Critique: ‘Knots Landing’ Episode 59 — ‘New Beginnings’

J.R. Ewing, Knots Landing, Larry Hagman, New Beginnings

Home field advantage

“New Beginnings” is chockablock with trivia. Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy both guest star in this “Knots Landing” episode, the only time two marquee players from “Dallas” appear in the same hour of the spinoff series. (Eric Farlow, who was little Christopher Ewing on “Dallas,” pops up too, along with Philip Levien, who had two roles on “Dallas” and appears here as a record producer.) “New Beginnings” also marked the only time “Knots Landing” followed its parent show in CBS’s Friday night lineup. Not only did this allow the spinoff to crack Nielsen’s weekly top 10 for the first time, the episode’s audience — viewers in 21.3 million homes tuned in — makes “New Beginnings” the most-watched “Knots Landing” broadcast ever.

This also happens to be one of Hagman’s most satisfying “Knots Landing” guest spots. In most of J.R.’s earlier visits to the show, the writers strained to come up with excuses to bring the Texas oil baron to the suburbs of Southern California. (The biggest eye-roller: J.R. shows up to steal the prototype for the environmentally friendly car engine that Sid Fairgate is building in his garage.) “New Beginnings” deftly avoids this dilemma by having all of J.R. and Bobby’s scenes take place in Dallas, where Gary has come for the reading of Jock’s will. This solution is so simple — instead of bringing J.R. to “Knots Landing,” take “Knots Landing” to him — you have to wonder why the producers didn’t try it sooner.

Even though J.R. and Bobby are on their home turf, scriptwriter Mann Rubin keeps the spotlight on Gary, whose storyline dominates this episode. In “Jock’s Will,” the “Dallas” segment that sets up “New Beginnings,” Gary learns his late father left him $10 million, but the inheritance comes with strings attached: For the first few years, Gary is entitled only to the interest the money earns. Gary then spends most of “New Beginnings” pouting about the terms of the will, until he finally realizes he isn’t angry at Jock; he’s sad that his dad is dead.

The scene where Gary explains this epiphany to his girlfriend Abby is quite poignant. Jock and Gary never quite figured out how to relate to each other; now they’ll never get another chance to try. Shackelford is adept at making the audience feel the rage that’s always brewing within Gary, but he also does a nice job in scenes like this, which demonstrates how much of his character’s anger is rooted in heartbreak. Later, when Gary stands up to J.R., you can tell Shackelford is enjoying the opportunity to remind the audience that his character does, in fact, have a backbone. Shackelford also has a good scene at the top of the hour, when Bobby gently reminds Gary that his inheritance, even though it comes with strings, is nothing to scoff at. (More trivia: This will be Duffy and Shackelford’s last scene together until their recent reunion on TNT’s “Dallas.”)

In addition to bringing Abby into the mix, Rubin’s script makes room Gary’s other love, estranged wife Valene. In the episode’s first scene, after director Lorraine Senna shows us a sweeping aerial shot of the Dallas skyline while the familiar “Dallas” theme music plays, we watch as Abby arrives at Gary’s hotel to surprise him. Unbeknownst to them, Val is also staying at the hotel while in town to publicize her new Ewing-inspired novel, “Capricorn Crude.” The two women have several close calls throughout the episode but never run into each other until the last scene, when they both respond to a bellhop’s page for “Mrs. Gary Ewing.” The exchange that follows is appropriately bitchy (“Success seems to agree with you” says Abby; “I might say the same about you,” replies Val), but it’s also kind of bittersweet. This is especially true when the slow, sentimental version of the “Knots Landing” theme begins playing under the dialogue.

Of course, Donna Mills and Joan Van Ark have their best moments with Hagman. When Gary leaves the hotel to visit Southfork, J.R. visits Abby, who asks him why he feels so threatened by his ne’er-do-well middle brother. J.R.’s response is revealing. “That man is full of anger and frustration. Maybe even hatred, I don’t know. If he ever channeled all that energy … well, it could make my life miserable,” he says. Later, Val is signing books in the hotel gift shop when she looks up and sees the next person in line is none other than J.R. “I bought it fair and square with the promise that you’d autograph it for me,” he says with mock innocence. Her hissed response: “You are disgusting.”

The scene really does nothing to advance the storyline in this episode, yet it’s still the most entertaining exchange during the hour. This is the last time we ever see Val clash with J.R., which might make the scene kind of sad — if it wasn’t so much fun.

Grade: A

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Gary Ewing, Knots Landing, New Beginnings, Ted Shackelford

Man of the hour

‘NEW BEGINNINGS’

“Knots Landing” Season 4, Episode 6

Airdate: October 29, 1982

Audience: 21.3 million homes, ranking 4th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Mann Rubin

Director: Lorraine Senna

Synopsis: Gary is angry about the strings attached to his inheritance from Jock but comes to accept it with help from Abby. J.R. tells Val he bought the company that published her book.

Cast: Rita Crafts (customer), Kevin Dobson (Mack MacKenzie), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Reynaldo Duran (bellhop), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Julie Harris (Lilimae Clements), Lisa Hartman (Ciji Dunne), James Houghton (Kenny Ward), Dudley Knight (bookstore manager), Michele Lee (Karen Fairgate), Philip Levien (Andy), Claudia Lonow (Diana Fairgate), Donna Mills (Abby Cunningham), Pat Petersen (Michael Fairgate), Michael Sabatino (Chip Roberts), Ted Shackelford (Gary Ewing), Louise Sorel (Bess Riker), Steve Shaw (Eric Fairgate), Joan Van Ark (Valene Ewing), James Winkler (desk clerk)

Share your comments about “New Beginnings” below.

Comments

  1. Btw…Larry looks very cute in that photo above!

    • He does, doesn’t he? I wish I could have made better screen caps from the episode (the video quality is less than ideal), but at least I was able to find this old publicity shot.

  2. I like this episode. This is the only Knots Landing episode to feature the exterior of Southfork and also, it is one of I think 2 Knots Landing – Dallas themed episodes where it plays the background soundrack from Dallas.

  3. Gary deserved the restictions on his money from Jock. He’s a boozer & a gambler, Jock by setting up restrictions is trying to keep Son Gary in check until he straightens out his life & his general attitude. Until he turns from a weakling, into a strong Ewing Brother like J.R., Gary, & Bobby.

Trackbacks

  1. […] “Knots Landing’s” fourth-season episode “New Beginnings,” Valene (Joan Van Ark) is seated behind the counter in a bookstore, signing a copy of her book for a […]

  2. […] copy of “Capricorn Crude,” her novel inspired by the Ewings, in this 1982 publicity shot from “New Beginnings,” a fourth-season “Knots Landing” […]

  3. […] played the Dallas hotel shop manager where Val signed copies of “Capricorn Crude” in “New Beginnings,” the fourth-season “Knots Landing” episode that also featured appearances by Hagman, Patrick […]

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