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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And this week’s Top 2 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    04/Oct/84: KNOTS LANDING: Buying Time v. 05/Oct/84: DALLAS: Battle Lines v. 05/Oct/84: FALCON CREST: Father's Day

    KNOTS LANDING is back, its characters in a similar state of emergency to those in last week’s returning soaps. Where DYNASTY kicked off with a frantic Jeff Colby shouting helplessly at the police about his missing (ex-)wife Fallon, KNOTS finds Gary Ewing doing the same thing regarding his missing (estranged) wife Abby, abducted in front of his eyes at the tail end of last season. And where the DALLAS Ewings gathered anxiously at Soap Land Memorial Hospital where Bobby was undergoing emergency surgery to remove the bullets sustained in his season finale shooting, Karen Mackenzie’s family now do the same following hers.

    KNOTS being KNOTS, there are differences in approach. The cop Gary deals with isn’t an anonymous bit player but a firmly established recurring character, the perennially grouchy Detective Morrison. And where Bobby’s "five-hour" surgery on DALLAS was skimmed over in a matter of screen minutes, Karen’s “very long" operation spans most of the episode. Like Bobby’s doctor, her surgeon is played by a supporting black actor, but here some attempt has been to flesh out his character — we’re shown that Dr. Garner grows irritable under pressure, has an awkward bedside manner and a penchant for Charlie Parker. Also unlike DALLAS, we follow the medical action into the operating theatre, and when she regains consciousness after her surgery there is more time spent establishing Karen’s disorientation and discomfort than there was Bobby's.

    While all of this is a laudable attempt by KNOTS to make a generic soap situation feel more specific and “real”, it's also a way of padding the episode out, to compensate for the comparative lack of action happening elsewhere.

    There is tension in the hallways of Soap Land Memorial Hospital this week, on both KNOTS and DALLAS. Diana makes it clear to Mack that she resents his presence ("My mom asked you to leave and now I’m telling you ... We don’t need you, Mack”) while Jenna points out to Pam that as Bobby’s ex-wife, she has no place at his bedside either (“You gave up all rights to him when you walked out on him”).

    “I know you think you still love, Bobby,” Jenna tells Pam, who doesn’t deny it. “Everything you said about Gary and me is true,” Val admits to Ben in yet another Ewing-verse hospital scene. "All my protests and all the denying — and then some stranger just mentions his name and I go running after him all over again.” In both cases, the cat is out of the bag: in spite of the full seasons' efforts they put into building new lives, Pam and Val are clearly still in love with their Ewing exes.

    Karen makes it through surgery, but as with Bobby, there is a caveat. For Bobby, it’s his blindness. For Karen, it’s her paralysis. Not for her a sudden “Oh my God, I can’t move my legs!” moment equivalent to Fallon’s on DYNASTY or Chase’s on FALCON CREST. Instead, Dr. Garner explains during a long and faltering speech, her paralysis will manifest itself gradually. For both she and Bobby, the long-term prognosis is grim. “The longer [his recovery] takes, the less likely he is to regain his sight,” Bobby’s doctor warns Jenna this week. “Shortly after the paralysis becomes permanent, you are going to die,” Dr Garner tells Karen. Whereas FALCON CREST's Maggie and DALLAS’s Mark Graison each learned of their terminal condition from someone with whom they already shared a strong connection — a cousin-in-law and a lifelong friend — Karen and Dr Garner have no pre-existing relationship. It’s here that KNOTS' decision to develop the doctor’s personality pays off — we get the sense of Karen talking to another human being rather than just a sympathetic talking head.

    In the past, I've always had a problem with the scene in this week’s DALLAS where JR explains to John Ross that it wouldn’t be fair of him to wrest control of Ewing Oil away from Bobby while he’s in the hospital: “You've got to remember, with family you play fair because there are rules to follow and if you do, you’ll be able to live with yourself.” JR’s words here felt to me like a cop-out on the part of the writers, a way of reigning in the character’s ambition, not out of a preexisting sense of family loyalty, but simply in order to preserve the show’s status quo, whereby the two brothers continue running the company together, however uneasily.

    However, New DALLAS has given me a different outlook. When Bobby is stricken with cancer towards the end of New DALLAS’s first season, an equally frail JR reluctantly abandons his plans to drill for oil on Southfork and instead signs ownership of the ranch back to his brother. That situation is depicted so meaningfully and poignantly that its power sort of reverberates back through the years to imbue the JR/John Ross scene with a credibility I never felt it had before. Similarly, the way Sue Ellen seems to drift back to JR’s side in this episode, after keeping him at arm’s length for so long, was something I always found frustrating and disappointing, as if the writers didn’t know what else to do with her character. Viewed from this distance, however, it seems inevitable. Regardless of the rights and wrongs (or even the dramatic highs and lows) of the matter, this is simply how their relationship functioned: Sue Ellen could only ever keep JR at bay for so long.

    Last week’s DYNASTY saw Blake Carrington in something of a decline, leaving other people to make important decisions about his family and business while he sat brooding in his bedroom in his pyjamas and silk dressing gown. “Stop shutting out the world!” Krystle pleaded with him. There’s an equivalent scene on this week’s DALLAS where Sue Ellen comes down to breakfast to finds JR sporting a similar pyjamas/silk dressing gown ensemble after spending a sleepless night brooding on the Southfork patio. Like Krystle, Sue Ellen tries to get her husband to open up — not to the whole world this time, just to her. Like Blake, JR is reluctant. “JR, you worked very hard to get me back in your bed again,” she snaps. "I thought that meant I’d be back in your life again too. Well apparently I was wrong!” She gets up to leave, but he stops her: “Wait a minute, Sue Ellen, can’t you see how hard it is for me to talk about this?” He then goes on to regale her with a list of his current problems — Cliff’s oil strike, Bobby appointing Donna as his deputy at Ewing Oil, a would-be assassin still on the loose — while she listens sympathetically. Again, viewed from a post-New DALLAS perspective, such a scene — JR and Sue Ellen bickering and talking almost like a conventional long-married couple — takes on a poignancy it never had before, and that it probably wasn’t even intended to have.

    There are yet more sleepless, pyjama-clad nights in this week’s FALCON CREST. This time, Maggie is the supportive wife attempting to comfort husband Chase who is still haunted by the plane crash. Eventually, he conquers his demons by climbing into the pilot seat of a small crop duster and flying it over the vineyards.

    While this week’s KNOTS ends on a downbeat note with Karen’s prognosis, DALLAS concludes with a delicious twist as Cliff, who has spent much of the preceding hour savouring his recent victory over JR in the Gulf, is abruptly arrested outside his office for Bobby’s shooting. Pam can only stand and watch as he is led away. “You can’t do this!” she protests helplessly. She then turns to see a smiling JR watching from his car across the street. As he drives off, her eyes narrow in anger.

    For the second week in a row, however, the prize for the most outrageous episode ending is taken by FALCON CREST. Remember the bomb that turned out not to be in Mack’s jeep at the end of last season’s KNOTS? Well it’s found its way into Johann Reibmann’s limousine instead. As Reibmann climbs into the car, which is parked in front of his Buenos Aires home, his son Gustav watches discreetly from inside the house. The bomb goes off and there is an almighty explosion. We then see the flames reflected in the window in front of Gustav’s face. He wears a grave expression but does not seem surprised. It would appear that we’ve just witnessed Soap Land’s first case of patricide.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And this week’s Top 5 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And so this week’s Top 5 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    25 Dec 84: PAPER DOLLS: Episode 13 v. 27/Dec/84: KNOTS LANDING: Uncharted Territory v. 28/Dec/84: DALLAS: Odd Man Out v. 28/Dec/84: FALCON CREST: Suitable for Framing

    PAPER DOLLS bows out on Christmas Day with a never-ending fashion show and an offscreen plane crash. While there's not much in the way of closure, there is something pleasingly circular about reporter Mark Bailey, in his quest to find out more about Racine's elusive past, catching a flight to Dallas - the very place where Morgan Fairchild began her Soap Land journey as Jenna Wade.

    Speaking of Jenna, the path of her present incarnation diverges from that of Soap Land’s other missing mother, KNOTS LANDING’s Val, this week. Still being held captive by Naldo, Jenna is desperate to return home and there’s a tense scene where she frantically tries to phone Bobby, only for Naldo to intercept the call at the last minute. By contrast, Val is now so happily immersed in her new identity as Verna that when she hears a radio news report about her own disappearance, she shows not a flicker of recognition.

    Just as Val’s waitressing skills are proving a big hit with her new customers in Shula, Tennessee (she even has her own catchphrase: “okey dokey!”), her daughter Lucy’s less successful foray into the same profession draws to a close on DALLAS. “I see you finally got the hang of waitressing — after you quit,” quips boyfriend Eddie after she wakes him up with a cup of coffee. Val and Lucy’s respective attempts at domesticity also produce differing results. While Val scores herself a cute little kitchenette apartment on KNOTS — in terms of desirable Soap Land residences I could actually imagine living in, it’s up there with Gary and Abby’s Season 4 beach house and Nick Toscanni’s DYNASTY bachelor pad — Eddie makes it clear to Lucy that he doesn’t appreciate coming home from work to find her waiting for him in his apartment. Poor Lucy — after Gary making it clear last week that Val would never return to Dallas under any circumstances, not even to see her daughter, it seems like Lucy doesn’t belong anywhere in Soap Land anymore, not on KNOTS or at Southfork, nor even the Hot Biscuit or at Eddie’s place.

    Where KNOTS’ storytelling continues to sprawl in several directions at the same time, much of DALLAS’s present appeal comes from the way its various plot lines overlap and intersect. There’s both a strong emotional undercurrent and an irresistible comic book dumbness to this week’s ep, and it's that combination which feels just so quintessentially ... DALLAS. It’s a blast to see JR manipulating Bobby and Pam for the umpteenth time and having such a fun time doing it. No sooner has Pam arrived at Southfork to drop off Christopher on her way to San Serrano to look for Mark, for example, than he shows up with a drunken Bobby. "Bobby has vowed to search for Jenna until he finds her,” JR informs his clearly concerned ex-sister-in-law, “kind of like what you're doing for Mark Graison ... I just think it's so ironic — you're both searching for people you love.” "She [Pam] was here when I brought you home," he tells a hungover Bobby the following morning. "Hell, she was standing right over there, but she couldn't wait for Mama to take Christopher so she could go off and catch that plane. I used to think she really cared for you — until now. Sorry, bud.” He’s unable to suppress a smile as he turns away from his forlorn brother to exit the shot. And it’s just as pleasurable to watch Abby on KNOTS intercept Joshua's fan mail and realise, following the televised appeal he made to the missing Val in last week’s ep, that she has a potential star on her hands. Tickled pink, she urges Joshua to deliver another on-air sermon for his sister’s benefit. Running parallel to the wild goose chase JR has sent Pam on, this is another case of misdirection — Abby already knows Val’s whereabouts and that Joshua’s message will never reach her.

    The way the various plot strands slot together on DALLAS is immensely satisfying, even though viewed in isolation they can seem a little illogical. For example, there’s a scene where Jamie, currently working as a humble receptionist, decides that just because JR has been so nice to Bobby over Jenna’s disappearance, she won’t pursue her legal claim to a third of Ewing Oil — thereby sacrificing millions of dollars and the chance to restore her father’s reputation. (“My father always wanted to reconcile with Jock but he could never bring himself to do it,” she smiles dreamily.) Over on FALCON CREST, Melissa Agretti has exactly the opposite reaction when she learns that Lance has usurped her as Angela’s heir. (“It was my father’s dream that I be part of Falcon Crest!” she seethes.) The subsequent scene where she comes on like a film noir femme fatale and offers scuzzy Joel McCarthy $50,000 to discredit Lance in the eyes of his grandmother is great. It’s also a turning point equivalent to Abby’s passing comment at the beginning of this season's KNOTS that she wished Val’s babies would “just disappear”. In the same way that Abby could never have envisaged such a remark leading to the twins' abduction so Melissa doesn’t anticipate just how far Joel will go to frame Lance.

    DALLAS and FALCON CREST’s storylines featuring troublesome ex-husbands — Naldo Marchetta and Joel McCarthy — have each been treading water for some time. However, both reach unexpectedly violent climaxes this week, leading to near identical cliff-hangers. On DALLAS, Jenna is dragged to a Laredo hotel room by Naldo. On FALCON CREST, Lance is lured to a disused gas station by Joel. Jenna loses consciousness while Lance is tied up and robbed. At the end of their respective episodes, Jenna comes to and Lance is set free, only to each then find themselves in a compromising position while surrounded by armed police — Jenna is lying next to Naldo’s dead body with a gun in her hand and Lance is in possession of the car which has been used to push Angela's off a cliff.

    FALCON CREST aside, each of this week’s shows ends with a spouse contemplating their partner’s mortality. As well as Jenna finding her husband’s dead body on DALLAS, Mack MacKenzie finally learns about the bullet fragment lodged in his wife's spine on KNOTS. “I won’t let you die,” he vows. PAPER DOLLS, meanwhile, concludes with Grant Harper’s tearful announcement that the plane carrying his wife has crashed, with no sign of survivors. Given the melodramatic nature of the scene, the aeronautical theme and the fact that Grant is portrayed by Lloyd Bridges, it’s hard not to be reminded of Bridges’ performance as an increasingly befuddled air traffic controller in the spoof disaster movie AIRPLANE (“Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue!”) — which probably isn’t quite the note the producers of PAPER DOLLS were hoping their series would go out on.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    16 Jan 85: DYNASTY: The Treasure v. 17 Jan 85: KNOTS LANDING: Inside Information

    Whereas last week’s DYNASTY, with its deathbed reconciliations and surprise will reading, felt like an archetypal slice of eighties soap opera, this week’s episode scarcely looks like a soap at all. Instead the show seems to be grasping at other genres for inspiration.

    The scene in which Krystle’s car is chased off the road by a four wheel drive truck bears a superficial resemblance to the recent FALCON CREST scene where Angela was similarly targeted, but whereas we knew who was chasing Angela and why, here the attack comes out of nowhere and the driver of the truck remains anonymous and eerily faceless - like the antagonist of 1970s suspense movie DUEL.

    Meanwhile Alexis discovers that her new husband Dex and Daniel Reece have a shared history of derring do — secret missions to rescue missing soldiers in Cambodia, dissidents in East Berlin, kidnapped diplomats in Beirut, “and other feats equally top secret if not so heroic.” This unusual plot twist feels more reminiscent of THE A-TEAM or RAMBO than anything we’ve previously seen in Soap Land.

    Then there’s the quest for buried treasure that has taken Jeff Colby and latest squeeze Nicole to Bolivia and which plays like a small scale version of the RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK or ROMANCING THE STONE films. (For reasons I've never fully grasped, Jeff's hope is that finding the treasure will also lead him to Fallon. Alas, the search for his supposedly dead fiancee in Bolivia proves no more successful than Pam Ewing’s search for her supposedly dead fiancee in Jamaica on last week’s DALLAS. "This whole thing was a wild ghost chase!” he exclaims bitterly.)

    It falls to Alexis to keeps the soap flag flying on this week's DYNASTY and this she does admirably. Clad in a succession of increasingly ridiculous outfits, she stands imperiously on staircases, barges uninvited into offices and pours herself large brandies while simultaneously issuing ultimatums ("I have no desire to be a widow ... If I become one, you will regret it!”), fait-accomplis ("I do as I please - I always have and I always will!") and insults ("That Saloon Singer", "Miss Showbiz" and "That Thieving Parvenu" are just three of the names she calls Dominique this week).

    KNOTS LANDING, meanwhile, cleverly wrong foots its audience in its opening scene. It begins with a shot of an ambulance pulling into a parking lot. Karen's surgery having dominated last week's instalment, one assumes this is a scene-setting exterior shot of Soap Land Memorial Hospital. When we see a bloodied corpse being lifted into the ambulance, however, we that this is not a hospital but a crime scene. So who's dead? At this point, the dreaded question, “Have I missed an episode?” enters my mind. But then the voices of Mack and an unidentified woman can be heard on the soundtrack and we realise that this is old news footage (relating to the Tidal Basin murders) that they are watching on video. There's another, even more brazenly meta moment in the next scene when Karen, restlessly recuperating at home, complains that, "I couldn't stand one more day of soap operas".

    While Karen is tired of watching soap operas, Krystle is tired of her soap role. "Up to now I've been content to live my life through everybody else's eyes," she tells Blake. "My life's been on hold for so many people, listening to their problems, trying to help solve them." Her reaction when he suggests she busy herself with charity work, the traditional domain of a rich man’s wife, is fascinating: "I wasn't born rich and I'm still not all that comfortable being rich and I'm not comfortable with giving speeches at benefits. Sure, I enjoy an occasional afternoon at the country club, but that's about the extent of it in that world.” Her attitude echoes that of Pam in an early DALLAS episode when faced with the prospect of “going to any more boring [charity] lunches and listening to boring Sue Ellen.” But whereas Pam and Bobby were still newlyweds at this point, Krystle has been Mrs Blake Carrington for the best part of five years, thus making her sudden resistance to the role she has always seemed happy to play all the more intriguing. Her change in behaviour also has a knock-on effect on Blake's. "That's expensive - breeding horses, isn't it?" he asks with cool politeness when she starts talking excitedly about her new business idea, and she is momentarily taken aback to realise he isn’t intending to bank roll her. This is a direct inversion of the way Blake and Krystle’s relationship has always operated in the past - he expressing his devotion by showering her with expensive gifts, she protesting about their extravagance before allowing him to talk her into accepting them.

    "This is a business, not a hobby, no matter what Blake Carrington says," Daniel tells Krystle in a later scene. A similar line is delivered on this week's KNOTS where another married couple are also arguing about the wife's business aspirations. Gary wants Abby to attend a meeting with Paul Galveston regarding Empire Valley but she refuses, citing a prior commitment in Tennessee relating to her own cable news business. When she refuses to reschedule, Gary gets angry. "This is not a hobby for me," she insists. Elsewhere on KNOTS, Cathy is offered the opportunity of advancing her singing career, opening for a rock band on a three month tour. “This is something I’ve wanted all my life,” she tells boyfriend Joshua, echoing Krystle’s line to Blake, "I’ve always dreamed about working with horses.” Joshua is no more enthusiastic at the prospect of Cathy going on the road than Blake is at the idea of Krystle going into the horse business. However, Joshua proves more manipulative than Blake, cleverly managing to undermine Cathy's confidence without voicing his disapproval outright. This is our first real indication of Joshua's dark side.

    A confused Cathy turns to Lilimae for counsel and it's ironic that Soap Land's quintessential free spirit should present her own life as an example of what can happen when a wife and mother allows her dreams and aspirations to get the better of her: "My ambition and my need for excitement were more important than anything else or anyone else. I was convinced I could do it all ... I ended up a lonely confused woman with everything I owned in a shopping cart.” So it is that Cathy, unlike Krystle and Abby, allows herself to be talked out of pursuing her own interests. When she tells Joshua that she has turned the tour down, his reaction isn’t what she expects. He doesn’t thank her or even show much interest. Eventually he bestows a hug on her and whispers in her ear, “All is forgiven.” It’s a chilling moment.

    What sets Abby apart from Cathy and Krystle in these "women in the workplace" debates is that she isn’t really interested in justifying her ambitions to her man. She has another reason entirely for visiting Tennessee - she's going to see Val. And what a priceless scene that turns out to be. Although the circumstances are very different, Abby and Val’s coffee shop encounter feels almost like a companion piece to the JR/Cliff scene in a recent episode of DALLAS where the two men met (again, in comparatively modest surroundings - in their case an out of the way bar) to secretly discuss the best way to keep Bobby and Pam apart in the wake of Jenna's disappearance. On both shows it’s a unique moment: a truce, however brief, between the series' two most notorious adversaries. This laying down of arms has always vaguely reminded me of the stories of Christmas Day ceasefires between German and British soldiers during the First World War - and so it’s kind of pleasing to find that these scenes originally aired either side of Christmas itself (DALLAS’s the week before, KL’s three weeks after).

    While the novelty of the DALLAS scene comes from the fact that JR and Cliff are, for once, on the same page and in full agreement (“Maybe this is the one time a Ewing and a Barnes ought to work together”), much of the enjoyment of Val and Abby’s encounter comes from the fact that it feels like two worlds colliding.

    Even more than Lucy’s stint at the Hot Biscuit on DALLAS, Val’s life in Shula has evolved into a soap within a soap (if not a sitcom within a soap), with its own characters, sets and situations. So when Abby walks into the diner where Val/Verna and dry-cleaning boyfriend Parker are in the middle of a tiff over whether or not she’ll go dancing with him and his pals in Nashville on Friday night, it’s as if Donna Mills has deigned to make a crossover appearance onto another, far less glamorous series. Val, as Verna, acknowledges Abby's star status with a near-involuntary gasp of “Boy, you’re pretty!” This observation feels like a reverse echo of what she told herself in that motel mirror a few episodes ago: “You look like a man! … You’re as flat as a board!” In both instances, the implication is the same: since leaving Seaview Circle, Val no longer inhabits Soap Land proper where everyone’s physical perfection is more or less assumed.

    Abby's reactions to Val's behaviour are what really sell the scene. To begin with, she is completely baffled when Val doesn't even recognise her, but by the end she is both delighted and amused to see at how firmly embedded Val has now become in her new identity as Verna.

    While it was an offhand remark of Cliff’s during their meeting that inspired JR to send Pam to the Caribbean on, to borrow Jeff Colby’s pun, "a wild ghost chase", Abby’s conversation with Val also has far-reaching consequences: it tips Verna’s sweetheart Parker off to Val’s real identity. Just like Eddie Cronin after he saw Lucy’s personalised licence plate in DALLAS, Parker’s first port of call when he finds that his blonde waitress has Ewing connections is the local library. Like Eddie, Parker learns what he needs to know by sifting through old newspapers. And just like Eddie, he then keeps schtum about his discovery till he can figure out how best to take advantage of it.

    There's a sense in this week’s Soap Land of characters being manipulated by unseen hands: Who ran Krystle off the road? Who is taking long distance photographs of Krystle and Daniel at Delta Rho? Who was it that tricked Daniel into attending a meeting with Blake that Blake knew nothing about? Meanwhile on KNOTS, who is intent on impeding Greg’s progress in Washington, sabotaging his appointment to a land management committee and souring his association with Senator Buchanan in the process? Actually, it doesn't take Greg to long to figure out the answer to that one — Paul Galveston, whom we also learn this week is Greg’s father.

    In the same week that Dominique Devereaux makes a gracious acceptance speech at a Carrington dinner welcoming her into the family ("This is a night I've dreamed of since I was a child, a dream I never thought I'd see come true - I only wish that my mother Laura were here and my father Tom to share in this very special moment"), Greg Sumner makes it clear that he wants nothing to do with his father or his legacy. "What I've got is better than the senate, bigger than the presidency," Galveston tells him. "I do not want what you have," Greg replies. "I'm not interested in this. Leave me alone!"

    Shock parental revelations are nothing new in Soap Land. This season alone, we've heard Francesca Gioberti, Maggie Gioberti, Amanda Carrington, Joshua Rush and Charlie Wade each describe how upset and confused they were to discover everything they'd always believed about their father and/or mother was untrue. This week, it's Greg’s turn. Like FALCON CREST's Francesca, he grew up believing his father was a military hero who died in the line of duty. Unlike Francesca (and the rest of Soap Land's aforementioned waifs and strays), his tale of how he learned otherwise is devoid of sentiment. Instead, it's brutal, unflinching and bitterly funny. “I was laying around my room," he tells Laura during a lengthy late night speech in his hotel room, "you know, crying, feeling sorry for myself because my dad was just killed and I heard this noise coming from my mother’s room. Of course, being ten years old, I assumed she was crying too so I got up and went to her door to console her and I realised that she wasn’t crying at all. Actually she was giggling and this strange guy was lying on top of her and they were kissing. You see, this strange guy and my mother had been having an affair behind my father’s back for years ... He is in fact my real father. You know who this guy was? Paul Galveston ... How’s that for a story?” With that, he grabs Laura and starts kissing her roughly.

    We're not privy to precisely what happens next but Laura's comment the following morning, “Things did get a little rough last night”, suggests that this is the third time in four weeks that a Soap Land male has tried to impose himself sexually on his partner — and each time in a motel or hotel room. First Jenna fought off Naldo's advances on DALLAS and then Claudia shamed Steven into leaving her alone on DYNASTY. Laura, however, appears to take whatever has occurred between her and Greg in stride ("I’m a big girl, I can handle it,” she assures him), and by the end of the scene they have never been more united. "Just stick with me," he pleads. "I will," she replies, "all the way."

    Three weeks ago, DALLAS ended with Jenna Wade regaining consciousness in a Laredo hotel room to discover that she had apparently killed her husband - even though she couldn't remember anything about it. This week's DYNASTY ends with Jeff Colby coming to in a Bolivian hotel room after a drunken night to be told that he has married Nicole - even though he can’t remember anything about it. Over on KNOTS LANDING, Val agrees to marry Parker Winslow - even though she doesn't even know her own name.

    And this week’s Top 2 are …

    1 (3) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (1) DYNASTY

    willie oleson said: ↑
     
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  17. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    23 Jan 85: DYNASTY: Foreign Relations v. 24 Jan 85: KNOTS LANDING: Out of the Past v. 25 Jan 85: DALLAS: Bail Out v. 25 Jan 85: FALCON CREST Acid Tests

    Let the battle of the bizarro wedding storylines commence: On DYNASTY, Jeff Colby sheepishly introduces his third wife Nicole, whom he can’t actually remember marrying, to his first wife’s family who immediately invites the happy couple to move in with them. On KNOTS LANDING, Gary arrives in Shula, Tennessee where he tries to stop his amnesiac ex-wife from marrying the local dry-cleaner.

    The scenes dealing with Nicole’s first few days at the Carrington mansion feel like a Hall-of-Mirrors version of Clayton’s initial attempts to acclimatise to life at Southfork earlier in this season’s DALLAS. Just as Clayton’s bid to assert his authority over step-granddaughter Lucy proved somewhat heavy-handed, Nicole comes on a bit too strong where ordering maid Jeanette around. Also, Nicole is as troubled by the prominence of her predecessor Fallon’s portrait in the family home as Clayton was by Jock’s. And in the same way that Bobby impulsively attempted to remove his father’s painting out of consideration to Clayton, Nicole’s drunken pal Bill tries to dislodge the picture of Fallon — only to be reprimanded by Krystle just as Bobby was by JR. “It’s still your house,” Clayton conceded to Jock’s portrait on his first night at the ranch. “You win again,” murmurs Nicole to Fallon’s picture in her last scene of this week’s DYNASTY.

    Two slow-burning relationships that have been shrouded in ambiguity so far this season are finally consummated in this week’s Soap Land. On DYNASTY, Steven turns up unannounced at Luke Fuller’s door and on DALLAS, Mandy Winger accepts JR’s invitation to Club 1900 — which, when she steps out of the elevator, turns out not to be a club at all but a dimly-lit hotel penthouse. Whereas Steven’s mood is solemn and earnest ("I've thought about us and I know what I want to do, where I want to be and with whom,” he tells Luke), Mandy's is volatile and angry (“You've been using me since you first met me,” she hisses at JR, "I hate you!”). While Luke and Steven stand facing each other in silence, JR lunges at Mandy after she throws a glass of champagne in his face and starts kissing her. Where Luke discreetly closes his apartment door leaving us on the other side of it, JR chuckles knowingly as he lowers Mandy out of shot and the screen fades to black.

    This week’s DYNASTY also sees the arrival of Lady Ashley Mitchell, Soap Land’s first titled character since Lady Jessica Montford in last season’s DALLAS. Although Jessica lived in London and Ashley resides in Paris, each is the American widow of an English lord. DYNASTY being DYNASTY, Lady Mitchell isn’t quite as down-home as Lady Montford was — where Jessica boasted of wrestling mountain lions in Virginia, Ashley speaks rhapsodically of her vineyard in Bordeaux — but the show is nonetheless keen to depict her as more relatable than her grand title might otherwise suggest. When Blake asks what she misses most about her homeland, Ashley replies without hesitation: “An all-American big juicy hamburger.”

    The final scenes of Jessica and Ashley’s debut episodes also share some similarities. Just as Jessica forged an immediate friendship with Miss Ellie (or at least appeared to) so Ashley strikes up an instant rapport with Blake (even going so far as to kiss him impulsively, if somewhat chastely, on the lips). At the end of their respective scenes, Miss Ellie and Blake each take their leave of their new acquaintance. ”I’m so happy that we’re going to be family,” smiles Ellie as she exits Jessica's bedroom at Southfork. “Good-bye,” says Blake as he departs Ashley’s suite in Paris. Left alone, Jessica and Ashley repeat these parting words questioningly, before contradicting them. “Family? Oh, I don't think so,” said Jessica back then. “Good-bye? I'm not so sure about that,” says Ashley now. The frames then freeze on Ladies Montford and Mitchell — Jessica scowling malevolently, Ashley smirking mischievously.

    Two of the best scenes of the week take place between the Ewingverse’s most perennially thwarted couples, Gary and Val on KNOTS and Bobby and Pam on DALLAS. Each pair of soulmates are seemingly destined to be together but are separated by a series of obstacles — the most extreme being Val’s current inability to recognise Gary or recall any aspect of their life together when he approaches her at the coffee shop where she is working. There is a fleeting breakthrough when Gary, watching as Val gets swamped by customers, comes to her assistance, thereby re-enacting the circumstances under which they met as kids all those years ago. Past and present collide (with the aid of flashbacks and two really well-cast actors as the teenage Gary and Val), the couple's eyes meet, and just for a second Val recalls something of her past life — before quickly shutting it out again. Pam describes a similarly transient moment on this week’s DALLAS when she tells Bobby how she felt when she first heard that his wedding to Jenna hadn’t taken place. "I guess I let my fantasies take over,” she admits. "You know, the dream — that you and I would get back together.” Like Gary and Val’s, Bobby and Pam's romance has been impeded by a succession of storyline complications and misunderstandings, one of which is cleared up when Pam explains that she accepted Mark’s marriage proposal not because she was in love with him, but because he was dying. “You were going to marry Mark because he needed you?” realises Bobby. "Now he's gone!” But just as one obstacle disappears, another materialises to take its place. “And now Jenna needs you," Pam points out, her eyes glistening. "Yes she does," Bobby agrees. "Right now, I'm just about all that she's got." Finally, Bobby and Pam are privy to all the secrets that have kept them apart since the beginning of the previous season ... only the information has come too late for them to be together. By contrast, Val’s subconscious is actively erecting barriers to keep Gary at bay — this week’s KNOTS ends with her telling Parker that they should get married immediately.

    At the beginning of this Soap Land season, two young denim-clad innocents, KNOTS LANDING’s Joshua and DALLAS’s Jamie, showed up out of nowhere on their families' doorsteps. Having just crossed the midpoint of the season, this seems an opportune time to see how they're progressing. Appearance-wise, both are more sophisticated than they were. Gone is the double-denim — as well as, in Jamie’s case, the girlish party frocks Sue Ellen subsequently dressed her up in. This week Jamie unveils her new post-Southfork image — a shorter hairstyle (a tamer version of the sexy Debbie Harry bob currently sported by Abby on KNOTS) and a more tailored wardrobe. Joshua too looks slicker, as befits his current role as in front of the TV cameras. There’s a brief but telling moment this week that would have been unthinkable only a few episodes ago — just before going on air, Joshua checks his appearance in a make-up mirror and nods approvingly. (It’s tempting to imagine Alec Baldwin based this on the behaviour of the KL actresses surrounding him on set.)

    Having arrived in Soap Land to be with their families, both Joshua's and Jamie’s horizons have now broadened. Joshua has embarked on a promising career in television and Jamie has joined forces with Cliff Barnes to fight the Ewings for two-thirds of their company. Yet both characters are conflicted. Throughout this week’s DALLAS, Jamie expresses misgivings about the path she has chosen. "It's hard for me to fight my family,” she frets. Joshua’s girlfriend Cathy, meanwhile, is worried about Abby’s influence over him. “She’s using you!” she tells him. "She’s helping me!” he insists. Cathy’s right, of course. What’s especially chilling about Abby’s behaviour here is that making Joshua a star is almost a sideline for her — something to keep her occupied while she waits for Gary to get back from Tennessee or for Paul Galveston to make his next move in their ongoing game of cat and mouse. Almost as an amusement, she is feeding Joshua’s ego (“You must know that you’re very special … When the Creator has set you apart, endowed you with special gifts …”), without noticing or even caring that she’s slowly turning him into a monster in the process.

    Jamie and Joshua’s nearest FALCON CREST equivalent, Lorraine Prescott, is also caught in the middle — between step-daddy Richard and secret lover Lance, whom Richard is currently in the process of framing for attempted murder.

    DYNASTY’s Ashley, DALLAS's Pam and FALCON CREST’s Maggie are each asked to take sides in an ongoing feud within their respective shows this week. When Alexis hears that Blake has flown to Paris to resume negotiations with the Chinese regarding his South China Sea oil leases, she asks the politically-connected Ashley to keep her informed of his progress. Ashley turns her down. "I'd be thrilled not to be a party to her manipulations,” she later confides to Blake. On DALLAS, Cliff and Jamie ask Pam to join them in their fight for Ewing Oil, but she too declines. "Fighting JR is one thing, but I'd have to fight Bobby too, and that company means so much to him,” she explains. Then comes Maggie’s turn on FALCON CREST. During a particularly dynamic scene (credit goes once more to director Larry Elikann), Richard assigns her the job of reporting on Lance's trial full time: “Think about the premise — ’Spoilt young heir to a wine fortune tries to kill his rich powerful grandmother.’" Following Ashley and Pam’s lead, Maggie refuses point blank to join Richard's crusade. “I am willing to cover the story for you, but I am not going to exploit it,” she says. When that doesn’t satisfy Richard, she resigns. By the end of the ep, she's even testified as a character witness for Lance. Lady Ashley similarly winds up helping Blake instead of spying on him, interceding between him and the Chinese over a diplomatic hiccup. Only Pam remains on the fence — at least until the last scene of this week’s DALLAS when the pilot who claimed he flew Mark Graison to the Caribbean for treatment admits he was lying, and that JR was behind the whole thing. The final shot of the episode — Pam's face contorted with a mixture of shock, fury and disgust - is a freeze frame for the ages.

    Unintentional tribute of the week: as Jane Greer makes her bittersweet final appearance as Charlotte Pershing on FALCON CREST — daughter Maggie having tracked her down to a halfway house where she has decided to face up to her gambling addiction — the name of Greer’s most famous movie, the film noir classic Out of the Past, is adopted as an episode title by KNOTS.

    Soap Land’s accused — DALLAS’s Jenna and FALCON CREST’s Lance — both head back to the courtroom this week. For Jenna, it’s for another bail hearing while on FC, it’s already time for Lance's preliminary hearing. Jenna’s lawyer Scotty Demarest warns that the presiding judge is "an ornery son of a gun” while Greg Reardon informs Lance that his case will be heard by "a tough new judge elected on a law and order platform”. In each instance, the message is the same: this is one time the Ewings’ and Channings’ power and influence will count for naught. In the event, Jenna is finally released on bail while Lance, in spite of Angela's testimony that she does not believe he tried to kill her, is bound over to stand trial for attempted murder.

    However, there’s a twist. At the end of this week’s FALCON CREST, we learn that the judge in question is in Richard Channing's pocket. This is quite an achievement: successfully bribing a trial judge, be it in a murder case or even a mere child custody battle, is something JR and Alexis, for all their resources and ruthlessness, have never quite managed to pull off. For that reason alone, Richard is more than deserving of this week’s FC freeze frame. (Greg Sumner also manages some fancy legal manoeuvring on this week’s KNOTS when he presents Mack with a warrant to search Galveston Industries in relation to the Tidal Basin killings, i.e., Soap Land’s third currently ongoing murder investigation. “How did you manage that?” queries Mack. “Don’t ask,” Greg replies, adding for good measure, “Get Paul Galveston!” Lest we forget, he’s talking about his own father here.)

    This week’s KNOTS and DALLAS each contains a juicy two-hander scene where one female character gives another some unwelcome advice about her love life. “If you really care about Joshua, you’ll stop seeing him,” Abby tells Cathy. “Our relationship is none of your business,” Cathy replies. ”Joshua is my business,” Abby shoots back. Meanwhile, Sue Ellen is at her jaundiced best during a scene in which she congratulates Jenna on her decision not to elope with Bobby. "You can live here at Southfork and see exactly how the Ewings operate, without being locked in 'till death do you part'. It's a rare opportunity, Jenna … Maybe you’ll do yourself a huge favour and decide never to marry a Ewing."

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    30 Jan 85: DYNASTY: Triangles v. 30 Jan 85: KNOTS LANDING: Lead Me to the Altar v. 01 Feb 85: DALLAS: Legacy of Hate v. 01 Feb 85: FALCON CREST: The Showdown

    It’s a tough week for relationships in Soap Land. "We're through!” Brady Lloyd shouts at wife Dominique on DYNASTY. "It's over, isn't it?” guesses Luke Fuller correctly during a scene with Steven Carrington in the same episode. “This is over,” echoes Joshua Rush on KNOTS LANDING, walking out on girlfriend Cathy. “Now I'm going to do exactly what I want, and that's to have nothing to do with either of you,” declares Mandy Winger to JR on DALLAS.

    In each case — and as the title of this week’s DYNASTY suggests — a third party is involved. Brady believes that Dominique has chosen her newfound brother over him ("My wife doesn't need me anymore! She's got Blake Carrington!”), while Joshua’s boss is having a similarly destructive impact on his relationship (“Don’t let Abby do this to us!” Cathy pleads). Meanwhile, Steven is torn between his feelings for Luke and his marriage to Claudia in much the same way that Mandy is caught between arch enemies JR and Cliff. "I'm afraid of losing any sense of who I am or what I want,” explains Steven to Luke. "You don't understand what's happening to me!" Mandy tells Cliff.

    An interesting parallel emerges this week between Steven and Luke on DYNASTY and Joshua and Cathy on KNOTS. Although Joshua started off the season as shy and innocent, and was near-traumatised following his first sexual experience with Cathy, he has since grown in confidence, and that has been reflected in the evolving physicality between he and Cathy on screen. A recent play-fight between them in Laura’s house inevitably ended up the bedroom, and during an argument a couple of weeks ago, Joshua impulsively picked Cathy up and threw her over his shoulder before laying her down on a couch and straddling her. As a result, we’re left in no doubt as to the passionate nature of their relationship. By contrast, due to the constraints of the era, Steven and Luke have done little more than pat one another on the arm. Prior to this week’s episode, Luke straightening Steven’s tie was as intimate as it got between them. In this ep, in lieu of an actual love scene, they share a sweaty game of racquetball, and even then, when Steven puts out a hand to help Luke to his feet at the end of the match, there is a shared awkwardness, even a guilt, in response to this chaste contact. This partly reflects Steven’s conflict within himself. Indeed, the restrictions of the period and Steven’s own inhibitions inform one another till it's hard to know where one ends and the other begins. Strangely, this seems much clearer to me now than it did when these episodes first aired: not only is this Soap Land’s first depiction of two men falling in love (Steven’s previous male relationship having commenced before the series even began), but one of the men is married with a child and the other is his workplace subordinate. As such, the show and its characters find themselves navigating both a narrative and emotional minefield simultaneously.

    "I'm starting to care for you a great deal,” Steven admits to Luke before ending their relationship. “Joshua, I love you and you love me,” insists Cathy on KNOTS — only Joshua isn’t listening. While Steven is willing to suppress his own feelings in order to conform to the expectations of those around him, Joshua chooses to deny his feelings in order to transcend those around him. “I don’t think it would be fitting for my viewers to see me in a saloon … I’m sure that’s hard to understand for someone like yourself,” he murmurs, barely looking at Cathy, intoxicated instead by his own power and success. Such arrogance should render Joshua laughably absurd but it doesn’t — because there is something genuinely mesmeric about him.

    So where do Steven's and Joshua’s self-absorbed self-denial leave Luke and Cathy? As if confused and heartbroken weren’t enough, both are cast in the default role of sexual predator. After all, it can’t be Steven's and Joshua’s faults that they each succumbed to their basest desires, can it? As Luke delivers his “Normal is loving someone” speech, we can sense both the actor and character pushing against the restraints that the show and the relationship with Steven have placed upon him. Meanwhile, Joshua pretty much slut-shames Cathy when he refuses to believe her claim that Abby paid her to make Gary fall in love with her. “Maybe it’s what you wanted to have happen — did you try to seduce him too?” he asks. And just as we don’t laugh at Joshua’s egotism, neither do we sneer at Luke's and Cathy’s tearful helplessness. Both characters have a truthful dignity about them.

    While DYNASTY treats Steven and Luke’s relationship with the utmost solemnity, KNOTS finds room for a more flippant gay reference: “What the hell are you doing with Mackenzie?” demands Paul Galveston. "We’re having an affair,” quips Greg Sumner.

    Just as Joshua breaks up with Cathy in the dressing room of the club where she sings, so DALLAS’s Mandy Winger attempts to sever ties with JR in the dressing room of the restaurant where she models. “We can just say goodbye and forget we ever met,” she coolly suggests. Interestingly, JR’s response is similar to Cathy's. “You can't say you don't feel somethin' for me,” he insists. But whereas Joshua manages to completely disregard Cathy’s words, Mandy’s resolve begins to crumble as soon as JR starts nuzzling her neck.

    Poor Mandy Winger! As well as being caught between JR and Cliff, she also finds herself a reluctant part of another triangle, in which her already shaky relationship with Cliff is being encroached upon by the constant presence of Jamie, alongside whom Cliff is fighting for control of Ewing Oil. Mandy does a better job of extricating herself from this situation than from her involvement with JR. “I'm getting out - because three’s a crowd,” she informs Jamie and Cliff before walking out the door. Amanda Carrington does something similar on DYNASTY. Finally tiring of flashing back to her night of passion with step-father Dex while he and Mummy get it on upstairs, she turns up at the Carrington mansion in the early hours of the morning with a suitcase.

    Over on FALCON CREST, Greg Reardon offers some contrary advice to an even more antagonistic trio — Chase, Angela and Richard. “Perhaps it’s time for the three of you to work together for once,” he suggests. Such counsel proves sound, for no sooner do the threesome pool their knowledge than they fathom that cartel honcho Gustav Reibmann and Tuscany Valley newcomer Jean Louis de Bercy are one and the same. This seems to be the week for aliases to unravel — just as Reibmann’s true identity is about to exposed on FC so Val Ewing finds it increasingly difficult to cling to the delusion that she is really Verna Ellers on KL.

    … which leads us to yet another triangle, between Val/Verna, fiancee Parker Winslow and outsider Gary Ewing — whom this week materialises out of nowhere in the reflection of Val’s bedroom mirror as she is trying on her wedding dress. Then he appears in the room itself, clad in full morning dress, and he and Val dance lovingly together like two figures atop a wedding cake. This is Val’s more extreme version of what Pam described to Bobby in last week’s DALLAS as her fantasy taking over — “you know, the dream — that you and I would get back together.” It's also an inversion of the nightmare sequence experienced by Fallon when she looked at her wedding-dress reflection at the end of last season’s DYNASTY. So many conflicting perceptions rub up against each other in this Val/Verna story-line — fantasy and reality, past and present, dreams and nightmares, even fact and fiction: for as Gary points out this week when he shows her a copy of Nashville Junction, Val has now become a character in her own novel.

    Elsewhere on this week’s KNOTS, Mack’s Tidal Basin murder investigation closes in on Galveston Industries. Meanwhile, in the cracking opening scene of this week’s DALLAS, Pam blames JR for sending her to the Caribbean on a wild goose chase looking for Mark. Paul Galveston and JR both then deftly shift the blame away from themselves: Galveston has two of his employees confess to the murders while JR plays a tape of a phone conversation that makes it appear as if Cliff were the guilty party. No one is entirely convinced by either manoeuvre, but there’s nothing they can do to prove it. Little wonder that both men are referred to as snakes — Galveston by Karen during a conversation with Mack, JR by Pam during their aforementioned confrontation, in which she also vows to get revenge by joining Cliff and Jamie in their fight to take Ewing Oil away from him.

    Adam calling Luke a little troll prompted a punch up between he and brother Steven in the Carrington gym on last week’s DYNASTY. Pam telling Bobby about the wild goose chase JR sent her on leads to a fight between the Ewing brothers in the Southfork pool on this week’s DALLAS. And there’s further sibling violence on FALCON CREST when Richard takes a swing at half-brother Chase. Whereas the Carrington brawl was witnessed by Claudia, who pleaded ineffectually with Steven and Adam to come to their senses, the Krebbses and Farlows prove more proactive on this week’s DALLAS. Clayton and Ray jump fully-clothed into the pool to pull Bobby off JR while Miss Ellie and Donna shout disapprovingly from the sidelines. Over on FALCON CREST, Angela is the bystander — at least until Chase ducks and Richard’s fist inadvertently connects with her jaw. Each of these altercations is very enjoyable in its own way (and let us not forget poor old Gary Ewing, who has taken a pasting from Parker Winslow’s good ole boys two KNOTS eps in a row), but for sheer entertainment value, absolutely nothing beats a duel in the Southfork pool.

    Unusually, this week’s Ewingverse episodes each makes reference to its sister show. On KNOTS, Gary tries to jog Val’s memory (before literally jogging with her) by talking about his family in Texas (“My mother’s still living there — so are my brothers, JR and Bobby”), while DALLAS ends with those very same mother and brothers being served with a subpoena (courtesy of Cliff and Jamie, suing them for their shares of Ewing Oil) over breakfast. “Gary Ewing is being served in California,” the process server confidently informs them. As a matter of fact, Gary Ewing is currently in Tennessee, trying to stop a wedding. In so doing, he goes where no previous Soap Land wedding guest (or wedding-crasher in this case) has gone before. It has long been a soap trope on such occasions for the words, “If any man can show just cause why these two may not lawfully be joined together ...” to be accompanied by a close-up of a spurned love interest (Matthew Blaisdel during Krystle’s first wedding to Blake, Cole Gioberti during Melissa’s to Lance, Amanda at Alexis and Dex's, Cliff at JR and Sue Ellen’s), who ultimately decides to hold their peace rather than stop the ceremony altogether. Gary, however, speaks out, interrupting the wedding in a final bid to remind Val who she really is. The episode ends with Val at the altar looking back and forth between Gary and Parker — that triangle shape again.

    While Parker Winslow is happy to wed Val by pretending not to know she isn’t really Verna Ellers, FALCON CREST’s Gustav Reibmann is happy to date Emma Channing while pretending that he really is Jean-Louis de Bercy. This week Emma tells him about the secret tunnels built underneath the Tuscany Valley: "In the old days, all wineries had storage rooms dug deep into the hills. They hired Chinese labour gangs to do the digging ... During the Prohibition, they used them to run illegal wine and brandy. Falcon Crest is honeycombed with all these tunnels.” I really like the way the tunnels, with their strong historical context (the themes of Chinese immigrants and Prohibition having already been established in the show’s early days), recur at pivotal moments in the FALCON CREST saga — enabling Carlo Agretti’s murderer to access his house and Julia to escape the spring house fire. Now Gustav hopes they will lead him to his unholy grail — the Nazi treasure hidden under Falcon Crest. In this regard, FALCON CREST's secret tunnels serve a similar purpose to DYNASTY’s China Sea oil leases, which have proved a useful thread upon which to hang several disparate story-lines during the past two years. This very week, Blake prompts the interest of Alexis and Dex, and the dismay of Krystle, by announcing an auction in Acapulco where he aims to sell off some of his China Sea leases. That’s the same Acapulco that FC’s Gustav describes as one of "the most romantic ports in the world,” promising to sail Emma there on his yacht.

    Emma’s tunnel revelation also inspires Soap Land’s wackiest therapy session to date when Gustav subjects Julia, who is still labouring under the illusion that he is her psychiatrist rather than her jailer, to a most unusual line of questioning: “Tell me about the tunnels, Julia - the tunnels!”

    Speaking of Julia, Pam’s shock at the end of last week’s DALLAS upon hearing that Mark Graison hadn’t come back from the dead after all is matched by Angela’s astonishment at the end of this week’s FALCON CREST when she hears (at gunpoint, no less) that Julia has!

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    6 Feb 85: DYNASTY: The Ball v. 7 Feb 85: KNOTS LANDING: Fly Away Home v. 08 Feb 85: DALLAS: Sins of the Fathers v. 08 Feb 85: FALCON CREST: Retribution

    This week’s DYNASTY is written by KNOTS LANDING’s Richard Avery. The closest his script comes to a direct Knotsian reference is Krystle comparing her baby daughter to a Dresden doll in the opening scene. Richard’s former sanatarium roommate Nicholas, who memorably observed that “we’re all just china dolls”, would doubtless concur.

    It’s very much business as usual this week for Alexis on DYNASTY, still trying to get her hands on Blake’s offshore leases, and for Cliff on DALLAS, still trying to prove that Jock stole Digger’s share of the Ewing fortune. To those ends, half the cast of DYNASTY travel to Acapulco for an oil lease auction while the majority of the Barnes and Ewing clans assemble in court where Cliff and Jamie attempt to get an injunction to freeze the assets of Ewing Oil.

    While in Acapulco, the Carringtons encounter Prince Michael of Moldavia, Soap Land’s very first royal character. Whereas previous aristocrats, DALLAS’s Lady Montford and DYNASTY’s Lady Mitchell, turned out to be more down to earth than other characters were expecting, here the opposite proves true — Amanda initially mistakes the prince for a waiter, but he proves every inch to the palace born, comporting himself regally and speaking in a self-consciously formal manner, even when asking her to dance. "I would be the saddest of princes if you turned me down,” he tells her, "a melancholy Mediterranean Hamlet."

    Sitting at the other end of the social scale is Alf Brindle, one of my all-time favourite DALLAS guest characters, who also makes his debut appearance this week. Brindle is a shambling old drill site worker who knew Jock, Jason and Digger back when they first struck oil. The Ewing brothers thrust him into the spotlight at the end of this week’s ep so that he can give Cliff, Pam and Jamie a first hand account of the early days of the Barnes/Ewing feud. He is by turns nervous, giggly, excitable and shy, and it’s a really great, funny and eccentric performance.

    Over on KNOTS LANDING, the Verna-in-Shlua story draws to a close, with the surprise twist that jilted bridegroom Parker’s aim was true after all — the real reason he wanted Val’s true identity kept under wraps is because he didn’t want to lose her. (This doesn’t stop Mack, the closest KNOTS has to a moral arbiter, later referring to him as "a louse”.) Meanwhile on DALLAS, Lucy and Eddie’s equivalent story-line literally breaks new ground as construction commences on their land development venture. Alas, Eddie’s motives turn out not to be as pure as Parker’s, for we now know that he has been sleeping with Betty Lou all along and his involvement with Lucy is merely a front for a get-rich-quick scheme.

    KNOTS' Tennessee based soap-within-a-soap was fun, but things get really interesting as soon as Val returns to California. For starters, there’s some wonderfully nuanced awkwardness in her homecoming scene, with everyone behaving as if everything were fine, while silently unsure of how much Val even remembers of her old life (Laura and Ben look particularly uncomfortable - does she even know who they are?), and Joshua later ordering everyone onto their knees to give thanks for Val's return.

    Having accepted that she is now Val not Verna, Val nonetheless clings to a time in her mind when she and Gary were still married. “We’ve always loved each other,” she tells him. Indeed, ex-wives with a hold on their former husbands is something of a theme in this week’s soaps. “You still love Fallon,” Nicole tells Jeff on DYNASTY, while Krystle is none too pleased to learn that Alexis is in Acapulco with Blake. JR’s reminder to Bobby on DALLAS that Pam is “not your wife anymore” is echoed by Abby on KNOTS pointing out to Gary that, “I’m your wife — Valene isn’t.”

    Unintentionally and/or otherwise, each of this week’s soaps contain several references to their own history. On DYNASTY, Nicole tries on the very dress that Fallon used to wear in the opening credits (a similar shade of red to the outfit Gary had Cathy slip into when he was attempting to turn her into Ciji on KNOTS — although Jeff is less than impressed to find his third wife dressing up as his first: “Take it off!” he shouts). And as well as Krystle calling Blake in Acapulco, only to hang up in surprise when Alexis answers the phone just as she did in Season 2, there’s a scene of Daniel teaching her how to skeet-shoot, an activity that recalls another memorable scene between Alexis and Krystle from the same year. Krystle then frets to Daniel about being left behind while Blake and Alexis are in a foreign country together (another familiar scenario). "She's there in Acapulco and I'm not,” she broods. "Amanda's there and I'm not ... I feel left out and it hurts.” Krystle’s sense of isolation gets to the root of the character’s self-doubt, as established in the show’s early days. Likewise, during a beach scene between Val and Gary in this week’s KNOTS, Val reveals some of her own deep-seated insecurities. Recalling the moment in the pilot episode when she saw the ocean for the first time, she also remembers her fear that it wouldn’t live up to expectations: “Even when I was little I always knew that the ocean would probably be the biggest and the most beautiful and the most powerful thing I’d ever see. I thought just by being close to it, it would make me better — make me think clearer and feel deeper and know more.” After Gary gently explains that they are now divorced, Val starts to wade into the ocean, perhaps hoping Gary will join her like he and Lucy did back in “Home is for Healing”, but he doesn’t.

    DALLAS in particular is chockfull of references to its past this week: Cliff makes mention of Bobby’s temper (calling to mind the punch he gave him at the end of Season 1), Ray Krebbs alludes Cliff and Donna’s near-forgotten fling in Season 3 (thereby strengthening his motives for joining his brothers in the fight against Cliff for Ewing Oil), and Cliff and Sue Ellen have their first conversation in almost three years when she comes to Barnes Wentworth to resurrect her friendship with Pam. Mention is even made of the pilot who witnessed Jock’s helicopter crash in South America three seasons earlier. Best of all is the scene between JR and Sue Ellen that recalls some of their classic bedroom battles in DALLAS’s early years. When JR mistakenly assumes she’s arranged to have dinner with Cliff, Sue Ellen does not disabuse him of the notion. Instead she taunts him with it. “Well, he must have something," she tells him. "Look at all the women the two of you have shared — Julie Grey, Afton, myself.” Lance and Melissa similarly remind each other of past infidelities during an argument in front of their priest in this week’s FALCON CREST. First, Melissa accuses Lance of sleeping with “every floozy in town” during their marriage. Then Lance shoots back smartly with, “What were you doing with Richard Channing — playing ping pong?” As retorts go, Melissa’s “Your crazy mother murdered my father!” is hard to top, but back on DALLAS Sue Ellen manages it. "As a matter of fact, Cliff is a wonderful lover,” she informs JR devilishly. Thus provoked, he grabs her, pins her to the bed and kisses her, thereby following the current trend of Soap Land men trying to force themselves sexually on their wives or partners (Naldo/Jenna, Steven/Claudia, Greg/Laura, JR/Mandy). Sue Ellen comes up with the most effective way yet of fending him off — and it seems especially fitting that she should choose the very week that royalty makes its Soap Land debut on DYNASTY to finally knee JR in his crown jewels.

    There’s an equivalent scene to the JR/Sue Ellen bedroom encounter in this week’s KNOTS LANDING. Terrified that Paul Galveston will make good on his threat to reveal all to Gary about Val’s babies, Abby shows up at Greg’s hotel room at night (dressed, as Sue Ellen was in her scene, to the absolute nines) and begs for his help. When Greg tells her to scram, she abruptly changes tack, threatening to expose what she knows — or thinks she knows — about his connection to Galveston. She’s bluffing, of course — she has no idea that they are father and son — but Greg’s response to her blackmail is just great. He pushes her up against the wall and kisses her face off. She responds in kind; end of scene. With no subsequent reference to this passionate interlude, save for Abby tenderly asking Gary the next night to make love to her as if to cleanse her of her infidelity, this is a rare Soap Land instance of consequence-free sex between people otherwise committed to long term relationships. The last time it happened was when Lance and Melissa marked their divorce with some impromptu office-bound intercourse despite them each being in love with other people.

    Another familiar situation on this week’s DALLAS sees Pam caught between the Barneses and the Ewings once again. "Bobby wouldn't do the kind of illegal, underhand things that JR would,” she insists to her brother in an early scene. "A Ewing is a Ewing is a Ewing,” Cliff replies. Later, when Bobby suggests Cliff might have been the one who sent her to the Caribbean looking Mark, she finds herself having the same argument in reverse. ("Cliff would never do something like that to me.” "What wouldn’t Cliff do to get Ewing Oil?”) Not only does this recall the kind of debates Pam and Bobby used to have when they were first married ("Pamela, when are you gonna realise just how much your brother hates my family?!”), it also points the way forward to the events of New DALLAS, when it’s only after the deaths of both Pam and JR that we finally discover just how far Bobby and Cliff will go to defeat one another.

    In recent weeks, Val and Pam have each experienced their own version of "the dream — that you and I would get back together” with regard to their respective Ewing exes, Gary and Bobby. This week, it transpires that neither has entirely given up the hope of that dream becoming a reality. When Gary arranges to meet her the day after she returns home, Val is so excited, she dresses up especially for the occasion. “How do I look?” she asks nervously, waiting for him to arrive. “Beautiful, sweetpea,” Lilimae assures her. (It’s notable that she chooses the kind of simple summer dress she used to wear when she and Gary first moved to Knots Landing.) Meanwhile on DALLAS, after Bobby calls Pam at her office asking her to meet him for a drink, she surprises her secretary by deciding to go home and change first. "Might as well look my best,” she says girlishly. However, instead of realising "the dream — that you and I would get back together”, Val and Pam are each forced to face the fact that they cannot recreate what they’ve lost, no matter how much they might want to. “It didn’t work for us,” Gary tells Val sadly. "Our trouble was we always lived in our past, when you were fifteen and I was seventeen. It was so good then that we tried to recapture it and we just couldn’t.” “A part of me always feels like I belong at Southfork,” Pam admits to Sue Ellen. "I know that can never happen now that I’ve thrown in with Cliff.”

    It’s interesting that Val’s memory is fully restored not during her conversation with Gary, but in a subsequent scene in her own kitchen. This calls to mind the scene from DALLAS Season 4 where Miss Ellie overcame her own denial about Jock’s death, which was also set in a kitchen. Whereas Ellie ended up on her knees smashing crockery, this scene opens with Val on her knees scrubbing the floor. Jenna Wade has a mini-breakdown in the Southfork kitchen this week too. Like Val, she’s performing a domestic task — baking bread — when she drops a hot pan and sinks tearfully to the floor. Like both Val and Ellie, she is struggling with an issue of memory, but whereas the two other women achieve a kind of breakthrough, she remains tormented by the unknown: "Maybe he did try to rape me, maybe I did grab a gun and shoot him ... I just don't know anymore ... God, what if I really did kill him?!” Where Val has Mack to help her through her kitchen crisis, Jenna has Donna — DALLAS’s nearest counterpart to Mack in the robust common-sense stakes. The main difference between the two pairings is that Val and Mack have previous experience of this kind of thing — the scene where he finds her on the beach towards the end of Season 4 springs to mind — whereas this is the first time Donna and Jenna have had a scene alone together. If this week’s FALCON CREST has an equivalent, it’s the scene where Maggie (practical yet compassionate) breaks the news to Emma (emotional and highly-strung) that the dashing Jean Louis de Bercy, for whom Emma has fallen, is really the highly dangerous Gustav Reibmann. Emma is devastated and refuses to accept this, even though deep down she knows it’s true.

    While Abby orders Gary to stay away from Val on KNOTS (“a clean break — or we’re through”), Claudia orders Luke to stay away from Steven on DYNASTY. Interestingly, she employs the same emotional blackmail tactics that Abby tried on Cathy two weeks ago. “If you really care for him, you’ll stop seeing him,” Abby told Cathy then regarding Joshua. "I'm going to believe you genuinely care for him and I'm going to ask your help — stay away from him,” Claudia tells Luke now regarding Steven. Luke complies, but his caveat, “I think you’re fooling yourself, Claudia,” is, in turn, echoed by Cathy in this week’s KNOTS, if not word for word then certainly in sentiment. "You see things in black and white — things aren't that simple,” she tells Joshua.

    Random trend of the week: minor mishaps with major repercussions. In DYNASTY's final scene, Krystle is out riding with Daniel Reece when she is thrown by her horse. She tumbles down a slope and Daniel rushes to her side, but no bones have been broken. Instead, it leads to a freeze-frame kiss. Over on KNOTS, Ben Gibson is out driving with the delectable PK Kelly when he gets a flat tyre. A passing delivery truck on its way to Empire Valley pulls over to lend a hand. While the delivery guys are changing the wheel (and ogling Kelly’s legs), Ben takes a peek in the back of their truck and is intrigued to discover a vast supply of highly sophisticated transmitters, "very powerful and super hi-tech”. From this, he concludes that “Empire Valley’s being used as a cover."

    Whereas two of Soap Land’s “I see dead people” characters appear to have lost faith in their own convictions — DALLAS's Pam angrily dismisses Dr Matsuda’s claim that he saw Mark Graison in Hong Kong as a lie while DYNASTY’s Jeff is now sufficiently resigned to Fallon’s death to start a new life with Nicole — a third is finally vindicated when Angela sees Julia alive and well in this week’s FALCON CREST. “Emma was right all along,” she acknowledges.

    While being held hostage by the cartel, Angela and Julia manage to forge a reconciliation. This is more or less a retread of their spring house reunion at the end of last season when Julia was the one holding Angela hostage, only somewhat less effective. “In my whole life, that’s the first time I can ever remember you saying you were sorry,” marvels Julia. While Angela softens in the present, Jock Ewing is softened retroactively when Alf Brindle reveals in the final scene of this week’s DALLAS how he (Jock), contrary to perceived wisdom, protected Digger from Jason rather than exploited him. "Digger was a weak man but Jock cared for him,” Brindle maintains, describing Jock as “near a saint, putting up with the two of them."

    In order to save Angela, Chase and Greg Reardon embark on a Daniel Reece/Dex Dexter-style rescue mission — scaling walls, jumping hedges and overpowering gunmen with a single karate chop to the neck. There hasn’t been this much generic derring-do in Soap Land since the misconceived episode of THE YELLOW ROSE that required LC Champion to be sprung from a paedophile sex ring. It would seem that the same genre convention that allows Soap Land characters to periodically become super-sleuths also turns them into first-class action heroes whenever the need arises.

    Not that Angela herself is simply a passive bystander in this scenario. Instead, she fakes a heart attack in order to get the attention of her captors, thus providing Chase and Greg with a chance to overwhelm them. Conversely on this week’s KNOTS, Paul Galveston suffers a similar sort of attack for real, but fails to elicit the concern of Abby Ewing, whom he has discovered rifling through his papers in the early hours of the morning. Despite his pleas, Abby refuses to call his doctor. “Call him yourself — cookie,” she wisecracks on her way out the door, leaving him to his freeze frame.

    But however grim things are looking for Galveston, they’re even worse for FALCON CREST’s equivalent villain Gustav Reibmann, who ends this week’s ep buried alive alongside his coveted Nazi treasure. As this season’s long-lost-treasure stories go, DYNASTY’s ended on a more positive note a few weeks ago when the Inca statue in question was ultimately restored to its rightful place in a museum.

    And this week’s Top 4 are … this was a close one. For the majority of their respective episodes, DALLAS and KL were neck and neck, but then at the final furlong DALLAS pulled ahead thanks to the great Alf Brindle taking centre-stage in Cliff’s condo: "Beggin' your pardon, Miss Jamie, and I hate to say it, but your daddy was a black-hearted man.”

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

    James from London Soap Chat Star

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    13 Feb 85: DYNASTY: Circumstantial Evidence v. 14 Feb 85: KNOTS LANDING: Rough Edges v. 15 Feb 85: DALLAS: The Brothers Ewing v. 15 Feb 85: FALCON CREST: Forsaking All Others

    KNOTS LANDING's Val and FALCON CREST’s Julia find themselves in parallel situations this week. Previously, both ran away, from Seaview Circle and the State Institute for the Criminally Insane respectively, reinvented themselves as Verna Ellers and Kay Adams, and even found love, each with an “ordinary”, i.e., non-leading-man kind of guy. (Along the way, of course, Julia also managed to fake her own death and get kidnapped by the cartel.) Now both are now back in the bosom of their families, but the problems they ran away from in the first place still exist. Val is still mentally unstable following the loss of her babies, while Julia is still a convicted killer with a sentence to serve — even if her mental problems seem to have largely evaporated.

    Where Val’s first instinct upon her return home was to lean on Gary, Julia’s is to turn to Lance. Indeed, the most touching scenes in this week’s FALCON CREST involve Lance’s reaction to his mother’s resurrection. Ultimately, however, he comes to the same conclusion as Gary did on last week’s KNOTS. “I’ve gotta get out of your way,” Gary told Val. “Mom, I can’t try to pull you out of any more fires,” Lance tells Julia.

    Like nature, Soap Land abhors a vacuum and so a week after Julia’s shrink was buried alive in a disused gold mine, another psychiatrist emerges on KNOTS LANDING, this time to support Val as she gradually tries to face up to the harsh realities she ran away from before. Where Dr De Bercy, aka Gustav Reibmann, was sinister and homicidal, Dr Michaels is reassuring and avuncular, and the scenes between he and Val are really lovely. Meanwhile, as DYNASTY’s Luke Fuller resigns from his public relations post at Colby Co following his split from Steven, another publicist, Cassandra Wilder, materialises on FALCON CREST touting for Richard’s business. And oh look — Cassandra’s male assistant is an exact replica of Racine’s Man Friday on PAPER DOLLS, only now he’s called Damon instead of Sandy.

    Watching this week’s Soap Land, two scenes, in particular, leapt out at me. One, on DYNASTY, never made much impression on me before. The other, on KNOTS LANDING, I have never forgotten, even though it must be roughly ten years since I last saw it. If there’s a theme linking the two scenes then it’s sibling, or at least quasi-sibling, rivalry.

    The DYNASTY scene is the kind of "Cain vs. Abel in the executive suite" scenario that has been a staple of Soap Land ever since JR politely but firmly refused Bobby access the Red Files in the DALLAS mini-series, but here stripped to its fundamental basics — Adam storms into Blake’s office and is outraged to see Jeff sitting in his father’s chair reading a confidential file. Adam rails and taunts, Jeff coldly asserts his authority, Adam storms out to wreak havoc elsewhere.

    The KNOTS LANDING scene takes place in the Ewing kitchen late at night — Val can’t sleep and comes downstairs to make tea, only to find Joshua sitting at the table in the dark. Unlike the Adam/Jeff scene, there’s nothing familiar about this scenario — it’s a chance meeting between two mentally fragile characters in the middle of the night. Val has tentatively begun piecing her life back together while Joshua is just starting to take off on his own megalomaniacal power trip. Whereas Adam and Jeff aren’t actual sibling rivals but for dramatic purposes might as well be, Joshua and Val are genuinely brother and sister but don’t actually know each other very well. Joshua's behaviour towards Val as he enquires about her therapy is as riveting as it is paradoxical. He seems kind yet threatening, supportive yet undermining, sometimes all at once.

    Each of these scenes is at the heart of what I love about Soap Land, yet they work in polar opposite ways. The Adam/Jeff confrontation is great because it is the soap equivalent of the stranger in a western walking into a saloon and the whole place going quiet. In other words, it is a quintessential genre scene played with absolute conviction that could occur in almost any soap at any time — from the earliest days of DALLAS to the most recent season of EMPIRE. While the pleasure of this scene comes from the familiar beats it hits, the fascination of the KNOTS scene is derived from its lightning-in-a-bottle uniqueness. The Valene/Joshua exchange could only take place between these two specific characters played by these two actors on this particular night at this precise point in their individual journeys. It couldn’t exist at any other time or in any other soap — or indeed any other piece of fiction. Yet if watched in isolation, most of its nuances probably wouldn’t register. It only works as part of an ongoing genre piece.

    "Father was against psychiatry,” Joshua tells Val during the scene. "He believed in prayer.” The same might be said for the authorities dealing with Julia’s case on FALCON CREST. Hence it’s "good-bye, Institute for the Criminally Insane, hello, Magdalena Convent.” Yes, Julia is to be allowed to serve out the rest of her life sentence for murder on a religious retreat with some nuns. It’s bonkers of course, but you could say that about this whole storyline, and what a fun ride it’s been.

    Val, meanwhile, bounces around her timeline on this week’s KNOTS, flashing back to her life in Shula, recounting an anecdote about a Cajun cooking disaster involving Sid, Karen and Gary that we never saw on screen, shouting at Lilimae as if she were still a teenager ("How do you think I feel having a mother who’s a tramp? When I get married I will never ever do the things you’ve done, never ever!”), as well as recounting other, more bittersweet childhood reminiscences about her mama. Over on DALLAS, Sue Ellen makes a rare reference to her childhood this week. "When I was a little girl, I used to dream about going to the Far East,” she tells Pam who takes the hint and invites her along on her trip to Hong Kong to look for Mark Graison.

    Both Julia's and Valene’s stories are concluded this week with an emotionally loaded question about the past. “How are your orchids doing … is it still the red food and the green food?” Val shyly asks Ben at the end of KNOTS, as a way of indicating that she now fully remembers who he is and the precise nature of their relationship. "Do you remember my First Communion?” Lance asks Julia during her farewell scene before handing her his childhood missal to take with her to the convent.

    Emotional mother/daughter scenes of the week: After Val has lashed out at Lilimae on KNOTS, she then hears her sobbing in her room, but cannot bring herself to go to her and comfort her. On FALCON CREST, after saying good-bye to Julia, a heartbroken Angela declines to be consoled by Emma and Lance, instead climbing slowly up the staircase to her room alone. For the first time, she looks genuinely frail.

    Last week’s FC ended with the unfamiliar sight of Angela embracing both of her daughters — the one who kept trying to kill her and the one she used to keep locked in the attic — while declaring, “We’re a family.” This week’s DALLAS ends with Angela’s matriarchal contemporary, Miss Ellie, doing pretty much the opposite. "I don’t want to turn my back on my family or Ewing Oil but if a choice is to be made, I choose my husband,” she informs her sons, who have been trying to persuade a reluctant Clayton to help hide Ewing Oil assets from Cliff Barnes. One is tempted to say that Miss Ellie’s declaration here is as uncharacteristic as Angela’s was, until one remembers that it was only two years earlier that she took her sons to court in order to break Jock’s will and sell the company and two years before that when her decision to start divorce proceedings against Jock also placed Ewing Oil in jeopardy. In fact, Miss Ellie’s defiance in this scene is the most "Barbara Bel Geddes” the character has felt since Donna Reed took over the role.

    If Miss Ellie’s behaviour isn’t atypical then Alexis Dexter’s in this week’s DYNASTY certainly is. After Dex pulls off some sort of manoeuvre I don’t begin to understand that persuades the Chinese government to offer all of its offshore oil leases to her, Alexis turns the deal down in favour of a partnership with Blake. "You could have had it all — why are you settling for less?” Blake asks her. "Maybe because I'm tired of being constantly at war with you," she replies. "I think it would be nice if we could finally be friends.” She then goes on to finally acknowledge him as Amanda’s father. There’s further uncharacteristic magnanimity on FALCON CREST where Lance pays a visit to ex-wife Melissa on the morning of her wedding to his old rival Cole and tenderly wishes her the best. Elsewhere in the same episode, despite her best efforts, Angela reveals a few more chinks in her armour, as recent events take their emotional toll. There’s a particularly nice moment where Greg Reardon discreetly offers her a handkerchief and she lets her guard down long enough to accept it — only to hand it back seconds later. “It’s silk - I pay you too much!” she snaps. Back on DALLAS, Miss Ellie is optimistic that the fight for Ewing Oil will likewise bring out her eldest son’s softer side. "I know JR very well,” she tells Donna. "I know that he’s capable of all sorts of things, but somehow I’m hoping that, because of what’s at stake, he’ll act differently.” Fat chance: "This is no gentleman’s game,” JR informs his brothers when first broaching the subject of hiding assets. “I’m talking about getting down in the mud and slugging it out."

    Back on DYNASTY, while Blake is in Acapulco and Krystle is in Denver, each is sent photographs of the other in a compromising position with a third party. Krystle receives a picture of Blake dancing with Lady Ashley; Blake opens an envelope to find a snap of Daniel Reece kissing his wife. Ordinarily in Soap Land, the unsolicited taking of photographs is the prerogative of the obsessed stalker — Roger Larsen on DALLAS, Peter Horton on FLAMINGO ROAD, Michael Brandon on EMERALD POINT. This time, however, DYNASTY has turned the photographer’s identity into a whodunnit. Deepening the mystery, how can the anonymous snapper be in two countries at the same time? And as well as the suspense aspect of this storyline, the photographs themselves become a paranoid symbol of the growing distrust in Blake and Krystle’s marriage. I’ve said it before, but the dynamic between these two is never more interesting than when they’re estranged. Even an awkward overseas phone call between them is coldly compelling. In the ep’s final scene, Krystle greets Blake politely upon his return home and he shows her the picture of her and Daniel. "Do you want him or me?” he asks. The frame freezes before she can answer, and even though she already made her feelings quite clear in an earlier scene, ("You'll always be special to me,” she tells Daniel, "but I love [Blake]”), it still feels like a suspenseful moment. Perhaps it’s because Blake and Krystle’s mutual devotion is so hardwired into their show’s DNA, more so even than Bobby and Pam’s or Gary and Val’s are into theirs, that when that relationship — the bedrock upon which the DYNASTY saga is built — starts to crumble, it feels almost as if the series’ whole world could come crashing down.

    There are other juicy marital spats in Soap Land this week — a very funny one between Alexis and Dex where she finally broaches the subject of his attraction towards her daughter. Unlike, say, Lute-Mae on FLAMINGO ROAD who promptly lost her mind when she found her fiancee and her daughter together, Alexis remains intriguingly cool and collected about this equivalent scenario. “No one understands the working of the male psyche better than I do,” she drawls airily, "and nobody's more tolerant or even amused at a little casual harmless flirtation, but this time I think you might be going a little too far, husband dear." "There's an implication, an unsavoury one, hiding somewhere in that haystack of words,” replies Dex. "How clever of the Wyoming farm boy — can you find it?” she sneers before accusing him of "playing psychological mother/daughter games.” Meanwhile, on DALLAS, the escalating battle with Cliff over Ewing Oil provides a backdrop for further marital conflict. While Sue Ellen continues to withhold her wifely support from JR in his hour of need ("From now on, you’re gonna have to turn to all your other girls for comfort — let them hold you, listen to you, try to understand you like I did all those years”), Ray and Donna (DALLAS's most supposedly “solid” couple in the same way as Blake and Krystle are DYNASTY's) argue over his decision to side with JR against Clayton during a family squabble — only they’re not really arguing about that at all. There’s something else, more significant but as yet unarticulated, going on beneath the surface.

    Watching these conjugal disputes side by side, it occurs to me that there is a basic difference in tone between the ones on DALLAS and those on DYNASTY. The DALLAS scenes have a kind of melancholic wistfulness about them — the women especially seem weary, almost resigned — while the equivalent ones on DYNASTY have a colder, more brittle quality. Between Blake and Krystle, in particular, exists a kind of icy formality. I wonder if, at least in part, this difference is informed by the shows’ respective environments. DALLAS has the backdrop of all that never-ending Texas land — useful for staring out onto in misty-eyed regret. On DYNASTY, the characters feel somehow more closed in, trapped inside their golden palace of Ming vases and priceless paintings. Whereas Krystle and Blake’s dignified coldness is partially informed by the possibility of one of the servants walking in on them at any moment, the only company Ray and Donna have to worry about during their argument is a barn full of smelly horses.

    While Daniel and Krystle’s kiss at the end of last week’s DYNASTY is exposed by the mystery photographer, the cerebral haemorrhage suffered by Paul Galveston at the end of last week’s KNOTS is successfully kept under wraps by some anonymous businessmen. Although Abby has a tenuous grasp of what’s going on, only Greg Sumner knows for sure. This puts him in the same position that Blake Carrington was in four weeks ago — bitterly estranged from a powerful but dying father. Whether there’ll be an eleventh-hour reconciliation this time remains to be seen. “No matter how much you hate him, he is your father and he is dying,” says Laura. “And not a moment too soon,” Greg replies.

    The FALCON CREST plot in which a shouty Lance tries to prevent girlfriend Lorraine from getting an abortion starts out like the similar Jeff/Fallon scenario from DYNASTY Season 2, but then takes an unexpected detour when he acquires a temporary restraining order preventing her from going through with the op. As a result, the assets of Lorraine’s womb are currently as frozen as those of Ewing Oil were in last week’s DALLAS.

    Just as Naldo Marchetta stopped Bobby and Jenna’s wedding on DALLAS and Gary disrupted Val and Parker Winslow’s big day on KNOTS, it’s now Greg Reardon’s turn to sabotage Cole and Melissa’s nuptials on FALCON CREST. However, although he abducts Melissa from her bridal shower to whisk her off in a chauffeur-driven, champagne-filled Rolls Royce (“Consider yourself kidnapped!” he laughs, coming on like a light-hearted Naldo), Greg stops short of actually interrupting the ceremony, even if he does get the “If anyone has any objection to this wedding …” reaction shot. In the event, just like Bobby and Parker before her, Melissa ends up getting left at the altar anyway, after Angela reveals to Cole on the morning of the wedding that she (Melissa) is now barren — a titbit the bride herself had neglected to mention. This is the first time the "will they, won’t they” device, whereby some controversial secret is revealed to either the bride or groom shortly before the exchange of vows, has been deployed at an 80s Soap Land wedding. These days, it’s an essential component of almost every wedding and/or engagement party on soap operas in the UK, having first been popularised on EASTENDERS (the very first episode of which, incidentally, aired four days after this instalment of FALCON CREST was originally shown in the US).

    Legal trend of the week: DALLAS’s Scotty and FALCON CREST’s Greg each moves for a change of venue regarding the impending murder/attempted murder trial of his client, Jenna Wade and Lance Cumson respectively.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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

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