Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 190 — ‘Deliverance’

Bobby Ewing, Charlie Wade, Dallas, Deliverance, Jenna Wade, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, Shalane McCall

To the victors

“Deliverance” is the next-to-last episode from “Dallas’s” eighth season, but if you didn’t know better, you might think it was the finale. By the end of the hour, the year’s two major storylines are resolved: Cliff and Jamie’s lawsuit to claim two-thirds of Ewing Oil ends in humiliating defeat, while Jenna gets out of prison when Naldo’s killer confesses. I can’t remember how I felt when this episode debuted 30 years ago, but I would imagine it befuddled more than a few viewers. They must have thought, “If the show is going to tie up all its loose ends here, what’s left for the season finale?”

The answer, of course, is that “Dallas” would end the year with Bobby’s death in “Swan Song,” which would become one of the show’s finest installments. “Deliverance” can’t match the power of that episode, but at least it rewards the viewers who stuck with the series throughout its eighth season. The scenes that resolve Naldo’s murder mystery are particularly satisfying, thanks almost entirely to Patrick Duffy. When Bobby finally comes face to face with Schumann, the hit man who framed Jenna for the killing, he offers to set up the man’s wife with a fat bank account if Schumann confesses. “You help my lady and I’ll help yours,” Bobby says. This is one of those lines that Duffy delivers in his signature, Eastwoodian whisper, which never fails to give me chills.

Since Schumann already is facing life in prison for another murder, he agrees to help Bobby and explains how he killed Naldo and framed Jenna. As he confesses, we see flashbacks that fill in the gaps surrounding the shooting. Not everything holds up, though. According to this episode, when Naldo enters the hotel room where he’s eventually murdered, Schumann knocks him out, places his body on a table and then grabs Jenna from behind while she’s waiting in the hall. When the killing occurs in “Odd Man Out,” however, Jenna is yanked into the room mere seconds after Naldo enters. It’s also a little silly how quickly the police accept Schumann’s confession, but no matter. At least this storyline is finally over.

I’m also not going to complain about the trial to determine Ewing Oil’s ownership, which is completed in record time. Wally Windham, the mysterious character introduced in the previous episode, testifies that he purchased Digger and Jason’s shares of Ewing Oil in 1931 — only to sell them to Jock the following year. Windham is the only witness at the trial, and despite his earlier assertion that his story was long and complicated, he manages to tell it pretty succinctly here. Likewise, am I the only who finds it absurd that Jock left the bill of sale giving him ownership of a multi-billion-dollar corporation with his ex-wife Amanda, who lives in a mental hospital? Once again, I suppose I shouldn’t quibble. The lawsuit over Ewing Oil wasn’t as dreary as the Naldo murder mystery, but it wasn’t a shining moment in “Dallas” history, either. What’s important now is that it’s over.

Given the sense of finality in “Deliverance,” it’s no wonder the producers decided to end this episode with a Ewing victory bash at the Oil Baron’s Club. This is a fun sequence because it brings together so many different characters — including Jordan and Marilee, who were rooting for Cliff and Jamie in the fight over the company. (During the trial, Jordan even shows his solidarity with Cliff by offering him a fist pump.) I also get a kick out of Marilee making a beeline for handsome Jack the moment he arrives at the party, although I’m equally intrigued by another shot that shows her chatting with Ray. In fact, the only character who seems to be missing from the celebration is Jenna’s lawyer Scotty Demarest. This is an especially egregious oversight when you consider all of Scotty’s theories about the case were proven correct, right down to the fact the murder weapon was equipped with a sy-lun-suh.

“Deliverance” also brings us more evidence of Sue Ellen’s sad spiral: J.R. finds her passed out drunk in her bed at the beginning of the episode, and later, she discreetly nips from her flask in the courthouse corridor. (Shades of Sue Ellen sneaking a drink during “Jock’s Trial, Part Two.”) Shockingly, Linda Gray has only one line of dialogue in “Deliverance” — at the party, Sue Ellen says hello to Phyllis and Sly — although Gray’s limited screen time underscores how her character is receding into the shadows. Besides, Sue Ellen’s drinking will be dealt with more in “Swan Song,” along with the identity of the mystery woman who rips up the newspaper article about Jenna’s release (is there any doubt who’s under the blond wig?) and Bobby and Pam’s reunion, which the producers set up in “Deliverance” by having the characters finally admit that they still love each other.

Along these lines, this episode also finds J.R. telling Sly he’s glad Jenna will soon get out of jail because it means she can marry Bobby. “J.R., I thought you wanted Bobby and Pam to get back together,” Sly says. His response: “Well, that was last week.” Yes, it’s an amusing line, especially when Larry Hagman punctuates it with his chuckle, but it’s also a little too self-aware for my taste. Perhaps the producers need to indulge their campy impulses one last time before returning to serious dramatic territory in “Swan Song.” If that’s the case, all is forgiven.

Grade: B

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Charlene Tilton, Clayton Farlow, Dack Rambo, Dallas, Deborah Tranelli, Deliverance, Don Starr, Donna Culver Krebbs, Donna Reed, Dr. Mitch Cooper, Fern Fitzgerald, George O. Petrie, Harv Smithfield, Howard Keel, Leigh McCloskey, Dr. Mitch Cooper, Jack Ewing, Jordan Lee, Marilee Stone, Phyllis Wapner, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly, Susan Howard

Toast of the town

‘DELIVERANCE’

Season 8, Episode 29

Airdate: May 10, 1985

Audience: 19.2 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Peter Dunne

Director: Nick Havinga

Synopsis: At the trial, Windham testifies that he bought Digger and Jason’s Ewing Oil shares and later sold them to Jock. Jenna is freed after Bobby persuades Schumann to confess to Naldo’s murder, but the assassin is unable to say who hired him. Dusty spots Sue Ellen drinking at the Oil Baron’s Club. Mitch asks Lucy to move to Atlanta.

Cast: Sam Anderson (Inspector Frank Howard), Mary Armstrong (Louise), Rod Arrants (Andre Schumann), Roseanne Christiansen (Teresa), Robert Clarke (Mason), Pat Colbert (Dora Mae), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Jenilee Harrison (Jamie Barnes), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), John Larch (Wally Windham), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Leigh McCloskey (Dr. Mitch Cooper), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Daniel Pilon (Renaldo Marchetta), 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), Dean Santoro (Raymond Furguson), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), Harvey Vernon (Judge Harding)

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

Comments

  1. Chris how can I email you an attachment of an Emmy award ad for Victoria for Swan Song? Her reviews are deservedly AMAZING!! That will wet your appetite even more for Swan Song. LOVED the Pam/Bobby scene here. And in Travilla’s blue dress and stunning hair up, I have to say that Charlene, to me, looked here the most beautiful she has ever looked on the show. Gorgeous!! Sad she’s going too. Patrick’s (originally), Charlene’s, Donna Reed’s (phew), Eric Farlow’s and Morgan Brittany’s (technically) last episodes next show. I never could understand why they got rid of two original character’s here, instead of just Patrick quitting. Did they ever think of just asking Charlene what she could see Lucy doing for a future storyline? They should have kept on that sweet/cute Trotter boy”, they wouldn’t have had ‘run out of stories for her then. Grrr.

    • Dan! I would love to see that ad. My email is dallasdecoder-at-gmail.com.

      You’re so right about “Swan Song” being a real turning point for the series, and I agree the show made a mistake getting rid of Charlene Tilton. I’ll be sorry to see Eric Farlow go too.

  2. Christopher Barnes Decoder DALLAS Ewing, you say its absurd that Jock Ewing left the Wally Wyndham purchase buy back papers with his nutbar ex-wife in a mental home, I disagree boy! With the fact that she still thinks in her 1930’s mindset that she is still married to Jock, she’d do her absolute best to ensure anything he gave her was 100% safwe. Its a classic, underhanded, sneaky, & strategic play, just the kind of thing that John Ross Ewing Senior would think to do from a tactical standpoint.

  3. Ah we coming to the end, 2 things I am truly happy about is that the dreary and unimportant murder case is finally over and the reunion of Pam and Bobby!!!!!!! I was sad though that the law suit case against Ewing Oil ended so uneventfull, I wanted it to last a little longer because I wanted JR to suffer and fret some more. Anyway about the victory party I also found it odd that lawyer Scotty was not there and how Jordan and Marilee who were on Cliff’s side switch (betrayal) to the Ewing side and showed up to celebrate with them (with friends like these who needs enemies). At last the reunion of Pam and Bobby although I am glad they admitted they still loved each other I thought it happed too quickly and it was rushed. They should have admitted these feelings earlier in the season like before her search for that idiot Mark and give the fans a little longer time to celebrate since they knew PD was leaving (mistake on his part). Great critique CB you mentioned certain things that I did not catch on to when I saw this episode when it aired and on the DVD. Like Schumann’s confession being accepted so quickly by the police and about how Jenna was grabbed into the room after Naldo entered.

    • Thanks, MaryAnn. There’s so much I either forget or leave out of my critiques. For example, in this episode, don’t you love when Bobby picks up Christopher and asks what he’d like to do this weekend? Christopher says something like, “Swimming, play ball, ride horses.” I watched this episode twice and each time I saw that scene, it made me smile. What a cute kid.

      • I too forgot about this scene with little Christopher he was too cute!!!! There is also one thing I wanted to mention since you quoted Bobby asking him what he wanted to do this weekend, is how long did a weekend last for Chris & Bobby?? I say that because if I remember correctly Pam would say to Bobby when you bring Christopher tomorrow or Bobby would say I will bring him back tomorrow, this to mean Bobby had only one day with him or is this an error of the writers? CB did you recognize this too?

      • Yep, I did catch that, MaryAnn. I often got the impression that Bobby picked up Christopher on Saturday mornings and brought him home to Pam on Sunday nights. Poor guy. That’s not very much time to spend with your kid!

  4. The whole Naldo’s killer/Jenna’s trial was a wasted opportunity. Pretty much at the last minute it was revealed who was behind the murder. From the time the murder happened, the viewer was lead to believe that some of Naldo’s shady business partners were behind the killing. They could have at least hinted right from the start that some puppet master who matters(!) was behind all that. It would have made the whole murder trial story a bit more interesting. I am not saying that the real person had to be revealed right away. Keep it a mystery, just place some hints here and there. The way it was presented it looked rather short sighted to me, like they came up with Katherine as the puppet master the week they wrote this episode. They could have milked the mystery for a ten-episode story arch, making the trial just a by-product. Strangely enough they focussed on the trial.
    Same by the way goes for Bobby’s death in my opinion. They could have done a long story arch about Bobby getting into trouble and only at the end of a long story arch saving someone else’s life heroically. Instead, we are presented with some hasty story that built up in just under 90 minutes. It’s very odd really for a show that had it’s story lines drawn out for a year in advance.

    • Q-Less, you’re so right about the trial. If we had been given a hint that Naldo’s murder had been orchestrated by someone else, I’m sure we would have been a little more invested in it. Great observation. Thanks!

  5. It’s been like 10 days now since you’ve done a critique on an episode.

  6. Where have you been all these days

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