“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.
‘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)