Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 8 – ‘Old Acquaintance’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Jenna Wade, Morgan Fairchild, Old Acquaintance, Patrick Duffy

Devil in a red blouse

“Old Acquaintance” should not be forgotten. This isn’t one of “Dallas’s” all-time best episodes, but it includes one of my all-time favorite “Dallas” scenes: the pep talk Miss Ellie gives Pam when it looks like her marriage to Bobby is on the rocks.

The conversation begins with Pam lamenting Bobby’s preoccupation with his old flame Jenna Wade and her daughter Charlie.

“I knew a woman once,” Ellie says. “Her man couldn’t decide whether or not to do right by her – so she took a horsewhip to him. Helped him make up his mind fast.”

“I don’t think a horsewhip would work with Bobby,” Pam responds.

“I don’t see why not. It worked on his daddy all right.”

It’s fun to imagine Ellie as a young spitfire, whipping Jock into shape. It isn’t a difficult mental picture to draw, either. Barbara Bel Geddes is wonderful as the Ewings’ wise, soft-spoken matriarch, but if you’ve seen her spirited performance in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 classic “Vertigo,” you know Bel Geddes, like Ellie, had a lot of spunk when she was younger.

Speaking of elegant actresses: Morgan Fairchild makes a marvelous Jenna Wade.

Fairchild is remembered as one of the great vixens of 1980s television, so it’s a bit surprising to see how restrained she is here. The actress resists the temptation to make Jenna bitchy. Instead, she plays her as a woman whose machinations are rooted in desperation, not vindictiveness.

“Old Acquaintance” is also memorable thanks to Robert Jessup’s sumptuous cinematography, particularly in Bobby and Jenna’s scenes in the park and during Ellie’s pep talk, when Victoria Principal’s raven hair pops against the backdrop of that green-gold Southfork pasture.

Of course, not everything here works: “Old Acquaintance” makes Pam seem pretty foolish when Bobby takes her to meet Jenna and Charlie at the little girl’s school.

During the visit, Pam sits in Bobby’s car and admires Charlie’s ragdoll Jewel – then accidentally leaves with it. You have to wonder: How does Pam not realize she’s holding the doll when she and Bobby drive away?

Forgetting an old acquaintance is understandable, but come on, Pam. You just met Jewel!

Grade: B

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, Jenna Wade, Maynard Anderson, Melissa Anderson, Morgan Fairchild, Nicki Flacks, Old Acquaintance, Peter Mark Richman

Blonde in a bind

‘OLD ACQUAINTANCE’

Season 2, Episode 3

Airdate: October 7, 1978

Audience: 9.6 million homes, ranking 58th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Camille Marchetta

Director: Alex March

Synopsis: Jenna Wade, Bobby’s old flame, turns to him when her married lover ends their affair. Bobby suspects he may be the father of Jenna’s daughter Charlie and begins spending his free time with them. Pam confronts Jenna, who admits Bobby isn’t the father, and Bobby and Pam reconcile.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Morgan Fairchild (Jenna Wade), Laurie Lynn Myers (Charlie Wade), Nicki Flacks (Melissa Anderson), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Peter Mark Richman (Maynard Anderson), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

“Old Acquaintance” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. I liked this Jenna! I wish she’d have stuck around. I remember that scene between Miss Ellie and Pam; it’s a good one. Isn’t this the episode where Pam steals Jenna’s daughter’s doll? It’s as if she’s saying “I stole your mama’s toy. I can take yours too.”

    • Yep, this is the episode where Pam steals Jewel, Charlie’s rag doll. I never thought about the symbolism: Pam “steals” Bobby, then takes Jewel. Good observation!

  2. My 77 year old dad has the hots for Morgan Fairchild & has had them for about 40 years. This might be wrong but Morgan’s what over 70 now, I have the hots for her, just like I have for Linda Gray! There are VERY SEXY WOMEN OF ALL AGES C. B.!

  3. Dan in WI says:

    I just rewatched this one over the weekend. The way Jenna is portrayed in this episode makes we wonder: Are we sure she isn’t an ex of JR and not Bobby? Chris states his case she does what she does out of desperation but it is still is hard to except that the only way she could provide for herself and Charlie is by lieing on her back. This portrayal of Jenna paints her as someone who is allergic to honest work so she takes the easy way out of using her body.
    Just not the type of girl that Bobby would typically go for.

  4. This was actually one of my favourites from the earlier seasons of Dallas. I remember Morgan Fairchild well from her role as attorney Jordan Roberts in Falcon Crest, but her performance in this episode was equally memorable. She portrays a sultry and manipulative temptress who won’t stop at anything to get her old flame Bobby Ewing back, and she does it with such style!

    The storyline for this was well thought out in terms of how Jenna manages to string Bobby along by oblique references to the paternity of her daughter Charlie. Bobby is clearly not stupid and there is the lingering question of is he/isn’t he the father?, a question which is tensely drawn out throughout the episode until Pam takes matters into her own hand and forces Jenna to come clean.

Trackbacks

  1. […] the appointment was jeopardized when Anderson’s shrewish wife Melissa threatened to expose his affair with Jenna Wade, Bobby’s old flame. J.R. promised to help out his pal Anderson, which meant using Jenna to try to […]

  2. […] “Old Acquaintance,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, Pam (Victoria Principal) is brushing a horse’s mane when […]

  3. […] to vote the company’s way. “Spy in the House” features a state senator who takes bribes. In “Old Acquaintance,” another senator’s mistress jeopardizes his appointment to a federal […]

  4. […] other, the Julie/Jock/Ellie triangle makes me realize how closely “Julie’s Return” mirrors “Old Acquaintance,” an earlier second-season […]

  5. […] up with a fresh angle for Jenna too. The show introduces the character in the second-season episode “Old Acquaintance,” when Jenna — played by Morgan Fairchild — is depicted as a scheming heiress who tries to break […]

  6. […] to see Peter and Pam runs into Charlie Wade, who doesn’t seem to hold a grudge against Pam for swiping her doll during the second […]

  7. […] free time with old flame Jenna Wade, who pops up for the first time since the second-season episode “Old Acquaintance.” Francine Tacker takes over the role from Morgan Fairchild and doesn’t make much of an […]

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