Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 104 — ‘Changing of the Guard’

Changing of the Guard, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

He’s back

“Dallas” shakes things up in its sixth-season opener, “Changing of the Guard.” Miss Ellie ousts J.R. as president of Ewing Oil and installs Bobby in his place, the company’s executive suite gets a much-needed makeover and Sue Ellen suddenly begins sporting shorter hair. This episode also introduces an intriguing newcomer: Holly Harwood, played by Lois Chiles, whose debut is the highlight of this episode.

We meet Holly when she drops by the Cattleman’s Club, where Bobby is celebrating his new job along with Jordan Lee and Marilee Stone. Jordan introduces Bobby to Holly and explains she recently inherited her company, Harwood Oil, from her late father. After she departs, Bobby observes how Holly is “mighty young” to run an oil company. “I give it maybe a year or two alive with her in charge,” Jordan responds. You have to wonder: Would these two be having this conversation if Holly were a young man?

Of course, Holly seems destined to get the last laugh. Chiles makes her second appearance in “Changing of the Guard’s” final scene, which takes place in another darkened cocktail lounge. We see Holly at a table, seated across from someone who is off-camera. “What do you say? Do we have a deal?” she asks. The other person leans into the shot. It’s J.R. “Well, it’s a very tempting offer. Especially coming from such a lovely young lady,” he says. As the conversation continues, we learn Holly wants J.R. to help her run Harwood Oil. He agrees to take the job — in exchange for a 25 percent ownership stake in the company. “You don’t come cheap, do you J.R.?” Holly purrs. His response: “You wouldn’t want me if I did, would you?”

This dialogue is delicious, but I also like how director Michael Preece reveals Holly and J.R. are in cahoots by waiting a beat to bring him into the frame. It reminds me of the kind of surprises we get on TNT’s “Dallas” revival. Coincidentally, “Changing of the Guard” is the title of the new show’s first episode, which ends with the revelation that J.R. is secretly plotting with another young beauty, Marta del Sol. Both sequences also feature J.R. and the schemer toasting their underhanded alliance, and both end with Larry Hagman flashing his famous grin. (Another parallel between the new and old “Dallas”: Seeing Afton slink around Cliff’s hospital bedside in this episode presages her behavior in “Guilt and Innocence,” a recent edition of the TNT series.)

I also like how the 1982 “Changing of the Guard” doesn’t leave J.R. down after Ellie kicks him out of Ewing Oil. In this episode’s most dramatic shot, Preece shows us the top of the Ewing Oil building at night, then sweeps down to reveal a forlorn-looking J.R. gazing at it from the street. I always appreciate seeing J.R.’s vulnerable side in moments like this, but more than anything I want to see him riding high, which is why I’m glad this episode wastes no time getting him back in the saddle.

“Changing of the Guard” also resolves two of the plots left dangling at the end of the previous season. Cliff recovers from his coma after his suicide attempt — no surprise there — while Lucy learns she is indeed pregnant with Roger’s baby, which does feel like an unexpected twist. In addition, this episode offers two notable casting milestones: Danone Simpson (now known as Danone Camden) makes her first appearance as Kendall, the receptionist at Ewing Oil, while Roseanna Christiansen assumes the role of Teresa, the Southfork maid played by multiple extras during the show’s first five years. William Bassett also makes his third and final appearance as Cliff’s physician Dr. Hollister, a role Bassett originated in 1979.

Finally, a word about Sue Ellen’s new hairdo: When the fifth-season finale “Goodbye, Cliff Barnes” ended, Sue Ellen had long, luscious locks. “Changing of the Guard” picks up moments later, yet suddenly her hair is shorter and styled much differently. She has what might now be called a mullet, although I can remember how chic everyone thought Linda Gray looked in 1982. In a newspaper interview later that year, Gray joked about the continuity error, suggesting Sue Ellen was so distraught over Cliff’s coma, she ducked out of the hospital for a quick makeover. It’s hard for me to imagine that look ever coming back into vogue again, but what do I know? I never expected to see the return of the three-piece suit, which has become one of Josh Henderson’s signatures on the new “Dallas.” Might one of his leading ladies someday sport a Sue Ellen-style mullet?

Never say never, darlin’.

Grade: B


Changing of the Guard, Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing



Season 6, Episode 1

Airdate: October 1, 1982

Audience: 18.7 million homes, ranking 5th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Michael Preece

Synopsis: Cliff emerges from his coma, but Sue Ellen isn’t sure she wants to marry J.R. When the Ewings vote to oust J.R. as president of Ewing Oil, he agrees to become a silent partner to Holly Harwood, who recently inherited her father’s oil company. Lucy learns she’s pregnant.

Cast: Tyler Banks (John Ross Ewing), William H. Bassett (Dr. Hollister), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Lois Chiles (Holly Harwood), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Karlene Crockett (Muriel), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Phyllis Flax (Mrs. Chambers), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Danone Simpson (Kendall), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis)

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


  1. I’m excited to see the return of the classic series critiques! Holly Harwood is a great character, who (almost) always seems to be having a good time. Certainly more so than Lois Chiles’ other Holly–Dr. Goodhead from James Bond’s Moonraker. It’s a shame they changed Linda Gray’s hairstyle. She looked fantastic in the fifth season, but this new do (I find it hard to believe it was fashionable even then) makes her look about 10 years older.

  2. Stephan says:

    Am I the only one to actually like Sue Ellen’s new hairstyle? I remember that it attracted a lot of attention at the time, and there was advice in magazines in Germany for women who wanted to look like Linda Gray (and who wouldn’t?).
    Mullet or no mullet, it’s great to see your classic DALLAS critiques moving on. You certainly highlight the strengths of this episode in establishing the framework for a new season of wheeling and dealing. I also enjoyed the parallels that you point out between old and new DALLAS. Looking forward to more of the same…

    • Stephan, I think you may indeed be the only one who likes Sue Ellen’s new hairstyle. Just kidding! I’m sure other fans appreciate it as well. In doing research for this critique, I was surprised at how much attention Linda Gray’s makeover got at the time. I remember my mom and sister really liking her new hairdo, but I didn’t realize it caused such a commotion in the press. It was the subject of magazine covers! Who knew?

      Thanks for reading my site and for your kind words about my critiques. I enjoy writing them and look forward to sharing them each week. Stay tuned for more!

      Thanks again,

    • Morganmg says:

      Not sure about the mullet! But I guess it looked cool then. I think Linda Grays hair today is amazing. I’m in my 30’s and I want her hairstyle!

  3. Barbara fan says:

    Thanks for a great review – I love this season and a Larry has a great rapport with Lois Chiles who was a great addition to the cast.
    (Now why couldn’t Bobby end up with her rather than blandie Ann)

    Not a fan of Sue Ellens mullet (although its an improvement on her final season in Dallas hair) preferred it longer

    Nice to see Larry back wheelin’ and dealin’ and being generally devious! Oh that man is so sadly missed!

  4. Am I the only one surprised at how low the season premiere’s audience was?

  5. LOL, I first thought it was strange for Sue Ellen to have a new hairstyle while spending all ther time in the hospital at Cliff’s bedside, but then I realized Sue Ellen could hardly have spent ALL her time at Cliff’s bedside – after all, there were Rebecca and Afton who didn’t want her there, and there was nothing she could really do to help – so she must have thought about doing *something* to pass the time, and distract herself a little. So getting her hair done doesn’t seem like a too far-fetched idea to me… 😉

  6. Garnet McGee says:

    I feel a sense of accomplishment having watched over 100 episodes since my beloved Dallas TNT went on hiatus.
    Kudos to Afton for fighting for her man and declaring to Sue Ellen: “Cliff is my man”. Will her daughter fight for her man in the same way? Her steadfast belief in someone who has done nothing to deserve her loyalty reminds me of Drew’s loyalty to Emma.
    I am really looking forward to another scene between these now mother’s-in-law.
    As a viewer of the continuation, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of example Bobby set for Christopher when he punched Uncle JR in the nursery.
    It is so cool to see our future muscled, handsome rivals as roomies in the nursery. Rebecca Wentworth’s declaration was so classic. The Barnes thirst for revenge comes from both the patriach and the matriach in the family. I hope CC and company were paying close attention so that we can hear a similar declaration from her namesake grandaughter. When Rebecca lumps all the Ewings together Pamela argues that the wrongs committed against the Barnes are ancient history but her mother says “history has a way of repeating itself”. How delightful that we as viewers of the TNT show get to see it.
    The EE offices have a similar southwestern feel to the new Ewing Oil digs.
    Sue Ellen continues to be gullible and indecisive. I wish the writers had her grow more as a person. The way she so easily falls for JR’s lies really diminishes the character. The writers could have made her more of a power player. Same goes for Marilee. I like her now that she has come to her senses. They should have had her team with Sue Ellen or Holly. Holly should have checked on JR’s background more thoroughly before becoming his partner and she should have been a tougher negotiator just to show JR she isn’t stupid. Holly and Marilee would have been a fun and natural team. Lois Chiles is gorgeous. I’m hoping we get a story about the protege surpassing her teacher but this being Dallas I know they will turn her into just another playmate for JR. After seeing the smart, professional women on the reboot it can be tough to watch the way women are written in the original.

  7. Miss Texas in a mullet is a lot sexier than some country hick, wouldn’t u agree C.B.?


  1. […] “Changing of the Guard,” “Dallas’s” sixth-season opener, Holly and J.R. (Lois Chiles, Larry Hagman) sit at a table […]

  2. […] embrace after learning Cliff survived his suicide attempt in this 1982 publicity shot from “Changing of the Guard,” “Dallas’s” sixth-season […]

  3. […] hospital bedside and your hair is long and flowing onto your shoulders. The 1982-83 season opens later that day with Sue Ellen leaving the hospital — and suddenly your hair is […]

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