Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 49 – ‘Second Thoughts’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Second Thoughts, Sue Ellen Ewing

Madam and sir

Early in “Second Thoughts,” we learn Lucy is studying “Madam Bovary,” and then the novel continually pops up throughout the rest of the episode. We see Lucy carry it on campus, read it in the living room and clutch it while lounging by the Southfork swimming pool.

The book’s prevalence suggests “Dallas” wants to compare its ingénue to Flaubert’s heroine, but it turns out the characters don’t have much in common.

For those like me who haven’t read “Madam Bovary,” “Second Thoughts” includes a helpful scene where one of Lucy’s classmates, Kettering (played by Christopher Skinner, Victoria Principal’s real-life husband at the time), describes the novel as the story of “how the provincial middle-class of 19th century France stifled a woman’s romantic dreams, which led her to despair and eventually suicide.”

Doesn’t sound much like Lucy, does it?

The Ewings routinely interfere in Lucy’s life, but I’m not sure they stifle her “romantic dreams.” In “Second Thoughts,” Jock arranges Alan’s promotion so Lucy won’t move away after she marries him, but this seems more controlling than stifling.

If the “Dallas” producers wanted to compare one of the show’s characters to Emma Bovary, they should’ve considered Sue Ellen. Both characters cheat on their husbands, both suffer from delusions of grandeur and both have a tendency to take to their beds when they’re ill.

In another Bovarian move, Sue Ellen spends “Second Thoughts” pretending to be a good wife to J.R. so when she eventually leaves him, she’ll be more likely to win custody of little John.

Unfortunately, Sue Ellen reveals her scheme to J.R. at the end of the episode. This is a really silly scene, recalling those cartoons where the evil mastermind divulges the details of his world-domination plot to the hero. It’s not the kind of twist we expect from an episode with such literary aspirations.

Grade: B


Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Lucy Ewing, Second Thoughts

Lit chick


Season 3, Episode 20

Airdate: February 8, 1980

Audience: 23.7 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Linda Elstad

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: When Jock arranges for Alan to become a partner in Harv Smithfield’s law firm, J.R. tries to split up Alan and Lucy. J.R. needn’t bother: Lucy realizes she isn’t in love and breaks up with Alan, who also loses Betty Lou, his girlfriend on the side. Digger moves to Galveston. Sue Ellen pretends to be a good wife to J.R. in front of the Ewings.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Stephanie Blackmore (Serena), Christopher Coffey (Professor Greg Forrester), Karlene Crockett (Muriel Gillis), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Laura Johnson (Betty Lou Barker), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Randolph Powell (Alan Beam), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Robert Rockwell (Mitchell), Christopher Skinner (Kettering), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Keenan Wynn (Digger Barnes)

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


  1. You hit the nail on the head about Sue Ellen. She would be so proud of herself for having a scheme that she would screw it up by telling J.R.! It took a while, but she learned. Oh, wait. She told J.R. about the movie she made for blackmail, and left it in the states when she moved to England. Maybe she didn’t change her ways as much as I thought.

    Lucy had opinions flung at her, but that little girl did what she wanted.

  2. Destinee says:

    “Madam and sir”. haha! Yet another frustrating Sue Ellen and JR episode! She didn’t even let him get to second base before dishing out the burn. Shame shame.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I wouldn’t have told J.R. if I had been Miss Texas. No, scheme & plot in silence, learn from the master.

  4. C.B., have U & Andy noticed that Madam Bovary’s book is sort of a female Machiavelli? Sort of like another Machiavelli now buried a year at Southfork.

  5. To me this is yet another episode where the writers can’t decide what they want Lucy to be. Is she an adult because she makes the right decision to break it off with Alan Beam and actually seems to be taking school seriously? Or is she a kid because just before she breaks it off she set a long delayed wedding date to spite JR? Plus it almost seems that she didn’t fall out of “love” so much with Beam as much as she suddenly developes a puppy love crush on her literature professor.

    I’d say Sue Ellen revealing her perfect wife sceme to JR is even worse than when the cartoon evil character does it. In the cartoons it generally only happens when the villian (erroneously) believe it is all over but the crying. But Sue Ellen does it in the opening stages of her plan giving JR every possibily opportunity to procrastinate all day (if he were so inclined) and still have plently of time to counteract her plan. Sue Ellen: What were you thinking? You don’t give that kind of opportunity to a true mastermind.

    By the way when Sue Ellen does lead JR on he really does seem to respond. I know there are some who say this shows deep down he really loves her. But it seems out of character to me as he also paid Serena Wald for some services rendered in this very episode. I guess I’m saying I don’t understand why Sue Ellen’s plan seems to work at all.

  6. You are right as always, Chris. Both plotlines are quite silly, but Sue Ellen’s behaviour can be described only as stupid. Not only she is babbling her plans out, but she is doing all possible to provoke J.R.’s anger and reprisals. I think maybe she is just so imbibed with the regained feeling of her sexual power over him that she is loosing any common sense and caution. She is just too excited that earlier he was playing and active part, using and rejecting her, and now they have turned the tables.

    And sorry, but I feel compelled to say it: the whole 3rd season up to now Sue Ellen’s character seems to me more and more unattractive, because her behaviour is quite… as Cliff said, parasitical. 😦
    All this time she lives on J.R.’s money. Her lovers, her psychological problems, her complicated feelings, her demonstrative resentment and all… all this melodramatical circus – on his expence. As for me, it’s positively indecent. Maybe more indecent than his philandering.
    As far as he pays her invoices she owes to him – ok, maybe not love, not respect, but some minimum of loyalty and goodwill. Or she’d better leave, quickly and on any terms, just for finishing this crooked situation.
    But it seems that she doesn’t understand it at all, maybe because of her upbringing and mileue. 😦

  7. I see a lot of complaints about Sue Ellen revealing her scheme to JR, but it makes sense. She has no experience trying to outsmart him or trying to be manipulative, so it doesn’t occur to him that revealing her game plan will allow him time to come up with a counterattack. She is just so excited because this is the first time she has ever felt like she had the upper hand. Bobby tells her in a subsequent episode “Don’t try and play his game… honey, he’s too good at it.” but this sensible advice comes too late.


  1. […] “Second Thoughts,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Pam (Victoria Principal) walks into Cliff’s bedroom and […]

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