The Best & Worst of TNT’s Dallas: Season 3

“Dallas’s” third and final season was a thrill ride, even if our beloved Larry Hagman wasn’t around to take the trip with us. Here’s a look back at the highs and lows.

Performances

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Rising son

Josh Henderson was a revelation this year. As John Ross struggled to follow J.R.’s boot steps, he kept getting sidetracked by his own demons — and Henderson was outstanding at every turn. His performances were sometimes sly, sometimes sensitive and always superb. I was less enthralled with the other “J.R.”: Judith Ryland, a.k.a. Judith Light, who was moving during the hostage crisis but cartoonish most of the rest of the time (“Let’s go make us a drug deal.”).

Storylines

Ewing Global’s rocky road to its initial public offering was a modern take on classic “Dallas” wheeling and dealing. It included the dramatic boardroom showdown where Sue Ellen voted against John Ross’s plan; John Ross and Pamela’s trip to Las Vegas, where he gambled away J.R.’s wristwatch to prove his mettle to the sheik; and finally the frenzied day of the IPO, when Hunter McKay swooped in and turned the tables on John Ross — much like Hunter’s granddaddy Carter once did to J.R. Even Wolf Blitzer showed up to report on the Ewings’ doings. The worst storyline? Nope, not the drug cartel, which ended up being better than expected, but all the silliness involving the brothel, including the eye-rolling revelation that Judith is a madam.

Episodes

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Direct hit

The achingly poignant “Hurt,” written by Aaron Allen and directed by Patrick Duffy, dared to challenge the audience to stop sentimentalizing J.R. This was an actors’ episode, beginning with the theatrical scene where Elena exposed Bobby’s scheme to frame Cliff. No whiplash-inducing plot twists here; just solid Ewing family drama. There was also a lot to like about the “Lifting the Veil” wedding episode. Unfortunately, much of it was cut to make room for those bonkers brothel scenes.

Scenes

John Ross and Sue Ellen’s kitchen confrontation was the season’s emotional high point. It began with her standing at the counter, sloshing a drink, no longer denying her fall from the wagon. Into the room stormed John Ross, furious over his mother’s boardroom betrayal and still very much in denial about his addiction to power. The chills-inducing climax: He slams down his hand and screams, “I am not my father!” Maybe not, but this scene showed Henderson could light up our screens just like Hagman. Best scene runner-up: The unbearably tense moment when Ann, Harris and Judith hear Luis fire a shot after holding a gun to Emma’s head. The worst scene involved a corrupt politician, a hooker and a dog costume. Need I say more?

Twists

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Bug off

Sue Ellen gives a bottle of J.R. Ewing Bourbon to Governor McConaughey (Steven Weber, who was always a welcome guest on this show), but the smug jerk refuses to help her stop John Ross’s Southfork drilling scheme. Later, the guv pours from the bottle while plotting with a corrupt crony to cover up a scandal — unaware that Sue Ellen and Bobby are in a van outside, recording their conversation. How? Because Sue Ellen bugged the bottle! Oh, how I wish Linda Gray had been given more scenes like this.

Cliffhangers

Worst first: Christopher’s death. Jesse Metcalfe’s alter ego went out like a chump by protecting Elena, an increasingly exasperating character who brought Nicolas and the drug cartel into the Ewings’ lives and threatened to send Bobby to prison. (Jordana Brewster, however, was fantastic when Elena saw the car blow up.) I have no doubt Christopher’s murder would’ve opened dramatic new storylines for the show, but since we’ve been denied a fourth season, I can’t help but feel like a “Dallas” legacy character was killed off for no good reason. The best cliffhanger: The doomed three-way between John Ross, Pamela and Emma was sexy and provocative, although the resolution — learning Pamela overdosed to teach her cheating husband and his mistress a lesson — was bananas.

Villains

Dallas, Harris Ryland, Mitch Pileggi, TNT

Guess who?

Mitch Pileggi has always been one of “Dallas’s” best actors, but his performances this year were more complex than ever. Was Harris really working for the CIA, or was he merely out to get Judith? Did he mean it when he told Ann he loved her, or was he just messing with her head? Pileggi kept us guessing all season long — just like a certain Machiavellian character from an earlier era of “Dallas.” Runner-up: Emma Bell’s Emma, who had me throwing things at my TV one moment and reaching for the Kleenex the next.

Supporting Players

Here we have an embarrassment of riches. I loved Antonio Jaramillo, who was frightening and fascinating as cartel general Luis; Kevin Page, who turned sweet-natured Bum into John Ross’s unlikely conscience; and Donny Boaz, who made down-on-his-luck ranch hand Bo McCabe the closest thing this show had to a modern version of Ray Krebbs. But no performance touched me like Marlene Forte, who was heartbreaking in “Dead Reckoning,” the haunting episode in which Carmen learned Drew was dead. Honorable mention: Cynthia Jackson, who played Nurse Harlan, the no-nonsense nightingale who tangled with John Ross in the hospital (“Plant your ass over there in those seats before I plant it for you”).

Newcomers

Smiling cobra

Killer smile

Juan Pablo Di Pace was sinister and seductive as Nicolas Treviño, who changed the Ewings’ lives forever the day he waltzed into their boardroom and declared himself Cliff’s proxy. Now that he has Christopher’s blood on his hands, Nicolas will be remembered as the Ewings’ most dangerous foe since Katherine ran over Bobby. Honorable mention: AnnaLynne McCord, whose Heather McCabe — a working-class single mom who wanted to do right by her son — was refreshingly free of secret identities and hidden agendas.

Returning Favorites

Two “Dallas” vets earn a spot in the “best” column: Audrey Landers, who was a hoot when Afton showed up at John Ross and Pamela’s wedding, smacked the groom upside his head and sparred with Sue Ellen; and Ken Kercheval, who was downright tragic in the scene where Pamela refused to get Cliff out of jail. You could always count on Landers and Kercheval to make the most of their “Dallas” guest spots; what a shame they never had a scene together. My other old favorite: the return of “Dallas’s” retro-style split-screen opening credits. What took so long?

Costumes

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Stylin’

Highlighting just one of costume designer Rachel Sage Kunin’s creations is tough, but if forced to choose, I’ll go with Pamela’s black-and-white dress, which looked striking on Julie Gonazalo. The dress also highlighted the link between Pamela and Sue Ellen, who wore a lot of black and white on the original show. No costume deserves a spot in the “worst” column, although now that I know how much effort went into choosing the jewelry for J.R.’s daughter’s debut, I sure wish that scene hadn’t been left on the cutting room floor.

Music

Johnny Cash returned to “Dallas” for the first time since Season 1 with his cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt,” which played during the powerful sequence where Bobby destroys his den after J.R.’s masterpiece unravels. Can you watch this scene without getting chills? Other highlights: Ed Sheeran’s “Kiss Me,” which was heard when John Ross and Pamela were making love on their honeymoon while lonely Emma was crying herself to sleep; The Doors’ “Break On Through,” an ideal choice for the diaphragm puncturing/threeway/Southfork fire montage; and Eric Church’s “Devil, Devil,” the song that played when Nicolas’s henchman killed Luis and El Pozolero. And who didn’t love Henderson’s “I See You” during John Ross’s breakdown in the elevator during the season finale?

Props

Best & Worst of TNT's Dallas - Season 3 7 copy

Good to the last drop

Best: The J.R. Ewing Bourbon bottles, which popped up throughout the season, including the last scene, when John Ross toasts his dearly departed daddy in the back of the limousine. I also got a kick out of seeing Henderson sport replicas of some of Hagman’s signature accessories, even if it looked like that J.R. belt buckle was wearing John Ross instead of the other way around. My least favorite prop: Candace’s severed hands. Good grief. Were those things purchased in the Halloween aisle at Kmart?

Quips

It’s always tough to choose a favorite in this category, and this year is no exception. Contenders include Judith’s J.R.-like analogy (“Money and morality are like two cars on a one-lane road. When they meet, morality’s going to end up in the ditch.”), John Ross’s apt description of his family (“We’re slow, but we do figure things out.”), and Sue Ellen’s memorable put-down of a longtime rival (“Just so you know, Afton, the most despicable thing J.R. ever did was you.”). But nothing tops Miss Texas’s memorable schooling of Emma at the wedding: “Has anyone ever told you about my sister Kristin? She was a lot like you. She ended up face down in the pool.” It’s a shame this line was cut from the episode, but at least TNT had the good sense to turn it into a promo.

Hashtags

#OhNoNotChristopher

#ChristopherRIP

If you didn’t watch “Dallas” while simultaneously tweeting about it, you missed half the fun. The year in hashtags: #Aftershave #BeachBoys #BeMyProxyNicolas #CafeConLechePorFavor #DefineTheRelationship #GoFrackYourself #GoodBlackmailNeverSours #GraspingSuccubus #IceBreakingShips #JusticeNotRevenge #LesserPrairieChicken #MamaLike #MillerLight #MobyDick #Mole #Pozole #SeismicSuperstar #Sprinkles #StupidPills #Supermajority #SurfaceRights #WhoWoreItBetter #WhichEwingDies #YouSmellLikeMyWife #RenewDallasTNT #SaveDallas #DallasForever

What do you love and loathe about the third season of TNT’s “Dallas”? Share your comments below and read more “Best & Worst” reviews.

Comments

  1. Jennifer Irons says:

    I absolutely LOVED the episode that Patrick Duffy directed, “Hurt”! He did a fantastic job both directing AND acting, especially in the scene at the end where he smashes the framed picture of JR in anger!

  2. The Best? Dallas on TNT; The Worst? Dallas is canceled.

  3. Without a doubt the best was Patrick Duffy’s episode as director. To me this episode felt more like CBS Dallas than any other episode in the three season run of the show and the fact that Duffy directed it was no coincidence.
    I’ll also give props to the the return of my Sue Ellen. Once she finally kicked the bottle we had the Sue Ellen who once used Valentine Lingerie to get even with JR on his terms. Her bugging of governor’s bottle was the pinnacle.
    And yes the tri-split screen opening credits was a sorely missing tip of the cap to CBS Dallas of old.
    Finally Kevin Paige win’s my award for the series best recurring character. Some people want to know what the now untold future held for this JR daughter and others debated if Christopher was really dead or not. Me? I just would like to know what would have developed between Sue Ellen and Bum and how that would have come between John Ross and Bum.

    • I agree with you, Dan. I thought Patrick Duffy did a superb job directing and that episode absolutely felt the most like CBS’ Dallas. I wish he’d been given more opportunities to put his touch on things. Also, loved Sue Ellen bugging the governor. It felt a lot like something she would have learned from J.R., and it was great that she and Bobby came up with that together. And Bum’s character became more interesting after learning he was the one who painted the portrait of J.R. and Sue Ellen confronted him about J.R.’s death. I think it was intriguing what might have developed between the two of them.

    • Dan, it sounds like we agree on several things here. This is good! Many thanks for your feedback.

  4. The best that I seen in Season 3 of Dallas was the “Hurt” episode directed by Patrick Duffy and the 3 way intro of the series. The worst was the three-way sex scene with John Ross, Emma and Pamela in the mid-season cliffhanger. It didn’t make any sense as the 2nd half of the season began.

    • I’m with you, TH. The three-way scene made no sense to me (either for Pamela to have behaved that way OR for the reason she gave for doing it), and it felt gratuitous and like it was thrown in there simply to be provocative. Proof of that came when John Ross’ character left the hospital after that sad, tender scene between he and Pamela, when he begged her to forgive him, and then immediately hopped into bed with Elena. It was stupid and I think it left a lot of us feeling cold.

    • I liked the three-way sex scene … until we found out Pamela overdosed intentionally.

  5. Worst executive producer: Cynthia Cidre

  6. I’m on this on this one I’m glad what Pamela did in front of John Ross and Emma! Plus John Ross has nothing to do with Emma anymore or not in the fact or not. John Ross is not done yet , so Bobby Ewing either and Sue Allen Ewing either the show is going on as far I know the fourth season if show on a different network. Elna Romas she is pregnant on the show Nicholas or John Ross! And when the fourth season comes around all kinds of hell is coming down on John Ross and kill Nicholas I can’t stand him getting things mess up with Ewings family! Ewing family Rocks! # SaveDallas ! .

  7. I just think everything is best of Ewing Family! Happy Holidays! John Ross needs get out his shell for real!

  8. The thing I like about u C.B. is that u r focused & with singular objectives like Christopher Ewing. My suggestion is that u focus your energies on continuing to do those synopsis of every single DALLAS:CBC episode & the reunion films. By the way boy, for my 40th birthday on Nov.11th, I bought the entire original series on glorious DVD & they r amazing! It was a nice treat as my VHS set were burned in a fire at my friend’s farm. No real loss as they don’t make VHS players anymore. It took me 31 10 hour tapes & 19 months to tape every episode off of TNT in the 90’s. So if I don’t have every episode on DVD, how am I supposed to take over 51% of Ewing Global over.

  9. I agree with you, Chris, about almost everything – the best quips, music, episode, director, supporting cast, scene between John Ross and Sue Ellen, etc. But I don’t think Judith Light was given a fair assessment. While she sometimes had some pretty good lines, her character was unfortunately written more as a caricature – snorting coke and running a brothel. Though she did also have some wonderful moments. Like the scenes after Emma had been kidnapped. And one of my favorites – when she and John Ross were in the limo and she was thanking him for saving Emma. It was very moving. In fact, whenever the show allowed the characters to express genuine emotion, it was at its best. And I still feel it’s a shame that gimmicks, backstabbing, and the constant twists and turns replaced good character development.

  10. I cannot believe that TNT could be so Cold to the Dallas fans that they did not give Dallas at least a 10-15 episodes for a season 4 finale for the series. However I do agree with you Chris with all of this, Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy should receive emmy’s for their outstanding performances for all three seasons. Even though I do not agree with the way Cynthia Cidre took Dallas for season 3 with Drug Cartel, I still loved the rest of the cast and all they brought to each scene. People can say what they want about Christopher being poorly casted but I believe Jesse gave 110% to honor the Dallas Legacy. Great Show and Dallas will live on forever!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. I think Season 3 was phenomenal in every aspect. Yes Josh Henderson fit Larry’s shoes and given the time and the right night to air the show, he would have fit them even better. He is an excellent actor, and I could not wait until the following week just see what he would do next. I also thought the threesome was sensual. Many people were grossed out by it, but evidently they never watched All My Children, because the first kiss between two women was right there! Not one person complained about it. I do have to disagree with you on Judith Light though. I thought she was simply brilliant in her role (the best I have seen her in yet). She was a great villain who would have made it very interesting with John Ross. She was also comical, and I couldn’t wait to hear her next line. I will never give up hope on the return of Dallas. Warner Bros needs to listen to the fans. I will never forget how I felt when the show first started and I heard my favorite music once again. Gave me the chills and I still love that music the most. Come on everyone, we can’t let this happen. It just has to air again!

    • Nancy, I agree with you that Josh Henderson was perfect for his role as John Ross. He was absolutely one of the highlights of the show and I think he was really growing as an actor. And I think Judith Light is a wonderful actress whom I’ve been watching for years and years. But she wasn’t really allowed to develop fully as a character (until possibly near the very end of the 3rd season). As for the threesome: I actually did watch All My Children and I know what kiss you’re talking about. But that wasn’t a scene just thrown in there to titillate, it was a tender moment between two characters and it was handled in a sensitive manner as they were dealing with the subject of homosexuality. It was 2003 and it was the first time a lesbian kiss was shown on a daytime drama. I think the problem with the threesome shown on TNT’s Dallas was that it didn’t feel true to the character. The audience was trying to wrap their heads around what they’d seen, not just because she was kissing another woman, but because of the strange, twisted reason given for WHY she would behave that way. I mean, think about it. Pamela learns her husband has betrayed her, and what does she do? She takes an overdose and goes to the hotel to participate in a threesome? Then she humiliates herself further by puking and going into a seizure, where she nearly dies (I’m afraid that doesn’t feel sensual to me), and this is all to make John Ross and Emma feel bad? Then the writers, who are apparently eager to move on, have John Ross leaving his wife in the hospital and hopping into bed with Elena. I’m sorry, but that’s not sexy, it’s sick and cruel, and I think it turned a lot of people off. But I don’t think it was THE reason why the show was canceled, and I really wish it had been given another season (with some new writers/producers) who understood what made the original Dallas so much fun.

    • Thank you, Nancy!

  12. I especially like the scene when John Ross says “We’re slow, but we do figure things out.” Prior to saying that, he goes over the drug cartel storyline with Luis. Unlike other shows that have one character go over storylines or explain relationships, this had a real purpose. John Ross was telling Luis that its time to get real, he knows what’s up, and that he can do business with him. Other shows do this sort of thing because I think they are just trying to fill people in on what is going on in the show. I also enjoy the drug cartel storyline. it is alarming how often in the reality DEA investigations cross lines with CIA investigations. Sue Ellen is amazing this season! I had a feeling that “Dallas” was too good to last. I was starting to like Emma. I always liked Drew Ramos until the very end. How could any person, even in a soap opera, go from extreme guilt to extreme vengeance and rage towards the very same people? At last Elena figured it out at the end. I think Nicolas Trevino was a great addition to the show because he fit right into the insanity of all of the other characters and he would make a very formidable opponent to John Ross. One thing I noticed is there always seems to be a similar story going on at the same time – Christopher and Pamela are in court at the same time Harris and Ann are in court. Bobby in Mexican kill house, Bobby in Mexican kill house. Deed to Barnes oil claim swindled by Ewings, Deed to Ramos oil claim swindled by Ewings. I don’t know if that is just me or if anyone else notices that.

  13. This is easy. The worst was the cancellation. 😦

  14. David Michaels says:

    First, let me point out that I have watched every episode ever of “Dallas.” I was in high school and would record episodes on Friday nights when I had football games. Never missed it. Like everyone else, I think “Hurt” was the apex of Season 3. Watching John Ross grow into his father’s boots was great. After all, he was his father’s son from tip to tail. I could have done without the whole cartel storyline. I think that was the single biggest mistake of the year and it took the show too far away from what “Dallas” is supposed to be. There were characters who could have been used to drive some more palpable story lines, like Ann, Sue Ellen and the battle between John Ross and Christopher, which was more prevalent during the first two seasons. The other issue was watching the last show of the season and seeing it billed as a “season finale” let me to believe it was just that. We all know better now, don’t we? TNT brought the show back, but didn’t do it any favors in 2014. Here’s hoping we see “Dallas” again somewhere.

  15. Garnet McGee says:

    The worst of season 3:

    Unfortunately there was so much to choose from.
    Plot: Candice and the blue dress amounted to nothing, made no sense, and was a monumental waste of limited time. JR3 never gave his specimen to her so what did it matter?

    Mistake: Sidelining Pamela in favor of Emma. Pamela got very little screen time after being mesmerizing for two seasons. Instead we got scene after repetitive scene with Emma and John Ross. The overdose plot made her weak and had no effect on John Ross’s behavior.

    Character: Judith. I occasionally enjoyed her scenes but any plot involving Judith was sure to be nonsensical and over the top (not in a good way). I got really fed up with her character even though the actress was good.

    Best of season 3:
    Hurt episode took Dallas back to basics and really tapped into history and the legacy of these characters. I was never a huge fan of Elena but I enjoyed the episode anyway.

    Best moment:
    Kitchen confrontation

    Best friendship:
    Ann and Sue Ellen. I expected the writers to create drama for these two besties but was so pleased they remained close and faithful friends to the end of season 3.

    Best supporting roles:
    Bum, Bo, Lucia. They excelled at casting these minor roles.

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