The Best & Worst of Dallas: Season 3

“Dallas’s” third season offers lots to celebrate – and a few things to curse.

Performances

Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing

Can’t touch this

Larry Hagman and Linda Gray do mighty impressive work in Season 3, but even they can’t touch Jim Davis and Barbara Bel Geddes. Since I began re-watching “Dallas,” the nicest discovery has been how good Davis is as Jock, especially in third-season episodes like “The Dove Hunt,” when he stares down rifle-wielding Tom Owens, and “Return Engagements,” when the humbled Ewing patriarch is a surprise guest at Gary and Valene’s wedding.

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Miss Ellie Ewing

This either

Meanwhile, Bel Geddes brings her trademark quiet strength to “Ellie Saves the Day” and “Return Engagements,” but the actress also shows us her character’s vulnerable side in “Mastectomy, Part 1” and “Mastectomy, Part 2,” the episodes that won Bel Geddes an Emmy. She earned the award, but I can’t help but think how much sweeter her victory would have been if the equally deserving Davis had been honored too.

Storylines

Choosing the season’s best narrative is tough – Sue Ellen’s struggle with motherhood and Ray and Donna’s tortured love story are each strong contenders – but J.R.’s risky Asian oil deal gets my vote for most compelling plot. This storyline isn’t about exploring J.R.’s business acumen as much as it is about delving into his psyche: By revealing how far the character is willing to go to build Ewing Oil (he mortgages Southfork!), the show lets us know J.R. is every bit as compulsive as Sue Ellen. She may be powerless over booze, but he’s addicted to his own ambition.

Least favorite storyline: Lucy becomes engaged to Alan Beam to spite J.R. Really, “Dallas”?

Episodes

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy

Save them, Mama

Choosing the third year’s finest hour is tough. A strong case can be made for “A House Divided,” the finale that famously ends with J.R. getting shot (for the second time this season, after he’s ambushed in “The Dove Hunt”). But my ultimate choice is “Ellie Saves the Day,” the poignant hour that brings the Ewing empire to the brink of collapse. If you want to understand why Bobby fought so hard to protect his mama’s legacy on TNT’s “Dallas,” watch this episode.

Worst third-season entry: “Power Play.” Lucy romances Alan at a roller disco, Kristin captures their canoodling with some artfully framed Polaroid snapshots and Jock starts jive talking. “You dig?” he asks Lucy at one point. Um, no big guy. We don’t.

Scenes

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Kristin Shepard, Larry Hagman, Mary Crosby

Gusher!

So many choices: I love when Patricia Shepard predicts John Ross’s future in “The Silent Killer,” the pep talk Bobby offers a worried Jock in “Ellie Saves the Day” and the “Paternity Suit” sequence where J.R. picks up his infant son for the first time. There’s also Miss Ellie’s encounter with phony-baloney Marilee Stone and Linda Bradley (also from “Paternity Suit”), as well as the lovely beach scene where Gary and Val make amends with Lucy, which occurred on “Knots Landing” but is too good to not mention here.

Ultimately, my favorite scene is the “Mother of the Year” sequence that mimics the rhythms of an oil strike. J.R. sits in his office, staring at his telephone, depressed because he hasn’t hit a gusher in Asia. Then the phones begin ringing as news of his big strike trickles in, leading to J.R.’s joyful eruption (“Yee-ha! We hit!”). Brilliant.

The season’s most ridiculous moment: when Kristin “accidentally” pours her drink into her sister’s lap during their “Divorce, Ewing Style” lunch date. Sue Ellen, how did you not know you were being set up?

Supporting Players

Dallas, Donna Culver, Susan Howard

The best, fur sure

Susan Howard, who was still a guest star during “Dallas’s” third season, is the best supporting player, hands down. This is the year Donna is torn between honoring the memory of her dead husband and beginning a new life with Ray – and the actress does a beautiful job conveying her character’s torment. Besides Patrick Duffy, no one delivers breathy, soul-searching dialogue better than Howard.

Costumes

Forget about the metaphorical value associated with the jeans the rebellious Sue Ellen wears in “Rodeo” and focus on how good Linda Gray looks in them. Get it, girl!

The green spandex pants Kristin wears in the same episode might be the season’s most dated costume, but I’ll confess: I kind of love it.

Music

I also love, love, love John Parker’s “I’ll Still Be Loving You,” which is heard at the end of “Rodeo,” when Ray finally calls Donna after ignoring her letters. The tune, which becomes another of Ray’s anthems, is rivaled only by Jerrold Immel’s theme as my favorite piece of “Dallas” music.

Quips

Best: “Once I heard you were back in town, I just had some of my friends check out some of the cheaper motels.” – J.R.’s greeting to Val in “Secrets.” I could watch Hagman and Joan Van Ark go at it all day.

Worst: “And when I didn’t get married, I thought I was gonna die. But instead, I went to college.” – Lucy recalling her romantic history to Alan Beam in “The Heiress.” Oh, “Dallas.” Charlene Tilton is such a charming actress. Why do you insist on giving her ridiculous lines?

What do you love and loathe about “Dallas’s” third season? Share your comments below and read more “Best & Worst” reviews.

Comments

  1. The worst of season 3 – the phony baloney Kristin. She couldn’t convince me even when she was pretending to be nice. I have to agree that Jock and Miss Ellie were stupendous. Mastectomy made me cry!

  2. I really loved the season, but I must admit I loathe Val. I can’t stand the way the actress does that shaky voice hands fluttery thing. Positively can’t stand her. I think your a little harsh about the Lucy storyline. I really like Donna, but Ray remained dull this season.

    • Thanks for commenting! I really love Charlene Tilton — she is one of the most charismatic actresses on the show — and enjoy Lucy’s storylines in other seasons, but not so much in Season 3. I love Donna too and your observation about Val is amusing — her hand fluttering is one of my favorite Joan Van Ark moves! Ha ha. I guess we all see things a little differently.

      Thank you again for your feedback. I appreciate it.

      Chris

  3. I REALLY love this season,specially “paternity suit” episode, the JR/John Ross scene is just perfect and has a speechless effect
    thanks for the analysis , really appreciate

  4. Great observations…I loved Hagman’s directorial efforts as well…and totally agree that him holding John Ross for the first time was fantastic without dialogue..gave me chills..
    The Asian oil storyline and J.R.’s rejection from, then manipulation of the cartel and Vaughn the Banker is CLASSIC. I used a summarized telling of this storyline to get my then-reluctant girlfriend (we’re both in our 30’s, but I’ve always loved Dallas, she’d never seen it) to give this “too old” a show a chance. (Verdict is still out..she loves J.R. but is having an issue with some of the dated aspects of the show)
    My favourite line this year goes to Mr. Davis. First off, let me say – I love Jock. That dude knew how to be a man’s man. Old school tough. I wish he was MY Dad.
    In the scene when the Ewing’s are leaving court after Jock’s bail hearing, they are surrounded by the hounding press…Smithfield gives some laywer-speak, J.R. and Bobby accuse Cliff, Smithfield jumps in again and all the while Jock just struts behind them, head held high, chin-up with that 10-gallon hat in stoic silence until a reporter asks him directly to comment …..”I’m mad as hell, Boy!” – END SCENE. THAT, to me is Jock’s guts/courage in one typically Davis-growled line. Perfect!
    I know it’s terrible, but watching J.R. mistreat Kristin is fun to watch. When he treats Sue-Ellen like that it makes me sorry for her (and for him actually, if that makes sense..think about it), but conniving Kristin derserves it and no-one delivers a degrading put-down or back-handed compliment with a shit-eating grin like Mr. Hagman!
    Love the website, I’m off to rewatch Season 4. Gotta find out “WHO SHOT J.R.!” wink wink.

  5. barbara fan says:

    love your updates and best and worst choices, Momma simply was the best – and so sadly lacking her warmth in any TNT Dallas

    • Thanks BF! I still have 11 more “Best & Worst” posts to write (seasons 4 through 14). I have a feeling BBG is going to be featured in a lot of “best” categories!

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