Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 43 – ‘Return Engagements’

Dallas, Gary Ewing, Joan Van Ark, Return Engagements, Ted Shackelford, Valene Ewing

Talk about baggage

“Return Engagements” is an exercise in efficient storytelling. During the course of this episode, Gary and Valene reunite, remarry, reconcile with his family and decide to relocate to Southern California. Who says “Dallas” is slow-paced?

Much of this feels rushed and underwritten, but there are some exceptions, beginning with the monologue Miss Ellie delivers when she announces her intention to buy a house for the newlyweds. Val points out how much her mother-in-law has already done for her and Gary. “Miss Ellie, we owe you so much. You raised Lucy,” she says.

“Yes, I raised her,” Ellie begins. “I raised her because the Ewings made it impossible for you to raise her. But I shouldn’t have. I should’ve fought them. I didn’t. I did nothing. Do you think my giving you a house is fair payment? I don’t. If you want to refuse it, refuse it because the gift is small. Otherwise, take it. Please take it.”

Scriptwriter David Jacobs’ dialogue here is flawless. Short, declarative statements (“I didn’t. I did nothing.”), delivered with conviction by Barbara Bel Geddes. What a shame these two didn’t collaborate more frequently. It would’ve been wonderful to see Bel Geddes deliver more of Jacobs’ words.

Another lovely moment: Immediately after Ellie’s speech, there’s a knock on Val’s front door and Bobby opens it, revealing Jock. “I believe I have a son getting married here today,” the Ewing patriarch says as he steps into the room. “I’d like to attend the ceremony, if I’m welcome.”

I can’t help but get a little lump in my throat when I watch this scene. Jim Davis delivers his line quietly, almost sheepishly. Jock’s guilt has humbled him.

Also good in this episode: Ted Shackelford, who makes his first appearance as Gary, and Joan Van Ark, who is always wonderful as Val, even if the couple’s reunion is a little pat. Perhaps “Return Engagements” suffers because Jacobs was busy getting ready for “Knots Landing,” which debuted a week after this episode aired?

Interestingly, the most entertaining couple in this episode isn’t the spinoff-bound newlyweds, it’s shipping magnate Eugene Bullock and Sally, his gold-digging young wife. The Bullocks are a plot device – Sally offers Kristin a glimpse of the future she believes she’ll have if she succeeds in becoming Mrs. J.R. Ewing – but E.J. André is a hoot as crotchety Mr. Eugene and Andra Akers is delicious as bitchy Sally.

Maybe they should’ve gotten a spinoff, too.

Grade: B


Dallas, Joan Van Ark, Return Engagements, Valene Ewing

Willing victim


Season 3, Episode 14

Airdate: December 20, 1979

Audience: 20.3 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: David Jacobs

Director: Gunnar Hellström

Synopsis: Gary returns to Dallas and with Miss Ellie’s encouragement, proposes to Val, who accepts. J.R., who is on a “business trip” with Kristin, races home to stop the ceremony but arrives too late. Ellie’s gift to the newlyweds: a house in Knots Landing, a Southern California suburb.

Cast: E.J. André (Eugene Bullock), Andra Akers (Sally Bullock), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Terry Lester (Rudy Millington), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Ted Shackelford (Gary Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Joan Van Ark (Valene Ewing)

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


  1. I remember Ellie’s monologue, especially the “refuse it because the gift is small” line. Jock seems to come around pretty easy to going to their wedding; however, it seemed like it shouldn’t have been a big deal anyway. What did he have against Gary really?

    • I think Jock just didn’t “get” Gary. I’m really touched when Jock shows up at the wedding, though. I think it’s one of Jim Davis’s sweetest scenes. Barbara Bel Geddes is also really good here.

  2. What is the name of the record miss Ellie is playing in episode 43. Return engagement

  3. I like C.B. how J.R. had II bite his lip & be accepting of Brother Gary’s remarriage to Val. Another brilliant acting for Larry Hagman! Always reading the mood!

  4. And I have been interested in J.R./Kristin/Rudy scene and its implications.
    J.R. says regularly that he isn’t jealous at all, that he even likes when his woman has some other affairs. With Julie we even saw that he was himself pushing her in Cliff’s bed despite of her resentment. So unlike his usual posessory spirit. But he is really jealous of Sue Ellen. Jealous – and in the same time is clearly sexually aroused when Sue Ellen makes a pass on some other man at J.R. eyes (“Rodeo”) or just says that she doesn’t want him (“Black Market Baby”).
    And in this scene he displays some funny mix of discontent, humour and… pleasure? Maybe we have a glimpse of his secret dirty fantasy?

  5. I just rewatched this episode and finally realized…Why was Lucy not present at her own parents marriage? After all, she did drive Miss Ellie to confrtont Val about Garys where abouts.

    • Dave, I believe it’s established in the episode that Gary and Val want to keep their wedding a secret from Lucy in case the marriage doesn’t work out. Not the best logic, if you ask me. …

  6. Lloyd Ferrigon says:

    It was a nice scene Jock showing up. Jock was a wonderful character.


  1. […] third-season episodes like “The Dove Hunt,” when he stares down rifle-wielding Tom Owens, and “Return Engagements,” when the humbled Ewing patriarch is a surprise guest at Gary and Valene’s wedding. This […]

  2. […] Kristin had chosen J.R., leaving poor Rudy with a broken heart, no job – and possibly no pants. (“Return Engagements”) Of vice and […]

  3. […] 3. Celebrating Gary and Val. When Jock learned Gary and Val (Ted Shackelford, Joan Van Ark) were getting remarried, he declined to attend; there was too much bad blood between father and son. But moments before the ceremony began, in walked Jock. “I believe I have a son getting married here today,” he said. “I’d like to attend … if I’m welcome.” Awww. You’re always welcome, big guy. (“Return Engagements”) […]

  4. […] was estranged from Lucy, who arranged a mother/daughter reconciliation? Bobby, of course. He also reunited Val and Gary, discovered the house on Seaview Circle that became their home and rode to Val’s […]

  5. […] who make their first appearance on “Dallas” since their debut in the third-season episode “Return Engagements,” I’m disappointed the show recasts Sally with Joanna Cassidy, who isn’t as deliciously brazen […]

  6. […] series of clipped, matter-of-fact pronouncements reminds me of Bel Geddes’ wonderful monologue in “Return Engagements,” when Ellie acknowledges her failure to help Gary keep his family together. (“I should’ve fought […]

  7. […] to intervene. As for Valene? Yes, Jock helped prevent her from raising Lucy, but the old man also showed up at Gary and Val’s second wedding, hoping to mend […]

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