On Tuesday, April 20 one of All My Children's most patriarchal figures, Palmer Cortlandt (James Mitchell) received a tribute show that befitted his iconic status in daytime television. Mitchell, who passed away on January 21, 2010 of heart failure, joined the cast of AMC in 1979, playing the overprotective father of Nina (Taylor Miller), owner and CEO of Cortlandt Electronics, and arch-enemy of Adam Chandler (David Canary).
The episode captured the feel of people grappling with the news of the death of a loved one. The dialogue was natural as was the gathering of those who felt compelled to grieve together. Pine Valley denizens gathered at the home of Tad Martin (Michael Knight) to be near his mother and Palmer's widow (sort of), Opal (Jill Larson). Tad began to complain that the phone was ringing off the hook, and there was nothing in the house to eat. He asked Krystle (Bobbie Eakes) to contact the Chicken Shack, which Palmer had owned, and order in some food for the mustering crowd.
Among the first to arrive at the Martin's were Erica Kane (Susan Lucci) and Jack Montgomery (Walt Wiley). Erica spoke of the closeness that she and her girls had shared with Palmer as both a business partner and confidante. Since she had no romantic ties to Palmer, he had been able to remain a constant in her life, even filling in at times as a surrogate father to her.
Daughter, Nina, and ex-wife, Daisy, arrived together and were embraced by all. Opal and Daisy exchanged warm reminiscences of a man that they had both adored, and they acknowledged each other's roles in P.C.'s life. Daisy hinted at the fact that she had been summoned to Pine Valley by Palmer for a reason, thus opening the door for a brief plot to carry us through the bereavement period. Underscoring the importance of both women in Palmer's life, AMC included video clips of Palmer taken for the 40th anniversary show in which he had spoken of his love for both Opal and Daisy. Saving these last snippets of James Mitchell was like a gift for viewers as it allowed us to see the frail Palmer sending his love to Pine Valley, just days before his death.
It was acknowledged that Petey (Daniel Kennedy), Palmer and Opal's son, was flying home from school in Switzerland to be with the family. Jake Martin (Ricky Paull Goldin) and Angela Hubbard (Debbi Morgan) arrived to pay their respects as well.
However, the heart of the tribute was focused on Adam Chandler's (David Canary) reaction to the death of his long time nemesis. He began with denial when Brooke (Julia Barr) broke the news to him. "Pete Cooney can't be dead . . . I hated him, but I never wished him dead," he said to Brooke, and then he added, "Well maybe once or twice . . ." This pivotal lline took devoted viewers back to the days when the Chandler/Cortlandt feud rivaled that of the Hatfields and McKoys. The audience was treated to numerous flashback scenes with Palmer and Adam spewing vitriolic one-liners at each other, which always kept their animosity fresh and fun to watch.
One scene aired yesterday that was particularly humorous depicted Adam, who had been shot in the buttocks by Palmer. They were jetting off somewhere, and Palmer was holding a rather long and threatening knife, admonishing Adam to calm down so that he could extract the bullet. The handsome face of James Mitchell, with the devilish smile brought back memories of AMC's best story lines between Chandler and Cortlandt.
Adam also mentioned to Brooke that he would have to call Ross (Robert Gentry), the son of Pete Cooney (Palmer Cortlandt) and Adam's younger sister, Lottie. The pairing of Lottie and Pete had been actually the cause of the animosity between Adam and Palmer, as Adam had blamed Lottie's suicide on Pete's desertion. By staying true to the original story line, the writers paid the highest tribute to the Chandler/Cortlandt feud.
Adam and Brooke joined the crowd at the Martin's, although Adam wasn't sure that he would be welcome. However, the Cortlandts put aside their differences and Adam entered the scene. He reflected on the fact that although Palmer had been his arch rival, "he inspired me to become the man I am today." In realizing that life is too short to hold back, Adam took an enormous step and confessed to Brooke, "I love you." She took a deep breath and returned his faith in her by saying, "I love you, too."
As the clock sped toward midnight, each of the characters lit a candle in Palmer's memory and said something about what he had meant to them. This was one of those rare moments in daytime when real life and drama coincide. The tears were real. The loss of James Mitchell/Palmer Cortlandt was deeply felt.
The final moment of the tribute show gave a last twist that brought it all together. Dixie (Cady McClain), last seen only a few weeks ago in her guise as an angel, opened Heavens Gate, and said, "Welcome home, Uncle Palmer. Please, come in." Thus, despite all of his deals, manipulations, and nasty moments, our beloved PC joined Mona Kane( Frances Hefflin), MyrtleFargate, and Aunt Phoebe (Ruth Warrick) in the list of those gone, but not forgotten.