Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 109 — ‘Aftermath’

Aftermath, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Staying afloat

“Aftermath” lets the audience into J.R.’s head in a way other “Dallas” episodes don’t. In the most revealing scene, J.R. and Sue Ellen sweep into a fancy French restaurant, where the dinnertime crowd congratulates our hero on his recent return to power at Ewing Oil. The handshakes and backslaps end when J.R. and Sue Ellen encounter Rebecca, who interrupts her meal with Clayton to remind J.R. that she still blames him for Cliff’s attempted suicide and wants revenge. “Since the only way to your heart is through your company, I intend to make that company bleed,” Rebecca says.

J.R. plays it cool, telling Rebecca she has her work cut out for her, but when he and Sue Ellen are alone at their table, we see how rattled he is. “I can take Bobby with one hand tied behind me, but I get the distinct feeling there’s an army mobilizing against me,” J.R. says. It’s a reminder that he isn’t impervious. Not that this moment of vulnerability lasts long. A few scenes later, J.R. is all smiles as he tries to persuade state government official Walt Driscoll to allow him to pump more oil than the law allows. Stop and think about what Larry Hagman does here: He plays a man who appears to be brimming with bravado, even though he’s secretly afraid his enemies are out to get him. It’s a tricky performance, but of course Hagman does it beautifully.

The scene with Driscoll is also interesting because it underscores the sexism in which “Dallas” seems to revel. J.R. meets Driscoll on Holly’s yacht, where J.R. refers to her as a “pretty little thing” and suggests she’d be willing to sleep with Driscoll. “She has a thing for men our age,” J.R. says. Driscoll demurs, telling J.R. that he’s happily married. Later, after J.R. has asked Harry McSween to dig up dirt on Driscoll, the detective reports Driscoll’s wife has been arrested a few times for reckless driving. “Boy, you follow that lady for a couple of blocks and you’ll see why,” McSween says. Watching this exchange, I can’t help but feel like the people who make “Dallas” are having a little too much fun playing up old stereotypes about women behind the wheel.

The other women in “Aftermath” don’t come off much better. After Rebecca threatens J.R. in the restaurant, she buys Wade Luce’s oil company; the suggestion is she plans to use the business as a weapon in her war with the Ewings. I like seeing Rebecca depicted as a woman who is so successful, she can buy an oil company on a whim, but her obsession with revenge makes her seem irrational. Likewise, I appreciate how the opening scenes of “Aftermath” show how J.R., Bobby and Ray are each sorting through the implications of Jock’s will with help from the women in their lives. But wouldn’t it be nice if the women had a little more to do than listen to their men? At least in J.R. and Sue Ellen’s scene, she figures out he knew what was in Jock’s will before anyone else.

Even though Pam doesn’t have much to do in her scene with Bobby besides express her worry about the contest, the couple’s exchange is still worth paying attention to. “Pam,” Bobby says, “J.R. doesn’t want that company just for himself. He wants it for John Ross. And you and I have a son too. And I’m not going to sit back and watch J.R. steal something that rightfully belongs to Christopher.”

Oh, Bobby. If you only knew how right you are.

Grade: B

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Aftermath, Dallas, Priscilla Pointer, Rebecca Wentworth

Out for revenge

‘AFTERMATH’

Season 6, Episode 6

Airdate: November 5, 1982

Audience: 20.3 million homes, ranking 3rd in the weekly ratings

Writer: David Paulsen

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: J.R. returns to Ewing Oil and pressures state regulator Walt Driscoll for permission to pump more oil than is allowed, but Driscoll turns him down. The McLeish brothers invite Bobby to join them in a Canadian oil venture, but he fears the wells won’t come in before his contest with J.R. ends. Rebecca buys Wade Luce’s oil company and asks Cliff to run it. Lucy decides to resume her modeling career.

Cast: Robert Ackerman (Wade Luce), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), James L. Brown (Detective Harry McSween), Danone Camden (Kendall), Lois Chiles (Holly Harwood), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), 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), Kenneth Kimmins (Thornton McLeish), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), J. Patrick McNamara (Jarrett McLeish), Timothy Patrick Murphy (Mickey Trotter), Paul Napier (Harold Boyd), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Ben Piazza (Walt Driscoll), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), Ray Wise (Blair Sullivan), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson)

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

Comments

  1. I’ve always said that Dallas’ biggest weakness was in lack of long-strong strong female protagonists. You can see that in how they ended up letting Linda Gray go. It’s like once her character finally became self-sufficient, to the point where it would have unrealistic to put her back with J.R. again, they just didn’t know what to do with the character. I still think Kimberly Crider should have become the head of Westar after Wendell was arrested, instead of Carter Mcay, and also think they shouldn’t have killed off Rebecca Wentworth when they did.

    • J.R., I agree with your points about Sue Ellen and especially Rebecca. I wish the show had devoted more attention to the Ellie/Clayton/Rebecca triangle. That could have been really interesting. The Kimberly Cryder idea had never occurred to me, but that would have been a cool twist.

      As always, thanks for commenting!

      CB

      • *typo in last comment, that should have been “long-term” strong female protagonists. They’d bring in women to go up against the Ewings, but they’d either go nuts, like Katherine, or just be temporary characters, like Lee Ann De La Vega.

        As for Clayton, I also always thought that Clayton marrying Miss Ellie was a mistake. He should have married Sue Ellen, they would have made a better couple. And Ellie should have probably ended up with Punk Anderson or Jordan Lee, someone she had known and been friends with for years, that would have made more sense.

      • I think Punk was a little too much like Jock to be a good match for Miss Ellie. In my opinion, Clayton was a good choice for her because while he was a strong man, he was different enough from Jock to not seem like a carbon copy. I liked the contrast between the two men: Jock was a little rough around the edges, while Clayton was more of a refined gentleman. As far as Jordan Lee: That’s an interesting idea, but it’s hard for me to imagine him sitting at the head of the Southfork dinner table.

        J.R., do you remember Frank Crutcher, the widower who befriended Ellie at the beginning of the sixth season? What did you think of him?

    • I never saw Linda Gray’s departure being a result of not knowing what to do with the strong Sue Ellen. I thought there were two seasons of knowing exactly what to do with her. I always saw her departure as strictly budget related. Now one could argue she still got the cut because she was a woman and if so the sexism was on the staffing side not the writing side.

  2. I dunno. In hindsight it just didn’t feel like Clayton fit in @ Southfork, in the role as “Man of The House”, he was always an outsider, and he and J.R. were antagonistic, of course, that just threw off the family dynamic, IMO. That’s why Punk or Jordan seemed like better options to me, the family (& the audience) already knew them, so it seems like they’d fit it better. And Sue Ellen definitely seems like seems like the kind of woman who, after divorcing J.R., would end up with a much older man, who was also wealthy and powerful in his own right (think Jackie Kennedy marrying Aristotle Onassis after JFK).

    I don’t remember the Frank Crutcher character, I’d have to re-watch the season.

    • Good points, J.R. And I agree that Clayton and Sue Ellen made a good couple. I love the Jackie O. comparison. Someone needs to create a “Dallas” comic book that shows an alternate reality in which Sue Ellen becomes Mrs. Clayton Farlow.

  3. Interesting ideas! I know this discussion started 2 months ago, but I’d still like to offer my 2 cents.
    I think Sue Ellen and Clayton would have made a nice couple, but to me it was obvious that Sue Ellen always thought of Clayton as the father she never had. And it was just as obvious that Clayton’s feelings for Sue Ellen were not father-daughter-like, so I think in the long run they both would have been frustrated as a couple.
    I think Clayton and Miss Ellie had good chemistry; they worked well as a couple to me.

    As for Frank Crutcher – yuck, what a creepy guy! I was really put off by the way he hit on Miss Ellie at the Oil Baron’s Ball, and later at the French restaurant with Punk and Mavis. Maybe it’s just a matter of taste, but I found his way of approaching her so forward and… how do you say in English… sleazy?

    • You’re right about Sue Ellen’s thoughts towards Clayton, but I still think that would have made sense for her character. After what J.R. put her through over the years, and her doomed romance with Dusty, she would have turned to Clayton for security, as this older father-figure, whom she would feel could take care of her and protect her, perhaps even fooling herself that this was real love, and would be enough for her.

      Of course it wouldn’t last (it was a soap opera, after all, no one is happy forever). I could see them being happy for awhile (maybe a couple of seasons), and then Sue Ellen’s need for passion would eventually become too much for her, and she would probably end up straying with a younger man, perhaps sending her back into J.R.’s arms (as he would have been persuing her the whole time she was married to Clayton, since we all know that J.R. wants what he can’t have, and enjoys the “chase”).

    • Oh, no! I kinda like old Frank — although you’re right: He does come on a little strong.

  4. @J.R.LeMar: True – JR always gets wild about Sue Ellen when she shows him she can do well without him. So I guess if Sue Ellen ever had married (or moved in with) Clayton, it wouldn’t have taken long for JR to emerge on her doorstep, sweet-talking her the way only good ol’ JR can… and in no time, Sue Ellen would have found herself back on Southfork. And JR back in other women’s beds.
    So, actually, I’m glad Clayton never got the chance to reveal his true feelings towards Sue Ellen – it saved him an even worse disappointment than he had to suffer anyway.

  5. Garnet McGee says:

    I agree with the critique of the sexism of the show. The way that JR talks to and about Holly is demeaning. If she was serious is a power player she should have never let him speak to her in a condescending way. The show brought up their age difference. I wish they would have also portrayed Holly as a more assertive woman who told JR that the way he treats women was old fashioned and no longer in keeping with standards of the 1980’s. They could have done a lot more interesting things with the female characters. Likewise with Afton. She is the voice of reason in this episode and I have warmed up to her. But Cliff is too old for her. Clayton was not too old for Sue Ellen though. I wish Sue Ellen had stuck with Clayton. It’s funny how Sue Ellen is so principled and kind when she is away from JR. The minute they reunite her principles vanish without explanation. At least the Dallas TNT writers are consistent with past history in their portrayal of Sue Ellen. She is principled when it is convenient for the writers and unscrupulous when it suits them. Rebecca reminds me of her future granddaughter in her thirst for revenge. I do like that Rebecca is shown as a businesswoman even if her use of the company as an object of revenge seems foolhardy. The actor that plays Mickey is very natural but that story needs to speed up. It is hard to adjust my mind to 1980’s paced storytelling.

    • You’re so right about the slooow pace. The original “Dallas” was considered slow, even by 1980s standards.

      • John James Jordan says:

        Dallas was fast paced compared to the UK soaps in the 80s , which usually dragged on at a snails pace for the whole year as they were filmed and telivised all year around. As a kid Dallas was exciting vieweing transmitied once a week and only for about six months of the year with no repeat or social media to pick the bones off what had just been transmited.

      • Those were the days, weren’t they?

    • John James Jordan says:

      The sexist behaviour and it’s toxic etiquate was a realistic depiction of the times . This was the 80s , I can remember adults smoking like chimney in front of kids , there was next to no respect on many levels Dads would gladly had their lads a copy of play boy or encourage them to watch blue movies. Women had it tough listen to the rock music of the time. The series was set down south not in a Norhern state sooo. Which makes JR’s macho sexist behaviour more believiable in the 1980s Holly was a local gal she was no Leslie Stewart JR mostly honned in on women he could boss about and dominate, many, intelligent women accepted his behaviour up to a point because as a kidnapper said in a previous episode. Or words to the effect- The name just sings money . Holly might have been intimadated by JR in some ways and not in others. I’m sure the actress did not want to play out a lot of the scenes they asked her to. In today’s industry she probably wouldn’t be oblidged to nor expected to act as window dressing. But 40 years back there not going to change their ways. I believe this was Louise Chiles only real big break after Moonracker. Bond girls didn’t tend to go on to bigger things. So I guess Dallas was seen as a big break for many to advance their carrer and most of the women who got cast were short changed with the scripts and used as little more then window dressing and objects by the writers – however that those sexist notions were a huge part of the shows sucess at the time. Whether people want to retrospectively concede that or not. Just listen to that Hank Willaims JR song that came out around the time of Dallas’s peak years. Holly had more dimensions though but was very much depicted as a sex object. Though the writers seem to have dealt her a harsh judment the following year for beating JR at his own game. We are expected to condem her as viwers when she did not do anything that was not in kepping with the other male power players in the show. The character had a lot of long term potential. The writers cheated us out off just like they did with many other female characters. But kept weak Sue Ellen on for years and Pam was disempoweringly transformed from an independent 70’s women by the third season into a sterotype. They even changed her look. Getting back to old JR’s behaviour which would be considered creppy harmful and illegal at times by todays standards, I’m glad I was just a kid so not in a position to go out and try and replicate JR’S behaviour and by the time I got older society had progressed to a better degree and thanfully certain behaviours were no longer depicted as being a man even in tele fiction. I remember being shocked( but confused and yes a little excited by the directors writers entention ) by JR forcing himself on women on more then one ocassion but the show runners of the time seem to pass it off as normal behaviour and tried to make it out to be sexy and it was never brought up again. Perhaps when Dallas was returned to the screen for the 2000s they could have had some kind of Weinstein type commupance for ol JR all be it on a minor scale. However the retconned second comming of the show seemd content to romantise past Dallas and focuss on just casting atrractive but uncharasmatic new leads as the next generation of Ewings. JR was depcitied as some God when the character was little more the a insect in a silver cage all be it a well acted and dramtically fleshed out character at certain times. The retconned Dallas tried to tune down and match up to the Soprannos but JR was no match for big time Northern Gangsters even in the original series. No wonder Dallas Vol2 will never be remembered or loved to the same degree as the originsal 14 seasosn Sue Ellen was a weak women and in many ways a fake strong women. Even when sober she needed and hung on to the Ewing wealth. She would have probably been laughed out of Knots Landing by the genuienly strong female characters that were depicted on that series even in her independent phases . Clayton was a lonely old man , who in many ways was keen to control and bottle a certain aspect of Sue Ellens character. Just as much as JR. I doubt ol Clayton could have handled Sue Eleen if she hit the bottle again or went back to the type of behaviour she exhibeted in season 1. Clayton only really conected with Sue Ellen during her clean up phase. Dallas has fallen on it’s own sword though in retrospect. The only people who are passionate about it are people who were well into it’s plots at the time , and the odd retro telly enthusasit. As time ticks and us Generation X and the preceding bommers continue to shovel off these mortal coyles it probably will be no more then a foot note in history. and even now it’s widely just remembered for a shower and a shooting. I guess much of it is just too outdated and out of tune to the times.

  6. Rebecca will find out what a huge mistake it was II let Cliff run that oil company. Cliff’s a lawyer, he doesn’t belong in business, it gone into his head & he resorted to murder.

  7. For me the vulnerable JR we see in the restaurant was way out of character. Rebecca Wentworth is the only one to threaten JR since his return and she is too out of her element in oil to be a serious threat. There just wasn’t enough threat yet to make JR sweat.

  8. John James Jordan says:

    This episode backs up the case, that Dallas always needed the two sided coin of Hagman and Duffy to keep spinning it’s tales and holding it’s own. When Bobby died on screen and JR went solo for a whole season the series soon went into a critical crisis. In spite of some fine acting and storylines that took place during that dream season no Bobby v JR no Dallas. Then when they enticed Duffy back they had one last great season and a few more years. Both Hagman and Duffy have gone on record that the dream cop out was worth it to save the show. Likewise and more critically when Hagman died off screen the show couldn’t even make it around the bend and had to be cancelled soon after. My point being that despite the folklore of popular culture the key ingredietns for Dallas’s sucess was JR V Bobby in some shape or form evil v good. Even in the me , me age of the 80s. Amidst all the seductive charms of JR Ewing in full ascend viwers still neded to have Bobby around to physically dominate and chastise his bad broter , when things went too far. Duffy as an actor and the character of Bobby just don’t get enough recogonition the show is falsely remembred as being the JR Ewing hour. When in reality it was never that one dimesional. Lossinbg Jim Davis was a critical blow. But from that point on the series needed both Ewing brothers to balance out the winning Dallas formula. Duffy is criminaly underated as an actor and the character of Bobby usually gets dismissed as a wooden good guy. Yet this season really shows the compleity of the character and Duffys acting talents.

Trackbacks

  1. […] “Aftermath,” a sixth-season “Dallas” episode, Pam (Victoria Principal) sits on her bed while Bobby (Patrick […]

  2. […] and J.R. (Lois Chiles, Larry Hagman) are seen aboard her yacht in this 1982 publicity shot from “Aftermath,” a sixth-season “Dallas” […]

  3. […] will, and later when he realizes she’s getting advice from Clayton. (Is it a coincidence that the last time we saw J.R. this rattled occurred after he ran into Clayton and Rebecca at the French restaurant?) […]

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