Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 83 – ‘The Big Shut Down’

Here he goes again

Here he goes again

“The Big Shut Down” is the first “Dallas” episode John Parker has scored since the third season, and it features many of the compositions he created during that era of the show, including Ray and Lucy’s musical signatures and Bobby and Pam’s love theme. It’s always nice to hear these classic numbers, but does the show have to recycle so many old plotlines to go with them?

J.R. spends “The Big Shut Down” conspiring to buy up the oil supply to Clayton Farlow’s refineries so he can hold the crude “hostage” in exchange for John Ross, who now lives with Sue Ellen and the Farlows at their Southern Cross ranch. To finance this scheme, J.R. turns to smarmy banker Vaughn Leland – just like he did two seasons ago, when Vaughn arranged J.R.’s outlandish ploy to secretly mortgage Southfork.

“The Big Shut Down’s” climax – when J.R. signs the paperwork for his loan – even echoes “The Kristin Affair” scene where J.R. approves the deal that puts ownership of Southfork at risk. Both sequences take place in J.R.’s office and both end with him dismissing Vaughn’s ominous warnings. It’s less homage than outright retread.

“The Big Shut Down’s” other subplots feel just as familiar. In “Dallas’s” previous episode, “The Sweet Smell of Revenge,” the show seemed to go out of its way to suggest Pam’s depression wasn’t linked to her fertility problems. But in this installment, Pam is once again bemoaning her inability to have children. In the third act, she even recalls for Dr. Conrad the whole third-season storyline about her obsession with John Ross, reminding us how we’ve seen all this before.

Of course, not everything here is old news. “The Big Shut Down” marks one of the first appearances of Katherine Wentworth, who’ll go on to become one of the great “Dallas” vixens. Morgan Brittany is sublime in the role, right from the start. In this episode, I especially love Katherine’s deliciously bitchy reaction when she discovers Cliff has redecorated her daddy’s old office at Wentworth Tool and Die.

It’s the first time we encounter what becomes one of “Dallas’s” most enduring truisms: Never upset Katherine Wentworth!

Grade: B


Her too

Her too


Season 5, Episode 6

Airdate: November 13, 1981

Audience: 23.7 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Vaughn agrees to finance J.R.’s plot to cut off the Farlows’ oil supply. Jeff Farraday, the mysterious caller who contacted Bobby, sells him more information about Christopher. Pam meets Katherine. Donna steps in as Ray’s partner when Punk drops out of their latest venture.

Cast: Phillip Allen (Lloyd Bettinger), Tami Barber (Bev), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Deborah Benson (secretary), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Patrick Duffy (Senator Bobby Ewing), Tom Fuccello (Senator Dave Culver), Robert  Ginnaven (Chuck Williamson), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Laurence Haddon (Franklin Horner), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Art Hindle (Jeff Farraday), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Leigh McCloskey (Mitch Cooper), Dennis Patrick (Vaughn Leland), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), David Tress (Walter Sher), Edward Winter (Dr. Frank Waring), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson), Gretchen Wyler (Dr. Dagmara Conrad)

“The Big Shut Down” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.


  1. JR is in over his head and eventually Bobby comes in to help save him. JR says he had to do what he did because they had his son and Sue Ellen.

  2. Dan in WI says:

    I have to respectfully disagree that the JR/Leland loan signing scene of this episode is a retread nor do I think homage would be the right word. I think the duplication of the SE Asia/Southfork loan signing from “The Kristen Affair” is outright intentional calculation on Vaughn’s part.
    It’s not perfect but take for example a couple historical surrender World War signings involving Germany. World War I was ended with a armistice signing in a rail car near Compiegne. Fast forward to World War II. When France surrendered to Germany in 1940, Hitler saw to it that surrender took place in the very same rail car in a symbolic stick it to you gesture.
    In this episode Vaughn is clearing looking for some revenge. I believe it is his plan to set up JR using a similar set of events of circumstances to the events that set up Vaughn’s downfall. So like I said it is more than a homage and I loved it.

    • Dan, it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen this episode, but chances are I’d agree with you. I think I’ve gotten better at this episode critiquing thing since then.

      • Dan in WI says:

        Your critiques have progressed that is for sure. In this case though it wasn’t how you wrote it, I just got the impression we interpreted this scene in two different ways. I got the impression you saw it as lazy writing but I thought it was intentional. Either of us could be right.
        I do have the advantage right now since I did just watch this last night so it is fresh in my mind.

      • Sometimes I want to go back and re-critique episodes from the earliest seasons. There’s so much I missed. Truth be told, I often wish I could go back and re-critique things from a week ago.) Maybe once I get through all the original series episodes, I’ll go back and start over. My feelings about this show are always evolving, so something I saw as lazy writing a few years ago might now strike me as a clever homage.

    • Replying to your last comment Chris. It would be great fun to see what new insights you have, but I hope you aren’t thinking of replacing/deleting your old ones! If you revisit the episodes, I think you should just add an “Update” to your old critique and add your new thoughts. Then you and your readers can see the progression of your insights, just like we get to watch our Dallas people experience character development over the years 🙂

  3. Jock's Gray Continental says:

    Donna is so tiresome with her constant mothering of Ray. Sometimes you would think she has a cowboy fetish. God forbid a man may want to get ahead and find something that he likes and earns him a lot of money. I understand they need to create drama, but she acts as if she married a trade and not a man. You could be excused for thinking he was having sex-change surgery.

  4. Pam is so demented in these episodes.


  1. […] “Dallas’s” fifth-season episode “The Big Shut Down,” Cliff (Ken Kercheval) is in his office at Wentworth Tool and Die, discussing Pam with Rebecca and […]

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