In “Battle Lines,” the first episode of the new “Dallas’s” second season, Pamela (Julie Gonzalo) reveals she’s the daughter of Cliff and Afton, portrayed by Ken Kercheval and Audrey Landers in the original series. Everyone knows Cliff’s story, but how well do you remember Afton? Here’s a refresher.
She started off as J.R.’s gal. Afton, a Mississippi girl of modest means, came to Southfork in 1981 to attend the wedding of her brother Mitch (Leigh McCloskey) to Lucy Ewing (Charlene Tilton). J.R. (Larry Hagman) was instantly smitten with hot-to-trot Afton – and the feeling was mutual. In fact, Afton was so fascinated with J.R., she slept with him during the wedding reception – in the bed he shared with Sue Ellen! Not cool, Afton!
With Cliff, Afton found true love. J.R. made Afton spy on his nemesis Cliff (Ken Kercheval), but she ended up falling in love with the poor schmuck. She quit working for J.R., ditched the bad girl act and became Cliff’s main squeeze, sticking by him through thick and thin. Although Cliff often took Afton for granted, she’d do anything for him. Once, she even slept with a creepy refinery owner to help Cliff seal a big deal. That’s love, people.
Afton and Pam: BFFs. As Cliff’s steady girlfriend, Afton grew close to his mom Rebecca (Priscilla Pointer) and sister Pam (Victoria Principal). But wise Afton was always suspicious of Cliff and Pam’s half-sister Katherine (Morgan Brittany). When she realized Katherine was trying to steal Bobby (Patrick Duffy), Afton warned Pam and everyone else, but no one took her seriously. Silly Barneses. When Afton speaks, you ought to listen!
Afton and Sue Ellen: Not BFFs. When Cliff began to fall in love with Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) again, Afton didn’t take it lying down. In one of the classic “Dallas” showdowns, she confronted Sue Ellen and told her to stay away from Cliff. Afton: “We both do seem to have the same taste in men.” Sue Ellen: “The fact that you were sleeping with my ex-husband doesn’t mean we have the same taste in anything.” She’s got you there, Afton.
Bobby’s savior. When Afton went to the Ewing Oil offices late one night to confront J.R. over his latest scheme against Cliff, J.R. was nowhere to be found – but Bobby was bleeding on the floor! (He’d been shot by Katherine. See what I mean about Afton always being right?) She called an ambulance for Bobby – and then she went home, packed her bags and left town to get away from these drama addicts. This was her smartest move yet.
Mommy? Yes. Wifey? No. A few years after she left him, Cliff discovered Afton had become a single mom to an adorable moppet named Pamela Rebecca (Jenna Pangburn). He became convinced the child was his and proposed to Afton, but she lied and told him another man was the father. Afton feared Cliff was still obsessed with the Ewings, and she didn’t want him anywhere near their daughter. Once again, Afton was right.
Oh, and girlfriend can sing too! You know how TNT’s “Dallas” features pop music and everyone thinks it’s so cool? Well, before Adele and Johnny Cash began supplying the Ewings with their own personal soundtrack, that was Afton’s job. She worked as a singer, which gave “Dallas” a clever excuse to showcase Landers’ gorgeous voice. Landers wrote the songs she performed on the show, including Afton’s signature, “Steal Me Away.”
Nothing to see here. Move along. The 1996 reunion flick “J.R. Returns” ends with Cliff finally giving up his fight with J.R. and reuniting with Afton and the teenaged Pamela Rebecca (Deborah Kellner). It now seems like the events of this movie didn’t really happen (was it another one of Pam’s dreams?), but fear not: Maybe Afton will get another shot at a happy ending when she visits the new “Dallas” later this season.
What are your favorite memories of Afton Cooper? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and read more Dallas Decoder Guides.