Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 53 – ‘The Wheeler Dealer’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Wheeler Dealer

J.R. Ewing here

With “The Wheeler Dealer,” “Dallas” continues tying up its third-season plot threads. The Ewings pay off the mortgage on Southfork, Kristin realizes she’ll never become J.R.’s wife, and Sue Ellen is back where she was a year ago: dreadfully unhappy and boozing herself into oblivion.

“The Wheeler Dealer” also offers a coda to the season’s biggest bombshell: Jock’s revelation that he was married to another woman before Miss Ellie became his wife.

The postscript begins when Ellie persuades Jock to visit the Colorado sanitarium where Amanda has lived for many years. (Trivia: The shot that concludes this scene, where Jim Davis and Barbara Bel Geddes gaze into each other’s eyes, inspired the “portrait” of Jock and Ellie seen on TNT’s “Dallas.”)

In “The Wheeler Dealer’s” most memorable sequence, Jock and Ellie, along with Bobby and Pam, visit the confused Amanda, who believes Bobby is Jock and that she’s still married to him. The saddest moment comes when 60-something Amanda girlishly twirls around to show off the “new” dress she wore to impress her husband. “I wanted to look so nice for you,” she says.

Lesley Woods is heartbreaking as Amanda, but the other actors in this scene shine, too. Jim Davis moves me when Jock gets tongue-tied as his frightened first wife recoils from him, while Patrick Duffy is wonderful as kind-hearted Bobby, who is put in the awkward position of having to pretend to be his own father. (More trivia: In 2006, Duffy played the son of Woods’ character on “The Bold and the Beautiful.”) I also love when Ellie, looking regal in her fur coat, gently puts her hand on Amanda’s shoulder and comforts her. What a terrific scene.

This episode’s other great moment: when Vaughn Leland, the banker who almost foreclosed on Southfork, tells J.R. he’s joining the deal with the cartel members who are buying Ewing Oil’s Asian wells. Leland doesn’t know the wells are about to be nationalized, so there’s something satisfying about knowing J.R. is about to stick it to the man who came close to evicting the Ewings.

I know I probably shouldn’t feel this way, but I bet I’m not alone. There’s probably a little wheeler-dealer in most “Dallas” fans.

Grade: B


Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, Miss Ellie Ewing, Wheeler Dealer

Gaze gone by


Season 3, Episode 24

Airdate: March 14, 1980

Audience: 21.1 million homes, ranking 6th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Barbara Searles

Director: Alexander Singer

Synopsis: J.R. gets an inside tip his Asian wells are going to be nationalized, so he unloads most of them on the cartel. Jock, Miss Ellie, Bobby and Pam visit Amanda, Jock’s first wife. Cliff learns Digger’s heirs are entitled to half the proceeds from the Ewing 23 oilfield. Sue Ellen goes on a bender. Alan and Kristin plot revenge against J.R.

Cast: Robert Ackerman (Wade Luce), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Stephanie Blackmore (Serena), Jeff Cooper (Dr. Simon Elby), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Sarah Cunningham (Maggie Monahan), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Ron Hayes (Hank Johnson), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ed Kenney (Seth Stone), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), Dennis Patrick (Vaughn Leland), Randolph Powell (Alan Beam), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Geoffrey Scott (“Dusty”), Paul Sorensen (Andy Bradley), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Lesley Woods (Amanda Ewing)

“The Wheeler Dealer” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.


  1. Its a shame that Digger died b4 getting to know that he was entitled to 1/2 the Ewing XXIII field profits C.B. He would have not felt like a loser cheated by Jock Ewing anymore! But I love it when J.R. tells the Ewing XXIII operator to shut that field down & shut it down right now while Cliff is standing in his office just to knife Cliff 1 more time!

  2. And here we have the first of two “bonus” episodes of the third season. To think these two episodes were to never happen and yet they did and the history they made is just mindblowing.

    I’ve always wondered what was the point of the Amanda Ewing coda scene. It really doesn’t advance any plots nor does it really tie up any loose ends. Don’t get me wrong I agree with our sitemaster that it is a great scene. It’s just spacefiller as opposed to working an active story. I suspect it is a byproduct of the writers needing to fill to episodes they never planned to make.
    Along those same lines I noticed the exteriors were filmed at the real Southfork. I would have guessed these would be at California soundstage. You wouldn’t have thought they’d make a special trip to Texas for an episode that wasn’t in the original schedule.


  1. […] 11. Sock it to him. My favorite Southfork cocktail hour: Ellie worries Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) didn’t get enough to eat at dinner. “She gets all the nourishment she needs from this,” J.R. says, waving around a liquor bottle. Next target: Pam. “She’s cracking up, slowly and surely. And who can blame her? I mean, she finds out that her daddy, Digger Barnes, is no relation at all. … And her mother’s a whore!” Bobby responds by punching J.R., and even though we know he deserves it, we kind of feel sorry for him. This was Hagman’s genius: Despite the awful things J.R. said, the actor delivered his lines with such joy, you couldn’t help but root for him. (“The Wheeler Dealer”) […]

  2. […] “The Wheeler Dealer,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Jock (Jim Davis), accompanied by Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel […]

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