Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 99 – ‘Vengeance’

Caught in a bad romance

Caught in a bad romance

Cliff and Sue Ellen’s renewed romance dominates “Vengeance,” but we see their affair mostly through the eyes of the other “Dallas” characters. Miss Ellie cautions Sue Ellen about the relationship and later frets about the affair during a lunch date with J.R., while Cliff gets an earful from Rebecca. No one seems to believe these two are really in love, including Sue Ellen and Cliff themselves.

Ken Kercheval and Linda Gray share one scene in “Vengeance,” when Cliff dines at Sue Ellen’s townhouse and asks her to marry him. It isn’t much of a proposal. Cliff doesn’t offer her a ring, although he promises he’ll take care of her material needs. “I’m on the verge of one of the biggest deals of my life, and I’ll be able to support you very well indeed,” Cliff says. She tells him she’ll need time to think about it, but the anguished expression on Gray’s face lets us know her character’s heart has its answer already.

Cliff also seems to know he and Sue Ellen aren’t good for each other. I believe Cliff cares for Sue Ellen, but there’s little doubt the main reason he’s gotten involved with her again is because he knows how much it will upset J.R. Notice how defensive Cliff gets when Rebecca tells him she worries her son and J.R. will “destroy each other” over Sue Ellen. “Now wait a minute, I’m supposed to give up Sue Ellen because I’m afraid of a fight with J.R.?” Cliff asks. Kercheval is always fascinating to watch, but he does an especially nice job conveying Cliff’s self-denial here.

My other favorite “Vengeance” moments include Miss Ellie’s conversations with J.R. and Sue Ellen, as well as Bobby’s confrontation with Jeff Farraday. (The latter scene is cool mainly because it takes place in the hallway outside the Ewing Oil executive suites. Who knew the geology and engineering departments were right around the corner from J.R. and Bobby’s offices?)

I also like Ellie and Rebecca’s scene in the Southfork living room, although just once I’d like to see these women stop worrying about their adult children and spend a little time talking about themselves. Both characters were central figures in the beginning of the Barnes-Ewing feud; wouldn’t it be nice to see them reflect on the history they share as the wives of Jock and Digger?

The “Vengeance” scene where Roger slips into Lucy’s car and orders her to drive away is also nicely done. Composer Bruce Broughton’s background score is chilling, and Charlene Tilton looks terrified. Of course, I can’t help but wonder why the Ewings allowed Lucy to get involved with this creep in the first place. Maybe they were too busy meddling in Sue Ellen’s love life?

Grade: B


Drive, he said

Drive, he said


Season 5, Episode 22

Airdate: March 12, 1982

Audience: 27 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Howard Lakin

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: Cliff proposes to Sue Ellen, who tells him she needs time to think about it. J.R. spooks Clayton and sets up Cliff to take a huge financial fall. After Mitch tells Lucy their marriage is over, Roger abducts her. J.R. receives confirmation Christopher is Kristin’s son.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), James Brown (Harry McSween), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Tom Fuccello (Senator Dave Culver), 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), Arthur Malet (Mr. Forest), Leigh McCloskey (Dr. Mitch Cooper), Gary Pagett (Murphy), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Dennis Redfield (Roger Larson), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Ray Wise (Blair Sullivan)

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


  1. I could not agree with you more about the lack of historical discussion between Ellie and Rebecca. I have always found the lack of this to be extremely glaring. They skirt the issue in saying that history is repeating itself with another Barnes/Ewing love triangle but never really discuss what the original scenario was nor is it even brought up by the key players (Ellie and Rebecca).
    In re-watching the original series I find myself feeling as though I missed an episode or scene- these women have walked the same path and are forever tied together, surely this is something a writer would have wanted addressed. This is especially true for Rebecca, whose choices seem to have been so tied to Digger and his dealings with Jock and Ellie. I really thought this would be touched on when Rebecca sees Clayton and Ellie dating but even then it is overlooked. While I would never have wanted Dallas to give into the “cat-fight” scenes of other shows, these two actresses are so talented and had so much presence that a powerful scene between the two of them would have been amazing.

    • You stated this beautifully. Can you imagine if Barbara Bel Geddes and Priscilla Pointer had had a great showdown? It would have been powerful stuff.

      • I really thought they would have over Clayton! Meow! I kind of felt bad for Rebecca, I think she really liked him too. Though her family is just as insane as the Ewings, probably more so, they’re vengeful and murderous and suicidal. Yikes. Run Clayton!

  2. Can Cliff give a heartfelt marriage proposal? His later relationship with Afton show him being even more cavalier. I agree with Lady G that I was expecting more from Rebecca about Clayton and Ellie. Maybe if she’d stayed on the show longer…

  3. Garnet McGee says:

    Ellie enables JR much too much! During their lunch conversation she needed to ask JR why Sue Ellen left him in the first place. Might it have had something to do with his compulsive, pathological philandering? JR might be obsessed with his ex but I doubt he truly loves her. He is interested because he can’t stand to lose. He also doesn’t want to have another man in his son’s life. I wonder how much the adult John Ross will resemble his father? Who enabled their son more? Does Sue Ellen enable John Ross as much as Ellie enabled JR to get away with dastardly deeds?
    Just when I was thinking JR’s interest in Christopher might be rooted in paternal feeling I was reminded that JR is motivated by greed. At least he is loyal to his namesake. Art Hindle is really great as Jeff Faraday. Did you notice how his face reflected his sense of desperation? I wish he had been cast as another character perhaps a regular.

    The Ramos land swindle resembles the Wellington land swap. Obviously JR was a repeat offender when it came to land swindles.

    Howard Keel continues to impress as Clayton Farlow.

    • I find it interesting that JR- a grown man- can still be enabled by his mother. Ellie cannot win, she is either viewed as being too clingy to her children (i.e. you can never move out of that house) or she is seen and not being involved enough. JR’s bad husband issues were Sue Ellen’s to handle, not Ellie’s. She handled Jock, that was enough 🙂

    • Oh, what a fascinating idea: Comparing Miss Ellie and J.R. with Sue Ellen and John Ross. I need to write that one, Garnet. Thank you!

  4. I liked Cliff here too. He shows raw emotion. Sue Ellen holding in her feelings and just biting her lip when she pretends to quietly think of Cliff’s marriage proposal says more C.B. than if the scene played out & she was given a huge piece of dialogue!

  5. About Cliff’s proposal to Sue Ellen… To be fair, most of the proposals on this series are done sans ring. I just finished rewatching season 7. Clayton proposed to Ellie without a ring, although he did buy her a big gaudy ring soon afterwards. Mark proposed several times to Pam without offering a ring, after she finally accepted, they went ring-shopping and chose the ring together. Bobby proposed to Jenna without a ring also.


  1. […] “Dallas’s” fifth-season episode “Vengeance,” Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) sits in the living room of Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), who stands […]

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