Jamie Ewing arrives and Katherine Wentworth departs in “Jamie.” Is this a fair trade? I’ll reserve judgment on Jamie’s end of the exchange until I’ve revisited more episodes that feature her character, but there’s no doubt in my mind Katherine is leaving at the right moment. A little camp goes a long way on “Dallas,” and too often Morgan Brittany’s character veered toward the cartoonish. On the other hand, I appreciate how Katherine achieved mythic status after this episode, especially among the loyalists who continued to clamor for Brittany’s return until the final days of TNT’s sequel series. Also, the hats. I’ll miss the hats.
The stage is set for Katherine’s exit during the previous episode, which ends with her getting ready to inject Bobby with poison while he sleeps in a hospital bed. As “Jamie” opens, Bobby awakens and screams for help. J.R. and his security guards happen to be nearby and rush into the room, where they pull Katherine away before she can hurt poor, blind Bob. Moments later, while squirming to break free from the guards, Katherine confirms she fired the gunshots that landed Bobby in the hospital in the first place, and then she reveals he was her target all along — a clever twist since “Dallas” previously led the audience to believe J.R. was the intended victim. Brittany is as over the top as ever during Katherine’s confession, although she outdoes herself during her final scene in “Jamie,” when Katherine runs into Cliff on the courthouse steps. After admitting she tried to frame him, Katherine barks, “Get out of my way!” and shoves him aside — except Ken Kercheval is already standing about two feet away, so Brittany has to step toward him in order to push him out of the way. It’s silly, but also kind of wonderful.
The revelation that Katherine meant to shoot Bobby is a final homage to “Who Shot J.R.?” Just as J.R.’s assailant turned out to be his sister-in-law, so too does Bobby’s. I’m glad the comparisons end there, however. I’ve always believed it was a mistake to kill off Kristin, and so I’m glad “Dallas” doesn’t repeat the error with Katherine. After her encounter with Cliff, she skips bail and flees town, allowing the producers to bring Brittany back whenever the show needed an angel of death. Katherine finally succeeds in “killing” Bobby when Patrick Duffy leaves the series in 1985, and then she returns again to pave the way for Pam’s disappearance after Victoria Principal’s exit two years later. It’s the major difference between Kristin and Katherine’s fates: One becomes the answer to a trivia question, while the other becomes a legend.
The rest of “Jamie” is the usual mixed bag from this era of “Dallas.” I get a kick out of the final scene, when Jamie arrives at Southfork and interrupts the Ewings lounging around their swimming pool. J.R.’s greeting (“Miss, I’m sorry, this is private property”) sounds like something a Texan would say to a stranger who shows up on the doorstep unannounced. I also like the earlier scene where Donna cooks a big meal for Ray to butter him up before breaking news she knows he won’t like. If this were another TV show, we might expect Donna to tell Ray that she accidentally dented the car, or that she splurged on new living room furniture. But this is “Dallas,” where Donna’s news is that she spent $10 million to buy her own oil company. To his credit, Ray doesn’t flip out — a sign, perhaps, that the humble cowboy has finally outgrown his inferiority complex from earlier seasons.
“Jamie” also includes references to characters from days gone by (Valene, Muriel, Afton), as well as Pam’s return to Herbert and Rebecca Wentworth’s Houston mansion for the first time since the fourth-season classic “The Prodigal Mother.” There’s also a fun scene where J.R. and Sue Ellen sit on the Southfork patio and discuss Katherine’s confession, which recalls Jock and Miss Ellie’s breakfast conversation after Kristin’s confession in 1980. The “Jamie” exchange also is notable because it includes J.R.’s memorable observation that his family has a penchant for attracting “weirdoes” like Katherine, Jessica Farlow and the “crackpot” who kidnapped Lucy. (In this instance, he’s referring to obsessive photographer Roger Larson, although he could just have easily been talking about Willie Gust or even himself.)
Speaking of Lucy: Perhaps the best moment in “Jamie” belongs to Charlene Tilton, who delivers a surprisingly moving monologue when Ray discovers her character is working as a waitress at the Hot Biscuit roadside diner. When I watched these episodes as a kid, I remember everyone in my family thought this storyline was ridiculous. It doesn’t seem any more realistic now, but I nonetheless find myself admiring Lucy’s efforts to forge an identity outside her famous last name. So far, this is Tilton’s best storyline in years. And even if it isn’t your cup of tea, you have to admit: Lucy seems to be better at waitressing than modeling, don’t you think?
Season 8, Episode 4
Airdate: October 19, 1984
Audience: 21 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings
Writer: David Paulsen
Director: Nick Havinga
Synopsis: After J.R. stops Katherine from poisoning Bobby, she confesses to the shooting and is arrested, only to skip bail later. Bobby regains his eyesight. Cliff’s success continues to rattle J.R. Lucy begins waitressing. Donna buys a small oil company. A young woman arrives at Southfork and announces she is Jamie Ewing, daughter of Jock’s late brother, Jason.
Cast: Norman Bennett (Al), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Jenny Gago (Nurse), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Jenilee Harrison (Jamie Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Randolph Mantooth (Joe Don Ford), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Marina Rice (Angela), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Danone Simpson (Kendall), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), Kathleen York (Betty)