Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Opportunist: A Telling Identification

Knots Landing was an American primetime television soap opera that aired from December 27, 1979 to May 13, 1993 on CBS. Set in a fictitious coastal suburb of Los Angeles in California, the show centered on the lives of four married couples living in a cul-de-Sac, Seaview Circle. Initially intended to be a Scenes From a Marriage-type drama series, storylines also included rape, murder, kidnapping, assassinations, drug smuggling, corporate intrigue and criminal investigations.

I remember that I took an interest in the show in about the 1986-1987 season.  At that time I worked at the law firm of Hogan & Hartson.  I was hired as a temporary paralegal by the law firm of Akin Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld in early March 1988 (season 9 of Knots Landing).

I entered psychotherapy at the George Washington University Medical Center in September 1992 (season 14 of Knots Landing, the show's final season.)  I remember telling my treating psychiatrist Suzanne M. Pitts, M.D. that I identified strongly with one of the characters on the show named Greg Sumner.  Sumner had been introduced as a character in the show's fifth season (1983-1984).  He was an unscrupulous and thoroughly opportunistic state senator who was running for US Senator, in which capacity he led the California State Senate Crime Commission investigating a crooked business group.

I recall telling Dr. Pitts that I could remember a statement Sumner had made about one of his political enemies in an episode from several seasons earlier.  An associate of Sumner's seemed incredulous that Sumner was not troubled in the least that his political rival had aggressed on him.  Sumner said, as best as I can recall: "Angry?  Why would I be angry?  Tell me how it hurts me, and I'll be angry.  But it can only help me, not hurt me.  Why would I be angry?"

Such is the reaction of the opportunist who has supreme confidence in his ability to turn every injury or seeming injury to his advantage.

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