Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 70 – ‘Lover, Come Back’

Tracks of her tears

Tracks of her tears

“Lover, Come Back” is an episode about reunions. Sue Ellen discovers Dusty is alive and rushes to his side, Ray and Donna get back together and J.R. returns to the cartel. All three stories require a healthier-than-usual suspension of disbelief.

Dusty’s return is the most fantastical, of course. At the end of “Dallas’s” third season, Sue Ellen learned Dusty died in a plane crash. In “Lover, Come Back,” after some Nancy Drew-style sleuthing, Sue Ellen finds out Dusty survived the accident but is now confined to a wheelchair; the body found in the wreckage belonged to one of his ranch hands.

Today’s audiences might find the character’s return from the dead clichéd, but Linda Gray brings so much conviction to Sue Ellen’s weepy reunion with Dusty – and charismatic Jared Martin is such a welcome presence on “Dallas” – I’m willing to overlook it.

Both actors are especially wonderful in the episode’s touching final scene, when Dusty sends Sue Ellen away because he believes he can’t make her happy as long as he’s paralyzed. Everything here works, particularly scriptwriter Leonard Katzman’s beautiful dialogue (“Don’t make me see myself every day in your eyes.”) and Martin’s stoic delivery. This is good old-fashioned soap opera, right down to the tight close-up of Gray’s tear-streaked face.

Surprisingly, the reunion of Ray and Donna, who are usually “Dallas’s” most down-to-earth couple, feels less credible. In “Lover, Come Back,” he asks her to persuade Miss Ellie to drop her fight against the Takapa development. Donna gets righteous, Ray gets angry, their argument turns passionate and the next thing you know, she is waking up to his marriage proposal, which she accepts on the spot. How efficient!

But the real eye roller comes when J.R. summons the cartel members to his office, just as Hank phones to announce the Asian coup succeeded and the nationalized oil wells will be returned to their rightful owners. The cartel members are gleeful – J.R. even gets a kiss from Marilee, who sued the Ewings at the beginning of the season because she blamed J.R. for her husband’s suicide – and Leslie later compliments him on a job well done.

“I do have my moments, don’t I?” he responds.

Yes, J.R., you do. But this isn’t one of them.

Grade: B


Together again

Together again


Season 4, Episode 16

Airdate: February 20, 1981

Audience: 27.1 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Leonard Katzman

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: Sue Ellen learns Dusty is alive but he doesn’t want her back because he’s paralyzed. Ray and Donna get engaged. J.R. is welcomed back into the cartel when the Asian coup succeeds and the oil wells are “denationalized.”

Cast: Robert Ackerman (Wade Luce), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Len Birman (Claude Brown), Claudia Bryar (cleaning lady), Jeff Cooper (Dr. Simon Elby), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Joel Fabiani (Alex Ward), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Susan Flannery (Leslie Stewart), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Ron Hayes (Hank Johnson), Susan Howard (Donna Culver), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Sherrill Lynn Katzman (Jackie), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), Leigh McCloskey (Mitch Cooper), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Paul Sorensen (Andy Bradley), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Martin West (Phil McKenna), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson)

“Lover, Come Back” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.


  1. J.R.Ewing says:

    It’s a hell of a thing for even J.R. to do, finance a military operation that topples a government and I presume kills many people in the process. Whoever heard of wars being fought over oil? J.R. obviously went on to influence many of the worlds governments!

  2. Just wanted to say how much I enjoy your critiques and how in a roundabout way, you’ve made me appreciate this episode as never before (even if our reactions to it, and the episode of Knots Landing that originally aired the previous evening, are completely different – but that’s just part of the fun)! I’ve posted about your role in my “conversion” here, seventh paragraph down:

    • James, thank you so much for your comment. I’m glad I was able to help you “come around” to “Lover, Come Back.” I have great affection for old-fashioned soap opera, and this episode does a really nice honoring those traditions.

      Allow me to compliment you: Your writing is terrific! I just read through some of your criticisms and found them thoughtful and insightful. I love how you compare and contrast each episode of the early ’80s nighttime soaps. This is a fantastic concept for a stand-alone blog.

      I look forward to reading more of your writing. Thank you for alerting me to it.


      • Cheers Chris, that’s really nice of you to say!

      • Garnet McGee says:

        I’ve never seen the episodes that come after this one but I wish they had written the Leslie character as being a little smarter. I think she could have gotten JR to brag that he was behind the revolution if she had pretended not to believe that he was powerful. He might have been gullible enough to fall for that kind of deception because of his wounded male ego. The Dusty/Sue Ellen reunion was very soapy but I was fine with it. She needs a man who truly loves her and I love Dusty. I wish they had really filmed the reunion in Denton. I would have loved to have seen the courthouse on the square. That Clayton Farlow is a fine specimen if I do say so myself. Wow! I never realized Howard Keel was so sexy! No wonder he catches Ellie’s eye. The first time Dusty/Sue Ellen met he said that the Farlows were his mother’s people because Sue Ellen said “isn’t southern cross owned by the Wayne’s” or something like that. Am I wrong?

      • Garnet, it sounds like we’re on the same page here. I like Dusty too, but his dad is the man to watch. Let’s hear it for Clayton Farlow.

      • Dan in WI says:

        It can’t be allowed to get lost in the shuffle this is in fact the debut of Dallas’ definitive southern gentleman: Clayton Farlow.
        Howard Keel took what must have been intended to be a short term recurring role and really turned it into something. He might be second only to Hagman in stealing the show and making the writers shift their focus from the original idea.

      • Great observation, Dan. Thanks.

  3. A great little scene in this episode, and a great miss (of a big scene)

    the great little scene should be learned in all journalist’s school for everyone wich pretend to write about the saga : Pam visiting Cliff.
    In the beginning, we saw Cliff drinking alcohol. They talk about the nomination of Bobby for the seat Cliff wanted.
    Cliff cornered “the market of self-pity” and his sister said “you’ll always be a loser”.

    But at the end of the scene, alone, on the balcony, Cliff throw the glass and stop to drink. He was hurt, he loses, but he was NOT a loser.

    The great miss is the scene thant we know about only by Jock told it to Ray : JR, “happy as a child”, learning his father than Ewing Oil is OK with the Cartel again.

    We never saw, if my memory is good, a scene were Jock is deeply proud about JR. And those silly scenarist miss it. Sad !


  1. […] “Dallas’s” fourth-season episode “Lover, Come Back,” Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) is preparing to leave Dusty (Jared Martin) for the […]

  2. […] Ellen (Linda Gray) finds Dusty (Jared Martin) again in this 1981 publicity shot from “Lover, Come Back,” a fourth-season “Dallas” episode. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  3. […] Sue Ellen, who is depressed when this episode begins because Dusty sent her away at the end of the previous installment. She visits Dr. Elby, who declares her willingness to let Dusty go is a sign of personal growth. […]

  4. […] dialogue isn’t quite as poetic as the couple’s previous farewell in the fourth-season entry “Lover, Come Back.” I also like “Starting Over’s” shot of J.R., lying alone in his shadowy New York City hotel […]

  5. […] Here’s the coat Sue Ellen wears when she discovers Dusty Farlow is still alive. I remember watching this scene when I was a kid and thinking you were […]

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