Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 76 – ‘Full Circle’

Look Mom, no grudges

Look Mom, no grudges

The famous scene from “Full Circle” – when Cliff tearfully offers his estranged mother a bowl of licorice, her favorite candy – is one of my earliest “Dallas” memories. I was 7 when this episode debuted, and I remember watching it and feeling sorry for Cliff. All these years later, the moment still moves me.

Ken Kercheval has called Cliff and Rebecca’s reconciliation his favorite “Dallas” scene, and it’s easy to see why he likes it. Kercheval is always fascinating to watch, but during the course of this four-and-a-half-minute sequence, he’s called upon to convey a whole spectrum of emotion: from nervousness to rage to mercy. The actor hits every note with precision.

The most impressive part of Kercheval’s performance might be how he seems to avoid looking at Priscilla Pointer. When I interviewed Kercheval in the summer, he talked about another of his favorite scenes – this one with Barbara Bel Geddes – and mentioned how helpful it is for actors to maintain eye contact so they can take “cues” from each other. Kercheval doesn’t appear to do that with Pointer during the “licorice scene.” This probably made the performance more challenging, but it lends the scene power. Seeing how difficult it is for Cliff to look Rebecca in the eye helps us realize how hard it is for him to face the truth about her shortcomings.

Michael Preece’s direction here is terrific – I especially like how he has Kercheval jump to his feet when Cliff calls out Rebecca’s sins – as well as Bruce Broughton’s lush score, which swells when mother and son finally embrace.

Then there’s Arthur Bernard Lewis’s clever dialogue. At the end of the scene, Lewis could have given Kercheval a straightforward line to signal Cliff’s last-minute change of heart – something like, “Wait, Mom, don’t go” – but instead, Lewis has Cliff offer her the licorice. Why? I think the line achieves two things: Having Cliff refer to candy – something so closely associated with childhood – reminds us how long it’s been since he last saw Rebecca. More importantly, the licorice symbolizes how Cliff in many ways is still the wounded little boy whose mother abandoned him.

If any other character was given a line like this (imagine J.R. or Bobby saying it), it might seem childish, but with Cliff, it’s flat-out moving. Cliff is the most revenge-prone character in “Dallas” history, yet for once in his life, he’s willing to set aside his animus. This is a moment of genuine growth for Cliff.

I also love the “Full Circle” sequence where Preece’s camera follows Mary Crosby’s legs as Kristin marches across a hotel lobby to Bruce Broughton’s jaunty score. This is a fun scene, but it’s also a little prophetic: The confidence in Crosby’s stride makes her look buoyant – and as we now know, this won’t be the last time we see Kristin float.

Grade: A


Walk to remember

Walk to remember


Season 4, Episode 22

Airdate: April 17, 1981

Audience: 24.4 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Michael Preece

Synopsis: Cliff forgives Rebecca and presents Bobby’s committee with evidence linking J.R. to the counter-revolution in Asia. Kristin returns and extorts money from Jordan Lee, who believes he is the father of her newborn son. Sue Ellen runs into Dusty, who is learning to walk again. Pam is devastated to learn she cannot bear children. Lucy leaves Mitch.

Cast: Tyler Banks (John Ross Ewing), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Ellen Bry (Jean), Gerald Castillo (Luis Hernandez), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Patrick Duffy (Senator Bobby Ewing), Susan Flannery (Leslie Stewart), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), John Hart (Senator Carson), David Healy (Senator Harbin), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Sherril Lynn Katzman (Jackie), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), Leigh McCloskey (Mitch Cooper), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), John Randolph (Lincoln Hargrove), William Smithers (Jeremy Wendell), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Christopher Stone (Dave Stratton), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Jay Varela (Senator Arvilla), Joseph Warren (Senator Dickson), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson)

“Full Circle” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.


  1. Yet another episode that made me pull out the hankies. I don’t remember too much of what else went on here, but the entire ‘licorice’ scene is embedded in my brain. Great observations, I agree with all of them. The licorice is the only thing that binds them. Funny that it’s black licorice, that stuff tastes like crude oil!

    • Ha ha! That never occurred to me! My experience with licorice is limited to Twizzlers.

      • Garnet McGee says:

        It is fun to see Pamela with baby John Ross. Usually they call her Pam but when she was called Pamela while she was holding John Ross it reminded me of John Ross’ future bride. Their romance has to be kismet. Maybe he imprinted on that name from infancy. I cried during the mother/son reunion.

      • John Ross imprinting — love it! Does this make him a werewolf?

  2. kirksroom says:

    “These documents will prove that there is a direct cause-and-effect link between the overthrow of a legitimate government in a foreign country…. and J.R. Ewing of Dallas, Texas.”
    – Cliff Barnes

    This episode featured a vast array of plots. It resurrects 2 storylines from the dead, with 4 others to boot. The excitement certainly leaves us waiting for what will no doubt be a very exciting season finale as J.R.’s illegal affairs begin to conme to light in what will plunge Ewing Oil into a scandal.

    I must say it was a pleasure to watch Cliff so close to winning. Sure, J.R. may be the good guy, but I have always been prone to sympathize with the bad guy, and maybe Cliff deserves to win. Either way, I cannot help but enjoy how close his victory is. Dave has switched sides, giving Cliff all available papers on the South-East Asian counter revolution while assuring J.R. that Cliff knows nothing.

    And, being the legal counsel of a senator, Cliff knows who he can show the papers to. First, he shows them to the senate committee, which does provoke anger from Bobby, who accuses him of taking the job as his legal counsel only to find some way to incriminate J.R., and says Cliff should have shown him the papers prior to the senate committee. Cliff reminds him that he could be incriminated if he had had prior knowledge of the papers, and if J.R. has broken the law, why should he not have shown the committee the papers?

    And J.R. certainly has broken the law. He collapsed a foreign government for pure monetary gain. And finally his illegal dealings have come back to bite him in the butt. And so we feel some desire, shared by Cliff and Jeremy, to see Ewing Oil destroyed by scandal. However, there is one thing that keeps up from sympathizing too much with Cliff. We have no idea why he hates J.R. Afton herself wonders at this when he informs her of his scheme. “Why do you hate J.R. so much?” she asks. Cliff starts the story: “On a cold, rainy night…. I may just tell you.” Perhaps if we did know why Cliff hates J.R. so much, we would feel more sympathy towards him. Let us hope this secret is revealed soon.

    The committee, however, has decided to postpone any investigation due to Bobby’s close involvement with it. However, all hope for Cliff Barnes is not lost, for Bobby does suspect J.R. of breaking the law and confronts him over this. J.R. assures Bobby that “nothing’s gonna happen”, knowing how incompetent Cliff is. And to be fair, Cliff has not proved himself non-incompetent on scheming against J.R. While he did get information out of Afton successfully and connivingly, he could not have done anything without evidence. And the papers were given to him without any personal effort on his part to obtain them. But J.R. is wrong when he asserts that “nothing’s gonna happen”. As Bobby reminds him, an investigation could begin again at any moment, and we know Bobby. He suspects J.R. of collapsing the government, and he will likely vote for an investigation.

    Besides that, J.R.’s illegal dealings will not go un-known by all, for Cliff has shown reporters the papers and informed them of the coup. And it gets on the front page of the newspaper the next morning, so who knows? Perhaps Ewing Oil will be destroyed by scandal and J.R. will be arrested. It definitely doesn’t look good for him, although the season finale definitely looks good to viewers right now.

    But the way I go on, you would think that’s all that happened in this episode, wouldn’t you? Even after I’ve told you it resurrects 2 storylines from the dead, with 4 others to boot, which leaves 3.

    How about we deal with the one which left most viewers wondering. What will happen to Sue Ellen now? Dusty has no desire to pursue a relationship with her. She’s ended her relationship with Clint. Will a third man enter the picture? If so, this would seem cheesy and an unnecessary way to prolong her storylines. But at the same time, we must prolong them, mustn’t we? After all, she has to do something. But would anyone really care about her relationship with a third man? No matter what the show does, it can’t win. And it doesn’t. Because here’s what it does. It brings back Dusty. That’s right. You heard me. It brings back Dusty.

    She ends her relationship with Dusty, she goes back to Clint, she ends her relationship with Clint, she goes back to Dusty. How long will this pattern go on? What excuse will the show have for bringing back Clint, I wonder? This is truly one of Dallas’s worst moments, just barely topped by the Jock-and-Miss Ellie reconciliation in the final scene of Ewing vs. Ewing. But the show really had almost no choice. They had to do something with Clint and Sue Ellen’s relationship; and I won’t deny the break-up of their relationship was done well. But they could have had Clint actually divorce Alisha and marry Sue Ellen. But they chose to have their relationship end. And thus the circle continues.

    But wait a minute. Why has Dusty returned? He was so ashamed of his impotence and confinement to a wheelchair he had no desire to resume a relationship with her. So why the hell is he coming back? Well, apparently, he really missed Sue Ellen, and he was so sad when she left that he leaped up and discovered he was able to walk a little again.

    All right, forget it. This storyline is one of Dallas’s least finest moments. But maybe that wasn’t exactly it. Maybe I misunderstood. And he does still need crutches, and can still hardly walk as it is. But I now announce to you that I no longer care what happens in their relationship.

    So what’s happening with J.R.’s relationship with Leslie? Well, I still have no idea what her agenda is. Jeremy invites her to dinner where he pumps her on the East-Asian scandal, but she refuses to tell him anything, stating that all her conversations are private. But then after the scandal is printed in the newspaper, she talks to Jeremy on the phone and tells him they may have mutual interests to discuss regarding Ewing Oil. What is her agenda? Let’s hope this question is answered in the next episode.

    By the way, J.R.’s getting close to marrying her now. We see him talking with a divorce attorney about leaving Sue Ellen. He asks about winning John Ross in the divorce settlement. The attorney informs him that he does not have much of a chance to win since the woman nearly always gets the kids. Normally, I hate that court prejudice, but in this example, I would whole-heartedly support giving John Ross to Sue Ellen. That unofficial rule was made for J.R. He insists, however, that if Sue Ellen took his son, “I’d kill her”. Don’t believe for one minute that this is because he loves John Ross. As he admitted previously, he can’t tell family and business apart. John Ross is just another asset to him.

    – J.R. says he would kill Sue Ellen if she took John Ross. Is this because he loves his son, or because he sees John Ross as a property, much akin to Ewing Oil? Probably the latter, considering his statement that he never could tell family and business apart.

    – I’m generally against the court’s biased rulings in favor of the mother in custody cases, but in J.R. and Sue Ellen’s case, I would fully support that decision.

    – What is Leslie’s agenda? She’s cheating on J.R. with her ex-husband and tells Jeremy they may have mutal interests concerning Ewing Oil, but she won’t reveal his illegal dealings to Dave.

    – I think J.R. suspects Leslie of reporting his illegal dealings to Dave. I have a feeling this will provoke a confrontation in the season finale, which may result in her relationship with J.R. ending.

    – How are we intended to be shocked that the feet are Kristin’s when we see this in the teaser?

    – I’m not saying it wasn’t a good twist, but I did suspect that Kristin wasn’t talking to J.R. on the phone.

    – Sue Ellen says she has stayed married to J.R. for John Ross. Is this her reasoning behind not leaving J.R. to marry (or date) Dusty and Clint? Would she have divorced J.R. if Clint had divorced Alisha?

    – How are we intended to be shocked that the feet are Kristin’s when we see this in the teaser?

    – I’m not saying it wasn’t a good twist, but I did suspect that Kristin wasn’t talking to J.R. on the phone.

    – I hope Cliff does tell Afton the story of his rivalry with J.R. someday. I’d really like to know it.

    – Was it really just yesterday that Cliff invited Pamela to dinner?

    – Pamela says Cliff is too frightened to have children, but I think he’s just such a creep no woman wants to bear his child.

    – Victoria Principal’s acting is so bad when she asks Cliff, “HOW CAN YOU IGNORE THAT?!”

    – I really feel bad for Bobby. I’d feel terrible if I found out I could never have a child. Not that I don’t feel sorry for Pamela, too, but it’s only natural that I identify with Bobby’s pain more.

    – Glad to see Lucy and Mitch are breaking up if it means we won’t have to deal with them anymore.

    • Kirksroom, thanks for your thorough review. Regarding your point about Kristin: I agree the show kind of ruined her big reveal by giving it away in the teaser, but I still think the sequence where she arrives in the hotel is pretty nifty.

  3. Bing’s little girl is all grown up here. Sublime legs. And she opened up her legs to both J.R. Ewing of Ewing Oil, I mean her own bro-in-law & Jordan Lee, President of Jordan Lee Oil & both men were sending her $2,000.00 a month each which she said “wasn’t enough & that she wanted more.” Then it turns out her Califor-ni-a druggie lover was the real daddy. I mean in this situation C.B., she’s a better manipulator than either gent! Haha!

  4. Great review of this episode especially the scene with Cliff and Rebecca. Ken Kercheval is incredible.


  1. […] “Dallas’s” fourth-season episode “Full Circle,” Cliff (Ken Kercheval), dressed in a three-piece suit, nervously straightens his apartment when […]

  2. […] (Mary Crosby) checks into a posh hotel in this 1981 publicity shot from “Full Circle,” a fourth-season “Dallas” episode. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  3. […] I first reunited with my mom [Rebecca Wentworth, played by Priscilla Pointer], I think, is my favorite […]

  4. […] sustained in a plane crash while waging corporate warfare against the Ewings. Favorite candy: black licorice. Played by Priscilla Pointer and Victoria Principal (in a […]

  5. […] to Jordan, telling him he was her child’s father – just so she could bilk him for hush money. (“Full Circle”) Buckle up, […]

  6. […] on Hagman, don’t overlook Ken Kerchval. He delivers his most moving performance since Cliff’s reunion with Rebecca at the end of the previous season. Kercheval is especially heartbreaking in the scene where Cliff […]

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