Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 7 – ‘Collateral Damage’

Christopher Ewing, Collateral Damage, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe, TNT

Cry, cry again

“Collateral Damage” gets it right. This episode offers solid writing, stylish direction and strong performances, all while making good use of established “Dallas” lore. Overall, this is the new show’s best hour since the pilot, “Changing of the Guard.”

I’m sure many viewers will remember “Collateral Damage” as the episode where Marta meets her maker, but as haunting as the sight of her bloodied body atop that crushed car is, it’s not the image that sticks with me most. No, that distinction belongs to the scene in the doctor’s office, where Christopher and Rebecca are shown the sonogram of their unborn twins as Bobby and Ann watch silently.

Julie Gonzalo and Brenda Strong are good here, but it’s the guys who move me most. Jesse Metcalfe is establishing himself as television’s best crier, while Patrick Duffy has matured into the rarest of Hollywood species: the actor who doesn’t need dialogue to perform. The look on Duffy’s face tells us everything we need to know about the pride and joy Bobby feels at that moment.

And while I’m sure “Dallas” newcomers appreciated this scene, it holds special meaning for me and, I suspect, other longtime fans. We once watched a twentysomething Bobby bring his young bride home to Southfork, and now we see him on the brink of becoming a grandfather. We remember Christopher arriving at the ranch as a babe-in-arms, and now he’s embarking on his own journey to fatherhood. For “Dallas” diehards, this is a big, meaningful moment, and director Steve Robin deserves our thanks for slowing things down so we could absorb the weight of it.

My other favorite “Collateral Damage” scene opens with John Ross sitting in a posh restaurant, reminiscing about the time he broke into the Southfork liquor cabinet as a child to sneak his first taste of bourbon. “That’s when you found me,” John Ross says as the camera pans across the table to reveal his dining companion: Lucy. “You were half past gone on the floor,” she quips. “And the first thing I thought was, ‘Yep, he’s his mama’s son.’”

I adore this exchange because it demonstrates how TNT’s “Dallas” can bring together younger characters and longtime favorites in ways that serve current storylines while also honoring the old show’s past. Even though we never witnessed John Ross sneaking liquor on the original “Dallas,” it isn’t hard to imagine it happening off-screen. The same thing can’t be said for many of the historical revisions TNT’s writers have made this season.

John Ross and Lucy’s scene also works well because, frankly, it’s nice to be reminded of a time when Southfork was full of family – something I hope the new series will get back to soon. Additionally, I’m happy to see TNT showcase Charlene Tilton, a onetime ingénue who now possesses a wonderfully worldly, been-there-done-that charm. I hope we see more of her in the future.

Aaron Allen’s “Collateral Damage” script also includes a nicely written scene where Sue Ellen oh-so-subtly pressures Elena to bail out John Ross. Jordana Brewster more than holds her own against Linda Gray during this exchange, particularly when Elena questions if Sue Ellen still cares about Bobby and his family – something I’ve wondered myself. Sue Ellen’s response (“Elena, when the day comes that you have to choose between your child and anybody else, I hope you choose wisely.”) illuminates the character’s thinking, reminding us that even though Sue Ellen has changed, she hasn’t lost all her old impulses.

Speaking of illumination: “Collateral Damage” sheds a little more light on the dark secret being kept by Ann, Bobby’s new wife. The evidence suggests Ann once had a daughter, although we don’t know what happened to her. According to one wild theory making the online rounds, Rebecca is Ann’s daughter, the result of a one-night stand with Cliff a quarter century ago. (Strong portrayed an unnamed woman Cliff slept with in “Cat and Mouse,” a 1987 “Dallas” episode.) I suppose anything’s possible, but for now I’m content to enjoy the mystery.

Finally, some praise for the fantastic “Collateral Damage” sequence where a frantic John Ross goes to Marta’s hotel room, believing she’s kidnapped Elena, only to discover it’s just another one of Marta’s deceptions. The whole thing plays like a fevered dream – the camerawork is shaky and the film looks like it’s been sped up – making this one of TNT’s niftiest “Dallas” scenes yet.

Until this moment, Marta seemed destined to become another crazed stalker from soap opera central casting, but Leonor Varela’s mesmerizing performance makes the character feel utterly human. Rather brilliantly, Allen’s script gives Marta a line about how she “earned” her way out of “the slums of Caracas,” a neatly efficient way to generate sympathy for the character before she dies.

From this perspective, Marta resembles another tragic “Dallas” vixen: Julie Grey, Tina Louise’s character from the old show’s early years. I don’t think it’s a coincidence Marta plunges to her death after encountering a couple of henchmen, just like Julie did during the old show’s classic “The Red File, Part 1” episode.

Clever homages like this help “Collateral Damage” earn its “A” grade, which is the first one I’ve awarded since “Changing of the Guard.” Something tells me it won’t be the last.

Grade: A


Charlene Tilton, Collateral Damage, Dallas, Lucy Ewing, TNT

Missing cousin


Season 1, Episode 7

Telecast: July 18, 2012

Writer: Aaron Allen

Director: Steve Robin

Audience: 5.2 million viewers (including 3.9 million viewers on July 18, ranking 13th in the weekly cable ratings)

Synopsis: Under pressure from Cano, John Ross invites Lucy to join him in the battle for Southfork, but she sides instead with Bobby. Ryland has Bobby arrested for assaulting him but drops the charges. Bobby tells Ann her past doesn’t matter to him. Christopher tells Elena he wants her back, but he’s at Rebecca’s side when she learns she’s pregnant with twins. Sue Ellen persuades Elena to use her oil to help John Ross, who is arrested after Marta plunges to her death from a high-rise balcony.

Cast: Carlos Bernard (Vicente Cano), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Julie Gonzalo (Rebecca Sutter), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), D’Laine Gutmann (nurse), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Peyton Hayslip (Dr. Lauren Barstow), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Glenn Morshower (Lou), Kevin Page (Bum), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Leonor Varela (Marta del Sol)

“Collateral Damage” is available at, and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.


  1. Lady G. says:

    Great to see Lucy and that cute little smirk she always wears. I can definitely picture a scene like that. I was starting to get annoyed with Christopher stomping around with his ‘angry face’ through the whole episode, storming in and out and cutting people off, but that last scene was beautiful, and enhanced by Bobby and that little wink of encouragement he gives him. And that’s an interesting theory about Rebecca being Cliff’s daughter…Cliff and Anne’s daughter. But that’s only if Cliff’s girl in that old episode didn’t have a name. It would be funny because it will dust off that old Barnes-Ewing feud.

    Oh wow, shades of Julie Grey indeed! I had a feeling something like that was going to happen because of that window. I almost thought she would have jumped herself. Who knows? Maybe she did before the two henchman caught her. This all makes me wonder what, if anything, will tie in to J.R. Something tells me he knows a lot about what’s happening to his son. And I am excited for next week, because as a newbie watching old and new, I appreciate the emphasis on family from the original series (however super dysfunctional it is!) I felt that was missing in this show, (though Bobby and Anne try) but now I see it’s coming full circle and it looks as though everyone will band together to save John Ross.

    Okay, Bobby says he didn’t read the file Ryland gave him…hmm…something is irking me about the packing tape on the seal. Was it there when Ryland passed it to him in the office? I erased my DVR before I rewound to check. Darn! Maybe it was just always there and firelight exposed it brighter. Either way, whether he knows something or not, he is going to be the loving husband he always is and let Anne tell him in her own time.

    Great critique and so fast! 😀

    • Thank you for your comment and your kind words. I love your “Shades of Julie Grey” line. And you raise a good point: Was Marta pushed or did she jump? I wondered the same thing about Julie’s fall in my critique of “The Red File Part 1.” Something to ponder.

      I didn’t notice the packing tape seal. I’ll need to re-watch that scene. Good catch.

      Thanks again.


      • Oh, please let me know what you think if you re-watch the ‘package’ scenes. And now that I think about Marta. She had a camera on in the room. I think she intended to fight with John Ross and make it look like he pushed her. At least it crossed my mind. It was like she knew she was finished now that she crossed the Ewings. And the same goes for Julie back then too. Which all ties back to just how wicked J.R. and his influence can really be without even lifting a finger.

      • You’re so right. The more I think about it, the more Marta’s death begins to resemble Julie’s. Good observations!

      • Lady G. says:

        About the packing tape: I didn’t erase my DVR like I thought. I watched the Ryland scene carefully, but he pulled the envelope out so quick and the room was bright. But, it didn’t look sealed. And to me, smart shows don’t do things like focus on the tape of the package for no reason. I think Bobby peeked. LOL.

      • I like the idea that Bobby may have peeked. It makes him seem a little more human.

  2. Lady G. says:

    Oh, and something tells me there was more to that scene between Bobby and Lucy and it was foolishly left on the cutting room floor. ;( Just as Patrick said happens. I would have loved to see them interact. Bobby and Lucy had a special relationship, he risked his life for her, bought her first car, and was always a loving, support when she needed it. I think they shortchanged them in this episode.

  3. An interesting critique and I agree with many of the points. However, as I stated last week a succession of continuity blunders are inexcusable; we had one of the biggest and most egregious in this episode. In 1982 Cliff raised a kid from Islamabad. That’s right, in 1982 when Cliff was wooing Sue Ellen, was left destitute after embezzling from his mama’s company and ended the season in a suicide induced coma. For all the perfunctory nods this episode made to Dallas mythology, this absurd piece of backstory eclipsed any nostalgic feeling of warmth that they might have yielded. I cannot understand how the simple of expedient of making it 20 years ago did not occur to the writers. For me it was an appalling piece of revisionism that undermines the credibility of the show. This comes after the collective amnesia of the mineral rights, the eradication of Braddock county, the reinvention of Bobby’s birth from 1949 to 1952, the disappearance of Smithfield and Bennett as the Ewing lawyers, the generally appalling characterisation of Cliff, etc., etc. These are not minor errors. If a show with the kind of iconic status of ‘Dallas’ was to be resurrected with the of duty of care we were promised by the production team, these kind if blunders are even more alarming.

    There was much else to recommend it: Henderson goes from strength to strength, Gray’s conniving ways in the lunch scene, Pileggi’s excellent performance and some very stylish direction. Hagman clocked up only 49 seconds of screen time, but I didn’t miss him and that is an accomplishment. Nevertheless, the Cliff debacle soured the entire episode for me, I’m afraid. By the way, I have a feeling that we witnessed the birth not just of Bobby’s grandchildren, but perhaps Ann’s too…….

    • I don’t like the revisionism regarding Cliff, either, but I found it less egregious then the subplot about the mineral rights and the reference to Miss Ellie being committed to a sanitarium. Still, I probably should have addressed it in my critique, but I was getting a little long-winded and on balance, I really thought this was the strongest episode since the pilot.

      I agree with your observations regarding Henderson, Gray, Pileggi and Hagman. Not sure what Ann’s secret is. I kind of hope your theory isn’t correct, but then again, it might be cool if it is. Wouldn’t it be funny if Kercheval and Strong’s blink-and-you-miss-it one-stand scene from 1987 is the one piece of continuity the new show chooses to focus on most?

      • The show is at a critical juncture for me, and judging from a lot of the posts I have been reading across the web, things have reached tipping point for a lot of fellow fans too. I started out not expecting too much from the show and then became impressed by some of the plot twists and some of the performances (mainly by Henderson). However, the accumulation of errors perhaps can no longer really be termed ‘continuity’ errors since I am now convinced that the stable of writers have the barest grasp of the show that they purport to be continuing.

        What makes it especially galling for long term fans is that the Barnes/Ewing feud was so central to the dynamic of the show. News of Kercheval’s involvement was a welcome reminder of this. However, the Islamabad absurdity is just one more travesty in terms of the characterisation of Cliff Barnes. The implausible transformation of the neurotic, parsimonious Cliff into the cool, lavish villain is more than artistic license gone slightly astray – it’s a wholesale betrayal of one of the greatest of all tv creations.

        I am mindful that this show was billed as a continuation rather than a re-boot and so continuity errors (especially when they accumulate at this speed) should be a focus of discussion. Some have been oversights, some have been lazy and some are, frankly, inexcusable. The reinvention of Cliff (who I think of as just as crucial to the original show’s success as Hagman et al.) has stretched credulity beyond endurance. The show might as well assert that in 1982 Sue Ellen toured the globe in a tribute show to Ethel Merman or that JR took time out from the battle for Ewing Oil to manage a Donkey Rescue Sanctuary in East Timor. That’s the scale of silliness we are speaking of with last night’s revelation and the producers should be held to account for it.

        Seven episodes in and there are other things starting to diminish my enjoyment of the show. We were promised something epic – and yet, with the succession of identical drab sets substituting for offices and hotel suites, the show looks small, chilly and inhospitable. There is no chorus (e.g., the cartel), no sense of place (the exterior of Southfork is the only reliable sign post) and (the wonderful Pileggi notwithstanding) no big hitting character actors to give the show texture and colour.

        In the desire to stay clear of camp, Cidre has unwittingly removed warmth and humour from the parent show’s ratings topping formula (and no, I’m not talking about the self-conscious ‘comedic’ shenanigans of the Lakin years). When was the last time on the show that there was a light hearted aside between characters? Where is the endearing wrongheadedness of a Cliff or a wayward Lucy indulged? There is a brittle quality about the show that is becoming more palpable as each week passes. As a consequence, it is becoming increasingly monotone: both visually and dramatically. It looks like a version of ‘Dallas’ that has been put together by people that never really understood the original show beyond the lazy soundbites that it was about ‘betrayal,’ ‘villainy’ and ‘revenge.’ And of course, it looks like this because this, alas, is indeed the case.

        As I have posted before, the show is slickly competent and diverting television; but henceforth I will have to dispense with the pretence that this is a serious continuation and assess it on its own merits. This was always going to be a difficult assignment, for any production team, but the frustration lingers that some of these errors have been so unnecessary.

        I will continue to watch, even if in some of the lamer moments it has the look of Six Feet Under but with the dialogue of Melrose Place: not the most winning combination. Nevertheless, it has produced a number of very good scenes and of the (N)Ewings, Henderson has, much to my surprise, proved himself to be a formidable leading man. Pileggi is obviously being groomed as the new senior villain of the piece and I hope that he continues to shine.

      • Thank you for these comments. You’re a gifted writer. You express yourself well and you’ve given me a lot to think about.

        I find Cliff’s relationship with Frank odd and out of character. Another commenter, Lady G., suggested the new show should have established the relationship as beginning 20 years ago, not 30. This makes a lot of sense to me. Along these lines, I think it’s possible Cliff has changed since the original series ended. I think the show can afford to take a little creative license there. Overall, I’m less bothered by what’s been done to Cliff than by that Miss-Ellie-in-a-sanitarium bit of silliness from a few weeks ago.

        Like you, I would also like to see the new series exhibit a little more humor. I’m hopeful that will happen eventually. Generally speaking, I’m pleased with the show and enjoying it. The continuity errors are distracting, but I’m hopeful those will fade as the writers get a better handled on the material. I’m trying to keep in mind that this is only the seventh hour. Every show needs time to find its “voice,” and TNT’s “Dallas” is no exception.

        Once again, thank you. When I began my site, this is exactly the kind of conversation I’d hoped to host. I very much appreciate your contributions.


      • “In the desire to stay clear of camp, Cidre has unwittingly removed warmth and humour from the parent show’s ratings topping formula… Where is the endearing wrongheadedness of a Cliff or a wayward Lucy indulged? There is a brittle quality about the show that is becoming more palpable as each week passes.…As a consequence, it is becoming increasingly monotone: both visually and dramatically. ”

        I think that observation hits the nail on the head. I have to agree there. In the effort to be hip and modern, there is little room for any familial bonds and dashes of humor. As they say in real life, the parents, particularly the matriarchs, are the glue that holds the family together. Without Jock and Ellie, who does everyone turn to? Bobby perhaps, but it’s not quite the same. New Dallas hearkens back to that cold season 1 atmosphere. My guess is that the majority of the writers are twenty-to early thirty somethings that have not taken the time to watch the series as well as they could have. I am in my early thirties, but if I were a screen-writer I would really try and examine each character from the beginning, their motives and their actions and all the events within the seasons. I’m already doing that just watching it episode by episode. I actually find myself all teary-eyed at many episodes in the original, whether it’s Pam losing yet another baby and Bobby saying a loving goodbye to the little boy Lucas he grew attached too, Miss Ellie’s mastectomy and fight with Jock, the new sensitive Digger Barnes, even when poor Lucy’s heart was broke because of Kit. Sue Ellen drives me crazy, but then she’ll come out and say something so heart-wrenching because she’s been so emotionally abused and hurt. (As you can see I’m still in season 3! lol)

        The new writers only seem to have a surface knowledge of the show and they start adding this and that, but too much ruins the pot. :/

        Has anyone seen the cover of AARP this month? ;D Hagman, Gray and Duffy together again. Too bad the article is only one page. And a gorgeous picture of them in a limo on the inside article.

      • I agree: The new show does evoke the dark feel of the original show’s first season, but I don’t necessarily mind that. I love those dark first five episodes. And as you point out, it took the old “Dallas” awhile to find its heart, and I think we’re going to see the same thing happen with the TNT series.

        Thanks for the AARP links! I love that shot of Duffy, Gray and Hagman in the limo. They look great.

        And oh yeah: Enjoy the third season! It’s one of the best.

      • Lady G. says:

        You’re right, the show needs to find its own footing. People change and so do characters in twenty odd years. Despite any criticisms, I still continue to be intrigued and watch every week. I am biased though, I just want to keep seeing Patrick Duffy! I love him. 😀

        The AARP would be a great collectible for any Dallas fan. 😀 The limo pic inside is nice and big.

      • Neat! I need to get a copy to add to my growing “Dallas” magazine collection.

    • I must have missed that Bobby’s birth date was changed? Does anyone know why? Would it make any possible difference except to make Patrick Duffy a few years younger? LOL. Which is entirely unnecessary. And I actually didn’t miss J.R this time out either. But I get enough of him watching the originals! 😀

    • I thought that bit about Cliff raising a Muslim child was really…awkward. I mean seriously? I’m in season 3 right now watching the power and hatred he covets consume him and his spiraling descent which will lead up to that coma and he has time to support a child, much less a child from the Middle East? Why not one from Texas if that was the case? I just don’t see that happening in 1982. And why not make all this occur after 91? After the show ended? It would have tied in more closely to the events of the era – the Gulf War crisis and all that if they were going in that direction. I didn’t comment on it because i wondered if it were actually part of the real show canon. Something told me it certainly wasn’t. LOL.

      • Yep, I agree. Why not make Cliff’s global adventures happen 20 years ago instead of 30? At that point, Cliff would have been running Ewing Oil. Perhaps the business would have taken him overseas. Sigh.

  4. And one more note about Anne, there has to be something more ‘shocking’ in her past than the fact that she once had a baby daughter. Ryland made it sound so devious, “The kind of woman you married…” You would think she was once one of J.R’s call girls with that tone. Unless Rebecca is her daughter, then wow, that’s a terrific LONG CON on the entire Ewing clan!

  5. I enjoyed the scene with Lucy. I think Charlene Tilton effectively portrays what Lucy would be like older: still brassy and tell-it-like-it-is but with less naivety. I know it’s been said that Rebecca can’t be Pamela Rebecca (Cliff’s daughter with Afton), since she and Christopher were introduced in one of the TV movies. But if Rebecca turns out to be a daughter of Cliff, it would be annoying that he named two children after his mother. I like the comparison of Marta with Julie. I hadn’t thought of that and it makes a lot of sense. A key difference though, is that I didn’t feel any sympathy for Marta like I did for Julie. Marta seems like a bad guy in over her head. Julie seemed like a good person who got corrupted and paid the price for it. Maybe that’s not fair, but when Marta is introduced we quickly learn she’s an imposter, whereas Julie is introduced as a longtime loyal secretary.

    • Good point about Marta and Julie. The comparison isn’t perfect, but ultimately, I think they’re both sympathetic characters.

      Thanks for commenting!

    • I agree, I did feel more sympathy for Julie. And it was so sad because she befriended Jock too. She was a nice woman, but she was like a born victim to J.R.

  6. It seemed oblivious to John Ross just how much Lucy despises and loathes JR and loves Bobby. The only person who could care less to help JR is Ray Krebbs. It was clear in this episode that John Ross Ewing grew up completely outside of Southfork.

    • Yeah, John Ross should have known Gary would never side with J.R., even if Lucy asked him to — which she wouldn’t.

    • That’s a great observation. It shows you how far removed from the Ewing Family really John Ross really is, despite his name and birthright and all that. That’ sad. But you have his parents to blame for that one. :/

  7. Dan in WI says:

    I see another small continuity error in the John Ross/Lucy scene of this episode. The story they were talking about had a young John Ross drunk on bourbon and Lucy comments he takes after his mother. If that was the case shouldn’t it have been vodka? Bourbon was JR’s drink. He would only take after Sue Ellen if trying her drink and/or habitually passing out on the floor. In the face of the other continuity issues of the show this is a nitpick but still doesn’ sit right with me.

    • Good catch! I missed that. I suppose Lucy could’ve been talking in a general sense — John Ross is his mama’s son because he got drunk, not necessarily because he got drunk on bourbon — but it’s a good point. Thank you for commenting!

  8. Rebecca being Ann’s secret daughter, whether with Cliff or with Harris, and getting involved with Christopher because she wanted to screw up Ann’s life, would have made a lot more sense in the long run than her being Cliff’s daughter and him knowingly putting her up to this.


  1. […] Tilton’s appearance in “Collateral Damage,” when Lucy and John Ross reminisced about his boyhood antics while brunching at the Omni, was […]

  2. […] “Collateral Damage,” TNT’s next episode, after Ryland has Bobby arrested for assault, Bobby follows his lawyer’s […]

  3. […] flash forward three decades: In “Collateral Damage,” an episode of TNT’s “Dallas,” John Ross races to the high-rise hotel room of his ex-lover […]

  4. […] flash forward three decades: In “Collateral Damage,” an episode of TNT’s “Dallas,” John Ross races to the high-rise hotel room of his ex-lover […]

  5. […] Allen wrote “Collateral Damage,” one of the standout episodes from the new “Dallas’s” first season, as well as “Venomous […]

  6. […] Grab lunch while watching “Collateral Damage,” in which Vicente Cano (Carlos Bernard) wonders if John Ross: 1) is a good dancer, and 2) has any […]

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