Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 98 – ‘The Prodigal’

Welcome back

Welcome back

“The Prodigal” marks the triumphant return of Pam Ewing. What’s that you say? You didn’t realize she had gone away? Well, consider this: The Pam who emerges during “Dallas’s” third season – the one who cries a lot and obsesses over having children – doesn’t bear much resemblance to the strong-willed, independent-minded heroine we meet when the show begins. That’s the Pam we see again in “The Prodigal.” It’s nice to have her back.

Pam’s “return” comes toward the end of the episode, when a frightened Lucy tells her that Roger has become obsessed with her. (Lucy leaves out the detail about having sex with Roger after discovering the shrine he’s built to her.) Pam springs into action and asks for the location of Roger’s studio. “Don’t you think you should wait for Bobby?” Lucy asks. Pam ignores the question. “Lucy, what’s the address?”

The next time we see Pam, she’s entering Roger’s studio, where she introduces herself as Lucy’s aunt and explains she’s there to deliver “a warning.” Roger smirks. “A warning? You’re too pretty to give warnings,” he says. Pam tells him to “cut out the phony charm” and orders him to stay away from Lucy. He responds by asking if she plans to “sic the Ewing family” on him if he fails to obey. “Maybe, but I don’t think I’ll have to,” Pam says. “I can take care of people like you myself.”

See what I mean? This is the Pam I fell in love with during early “Dallas” episodes like “Lessons,” when she rescues Lucy from her high school blackmailer, and “Black Market Baby,” when she stands up to Bobby’s chauvinism. Victoria Principal always delivers great performances – even when Pam is weepy and preoccupied with children – but the actress is at her best during moments like these. In this scene, Pam is calm and direct, which makes her seem genuinely intimidating. Principal makes me believe Pam is a woman you don’t want to mess with.

Pam and Roger’s encounter is one of several great confrontations in “The Prodigal.” I also love when Katherine and Cliff get in a screaming match over his management of her father’s company (Katherine: “You disgusting little man!” Cliff: “I might be a disgusting little man, but I am president of Wentworth Tool and Die now!”), as well as Afton’s visit to Sue Ellen’s townhouse, where they exchange deliciously bitchy barbs (Afton: “We both do seem to have the same taste in men.” Sue Ellen: “The fact that you were sleeping with my ex-husband doesn’t mean we have the same taste in anything.”).

I also like the scene where Clayton visits Afton in her dressing room to learn more about Cliff, his rival for Sue Ellen’s affections. Howard Keel and Audrey Landers are two of my favorite “Dallas” performers, and it’s nice to see them share screen time. But I also can’t help but think: Since these two have such gorgeous singing voices, wouldn’t it have been nice if this scene had been set to music?

Grade: A


Just duet

Just duet


Season 5, Episode 21

Airdate: March 5, 1982

Audience: 28.4 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: David Paulsen

Director: Michael Preece

Synopsis: J.R. uncovers evidence Christopher is his son. Bobby threatens Farraday when he returns to Dallas and demands hush money. Pam warns Roger to stay away from Lucy. While researching her new book, Donna learns Jock and Sam once staged a land grab that resulted in another man’s suicide. Afton tells Sue Ellen that Clayton is in love with her. Katherine clashes with Cliff and cozies up to J.R.

Cast: Lewis Arquette (Dr. Kensington) Tyler Banks (John Ross Ewing), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Peter Brandon (Lowell Greer), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Bill Erwin (Abel Greeley), Tom Fuccello (Senator Dave Culver), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Phyllis Flax (Mrs. Chambers), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), 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), Gary Pagett (Murphy), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Dennis Redfield (Roger Larson), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), Ray Wise (Blair Sullivan)

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


  1. I really enjoyed this episode too. And I like springy!Pam vs. Depressed!Pam. But then in the latter seasons she sort of becomes unbearable again. Sigh. Roger was such a skeev, I can’t believe she even considered being with him, like the last review, hello, he’s a lunatic! He’s got Lucy pictures all over his private room! And Howard Keel is so amazingly brilliant with how he can fall for a woman like Sue Ellen and then down the pike he’s quietly but truly in love with Ellie. I mean, I cheated, I watched everything back to back, so obviously the process took a few years, but it just came so natural.

    • Spring!Pam vs. Depressed!Pam. Love it! The scene where she tells off Roger is one of the highlights of a season that has turned out much better than I remembered.

      Thanks for commenting Lady G.! Hope your new year is off to a good start!


      • Yeah, it was like all her confidence just came back once she had baby Christopher. Thanks Chris, the same to you and yours. 😀

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hello, Chris!
    Why pictures are no longer clickable?

    • WordPress recently changed its system for uploading images. Do you prefer clickable photos? I’ll try to bring them back.

      • Anonymous says:

        You find great moments for a photo, they need to show bigger and some of them should be saved for the memories.

  3. Margaret Krebbs says:

    Great critque as always!

    I think it says alot about the way the writers felt about the Lucy character that they would have her sooo narcisistic she would be turned on by his wall of creepy photos. Also, that Roger is played not by a handsome lotahrio but by a wimpy dorky nerd is pretty telling too.

    But yes, having Pam save Lucy (I know Bobby was the muscle, but Pam was all action) was refreshing. Normally the damsel in distress is saved by the male hero. This time she is saved (again) by superhero Pam!!!!

    • I love the way you think, Margaret! Great insight. So true about Pam being the real hero here, even though Bobby supplies the muscle later. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

      • Bobby was always pulling Lucy’s butt out of the fire as the muscle, with his money, gifts, etc. They really need to have more interaction on the new series. I hope to see her again.

      • Yes, I agree! That would be wonderful.

  4. Pam returns! That’s a great way to sum up this episode. I really liked the scene whe she tells Roger off.

  5. Jennifer Irons says:

    I loved the strong-willed Pam who could stand up to anyone, including JR and Bobby, when necessary. Once she became all weepy over having(or not being able to have, in her case) children and the whining over Jenna Wade being pregnant with Bobby’s child, I grew annoyed & irritated with the character. That being said, VP is a fantastic actress in every scene she is in and I did miss her after she left the show. I HATED her tragic car accident scene, though; Pam did not deserve that at all!

    • I agree, Jennifer. I love the strong-willed Pam. I was sad to see the character her lose her spark, although I always thought Victoria Principal was terrific. And you’re right: Her car accident is horrific. I have to believe there was a better way to write her out of the show.

  6. Garnet McGee says:

    I like the character of Pam being strong again. Victoria Principle was an actress with limited range but she did make Pam appealing. My love affair with Clayton Farlow continues. I adore him with Sue Ellen. They would have made a great couple and I usually hate on screen romances with older men and younger women.

  7. Getting out of her depression is good 4 Pamela. She helps little Lucy even though both she & Lucy slept with Ray Krebbs in the past. It shows how Pamela Barnes Ewing is sexually liberated but also appropriately tough when it comes to the mores & standards of the men in Lucy’s life & to ensure that she is safe in her chosen vocation.

  8. I love seeing the Pam of the earlier Season come back ( strong, confident and feisty) it is a pity the writers did not keep her like this for very long. I also have to mention Katherine and Cliff’s confrontation, now we see that “sweet” Katherine isn’t so sweet after all but as we find out more in later Seasons a true b***h.

  9. Dan in WI says:

    While the this might have marked the return of strong-willed Pam that fact remains that she was unable to “take care of people like [Roger] by herself.” She completely underestimated the nut job that he was. I’ll say this for Denis Redfield: He was completely convincing as a psychopathic stalker. His performance made my skin crawl. His mother must be so proud.


  1. […] “Dallas’s” fifth-season episode “The Prodigal,” Roger (Dennis Redfield) is surprised when Pam (Victoria Principal) enters his photography […]

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