Marland Monday: And She Will Have Music Wherever She Goes

Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons
5 min readFeb 7, 2022

It’s the first Monday of the month, and it’s… Marland Monday! Every Monday, I look back on Douglas Marland, one of the GOATs in writing soap operas. Let us begin…

February is known as Sweeps Month in the television biz. Sweeps months is when networks schedule shows that they want to get a large audience. Mental Floss breaks it down here.

In soaps, you used to count on Something Big happening. A wedding, or a masked ball. I once explained to a friend of mine Sweeps time: “See, babies are usually conceived during the first sweeps month of February. Then in November the last sweeps month of the year, babies are busting out all over.”

“So all TV babies are born in November?” she asked.

“Sometimes February. May is pretty big as well.”

She stared at me for a moment. I like to think it was awe. Maybe she just thought I knew way too much about TV.

Marland knew sweeps were so important in storytelling. I knew no matter what, he was going to have good shows on sweeps months. Today we’re going to remember one of my favorites that happened thirty-five years ago this month.

It’s February 1987. We were living on a Prayer with Bon Jovi, while Platoon was nominated for several Oscars. Guess? put out men’s jeans, and it was odd seeing the little triangle on men’s back pockets.

I was in the middle of eighth grade. After two years of awfulness, eighth grade was water after walking in the desert. I was getting good grades. I wasn’t being bullied every day. I was cast in the school operetta. The only blip was my VCR was broken. Someone, um, well, me broke it when she watched Guiding Light clips over and over again. The only show I was interested in was As The World Turns because so much was going on.

Three months before, Frannie (Julianne Moore) was in England. She was studying abroad (this was to accommodate Moore shooting the miniseries I’ll Take Manhattan) when she saw another woman who looked exactly like herself. She had been through a traumatic experience (another February sweeps moment) so her family thought she was imagining things. But when she was addressed as “Sabrina” at a store, they realized she wasn’t dreaming it. Something was up.

More items were brought up: Frannie’s stepmother Kim (Kathryn Hays) started remembering the stillborn son she had years earlier, the same month Frannie was born. Frannie’s mom was Kim’s sister Jennifer (this is a soap opera) and the baby’s dad? Jennifer’s husband, Bob (Don Hastings) Oh, yeah, what a triangle. But Kim and Bob had married two years before and even had a baby boy named Christopher. I tell this story because we have a lot of history we are working with.

We come to February 16, 1987. I had the day off (thank God for Presidents Day) and thanks to the summaries I’d read, I knew it was going to be a good show. It had two big stories: James Stenbeck (Anthony Herrera) kidnapping son Paul (Andrew Kavovit) and taking off. There was also a man chasing the mysterious Sabrina around in Italy. Frannie, her boyfriend Seth (Steve Bassett) also Bob and Kim were also trying to find Sabrina.

In Oakdale, Kim’s ex-husband John Dixon (Larry Bryggman) was in his office, nervous. We then got a flashback. John was talking to Kim on the phone “I love you. You’re my wife. I do love you.” Knock on the door. It’s Howard Lansing, a hospital administrator. He told John a shocker: Kim’s baby didn’t die. Howard had a friend named Mr. Fullerton who desperately wanted a baby. His wife just gave birth to a stillborn. The father offered money to Howard. Howard had Dr. Rick Ryan (Kim’s nephew, yes this is sleazy) take Kim’s healthy baby and switched it with the Fullerton stillborn. Lansing is telling John this because he decided to lie and say John was in it as well. Oh yeah, Howard needs money. John pleaded with him, what about Kim’s baby? Oh yeah, the Fullertons? Died in a train crash. Including their little girl named Sabrina. But Sabrina didn’t die. She lived.

Sabrina and everyone find themselves in a church. Sabrina was upset with Frannie. She was convinced Frannie was trying to hurt Sabrina in some way. There was a shootout. Seth was shot, but it’s just a flesh wound. Bob and Kim ran into the church where they see the girls. They know who is who because Sabrina wore glasses. Upset, Sabrina sat down at a pew. Bob checked on Seth, then confronted Howard, confirming what we knew: Kim’s baby never died. It was Sabrina.

Kim looked at Sabrina, then picked up Sabrina’s hand and kissed it. Sabrina looked at Kim, then burst into tears. Kim started to rock her. As she did, the camera did quick shots of Mother Mary with Baby Jesus. The music swelled then pulled away as Bob, Frannie and Seth looked on.

Kim has short black hair, wearing a navy blue coat and has black gloves on. Sabrina has long red hair, wearing glasses, and has a red coat on.
Kim and Sabrina: Mother and Child Reuinion

The last time we see them all was on a boat with Kim still holding Sabrina. A child’s choir started to sing:

Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
And she shall have music wherever she goes.

a little boy wearing a red sporting jacket and white pants. He’s riding a hobby horse.
WW Denslow’s illustration of the lullaby

I wish you could see this episode, but it was pulled a year ago (thanks Corporate Clueless) so I wouldn’t have to base it on total memory. But I watched this at age fourteen and was just stunned. I felt like I witnessed something important, something big. I know why Marland wrote the storyline: In 1973 Irma Phillips wanted Kim to be a single mother, independent. Phillip was a single parent as well and wanted to show this on television. This didn’t sit well with the network and Corporate Clueless; Phillips was fired (there were other reasons as well) Marland righted a wrong.

However, there were so many layers. John in his office, anxious. Frannie was confused about what was going on. Bob and Kim were horrified then surprised and happy beyond belief that the love child they had was alive. It was like reading a novel and you’re trying to figure out what the heck the novelist is doing, then finally you get to the page when everything makes sense. It might confirm what you always thought or it might’ve taken you by surprise. Afterward, you might feel a little dazed being in the real world again, but you know you experienced something real. Something great.

Or maybe it’s just me loving February sweeps.

Tune in next week, everyone…

--

--