Dallas Parallels: Hostage!

Blame Game, Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, TNT, Winds of Vengeance

No two “Dallas” episodes invite comparison as much as “Winds of Vengeance” and “Blame Game.” Both segments — which debuted in 1978 and 2013, respectively — depict armed intruders invading Southfork and holding the Ewings hostage. The two storylines play on common themes, including stubborn pride and misguided justice, but the episodes also demonstrate the distinctions between the original “Dallas” and its TNT sequel.

In “Winds of Vengeance,” the old show’s fourth episode, blue-collar Luther Frick discovers his wife Wanda spent the night in a Waco motel with a wealthy stranger from out of town: J.R. Ewing. Frick and Wanda’s brother, Payton Allen, track J.R. to Southfork, where they hold him, Ray and the Ewing women at gunpoint in the living room as a hurricane bears down outside. Frick believes J.R. raped Wanda, so he vows to get “justice” for himself by having sex with Sue Ellen while Allen sets his sights on Lucy. At the last minute, Jock and Bobby arrive, punch out Frick and Allen and send the creeps on their way.

In “Blame Game,” one of TNT’s second-season “Dallas” episodes, slimy oilman Vicente Cano, who went to jail after tangling with J.R. and John Ross, escapes and marches into Southfork with a band of armed thugs. Cano believes the Ewings owe him the methane technology that Christopher developed, and so Cano and his gang hold the family hostage in the living room while Christopher retrieves his methane prototype from the office. When he returns and hands over the equipment, Cano grabs Elena and begins to make his escape, but her brother Drew arrives at the last minute and shoots Cano while Bobby and John Ross overpower the rest of his gang.

There are plenty of similarities here, beginning with the motivations of the villains. When Frick and Allen pull their guns on the Ewings, J.R. assumes they’re robbers and tells them they can have all the cash in the family safe. “We ain’t no thieves. We don’t want your money,” Frick says. Cano, in the meantime, believes Christopher’s methane technology will be lucrative, but profit isn’t his primary goal. When he bursts into Southfork, he slaps John Ross and says, “Did you think you could get away with turning me into the authorities and painting me as the one with dishonor?”

The two episodes also show how the bad guys humiliate the Ewings by exposing their secrets. In “Winds of Vengeance,” when Frick announces J.R. raped Wanda, he turns to Sue Ellen and asks, “You like him any better now, knowing what a hotshot lover-boy he is?” Sue Ellen’s response — “Him?” — causes Allen to laugh uproariously. Something similar happens in “Blame Game” when Cano tries to intimidate Christopher by threatening Pamela, only to realize John Ross’s ex-fiancée Elena has become the object of Christopher’s affection. “You Ewing boys share after all. I love it!” Cano exclaims.

There are also quite a few differences between the episodes. The hostage situation in “Winds of Vengeance” unfolds slowly, giving the actors plenty of time to explore the mental trauma their characters are experiencing by being held against their will. Linda Gray steals the show with her gutsy performance in the scene where Frick forces Sue Ellen to sing for him, but there are also examples of the Ewing women resisting their captors. In one scene, Sue Ellen smacks Allen and tells him not to touch her. Later, Allen tries to make Pam dance with him, but she fights back and screams, “I’ll kill you!”

Contrast this with the hostage situation in “Blame Game,” which comes at the end of that episode and is interspersed with scenes from Ann’s trial. This gives the segment a faster pace overall, but it also robs the hostage sequences of the tense, psychological vibe that “Winds of Vengeance” mined so effectively. “Blame Game” also offers no scenes of the women fighting back, and if there are sexual undertones to the story, they’re only hinted at: When Cano grabs Elena and heads for the helicopter waiting outside, he says he’s taking her as “an insurance policy,” then adds: “Who knows? Maybe we have something in common.”

On the other hand, “Blame Game” shows the Ewings interacting with each other while their captors are holding them at gunpoint, which is something we really don’t see in “Winds of Vengeance.” In one exchange, Sue Ellen sits with Bobby and laments his rivalry with J.R., calling it “a vicious cycle that our sons seem destined to continue.”

She’s probably correct that John Ross and Christopher are fated to fight each other, but if the Ewings want to break one of their other vicious cycles — their penchant for being taken hostage — there’s a simple solution: Hire some security guards, for goodness sakes. I mean, these people can afford it, right?

 

‘Bravery’s Going to Get Your Dead, Junior’

Dallas, Brian Dennehy, Luther Frick, Winds of Vengeance

Injustice

In “Winds of Vengeance,” a first-season “Dallas” episode, J.R. and Ray (Larry Hagman, Steve Kanaly) sit in chairs while Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), Pam (Victoria Principal) and Lucy (Charlene Tilton) sit on the sofa and the gun-wielding Frick and Allen (Brian Dennehy, Cooper Huckabee) hover nearby.

LUCY: What are you going to do with us?

ALLEN: We were going to get up a softball game, but the weather. …

J.R.: Look, fellas. If you’re here for anything to do with justice.

FRICK: Shut up.

ALLEN: We’ll prove it. [Motions to Sue Ellen] This is your wife, right?

J.R.: Yes.

ALLEN: [Walks toward her] Pretty.

He reaches for her. She smacks him away.

SUE ELLEN: Don’t touch me.

J.R. tries to get up. Frick holds him place.

FRICK: [Snickering] Now bravery’s going to get you dead, Junior.

ALLEN: [To Ray] Hey, you. You! You married?

RAY: No.

ALLEN: That gives us a choice.

FRICK: [To J.R.] Hey, you know I’m married too, mister. [Kneels beside him] Yeah. My wife’s name is Wanda. You know her?

J.R.: [Sheepish] No, I don’t know any Wandas.

FRICK: Well, you got a short memory.

J.R.: I just can’t remember anybody by the name of Wanda.

ALLEN: She says she knows you pretty good.

FRICK: You know, Wanda didn’t come home last night. Now me and her brother here, we went looking for her. And guess where we found her this morning? We found her in this old motel room. Her and her friend Mary Lou.

J.R.: So?

FRICK: So she said she had been kidnapped, right off the main street by two guys last night. She said they took them up to this motel room. They got them drunk. And then they raped them.

J.R.: Well, what does that got to do with me?

ALLEN: You were kind enough to leave a business card.

J.R.: Well, now a lot of people have got my business card.

FRICK: [To Sue Ellen] Well, missus, what do you think of ol’ J.R. Ewing now? Huh? [Silence] Yeah. Yeah, maybe I’m doing you a favor, huh? [Shouting] Huh? You like him any better now knowing what a hotshot lover-boy he is?

SUE ELLEN: Him?

ALLEN: [Laughing] Somebody’s got to take care of the little lady. Looks like you don’t.

He kisses her. She screams and pushes him away as Allen laughs.

 

‘Your Beautiful Wife and Children Will Not Escape Unscathed’

Blame Game, Carlos Bernard, Dallas, TNT, Vicente Cano

Dishonor

In “Blame Game,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, Cano (Carlos Bernard) stands in the Southfork living room and speaks to Bobby and Christopher (Patrick Duffy, Jesse Metcalfe), who is held by one of Cano’s thugs. John Ross (Josh Henderson), Pamela (Julie Gonzalo), Elena (Jordana Brewster) and Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) are seated around the room, surrounded by other members of Cano’s gang.

CHRISTOPHER: What do you want, Cano?

CANO: Only what I was promised. You’re going to call Ewing Energies and you’re going to send all your employees home for the day. [The thug releases Christopher.] And once the place is empty, my friend here is going to accompany you to your office, where you’re going to retrieve the plans to your methane patent and prototype that I was promised. [Slaps his right-hand man on the back.] Now, if you are not back here within one hour, your beautiful wife and children will not escape unscathed. [Cano stands over Pamela and strokes her hair, then yanks her head back against him.]

JOHN ROSS: [Rises] Let her go! [A thug pulls him down.]

CANO: Well, your cousin has to defend your wife? Oh, wait a minute. [Laughs] You Ewing boys share after all. [Slaps his hands together] I love it! Well, since this clearly where your heart lies, you have one hour to bring me the prototype. [Holds a gun to Elena’s head]

How do you think “Winds of Vengeance” and “Blame Game” compare to each other? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Parallels.”

Comments

  1. Jennifer Irons says:

    I always loved the rivalry between JR and Bobby, the love/hate kind of brotherly rivalry. I think the family rivalry with John Ross and Christopher should be the same way, that love/hate relationship btw the cousins! Dallas would not be Dallas without family rivalries!

  2. Its all in the subtext C. B. There are not sexual advances made upon the females at Southfork in the TNT reboot, so there is no need IV them II feel sexually preyed upon like Miss Texas & Little Lucy were along with Pamela Barnes Ewing the Ist. BUt it is nevertheless clever of you II notice the similarities of the 2 episodes with both having a main living room focus!

  3. Garnet McGee says:

    Both episodes had their strong points. I appreciated that rape was not implied in the TNT version. The TNT episode did have its silly “James Bond” moments and I really don’t want to see too many episodes with gun play and action hero escapades. I did love the personal conversations between John Ross and his former love and current love. John Ross has much more physical courage than JR did in the original. JR’s behavior toward Sue Ellen was horrid. It was his failure to try to protect her that caused her to see JR as the man he was. In contrast the hostage crisis gave John Ross an opportunity to show tenderness towards his woman.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Vicente Cano ambushes Southfork and holds the Ewings captive. Dumb move, Vicente. These people are experts at surviving hostage crises, as they demonstrated time and again on the original “Dallas” and […]

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