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.

  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.

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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