Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 34 — ‘Denial, Anger, Acceptance’

Dallas, Denial Anger Acceptance, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

The blues

By “Dallas” standards, “Denial, Anger, Acceptance” is a relatively low-key episode. It includes an action sequence at the top of the hour, when Bobby and Christopher rescue Sue Ellen and Bo from the Southfork fire, as well as a trademark fake-out and unexpected death in the final scene. Mostly, though, the characters bide their time by sitting around a hospital waiting room, reflecting on their terrible choices and wondering when the next shoe will drop. Flames not withstanding, the Ewings haven’t gone to hell. They’re in purgatory.

The woman of the hour, once again, is Linda Gray. Sue Ellen experiences all the emotions in the episode’s title — she denies she has a drinking problem to the ER doctor, she gets angry when she sees John Ross, she finally accepts the fact that she’s made destructive choices too — and Gray nails each scene. My favorite: the “acceptance” sequence, when Sue Ellen remembers taking a lighter to John Ross and Pamela’s wedding invitation and concludes — wrongly — that she’s responsible for the Southfork fire. Panicked and desperate for a taste of alcohol, she swipes some aftershave from the hospital gift shop, ducks into a quiet corridor and brings the bottle to her lips. It’s not unlike seeing Sue Ellen standing in the gutter, swigging from a brown paper bag during the original show’s “dream season.”

This time around, though, Sue Ellen doesn’t hit rock bottom. Instead, she tosses the aftershave into the trash and goes to the waiting room, where she tells Bobby, Ann and Christopher that she caused the fire. The more meaningful confession comes when Sue Ellen says, “I’m an alcoholic — and I will be, until I die.” It’s the moment a lot of “Dallas” fans have been waiting for since our heroine fell off the wagon before J.R.’s funeral, a year-and-a-half ago. As much as we admire Gray’s performances when Sue Ellen is struggling, the version of the character we love most is the savvy J.R. protégé who outmaneuvered John Ross and Governor McConaughey earlier this season. Now that Sue Ellen has admitted her problem, let’s hope she recovers her mojo. The Ewings need her.

“Denial, Anger, Acceptance” also gets a lift from Patrick Duffy and Brenda Strong, two pros who make Bobby and Ann’s marital strife feel genuine and painful. I’m less enthused with John Ross and Pamela’s domestic drama. Here’s how she explains to John Ross why she downed a bottle of pills and initiated their threesome with Emma: “I did what I did so that every time you think about screwing that piece of trash, all you’ll be able to see is me on the floor with my eyes rolled back in my head. Sexy, huh?” No, silly is more like it. It often feels like the “Dallas” producers come up with a fantastic scenario — in this case, the wife who’s been cheated on decides to join her husband and his mistress in bed — and then the writers work backward to come up with a reason for the characters to behave this way. Sometimes this approach works fine; this time, it doesn’t.

Nevertheless, all the principals are effective in their scenes. Josh Henderson makes John Ross’s regret seem sincere (especially in his scene with Duffy) and Emma Bell once again shows us Emma’s vulnerabilities, while Julie Gonzalo slides effortlessly back into bitch mode, a side of Pamela we haven’t seen since the second season. It’s going to be fun to see Pamela back on the warpath, especially if the show uses her scorn to put the Barnes/Ewing conflict front and center. Watching Pamela seek revenge against John Ross because he screwed around on her might not be as epic as seeing Cliff and J.R. wage war over blood and oil, but as long as this show has a Barnes and a Ewing at each other’s throats, I’ll be happy.

Regarding the episode-ending fake-out: I like how Bruce Rasmussen’s script leads us to believe Sue Ellen caused the fire, only to reveal the actual culprit is ne’er-do-well Drew Ramos, the character many of us suspected all along. I’m not much of a fan of this season’s drug cartel storyline, but Drew’s execution at the hands of Nicolas’s cronies is nicely done. Kuno Becker has never been better — I love how he delivers Drew’s line about saving a seat in hell for Nicolas — while Juan Pablo Di Pace makes his character feel equal parts sinister and desperate. When I interviewed Di Pace last week, he told me director Steve Robin wanted Nicolas to come off as this “cold, badass guy,” but after several takes, Di Pace couldn’t help but cry. I’m glad the show went with a version that shows Nicolas’s eyes welling up; it’s nice to know there’s a shred of humanity left to this character. Some fans may worry that Nicolas isn’t long for this world now that “Dallas” has turned him into a killer, but remember: Pamela killed Tommy during the first season and Ann shot Harris last year.

The rest of “Denial, Anger, Acceptance” is hit or miss. Judith Light is fun to watch, although a little restraint now and then would be nice. The Southfork fire sequence isn’t quite as dramatic as the 1983 version, and one of the exterior shots that show a CGI’d tent covering the damaged wing isn’t very convincing. On the other hand, I like how Sue Ellen’s flashbacks to the fire are tinted in reds and golds, while Drew’s are shaded in blues and grays. I also like the editing at the top of the hour, when the shot of Bobby scooping up Sue Ellen cuts to a scene of John Ross lifting Pamela off the hotel room floor.

“Dallas” diehards will remember Bobby is also the one who pulled Sue Ellen from Southfork the last time it burned. Perhaps one day she’ll rescue him, although first she needs to finish saving herself.

Grade: B

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, Denial Anger Acceptance, Drew Ramos, Kuno Becker, TNT

Adios, Drew

‘DENIAL, ANGER, ACCEPTANCE’

Season 3, Episode 9

Telecast: August 18, 2014

Audience: 1.97 million viewers on August 18

Writer: Bruce Rasmussen

Director: Steve Robin

Synopsis: Bobby and Christopher rescue Sue Ellen and Bo from the Southfork fire. Sue Ellen confesses she started the fire, but the real culprit is Drew, who is detained by the cartel and later executed as Nicholas watches. Pamela tells John Ross she overdosed to ruin his affair with Emma. Elena learns Nicolas sent the video to Pamela and leaves him an angry voice mail. After Judith tells Bobby she saw Ann and Harris kissing, Bobby suggests Ann leave Southfork while he supervises the reconstruction. Bo, injured in the fire, undergoes surgery and shares a tender reunion with Heather and Michael.

Cast: Kuno Becker (Drew Ramos), Emma Bell (Emma Ryland), Donny Boaz (Bo McCabe), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Bryan Chatlien (Jake), Dallas Clark (Michael McCabe), Jon Michael Davis (Dr. Pander), Juan Pablo Di Pace (Nicolas Treviño), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Julie Gonzalo (Pamela Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Cynthia Jackson (nurse), Antonio Jaramillo (Luis), Judith Light (Judith Ryland), Leticia Magana (Dr. Razack), AnnaLynne McCord (Heather McCabe), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Joe Nemmers (Lt. Bennett), Pete Partida (Jacobo), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Emily Warfield (Dr. Hirsch)

“Denial, Anger, Acceptance” is available at DallasTNT.com, Amazon and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. Now that Sue Ellen’s admitted to being an alcoholic I hope they have her recover quickly. They can occasionally show her at AA meetings if they need to but, really, even though it kind of made sense in the context of J.R.’s death, I’ve just never been a fan of her falling off the wagon again and don’t want this dragged out. No more relapses, please. It’s tired. Give Gray something better to work with.

    I agree about the Pamela revelation (although that was spoiled by Cynthia Cidre immediately after the last finale), that is a cop-out, and I don’t like it. I believe I said here at the time that I thought they should have gone ahead and went through with the threesome and have them all in a twisted three-way relationship based on business.

    And this show needs to hurry up and figure out exactly what they want to do with Emma. Is she a scheming vixen like her grandmother, ruthless businessperson like her father, a drug-addict or some naive sheltered little girl who’s acting out because she doesn’t know any better? Make up your minds already.

  2. Oh yeah, I’m also not too crazy about how they’re handling Anne. She was my favorite new character in season 1, but ever since they had her shoot Harris in season 2 it’s just been downhill. I thought they had a chance to redeem her after Bobby finally went off on her in “J.R.’s Masterpiece”, but she keeps lying to him! Bobby should be calling a divorce lawyer after last night. They have to fix that.

  3. Dan in WI says:

    I just finished re-watching season 2 of CBS Dallas. Now we see Sue Ellen swimming in the river denial angrily telling her doctor she doesn’t need help from hospital bed. Then Bobby walks in the room and she goes all sweet and agreeable. I practically expected her to swear off wearing those high heeled shoes like she did in season two when she blamed them for a drunken fall.

    Bobby’s line of episode: Sue Ellen wants John Ross out of her hospital room. Bobby just looks and him and says “Christopher is not here to stop me this time John Ross” and he gives a smile similar to the one when he was holding that prairie chicken. Well acted.

    So is Pamela telling the truth? Did she really do the over dose just to give John Ross an ugly visual? I don’t know if I believe that or not. It seems she took one hell of a chance if that is true. It could have easily backfired. Either way she is pretty disturbed.

    Please, please, please tell me when Sue Ellen tossed that after shave we saw the return of my Sue Ellen. Please.

    Well I missed the mark on who started the fire. One of the two people I eliminated from my suspicion was the culprit. It actually was the second most obvious suspect after all.

    I don’t know what to say about Bobby sending Anne away. I walked away from an engagement myself because of that fiancé’s honesty issues. I think I can relate to what Bobby was feeling when he explained the doubt he feels when he looks at Anne. I hope he can overcome it but I know it isn’t easy.

    I’ve complained over and over about my issues with the way Cidre plays fast and loose with Dallas continuity. To be honest I really wasn’t looking forward to this premiere all that much. This episode pleasantly surprised me. You know what? This show is capable of telling good stories. The reason this episode worked is because it didn’t try to re-write any history and focused on the story at hand. Now I’ll still hold my breath for the next time it does work with history because I still have little faith it will get it right. If only it could, this show would be every bit as good as CBS.

    • Cynthia Cidre will never learn that shock-value “reveals” do not equal good writing. The threesome and rationale for Pamela’s revenge were ridiculous. Bad writing. Poor character development. Unlikeable characters. Tawdry scenes. Over-the-top Judith Light. Bye Dallas.

  4. I agree that Pamela’s reason is silly and makes little sense. Either she is lying or she is disturbed. What if John Ross and Emma just left her there?

    I can understand bobby tireing of Ann always chosing to lie.

    Judith is right in regards to Ann no longer wanting to be a mother with the way she just rejects Emma the way she did.

    You are supposed to love your children no matter what they do.

  5. I thought Pamela was great. Show totally slammed John Ross and hit him where he felt strongest. The smooth talk landed his sentimental plastic ring in the trash. His eye for other women is now spoiled. There is still plenty of mystery regarding Pamela. The way she talked so blunt and “matter of factually” about her overdose makes it clear to me that she has had some rough rides during her life. It was not a suicide attempt, it is the beginning of her wrath. I have a suspicion that Judith is going to be the next one to go because it is clear Harris had enough of her. Drew Ramos joins the list of great “Dallas” characters that have been murdered/killed. Nicolas shows that he still has the heart and memories and the cold blooded evil side is stronger.

  6. How do write this stuf C.B.? When I see a Chris B. “DALLAS” episode wrap up I believe I am reading poetry! Damn this is excellente!

  7. Garnet McGee says:

    This was a good, solid episode that was kept from being great by an overemphasis on Judith/Emma.and the Ramos’ revenge. I relished the flashback to the enjoyable season 1 pairing of John Ross and Elena. It was great for the writers to acknowledge their past. If only Christopher and Pamela’s past connection could also be resurrected? All the actors did a great job especially Josh and Danny Boaz as Bo. The writers and actor took the role of Bo and made something special out of it. Heather was sympathetic as a woman who puts the needs of her child first. Ann and Bobby had the best scenes. Their fight felt so real and the only realistic, grown up relationship on this show. Pamela’s overdose is very disturbing. Even if she did not intend to kill herself she took enough pills to make her heart stop once. What if her heart had not started again? What kind of issues would a woman have to overdose on pills after her husband cheats? I fear the writers are not treating the issue of suicidal behavior with the seriousness it deserves. I agree that Julie did a great job with the material she was given.

    • Dan in WI says:

      I tried to allude to faking a suicide with drugs as risky and stupid because it could easily backfire in my post as well but you said it better than me. In fact you made me wonder: suppose this was recorded after the Robin Williams suicide. Would they (the writers) still have done it?

      • garnet mcgee says:

        Thanks for the compliments. I was thinking of the Robin williams suicide too when I rewatched it as well as the suicide of someone I knew. Pamela’s father and aunt also had suicidal moments so it is a part of her family history. It used to be a plot device the daytime soaps stayed away from so as to discourage copycats. Realistically all the other characters should remain worried about her state of mind.

  8. I am surprised by your rating. In my view it was one of the better episodes in this incarnation of the show – precisely because characters were allowed room to breathe and to talk to each other. Some of the most dramatic scenes of the original show were produced through great dialogue and fabulous characterisation. Too often the producers of this show confuse spectacle with drama. Drama relies on conflict not visual set pieces. On the rare occasions when we are treated to some good writing on TNT Dallas we get a tantalising glimpse of this show’s potential.

    • Dan in WI says:

      That is what I was trying to say but you said it better.

      • Everyone, thanks for your comments and feedback.

        I’m glad to hear so many of you enjoy this episode. Like Garnet, I would have enjoyed it more — and rated it higher — if there had been greater emphasis on the core Ewing family. Like William, I also like how this episode gave the characters room to breathe and talk to each other. (Very nicely stated, by the way, William.)

        On another note: I want everyone to know how much I appreciate your comments. Between “Dallas” and real life, I don’t have as much time to respond to comments as I used to, but please know that I read and appreciate each one.

        Thank you all!

Trackbacks

  1. […] “Denial, Anger, Acceptance,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), clad in a robe, enters the hospital […]

  2. […] winter and spring, when the series averaged 1.99 million viewers on Mondays nights. The episode, “Denial, Anger, Acceptance,” was seen by approximately 567,000 viewers between ages 18 and 49, a group advertisers pay top […]

  3. […] delivers the most delicious dialogue on television. Here are the best sound bites from “Denial, Anger, Acceptance,” this week’s […]

  4. […] Ewings weren’t dressed to the nines in “Denial, Anger, Acceptance,” but that doesn’t mean their clothing should be overlooked. We can learn a lot about the […]

  5. […] are the questions we’re pondering as we await tonight’s telecast of “Denial, Anger, Acceptance,” the midseason premiere of TNT’s […]

  6. […] John Ross and Pamela’s marriage over? In “Denial, Anger, Acceptance,” the previous episode, Pamela (Julia Gonzalo) was rushed to the hospital, where she recovered […]

  7. […] that they’ve come back from their spring hiatus it looks like we’re about to see the return of the bad-ass Pamela, so this should bring some more […]

  8. […] of the midseason premiere: DVR users who recorded that episode, “Denial, Anger, Acceptance,” and watched it within three days boosted the audience to 2.8 million viewers, slightly ahead of […]

  9. […] the possessions. There’s no doubt that medal is going to pop up again — recall that in the previous episode, Nicolas yanked off Drew’s necklace before he was executed — but it’s also a nice reminder […]

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