Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 29 — ‘Lifting the Veil’

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Lifting the Veil, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Long time coming

“Lifting the Veil” reveals new truths about several “Dallas” characters, beginning with John Ross. We’ve always known he was as ambitious and as charming as J.R., but in the scene where Sue Ellen confronts him about his infidelity and he treats her cruelly, we discover the son can also be as mean as the father. This episode offers fresh insight into Sue Ellen’s psyche as well. It’s clear now that she’s having trouble letting go of the past, although to be fair, every time she takes a nip from her flask, we’re reminded that the past has a pretty firm grip on her too.

The confrontation between mother and son is the hands-down highlight of “Lifting the Veil,” an hour that brims with history and heartache. The scene begins when Sue Ellen enters John Ross’s bedroom while he’s getting ready for his wedding and tells him she knows he’s been cheating with Emma. John Ross dismisses the relationship as “just business,” which only disgusts Sue Ellen further. “Just like your daddy, finding a way to explain infidelity,” she says. John Ross responds by pointing out the smell of alcohol on his mother’s breath, but she doesn’t back down and threatens to tell Pamela about his affair. John Ross is nonplussed. He brushes past Sue Ellen and delivers his lowest blow yet: “You have looked the other way you’re whole life, Mama. One more time’s not going to hurt.”

Josh Henderson does a nice job bringing John Ross’s dark side into the light, just like Larry Hagman used to do with J.R. For Henderson, though, this amounts to a creative risk: Until now, he’s played John Ross as a (mostly) likable rapscallion, but in this scene, the actor shows us he’s equally adept at making his character seem like an unapologetic jerk. Henderson makes John Ross’s ever-growing hubris feel believable throughout this episode (including during his pre-wedding visit to the brothel), but especially in this scene. Linda Gray, in the meantime, is as magnificent as ever. You can feel Sue Ellen’s pain when Gray delivers that “just like your daddy” line; it’s the character’s saddest moment since her graveside eulogy for her ex-husband in “J.R.’s Masterpiece.” In some ways, “Lifting the Veil” serves as a kind of companion piece to the funeral episode. The first one shows Sue Ellen grieving the loss of J.R.; in the second, she mourns his “return” through the sinful nature of their son.

I also like how Bethany Rooney, a first-time “Dallas” director, stages John Ross and Sue Ellen’s confrontation. The conversation unfolds while he’s fastening his cuff links and putting on his jacket; the casualness of his actions makes his words seem even more devastating. This is one of those times I wish TNT’s Southfork sets more closely resembled those used on the original “Dallas.” J.R. and Sue Ellen’s old bedroom was such a battleground; how cool would it have been to see John Ross and Sue Ellen clash in that setting? On the other hand: the newer bedroom has become a consequential place in its own right. This is where Sue Ellen once slapped J.R. and where she got drunk on the night before his funeral. It’s where John Ross defended his relationship with Pamela to his father and now, it’s where he defends his unfaithfulness to her to his mother.

Speaking of Pamela: I also like the “Lifting the Veil” scene where John Ross pleads with her to go through with their wedding, despite the fact that he was missing for much of the day. Henderson is so heartfelt, it almost inoculates John Ross from the anger we feel toward him after he’s mean to his mama. (Emphasis on “almost.”) Julie Gonzalo makes Pamela’s disappointment palpable, and I like how Taylor Hamra’s script gives her a line where she notes how much John Ross’s apologies sound like the ones Cliff used to offer her. It’s a subtle reminder that Pamela is still haunted by her daddy, just like John Ross is haunted by his.

This brings me to a gripe: I wish “Lifting the Veil” played up the old Barnes/Ewing feud a little more. The wedding of J.R.’s son and Cliff’s daughter is a moment of consequence to students of “Dallas” mythology; I’m glad Rooney gave us a glimpse of the framed photograph of J.R., but I would’ve also loved a shot of Cliff, stewing in his Mexican jail cell, knowing his daughter was marrying a Ewing back home. Likewise, “Dallas” does such a nice job of incorporating Audrey Landers into the narrative whenever she guest stars — Sue Ellen and Afton’s bitchy exchange was a special treat for longtime fans — so I can’t help but wonder why the show seems to struggle to find meaningful things for Steve Kanaly and Charlene Tilton to do when Ray and Lucy visit.

Additionally, it’s worth noting this episode takes place in a single day — you’d have to dig deep into “Dallas’s” past, all the way back to 1978’s “Barbecue,” to find another — although I wish the focus remained on the doings at Southfork the way it does in the early episode. I could do without most of the “Lifting the Veil” scenes set at the brothel (the fanciest little whorehouse in Texas?), especially the silly bit with the railroad commissioner and his canine fetish. The revelation that Judith Ryland is the madam is also a bit much, especially when you consider the show has already established her as a drug smuggler. Does Mother Ryland rob banks too? On the other hand: I like the twist that Harris is secretly working with John Ross’s secretary, Candace, although I’m not wild about his scheme to use her to collect, uh, DNA evidence from John Ross in order to frame him for a sex crime.

My reservations about the Rylands aside, you’ve got to love Judith Light’s 1980s lion’s–mane hair in her brothel scene, as well each actor’s pitch-perfect look at the wedding. Since interviewing “Dallas” costume designer Rachel Sage Kunin and hairstylist Charles Yusko, I’ve developed a much greater appreciation for how crucial the wardrobe and hair teams are to establishing each character’s persona. To see what I mean, go watch the wedding scenes at the end of the new show’s first episode, “Changing of the Guard.” Notice how much more sophisticated and womanly Gonzalo’s character looks in “Lifting the Veil” when compared to the earlier wedding? The two sequences were filmed just two years apart, so the change in the actress’s appearance is achieved mostly through Yusko and Kunin’s magic.

In a show that has more than its share of big stars, it’s always worth remembering that some of the brightest work behind the scenes.

Grade: B

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Afton Cooper, Audrey Landers, Dallas, Julie Gonzalo, Lifting the Veil, Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing, TNT

Like father, like husband

‘LIFTING THE VEIL’

Season 3, Episode 4

Telecast: March 17, 2014

Audience: 1.8 million viewers on March 17

Writer: Taylor Hamra

Director: Bethany Rooney

Synopsis: John Ross blackmails a Texas land-use commissioner into giving him a permit to drill on Southfork, while Harris tells Judith he’s secretly working with Ewing Energies secretary Candace, who’s going to help Harris frame John Ross so he can blackmail him and reclaim his files. Sue Ellen confronts John Ross about his affair with Emma, but John Ross dismisses his mother’s concerns and exchanges vows with Pamela. Christopher returns from Mexico and warns Elena that Nicolas is married, but Nicolas assures Elena he’s getting a divorce. Later, Lucia arrives in Dallas and threatens to expose secrets from Nicolas’s past if he doesn’t reconcile with her, while Christopher and Heather make love.

Cast: Kuno Becker (Drew Ramos), Emma Bell (Emma Ryland), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Angélica Celaya (Lucia Treviño), Candace (Jude Demorest), Juan Pablo Di Pace (Nicolas Treviño), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Julie Gonzalo (Pamela Ewing), Currie Graham (Commissioner Stanley Babcock), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Judith Light (Judith Ryland), AnnaLynne McCord (Heather), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Denyse Tontz (Chastity), Erika Page White (Sapphire)

“Lifting the Veil” is available at DallasTNT.com, Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Somewhere along the line, Ray needs to appear in some scenes separately from Lucy just as Lucy has been given a couple of scenes that don’t include Ray. It’s gotten to the point where they almost look like a couple.

    Giving them something “meaningful” to do would be a bonus. We’ve seen a little bit of that with Lucy, but not with Ray.

    It doesn’t bother me that we’re not getting any backstory on the two characters, though. That gives the writers more flexibility should either of them be given a more significant part of a storyline down the road.

  2. once again, excellent review, Chris, I especially agree with what you said about underusing Lucy and Ray, the Sue Ellen/Afton scene and Sue Ellen’s 2nd tragic moment after her speech at the funeral. Great acting on her side too. I’d still give it an A though 😉

  3. Kelley Tyler says:

    Have you ever seen the opening size of a hip flask? It’s pretty small making the flask very hard to fill. The hard drinkers I know would put the flask away and carry the bottle because by the time they got the flask half full they would have drank the rest from the bottle!

  4. Brandon childers says:

    I like that Christopher is catching on, If John Ross sleeps with a third woman then he deserves everything the rylands through at him. John Ross has pissed of Sue Ellen, he has Bobby and Christopher fracking angry with him (pun intended), Emma is upset with him, the rylands are out for blood, and Pamela is catching on, John Ross will not have any allies.

    John Ross is going to have to fire his secretary and then they will have to find new secretaries. Seems a certain Sly, Phyllis, and Kendall might be right for those jobs, especially Sly. Who it would make sense if she knew about the JR scheme as well.

    Lucy and ray need to have a story written for them. Gary had a small 3 episode story arch, and he was only in like a dozen original dallas episodes. Their appearances at both Weddings, the “last” BBQ and at the funeral were logical, but it always seems to be that they are just standing there together, not really doing anything. Lucy did have that one episode when John Ross was trying to get her to sway Gary. Now Sue Ellen can talk with Lucy about the John Ross/Pamela/Emma affair and Lucy could help Sue Ellen build up the courage to tell Pamela. something could happen to Bobby, Christopher, or John Ross and Ray can help find them. I don’t think we all would be mad, if they did a storyline for one and didnt includ the other one. . .

    • Dan in WI says:

      It won’t happen but I love the idea of Sly being John Ross’ secratary. How cool would that be?
      But chances are she doesn’t live in Texas and like Steve Kanaley doesn’t want to commit to being there for a season especially for only a recurring role.

      • Garnet McGee says:

        I loved almost all the episode. My minor gripes were that so much blackmail in one episode started to seem repetitive. Madame Ryland is a hoot but making her run a brothel might be gilding the lily. I wish there had been more wedding. They could have cut thirty seconds of flashback when we see Candace again and had a few more seconds of Pamela or even Ann.
        It feels as if the writers from original Dallas season 7 put themselves on pause and have hit the play button again and are writing for Sue Ellen in this episode. I am currently watching season 7 and the writing is almost identical except that today’s Sue Ellen is a lot smarter. I understand why she is attracted to drinking again. Likewise John Ross thinks exactly like the JR of back then. Juan Pablo di Pace was fantastic again as Nicolas. He is cunning, suave, and sweet all at the same time. Angelica Celaya as his wife is another terrific find and just perfect for her role. Chris and Elena were the big weakness in the show for me in the past. Now that Brewster and Metcalfe are acting opposite new partners both are on fire. Even Emma seemed more interesting. I have a feeling the events of this day will be John Ross’s downfall. How fascinating that he will crash but because of something he did not do. I am hoping the crash will come just as he decides that he loves Pamela too much to continue to cheat on her. This show is so good. I only wish more people were watching.

  5. Judith running a whorehouse,how fitting since she’s a crack user & ho herself! I love it C.B.! They should bring in Tony Danza for stunt casting!

  6. I loved the episode John Ross and Suellen great acting for both actors. You can feel suellen pain all the sleeping around JR did. Suellen and Afton great scene, Afton deserved what suellen said her she destroyed suellen happiest once. Afton then took up with that rodent Cliff Barnes

  7. Sandy248 says:

    Love this review. You watched the same show I watched and I don’t understand why the show doesn’t play up the fact that JR’s son is in love with Cliff’s daughter. And I detested every moment of the brothel.

Trackbacks

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  3. […] Gonzalo) eloped on “Dallas” last season, but they’ll get a traditional Southfork wedding in “Lifting the Veil,” TNT’s latest episode. Here’s a list of the eight Southfork weddings seen on the original show, […]

  4. […] you enjoy “Lifting the Veil,” this week’s episode of TNT’s “Dallas”? Let’s discuss it during my next #DallasChat on […]

  5. […] what happened in “Lifting the Veil,” TNT’s latest “Dallas” […]

  6. […] slipped in the ratings this week: “Lifting the Veil,” the latest episode, was seen by 1.78 million viewers on March 17. This is the TNT drama’s […]

  7. […] delivers the sharpest dialogue on television. Here are the best sound bites from “Lifting the Veil,” this week’s episode. Included: Sue Ellen’s delicious quip about Kristin, which wasn’t […]

  8. […] actress was nothing less than radiant when Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing Ewing got married (again) in “Lifting the Veil,” this week’s episode. I love how Pamela’s Vera Wang gown left one shoulder exposed, making her […]

  9. […] What will Sue Ellen do about John Ross? “Lifting the Veil,” last week’s episode, ended with John Ross riding high: He secured a permit to drill on Southfork […]

  10. […] only thing the Ewings love more than a dip in the pool is a roll in the hay. In “Lifting the Veil,” TNT’s most recent “Dallas” episode, Christopher and Heather (Jesse Metcalfe, AnnaLynne […]

  11. […] debuted to 1.79 million viewers on March 24, or about 8,000 more viewers than the previous episode, “Lifting the Veil,” drew one week […]

  12. […] pages from J.R.’s playbook in their quest for the upper hand in their relationship. In the previous episode, John Ross showed he could treat Sue Ellen as cruelly as J.R. once did; in “D.T.R.,” Sue Ellen […]

  13. […] p.m. “Lifting the Veil” is the episode that should’ve included Sue Ellen’s comparison of Emma (Emma Bell) to Kristin, […]

  14. […] opening night audience this year. The lowest: John Ross and Pamela’s wedding episode, “Lifting the Veil,” which drew 1.78 million viewers on March […]

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