Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 150 — ‘Where is Poppa?’

Christopher Atkins, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Peter Richards, Where is Poppa?

Who’s the daddy?

No matter how many times I see the Ewings rush to the hospital when one of their own gets sick or injured, it always moves me. Besides generating drama and suspense, these scenes also remind us that the characters care about each other, despite all their squabbling. Consider what happens in “Where is Poppa?” At the beginning of the episode, J.R. and Sue Ellen have one of their nasty marital spats, but in the fourth act, when he receives word at the office that she’s been struck by a car, he drops everything and races to Dallas Memorial. In moments like this, there’s no doubt this man loves his wife.

“Where is Poppa?” also delivers a nifty twist in the final scene, when the doctor who’s been treating Sue Ellen informs the family that she sustained only minor injuries — although the accident did cause her to suffer a miscarriage. What’s that, you say? You didn’t know Sue Ellen was pregnant? Apparently no one did, including Sue Ellen herself. Of course, “Dallas” has given us plenty of foreshadowing and other clues. Two episodes ago, J.R. told his wife how much he wished they could have another child; in the previous segment, she had breakfast in bed because she felt queasy. Now we know she was probably experiencing morning sickness.

Details like these feel like little rewards for attentive viewers. So does the episode’s final shot. After the doctor reveals Sue Ellen had a miscarriage, J.R. and Peter stand next to each other and wear stunned expressions. This is a clever ending because it leaves us pondering a big mystery — which man was the father of Sue Ellen’s unborn child? — without anyone ever actually asking the question. It’s also one of the few occasions where the audience has more information than J.R. We know Sue Ellen has slept with Peter, but J.R. doesn’t. This lends the scene unexpected poignancy; not only has he lost a child, he’s also lost a wife — metaphorically speaking, that is.

Other highlights of “Where is Poppa?” include Richard Lewis Warren’s score, which adds urgency to the sequence where the news of Sue Ellen’s accident spreads to the various Ewings. I also like the scene where Donna takes Paul Morgan to lunch to see if he knows anything about Edgar Randolph, who she suspects is being blackmailed by J.R. Besides giving the show an excuse to bring back Glenn Corbett, this scene represents another example of “Dallas’s” attention to detail. After all, the show has established that both Edgar and Paul are protégés of Donna’s first husband Sam Culver, so it makes sense that she would turn to Paul for information about Edgar.

Another good scene: J.R. takes Sly to lunch for her birthday and she tells him she used the $10,000 “bonus” she received from Cliff to help her brother start his own machine shop. Since Sly’s brother’s troubles were the reason she got swept up in the corporate espionage game in the first place, I’m glad scriptwriter Arthur Bernard Lewis took the time to give us an update on the brother’s life. It’s a nice touch.

I also appreciate how this episode’s title carries multiple meetings. “Where is Poppa?” refers to the mystery over the father of Sue Ellen’s child, but it can also be seen as a nod to Katherine’s mission to determine if Bobby or Naldo Marchetta is the father of Jenna Wade’s daughter, Charlie. During this episode’s third act, J.R. and Katherine are concluding one of their midday trysts when her private eye calls to let her know that he’s finally tracked down Naldo, who now lives in Los Angeles. Morgan Brittany is terrific in this scene; as Katherine, she shifts effortlessly from being disgusted over having to sleep with J.R. again to being giddy over the news that Naldo has finally been found. Larry Hagman is also a hoot, especially when he delivers one of J.R.’s immortal lines: “You got anything to drink around here? Some orange juice or coffee? Loving always makes me thirsty.”

So “loving” makes J.R. thirsty, huh? No wonder he always has a drink in his hand.

Grade: B

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Charlie Wade, Dallas, Shalane McCall, Where is Poppa?

Who’s your daddy?

‘WHERE IS POPPA?’

Season 7, Episode 19

Airdate: February 10, 1984

Audience: 21.2 million homes, ranking 3rd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: William F. Claxton

Synopsis: When Sue Ellen is struck by a car, J.R. and Peter learn she was pregnant and suffered a miscarriage. Edgar goes home from the hospital. Marilee agrees to join Cliff’s bid. Katherine learns Naldo lives in Los Angeles.

Cast: Christopher Atkins (Peter Richards), John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Fran Bennett (receptionist), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Martin E. Brooks (Edgar Randolph), Anne Gee Byrd (Dr. Jeffries), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Pat Colbért (Dora Mae), Glenn Corbett (Paul Morgan), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Alice Hirson (Mavis Anderson), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Sherril Lynn Katzman (Jackie Dugan), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Anne Lucas (Cassie), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Joanna Miles (Martha Randolph), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Donegan Smith (Earl Johnson), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis)

“Where is Poppa?” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. Yeah, Charlie’s Poppa & the miscarried child of Miss Texas. Talk about your DALLAS parrallels in this episode, oh, & folks: 14 days: ALL NEW DALLAS!

  2. Its a wonder why Brother J.R. was always thirsty after lovin Miss Jenny & C.B. & Andrew! Until he had his kidney transplant in 1995, J.R. had the entire world market share of bourbon & branch in the palm of his hand!

Trackbacks

  1. […] “Where is Poppa?,” a seventh-season “Dallas” episode, Katherine (Morgan Brittany) sits in bed with a sheet wrapped […]

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