Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 5 – ‘Barbecue’

Barbecue, Dallas, David Wayne, Digger Barnes, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing

Best of enemies

“Barbecue,” the final entry in “Dallas’s” too-brief first season, is probably best remembered as the episode where J.R. accidentally causes a pregnant Pam to fall from the hayloft and lose her baby, but I think it’s notable for other reasons.

This 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 face-to-face on the show, and seeing the characters together reminds us how smartly the producers cast the roles.

More than anyone else in the “Dallas” ensemble, Jim Davis and David Wayne look like their characters. Davis is as big as Texas. Wayne is small and pitiful. They are Jock and Digger.

I also love the actors’ use of body language in “Barbecue.” Watch closely when Jock and Digger walk to the bar to toast Pam’s pregnancy. Davis strides with effortless confidence; Wayne’s gait is slowly deliberate – exactly how we expect a broken man like Digger to make his way through the world.

But as much as I enjoy Jock and Digger’s scenes together, my favorite “Barbecue” moment is the gossipy exchange between the Ewings’ caterers, Tilly and Sam.

“How are things out there?” Tilly asks.

“Crazy,” Sam responds.

“Oh that ain’t no news. Tell me some news.”

“She’s on the nest – Digger’s girl.”

“Now that’s news.”

I’ve always believed Southfork’s servants represented untapped storytelling potential. Throughout “Dallas,” we see Teresa the maid and Raoul the butler hovering in background, but they’re more like props than people.

Turning the servants into real characters could have grounded “Dallas” a bit more, allowing them to become the audience’s eyes and ears in the world of the Ewings.

Tilly and Sam fill this role in “Barbecue,” but the characters are never seen again after this episode. Too bad. Aside from being a hoot, Tilly and Sam are also among the few African American faces to appear on “Dallas.”

The good news: TNT’s forthcoming “Dallas” revival is expected to offer more of a “Downton Abbey”-ish view of life at Southfork. One of the new characters will be Carmen Ramos, the Ewings’ cook, played by Marlene Forte.

Who knows? Maybe Teresa and Raoul or even Tilly and Sam will show up to give Carmen pointers on working for those darned Ewings.

Grade: B

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Barbecue, Bobby Ewing, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Please don’t go, girl

‘BARBECUE’

Season 1, Episode 5

Airdate: April 30, 1978

Audience: 15.9 million homes, ranking 11th in the weekly ratings

Writer: David Jacobs

Director: Robert Day

Synopsis: At the Ewing barbecue, Bobby and Pam announce her pregnancy, while Jock and Digger reignite their feud. J.R. insults Pam and when he tries to apologize, she falls and suffers a miscarriage. Bobby wants to leave Southfork, but Jock persuades him and Pam to stay.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), James Canning (Jimmy Monahan), Haskel Craver (Sam), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Irma P. Hall (Tilly), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jo McDonnell (Maureen), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), David Wayne (Digger Barnes)

“Barbecue” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com, iTunes and TNT.tv. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. It’s interesting to compare the two Diggers. They serve different functions to some extent, and I think they are cast well in that regard. This Digger, the more crotchety one, fits better in the context with his relationship with Jock; however, it’s hard for me to believe that Miss Ellie would have ever have been interested in this person. But the second Digger–the kinder, more respectable one–I can see that, which is fitting, since when the character shows up later, his relationship with Miss Ellie (as well as his children) is more prominent.

    • It’s hard for me to choose between David Wayne and Keenan Wynn, the two actors who play Digger. They each bring something different to the role but I agree: Wynn probably has better chemistry with Barbara Bel Geddes than Wayne.

  2. Katherine says:

    I love your website, Chris! It’s great. I’ve read all of the reviews!
    Please keep up the good work, there aren’t so many good website for Dallas out there.

    Thanks and take care!

    x Katherine

    • Thank you! I really appreciate your kind words. I’m having a lot of fun writing my episode critiques. I’m glad you enjoy reading them. Thank you again.

  3. Lloyd Ferrigon says:

    Its shame they killed off Digger too soon. Loved both actors who played Digger Barnes. Loved Jock’s talk with Pamela at the end.

  4. Maryann says:

    It was an accident but you wonder did JR unconsciously wanted Pam to lose the baby, I think so. I also wonder why they chose to have Pam lose another baby in Season 3, what was the reason behind that? I know they were comparing Bobby and Pam to Romeo & Juliette , but if they were smart they could have had a twist to the story and make them have a happy, love conquers story with the up and down trials. Then again it was men behind it , if it were women the story would have been different with more heart and compassion instead of cut and dry or black and white. Men do not know how to be in depth on relationships like women.

Trackbacks

  1. […] two characters you’ve probably forgotten: Tilly and Sam, the gossipy caterers who appear in “Barbecue” and are never seen or mentioned again. Irma P. Hall and Haskel Craver are a hoot; imagine the […]

  2. […] by the scenes set at the Ewing hoedown, including several that seem to pay homage to the first “Barbecue,” which capped “Dallas’s” inaugural season. Pam, who suffered a miscarriage during the 1978 […]

  3. […] memory lane more than Jock (Jim Davis). When Digger (David Wayne) showed up at one of the Southfork barbecues, Jock waxed nostalgic, recalling the collapse of their partnership decades earlier. He concluded […]

  4. […] 12. Comforting Pam. During her first few weeks as a Ewing, poor Pam (Victoria Principal) was bullied, blackmailed, offered a bribe and held hostage. By the time J.R. caused her miscarriage, Bobby and his bride were ready to get the hell off Southfork – until Jock persuaded them to stay. “I want to keep my family together,” he told Pam as he sat at her bedside. It was our first glimpse of the tough Texan’s tender side. (“Barbecue”) […]

  5. […] 9. Legend of the fall. J.R. and Pam’s most controversial encounter: During her first Ewing barbecue, pregnant Pam retreated to a Southfork hayloft for some much-deserved alone time. Suddenly, a drunken J.R. showed up, crawled (slithered?) toward her and apologized for “going too far” during her early weeks at Southfork. While trying to get away from him, Pam slipped, fell and lost her baby. Some fans remember J.R. pushing Pam, but when you watch this scene, it’s pretty clearly an accident. J.R. was bad, but he wasn’t evil. (“Barbecue”) […]

  6. […] 4. Jock’s plea. After Pam suffered her first heartbreaking miscarriage, Jock (Jim Davis) sat at her bedside and begged her and Bobby not to leave Southfork. “Us Ewings, we’re just not an easy family to live with, as you found out. We’ve had things our way for so long that maybe – well, maybe it got in the way of our being just people. I guess that you don’t have no reason to really care, but I want to keep my family together.” Who knew the old man could be so soft? (“Barbecue”) […]

  7. […] sure they’re happy ones. This is something Bobby (Patrick Duffy) learned the hard way. At the 1978 Southfork barbecue, he happily announced Pam’s pregnancy, only to watch her suffer a miscarriage later that day. […]

  8. […] “Barbecue,” “Dallas’s” first-season finale, Tilly (Irma P. Hall) is filling drinks at the bar when Sam […]

  9. […] Jock’s plea with Bobby and Pam to stay at Southfork at the end of “Barbecue,” this scene reminds us how much family means to the Ewing patriarch. Jock is usually so gruff; […]

  10. […] she’s pregnant at the end of the first season, but their parental dreams are dashed when Pam falls from the hayloft and suffers a miscarriage. She gets pregnant again at the beginning of Season 3, only to lose that […]

  11. […] Barbecue I (1978). Here’s the one that started it all. “Dallas’s” first season ends with an episode that takes place in a single day, as Texas’s […]

  12. […] a single day — you’d have to dig deep into “Dallas’s” past, all the way back to 1978’s “Barbecue,” to find another — although I wish the focus remained on the doings at Southfork the way it does […]

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