Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 182 — ‘Shattered Dreams’

Dallas, Deborah Shelton, Mandy Winger, Shattered Dreams

Key lighting

It’s probably safe to say no “Dallas” episode would perform well on the Bechdel test, which some critics use to gauge sexism in movies. (To pass, a film must have at least one scene where two women talk to each other about something other than a man.) Nevertheless, there are times the series manages to resist its chauvinistic impulses. In “Shattered Dreams,” for example, Mandy refuses to allow J.R. to buy her an apartment, Lucy breaks up with Eddie when she discovers he cheated on her and Sue Ellen outsmarts a stranger who tries to flirt with her in a restaurant. It’s good to see each woman display more backbone than usual, even if they remain supporting players in the show’s male-dominated narrative.

Mandy’s storyline impresses me most. J.R. routinely uses his wealth to buy affection from the women in his life: He wooed Kristin with a closet full of new clothes, and during various stormy periods in his relationship with Sue Ellen, he’s used a new car, jewelry and a fur coat to get back in her good graces. J.R. tries this trick with mistress-in-waiting Mandy in “Shattered Dreams,” offering to set her up in a swanky condominium, but she tells him she won’t be a kept woman. “I know you’re rich, but I’m not for sale,” she says, tossing him the key to the apartment. It’s another reminder that Deborah Shelton’s character starts off being more independent and much smarter than I remembered.

Lucy, on the other hand, is a character for whom wisdom doesn’t come naturally. In “Shattered Dreams,” a guilty-yet-spiteful Betty visits Lucy and reveals she’s been sleeping with Eddie. Given Lucy’s habit of sticking with men after they’ve mistreated her, you might expect her to forgive Eddie. Instead, Lucy breaks up with him and ends their business partnership, calling it “the worst idea I’ve ever had in my life.” After all these years, Charlene Tilton’s character is finally learning from her mistakes. I’m relieved, though, that Lucy’s maturity hasn’t tempered her edge. When Eddie says he doesn’t want Betty, Lucy responds with one of the great “Dallas” lines: “Of course you don’t because she can’t set you up in your own building business. All she can do is sling hash and make love!”

Another scene demonstrates how much the once-demure Sue Ellen has changed. While sitting with Pam in a Hong Kong restaurant, the women are approached by a stranger who overheard someone refer to them as Ewings. When he introduces himself as a fellow Texan and wonders if they’re related to “ol’ J.R.,” Sue Ellen says they’re distant cousins. The stranger offers to buy the ladies a drink, but Sue Ellen responds neither one likes alcohol — prompting Pam to quickly put down the glass of wine she was about to raise to her lips. Victoria Principal’s timing is perfect and Linda Gray’s delivery is equal parts honey and acid, recalling Julia Sugarbaker’s memorable takedowns on “Designing Women.” It’s an amusing scene, although I must say: Sue Ellen is kind of hard on the guy. The role may be written as a lothario, but Bruce Baron portrays him as a genuinely friendly out-of-towner.

Speaking of Hong Kong: Sue Ellen and Pam’s scenes were actually shot there, marking the first time “Dallas” has left the country to film an episode. I’m not sure it adds much to the storyline, though, which involves Pam’s ho-hum search for her is-he-dead-or-isn’t-he fiancé, Mark Graison. Other scenes in “Shattered Dreams” also fall flat. When Cliff asks Jamie out to dinner, she suggests they get Chinese food. It’s meant to be a cute coincidence, but it feels forced. Later, during Betty and Lucy’s poolside confrontation, Kathleen York does her best to make her character seem awestruck by the grandeur of Southfork, which isn’t easy considering the scene was filmed on the show’s less-than-convincing patio soundstage. Eagle-eyed “Dallas” viewers also will notice Ray and Donna’s bedroom makes a rare appearance in this episode, although it doesn’t match the set used when the room appeared in the fifth-season classic “Adoption.” It’s also worth noting “Shattered Dreams” marks the debut of Mandy’s living room, which is decorated with framed pictures of herself. How wonderful.

Of course, even when the storytelling and production values on “Dallas” disappoint, it’s still worth revisiting the show to be reminded of the way we once lived. In one scene, J.R. hears Cliff leave a message on Mandy’s answering machine, pops the cassette out of the machine and replaces it with another. Even in the 1980s, it was pretty easy to hack someone else’s “data.” I also get a kick out of the end of the episode, when Bobby and Jenna go to the airport to meet Veronica Robinson, who is flying to Dallas to be a star witness at Jenna’s murder trial. (Groan.) While standing outside the airport gate, Bobby and Jenna become alarmed when a couple of airport security officers rush past them and board the plane — and so Bobby and Jenna follow them with no interference whatsoever.

In a similar spirit, I love this episode’s scene of Pam and Sue Ellen flying to Hong Kong. The characters sip iced tea, nibble on a plate of fruit and make polite small talk when a friendly stewardess drops by to ask if they’d care for a magazine to read. Principal and Gray look like they’re having a grand time, and who can blame them? I mean, besides the first-class service, check out all the legroom on their plane!

Grade: C

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, Deborah Shelton, Mandy Winger, Shattered Dreams

Wall of Mandy

‘SHATTERED DREAMS’

Season 8, Episode 21

Airdate: February 22, 1985

Audience: 21.9 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Nick Havinga

Synopsis: Pam and Sue Ellen arrive in Hong Kong. J.R. hides assets from Bobby and tries again to woo Mandy, who refuses his attempt to set her up in an apartment. Cliff and Jamie grow closer. Lucy breaks up with Eddie after learning he’s been cheating with Betty. Veronica agrees to testify on Jenna’s behalf, but she dies mysteriously before arriving in Dallas.

Cast: Bruce Baron (Benjamin Alan Moody), Philip Chan (Edward Chan), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), 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), Erik Holland (Conrad Buckhouser), 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), Veronica Robinson (Gail Strickland), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Danone Simpson (Kendall), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Kathleen York (Betty)

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

Comments

  1. Dan in WI says:

    It’s been years since I’ve seen this episode and it will probably be a couple years before it comes up again in my viewing schedule so I’m going off a spotty memory here.
    I loved the Chinese food suggestion of Jamie. But you are talking to the guy who’s two favorite Dallas running “gags” are both Cliff things: the pocket square and Chinese food. Again the memory may be off but I remember Cliff’s signature odd grin when Jamie made the suggestion and I just geeked out. So for me put this one in the nugget for the longtime fan catagory. But then I’ve always been a sucker for those.

    • I like the idea of the Chinese food thing too, but it didn’t seem very natural when it came up in the episode.

      Also: Love those pocket squares too!

      Thanks Dan.

  2. Miss Texas should have politely accepted a non alcoholic beverage 4 herself & say a 2nd white wine 4 pam. The man wasn’t being a perv, but just a friendly Texan & a 10 minute chat over a quick drink with his fellow Texans certainly wouldn’t have hurt the 2 ladies Christopher Ewing Decoder The Ist.

  3. Good critique again CB, but I do not have much to comment on this episode because it was not that interesting and kind of boring. The only thing I liked was Pam and Sue Ellen on their trip to try and find the dying idiot Mark. I also find it odd that Sue Ellen called that guy a jerk, he to me was not acting like one, the writing for this episode was not really good. The whole JR and Mandy thing was boring to me, I prefer JR and Sue Ellen and they were never my favorite couple. Anyway I think It truly deserved the C rating you gave it !!!

  4. Tony Ewing says:

    I loved Mandy Winger and how she was not falling for material possessions JR tried to buy her with. She really took no nonsense. I did think SE was a bit rude to the stranger as he was only making polite conversation but I really enjoyed their trip to Hong Kong.

    • Sue Ellen was a little rude, wasn’t she? I think if the actor had played the part differently, we might feel otherwise. He actually seemed kind of sweet.

  5. We do seem to have hit a rut with this and the next few episodes – Dallas is just treading water until the end of the season, something which couldn’t be said of any previous season.
    If they did have to fly VP and LG to Hong Kong ( and those 2 excellent actors deserved a holiday) why couldn’t they have come up with a decent subplot for Sue Ellen to get involved with?
    Maybe kidnapped by a Chinese martial Arts gang for a ransom and while being held on their secret island learn words of wisdom from a Confucian type guru which will help her in the future get even with JR?

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