Re-watching the Ewingverse ... alphabetically!

James from London

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Bye, Bye Love (KNOTS, 17 Dec 92) v Bypass (DALLAS, 14 Oct 78)

These two episodes take place at opposite ends of the C20th Ewingverse — one in the first year of DALLAS, the other in the final season of KNOTS — thereby circumventing the 1980s altogether.

As in Buying Time, the central character in Bye, Bye Love is Mack. In the former episode, he had his hands full with the Wolfbridge Group and Karen’s shooting. In the latter, he’s similarly beleaguered by Mary Robeson getting her claws into Meg. In his desperation to be rid of her, he comes up with a cockamamie scheme to secretly film her taking a million dollars in bribe money, but ends up getting fleeced for one half of the money by Claudia Whittaker, a woman who couldn’t be more obviously untrustworthy if she had the word “devious” tattooed on her forehead, and for the other half by Mary herself, who is little more than a small-time con artist. If it’s sometimes hard to square the scared man we see here with the swaggering “Mack Solves All” version of the character who has taken down crime syndicates and crooked corporations, Kevin Dobson does a good job of conveying his feelings of fatigue and helplessness (not helped by Karen continually suggesting they turn to Greg for help and Gary urging him to consult Karen on his latest plan). There's a sense that he's a man past his prime — a small but telling moment shows him swapping one pair of glasses for another to read the instructions on a camcorder.

Bye, Bye Love’s main subplot deals with writing out Bill the baseball player, Paige’s likeable but least memorable love interest. Having introduced the post-LA riots construction project to the Sumner Group, he does what Joseph Berringer did after getting Gary and co all excited about Tidal Energy the season before, i.e. skips town when he gets a better offer (in Bill’s case, it’s to play baseball in Japan). Whereas Joseph bailing on his investors was depicted as a shitty betrayal, Bill somehow manages to get a hero’s send-off — perhaps, at the end of the day, being a sportsman is just more wholesomely All-American than being a nerdy scientist.

From ‘90s KNOTS to ‘70s DALLAS. At the time of Bypass, the series was still being filmed entirely on location in Texas and everything feels that bit hotter and grimier than it would later on. The bulk of the ep focuses on the Ewings going about their daily lives while Jock is in the hospital recovering from a heart attack. (His bypass operation doesn’t take place until the final minutes of the episode and is over almost as soon as it starts.) One gets the sense of the Ewingverse developing in front of our eyes. We are introduced to Willie Joe Garr, Jeb Ames (pretty much unrecognisable from his days as Dr Rossi in PEYTON PLACE — he’s as slimy here as he was heroic then) and Liz Craig, and learn about the existence of the cartel, The Store and a secret codicil to Jock’s will that will enable JR to drill on Southfork after his death. Bobby and his father lock horns for the first, but certainly not the last time about his future (“I do not want you to leave the Ewing Oil company!”) and Jock makes Miss Ellie promise that “if anything happens to me, you keep the family together.” Ellie shows how stoical she can be, only tearing up when there’s nobody else around, while Sue Ellen spends the whole episode glaring magnificently, either at JR when they’re alone or at anyone who disagrees with him when they’re in company. Poor Lucy gets told off every time she opens her mouth, either for being frightened by Jock’s attack (“Think about your granddaddy and not about yourself,” lectures Ray) or for being excited about the birth of a calf (“How about a little reverence for new life?” Bobby suggests primly). There’s even a hint of an explanation as to why JR is the way he is during a discussion between Bobby and Pam where it is reiterated that Bobby is Jock’s favourite son and that “Mama, she always liked Gary the best so …” “That left JR,” Pam concludes. “That helps explain him, but it doesn’t help much.”

And the winner is ... Bypass

BONUS BEATS:

 
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Mel O'Drama

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Part of the fun of this thread is seeing the titles and guessing which of the two will be the winner. Bye Bye Love vs. Bypass is one of the ones I guessed correctly.



Jeb Ames (pretty much unrecognisable from his days as Dr Rossi in PEYTON PLACE — he’s as slimy here as he was heroic then)
I'd forgotten Dr Rossi originated the role. IMDb doesn't help: curiously Ed Nelson's version is listed as "Jeb Amos" on IMDb, while Sandy Ward's take is "Ames".
 

Daniel Avery

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Appropo of nothing, Ed Nelson had a prominent role (Senator Mark Denning) in the daytime soap Capitol (1982-86-ish) that seemed to bridge this gap. He started out as this heroic, nice guy who was trapped in a loveless marriage with a psycho wife (played by Julie Adams) who pretended to be agoraphobic. He managed to shake her and hook up with town goody-goody Clarissa, but got left out in the cold when her husband came back from the dead ('cause, y'know that happens). Eventually, they revealed Mark to be a traitor in one of their "try -anything-to-keep-from-getting-cancelled" stories. Nelson hated the plot twist so much that he walked out on his contract. Had the show not been cancelled anyway, he probably would have ended up getting sued.
 

James from London

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Cabin Fever (KNOTS, 12 Jan 89) v Calculated Risks (KNOTS, 18 Oct 84)

While Cabin Fever is all about relationships — Greg dumping Paige to marry Abby, Mack bonding with Paula during a vacation from Karen, Gary and Jill splitting up — Calculated Risks is all about life and death — Karen choosing to keep her grim prognosis a secret, Mark St Claire holding Abby hostage at the marina, Greg shooting St Claire in cold blood.

In both eps, Greg reduces a strong woman to angry tears: Paige in ’89 by breaking up with her and Laura in ’84 when he insists she withholds evidence from the cops about St Claire’s whereabouts. In each instance, he coolly uses the same justification — it is “the right thing”.

Running counter to her high maintenance reputation, Val functions as a supportive sounding board in both episodes. During Cabin Fever, she listens sympathetically to Karen complaining about the way Mack hangs toilet paper on the holder; in Calculated Risks, she waits patiently as Karen tries, but ultimately fails, to tell her she’s dying.

Whereas Karen lectures Michael about his caffeine intake and what classes he should be taking in ’89, she’s all for Diana setting sail for New York and striking out her own in ’84. To demonstrate that she’s well enough to be left, she goes so far as to get out of her hospital bed and walk around — even though she’s been warned that movement of any kind will dramatically increase her chances of dying. Diana says she’ll be back for Thanksgiving, but won’t actually return the cul-de-sac for thirteen years.

Both episodes mark the debut appearance of a significant character: hello Paula Vertosick, hello Joshua Rush. Both are wholesome, unsophisticated and completely unprepared for life in an ’80s soap opera, and both are swiftly rejected — Paula by Mack after she clumsily invites him back to her cabin, Joshua by his Aunt Lilimae when he eagerly asks for information about his late mother and she angrily replies that she was a tramp — vicious and wicked, selfish and spiteful. Alec Baldwin and Julie Harris on screen together are really something.

Joshua’s arrival aside, everything that happens in Calculated Risks is connected to the Wolfbridge Group. The plots are more disparate in Cabin Fever, but loose themes tie one scene to the next: Greg’s surprise at finding Paige sitting behind her desk the morning after he breaks her heart is mirrored by Gary’s shock at seeing Jill emerge from his bathroom shortly after she apparently moved off his ranch. Paige assuring Greg she can separate her work from her personal life is countered by Mack telling Paula that having a job one hates cannot help but impact one’s domestic situation. Paige forfeiting the deposit on an apartment she can no longer afford is followed by Jill’s landlady offering to return her deposit when she keeps finding excuses not to move into her new place.

When Ted Melcher expresses surprise at the news of Abby and Greg’s wedding in ’89, Abby tells him they have “known each other for a long time.” “And from what I’ve heard, you’ve spent most of that time trying to take advantage of each other,” he replies. Karen is just as cynical about their relationship in ’84 when Greg claims to have called off a press conference out of concern for the abducted Abby’s well-being. “You don’t care about Abby,” she tells him. “You’re just using her the way you used everyone else.” Being confronted so directly (and for the first time, I think) by the conscience of Knots Landing has a strange effect on Greg. You can almost see his mask starting to crack in front of her. “Sometimes you get caught between choices, neither of which is the correct choice, but a choice has to be made,” he mumbles. This episode is full of REALLY BIG CLOSE-UPS and they’re particularly effective in this scene. Greg’s always fascinating when he’s cornered, as he is by Karen in this scene and by Paige in Cabin Fever. Even as he's talking in that methodical measured way of his, it's all he can do to keep the emotional barrier he has erected around himself intact.

Mack and Karen don’t share a scene in Cabin Fever until almost the very end of the ep when he returns home unexpectedly in the middle of the night. As Karen silently greets him with a kiss, it feels like a reaffirmation of their love. Their final scene in Calculated Risks is the total opposite with Karen playing the martyr for all she’s worth as she tells Mack she doesn’t love him anymore and wants a divorce.

And the winner is ... Calculated Risks

BONUS BEATS:

 
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James from London

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Call Girl (DALLAS, 23 Feb 79) v Call Me Dimitri (KNOTS, 14 Feb 91)

Another 70s DALLAS/90s KNOTS double bill. On DALLAS, ex-prostitute Leanne Rees bristles with anger whenever JR calls her by her old working name of Amber. On KNOTS, current gigolo Nick Schillace pleads with Anne Matheson to call him by his working name of Dimitri. Whereas Leanne’s former profession inspires one of JR’s sleazier soapier schemes, Nick’s is the basis of a light comedy caper. In both situations, three people in one bedroom — Leanne, Pam and Ben Maxwell (a prototype Walt Driscoll); Nick, Anne and Betty (a dead extra) — proves to be a crowd.

The Pam in Call Girl is more sleekly glamorous than the one we saw in Bypass. Given that she’s now working in the fashion industry, this makes sense. Perhaps more troubling is what the kids today would call her lack of agency. Rather than acting independently, she allows others to manipulate her into doing whatever the storyline requires of her. Despite mooning over Bobby, from whom she is now estranged, she is persuaded by Leanne to move into her apartment. There, she becomes the victim of a setup — a misleading photo is taken of her in bed, Leanne and Maxwell seemingly about to join her. Her response is exactly what JR had planned: she packs her bags with the intention of leaving Dallas for good. But then an impassioned speech from Bobby changes her mind and they return to Southfork together. Passive and doe-eyed Pam might be, but Victoria Principal manages to inject her with enough personality to ensure she comes across as more than just an empty-headed doll.

As Leanne, Veronica Hamel is the latest in a line of strong guest actresses throughout DALLAS’s first season. We’ve already had Tina Louise, Joan van Ark, Morgan Fairchild, Talia Balsam, Kate Mulgrew, Martha Scott and Colleen Camp, and Susan Howard is just around the corner. Hamel brings a cool intelligence and an edginess to a role that could easily be a tart-with-a-heart stereotype. Leanne isn’t afraid to stand up to JR, even at his most pig-like: “All I ever did was sell myself, but you, you’d sell yourself, your family, your friends — for power. JR, you’re a prize pimp.”

Meanwhile, upstairs at Southfork, Sue Ellen, the carrier of new Ewing life, is quietly rotting away as she pours neat bourbon down her throat. A snarling JR warns her to take care of what’s inside her as it’s the only thing standing between her and the gutter, but she’s past caring.

The reception Pam receives when she returns to the ranch contrasts with the one the family gave her in Digger’s Daughter. Instead of bemused stares and smirks, she is greeted with open arms by Miss Ellie and Lucy and, finally, acceptance from Jock. (“Do I have to explain anything to you?” she asks. “No,” he replies.) Only Sue Ellen and JR remain impervious to her charms. “You are a disgrace to this family,” Sue Ellen slurs amusingly and the episode ends with everyone else smiling knowingly at JR’s realisation that his latest plan to get rid of that Barnes woman has backfired. Having been so thrillingly, viciously cruel for most of the episode, Hagman isn’t afraid to play the butt of the joke at the end. He even bites down on the wrong end of his cigar like he’s Boss Hogg on THE DUKES OF HAZZARD. This “all’s well that ends well” conclusion — reminiscent of the corny final moments of a cheesy stand-alone cop show — is deceptive. Everything might seem OK, but it won’t be for long, not with that knocked up, boozed up time bomb of an ex-beauty queen ticking away upstairs.

A couple of architectural notes: Leanne’s apartment will soon become Cliff’s (and briefly, David Crane’s on KNOTS), only with the front door in a different place. Also, the lighting rig above the sky on the cardboard Southfork set is clearly visible on the DVD.



A couple of JR notes: He plays racquetball not once but twice in this ep, which is 100% more athleticism than he’s ever shown before or will again. During this era of the show, I automatically assume any Scandinavian-looking bit player to be a Hagman. In this ep, I’m half-right: the blonde girl working in the Racquet Club is, but the blond photographer lurking on Pam’s balcony isn’t.

I’m not so crazy about the equivalent gigolo plot on KNOTS — despite the actors’ best efforts, it’s just too frothy and silly — but the episode pushes the right emotional buttons elsewhere, with Kate Whittaker’s believably crestfallen response to the news that the guy she’s been secretly nursing a crush on is actually her half-brother, and Dick Lochner getting to beat the crap out of his teenage son one last time. Given that this last situation is treated with the utmost gravitas, it’s kind of interesting that Mort, Bob and Linda should find the fact that Paige has a black eye from being punched by one of Jason’s uncles completely hilarious.

And the winner is ... Call Girl

BONUS BEATS:

 
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Daniel Avery

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Anne: "Traveling with a woman for her money?"
Nick: "Exactly why did you travel with Marco?"
Anne: "At least he was cute."
Nick: "Betty looked much better before she turned blue."
 

James from London

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Call Waiting (KNOTS, 04 Feb 93) v Cally on a Hot Tin Roof (DALLAS, 08 Dec 89)

In ‘The Call of the Wild’, John Ross questioned why his father would choose to hunt animals when you can buy food from a store. Similarly in ‘Cally on a Hot Tin Roof’, JR scoffs at his new wife for creating her own vegetable garden. “You ever hear of a supermarket?” he asks, before driving over it.

Likewise in ‘Call Waiting’, Greg Sumner drives over an elderly couple’s flower garden — while on a steamroller. But whereas JR’s behaviour is deliberately cruel, Greg’s is a well-intentioned but ultimately cack-handed attempt to Do the Right Thing, which pretty much sums up KNOTS’ stab at addressing the aftermath of the LA riots. Every time a black character appears on screen in this episode, it’s impossible to overlook the fact that they are a supporting player in a story that supposedly represents their lives. The harder KNOTS tries to show otherwise, the clearer it becomes that while black lives matter, they don’t matter anywhere near as much as the lives of the regular cast (which, in the absence of the Williamses, is exclusively white once again).

Anne Matheson, or Sumner as she is now, is the standout player in this ep. She doesn’t pretend to care about the LA riots story; she just resents how much of Greg’s time it’s taking up. Her honest indifference is refreshing. But while she’s as enjoyably shallow as ever, there’s also an underlying poignancy about her. This is the ep where she smashes a mirror after looking at her own reflection. (It’s the first time anyone on KNOTS has done that since Annie Fairgate in the first episode. This creates a combined total of fourteen years’ bad luck, i.e., the entire length of the series.) Anne then consults a plastic surgeon before spending the afternoon getting drunk in Nick’s restaurant. She and the perky but troubled Vanessa make an enjoyably odd combination (“I really admire you,” says Vanessa. “That admiration is the basis of our friendship,” Anne replies), especially when Vanessa comes over all X-FILES and warns her to trust no-one.

‘Cally on a Hot Tin Roof’ is driven by the repercussions of a lie Michelle told Cally in the previous episode. Believing JR and Michelle have slept together, Cally makes JR believe she’s slept with Alex Barton. This causes JR to threaten Michelle (and deliver the memorable line, “It'll be a chilly morning in Hell before I let a money-hungry bitch like you into my bed!”), coerce Alex into leaving the country by framing him as a predatory pervert, sleep with Diana Farrington for real and then gloat about his infidelity to Cally. It’s then that he trashes her garden. Before exiting the show, Alex convinces him that he and Cally didn’t have sex after all. JR rushes back to Southfork, but it’s too late — Cally’s taken an overdose!

Elsewhere in the ep, April takes one look at Bobby with Kay Lloyd and turns into a drunken, tearful, jealous mess. It’s not that Sheree J Wilson is bad in these scenes (and better "Drunk and Angry April" than “Wacky Funster April”), it’s just that her outburst seems to come out of nowhere. In fairness, it subsequently emerges that her problem isn’t so much Kay as her own insecurities about her relationship with Bobby, and the fact that while he may be the love of her life, she isn’t necessarily the love of his. And if she is gonna end the season as the next Mrs Bobby Ewing, then I guess it's preferable for the writers to address the Victoria Principal-shaped elephant in the room rather than skim over it.

Oh, and let's not forget Trump’s second wife Marla Maples smiling vacantly as a West Star PR exec.


And the winner is ... Cally on a Hot Tin Roof

BONUS BEATS:

 
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James from London

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Cat and Mouse (DALLAS, 30 Jan 87) v Catharsis (KNOTS, 28 Oct 82)

Bobby to Ray in Caribbean Connection (1983): “If JR is selling to an embargo country, and our government finds out about it and we don't stop him, that's the end of Ewing Oil!"

JR to Bobby in Cat and Mouse (1987): “If the Feds find out about this, they’ll shut us down, Bobby. Ewing Oil will lose its franchise and we’ll go to prison!”

So Bobby’s obliged to help cover JR’s tracks again, only this time they’re doing it together. This leads to some private eye-style sleuthing (Bobby learns bad guy BD Calhoun’s residence by blowing up a photo of his hotel room to reveal a helpfully monogrammed pillow) followed by some cop show derring-do (JR and Bobby burst into BD’s room, armed and dangerous). There’s more of the same in California, 1982, where Karen Fairgate takes the law into her own hands in an attempt to entrap her husband’s killers.

I’ve never been overly impressed with Karen’s story in Catharsis — the hierarchy of interchangeable thugs specialising in stolen auto parts is little confusing, and Karen single-handedly succeeding where the legal system has failed by bringing the bad guys to justice has always felt like an unconvincingly pat conclusion to such a game-changing storyline. Watching it afresh, however, I realise that the whole point (and pleasure) of Karen’s scheme is that she is an “ordinary” woman out of her depth, but who blunders onwards regardless, as boyfriend Mack and brother Joe watching from the sidelines with increasing bemusement.

I know Kevin Dobson likes to tell the story of how he watched Sid go over a cliff and then said, “I just got a job”, but another possibility is that the producers saw how well Karen bounced off Joe in Season 3, realised she couldn’t marry her brother (although you can almost imagine Michael Filerman pitching the idea) and so created another hotheaded New Yorker who continually yells at Karen while having her best interests at heart. It’s interesting to have Mack and Joe share both the screen and most of the same personality traits during this handover period. They actually complement each other really well.

Meanwhile, Cat and Mouse is full of examples of what made the immediate Post-Dream Era of DALLAS so refreshing. There’s bad girl April chattering excitedly about suing Jack and Jamie for their shares of Ewing Oil while JR is doing unmentionable things to her just below screen level. “Malicious intent — it has such a nice ring to it!” she giggles. (Granted, that line’s not exactly Dorothy Parker, but it’s still more amusing than all of April’s limp jokes during her final three seasons combined.) There’s also the slow and sad, death-by-a-thousand-paper-cuts dissolution of Ray and Donna’s marriage. While Donna concedes that she’s coming to terms with their breakup “little by little”, Ray’s jealousy over her friendship with Senator Dowling reawakens some old insecurities: “I could never be the man that Donna wanted, no matter what I did, how I felt about her. I could never measure up.” Ray is nothing but not consistent — he could have delivered this dialogue at almost any point in their relationship, even before they were married.

There’s also some unfinished business between the equally estranged Gary and Val in Catharsis. In this situation, Abby’s the jealous one when she finds out Gary has invited Val to Dallas for the reading of Jock’s will. Val turns him down flat. "What in the world would he think I'd wanna go to Dallas for?!" she exclaims indignantly. Lilimae reckons the reality of his daddy’s death has just hit him "and he probably wanted to talk about it to somebody who loves him.” “Then let him go to her,” Val replies bitterly.

When Sue Ellen fails to arrive home in Cat and Mouse, it’s notable that Pam is the Ewing most concerned she might have fallen off the wagon and ended up in trouble. Perhaps she’s remembering a dream she once had. When Sue Ellen finally does show up the next morning and is unable to remember where she’s been, the family assume the worst. “You all think that I’ve been drinking, don’t you?” she asks them accusingly before turning on JR. “And where were you last night, my love? Isn’t this yesterday’s suit? … Did you spend the night in your car too?!” It’s only recently hit me how much I enjoy these rare scenes where Sue Ellen loses her composure in front of her in-laws who then regard her as if she’s gone completely mad. It happened first in Black Market Baby when she accused Pam of sabotaging her adoption. It also happens in that great scene in Carousel where she loses her temper at Bobby for defending JR after he’s killed Nicholas Pearce. But the best example is in a very exciting episode that I haven’t gotten to yet because it begins with D. Perversely, but also kind of inevitably, the realisation that she was drugged and abducted (and possibly even raped) by BD Calhoun serves to bring Sue Ellen and JR closer together — even though he's the one who endangered her in the first place.

Elsewhere, Cliff tricks confidential information about Ewing Oil out of Pam, passes it onto Jeremy Wendell and then feels so guilty he gets drunk and wakes up in bed next to a very young and kooky future Ann Ewing. From his drunken ramblings the night before, she has come to the conclusion that he is hung up on a woman named Pam. This causes Cliff to do a nervous double-take. Funny how the whiff of incest will follow Ann as she gets involved with Harris Ryland and his creepily possessive mother Judith.

It seems as if Bobby has been super-smart in tracing Calhoun to his hotel, but when he and JR get there in the final scene of the ep and find a videotaped message he’s left for them (“Congratulations, JR. Now you’re an enemy worth killing"), they realise they’ve walked into a trap. Catharsis, meanwhile, ends with Joe coming to the conclusion that Karen, like BD, knew what she was doing all along and that he, Mack, the bad guys and the cops all took the bait she set for them. As I say, I’ve always found this ending a bit far-fetched. This time around, however, I've realised that KNOTS gives itself a get-out clause. When Joe asks her if she planned the whole thing, Karen has a mouthful of food and doesn’t answer. So maybe she really is some kind of only-on-TV master manipulator (i.e, one of "them") or maybe she’s just your every day, out of her depth widow who got lucky (one of "us"). The ambiguity is very KNOTS.

And the winner is … Catharsis

BONUS BEATS

 
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Julia's Gun

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When Sue Ellen fails to arrive home in Cat and Mouse, it’s notable that Pam is the Ewing most concerned she might have fallen off the wagon and ended up in trouble. Perhaps she’s remembering a dream she once had.
LOL!

I’ve always found this ending a bit far-fetched. This time around, however, I've realised that KNOTS gives itself a get-out clause.
I had a similar feeling about this episode, but I am also fond of it - it's one of the first ones I ever watched and got me into this show. The criminal underworld stuff and Angelo whoever is name is was all a bit contrived and confusing, but as you say, that ambiguous ending kind of works if you watch the episode a few times. Karen was taking a huge risk, but it was her way of trying to get justice at last for her dear husband. It's all a bit rushed trying to round it all off in one hour, but there is a sense of the show and the writers being ready now to move on from here - Karen is no longer the grieving widow of Season 3 and is about to become an item again with Mack, bringing closure to an important and difficult period for Knots. It's quite a moving, pivotal point in the show in fact.
 
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James from London

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Celebration (KNOTS, 10 Feb 83) v Cement the Relationship (KNOTS, 14 May 87)

Celebration is powered by a succession of angry confrontations: Laura telling Richard to move out, Richard throwing Ciji out, Ciji refusing to let Abby in, Val barging in on Ciji ... the cumulative effect is of a community tearing itself apart.

In a rare moment of calm, Karen and Lilimae dispense contrary advice to Val. Karen, somewhat smugly, counsels her to let go of her feelings for Gary. “Only cowards dwell in the past ... Your anger is such a waste!” “Where we come from, anger is better than helplessness any day of the week,” argues Lilimae. She urges Val to hold onto her anger, to “lash out at somebody if you have to.” Ironically, both women’s words of wisdom come back to bite them in the cul-de-sac. When Diana informs her that she plans to move to New York with Chip, Karen discovers that letting go is easier said than done. And when Val takes her mama's advice and lashes out in anger, it’s at Lilimae herself for disconnecting the phone line before a drunk and barely coherent Gary can tell Val where he is. Then she lashes out again, physically this time, at Ciji, who winds up dead.

While Celebration focuses on the day leading up to the discovery of a body (KNOTS LANDING: FIRE WALK WITH ME, if you will), Cement the Relationship is about the night immediately following the discovery of a body. Aside from being dead, Ciji and Peter Hollister have much in common. Both are valuable pieces of property (or “pieces of meat,” as Abby would put it) and both are romantically and/or sexually entangled with at least three other characters (Ciji with Chip, Gary and Laura; Peter with Paige, Abby and Olivia). Just as Jeff Munson looks around Ciji's empty apartment after she fails to show up for her engagement at Daniel’s, so Greg looks around Peter's after he fails to show up at all.

While Abby is frantically searching for Gary in Celebration, she’s frantically trying to hide Peter in Cement. In the former, she turns to Mack for help — you can tell they don’t know each other too well at this point because she uses her full name to identify herself over the phone. In the latter, she’s such a bag of nerves as the Mackenzies arrive for dinner at Lotus Point to celebrate Eric's graduation (while Peter’s corpse is stashed in the DJ booth) that she uncharacteristically ends up hugging him. It's one of several laugh-out-loud moments in the ep.

Whereas Gary is a drunken mess at the centre of the drama in Celebration, by Cement he has become a safe haven, sufficiently removed from the drama for a traumatised Olivia to turn to him in her hour of need. But like the drunken Gary who called Val four years earlier, she is not in a position to explain what has happened or what she needs. When she runs off, Jill patiently encourages Gary to go after her. “Well, at least it’s not Val,” she sighs. No, Jill, that’ll be next season’s cliff-hanger.

For Val, it’s all about missing husbands and phone calls. In Celebration, she is driven to near distraction after receiving a call from Gary asking for her help, but without telling her where he is. In Cement the Relationship, she sits quietly by the phone, waiting for a call from Ben she knows will never come.

Both episodes end similarly, with the ocean and the concrete yielding their secrets, as a would-be pop star washes up on the shore and a settling crack appears in the children’s playground.

And the winner is ... Celebration

BONUS BEATS:


 
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Jimmy Todd

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Awesome, as usual, @James from London!
You list Laura as connected "romantically or sexually" to Ciji. I always saw their relationship as a friendship and the lesbian undertones just projected on them by Richard. Do you see a romantic aspect to their relationship?
 

James from London

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You list Laura as connected "romantically or sexually" to Ciji. I always saw their relationship as a friendship and the lesbian undertones just projected on them by Richard. Do you see a romantic aspect to their relationship?
Hmm, I'm not really sure. I was just hoping the word entangled was broad enough to cover all bases!
 

James from London

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Which reminds me of Judith telling Emma (I think...) to nurture her...was it pain or hatred?
Or did this happen in another soap?
The one I was reminded of was Diana saying, "I cherish the pain!" after Chip died.
 

James from London

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Chance of a Lifetime (KNOTS, 11 Dec 80) v A Change of Heart (KNOTS, 17 Apr 86)

It’s always interesting to revisit early Abby. The way she acts all dizzy and helpless at the start of Chance of a Lifetime in order to persuade Richard to drop her kids off at school is not all that different to how Anne Matheson later behaves when she needs the concept of Garbage Day explaining. Abby is still batting her baby blues at an attorney three years later in A Change of Heart, only this time it’s Jim Westmont whose expertise she requires in order to cheat Karen out of her shares of the profits in Lotus Point.

Richard doesn’t directly object when the demands of Laura’s new job necessitate him cutting short his own working day to pick Jason up from school, provide him with dinner and then head back to the office to pull an all-nighter. Instead, he waits till he’s halfway out the door before casually dropping the bombshell that Brian Dennehy’s offered him a job and they’re moving to Chicago. Laura doesn’t want to go but of course, she doesn’t say so. The Averys rarely fight or say what’s on their minds. They just simmer and brood and make jokes to paper over the tracks. Only in the closing seconds of the episode does Richard finally drop his defences and break down, but even then he can’t bring himself to tell Laura the truth — how the job offer in Chicago turned out to be a mirage and that he’s burned his bridges with his existing firm anyway. Elsewhere on the cul-de-sac, Gary cheerfully lies to Sid about making a deal with the clearly crooked Frank and Roy, but on the surface, all is calm.

In contrast, A Change of Heart is fuelled by a sense of barely suppressed hysteria. Even the opening titles feel like they’re about to hurtle out of control. In the first scene, Mack silently weeps while watching Diana through a two-way mirror break down as she tells the police how Chip killed Ciji for her. When he tries to explain to Karen that Diana isn’t ready to come home, she is too manic, too frantic to listen. Meanwhile, Lilimae tearfully pleads with Val not to leave her in the sanatarium and Gary is off on some weird quest of his own by stalking Ciji’s double. (He also finds time to inherit 10% of Ewing Oil and laugh hysterically.)

In Chance of a Lifetime, Laura’s meeting with her boss and an important client is rudely interrupted by a champagne-popping, ‘Chicago’-singing Richard barging drunkenly into the office. In A Change of Heart, it’s Laura herself doing the interrupting, walking into Abby’s office just as she’s about to kiss Greg Sumner. (And this is how Laura meets her future husband.) In 1980, Laura’s boss is Scooter, who describes himself as her sensai with her as his wide-eyed willing student. By 1983, she has grown more wily. Now her boss is Abby Ewing and the only way for her to find out what’s really going on with Karen, Lotus Point and H&O Management is to ply Jim Westmont with booze and stroke his ego (possibly among other things).

As compelling as it is to watch Richard grovel to Brian Dennehy’s Chicago big shot, it’s even more riveting to see Karen humiliate herself in front of her evil son-in-law as she politely asks him to use his influence to persuade Diana to come home. “Please, Chip, I can’t beg you anymore,” she tells him, but all he does is smile blandly back at her. Eventually, she cracks: “I hope you rot in hell!” To think it was only eleven episodes earlier, in Celebration, when Karen lectured Val about letting go of Gary. “Your anger is such a waste,” she told her patronisingly.

A Change of Heart includes the scene where Ben and Val sit in his car outside her house after visiting Lilimae, while Mack and Michael shoot hoops in the background, and Ben describes the nervous breakdown his father suffered when he (Ben) was in high school. I remember reading somewhere that this was written and filmed at the last minute after they realised the episode was under running. Although you wouldn’t miss this scene if it didn’t exist (and Ben’s father isn’t mentioned again), it seems somehow fundamental to our understanding of what makes Ben tick.

And the winner is ... A Change of Heart

 
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