Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 32 — ‘Like a Bad Penny’

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Like a Bad Penny, TNT

Not afraid to lose

John Ross has never reminded me of J.R. as much as he does in “Like a Bad Penny.” To salvage a botched business deal with a powerful sheik, John Ross competes against him in a high-stakes poker game and deliberately loses, even though it means gambling away his prized “J.R.” wristwatch. Except the watch is never really at risk, is it? John Ross bets that by humbling himself in the sheik’s presence, he’ll win the man’s approval and eventually recover the timepiece, which is precisely what happens at the end of the episode. Could J.R. have played it any better?

At every turn in “Like a Bad Penny,” Josh Henderson evokes a little of the old Hagman magic. After John Ross throws the game and surrenders the watch, he offers the sheik a J.R.-esque, fake-sincere apology for bungling the deal in the first place. Then, John Ross huddles privately with Pamela and hints his defeat is part of a bigger scheme. This is the kind of conversation J.R. used to have with Sly on the original “Dallas”; whenever the chips were down, he’d let his loyal secretary — and by extension, the audience — know he had one more trick up his sleeve. John Ross does something similar here by offering Pamela a sly grin and a nugget of J.R.-style wisdom: “Sometimes the only way to win is to show the other person you’re not afraid to lose.”

Sure enough, in “Like a Bad Penny’s” most satisfying scene, the sheik’s son Nasir comes to Southfork, tells John Ross the sheik wants to do business with him after all — and returns the wristwatch. This is a poignant moment because it gets to the conflict brewing within John Ross. Earlier, when he loses the watch, he expresses his relief to Pamela, saying he wants to his “own man, instead of the man everybody else wants me to be.” John Ross seems sincere in that scene, but you can also see how happy he is when he gets the watch back and hears Nasir say, “My father saw J.R. in you.” I can’t help but feel sympathy for John Ross: He desperately wants to escape J.R.’s shadow, but he’s also as desperate as ever to make his father proud. (I also have to wonder: What kind of snow job did J.R. pull on his old friend the sheik to make him think he was such an upstanding, honorable businessman?)

I’m less enthralled with this episode’s depiction of Pamela. If John Ross is the “new” J.R., is she doomed to fulfill Sue Ellen’s old role of the subservient wife? Despite all the “us against the world” talk between John Ross and Pamela at the top of the hour, she’s relegated to the background during the big poker scene. Even worse, she’s still in the dark about her husband’s affair with Emma. (At this point, who doesn’t know John Ross and Emma are sleeping together?) Also worth mentioning: While John Ross eventually reclaims his watch, Pamela doesn’t get back her emerald earrings, which she puts up as collateral so he can enter the card game. It’s just like the old days, when Sue Ellen always seemed to pay the price for J.R.’s transgressions.

But not all the Sue Ellen/Pamela parallels are lamentable: In the poker scene, I love how costume designer Rachel Sage Kunin puts Julie Gonzalo in that spectacular black-and-white dress, evoking one of Linda Gray’s signature looks. Speaking of Gray: She’s very moving in Sue Ellen’s sanitarium scenes, although it’s hard to see the character slip back into her bad, old habits. During her conversation with Ann, Sue Ellen blames J.R.’s cheating for turning her into an alcoholic, which suggests she has forgotten all the lessons she learned during the original series about taking responsibility for her own life. Bobby also falls back into an old pattern when he insists on taking Sue Ellen home to Southfork over the objections of her doctor. This lapse I don’t mind, though, because the Ewings’ insistence on taking care of their own has always been one of “Dallas’s” charms.

“Like a Bad Penny,” the first “Dallas” script from Pierluigi D. Cothran, is directed by Millicent Shelton, who previously helmed “Trust Me,” the episode that brought back Judith Ryland in such memorable fashion. There are no coke-snorting shockers here, although it is kind of surprising to see “Dallas” adding more characters. Besides introducing Nasir, the sheik’s son, this episode brings back Drew; the Mexican drug lord Luis; and Hunter, the mysterious McKay offspring who surfaced in “Like Father, Like Son.” I recognize “Dallas” needs newcomers to interact with the core cast, but I would’ve preferred the show devote more attention to Sue Ellen’s sanitarium stay or to Elena, who needs clarity. She doesn’t mind lying to Christopher about Nicolas’s identity, but she refuses to show Pamela the video of John Ross and Emma? And can someone explain why both Ramos siblings blame the whole Ewing family for J.R.’s sins against their father?

I hope it doesn’t seem like I’m being overly critical, because there’s a lot about this episode to admire. Christopher’s entanglement with Heather and Bo has turned into one of the third season’s most effective storylines: The McCabes bring a touch of working-class humanity to the show, helping to keep it grounded, and all of the actors are doing good work. I also get a kick out of Emma’s investigation into Harris’s shenanigans in “Like a Bad Penny”; if ever she tires of being John Ross’s girl on the side, she could have a future as “Dallas’s” resident girl detective.

This raises a question: Who — or what — does the title of this episode refer to? Is it the John Ross/Emma video clip, which pops up repeatedly during the course of the hour? Is it Candace’s blue dress, which seems destined to join the list of “Dallas’s” most famous outfits? Is it Drew? Or is it J.R.’s watch? If it’s the latter, here’s hoping more of J.R.’s “bad pennies” turn up. I’m impressed by the clever way “Dallas” is using props to help keep his spirit alive, beginning with the J.R. Ewing Bourbon bottle in “D.T.R.” and now the wristwatch in “Like a Bad Penny.” The scene where Nasir stands at the Southfork gate and places the timepiece in John Ross’s hand is surprisingly moving; it’s almost as if J.R. himself has come home.

Let’s just hope John Ross remembers to check the watch for bugs.

Grade: B

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, Linda Gray, Like a Bad Penny, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Blame game

‘LIKE A BAD PENNY’

Season 3, Episode 7

Telecast: April 7, 2014

Audience: 1.87 million viewers on April 7

Writer: Pierluigi D. Cothran

Director: Millicent Shelton

Synopsis: John Ross meets Nasir Ali and persuades his father, a powerful sheik, to supply the capital he needs to buy a controlling interest in Ewing Global once it goes public. Bobby and Ann get Sue Ellen released from the sanitarium and bring her to Southfork to recover. John Ross and Harris each dismiss Candace, who tells Emma about her father’s scheme to frame John Ross for a sex crime. Christopher tries to help Bo, who tells Heather he wants to reconcile. Drew returns to Dallas and vows revenge against the Ewings after discovering J.R. swindled the Ramoses out of their land. Elena refuses to show Pamela the video of John Ross and Emma, so Nicolas goes behind her back and sends it Pamela on his own. Nicolas also meets with his secret partners: Hunter McKay, who wants to bring down the Ewings, and the Mexican drug lord Luis, who wants to take over Ewing Global and use it to launder the cartel’s drug profits.

Cast: Jonathan Adams (Calvin Hanna), Kuno Becker (Drew Ramos), Emma Bell (Emma Ryland), Donny Boaz (Bo McCabe), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Dallas Clark (Michael), Gail Cronauer (Dr. Monika Englert), Jude Demorest (Candace Shaw), Juan Pablo Di Pace (Nicolas Treviño), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Julie Gonzalo (Pamela Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Janeen Howard (Nadia), Antonio Jaramillo (Luis), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Fran Kranz (Hunter McKay), AnnaLynne McCord (Heather), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Kevin Page (Bum), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Pej Vahdat (Nasir Ali)

“Like a Bad Penny” is available at DallasTNT.com, Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. Pennies have been eliminated from circulation in Canada C.B.

  2. I did not like this episode. Last week’s episode was one of the best since JR’s Masterpiece last season and I was expecting more of a fall out with JR3 committing Sue Ellen and leading into the Mid Season Cliffhanger. Instead, I get a bunch of new characters and shoddy writing. The Ramos revenge story is pointless and packs no punch. I was very disappointed this week.

    • While I enjoyed this episode, I didn’t think it was one of the best. How many plans are there to get Ewing Global? Bobby’s plan? John Ross’ plan? The Ramos plan? I had to watch the episode twice to figure out what was going on. I’m not crazy about the Ramos revenge story either. At this point, Christopher has a new love interest so there is absolutely no need for the entire Ramos family. Nicolas is the most evil…and they thought that JR was evil???

  3. I liked this episode a lot, although it didn’t reach the peaks that last week’s did. I’m increasingly liking Josh Henderson. I feel like he’s become one of the stronger actors on the show and I enjoy his scenes, especially the poker game. I thought Pamela’s look during the poker game was fantastic: dress, earrings and hair.

  4. Bruce James says:

    I thought the episode was good, but not as good as last week’s. It should have been centered around Sue Ellen and John Ross. I also thought Bobby was more worried about the vote than Sue Ellen’s sobriety.

    Elena’s story is so damn stupid I can’t stand it. Her character is completely illogical and the only way to explain it would be a brain tumor. I can’t believe anyone could root for her and I long to see her die in the most painful, visceral way imaginable.

    I like Chris/Heather/Bo storyline too. It’s a welcome respite from all the blackmail and double-crosses.

    Emma is such a fun bad girl. I like Pamela but can’t help liking naughty Emma too.

    • Dan in WI says:

      Good Call!
      Blackmail has always been and will always be a central part of Dallas. That said (maybe I’m excerising selective memory here but) I just don’t remember blackmail being 75% of any given CBS episode. Variety is nice too and right now the Christopher/Heather/Bo storyline feels like the sole sorce of said variety.

      Anyway it warms my heart seeing others lash out against the Elena storyline of season three. I was starting to feel like a lone wolf negative voice.

  5. Brandon Childers says:

    I too am over the Ramos family, I thought Drew would be smarter. Notice how he said “thier greed” not JRs greed. Drew’s dreams got him involved with Harris, and in the end two unborn babies are dead and Roy Vickers.

    If you watch the extended version of JRs masterpiece. Carmen speaks at the funeral and so does Drew, it seems that JR was real nice to them when Ramos patirach died.

    I think Drew’s life is nearing its end. At the hands of Trevino or the Cartel, which may bring. Elena to our side (assuming everyone here is with the Ewings first).

    Rylands, Barnes, and Ewings unite against cartel

    • Garnet McGee says:

      I usually have good things to say about this show that I love but this week’s episode was the first one I would give a grade of C. Too much of the action did not make sense or was repetitive. Why would Chris tell Drew to go away instead of call the police and Pamela? I hated the way Pamela was written as merely a passive witness instead of an active participant. What happened to our hellion who was first in her business school class or the woman who had the nerves of steel to shoot Tommy and then get away with it? I wanted to see more fall out from the events of last week’s superb episode. It annoyed me that new characters and sub plots were introduced at the expense of meaningful story for favorites like Ann and Pamela. Pamela needs to find out already. It is getting repetitive. I did like Heather/Bo/Chris. This show casts fantastic actors in guest spots and Danny Boaz as Bo is no exception. Who didn’t guess Nicolas’s secret involvement with the cartel? What happened to the smart, empowered female business wheeler dealers from previous seasons? I am willing to except that Elena wants revenge but Drew was anxious to pay for his part in the rig explosion. His turnabout doesn’t ring true even though I love poor Drew. I was displeased to still see Candace on my screen even though the actress is good. On the positive side Pamela looked fantastic while playing the part of John Ross’s arm candy.

  6. Did we even watch the same episode? You- overcritical?? Never.

  7. Jennifer Irons says:

    I agree with those who dislike the Ramos revenge storyline, it is totally uninteresting to me, but overall I thought the show was good. However, for me, there was not enough Bobby in it and I would like to see more of Patrick Duffy in future episodes along with Brenda Strong. And only 1 scene with Harris Ryland? He is way more interesting than the Ramos family, IMHO! Him and Judith need to be featured more often as well. Overall, it was good but definitely not as good as the episode the week before!

    • Agreed! The Ramos family is uninteresting, even with Nicolas. I’m wondering if Nicolas is going to get caught in the drug dealings by Ryland and his CIA connection…did they forget about THAT storyline? It was way more exciting than the poor poor Ramoses who got jilted by JR…geez.

      • Brandon Childers says:

        Yes, cliff Barnes was raised up hating Ewings, Elena has grown up loving them, and if you watch the extended version of JRs masterpiece, JR is the only who told the whole family to move into SF, Carmen and Drew both spoke at funeral in this episode, and the all seemed to like him. If it was just against JR I would be alright, but against the whole Ewings, hopefully the producers end this storyline sooner that later.

        Another thing, I watch a preview of next weeks episode, and Drew tells Nicolas “the Ewings killed my father” this made me sick, JR is indirectly part of the reason thier dad died, now drew made and planted the bomb that killed the babies, cost them thier rig, may have cost them that new contract with transport (never really found out) presented them with a billion dollar fine, that led to Ewing Energies being taken away, and could have just as easily killed Anne, Bobby, Christopher, Pamela, John Ross, Sue Ellen, those other people, and Elena, and they got justice for that against Barnes, perhaps they should seek revenge against drew,motive n Ramos logic they should fire Carmen, and then have all Ramos’s arrested.

  8. Todd1209 says:

    i havent liked the Ramos family since TNT’s Dallas started and it looks like alot fo other fans dont either…sadly the Ramos family often seems to be THE priority on the show…i understand that Cidre is putting her stamp on the show but to focus so much time on a family that no one is interested in is really a waste and is losing longtime fans.

    • Brandon Childers says:

      I agree, they have established the Ramos characters and now they are distorting what they have already established. If Elena is not needed anymore, Pam and Bobby and Sue Ellen and JR, could break up over and over again, but they were established before the start, they can have two many main charters outside the family. Just ask Bobby, JR, Michelle, April, James, Cliff, Clayton, McKay, and everyone else that was in season 14 of Dallas. Tho much main cast is bad.

      Also I sometimes read things like use Carmen more or kill her off. We can have characters that aren’t regular but are returning, remover Punk Anderson, Harv Smithfield, Jordan Lee, and Mary Lee Stone. We need returning, non regular, characters like Carmen, Bo, Bum, Lou, Sheriff Derick, the Govenor, and Heather,

  9. Hey Chris, great review as usual. :). It is nice to be able to make a post again! I have missed being able to post here.

    John Ross certainly has had some really great storylines this season and Josh has really stepped up his game…..and he already was very good. I think that he and the character are truly growing into those really big shoes left by Larry and JR. Kudos to him and the writing team.

    I was disappointed a little that the creative team didn’t give us a little more self reflection from John Ross over the commitment of Sue Ellen in a psych ward. JR3 went really far with this one. He didn’t have her committed to a private drug/alcohol Betty Ford type rehabs. He went for a true psych ward. I liked the scene that Pamela mentioned that he had been tossing and turning all night and he lamented some and referred to being little and trying hard to get her to stop drinking. I do wish we had more time on that. I do know that JohnRoss is pretty closed up emotionally….but it would have been nice.

    Btw…I liked your comment last week about how John Ross must have felt growing up with an alcoholic mother. I remember getting into a discussion with another fan about JohnRoss’ attitude towards his parents, they maintained that it didn’t make sense for him to have mixed feelings towards them. I disagreed wholeheartedly. You know that I LOVE JR and SE. But while they truly love (d) JohnRoss with everything, he was not always put absolutely first. Sue Ellen had times when she just crawled into her bottles. JR was often preoccupied with Ewing Oil and barely spent 15 minutes a day (if he came home at all instead of spending time with a mistress) with him. Add in their tumultuous relationship which certainly affected him emotionally. Then you had the divorce. Next was that stupid storyline where JR was ignoring John Ross in favor of James and his kid which caused JohnRoss to leave and go to England. I think the writers have been dead on when they decided to have angst between John Ross and his parents. They both have acknowledged repeatedly that they screwed up. I like that tension, but I just wanted to see a little more reflection from him.

    The Ramos family. I am one of the fans who actually likes them. I don’t particularly care however for the revenge storyline. I could take it from Elena to a point…..because she was reeling from Chris just majorly and visciously rejecting her over helping Drew. And she had just recently been summarily dumped out of Ewing Energies by a vengeful John Ross. I know that Drew and her drilling on that land had brought up a lot of fresh memories about how their Dad had did everything to strike oil there and had actually died doing it. so finding out that he had been swindled and had died in vain had to have a overwhelming effect on her. HOWEVER, I don’t get her blaming all of the Ewings. JR, of course, and maybe JohnRoss since he is JR’s kid and had just recently did her over. Elena has been, since the beginning, the resident voice of reason…the Pam or Clayon or Donna…..of Dallas TNT. I know that Nicholas is the devil constantly whispering in her ear trying to keep her upset. But I want there to be a reckoning for her that she has to note that she has been wrong to Bobby and herself for lying. I am thinking that her mother is going to give her the what for over it. Btw…I think Carmen is a great character too.

    Along that line we now have more details creeping into the Nicholas story. I like that he is now linked into Ryland’s story and neither one seems to be aware. And I liked that the McKay kid is now in the mix. What is going to happen there??????

    And that IPO? OMG… If it ever does happen, it is gonna be wild. Lol. There is so many seeds being sown now…can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

    I can say that I liked Emma this episode. She showed more backbone and smarts. I liked that she is going to play her Dad and probably some others too. She reminds me of Kristen. But the character has more dimension.

    And yes, like you I love when Bobby is all ‘Bobby’. Lol. It is sweet and great. I loved that scene towards the end when he stepped in between JR3 and SE and told them he was going to fix things between them. I love that this family does everything to excess. They go completely overboard fighting one another (like beyond the pale overboard) and then will turn around and jump thru hoops to help each other. Ewing Love, it is a strange thing!!!

    Can’t wait u til tonight! Got 30 minutes and the mid season finale will start.

Trackbacks

  1. […] “Like a Bad Penny,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, John Ross (Josh Henderson) sits at card table with Sheik Ali […]

  2. […] are the questions we’re pondering as we await tonight’s telecast of “Like a Bad Penny,” TNT’s latest “Dallas” […]

  3. […] you enjoy “Like a Bad Penny,” this week’s episode of TNT’s “Dallas”? Let’s discuss it during my next #DallasChat on […]

  4. […] experienced another slight increase in the ratings this week. The latest episode, “Like a Bad Penny,” debuted to 1.87 million viewers on April 7, up 3 percent from one week ago. The episode drew […]

  5. […] delivers the most delicious dialogue on television. Here are the best sound bites from “Like a Bad Penny,” this week’s […]

  6. […] knew I’d found my look of the week the moment Pamela turned up in that black-and-white dress in “Like a Bad Penny,” “Dallas’s” latest episode. The dress was a brilliant choice for Julie Gonzalo’s character […]

  7. […] will Pamela do? “Like a Bad Penny,” the previous episode, ended with Nicolas (Juan Pablo Di Pace) sending Pamela the video of John Ross […]

  8. […] previous episode, “Like a Bad Penny,” debuted on April 7 to 1.8 million viewers, including 580,000 adults between ages 18 and 49. With […]

  9. […] 9 p.m. Pamela rocks Stella McCartney in “Like a Bad Penny.” […]

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