Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 172 — ‘Barbecue Five’

Barbecue Five, Dallas, Fern Fitzgerald, Jamie Ewing, Jenilee Harrison, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Marilee Stone

The middle

“Barbecue Five” ranks among “Dallas’s” best barbecue episodes because it delivers almost everything we expect from a Ewing hoedown. There’s a fight, a dunking in the Southfork swimming pool and a dramatic revelation, along with crowds of people dancing, drinking and sweltering under the Texas sun. The only thing missing is a scene of two characters sneaking off to the barn for a romantic interlude, although we do get to see Jeremy Wendell wearing a cowboy hat. That alone is worth the price of admission, as far as I’m concerned.

This episode is probably best remembered for the clash between Jamie Ewing and Marilee Stone. “Dallas” doesn’t do a lot of catfights, so when these scenes occur, they almost always feel justified. (The best examples: Pam striking Katherine and Donna socking Bonnie, the barfly who slept with Ray.) In this instance, Jamie spots Marilee pawing J.R. and confronts her. Insults are exchanged, and then Marilee slaps Jamie, who retaliates by pushing Marilee into the pool. This is the first time I find myself cheering for Jenilee Harrison, whose character I’ve found hard to embrace, although I also admire how Fern Fitzgerald plays the obnoxious, overbearing Marilee to the hilt. Of course, both actresses end up being upstaged by Larry Hagman, who delivers one of the immortal “Dallas” lines when J.R. reaches into the pool to retrieve Marilee and asks, “You all right honey? Did it go up your nose?” Why do I get the feeling Hagman is ad-libbing here?

It’s also fun to see how smoothly each scene flows into the next. An example: Lucy and Eddie are dancing, and as they move out of camera range, J.R. and Sue Ellen enter the frame. We listen to their conversation for a few moments, and then J.R. nods to Bobby and Jenna, and the focus shifts to them. It’s all seamless, with one exception: a shot of Ray and Donna kissing becomes a scene in which Sue Ellen, J.R. and Jeremy talk shop while strolling through the crowd — except when Steve Kanaly and Susan Howard lock lips, you can see Hagman, Linda Gray and William Smithers in the distance, waiting for their cue to begin walking and talking. This is a minor oversight, of course, and I don’t mind it in the least because it makes me appreciate how artfully director Gwen Arner orchestrates all the other transitions.

Like other barbecue episodes, “Barbecue Five” was filmed in the summer, which means the actors are forced to sweat through uncomfortable looking western-flavored costumes. Most of the women wear long dresses and cowgirl boots, while Hagman and Howard Keel each don sport coats and scarves. Also, notice how the back of Fredric Lehne’s shirt is soaked with perspiration when Eddie spins Lucy on the dance floor. Another tradition honored here: the dramatic, episode-ending revelation. Past barbecues have concluded with the news that Jock’s helicopter crashed and that Miss Ellie and Clayton have become engaged, while “Barbecue Five” ends with Jamie’s announcement that she’s entitled to a share of Ewing Oil. This signals the birth of one of “Dallas’s” most tiresome tropes during its later years, when the focus of the business storylines shifts from making deals to a never-ending game of musical owners.

“Barbecue Five” also gives us the memorable scene where J.R. and Mandy continue their cat-and-mouse flirtation while dining in a private box at Texas Stadium. Both characters are spying on each other — J.R. wants dirt on Cliff, while Mandy wants intelligence that she can report back to him — but their ulterior motives are slowly being overtaken by their mutual attraction to each other. We also learn a lot about Mandy here. She tells J.R., “I’ve always known I was beautiful,” yet the line makes the character seem more confident than conceited. A lot of that has to do with Deborah Shelton, who is so stunning, there’s no point in having her character pretend otherwise.

Other “Barbecue Five” highlights include Jeremy’s annoyance when Cliff crashes his private lunch (Ken Kercheval’s scenes with Smithers are almost as golden as the Hagman/Kercheval pairings), as well as Naldo’s dinner with Jenna and Charlie. Any appearance by Naldo usually elicits an eye roll from me, but I’ll be darned if I don’t find him kind of charming as he tells Charlie about idolizing Tom Mix during his boyhood in Italy. Meanwhile, with her exotic white-streaked hair, character actress Ronnie Claire Edwards is perfectly cast as Lydia, the psychic Pam consults in her quest to find Mark. I also like how Lydia tells Pam that a “tall,” “athletic” and “handsome” man will be coming back into her life. Gee, I wonder who she’s describing? Something tells me it isn’t Mr. Graison.

I also love “Barbecue Five’s” opening, when Sue Ellen brings Jamie to Ewing Oil for her first day of work as the receptionist. It’s routine now, but everything about this scene — Kendall teaching Jamie how to use the switchboard, Sue Ellen promising to return in the afternoon to take Jamie to lunch — seemed so glamorous when I watched this episode as a kid. How I wished I could work alongside J.R. and Bobby at Ewing Oil too!

Truth be told, I still do.

Grade: A


Barbecue Five, Dallas, Jeremy Wendell, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, William Smithers

Walk to remember


Season 8, Episode 11

Airdate: December 7, 1984

Audience: 21 million homes, ranking 3rd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Gwen Arner

Synopsis: J.R. woos Mandy. Naldo charms Charlie. Pam visits a psychic, hoping for clues about Mark’s death. Miss Ellie is upset when Clayton decides to continue commuting to Houston. Jamie begins working as a receptionist at Ewing Oil, and after J.R. angers her at the Ewing Barbecue, she shows the family a document that claims her father owned a piece of the company.

Cast: Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Ronnie Claire Edwards (Lydia), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Jenilee Harrison (Jamie Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Barry Jenner (Dr. Jerry Kenderson), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Fredric Lehne (Eddie Cronin), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Daniel Pilon (Renaldo Marchetta), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Donna Reed (Miss Ellie Farlow), Marina Rice (Angela), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Danone Simpson (Kendall), William Smithers (Jeremy Wendell), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis)

“Barbecue Five” is available on DVD and at Amazon and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.


  1. I also love the barbecue episodes – and Larry Hagman demonstrates yet again how he can make a not especially funny line hilarious – who can forget the immortal “are you getting good mileage out of Donna’s car?”
    Larry was especially good at comic performances in non-comedies – did you ever see his great performance in ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ and the original Superman Movie – priceless!

  2. I am reminded of a story Deborah S told about the Texas stadium scene. Apparently, Larry usually drank real alcohol in his scenes. She was a light drinker and being new she didn’t want to say no. After several takes, she began to slur etc. the team asked her what was going on and then realized they had got her drunk. After that, they always had ”Mandy” ask for tea.

  3. The waiting of the actors to start walking & talking doesn’t seem like a miscue C.B. At party’s there are people everywhere in the background, so it should seem obvious that Husband J.R., Miss Texas, & Mr. Wendell might be in the background scenery chatting be4fore being placed on the lead camera themselves.

  4. this is weird c.b. as my comment passed your moderation and now its gone

  5. The problem I had with the Jason-Ewing-share story line wasn’t so much the story itself but that it felt like a re-hash to the Who-will control-Ewing Oil? theme. The fight about Ewing Oil after Jock died felt more real even though it included a lot more outrageous twists. But Jock was really dead and viewers knew something had to happen with Ewing Oil. This new story line felt staged. Nobody heard or cared about Jason Ewing, but now his kids are the big players in the company? It hadn’t grown as organically as the first battle for Ewing Oil.

    Let’s face it: For Dallas’ long year run Jim Davis’ passing provided Dallas with so many more great stories than a living Jock ever could have. It influenced easily 3 or 4 seasons. Just acknowledging that Jock was really dead filled a whole season. Jason Ewing’s death just didn’t have the emotional impact. It came up too sudden with not enough prep-work for the viewers.

    • Yep, I agree, Q-Less. Thanks.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’d say this storyline is believable. If you are a successful company there are likely multiple bigger fish that would want to aquire you. Jamie/Jack may have stayed away from Ewing Oil at the request of father Jason. (Just guessing here. I don’t remember if this was ever addressed or not.) Then the father dies and the children are free to do what they want.
      There are other ways this could happen. The point is if you sucessful someone or something will always want a piece or maybe all. It makes sense Ewing Oil would go through this more than once.

  6. Tony Ewing says:

    The minute I saw the photo of JR with Marilee I smiled to myself as I remembered JR saying “did it go up your nose?”. Too funny.

    When Miss Eliie is asking Clayton to read the letter she has her back to the garage. At the end of the scene when the camera zooms out her back is to the gate!

    I think it was the scene where Mandy said she knows she is beautiful is the one when Larry Hagman played a practical joke on her and gave her real champagne to drink and by the end of the takes she was pretty well gone!!

    One of the better bbq’s! Loved the write up as usual!

  7. Maryann says:

    Great critique Chris. When Lydia tells Pam a man will be coming back into her life I was praying let it be Bobby not Mark please!!!!!!. Since she was a psychic when she said “of course he is alive” she said it in an up beat manner I realized it had to be Bobby Lydia was talking about. If it was Mark her tone would have been different and she would have said something about his illness. Anyway it gave me hope it was just a matter of when this Pam and Bobby awaited reunion will take place, which it was much sooner than the end of this season.

  8. I thought the scene with the medium was really fun and interesting because it’s not the type of thing you usually see on Dallas.

    Omg, when Cliff interrupted Jeremy Wendell’s lunch! 😀 Ken Kercheval and William Smithers are so wonderful. Jeremy was soooo irritated! I love it!

  9. Thx Chris great recap. Jamie in that thin top, little risqué you think?

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