Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 81 – ‘Little Boy Lost’

The victor

The victor

The Ewings are obsessed with parenthood in “Little Boy Lost.” J.R. and Sue Ellen spend the hour girding for their custody fight over John Ross, while Bobby and Pam remain preoccupied with their adoption struggles. By the time the closing credits roll, I’m convinced none of these people should be raising children.

J.R. and Sue Ellen each love John Ross, but as their courtroom showdown looms, the couple’s priorities seem pretty mixed up. J.R. wants to win custody of John Ross because he knows Jock will be furious if the child leaves Southfork for good. Sue Ellen fears John Ross will grow up to be like his father if J.R. is allowed to raise him, but it’s also clear she wants custody because she knows how much it will hurt J.R. to lose the boy. From this perspective, Sue Ellen is treating her son the way J.R. has always treated her: like another Ewing possession. Witness the self-satisfied smirk she offers J.R. in the final scene, when the judge rules in her favor.

The custody battle might not bring out the best in J.R. and Sue Ellen, but it produces “Little Boy Lost’s” strongest moments, including Miss Ellie’s dramatic confrontation with her eldest son at the beginning of the episode. I’m also a fan of Barry Nelson, who does a nice turn as Sue Ellen’s compassionate lawyer, Arthur Elrod. (Trivia: Nelson was Barbara Bel Geddes’ leading man in the 1950s Broadway production of “The Moon is Blue.”)

Bobby and Pam’s scenes in “Little Boy Lost” are much less satisfying. Pam, who began life on “Dallas” as a confident, pioneering heroine, is suddenly obsessed again with having children, a storyline that played out two seasons earlier. In the meantime, the only reason Bobby seems to want to adopt a baby is because he believes it will help his wife snap out of her odd mood. Even as Pam’s behavior grows alarming – in this episode, she spaces out at work and slips into a bizarre trance at home – Bobby clings to the belief that a child will be the cure-all to Pam’s problems.

Toward the end of “Little Boy Lost,” before Pam goes missing, Dr. Danvers finally diagnoses her as being depressed. After seeing what the “Dallas” writers have done to her character, I feel the same.

Grade: B


Earth to Pam

Earth to Pam


Season 5, Episode 4

Airdate: October 30, 1981

Audience: 20.3 million homes, ranking 5th in the weekly ratings

Writer and Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Sue Ellen is awarded preliminary custody of John Ross. Mitch impresses a wealthy doctor when he saves the man’s wife from choking. Rebecca’s daughter Katherine visits. Pam goes missing.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Patrick Duffy (Senator Bobby Ewing), Niki Flack (Beverly Waring), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Jerry Haynes (Pat Powers), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Sherril Lynn Katzman (Jackie), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Arthur Malet (Forest), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), Leigh McCloskey (Mitch Cooper), Pamela Murphy (Marie), Barry Nelson (Arthur Elrod), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Herbert Rudley (Howard Barker), Donegan Smith (Jackson), Liam Sullivan (Judge William Packer), Edward Winter (Dr. Frank Waring), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson), John Zaremba (Dr. Harlan Danvers)

“Little Boy Lost” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.


  1. Pam’s trance was utterly ridiculous and very alarming. Frankly, she never fully recovered from it! I loved her in the first few seasons but then it just went downhill. 😦 You are absolutely right. None of these people should be raising children. Okay, maybe Bobby, as he’s the only sane one left!! (But you know I will most often stick up for Bobby! lol) Poor little John Ross has always been a pawn for BOTH his parents. Such immaturity. 😦

  2. Very good points about JR/SE regarding JohnRoss. We would see this behavior from the 2 of them all they the series. It was nice touch of the writers in New Dallas to have Sue Ellen acknowledge this point to JohnRoss. I knew it, but your analysis really brought that point home to me.

    Love your posts and the great photos you post on “art of Dallas.

  3. barbara fan says:

    BBG and Barry Nelson appeared together in several Bway plays and TV appearances, many of them long running ones, Im sure it would have been great for them to work together once more on Dallas

    • I didn’t know that. Thanks for sharing, BF!


    • Didn’t Barry Nelson play Anson Harris, the pilot Dean Martin was giving an evaluation of, in the original “Airport”?

      • I haven’t seen that movie, but according to IMDb, Nelson did play Anson Harris in “Airport.” Good memory! He’s also considered the first actor to play James Bond: He portrayed an American version of the character in a live TV adaptation of “Casino Royale” in 1954, eight years before Sean Connery’s “Dr. No.”

  4. Kyle Willson says:

    Totally agree with Lady G..(that rhymed)…
    I loved Pam at the beginning of the series..feisty, sexy, strong willed…then..not so much. It got to the point where I would be watching Bobster and Jenna getting their realtionship going and then they would show Pam either weeping/moping/whining and find myself yelling at the TV “Get lost you whiny @#$%”…Poor VP..No wonder she checked out 2 years before actually leaving thr show.

  5. I agree – Pam’s character got more and more annoying in the course of time. As much as I understand anybody’s urgent wish to have a child, the way it’s shown here and in the following episodes makes it hard to actually sympathize with Pam. As we see later, following the conversations Pam and Bobby have with Dr Conrad, it’s not really having (or not having) a baby that’s the problem, but Pam coming to terms with her life. Unfortunately, that idea was just wiped out the moment Pam saw Christopher – hooray, I have a baby now, all my problems are solved, all my mental and emotional troubles are magically cured!

  6. Let’s not overlook the fact that Sue Ellen’s lawyer had one of the most impressive heads of hair in the history of television.


  1. […] “Dallas’s” fifth-season episode “Little Boy Lost,” after the Southfork helicopter lands on the ranch’s lawn, Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) exits […]

  2. […] (Linda Gray) attends a preliminary custody hearing for John Ross in this 1981 publicity shot from “Little Boy Lost,”  a fifth-season “Dallas” episode. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  3. […] state of mind. It also offers a subtle nod to Pamela’s namesake aunt, who demonstrated similarly distressing behavior during her obsessive baby phase on the old […]

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