Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 90 – ‘The Search’

Gone, but not forgotten

Gone, but not forgotten

With “The Search,” “Dallas” says goodbye to Jim Davis but not to Jock Ewing. This memorable episode sends J.R., Bobby and Ray into the jungle to find their missing father, but the only thing they recover is his medallion, which Bobby retrieves from the lake where the old man’s helicopter crashed. By the end of the hour, there’s no doubt Jock is dead, even if there’s no body to prove it.

I used to be bothered by the lack of closure for the Ewing patriarch, but I’ve come to appreciate how it heightens the drama in the episodes after “The Search,” when Miss Ellie struggles to accept the truth that her husband is never coming home. I also wonder: Would Jock be the mythic figure he is today if he had died in a hospital bed or been killed in a car crash? Having him disappear after his helicopter falls from the sky feels oddly appropriate for a character who was always a little larger than life.

One thing is certain: The producers waited too long to deal with Davis’s death. The actor succumbed to cancer eight months before “The Search” aired, but “Dallas” kept Jock alive in the interim by sending the character to “South America” (foreign locales on this show are almost always vague) and having the Ewings regularly receive calls and letters from him. It reminds me of those “Three’s Company” episodes where an out-of-town Chrissie wouldn’t appear until the final scene, when she’d phone her roommates to get an update on their latest hijinks.

This criticism aside, I like how “The Search” summons “Dallas’s” western spirit by having the Ewing brothers embark on a dangerous mission to rescue their daddy. The men carry rifles and wear their Stetsons; the only thing missing is seeing them on horseback. While the brothers are away, the Ewing women keep vigil at Southfork, and all the characters experience flashbacks to some of Jock’s most memorable moments.

These old clips are nice because they demonstrate how valuable Davis was to “Dallas.” With the exception of Barbara Bel Geddes and Larry Hagman, no other actor on the show could match Davis in terms of sheer presence. It didn’t matter if Jock was being tough or tender; Davis commanded every scene he appeared in. In an audio commentary on one of the second-season “Dallas” DVDs, Hagman recalls how Davis lacked confidence in his performances. What a shame. Jim Davis was a great actor. He deserved to know it.

One final observation about “The Search’s” flashbacks: Yes, they are a little hokey by today’s standards – each one is accompanied by those wavy special effects – but remember: This episode was produced years before “Dallas” went into syndicated reruns. This was the first time in years a lot of fans had seen those classic scenes.

No matter how you feel about the rest of “The Search,” it’s impossible to watch the ending and not be moved. The sequence begins when Ellie, who has been waiting patiently for word from her sons, awakens in the night and walks downstairs, where she quietly takes her seat at the dining room table. This scene has no musical score – you can even hear Ellie’s footsteps – which is what makes it so effective. In this big house full of people, Mama has never seemed more alone.

While the Ewing matriarch sits in the dark, her sons arrive home and walk into the dining room. Each man is stubble-faced, and each one holds his hat. “I’m sorry Mama,” Bobby says. Her eyes well up, but she holds it together. “Tell me what happened,” she says. Bobby and Ray sit with her at the table and Bobby holds his mother’s hand, but the moment proves too much for J.R., who walks away.

J.R. steps onto the patio, looking a little dazed. He leans against one of the big white columns, reaches into his pocket, pulls out Jock’s medallion and studies it. By now, Bruce Broughton’s score has resumed and started to swell. J.R. smiles and briefly casts his eyes skyward, and when he looks down, we notice how red and wet they are.

The frame freezes and the screen briefly fades to black, and then we get our first glimpse of the Jock Ewing portrait, which will go on to become “Dallas’s” most famous prop. The words “Jim Davis 1909 – 1981” appear. That’s when we know: Davis may be gone, but Jock Ewing is going to live forever.

Grade: A

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Those eyes

Those eyes

‘THE SEARCH’

Season 5, Episode 13

Airdate: January 8, 1982

Audience: 26 million homes, ranking 4th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: J.R., Bobby and Ray go to South America, where they determine Jock likely died in the helicopter crash. The brothers return to Southfork and break the news to Miss Ellie.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), George Cooper (Lee Evans), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson)

“The Search” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. Love the “threes company” shout out! I too think it feels phony when an actor is gone, but the character is still around somehow. Great review!
    I wish you did critiques on all my favourite shows from the 70-80’s.

  2. barbara fan says:

    Great review of a great episode and agree with your scene of the day – from the minute momma gets out of bed and walks downstairs with flashbacks i needed a kleenex. I actually prefer the scene with the music in the backround but UK DVD edited that out for some reason, i think its adds to the scene so i watch it with the French version on for that part which did include the music. It was a fitting tribute to Jim Davis and I think he would have approved. Its sad he didnt live long enough to enjoy his new found fame later in life and his death or Jocks death led to some of the best episodes re battle for his company and contesting his will.
    thanks again dallas decoder for another insightful review xx

    • Thank you, BF! BBG is amazing in that final scene. Watching Ellie wake up in that bed and then walk downstairs and into the dining room — I get chills just writing those words. What a fantastic actress and terrific character. And Jim Davis! My goodness, what an actor. He went too soon.

      I also agree that the battle for Ewing Oil and the contesting of the will are fabulous storylines. I’m looking forward to critiquing those episodes!

      Thanks again for your nice words, BF. I always appreciate your comments.

      Chris B.

  3. Two thoughts: I think I read somewhere that the reason they sort of dragged his absence out was due to a writers’ strike.
    While I completely agree that the final scene in the dining room is the stand-out scene (the emotion, the acting and it shows that at the end of the day Bobby is the stronger Ewing son) of this episode, I also have a soft spot for the scene where they are on the plane and the 3 men talk about camping with Jock as boys. It reminds me of the touch football memories after JR is shot. Dallas started out about a family and the need for these men to live up to their father (and mother) but that is sometimes forgotten with all of the wheeling and dealing.

    • Oh, I love the scene on the plane too. You’re so right: It’s similar to the “touch football” hospital scene from the “Who Shot J.R.?” storyline. And I really like what you said about Bobby: At the end of the day, he is the strongest Ewing son.

      Thanks for the good insight. I appreciate it!

      Chris

  4. Beautiful critique Chris and how ironic to be at this episode with the loss of Larry. I would like to add one thing though … while I agree with you completely about Larry, Barbara and Jim and their commanding performances, I want to add Linda Gray to that list. Her presence shined in every scene she was in and really made Sue Ellen come to life on screen. I was truly mesmerized when she was on screen. I don’t think the writers did her justice in Dallas 2.0 TNT but I’m optimistic with the new clip from season 2 that she’s back!

    • Thanks a lot Frank! Great point about Linda. Her work in Season 5 overall is really impressive. It’s great to see Sue Ellen on her own and becoming a little more independent. I agree with you about the TNT series. I’m hopeful she’ll have a much larger role in Season 2.

      Thanks again for your comment!

      Chris

  5. the_lost_son says:

    I just watched this episode because your review. So wonderful – beautifully orchestrated.
    Somehow I wish they’d do the same in the new Dallas. Have JohnRoss realize that JR is not coming back, standing outside of Southfork, no dialogue, teary eyes, JR’s portrait in the end and silent theme at the end.

    • Wow, what a cool idea. Are you listening, Cynthia Cidre?

      Thanks so much!

      CB

      • Garnet McGee says:

        The search and outdoor scenery was really hokey. I could have dispensed with the search. The look that BBG gives when she looks up from the table is incredible. It says please don’t tell me bad news. It is amazing what she could convey with a look. Sue Ellen was absolutely correct in leaving SF before JR returned. She worked so hard to get away from JR and frankly no one else was going to look after her or keep her best interests at heart so she had to do it. JR certainly was not there for her when she needed somebody. I wish she was always so clear headed in her thinking about JR. The tone of this episode reminded me of the one in which the family goes to see JRs body in Nuevo Laredo. It is clear Cidre studied these episodes.

      • Garnet McGee says:

        Meant to add that Sue Ellen says about JR. Eveything he does he for does for his daddy. Every business deal he made was for Jock. He would go to pieces if his Daddy were dead. Similar words could certainly be said about John Ross. Everything he does is because of his daddy even when he is double crossing him.

      • You’re very correct, Garnet, as you always are!

  6. Dan in WI says:

    One thing I just don’t understand is the range of emotions that JR shows when he steps out on the patio at the very end of the episode. We see several cross his face but it ends with him looking up and giving us a strange smile through tear soaked eyes. What was he smiling about? I just don’t get it to this day.

    • Ah, the mysteries of “Dallas”! With Jock’s death beginning to sink in, perhaps J.R. felt thankful he was born the son of a great man? Or maybe he was thinking he was finally going to inherit Ewing Oil? I agree the smile is unusual and ambiguous, which is why I appreciate it.

Trackbacks

  1. […] “Dallas’s” fifth-season episode “The Search,” Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) is seated alone at the the Southfork dining room table when Bobby […]

  2. […] fate would have it, my previous post was a transcription of the next-to-last scene from “The Search,” the “Dallas” episode where Jock is presumed dead. When I logged into my site, I was greeted by […]

  3. […] month, Dallas Decoder critiqued “The Search,” the episode where “Dallas” bids farewell to the great Jim Davis. Here’s a look at 15 […]

  4. […] famous portrait, which is seen for the first time since its debut before the closing credits in “The Search.” I’ve watched this scene a lot over the years, and the combination of Hagman’s conviction – […]

  5. […] that Donna interrupts Ray while he’s shaving is significant since the stubble he’s worn since “The Search” had come to symbolize the dark cloud that enveloped him after Jock’s […]

  6. […] with the cartel and J.R.’s soliloquy in front of Jock’s painting. In the end, I’m going with “The Search” scene where the Ewing sons break the news to Mama that Daddy isn’t coming home. I don’t know […]

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