Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 167 — ‘Shadow of a Doubt’

Dallas, Pam Ewing, Shadow of a Doubt, Victoria Principal

Chasing ghosts

Pam shifts into girl-detective mode in “Shadow of a Doubt,” searching for the truth about Mark Graison’s death. She leaves no stone unturned, seemingly questioning everyone who shared a connection with her onetime fiancé — his maid, his lawyer, even his florist — and ultimately concludes Mark might still be alive. Victoria Principal brings the right balance of determination and puzzlement to each of these scenes; it’s been years since she’s dominated an episode so thoroughly. Nevertheless, I find it hard to get excited about this storyline. Was anyone clamoring for Mark’s return in 1984? Wouldn’t you rather see Pam pouring herself into fighting for Bobby?

On the other hand: Bobby isn’t quite the catch he once was, is he? Consider: He now knows that Katherine forged the letter that broke up his marriage to Pam. He’s also admitted to J.R. that he still loves his ex-wife. And as far as Bobby knows, Mark is out of the picture for good and Pam is finally free. So why hasn’t Bobby returned to her? I suppose “Dallas” wants us to believe Bobby is genuinely torn between two women, given how hard the show is selling the Bobby/Jenna pairing. “Shadow of a Doubt” even sends Patrick Duffy and Priscilla Beaulieu Presley to a waterpark, where Bobby proposes to Jenna as they go down a slide together. (She accepts, of course, although the dubbing in this scene isn’t the greatest: Notice how Presley’s lips don’t move while they’re on the slide, even though Bobby and Jenna banter the whole way down.) It’s a cute scene, but given what we know about Bobby’s sense of duty and honor, I can’t help but wonder why he’s proposing to one woman when his heart belongs to another.

J.R. is a little easier to love in “Shadow of a Doubt,” which showcases Larry Hagman’s comedic talents more than most episodes. In the scene where Sly tells J.R. that Cliff is convinced he’s behind Westar’s offer to merge with Barnes-Wentworth, Hagman looks tickled to deliver J.R.’s response: “You know the wonderful thing about being me, Sly? With my reputation, I don’t have to do a damn thing. Everybody thinks that I’m behind half the deals in Dallas anyway.” There’s also some fun interplay between Linda Gray and Hagman at the waterpark, where Sue Ellen catches J.R. checking out two shapely women in sexy swimwear. She cuts him a dirty look, although he’s so distracted, it takes him awhile to realize he’s been caught. Guess our hero isn’t as smooth as he thinks.

Another scene shows J.R. at his best — and worst. When Sue Ellen reveals the makeover she’s given Jamie — complete with a fancy new dress — J.R. says, “It’s amazing what a few thousand dollars can do, isn’t it?” This seems unusually cruel, even for him. J.R.’s next zinger is more keeping with his style: “What’s next? Are we going to cap her teeth?” I also like how director Nick Havinga uses the Southfork set here. The sequence begins with J.R. coming home and fixing himself a drink in the living room. Sue Ellen enters, tells him she has a surprise and leads him into the foyer, where Jamie comes down the stairs and shows off her new look. After J.R. insults her, Jamie runs away followed by Sue Ellen, and then J.R. glides into the dining room, where Teresa asks if he’ll be dining alone. “Yeah, it seems like it, doesn’t it?” J.R. says. Three scenes in three rooms, each one flowing seamlessly into the next.

Two other scenes in “Shadow of a Doubt” remind me how this era of “Dallas” has more in common with the period depicted on “Mad Men” than the one we live in now. In the first, Lucy and Betty get into an argument over Eddie and splash water in each other’s faces. It’s silly and slightly demeaning to the characters, although I appreciate how this clash between two waitresses contrasts with the silly catfights we were getting between the bejeweled, bedazzled women of “Dynasty” at the time. Later, when Cliff tells Mandy her job is to make coffee and clean the house, she doesn’t tell him to get lost — she waits until he leaves for work and then calls information (remember doing that?) and asks for the number to a daily maid service. Sigh.

“Shadow of a Doubt” also includes quite a few nods to the past, including a possible inside joke: Bobby tells Donna her oil company used to be owned by “Bill Duke,” which also happens to be the name of a director who helmed two sixth-season “Dallas” episodes. (Duke also played sharecropper Seth Foster in “Dallas: The Early Years.”) Meanwhile, two faces familiar to longtime “Dallas” fans appear: Mark’s maid Rosa is played by Irma P. Hall, who was so wonderful as Tilly the caterer in “Barbecue,” while the Graison florist is played by Randy Moore, who was stuffy Reverend Thornwood in “Double Wedding.”

Speaking of familiar faces: There’s another one I’d like to see, and it belongs to Miss Ellie, who has now been missing from the show for more than six episodes. Her absence was felt most acutely after Bobby’s shooting, although I also wonder how her presence might have affected my response to Jamie’s debut in the previous episode. If Jamie had received the Mama seal of approval during the newcomer’s first appearance, might I have warmed up to her? (Eh, probably not.) The bottom line is Miss Ellie is missed, and it will be good to have her back in the next episode — even if she’s not quite herself when she arrives.

Grade: B

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Jenna Wade, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, Shadow of a Doubt

Down they go

‘SHADOW OF A DOUBT’

Season 8, Episode 6

Airdate: November 2, 1984

Audience: 23 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Leonard Katzman

Director: Nick Havinga

Synopsis: Pam discovers evidence that suggests Mark might still be alive. Bobby proposes to Jenna. Sue Ellen defends Jamie from J.R.’s insults. Lucy and Betty fight over Eddie.

Cast: Norman Bennett (Al), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Irma P. Hall (Rosa), Jenilee Harrison (Jamie Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Cherilyn James (Waitress), Rick Jason (Avery Carson), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Fredric Lehne (Eddie Cronin), Robert Magruder (White), Stephan Mazurek (Deliveryman), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Randy Moore (Florist), Jim Ponds (Lewis), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Marina Rice (Angela), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Danone Simpson (Kendall), William Smithers (Jeremy Wendell), Christopher Stone (Dave Stratton), David Stump (Tommy Hart), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Kathleen York (Betty)

“Shadow of a Doubt” is available on DVD and at Amazon and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. I did not find Pam playing girl detective interesting at all, was it a way keep Pam distracted from pinning for Bobby to sell the Bobby/Jenna pairing? Mark died in he plane crash just leave it at that!!! , are we clamoring for his return??? Mark was a temporary wedge between Pam and Bobby nothing else, to have him placed as center in a story is pointless. I would rather see Pam pour herself into work at Barnes Wentworth and go after Bobby to get him back. I thought this would have been better if the script was good for a Jenna/Bobby/Pam storyline, if Morgan Fairchild was Jenna or if PP was a better actress. The Lucy/Betty fight was silly as Lucy as an waitress, but here it is again with the writers not knowing what to do with Lucy.

  2. Recall the “DALLAS Parallels here is you will C.B. In this episode, Mandy calls in a maid service. As does a Mrs. Lucy Ewing Cooper when she & Dr. Mitchell Cooper were first married & 1st gained ownership of The Ewing Condo, thanks to Uncle J.R. & Grandpa Jock!

  3. I love how Victoria is back to Principal lady status this season. She is so beautiful, captivating. Really believable and natural in her role her now. Mark deserves her more than Bobby at this point even though we all want her with Bobby. And it shows what a determined and nice lovely person Pam is to be so honourable in trying to help Mark. With Jamie, Jenna and the new Miss Ellie not quite taking off/lack lustre, thank goodness for Victoria’s Pam back in the lead :O)

  4. Jennifer Irons says:

    I never bought the whole Bobby/Jenna pairing! I loved Priscilla Presley as Jenna, but Jenna, to me, was too bitchy to Pam all the time when she could have been a little more gracious towards her. Bobby always belonged with Pam, IMHO! Also, I never took a liking to Jamie Ewing and I was not a big fan of Jenilee Harrison as Jamie either! Jamie was unnecessary to the show!

  5. Anonymous says:

    This episode was the highest-rated episode of Dallas in (West) Germany with 18 mio people watching it.

  6. To be fair up to this episode Bobby still didn’t know that Pam was just marrying Mark because he was dying.Of course Bobby now knows that Katherine forged that letter that resulted in him and Pam divorcing but he still doesn’t have all the facts.So Bobby may have thought Pam still wanted the divorce even though he was manipulated by Katherine.However i do wonder when Bobby finds out that Pam still thinks Mark is alive and is searching for him why Bobby doesn’t wonder why Mark would fake his death on the verge of him and Pam marrying.Plus later during this season when Pam does tell Bobby that she was only marrying Mark because she found out he was dying she asks Bobby you didn’t know why i was marrying Mark?However the question becomes how would Bobby have known that Pam was onlymarrying Mark because he was dying?

  7. Dan in WI says:

    Was anybody clambering for the return of Mark Graison at this point? I doubt it. But it was the plot device that kept Pam from carrying through on her threat and putting her full attention into joining Cliff in the feud/fight against JR.

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