Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 154 — ‘Fools Rush In’

Dallas, Fools Rush In, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

With a twist

One reason Larry Hagman is so damn good is because he knows what the audience wants and how to give it to us. Take “Fools Rush In’s” most entertaining scene, when J.R. chews out Katherine for inadvertently making a Bobby/Pam reconciliation possible. It’s somewhat ridiculous to see a grown man so consumed with his brother’s love life, and so Hagman plays the scene accordingly, making J.R.’s bluster more amusing than anything else. The funniest moment comes when Katherine declares she has “no objection” to Pam’s pending marriage to Mark and J.R. mockingly snaps, “Oh, you have no objection to that, do you? Well, you just better keep pushing until that happens, honey!” Who doesn’t love to see Hagman deliver a line like that?

Of course, great acting involves more than indulging the audience. When “Fools Rush In” begins, J.R. has figured out Sue Ellen has been having an affair and he responds in typical J.R. style — by being extra nice to his wife while he secretly plots revenge. After attending Punk and Mavis Anderson’s anniversary party together, J.R. escorts Sue Ellen to her room and says how much he enjoyed spending the evening with her. Sue Ellen looks positively stricken while J.R. beams — until his back is turned and we see his face drop. Is he having reservations about the trap he’s about to spring? Does he fear he might end up pushing his fragile wife too far? There’s no way to know and it doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that we catch a glimpse of J.R.’s humanity. It’s an example of Hagman giving us what we need to see.

While Hagman deserves much credit for highlighting J.R.’s complexities in “Fools Rush In,” he gets an assist from scriptwriter David Paulsen. We don’t know the details of J.R.’s scheme against Sue Ellen and her lover Peter Richards, but we know he wants to bring the couple closer. Notice how J.R. uses John Ross to achieve this goal. First, he waits until the family is gathered around the breakfast table to suggest hiring Peter to spend time with the child, knowing how excited John Ross will be when he hears his camp counselor might be visiting him at Southfork on a regular basis. How could Sue Ellen say no? Likewise, when J.R. approaches Peter with the idea, he brings along his son, essentially daring Peter to turn him down and break the boy’s heart. Who knew John Ross would turn out to be one of Daddy’s best accomplices?

I also like how Paulsen and director Michael Preece treat the return of Dennia Patrick’s duplicitous banker Vaughn Leland, who makes his first “Dallas” appearance since the fifth season. “Fools Rush In”  begins with Cliff scrambling to raise the money he owes the government until — lo and behold! — Vaughn shows up on his doorstep and offers him a loan, which Cliff desperately accepts. At the end of the episode, we see J.R. in his office, fixing drinks for himself and an unseen guest. “Well, everything seems to be moving in the right direction,” he says. Preece’s camera follows him as he carries the drink across the room to — yep, you guessed it — Vaughn, who it turns out is in cahoots with J.R. It’s a nifty twist.

Speaking of Vaughn: I was a little puzzled when Afton reacted so coolly to seeing him in this episode, until I remembered J.R. put her up to sleeping with Vaughn during her early days on “Dallas.” I’m glad the writers didn’t forget about their past, even if I almost did. Other nice touches in “Fools Rush In” include the scene where J.R. hires a detective to snoop into the past of Lucy’s newest boyfriend, Peter. J.R. explains to the private eye why he cares about his niece: “She’s the daughter of my brother Gary, who I’m particularly fond of.” Another fun moment comes when Bobby tells Sue Ellen that Jenna accused him of being stubborn. “Well, you’re not the most flexible person in the world,” Sue Ellen says.

Not everything here works. I’m disappointed we don’t actually see the Andersons’ anniversary party, which the Ewings have been anticipating for several episodes. Not even Oil Baron’s Balls and Ewing Barbecues receive this much buildup. Also, as much as I get a kick out of seeing Ken Kercheval squirm in the scenes where Cliff struggles to raise the money he owes the government, I can’t help but think the feds must have been running one hell of a racket in the 1980s. They allow Cliff to bid tens of millions of dollars more than his competitors for the offshore oil leases, and then they show up unannounced at his office, demanding payment just days after the auction ended? Who says the Reagan administration was business friendly?

But nothing stretches credibility quite like the “Fools Rush In” scene where Pam asks Mark’s physician, Jerry Kenderson, to reveal her fiancée’s mysterious medical diagnosis — and with very little prodding, Kenderson blabs all. So much for doctor-patient confidentiality rules! Then again: Since everyone on “Dallas” is ethically challenged, why should we expect the doctors to be any different?

Grade: B

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Fools Rush In, Ken Kercheval

Foolin’ around

‘FOOLS RUSH IN’

Season 7, Episode 23

Airdate: March 9, 1984

Audience: 22.5 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: David Paulsen

Director: Michael Preece

Synopsis: Cliff borrows money from banker Vaughn Leland to finance his offshore oil scheme, unaware that J.R. and Vaughn are in cahoots. J.R. warns Katherine to keep Bobby away from Pam, who learns Mark is dying but doesn’t know it. J.R. also springs a trap for Peter, hiring him to spend time with John Ross at Southfork. Bobby has second thoughts about breaking up with Jenna. Miss Ellie and Clayton set a wedding date.

Cast: Christopher Atkins (Peter Richards), John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Gerald Berns (James Kenyon), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Barbara Cason (Iris Porter), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Robert Donavan (Metcalf), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Barry Jenner (Dr. Jerry Kenderson), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Sherill Lynn Katzman (Jackie Dugan), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Dennis Patrick (Vaughn Leland), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Peter White (Ellis Newton)

“Fools Rush In” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. Is it just me Chris or is everyone at their physical peak in Season 7 – notice Larry Hagmans great (and very believable) tan and neat suits, the gorgeous Jenna and Pam and Afton – perhaps only the normally divine Sue Ellen not at her best – she seems to have been made up to look a bit older and almost matronly, perhaps to emphasise the age difference with Peter?

    There’s something about this season, the production values and picture quality are awesome.

    And we are still in the period of what I call believable silliness, as you pointed out – minor things like Doctor Kenderson’s indiscretion and the Government acting like small time gangsters collecting their protection money from Cliff, but nothing that we can’t easily turn a blind eye to if it makes the plot work – I fear the next few seasons will see the onset of unbelievable silliness, but that is still some way off yet!

  2. Christopher Dallas Decoder Ewing, you disappoint me. Ol’ J.R. is only fond of his Brother Garrison Arthur if & when he is on California rather than Texas soil!

  3. In regards to JR using John Ross to set his trap for Peter, I believe the correct word (IMO) is pawn not accomplice. It just shows JR will use anyone to accomplish his plans.

  4. Maryann says:

    In this episode JR is at his manipulative controlling best in regards to Cliff I did not always like what JR does to Cliff but sometimes Cliff walks right into it or deserves it. The best news in this episode in that Mark is dying, I hated this character more than JR because he reminds me of another Alex Ward, I just detest men who go after married women with no regards or respect to a relationship, this kind of men is big turn off to me. I rather the writers had Pam dump him and send him packing with his tail between his legs instead of this lame dying story.

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