Jenna Wade goes to jail in “Lockup in Laredo,” which is cause for celebration as far as I’m concerned. This is when Stephen Elliott arrives as Scotty Demarest, the high-dollar super lawyer who defended Jock Ewing against murder charges during “Dallas’s” third season and returns here to do the same for Priscilla Beaulieu Presley’s character. With his flamboyant style and thick drawl, Elliott makes Scotty a Texas version of Johnnie Cochrane. He’s a joy to watch and one of the best things about the Jenna-in-jeopardy storyline that dominates this era of the show.
Elliott shines every time he appears in “Lockup in Laredo,” although his best moment comes when Scotty questions Jenna in the jailhouse conference room. The scene begins with Jenna tired of rehashing the events that preceded her arrest and confident she didn’t fire the shots that killed her ex-husband, Naldo. But Scotty’s relentless questioning makes her re-consider everything she thinks she knows about the creep’s demise. Elliott, who honed his talent on the New York stage, forces Presley to keep up with him, bringing out the best in her performance. The contrast between his bulldog theatrics and her quiet, exhausted frustration makes their almost five-minute exchange a scene to remember. (Or “re-mem-buh,” as Scotty would say.)
“Lockup in Laredo” is the 10th “Dallas” episode helmed by Patrick Duffy, who once again demonstrates his knack for visual storytelling. In one scene, Bobby and Scotty examine the evidence found in Naldo’s car. This conversation could have been staged in a conference room too, but Duffy instead brings the characters to the impound lot, filming himself and Elliott inside the vehicle as they poke around the backseat and glove box. It helps the audience feel part of the action, and it’s always nice to see the actors in a new environment. In that spirit, I like the scene that shows Jackie relaxing at home when Cliff calls her, marking one of the few times we see a “Dallas” secretary in her own living space.
Duffy also does a nice job staging “Lockup in Laredo’s” pivotal final scene, which pulls together multiple narrative threads. We’ve been waiting several episodes for Sue Ellen to realize J.R. is getting bored in their marriage. We’ve also been waiting to see what Jamie will do with the legal document that could divide control of Ewing Oil among Jock, Jason and Digger’s heirs. Both storylines come to a head when J.R. arrives home and is confronted by Jamie, who spotted him cheating with Serena earlier in the day. When Sue Ellen overhears the conversation and questions her husband, he accuses Jamie of lying, prompting her to threaten to use her document against him. Sure, this is convoluted plotting, but you have to admire “Dallas’s” ability to advance two subplots in one swoop.
The other reason I like this scene is because it backs J.R. into a corner, which is where he’s always at his best (or worst, as the case may be). Let’s face it: As much as we all love Larry Hagman’s character, he’s gotten a little dull this season. David Paulsen’s script acknowledges as much when Miss Ellie and Clayton stand on the Southfork patio and discuss how troubled everyone at the ranch is these days — with the exception of J.R., who is being downright princely. “Isn’t it funny when everything else is going so badly, he’s the one bright spot in the family?” Ellie says. The moment these words pass her lips, you know she’s going to regret them.
I also enjoy seeing Ray and Donna take another turn as this show’s version of “McMillan and Wife,” this time combing through Sam Culver’s old legal papers to find evidence to refute Jamie’s claims about Ewing Oil’s ownership. This feels a little more organic than their investigation last year into Edgar Randolph’s past, although I’m always bewildered by this show’s inability to give Steve Kanaly and Susan Howard a storyline of their own. (By the way, what’s going on with the oil company Donna bought a few episodes ago?) Likewise, I have mixed feelings about Lucy’s storyline. I wish she had stuck with waitressing a little longer, although I’m intrigued by her foray into the real estate business in “Lockup in Laredo.” It’s not what I would have expected from her, but hey, at least she isn’t being kidnapped again.
‘LOCKUP IN LAREDO’
Season 8, Episode 15
Airdate: January 4, 1985
Audience: 22.3 million homes, ranking 3rd in the weekly ratings
Writer: David Paulsen
Director: Patrick Duffy
Synopsis: After Jenna is arrested for Naldo’s murder, Bobby hires Scotty Demarest to defend her. Jamie catches J.R. cheating with Serena and confronts him, unaware that Sue Ellen is eavesdropping. Mandy grows tired of Cliff. Ray and Donna find evidence that Jamie’s document is real. Pam finds no trace of Mark in Jamaica. Lucy suggests she and Eddie go into the real estate business.
Cast: Beau Billingslea (Dr. Miller), Stephanie Blackmore (Serena Wald), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), James Cromwell (Gerald Kane), Val De Vargas (Patrick Wolfe), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Stephen Elliott (Scotty Demarest), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), 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 Lehne (Eddie Cronin), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Donna Reed (Miss Ellie Farlow), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)