Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 94 – ‘My Father, My Son’

Coming around again

Coming around again

Toward the end of “My Father, My Son,” J.R. persuades Sue Ellen to join him and John Ross on a visit to what he calls “the kiddie park.” The family’s afternoon plays out in a montage of scenes: We see Daddy and Mommy watching their little boy on the swing set, J.R. and John Ross spinning on a merry go round, son chasing father through a maze. It’s very sweet but also a little sad.

Poor Sue Ellen looks miserable. Is she unhappy because she’s spending the afternoon with her ex-husband? No, I believe Sue Ellen wants to be with J.R. – and she hates herself for it. Despite the pain he has caused her, Sue Ellen still loves him. She’s also beginning to realize she wants him back. So at the end of the playground scene, when J.R. is driving his family home and John Ross’s balloon escapes through the car window, it might as well be Sue Ellen’s dreams of independence drifting away.

And what about J.R.? Why is he is working so hard to charm Sue Ellen and John Ross? As is so often the case with J.R., the answer is complicated. I believe J.R. genuinely misses his son and wants to spend time with him. It’s also clear J.R. wants John Ross’s voting shares in Ewing Oil, and he knows the only way he can get them is by wooing Sue Ellen and the boy back to Southfork.

But J.R. also seems to love Sue Ellen as much as she loves him. Some of this is expressed through jealousy: Recall how he tried to drive a wedge between Sue Ellen and Dusty in “The Split.” And at the beginning of “My Father, My Son,” notice how rattled J.R. becomes when he spots her dining with Cliff in the restaurant.

The most revealing moment of all comes in this episode’s final moments. In another nice scene between Larry Hagman and Tyler Banks, J.R. tells John Ross a bedtime story at Southfork. Once the child’s eyes close (Banks really seems to drift off during the course of this scene), J.R.’s true feelings emerge. “You know, John Ross, I have a feeling your mama’s going to be back on Southfork real soon,” he says. “Yeah, I think she’s learning that absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

In that instant, we know J.R. may as well be talking about himself. Absence has made his heart grow fonder too. Isn’t it nice to be reminded he has one?

Grade: A

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Gone baby gone

Gone baby gone

‘MY FATHER, MY SON’

Season 5, Episode 17

Airdate: February 5, 1982

Audience: 23.1 million homes, ranking 3rd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Will Lorin

Director: Larry Hagman

Synopsis: J.R.’s friend, industrialist Wally Hampton, agrees to lure Cliff out of Dallas by hiring him for a job in Tulsa. Cliff tells Afton he still loves Sue Ellen. Bobby learns he’ll need an affidavit from Sue Ellen to adopt Christopher. Lucy kisses Roger after discovering Mitch’s friendship with Evelyn.

Cast: Barbara Babcock (Liz Craig), Tyler Banks (John Ross Ewing), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Phyllis Flax (Mrs. Chambers), Bruce French (Jerry Macon), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Claude Earl Jones (Wally Hampton), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Sherril Lynn Katzman (Jackie), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Leigh McCloskey (Dr. Mitch Cooper), Patricia McCormack (Evelyn Michaelson), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Dennis Redfield (Roger Larson), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Ron Tomme (Charles Eccles)

“My Father, My Son” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. I really liked this episode and wanted so much to believe that J.R. would turn over a new leaf and be a good husband to Sue Ellen, but alas! Still, it was great to see this more human, dare I say it, good side to J.R.

  2. I agree with Lady G. I really hoped as well. He was so good for a good long while…then he royally screwed up.

    But, I do love this episode, I totally remember seeing it the first time. I had not noticed that Larry Hagman directed it until now. I am realizing that I do tend to like his directing a lot. Honestly, I hadn’t paid attention before I started keeping ip with your critiques.

    I love the way that Linda Gray plays Sue Ellen in this episode. You can just feel her angst just radiating off the screen.

    BTW. …also remember that Larry looked quite fetching in this episode.

    I know I sound like a broken record…but the 2 of them are so much fun to watch onscreen….no matter what is going on….love, hate, annoyance,anger, sadness, teasing, or even just a conversation about the grass…..Lol….great chemistry.

    It makes me so sad to think that after March we will never get to see new scenes with the 2 of them together.

    And, as always, Chris, you write a very insightful analysis. I am always glad when I get the time to read your posts.

  3. Margaret Krebbs says:

    Wally Hampton was one of the truly great characters of Dallas.

    • Yes! I’m so glad you wrote that. The actor is wonderful and the character is a hoot. I’ll have a few thoughts about both in my next critique.

      Thanks Margaret!

      CB

  4. barbara fan says:

    NO Barbara Bel Geddes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Grrrrrrr
    But love the JR, Sue Ellen and little John Ross scenes at the park.

  5. kirksroom says:

    The show has well gotten over Jock Ewing’s death by now, and the most dramatic storylines have ended, but there are 9 episodes left in the season. This episode felt slower and more awkward than most, as a result of this fact. But it does a good job of creating more storylines, or enlarging them to become interesting, but it overall only works on the 2 major plots, leaving all the minor B-plots to seem boring and pointless.

    Not that it was entirely bad. I was shocked, however, at how nosy J.R. is. Having a man watch Sue Ellen’s house 24 hours for Cliff, making his best effort to destroy Cliff’s career. What right does he have to do this?

    But this episode is largely about jealousy, and the irrational feelings it produces. I enjoyed watching Afton see through J.R.’s attempt to turn her against Cliff and tell him off for being jealous of Sue Ellen and Cliff, asking “How stupid do you think I am?” That’s a thing about J.R. He constantly thinks that he is so clever, and that he can fool everyone with the slightest tricks, and yet he is so often mistaken.

    And yet in the very next scene Afton goes to Cliff’s house, demanding to know what he is doing with Sue Ellen, and he bluntly tells her. When she asks if he does not wish to be involved with her anymore, he replies, “Yeah.” And Afton leaves, furious in her jealousy, warning Cliff over and over again that J.R. will break him, and he will not get away with a relationship with Sue Ellen.

    Afton never cared about Cliff while they were together. She called him a loser and all statements about her attraction to him seemed mostly to get what she wanted, and yet the idea of someone else being able to have something which she cannot infuriates her. That is what this episode was all about, this human emotion.

    Similarly, Lucy separated Mitch, and yet she is devastated by his dating an older woman. Of course, it is none of her business, though, and Mitch bluntly calls her out on it. The characters in this episode are so jealous they are incapable of seeing how nosy and outlandish their actions are, until they are called out on it.

    One of the things I enjoy most about Dallas is how well the characters are developed. J.R.’s statement that Sue Ellen can’t stand being alone has only been proven true with every episode. She hasn’t gotten over Dusty yet, and refuses a strong relationship with Cliff because of this, (Cliff only spent the night because he got drunk and fell asleep on the couch, an unfortunate tragedy given what J.R. is planning for him) and yet she is so lonely and depressed at home all by herself, when she hangs up the phone with Clayton, who is flying to see Dusty at a rodeo, but offers to visit Sue Ellen, instead, which she refuses, and the babysitter declines her offer to stay and play baccarat. In her boredom and depression, she sees a glass of wine in the cabinet and walks toward it and opens it, but promptly closes it again, unwilling to fall off the barrel again.

    But this episode did have some very glaring flaws. For example, why was the wine there to begin with if Sue Ellen has completely given up alcohol? And Lucy’s photographer’s romantic advances on her are so sudden and awkward as to be laughable, and it is ridiculous how little Lucy reacts to it.

    And the lack of interesting material was so plainly obvious at the beginning when Pamela goes to an aerobics lesson with her friends which serves no point to the plot and has pointless dialogue with her friends before. And I was again annoyed by the blatant sexism in the writing, as Pamela tells her friends she merely waits for Christopher to wake up once he goes to sleep for hours on end, and refuses to go back to work until Christopher is grown when Bobby brings it up. For God’s sake, this is 1982, post women’s lib and the feminist rebellion. Why are these blatantly sexist attitudes allowed to persist so shamelessly as this?

    And J.R.’s scheme to persuade Donna to convince Ray to give up his voting shares was fairly blatantly added for dramatic tension, but my main disappointment is that it was not continued well, but in pointless scenes of Donna and Ray.

    But the episode was largely interesting, and the dramatic tension was excellently ratched up in the Bobby’s adoption plans storyline, which was expertly written. The attorney Bobby consults tells him they will hold a trial to get custody of Christopher, but first they will have to post an ad for the father, just so the courts will see they’ve done all they can to locate him, they won’t post in a major newspaper, the father will never read it. But what if J.R. does? is obviously Bobby’s biggest worry.

    I am again annoyed by Bobby’s lying to both his lawyer and Pamela. The situation which led to Christopher being adopted by Pamela is ludicrous and would never have taken place in real life. And yet now that we’ve gotten past that, at least they’re trying to write the storyline well and realistically. I’ll respect them for that.

    All-in-all, the dramatic tension was fairly good in this episode, and it contained some very good scenes, but it contains a few glaring flaws, and is overall just a so-so episode of Dallas.

    Notes

    – That aerobics session with the women was so blatantly fan service. And yet I’m ashamed to admit that a large part of me wishes it had gone on longer.
    – Funny how Mitch cuts his speech off a good 5 seconds before Lucy begins talking.
    . Katherine is a completely pointless and unnecessary character. All she does is have awkward sort-of conflict with Cliff.
    . Rebecca was only in one scene in this episode.
    . Miss Ellie wasn’t in this episode at all. I missed her.
    . Love how J.R. assures his son at the end that he and Sue Ellen will be back living with them soon. He’s so sure that he’s J.R. Ewing, he always gets what he wants.

    • You make a good point about the wine, kirksroom. My guess is Sue Ellen likes to have the alcohol on hand for her guests but feels strong enough to resist the temptation to drink it herself. The audience knows better. I guess Sue Ellen doesn’t learn because she has wine in her home at the beginning of the new “Dallas’s” second season, and she once again faces temptation, just like she does here.

  6. kirksroom once again rules the roost here! Your mind kirksroom is working not just the episode, but the inner minutiae of each episode, minute by minute & character by character. Not just what they are acting out, but what they are thinking & feeling in terms of emotion. Good on u. I luv J.R. reading John Ross III a story as they both look so happy.

Trackbacks

  1. […] “Dallas’s” fifth-season episode “My Father, My Son,” J.R. and Sue Ellen (Larry Hagman, Linda Gray) talk in her townhouse, while John Ross (Tyler Banks) […]

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