“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.
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)