Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 47 – ‘Jenna’s Return’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Francine Tacker, Jenna's Return, Jenna Wade, Patrick Duffy

Dude, that’s not your wife

Bobby’s first love resurfaces in “Jenna’s Return” – and so does his chauvinistic streak. In this episode, Pam’s boss is so impressed by her performance at The Store, he invites her on a business trip to Paris, but instead of being happy for his wife’s success, Bobby sulks.

Making matters worse: While Pam’s away, Bobby spends his free time with old flame Jenna Wade, who pops up for the first time since the second-season episode “Old Acquaintance.” Francine Tacker takes over the role from Morgan Fairchild and doesn’t make much of an impression. I really wish Fairchild played Jenna here, too. She made the character livelier and sexier, which might have made Bobby’s behavior in the cliffhanging final scene, when he appears poised to sleep with Jenna, more credible.

Bobby’s storyline grabs much of the screen time in “Jenna’s Return,” but Ray and Donna’s travails are much more interesting.

The characters began dating just a few episodes ago and already I’m completely charmed by their romance. They make an unlikely couple, but Steve Kanaly and Susan Howard’s chemistry is undeniable, and “Dallas” works hard to make their characters’ relationship feel real.

The first time we see Ray and Donna in this episode, they’re sitting on her living room floor, playing backgammon. Ray is ready to go to bed, prompting night-owl Donna to jokingly bemoan her fate of falling in love with an early riser.

Later, Donna feels out-of-place when Ray takes introduces her to his rough-around-the-edges cowboy friends, while Ray gets a case of the jitters when Donna throws a dinner party to introduce him to her stepson Dave, a state senator, and his wife Luanne.

These little flashes of domesticity are a welcome addition to the show. Many fans may turn to “Dallas” for escapism, but it’s nice to see everyday life reflected now and then, and it’s clear – even at this early stage in Ray and Donna’s relationship – this is the role these characters are destined to fulfill.

Grade: B


Dallas, Donna Culver, Jenna's Return, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly, Susan Howard

The real thing


Season 3, Episode 18

Airdate: January 18, 1980

Audience: 20.7 million homes, ranking 8th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Camille Marchetta

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: Pam goes on a business trip to Paris, upsetting Bobby, who renews his friendship with Jenna and is tempted to sleep with her. Sue Ellen continues to see Dusty, arousing J.R.’s jealousy. Ray breaks up with Donna because they don’t have enough in common besides their love for each other.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Byron Clark (Tom), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Mel Ferrer (Harrison Page), Alba Francesca (Luanne Culver), Tom Fuccello (Senator Dave Culver), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Alex Harvey (Andy), Susan Howard (Donna Culver), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Brian Libby (Roy), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), Don Porter (Matt Devlin), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Francine Tacker (Jenna Wade), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

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


  1. Donna and Ray are a great couple. I love their story.

  2. Hmmm, I may be the only one around, but to me, Francine Tacker is much more convincing in her role as Jenna Wade than Morgan Fairchild, or later Priscilla Presley. She seems much more “grown up”, and mature, and I totally buy her portrait of a self-confident, competent magazine editor (that’s what her job was, I think) who, as a working single mom, has experienced the tough side of life and has learnt to stand up for herself. She’s a totally different type of woman from Morgan Fairchild’s Jenna, who appeared to me like a slightly dumb, “man-eating”, cliche-like blondie. (No offence towards the actress; I’m only describing the character she was playing and how it got across to me.)
    Francine Tacker’s Jenna appeared to me as somebody who doesn’t need to use any tricks, like pretending Charlie was Bobby’s daughter, in order to get the man she loves.
    She’s very straight-forward about her feelings and intentions, confronting both Bobby and Pam about them. Although I didn’t like her trying to take Bobby away from Pam (and don’t get me started on Bobby’s chauvinistic attitude concerning Pam’s job!!!), I could understand the character’s point and sympathize with her to a certain degree.

    Something else – but this is just a matter of taste and individual preference – I really like Francine Tacker’s natural beauty. Her face looks so “real”. You can really tell the difference between actresses’ faces now and then. Naturally beautiful faces like that are rarely seen on TV today, nose and all. 😉

    • Balena, I’ve always appreciated Francine Tacker’s natural beauty, but you’ve given me a whole new way to think about her portrayal. Now I want to go back and watch those episodes again. Thank you!

  3. Anonymous says:

    This episode was about the ladies.
    I liked Francine Tacker in the role of Jenna and I liked the way that Jenna was written. She was straight forward, confident and bold. Elena was kind of like her in the first season of the reboot. She gets a lot of personal fulfillment and a sense of identity from her career and the same can be said for Donna and Pam. This episode has such a different tone than some of the other episodes. I have had the Ray/Donna fight several times. I smiled with glee at the shout out to the most adept politician Texas has ever known (LBJ). I was also wondering if they meant to model Sam Culver after Sam Rayburn. I also appreciated the mention once again of Miss Ellie’s interest in the environment and environmental politics. The discussion of Mimosa park sounds like many local political discussions I’ve heard.
    I know this is blasphemy but to me JR and Sue Ellen are the least interesting and least realistic characters on this show.

    • Great insights! Your comments make me want to revisit this episode. You’re not the first person to mention how much you enjoy Francine Tacker’s performance as Jenna. I enjoyed the reference to LBJ too. Now there was a politician who knew how to get things done, right?

      No worries about being blasphemous about J.R. and Sue Ellen. All opinions are welcome here.

      Thanks for your comments.


      • I love it when they include little true life Texas shout outs and tidbits like the mention of LBJ. I smile inside every time they surreptitiously drink those Shiner Bocks in the new show. No one like Chris Ewing would ever drink a Miller Lite but I guess they sponsor the show.

      • Yes, I agree! But let’s all hail Miller Lite for sponsoring the show.

  4. R.J. Koopmans, President, Ewing Oil Co. Ltd.-Canada says:

    The house Ray built & that was later lived in by Carter Mackay of Westar Oil was actually quite nice.

  5. To Chris’ point about Francine Tacker not being sexy enough to tempt Bobby I’d say this: Is she a sexpot who could tempt anyone? No. But I still call the scene credible not because of the raw animal magnatism but simply because Jenna is Bobby’s first love and there is obviously still something of a torch being carried. That’s all it takes to make this credible to me.

    I think this episode because every relationship (except Jock and Miss Ellie) is show in trouble here. Bobby and Pam are having their problems. JR suceeds (for the time being) of prying Ray away from Donna. JR himself is having problems with Kristen. And finally Sue Ellen and Dusty have some friction. That’s a lot of drama.

    • Dan, your comment prompted me to read again what I wrote when I penned this critique in 2012. I didn’t mean to suggest Francine Tacker isn’t sexy enough to tempt Bobby. I actually think she’s quite beautiful and appealing. I think the point I was trying to make is that Morgan Fairchild was more of a little more vixenish than Ms. Tacker, which made her more convincing as a homewrecker. I should’ve chosen my words more carefully.

      • Fair enough. But I still don’t think Jenna has to be a homewrecker for this to work. In fact she does close just before the episode ending cliffhanger by telling Bobby that if they sleep together it can’t be a one night thing. (and freeze frame) So I’ll still go back to this being two people still have old feelings for one another and who are suspending their discresion and better judgement. So could this end up in homewrecking if it plays out a certain way? Yes. But either way I don’t think it was the intent. Whereas I’ll definitely grant you Jenna as played by Morgan would come off as looking to wreck a home.
        I kind of like it better this way. I’ve always thought the Morgan Fairchild rendition of Jenna felt more like she should have been an ex of JR and not Bobby. I totally believe Tacker’s Jenna was someone that Bobby could have loved.

  6. Francine Tacker’s Jenna is not sexy or looks like someone Bobby would fall for, she looks too matronly and older. Her hairstyle looks like something from Little House On The Praire!!! She also do not seem like someone Bobby would want to sleep with, then again Pam was depriving Bobby of sex so when you are desperate you will take anyone.

    • Ha ha! Poor Bob.

    • Pam was ugly, annoying and stupid in this season. She inflict to Bobby :
      -not having a child : bobby deals with it
      -not adopting a child : bobby deals with it
      -working 24/7 : bobby deals with it

      and then, no sex ! I totally understand Bobby not dealing with it. Too much !
      Pam became an annoying character since season 2 (in the same time her wonderful hair became ridiculous, bring me back the sexy simple lady of season one, with classy coat, boots and straight haircut and not those awful 80’s haircut with ton of volume)

      (forgive my english)

      • Not having a child? That’s not Pam’s choice, she thinks she has a genetic disease! And her having a job is not something she “inflicts” on him, and he’s not doing such a great job dealing with it either. Later on in the series, Pam does annoy me. But during this point in the show, Bobby is the problem. The reason she’s not having sex with him is because of her fears about getting pregnant, that’s not something she should be punished for, she needs help and support to get through it. She’s not doing something wrong to him.


  1. […] ex-husband is the little girl’s father. In Season 3, Jenna — now played by Francine Tacker — returns briefly and once again tempts Bobby, except this time Charlie’s paternity isn’t part of the […]

  2. […] “Jenna’s Return,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Ray and Donna (Steve Kanaly, Susan Howard) are sitting on her […]

  3. […] any slack, but I can’t help it. Deep down, J.R. loves Sue Ellen. How else to explain his envy in “Jenna’s Return,” when he begins to suspect Sue Ellen is having an […]

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