Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 17 – ‘Fallen Idol’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Fallen Idol, Guzzler Bennett, Richard Kelton

Guzzler rising

“Fallen Idol” arrives halfway during “Dallas’s” second season, and while we know the characters pretty well at this point, this episode demonstrates how they still manage to surprise us.

One of the best moments comes during the third act, when J.R.’s underhanded cronies Jeb Ames and Willie Joe Garr show up at his office to complain about Bobby’s plan to build a shopping center on Southfork. Their gripe: Bobby’s project will be constructed on Section 40, the oil-soaked tract where J.R., Jeb and Willie Joe secretly plan to drill when Jock dies.

“If you don’t stop Bobby, I’ll stop him,” Jeb snarls to J.R.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” J.R. asks.

“You know damn well what it means.”

And then: Pow!

J.R pops Jeb in the mouth, sending the creep staggering backwards.

“Don’t you ever threaten my brother,” J.R. says. “Or any other Ewing.”

Seeing J.R. knock the sneer off Jeb’s face reveals a side to him we haven’t seen before. It’s nice to know he cares about someone other than himself.

In another unexpected twist, J.R. invites Pam to lunch to enlist her help in stopping Bobby from doing business with Guzzler Bennett, a shady pal from Bobby’s college football days.

It’s fun to see J.R. turn to Pam, one of his greatest adversaries, for help. My favorite part: When a skeptical Pam asks J.R. how she is supposed to persuade Bobby to drop his construction project, J.R. responds, “You’re a very clever woman, Pam. You’ll think of something.” Delicious.

Scriptwriter Arthur Bernard Lewis saves “Fallen Idol’s” best moment for the end, when we learn Bobby has known all along about Guzzler’s troubled past but is willing to go along with the construction project anyway.

Of all the twists in “Fallen Idol,” this is the niftiest. We realize Bobby is smarter than he seemed, but we’re also relieved to know he wasn’t going to turn his back on a friend in need. It’s an unexpected discovery, yet it’s also perfectly in keeping with what we know about our hero.

“Fallen Idol’s” other high point: Miss Ellie’s soliloquy near the end of the episode, when Bobby tries to justify his construction project by telling her the shopping center will be built on “land we never use.”

“Does everything have to be used?” Ellie responds. “Can’t some things just be? Stay the way they’ve always been? Do we have to change everything we touch? Does it really make things better that way?”

Unlike “Fallen Idol’s” many surprises, solemn, stare-off-into-space speeches like this are exactly what we’ve come to expect from Miss Ellie.

Would we want it any other way?

Grade: B


Barbara Bel Geddes, Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Fallen Idol, Miss Ellie Ewing, Patrick Duffy

Mall in the family


Season 2, Episode 12

Airdate: December 3, 1978

Audience: 16.3 million homes, ranking 23rd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Vincent McEveety

Synopsis: Bobby brings a partner into his construction business: Guzzler Bennett, his old college chum. Miss Ellie reluctantly gives them permission to build a shopping center on Southfork but Guzzler turns out to be a fraud and leaves Dallas.

Cast: John Ashton (Willie Joe Garr), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Nancy Bleier (Connie), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Richard Kelton (Guzzler Bennett), John Petlock (Dan Marsh), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Sandy Ward (Jeb Ames)

“Fallen Idol” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.


  1. On Bobby, I think he can seem naive sometimes, but as you point out here, that might not be a fair assessment. It’s more that in his core he believes he should always believe the best about people even if that rubs him the wrong way sometime. Better to do that than assume the worst about people like his brother does.

    On Miss Ellie, some might say her comment about the land is hypocritical. After all, she’s a very wealthy woman because of her husband’s reaping of the land. However, I don’t think Miss Ellie is ever portrayed as really reveling in that. After all, she wears sack dresses and a simple strand of pearls, not dripping with diamonds and Neiman’s best. I think she’s still a rancher’s girl at heart more so than an oil baron’s wife.

  2. i never really like Guzzler C. B. But he fits in with Bobby James rather well since they were both college football stars!

  3. When they originally wrote the script, the plan was for Guzzler to return down the line. However, the actor died of a surprise heart attack a week before this episode aired. As a result, during the dream season we got Matt Cantrell, a less charismatic substitute with the same back story, instead.


  1. […] In “Fallen Idol,” J.R. expresses his annoyance with Guzzler Bennett’s name-dropping thusly: “The next thing you […]

  2. […] bedfellows, but the unlikeliest alliance of all might be formed in the second-season episode “Fallen Idol,” when J.R. and Pam join forces to squelch Bobby’s plan to build a shopping center on […]

  3. […] 5. Dining with the devil. For purely selfish reasons, J.R. didn’t want Bobby doing business with shady college chum Guzzler Bennett, so J.R. invited Pam to lunch to enlist her help in stopping Bobby and Guzzler’s project. When Pam wondered how she might persuade Bobby to call off the deal, J.R. told her, “You’re a very clever woman, Pam. You’ll think of something.” I also love her cutting response to his attempt to butter her up at the start of the scene: “J.R., please don’t make me lose this good food.” (“Fallen Idol”) […]

  4. […] “Fallen Idol,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, J.R. (Larry Hagman) enters his office to find Jeb and Willie […]

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