Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 158 — ‘Turning Point’

Dallas, Katherine Wentworth, Morgan Brittany, Turning Point

Poor little rich girl

Am I the only one who feels sorry for Katherine Wentworth in “Turning Point”? At the beginning of the episode, she’s elated when Bobby invites her on a tour of the property he bought from her father’s old company. After plotting for more than a year to make Bobby her own, it’s the strongest sign yet that Katherine might have a shot with him. Then, at the end of the hour, after J.R. makes Katherine sleep with him, he cruelly tells her that he played Bobby the sex tape J.R. made with Katherine earlier. “It’s all over. … He’ll never marry you,” J.R. says. Katherine’s devastation is matched only by her rage. “I’ll kill you, J.R.!” she screams.

I suppose I should feel like Katherine is getting what’s coming to her, and in a way, I do. After all, she did break up “Dallas’s” golden couple, Bobby and Pam. Yet I can’t bring myself to completely dislike the poor thing. Some of this has to do with Morgan Brittany, who makes Katherine seem so nice in her scenes with Bobby and Pam, I kind of believe her, even though I know the truth. But there’s also this: Who among us hasn’t been in Katherine’s shoes? At some point, haven’t we all harbored a secret crush on someone who we know, deep down, will never be ours? Perhaps this, more than Katherine’s big hats and camp appeal, is what makes her an icon to so many gay men in the “Dallas” audience. Bobby is like the unattainable straight guy we all fall for in high school or college.

The question is: Why isn’t Bobby interested in Katherine? Yes, I know he claims he can never think of her as anything but a friend, but come on! Katherine is breathtakingly beautiful — those eyes! that hair! — and as far as Bobby knows, she’s a sincere, caring person. She seems like a much better match for him than his current flame, Jenna Wade, who stopped being interesting the moment she hung up her apron at Billy Bob’s. While we’re on this subject, can someone explain why J.R. wouldn’t want Katherine as a sister-in-law? He says her money threatens him, but as long as he has that sex tape, he has leverage over her. In the long run, wouldn’t the ability to control a wife of Bobby Ewing be worth more to him than any threat posed by her wealth?

J.R.’s game is also off when it comes to Jessica, who drops cryptic hints about the mysterious death of Clayton’s first wife Amy throughout “Turning Point.” Finally, at the end of the episode, after Jessica and Clayton argue over his decision to sell the Farlows’ ranch, she stomps into Southfork and erupts in front of J.R. “Amy died so we could keep the Southern Cross, not sell it!” Jessica shouts. By now, shouldn’t it have dawned on J.R. that he’s in cahoots with a kook? At least our hero still has what it takes to stick it to Cliff Barnes. In “Turning Point’s” niftiest twist, we learn J.R. is secretly paying Cliff’s offshore drilling foreman, Max Flowers, to sabotage the project. J.R. also tricks Cliff into selling the Murphy and Kesey properties, a subplot that has the unusual effect of making me feel happy for J.R. and sorry for Cliff.

“Turning Point” has a few other highlights, including the cute scene where the Ewing women help Miss Ellie address her wedding invitations. Here’s how fascinated I am by the world this show creates: When Sue Ellen asks if “the Crenshaws” should be invited, I find myself wondering who these people are and how they know the Ewings. Ellie explains that one of the Crenshaws is the sister of another family friend, although I can’t make out the character’s name; it’s written in the subtitles as “Pat Bauer,” but it sounds to me like Barbara Bel Geddes says “Pat Powers,” which is the name of the fellow who palled around with Jock and Punk during a few fourth-season episodes. If I’m correct, then kudos to “Dallas” for bothering to mention a name that only the show’s most devoted loyalists would have recognized in 1984.

“Turning Point” has its share of oddities too. It’s a running joke that no one actually eats on this show, but the degree to which Linda Gray and Victoria Principal move their salads around their plates when Sue Ellen and Pam go to lunch is more amusing than usual. Also, why has Jackie, Cliff’s secretary, been replaced by “Susan” in this episode? Furthermore, isn’t funny to see Susan wear the white suit that Principal sported a few times during the fourth and fifth seasons? (My husband Andrew calls this Pam’s “Star Trek” dress because the jacket flap reminds him of the Enterprise crew’s movie uniforms.) Should we believe all the gals in the Barnes-Wentworth secretarial pool wear Pam’s hand-me-downs?

Perhaps more than anything, “Turning Point” is remembered among “Dallas” diehards as the final episode credited to cinematographer Bradford May, who gave the series such a rich, textured look. I’ve read varying accounts about why May didn’t work on the series after this season, but one thing is certain: “Dallas” will never look this good again.

Grade: B

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Turning Point

Wolf at the door

‘TURNING POINT’

Season 7, Episode 27

Airdate: April 13, 1984

Audience: 20.9 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Gwen Arner

Synopsis: To finance his offshore oil project, Cliff is forced to sell valuable land, unaware that J.R. is the buyer. J.R. tells Katherine he played a tape of them having sex for Bobby and arranges for Peter to be arrested for drug possession. Jessica and Clayton argue over his decision to sell the Southern Cross. Pam and Mark continue their wedding plans.

Cast: Christopher Atkins (Peter Richards), John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), James L. Brown (Detective Harry McSween), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Pat Colbért (Dora Mae), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Dana Halsted (Susan), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Donald May (Wes McDowall), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Denny Miller (Max Flowers), Dennis Patrick (Vaughn Leland), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Danone Simpson (Kendall), Alexis Smith (Lady Jessica Montford), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), John Wyler (wedding planner)

“Turning Point” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. Your critique is spot on, as usual. The reference to Pat Powers was very clear in the dubbed version on German TV (I would think the translators must have had access to the original scripts in the 80s.) And I recall the same WOW moment when after something like three or four years they brought up the name of Jock and Punk’s rather goofy sidekick again. Kudos to Arthur Bernard Lewis!
    When it comes to Pamela Ewing’s obsolete dresses, I think Sly and Phyllis ended up wearing some of them, too. I don’t recall this ever happening with any of Sue Ellen’s outfits. Probably Pam was the only Ewing with enough of a social conscience to give her used clothes to charity, and I can just imagine all these secretaries showing up at the Southfork gate on the days of old clothes collection and rummaging through those bags…. Oh, what fun!

  2. It’s always bothered me why Bobby was never tempted by Katherine – he maybe a good guy but he never struck me as particularly religious, the only reason why he would be so opposed to her on the grounds she is Pam’s’ sister (even then only half-long lost-sister!)

    Much as I love Morgan Brittany’s portrayal of Katherine I could never quite understand her motives – did she really love Bobby or have an unhealthy obsession with him? And what did she really think about Pam – did she genuinely care for her on some level or was it all just an act?

    Anyway I love how the Dallas writers put an interesting twist on what would otherwise have been a run of the mill soapy love triangle – good looking guy, torn between good and bad sister – instead, with Jenna thrown into the equation, all Katherine succeeds in doing is pushing Bobby into her arms ( and when she causes trouble between Bobby and Jenna, it just pushes Bobby back towards Pam!)

    Thinking about it I do feel a bit sorry for her – if only she was in Dynasty rather than Dallas things would be so much simpler for her – if less interesting for the audience!

    • Paul A,
      Why was Bobby never tempted by Katherine? If it were me I always found Morgan Brittany incredibly attractive and I sure would have been tempted. I could even see a one night indiscresion developing. But ultimately I wouldn’t end up with her. Those would be awkward family gatherings when your ex-wife is now your sister-in-law.

      As for Katherine, I think you hit it on the head. It was an unhealthy obsession she had for Bobby. I certainly don’t think she had any family feelings for Pam. She was raised a very spoiled only child who got whatever she wanted. Then along come Cliff and Pam and suddenly she has to compete for mother’s attention and only gets a share of her father’s inheritance. She was never anything but resentful of either of them in my eyes.

  3. Who says the staff at Barnes-Wentworth are wearing Pam’s hand me downs? Perhaps Pam is such a trendsetter they are all just copying her.

  4. Perhaps Pam was giving her clothes away so no one would shop at Jenna’s Boutique?

  5. Morgan Brittany’s eyes are so radiantly bright blue. Hell, I’d have slept with her to console her for not landing Brother Bobby! What I like is that Bob always seems to have explain how moral he is but he still sets up folks with hookers or screws over J.R. on his Cuban deal to try & win the contest for 51% control of the company.

  6. I do think Bobby might have been attracted to Katherine a little but to him she’s Pam’s sister and that’s a line he may not have wanted to cross that line.As for JR, you make a good point in that he should have wanted Katherine as his sister-in-law because then he would have had power over her via the tape but JR may have known if Katherine had landed Bobby Pam might have gotten suspicious about how far Katherine might have gone to get Bobby

  7. What was the reason Bradford May decide not to work on Dallas after season 7? One of the reasons I liked season 7 so much.

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