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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    08/Dec/82: DYNASTY: Kirby v. 09/Dec/82: KNOTS LANDING: Emergency v. 10/Dec/82: DALLAS: Post Nuptial v. 10/Dec/82: FALCON CREST: Confrontations

    The oil surplus that has served as a backdrop to much of the action on this season’s DALLAS now hits DYNASTY, where it also provides a springboard for a new story-line. It’s a little complicated, but from what I can make out, the surplus - or “oil glut” as Blake and co refer to it - means that the government have lost interest in finding alternative sources of fuel - which was what Denver Carrington’s research into oil shale extraction (the very research Cecil Colby had Claudia spy on Jeff for last season) was all about. "The government," grumbles Blake, "beg us to come up with alternative energy answers, we go into hock to accomplish it, and suddenly an oil glut comes along and we’re yesterday’s option.” The upshot is that Denver Carrington is now financially vulnerable.

    Meanwhile, on DALLAS, the same surfeit of oil is causing many to wonder what JR could possibly be doing with all the crude he's been pumping since he got his variance. Two OLM members - including KNOTS LANDING record producer Jeff Munson, seen chatting with Abby Cunningham at a polo match in the previous night’s episode - share with Bobby their own theory - that JR is selling the oil to an embargo nation. Bobby spends the rest of the ep investigating this possibility. He’s got his work cut out for him as JR’s machinations are also pretty hard to keep track of. More confusing than either DALLAS's or DYNASTY’s business storylines, however, are FALCON CREST's. At the last moment, Richard Channing foils Angela’s attempt to take over the New Globe by issuing a thousand new shares onto the stock market. I have no idea what the last sentence I typed even means.

    So here we have three of the '80s super soaps with complex business plots that they choose not to simplify for the viewer at home. This isn’t necessarily a criticism - given the choice, I’d rather struggle to keep up with the programme I’m watching than be drumming my fingers, waiting for it to come to the point I’ve figured out ten minutes earlier (or worse still, already had spoilt for me online) - but as this is a genre where characters routinely exchange chunks of exposition for our benefit, why are their business stories are so densely complicated? Was the climate of the early '80s such that an average viewer was assumed to have a comprehensive working knowledge of big business, or did the programme makers credit us with being able to juggle such permutations in our heads as we went along, or are all these stories simply MacGuffins - dramatic devices that we at home are simply meant to take on blind faith and follow the consequences of, even if we don’t fully understand how we got there in the first place?

    So far as this week’s Soap Land goes, the complexity of the business stories works most favourably for DALLAS. With JR playing everything so close to his chest, we are in the roughly same position as Bobby and the rest of the characters, i.e. trying to figure out what he is up to. We may not be able to keep up with every connection Bobby is making, (I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen this episode, but as soon as the off-screen oil gets to Galveston, I’m lost) but we’re in roughly the same ballpark. The exact source of Blake’s problems on DYNASTY are harder to pin down, but the consequences are so big and bold (poisoned paint, anyone?) that it doesn’t really matter. The New Globe takeover story in FALCON CREST is the most bemusing. Richard’s last-minute manoeuvring might be utterly authentic, but to someone as ignorant about stocks and shares as I am, he might just as well have magicked a thousand shares out of thin air.

    Of course, it’s when the characters' business ideals collide with their personal lives that sparks really begin to fly. On DYNASTY, Blake invites Adam to Denver Carrington in the hopes of burying their differences. Having apparently reached an understanding, Blake is called away from his office, giving Adam the opportunity to sneak a peek at the oil shale contract file marked “confidential” left lying conveniently on Blake’s desk. Quick to take advantage of what he reads, Adam then suggests to Jeff that Colby Co bail out Denver Carrington in exchange for the use of their oil shale extraction process. Given that the extraction process is far more valuable than the loan, Jeff dismisses Adam’s proposal as “rotten". “The name of the game is winning,” Adam insists. “There happens to be room for both empires,” argues Jeff, "I mean, do we have to be barracudas to exist in this world?” "There comes a time in this business where you have to decide if you’re gonna make it or play by the rules.” That last quote comes not from Adam but from Abby in this week’s KNOTS as she justifies to Gary her decision to dump their partner Kenny in favour of Jeff Munson as Ciji’s record producer.

    Not that Kenny isn’t above a little inter-family betrayal himself. At the beginning of the ep, his wife Ginger hands him a demo of a song she has written with a view to recording herself. She is later stunned to hear Ciji performing it at Daniel’s. The sequence where she silently accuses Kenny of betrayal and we see the guilt on his face as Ciji continues to sing is really powerful.

    Ciji’s reaction when Ginger confronts her about the song is really interesting. She does not apologise for singing it without her permission or even thank her for writing it in the first place. "If I like a song and it’s good for me, I’m gonna sing it,” she states matter-of-factly. Instead of empathising with Ginger or indulging her hurt feelings, she acts as a mirror, reflecting Ginger’s own insecurities back at her: “If I’m up there doing something you wanna be doing, that’s your problem, not mine.” And it’s a such a blast to see mousy little Ginger reimagined as the kind of furious, wild-eyed Soap Land character who storms into rooms making ultimatums and swearing revenge: “You don’t care who you use or who you hurt,” she tells Ciji. "I’ll get you for this!"

    There’s some unexpected betrayal on FALCON CREST too, where we see Angela’s loyal attorney/lover Phillip Erickson consorting with a mysterious, unnamed blonde of mature years. The fact that Phillip and Angela's personal relationship has been conducted almost entirely off screen provides a kind of space around the character that allows a scene like this to come as a total surprise. Phillip may have been in the series since the first episode, but here we suddenly realise we know very little about him. So when Richard approaches him later in the episode and asks him to come and work for him, (and presumably betray Angela at the same time) we have no idea which way he will jump.

    Even more surprising is the scene where FALCON CREST's resident good wife, Maggie Gioberti, passionately kisses film producer Daryl Clayton on a Malibu beach. This transgresses Soap Land's unspoken sense of morality in a similar way to good guy Mack Mackenzie sleeping with his neighbour behind Karen’s back, as revealed in last week’s KNOTS. Sure, previous “good wives” have swooned in other men’s arms before now - Krystle Carrington, Pam Ewing and Karen Fairgate have all teetered on the brink of affairs - but in each case, Soap Land has taken care to show that they had been driven to such a position by a strong sense of unhappiness stemming from their husband’s neglect, or in Krystle’s case, a belief that Blake was already cheating on her. Maggie has no such excuse. She is happily married, fulfilled in her work and the only obstacle between her and Chase has been one of geography, as she has spent the last episode and a half working away from her family in Hollywood (and even then Chase has made at least two visits to see her). Following the kiss, Daryl invites her to join him “upstairs” in his beach house. Left alone to shower, Maggie comes to her senses in the much same way Pam did after kissing Alex Ward in San Serrano (DALLAS, Season 3). While Pam decisively locked the door connecting her and Alex’s hotel rooms, Maggie self-righteously accuses Daryl of "seduction", as if it were a spell he had cast or a mickey he had slipped her. Thus exonerated of any personal responsibility for the kiss, her status as a “good wife” is retained, just as Mack’s explanation that he slept with Patrice because he was frightened by the depth of his feelings for Karen effectively absolves him of his infidelity.

    Amidst all this duplicity, DALLAS newlyweds Sue Ellen and JR make a solemn commitment on their honeymoon: "No other women, no games. A total commitment, all the way.” In the best scene of this week’s FALCON CREST, Lance and Melissa also discuss their marital commitments. Having brought her son Joseph home from the hospital, they are watching him sleep when Lance asks for a divorce. “What Angela has joined together, let no man put asunder,” Melissa tells him, adding, "This was never supposed to be a love match. It’s a marriage of state - the joining of two empires.” Like those terrific JR and Sue Ellen nursery scenes in DALLAS Season 2, it’s the juxtaposition between the innocence of the child in his crib and the jaded, cynical adults looking down at him that makes this scene so good. “If that kid knew what was going on around him, he’d sleep with line eye open,” Lance remarks. “He’s the heir that joins Falcon Crest to the Agretti vineyards,” replies Melissa. "Long live the King.”

    Melissa’s hospital vigil for her child might be over, but Karen Fairgate’s is just beginning, following Diana's collapse during a weekend away with Abby and Gary. Blake Carrington’s Moneypenny-ish secretary Marcia, seen briefly the night before admitting Adam into his father’s office with a knowing smile, dons a white coat to become the kidney specialist who diagnoses Diana with renal failure.

    KNOTS LANDING is in a very interesting place at this point. With most of the characters now in business with each other and all the women wearing lots of eyeshadow, it’s on the cusp of bursting into a full-blown supersoap ... when it is brought sharply down to earth by the semi-realism of Diana’s kidney failure. There's nothing glossy or romantic about chronic dialysis, and it’s safe to say KNOTS is the only one of the soaps that would refer to traces of blood in a major character's urine. (Admittedly, Daryl Clayton makes an unexpected reference to bodily functions on this week’s FALCON CREST. “It’s not our creative juices we’re reacting to,” he lasciviously informs Maggie, who is promptly sick in her mouth.)

    Diana’s condition catches the characters, and maybe even KNOTS itself, unawares. Gone is the brave stoicism and quiet dignity with which Val greeted her cancer scare in "The Loudest Word” or Sid his paralysis in Season 3. Post-Sid, the world of KNOTS is off its axis. The scene where Karen frantically tries to stop Diana from pulling the shunt out her arm (“I just wanna die!”) is one of Soap Land’s most emotionally extreme to date. (It reminds me a bit of one of the bedroom scenes in THE EXORCIST.) The same hospital waiting area that was large and well lit when the Fairgates kept vigil for Sid is transformed, under the fevered direction of Larry Elikann, into a place that's claustrophobic and dark, even nightmarish.

    Only once does this week’s DALLAS reach a similar level of hysteria - during Cliff’s fight with Afton where they shout the word “emotionality” at each other about four times and she comes dangerously close to admitting that she slept with Gil Thurman before they abruptly start making love on Cliff’s bed. (A fairly raunchy scene at the time, the sight of Afton in her woolly jumper seems suddenly light years away from John Ross and Emma crawling around in their underwear in New DALLAS Season 3’s wowza of an opening scene.)

    In stark contrast to Diana, now so ill she appears to have turned silver, her counterpart on FALCON CREST, Vicky Gioberti, this week completes a 10k run in 45.05 minutes. (I can’t even get that on the treadmill - oh, the ignominy of being outrun by a fictional girl.) While DALLAS’s perpetual teenager Lucy breaks into floods of tears after a kiss from a client triggers memories of her recent ordeal, DYNASTY presents its own new ingénue - the major domo’s extraordinarily pretty daughter Kirby, returning from three years' schooling in Paris. At present, her concerns are more lightweight than mystery illnesses or rape flashbacks. She’s mainly focused on tortoises and matchmaking.

    The tone of this week’s DALLAS, at least in its first act, is also pretty light. The fight that erupts at JR and Sue Ellen's wedding is the first of Southfork’s bona fide “duels in the pool,” and after umpteen viewings, it still makes me laugh (even if the logic of who punches who and why doesn't hold up to close scrutiny). As well as establishing a DALLAS tradition, the sequence also feels like a response to the infamous catfight at the end of last season’s DYNASTY. Each is a visually comedic set piece that serves as a satisfying climax to an ongoing feud between two characters, (Krystle and Alexis on DYNASTY, JR and Cliff on DALLAS) but without actually furthering the narrative. In other words, one could skip both fights without missing any of the story. However, the differences between the two scenes emphasise the contrasting tones of their respective shows. Alexis and Krystle’s cat fight is campy and glamorous with a kind of knowing, acidic wit to it; the DALLAS punch up is essentially a bar room brawl transposed to a wedding party: masculine, traditional and Western, with just a hint of self-parody. While the Carrington women duke it out, the Ewing ladies are left watching in helpless dismay; they’re there to be fought over, not to do the fighting themselves. The DALLAS sequence fades out on Larry Hagman chuckling in the Southfork pool, implying that JR is somehow in on the joke, whereas the DYNASTY catfight ends with God’s eye view of a dazed and defeated Alexis collapsed in a heap in the corner of her wrecked studio - which seems to suggest that she is the joke.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    15/Dec/82: DYNASTY: La Mirage v. 16/Dec/82: KNOTS LANDING: Abby's Choice v. 17/Dec/82: DALLAS: Barbecue Three v. 17/Dec/82: FALCON CREST: United We Stand...

    There may be no Christmas in Soap Land this year, but two of this week's shows are nonetheless in a party mood - DYNASTY is celebrating the grand opening of Fallon’s hotel and the Ewings of DALLAS are throwing their annual barbecue. Both gatherings have a dress theme - DYNASTY’s is the roaring twenties (“Those must have been the most wonderful carefree days,” sighs Alexis, "people innocently pursuing their pleasure-filled lives”) while the barbecue guests all show up in traditional Western garb.

    DYNASTY is so excited to be throwing a party that fancy dress takes precedence over drama in this week’s ep. For the most part, the results are enjoyably dumb - particularly the scene where Alexis and Krystle show up at the same dress shop at the same time to be fitted for what turns out to be identical party frocks. Their encounter echoes the scene in FLAMINGO ROAD’s first season where nemeses Lane and Constance simultaneously arrive at the beauty parlour for the same appointment with the same hairdresser. Back then, laid back Lane graciously surrendered the appointment to Constance. This time around, competitive Krystle suggests she and Alexis flip a coin to determine who will wear the dress to Fallon’s party. As she did last season’s cat fight, Krystle wins.

    The closest DALLAS comes to an equivalent scene is the one where the Ewing women are writing barbecue invitations, (hard to imagine the Carrington/Colby ladies lowering themselves to such a task) and Lucy coolly declines Sue Ellen’s offer of lunch in town. Unlike the dress shop scene in DYNASTY, there are no witty remarks or bitchy putdowns, ("Go on, Krystle, swear - I'd adore to hear you say something colourful and foul”) just earnest bemusement and concern. “Pam, is it me?” Sue Ellen wonders aloud after Lucy has left the room. Pam assures her it isn’t: “The kidnapping really left a lot of scars on Lucy … She’s just not ready to accept help yet.” As adversarial female relationships go, the richest one in this week’s Soap Land takes place between Abby and Karen on KNOTS LANDING.

    “Abby’s Choice” is whether or not to donate one of her kidneys to her niece, and Karen’s daughter, Diana. It’s very much her choice to make - everyone is falling over themselves to be nonjudgemental. “You don’t have to be a hero,” Gary tells her. “It’s a very personal decision,” insists Dr Blake Carrington’s Secretary. Even Diana herself, never more sweetly vulnerable, is reluctant to pressure her aunt into helping her. After all, it’s not as if it’s a question of life and death - Diana can survive indefinitely with one kidney - it’s the quality of life that's in question. Factor in the knowledge that Sid, Abby’s brother and Diana’s father, died on the operating table and you’ve got a more complex than average Soap Land dilemma. So it is that Abby is obliged to look within herself in a way that very few Soap Land characters, and certainly not villainous ones, ever are. “I am not a hero, believe me,” she tells Gary, her voice shaking. "A hero is someone with courage, and it’s gonna take a hell of a lot of courage to say no to this. I don’t know if I’ve got that kind of guts.”

    This is a story-line that slices, both metaphorically and literally, through Abby’s beautiful blonde exterior and scheming persona to the human being underneath, as burdened by conscience and terrified of death as any average looking schlub in the real world. Crucially, however - and herein lies the cleverness of both the episode and Donna Mills’ performance - it does so without compromising any of the qualities that have made Abby such a terrific Soap Land villain in the first place. Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in the scene where, having agreed to give Diana her kidney, Abby is visited by Karen in the hospital the night before the operation. When Karen tries to express her gratitude, Abby throws it back in her face: “I’m doing this because I have to, for Diana, for my brother’s child, and for myself so I won’t have to live with the guilt of having refused, but I am not doing it for you ... I don’t want you here. I don’t want us to be civil to each other and I don’t want you to pretend like you like me all of a sudden. If you want to show your gratitude, save a whale in my name, but stay away from me now.” Sure, the “save a whale in my name” quip is cute, but this isn’t simply cattiness for its own sake, the way Alexis and Krystle’s encounter in the dress shop is. It runs deeper than that - there are years of resentment in Abby’s speech, the kind of unarticulated stuff that goes on in real families. There’s also fear, the sort you can only take out on someone who knows you really well. And that’s what Karen and Abby are - reluctant members of the same family - rather than simply rivals for the same man.

    All that said, once Abby and Diana are wheeled into the operating theatre, the episode settles into a conventional, if perfectly acceptable, hospital drama where the eventual (i.e. successful) outcome is in little doubt. Meanwhile, the remaining characters all congregate in the hospital waiting area to exchange the same kind of meaningful glances they’d otherwise be giving each other in Richard’s restaurant.

    “Barbecue Three” is one of those great pay-off episodes of DALLAS where everything clicks expertly into place and one is reminded why this show is the Daddy of the genre. It’s the one where JR’s latest master plan, a string of cut-rate gas stations, is finally unveiled, setting off a chain of dramatic events. Something similar, albeit on a smaller scale, happens on FALCON CREST when Chase learns that the Douglas Channing Memorial Garden is really just a front for the winery Richard is secretly building. Just as JR’s latest move to beat his brother also spells bad news for the oil community at large, ("He's cutting the throat of every oil man in Texas,” Cliff explains to Afton, “He's gonna force us to cut our profits”) so Richard’s vendetta against Angela has serious implications for the rest of the local populace. “Richard’s already making offers for next year’s harvest at twice the going rate,” Chase informs Angela. "If [he] opens that winery and starts a price war for next year’s harvest, he’ll put the rest of us out of business … He’s declared war on every single winery in this valley.”

    While the newly formed Texas Energy Commission initially vote to rescind JR’s oil variance, (only to later rescind that rescission when they hear about his gas stations) Chase announces he is filing an injunction to halt construction on the winery.

    It’s interesting to compare the reactions of Miss Ellie and Jacqueline Perrault (Chase’s mother) to the family/business conflict going on around them. Each is worried for her children. While Ellie confides her concerns to Ray, (“I have such a feeling of helplessness ….I have to try and keep this family from flying apart”) Jacqueline is more pro-active. She meets with Richard and offers to join forces with him against Angela, “but I don’t want Chase to get caught in the crossfire … All I want is the promise that no harm will come to my son.” By the end of their respective episodes, Ellie and Jacqueline are singing from almost identical hymn sheets. “I’ve had enough of this insane competition between you two!” Miss Ellie tells JR and Bobby. “I came to put a stop to this madness,” Jacqueline informs Chase and Richard. "You two are the last people in the world who should be fighting one another!”
    Back at the grand opening of La Mirage, the shrill '20s musical score and air of self-congratulation begin to grate. Everyone oohs and aahs over what a fabulous/wonderful/beautiful job Fallon has done with the place when it actually looks remarkably tacky.

    Three weeks after Afton reluctantly slept with Gil Thurman to secure Cliff’s refinery deal, Alexis gives Congressman Neil McVane a quick knee trembler during the party as an inducement to scupper the government loan Blake so desperately needs to hold onto his company. Blake retaliates by threatening to expose McVane's "private goings on in Washington” unless he continue to play ball. Angela pulls an equivalent move in FALCON CREST, blackmailing Eric Kenderson, Richard’s broker, over his drug problem in order to delay the release of the two million shares Richard needs to hold onto his newspaper. Neither Alexis nor Richard take kindly to having the tables turned on them. “You double-crossing scum!” Alexis seethes at McVane, while Richard promises Kenderson that ”if I find out you’ve backed out of this deal on your own, you’re gonna be the old man sweeping the ticker tape from the stock exchange floor!"

    When Adam meets DYNASTY newcomer Kirby at the La Mirage opening, he immediately becomes possessive of her. “She’s with me,” he insists when Jeff asks her for a dance. When Kirby accepts Jeff's invitation, a love triangle is formed. There’s a similar moment at the Ewing barbecue where Bobby is leading Pam to the dance floor only for Holly Harwood to interrupt and ask to take Pam's place. “It’s strictly business,” she assures Pam. Bobby and Holly's Texas two-step might not be quite as intimate as Joaquin and Pamela Rebecca’s at the most recent Southfork barbecue, but Pam’s reaction to the kiss Holly plants on Bobby’s cheek isn’t a million miles from John Ross’s to his wife hip-grinding with another man.

    At first glance, Kirby is the anti-Ciji. Where Ciji is distant and remote, Kirby is positively garrulous about her life. Ciji might have made a big impact on the residents of KNOTS LANDING, but after six episodes, we still know next to nothing about her. Kirby, meanwhile, burbles on and on - about the summer she spent nannying on a yacht, (“While the rich, super rich, mommy and daddy pooped out on the poop deck, I took care of Little Poop”) about how wonderful and beautiful the Carringtons are, about what it was like to grow up in their family mansion. As if this were not enough, we also learn that she has been leading a double life, one that somehow involves dancing barefoot on tables in the casinos of Monte Carlo.

    However, when one looks a little closer, it turns out Kirby and Ciji do have things in common. This week, as Kirby renews an old friendship with Fallon, Ciji forges a new one with Laura. In different ways, each of these relationships is a first. When Fallon greets Kirby with open-armed excitement, it is the first time we see her regard another woman as anything other than an enemy (her short-lived truce with Alexis notwithstanding). When Ciji shows concern for Laura, whom she has overheard arguing with Richard, it is the first time she has exhibited an active interest in anyone’s life but her own. Ciji and Laura’s friendship hits the ground running - within the space of one episode, they’ve wept at a Bette Davis movie together, had a sleepover, giggled conspiratorially at Richard, and celebrated Ciji’s birthday with a party for two.

    It transpires that Kirby and Ciji also share a love of babies, with Kirby fawning over Little Blake to the extent that Fallon hires her as his nurse, and Ciji cooing over Daniel and confiding to Laura that she’d really like a baby of her own. Meanwhile, on DALLAS, Holly admits to Bobby that a faithful husband is "exactly what I’d like to have.” For all that they are modern career women, it seems that Ciji and Holly are both old fashioned girls at heart. Somewhat less traditionally, FALCON CREST’s Lance - who has steadfastly disowned Melissa’s child since he learnt of its conception - starts to bond with the little critter this week, almost in spite of himself.

    When Kirby attempts to leave La Mirage at the end of the party, Adam grabs her arm and won’t let go. Similarly, in an effort to persuade Lucy to dance with him at the barbecue, Mickey Trotter makes a playful grab towards her. When both women recoil from these advances, Adam proves creepily persistent, whereas Mickey exhibits a heretofore unseen sensitive side. “You’re scared, aren’t you?” he realises. “Lucy, I know what it’s like to be scared."

    The parties at La Mirage and Southfork are both disrupted by characters making spectacles of themselves. On DYNASTY, a crowd gathers to watch Fallon charlestoning tipsily on the hotel diving board alongside Mark Jennings, before they tumble fully clothed into the pool and share a kiss. Aside from Jeff pursing his lips in disapproval, the party guests seem happy to indulge their hostess’s folly. The cartel and Cliff angrily confronting JR at the barbecue over his cut-price gas stations is less well received, with Bobby and Ray sticking up for their brother (“If there’s any blood spilled here today, I guarantee you, it won’t just be Ewing blood!”) and Miss Ellie angrily voicing her disapproval: “Go home! Go home, all of you!” In each instance, the characters embody the periods their party outfits are meant to evoke. While Fallon plays the madcap ‘20s heiress - decadent, irresponsible, narcissistic - the Ewings band sternly together on the Southfork patio, looking for all the world like a pioneer family protecting their homestead from outsiders.

    This week’s DYNASTY, DALLAS and FALCON CREST all end with a dramatic revelation, each one more exciting than the last. "Our divorce papers were never filed in Mexico - we were never divorced!” is easily topped by “I’m going to court to break Jock’s will - and then I intend to sell Ewing Oil!”, while “I’m your mother - you are both my sons!” is the real shocker.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    29/Dec/82: DYNASTY: The Locket v. 30/Dec/82: KNOTS LANDING: The Block Party v. 31/Dec/82: DALLAS: Mama Dearest v. 31/Dec/82: FALCON CREST: ...Divided We Fall

    1982 ends as it began in Soap Land. At the start of the year, the Ewing brothers flew to South America to look for their daddy Jock, missing presumed dead after a helicopter crash. Fifty-one weeks later, Blake and Alexis fly to Bali to look for their son Steven, missing presumed dead following an oil rig explosion in the Java Sea.

    Back then, Miss Ellie decreed that “the family should pull together when there’s trouble.” Krystle has the same wish now but lacks the matriarchal authority to enforce it. “I guess I’ll just never understand this family,” she tells Fallon sadly. "At a time when most people need to pull together, you go off by yourselves like wounded bears.”

    “Don’t shut me out, you need me now,” she pleads as Blake leaves for Bali without her. "I don’t need anybody to help me fight my battles, Krystle,” he replies coldly. This exchange is echoed by other couples in this week’s Soap Land. “Mack, don’t shut me out,” says Karen in KNOTS LANDING as Mack wrestles with parental problems. “I’ll work this out myself - alone!” he shouts back. In this week’s DALLAS, in the wake of a family row following Miss Ellie’s shock decision to break Jock’s will, Bobby elects to take a drive. “I’ll go with you,” offers Pam. "I'd just as soon be by myself,” he replies, more gently than either Blake or Mack, but just as firmly, before driving off into the night. Sue Ellen observes this exchange from the shadows and when she later finds JR deep in thought, is mindful not to impose herself upon him the way Pam did Bobby, Karen did Mack or Krystle did Blake. "Would you rather be alone?" she asks him carefully.

    It’s interesting how much angrier and more dysfunctional the Carringtons seem in their time of crisis than the Ewings did a year ago. On their way to South America, the Ewing boys huddled together on a crowded plane, fondly sharing childhood reminiscences and refills of bourbon. Travelling separately on the same flight to Bali, Alexis locates Blake in the first class lounge and first berates then physically attacks him. The contrast continues when both parties reach their destination. While the Ewings, even JR, accepted without question Punk’s assurances that everything was being done to find their precious daddy, Blake immediately pulls rank with Cassidy, Punk’s equivalent: “What are you doing? That’s what I wanna know! It’s been forty-eight hours since the explosion and you don’t have one scrap of information about the survivors?”

    And while the Ewing family as a whole (apart from Sue Ellen) remained optimistic about Jock’s chances of survival, the Carringtons (except Blake) all seem resigned to Steven’s death. Ironically, Fallon’s description of Steven as "probably dead somewhere at the bottom of the ocean where nobody will ever find him” will ultimately prove more applicable to Jock.

    Things are far less harmonious in DALLAS these days, however. In this week’s instalment, “Mama Dearest", everyone’s turning on everyone. As well as the Ewings fighting amongst themselves, Punk nearly comes to blows with Cliff - and the sight of Ellie turning to ice when Harve Smithfield reluctantly tells her he will be unable to represent her in court is one of the most effective moments in an episode full of effective moments. Meanwhile, Rebecca’s chastisement of her son (“I won’t be a party to any violence!”) takes on fresh resonance in light of Cliff’s actions in New DALLAS. Add to this Miss Ellie’s scolding of her eldest son (“I don’t think you give a damn about your daddy’s wishes - all you care about is yourself!”) and this episode could be renamed, in the parlance of modern day DALLAS, “Mama No Like".

    After initially shutting her out, Bobby later unburdens himself to Pam. Over on KNOTS, Mack does the same with Karen. Both men admit that they are the way they are because of how their fathers raised them - the primary difference being that while Bobby always tried to emulate and please Jock - "I wasn't just a road man for Ewing Oil, I was the best road man for any oil company because that's what Daddy expected, and that's what I expect from myself” - Mack’s life has been determined by a doomed attempt not to turn out like his father. “I’m like him, you see?” he explains to Karen. "And that’s the worst part. I hate his lousy guts and yet I’m like him and I know it. That’s probably why I never got married - because I knew I’d be just as crappy a father and husband as he was.” “That's why Daddy turned away from Gary,” Bobby continues. "'The Ewings must succeed' and Gary didn't care about that, but Pam, JR and I do."

    On DYNASTY, Blake repeatedly insists that his search for his son is "just between Steven and me.” On KNOTS, the scenes between Mack and his father, Pete, who is terminally ill, also have a life and death intensity to them. Jeff Corey’s performance as Pete brings a fresh layer of authenticity to the show. There aren’t many Soap Land characters whom I genuinely feel I could have met in the real world, but Pete is one of them. (Granted, this might have something to do with Pete’s Scottish brogue, which the character is meant to be faking, but which the actor pretty much nails.)

    While the significance of the father/son relationship cannot be underestimated, what of those Soap Land sons who grew up without either a father or a mother - what of Adam Carrington and Richard Channing? This week, Richard confronts Jacqueline Perrault, the mother who abandoned him as a baby. It’s interesting to compare this scene with the equivalent one between Cliff and Rebecca in DALLAS Season 3. Where Cliff invited his mother to his apartment for coffee and cake (not to mention liquorice), this is a much more businesslike arrangement: Richard receives Jacqueline in his office where he makes a point of placing a clock timer on his desk in order to limit their conversation to half an hour.

    Both Cliff and Richard are looking for straight answers. "I was barely five years old and you pretended to be dead … why?” asks Cliff. "Why did you put me in an orphanage?” demands Richard. So confronted, both women prevaricate, adopting a similarly martyred tone, as if to suggest that they themselves are the real victims. "It’s so hard to explain,” sighs Rebecca. "Oh Richard,” pleads Jacqueline, "I never wanted to choose between my sons.” Both men then let their mothers have it. While Cliff becomes emotional, ("Do you have any idea what it’s like to be five years old and be told that your mother’s dead only to find out the truth is that she didn’t want you, that she was only thinking about herself?!”) Richard keeps his feelings under control. "I’ve spent my life searching for my mother,” he tells Jacqueline calmly. "As a kid, I always dreamed of greeting her with open arms, but as I got older, my resentment grew to the point where the only excuse I’d accept was death. I wanted my search to lead to my mother’s grave.” Jacqueline gasps in shock, then begs Richard to keep her identity as his mother a secret (much as Rebecca did when she first met Pam).

    Meanwhile, on DYNASTY, Adam is put in the strange position of mourning a brother he has never met. "Growing up alone the way I did, I’d have given a lot for a kid brother,” he tells Fallon with apparent sincerity. Then while flirting with Kirby a few minutes later, he blithely dismisses Steven as “just a name to me”. This duality is mirrored by Richard in FALCON CREST. ”I sort of like the idea of having a brother,” he bashfully admits to his newly acquired sibling Chase. "Even more, I like the idea of having you as a brother.” Later in the episode, Miss Hunter asks him if he honestly has any feelings for Chase. “Yes,” he replies coldly. "Hatred.”

    Jacqueline Perrault is central to another FALCON CREST scenario that hearkens back to early DALLAS this week. Her consequences-be-damned insistence on visiting her great-grandson Joseph at Falcon Crest echoes Digger Barnes’ determination to peak a sneak at his supposed grandson Baby John in “Rodeo”. In order to see the child, Jacqueline, like Digger, must keep her blood tie to him a secret and instead suffer the humiliation of kowtowing to her nemesis, who smugly believes that she is the child’s direct ascendant. Just as Jock did when Digger cradled John Ross, Angela keeps a beady eye on Jacqueline during her visit with Joseph.

    Compared to Jacqueline, Chase and Maggie don’t appear overly concerned about their new grandson - or perhaps it’s just that they are occupied with other story-lines. A possible downside of FALCON CREST's focus being split between multiple plots, each of equal importance, is that it’s hard to keep track of where the characters’ emotional priorities lie. Whereas Digger's pilgrimage to the Southfork nursery was a significant and poignant part of that particular DALLAS episode and had a lasting impact on him, Jacqueline’s equivalent visit is dealt with in a couple of minutes, after which the characters swiftly move on to other stories. This isn’t to say the plot won’t yet resurface and bite us on the ass when we're least expecting it - which is a possible upside of FALCON CREST being such a busy show.

    The week before Christmas, there was the La Mirage opening in DYNASTY and the Southfork barbecue in DALLAS. Now it’s party time in FALCON CREST and KNOTS. Like DALLAS, KNOTS’ celebrations are of the daytime, al fresco variety, with a bit of local fundraising thrown in - a “block party”, or what we English might call a fete - with the added bonus of rising rock star Ciji Dunne belting out power pop cover versions on a makeshift stage.

    FALCON CREST plays host to no less than two gatherings this week. First, there’s the Founder’s Day Parade which, like the block party and the barbecue, is a wholesome community event (“This whole thing smacks of an office picnic,” observes Miss Hunter drily) and also has a period dress theme. (The exact period I’m a little vague on - somewhere between THE AGE OF INNOCENCE and THE GREAT GATSBY it appears - with Nick Hogan and Lance both sporting the same style of white Gatsby-esque hat that Mark Jennings wore at La Mirage two weeks ago). This is followed by a more glamorous party at Angela’s house. For a change, there’s no dress code here - but while there are plenty of low cut gowns with spangly sequins, there are, strangely, no shoulder pads.

    Soap Land parties are almost always an excuse to bring estranged or feuding characters together in the same environment - see Blake, Alexis and Neil McVane at La Mirage, Cliff, the cartel and the Ewings at Southfork, Angela, Richard and Jacqueline at this week’s party at Falcon Crest - and then watch the sparks fly. Not so at the KNOTS LANDING block party, where Abby and Gary drop Olivia off at the entrance to the cul-de-sac and then disappear off-screen for the rest of the episode. (As a result, Gary is referenced more in DALLAS this week than KNOTS, thanks to Miss Ellie’s controversial decision to sell Ewing Oil “and give half the money to a drunk and a cowboy.”) Consequently, the block party is a somewhat tame affair, the highlight of which is Ciji and Lilimae duetting on “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”

    There’s something dreamlike about the scene at the end of this week’s KNOTS, where Pete Mackenzie comes to Seaview Circle looking to make up with Mack, with whom he has argued. It is dark and the party guests have all left. He finds Lilimae amongst the streamers and other party debris blowing gently around in the cul-de-sac, searching for a random piece of paper. As she roots about, she distractedly imparts unhelpful advice to Pete about how she and Val came to terms with their differences: “We don’t talk about them. All we do is not do them anymore.”

    Pete carries with him his own father’s kilt, which he plans to present to Mack as a symbol of reconciliation. This is mirrored by Mark Jennings' gesture towards Krystle on DYNASTY when he returns her grandmother's locket which he stole from her and pawned during their marriage years before. After thirty years, I’ve finally forgiven Mark for not being Matthew Blaisdel and the gradual reconciliation between he and Krystle has actually been quite sweet to watch.

    KNOTS closes on an emotional embrace between Pete and Mack, their differences nonetheless unresolved. Angela’s party on FALCON CREST concludes more dramatically. Just like the La Mirage opening and the Southfork barbecue, the celebrations are disrupted, this time by an impromptu toast from Richard “to my mother, Jacqueline Perrault.” Cue a “You bitch!” from Angela, and an if-looks-could-kill freeze frame of Lana Turner. Very funny.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are … wow, this one was close ...

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    05/Jan/83: DYNASTY: The Search v. 06/Jan/83: KNOTS LANDING: Cutting the Ties That Bind v. 07/Jan/83: DALLAS: The Ewing Blues v. 07/Jan/83: FALCON CREST: Pas De Deux

    Unlike the Ewings’ search for Jock on DALLAS, Blake and Alexis’s quest to find Steven on DYNASTY spills over into a second episode. There are factors common to both searches - a meeting with an eyewitness to the accident (the pilot of the plane that crashed into Jock’s helicopter, the rig foreman who saw Steven just before the explosion), the discovery of a personal item which serves as evidence of death in lieu of a body (Jock’s medallion, Steven’s bloodstained jacket), and finally, a sole family member who refuses to accept that death - Miss Ellie in DALLAS, Blake on DYNASTY. "I gave up once on Adam,” Blake argues. “Turned out he was alive. I’m not going to give up on Steven.” It occurs to me that, had the DALLAS writers chosen to go there, Miss Ellie could have used the same argument. After all, she gave up on her brother Garrison when he was missing presumed dead, only for him to show up alive forty years later. With that in mind, it would be almost surprising if Ellie didn’t believe that Jock might still be alive.

    Where the DYNASTY storyline seriously diverges from its DALLAS equivalent is in the enlistment of a psychic, Dehner, whom Blake brings from California to Denver to help “find” his son. This is Soap Land’s first delve into the supernatural since the final days of FLAMINGO ROAD, but it lacks the exotic atmosphere of Michael Tyrone’s dabblings with voodoo magic. Nor is Dehner overtly eccentric or flamboyant in the way Adrianna the fortune teller was in DYNASTY Season 2. Instead, the character and story-line are played straight (which only serves to make it all the nuttier). In fact, the story seems less concerned with Dehner’s powers than with Blake’s state of mind. “You've cracked, Blake,” states Alexis unequivocally. "The redoubtable Blake Carrington has lost his mind … his tormented mind.” Krystle is rather more tactful, expressing to Blake her “concern for the way you’re driving yourself.” Blake is not the only Soap Land patriarch to have his sanity called into question this week. On DALLAS, Miss Ellie wrestles with the fact that the only way to break Jock’s will is to cast doubt on his mental competence prior to his death. “The Jock we all know is not the man who wrote that codicil,” insists Pam. "Jock was not mentally incompetent,” Ellie replies firmly. "He was a very rational man.” Ironically, the most clearly deranged Soap Land character of the week - Jeff Colby, currently suffering from hallucinations and mood swings - is diagnosed by his doctor merely with fatigue brought on by overwork.

    There are some interestingly meta moments in this week’s Soap Land. At times, DYNASTY’s Kirby and KNOTS LANDING’s Val seem able to talk about their lives only by framing them in a fictional context. (That is, a context even more fictional than the one they’re already in.) Kirby, on a visit to Jeff’s office, complains that her father "thinks I'm Sabrina”, the title character from a 1954 film starring Audrey Hepburn. She then goes on to describe an unnamed movie she has just been to see, the plot of which mirrors her and Jeff’s own situation: “There was this girl who loved this man, though she never spoke it. She couldn’t. And the man, needing and deserving love … couldn’t break down the deep, but unnecessary, barriers between them. Actually, it was a pretty dumb movie.” In his mentally altered state, Jeff thinks the plot she is describing is real and that they are the characters in the movie. Even more confusingly, he mistakes Kirby for his estranged wife Fallon. “Why did you never tell me this before?” he asks Kirby/Fallon. “Because I never dared to,” Kirby replies, seizing this opportunity to get close to him. “And you’ve always loved me?” he asks her. “Yes,” she says, "always.” They kiss, but the moment is ruined when Jeff calls Kirby by his wife’s name. Upset, she runs off … and straight into the clutches of Adam. He dries her tears and offers to take her to dinner. Cut to Adam and Kirby eating dinner in Alexis’s penthouse. “You fib so easily,” mock-chides a drunken Kirby, "not happening to mentioning that the restaurant in the sky just happens to be the very apartment where you live ... Isn’t there any music in this tower?” Her choice of the word “tower" conjures up the idea of a fairytale - more fiction.

    On KNOTS, Val is similarly surprised to find herself in a high-rise luxury apartment. “Is this really me on the terrace of a penthouse, thirty storeys high above New York City?” she asks Jeff Munson. "Things like this don’t happen to me. It happens in movies, but not in real life.” Just as the only way Kirby can express her feelings for Jeff is to disguise them as a plot from a film, so Val can only contemplate a successful future for herself by describing it in cinematic terms. “To a new life,” she toasts, "starring Valene Ewing and a cast of thousands.” Like Kirby’s Jeff, Val’s Jeff plays along with the movie concept. “To a new life - Act 1 Scene 1,” he replies before moving in for a kiss, just as Kirby's Jeff does. This one ends more successfully, however - more like an old fashioned movie kiss, in fact. (And just like in those old movies, it’s left to our imaginations as to whether or not Val and Jeff M then spend the night together.)

    Other “fictional" references in this week’s Soap Land: Kirby bitterly describing Jeff to Adam as "Fallon’s Hamlet of a spouse”, Maggie playfully referring to Angela as the Wicked Witch of the West on FALCON CREST and JR describing himself to John Ross on DALLAS as "the Robin Hood of the oil business - take from the poor and give to the rich. You remember that.” (Thirty-one years later, that advice will be countered by Bobby in New DALLAS episode “Playing Chicken”: “That’s what you get when you threaten to take away a man’s livelihood,” he tells his nephew after the ranch hands on Southfork have turned on John Ross over his decision to drill for oil on the ranch. While we’re on the subject of New DALLAS, it’s also a kick to contrast Tyler Banks’ version of John Ross scampering around the reception area of Ewing Oil in this ep with Josh Henderson’s strutting through the doors of Ewing Global in 2014.) Also this week, Cliff compares Sue Ellen to a historical rather than fictional character when he talks about her standing beside JR “like the Duchess of Windsor” during an appearance on Roy Ralston’s “Texas Talk Time” television programme.

    Following Val’s interview with Mike Douglas earlier in the season, this is the second instance of a Ewing guesting on a TV talk show. Interestingly, Ralston’s introduction to JR - “Some call him a saint, some call him a sinner” - chimes with Mike Douglas’s to Val when he told his audience, “If that name Ewing sounds familiar, then it’s who you think it is!” This week at least, DALLAS is in accord with KNOTS LANDING in its portrayal of the Texas Ewings as somewhat notorious - a result of JR courting the media as part of his cut-rate gas scheme perhaps. That the family is of interest to the public is underlined in the last scene of the ep when attorney Brooks Oliver describes Ewing as "a name that sells newspapers.” Sue Ellen telling JR that “it’s nice to be the wife of a celebrity” echoes Lilimae's reminder to Val that “you’re a celebrity” on this week’s KNOTS.

    JR’s television appearance, during which he slights his baby brother, (“He does not have the strength to run Ewing Oil”) prompts Bobby to announce his decision to start playing dirty. "My brother doesn't think I can play hardball,” he tells Pam. “Well sweetheart, I'm gonna have the pleasure of stuffin' that ball down his throat!” To that end, he dispatches one of his minions to dig into the small print of a contract Ewing Oil has with the cartel so that he can strong arm them into drilling for oil on the Wellington land. Instead, he learns that he can force them to buy out his interest for five times the market value. Given his fight with JR, this is profit Bobby badly needs. “Great,” Pam tells him sarcastically, "now you can lose a few more friends.”

    Over on KNOTS, Gary is the Ewing brother losing friends over a business deal when he fully endorses Abby’s decision to sign over Ciji’s contract to Jeff Munson - leaving partner Kenny out in the cold. While Jordan Lee accuses Bobby of armed robbery, Kenny's accusation of Gary is more personal: “At least I don’t make deals with my friends and then stab them in the back.” In a deliciously soapy move, Abby also mirrors Bobby’s actions when she assigns an attorney - one Jim Westmont - to pore over all of the investment deals she and Gary have made to see if there’s a way of protecting her individual interests in the event of them splitting up. It’s so cool that, even after three years in Soap Land, Abby is still surprising us by showing how ruthless she can be.

    Elsewhere on KNOTS, Ciji learns that she is with child. Just as Pam Ewing did in “Barbecue”, she stands in front of a mirror and playfully tries to imagine how she’ll look when heavily pregnant. For both women, it is a stage of pregnancy they are destined never to reach. After Ciji breaks the news to Chip, he orders her to have an abortion: “Get this through your head - no baby!” When she refuses, he becomes aggressive, pulling her hair and grabbing her roughly. “Don’t you know how much is riding on you?” he snarls. “The big time, stardom, everything we ever dreamed about. You and me, all the way to the top … Nothing’s gonna interfere with what I have planned for you.” The picture Chip paints of himself and Ciji as an ambitious couple destined for greatness (“You and me, all the way to the top”) mirrors Adam's description of himself and Kirby on DYNASTY: “Two people who knew what they wanted and how to go after it.”

    Just as Chip becomes violent when Ciji asserts control over her own body, so Adam rips Kirby's dress and wrestles her to the floor of the penthouse when she refuses to have sex with him. The most striking moment of Adam's attack is when Kirby stops struggling or protesting and simply lies still as the screen fades to black. This is - I hesitate to use the word sophisticated in such a context - but a comparatively complex depiction of rape in Soap Land. Kirby's passivity reads as reluctant acquiescence as if she believes she is responsible for the situation in which she now finds herself and must take the consequences. This is spelled out in the follow-up scene where she informs Adam coldly: “Your respect for me means less than nothing. My respect for myself, that’s what suffered … I’m not blaming you, I’m blaming myself. I’ve had champagne before, I wasn’t dragged here forcibly.” Here, Kirby could be speaking for Laura Avery in “The Lie” or maybe even Lucy after her rape in DALLAS. Certainly, Pam’s line about Lucy’s attack - “I think she believes she did something to allow it to happen” - resonates here.

    When Kirby returns to the Carrington mansion in the early hours of the morning, she keeps quiet about the rape - indeed, the word itself is never used. The closest she comes to speaking out is to drily allude to the events of the evening as “a comedy of errors” - another example of a character reframing their experiences in a fictional context. Back on KNOTS, despite intimate conversations with Laura and Gary, Ciji reveals nothing about Chip’s violent behaviour either. Like Kirby, she seems almost accepting of what has happened to her, as if this is all she can expect or all she deserves. And while neither DYNASTY nor KNOTS endorse this view themselves, they do nothing to really challenge it either. There is no counterargument, no voice to say, “Such behaviour is unacceptable, not to mention illegal.” Maybe the women’s silence, their isolation, is reflective of the real world, and maybe the drama on screen is the stronger for it. Maybe.

    There is also more commonplace violence in this week’s Soap Land. Ray Krebbs and Chase Gioberti each take a swing at their respective half-brother, JR Ewing and Richard Channing, for insulting a woman in their presence. While JR has been mocking Donna’s attempts to rescind his oil variance (“I believe the word is inept”), Richard has publicly branded his and Chase’s mother an adulteress. Miss Ellie and Angela Channing both look on in dismay as the punches are thrown in their houses.

    While DALLAS’s Donna might have foregone her writing career in favour of committee meetings, the work of Soap Land’s remaining scribes - Val Ewing and Maggie Gioberti - attracts unwelcome attention. While standing on Jeff's New York balcony, Val is blissfully unaware that Chip is stealing pages from her unfinished manuscript in order to impress his new boss. On FALCON CREST, having learnt that Angela was behind Daryl Clayton's interest in her movie script, Maggie tries to extricate herself from their contract, but finds Daryl unwilling to give up so easily.

    By now, Maggie has admitted her near-affair with Daryl to husband Chase and he has proved remarkably understanding about it. On DYNASTY, Blake is finding it harder to overlook the continued presence of Krystle’s ex in Denver, and the locket Mark has returned to her has become a symbol of the barrier between them. However, the most overt threat to one of Soap Land's “golden couples” arrives in this week’s DALLAS. Three months after Michael Tyrone showed up in FALCON CREST calling himself Richard Channing, Tyrone’s former adversary Sam Curtis reinvents himself as Mark Graison. Still a wealthy businessman, he again comes to the aid of an older woman - then Lute-Mae, now Miss Ellie - before openly declaring his interest in her younger friend - then Lane Ballou, now Pam. Like Lane, Pam is already involved with another man, but Mark is no more dissuaded by her declaration of fidelity to Bobby (“I’m a married woman and I’m not very modern when it comes to playing around”) than Sam was by Lane’s professions of love for Field.

    Other Soap Land marriages are also faltering. On KNOTS, Richard Avery’s memories of his and Laura’s early relationship ("Remember that first year? Morning, noon and night - we were insatiable”) only serve to point up the distance that exists between them now. There is a similar scene in FALCON CREST between Nick Hogan, the older man Vicky Gioberti has fallen for, and his wife Sheila. Again, fond recollections of the past ("Remember that weekend we spent at Mount Shasta, right after we were married?”) contrast with a chilly present.

    FALCON CREST’s plot-lines often seem like a compressed variation of what has already occurred on DALLAS. The same arc that took the length of DALLAS’s fourth season to play out between Cliff Barnes and his mother Rebecca, for example, takes place within the space of two episodes for Richard Channing and Jacqueline Perrault (although I’m not sure Cliff and Rebecca ever had a moment quite as dramatically heightened as the one where Richard screams “I WAS BORN DAMNED!” at Jacqueline’s retreating back). Conversely, FALCON CREST also contains moments one can’t imagine taking place anywhere else in Soap Land - for example, the scene in this week’s ep between Chao Li and Lance as they practice their martial art skills. “You are rash, Lance,” chides Chao Li, adopting the same tone of solemn mysticism as Blake’s psychic in DYNASTY. "The secret of t'ai chi chu’an is not for the impetuous … True strength comes only from inner peace."

    All four shows end on a relatively low key note this week. DYNASTY and DALLAS each close on an already established plot point being reiterated. On DYNASTY, we see Adam purchasing more of the same poisonous paint compound thingy that he bought at the end of the episode that aired four weeks ago. (In the absence of a confidante for him to explain his dastardly plan to, this serves to remind the viewer who is responsible for Jeff’s increasingly unhinged behaviour.) DALLAS, meanwhile, ends with Miss Ellie restating her intention, first made two episodes ago, to break Jock's will. (The key difference is that she now does so in the knowledge that she will have to besmirch his memory in the process.)

    KNOTS closes on an enigmatic note as Val, still on that New York terrace, finally signs the divorce papers that have been burning a hole in her attache case all episode, and then hears Jeff Munson’s voice calling her from off screen. “Are you ready?” he asks. He is referring to their impending shopping trip, but the question carries a wider implication - is Val now ready to leave her past behind her and start a new life? Before she can reply, the producers' credit appears on screen and the episode ends. In terms of plain old soapy intrigue, however, FALCON CREST wins the battle of the cliffhangers once again. Having discovered that Jacqueline sold Richard to Henri Denault when he was a baby - a revelation that has sent Jacqueline scuttling back to Europe - Angela ponders her motive. “I wonder what she got in return?” she muses. “You intend to use this information against her sons?” Phillip asks. “You’re damned right!” she smirks.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    12/Jan/83: DYNASTY: Samantha v. 13/Jan/83: KNOTS LANDING: And Teddy Makes Three v. 14/Jan/83: DALLAS: The Reckoning v. 14/Jan/83: FALCON CREST: Above Suspicion

    This week’s DYNASTY, DALLAS and FALCON CREST each focus on a character intent on a course of action they believe is in the best interests of their family, but which other members of that family fear may jeopardise it. On DYNASTY, it’s Blake’s use of a psychic to find Steven. On DALLAS, it’s Miss Ellie’s decision to challenge Jock’s will in court. On FALCON CREST, it’s Chase insistence on investigating Carlo Agretti’s murder. "If you don’t believe in the effort I’m making to find my son,” Blake tells Krystle, "that’s fine, that’s all right, that’s your business … but I do believe in it. I intend to keep on doing it despite your feelings and everybody else’s feelings in this house.” "I’m doing this for Cole,” Chase explains to Maggie. "I’ll keep digging, I’ll keep probing and I’ll keep stepping on toes until I get to the truth!” "I don’t know how else to save this family,” Miss Ellie tells her sons. "You’re both so caught up in this battle that neither one of you understand what’s happening!"

    While Miss Ellie’s reasons for her actions have already been clearly established, there is more room for interpretation regarding Chase and Blake’s motives. Chase insists that he is trying to clear his son’s name, but Julia - for the first time saying anything negative about her cousin or his family - suggests that his investigation is part of "an obsession to wage war against my mother.” The same word crops up on DYNASTY when Alexis talks about what motivates Blake’s "obsession that Steven is still alive ... He is a guilty man who is responsible for that death and that is why he cannot accept it.”

    In a surprising and touchingly acted moment, Blake lets down his guard and admits to Fallon that Alexis is right. "You can’t understand me now, can you?” he says softly to his daughter. "None of you can understand me. That’s because none of you were responsible for driving Steven away. I’m responsible.” John Forsythe is great throughout this episode, showing us a whole different side to Blake. We’ve never seen him quite this weary, humbled or desperate before. He even sounds different - hoarse, husky, spent. Listening to him speak, you can really believe he’s been keeping a round-the-clock vigil in Steven’s room with Dehner the psychic.

    I’m not sure how many times I’ve seen this episode of DYNASTY before - maybe three or four - but for the first time, I found myself touched by the scene, absurdly operatic though it is, where Blake scrambles up the side of Matthew Blaisdel’s old drill site (“the place where Steven was happiest”) and attempts to make contact with his son. There have been Soap Land monologues to the dead before, Karen’s to Sid in KNOTS being the most moving and memorable, but none so pitiful and desperate than this one: “Can you hear me, Steven? … I’m going to find you, I’ll never stop searching for the rest of my life until I find you … Steven, do you hear me? Let me know if you hear me, please!"

    Having keyed into John Forsythe’s performance, other parts of the ep also begin to fall into place for me. A scene that I’ve always hated, where Fallon and Krystle heal their differences with an emotional embrace, now makes sense for the first time - with the captain no longer at the helm of his ship, where else can his crew turn in a time of crisis but to each other? And so what Blake has been trying to achieve since Episode 1, (i.e., “put this family together”) finally occurs - but at a time when he is too preoccupied to even notice.

    Reconciliation is in the air this week. Taking a leaf out of Fallon’s book, Diana Fairgate also buries the hatchet with a prospective step-parent when she encourages Mack not to give up on Karen after her somewhat vague response to his marriage proposal. Whereas Krystle is initially wary of her step-daughter’s attempt at conciliation, ("Don't be nice to me, Fallon, you'll just turn on me again”) Mack is happily surprised by Diana’s gesture. “Is this the new you?” he asks. “I like it!” Meanwhile on DALLAS, after declaring war on the Ewings at the end of last season, Rebecca Wentworth abruptly decides to make up with Miss Ellie. "Wouldn't it be nice if you and I could show them that the Barneses and the Ewings can be friends?” she sighs wistfully.

    The DALLAS equivalent of the Krystle/Fallon relationship is Pam and Sue Ellen's. In both instances, the bride from the wrong side of the tracks is viewed with jealousy and disdain by her snootier rival until the two women eventually find a common bond in their show’s third season. The Ewing wives share a couple of scenes this week which illustrate that although they are now friends, there remain some interesting differences between them. First, Sue Ellen takes Pam out to lunch at JR’s behest, in an attempt to dissuade her from backing Miss Ellie’s court fight. “Shouldn’t a wife stand by her husband?” she ventures. “Of course she should,” Pam replies, “but that doesn’t mean she can’t disagree if she thinks he’s wrong.” Later, when Sue Ellen is speculating as to why Mark Graison should be showing such an overt interest in Pam, Pam loses her temper. “You’re making me angry,” she snaps. “Pam, I’m your friend,” protests Sue Ellen. “Then act like it,” Pam retorts.

    If Mark G popping up at Pam’s place of work on the lame pretext of enquiring about Miss Ellie’s court case feels a tad inappropriate, it's nothing to Mark J gatecrashing Steven's memorial service on DYNASTY to complain that Krystle hasn’t called him lately. Pam and Krystle both feel the need to clarify their positions. “I really appreciate what you did for me and Miss Ellie, but that’s as far as it goes,” Pam tells Mark G, "I am a married woman.” “Mark, we are friends and I appreciate your co-operation with the divorce,” Krystle tells Mark J, "but I have another life now.” Completing the triumvirate of pushy would-be suitors in this week’s Soap Land, Karen’s old flame on KNOTS, Teddy Becker, makes an unwanted advance the day after Mack’s proposal - leading to a very awkward (and funny) dinner between the three of them and Karen’s kids.

    Teddy is one of two returning characters this week. The other is DYNASTY’s Sammy Jo. Loosely speaking, one could say that both Teddy and Sammy Jo work in the media, but that’s where the similarities end. Teddy is in town to cover a conference on bilateral nuclear disarmament, while Sammy Jo is recognised at a gas station for her photo spread “in one of those girly girly jobs - you were laying on the beach after being shipwrecked, all your clothes lost at sea.” Teddy and Sammy Jo each attempt a change of image upon their return to Soap Land. Teddy has been recast with a sleeker, younger looking actor, but remains just as needy (if not more so). Meanwhile, Sammy Jo now insists on being called Samantha - only everyone keeps forgetting, which is quite funny.

    Each of this week’s shows contains a quote that reaches back to the beginning of its respective series in order to make a point about a character or relationship in the present. “I’ve been fighting you all the way, all this time, for his love - I’m so sorry,” Fallon tells Krystle in their conciliation scene. “How long have I known you - three, maybe four years? Nothing in that time has prepared me for this,” says Ginger to Gary on KNOTS LANDING, referring to his betrayal of Kenny. “Ever since you’ve moved into this family, you’ve been trouble. Now stay out of it, this is not your fight!” JR barks at Pam on DALLAS as he accuses her of manipulating Miss Ellie to her own ends. “When we first moved out here from New York,” Vicky recalls in FALCON CREST, "it was supposed to be for the good of our family, to bring us closer together, but in all the time we’ve been out here, I don’t think that my father and I have had a single meaningful conversation, not one.”

    How much of Vicky’s speech is sincere and how much is part of a ploy to seduce Nick Hogan (“You’re really the only one who understands me,” she coos) is hard to say, but no sooner does Nick begin to comfort her than they’re making out on the front seat of his Packard truck. Another affair begins in similar circumstances on DYNASTY when an unusually contrite Alexis visits Mark Jennings to apologise for luring him to Denver under false pretences, but then breaks down over the loss of her son. “I’m not an evil person in spite of what you might think,” she weeps. "If I were, I wouldn’t be in so much pain.” Just as Nick did Vicky, Mark takes Alexis in his arms (“When a woman cries and begins to tremble, that’s what a man does,” he explains helpfully). Inevitably, one thing then leads to another. (“In moments of grief, we need to be held, held close,” Mark continues.)

    On this week’s KNOTS, the fall out from Mack’s proposal to Karen results in some charmingly funny, Hepburn-and-Tracy-style bickering between them for much of the ep. Elsewhere, the excitement surrounding Ciji’s first recording session is marred by Kenny’s anger at being excluded from it, while the optimism of her song of the week, “New Romance (It’s A Mystery)”, contrasts with the bitter conflict she seems to unintentionally trigger wherever she goes (between Gary and Kenny, Richard and Laura, herself and Chip). Lance Rubin’s score for the ep is the one he will also use on “Swan Song”, the DALLAS Season 7 finale. The same eerie piano notes that anticipate Katherine’s murderous attack on Bobby evoke a similarly ominous feeling on KNOTS.

    "One day Abby will do it to you, just like she’s doing it to us,” prophesies Ginger during her scene with Gary. There are other doom laden predictions in this week’s Soap Land. “That battle is really gonna hurt somebody, really hurt somebody,” foretells Pam in DALLAS, referring to the fight for Ewing Oil. “If you persist in pursuing this murder investigation, I just feel it’s gonna do us more harm than good,” Maggie warns Chase in FALCON CREST - a prediction that appears to come true in the final scene of the episode where a mysteriously gloved someone knocks Cole unconscious and then shuts him in the family garage with his car engine still running.

    By this point, Chase has already around to Maggie’s way of thinking. “No more dime store Dick Tracy,” he promises her. Similarly on DYNASTY, the news that Sammy Jo has given birth to Steven’s son allows Blake to finally accept his death. “He lives on in this beautiful child,” Blake declares, looking down at his new grandson. Meanwhile on DALLAS, Miss Ellie’s determination to break Jock’s will come what may is unwavering - right up to the point where she has to testify on the witness stand as to Jock’s mental competence. Even then she persists, albeit falteringly and through tears: “If that’s the legal term you need to break the will, then yes, Jock was not mentally competent.” In the event, the judge rules against her, but unlike Blake and Chase, Ellie does not then return to the bosom of her family. Instead, she exits the courtroom without acknowledging any of them.

    Line of the week: On FALCON CREST, Richard is on the brink of an affair with Melissa when a jealous Miss Hunter accuses him of prostituting himself for the Agretti land. “Diana, my dear, for these stakes, I will gladly turn an occasional trick,” he replies. That has a kind of New DALLAS ring to it.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are … boy, it's a really tough call - each show stands out in a different way - but ...

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    19/Jan/83: DYNASTY: Danny v. 21/Jan/83: KNOTS LANDING: To Have and To Hold v. 21/Jan/83: FALCON CREST: Broken Promises

    There's a great scene in this week’s KNOTS LANDING where Gary pays a visit to Kenny Ward in an attempt to patch up their friendship. Kenny and wife Ginger are among Soap Land's least explored characters. We’ve been given more psychological insight into Kirby Anders in half a dozen episodes of DYNASTY than we have the Wards in over three and a half years of KNOTS. Kenny and Gary's relationship itself has only been introduced to the story as a way of keeping Gary connected to the cul-de-sac after his break up with Val. As a result, Kenny’s primary function in the scene is to act as Gary’s conscience, recounting his past sins. “You got Sid Fairgate involved in selling stolen auto parts and now he’s dead,” he reminds him. "Val stands by you, you run out on her. Now you’re just doing the same thing to me … It’s time somebody told you the truth about yourself … Congratulations, Gary. You’ve finally learned to be a true Ewing.”

    Looked at another way, as a result of being left alone by the writers, the Wards are now the most stable couple in the cul-de-sac. Kenny is the only character in the same profession as he was at the beginning of the series (even he is somewhat unemployed at this point) and of the original couples, theirs is the one marriage that has both survived and is blossoming. Quite a turnaround, given that Kenny was the least sympathetically depicted cul-de-sac resident when KNOTS began.

    There’s an equally good scene over on FALCON CREST between Richard Channing and his adoptive father Henri Denault. The actors portraying these two cold and ruthless businessmen play against the aggression of their dialogue, which is full of ultimatums and accusations, imbuing it instead with emotion and vulnerability, even affection. The results are fascinating - it feels like the characters are trying to reach out to each other, but the words they’ve been scripted to say won’t allow them to.

    Denault wants Richard to return to the company fold in New York. “This isn’t a request,” he clarifies. "It comes from someone above me.” “Suppose I refuse?” asks Richard. “You’d simply become another competitor,” Denault tells him, "an adversary to be vanquished … Come home with me now before you do something foolish.” “My dear father,” replies Richard, "I work for myself and neither you nor your mysterious superior will tell me when to turn tail and run from the enemy.”

    Richard might be determined to stay in his soap opera, but DYNASTY's Sammy Jo can’t wait to leave hers. “I really hoped I’d never see this place again or anybody in it,” she tells Krystle. Sure, she wants the Carrington money, but not the lifestyle that accompanies it. Instead, she wants to become a model in New York - the same city Richard is refusing to return to. Unlike Sammy Jo, fellow DYNASTY character Kirby’s ambition is to be accepted by the Carringtons as an equal, “not to be the downstairs girl that you try and take to bed, but the upstairs girl you marry.” This desire for social acceptance echoes Lane Ballou’s vow that she would eventually "make it" onto Flamingo Road.

    Kirby’s line, "The upstairs world, I tasted it in Paris,” is echoed by Kenny on KNOTS LANDING: “I wanted it so bad I could taste it. Gary, you dangled a dream in front of my face and then you snatched it away.” Whereas Kenny craves success but only on his own terms, Kirby is prepared to prostitute herself to get what she wants: "I have something some men want,” she says, referring in part to her rape by Adam, "and next time, I’m going to make sure that I get what I want in return - respectability."

    Kirby speaks about her body as if it were a bargaining tool, and Sammy Jo and FALCON CREST’s Melissa view their newborn children in the same way. Sammy Jo even offers to sell her son, Danny, to Blake to finance her independence in New York. “What’s important is me,” she tells the Carringtons. "I have one life and one body and I wanna use it for me.” Melissa, conversely, uses her son, Joseph, to further entrench herself at Falcon Crest. “That baby guarantees me a place here,” she tells Lance. "It’s all gonna be mine one day.”

    Baby buying is not a new concept in Soap Land. Only two weeks ago on FALCON CREST, Angela discovered that Jacqueline Perrault had sold Richard to Henri Denault when he was a baby. Over on DALLAS, Jeff Faraday sold his child to Bobby and Sue Ellen tried to buy Rita Briggs’. However, when Sammy Jo makes her proposition, Blake draws a line in the sand, decrying the selling of a child as "morally repulsive”. He instead offers her $100,000 to keep the baby. When she declines, Blake and Krystle agree to look after the child until such time as she is ready to assume responsibility for him. The fact that they will be sending her monthly cheques in the interim means, in effect, that they will be renting Danny instead - a slightly less morally repulsive arrangement, it would seem.

    That pages from Val’s manuscript should end up on the front page of Global Gossip under the headline "BOOZE AND WOMEN MADE MY LIFE HELL — EWING EX TELLS ALL” makes Brooks Oliver’s line to Miss Ellie in DALLAS two weeks ago - "Ewing is a name that sells newspapers” - seem somewhat prophetic. In contrast to this gross violation of Val’s privacy, Richard Channing assures brother Chase he will keep Cole's apparent suicide note/murder confession out of the New Globe in this week’s FALCON CREST - quite a concession, given the aggressive smear campaign he launched against Cole earlier in the season.

    Elsewhere on this week’s KNOTS, Laura and Ginger argue over their differing perceptions of Ciji. To Laura, Ciji is "a nice girl ... a good friend”, while Ginger describes her as "the most conniving woman I've ever met.” Here again, Ciji is a blank canvas, becoming whatever these characters require of her: Laura needs a best friend, someone who will side with her unquestioningly against Richard (in a way Karen never would), whereas Ginger wants someone to blame for all her dissatisfactions. In each case, that’s who Ciji becomes.

    Karen and Mack elope to Vegas for the third Soap Land wedding of the season - but this time the groom neither dies immediately after the ceremony nor gets pushed into a swimming pool. Instead, the nuptials are played for laughs as the happy couple are married by an eccentric old couple in a ticky-tacky, rinky-dink ceremony. The “any objections to this wedding?” section - which led to a dramatic freeze frame at JR and Sue Ellen’s wedding in DALLAS - provides the funniest moment, with the spaced out officiator waiting so long for someone to object (in spite of there being only two witnesses in attendance) that Mack has to prompt him to continue with the service. The comedy is possibly a little overdone, but it’s charming enough and contrasts effectively with the scenes of a despondent Gary teetering on the verge of an alcoholic relapse. Like Sue Ellen’s drunken moments in New DALLAS, there's a deep sadness, a profound loneliness, about these scenes. We don’t see Gary actually take that first drink. Standing on the terrace of his beach house, glass in hand, gazing out to sea, (I’m reminded of Val looking at the view from Jeff Munson’s New York balcony two weeks ago) he turns his back to the camera before lifting the glass to his mouth. We then cut to a long shot of the beach house in which he becomes just a tiny figure in the distance. The camera then pans discreetly away from the house towards the ocean, which in KNOTS always seems to somehow evoke a sense of inevitability: it was always going to turn out this way.

    The week after embarking on their clandestine affairs, DYNASTY’s Alexis and FALCON CREST's Vicky both surprise their respective lovers with an afternoon visit. Alexis and Mark narrowly avoid discovery when Fallon comes calling while they are between the sheets. Vicky and Nick aren’t so lucky. When Nick’s wife Sheila walks in them, they are merely planning a picnic, but that’s enough for her to realise what’s been going on between them.

    “Broken Promises” is FALCON CREST at its dark, mysterious best. This is a bit of a ridiculous comparison, but I'm kind of reminded of the 1946 movie THE BIG SLEEP. It’s nowhere near as smart or witty as that, but it has a similarly pulpy appeal, with its multiple mysteries, double and triple crosses, hardboiled characters and a labyrinth of supporting players that are hard to keep track of but all of whom have a part to play in the plot. There are no less than three as-yet-unseen figures lurking in the shadows at this point - Henri Denault’s anonymous all-powerful boss who has ordered Richard back to New York, Cole’s unknown attacker who is presumably also Carlo Agretti’s killer, and the elusive Mr Fong, an apparent witness to Carlo’s murder. And if Melissa Cumson is FALCON CREST's film noir femme fatale, then Diana Hunter is its ice cool Hitchcock blonde. This week, she proves to be more than Richard Channing’s enigmatic assistant when she offers to spy on him for his father. (Denault makes a point of letting her how dispensable she is: “If you lose Richard’s trust, you’ll be absolutely of no value … Things of no value are usually discarded, Miss Hunter.”) Chase even hires a private eye, disgraced DALLAS senator "Wild Bill” Orloff, last seen running a diner on FLAMINGO ROAD, to help navigate a way through the murkiness of the story-line.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 3 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    26/Jan/83: DYNASTY: Madness v. 27/Jan/83: KNOTS LANDING: A New Family v. 28/Jan/83: DALLAS: A Ewing is a Ewing v. 28/Jan/83: FALCON CREST: Deliberate Disclosure

    “When you do things I don’t know about or hide things from me, I get crazy,” Gary tells Abby. Indeed he does - almost as crazy as Jeff Colby when he’s high on toxic fumes. This week, DYNASTY’s Jeff and KNOTS LANDING’s Gary are both in meltdown - the former as the result of being maliciously poisoned by Adam, the latter because he’s back on the booze.

    Jeff is suffering from a bad case of paranoia. He believes his teething son is dreadfully ill, that his father-in-law holds him accountable for his late uncle’s crimes and that his wife is sleeping around. Gary is having similar fears about Abby conniving behind his back - the difference is Gary's concerns are based in reality. For instance, Abby really has exploited their friendship with the Averys to gain a controlling interest in their restaurant. (Gary learns this when he pays a drunken visit to Richard in his restaurant kitchen. Interesting that Gary's first port of call while on a binge should be to see his old drinking buddy from “Bottom of the Bottle".)

    A few drinks later, Gary disrupts Ciji’s recording session where several regular characters, including Abby, are in attendance. His inability to get through to Abby is neatly underlined by the glass of the recording booth separating them as he yells at her: “We’ve got to stop this! We’re hurting people! We’re ruining LIVES!!!” (It also anticipates a different kind of glass that will seal him off from Val at the end of the season.) Pam has similar difficulty in reaching Bobby with her warning at the end of this week’s DALLAS - “Everybody’s going to get hurt, especially you. Can’t you see that, Bobby?” In Bobby and Pam's case, there is no physical barrier between them - they are sitting opposite each other in a restaurant - but what keeps them apart is Bobby’s preoccupation with what’s going on at the bar, where the prostitute he has hired to set up George Hicks, JR’s inside man on the Texas Energy Commission, has just made her first move.

    When Gary trips over some recording equipment, most of the other characters in attendance - Laura, Diana, Ciji, Jeff Munson - rush to his aid. Abby is the exception. She doesn’t move from the raised seating area where she has been watching Ciji sing. Instead, she looks down at Gary as if from a throne - regal, imperious, steely. It’s a very powerful image. It’s repeated later in the ep when a dishevelled Gary returns to the beach house from his binge and half-collapses on the staircase. Abby stands above him at the top of the stairs, dressed for bed but still immaculately made up. As she scowls contemptuously at him, she could be Cersei Lannister in an '80s Lorimar version of GAME OF THRONES - but instead of ordering his beheading, she tosses a blanket at him and issues the following edict: “Don’t you come near me. I mean it."

    “The money was supposed to give us pleasure,” Gary tells her despairingly the next morning. “Instead, it’s a wedge between us." Viewed in this context, JR encouraging Lucy "to toast the fact that your daddy’s gonna keep his inheritance” at the beginning of this week’s DALLAS feels ironic in more ways than one.

    Jeff Colby and Gary Ewing are also caught up in imaginary affairs this week. Jeff thinks Fallon is having an affair with Mark Jennings, while Chip Roberts has everyone believing that Gary is cheating on Abby with Ciji. (Tracking the journey of this little rumour round the cul-de-sac and beyond is one of the pleasures of this tightly woven episode of KNOTS.)

    Adding to the confusion, Ciji is also involved, with Laura, in what one might term “a phantom affair”. Theirs is a unique relationship in Soap Land. It sprang to life six episodes ago as an immediately intense, if somewhat contrived, friendship. Straightaway, it became part of a triangle, with poor old Richard left increasingly on the outside looking in. As the Avery marriage has deteriorated, it’s been clear that Laura prefers the company of her new best friend to that of her husband. Along the way, there have been jokey, throwaway references - to Ciji "licking the bowl", to Ciji and Laura sharing hot tubs and watching dirty movies - that seem innocuous individually, but which collectively could be interpreted as hinting at something else. To that, one might add Laura’s shorter, slightly masculine haircut, which makes its debut this week.

    “I just don’t understand why so many people are mad at me,” weeps Ciji to a sympathetic Laura after the recording studio debacle. "It just feels like every time I turn around, someone’s coming down on me for something. Kenny and Ginger and Richard, now Abby.” She has a point - things are getting so out of control in KNOTS, it’s as if nearly every character is inhaling the same mind-altering fumes as Jeff Colby. “You’re the only person I can turn to,” she continues. At this point, Laura's and Ciji's eyes meet and you get the feeling that if they were going to kiss, it would be now. There is a close exchange of another kind instead, as Ciji confides her pregnancy and Laura then comforts her. However, if one were to interpret Ciji taking Laura into her confidence as a substitution for a more sapphic expression of intimacy (this being CBS in 1983 and not TNT in 2014), then Laura's behaviour from this point onwards takes on new significance. When we next see her talking to Richard, she behaves evasively, even guiltily. When he touches her, she recoils.

    The climax of Jeff’s breakdown on DYNASTY (at least in this episode) comes when he discovers Fallon in Mark Jennings’ hotel room and tries to strangle her, calling her “rotten as a person and worse as a wife and a mother” as he does so. In the equivalent scene in KNOTS, it is a jealous Richard who loses control when Laura rejects him in bed yet again. “You are my wife!” he insists. "You can stay up all night with Ciji, comforting her … I could use a little comforting too!” His outburst isn’t as violent as Jeff’s - he only grabs Laura by the arm to stop her from walking away - and he does not require a punch like the one Jeff receives from Mark Jennings in order to stop. Just the sight of his bewildered son Jason at the bedroom door is enough to bring him to his senses. (Significantly, Jason appears just as Richard is about to ask Laura precisely what is going on between her and Ciji.)

    There is no such outburst from JR when he decides to “get Miss Harwood” in this week’s DALLAS. He remains very much in control, his actions clearly premeditated, as he lures Holly into his office after hours, locking the door behind them, and then coerces her into sex. There is no threat of violence, but the dialogue between them is very much the language of rape: “I don’t want this.” “You have no choice.” “You won’t enjoy it.” “You better make damn sure I do."

    "I have something some men want,” concluded Kirby after her rape by Adam on DYNASTY two weeks ago, "and next time, I’m going to make sure that I get what I want in return.” Holly does precisely that following her encounter with JR - and what she wants is to regain control of her own body. Later in the episode, she entices JR to her bedroom with the promise of more sex. When he touches her, she pulls a gun on him. The words she then uses to describe him are almost an exact match for those spoken by Kirby last week to compare Adam with her ex-lover, Jean Paul. "You’re both so sure of yourselves, so arrogant,” Kirby told Adam. “You arrogant pig,” Holly tells JR, "you’re so full of yourself, so damn sure of everything … You ever touch me again, you're a dead man. Now get out!” Aside from Lute-Mae pressing charges against Peter Horton’s character in FLAMINGO ROAD, this is the first instance of a Soap Land rape victim (or "unwilling sex partner", if that’s too specific a term) taking a stand against her attacker.

    I was reminded of this confrontation after watching the remarkable scene in the mid-season finale of New DALLAS Season 3 where Pamela Rebecca finds John Ross with Emma. In each case, the viewer’s expectations, and those of the male character involved, are toyed with and then overturned. When JR finds Holly reclining provocatively on a bed in her negligee, champagne chilling in an ice bucket, he anticipates a seduction - instead, he gets a gun in his face. In the New DALLAS scene, when Pamela Rebecca reaches into her coat, John Ross think she’s going to produce a gun - instead, she takes him, and us, somewhere very different. In each instance, the woman plays the man at his own game, using his appetites and instincts to blindside him. (That these women are operating by men’s rules to begin with means, inevitably, that both DALLAS series get to have their cake and eat it too - sure, the gals get to turn the tables, but they do so while posing provocatively on a bed in not very many clothes.) After JR leaves Holly’s bedroom, it is his face the camera lingers on rather than hers. It is his mask of bravado we see slip, revealing him shaken and vulnerable - humanised if you will. We are not privy to an equivalent moment with Holly because, ultimately, Holly’s feelings - aside from the need to avenge herself on JR - are not germane to the story. By contrast, in the New DALLAS scene, Pamela Rebecca’s feelings are the story.

    “You have to let me out of the marriage,” Fallon tells her father following Jeff's attack on her. “It’s over!” Meanwhile, on FALCON CREST, Lance defies his grandmother by filing for divorce against Melissa. While Blake offers Fallon a sympathetic shoulder. Angela responds by throwing Lance out of the house with a promise to disinherit him.

    Just as his former FLAMINGO ROAD self, Michael Tyrone, had an affair with devious married heiress Constance as part of a much bigger scheme, so Richard Channing has finally slept with Constance’s FALCON CREST equivalent Melissa as part of an attempt to get his hands on the Agretti vineyards (and subsequently the entire California wine industry). But whereas Michael was the one who deceived and betrayed Constance, here it’s Melissa who double crosses Richard when she reneges on her promise to sell him her father’s land. Richard’s revenge proves swift and effective.

    Although “Ewing" continues to be a name that sells newspapers - while the story of Val’s leaked manuscript is still front page news, JR makes it onto the cover of Tempo Magazine - the headline of the week belongs to the New Globe which screams ACCUSED MURDERER FATHERS FALCON CREST HEIR - a story alleging that Cole Gioberti is the real father of Melissa’s baby.

    All of this press coverage in Soap Land has major repercussions. The tabloid scandal surrounding Val’s manuscript has already contributed to Gary falling off the wagon in KNOTS, and when Val hears that he is drinking again, it sends her into a kind of equivalent emotional relapse. Meanwhile, Abby considers suing Val for libel and defamation of character but is persuaded that the resulting publicity would only make matters worse. On FALCON CREST, Melissa is given the same advice when she threatens to take legal action against the Globe for their story. Unlike Abby, however, she is undeterred and slaps Richard with a $20,000,000 lawsuit. This, in turn, serves to further strain Richard’s relationship with his father, Henri Denault. Meanwhile, on DALLAS, JR’s huge media profile gives Cliff the idea to lure him out of the oil business and into politics.

    Angela Channing’s reaction to a newspaper headline questioning her great-grandson’s legitimacy is intriguing. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of Jock Ewing’s when the equivalent story about his grandson made the front page in “Paternity Suit” (DALLAS Season 2). Whereas Jock demanded legal action be taken to defend the Ewing family honour, Angela simply dismisses the story. “That article means nothing,” she insists, even though Lance has supplied the Globe with paternity test results proving the child is not his.

    This week’s Soap Land also contains its fair share of romantic gestures, albeit of an unsolicited nature. Mark J surprises Alexis with the gift of an expensive brooch. She is touched but makes it clear that she has nothing to offer him in return but "love in the afternoon”, as she is otherwise occupied with destroying her ex-husband. "Hate is as strong a passion as love,” she explains. Mark G, meanwhile, shows up at Pam’s workplace again, this time, laden with champagne, roses and commiserations over Miss Ellie’s courtroom defeat. Like Alexis, Pam is impressed by the gesture. “Mark, what you did was really sweet and thoughtful and lovely,” she tells him, "but I don't want you to do it again.” We can tell she’s softening towards him, though. The most extravagant, and least welcome, romantic gesture of the week comes in FALCON CREST. At first, Maggie is thrilled to learn that her script is to be turned into a Hollywood movie, even more so when she is offered the role of associate producer. (Her fee? $100,000 - the same amount Blake offered Sammy Jo to keep her baby in last week’s DYNASTY.) The snag comes when she learns that the offer comes courtesy of sleazy Daryl Clayton and that he will be directing the film. Reluctantly, she accepts the job anyway. Chase is not happy.

    There’s a fab (and at nearly seven minutes, unusually long) scene at the end of this week’s DYNASTY. When Alexis, concerned that Jeff has been overworked, decides to take over his office at Colby Co, Adam is obliged to tell her how he has been poisoning Jeff via the toxic panelling in that office. At first, she is appalled, but then Adam drops the other shoe: Alexis is now in a position take over Denver-Carrington, “if Jeff is disorientated enough to sign over control of all those shares [his own and his son’s], leaving Blake Carrington out in the cold - on his knees, begging.” Alexis is clearly tempted by this idea but refuses to go along with Adam’s plan to keep messing with Jeff’s mind. So Adam resorts to blackmail. If she doesn’t cooperate, he tells his mother, “I’ll have to tell everyone concerned that I was simply following your instructions, how the whole thing was your idea in the first place. Think of it, Mother. How would it feel to run the Colby empire from a prison cell?" “What kind of a monster are you?” she whispers in horror.

    Over on KNOTS, Lilimae also learns an unwholesome truth about a young man living under her roof: it was Chip who stole Val’s manuscript. When she tells him to pack his bags and move out, Chip - like Adam - uses blackmail, but this time of the emotional variety. “Val and you are my family now,” he tells Lilimae tearfully. "You’re the only family I've ever known.” She relents enough to let him stay, but with a warning: “You do anything to hurt Val again, just one little thing, and the jig is up."

    Like DYNASTY, FALCON CREST ends with a young buck blackmailing an older female relative: “You don’t dare cut me out of your will because I know enough to ruin Falcon Crest!” shouts Lance at his grandmother. “Get out!” barks Angela in reply.

    Adam’s proposal to Alexis that they take advantage of Jeff’s condition in order to gain control of an empire is mirrored by the proposition Abby’s attorney, James Westmont, comes up in this week’s KNOTS: “You asked me to find you a way to protect yourself,” he reminds her. "I thought up some contingency plans for Gary Ewing Enterprises, a corporation with you and Mr. Ewing as full and equal partners.” Like Alexis and Adam with Jeff’s shares, all they need is Gary’s signature for Abby to have full access to his fortune - but no sooner does Abby gets Gary to Westmont's office for a meeting than he walks out in search of another drink.

    Amidst all the melodrama in this week’s Soap Land, there is still room for two smaller stories of a more domestic nature, each involving a nineteen-year-old and one of their parents. "You were a kid for a lot of years. Now you’re an adult. I have to learn how to think of you as an adult and treat you as one. It won’t be easy, but I promise I’ll try,” Karen tells Eric on KNOTS in a touching scene where he admits how excluded he felt by her elopement with Mack. “You’re a young adult who doesn’t seem to have any direction in life,” frets Chase on FALCON CREST after learning of Vicky’s affair with an older married man. Instead of the kind of heated confrontation one might have expected, Chase struggles manfully to understand where his daughter is coming from. It's a tender father/daughter scene of the kind one might more readily expect to see on KNOTS, or maybe even THE WALTONS.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    02/Feb/83: DYNASTY: Two Flights to Haiti v. 03/Feb/83: KNOTS LANDING: The Morning After v. 04/Feb/83 DALLAS: Crash of '83 v. 04/Feb/83: FALCON CREST: Love, Honor and Obey

    As the mental states of Jeff Colby and Gary Ewing continue to deteriorate on this week’s DYNASTY and KNOTS, the reactions of those closest to them are interesting to observe.

    Following Jeff’s attack on her, Fallon wants out of their marriage - and fast. In spite of Blake following her from scene to scene, pleading with her to reconsider, she is adamant: “I’ve already made up my mind … I have to have that divorce … He’s insane!” Conversely on KNOTS, now that Gary’s drinking again, Val struggles to keep her distance from him. “I intend to stay angry,” she explains to Karen. "I am holding onto that, because if I don’t, I’m gonna start to care again and then I’m gonna be right back where I started.” Her attitude is contrasted with Abby’s. “I’m not like Val,” she tells Gary coldly. “I’m not gonna count your drinks or hide your bottles or run around town checking up on you. If you wanna kill yourself, fine. Just don’t expect me to watch."

    Things aren’t quite that simple, however. Abby’s apparent indifference belies both her instinct for self-preservation ("Gary is no condition to make intelligent business decisions for himself right now and I have to do everything I can to protect my investment”) and the fact that she does genuinely care for him. Similarly on DYNASTY, Alexis is torn between worry over Jeff’s condition (“He could die!”), fear that she will be blamed for it ("They’ll diagnose what’s wrong with him and they’ll trace it back to that miserable paint!”) and like Abby, her own self-interests. Ultimately, both women are willing to take advantage of a sick man in order to acquire his signature on a document that will realise their own ambitions.

    As for the sick men themselves, there are moments of calm and introspection amidst the madness. We see Jeff gloomily cuddling his son in the Carrington nursery (“Sometimes I wonder if I’ll even be alive when you’re old enough to throw a softball"), while a more optimistic Gary takes a run on the beach and talks about getting his life back on track (“Oh Abby, I can beat it, I know I can!"). Both interludes prove fleeting, however. The sound of Mark Jennings’ voice on the phone is sufficient to send Jeff off the deep end again, and he collapses on the La Mirage tennis courts. Meanwhile, all it takes for Gary is a few hours holed up at the beach house without any booze to send him out on yet another binge. While Jeff is hospitalised, Gary winds up at the police station on a drunk and disorderly charge.

    Both situations lead to some wonderfully juicy scenes as assorted Carringtons and Colbys, and Cunninghams and Ewings, convene at Denver Memorial Hospital and the Knots Landing Police Station respectively. Having been alerted to Jeff’s collapse, Alexis turns up at the hospital to find Krystle already there, awaiting Jeff's test results. Val, meanwhile, receives a tip-off from a nosy reporter and makes an impulsive dash to the police station. She arrives in time to see Abby bailing out Gary. Just as Gary was separated from Abby by the glass of the recording booth in last week’s ep, so he and Val are removed from each other by two sets of windows at the station, with Abby in-between. They see each other but cannot connect. (In fact, Val and Gary have spoken to each other freely only twice since Val kicked him out of the house in the season opener: once in the underground parking lot and once outside the hospital during Abby's operation. Every other time they have come into contact, there has been some kind of physical obstacle between them.)

    Back at Denver Memorial, Adam arrives to find Alexis in a blind panic (“Tests?? What do they need to make tests for??”). He hastily bundles her into an elevator before her behaviour can make Krystle even more suspicious than she already is. Whereas Krystle and Alexis’s conversation in this scene has been full of lies and evasion, the interaction between Val and Abby at the police station is all about home truths. The two women haven't spoken frankly since Abby’s affair with Gary began, but this time around there's no dignified silences, no archly clever “I’m not saying we’re having an affair and I’m not saying we’re not” double talk. “With every fibre of my body, when I look at Gary and see what he’s become, I blame you,” Val tells Abby earnestly. "Whatever failings he had, at least he was strong, he was healthy and he knew who he was.” “And he left you,” Abby replies simply. “I loved him and I cared for him and I never did one thing to hurt him,” Val continues. “But still he left you,” maintains Abby.

    “Which one gets to be the man?” Richard asks Ciji elsewhere in this week’s KNOTS, thereby making Soap Land's first ever overt lesbian reference. (There won’t be any others until a casual remark from Vanessa Hunt regarding her bisexuality in KNOTS nine years later, followed by a certain New DALLAS scene twenty-three years after that.) By verbalising the possibility of such a relationship, Richard somehow breaks whatever romantic or sexual spell may have existed between Ciji and Laura. In fact, we later see the two women giggling at the very idea of them sleeping together. Alas for Richard, the idea has now taken up residence inside his own head instead.

    Throughout this week’s Soap Land, we see characters bringing up each others’ past sins. "I've seen the hours you spend weeping over costing Krystle Carrington her child,” mocks Adam when Alexis self-righteously scolds him over his lack of remorse regarding Jeff’s condition. On DALLAS, Bobby confronts George Hicks over both his cocaine habit and his sneaky little arrangement with JR, only for Pam to then present him with a list of his own recent misdemeanours: "The Bobby I love would rather be dead than blackmail Hicks or anybody else, double cross the cartel or force his own mother into court.” And on KNOTS, Ciji wipes the smile off Chip’s face when she unmasks his true identity - Tony Fenice, a man wanted by the police for beating up "some rich old lady” he was previously involved with. "That guy doesn’t exist anymore,” Chip insists.

    There’s an interesting parallel on KNOTS and DYNASTY between the former Tony Fenice and Michael Torrance, each of whom talks about the difficulties of adjusting to a new identity. “You know how hard it is to start over, really start over?” Chip asks Ciji. “New name, new city, new history. I thought I finally outran this.” “Up until a few months ago, the word mother was just that to me - a word,” Adam tells Alexis, "and then it became a reality - you - a beautiful reality. Along with that joy came a great deal of bitterness ... I was deprived for so long. You can say that you and Blake did everything, turned over every rock to find me after I was kidnapped … but somehow and somewhere along the line, you didn’t look hard enough, did you?” At this, Alexis closes her eyes in weary despair. "I have told you a hundred times, Adam, that I never wanted to give up the search. I begged your father, I pleaded with him …” At such times, Alexis becomes Joan Crawford in MILDRED PIERCE, a maternal martyr figure, doomed to be forever punished by her first born for events over which she had no control. In other scenes, she and Adam seem like forerunners of Judith and Harris Ryland in New DALLAS - a bizarre mother/son double act competing over who is the more twisted. "You and I are two of a kind - it's just that I'm more honest about it,” Adam concludes. Either way, each of the scenes between him and Alexis in this week’s episode is a blast.

    As Bobby Ewing puts the screws to JR’s inside man on the Texas Energy Commission, FALCON CREST’s Richard bribes his inside man on the County Board of Supervisors into supporting him on something confusing to do with right-of-ways and easements. It’s notable that these two committees are made up of the same types of characters: the self-righteously heroic one (Donna Krebbs/Chase Gioberti), the corrupted one (George Hicks/Nick Hogan), the neutral one (in each case, the committee chairman) and the token Hispanic who has no real voice (Mr Figuerroa/Supervisor Herrera).

    While Chase has spent the last few episodes of FALCON CREST searching for the elusive Mr. Fong, the gardener who may hold the key to Carlo Agretti’s murder, DYNASTY has been showing us occasional scenes set in a Hong Kong hospital where a Dr. Ling has performed life-saving surgery on a man whose face remains mysteriously swathed in bandages. When Mr. Fong appears, briefly, in this week’s FALCON CREST, we realise that these two men, the gardener and the doctor, are one and the same.

    On last week’s DALLAS, Clayton ran into Miss Ellie in Galveston (where she had gone to recover from her courtroom defeat) and proved to be just the supportive friend she needed. On this week’s DYNASTY, Mark Jennings follows Fallon to Haiti (where she has gone to divorce Jeff) in the hopes of providing a similar function. He is offended when she misconstrues his motives. “Don’t colour me as a dude on the make and take, Fallon … I’m not a tennis bum!” he huffs. Clayton, meanwhile, is also obliged to clarify his intentions this week when he invites Miss Ellie to accompany him on a farewell visit to the Southern Cross Ranch but manages to do so with more dignity than Mark.

    As one Soap Land marriage-as-business-merger draws to a close, (Fallon and Jeff’s) another gets an unexpected reprieve as Lance and Melissa step back from the brink of divorce and finally consummate their marriage. As with recent encounters between Holly and JR, and Kirby and Adam, there is an element of coercion involved. During a heated argument at Richard’s housewarming party, Lance forcibly drags Melissa into a secluded area and kisses her against her will. She then slaps him, he slaps her back, she slaps him again and he kisses her again. “I hate you!” she yells before being kissed yet again. This time, she responds in kind, and the camera pans discreetly away. Clearly, this is a case of he-kissed-her-till-she-liked-it, (see also: JR and Julie in “Spy In the House”, JR and Sue Ellen in “Black Market Baby”, James Bond and kitty Galore in GOLDFINGER) as opposed to a-rape-by-any-other-name. It’s also quite a funny scene, in a ludicrously overheated sort of a way.

    The final scene of this week’s FALCON CREST is yet another that strongly resembles a moment from early DALLAS. In “Second Thoughts” (DALLAS Season 2) there’s an after-dinner drinks scene at Southfork where Sue Ellen is unusually affectionate towards JR - so much so that they hastily excuse themselves and retire upstairs to bed. Lucy makes some crack about them suffering from sleeping sickness, and far from being offended by the sexual implication, Jock and Ellie laugh - the fact that their eldest son and his wife are apparently about to have intercourse being a cause for celebration. In FALCON CREST, Angela’s late evening chat with Lance (who has moved back into the house) is interrupted by Melissa wearing a dressing gown. She bids Angela good-night. “You’re going to sleep so early?” Angela asks in surprise. “No - just to bed,” Melissa replies, before heading for the stairs with Lance’s arm around her waist. Angela looks on, an approving smirk on her lips.

    Bill Duke directs this week’s DALLAS but finds little opportunity to exhibit the kind of visual flair he did when helming last week’s episode of KNOTS. There's nothing to match the dynamism of the scene where Gary drunkenly disrupts Ciji’s recording session, for instance. In fact, the ep’s first striking visual image doesn’t arrive until nearly the end of the episode when Bobby returns to a darkened Southfork after blackmailing George Hicks, and fixes himself a drink while looking ruefully up at his father’s portrait. Nonetheless, the final third of this week’s DALLAS is pretty much irresistible as various plot strands - Afton’s one-night stand with Gil Thurman, Rebecca and Cliff's determination to stop JR buying a refinery, Bobby blackmailing Hicks, his problems with Pam - start to intersect, building inexorably towards … something.

    Back on KNOTS, Mack’s presence as an outside observer (“I only know what I see") adds an extra dimension to the ongoing crisis surrounding Gary’s alcoholism. The scene at the end of the episode where he finds a distraught Val on the beach and makes a clumsy attempt to comfort her is one of those unexpectedly moving moments where KNOTS seems to transcend the Soap Land genre.

    This scene and the one between Bobby and Pam in their bedroom where they argue over his blackmail of Hicks fulfil a similar function, with Val and Pam each looking back to the beginning of their marriages and wondering how they got to where they are now. Surprisingly, there is no equivalent moment of soul searching for Maggie on FALCON CREST, who this week walks out on Chase in protest at him resuming his investigation into the Agretti murder. One gets the feeling she is leaving solely as a reaction to his current storyline rather because of any inherent problems in their relationship.

    Of the parallel KNOTS and DALLAS scenes, the one between Val and Mack offers more complexity and genuine emotion. There’s a sense of the characters developing organically almost in front of our eyes as if the writers are discovering new depths to them at the same time we are. It’s hard to imagine, for instance, the programme makers anticipating this speech of Val’s when she and Gary first arrived in the cul-de-sac, much less when she debuted in that diner on DALLAS:

    “He’s a weakness,” she says, explaining her feelings about Gary to Mack. "He is to me what alcohol is to him. I don’t know why we all find it so appalling in him and not so in me. You know, we’re the same, Gary and me. I wrote this big bestseller, I changed my whole life, I think I’ve finally grown up, but I’m still the same. Might as well put my hair back braids for all the changing I’ve done.”

    The episode ends with an exhausted Val being led along the beach by Karen, Mack’s jacket around her shoulders, all three of them with their arms around each other. The weather is blustery, and the shot feels like a wintery, melancholic counterpoint to the freeze frame at the end of “Home is for Healing” (Season 1) where Gary, Lucy and Val are running happily, hand in hand, through the sunlit ocean. With Gary and Lucy essentially out of her life, Karen and Mack are Val’s makeshift family now.

    If the characters on KNOTS feel like they’re continually evolving, then there’s something entrenched and inflexible, but no less satisfying, about Bobby and Pam in their bedroom scene on DALLAS: Pam is angry that Bobby is not exactly the same as when she married him, while Bobby is still rigidly obsessed with winning the company. Whatever the end of this week’s DALLAS lacks in emotional complexity, however, it makes up for in melodrama as Bobby and Pam are called away from their argument by a surprise visitor, Afton, who brings news of an air collision involving the Wentworth jet. Pam assumes Cliff was onboard, but an extra twist comes in the final seconds of the episode - Rebecca took his place at the last minute. Mothers paying the price for their sons’ actions: first Alexis is in the frame for Adam’s crime, and now it's Rebecca’s turn to sacrifice herself for Cliff.

    Also on this week’s FALCON CREST: as well as leaving her husband, Maggie begins work as Associate Producer on the film based on her screenplay. Soap Land’s previous foray into the movie world, the KNOTS episode “Silver Shadows”, concerned itself with a bygone era of Hollywood and used SUNSET BOULEVARD - the classic '50s flick about a faded silent film star living in the past - as its point of reference. The name of Maggie’s leading actress, Gloria Marlowe, also evokes an earlier era: half Gloria Swanson, half Philip Marlowe. When we meet Gloria, her demeanour - aloof, jaded, believing herself to be younger than she is - echoes that of Norma Desmond, the role Swanson played in SUNSET BLVD. The plot of Maggie’s film might be set in the present day, but glamorous, fifty-something Marlowe isn’t the kind of actress who was headlining movies in the real life early '80s. Rather than a contemporary movie star, she more resembles the kind of old-fashioned film actress who at this point was getting work in prime time soap operas like … FALCON CREST (which, given that Maggie’s script is based on events that she has experienced as a character in FALCON CREST, makes a confusing kind of sense.)

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    10/Feb/83: KNOTS LANDING: Celebration v. 11/Feb/83 DALLAS: Requiem v. 11/Feb/83: FALCON CREST: Separate Hearts

    Death stalks the women of Soap Land this week, claiming the lives of Rebecca Wentworth on DALLAS, Ciji Dunne on KNOTS LANDING and maybe even Julia on FALCON CREST. Despite this common theme, this week’s DALLAS and KNOTS start off very differently. When DALLAS begins, Rebecca is already undergoing emergency surgery, bells tolling ominously on the soundtrack, whereas KNOTS opens to the optimistic sound of Ciji’s “New Romance (It’s A Mystery)” while Ciji herself cycles along the street, a big smile on her face.

    Back on DALLAS, Pam and assorted Ewings wait anxiously at the hospital while Afton tries to track down Cliff, who is out on a Gary-like bender, oblivious to his mother’s condition. "I've left messages for him everywhere,” she frets. Afton isn’t the only blonde woman in the Ewing-verse searching for a drunken man. Both Abby and Val spend much of this week’s KNOTS searching for Gary, each separately winding up at Ciji’s apartment where a bitter shouting match ensues.

    With the whole of “Celebration" building up to the reveal of Ciji’s body, the ep follows the Soap Land convention that began with “Who shot JR?” on DALLAS, (and continued with the shooting of Michael Tyrone in FLAMINGO ROAD, the kidnapping of Little Blake on DYNASTY and the killing of Carlo Agretti on FALCON CREST) whereby several characters are positioned as potential murder (or kidnapping) suspects. By KNOTS’ own standards, this feels a tad schematic, but it’s still pretty exciting. Both Richard Avery and Val are seen physically attacking Ciji, while Abby threatens her verbally: “You don’t wanna make me angry ..." “What are you gonna do, Abby, kill me?” responds Ciji mockingly. Ciji also does some threatening of her own. “I’m gonna tell the whole world how Tony Fenice goes around beating up old ladies,” she promises Chip.

    There aren’t as many threats in this week’s DALLAS - with Rebecca dying a third of the way through the episode, the characters are understandably subdued - at least not until Katherine Wentworth shows up. “You’re the one who caused Mama’s death and I’ll make you pay for it!” she vows to brother Cliff.

    Katherine isn’t the only Soap Land returnee. FALCON CREST’s Emma is fresh back from Houston, (the same place Rebecca was headed when her plane was hit) and likewise shares a scene with her half-brother, Richard Channing. Their meeting is less acrimonious than Katherine’s was with Cliff, however. She thanks him for the flowers he sent during her stay at the Soap Land Sanatarium (one likes to imagine fellow inmate Claudia Blaisdel stopping by her room to admire them) and he offers her a job as the New Globe’s troubleshooter. The way Richard is able to empathise so soulfully with Emma’s fragility one minute, before casually explaining to Miss Hunter that he will simply be using her to spy on the goings on at Falcon Crest the next, is one of those 180-degree shifts that make him such a great character.

    The titles of this week’s Ewing-verse episodes, “Celebration” and “Requiem”, refer to two contrasting events - a party at Daniel’s to mark the launch of Ciji's debut album and a funeral to commemorate Rebecca. While Gary, Richard and Ciji herself are all conspicuously absent from the party, the turnout for the funeral is quite impressive, with everyone who’s anyone in the Texas oil community gathering to pay their respects. (There is one notable exception: “At least JR had the decency to stay away from Rebecca's funeral,” notes Clayton.) The two events do have something in common, however - an unexpected sense of religiosity. Prior to the party, Richard surveys his restaurant, where a large blown up image of Ciji's face now takes pride of place. “Looks like some damn cathedral to her - Santa Ciji,” he says bitterly. This celestial theme carries over into FALCON CREST where Cole hears Linda Caproni playing Chopin on a music store piano and describes it as "a religious experience.”

    A sense of disillusionment creeps into Soap Land this week as various characters start to realise that the price for the success they have been craving all season is too high. When Richard complains about Ciji turning his restaurant into a nightclub on KNOTS, Abby reminds him that without her, "this place would have been bankrupt a long time ago.” "And I would have been better off," he retorts, “and you know something? So would you.” Later on, he tells Abby flatly: “I don’t care about business. You can foreclose, you can burn me up, you can sue me.” His words are echoed by Nick Hogan in FALCON CREST when he decides he cannot accept Richard Channing’s bribe: “I have to live with myself. That’s more important than your job."

    Meanwhile, on DALLAS, Bobby’s blackmail of George Hicks pays off when JR’s variance is rescinded, but as he points out to Donna, “it came one day too late to save Rebecca.” Donna is in no mood to celebrate the victory either. “It’s kind of hard to get too excited about anything. I keep thinking about Rebecca.” The one Ewingverse character who doesn’t appear to have gotten the memo that power and money are no longer the be all and end all is Sue Ellen, who behaves as if the loss of JR's variance were on a par with Rebecca’s death. This prompts Miss Ellie to deliver the speech which seems so eerily prophetic now: "Think ahead, Sue Ellen. Think twenty-five or thirty years ahead. I won't be here then and the fight won't be between JR and Bobby, it'll be between John Ross and Christopher … Where will this all end?” (At the time of writing, when it will end is the more pressing question. Waiting to hear whether or not New DALLAS is to have a fourth season, I feel like Pam and Bobby while Rebecca is in surgery, hoping for the best while bracing themselves for the worst.)

    Away from business, Pam also gets what she’s been after for a long time. Not only does Bobby show that he’s willing to put their marriage first by taking time off work to be with her, he even tells her that he’s prepared to leave Southfork if that’s what she wants - but again, it all comes too late. "I want to leave alone,” she tells him at the end of the episode. Pam isn’t the only character with itchy feet. “It looks like Chip is gonna be moving to New York pretty soon and when he does, I’m gonna go with him,” Diana informs her mother on KNOTS. From the grim expressions on their faces, it’s hard to tell who is the more dismayed: Bobby or Karen.

    Having left her husband a week ago, FALCON CREST’s Maggie is an episode ahead of Pam. While Katherine immediately becomes Pam’s confidante, Julia is quick to offer support to both Maggie and Chase, even offering to assist the latter with his enquiries in Carlo Agretti’s death. In hindsight, both Katherine's and Julia’s “support” is ironic, given how much of a vested interest they have in the respective outcomes of Pam and Bobby’s marriage problems and Chase’s murder investigation.

    KNOTS LANDING’s Karen and FALCON CREST’s Julia each invoke the wisdom of a significant cultural figure of the twentieth-century this week - Pablo Picasso and Agatha Christie respectively. "He was a very intelligent man, Picasso,” Karen informs Val. “Once a painting was finished, he never went back to it, no matter what anybody else said ... He was so consumed with life and the seeking of fresh horizons that he simply never looked back. The past was dead even before his paints were dry.” This is Karen’s not very subtle of way of telling Val to move on from Gary. Julia, meanwhile, earnestly informs Chase that “in every one of these Agatha Christie mysteries, the murderer is someone in plain sight, someone practically asking the world to discover them, but no one would listen.” Chase is polite but clearly fails to see how Julia’s observation can aid his investigation. In retrospect, Julia’s little speech is a deliciously brazen move, both on the part of the character and FALCON CREST itself.

    Two other couples reaching the end of the road this week: the Averys on KNOTS LANDING and the Hogans on FALCON CREST. In very similar bedroom scenes, Laura and Nick urge their respective spouses to face the sad truth. “It's over … why don’t you just admit it?” Laura asks Richard. “I don’t wanna keep pretending everything’s all right between us … Deep down we both want this divorce,” Nick tells Sheila. Neither Richard nor Sheila agrees. “I’ve given everything I have to this marriage!” Richard protests. "You’d throw away everything we have, just like that?” echoes Sheila. "We tried and we failed,” Laura insists, standing firm. “There’s nothing left,” agrees Nick.

    Scenes between Nick and Sheila Hogan have been few and far between on FALCON CREST, but whenever we do check in with them, they feel like such fully realised couple that it’s not hard to imagine the scenes from their marriage taking place on Seaview Circle, just a couple of doors down from the Mackenzies and Ewings. For some reason, their disharmonious relationship strikes the same melancholic chord for me as the couples in Abba’s “Knowing Me, Knowing You” video - maybe it’s something to do with Sheila’s remote, chilly (even Scandinavian?) persona or the fact that we rarely see them together outside their marital home (“Walking through an empty house … In these old familiar rooms …” etc.)

    Nick Hogan aside, the folk on FALCON CREST haven’t lost their appetite for scheming the way some in the Ewing-verse have. This week, Phillip Erickson double-crosses Angela by joining forces with Richard Channing, while Lance and Melissa form an alliance against both his mother and grandmother. Sensing Lance might be having second thoughts about executing whatever plan they’ve devised, Melissa drips poison in his ear, urging him on. “We’ll never get what we want if we wallow in sentiment," she hisses. "Don’t let petty guilt hang you up.” The femme fatale is becoming Lady Macbeth. It’s all very juicy.

    Watching this week’s episode of KNOTS, I’m struck for the first time by the way the Wards’ story comes full circle. When the series began, Ginger resented how preoccupied with the music business Kenny was. Now she’s the one who urges him to return to it: “You have a life to live and a family to take care of and a gigantic talent you’re letting go to waste."

    Similarly, when Ciji fails to show up for her party, we see Kenny’s face as Ginger takes her place on stage and he realises what’s been under his nose all this time. After four years of playing second fiddle to the rest of the women on KNOTS, this is Ginger's (and Kim Lankford’s) big moment and she makes the most of it, tearing into an unremarkable ballad and elevating it by the strength of her performance. Among all the disillusionment and cynicism in this week’s Soap Land, this a touching, validating moment for the Wards ... but where does it leave Ciji?

    Rebecca Wentworth’s deathbed farewell is the second such scene of the season. Where Cecil Colby ranted to his new bride about his hatred for Blake and his wish for her to continue their feud, Rebecca tearfully bids adieu to her “good girl” and makes Pam promise to take care of Cliff. However dramatic and poignant it might be, Rebecca’s death scene also has a traditional Hollywood glow about it. Despite enduring a plane crash and major surgery, her makeup is still intact, and she manages to exchange “I love you”s with Pam just before flatlining. What happens to Ciji on KNOTS feels a lot stranger and more disorientating.

    As Ginger sings, the enlarged photo of Ciji serving as a backdrop, one is reminded of Richard’s crack about the restaurant being a cathedral to Ciji. Indeed, there is something symbolic about her blue eyes watching solemnly over the proceedings, as if this were already her funeral and she had been transformed into a sort of guardian angel.

    From this image of Ciji, the screen cuts abruptly to a shaky shot of the tide rolling in on the beach, Ginger’s voice still singing on the soundtrack. It’s night, the shot is very dark and it takes a moment for us to adjust - what exactly are we meant to be seeing? Before we can get our bearings, we cut back to Ginger, her face now obscuring the image of Ciji as she builds up to the climax of the song, Kenny’s proud face watching. We cut back to the ocean again - there’s a glimpse of something bobbing in the water - then back to Ginger singing the heck out of that song and various reaction shots from the rest of the characters in attendance. Then as the song concludes, the camera moves past Ginger to rest once more on the still image of Ciji behind her. There’s a slow cross-fade back to the ocean, the sound of waves crashing against the rocks, and the same eerie “Swan Song” music that played over Afton’s mystery phone call near the end of last week’s DALLAS. As the camera pans across the shore, the screen goes very dark, almost black, for a few seconds before picking out the wet, blue-tinged face of a young woman. Is that …? And is she … ? Yes and yes - it's Ciji, not as a rock angel in a photo this time, but a corpse washed up by an ocean full of danger and mystery.

    To me, it feels there's a direct line between Ciji’s death on KNOTS, Laura Palmer's on TWIN PEAKS and now Lucy Beale’s in EASTENDERS - a lineage of slain soap girls - all pretty, all blonde, all ultimately unknowable, just out of our reach. (The only three biographical facts we ever learn about Ciji - that she was twenty-six, came from Kentucky and left home at fifteen after falling out with her parents - were finally revealed in the episode before this one.) Nonetheless, all three fictional deaths have a strange power to move - as if each girl is more an avatar of loss, a conduit for grief, than a real, knowable person.

    There’s yet more death - possibly - at the end of this week’s FALCON CREST, with the discovery of Julia’s car at the bottom of a cliff. Like Rebecca’s midair collision at the end of last week’s DALLAS, the crash itself happens offscreen, but here at least we get to see the fiery aftermath as the car bursts into flames in front of Chase and Cole.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 3 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    16/Feb/83: DYNASTY: The Mirror v 17/Feb/83: KNOTS LANDING: The Loss of Innocence v. 18/Feb/83 DALLAS: Legacy v. 18/Feb/83: FALCON CREST: The Odyssey

    Declarations of war abound in this week’s Soap Land. On DYNASTY, Blake issues the following decree with regard to Alexis: “If she does anything to hurt Jeff, anything, there’s gonna be war between her and me, all-out-war, no holds barred." “Bobby wants all-out-war and believe me, he’s gonna get it,” JR tells his mama at the end of this week’s DALLAS. “Angela Channing declared war on me before I ever set foot in this town,” recalls Richard Channing on FALCON CREST. "I want her head - and Chase’s alongside it!"

    For the first time in Soap Land’s history, two “whodunnit?“ story-lines are running concurrently as the mystery surrounding Carlo Agretti’s death on FALCON CREST is joined by the question of “Who Killed Ciji?” on KNOTS LANDING. While the Carlo story has spanned almost an entire year, KNOTS introduces the Ciji plot just five weeks before the end of the season. As a result, it’s neither fish nor fowl: it lacks both the urgency of a season finale and the bombast of a season opener. Instead, there’s a strange stillness to this week's episode as we wait for the characters to discover what we at home already know, i.e. that Ciji is dead. The instalment weaves the same hypnotic spell as the two episodes of EASTENDERS that recently followed Lucy Beale’s murder, when you almost had to remind yourself to blink.

    Central to this feeling of stillness is an entire absence of a musical score. Watching this ep alongside the latest instalment of DYNASTY, with its majestically ridiculous background music continually driving the momentum forward, one becomes aware of what a pivotal role music plays in Soap Land, especially at the end of a scene where it often serves to absorb - or drown out - any ambiguity, lack of logic or absence in detail. As well as adding atmosphere, the music functions as a kind of shorthand, indicating how we and/or the characters are meant to be feeling before instantly transporting us from one scenario to another. In its absence, as in this week’s KNOTS, everything feels starker, more exposed. No music means there's one less layer of artifice between us and the characters on screen, giving the action an almost documentary feel. (I’m thinking particularly of the scene where a dishevelled, traumatised Gary staggers up the steps of the beach house after seeing Ciji’s body washed up on the shore.) This is as close to Soap Land vérité as the genre allows.

    In place of a melodramatic score sweeping us along, the kind of details that might ordinarily be forgotten instead rise to the surface: technicalities about police procedure, the perception of Ciji’s death as an accidental drowning gradually shifting to murder, the impact of autopsy results that reveal she was pregnant when she died. All these dramatic beats are acknowledged, unpacked and explored, rather than brushed over.

    In this regard, one of my favourite scenes in all of Soap Land (and beyond) is where Mack is called to the morgue to identify a body that fits Ciji’s description. There, he finds an attractive woman waiting, whom he recognises and addresses as Janet. He asks her what the body looks like. “Dead," she jokes. He laughs - at this point, it’s just another body, just another Jane Doe. Then the sheet obscuring the dead woman's face is removed and Mack receives the same jolt we did at the end of last week’s episode. Seeing his expression, Janet asks the dead woman's name. “Ciji,” he murmurs in reply, “Ciji Dunne. She sang." Janet makes a note of this. “I heard you got married,” she says. “What are you doing here?” Mack asks, staring at the body. Janet, still looking down at her notebook, assumes he’s talking to her. “I was in the neighbourhood,” she replies, a tad girlishly. “What?” he asks, suddenly looking at Janet as if registering her presence for the first time. She repeats her reply, but he turns to the coroner instead. “You said the girl drowned. She’s a homicide cop,” he says, indicating Janet. “What are you doing here?” he asks again, but this time he is talking to Janet. “I’m just taking a look,” she tells him coyly, but he sees past this. He asks the coroner to fast track the autopsy “for Janet - she thinks the girl was murdered."

    There are lots of small, subtle shifts in this scene, some or all of which might have been smothered or obscured by a musical score.

    The scene concludes with Mack asking the coroner to keep him informed of the autopsy results, not as a professional duty, but as a favour. “It’s personal,” he explains, and with those words, he relinquishes his self-appointed role as KNOTS LANDING's objective outsider. That title is immediately adopted by Janet, aka Detective, Baines. The final shot of the scene is of her watching Mack quizzically as he walks away, and it is through her eyes that we then view the regular characters' reactions to Ciji’s death as she goes from house to house questioning them.

    “People like us don’t get involved in murders,” Karen insists later in the episode. “People like us do and are,” counters Mack. This is KNOTS’ USP in a nutshell - ordinary (or at least identifiable) people finding themselves in extraordinary circumstances. (It’s also a mite disingenuous - in its bid to depict Karen as “people like us”, the show conveniently overlooks the Jessica Fletcher style master plan she singlehandedly devised and executed to put the men responsible for her own husband’s murder behind bars earlier in the season.)

    Towards the end of the ep, KNOTS moves into more conventional territory as various characters are interrogated at the police station. It’s fun to see Kenny, Ginger, Richard and Gary put through their detective show paces by Baines and her enjoyably cynical partner, Lieutenant Morrison. An alcohol induced blackout means that Gary is unable to remember whether or not he killed Ciji, and he is subsequently arrested for the crime. This, of course, is exactly what happened to both Sue Ellen after the shooting of JR in DALLAS and (minus the alcohol) Lute Mae following the apparent killing of Michael Tyrone in FLAMINGO ROAD. More recently, the very same soap trope has recurred as part of the Lucy Beale murder storyline on EASTENDERS.

    The scene in the police station where Richard Avery complains about having to wait alongside “all this scum" (“They’re probably thinking the same thing about you,” suggests Laura) echoes both JR’s discomfort at sitting amongst the hoi polloi in the doctor’s waiting room in "Paternity Suit” (DALLAS Season 2) and Blake’s disdain for the people he was obliged to queue up alongside when visiting his parole officer in "Alexis’ Secret” (DYNASTY Season 2).

    There’s a lot of controversial suitcase packing in this week’s Soap Land. On KNOTS, Karen is alarmed to find Diana preparing to move to New York with her boyfriend, while on FALCON CREST, Chase is unhappy when Vicky moves out of the Gioberti house to shack up with her lover. Both daughters are calm but firm in the face of parental disapproval. “Chip and I are in love … and I wanna be with him,” Diana informs her mother. “I’m making a choice, a choice to be with Nick,” Vicky tells her father. “The way to make sure she goes is to forbid her to go,” Mack advises Karen. Maggie adopts a similarly pragmatic approach. “I’m not gonna try to stop you,” she tells Vicky. "Not that I could anyway … I think the time has come for you to make your own decisions.”

    This week’s DALLAS, meanwhile, opens with Pam loading her car full of luggage before driving away from Southfork. Reaction to her departure is mixed. “Bobby’s out there, moping in her dust,” reports JR with a smile on his face. “How can you be so happy at a time like this?” scolds Sue Ellen. Miss Ellie blames Pam’s departure on Bobby himself: “You just don’t understand what’s happening to you!”

    While Miss Ellie describes Bobby as "obsessed with beating JR”, Chase is, according to estranged wife Maggie, “possessed” by the Carlo Agretti murder investigation. Pam and Maggie both feel they have no choice but to stay away until their husbands come to their senses, and each has moved into a hotel. Pam's suite at the Fairview might be more spacious than Maggie’s modest room at the Tuscany Valley Inn, but has far less character. Both couples meet to discuss their problems this week - Pam and Bobby at a restaurant, Chase and Maggie in the latter’s hotel room. In each case, the discussion swiftly becomes an argument and the husband storms off in a huff before any differences can be resolved.

    Back on KNOTS, during an argument with Mack over Diana, Karen accidentally calls him Sid, thereby becoming the third Soap Land character of the season to commit the cardinal error of referring to a current (or prospective) love interest by a previous partner’s name. First Cliff Barnes mis-identified Afton as Sue Ellen when he emerged from his coma, and then Jeff Colby upset Kirby when he declared his love for her thinking she was Fallon. This led to Kirby accepting Adam’s dinner invitation and subsequently to her rape. The same pattern recurs this week when Kirby bares her soul to Jeff again, this time in hospital, only for him to fall asleep on her. Feeling rejected once more, she impulsively decides to quit her job as the Carrington nanny and accept Adam’s offer to work as a translator for Colby Co. Given the rarified world of Carringtons and Colbys she is caught up in, there’s something about Kirby’s self destructive behaviour that rings intriguingly and psychologically true.

    Most of the rest of this week’s DYNASTY is dumb, clunky fun - from Mark Jennings’ solemn speech about the hardships of looking good in tennis shorts to Dr Ling's mysterious patient seeing his new face for the first time. His verdict is grudgingly favourable: “Thank-you for giving me a face I can live with,” he says.

    In a season that has already seen major inheritances for the Ewing brothers, Holly Harwood, Melissa Cumson, Richard Channing and Jeff and Alexis Colby, it is now time for Cliff Barnes, Pam Ewing and Katherine Wentworth to each receive a share of their mother’s empire. While Cliff is bequeathed full ownership of Barnes Wentworth Oil, Pam and Katherine inherit their mother’s shares of Wentworth Industries (or what has since been renamed on New DALLAS as Ewing Global). However, no Soap Land will would be complete unless it spawned an uneasy business alliance between family members (such as those existing between JR and Bobby at Ewing Oil, Angela and Chase at Falcon Crest, and Alexis and Jeff at Colby Co). Rebecca’s decision to divvy up the voting shares in Wentworth Tool and Die between Cliff and his two half-sisters exactly parallels what Douglas Channing did with the New Globe on FALCON CREST, where Richard Channing and his half sisters, Julia and Emma, are the three major shareholders.

    The New Globe is where Soap Land’s first ever use of a computer as a plot point takes place this week when Emma cracks Richard’s access code and discovers several secret payments made to Carlo Agretti shortly before his death. Chase’s theory that Carlo was blackmailing Richard gains credibility when Angela learns that Richard’s adoptive father, Henri Denault, was a Nazi collaborator during World War II - and that Carlo knew about it!

    So it is that this week’s KNOTS LANDING ends with Gary Ewing being arrested as part of one "whodunnit?" story-line, and FALCON CREST with Richard Channing emerging as a primary suspect in the other.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    23/Feb/83: DYNASTY: Battle Lines v 24/Feb/83: KNOTS LANDING: The Fatal Blow v. 25/Feb/83: DALLAS: Brothers and Sisters v. 25/Feb/83: FALCON CREST: Ultimatums

    A week after Emma Channing's demands for a corner office and a male secretary at the New Globe are met on FALCON CREST, DYNASTY’s Alexis finally gets her own office - and an assistant called David - at Colby Co. In the female boss/male underling stakes, both women have already pipped to the post by Holly Harwood on DALLAS, but while Holly might boast the most unconventional workplace arrangements in Soap Land, (so far this season, we’ve seen her conduct business meetings aboard her yacht, beside her pool and in her bedroom) Alexis’s new headquarters are arguably the most extravagant. Previously hubby Cecil’s office then nephew Jeff’s, it’s been so extensively made over, (the desk now balances on what appear to be elephant tusks) that it might as well be a new set. It’s also filmed very impressively - the shots from outside the window looking in are particularly striking in this week’s ep.

    Once again, the power of the media makes itself felt in this week’s Soap Land. For JR in DALLAS, it is a welcome presence as he receives 143 pieces of fan mail prompted by his appearances on Roy Ralston's TV talk show. "If you ever decide to run for political office, those people would vote for you,” Ralston tells him. For sister-in-law Val on KNOTS LANDING, the press has now become the enemy. A small army of reporters and photographers have set up camp outside her front door, hungry for her reaction to Gary’s arrest for Ciji’s murder. “I feel like I’m in my own prison,” she frets, essentially under house arrest for almost the entire episode. Over on FALCON CREST, Angela uses the press as a weapon as she threatens to expose Henri Denault’s Nazi past. “You get Richard out of my way,” she orders him, "because if you don’t, I’ll have you on the front page of every newspaper in the Western world.”

    Travel is very much in the air this week, with characters to-ing and fro-ing all over the US and beyond. On DYNASTY, a freshly divorced Fallon returns from Haiti accompanied by Mark J while on DALLAS, Mark G flies Pam to El Paso on his private jet and Miss Ellie accompanies Clayton to San Angelo to bid farewell to the Southern Cross. Angela begins this week’s FALCON CREST in Paris before detouring to New York on her way home in order to blackmail Henri Denault. At the end of this week’s DYNASTY, Blake receives a call from Dan Cassidy in Hong Kong, declaring that he may have just seen Steven alive in a local hospital.

    There are just as many trips aborted as taken in this week’s eps. Blake prevents Alexis from whisking Jeff away from his hospital bed to a private clinic in Switzerland (in the hope that she can keep the cause of his collapse a secret). On KNOTS, Laura declining Richard’s suggestion of a Mexican vacation snuffs out his last hope that their marriage might be saved. Two doors down, Val tearfully refuses Jeff Munson’s offer of a return trip to New York, thereby ending their relationship. NY is similarly a no-no for both Chip Roberts, who postpones his fresh start in the Big Apple, (“I can’t desert my friends now, they need me”) and Richard Channing on FALCON CREST, whose defiance of Henri Denault’s summons to New York leads to a deadly confrontation on the Gorman Bridge.

    The parallels between Bobby and Pam’s estrangement on DALLAS and Chase and Maggie’s on FALCON CREST continue. Whereas Pam has lunch with Mark Graison to discuss a deal on her brother’s behalf, Maggie dines with Daryl Clayton to review the latest amendments to her screenplay. Both meetings are strictly business, but neither man can resist undermining his dining companion’s marital status. "It seems to me that your commitment to Chase is not as strong as you led me to believe,” suggests Daryl. “You're already a single lady, you just haven't made it legal yet,” maintains Mark. Pam’s sister Katherine and Chase’s cousin Emma each volunteer their services as an intermediary for the unhappy couple, but neither get very far. The difference between the two women, of course, is that Katherine is secretly trying to sabotage Bobby and Pam’s marriage. To this end, she arranges for Bobby to see Pam and Mark lunching together. Similarly, on FALCON CREST, Chase discovers Maggie and Daryl having drinks in the bar of the Tuscany Inn. Neither husband is exactly pleased by what he sees. Bobby’s subsequent visit to Pam’s hotel suite lasts three minutes before he loses his temper and storms out, which is a full sixty seconds longer than Maggie manages when she drops by the Gioberti house to see Chase.

    For all the similarities that now exist between the soaps - and let’s not forget the two whodunits running concurrently on KNOTS and FALCON CREST, where Mack Mackenzie and Chase Gioberti continue to second guess the investigations being run by Sheriff Robbins and Detective Baines respectively - each of this week’s episodes includes at least one scene that somehow encapsulates the flavour of that particular soap - i.e., a scene you could only imagine seeing on that specific show and not any of the others.

    On DYNASTY, it comes just after Blake has discovered Alexis in Jeff’s hospital room, about to spirit him away to the Swiss Alps. With wondrous DYNASTY logic, Alexis is already dressed entirely in white, from fluffy hat to kinky boot, as if she were planning to ski herself all the way from Denver to Gstaad. Having forbidden the trip, Blake drags a furious Alexis into the hospital corridor where she lashes out at him physically and he raises an arm to ward her off. Teeth bared in anger, she delivers the thrillingly nonsensical line, "God, how I hate to see you choke on your own bloody arrogance!”

    KNOTS’ defining moment comes at the end of the episode. Having learned that Ciji was actually killed by a blow to head in her apartment and that her body was only later dumped in the ocean, Val has concluded that she must be responsible for the fatal blow and that Gary then moved the body to protect her. She decides to give herself up to the police. Emerging from her house for the first time in the ep, a handheld camera then tracks her journey as she struggles through the media scrum to get to her car, Lilimae following behind, helplessly pleading with her to change her mind. Here, I’m reminded of two religious icons at the same time: Val is Joan of Arc, beyond all earthly reason and answering only to a higher calling, while Lilimae is Jesus’s mother weeping at the crucifixion. A trashy whodunnit evoking such emotive imagery? This can only be KNOTS LANDING.

    The end of this week’s DALLAS is classic JR. Having summoned dogsbody Walt Driscoll to his darkened office, he reveals his latest plan - to sell one million barrels of oil to Cuba. Highly illegal but hugely profitable, this is JR’s most outrageous scheme since … well, his last most outrageous scheme.

    The scene unique to FALCON CREST is the confrontation between Richard Channing and Henri Denault which results in Denault's demise. The circumstance of the death itself - a struggle between two men over a gun, resulting in one of them inadvertently falling from a great height - is hardly unique. From Julie Grey to Jason Gioberti to Joshua Rush to Marta Del Sol, a succession of Soap Land characters have met their destinies in quite a similar way. However, the events leading up to the death - the twisted, Frankenstein-like relationship between adoptive father and son ("You were nothing but a blank slate when I adopted you ... I created you!”), the sinister European backdrop - feel particular to FALCON CREST - not that there isn’t also a significant debt owed to MARATHON MAN in the climactic showdown between an unrepentant Nazi collaborator (“The opportunities were too great for me to allow archaic notions of morality and patriotism to stand in my way”) and a younger man, with E.G. Marshall and David Selby proving ideal Soap Land substitutes for Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman.

    Following Ciji’s murder and Rebecca’s crash, Denault’s plummet is the third Soap Land death in as many weeks. Each is commemorated by a touching scene this week. The best of these is the chance encounter between Ciji’s mother and the Averys in KNOTS. When Mrs. Dunne (we never learn her first name) starts recounting a story from Ciji's childhood, it sounds like the beginning of an epitaph ("When she was six years old, I enrolled her in Carolyn Dewbarry’s Tap & Ballet School above the Odeon Theatre on the seventh floor. It was Carolyn Dewbarry who changed Ciji’s life …”) before turning into something much darker (“She dissipated her life away! ... She was a tramp!”). With exquisite irony, it’s left to Richard Avery, of all people, to pay tribute to Ciji. (“She worked hard, long hours because she wanted to be the best, the best for the people she sang for … She touched us all in a very special way.”) I’ve always thought this was a really good scene that, while doing nothing to advance the plot, provided fresh and unexpected insights into Richard's and Ciji’s characters. This time around, however, I realise it does advance the plot, at least in regard to the Avery marriage. By defending Ciji so gallantly, Richard partially redeems himself in Laura’s eyes. This, in turn, gives him fresh hope they can start again - a hope that is swiftly dashed. “I just want to be alone,” she tells him.

    This sentiment is echoed in the final scene of this week’s FALCON CREST when Diana Hunter tries to assure Richard Channing of her loyalty in the aftermath of his father’s death. “Leave me alone,” he snaps, bitter and grieving. This leaves Diana, like KNOTS’ Richard, another soon-to-depart character, on the outside looking in.

    DALLAS’s equivalent grief-related scene is between Pam and Cliff, in which Pam attempts to assuage her brother’s guilt over their mother's death: “She didn’t blame you. All she ever did was love you ... She asked me to take care of you and I’m trying if you’ll just let me.” In contrast to the scenes of estrangement between the Averys on KNOTS, and Richard Channing and Miss Hunter on FC, this exchange serves to reestablish the bond between Pam and Cliff.

    While Jeff Colby’s sanity has apparently been restored on DYNASTY - having been discharged from Soap Land Memorial Hospital, he returns to the Carrington mansion to begin a romance with Kirby - Gary Ewing’s mental and physical health take a turn for the worse as he undergoes alcohol withdrawal in jail. This leads to Soap Land’s grimmest scene to date as a repulsed Abby witnesses him fitting and retching during detox. (Throughout this prolonged sequence, Ted Shackelford manages to look even older than he will when Gary returns to DALLAS in 2014.) By comparison, Phyllis's discovery of Bobby asleep on his office couch after tying one on at the Cattleman’s Club seems pretty mild.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    02/Mar/83: DYNASTY: Reunions in Singapore v 03/Mar/83: KNOTS LANDING: The Burden of Proof v. 04/Mar/83: DALLAS: Caribbean Connection v. 04/Mar/83: FALCON CREST: Maelstrom

    There's an Asian element to both DYNASTY and FALCON CREST this week. While Blake Carrington travels to Singapore to find out if Steven really is alive, the key to unravelling Carlo Agretti's death appears to lie in San Francisco's Chinatown. Characters central to both stories are played by the same actor, James Hong. As Dr. Chen on DYNASTY, he is the one is asking the questions as he determines to uncover the true identity of the patient upon whom he has performed extensive plastic surgery. He is so persistent that the reluctant patient tries to abscond from the hospital. As humble gardener Charles Fong on FALCON CREST, meanwhile, he is the character with the secret who is running away. After his fingerprints are discovered on the door of a hidden tunnel on the Agretti estate, Chase concludes that he must have opened it for Carlo’s killer. The police then put out an APB on Fong, who promptly goes into hiding.

    Before the name of Dr. Chen’s patient has been even revealed, Alexis has begun positioning her sons as Soap Land's next Cain and Abel, extolling Steven's many virtues to a clearly jealous Adam. “His decency, his sensitivity, his capacity for love ..." “His perversion, you mean?” Adam counters. Soap Land's other sibling rivalries are bubbling along nicely too. “Be sure to tell Jacqueline that you’re trying to prove her other son guilty of murder - she’s gonna get a big kick out of that!” Maggie tells Chase with reference to his campaign against half-brother Richard on FALCON CREST. Meanwhile, the conflict between FC's warring cousins reaches a climax of sorts with a terrifically staged fight between Cole and Lance in the winery. In spite of Lance's sneaky martial arts moves, Cole eventually gets the better of him, prompting some very convincing punch drunk acting from Lorenzo Lamas. Meanwhile, on DALLAS, Bobby spends the episode first piecing together, then trying to prevent his brother's plan to sell oil to the Cubans. The two only really interact at the very end of the ep when they pass each other in the Ewing Oil reception and exchange a few fake pleasantries. As Bobby steps into the elevator, a smug JR has no idea that he is on his way to ... well, actually we don't have much idea of where Bobby's going either, but we know it involves Ray, Walt Driscoll and a phoney briefcase. As a smiling JR turns away from him, the elevator door begins to close on Bobby, staring grimly at his brother, and the frame freezes on one of DALLAS's coolest end-of-episode shots ever. So cool, in fact, it was echoed at the end of a second season ep of New DALLAS, only that time it's a slow motion Bobby walking away from Cliff with a sly smile on his face.

    The predominant prime time TV genre in the US, prior to the ‘80s Soap Land boom, was (I assume) the cop/detective show, and it often seems as if the characters in soaps have inherited some of their time slot antecedents' crime-busting instincts. How else to explain Karen “Ordinary" Fairgate's ability to single-handedly put her husband's killers behind bars as she did earlier this season, or airline pilot-turned-vintner Chase Gioberti's innate sleuthing skills or the way Texas cowboys Bobby and Ray can this week transform themselves into Starsky and Hutch - effortlessly infiltrating Walt Driscoll's motel room, prying open his locked briefcase and accessing the false bottom therein, before devising whatever intricate plan it is they’re about to put into action?

    Back on DYNASTY, the identity of the man in the hospital is confirmed for the viewer when Blake, en route to Hong Kong, flashes back to Steven's final scene at the end of last season, only this time re-staged with Steven's face hidden from the camera. His voice, however, now matches that of the mystery patient. Ergo, the patient is Steven. As played by Al Corley, Steven's original farewell ranks as the most poignant Soap Land exit thus far - excluding those that ended in death (Sid Fairgate), took place off screen (Matthew Blaisdel) or both (Jock Ewing). However, this week's KNOTS LANDING sees an even sadder departure as Richard Avery pulls up stakes and drives out of the cul-de-sac for the last time. Like Steven a year ago, he's headed for Destination Unknown (i.e., disappearing into thin air).

    In Steven’s farewell scene, we saw him tell his assembled family exactly how he felt about them. What’s so achingly poignant about Richard's exit on KNOTS is that he denies himself such an opportunity. With only the viewer at home in on his plan to leave, his good-byes must be veiled. "How do you like being married again?" he asks best friend Karen at the end of their final conversation. "The best is yet to come," he assures son Jason in their last scene together. Jason remains oblivious to the significance of the hug his father then gives him. That's what's so wrenching - watching Richard speaking to people for what he knows and we know, but they don't know, is the last time.

    Driving quietly out of the cul-de-sac at the end of the ep, Richard stops briefly and allows himself a final look back at what he is leaving behind. A small but haunting moment, it reminds me of similarly understated farewells in long-running British dramas - Sarah Jane Smith's in DOCTOR WHO, Heather Haversham's in BROOKSIDE.

    As Richard Avery departs, Steven Carrington returns. This, of course, is not the first time a Soap Land character has been brought back from the dead. In its first few years, DALLAS resurrected a couple of figures who were believed to have died during the show's prehistory - Miss Ellie's brother, Pam and Cliff's mother. However, Dusty Farlow was the first person to be both introduced and killed off on screen before staging a miraculous, if reluctant, return. For Dusty and now Steven, resurrection comes at a steep physical price - paralysis and impotence for Dusty, a new face for Steven. And just as Dusty rejected Sue Ellen's attempts to revive their relationship, so Steven turns his back on Blake's invitation to return to the bosom of his family. Unlike Sue Ellen, however, Blake has a trump card that stops Steven in his tracks. "Can you walk out on your own infant son?” he asks him.

    Elsewhere on this week’s DYNASTY, Adam lures Kirby to a motel under a false pretext and when she rejects his advances, tries to rape her again. This time, however, Jeff rides to the rescue and saves the damsel in distress. Adam's bitterness, frustration and delusions of grandeur are all convincingly depicted. Meanwhile, on DALLAS, JR forces himself on Holly again - only not sexually this time. In a great scene in Holly's bedroom, he coerces her into participating in the Cuban deal. With no gun to aim at him, all she can do is narrow her eyes in hatred. "You are the most despicable human being," she tells him. "Maybe so," he replies calmly, "but I'm also in a hurry. Now, this deal could win me Ewing Oil. If I lose it because you won't sign, I'll see you lose far more."

    There are two Soap Land proposals this week: an episode after his divorce from Fallon, Jeff pops the question to Kirby. Marrying in even more haste, FALCON CREST's Nick and Vicky set a wedding date before Nick's divorce has even been finalised. What could possibly go wrong?

    This week's KNOTS is in kind of a strange place, with much of the episode taken up with the consequences of Val confessing to a murder she cannot possibly have committed. At certain points, the lack of credibility surrounding her story is incorporated into the script: the detectives' bemused reactions, Abby’s ill-advised fit of the giggles when she hears the news. At others, the episode seems to flirt with self-parody. The scene where Gary and Val start screaming at each other in Ciji's apartment and have to be restrained by two different sets of cops as the screen fades knowingly to black is just as outrageous - and laugh out loud funny - as Blake and Krystle’s storm-lashed mountainside reunion in the opening episode of this season's DYNASTY.

    Having been arrested, there is a prolonged sequence where we see Val undergo booking procedure at the police station - her mug shot and fingerprints are taken, her jewellery is removed, etc. These are the exact same indignities we saw Sue Ellen subjected to after she was charged with shooting JR almost three years ago. The enjoyment derived from both sequences is the same: it's the incongruity of seeing Mrs. Ewing herself - first glamorous but bewildered Sue Ellen, now sensitive but bewildered Val - receiving the same treatment as any common criminal in the real world. "This country has strange notions of justice, Chao Li Chi,” observes a minor character in this week’s FALCON CREST, but here we’re shown that not even a Ewing wife is above the law.

    Val’s confession aside, we’re no closer to finding out who really did kill Ciji. During a conversation with Karen, Mack comes up with a list of suspects consisting of nearly every character on the show. There’s also an enjoyably contrived set-piece where Lilimae loudly and publicly accuses Abby of the murder. Over on FALCON CREST, all fingers are pointing at Richard Channing for the killing of Carlo Agretti. To further complicate matters, Richard then finds himself suspected of a second murder, that of his father, Henri Denault, who fell off a bridge in last week's episode.

    Also on FALCON CREST, Maggie ditches her career as a screenwriter in order to return to the bosom of her family. Curiously, her decision is depicted as a kind of emancipation - trading the phoniness of a glamorous career for the realness of being a wife and mother. From her KNOTS LANDING jail cell, it's a safe bet that fellow writer Val would give anything to make the same exchange. "The thing that I just can't let go of," she whispers, still harbouring the illusion that it was she who killed Ciji and that Gary then moved the body to protect her, "when I first thought that I might have killed her, that she really could have died by my hands, I never ever thought, 'You killed somebody. You actually took somebody's life.' I thought, 'He tried to protect me! He must still love me!'" Meanwhile, on DALLAS, Sue Ellen nobly agrees to go public about her infidelities and alcoholism if it means helping her husband's political career. For all the female boss/male secretary gimmickry we've seen in recent weeks, it still seems that what most Soap Land women really want is a man to stand by. The exception is Abby on KNOTS, who decides that for the time being, she's better off with Gary behind bars - especially now that he's signed over his power of attorney in Gary Ewing Enterprises to her. To this end, we see her on the phone to an off-screen Miss Ellie, discouraging her from visiting Gary (and presumably bailing him out of jail). Her clever excuse is that Ellie's presence in California would only attract unwelcome media attention for what is essentially "a misunderstanding". Miss Ellie doesn’t seem to need too much convincing. Besides, she currently has her hands full helping Clayton look for a new house.

    Like Gary, FALCON CREST’s Julia also signs over her shares this week, transferring her New Globe proxy to Lance so that she can leave town and make a fresh start with long lost husband Tony. However, when Tony's pregnant girlfriend opens the door to her in San Diego, she realises that there is no new life - it was just a trick on Lance's part to get her out of the way. A son destroying his mother - and so casually too? This is truly a Soap Land first. The fact that it comes almost out of nowhere - Lance and Julia have shared some tender scenes during the past couple of years - does not detract from the impact of his treachery. Quite the opposite, in fact. Just one question: before burning all her bridges at Falcon Crest to begin a new life with a notoriously unreliable ex, why wouldn't Julia think to speak to him first, if only on the phone? The answer: when the results of Lance’s plan are so deliciously cruel, who cares?

    Chip Roberts and Mickey Trotter, male twenty-somethings who arrived in the Ewingverse at the beginning of this season, each find themselves on the receiving end of a stern talking to from an older woman this week. "When I see you, I see what a foolish woman I've become, blinded by flattery and lies," Lilimae tells Chip on KNOTS. "You are a cocky, snotty little kid," Donna scolds Mickey on DALLAS. While Lilimae reflects on the past, ("This all started with you,” she reminds Chip) Donna is more concerned about the future. "Ray happens to think the world of you,” she informs Mickey. "He has a great big emotional investment in you, and, y'know, I just keep thinkin' that, one of these days, you are gonna let him down with a great big thud!" Mickey, who starts off this scene making wisecracks about the size of the Krebbs house, ends up almost in tears as he insists he has changed and won't let Ray down. "Maybe I am the one that's wrong. I hope so," Donna concedes grudgingly. There are no such second chances for Chip, however. "I want you out of this house,” Lilimae tells him.

    Another season-long relationship comes to an end this week as Richard Channing excommunicates Diana Hunter for spying on him for his late father. There's something brilliantly exciting about the controlled Miss Hunter suddenly becoming a loose cannon, even as Shannon Tweed's acting abilities are stretched to the limit. I love the moment where she watches from the shadows as Richard is abducted by two thugs in an underground car park.

    This is the penultimate episode of the season for both FALCON CREST and KNOTS. In FC in particular, there’s an intangible sense of a noose tightening, especially with regard to Richard. Grieving for his father, a suspect in two murders, betrayed by his lover and under pressure from his unknown boss to return to New York, watching a character this powerful come unglued is riveting stuff. With David Selby (arguably Soap Land's most compelling actor at this point) taking such a central role, the ep’s sinister atmosphere is not dissimilar to that of FLAMINGO ROAD’s final instalments a year earlier, but with the supernatural element replaced by one of violence. Even the episode's one bonafide happy moment, Chase and Maggie's reconciliation in the winery is interrupted by someone's attempt to crush them to death by dropping a bunch of wine barrels on top of them.

    Richard Channing’s KNOTS equivalent is Abby. Angered by her rival’s murder confession ("This is so Val, I could just scream!”), rattled by Lilimae’s accusations ("Shut up! Just shut up!”) and still trying to keep things together for her kids, there’s just one moment (alone in a bathroom) where she allows herself to lose control, hurl a perfume bottle at the wall and give into tears.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are ... it's a close run thing …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    09/Mar/83: DYNASTY: Fathers and Sons v 10/Mar/83: KNOTS LANDING: Willing Victims v. 11/Mar/83: DALLAS: The Sting v. 11/Mar/83: FALCON CREST: Climax

    This week's KNOTS LANDING and FALCON CREST make for contrasting season finales, as indicated by their episode titles. While “Climax” pretty much does what it says on the tin, (even if there is an awful lot of pre-wedding happy family foreplay to get through before we reach the really juicy stuff) “Willing Victims” is a more unusual title for a more unusual finale. Indeed, this instalment of KNOTS is really in a league of its own. Most of the ep feels more psychological than plot driven, as it focuses on Gary's state of mind in the two days leading up to his preliminary court hearing. “Gary’s his own worst enemy,” says Mack, neatly articulating the situation. "He’s gotta open up and help defend himself.” But who will be able to get through to him in time - Abby or Val?

    This week’s DYNASTY, meanwhile, which concentrates chiefly on Steven’s homecoming, is pretty much irresistible. A big, swirly episode full of big, swirly emotions and driven along by a big, swirly score, it’s as touching as it is daft. There are some unusually sweet moments - Krystle breaking the news of Steven’s resurrection to a grateful Alexis marks the first time the two women have been anything but hostile to one another, while Krystle's scene with Jeanette the maid, in which she allows her mixed feelings about Steven’s return to surface - now that he is alive, she can no longer adopt his child - is unexpectedly moving. (Linda Evans is really great here.)

    This is one of several times this season where Krystle’s situation echoes that of Soap Land’s original bride from the wrong side of the tracks, Pam Ewing. Her accidental bigamy coming back to haunt her is a spin on Pam’s predicament in the early DALLAS stand alone ep “Double Wedding”, while the story of her and Blake’s efforts to adopt the son of a deceased family member starts off mirroring Bobby and Pam’s adoption of Christopher, before morphing this week into the Season 2 episode where Pam tearfully surrenders her attachment to Baby John when Sue Ellen decides to assume her maternal responsibilities.

    There two Soap Land weddings this week, bringing the season’s total up to five. On DYNASTY, Jeff and Kirby elope to Reno where they are married by the same judge who previously declared Jock Ewing dead and ordered Val and Gary to take in Lilimae. Like Mack and Karen’s Vegas wedding on KNOTS, the ceremony is a tad eccentric, but where the Mackenzies’ nuptials were knowingly comedic (and maybe even a little smug), the Colbys’ are more naturally sweet and fumbly. Nick Hogan and Vicky Gioberti’s wedding at Falcon Crest is comparatively formal, more in the vein of JR and Sue Ellen’s remarriage at Southfork. As that celebration did, this one ends in violence, but instead of a poolside punch up, there is a fatal shooting. Yes, just as the first Soap Land wedding of the season - Alexis and Cecil’s on DYNASTY - ended in death, so does the last one. (But who’s in the coffin? Tune in next season to find out!)

    New York continues to be a controversial Soap Land hotspot. Steven’s announcement that he is “going to New York!”, followed by Blake’s unhappy reaction shot, ends this week’s DYNASTY. Meanwhile, on KNOTS, our final glimpse of Karen MacKenzie for the season is her hysterical response to the news that Diana has left for New York with Chip, aka violent felon Tony Fenice. (In the KNOTS finale's one blatant plot contrivance, no sooner do Chip and Diana drive away from the cul-de-sac than private eye Ronald Mackey - a possible cousin to John Mackey, the PI who helped Pam track down Rebecca in DALLAS two years ago - shows up brandishing a wanted poster of Chip under his real name.)

    Over on FALCON CREST, Richard Channing has already been held captive in New York for a week when this episode begins. (The disappearances of Richards Channing and Avery in this week’s Soap Land are viewed by various parties as an indication of their guilt of the respective murders for which they have been suspected.) Eventually, Richard C is ushered into an office to meet the real head of the complex organisation he has been working for his whole adult life. As “the chair spins round to reveal …" moments go, this one beats Logan Rhinewood turning out to be Cecil Colby in DYNASTY hands down. It’s also Soap Land’s biggest “My God, that’s my mother!” moment since Fallon and Steven looked on as Alexis took the stand at Blake’s trial. In fact, the discovery that Chase and Richard’s ditzy mother Jacqueline is the secret CEO of a ruthless international cartel is one of most joyously absurd moments in all of Soap Land. “Haven’t you heard? Women are coming into their own,” she coos, wielding a cigarette holder as if that explains everything. For some reason, more than Angela Channing or Alexis Colby or Rebecca Wentworth, Jacqueline Perrault feels like the true progenitor of New DALLAS’s Judith Ryland - even if Judith would most likely snort Jacqueline for breakfast.

    The murder investigations in KNOTS and FALCON CREST each run aground this week. Laura Avery might be convinced that her husband Richard killed Ciji before taking off, but she can’t get anyone else to take her claim seriously. “With Gary’s arrest and him not willing to defend himself, it takes the energy right out of the investigation,” Mack explains to Karen. Meanwhile, on FALCON CREST, Sheriff Robbins tells Chase that the search for Charles Fong, the key witness in the Agretti murder case, is over following the death of Fong’s uncle, who was the only solid link they had to him. (Following Gus Nuneoz, Carlo Agretti and Henri Denault, Fong Senior becomes FALCON CREST’s fourth dead patriarch of the season.)

    In this week’s Ewingverse, Miss Ellie and Lilimae each find themselves caught between one of their children and an estranged spouse. On DALLAS, Miss Ellie has an awkward encounter when she bumps into daughter-in-law Pam lunching with Mark Graison. After she fails to report the meeting to Bobby and he finds out about it anyway, he asks her why she kept quiet. "It's not my business," she squirms. "I don't want to get in the middle of it.” Lilimae does not exercise the same restraint regarding her daughter’s marriage on KNOTS, however. "Gary Ewing kills people!” she yells at Val, who is still obsessed with helping her ex. "He’s killing you now, Valene!”

    “JR’s and Gary’s marriages have always been so troubled,” reflects Miss Ellie during her scene with Bobby. Notably, this observation comes a week after her off-screen phone conversation with Abby on KNOTS and is as close as DALLAS will ever get to acknowledging Gary and Val’s split. Lilimae apologises to Val for her outburst, meanwhile, in an exquisitely written scene between the two women. “I’m sorry for the pain love has caused you,” she tells her movingly.

    While Gary and Val are emotionally broken on KNOTS, their daughter Lucy is slowly coming back to life on DALLAS. So sweetly tentative has Mickey’s courtship of her been (“I never asked a girl if I could kiss her before …") that she really is like a virgin, touched for the very first time. Meanwhile, Mickey’s KNOTS LANDING counterpart, Chip Roberts, makes love - strictly in the old fashioned sense - to Lucy’s grandmother one last time before leaving for New York. “I don’t know why but whenever I see a butterfly, I think of you,” he tells her. "I leave with you in my heart, Lilimae, and if I failed you, forgive me, and trust that my failures are not yours. Good-bye, butterfly.” For all that Chip is a deceitful, violent sociopath, you still can't help hoping that a part of him means what he is saying. His parting gift to Lilimae is a butterfly brooch. Over on DYNASTY, Mark Jennings notices Alexis wearing the pin with a bee on it that he gave her during their brief affair some weeks ago. They share a très sophisticated post-break up drink at La Mirage this week - all smiles and no-hard-feelings on the surface, while resentment and jealousy seethe underneath.

    On last week’s DYNASTY, Kirby found herself in a motel room, fending off the man who had raped her earlier in the season. On this week’s DALLAS, Lucy Ewing is also in a motel room, recounting her ordeal at the hands of Roger Larsen to Mickey. With that out of the way, they are free to take their relationship to the next level. “It’s not a suite at the Fairview or anything,” says Mickey apologetically, with regard to their surroundings. It’s not a suite at La Mirage either, which is where Fallon and Mark have also decided to seal the deal. Just as the scene between Lucy and Mickey is very tender, DYNASTY seems equally keen to emphasise that, in contrast to Mark’s fling with Alexis, his coupling with Fallon is about more than just animal lust. Alas, the intimacy of the moment is somewhat undermined by the '80s saxophone wailing on the soundtrack.

    The big story in DALLAS this week is the successful derailing of JR’s Cuban deal by Bobby and Ray, which results in Walt Driscoll landing in jail on a gun smuggling charge. Even though Walt's $2,500 bail is a fraction of the $5,000,000 required to secure Gary’s bond on KNOTS LANDING, JR has no intention of paying it (“I wouldn’t give you the dust off my car!”). Willing victim Gary might be indifferent to his own fate, (“Pleading not guilty means acting not guilty,” Abby tells him. “I will never be 'not guilty',” he shrugs) Walt is not. “I swear I'll get back at you!" he yells after JR washes his hands of him.

    JR and Walt's situation is reversed on KNOTS. Determined to save Gary, Val spends much of the episode trying to find a way to gain access to him in jail. When she finally succeeds, Gary couldn’t be less happy to see her. “Get out of here! Get out of my life! Leave me alone!” he shouts, but she is insistent. "No one here needs a martyr,” she tells him. "Someone out there is getting away with murder while you play this pathetic game. If you had any respect for Ciji, you’d be doing everything in your power to put the real killer in here.” On FALCON CREST, Chase makes a similar eleventh-hour appeal to Charles Fong, whom he eventually tracks down at his uncle’s funeral (or the Chinese equivalent thereof). “He was an old man, a man of honour and pride,” weeps Charles for his uncle. "I have shamed him.” “You have a chance to correct that,” Chases points out.

    This week’s DALLAS is helmed by Larry Elikann. A veteran of each of the other Lorimar soaps, he is probably Soap Land's most visually distinctive director. DALLAS’s traditional house style, however, provides him with little opportunity for him to do his customary looming, cartoony, low-camera-angle thing. The scenes where he does get an opportunity to spread his wings, the two jail sequences and a great face-to-face confrontation between the Ewing boys in JR’s bedroom, are the episode’s highlights. (There’s also a scene where he has Pam and Katherine sitting on the floor of Pam’s hotel suite for no discernible reason, like a couple of high heeled hippies. It’s a little weird.)

    David Jacobs himself, meanwhile, directs this week’s KNOTS and does some interesting visual stuff, particularly during a couple of pivotal mother and daughter encounters. In a scene where Karen comes to Diana’s room to tell her that Chip was sleeping with Ciji before her death, one can pinpoint the exact moment where Diana begins to block out reality and where Karen starts coming unglued. Crudely put, it’s the start of both mother and daughter going individually nuts. For most of the scene, the camera hovers in the doorway, as if reluctant to intrude any closer.

    Meanwhile, at the beach house, Gary’s lawyer Mitch Casey confidently assures Abby that Gary will be freed after his preliminary hearing. Abby looks pleased, then waits until Mitch has left before calling her own attorney, Jim Westmont, and asking him first to fire Mitch and then to represent Gary himself in court (even though he is not a criminal lawyer). It’s a breathtaking moment - does Abby actually want Gary to be found guilty of murder? In addition, Olivia has been listening from another room the whole time. How much she has understood is unclear, but this is her first glimpse (at least on screen) of her mother's more calculating side - Abby is not just the carefree mom who takes her kids to Chick-O-Rama for dinner, or into her bed at night when they’ve had bad dreams. During this sequence, Jacobs has both mother and daughter framed separately, again through doorways, and viewed from a distance, as if to emphasise their isolation from one another.

    Another visually striking scene is Laura’s meltdown in the restaurant kitchen. Coming eleven months after Miss Ellie’s plate-smashing breakdown in the Southfork kitchen when the realisation of her husband’s death finally hit her, the acknowledgement of her husband’s desertion prompts a similar outburst from Laura. Whilst effective, the DALLAS scene has always seemed to me a neatly choreographed visual set piece. The KNOTS equivalent feels more spontaneous and real. There is no musical score accompanying Laura as she sets about the kitchen equipment with a frying pan, and the camera work is such that it really feels as if we are intruding on someone's raw, private distress. (Again, it’s something to do with the respectful distance the camera keeps from the actor.)

    From the sublime to … the denouement of FALCON CREST’s season long murder mystery. The scene where Charles Fong identifies Carlo’s killer in a room full of wedding guests is both stilted and thrilling, in much the same way that the “Who shot JR?” revelation on DALLAS was. Whereas his role of Dr. Chen on DYNASTY required him to unveil an entirely new face for Steven Carrington, James Hong’s part as Fong has him reveal an entirely new personality for Julia Cumson when he exposes her as the murderer. Julia’s subsequent speech, in which she hurriedly explains not only why she killed a man with whom she had no previous on-screen connection, but also why she then tried to bump off three of her closest friends, has a whiff of SCOOBY DOO about it. But while it might be ludicrous, it is also immensely exciting to discover that, all this time, the killer has been hiding not just in plain sight, but in the show’s opening titles.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are … again, it’s really close, they were all great ...

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    26/Sep/83: EMERALD POINT NAS: Pilot v. 28/Sep/83: DYNASTY: The Arrest v. 29/Sep/83: KNOTS LANDING: The People vs. Gary Ewing v. 30/Sep/83: DALLAS: The Road Back v. 30/Sep/83: FALCON CREST: Cimmerean Dawn

    Soap Land’s 1983/4 season gets off a cracking start with each of the returning soaps at the top of their game, plus a brand new one to boot. EMERALD POINT NAS is about a family steeped in the US Navy for seven generations. (That’s three more generations than the Giobertis have been at Falcon Crest.) There's an awful lot of scene setting in the double-length pilot, but the American naval world is a dense one to penetrate for a first-time viewer (especially an English one). Dennis Weaver takes the archetypal Soap Land role of stern but family oriented patriarch, but unlike self-made, self-aggrandising men like Jock Ewing and Blake Carrington, (“I studied and I sweat and I broke my back to learn the oil business, the oil business that this country can’t afford to do without!” declaimed Blake in a recent ep of DYNASTY) his character, Rear Admiral Thomas Mallory, is presented as a man of humility and service. Given that he is a fictional representative of the real life American military, this characterisation means the show avoids falling prey to heavy-handed jingoism or empty rhetoric - at least for now.

    Cuba, the unseen, unknowable enemy, is referred to in only the most respectful terms. The Tom Mallory we see in this ep wouldn't dream of describing that country’s population the way JR Ewing did at the end of last season’s DALLAS, as “a bunch of cigar chompers”.

    It’s through the show’s more dissenting voices that the drama slowly comes into focus and some familiar Soap Land themes start to emerge. “You know how I serve my country? By turning a profit and paying my taxes,” says rich businessman Harlan Adams, a lifelong frenemy of Tom’s in the mould of Cecil Colby. "I hate the Navy, I’ve always hated it,” says Celia, the most outspoken of Tom's three daughters, played by Laurie Partridge. "Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one Mallory, sometime, just once, decided to grow up and be something landlocked and earthbound like a farmer or a coal miner?” “I like being a lawyer in the Navy,” counters her husband Jack. "It’s one of the few places left where corruption isn’t a way of life, where judges can’t be bought.” “And you get to wear a nice, snappy looking uniform with shiny gold buttons,” Celia snaps back.

    Celia goes so far as threatening to have an abortion if Jack doesn’t quit his job in the navy: “If you think I’m going to raise yet another generation of Mallory navy brat, I won’t … I swear to God, I’ll find the strength to kill it.” This idea is taken a step further by Kirby on the new season of DYNASTY. Having learnt that she’s pregnant not by husband Jeff but by rapist Adam, (the same predicament Lucy Ewing found herself in at the beginning of last year’s DALLAS) she attempts to induce a miscarriage by deliberately falling from her horse.

    This season’s DYNASTY and DALLAS open almost identically, with Mark Jennings dragging Alexis and Krystle out of one burning building, and Bobby Ewing rescuing JR, Sue Ellen, Ray and John Ross from another. Both sequences are sort of exciting and anti-climactic at the same time, with all the characters making it to safety with relative ease. Of the two, the Southfork fire offers more spectacle owing to its location, while the confinement of the cabin on DYNASTY gives that blaze more intensity. In the immediate aftermath of each rescue comes a dramatic revelation. “The cabin door was locked from the outside,” Mark announces on DYNASTY. “Somebody deliberately set that fire!” “Ray tried to kill me,” accuses JR on DALLAS. “The fire started during the fight!” (Ray at least partially redeems himself when he rescues a calf from a stream later in the same episode.)

    The funeral scene that opens this week’s FALCON CREST provides the most satisfying cliffhanger resolution of the new season as we learn that the body in the coffin belongs to Jacqueline Perrault. This news is immediately followed by the introduction of Chase’s cousin, Dr. Michael Ranson, whom we quickly learn is a brilliant neurosurgeon who hasn’t wielded a scalpel in several years for a reason shrouded in mystery … just like DYNASTY’s Nick Toscanni two years ago.

    In contrast to all the other cliff-hanger and whodunnit denouements, the reveal of Ciji’s murderer on KNOTS goes almost unnoticed. There is no Charles Fong-style “It was you!” finger-pointing moment for Chip Roberts, who isn’t even in this week’s episode. Once his true identity as woman-beating Tony Fenice has been exposed, his guilt seems to be a foregone conclusion (for everyone but Laura, this is). The closest we get to a defining moment of revelation is during a hurried doorstep conversation between Mack and Lieutenant Baines. “You know that Chip Roberts is the killer, don’t you?” Mack asks impatiently, but Baines evades the question. In a way, KNOTS has already moved on from the mystery of Ciji’s murder. There are more immediate questions to be answered - where are Diana and Chip now? And how much danger is Diana in?

    In case we were in any doubt as to the importance of Chip and Diana’s whereabouts, it is literally shoved in our faces with the most extreme close-ups in Soap Land’s history. As Karen erupts with frustration over the DA’s reluctance to drop the charges against Gary and launch a full-scale search for Chip, a shot of her eyes staring at Mack fills the screen. We then cut to an equivalent shot of Mack’s looking back at hers, and then back to Karen’s again. That’s how intense things are now. Heck, when the KNOTS LANDING Everywoman screams at Laura and is visibly irritated by Lilimae, you know you’re in uncharted territory. She hasn’t even noticed Kenny and Ginger have left the series.

    Fashion trend of the week: Sue Ellen, Alexis and Krystle all rock the oxygen mask/nightdress/full eye make-up look in the wake of their respective infernos. Even though Sue Ellen refuses to be hospitalised, the beds at Soap Land Memorial are pretty full. Blake is at Krystle’s side when she comes round and misidentifies him as ex-husband Mark, just Cliff mistook Afton for ex-lover Sue Ellen a year ago. Like Cliff did then, FALCON CREST’s Chase Gioberti and DALLAS’s Mickey Trotter both start off the season in comas before waking to find themselves paralysed at the end of their respective episodes.

    Following the DYNASTY fire, Blake hopes that Krystle’s anger towards him will fade and they can reconcile. Meanwhile, Mark Graison frets that the Southfork fire might have a similar effect on Pam and Bobby’s marriage. (“All the plans your mother and I had may have just gone up in smoke,” he informs Christopher.) In the event, Krystle tells Blake that she isn’t ready to come back to him while Mark’s concerns seem justified when Pam admits she has decided to postpone divorce proceedings against Bobby.

    “Who started the cabin fire?” replaces “Who killed Carlo Agretti?” as Soap Land’s latest whodunit. Almost as a reflex, Alexis tries to pin the blame on Blake who, in turn, relishes the opportunity to remind her that the real would-be killer is still out there. “If that unknown somebody didn’t succeed last night, when does he try again?” he taunts. Meanwhile, on DALLAS, JR worries that Ray still wants to kill him. “Am I gonna have to walk around with an armed guard for the rest of my life?” he asks Bobby, who is assigned the role of peacekeeper between his two brothers. This leads to a great showdown where the three Ewing boys thrash out who is truly responsible for the crash that left Mickey paralysed. “If JR hadn’t double-crossed Driscoll,” Ray argues, "it never would have happened … If Mickey dies, it’s the same as if you killed him!” “Maybe I am guilty,” concedes JR, “but you and Bobby share that guilt because if that boy dies, we’re all responsible.” He goes on to remind them of the trap they set for Driscoll last season that landed him in jail. "None of us have clean hands, boys. None of us.” This theme of moral culpability is also touched on in FALCON CREST. “My mother is a murderer,” laments Lance. “Well, Lance, in a strange way, so is mine,” replies Emma matter-of-factly.

    There are now three ongoing murder cases in Soap Land, all at different stages of investigation and all subject to legal complications and bureaucracy. Tangling the characters up in this kind of procedural red tape gives a feeling of a world that is bigger than they are, and helps ground the more far-fetched elements of the various dramas in some sort of reality. On EMERALD POINT, Sela Ward’s bad girl has been two-timing her fiancé Glenn, aka the future Casey Denault from DALLAS, with Lute Mae’s toy-boy lover Tony from FLAMINGO ROAD. This leads to Casey being arrested for Tony’s murder. (The fact that Casey is Lute Mae’s real life son adds an extra Oedipal layer to the incident.) Dennis Weaver then battles to have Casey tried for murder under military rather than civil law so that he can face a court martial. On KNOTS, both Mack and Laura are convinced that someone other than Gary killed Ciji, but struggle to get Janet Baines to take any action. “The DA is not going to undercut his case against Gary,” she insists. Meanwhile, Gary challenges Abby’s right to appoint new counsel on his behalf, which results in the judge calling a recess before Gary’s hearing has even begun. Over on FALCON CREST, another judge denies Phillip Erickson’s application for bail on Julia’s behalf on the grounds that she is a danger to society.

    While we’re on the subject, to quote Charles Ryder in Brideshead Revisited, “it is time to speak of Julia". What are we to make of not only her retroactive transformation into a dangerous, unrepentant killer, but also the discovery that she was having a wildly passionate affair with Carlo Agretti before she murdered him - an affair that we are now shown through flashbacks, yet were given no on-screen indication of when it was actually happening? Or are these sequences just the fantasies of a deranged woman? Certainly, the flashback scenes have a similarly delirious, swoony quality to Kirby’s dream sequence in this week’s DYNASTY, in which her relationship with Adam is reimagined in a kind of 18th century DARK SHADOWS context, all high-necked collars, candlesticks and billowing curtains.

    While Kirby’s dream is filmed in gothic darkness, Julia’s flashback takes place in bright California sunlight. However, each comprises a single, unbroken shot of a couple facing each other while strange music plays eerily in the background. Both scenes ooze with florid dialogue and bodice-ripping passion with an undercurrent of violence. “Oh Kirby,” declares Adam, “I want a thousand nights with you, the two of us together making love, deep beautiful love!” “No, let go!” Kirby protests. “We could have it all, Julia!” booms Carlo. “I would do anything for you!” “I won’t deny you anything if you just stop talking!” Julia pants. “Carlo was an irresistibly attractive man,” she continues in the present, “capable of enormous love and awesome hatred. His power was frightening and attractive … He could have destroyed all of us.”

    From a narrative standpoint, Kirby’s dream exists as a way to convey her secret dilemma to us viewers, (“The baby inside you is mine,” says Adam) but why should we believe what a dream tells us any more than the flashbacks of a murderously deranged woman? What are the rules of storytelling in Soap Land anyhow - especially in those pre-VCR, pre-internet days, before we could review old episodes and state categorically that Julia could not have killed Carlo Agretti because she was in a different scene wearing a different sweater either just before or just after his death? (True, people had video recorders in 1983, but it’s probably safe to say the vast majority did not use them to watch and re-watch prime time American soaps.) In such circumstances, what is continuity but memory? And what is memory if not subjective?

    With that in mind, it’s ironic that this should be the week when KNOTS’ Karen finally asks Val about her relationship with DALLAS daughter Lucy: “It’s been a while since you’ve seen her, huh? Do you ever hear from her?” Val replies that she spoke to Lucy “a few days ago … she sounds real happy.” This doesn’t exactly chime with what’s been going on in DALLAS where Lucy is keeping a bedside vigil for her comatose boyfriend. But then comes the kicker at the end of the scene: “Val, how long has it really been since you talked with Lucy?” Karen persists, the two women walking down the beach away from the camera, their backs to us. “Not long,” comes Val’s reply, before adding sadly, “Seven or eight months.” This poignantly understated moment finally acknowledges the impossibility of sustaining an ongoing mother/daughter relationship when both characters are in different shows. Whatever crucial development has or hasn’t occurred between Val and Lucy has taken place away from the viewer’s gaze - and so we are left to fill the gap with our own imaginations.

    Julia Cumson and Karen Mackenzie aren’t the only characters presently teetering on the edge. On FALCON CREST, Lance describes Richard Channing as “close to going off the deep end” while on DALLAS, Miss Ellie is “real close to a nervous breakdown” according to Bobby. In addition, Sue Ellen admits to Clayton that John Ross “has been terribly hurt by JR and me. He's going to need help to become emotionally strong.” Opposite ends of the age range they may be, but Ewing grandma and grandson are both psychological casualties of the fight for Ewing Oil. But again, whatever traumas they have suffered have largely taken place off screen. Like Julia’s affair with Carlo and Val’s relationship with Lucy, we only have the characters’ words for what has occurred. (Speaking of events that we are not witness to, I imagine that Miss Ellie’s vacation at the Takapa resort is what New DALLAS will eventually translate into “a stay at a mental institution after Jock’s death”.)

    If FALCON CREST’s Richard really is “close to going off the deep end” then it’s understandable. Jacqueline’s death means he’s just lost his third parent in little over a year. As Laura did in the restaurant kitchen at the end of last season’s KNOTS, he suddenly erupts in his office, pulling down bookcases and trashing furniture in a grief-fuelled rage. Like Laura’s, there’s something very naked and moving about his outburst, and once again the camera keeps a respectful distance from him during the scene.

    “I know a lot of powerful and successful men in this country, JR Ewing for one, and they all have a very rare characteristic in common. They all have a sense of destiny about themselves. Crises, challenges - they are opportunities for them. They succeed because they won’t let themselves fail.” Abby’s little speech seems ironic given that JR has just surrendered the fight for Ewing Oil and reached an agreement with Bobby to share the company. Nor is theirs the only the only truce between two feuding Ewings this week. After a year of acrimony, Gary and Val share a silent smile of friendship when he is acquitted of Ciji’s murder at the end of this week’s KNOTS.

    And just as the second Gary Ewing (Ted Shackelford) is cleared of any involvement in one Soap Land murder mystery, the first Gary Ewing (David Ackroyd) shows up to investigate another. By the end of this week’s DYNASTY, Gary #1 has arrested Mark Jennings, essentially for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, just as Gary #2 and Cole Gioberti were before him.

    Gary and Sue Ellen’s alcoholism patterns continue to mirror each other. Accepting that he did not kill Ciji gives Gary the resolve he needs to quit drinking, while placing all the blame on Walt Driscoll for the crash that “destroyed Mickey Trotter’s life” enables Sue Ellen to climb back on the wagon too. Both take positive steps towards rebuilding their lives - Gary plans to go back to AA and Sue Ellen intends to focus on her son who, thanks to a sneaky recast, (no Steven Carrington-style plastic surgery for John Ross Ewing III) has suddenly acquired a personality and the gift of speech.

    Now that Gary is a free man, FALCON CREST’s Julia replaces him as Soap Land’s most nihilistic jailbird. “The food is cold, the cells are hot and this place stinks of humanity,” is how she describes her present surroundings. Nevertheless, she assures her mother that, “if it’s a choice between staying in jail and living with you, I’ll stay in jail.”

    While visiting her sister, Emma suggests that Julia considers getting psychiatric help. Julia laughs at the idea. “I am the only member of this family who has ever gotten in touch with their feelings, who’s ever really gotten to know themselves,” she boasts. And in the topsy-turvy world that Soap Land has now become, who’s to say she’s wrong?

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    02/Oct/83: THE YELLOW ROSE: Pilot v. 03/Oct/83: EMERALD POINT NAS: Episode 3 v. 05/Oct/83 DYNASTY: The Bungalow v. 06/Oct/83: KNOTS LANDING: Fugitives v. 07/Oct/83: DALLAS: The Long Goodbye v. 07/Oct/83 FALCON CREST: Penumbra

    “I don’t wanna see no damn iron rocking horses on land God intended for cattle!” That's the line that made me realise I could love THE YELLOW ROSE, the latest addition to Soap Land’s weekly line-up. A saga set on a twenty-thousand-acre Texas ranch owned and run by the Champion family, the feel, unsurprisingly, is very much early DALLAS - dusty and earthy, full of Stetsons and cattle - but with more emphasis on ranch hands than businessmen. It may lack the glamour of the other soaps, (where the hair is getting bigger by the week, most notably on KNOTS LANDING) but it’s rich with atmosphere and a feeling of authenticity.

    In the opening ep, we learn that the Yellow Rose Ranch has fallen on hard times - but guess what? There’s oil underneath the land! But guess what else? The family patriarch’s dying wish was for the land to be preserved, no matter what! This leads to a lively argument between two of his sons over what their next step should be. Such scenes give me a warm glow of familiarity. There’s something mythic about the whole oil-versus-land theme when it's set against a Texas backdrop and I just can’t get enough of it. It’s part of what first drew me to DALLAS, both the original series and the Lee Raintree novelisation, and more recently to New DALLAS. (At one point in THE YELLOW ROSE pilot, someone actually says the line, “That land is my birthright!” I could have cheered.) The theme is present in this week's episode of DALLAS too: “You’re the only one who understands Miss Ellie's love of this land,” Clayton tells Bobby, "land that your great-grandfather staked out.”

    Acting on Miss Ellie’s behalf, Clayton appoints Bobby as Southfork’s “guardian, until she can take over”, which chimes neatly with how Bobby's responsibilities are depicted on New DALLAS, where he is more the custodian of the family’s legacy than its patriarch. During the same scene, Clayton mentions that Miss Ellie “feels that Gary’s out of her life forever”. It’s interesting that this comment should come so soon after Val’s acknowledgment on KNOTS of how far apart she and Lucy have grown. Put the statements together and it feels like a pretty conclusive parting of the ways for the two shows.

    Like Jock Ewing on DALLAS, the dead patriarch of THE YELLOW ROSE - a sort of cross between Jock and Aaron Southworth - casts a long shadow over his many children (I counted three sons and a daughter in the first ep, though there may be more) and his widow Colleen. Colleen is not, as one might have imagined, a homely Miss Ellie type, or even an Angela Channing style dowager. Instead, she's young and sexy and played by Cybill Shepherd. Naturally, the various familial relationships are tangled and complicated - so much so that Colleen manages to sleep with her own stepson without realising it.

    David Soul plays Roy Champion who, in the absence of his dead father, has become the de-facto head of the family. He’s the protector of the Yellow Rose in much the same way that Bobby is of Southfork. Roy is surrounded by faces from Soap Land’s future: Josh Harris from DYNASTY Season 7 is his son, Jeff Wainwright from FALCON CREST Season 5 is his brother and Nancy Scotfield from DALLAS Season 9 plays his ex-wife. All give very appealing performances. In fact, the whole cast is great. Over on EMERALD POINT NAS, given its producer credits for Richard and Esther Shapiro (from DYNASTY) and Michael Filerman (from everything else), it’s unsurprising to find traces of Soap Land’s past in its DNA. Most conspicuously, the Mallory house is the same as the Weldons’ on FLAMINGO ROAD.

    Larry “Big Close Ups” Elikann pulls off a Soap Land first by directing two different shows in the same week, EMERALD POINT and KNOTS LANDING. The EMERALD POINT instalment is ploddy and unremarkable, but this week’s KNOTS is slick, taut and gripping. Diana Fairgate and Chip Roberts play out a variation on a scenario we’ve seen a hundred times before - girl meets boy, girl takes cross country road trip with boy, girl sees boy’s picture on the TV news and realises he is wanted for murder, girl tries to raise the alarm without raising boy’s suspicions, boy becomes increasingly possessive of girl (“Now that we’re together, I’m never gonna let you go”). All of this is played out in a succession of nerve-wracking scenes set in motels, diners and gas stations, involving pay phones, traffic cops and frantic, shaky-handed fumblings for car keys. From being one-half of love’s young dream, Diana becomes as trapped as Lucy Ewing was in “Runaway”, that cack-handed ep from DALLAS’s first season where a demented trucker takes her hostage. In fact, this story is “Runaway” as if directed by Nicholas Ray.

    Soap Land’s other starry-eyed child-woman redhead, FALCON CREST's Vicky, gets almost as big a shock this week when she finds new husband Nick in bed with his ex-wife Sheila. The moment is similar to Sue Ellen's discovery of JR and Holly together, except that Vicky pauses long enough to toss her wedding ring on the bed before running off. Sheila then tries the ring for size, just for laughs. “I’ve got to get out of my marriage,” Vicky informs Cole - thus making the Hogans’ marriage Soap Land's shortest since Cecil Colby dropped dead on his wedding day.

    This week’s DYNASTY is pretty much by-the-numbers, with all the usual characters having all the usual confrontations, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless. Blake follows Chase Gioberti’s lead by taking the cabin fire investigation into his own hands and interrogating the likeliest suspects. Similarly, on KNOTS, Mack more or less wrests control of the search operation to find Chip and Diana from Janet Baines, pulling strings and calling in favours to get the story on the TV news and a wire tap on the Mackenzies’ home phone.

    The latter development leads to one of two key scenes in this week’s Soap Land that involves an aborted phone call. On KNOTS, a frightened Diana calls her mother from a pay phone only for Chip to intercept the call and cut it short - too short for the police to even begin to trace it. This causes Karen, already tightly wound, to lose control and knock the phone tapping equipment to the floor. It’s a very tense, dramatic scene. Not so that of the second aborted call, also from a pay phone, that takes place between Joseph and Blake on DYNASTY. Without making any sense at all, Joseph is required to both intimate his suicidal state of mind and provide sufficient clues to his whereabouts to enable Blake to get to his side just in time to have his old friend die in his arms. Suffice it to say, the whole sequence is as clunkily contrived as Soap Land gets.

    "Diana honey, I'm sorry I wouldn't let you talk to your mother," Chip explains. "I was afraid of what she was going to say to you ... I can't afford to lose you." Diana nods meekly, but the most striking thing about this scene is its setting - a rain-lashed car at night, windshield wipers running, Chip at the wheel. The only light in the scene comes from within the car itself in order to conceal the fact that it’s being shot in a studio rather than on location, and that the car isn't really moving. It's the same way similar scenes in countless on-the-lam film noirs of the 40s and 50s would have had been filmed and evokes that same claustrophobic feeling (they're on the move, but they're not getting anywhere). DYNASTY pays homage to the same movie era when Blake, as part of his one-man investigation, visits private eye Morgan Hess at his down at heel office, and finds him sporting the same kind of injuries - a black eye, an arm in a sling - that Humphrey Bogart regularly sustained in his roles as Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe in those hard-boiled detective flicks. Hess’s explanation for his wounds - "I got worked over by a couple of unfriendly types I owed" - is typically Chandler-esque. As always, Hess gives good sleaze, offering to sell Blake information about his wife’s relationship with her ex-husband. "I'm not buying," Blake snaps, "I don't traffic with slime like you!" This archetype of the private detective as an unsavoury species is also perpetuated in this week's FALCON CREST when Phillip Erickson's "rather distasteful employment of two seedy private investigators" turns up some dirt he and Angela can use against Chase's doctor at Soap Land Memorial Hospital.

    For the first time since walking out on their respective husbands, Soap Land’s estranged wives, DYNASTY’s Krystle and DALLAS’s Pam, make brief returns to their marital homes this week. Fallon summons Krystle to the Carrington mansion to sit with Kirby after her fall and sympathises with the “mixed emotions” she must feel being there. Pam, meanwhile, pays a visit to Southfork in the aftermath of the fire, but declines to go inside the house for fear “it would be too painful to see what happened.” Bobby suggests she take Christopher over to the stables instead - the same stables where Christopher will have it off with pretty cowgirl Heather three decades later - which is kind of weird to think about when you’re looking at his little coochie face in this scene.

    On the subject of Soap Land’s kids, a week after John Ross’s recast in DALLAS, Melissa's son Joseph is suddenly walking, talking and giggling away on FALCON CREST. He’s a hell of a lot chirpier than either of the Ewing cousins - which is impressive when one considers the company he keeps (as Melissa lists them to Lance this week: “your crafty grandmother, your daffy Aunt Emma and your homicidal mother"). Conversely, there's an interesting little scene on this week's KNOTS where Gary apologises to Abby's children, Brian and Olivia, for what they've been subjected to during his alcoholic jailbird period.

    In the biggest bail-related plot twist since Sue Ellen’s unknown benefactor turned to be a not-so-dead Dusty Farlow in DALLAS Season 3, Blake pays Mark Jennings' $100,000 bail in this week’s DYNASTY, in an attempt to curry favour with Krystle. Bobby makes a similarly grand gesture towards Pam when he offers to give up Southfork and even Ewing Oil for her. “If I could have you back it wouldn’t mean anything,” he tells her during a dinner date almost romantic as the one between Val and Soap Land newcomer Ben Gibson on KNOTS. Alas, both Ewing wives are brought down to earth with a bump. First Val discovers Ben has kept his profession a secret from her ("He's a newsman, Mama!"), and then Pam receives an ultimatum from JR. "If you return to Bobby,” he tells her in the final scene of this week’s DALLAS, "all hell is going to break loose. I’ll call off this truce that exists between him and me. We’ll be in a dogfight that will make what went on before look like a love match." (Don’t tell Victoria Principal, but the rather fetching purple and blue kaftan she wears for this scene looks identical to one Donna Mills can be seen in during the current opening credits of KNOTS LANDING.) “I’ve despised you ever since Bobby first brought you to Southfork,” JR reminds Pam, slicing straight to the heart of the DALLAS saga. There is an equivalent moment in this week’s FALCON CREST when Maggie stands up to Angela. "I know how you feel about our being here," she tells her. "Right from the start, you've treated the Giobertis like they were carrying some kind of a plague." Both lines serve as a reminder of where all this drama originally sprang from.

    Just two episodes in and Ben Gibson is already a great character. He and DALLAS's Mark Graison display a similar combination of gee-shucks self-deprecation and cocky swagger as they talk about their pasts this week. Both actors play against the soapiness of their dialogue so that they're kind of laughing at themselves for saying such cheesy things. When Mark declares his feelings for Pam, (“"Until I met you, I was very sure of who I was and where I was going, but you've changed all of that - I’ve, er, fallen in love you”) he manages to sound sincere, embarrassed and ironic all at the same time. So does Ben when he talks to Val about putting down roots in Knots Landing. (“All through my twenties, I knocked around the world, searching for something, I guess - for adventure, for experience, for fun ... Right now I’m in what you would call a state of transition.") In each case, the effect is disarming.

    The highlight of this week’s DYNASTY is the sequence where an unknown someone steals into Alexis’s hospital room at night and tries to smother her with a pillow. Even though it is not presented as a dream, the camera work is strange and heightened and there are no witnesses to the attack. So did it really happen? Certainly, everyone but Alexis seems to think she imagined the incident. As a viewer, one is left with the same ambivalent feeling as after the Julia Cumson/Carlo Agretti flashbacks in last week’s FALCON CREST, where we’re not entirely sure we can trust what we’re seeing with our own eyes (which isn’t necessarily a criticism).

    There is a fair bit of relocating in Soap Land this week. Having had enough of Alexis, (first she disinherits him, then accuses him of starting the fire that nearly killed her) Adam packs his bags and moves out of her penthouse, leaving her alone and defenceless with an apparent attacker on the loose. Meanwhile, as part of their respective sober new starts, Gary tells Abby that they're moving out of the beach house and onto a ranch he’s just bought, and Sue Ellen informs JR that she’ll be moving into her own bedroom when they return to Southfork. Alexis, Abby and JR aren’t happy about these developments, but for once there’s nothing they can do to prevent them.

    Just as JR effectively forfeited his connubial rights by sleeping with Holly, (“Your sex life is your affair from now on, you just stay away from me,” Sue Ellen decrees this week) so the discovery at the end of last season's FALCON CREST that his mother murdered her father has put a dampener on Lance and Melissa’s conjugal relations. ("Just leave me alone," Melissa orders Lance.) But whereas Sue Ellen has “no desire to be with other men”, Melissa is spending her afternoons in swanky hotel rooms with Richard Channing.

    On DALLAS and FALCON CREST, Mickey and Chase both struggle to come to terms with their paralysis. Donna and Maggie insist on straight answers from Drs Blakely and Lantry respectively, neither of whom are very forthcoming. "You don't sound very optimistic," persists Donna. "I have no reason to be," Dr. Blakely admits. "In my clinical experience, patients with wounds such as those your husband has suffered don't often regain full use of their limbs," Dr. Lantry tells Maggie. "Then he'll never walk again?" she asks. Both doctors offer up the tiniest sliver of hope. "There's a possibility, but it's very slight," says Dr. L on FALCON CREST. "I don't want to say that it's absolutely impossible that something can change his condition," says Dr. B on DALLAS, "but I surely don't want you to get your hopes up." Speaking of hope, Mickey and Chase are both determined to look on the bright side. "I am gonna lick this," Mickey tells Lucy. "I'm gonna beat this thing, Maggie," vows Chase. Towards the end of this week’s DALLAS, however, tests confirm the permanence of Mickey's condition and he closes himself off from his loved ones. Meanwhile, Chase’s lowest point comes when Angela stops by Soap Land Memorial for a visit and accidentally-on-purpose lets slip about his mother’s death, news the rest of the Giobertis had been keeping from him for fear of jeopardising his recovery. Faced with Chase’s tortured reaction, Angela is unable to suppress a smirk. "I'd like to be alone," Mickey tells his family tearfully, "just let me be by myself." "Leave me alone," Chase tells Maggie angrily, "just leave me alone."

    Drugs prove a useful plot device this week. On FALCON CREST. Angela, Phillip and Lance all conspire in a plot to have Chase declared incompetent so that Angela can once again assume total control of Falcon Crest. To that end, they blackmail Chase’s doctor over his shady dealings in prescription drugs. What’s really striking is how much pleasure the three characters take in setting up both Chase and Dr. Lantry. “You can be quite vicious, can’t you?” Angela says to Phillip admiringly, which kind of says it all. Meanwhile on THE YELLOW ROSE, Roy Champion wrongly accuses mysterious newcomer, Chance McKenzie, of helping a group of bad guys smuggle drugs across his ranch (or something like that). The allegation provides Chance with an opportunity to show what a stand-up guy he is by bringing in the real culprit - a ranch hand played by the Indian chief from ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, no less. This leads to a really good hillside brawl between Chance and the ranch hand. Both men are past their physical prime and neither really wants to fight the other. Both are quickly tired by their exertions but continue slugging it out even though their hearts aren’t in it. There may have been more dramatic punch-ups in Soap Land’s history (Nick Toscanni and Blake on Skycrest Mountain, JR and Ray at the end of last season's DALLAS) and certainly funnier ones (anything involving Alexis and Krystle or the Southfork pool) but this fight, alongside Lance and Cole’s set-to in the winery last season, ranks as the most realistic so far.

    DYNASTY and KNOTS each end on a confession - kind of. Joseph leaves a note for Blake before shooting himself, but we’re not yet privy to its contents. Meanwhile, Chip breaks down and admits to Diana that he killed Ciji - but even as he’s coming clean he can’t help but twist the facts. “I did it for you,” he tells her, "I killed Ciji so that we could be together.” And out of that comes a brilliant twist: by the time Chip’s finished his big emotional speech, Diana's fallen under his spell again. Anyone who doubts Claudia Lonow’s acting abilities should watch her performance in this episode, particularly her wordless transformation in this final scene from girl in peril to willing accomplice.

    While one Joseph dies, the life of another hangs in the balance. At the end of this week's FALCON CREST, cute little Joseph Agretti/Gioberti/Cumson (delete where necessary) is rushed to Soap Land Memorial, having mistaken one of Dr. Lantry's illegal prescriptions for sweeties.

    And this week’s Top 6 are …

    1 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (1) DALLAS
    3 (4) FALCON CREST
    4 (-) THE YELLOW ROSE
    5 (3) DYNASTY
    6 (5) EMERALD POINT NAS
     
  16. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    13/Oct/83: KNOTS LANDING: Nowhere to Run v. 14/Oct/83: DALLAS: The Letter v. 14/Oct/83 FALCON CREST: Conspiracy v. 15/Oct/83: THE YELLOW ROSE: Divided We Fall

    “Seems like two lifetimes ago,” says Pam Ewing as she and Bobby recall the early days of their marriage in this week’s DALLAS. While the soaps have always drawn upon their own back stories, embellishing them as they’ve gone along to give their sagas a sense of dramatic weight, this line of Pam’s is the first time that events shown on screen - and that are part of the viewers’ memories as well as the characters' - have been enshrined in the same way. It serves to remind us of how long these shows have been on the air, how much history they now have to draw on.

    "There's a calm in the air,” Pam notes in another scene. “It's the first calm I've known since I married into that family.” In other words, it’s the first calm since DALLAS - and by extension, Soap Land itself - began. Indeed, following the sense of tragic inevitability leading up to the Southfork fire, and to a lesser extent Ciji’s murder, at the end of the 82/3 season, there’s now a sense of DALLAS and KNOTS reawakening, emerging blinking into the sunlight, growing in confidence and opening up to new horizons, both narratively and visually.

    “A calm in the air" isn’t the only thing we’re experiencing for the first time. At the end of this week’s DALLAS, when Pam and Bobby have failed to see through Katherine’s latest scheme to keep them apart, it dawns on us for the first time that, wow, maybe they're really not going to reconcile at the eleventh hour the way they, Blake and Krystle, and Chase and Maggie, always have in the past. When the frame freezes on Pam walking tearfully away from Bobby, she is heading towards the unknown - the same unknown this week’s Soap Land is full of.

    Somehow this sense of newness is embodied by Peter Richards, John Ross’s new camp counsellor, making his DALLAS debut this week. Golden-haired, open-faced, maybe a little dorky, he radiates health, youth and hope in a way no DALLAS character has before. Even JR refers to him, without a trace of cynicism, as "a fine young man”. If one were watching this episode for the first time without any prior knowledge of the character it would be hard to predict how he will fit into the Ewings’ story.

    There’s always been something cinematic about Gary’s ranch on KNOTS LANDING. I guess it’s the way it’s photographed, but one really gets a sense of its beauty and vastness the way one rarely did with Southfork - for all the talk of what a special place it is - before New DALLAS. (There’s also a vicarious pleasure to be had from seeing the former residents of Seaview Circle adjusting to their beautiful new surroundings.) In its own modest way, DALLAS also expands visually this week ... by showing us the Ewings’ upstairs hallway and John Ross's bedroom for the first time (those brief glimpses before the fire notwithstanding). While THE YELLOW ROSE is now the most authentic looking of all the soaps - both eps thus far appear to have been shot entirely on location - FALCON CREST remains the most visually sumptuous. In one striking shot, we see Julia standing in the prison yard gazing through a wire fence at the lush vineyards beyond.

    This week’s KNOTS and DALLAS include equivalent scenes of “new” affluence. In her capacity as realtor, Laura drops by Gary’s new ranch in the middle of a work day to find he and Abby basking by the pool. Similarly, Mark Graison treats Pam, Cliff and Afton to an afternoon by his pool. Sure, Abby had a backyard pool in the cul-de-sac, but this is on a whole different level. “I must say, this is the most fantastic place I’ve ever sold,” says Laura taking in her surroundings. And while Pam may already be accustomed to being a rich man’s wife, Mark’s way of life is far grander than anything Cliff and Afton are used to. ("Mark, this is wonderful!" Afton gushes.) Besides, the Ewings never laid on clowns, balloons and a lawn full toys for Christopher’s amusement the way Mark does here - even if Christopher remains steadfastly unimpressed by the gesture. (Christopher aside, there is strong competition for the happiest Soap Land kid of the week. On KNOTS, Olivia and Brian embrace ranch life and horse riding as eagerly as John Ross takes to Peter Richards and trampolining on DALLAS, while not even a pumped stomach or a spell at Soap Land Memorial can wipe the smile off Joseph's chubby little chops on FALCON CREST.)

    In spite of their surroundings, Cliff and Gary both keep on eye on business in these scenes. While Cliff badgers Pam to form a consortium with he and Mark, Gary offers Laura a job working alongside Abby at Gary Ewing Enterprises. Given Laura’s personal history with Abby and Cliff’s unending obsession with the Ewings, Pam and Laura are understandably dubious about forming these alliances, but in each case, the dramatic potential is clearly too juicy for the writers to allow considerations of mere logic to stand in their way.

    This is also the week that Abby finally joins the rest of Soap Land's movers and shakers by getting her own office - and it’s a sexy one. With an en-suite conference room and upstairs apartment thrown in, it combines the coolest aspects of both Alexis’s office at Colby Co and her penthouse in the sky. And again, there’s the secondary thrill of seeing Abby, after all her years of cul-de-sac scheming, finally getting what she wants. Well, almost. “Gary has taken a sudden interest in the business,” she complains to her confidante James Westmont. "I believe he’s bent on wasting his fortune. I want to prevent him doing that - for his own good.” Once more, there is a parallel here between Gary and Sue Ellen’s respective new starts. Neither is willing to go back to the way things were before they started drinking. As Sue Ellen puts it this week, "There are a lot of things that are gonna on that you're not gonna like, JR, but guess what? I'm gonna be doing them anyway.”

    Both Gary and Sue Ellen’s sober-eyed perspectives include a pragmatic view of their relationships. “On my own, I don’t amount to much," Sue Ellen told Pam last week, “so I guess I’ll just have to lead a married life without a husband.” This week, Gary admits to Laura that although he loves Abby, he doesn't trust her. While Sue Ellen plays it safe, ploughing all her energies into helping her son, Gary is still attracted to danger. “Being with Abby is like high-speed auto racing,” he laughs. "It’s risky, but man - what a kick!"

    FALCON CREST may not have the same “fresh start” feeling as KNOTS and DALLAS - if anything, the show is getting darker - but there is still a sense of moving into uncharted waters. A leading character who is also a self-confessed murderer behind bars? There is no Soap Land precedent, no generic narrative blueprint for how Julia’s story will resolve itself. Just as we don’t quite understand how the story got here, we have no idea what will come next.

    The scenes where Richard and Melissa visit Julia in jail are the most compelling of the Soap Land week. Her reasons for killing Carlo seem to change from scene to scene. Her motives, whom she was trying to protect then and whom she is trying to destroy now, are almost impossible to keep track of. Further layers of confusion are added by Richard and Melissa, each of whom has had a parent murdered by Julia, feigning forgiveness for her crimes as part of some as yet unspecified revenge. Lies, fantasy, insanity, writers’ revisionism … add to this the lurid yet abstract nature of the dialogue (“I’ve always felt you would be the key to the destruction of Angela Channing!”) and it’s as if the scenes themselves are unhinged.

    During Melissa's visit, Julia has a flashback montage, which seems to echo moments, not just from her own life, but all of Soap Land’s history. First, we see her watching Carlo in bed with another woman - he doesn't realise she’s there but the woman does (just as JR failed to notice Sue Ellen’s presence when he was in bed with Holly Harwood). Then we see her lurking behind a tree with a gun which she intends to use on Carlo (the same way Alexis did with the rifle she then fired to startle Krystle’s horse). This is followed by previously-seen footage of Carlo’s death scene, with inserted shots of Julia wielding the murder weapon, just as the reveal of JR’s would-be assassin combined the shooting we had already seen with a fresh close-up of Kristin pulling the trigger.

    Julia’s fellow killer on KNOTS LANDING, Chip Roberts, is no longer in a position to make a fresh start either. As the police search closes in on him and Diana, the dynamic between them shifts. While Chip grows increasingly despondent - at one point sitting in the middle of the road in tears - Diana emerges as the dominant partner in their relationship, essentially becoming the brains of the outfit. When the shack they have taken refuge in is surrounded by police, it is her idea to make it look as if Chip is holding her hostage with a gun.

    This week's DALLAS and KNOTS both save their best moments for last. While the settings of their final scenes are very different - Bobby and Pam meet for a heart-to-heart in a busy square in downtown Dallas whereas Chip and Diana are at the centre of a quasi-siege situation in an Oklahoman field - each of the women involved approaches her predicament with a similar “love conquers all” mentality. "If Bobby and I have a love that's strong enough, we can fight JR and anybody else who thinks that my marriage is over,” declares Pam. “We were meant to be, Chip ...We love each other and that’s all that matters,” Diana insists. Both, however, are in for a rude awakening. On DALLAS, Pam has the emotional rug pulled from under her when Bobby tells her that their love is “just yesterday’s memories” and that “I'm letting you go”. Meanwhile on KNOTS, Mack's well-intentioned - not to mention heroic - rescue attempt completely screws up Diana’s plan for her and Chip's quick getaway. However, even as Chip is arrested and taken away by the police, it is Diana who has the last word. When an intrusive TV news crew approach and ask “Miss Fairgate” for a comment, Diana looks down their camera lens and announces: "It's not Miss Fairgate, it's Mrs Tony Fenice!” Thus the circumstances of the first Soap Land wedding of this season - murderer marries his hostage-cum-accomplice whilst on the lam - turn out to be as unconventional as the first such ceremony of last season - ailing billionaire marries ex-wife of his nemesis from his hospital bed then immediately dies.

    This week’s YELLOW ROSE takes over when KNOTS LANDING left off, with a suspect in a killing being led away by police amidst a flurry of pushy reporters. Where KNOTS’ TV newsman demonstrates his insensitivity by loudly hoping for a shootout in time for the evening news, the YELLOW ROSE press gang do their bit by repeatedly referring to the accused man as “the Indian” instead of his name, John Stronghart. (Stronghart is the ranch hand who last week took money to let some bad people onto the Yellow Rose Ranch, not realising they were drug runners. In a subsequent shoot out with the police, an officer was killed. The cops are now keen to pin the shooting on Stronghart.)

    The theme of casual racism continues throughout in the episode. “I don’t like my client being harassed because his ancestors didn’t land at Plymouth Rock,” Quisto Champion complains to the local sheriff. (As on EMERALD POINT NAS, the show’s central family includes a lawyer among its number - all the more convenient for participating in murder-related story lines.) “You gonna carry that cross your whole life, boy?” asks the sheriff mockingly, referring to Quisto’s own half-Mexican origins. "I run a clean department,” he adds. “You never gave a Mexican a problem he wouldn’t have had if he was white?” Quisto persists. "Or an Indian?” (This is the first time the issue of race has been raised in Soap Land since Gus Nunuoz left the Tuscany Valley “to help my people” at the beginning of last season’s FALCON CREST.)

    THE YELLOW ROSE also offers the most enjoyably ornate dialogue of the week. “Doggone, woman,” exclaims Quisto to Colleen, "here it is, a day hotter than high school love, and you look like fresh-cut flowers. How do you do it?” “Just hard work and horse manure,” comes the reply.

    It’s pretty much a four-way tie, but this week's Soap Land Top 4 are …

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (3) FALCON CREST
    3 (2) DALLAS
    4 (4) THE YELLOW ROSE
     
  17. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    17/Oct/83: EMERALD POINT N.A.S: Episode 4 v. 19/Oct/83: DYNASTY: The Note v. 20/Oct/83: KNOTS LANDING: Marital Privileges v. 21/Oct/83: DALLAS: My Brother's Keeper v. 21/Oct/83 FALCON CREST: Partners v. 22/Oct/83: THE YELLOW ROSE: When Honor Dies

    The original Tony Cumson in FALCON CREST went on to play Soap Land’s first Middle Eastern character, Rashid Ahmed in DYNASTY. The second Tony Cumson now becomes Soap Land’s first Russian, Admiral Yuri Bukharin, who arrives in EMERALD POINT N.A.S. on a diplomatic mission. Where Rashid was outrageous, devious and funny ("a naughty little Arab boy,” as old flame Alexis described him), Admiral Bukharin is a predictable TV Russian - strategic, enigmatic and patriotic. "I don’t think that either one of us is going to outmanoeuvre the other,” concludes Admiral Tom Mallory, his American equivalent, during their inevitable, metaphor-laden chess game. And so a dramatic stalemate is reached.

    At the end of DYNASTY's most recent episode, Blake read a suicide note from Joseph who then shot himself. In last week’s DALLAS, Katherine read Bobby a letter supposedly written by Pam which led to Bobby conclusively ending their marriage. The ramifications of both missives continue to be felt throughout this week’s episodes.

    The circumstances leading up to Joseph’s death have much in common with those of Soap Land’s last suicide, Walt Driscoll. Both were subservient men pushed too far (Joseph by Alexis, Walt by the Ewing brothers) who then resorted to attempted murder - Walt by ramming JR’s car, Joseph by setting fire to the cabin with Alexis inside it. In both instances, innocent people were caught in the crossfire. While Walt’s guilt over Mickey is what caused him to take his own life, the fact that Joseph nearly killed Krystle is glossed over in this week’s ep. Instead, the reason for his suicide, his note explains, was an attempt to stop Alexis from telling Kirby the terrible truth about her mother (“The attic nympho, wasn’t that her soubriquet?” Alexis recalls mockingly.)

    FALCON CREST has also come up with a variation on the “little man pushed to homicidal extremes” scenario. Having been blackmailed by Angela into falsely declaring Chase physically and mentally incompetent, Dr Lantry decides that the only way to cover his tracks is to kill Chase on the operating table. Whereas JR and Alexis only learnt of Walt and Joseph’s murderous intentions in hindsight, Angela is privy to Dr Lantry’s plan ahead of time. "What you're suggesting is murder!” she protested at the end of last week’s episode. "That's right,” he replied, "and you're in this with me."

    It’s interesting to compare the responses of JR, Alexis and Angela to these men’s actions. In last week’s DALLAS, a semi-remorseful JR listed some of his recent wrongdoings, including Walt’s death: “I’m responsible for so much damage and although I recognise it, I feel the pain, something tells me deep down inside that I’d do it all again.” By contrast, when the original Gary Ewing reads out Joseph’s confession in this week’s DYNASTY, (“It was I who set the fire. I tried to stop that evil woman from ruining another life. I pray my death will satisfy her need for vengeance”) Alexis refuses to accept any responsibility whatsoever. “Are you accusing me of being the evil one in that note?” she asks indignantly. "There were two women in that cabin, you know."

    And what of Angela? Well, her shocked reaction to Dr Lantry’s plan would suggest that, however cruel and sadistic she might be, there is a moral line she will not cross when it comes to taking someone’s life. Although Chase is a perpetual thorn in her side, she is not prepared collude in his murder the way Titus and Constance were Lane Ballou’s when her would-be executioner came looking for her in FLAMINGO ROAD. However, when one looks at this week’s episode a little closer, that moral line is not so clear after all. While Angela might wring her hands in anxiety, she actually does nothing to help Chase. Instead, she heeds her attorney's advice: “We can’t get involved, Angela.” It becomes apparent that her concern over her nephew's survival is guided more by self preservation than any moral considerations. "If Chase doesn’t make it, our problems are solved,” shrugs Lance. “If Chase dies, our problems are just beginning,” she snaps back. In the event, it’s only the intervention of Dr Michael Ranson that saves Chase's life.

    A week after Julia's flashback to the murder of Carlo Agretti, KNOTS LANDING presents us with an equivalent sequence of Chip killing Ciji and then dumping her body in the ocean. However, instead of showing events from the killer’s point of view, this time it's Lieutenant Morrison putting forward his theory of what must have happened. “You’re just guessing, pal. You don’t have a case against me,” Chip responds. However, this flashback sequence doesn’t have the same aura of unreality that Julia’s had - save for the actual killing itself, which is played out as shadows on a wall, like a piece of German Expressionism.

    Jail cells and hospital rooms figure largely in this week’s Soap Land. On THE YELLOW ROSE, where Big John is behind bars awaiting his arraignment hearing, there is concern amongst the Champion family that he might not survive in jail very long - that he would sooner kill himself rather than remain caged. (I think this is related to him being an American Indian, but I’m not sure.) This is expressed in a sweet scene between Chance and Colleen’s young daughter LC, who keeps lightning bugs in a jar. “Bottle something up like this,” says Chance looking at the bugs, "take away its freedom … life doesn’t have much meaning.” This sentiment is echoed by Mickey Trotter on DALLAS. “The thought of living like a vegetable,” he tells Ray, "hooked up to some damn machine, disgusts me ... I hope and pray nobody will make me live that way.”

    There’s also a parallel between bedridden Mickey and his new fiancée Lucy, and incarcerated Chip and his new wife Diana. “I can’t hold you,” laments Mickey, "I can’t touch you. I’ll never make love to you again.” Police regulations mean that Chip and Diana can’t make physical contact either. “I wish we could be together again,” Chip murmurs, sitting across a table from her. "I’d let you know how much I love you.” For now, they make do with brushing the tips of their fingers together.

    The respective Lils in Mickey and Chip’s lives, Aunt Lil in DALLAS and Lilimae on KNOTS, have each spent the season thus far putting on a brave face. Lil has been chortling away at Mickey’s bad jokes ever since he came of his coma, while Lilimae has busied herself cooking for the Mackenzies, poking her nose into Val’s love life and occasionally muttering that Chip would never murder anyone. This week, however, the truth catches up with them both. “I want to believe you,” Lil tells Ray when he insists that Mickey can still make a full recovery, "but I cannot deny what I see with my own two eyes.” “Just tell me you’re not a murderer,” pleads Lilimae on a visit to Chip. The moment where he laughs in her face is truly chilling, like an alien peeling off its face to reveal the horrible truth underneath. “You killed Ciji,” Lilimae suddenly realises. "You got her pregnant and then you killed her!” Appalled, she pulls off the butterfly brooch she has been wearing since Chip gave it to her and flings it at him.

    FALCON CREST’s Richard Channing has a more welcome gift for Julia when he visits her in jail in this week - an orchid. “Carlo,” he explains, "was carrying on one night about you to me, and he compared you to an orchid - refined, exotic.” (It goes without saying that such an exchange never took place on screen. So is Richard simply colluding with Julia’s fantasy that her affair with Carlo ever took place? It’s impossible to be sure.)

    Ben Gibson also uses an orchid-as-woman metaphor on this week’s KNOTS: “The hardest part about raising orchids is that they are so delicate. The slightest change in their atmosphere or their culture can be the difference between success and failure.” This is his roundabout way of explaining to Val why he didn’t tell her the truth about his job as a journalist when they first met. “We’re not all the scum of the earth, you know,” he says, calling her on her “prejudices against newsmen". (He could just as easily be addressing the prejudices of Soap Land itself, referring not only to the tabloid reporters who hounded Val last season, but also the depictions of the New Globe’s Richard Channing and the Denver Chronicle’s Clare Maynard, amongst others, as ruthless scandalmongers.)

    On the same theme, THE YELLOW ROSE’s Roy Champion barges into the offices of the San Antonio Morning Star to complain about an editorial accusing him of “tampering with the law”. And who should he find sitting in the editor’s chair but a charmingly miscast Mandy Winger from Future DALLAS? He accuses her of being a mouthpiece for her father Jeb Hollister, the show’s main villain, but Mandy insists that, like Ben Gibson’s, her aim is true. “If this paper plays any part at all in urging law enforcement to do its duty, then it’s doing the job I want it to,” she declares earnestly. Mandy and Ben are Soap Land's first positive representations of the Fourth Estate since the days when Elmo Tyson ran the Clarion on FLAMINGO ROAD and Douglas Channing the Globe on FALCON CREST.

    “The large landowners in this state have always had special treatment,” Mandy asserts. "That results in their manipulation of beef prices, oil drilling regulations and every other kind of injustice that’s bred and fed through political corruption.” Her strong sense of social inequality is matched by Mack’s on KNOTS LANDING. “I get to prosecute the bad guys, but it’s the little guys who pay the price,’ he complains. "The big guys, they stay behind their palatial gates.” He receives a sympathetic hearing from an old pal named Greg Sumner (“We worked on Wall Street together after law school”) who is about to announce his candidacy to the United States senate. (DALLAS’s Donna also has a politically connected reunion this week, when she runs into Paul Morgan, former assistant legal counsel in the reelection campaign of Senator Sam Culver.)

    “I don’t know how yet, but I want you as part of my team,” Greg tells Mack. That Greg is a new breed of soap character is underlined by him making this offer whilst standing in a locker room in just his shirt and socks - truly, a Soap Land fashion first. However, Greg’s knees pale into insignificance next to Peter Richards’ wincingly tight speedos on this week’s DALLAS. It’s safe to say this is the most revealing outfit in all of Soap Land’s history - at least until that swimsuit of Emma’s in New DALLAS Season 3. And might there possibly be a formative connection between John Ross’s exposure to Peter’s let-it-all-hang-out attitude to swimwear in this ep and some of the more scrotum-hugging underwear he will grow up to sport on TNT?

    On both this week’s KNOTS and DYNASTY, a child/parent relationship hits an all time low. Steven Carrington is shocked when his father threatens to sue him for custody of his own son and Diana Fairgate-Fenice feels equally betrayed when her mother tells the police that Chip admitted to killing Ciji. “I’ll see you in court!” Steven snarls Blake. “I never want to see you again!” Diana shouts at Karen before moving onto Gary and Abby’s ranch. (This leads to a terrifically charged final scene where Mack tries and fails to get Diana to return home with him.) Over on FALCON CREST, Vicky bids a more amicable farewell to her parents before moving back to New York, while on DYNASTY, Adam starts saying his farewells as he too prepares to return from whence he came.

    To this week’s Pregnancy Watch, where neither EMERALD POINT’s Celia nor DYNASTY’s Kirby are exactly radiant mothers-to-be. Celia continues to drink like a fish (“Do you think you should?” “It’s just some white wine”) and is discovered unconscious at the end of the episode. Meanwhile Kirby, still reeling from her father’s suicide, breaks down after his funeral and admits to Krystle that Adam is the father of her unborn child and that he raped her. This is the first time the “r” word has been used in relation to this story-line. (Actually, it looks as if the line “he raped me” was added after the scene was shot - it plays over a close up of Krystle and isn't referred to for the rest of the scene.) On FALCON CREST, Melissa is also pregnant, and encourages both Lance and Richard to think that they are the father. Richard plays along before revealing to new assistant Pamela Lynch that he has had a vasectomy. Miss Lynch, with her crisp English accent and femullet-cum-quiff, feels like a response to DYNASTY’s Alexis - albeit a younger, more low status one.

    Another possible “homage" to DYNASTY is DALLAS’s decision to name a none-too-bright oil-rig saboteur Clarence Colby. Could this possibly be a subtle retaliation for DYNASTY’s DALLAS-on-the-cover-of-the-National-Enquirer gag from last season? A bit of a stretch perhaps, but how else to explain the prolonged introduction given to such a minor character, whereby he announces his arrival at Ewing Oil to receptionist Kendall who then announces it to Sly who in turn announces it to JR, thus ensuring the name “Colby” is spoken four times in quick succession?

    Just when I thought KNOTS and DALLAS had severed the ties between them, Abby hears from an off screen JR that "this contest between JR and Bobby, or whatever it is" will be over in fifteen days. This is confirmed on the following night’s DALLAS, when we are told there is exactly two weeks to go until the battle officially ends. Time-wise, the two shows are perfectly in sync for once. There are anomalies elsewhere, however: Abby is surprised (and delighted) to learn that Gary is about to inherit 10% of Ewing Oil. “Does Gary know about this?” asks her confidante Jim Westmont. “According to JR, he doesn’t,” she replies - except Gary does know about it as he was present at the reading of Jock’s will on DALLAS almost a year earlier.

    Gary’s ignorance works story-wise because it gives Abby a window of five days between the completion of Gary and Val’s divorce and his inheritance coming through for her to marry him and claim his share of Ewing Oil as community property. While Abby schemes to make Gary want to marry her, JR and Katherine scheme to keep Bobby and Pam apart until their divorce. Part of Abby’s strategy is a steamy moonlight seduction which leaves Gary gasping for breath. The raunchiness of this scene contrasts sharply with the sight in this week’s DALLAS of a hungover JR waking up at Serena the hooker’s place having failed to get it up the night before.

    Another comparison that makes KNOTS suddenly seem like a slicker, more glamorous soap than its parent - the news of Gary’s Ewing Oil inheritance prompt Abby and Westmont to fantasise about the possibilities: “With that kind of financial base, we could create one of the powerful corporations in the country.” Back on DALLAS, JR’s vision remains steadfastly parochial. “The Ewing brothers working together is gonna make this little old town sit up and take notice,” he tells Bobby.

    With its beautiful ranch, luxury offices and ever increasing glamour, KNOTS no longer looks like the odd soap out. That position has now been taken by THE YELLOW ROSE, where the entire Champion family may congregate for dinner like the Ewings and Carringtons, but they do so in the kitchen. What’s more, the ranch hands eat alongside them. However, the KNOTS crowd are still sufficiently “down to earth" to comment about the trappings of success that other soap characters take for granted - hence Laura’s gag about renting out Abby’s reception area as a trailer park, Gary comparing an elaborate light-fitting to a waffle iron, and Lilimae remarking on how fancily dressed Val is for her property settlement meeting: “Used to be people got dressed up for weddings, not divorces."

    In a perfect instance of Soap Land synchronicity, this week sees the pre-divorce property settlement meetings of two Ewing couples - Gary and Val, and Bobby and Pam. On DALLAS, the attorneys run the show while Pam and Bobby sit mutely by. On KNOTS, the lawyers attempt to do the same, but Val is voluble in her insistence that she wants none of the Ewing fortune as a settlement - all she’s interested in is her house and car. Pam isn’t seeking alimony either, all she wants are her personal belongings. (This doesn’t stop Abby and JR thinking the worst of their respective nemeses. "How much did she soak you for?” Abby asks Gary. "Pam come up with some last minute demands?” JR asks Bobby). As soon as their meeting is over, Bobby heads for the door without so much as a glance in Pam’s direction. "I guess it’s all been said,” says Pam sadly. In stark contrast, after their meeting, Gary and Val share what Gary later describes as “one of the best conversations I’ve ever had” where Val credits Abby and Gary’s betrayal with making her a stronger, better person.

    Equivalent to Abby’s discovery of Gary’s inheritance is Colleen Champion’s revelation to her late husband’s illegitimate son (and her present lover) Chance on THE YELLOW ROSE: “He left you an equal share in the Yellow Rose,” she tells him. "It’s in his will … ‘An additional share to be held by my eldest living son.’ We always thought that was Roy, but Chance, it’s you.” So far, so conventionally soapy, but what really fascinates is Chance’s reaction. “I don’t want it,” he snaps, addressing the portrait of the father he never knew. "You can’t do that to a man’s life. You can’t just pawn him off when he’s born and then jerk him around like a poor dumb calf at the end of a rope. I’m not the bastard, old man - you are!"

    While this week's KNOTS and DALLAS are both very handsomely shot, (Larry Elikann working his crazy magic on the former and DoP Bradford May ensuring the latter has never felt so cinematic) THE YELLOW ROSE looks great too. It particularly excels in its action sequences - most notably a jaw-dropping scene where Chance rides a bucking bronco into a honky tonk bar.

    Three episodes in, I’m starting to think THE YELLOW ROSE is something quite special. Sometimes it feels as much of a western or action series as it does a primetime soap, but there’s a deep soulfulness about it, and a melancholic quality reminiscent of DYNASTY’s first season. It has a similar love centipede too, whereby almost everyone quietly longs for someone they can never truly have - or so it seems.

    This week’s DALLAS and FALCON CREST both end with a court hearing. The good guys prevail at one but not the other. Katherine Wentworth can barely contain her excitement when a forlorn Pam’s divorce is granted at the Dallas County Courthouse while Chase Gioberti makes a last minute appearance at the hearing where Angela has petitioned to have him declared incompetent. Having delivered an impassioned speech from his wheelchair in which he compares himself to Franklin D Roosevelt, he then slowly but defiantly gets to his feet to stand unaided. “Case dismissed,” rules the judge.

    And this week’s Top 6 are ...

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (3) DALLAS
    3 (4) THE YELLOW ROSE
    4 (2) FALCON CREST
    5 (-) DYNASTY
    6 (-) EMERALD POINT
     
  18. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    24/Oct/83: EMERALD POINT N.A.S: Episode 5 v. 26/Oct/83: DYNASTY: The Hearing (1) v. 27/Oct/83: KNOTS LANDING: One Kind of Justice v. 28/Oct/83: DALLAS: The Quality of Mercy v. 28/Oct/83 FALCON CREST: Judge and Jury v. 29/Oct/83: THE YELLOW ROSE: Walls of Fear

    This week, Soap Land goes courtroom crazy. There’s a court martial in EMERALD POINT, a custody battle on DYNASTY, Julia’s preliminary hearing on FALCON CREST and Big John's arraignment on THE YELLOW ROSE.

    Subpoenas fly and witness tampering abounds, with some of the most outrageous behaviour taking place on EMERALD POINT, which has perked up considerably in the lead-up to Casey Denault’s murder trial. When Casey’s fiancee, spoilt princess Hilary Adams, is called as a witness for the prosecution, her daddy Harlan suggests to Casey that he change his plea to guilty - just to spare her the ordeal of taking the stand. Then Hilary herself emotionally blackmails wholesome Kay Mallory into testifying to a non-existent affair with the murder victim in order to cover her own tracks.

    Over on FALCON CREST, while Angela orders Phillip to “influence" the judge presiding over Julia’s trial, Melissa manipulates Julia into representing herself in court and pleading guilty to both counts of murder. On DYNASTY, Blake’s lawyer Andrew Laird tries to dissuade Krystle from testifying on Steven’s behalf so that he himself won’t have to discredit her good name in court. In the event, Krystle does take to the stand, allowing Blake the opportunity to gallantly prohibit Andrew from cross-examining her.

    It’s about eight years since I last watched this period of DYNASTY and it’s remarkable how dated this particular story-line - Blake sues for custody of his grandson in order to prevent Steven and his gay lover from raising him - has become in that time. The case itself now feels like a Maguffin - merely a dramatic device to put the characters’ existing conflicts under the courtroom spotlight.

    That Blake is actually mistaken in his belief that Steven and Chris Deegan are lovers when they are in fact roommates always seemed to me like a cop out on the part of the network or whomever (and perhaps it was). This time around, however, the misunderstanding seems to add a further level of dramatic complication. Even though Steven could presumably bring proceedings to a halt just by explaining the true nature of the relationship, he chooses to gamble custody of his son for the sake of a principle - or possibly just to spite Blake. “Sometimes I wonder if you’re fighting to keep your son or simply to defeat your father,” Chris tells him.

    Again, it's John Forsythe’s performance that I find myself drawn to. He is totally believable as man utterly convinced in the rightness of what he is doing regardless of the damage it may cause along the way, and it’s that conviction - both on the part of the actor and character - that really drives the story. Forsythe is such a good but un-showy actor that it’s easy to take him for granted and forget that he’s even acting at all. The other witnesses called to the stand in this ep are also given the opportunity to do what they do best - Krystle to be sad and lovely (during her speech beginning “When I was married to Mr Carrington …”, she and Blake suddenly seem as divorced as Bobby and Pam) and Alexis to be vengeful and funny whilst wearing a wide-brimmed hat.

    Her witness-stand accusations ("He banished me from my own children, he deprived them of my guidance!”) prompt Blake to spring to his feet. "You had seven years to turn him into what he is!” he shouts across the courtroom, referring to Steven, "I’ve been fighting to make him into a man ever since!” “You hate me,” Steven tells his father when the hearing is subsequently adjourned. "You always have.” This father/son dynamic is reversed on KNOTS LANDING when Laura tries to explain to son Jason that his daddy Richard has most likely gone for good. “I hate him, I hate him!” shouts Jason over and over. However, by far the most dramatic parent/child altercation in this week’s Soap Land takes place as part of a brilliant three-way showdown between Karen, Diana and Abby on Gary’s ranch, which is fast becoming the setting for KNOTS’ most emotionally volatile scenes.

    An intense week leads to violent eruptions from some unexpected quarters. Tiny Kirby makes a grab for Alexis’s throat on DYNASTY, gentle Eric smacks his sister Diana hard across the face in KNOTS, and sweet old Lilimae mows down Chip Roberts with her car. Less uncharacteristic but just as juicy: a frustrated Detective Morrison sticking his gum in Chip’s hair during an interrogation scene on KNOTS, and the mere sight of Maggie Gioberti in the visitors room causing Julia to lose it with a prison guard on FALCON CREST. This week’s YELLOW ROSE, meanwhile, is more action-packed than ever, boasting two murders, a barroom brawl and an ambush.

    While Kirby and Alexis have to be prised apart on DYNASTY, Lucy and Sue Ellen (whom one could argue is as culpable in Mickey’s paralysis as Alexis was in Joseph’s suicide) enjoy an unexpected Fallon-and-Krystle-style rapprochement on DALLAS. “I know we’ve never been friends, but I just want you to know that I care,” Sue Ellen tells her niece, which is enough melt six years of ice between them and for Lucy to open her heart as never before.

    This week’s KNOTS is both written and directed by David Jacobs himself, and he certainly pulls out all the stops. There's a big sense of scale to the ep, both visually and emotionally. Once again, the ranch sequences look terrific, and even the scenes outside the police station, set against a backdrop of Californian hills and whirring helicopters, have a kind of grandeur about them. Having lavished so much care and attention elsewhere, it’s possible Jacobs had over-extended himself by the time it came to staging Greg Sumner’s fundraising party. As the first social event of the season, one would assume it was envisioned as a somewhat grand affair. As it is, it takes place on the cardboard Southfork patio, ineffectually disguised by some clumsily draped canopies. It’s hard to get a sense of exactly where the scene is meant to be taking place - inside or outside? A banqueting hall or a tent? And why does the fake Southfork roof keep peeking into view?

    "Gary Ewing and JR Ewing are two different breeds of contributor," says Greg to Abby after the fundraiser, but a more salient comparison this week can be made between Gary and Bobby. With Bobby's divorce now finalised and Gary's not far behind, the two brothers appear to have swapped roles. Bobby may not have sunk quite as low as Gary did at the end of last season’s KNOTS, but while Gary is already moving forward, with a new ranch, a new business and a new family, Bobby finds himself “very much alone in the world”. As he whiles away his solitary hours in all night burger joints ("just so I could be near people”) and mourns his role as a full time father, Gary throws himself into environmental causes - hence that handsome donation to Greg’s campaign - and develops an ever strengthening bond with Abby’s daughter Olivia.

    There’s an especially striking moment where we see Abby climbing up a small hill at the ranch looking for Gary and Olivia, who are sitting at the top talking about her. Olivia suspects her mother of enjoying the fact that Karen and Diana have fallen out. When Abby gets close enough, she hears Olivia saying, “She likes seeing Aunt Karen miserable." Instead of alerting Gary and Olivia to her presence, Abby walks sadly away. It’s as if she is the outsider, the odd one out on the ranch. Out of earshot, she fails to hear Gary’s response: “Olivia, your mother’s human. Don’t be too hard on her for that." Mack says the same thing to Janet Baines later in the ep when she admits to “a twinge of satisfaction” at seeing the Mackenzie family fall apart. “You’re human,” he tells her. “No, I’m not,” she replies. "I’m a cop.” The same sentiment is echoed yet again by Sue Ellen in DALLAS when Lucy confesses to feeling relieved that Mickey has broken off their engagement. “There must be something wrong with me,” Lucy frets. “There is nothing wrong with you,” Sue Ellen assures her. "You’re young and you’re about to make the biggest commitment of your life.” In other words, she’s human. (Still on the subject of human frailty, David Jacobs uses Janet Baines in her final scene to provide Richard Avery’s epitaph: “He was just a poor unloved guy who just couldn't cope.”)

    A week after Laura started working for Abby at Gary Ewing Enterprises, other employment posts are filled. Claudia Blaisdel, recently released from the Soap Land Sanatarium, becomes Fallon’s assistant at La Mirage, Adam begins work at Denver Carrington, Greg Sumner invites Mack Mackenzie to head his new crime commission and Pam Ewing not only agrees to join Cliff at Barnes Wentworth, but poaches old pal Jackie from The Store to work with her.

    With hindsight, it’s kind of ironic that in the same week that Pam moves into her late mother’s house on DALLAS - the driveway of which will be the setting for one of Soap Land's most iconic scenes - this week’s KNOTS should end with an angry woman driving her car straight at a happily reunited couple, colliding with the guy and sending him over the hood of the car. As the action turns to slow motion, the girl rushes to her man's side, calling his name as she kneels over his unmoving body … Remind you of anything?

    A more immediate parallel is between Chip’s story on KNOTS and Mickey Trotter’s on DALLAS. With Diana refusing to implicate her husband in Ciji’s death, the case against Chip collapses. “Just you me, kid, on the road to who knows where,” he smiles, contemplating his imminent release from jail. (He then serenades Diana with a line or two from “What I Did For Love”. Given his claim that he killed Ciji so they could be together, this must constitute Soap Land's blackest use of a show tune since “If My Friends Could See Me Now” played over Sid’s arrest for attempted rape back in “Hitchhike”.) Meanwhile, all Mickey can see ahead of him is darkness. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take,” he weeps. "I just want it all to end.” He breaks off his engagement to Lucy, only for her to then rally his spirits and for them to renew their marriage plans. It’s then (as Phillip Erickson puts it in another context in another soap) that the world caves in - Mickey suffers a cardiac arrest and lapses back into a coma, one from which he has scant chance of ever awakening.

    While DALLAS’s Lil Trotter keeps vigil for her son at the hospital, Lilimae spends most of this week’s KNOTS at the police station, waiting for an opportunity to see Chip so she can make him confess to killing Ciji. “He’s gotta pay for what he’s done,” she insists. "Who’s gonna make sure he pays?“ But her efforts are in vain - Chip is released. Meanwhile, DALLAS’s Lil comes to a decision of her own. “That’s not my boy,” she declares, "and after today, I’m not gonna come over here anymore and watch that machine breathe for him.” Lilimae knows Chip is guilty; Lil knows Mickey is dead, but in each case, the workings of the legal system refuse to acknowledge that fact. Both women are seeking a sense of justice, or at least closure, that the law is unable to provide.

    So Lilimae runs down Chip, and Ray and/or Lil pulls the plug on Mickey’s life support system. Having arrived in Soap Land in the same week almost exactly a year earlier, it looks as if Chip and Mickey are now dying alongside each other too. We can’t be certain in Chip’s case because all the dialogue spoken after Lilimae’s car hits him is drowned out by the musical score. Conversely on DALLAS, while the camera stays on Ray, we hear the disembodied voices of the medical team attending to Mickey, ending with with the grave pronouncement, “We’ve done all we can”. The episode concludes with Ray huddled by the door of Mickey’s room, Lil’s hand on his shoulder - a silent acknowledgement of their complicity. At the end of KNOTS, it’s a wordless look rather than a touch that Karen shares with Lilimae, and in their case its one of shock and disbelief.

    With Chip’s release, Janet Baines quits both the investigation and her position as KNOTS’ impartial observer, which she inherited from Mack when Ciji died. “I'm too close to this, Mack” she now admits. And so, with KNOTS’ focus shifting from Ciji to Sumner, it falls to Ben Gibson to assume the role of the show's objective outsider. While Greg’s combination of liberal idealism and determined ambition wows everyone else, from Mack and Karen to Gary and Abby, Ben is left asking the tricky questions. "He was locked in the state legislature for years,” he says of Greg. "He couldn’t raise a nickel to run even for congress and now in one fell swoop, he’s going for the senate and he seems to have the wherewithal to do it. Just makes me wonder, that’s all." In other words, who is Sheriff Titus to Greg's Fielding Carlyle? Who is the Office of Land Management to his Cliff Barnes?

    Interestingly, just as Chase did during his court appearance at the end of last week’s FALCON CREST, Greg concludes his speech at the fundraiser by invoking the spirit of America’s thirty-second president: “Like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, we’re gonna put a greater premium on trying, on action, rather than on being right all the time.” Cue enthusiastic applause. (Val, meanwhile, is as equally won over by the party decorations as she is Greg’s rhetoric. Forget the ocean, it’s like she’s never seen a balloon before.)

    JR and John Ross have their first of many bedside chats in this week’s DALLAS. Back in the day, these scenes, sweetly amusing though they often were, didn’t mean an awful lot to me. In light of New DALLAS, however, they take on fresh significance. “Ewing Oil and Southfork should be yours and I’m gonna get ‘em for you,” JR promises his son. Likewise, the scene where Cliff smugly blackmails Sly into spying on JR for him chimes perfectly with the ruthless Cliff of New DALLAS. And with Miss Ellie away, JR and Sue Ellen become de facto heads of the household, creating a slightly different atmosphere at the ranch - one that’s perhaps a halfway stage between the Southfork of Jock and Ellie’s era and that of Bobby and Ann’s.

    Following straight on from Mickey’s death in DALLAS, Chase hobbles back to work on FALCON CREST. It’s an oddly touching juxtaposition. While JR and Dusty Farlow's equivalent struggles to regain the use of their legs were given relatively little screen time, and Constance’s short-lived paralysis on FLAMINGO ROAD was played mainly for sexy laughs, far more dramatic emphasis is given to Chase’s attempts to walk again. Last week, he was given the full-on montage treatment, complete with a score as rousingly militaristic as the EMERALD POINT theme. This week, there’s more of the same as, determined to walk unaided, he throws down his crutches in the vineyard and pulls himself along by holding onto the vines, sweating and grimacing with the effort. There’s something almost Christ-like about his suffering.

    While KNOTS and DALLAS conclude with the deaths, apparent or otherwise, of Chip and Mickey, the remaining soaps each end with a court-related cliff-hanger - EMERALD POINT with the commencement of the court martial itself, and DYNASTY with Sammy Jo calling Blake from New York: “Just put me on that stand, Mr Carrington, and I guarantee you’ll get Danny back!” Meanwhile on FALCON CREST, as a result of her guilty plea, Julia now faces the possibility of the death penalty. Whether Melissa intended this all along is unclear, but there’s no mistaking her smile in the freeze frame after she hears the news.

    To raise Big John's $600,000 bail on THE YELLOW ROSE, Roy Champion puts up the oil rights under his family's land as collateral - the same oil that’s coveted by arch enemy Jeb Hollister (a sort of cross between Cecil Colby and Judith Ryland). Roy justifies his actions with a really great speech where he speaks more eloquently about his ranch than any Ewing ever has about Southfork:

    “Just what is it we’re trying to protect here, anyway? What is the Yellow Rose - two hundred thousand acres of land behind a barbed wire fence? Is it oil leases and a couple of thousand head of cattle? Is it more than that? Dammit, I love this place and not just because it’s home sweet home, but because it’s a part of the past and it’s a way into the future that I want to be a part of. And if we’re more worried about oil and cows and real estate than we are about people, then I don’t think that the Yellow Rose is worth having in the first place.“

    In any case, the chances of the Champions holding on to their land and their oil aren’t looking good after Sanchez, the cop-killing, drug-running crazy man who works for the Hollisters, lures Big John and Chance into a trap at the end of the ep.

    And this week’s Top 6 are …

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (2) DALLAS
    3 (5) DYNASTY
    4 (3) THE YELLOW ROSE
    5 (4) FALCON CREST
    6 (6) EMERALD POINT N.A.S
     
  19. Zach

    Zach Soap Chat Active Member

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    I love reading these threads while rewatching the shows (I am currently at the beginning of the 83/84 season). So glad they weren't lost with the crash of the old soapchat. You did such a great job. Very much appreciated!
     
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  20. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    31/Oct/83: EMERALD POINT N.A.S: Episode 6 v. 02/Nov/83: DYNASTY: The Hearing (2) v. 03/Nov/83: KNOTS LANDING: ...And Never Brought to Mind v. 04/Nov/83: DALLAS: Check and Mate v. 04/Nov/83: FALCON CREST: The Wages of Sin v. 05/Nov/83: THE YELLOW ROSE: Sins of the Father

    Minor Trend of the Week #1: Girls committing perjury. At Casey Denault's court martial on EMERALD POINT, his fiancée Hilary pretends not to have had an affair with the murder victim, while Kay Mallory claims that she (Kay) has. Over at the Carrington custody hearing on DYNASTY, Sammy Jo bears false witness against ex-husband Steven, claiming that he was having all kinds of affairs with men while they were married.

    While bad girls Hilary and Sammy Jo acquit themselves convincingly, good girl Kay copes less well. In fact, not since Claudia Blaisdel at Blake’s murder trial has anyone in Soap Land fallen apart so completely on the witness stand. Whereas Claudia’s plight was genuinely moving, watching Kay cave in so easily under cross-examination - not only does she admit to lying under oath, she also blurts out that Hilary was the one having the affair and that she herself is secretly in love with Casey Denault - is laugh out loud funny. (In fact, this week’s EMERALD POINT is its most enjoyable ep so far.)

    Towards the end of this week’s DYNASTY and FALCON CREST, Judge Kendall gets ready to deliver his ruling in Danny Carrington's custody case and Judge Leeds prepares to pass sentence on Julia Cumson. The night before the respective hearings, whilst Danny’s father Steven and Julia’s son Lance anxiously await the verdicts, the women in their lives prove to be more pro-active. Claudia shows up at Steven’s door with a suitcase and an excited smile on her face. “I’m not going to let you lose your son, Steven,” she announces. "I can stop Blake. I’ve got the answer!” Lance, meanwhile, lies awake next to his wife Melissa. “I’d rather be anywhere than in that courtroom tomorrow,” he broods, unaware that Melissa has secretly being visiting his mother in jail, encouraging her to seek the death penalty.

    Soap Land's legal issues don’t end there. Only five weeks after Gary Ewing was acquitted of killing Ciji, his half-brother Ray and mother-in-law Lilimae are both arrested, more or less simultaneously - Ray for the murder of Mickey Trotter on DALLAS, Lilimae for the attempted murder of Chip Roberts on KNOTS LANDING.

    Whilst Ray’s wife Donna has to fight her way through a swarm of reporters outside the DALLAS hospital, Ben Gibson is on hand to shield Val from the press at the KNOTS LANDING police station. In the midst of the chaos surrounding them, Lilimae and Ray both remain calm, apparently indifferent to the consequences of their actions. As far as they are concerned, running down Chip and pulling the plug on Mickey’s life support system were the right things to do, irrespective of the law. “Chip is a killer,” Lilimae insists. “I only did what needed to be done.” “What mattered was Mickey and all the pain he was going through,” declares Ray. “I did what I had to do.” Val and Donna are as shocked by their loved ones’ attitudes as much as by their actions. “Who appointed you judge and jury?” Val asks her mama. "Nobody has the right to play God!” despairs Donna.

    Meanwhile, it’s all JR and Abby can do to keep a straight face. In fact, they don't even try. “That half-breed Ray Krebbs got himself arrested,” JR gloats over drinks with Katherine Wentworth. "With any luck, he’ll be in jail for ten to fifteen years.” “I’ve always known that beneath that 'batty little old lady' exterior there beat the heart of a killer,” laughs Abby when Laura tells her about Lilimae.

    The reactions of Pam and Gary Ewing are also interesting. Gary receives notification of his divorce from Val in the same scene that he hears about Lilimae’s arrest, but still feels compelled to rush to Val's side. Pam, divorced from Bobby an episode and a half ago, has a similar urge to be with the Ewings following Ray’s arrest. Neither of their current partners approves. "Gary, you’ve gotta stop jumping every time these people snap their fingers,” insists Abby. “Why is it every time I feel you’re free of the Ewing family something happens that pulls you right back?” Mark Graison asks Pam impatiently. While Pam resists the urge to visit Southfork, Gary heads straight for the police station where he finds himself surplus to requirements and is left making awkward conversation with Ben.

    Where Lilimae and Ray both seem resigned to their fates, FALCON CREST’s Julia is practically suicidal. “My whole life is turning into one enormous nightmare,” she sobs. "I don’t even want to live.” She seizes upon Melissa’s suggestion of the death penalty as if it were a light at the end of the tunnel. Has any Soap Land character ever been in such a grim place? Indeed, the death penalty element means there’s a much darker vibe to Julia’s story than there is to any of the other current murder cases in Soap Land, of which there are five. (DYNASTY is the only show where no one is presently charged with either murder or attempted murder.)

    Paradoxically, FALCON CREST also provides the most tender courtroom moment of the week. When Angela Channing - ordinarily one of Soap Land’s most devious characters - is asked at Julia’s sentencing hearing why her daughter should be shown leniency, she is surprisingly sincere. “I'm her mother,” she replies simply. "It wasn’t too many years ago that I held her in my arms. She isn’t evil and terrifying - she’s ill."

    The moment where Julia asks to be sentenced to death is chilling. When she is instead condemned to life imprisonment in a maximum security prison "without the possibility of parole" it really does feel like a fate worse than death. Angela’s anguished reaction underlines the awfulness of it all. That we should find ourselves caring at all, either about Julia - whose identity as a killer still doesn't really make sense - or Angela - arguably the coldest, most consistently cruel character in all of Soap Land - is a testimony to the pulpy potency of the genre, FALCON CREST in particular.

    The dysfunctional relationships between Steven and Blake in DYNASTY and Julia and Angela in FALCON CREST aren’t the only parent/child conflicts to spill over into the courtroom. On this week’s YELLOW ROSE, having already been viciously beaten by his father Jeb’s cane earlier in the ep, coke-addicted buffoon Lenny Hollister is arrested for both murder and the importation of illegal drugs. This leads to a public outburst at his indictment. “I’m here because I wanted a way out,” Lenny shouts at his father’s retreating back. "I wanted a way out from all of your tender lovin’ care!"

    Minor Trend of the Week #2: Divorced couples winding up in bed together. On DYNASTY, Fallon and Jeff fly to Montana to investigate Adam’s past. Plane trouble obliges them to spend the night in a hotel. Over dinner, the wine flows, one thing leads to another and they end up in each other’s arms. On KNOTS LANDING, a disturbed Lilimae turns up at Gary’s ranch in the middle of the night looking for Diana. Gary drives her back to the cul-de-sac. He then stays to comfort Val, one thing leads to another and they end up in each other’s arms.

    While Kirby waits patiently at home for Jeff, whiling away the hours playing Beethoven’s "Moonlight Sonata" on the piano, Abby packs a suitcase and walks out on Gary. Her secret hope is that by forcing the issue, he will ask her to marry him before his Ewing Oil inheritance comes through. This episode of KNOTS concludes with a week still to go until the battle for Ewing Oil finishes. On the following night’s DALLAS, however, that same fight is over by the end of the ep. The disparity can be explained away by the narrative time jump that followed Mickey’s relapse on last week’s DALLAS.

    On FALCON CREST, Richard Channing is in a parallel situation to Abby. Just as JR tipped Abby off about Gary’s inheritance, Richard has had a sneak preview of his mother’s will. In a reverse of the situation set up by Jock’s will on DALLAS, Richard's inheritance is contingent on him and half-brother Chase becoming friends. While Abby only has a week to get Gary to marry her, Richard has the same length of time to convince Chase of his sincere desire to call a truce between them.

    As well as helping Abby to land Gary, JR also gives his blessing to Katherine Wentworth in her perusal of Bobby. (“Pretty soon you’ll have him all to yourself,” he assures her.) If he’s not careful, he'll end up with two ruthless sisters-in-law.

    Richard Channing’s efforts to impress his brother (first he writes a sensitive article about Julia, then he offers Maggie a job at the Globe) pay off as Chase grudgingly agrees to bury the hatchet just in time for the reading of the will. At the end of this week’s DALLAS, an equally reluctant Bobby agrees to his father’s posthumous request that he and JR “put your arms around each other and work that company like brothers.” On THE YELLOW ROSE, Colleen makes a similar appeal for sibling conciliation, urging Chance to tell Roy that he is his half-brother. “There’s no way me and Roy are ever gonna wear the same harness,” insists Chance. “OK, so you got the short end of the stick,” Colleen acknowledges. "You did the hard time - you got left on a doorstep while your brother came home in a blue blanket, worked with your hands while your brother went to college. So what? Maybe Roy did it have it better, but he didn’t have it any easier."

    In the same week that JR and Bobby agree to run Ewing Oil together, and Pam and Cliff join forces at Barnes-Wentworth, another long-term business partnership commences, as Karen and Abby discover on this week’s KNOTS that they are co-owners in “a fourplex on the coast near Lotus Point”, left to them by Abby’s uncle. While JR initially uses Bobby’s post-divorce depression to try and trick him out of his rightful share (“When he comes out of that funk of his, he’ll find that I have fifty-one percent of Ewing Oil”), Abby attempts to take advantage of Karen’s preoccupied state to buy her off. However, Bobby ends up trumping JR in the contest while Karen sees through Abby’s ruse. She then gives Abby's emissary, Laura, a blistering telling off that puts the final nail in their friendship.

    There's also some bittersweet reminiscing in this week’s Soap Land. “I was fifteen when I met her,” recalls Gary of Val on KNOTS. "When she smiles or turns her head a certain way, I get a glimpse of exactly the way she used to be.” While Jeff describes Fallon as “the first girl I ever loved” on DYNASTY, he also thinks she’s changed for the better. "I’m really impressed with the way you’ve turned out,” he tells her, "a lot different to the girl-woman I married.” Conversely, for Sue Ellen on DALLAS, the Bobby Ewing of today doesn’t quite measure up to the one she first met. "JR’s kid brother - you were so sweet and dashing and handsome,” she tells him. “You’re still quite handsome, only the sweetness has gone - and the naiveté. I see a sadness in you now.” She goes on to compare him to young Peter Richards. “Life is important to him, Bobby - not business, not deals, but life … If he doesn’t look for the things that are important to you, then maybe he’ll grow up to be as wholesome as he is right now.” The same theme is touched upon elsewhere in this week’s Soap Land. “If this is what Falcon Crest does to people, I say we get out,” Lance tells his grandmother. A more pragmatic note is sounded by Greg Sumner on KNOTS. “Power not only corrupts, it also gets things done!” he insists.

    “It’s hard to fall out of love,” laments Holly Harwood as she and Bobby say their goodbyes on this week’s DALLAS. “You know what hurts? There’s someone out there who’s gonna end up with you - and it won’t be me.” This rueful admission echoes Janet Baines’ to Mack in last week’s KNOTS: “Some stupid part of me thought that it was OK for us not to be right, as long as you weren’t right with someone else.” Janet and Holly manage to walk away from Mack and Bobby with their feelings hurt but their dignity intact. Each is a rare example of a Soap Land woman who can experience unrequited feelings for a man without needing to strike back in some way, e.g. commit perjury or murder, or destroy his marriage or business empire.

    Chip Roberts follows in the wake of Mickey Trotter and Chase Gioberti to become Soap Land Memorial Hospital’s third coma patient of the season. Eerily, he loses consciousness without warning, without even closing his eyes, midway through a conversation with Diana. They’re discussing their idealised future in New York - the fantasy destination of so many Soap Land dreamers - when he begins muttering about “the trees on the mountain … I thought there were trees”. He then abruptly lapses into a trancelike state. The image of a tree as a kind of final resting place recurs on both DALLAS, when Ray suggests to Lil that Mickey be buried on Southfork ("There’s this corner up above the meadow beneath this big old tree. He used to go up there whenever he wanted to be by himself. I just keep thinkin’ how much he might have liked it if we laid him to rest up there”), and on THE YELLOW ROSE where Big John, having taken a bullet in the gut from the bad guys, suddenly dies in Chance’s arms following their horseback escape. Chance’s eyes fill with angry tears, before the final shot of the scene shows the two men from a distance, slumped in the shade of a tree, horse munching quietly on the grass beside them. John’s unexpected demise seems to break the rules of TV grammar in a similar way to Sid’s on KNOTS LANDING: He can’t die now - they’ve already eluded the bad guys! They’ve just been quipping and laughing! It’s not even the end of the episode!

    As gorgeous as KNOTS LANDING and DALLAS often appear this season, they don’t look anywhere near as striking as this week’s YELLOW ROSE. Some of the cinematography is quite unique. Viewing THE YELLOW ROSE, I get the same excited can-this-really-be-as-good-as-I-think-it-is? feeling as I sometimes do when watching New DALLAS, or as I did when I first stumbled upon other hidden (at least to me) gems of the soap genre: PEYTON PLACE, KNOTS LANDING Season 11, the final year of FALCON CREST.

    The end of this YELLOW ROSE instalment, its fifth, has an air of tentative resolution about it, strongly reminiscent of the end of DALLAS’s fifth episode, “Barbecue”. Back then, Bobby and Pam decided to leave Southfork in the wake of a tragedy, Pam’s miscarriage, and it was only an appeal from an unlikely source, Jock, that persuaded them to stay on. An uneasy truce between Pam and the Ewings was forged, which paved the way for the rest of the series. Following Big John’s death on THE YELLOW ROSE, Chance announces that he too is planning to leave. This time, it’s Roy, who has been openly suspicious of Chance since Episode 1, who asks him to stay. Turns out he has already intuited that he and Chance share the same daddy: “Man should take what God gave him, Chance ... You and me have got the same blood in us, the same damn stubborn streak … This is your range too.” "I figured you knew,” Chance replies. "Seems like there oughta be more to this somehow.” Damn straight there oughta be. Roy merely sensing the truth about something so significant robs THE YELLOW ROSE of the kind of Big Revelation Scene on which the primetime soap genre traditionally thrives. However, it is also another instance of THE YELLOW ROSE subverting Soap Land convention and being all the stronger for it.

    And this week’s Top 6 are … man, it’s a close one ...

    1 (4) THE YELLOW ROSE
    2 (5) FALCON CREST
    3 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    4 (2) DALLAS
    5 (3) DYNASTY
    6 (6) EMERALD POINT N.A.S
     

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