Lou Grant: s03 e23 – Guns

A patriot

Oh boy.

That was my reaction to this episode’s title, knowing America’s relationship with guns and the right to bear arms. But this story wasn’t about gun control, despite the programme showing its hand with on, deliberately comic line.

No, this was about something bigger than that, and about something a lot closer to our home, because it was about the IRA, and the ongoing Troubles.

The episode began with a break-in at a gun shop and the methodical theft of eleven automatic rifles, banned from sale but part of the owner’s private collection. His was the positional statement that got slipped in: challenging Rossi’s lack of interest in his position on gun control, his answer was, ‘Like any sane person, I’m against it!’.

The first real giveaway to the story’s true aim came in McKenna’s at lunch. Owner Maggie McKenna (played by future Golden Girl Rue McLannahan) is over from Ireland for the night’s big St Patrick’s Day party, and she’s shaking the collection tin for starving children back there. The wives and children of the men held in prison in the North.

It’s an old story now, swept thankfully to the pages of history and, we fervently hope, confined forever there, but this was about the support given to the IRA by Americans, support in money, support in guns, support in money-for-guns, bought in Los Angeles and smuggled back to the old country. And the programme trod carefully, allowing the Freedom Fighters their say about what they were doing, justifying their actions, their use of force as unwelcome but necessary, as force was the only thing the Oppressor understood, without condemning them in any but a polite, cautious manner.

In its way, it was a history lesson, a pertinent reminder to those of us who lived through those times. There was a reminder of the death of Earl Mountbatten that brought back in an instant where I was and what I was doing when that news broke, in 1979, on Anglesey, and there were two women, housewives and mothers, one Protestant, one Catholic, to recall the Mother’s Peace Process, wanting nothing but an end to fear and death.

The programme allowed those who represented the cause to make their argument a point of principle whilst allowing the viewer to make up their own mind on the extent to which the death of ordinary people was justifiable by any principle. It allowed the supporters to condemn themaselves out of their own mouths via the passionate but unthinking Maggie, at one point relishing the takeover of the North and showing the protestants what it feels like, and at another refusing to even think about how the British could be removed from Ireland without the very real damage a precipitate withdrawal could cause. Yet Maggie would also be the means by which the episode offered its sole hope of minds changing.

First though, there was Francie Fitzgerald (Redman Gleeson), intrduced by Maggie to Lou as a fellw journalist. Francie was one of those easy-going sons of the blarney and it’s to Gleeson’s credit that, whilst playing him to the hilt as an Irish charmer, he kept him the right side of an Oirish caricature. You liked Francie, you’d have a beer and the craic with him any day, but he was the militant, the gun-runner, stealing Lou’s Driving Licence and Social security card to set up a fake, gun-buying identity.

Francie also turned out a target at the last. He had doubts, or so he said, he wanted to resign, or so he said, but you don’t get to resign. Besides, he was too sloppy, known to the FBI and the Police. So a bomb was planted under Francie’s car.

But this was the show’s only serious failing, and that because of what it was and when this was, and what it couldn’t show. Two kids were throwing ball in the garden. One threw it too hard and it rolled under Francie’s car. The other went scrabbling for it. The show underplayed it too much, neither taking you by surprise nor tightening your stomach with tension of the ‘oh no, they’re not going to…’ kind. We didn’t even hear a bang. Just Police sirens, Rossi arriving to see a totalled car, and a far too offhand resigned line from a Detective to tell us the kid was killed. The moment was thrown away.

At least it had its decent aftermath. The epilogue took place in McKenna’s where a drunken buffoon announced Francie’s death in sententious tones of faked regret. Rossi corrected him: Francie got away, to which the buffoon cheered. Lou told him to tell the rest: our barometer buffoon sighed about it always being the innocent suffer in this war, but in the only shaft of light possible, Maggie herself, the unthinking patriot, told him to shut up. And she tok the collecting jars from the tables and put them away in back.

Back in 1980, that was pretty much the only hope anyone ever dared have about the Troubles, that minds be changed, one by one. I thught that the episode suffered from not once giving the viewpoint of the North, coming closest with Art Donovan’s refusal to be co-opted by reason of his Irish roots and making the practical point that the British simply can’t be thrown out bag and baggage on the next boat, much as the simplistic Maggie wanted.

It was a strong and memorable episode, my choice for the best of season 3. It did its best to stay neutral from an editorial perspective, concentrating upon death and misery rather than the politics, and I’ve tried to do the same today. My curse has always been to see the rights and wrongs of both sides in such situations as this, and whilst my instincts always come down against the users of violence, I do know that sometimes it is necesary, in the same way that Hitler and Nazism could, in the long run, only be overcome by blood and destruction. All I can say is that it is complicated and blessed are the peace-makers of every stripe.

I am so glad that this story is, for now at least, out of date.

Lou Grant: s03 e22 – Influence

I mentioned only last week that the aproach of the end of a Lou Grant season has me feeling some form of burn-out, especially if I’m watching a didactic episode: shall we take a break befre continuing. And equally regularly, as if it senses my doubts forty years ahead, the series bounces back with a good, strong, personal episode that refreshes the palate and leaves me set on continuing this rewatch uninterrupted.

‘Influence’ was another of those split stories, the two halves essentially unconnected but both a commentary upon the title in differing degrees, and given enough equal measure as to not be an A-and-B story set-up.

The episode featured the series’ most regular guest in a Guest Star role for the first and only time. Allen Williams has been playing the role of Adam Wilson, straight-laced Finance Editor for ages, and appearing in the opeing credits since the start of season 2, but one half of the story is about him.

Adam, clean-cut, Mr suit-and-tie, is an alcoholic. It’s a surprise, at odds with his persona, but isn’t that so often the case? It’s getting to the point where his marriage is breaking down over it, he’s goofing off, he’s letting down his colleagues, messing up his job, and he’s getting other people to cover for him. The story starts when he starts to bring Lou into his personal circle of deceit, helping him avoid consequences that would tip over his carefully constructed system of ling to himself.

Lou plays along for a while. Rossi, who has been through all this with his own Dad, insists on Lou coming round for dinner with his old man, to learn that covering for Adam is the worst he can do. He has to go into tough love, to force Adam to recognise the worst in himself and manouevre him towards rehab.

It’s a neat little story, made all the more effective by happening to a character we know and, generally, like, instead of some invented on the spot guest with whom we have no familiarity, and the effect is doubled by the small degree to which Adam is affected by his condition: he’s a high-functioning drunk, smooth and capable, but still self-deluding.

The only drawback is that this is 1980. How much, if any, of this will feature in future episodes?

The other half of the story was a much higher-level and, in its own way, story of influence, and also corruption. Mrs Pynchon is tremendously flattered to be invited to join ‘The Circle’, a self-appointed group of influential and very rich businessmen engaged on sweeping projects that not only make money but which improve LA’s infrastructure and the wellbeing of its people. Their current project is a second LA airport, to relieve pressure on LAX and create jobs etc.

The Trib’s already covering that project, in the form of new environmental writer Nick Bowyer (James Whitmore Jr). Bowyer, a forerunner of the UK’s George Monbiot, is against the project for its envirmental impact on unspoiled country. He’s pinting out obvious flaws:  the 60 mile distance from LA, the lack of roads, the imposibility of creating satisfactory transport, the surrounding high mountains…

The Circle doesn’t  like the Trib’s coverage. They want Mrs Pynchon in the tent with them, peeing out, and she, who isalready unhappy with Bowyer’s relentless negativism, is only too happy to support her paper rethinking its approach. It’s the same old story of the road to Hell being paved with good intentions: she’s a perfect fit for the Circle, being Patrician as all get out. So much good can be done once she’s inside the tent. She wants Bowyer fired, she wants an ‘objective’ look at all the good this scheme can and will do.

So Billie gets landed with the task of being objectively for this. But Billie is objective: she uncovers the scandal waiting to explode. Yes, the Circle has donated, free, thousands of acres of land to this project, but it’s retained hundreds of thousands of acres that will be invaluable if the airport goes ahead, whilst the free thousands are worthless withut an airport being built in the first place…

And Margaret Pynchon, however Patrician she may be, is to honest and too much the newspaperwoman, wedded to the facts, to go on.

A tale of two influences, one ultimately used to the painful benefit of another, and one withdrawn, for the equivocal benefit of many. After all, LA still needs another airport, and who’s to say that this might not have been what was needed?

So that leaves two more chances before season 3 ends to influence my thinking on a break. Where will we be, three weeks from today? Still in LA, or…

Lou Grant: s03 e21 – Dogs

A happy ending

It’s noticeable, to me at any rate, that I start to get a bit weary of Lou Grant towards the end of a season and start to wonder about taking a break, cleansing the palate, etc. The first half of this episode which reverted to the show’s occasional and always-dull didacticism, re-awoke that feeling.

The show began with Mrs Pynchon’s ever-present Yorkshire Terrier lapdog, Barney, being taken from her car in a parking lot. As we’d already seen suspicious people, in denims, baseball caps and sleeveless puffer-jackets (it was like a uniform) paying out large sums to carry out an unspecified but clearly dodgy arrangement, the pieces clicked into place rapidly.

Barney, it turned out, had not been stolen to fight but for ‘conditioning’, the process by which a fighting breed of dog – the then little-known Pit Bull Terrier – is trained to kill by ripping apart a smaller dog. Mrs Pynchon’s grief was palpable, and any pet owner would have empathised, but it was mingled with her patrician nature that made her feel embarrassed at mourning a mere animal, and Nancy Marquand was excellent in balancing all her emotions.

The Trib set out to find out more about these dog-fighters, with the aid of the stiff-backed Jim Lawrence (Geoffrey Lewis) of the Humane Society, who was one of several characters who had to deliver dollops of didactic exposition to the audience to explain the scale, tactics and ultra-secretiveness of this frankly disgusting practice. And because it was so disgusting, we were never going to see any actual scenes of what it entailed, for which one member of the audience at least was profoundly grateful.

The episode picked up in the second half when Rossi went underground to infiltrate the circuit, in a manner that was very cleverly written. Nothing was said or done that did not fit into his assumed persona and, given the heavily masculinist atmosphere, in which the fighting dogs themselves were effectively a symbol of the male wish to attack, rend and destroy in person, made us very jumpy.

Ultimately, we see two dogs about to face each other. Rossi, his stomach giving way at last, betrays himself and his wire and is given a good, mainly offscreen kicking, resulting in facial bruising, a broken left arm and, given the way he was moving, at least one cracked rib, but everyone is arrested.

Then came the kicker. The penalty these disgusting subhumans would face is a fine of $50. Rossi set out to write a story that would change people’s attitudes to the subject and, by a for once wonderful irony, Robert Walden credits this episode with being instrumental in changing legislation to make dog-fighting a felony, which is great to hear.

There was a second string to this story, in Mrs Pynchon herself. The gang buy her a Yorkie puppy, a bright-as-a-button scrap of untidy fur, to replace Barney but, still choked up over her loss, she rejects him. Lou wins up with the dog himself, that is, until Mrs Pynchon comes round to ask for it. Despite Lou having started to get attached, he hnds the pup over instantly. Mission accomplished, some kind of happy ending.

And a half-decent episode too. I wonder how I’ll feel after three more?

Lou Grant: s03 e20 – Blackout

Looked at as a demonstration of professional tv writing, this episode of Lou Grant was a textbook example worth studying. The episode takes place on the evening of a City-wide power blackout in LA that, amongst the chaos, violence, looting and the thousand and one problems of completing vital work of every kind, the Trib has its own unbroken record of never missing a day in 64 years printing to preserve.

The episode carefully foreshadowed events by showing the paper operating normally on a slow news day. Lightning flashes blare through the windows, there’s a slight earthquake and a pool on its strength, Charlie’s hired away Marcy Lambert, a consumer affairs writer, from the Long Beach Sun, much t the disgust of its editor, his old friend Reggie Washburn. All very low-key and normal.

Rossi’s got a tip that Supervisor Kirby did not attend a Conference in Denver but inastead diverted himself to Aspen with a female aide, on taxpayers’ money. It’s an Election Year and Rossi’s after the Supervisor. Billie, with Animal, is interviewing this guy who’s founded an early version of a Neighbourhood Watch group, with some barely concealed vigilante tendencies. And Art Donovan and Marcy have taken one look at each other and are simultaneously plotting a course towards the first available bedroom.

There’s no real direction to any of this and none of the stories are as yet substantial enough to backbone an issue, but they are all of them McGuffins, to depict a state of normalcy before the power goes out abruptly.

So the Trib goes into disaster-mode. There’s the black-out itself to consider on a macro-level, and everyone’s out running stories down: Police responses, emergency medical centres, grabbing flashlights and candles, looting. It would be easy to let the set-up stories vanish. They’ve done their job, they are the norm, now vanished.

But the episode isn’t going to do that. Kirby’s a major figure throughout, playing a blinder about responding to the crisis, moving heaven and earth to ameliorate its effects with great efficiency, and all while being needled by Rossi abut how this will play up his re-Election prospects. Sure it will, but at the same time it is tremendous stuff to respond to the crisis.

Marcy does chip in but her main role here is to be the fulcrum over the Trib’s printing issue. It’s traditional in times like these for papers to suspend their rivalries and lend out presses, but the only paper outide the blackout who can do this is, naturally, the Long Beach Sun.

But Reggie, after clearing his throat all over Charlie, invites them down. The problem is, are they needed? There’s a promise that power will be restored at 11.45 which would enable the Trib’s press to handle things, whilst the Sun‘s press can’t handle a start-time after 12. midnight. Wherever there’s a narrow decision window there’s going to be a decision to make.

Rossi ends up meeting Billie’s proud vigilante who we realised was itching to shoot the gun he’s not supposed to be carrying. He’s got a gunshot wound in the calf, from a ‘shoot-out’ with a would-be burglar: a wound in the back of the calf at a downwards trajectory with powder-burns on the pants leg, and how did you get that, Mr hot-shot?

Everything in the set-up is mixed seamlessly into the unrelated  main story. and that narrow window? The Trib’s been keeping a line open to the Sun, as their switchboard is jammed, until an extra puts the phone down at the very wrong moment. No-one can get through to authorise running the press at the Sun. Marcy fulfills her role by getting through on a non-Switchboard private line to Reggie’s office. But Donovan has had to make the crucial call for himself: they’re already rolling.

The publishing record is preserved but Rossi’s story about Kirby is lost completely due to space reasons. Karma balances out Charlie’s hiring of Marcy when Reggie hires away Walker from the Trib. And the lights come on and everyone starts to adjust to being normal.

A very well constructed episode. Not as emotionally visceral or affecting as a Person of Interest, but a good, high quality demonstration of the art of single-episode series writing forty years ago. They had it in those days too.

Lou Grant: s03 e19 – Lou

Regina and Lou

From the episode’s title, and the opening sequence, where Lou wakes up at 5.51am, reads his Trib and immediately phones the night desk about mangling a story, to the accompaniment of a slow, bluesy, solo saxaphone soundtrack, I thought I had this episode figured: a slice of life performance, a-day-in-(Lou’s)-life, with minimal formal plot.

Of course I wasn’t fully correct. That aspect certainly wasn’t kept to the background, but it was married to a larger concern, being Lou’s struggles with overwork and burnout, and the effect upon both the City Editor personally, and the newsroom in consequence.

It was a particularly concentrated performance by Asner, who is never less than excellent any week but here produced a determinedly aggressive display as a man who has sunk so deeply into his role, who has allowed the job to become the whole of his life, and who is juggling too many balls with a determination to be on top of everything.

This got reflected in the variety of stories Lou was involved in: the decision to ignore protests about a train carrying nuclear waste through a residential area, taking Rossi off his current story to cover what became a non-event, sending Billie to a) research the facts of an item of Jack Town’s column that is incorrect and b) sending her on a ‘cute’ story about a whistling grandmother, dealing with Regina Kelly (Elta Blake), a pretty, young reporter in Metro who wants to follow in Billie’s footsteps, ejecting a reporter for a plagiarised story in cruel manner, agreeing the cropping of one of Animal’s photos that completely reverses it’s meaning, and risking 35,000 readers by challenging Town’s work.

That’s a particularly dense mixture of stories for one episode, though the episode is almost entirely studio bound (the only non-Trib sets being Lou’s bedroom and McKenna’s bar, stock sets: in Deep Space Nine this would have been called a bottle story). The point though is not the stories but the bull-at-a-gate, I’m-in-charge attitude Lou takes to each one. He’s our filter, and Asner’s intensity, coupled with the judiciously limited level of voice-raising even at his angriest, put over the stress of both the demands of the job and the higher demands Lou placed on himself.

Of course, the perennial problem with stories of this nature is how to end them. I’m put in mind of the last episode of Homicide: Life on the Street‘s fifth season, the increasing intensity of Frank Pembleton’s approach the overwhelming stress that burst out in a stroke.

But that was a deliberately focussed decision in a serialised series, and this is a decades old prime time episodic series, so no permanent damage can be done. Cannily, the episode uses the concerns of the rest of the cast to lower the tension. Billie tells Lou that putting Sam Huntington’s personal effects outside the newsroom and when he replies that’s what he is, she simply and quietly tells him, no, he’s not. It’s a gentle but effective lap in the face, bringing Lou up short and starting him questioning his behaviour (not out loud but in his deliberate effort to change his approach. Sam is still sacked for his plagiarism, but it is done respectfully.

And Charlie, harking back to the near breakdown of his marriage to Marion earlier this year/season, foregoes his usually easy-going approach and instructs Lou to return with vacation plans tomorrow.

The easing-out process brings Regina back briefly. She’s a long way frm any possible readiness for the newsroom but she likes Lou and wants to start a relationship with him. She’s not bothered about the difference in their ages (she’s 24) but he is. The symbol of this is Lou’s memories of Bannister and Landy – doubled up on by Billie and Rossi sharing that knowledge – but Regina has never heard of them. He hasn’t got the energy to be a mentor on top of being a ‘boyfriend’.

The closing scene completes the mellow-out. Billie insists Lou leave wokj to join her in a rack of lamb and Lou, who has just had a fight with Rossi over asking him to re-write a piece he’s taken two days over making really good only for Lou to demand an unnecessary rewrite from a radically different perspective, tells rossi the story can wait and ropes him in to join them. Do they remember Bannister and Landy? (And if you don’t, you’re too young for me too).

It all made for a change-of-pace story that negotiated the issue of it not changing the series’ dynamics in as good a fashion as was possible. one of the best episodes of season three, without a doubt

Lou Grant: s03 e18 – Censored

Lasagne with American cheese

It began with a burning and it ended with a burning. At first it was just books, but by the end it included album covers, magazines and even television sets. It was creepy, because bok-burnings are always creepy, because they’re about trying to stop ideas existing and especially about keeping the young from finding out anything that doesn’t replicate their perents’ beliefs, that might change them out of being mindless, ignorant copies of their parents. How is it good parenting, true parenting, true love for a boy or a girl you have created to want them to be less than they can possibly be?

There were two censorship stories in this episide of Lou Grant but one was lightweuight and comic, aptly so because it involved Charlie Hume refusing to run a satirical cartoon strip that accused a California Senator of being in Arab politics, the fuss it caused, the Senator’s refusal, to take legal action and the cartoonist suing the Trib for breach of contract for failing to publish. That”s still censorship, but it’s the very thin end of the wedge.

The thick end is Altamira, where the book-burning(s) are takiing place. Rossi went out there to investigate, armed with an introduction to Mitchell Webster (Richard Dysart, later of LA Law), editor of the local newspaper and an old buddy of Lou. Webster had changed though. It was obvious from the outset, his overplayed avuncularity, his Altamira-is-a-nice-town-full-of-nice-people schtick.

But a very popular, very enthusiastic, very thought-provoking teacher Marilyn Keefer (Laurie Heineman) had been fired for refusing to drop books that are part of the National Curriculum, books with ‘radical’ ideas, asnd wound up working in a cowboy bar in a bare mid-riff fringed top and probably the shortest skirt in the entire run (so short we weren’t allowed more than tjhe briefest glimpse of the approximate position of its hem). She filled in Rossi on the Paul Revere Society, a self-appointed groupn of concerned citizens, out to drive ‘progressive’ ideas out alongside the ‘filth’.

There was also Irene Teal (Karen Ingenthron), the Librarian who brought her daughter here after her divorce, to live in a quiet, peaceful, nice town, who has to deal with famous and classic books being removed from the shelves, who has to accept borrowers editing The Catcher in the Rye by cutting out lines they don’t like with scissors, turning pages into doilies, who goes to dinner with Rossi in a place that makes lasagne with American cheese because she’s afraid for her job if she’s seen talking to him.

There’s the owner of the motel where Rossi’s staying, who takes out the televisipn to burn it, and bans it at home, because a popular character in a popular sitcom mentions being on the Pill.

Webster, an aptly chosen name is the spider in the centre, lying stories, slanted stories, praising the Paul Revere Society before they’d even formed, running their PO Box, creating, not reporting the news. And why? His son Jim, a Vietnam vet, died in 1969. not from the war, but from getting mixed up with drugs when he got back to LA (the episode was rigidly silent on the possibility that Jim Webster got hooked on drugs in Vietnam as a response to such a shitty war because if it hadn’t been you would never have seen this episode). Webster was out to stop the corruption spreading.

He was a fightened and confused man. They were all frightened and confused men and women, well-meaning and, in a way that would get the episode on the air, they were immocent. They wanted the best for their children and their neighbours.

And what made this episode horrible to bear was they we are their future. this episode was broadcast in January 1980. Before the year was out, Ronald Reagan would be elected President on a rising tide of fear, selfishness and conservatism (for what else is conservatism but the denand that you should do only what I allow?) This was a warning of what has become Trump and Johnson, with no end in sight, only we missed all the signs. We thought they had good intentions. We thought that they were just misguided.

But they burnt books out of fear of what was in them. The people who do that cannot ever be trusted to leave you alone. And too many still can’t see that.

Lou Grant: s03 e17 – Inheritance

In imdb‘s episode ratings, this latest Lou Grant gets a below-par 7.8. I can understand that on an objective basis, especially given one substantial plothole in one half of the story, but my own history left me unable to be objective about the subject of the other.

Whilst the amount of time devoted to each, vastly different strand would justify me designating them as A and B stories, both did deal with very different questions of heritage and both turned on matters of significance. The ‘A story’, if I have to designate it thus, began with a determined but nervous woman walking onto a golf course, confronting one of four Doctors finishing a round, identifying herself as a baby he once delivered – and slapping him across the face before collapsing, sobbing that he had given her cancer.

In contrast, the ‘B story’ started in comic manner, with an elderly, well-dressed, rich and foreign-looking couple invading the Trib to try to withdraw someone else’s already-published wedding announcement, as preparation to prevent the wedding. Billie gets the girl, Rossi gets the other girl.

Billie’s girl is Jessica Downey (Sands Hall). Twenty-odd years ago, the Doctor prescribed her mother a new drug named DES which was supposed to prevent miscarriages. In fact, it had no such effect. But in about one in one thousand four hundred cases, it led to canccer in the baby, about twenty years later. Not merely cancer, but it also deformed the uterus, meaning that a woman so affected could conceive but not carry a baby to term. Before the episode was over, Jessica had had all her ovaries removed and at least part of her vaginal wall, losing her desire to become a mother, and bitter about how long her loving boyfriend would stay with her when she couldn’t give him babies,  nor ‘normal’ sex.

In a way, this clinical and detailed exposition was shocking, especially for a forty year old episode (original broadcast 28 January 1980), not just for its explicitness about the sexual aspects – the word orgasm was used, out loud – but also for the use of the C-word. . There was still a massive inhibition on saying the word Cancer so far back, a horror-movie fear that to say it was to bring it down on you.

That it was about cancer left me unable to look at it without my own background blurring any attempt at judgement, and the episode opted to bring the subject into the family with Billie herself. She’s the right age: did her mother take DES when she had her?

The short answer, after a whirlwind of emotions including some very understandable re-writing of the past to pretend it was exactly the same as the present, was yes. no suggestion of actual cancer, just a twice-yearly check-up that will doubtless never be referred to again: a Sword of Damocles hanging high indeed, but still hanging.

Rossi’s story involved Sarah Hartounian (Carol Bagdasarian), who was marrying Jamahl Azar (Gregory Rozakis). The couple trying to prevent the wedding or at least word of it getting out were her Uncle and Aunt Leon and Levinia (Buck Kartalian and Magda Harout). The reason? Sarah was Armenian and Jamahl Turkish.

Sarah and Jamahl were nothing more than two people in love, but to Leon and Levinia they were symbols, and a disgrace. For centuries, the Turks have tried to wipe out the Armenians, including two genocidal massacres, in 1915 and 1916, the outline of which was told in blunt and horrific detail, to which was added the approbation of Hitler (true historical fact) in comparison to the Jews.

To the older Hartounians, Sarah was not and could not be Sarah alone. She was and must be a symbol of her people, and be a representative of her ethnicity, which made her both more and less than she was. Lou tried to point out that only by such things as the pair marrying can ancient hatreds, however well justified, begin to be repaired, but Leon’s personal experiences, alongside his late brother, Sarah’s father, were so intense that he would never break out of that. And so intense that who had the right to try to bend him?

Leon and Lavinia believed Sarah was only marrying Jamahl to hurt them, when the truth was that they were marrying for the only good reason for marrying: love and compatibility. But, in the episode’s biggest plot hole, Leon intended to alter his brother’s will to disinherit Sarah. The show never explained how he could do that: his own will, yes, as was first mooted but his brother’s already operational one?

Either way, this inheritance ended up in court where the judge, after hearing compelling arguments both ways, voided the change of will. The elder Hartounians marched out, refusing to speak to their niece, which made you wonder just exactly who had won.

And Billie reconciled with her mother, who herself was torn up over the fear she had hurt her child but who had not been able to express it before.

Lots of cliches in there, put in service of an episode with solid roots that would probably have been better served as a one-off, not a weekly series produced under headlong time constraints. But I felt it in that part of me that only knows cancer for what it did to my family, which cannot think but only feel.