Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 27 — ‘Trust Me’

Dallas, Harris Ryland, Judith Light, Judith Ryland, Mitch Pileggi, TNT, Trust Me

Snow job

Is “Trust Me” the most audacious episode in “Dallas” history? It’s hard to think of another one that shocked me more. Judith Ryland seals a deal with a Mexican drug lord by snorting a few lines of coke, Harris Ryland is revealed as a CIA informant — these are not the kinds of things we’re used to seeing on this show. Some fans are upset with the producers for taking our beloved franchise in such wild directions, but you’ll hear no complaints from me. “Dallas” measures its longevity in decades; at this point, I’d be disappointed if the people in charge weren’t exploring fresh storytelling terrain.

Besides, it’s not like the twists and turns come from out of nowhere. Both scenes fit with the theme of “Trust Me,” which shows how the characters deal with the people who doubt them — and how they deal with their doubts about themselves. The word “trust” pops up repeatedly: Harris tells Judith that Emma can’t be trusted. Elena and Nicolas each tell Carmen to trust their choice to work against the Ewings. Elena tells Christopher to trust her ability to handle Nicolas. Bobby wonders if the old Southfork seismographs can be trusted. Even when “trust” isn’t used, it’s implied: Witness the scene where John Ross stands in front of Pamela, raises his right hand and swears he isn’t cheating with his new secretary. Talk about splitting hairs.

And then there’s Judith’s coke-snorting scene. It’s inexplicably staged in some kind of dirt-floored equestrian arena, where the Mexican drug lord Luis is surrounded by an entourage that includes a young man holding a golden box of cocaine, several thugs toting big guns and two costumed rodeo performers who stand on horses, twirling lassos. A setting like this wouldn’t feel out of place in a Tarantino film. Judith and Harris arrive to meet with Luis, and before you know it, she’s putting Luis’s hands all over her body and talking about the importance of trust in business relationships. Judith implies the point of her self-directed pat down is to prove she’s not wearing a wire, but does anyone doubt she’s also seeking cheap thrills? For that matter, isn’t she also telegraphing a message about her mettle to Harris, who stands next to her, his mouth agape?

The scene continues with Judith shrewdly explaining how she’s going to use shell companies, wastewater trucks and unmapped roads to smuggle Luis’s drugs into Texas — and then we get to the moment that sent “Dallas” fans into a tweeting frenzy on the night “Trust Me” debuted. Judith leans into Luis’s cocaine box, snorts, throws back her head and delivers her hashtag-ready exclamation: “Hot damn! Mama like.” She even rubs a little coke on her gums for good measure. I suppose this is another way for Judith to prove her trustworthiness to the cartel, but let’s not kid ourselves: “Dallas” is trying to shock us — not that there’s anything wrong with that. I love this show’s insistence on being unpredictable. If this scene does nothing else, it demonstrates how eager the people who make “Dallas” are to entertain us. How can you not appreciate that?

As much as I admire Judith Light’s fearlessness in this scene, I have to hand it to Mitch Pileggi, whose reaction shots are priceless. (Director Millicent Shelton, who also helmed last season’s Harris-centric “Let Me In,” is smart enough to keep cutting back to him throughout Judith’s antics in the arena.) I also love how Light and Pileggi play off each other in their other scene in “Trust Me,” when Judith returns to the Ryland roost and announces she’s taking charge of the family trucking — er, transportation — business. Bruce Rasmussen’s script gives Light one delicious line after another, including an allegory that could have rolled off the silver tongue of J.R. Ewing: “Money and morality are like two cars on a one-lane road. When they meet, morality’s going to end up in the ditch.” Light savors every syllable, and once again, Pileggi holds his own. I think it’s telling that after I saw “Trust Me,” I spent more time quoting one of Harris’s lines (“You think you know what you’re getting into, but you don’t”) than any of Judith’s. I don’t know what I love more: Pileggi’s Texas accent, or the way he snarls his dialogue.

It’s also worth noting how much “Trust Me” humanizes Harris Ryland. In the scene where Judith negotiates the new deal with the cartel, notice how Harris doesn’t say a word until Luis implies he’ll hurt Emma if the Rylands don’t hold up their end of the bargain. “My daughter has nothing to do with this!” he says. For that matter, notice how Harris keeps a framed photograph of Ann with baby Emma in his office. This is a man who cares about the women in his life, even if he sometimes calls them names. (Pileggi’s other great line in this episode describes Emma: “She’s a little monster who put me in jail.”)

This also explains why I welcome the episode-ending revelation about Harris’s connection to the CIA, which requires more than a little trust on Bobby and Ann’s behalf. Like Larry Hagman, Pileggi is such a charismatic actor you can’t help but root for his character, no matter how wicked he becomes. I was having a hard time cheering for Harris, though, knowing that he was a drug trafficker. Now I’m glad I can cast those concerns aside. (I can cast them aside, right “Dallas”?) I don’t think there’s any danger of Harris turning into a white knight, but I’m glad to know there are lines he won’t cross.

Of course, as much as the Rylands fascinate me, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out how good the rest of “Trust Me” is. The Southfork barbecue scenes evoke the spirit — if not the down-home grandeur — of Ewing shindigs from days gone by. It’s fun to see John Ross rankle all the women in his life — mother, wife, mistress — by chatting up the other pretty ladies. (One is played by “Survivor” contestant Andrea Boehlke, who is Josh Henderson’s girlfriend in real life.) The only thing I enjoy more is Pamela’s hot dance with the ever-intriguing Nicolas Treviño — not just because it’s good to see Pamela give her flirtatious husband a taste of his own medicine, but also because it demonstrates why the magnetic Juan Pablo Di Pace is such a smart addition to this show. Di Pace enlivens every scene he appears in; as one of my fellow fans pointed out on Twitter the other night, he has chemistry with everyone, including Jesse Metcalfe’s Christopher, whose tête-à-tête with Nicolas over a couple of Miller Lites is another barbecue highlight.

Rasmussen’s script allows “Dallas’s” supporting performers to shine too. No one impresses me more than Kevin Page, whose character Bum has become the conscience of this show. Besides Judith Light’s dialogue, Page has the episode’s most memorable line when he shows John Ross the pictures he took of him and Emma and says, “Grow into your father’s greatness, not his weakness.” Bum’s mysterious-but-strong connection to J.R. makes him the only character on this show who can get away with putting John Ross in his place; he could become an even more effective surrogate father than Uncle Bobby. It’s tempting to chastise Bum for deceiving Sue Ellen about John Ross’s adultery, except there’s no doubt he’s only trying to spare her heartache. And am I the only one who wants to see more scenes between Page and Linda Gray?

This episode’s other M.V.P.: Marlene Forte, who has two great scenes. In the first, Carmen is aghast to learn Elena is working against the family to whom Carmen has pledged her loyalty; in the second, Carmen comes face to face with Nicolas, a boy she helped raise who is now Elena’s partner in crime. I love when Carmen touches the medal around Nicolas’s neck and tells him, “If even for a moment I sense that you are leading either of my children into the darkness, not even St. Christopher will be able to save you.” I’ve always believed Carmen has the potential to become one of this show’s moral centers, and now it looks like that might be happening.

It’s true that Nicolas’s backstory with the Ramoses is a little odd: I suppose we’re meant to believe Carmen and her husband raised him in Mexico but left him behind when they moved to Texas with their biological children, which is why Nicolas isn’t familiar to the Ewings. It’s another example of how the details on this show are sometimes fuzzy, although I’ve learned it’s not worth sweating the small stuff because the new “Dallas” almost always gets the big picture right. Will I still feel that way at the end of this season? Who knows? I have no idea where this series is headed next, but after watching its first 27 hours, I have faith in the people who make it. They’ve earned my respect — and my trust.

Grade: A


Bum, Dallas, Kevin Page, TNT, Trust Me

Independent lens


Season 3, Episode 2

Telecast: March 3, 2014

Audience: 1.9 million viewers on March 3

Writer: Bruce Rasmussen

Director: Millicent Shelton

Synopsis: At Sue Ellen’s request, Bum follows John Ross, but Bum lies and tells her there’s no evidence her son is cheating on Pamela. At the Ewing Barbecue, Christopher and Heather grow closer and Pamela arouses John Ross’s jealousy by dancing with Nicolas. Elena snoops around Bobby’s laptop and discovers an email that connects him and Carlos to Rhonda. Judith takes over Harris’s drug trafficking operation and negotiates a new deal with the cartel. When Bobby and Ann begin investigating Harris’s release from jail, Harris reveals the truth to them: He’s secretly working with the CIA to bring down the cartel.

Cast: John Athas (U.S. Attorney Ellis Larsen), Emma Bell (Emma Ryland), Andrea Boehlke (barbecue guest), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Christian Clemenson (Howard Rieder), Candace (Jude Demorest), Juan Pablo Di Pace (Nicolas Treviño), Akai Draco (Sherriff Derrick), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Julie Gonzalo (Pamela Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Antonio Jaramillo (Luis), Judith Light (Judith Ryland), AnnaLynne McCord (Heather), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Kevin Page (Bum), Gino Anthony Pesi (George Tatangelo), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing)

“Trust Me” is available at, and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.


  1. This episode was a total “10”. I enjoyed every minute of it. I agree that viewers “can’t sweat the small stuff” such as why don’t the Ewings know Nicholas. Who cares? He is a wonderful addition to the show. It also sets up Elena to get romantically involved with someone else besides the Ewing cousins. How many times was she going to bed hop? It was getting old. At least Pamela only bed hopped once.

  2. Great piece! I love the idea of Bum as John Ross’s surrogate father and Judith as the keeper of JR’s allegories. (That said, “Money and morality are like two cars on a one-lane road – when they meet, morality’s going to end up in the ditch” reminded me most of Abby Ewing’s “When it comes down to a choice between love and money, money’s gonna win every time”). A fascinating side effect of JR’s sad passing is that all of those roles he inhabited are now up for grabs.

    “I have no idea where this series is headed next, but after watching its first 27 hours, I have faith in the people who make it. They’ve earned my respect — and my trust.” Yes!!!!

  3. Jennifer Irons says:

    I totally loved this episode and what a shocker for an ending about Harris!! I definitely did not see that coming and I loved it! And seeing Judith snorting coke was absolutely nuts! You would never see that on the original Dallas! Cannot wait for episode 3!

  4. Chris, I don’t say this very often, but I agree with EVERYTHING you wrote – about Judith, Harris, Trevino, Bum etc.
    Just one lil “but”: C’mon, you have to admit, the BBQ was as lame as the one in S1. I was really looking forward to it. Yes, there were shots of SF, and the dance between Trevino and Pamela was hot. But I expected more. All other conversations (Bum and Sue Ellen, Christopher and Trevino) could have taken place somewhere else. No fist fight, again, no one landed in the pool. Ray an Lucy weren’t there. Not even Bobby was there. Shouldn’t a BBQ also be some kind of a family reunion? If not – what’s the point in having one?
    So, Cynthia – I LOVE BBQs, let’s have one every season, but show us things happening there!

  5. Dan in WI says:

    Chris says “I’ve learned it’s not worth sweating the small stuff”

    You can’t entirely ignore the small stuff either. It’s a fact that a certain percentage of the fan base does sweat the small stuff. Some people are just wired that way. (Yes I’m one of them.) The ratings aren’t that steller right now. If you turn off enough of the small stuff sweaters then none of us will have Dallas anymore.

  6. Nice review. I agreed with everything even if I wanted more Sue Ellen scenes. I really hope with have a future scene between Judith Light and Linda Gray!

  7. I read in an interview with Cynthia Cidre that Nicolas was indeed left behind in Mexico when the Ramos family moved to Dallas. He stayed behind with their uncle. I’m sure the writers of Dallas will make all the small details clearer as the season goes on, they always do! Not sure why so many viewers are up in arms about it, just go with the flow and enjoy the fact that it’s back on our screens! I 100% trust them & love every minute of this show.

  8. This was not the first time a C.I.A. flashed on “Dallas.” In season 10, in an Oil Barron’s Ball episode, an agent warns J.R. about B.D.Calhoun. I did not hear any complaints about last night. I do not like the character Harris Ryland. Even if he is selling drugs with the CIA, he is still selling drugs.

    Carmen had more of a role this episode and did very well, in my opinion. I got a feeling that we may see some surprises from her later on this season. It seems that she is smart enough not to get wrapped up in the “THE EWINGS STOLE MY OIL!!!” insanity that has plagued other characters on this show and is now inflicting her daughter Elena. I am not a Carmen fan, but anyone who says Cliff Barnes is a no good heel is alright in my book.

    Sue Ellen on the bottle is sad but predictable. Her struggle with the bottle has been a common occurrence with her. I wonder if Bum will try to save her? The real sincerity that Bum has for the Ewing’s really showed last night. Maybe John Ross will go crazy if he discovers Bum is employed by his own Momma to spy on him. Bum killed John Ross’s Daddy so I am sure he might want to consider keeping him away from Sue Ellen.

    Judith Ryland really did come across as an old woman who was recently rolling down a flight of stairs and locked up in a facility. Just the way she moved and her body language alone gave me that appearance. She is sick and her son is sick. Emma is sick in the head too, but the difference to me is that she knows it. I have a feeling Harris Ryland is going to need the CIA and Bobby and Ann as well to protect him from what he has coming his way. His mom, his daughter, a Mexican drug cartel, and probably Cliff Barnes!

    This show really got me excited about what is coming on next for season 3.

  9. What a great camera & lens set that Bum has! You can tell he worked for J.R. Ewing & made a pile of cash as the camera & its attachments are of superb quality.

  10. I agree with your opinion of this show! I loved the episode. As a matter of fact, I think this was better than the premier last week. I think they should have had a 2 hour premier, I think more people would have tuned in. I would love to see more of Sue Ellen. Hopefully that will come. The whole episode was excellent. Well the BBQ could have been better. They needed more extras there and something should have happened, a fight, or someone should have been thrown in the pool. A flashback scene of Sue Ellen and J R dancing could have been used at the BBQ even though the scene was cut originally. Other than that I thought it was a great show. People who are not tuning in are missing out on an excellent show!

    • Brandon Childers says:

      I know we are in the third season, and I can’t recall anyone being thrown in the pool yet, I like Sue Ellen’s line in that trailer. “You remind me of my sister Kristen. They found her face down in that pool, dead”. To Emma

  11. Brandon Childers says:

    I loved this episode, but I disagree about those lines Harris will not cross, let’s not forget his involvement in the Ewing rig explosion, which could have killed everyone on it. But I started thinking, what if Harris was an informant for the CIA against Cliff, becuase Roy had to be working with Harris and the CIA., Harris and Drew can team up with Ewings against Cliff in exchange for immunity.

    I love the direction dallas is going in, and Harris obviously still loves Anne, it’s his mother that drove them apart.

  12. The reason why the viewership went down is b/c the opener was a bit boring; they don’t know what they are missing and peeps can always check it out in other media. I am probably the only one who is a Harris fan. Goody Goody is boring! The bad ones peek my interest and keep me watching!

  13. Art Kelly says:

    Week #2 was much, much, much better than Week #1.

    In my view, Week #1 was only so-so. Nothing superlative. But Week #2 was extremely interesting. I hated to see the hour end. I’m very much looking forward to Week #3.

    I strongly agree that, on a night with excellent plots and many strong performances, the very best was Kevin Page as Bum. I’d sure like to see his role on the show enhanced.

  14. in old days, there are a lot more of people at the barbecue. The 2014′ event seems a little cheap, no ?

    • Dan in WI says:

      It’s size and scope it’s pretty consistent with the 2012 season 1 BBQ. The only difference is the season 1 had the get spots by Ray and Lucy. While we didn’t get that this week they are scheduled to show up later this season. I guess this is the new norm for the BBQ based on this show’s budget. I’ll still take this over no BBQ at all.

      • I loved the BBQs in the original Dallas, but to throw in a BBQ with little meaning doesn’t make sense. The only thing it did was to get Nicholas and Heather into Southfork. Having alot of extras to make it look crowded it a waste of money. I’d rather them spend it on a character or an old Dallas cast member (if it makes sense). So far, seeing Lucy and Ray were nice but they were meaningless to the plots.

      • Brandon Childers says:


        I don’t feel ray and Lucy’s appearances for meaning less. Ray and Lucy went to Christopher’s wedding, the “last” southfork BBQ, and JRs funeral these are things they would naturally attend. They are both to be in this season, I assume John Ross and Pamela’s wedding. Other episodes the Lucy was in was when John Ross wanted to get her to switch Gary to his side, and when she brought her mom to SF.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think it is still 2013 is the Dallas universe

      • Did the DALLAS timeline ever catch up after the ‘dream’ season?

      • Brandon Childers says:

        Well JRs grave stone says he died in 2013, and Sue Ellen lost the election in 2012 so the end of season two was still 2013 so I think we are currently in june or July 2013, so we caught up probably between this dallas and the old one.

  15. Art Kelly says:

    Dallas is an ensemble show with a high payroll. The producers are probably looking to save a dollar wherever they can find it.

    However, I’ll bet there are plenty of aspiring actors and actresses in the Dallas area who would love to be an “extra” on the show for the barbeque episode. You could probably find many who would gladly do this free to be on national TV, even fleetingly.

    If you did have to pay them something, it would be minimal. Texas is a right-to-work state, so the “extras” would not have to be union members.

  16. This ep need a lot more Pamela then what was shown. I did not like they cut the scenes with Pamela , John Ross and Nic to show more Rylands . I did not like this ep or the last ep

  17. Hearing no complaints from you is certainly not a surprise.

  18. I enjoyed this episode as well. I was not able to see the first 2 episodes until yesterday when I watched them together. Trust Me was the better of the 2. I think that the first episode did a lot of ground work.

    As far as the fuzzy details…you know that they will get tidied up at some point.

    I really like Bum. I am glad he is around. I am hoping we see more of him. With John Ross and with Sue Ellen. Especially, Sue Ellen…. They have great chemistry on screen.

    It is interesting how they are writing Elena. She was clearly one of the moral centers of the show in the 1st 2 seasons. She was John Ross’ conscious and even Chris’. Now, her hurt over JR3 ripping her leases away from her and over Chris bitterly dumping her combined with the knowledge that JR stole land from her father has pushed her into the murky waters. Over time on the first Dallas, we watched as a idealistic Cliff let revenge or ‘justice’ warp his life. It will interesting to see if Elena will ever let that hurt go or will continue to follow Cliff down the rabbit hole. Will Carmen be able to stop her ?

    Oh, and yes, Nicholas has great chemistry with all the cast. He is yummy. And we don’t know for sure what kind of character he will be. Good or bad? I am thinking he belongs on the dark side. Elena might have started something she can’t control.

    The Rylands …. All of them are so much fun to watch. This family is so dysfunctional! Lol….seeing Judith snort those lines of coke was crazy crazy . And the looks on Harris’ face was priceless.

    So with Harris proving that he is working with the CIA and being all concerned about Emma and knowing that he still has some residual feelings for Ann….do you think they (the writers) would tempt Ann with Harris if she ever finds out about Bobby et all framing Cliff for JR’s murder?? Cuz we know Sue Ellen and Ann are going to flip out when they find out. Hmmmm…makes me wonder…. Cuz this is Dallas and happy couples are not allowed forever.

    Looking forward to tomorrow night. See ya on Twitter!

    As far as the BBQ…yes, it is not like the old ones…..but…this show has a much, much smaller budget than the old show did. So I understand when things are smaller scale. It is to be expected.

    • Garnet McGee says:

      Welcome back Hel. Yes, I too trust the writers to tidy up loose ends in future episodes. They usually do.

  19. Dancing to the theme song says:

    Good episode but yeah good point. We use to hear that Elena played with the ewing boys as kids where was this guy?


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