I like “The Last Hurrah,” but I can’t help but feel a little disappointed by it. This episode brings together more characters from the original “Dallas” than any TNT entry so far – in addition to J.R., Bobby and Sue Ellen, we get to see Lucy, Ray and Cliff – yet none of these old favorites have much interaction with each other.
This feels like a missed opportunity when you consider the episode climaxes at the “final” Ewing barbecue, which would seem like an ideal setting to bring together the old gang. Indeed, Bobby organizes the party so friends and family can bid Southfork farewell before he completes the sale of the ranch to the del Sol conservancy. “If you are here, it’s because you have a connection to this ranch and the people who’ve lived on it,” Bobby declares in his speech to the partygoers, but as director Marc Roskin pans the crowd, we see more anonymous extras than familiar faces.
How fun would it have been to watch J.R. trade barbs again with Lucy, or to see Bobby and Ray reminisce about the ranch that has meant so much to them? According to William Keck’s recent TV Guide cover story, Roskin filmed a scene where J.R. and Sue Ellen share a sentimental dance at the party, but it was left on the cutting-room floor. What a shame.
While this might not have been a rollicking Ewing barbecue like days of yore, J.R.’s big scheme in “The Last Hurrah” is as convoluted as some of the eye-rollers he came up with during the old show’s more exasperating moments. To get Bobby’s crooked lawyer Mitch Lobell to call off his extortion scheme and draw up new legal papers making J.R. the sole owner of Southfork, J.R. hatches a plot to photograph Lobell’s son Ricky, a recovering addict with prior convictions, doing drugs. J.R. then threatens to expose Ricky’s lapse unless Lobell cooperates.
J.R. also arranges to have Marta discover John Ross and Elena are getting chummy again because he needs Marta to get angry so she’ll work with him to secretly cut John Ross out of the Southfork deal – but doesn’t this plan seem kinda reckless? J.R. knows Marta is bipolar and has a history of violence; at one point, he calls her “crazier than an outhouse rat.” Is this really the kind of person you want to become mad at your son?
Look, I love seeing TNT’s “Dallas” pay tribute to the original series, but I want it to honor the old show’s best storytelling traditions, not its outlandish impulses.
Of course, there are several solid moments in “The Last Hurrah,” beginning with Bobby and Christopher’s father/son chats, which showcase the nice chemistry developing between Patrick Duffy and Jesse Metcalfe. I also like the scene where John Ross blackmails Rebecca – Josh Henderson delivers the line about her being “an extremely resourceful woman” with a Hagman-esque twinkle – as well as Julie Gonzolo’s performance as the increasingly desperate Rebecca.
I even appreciate scriptwriter Taylor Hamra’s subplot about the birth of the calf, which offers a nice contrast to the sense of finality that hangs over Southfork in the days before the barbecue. It’s probably coincidental, but the calf’s arrival also recalls the birth of a foal in “Bypass,” a classic episode from the original series.
The producers also deserve applause for upholding another longstanding “Dallas” practice: casting great character actors in supporting roles. Leonor Varela seems destined to join the long line of mentally unhinged villainesses in the “Dallas” hall of fame, while veteran Texas actor Richard Dillard is perfectly sleazy as Lobell. Dillard reminds me of Dennis Patrick, who was wonderfully smarmy as Vaughn Leland on the old show.
My favorite part of “The Last Hurrah”: the final moments in the scene where Sue Ellen expresses her concern about John Ross’s reconciliation with his father. After John Ross abruptly ends the conversation, Sue Ellen picks up the box containing Miss Ellie’s pearls, opens it and slowly caresses the beads.
Perhaps this gesture shows how Sue Ellen now understands the pain adult children are capable of causing their aging mamas, or maybe it’s just an expression of how much Sue Ellen misses Ellie and wishes she were still around to dispense motherly advice. Whatever the reason, it’s a lovely reminder that Miss Ellie remains part of “Dallas,” if only in spirit.
‘THE LAST HURRAH’
Season 1, Episode 4
Telecast: June 27, 2012
Writer: Taylor Hamra
Director: Marc Roskin
Audience: 5.7 million viewers (including 4.1 million viewers on June 27, ranking 15th in the weekly cable ratings)
Synopsis: J.R. blackmails Lobell into calling off his extortion plot and cutting John Ross out of the Southfork sale, making J.R. the ranch’s sole owner. John Ross tries to blackmail Rebecca into helping him with a scheme, but she refuses and resolves to tell Christopher the truth about the e-mail that broke up him and Elena. John Ross and Elena grow closer. Cliff offers to fund Sue Ellen’s gubernatorial campaign, arousing J.R.’s jealousies. Bobby hosts Southfork’s final barbecue, where Rebecca begins her confession to Christopher.
Cast: Margaret Bowman (Miss Henderson), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Richard Dillard (Mitch Lobell), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Marlene Forte (Carmen Ramos), Julie Gonzalo (Rebecca Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Callard Harris (Tommy Sutter), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jason London (Ricky Lobell), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Kevin Page (Bum), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Leonor Varela (Marta del Sol)