Critique: ‘Knots Landing’ Episode 2 – ‘Community Spirit’

He lied with his boots on

He lied with his boots on

Part of the fun of watching “Dallas” comes from imagining what it would be like to be a Ewing – to wear those clothes, to drive those cars, to live in that house. For those who also wonder how the Ewings would fare in our world, there’s “Community Spirit.”

“Knots Landing’s” second episode brings J.R. to the Southern California cul-de-sac to squelch the neighborhood’s protest of a major Ewing Oil offshore drilling project. The episode is a hoot, not just because it’s fun to see J.R. out of his element, but also because we get to live vicariously through the “Knots Landing” suburbanites as they use J.R.’s own tricks against him.

“Community Spirit’s” smallest moments are among its best. In one, a frazzled Valene telephones Gary from their kitchen while cool-as-a-cucumber J.R., standing over her shoulder, pulls a book off a shelf and begins leafing through it. “I just love cookbooks,” he says.

In another tiny-but-great moment, J.R. takes a bite of the white-bread sandwich Val has served him.

“Hey, that is good. What do you call this?” he asks.

“Tuna fish,” she hisses.

I also like seeing Gary one-up J.R. at the end of the episode, even if his final line (“J.R., it never rains in Southern California”) is pretty corny.

As good as Larry Hagman’s exchanges with Joan Van Ark and Ted Shackelford are, my favorite moments in “Community Spirit” are J.R.’s scenes with Karen Fairgate, “Knots Landing’s” resident doyenne. We’re used to seeing J.R. interact with Gary and Val at Southfork, so watching him trying to charm Karen reminds us we really aren’t in Dallas anymore.

I particularly love when Karen visits J.R.’s hotel room and pretends to be interested in him, only to skip out at the last minute because she has to pick up her husband Sid’s suit at the cleaners. Has anyone ever left J.R. high and dry for a reason so mundane?

I don’t necessarily buy J.R.’s attraction to Karen, but Hagman and Michele Lee look like they’re having a ball working together. For me, the real joy of watching these old pros comes in hindsight: Hagman is the only actor to appear in every “Dallas” episode, and Lee is the only actress seen in every “Knots Landing” installment during its 14-season run.

This makes “Community Spirit” a meeting of two prime-time soap opera giants. I can’t watch it without smiling.

Grade: A


Worlds collide

Worlds collide


“Knots Landing” Season 1, Episode 2

Airdate: January 3, 1980

Audience: 17.8 million homes, ranking 14th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Elizabeth Pizer

Director: James Sheldon

Synopsis: Gary reluctantly helps his neighbors protest Ewing Oil’s plan to drill offshore near Knots Landing. J.R. visits and pressures Gary to back off, but Gary refuses, forcing J.R. to switch to a costlier alternative site.

Cast: Robert DoQui (Joseph Whitcomb), Danny Gellis (Jason Avery), Joseph Hacker (Chip Todson), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Michele Lee (Karen Fairgate), Claudia Lonow (Diana Fairgate), Constance McCashin (Laura Avery), Don Murray (Sid Fairgate), John Pleshette (Richard Avery), Ted Shackelford (Gary Ewing), Steve Shaw (Eric Fairgate), Joan Van Ark (Valene Ewing)

“Community Spirit” is available on DVD. Watch the episode and share your comments below.


  1. In Germany this was the first episode of Knots Landing, the Pilot was never shown or dubbed into German along with several other Knots and Dallas episodes.

    • Interesting! Any idea how popular “Dallas” and “Knots Landing” were in Germany? I know the Brits loved the Ewings, but I don’t know how the Germans felt.

  2. This sounds like a much better episode than the pilot. I like how your write about J.R.’s appearance, which I’d like to see. “I just love cookbooks…” Sounds like fun!

  3. Lloyd Ferrigon says:

    I loved the scenes between JR, Gary, and Valene. The scenes with Karen were dumb. When she says to JR, “Looks like we are enemies.” Like we is a threat to him? And going to his hotel room was just as stupid.

    • I love this whole episode. I think the scenes between Larry Hagman and Michele Lee are great, although my favorite moments are his scenes with Ted Shackelford and especially Joan Van Ark.

  4. Lloyd Ferrigon says:

    Producers have since siad that did not like the crossovers with JR. I will agree the later ones were pretty bad but this one was OK. Loved seeing JR interacting with Gary who brought JR to KL when he stood up and spoke against the project. He had to know that JR would hear of this and get upset.

    JR meeting Karen stands out to me mainly because of how stupid she sounds when she informs him that they are enemies which he should have laughed in her face. And then goes to his hotel room which was dumb as well.

    Why make an enemy of someone like this?

  5. Michelle Lee is very sexually charged here. It might have been play acting, but she brought her A game to scenes with Hagman!


  1. […] how much I love Hagman’s “Knots Landing” debut in the first-season episode “Community Spirit,” I’m as surprised as anyone to find his subsequent visits so lacking. For J.R., maybe one trip out […]

  2. […] 13. There goes the neighborhood. When the residents of Knots Landing decide to fight Ewing Oil’s plan to drill near the local beach, J.R. comes to town to squelch the protest. Seeing this larger-than-life Texan in suburbia is a hoot. In one great scene, a frazzled Valene (Joan Van Ark) telephones Gary at work while cucumber-cool J.R. pulls a book off her kitchen shelf and flips through it. “I just love cookbooks,” he says. In another golden moment, J.R. takes a bite of the sandwich Val has just served him. “Hey, that is good. What do you call this?” he asks. “Tuna fish,” she hisses. Rarely have Hagman’s comedic sensibilities been put to better use. (“Community Spirit”) […]

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