Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 189 — ‘Deeds and Misdeeds’

Dallas, Deeds and Misdeeds, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Bottle shock

Sue Ellen’s scenes in “Deeds and Misdeeds” aren’t easy to watch. The previous episode ended with her taking her first drink in almost two years, and in this hour, she continues slipping back into her old habits. Sue Ellen leads everyone to believe her relapse was only temporary, yet she swipes a bottle of vodka from the living room and stuffs it in her purse when no one is looking. Alcohol is once again overpowering her, which director Michael Preece brilliantly symbolizes in one scene by filming Linda Gray through the bottles on the Southfork liquor cart. It’s as if the booze is bigger than she is.

As much as I love this shot, no moment in “Deeds and Misdeeds” is more powerful than Sue Ellen’s visit to John Ross in the hospital. She’s wracked with guilt — the reason she fell off the wagon in the first place is because J.R. accused her of being a neglectful mother when their son fell ill with appendicitis — and Gray’s tentative body language does as much to convey her character’s remorse as her tears. Sue Ellen approaches the child slowly, then tenderly strokes his hair and says, “I’m so sorry. Mommy should have been here so you didn’t have to go through that operation alone.” John Ross tells her that “it wasn’t your fault” and wraps his arms around her neck, which might be the saddest thing I’ve ever witnessed on this show. This sweet little boy isn’t hesitating to forgive his mother, yet we know it’ll be a long time before she can forgive herself.

Although it’s hard to see Sue Ellen fall behind after making so much progress during the past two seasons, I’m glad “Dallas” is finally showcasing Gray, who’s been relegated to the background for too long. “Deeds and Misdeeds” continues the show’s late-season course correction in other areas too, including the storyline over the lawsuit to control Ewing Oil. The mysterious Jack brings his cousins J.R., Bobby and Ray to California to meet wealthy Wallace Windham, a figure from Jock’s past who has information that could tilt the suit in the Ewings’ favor. The audience won’t discover what Windham knows until the next episode, but no matter. At least we get to see the Ewing men looking cooler than ever as they stroll across Windham’s driveway. It’s not as neat as the slow-motion walk from “Reservoir Dogs,” but it’ll do.

“Deeds and Misdeeds” also features a cute scene in which J.R. shows up in John Ross’s hospital room with a toy robot — Daddy looks awfully pleased with himself, doesn’t he? — as well as the impromptu wedding of Cliff and Jamie, which demonstrates how isolated Ken Kercheval’s character is from the rest of the show. Cliff asks Jordan Lee to be his best man, a somewhat surprising choice since I rarely think of these two characters as being particularly close. Other oddities include Clayton expressing surprise to learn Jock was married before Ellie — how has she not mentioned this before? — as well as Mandy’s near-orgasmic reaction when J.R. embraces her during a visit to her dressing room. If this is all it takes for J.R. to send a woman into a fit of ecstasy, no wonder he’s such a popular fellow.

Speaking of unsubtle moments: Let’s discuss the dramatic encounter between Mitch, his ex-wife Lucy and his current squeeze Joanna. It begins with Mitch and Lucy chatting in the hospital corridor about how much they’ve matured since their divorce. When she says she’s proud of him and offers a friendly hug, he notices Joanna is watching and calls her over. “Hi, Joanna,” Mitch says. “I’d like to introduce you to Lucy Ewing. Lucy, this is Joanna Pearce.” Actress Cynthia Leake says, “Hello,” … and then she delivers a Shatner-esque pause while cutting Charlene Tilton the most withering glare in the history of 1980s prime-time soap operas. This is what the kids now refer to as “throwing shade,” except that doesn’t do it justice. Tilton does a nice job looking appropriately rattled, which Joanna ignores as she turns to Mitch and says, “Well, I’ll talk to you later.” Leake then exits the scene, but not before Joanna looks Lucy up and down one last time.

This is Leake’s second “Dallas” appearance — she also played one of Peter’s fellow camp counselors in the seventh-season episode “My Brother’s Keeper” — and it demonstrates how actors in small roles can leave lasting impressions on “Dallas.” In a way, it also speaks to the resiliency of Tilton’s character. If Lucy can survive a look this dirty, she might be the hardiest Ewing of all.

Grade: B

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, Deeds and Misdeeds, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Tin men

‘DEEDS AND MISDEEDS’

Season 8, Episode 28

Airdate: May 3, 1985

Audience: 18.2 million homes, ranking 3rd in the weekly ratings

Writer: David Paulsen

Director: Michael Preece

Synopsis: Jack introduces the Ewing brothers to Wallace Windham, who supplies them with evidence Jock owned Ewing Oil. After falling off the wagon, Sue Ellen hides her drinking from the Ewings. Cliff marries Jamie.

Cast: Roseanne Christiansen (Teresa), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Susan French (Amanda Ewing), Paul Gleason (Lieutenant Lee Spaulding), 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), John Larch (Wally Windham), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Leigh McCloskey (Dr. Mitch Cooper), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Dack Rambo (Jack Ewing), Donna Reed (Miss Ellie Farlow), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

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

Comments

  1. Linda Gray is class here. Really on the mark acting. Very observant Chris about filming through the bottles and alcohol looking bigger than she did. I would never have thought of that. You see things with such astute, fresh and different eyes than me, I’d never pick up on those touches. Most odd indeed about Miss Ellie’s lack of back fill to Clayton and while Mandy may have been brinking, her character is now creating an eye roll to the ceiling.

    • Dan, thanks for your kind words. I think I’ve gotten better at catching stuff like the shot of Sue Ellen and the bottles. There’s still a lot of stuff that I miss. In this episode, I forgot to point out how silly it is to think Jock would give important papers on the ownership of Ewing Oil to Amanda for safekeeping. I mean, this woman lives in a mental institution for goodness sakes!

      • Let me point out Christopher Ewing Global that its not really surprising that Mrs. Ewing Farlow kept the secret from Clayton & why should it, Late Husband John Ross Ewing Sr., aka “Jock” kept it secret from her & the family for over 40 years. So she was probably ashamed as it were to tell Clayton that their marriage was 2nd marriages for both of them!

      • Perhaps. But Ellie was such an open-minded woman, I figured she would’ve told Clayton before that moment.

  2. Whilst it’s a bit unlikely I agree (on the other hand, nobody would think of looking there if Jock was trying to hide them!) I like the fact that the Dallas writers remembered Amanda and made use of the character all these years later – was she played by the same actress still?
    Anyway, not long now before you get to Swan Song and the infamous Dream Season, can’t wait for your critiques of those episodes which sees Dallas roller coaster from its best to worst episode all in one season!

  3. It was great to see Linda Gray show casing her talents which had been in the background for too long, the problem I had with it is why does it always have to do with Sue Ellen’s drinking or about JR cheating on her or treating her badly. I also did not think of this until you pointed it out in your comment CB, would Jock have given such important papers for safe keeping to a mentally ill woman in a mental institution????? Any way great as usual CB and you are coming down to the wire and one of the happiest and saddest scenes in Dallas history (the short long awaited reunion of my favorite couple and the “death” of one of the show’s core characters.) Oh I am treading the end because what follows is one of the worst Season’s (except for a couple of episodes) in Dallas history and also the first Season I never watched all episodes due to stupid writing and the return of a character I hated!!!!

  4. Loved this critique! You’ve decoded quite a lot here. I relate to your special mention of the shot between the bottles. That struck me too. It felt like the liquor was an actual character, a sneaky villain with an invisible scope trained on Sue Ellen’s head. Found myself hating the alcohol which makes no sense at all, I realize. Maybe that attests to Linda’s ability to portray the human condition so honestly though; instead of impatience or disappointment with Sue Ellen’s drinking, I felt mostly empathy. Same when she’s facing John Ross here.

    Also howling at your calling out Mandy’s orgasmic bliss from JR’s dressing room hug. The man’s certainly got sparkle and swag but that was hilarious. Cheers, Corina

  5. “as well as Mandy’s near-orgasmic reaction when J.R. embraces her during a visit to her dressing room. If this is all it takes for J.R. to send a woman into a fit of ecstasy, no wonder he’s such a popular fellow.”

    Perfection description on that scene. Things really heated up in that scene as it was the start of J.R’s and Mandy’s relationship.

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