Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 37 – ‘Rodeo’

Dallas, Dusty Farlow, Jared Martin, Rodeo

Those eyes

Rodeos pit man against beast and on “Dallas,” no one is more beastly than J.R. In “Rodeo,” Sue Ellen, having failed to tame her savage husband, considers climbing in the saddle with a man who seems far less brutish: Dusty Farlow.

Sue Ellen meets the dashing cowboy when she enters a Braddock café with an armful of packages and accidentally bumps into him. Dusty’s first words – “Let me help you, ma’am” – are prophetic, letting us know he’s a different creature than J.R. The attraction between Sue Ellen and Dusty is instant.

Their brief conversation at the café continues the next day at the Ewings’ annual rodeo, where Dusty is the star competitor. Sue Ellen tells him about her loneliness; he tells her about his nomadic life on the rodeo circuit. They realize they have more in common than either might have guessed.

Linda Gray and Jared Martin have an undeniable chemistry, although let’s be honest: It would be hard for any actress to not have chemistry with him. With his lean frame, passionate delivery and come-hither eyes, Martin exudes sensuality.

Together, Gray and Martin make “Rodeo” a third-season highlight and one of my favorite “Dallas” episodes. I also like Leonard Katzman’s direction, which captures the rhythms of a real-life rodeo. Katzman constantly ducks and dives, cutting between the action in the arena and the drama unfolding in the crowd.

Toward the end of the episode, Dusty tells Sue Ellen he doesn’t need the prize money he’s poised to take home but wants it anyway. “The competition,” he says, “that’s not the important thing – it’s winning.”

The 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 last time she sought love with another man.

In “Rodeo’s” closing moments, J.R., fed up with Sue Ellen’s public flirtation with Dusty, yanks her into their bedroom. She slaps him and he throws her onto the bed – and we’re reminded of another second-season scene: the disturbing climax in “Black Market Baby,” when J.R. forces himself on his unhappy wife.

In that episode, Sue Ellen submits to J.R. This time, she bucks him off.

“I’ve wasted more than enough time on you,” J.R. sneers before leaving.

In “Rodeo’s” final shot, Katzman freezes the frame on Sue Ellen, lying on her bed, while Jock’s voice is heard over the loudspeaker outside, announcing Dusty has won the award for best all-around cowboy.

But is he the best man for Sue Ellen?

Grade: A


Dallas, Rodeo

Eight-second ride


Season 3, Episode 8

Airdate: November 9, 1979

Audience: 17 million homes, ranking 15th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Camille Marchetta

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: The Ewings host their annual rodeo at Southfork, where Sue Ellen arouses J.R. jealousies by flirting with cowboy Dusty Farlow. Meanwhile, J.R. stages a fight with Alan, who impresses Lucy; Digger drops by to see Jock and Miss Ellie’s grandson; and Ray learns Donna’s husband is dying.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Sherril Lynn Katzman (Jackie), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), Randolph Powell (Alan Beam), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Keenan Wynn (Digger Barnes)

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


  1. Ahh..Dusty. Definitely a likeable character, although at times a little too intense. I remember in later episodes scenes of him holed up in a hotel room while Sue Ellen runs around trying to figure out how to run off with him. Every time she entered the room he snaapped to attention and focused his laser-like gaze on her. Does Dusty’s character suffer from a changed premise? I seem to recall something about him having a bad relationship with his family, but later, once we’re introduced to Clayton, I find it hard to believe that would be possible.

    • Yep, the show does tinker with Dusty’s background. When he’s introduced in “Rodeo,” it’s suggested he’s estranged from his parents. We also learn Dusty uses his mother’s last name, Farlow, on the rodeo circuit. His “real” last name is Wayne. The show does away with this premise in later episodes. And I agree: Dusty is a little intense, but I think that’s a big part of his appeal.

      • Yeah it definitely felt Dusty was estranged from his parents at this point. Of course it was later retconned as a one sided estrangment due mostly to his youthful wanderlust. That was perfectly understandable since so many people in their early 20’s (though he might have been a bit older than that) experience that one.

  2. Destinee says:

    Rodeo is one of my favorites too. The part where you mention where Sue Ellen finds out Dusty is competitive also seemed to evoke feelings that he wasn’t different from J.R. In all aspects. I’m kind of surprised that J.R. Didnt force her to sleep with him, that he “gave” up so easily. Normally her rejection infuriates him even more.

    What do you make of him telling Kristin about his priorities? Wasn’t it a bit odd of him to defend his wife to his mistress?

    • That’s a good question. I’ve wondered about that scene, too, and probably should have addressed it in my critique. Perhaps it’s an early signal that J.R. doesn’t intend to dump Sue Ellen and make Kristin his wife? It could also reinforce the idea that J.R. abides by his own weird code of honor. In his mind, maybe he thinks he’s entitled to fool around and doesn’t really consider it cheating?

      On another note, am I the only one who finds Ewing rodeos to be more entertaining than Ewing barbecues? I love this episode, but I also love the rodeo seen during the dream season. It’s first-rate, even if Bobby isn’t around.

    • Gray really nailed it during the scene of Dusty talking about his competitivness. You just saw the bottom fall out in her reaction to hearing that. She didn’t have to say it out loud because she said it all the same: It’s another JR or Cliff putting their competitive nature first.

  3. Destinee says:

    I wish they had done more rodeos, they were far more entertaining!

    A soapchat friend of mine described J.R.’s feelings towards his “little family” as just that, a code of honor and one of appearances. I think Mandy was the only woman he considered leaving Sue Ellen for, but even then, he dragged his feet until Mandy broke up with him. Maybe he thought Miss Ellie would be disappointed in him, after Jock died he often sought her approval.

    • Mandy, Mandy, Mandy. My mom used to insist J.R. really loved Mandy, but I always had my doubts. I never bought all that blather about him loving Vanessa Beaumont, either, although as David W. at Dallas Divas recently pointed out, at least Vanessa was a “mature” woman at a time when the show was full of young blondes. In my mind, “Swellen” is the only woman J.R. has ever truly loved.

  4. Destinee says:

    YES! I don’t care if he treated her like crap sometimes, he did love her. He was just emotionally immature and unable to show his real feelings, unless Sue Ellen was unconscious. I did like the character of Mandy just because she reminded me of how Sue Ellen was portrayed when she met J.R. Like he was trying to find someone that reminded him of his Miss Texas. Or that’s the romantic in me I guess…

    • Ooh, that’s a good observation about Mandy being similar to a young Sue Ellen! Also: “… unless Sue Ellen was unconscious” made me laugh.

  5. I agree the force of sex or implied sex on Miss Texas was wrong. The trouble is she was feeling sexual & did want a baby, whether by adoption or carnal activity’s. Both J. R. & to a lesser extent Dusty Farlow were caught in a conundrum as they were forcing sex, but at the same time Sue Ellen to a degree wanted it & to be loved as well! Not just IV the baby C. B., but IV herself!

  6. my favorite part of this episode might be when the announcer called Bobby one of the finest cowboys in the country. Is there anything Bobby can’t do?

  7. Dianna Argoss says:

    JR did try with Sue Ellen as the season progress’s it makes it look like JR has just been a bad husband but from the first episode of season 3 till Rodeo JR has tried . Maybe in season 2 they could get away with JR raping Sue Ellen but by now they had established the characters . JR being the main star of the show had to have boundaries in order for the audience to root for him .
    Also nice to see Ray and Lucy develop a nice pure friendship , away from their toxic dynamic in s1 -2 with Lucy trying to Blackmail Ray most of the time because of their past fling. Does anyone know the music they play when ever Ray is the focus ? they played when left the series in 89 too .
    Good acting from Digger with his restraint anger and calm resolve . Digger could have lasted a few seasons as the head of the Barns family this actor has a steel toughness to him and sharp focus with the re casting in mind Digger could have remained in the show in the long term I don’t know why they wrote him out so early .

  8. Does anyone know what town they used as “Braddock” in this episode?


  1. […] a DJ, be like the Ewings and entertain everyone by picking a fight with one of your guests. At the 1979 Ewing Rodeo, J.R. slapped his lawyer/protégé Alan Beam after J.R.’s sister-in-law/secretary/mistress […]

  2. […] “Rodeo,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Miss Ellie and Digger (Barbara Bel Geddes, Keenan Wynn) stroll […]

  3. […] I’m not sure Dusty is right for Sue Ellen. I loved his introduction in “Rodeo,” an earlier third-season episode, but if there’s a good reason for his unquestioning devotion to […]

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