Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 75 – ‘New Beginnings’

War and remembrance

War and remembrance

Sometimes “Dallas” is more than entertaining – it’s damn near magical. This happens when everything that goes into making the show – the writing, the acting, the music and so on – comes together in ways that are so pitch-perfect, you can’t help but feel you’re witnessing something special. The final scene in “New Beginnings” is one of these moments.

It begins when J.R. comes home late and finds Sue Ellen asleep in John Ross’s darkened nursery, having dozed off while rocking him. She awakens and helps J.R. put the boy in his crib, and then the couple moves into their bedroom, where they reminisce about their courtship.

The exchange that follows is extraordinary. J.R. and Sue Ellen spend much of their lives at war with each other, but in this scene we finally see them take off their armor, which director Irving J. Moore symbolizes by putting Linda Gray in a bathrobe and having Larry Hagman remove his suit jacket and necktie as they deliver their dialogue.

The conversation itself, written by Arthur Bernard Lewis, paints a lovely picture of what J.R. and Sue Ellen were like when their love was new. With Richard Lewis Warren’s soft piano music playing in the background, we listen to J.R. describe seeing Sue Ellen for the first time, during the Miss Texas beauty pageant, and we envision how poised she must have looked on that stage. We then hear Sue Ellen recall how “frightened” she was when J.R. brought her to Southfork to meet Jock and Miss Ellie, and we imagine a sweeter, shyer Sue Ellen walking into that big house on the arm of a younger, beaming J.R.

Lewis’s dialogue is also poetic in the way it captures the unique qualities Hagman and Gray bring to their roles. Here’s how Sue Ellen remembers J.R.’s eyes: “They always seemed to be hiding secrets. Things you knew about the world that no one else knew.” And here’s how he recalls her beauty pageant performance: “All those pretty young girls were prancing around and trying to look sexy. And then, there you were, Sue Ellen. Not trying to do anything. Just looking more sexy than any of them. And you had something else. You looked like a lady.” Have better descriptions of these characters ever been written?

It’s also worth considering the context in which J.R. and Sue Ellen’s conversation takes place. Earlier in “New Beginnings,” J.R. visits Leslie’s apartment, where he vows to end his marriage so he can make Leslie his new wife. “I’m filing against Sue Ellen,” he says. Do hearing the words aloud prompt the nostalgic wave that engulfs J.R. at the end of the episode?

And what is Sue Ellen’s frame of mind at the end of “New Beginnings”? In the episode’s first act, Clint’s wife Alisha tells Sue Ellen she is willing to share her husband if that’s what it takes to hold onto him. The conversation leads a guilty Sue Ellen to break up with Clint, but does Alisha’s devotion also inspire Sue Ellen to give her own marriage another chance?

This is what makes the final moments of “New Beginnings” so heartbreaking. Just when it seems like J.R. and Sue Ellen are about to reignite their old spark, the phone rings. She answers and after hearing the voice on the other end, we see her face fall and her posture stiffen. “It’s Kristin, calling from California,” Sue Ellen announces somberly. “She just gave birth to a baby boy. You have another son.”

What a punch to the gut! The words remind us that the past doesn’t just hold memories for J.R. and Sue Ellen to cherish – it also holds mistakes that will haunt them forever.

Grade: A

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Wake-up call

Wake-up call

‘NEW BEGINNINGS’

Season 4, Episode 21

Airdate: April 10, 1981

Audience: 23.3 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: Jock and Miss Ellie depart for a second honeymoon. Sue Ellen ends her affair with Clint after his wife confronts her. Jeremy vows revenge when J.R. backs out of his promise to sell him Ewing Oil. Cliff sleeps with Afton and pumps her for information about J.R. Kristin calls Sue Ellen and tells her she’s given birth to J.R.’s son.

Cast: Tyler Banks (John Ross Ewing), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Stephanie Braxton (Alisha Ogden), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Richard Derr (Howard), Patrick Duffy (Senator Bobby Ewing), Susan Flannery (Leslie Stewart), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Culver Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Sherril Lynn Katzman (Jackie), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Monte Markham (Clint Ogden), Leigh McCloskey (Mitch Cooper), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), William Smithers (Jeremy Wendell), Craig Stevens (Greg Stewart), Christopher Stone (Dave Stratton), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson)

“New Beginnings” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. Great episode. As usual I so agree with your critique. That ending scene is one of those terribly wonderful JR and Sue Ellen scenes. It stands the test of time. 30+ years later and it still is emotional to watch.

  2. I can’t remember if I’ve said this already, but I agree this episode was really good, especially for J.R. and Sue Ellen’s poignant scene. It’s what made me realize they really do love each other, as messed up as that is. It makes the whole thing–every other ridiculous, madcap things they do to each other–believable.

    • I agree! This scene should be required viewing for every “Dallas” fan. It helps put J.R. and Sue Ellen’s whole relationship in context.

      • Garnet McGee says:

        I still can’t root for JR and Sue Ellen as a couple but must agree that scene was brilliant. I really was surprised the call was from Kristen. That surprise shot where we see Leslie go to the bed where her ex-husband is waiting reminded me of the last scene of Dallas TNT when we see John Ross go into the hotel room and are surprised to see Emma there. The pace of the last episodes of the season remind me of Dallas TNT’s pace and style. All the stories start coming together and they move a lot faster. Some great lines too: the same reason you do anything power.” The seeds of the evil Cliff are here in these episodes.

      • Ooh, I like the parallel you draw between Leslie and her ex-husband and John Ross and Emma. Both are nifty twists, aren’t they?

  3. kirksroom says:

    Two questions which worried every Dallas fan were answered in last week’s episode: Will Jock and Miss Ellie divorce? and What will Bobby’s vote be, and will it tear apart the family even more? We are now left with 2 more worrisome questions as this episode begins: Will J.R. divorce Sue Ellen to marry Leslie? and Will Sue Ellen divorce J.R. to marry Clint? On tonight’s episode, one of those questions was answered. It is the second one.

    As with both of the questions which were answered on last week’s episode, the answer is no. Everything remains the same. Nothing changes. Although we are still left wondering Will J.R. divorce Sue Ellen to marry Leslie? The answer will probably be “No,” we think, but then we see a scene in the intro where he holds wine glasses with Leslie. Slightly taken aback, Leslie tells J.R. that “the break-up of a marriage is hardly anything to celebrate”. J.R. replies “No, but a man alone next to his future wife is certainly a reason to celebrate.” Then we begin to wonder. Then later in the episode, J.R. actually proposes to Leslie and states he plans to serve Sue Ellen divorce papers soon, but rest assured, the show brings a new factor into play. Leslie tells him she is not ready to marry him and wishes them to wait longer, then as soon as he leaves, she walks into the other room where her ex-husband lies in bed. They laugh over how she fooled J.R., her ex-husband laughing, “I think he might actually divorce his wife”.

    This is something to note. Dallas may have answered 3 questions, but nevertheless, the new factors which come into play in this episode are numerous.

    The episode starts off calmly with the resolution of the Takopa storyline as the Ewings have a party to celebrate Jock and Miss Ellie’s continuing marriage before they go off
    on their second honeymoon (so they likely won’t be in the show for a while). But the new factors start near immediately as Sue Ellen receives a phone call during the party. It is from a woman who tells her she is “Alisha Ogden, Clint’s wife.” The tension begins as we suspect that Sue Ellen’s affair has been discovered. They arrange to meet at a restaurant. The tension is high during this meeting, but Alisha is calm. She tells Sue Ellen that she was so thankful when Clint had finally ended his relationship with Sue Ellen, stopped contact with her, and married herself. She tells Sue Ellen that she does not believe she can stop their relationship, and that she is willing to share Clint “just to keep him from leaving me”. Sue Ellen replies that “I would think that you would want to leave him”, but Alisha tells her she would never do that. Shocked, Sue Ellen asks how she can live knowing her husband is having an affair. Her reply is simple. “I love him.”

    Here is a woman you cannot help but sympathize with. She has waited so long to marry him, and felt so happy when he stopped seeing Sue Ellen and married her, and now to see the man she loves so much start an affair with her behind her back. Yet she does not hate him for it. She loves him non-judgmentally, and is willing to let the affair continue just so that man she loves will not leave her, for this is her biggest fear, that he will divorce her to marry Sue Ellen.

    Sue Ellen is not heartless. She, too, is taken aback with sympathy for Alisha. She calls Clint and asks to meet with him. At the meeting, she tells Clint that she does not feel right breaking up his marriage, and ends their relationship, leaving with a heartfelt “Goodbye, Clint.” “Goodbye, Sue Ellen,” Clint replies sadly, but acceptingly. Both are heartbroken. Clint was her first love, and so it would seem, the best man for her to marry. What Sue Ellen did was probably right, however, for Clint planned to divorce Alisha that night. Imagine that pitiful scene. Alisha dropping on her hands and knees weeping, begging Clint not to leave her, telling him that she is willing to share him. Sue Ellen is not truly a bad person at all. No matter how much she loves Clint and would be happy married to him, she will not allow this scene to take place.

    Now that that question has been answered, there is something else we wonder at, although not one that seemed very pressing. Will Cliff discover proof of J.R.’s involvement in the South-East Asia counter-revolution? The answer comes brilliantly when Cliff meets Afton in the nightclub he frequents so often. They sleep together, and in the morning, the topic turns to J.R. Afton tells Cliff that J.R. broke up with her because she didn’t understand his business matters. She tells Cliff that “he was always on the phone with people from foreign countries with funny names”. You can see the look of stunned shock and glee on Cliff’s face. He asks if any of the phone calls were from South-East Asia. She replies that “I think so”. We cannot help but enjoy this victory a little ourselves. Dave may be withholding information from Cliff and reporting all their conversations to J.R., but now Cliff has found out via a completely different way, and J.R. is not likely to discover that he has learned.

    But now we get to the primary issue we worried about at the ending of last week’s episode. Now that Jock and Miss Ellie have gotten back together, will J.R. end up selling Ewing Oil needlessly? We see J.R. has been dodging Jeremy’s calls until finally he is forced to schedule a meeting with him. At this meeting, Jeremy reminds J.R. he promised to sell the company even if Jock and Miss Ellie got back together, but J.R. tells him he has not gotten Jock to sign the papers and he and J.R. have decided to keep the company in the family “indefinitely”. Naturally, Jeremy is infuriated that J.R. has broken his word and left him to explain this to the East Star Oil board. Later, he calls a meeting with Dave where he tells Dave to give Cliff all the East-Asia counter revolution papers so that he can lead an investigation into Ewing Oil, which will create a scandal so large J.R. may be imprisoned. A new factor has definitely come into play.

    The final scene finds Sue Ellen reminiscing with J.R. about the beginning of their relationship and finally asks why it cannot be the way it was then. No sooner has she said this than the phone rings. She picks it up and has a very brief conversation before hanging it up. A look of shock is on her face. She tells J.R.: “It’s Kristin, calling from California. You have another son.”

    And so ends a very exciting episode of Dallas. I must say I enjoyed it,

    This leaves but one question in the viewers’ mind: What will become of Sue Ellen next? She appears to have resigned herself to spending her days as a mother to John Ross, something she evidently feels guilty for neglecting. There is a heart-jerking scene at the end where she

Trackbacks

  1. […] Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 75 – ‘New Beginnings’ […]

  2. […] Davis makes his last appearance as Jock in “Dallas’s” 75th hour, “New Beginnings,” but it’s more of a cameo than anything else. His final, “real” performance comes at the end […]

  3. […] one of these scenes qualifies for “best of” honors, but my sentimental favorite remains the “New Beginnings” moment when J.R. and Sue Ellen reminisce about their courtship. Next to J.R. and Bobby’s sibling […]

  4. […] 2. Reminiscing. After a long day at work, J.R. comes home and finds Sue Ellen asleep in John Ross’s nursery, having dozed off while rocking him. She awakens and helps J.R. put the boy in his crib, and then the couple moves into their bedroom, where they recall their courtship. The dialogue beautifully captures the unique qualities Hagman and Gray bring to their roles. (Sue Ellen on J.R.’s eyes: “They always seemed to be hiding secrets. Things you knew about the world that no one else knew.”) The conversation also reminds us J.R. is not a hateful man. He loves many people, and none more than Sue Ellen. Theirs is the greatest – and most complicated – romance Texas has ever known. (“New Beginnings”) […]

  5. […] the fourth-season “Dallas” episode “New Beginnings,” J.R. and Sue Ellen recall their meeting at the Miss Texas beauty pageant, where he was a judge and […]

  6. […] unloved at some point? There were other flashes of J.R.’s softer side, like the time he recalled falling in love with Sue Ellen and the tears he shed at Bobby’s burial. But nothing made J.R. more relatable than […]

  7. […] Southfork nursery, having dozed off while rocking John Ross. The couple put their son to bed and retreat to their own room, where they quietly reminisce about the early days of their courtship, reminding […]

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