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DYNASTY versus DALLAS versus KNOTS LANDING versus the rest of them

Discussion in 'Dynasty' started by James from London, Sep 20, 2016.

  1. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    21/Mar/84: DYNASTY: The Voice (2) v. 22/Mar/84: KNOTS LANDING: Yesterday, It Rained v. 23/Mar/84: DALLAS: Strange Alliance v. 23/Mar/84: FALCON CREST: The Final Countdown v. 24/Mar/84: THE YELLOW ROSE: Chains of Fear

    There’s an awful lot of business talk in this week’s Soap Land, much of it hard to keep track of. From what I could glean, Blake Carrington is “half way to the hundred million he needs” to finance his deal with Rashid Ahmed on DYNASTY, Richard Channing requires another $30,000,000 to complete his race track on FALCON CREST, and after telling anyone on DALLAS who’ll listen how much operations in the Gulf are costing him, Cliff Barnes feels it’s time to ask friendly neighbourhood banker Vaughn Leland for some more money.

    However, in each case, there is a saboteur working behind the scenes. Richard doesn’t realise his bank loan has been blocked by the cartel, Cliff has no idea his loan is in the hands of JR (“I’m gonna take over his precious Gold Canyon 340 and then it’ll all be over, it’ll all be mine”) and as Blake congratulates himself on pulling off “the deal of the century” in Denver, he is blissfully unaware that Alexis is meeting with Rashid in Hong Kong to talk about a scheme involving "you and me and Blake Carrington — and $5,000,000”.

    Things are sort of reversed on KNOTS LANDING where the bad guys are only too keen for Abby to get back into business now that Gary’s dead. There again, as Mack points out to Abby, “They need you now. They need Lotus Point completed. What makes you think, sweetheart, that you’re going to be around to share in it?"

    The dark secrets of three of Soap Land’s four working girls — Terry’s prostitute past on FALCON CREST, Jenna’s birth certificate lie on DALLAS and Cathy’s prison term for murder plus her private arrangement with Abby on KNOTS — have already been exposed this season. This week, it’s Tracy Kendall’s turn on DYNASTY. Her crime is comparatively minor — while still in Hong Kong, Blake catches her out in a lie regarding her past relationship with political fixer-upper Eric Grayson — but it’s enough to ensure her abrupt exile from Soap Land's inner sanctum. (In contrast, FALCON CREST's Terry has now been almost fully assimilated into respectability. "She’s come a long way in a few months,” says Michael proudly of her transformation from bad girl to devoted girlfriend and sister.) Watching Blake supply Tracy — Soap Land's smuggest, most obsequious gold digger to date — with enough rope to hang herself before briskly severing all ties with her is immensely satisfying. (It’s also reminiscent of the way he toyed with Krystle after learning of her emerald necklace deception in Season 1.) "I'm going back to Denver tomorrow morning alone," he tells her coldly. "I don't care what flight you're on, what plane or where you're going. I'm buying off your contract now, paid in full.”

    Karen plays a similar game with Mack on this week’s KNOTS. Throughout the episode, she grows increasingly suspicious that he is lying about Gary’s death — and therefore about the promise he made her to drop his investigation into the Wolfbridge Group — but says nothing until the final scene where she confronts him and then ends their marriage as abruptly as Blake sacked Tracy. “It’s over,” she tells him, the finality of her words matching Michael Ranson's “It’s inoperable” about Maggie's brain tumour at the end of FALCON CREST two weeks ago.

    This isn’t the first time the wife of a Soap Land super-couple has separated from her husband owing to his obsession. This time last season, Pam left Bobby over his desire to win Ewing Oil and Maggie walked out on Chase due to his fixation with Carlo Agretti’s murder. This time around, however, it’s Mack who has to move out.

    Just like Pam in DALLAS Season 2, Kirby’s recent discovery on DYNASTY that her mother didn’t die when she was a small child has raised her hopes that she might still be alive. Kirby’s fiancé Adam, however, is no more interested in her quest to learn the truth than Bobby was in Pam's. Where Pam’s first port of call was the Hall of Records office in Corpus Christi, Kirby’s is the newspaper office in Bismarck, North Dakota (these being the respective small towns where Rebecca Barnes and Alicia Anders were last seen alive). It’s there that Pam’s and Kirby’s stories diverge. While Pam was delighted not to find Rebecca's death certificate, Kirby is dismayed to locate Alicia’s headstone in the local graveyard.

    But who is the mysterious woman whom we see tending another grave when Kirby first enters the cemetery and who then approaches Kirby to explain to her Alicia’s innermost thoughts and feelings? ("She'd made a lovely rag doll. She called it Kirby. I remember she used to sit for hours with it cradled in her arms. Oh she loved you so much and she wanted to go back and find you …”) No clue to the woman's identity is forthcoming nor does Kirby ask for one. Instead, she accepts the woman’s story and her presence in the graveyard without question. Perhaps the most logical (or rather, the least illogical) explanation is that the woman is Alicia herself, for some reason denying her own identity in the same way Rebecca did when Pam initially approached her. Or maybe there is no explanation. Perhaps this strange apparition is simply the latest and most abstract of all the metaphysical leaps Soap Land has taken throughout this season: Celia time-travelling back to her tenth birthday on EMERALD POINT, FALCON CREST altering its own past to reinvent Julia as the mentally disturbed killer she never was, and the raising from the dead of two characters on KNOTS LANDING, one within the drama (Gary) and one without (Ciji/Cathy).

    The scene ends on an ominous note when Kirby, after flashing back to Alexis telling her about her mother’s crime, decides to return to Denver. “I know what I have to do there,” she says darkly. There are similarly portentous moments elsewhere this week. “She’ll destroy all of us if we don’t stop her,” says Julia after learning that Angela sold Joseph to the Giobertis on FALCON CREST. “Wouldn’t it be awful if something happened and it didn't come off?” wonders JR to Jessica at the end of this week’s DALLAS, hinting that some unforeseen fate might yet befall Clayton and Miss Ellie's wedding.

    There’s something unusually suave and debonair about JR of late. He has taken to sporting Peter De Vilbis’s old cravats and making knowingly grandiose statements like, “Southfork has just turned into a house of domestic bliss.” How much of this is for Lady Jessica’s benefit is hard to say, but it’s perhaps telling that in one of his few scenes away from Southfork this week we see him kicking back in his office with a takeaway pizza and boasting to Vaughn Leland about giving ulcers, not getting them.

    Random trend of the week #1: English women failing to live up to their national stereotype. “I never did take to their tea drinking and little watercress sandwiches,” admits Jessica to Miss Ellie of her time as Lady Henry Montford in Blighty. “A good dignified British subject does not snuggle!” insists Pamela Lynch on FALCON CREST after lover Richard Channing accuses her of doing just that in her sleep.

    Random trend of the week #2: Mothers-to-be returning to work with their doctors’ blessing. Krystle goes back to Denver Carrington while Val Ewing embarks on a short book tour. It’s all very “women of the '80s can have it all”, with Blake and Lilimae both depicted as endearingly old-fashioned for worrying about them.

    It’s a toss-up which homecoming scene is the more touching: the one where Mark was reunited with Pam in last week’s DALLAS while unaware that he was dying, or the one in this week’s KNOTS LANDING in which Ben returns home and surprises Val who didn’t realise he was still alive.

    With former Ewing wives Val and Pam now engaged to new beaus, there are commendably brave attempts by the men involved to deal with the situation maturely. “I had plenty of time to think about you and Gary and your life together, and to get good and mad with myself for thinking I ever had to compete with any of that,” Ben tells Val on KNOTS. "This isn't easy to say. I wish the best for you. I hope you'll be very happy together,” Bobby tells Pam and Mark on DALLAS.

    This week’s YELLOW ROSE returns to the theme of the exploitation of illegal immigrants, this time focusing on families who are virtually kept prisoner and used as slave labour on a work farm. While undoubtedly well-intentioned, it doesn’t quite escape the white-characters-coming-to-the-aid-of-nameless-ethnic-day-players-we’ll-never-see-again pitfall we’ve seen on similar stand alone eps both of FALCON CREST and THE YELLOW ROSE itself. In addition, some of the plotting is seriously convoluted. With half the cast going undercover and then being held captive on the work farm, it sometimes feels like a deadly earnest version of the "JR in the Haleyville Penitentiary” story-line of DALLAS Season 11.

    These shortcomings, however, are more than compensated for by an eye-wateringly passionate performance by Edward Albert as Quisto, the mixed-race half-brother of the Champion family. Quisto has been a really good, really warm supporting presence throughout the series so far and here he finally gets a chance to take centre stage. “I’m a racist,” he confesses, in an utterly riveting scene with brother Roy. "I’ve known about the way illegals are exploited all my life and I’ve never done a damn thing about it. I’ve given it a lot of lip service like a lot of other people but never put anything on the line. I never had to. I’ve been safe here where Papa brought me on the Yellow Rose. I’ve been a white Latino, a fully assimilated breed.” It goes without saying that no other character in Soap Land has ever come remotely close to delivering a speech like that.

    Later on in the ep, Roy Champion takes a knife to Soap Land’s glamorous heart during a scene with an old flame turned fashion designer, the magnificently named Lila Devereaux. (Like Roy’s previous love interest, Mandy Winger, Lila will later show up on Cliff Barnes’s arm on DALLAS, this time as Liz Adams.) Roy attempts to open Lila’s eyes to the sweatshop conditions in which her soap-tastic outfits are being made: “Those dresses you’re wearing are very pretty but the place that’s turning them out is pretty damned ugly.” Suddenly all those designer gowns hanging in Jenna’s boutique and Krystle’s closet and on Abby’s and Terry’s backs don’t look quite as fabulous as they did.

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

    1 (-) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (5) DYNASTY
    3 (3) DALLAS
    4 (2) FALCON CREST
    5 (1) THE YELLOW ROSE
     
    • Winner Winner x 1
  2. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    28/Mar/84: DYNASTY: The Voice (3) v. 29/Mar/84: KNOTS LANDING: Negotiations

    If Roy and Chance’s cattle-pen brawl on THE YELLOW ROSE is Soap Land’s most authentic and visceral fight of the season, and Lance and Richard’s parking garage punch-up on FALCON CREST the most thrilling and vicious, then Alexis and Dex’s Hong Kong catfight in this week’s DYNASTY is the funniest and most outrageous. In addition, Dex’s line to Alexis after catching her in-flagrante with Rashid Ahmed, “You are nothing more than a slut, a slut with the morals of a dog in perpetual heat!” is a strong contender for insult of the year (if not the century).

    The nearest we’ve come to this kind of male/female brawl previously in Soap Land are the JR and Sue Ellen face-slapping matches of early DALLAS. However, while it doesn't feel as if Dex is pulling his punches and his status as Soap Land’s most self-consciously macho character is never compromised, neither is there a moment where one fears for Alexis's safety — this clearly isn’t a domestic abuse story-line. I’m not sure exactly how, but somehow DYNASTY gets the tone of this scene — enjoyably ridiculous as it is — exactly right.

    Strangely, the season finale of KNOTS (which is also its hundredth episode) is punctuated by Dex-like outbursts of aggression from all but one of its regular male characters towards their female partners. (The exception is Greg Sumner who treats Laura with courtesy and respect throughout, in spite of her calling him a louse and accusing him of conspiracy to commit murder.)

    Firstly, Mack stops by the cul-de-sac and tries to make amends with Karen. When she refuses to listen and tells him to go, he loses his temper and knocks something from the kitchen counter on his way out. During their two subsequent meetings in the episode, he brusquely pushes her aside, either physically or verbally — on the second occasion, with possibly fatal consequences.

    Next, Ben Gibson, Dex Dexter’s Soap Land contemporary but up until now his temperamental opposite, loses control and smashes a glass when Val tries to broach the subject Gary’s death. (So much for his brave speech about not feeling threatened by their history in last week’s episode.) Then in a later scene, we get our first real glimpse of Ben’s darker side. “Sit down and shut up and listen,” he orders Val. “When I heard that Gary was dead, I felt like someone had taken an enormous weight off my chest … I was glad he was dead.” (On my latest re-watch, this was the moment of the episode that really took my breath away.) Suffice to say, by the end of the scene, Ben and Val's relationship is looking as terminal as Alexis and Dex’s, and Karen and Mack’s. In fact, Val leaves her engagement ring on Ben’s desk when she exits his beach house in the same way that Mack left his marriage band on Karen’s table at the end of last week’s episode.

    Then there’s Gary and Abby. While Alexis is surprised to find Dex has followed her all the way to Hong Kong and is now standing in her hotel suite, Abby enters another hotel room and is amazed to find Gary alive and well. Like Dex, Gary accuses his woman of betrayal: “There’s not an honest bone, not an honest feeling, you never meant anything you ever …” Abby embraces him tightly and sobs into his neck just as Alexis suddenly starts kissing Dex passionately at the climax of their hilarious fight. Both men extricate themselves roughly. “It’s not working, Abby!” "We're through, Alexis!” they snarl respectively.

    Abby tries to make amends by wearing a wire during a meeting with Mark St Claire. The plan, engineered by Mack, is for her to trick him into implicating herself in the attempt on Gary’s life. However, he proves as immune to her charms as Gary was. (This is the only point where the tension of the episode flags a little, probably because it seems unlikely from the outset that St Claire wouldn’t see through Abby’s charade.)

    Alexis, meanwhile, remains utterly unrepentant about cheating on Dex. "You thought you owned me? Nobody owns Alexis!” she shouts at his retreating back. This seems to be a call back to the scene earlier in the season where Dex presented her with a priceless necklace whilst assuring her that “it's not a collar, Alexis, it's a tribute.” That sequence is again echoed at the end of this week’s ep in another sublimely absurd scene. This time, Rashid comes to her suite bearing the gift of an antique hand mirror with a bejewelled handle. "Legend has it that it belonged to the Empress of Tibet," he tells her, "reputedly the most beautiful woman in all of Asia. Her people gave it to her when her troops won a victory over the Mongols so that she might witness her beautiful smile as Empress and Conqueror." Alexis thanks him, then enquires when "the deal" will be completed, the details of which we have yet to be let in on. "Alexis, when it happens you will not miss it because the explosion will be heard all over the financial world and Blake Carrington will be dead financially,” he assures her enigmatically. "Blake's funeral,” murmurs Alexis with relish, “finally." She then looks at her reflection in the Empress of Tibet's mirror — or rather she looks at us looking at her reflection. And the frame freezes. It’s a very effective moment. (Certainly more effective than the time Karen and Diana Fairgate broke the fourth wall for a freeze frame — at the end of their “Put on a Happy Face” song-and-dance number in KNOTS Season 2.)

    While DYNASTY ends on a tantalising note with Rashid and Alexis’s scheme still shrouded in mystery and metaphor, our appreciation of the final moments of this season’s KNOTS hinges on us knowing the details of St Claire’s plan ahead of time. Having listened in on his phone calls summoning Karen and Val to the Belmar Hotel under differing pretexts, Abby — now being held against her will — helpfully spells it all out for us: “Gary will be with Mack and you can’t kill Gary unless you get him by himself. Karen will run in and beg Mack not to get into his jeep because of the bomb. Gary will see Val in the jeep, run out to save her and then you can get a clear shot at him.”

    Back on DYNASTY, Kirby goes shopping for a gun. Claiming to be a single woman afraid of burglars, she explains that she needs a weapon for security. This is similar to the reason recently given by Julia to Lucas on FALCON CREST as to why she also requires a gun — for protection in case her violent ex-boyfriend should track her down. However, each woman goes on to exhibit a grim determination that belies her damsel-in-distress facade. “I don’t intend to miss the target at all,” declares Kirby to the salesman in the gun store. “I wanna be perfect. I don’t wanna miss,” insists Julia while practising her aim. Meanwhile, the hit-woman hired by the Wolfbridge Group does miss her target at the end of this week’s KNOTS, and ends up shooting Karen instead of Gary. (The nameless shooter is played by the future Sarah Palmer on TWIN PEAKS. Her screen husband-to-be, Leland Palmer, appeared as an equally anonymous heavy in the EMERALD POINT finale two weeks ago.)

    Hotels play a central role in both DYNASTY and KNOTS this week. The Peninsula in Hong Kong is a great location. The colour scheme is all deep reds and blacks, giving a DYNASTY a lushly decadent, almost sinister look it hasn’t had since the days of Alexis’s studio in Season 2. Red is also key in the Belmar Hotel scene at the end of KNOTS when Karen shows up to warn Mack in a red-for-danger dress.

    While a handful of KNOTS characters converge in or around the lobby of the Belmar for the explosive season climax, the same amount of DYNASTY regulars hang out at the Peninsula throughout this week's ep, leading to some interesting interactions between Mark Jennings and Rashid, Mark and Dex, and in particular Dex and Tracy Kendall who hook up at the bar and then in bed, before joining forces to spy on Alexis. Here, Dex and Tracy are reminiscent of Alan Beam and Kristin Shepard, two equally ambitious, “lower level” soap characters discarded by their immediate superior and/or lover who then teamed up against him at the end of a season — only this time there's added sex.

    Back in Denver, Blake and Krystle are just so incredibly happy. He’s just pulled off "the deal of the century”, she’s working loyally by his side, and they’re expecting a baby. On previous viewings, I’ve found their self-satisfaction quite hard to take, but it occurs to me this time around that this is the life they envisaged for themselves at the beginning of the series; even Fallon and Jeff are back together and this time they’re genuinely in love. Add to this the resolution of the who-is-terrorising-Claudia story-line and life for the Carringtons couldn’t get much better … and yet: we also know that disaster is lurking round the corner, thanks to Alexis’s deal with Rashid in Hong Kong and Fallon’s unexplained headaches.

    There is a very effective, nightmarish sequence where Fallon is once again afflicted by the pain in her head whilst riding a merry-go-round. The action suddenly slows down and the painted wooden horses start to appear off-kilter and malevolent. It’s another example of how non-linear dramatic devices — flashbacks, visions, dreams, disembodied voices, etc — have become an increasingly integral part of Soap Land story-telling, which in its first few years was very traditional and straightforwardly chronological. (Only in the rarest of instances did DALLAS employ the use of flashbacks, for instance.) This season, however, such sequences have been our only real indicator of the increasingly fragile states of mind of DYNASTY’s Fallon and FALCON CREST’s Julia. In its own way, KNOTS has also experimented with its narrative structure. We’ve had flashes of Gary appearing out of nowhere during his own funeral and this week, the soundtrack of Greg’s televised speech, in which he exposes Wolfbridge as being “party to widespread and vicious criminal activity", plays over footage of the various characters travelling to the Belmar, therefore adding to the mounting, noose-tightening tension.

    This KNOTS episode is once again directed by Larry Elikann in his signature “in your face” style. In fact, it may well be the optimum Elikann episode as he bombards us with one intense close up after another. The actors' faces fill the screen for what feels like a good seventy-five percent of the hour. Meanwhile the plot is like a runaway train, with characters and viewers alike struggling to maintain their bearings. “I think you’ve gone a little crazy,” Gary tells Mack at one point. In fact it feels like the whole show’s gone a little crazy. In a way, this is the ultimate plot-driven episode, only this time the puppet masters are visible on screen — Mack Mackenzie on one side, Mark St Claire on the other — with the rest of the characters caught helplessly between them.

    And this week’s Top 2 are …

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (2) DYNASTY
     
  3. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    04/Apr/84: DYNASTY: Birthday v. 06/Apr/84: DALLAS: Blow Up v. 06/Apr/84: FALCON CREST: Love’s Triumph

    To paraphrase Ray Krebbs in this week’s DALLAS, "Soap Land’s getting to be a regular emotional roller coaster. Can’t tell who's up or down anymore". The latest news is that a week after Val and Ben break off their engagement on KNOTS LANDING, Fallon accepts Jeff’s proposal on DYNASTY, joining Pam and Mark, Kirby and Adam, and Miss Ellie and Clayton as one of Soap Land's latest betrothed couples.

    While Jeff presents Fallon with his grandmother’s engagement ring, Pam shows off the expensive ring Mark has just bought her. Meanwhile, on FALCON CREST, Pamela Lynch has to make do with a 60-carat necklace from boyfriend Richard Channing. However, all three women are keeping secrets from their men: Pamela L has been coerced into spying on Richard by the cartel, Pam E has persuaded Mark’s doctor to keep the news of his incurable illness from him until after their marriage, and Fallon secretly fears the headaches she’s been having might prove equally terminal for her.

    After a scan, Fallon's doctor assures her she has "one of the healthiest, most normal looking brains in town”. Maggie Gioberti’s brain on FALCON CREST, however, contains "the most frustrating tumour I’ve ever seen in my life,” according to Michael Ranson as he strives heroically to remove it. The surgery spans the first half of this week's episode and leaves Maggie is in a coma for most of the remainder. She eventually wakes up in the penultimate scene.

    While Maggie’s sister Terry tells Dr. Lillian Heller, Maggie’s anesthesiologist who just happens to also be an old flame of Michael’s, that “you’ve taught me a lot about being a woman”, DYNASTY’s Tracy Kendall acknowledges Krystle as a different kind of role model: “I'm just following in your footsteps ... the road you started on when you were just a secretary with an eye out for the boss and a better life. If that boss had been married, my guess is it wouldn't have stopped someone like you for a minute, maybe less.” Whereas Tracy’s tribute earns her a slap in the face, Terry’s leads to a sisterly embrace from Lillian that seems to set the seal on her official transformation into A Good Person.

    It’s party time on both DYNASTY and DALLAS this week. In terms of spectacle, Little Blake’s birthday bash on the grounds of the Carrington mansion easily trounces the two gatherings on the cardboard Southfork patio — an informal family barbecue and a slightly grander evening affair to welcome Jessica back to Texas. A few Chinese lanterns from the Braddock party store cannot compete with the platoon of jugglers, balloon shapers, trapeze artists, real ponies, pretend ponies and miniature trains laid on for the young Master Colby. There’s even what Bobby Ewing once described when recalling one of his boyhood birthday surprises as “an honest God merry-go-round, with music and mirrors and hand carved horses”. For those of us watching at home, the highlight of the party is an amusingly barbed exchange between Krystle and Alexis, during which the latter lets slip about having given birth to a fourth child. She then hastily reclassifies it as “the miscarriage I had after Steven” but Krystle’s suspicions are aroused. In an equivalent scene at the Southfork party, Donna overhears Jessica questioning Ray about Clayton and Miss Ellie’s impending marriage and starts to suspect that she isn't quite what she appears to be.

    The big bombshell on this week’s DYNASTY lands after the party guests have gone home and the family is toasting Jeff and Fallon’s engagement. Blake suddenly finds himself at the centre of a scandal right out of EMERALD POINT when Rashid Ahmed claims that Denver Carrington's $100,000,000 advance to secure the China Sea oil leases was really used "to buy arms to fight the other government claiming that area of the China Sea,” announces the TV news. "Naval forces have now moved into the China Sea and are patrolling the area. So there will be no oil exploration or drilling there in the foreseeable future. What does this mean for Blake Carrington who only a week ago was being touted as the American businessman who had just closed the deal of the century?”

    That the news should break in the middle of Jeff and Fallon’s celebration at least allows the Carringtons to greet disaster in full evening dress, just as the Giobertis and Channings did Melissa’s car crash on the night of Terry’s party in FALCON CREST. In the same way that Angela and Maggie waited anxiously for news at Soap Land Memorial Hospital in sparkling dresses and fur stoles so Krystle mans the phones at Denver Carrington in a full-length Nolan Miller gown.

    Where Mark St Claire and Mack Mackenzie were the puppeteers-in-chief in last week’s season finale of KNOTS, Alexis and JR are the ones pulling the strings week. While Alexis manipulates the Carringtons from afar ("It worked like a dream,” she purrs from her bubble bath as the family struggle to preserve their company) JR is more hands-on in his dealings — first insisting Peter attend Jessica’s party, then coaxing him to dance with Sue Ellen and all the while steadily dripping poison into Lucy’s ear until she gets drunk and explodes like a one-woman version of the Belmar Hotel sequence in last week's KNOTS.

    “Don’t you know his motto? Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” Sue Ellen warns Peter as JR observes them slow dance at the party. “I learned one thing in politics and it’s this: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” Greg Sumner advised Laura on KNOTS two weeks ago. Whereas Laura’s response was characteristically sceptical (“How am I being kept — close or closer?”), Peter is as naive as ever, dismissing Sue Ellen as paranoid and describing JR as "the warmest guy in the world ... I’m actually beginning to like him!"

    In a genre and on a show where affairs are ten-a-penny, why do we find ourselves on tenterhooks waiting for Lucy to blurt out what everyone else in the room already knows — that Peter and Sue Ellen have slept together? Why is this infidelity (which doesn't even qualify as a one night stand) such a big deal? JR and Sue Ellen have each had “worse” affairs in the past (with her sister and his arch enemy respectively) and those took place in the days before they had an open marriage. Somehow DALLAS is able to tell a comparatively “small" JR/Sue Ellen story and make the stakes feel almost as high as they did when the plots involved Cliff Barnes and Kristin.

    While it doesn’t take long for Blake to figure out the identity of “the woman behind the man, of the person behind this dirty business" at the end of this week's DYNASTY, the deliciousness of JR’s scheme is that no one involved in it — not Peter, Sue Ellen or Lucy — yet realises he has set them up. This enables him to ride gallantly to his wife’s defence after the penny finally drops for Lucy (“Just how long have you two been having this little affair, huh?”). Sue Ellen is left feeling both touched and guilty. It also leads to a really good JR/Sue Ellen scene in which — in spite of the season’s worth of absurdity leading up to it, beginning with Peter Richards in microscopic speedos and ending with Lucy Ewing’s heroic drunk scene (a sight as joyfully ridiculous as the Alexis/Dex fight in last week’s DYNASTY) — they seem for all the world like real people. “Good Lord, woman, don’t you want a man back in your life?” a near exasperated JR asks, sitting on the edge of Sue Ellen's bed in his pyjamas. “Of course I do, JR,” she mutters in reply, her hair tied up in an unglamorous (if still becoming) way. "Do you think I like living like this?” After she rejects him once again, he regretfully returns to his soap opera world, calling Harry McSween to continue his plot to bring down Peter.

    Random trend of the week #1: At their respective get-togethers, Steven Carrington and Donna Krebbs each assumes the role of family photographer, capturing such classic moments as Alexis and Claudia with their arms round each other’s waists and Miss Ellie and Clayton’s first official pose as spouses-to-be. While Steven’s camera looks to be the fanciest that Carrington money can buy, Donna makes do with an ordinary Polaroid.

    Random trend of the week #2: Female characters with murder on their minds. With no one on screen for them to confide their plans to, the shows each opt for a different approach to convey their intentions to the viewers at home. Where Kirby fires at a ghostly apparition of Alexis while taking shooting lessons on DYNASTY, Lady Jessica defaces a snapshot of Miss Ellie with a nail file at the end of this week’s DALLAS. (This gesture also confirms that what we saw in an earlier scene - Jessica hovering dangerously close to Miss Ellie, kitchen knife in hand, before being interrupted by Donna - really was what it looked like.) Over on FALCON CREST, Lucas catches Julia about to abscond with his gun. Later in the same scene, she refers to her mother as dead.

    Random trend of the week #3: There’s a very charming scene during the DALLAS party where Punk and Mavis Anderson find Bobby and Jenna kissing in the Southfork living room. "These two were destined to be together ever since they was kids,” Punk remembers. “As soon as our backs was turned, they were always getting into some kind of devilment. Y'all weren't even up to our belt buckles,” There’s an equivalent anecdote on this week’s DYNASTY about the frog Steven dropped down Fallon’s back on Jeff’s sixth birthday. "She turned around to take a swipe at me, I ducked and she smacked you right in the face,” recalls Steven. "And established our relationship from that point on,” Jeff adds ruefully.

    The Wolfbridge Group might be a thing of the past on KNOTS LANDING (at least for now), but their spirit of "widespread and vicious criminal activity” lives on in the FALCON CREST cartel. Where Wolfbridge claimed to have rigged a bomb in Mack’s jeep, the cartel this week implant one in the trophy due to be presented at the inaugural race at Richard’s track. Where St Claire’s thugs dragged Abby into their car and sped off at the end of last week’s KNOTS, cartel leader Norton Crane has Spheeris do the same to Pamela Lynch on this week’s FC. The end of the episode finds Richard Channing in a similar position to the one in which we last saw Gary Ewing - at the scene of the abduction, looking on helplessly.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (3) DALLAS
    2 (4) FALCON CREST
    3 (2) DYNASTY
     
  4. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    11/Apr/84: DYNASTY: The Check v. 13/Apr/84: DALLAS: Turning Point v. 13/Apr/84: FALCON CREST: Win, Place and Show

    The race to the end of the season is on, with each of this week’s soaps just four episodes from the finishing line. While DYNASTY and DALLAS are still fun, there’s a slight sense of them slowing down in pace. Their respective eps end similarly to last week’s, with Blake still on the brink of financial ruin and Jessica still behaving sinisterly at Southfork for reasons yet unspecified. Nor are there many major plot advancements in-between. This leaves the field open for FALCON CREST to gallop into the lead with an action-packet instalment that includes a wedding, a murder attempt, a life-changing medical diagnosis and the return of a killer. One of the advantages of FC’s habit of juggling so many story-lines is that one can never be certain which are going to take precedence in any given episode. In this regard, it is arguably Soap Land’s least predictable show (the renegade YELLOW ROSE notwithstanding).

    Probably the most significant development on this week's DYNASTY is Mark Jennings’ blackmail of Alexis. He is lurking on the terrace of her penthouse where he overhears Blake accuse her of colluding with Rashid Ahmed to destroy Denver Carrington. Alexis passionately denies any involvement with Ahmed and Blake appears to believe her. The scene ends with a rather nice profile shot of Mark smiling knowingly as he sips champagne on the balcony. (There’s an equivalent reveal on this week’s DALLAS after Clayton corners Jessica in the upstairs hallway at Southfork and warns her against JR: “He's had detectives looking into my past." "They won't find anything," she whispers. "You don't think I’d be fool enough to tell JR our little secret?" It’s only then that we discover JR listening from behind his bedroom door.)

    Mark extracts $100,000 from Alexis in return for his silence about her meetings with Rashid in Hong Kong. “How far do you think a hundred thousand goes these days?” snaps Afton on DALLAS after Cliff accuses her of squandering the inheritance she received from his mother. Mark seems happy enough with his windfall, however. "I'm on top of the world, kid," he says to Krystle when he stops by her office to tell her he’s leaving town. "Where will you go?" she asks. "I've always liked New York," he replies. Laura Avery asked the same question of a departing Cathy in the KNOTS season finale two weeks ago. “Alaska," she replied. “They say it’s the land of opportunities."

    Speaking of New York and opportunities, we catch a glimpse of Sammy Jo’s life in the Big Apple this week. When her chance of an exclusive modelling contract falls through, she tries to blackmail her overweight married lover over their affair just as FALCON CREST’s Terry did her elderly rich john back when she was living in New York at the beginning of the season. But where Terry’s boyfriend meekly complied, Sammy Jo’s sends her flying across the room with one punch. "You little whore, you're out of your league!” he snarls at her.

    DYNASTY’s Blake and DALLAS’s Cliff Barnes are facing parallel business crises. Each has invested a fortune in an offshore oil deal with potentially huge dividends — Blake's is in the China Seas, Cliff's is off the Gulf of Mexico. Each is also the target of a scheme engineered by his worst enemy — Alexis and JR respectively — to deny him access to that oil and plunge his company into financial ruin. As has already been established, Alexis paid Rashid Ahmed to claim that Blake’s investment was a front for an arms deal, which means that Blake cannot commence his oil exploration until he clears his name, while JR secretly has control of Cliff’s bank loan and his site foreman. Both situations take a turn for the worse this week: On DYNASTY, the government with whom Blake is in partnership refuse to either refute the accusations against him or return his initial $100,000,000 investment, while on DALLAS, JR instructs Vaughn Leland not to loan Cliff any more of the money he desperately needs to continue drilling.

    The pressures both men are under lead to key scenes with the women in their lives. In DYNASTY's closing scene, Blake tries to make light of his troubles for Krystle’s benefit but she won't stand for it. "Stop treating me like a toy wife," she tells him firmly. "I am big and strong enough to share the bad news as well as the good.” This situation is reversed on DALLAS. "I need all the money I can lay my hands on!” Cliff insists when Afton catches him rifling through her bank statements. She isn’t impressed. "I have enough money left ... to rent my own apartment and make my own way without you!” she tells him. Only at the end of the scene does her attitude soften. “You’re really in trouble, aren’t you?” she asks. But whereas the DYNASTY scene concludes with Blake opening up to Krystle ("Every dollar of that hundred million that I raised had a condition attached,” he explains, "a time limit on the exploration: if I can't start the search for that oil before the time limit, the creditors can call in for their money … and time is running out”), Cliff ends up turning away from Afton. “I’ll handle it,” he tells her coldly.

    Two of Soap Land’s brides-to-be, DYNASTY’s Fallon and DALLAS’s Pam, suggest quickie weddings due to Denver Carrington’s financial crisis and Mark's illness respectively. "I just don't know if it would be right to go through with a big wedding with everything the way it is,” frets Fallon. “How about five minutes at City Hall this weekend?” proposes Pam. Their future grooms won’t hear of it, however. “The last time we ran off and got married with nothing but neon and plastic flowers,” remembers Fallon. “When Bobby and I got married, we got married in front of a justice of the peace in New Orleans - I think the whole ceremony just took about ten minutes tops,” recalls Pam. An equivalent scenario takes place when Terry and Michael elope during this week’s FALCON CREST. There is yet another addition to the Soap Land marry-go-round when FALCON CREST's Phillip, taking a leaf out of Peter De Vilbis’s book, announces his engagement to Angela before he’s even proposed to her.

    Also on this week's FALCON CREST, Melissa endures stomach cramps as mysterious as Fallon’s headaches on DYNASTY. A trip to the doctor’s office reveals that her recent miscarriage has left her, like Pam and Krystle before her, unable to have any more children. Melissa uses this information creatively. Whereas Alexis, who had caused Krystle’s miscarriage in the first place, then used Krystle's status as “the empty-armed madonna” to taunt her for the next two seasons, Melissa turns her own barrenness into a weapon with which to torment the woman she blames for it, an already guilt-ridden Linda Gioberti.

    This season's YELLOW ROSE, EMERALD POINT and DYNASTY have all included scenes of its prosperous characters enjoying a day at the races, while DALLAS has had Mark Graison introduce Pam, Cliff and Afton to the delights of the polo circuit. Now FALCON CREST has its very own racetrack as Tuscany Downs opens for business, beating KNOTS LANDING’s similar project, Lotus Point, to the punch and putting its nearest Soap Land equivalent, DYNASTY’s La Mirage Hotel, in the shade in terms of scale. Not only is this the pay off for Richard Channing’s season-long drive and determination but it also feels like a victory for his former self, Michael Tyrone, who was intent on bring a near identical gambling operation to Truro during his stay on FLAMINGO ROAD.

    Richard inviting a reluctant Chase to the podium to make a speech during the opening ceremony feels like the reverse of Punk Anderson's unenthusiastic welcoming of Cliff Barnes to the stage at the Oil Baron’s Ball. During his speech, Chase manages to turn the tables on Richard by congratulating him for his generous donation of "15% of Tuscany Downs' gross profits to the people of the Tuscany Valley.” This comes as a surprise to Richard but he has no choice but to comply. Ambassador Lan Thon pulled a similar move on JR during the senate investigation into the counterrevolution at the end of DALLAS Season 3.

    An aura of murderous intent permeates this week's Soap Land. “I’ll kill you, JR!” vows Katherine in DALLAS after he tells her he’s played a tape of them having sex to Bobby. “She did say she hated you and you deserved to die,” Julia’s psychiatrist tells Angela on FALCON CREST. “He’ll be dead within the week,” predicts cartel leader Norton Crane of Richard Channing, also on FALCON CREST. Meanwhile on DYNASTY, there’s a nicely moody shot of Kirby fondling her gun in preparation for her execution of Alexis. In the event, however, both Norton Crane and Kirby bungle their murder attempts badly. Kirby lures Alexis to her father’s house but fails to keep her there long enough to get her gun out her purse. Even more humiliatingly, Crane attempts to detonate Richard's explosive-rigged trophy on the opening day of Tuscany Downs, but in a last minute twist reminiscent of a Roadrunner cartoon, blows up his own car instead. The week’s most ominous death threat comes right at the end of FALCON CREST when a disguised Julia hitches a ride back to the Tuscany Valley. “I have to bury my mother,” she explains to the driver with a smile on her face. Yet another murder, this time in the past, is alluded to in the closing moments of DALLAS. “Amy died so we could keep the Southern Cross not sell it!” an angry Jessica blurts out to JR.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (2) FALCON CREST
    2 (3) DYNASTY
    3 (1) DALLAS
     
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  5. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    02/May/84: DYNASTY: New Lady in Town v. 04/May/84: DALLAS: Love Stories v. 04/May/84: FALCON CREST: For Better, For Worse v. 05/May/84: THE YELLOW ROSE: Villa's Gold

    With Tracy Kendall making her final appearance on this week’s DYNASTY, it’s time to survey the progress (or lack thereof) made by each of Soap Land's four working girls — Cathy Geary, Jenna Wade, Terry Hartford and Tracy herself — over the course of the season. Cathy and Jenna both started off as waitresses before bagging themselves a better job and a Ewing brother. However, after realising that Gary was still hung up on both his ex-wives, Cathy threw in the towel during the KNOTS finale and decided to move to Alaska. Jenna, meanwhile, has weathered Bobby’s ongoing preoccupation with his ex-wife and this week her tenacity pays off when he asks her to marry him. As for our two gold-digging opportunists, FALCON CREST’s Terry was a trashy hooker who became a respectable doctor’s wife while DYNASTY’s Tracy has travelled in the opposite direction. Introduced as a perky, ambitious career woman, she’s since become a self-described "corporate whore”. This week she bitterly quits her job at Colby Co after refusing to let Alexis pimp her out to Blake’s banker. (The order to sleep with a middle aged banker also proved to be the line in the sand for Afton in DALLAS’s fourth season.) And so the 1983/4 season working girl winner is … Terry Hartford Ranson.

    (Elsewhere, another blonde opportunist, DYNASTY's Sammy Jo, perhaps inspired by Terry’s success, abandons her sordid New York lifestyle to ingratiate herself with her rich relatives back in Denver. This week she moves into the Carrington mansion, makes nice to her Auntie Krystle, whips off her towel in front of ex-husband Steven, undermines his wife Claudia, and giggles flirtatiously with his brother Adam.)

    Tracy is not the only character to have her butter-wouldn’t-melt persona exposed as a lie at the end of the season. “I don’t really know you at all, do I?” Bobby finally realises on DALLAS after Katherine Wentworth confesses that she has been scheming (and sleeping) with JR behind his back. His kiss-off line to her — “You and JR truly deserve one another!” — echoes Tracy’s to Alexis at the end of her last scene on DYNASTY. “Lex/Dex? You two deserve one another!” she snaps after admitting that she has been scheming (and sleeping) with Dex behind Alexis's back.

    As one Soap Land door closes, another one opens. The introduction of a significant new character so near the end of a season isn’t standard Soap Land practice, but just four weeks after Lady Jessica Montford arrived at Southfork for Clayton and Miss Ellie’s wedding, the mysterious Dominique Devereaux books into La Mirage in time for the penultimate episode of this season's DYNASTY. There are some interesting parallels between the two women’s debut scenes. Both are given unusually prominent introductions, with the Ewings lining up to greet Jessica and Dominique making the grandest Soap Land entrance (flanked by five bellboys and two large trunks) since Alexis’s courtroom appearance at the end of DYNASTY’s first year.

    Whereas Jessica was quick to dispel any notions of grandeur her title might have implied (“You forgot to untie the drapes — oh don’t worry, Miss Ellie, I’ve got it!”), Dominique is imperious from the get go. “Junior suite?” she snaps at the La Mirage desk clerk. "I specifically asked for a two bedroom suite. I don't sleep in my clothes nor do I sleep with them. I require one bedroom for my wardrobe and one for myself. If you don't have a two bedroom available, please call another hotel in the area that can accommodate me.”

    That such an unapologetically regal character should be played by a black actress is significant — especially when one considers that the only other black person of note to have appeared in Soap Land this season was the nameless addict whom KNOTS LANDING’s Karen encountered in rehab. “I’m not like these people!” Karen protested back then, before her black roomie gently pointed out how similar their situations were. Similarly, Dominique, after showering Alexis with praise during their riveting face off at the end of this week’s ep, then dares to suggest that she is her equal — maybe even her superior: “I’m just as tough as you, maybe tougher."

    Like Jessica, Dominique ends her introductory episode on an enigmatic note. “I wouldn’t count on your marrying brother Clayton, Miss Ellie — I wouldn’t count on it at all,” Jessica murmured once she was all alone, thereby setting up a mysterious story-line that has yet to be resolved. "Who the hell are you anyway?” Alexis asks Dominique this week. "Who am I?” she replies teasingly. "You'll find out very soon — very soon.” She then exits Alexis's penthouse with a slyly mischievous “Ciao — for now.”

    Wedding fever is currently in full swing on Soap Land, with only a week to go before Pam and Mark’s big day on DALLAS and a fortnight before Miss Ellie and Clayton's and Jeff and Fallon's scheduled ceremonies on DALLAS and DYNASTY. This week, Clayton becomes the latest spouse-to-be (after Fallon and Pam) to suggest a last minute elopement to his intended (“We’re very big on tradition at Southfork,” Ellie informs him), while Fallon's dress fitting is interrupted by the noises in her head and Mark's stag party by Katherine Wentworth noisily drowning her sorrows at the Oil Baron’s Club. “Just promise me you’re not going to misbehave because I know what goes on at those things,” Pam tells Mark beforehand. Ironically, the only previous stag party we’ve seen in Soap Land was that of Mark’s former self, Sam Curtis, on FLAMINGO ROAD. If memory serves, what went on at that thing was mainly blue movies and cigars.

    In spite of all these wedding preparations by various Carringtons, Colbys, Ewings and Farlows, FALCON CREST’s Philip and Angela leap frog over all of them, plighting their troth in a full blown Catholic church ceremony only one episode after becoming engaged.

    This week’s instalment of FALCON CREST is more lightweight than I remembered. Partly this has to do with nearly all the major characters — regardless of their ongoing enmity towards the happy couple — being enlisted into the wedding party (Richard as best man, Maggie as matron of honour and Joseph, the very child Angela recently sold to the Giobertis, as her ring bearer). While assembling warring characters under the same roof whenever possible is an integral Soap Land convention (such as at the opening of Tuscany Downs in the last FC ep), the fact that in this instance the characters themselves seem to acknowledge the absurdity of the situation (as if they’re in on the joke) adds a different, more frivolous tone to the occasion.

    This sense of levity is offset by the kind of brooding religious atmosphere that’s specific to FALCON CREST among the soaps. In fact this week, religion — specifically Catholicism — becomes a Soap Land story point for the very first time as Julia, back in the Tuscany Valley with a wig and a gun, takes confession with Father Bob. “I am overwhelmed with murder,” she says before admitting that she intends to kill her mother. The priest, bound by the sacrament of Confession which prohibits him from repeating what she has said, can only look anxiously around the church during Angela and Philip’s wedding ceremony. (Father Bob evidently takes his oath of confidentiality more seriously than Dr Kenderson does his on DALLAS. This week, in a scene that never fails to move me no matter how many times I’ve seen it, he finally talks to Mark about his terminal illness — but only after a drunken Katherine has already let the cat out of the bag.)

    Tension-building as Father Bob’s silent dilemma is, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Julia's several thwarted attempts to shoot Angela, first during the ceremony itself and then later at the reception back at Falcon Crest, is Soap Land’s most blatant flirtation with self-parody since Alexis and Cecil’s deathbed wedding at the beginning of last season’s DYNASTY. (Did I mention that Julia spends much of this episode dressed as a nun?) The thrilling and comedic elements of this story-line coalesce in the closing minutes of the ep when Sister Julia makes her getaway with sweet little Joseph in tow: "You OK, sweetie? ... Then let's go get some ice cream!”

    Business-wise, the outlook is grim for both Blake Carrington and Cliff Barnes this week. Cliff’s situation is marginally worse but it’s a close run thing. The banks are about to foreclose on Denver Carrington and Barnes Wentworth, but while Andrew Laird urges Blake to start selling off prime assets in order stay afloat, Cliff simply has no assets left. “I have sold everything I own,” he admits. As a last resort, each man reluctantly turn to the richest woman he knows for help: Blake’s ex-wife Alexis and Cliff’s half-sister Pam.

    In the final scene of the last episode of DYNASTY (which originally aired two weeks earlier), Blake brusquely turned down a $100,000,000 loan from Alexis that came with the condition that if he failed to repay it within six months, she would automatically assume ownership of his company. "I'll see you in Hell before I let you get your hands on Denver Carrington!” he barked at her then. So it’s great fun to see him show up at her office this week and meekly offer to sell her his oil shale extraction process. Alexis delights in turning him down. "You're finally getting a taste of your own medicine,” she gloats, "and when it becomes too bitter for you, when you start to cough and choke on it, then you'll be back to accept the only offer that I'm ever going to make!” Meanwhile, an even more desperate Cliff bursts into his sister’s office in the final scene of this week’s DALLAS. "I'm in trouble,” he blurts out. "I need your help. The drilling is a disaster.” But before he can ask her for the money he needs, they are interrupted by a fateful phone call.

    And here Soap Land synchronicity strikes once more. The previous episode of DYNASTY ended with the news that a moustachioed Mark had plummeted to his death. ("Your bodyguard Mark Jennings? He's dead ... He fell from the balcony of your penthouse, Mrs Colby. Too soon to tell if he jumped or if he was pushed.”) And now this week’s DALLAS ends the same way. ("Mark was flying his plane and it exploded over the Gulf. He's dead!”)

    Lucas, the genuinely nice guy whom Julia left behind to face the cops in the previous episode of FALCON CREST, shows up on this week’s YELLOW ROSE as a not-so-nice guy out to steal some treasure that’s apparently buried on the ranch. The neat twist is that the criminal mastermind behind the operation is Juanita, the Rose’s new cook. Naturally no one suspects Juanita, she’s only the hired help. As a critique of the invisibility of Hispanic characters in Soap Land (e.g., the multiple servants answering to the names of Raoul and Teresa on DALLAS, or Gary and Abby’s housekeeper Maria, relegated to bit player status on KNOTS but who three decades later will appear on SOUTHLAND in the kind of multi-layered kick-ass cop role her white masters on KL could only dream of), it works. And in a week where Diahann Carroll's is the first black face to appear in a Soap Land title sequence since Melba Moore’s one-off appearance as a jailbird hooker in the FLAMINGO ROAD pilot, it also seems appropriate.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (2) DYNASTY
    2 (3) DALLAS
    3 (1) FALCON CREST
    4 (-) THE YELLOW ROSE
     
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  6. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    09/May/84: DYNASTY: The Nightmare v. 11/May/84: DALLAS: Hush, Hush, Sweet Jessie v. 11/May/84: FALCON CREST: The Avenger v. 12/May/84: THE YELLOW ROSE: The Far Side of Fear

    Phew, what a week: the season finale of DYNASTY, the series finale of THE YELLOW ROSE, the most powerful episode of FALCON CREST to date and an action-packed instalment of DALLAS that’s none too shabby either.

    “Won’t it knock their socks off when they find out I’m a Carrington?” asks Dominique Devereaux of an empty room on this week’s DYNASTY. It certainly knocks the socks off DALLAS’s Donna and Ray when they find out, from Clayton, that Jessica isn’t Dusty’s aunt, but his mother. And those aren’t the only revelations of the week. We discover on DYNASTY that Sammy Jo was behind the violets sent to Claudia supposedly from her dead husband Matthew while Pam learns on DALLAS that Katherine was behind the letter read to Bobby, supposedly from Pam herself, that broke up their marriage. Another letter, this time sent to Pam, explains that Mark Graison’s plane crash wasn’t an accident — he knew he was dying and decided to end his own life rather than become a burden to those he loved. And in the same week that Mark G’s presumed accident becomes a suicide on DALLAS, Mark J’s presumed suicide is reclassified as a murder on DYNASTY.

    Physical confrontations between women, ranging from the comedic to the tragic, recur throughout this week’s episodes. In ascending order of violence, there’s Alexis and Krystle’s beauty parlour run-in on DYNASTY where, in lieu of their annual catfight, Krystle throws a potful of mud in Alexis’s face after hearing her insinuate that Blake is not the father of her unborn child. Moving things up a notch, DALLAS’s Pam strikes Katherine across the face after learning that she has been scheming against her all along. Then things get seriously gun-crazy: Jessica makes off with Miss Ellie and a handgun at the end of DALLAS while DYNASTY’s Kirby and FALCON CREST’s Julia both realise their long-awaited revenge fantasies of holding Alexis and Angela respectively at gunpoint.

    "Do it now, Kirby,” challenges Alexis. "Go ahead. Pull the trigger ... and watch me die. That’s what you want, isn't it?” “Are you just going to stand there?” Angela asks Julia. “I thought the idea was for you to shoot me.” Their bluffs called, neither Kirby nor Julia can go through with the deadly deed. It’s Lute Mae Sanders in FLAMINGO ROAD all over again. When faced with the reality of shooting Michael Tyrone in cold blood, she crumbled.

    The climaxes of this week’s DYNASTY and DALLAS are dealt with in diametrically opposite ways. On DYNASTY, we are given no narrative explanation for Fallon’s headaches or what subsequently causes her to flee from her wedding at the Carrington mansion. Whatever she is feeling is conveyed to us through abstract imagery: nightmarish flashbacks, distorted point-of-view shots, off-kilter camera angles and a discordant musical score. The dark clouds and lashing rain also seem to reflect her emotional state (and unintentionally echo Miss Ellie’s lighthearted suggestion to Clayton in last week’s DALLAS, “You wanna get married in the rain?”).

    After Fallon fails to appear for their wedding, her beloved Jeff finds her bridal dress discarded on her bedroom floor (in the same symbolic fashion that Admiral Mallory found his bride-to-be’s wedding gown abandoned in the final scene of EMERALD POINT). Jeff then spots her driving off into the night and sets off in pursuit. The episode’s — and indeed the season’s — final seconds show Fallon behind the wheel of her car, blinded by a sudden flash of headlights, followed by a scream that echoes over a black screen. This extra-diegetic ending is the equivalent of Sid Fairgate’s “Oh my God!” playing over his freeze frame at the end of KNOTS LANDING Season 2, but without the coherent narrative logic leading up to it.

    “In everyone’s life there should be one perfect night,” Mark Graison told Pam on last week’s DALLAS. The morning after his perfect night, he died. Whenever I hear Pam’s description of his death — “Mark was flying his plane and it exploded over the Gulf” — it conjures up for me an image of Icarus flying too close to the sun. “I’m on top of the world, kid,” Mark Jennings told Krystle on DYNASTY a few weeks ago, “but I do know somebody who’d like to push me off.” And so it came to pass. Indeed, it’s an unwritten rule of Soap Land: no one can be too happy for too long. With Fallon’s abstract malady, DYNASTY has distilled that rule to its essence and dispensed with plot altogether: the pain and noises in her head, for which there are no medical explanation, began when she and Jeff first reconciled. As their wedding day has grown nearer, her torment has worsened, reaching crisis point just before the ceremony. Therefore, in the absence of a more conventional explanation, her suffering can be interpreted as the result of too much happiness. By daring to believe in an idyllic future with Jeff, Fallon was flying as dangerously close to the sun as Marks Graison and Jennings.

    Whereas nothing about Fallon’s behaviour is explained on DYNASTY, everything about Jessica’s actions is spelled out on DALLAS this week, to an almost laughable extent, thanks to her diary which JR finds at the eleventh hour. The journal’s most recent entries reveal her twenty year old secrets in the way that is most convenient for the present day plot. For example, the first page JR reads seems to implicate Clayton in the fire that killed his wife, while the entry on the next page — which isn’t read until after JR has driven across town to accuse Clayton of mariticide — completely exonerates him. Hokey as such blatant exposition is, it’s highly enjoyable, as is Fallon’s logic-be-damned pre-wedding freak out.

    While the DYNASTY wedding guests wonder what has become of the bride, a detective arrives at the Carrington mansion to speak to Alexis. Their subsequent exchange reminds me of the scene at the end of “Blackmail” (DALLAS Season 4) where the police show up at Ewing Oil to talk to Bobby. Alexis thinks the police are at the house due to Fallon’s disappearance while Bobby assumes their visit to his office is connected to Lucy’s. “We don’t know anything about your daughter/niece,” they reply. Instead, they explain, they want to talk to Alexis and Bobby about the suspicious deaths of the men who were blackmailing them — Mark Jennings and Jeff Farraday respectively. Adding to the sense of déjà vu, the sergeant who then arrests Alexis for Mark’s murder is played by the same actor who killed Jeff Farraday.

    The DYNASTY/DALLAS parallels continue with Blake Carrington and Cliff Barnes. This week, both men are forced to sell off their assets to keep their companies afloat. Each encounters an old adversary happy to take advantage of the situation. Dex Dexter offers Blake $10,000,000 for his football team — a deal which Blake angrily rejects: "That team's worth $50,000,000 at least and you know it!” Katherine Wentworth, meanwhile, offers Cliff $18,000,000 for his third of Wentworth Tool & Die even though it’s worth $25,000,000 — a deal which Cliff reluctantly accepts. ("You really enjoy twisting the knife, don't you?” "I do get a certain satisfaction, seeing how it's going into you.”) While Cliff’s deal with Katherine buys Barnes Wentworth another week, Blake’s refusal to do business with Dex means it’s the end of the road of Denver Carrington.

    Not for nothing is this episode of DYNASTY called ‘Nightmare’. What worse fate could a Soap Land alpha male imagine than the loss of his beloved company? It’s a demise that every businessman from Jock and JR on DALLAS to incompetent old Claude Weldon on FLAMINGO ROAD has come perilously close to, only to sidestep at the last moment. But in the DYNASTY season finale, the unthinkable actually happens to Blake Carrington. Likewise, what could be more devastating for a Soap Land diva than to find herself, in all her finery, behind bars with a bunch of cackling hookers laughing and jeering at her? Whereas last season's KNOTS ended with Gary enduring his jail time with silent stoicism, this season’s DYNASTY ends with Alexis grabbing her cell bars and screaming, “Get me out of here!” DALLAS’s Peter Richards, out on bail after being set up by JR on a drugs charge, can surely sympathise. "I keep having nightmares about that jail!” he exclaims this week.

    Something I’d never previously noticed about this week’s episode of DALLAS — how the opening shot of Bobby and Jenna driving into Southfork while joking about how the family will react to their engagement mirrors the very beginning of the series which had Bobby and Pam driving into Dallas while joking about how the family would react to their elopement.

    Something I'd never previously noticed about the entire Lady Jessica story-line — how many references there are to characters substituting for other characters. In the same episode that Sue Ellen describes Clayton to Jessica as the father she never had, Jessica explains to Ellie how Clayton was more of a parent to her when she growing up than their own father was. JR’s resentment at the prospect of Clayton replacing his father (“becoming the second man on a one man ranch”) mirrors Jessica’s resentment towards Amy for replacing her as Dusty’s mother — and it’s the idea of Ellie doing the same thing now — in effect becoming “the new Amy” — that pushes Jessica over the edge in this episode. A side note: Jessica telling Ray at her party that he reminds her of Clayton as a young man puts Donna in the de-facto role of a second substitute Amy, which makes it fitting that Jessica also assaults her (albeit off screen) before making off with Ellie.

    “She’s got Mama!” JR shouts at the end of DALLAS. “She's taken my baby!” yells Melissa at the beginning of FALCON CREST. Indeed, FALCON CREST picks up where DALLAS leaves off this week, but ratchets up the pathos. There isn’t really time for DALLAS to explore the emotional consequences of Clayton learning that his sister is a psychopath who burned down his house, murdered his wife and now plans to do the same thing to his fiancee — the best he can muster is an “oh no, Jessie” — whereas this week’s FALCON CREST is all about emotional consequences, about how it feels to have a dangerously disturbed woman as a mother, a daughter and a sister.

    If Fallon’s mystery meltdown at the end of DYNASTY feels like the latest development in Soap Land’s increasingly abstract form of story-telling which began with FALCON CREST retroactively turning Julia into a killer, then this episode of FC is the emotional pay off for that decision. The flippantly comedic tone of last week’s episode is entirely absent, replaced by a strong sense of gravitas, especially in the moving scene where Lance finds Angela in her study reading a letter written to her by Julia when she was in college: ‘Dear Mother, there are so many opportunities here … I can hardly wait for you to come down for parents’ weekend so I can show you around.' "Did you go?” Lance asks Angela. She shakes her head. "I was too busy,” she says. "Even for a weekend?” he persists. "I was a businesswoman before it became fashionable,” she replies,” and I didn’t have time to do the things I wanted to do … Julia understood. She had such promise, only …” "Everything went wrong,” concludes Lance. What’s so touching is that Lance doesn’t display any rancour towards Angela here, just a profound sadness for his mother.

    ”I was a businesswoman before it became fashionable.” That’s one in the eye not just for Abby and Alexis but for all the other Angela-come-latelys who have joined them in the executive suite this season: Krystle, Pam, Laura, Claudia, et al., none of whom will have to worry about missing parents’ weekend because this is the have-it-all Soap Land eighties where childcare simply isn’t an issue anymore. For the first time, one gets a real sense of the solitary road Angela must have walked in those less shoulder-pad-tastic days.

    While her family worry and ruminate, Julia drives down the same dark Soap Land highway that Fallon did after fleeing her wedding. Where Fallon swerved to avoid the obligatory Soap Land roadworks, Julia deftly dodges the police roadblocks set up in her honour.

    It all leads to a hostage situation at the springhouse with Julia (still in her nun’s habit) holding Joseph (never cuter) at gunpoint. She agrees to release him on the condition that her mother take his place. As the rest of the cast gradually congregate outside the springhouse, it feels like a slow-burn version of the Belmar Hotel climax on this season’s KNOTS. Every gesture, every close up carries an emotional weight. The exchange made, Lance watches as Melissa and Cole are reunited with their son and then take him away. I've always found it significant that Richard — of all people — should be the one to register Lance's pain and give him a consoling pat on the shoulder. Only a few weeks ago, these two men were trying to kill each other in an underground parking garage yet somehow Richard’s gesture here feels true, and dramatically earned, in a way that his being best man at Phillip and Angela’s wedding last week didn’t.

    Whereas KNOTS LANDING’s Belmar Hotel climax was the result of a trap set by characters external to the show’s core, FALCON CREST’s equivalent comes from within the Gioberti family itself. In fact, it feels as if the entire Falcon Crest saga has been building up to the moment where Angela enters the springhouse and is forced by Julia to acknowledge her own failings for the first time. "I’ve always had a difficulty expressing my feelings ... I’ve never been a mother to you,” she admits. A truce of sorts is reached and Julia is persuaded to hand over the gun. The sheriff’s deputy positioned outside misreads the situation and, thinking that Julia is about to shoot her mother, fires his rifle. Both women fall to the floor, a kerosene lamp explodes and a fire breaks out, exactly a year and a week after the fire at Southfork. Just as Bobby and Ray rescued JR, Sue Ellen and John Ross, Lance and Chase manage to save Angela, but they can’t get to Julia in time. The episode ends with everyone watching the springhouse burn with Julia still trapped inside. And this isn’t even the season finale.

    In place of a psychotic nun, the final episode of THE YELLOW ROSE brings us Soap Land’s first bisexual killer-rapist. After murdering Whit’s girlfriend (a pre-fame Robin Wright) in the first scene, he turns his attention to Colleen Champion. With not enough evidence for the police to hold him, the ep turns into a grim but gripping hybrid of “Winds of Vengeance” and “Land of the Free” from DALLAS and KNOTS’ respective first seasons. Like this week’s FALCON CREST, it builds to a fatal hostage situation before concluding with a touchingly humble prayer round the family dinner table. Lord love THE YELLOW ROSE — idiosyncratic to the end.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (3) FALCON CREST
    2 (2) DALLAS
    3 (1) DYNASTY
    4 (4) THE YELLOW ROSE
     
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  7. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    25/Sep/84: PAPER DOLLS: Episode 1 v. 26/Sep/84: DYNASTY: Disappearance v. 28/Sep/84: DALLAS: Killer at Large v. 28/Sep/84: FALCON CREST: Requiem

    Shortly after FLAMINGO ROAD ended two years ago, two of its central players returned to Soap Land in different guises. Sam Curtis became Mark Graison on DALLAS and Michael Tyrone morphed into Richard Channing on FALCON CREST. Towards the end of last season’s DALLAS, Mark was killed in a plane explosion and the FALCON CREST finale cliffhanger suggested Richard was headed for a similar fate. In their place, the Soap Land gods have seen fit to reincarnate a third FLAMINGO ROAD character, Constance Weldon Carlyle, as Racine on PAPER DOLLS. While Mark and Richard were pretty much identical to their previous selves on FLAM RD, Racine is less similar to hers. Constance was a pampered and petulant princess whereas Racine presides over her own modelling agency with a cool head and a shrewd business sense. Still, as Angela Channing remarked towards the end of last season’s FALCON CREST, businesswomen are now in vogue in Soap Land and had FLAMINGO ROAD continued, it’s not inconceivable that Constance would have ended up behind a desk herself — especially if the knowledge that she was the illegitimate daughter of the town tramp had spurred her to build a new life for herself.

    As it is, Racine and Constance do have a couple of things in common: neither is averse to a bitchy wisecrack, and where Constance frolicked naked in a swimming pool with the future Richard Channing, Racine does the same thing in a jacuzzi with the future Jack Ewing.

    By chance, Michael Tyrone’s same swimming pool, and the grounds surrounding it, show up in this week’s FALCON CREST. After recently playing host to Little Blake’s birthday party on DYNASTY and a soiree for rich paedophiles on THE YELLOW ROSE, they now provides the setting for cartel leader Norton Crane’s assassination. The interior of the house appears later in the same episode, but this time doubling as the Buenos Aires residence of Crane’s successor, Johann Reibmann. In the same room where Michael Tyrone once fed his sinister-looking fish, Reibmann now pets his exotically-coloured birds.

    The season premiere of each of the week's returning soaps finds its characters in varying states of helplessness. On DYNASTY, Jeff finds Fallon’s abandoned car at the scene of an accident but no amount of quizzing of police or paramedics yields any clue to her whereabouts. Meanwhile on FALCON CREST, Cole and Melissa can only stand and wait for a similar combination of professionals to bring news of their loved ones from the site of the plane crash. Over on DALLAS, JR, Sue Ellen and Lucy wait anxiously at Soap Land Memorial Hospital as Bobby undergoes emergency surgery following his shooting by a mystery assailant. Later, it’s Pam and Jenna’s turn to nod politely as yet more medical experts point at x-rays and talk about Bobby’s blindness.

    Yes, three years after Blake Carrington and FLAMINGO ROAD’s Skipper both raged against the dying of the light, Bobby becomes the third Soap Land character to lose his sight. In spite of the dismayed reactions of those around him, it doesn’t feel like such a big deal for him. Certainly, he doesn’t seem to be experiencing the same kind of post-cliffhanger trauma this week as his alpha male contemporaries, DYNASTY's Blake and FALCON CREST's Chase.

    While Chase is plagued by nightmares of the plane crash he feels at least partly responsible for, Blake’s situation — and that of the rest of the Carringtons — is even graver, what with the loss of Denver Carrington, Alexis’s arrest for murder and Fallon’s disappearance occurring almost simultaneously. “What’s happening to us?” asks Alexis, as well she might. However mysterious and abstract Fallon’s final scenes were at the end of last season, her family’s reactions to her vanishing feel emotionally real. When Jeff returns to the Carrington mansion without her, Blake’s bewildered disappointment resembles Miss Ellie’s when the Ewing boys came back from South America without Jock.

    As Blake Carrington falls on DYNASTY, Cliff Barnes rises on DALLAS. “For the first time in my life, I don’t know what to do,” Blake admits to Krystle. "You mean, after all these years I finally won?!” asks an incredulous Cliff after learning of his eleventh hour oil strike. "I've never seen you so defeated,” Alexis tells Blake — and for once she isn’t gloating. “Cliff Barnes has become a mighty big man in this town … You’re yesterday’s news!” Marilee Stone informs JR — and she is gloating.

    Following Bobby's shooting on DALLAS, which JR assumes was intended as an attempt on his own life, and the plane crash on FALCON CREST, which Richard Channing assumes was an act of sabotage by the cartel, both men beef up their personal security. For some reason, when JR employs bodyguards, it feels like an act of weakness — an example of physical cowardice that Jock would surely have disapproved of. Yet when Richard hires a Head of Security, it only adds to his mystique, to his Howard Hughes-like aura of untouchability. Either way, both security teams are soon put to the test, JR’s when Edgar Randolph takes a shot at him outside the Ewing building and Richard’s when someone — who turns out to be his girlfriend Pamela on the run from the cartel — breaks into his house and takes refuge in his closet.

    While Edgar’s attempt on JR’s life is unsuccessful, he at least gets to pull the trigger, which makes a refreshing change after all the fumbling with firearms we’ve seen recently from Kirby on DYNASTY, Julia on FALCON CREST and Sue Ellen early on in this week’s DALLAS when she attempts to retrieve the gun stashed under her pillow to fend off JR’s advances, only to be interrupted by a call from Soap Land Memorial with the news of Bobby’s shooting.

    While no one on DALLAS acknowledges that this is the second time a Ewing brother has been shot by an unknown intruder in the Ewing offices — the whole scenario is played completely straight — FALCON CREST comes dangerously close to suggesting its characters know they are living inside a soap opera. Before moving out of the Channing house, Melissa bids farewell to her soon-to-be-ex-grandmother-in-law with the line, "I'll always be available for the family gatherings, Angela — funerals, shootings, divorces and, of course, reading of wills.”

    As in any new Soap Land season, there are losses. Gone from the opening credits of DYNASTY and DALLAS are Pamela Sue Martin and Barbara Bel Geddes. Lost in the between-seasons-shuffle are DYNASTY’s Kirby and DALLAS’s Peter Richards, both of whom started out as sweet-natured young idealists who subsequently had their hearts broken and spirits crushed before being blackmailed off their respective shows (she by Alexis, he by JR) without so much as a good-bye scene between them. Killed off screen as a result of the FALCON CREST plane crash are new grooms Phillip Erickson and Michael Ranson, while returning for the new season only to bid farewell in its first week are FALCON CREST’s Linda Gioberti (another fatality of the crash) and DALLAS's Afton Cooper. Discounting the various minor players who bit the dust during THE YELLOW ROSE’s frequent shoot outs, Linda is the first character to die on screen since Chip Roberts on KNOTS LANDING. (That said, we have yet to learn if Karen Mackenzie was alive or dead at the end of last season's KNOTS.) Afton, meanwhile, is rewarded for four years’ loyal service to Soap Land with arguably the best farewell scene since the original Steven Carrington’s on DYNASTY. (Richard Avery’s and Mark Graison’s exits were very poignant, but neither actually got to say good-bye to anyone.) Like Steven, Afton tells it like it is. “Our relationship is ridiculous,” she informs Cliff, “and it’s over. I just wish I could say it’s been terrific."

    Of course, Afton’s departure becomes even more interesting when viewed in hindsight, when one realises that the character, like Sammy Jo when she first departed DYNASTY in Season 2, must be pregnant at this point. Her line to Cliff, “I’m not drinking with you,” leapt out at me this time around. For the first time, it occurred to me that Afton might already know she’s pregnant here. Perhaps it’s even the reason — combined with the fact that “Cliff Barnes has just become a mighty big man in this town” — that she decides to leave. Nothing if not intuitive, could it be that Afton senses what a dangerous combination power and a child could be for Cliff? Given how things will pan out in New DALLAS, one of her final lines to him — “You are the coldest man I have ever met; you make JR Ewing look like a saint” — now sounds oddly prophetic.

    There are also some new additions to Soap Land this week. DYNASTY and FALCON CREST each feature a suavely handsome newcomer in their opening credit sequence — Brady Lloyd and Greg Reardon respectively. On DYNASTY, Brady pays a surprise visit to his wife, Dominique Devereaux, at La Mirage. Given that this is Brady’s introductory scene and some character background must necessarily be shoehorned into their marital conversation, they make for an impressive — and convincing — couple. Also, a scene between two black people, much less a black couple, is very unusual at this point in Soap Land’s history. In fact, if one were to recall the last conversation between two people of colour one would have to reach all the way back to the DALLAS mini-series when “Barbecue” caterers Tilly and Sam speculated about which of the Ewings would be the first to get drunk. In contrast, all Dominique and Brady are interested in is each other. (With that in mind, it's hard not to notice that the only other black faces in this week’s Soap Land belong to Lloyd Bridges’ efficient secretary on PAPER DOLLS and Bobby’s skilled surgeon on DALLAS — both highly competent professionals who are entirely ancillary as characters.)

    Where Brady is black, FALCON CREST’s Greg is English — or at least half English. "My father was American … I moved over to California to go to Stanford,” he informs an unimpressed Angela during their first meeting. Likewise, Brady must remind his wife (in order to inform us) of his credentials: "Remember me, baby? I'm the guy that took a few talented unknown kids and parlayed them into a billion dollar recording business." "Oh Brady,” chides Dominique affectionately, "you're beginning to sound like your own press release. You do have that habit, you know.” To show a more personal side, Greg and Brady each manage to squeeze in an endearingly irrelevant anecdote about their mothers. "My English mother ... taught me not to ask sarcastic questions,” Greg tells Angela. "My mother used to say I had a way with words when I was a little boy and her dream was for me to grow up and write poems for a greeting card company,” Brady informs a completely charmed Claudia Carrington.

    Amidst all the upheaval in this week’s Soap Land, some past sins are unearthed. “You set Peter up, didn’t you?” realises DALLAS’s Lucy during a conversation with a prevaricating JR. "Peter was playing around with Sue Ellen and you found out about it!” Meanwhile on DYNASTY, Steven is going through Colby Co’s books when he finds out about the pay off Alexis made to Rashid Ahmed that led to Blake’s downfall. While Lucy’s realisation yields no immediate consequences beyond a desultory cry of, “Nobody around here cares about anybody or anything!”, the impact of Steven’s discovery is far-reaching, leading first to a major fall-out between mother and son ("There is nothing about you that I can believe in anymore, nothing!”) and then to Blake swearing revenge against Alexis in a way that feels like a turning point for his character: “I’ll bury her just the way she's tried to bury me!” Towards the end of this week's DALLAS, Bobby informs Pam and Jenna that just prior to being shot, he'd found a bug in his office phone — and he suspects JR of being responsible for it. Later, JR assures Bobby that he will take care of Ewing Oil in his absence. “That’s a little like having the fox watch the henhouse,” Bobby replies drily. JR will use the same metaphor himself a few decades later. “You’re not the first Pam to fox her way into the henhouse,” he tells Cliff and Afton’s offspring at the beginning of New DALLAS’s second season.

    With so many repercussions from last season, this week’s episodes could be forgiven for not ending with a fresh twist, yet that’s precisely what each of them do. On DYNASTY, just when it seems as if life cannot get any worse for the Carringtons, Sammy Jo snatches Danny at the airport, giving Adam the slip and making a quick getaway with the kid when she’s supposed to be boarding a plane to New York. Like the last Soap Land character to abduct a child, she leavens the sour taste of her crime with an irresistible quip. "You OK, sweetie?” Julia asked Joseph when she drove off with him in FALCON CREST. "Then let's go get some ice cream!” "My two best dresses were in that suitcase, honey lamb,” Sammy Jo tells Danny as she bundles him into the back of a cab, "but if everything goes the way I plan, your mom's gonna have more, lots more!” DALLAS ends with a slightly more predictable, but still fun, twist as it emerges that Edgar Randolph didn’t shoot Bobby as everyone has assumed. “Whoever tried to kill you is still at large!” Captain Fogarty tells JR. FALCON CREST, meanwhile, ends with the most unexpected, gloriously bonkers surprise of all — the revelation that there’s Nazi treasure buried under Falcon Crest and nobody knows about it apart from three sinister Europeans in Buenos Aires. "Falcon Crest will surrender its treasure!” shouts Gustav Reibmann, the most sinister European of them all.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (-) DYNASTY
    2 (1) FALCON CREST
    3 (2) DALLAS
    4 (-) PAPER DOLLS
     
  8. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    09/Oct/84: PAPER DOLLS: Episode 2 v. 10/Oct/84: DYNASTY: The Mortgage v. 12/Oct/84: DALLAS: If at First You Don't Succeed v. 12/Oct/84: FALCON CREST: Strangers

    There is some interesting cross-referencing between the soaps this week. "She’s sixteen years old, she looks like Joan Collins up there!” complains the protective mother of a young model on PAPER DOLLS, while on DALLAS, Lucy pays a nostalgic to visit to the Hot Biscuit, the diner where her mama waited tables way back in Season 1. "She's living out in California now,” Lucy tells Al, the proprietor. He asks her to say howdy to Val the next time she talks to her. "Yeah, I will — if I talk to her,” Lucy replies glumly. This is the DALLAS equivalent of Val’s admission on last year’s KNOTS that it had been “seven or eight months” since she and Lucy last spoke. Those are the only references on either show to an estrangement between mother and daughter.

    Speaking of silent estrangements, this week’s DALLAS also brings news of the death of Jason Ewing, Jock’s never-previously-mentioned brother. "I don’t remember Jock ever talking about him,” remarks Sue Ellen. JR explains that the brothers had a falling out back when he himself was just a little boy and never spoke again. (Jason’s death also lays the foundation for the eventual arrival into DALLAS of his son Jack, who is currently locked in a combative relationship with his present father on PAPER DOLLS.)

    Another Soap Land relative we’ve heard of but never seen before is Paul Hartford, Maggie and Terry’s father on FALCON CREST. Despite the enticement of great-grandchildren, brain tumours and plane crashes, he has never visited his daughters in the Tuscany Valley before this week’s episode. There’s no familial estrangement in this case, just the full itinerary of an archaeology lecturer.

    To varying degrees, the Carringtons, Ewings, Channings and Giobertis are all still suffering the consequences of last season’s cliffhangers. On each of the shows this week, an attempt is made to unite the respective families. On DYNASTY, Blake gathers his brood together and delivers a rallying speech: "We are all of us Carringtons,” he reminds them. "We are all of us facing desperate problems at this moment of our lives. It's when things are bad, when we have to struggle, that's when we Carringtons are tested. We have to pull ourselves together. We have to be strong. We have to be what we always are — an example to others.” Over on DALLAS, Sue Ellen does her bit by hosting the first family dinner at Southfork since Jessica’s visit. Meanwhile, on FALCON CREST, Maggie throws yet another party, this time, a picnic, in order to "mend a few fences” between the Giobertis and the Channings.

    In each case, the sense of family harmony is short-lived. Soon after his “Carringtons Unite!” speech, Blake turns on Krystle for selling her jewellery and furs in order to help him start over. "Dammit Krystle, I told you they were not for sale!” he shouts. Meanwhile, Jeff comes close to cracking up after identifying a body in the morgue which turns out not to be Fallon’s. (Like Chase Gioberti last week’s FALCON CREST, Jeff is tormented by nightmares of last season’s cliffhanger. Where Chase dreamt of plane crashes, Jeff dreams of disappearing brides.) Back at Southfork, Sue Ellen’s family dinner soon descends into bickering. "Family? That's a joke," grumbles JR as he surveys the jumbled assortment of Ewings, Krebbses and Farlows seated at the dining table. "The only one who qualifies is Ray and he misses by a half.” On FALCON CREST, Angela puts a pall on the party mood when she accidentally-on-purpose reveals that Maggie is adopted. Maggie’s father is dismayed ("Oh Mrs Channing, you're out of line!”) while Maggie herself is astonished.

    Surprisingly, Soap Land's most united clan are currently the Barneses of DALLAS. During a run-in with Pam, JR accuses her of sounding increasingly like her brother. The remark is intended as an insult but she embraces it: “That's fine with me,” she tells him, "because that means I'm beginning to sound more and more like a Barnes.” The point is reiterated during a later argument between Pam and Sue Ellen. “You are clearly a Barnes,” Sue Ellen tells her disparagingly. Finally, Pam delivers to Cliff her own pocket-sized version of Blake’s “We are all of us Carringtons” speech: "I had my doubts at first, but I'm convinced now that you didn't shoot Bobby. We’re finally gonna be a family — and we're gonna be as strong a family as the Ewings ever were.”

    Indeed, the Soap Land worms appear to be turning. "I've never believed in the Barnes-Ewing feud,” Pam informs JR, "but now I'm going to join it. I'm going to do everything I can to help Cliff and I'm not going to rest until all our family scores are settled!” This chimes with the vow Blake made against Alexis in the DYNASTY season opener: "I'm going to teach her a lesson that she's never going to forget. I’ll pay her back. I'll bury her just the way she's tried to bury me!” It’s exciting to hear such virtuous characters as Pam Ewing and Blake Carrington lowering themselves to the vengeful levels of their long-term foes. It opens up a whole fresh can of soapy possibilities.

    As the first step in rebuilding his empire, Blake has taken out a loan on the Carrington mansion. Towards the end of this week's DYNASTY, he discovers that the mortgage is held by Alexis. "I'm getting even, Blake," she gloats. "In three months' time when that note becomes due and you can't pay it, that house belongs to me.” In other words, it’s Cliff, JR and Gold Canyon 340 all over again. But where Cliff was stunned into silence when he learnt of JR’s plan at the end of last season, Blake lets Alexis have it with both barrels: “There have been times when I’ve wanted to kill you, but not now. You’ve got a murder trial coming up. When they find you guilty, I want to be there and take a look at your face … That’s the day that I can’t wait for!”

    While Alexis’s bail was set at $2,000,000 in the DYNASTY season opener, it costs half that to get Cliff out of jail following his arrest for Bobby’s shooting at the end of last week’s DALLAS. Both Cliff and Alexis continue to protest their innocence this week, but it is pointed out by their legal representatives, Messrs Duncan (“one of the best lawyers in town,” according to Cliff) and Ballard ("the best criminal attorney in the country,” according to Alexis) that there is compelling evidence against them. Not only is Cliff unable to provide an alibi for the shooting because he was so drunk, but the gun that shot Bobby was found in his apartment. Meanwhile, there’s the small matter of the $100,000 cheque Alexis made out to Mark Jennings and the fact that she was in the penthouse when he was killed. Whereas Alexis’s trial date is set for November ("That doesn't give us much time,” she frets), the charges are dropped against Cliff when a mysterious brunette steps forward to say they were together at the time of the shooting — and who should it be but Mandy Winger from THE YELLOW ROSE! So who planted the gun in Cliff’s condo? The answer to that lies in the closing shot of this week’s DALLAS which reveals a villainous looking Katherine poised over Bobby’s hospital bed with a syringe.

    Cliff and Alexis aren’t the only characters to be falsely accused of cliffhanger-related crimes this week (assuming, of course, that Alexis is as innocent as she claims to be). On FALCON CREST, Richard and Angela are each trying to pin the blame for the plane crash on Chase, but for different reasons. Richard knows that the plane was really sabotaged by the cartel, but cannot expose them without implicating himself. Angela, on the other hand, neither knows nor seems to care who was really behind the crash; she simply views it as an opportunity to get Chase out of her hair once and for all. To that end, she and Lance start a rumour that the crash was caused by Chase's alcohol-induced negligence.

    Whereas JR made his contempt for Pam clear at the very beginning of DALLAS (“Did your brother put you up to this, Miss Barnes?”), a veneer of civility has always existed between Angela and Chase on FALCON CREST regardless of what they’ve said or thought about each other in private. Sure, they’ve often clashed over their opposing business ethics and Angela has occasionally lashed out at Chase in extremis, but they have always then reverted to their default roles of an interfering aunt and headstrong nephew who regard each other with a grudging respect. Since the plane crash, however, there has been a shift. This week’s episode finds them freely trading insults as Angela calls Chase’s champagne dreary and accuses him of buying his way into the good graces of Wine Growers Magazine. “Bribery’s your style, Angela, not mine,” he retorts. Strangely, such undisguised animosity serves to lighten the show’s atmosphere rather than darken it: with Chase and Angela both now free to say what’s on their minds, it means there's one less secret lurking in the shadows. The arrival in the Tuscany Valley of Gustav Reibmann also contributes to the change in tone. The casting of Paul Freeman, who played a similarly artefact-obsessed villain with Nazi connections in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, is surely no coincidence. RAIDERS was itself influenced by the children’s adventure serials, full of action and gleefully daft cliffhangers, that cinemas used to show each week during the 1930s and ‘40s. The FALCON CREST Nazi treasure plot shares some of that same irresistible Saturday Morning Picture Show comic-strip-come-to-life quality.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (1) DALLAS
    2 (2) FALCON CREST
    3 (-) DYNASTY
    4 (-) PAPER DOLLS
     
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  9. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    16/Oct/84: PAPER DOLLS: Episode 3 v. 17/Oct/84: DYNASTY: Fallon v. 18/Oct/84: KNOTS LANDING: Calculated Risks v. 19/Oct/84: DALLAS: Jamie v. 19/Oct/84: FALCON CREST: The Outcasts

    This week’s KNOTS LANDING and DALLAS both open with a recent gunshot victim, Karen Mackenzie and Bobby Ewing respectively, lying in their hospital bed trying to make sense of what is happening to them. Karen is full of questions about the terminal prognosis she received at end of the previous episode while Bobby, even more pressingly, wants to know why Katherine Wentworth is looming over him with a syringe.

    Death — or at least the threat of it — looms large in all of this week’s soaps. As well as Katherine’s attempt to murder Bobby at the beginning of DALLAS, KNOTS and FALCON CREST both end with an apparently fatal shooting, PAPER DOLLS with two hit men lurking outside a married couple’s apartment and DYNASTY with the shock news of a major character's death.

    The searches for Soap Land’s missing wives, DYNASTY’s Fallon and KNOTS LANDING’s Abby, both reach a conclusion this week. "She's dead, Blake,” weeps Jeff upon his return from Portland, Oregon in DYNASTY’s poignant final scene. Over on KNOTS, Mark St Claire summons Greg to the marina where he is holding Abby hostage. During their tense showdown, Greg shoots St Claire at point-blank range. Crucially, he pulls the trigger after he and Abby are out of danger. A central KNOTS character committing cold-blooded murder is at least as rule-breakingly thrilling as Johann Reibmann blowing up his own father on FALCON CREST two weeks ago. While not quite in the same league, the twist at the end of this week’s FC — Richard Channing’s trusted Head of Security turning out to be his assassin — is also pretty neat. The freeze frame of Pamela Lynch watching from the shadows as Padgett pumps bullets into Richard’s sleeping form adds an extra spooky frisson.

    In the midst of all this death, Dr. Garner backtracks a little in this week’s KNOTS, telling Karen that her condition isn’t quite as untreatable as he previously claimed: there is an extremely high-risk operation that might save her life. There was a similar revision made on last season’s FALCON CREST following the episode where Maggie was told her brain tumour was inoperable. Like Maggie, Karen decides against surgery. “Mrs. Mackenzie, you’ve just chosen to die,” Dr. Garner tells her. When it comes to such decisions, there seems to be clear a gender divide in Soap Land. “If an operation is the only way I’m going to get my eyesight back, then I’m gonna have the operation no matter what the risks!” Bobby Ewing insisted on last week’s DALLAS. Similarly, FALCON CREST’s Chase and KNOTS LANDING's Sid have both previously gambled on life-or-death surgery to restore the use of their limbs. For Chase the risk paid off, for Sid it didn’t. More recently, DALLAS’s Mark Graison chose to go out in a blaze of glory rather than endure a slow terminal decline. On last week’s DALLAS, Sue Ellen referred to such behaviour as “that whole stupid macho thing — the image that men have of themselves.” What would be the female equivalent of such behaviour, I wonder? “That whole passive-aggressive maternal martyrdom thing” perhaps.

    Almost exactly a year to the day after FALCON CREST’s Vicky bade farewell to her father Chase (still in hospital after being shot) before leaving California for an exciting future in New York, KNOTS LANDING’s Diana bids farewell to her mother Karen (still in hospital after being shot) before leaving California for an exciting future in New York. Like Vicky, who was set to resume her plans of becoming a dancer, Diana’s inclinations lean towards the creative. Given her flair for fashion design, she’ll probably hook up with Victoria Hill from KNOTS Season 3, who can then introduce her to Racine and the rest of the PAPER DOLLS crowd. “You'll have all of Manhattan,” Karen assures her, "the beginnings of a wonderful career.”

    As Diana heads off for pastures new, it’s kind of poignant to see her DALLAS equivalent, Lucy Ewing, embark on her own new career path — as a waitress at the Hot Biscuit. A rich heiress choosing to sling hash at a diner might seem like one of Soap Land’s zanier storyline decisions, but then Lucy explains her reasons to Ray: "I've got status, money and that wonderful Ewing name. None of it's ever meant happiness for me ... I wanna feel like I'm part of this world, not just some aging rich kid.” Her reasoning is reminiscent of Fallon’s in DYNASTY two years ago: "I should have gotten out a long time ago, to prove myself, to prove that I’m a worthwhile human being.” Whereas Fallon’s idea of independence was to run one of her father’s businesses, thereby still trading on her family name, Lucy sheds her Ewing identity altogether, reverting to her married name of Cooper. “The people here … they just know me as Lucy,” she explains. "They either like me or they don’t, but either one's OK because they’re judging me, not my money or my name, just me. And that’s the first time in my life that’s ever happened.” Granted, it’s still an unlikely scenario, but there’s something very endearing about it. And let’s not feel too sorry for Lucy; she's already sampled the PAPER DOLLS world and found it wanting. “Modelling was a joke,” she tells Ray flatly — a viewpoint with which PAPER DOLLS itself seems to partially concur, judging by a scene in this week’s ep where the future Paige Matheson poses happily in some deliberately tasteless teenage fashions as her mother, who aspires to see her on the cover of British Vogue dressed like Princess Di, looks on in exasperation.

    There’s some unexpected self-analysis from two of Soap Land’s least introspective characters this week. DALLAS's Cliff and DYNASTY’s Alexis each explains what motivates their quest for power and, even more interestingly, acknowledges some of their own shortcomings. "All my life, I have had one drive and that’s to be the winner that Digger wanted me to be,” Cliff tells Pam while discussing what led to his break-up with Afton. "That has been the most important thing in my life. I’m not saying that that’s right, but that’s me." "Steven, there is nothing in my life more important than my children,” insists Alexis during an argument with her youngest son, "but I do value money because money can help protect people that I love. I value it as much as I resent this trial that's coming up, this nightmare!” During a subsequent strategy meeting with her lawyer, she admits that “ever since Blake Carrington banished me from Denver, from my children, my main charity, unfortunately, has been Alexis Carrington Colby."

    Meanwhile, to capitalise on her upcoming murder trial, Alexis's unauthorised life story is being serialised in the Denver Chronicle. It's full of scandalous tidbits about her past (“an incident in Portofino with a film star ... a party that made headlines”) but she doesn’t seem to mind. Amusingly, her only concern is about the photograph chosen to accompany the feature. "I don't particularly like this picture,” she frets. "I look a bit pale.”

    In contrast, two of Soap Land’s more mysterious women, DYNASTY’s Dominique Devereaux and PAPER DOLLS’ Racine (so mysterious she has no surname — “like Cher,” as someone helpfully explains), are less willing to have their histories documented. "I don't share my private life with anyone,” declares Dominique. This makes things a little tricky both for Claudia Carrington, who is trying to assemble a biography of Dominique to promote her singing engagement at La Mirage, and the reporter who has been charged with writing Racine’s life story for Newsbeat Magazine. (In pleasingly soapy fashion, the reporter is also the lover of the best friend of Racine’s oldest client.) Hoping to prise Racine out of her glamorous comfort zone, the reporter takes her on a mystery date — to a rib shack on the wrong side of town populated entirely with black extras. Racine acquits herself surprisingly well, even managing to nibble on a chicken wing without smearing her lipgloss — an indication, perhaps, of humbler beginnings.

    Back on DYNASTY, Racine’s former FLAMINGO ROAD father, Claude Weldon, resurfaces in Caracas as Billy Waite, “a killer shark” in business according to Blake. While Claude was as unscrupulous as they come, he was more a stooge than a shark. It’s during Billy's unsuccessful attempts to charm Krystle, and later seduce Alexis after she flies to Venezuela to dissuade him from doing business with Blake, that Claude’s sleazy, and ineffably amusing, personality reemerges. He suggests "a siesta in one of the cool recesses of my hot hacienda” to Alexis. "Oh Billy, we tried that once and it wasn't such a good idea,” she reminds him.

    Trend of the week: Soap Land divas violating the terms of their parole. Arrested for shooting Bobby and then freed on bail, DALLAS’s Katherine skips the country, getting as far as London before disappearing altogether. As she is leaving Billy Waite’s villa in Caracas, Alexis is apprehended by police officials on suspicion of trying to do something similar. The scene is reminiscent of JR's surprise arrest in Cuba a couple of seasons ago ("Silencio, Signora!”), only funnier and more glamorous. "I will escort you to your plane and on to your flight," she is informed by one Lieutenant Lopez. "Upon your arrival in Miami, you will be met by federal officers and taken to the county jail, then you will be served with extradition papers from the state of Colorado and taken to Denver in custody." "This is outrageous!" Alexis protests. She then looks to Billy for help, only to find that he has vanished at the first sign of trouble — a quintessentially Claude Weldon move.

    Soap Land sometimes makes strange bedfellows and this week finds innocent Michael Fairgate on KNOTS and battle weary JR on DALLAS singing from similar hymn sheets. “It's all over, everything,” laments Michael to his mom. "Diana, she’s going to New York, Eric’s always working, Mack’s moved out, and you’re in the hospital — I don’t even have a family anymore!” “Everything’s gone so damn wrong,” sighs JR during another heart to heart with Sue Ellen, “the family and the business … No matter what I do, I can't seem to win anymore.”

    Two uninvited guests appear on Soap Land doorsteps this week. Both young and plainly dressed, they each announce themselves as a long-lost relative. “I’m your nephew,” Joshua Rush informs Lilimae Clements when he shows up in Seaview Circle. "Your sister was my mother, married to Jonathan J. Rush.” The stranger at Southfork, meanwhile, introduces herself to JR as “Jamie Ewing, Jason’s daughter. My daddy and your daddy were brothers.” A third unfamiliar face appears without warning by Terry's pool on FALCON CREST but he needs no introduction. Terry identifies him as Joel — "a lousy coke head with a stinking habit you can't afford and you’re not going to get any money from me to pay for it!" “Terry sweetheart,” Joel replies, "that’s no way to welcome back your long-lost husband.” Whereas Joel is enjoyably scuzzy, Joshua is almost dazzlingly pure on KNOTS. Jamie, meanwhile, only appears in the closing moments of this week’s DALLAS and is so shabbily dressed it takes the Ewings a moment to even determine her gender.

    Speaking of FALCON CREST newcomers, Jean-Louis de Bercy, the latest arrival in the Tuscany Valley, pays a visit to Angela this week to present her with a sculpture of a falcon he has carved for her. Angela is characteristically suspicious of new neighbours bearing gifts but accepts it, unaware of the state of the art listening device planted inside. (Ironically, this is the same week that Bobby finally gets the Ewing Oil phone system debugged in DALLAS.) Nor does Angela realise that Jean-Louis is really the father-killing, Nazi-treasure-hunting Gustav Reibmann. There have been Soap Land imposters before — Michael Tyrone alias Michael Edwards on FLAMINGO ROAD, Chip Roberts aka Tony Fenice on KNOTS LANDING — but this is the first time the audience has been in on the deception from the start.

    And this week’s Top 5 … it’s a close run thing but ...

    1 (3) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (-) DYNASTY
    3 (1) DALLAS
    4 (2) FALCON CREST
    5 (-) PAPER DOLLS
     
  10. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    23/Oct/84: PAPER DOLLS: Episode 4 v. 24/Oct/84: DYNASTY: The Rescue v. 25/Oct/84: KNOTS LANDING: Hanging Fire v. 26/Oct/84: DALLAS: Family v. 26/Oct/84: FALCON CREST: Shadows

    This week’s episodes of DYNASTY and KNOTS LANDING both begin where the previous week's ended, on the subject of death. Blake desperately hopes that the burnt body in the Portland morgue isn't Fallon's. Meanwhile, Gary arrives at the marina in time to see a corpse being loaded into a coroner’s wagon and for a moment thinks it might be Abby's. While Gary’s fears prove unfounded, Blake’s hopes are dashed when Fallon’s scorched engagement ring is produced. In lieu of an identifiable body, it assumes the same significance that Jock Ewing’s medallion did in South America — it symbolises death.

    While Abby is happily reunited with her kids at Gary’s ranch, Fallon’s son sits on the Carrington staircase and wonders forlornly if Mommy’s now in Heaven with his puppy. In this scene, Little Blake follows DALLAS’s John Ross and FALCON CREST’s Joseph to become the third Soap Land son born into his respective show to then graduate to a proper speaking role.

    Give or take a summer hiatus, Fallon’s death comes close on the heels of Julia’s on FALCON CREST. Where Julia’s tragedy — both her demise and the events leading up to it — felt somehow inevitable, a symptom of the corruption at the heart of Falcon Crest, Fallon’s remains a mystery. We don’t how or why she ended up in a plane crash with her former fiancee. Nonetheless, following her death Fallon's father is gripped by the same instinct as Julia’s mother was after her’s. "Julia's death would mean something if we could just pull this family together again,” said Angela then. “This terrible loss, maybe it'll help bring the rest of the family together,” says Blake now. Interestingly, where Angela was able to corral the disparate Channings, Cumsons and Giobertis relatively easily, the ostensibly closer knit Carringtons are harder to convince. "I don't consider him family,” says Steven firmly of his brother Adam. Meanwhile, Jeff is angry at Fallon for running off with Peter De Vilbis. "I'll deal with my grief, my feelings, in my own way,” he tells Blake.

    More complicated yet is the relationship between the grieving parents. Alexis is back in jail — a consequence of violating her parole in order to sabotage Blake’s deal in Caracas — when Blake visits her with the news of their daughter’s death. First, she lashes out at him (“You killed her, you killed my baby!”) before collapsing in his arms. Later, during Fallon’s wake, Blake learns that she nixed his deal with Billy Waite. “If I could just forget she’s the mother of my children,” he tells Krystle angrily, “but I can’t, I can’t forget.” Over on KNOTS LANDING, the relationship between Gary and Abby, reunited following her kidnapping, is even more conflicted. “I love you … but as a businesswoman, you represent everything I loathe,” Gary tells Abby. “I can’t stay in this marriage without your trust,” she insists. “Trust?” he laughs. "What are you, nuts?! After all that’s happened, if I trusted you … wouldn’t I deserve your contempt?” “What a love affair,” Abby sighs.

    More screen time is devoted to Fallon’s burial on DYNASTY than any other of Soap Land’s recent plane crash fatalities. The victims of the FALCON CREST crash were swiftly dispatched in a three-way funeral in the season premiere while no such arrangements regarding Mark Graison were even mentioned on DALLAS. Fallon is laid to rest in what appears to be the same Soap Land cemetery as KNOTS LANDING’s Chip a year earlier. Back then, Chip’s sister Angie undercut the solemnity of the occasion by calling him a cheat and a thief at his graveside. Similarly, as Fallon’s coffin is lowered into the ground, Jeff calls her a bitch. Blake may not strike him across the face the way Diana did Angie but he comes pretty close. “You drunken fool! I will not let you desecrate my daughter's funeral!” he snarls at him.

    While the Carringtons and Colbys are still struggling to deal with the consequences of last season’s finale (“What are we going to do?” sobs Alexis; “I don’t know what to do,” admits Blake), the rest of Soap Land is moving forward. A week after being deposed by Lance as the head of the New Globe, FALCON CREST's Richard buys a radio station and invites Maggie to be its star reporter. Likewise, on KNOTS, Gary acquires a cable TV station and invites Abby to run it.

    In order to prove himself worthy of his new position at the Globe, Lance feels the need to get his hands dirty working incognito in the print room. This puts him in a similar position to Lucy Ewing at the Hot Biscuit — where Lucy calls herself Cooper, Lance answers to the name of Harold. Slumming it has a contrasting effect on these two privileged twenty-something heirs. By deliberately flirting with a fellow waitress’s beau in front of her, Lucy behaves more mischievously than we’ve seen her in years, while Lance taking a stand on behalf of a bullied co-worker is the noblest thing we’ve seen him do, well, ever. His transformation from pampered playboy to workers’ champion is as cheesy as it gets, but — hey — I like it.

    Joining Lance on the road to redemption are fellow bad boys Adam Carrington and Greg Sumner, each branded a hero following his rescue of baby Danny and Abby Ewing respectively. (Adam doesn’t go to the same murderous lengths to secure Danny’s release as Greg does Abby's, but he does bind and gag a semi-naked Sammy Jo to a motel bed before making off with her son. The DYNASTY cameras are so impressed by his efforts that they linger on them for almost a full minute.) "I guess I really didn't know you,” a grateful Steven tells his brother after being reunited with his son. “How do you thank a man for saving his wife’s life? … I’ll always be grateful,” Gary tells Greg.

    Random trend of the week: Controversial decisions made by a husband or wife without consulting their partner. On DYNASTY, Blake is angry when he learns that Krystle has fired the majority of their household staff as an economic measure. On KNOTS, Abby is dismayed to discover Gary has sold off almost all the acquisitions she made for Gary Ewing Enterprises for ethical reasons — not only that, but he’s invited Karen to become a fully participating partner in Lotus Point. Over on DALLAS, JR stands by unhappily as Sue Ellen invites Jamie to stay at Southfork. “You’re a Ewing and this is where you belong,” she insists. When challenged by their formidable spouses, Krystle and Gary assert themselves admirably. "Blake, one night some time ago,” Krystle recalls, "you told those people that it was Mrs. Carrington who ran this house and no one else. Well, I did what I had to do.” “I’m going to do business my way,” Gary informs Abby, "fairly, honestly." The fact that JR does not challenge Sue Ellen — his ire is saved for Jamie herself — is interesting: an unspoken acknowledgment that she is mistress of Southfork in Miss Ellie’s absence.

    We learn this week that JR’s cousin Jamie and Val’s cousin Joshua have a lot in common. Each lost their mother at a young age ("Mama died just after I was born,” Joshua tells Val over coffee in her kitchen; "She died when I was five,” Jamie tells Sue Ellen and Donna over lunch at Southfork), each then subsequently developed a close relationship with their father (“It’s been just Papa and me,” says Joshua; "I could never leave my daddy alone,” says Jamie) and each have had an itinerant upbringing because of their father's occupation ("We travelled around a lot ... Papa’s a preacher and I help him,” Joshua explains; “We just kept travelling … Wherever there was oil, that’s where we were,” Jamie recalls).

    A week after Joshua and Jamie, long lost relatives from humble beginnings, turned up unannounced on Ewing doorsteps, Dominique Devereaux inverts the same scenario on DYNASTY. Where Jamie hitchhiked her way from Alaska to Southfork, a chauffeured limousine ferries Dominique to a modest house in a poor neighbourhood. Where the Ewings regarded Jamie’s arrival on the ranch with bemusement, the little kids playing in the street react to Dominique’s appearance with something approaching awe. "Look at the big fancy car! Hey, pretty lady!" one of them calls out excitedly. Where JR momentarily mistook Jamie for a boy, the woman who comes out of the house to see what all the fuss is about exclaims, "For a minute, I thought the President of the United States had decided to visit Northern Colorado!” The woman is Dominique’s Aunt Bessie who hasn’t seen her niece since she was a skinny young girl called Millie Cox. (This means that Dominique, like Lucy on DALLAS, Lance and Gustav Reibmann on FALCON CREST, and possibly Racine on PAPER DOLLS, is hiding behind an alias of sorts.)

    There have been equivalent going-back-to-my-roots scenes before in DALLAS (Pam looking around the house where she was raised by her Aunt Maggie, Ray’s Aunt Lil welcoming him back to his old homestead). However, the reunion between Dominique and Aunt Bessie, with its extravagant dialogue ("What is the single most beautiful word in the English language?” “… Lullaby”), more strongly resembles one of those old Hollywood women’s pictures: one can easily imagine a fur-trimmed Joan Crawford or Barbara Stanwyck revisiting her poverty-stricken past, only this time the scenario is replayed with an entirely black cast.

    This sudden influx of long-lost relatives is interesting enough, but things aren’t necessarily as they appear to be. “I don’t believe for one second that you’re Jason’s daughter,” JR tells Jamie on DALLAS. Val goes one better on KNOTS when she realises Joshua isn’t Lilimae’s nephew after all — but her son. However, it’s Dominique’s revelation that provides Soap Land with its most delicious moment of the week. In the final scene of this episode of DYNASTY she drops by the Carrington mansion, ostensibly to offer her condolences about Fallon, but really to deliver this zinger to Blake: “We have so much in common, our blood, our genes, our daddy.”

    FALCON CREST has a little long-lost relative action of its own, as Chase and Cole hire Joel McCarthy as Falcon Crest’s new transportation manager, unaware that not only is he Terry’s secret husband, but also the man who mugged Maggie in the parking lot of Tuscany Downs earlier in the same episode.

    There’s more parking lot drama at the end of this week’s DALLAS: Pam is startled to see a familiar-looking car parked in front of the Barnes Wentworth building. ”Mark??” she murmurs as the driver pulls away. Only one hour later, FALCON CREST ends with a remarkably similar cliffhanger when an even more familiar-looking face steps out of the vineyard shadows. “”Julia!!” gasps Emma. First Mark, then Julia ... maybe there’s hope for Fallon after all.

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (2) DYNASTY
    3 (4) FALCON CREST
    4 (3) DALLAS
    5 (5) PAPER DOLLS
     
  11. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    30/Oct/84: PAPER DOLLS: Episode 5 v. 31/Oct/84: DYNASTY: The Trial v. 01/Nov/84: KNOTS LANDING: A Little Help v. 02/Nov/84: DALLAS: Shadow of a Doubt v. 02/Nov/84: FALCON CREST: Lord of the Valley

    On this week’s DYNASTY, we hear the name of Blake’s father, Tom Carrington, for the very first time. Like Jock Ewing’s brother Jason, first referenced on DALLAS three weeks ago, he is an integral-but-never-previously-mentioned part of his respective show’s mythology. Tom and Jason both have vaguely disreputable reputations — Jason’s (alleged) daughter Jamie describes him as “a pretty hard drinker” while "Tom Carrington philandered with women all over Colorado,” according to his (alleged) daughter Dominique.

    Over on KNOTS LANDING, Lilimae Clements paints a contrasting picture of her son’s father, Jonathan J. Rush, as harsh, pious and exacting ("I could never live up to his expectations, he always wanted more of me than I could give, more than anyone could give”) while on FALCON CREST we learn that Richard Channing was once married. ("What happened between you and Stephanie?” Pamela Lynch asks him. "The cartel happened,” Richard replies darkly.)

    This week, Richard’s former step-daughter Lorraine becomes the latest Soap Land long lost relative to show up unannounced. He might be surprised to see her and she may have a somewhat idealised view of him, but at least there’s no ambiguity about their family connection, which makes Lorraine something of a novelty amongst this season’s new faces.

    In the same way that Jamie’s keepsake photo of Jason and Jock failed to convince JR of her identity in last week’s DALLAS, Blake is equally unimpressed by Dominique's collection of love notes that were sent from his father to her mother. While Jamie's Alaskan driving licence at least indicates that she is legally a Ewing, Dominique’s birth certificate does nothing to support her claim that she is a Carrington. "That piece of paper simply lists the father as unknown,” she admits, "and it screams to the world that I was born illegitimate.” Meanwhile, on FALCON CREST, Joel McCarthy comes up with a piece of documentation that Terry would dearly love to discount but can’t: proof that they are still married. "Your attorney never bothered to file the final papers,” Joel tells her. "You put your trust in the wrong guy.” Yep, it’s Krystle and Mark Jennings’ non-divorce all over again, only with a better twist: if the truth is revealed, Terry stands to lose the vast fortune she inherited from Michael Ranson, the man she thought she was married to. “You’ve sure taken a big enough bite out of the Ewing apple,” JR tells Jamie after Sue Ellen treats her to some new clothes and a makeover, but that’s nothing compared to how much of Terry’s inheritance Joel plans to devour.

    While Jamie feels rejected by the Ewings (“a family that doesn’t want me”) on DALLAS, KNOTS LANDING’s Joshua is devastated to learn that his mother didn’t die as he had always believed, but instead abandoned him as an infant. Two weeks after arriving in Soap Land, Jamie and Joshua both decide to move on. Sue Ellen persuades Jamie to stay and Val makes a similar appeal to Joshua. “It is beautiful here,” Jamie admits, looking out of her bedroom window at a Southfork-by-night view we aren’t privy to. “Beautiful” is the kind of generic description characters on DALLAS are always giving about Southfork. However, until New DALLAS, it rarely looks especially beautiful on screen. Conversely, the ocean backdrop in the KNOTS scene where Val finds Joshua after he has been out all night really is beautiful. There’s something primal about it too — she finds him on the beach by instinct (“This is where I would have come”), the same way Gary found her after she learned of his affair with Judy Trent in Season 2.

    Of all of Soap Land’s current long lost relative story-lines, Jamie’s feels the most laboured and uninteresting, Dominique’s the most melodramatic and fun ("I am a bastard who started with nothing and I made a fortune, and dammit — I am going to be accepted as a Carrington too!”) and Joshua’s by far the most moving. The scene where Lilimae races to the bus station to stop him leaving town, only see his bus driving away, then realising he has had a last minute change of heart and decided not to leave after all, which leads to a tearful reunion between mother and son, is a variation on the kind of scenario we’ve seen a hundred times in movies and on TV. DYNASTY did their own version on Season 2 when Krystle changed her mind about boarding a plane to Dayton in favour of reconciling with Blake. However, the intensity and sheer presence of Alec Baldwin in the role of sorrowful man-child Joshua elevates this entire storyline to a higher emotional level. He makes Joshua's innocence completely mesmerising, almost otherworldly.

    The main focus of this week’s DYNASTY is Alexis’s murder trial. A year ago, FALCON CREST's Julia and KNOTS LANDING’s Gary were both behind bars on equivalent charges. Where Gary did nothing to defend himself and Julia went so far as to request the death penalty purely to spite her mother, Alexis is also proving to be her own worst enemy — bribing a warder to keep her in creature comforts, arguing with reporters outside the courtroom, shouting at witnesses while they’re on the stand and attempting to manipulate the jury’s sentiments by appointing her firstborn son Adam as her defence counsel.

    There’s an enjoyably twisty courtroom scene where Blake, having been subpoenaed by the prosecution, testifies to his ex-wife's violent nature. When pressed, he says that he believes her to be capable of murder. Cue gasps from the courtroom. However, under cross-examination by Adam, he is forced to concede that "she had no motive” for killing Mark. Having come so close to hammering the final nail into Alexis’s coffin, it looks as if he may yet prove her saviour. The bitter irony is not lost on Krystle. "You're passing judgement on another human being. That's not like you,” Blake gently chides her. “But it is like her, never to be punished for what she does!” insists Krystle.

    Even more twisty is the situation between Greg and Abby on this week’s KNOTS. Where Alexis battled through a crowd of reporters on her way into court, Abby struggles through a crowd of reporters on her way to deliver a statement declaring that Greg’s shooting of Mark St Claire was strictly in self-defence. This is not a charitable act on Abby’s part. Having exonerated Greg — and therefore saved his political career — she intends to continue their quid pro quo relationship. Greg sees the situation differently: now that she has publicly spoken out on his behalf, he has no further use for her and so abruptly severs their association. Abby is as taken aback as Alexis was when Blake wound up testifying in her favour. She then spends the rest of the ep busting some classic soap moves in order to turn the tables on Greg once more.

    This week’s KNOTS also sees the unveiling of the very impressive new Lotus Point office set. (Not only is it everything a Soap Land executive suite should be, but there’s an honest-to-God natural stream running through the reception area!) Just like JR and Bobby at Ewing Oil, bitter adversaries Abby and Karen have been given offices right next door to each other — all the better for barging angrily in and out of. “Abby will not be a problem,” Gary assures Karen with the kind of insane optimism that fuels at least 75% of all Soap Land conflicts. Interestingly enough, DALLAS questions its own unlikely office arrangement this week (“Are you sure it’s worth it, butting heads with JR every day?” Ray asks Bobby) and manages to come up with an impressively plausible justification for it ("I don’t have a choice,” Bobby replies. “I can’t leave Ewing Oil ... It's a trust that Daddy left me, I can't walk away from that").

    Now that Abby and Karen are officially the KNOTS equivalent of the DALLAS Ewing brothers, it’s appropriate that Abby should embark on her most JR-like scheme to date. In the process, she assumes control of TV news station, Pacific World Cable, in the very same week that Richard Channing takes charge of radio news station, KRDC, on FALCON CREST. Abby and Richard each find their existing staff wary of the change in management. While Abby’s new employees are nervous that she’s going to fire them, Richard blithely gives the entire workforce their marching orders.

    For the time being, Abby is less concerned with making her mark on PWC than regaining her leverage with Greg. To that end, she despatches an investigative reporter to dig into the medical history of one Bob Caulfield, Greg’s rival for the state senate. This parallels JR’s targeting of government official Edgar Randolph in last season’s DALLAS. Where JR learned of Edgar’s teenage history of child molestation, Abby discovers that Caulfield underwent electro-shock treatment as a much younger man. While JR blackmailed Edgar directly, threatening to expose his secret unless he did his bidding, Abby’s route is more circuitous. First, she arranges for Caulfield's secret to be “leaked" to the press (overriding her own station manager, Ben Gibson, in the process). Then, having discredited Caulfield in the most ignominious way possible, she then threatens to pin the blame for the leak on Greg unless he falls back into line. In other words, she out-JRs JR.

    This week’s episodes of DALLAS and FALCON CREST start up immediately where last week’s left off, with Pam Ewing and Emma Channing each in a state of high excitement after seeing what appeared to be someone returning from the dead. Both are met with scepticism. “There must be some explanation — why would somebody be driving Mark's car?” asks Pam’s secretary Jackie, while Angela banishes Emma to her room until further notice. Pam spends the rest of this week’s DALLAS trying to get to the bottom of this latest mystery. The further she digs, the stranger things appear. At the end of the episode, during a confrontation with Mark’s lawyer, she reaches a conclusion of sorts: "You're making it sound as though Mark weren't dead, as though he were planning to come back!” Over on FALCON CREST, there’s no doubt that Julia really has come back — she’s even in the opening credits. But where Pam and Emma both struggle to convince people of what they have seen, it emerges on this week’s DYNASTY that Steven Carrington has witnessed something that he can tell no one about. But if Steven can’t speak his secret, how are we the audience to learn of it?

    It’s interesting how often dreams have cropped up in this still new Soap Land season. FALCON CREST's Chase and DYNASTY's Jeff have both been tormented by visions of the previous season's cliffhangers while on last week’s KNOTS, Abby awoke from a dream of her ordeal at the hands of Mark St Claire to be comforted by Gary. In this week’s DYNASTY, for the first time in Soap Land’s history, a nightmare contains crucial plot information as Steven dreams what he cannot say: the sight of Mark Jennings plummeting to his death as Alexis stands on her balcony watching.

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (2) DYNASTY
    3 (3) FALCON CREST
    4 (4) DALLAS
    5 (5) PAPER DOLLS
     
  12. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    07/Nov/84: DYNASTY: The Verdict v. 08/Nov/84: KNOTS LANDING: Ipso Facto v. 09/Nov/84: DALLAS: Homecoming v. 09/Nov/84: FALCON CREST: The Intruder

    In this week’s DYNASTY, Steven Carrington testifies in court that he witnessed Mark Jennings' death at the end of last season. This claim doesn’t quite match up with what we saw on screen at the time, but Alexis’s incredulity at being betrayed by her favourite child (“It's a lie! I didn't do it! Steven, how could you do this to me? I'm your mother!”) is sufficiently entertaining to compensate for any lapse in continuity. Meanwhile, on KNOTS LANDING, Lilimae tells Joshua about a letter she wrote to his father after moving in with Val and Gary. We subsequently learn it was his discovery of this letter that prompted Joshua to track her down. We never saw Lilimae write such a letter of course, but that doesn’t seem too important now — Lilimae isn’t as prominent a KNOTS character as Val or Karen and as such there’s no reason we should be privy to her every move. Over on FALCON CREST, Julia seeks out former lover Lucas and explains how she cheated death during the springhouse fire. (She escaped through a hole in the plot.) However, no mention is made of the human remains found in the ashes that were believed to be hers. Again, we’re happy not to dwell on this omission because the prospect of having Julia back on the show is just such an intriguing one — not only has she returned from the dead but she's still on the run: where on FALCON CREST can she go from here?

    While none of this narrative revisionism is especially troubling for the audience — I doubt I’d have noticed any of these discrepancies as a once-only viewer — Soap Land's characters are less willing to take each other at face value. On DYNASTY, Blake still refuses to acknowledge Dominique as his sister, even as he allows her to bail him out of trouble with a $70,000,000 cheque. On DALLAS, JR remains similarly unwilling to believe that Jamie is Jason’s daughter despite her insider knowledge that Jock’s nickname for his brother was Tumbleweed. Meanwhile, FALCON CREST's Angela Channing becomes the latest Soap Land character to look bemused when a perfect stranger shows up at the door claiming to be a member of the family. “I am Francesca, Francesca Gioberti!” cries an excitable Italian woman, flinging her arms around her. Back on DALLAS, a suspicious Eddie follows Lucy after she leaves her waitressing job at the Hot Biscuit and rumbles her true identity as a Ewing.

    In the midst of all this distrust and talk of impostors, it’s ironic that Miss Ellie should return to DALLAS after what feels like a lengthy absence (in actual fact, her honeymoon lasted the same amount of time as Julia remained dead on FALCON CREST) looking and sounding like an entirely different, much more glamorous person. Ellie Ewing — a character whose appearance was so unchanging it resulted in an unintentional gag in her final episode when her “beautiful” wedding dress proved indistinguishable from almost every outfit she’d worn previously — is completely unrecognisable as Ellie Farlow. This is far by Soap Land’s most conspicuous recast to date. The nearest equivalent is Steven Carrington's on DYNASTY and that transformation was an incorporated into the narrative. When the Carringtons lined up to welcome Steven home, viewers and characters were on the same page. When the Ewings do the same for Mama, we’re not.

    Miss Ellie’s new look aside, this is a strangely minor key installment of DALLAS. The fireworks and dramatic confrontations that led up to Miss Ellie and Clayton's wedding have been replaced by a melancholic resignation at the prospect of their homecoming. “I can’t believe a Farlow’s going to be living here at Southfork,” sighs JR more in sadness than in anger. It’s an intriguing, even brave, tone to adopt for an ep that supposedly heralds the start of a new era for the show — the one where Mr. and Mrs. Clayton Farlow take their places as the new heads of Southfork. Instead of looking forward, the episode winds up looking back to Jock’s glory days as a wildcatter, and by the end of the hour, it’s turned into a roundabout tribute to his enduring strength as a character. “You still live here, Jock. It’s still your house,” Clayton quietly acknowledges. Even the ever gracious, all-new Miss Ellie is not immune to the pervasive sense of anti-climax. Tear your eyes away from that eye-catching bouffant in her final scene and there’s a sad looking woman underneath it, silently disappointed that the big homecoming hasn’t worked out as she’d hoped.

    "My children were born and raised in this house. One of them was buried from this house. Can't you understand what this place means to me?” Blake asked Krystle in a recent episode of DYNASTY. I was reminded of that dialogue during JR and Bobby’s argument over whether Jock’s portrait should be taken down from the wall at Southfork prior to Clayton and Ellie’s return. "I'm not ready to pretend Daddy never existed,” states JR. "Hell, he built this house, he built Ewing Oil, he's the reason the two of us are here ... I'm not going to bury his memory."

    I was always a little resistant to this scene before. To see the Ewing boys arguing over a painting — even one as significant as Jock's — felt somehow un-DALLAS to me. Viewed from post-New DALLAS perspective, however, it’s another scene that has grown in significance. When one thinks of JR's own posthumous portrait hanging at Ewing Global, to see him back when he was fighting to keep his father’s memory alive becomes very poignant. After all these years, I feel as if I've finally grasped what this scene is really about.

    Elsewhere this week, Soap Land stokes the flames of a few long-standing feuds. Steven’s testimony against her on DYNASTY has the effect of making Alexis more vengeful than ever. "I don't forgive my enemies," she informs Blake. "It's not over yet, and it won't be until I've repaid everyone for their treachery ten times over!” Meanwhile, Cliff’s new found success on DALLAS means that he is now in a position to poach key personnel from Ewing Oil. “He’s becoming a monster,” JR warns Bobby. "We’re in a war, buddy, and we’re losing one battle after another." Over on FALCON CREST, in the same week that Angela sues Chase over the wrongful death of her husband, she delivers a great speech to Greg Reardon reiterating her deep-seated resentment at her nephew’s presence in the Tuscany Valley: "Where was he when I was trying to rebuild the vineyards after Prohibition? And where was he when I was trying to pull all of this land together? He didn’t give a damn about Falcon Crest until he learned it was an empire!”

    KNOTS LANDING is seemingly the odd soap out here. It’s the grand opening of Lotus Point this week, which means that, for the first time in ages (Season 4, perhaps?), all of the principle characters are in the same place at the same time. The rarity of such an occasion and the fact that everyone seems to be dreading it (Cathy to Laura: “Who do you least want to run into at this party?” Gary to Abby: “Half our guests are going to be avoiding the other half”) shows how much things have changed since KNOTS' community-spirited days when its characters actively chose to spend time in each other’s company. The gathering gives long-standing adversaries Val and Abby an opportunity to come face to face for the first time since Gary’s funeral but they don’t interact at all, KNOTS having little interest in rehashing old conflicts for the sake of it.

    Except … the long dormant Val/Abby story takes an exciting and unexpected twist at the very end of the episode. By this point, we’ve already been introduced to Pacific World Cable employee PK Kelly. A tomboyish girl reporter nursing a barely concealed crush on Ben Gibson, she wouldn’t be out of place in Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday, while her vocal delivery — all breathy vowels and precise consonants — has always reminded me of Marilyn Monroe’s. I guess Kelly's closest Soap Land contemporary would be Betty, Lucy’s fellow waitress at the Hot Biscuit on DALLAS. As well as being tough-talking but vulnerable working girls, both are tertiary characters on the very outskirts of the drama who nonetheless add a pleasing sense of texture to their respective show. Kelly admits to Ben that she observed him drafting love letters to Val on his word processor. Charmingly antiquated as it now seems, Ben’s rueful observation — “That’s the trouble with these damn computers: everything you type goes on the television” — sounds more pertinent in 2015 than it did in 1984.

    Kelly’s confession is a set up for the scene at the end of the episode when Abby inadvertently happens upon a draft of one of Ben's letters to Val and can’t resist taking a closer look. So it is she discovers that Gary is the father of Val's unborn babies. The resulting freeze frame — Abby’s stunned reaction reflected in Ben's computer screen — is a Soap Land classic. Unsurprisingly, it comes courtesy of my favourite Soap Land director, Larry Elikann.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    13/Nov/84: PAPER DOLLS: Episode 6 v. 14/Nov/84: DYNASTY: Amanda v. 15/Nov/84: KNOTS LANDING: Truth and Consequences v. 16/Nov/84: DALLAS: Oil Baron's Ball III v. 16/Nov/84: FALCON CREST: Pain and Pleasure

    Striding into La Mirage with five luggage-laden bellboys trailing behind her, Dominique Devereaux made an impressively grand entrance at the end of last season's DYNASTY. There's a similar scene at the start of this week’s FALCON CREST when Francesca Gioberti (like Dominique, the illegitimate half-sister of her show’s leading character) sweeps into Angela’s house, but this time it’s staged more as slapstick comedy. Francesca and Chao Li address each other in their own native tongues with neither understanding the other (“Mr Chow Chow Chow!”), while Greg Reardon trips over Francesca's vast array of suitcases and hatboxes when he enters the scene.

    In fact, DYNASTY aside, there is an unusually lightweight feel to much of this week’s Soap Land. While not exactly played for laughs, there’s something of the sitcom about Gary and Val’s continually backfiring attempts to reunite Karen and Mack on KNOTS LANDING, while on DALLAS (where Mandy Winger plays a similarly unsuccessful cupid for Pam and Bobby), Miss Ellie tries to resolve her and Clayton’s marriage problems via the not-terribly-dramatic method of purchasing of new bedroom furniture.

    Meanwhile, the procession of long lost relatives continues. Hot on the heels of Angela Channing's half-sister comes Alexis Colby's secret daughter, Amanda. Like Francesca and the rest of Soap Land’s recent family additions — Joshua Rush, Jamie Ewing, Lorraine Prescott — Amanda’s arrival is unannounced. However, unlike those characters, she doesn’t simply turn up on the doorstep. Instead, she makes a succession of unexplained appearances — one at the prison where Alexis is being held for murder and two inside her penthouse — before her identity is revealed.

    There is an abstract quality to these introductory glimpses of Amanda: we are given no logical explanation as to how she gains entrance to Alexis’s apartment, while the long silent gaze she shares with Dex when they first see each other could be something from a pop video — precisely the kind of pop video we see being filmed during an extended montage sequence in this week’s PAPER DOLLS. The video showcases the future Paige Matheson who, like Amanda, smirks and pouts throughout. Both girls are blonde and youthful (Future Paige’s age is been established as seventeen while Dex describes Amanda as “maybe nineteen, twenty years old”), both are coquettish and haughty by turn.

    Soap Land’s recently departed teenage girls, Diana Fairgate and Vicky Gioberti, were accessible, relatable redheads. Amanda and Future Paige seem to herald a new era of Soap Land princess: blonde, remote, even a little aristocratic (Amanda has a cut glass English accent, Future Paige a glamorous modelling career). Perhaps sensing her time has passed, Soap Land's original spoilt princess, Lucy Ewing, formally abdicates her position on this week’s DALLAS. "I'm not part of that kind of life anymore,” she declares when six-year-old John Ross asks why she isn’t at the Oil Baron’s Ball with the rest of the Ewings. "Things that are important to your mommy and daddy aren't really important to me.” This short scene, distinctively filmed from overhead as the Ewing cousins walk up the Southfork staircase, is Lucy and John Ross's only significant conversation of the original DALLAS series, and it makes a nice companion piece to their fascinating restaurant scene in New DALLAS. Meanwhile, Ray and Donna’s roles as wry observers at the Oil Baron’s Ball ("Just liable to have a big brawl like last year,” says Ray of the Barnes and the Ewings; “Bite your tongue, Ray Krebbs,” mock-chides Donna) anticipates Ray and Lucy’s similar function at New DALLAS’s family gatherings.

    What with the Oil Baron’s Ball in this week’s DALLAS and the grand opening of Lotus Point in last week’s KNOTS, it seems to be party season in Soap Land once again. FALCON CREST joins in the celebrations with Jean-Louis De Bercy’s housewarming soiree to mark his arrival in the Tuscany Valley. In the same way that the Lotus Point gathering was regarded as an obligatory function no one really wanted to go to, there is a fair amount of scepticism about the De Bercy bash. "That man has no business living in this valley,” sniffs Angela. "I think I’m going to be busy that day." There is no such negativity about the Oil Baron’s Ball, with all the DALLAS characters save Lucy happy to attend. The closest the episode gets to displaying any cynicism about the party is Cliff Barnes accepting an invitation to sit at Jeremy Wendell’s table in order to make the rest of the oil community envious.

    One of the few FALCON CREST characters excited about Jean-Louis’s gathering is newcomer Lorraine Prescott. (“It’s the biggest party of the year!” she exclaims.) However, step-father Richard is determined to keep her away from his enemies at Falcon Crest and refuses to let her attend. Lorraine is so upset that she decides to leave the Tuscany Valley altogether. This leads to an emotional airport confrontation between her and Richard, and at the last minute Lorraine has a change of heart about leaving. The scene is reminiscent of the bus station reconciliation between Joshua and Lilimae on KNOTS a few weeks ago. In both cases, it becomes apparent that the older character (Lilimae, Richard) regards this second chance at parenthood as a way of redeeming themselves for past mistakes. “You could help make me a better person … I need you,” Richard tells his step-daughter.

    Both of this week’s Soap Land parties contains an instance of “attraction at first sight” — but whereas JR Ewing’s fascination with Mandy Winger is dealt with discreetly (he does not approach her, but merely admires her across a crowded ballroom and then eavesdrops on her conversation with Pam), Richard Channing’s interest in Francesca Gioberti, aka the new one-third owner of Falcon Crest, could not be more blatant, and the episode concludes with the rest of the characters watching as he takes her in his arms and waltzes her around the dance floor.

    KNOTS LANDING’s Joshua and DALLAS's Jamie each receives a job offer this week from an unexpected source - Abby and JR respectively. The position JR suggests to Jamie, as an assistant with an oil company in East Texas, would necessitate her leaving Southfork and possibly Dallas itself. Conversely, Abby’s offer to Joshua, that of a runner at her cable news station, places him right at the heart of the KNOTS action. While Sue Ellen nixes JR’s attempt to ship Jamie off the show, Val frets over Abby’s motives for wanting to move Joshua centre stage. Lilimae, on the other hand, is so impressed by Abby’s apparent magnanimity that she decides to forgive her and Gary their past indiscretions, thereby bringing two seasons’ worth of hostility to an end.

    Over on DYNASTY, there’s a striking resemblance between Hal Lombard, the sleazy Southern businessman presently being courted by both Blake and Steven (on behalf of Denver Carrington and Colby Co respectively), and Gil Thurman, the sleazy Southern businessman courted by both JR and Cliff on DALLAS two years earlier. In the same way that Thurman’s Texas refinery was so important to JR and Cliff for a combination of personal and business reasons, so Lombard’s Texas oilfield represents more than just another deal for the two Carrington men. To Blake, it is his first step in rebuilding his empire while for Steven, it’s an attempt to make amends to his mother, currently languishing in prison following his testimony against her in court.

    Whereas JR and Cliff behaved with characteristic animosity towards each other (“Nothing would give me more pleasure than to kick JR's butt”), Blake and Steven each take the high road. "There is nothing personal, nothing hostile in my trying to get that field,” Steven assures his father. "I accept that,” replies Blake. "That shouldn't stop us from loving each other."

    As for Hal Lombard, he is less interested in the deal itself with than in any fringe benefits that go along with it — just as Gil Thurman was. Whereas JR tried to charm Thurman by inviting him to dinner at Sue Ellen’s townhouse, Blake goes one better and invites Lombard to stay at his mansion. And in the same way that Sue Ellen reacted angrily when Thurman made a pass at her, a heavily pregnant Krystle is equally outraged when Lombard propositions her. However, it’s interesting to note that while JR immediately set about soothing Sue Ellen’s hurt feelings even as his deal went up in smoke, Blake is less sensitive towards Krystle, who is shocked when he continues to deal with Lombard. When he offers Lombard a share of the China Sea leases to sweeten the deal, it looks as if Blake has gained the edge over Colby Co's bid — but when Krystle snubs Lombard again, he storms off in a huff after telling Blake to forget the deal. Blake blames his wife. "I'm afraid we're in for a very stormy time ahead," he tells her ominously.

    In the best scene of this week’s KNOTS LANDING, Greg Sumner and wife Jane return to his hotel suite after his senatorial victory. All is calm until his security team leave and then Greg erupts with triumph: “Washington DC! The senate! The United States senate! I am in the club!" But then he is completely wrong-footed when Jane asks for a divorce. The scene is strongly reminiscent of the one at the beginning of this season's DALLAS in which Cliff Barnes returned to his apartment with a bottle of champagne after striking it rich to find Afton with her bags packed. Jane Sumner and Afton Cooper — two long-suffering, supportive women who decide to leave their man just as he reaches the pinnacle of his career. “Who needs her?” muttered Cliff to an empty apartment as a way of masking his pain after Afton had gone. Once he has recovered from the initial shock, Greg reacts similarly. “I’ll be leaving in the morning,” Jane tells him. “Why wait?” he replies before calling the front desk to say that she’ll be checking out immediately.

    This week’s KNOTS and DALLAS end similarly — each with a freeze frame of a central female character in the midst of a celebration fretting about an ongoing love triangle. Abby broods about Gary and Val’s unborn child during Greg’s victory party in the closing moments of KNOTS, while DALLAS ends with Pam looking crestfallen after JR announces Bobby and Jenna’s engagement at the Oil Baron’s Ball.

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

    1 (3) DYNASTY
    2 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (2) DALLAS
    4 (4) FALCON CREST
    5 (-) PAPER DOLLS
     
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  14. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    20/Nov/84: PAPER DOLLS: Episode 7 v. 21/Nov/84: DYNASTY: The Secret v. 22/Nov/84: KNOTS LANDING: Love to Take You Home v. 23/Nov/84: DALLAS: Shadows v. 23/Nov/84: FALCON CREST: The Trump Card

    "I've called the wrong woman mother for my entire life! You’re my mother! Don't you have anything to say to me?” That's the rather wonderful opening line, delivered by Amanda Bedford, née Carrington, to Alexis on this week’s DYNASTY. Over on KNOTS LANDING, Joshua Rush is just as angry at his father Jonathan J. Rush (aka Special Guest Star Gil Thurman) for deceiving him about his mother’s identity for his entire life. "You kept the truth from me!” he shouts. "I was protecting you,” Jonathan insists. Alexis defends herself similarly. "I know what scandal can do,” she tells Amanda. "I wanted to prevent that from happening to you.”

    "I was so sure of who I was and what I wanted,” Amanda continues, "and then in just one moment, I became someone else. Amanda Bedford ceased to exist.” "It was a shock to me to find out that I was … not who I thought I was,” echoes Francesca Gioberti on this week’s FALCON CREST. "I can’t help feeling that Jasper Gioberti cheated me out of a part of my life.” Meanwhile back on KNOTS, in a profoundly moving sequence, Joshua undergoes an identity crisis right in front of our eyes. “It’s all a lie,” he weeps, “my whole life. I don’t know what I’ve done that was good or that was bad. I don’t know if I’ve ever been right. I don’t know what is right.”

    A common theme in Soap Land’s current spate of "long lost relative” storylines, of which there are several, is a fear that the new character will fall prey to undesirable influences. “She’ll corrupt you,” predicts Joshua’s father on KNOTS, referring to Lilimae. Meanwhile, FALCON CREST's Richard Channing is uneasy about the developing relationship between step-daughter Lorraine and Lance Cumson. “I want you to watch her night and day,” he instructs his assistant Pamela. There again, Lance’s grandmother doesn’t approve of her new half-sister Francesca getting involved with Richard either. “Angela warned me about you,” purrs Francesca. Back on DYNASTY, Alexis is eager to keep Amanda away from Blake. "I'm not going to let you take her away from me,” she vows to him at the end of this week's episode, "not this child!”

    The exceptions to this rule are DYNASTY’s Dominique and DALLAS’s Jamie. Far from feeling protective of his apparent half-sister, Blake goes so far as to actively encourages Dominique to renew her acquaintance with the nefarious Rashid Ahmed in order secure a public apology from him. "Then will you finally trust me, Blake?” she asks. "Will you admit that I am your sister?” Over on DALLAS, Jamie is less in danger of being corrupted by the Texas Ewings than of being bored to death by them. “I'm getting kind of tired of wandering about through shops and malls and hair salons every day,” she complains to Sue Ellen. "I want more in my life than that!” This is the most insistent Jamie has been since showing up at the beginning of the season. Soap Land’s other recent twenty-something arrivals - KNOTS' Joshua and FALCON CREST’s Lorraine - have been similarly undemanding, humbly asking for little more than to be accepted by their new families. DYNASTY’s Amanda proves far more rebellious in her second ep, earning herself a slap in the face and a "You little bitch!” from Alexis when she leaks the truth of their relationship to the press.

    Even as Amanda’s identity as "ALEXIS COLBY'S SECRET REVELATION” becomes front page news, the name of her father remains a mystery. Blake's surprise when he first meets her that she is older than he was expecting parallels Miss Ellie’s in DALLAS a few weeks ago that Jamie should be so young. Whereas Jamie’s youth served to cast further doubt (if only momentarily) that she was really Jason’s daughter, Amanda’s age leads Blake to suspect she might be his own. After so much such suspicion exhibited towards Soap Land’s other recent family additions — JR’s hostility towards Jamie, Lilimae’s initial coldness towards Joshua, etc., — there’s something touching about Blake’s eagerness to claim Amanda as his child. His scepticism over Alexis’s claim that Amanda was the result of a brief fling with a ski instructor in Gstaad leads to a classic DYNASTY exchange. Blake: "There was no ski instructor." Alexis: "There were many ski instructors." Blake: "I'll bet there were!”

    The weighty significance of fathers is a recurring Soap Land theme, particularly in this week’s episodes. As well as Blake and Amanda getting to know each other on DYNASTY, there’s Jonathan and Joshua working out their issues on KNOTS. Meanwhile FALCON CREST's Maggie is moved to learn that the biological father she never knew was a World War II soldier killed in action and on DALLAS, Miss Ellie makes the controversial decision to remove Jock’s portrait from Southfork living room at the same time as assuring her boys that, “Your daddy is in every shadow of this house.”

    Ordinarily the epitome of effortless leadership, Miss Ellie has been undergoing a period of transition of late as she adjusts to her life as a newlywed while still living with her previous husband’s children at Southfork. This has resulted in her being wrong-footed in almost every scene. Confusingly, it’s also coincided with Donna Reed taking over the role as Ellie. I’ve always been very critical about Reed’s acting but now I can see that she conveys her character’s indecision and insecurity very well. So why does her presence still seem so odd? I think it’s to do with scale. What Reed is delivering, if one can get past the distractingly glamorous hairdo and designer dresses, is quite a subtle, nuanced performance — one that DALLAS itself, now that Bradford May’s triumphant stint as Director of Photography is over and the show has reverted to a more generic look and feel, isn’t fully equipped to capture. It’s as if the rhythms of the programme and actress are slightly out of sync.

    By contrast, on this week’s KNOTS, the acting, writing, camera work and music are all working in perfect unison. In one scene, Karen finds Mack, from whom she is still estranged, sitting on the rocks by the sea. For some reason, she brings a coffee pot along with her and tries to refill his cup but he won’t let her. It’s a small, seemingly incidental detail that somehow says so much. On DALLAS, such lower key moments — such as the subtleties of Donna Reed’s acting — tend to get lost in the shuffle. DYNASTY may not be quite so artful as KNOTS but the pull of the action, the swell of music, the boldness of the acting and camera work all feel like they're driving in the same direction.

    While Ellie's removal of Jock’s portrait becomes a major plot point on this week’s DALLAS, a framed photograph of another dead husband, Peter De Vilbis, conveniently displayed on a hotel room dresser, enables us to learn the secret identity of Jeff Colby’s latest squeeze, Nicole Simpson, on this week’s DYNASTY. Peter’s Euro-trash contemporary from last season, DALLAS’s Naldo Marchetta, also resurfaces this week. He claims that he wants to become part of his daughter Charlie’s life — but what’s he really after? Similarly, Nicole’s true motivations for insinuating herself with Jeff have yet to be revealed.

    This DYNASTY episode also introduces us to Soap Land’s latest PR guy, Luke Fuller. Whether he’ll turn out to be as duplicitous as his publicist predecessors — Leslie Stewart, Chip Roberts, Tracy Kendall — remains to be seen. He seems to possess the same unnerving eager-to-please preppy quality as Chip, and Claudia, who walks into her bisexual husband's office to find Luke straightening his tie, is already a little wary of him.

    In the same week that Mimi Rodgers suffers an abduction-induced miscarriage on PAPER DOLLS, radiant mothers-to-be Krystle Carrington and Val Ewing are each shown undergoing what appears to be a routine medical check up. Both about seven months pregnant, both are assured by their doctors that they and their babies are perfectly healthy. Nevertheless, each scene results in a sense of impending doom. In spite of her doctor’s blessing, Blake will not contemplate the idea of Krystle returning to work for the remainder of her pregnancy. "Krystle, darling,” he reasons, "in two months we'll be holding the most precious gift that could be given to us — a new life. Now is it too much to ask that you wait those two months?" "Two months - I wonder what could happen to us in two months?” broods Krystle portentously. The way the background music swells around her and the screen then fades to black suggests that whatever is going to happen, it won’t be good. Meanwhile, it’s only after Val has left her doctor’s office with some new medication that we glimpse his face and realise we’ve seen him before — lunching with Abby’s sinister associate Scott Easton earlier in the same episode. (We’ve also seen him several times on DALLAS as JR’s banker, but that’s another story.) We then see hear him on the phone to Easton. “It’s taken care of,” he tells him enigmatically. "I’d say two to three days at the most.” Again, we don’t know exactly what’s going on, but with the creepy doctor landing the final shot of the episode, there’s clearly something looming menacingly on the horizon.

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

    1 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (1) DYNASTY
    3 (5) PAPER DOLLS
    4 (4) FALCON CREST
    5 (3) DALLAS
     
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  15. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    27/Nov/84: PAPER DOLLS: Episode 8 v. 28/Nov/84: DYNASTY: Domestic Intrigue v. 29/Nov/84: KNOTS LANDING: Tomorrow Never Knows v. 30/Nov/84: DALLAS: Charlie v. 30/Nov/84: FALCON CREST: Tarantella

    After a slowish start, PAPER DOLLS gets spicier this week, shedding some of its more vanilla characters in the process. There are some wonderfully overripe one-liners, all of them delivered with relish by Morgan Fairchild’s Racine: “Darling, a little piece of advice for the future — when a lady has a hot tub in her bedroom, it is not Mother Teresa’s apartment,” she purrs at a lover who has mistaken their fling for something more serious. “The only time I’ve ever seen you well-dressed is when you’re naked,” she coos at a neophyte male model before giving him a Jamie Ewing-style makeover. “In this town, the only way you get fed is if you look like you’re not hungry,” she continues — her appearances-are-everything lecture resembling the one Fallon gave to Krystle back in DYNASTY Season 1 (“The poor cut back in hard times, that’s why they’re poor. The rich know that’s the time to spend.”).

    PAPER DOLLS is at its best when it portrays the fashion world as a cut-throat one in which only the tough and the beautiful survive. The closer it gets to depicting what models actually do, however, the duller it becomes. Each episode contains a sub-MTV montage or two where pretty young people pose for the cameras while poor imitations of contemporary pop hits play in the background. During these interludes, the show's dramatic momentum invariably grinds to a halt.

    Whereas the real life US Navy proved too lumbering and monolithic for EMERALD POINT NAS to squeeze much excitement out of, PAPER DOLLS suffers the same problem in reverse: the world of modelling and fashion is too ephemeral and transitory to be pinned down dramatically (as everyone from Aaron Spelling to Robert Altman also discovered). Popular music might be similarly intangible and fast-moving, but one of the many impressive things about twenty-first-century super-soap EMPIRE is how fearlessly it has folded the mythologies and cliches of the record industry — hip-hop especially — into its narrative.

    Other highlights from this week’s PAPER DOLLS: We learn that the most wholesome and innocent young model on the show has, somewhat inevitably, acquired an obsessed fan — one who has the most impressive photo-based shrine to his beloved since Roger Larsen’s to Lucy on DALLAS. And this ep of PD ends with the grandest Soap Land entrance since Dominique Devereaux's on DYNASTY. Lauren Hutton’s similarly French-sounding Colette Ferrier emerges from the shadows of Lloyd Bridges’ office in an Alexis Carrington-style veiled hat. It’s a quintessential soap moment and, as was the case with Dominique, the fact that we know neither who this woman is nor what she wants doesn’t detract from it at all.

    At first glance, DYNASTY's Dex and DALLAS’s Clayton don’t have much in common as characters, but they find themselves in similar situations this season. Each is an alpha male whose attempts to assert himself in his romantic relationship are continually thwarted. On DYNASTY, Alexis is too preoccupied with errant daughter Amanda to respond to Dex's amorous advances. On DALLAS, in spite of Miss Ellie's best efforts, Clayton still feels like an outsider at Southfork. This week, their frustrations result in both men making similarly inappropriate threats to a much younger woman. "You should have your bottom smacked,” Dex tells a smirky Amanda after an argument with her mother. “If you don’t think I won’t turn you over my knee and paddle you, you’re very wrong,” Clayton informs a truculent Lucy in an attempt to establish some authority over his wife’s family.

    The drastic measures taken by Blake Carrington towards Rashid Ahmed in this week’s DYNASTY strongly echo those of Bobby Ewing towards commissioner George Hicks in DALLAS Season 5. Whereas Bobby paid a hooker to plant cocaine in Hicks’s apartment so that he could then blackmail him into voting against JR’s oil variance, Blake has Dominique secrete heroin in Rashid’s villa in Istanbul in order to force a signature out of him that will clear Blake’s name. Pam and Krystle’s reactions are word-for-word identical when they find out what their men have been up to. “You’re not the man I married,” they tell their husbands. "How much money do we all need?" Pam asked Bobby back then; "How many millions do you need?" Krystle asks Blake now. Both men insist that they’re fighting not for money but something nobler (“There were reasons,” Bobby insists. "I never meant for it happen that way," Blake protests), but their wives aren't buying these moral rationalisations. "You would do anything to beat JR and get the company — anything!” Pam told Bobby. "All I know is that a man is dead ... because of you!” Krystle tells Blake.

    Just as Pam barely had time to absorb the discovery of Bobby’s blackmail before being hit by the news of her mother’s fatal plane crash so Krystle’s distress at Blake’s blackmail is followed immediately by her fall down the stairs of the Carrington mansion while heavily pregnant.

    Storylines colliding (Rashid dying in Istanbul, Krystle falling down the stairs in Denver), events spiralling out of control (Rashid’s unnecessary death in a police shoot-out echoing the circumstances leading to the supposed death of his FALCON CREST wife Julia last season) — this is the stuff that thrilling soap climaxes are made of. On this occasion, however, the execution lacks a little something. I’d have liked bigger close-ups and crazier camera angles. Had my favourite Soap Land director Larry Elikann been in charge, in other words, this week’s DYNASTY could have been an off-kilter classic.

    As it is, Krystle's tumble downstairs is shown in all its stuntwoman glory but lacks the shock and immediacy of Maggie Gioberti's comparatively modest fall down her sister Terry’s flight of stairs in last season's FALCON CREST. One of the best scenes of this week’s FC takes place on the same staircase where a frightened Terry pulls a gun on what she believes to be her unstable ex-husband Joel — but instead, she comes dangerously close to shooting Richard Channing. It’s a tense and atmospheric scene which also marks an unexpected shift in Terry and Richard’s relationship from adversarial towards something more intimate.

    Ironically, in the same week that Krystle’s disapproval of Blake’s dubious business methods leads to a crisis in their marriage on DYNASTY, Karen is reconciled with Mack on KNOTS LANDING, having finally come to terms with his dubious business methods. “I know how important your work is to you,” she tells him. "I know that if you’re going be true to yourself and true to that work then sometimes there’s going to be some danger and you’re not going to run from it. That’s what makes you so good at what you do. I don’t want to take that away from you." Not that everything in the Mackenzie garden is rosy, however. Karen neglects to mention that she is dying. As a result, the post-coital bed scene following their reunion takes on an aura of wistful romantic sadness similar to the one between Pam and a terminally ill Mark Graison at the end of last season’s DALLAS. "Let's make this a perfect night. In everyone's life, there should be one perfect night,” whispered Mark to Pam. “I just wish this moment could last forever,” whispers a weepy Karen to Mack.

    Like DYNASTY, this week’s KNOTS also features a heavily pregnant blonde woman in physical danger, but again the atmosphere is very different. With Val following her creepy doctor’s instructions to eat to the point of discomfort, unaware that she is thereby inducing a premature labour, it feels like we’re entering body-horror territory. By the time she gives birth on the operating table under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs and surrounded by sinister medical staff and wonky camera effects, we could be watching a TV remake of ROSEMARY’S BABY. At the end of the episode, when Abby receives an anonymous middle-of-the-night phone call implicating her in the unknown fate of Val’s babies, the tone has shifted again, this time to that of a conspiracy thriller.

    In an episode full of eerie moments, one of the oddest occurs when Val, upon the start of her contractions, tries to reach Lilimae and Joshua by calling the club where they are watching Cathy perform. However, the sound of her voice is drowned out by Cathy singing, of all things, “Hole in My Heart” — almost as if Ciji were reaching out from beyond the grave to take one last act of revenge against Val in her hour of need. With Dominique busy doing Blake’s bidding in Istanbul, Cathy has no competition in the Soap Land chanteuse stakes this week. Instead, FALCON CREST gives us a tarantella — a gloriously mad dance performed by Francesca Gioberti, as the rest of the show's characters look on in slack-jawed amazement. This isn’t Soap Land's first show-stopping dance routine — DYNASTY’s Sammy Jo, FLAMINGO ROAD’s Christie and EMERALD POINT's Hilary have all gyrated provocatively in the past — but Francesca’s tarantella ("an old festive dance, originally said to be the cure for the sting of a tarantula") is something else altogether. Instead of sexy mischievousness, Francesca’s performance is fuelled by righteous anger. "You are the tarantulas who made me sick and sad with your poison and your plots! I am ashamed!” she explains to her audience at the end of the dance. “I have now danced away the poison!"

    As longstanding Soap Land viewers, we now expect the inhabitants of FALCON CREST (as well as the other soaps) to backstab and scheme against each other, but Francesca - an unsuspecting newcomer - does not. As such, she provides an outsider's perspective that reminds us how outrageous we once found these characters. Interestingly, there’s an equivalent scene in this week’s KNOTS LANDING. Instead of the naive Francesca, however, it falls to streetwise Mack Mackenzie to offer the outsider’s viewpoint (even though he's now been a regular character for over two seasons) and in place of a publicly performed tarantella, his outburst takes the form of an exasperated rant in the privacy of his station wagon: “I should have taken French in school: cul-de-sac — dead end. I should have known. Everyone in there’s a basket case … I’ve had it! To hell with them! I’m getting the hell out of all their lives!"

    The depiction of Francesca as a literal "innocent abroad” is in contrast to Soap Land’s customary portrayal of characters with foreign accents as untrustworthy and opportunistic. For example, on this week’s DALLAS, Bobby refuses to believe that Naldo Marchetta’s newfound interest in his daughter Charlie could possibly be genuine. "He’s supported himself his entire life convincing people that he’s sincere,” he reminds Jenna. “You are a disgrace to your sex and your countrymen,” Alexis informs Rashid Ahmed, another dodgy foreigner, in this week’s DYNASTY shortly he double-crosses the Carringtons one last time — after signing the confession exonerating Blake, he pulls a gun on Adam and makes a dash for freedom. "Don't be a fool! You'll never get away, Ahmed!" Adam shouts, and so it proves when Rashid is shot and killed before he can reach his helicopter. And on the subject of racial stereotyping, it’s notable that the last thing KNOTS LANDING’s Val sees on the operating table before she succumbs to the anaesthetic and her nightmare begins is a pair of Asian eyes looking down at her from behind a surgical mask — silent, inscrutable, sinister, other.

    After learning that Naldo is her real father, DALLAS’s Charlie runs away from home. "I didn’t know what to think except that somebody I’d never heard of before was really my daddy,” she later explains. "It’s funny to have a father and not even know who he is.” Her experience echoes that of Amanda Carrington on DYNASTY. "I never really had a father,” she tells Blake this week. "It’s such a terrible feeling to think you know who you are and then to find out you’re not that person at all. It’s like looking in a mirror and all at once not seeing your face but somebody else’s."

    A missing child is every parent’s nightmare and so the distress of Jenna — a single parent with a full-time job — over Charlie's disappearance should feel very relatable. However, DALLAS’s shiny glamour — more extreme this season than ever before — works against the drama in this case. Jenna’s expertly coiffed hair, immaculate makeup and designer outfit all serve to distance us from whatever she is feeling.

    KNOTS has upped its glamour quotient this season too (as tacitly acknowledged by Mack when he told Karen a couple of weeks ago: “You look good in a hat”) yet somehow it manages to retain its believability during its own child-related drama this week. Val, alone in the house, goes into premature labour unexpectedly. Her hair and makeup are no less perfect than Jenna’s, but her pain and fear feel much more real. The way she braces herself against the pain of her contractions by putting her legs up on a table, knees apart, gives the scenario an earthiness you’d be hard-pressed to find in any of the other soaps. In fairness to DALLAS, other scenes in this week’s ep strike a more successful balance between the everyday and the outlandish (Donna complaining about Ray’s outdated views on the man/woman relationship while standing in front of her ten million dollar oil well; Lucy fighting with Eddie when she realises he knew that she was a Ewing before he took her to bed).

    While Bobby and Jenna’s fears that Charlie has been abducted ultimately prove unfounded on DALLAS and a huge question mark now looms over the whereabouts of Val’s babies on KNOTS, by far the most wonderfully bonkers kidnapping of the week takes place on FALCON CREST when Julia — an escaped killer whom everyone believes is dead — is snatched by Johann Reibman — the murderous son of a Nazi war criminal whom everyone believes is an antiques dealer.

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (4) FALCON CREST
    3 (3) PAPER DOLLS
    4 (2) DYNASTY
    5 (5) DALLAS
     
  16. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    04/Dec/84: PAPER DOLLS: Episode 9 v. 05/Dec/84: DYNASTY: Krystina v. 06/Dec/84: KNOTS LANDING: We Come Together v. 07/Dec/84: DALLAS: Barbecue Five v. 07/Dec/84: FALCON CREST: Going Once, Going Twice

    A week after Val Ewing was delivered of twins on KNOTS LANDING, DYNASTY’s Krystle gives birth to a daughter in the main bedroom of the Carrington mansion. Like nearly all Soap Land newborns, Val’s and Krystle’s offspring are born approximately two months premature. What makes Val’s situation unique is that her babies mysteriously vanished as soon as they were born; the distinctive feature of Krystle’s delivery, meanwhile, is that it is Soap Land’s first home birth. The closest we’ve come previously was when Richard Avery delivered Laura’s baby in the back of a car on KNOTS two years earlier. These conditions are far less cramped — plus Blake has a couple of servants and a daughter-in-law to handle the really messy stuff. Nonetheless, like John Ross Ewing III, Joseph Agretti Cumson and Blake Carrington Colby before her, Blake and Krystle's baby is born with serious health complications and much of the episode’s subsequent action unfolds at Soap Land Memorial Hospital — which is where this week’s KNOTS LANDING also commences.

    While Blake quietly paces the waiting room floor — in-between exchanging harsh words with Alexis and being sweetly comforted by Amanda (the touchingly tentative nature of Blake and Amanda’s relationship has so far been the big surprise of my re-re-watch of DYNASTY Season 5) — things are more visceral on KNOTS. Lilimae’s cries of despair when she hears that Val’s babies are dead echo Val’s own hysteria when she was informed of Gary’s murder near the end of last season. That both Gary and the twins later turn out to be alive in no way diminishes the force of the characters’ grief in the present. There’s also an excruciatingly ironic waiting room moment on KNOTS where Gary sensitively consoles Ben on the loss of his children; what Ben (and the viewers) know, but Gary doesn’t, is that Gary himself is the true father of the supposedly dead babies.

    The centrepiece of this week’s DYNASTY is the scene where Krystle visits her baby daughter in an incubator and recounts a dream she had the night before about a girl she used to know called Krystina, who once saved her life as a child. She then decides to name the baby in Krystina's honour. Fellow new mother Val dreams in her hospital bed too — reliving the moment when her children were born and she heard them crying. As this contradicts the hospital staff’s account that the babies were stillborn, no one believes Val’s insistent claims that she heard them cry.

    Val consequently joins DALLAS's Pam and FALCON CREST’s Emma as the third Soap Land character presently unable to convince anyone else that someone believed dead is still alive. Karen Mackenzie’s expression of dubious concern as Val talks about her babies matches Miss Ellie's when Pam speaks of Mark Graison staging his own death on this week’s DALLAS.

    Undeterred, Pam consults a psychic, Lydia, about Mark’s whereabouts. Lydia’s conclusion is carefully worded: "There's only one thing you really want to know. You want to know if the man you love is coming back into your life. He never meant to hurt you. He felt he needed to get away from you for your own good ... He'll becoming back into your life.” Pam assumes she is talking about Mark, but Lydia's words are equally applicable to Pam's ex-husband Bobby. A similar ambiguity occurred when Blake enlisted a medium named Dehner to locate his missing son Steven on DYNASTY two seasons ago. Dehner said that he sensed the presence of someone who was alive, blind and covered in cloth — a description fitting both Steven, then undergoing plastic surgery in Hong Kong, and his newborn son Danny, whose existence Blake had yet to learn of.

    In both cases — as well as that of Adriana the fortune teller from DYNASTY’s second season who predicted Cecil Colby’s death — the psychic is portrayed as having a genuine gift. While such scenes exist more as a dramatic device to foreshadow future events than as a serious exploration of the supernatural, they nevertheless suggest that in Soap Land, all things are possible — this is a world in which the future can be predicted, the dead can rise and characters can return from overseas having completely altered their appearance.

    The most intriguing aspect of DYNASTY at present is what one might call "the Luke Fuller effect”. With his good looks, solemn geekiness and sweater vests, Luke mostly resembles a Tiger Beat version of KNOTS LANDING’s Ben. A seemingly minor character, we know nothing about him thus far beyond his conscientious work ethic. Any secret ambitions or desires he may harbour have yet to be determined. Yet his prettiness and proximity to Steven are enough to send Steven and Claudia’s marriage into a tailspin. Despite Steven's protests to the contrary, both he and Claudia behave as if an affair between the two men were an inevitability, an impending iceberg that the ship of their marriage cannot possibly avoid, and this week Claudia effectively throws herself overboard by jumping into bed with another man.

    Luke’s looks may not have been objectified in the same way as Peter Richards’ were on last season’s DALLAS — where Peter was poured into a tiny pair of speedos almost immediately, Luke has remained fully dressed throughout his first four episodes. Nonetheless his effect on Steven is similar to Peter’s on Sue Ellen. Where Sue Ellen found herself gazing longingly at young couples canoodling in a park, Steven finds himself staring meaningfully at his own bare-chested reflection in a hotel room mirror while on a business trip with Luke. The silent suggestion in both cases is of long dormant desires being reluctantly awakened.

    As Luke, Bill Campbell doesn’t possess quite the same magnetism as Alec Baldwin does as Joshua on KNOTS. Without appearing to say or do anything at all, Baldwin commands the viewer’s attention whenever he appears on screen. Nonetheless, there’s a similarly unnerving stillness (or blankness) about Luke. And like both Joshua and Peter Richards, he is presented as a sexual innocent. Unlike Mandy Winger on this week’s DALLAS (“I’ve always known I was beautiful,” she tells JR matter-of-factly, “that’s the reason men come onto me”), he seems completely unaware of his own power.

    Last week’s DYNASTY and DALLAS were notable for the fact that each of their respective antagonists, Alexis and JR, took an uncharacteristic backseat to the main action. With Krystle’s baby drama and Bobby and Jenna’s problems with Naldo taking centre-stage this week, both continue to keep a relatively low profile. In fact, it is JR’s absence from his office (while he is off wooing Mandy Winger) that triggers the feud between Jamie Ewing and Marilee Stone which leads first to an altercation between the two women at the Southfork barbecue and then to a bitter showdown between Jamie and JR where he once again challenges her status as a Ewing. Thus provoked, Jamie produces a fifty year-old agreement between the Ewing brothers and Digger that appears to divide the ownership of Ewing Oil three ways. As one such story-line commences on DALLAS, another concludes on FALCON CREST. Instead of long-lost cousin Jamie, it is long-lost sister Francesca who lays claim to a third of the family business via a never-before-seen-but-valid legal document While this week’s DALLAS ends with Bobby and JR hearing that they may have to share a piece of Ewing Oil with their arch enemy Cliff Barnes, FC goes out on the bombshell that Francesca has sold a third of Falcon Crest to Angela and Chase's arch enemy Richard Channing.

    In contrast to JR and Alexis’s lack of screen time, their KNOTS LANDING counterpart, Abby, features prominently in this week’s ep. For once, however, she has not instigated the drama but is trying frantically to unravel it. In her attempt to get to the bottom of the disappearance of Val’s babies, she uncovers another disappearance — that of her own attorney, Scott Easton, who appears to have literally vanished in mid-air. I’m not sure why exactly, but there’s something profoundly satisfying in seeing Abby, never more rich and powerful than she is this season, scrambling desperately to get Easton’s secretary to even take her calls over the Thanksgiving weekend. For all her customary power and resourcefulness, Abby is no match for a public holiday.

    This is the first time Thanksgiving has been celebrated, or even acknowledged, in Soap Land. It also feels like the DALLAS barbecue has been brought forward to coincide with it (as it usually occurs around Christmas). At both celebrations, there is one notable absence. Pam declines Miss Ellie’s invitation to attend the barbecue, therefore prompting JR’s cheery declaration that "this is the best damn barbecue I can remember, honey … This is the first time a member of the Barnes family's not here. That makes my day, I tell ya!” Meanwhile on KNOTS, as everyone else in the opening credits (and then some) convenes round the Mackenzies’ extended dining room table, Greg Sumner receives a solitary Thanksgiving dinner in his hotel room courtesy of room service.

    There is a broad range of cultural references in this week’s Soap Land. GONE WITH THE WIND, Brigitte Bardot, the Kennedy assassination and the Lone Ranger’s horse are all acknowledged. First off, DYNASTY’s Amanda flirts mischievously with Dex Dexter on the terrace of Alexis’s penthouse. When he responds by trying to kiss her, she pulls away. "What's the matter?" he asks. "Has Scarlett changed her mind about fun and games on the porch of Mama's sky-top plantation?” Mama's sky-top plantation is such a terrifically surreal image. Later in the same ep, during a characteristically awkward conversation with Steven, Luke remarks that Claudia resembles a French film star. "Bardot?” ventures Steven. "No, before her," Luke replies. "Michele Morgan?” Steven persists. “Beautiful cheekbones and eyes!” Somehow, in an attempt to acknowledge his wife’s attractiveness (and thus reaffirm his own heterosexual credentials), Steven has stumbled into a conversation about glamorous movie actresses from a bygone era which sounds — for want of a less reductive term — kind of gay. What’s most interesting is that the scene doesn’t ram this point home in any way. In fact, one is in fact left wondering if one has imagined it — for once, subtext really is subtext.

    Bearing in mind where Kennedy’s death took place, it's interesting, and somehow fitting, that Soap Land's first direct reference to it should occur in DALLAS’s spin-off show. It’s Mack Mackenzie who draws a parallel between Val’s insistence that the cul-de-sac Thanksgiving dinner go ahead despite her recent trauma and his own mother’s reaction to JFK’s murder: "The whole family was in a state of shock, just like the country was. So my mother put together this huge Thanksgiving dinner, invited everyone, half the world ... We all needed to band together. Family, you know?” It's a potentially queasy comparison - a real life, world-changing tragedy vs. an outrageous soap opera storyline — yet somehow it totally works: however bizarre Val’s story may be, there’s an integrity to it.

    Meanwhile DALLAS itself, characteristically the most inward looking of the soaps, also comes up with a couple of cultural references this week. Over dinner with his ex-wife and daughter, Naldo Marchetta talks about the Tom Mix and Lone Ranger westerns that captivated him as a child growing up in Italy. Charlie and even Jenna are charmed. The suggestion seems to be that if a foreigner, even one as unsavoury as Naldo, can be susceptible to something as so wholesomely American as a cowboy film, then he surely can’t be all bad.

    Or perhaps he can. Naldo is one of two former husbands — the other being Terry’s ex Joel McCarthy on FALCON CREST — who this week casually informs his former wife that they are to be remarried. To say that both Jenna and Terry are bemused at the prospect is something of an understatement. Jenna is, after all, busy planning her wedding to Bobby. Terry, meanwhile, has just tried to shoot Joel earlier in the same episode. Where Jenna is the entirely blameless focus of Naldo’s attentions (even though, as Bobby points out, “it's a little hard for me to forget that you ran away from me once and married him”), Terry is in a more compromised, and therefore more interesting situation: she and Joel were never technically divorced which means the fortune she inherited from the man she thought was her husband is in jeopardy unless she does Joel’s bidding.

    Something I’ve never noticed before: the summer dress Val wears to the Mackenzies’ Thanksgiving dinner on KNOTS is, if not identical, then pretty darn close to the one she wore to Southfork in her very first episode of DALLAS. This makes dramatic sense given that Val has responded to the loss of her babies by mentally retreating to a time when she and Gary were still happily together. It also highlights the fact that her baby weight has vanished as quickly and mysteriously as the babies themselves.

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (5) DALLAS
    3 (4) DYNASTY
    4 (2) FALCON CREST
    5 (3) PAPER DOLLS
     
  17. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    11/Dec/84: PAPER DOLLS: Episodes 10 & 11 v. 12/Dec/84: DYNASTY: Swept Away v. 13/Dec/84: KNOTS LANDING: Message in a Bottle v. 14/Dec/84: DALLAS: Do You Take This Woman ... v. 14/Dec/84: FALCON CREST: The Triumvirate

    Following the bombshells at the end of last week's episodes, this week’s DALLAS and FALCON CREST begin with JR dismissing Jamie’s paper splitting Ewing Oil into thirds as a forgery and Angela declaring Francesca’s sale of her third of Falcon Crest to Richard Channing illegal. Their lawyers, however — Harve Smithfield and Greg Reardon respectively — caution against dismissing these new developments so easily.

    While Chase and Angela are dismayed by Richard’s plans to take Falcon Crest into the high volume-low cost wine business (a plan not dissimilar to JR’s scheme to flood the market with cut-price gasoline two years ago), the reveal of Jamie’s document casts doubt on everything we know, or think we know, about the origins of the Barnes/Ewing feud. There is further tinkering with Soap Land back stories elsewhere this week. On DYNASTY, the impression we've been given up till now is that Blake banished Alexis from Denver more or less immediately after finding her in bed with Roger Grimes. We now learn that "three months of a travesty of a reconciliation” occurred between them after the discovery and before the banishment, thus leaving ample opportunity for the conception of Amanda. Meanwhile, during a girly chat with Karen on KNOTS, Val revisits the same story she told Lucy in her debut DALLAS episode six years earlier, about the day she first she met Gary. There are slight variations between the two accounts and it’s interesting to compare them:

    In each case, Val is a fifteen year old waitress. "But you said you were sixteen to get the job,” Lucy reminds her in the DALLAS version, while in her KNOTS account, Val adds that she was "fresh out from Tennessee”. With a KNOTSian eye for detail, we also learn that the diner she worked at was “just out of Fort Worth Texas at the intersection of two highways” and that the name of her fellow waitress was Mary Jo. In the DALLAS story, Val describes Gary as "the prettiest man I ever saw” who came into the diner, sat down and immediately started flirting with her ("What does a man in love eat for lunch?”). On KNOTS, he becomes "this blond god” who rides to Val's rescue after she is caught up in the kind of scenario we’ve recently seen Lucy involved in during her waitressing stint on DALLAS - "Most of the customers were truck drivers and I was ... getting teased by them … First one table started complaining, then another and before I knew it, I was right in the middle of it all, in tears.” Where it was Eddie Cronin who came to Lucy’s aid, here it’s Gary. "He didn’t say a word to me, he just smiled at me, and I got this real flutter feeling in my tummy and I knew then that everything was going to be all right.” While in the DALLAS version of events, Gary is the romantic, impetuous one ("He was there when I got off work to walk me home — 'Miss Valene,' he said, 'I have the urge to ask you to marry me’”), in the KNOTS’ account it’s Val who falls quickest and deepest ("I think I fell in love with him that very minute”). These differences might be small, but they mirror the way the Gary and Val relationship has evolved between 1978 and 1984. When they were first introduced on DALLAS, Gary was portrayed as vulnerable and easily overwhelmed (“He gets over his head with a shopping cart in front of him!” Val told Bobby) while Val was shown to be more practical and protective. Now their roles have reversed and their back story has shifted to reflect that. What’s interesting is that neither version feels more definitive than the other. Rather each feels appropriate for the wider story they are part of.

    “I guess some people set off on a trip and arrive at their destination — others don’t,” a sinister bearded man tells Abby in this week’s KNOTS LANDING. From that, she concludes that Scott Easton was done away with during his cross-country plane journey. Conversely, on DYNASTY, Jeff Colby develops a Pam Ewing-like theory that Fallon didn’t die in the plane crash with Peter de Vilbis as everyone else believes.

    “Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to feel that Mark is alive and not be able to convince anybody else?” asks Pam in DALLAS. If there’s one Soap Land character who can sympathise, it's Pam’s ex-sister-in-law Val whose own conviction that her twins did not die but were taken from her quietly strengthens this week. However, unlike Pam, who this week goes so far as to take out a full-page newspaper ad offering a reward for information about Mark’s whereabouts, Val keeps her ideas about the babies largely to herself. During a conversation with Ben, she describes how she lost Lucy to her in-laws. "I was just poor white trash from Tennessee who got Gary in trouble. I’d no business raising a Ewing much less being one.” She strongly implies that the same “they” that took Lucy, i.e., "JR and his boys”, are also responsible for the abduction of her twins. However, when Ben asks her directly, “Are you saying that you think the babies are still alive?” she clams up. Likewise on DYNASTY, when Jeff leaves town to investigate the possibility that another woman might have onboard de Vilbis’s plane when it crashed, he does not tell Blake the reason for his trip, even when it results in Blake accusing him of neglecting his son in order to go gallivanting.

    There are two dream sequences in KNOTS this week, each courtesy of Val’s subconscious. In the first, which opens the show, she and Gary are frolicking on the beach, only to be interrupted by a smiling Abby who then leads Gary away. The second takes place towards the end of the episode and is Soap Land’s most elaborately staged dream sequence since Kirby’s fairytale nightmare in DYNASTY’s Season 4 opener. The dream starts with Val at home in bed happily cradling her newborn twins, both of whom are alive and well. Then a pair of hospital doors materialise out of nowhere and Dr. Ackerman arrives to “take the babies away” (just as Abby appeared in the previous dream to take Gary away, and JR’s boys showed up in Val’s reminiscence to take Lucy away). Gary, Joshua, Lilimae and Ben then appear behind Dr Ackerman, all in hospital scrubs. Val turns to them for help but instead they watch approvingly as Ackerman takes the babies from her. Val wakes up screaming which brings Joshua and Lilimae to her bedside. Confused between their “real” and “dream” selves, she yells at them to leave her alone. After eavesdropping on their conversation about her outside her bedroom door, she packs a suitcase, phones for a cab and steals away into the night.

    This isn't the first time a Soap Land character’s dream has then impacted their show’s narrative: earlier in this season’s DYNASTY, the scene in which Steven Carrington dreamt that he saw Alexis on the terrace of her apartment as Mark Jennings plunged to his death was immediately followed by him taking the stand at her trial to testify that he had seen her kill Mark. “Do you believe what they say about dreams … that they only last for a split second?" Val asks Joshua after her first dream in this week’s ep. “They have to last longer than that, don’t you think?” In Soap Land at least, the consequences of such dreams certainly do.

    In contrast to the tightly structured quality of its previous two seasons, this period of KNOTS has a sprawling, almost meandering quality that I very much enjoy. Alongside Val’s dreams and the various references to her back story, this week’s episode also includes a speech from Ben about Albert Einstein’s thwarted desire to become a lighthouse keeper and a full two-and-a-half minute rendition by Cathy Geary of the Bee Gees’ lovelorn ballad “Words”. Neither of these further the action in any way, yet both add to the atmosphere of loneliness and melancholy that permeates an instalment in which each of the show’s three leading ladies finds herself isolated from the rest of the characters in some way — Val by her grief over the loss of her babies, Abby by her unwilling complicity in the disappearance of those babies, and Karen due to her secretly terminal condition, the symptoms of which begin manifesting themselves this week.

    Not that there isn’t also room for some pleasingly knotty plotting as it gradually emerges that Scott Easton’s death, the disappearance of Val’s babies, the Lotus Point water rights and a gruesome series of killings known as the Tidal Basin murders are all somehow linked to Galveston Industries. Head honcho Paul Galveston makes his debut appearance this week, living the kind of high-on-the-hog lifestyle his former FLAMINGO ROAD incarnation, Sheriff Titus Semple, always aspired to. (Galveston is also responsible for another notable DALLAS reference when he becomes the first KNOTS character to refer to Gary’s ranch as Westfork.)

    Although Francesca Gioberti leaves for Italy at the beginning of this week’s FALCON CREST, this season’s procession of long lost relatives continues unabated with the arrival of Maggie Gioberti’s biological mother and Greg Sumner’s secret daddy (although Galveston has yet to be revealed as such).

    Another growing trend: following the scenes in last week’s DALLAS and FALCON CREST where Naldo Marchetta and Joel McCathy informed their bemused ex-wives that they planned to remarry them, there are more proposals-with-a-twist in this week’s Soap Land. At the end of the first half of the PAPER DOLLS double bill, a besotted fan of model Laurie Caswell informs a fellow bus passenger of his plans to marry her, even though they’ve never met. This might seem more endearing were he not headed for her hometown with a loaded gun in his bag. Meanwhile, at the end of this week's DYNASTY, Alexis’s boyfriend Dex and her daughter Amanda have just spent a torrid night of passion together in a snowed-in ski lodge. No sooner have they agreed never to speak of the incident again than in bursts Alexis to turns the whole situation on its head by announcing that, “the three of us are all flying to England together … We're getting married!” And there’s yet more proposal perversity on FALCON CREST when Melissa has divorce sex with Lance on the same day that she agrees to marry his cousin Cole.

    This week’s DALLAS cliffhanger combines elements from both DYNASTY’s and KNOTS LANDING’s. Where Alexis surprises Dex with news of their impending wedding in England, Jenna surprises Bobby by failing to show up for their wedding at Southfork. “My God, she’s run out on you again,” concludes JR after the brothers search her abandoned condo — just as Val runs out on her loved ones at the end of this week's KNOTS.

    While KNOTS is in a league of its own, it’s pretty much a dead heat between the rest of this week’s soaps. DYNASTY and DALLAS both fluctuate between the pedestrian (Krystina’s life-saving surgery, Bobby and Jenna’s continued squabbling over Naldo) and the juicy (Dex and Amanda's fireside fling, the Barnes/Ewing feud heating up again over Jamie’s document). FALCON CREST, meanwhile, remains on an even keel throughout — a week marked by English sidekicks Pamela Lynch and Greg Reardon getting it on (another fireside fling) and Maggie’s long-lost mother turning out to be a compulsive gambler, it’s all pretty watchable without being hugely memorable. Meanwhile, a double helping of PAPER DOLLS gets a leg up from some great scenery-chewing by Brenda Vaccaro and an insanely ridiculous scheme which has Racine and the future Jack Ewing tricking a fashion critic into believing he’s beaten the former Vicky Gioberti to death.

    And so this week’s Top 5 are …

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (2) DALLAS
    3 (5) PAPER DOLLS
    4 (3) DYNASTY
    5 (4) FALCON CREST
     
  18. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    19/Dec/84: DYNASTY: That Holiday Spirit v. 20/Dec/84: KNOTS LANDING: Distant Locations v. 21/Dec/84: DALLAS: Deja Vu v. 21/Dec/84: FALCON CREST: Winner Take All

    A week after Paul Galveston made his debut in KNOTS LANDING, Daniel Reece arrives in DYNASTY (just in time for its Christmas-themed hundredth episode, no less). The two men have much in common. Both are — even by '80s supersoap standards — impressively rich and powerful businessmen of a certain age. Each resides on a beautiful ranch. Each will later turn out to be the father of an established character. More immediately, in their opening episode, each makes an extravagant horse-related gesture to a different established character, seemingly on a whim. Last week, Paul surprised Gary Ewing with the gift of Galveston’s Hope (“This horse, he's worth a fortune!” Gary exclaimed); this week, Daniel pulls Allegree out of an auction at the last minute so that Blake can buy him back for Krystle. While Gary is flattered by Galveston’s generosity, Blake is suspicious of Daniel's — even more so when he follows it up by sending Krystle a very expensive picture frame. Likewise, Abby grows wary when Galveston offers to make Gary his partner in a communications satellite venture. As this week’s DYNASTY and KNOTS draw to a close, a question mark hangs over the true motivations and histories of both men. DYNASTY ends with Krystle bursting into Daniel’s office and asking him angrily, “How dare you come back into my life after what you did?!” Meanwhile, Paul Galveston concludes his first conversation with Abby with the equally cryptic remark, “Everything Scott Easton told me about you is true.”

    Allegree and Galveston’s Hope aren’t the only thoroughbred horses used as plot devices in this week’s Soap Land. On FALCON CREST, Small Virtue, the racehorse owned jointly by Melissa and Greg Reardon, is taken ill. The subsequent all-night vigil provides an opportunity for Greg to make a pass at Melissa, and then for Melissa’s fiancee Cole to embark on a jealous tirade about his future wife’s fidelity (or lack thereof).

    Val Ewing and Jenna Wade, two missing mothers whose children have recently been abducted, are the focus of much discussion in the Ewingverse this week. When DALLAS’s Mandy hears that Bobby and Jenna’s wedding did not take place, she views it as a golden opportunity for Bobby to reunite with Pam. Cliff does not share her enthusiasm. "You don't understand the whole history of the thing,” he tells her. "The Ewings hate Pam, JR almost destroyed her ... From the very moment Pam and Bobby got married, JR did everything he could to try and split them up and if there was an inkling they were gonna get back together, he'd attack her with everything he's got!” There’s a parallel between this speech and Gary’s equally emphatic response on KNOTS LANDING when Lilimae suggests that Val might have gone to visit Lucy in Dallas. “Valene would never go back to Dallas,” he insists, "not after everything that happened to her there — JR taking Lucy away from her and running her out of the state ... she just wouldn’t do it!” The pleasingly dramatic picture Gary paints of Dallas — as a place so dangerous that Val wouldn’t even contemplate a visit there — doesn’t quite jibe with the habitual appearances she made during DALLAS’s first few seasons. KNOTS, however, abides by his account, and the possibility that Val would now return to Dallas under any circumstances is effectively sealed off.

    Back on FALCON CREST, Richard warns Lorraine that by getting involved with Lance, she is heading down a path just as treacherous as the ones trodden by Val and Pam after they got tangled up with Ewing men. "Everybody who gets involved with that family ends up getting hurt or worse," he tells her.

    While everyone on KNOTS is looking for Val, she quietly checks into the Sun Motel in Los Angeles. Over on DALLAS, Bobby and JR’s first port of call in their search for Jenna is the swanky Fairview Hotel where Jenna’s ex-husband Naldo has been staying. Whereas the proprietors of the Sun Motel are inquisitive to a fault (“Mrs Ewing, pardon me for asking, but you’re not the author are you - Valene Ewing?”), the desk clerk at the Fairview could not be more snootily disinterested in Bobby’s enquiries - until he gets around to introducing himself, that is. “Oh Mr Ewing, I’m sorry,” the clerk then responds fawningly, "I didn’t recognise you."

    By this point, Naldo has checked out of the Fairview and escorted a reluctant Jenna to a motel not dissimilar to the one Val is holed up at on KNOTS. What goes on behind these motel room doors provides both shows with some of their best scenes of the week. So far this season, Jenna and Naldo’s encounters have been somewhat flat dramatically but now they’re cooped up in the same room, the sparks begin to fly. “You are so beautiful,” murmurs Naldo, starting to sound like his sleazy ex-husband counterpart on FALCON CREST, Joel McCarthy. "We were intimate once, why not again?” Jenna regards his proposition with contempt: "I'll do what I have to do to get my daughter back but ... if you lay one finger on me, I swear I'll kill you!” Meanwhile in her motel room, Val’s disgust is reserved for what she sees in the mirror. "How could anybody love you? How could anybody want you?” she rants at her own reflection. "Look at you — you look like a man, as flat as a board. No, you look like an old lady — your arms are so skinny and scrawny, long, sad face and those eyes …”

    Clearly this level of self-loathing is unprecedented in Soap Land. For any of the 80s soaps to even suggest a physical shortcoming in one of its leading ladies — much less having the character/actress herself go into such specific detail on the subject — is pretty much unthinkable. Regardless of where Val has ventured geographically, it becomes apparent that she has strayed psychologically into a place where the conventional (if unspoken) rules of the soap genre no longer apply.

    Another example of this takes place when, following her bout of self-flagellation, Val drags herself up as an archetypal soap vamp, all big teased hair, heavy eye make-up and shiny red lipstick — she even stuffs her cleavage with tissue paper. “You are beautiful and there isn’t a man in town who wouldn’t want you just the way you are,” she pouts at herself in the mirror. "I’m sure that you could get anything you want to, anything you put your mind to,” she adds, sounding like any number of ruthlessly determined soap vixens: Terry Hartford, Katherine Wentworth, Sammy Jo Carrington, Racine. However, though it isn’t stated directly, the specific character Val seems to be basing this new persona on is her old rival Abby. The line she delivers to the wife of a man she attempts to pick up in a bar (“I could have your husband any time I want, sweetheart”) strongly echoes what Abby once said to her about Gary — “I can have him any time I want him.” Back then, Abby stood her ground even when Val slapped her across the face. However, when the same thing happens to Val here she is instantly reduced to a pathetic snivelling wreck. Val isn’t a soap vixen — in this scene, she’s more like a soap viewer trying to emulate what she’s seen on TV and failing miserably.

    The most genre-busting moment comes the following morning when a disheveled and hungover Val stumbles to her motel bathroom and once again surveys her reflection, now smudged with last night’s make-up. She is appalled by what she sees (“What did you do?” she whispers. "You dirty filthy tramp!”) and so, in front of our eyes, in a single unbroken take, she scrubs her face with soap and water until it is entirely free not only of make-up but of almost any indication of eyebrows or lips. Her face becomes a featureless canvas onto which she then applies fresh make-up, talking to herself as she goes, till she has reinvented herself as Verna, a happy-go-lucky waitress from Tennessee.

    There have been “psychological transformation in a mirror” scenes in Soap Land before. Last season’s FALCON CREST saw Julia hacking off her hair in front of a mirror as part of her plan to escape prison, and when she put out her hand to touch her reflection, it seemed to bend — an indication of the widening chasm between herself and reality. As part of her unexplained breakdown at the end of last season’s DYNASTY, Fallon’s view of her own reflection became distorted. But where Julia's and Fallon's transformations were conveyed through camera trickery and effects, Val’s even more dramatic metamorphosis is achieved via one unblinking shot of a woman removing and then reapplying her make-up. In Soap Land, the naked human face is perhaps the weirdest special effect of all.

    Such is the level of concern over Val and Jenna that even their show's respective bad guys, Abby and JR, participate in the searches to track them down. Both go to the extent of hiring a private detective, which surprises those around them. DALLAS's Jamie admits to being impressed by JR’s display of familial concern while on KNOTS, Lilimae is openly suspicious of Abby’s. “Why would you want Valene back?” she asks her. "You never showed any interest in her before.” Abby’s response (“I’ve never wanted to hurt Valene … I don’t care what you think about me but I wouldn’t want any harm to come to her”) sounds impressive in its sincerity. However, midway through this week’s episodes both she and JR provide us with similar twists that prove that neither has lost their capacity for I-didn’t-see-that-one-coming deviousness. In the same way that it recently transpired on FALCON CREST that Angela has secretly had the PI who Maggie hired to track down her biological mother in her pocket all along, so we discover that Abby has instructed the detective enlisted to find Val to withhold vital information about her whereabouts from Gary and Lilimae. Meanwhile on DALLAS, Gerald Kane, the pilot who has approached Pam with apparently solid information about Mark Graison’s whereabouts, turns out to be a plant hired by JR. Abby and JR are similarly motivated — so long as Val is waiting tables in Shula, Tennessee and Pam is checking out last-chance clinics in the Caribbean then there’s little chance of either them reconciling with their respective lost loves, Gary and Bobby.

    There are two Soap Land weddings this week. On DYNASTY, a miserable Amanda Carrington looks on as Alexis marries Dex in an English country church while Bobby Ewing is no happier at the end of DALLAS to see Jenna and Naldo emerge from a wedding chapel as husband and wife. Both ceremonies are comparatively low-key by Soap Land standards, but look closer and you’ll see that each bride has an ulterior motive for plighting her troth. Alexis has cooked up the English wedding scheme to keep Amanda out of Denver and away from Blake who is eager to claim her as his daughter (”Isn't it enough that you've robbed me of my other children?” Alexis asks him. "Must you take this one too, the only one that's mine to love completely?”) while Jenna's actions are also motivated by a need to protect her daughter from her father. Having snatched Charlie from her school at the end of last week’s ep, Naldo has now convinced Jenna that she is on her way to Rome. “The only way the two of you are going to see each other again as if you do exactly what I say,” he tells her.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (2) DALLAS
    3 (4) DYNASTY
    4 (5) FALCON CREST
     
  19. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    02 Jan 85: DYNASTY: The Avenger v. 03 Jan 85: KNOTS LANDING: Weighing of Evils v. 04 Jan 85: DALLAS: Lockup in Laredo v. 04 Jan 85: FALCON CREST: Vicious Circle

    This week we hit the mid-point of the 1980s and Soap Land is a very different place than it was at the start of the decade. Firstly, it’s a lot more glamorous. (Even though the women of Seaview Circle continue to potter around in their kitchens, they now do so in designer outfits instead of sundresses, while the formerly plain Miss Ellie, since turning into Donna Reed, is never less than immaculately turned out.) And where the mere idea of Pam Ewing and Laura Avery going out to work once ruffled their menfolks' feathers, female characters in positions of power has now become such a commonplace sight that the fact that Racine was by far the savviest character on PAPER DOLLS passed without comment. Laura is now a shareholder in Lotus Point and, as of this week’s KNOTS, is headed for a new career in Washington. While looking for Mark Graison may have replaced helping Cliff run his oil company as Pam’s full-time job, one of the biggest pleasures of this season’s DALLAS thus far has been watching her put those men who have sought to patronise her efforts — be they detectives, lawyers or salvage company operators — in their place. Meanwhile, this week’s DYNASTY sees Alexis make Dominique Devereaux a multi-million dollar business proposition while casually acknowledging that “we are both ambitious, determined professional women”.

    Having established these norms, however, the soaps now seem interested in challenging them. Two weeks ago Val Ewing scrubbed all the make up off her face, and at different points this season she and daughter Lucy have each turned their backs on Soap Land luxury to wait tables in a small town diner. This week, further pin-pricks are made in Soap Land’s hermetically-sealed world of artifice and glamour where everyone and everything is beautiful. First, this week’s DYNASTY, arguably the most hermetically-sealed soap of them all, displays footage of a colt actually being born — placental sac and all. Then on KNOTS, the impact of Joshua’s burgeoning celebrity hits home when he visits a group of adoring young fans with special needs. As well as children with Down’s Syndrome, he encounters a blind black boy and a blond kid on crutches. (Following the multi-ethnic children’s choir who serenaded the Carringtons during DYNASTY’s recent Christmas episode, one could say — were one so inclined — that this scene takes Soap Land to the next level of inclusive representation.)

    Overt male chauvinism is also on display in this week’s eps. While DALLAS’s Ray Krebbs has spent most of this season conscientiously battling his own resentment over wife Donna’s decision to enter the oil business, KNOTS LANDING’s Paul Galveston and DYNASTY’s Blake Carrington just come right out and say what’s on their minds. “As a woman with practical skills, maybe you should stay home and have babies,” suggests Paul when Abby tries to explain that she, and not Gary, is the business brain in their marriage. "Seems to me that being a mother and a wife is a full time job and not one to be taken lightly,” echoes Blake when Krystle talks about realising her long held dream of working with horses. While Abby gets mad, (“You may think women belong at home, barefoot and pregnant, but you’ve never dealt with me before!”) Krystle gets sad ("I can't talk to you about anything anymore”).

    1985 gets off to an especially grim start for DALLAS’s Jenna Wade and FALCON CREST’s Lance Cumson, who both begin the year under arrest and behind bars. Jenna is charged with the murder of her husband and Lance with the attempted murder of his grandmother. The big difference between the two stories, from an audience perspective, is that we already know that Lance is innocent, having been framed by Joel McCarthy. The fatal shooting of Naldo Marchetta, however, is shrouded in mystery — not even Jenna herself knows whether or not she pulled the trigger. Nonetheless, the Ewings unite behind her, hiring Scotty Demarest, aka "the best criminal lawyer in the state”, to represent her. Meanwhile Angela Channing tells Lance to "rot in jail" and prohibits her attorney from taking his case. Lance, therefore, has to make do with the litigation lawyer retained by the Globe, the newspaper originally owned by Lance’s grandfather — aka Scotty Demarest himself. In the event, Lance is soon out on bail while Jenna, fancy lawyer or no fancy lawyer, languishes in jail.

    Directed by soap genius Larry Elikann, this episode of FALCON CREST hits the ground running and barely lets up. Elikann’s trademark use of low camera angles and big close ups ensures that the ep feels both melodramatic and darkly gritty at the same time. The tone is very reminiscent of the KNOTS instalments he directed in the aftermath of Ciji’s death at the end of Season 4. This week’s DALLAS also has a more edgy than usual vibe during some its scenes — particularly an unusually lengthy interview room encounter between Scotty and Jenna where he alternately cajoles and harangues her in an effort to find out what happened in the hotel room on the night of Naldo’s death. (That Jenna is plainly dressed and wears next to no make-up adds to the whole "anti-glamour” feel.)

    During this scene, Scotty suggests that Naldo may have lured Jenna to the hotel in order to rape her and that she subsequently killed him in self-defence. This theory makes sense, given that Jenna was obliged to fight Naldo off after he tried to force himself on her in last week’s episode. An equivalent scenario takes place in this week’s DYNASTY when, after Claudia moves out of the Carrington mansion and into La Mirage, a drunken Steven shows up at her hotel room door. Just as a shirtless Naldo surprised Jenna in the shower and insisted, "Amore, this is our wedding night, our honeymoon!”, Steven is intent on claiming his conjugal rights. "You're my wife and it's time you started acting like it!” he snaps, manhandling Claudia into a chair and unbuttoning his own shirt. Whereas Jenna defended herself by flinging soap in Naldo’s eyes and then locking herself in the bathroom, Claudia’s words are enough to stop Steven in his tracks: "Don't you come near me. If you have to prove that you're a man, you find somebody else. Now get out!” In contrast to both Claudia and Jenna, FALCON CREST’s Terry plays along with her estranged husband’s desires, going so far as to make out with Joel on the couch — but it turns out she’s just playing for time till Richard Channing shows up with the documentation that will ensure Joel can no longer blackmail her, plus a couple of heavies for good measure. At this point in the scene, there’s a fascinating shift — in his reaction to Terry’s ruse, Joel is suddenly and unexpectedly transformed into a poignant, even sympathetic figure. We realise that in his own twisted way he truly loves her and that his desire to quit cocaine and clean up his act is genuine. It’s partly the reactions of Terry (who, after he is led away, tearfully smells the jacket he has left behind) and Richard (in particular, David Selby’s patented ability to turn on a dime between compassion and contempt and back again) that help to sell us on Joel’s humanity. In contrast, Joel’s recently deceased DALLAS equivalent Naldo never transcended the stereotype of “shady foreigner” and it simply doesn’t occur to the viewer to mourn his loss in any way.

    On this week’s DYNASTY we learn that Daniel Reece is Sammy Jo’s father. On this week’s KNOTS, we learn of an as-yet-unspecified link between Paul Galveston and Greg. As with the Lance Cumson/Jenna Wade scenarios, a key difference between these two storylines is how much information the viewer at home and/or the characters onscreen are privy to. On DYNASTY, neither Daniel nor Sammy Jo yet know of their connection (for the time being, it’s a secret shared between Krystle and Steven) while on KNOTS, only Paul and Greg themselves know the precise nature of their relationship. We viewers, along with the rest of the characters, are in the dark — although we can make an educated guess as to what the connection might be. (“Come to grips with who you are — and what it means to be who you are,” urges Galveston cryptically.) We do glean that Paul has been observing Greg from a distance during his senatorial campaign and seems to understand what makes him tick ("You’ve always understood power, Gregory, and craved it”), which calls to mind the relationship between Paul’s previous self, Titus Semple on FLAMINGO ROAD, and his political protege/surrogate son, Senator Field Carlyle.

    In their scene together, Paul also admits to Greg that he is “probably dying … Heart’d be OK as long as it’s quick”. In the penultimate scene of this week’s DYNASTY, Blake receives word that his father — and possibly Dominique’s — "has had a heart attack. He's dying."

    As well as FLAMINGO ROAD’s Titus turning into KNOTS LANDING’s Paul Galveston and FALCON CREST’s Douglas Channing becoming DALLAS’s Scotty Demarest, there’s another bit of interesting cross-casting when Lydia, the psychic Pam consulted on DALLAS a few weeks ago, shows up as Maxine, an old gambling cohort of Maggie’s mother on FALCON CREST. In the same way that Lydia didn’t come across like your average mystic ("I have supper on the table for my husband when he gets home,” she assured Pam), Maxine is equally down-to-earth and homely. In each case the actress's warm, middle-aged “niceness” helps to undercut the stereotypical expectations of their respective storylines. The likes of Lydia and Maxine might be home in time to put their husband's supper on the table in the evening, but that doesn’t prevent them predicting the future or playing the horses in the afternoon.

    While we’re on the subject of Maggie’s mother, I realise that I’ve never fully appreciated the character of Charlotte Pershing before. There’s something about Jane Greer’s restrained performance (particularly Charlotte's deeply felt but barely expressed shame as she succumbs to her latent gambling addiction) that operates at the same frequency as Donna Reed’s as Miss Ellie. Their subtly nuanced portrayals are easy to overlook in the soapy tumult surrounding them.

    Towards the end of this week's episodes, the stoic matriarchs of DALLAS and FALCON CREST each allows herself a late night moment to reflect on the latest family crises. Miss Ellie’s takes place on the Southfork patio with Clayton where she broods about Jenna’s murder charge and Jamie’s document. "I guess everything's beginning to get me,” she admits. Nevertheless, she manages to end the scene on a semi-optimistic note as she remarks on JR’s good behaviour of late. "Isn't it funny?” she smiles. "When everything else is going so badly, he's the one bright spot in the family.” Angela’s fireside chat with Emma is more doom-laden and poignant as they contemplate how empty their once busy family home has become. “You’re all I have left,” she tells Emma sadly.

    The last words of this week’s DYNASTY and DALLAS go to Krystle and Sue Ellen respectively (each of whom is elegantly clad for the occasion in a glittering black evening dress). Until recently, each has been a dutiful and devoted wife to her rich husband, but is now speaking out defiantly (and thrillingly) against his wishes. "You said that if I decided to go into business that you'd help … Teach me,” a rebellious Krystle asks Daniel Reece during at a party at La Mirage. Meanwhile Sue Ellen turns on JR after he orders Jamie to leave Southfork after she has exposed his latest infidelity: "I hope she fights you for Ewing Oil and I hope she wins — because then you'll know exactly how I feel tonight!”

    However, the most striking episode ending of the week is FALCON CREST’s. Joel McCarthy is being led towards a plane in the middle of a storm. There is a sudden flash of lightning — and the frame freezes. It’s dramatic and unexpected — classic Elikann.

    It’s especially tough to rate these eps as they're all top-notch, but this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (1) FALCON CREST
    2 (3) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (-) DYNASTY
    4 (2) DALLAS
     
  20. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    9 Jan 85: DYNASTY: The Will v. 10 Jan 85: KNOTS LANDING: #14 with a Bullet v. 11 Jan 85: DALLAS: Winds of War v. 11 Jan 85: FALCON CREST: Insult and Injury

    There are plenty of visiting-the-sick scenes in DYNASTY and KNOTS this week — Tom Carrington is dying at his home in Sumatra, Indonesia, while Karen Mackenzie is about to undergo life or death surgery in Soap Land Memorial Hospital.

    In order to convey the gravity of Karen’s situation, KNOTS once again employs the kind of storytelling devices one is unlikely to find in any of the other soaps — the ep is bookended by scenes of Mack visiting a Catholic church to pray for his wife, voices from one scene play over the visuals of another, there’s a prolonged close-up of Karen’s eyes after her operation as her reflexes are tested to see whether the surgery has been a success, and to offset the pathos, there’s even a spot of physical comedy where Karen’s clumsy attempts to manoeuvre a wheelchair are accompanied by appropriately jaunty music. For once, however, KNOTS’ inventiveness works against it. It’s not that any of these touches are bad per se, but collectively they give an impression of an episode striving to be more meaningful and significant than it is. This story-line wants to evoke the same sense of realism and gnawing anxiety that Sid’s operation did at the beginning of Season 3, but actually Karen’s plight is no more “real" or less escapist that Maggie Gioberti's one-chance-in-a-million-that was-never-going-to-fail brain-tumour surgery from last season’s FALCON CREST. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with a melodramatic medical storyline with a predictably happy outcome -- it's just that KNOTS won’t admit that that’s what this is, and the whole thing feels somewhat heavy-handed as a result.

    Tom Carrington’s story on DYNASTY, meanwhile, functions within conventional soap parameters (it colours inside the lines if you will) and feels the more honest for it. It is also surprisingly touching. It's a variation on a scenario we’ve seen in Soap Land before: an estranged (i.e., never previously mentioned) relative shows up (e.g., Miss Ellie’s brother or the fathers of Mack Mackenzie or Lane Ballou), old wounds are reopened, a terminal condition is revealed and an eleventh-hour reconciliation takes place just in time for the closing credits.

    While DYNASTY sticks by and large to this narrative blueprint, there are some nuanced differences. Usually, it’s a case of the dying man returning to his family in search of forgiveness. Here it’s Blake, closely followed by Dominique and Alexis, who visits Tom on his deathbed in Sumatra. Moreover, Tom himself is far from repentant, at least initially. "You want to make amends, tie everything nice and pretty, getting everything off your chest you've been pushing down all these years, like telling me what a nasty wretched old man I am?” he asks Blake mockingly. He’s even meaner to Dominique when she asks him to acknowledge her as his daughter. "My mother loved you,” she insists. "She never would have given herself to you if she didn't love you." "I hardly knew the woman," he blithely replies. "You are a LIAR! You are a LIAR!" she spits. It’s a great scene, as electric as it is long-awaited. We also get to see Blake and Alexis swap roles — for once, he is the cold resentful figure unable to forget or forgive Tom his past transgressions while she is warm and humorously affectionate towards her former father-in-law.

    Alexis and Tom's bedside exchange reminded me of the final scene between Abby and the dying movie director Andrew Douglas in the stand alone KNOTS episode “Silver Shadows”. Douglas was fixated on Abby’s resemblance to the silent film actress Teri Clarington, while Tom tells Alexis she is "prettier than any moving-picture star”. Where Douglas promised to leave Abby his fortune, Tom makes a similar assurance to Alexis. In each instance, there is a twist: in his confused state, Andrew bequeaths his wealth to the long dead Teri herself rather than Abby, and although Alexis does indeed receive a slice of Tom’s estate, she is dismayed to learn she must share it not only with Blake but also “that cabaret singer” Dominique — Tom having had the requisite last-minute reconciliation with both his children.

    As poignant as Tom’s farewell is (and it’s possibly Soap Land's most moving deathbed scene since Digger’s in DALLAS Season 2), the strongest emotional moment of the Soap Land week belongs to Charlotte Pershing on FALCON CREST. Desperate to raise the cash to get her daughter’s stolen pearls out of hock, she approaches Richard at Tuscany Downs and timidly begs him for a small loan in order to place a bet on a rank outsider in an upcoming race. He gently but firmly refuses. Charlotte can’t help but watch the race anyway and her silent scream as her chosen horse romps to victory is as vivid a depiction of the agony of addiction as any of Gary Ewing’s drunk tank freak-outs.

    While Ray and Donna come up with corroborative proof that Jock, Jason and Digger really were equal partners in Ewing Oil on this week’s DALLAS, we’re also granted some intriguing glimpses into the DYNASTY and KNOTS backstories. We learn that Blake has yet another estranged relative — a brother, Ben — and that Greg's ties to Mack are much stronger than has previously been supposed. "His family practically raised you,” Paul Galveston reminds Greg. "Someone had to,” he replies.

    There’s also a small, but revealing, insight into Abby’s past this week, during a short scene which finds her working late at the TV station, editing Joshua's sermon to make it more effective. She is clearly enjoying herself and Joshua is impressed and surprised at her skill. “I was an English major,” she tells him by way of explanation. That Abby should be both sensitively creative enough to make a positive contribution to Joshua’s work and ruthless enough to exploit him for it is part of what makes her character so beguiling. It’s a duality that most of Soap Land’s other antagonists do not possess — certainly not Angela Channing or JR, nor even the painterly Alexis. Richard Channing might be an exception, however.

    Even though he has found Val in Shula, Abby has instructed her detective, Peter Freilich, to file a report for Gary’s benefit claiming that his search has reached a dead end. This week, Freilich decides to blackmail Abby in return for his silence. She reluctantly agrees to pay up until he explains that it’s not money he’s after, but sex. This potentially places Abby in the same situation that Afton Cooper, Laura Avery and Holly Harwood have each previously found themselves — as a woman coerced (but not necessarily physically) into having sex with a man against her will. It’s very strange to see Abby in this position — not only does she make an unlikely sexual victim, but the men who forced themselves on Afton, Laura and Holly (Gil Thurman, Chip Todson and JR respectively) were each in a position of power; Freilich is Abby's financial and social inferior. Whether or not Abby would have ultimately submitted to his demands we’ll never know because that’s where Paul Galveston gets involved ...

    … whereupon an interesting parallel emerges between the situation unfolding on KNOTS and the one being simultaneously played out between Melissa, Joel McCarthy and Richard Channing on FALCON CREST. At the end of last week’s FC, Joel admitted to Richard that Melissa had paid him to discredit Lance (which resulted in Lance getting arrested for the attempted murder of his grandmother). On this week's KNOTS, under duress, Freilich confesses to Paul Galveston that Abby paid him to keep silent about Val’s whereabouts. (In exchange for his information, Richard spared Joel from the hoodlums who were after him for unpaid debts and instead shipped him off to a kill-or-cure rehab centre. Galveston is less generous — he has Peter Freilich beaten up for the hell of it.)

    I have a soft spot for small-time hustlers like McCarthy and Freilich — seemingly insignificant characters whom their shows’ major players (in this case Melissa and Abby) underestimate at their peril and who end up playing a pivotal role in their respective show’s narrative.

    As a result of these juicy plot twists, Richard Channing and Paul Galveston now know that Lance didn’t really try to kill Angela and that Val’s babies didn’t really die. Will they go public with the good news? Will they hell. Instead, both men use their newly acquired knowledge to further their own agendas. This leads to a great scene on KNOTS where Abby, in an equivalent scenario to the one in DALLAS where Holly Harwood was summoned to JR’s office after hours, nervously waits for Peter Freilich in her own office after the rest of the staff have gone home. Instead of Freilich, however, Paul Galveston himself appears. “I’m not sure what I have in mind for you yet,” he tells her. "I’ve found Val. Now I’m going to find the babies. Then I’m going to find out what the hell you had in mind when you started all this … Then, unless you give me an incredible explanation, I’m going to turn it all over to Gary!" By comparison, the parallel scene in FALCON CREST where Richard uses Joel’s information as leverage to force Melissa into selling him her share in a racehorse she co-owns feels a bit anti-climactic, but perhaps the other shoe has yet to drop.

    Whereas Tom’s eventual recognition of Dominique as a Carrington feels like a big pay off in this week’s DYNASTY, JR finally acknowledging that Jamie is a Ewing in this week’s DALLAS is so thrown away, one would be forgiven for missing it altogether. ("Is she really a Ewing?" Mandy asks him. "Well, I guess that's true enough," he shrugs, before changing the subject.) In any case, by the end of their respective episodes, Dominique’s and Jamie’s relationships to their new families could not be more different. As far as she is concerned, Dominique has finally got what she is entitled to — one-third of her father’s fortune. “It's time for us to face the fact that we're all one big family now,” she tells Alexis firmly. Meanwhile, Jamie has moved off Southfork, quit her job at Ewing Oil and given Sue Ellen back the keys to the car she bought her a few weeks earlier. "The way I feel right now, I don't want to have anything to do with any of the Ewings, and that includes you!” she tells her.

    Freeze frame-wise, Mack’s thumbs-up to God after Karen gets the all clear at the end of this week's KNOTS always makes me cringe slightly, while Cliff’s crooked smile of delight when Jamie agrees to join forces with him against the Ewings at the end of DALLAS never fails to make me laugh.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

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