Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 77 – ‘Ewing-Gate’

He done it?

He done it?

In “Ewing-Gate,” J.R. finally beds hard-to-get Leslie Stewart, but the experience turns out to be less than he expected. “It wasn’t worth the wait,” J.R. tells her in a flash of post coitus candor. After watching this episode, I know how he feels.

Although “Dallas’s” fourth season is much better than I remembered overall, the “Ewing-Gate” finale is a letdown – and the resolution to Leslie’s storyline is one reason why. Susan Flannery’s midseason debut was smashing, but somewhere along the line, the show’s writers seemed to lose interest in her character. This is a real shame: Leslie’s combination of business smarts and unapologetic sexuality made her a television breakthrough; she deserved a better sendoff.

“Ewing-Gate” has other flaws, including the scene where J.R. is hauled before the state senate committee investigating his Asian coup. It’s not just the ridiculous notion that the Texas legislature has jurisdiction over what happens in a foreign country. Or that Bobby wouldn’t be asked to recuse himself from a hearing into his brother’s activities. Or that Cliff, Bobby’s aide, would be allowed to sit on the panel and question the witnesses.

No, it’s also the length of this scene: It clocks in at a little more than 13 minutes – consuming almost the whole third act. Perhaps audiences found this more interesting in the years after Watergate, when televised government hearings were still a novelty, but the scene plays today like “Bad C-SPAN Theatre.” (Along these lines, “Ewing-Gate’s” title probably seemed clever three decades ago, before the press wore out the practice of attaching “gate” to every scandal.)

More gripes: “Ewing-Gate” marks the first time Kristin faces J.R. since she confessed to shooting him at the beginning of the season – yet their eagerly awaited reunion is flat. Also, even though the confrontation occurs in J.R.’s office, no one bothers to note this is Kristin’s return to the scene of the crime. Not giving Mary Crosby and Linda Gray a scene together represents another missed opportunity.

My biggest “Ewing-Gate” complaint has to do with the episode’s final sequence, when Cliff discovers the dead woman’s body in the Southfork swimming pool. Although the scene is nicely produced – thanks in large measure to Richard Lewis Warren’s driving score – the cliffhanger feels like something the producers tacked on at the last minute. The contrast couldn’t be sharper with the previous season finale, “A House Divided,” which rhythmically built toward J.R.’s climactic shooting.

And is there any doubt whose body Cliff discovers? The woman’s dark hair suggests it could be one of three characters – Sue Ellen, Pam or Kristin – yet even when I saw “Ewing-Gate” as a child, I was smart enough to know two of those suspects could be ruled out. While watching the episode more recently, I also noticed the unfamiliar car in the Southfork driveway when Cliff arrives – another clue the victim floating in the pool a few feet away is a visitor to the ranch.

So even though I appreciate the nifty symmetry this episode offers – one year after “Dallas” leaves us asking who shot J.R., we’re left to ponder who J.R. might’ve killed – there’s no denying the fact “Ewing-Gate” isn’t a cliffhanger as much as it is an exercise in poetic justice.

Grade: B

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Together again

Together again

‘EWING-GATE’

Season 4, Episode 23

Airdate: May 1, 1981

Audience: 25.6 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer and Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Afton helps J.R. sneak a peek at Cliff’s evidence against him, allowing J.R. to persuade the state senate to clear him of wrongdoing in the Asian coup. J.R. also sleeps with Leslie, refuses to give into Kristin’s extortion scheme, kicks Sue Ellen off Southfork and vows revenge when Pam takes John Ross to his mother. Cliff arrives at the ranch and finds a dead woman floating in the swimming pool.

Cast: Tyler Banks (John Ross Ewing), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Len Birman (Claude Brown), William Boyett (Gibson), James L. Brown (Harry McSween), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Patrick Duffy (Senator Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Susan Flannery (Leslie Stewart), Tom Fuccello (Senator Dave Culver), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), John Hart (Senator Carson), David Healy (Senator Harbin), James Hong (Ambassador Lanh Thon), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Sherril Lynn Katzman (Jackie), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), Leigh McCloskey (Mitch Cooper), Byron Morrow (Emmett Walsh), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), William Smithers (Jeremy Wendell), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), Jay Varela (Senator Arvilla), Joseph Warren (Senator Dickson), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson)

“Ewing-Gate” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. I surprised this merits as high as a “B.” Sounds like a let down.

  2. Lloyd Ferrigon says:

    As for no Sue Ellen/Kristin scene, these two were sisters in name only. There was no love between them which was totally Kristin’s fault.

  3. I admit I love the scene at the state senate committee! Unrealistic or not, I thought it was just great to see how JR managed to save his butt out of this totally hopeless situation (hopeless for “normal” people, anyway). But the best moment was when the South East Asian embassador publicly thanks JR “for one more gesture…” You could already see JR panicking inside (“Gosh, what’s happening now”), but of course, this is JR, so he pulls himself together very quickly. The embassador continues, “Mr Ewing decided to donate 10 percent of his oil field profits to our government. A most humanitarian gesture of his part!” And JR just goes, “I… uuhhh (cough)… I felt that was the least I can do!”
    ROTFLOL… Larry’s facial expressions were just priceless! 🙂

    • Ha ha. Very true, Balena. This is a fun scene, even if it isn’t realistic.

      • Garnet McGee says:

        The jurisdiction of the committee over South Asian happenings was hilarious. After rooting for JR to fail I actually clapped at the rabbit he pulled out of the hat at the last minute. I thought this episode was brilliant. I loved that JR didn’t try to punish Leslie. She got away with betraying him. Once again the pace of the new show reminds me of these end of season cliffhangers. Those Farlow men are hotties. They are the anti-Ewings, smart, rich but kind. I have not seen future episodes but how can anyone doubt Sue Ellen’s true love for Dusty after she is so tender with him in this episode.

      • The legislative branches on “Dallas” exist in their own universe. I also love when U.S. Sen. Dave Culver meddles in state matters. And yes — that’s quite a rabbit ol’ J.R. pulls out of his hat, ain’t it? I kind of have a better appreciation for that scene today than I did when I wrote this critique last year.

  4. The reason the Dave Culver meddled is he used to be the Senior State Senator from his district.”DAAAAAAve” as Donna Culver Krebbs called him hated J.R. for being a jerk to his old man & trying to use the relationship with him & Jock for further gain. So of course he helped Cliff knife J.R. The jurisdiction of the city of Austin, Texas was correct for the hearing, but it should have been an impannelled United States 3 Judge Panel, which is standard on governmental/foreign state issues. Or federal senators or congressman in an agreed round table panel format. Sort of in line with the Impeachment trials of 17th President Andrew Johnson, Democrat-Tennessee, & 42nd President William Clinton, Democrat-Arkansas.

  5. Here’s another update on that painting of the man wearing a red jacket. It pops up again in this episode but now it is in Dave Culver’s Washington, DC, office. We see it hanging on the wall when Donna visits Dave at his DC office. That portrait sure has moved around! I’m enjoying noticing the paintings, prints, and sculptures which were used to decorate the various sets. I’m really impressed with all the thought and work that must have gone into designing the sets.

  6. Did Cliff ever found out that Afton set him up? I think Pam was right to take John Ross to Sue Ellen in this situation ( with a low life husband like JR) a mother should get the child. I think JR sees John Ross as a son and property but more property. The gripes and complaints that you stated Chris I agree with and the person to blame is writer and director Katzman. Duffy and Hagman were better directors. I believe Jacobs was better at the realm and when it was turned over to Leonard things slowly and then quickly began to go wrong until the end of Dallas. Although 7, 8, 9 (first 4 episodes) and 10 had some good moments 11-14 had none really which is so sad.

    • I agree that Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy were some of “Dallas’s” better directors. Both tended to do interesting things when they helmed episodes. I’m also glad to hear you like the first few episodes of the ninth season. Those are some of my favorites.

  7. The third act of this episode is what I call “White is the new black”

Trackbacks

  1. […] “Ewing-Gate,” “Dallas’s” fourth-season finale, J.R. and his security guard Gibson (Larry Hagman, Bill […]

  2. […] and J.R. (Mary Crosby, Larry Hagman) are seen in this 1981 publicity shot from “Ewing-Gate,” “Dallas’s” fourth-season finale. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  3. […] the legislature’s hearings into his parents’ fight over the Takapa Lake development – or its inquiry into J.R.’s foreign affairs? Where’s an ethics committee when you need […]

  4. […] Ewing preside over an inquiry into his father’s plan to build a resort on Lake Takapa, he also participated in a state investigation into the coup J.R. financed in […]

  5. […] forward two seasons: In “Ewing-Gate,” Kristin Shepard, another of J.R.’s ex-lovers/ex-secretaries, threatens to spill the beans about […]

  6. […] to Jock’s son? Of course not! Look, if Senator Bobby Ewing could preside over a legislative inquiry into J.R.’s shady dealings, surely Cliff could prosecute Jock without prejudice. […]

  7. […] see the Ewings up there — the shot of J.R. gazing at Kristin’s dead boy in the swimming pool in “Ewing-Gate” is a notable exception — so it’s neat to see Duffy put this part of the Southfork set to use. […]

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