SNARK WEEK RECAP: North & South (1985), Episode 3

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Because I live to entertain, and because I make bad life choices, I have decided to recap 1985’s Civil War classic, North and South. Look for a new episode recap each day of Snark Week, and enjoy the frosted lipstick!

OH MY GOD THIS SHOW IS SO SLOW. I can’t believe I’m only on episode 3, and we’re still somewhere in the late 1840s (not that the costume or hair designers seem to be aware). There are dates constantly being flashed on screen — this one covers 1848 through 1854.

We begin with Priam, runaway slave from Swayze’s family’s plantation, still missing. Swayze and visiting boyfriend George come across him, George talks Swayze into letting him go, which Swayze does but warns George never to ask him to go against his people again. Priam is forced to, once again, overact through the whole thing.

North and South (1985) ep 3

Swayze has been wearing this leopard-print cravat for, like, 8 years now.

George marries Perfect Blonde, while Swayze best-mans. Apparently women in the North have access to this technology called “day dresses” that is nowhere to be seen in the South. I don’t hate Perfect Blonde’s wedding dress, and I’m glad they went for non-white, as the whole “white wedding dress” thing happens much later.

North and South (1985) ep 3

Check it out: a high neckline! Sleeves with undersleeves! Styled hair! Swayze looks like he fluffed his mullet for the occasion, which is sweet.

North and South 1985

Her dress looks aqua on my screen, but blue here. Don’t ask me. We obviously had some problems pressing those seams.

Because Perfect Blonde is Irish, it’s a “private” wedding. In attendance are Number 1 (George’s brother) and it turns out Plastic Cameo is his wife, and she’s uber bitchy; sister VIRGILIA, brother Billy, and Northern Mom (who looks a lot like my mom did in her 30s-40s, which is weird).

North and South (1985) ep 3

I actually kind of like Plastic Cameo’s bonnet ribbon, and again, holy crap it’s a day dress! Virgilia looks stupid with her ringlets coming out of her bonnet, but again, there’s a day dress so I should take what I can get.

There’s a wedding reception! I’m impressed by the long sleeves and high necks on the ladies, although I still feel like we’re in generic mid-Victorian rather than late 1840s-land.

North and South (1985) ep 3

Re: Northern Mom’s dress, the whole multiple-tier sleeves and skirt is nicely early 1850s. I thought Number 1’s waistcoat fabric was super chintzy. OTOH, I actually LIKE Plastic Cameo’s hair!

VIRGILIA and Swayze have a moment where it seems like they might get along! I assume her hair is because she’s unmarried? Do 80-year-old spinsters wear their hair in long ringlets in this world?

North and South (1985) ep 3

Virgilia’s dress actually doesn’t suck on screen! Collar! Cuffs! Gloves! If only she did more with her hair than hot rollers.

Lest the day dresses fool you, we’re very committed to our Maybelline.

North and South (1985) ep 3

“Keep it nude, no one will notice!”

Northern Mom summons all the boys and wives to announce that she’s going to make Number 1 share director-ship of the iron company with George. Plastic Cameo is PISSED and vows to “get back what’s their’s.”

North and South (1985) ep 3

I thought the fit on Perfect Blonde’s dress was nice, and I loved all the cartridge pleats in back!

Swayze, George, and Perfect Blonde go to hear VIRGILIA speak at an abolitionist converence. She’s dolled up to the nines in a black sparkly evening gown, just the thing for railing about Southerners sexually abusing enslaved African Americans.

North and South (1985) ep 3

She looks like an opera singer. Why is everyone else in a day dress? Okay I see one other evening gown behind her…

Frederick Douglass (without Frederick Douglass hair) is there as Virgilia’s opening act, which, really? Swayze is TOTES offended by Virgilia pointing out that there may be some fucked up sexual stuff going on in the slavery system.

North and South (1985) ep 3

Perfect Blonde also got the evening-dress memo.

Back in South Caro, David Carradine is pissy that Tits hasn’t given him a “man child” (what, is this The Jungle Book?) and is busying herself helping enslaved women give birth. Also, Maum Sally disappears beginning in this episode, with no explanation.

North and South (1985) ep 3

Oh the tousled side ponytail, tied with poly-satin ribbon!

Tits heads to her and Swayze’s secret meeting place to reminisce, but Swayze actually turns up!

North and South (1985) ep 3

Tits matches her frosted eyeshadow to her Casa Collection satin gown. What are these long sleeves?

The two GET IT ON on a cloak, which seems uncomfortable. She’s got what I will charitably call a chemise, but no corset. THE SEX IS TENDER.

North and South (1985) ep 3

THIS WAS NOT SOMETHING I NEEDED TO SEE.

There’s a big explosion at the iron works, which is Number 1’s fault because he cancelled George’s order to reinforce some Stuff(TM). Northern Mom puts George in charge of things. Number 1 is pouty, but Plastic Cameo (his wife) is EVEN MORE PISSED OFF. She starts glowering and lurking through the rest of the episode.

North and South (1985) ep 3

Another dress on Northern Mom that looks surprisingly early 1850s. Of course, everything on this show has looked 1850s, from 1840 til now.

Everyone has a sad! Southern Dad has died! Apparently we break out the long sleeves and high necklines for mourning, which is something. Swayze’s little sisters are all growed up. Slutty Brunette (Ashton) is busy being boy crazy instead of being sad, while Sweet Blonde (Brett — is that really a woman’s name?) makes sure that we can continue to match temperament to hair color.

North and South (1985) ep 3

Tits, Slutty, and Brett all have very 1870s hair. Glad Tits put the girls away for the occasion.

Stop the presses! Trystan alerts me to the fact that Sweet Blonde is someone important:

Apparently Trystan didn’t get out much in the 1980s?

Wow. That’s… some hair on her beau.

We are introduced to a poor cousin who is living with Swayze’s family, Charles, who has bad hair and is not worthy of screencapping. We also hang a little bit more with Semiramis, who maybe someday will get to have some kind of actual role? She’s played by Erica Gimpel, who played CoCo on the TV version of Fame.

Swayze fires the sweaty overseer, who vows to have his revenge someday. This is followed by an overly long, overly jaunty scene in which poor cousin Charles gets into a fight with the sweaty overseer, none of which is screencap-worthy.

North and South (1985) ep 3

Swayze wears his shirt sleeves rolled up, and looks STRAIGHT UP Johnny Castle from Dirty Dancing because of it.

Slutty Brunette is also boy-crazy and bitchy to her sister.

North and South (1985) ep 3

Thank goodness we reinforce the trope of “women tying their corsets extra tight”!

There’s another boy-centric series of events in which Poor Cousin Charles gets challenged to a duel because of scampering with another man’s fiancée. Swayze trains him up to duel, and is impressed when Poor Cousin Charles actually wins the duel AND spares the other guy’s life. Apparently I am supposed to start caring about Poor Cousin Charles.

The Southern clan visits the Northern! The ladies break out the day dresses, except for Kirstie Alley/Virgilia who dresses so very girlie for someone who wants to be taken so seriously.

North and South (1985) ep 3

Northern Mom’s blouse and skirt combo is awfully fashion forward — try 1860s. Southern Mom’s neckline is bit dressy, but otherwise, I ACTUALLY LIKE THIS DRESS. AND Perfect Blonde’s! So, :P to my haters. Kirstie, on the other hand, went full Holly Hobby.

Slutty Brunette is so bitchy that once she finds out her sister is into George’s younger brother Billy, she sets out to catch him. Billy and Poor Cousin Charles become BFFs.

North and South (1985) ep 3

Why does the good girl get more tits out than Slutty? That’s Poor Cousin Charles, in case you care. It’s hard to see, but Slutty’s waist cincher thingie reads as very cardboard.

Virgilia tries to ‘splain politics to Southern Mom.

North and South (1985) ep 3

I question a lot about Virgilia’s ensemble, but hey, it’s vaguely day-appropriate. She’s also WAY into wearing flowers in her hair, which just doesn’t suit her character. I like Southern Mom’s dress, including day cap with lace lappets!

North and South (1985) ep 3

Not sure what’s up with northern Mom’s sleeves, but I do like that her hair is 1. up and 2. styled in a complicated ‘do!

This pisses off Slutty Brunette, who (along with her sister) didn’t get the whole day dress memo. Virgilia volunteers to spend the rest of their visit in her room, which seems unnecessarily dramatic.

North and South (1985) ep 3

EVENING. DRESSES. Also, that’s a LOT of eyelet lace. Perfect Blonde is in classic “keeping my mouth shut” mode.

Slutty Brunette takes Billy to the garden to make out, and basically asks him to fuck her. He’s suddenly all “whoa, I knew she was slutty but I didn’t think she was THAT slutty!” His attention shifts to Sweet Blonde.

MINUS being an evening gown … I LIKE THIS DRESS. It’s well made, they did interesting things with the (period-appropriate) fabric, it fits her well … just make the sun go down!

Southern Clan heads home, but not before insisting the Northern Clan come visit them in the next episode!

North and South (1985) ep 3

Plastic Cameo: “BYEEEEEE!”

North and South (1985) ep 3

Virgilia lurks ominously, and so begins a theme.

Back down south, Tits goes to her and Swayze’s special love spot only to find her hubby David Carradine getting it on with a slave, which basically involves rubbing the enslaved woman’s head and laughing uproariously. He’s pissed that he’s been caught, so chases down Tits and whips her. He rips her dress, which suddenly becomes magically unlaced, thus showing us her lack of corset or chemise. Swayze comes across post-whipped Tits and comforts her, offering to run away with her, but she says no because she knows David Carradine would just hunt them down.

North and South (1985) ep 3

I didn’t know Tits owned any long-sleeved dresses!

Perfect Blonde asks George’s permission to use a room in their house for the Underground Railroad. He agrees, after seeing a runaway slave there being treated for whipping wounds. Again, the African American is just there to serve as a plot device, not in any way to have his own role or opinions.

North and South (1985) ep 3

Again, sit down because: I LIKE THIS DRESS! Okay, so the sleeves seem very fitted for early 1850s (this is way more early- to mid-1840s), but it fits well, it’s a day dress, and they did some great things with the plaid! Also, hair up!

Virgilia is DETERMINED to go to South Carolina to visit the Southern Clan. George, like me, knows that no good can come from this, but he agrees after Virgilia SWEARS she’ll be an angel. Uh huh.

North and South (1985) ep 3

Don’t hate it. Why so many flowers in Kirstie’s hair?

Northern Clan sets off to visit Southern Clan, with Virgilia lurking ominously, waiting to fuck shit up!

North and South (1985) ep 3

Shitty bonnet is shitty!

Three more and I’m freeee!

 

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29 Responses

  1. Susan Pola Staples

    PB or as you refer Perfect Blonde seems to be 85% properly dresses for the period 1840-1850 year indecision notwithstanding.
    I too remember Luke/Laura but did you know Genie Francis is Mrs Jonathan Frakes?
    Slutty Sister must be a relative of Leghair.

    Reply
    • Linda Merrill

      Actually, there were several marriages spawned from the series. In addition to Francis/Frakes (still married), George Hazard/Perfect Blonde are still married; Leslie Ann Down and an assistant camera man are still married; Kirstie Alley and Parker Stevenson (who played Billy Hazard in the 2nd series) married/divorced; Terri Garber (Slutty sister) married a crew member, now divorced. 5 marriages, 3 still married – which is pretty good odds for on-set romances.

      Reply
  2. Susan Pola Staples

    Would have enjoyed seeing Real Hollywood Royalty – the late humanitarian Elizabeth Taylor comes to mind. Say as a cameo Elizabeth Cady Stanton or another abolitionist bc the show needed a touch of reality in it. SPOILER ALERT: And I don’t mean Virgilia marriage to an exslave, 😂

    Reply
  3. Nzie

    Day dresses! Oh my! But still the hair is all over the place—all those half down dos are distracting me from the costumes… but maybe that’s a good thing? Also, what on earth with the opera dress for abolitionist remarks? Women were working really hard to be taken seriously; showing up like that does not help that.

    It took 3 episodes for someone to have the slightest indication of the barest hints of Victorian sexual morality. And the first is totally unbelievable…. you’d have to be unbelievably naive to not know that people who owned slaves raped them. Of course people didn’t always practice the values of their day or that they espoused publicly, but all of a sudden we care about virginity because it’s the little sister?

    Reply
  4. SarahV

    Ashton, aka Slutty Brunette, aka Terri Garber just MADE this miniseries. She was so delightfully slutty and cruel and witty. She’s like the Ur-Heather, the Foremother of the Plastics, the progenitoress of all the Mean Girls.

    The thing about Northern Mom was this was during they heyday of ABC’s Benson, and teh actress – Inga Swenson – was much better known as the German harridan head maid Miss Krauss that it was so startling to see her, without her bulls**t German accent, being maternal and sensible and wise.

    Kirstie Alley really was so beautiful, huh? She’s not a conventional beauty, but wow. Jonathan Frakes was hella hot too. (Great, now I am going to have Star Trek-themed sex dreams now).

    Reply
  5. Amanda

    I am enjoying these greatly, although the ponytail cameo on Southern Mom made me wince. (Maybe she raided Plastic Cameo’s jewelry box.) I have to admit my biggest kick came when after the tasteful montage of the tender tryst between Patrick Swayze and Tits the next sentence read, “There is a big explosion at the ironworks.” For a second I thought that was a euphemism. :)

    Reply
  6. Caretaker of Cats

    Aha, the Virgilia lurking ominously photo explains the excessive amounts of evening gowns. Clearly they were experiencing an acute shortage of bird cages and thus lowered their necklines to give themselves a place to store their parakeets.

    Reply
  7. Abigail Tyrrell

    I am a baaaaaaaaad parent. I totally tricked my 16 year old daughter into watching the WHOLE series as it was “educational”.

    I did get her a copy of The Civil War after and Gettysburg.

    She is 25 now. She has never forgiven me. ;)

    Reply
  8. Scarlett O'hara's Handkerchief

    My mom used the VCR in the 80’s to record the series – so that we could fast forward through all of the boring scenes (especially the battle/war room scenes) and just watched the balls or social events where the big dresses with big hair came out in full force.

    Being originally from the south, my mom, grandmother, sister, and I laughed so hard at the fake, awful, hurt-your-ears’ accents and the over the top acting – looking at you Al-Kay-nah Bent! And we totally cringed at the representation of slavery – cannot see this series ever being rebooted.

    These snark recaps are the best! Thank you!

    Reply
  9. Graham Christian

    Thank you so much for suffering through these horrors. I haven’t laughed so hard in months.

    Reply
  10. Justme

    Is Virgilia supposed to be a teenager? Because it seems like they’re trying to make Kirstie Alley look younger by putting her in Holly Hobby dresses and putting flowers in her hair (don’t know what was going on with the black opera dress, though). In reality, it just makes me go “huh? why are they dressing that forty-year-old woman like she’s twelve?”
    I can see wanting to cast a specific actress in the role, but then why not just age up her character by ten years?

    Reply

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