The Ewings throw another Southfork barbecue in “Trust Me,” TNT’s latest “Dallas” episode. Here’s a list of every barbecue from the classic show’s era, ranked in order of preference. (Please note: The two rodeo episodes aren’t included. Don’t worry; they’ll get their own list one day.)
8. Barbecue VIII (1987). The original “Dallas’s” final barbecue feels a little warmed over, sad to say. Things briefly get exciting when aging wildcatter Dandy Dandridge (Bert Remsen) shows up and tries to shoot Cliff — a nifty bit of poetic justice that recalls Digger’s attempt to kill Jock in “Dallas: The Early Years.” The rest of the affair, though, is more of a retread than an homage: J.R. and Cliff exchange insults for the umpteenth time, Sue Ellen once again tries to get under her husband’s skin and Christopher spends another episode moping around because he’s adopted. Is this “Groundhog Day” or a Southfork shindig?
7. Barbecue II (1982). Most of the action at this party happens on the dance floor: With Pam upstairs mooning over baby Christopher, Bobby waltzes with Katherine, whose crush on her brother-in-law is as plain as Ray’s extra-martial interest in sexy Toni. Later, J.R. stands on the balcony and seethes while watching Sue Ellen and Cliff (Linda Gray, Ken Kercheval) — whose shirt appears to have lost all its buttons — have a jolly time two-stepping below. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Miss Ellie receives the fateful phone call informing her that Jock’s helicopter crashed on its way home. Way to kill the festive mood, “Dallas.”
6. Barbecue IV (1983). This barbecue is mostly fun: Bobby and Mark Graison give each other the stink eye at the bar, Jenna Wade is bitchy to Pam on the patio and Afton Cooper (Audrey Landers) runs around the driveway in a Native American-inspired outfit that features the most strategically placed tassels in the history of costume design. So why doesn’t this soiree rank higher? Blame baby-faced stalker Peter Richards, who summons Sue Ellen to the barn, where he gives her a smooch and professes his undying love for her. Gross! It’s enough to make us lose our appetite for Mama’s chili.
5. Barbecue V (1984). Myth: Every time the Ewings throw a barbecue, someone gets pushed into the Southfork swimming pool. Fact: This only happens once, and it occurs at the 1984 hootenanny, when Marilee Stone (Fern Fitzgerald) slaps Cousin Jamie (Jenilee Harrison), who responds by shoving Marilee into the water. The best part is the hilarious kicker: When J.R. reaches down to pull Ms. Stone out of the chlorinated water, he says, “Marilee, you all right, honey? Did it go up your nose?” No matter how many times I watch this episode, I never tire of seeing Larry Hagman deliver that line.
4. Barbecue VII (1986). This hoedown ends on a dramatic note, with Bobby arriving with evidence that proves Wes Parmalee, the man who claims to be back-from-the-dead Jock, is an imposter. Before we get to that, though, we’re treated to several scenes that showcase Hagman’s comedic genius. In one, J.R. chastises Pam (Victoria Principal) for inviting “that moron brother of yours to my barbecue.” Later, J.R. witnesses Cliff and Jamie’s latest marital spat and can’t resist offering his two cents. Jamie: “You know, Cliff Barnes, you’re the sorriest excuse for a man that I have ever met!” J.R.: “Well, I’ll second that!”
3. Barbecue I (1978). Here’s the one that started it all. “Dallas’s” first season ends with an episode that takes place in a single day, as Texas’s newest in-laws, the Ewings and the Barneses, get together for an epic Southfork cookout. Everyone gets down in the dirt at this one: Digger and Sue Ellen each fall off the wagon, J.R. falls flat on his face when Bobby punches him and Pam falls from the hayloft and suffers a miscarriage. My favorite scene belongs to caterers Tilly and Sam, who spend the afternoon gossiping about the Ewings. This is the only time these characters ever appeared on “Dallas”; is it too late to bring them back?
2. Barbecue III (1982). The second barbecue of 1982 finds everyone hatin’ on poor J.R. The members of the cartel are royally peeved that he’s undercut them by opening a chain of cut-rate gas stations, and so is Bobby, who’s so upset, he gets drunk (!), neglects Pam (!!) and flirts with Holly Harwood (!!!). Finally, the cartel gangs up and confronts J.R. It’s showdown at the Southfork corral! But wait, what’s this? Here come the other Ewings, who circle J.R. and remind the cartel that when you take on one member of the clan, you take them all on. It’s not just the quintessential Ewing Barbecue scene, it’s quintessential “Dallas.”
1. Barbecue VI (1986). My sentimental favorite. The prequel movie “Dallas: The Early Years” culminates at a 1951 barbecue, where a teenaged J.R. loses his virginity in the barn and a drunken Digger shows up with a gun and takes aim at Jock (Dale Midkiff). Ellie (Molly Hagan) intervenes and saves her husband’s life, and then with all the Barnes and Ewing children frolicking around them, Jock embraces Ellie and turns reflective. “What are these poor kids going to end up like?” he asks. Cut to the final scene: After bratty Cliff tangles with J.R., he drags kid sister Pammy away from her new playmate — little Bobby Ewing. Jerrold Immel’s famous theme music rises in the background, the camera pulls back for a bird’s eye view of the ranch and then the familiar shots from “Dallas’s” classic title sequence begin to sweep across the screen. Now that’s how you end a barbecue!
What’s your favorite “Dallas” barbecue? Share your comments below and read more “Dal-Lists.”