Who doesn’t love the first scene in “Legacy of Hate”? Pam storms into J.R.’s office and demands to know why he sent her on a wild goose chase for her presumed dead fiancé, Mark Graison. J.R. plays dumb and denies everything, which only infuriates Pam more. She vows to get even by joining Cliff and Jamie’s legal fight to seize two-thirds of J.R.’s business. “You have one soft spot, one weakness — and that’s Ewing Oil, the only thing you’ve ever really loved,” Pam says. “Cliff and Jamie and I are going to take your company away from you. And then I’m going to watch you hurt.”
Hot damn! Often when these characters clash, J.R. threatens and Pam reacts. The dynamics here are reversed. At one point, she shouts, “Shut up! Just sit there and listen!” Under different circumstances, I might complain that a line like that further undercuts J.R., who’s already lost too much mojo this season. I could also point out that the wild goose chase scheme is unusually cruel, even by his standards. But if this is what it takes to reignite the spark in Victoria Principal’s character, I’m all for it. Make no mistake: This isn’t the namby-pamby Pam of recent seasons. This is Digger’s daughter, the fierce, feisty gal who refuses to be pushed around. Isn’t it nice to have her back?
I have to believe Principal is thrilled more than anyone. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen “Dallas” give the actress material like this; not even Pam’s years-in-the-making confrontation with Katherine was this emotionally charged. Larry Hagman is impressive too. Even though the audience knows J.R. is lying, you kind of want to believe him, don’t you? The scene also gives Hagman some fun one-liners, which he tosses off with typical effortless brilliance. (My favorite: “I never liked you a hell of a lot, you know that, Pam? But I never thought you were stupid until now.”) Is Hagman trying to upstage his co-star? Or is he merely giving her what she needs to get worked up? Whatever the case, their chemistry has never crackled quite like it does here.
Credit also goes to first-time “Dallas” director Robert Becker, who shows us what we need to see and then gets out of the actors’ way. When the sequence begins, Becker shoots Principal marching off the Ewing Oil elevator, through the reception area and into J.R.’s office. Once she’s inside the room, Becker keeps Hagman seated at the desk, allowing Principal to tower over him. The staging underscores how she’s dominating him. Another nice touch: Before Pam barges into the office, Kendall tries to stop her. Phyllis pipes up and says, “No, Kendall.” It’s telling that Phyllis would rather risk J.R.’s wrath than Pam’s.
The scene is easily one of “Dallas’s” best episode openings, ranking alongside the cattle drive that begins “Bypass” and Bobby’s heroics during the Southfork fire in “The Road Back.” Nothing else in “Legacy of Hate” matches the drama of J.R. and Pam’s confrontation, although Bobby and J.R.’s fight in the Southfork swimming pool comes close. I also like the episode’s quieter moments, including a good scene where Miss Ellie has a late-night heart-to-heart chat with J.R. in the Southfork kitchen. (He sips a beer, of course. Don’t the Ewing brothers ever drink milk to help them get back to sleep?) In another nice scene, Clayton offers to give Jamie one of his oil companies if she agrees to call off her lawsuit against the Ewings. It’s an outright bribe, but Howard Keel is so gentlemanly, he makes the offer seem perfectly honorable. I also like hearing Clayton refer to the Ewings as his family.
“Legacy of Hate” contains striking bit of continuity too: When J.R. plays Bobby the tape of his conversation with Cliff, the dialogue matches what he says when the exchange is depicted as a one-sided telephone call in “Déjà Vu.” The producers deserve applause for going to the trouble of making sure the two scenes sync, since I’m not sure even fervent fans would have noticed when these episodes aired weeks apart in 1985. I wish the same attention to detail was observed during “Legacy of Hate’s” next scene. After J.R. learns he’s been ratted out by Gerald Kane, the pilot he hired to lie to Pam, J.R. calls him and threatens to send over some “friends” if he doesn’t leave Texas right away. “Nobody, but nobody, double-crosses J.R. Ewing,” he says. True enough, but since when does J.R. give his enemies this kind of warning?
There’s also some humor in “Legacy of Hate,” although I’m not sure it’s intentional. When Mandy walks out on Cliff after Jamie interrupts their romantic dinner at home, she says, “I’m getting out, because three’s a crowd.” Could this be a sly reference to the sitcom that featured Jenilee Harrison before she arrived on “Dallas”? There’s an even funnier moment during J.R. and Bobby’s pool fight. After J.R. lands in the water and Bobby leaps into the water to punch him some more, watch Hagman. His face breaks into a comical, bug-eyed expression straight from his “I Dream of Jeannie” days. The expression is visible only a second, which makes me wonder if Hagman did it to amuse the crew, the stuntman or maybe just himself.
This is the kind of thing fans probably would have missed when this episode aired 30 years ago, before we all had the ability to search, scan, pause and replay scenes. Seeing it now is a reminder that no matter how many times we watch this show, there’s almost always something new to discover.
‘LEGACY OF HATE’
Season 8, Episode 18
Airdate: February 1, 1985
Audience: 22.2 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings
Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis
Director: Robert Becker
Synopsis: Pam and Bobby each confront J.R., who denies sending her on a wild goose chase. Cliff gains Pam as an ally in his fight with Jamie but loses Mandy’s support. The Ewings are stunned when Cliff and Jamie try to freeze Ewing Oil’s assets. Scotty tells Bobby they must find Naldo’s girlfriend, Veronica Robinson. Eddie cheats on Lucy with Betty.
Cast: Burke Byrnes (Pete Adams), Larry Cedar (Martin), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Lisa Cutter (Model), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Stephen Elliott (Scotty Demarest), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Rosemary Forsyth (Ann McFadden), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Jenilee Harrison (Jamie Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Fredric Lehne (Eddie Cronin), Sarah Partridge (Model), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Donna Reed (Miss Ellie Farlow), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Dean Santoro (Raymond Furguson), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Danone Simpson (Kendall), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson), Kathleen York (Betty)