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Dynasty - Ship of Vipers/The Butler Did It - Review

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“Ship of Vipers” and “The Butler Did It” keep the major plotlines of “Dynasty’s” second season steamrolling forward, with some fun soapy surprises sprinkled in along the way.

Starting with Fallon’s entanglements with the Van Kirks. “Ship of Vipers” opens where the previous episode left off, with Fallon having been whisked off to New York City by Liam to meet more members of the family. The most memorable is Uncle Max’s wife Mora, awesomely played by Shannon Lucio, a.k.a. Ryan’s girlfriend slash Kirsten’s sister Lindsay on “The O.C.” Turns out her family had bad business dealings with Blake so she slams the Carringtons as new money and shades “CEO Barbie” up and down. Uncle Max promises Fallon he’ll smooth things over, but then he – gasp! – makes an indecent proposal. Fallon tries to shut him down, but once she realizes it’s a non-negotiable condition of the Carrington Atlantic sale, she needs a Plan B. And what she comes up with is hilarious and soapy – hiring an escort she can tag in if and when Uncle Max wants to get horizontal. Unfortunately for Fallon, Uncle Max has too good a time because the episode ends with the escort calling to tell her that Uncle Max – gasp! – had a heart attack and died.

Having confessed to a thrown Culhane as “The Butler Did It” opens, the pair decide to head to New York together to mop up this mess. But Liam stops by and announces that his mother – who will also be taking over as CEO of the Van Kirks’ company – has shown up in Atlanta to check up on him so Fallon has to stay behind to play wifey. Mama Van Kirk, played by Sharon Lawrence (“Drop Dead Diva”), is a nasty shrew who berates her son nonstop and, unsurprisingly, this strikes a chord with Fallon given her own mommy issues (and sidebar – her second husband is randomly, campily played by Brian Krause of the original “Charmed.”) Fallon bites her tongue as long as she can, but finally can’t help sticking up for Liam, which both jeopardizes the deal and exposes her growing non-platonic feelings for her fake husband.

Luckily, Culhane returns from New York with an executed contract for the sale, signed by Uncle Max before his death. But what Fallon doesn’t know is that, in the process of getting his hands on it, Culhane got himself blackmailed into the employ of a shady yet sultry power broker (played by “Imposters” star Katherine LaNasa, giving a fun performance I really enjoyed), who wants him to be her eyes and ears in Atlanta. And he might regret letting himself be put in that position when he learns Fallon – who’s clearly not ready to say goodbye to him - invited Liam to be part of the transition team. This has the making of a good, soapy love triangle, with two big secrets that could go boom at any time.

Moving on, to Blake and new Cristal. Blake’s still committed to “Blake Time” and spends most of “Ship of Vipers” sparring with Jeff over a trio of race cars. Hilariously, their spat over these metaphorical toys is made literal when they race miniatures to settle things. Blake loses that one, but finds a different trophy waiting for him at home when he comes face-to-face with Cristal Jennings (Grant Show is great in this moment, showing how transfixed by her Blake immediately is). Having been put off by Anders when she called at the start of the episode, Cristal managed to get into the manor and shows Blake a picture in a locket of her with Cristal 1.0 to prove that she’s the real deal, suggesting that they can help each other. I’m still curious about Cristal’s motivation here; I can’t imagine it’s as innocent as she’s presenting.

“The Butler Did It” opens with Blake and Cristal bonding and Cristal sharing stories about her namesake, with Blake dismayed to realize just how little he knew his wife. But things take a sour turn when Blake invites her to dinner. He overdoes it the whole day – “Pretty Woman”-ing her with clothes and a style team, flying her to Miami for the meal, twisting her arm into ordering a drink that was the other Cristal’s favorite. This Cristal finally calls him out on trying to have a “date with his dead wife” and insists they return to Atlanta. And though they have a nice moment later where he apologizes and asks her to stick around, Cristal insists that it’s not a good idea. Again, very curious to see where this is going.

Next up, Steven and Sam. It turns out Alexis’ suspicions about Mrs. Daniels’ pregnancy from the premiere have stuck with Sam so Alexis implores her son-in-law to ingratiate himself with her and see what he can uncover. After spying her buying deli meats and soft cheese – pregnancy no-nos – Alexis and Sam sneak into Mrs. Daniels’ house and apparently find the smoking gun when they discover a pregnancy pad. But oops, when Alexis storms into the prenatal meditation class Steven is hosting at the manor and rips open her blouse, Mrs. Daniels really is preggo, and Steven is really pissed at both his mom and his husband.

So Sam spends “The Butler Did It” trying to make it up to Steven by throwing an increasingly elaborate baby shower, the extravagance of which only pushes Steven farther away. It takes a talk with Anders to make Sam realize that those aren’t the things Steven values and he comes through with a thoughtful gift that smooths things over. It’s kinda sweet, but also kinda boring. But hilariously, this storyline comes to a crashing end when – for reasons I’ll discuss shortly – Mrs. Daniels casually announces that – gasp! – the baby isn’t Steven’s, it’s her gynecologist’s.

Finally, the curveball that is Kirby. Having sought refuge with Jeff at the end of the last episode, Kirby’s screen time in “Ship of Vipers” is spent trying to impress Monica into hiring her to work at her new nightclub, even running a low-stakes scheme to get a rival spot shut down. But at the grand opening, Kirby can’t help revealing herself to Fallon and provokes her into a rad catfight, announcing her intention to take the “whole damn world” from her arch-nemesis. And she scores her first win when the incident puts Fallon on the outs with Monica.

But the big drama – easily the biggest across these two episodes – springs from Kirby’s storyline in “The Butler Did It.” Arrested for assaulting Fallon and sent to anger management, Kirby reveals that, despite her insistences that she’s innocent, she doesn’t actually remember what happened the night of the fire she was blamed for. She reluctantly agrees to hypnosis and has a flash of Alexis (and Alexis, we see, has the shrink on her payroll and is very concerned about what Kirby knows). And later, she has a longer memory of spying on – gasp! – Alexis and Anders discussing a one-night stand they had.

Kirby confronts her father, assuming that Alexis set the fire to frame her and get her out of the country. Anders in turn confronts Alexis, wondering why she would go to such extremes. He then cryptically asks if he’s the father, which Alexis confirms (but sidebar – the way Nicollette Sheridan plays this scene, I’m convinced Alexis is actually hiding something else and glommed onto this “secret” because she had no other choice). Unbeknownst to both of them, Kirby – who guesses that Fallon is her secret sibling – is watching the fight over a nanny cam. She tries to play the video for the crowd at the baby shower, only to be foiled by Alexis. But Anders, finally choosing Kirby over the Carringtons, backs up her story. With one tiny correction. His secret child with Alexis isn’t Fallon, it’s – gasp! – Steven!

So that’s my take on “Ship of Vipers” and “The Butler Did It.” Which soapy development in these episodes of “Dynasty” was your favorite? Let me know in the comments section.

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