“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?
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)