Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 80 – ‘Showdown at San Angelo’

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At the beginning of “Dallas’s” fifth season, Sue Ellen flees Southfork with John Ross and seeks sanctuary at the Southern Cross, the ranch where her onetime lover Dusty Farlow lives with his father Clayton. In “Showdown at San Angelo,” we get a glimpse of what our heroine’s new life is like – and how different it is from the one she left behind.

Make no mistake: The Farlows are like a Bizarro World version of the Ewings. Both families are rich and powerful – and both have big ranches and cool choppers – but the similarities pretty much end there.

Consider the “Showdown at San Angelo” scene where Bobby and Ray each threaten to pulverize J.R. after he makes a series of mean-spirited wisecracks during breakfast on the Southfork patio. It’s a far cry from the staid dinner scene at the Southern Cross, where the table talk is about refineries and livestock.

Yet just because Sue Ellen’s new home is different doesn’t mean it’s better. Dusty, crippled after a plane crash, is unable to make love to her. When one of their warm embraces turns passionate, Sue Ellen apologizes, recalling those early “Dallas” scenes where she was embarrassed to let J.R. know she felt unfulfilled sexually. No wonder she sneaks into John Ross’s nursery for a good cry in this episode.

The show seems to be letting the audience know Sue Ellen still hasn’t found her place in the world. She was unhappy at Southfork; things aren’t much better at the Southern Cross. The new ranch might be a haven, but it isn’t Sue Ellen’s home.

We see this during “Showdown at San Angelo’s” memorable final scene, when J.R. and Miss Ellie visit the Southern Cross to see John Ross. (This also marks the first time Ellie meets Clayton, who will eventually become her second husband.) It turns out J.R. is only using Ellie as a Trojan horse to nab John Ross, and when she discovers this, she refuses to go along with his ploy.

As J.R. and Ellie board the Southfork helicopter and fly away, Sue Ellen holds John Ross tightly and the Farlows close ranks around her. It’s almost as if they are holding her tightly. Might they also be holding her back?

Grade: A


Meet the Farlows

Meet the Farlows


Season 5, Episode 3

Airdate: October 23, 1981

Audience: 21.3 million homes, ranking 5th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Leonard Katzman

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: Miss Ellie returns to Dallas without Jock, whom the State Department has recruited for a mission to South America. Bobby and Pam consider adopting a child but are frustrated by the lengthy waiting list. Rebecca persuades Cliff to run Wentworth Tool and Die, one of her late husband’s companies. Mitch graduates medical school. J.R. tries to use Ellie to nab John Ross from the Southern Cross but she refuses to comply.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), James L. Brown (Harry McSween), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Bruce French (Jerry Macon), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), Leigh McCloskey (Mitch Cooper), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), Lynn Wood (Ms. Bruce), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson)

“Showdown at San Angelo” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.


  1. Somehow I feel like Sue Ellen never exactly found her true home. All roads lead back to J.R, even now in the TNT version. Great post!

  2. barbara fan says:

    Such a great episode and so great to see BBG back – loved to see JR plot and scheme and use his momma to win back John Ross – one problem, she doesnt go along with it and i love her ending he may belong on SF, but not this way Sue Ellen Im sorry!
    Yay for Miss Ellie and her principals and nice to see her meet Clayton Farlow who would become rather more significant in her life with time
    it gets an A from me also

  3. Thank you for reminding me of that Southern Cross dinner scene. It is so very different from the dinners we are used to on Southfork that it highlights the ‘choice’ that Sue Ellen has.
    Looking back, the scene also makes me appreciate what a big step it must have been for Clayton Farlow to move in with the Ewings after he married Miss Ellie: At the time, it looked like some kind of male chauvinist problem that Clayton had when he had to ‘move in with his wife’; now I can see that he had to sacrifice a completely different lifestyle when he gave up the Southern Cross Ranch. It must have taken him a lot!

    • Garnet McGee says:

      I liked Sue Ellen with Dusty and Clayton. I wish the writers had let her be happy with Dusty. Too bad this was in the era before Dusty’s problem could have been improved by pharmaceuticals and technology. It was JR that was impotent! JR is emotionally impotent.

  4. There are different levels of impotence. Outright can’t get it up, partial, & outright can do the job & satisfy the lady. Oh C.B. how Dusty Farlow would have loved Viagra or Cialis, hell, both boy. J.R. too, then he wouldn’t have crapped out on Louella.

  5. The fourth season was quite dull, but the fifth is rehabilitating “Dallas” in my eyes. It is bright, brisk and emotional. And this “Trojan horse” episode is just cool!

  6. Ellie Southworth : Particullary on this episode, but even on the entire serie : always with love for Gary and Bobby, nothing for JR. Sad ! Dishonest !

    And she quicly, on some moments, agree to sell the company, to divorse Jock. I like how BBG play the character, but I can’t manage miss Ellie.

  7. BTW, I feel so ridiculous to comment all those episodes 2 or 3 years after the others. Well, I can’t resist.

    Is there something on this planet wich can explain me why Connie disappear ? And WTF Phillis was doing while Bobby the senator was in Austin ? Crossword ? Sudoku ? Reading list of EO Accounting ?

    I miss Louella ! 😦

    (and I would add the same comment for haircut style for Pam, Sly and Donna : long live straight and long hair ! dead to blow-dry !)

  8. Michael says:

    Classic ending to this one. I remember watching it way back when. The suspense was unbearable in the last moments and then the grand dramatic closing shot. Great stuff. Great review.


  1. […] “Dallas’s” fifth-season episode “Showdown at San Angelo,” Clayton (Howard Keel) approaches Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes), who is playing with John Ross […]

  2. […] puts John Ross (Tyler Banks) to bed at the Southern Cross ranch in this 1981 publicity shot from “Showdown at San Angelo,” a fifth-season “Dallas” episode. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  3. […] is pretty gruff in the beginning. The best example is probably the Farlow family dinner scene in “Showdown at San Angelo,” when Clayton brusquely shoots down Sue Ellen’s suggestion that she and Dusty could go into […]

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