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.
‘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)