Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 28 – ‘John Ewing III, Part 1’

Dallas, John Ewing III Part 1, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing


To the list of recurring themes explored on “Dallas” – sibling rivalry, class warfare, the pitfalls of co-habitation – add this: the dangers of indulgence.

The Ewings enjoy life’s luxuries, but they also indulge each other’s bad behavior. This is particularly true for Sue Ellen, whose drinking problem grows progressively worse during the second season while everyone else politely looks away.

In “John Ewing III, Part 1,” the first half of the two-part season finale, we see how hard it is for the family to break this bad habit.

When Bobby and Pam discover Sue Ellen passed out drunk on the side of the road, they bring her home and Bobby forces the family to finally admit Sue Ellen’s drinking has gotten out of control. Jock and Miss Ellie tell J.R. he must help his wife – yet they refuse to confront Sue Ellen, even after she gets drunk again and tumbles down the Southfork stairs.

“I’ve got to stop wearing those ridiculously high-heeled shoes,” Sue Ellen says while recovering in her hospital room. “My baby’s much more important than fashion.”

“Well, sounds like a good idea to me,” Jock says.

“You must try and be more careful,” Ellie agrees.

I find myself wanting to reach through the screen and shake both Jock and Ellie. Don’t humor Sue Ellen; help her!

Not surprisingly, the family responds to Lucy’s worsening drug habit by repeating many of the mistakes they make with Sue Ellen.

When Lucy shows up on Ray’s doorstep, high-as-a-kite and slurring her words, his first instinct is to sober her up. “You don’t want Jock and Miss Ellie seeing you like this,” he says.

Ray seeks help from Bobby, who takes the same approach. Bobby stands with Lucy in the Southfork driveway and urges her to “go in that house just as if there’s nothing in the world wrong with you.”

By the end of the episode, good-guy Bobby has persuaded Lucy to stop abusing her pills. Yet I can’t help thinking if he really wanted to earn his white-knight bona fides, he’d get his family to kick their habit of enabling each other’s bad behavior.

Grade: B


Charlene Tilton, Dallas, John Ewing III Part 1, Linda Gray, Lucy Ewing, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly, Sue Ellen Ewing

Girls gone wild


Season 2, Episode 23

Airdate: March 30, 1979

Audience: 17.5 million homes, ranking 14th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Camille Marchetta

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: A drunken Sue Ellen falls down the Southfork stairs but neither she nor her unborn child are hurt. J.R., realizing he can no longer ignore his wife’s alcoholism, has her committed to a sanitarium. Lucy is taking drugs, but Bobby persuades her to stop.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Ellen Geer (Dr. Krane), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Peter Horton (Wayne), Dawn Jeffory (Annie Driscoll), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Sherril Lynn Katzman (Susan), Ed Kenney (Senator Newberry), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

“John Ewing III, Part 1” is available on DVD and at, iTunes and Watch the episode and share your comments below.


  1. The Ewings do a lot of enabling. I get frustrated about the extent to which Miss Ellie enables J.R. and looks the way other when he’s being a scoundrel. Yes, she sometimes steps in, but not as much as she should given what she knows is happening.

  2. I have a couple of problems with Miss Ellie’s character. Are we supposed to view her as an old matronly woman who is frail and fragile and really doesn’t know about J.R.s misdoings? Or are we supposed to view her as a no nonsense type of mother who always keeps her family in line? Because if it is the latter than Dallas fails horribly. Its hard to tell if Miss Ellie just turns a blind eye or simply doesn’t know about the atrocious acts committed by JR and to a lesser extent Jock. Either way you have to lose respect for the character for letting it happen and only acknowledging a problem when it is too late and not nipping it in the bud immediately.

    • I see your point. I think the “Dallas” producers want us to see Miss Ellie as the family’s strong matriarch, but you’re absolutely correct that she willfully turns a blind eye to many of J.R.’s misdeeds. In those moments, it’s hard to respect the character. I like Miss Ellie best when she stands up to J.R., particularly in the fifth-season episodes where Jock is gone, Sue Ellen has left Southfork and J.R. is running wild. But even when Miss Ellie behaves inconsistently, I can’t help but admire Barbara Bel Geddes, who almost always delivers strong performances, even when she’s handed weak scripts.

      Thanks for your comment! I always appreciate observations like this.


      • “she willfully turns a blind eye to many of J.R.’s misdeeds. In those moments, it’s hard to respect the character” Maybe, but having some major flaws like that also makes her a more realistic, 3 dimensional character. Anyway Ellie doesn’t have that much leverage while Jock is alive, JR’s behavior is learned from Jock, and several times Jock sided with JR against Bobby when Bobby was trying to take the ethical high road.

  3. I totally disagree that Miss Ellie needs to be more controlloing of J. R. J. R. should have put Sue Ellen in the sanitarium the 2nd she started boozing again. Even if he had 2 put her into restraints & with a 24 hour guard! As for Miss Ellie controlling her oldest boy, why Mama in control of J. R. would be wrong. B/c C. B., w/o J. R., the Ewing Oil Co. Ltd. would not be the juggernaut it was when J. R. took over & assumed the Presidency at Ist from Jock!


  1. […] despite the skeletons she stuffed in her closet during the original series. To recap: Sue Ellen was institutionalized for alcoholism; arrested for J.R.’s shooting; and embroiled in a series of ugly paternity suits, […]

  2. […] “John Ewing III, Part 1,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) sits at the piano in the […]

  3. […] John Ross’s mind, there’s no difference. I’m not sure J.R. saw too many distinctions when he committed Sue Ellen to a sanitarium during the original “Dallas.” Yes, J.R. knew his wife needed help for […]

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