Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 62 – ‘Trouble at Ewing 23’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, Trouble at Ewing 23

Little brother, big trouble

“Trouble at Ewing 23” is a decent “Dallas” episode until the fourth act, when everything falls apart. Or is blown apart, to be more precise.

The episode starts off strongly when Ray runs into Miss Ellie in the stable, where he thanks her for welcoming him into the family. Ellie is gracious, but she also expresses concern for Ray. “You’re a Ewing now,” she says. “That’s a lot to take on all at once. I know.” Barbara Bel Geddes and Steve Kanaly each do a nice job in this scene, which helps establish the special bond Ellie and Ray develop as “Dallas” progresses.

“Trouble at Ewing 23’s” other highlight: the scene where Pam drops by Cliff’s apartment unannounced, not knowing Donna is about to arrive for a romantic dinner. When Pam spots a bottle of imported wine chilling in the corner, she realizes Cliff is expecting a woman and teases him.

“It’s the first date,” she says. “Chinese on the second, tacos on the third. Funny how I know all this, isn’t it?” This is a cute scene, well played by Ken Kercheval and Victoria Principal, whose on-screen relationship is one of “Dallas’s” most believable.

Nice moments like these stand in contrast with the rest of “Trouble at Ewing 23,” which isn’t very good. By the fourth act, the show has abandoned everyone else’s storylines to focus on the subplot about a disgruntled Ewing Oil employee’s threat to blow up the drill site in the episode’s title, which J.R. shut in “A House Divided” to prevent Cliff from sharing in the profits.

I like the idea of showing how J.R.’s vindictiveness has unintended consequences – it turns out Gillis, the angry worker, wants revenge because he lost his job when the field closed – but the plot’s execution is lame.

Why does Gillis demand use of the Ewing jet to make his escape? Isn’t he afraid J.R. and Bobby will have police waiting to arrest him when he lands? When the field crew goes looking for Gillis’s hidden-in-plain-sight bombs, why don’t they find them? How long does it take to scour an oil field, anyway?

When the field finally goes up in flames, the special effects are spectacularly fake, but I don’t get too worked up about that. After all, this production is by Lorimar, not Lucasfilm.

Besides, by the time Gillis hits the detonator, my willingness to suspend my disbelief has long since disappeared.

Grade: C


Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Patrick Duffy, Trouble at Ewing 23

Pain at the pumps


Season 4, Episode 8

Airdate: December 19, 1980

Audience: 26.3 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Louie Elias

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Miss Ellie welcomes Ray. Donna tells him she’s dating Cliff. Pam’s detective finds evidence her mother didn’t die. A disgruntled employee threatens to blow up Ewing 23 if Bobby doesn’t meet his ransom demands. J.R.’s security guards shoot the worker, who detonates the explosives before dying.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Michael Bell (Les Crowley), Ray Colbert (Gillis), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), John Furlong (airport manager), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Laurence Haddon (Franklin Horner), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Richard Herd (John Mackey), Susan Howard (Donna Culver), Sherril Lynn Katzman (Jackie), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Warren Vanders (Harry Owens)

“Trouble at Ewing 23” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.


  1. Dallas is not so great in the action department as it is in the drama and at times melodrama I’ve noticed. lol. I can’t believe Donna started dating Cliff, but I’m getting there.

    • It’s a short-lived romance, thank goodness. On paper, it makes a lot of sense to pair Cliff and Donna, but Susan Howard and Steve Kanaly’s chemistry just can’t be beat.

  2. Lady G. says:

    Actually, I noticed that Gillis just says he wants a Jet, but he doesn’t specify Ewing. It’s Bobby who tells J.R on the phone to get the ‘Ewing jet’ ready. But either way Gillis was a fool to think he’d get away scott free. Does he even know how to fly a jet? He was just going to hold the pilot hostage? :p I believe the bombs were found, and Bobby mentions that the police can’t do anything because they don’t have a bomb squad. But they should of at least had Ray discover one of those huge things. I guess they didn’t need to keep searching after the proof was in the tool shed explosion.

    • The plot holes in that episode are big enough to fly a jet through. The other thing I couldn’t figure out: Who played Gillis? I scoured the credits and and couldn’t figure out which actor was him.

      • Lady G. says:

        That’s a frustrating thing about shows, you sometimes get an integral character and then have no idea who they are because they are usually bit players.

    • This is excellent Lady G. It seems the whole thing was a blast about nothing. I don’t blame J.R. for shutting down Ewing 23. He had executive authority to do it.

    • Dan in WI says:

      No the bombs were never found. The throw away line about the lack of a bomb squad was the excuse used for not mounting an effective search to find them… Whatever.

  3. Margaret Krebbs says:

    What did you think about the scene when Donna drives up to Ray’s new house to tell him she is involved with Cliff?

  4. Best quote:
    Franklin the banker, confused and speaking to J.R.: “I don’t understand”
    J.R.’s retort: “I know you don’t Franklin, that’s why I’m richer than you are.”
    BURN!!!…man Hagman must’ve had a ball playing ‘ol J.R….love it.

    • Yes! I agree. Great scene. I loved how J.R. messed with his bankers (Franklin, Vaughn, etc.).

      • I guess this episode was intended to show that JR wanted to beat Bobby even if other people got hurt or his actions hurt Ewing oil in general. I liked Donna and Cliff in this episode. It was nice to have a minor romance that wasn’t a big epic deal. Those romances are so common in real life but not in Dallas. I was worried that Bobby was putting people’s lives in danger by not calling in the authorities immediately. It seemed fool hardy to have the workers looking for the bomb. Isn’t that what bomb squads are for? I wonder if this episode inspired the bomb on the rig on TNT Dallas?

      • Good question about this episode and the rig explosion in the TNT episode “Ewings Unite!” Perhaps this could be good fodder for my “Dallas Parallels.”

  5. Dan in WI says:

    Plot holes aside, nobody wins in this episode. Bobby is set back at the loss of this field. He now has to replace this production to keep the refinery working at capicity. He has all those contract to honor and in theory this should be a major problem for him. I can’t remember off the top of my head if that is ever explored or not in subsequent episodes.
    But JR loses here too. Yes he undermines Bobby but at great personal cost. Even if you are watching this for the firs time you have to know JR will regain the presidency at some point. So this is now a resource that will hamper him when that happens. Yes in the near term JR doesn’t want this field producing because Cliff profits from it. But you would have to think someone as devious as JR he would have eventually found a way out from under that limitation. But now that it is nothing but scortched earth the reserves aren’t useful to him either anymore.

  6. May Jayston says:

    scene on the trailer park was nicely done . It was a recurring theme in the show that Bobby always got crucified for JR’S miss deeds . The kidnapping in season 2 was intended for JR and then latter on in Bobby’s return season he has to face up to one of the many economic victims of Ewing oil . The final season of course the most tragic of them all . JR never really got reckoned with by any of his blue collar victims the wrath was always blown on to Bobby . I guess Patrick did the put upon Martyr so perfectly .Lovely porch scene between Susan and Steve .


  1. […] episodic television can be, one week after “The Fourth Son” debuted, “Dallas” gave us “Trouble at Ewing 23,” which is easily me least-favorite Season 4 entry. I never know what’s worst: the cringe-inducing […]

  2. […] “Trouble at Ewing 23,” a fourth-season “Dallas” episode, Ray (Steve Kanaly) finds Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) with […]

  3. […] and operates the store, plans to sell 23 buckles in honor of Ewing 23, the oil field that famously blew up on the original […]

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