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

Discussion in 'Knots Landing' started by James from London, Sep 18, 2016.

  1. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    09/Feb/82: FLAMINGO ROAD: The Explosion v. 10/Feb/82: DYNASTY: The Hearing v. 11/Feb/82: KNOTS LANDING: Possibilities v. 12/Feb/82: DALLAS: Anniversary v. 12/Feb/82: FALCON CREST: For Love or Money

    This week's FLAMINGO ROAD begins with characters reacting to Skipper's anti-gambling editorial in The Clarion. Michael Tyrone, worried that the bad publicity will jeopardise his gaming bill, is far from pleased. There's a certain irony to the future Richard Channing having to battle a newspaper. Meanwhile, on DYNASTY, Blake Carrington has the opposite problem. Having lobbied for a senate investigation into Logan Rhinewood - the man he believes has blinded him - he is hugely frustrated to learn that the subsequent committee hearing will be closed to the press.

    I've never understood the precise nature of this hearing, but it seems to be a grander, more bad-tempered variation on the one that delved into JR's involvement in the Asian revolution at the end of last season's DALLAS. Weirdly, this hearing is chaired by DALLAS's Harve Smithfield. Perhaps he was still smarting from the ticking off he received from Miss Ellie three weeks ago when he accepted an afternoon's work on the Ewings' rival show.

    Back on F'LINGO RD, Richard Channing - I mean, Michael Tyrone - threatens to withdraw his business from Truro County unless Sheriff Titus can find a way to silence The Clarion. Titus's solution is simple - he pays someone to blow up the newspaper office. As with DYNASTY's equivalent explosion three weeks ago, a main character is blinded. Unlike Blake Carrington, however, currently suffering "hysterical blindness caused by a terrible shock", Skipper Weldon's injuries are unequivocally physical - he is diagnosed with "severe eye damage". (Still, compared to Titus's last unintentional victim, Skipper's fiancee, who burnt to death when he set the mill on fire in the pilot episode, Skipper himself got off pretty easy.)

    "You're on your own for the first time. You're not used to it," Clayton tells Sue Ellen in this week's DALLAS, but his words are equally applicable to Karen in KNOTS LANDING. "I'm alone, but not single," is how she weepily (but amusingly) describes herself as she struggles to come to terms with the idea of dating again. Following the triple whammy of "The Rose and the Briar", "The Three Sisters" and "Power Play", this week's KNOTS feels at first like a bit of an anti-climax, but gradually develops into a sweet and interesting, if low-key, episode. Ginger's burning desire to become a singer (encouraged by Digger Barnes's former nephew Jimmy, now an up and coming record producer) comes out of nowhere, but shows a freshly assertive and stubborn side to her character (as well as a surprisingly attacking singing style reminiscent of her real life boyfriend Warren Zevon). Just like Chase on FALCON CREST a few weeks ago, Kenny isn't happy with his wife's newfound ambition, but his attempts to reach an end-of-episode compromise the way Giobertis did prove unsuccessful.

    Over on DALLAS, Bobby has the same dilemma in reverse, in that he's trying to encourage his wife back to work (as part of his ongoing efforts to prevent Pam discovering Christopher's true parentage). "There are places where women can bring their children to work," Liz Craig informs him. The recording studio where Ginger sings her heart out is one, the aerobics studio Bobby purchases for Pam is another. Following Karen at Knots Landing Motors, this makes Pam Soap Land's second "instant businesswoman" of the season.

    A red sports car features prominently in both KNOTS and FALCON CREST this week. In KNOTS, it's the vehicle of choice for Karen's suitor Charles and an indication to the neighbours of what a good catch he is. (Abby refers to him as "the dashing man in the sports car".) It also prompts the most touching line of the episode: "Don't let him drive too fast," pleads Michael quietly, just before Karen and Charles leave on a date. FALCON CREST, meanwhile, opens with Lance driving his red Corvette very fast, a relatively unfazed Angela in the passenger seat. He is driving the same car when he accidentally runs a young cyclist, Lori, off the road and promptly falls in love with her. Lori's bike-riding symbolises the freedom Lance can never have unless he breaks free of Falcon Crest and the lifestyle that goes with it, which is represented by the Corvette.

    This episode also serves as our introduction to vineyardist Carlo Agretti. Angela calmly informs Lance that he is to marry Carlo's daughter Melissa in order to form an alliance between their two families. This kind of arrangement is nothing new in Soap Land: the unions of Lucy and Kit in DALLAS, Fallon and Jeff in DYNASTY and Constance and Field in FLAMINGO ROAD were all regarded as mergers made in Heaven by their respective families. In each of those cases, however, some consideration was given to the bride and groom's happiness. Not so here: Angela is as indifferent to the way Lance feels about Melissa as she is to his newfound love for Lori. (Lance and Lori's hopes of a future together in "For Love or Money" last about as long as Cliff and Sue Ellen's in the DALLAS Season 1 episode of the same name.)

    Disability, an uncommon subject in a place as glamorous as Soap Land, crops up throughout this week's episodes. FLAMINGO ROAD and DYNASTY each now features a blind man, while FALCON CREST's central guest character, Elizabeth Bradbury, has spent the last four decades in a wheelchair, the victim of a hit and run accident when she was eighteen. "I think the rest of us are just crippled in other ways," says Julia darkly. Eventually, we learn that it was Angela "and her deadly blue convertible" that were responsible for crippling Elizabeth. There is no explanation given for the accident and Angela expresses no remorse. Interestingly, it's the lack of detail that makes the revelation so powerful. All we know is that Angela's crime went undetected, that her brother Jason abandoned Elizabeth, his childhood sweetheart, in her hour of need and that he never forgave himself.

    The final scene in three of this week's soaps revolves around an inanimate object: a letter in DYNASTY, a videotape in DALLAS and a tape recording in FALCON CREST. Alexis and Angela each use the object to distort the truth in the hopes of destroying a relationship, while JR deploys his to rekindle one. "Why do so many frustrated wives end up in bed with their shrinks? Ask your wife," says the anonymous letter Alexis has Fallon read to her father. "Who in hell needs Chase Gioberti? … I don't have a son," states Jason Gioberti on the tape Angela plays for Chase. "From Austin, we have Sue Ellen Shepard - twenty years old, five-foot seven-and-a-half inches," announces the host of the 1967 Miss Texas beauty contest on the video JR shows to his ex-wife before moving in for the kiss. Romantic as he is in this scene, JR still finds time for a little relationship-wrecking this week, as he arranges for Donna to find Ray in bed with another woman. Meanwhile, Evelyn Michaelson's lie that she and Mitch are sleeping together sends Lucy scuttling into the arms of Roger Larsen. By contrast, Abby's designs on Gary are put on hold in this week's KNOTS. In fact, they never even appear in the same scene.

    The friction between Chase and Angela moves up a notch at the end of this week's FALCON CREST. "You win at any cost, don't you?" says Chase after Angela has played the tape of his father to him. Angela responds by reciting details about Maggie's childhood. The shocking realisation then dawns on Chase: "My God, you've started a file on my wife!" It's a terrific moment.

    Echoes of earlier works reverberate throughout this week's Soap Land. FALCON CREST contains traces of Edgar Allen Poe (Chase discovers a walled up room containing books full of his father's tormented writings) and WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (Angela cripples a woman in a car accident, then allows suspicion to fall on her mentally unstable sibling). On DYNASTY, Alexis and Sammy Jo's chance encounter at the furriers could be a scene from George Cukor's 1939 picture THE WOMEN, and while the episode's climax may lack logic, (why do Alexis and Fallon go to the trouble of sending a missive in ransom-note lettering to a blind man? And why does Fallon think that informing Blake of his wife's supposed infidelity will break up her relationship with Nick?) the sheer melodrama of its execution - the long anguished walk Fallon takes up to her father's room, the moment when Blake regains his sight and sees the letter in his hand - evokes those delirious Douglas Sirk pictures of the late 40s, in particular MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION - which just happened to star one Angela Channing as a woman blinded after being hit by a car ...

    And this week's Soap Land Top 5 are …
    1 (3) FALCON CREST
    2 (2) DALLAS
    3 (1) DYNASTY
    4 (4) FLAMINGO ROAD
    5 (-) KNOTS LANDING
     
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  2. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    16/Feb/82: FLAMINGO ROAD: Chance of a Lifetime v. 17/Feb/82: DYNASTY: The Iago Syndrome v. 18/Feb/82: KNOTS LANDING: Reunion v. 19/Feb/82: DALLAS: Adoption v. 19/Feb/82: FALCON CREST: Family Reunion

    Having started off as Soap Land's ultimate outcast, Lane Ballou this week enters its inner circle by becoming Mrs. Sam Curtis of Flamingo Road. "Flamingo Road," she sighs happily. "Funny, three years ago I got itchy feet if I had to spend two nights in the same town. Now I don't ever wanna leave!" It's an indication of how her importance within the show has diminished that her and Sam's wedding generates so little controversy (save for Constance's prediction that the ceremony will "probably have all the dignity of two cats matin' in the alley"). The highlight is a sweet moment where Field congratulates his former love on her big day - the kind of scene that might have taken place in DALLAS had Bobby lived to see Pam marry Mark, complete with Jenna No.1 glaring possessively in the background.

    Lane might be joining the establishment, but others in Soap Land are getting out. On DYNASTY, Nick Toscanni turns his back on the lucrative world of psychiatry, or as he describes it, "babysitting for spoiled rich wives or spoiled athletes - just not my idea of what a doctor's all about", in favour of a more modestly paid hospital job. Over on DALLAS, while Sue Ellen finds herself being drawn back into the bosom of the Ewing family - she even accepts an invitation to dinner at Southfork - Ray is headed in the opposite direction: "I'm cutting my ties with the Ewings," he announces. In the same week that Krystle Carrington rejects Blake's "sad world, filled with manipulation and deception", Ray has also "had a belly full of the high and mighty … I'm gonna stop pretending to be something I'm not." Krystle tells Blake that she's going back to Ohio "where people are just what they are, not wearing a dozen faces." "She doesn't have a fancy background," says Ray of girlfriend Bonnie. "She's got no money. She doesn't have an important last name." "Common people, as Alexis would say," says Krystle, referring to her friends back home. "Plain folk" is Donna's ironic description of Bonnie.

    In the event, Krystle and Ray each have a last minute change of heart (indicated by Krystle deliberately missing her flight and Ray decisively putting the cap back on his bottle of booze). So does Sue Ellen - but in the opposite direction. This week's DALLAS ends with her throwing the gift of a necklace back at JR and branding their relationship "sick, sick, sick!" On KNOTS LANDING, meanwhile, Laura begins the episode by telling Scooter (now her lover) that she too is getting out, i.e. divorcing Richard. By the end of the hour, she has discovered that she's pregnant. How this will impact her decision to end her marriage is not yet clear.

    Having debated Flaubert with Lucy Ewing and cheered on Steven Carrington's opposite number during his stock car race, Victoria Principal's first husband resurfaces in Soap Land yet again, this time sporting a three-piece suit on FLAMINGO ROAD and chuckling politely when Field Carlyle informs him that it is illegal in Oklahoma to drive with a cow in the front seat of your vehicle but not in the back.

    Skipper's reaction to his blindness on FLAMINGO ROAD is like a watered down version of Blake's on DYNASTY. Where Blake ranted and raged at everyone he came into contact with - his doctors, the justice system, his family, his servants - Skipper just gets a bit sulky about using his cane. Where Blake treated his wife like dirt, Skipper almost breaks up with his girlfriend, but then changes his mind. Where Blake campaigned for a senate investigation into the man he believed blinded him, Skipper snaps at chief suspect Elmo Tyson, (framed by Titus) then immediately apologises.

    Blake's sight is now fully restored, but he continues to fake his disability just as Skipper's sister Constance did her paralysis at the beginning of the season. While Constance's deception was fun, Blake's feels borderline Shakespearean, (hence the episode title) as he manipulates those around him whilst observing their reactions from behind his blind man's glasses.

    A week after Pam Ewing gets into the aerobics business, the Carrington exercise room makes its debut appearance. With VP and Joanie both breaking out the leotards and leg warmers, it's time for Soap Land's first round of Lycra Wars - and Pam beats Alexis without breaking a sweat.

    And just as Bobby and Pam are awarded temporary custody of Christopher, DYNASTY also jumps on the adoption bandwagon. It isn't an adorable little newborn Blake Carrington wishes to claim as his own, however, but his fully grown estranged son-in-law Jeff. Nowhere else in the entire history of fact or fiction have I heard of one adult male trying to adopt another adult male, but no one in DYNASTY seems to find it unusual.

    This week's Soap Land boasts several strong female confrontation scenes - between Krystle and Alexis on DYNASTY ("I think the reason you moved back here is the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks - because that's where the money is!"), Karen and Victoria Hill on KNOTS LANDING ("Cut the motherhood stuff, will ya, Karen? It's a biological function, not a holy calling!"), Donna and Bonnie on DALLAS ("Now that we know what you are, let's haggle over your fee!"), and Angela and Jacqueline on FALCON CREST ("You'd have killed him with your bare hands before you'd have let him have any part of Falcon Crest - Power, that's all you love."). However, the week's two strongest showdowns are between men, and each feels like it's been a long time coming. On DYNASTY, after some prevarication, Nick Toscanni at long last admits to Blake that reason he came to Denver was to avenge his brother's death ("One word from you could have saved my brother's life! One word!") while on DALLAS, Ray finally relinquishes his status as Jock's son by signing his voting shares in Ewing Oil over to JR ("You never loved him." "Didn't I?" "Not the way I did."). In each case, there's a physical barrier between the men which enhances the tension of the scene: On DYNASTY, it's those dark glasses behind which Blake conceals his watchful eyes; on DALLAS, its the bars of the jail cell where JR has arranged for Ray to spend the night. At one point in their scene, Nick holds the flame from his cigarette lighter up to Blake's face - Blake's eyes do not flicker. By contrast, JR flinches nervously as he hands the voting document through the bars of the cell for Ray to sign, as if Ray were a caged animal that might suddenly yank his arm off.

    For all of Blake's clever manipulations, he remains curiously blind (so to speak) to his ex-wife's scheming. For instance, it doesn't seem to occur to him that Alexis might be responsible for the anonymous letter he has received. When she kisses him on the lips, playfully "taking advantage" of his apparent condition, he simply smiles. Like Sue Ellen blinking back tears as JR declares his love for her on this week's DALLAS, he is willing to believe that his ex-spouse is a changed person. Such are the conventions of Soap Land - after all, JR's and Alexis's schemes to win back their respective exes would stand no chance at all of working were Sue Ellen and Blake not so willing to forgive and/or forget - at least until such a time as the plot dictates otherwise. (For Sue Ellen, that time comes later in the ep when Bobby informs her that Christopher is Kristin's biological child.) What sets KNOTS LANDING's equivalent storyline - Abby's slow seduction of Gary - apart is that Gary isn't conveniently blinded to Abby's machinations in the same way. Instead, he looks her straight in the eye and sees what we see. "What are you doing?" he asks her. "Do you know what you're doing, or does it just come so naturally to you, you don't realise you're doing it? … Are you trying to be persuasive or seductive? You talk about a business venture as if it were a tryst. Your idea of being convincing is to stand very close and wet your lips … I'm getting a little tired of you thinking you can manipulate me by being sexy." He's right, of course, but that's not the whole story. "Do you want me to stop?" Abby asks him at the end of the scene. "I didn't say that," he replies. That these characters are smart enough to call each other so incisively on their behaviour makes the writing smart and incisive too.

    As their episode titles suggest, this week's KNOTS and FALCON CREST have a lot in common. KNOTS' "Reunion" is between Karen and her college roommate Victoria Hill, aka "the greatest designer in New York". ("She knows Yoko Ono!" marvels Diana.) FALCON CREST's "Family Reunion" is between the Giobertis and Chase's mother Jacqueline Perrault, now a multi-millionairess living in France. ("We'll have to have Prince Charles and Lady Di over," wisecracks Maggie, having scrubbed the house in preparation for her visit.) Both women disrupt their hosts' carefully laid plans - Victoria by arriving a day late, Jacqueline hours early - thereby catching them unawares. Each look down on their new surroundings. "How can you stand it?" asks Victoria, regarding life in a cul-de-sac. "Here, wine is a business, and in France it's an art," says Jacqueline sniffily.

    Diana Fairgate and Vicky Gioberti are each mightily impressed by the glamorous older woman in their midst, who encourages them to spread their wings and realise their potential. Victoria declares Diana "much too hip to languish in the suburbs" while Jacqueline tells her granddaughter how "I left my parents' home in France as soon as I found something better." When Victoria and Jacqueline offer to help the Fairgates and Giobertis relocate to New York and France respectively, Diana and Vicky jump at the idea. While Karen goes so far as to put her house and business on the market, Chase will not consider leaving Falcon Crest, in spite of Jacqueline repeatedly warning him how dangerous Angela is. When Karen changes her mind about leaving Knots Landing, Diana rebels and insists that she will accept Victoria's invitation on her own. Likewise Vicky. In both cases, a sense of family prevails before the end credits with both girls agreeing to stay put. Along the way, Karen and Victoria have a chance to air long held grievances, ("You always use my life as a yardstick to measure yours! You've been competing with me since the day I met you!") as do Jacqueline and Chase, ("I resented you for so long …" "I suppose we didn't like each other very much") before reconciling and bidding a fond adieu. Victoria says her good-byes in the Fairgate driveway. "I hate airport scenes," she explains. Watching the final moments of this week's FALCON CREST, you get the feeling Lana Turner loves them.

    Following Teddy Becker seven episodes ago, Victoria Hill is the second New Yorker from Karen's past, now leading a glamorous but lonely (i.e. childless) life, to arrive in Seaview Circle and promptly fall head over heels for Diana. With Karen emerging the wiser, happier party in each of these episodes, it's hard not to feel KNOTS values suburban motherhood over other lifestyle choices. However, "Reunion" is nuanced enough not to become too smug or self-congratulatory - and considering how soon and how fast things are going to start changing in the cul-de-sac, maybe KNOTS is allowed to celebrate itself just this once.

    During Karen and Victoria's big confrontation scene, Michele Lee's and Jessica Walters' performances reminded me of Shirley MacLaine's and Anne Bancroft's in the 1977 movie THE TURNING POINT, i.e. two scenery-chewing Broadway actresses going at each other hammer and tongs. When Angela and Jacqueline meet at Jason's graveside on FALCON CREST, however, the effect is pure Old Hollywood. The comparison Julia makes between the two characters ("Jacqueline's been living in France all these years enjoying the finest things that life has to offer [while Angela's] been here, obsessed with Falcon Crest") captures the contrast between the actresses as well: Lana Turner, every inch the pampered, chauffeur-driven MGM star, and Jane Wyman, the no-nonsense, disciplined Warner Brothers actress.

    While "Family Reunion" feels like an important, dramatic instalment in the FALCON CREST saga, it's also somewhat deceiving. By the time Jacqueline leaves at the end of the episode, we're really no further on in the story. Her appearance may have opened up old wounds in much the same way Alexis's return did on DYNASTY, but unlike Alexis, all she has revealed about the past is that Angela was dominant and Jason was weak - which is nothing we haven't already known since the very first episode. It's a clever sleight of hand on the part of the writers.

    In this week's Soap Land Top 5 ... there's not much to choose between DALLAS and DYNASTY. Now each seven episodes away from the end of the season, both move up a notch in terms of drama this week, with one great scene after another. Again, it's the music that defines the differences between them: DYNASTY's relentless, exciting score driving everything forward, while DALLAS's imbues its soapy story-telling with poignancy and gravitas. DYNASTY is cinematic and sweeping and full of grand entrances; DALLAS is more televisual - homely and intimate and all about the close ups.

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    02/Mar/82: FLAMINGO ROAD: The Dedication v. 03/Mar/82: DYNASTY: The Baby v. 04/Mar/82: KNOTS LANDING: Cricket v. 05/Mar/82: DALLAS: The Prodigal

    Just as the Carrington party is winding down at the beginning of this week’s DYNASTY, the Weldons throw FLAMINGO ROAD’s biggest bash to date, complete with red carpets, roulette tables and valet parking. The glittering gold-coloured dress Constance wears even resembles Krystle’s.

    At the DYNASTY do last week, Jeff discovered the identity of his wife’s lover when he caught Fallon and Nick Toscanni in an embrace. At this week's Weldon party, Julio Sanchez makes a clean breast of his relationship with Constance to her husband. “Your wife and I are in love,” he informs him solemnly. “Julio,” Field shrugs, "my wife and I have an agreement. We are free to have our affairs.” Back on DYNASTY, Jeff acknowledges to Claudia the similarly open nature of his marriage ("I'm sure you've guessed what our situation is like at the house”) before ending up in bed with her. Later, after learning of the birth of his son, Jeff confesses his dalliance to Fallon who is as un-phased as Field was: "That's what you need, Jeff. Another woman, not me.” Likewise, when Julio insists that he wants to marry Constance, Field goes so far as to give him his blessing. “That’s fine with me,” he tells him.

    Meanwhile, Skipper’s blindness having brought out her possessive side, Eudora Weldon has done her best to drive a wedge between her son and his girlfriend Alicia. This week, Alicia resorts to gatecrashing the Weldon party to spend some time with him. Alexis Carrington, meanwhile, makes Eudora’s motherly interference look positively benign when, in one of DYNASTY's all-time funniest scenes, she offers her daughter-in-law Sammy Jo $20,000 to walk out on her marriage. "Look, I love Steven,” Sammy Jo protests. "From now on, every word you utter is going to cost you $1,000,” Alexis replies crisply. "You've just said four words. That's now $16,000.” Alexis’s negotiation tactics in this scene echo Donna Krebbs' in DALLAS three weeks ago when, having offered Ray’s girlfriend Bonnie $15,000 to leave the state, she attempted to haggle her down to $10,000.

    Prior to that scene between Donna and Bonnie, Soap Land’s girl-on-girl fight action had been pretty minimal. Pam slapped Sue Ellen in DALLAS Season 1 (“I’ve always thought you were just a gold digger anyway”), Laura slapped Abby in KNOTS LANDING Season 2 (“You are such a slut”), and that was about it. If Donna and Bonnie’s drink-in-the-face/sock-to-the-jaw encounter upped the ante, then this week's knock-down drag-out cat-fight between Alexis and Krystle, with hair pulling and feathers flying, takes the concept to a whole new level. It’s probably Soap Land’s first bona fide visual set piece as well. Sure, we’ve seen the guys duking it in barroom brawls before, (the Ewing boys in “Dove Hunt” and Gary going ballistic with a pool cue in “Bottom of the Bottle” spring most easily to mind, while Matthew Blaisdel’s riggers engaged in a fair few punch-ups throughout DYNASTY’s first season), but those were all smaller parts of larger stories. Alexis and Krystle’s fight, on the other hand, even though it does arise out of the action, (following Krystle's realisation that Alexis caused her miscarriage) ultimately feels like an event in and of itself. Even after repeated viewings, and with the stuntmen-in-wigs sections becoming ever more apparent on DVD, it still feels fun and exciting and different to anything that Soap Land has presented us with before.

    This week’s DALLAS also boasts its share of juicy confrontations - between Clayton and Afton, Afton and Sue Ellen, Cliff and Katherine, Katherine and JR - but the emphasis is more on talking heads than visual spectacle. Bobby responding to Jeff Farraday’s blackmail attempt by grabbing him by the collar and threatening his life is as close as the episode gets to physical violence.

    There’s an interesting parallel between Cliff’s showdown with Katherine in DALLAS and one between Field and Constance in FLAMINGO ROAD. Katherine is angry that Cliff has demanded complete autonomy to run Wentworth Tool and Die any way he sees fit. "Look, my father built this company, dammit!" she snaps at him. "I'm not gonna see it destroyed because Cliff Barnes happens to be obsessed ... with JR Ewing.” Meanwhile, Field is pissed at Constance for dealing with Michael Tyrone’s sinister syndicate buddies on his behalf. “Look, Field, you’re the one who wants to be governor,” she reminds him. "Now I just had to make a few little promises along the way to make sure you get there.” It’s then time for both Cliff and Field to assert themselves. "I'm the president of Wentworth Tool and Die now and nobody is gonna stop me from running this company exactly the way I please!” Cliff informs his half-sister. "It’s my career, Constance,” Field tells his wife, "and as far as that’s concerned, you are out of the picture … You don’t have anything to say about anything.”

    Cliff and Field incur the wrath of these big-haired women at their peril - for it doesn’t take long for Katherine and Constance to each join forces with an even more powerful and dangerous man, JR Ewing and Michael Tyrone respectively.

    KNOTS LANDING aside, each of this week's soaps end with the sense of a hunter advancing on their prey, armed with either new information or a new ally. JR and Alexis both make a discovery based on legal documentation, or the lack thereof. PI Morgan Hess informs Alexis that Krystle’s divorce papers from her first marriage to Mark Jennings were never filed, thereby invalidating her marriage to Blake, while a copy of Christopher Shepard’s birth certificate all but confirms to JR that he is the real father of Bobby and Pam’s adopted son. “I've got business with Mr. Jennings,” Alexis announces. “That baby’s here in Texas,” JR declares. Meanwhile, on FLAMINGO ROAD, Constance kisses Michael Tyrone passionately and demands “my husband’s head on a platter.”

    As one Soap Land relative, Krystle’s niece Sammy Jo, leaves DYNASTY, another, Karen Fairgate’s brother Joe, arrives in KNOTS LANDING. Joe is the third, and thankfully least needy, visitor from Karen’s New York past to show up this season. And following Sammy Jo and FALCON CREST’s Emma, the titular guest character in “Cricket" becomes Soap Land’s third jewel thief in two weeks, pilfering a few items from Abby’s dressing table.

    Cricket and Olivia go on to play a junior version of Soap Land’s favourite game - “Did they fall or were they pushed?” - which entails Olivia landing at the bottom of a flight of stairs after a tussle with Cricket. Compared to the miscarriages of Emma Channing and Pam Ewing, Constance Carlyle’s broken back and the deaths of Jason Gioberti, Julie Grey, Kristin Shepard and Ted Dinard, Olivia gets off pretty lightly with a fractured arm.

    After Olivia, Kristin, Annie Fairgate and those three ghostly sisters, Cricket is Val’s seventh Lucy substitute in less than three seasons (or eighth, if you count Lucy herself). On DALLAS, meanwhile, Pam once again becomes Lucy’s Val replacement when she stands up to creepy Roger on her behalf. It’s the most assertive scene Victoria Principal has had in over a year. Pam’s FLAMINGO ROAD counterpart, Lane Curtis née Ballou, also steps out of the shadows this week when she finally fulfils the vow she made at the beginning of the series and moves onto Flamingo Road itself.

    If the main plot of “Cricket” feels a little overfamiliar, it’s still worth it for the Van Ark/Shackelford/Harris dynamic. And the penultimate scene of the ep, where Val confronts Cricket’s step-father Rusty, and he is exposed as the season’s second heartbroken widower following Bill Medford, is more beautifully acted and touching than I ever realised before.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are …

    1 (1) DALLAS
    2 (3) DYNASTY
    3 (-) KNOTS LANDING
    4 (4) FLAMINGO ROAD
     
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  4. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    10/Mar/82: DYNASTY: Mother and Son v. 11/Mar/82: KNOTS LANDING: Best Intentions v. 12/Mar/82: DALLAS: Vengeance v. 12/Mar/82: FALCON CREST: House of Cards

    This week’s KNOTS LANDING and DYNASTY are notable in that they give more focus than usual to their respective third and fourth female lead characters, Laura Avery and Claudia Blaisdel. Laura’s journey from unhappy housewife to Seaview Circle’s first career woman has oft been acknowledged, albeit bitterly, by spouse Richard, and this week Jeff Colby pays tribute to Claudia, a former mental patient abandoned by her husband and child who is now single and working at Denver Carrington, by calling her "a woman who had the courage to make a new life for herself.” Both women now find themselves burdened by secrets that could jeopardise their hard-won independence and self-esteem: Laura is pregnant by one man and sleeping with another, while Claudia is being blackmailed by her new lover’s uncle into spying on him.

    Real life ex-spouses Michele Lee and James Farentino dispense similar you’re-gonna-regret-it baby-related advice this week, to Laura in KNOTS and Fallon in DYNASTY. “If you have the abortion without discussing it with Richard,” counsels Karen, "you’re going to regret it. Even if he never finds out about it, you’re gonna feel guilty and bitter.” Not to be outdone, DYNASTY’s Dr Nick delivers an even grimmer prognosis. “You've given birth to a son who's fighting for his life,” he tells Fallon. "If you refuse to see him before the surgery, if you LOSE him ... I guarantee you, emotionally, you'll never make it through the rest of your own life!"

    Jeff Colby and Richard Avery are repeatedly wrong-footed by the women in their lives in this week’s Soap Land. Reconciled to the fact that Fallon wants nothing to do with their newborn baby and that he is to raise the child alone, Jeff is shocked when she changes her mind after the baby survives his dangerous operation. “I still want the divorce,” Fallon tells him, “but I’m not gonna give the baby up and I can’t give you custody." "How unstable can you be about all of this?!” he shouts. Over on KNOTS, Richard is overjoyed when Laura tells him she’s pregnant, believing the baby to be the solution to all their marital problems. Only after she has allowed him to talk her into a reconciliation and even a vacation in France does Laura finally come clean, announcing that she plans to leave him and get an abortion.

    Both situations lead to violence - if not quite on the scale of what Alexis describes as “that little contretemps in my studio" in last week’s DYNASTY. ("In my world, we call it a fight,” counters Krystle, "a good, dirty, no holds barred catfight.”) Jeff vents his frustrations with Fallon by punching Nick, while Richard slaps Laura across the face. "You said abortion and I saw Jason,” he explains afterwards.

    The moment where Laura tells Richard she has decided to keep the baby is depicted very differently to Fallon's change of heart regarding her abortion earlier in the season. There’s no last-possible-minute melodrama, no gushing displays of emotion, there’s not even any musical score. Instead, there’s a kind of grown up, matter-of-fact honesty about the Averys' exchange. The scene is small and understated, the unspoken feelings messy and complex. In short, it feels like a scene from a genuine marriage.

    As this week’s KNOTS and DYNASTY progress, it is Richard's and Claudia's situations that start to merge. Both characters are wracked with guilt - Richard for mistreating his pregnant wife, Claudia after she is caught photographing secret files in Jeff's office. Over lunch with Karen, Richard vows to change his ways, but there’s already a manic quality to his behaviour. Meanwhile, Jeff returns from confronting his uncle to find a fragile Claudia preparing to resign from her job. Worse is to follow when he tells her that Matthew and Lindsay, just like Jock Ewing ten weeks ago, are missing presumed dead following an accident in the jungles of South America.

    The final scenes of both shows see Richard and Claudia returning to their empty homes, shrouded in darkness. Richard calls out to Laura, before realising that she has already taken their son and moved out. Claudia, meanwhile, helplessly bemoans the loss of her spouse and child (“Matthew, my Lindsay - gone”). The episodes end with Richard and Claudia sitting alone in the dark - him staring at Laura’s goodbye note, her at the gun Matthew once bought for her. “I’ll kill him,” she mutters, referring to Cecil Colby.

    Like DYNASTY, DALLAS also ends with a character speaking aloud in an empty room. Having received written confirmation that he is Christopher’s father, JR realises that he is in a position to blackmail Bobby into handing over his Ewing Oil voting shares. “And soon, my son,” he says, addressing a photograph of Josh Ross, "with your ten shares, I’ll have total control of Ewing Oil.” Where Claudia is traumatised, JR is triumphant - but both declarations sound equally ominous.

    A theme recurring throughout all of this week’s soaps is that of meddling mothers. It is Lilimae’s snooping in KNOTS that affords Abby the opportunity to get her hands on Val’s novel-to-be. (“It’s all about the Ewings of Dallas,” Lilimae tells her, "right down to the nastiest thing JR ever did.”) Meanwhile, Angela Channing, who has spent an entire season of FALCON CREST keeping disturbed daughter Emma prisoner for fear the truth of Jason’s death will surface, now schemes to marry grandson Lance off to Melissa Agretti. Conversely, on DYNASTY, Alexis tries to conceal her involvement in breaking up her son's marriage. Now it looks as though a season’s worth of maternal scheming is about to catch up with both Angela and Alexis. "It’s all slipping away, isn’t it?” observes Angela’s former husband Douglas. "This carefully constructed plan to keep the truth from coming out.” “I wanna talk about Alexis and one of her Alexis lies,” Steven snarls at his mother on DYNASTY. "What are you holding back to protect yourself?” For both mothers, attack proves the readiest means of defence. “I can’t trust any of you,” snaps Angela when she discovers her daughter Julia has taken Emma to see a psychotherapist behind her back. "I am sick to death of being hammered at by both of my children when all I've done since I've been back is to try and help you and Fallon!” Alexis yells at Steven.

    Despite their bravado, Alexis and Angela must each make a serious concession this week. Alexis is obliged to admit to Blake that Cecil Colby could be Fallon’s father ("It's not enough that you betray me, but that you betray me with him?!”) while Angela confides to Julia that Emma “murdered” Jason. Julia’s heartbroken reaction is as surprising as it is effective.

    Maternal interference is par the course for Lilimae, Alexis and Angela, but it is far more unusual for the matriarchs of DALLAS to involve themselves in their sons’ personal lives. Miss Ellie and Rebecca's uncharacteristic behaviour, therefore, helps impress upon the audience how grave the implications of the JR/Sue Ellen/Cliff triangle have become. “This is quite unlike you to question me about my personal life,” a twitchy Sue Ellen points out to her ex-mother-in-law. "Normally I wouldn’t,” Miss Ellie agrees, "but there's a lot more at stake than just your personal interests. Two whole families are involved.” Ellie's sentiments are echoed later in the episode by Rebecca. "I'm sorry to pry into your private business,” she tells son Cliff, "but I have to know - are you using [Sue Ellen] to get back at JR?”

    As Angela's and Alexis's schemes threaten to crash down around them, Abby’s and JR’s are just taking off. Their respective pawns, Val Ewing and Cliff Barnes, can scarcely believe their good fortune: Val’s glorified homework assignment is apparently good enough to warrant the attentions of a prestigious New York publisher, while an opportunity to get rich, prove himself to Sue Ellen and get back at JR seems to just fall into Cliff’s lap. Given the scale of some of JR’s previous masterplans (i.e. the ones involving South East Asia), suckering Cliff into a phoney oil deal feels a tad lightweight - due in part to the use of a cartoony Marilee Stone as his front woman - but the show manages to sell the drama of it, even if it isn’t, to quote Lilimae, "the nastiest thing JR ever did." Meanwhile, Val’s concerns about not telling Gary that the book she has written is "a thinly disguised expose of dirty dealings in the Ewing family” are mirrored by her sister-in-law Donna's in DALLAS, who worries about informing Miss Ellie of the dirty dealings involving Jock that she has uncovered whilst researching her new book.

    Several relationships come to an end this week (at least for now - does anything ever really end in Soap Land?). Jeff’s discovery of Claudia in his office effectively destroys their budding love affair, JR shaming Clayton over his feelings for Sue Ellen ("You're a fraud - call yourself a gentleman, her friend, her protector, and all the time you wanted her for yourself”) kills that relationship before it can even get going, Laura finishes her affair with Scooter prior to walking out on her marriage and Mitch Cooper follows her example on DALLAS by asking Lucy for a divorce. Cliff Barnes bucks the trend by asking Sue Ellen to marry him.

    As one classic soap triangle (JR/Sue Ellen/Cliff) escalates, another (Abby/Gary/Val) gathers pace and a third (Alexis/Blake/Krystle) falters badly. Meanwhile, a fourth commences on FALCON CREST with the arrival of Melissa Agretti (as played by an actress instead of a mute extra). It is clearly established in her first scene that while Melissa might be all but betrothed to dark prince Lance, it is his fair-haired cousin Cole in whom she is really interested.

    Young, beautiful, wilful and capricious, Melissa fits easily into the same “spoiled princess” bracket as Lucy, Fallon and Constance (although we’ve never seen Claude Weldon or Blake Carrington manhandle his daughter as roughly as Carlo Agretti does Melissa when he sees her with Cole in this week’s ep. From the edit, it’s unclear whether or not he actually strikes her.) However, the Soap Land character Melissa most resembles at this point is DALLAS’s Marilee Stone. Like Marilee, she purrs all her dialogue and makes everything sound like a come on. “Marilee, you are insatiable!” says JR in this week’s DALLAS. “She looks like a man-eater to me,” says Vicky Gioberti of Melissa. Indeed, as well as playing Cole and Lance off against each other, she also toys with the affections of a third man.

    Just as the love triangle in DALLAS brings out Cliff's more reckless side - in his eagerness to prove himself worthy of Sue Ellen, he not only embezzles money from his mother’s company but sinks all of his own savings into the bogus deal as well - so Cole’s involvement with Melissa reveals a darker aspect to his character. In the scene where he keeps jealous watch outside her house when she returns home from a date, he’s like a less extreme version of Roger Larsen on DALLAS, who this week lies in wait for Lucy before jumping into her car and ordering her to “drive - I’ll tell you where.”

    Meanwhile, Lance Cumson’s bid for independence - he moves out of Falcon Crest and takes a job at the New Globe - is as short-lived as Eric Fairgate’s was in last week’s KNOTS when he defied his mother’s wishes for him to pursue a college education. In both cases, a conversation with an older male relative - Eric’s Uncle Joe and Lance’s grandfather Douglas - leads them to reconsider their actions.

    Douglas Channing also provides an interesting snippet of back story during a scene with his ex-wife Angela: "Prohibition almost ruined Falcon Crest and without my money, it would have been impossible …” At that point, Angela cuts him off, but it’s pretty clear that she married him to save her family’s land. Substitute the words “Prohibition" and "Falcon Crest" with “Depression" and “Southfork", and you’ve got the origins of Jock and Ellie’s marriage in DALLAS. Douglas even suffers a Jock-style heart attack at the end of the episode.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    23/Mar/82: FLAMINGO ROAD: No Dice v. 24/Mar/82: DYNASTY: The Gun v. 25/Mar/82: KNOTS LANDING: Silver Shadows v. 26/Mar/82: DALLAS: The Investigation

    A woman seducing a man at the behest of a third (invariably male) party, only to then find herself falling in love with him, has by now become a familiar soap trope. Let’s call it The Spy Who Loved Me Syndrome. Recent examples include Afton with Cliff Barnes on DALLAS and Claudia with Jeff Colby on DYNASTY (not to mention Julie Gonzalo with practically everyone on New DALLAS). Now it’s the turn of Sandie Swanson on FLAMINGO ROAD, whose affair with Field was orchestrated by her brother Michael Tyrone. Having now fallen for Field, she asks Michael why he will not abandon his campaign of vengeance against the residents of Truro. "I can’t forget the sight of our father swinging from the end of a hangman’s rope, that’s why!” he shouts in reply - belatedly revealing himself as the FLAMINGO ROAD equivalent of DYNASTY’s Nick Toscanni who has been plagued by similar images all season. "He hanged himself ... I saw him!” Nick said to his sister, referring to their half-brother, several episodes ago.

    After Sandie tearfully confesses to Field, he retaliates by dumping her and vowing to nix Michael's precious gambling bill in the senate. However, before he can carry out his promise, he discovers Sandie unconscious from an apparent overdose. While he is busy walking her round her bedroom in an attempt to revive her, (thereby following in the footsteps of Nick Toscanni and Richard Avery and their comatose dames, Claudia Blaisdel and Marni the hooker, respectively) he misses the all important senate hearing. And when Sandie makes an instantaneous “recovery" in the ambulance, we realise that her “suicide attempt” was a ruse to get Field out of way while the gambling bill was passed. This twist is immediately followed by another when the ambulance orderly stabs Sandie with a hypodermic needle. “Instructions from your brother,” he explains as she loses consciousness. Yes, it’s that most exciting of things - a triple cross!

    The scene on the courthouse steps where Field realises he has been hoodwinked, not only by Michael but by his own wife Constance, and then watches as they drive off laughing together in triumph, is a magnificently spiteful pay off to all the marital feuding he and Constance have done since the series began. In comparison, Jeff and Fallon’s bickering on DYNASTY over what to name their baby (“I don’t care - call him anything you want!”) feels a bit petulant. However, nothing on FLAMINGO ROAD, or anywhere else in this week’s Soap Land, is as hauntingly poignant as Claudia Blaisdel’s growing desperation as her sanity starts to fail her once more - certainly not Sue Ellen’s “disgusting self-pity about her finances” (to borrow an old phrase of Pam's) after Cliff asks her for a loan to bail himself out of trap set for him by JR - which, while very entertaining to watch, is not remotely sympathetic.

    It’s interesting to compare Claudia’s struggle to comprehend the loss of her husband and daughter, missing presumed dead in the jungles of South America, with Miss Ellie’s refusal to even acknowledge her near identical predicament in DALLAS. "I was waiting for some kind of feeling,” Claudia tells Jeff, "some moment deep inside me, that would tell me that my daughter is dead, It didn't come. Because she's alive, I know that. I feel it ... They never found the jeep. They didn't find any wreckage. They didn't find Matthew, not Lindsay. It's not impossible. You know that in Vietnam, men who were lost for years, they thought they were dead, they showed up alive.” Miss Ellie, meanwhile, avoids any mention of Jock’s crash and continues to speak of him smilingly in the present tense.

    A week after Cliff Barnes proposed marriage to his arch enemy’s ex-wife on DALLAS, Cecil Colby does the same thing on DYNASTY. That his offer catches Alexis unawares is understandable, given that she has only just made the following declaration to her former husband: “Blake, I want to tell you something, and you can believe this or not, I loved you then and I’ve never stopped loving you, in spite of what you did to me.” Meanwhile, Sue Ellen is stopped in her tracks by a similarly impassioned plea from her ex. "I love you,” JR tells her. "You know that. We're the same kind. We have our shortcomings, our faults, but we look at the world the same way. There are no two people that are meant for each other more than you and I ... It's time for you to come home to Southfork, to your husband.”

    Things are a little more straightforward for Skipper and Alicia over on FLAMINGO ROAD: he proposes, she accepts, and they get married - all in the same episode. Following Steven and Sammy Jo’s, theirs is the second Soap Land elopement of the season. Initially, Skipper’s mother Eudora is as aghast to learn of her son’s marriage as Alexis was - not only is Alicia a girl from the wrong side of the tracks (like Sammy Jo), but she is also of a different ethnicity, plus there’s the small matter of Skipper being blind.

    Soap Land does a nice line in loyal retainers this week. KNOTS LANDING gives us silent movie director Andrew Douglas’s long-suffering, silently resentful manservant Henry (previously Cliff Barnes’s defence attorney in Soap Land’s first ever murder trial). Andrew's mocking reference to Henry's gallstone operation in 1967 as "the highlight of his life” chimes with DYNASTY major domo Joseph's ironic description of changing Steven Carrington’s diapers as “a delightful chore”. Ordinarily a complete weirdo, Joseph’s decision in this week’s episode to give Steven Sammy Jo’s address in Hollywood on the grounds that Steven is "a grown man who's entitled to make his own mistakes and to deal with them” shows an unexpectedly human side to his character. Henry and Joseph’s DALLAS counterpart is Mr. Forrest, long-term employee at Wentworth Tool & Die who resigns in protest at Cliff’s actions as head of the company. “My loyalty was not only to him,” he explains to Rebecca, referring to her late husband Herbert, “it was to that first little company he started. In a sense, it’s been my home now for almost forty years. Through thick and thin, good times and bad, I’ve been with Wentworth Tool & Die.” All of this is to underline how grievous Cliff’s abuse of his position (and his mother’s trust) has been.

    This week’s KNOTS LANDING instalment, “Silver Shadows”, is notable for being the final “story of the week” of any of the '80s soaps (THE YELLOW ROSE notwithstanding). A somewhat fanciful episode, it gives us Soap Land’s first doppelgänger as Abby turns out to be a dead ringer for silent movie actress Teri Clarington. The painting of Teri that illustrates their resemblance is the last, and least, picture to be submitted for consideration in this season’s Soap Land Portrait Wars. The other contenders are, in ascending order of merit, the painting of Lute-Mae in FLAMINGO ROAD gifted to her by Michael Tyrone as part of his campaign to woo her; the portrait of Angela Channing rendered by would-be suitor Arthur Masefield which then hung in her study for several episodes; Alexis Carrington’s unfinished picture of ex-hubby Blake, eventually trashed by Krystle during their cat fight; the iconic oil painting of Jock Ewing which made its screen debut after his death; and in first place, the fetching portrait of Steven Carrington as a young boy, painted from memory by his mother during their long estrangement and presented to him upon their reunion.

    Between Steven and Sammy Jo’s meeting on Sunset Strip in DYNASTY and Andrew Douglas’s reminiscences of Jack Barrymore, Charlie Chaplin et al on KNOTS, Soap Land provides us with two contrasting, yet archetypal views of Hollywood this week. The DYNASTY version, all neon lights, sleazy strips and broken dreams, is more evocative than KNOTS’ attempt at conjuring a bygone era within a modern day context. “Silver Shadows” is how “The Three Sisters” might have turned out had that episode kept cutting between the haunted house scenes and a mundane subplot at Knots Landing Motors. Still, Donna Mills’ performance is lovely - devious and wistful by turns.

    Back in DYNASTY’s version of Hollywood, Steven's discovery of his oiled-up, half-naked wife in the arms of snapper Ace Hudson leads to the first of two altercations set in a photographer’s studio this week. The other takes place in DALLAS with Bobby Ewing, in true generic TV action show fashion, throwing Roger Larson against a wall and instantly rendering him unconscious. A single kick then proves enough to break down a locked door and reveal a bound and gagged Lucy. The scene between Steven, Sammy Jo and Ace is far more convincing - and interesting. Steven’s realisation that his mother paid his wife $20,000 to leave him mirrors Rebecca Wentworth’s in DALLAS that her son has embezzled $4,000,000 from her company.

    Funnily enough, FLAMINGO ROAD’s Field isn’t the only Soap Land character whose misguided attempt to prevent a suicide backfires this week. Worried about Claudia, Krystle pays a visit to her apartment at the end of this week’s DYNASTY and spots a gun on the counter. Assuming Claudia intends to use it on herself (when in fact she is planning to kill Cecil Colby), Krystle picks it up. Claudia then makes a grab for it and the two women struggle … Inevitably, a shot rings out - but who got hit?

    I was reminded of this cliff-hanger last year while watching a similar one between Tommy Sutter and Julie Gonzalo on New DALLAS - only instead of ending on a shot of two blood-splattered monkeys, (which itself foreshadowed the deaths of the Ewing twins the following season) DYNASTY freezes on Dr Nick’s grave pronouncement as he bursts through the door: "Oh dear God!” Re-watching this scene again, however, the DALLAS scenario it most strongly echoes - a woman in an apartment wielding a gun with which she plans to shoot a powerful businessman, only to have the weapon intercepted by a second woman - is the flashback scene from DALLAS Season 3 of Sue Ellen in Kristin’s condo prior to the shooting of JR.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are …

    1 (-) DYNASTY
    2 (3) FLAMINGO ROAD
    3 (1) DALLAS
    4 (-) KNOTS LANDING
     
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  6. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    30/Mar/82: FLAMINGO ROAD: The High and the Mighty v. 01/Apr/82: KNOTS LANDING: Letting Go v. 02/Apr/82: DALLAS: Acceptance v. 02/Apr/82: FALCON CREST: The Good, The Bad and the Profane

    It’s been a hectic week in Soap Land. While FLAMINGO ROAD’s Field and Sam fly to Nassau to investigate Michael Tyrone’s past, Gary and Abby, chaperoned by Val, travel to Sacramento to beg a busy senator to help repeal an outdated bill that prevents them importing methanol from Mexico. Last week, Michael Tyrone went to extraordinary lengths to get his gambling bill passed by the legislature - including staging his sister’s overdose and arranging her kidnapping. The question on this week’s KNOTS is: how far will Abby go to persuade the senator to see things her way?

    Field and Sam putting their differences aside to oppose a common enemy feels very New DALLAS. When they reach the Caribbean and encounter several spooked and spooky black people who speak of voodoo and spirits and hexes, the vibe becomes distinctly LIVE AND LET DIE. This supernatural atmosphere is fresh territory for Soap Land (KNOTS’ “Three Sisters” episode notwithstanding) and is as exciting as it is completely deranged.

    While being held prisoner in Nassau, Sandie Swanson somehow manages to get word to Field that he is in danger if he remains on the island. Another reformed “Spy Who Loved Me” also comes up trumps this week: Afton offers Cliff her support on DALLAS after everyone else has turned their backs on him. (The sight of Cliff alone in his apartment with a gun, only to be interrupted by a blonde visitor, also calls to mind Claudia Blaisdel at the end of last week’s DYNASTY.)

    In spite of Sandie’s warning, Sam and Field’s plane is sabotaged. After it crashes somewhere in the jungles of South America - sorry, I mean the Everglades - the episode turns into a cross between DALLAS instalments “Survival” (Bobby and JR’s plane crash) and “The Search” (the Ewing boys look for Jock), only with added snake bites and voodoo dolls. “If I were you, I’d get out my widow’s weeds,” Sheriff Titus advises Constance with his customary tact. "Where they went down, they find one in a hundred,” he adds, making it sound as though Sam and Field have as much chance of being rescued as Jock Ewing or Matthew and Lindsay Blaisdel (or even Sam’s future self, Mark Graison, after his DALLAS plane crash).

    This week’s Soap Land includes no less than three proposals of marriage. Michael Tyrone asks Lute-Mae to marry him on FLAMINGO ROAD, while Mario and Lance pop the question to Vicky and Melissa respectively on FALCON CREST. Mario and Vicky - following the example set by Soap Land's other young, interracial couple, Skipper and Alicia, in last week’s FLAMINGO ROAD - decide to elope, only to get cold feet at the last second. Lance, meanwhile, proposes to Melissa solely to appease his grandmother. As Melissa has shown not the slightest interest in him, he is confident of a rejection. He is somewhat dismayed, therefore, when she accepts his hand in marriage.

    It’s interesting that a character as recently introduced as Melissa should have become so prominent on FALCON CREST so quickly. Not only is she given a large amount of screen time, but we also see much of the action from her point of view. The fact that no one, save her doctor, knows she is pregnant (or by whom) creates a complicity between the character and the viewer. It is this that sets Melissa apart from her Soap Land contemporaries, Fallon Colby and Constance Carlyle.

    All season long, we have been privy to information about Fallon and Constance that they themselves have been unaware of (the possibly that Blake might not be Fallon’s father, the fact that Lute-Mae is Constance’s mother, plus the knowledge that each of the men they are involved with - Nick Toscanni and Michael Tyrone - has been secretly plotting vendettas against their families). Melissa, on the other hand, is a keeper of secrets, not a victim of them. Unlike Fallon, who was pressured into eloping with Jeff by Cecil Colby, Melissa has made her decision to marry a man she doesn’t love independently. Like Abby in this week's KNOTS LANDING, she is the one in control.

    Speaking of Abby, Val is anxious to know exactly how she managed to persuade the handsome senator to repeal the outdated bill. Abby’s explanation is both circuitous and revealing: “There are people who have a lot of money and they use that money to get what they want. There are people who have power and they use that. You use whatever you have. Whatever tools you can find, whatever resources are available, you use them to get what you want.” For Melissa on FALCON CREST, that means the Agretti vineyards: “Power is land.” “We don’t always do what our emotions tell us,” she says to boyfriend Cole by way of explaining her decision to marry Lance. "Sometimes we have to use our heads instead of our hearts.”

    Cole and Val are equally appalled by such cold-blooded pragmatism. “I thought we loved each other!” Cole protests. “What about what’s right and wrong?” Val asks Abby. “Morality is something you dwell on after you know where your next meal’s coming from,” Abby replies. “I think that I better keep my eye on you all the time,” Val tells her. “Val, do,” Abby smiles sweetly. "How else are you gonna learn?” Melissa ends her conversation with Cole on a similarly "generous" note: "Too bad you’re not the heir to Falcon Crest. Maybe someday I can share the spoils with you.”

    The night before their wedding, Lance arranges for Melissa to find him in bed with another woman - a taster, he explains, of what to expect if she goes ahead with their marriage. Watching in hindsight, this scene feels like a subversion of the honey trap Holly Harwood set for JR and Sue Ellen in DALLAS - but that won’t happen for another year. What fascinates most is Melissa’s reaction, or lack thereof, to what she sees. Her face, shrouded in darkness, does not flicker. She doesn’t cry, she doesn’t laugh, she doesn’t deliver a bitchy one-liner or make a vow of vengeance. She just stares silently back at Lance. It’s hard to think of another Soap Land female at this point who would react the same way. Where Fallon might be more cultured and witty, closer to the archetypal madcap heiress of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, Melissa is the Soap Land equivalent of the film noir femme fatale - inscrutable, maybe even deadly.

    Lance and Melissa are the fourth Soap Land couple to make it up the aisle this season, and theirs is easily the darkest, juiciest and most beautifully filmed Soap Land wedding to date. The juxtaposition between the overt religiosity of the ceremony, performed by a real Catholic priest, (Father Bob, who also wed Skipper and Alicia in last week’s FLAMINGO ROAD) and the utter amorality of the characters involved, for whom this is but a cynical business transaction, (“I marry Melissa, you get the power,” says Lance to his grandmother) is deliciously perverse. As with Blake and Krystle’s wedding on DYNASTY, the action cuts between the happy couple and the bride’s other love interest - but instead of brooding on a hilltop like Matthew Blaisdel, Cole is inside the church, lurking behind a pillar near the altar - and while Melissa is saying her vows to Lance, her eyes are trained on Cole's. Have I mentioned how perverse this wedding is?

    As their titles - “Letting Go” and “Acceptance” - suggest, this week’s episodes of KNOTS LANDING and DALLAS cover similar ground. Each deals with a widow coming to terms with the death of her husband. For Karen Fairgate on KNOTS, this means letting go of the past (her marriage to Sid) and facing the future as a single woman. For Miss Ellie on DALLAS, it’s about accepting the fact that the past (Jock’s death) even happened at all. On KNOTS, Karen’s new friend Larry asks her away for the weekend. On DALLAS, Punk Anderson invites an already fragile Ellie to join him and his wife at the Oil Barons' Ball where the Jock Ewing Memorial Scholarship is to be presented. Both invitations catch the women off guard, leading to a period of introspection. While Karen seeks counsel from her wise, kind brother Joe (a less insane version of Nick Toscanni), Ellie reluctantly listens to her equally kind stepson Ray.

    Both women reach a kind of emotional catharsis whilst surrounded by their family. The Fairgates are watching home movies, the Ewings are sitting down to dinner. For Karen, it's the images of Sid alive and well, and for Ellie, it’s the sight of Jock’s empty chair at an otherwise full table, that makes each of them suddenly feel their loss so keenly. Ellie’s crockery-smashing breakdown in the Southfork kitchen is very touching, but the home movie scene in KNOTS - which shows Karen and the kids first laughing at the footage of Sid clowning around, then crying as the reality of his absence catches up with each of them - is in a league of its own. It’s a simple, truthful and profoundly moving sequence, and has the same transcendent quality as some of the scenes in New DALLAS following JR’s death.

    In the final scenes of their respective episodes, Karen visits Sid’s grave and Miss Ellie stops by the Krebbs’ house. Karen talks to Sid about letting go of “my fantasy, the one that hovers around telling me this didn’t really happen, you’re not really gone, it’s all been a terrible nightmare. You are gone and it’s real.” This acknowledgement is echoed by Ellie: “I know that Jock is not coming back.” When Ellie, seated at the Krebbs’ table, finally admits that “Jock is dead”, Donna is moved to kneel in front of her and take her hand. This action is mirrored by Joe Cooper in an earlier scene of KNOTS where he crouches in front of Karen before gently reminding her that she is "not Sid Fairgate's wife anymore.” While Karen speaks to Sid of “our beautiful, sacred memories”, Ellie closes this episode of DALLAS by declaring, “I have my memories of him, and my memories are forever.” It’s a lovely conclusion, but there’s also a kind of TV neatness about it - the freeze frame of BBG smiling fondly into the middle distance suggests that normal serenity has now been resumed - whereas Karen’s speech at the graveside has a wonderfully messy quality - the emotion of the scene is repeatedly undercut by her self-consciousness about talking to a headstone - which again lifts it out of the ordinary.

    At the opposite end of the emotional scale to DALLAS and KNOTS LANDING, this week’s FLAMINGO ROAD ends on a deliciously ominous note and FALCON CREST on a delectably wicked one. Both are quintessential Soap Land moments. In FL’INGO RD, Michael is sitting in front of a chess board. “Soon I shall destroy each and every one of them,” he murmurs, "Titus, Claude, Field, Constance … ” As he mentions each name, he knocks over a different chess piece. Then he picks up the Queen and holds in front of his face. “... But the very first move in the game is Lute-Mae Sanders,” he adds, before tossing it onto the fireplace where it begins to burn. It’s a brilliant scene. Utterly bonkers, but brilliant.

    Meanwhile, on FALCON CREST, new bride Melissa waits until the very end of the episode, and the cutting of the cake, to inform her groom that she’s pregnant. “It’s not mine,” Lance replies. “It is now,” she tells him, popping a piece of cake into his mouth. Just then, someone snaps a picture of the happy couple. Freeze frame on Lance, looking stunned with a gobful of Victoria Sponge. Exquisitely funny.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are …

    1 (4) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (-) FALCON CREST
    3 (2) FLAMINGO ROAD
    4 (3) DALLAS
     
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  7. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    07/Apr/82: DYNASTY: The Fragment v. 08/Apr/82: KNOTS LANDING: Expose v. 09/Apr/82: DALLAS: Goodbye, Cliff Barnes v. 09/Apr/82: FALCON CREST: Penultimate Questions

    Most of this week’s DYNASTY is taken up with Krystle's latest predicament where, like Bobby in last week’s DALLAS, she finds herself implicated in an apartment shooting. Just as we saw Bobby discover Jeff Farraday’s already dead body, we also saw the circumstances leading up to Claudia's accidental shooting. However, in spite of their innocence, both Bobby and Krystle harbour secrets they worry a police investigation will expose. For Bobby, it’s that Farraday sold him a baby; for Krystle, it’s her previous affair with Claudia’s husband.

    A key difference between the two cases is how Bobby and Krystle are regarded by the police. Despite the impressive amount of circumstantial evidence against him - his fingerprints and an envelope with his name on it found at the crime scene, an eyewitness who heard him threaten the victim’s life - DALLAS detectives assure Bobby that he is "the least likely suspect in this killing” - presumably, because he’s a Ewing. On DYNASTY, however, if Blake Carrington is to be believed, the authorities suspect Krystle solely because she’s a Carrington: “The DA’s office, so they’re behind this, huh? … They’ve been trying to get back at me since my trial. Now they’re trying to do it through my wife … They’re still boiling because I got off on probation.”

    This contrast echoes what happened a year earlier when JR and Blake both faced possible criminal proceedings regarding their respective involvement in the Southeast Asian counterrevolution and Ted Dinard’s death. While the good old boys in Austin initially voted to shelve any further enquiry into Ewing Oil, ("The Ewing name still carries a lot of weight in some circles”) the politicians Blake had previously antagonised were eager to try him for first-degree murder on what would ordinarily have been a manslaughter charge. (“They've been sitting around just waiting for a chance like this - to watch Blake Carrington go under.”)

    The envelope in Jeff Farraday’s apartment contains a receipt for a Los Angeles hospital bill in Kristin’s name. Bobby decides to investigate further. “Is something wrong? Is it Gary?” Pam asks when he tells her that he is going to California. Bobby assures her that his trip has nothing to do with Gary. However, there is something wrong with Gary in this week’s KNOTS, and it does pertain to the DALLAS Ewings: he’s just found out his wife’s written a book about them, for which she’s been offered a publishing deal. This leads to the first reference to Jock’s death in KNOTS LANDING when Karen speculates that “Gary might be dead set against airing his family’s dirty laundry in public, especially since his father just passed away.”

    It’s interesting to compare Gary’s reaction to Val’s story with Miss Ellie's response to Donna’s recent revelations about Jock, which she also intended to publish. "How can you believe such lies about Jock?” Ellie asked her daughter-in-law. "How could you do such a thing?” Gary asks his wife. Where Ellie accused Donna of trying “to destroy the reputation of the finest man whoever lived”, Gary tells Val that in fictionalising his family, "you made them into villains and fools.” "You go ahead and write your book,” Miss Ellie told Donna, "and the day it's published, I'll sue you through every court in the land if I have to. I will not allow you to do this to my husband!” Gary is calmer, but no less adamant: “You cannot publish this book and that's all there is to it.”

    Two lonely husbands frequent prostitutes in this week’s Soap Land. Steven Carrington, still in Los Angeles following his failed attempt to reconcile with Sammy Jo, spends time with a woman credited only as Nameless Hooker. On KNOTS LANDING, Richard Avery, who hasn’t yet given up hope of patching things up with his wife, visits Marni, the call girl he befriended a few weeks ago. In different ways, both shows draw a link between the woman's profession and the fantasy of Hollywood stardom. "I make believe that this one's a movie star, that one's a TV star,” says Nameless Hooker of her johns. "Sometimes when I'm walking down Hollywood Boulevard and there's all those names on the sidewalk, I say to myself, 'You don't know it, Burt, or Clint, or Paul, but we're gonna party tonight.’” (The idea that your average sex worker does anything of the kind is, of course, a fantasy in itself.) Marni, meanwhile, turns out to be an aspiring actress. We see a TV producer tempt her with the possibility of a “small but interesting” role as someone’s sister in a "Movie of the Week” if she’ll get Richard on tape admitting to supplying prostitutes to clients on behalf of his firm.

    “This is Hollywood and everything's supposed to be make-believe,” Nameless Hooker tells Steven. “Don’t people work in Los Angeles?” echoes Pam in DALLAS when she and Bobby show up in LA to investigate Kristin's hospital bill and find themselves surrounded by a bevy of bikini’d lovelies. “Only at night so they don’t spoil their tans,” he replies.

    Something I never noticed before: bearing in mind Kristin was raised to believe that marrying the right man was all-important, it’s kind of poignant to hear her friend Sharon describe her and Jeff Farraday’s nuptials as “not much of a wedding.”

    Kristin’s secret miscarriage and second pregnancy is the first of several last minute have-your-cake-and-eat-it plot twists peppered throughout DALLAS’s run. Others include: Jock’s posthumous request for his sons to run his company together after they have spent a year fighting each other for it, Jock’s secret sale and repurchase of Ewing Oil back in the 1930s, the extra passenger Jock’s helicopter picked up in South America before it crashed, and JR’s secret cancer in New DALLAS. The difference between the latter and the rest is that where the last minute revelation has traditionally been a way of pressing the reset button and returning the saga to some kind of status quo - Bobby and Pam remain Christopher’s parents, Bobby and JR each remains president of the company, the Ewings retain ownership of Ewing Oil, Jock remains dead - the aftermath of JR’s Masterpiece is set to take the show into excitingly uncharted territory.

    The discovery that JR is not Christopher’s father leads to an end-of-season vow from Bobby: “When we get back to Dallas, I'm gonna vote to throw him out of Ewing Oil.” By contrast, Lance’s assertion on FALCON CREST that he is not responsible for his new bride’s pregnancy falls on deaf ears. “I’m not the father,” he insists during a family dinner. “Well, you’ll do,” replies his grandmother coolly. Meanwhile, Melissa feigns tears to amusing effect.

    Both Val on KNOTS and Maggie on FALCON CREST are feeling neglected by their husbands this week. Gary is wrapped up in his methanol business with Abby, while Chase has become increasingly preoccupied with learning the truth about his father’s death. "You’re always having these constant meetings with [Abby], every night and every weekend,” complains Val. “You have come home from this office before midnight two nights this week,” Maggie points out to Chase. In each case, the woman is worried that the fresh start her family made when they moved to California is at risk. “Chase, you came here because you said you wanted us to pull together,” Maggie reminds her husband. "We’ve struggled too hard to get where we are now and it’s important to both of us to protect it,” insists Val. Whereas Maggie then joins forces with Chase to look into Jason’s death, (the couple that investigates together stays together - see also: Bobby and Pam) Val and Gary remain at odds, thanks in part to Abby’s meddling, and this week’s KNOTS ends with Val defying her man and signing the publishing contract for her book.

    Melissa spends much of her first week as a married woman on FALCON CREST prowling round her in-laws’ house, lurking on staircases and listening at doorways, just as Alexis has been doing in the Carrington mansion for most of this season’s DYNASTY. Melissa then passes on what she has overheard to Chase who eventually has enough information to call for an inquest into his father’s death.

    While Alexis is surprised and delighted to see Krystle on the late night news linked to Claudia's shooting, Richard Avery is shocked and devastated to hear his pillow talk with Marni broadcast as part of a TV exposé into prostitution and big business. (Coincidentally, recordings of JR's private conversations with Leslie Stewart were played out in court almost exactly a year earlier.) Conversely, on FALCON CREST, Angela’s sole consolation regarding the inquest into her brother’s death is that it will be closed to the media.

    There are parallel scenes in this week’s KNOTS and DALLAS where Richard, shortly after losing his job, shows up uninvited at Laura’s house and Cliff Barnes, fired from his job last week by his mother, does the same at Sue Ellen’s. Both men are desperate. “I'm in trouble, and all I need to know is, are you with me or are you with them?” Richard asks Laura before breaking down in tears. “I’ve lost everything, but I know I can start over if you just believe in me and love me,” pleads an equally shaky Cliff, as he too starts to cry. Both women have moved on with their lives and want to put as much distance between themselves and these sad little men as possible. But while Sue Ellen sends Cliff away, telling him that she has agreed to remarry JR, Laura feels she has no choice but to take Richard in her arms and comfort him (as Val and Ginger look on uncomfortably).

    While I can’t totally buy into JR and Sue Ellen’s latest reconciliation, the proposal scene is very nice. At the point where JR pops the question, I couldn’t help but mentally flash forward to Sue Ellen at his funeral: “The answer’s yes, JR”. Meanwhile, in Denver, Cecil Colby (aka Logan Rhinewood) prods Alexis about his marriage proposal: "It would be a delightful union. Just think of the possibilities."

    In its own way, the opening of Jason Gioberti's inquest on FALCON CREST feels as momentous as the Ted Dinard murder trial on DYNASTY a year ago - this is what the series has been building towards all season. We’re even given some prior character insight into Martin Deering, the D.A. fighting Chase’s corner, just as we were Jake Dunham on DYNASTY. While Deering’s not quite the charismatic powerhouse Dunham was, (he’s played by the same slimy advertising guy who’ll try it on with Lucy Ewing early next season) he’s tough, determined and apparently incorruptible. As if Angela being called first to testify wasn't exciting enough, Emma - whom Angela has trying to keep under lock and key all season - then appears in the courtroom unexpectedly. This sends Angela rushing to her daughter’s side in defiance of the court. Then, without warning, her ex-husband Douglas collapses to the floor with a second heart attack.

    This season’s DALLAS finale doesn’t have quite the same TV-show-on-the-edge-of-a-cliff quality as the previous two. In fact, I was reminded of Gary’s critique of Val’s depiction of the Ewings while watching it: “You made them into villains and fools.” (Sudden thought: what if DALLAS’s original thirteen year run was an adaptation of Val’s novel?) It’s as if the DALLAS writers are still hastily shuffling the characters into the positions they need to be in for the final denouement. Not that that shuffling doesn’t generate an interesting frisson of its own. In fact, this episode of DALLAS might be subtitled “The Attack of the Supporting Players”, as a handful of recurring characters rise up to wrest control of the narrative. While an uncharacteristically bold Clayton prepares to propose to Sue Ellen, Marilee Stone arbitrarily switches sides in the Barnes/Ewing feud and admits to Cliff that she was JR’s front woman for the Wellington land deal. This confession is overheard by Afton Cooper who passes it along to Rebecca Wentworth after Cliff’s suicide attempt. Rebecca then declares war on the Ewings, which finally pits the family against each other.

    "I swear I’ll break the Ewing family,” Rebecca tells Miss Ellie in the ep’s best scene, "and I have the money to do it!” This is not the only vengeful vow from a wealthy woman of a certain age in this week’s Soap Land. “I’ll never forgive you for this - never!” Angela promises Chase after Douglas is pronounced dead in the thrilling closing seconds of FALCON CREST. Finally - the gloves are off.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are … there is isn’t much to choose between the top two, but FC’s exciting climax just gives it the edge …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    13/Apr/82: FLAMINGO ROAD: The Bad and the Beautiful v. 14/Apr/82: DYNASTY: The Shakedown v. 15/Apr/82: KNOTS LANDING: Night v. 16/Apr/82: FALCON CREST: Ultimate Answers

    Like FALCON CREST’s Lance, Michael Tyrone in FLAMINGO ROAD reserves his tenderest side for the exotic bird in his care: “Such carnal creatures, so soft, so receptive,” he murmurs, stroking him. “He could just as easily fly away,” suggests Michael’s fiancée Lute Mae. “He’s too much a part of me now, he wouldn’t know how,” says Michael. “Neither would I,” replies Lute Mae dreamily.

    Tyrone returns to this theme later in the episode: "People I’m associated with soon learn they have no control over their destinies, Constance. Only I have that power. You will obey me. You have no other choice.” Constance might not be the pushover Lute Mae is, but she finds this speech of Michael's incredibly sexy and immediately straddles him.

    This week, FLAMINGO ROAD turns into a vehicle for that brooding, demonic thing David Selby does so brilliantly. It’s almost as if the writers of the show have become as enslaved to his power as Lute Mae and Constance have. The casual viewer might think they’re watching some cheap 70s horror flick - a Hammer Horror or some European knock off of THE EXORCIST or THE OMEN, or maybe one of those DARK SHADOWS movie adaptations in which Selby himself appeared.

    Julia Porter, Michael’s gravelly voiced voodoo mammy arrives from the Caribbean - full of signs and portents, ominous warnings and black magic talismans. She adds a unique flavour to Soap Land. Her stay might be brief, but there will never be another character quite like her.

    There’s a different kind of otherworldly madness on this week’s DYNASTY where an unhinged Claudia Blaisdel returns to the Carrington mansion and becomes the equivalent of Emma Channing on FALCON CREST, i.e. the mad woman in the attic. At one point, she appears in Krystle’s bedroom, head still swathed in bandages, to inform her that her miscarriage was a punishment from God. "He took your baby because you took mine ... You deserved to lose your baby!” Meanwhile on FALCON CREST, Emma herself hosts an invisible wine tasting for Lance and Melissa. This turns out to be a ruse on Emma’s part to lull her family into a false sense of security so she can escape into town and speak the truth at her uncle’s inquest. Back on FLAMINGO ROAD, Michael’s sister Sandie also escapes her family’s clutches and heads back to Truro to reveal all about her brother.

    Whether or not Michael and Julia genuinely possess supernatural powers is open to interpretation. Having learnt of Sandie’s escape, we see Michael lighting candles and ceremonially burning his sister's photograph. Soon afterwards, we see Sandie lose control of her car and plunge over a cliff, like Sid Fairgate and Jason Gioberti (sort of) before her. Is this merely a freak accident or are there dark forces at work?

    What’s less ambiguous is Michael’s subsequent command to one of Julia’s devotees (future prison warden Leo Glynn in OZ, to be precise) to pull the plug on Sandie's life support system. By ordering his own sister’s murder, Michael is committing the ultimate Soap Land transgression - just as Cliff Barnes will on New DALLAS thirty-one years later. (Ironically, both men kill members of their family in the process of avenging their family.)

    Michael Tyrone is not the only principal Soap Land character the audience now knows to be capable of murder. Last week’s DYNASTY showed Cecil Colby and Logan Rhinewood to be one and the same, thereby revealing Cecil to be behind the assassination attempt that blinded Blake earlier in the season. This week, we also learn that Cecil suffers from heart problems, much like the recently deceased Douglas Channing in FALCON CREST.

    The scene in FLAMINGO ROAD where Michael exacts his revenge on Lute-Mae is an all-time Soap Land highlight - insanely melodramatic and thrillingly sadistic. Having been stood up on an important date, an indignant Lute-Mae shows up at Michael’s house dressed to the nines. The storm raging outside could not be stormier. The thunder is so loud, it threatens to drown out the dialogue. Michael comes down the staircase dressed in only a bathrobe. Like Lance in last week’s FALCON CREST, he has lured his fiancée to where he is having sex with another woman. He does not reveal that straight away, however. Instead, he calmly informs Lute-Mae that he has never had any feelings for her: “You’re just like all the other people in this town - you’re a leech, a parasite, a tramp.” Lute-Mae gasps and slaps him. As she tries to hit him again, he grabs her by the neck and holds her off. “You’ve been paid for your services, far more than they’re worth, lady,” he adds, reminding her of the prostitute she once was. Only then does Lute-Mae looks up to see Constance, her own daughter, standing at the top of the stairs, naked but for a bed sheet wrapped around her. “Michael, haven’t you gotten rid of her yet?” Constance asks, looking at Lute-Mae with utter contempt. Michael orders her to wait for him in the bedroom. He then bellows at Lute-Mae to get out and she runs off into the night, her humiliation complete. (That Stella Stevens is such a clueless actor and David Selby such a masterful one only serves to emphasise his character’s effortless dominance of the scene.)

    In the opening of this week’s KNOTS LANDING, there is a comparable altercation, albeit on a smaller scale and with a different outcome. After a dinner date that has cost him $140, Richard is a little angry that Abby won’t put out. She tells him that he should have spent his money on a hooker; it would have been cheaper. “How much do you charge?” he asks her. Abby doesn’t appreciate being likened to a prostitute any more than Lute Mae does and likewise slaps Richard across the face. He then grabs her the way Michael did and for a second, it looks like he might hit her back, but Abby has the power in the scene and when she orders him to leave, he does so.

    The scene Michael and Lute Mae’s confrontation most resembles, however, is the final one in this week’s DYNASTY, between Blake and Alexis. Blake has just learned that his ex-wife is responsible for the miscarriage suffered by Krystle earlier in the season. Just as Lute-Mae has finally seen Michael for what he really is, Blake’s eyes are now opened to Alexis’s true nature. ("I forgot about you,” he tells her bitterly, "I forgot how vicious and ruthless you can be when you want something.”) It’s the moment the audience has been waiting for all season. The pivotal difference between the two scenes is that where Michael Tyrone rips off his own mask, Alexis is stripped involuntarily of hers. "You shot that gun on purpose,” Blake tells her. "You fired it and then you watched. You watched that horse throw Krystle and drag her clear across that field, killing the child inside of her." "Oh Blake,” Alexis pleads with all her might, "how could you possibly think I'm capable of such a thing? I'm the mother of your two children!” But all her protestations are for nought and, like Lute-Mae, she is left crying in a heap.

    Three significant names are mentioned for the first time in Soap Land this week, each shrouded in mystery. “How do you think I could kill a baby after what happened to our baby - Adam?” asks Alexis in the midst of her argument with Blake. "We swore never to talk about that,” he snaps in reply. “Who’s Richard Channing?” wonders Angela on FALCON CREST, after learning that a man with that name is to be the chief beneficiary of her ex-husband’s estate. Towards the end of this week's episode (also the season finale), Melissa relays a phone message from a New York associate of Lance’s: “He said there are only two things that scare him - violent death and Richard Channing.” As tantalising Soap Land introductions go, that’s up there with Fallon’s gasp of “My God, that’s my mother!” a year earlier. "I can’t wait to meet him,” Melissa adds, speaking for all of us.

    As we'll discover next season, Richard Channing is Michael Tyrone’s future self. Meanwhile, the name of Tyrone’s past self is also spoken this week. "Michael Edwards,” are Sandie Swanson’s last words before her death. It doesn’t take Sheriff Titus and Claude Weldon long to conclude that Michael Edwards, aka Michael Tyrone, is the son of someone called Tom Edwards. Whoever that may be, this is clearly not good news.

    While the all powerful Michael Tyrone dominates this week’s FLAMINGO ROAD, the apparently impotent Richard Avery is the focus of this week’s KNOTS. Scenes from his estranged marriage quickly escalate into a full-blown siege situation, complete with a SWAT team in the cul-de-sac, as he holds his pregnant wife and son hostage at gunpoint. Following "Winds of Vengeance” (DALLAS) and "Moments of Truth” (KNOTS), “Night” is Soap Land’s third siege-based episode thus far. Tauter and more concentrated in its focus than its predecessors, it lacks their structural clunkiness. It’s also the first such story to arise solely out of the characters’ existing relationships - not just the central one between Richard and Laura, but also the ones between Richard and his neighbours, especially Karen and Gary.

    There’s also a strange sense of finality about the episode. When Karen compares the breakdown of the Averys’ marriage to the loss of her own husband, (“It’s like a death”) it feels somehow as if we’re witnessing the end of an era. Unlike those earlier stand-alone sieges, things will never be quite the same after this.

    The climax of the ep comes where Richard steps outside of his house and finds himself surrounded by armed men training their weapons on him. He slowly raises the gun in his own hand to his head and squeezes the trigger. Nothing. He sits down on the ground and pulls it again and again, but the chamber is empty. End of scene.

    "Do you think he'll come back here?” wonders Joe Cooper in the episode’s coda as we see Laura packing Richard's belongings and closing up the house. "I don’t know,” she replies. It really seems like Richard may have gone for good. Either way, it’s surely the end of the line for him and Laura. The ep’s closing moments have the Wards returning from a weekend away. As they walk towards their house, Kenny excitedly telling Karen about his plans for Ginger’s singing career, (plans he’ll eventually transfer to Ciji) the camera lingers on the Averys' phoney Tudor house … which suddenly looks as lonely and abandoned as the Miflan place did in “The Three Sisters”.

    It takes most of this week’s FALCON CREST to get the story back to where it was a week ago before Douglas collapsed and Emma was preparing to tell all in court. After she finally makes it to the witness stand and testifies to how Jason really died back in Episode 1, the full extent of Angela’s deception is laid bare - obstruction of justice, perjury and the small matter of planting her brother’s corpse in a truck and setting it on fire. However, nobody seems inclined to press charges against her for any of this. Moreover, owing to the convoluted nature of Angela’s father’s will, Chase is now legally entitled to inherit Falcon Crest in its entirety. Remarkably, he turns this down in favour of a fifty-fifty partnership with Angela. Her response is apt: “You can’t be serious.” Unlikely as this turn of events may seem, it’s also the premise upon which the rest of the series is based so I guess you either accept it or you don’t.

    While Richard Avery’s defeat on KNOTS is unequivocal, the final shot of each of the other soaps is reserved for a female character who has also lost ... but is now fighting back. The most desperate of these is Lute-Mae Sanders. As with Claudia in DYNASTY three episodes ago, this week's F’LINGO RD ends with Lute Mae retrieving a gun from a secure hiding place and contemplating it vengefully. (It’s interesting how often the handgun motif has recurred in Soap Land during recent weeks - each time as the refuge of the wretched, the unhinged and/or the suicidal: Cliff on DALLAS, Claudia on DYNASTY, Richard on KNOTS and now Lute-Mae.) Meanwhile on DYNASTY, an uncharacteristically dishevelled Alexis briefly buries her head in her hands after being condemned by Blake, only to then raise it up again. “Oh no Blake,” she vows breathily to an empty room, "it’s not gonna end this way, I may have lost you now, but I’m not gonna lose everything. Oh no, oh no.” Over on FALCON CREST, Angela’s smirk outside the courtroom following her discussion with Chase says it all: “He thinks he’s won!” These final words of Alexis and Angela are genuine turning points. From now on, "Alexis versus Blake" and "Angela versus Chase" will be the central conflict fuelling their respective shows. Interesting that in each case, the woman is the bad guy.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are …

    1 (-) FLAMINGO ROAD
    2 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (4) DYNASTY
    4 (1) FALCON CREST
     
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  9. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    20/Apr/82: FLAMINGO ROAD: An Eye for an Eye v. 22/Apr/82: KNOTS LANDING: Acts of Love

    There’s a sort of reckless, out of control atmosphere in this week’s Soap Land. On FLAMINGO ROAD, Lute-Mae stalks Michael Tyrone vengefully with a gun, Julio stalks Constance obsessively with a hard on, and Field commits political suicide by speaking out against his own gambling bill, admitting to his under-the-counter deal with Michael Tyrone and, finally, by resigning his seat in the senate. For a character that has been largely defined by his political ambitions since the beginning of the series, this is a major deal and his resignation speech evokes a poignancy rarely felt in FL’INGO RD.

    The sight of a gun totin' Lute-Mae determinedly following Michael all the way to the JR & Kristin Dirty Weekend Hotel in Tallahassee, only to chicken out of her murderous mission as soon as they are alone together, is very funny. Even better is Constance’s eyewitness account of what happens next, gleefully retold to her parents the next morning, even as she remains blissfully unaware of their discomfort at the fact that she is talking about her own mother: “By the time she hit the lobby, she was totally deranged. Woman went around wavin’ that loaded gun at the entire world!”

    Having been diagnosed with "a depressive neurosis … Her mind couldn’t handle it so it shut down”, Lute-Mae is admitted to the Soap Land Sanatarium - or Club Meds, as fellow inmate Richard Avery wittily describes it on this week’s KNOTS. While Lute-Mae babbles semi-coherently, Richard is alert enough to crack jokes (“How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb? Just one, provided the lightbulb really wants to change”) - but each of them is preoccupied with a woman. Lute-Mae is desperate to warn Constance against Michael lest he destroys her too, while Richard begs Karen to persuade Laura to visit him.

    Val, meanwhile, resentful at Gary for not only spending yet another evening with Abby in the name of business but also for volunteering her services as Olivia’s babysitter while he does so, decides to try her hand at being reckless and irresponsible. "I am allowed to do anything today,” she declares before embarking on a road trip with Olivia. Unsurprisingly, she can’t quite pull it off - she forgets her wallet, they get lost and end up stranded at a roadside dinner where Val is obliged to wait tables to pay for their supper. The soft-hearted proprietor, Willie, makes a gentle pass at her which she politely declines. “It’s not me,” she tells him.

    “Abby, we can’t do this,” echoes Gary on the other side of town and then some. He and Abby have just clinched a deal crucial to the future of their methanol business - due, in large part, to Abby brazenly invoking the name of Ewing Oil. Giddy with victory, they celebrate on the beach with a song and dance number, (“I”m a mogul, he's a mogul, wouldn’t ya like to be a mogul too?”) followed by a passionate kiss, (we’re talking FROM HERE TO ETERNITY sized passionate) before Gary calls a halt to the proceedings. Seven episodes after he called her on her behaviour, Abby gets to return the favour: “Over and over again,” she tells him, "we get ourselves into situations like this and you pull back and start lecturing me.” “Abby, Abby, I don’t mean to,” he replies. “Oh yes, you do,” she insists, “you do mean to. You like this. You like going to the edge like this. You like tempting me and having me tempt you. Well OK fine - if that’s what you like, that’s fine, but don’t put it on my head. Don’t give me a lecture about fidelity and how much you have at stake here. I have plenty at stake. I’ve got feelings invested in this, Gary. I’ve got feelings invested in you, and I’m sick and tired of being the wicked woman and the home wrecker. There are two of us here, Gary. It takes two people to feel like this and I’m real tired of being the only one who admits it.”

    It feels significant that a speech about hypocrisy should be set against the backdrop of the ocean. In the past, this location has lent itself to fundamental moments of truth in KNOTS LANDING. I’m thinking specifically of Gary’s heartfelt speech to Lucy and Val in “Home is for Healing” and the almost primal reconciliation scene that took place on the beach between him and Val after his affair with Judy Trent. It’s ironic, then, that even the beach - Gary & Val’s "place of honesty”, if you will - has now been co-opted by Abby.

    "I’ve got feelings invested in this, Gary. I’ve got feelings invested in you.” This line is the first indication that Abby’s interest in Gary might be more than just part of a game. There’s a similar moment at the end of this week’s FL’INGO RD when Constance, whose relationship with Michael thus far has been built on a mutual desire for sex and power, lets her guard down for the first time: “I hate knowin’ there was a time when we didn’t even know each other,” she pants in his direction. Like Abby’s, this declaration takes place in watery surroundings. However, instead of the ocean and the limitless possibilities that that implies, Constance and Michael are in his swimming pool: confined, man-made, a symbol of both wealth and - given the fact that they are in the middle of having sex and Michael’s domestic staff presumably live in - exhibitionistic narcissism.

    “Now we can make our plans come true,” coos Constance after telling Michael that she has filed for divorce against Field. “More than you realise,” replies Michael ambiguously. “I love you, Gary, that’s all that matters,” declares Val in the closing scene of KNOTS, where husband and wife are reunited after an episode apart. “I love you too,” Gary replies. While FLAMINGO ROAD freezes on Michael and Constance busily kissing each other’s faces off in the pool, eyes wide shut, KNOTS ends on a reconciliatory embrace between Gary and Val in their hallway - but with Gary aware of Lilimae glaring at him unhappily from the kitchen. Having seen his car parked outside Abby’s house in the early hours, she has surmised (correctly) that the pair have finally consummated their affair. Another reckless act, another point of no return.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 2 are …

    1 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (1) FLAMINGO ROAD
     
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  10. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    27/Apr/82: FLAMINGO ROAD: The Harder They Fall v. 28/Apr/82: DYNASTY: The Two Princes v. 29/Apr/82: KNOTS LANDING: China Dolls

    In this week's FLAMINGO ROAD, Sheriff Titus Semple becomes the latest recipient of Michael Tyrone’s potent combination of Old Testament retribution and voodoo magic. He subsequently journeys further into Soap Land’s heart of darkness than anyone ever has before.

    In one sequence, Titus treks his way through thick fog and swampland to a darkened shack lit only by fiery torches and candles. There, he finds Michael’s voodoo priestess Julia (inexplicably dressed not in her customary Caribbean finery, but as an old washerwoman - which suggests the possibility that this scene might not actually be happening at all). After assuring Titus that the religious practices he dismisses as mumbo jumbo are sacred to both her and Michael, she issues the following warning: “Tyrone is a God. He toys with you, Sheriff. At his whim, you are a dead man - unless you kill him first.” I have a feeling we’re not at Southfork anymore.

    Titus, scared silly by waking visions of a dead man hanging from a noose, soon becomes the laughing stock of the town he used to run with a rod of iron. The dead man, we realise, is Tom Edwards, Tyrone’s father who was tried and hanged for murder twenty-five years earlier. “This town killed my father,” Michael explains to Eudora. "Titus framed my father and Lute-Mae bore false witness … then Judge Carlyle passed sentence and your husband, dear lady, profited from his execution.”

    Over on DYNASTY, the vengeful side of Michael Tyrone’s equivalent, Nick Toscanni, has lain dormant for several episodes. This week, however, the name Rashid Ahmed triggers something inside him and he also resumes having visions of hanged men dangling from nooses.

    As well as Titus, Michael Tyrone targets Constance Carlyle this week. The scene in which he brutally reveals to her the identity of her biological mother might not be quite as powerful as his humiliation of Lute-Mae a couple of episodes ago, but it’s still pretty strong stuff. "Look at yourself,” he orders, grabbing her by the head and forcing her to face own her reflection in the mirror, “the bastard child of Lute-Mae Sanders!”

    Krystle makes a similar, if milder, suggestion to Constance’s counterpart in DYNASTY when she refuses to take the blame for the break up of Fallon’s relationship with Nick. “If you’ve lost him and you want to know the source,” she tells Fallon, "just look into any mirror in this house.”

    “Seeing" the truth also crops up as a metaphor in this week’s KNOTS LANDING. "How long you gonna shut your eyes to what’s goin’ on?” Lilimae asks Val near the beginning of the episode, with reference to Gary’s involvement with Abby. “You never see his strength,” Abby later tells Val during their long-awaited showdown, "you only see his weaknesses. I can see him for what he is and for what he can be.” “I see him the same way I’ve seen him since I was fifteen years old,” insists Val, which just about says it all. However, it’s windows rather than mirrors that are the recurring motif in KNOTS. Karen observes Gary and Val flirting through her office window at Knots Landing Motors and later Joe spots them canoodling inside Gary’s office from the showroom forecourt. The cul-de-sac is then used to full "goldfish bowl" effect as a possessive Gary takes up residence by his living room window to keeps tabs on Abby’s comings and goings, only for Val to then do the same to keep track of Gary's.

    Back on FLAMINGO ROAD, Michael continues to taunt Constance, aka "the daughter of the town tramp.” "No more expensive jewellery,” he sneers, stripping her of her necklace. “No more beautiful clothes,” he adds, tearing at her blouse to expose her underwear. Somehow, this action feels more of a genuine violation than either Lute-Mae’s rape or Lucy Ewing’s ordeal at the hands of Roger Larsen did earlier in the season.

    Ironically, in the process of terrorising his victims, Tyrone also humanises them. As Constance, Morgan Fairchild has played the pampered, brittle bitch to perfection for two seasons, but has had scant opportunity to do much else. Now, stripped of her identity and her fancy clothing, makeup running down her face, we get to glimpse what is behind the facade. This is also true of Tyrone’s other victims. Claude Weldon, whose cowardly scheming has always been very amusing, manages to be funny and poignant in the scene where he tearfully admits to his wife that he has been pretending to be Constance’s adoptive father all her life when he is actually her biological one. And Lane Curtis, now pregnant, is so genuinely terrified after an encounter where Tyrone’s business associates threaten to kill her husband that she can barely speak to deliver her dialogue.

    But it’s Constance who fascinates most. All her life, she has looked down on Lute-Mae from her position of privilege. Now she has become her. “It’s all gone now, Constance,” Michael calls after her as she flees his house in disarray. "You’re just like your mother. You’re just another tramp!” This line is also echoed in DYNASTY, in Steven’s final scene where he responds to his sister’s dismissal of Sammy Jo as "common trash” by asking, “And what are you, Fallon? Uncommon trash? A million dollar tramp?"

    "You are a Weldon,” Constance’s parents persist in telling her after Michael has dropped his bombshell, while Alexis is anxious to talk to Steven “about what it means to be a Carrington.” “My God, you’d think we were dealing with royalty,” Susan, DYNASTY's mysterious new baby nurse, observes drily.

    As FLAMINGO ROAD ponders what will become of Constance now that her lifelong sense of privilege and entitlement has been taken from her, Steven Carrington asks the same question in reverse: What is left of a human being after they have been, as he describes Krystle and Jeff, “contaminated by the oil baron, his money, his power, his possessions”? What price a Ming vase next to the life of Ted Dinard, he challenges his father. Al Corley’s penultimate line as Steven strikes at the heart of this dichotomy: "You know what really hurts me the most?” he asks his family before heading out the door to start a new life, destination unknown. "I hate what you all stand for - I hate your values, your morals, your blindness - but I love you. I love you all very much."

    Just as Pam Ewing’s first meeting with her sister Katherine took place at the Soap Land Sanatarium earlier this season, so Lute-Mae and Constance’s first exchange as mother and daughter occurs there too. To say it doesn’t go well is an understatement. “You sold me to the highest bidder,” Constance hisses. "I despise you. I wish you were dead!” Sadly, she doesn’t stick around the sanitarium long enough to meet Richard Avery’s pal Nicholas, who could have told her that we’re all just china dolls, ex-hookers and heiresses alike. Certainly, Claudia Blaisdel doesn’t make a distinction between her poor dead daughter and "the little Carrington prince”, aka Blake’s new grandson, whom she picks up and calls Lindsay in the final moments of this week’s DYNASTY. "Life ends and then begins again,” she decides.

    “He’ll pay,” says Constance with reference to Michael. "He’ll never do to me what he did to Lute-Mae.” “He’s vile, he’s arrogant and I’d like nothing more than to see him destroyed,” says Alexis in DYNASTY, alluding to her ex-husband. A vow of vengeance is a standard response from any Soap Land character scorned. However, unlike Lute-Mae and Claudia, both of whose recent attempts to take revenge on the powerful men who wronged them have backfired, (literally, in Claudia’s case) Constance and Alexis are devious enough not to place themselves directly in the line of fire. Instead, they each decide to enlist the aid of a man who’s crazy about them. But in order to do so, they must first persuade their man that they are equally crazy about him.

    The men in question take a bit of convincing. Julio Sanchez shows up for a secret assignation with Constance but is more than a little sulky. “You treat me like dirt - I could kill you for that,” he pouts, referring to the weeks Constance has spent telling him to scram. Meanwhile, Cecil Colby’s response to Alexis’s acceptance of his marriage proposal is curiously muted: “What was it George Bernard Shaw wrote? ‘There are two tragedies in life. One is to not get your heart’s desire, the other is to get it.’” (This rivals KNOTS’ Nicholas’s “I was with Hendrix at Monterey” for Soap Land’s Cultural Reference of the Week.) “You’ve kept me at arm’s length, figuratively speaking, for eons,” Cecil adds.

    Constance and Alexis each respond by re-writing history. “I only said those things to protect you,” says Constance, kneeling in front of Julio's crotch. "He made me say those things … Tyrone, he said he’d kill you if I ever saw you again.” “I loathe Blake. I’ve always loathed him,” Alexis tells Cecil, insisting that any affection she has shown her ex since returning to Denver has been a pretence.

    "I’m so afraid for you, Julio,” Constance continues, "I love you … I’m so frightened.” “Don’t be afraid,” Julio replies, "I’ll protect you. I’ll kill [Tyrone] if he ever tries to touch you again.” From the glint in Constance's eye, as he covers her in kisses, we see that she has achieved her objective. “Tell me some more about how much you hate Blake,” coos Alexis, "I find that very exciting.” "There’s no love lost between us and I do something about it every day,” Cecil boasts. This is exactly what Alexis wants to hear and this time, it is she who covers him in kisses.

    The freeze frame that ends this episode of F’LINGO RD is just great. Michael Tyrone is sitting at his fireside, two scary looking guard dogs at his feet. Titus is standing in the doorway. Michael repeats the same ultimatum Julia made earlier in the episode: “If you’re going to stop me, you’ll have to kill me.” We then cut to a side shot of Michael’s chair as one of the dogs suddenly raises its head, growling ominously. No soon does it open its jaw to bare its teeth, partially obscuring Michael’s face in the process, than the frame freezes. The camera then closes in on this frozen image. It’s the kind of weird, nightmarish imagery you’d see in TWIN PEAKS a decade or so later. I suspect the person responsible for this shot, as well as other distinct moments of the ep (the eerie swamp scene, the tearing of Constance’s clothes, her quasi-fellatio on Julio, Cristina Raines’ raw emotion as Lane) is director Larry Elikann. He worked on most of the '80s soaps, and the episodes he helmed always seem particularly visually striking.

    This is the penultimate episode of the season for each of the week's soaps, and FLAMINGO ROAD and DYNASTY share a similar momentum. The way almost every scene ends leaves us teetering on the edge of some sort of precipice … like the world is about to come crashing down. There’s not quite the same feeling with KNOTS - its canvas is smaller; its story focused on three or four neighbouring households, not a dynastic family or the sins of an entire town. But then … suddenly that feeling is there on KNOTS. When Gary jealously marches across the cul-de-sac to Abby’s house in full view of Val, or when Val makes the same journey the next morning, Seaview Circle is suddenly transformed into a battleground and these small trips become declarations of war.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 3 are …

    1 (2) FLAMINGO ROAD
    2 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (-) DYNASTY
     
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  11. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    04/May/82: FLAMINGO ROAD: Murder, They Said v. 04/May/82: DYNASTY: The Cliff v. 06/May/82: KNOTS LANDING: Living Dangerously

    Season finale time. Following the strange voodoo vibe of recent episodes, FLAMINGO ROAD has seemingly returned to more familiar Soap Land territory, as various characters line up to threaten Michael Tyrone’s life: Lute-Mae (“Somebody has to stop Michael!”), Sam (“So help me, Michael, if you or any of your goons get near Lane again, I’ll kill you!”), Titus (“If we don’t stop Tyrone, we are all dead!”) and Claude (“I swear, he’s gonna regret it!”). The episode even opens with Constance, like Sue Ellen in “A House Divided”, slipping a pistol into her purse before leaving the family home to take care of business. (Smart cookie that she is, however, she then passes the gun onto Julio, begging him to do what must be done to protect their relationship from Michael.)

    So far so DALLAS, but then the inevitable attempt on Tyrone’s life (distinctly Kennedy-esque - a shot from a top storey window aimed at his open-topped car) comes just a third of the way through the ep. When Titus, in his capacity as sheriff, arrives at the scene, an uninjured Michael takes the opportunity to publicly accuse him of attempted murder.

    Only then does the real plot become clear: Thirty-one years before JR Ewing would engineer his own death in order to implicate his worst enemy, Michael Tyrone has devised the same master-plan. This is the first instance of Soap Land explicitly referencing its own history (i.e. the “Who Shot JR?” mystery) before cleverly subverting it.

    DYNASTY, meanwhile, sets up a more traditional (but just as fun) whodunnit scenario also reminiscent of early DALLAS, as “Whatever Happened to Baby John?” becomes “Who’s Taken Little Blake?” Even the list of suspects is familiar: the business associate with a grudge (previously Jeb Ames & Willie Joe Garr, now Farouk Ahmed), the enemy with a personal vendetta (then Cliff Barnes, now Nick Toscanni) and the disturbed, bereaved mother (Claudia Blaisdel substituting for Priscilla Duncan) - with a couple of oddballs thrown in for good measure (a nurse, a gravedigger).

    “Titus Semple’s day of judgement is finally here,” declares Michael, getting his supernatural groove back on FL’INGO RD. "Upon his execution, my father’s spirit will be reborn.” This theme of reincarnation recurs in DYNASTY when a concerned Joseph reports Claudia’s “almost Biblical” ramblings to Nick, her doctor: “Life is eternal. It ends and then begins all over again.” Nick himself, once again as consumed by his brother’s hanging as Michael Tyrone is by his father’s, is not a believer, however. “Nobody can bring my brother back to life,” he tells Farouk Ahmed, "but I can bring his body home.” However, once Farouk has persuaded him that Blake is responsible for his brother’s death after all, Nick also gets in on the resurrection vibe. “For this, I would have come all the way back from Hell,” he assures Blake when they meet for their final confrontation on Skycrest Mountain.

    This week, Lute-Mae becomes the first inmate to escape the Soap Land Sanatarium since Sue Ellen three years earlier. (What’s more, she manages to do so without hitting anyone over the head.) DYNASTY’s Claudia, meanwhile, agrees to a stay at the sanitarium but is secretly intent on fleeing the country before it can happen. Over on KNOTS LANDING, Richard has checked himself out of the sanitarium, which makes everyone around him uneasy. "He has to drag everyone into this drama, making it impossible for anyone to lead a normal life,” Laura complains. There’s an interesting ambiguity to Richard’s behaviour: is he as well-adjusted as he claims to be, which would mean everyone else is overreacting or is Laura right to be concerned about the abandoned suicide note she finds in the trash? “Sometimes he seems totally out of touch with reality and sometimes I think he's planned all of this, everything,” she says. Could it be that Richard, like Michael Tyrone, has a master plan? If so, it’s working, as Laura and Jason move back to the cul-de-sac in the final scene of this week’s KNOTS. Back on DYNASTY, Alexis makes no secret that she also has a plan: “Mark Jennings, Krystle and all the Colby wealth and power,” she purrs to Cecil, "I’ve finally got everything that I wanted, everything I’ve been planning for. And it’s finally going to be ours, darling. The whole world’s going to be ours!”

    Meanwhile, Michael Tyrone is putting the final phase of his plan into action. Titus is lured to his house where he discovers Michael lying dead, a gun beside him. Then Field arrives to see Titus kneeling over the body. As the two men argue over Titus’s involvement, a fire mysteriously breaks out, consuming all evidence of the crime. The cause of the fire is never explicitly stated, but I think the answer can be gleaned from KNOTS LANDING - specifically Chapter 8 of Val’s novel, now renamed “Capricorn Crude” by her pushy publisher. “Where Melissa gets burned in the fire, he [the publisher] wants to me to rework it so that the fire is deliberately set by CR,” frets Val to Joe Cooper, who thinks it’s a good idea. “If CR has one of his own men set the fire, then you’ve got a thread going right through the book,” he reasons. "He’s a man who will do anything at any time. It is a classic bomb ready to explode.” As well as being a (crappy) pseudonym for JR Ewing, CR backwards is the initials of Richard Channing, Michael Tyrone’s future self. And Michael is certainly "a man who will do anything at any time” - including faking his death and becoming a monk.

    Val is also worried that the character of Mary Sue in her book is "too cheap and too obvious.” “Obvious is the route we want to go,” her publisher insists before seeming to contradict himself: "The further we move Mary Sue from Sue Ellen Ewing, the less trouble we’re going to have from the Ewings’ lawyers.” Ironically, the ambiguity Val's publishers display towards her novel’s depiction of the Texas Ewings seems to mirror KNOTS’ own ambivalent relationship with its parent show.

    There are some unusually cinematic sequences in Soap Land this week. Swerving to avoid Michael Tyrone’s car after it has been shot at, a truck crashes into a storefront, then spills its load of oranges all over the street. It's the kind of extravagant detail you’d expect to see in some action based movie or other. Then there’s the knockdown, drag out fight between Blake and Nick atop Skycrest Mountain in DYNASTY, which feels like something out a George Stevens’ Western from the '50s. Blake’s tumble down a cliffside is particularly striking, and the sight of Nick staring down from above before leaving Blake to die is a shot worthy of a Johnny Cash album cover. And let’s not forget Alexis and Cecil’s remarkable sex marathon montage set to a disco beat which climaxes in Cecil’s heart attack and Alexis frantically slapping him across the face.

    Alexis’s last words of the season, delivered to her fiancé, (“You can’t die on me Cecil - we’re getting married tomorrow! I need you to get Blake!”) echo Sue Ellen’s to hers (“If Cliff dies, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to marry you”). The implication in both situations seems to be that sometimes there are more important things at stake than simply life and death - like power and/or revenge.

    Alexis is not the only Soap Land character whose master plan is jeopardised at the last moment. As accusations fly on FLAMINGO ROAD - first Titus is arrested for Tyrone's murder, then Julio threatens to confess to the killing and name Constance as an accessory unless she agrees to marry him - we discover Michael alive and well and wearing a monk’s habit in a remote mountainous monastery. (Possibly the same mountain on which Blake Carrington lies either unconscious or dead.) Whilst at prayer, a bible is passed to him containing a note from his voodoo servant: “I have failed you, Master. Titus has been freed while another suffers in his place.” That would be Lute-Mae, who has come forward to say that she was present at Michael’s shooting, but like Sue Ellen before her, has no recollection as to whether or not she pulled the trigger. (Lute Mae's blackout seems to be attributable to idiocy rather than alcohol, however.) “Let not my enemies triumph over me, for mine shall be the final judgement,” Brother Michael intones ominously from beneath his monk’s cowl.

    And that’s that for FLAMINGO ROAD. There is some consolation in knowing that the spirits of Michael Tyrone, Constance Carlyle, Titus Semple, Sam Curtis and Claude Weldon will all be reborn under new names in different soaps. To paraphrase Claudia Blaisdel, soap contracts end and then begin again.

    Like this season’s DALLAS, DYNASTY hedges its bets with a multiple cliffhanger for its finale. KNOTS LANDING, meanwhile, goes the same “game changer” route as FALCON CREST. Val walking out on Gary is Chase going into partnership with Angela - a sign that the innocent days of stand-alone episodes with happy endings are gone forever.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 3 are ...

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    30/Sep/82: KNOTS LANDING: A Brand New Day v. 01/Oct/82: DALLAS: Changing of the Guard v. 01/Oct/82: FALCON CREST: The Challenge

    … in which marriages crumble, presidents are deposed and partnerships forged. As the episode titles of this week’s KNOTS and DALLAS indicate, we are now entering a new era of Soap Land. The resulting turbulence means a tricky adjustment period for the characters involved. “You can’t imagine what it’s like living in that house. Every time I see him, my migraine comes on!” complains Lilimae on KNOTS LANDING of sharing a living space with her estranged son-in-law. “Grim is not the word,” exclaims Emma, describing life at Falcon Crest. “We had a lot of unpleasantness here this evening,” is Miss Ellie’s more restrained account of events at Southfork.

    Reeling from the events of last season’s cliff-hangers, Val spends most of this week’s KNOTS hiding out, first at a motel and then on her old pal Rusty’s ranch in Ventura, while Sue Ellen wanders through DALLAS in a daze, telling everyone she meets how confused she is and responding to every question with the mantra, "I don’t know, I really don’t know." By the end of their respective episodes, both women have retreated to familiar ground - Val to the cul-de-sac, where she takes control of her situation and gives Gary his marching orders, and Sue Ellen to Southfork, seemingly for no other reason than Miss Ellie has suggested it. In fairness, three narrative weeks have elapsed between the end of last season's KNOTS and the beginning of this one, allowing Val a head start in coming to terms with things, whereas this season’s DALLAS picks up just where the last one left off - minus amount of time it has taken Sue Ellen to acquire Soap Land’s first femullet.

    The frequent shifts in living situations result in a little confusion over exactly who is sleeping where. “Your bed’s across the street,” Abby reminds Gary during a lover’s tiff. “Seems kind of strange you being here at Southfork and us not sharing the same bed,” JR tells Sue Ellen.

    If the overarching theme of Soap Land's 1981/2 season was "Death of the Patriarch”, (RIP Sid Fairgate, Jock Ewing, Jason Gioberti and Douglas Channing) then it follows that 1982/3 should focus on the next in line to the throne. It’s telling that the first time Gary Ewing references his father’s death on KNOTS, it should be in the context of his own inheritance - or lack thereof. “Bobby called yesterday from Dallas,” he tells Abby. "He thinks Mama’s ready to hear the will.” He then goes on to speculate that his slice of the pie might be contingent on his marriage to Val. ("Daddy never trusted me ... He used to call her my anchor.”) Jock’s will is not mentioned in DALLAS’s opening episode of the season, but we do see a newly unemployed JR on the phone, anxious to reach his lawyer Harve Smithfield for some unspecified reason. Abby bridges the gap between these two worlds by sending the manuscript of Val’s book to JR at Southfork. (As with JR, her precise motives for doing so have yet to be explained.)

    In the meantime, the first Soap Land character of the season to accede to her father’s throne is a newcomer, Holly Harwood, whom we learn has just inherited the title of President and Chief Operating Officer of Harwood Oil. “She’s mighty young to be running an oil company,” observes Bobby Ewing. Over on FALCON CREST, Richard Channing gets ready to assume his seat as Chairman of the Board of his late father’s newspaper empire, while Chase Gioberti spends the episode preparing to begin his partnership with Angela as half owners of Falcon Crest.

    JR, currently on the outs with his family, and Gary, now a self-described leper within his community, travel curiously similar paths this week. For starters, both are ousted from jobs that were given to them by Jock and Sid by those same men’s widows. When Karen, coldly furious at Gary for his treatment of Val, impulsively fires him from Knots Landing Motors, the unexpectedness of the moment feels like a smack in the face. By contrast, a bid to remove JR from the presidency of Ewing Oil has been coming for a long time. Ever since Jock’s letter from South America divided the company up into voting shares, JR has been preparing for such a day - as Miss Ellie learns when she attempts to rally the troops to her side and discovers Ray has already signed over his voting proxy to JR in a moment of weakness. JR arranging for his son’s belongings to be moved back to the ranch in time for the big family meeting (thereby ensuring he will also have control of John Ross’s shares) feels like a militaristic manoeuvre. In spite of his best efforts, however, JR, like Gary, is removed from the position he has held since the first episode (that brief post-shooting period of incapacity notwithstanding) of his respective show.

    Both Ewing boys find themselves on the receiving end of some physical punishment as well. When Gary tries to forcibly drag Val away from Rusty’s ranch, Rusty gives him a pounding for his trouble. Bobby, meanwhile, makes good on his promise to flatten (or at least punch) JR over Christopher: “You tried to blackmail me with a child you thought was your own. You’re scum!” Similarly, Carlo Agretti socks Cole on FALCON CREST for suggesting that he (Cole) might be the father of Melissa’s unborn baby: “You come here and accuse my daughter of breaking her marriage vows. You scum!"

    After being voted out of Ewing Oil, "JR left the house without saying a word,” according to Miss Ellie. Following his run in with Val where she tells him she is removing both him and his mother’s furniture from her house, (the very same furniture that was moved in at the very beginning of the very first episode of KNOTS) Gary exits the cul-de-sac the same way. We're then shown both brothers alone in the darkness, each with a bruised face - Gary in his car looking out at the ocean, JR gazing forlornly up at the Ewing building. Later that night, Gary returns to Abby’s house, somehow renewed, and manages to convey, without the use of words, that he is re-committing himself to her. (There are a lot of dialogue-free scenes in this week’s KNOTS.) It takes JR a little longer, but by the end of this week’s DALLAS, he too has got his groove back thanks to a woman. “To JR Ewin’, back in power again,” toasts Holly Harwood. “As it should be,” he chuckles in reply.

    JR and Gary might both be out - but what of their replacements? “By turning Ewing Oil over to Bobby, you stand a very good chance of ruining everything my daddy spent his whole life working for,” JR warns his mama. But however poor a choice for successor Bobby might be, he has to be preferable to Wayne, aka "the best mechanic in town”, aka the man who fatally sabotaged Sid Fairgate’s car, whom an unwitting Karen has appointed as Gary’s replacement at KLM. Over on FALCON CREST, Angela - who seems to be in denial over the fact she too is about to be deposed ("It will never happen,” she states flatly, dismissing Chase’s plans to run Falcon Crest alongside her as his “fantasy”) - appoints Lance as her general operations manager: “Your first job is to make sure Chase Gioberti never sets foot in this winery.”

    Holly Harwood is one of three new faces to appear this week. Her alliterative counterpart on KNOTS, Mack Mackenzie, replaces Nick Toscanni as Soap Land’s resident New York-Italian hybrid with an inexhaustible supply of anecdotes about his culturally confused childhood: "The Italians would call me a mick, the micks called me a wop. All I could do was stand on the corner and have fights with myself!” Mack and Holly are both swiftly assimilated into their respective shows. By the end of their first episodes, Mack has kissed Karen (their chemistry being both immediate and unmistakable) and had dinner with her kids, whilst Holly has given JR total control and 25% ownership of her company. The third Soap Land newcomer, Richard Channing on FALCON CREST, remains an outsider. In fact, he is conspicuous by his absence. While the regular characters speculate about when he will show up in San Francisco to claim his inheritance, he remains in New York, plotting his next move.

    Richard is the adoptive son of Henri Denault whose diverse and international business interests ("Brazilian timber, African diamonds, Indonesian copra, American wheat, Japanese steel”) rival those of Michael Tyrone, Richard’s previous incarnation on FLAMINGO ROAD ("hotels, airlines, oil”). Like Tyrone, Richard is dark and brooding, but also somewhat childlike. In his first scene, he politely asks Denault for his freedom so that he may take his place at the Globe (and possibly learn the identity of his biological mother). An apparent graduate of the Patricia Shepard School of Parenting, Denault hasn’t so much raised Richard as programmed him to fulfil a pre-determined destiny: "As your adoptive father, I only wanted to be a good teacher, that's all. I never was anything more.” He grants Richard’s request, but only after Richard has promised to deliver him the entire California wine industry in return.

    Back in the Tuscany Valley, Angela and Lance try to convince Emma and Julia to part with their voting proxies in the Globe newspaper (just as JR tried to get his hands on Ray, Lucy and Bobby's voting shares in Ewing Oil during last season’s DALLAS). The sisters refuse - the shares are an opportunity for them to be independent of their mother for the first time. For Richard Channing, however, the Globe is part of a much bigger agenda. “The newspaper gives us a chance to use another form of power,” he explains to his assistant, Miss Hunter. “Information. You control what people think and you control their lives.” Michael Tyrone would be proud. Indeed, as with Michael Tyrone and Truro, one gets the sense of Richard Channing’s world being much bigger than the one he is about to enter into. The inhabitants of Falcon Crest seem almost puny in comparison - like those little chess pieces Tyrone named and then tossed into the fire.

    In the race to be the first daughter-in-law get her Ewing exposé onto the bookshelves, Val is still making revisions to "Capricorn Crude" while Donna is busy proof-reading “Sam Culver: The Early Years” - which I guess puts Donna slightly ahead. Over on FALCON CREST, Maggie amuses her family when she admits to working on a screenplay.

    Meanwhile, in Soap Land's Department of Life and Death, DALLAS’s Lucy learns that she’s pregnant - the result of a retrospectively revealed rape. Alongside Laura on KNOTS, Melissa on FALCON CREST and an off-screen Sammy Jo on DYNASTY, this makes Lucy Soap Land’s fourth current mother-to-be. (“Not if I have an abortion first,” she tells Muriel.) Meanwhile, ten minutes into its second season, FALCON CREST continues to live up to its reputation as the black widow soap by claiming Soap Land’s first death of the year. Adios, Gus Nunuoz - yet another patriarch - killed in an off-screen gas explosion.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 3 are ...

    1 (3) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (-) DALLAS
    3 (-) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2016
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  13. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    07/Oct/82: KNOTS LANDING: Daniel v. 08/Oct/82: DALLAS: Where There's a Will v. 08/Oct/82: FALCON CREST: The Arrival

    With Soap Land suddenly more focused on big business than ever before, it’s ironic that almost all the businesses it depicts are in decline. Last week, as his adoptive son Richard Channing prepared to take his place as publisher of the San Francisco Globe, Henri Denault dismissed newspapers as "a dying business, economic anachronisms”. On this week’s KNOTS, where Val’s first novel is awaiting publication, JR describes the future of the book industry as "kind of dicey - everyone’s watching TV nowadays.” “There’s a world out there being taken over by a media explosion,” Richard echoes in this week's FALCON CREST as he frets about the Globe’s relevance. "This paper’s in the nineteenth century. It reads like the Farmer’s Almanac.” And it’s not just the publishing industries that are struggling: "Since I was last in charge, the world situation has changed somewhat,” reflects DALLAS’s Bobby during a meeting with Ewing Oil's department heads. "Oil doesn't seem to be the hot item it once was." Accordingly, he agrees to 25% cutbacks in the company's drilling and refinery operations. “This is wonderful,” he remarks. “I take over and we all start talking about cutbacks!” On his first morning in charge of the Globe, Richard Channing goes one better - he fires the editor-in-chief, rewarding his loyal service of thirty years with a week’s severance pay.

    It’s been over a year since JR appeared in KNOTS LANDING, but as always, Larry Hagman’s interactions with Joan van Ark are comic gold, with JR finding various ways to twist the knife into his sister-in-law, (such as feigning ignorance about her separation from Gary and deliberately mispronouncing "Capricorn Crude" as "Crude Porn" and "Corn Pone”) all under the veneer of Southern hospitality - “Valene, you still got a way with iced tea!” In fact, JR never seems more Southern than when he crosses over to KNOTS. Partly, it’s in the writing, but also in Hagman’s performance. For instance, I’m not sure he would ever pronounce “motorcycle” in DALLAS the way he does in KNOTS - as "motor-sickle”. This occurs during a really great speech he delivers to Abby about a motorbike Gary worked hard all summer long to afford when he was sixteen, winning Jock’s respect in the process: "Come September, my daddy took him down to the showroom, gave him a slap on the back and a blank cheque. And of course, Gary had read all the brochures and motor-sickle magazines. He knew exactly what he wanted. He signed the cheque, revved that old motor-sickle up - and drove straight through that pate glass window.” I love what Dallas Decoder had to say about this speech in his critique of the episode:

    Next to the parable about the blind horse that J.R. shares with John Ross during an early episode of TNT’s “Dallas,” this might be Hagman’s most memorable monologue. It makes me wish he had taken this act to the stage. Imagine: a one-man show where Larry Hagman tells stories, in character as J.R., about growing up on Southfork. It could’ve been this generation’s “Mark Twain Tonight.”
    http://dallasdecoder.com/2013/05/28/critique-knots-landing-episode-55-daniel/

    Between this week’s KNOTS and DALLAS, we are offered an intriguing glimpse into the past lives of each of the Ewing brothers. Following the story of Gary’s motor-sickle, an affable pimp by the name of Carl Daggett drops by Ewing Oil with this nugget about Bobby: "You shoulda seen him in the old days. He was a real playboy - right, Bobby? Your style, my ladies. Good for Ewing Oil too!” Ray, meanwhile, receives a letter from "from my Aunt Lily" in Emporia, Kansas, which gives us just a hint of the economic circumstances he grew up in while his half-brothers were busy spreading the bees around and driving motorbikes through showroom windows. “Your daddy, Amos Krebbs, has been taken sick,” Lil writes. "He's been moved to the charity ward, but even that is costing more than we can afford.”

    Perhaps most tantalising of all, however, is the oh so brief encounter between JR and Lilimae when they pass each other in the doorway of Val’s house on KNOTS. Again, JR plays the smiling Southern gentleman to the hilt, helping Lilimae with the lamp she is carrying before continuing on his way - but the untold story that lies behind Lilimae's quaking delivery of the line: “What’s he doin' in this house??”, spoken only once JR is safely out of earshot, is one I dearly would have loved to hear Larry Hagman tell in his one-person stage show as JR (and/or Julie Harris’s in hers as Lilimae).

    If this week’s KNOTS brings out JR’s more comedic side, then Abby is noticeably harder and less playful in their scenes together than in previous encounters. In the old days, she was just flirting with power; now she clearly means business. She talks of marrying Gary (and therefore, of a divorce between him and Val) as if it were a foregone conclusion. With that in mind, she is as anxious to see Jock’s will as JR is in the following night’s episode of DALLAS. “Honey, you’re gonna have to wait until it’s read,” JR tells her, just as Harve Smithfield will later tell him: “No one will see that will until such time as it is read to the entire family.” However, JR already knows enough about the will (or at least claims to) to assure Abby that "Gary’s coming into money. Big money.” What JR's really interested in, it transpires, is the codicil Jock added to the will while he was in South America - and though JR pays lip service to Harve’s words, it is clear he isn’t prepared to wait to see it. “Where there’s a way, there’s a will,” he murmurs to himself. A similar line is delivered Angela in this week’s FALCON CREST. “Wills can be broken, and interlopers can be bought off,” she declares, referring to Richard’s inheritance of the Globe. Back on KNOTS LANDING, JR is canny enough to head a potential interloper off at the pass. “Keep [Gary] out of Dallas,” he tells Abby. "What makes you think that I want to be in Dallas?” she asks him. "You wanna be Queen of the Ewings,” he replies. "I’ll settle for Princess,” she counters wisely. “Fine, you got it,” he agrees. "You get the ermine and the jewels - but the crown stays in Dallas, ‘cos the crown is mine.”

    Towards the end of last season’s FALCON CREST, Lance purposefully arranged for Melissa to find him in bed with another woman the night before their wedding. Then in the season finale of KNOTS, Val accidentally found Gary in bed with Abby. In this week’s DALLAS, JR combines both scenarios when he accidentally on purpose walks in on Harve’s son-in-law and trusted employee, John Baxter, in a compromising position with Serena, his own loyal hooker-in-chief. JR then toys with John in much the same amusingly disingenuous way as he did Val on the previous night’s KNOTS (“I’m a firm believer in the sanctity of marriage and I’m damn disappointed in you, John”) before dropping the other shoe: “I wanna see my daddy’s will."

    A week after JR and Bobby move into new offices at Ewing Oil, Val redecorates her house and Richard Channing modernises the office he has inherited from his father at the Globe. Meeting him there for the first time, Angela registers her disapproval at the changes made in much the same way Katherine Wentworth did when Cliff refurbished her father’s office at Wentworth Tool & Die last season. Richard’s one concession to history is to keep his father’s leather desk chair - but even this he ends up slashing with a knife after an attempt to establish some sort of familial connection with Angela is coldly rebuffed. "Your birth was an unfortunate accident,” she informs him, "the result of Douglas Channing's weakness."

    Contrasting references to "the Mob" in KNOTS LANDING and FALCON CREST serve to reinforce the gulf between Soap Land’s “us” and “them”. Richard Avery tells Karen that Sid’s killers, Frank and Roy, (who resurface this week, having eluded prison on a technicality) "are working for the Mob.” On FALCON CREST, a curious Melissa wonders if Richard Channing belongs to that same organisation. “Organised criminals, the Mob, whatever you call them,” her father Carlo tells her, "they are just street punks compared to Channing. He is a true warmonger. Anyone else is just fighting for scraps.” Carlo also reveals that he left Italy as a young man to get away from the kind of murderous family feuds that Richard Avery parodies on this week's KNOTS. "Where do you think you are, Sicily?” he asks Karen in an attempt to dissuade her from pursuing a personal crusade against Frank and Roy. "You gonna talk to your Godfather? Poison their well? People like us, civilised people, we’re not equipped to deal with the Roys and Franks of this world. We need the law and people like [Mack] to enforce it.” Karen later concedes the point, telling Mack, “I'm a nice lady with three kids, a house and a business to run, not Michael Corleone.” Or Richard Channing, come to that. It’s interesting that Soap Land’s two major male newcomers - Mack Mackenzie and Richard Channing, one a federal prosecutor, the other an alleged warmonger - should come from such polar opposite worlds.

    The final third of this week’s KNOTS centres around the delivery of the Averys' baby. This is the fourth Soap Land birth thus far, and the third in which a car crash is central to the story. This time, however, the mother-to-be is not seven months pregnant and the crash is not caused by her being too drunk or hysterical to drive safely. Nor does it lead to a premature delivery, followed by much life-or-death operating table drama. In fact, Laura’s waters have already broken before she and Richard leave the cul-de-sac for the hospital. A diversion, a wet road and a minor accident that leaves both Averys uninjured but stranded mean that Richard is obliged to deliver the baby himself. The subsequent drama then stems not from the kind of emotional melodrama that surrounded the births of Baby John on DALLAS and Little Blake on DYNASTY, but from two people with a shared and difficult history trapped together in an extreme situation, his mounting panic and her morbid certainty that something is going to go horribly wrong (“Do you know how many women die in childbirth?”). As a result, there is a genuine feeling of danger and, ultimately, relief when the baby, Daniel, is born safely.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 3 are … it’s a close run thing as they’re all pretty great ...
    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (2) DALLAS
    3 (3) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2016
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  14. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    14/Oct/82: KNOTS LANDING: Encounters v. 15/Oct/82: DALLAS: Billion Dollar Question v. 15/Oct/82: FALCON CREST: Troubled Waters

    Alongside books, newspapers and oil, another Soap Land industry is now officially in the doldrums: “Count yourself lucky to be out of the car business, it’s getting worse and worse,” a former associate of Gary Ewing tells him. "Computers, video - that’s where to be nowadays.” Or maybe restaurants. Or even singers.

    This week we meet Ciji (sporting a longer version of Sue Ellen’s femullet) and hear her sing what is, by real life standards, a conventional power ballad (Journey’s “Open Arms”), but which, in the context of KNOTS LANDING, feels genuinely exciting. That is, we share the characters' excitement as they watch her perform. Seeing Gary and then Kenny fall under her spell is strangely affecting. Similarly, I find myself deriving a weird sort of pleasure from Richard’s enthusiasm for the restaurant-for-sale he happens upon while waiting for a job interview, and his subsequent realisation that perhaps he wasn’t cut out for lawyering in the first place. ("I never liked it. it was never right for me.”). I’m not used to empathising with Soap Land characters so strongly. Maybe it’s the vicarious thrill of one of “us” deciding to follow his dream. Or maybe it’s seeing the KNOTS LANDING world starting to expand in front of our eyes. Or perhaps it’s just not possible for me to watch this period of the show without the benefit of hindsight, and therefore anticipating what an impact both Ciji and Richard’s restaurant are about to have.

    Over on DALLAS, Richard’s counterpart in despair at the end of last season, Cliff Barnes, also turns a career corner this week, taking his first step into the oil business by accepting a job with Marilee Stone.

    Elsewhere on KNOTS, as part of the PR campaign surrounding the upcoming publication of “Capricorn Crude”, Val is introduced to Hilda Grant, a gossip columnist with a readership of three and a half million. (What Richard Channing wouldn’t give for that kind of circulation.) "This book is really about the Ewings of Dallas, right?” Grant asks her. “I made it up,” Val insists, but Grant perseveres: “I heard your sister-in-law begged you not to publish this for fear it would block the adoption of her baby.” Add this to JR’s claim in last week’s KNOTS that Miss Ellie and Sue Ellen are also upset about the book’s publication, and it would appear that the Ewing wives on DALLAS are up in arms over “Capricorn Crude".

    Needless to say, none of the women in DALLAS has even mentioned Val’s book. They’ve all got their own story-lines to contend with (or in Pam’s case, Lucy’s, as she undergoes Soap Land’s first abortion). So it appears there are several “versions” of the DALLAS Ewings currently floating around. There’s Val’s fictionalised version (“about ER and the brothers and that poor Lila Sue”). Then there’s the version of the Ewings described by JR and Hilda Grant, who are responding angrily to Val’s version. And then there’s the way KNOTS as whole depicts the Ewings - as "one of the most notorious families in the country,” according to Val’s new publicist, Bess Riker. "This book exposes all sorts of shady dealings that we’ve all heard whispers about,” concurs Hilda Grant. This perception contrasts with the one presented on DALLAS itself where, in spite of JR’s notoriety, the Ewings continue to be regarded by their peers with respect. "You have a reputation for being the most honest independent oil man in Dallas,” Holly Harwood tells Bobby in this week's episode.

    "When that book appears, Val Ewing’s name is going to be on everybody’s lips,” Bess Riker predicts. Val reacts uncomfortably to the idea of fame, and in particular, the prospect of her private life becoming public. ("We’ve got to exploit the 'deserted housewife' angle,” decides Bess.) In fairness, Val reacts uncomfortably to pretty much everything this week. She runs up the same flight of the stairs in a panic no less than three times in the same ep. "I just wanna hide!” she wails. Miss Ellie, meanwhile, prepares to take her first steps back into public life by shopping for a dress for the Oil Baron’s Ball. "I still feel strange going to a social event without Jock,” she reflects. “You’re gonna be the centre of attraction anyway, why not enjoy it?” suggests her friend Mavis. This sentiment is taken onboard by Richard Channing, who proves nowhere near as publicity shy as Val in this week’s FALCON CREST when the first issue of the revamped Globe is unveiled with a picture of his own face plastered across the front page.

    While Val uses the final revisions to her novel as an excuse to keep others (her neighbours, her husband, her publicist, her publisher) at arm’s length, Soap Land’s other writers are distracted from their work by the events surrounding them. Donna Krebbs may have completed "Sam Culver: The Early Years”, (“blood, sweat and tears - six hundred neatly typed pages of it”) but plans to deliver the manuscript in person to its New York publisher are scuppered by the news of a death. Meanwhile on FALCON CREST, Maggie’s attempts to finish her screenplay are continually disrupted by family members wanting advice. On the one occasion she insists on continuing with her work rather than listen to Chase describe his latest battle with Angela, he goes off in a huff.

    Now that Abby and JR have each had a sneak preview of Jock’s will and like what they’ve seen, they are both impatient to move things forward. Abby wants to consolidate her relationship with Gary by finding a house for them and her children away from the cul-de-sac, and JR wants Miss Ellie to have Jock declared legally dead so the will can be read officially. However, neither Gary nor his mother is about to be rushed into anything. "I'll make that decision when I think the time is right,” Miss Ellie tells JR. “I can’t go starting something new till I finish with the old,” Gary tells Abby.

    Like JR and Abby, Richard Channing is also piling on the pressure in order to further his long term plans. His first move is to acquire Carlo Agretti's vineyards. Carlo, however, angrily and adamantly refuses to sell. “He’s after the whole valley,” Carlo warns Angela. "He won’t stop until he controls all of it, even Falcon Crest!” How very Michael Tyrone of him.

    When the direct approach fails, Richard and JR resort to the same kind of dirty tactics. "What if I was to tell you there's solid proof of my daddy's death and it's being withheld to keep the will from going into probate [and] postpone paying taxes?” JR whispers into the ear of IRS agent Nelson Harding. Meanwhile, Richard's emissary Miss Hunter (think DYNASTY’s Andrew Laird in the body of a Playboy centrefold) levels a similar accusation in Carlo’s direction: “Agriculture can be very risky. People have gone to prison for tax evasion … Maybe liquidating your holdings might be the best idea."

    Miss Ellie, Gary and Val are not the only Ewing-verse characters struggling to move on with their lives this week. “Every time I think about the future, the past seems to get in the way,” frets Sue Ellen while taking stock of her life at the Southern Cross. “I just wanted to close the door on that part of my life forever,” sighs Ray Krebbs, after agreeing to attend the funeral of his step-father Amos in Kansas. (This is Amos Krebbs' second Soap Land death in less than a year, having already passed away as Lane Ballou’s daddy on FLAMINGO ROAD.)

    Melissa Cumson also loses a father this week when Carlo Agretti is bludgeoned to death on FALCON CREST. (Carlo is the fourth father on FALCON CREST to die since the series began: Chase is now the only one left.) Like Titus Semple in the FLAMINGO ROAD finale, Cole Gioberti is lured to the victim’s house where he discovers the body. In lieu of an eyewitness to find him kneeling over it, Cole picks up the murder weapon with his bare hands, smearing blood on his shirt in the process. Inevitably, he is under arrest before the closing credits. Following the shooting of Michael Tyrone in FL’INGO RD and the kidnapping of Little Blake on DYNASTY, this is Soap Land’s third whodunnit in quick succession.

    “Who Killed Carlo?" is another clever variation on the "Who Shot JR?” scenario. Instead of providing the end of year cliffhanger, the mystery is placed at the beginning of the season where we least expect it. (Indeed, it’s only in retrospect that we realise how many people had a motive for getting rid of Carlo: Cole, Richard, Lance, Angela ... maybe even Miss Hunter). In addition, by selecting a powerful but nonetheless minor character as the victim, the show can afford to definitively kill rather than merely injure him - thereby upping the dramatic stakes.

    The bad news reaches Melissa, by now heavily pregnant, in the final scene of the ep, which takes place at a meeting of the Globe’s stockholders. Surrounded by her husband and his family, she spurns their attempts at comfort and condolence. Instead, it is Richard Channing, a man she has only just met and of whom she has heard only the most terrible things, that somehow manages to break through her defences. As everyone else looks on in bafflement, she collapses in his arms. David Selby is great at this kind of sudden shift - the alleged warmonger turned grief whisperer.

    The final scene of this week’s KNOTS is equally intriguing. When Gary and Val eventually meet, Gary surprises us, and maybe even himself, by asking Val for a reconciliation. She refuses and walks away, but then changes her mind and turns back … only to find him gone.

    Lucy’s abortion isn’t the only Soap Land first of the week: KNOTS LANDING boasts the premier toilet scene of the genre wherein Joe Cooper perches on the crapper to counsel a bath-ridden Val, weeping and nude aside from a few strategically placed bubbles. (This is probably the most naked anyone’s been in Soap Land since Lucy’s spontaneous strip in Mitch Cooper’s apartment two years ago.)

    Blatant plot contrivance of the week: Karen Fairgate overhearing Wayne the mechanic blow his alibi for the afternoon of Sid’s accident (he was supposed to be at the dentist) by boasting to Laura that he hasn’t seen a dentist in five years.

    Weirdest scene of the week: Having split up with boyfriend Mario, a heartbroken Vicky Gioberti stumbles sobbing along the roadside before suddenly breaking into an elated sprint. It’s one of those incongruous real life moments that appears totally fake in a fictional context.

    Only few months ago, there were two Hispanic families living in Soap Land - the Sanchez clan of FLAMINGO ROAD and the Nunuozes of FALCON CREST. This week, the last remaining member of either, Mario Nunuoz, leaves the Tuscany Valley on an unspecified crusade “to save his people” (for which maintaining a profile on a prime time TV show apparently isn’t a priority). The occasional Chinese or Mexican servant notwithstanding, Soap Land is pretty much an exclusively white-skinned zone once again.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 3 are …
    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (3) FALCON CREST
    3 (2) DALLAS
     
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  15. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    21/Oct/82: KNOTS LANDING: Svengali v. 22/Oct/82: DALLAS: The Big Ball v. 22/Oct/82: FALCON CREST: Murder One

    Two male twenty-somethings make their Ewing-verse debuts this week. It’s safe to say that Chip Roberts - cheerful, charming, attentive - makes a more favourable first impression on Lilimae and Val than Mickey Trotter - surly, sarcastic, indifferent - does on Donna and Ray. But then, things aren’t always how they appear in Soap Land.

    My favourite scene of the week is between Chip and his boss Bess Riker. Two ambitious, calculating characters, each trying to get the better of the other - it’s a traditional Soap Land scenario of the kind KNOTS LANDING has never really done before. Although different in tone, it reminds me of the scene that introduced Richard Channing and his adoptive father, Henri Denault, to FALCON CREST a few weeks ago. The characters in both scenes are outsiders. They don’t belong to the familiar worlds of their respective shows, and they view those worlds dispassionately, referring to characters we know as commodities to be exploited.

    There are differences between the two scenes. Where Richard has worked diligently for his father all his adult life, Bess hired Chip “two months ago against my better judgement [as a] messenger. If you ever again try to con one of my clients into thinking you’re any more in this office, I’ll fire you right on the spot.” Where Richard is asking Denault for his freedom, Chip wants more responsibility in Bess’s company. Each delivers a persuasive sales pitch. “If you give me time,” Richard proposes, "I’ll deliver a multi-billion dollar per annum business to you … the California wine industry.” “She was ready to dump you, you know," says Chip of Val. "She doesn’t want a PR firm. I convinced her she had to have one.” Denault and Riker each give their consent. “Yes,” agrees Henri, "having a little wine would be nice." "All right, Svengali,” Bess tells Chip. "Let’s see what you can do. Groom her, do what you think she wants.” However, both scenes end on a warning. "If you don’t deliver this wine business in a reasonable time, I’m afraid I’ll have to cancel this agreement of ours,” Henri tells Richard. “And my freedom from the company?” Richard asks. "You simply won’t have any,” he replies. "Just don’t let me down,” Bess warns Chip, "because I’m going to be watching you every step of the way.”

    Bess greets Chip’s claim that Val "is going to be as big as Jackie Susann or maybe even Judith Krantz” with derisive laughter, but he insists that she is “a fabulous writer.” Without question, he is motivated by self-interest here, but he also seems to believe what he is saying. Could it be that Chip sees the same kind of potential in Val that Abby sees in Gary?

    Val and Miss Ellie both find themselves in the spotlight this week. While Ellie's dressmaker puts the finishing touches to her gown for the Oil Barons' Ball (which JR refers to as his mama’s coming out party), Val is persuaded to splash out $600 on a dress for her TV debut as a guest on THE MIKE DOUGLAS SHOW. (However, neither outfit - nor any of the others at the Oil Barons’ Ball, come to that - is as bold or glitzy as some of those seen on last season's DYNASTY or FLAMINGO ROAD.)

    After mentioning Val’s name during the introduction of his show, Mike Douglas looks directly down the camera lens at us and adds knowingly, “And if that name Ewing sounds familiar, then it’s who you think it is.” Later, during their interview, Douglas asks Val if her book is "just a thinly disguised story of the real life Ewing family.” “Nothing the Ewings do is ever very thinly disguised!” she quips nervously. The impression one gets from these references is of the Ewings as a somewhat notorious, if not infamous family, perhaps even regarded as a little vulgar. This isn’t a hundred miles from how they were viewed by real life television audiences of the time (at least in the UK). In other words, within the context of KNOTS, the DALLAS Ewings feel almost fictional.

    “Nothing the Ewings do is ever very thinly disguised!” The implication of this line, that the Texas Ewings lack subtlety, is borne out the following night by the standing ovation Miss Ellie receives at the Oil Barons' Ball, initiated by her own family. Conversely, Mike Douglas’s wink-at-the-camera attitude towards the family ("it’s who you think it is!”) contrasts greatly with Punk Anderson's solemn description of Jock Ewing as "the kind of man that made Texas great” and Miss Ellie's pronouncement of him as simply "the finest man that God ever put on this earth.” Instead of a chuckling studio audience, this plays out in front of a ballroom full of people blinking back tears.

    The blurring of the real and the fictional continues with the first use of celebrity cameos in Soap Land. As well as Mike Douglas, KNOTS has Zsa Zsa Gabor and Billy Curtis playing themselves, while Lilimae - a fictional representation of the ordinary "us" - fantasises that she’s Elizabeth Taylor - a real life example of the extraordinary "them". This is itself ironic, given that Julie Harris co-starred with Taylor in the 1967 movie REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE, and is a far more celebrated actress than Zsa Zsa Gabor, whose films Lilimae purports to be a big fan of. “Which ones?” Zsa Zsa asks her. “All of them,” she replies vaguely. (And who can blame her - can you name a single Zsa Zsa Gabor movie?)

    Making her TV debut, a nervous Val, consciously or otherwise, ends up playing the country hick in order to ingratiate herself with her host and his audience. It works. And each time she elicits a laugh or stumbles upon a piece of homespun wisdom, we cut to Chip standing in the wings looking genuinely pleased and relieved. Since we’re on Val’s side, we share his reaction. Does that mean we’re on his side too?

    While Val is under the glare of a fictional media, KNOTS itself puts Ciji in the limelight, devoting nearly a full three minutes of screen time to her uninterrupted rendition of another soft rock cover, Rick Springfield's “Hole in my Heart”, accompanied by some cool camera moves. Neither of Soap Land’s previous songbirds, Lane Ballou and Afton Cooper, were ever showcased in such a way (although Lane got pretty close during her demo recording of “Could It Be Love”). While Lane and Afton were already established characters before we saw them perform, Ciji’s spoken dialogue has thus far been minimal. The only indication we’ve been given of her personality is the gutsy earnestness with which she sings. Again, we’re seeing her through the excited eyes of Kenny and Gary, and again, it feels very seductive.

    In FALCON CREST, it’s Cole who hits the spotlight when the Globe newspaper launches a smear campaign targeting him as the most likely suspect in Carlo Agretti’s killing. “I want headlines on this murder!” Richard Channing orders his reluctant editor. "I want it to be sensational … Murder sells newspapers, whether we like it or not, especially when the victims are rich and the suspects are rich and the setting is right.” As well as the Globe’s readers, Richard might also be describing Soap Land’s audience here. After all, what was “Who Shot JR?” but a story about rich people trying to kill each other? Could FALCON CREST be implying that its own viewers are as prurient and easy to manipulate as a tabloid readership? Ah, but then it flatters us. When Miss Hunter suggests that Cole is too obvious a suspect, Richard assures her that his readers won’t care about that. “Don’t wanna make it too challenging,” he tells her, adding cynically that "simplicity is the key to genius.” As we the audience already know Cole to be innocent, that means we're one step ahead of the Globe’s easily duped readers.

    Back on DALLAS, it’s good to see wildcatter Walter Lankershim, who unceremoniously evaporated after striking it big on DYNASTY two seasons ago, resurface as “snake oil salesman” Frank Crutcher at the Oil Barons’ Ball. He offers his condolences to Miss Ellie for her loss of Jock in the same treacherous jungle that also claimed his friend Matthew. Meanwhile, Soap Land’s first businesswoman, Sally Bullock - the one who joined forces with JR to defraud Bobby out of a tanker full of oil - is discovered slumming it as a struggling vineyardist and widow in this week’s FALCON CREST.

    The occasion of Amos Krebbs' funeral on DALLAS introduces us to Ray’s Aunt Lil. Like Lilimae on KNOTS, she is a warm, endearing archetype of homespun country folk. “Land sakes, where are my manners?!” she exclaims before ushering Donna and Ray inside her house, insisting they stay with her rather than at a motel. "If a heavenly angel came down when I was a child to tell me that a daughter of mine was going to be on THE MIKE DOUGLAS SHOW, I’d have told her she was crazy!” declares an even more exuberant Lilimae at the beginning of this week’s KNOTS. It’s interesting to compare the two Lils. “Little more grey in my hair since you left,” Aunt Lil shyly admits to Ray. Yeah, she’s the Lil that stayed behind to bury a sister (“That was a beautiful service”) and raise a son (“Michael was such a good boy growing up”) while Lilimae (nothing grey about her hair) abandoned her family to chase a dream. Now it looks as if that dream is about to come true, albeit once removed. “We’re gonna be a star!” she cries after Val’s TV appearance is deemed a success. She goes on to declare the recording as the most exciting afternoon of her life. “Afternoon?” queries Chip. “Well, there was a night, but I can’t talk about that,” she replies. It’s hard to imagine Aunt Lil admitting to one of those.

    DALLAS and KNOTS each end on a forward-looking note. “Jock, of all men, always believed that we had to be ready to face tomorrow and so we will,” concludes Ellie's speech, while on KNOTS, the direct reference to ALL ABOUT EVE might be excessive, (a fawning young admirer at the stage door introduces herself to Val as Eve) but clearly illustrates that as a result of her talk show appearance, Val has been transformed from one of "us" to one of "them". Meanwhile, on FALCON CREST, there’s none of that "brave new tomorrow” crap - just a nice, juicy, traditional Soap Land cliffhanger where Cole is arrested for murder as his family look on helplessly.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 3 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    27/Oct/82: DYNASTY: The Plea v. 28/Oct/82: KNOTS LANDING: Catharsis v. 29/Oct/82: DALLAS: Jock's Will v. 29/Oct/82: KNOTS LANDING: New Beginnings

    DYNASTY’s season opener is really fun. It starts off on an appropriately frantic note with Krystle and Fallon distraught over the disappearances of Blake and Little Blake respectively. Then it takes a turn for the funny when Alexis arrives at Soap Land Memorial Hospital and starts trying to arrange a bedside wedding to her ailing fiancee. This leads to clashes with indignant doctors, rude nurses and a bizarre speech delivered through a flap in an oxygen tent to Cecil, now made up to look exactly like Grandpa from THE MUNSTERS.

    When we return to Skycrest Mountain, the melodrama has been ratcheted up a notch, with Blake beset by a storm so ridiculously fierce, it genuinely made me laugh (funny weather - a Soap Land first.) If the fight between he and Nick Toscanni at the end of last season was an homage to SHANE, then his reunion with Krystle, where he staggers towards her out of the darkness, feels like a reenactment of Ashley Wilkes' return from the Civil War in GONE WITH THE WIND. It’s a sequence that manages to look both epic and cheap at the same time. I kind of love it. How intentionally funny it’s meant to be, it’s impossible to say - which kind of adds to the fascination. And when Blake is taken to the hospital where his and Alexis’s storylines collide - well, that’s when the fun really begins.

    In the midst of this absurdity comes the beautiful, haunting scene between Jeff and Claudia in the Carrington nursery where she compares the disappearance of his son to the death of her daughter, and then taunts him over it: “God’s punishing all of you.” (Interesting that some of DALLAS’s most atmospheric scenes have also taken place in a darkened nursery.)

    Little Blake’s kidnapping is the one plot line in this week’s DYNASTY that's played more or less completely straight, but even it provides a couple of unexpected moments of comedy: Claudia’s hilariously out to lunch description of Farouk Ahmed, and the unidentified old woman sobbing loudly on her death bed as she watches the Carringtons’ televised appeal for their baby’s safe return.

    The central plot of “Catharsis”, the first KNOTS episode of the week, has a whiff of generic TV movie about it. It deals with Karen’s attempt to foil the bad guys who killed Sid, and it’s kind of a relief when it’s over (even though things perks up whenever Joe Cooper or Mack get involved.)

    Over on DALLAS, Miss Ellie is also laying the past to rest by agreeing have Jock declared legally dead. After a date for the court hearing is set, she calls Ray in Kansas to tell him that the reading of Jock’s will is planned for the following day. Back on KNOTS, Gary receives a telegram from Bobby containing the same information. Ray and Gary’s respective women respond characteristically to the news. Abby whoops with delight (when no one is around to see her) while Donna frowns ominously.

    Gary and Ray both invite a third party to accompany them back to Dallas. Neither Gary’s estranged wife nor Ray’s cousin is overly keen on the idea, however. “What in the world would I wanna go to Dallas for??” Val asks incredulously. Mickey eventually agrees but is far from happy to find himself bunking with three other cowboys at Southfork. "I didn't have to leave Kansas to go to prison. We got Leavenworth right there,” he grumbles. I've assumed the bunkhouse in question to be what is now Elena's Petit Trianon in New DALLAS. If one takes the view, as I do, that Elena’s brother Drew is the 21st Century Mickey, then it’s kind of fitting he should end up living there too.

    Ray tells Donna that he has brought Mickey to Southfork to help put him on the straight and narrow. “Jock did the same thing for me,” he explains. Meanwhile, Lilimae surmises that Gary inviting Val to the will reading is really about his unresolved daddy issues. "Oh sugar, it probably just hit home to him that his daddy died, and he probably needed to talk to somebody who loved him,” she says. “Then let him go to her,” Val replies, referring to Abby.

    Gary and Bobby go on to speculate gloomily about the contents of their father's will. "That will is gonna determine who finally owns Ewing Oil,” Bobby tells Pam on DALLAS, "and I have a terrible feeling it's gonna be JR. If Daddy gave him the company, then you and I are gonna get out of here ... I'm not gonna sit around and watch him take over again." "My father never trusted me,” Gary tells Abby on KNOTS. "I wouldn’t put it past the old man to tie Val and me together, make her custodian of my money ... I just want you to be prepared. It’s just possible that I may come out of Dallas with nothing."

    Abby and JR, of course, already have some advance notice of what the will contains. When Sue Ellen overhears JR promising John Ross that Ewing Oil will one day be his alone to run, she also gets an inkling. What’s interesting is that when she asks JR about the will, (“I have a notion that you know something”) she doesn’t let on what she has overheard - yet it seems that is what prompts her (at least in part) to finally agree to remarry him, even going so far as to set a wedding date. Likewise, Abby, armed with similar foreknowledge, makes this pledge to Gary on KNOTS: "Look, you go to Dallas, you hear the will. And if you come back a millionaire - fine, terrific - but if you come back without a penny, that’s fine too - because from now on, rich or poor, we’re together.”

    Watching these episodes of DALLAS and KNOTS in sequence is really interesting. Gary’s look of silent anger at the will reading at Southfork, for instance, feels more resonant in the context of both shows.

    Harve Smithfield’s announcement at the end of this week’s DALLAS - that JR and Bobby are to be pitted against each other to determine who should finally control Ewing Oil - is both dramatically thrilling and pivotal to the future of the series. So is Alexis’s revelation at the end of DYNASTY that her and Blake’s firstborn son was kidnapped as a baby and never seen again. Admittedly, both plot twists are also kinda farfetched, but crucially, the contest between JR and Bobby feels somehow inevitable.

    The second KNOTS episode of the week, “New Beginnings”, picks up directly where “Jock’s Will" leaves off, with Gary saying his goodbyes to Bobby at Southfork whilst struggling to comes to terms with the fact that his $10,000,000 inheritance will be “limited for the first four years to use of the interest and loan.” The ep is a fascinating hybrid of the two Ewing-verse shows. A KNOTS episode set mostly in Dallas, it feels like DALLAS with extra brains or KNOTS with extra slippery soapiness.

    Gary and Abby are staying in the same Dallas hotel that Val is as part of her book tour, but both parties remain ignorant of the other’s presence for the bulk of the ep. In one scene, a dressed-for-bed Val takes receipt of her room service tray, closing her door just as an immaculate looking Abby saunters down the hallway on Gary’s arm, on their way out to dinner. The physical contrast between the two women here echoes a scene in this week's DYNASTY when Krystle and Alexis run into each other in the hospital corridor. Krystle is dirty and bedraggled following her one-woman mountain rescue mission, while Alexis retains her fur-coated glamour in spite of Cecil’s heart attack.

    When Abby and Val do see each other, in the last scene of "New Beginnings”, they are on an equal footing, stylistically and otherwise. "Paging Mrs. Ewing," calls the hotel tannoy, “paging Mrs. Gary Ewing." Abby and Val arrive from different directions and meet, finally, in the middle. "Val!" exclaims Abby in surprise. Save for a brief encounter at the dry cleaners a few weeks earlier, this is the first time the two women have spoken since Val caught Gary and Abby in bed together. "Well, you look terrific,” Abby continues. "Success seems to agree with you, I guess.” Unlike Krystle’s sarcastic tribute to Alexis in that earlier hospital scene, where she called her “my husband's innocent ex-wife and the splendidly irreproachable mother of his two children,” Abby’s compliment is genuine. "Thank you, Abby," Val replies graciously. "I might say the same about you. Success seems to agree with both of us." There follows a moment of something like mutual respect, and then Gary appears, throwing the situation off balance once again. Abby takes his arm, and Val takes her leave. On her way out, she stops briefly to look at the poster advertising her own book tour appearance and then continues walking, head held high, lonely but somehow victorious. The episode ends, not with the big dramatic freeze frames of this week’s DALLAS and DYNASTY, but almost tentatively with Gary watching Val as she goes, and Abby watching Gary, as if realising this is the new status quo: Gary may now have achieved a kind of peace with his father's memory, but he is still haunted by his past with Valene.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are …

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING (New Beginnings)
    2 (-) DYNASTY
    3 (3) DALLAS
    4 (1) KNOTS LANDING (Catharsis)
     
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  17. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    03/Nov/82: DYNASTY: The Roof v. 04/Nov/82: KNOTS LANDING: Investments v. 05/Nov/82: DALLAS: Aftermath v. 05/Nov/82: FALCON CREST: The Exposé

    After the hysteria of the season opener, this week’s DYNASTY feels slightly more conventional. Broadly speaking, it depicts characters behaving plausibly in implausible situations. I’m particularly taken by the scene where Fallon tells Jeff that if she'd known at the time that she had an elder brother who was kidnapped as a baby, she would have gone through with aborting her own child - who has now been snatched away himself.

    The night before this episode aired, BROOKSIDE began in the UK. A twice-weekly soap opera, it explored the modern British class system by depicting four households from differing economic backgrounds living in close proximity in a newly developed cul-de-sac: an upper middle-class family obliged to downscale after the father is made redundant, a working-class clan from a rundown council estate now moving up the social ladder, and two young couples: one, upwardly mobile professionals, the other representing the black market economy. Socially realistic and overtly political, BROOKSIDE was as different from its glossy American counterparts as a soap could be - and yet the same theme of "the haves and the have-nots" reverberates throughout this week’s Soap Land.

    "My father worked very hard for all of this,” continues Fallon on DYNASTY, looking around her missing child’s expensively furnished nursery. "He had genius and he had guts and he got it all for us, and until now it never occurred to me that people might hate him for that, might hate us, might even hate our baby enough to take him from us. Is this way it really is for people like us, Jeff?”

    We also hear from characters on the other half of the class divide - those whom Jeff and Fallon, in their (understandable) paranoia, now suspect of taking their baby. “You rich are all alike, ain’t ya?” snarls Alfred, the weirdo at the cemetery. "You put the cops on me - me, a guy who can barely eke by. People like me can’t even make a remark about the rich without them getting their hackles up … Maybe I ain’t a Colby or a Carrington, but I got my feelings too.” “Your money, it’s always your lousy money, isn’t it?” snaps Little Blake’s nurse Susan. "Well, it’s not going to buy a confession from me. There isn’t enough money or decent wine in the world for that!”

    There are also contrasting references to rich kid Jeff’s education ("A very intelligent man I put through Princeton,” brags his Uncle Cecil from his sickbed) and Montana farm boy Michael Torrance’s law degree which his grandmother struggled to pay for. With Kate Torrance now dead and Michael apparently believing himself to be the abducted Adam Carrington, he heads to Denver to redress the balance.

    On KNOTS LANDING, Gary’s inheritance means that he - and subsequently Abby - are now operating in a different financial sphere to the rest of the characters. This creates tensions of its own. After Gary offers to bankroll Kenny in his own record company so they can launch Ciji themselves, (“Damn,” he laughs, “this is the first time since the reading of the will that I actually feel rich!”) Ginger worries that Kenny is gambling their future on a rich man’s whim. Conversely, Abby turns Gary’s friendly loan to Richard into a formal agreement. “We can foreclose if you don’t make your payments promptly,” she informs him. “This gives you control of my entire restaurant!” Richard protests, but he has no choice but to comply.

    Nowhere in this week’s Soap Land is the class divide more noticeable than on FALCON CREST, where unethical labour practices in the vineyards are exposed by Richard’s newspaper. Chase is aghast to learn that Falcon Crest hires a third of its workers on a part-time basis in return for minimum wage and no benefits. He finds a large group of them (all Hispanic) living in a shack without running water, heat or sanitation - conditions that make the barrio on FLAMINGO ROAD look almost cosy. (A thought: if Mario Nunuoz had really wanted to help “his people”, he could have started in his own backyard instead of leaving the show. As it is, all the Hispanics left on screen are bit players and extras.)

    When confronted, Lance and Angela insist that the situation is perfectly legal. The episode sidesteps the issue of illegal immigrants raised in last season’s “Victims”, but the very fact that this practice is sanctioned, even acceptable, ("It’s the way it’s always been,” says Lance) is just as disturbing, and FALCON CREST’s willingness to question it feels somewhat bold. “The least these people deserve are the basics of a decent life,” insists Chase. “I don’t force them to live like this,” Angela shrugs. “Don’t you?” he asks, "How do you think this happens?” This is as close as this week’s Soap Land gets to making a political statement.

    The storyline concludes with Angela hi-jacking Chase's press conference and claiming his pledge to pay all of Falcon Crest’s workers a decent wage as her own idea, thereby turning a defeat into a PR victory in much the same way JR did back in “Community Spirit”, his first episode of KNOTS.

    Chase's recent inheritance of half of Falcon Crest means the Giobertis must now surely qualify as millionaires, yet the series continues to depict them as an ordinary, everyday relatable folk. We are told that the family has put up their house as collateral for Cole’s bail, and see them worrying about whether or not he has the right attorney, just as the Fairgates did after Sid was arrested for attempted rape. (The Giobertis aren’t the only Soap Land characters to have their wealth played down to fit current storylines. I’m not certain, but wasn’t Kenny Ward once the boss of Oracle Records? He certainly had the authority to hire Kristin as a receptionist and reject Lilimae as a potential superstar. Now he is depicted as an employee powerless to sign Ciji to his label - hence his eagerness to accept Gary’s offer of a partnership.)

    Talking about his son’s kidnapping twenty-five years earlier, Blake tells Krystle, "Denver Carrington is its way a tribute to my first child.” This reminds me of Jock describing Ewing Oil in his will as "precious to me beyond anything in my life save my dear wife Ellie and my sons.” On KNOTS, Richard Avery names his restaurant in honour of his newborn son Daniel, and this week DALLAS cartel member Wade Luce sadly bows out with the line, "I invested a lot of my life into that company”, before signing it over to Rebecca Wentworth. But while Soap Land’s men might refer to their businesses in such tender, almost romantic terms, its women are decidedly less sentimental. “Labour is a commodity and we pay as low a price as we can,” says Angela Channing after being shown the appalling conditions in which her workers are living. “These are human beings,” Chase protests. “But I’m a businesswoman and this is a business decision,” she replies flatly. Meanwhile, Abby’s response to Gary’s dream of living and working on his own ranch (“it's in me,” he explains, "it's a part of me“) is our first indication of the extent of her ambition. "Just because you dreamed about something as a kid doesn’t mean you have to do it,” she tells him. "You’ve got the money - now use it. Use it to make more money, to build bigger dreams. Money is power, Gary. Power to make things happen … We can build an empire much bigger than this ranch.”

    Blake also speaks of empire building in his scene with Krystle. "When I finally had to face the reality that we had lost Adam,” he says, "I poured all my energy into positive things. I built an empire on that energy.” It seems that when a man in Soap Land is deprived of a child, he builds an empire. When the same thing happens to a woman, she ends up on the roof of a building. This week, Claudia Blaisdel follows in the footsteps of Pam and Val Ewing by climbing to the top of a tall hotel, apparently carrying Little Blake in her arms. The moment where she drops the bundle over the edge and we see in slow motion a doll flying through the air before smashing onto the roof of the ambulance below remains as absurdly, shockingly surreal as ever. It's David Lynch meets “Fembots in Las Vegas”, laced with a paedophobic quality all its own. Once again, Jeff and Fallon’s reactions are quite believable in the extraordinary circumstances. Thinking they’ve found their baby, then seeing it fall to its death, then finding out it’s really a doll, then realising that means their baby is still missing … you can feel their heads about to explode.

    While Gary dreams of owning a ranch on KNOTS LANDING, on DALLAS, he is the dream. "My father appeared like a dream,” complains Lucy, referring to his near-mute appearance in last week’s episode. "Now he's gone. He appeared then disappeared. The Case of the Vanishing Father."

    At the end of this week’s KNOTS, following an unsuccessful camping trip where they bicker amusingly like characters in a Neil Simon movie, Karen and Mack take their relationship to the next level. Meanwhile on FALCON CREST, Cole and Sally Bullock simultaneously kneel down in her kitchen to clear away a broken plate and end up kissing - the very circumstances that led to the first kiss between Steven Carrington and his older woman, Claudia, during DYNASTY’s first season. “Then it’s true,” as Abby mockingly observed upon meeting “Karen’s Mack” last week, "older women really are more attractive.” A variation on the same theme: Chip Roberts, (“young and pretty”) who last week got dumped by Bess Riker, ("old and haggard”) now finds himself the object of Lilimae’s touchingly unrequited affection.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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  19. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    17/Nov/82: DYNASTY: The Will v. 18/Nov/82: KNOTS LANDING: Man in the Middle v. 19/Nov/82: DALLAS: The Ewing Touch v. 19/Nov/82: FALCON CREST: The Namesake

    Another week in Soap Land, another last will and testimony. “All that money and power riding on a few lines in Cecil’s will,” taunts Fallon. "Is Alexis in or is Alexis out?” Meanwhile, on FALCON CREST, Melissa sneaks a look at Angela’s will. Chao-Li’s inheritance of $25,000 and lifelong employment compares favourably to the $10,000 and year’s salary awarded to Cecil Colby’s housekeeper.

    DYNASTY being DYNASTY, Cecil’s will reading is more formal than Jock’s was in DALLAS a few weeks ago, (it’s more of a business meeting than a family gathering) and also more glamorous (Alexis looks quite stunning in her widow’s weeds). Just as Jock’s will contained a codicil drawn up shortly before his death in South America, Cecil’s includes some last minute instructions added by the deceased the day before his death in hospital. Like the codicil, these instructions - a letter and videotape revealing that Cecil was behind the assassination attempt on Blake last season - trigger a war from beyond the grave. That, in fact, is his main bequest to Alexis: “I haven’t achieved my goal of control of Denver-Carrington,” he writes to Blake, "but that I leave in the hands of the woman who shares my dedication, my wife Alexis - confident she will find a way to bring you to your knees.”

    This is not Soap Land's only vow of vengeance this week. Losing out to Bobby over the McLeish oil deal is enough to reignite Cliff’s anger towards the Ewings. He promises to "turn the Ewing empire into a broken down, two-pump filling station.” Meanwhile, four weeks after the announcement of the Jock Ewing Memorial Scholarship, Richard Channing proposes the Douglas Channing Memorial Garden as a tribute to his late father. However, this is really a front for a winery he plans to build - which in turn is a way of attacking Angela. "I’ll start a bidding war in this valley for all the available grapes and force Angela to pay more for premium crops than she ever has before,” Richard explains to Miss Hunter. "Within a year, Falcon Crest will be in a complete negative cash flow position."

    Meanwhile, back on DYNASTY: Left alone after the reading of the will with only half of Cecil's fortune and a triplex penthouse apartment for company, Alexis wonders what to do next. “Damn you, Cecil,” she says aloud, addressing her thoughts to her late husband's office chair in the same way Karen Fairgate used Sid's headstone and Miss Ellie a pile of broken crockery, “damn you for dying and leaving me to take care of this myself! Bring Blake to his knees? How??” “You're gonna have to do it with brains,” Afton advises Cliff on DALLAS, “not passion.”

    In last week’s DALLAS, JR implicated the wife of government official Walt Driscoll in a car accident in order to obtain an oil variance. In this week’s FALCON CREST, Richard Channing has county supervisor Nick Hogan’s vintage truck blown up as a way of persuading him to vote his way over a land deal. Like JR, he retains his gentlemanly charm throughout the transaction.

    Three life-changing events on the theme of parentage take place in this week’s Soap Land: Bobby and Pam’s adoption of Christopher is finalised at a court hearing in DALLAS. A rainswept Melissa collapses in Cole’s arms before telling him that he’s the father of her baby on FALCON CREST. (She then observes the Soap Land tradition of giving birth prematurely to a male heir whose life is left hanging in the balance.) And in a near-majestic scene at the end of this week's DYNASTY, Alexis is reunited with her son Adam twenty-five years after he was snatched by Kate Torrance from his baby carriage. For some reason, I’ve always been a sucker for Adam’s detailed description of the day it happened: "It was a fine September morning, she said, and as she got on the bus with me, it began to rain - a sun shower. It was as if the very skies were sharing her sorrow and her newfound joy, she said.” There are more meteorological memories on FALCON CREST. "It was a rainy night like this one, twenty-two years ago, in this very hospital, when you were born,” Julia tells Lance, "and I had such hopes, such dreams.”

    Elsewhere on DYNASTY, Fallon tries to convey to designer Billy Dawson her vision for turning the stuffy La Mirada hotel into "a pleasure palace … a fantasy land.” “A class A bordello,” translates Billy teasingly. Over on KNOTS LANDING, when Richard Avery attempts to explain his upmarket vision for Daniel’s, Abby complains that he is "running that restaurant like the Court of Versailles.” Two weeks after stomping on Gary’s dreams of owning a ranch, she now does the same thing to Richard: “It [the restaurant] might be your dream,” she snaps, "but as long as Gary and I are in control, you better learn to dream a bit more profitably. Otherwise, you might find your dream turning into a nightmare.” Money might not be a problem for Fallon, but getting her father and husband to respect her as a serious businesswoman is.

    Serious is the key word here. Fallon, previously so witty and insouciant, is now oh so anxious to be taken seriously. Similarly, Alexis, whose brazen wit allowed her to glide effortlessly through the Carrington mansion for much of last season, now appears to have exchanged her joie de vivre for a kind of shrill paranoia. (This week, she accuses Krystle of trying to seduce Cecil before she married Blake.) Even Abby, now that she has money, seems to have mislaid the sense of humour and excitement she had when she was still scheming to acquire it. The one businesswoman to retain her sense of fun this week is Holly Harwood, who conducts a meeting with JR whilst stretched out by her pool in a bikini and flirting outrageously.

    As DYNASTY grows more earnest - this week’s episode contains at least three long discussions about Fallon’s journey to become “a woman who's found a sense of self” - KNOTS LANDING becomes a shinier, glitzier, more glamorous place. Those stay-at-home, down-to-earth Fairgates are suddenly established members of an exclusive beach club (“This place is very popular with the young execs”) and are sufficiently well-connected for the ambitious Chip to attach himself to Diana. (“Oh man, if I stick around you long enough I could build up a whole new career!”) In fact, the family now have a lifestyle Sid’s snobby first wife would have approved of. With shy little Val becoming a public speaker and everyone else preparing for Ciji’s singing debut at Daniel’s, it feels like Victoria Hill’s charity fashion show all over again, only now it’s the show itself that's playing dress up.

    The transformation is augmented by some typically striking direction by Larry Elikann - scenes filmed from odd angles that make the familiar look fresh and strange, and lots of big, bold close-ups that give the characters a kind of feverish, almost cartoon-like quality.

    Watching Val cringe as she listens to Chip boast to Lilimae about how impressed Gary and Abby were when he persuaded Richard to let Ciji sing at the restaurant, we suddenly realise how knotted together all the characters have become - not in the geographical way they used to be when they all lived in the same street, or even via a shared family history like the characters on the other soaps, but through several cleverly stitched together plot contrivances. In fact, KNOTS is probably the most contrived and plot-driven of all the soaps at this point, but when the results are this much fun, who cares?

    As the world of KNOTS contracts, becoming tighter and knottier, the world of DALLAS expands. The cartel, Punk and Mavis, Afton and Rebecca, Harve, Clayton, Mickey, Holly … the show’s regular ensemble comprises more than just the Ewings and Cliff these days. For the first time, we start to get a sense of the Dallas oil community as a whole.

    With “Capricorn Crude” and “Sam Culver: The Early Years” now available from all good Soap Land bookshops, FALCON CREST’s Maggie finally finishes her screenplay. Like Val’s novel, it is a fictionalised version of “real” events - in this case, her son’s arrest for a murder he didn’t commit. Unlike Gary, Chase has no problem with his wife plundering their family’s personal lives for inspiration and calls the script “darn good". Meanwhile, Val has already completed the first two chapters of her next book, but won’t reveal the subject matter, and Donna fills her free time by renewing her interest in Texas politics. She persuades Miss Ellie to accompany her to one such meeting - only for them to find the main item on the agenda is JR’s variance. No matter how broad DALLAS’s canvas becomes, all roads inevitably lead back to JR.

    While Diana invites Chip to dinner at the beach club to spite her mother’s new beau, Miss Ellie shocks her sons by inviting her new friend, Walter Lankershim, aka Frank Crutcher, to dinner at Southfork. Whereas Karen’s attempts to get Diana to talk about her issues with Mack are met with teenage prevarication, Bobby Ewing is more honest with his mother. "It felt strange, seeing you with another man," he admits. "Nobody will ever take your daddy's place,” Miss Ellie assures him.

    The DALLAS equivalent of the KNOTS beach club is the nightspot where Afton sings. “It’s getting to be the place in town,” she informs Cliff. “A lot of influential people are dropping in … They’d be good contacts for you, people you should socialise with.” Just don’t let Chip know or he’ll be on the first plane over. However, not everyone in Soap Land is driven by ambition or vengeance or the need to a discover a sense of themselves as a woman. In contrast to Chip “man in the middle” Roberts, his twenty-something DALLAS counterpart Mickey is content to bunk off work and “wax some dumb bar stool,” much to cousin Ray’s disapproval.

    On KNOTS, Ciji somehow manages to be both ambitious and passive. Krystle might accuse Blake of treating Fallon "like one of her old dolls,” but it’s actually Ciji who is the most doll-like character in this week’s Soap Land. Kenny and Gary tell her what she should sing and when, Abby picks out her clothes - and Ciji goes along with it all, strangely disengaged. She is spoken of as commodity - “a hot property” and "an important investment”. The only time she truly comes alive is when she’s on stage singing.

    For her big debut at Daniel, in front of an audience of regular characters, she sings Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch”, an ultra-conventional romantic ballad. Again, it is gutsily delivered and persuasively filmed. Throughout the song, there are close-ups of the lovers in the restaurant exchanging meaningful looks (or in Lilimae’s case, a forlorn glance at Chip and Diana gazing into each other’s eyes), and these have the same cumulative effect as the musical montages that have since become commonplace in TV drama (including New DALLAS). Within this context - the inward-looking, interconnected world of KNOTS - the standing ovation Ciji receives at the end of the song feels entirely credible. The appearance of an enraptured music critic from Rolling Stone is pushing it a bit, however.

    In a nifty bit of foreshadowing, Chip tries to convince Diana that his interest in Ciji is strictly professional: “Diana, business is business. Confuse it with pleasure, it’s certain death.” Cut to Ciji looking longingly at him. (His words are echoed by Lucy Ewing in DALLAS: “I cannot mix business with my personal life ever again,” she tells a pushy client who objectifies her in the same way KNOTS does Ciji.)

    Crossover of the week: the grounds of the Carrington mansion have now become those of Michael Tyrone in FLAMINGO ROAD, with Blake and Krystle lunching by the same pool in which Richard Channing and Morgan Fairchild writhed naked just seven months earlier.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are … again, it’s a close one, especially between KNOTS and DALLAS ...

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    01/Dec/82: DYNASTY: Mark v. 02/Dec/82: KNOTS LANDING: The Best Kept Secret v. 03/Dec/82: DALLAS: The Wedding v. 03/Dec/82: FALCON CREST: The Vigil

    The last will and testaments of Cecil Colby, Jock Ewing and Joseph Gioberti have resulted in some uneasy business alliances in Soap Land. Colby Co is now owned jointly by Cecil’s widow Alexis and his nephew Jeff. Falcon Crest is currently run by Joseph’s daughter Angela in partnership with her nephew Chase. Ewing Oil has two of Jock’s sons each running half of the same company in direct competition with one another. The conflicts arising from each of these partnerships can be felt in this week’s episodes.

    Although Alexis and Jeff actually get along quite well on DYNASTY, problems arise when Alexis allows her son Adam to deputise for her while she is in New York. Jeff is not happy to learn that Adam plans to do business with the controversial Ahmed brothers. (Apparently, the Ahmeds are in London, which would explain why Rashid wasn’t able to assume his alias as Tony Cumson in last week’s FALCON CREST.) Jeff nixes the deal, leading to his and Adam’s first clash. Pretty soon, they’re arguing about everything from Adam’s real identity to the sexual appetite of Jeff’s wife.

    To reign Adam in, Jeff announces his intention to resign from his job at Denver Carrington and come over to Colby Co full time. Alexis is delighted, Adam is not. While Alexis toasts to "a wonderful future for the three of us together,” Adam and Jeff glower at each other over the rims of their champagne glasses.

    Over in the Tuscany Valley, Angela opposes Chase’s decision to develop an abandoned vineyard, claiming the venture to be too expensive. Chase smells a rat: "Two months ago, Falcon Crest was perfectly solvent and now its capital reserves are nearly drained.” What Angela hasn’t told him is that she has been stealing from the Falcon Crest development fund to buy up shares in the New Globe so she can take it over. "I’m bringing in an independent auditor,” Chase announces.

    Meanwhile, in DALLAS, Bobby breaks his promise to stay out of his brother’s half of Ewing Oil when the impact of JR’s variance becomes too great to ignore. While Chase’s auditor is poring over Angela’s business records on FALCON CREST, ("Money doesn’t just disappear, it goes somewhere”) Bobby has his accountants and geologists study the long-term implications of JR’s all-out oil drilling. He then confronts his brother during the Southfork cocktail hour: "Every one of those men thinks that you're tryin' to do is gonna ruin the future of Ewing Oil!” "Bobby," Ellie intervenes, "I'd like it better if you discussed this with JR in private." "I have tried, Mama,” he replies, "and I know how you feel about all this too: 'Let's not argue about business in front of the family', but don't you understand that when we're quiet about things like this, it plays right into his hands? It becomes a cover up for JR!”

    While there may not be an overriding family business on KNOTS LANDING for the characters to fight over, the ramifications of Gary’s inheritance provide a source of conflict between the Ewings and the Averys this week. Laura feels betrayed when she discovers Richard has struck a deal giving Abby and Gary a controlling interest in the restaurant. Unlike Jeff Colby, Chase Gioberti or Bobby Ewing, she is not in a position to assume control of the business or call for audits and reports. Instead, she visits Richard’s shrink for one of those circular conversations that leave her (and us) with more questions than answers.

    This week’s DYNASTY concludes with a great mother/son snarling match which reminds me a little of a scene from I, CLAUDIUS. “Jeff Colby is the enemy, Mother,” barks Adam, “our enemy - mine and yours … He’ll kill and strangle every plan we’ve talked about for you and me.” “Let me tell you something, Adam,” Alexis snaps back, "and don’t ever forget it. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the fact that I know who my enemies are and how to destroy them. I’ll decide if Jeff Colby becomes a real threat - not you, I.” This dynamic is reversed on FALCON CREST, where the young pretender affects nonchalance and the elderly dowager issues warnings. “I’m not worried about Chase,” Lance brags. “I can handle him.” “Well, you haven’t handled him so far,” Angela points out. "“Don’t underestimate Chase!"

    There’s more business conflict on KNOTS as Abby tries to interest record company mogul Jeff Munson in Ciji's career. Kenny sees Munson’s involvement as a threat to his own position as Ciji's producer. Nonetheless, Munson’s attendance at one of Ciji’s gigs is seen as a big deal by all concerned - all but Ciji herself, that is. “I’ve been excited before,” she shrugs. In contrast to the rest of the KNOTS characters, who are either struggling to overcome their pasts or hungry to build their futures, Ciji seems to exist almost entirely in the present. When she takes a break from rehearsal and looks around to see Chip has disappeared, she is sad. When Gary offers to take her for a ride in his car, she is happy again.

    Business isn’t the only source of drama in this week’s Soap Land. Having been goaded by Adam, Jeff argues with Fallon over her alleged attraction to her own brother: “I get the feeling you kind of admire him - in kind of a perverted way.” Under orders from his grandmother “to start acting like a father for a change," Lance visits his wife at Soap Land Memorial Hospital to offer his support … only to find Melissa receiving a comforting embrace from Richard Channing. He immediately jumps to the wrong conclusion (“You never change, do ya?”) and storms off. Meanwhile, on KNOTS, Diana drops by Mack’s apartment in an attempt to bury the hatchet … only to see “the lady who lives across the hall” emerge from his bathroom wearing just a towel. Diana immediately jumps to the right conclusion, makes her excuses and leaves.

    Two potential couples get off to an awkward start this week. Fallon meets Mark Jennings on DYNASTY and is on the verge of hiring him as La Mirage’s new tennis coach when she realises he is Krystle’s first husband. Meanwhile, on DALLAS, Lucy mistakes Mickey for an intruder when she finds him manhandling JR and Sue Ellen’s wedding present display. (They've certainly acquired more goodies than Mark Jennings and Krystle did for their nuptials. According to a flashback in this week’s DYNASTY, their wedding gifts totalled two hundred dollars cash and an assortment of candy dishes.) Even after Mickey introduces himself, identity remains an obstacle for the couple. “A grubby ranch hand isn’t good enough for Miss Moneybags,” he concludes bitterly after Ray advises him to keep his distance.

    Nine weeks after Karen and Mack's first dinner date on KNOTS LANDING, it’s time for Miss Ellie and Clayton Farlow to finally break bread together. For both couples, dead husbands are the main topic of conversation this week, with the widows Fairgate and Ewing comparing Mack and Clayton to Sid and Jock respectively. Clayton measures up quite well, Mack less so. “"You know, you and Jock would have gotten on very well,” smiles Ellie. "You have so many of the same qualities, the same kindness, the same strength. You really remind me of him very much.” “I had the best!” shouts Karen after learning of Mack’s fling with his neighbour. "Sid Fairgate never would have done this to me.” “I’m not Sid Fairgate,” Mack points out. “You’re damn right you’re not,” she replies.

    This week’s KNOTS and DALLAS each build up to a significant event at the end of the episode. On KNOTS, it’s Ciji's performance at Daniel’s in front of Jeff Munson. On DALLAS, it's JR and Sue Ellen’s wedding at Southfork. Both gatherings serve to bring all the regular characters together. Well, almost - Laura Avery and Lucy Ewing are both conspicuous by their absence.

    There is much silent staring-across-restaurants in the Ewing-verse this week. At Daniel’s, Val watches Abby watching Ciji and Gary laughing together - the triangle unexpectedly becoming a square. The square then becomes a pentagon as guest of honour Jeff Munson arrives and makes a bee line for Val. Abby laughs in spite of herself. Meanwhile, on DALLAS, there is a great reveal at the end of Clayton and Miss Ellie's restaurant scene where we realise Rebecca and Cliff have been sitting at another table the whole time. Rebecca notices Clayton and Ellie just in time to see him reach across the table to take her hand. The camera moves in close on Rebecca's dismayed reaction: the reluctant witness to the birth of a romance.

    Back on KNOTS, Ciji's song of the week is Dobie Grey’s "If Love Must Go”, a sweet little ballad about the end of a romance. Again, Ciji sings her heart out. Again, the camera circles round her, elevating her performance. Again, the regular characters are out front mirroring the emotions of the song they’re listening to, which then seem to feed back into the song itself. These elements fuse together until it’s impossible to see where one ends and another begins. During the song, the camera cuts a couple of times to Richard leaning against a wall with a drink, scowling in Ciji’s direction. Is he feeling anger towards her for turning his restaurant into a nightspot or has the song unlocked something inside of him to do with his own relationship with Laura? Meanwhile, Diana stares intensely at Ciji throughout her performance - what is she thinking about? Val too seems mesmerised by Ciji. It’s not until the song is nearly over, however, that we realise it’s not Ciji she’s been looking at all, but Gary and Abby. Karen is the one most clearly affected. Having put on a brave face ever since learning of Mack’s betrayal, she quietly starts to weep while Ciji sings, the song having broken through her defences.

    Just three weeks after Cecil and Alexis’s deathbed wedding on DYNASTY, it’s time for JR and Sue Ellen to retie the knot on DALLAS … or is it? It’s interesting to chart how dramatic Soap Land weddings have become over the past couple of years. When Krystle married Blake in the first episode of DYNASTY, her old flame Matthew turned up at the wedding - but only after the ceremony was safely over. During last season’s FALCON CREST, Melissa’s lover Cole showed up at her wedding to Lance in time to witness the exchange of vows - but did so from a discreet vantage point. Now Sue Ellen’s ex-boyfriend Cliff raises the stakes by not only attending the wedding as an invited guest of the groom but then springing to his feet when the minister asks if there are any objections to the wedding.

    This week’s FALCON CREST is penned by Scott Hamner, who wrote "The Rose and the Briar” for last season’s KNOTS. Both episodes feature the respective series’ most eccentric character on a greyhound bus. On KNOTS, it was Lilimae, entertaining the little girl in the seat next to her with her autoharp. On FALCON CREST, it's Emma Channing, who bores the old woman next to her with tales from her unlikely life. Just as "The Rose and the Briar” saw Lilimae seeking fame and fortune in Las Vegas, “The Vigil" depicts Maggie trying and make it as a movie writer in Hollywood. At one point, she seems to channel Lilimae when she uncharacteristically bluffs her way into a movie studio by pretending to have attended the Oscars with a passing payroll clerk.

    There are a few KNOTSian touches back in the Tuscany Valley as well. Maggie’s family each attempt to cook their own breakfast in her absence, with varying degrees of success. Them there's a scene where Cole turns to his father for advice, only for Chase to completely miss the point, which reminds me of a similar exchange between Sid and Eric in early KNOTS. Meanwhile, Angela secretly persuading a producer to take an interest in Maggie’s script in the hopes of driving a wedge between her and Chase mirrors the helping hand Abby gave Val’s writing career last season.

    Outrageous Soap Land outfit of the week: It’s a tie between the space vixen dress Ciji wears on stage and Sue Ellen’s NFL-themed wedding gown. (Shoulder-pads are now so commonplace in Soap Land that Krystle is even wearing them in a flashback to her and Mark’s wedding night sometime in the 1970s.)

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are …

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