Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 89 – ‘Barbecue Two’

Blue skies, for now

Blue skies, for now

My favorite scene in “Barbecue Two” is small but meaningful. Sue Ellen is in the living room of her new townhouse, arranging a plant on a windowsill. She’s wearing an unbuttoned yellow shirt over a green tank top, jeans with rolled-up cuffs and white sneakers. The house is in disarray. Cardboard boxes and newspapers are strewn everywhere.

The doorbell rings. “Oh my Lord,” Sue Ellen says with a nervous laugh as she greets her unexpected visitors, Miss Ellie and Pam. She invites them in, apologizes for the mess and yanks a sheet of newspaper out of a chair so Ellie has a place to sit.

The dialogue here is unremarkable – Ellie and Pam have come to invite Sue Ellen and John Ross to the annual Southfork barbecue – but the words aren’t the point. The setting is what matters. After all these years of depending on others – first the Ewings, then the Farlows – Sue Ellen has finally found a place of her own, in every sense. Watching her unpack moving boxes and decorate her living room demonstrates how she has become a more fully realized, relatable character. It’s heartening.

The rest of “Barbecue Two” is dominated by the scenes set at the Ewing hoedown, including several that seem to pay homage to the first “Barbecue,” which capped “Dallas’s” inaugural season. Pam, who suffered a miscarriage during the 1978 festivities, skips this party to tend to her newly adopted son Christopher. Lucy, who spent the original “Barbecue” chasing Jimmy Monahan, uses this one to try to win back estranged husband Mitch. Elsewhere, J.R. and Cliff have a run-in at the bar set up on the Southfork grounds, just like Jock and Digger did four years earlier.

Of course, “Dallas” saves the most dramatic moment of all until the end. In “Barbecue Two’s” final scene, J.R. comes down the stairs in the Southfork foyer and finds a shaken Ellie holding the telephone receiver. She announces she just received a call from Punk Anderson, who informed her Jock’s helicopter crashed in South America. Through sobs, Ellie tells her son: “They say that … they say that … they say that Jock is dead.”

These are the hardest words ever uttered on “Dallas.” They signal a turning point for the Ewings, and for the show itself. After this scene, things will never be the same.

Grade: A


On her own

On her own


Season 5, Episode 12

Airdate: January 1, 1982

Audience: 24 million homes, ranking 5th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Donna’s success as an author irritates Ray. Photographer Roger Larson encourages Lucy to resume modeling. Sue Ellen and John Ross move into a Dallas townhouse. At the Ewing barbecue, Sue Ellen and Cliff get reacquainted and Miss Ellie learns Jock is presumed dead after a helicopter crash in South America.

Cast: Tyler Banks (John Ross Ewing), Bernard Behrens (Harold Haskell), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Dan Hamilton (Eric), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Leigh McCloskey (Mitch Cooper), Peyton Park (Larry), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Dennis Redfield (Roger Larson), Debra Lynn Rogers (Toni), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Edward Winter (Dr. Frank Waring)

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


  1. BBQ episodes are always fun. But this one packed a wallop. I thought Sue Ellen looked so cute bustling around in disarray. She definitely seemed more relatable as a character. The “is he or isn’t he” missing Jock episodes after this one are very intense!

    • I love the whole storyline of Sue Ellen being on her own. I recognize the character is most effective when she’s slinking around Southfork, but these episodes are a nice change of pace.

  2. Hey Chris! I’ve been slacking on reading lately, but this is one of my favorite episodes.It showed the power that Ellie had to still win over Sue Ellen. She could have just dropped John Ross off, but the fact that she showed up herself was telling.

    The JR/SE moments in this episode are just great. Particularly where he drops by unannounced with a huge bouquet of roses and blocks for John Ross.

    No wonder grown up John Ross was dyslexic.

    ˥IO ⅄pp∀p ∀W∀W

    🙂 !!

  3. Garnet McGee says:

    It is hard to watch this episode knowing that eventually SE did return to Southfork. It cheers me to think that in the Dallas TNT universe she never returned but remained independent. After all was said and done SE ended up wealthier and more successful than JR. Ellie’s words at the end of the episode had me tearing up. BBG was great. Was it the director’s job to tell her to stumble through the sentence and tell her to repeat it three times or is that a matter of interpretation from the actor?

    • Good question, Garnet. I’d like to know the answer myself. BBG often stumbles through her lines, which I’ve always believed is a deliberate choice on her behalf. It makes Ellie feel very real.

  4. I’d forgot C.B. Jock hadn’t crashed & been presumed dead till now. Must be the fact that I’m commenting sequentially out of order & on both CBS & TNT DALLAS! Forgive me DALLAS fans, oh & C.B.; 13 days, ALL NEW DALLAS!

  5. I just re-watched this over the weekend on one thing struck me. If you take the original Barbecue out of the equation (since it was only episode 5) this barbecue seems to have the fewest Dallas recurring characters of any barbecue. There are no cartel members, no secrataries, etc… Pretty much you had to have a current storyline to make this episode and that is odd. Later on EVERYONE attended these things.

  6. During the original run, I began watching kind of late (along about the time Bobby got shot).I’m watching the entire series and it has been great fun to see the events that characters refer to later in the run. I knew Katherine from her obsessed days when she killed Bobby to when she threatened the mummified Pam. In her early appearances, Katherine is really captivating with a crackling energy. Couldn’t take my eyes off her as she danced the line hoe-down alongside Bobby.

    Speaking of mummified Pam, watching her depressive episodes and her ability to withdraw placed her exit from the show in a different light. The character’s exit was poorly managed but in retrospect there is a withholding quality that may partially explain her disappearance from Bobby and Christopher. Not to be dismissive but seems as if the idea that she snapped is not so alien to the character. I would have liked to see Margaret Michaels continue the role. Cliff’s scene with her (his naturalness) made her easier to accept.

    With regard to poor exits and writing out characters, it bothered me that so many episodes include mentions of, phone calls, letters, and dispatches from Jock even though we all knew Jim Davis had died. Too bad the writers could not have devised a cleaner exit at the beginning of the season.

    Usually enjoy Ray and Donna but in the build up to the barbecue, he is kind of a butt.

    Thanks for all the recaps and discussion posts. This site is making the binge watching that much more interesting!


  1. […] “Dallas’s” fifth-season episode “Barbecue Two,” J.R. (Larry Hagman) comes down the stairs at Southfork, where a dazed Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel […]

  2. […] (Larry Hagman) is seen in this 1982 publicity shot from “Barbecue Two,” a fifth-season “Dallas” […]

  3. […] old show aired fresh episodes on at least seven official or “almost official” holidays: “Barbecue Two” (New Year’s Day 1982), “Mama Dearest” (New Year’s Eve 1983), “Ray’s Trial” […]

  4. […] too. Debra Lynn Rogers, who played Toni, the woman Ray flirted with during the previous season’s “Barbecue Two,” plays the role again in this episode, except now she’s dancing with Mickey. Meanwhile, Ray […]

  5. […] Barbecue II (1982). Most of the action at this party happens on the dance floor: With Pam upstairs mooning over baby Christopher, Bobby waltzes with […]

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