“Resurrection” brings Mark Graison back from the dead and Sue Ellen Ewing back from the brink. His revival is the more surprising of the two, although hers is more satisfying. In the episode before this one, Sue Ellen went through a harrowing detoxification after her drinking landed her on skid row. The audience never doubts she’ll get sober eventually — by now, Sue Ellen’s pattern of relapse and recovery is well established — so the question becomes whether she’ll learn anything from this latest fall off the wagon. “Resurrection” demonstrates Sue Ellen is capable of growth, although we also see how hard it is for her to break her old habits.
The hour begins with Sue Ellen in a familiar setting: The Ewings have once again committed her to a sanitarium, where they hope she’ll get the help she needs to deal with her alcoholism. Sue Ellen tells her doctor she wants to recover at home, and when he says she can be released only with J.R.’s consent, she replies, “So I’m in jail — and he has the key.” Once again, Sue Ellen is casting herself as her husband’s victim. Her sense of helplessness continues in the next scene, when Dusty sneaks into her room after bribing an orderly. She begs Dusty to take her away, and then weeps when he tells her that he only came to check on her.
But all is not lost. At the end of “Resurrection,” the smarmy orderly offers to sell Sue Ellen a bottle of vodka. “I don’t know if it’s your brand, but that doesn’t always matter, does it?” he sneers. We’ve been down this path before — during Sue Ellen’s second-season sanitarium stay, villainous Nurse Hatton used mouthwash bottles to smuggle booze to Sue Ellen — and for a moment, it looks like history is going to repeat itself. With the vodka bottle in the foreground, director Michael Preece holds the camera on Linda Gray’s face, where we watch Sue Ellen’s struggle play out for several agonizing seconds. Finally, she runs across the room, grabs the call button and pushes it. “Get out!” she shouts.
This is a triumphant moment, even after Sue Ellen collapses against the wall and cries. “I can do it. I know I can do it,” she says, then looks up and adds, “I just need help. Help me. Help me.” This might be the closest we ever get to a religious moment on “Dallas,” although that’s not why the scene touches me. Instead, I’m moved by Sue Ellen’s self-discovery: She’s realizing she has the capacity to change. It’s another spectacular performance from Gray, who has been handed the best material she’s received yet on “Dallas” and is making the most of it.
Mark’s return at the end of “Resurrection” doesn’t pack the same emotional punch — how could it? — but it’s nicely done nonetheless. Throughout the episode, Pam feels increasingly pressured as she weighs competing offers from J.R. and Jeremy Wendell to buy Christopher’s share of Ewing Oil. Pam also is being followed by a shady private-eye type who reports to an unseen figure in the back of a limousine. It’s hinted the private eye could work for either J.R. or Jeremy, but in the final scene, we learn the truth. The limo arrives at Pam’s house while she’s in the backyard, arguing on the phone with the chairman of Wentworth Industries. Frazzled, she slams down the receiver, breaks into tears and turns to leave — when she runs into Mark. Victoria Principal looks appropriately stunned and collapses into the arms of John Beck, making his first “Dallas” appearance in more than a year. (Just think: This is only the first of two “dead” lovers who’ll show up at Pam’s house before the season is over.)
Other “Resurrection” highlights include Barbara Bel Geddes, who continues to remind the audience how much she was missed during the preceding year, when Donna Reed was playing Mama. Bel Geddes exudes quiet authority each time she appears in this episode, whether Miss Ellie is entertaining Wendell’s offer to buy Ewing Oil over lunch at Les Saisons (a real Dallas restaurant that closed in 2001) or shocking J.R. by revealing that she’s actually thinking of selling. I also appreciate Dack Rambo, who continues to make Jack an interesting character: When he’s not counseling Charlie on her middle-school crushes, he’s assuring both J.R. and Cliff that he’ll side with them in the latest battle for Ewing Oil. There also are quite a few small touches that reflect this season’s renewed commitment to realism, including Ellie’s visit to a Southfork stable to check on an injured horse and Jenna helping Charlie with her Spanish homework at the kitchen table.
Mostly, though, I appreciate how “Resurrection” helps keep alive the spirit of Bobby, which feels somewhat surprising in retrospect. I might have expected the show to move on quickly after Patrick Duffy’s departure, but four episodes after Bobby’s demise in “Swan Song,” his presence is still felt. In another great performance from Bel Geddes, Ellie visits Bobby’s grave and shares her struggle to hold the family together (echoes of Bobby’s memorable visit to Mama’s grave during the first season of TNT’s “Dallas”), while Larry Hagman and Principal have a poignant exchange in which their characters interrupt their bickering to confide how much they each miss Bobby. After all these years, J.R. and Pam finally have something in common.
“Resurrection” even shows Duffy: When Pam goes back to work at Barnes-Wentworth for the first time since the funeral, she takes a framed picture of Bobby off her desk and puts it in a drawer, only to remove it moments later. This episode’s best nod to Bobby, though, is also the slyest: When Jack is shown shopping for a new car in a luxury auto dealer’s showroom, he briefly inspects a red Mercedes convertible before moving on to a Lamborghini, and then a Porsche. Was this a subtle acknowledgment from the producers that — for all Jack’s strengths — he’s no Bobby Ewing?
Season 9, Episode 4
Airdate: October 11, 1985
Audience: 18.7 million homes, ranking 6th in the weekly ratings
Writers: Hollace White and Stephanie Garman
Director: Michael Preece
Synopsis: Jeremy offers to buy Miss Ellie’s share of Ewing Oil, while Jack promises to back both J.R. and Cliff in the takeover fight. Sue Ellen rejects a sanitarium orderly’s offer to sneak her a drink. Pam is stunned when Mark returns.
Cast: John Beck (Mark Graison), Bever-Leigh Banfield (Nurse Curtis), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Farlow), Alan Fudge (Dr. Lantry), Tony Garcia (Raoul), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Laurence Haddon (Franklin Horner), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Joshua Harris (Christopher Ewing), Jenilee Harrison (Jamie Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Dack Rambo (Jack Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Rex Ryon (Orderly), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), William Smithers (Jeremy Wendell), Woody Watson (Detective)