Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 33 — ‘Where There’s Smoke’

Dallas, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing, TNT, Where There's Smoke

What’s she thinking?

Southfork catches fire again in “Where There’s Smoke,” although much of the heat in this episode comes from Pamela’s ménage a trois with John Ross and Emma. It’s shocking to see her make out with her husband and his mistress, although Pamela’s sudden seizure at the end of the scene proves an even bigger surprise. When I watched this cliffhanger for the first time the other night, I was left with a slew of questions: Is this an accident, or does the pill bottle in Pamela’s pocket mean she intentionally overdosed? Is she trying to kill herself, or does she merely want to scare John Ross and Emma? Could she be faking it?

It turns out we don’t have to wait until August, when “Dallas’s” third season will resume, for the answers to most of these questions: Yesterday, showrunner Cynthia Cidre told TV Line that Pamela was out to “punish” John Ross and Emma. “She wanted them to never be able to have sex again without thinking of her vomiting on them,” Cidre said. Well, OK then.

This still leaves open the question of whether or not Pamela is like Sue Ellen, which is probably the most interesting point to debate anyway. Earlier in the episode, Pamela puts down her mother-in-law, telling her she isn’t “weak” and “sniveling” like her. (Linda Gray’s reaction shots in this scene are heartbreaking.) By taking revenge against John Ross and Emma instead of hitting the bottle like Sue Ellen, Pamela seems to prove her point. On the other hand, if vengeance involves swallowing pills, is Pamela really all that different from Sue Ellen? Perhaps this storyline is meant to fit with one of this season’s broader themes, which is how “Dallas’s” younger generation is doomed to repeat the old guard’s mistakes.

But no matter how this cliffhanger is resolved, there’s no doubt the big sex scene has raised a ruckus among “Dallas” fans. Some say the series went too far by showing a three-way; others love the unexpected twist. I’m in the latter camp. Without question, the show is going out of its way to be provocative, but let’s face it: Sex has always been part of “Dallas’s” DNA. Isn’t this is the show that began with a teenage girl rolling around in the hay with a silver-haired cowboy? Besides, I don’t find John Ross, Pamela and Emma kissing and fondling each other as distasteful as seeing J.R. force Holly Harwood to have sex with him against her will, which is what happened in a 1983 episode. Now that was disturbing.

To me, the threesome feels like a fitting climax to a storyline that’s been building since the end of the previous season, when John Ross and Emma first cavorted in an Omni hotel room. I especially like how Cidre and Robert Rovner, who co-wrote this episode, bring everything full circle by bringing back Pamela and Emma’s green corsets. You also have to hand it to the actors: Josh Henderson does a nice job conveying John Ross’s hesitation about joining Pamela and Emma in bed — you can feel the character’s bewilderment — while Emma Bell always makes her character seem like she’s up for anything. Of course, the standout is Julie Gonzalo. Pamela hasn’t had much to do lately except gaze adoringly at John Ross, but “Where There’s Smoke” makes up for it. During the course of a single day, Pamela goes from feeling stunned to hurt to angry to aroused, and Gonzalo nails every scene. She’s become one of “Dallas’s” most reliable performers.

Surprisingly, I find the Pamela/John Ross/Emma cliffhanger more compelling than the Southfork fire, which lacks suspense. Is there any doubt Sue Ellen, Bobby and Christopher will all survive? A bigger problem: This fire seems like it comes from out of nowhere, unlike the 1983 version, when the inferno felt like the perfect way to end a season in which everything went to hell for the Ewings. Nevertheless, the “Where There’s Smoke” fire is a technical marvel. The special effects are superb, and whether or not it’s intentional, director Michael M. Robin and cinematographer Rodney Charters mimic some of the shots from the original fire. (You can see a side-by-side comparison on my Facebook page.)

More “Where There’s Smoke” highlights: Patrick Duffy is terrific in the scene where Bobby blows up at Ann, although as one Dallas Decoder reader pointed out on Twitter, Bobby is being a bit of a hypocrite. Yes, Ann probably should’ve told her husband about John Ross and Emma’s affair, but has Bobby gotten around to telling his wife that he framed Cliff for J.R.’s “murder?” Meanwhile, Ann and Harris’s kiss is surprisingly moving. This scene works not just because Brenda Strong and Mitch Pileggi are so good in their roles, but also because the show has taken its time telling their story, slowly revealing Ann’s vulnerability and Harris’s humanity.

I also like seeing Christopher and Heather grow closer — the ever-expanding McCabe clan is quickly surpassing the Ramoses as the show’s most believably down-to-earth family — and I’m glad this episode keeps the Mexican cartel and brothel business to a merciful minimum. It’s also good to see Elena acknowledge that J.R. — not Christopher — hurt her father; isn’t this what fans have been screaming at their TVs all season? The next scene, where Nicolas pokes holes in Elena’s diaphragm, is puzzling: By impregnating her, does he hope to control her? On the other hand, if this is the reason the Doors’ “Break On Through (To the Other Side)” was chosen for the episode-ending montage, I’m all for it.

Finally, like a lot of fans, I’m not sure what to make of the fact “North By Northwest” is playing on Sue Ellen’s TV when she gets drunk before the fire starts. In the movie, Cary Grant plays a man who unwittingly falls into a spy game but ultimately turns the tables on his enemies and takes control of the situation. Could this be a signal that Gray’s character is about to get back on track? Or is the film’s appearance nothing more than a sly plug for Turner Classic Movies, one of TNT’s sister channels?

I hope it’s the former. I’ve been patient while “Dallas” allows Sue Ellen’s relapse to play out, but now that she’s back where her fall from the wagon began — in the bedroom where J.R. once slept — it feels like this storyline has come full circle too. Is this where our beloved heroine begins the road back to sobriety? That’s the real cliffhanger, isn’t it?

Grade: B

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT, Where There's Smoke

Full circle?

‘WHERE THERE’S SMOKE’

Season 3, Episode 8

Telecast: April 14, 2014

Audience: 2.1 million viewers on April 14

Writers: Cynthia Cidre and Robert Rovner

Director: Michael M. Robin

Synopsis: Pamela sees the video of John Ross and Emma and lashes out at Sue Ellen and Ann when she realizes they knew about the affair. Bobby becomes angry at Ann for keeping the secret from him, which prompts her to turn to Harris, who kisses her. John Ross figures out Harris has been trying to frame him and tells Judith to call off her son, while Judith urges Emma to turn on John Ross. Drew tells Nicolas he wants to settle the feud with the Ewings “with blood,” while Nicolas sabotages Elena’s birth control when she begins getting cold feet about their revenge scheme. Pamela finds John Ross and Emma in a hotel room and has a threesome with them, only to begin convulsing after an apparent overdose. Bobby and Christopher learn Bo blames the Ewings for his troubles and come home to Southfork to find the house in flames with Sue Ellen passed out inside.

Cast: Kuno Becker (Drew Ramos), Emma Bell (Emma Ryland), Donny Boaz (Bo McCabe), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Dallas Clark (Michael McCabe), Jude Demorest (Candace), Juan Pablo Di Pace (Nicolas Treviño), Akai Draco (Sheriff 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 McCabe), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Kevin Page (Bum), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Steven Walters (Reece)

“Where There’s Smoke” is available at DallasTNT.com, Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. The advantagbe C.B. in being the President of the Ewing Oil Co. Ltd.-Canada is that I cann see things outside the box. Did it ever occur II u boy that Nicholas Trevino wants to spread his seed & impregnate Elena Ramos in case the Mexican drug cartel actually carries through on its threat to murder his 2 current biological children? DALLAS: Intriguing, I’d suggest you use that in a DALLAS PARALLEL!

  2. I

  3. stephenwphillips says:

    Excellent review. I concur with you over the sex in Dallas’s DNA. I had forgotten about the J.R. and Holly scene; that was equally hard to watch.
    “You won’t enjoy it.”
    “You better make damn sure I do.”

    Yet, she was hardly the last woman he pulled that stunt with (see Katherine Wentworth, Laurel Ellis). I guess it was Lois Chiles performance that it made the best of the three.

    I must admit. My admiration for Morgan Brittany has been taken down a notch since she tweeted her disdain for the episode. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I respect hers. It just seems her conservative values may have altered her memories of the original series. An opinion that Larry would ‘not have been pleased’ with the scene is preposterous. I think Mr. Hagman enjoyed the show pushing envelopes and doing the unpredictable. But, maybe I’m “pissed!” (like Bobby) that she aired her opinions publicly and now the producers will be less likely to #BringBackKatherine – something any original series fan would run over any in-law to see.

    LOVE the comparison of the two fires. I was noticing that myself when I was watching. Like someone else said on your facebook (https://www.facebook.com/DallasDecoder), I said out loud, JUMP IN THE POOL, FIRST!

  4. I am with you on the 3some. I don’t think that scene was disturbing etc at all. It was shocking just because I have never seen a spouse use that technique to deal with a cheating partner on a TV show. Very unexpected approach..lol. But Pamela has never done stuff normal. Want to help your dad get revenge? Sabotage your adopted cousins relationship and then seduce and marry him. When your co conspirator ex boyfriend and you get into a fight where he beats you up and you shoot him, what do you do? Call your rich father and have him dispose of the body and clean up the evidence. When that doesn’t work and said cousin bounces you out the door pregnant, what do you do? You go jump into bed ( while very pregnant) and have sex with his blood cousin to teach said husband a lesson. Mad at your Dad who tried to kill you and ended up killed your near born babies, help frame him foresee and make sure he ends up in a Mexican prison. Find out you new husband is cheating on you? Use gps to track him to his rendezvous with his mistress and seduce the 2 of them after taking a deliberate overdose of pills. So no it doesn’t seem out of character for Pamela to have pulled this stunt. The girl doesn’t have your usual approach to dealing with problems.

    It surprises me that some people are upset over two women kissing. I would have thought people would have gotten over being upset at that by now. It has been nearly 25 years since the first network kiss of 2 women occurred (on LA Law). So a cable show having a 3 some is not shocking at all. Actually I find it funny that some fans are denouncing the show as shameful/ sinful BC of the scene etc but they have been a fan of a show whose 2 main characters are adulterers (JR and JR3), liars, con artists, blackmailers… Essentially these guys break nearly all of the 10 commandments. Yet peeps are fine with that. Smh oh well. Everyone is allowed their own opinion.

    You make a great point about Nicholas. What is he up to? Why is he in such need to entrap Elena in a relationship? What is going on with his wife or maybe ex wife? And what all secrets does he have?

    Great choice for scene of the day, btw.

    Can’t wait till August. I give the episode an ‘a’

    • Only a few episodes back they showed a public official getting it on in a bordello with someone dressed up like and imitating a DOG and nobody seemed too upset over that. One thing about it, it certainly wasn’t predictable

      • Dan in WI says:

        But again, they didn’t really show anything happening. All we saw was the person in the dog custome and the rest was up to our imaginations.
        You don’t have to be graphic to get your point across and these two scenes illustrate the difference perfectly. I believe CBS Dallas was the same way. Rarely did we see anything. There was a time we saw just enough of JR forcing himself on Sue Ellen to know it was marital rape (but if memory serves no clothes were off yet) and someone else pointed out an encounter with Holly Harwood which I think was about the same.
        Once you show enough to titillate you are just trolling for Twitter traffic. The fact it was heavily teased only reinforces the trolling for Twitter traffic theory in my mind. You probably can attribute some of the ratings bump to teasing this scene but how many people who tuned in for that are going to stick around?

      • I agree with Dan – the original Dallas certainly implied a lot of sex, including rape, but you never actually saw anything – it was all part of its charm!
        The new series is much more in your face but I suppose that’s the way things are these days – I’m just too nostalgic for the old days I suppose.

    • Brandon ChilderS says:

      If the cartel kills, Nicolas and his kids, he may have unborn child through Elena to live on.

      She admitted she is still friends with Christopher, he wouldn’t take to kindly to her having Nicolas’s kid

      He doesn’t want to loose her, thus getting her pregnant are a few of the reason he might do it

      It’s a cliffhanger

  5. I loved this episode. I watched the repeat too. I think the “North by Northwest” playing on the television is a show of respect to the master of dramatic irony, Alfred Hitchcock. So yes I agree that it has to with with foreshadowing or, perhaps, showing how ironic it is to see a person who was so close to being Governor of Texas passed out drunk fresh out of detox. If it also makes “the boss” happy at the same time, all the better. Sue Ellen reached out to Pamela and she got put in her place. You may not be able to control someone else who is a cheater, you can control how you react to it. Sue Ellen runs and hides from it in a very self-destructive way. Pamela addresses the problem head on, in a very self-destructive way. Sue Ellen had it right on the origional series when she told JR that she will not return to Southfork and neither will John Ross because life on Southfork and being a Ewing is “SICK! SICK! SICK!!!” The Ewing’s are as disturbed a family as the Rylands or the Barnes.

    John Ross had a great scene with Judith Ryland. It seems clear that Judith does not care much for John Ross or her son. I also like seeing how Harris Ryland sees himself and explains himself. He said the very worst things to Ann before she shot him. This episode he explained his side of the story of their relationship and how things fell apart with a more humble, self blaming, and sincere presentation. No guilt trips or condemnation of Ann. Do bad people really believe they are bad? He was trying to justify or at least explain his behavior by blaming his mother. Judith wants Harris to be like her and she wants Emma to be like her as well. Perhaps the Rylands are dealing with repeating the mistakes of their parents as well.

    I would give this show an A+ except for one reason. How can Drew Ramos hold a grudge against the Ewings? He murdered Christopher’s and Pamela’s babies. There is nothing worse to a family yu could do than kill their children. Nothing. The idea that Drew Ramos could go from extreme unbearable guilt to blind rage is ridiculous. I might of imagined Drew Ramos inside the house during the fire. I thought I saw a shadowy figure in the house that strongly resembled Drew Ramos. I could be wrong because nobody else seems to have seen it. I will have to watch this episode again. I can understand Drew being upset that his daddy is a moron. How can Drew blame anyone else for the fact that his father could not understand what piece of land he purchased and at the same time wanted to find oil? If you do not have the basic concept of purchasing land, surveying, knowledge of where land is that you just bought, you have no idea no business drilling for oil. Enrique Ramos, Drew and Elena’s dad died as a result of stupidity in my opinion. If it was not JR who took advantage of him, any other person who wanted to would have.

    Nicolas is in the fight for his life. Elena looks like she realizes that what she is doing is moronic.

    What I don’t understand is that the main value of Ewing Global is Christopher’s technology. It seems like that is not so important anymore. Also, all those people died as a result of earthquakes that started because of Christopher’s mining technology in season 1. That seems to not even be an issue. I know he worked to improve. All of those people are still dead. You see how Drew struggled with his guilt, why does Christopher not seem to have any? Drew did not know or intend to kill anyone and neither did Drew, but they both did.

    I loved the scene with Pamela and Emma! WOW! Hey this is “Dallas” and without over the top scenes like that, it would be a different show.

    • I don’t understand how mining could cause an earthquake. But you’re right about Drews reaction going from guilty to wanting blood. A more realistic reaction would have been for him to figure he already got his revenge, even if he didn’t mean to or realize it at the time, shed his feelings of guilt and flee back to Mexico to avoid the prosecution he decided he no longer deserves.

  6. I didn’t like it. It wasn’t horrible but I just found it so disappointing.

    I thought Season 3 was moving along nice with some great moments and the writing seemed slower in a good way but than last week I thought was the season’s weakest episode and than this week it was just all over the place.

    First, I loved the threesome scene and would have liked it even more if it was kept totally a surprise and no spoilers. Now, I loved the scene – acting was great, cutting edge but the whole thing makes no sense. Why would Pamela who just called Sue Ellen “a sniffling drunk” go and have a threesome with JR3 and Emma for revenge? And then try to kill herself on top of it? Even after reading what CC had to say … it still makes no sense. I just don’t get it and I can’t believe all the writers around the table didn’t say … why are we doing this again? This scene would have been perfect if it was something JR3 and Pamela wanted to do as swingers or something but as revenge???? It makes no sense!!!

    Second, while I also loved the scene with Bobby, Sue Ellen and Ann … well acted again, it also makes no sense to me of course to a much lesser degree than the 3some. Here is self-righteous Bobby who has been on a soapbox of purity since early Dallas days yelling at two distraught women about their children. Sue Ellen just was released out of a sanitarium under his terms and Ann is obviously upset … why did Bobby react like this? I know people think the writers butchered and destroyed the character of Cliff but for me Bobby is my least favorite character. He promised Ann a few episodes ago that she and Emma will always be safe at Southfork and now he’s kicking her off because HE wasn’t told about the affair earlier. He should be shocked about the affair and be there to comfort SE and Ann and Pamela. Go lay into JR3 for doing something so stupid not make this about him.

    Third … why oh why does Nicholas want to get Elena pregnant? Forget about the diaphragm … why does he want more kids after the kids he has was just threatened last week by the drug cartel???

    Finally, I enjoyed the fire. In fact, I liked the whole final sequence with the music and shots etc. It was exciting but my head was still spinning why? Why? Why? The fire was a nice throwback to the earlier series and I hope we get a better decorated set.

    Also, Linda Gray is just incredible and I really hope producers and directors are watching cause she is a STAR. I have also chuckled a little bit each time I’ve watched Sue Ellen fall down.

    Liked Chris and Heather together. The Harris and Ann kiss was too soon. What? They share two discussions about Emma this season and now they’re kissing? I can buy it but with the other 3 big WHY? WHY? WHY? For me this was just irrelevant at this point.

    With all that being said … I will still watch and still be a Dallas cheerleader! Even last Monday’s episode is better than no Dallas for me. Crossing fingers and Hoping to hear about Season 4 soon!

    • Brandon ChilderS says:

      Frank,

      I agree it was out of character for booby to react that way, but I believe he threw Emma out because he thinks she sent the video to Pamela,

  7. Brandon ChilderS says:

    CB,

    couldn’t the fire have started by Bo throwing a listing something, and throwing it in the bourbon, that Sue Ellen spilt, I think that’s part of the cliffhanger, how did the fire start, the ordinal was who will survive the fire. This one is you started or how, they clearly wants us to think bobby or Christopher may not live, because they haven’t released them being in s3b while everyone else is in 40 episodes

  8. The fire could have started through Bo, through Sue Ellen (when she fell in that – sorry – funny way) or by Drew. We dont know

    I liked that critique execpt for one thing: Bobby’s acting when he was yelling at Ann wasnt good at all. In fact, I’m beginning to dislike Bobby more and more. He is ALWAYS angry and ALWAYS yelling at people – just like his son. They are turning Bobby into some angry old man. He used to be light-hearted and funny. He should’ve taken Ann into his arms instead of starting this “I-will-protect-SF-because-I-was-born-here”-nonsense again (which didn’t even have anything to do with the video).

    • Brandon ChilderS says:

      I think some of us look at the old dallas through rosé colored glasses, Bobby has always had a short temper. Not just fights with JR or Cliff, but what about Jock, or the the countless bankers. Did we all watch dallas season 6. He seemed pretty angry throughout all of that, at Pam and even took Miss Ellie to court, He had a huge fig with April because she didnt tell him about buying some of his oil fields, he clearly doesn’t like it when people do things behind his back or keep secrets. I do think Bobby overreacted, but it is not out of character. He has angry when Jock died, and during the will battle, then when Pam left angry again, then April died and he sold EO and now JR is dead, this is how he grieves, with anger

      • Dan in WI says:

        And his anger turned to violence at times too. Remember when he brutalized Tommy McKay (who didn’t live long enough to have and child named Hunter) when he tried to force himself on April.

        No this Bobby lashing out at Ann is completely in character. And I’m the continuity hawk here.

      • Brandon Childers says:

        I feel for the writers of this show, most do not have something to compare it too,

        If you didn’t like the threesome it probably won’t happen again, but the old dallas showed things differently, because that was the way things were done in the 80s. One thing is for sure when Pamela kissed Emma; we all kissed our chances of Donna returning goodbye

      • Dan in WI says:

        Yes it is a more difficult task to write for a show that already has 14 years of history with 21 years between CBS and TNT. I guess my answer to that is if you don’t want to deal with those challenges then don’t revive and continue (as opposed to reboot) a known and existing franchise.

    • Garnet McGee says:

      The threesome was entertaining and well done. I’m still trying to decide if it made sense. I can sort of understand Elena’s revenge quest (or maybe try to justify since I like vengeful Elena) but I don’t buy Drew’s revenge. He caused Pamela to lose two children. Can we call it even now? This revenge plot could have been compelling if written with care of if the events were ordered differently. It would have made sense if the Ewings went after Drew. He died as a result and Elena then wanted revenge. This episode was too cluttered with rehashed plots like Candice and the dress. Does anyone remember how good the last few episodes of season 1 and season 2 were? This mid-season finale doesn’t come close to matching the finales of the previous seasons. I really enjoy Ann and Harris. She always brings out the best in him.

  9. Claudio Palmeira says:

    Great critique. I saw the episode today (some delay in Brazil) with my wife and we are very surprise. This season is great even without JR. Wonderful and impactful performances by all the actors and actresses.

    Here, in Brazil, a soap made ​​history because of a first gay kiss on television. It was a milestone in the country. Now there is another soap opera that can repeat the above with a lesbian kiss. In Dallas, I believe it was a milestone for the more conservative sexual history in this series (always had sex, but moderate) . We were in shock when we saw the explicit and the unexpected lesbian kiss. However, do not bother us, just let us surprised. The scene was remarkable.

    We saw Revenge and this series had bissexuals and gays
    characters and we expect scenes like thats. We also saw some elements in Revenge which may be based in Dallas, like “SouthFork Inn” hotel.

    So, it is cruel wait until August. Dallas is wonderful and very nice to see.

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