Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 133 — ‘The Long Goodbye’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Long Goodbye, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

This time, it’s personal

J.R. Ewing is a man with many enemies, but his conflict with Pam is unique because it reveals his otherwise well-concealed insecurities. When Pam arrives at Southfork, J.R. fears she and Bobby will beat him and Sue Ellen in the “race” to produce the Ewings’ first grandson. It doesn’t happen, but Pam manages to solidify her position within the family nonetheless. One by one, she wins the hearts of the people J.R. loves most: first Bobby, then Jock and Miss Ellie and eventually Sue Ellen. Even John Ross enjoys a special bond with Aunt Pam, at least for a while. In J.R.’s eyes, the family’s affection for Pam gives her power. That’s what makes her dangerous.

The final scene in “The Long Goodbye” draws upon all of this subtext, resulting in one of the all-time great “Dallas” moments. It begins when J.R. turns up unexpectedly on Pam’s doorstep and asks to speak to her. She reluctantly lets him in; little does she realize he’s about to get inside her head too. After exchanging acidic “pleasantries,” J.R. lets Pam know that he’s aware of her plans to reconcile with Bobby. He then tells her that if she doesn’t go through with the divorce, he’ll destroy the people she loves most — beginning with Bobby. “I’ll call off this truce that exists between him and me. We’ll end up in a dogfight that will make what went on before look like a love match,” J.R. says.

Everything about this scene works. Leonard Katzman, who wrote and directed “The Long Goodbye,” has Larry Hagman deliver his lines while slowly circling Victoria Principal, making J.R. seem downright predatory. The dialogue itself is some of Katzman’s sharpest, and Hagman seems to relish every syllable. My favorite exchange: Pam mocks J.R.’s interest in her “happiness” and he responds, “Oh, no. I don’t give a damn about you or your happiness, honey. But I do care what’s good for me.” Principal, in the meantime, gives as good as she gets. When the scene begins, she counters Hagman’s winking bravado with steely sarcasm. But as J.R.’s language grows more venomous, Pam’s face falls, her shoulders drop and her eyes shift downward. By the time he slithers out of the room, she looks genuinely rattled — even though J.R. is probably the one who feels more threatened.

This is the kind of “Dallas” scene you can call up on DVD and enjoy any time, although it’s best appreciated when you consider it within the context of what was happening on the show at the time. Three episodes earlier, at the end of “Dallas’s” sixth season, J.R. had an attack of conscience as his battle with Bobby for control of Ewing Oil reached its destructive crescendo. In “The Road Back” and “The Long Goodbye,” the first two hours of the seventh season, J.R. calls a truce with Bobby and tries to patch up his broken marriage to Sue Ellen. It’s always nice to see “Dallas” showcase J.R.’s softer side, but no one wants J.R. go warm and fuzzy. This is why his confrontation with Pam at the end of “The Long Goodbye” is so crucial. It’s the moment J.R. gets his groove back.

It’s worth considering the scene from Pam’s point of view too. More than anything, Katzman designs “The Long Goodbye” to remind us what a terrific couple Bobby and Pam make. The characters share several charming scenes throughout this episode, including one at Southfork where Pam watches as Bobby returns from a horseback ride with little Christopher. Later, Bobby and Pam spend a night out on the town, where they reflect on their many years together. It feels like “Dallas” is paving the way for the star-crossed lovers to finally reunite. So when J.R. turns up on Pam’s doorstep and throws cold water on their reconciliation, it packs an emotional punch.

“The Long Goodbye” also includes a good scene where Afton accuses Cliff of wanting Pam to divorce Bobby because it will free her to marry Mark, thus allowing Cliff, Mark and Pam to form a business partnership. Cliff concedes his ambition often gets the better of him, but adds that he honestly believes Pam is better off without the Ewings. Ken Kercheval’s delivery here is so sincere, I believe every word Cliff says. In another highlight, Clayton tells Bobby that Miss Ellie is counting on him to be Southfork’s caretaker in her absence, presaging the role Patrick Duffy would go on to fill many years later on TNT’s “Dallas.”

“The Long Goodbye” also delivers another fun scene featuring Sue Ellen, who has been on a roll for the past two episodes, striking her husband with one wicked zinger after another. In this episode, J.R. drops by the pool at the Quorum, the hotel where he’s staying with his wife and John Ross during the reconstruction of Southfork. Sue Ellen tells J.R. she plans to go to the ranch to pick out the new wallpaper for their bedroom, along with a new bedroom for herself. “A new bedroom? What’s wrong with the old one?” J.R. asks. “You’re in it,” she responds. It’s a delicious quip, although I must admit: I cringe when Katzman cuts to a reaction shot from little John Ross, who sits there helplessly as his mother explains she will no longer sleep with her husband.

The things this poor kid witnessed during his childhood. No wonder he grew up to become the man he is today.

Grade: A

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, Linda Gray, Long Goodbye, Sue Ellen Ewing

Zing!

‘THE LONG GOODBYE’

Season 7, Episode 2

Airdate: October 7, 1983

Audience: 19.9 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer and Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Pam considers returning to Bobby, upsetting Katherine, Cliff, Mark and J.R., who tells her he’ll destroy everyone she cares about if she reconciles with his brother. Sue Ellen decides she’ll remain married to J.R., but they’ll have separate bedrooms and separate personal lives. A hopeful Mickey proposes to Lucy and she accepts, but his mood dims when he learns his paralysis is permanent.

Cast: Mary Armstrong (Louise), John Beck (Mark Graison), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), John Devlin (Clouse), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Joe Maross (Dr. Blakely), Timothy Patrick Murphy (Mickey Trotter), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Kate Reid (Lil Trotter), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Danone Simpson (Kendall), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), George Wallace (accountant)

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

Comments

  1. Kelley Tyler says:

    There are so many scenes in the original (and now the new series) that are so precicely knitted together it makes one wonder if the show was (is) an autobiography.

    I’ve read the show emulates Lenny Katzman’s life. It was on the Internet so of course I believe it’s true!! If there is announce of truth in it at all, then Lenny had quite a life!!

    • Kelley, you make a great point. When I interviewed Howard Lakin and Michael Preece, both suggested the show reflected Mr. Katzman’s thinking and to some extent, his own experiences.

  2. Great Re-Cap….That was J.R. and Pam’s best scene!
    AND J.R.’s nastiest!

  3. I think it’s either this episode or the next one where Pam says
    “I want to wipe away the past year: I want things back the way they were!”
    Highly amusing in retrospect!

    • Richard, I believe it’s the previous episode, “The Long Goodbye.” And I agree: In retrospect, it’s rather amusing to see her deliver that line.

  4. Garnet McGee says:

    JR’s reaction to Sue Ellen’s comment is amusing. He is in many ways a one trick pony. He only knows business, power and money but is tone deaf when it comes to matters of the heart. The adult John Ross is a lot more well rounded than his Daddy. The exchange with Pam and JR is good but Pam stopped being of interest to me after she went nuts. Bobby has only increased in charm and is even more interesting than he was a few seasons ago. THe Katherine character is such a cliche straight from a bad Days of Our Lives episode. The writing for her is so obvious and annoying. Kristin was so much better written or maybe Mary Crosby was a better actress. Katharine is the character people parody when they think of soaps. Mark Graison isn’t terribly interesting either but at least he looks fine in a pair of swim trunks.
    JR is one sick puppy if he only enjoys skirt chasing when it’s a forbidden activity. Whenever he and Sue Ellen are not sleeping together his desire for other women seems to diminish as it does when Sue Ellen gives him carte blanche to sleep around. John Ross is apparently the same since he never cheated until he got married.

Trackbacks

  1. […] “The Long Goodbye,” a seventh-season “Dallas” episode, Pam (Victoria Principal) answers the door in her hotel suite […]

  2. […] 1. The choice. J.R. rejoiced when Pam left Bobby, but when he found out she was thinking about reconciling with him, J.R. knew he needed to act fast. He showed up on Pam’s doorstep and tried to persuade her that a divorce was in her best interest. “How nice! You’re concerned about my happiness,” she said, sarcasm dripping from every word. J.R.’s matter-of-fact response: “Oh, no. I don’t give a damn about you or your happiness, honey. But I do care about what’s good for me.” As Pam stood with her back to him, J.R. circled her, explaining she had two options: divorce Bobby and bring the Barnes/Ewing feud to an end, or return to him and watch as “all hell [breaks] loose.” Hagman is downright chilling, and as Pam, Principal looks visibly shaken. We can sympathize; in this scene, J.R. scares us too! (“The Long Goodbye”) […]

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