Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 126 — ‘Hell Hath No Fury’

Dallas, Hell Hath No Fury, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Those eyes

Sue Ellen is the perfect wife, living the perfect life, when “Hell Hath No Fury” begins. She fusses over J.R. at breakfast, smiles when he brings Roy Ralston home for dinner and gazes at him adoringly during his latest appearance on Ralston’s TV show. Of course, this is “Dallas,” so Sue Ellen’s bliss doesn’t last. During a visit to the hair salon, she runs into Holly Harwood, who later confesses to Sue Ellen that she’s having an affair with J.R. Sue Ellen doesn’t want to believe it, so Holly tells her to go home and check his shirt collar. Sure enough, the collar is smeared with Holly’s lipstick. The episode ends with our heroine clutching the garment and sobbing quietly.

Beauty parlor run-ins, lipstick-smeared collars, tear-streaked faces: If this sounds like the stuff of 1950s and 1960s soap operas, I suspect it’s purely intentional. “Dallas” routinely honors the tropes of daytime dramas and Douglas Sirk movies (witness Rebecca Wentworth’s weepy deathbed scene a few episodes earlier). This is something I’ve always admired about the show. The homage presented in “Hell Hath No Fury” is especially fitting: J.R. and Sue Ellen have an old-fashioned marriage; of course it should collapse under old-fashioned circumstances.

I also love how Lois Chiles and Linda Gray handle the material. Chiles is deliciously cunning as Holly, who wants to destroy J.R.’s marriage to get back at him for costing her company millions of dollars in a bungled deal. In the lunch scene, Chiles smiles — ever so slightly — when Holly sees how much her confession hurts Sue Ellen. Gray is wonderful too. This is another example of Gray using her big, expressive eyes to convey the depth of Sue Ellen’s pain. (I’m usually not one to notice makeup, but Gray’s blue eye shadow in this scene is a work of art. Eat your heart out, Donna Mills.) Even more moving: “Hell Hath No Fury’s” closing moments, when Sue Ellen retrieves J.R.’s shirt from the laundry basket, sees the lipstick and weeps. There’s no dialogue, but none is needed. Gray’s tears say it all.

If Sue Ellen’s marital turmoil in “Hell Hath No Fury” has an unmistakable retro vibe, then Pam’s feels slyly modern. Pam, who is now living in a hotel because she feels Bobby’s ambition has changed him, calls her husband at the office and invites him over for a drink. The couple spends the evening reminiscing, but when Bobby tries to leave, Pam kisses him passionately until they slump back onto the sofa. The next morning, she awakens to find Bobby planning her move back to Southfork. Pam corrects him: Just because she spent the night with Bobby doesn’t mean she’s ready to take him back. Bobby is aghast. “You make me feel like I should give you a bill for services rendered,” he seethes.

Oh, how I love this. How often have we seen the men of “Dallas” treat women as vessels for sexual satisfaction? Isn’t it refreshing to see a woman do the same thing? This entire sequence is about Pam acknowledging that she has sexual needs and fulfilling them. She calls Bobby and invites him over for a drink. When he declares it’s time to go home, she lets him know that she wants him to stay. And in the morning, when Bobby assumes Pam will now come back to him, she sets him straight. Don’t get me wrong: I feel bad for Bobby when he brushes past that chump Mark Graison on his way out of the hotel, and I believe Pam is wrong later in the episode when she agrees to accompany Mark to France. She is married, after all, and if she believes Mark is going to keep his promise to leave her alone during the trip, she’s a fool. Nevertheless, I applaud “Dallas” for depicting Pam as a woman who isn’t afraid to express her sexuality.

I’m also charmed by the scene where Bobby and Pam recall the first time they met. Patrick Duffy and Victoria Principal’s chemistry is effortless, and I love how Arthur Bernard Lewis’s dialogue honors “Dallas” history. Pam remembers arriving at a Ewing barbecue on Ray’s arm and being surprised to discover the family isn’t as monstrous as Digger led her to believe. I also like how the scene ends with Duffy reaching behind him to turn off the lamp while locking lips with Principal. She does something similar during another reunion with Bobby in the eighth-season finale “Swan Song.” Along these lines, I also chuckle when Bobby greets Pam in “Hell Hath No Fury” with a winking “good morning.” This won’t be the last time he’ll say these words to her, will it?

The other highlight of “Hell Hath No Fury”: J.R.’s latest appearance on “Talk Time,” Ralston’s TV show. In typical J.R. style, the guest spot is part of a convoluted scheme. J.R. needs to find a way to visit Cuba so he can claim millions of dollars owed to him in an illegal deal, but of course Uncle Sam doesn’t know allow just anyone to visit the communist outpost. So J.R. goes on Ralston’s show and talks up the need for “businessmen” to get more involved in foreign affairs, apparently hoping his comments will inspire the State Department to send him to Cuba on a diplomatic mission. Whatever. Forget this absurd backstory and focus instead on how J.R. describes for Ralston his philosophy of government. “Government is big business. The biggest,” he says. “They’re in the police business and the land management business, the health and education business. All those bureaus are just departments of one big department store.” Does this not sound like the kind of rhetoric we’ve heard from real-life politicians for years?

Lewis’s script also offers a couple of pop culture references that make me smile. When Ralston visits Southfork, he suggests filming an interview with J.R. and Sue Ellen at the ranch, the way Edward R. Murrow once conducted interviews with celebrities in their living rooms on “Person to Person.” TV historians will recall Murrow’s show was a Friday night staple on CBS in the 1950s, a few decades before “Dallas” became a Friday fixture. In another scene, Holly lashes out at Bobby for interfering with J.R.’s Cuban deal. “You had to play James Bond and prevent the deal from going through,” she fumes. The line, which is clearly a reference to Chiles’s role in “Moonraker,” raises a question: If Bobby is Bond, does that make J.R. Blofeld?

Grade: B

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, Hell Hath No Fury, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

That smile

‘HELL HATH NO FURY’

Season 6, Episode 23

Airdate: March 18, 1983

Audience: 20.8 million homes, ranking 3rd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Ernest Pintoff

Synopsis: J.R. schemes to get the government’s permission to visit Cuba. To get back at J.R., Holly tricks him into believing she wants him, then lies and tells Sue Ellen that J.R. is her lover. Mark talks Pam into letting him accompany her on a trip to France. Bobby worries his Canadian field won’t come in. Lucy and Mickey continue to date.

Cast: John Anderson (Richard McIntyre), John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), James Brown (Detective Harry McSween), William Bryant (Jackson), Lois Chiles (Holly Harwood), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Fay Hauser (Annie), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Kenneth Kimmins (Thornton McLeish), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Tom McFadden (Jackson’s partner), Timothy Patrick Murphy (Mickey Trotter), Ben Piazza (Walt Driscoll), Ron Ellington Shy (singer), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), John Reilly (Roy Ralston), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis)

“Hell Hath No Fury” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. Yes, J.R.’s speech and implication that, as a successful businessman that would translate into successfully running the government, could have come straight from the mouths of many real-life businessmen-turned-politicians, from Ross Perot and Steve Forbes in the 90’s, to Donald Trump, Herman Cain, and Mitt Romney in the last election. It’s interesting that the show never pulled the trigger with having J.R. seriously seek (& win) elective office. That’s exactly the kind of thing I’d think his ego would convince him he should do. And the fact that it was something Cliff Barnes always sought but could never get would be even more of a reason for J.R. to want to do it. I know Bobby was a State Senator briefly, but the show didn’t really deal with politics that much. I guess during the 80’s the businessman lifestyle was considering more intriguing to the public than politics. I bet today, if the real Dallas TV series was on the air, they could easily have built the show around the Ewings being equally an oil family and a political family, ala the Bush’s.

    As for the thing with Pam and Bobby, Sue Ellen pulls the same trick on J.R., using him for sex and then dismissing him the next morning when he thinks it means they’re back together, in a later season.

  2. I think when Pam called Bobby over for a drink it was because she was lonely and needed sex. She could have gone to Mark that JERK but she called Bobby because she loved him and wanted to be sexually fulfilled and she knew Bobby could give her that satisfaction. In a way one could say she did use him but Bobby should have been flattered that she wanted him to meet her needs which judging from her reaction the next morning he sure did!!!.

Trackbacks

  1. […] “Hell Hath No Fury,” a sixth-season “Dallas” episode, Pam (Victoria Principal) awakens in her hotel bed and finds […]

  2. […] and Mark (Morgan Brittany, John Beck) are seen in this 1983 publicity shot from “Hell Hath No Fury,” a sixth-season “Dallas” […]

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