddaughter is dead!” Meanwhile on DALLAS, Wes Parmalee pulls a disappearing trick before Bobby gets the chance to unmask him, leaving Clayton to vow revenge: “Maybe not today, but one day he’s gonna pay for what he did to my family!” Over on FALCON CREST, the fake Skylar Kimble opens her hotel room door to find the fake magazine writer standing there with a gun. “Kit Marlowe is your real name, isn’t it?” he asks. “You’re gonna kill me, aren’t you?” she assumes, not unreasonably.

Joining Sammy Jo, Fallon, Donna and Jenna in Pregnancy Corner this week is KNOTS LANDING’s Laura Avery. Her announcement of the happy news to husband Greg is met with a long silence followed by a muttered, “Not a good idea.” It’s as crushing a response as Clay Fallmont telling Sammy Jo to have an abortion on last week’s DYNASTY. Clay is singing from a different hymn sheet this week though. “Thank God you’re gonna have our baby,” he tells his new wife. “I’m gonna be a real father to it.”

In the same way that borrowing another Ewing’s car invariably leads to disaster on DALLAS (Bobby was kidnapped while driving JR’s Mercedes in Season 1, Sue Ellen was hit by Walt Driscoll while doing the same thing in Season 5 and no good will come of Pam borrowing Bobby’s car at the end of this season) so the gifting of a car at Christmastime is similarly cursed on KNOTS LANDING. Who amongst us can recall the Christmas morning when Laura’s husband and boss each presented her with an automobile without our cringe glands throbbing? Even worse comes to pass in this ep after Gary and Abby give Olivia a car as a reward for passing her driving test. With Lilimae in the passenger seat, a giddy Olivia swerves into the path of another car. One can only hope it’s not the same unfortunate cab driver that Emily Fallmont ran out in front of at the end of last week’s DYNASTY.

And this week’s Top 5 are …

3 (2) DALLAS
Last edited:

James from London

Telly Talk Winner
17 Dec 86: DYNASTY: The Ball v. 18 Dec 86: THE COLBYS: Reaching Out v. 18 Dec 86: KNOTS LANDING: Truth Will Out v. 19 Dec 86: DALLAS: The Fire Next Time v. 19 Dec 86: FALCON CREST: False Point

“Her story is so far-fetched, it could almost be true!” Gender pronouns aside, this line could apply to almost any of this season’s supporting players. Gone are the days when all a Soap Land newcomer needed to make their entrance was to be a greedy sister-in-law or a vengeful ex-husband (Jack Ewing’s greedy ex-wife April being the exception that proves the rule). The original premise of each of the big four soaps having been thoroughly mined for dramatic potential, it now falls to the incoming characters to bring with them story-lines of their own that are sufficiently bizarre and complicated for the been-there-done-that regulars to react to.

In this particular instance, the story so far-fetched, it could almost be true belongs to KNOTS LANDING’s Paige. It is the tale of how she escaped life with her evil grandparents by faking her own death in a car crash. The circumstances have much in common with those that allowed Wes Parmalee and Kit Marlowe to similarly reinvent themselves — in each case, there was a fiery accident, and a victim who either disappeared or was burnt beyond recognition and whose identity Paige/Wes/Kit then assumed.

So far, so familiar — but things get more complicated when the perennially suspicious Karen digs a little further and discovers that Paige Matheson “died in a freak boating accident off the coast of France in the Mediterranean.” So, in a sense, Paige has died twice. A unique occurrence in the average Soap Land week, one might think. However, this is the Post-Dream season, where all bets regarding life and death are off and no newcomer’s story can be too tortuously convoluted. So it is that on FALCON CREST, Kit Marlowe is also about to fake her own death for the second time so that she can enter the Witness Security Programme.

While Mack Mackenzie and Ellie Farlow are inclined to give Paige and Wes Parmalee the benefit of the doubt over their deceptions, their respective spouses are in a less forgiving mood. “The man claimed he was your husband and he wasn’t. The whole thing’s outrageous!” exclaims Clayton on DALLAS. “Mack, ordinary normal young women don’t solve their problems by pretending they’re dead, certainly not dead two or three different ways … That’s the most angry, hurtful thing anyone can do to her family!” argues Karen on KNOTS. “Yes, but there were reasons,” insists Miss Ellie. “I’m just saying we may not have all the reasons,” echoes Mack. However, all Clayton and Karen are interested in is the bottom line. “I don’t care about his reasons,” snaps Clayton. “The man tried to destroy my family and almost got away with it and I don’t see how you can still take his part.” “Either she is Paige and Paige is a pathological liar or she’s an impostor,” maintains Karen. “In either case, she’s a liar.” While Clayton storms off in search of Parmalee (who seems to have vanished into thin air just as Krystle’s impostor did last season), Karen urges Mack to call the Winstons to let them know their granddaughter is alive.

This leads to one of three episode-ending phone calls in this week’s Soap Land. During all three calls, it is suggested that someone previously assumed to be either dead or alive isn’t. In each case, this is bad news. THE COLBYS’ Jason, who has spent much of the preceding hour trying to track down his sister in India, receives a call telling him, “Connie and Hutch chartered a small plane … There’s not been a sign of them … They just disappeared.” “Anne is alive?!” asks Mack incredulously, having plucked up the courage to call Anne’s father to explain that Paige is, to borrow a phrase from the CIA’s Leo Daltry on DALLAS, “not as dead as we all thought (s)he was.” Agent Daltry is referring to BD Calhoun, previously assumed to have been killed in the botched attack on the Saudi Arabian oil fields. At the end of this week’s DALLAS, Calhoun calls JR himself to confirm Daltry’s prognosis — and issue a threat to JR, whom he blames for the deaths of his men: “Do you ever read the Bible, JR? … Deuteronomy 19, verse 21. ‘Life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ We’re gonna make your punishment fit your crime.” JR looks scared. Meanwhile, Richard Channing is also unnerved by a phone call he receives on this week’s FALCON CREST, this time from Erin Jones. Here again, all is not what it seems — Erin’s perky sounding message on the answering machine has actually been spliced together from various recordings by her ever-resourceful sister Meredith as part of a ruse to discover Erin’s whereabouts.

Arguably even more unlikely than BD Calhoun quoting from Deuteronomy is Alexis Colby paraphrasing Gertrude Stein. “‘A trailer is a trailer, but you are you are you,’” she coos at Dex on DYNASTY. But perhaps the week’s most unusual reference to the real world is Donna Krebbs and Senator Andrew Dowling discussing the pros and cons of US intervention in Nicaragua. “You’re just like all the other conservatives,” Andrew concludes. “You scream ‘communist takeover’ even before the ballots are out.” This is one of those DALLAS conversations that one can’t imagine taking place any earlier in the series — it belongs strictly to the Post Dream era. That Dowling and Donna are now comfortable enough to freely debate their differences is evidence they are already on more familiar terms than they were during last week’s ep. They’re not moving nearly so fast as Gwen Fuller and Chase Gioberti on FALCON CREST, however. “If I was your wife, I’d fight like hell to keep you,” purrs Gwen before inviting Chase back to her hotel and kissing him. While he doesn’t fully reciprocate, he doesn’t exactly push her away either.

The focus of this week’s DYNASTY is Alexis’s Black and White Ball held at the former Carrington mansion. Meanwhile, the Ewing barbecue is in full swing at the start of this week’s DALLAS. Needless to say, the two parties have a very different atmosphere. While her guests are decked out in monochrome, Alexis makes her grand entrance in a bright red ballgown. Over at Southfork, the dress code is strictly down-home. Instead of ballgowns and tuxedos, there are Stetsons and cowboy boots — and that’s just the women.

Still, both shows use their parties as dramatic backdrops in very similar ways. At the end of last week’s DALLAS, Bobby brought the storyline that has dominated the first ten episodes of this season to a close when he announced at the barbecue that Wes Parmalee was not Jock Ewing, but a man named Wyatt Haynes. At the end of this week’s DYNASTY, Blake likewise interrupts the ball to bring Alexis’s eleven episode reign as mistress of the mansion to an end. Having amassed sufficient proof that she and Ben lied about his mother’s death in court, he vows to expose their perjury unless Alexis signs his company and his house back to him. A similar turning-of-the-tables takes place on FALCON CREST where Lance is about to take over the New Globe. At the last minute, Richard produces an eyewitness to several of the crimes Lance committed over the years. “You wait till the authorities find out about this — which they will unless you sell your stock and stop your takeover bid,” he tells Lance who, like Alexis, has no choice but to comply.

Elsewhere on DYNASTY, Blake accuses Alexis of exploiting Amanda’s relationship with Michael Culhane for her own devious ends: “You’re dealing with a man who’s destroying your daughter’s life!” Over on THE COLBYS, Sable’s motives in trying to reunite her daughter Monica with the son she gave up for adoption appear to be selfless — until we learn that she too has an agenda, to worm her way back in her husband’s good graces: “One way or another, I’m going to give Jason Colby his grandson … and no one is going to stop me!” Alas for Abby on KNOTS, there’s simply no way for her to capitalise on her daughter’s current predicament — it appears Olivia is hooked on cocaine. While Abby is able to put her experience as a soap vixen to good use — she snoops and she follows until she is able to confirm that Olivia is buying drugs — her plotting is not accompanied by her customary malicious glee. This is a whole new ballgame for Abby.

Still reeling from the discovery that her biological child is being raised by Cash and Adrienne Cassidy, Monica Colby has a baby-related nightmare spookily similar to the one experienced by Val Ewing almost exactly two years earlier. Then, familiar faces from Val’s life (her doctor, mother, brother, ex-husband and current boyfriend) appeared at her bedside dressed in hospital scrubs to take her newborn twins away from her. Here, it’s Cash and Adrienne, also dressed in surgical scrubs, who approach her as she lies in a hospital bed asking to see her baby. “You don’t have a baby. You’ve never had a baby,” they tell her. Her pleas for her child (“You’ve taken my son!”) fall on deaf ears just as Val’s for her twins did and she wakes up screaming.

It’s another busy week in Pregnancy Corner. When Sammy Jo’s doctor tells that her pregnancy is all in her imagination, she refuses point blank to believe it. (Her denial chimes with that of KNOTS LANDING’s Olivia who continues to angrily refute accusations of drug use even after she is caught red-handed.)

Meanwhile, two middle-aged mothers-to-be, both separated from their husbands, are each hit by a moment of sad realisation. On DALLAS, Donna Krebbs is distracted during a political soiree in Washington by thoughts of home. (“It’s the Ewing barbecue — first time in six years that I haven’t been there.”) Over on FALCON CREST, Maggie Gioberti is overcome by loneliness when she finds herself in her obstetrician’s waiting room surrounded by happy young expectant couples.

Upon her return to Dallas, Donna solemnly asks Ray for a divorce. (After so many beautifully poignant exchanges between them on either side of the dream season, this scene feels strangely anti-climactic — but then maybe that’s exactly how the end of a marriage is supposed to feel.) Meanwhile, Maggie goes to visit Chase, only to find him in an embrace with Gwen Fuller. She drives away before she can be seen but subsequently collapses. Unlike Fallon, whose medical emergency in last week’s COLBYS turned out to be a false alarm, Maggie’s situation is deemed serious enough for her to be wheeled into the operating room. In spite of her resentment towards him, she calls out for Chase, proving Jenna Wade’s observation in this week’s DALLAS to be true: “Emotions aren’t like faucets, Donna. You can’t turn them on and off.” (That’s kind of a terrible line, but for some reason, it’s always stayed with me.)

Over on KNOTS, Greg and Laura arrive late to the same debate that has featured on each of the other shows in recent weeks. “We have to be responsible for this accident,” Greg tells Laura, referring to her pregnancy. “So what do you want me to do — you want me to have an abortion?” she snaps. “I’m not so sure the world is ready for another Greg Sumner,” he replies.

“I hate you and I love your daughter,” Michael informs Blake on DYNASTY — a position the young Mack Mackenzie would surely sympathise with. As this week’s KNOTS flashbacks illustrate, Soap Land fathers were even more disapproving in 1967 than they are in 1986. When Mack asks Anne’s father for her hand in marriage, he simply ignores him. (This scene takes place in the grounds of the Winston residence, which is now the Agretti house on FALCON CREST — the very house Melissa almost throws Lance out of this week, until he kisses her hard on the mouth and she changes her mind.)

After stumbling on the truth about Jill Bennett — that her real name is Dorothy Simpkins and Peter Hollister is her brother — Gary Ewing turns to Mack for advice: “I want to know what to do when someone has been dishonest about who they are.” “If it’s someone that you love,” Mack replies, clearly thinking about Paige, “maybe you need to give them a chance.” Let's hope Tony Cumson is taking notes — he’s fallen for Skylar Kimble not realising she’s really Kit Marlowe or that she’s about to fake her own suicide.

If Mack and Gary’s conversation seems unusually intimate — I mean, these two guys are pally but they’re not best buds like Mack and Ben are — then it’s the not the only male friendship in Soap Land that has been intensified for storyline convenience. “You’re one of the few people in the world that Blake really trusts,” Alexis tells Dex, forgetting that up until a few months ago, the two men hated each other.

And this week’s Top 5 are …

2 (3) DALLAS
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James from London

Telly Talk Winner
31 Dec 86: DYNASTY: Fear v. 01 Jan 87: THE COLBYS: Power Plays v. 01 Jan 87: KNOTS LANDING: The Unraveling v. 02 Jan 87: DALLAS: So Shall Ye Reap v. 02 Jan 87: FALCON CREST: Missed Connections

“Alexis, I have never seen you this frightened before,” observes Dex on DYNASTY. “Your lies frighten me. You frighten me,” admits Abby to her daughter on KNOTS LANDING. “Don’t sound so nervous, JR,” chides BD Calhoun on DALLAS. “I think she’s lonely,” says Dan Fixx of Angela on FALCON CREST.

Alexis, Abby, JR and Angela — each of these tough guys is unusually vulnerable this week and each, in a different way, is dealing with an enemy within. For Alexis, it’s Ben Carrington. When she tries to sever their business partnership, he threatens, in a juicily noir-ish scene, to send both of them to jail. “No more talk about getting rid of me ever,” he tells her. For Angela, it’s her grandson Lance whom she believes (wrongly) to be the person who framed her for the toxic waste dumping. This is one of those FALCON CREST plot points that might just as easily be glossed over, or even played for laughs. Instead, the episode chooses to explore Angela’s more emotional side as she weeps in Dan’s arms. Abby’s enemy within is her daughter Olivia who continues to beg, borrow and steal to feed her coke habit. While Olivia herself is presented less as a character than a case study, acting out a checklist of various behaviours associated with the stereotypical addict, Abby becomes the figure we identify with — out of her depth and grappling for a way to cope. By the end of the episode, she’s adopted the old adage, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. “I’m gonna lock you in — with me,” she informs her daughter. By contrast, JR Ewing and his opponent, BD Calhoun, don’t even meet this week. Instead, BD demonstrates how easily that he can infiltrate JR’s ivory tower, first by leaving a dead body in his office, then by bugging the place and finally introducing himself to Sue Ellen at the Oil Baron’s Club as an old friend of her husband’s.

As DYNASTY brings to a close Alexis’s reign at the mansion and DALLAS mops up the remains of the Wes Parmalee mystery, each of this week’s instalments could be described as a transition episode. Just as JR drew a line under the past last week by informing his long-term banker Franklin Horner, who had sought to take advantage of the Ewing boys’ recent problems, that his services would no longer be required, Alexis does the same this week to prize reporter Gordon Wales after he asks one too many questions about her decision to return Denver Carrington to Blake. JR’s relationship with another long-term recurring character also comes under pressure when he instructs his trusted dogsbody Harry McSween to dispose of the corpse sitting in his office. For the first time ever, Harry questions JR’s orders: “I don’t see how I can cover this one up. The man was murdered.” “Harry, I made you a rich man,” JR reminds him, “but I also have enough information on you to ruin your career …” Harry has no choice but to submit, but it’s a nice reminder that no Soap Land relationship can ever be taken for granted.

Amidst all the comings and comings in these transition eps, we are given our first look at two sets that will become long-term fixtures of their respective shows: Alexis’s suite at the Carlton Hotel and April Stevens’ condominium in downtown Dallas. Meanwhile, as Blake and Krystle move back to the Carrington mansion, Donna Krebbs leaves Southfork. Donna’s departure makes for a touching scene, especially when one realises with hindsight that this is the beginning of her permanent exit from the show. “I have to do it for Ray,” she explains to Miss Ellie. “My being here makes it impossible for him to even visit. You’re his family, not mine.” Her reasoning combines logic and poignancy in a way that is rare on Soap Land. After all, this is a genre where husbands often continue to live under the same roof as their ex-wives even after they’ve married other women. In spite of Miss Ellie insisting “this isn’t goodbye” and “please don’t think you’re not a part of this family”, and Donna replying that “I really care about all of you very much”, the sad truth is (if I remember correctly) that Donna won’t set foot on the ranch again. In fact, I don’t think Susan Howard and Barbara Bel Geddes ever appear on screen together after this scene. The mawkish dream season aside, these two always made a great combination.

As DYNASTY regroups, it takes the opportunity to relive some of its past glories: there’s a silly but fun catfight between Alexis and Dominique (which serves as a housewarming of sorts for the former’s new abode), Blake and Krystle celebrating their return to the mansion by reprising one of their patented fireplace love scenes, and even a flashback to Alexis getting slung into jail at the end of Season 4. However, the episode ends on an exciting new alliance as Alexis and Adam team up against Ben. Alexis orders her son to Australia to find out what secrets Ben might be hiding. “It’s a matter of life and death,” she tells him.

This phrase is repeated by Jeff Colby the following night. “We’re trying to respect your traditions here, but please, this is a matter of life and death,” he says to a monk in a Nepalese monastery where he and Miles are trying to unravel the mystery of Connie’s disappearance. Not since Chase Gioberti went hunting in Chinatown for the eyewitness to Carlo Agretti’s murder has Soap Land strayed so far into another culture.

In a DYNASTY-verse week packed with enjoyable girl-on-girl confrontation scenes — Alexis v Krystle, Alexis v Dominique, Sable v Frankie, Sable v Monica, Adrienne v Monica, Fallon v Channing — the pick of the bunch is a restaurant encounter between Sable and Adrienne where the former calmly asks the latter to hand her over son. “We want him back, to raise as a Colby with all the advantages that that implies … Just think what we could do for him.” Up until this point, Adrienne has consistently been depicted as the neurotic, clinging obstacle to Monica and Cash’s happiness. Now in front of our eyes, mid-scene, there is a shift. She is now the sympathetic, relatable one. When she tells Sable, “You’re amazing … and more than a little crazy,” it’s hard to disagree.

Two tabloid articles provoke threats of libel action in this week’s DYNASTY-verse. While the Denver Mirror prints an amusing item about “the vastly overrated Dominique Devereaux, who was never more than a glorified saloon singer,” the American Informer publishes an article implying that Jason Colby is “not above selling out his country if the price is right.” While everyone already knows that the Mirror is a mouthpiece for Alexis, it takes a little digging before Jason discovers that the Informer is secretly owned by Channing’s uncle Lucas Carter. While Dominique confronts Alexis (“The truth? I hope you say that when I sue you in court for libel”), Jason faces down Lucas’s lawyer, the delightfully unsavoury Sam Erskin. “I’m filing a twenty million dollar libel suit against Lucas and his sleazy scandal sheet,” he informs him.

Soap Land’s latest batch of blondes, meanwhile, are serving themselves up on a platter. Babysitter Claire Prescott’s response to Steven Carrington arriving home drunk on DYNASTY is to put him to bed and then slip under the covers alongside him. KNOTS LANDING’s Paige gains access to Peter Hollister’s apartment while he’s at work (“Your building supervisor likes blondes”) in order to surprise him with a home-cooked seven-course Italian meal. “This could take all night,” he says. “So could dinner,” she coos, plonking herself down on his lap. And while DALLAS’s April Stevens doesn’t bat an eyelid when Jeremy Wendell suggests she sleep with JR in order to get information on him, FALCON CREST’s fitness instructor Dina takes advantage of Melissa’s infidelity to get Lance into bed.

It’s also a big week for some of Soap Land’s prepubescent males. Five-year-old Christopher Ewing has his first on-screen argument with his mom when Pam refuses to let him go on a field trip to Fort Worth. “Do you know how many bus accidents there have been lately?” she says to Bobby by way of explanation. As perils go, this isn’t exactly up there with the dangers faced by Olivia on KNOTS — teen prostitution, jail, even death — but Pam’s overprotective streak stems from the perceived threat Jenna’s unborn baby poses to Lucas.

Bobby’s line to Christopher, “I love you too, partner. You know, it’s real important we never feel embarrassed to say that to one another”, made me fast forward mentally to their relationship on New DALLAS which, as Bobby hopes, will turn out to be far more emotionally open than any of the father/son relationships in the original series. In fact, one could argue that almost all of the drama on Old DALLAS springs from the lack of communication between Jock and his sons. If he had been able to express his love for his boys directly then they wouldn’t have gone to such lengths to gain his approval, even after his death.

Over on KNOTS, twelve-year-old Brian Cunningham gets more scenes than he has in years by playing unwitting patsy to his scheming sister — lending her his pocket TV which she then sells for drugs and fetching the bleach she needs to contaminate her urine sample. I’m not sure what age Jason Avery is supposed to be at this point, but he too gets an interesting scene in which he confides to his recently acquired stepfather Greg that he’s “not doing so hot” with his multiplication tables. “Mom’ll have a cow.” To make the boy feel better, Greg makes a confession: “I flunked math two straight years. Then I stopped and I started looking around at all those kids who were getting straights As and they all had one thing in common. They all had their underwear on backwards.” When speaking to Laura, who has overheard the conversation, Greg admits that his confession was a lie: “I told ya I wasn’t a very good role model.”

“I think Greg’s a fool for not wanting to have a baby with you,” Karen tells Laura. “You’re right, but I still love him,” she replies. Maggie pulls no such punches towards Chase on FALCON CREST when he tries to console her over the jeopardy her unborn child now faces. “You didn’t even want me to have this baby. How sorry could you be?” she snaps. Meanwhile, Sammy Jo’s pregnancy might be imaginary on DYNASTY but Emma’s plan to conceive a child with her dead fiancee by using her a psychic as a middle man on FALCON CREST is something else. (Obviously, it’s not believable, I just wish it was funny.)

While Monica Colby and Mack Mackenzie face-off with those who raised their children instead of them (“I’ll die before I lose my son and by God, so will you,” Adrienne Cassidy tells Monica; “You’re the one who kept me from even knowing I had a daughter … You had no reason for it,” Mack tells Russell Winston), DALLAS’s expectant fathers, Bobby and Ray, are both determined not to end up in the same position. “When that child is born, I’m gonna do everything in my power to make sure it knows its father,” Bobby promises Jenna. “Get me some control,” Ray instructs his lawyer after learning of Donna’s intention to raise their baby in Washington.

FALCON CREST and THE COLBYS both contain examples of a wife, Melissa Cumson and Sable Colby, taking revenge on her husband. After learning that Lance sabotaged her business partnership with Eric Stavros, Melissa strikes back by taking Eric to bed. As Zach Powers points out, sex is no longer an option for Sable: “You can’t hurt [Jason] in the bedroom anymore, but you can in the boardroom.” And so Sable uses her first board meeting as a Colby shareholder to cast the deciding vote against Jason’s attempt to acquire an electronics company. (There’s slightly more to it than that, but my minuscule business brain couldn’t quite grasp it.) Jason calls her “petty, spiteful … a willful, dangerous child.” Eric is no more impressed when he realises Melissa has used him to get back at Lance. “The two of you are just a perfect match. You both use people without a thought for their feelings.” Eric’s words send Melissa into a tailspin. “There’s something wrong with me,” she tells Father Bob. “I have something evil in me and I can’t make it go away.” Sable’s gloating is also interrupted when Jason gets a call from Jeff at the end of the episode with the shock news of Connie's death.

Back on KNOTS, while Russell Winston confirms that Paige is really Paige, Jill Bennett admits to Gary that she’s really Peter’s sister — which leads Gary to assume she’s also a Galveston. The plot thickens on FALCON CREST where Guy Stafford, the bad guy who pretended to be a reporter but then turned out to be an undercover FBI agent, turns out to be a bad guy after all — and that’s after he’s also pretended to be Kim Novak’s secret lover.

Stafford, or whoever he is, has an interesting take on one of FC’s other impostors. “Kit Marlowe has not only taken on the identity, she believes she is Skylar Kimble … She’s run so far from her past, she’s forgotten she had one.” This chimes with a theory put forward on this week’s DALLAS as to how Wes Parmalee was able to “cheat” the polygraph test when he claimed he was Jock: “It might be possible with a little self-hypnosis … he went back in his mind to a time when he really did believe that he was Jock.” For what it’s worth, I’m now leaning towards the idea that Wes actually was Jock, but realising his sons would never accept the fact, chose to walk away from his family rather than destroy it — and that this is what he explained to Miss Ellie (who had already chosen Clayton over him) during their final, pivotal conversation that took place off screen. It would help explain why Ellie has no anger towards Parmalee and now just wants the whole matter dropped.

And this week’s Top 5 are …

2 (2) DALLAS
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