Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 115 — ‘Barbecue Three’

Barbecue Three, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Mr. Right

In “Barbecue Three,” J.R. finally reveals his plan to win the contest for Ewing Oil: He begins flooding the market with cut-rate gasoline, hoping to drive up his half of the company’s profits. This ignites a firestorm within the cartel, prompting Cliff and a band of angry oilmen to come to the annual Southfork barbecue and demand J.R. stop lowering prices. The Ewings don’t like what J.R.’s doing either, but to everyone’s surprise, they close ranks around him when the confrontation with the cartel threatens to turn violent. “If you want to get to J.R., you’re going to have to come through us,” Bobby tells the group.

Like Ellie’s defense of J.R. in the fifth-season classic “Waterloo at Southfork,” this is another example of the Ewings circling the wagons against outsiders, one of “Dallas’s” hallmarks. There’s another reason this scene is satisfying: For once, J.R. isn’t wrong. Sure, he pulled some dirty tricks to get his hands on the crude he needed to produce all that cheap gas, but the cartel has no right to complain about it. J.R. is selling his product at a lower price than his competitors. Who are they to tell him to stop? (On another note: Why doesn’t Marilee Stone join her fellow cartel members in confronting J.R.? Surely it isn’t because she’s a woman. If you ask me, Marilee is much more intimidating than mild-mannered Jordan Lee, who stands alongside Cliff in this scene.)

To be fair, the other characters’ objections to J.R.’s scheme feel a little more justified than the cartel’s. Before the barbecue, Bobby complains J.R. will show “huge short-term profits and deplete our reserves,” which seems like a reasonable concern. Meanwhile, Donna, now a member of the Texas Energy Commission, becomes irritated when her fellow regulators backtrack on their opposition to J.R. As Donna explains to Punk Anderson, “Some of the members of the commission have political ambitions. They’re not about to vote against lower gasoline prices, even if it means conserving our oil reserves.” Fair enough, although the comment feels a little hypocritical coming from the widow of a governor and the stepmother of a senator.

Indeed, Arthur Bernard Lewis’s script covers so many different reactions to J.R.’s cheap gas gambit — his family, his competitors in the cartel and the politicians all weigh it —“Barbecue Three” feel like a lesson in capitalism. Lewis even manages to reflect the consumers’ point of view, albeit subtly. J.R. announces his cut-rate gas plan at the opening of the first J.R. Ewing-branded gas station, where we see a couple of attendants lowering the per-gallon price from $1.21 to 89 cents. Later, the TV news coverage shows long lines of motorists waiting to fill up. There’s also a scene where Sly, J.R.’s secretary, tells her boss she thinks what he’s doing is “terrific” and hopes he can “keep it up.” (Seeing Deborah Rennard deliver this line, I couldn’t help but imagine Sly’s everyday working-class drudgeries: fighting traffic during morning rush hour, standing in line at the bank to deposit her paycheck, shopping for bargains at The Store.)

“Barbecue Three” also delivers two Lucy/Mickey scenes that showcase the nice chemistry between Charlene Tilton and Timothy Patrick Murphy. In the first, Mickey asks Lucy on a date, only to be introduced to her cold shoulder. Later, at the barbecue, he tries again to charm her and begins to realize her snobbish demeanor masks deeper problems. Patrick Duffy also has several good moments in this episode, including a monologue in which Bobby promises Pam he won’t lose the fight for Ewing Oil: “Daddy taught me a lot of tricks in my early days with the company. Things that I hated doing. But I learned. And I learned real good. And I can get right down in the mud if I have to.” It’s a nice reminder that Bobby’s recent discovery of his inner junkyard dog on TNT’s “Dallas” has precedence.

I also appreciate the details in “Barbecue Three.” The scene leading up to the first Texas Energy Commission meeting is expertly executed. Director Leonard Katzman shows us Ray and Donna (looking chic in her red hat) arriving at the municipal building and being greeted by a throng of news reporters, which helps lend the moment a sense of drama and suspense. You get the feeling something big is about to happen, a notion that’s reinforced by the sight of so many familiar oil industry leaders in the audience. And even though the “Dallas” producers actually make us sit through the commission members reciting the pledge of allegiance, it really doesn’t slow down the momentum. Later, when J.R. is planning his press conference, I like his brief exchange with his public relations chief. Sometimes you get the feeling Ewing Oil has no other employees besides the people who work in J.R. and Bobby’s executive suite, so it’s nice to see the show acknowledge that the Ewing brothers don’t do everything themselves.

There are a couple of nice touches during the barbecue sequences too. Debra Lynn Rogers, who played Toni, the woman Ray flirted with during the previous season’s “Barbecue Two,” plays the role again in this episode, except now she’s dancing with Mickey. Meanwhile, Peyton E. Park, who played Larry, the Ewings’ caterer in “Barbecue Two,” reprises the role here. In “Barbecue Three,” we also meet a woman who appears to be Jordan’s wife. He introduces her as Evelyn, although in the third-season episode “Paternity Suit,” Jordan seemed to refer to his spouse as “Sara.” Is this a continuity error, or are they two different women? If it’s the latter, I have to wonder: Between Sara, Kristin and now Evelyn, is Jordan trying to give J.R. a run for his money as “Dallas’s” biggest lothario?

Grade: A

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Barbecue Three, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Gasman cometh

‘BARBECUE THREE’

Season 6, Episode 12

Airdate: December 17, 1982

Audience: 21.8 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: The Texas Energy Commission revokes J.R.’s variance but faces public backlash when he opens a chain of popular cut-rate gas stations. Holly asks Bobby to help her get J.R. out of her company. Mickey realizes Lucy is troubled. After angry oilmen confront J.R. at the Ewing Barbecue, Miss Ellie vows to go to court to break Jock’s will and sell Ewing Oil.

Cast: E.J. André (Eugene Bullock), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Lois Chiles (Holly Harwood), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Ken Farmer (oilman), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Alice Hirson (Mavis Anderson), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), James Karen (Elton Lawrence), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Julio Medina (Henry Figueroa), Peyton E. Park (Larry), Timothy Patrick Murphy (Mickey Trotter), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Debra Lynn Rogers (Toni), Kirk Scott (Buchanan), Danone Simpson (Kendall), Arlen Dean Snyder (George Hicks), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Robert Swick (Ewing Oil employee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson)

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

Comments

  1. Ellie standing toe to toe with the Cartel for the second time was great. I agree with you that the Cartel had no cause to be angry. Who would not want cheap gas?

    Donna was annoying as usual. I loved the Ewings once again standing together. I liked Lucy and Mickey.

    • LBF, I’m glad you like the Ellie scene too. As far as Donna: I’m usually a fan of the character, but her behavior in these episodes feels a little odd.

  2. Dan in WI says:

    The fact that we get several scenes of the Ewings circling the wagons in these earlier to mid seaons makes it all the more powerful when they say enough is enough in later years. That said sure they circle the wagons here but when the news gets out that Ellie is going to try to break Jock’s will don’t you think that is a bit of a mixed message to the rest of the oil community?

    Chris you really get it right in citing Bobby’s reluctant but willingness to play dirty to compete with JR as precident for his actions to take down Cliff in the most recent season. He didn’t like it but he could play dirty and he wasn’t always the white knight. Of course this would give Katherine the needed opening to split up Bobby and Pam as Pam didn’t care for it much.

    Maybe I’ll change my tune when the next barbeque is reviewed but with this one fresh in my mind I have to say it is the best one.

    • Dan, I think this is my favorite barbecue too, although I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve re-watched the entire series. As always, thanks for commenting.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m disappointed in Punk! He had to tell about the barbecue! He didn’t think of Ellie or Jock, his best buddy!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Does oil barons find cheap gas that bad!!!

  5. Garnet McGee says:

    I liked Donna in these episodes. They need a character that is on the other side of the political aisle from JR. I wish her story was more political. The women have gorgeous hair and clothes this season (except for the mullet). Even Priscilla Pointer looks stunning. I despise the way they chose to write Holly. She could have been an intriguing character instead she is a gullible sexpot. The portrayal of women on this show keeps it from feeling timeless and dates it. It is one of the aspects that makes it “unhip” to young contemporary audiences. The confrontation reminded me of a western film.

Trackbacks

  1. […] “Barbecue Three,” a sixth-season “Dallas” episode, Cliff and Jordan (Ken Kercheval, Don Starr) lead a mob of […]

  2. […] observes the inaugural meeting of the Texas Energy Commission in this 1982 publicity shot from “Barbecue Three,” a sixth-season “Dallas” […]

  3. […] love Pam’s upswept hairdo and western dress in “Barbecue Three,” her print skirt in “Brothers and Sisters” and Afton’s navy blouse/white skirt combo in […]

  4. […] played Ewing Oil’s public relations chief in the sixth-season episode “Barbecue Three” and one of the private eyes J.R. hired to find Jenna after she jilted Bobby in the eighth-season […]

  5. […] Barbecue III (1982). The second barbecue of 1982 finds everyone hatin’ on poor J.R. The members of the cartel are royally peeved that he’s […]

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