Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 16 – ‘Blame Game’

Blame Game, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, TNT

Once and again

I cringed when I saw J.R. and Bobby’s instant-messaging exchange in “Blame Game.” This episode was filmed after Larry Hagman’s death last fall, so I’m guessing the producers created the sequence using leftover footage of the actor. (J.R.’s presence during Ann’s sentencing appears to be recycled too.) I’m all for rescuing Hagman from the cutting room floor, but having J.R. send IMs to pester Bobby into watching an online video of a basketball-playing dog? That felt silly. It also reminded me of how the old show used one-sided telephone conversations to keep Jock around after Jim Davis died, which is one “Dallas” tradition I’d just as soon not continue.

By the end of “Blame Game,” though, I had a change of heart. I’m not sure why the show had Patrick Duffy shout Bobby’s responses to J.R.’s instant messages (even if J.R. was supposed to be down the hall, couldn’t Bobby have typed his answers?), but the revelation that the viral video was really a Trojan horse to erase Bobby’s notorious cloud drive was pretty nifty. J.R. pulled a fast one on Bobby, and “Dallas” pulled a fast one on its audience. I always fall for this show’s fake-outs, which either means I’m really gullible or the people who make the show are really clever. I’ll let you decide.

Overall, “Blame Game” is another solid hour of “Dallas.” The script comes from Gail Gilchriest, who also wrote last season’s “The Enemy of My Enemy,” the episode that brought Sue Ellen off the sidelines and got her involved in the Southfork oil saga. In “Blame Game,” Gilchriest once again demonstrates a knack for writing for “Dallas’s” first lady, giving Linda Gray some of her best material yet. I love the scene where Sue Ellen and Bobby lament the rivalry between their sons, as well the jailhouse pep talk Sue Ellen gives Ann. The friendship between these women has become one of my favorite relationships on the show. It feels believable, especially now that we know that Ann, like Sue Ellen, was once a less-than-perfect wife and mother. (As far as Ann’s release on probation: Yes, it’s a little convenient, but when has a Ewing ever gone to jail and stayed?)

I wish Sue Ellen hadn’t been so easily manipulated by John Ross into seizing Elena’s share of Ewing Energies, but I don’t really mind because it’s so much fun to see the return of the shrewd, bitchy Sue Ellen from the late ’80s. With J.R. exiting the stage, Sue Ellen is now poised to succeed him as John Ross’s mentor and the thorn in Bobby’s side. What a tantalizing prospect. Hopefully this will cement Gray’s place in the narrative for a long time to come. Likewise, I’m thrilled to see Pamela finally snag her piece of the company. Think about how entertaining the Ewing Energies’ board meetings will be once Sue Ellen and Pamela join the fray.

“Blame Game’s” other V.I.P.: Jesse Metcalfe, who has quietly become one of the new “Dallas’s” best performers. The actor has found the right balance between strength and sensitivity, much like Duffy did during the original series. I also like how Christopher has succeeded Bobby as “Dallas’s” resident action hero. In “Blame Game,” Christopher makes a valiant attempt to turn the tables on the thug holding him at gunpoint at Ewing Energies. Later, he shields Elena when Vicente points his gun at her. Jesse Bochco does a nice job directing both sequences, and he gets a big assist from “Dallas” composer Rob Cairns, whose score during the showdown with Vicente feels even more cinematic than usual.

It’s also nice to see Kuno Becker’s Drew Ramos take down Vicente, although the body count on this show is beginning to trouble me. During the past 10 hours of “Dallas,” Marta, Tommy, Frank and Vicente have died; Harris was gunned down but survived. On a lighter note, since Becker arrived a few episodes ago, I find myself looking forward each week to his scenes with Jordana Brewster. Drew brings out Elena’s feistiness in a way only a sibling could. Do I dare suggest these two are “Dallas’s” best brother/sister act since Victoria Principal and Ken Kercheval?

The rest of the “Blame Game” hostage crisis yields mixed feelings. In addition to the Sue Ellen/Bobby scene, I like the moment when Vicente realizes the Ewing cousins have traded romantic partners since his last encounter with them. (“You Ewing boys share after all! I love it!”) Likewise, it’s impossible to not cheer when John Ross and Christopher come together to overpower Vicente’s henchmen. As much fun as it is to see the Ewings squabble, it’s always more satisfying when they band together.

My gripes: The hostage sequences are too compressed. “Blame Game” invites comparisons to the classic “Winds of Vengeance,” an early “Dallas” episode where the Ewings are held hostage. (Fans of “Dallas” producer Cynthia Cidre’s previous series, “Cane,” will recall that show did a family-held-hostage episode too.) But the reason “Winds of Vengeance” succeeds is because the slower pace of 1970s television allowed the tension to build steadily. “Blame Game” squeezes its crisis into a roughly 15-minute period, and some of that time is taken up by Ann’s sentencing.

This is also one of those times I wish the new “Dallas’s” Southfork interiors more closely resembled those seen on the old show. The living room where the Ewings are held captive in “Blame Game” looks nothing like the one where the “Winds of Vengeance” hostage crisis unfolds. The only time you feel the history of this house is when you see it from the outside.

Of course, it’s not like I haven’t become attached to the new Southfork set too. The “Blame Game” scene where Bobby bursts into J.R.’s bedroom and finds it empty is surprisingly poignant. The brief glimpse of J.R.’s empty table is what moves me. This is where our hero glanced at Miss Ellie’s picture before signing over the Southfork deed to Bobby last season. It’s where he told John Ross to never take advantage of the family when they’re in the trouble, and where he learned to use his tablet. How sad to think we’ll never see him sit there again.

Grade: B

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Blame Game, Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe, TNT

Captive audience

‘BLAME GAME’

Season 2, Episode 6

Telecast: February 25, 2013

Writer: Gail Gilchriest

Director: Jesse Bochco

Audience: 2.6 million viewers on February 25

Synopsis: During mediation, Christopher agrees to give 10 percent of Ewing Energies to Pamela, who refuses to share it with John Ross. J.R. erases Bobby’s cloud drive and leaves Southfork unannounced. When Vicente stages an ambush on Southfork and tries to kidnap Elena, Drew shoots and kills him. Sue Ellen uses the morals clause in Elena’s contract to seize her shares in the company.

Cast: Kuno Becker (Drew Ramos), Emma Bell (Emma Brown), Carlos Bernard (Vicente Cano), Pablo Bracho (consul general), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Jesse Campos (Jose), Vanessa Cedotal (District Attorney), Damon Dayoub (Vicente’s henchman), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Julie Gonzalo (Pamela Barnes), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Jason Kravitz (Pamela’s lawyer), Judith Light (Judith Ryland), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Glenn Morshower (Lou Bergen), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Freddie Poole (Ramon), Krishna Smitha (Shireen Patel), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Rebekah Turner (Jury Forman), Wilbur Fitzgerald (Judge Wallace Tate)

“Blame Game” is available at DallasTNT.com, Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. Nice review, Chris.

    Well, we did get what we wanted…Sue Ellen now has part of EE. She doesn’t appear to be ready to just had the shares over to John Ross. I am so glad that she is now in the thick of the family drama…where she should be. I am still questioning whether she was manipulated into the situation or not. I know that is John Ross’ intention. I know that he loves her and JR, but he is certainly their child. I don’t think he sees anything wrong with manipulating either one of his parents. JR certainly was aware of it and used it against him …like with the con he did last year. Sue Ellen knows what he is up to. But my question is …will she continue to go along with his every whim…or will she go off the reservation when either he upsets her with his dirty dealing or her plans diverge from him? I think Sue Ellen took what Bobby said about family sticking together to heart….LOL she just interpreted it differently.

    I am looking forward to some board meetings now. It should be more interesting now that it isn’t just John Ross against the other 3. There is a lot of potential stories in that situation now.

    I wish there had been more time at the house, too. The scenes were good….but felt way too short. It does make me worry about the memorial episode. We find out about JR at the end of next episode. That means a lot will be happening in episode 8. I know it probably will not happen…but I wish episode 8 was 1.5 or 2 hours long.

    • I agree with everything you wrote here, Hel. Like you, I’m hopeful Sue Ellen won’t blindly support John Ross. And I think you’re right that she took Bobby’s comment to heart but interpreted it differently. At least, that’s what I hope.

    • BTW… I thought it was interesting that they began the episode with that great scene wtih Sue Ellen and Ann and ended the episode with the great EE scene that was a clash of sorts between Sue Ellen and Bobby. Interesting bookends, you know? Both scenes were about support and loved ones being there for one another….but certainly different results and feel.

      • Good feedback, Hel. The Sue Ellen bookend scenes hadn’t occurred to me. Isn’t it nice to see Linda Gray getting screentime?

  2. Great review!
    I agree, perhaps Sue Ellen is going be a part of EE, not just hand over to John Ross. That would be more interesting to watch her kerp him in line. So now is Elena still part of the company, or is she out? In reality, why would Sue Ellen just give her back her shares? She’s not really family just yet. BTW, do you think Elena will ever smile again? I’m getting a bit annoyed with how hard done by she is. Just let her and Christopher be a happy couple once in awhile.
    I was a bit sad to see J.Rs last sceen include angry birds, but I liked the computer hacking twist!
    I also really like to see Christopher and John Ross work together against the kidnappers. I want them to get along!
    Not to excited to see John Ross sweetly kissing Pamela. I just don’t like the romance between them. I feel like it was too easy of a storyline. Also Ann’s probation a little far fetched. But hey, it is a soap.

    • Sounds like we agree on a lot, Morgan. I like John Ross and Pamela, though. I think they make an interesting couple and help soften each other, which is nice.

  3. I enjoyed watching this episode. Many stroylines came to a head that started the previous season. I thought it was great to see the real Sue Ellen. She really is the best. Linday Gray, in my opinion, gave one of her best performances of the new series.

    I like Drew Ramos on the show. I agree with this statement too – “It’s also nice to see Kuno Becker’s Drew Ramos take down Vicente.”

    My gripes: The scene when Drew Ramos said he checked his truck and everything was fine,. He suspects he had been setup and mentions the person he had fired. Elena, Drew, and Christopher know John Ross was involved with the guy not striking oil on purpose already. It seems that this was part of the earlier storyline.
    Gripe #2 – All of the data that was erased could easily be recovered.

    • ahh,,,it is dependent upon the virus as to whether it could be recovered.

      • I don’t think so. It was being stored by a cloud service provider. The main purpose of backup, recovery, and archiving or BURA is to recover from disasters. If malignant code wiped out files, they should be able to be recovered. I know it is a t.v. show. I do appreciate how Dallas does keep up with changing technology. To permanently delete that video evidence, the cloud service provider would have to be severely hacked or have high level data center administrators working for John Ross and JR on the inside. It is very hard to permanently remove data. Not impossible. The FBI can recover data off of hard drives that had been reformatted several times and even recover data off of hard drives that had been in fires.

      • Jump, you sound like you know what you’re talking about! I wonder if Bobby would be smart enough to contact the FBI?

      • Hopefully the saga of Bobby’s cloud drive is over.

    • Thanks Jumpsteady. I’m no tech guy, but I suspect there could be a way to recover that data. My guess is the show will allow that storyline to end though.

      • I can not think of any reason that evidence could be of any value to the storyline, except for the whole “moral clause” thing.

      • I think you’re probably right, Jump. We shall see.

      • Dan in WI says:

        There is a very good reason to get a tech guy to recover that cloud evidence: playing dirty. So far Bobby was just going to show it to Sue Ellen to convince her she is backing the wrong horse. But there has to be enough there to send John Ross to jail. So if Bobby and/or Christopher want to play dirty I bet sending John Ross to jail would shake up the balance of power at Ewing Energies.
        That said my gut says this is a plot thread that is going to die away.

      • I’m with you on that last part, Dan.

  4. Dan in WI says:

    I too cringed when we saw the cutting room JR scene. When viewing it I couldn’t believe they would resort to that type of corny in Dallas. Sure we later see something made of the scene but even that may be for nothing. If the heart to heart Bobby and Sue Ellen had during the hostage crisis didn’t convince Sue Ellen to do the right thing then maybe Bobby’s cloud drive evidence wouldn’t have done any good either. Either way they must not have had the JR cutting room floor quality available that we saw on the season 1 DVD extras. I have to believe if there were a better scene to use, we would have got it.

    Watch carefully in that scene between Ann and Emma. Ann tells the hair highlights story and Emma just seems to be nodding knowingly. It’s like she’s had similar problems with Daddy and Grandma. I think we are going to learn they’ve screwed her up pretty good as well.

    Several people are rightfully pointing out that the hostage scene went by way too quickly in comparison to how it would have been handled in classic Dallas and I don’t disagree. I’d like to add another data point to the “it’s moving too quickly” case file. In the first season we had John Ross and Christopher mend the fences and work together as a team for a little over an episode. Here during the hostage situation we see them work together briefly during the hostage brawl and afterward they were truly obviously grateful each other was okay and seemed to acknowledge with that knowing look they were a great team in that tense situation. Once again it is way to short lived. In the very next scene they are at odds again when Sue Ellen is brought on board at Ewing Energies. Now I’m not saying Christopher and John Ross shouldn’t be at each other’s throats most of the time. After all that is Dallas at its core. But at some point I’d like to see a prolonged period of harmony too. There is precedent for that. Remember in season 12 Bobby took JR back at Ewing Oil and they worked together pretty well together for the most part culminating in that trip to Vienna and Moscow. It was a great change of pace and someday I’d like to see that here too.

    Am I alone on this? When Sue Ellen was introduced as the new Ewing Energies board member I first thought she was being brought on a peacemaker as a result of the hostage situation heart to heart. Of course that was quickly shattered when we were told it was at Elena’s expense after all.

    Sue Ellen really seems to know she is doing wrong. You can see her having attacks of conscious. Early in the episode we see such an occurrence. But as soon as that happens John Ross is right there flashing the puppy dog eyes and the Elena dumped me sob story and every time it drives Sue Ellen right into the palm of John Ross’ hand. He really is playing his own mother.

    I’m still not buying Drew as a good guy. Sure he saved the day with and offed Vicente. But I think he was saving his sister who he has some sense of loyalty for. I still don’t buy that he didn’t know what was going on with the trucking. I watch that scene where he picked up that first truck and I believe he knew he was getting involved with something that wasn’t on the up and up.

    Man that was a very determined Bobby who promised to give John Ross and Sue Ellen the fight of their lives. Look out. This is going to be good.

    Oh and by the way. Did Bobby really only have one copy of that cloud drive evidence?

    • I am not sure Drew is such a good guy, either. He has a different view of the Ewings. He is all fine when they are around….but he is quick to find fault when it is him and Elena. And , yes, there is no way he didn’t know what he was doing was illegal. You are exactly right about that first scene with the truck. Plus, he even admitted that he knew there was no papers….which stinks to high heaven.

      but I do like Drew. I like him and Elena. I think he has a down to earth feel about him.

    • Great feedback, as always. I agree with your points about John Ross and Christopher and would love to see a prolonged period of harmony. I wonder if J.R.’s death might bring the cousins together (for at least more than one episode). As far as Drew: I suspect you’re right, but I doubt he’ll turn out to be altogether bad. Or at least that’s my hope. I’m surprised by how much I’m enjoying Drew and his relationship with Elena.

      • Dan in WI says:

        I’m having a hard time seeing JR’s death being the catalyst bringing John Ross and Christopher together. If Christopher bailing John Ross out of the season 1 Vincente situation of fighting together in the hostal situation didn’t do it, I have a hard time believing the death of someone Christopher isn’t loosing any love for will do it.
        I want to see it at some point. But for now the plot devices that would have facilitated it have passed and this isn’t the kind of thing that should be forced. Bobby and JR rarely worked together and that needs to be the case here too.

      • Good points Dan. You’re very correct: I wouldn’t want a John Ross/Christopher alliance to feel forced. It should happen naturally and believably.

      • I wonder about the effect of JR’s death on all characters and on how long we will have peace. Beyond the grief that Bobby, SE, and JR3 will be dealing with and, perhaps, bonding over, I would think that without JR around there might be incentive for outsiders to move on the company. Even though JR wasn’t active in the business and wasn’t involved in EE, i think people were still quite leery of him. LOL…how many times has John Ross been told that since he is JR’s kid there was no way they would do business. Outsiders moving on them would bring them together.

      • Smart speculation, Hel. I’d kind of like to see J.R.’s death unite the family.

  5. ” It’s this kind of telling point that even though a show targets keeping, it still manages to perpetuate materialism.

Trackbacks

  1. […] “Blame Game,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, Bobby and Sue Ellen (Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray) sit together […]

  2. […] are the questions we’re pondering as we await tonight’s telecast of “Blame Game,” TNT’s latest “Dallas” […]

  3. […] Will Ewing Energies survive? In “Blame Game,” last week’s episode, Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) finally seized Elena’s share of Ewing Energies. […]

  4. […] continues to get a boost from DVR users. The previous episode, “Blame Game,” drew almost 2.6 million viewers on February 25, but by the middle of last week, DVR users had […]

  5. […] look much like the one that Gonzalo’s character signed when she received her annulment papers in “Blame Game.” (In the above image, the “Patricia Barrett” signature is on top, followed by the “Pamela […]

  6. […] live.) The season’s least satisfying storyline: Vicente Cano’s ambush on Southfork and the hostage crisis that ensued. This storyline did little to advance the season’s main narrative – the fight for […]

  7. […] “Blame Game,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) approaches Emma (Emma Bell) at the […]

  8. […] two “Dallas” episodes invite comparison as much as “Winds of Vengeance” and “Blame Game.” Both segments — which debuted in 1978 and 2013, respectively — depict armed intruders invading […]

  9. […] “Blame Game,” TNT’s latest “Dallas” episode, Vicente Cano ambushes Southfork and holds the Ewings captive. […]

  10. […] Strong kills it during Ann’s testimony scene in “Trial and Error,” Vicente bites the dust in “Blame Game,” and then the saddest shot of all: the death of J.R. Ewing in “The Furious and the […]

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: