Dallas Parallels: Rebels Without a Clue

Dallas, False Confessions, James Richard Beaumont, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Sasha Mitchell, TNT, Tunnel of Love

J.R. Ewing wouldn’t dream of betraying his beloved daddy, the mighty Jock Ewing. Unfortunately for J.R., his own sons have a bad habit of rebelling against their father.

In “False Confessions,” one of TNT’s second-season “Dallas” episodes, John Ross meets with Cliff Barnes to tell him J.R. is plotting against Cliff’s daughter Pamela. Cliff is suspicious of his longtime enemy’s son. “Are you telling me that you’re willing to betray your own father?” he asks. John Ross responds by explaining J.R.’s parental performance has been less than stellar, but Cliff is too blinded by his own hatred to trust John Ross. “You’ve wasted enough of my time today,” Cliff says.

The exchange evokes memories of “Tunnel of Love,” a segment from the original “Dallas’s” final season. In that episode, Cliff receives a visit from James Richard Beaumont, J.R.’s eldest son, who offers to give Cliff the evidence he needs (“incredible information, fully documented!”) to finally bring down J.R. But Cliff passes, citing two reasons: He’s skeptical of James (“Why should I trust you more than I trust your daddy?”) and he’s reeling from the death of April Ewing, Bobby’s wife and Cliff’s friend. Cliff kicks James out of his office, telling him, “Why don’t you take your fully documented information and go blow it out your exhaust?”

The two scenes reveal a lot about Cliff, who had mostly put his feud with the Ewings behind him when he spoke with James but was angrier than ever by the time he encountered John Ross. (What made Cliff so hateful? Could it be his hatred of the Ewings is another Barnes family genetic disorder; perhaps it went it to remission by the end of the original “Dallas,” only to flare up again in the years before the new series began.)

More than anything, these scenes tell us a lot about J.R.’s sons, who seem as oblivious as they are rebellious. James is aware of Cliff’s friendship with April; shouldn’t James have known Cliff would be grief-stricken in the aftermath of her death? Likewise, John Ross knows better than anyone how much Cliff hates J.R.; why would John Ross expect Cliff to trust the information he brings him?

Of course, these are sons of J.R. Ewing we’re talking about. The apple falls only so far from the tree. When John Ross tells Cliff that he’s looking out for Pamela, he can’t resist getting in a J.R.-style dig at Cliff, telling him, “If you had paid her more attention, it wouldn’t have come to this.” Likewise, when Cliff brushes off James, James delivers a parting shot worthy of his daddy: “You know, you’re as big a loser as everybody says you are.”

Something tells me that line in particular would have made J.R. awfully proud.

 

‘Why Should I Trust You More Than I Trust Your Daddy?’

Dallas, Cliff Barnes, Ken Kercheval, Tunnel of Love

Anguished

In “Tunnel of Love,” a 14th-season “Dallas” episode, a depressed Cliff (Ken Kercheval) sits at his office desk, mindlessly tossing miniature darts at a tabletop board, when James (Sasha Mitchell) enters.

JAMES: [Smiling] Mr. Barnes, I’d like to talk to you.

CLIFF: Not really a very good time. [Briefly looks up, then tosses a dart]

JAMES: [Approaches the desk] Oh, I know. I just found out about April myself. You were good friends, weren’t you?

CLIFF: Yeah. Real good friends. [Tosses a dart]

JAMES: Well, look, I won’t take up much of your time.

CLIFF: [Sighs] Well, that’s good because I’m not really in the best shape right now. [Tosses a dart]

JAMES: I have a deal for you.

CLIFF: It’s a lousy time to try to make a deal with me. [Tosses a dart]

JAMES: It’s about J.R. I know you’ve been trying to bring him down for years. Well, I can make it happen for you.

CLIFF: Some other time.

JAMES: Did you hear what I said?

CLIFF: Yeah, I heard you. [Tosses a dart]

JAMES: Look, I’m giving you a chance to finally nail him to the cross. I’ve got incredible information, fully documented. We could take him down together.

CLIFF: Why should I? [Looks up]

JAMES: Isn’t it obvious?

CLIFF: No, it’s not obvious. You’re his son. Why should I trust you more than I trust your daddy?

JAMES: Hey, I hate him worse than you do.

CLIFF: Well, maybe that’s so. But like I say, timing is everything. And right now, your timing stinks. [Tosses a dart]

JAMES: What are you talking about? Hey, I’m giving this to you. I don’t want anything in return.

CLIFF: You know something? You’re not a bit more compassionate than your old man. Did you ever think of what Bobby’s state of mind is right now? And you want me to go gunning for his brother — at this time?

JAMES: This has nothing to do with Bobby.

CLIFF: That’s where you’re wrong. You just don’t understand. It’s a family. So why don’t you take your fully documented information and go blow it out your exhaust?

JAMES: You know, you’re as big a loser as everybody says you are. [Turns and walks toward the door]

CLIFF: One of these days maybe you’ll grow up. [James turns to face him.] And hopefully you will find out that revenge is not the most important thing.

James walks out the door as Cliff tosses another dart.

 

‘You’re Willing to Betray Your Own Father?’

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, False Confessions, Ken Kercheval, TNT

Angry

In “False Confessions,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, John Ross (Josh Henderson) arrives at a fairgrounds stadium, where Cliff (Ken Kercheval) sits waiting for him.

JOHN ROSS: Thank you for meeting with me, Mr. Barnes.

CLIFF: [Looks up] What can I do for you?

JOHN ROSS: [Sits next to him] I wanted to let you know that your guy Frank? He’s got a deal with J.R. Conspiring against your daughter.

CLIFF: Well, J.R. plotting against my family — that’s no secret.

JOHN ROSS: What about Frank?

CLIFF: Frank is like family. He’s been with me for over 25 years.

JOHN ROSS: Then he’s about to forfeit one hell of a pension. J.R. told me himself. I figured if there’s anybody that can stop him, it’d be you.

CLIFF: Are you telling me that you’re willing to betray your own father?

JOHN ROSS: Shouldn’t come as a surprise that his performance as a father hasn’t exactly gained my undying loyalty.

CLIFF: Aren’t you taking a dangerous risk being here talking to me behind his back?

JOHN ROSS: Let’s just say my interest depends on Pamela’s wellbeing.

CLIFF: Why are you so interested in my daughter’s wellbeing?

JOHN ROSS: One of us should be. If you had paid her more attention, it wouldn’t have come to this.

CLIFF: I took this meeting out of respect for your mother. You’ve wasted enough of my time today. [Rises, calls out to his henchmen]

JOHN ROSS: [Rising] You may not believe me, but you’re foolish not to check up on what Frank is up to with J.R.

CLIFF: [Glares at him] Goodbye, John Ross. [Turns and leaves]

What do you think of James and John Ross’s betrayals of J.R.? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Parallels.”

Comments

  1. I always enjoy reading your comments and insights. Thank you for the time you put into this.

  2. I already did not like James so his betraying JR did not come as a surprise. As for John Ross, I found his betrayal pretty awful. NO JR would not have done that to Jock. There were times where I wish JR would have told Jock to back off like in the pilot when Sue Ellen was telling Ellie that Jock was always asking why she was not pregnant. That was an instance where JR not Ellie to tell Jock to back off.

    Anyway, I did not like either betrayals. I can understand John Ross to some extent since he and JR were not very close. Not excusing John Ross’s betrayal.

    Whereas with James, JR did not ask him into his life or to be a part of his dealings.

  3. Love this! Very insightful and the resemblance between Sasha Mitchell and Josh Henderson is striking. They need to bring James back!

  4. Glad someone remembers James …

  5. You know, I always found James Dean films to suck ass. “Rebel W/o A Cause” was beyond. But I c John Ross Ewing The IIIrd & James Richard Beaumont in a different light. Sure they both wanted to rebel against the now dearly departed old man, but kids do that, its human nature. My wonderment that IInd ex-wife Calpernia (Cally) Harper Ewing didn’t bring J. R.’s IIIrd son to the funeral so that he could be added II the mix (& perhaps meet one if not both of his brothers, James Richard should have been there as should have Vanessa his mother.) In this way, he could get to know & respect his “Ewing” heritage. A glaring omission by Cally indeed!

  6. I thought I was the only one who missed James. Sometimes Sasha’s deliver drove me nuts but I liked the character of James at it’s core.

    Anyway…
    While our fearless webmaster posts this as Dallas parrallel I think it also clearly points out the biggest “Dallas Perpendiculars” of the new series. Re-read Cliff’s last two lines of the scene with James. Go adead. I’ll wait. You’re back? This scene defines my Cliff: the Cliff who apologized to Miss Ellie for all those years of fueding. This is the Cliff who gets the value of family. This is the Cliff who values his friendship with Bobby over his hatred of JR. This is the Cliff that knew revenge isn’t the sole reason one should live.

    Stop me if I asked this before: What happened to Cliff between that scene and the new show to make him forget all that.

    By the way, I’ve always loved the way Ken played that classic scene. He played distraction/preocupation in a way only Cliff would act!

  7. Garnet McGee says:

    I haven’t seen the James episode but one difference is that John Ross is not motivated by spite. He is motivated by concern for his lover. Earlier in the episode he states under his breath that what he is protecting is worth it while his eyes turn into those of a smitten puppy dog.

  8. Margaret Krebbs says:

    I love finding parallels, and really dig this one! What you’ve written is really insightful. James was introduced at the end of Dallas. I think the character had a big weight on his shoulders, and was supposed to breathe life into JR, his relationship with his family, and carry on for the Ewings into the future. They simply couldn’t age John Ross fast enough to have any real impact on that part of the saga. Had the character worked: ie. had the character been written more complexly and had the actor portraying James been up to the task, James would have been a formidable and viable character in TNT’s Dallas.

    John Ross, all grown up, is remarkable. He is everything James should have been 20 years ago.

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