“Hedging Your Bets,” the second of the two episodes TNT telecast on “Dallas’s” opening night, was solidly entertaining, even if it wasn’t quite as satisfying as the first hour, “Changing of the Guard.” The story continued to take unexpected twists, but I found myself hoping things would slow down so the audience could get better acquainted – or reacquainted – with the characters.
The best scenes in “Hedging Your Bets” were set at the Cattle Baron’s Ball, which looked far cooler than the stuffy black-tie galas the Ewings attended on the old show. I loved how director Michael M. Robin opened this sequence: John Ross and J.R. arrived in a black Suburban while “I’m a Man,” a tune by Swedish rockers the Blue Van, boomed in the background. It was another reminder this isn’t daddy’s “Dallas.”
Inside the ballroom, J.R. – using a walker to gin up his family’s sympathy – made amends with Bobby. This scene, which was nicely written by Cynthia Cidre, allowed Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy to demonstrate how their chemistry remains unaltered by the passage of time.
I was particularly impressed with Hagman. He still has an uncanny knack for making the audience want to believe J.R., even when we know the character is lying. I long ago stopped trying to figure out the actor’s secrets and decided to just sit back and enjoy his performances. He amazes me.
J.R.’s long-awaited first scene with Sue Ellen was well written and performed, too. He ran into her at the ball, and even though it was probably the first time the characters had seen each other in years, Cidre didn’t go overboard with a big, emotional reunion. Still, while J.R.’s last line (“You’re still the prettiest girl at the ball”) was sweet, I wish Linda Gray had been given a little more to do here. She had just 18 words of dialogue, which felt a little insufficient.
On the other hand, I very much liked the scene where Sue Ellen loaned Elena the money she needs to buy the oil leases. Gray looked like she enjoyed showing off her character’s confidence and success. The role of mentor fits Sue Ellen well, although she shouldn’t be limited to serving as a cheerleader for other characters. Sue Ellen needs her own storyline, and I’m hopeful her looming gubernatorial run will give Gray an opportunity to strut her stuff.
The other highlight of “Hedging Your Bets:” the scene where Elena confronted John Ross over the e-mail that broke up her and Christopher two years earlier. Jordana Brewster beautifully expressed Elena’s confusion and outrage, but don’t overlook Josh Henderson, whose pained expression made me believe John Ross really cares for Elena.
This is important because as I wrote in my “Changing of the Guard” critique, I’m not quite sure what makes John Ross tick. Right now, it feels like he’s the antagonist because that’s what the plot demands, so John Ross’s relationship with Elena has the potential to make him a more dimensional character.
By the way, I’m really enjoying the scenes set in Elena’s little house on the Souhfork grounds. The shabby chic decor makes it feel like a real home, which is appropriate, since Brewster does such a good job making Elena feel like a real person.
In many ways, Elena’s home serves the same function Ray Krebbs’ rambler did on the original “Dallas.” This probably isn’t a coincidence. Like Ray, Elena is poised to become the “everyperson” who serves as the audience’s eyes and ears in the world of the Ewings. She might be the most pivotal character of all, at least among the younger players.
Finally, a word about Rebecca, the Ewing clan’s newest addition. Of the eight principal characters on TNT’s “Dallas,” she received the least development in “Changing of the Guard,” and after seeing “Hedging Your Bets,” I understand why. Rebecca is supposed to be enigmatic. In this episode, her cryptic conversation with her brother Tommy made it clear the siblings (they are siblings, right?) are up to something nefarious, although we don’t know what.
I welcome this. The mystery surrounding Rebecca and Tommy feels like it’s going to be crucial, and it deserves to unravel at its own pace. After all, if TNT’s “Dallas” is going to be around awhile – and I sure hope it will be – there’s no point in rushing through every storyline.
‘HEDGING YOUR BETS’
Season 1, Episode 2
Telecast: June 13, 2012
Writer: Cynthia Cidre
Director: Michael M. Robin
Audience: 8.3 million viewers (including 6.9 million viewers on June 13, ranking 1st in the weekly cable ratings)
Synopsis: Bobby tells his wife Ann he has cancer and rejects Christopher’s plea to not sell Southfork. Elena breaks up with John Ross, who has sex with Marta and is extorted by Bobby’s duplicitous lawyer, Mitch Lobell, who is secretly aiding John Ross and J.R. in their plot to seize Southfork. John Ross’s mother Sue Ellen loans Elena money for her oil business and encounters ex-husband J.R., who wants to makes amends with her. Rebecca’s brother Tommy tells her she shouldn’t become too comfortable in her new role as Christopher’s wife. J.R. learns Marta is an imposter.
Cast: Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Brett Brock (Clyde Marshall), Richard Dillard (Mitch Lobell), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Marlene Forte (Carmen Ramos), Julie Gonzalo (Rebecca Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Castulo Guerra (Carlos del Sol), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Leanna Pareja (Marta Realidad), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Audrea Ulmer-Cowan (Candy), Leonor Varela (Marta del Sol)