At long last, Sue Ellen.
Linda Gray comes off the sidelines in “The Enemy of My Enemy” – and not a moment too soon. Last week, in a candid interview with Ultimate Dallas, Gray politely – but pointedly – expressed her disappointment with the limited amount of screen time she’s received on TNT’s “Dallas.” As she reminded fans, Sue Ellen’s fate rests with the new show’s writers, who are now working on the second-season scripts.
Although “The Enemy of My Enemy” was filmed months ago, it serves as Exhibit A in the case for giving Sue Ellen a more prominent role on the show. Gray makes this one of TNT’s strongest episodes yet. She only appears in three scenes, but she dominates each one – not by chewing scenery but through the force of her grace and elegance. The actress has inherited Barbara Bel Geddes’ mantle as “Dallas’s” elder stateswoman, and that’s why I hope TNT will keep her front and center. This show needs her.
The nice thing about “The Enemy of My Enemy” is how it gets Sue Ellen involved in the fight over Southfork while finally delving into the subplot about her gubernatorial run, which has been simmering on the back burner all season.
In the storyline, John Ross asks his mama to use her political connections to persuade trucking magnate Harris Ryland to ship the oil being pumped out of Southfork. Initially, Sue Ellen resists (“John Ross, if I go down that road….”), but she eventually gives in and visits Ryland, offering him a coveted appointment in her administration if he’ll help her son. Ryland, played with wicked charm by Mitch Pileggi, rejects the offer because he says he doesn’t want Sue Ellen to compromise her integrity. Nevertheless, he agrees to help John Ross – and to demonstrate his admiration for Sue Ellen, he cuts a big check to her campaign.
The first time I watched this episode, seeing Sue Ellen sell out made me cringe. This didn’t feel like something the new, improved version of our beloved heroine would do. But then I thought about Sue Ellen’s guilt over her shortcomings as a mother when John Ross was younger. I can see how her judgment might be clouded where he’s concerned.
Besides, let’s face it: A saintly Sue Ellen is a boring Sue Ellen. Like I wrote earlier this week, I’m happy the character has changed with the times, but the show needs to reveal Sue Ellen’s humanity, and her foibles in “The Enemy of My Enemy” feel credible. It’s worth noting Sue Ellen’s actions also place her squarely in the tradition of other “Dallas” mothers (Miss Ellie, Rebecca Wentworth) who make questionable choices on behalf of their adult sons.
In addition to finally giving Sue Ellen a meaningful storyline, I like how scriptwriter Gail Gilchriest brings Elena and Rebecca together in “The Enemy of My Enemy.” Having Elena drive Rebecca to the doctor is a clever way to highlight the uneasy bond developing between these characters, whose relationship is beginning to recall the one shared by “Dallas’s” ultimate frienemies, Sue Ellen and Pam.
I also appreciate how director Jesse Bochco showcases some of the lighter moments in “The Enemy of My Enemy.” At the end of the episode, I love when Bobby and Christopher storm into John Ross’s room, prompting his exasperated, “What now?” There’s also an amusing scene before the opening credits, when the roughneck Earl interrupts Bobby and John Ross’s argument on the Southfork patio.
“Mr. Ewing?” Earl says.
“Yeah?” Bobby answers.
“I meant John Ross.”
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out this episode’s big historical inaccuracy: The discovery that Miss Ellie’s father left her sons the mineral rights to Southfork contradicts long-established “Dallas” lore. In the past, major storylines have hinged on the fact Ellie controlled the ranch’s mineral rights.
The other eye-roller comes when Bobby discovers his grandfather’s prized pistol in the safe deposit box. During the original show’s classic “Jock’s Trial” episodes, we learned Ellie’s father had given the gun to Jock before his death, signaling he had finally accepted the young oil baron as a member of his family.
Or is that why Bobby seems to smile mischievously when he pulls the gun out of the lockbox in this episode? In that instant, does he realize his granddaddy pulled a fast one on Jock, all those years ago?
Maybe the Southworths were more like the Ewings than they cared to admit.
‘THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY’
Season 1, Episode 6
Telecast: July 11, 2012
Writer: Gail Gilchriest
Director: Jesse Bochco
Audience: 5.3 million viewers (including 3.6 million viewers on July 11, ranking 26th in the weekly cable ratings)
Synopsis: With Rebecca’s help, Bobby and Christopher find an old legal document that will give Bobby control of Southfork’s mineral rights. After business partner Vicente Cano threatens him, John Ross turns to Sue Ellen, who persuades Harris to transport the oil pumped out of Southfork. Bobby punches Harris after he sends Ann a locket that upsets her. John Ross fears Marta is stalking Elena. In Las Vegas, J.R. tries to muscle in on Cliff’s high-stakes poker game. Rebecca tells Tommy she’s pregnant.
Cast: Carlos Bernard (Vicente Cano), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Marlene Forte (Carmen Ramos), Julie Gonzalo (Rebecca Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Callard Harris (Tommy Sutter), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Kevin Page (Bum), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Matthew Posey (Earl), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Faran Tahir (Frank), Leonor Varela (Marta del Sol)