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

Discussion in 'Dallas - The Original Series' started by James from London, Sep 18, 2016.

  1. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    09 Mar 88: DYNASTY: The Trial v. 10 Mar 88: KNOTS LANDING: Full Disclosure v. 11 Mar 88: DALLAS: To Have and to Hold v. 11 Mar 88: FALCON CREST: Channing Vs. Channing

    “What gives you the right to take a child from its mother? I carried him for nine months!” cries Karen Atkinson on DYNASTY. “I feel like a victim!” wails Pat Williams on KNOTS LANDING. “What about me?! … I’m getting older and I have an ego!” weeps Ellie Farlow on DALLAS. Suffice to say, there’s a lot of emotional grandstanding in this week’s Soap Land.

    Adam and Dana on DYNASTY, Richard, Maggie and Angela on FALCON CREST and Pat on KNOTS all testify on the witness stand this week. The first two cases deal with child access (Karen Atkinson is suing to have her surrogacy agreement with Adam overturned and Angela is demanding access to her grandson) while the trial on KNOTS is the reason Pat and the rest of her family are in the Witness Protection Programme. Meanwhile, DALLAS’s equivalent Witness Protection Programme story, involving Nicholas Pearce, reaches its own climax.

    Whereas the court proceeding on FC is relatively low-key — the set up is similar to John Ross’s second custody hearing during the DALLAS Dream Season where each witness testified privately in front of the judge — DYNASTY throws everything but the kitchen sink at its hearing: an impassioned argument from Karen’s attorney (“I’m speaking about the morality of a very rich family trying to buy my client’s child!”), Dana’s past exposed under cross-examination, a smoking gun (“documented evidence that shows that [Jessie Atkinson] was paid $2,500 to instigate a custody suit”) revealed midway through the trial and Karen interrupting the judge’s summation to thrust her newborn baby into his line of vision: “I wanted you to see him … You’re going to decide who keeps my child and you’ve never even seen him!” Finally, Dana derails the whole shebang by standing up and declaring, “I’m sorry, but I can’t go through with this, Adam … The baby belongs with Karen!”

    Unlike DYNASTY, the really dramatic stuff pertaining to the KL and FC trials takes place outside the courtroom. After the judge on FALCON CREST grants Angela visitation rights to her grandson Michael, Richard arranges to have the boy temporarily snatched during their first outing together in order to make her appear negligent. Meanwhile on KNOTS, Pat is leaving the courthouse after giving evidence when she is stabbed by a nameless associate of the men she is testifying against. Meanwhile, the anonymous associates of the men Joseph Lombardi testified against twenty-three years ago pull a knife on April at the start of this week’s DALLAS. The threat of disfigurement (“Money won’t buy you a new face after I’m finished with it”) is enough to persuade her to spill the beans on the whereabouts of Joseph Junior, aka Nicholas Pearce.

    The opening scene of this week’s KNOTS also contains a strong threat of violence. The ep starts off peacefully enough — a portrait of neighbourhood bliss, in fact: Mack cuddles Meg on the lawn while Pat and Val watch their kids play hopscotch together on the sidewalk. There’s even a definitive moment of community acceptance as Val asks Julie to babysit the twins. Then a workman arrives at the Williams’ house and accidentally breaks a window. Suddenly, all hell breaks loose. Frank emerges from his house wearing a vest and pointing a gun at the workman. The camera work becomes unsteady as Mack and Frank get in each other’s faces, bellowing at one another, spit flying (“You don’t run around the neighbourhood with a gun in your hand, not with kids around! Brandishing a firearm is breaking the law!” “So is trespassing which is what you’re doing — you’re on my property!”). While Frank takes off in his car, Mack goes home to report him to the police. “That clown’s running round out there with a loaded .38 revolver and there’s kids playing in the street … I just can’t believe that that’s happening in this neighbourhood … I just can’t believe it,” he mutters. I’m not saying it’s intentional, or even conscious, but it feels like there’s a subliminal subtext in Mack’s reaction to the loose cannon living next door to him. To put it crudely, if not grotesquely: a black family moves into a respectable cul-de-sac like this one and next thing you know, it’s turned into Boyz N The Hood.

    Of course, we know that Frank’s rage has nothing to do with racial or cultural stereotypes. The source of his pain is identical to Solid Old Ben’s at the end of last season. “While trying to protect my family, I have become the enemy … My family needs protecting against me,” he tells Pat. Also, when Pat is on the witness stand, we learn that she is, or was, a doctor. What could be more respectable, more … white? This being an ‘80s soap, the Williamses’ skin colour is never mentioned, just as Dominique’s wasn’t on DYNASTY, not even in passing. Well, there is one reference later in the ep when the Mackenzies come round with a peace offering of bagels. “Soul food,” replies Pat, which at least acknowledges the elephant in the room.

    By this point, Karen and Mack have figured out Frank and Pat’s big secret. “They’ve done everything they can to hide their past,” Mack realises. “We’ve done everything we could to uncover it,” adds Karen. In other words, they are to the Williamses what April has been to Nick on DALLAS. Just as Frank grabbed for his gun when he heard the sound of breaking glass so Nick goes for his pistol when his apartment doorbell rings. His visitor turns out to be Sue Ellen, confused as to why her new boyfriend has been given his own storyline.

    When the bad guys do track him down, Nick tries to convince them that his father (the one they’re after for testifying in the first place) died in prison years ago. When that doesn’t work, he brings them to his parents’ house — the place we met them in last week’s ep. This time, however, the man who answers the door tells Nick that “Mr and Mrs Pearce were killed” in an automobile accident six months earlier. We know this must be a lie, but confusingly, Nick’s fake breakdown, performed for the benefit of the thugs, is even more moving than Pat Williams’ real “I was a doctor!” one on the witness stand. It’s undeniably clunky and not a little hammy, but nonetheless effective. I guess it’s down to Nick’s innate likability which manages to transcend both his stupidly big hair and tendency to say cheesy things like, “Nothing confuses a beautiful woman more than a man who won’t mix business with pleasure.” There’s also some compelling faux emotion on display on FALCON CREST when an enraged Richard interrupts Angela’s birthday party to berate her for allowing his son to wander off while in her custody — an incident he himself engineered.

    Elsewhere on DALLAS, Ray Krebbs banishes his recently acquired step-daughter to Switzerland just as Richard did his on last week’s FC. The difference is that Charlie is being sent to boarding school while Vicky is currently languishing in prison — although one suspects the distinction may be lost on Charlie. (“You wanna control how I think, how I look, how I feel!” she yells at Ray. “Don’t I get to say anything about my own life?!”) To his dismay, Jenna decides to accompany her daughter abroad and stay “for as long as Charlie needs me.” Maggie Channing, on the other hand, has no idea her daughter is even in Switzerland, much less a jail cell. According to the postcard she receives this week, Vicky and Eric are “doing Paris, London, Rome.” Out of her earshot, Richard compliments his henchman Garth on the convincing handwriting on the card. “The man I use is the best,” Garth replies. In the last scene of this week’s KNOTS, Val also receives some significant mail from overseas — significant enough to cause her to drop her groceries in shock. “Finally out of danger. I miss you, I love you. Hug the kids for me. See you soon, Ben,” it reads. DYNASTY likewise ends with an apparent communication from a seemingly lost husband. Having been informed that the man killed in the tanker explosion was not Sean Rowan but Harry Thresher (shame, I liked Harry), Alexis insists that Sean must still be dead — until she receives an anonymous call at the end of the ep. “Sean? Sean, is that you?” she asks. Cut to a tantalising shot of a bright red London telephone box with the receiver left dangling. While Val and Alexis each appear to have regained a husband, DALLAS ends with Miss Ellie dispensing with one. “I want you out,” she informs Clayton after finally confronting him about his relationship with Laurel. His explanation is almost a carbon copy of the reasons Jock gave for consorting with Julie Grey ten years earlier: “She made me feel like a man again. Everyone else was making me feel like a damned invalid, most of all you.” Whereas Ellie met Jock’s indiscretion with authority and stoicism, times have changed. Now she’s older, more vulnerable, more frightened. “What about me? What about me?” she keeps asking.

    Back on DYNASTY, Leslie Carrington surprises Jeff by showing up at his new apartment with all her belongings. Now that he and Fallon are divorced, she explains, she expects to move in with him — even though they only slept together once several months ago. Leslie plays the scene like she’s in a screwball comedy, but it’s more like an inept version of Fatal Attraction as Jeff politely shows her the door. Meanwhile on DALLAS, Kay Lloyd surprises Bobby by showing up at his office with what looks like all her belongings. “Sometimes I get a little crazy and impulsive,” she smiles. However, she assures him, “I’m only here for the day.” They subsequently share their first kiss while dancing the Texas Two-Step to ‘Lookin’ for Love’ by Charlene Tilton’s ex-husband (Johnny Lee, not Mitch Cooper).

    Over on FALCON CREST, Lance’s determination to get to the bottom of Richard’s role in Curtis Esterbrook’s death and John Remick’s disappearance leads him to the Justice Department where he encounters his own Kay Lloyd equivalent named Catherine (played by a future Dr Who girl!). Like Kay, she’s industrious, eager to help and hides her glamorous looks behind a pair of bookish glasses. While Kay calls herself impulsive, Catherine insists “she’s a bit of a rebel.” But that’s where the similarity ends. The final scene of the ep finds her talking to Rosemont, the head of the Thirteen. “If [Lance] gets too close to the truth, you will have to kill him,” he tells her. Whereas all the would-be murderers during the first half of this season’s FC began to blur into one, this revelation feels quite exciting — probably because it’s part of a more focused narrative.

    Maggie’s overnight transformation into a fully fledged alcoholic is fascinating. On last week’s FC, she had her first proper drunk scene in which she polished off a decanter of brandy and then fell over. This week, she’s sworn off the booze, suffers withdrawal symptoms and gets defensive when Richard gently suggests seeking help for her “problem.” By the end of the ep, she’s secretly nipping from the bottle of cooking wine stashed in her bedside cabinet. It’s as if Sue Ellen’s first year on DALLAS had been compressed into two episodes. As a realistic portrayal of addiction, therefore, it’s somewhat lacking. As a way of externalising the loss of Maggie’s psychological bearings since her marriage to Richard, it works perfectly.

    Speaking of out-of-nowhere ailments, Krystle suddenly feels faint on this week’s DYNASTY and has to sit down. It could be nothing, of course, but this is Soap Land — and come to think of it, wasn’t dizziness the first symptom of Laura’s brain tumour on KNOTS …?

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (4) FALCON CREST
    3 (3) DYNASTY
    4 (1) DALLAS
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2018
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  2. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    16 Mar 88: DYNASTY: The Proposal v. 18 Mar 88: DALLAS: Dead Reckoning v. 18 Mar 88: FALCON CREST: False Faces

    Last week’s DALLAS opened with the bad guys threatening April Stevens with a knife. This week’s DYNASTY opens with Sean Rowan about to knife Alexis in her sleep. This turns out to be a dream, of course, because Sean’s dead — right? Wrong! He shows up alive and vengeful later in the episode and steals into Alexis’s hotel suite with a gun. When she returns from walking the dog (not a euphemism), he hides in the bedroom. Rio’s no fool and starts growling at the bedroom door. Sean stands poised on the other side, ready to pull the trigger. Unless I’m very much mistaken, this is the first time in Soap Land history that a dog has been in mortal danger. In the event, Sean exits through a window and Alexis remains unaware of his visit. Instead, she summons Leslie Carrington to her office where she returns “the bracelet that you dropped in my bedroom when you were doing whatever it was you were doing”, calls her the company tramp, the company slut and the company whore and then fires her. There’s an equivalent scene in DALLAS that’s almost as satisfying where Nicholas Pearce reads April the riot act after she threatens to report last week’s bad guys to the police. “Hasn’t that mouth of yours gotten us into enough trouble already?” he barks. “You got me in trouble, you got people I love in trouble. Now I want you to take that nose while you still have one and keep it out of my business!” He’s less verbally insulting than Alexis but does slam April up against a wall to get his point across.

    Nick shares a far more affectionate scene with his younger brother Sal, which serves to tie up the loose ends of their Witness Protection Programme storyline. It’s one of those scenes that becomes unexpectedly touching when watched in hindsight as you suddenly remember that Nick is not long for this soap opera and this is probably the last time the brothers will ever see each other.

    Back on DYNASTY, only a week after his divorce from Fallon, Jeff asks Sammy Jo to marry him. This is her second marriage proposal of the season. Offhand, the only other character I can recall receiving such an honour is Sue Ellen during DALLAS’s fourth season when JR and Cliff were vying for her hand. As she mulls over her decision, she turns to her aunt. “You should know there are gonna be some problems,” Krystle points out. “Why?” Sammy Jo asks, an edge of defiance in her voice. “Is it gonna be uncomfortable on the holidays when the whole family’s here at the house? … Blake will be angry if I separate Jeff from Fallon.” “Sammy Jo, Fallon will always be a reality in both your lives,” Krystle replies. These objections are similar to the ones raised by the Ewings a year ago when Jenna and Ray decided to live together. Back then, they had the close proximity of Pam and Bobby to contend with. Here, it’s Fallon and Steven who are the problem. Steven confronts Jeff on the subject in a scene that is as interesting and juicy as any between Bobby and Ray when they were at odds over Jenna. He calls Jeff’s proposal “a big mistake” and accuses him of rebounding from Fallon. Jeff, in turn, accuses Steven of trying to control Sammy Jo: “For the past year, you’ve had her under your brand of protective custody and it’s smothering her.” As with Nick and Sal’s exchange on DALLAS, knowing Steven is on his way out of the show adds an extra layer of poignancy to the confrontation. “What are we doing anyway?” asks Jeff. “We’ve known each other a long time, we’ve been friends and buddies and we’re standing here yelling at each other and looking like a couple of jerks … If you tell me you’re the right one for Sammy Jo, the best thing for her, I’ll back away.” Proud to the last, Steven exits the scene without replying.

    On the subject of departing characters, Charlie Wade makes her final appearance on DALLAS this week. “I can’t wait to get out of here,” she declares before flouncing off to Switzerland. Ray is on his way back from driving her and Jenna to the airport when he spies his next storyline, a pretty gal named Connie, standing on the side of the road with a flat tyre. FALCON CREST’s Lance and Shannon recently met-cute in pretty much identical circumstances. They looked set for a big romance until the revelation that Shannon was the mother of Lance’s half-brother whereupon she disappeared as abruptly as she had arrived. Time will tell if something similar is in store for Connie and Ray.

    The wheels of justice are currently grinding slower in Denver than they do in the Tuscany Valley. In the time that Adam Carrington and Karen Atkinson have been waiting for the judge to make a ruling about the future of their baby, Angela Channing has already been awarded visitation rights to her grandson, had those rights revoked and is now planning to sue for full custody of the child on the grounds that “the mother drinks [and] the father is an inch away from prison.”

    Maggie’s headlong descent into alcoholism continues apace. By the start of this week’s FALCON CREST, she’s already drinking in the mornings and hiding bottles in the plant pot. If this seems accelerated, so is Cliff Barnes’s overnight addiction to tranquillisers on DALLAS. After popping a couple of pills during last week’s ep, he’s suddenly begging his doctor for repeat prescriptions and nodding out on the office couch. He blames it on the stress caused by the fluctuating value of the West Star stock JR is forcing him to buy, but he’s surely been through worse crises over the past ten seasons. More likely, he’s simply worn out. Now that DALLAS has taken away the two things that meant the most to him — his sister and the Barnes/Ewing feud — the character is running on empty. “I just can’t take it anymore! I don’t even feel like fighting!” he complains. If that isn’t a sign of soap fatigue, I don’t know what is.

    Whereas Sue Ellen’s alcoholism was largely depicted (Pam’s Dream notwithstanding) as decadent and kinda glamorous, even when she was seven months pregnant and passed out, Maggie’s feels almost pathetically real. Instead of drinking from crystal glasses in fancy restaurants, she’s nipping from coffee mugs in the kitchen. Rather than deliver cynical one-liners at cocktail time, she snaps at her toddler children and nags the housekeeper until she resigns. Instead of trading thrillingly vicious insults with her husband the way Sue Ellen used to, she pretends to be sober and cheerful in front of Richard while slurring her words. Rather than rub her face in her misery as JR would, he looks silently back at her, a mixture of confusion and disappointment on his face.

    So it is that in the same week that Richard Channing, with some assistance from the Thirteen, gets into the Empire Valley business, acquiring “television stations, a movie studio … and a communications satellite”, he also finds himself as helpless as Poor Val when she was trying to deal with Gary’s drinking in “Bottom of the Bottle”. There’s something uniquely poignant about the last scene of this week’s FC which reveals the usually omnipotent Richard standing at the back of an Al-Anon meeting listening to “ordinary” people talk about experiences that mirror his own.

    DYNASTY and DALLAS each end with a central character suspected of a serious crime. Karen and Jessie Atkinson, who have sort of become the DYNASTY equivalent of Harry and Sheila Fisher (only this time the husband is the liability rather than the wife), arrive at Soap Land Memorial Hospital to discover Karen’s baby is missing. “How could this be? Adam couldn’t take my baby!” she shouts hysterically. Clayton Farlow, meanwhile, opens his hotel room door to find himself surrounded by cops and “under arrest for the murder of David Shulton.” Has Adam gone from kidnappee to kidnapper? Was the beating Clayton gave Shulton earlier on really enough to finish him off? There’s another a murder on FALCON CREST, but here we’re left in no doubt as to who is responsible. Catherine, Lance’s new pal from the Justice Department, has travelled with him to Africa, supposedly to help him find out what really happened to John Remick. When Remick’s mercenary buddy Westcott figures out she’s up to no good, she shoots him in cold blood. This is the second time Westcott has been shot dead in Soap Land. A decade earlier on DALLAS, he was Al, the weirdo member of the gang who abducted Bobby Ewing and then got mown down at the end of the episode.

    Last week, Nicholas Pearce led the bad guys to the graves where his parents were buried. The graves were fake, but the bad guys bought it. At the end of this week’s FALCON CREST, an African general points Lance in the direction of the military gravesite where John Remick is buried — only Lance isn’t buying it. “Remick died six months ago … This grave ain’t near that old,” he tells Catherine. He starts digging, and for a minute it looks like we might be about to see Soap Land’s first exhumation, but the grave turns out to be empty. Were that not twist enough, Catherine then pulls a gun on him. “Too bad. I was really starting to like you,” she says. Were that not twist enough either, Lance then produces the bullets he has taken from her gun. “I was really starting to like you too,” he replies, “but I stopped trusting you.”

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (3) DYNASTY
    2 (4) DALLAS
    3 (2) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2018
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  3. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    30 Mar 88: DYNASTY: Colorado Roulette v. 31 Mar 88: KNOTS LANDING: Mother Knows Best v. 01 Apr 88: DALLAS: Never Say Never v. 01 Apr 88: FALCON CREST: Flying Blind

    The same lakeside cabin where Lute-Mae Sanders fought off her rapist on FLAMINGO ROAD and Chase watched Dr Lantry take a fatal overdose on FALCON CREST this week becomes a hideout on DYNASTY for Sean Rowan, who has snatched Adam’s baby, aka “Blake and Alexis’s precious little grandson.” Leslie is his accomplice-cum-hostage who gets on his good side by serving up a breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast. “I never knew you were such a good cook,” he remarks — which is probably the nicest thing he’s ever said to her. This is one of several noteworthy breakfasts in this week’s Soap Land. On KNOTS, Mack whips up a romantic feast of blueberry pancakes for Karen which she runs out on because of a prearranged breakfast meeting with Manny Vasquez. That breakfast takes an unexpected turn when Manny kisses her. The following morning, Karen cooks breakfast for Mack in return and he jokingly accuses her of having a guilty conscience. He doesn’t know how right he is. “I enjoyed it,” she confesses to Pat, referring to Manny’s kiss. On FALCON CREST, the mere sight of Garth’s home-cooked breakfast has Maggie, undergoing alcohol withdrawal, running for the bathroom. On DALLAS, it isn’t breakfast but dinner that is the significant meal as Connie, aka “the lady with the flat tyre”, shows up at Ray’s door with groceries and offers to cook for him. Feeling lonely and abandoned in Jenna’s absence, he accepts.

    When Sean overhears Leslie revealing their whereabouts over the phone, he becomes demented with anger. As the character teeters on the verge of madness so the man playing him, James Healy, reaches the edge of his acting abilities. Consequently, there’s an out-of-control quality to his performance that is quite compelling. Healy reminds me of George Lazenby, the weakest actor to play James Bond who nonetheless starred in the best Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Just as Lazenby’s limitations worked for that film (or at least didn’t impede it), Healy has proven a perfect fit for this B-movie revenge storyline. Ergo, Sean Rowan is the George Lazenby of Alexis’s husbands. (Broadly speaking, that means Blake is Sean Connery, Cecil is Roger Moore, Dex is Pierce Brosnan and New Blake is Daniel Craig.)

    Sean then beats up Leslie in Soap Land’s most overt display of male-on-female violence yet. It’s brutal without being very realistic and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it.

    The Farlows on DALLAS have been married almost as long as the Mackenzies on KNOTS and there’s a sense that both couples have been taking each other for granted of late. Last week, when Karen told Mack that Manny had been flirting with her at Lotus Point, she was disappointed by his lack of reaction and miffed by the suggestion that Manny’s attentiveness might simply have been a business tactic. Whereas Karen and Mack’s relationship insecurities result in small moments of character observation (Mack comparing Manny’s dress sense with his own) and humour ("What'd you do?" asks Pat when Karen tells her about Manny's kiss. "I shot him," she replies), Clayton and Ellie’s marital disharmony manifests itself plot-wise. Clayton’s discontent was first signified by his preoccupation with a painting. This led to the introduction of a whole new subset of characters, resulting in blackmail, accusations of an affair, a marital separation and now Clayton being arrested on a murder charge.

    “The Ewing family has always banded together against trouble from the outside,” Ellie says when Clayton thanks her for standing by him following his arrest. That attitude is reflected on DYNASTY where Adam and Steven finally bond after banding together to rescue Adam’s baby. “I never thought I needed you,” Adam tells his brother. “You’ve always struggled to belong and in my own way, so have I,” Steven replies.

    Towards the end of this week's DYNASTY, Steven leaves an envelope addressed to Blake in the library. We’re not privy to its contents, but from the “Goodbye, Dad” he utters to an empty room, we can make a pretty good guess. KNOTS kicks off with the discovery of another letter. “My housekeeper found a note from Olivia saying she and Harold had run off to get married,” Abby informs Manny Vasquez before ordering him to stop the wedding. There’s more letter action elsewhere in the ep as Jill drops by the airport and persuades a man on his way to Honduras to mail a letter addressed to Val once he arrives. Over on FALCON CREST, in the Swiss prison where she and Eric are being held without trial as if they were starring in a unisex version of Midnight Express, Vicky goes to even more circuitous lengths to send a letter to Maggie — of which more later.

    Three of this week’s soaps include a scene where one female character visits another to discuss a man with whom they are mutually involved. “You called?” asks Fallon sarcastically after being summoned to Delta Rho by Sammy Jo. “I know I should have called first, but it was hard enough for me to come over here at all,” Jill says after surprising Val in the cul-de-sac. “If you’re looking for Clayton, he’s at the office,” says Miss Ellie after Laurel Ellis shows up at Southfork. Sammy Jo, Jill and Laurel each then offer an olive branch. “You don’t like me and I don’t like you, I wouldn’t be so dumb to suggest we’d ever become friends, but we can’t be enemies,” says Sammy Jo to Fallon. “I’m not saying that I think we could ever be friends, but I would really like to try to stop being enemies,” echoes Jill, extending her hand to Val. “It’s you I want to talk to,” Laurel explains to Miss Ellie, “to tell you the truth about Clayton and myself … Nothing ever happened between us … I’m truly sorry I’ve been responsible for any of this.” While Fallon is unconvinced by Sammy Jo’s words (“You wanted to be a Carrington so you married Steven — now you wanna be a Colby so it’s Jeff’s turn,” she replies), Val is taken in by Jill’s and agrees to a truce (“Maybe when Ben gets back, we can all go for pizza,” Jill suggests wickedly). Meanwhile, Ellie’s discussion with Laurel about Clayton mirrors one she had with Julie Grey about Jock a decade earlier. “There aren’t many women who intimidate me — you’re one of them,” Julie told her back then. These days, Ellie cuts a less imposing figure. “At my age, it’s hard to put your dreams back together once they’ve been shattered,” she tells Laurel.

    Laurel’s visit to Southfork serves another narrative purpose — it brings her into the orbit of JR, who immediately propositions her and later has Harry McSween bring her to his office where he can behave like even more of a pig. “I don’t know about Clayton, but if you’d have been with me, you would have been properly and frequently bedded, my dear,” he leers. JR’s on excitingly obnoxious form this week.

    Following her scene with Sammy Jo, Fallon winds up in bed with Jeff. They are enjoying a full-blown montage sex scene (the first we’ve seen since Greg and Laura’s last night together) when the doorbell goes — it’s Sammy Jo accepting Jeff’s proposal! Meanwhile, Johnny Rourke and Paige are rolling around in bed in the Mexican village of Santa Tecla when the phone rings — it’s Manny Vasquez ordering Johnny to prevent Harold and Olivia’s marriage! Later in the same episode, Paige is the one who does the interrupting when she finds Johnny in bed with Debbie, a sexy archaeologist whose interest in pre-Colombian artefacts Paige shares. Refreshingly, Paige takes Johnny’s dalliance in her stride and by the end of the ep, they’re canoodling once more.

    The penultimate scene of this season’s DYNASTY includes a moment that couldn’t be soapier if it tried — Alexis is taking a bubble bath when the champagne glass she holds is shot at point blank range by her back-from-the-dead husband. “That’s for my father!” he snarls. A struggle over the gun then ensues between her third and fourth husbands as Alexis, now clad demurely in a peach bathrobe, watches in alarm. Suddenly the gun goes off! But before we can see who took the bullet, Claudia or Krystle — I mean, Dex or Sean — it’s all over. Bye-bye, everyone; see ya next season. But wait! There’s one more scene to go! Back at the mansion, Blake finds his and Krystle’s bedroom in a state of disarray. (In reality, it’s no more untidy than the average teenager’s. However, this is Soap Land.) Jeanette tells him that Krystle left the house a little while ago and he swears her to secrecy. But it’s the season’s final line — “My God, Krystle, I thought we had more time!” — that pulls the narrative rug out from under us, in the same way that Bobby Ewing’s “Good morning” and the disembodied voice asking, “You want out, Mrs Mackenzie?” did at the end of the 1985/6 season.

    The ailing Dr Styles is also running out of time on DALLAS. In this episode’s penultimate scene, his daughter Kimberly brings Cliff Barnes to meet him in the hope that he will join forces with them to defeat JR. But Cliff no longer seems to care about winning. “You know what I hope?” he asks the doctor. “I hope this war between you and JR just explodes and blows the both of you all to hell and back.” He flounces off and Styles reaches for his oxygen supply. “I think we’ve lost,” he tells Kimberly. She then goes to JR and essentially begs him to spare her father’s life. “I’ll convince my daddy to back you. You can have West Star,” she promises. (Anyone else getting a vaguely Shakespearean vibe from all this?) “What about you?” JR asks. “You don’t have to marry me,” she replies. “I’ll be yours whenever you want.” “What makes you think I want you at all?” he sneers. “And as far as calling it off, I’m afraid that’s impossible … Your daddy wanted a war and he got one. There’ll be no truce. I want an unconditional surrender. I’m gonna break him and take West Star away from him.” As one Soap Land war rages on, another is declared. At the end of last week’s FALCON CREST, Richard learned, to his alarm, that the Thirteen are “plotting the economic destruction of the United States … There are going to be riots in the streets, people are going to be killing each over a slice of bread. You’ll be destroying everything this country stands for and for what?” “For us,” Rosemont replied simply. (Anyone else getting a not so vaguely Trumpian vibe from all this?) This week, Richard decides to stop them. “I will do whatever is necessary,” he vows. “Very well — so shall we,” counters Rosemont.

    While Vicky Stavros is in Geneva bribing a prison orderly into mailing a letter to her mother, Paige Matheson is in Santa Tecla “making a donation to the preservation of Mexican national treasures”, i.e., bribing the local police into delaying the construction of a highway through the site of the archaeological dig. The political system in Washington proves no less corrupt as Kay Lloyd introduces Bobby to Senator O’Dell, with a view to getting the Ewing Oil name back. In his previous Soap Land incarnations, O’Dell was Titus Semple on FLAMINGO ROAD and Paul Galveston on KNOTS LANDING and appears to share their amoral streak. And like Galveston, he’s not particularly keen on discussing business matters with women, referring Kay as “a mighty pretty little thing” (at least he didn’t call her Cookie) and instructing her to leave him and Bobby to talk man-to-man. “I was mighty fond of your daddy,” he tells him. “Some of my fondest memories are of deals that he and I put together — JR too, for that matter.” (Paul Galveston wheelin’ and dealin’ with JR and Jock — now there’s an image to conjure with.) “Yes, sir, the two of them really knew the bottom line when it came to making a deal,” he continues. Whereas Galveston encouraged Gary to believe himself the equal of his Ewing brothers, O’Dell challenges Bobby to show his true Ewing mettle by forking out for “a little retirement place” — a castle in the Scottish Highlands worth $2,000,000. (This rare Soap Land reference to Scotland partially compensates for Karen describing Mack to Manny as “a smiling Irishman who makes terrific blueberry pancakes.” When he first arrived in KNOTS, Mack identified himself as Scots-Italian.)

    After a full FALCON CREST hour of sleep-walking, sweats, nightmares and mood swings, Maggie Channing appears to licked her four-episode booze problem and she and Richard are happy once again. Back on KNOTS, Gary and Jill have their first argument about her drinking. “Do you think I have a problem?” she asks challengingly. “You tell me,” he replies. “You’re the one that’s been sitting around here all day drinking — alone.” This culminates in Jill holding out a glass of wine to Gary, inviting him to drink with her. (“That’s an incredibly sick stupid way of trying to get my attention.”) Jill’s gesture is mirrored by Maggie in the final scene of this week’s FC when Richard returns home to find her nursing a bottle of brandy, as yet unopened. What has happened? She’s received Vicky’s letter, that’s what. (“Eric and I are in jail in Geneva,” it reads. “I don’t know anyone but Richard who could be doing this to us.”) Bitterly, she opens the bottle, pours a drink and raises it towards Richard, just as Jill did her glass to Gary: “What we need here, Richard, is a toast — to my daughter in Switzerland.” Then she spills it on the floor.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (-) DYNASTY
    2 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (2) FALCON CREST
    4 (-) DALLAS
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2018
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  4. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    07 Apr 88: KNOTS LANDING: With a Heavy Heart v. 08 Apr 88: DALLAS: Last of the Good Guys v. 08 Apr 88: FALCON CREST: Key to Angela

    Bobby Ewing having reminded the audience of the three Bs — booze, broads and booty — a couple of weeks ago, Sue Ellen now introduces her own “formula for living with JR” known as “the three Ds … Drink, divorce and doing unto him what he’s done to me.” “I take it drink and divorce didn’t work for you?” ventures Kimberly Cryder.

    Drink hasn’t worked for Maggie Channing when it comes to living with Richard either and so this week she tries a separation. “If I stay … I am going to end up either hating Richard or drinking again,” she explains. “She needs to be in a caring environment,” best pal Emma decides. “She needs love and support and friends.” And so she naturally invites Maggie to move into Falcon Crest.

    While Emma has suddenly acquired a rose-coloured view of life at Falcon Crest, Clayton Farlow has developed a cynical opinion on life at Southfork. “I really appreciate the ‘spirit of the Ewings’,” he tells Miss Ellie, “how the whole clan just gathers around when one member’s in trouble, but obviously, that is nothing but a show for the people of Dallas because, inside this house, I’ve felt like a pariah, an untouchable.” It’s always interesting to see the Ewings’ double standards exposed, especially Ellie’s, even if it does turn Clayton into the injured party. “It was lovely of you of you to dine publicly with me at the Oil Barons' … like I was a discredited presidential candidate,” he continues. This is an even more direct reference to the Gary Hart scandal than Gordon Wales’ “digging up dirt on candidates may be hot right now” line to Alexis on DYNASTY a few months ago. “I am not going to live a sham,” Clayton concludes self-righteously. “I have to know if we are genuinely together or not.” Ellie capitulates meekly. “I want you here … for me,” she tells him in a small voice, and so it is they are reconciled.

    Elsewhere on DALLAS, drink still seems to be working for Ray Krebbs and Connie whose unexpected fling appears to be fuelled as much by alcohol as by desire. However, KNOTS LANDING’s Olivia, whose fiancee Harold has been banished to Miami, refuses to assuage her heartache with cocaine. “Drugs wouldn’t do any good,” she declares. Meanwhile, Cliff Barnes’ pill-popping continues. This has yet to have any major dramatic consequences, only an amusing effect on his speech patterns — during a business meeting with Casey Denault, his voice sounds like a warped cassette tape, first getting slower and slower and then suddenly speeding up.

    Like Maggie, Jill Bennett is back on the mineral water, but her relationship seems to have improved as a result. Meanwhile, a curious thing has happened to her hair. During her scenes with Gary, and any others in which she appears bubbly and cheerful, it is curly and untamed. During the scenes where her behaviour is calculated and secretive, such as when she is splicing together recordings of Ben’s voice to make a fake phone message for Val, it is dead straight. It’s almost as if she were Krystle and Rita combined in one person.

    Like Miss Ellie, Bobby is also accused of double standards this week — by loyal secretary Phyllis, of all people. To counter Senator O’Dell’s demand for a Scottish castle, he asks her to look into his past dealings with Jock and JR so he can find something to use against him. “I don’t see the difference, as far as morality goes, between blackmail and bribery,” says Phyllis. Bobby concedes her point and gives into O’Dell — well, sort of. Instead of buying him the castle, he presents him with a ninety-nine-year lease for it, only to be activated “the day Ewing Oil is mine again.” For some reason, Bobby seems to think this means he’s scored some kind of moral victory over O’Dell, but I’m not sure what it is. Still, O’Dell plays along and tells him what he wants to hear: “Nice touch, Bobby Ewing … I think you’re almost as smart as your daddy.”

    Over on FALCON CREST, Lance also has a meeting with a senator in Washington. (For all we know, he and Bobby are in the same government building at the same time.) While Bobby wants help getting the Ewing Oil name back, Lance has a different kind of favour to ask. “I am not gonna let Richard Channing get away, but I need your help. Together we can nail him,” he tells Senator Ryder. Whereas Bobby tried and failed to find dirt on O’Dell, Lance already knows Ryder’s secret: “You’re John Remick’s brother.” When Ryder, like O’Dell, appears reluctant to get involved, Lance appeals not his greed but to his conscience: “You’ve got a choice, Senator. You can help me, help your brother and maybe help your country, or you can sit there behind your desk.” Later in the episode, Ryder confirms that “Richard Channing made an illegal arms shipment to an African dictator my brother’s been fighting against.” He assures Lance that the FBI has been informed and an arrest is imminent. But then right at the end of the ep, Richard himself contacts the FBI. “I’d like to spill my guts if it’s not too late,” he says. Likewise, at the end of this week’s DALLAS, JR also appears to have turned over a new leaf — but we, the audience, know better. True, he does prove Clayton innocent of David Shulton’s murder (it was the future Charley St James whodunnit), but only as a means of getting Laurel Ellis into bed.

    The interest JR takes in what is really a B-List storyline gives this ep the feel of a stand-alone instalment from DALLAS’s early days. Indeed, one could imagine the whole Clayton/Laurel/Shulton/Lomax/JR plot being edited rather neatly into one hour-long episode.

    Ostensibly to shield her from the media scrutiny surrounding Clayton’s arrest, JR instals Laurel in the Ewing condo — more of a penthouse these days than when Kristin and then Mitch and Lucy lived in it. Laurel is grateful, even more so when JR tells her he can prove Clayton’s innocence. But then he drops the other cowboy boot. “If Harry doesn’t get a call from me,” he explains, pressing himself up against her, “he’s gonna put Lomax on a nonstop plane to London … Clayton’s fate is in your hands.” “So now the payoff,” she realises. “sex in return for freeing Clayton … You bastard!”

    JR’s rape of Holly Harwood five years earlier had a similar dynamic: the woman makes her position clear (Holly: “Take your hands off me, JR — I don’t want this”; Laurel: “Don’t touch me — I can’t stand you”), JR persists, not by using physical violence but a different form of coercion to force her into submission. The main difference between the two events is that this is not part of a bigger narrative for JR. Having dominance over Laurel isn’t tied to his season-long quest to take over West Star in the way that teaching Holly a lesson was a part of his ongoing efforts to win control of Ewing Oil. He rapes Laurel simply because he wants to. The show doesn’t refer to it as rape, of course. Instead, the episode ends on an ironic note with Clayton and Miss Ellie thanking him for saving the day. “My only motive was to help the family,” he insists (evoking the same ‘Spirit of the Ewings’ ideal that Clayton was so cynical about earlier). As far as everyone onscreen is concerned, it’s a happy ending. However, there remains a complicity between JR and the viewer — we alone understand the double meaning of his final line: “Oh Mama, you have no idea what getting Clayton off the hook meant to me.” And it’s this very complicity that first drew us to this man, this show, this genre nearly a decade earlier and kept us coming back week after week, season after season. A lot has happened since then, of course — characters have grown older and softer, the spectacle of Rich People Behaving Badly has lost most of its shock value and the genre as a whole has become increasingly familiar, even cosy at times. But as the frame freezes on an unrepentant JR chuckling, it’s almost, almost as if the episode is reminding us of those early days and saying, “This is what you fell for back then. This is the monster you created.”

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (4) DALLAS
    2 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (3) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2018
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  5. Laurie Marr

    Laurie Marr Soap Chat Member

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    Captivating as always. Thank you James. For me, however, Dallas was already rather preposterous by this point in its run. JR particularly so. Looking forward to your summary of the the Hagman/Scalia Imbroglio on the balcony: big hair versus little hair in a duel that demanded no hair be touched, teased or squeezed at any point during the deadly encounter.
     
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  6. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    14 Apr 88: KNOTS LANDING: Just Desserts v. 15 Apr 88: DALLAS: Top Gun v. 15 Apr 88: FALCON CREST: King's Gambit

    Following her father’s fatal collapse at the end of last week’s DALLAS, Kimberly Cryder wastes no time in assigning blame. “You killed him, you bastard! You killed him!” she yells at JR in this week’s opening scene. Somewhat creatively, JR then shifts the responsibility to Sue Ellen. “If you’d have given me a divorce when I asked for it, that old man would be alive today,” he tells her.

    Underneath her anger, the person Kimberly really blames is herself. “I feel so awful, responsible,” she admits later in the ep. “If hadn’t tried to force [JR] to marry me, then maybe …” Self-recrimination is a bit of a trend in this week's Soap Land. “This whole thing between Shulton and Lomax was entirely my fault,” Clayton tells Laurel Ellis, somewhat bizarrely, in her final scene. Meanwhile on KNOTS, characters are lining up to take the blame for Olivia’s suicide attempt. “I should have spent more time with her … All the symptoms were there and I didn’t do anything,” frets Michael. “I should have seen it coming, I should have known,” insists Karen. “She did this because of me,” concludes Abby. All this angst is nicely undercut by Manny Vasquez who dismisses Olivia as “some screwed-up little teenybopper with a hormone problem … As far as I’m concerned, anyone stupid enough to try to commit suicide should succeed.” Perhaps to discourage any screwed-up little teenyboppers watching from trying the same thing at home, when Olivia is found following her overdose there is dried vomit around her mouth and nose. There was no evidence of anything so unglamorous when Amanda Carrington or Anne Matheson or even Cliff Barnes OD’d.

    Abby and Kimberly are each burdened by guilt. While the former keeps a vigil at her daughter’s bedside, Sue Ellen finds the latter praying in a Catholic church. (This is the Ewingverse’s second venture into Catholic territory this season following Meg’s baptism on KNOTS.) Both women attempt to atone by pulling out of a business venture. Abby, who has been cooking up a shady takeover scheme with Greg, changes her mind at the last minute. “It’s just not right,” she declares. “Right? What the hell has right got to do with anything?” asks Greg, baffled. Meanwhile, Kimberly chooses to withdraw from the battle for West Star just as it is about to reach its climax — until, that is, Sue Ellen persuades her otherwise. “JR’s drive to get West Star is what killed your daddy and that’s why we have to stop him,” she insists. “If we let JR win, it’ll be as if your father died for nothing.”

    Just as Abby appears to have drawn a moral line in the sand on KNOTS so Richard Channing does the same thing on FALCON CREST. Having contacted the FBI at the end of last week’s ep, he now warns them about “the economic holocaust” the Thirteen are planning to unleash upon America. There’s only one problem: all evidence of his association with Rosemont — in fact, all proof of the Thirteen’s existence — has been mysteriously erased, leaving the FBI with no-one to prosecute but Richard himself.

    Back on KNOTS, Jill Bennett is also wiping evidence. Having copied a key, she lets herself into Val’s house and proceeds to erase the recording of Ben’s fake phone message. How tense when Val and the kids arrive home unexpectedly and she has to make a dash for it! There’s more home invasion on DALLAS when clingy Connie steals into Ray’s house in the middle of the night, climbs the stairs to his bedroom and playfully puts a pillow over his face. He is not amused. An unusually ugly scene follows where Connie refuses to get the message and Ray has to spell it out for her: “I don’t want you, now or ever!” Even then, she gets the last word — the following morning, he finds a big red heart with both their initials painted on his front door. Like Ray, FALCON CREST's Maggie is asleep when she too is disturbed by an intruder. This time, it’s husband Richard and there is a happier outcome: he comes clean about the mess he’s in and promises to not keep any more secrets from her, and she agrees to return home with him.

    With David Shulton dead, Brett Lomax behind bars and Laurel on her way back to England, it’s farewell to the artsy youngsters on DALLAS and hello to a whole new set on KNOTS as Paige joins the archaeology dig in Santa Tecla. The two guys, Chava and Joel, immediately have the hots for her (“That woman’s gonna marry me and bear my children!” "I saw her first!") while the two girls, Rebecca and Debbie, roll their eyes as soon as her back is turned. (“I wonder how long she’s gonna last?” “Till she breaks her first nail.”)

    Among other things, this plot serves to show that, contrary to appearances, there’s more to Paige than just being a spoiled princess. Her interest in the dig seems genuine, she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty and, in order to keep the excavation from being closed down by the authorities (who are in the pay of Manny Vasquez), is resourceful enough to steal a piece of sculpture from the gallery where she works, smuggle it into Mexico and plant it on the site to make it look like “a genuine pre-Colombian artefact finally found in Santa Tecla.” None of which prevents her and Johnny from being caught red-handed by Chava in a really well-staged scene at the end of the ep. The handheld camera work, the fire set by Johnny to cause a distraction, the general sense of chaos and urgency all serve to turn a potential non-event (why, exactly, should we care about any of this?) into something quite exciting.

    While most foreign settings in Soap Land are depicted by little more than an establishing shot and a couple of hotel ceiling fans, we’re given what looks like an entire village to represent Santa Tecla. With its array of secondary characters (the young students, a corrupt police official, a kindly professor), it feels like a soap-within-a-soap — a Mexican version of the Hot Biscuit in DALLAS or Shula, Tennessee in KNOTS, if you will.

    “It’s probably gonna sound like it’s out of a movie,” Nicholas Pearce tells Sue Ellen before filling her in on his family’s Witness Protection Programme storyline. “It sounded like science fiction,” scoffs one of the FBI agents Richard is trying to convince of the Thirteen’s existence. Of course, Soap Land adapting scenarios from cinema and other literary sources is nothing new: William Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams and Alfred Hitchcock have all proved recurring influences over the years. The current Ray/Connie storyline on DALLAS, as well as being a gender reversal of the familiar stalker scenario (Jeff Wainwright and Maggie Gioberti, Roger Larsen and Lucy Ewing) echoes both FATAL ATTRACTION (a hit movie only the previous year) and PLAY MISTY FOR ME. Even more blatant is the resemblance between a current plot on FALCON CREST — Dan Fixx, strapped for cash, agrees to drive a truck of highly explosive nitroglycerin across the country — and that of the 1953 movie THE WAGES OF FEAR — Yves Montand, strapped for cash, agrees to drive a truck of highly explosive nitroglycerin through the mountains. FC being FC, there’s an obligatory murder/revenge twist tacked on for good measure. On the plus side, this means a groovy explosion, and as with Paige in Santa Tecla, an opportunity for Dan’s kid sister Carly to show her moxie as she rides to his rescue, but otherwise it’s just more anonymous would-be killer filler.

    Two devious faces from the past resurface unexpectedly this week. Jeremy Wendell makes a victorious return to West Star at the end of DALLAS — turns out he’s joined forces with Kimberly and Sue Ellen to stop JR getting his hands on the company. Meanwhile, Ursula Andress’s Madame Malec pops up in the back of a limousine with Eric Stavros on FALCON CREST — turns out she’s connected to the Thirteen and they have assigned her and the enjoyably unpredictable Eric to silence Richard once and for all!

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (1) DALLAS
    3 (3) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2018
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  7. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    28 Apr 88: KNOTS LANDING: Discovery v. 29 Apr 88: DALLAS: Pillow Talk v. 29 Apr 88: FALCON CREST: As Tears Go By

    If the archaeological students in Santa Tecla are KNOTS’ equivalent of Laurel Ellis and her artsy pals on DALLAS then Chava would appear to be the David Shulton of the group, i.e., the blackmailer — at least, that’s Paige’s assumption after he keeps silent about her planting the statue at the dig site. “How much do you want?” she asks. “You’re gonna make me pay sooner or later and I’d rather it be sooner.” Interestingly, Chava interprets this as a racial slur: “Oh, I see. You’re in Mexico so you take one look at me and you assume that I want a bribe.”

    While Miss Ellie and Clayton’s Laurel-induced crisis is officially resolved when Ellie unexpectedly hands over half of Southfork to her husband (“I’ve found a good man to help me run the ranch, a man that my daddy would have been proud of”), Mack and Karen’s more lighthearted squabbles over Manny Vasquez take a surprisingly dramatic turn after Karen chastises Mack for being unnecessarily rude to him over dinner. “Manny Vasquez is dirty eight ways from Sunday!” Mack suddenly yells. “He’s running drugs through Lotus Point!”

    Karen’s realisation that she, Abby and Gary are in business with a serious crime organisation puts them in a similar position to the one Richard Channing has been for the past few weeks on FALCON CREST. Now, they must fight back. For Richard, the line the Thirteen crossed was when they revealed their plan to unleash economic devastation across the United States. (However much of a despot Richard may be in his own backyard, he evidently feels a sense of obligation to America in general. “If I don’t stop the Thirteen, who will?” he asks.) Abby’s motivation for stopping Manny’s operation is more personal: “Olivia was hooked on drugs. Well, somebody made a profit on those drugs. Those are the ones I wanna get — the people who are responsible for what happened to her … I want the one at the top.”

    The Lotus Point crew turn to the authorities who advise them to sit tight and do nothing. (“Don’t let these people know you’re suspicious … We’ll do everything we can. You tip our hand, they’ll bolt.”) Meanwhile, Richard, Maggie and Angela have yet to convince the authorities that the Thirteen even exist. To this end, they hatch an elaborate scheme which involves Angela infiltrating the Thirteen as their newest member.

    Gary Ewing, unhappy at the prospect of “sitting on our thumbs”, recalls a similar storyline from seven years earlier: “When I got involved in the stolen auto parts ring, they told me to wait. I waited. Sid died.” Meanwhile on DALLAS, Ellie takes Clayton to visit the grave of her brother Garrison (after whom Gary was named, of course) and recounts almost the entire plot of “Home Again”, a stand-alone episode from Season 1, as a prelude to gifting him half the ranch. (One of the fascinating things about this season has been watching DALLAS digging into its onscreen history to illuminate the present: Bobby comparing Pam’s burns to his mama’s mastectomy, Sue Ellen basing her three Ds on Jock’s three Bs, the flashbacks to Jeff Faraday and Kristin during the Lisa Alden story, recalling Jock’s relationships with Digger and Julie Grey through Cliff’s with Dandy Dandridge and Clayton’s with Laurel Ellis.) FALCON CREST, meanwhile, delves even further back into the past via an old map and a key that Melissa believes will unlock an ancient secret regarding the Agretti/Gioberti feud. This treasure hunt leads to some disused tunnels which provide her with plenty of opportunities to squeal, screech, scream and, inevitably, fall down a hole — very, very loudly. No Paige Matheson she when it comes to roughing it.

    While Miss Ellie is telling the story about her brother, I’m struck by Clayton’s complete lack of reaction to the part where Garrison comes back from the dead — but maybe after you’ve experienced your own son’s resurrection, anyone else’s isn’t that big of a deal. There’s another such return over on FALCON CREST. “I thought you were dead,” says Maggie to the back of a man’s head. Who could she be speaking to (or rather, who are we being teased into thinking she’s speaking to)? It's John Remick, now minus a leg, thus making him Soap Land’s very first amputee. It looks as if he may be the only person who can prove the Thirteen's existence — but will he testify to what he knows in front of a Senate committee in order to get Richard off the hook? A year ago, it was Donna Krebbs’ decision as to whether or not Andrew Dowling interceded with a Senate enquiry to keep the Ewing brothers out of jail. Now it’s Maggie turn. “I wanna hear it from you,” Remick insists. “Tell me that getting your husband off the hook is really gonna help you.”

    Maggie’s daughter Vicky is also called to testify at the hearing and finds herself caught between her mother (“I am asking you not to hurt Richard, … You owe me. I am calling in that debt”) and her husband (“Now it’s time to get Channing”). In the end, she sides with her mom, denying that Richard had her falsely imprisoned in Geneva, and she and Maggie are reconciled. Likewise on DALLAS, Jenna calls Ray from Europe to tell him she and Charlie are “a mother-daughter team again.” Conversely on KNOTS, relations between Olivia and Abby at an all-time low. “Everything she does makes me feel bad … I hate her,” seethes Olivia.

    The Senate hearing on FALCON CREST is impressive. The atmosphere is both more imposing and less formal than the courtroom set-ups we’re used to seeing in Soap Land, there are microphones and TV cameras everywhere, and the wearily cynical reactions from the Senate committee as various characters recount some of the season’s more bizarre events under oath are great. I wouldn’t be surprised if these scenes were based on the Senate committee hearings in THE GODFATHER, PART II; they’ve got the same kind of vibe. There’s something missing from the storytelling itself, however. It seems sort of fuzzy and vague. I’m not sure if my own ignorance is to blame — I’m still not entirely certain what a Senate committee hearing is — or if the plotting itself is unnecessarily convoluted.

    The fight for West Star may be over on this week’s DALLAS, but two figures are left slugging it out on the battlefield — JR and Sue Ellen. Watch these two go at each other with no holds barred is Soap Land at its most primal. All the familiar yet thrilling beats are here: Sue Ellen packing her bags and making a triumphant exit from Southfork, later returning for her son only to find JR has outwitted her (“Where is my son?” “Safe from you — now get the hell out of here!”), JR throwing her belongings over the balcony as the sheriff waits to escort her off the ranch, Sue Ellen bursting into his office with a writ (“You’re being ordered to produce John Ross within three days”), him retaliating with a below-the-belt wisecrack about her sex life (“How’s your young stud, Sue Ellen? Is youth everything it’s cracked up to be?”) — all accompanied by close-ups of glowering, hate-filled faces and a deliriously insistent, escalating score that adds to the intoxicating sense that the show is about to drive itself off the edge of a cliff.

    As we move ever closer to that edge, two of year’s most enjoyable, if slightly ludicrous, supporting characters make contrasting departures this week. After John Remick testifies in Richard’s favour at the hearing, Maggie follows him into the hallway outside to thank him. “You remind me so much of Chase,” she says before being momentarily distracted by some reporters. When she turns back around, Remick has seemingly disappeared into thin air. Over on DALLAS, JR is on the warpath after losing West Star — evicting Sue Ellen, firing Casey Denault and telling Bobby, “I’m the only real Ewing my daddy ever had.” He is rendered speechless, however, by the sight of Kimberly Cryder standing naked in his office telling him he could have had it all if he hadn’t been so greedy. FALCON CREST has a vaguely equivalent scene where Richard’s henchman Garth is about to fit Angela with a recording device prior to her meeting with the Thirteen. “Where does this go — under my jacket?” she asks. “Well, actually,” he replies hesitantly, “it would be better — you know, it would be much safer for you if — um — under your blouse.” Angela takes this in her stride and starts to undress. “Oh, don’t look so terrified,” she tells him casually. “I’m not gonna bite you.” This is a rare example of a comedic scene in FALCON CREST that is actually funny: the humour is allowed to arise naturally from the characters’ behaviour without anyone feeling obliged to "sell" the joke.

    When JR dumps him, Casey pleads for another chance to prove himself. “Don’t beg, boy,” chides JR. “I wasn’t begging!” he insists. But he was. When I first watched this season, I wanted Casey to be as cunning and ruthless an operator as Alan Beam had been, but I now see that the whole point of his character is that he isn’t like that, as much as he wants to be. He’s too desperate, too needy and too naive to make it in Soap Land. After leaving JR’s office, he tries to interest April in investing in the land he inherited from his father, but she dismisses him as “just another hustler”. “Who do you think you are, talking to me like that?” he snaps. “I heard when you came to Dallas, you had about a nickel to your name … If I had a pretty face like yours and a nice fine-looking body, I might not be in the position I’m in right now.” (From someone who spent almost the entirety of EMERALD POINT NAS walking around without a shirt on, that’s kind of ironic.) April’s response is fantastically cold: “You know something, Mr Denault? You’re just all the other bitter little people on the outside — you’re just trying to figure out how to get what you don’t have. Well, you’re not gonna get it from me.”

    Two of this week’s soaps contain a scene where one character plays a cassette tape for the benefit of another, fully confident that it will back up their previous claim. On KNOTS, Val asks Gary to listen to the answerphone message Ben left her. On FALCON CREST, Richard has Garth play the recording of Angela’s meeting with the Thirteen for Senators Ryder and Horton. In each case, the tape turns out to be blank. “This doesn’t make sense,” Val exclaims. “His voice was right here on this tape … Maybe one of the kids erased it … I didn’t make it up, I didn’t imagine it.” “I don’t understand,” mutters Garth. “The transmission was perfect … How could this be? Perhaps at the airport, the guard with the metal detector, if he had a demagnetiser …” “Either somebody erased it or it was never there in the first place,” Gary later speculates to Jill who, as we’ve already seen, stole Ben’s tape and then burnt it. “Obviously, somebody told the Thirteen about our plan. The question is who?” muses Richard.

    A revelation towards the end of their respective episodes pulls the rug out from under Karen, Abby and Gary on KNOTS, and Richard, Angela and Maggie on FALCON CREST and makes it clear that the situation they are caught up is even bigger than they thought, perhaps even exceeding the jurisdiction of Soap Land itself. “We’ve been asked to halt the investigation of Manny Vasquez,” the Lotus Point gang’s police contact tells them. “He’s an essential part of several covert operations outside our borders … Manny Vasquez is working for us.” Meanwhile, Senator Ryder admits to the FALCON CREST gang that he’s known about the Thirteen’s existence all along. “I’m just the fall guy in this little charade,” Richard realises. “The more it looked like the Thirteen didn’t exist, the safer they would feel …” “We were waiting for them to make their move and fall into our brilliant trap,” Ryder explains. Now that they’ve gone back underground, he wants to postpone the hearings. This puts the FC gang in the same “sit tight and do nothing” position as their KL counterparts. For once, Gary Ewing and Angela Channing are on the same page. “Look, if the government’s not gonna do something about it, I think we should,” says Gary. “Senator Ryder, if you don’t pursue this immediately, we will,” says Angela.

    KNOTS and DALLAS each end on a note of violence: “We’ve been subtle long enough. Just get rid of them. Make it look as if the Mexicans did it,” orders Manny Vasquez, referring to the archeological group which now includes not just Paige, but Karen’s son Michael. Meanwhile, Ray Krebbs wakes in the middle of the night to find Connie hovering over him, a carving knife poised in midair. Funnily enough, FALCON CREST starts almost exactly where DALLAS left off, with Richard waking up in his Washington hotel room next to the dead body of Madame Malec — the Thirteen’s equivalent of leaving a mint on the pillow, presumably.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (1) DALLAS
    2 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (3) FALCON CREST
     
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