Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 4 – ‘Winds of Vengeance’

Brian Dennehy, Dallas, Linda Gray, Luther Frick, Sue Ellen Ewing, Winds of Vengeance

Two of a kind

There’s an unlikely symmetry between Sue Ellen and Luther Frick, her tormentor in “Winds of Vengeance.”

Both characters are married to cheating spouses, both avoid acknowledging these infidelities, and both feel humiliated when the truth finally comes out. Sue Ellen is by far the more sympathetic figure, but Frick is a victim, too. This doesn’t excuse his vile behavior, but it helps explain it.

And make no mistake: Frick and his cohort Payton Allen are despicable characters.

Not only do they objectify the Ewing women – Frick plans to rape Sue Ellen, while Allen will choose between raping Pam and Lucy – they also treat them sadistically. Allen yanks Pam off the sofa and makes her dance with him, while Frick forces Sue Ellen, a onetime Miss Texas, to don a swimsuit and her old beauty pageant sash and sing for him.

The latter sequence is the most disturbing moment in an episode full of them. Frick forces Sue Ellen to act against her will and derives pleasure from it. It’s mental rape.

Brian Dennehy is effectively creepy during the singing scene, but the standout is Linda Gray, who painfully sobs her way through the song – Barbra Streisand’s “People” – while wearing almost nothing. This is one of Gray’s gutsiest performances.

“Winds of Vengeance” climaxes when Pam makes Frick realize J.R. and Wanda’s encounter was probably consensual, and then Jock and Bobby burst into the house, attack Frick and Allen and send them away.

But “Dallas” doesn’t allow us to bask in this moment of triumph.

In the episode’s final moments, Jock and Miss Ellie put Lucy to bed and Pam walks away with her head on Bobby’s shoulder, leaving J.R. alone in the living room with Sue Ellen, who has collapsed in tears.

He bends down to help her cover up with a raincoat, but she turns away, stands and slowly walks out of the room.

The message is clear: The woman who just sang about people who need people will be recovering from her ordeal alone.

Grade: B

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, Winds of Vengeance

Domestic disturbance

‘WINDS OF VENGEANCE’

Season 1, Episode 4

Airdate: April 23, 1978

Audience: 15.3 million homes, ranking 12th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Camille Marchetta

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: J.R., Ray and the Ewing women are held captive by Luther Frick and Payton Allen, two working Joes who want revenge after J.R. and Ray slept with their women. Frick claims J.R. raped his wife, then realizes their encounter was probably consensual. Allen is about to rape Lucy when Jock and Bobby arrive and rescue the family.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Brian Dennehy (Luther Frick), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Nicki Flacks (Wanda Frick), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Cooper Huckabee (Payton Allen), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

“Winds of Vengeance” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. I remember you once telling me you didn’t care for this episode. But when I watched it, I was struck by how gutsy it was to depict something as disturbing as what happened to Sue Ellen. And I thought Linda Gray pulled it off rather well. Sue Ellen didn’t have much to do in the earlier first season episodes, but this episode made the audience take notice of her and demonstrated that Gray was a capable actress worth watching. Great write up.

    • You helped change my opinion of this episode! I now appreciate how dark it is. It’s also really quite bold and I really admire Linda Gray’s performance. It takes a lot of guts to do what she does here. She’s an impressive actress.

  2. Dan in WI says:

    This is easily the weakest episode of the mini-series. Yes it ends very strong. You just can’t deny Linda Gray’s superior performance and guest star Brian Dennehy is an undersung partner in the swim suit scene.
    But set that scene aside and look at the episode as a whole. First off the character of JR suffers from those early season flesh-out problems. There are two very un-JR things happening here. He grabs a beer to drink and then runs out to help with the cattle round up. I don’t know if he’s ever been seen drinking another beer and the only other time I recall seeing him do ranch work was a last season scene for the sake of John Ross.
    But the thing I just can’t understand is Frick and Allen helping with the round up. Those are some pretty considerate vengence seakers. If I was in their shoes I wouldn’t risk my life in that mess of a storm. I’d let the men go out and handle it and let them find a used Sue Ellen the same way they found a used Wanda.
    Finally I found Huckabee’s performance way over the top.

    • Dan, good points. The beer thing seems funny in retrospect doesn’t it? Did he also drink one in “The Dove Hunt”? I can’t remember. And yes: Linda Gray is the performer to watch in this episode. Some of the others? Not so much.

    • I remember J.R. pulling out a can of beer from Ray’s fridge once. He was also having a beer with Pizza in his office in a scene discussed on here. I don’t see J.R. being anti beer at all if it suited the occasion. I actually enjoyed the earthier feel of these early episodes before all the glitz and glamour took over. The show seemed to have a more Texas flavor and J.R. seems more believable as a person and less over the top.

      • I like the early episodes too, Rob. I prefer the Ewings when they’re a little more down to earth and relatable.

        Thanks for your feedback.

  3. Maryann says:

    I just start watching Seasons 1& 2 for the 6th time because there is nothing good on TV and just saw Winds Of Vengeance. I really liked this episode better than when first watched it, LG was good and Pam and Bobby were the ones that really saved the day. I f Bobby was not worried and kept calling and had a feeling something was wrong he and Jock would not have left to go home. If Pam did not use her smarts and gave Bobby the clue (she and JR playing Backgammon) to tell him something is not right at home he would not have been persuaded to leave. Sue Ellen got her first evidence of something she sure knew or suspected that JR was a cheater. This is the second time we the viewers got an insight also into JR and Ray’s “friendship” regarding having a good old time by playing around with other men’s women. The first was the conversation they had at SF (1st episode) about the 2 women they had in Waco when JR was telling him they had to break up Pam and Bobby.

Trackbacks

  1. […] star: Cooper Huckabee, who cackles his way through his role as Payton Allen, Brian Dennehy’s “Winds of Vengeance” […]

  2. […] Tilton) learned the hard way. When Payton Allen (Cooper Huckabee) showed up at Southfork one windy afternoon, she flirted with him shamelessly – until he took her whole family hostage. Eight episodes later, […]

  3. […] The hostage sequences are too compressed. “Blame Game” invites comparisons to the classic “Winds of Vengeance,” an early “Dallas” episode where the Ewings are held hostage. (Fans of “Dallas” producer […]

  4. […] Lady sings the blues. Crazed cuckold Luther Frick (Brian Dennehy) holds the Ewings hostage in the Southfork living room and forces Sue Ellen to don her Miss Texas bathing suit and sing for […]

  5. […] “Winds of Vengeance,” a first-season “Dallas” episode, Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes), Lucy (Charlene Tilton) and […]

  6. […] is one of the few “Dallas” installments set during a single day. (“Winds of Vengeance,” the previous episode, is another.) “Barbecue” is also the first time Jock and Digger come […]

  7. […] who plays Willie, must have prepared for the role by watching Cooper Huckabee’s performance in “Winds of Vengeance.” Both actors seem to believe maniacal laughing is the best way to signal their characters’ […]

  8. […] far, crooks and lowlifes have been front and center in three installments: The first-season episode “Winds of Vengeance” (two working Joes hold the Ewings at gunpoint and threaten to rape the women), the second-season […]

  9. […] two “Dallas” episodes invite comparison as much as “Winds of Vengeance” and “Blame Game.” Both segments — which debuted in 1978 and 2013, respectively — depict […]

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