Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 175 — ‘Odd Man Out’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Odd Man Out, Patrick Duffy

Raising the bar

“Odd Man Out” is the 12th “Dallas” episode directed by Larry Hagman, who demonstrates once more that he’s as talented behind the camera as he is in front of it. The main storyline finds Bobby depressed because he believes Jenna dumped him to reunite with her ex-husband Naldo; little does Bob know Naldo is actually holding Jenna captive. This isn’t the richest material in the show’s history, but Hagman makes it compelling nonetheless. He also rewards the audience with several scenes that draw upon the history of the characters and their relationships. With the exception of Leonard Katzman and a few others, did anyone know “Dallas” better than its biggest star?

“Odd Man Out’s” most suspenseful moment comes at the end of the second act, when Naldo leaves Jenna alone to pay their hotel bill. She sneaks into a phone booth, drops a coin in the slot and punches the buttons. An operator comes on the line and tells her the call will cost a dollar. “Damn. Come on,” Jenna says as she dumps change out of her purse, sorts it quickly and inserts more coins. Cut to Southfork, where Bobby sits on the patio, reading a newspaper as the phone next to him begins ringing. He doesn’t answer it right away (is he waiting for Raoul or Teresa?), and when he finally picks up and says hello, Hagman cuts back to the phone booth — where Naldo takes the receiver from Jenna’s hand and hangs up. “Don’t ever try anything like that again,” he says.

The episode takes another dramatic turn at the end. J.R., Sue Ellen and Jamie have taken Bobby out to dinner, hoping to cheer him up. Bobby proposes a toast: “To Jenna Wade and the life she’s chosen for herself, wherever she is and whomever she’s with.” Hagman then cuts to a shot of Jenna, lying unconscious on a hotel floor. A lamp is knocked over, the sleeve of her blouse is torn and there’s a gun in her hand. As she slowly awakens, two police officers burst into the room. “Freeze, lady,” one says. “Drop the gun. Drop it!” Jenna looks bewildered and glances over her shoulder — where she sees Naldo’s dead body. Freeze the frame, roll the credits.

Other standout scenes in “Odd Man Out” showcase the “Dallas” characters. In one sequence, J.R. is having lunch with Mandy when he receives a call from Dora Mae, who tells him Bobby is drinking heavily at the Oil Baron’s Club. J.R. doesn’t hesitate to leave Mandy’s side so he can help his brother. (Something similar will happen in the eighth-season finale, “Swan Song,” except the circumstances will be dire.) Later, J.R. bucks up Bobby by reminding him that Christopher needs him; besides recalling a conversation years earlier where Bobby pulls J.R. out a depressive slump, this moment reminds us how good Hagman and Patrick Duffy are together. In another fun sequence, J.R. plays cupid in reverse: He runs into Pam and makes sure she knows how upset Bobby is over his breakup with Jenna, and then J.R. tells Bobby that Pam is too busy with her search for Mark to care about his problems.

Speaking of Pam: Victoria Principal is wonderful in the scene where Benton, the owner of the San Serrano medical clinic, tells Pam that Mark is alive. The actress cries and laughs at once, which gives the audience the odd sensation of being happy for Pam even though we suspect J.R. is behind her wild goose chase. Hagman also allows “Dallas’s” other leading lady, Linda Gray, a chance to shine. The script doesn’t give Sue Ellen much to do, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook her. In two scenes, Sue Ellen asks other characters where J.R. is. In each instance, Gray delivers her lines with just the right amount of doubt and suspicion, letting us know that Sue Ellen realizes her husband is up to his old tricks again.

“Odd Man Out” also illustrates Hagman’s eye for detail. The episode’s opening shot is a close-up of caviar being dished onto a plate — a signal, perhaps, that the competitive Hagman wanted his show to cede no ground in “Dallas’s” rivalry with glitzy “Dynasty.” Hagman also understood the need for balance, though, which is why he shows Ray, Donna and Dave Culver enjoying a down-home meal around the Krebbs’ dining room table. Ray and Donna are bringing Dave up to speed on Jamie’s claims about Ewing Oil’s ownership, and at one point Ray pauses to ask Dave if he’d care for some corn. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn Hagman suggested this gesture to make the scene feel more realistic. Think about it: When you watch “Dallas” dinner scenes helmed by other directors, do you ever hear someone ask to pass the salt?

Other highlights include a nice subplot about Clayton challenging Miss Ellie’s devotion to her sons by pointing out they are grown men who can take care of themselves. No matter how you feel about Donna Reed’s casting as Ellie, you have to appreciate how the show continues to give meaningful material to its oldest actors. The producers’ efforts to keep Lucy in the spotlight aren’t as successful. In this episode, she shuts off Eddie’s alarm so he’ll sleep in and skip work to spend the day with her. He’s angry when he wakes up and discovers this, and who can blame him? Did Lucy learn nothing from her too-brief foray into the working world?

On the other hand, when Lucy offers to support Eddie financially and he balks, she points out that if the roles were reversed, he probably wouldn’t think twice about supporting her. This is a good point. Lucy may not know much about the real world, but at least she recognizes sexism when she sees it.

Grade: A

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, Jenna Wade, Odd Man Out, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley

Odd woman out

‘ODD MAN OUT’

Season 8, Episode 14

Airdate: December 28, 1984

Audience: 20.8 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Larry Hagman

Synopsis: J.R. urges Bobby to get over losing Jenna. Miss Ellie and Clayton disagree over her involvement in her sons’ lives. Pam visits a Caribbean clinic that Mark supposedly visited two months earlier. Eddie quits his job. Jenna awakens next to Naldo’s dead body as police officers enter the room.

Cast: Don Banning (Roy Crowley), Burke Byrnes (Pete Adams), Pat Colbert (Dora Mae), Timothy J. Cutt (Leonard Boyle), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Tom Fuccello (Senator Dave Culver), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Jenilee Harrison (Jamie Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Fredric Lehna (Eddie Cronin), Michael McRae (Benton), Daniel Pilon (Renaldo Marchetta), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Donna Reed (Miss Ellie Farlow), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Danone Simpson (Kendall), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis)

“Odd Man Out” is available on DVD and at Amazon and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. After this episode, in the UK, we had a break of about six weeks, this was the BBC’s reaction to the fact that apparently ITV ( another major network), had bought the show from Autumn ’85. Apparently BBC were going to hold back and show the ’84-85 episodes against the ’85-’86 episodes on the other channel. Dallas finished in July ’85 and we had to wait until March ’86 for the ‘dream’ season. Not so fun times! But it did stay on BBC1.

    I love the critiques, but surely no need to mention every episode the actor playing Ellie? Donna did a fine job, in an awful situation (as it turned out).

    • This is good information, Mr. Dineen. I know next to nothing about the U.K. telecasts, so I appreciate your insight.

      As far as Donna Reed: I agree that she did a fine job and made the best of a bad situation. I’m sorry if that’s not coming through in my critiques. I hope it doesn’t seem like I’m criticizing her unfairly, because that’s not my intent.

      Thanks again for your feedback.

      CB

    • Yes, I’d almost forgotten that bizarre interruption to our Dallas viewing – I’m glad it stayed on the BBC (no adverts – can you believe it Chris, us Brits watched the original Dallas, arguably the greatest TV series of all time with no commercial breaks!) but it was a bit childish of them.
      Also helps explain something that has been bugging me recently, we in the UK got a bit out of sync with the US for the later seasons of Dallas, I suppose this was the reason.

      • This has always struck me as unfortunate. The U.K. has some of the world’s best “Dallas” fans, and yet you’re always getting the short end of the stick when it comes to seeing the show!

  2. What was amazing C.B. & Andy was how the sexual or romantic relationship between Miss Ellie & Clayton was promoted & encouraged. Just as the romance before between Jock & Miss Ellie was. Which shows that there can be love, nay a bonding love established even among folks heading into being senior citizens.

  3. Bobby surely didn’t fight a whole lot to get his women back, did he? Same with Pam a couple of years later. He doesn’t even try to figure what happened, let alone do something about it. “What? She disappears for no rewason? Well, damn her! Let me get drunk, start a brawl and move on.”

    • Q-Less, you’re so right! Thanks, as always.

    • Maryann says:

      Yes Q-Less you are so right Bobby did not fight much to get his women back but in this situation it is understandable deep down he was still in love with Pam. What is also understandable is him not fighting hard to get back Pam in their first divorce because of Katherine he thought Pam feelings changed and she did not love him like before and wanted a life without him so he selflessly let her go. What is not understandable is him not searching the ends of the earth for Pam when she disappeared after the accident and the divorce papers she sent him. Then again it was Katzman getting back at VP and the character of Pam for VP refusing to stay so he made a mockery of the character and let fans down by not giving Pam a respectable exit and fans a good closure.

  4. I’m delighted you gave special mention to the Ray, Donna and Dave dinner because that’s indeed how it felt to me – super real. I loved those moments in Dallas where the characters’ behavior was so relatable and familiar. Scenes like that tethered the outrageous drama down to earth so magically. I think it’s quite challenging to achieve that balance and Dallas did it remarkably well much of the time.

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