Dallas Parallels: The Puppeteer

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Ken Kercheval, TNT

Cliff Barnes may be “Dallas’s” biggest loser, but give the devil his due: He has a knack for pulling the strings of women who’ve been wronged by J.R. Ewing.

On TNT’s “Dallas,” after the Ewings framed Cliff (Ken Kercheval) for J.R.’s “murder,” he summoned Elena Ramos (Jordana Brewster) to his Mexican jail cell and made a shocking revelation: J.R. once swindled Elena’s father out of oil-rich land. After Elena confirmed Cliff’s claims, she accepted his offer to help him get out of jail and join forces against the Ewings — an alliance Elena came to regret after it triggered a chain of tragedies that included the deaths of brother Drew and true love Christopher.

Elena — perhaps the new “Dallas’s” smartest character at one time — became the latest in a long line of ladies who foolishly sought revenge against J.R. by getting into bed with Cliff (only figuratively in Elena’s case, thank heavens). Cliff previously manipulated Sue Ellen, Julie Grey and Afton Cooper, although the strongest parallel between him and Elena might be his relationship with Mandy Winger (Deborah Shelton). During the original show’s ninth season, after Cliff stunned Mandy by telling her that J.R. was sleeping with Angelica Nero — cheating on his mistress with another woman, the nerve! — Mandy agreed to spy on J.R. for Cliff.

The scene where Many and Cliff form their alliance is not unlike the one between Cliff and Elena 29 years later: Each woman sits across a table from Cliff and tells him she’s confirmed his claims, and then she expresses anger over J.R.’s betrayal and declares she’s ready to fight back. Later, Mandy’s scheme spirals out of control — especially after she flushes expensive jewelry from J.R. down the toilet — and she ends up feeling guilty and disillusioned, just like Elena does many years later.

The parallels aren’t perfect, of course. Unlike Mandy, who makes J.R. the target of her revenge, Elena decides to make all the Ewings pay for J.R.’s sins. Also, only Mandy’s story has resolution: She eventually draws the wrath of Sue Ellen, who forces her to leave town.

I can’t help but wonder: How many “Dallas” fans wish they could have seen Sue Ellen do the same thing to Elena?


‘J.R.’s Betrayed Me for the Last Time’

Curiosity Killed the Cat, Dallas, Deborah Shelton

Seeking revenge

In “Curiosity Killed the Cat,” a ninth-season “Dallas” episode, Mandy (Deborah Shelton) sits across from Cliff (Ken Kercheval) at a sidewalk cafe.

MANDY: I went to Angelica Nero’s hotel last night and waited. It was 5 o’clock in the morning when J.R. came out.

CLIFF: He didn’t see you, did he?

MANDY: [Shakes her head no] When he came over to my place this morning, I asked if he’d worked very late. He said he was back at Southfork by 11. You were right, Cliff. Sue Ellen was right. Everyone was right.

CLIFF: I’m sorry you had to find out this way. But since you did, are you ready to take me up on my offer?

MANDY: [Determined] Yes. You just tell me what you want me to do. J.R.’s betrayed me for the last time. Now it’s my turn.


‘His Betrayal Cost My Father His Life’

Dallas, Elena Ramos, Return, TNT

Seeking justice

In “The Return,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Elena (Jordana Brewster) sits across from Cliff in a Mexican jail cell.

ELENA: I don’t like you. You’re scheming. [Sighs] But I researched the land records. What you told me is true. J.R. switched my father’s land with a worthless deed. His betrayal cost my father his life. I came back here to accept your offer to be your proxy at Barnes Global.

CLIFF: Good. I spent my life building that company. I’d be loath to think that the Ewings could destroy it before I get out of prison.

ELENA: You’re getting out?

CLIFF: Yeah. And you’re going to help me.

ELENA: Why would I do that?

CLIFF: Because you want to hold real power over that family. And to do that, you need leverage — leverage in the way of evidence that they framed me for J.R.’s murder. My plane, without me in it, was moved to Nuevo Laredo the night that J.R. was killed. And that American woman in Nuevo Laredo — the dancer, Rhonda Simmons or something — you know, she lied to say that I was in the club when I wasn’t. And the gun that killed J.R. they stole out of my locker at the gun range. Together, we can take back Barnes Global, and then Southfork. Take from them what’s most important — what they took from us. But I need to know that you have the strength to exact revenge.

ELENA: They kicked me out of a company I helped start. They took away my oil leases. They accused me of helping my brother when they would have done the same to help their own, and now all this? I’ll find the strength — because I’m not thinking of this as revenge. I am thinking of this as justice.

What do you think of Cliff’s manipulation of Mandy and Elena? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Parallels.”


  1. I always thought the deed switch was a trick on Cliff’s part to get out of Jail. I liked the Elena switch in season 3, I just wished the writers would have made it to where Cliff got out of Jail instead of Pamela leaving him in jail. I also liked what Cynthia and Staff did in making Cliff this dark bad sinister with no convictions in destroying the Ewing. I wish there would have been a season 4 so we could see if Cliff was finally going to get out of jail.

    • You do realize “dallas fan” don’t you that if ol’ Cliff Barnes had gotten out of jail, there 100% would have been a 4th season & more. And the biggest cheerleader from up in heaven would have been ol’ J.R., thats right Larry Hagman b/c his actor friends from both the old & new DALLAS casts would have steady acting work & wages as a result!

      • I think Cliff getting out of jail in Mexico should be done like the way Jack was let out of the freezer in “The Shinning” because that is when things really became terrifying.

      • Good debate about Cliff. Personally, I like the idea of him staying in jail. It fits the character. He was destined to wind up alone; might as well be behind bars.

  2. I sure do R.J and that would have been an amazing season to watch, I really have accepted that Dallas is not coming back this year but it sure has left a bad taste in my mouth. I believed the fans deserved a season 4 even if it was just to bring the new series to a close. Here is hoping somehow or someway something can be done in the future to fix this

  3. Garnet McGee says:

    Elena’s revenge should have been solely against John Ross. Her revenge plot could have been revenge for what John Ross had done. Who is the “they” that kicked her out of the company she helped start? It could only be John Ross, the dead J.R. and Sue Ellen.

  4. Cliff Barnes knows better than anyone what it is like to be burned by J.R. and how devastating the blow really is.
    I just wonder how a person could so stupid as to not know what land he bought? I just don’t get it. If Elena’s father bought some land, he knew had oil, how is it possible? TO buy land that you know has oil means that you are familiar with the land. Elena is the smartest character on the show, her father would be the least intelligent if he ever appeared on the show. Elena, Drew, and Carmen, should accept the fact that this person died as a result of ignorance not because of the Ewings.

  5. I agree with you mjsmith I remember watching the season 2 finale, and seeing that document being presented that way, I thought huh nobody ever knew that except cliff barnes? I was really excited watching Jordan Brewster switch roles and take down the ewings but I really had hoped the TPTB would have proven those documents were false, and why the did not do that is beyond me. I really enjoyed ELENA and Cliff working with Nicholas until the drug lord story line nonsense took over. Why the writers thought the Dallas fans wanted a full season of drug story telling I will never figure out

    • I agree about Cliff: I think it would have been a neat twist if the documents turned out to be fake. Think about the irony: Elena succeeds in getting revenge against the Ewings for J.R.’s sins, only to discover — for once in his life — J.R. wasn’t actually to blame.

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