Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 73 – ‘The Gathering Storm’

Scene from a marriage

Scene from a marriage

I’ve always considered Charlene Tilton one of “Dallas’s” charismatic actresses, although I haven’t always been a fan of her character. In “The Gathering Storm,” Lucy stands up for herself in the face of husband Mitch’s sexism, which makes me want to stand up and cheer her on. This episode makes me love Lucy.

The character’s big moment comes in the second act, when Lucy comes home late after a lengthy photo shoot. Mitch is angry, not so much because his wife missed dinner, but because she now brings home a bigger paycheck than him.

“It’s not my money, and it’s not your money. It’s ours,” Lucy says. “What difference does it make who earns it?”

“It makes all the difference in the world,” Mitch snaps.

This is “The Gathering Storm’s” best scene, thanks to Tilton and Leigh McCloskey’s convincing performances and scriptwriter Robert J. Shaw’s realistic dialogue. Lucy and Mitch’s argument sounds like the kind of fight a real-life couple might have had in the early 1980s, when more women were moving into the work force and men like Mitch were learning to adjust.

I’m pretty sure “Dallas” wants us to “side” with Lucy during the argument, although the show goes out of its way to not vilify Mitch’s sexist attitude. In one scene, he says the reason he and Lucy are fighting is because they have “totally different values.” That’s true, but casting the character’s chauvinism as a “value” makes it seem nobler than it deserves.

Still, the dissolution of Mitch and Lucy’s marriage feels credible, based on what we know about these characters. This is true for Jock and Miss Ellie too. It’s difficult to watch them argue in “The Gathering Storm,” but I believe Ellie when she says she’s tired of Jock’s lack of sensitivity, just like I believe him when he expresses his frustration with her stubborn idealism.

Of course, the sadness I feel seeing Jock and Ellie separate is nothing compared to the pain that comes from watching Jim Davis’s performance in “The Gathering Storm.” The cancer-stricken actor’s health was deteriorating when this episode was filmed – and it shows. Like this episode’s title suggests, dark clouds are moving over “Dallas,” and not just in front of the camera.

Grade: B


Runaway husband

Runaway husband


Season 4, Episode 19

Airdate: March 27, 1981

Audience: 25 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Robert J. Shaw

Director: Michael Preece

Synopsis: The Takapa fight continues: Jock moves out of Southfork and J.R. offers to sell the company to rival oil baron Jeremy Wendell to prevent it from being dragged into his parents’ looming divorce. Cliff begins snooping into the counter-revolution in Asia and receives a visit from Rebecca, who doesn’t reveal she’s his mother.

Cast: Tyler Banks (John Ross Ewing), Cherie Beasley (Tootie Smith), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Ellen Bry (Jean Hallinan), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Senator Bobby Ewing), Susan Flannery (Leslie Stewart), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Morgan Hart (Jenny Smith), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Monte Markham (Clint Ogden), Leigh McCloskey (Mitch Cooper), Hortense Petra (Maggie) Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), William Smithers (Jeremy Wendell), Christopher Stone (Dave Stratton), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis)

“The Gathering Storm” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.


  1. One of the best episodes ever.

  2. barbara fan says:

    Barbara didnt need a script or words to convey her feelings, she is in a class all by herself and sad to think this is really the last we see “properly” of Jim davis – he didnt live long enough to enjoy his new found fame which is very sad.

  3. I remember really like Charlene Tilton in this episode and I really liked how she stood up to Mitch. Sure, she wasn’t easy to be with, but he treated her unfairly and I’m glad she got a good scene where that was acknowledged.

  4. This is a sad episode all around. But the wordless scene at the dining room table never ceases to amaze me. She says nothing but you still know everything she is thinking. It is about 2 minutes of silence but it speaks volumes.

    • Garnet McGee says:

      That dining room table scene was classic. Incredibly moving. I wondered if Jim was wearing a toupee because his hair looks different in this season and his skin has a different cast to it. In one scene it looked like he had bruises on his lip and face.

      I agree with Ellie that she doesn’t need to take anymore of this Ewing nonsense.

      • I wondered the same thing, Garnet. Jock’s hair and complexion aren’t quite right. But Jim Davis — my goodness, what a trouper! Bless him.

      • I saw an interview the other day — I think it was with Susan Howard? And she said he had lost his hair from the cancer treatment. If I ever figure out which video that was, I will post a link.

  5. kirksroom says:

    All the week prior to this episode, I thought about how stupid last episode’s cliffhanger was. After all, why would J.R. want to leave Sue Ellen for Leslie? She has done nothing except release an unauthorized statement on the company and ruin an important business deal. I was baffled in the opening scene where J.R. says to Sue Ellen, “Why did I ever marry you?” and Sue Ellen responds, “I believe at the time, it was the only way you could get me in bed.” And after that, he goes in and tells his son he’ll be spending a lot more time with him soon as his mother will be gone soon. This is shocking until you realize why he is going to leave Sue Ellen for Leslie. The only reason he married Sue Ellen was so he could get in bed with her, and he has not grown and progressed since then. This is the only (or at least, the main) reason he wants to leave her for Leslie, so he can get in bed with her.

    But that was not all of the episode’s plot. No. On the contrary, this episode was a menagerie of numerous plots and different things happening. Even for this show, it seemed excessive. But now we shall focus on Plot #2. This is the big plot, the major one which combines 2 other plots to it, or at least 2 other situations. Jock and Miss Ellie’s 45-year marriage which is being threatened by the Takopa deal differences. I am sure you think it is idiotic to ruin a 45-year marriage over something like this, but you must understand. Ray brings up the exact same point, but Donna (who has talked with Miss Ellie) tells him that Takopa was just the last straw, and made her realize how uncompatible they are.

    The Takopa Deal differences lead to Plot #3. Bobby has a week until the senate hearing (it was delayed) where he will be forced to vote for either his father’s side or his mother’s. This has been a main plot for the past few episodes, but it is barely given any time here, so it can hardly be called a plot, actually. Still, we shall call it Plot $3.

    Back to Plot #2. Jock and Miss Ellie have separated and are planning to divorce, which leads to Plot #4. J.R. realizes that if the divorce occurs, Ewing Oil will be split between them. When made aware of this situation, Jock tells his son that he would sell the company before letting his wife win half of it. This leads J.R. to sell the company to a larger oil company which shall hold it as a subsidiary, but otherwise it shall operate normally. He explains this situation to the buyer before asserting, “I’m here to sell you Ewing Oil”, which we already know and isn’t as big a deal as he makes it sound, but we needed a dramatic closing line, apparently.

    Plot #5 is of Pamela’s mother’s return into her daughter’s life, a development which Pamela finally informs her husband of. She wants to meet Cliff, but Pamela tells her that he had a hard time growing up without a mother and had to work hard to get through high school, college, and law school and may be resentful of her. Pamela is sure Cliff will forgive their mother if she tells him she is wealthy, but she does not wish Pamela’s mother to have to guess whether she is being taken advantage of or not. This leads to a development which, I will admit, was rather heart-wrenching, but still, I haven’t heard quite enough about this woman and gotten to know Cliff enough to get the full effect.

    Now we have Plot #6. Oh, boy. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a plot I would rather ignore. It seems thrown in for no reason other than to have another plot. It features black-sheep Gary’s daughter, Lucy, and her husband, Mitch. He is a man who has had to work hard for his meager amount of money only to marry a woman who is given the Miss Young Dallas spot purely due to her aunt (Pamela) having had an affair with the judge and does nothing but pose for photo shoots all day and receives massive amounts of money for it. As you can imagine, there is friction. He ends up having an argument with her, in which she mistakenly believes he does not wish her to earn money for the couple due to being sexist. Why does he not explain to her why he is angry? Overall, we, or at least, I don’t care about this storyline, which, seeing as how it is about Uncle Gary’s daughter, belongs on Knots Landing, anyway.

    But I did like the episode overall. However, it featured an overdose of plots and developments that confused me, including Plot #6, which I feel was unnecessary and may stop watching its future developments in the future. However, it is compelling and rather well-written. I award it a B.

    • I also think it is interesting that it was Jock and Ellie’s marital issues (and JRs fear on a potential power loss) that brings Jeremy Wendell into the story. JR created his own enemy.

    • Kirksroom, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen this episode, but I agree there’s a lot going on. I especially like the parallel you draw between J.R. marrying Sue Ellen to sleep with her and his desire to wed Leslie so he can bed her. Good observation. One correction, though: Pam didn’t have an affair with Alex Ward, the publisher who hired Lucy to be Miss Young Dallas. Well, it wasn’t a physical affair, at least. I suppose you could say it was an affair of the heart.

      Thanks for your comments.


    • Hmmm Kirksroom, must disagree with your assessment of Mitch and Lucy. “Does nothing but pose for photo shoots all day”? Modeling is not easy. Just keeping your energy at 100% throughout the shoot, would be exhausting. She’s earning that paycheck. Sorry but his attitude IS sexist, totally. He’s just pissed that his wife makes more money than he does.

      Also like someone else pointed out, Pam did not sleep with Alex Ward.

  6. Whether a person is gay or straight, or even bisexual/bicurious, there is C.B. the hunter instinct, particularly in men to screw & spread their seed. So I don’t see it as a fault of J.R., he desires sexual power above all b/c it keeps him virile in making the Ewing Oil Col. Ltd. of Dallas, Texas great. J.R.’s plot to try & offload Ewing Oil is genius b/c it tacitly has Jock’s endorsement & why would you want Ewing Oil to be split up, with half going to a wife who has nothing to do with running it!

  7. All this is very fascinating, but I wonder whose property is “Ewing Oil”? It seems that Jock is the owner of the company, and JR is only managing it, right? So how can JR to sell the company secretly from Jock?


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