Flashback Friday: My Favorite Valene Ewing Moments
Knots Landing fans are in for a treat on the March 18 episode of Dallas, which sets up a mini-Knots reunion when Joan Van Ark appears as Gary Ewing’s estranged wife Valene. Joan, who’s reportedly set for only one guest appearance, so far, will have to squeeze a lot into her on-camera time. Gary is being distracted by Sue Ellen, who is trying to woo him away from Bobby and Christopher’s side in the competition for control of Ewing Energies. What’s especially notable about Val’s arrival in Dallas is that she and Gary will share screen time with their first child Lucy Ewing (Charlene Tilton). When Gary and Val were spun off into their own show, there was rarely a mention of Lucy in their Knots Landing run, except for a sole guest appearance by Tilton in the show’s early years when storyline crossovers were more common between the shows. When Gary and Val conceived their twins Bobby and Betsy during one of their many un-married periods, the gap in years between Lucy and her siblings seemed to bother the Knots writers so fans never got to see the three have a loving scene together. Given the new Dallas’ track record, I doubt the twins will get mentioned. There’s been talk of Knots Landing and Dallas existing in alternate realities ever since Patrick Duffy’s return to Dallas as Bobby in 1986 rendered the naming of baby Bobby in his honor an inconvenient reminder that the Dream Season solution that set things right on Dallas so quickly didn’t really work in the Knots universe. Not surprisingly, story lines ceased to cross over until both shows ended their runs. This is a good thing because the birth of Gary and Val’s twins gave Joan Van Ark the most compelling story line of her entire run on the show. That’s saying a lot given that Val, known derisively by her detractors as “Poor Val,” was the show’s resident damsel in distress, encountering psychos (brother Joshua Rush and lover Danny Waleska), baby-stealing doctors, vindictive rivals (home wrecking Abby and pill-pushing Jill) and alternate personalities (hello Verna!). For Valene Clements Ewing Gibson Waleska Ewing, it has indeed been a colorful life. That said, here are my favorite Val moments from Knots Landing, or as others might put it “The Perils of Poor Val.”
Val Slaps Abby
It was the irony of ironies that after finding her way back to Gary after so many years despite the machinations of J.R. on Dallas, Val would lose him to Sid Fairgate’s scheming sister Abby Cunningham (Donna Mills). In short order, Abby seduced Gary into a passionate fling that led to a tumultuous marriage that ended in divorce, but not before Miss Abby significantly grew her net worth. Here’s a great scene where Val gets a backbone and slaps Knots’ answer to J.R.
Val is Told Her Babies Are Dead
Joan begins the story arc that featured her finest performances with this scene where an evil doctor tells Valene that her twins were stillborn. The scene is classic, understated Knots Landing pathos.
Val’s Bad Girl Act Gets Her in Trouble.
The heartbreak of believing her babies were dead sent Valene spiraling into an emotional breakdown that had her taking on alternate personalities. The first was a dark version of herself who acted out Val’s inner rage at her sanctimonious, victimized self. Notice how Joan Van Ark lowers her voice to its natural tone to take on a sexy new image. Unfortunately for Val, making eyes at a married man in a bar earns her an embarrassing beat down by his appalled wife.
Val is Reunited with Her Twins
After what seemed like an eternity during which Val took on the persona of small-town waitress Verna Ellers (some things never change), Valene was finally reunited with Bobby and Betsy thanks to the heroic efforts of best friends Mack and Karen MacKenzie. The scene is appropriately included at the very end of this “best of” Knots Landing video compilation.
Jill Attacks Valene
Among the many psychos Val’s encountered, Gary’s fiancé Jill Bennett took the cake. Threatened by Val’s constant interference in her relationship with Gary, Jill went nuts and tried to kill Val in an elaborate plot that involved an over-the-top confrontation with Jill wearing a very unflattering wig that seemed to go on for an entire episode. Couldn’t Jill just have shot her instead?
Val Turns The Tables on Jill
Like all good Knots villains, Jill got her comeuppance after Val was rescued by her neighbor Frank Williams. Jill went too far in approaching Bobby and Betsy, unleashing the mama lioness in Val, who confronted the wacko at her office with a pair of scissors ranting that she was no longer poor, poor Val. Message received loud and clear!
Valene Returns With a Makeover
After leaving Knots in its penultimate season, Joan returned for the show’s final run of episodes sporting a makeover that rivaled Jill’s in its frumpiness. It turned out that Val’s research on a mob boss for one of her books got her kidnapped for a whole year and she was on the lam from his goons. Here’s the tense scene where Gary first spots Val. It’s toward the middle of this compilation and is followed by the great scene in which Val drives off the cul-de-sac after leaving Gary for his fling with Abby. It’s a classic, too.