Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 146 — ‘Offshore Crude’

Christopher Atkins, Dallas, Linda Gray, Offshore Crude, Peter Richards, Sue Ellen Ewing

Wrong turn, darlin’

The “Offshore Crude” scene where Sue Ellen goes to Peter’s apartment to break up with him is one of “Dallas’s” sillier moments. When she arrives, Peter is wearing nothing but a towel and a face full of shaving cream, so he excuses himself and returns to the bathroom to finish freshening up. While he’s at the sink, Sue Ellen stands with her back to him and pours out her heart, explaining why the two of them can no longer see each other. She finishes her speech and is surprised to see Peter is unfazed, until she realizes he didn’t hear a word she said because the water was running. Sue Ellen, who apparently is too drained to repeat herself, allows the none-the-wiser Peter to hug her tightly and gush about how important she is to him. “I love you. I really do love you,” he says.

Oh, good grief. Linda Gray and Christopher Atkins do their best to sell this scene, but there’s only so much they can do. Sue Ellen’s confession that she only slept with Peter to persuade him to go back to college isn’t credible, and I don’t believe she’d deliver such important news while he’s shaving and she’s facing the other direction. Frankly, I’m even a little surprised to discover the baby-faced Peter shaves. Like Bobby and Pam’s breakup at the beginning of “Dallas’s” seventh season, this is another example of how the writers rely on misunderstanding and miscommunication to drive their storytelling. Sometimes this show has more in common with “Three’s Company” than I care to admit.

Nothing else about “Offshore Crude” is quite this fatuous, except for the shots that depict the Ewings spending a leisurely Saturday afternoon by the Southfork swimming pool. These scenes were filmed on “Dallas’s” Hollywood soundstage, where the pool is noticeably smaller than its real-life Texas counterpart. So why does the show concoct a race between Bobby, Ray and Peter? It only takes Patrick Duffy, Steve Kanaly and Atkins a few strokes each to go from one end of the pool to the other. Bradford May, the show’s seventh-season cinematographer, makes the outdoor sets look a little more convincing than they did in previous seasons, although there’s still no mistaking them for the real thing. Scenes like this make me so happy the new “Dallas” films its exterior scenes outdoors.

The rest of “Offshore Crude” is standard-issue, mid-1980s “Dallas.” J.R. and Sue Ellen have a couple of good fight scenes, including one where he enters her bedroom and wonders if she’s avoiding Peter because she’s afraid his acne is contagious. I love how Gray hisses Sue Ellen’s response: “Your jokes aren’t funny. They are disgusting and boring.” (I predict I’ll spend the next week quoting that line to anyone who will listen.) Larry Hagman is also wonderfully diabolical in “Offshore Crude’s” final scene, when J.R. summons Edgar Randolph to his office and tells him he’s glad Edgar rejected his recent attempt to bribe him: “If my money can’t buy you, nobody else’s can either.” No matter how much time I spend with J.R., he always manages to surprise me.

I also like the scene where Cliff and Marilee sneak off to a bar on a Saturday night to plot their latest business deal. Fern Fitzgerald delivers another one of her delicious performances as the wine-sipping Marilee, who is clearly savoring this opportunity to mix business with pleasure. I also love seeing Cliff trade in his flashy suit for that nifty electric blue shirt. “Offshore Crude” also includes a fun scene between Miss Ellie and Clayton, who skip the usual family dinner at Southfork to take in a meal at the Oil Baron’s Club. The conversation is mostly designed to lay the groundwork for the arrival of his sister Jessica at the end of the season, but it also plays on the charming rapport between Barbara Bel Geddes and Howard Keel and ends with Clayton asking for the check so he can whisk Ellie away to the city’s last big-band dance club.

This turns out to be the only time Bel Geddes and Keel appear in “Offshore Crude.” What a shame. I’d much rather see Ellie and Clayton on the dance floor than watch the rest of the Ewings frolicking around that tiny pool.

Grade: B

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, Edgar Randolph, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Martin E. Brooks, Offshore Crude

Unbought

‘OFFSHORE CRUDE’

Season 7, Episode 15

Airdate: January 13, 1984

Audience: 20.3 million homes, ranking 6th in the weekly ratings

Writer: David Paulsen

Director: Ray Danton

Synopsis: Cliff decides to bid on the offshore oil leases after Sly lies and tells him that J.R. is planning to bid too. J.R. lets Edgar know he has damaging information about him. Peter tells Sue Ellen he loves her. After failing to find Naldo in Rome, Katherine returns to Dallas.

Cast: Mary Armstrong (Louise), Christopher Atkins (Peter Richards), John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Martin E. Brooks (Edgar Randolph), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Sherril Lynn Katzman (Jackie), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Anne Lucas (Cassie), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Alberto Morin (Armando Sidoni), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

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

Comments

  1. Over-reliance on miscommunication does get old. It was such a problem for Bobby and Pam, they probably weren’t ready to be together, even without Katherine’s manipulations.

  2. Unlike, apparently, many other original Dallas fans, I was never really opposed to the Sue Ellen/Peter relationship. It always looked like an odd double-standard to me, when folks would talk about how ridiculous it was for Sue Ellen to be having an affair with such a young man, while J.R. would go off with young women all the time and nobody complained about that. So the idea was good, or at least had potential, in my opinion. The problem really fell on the casting. Atkins just wasn’t that good of an actor (his only value was his looks and the notoriety he had from “Blue Lagoon” which, has history shows, couldn’t sustain his career once he passed the Teen Idol stage), and he and Linda had no chemistry, as evidenced in the scene you recap here. If a better actor had been cast as Peter I think the storyline would be remembered more fondly.

    • J.R., if Naldo Marcetta had stayed alive & lived full time in DALLAS, I think that would have been much healthier for the character & overall development of Charlie’s character. This is b/c she could have bothe the ranch upbringing of Brother Bobby James Ewing & the formal etiquette of Renaldo Marcetta’s Italian/European way of thinking. Then Jenna could have 2 positive male figures in Charlie’s life in addition to Brother Ray Krebbs!

    • Dan in WI says:

      I really don’t think it is the double standard behind people disliking the Sue Ellen/Peter relationship. Many before have said it was the casting of Atkins but I think you just hit on it: We probably could have overlooked his incredibly young looks if only there was some sort of chemistry between the two. I have no idea if there was a screen test or not before that casting choice was made. I’m guessing no and saying there should have been.
      It’s one thing for JR to have a one night stand with a younger woman. It’s another for Sue Ellen to have an actual relationship with a younger guy. The older/younger double standard isn’t the problem here. The problem is takes more chemistry to sustain a relationship than a one night stand.

    • I agree with you, J.R. Thanks.

  3. Clayton Farlow was such a stud for the ladies in addition to being a gentleman. I bet you he could have handled Victoria Principal as Pamela Barnes Ewing dancing & gyrating in the disco with Husband Bobby James in Year 1. Va va voom I loved that sweater shaking C.B. & Miss Jenny! A reall “dance-off!”

Trackbacks

  1. […] “Offshore Crude,” a seventh-season “Dallas” episode, Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) stands and looks out her bedroom […]

  2. […] Notice how John Beck seems to be limping as Mark crosses the living room, a subtle throwback to the previous episode, when the character pulled a muscle while playing tennis with Pam.) Additionally, I love when […]

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