Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 20 – ‘For Love or Money’

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, For Love or Money, Ken Kercheval, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

End of the affair

The theme of “For Love or Money” is how relationships are like child’s play. Throughout the episode, the Ewings and Barneses mimic schoolyard behavior – not because “Dallas” wants to trivialize the characters and their situations, but because it wants to put them in a context the audience can understand.

The story gets underway when Sue Ellen lunches with her girlfriends at a posh hotel, where she regales them with tales of her perfect marriage. Everyone knows Sue Ellen is lying, but they humor her the way amused parents indulge children who fib.

The charade continues when the women are leaving the hotel and one spots J.R. in the lobby with a pretty blonde. “You know, if Sue Ellen hadn’t told us J.R. was in Austin, I’d have sworn that was him,” one of the girlfriends “whispers” to another. Sue Ellen pretends not to hear.

That evening, Sue Ellen confronts J.R., but he refuses to agree to stop philandering, so she leaves Southfork and spends the night with Cliff. The next morning, it’s J.R.’s turn to play make-believe: Miss Ellie notices Sue Ellen’s car is missing from the driveway and asks where she has gone so early. J.R. lies and says his wife is off doing “ladies’ things” with her visiting mother, Patricia.

Allusions to other childhood pursuits abound. Sue Ellen hides in Cliff’s bathroom when Pam drops by his apartment. When Cliff buys a suit at The Store and tells Pam he wants to look like “a winner,” it’s not unlike a child playing dress-up. The building models in his office resemble toy blocks.

There’s even some follow-the-leader-style parroting: In the episode’s final moments, Cliff ends his affair with Sue Ellen by quoting J.R.

“Maybe I’ve got to learn to play the other man’s game,” Cliff says.

“So that’s what it is, just a game?” Sue Ellen tearfully asks. “The winner takes the marbles and goes home? Is that what I am – just the marbles?”

Linda Gray’s performance here is heartbreakingly beautiful, and so is Leonard Katzman’s dialogue. More than anything else in “For Love or Money,” this scene reminds us that when the Ewings play games, no one really wins.

Grade: A


Dallas, For Love or Money, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Master of the game


Season 2, Episode 15

Airdate: January 14, 1979

Audience: 14.6 million homes, ranking 33rd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Leonard Katzman

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: Sue Ellen leaves J.R. and moves in with her mother Patricia and younger sister Kristin, who’ve moved to Dallas to be close to Sue Ellen during her pregnancy. Sue Ellen reunites with Cliff, but when J.R. warns him having an affair with a married woman could ruin his political career, Cliff dumps her and she returns to J.R.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Fred Beir (Ben Maxwell), Colleen Camp (Kristin Shepard), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), John Petlock (Dan Marsh), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Martha Scott (Patricia Shepard), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

“For Love or Money” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.


  1. I remember the scene with Sue Ellen and her “girlfriends” where they spot J.R. How embarrassing for her. I think she’s a very sympathetic character at this point: trying to cling to the appearance of happiness and success when it’s in the process of slipping away while everyone watches.

  2. And first time (I think) we see Marilee Stone… the secret nymphomaniac, future cartel member, J.R./Cliff mistress 😉

    • Good ol’ Marilee Stone. It’s funny: Even in these early appearances, you can tell Fern Fitzgerald is going to become a force to be reckoned with. I’m glad the show expanded her role as the series progressed.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. The thing about Marilee is yes J. R. indirectly caused Seth Stone’s suicide, but she gets to remain a force to be reckoned with as J. R. has to hold back on destroying her outright as he has a huge guilt complex over how Seth died. Thats an extreme advantavge for Mrs. Stone.

  4. Good episode . Where do I get that beautiful butterfly necklace sue Ellen wore ??

  5. Ian Delaney says:

    I always thought this was an interesting episode in so far as it gave some insight into Sue Ellen’s mother and sister, to whom we are introduced for the first time.

    The arrival of Kristin as the conniving and jealous sister is obviously a prelude to the events that unfold in Season 3, and it is not difficult to understand what makes her tick. The mother Patricia Shepard is not much better and comes across as an irritating and objectionable character. She is basically a social climber who has instilled a sense of avarice in her daughters which as we see later on has disastrous consequences for the younger sister and her dalliance with JR.

  6. I’m surprised nobody comment how this episode was important in Cliff’s destiny.


  1. […] losing bids for state senate and Congress, Cliff was appointed to several cushy gigs, including oil industry watchdog and “national energy czar.” Of course, Cliff was always too busy trying to beat the Ewings to […]

  2. […] career. Nice guy, huh? (If you haven’t watched the great scene in the second-season episode “For Love or Money” when Cliff breaks up with Sue Ellen, check it out. Linda Gray will break your […]

  3. […] “For Love or Money,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, Cliff (Ken Kercheval) meets Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) in a park, […]

  4. […] line evokes memories of the second-season episode “For Love or Money,” when Cliff compares his affair with Sue Ellen to a game. We remember how Sue Ellen was hurt the […]

  5. […] J.R. as much as he wants to be J.R. Cliff mimics his enemy as far back as the second-season episode “For Love or Money,” when he uses one of J.R.’s own lines to break up with Sue Ellen. Cliff also emulates him when he […]

  6. […] scene brings back memories of the second-season classic “For Love or Money,” when Cliff dumps Sue Ellen because he’s afraid their affair will hurt his political career, […]

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