Knots Landing cliff-hangers that kept us on the edge of our seats….
There were no earthquakes, no flying saucers, no terrorists crashing into royal weddings with guns ablaze. Even without such fireworks, Knots Landing managed to bring one season after another to a stomach-knotting climax. So, as we await the outcome of the current midseason cliff-hanger –the bomb planted aboard the Sumner jet — and wonder how Knots will tie up 14 years in two hours, we recall all those loose ends, the finales that fed our curiosity through a dozen summers.
By Staffwriter Gerard J. Waggett – Soap Opera Weekly – May 1993, with some edited comments by Joseph Talone.
1980: In the beginning, each episode was fairly self-contained. As such, instead of using a cliffhanger the show opted to close its first season with a two-parter about Gary (Ted Shackelford) falling off the wagon.
1981: The first and most literal of Knots’ cliffhangers ended with Sid Fairgate’s (Don Murray) car toppling over the edge of a cliff. Murray’s decision not to renew his contract sealed his character’s fate.
1982: Gary’s affair with Abby (Donna Mills) was fast becoming public knowledge. By season’s end, even Valene (Joan Van Ark) knew. She walked in on the lovebirds and went running off in horror. Knots spent almost 10 years resolving this cliff-hanger, working Gary and Valene back together.
1983: The latter half of the season revolved around the murder of aspiring singer Ciji Dunne (Lisa Hartman Black). Gary had been charged and was sitting in jail. In a quietly chilling final sequence, Karen (Michele Lee) realized the killer was actually Chip Roberts (Michael Sabatino) , the man her daughter Diana (Claudia Lonow) had just run off with.
1984: Although this finale looked too much like the typical action cliff-hanger being used by the other nighttime soaps, a clever script made it work. The Wolfbridge Group, a ruthless business cartel, had targeted Gary for murder and tricked Valene and Karen into luring Gary away from his police escort. Abby, who tried to warn Gary about the danger, was kidnapped by the bad guys, and Karen ended up getting shot in the cross fire.
1985: The show took an effective step backward to the character-driven finale. Valene had been told earlier in the season that her twins had died at birth. In reality, they had been sold on the black market. When Val learned the truth, she and almost all of the principal cast members coverged on the home of the adoptive parents. The “father,” who had taken one of the twins for a drive, spotted the entourage and sped away. Slow motion made the final scene all the more gut-wrenching.
1986: While previous finales brought existing storylines to a major turning point, this year’s finale initiated two plotlines, both involving Mack (Kevin Dobson). The same day Karen disappeared, Paige (Nicollette Sheridan) appeared at his house claiming to be his daughter. The last scene brought Karen face to face with her kidnapper, whose identity we would not learn until the following season. (He was a vengeful former friend whom Mack had once testified against.)
1987: One of the best finales, this was a showcase for Mills and an effective stab at black comedy. Abby spent almost the entire episode trying to hide the body of Senator Peter Hollister (Hunt Block), who had been impaled on a spindle. Whether she was covering her own tracks or protecting her daughter, Olivia (Tonya Crowe), was unclear. (It was revealed the following season that Paige had accidentally killed Peter.) Abby buried the body in a construction site and breathed a sigh of relief when concrete was poured over the make-shift grave. Unfortunately for her, a crack developed in the foundation.
1988: Titled “Poor Val,” this was the most tense of all the Knots cliff-hangers. Jealous over Gary’s unseverable ties to his ex-wife Valene, Jill Bennett (Teri Austin) plotted to eliminate her rival. She broke into Val’s house and forced her at gunpoint to swallow a mouthful of sleeping pills.
1989: Paige had been nosing around into a couple of “accidental deaths” involving Abby’s partners in a land fraud scheme. Although this was Mills’ farewell Knots episode, the story was far from over. Paige uncovered evidence linking both Greg and Abby’s ex-lover Ted Melcher (Robert Desiderio) to the murders. The final scene left her standing in Greg’s courtyard in the pouring rain, confronted by both men, having to choose which one to trust. (She picked Ted, who turned out to be the killer.)
1990: This cliffhanger had two story ideas brewing: Paige was engaged to be married to crooked cop, Tommy Ryan. They were to get married at the altar; however, Tom bailed out because it was later revealed in the next season that Greg was blackmailing Tom as a favor to Mack who disapproved of this wedding from the start. The other story was Karen’s stalker. She felt sure that her stalker had finally been captured since security guard Wayne was behind bars. Her vindictive producer, Dianne Kirkwood (Robin Strausser), had been implicated and sent to an insane asylum. As the last few minutes rolled; however, we saw associate producer Jeff Cameron (Chris Lemmon) flipping through a scrapbook of his other victims while watching videotapes of Karen.
1991: Cut to the chase would have been pretty good advice for this drawn-out double episode, since the climax felt as if it were tacked on to the end for shock value. Paige was involved with the Sumner Group architect – Brian Johnston. What she didn’t count on was the night that she punched his obnoxious jaw out, that arch-rival Linda would set her up to take the fall when he was found missing in action. The other story involved Karen in a soapbox of issues. After being shot with a paint pellet, Karen, fueled with righteous anger, hopped into her car and took off after her assailants. She chased their car right into the path of an oncoming truck. When she out to see how badly they were hurt, she found her foster son, Jason (Thomas Wilson Brown), unconscious in the backseat.
1992: Anne’s (Michelle Phillips) home-pregnancy test came back positive, Greg gave away his company, and Meg (Rhianna Janette) was missing, but the season’s final shock was saved for Paige: Her psychotic ex-boyfriend, Pierce Lawton (Bruce Greenwood) , had not drowned. When she hopped into the car and adjusted the rear-view mirror, there he was staring back at her. The real-life cliffhanger for that year was whether CBS would renew the show for another season.
1993: The series finale went out with a bang in a two hour episode. A midseason cliff-hanger made people hang on the edge of their seats to see how Knots was going to resolve 13 years of stories all in two hours. Here’s what happened in those two hours: Val Ewing returned back from the grave and re-claimed her husband Gary, which meant him and Kate had to break-up. Claudia ended up moving to France coincidentally with Anne Matheson and Nick, her Italian boyfriend. Paige was considering marriage to Tom, her previous boyfriend; however, she ended up with Greg Sumner. Mack and Karen reconciled after a major fight in the 10 years that they were married. Finally, the best for last: Abby Fairgate, Cunningham, Ewing, Sumner returned to Knots Landing after a 4 year absence to tell her old neighbors, “I see that Claudia sold her house, and I just purchased it. Karen, how nice to see you…Doesn’t it seem like old times?”