Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 198 — ‘The Wind of Change’

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Miss Ellie Ewing Farlow, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal, Wind of Change

Keepers of the faith

Who doesn’t get chills at the end of “The Wind of Change”? Pam takes the podium at the Oil Baron’s Ball and delivers a stirring tribute to Bobby, then announces she’s decided to not sell Christopher’s share of Ewing Oil to Jeremy Wendell. As Pam exits the stage to applause, J.R. — who’s been desperately fighting Wendell’s takeover — rushes to his ex-sister-in-law’s side and praises her “wise and historic decision.” J.R. assumes Pam is going to sell the shares to him, but she quickly bursts his bubble. “I’m not selling at all,” she says. “From now on, it’s going to be you and me. I’ll see you at the office, partner.”

This is a great scene for a lot of reasons, beginning with the way it allows Pam to slide into Bobby’s old role as J.R.’s most effective antagonist. In one swoop, she manages to save J.R.’s bacon and ruin his day — just like Bobby used to do. The twist also carries more than a hint of destiny: Early plans for “Dallas” called for Bobby to be killed off at the end of the first season, leaving Pam as the spirited young widow, fighting for her place in the Ewing empire. Now Victoria Principal finally gets to play that character, except the conflict is far richer because the show has almost a decade’s worth of conflict between J.R. and Pam to draw upon.

Just as importantly, the Oil Baron’s Ball scene casts Pam in another role: as a kindred spirit to Miss Ellie. Earlier in “The Wind of Change,” Mama visits Pam and talks about how she used to dream of John Ross and Christopher growing up, side by side. “And then they’d finally start running the business together the way Jock used to — tough, honest,” Ellie says. “I had faith that they’d always do the right thing. I had faith.” It’s another nicely written monologue from Peter Dunne — delivered beautifully by Barbara Bel Geddes — and it lends extra poignancy to Pam’s big speech at the end of the episode. Her decision to hold onto the Ewing Oil shares doesn’t just mean Christopher will one day follow in Bobby’s footsteps; it also means Pam is poised to succeed Ellie as keeper of the Ewing faith.

‘I’m Pregnant Now!’

Dallas, Donna Krebbs, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly, Susan Howard, Wind of Change

Into the fire

With its emphasis on family and legacy, “The Wind of Change” bears more than a passing resemblance to the third-season classic “Ellie Saves the Day,” another episode that found the Ewing empire on the brink of ending. Both episodes are filled with somber moments, although “The Wind of Change” takes the theme of dashed dreams one step further with a subplot about Ray and the pregnant Donna learning their child will be born with Down syndrome. The performances from Steve Kanaly and Susan Howard are believably anguished, especially in the scene where Ray suggests Donna abort the child. “You can get pregnant again,” he says. “I’m pregnant now!” she shouts. We’re used to the Krebbses keeping “Dallas” grounded, but never have their problems felt this real.

And yet “The Wind of Change” manages to be a fun episode too, doesn’t it? The scenes at the Oil Baron’s Ball are everything we’ve come to expect from these affairs. When J.R. isn’t smiling and pretending he’s not seething about Wendell’s takeover, he’s discreetly caressing mistress Mandy Winger’s arm — something his nosy mother-in-law, Patricia Shepard, doesn’t miss. The ball scenes also find mysterious newcomer Angelica Nero spying Jack across the crowded room (this is Barbara Carrera’s “Dallas” debut), Jamie tossing a cream pie in Cliff’s face and Sue Ellen’s triumphant return to the public eye after her latest sanitarium stay.

The latter scene is shot from Sue Ellen’s point of view, an example of the visual flair that was a hallmark of director Corey Allen, helming his first “Dallas” episode since the second season. In another “Wind of Change” scene, Allen shoots Priscilla Beaulieu Presley and Shalane McCall galloping across a Southfork field on horseback (shades of Jim Davis’s cattle drive scene in “Bypass,” Allen’s first “Dallas” episode), while a breakfast conversation between Ellie and Clayton is staged on the Southfork balcony, which offers such dramatic, sweeping views of the ranch, I’ll never understand why other directors didn’t use the setting more often. I also love the cross-cut editing between Ray and Donna’s argument over their child and Jack and Jenna’s conversation about what the Krebbses are enduring.

The other great artistic achievement in “The Wind of Change” belongs to costume designer Travilla, who outfitted the actresses in gowns that became iconic. The secrets behind the dresses are almost as interesting as what we saw on screen. According to a newspaper article quoted in Barbara Curran’s book, “Dallas: The Complete Story of the World’s Favorite Prime-Time Soap,” the beaded black gown worn by Bel Geddes weighed 20 pounds and cost $5,000, while Principal’s white dress weighed 30 pounds, making it hard for her to walk. As for Gray’s famous black dress? It was lined with plastic bags attached with safety pins.

Sue Ellen may be sober, but I guess she hasn’t completely left her bag lady days behind her. Who knew?

Grade: A+

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Wind of Change

Dallas deflation

‘THE WIND OF CHANGE’

Season 9, Episode 7

Airdate: November 1, 1985

Audience: 20.2 million homes, ranking 7th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Peter Dunne

Director: Corey Allen

Synopsis: At the Oil Baron’s Ball, Bobby is named Oilman of the Year, prompting Pam to change her mind about selling Christopher’s share of Ewing Oil to Jeremy Wendell. Sue Ellen leaves the sanitarium and moves in with her mother, while Mandy returns to Dallas and resumes her relationship with J.R. Ray and Donna learn their child will be born with Down syndrome.

Cast: John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Farlow), Barbara Carrera (Angelica Nero), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Tony Garcia (Raoul), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Joshua Harris (Christopher 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), Frances Lee McCain (Dr. Amy Rose), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Greg Michaels (Private eye), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Martha Scott (Patricia Shepard), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Karen Radcliffe (Barbara), Dack Rambo (Jack Ewing), Carol Sanchez (Angela), sDeborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), William Smithers (Jeremy Wendell), Don Starr (Jordan Lee)

“The Wind of Change” is available on DVD and at Amazon and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. This is a contender for Dallas’ best ever episode – maybe even surpassing Swan Song? JR, Sue Ellen, Pam and Miss Ellie all step up to the mark in this one. I especially like mama’s subtle (perhaps not so subtle) emotional blackmail on Pam not to sell her shares in Ewing Oil, Pam’s magnificent speech, the stunned reaction, JR thinking he’s out of the woods one moment and then the realisation he will have to work alongside his arch-enemy – sublime!

    Unfortunately this is the absolute high water mark for this season – increasingly the Anjelica Nero storyline will start to dominate and from about episode 10 or thereabouts the relentless decline into silliness, masquerades and emeralds.

  2. I agree that “Winds of Change” is a truly great episode.

    Sue Ellen looks just gorgeous at the Oil Baron’s Ball!
    JR’s cold attitude towards Sue Ellen at the ball, and before at the sanitarium, to me doesn’t add up with his wistful “Those eyes…” speech in his office a few episodes earlier, which made Mandy leave. If he still had such strong feelings for his wife, still being so struck by her beauty and “those eyes” he saw when she was Miss Texas, how does it make sense for him not to be equally struck by her sudden appearance as the Queen of the Ball? Is it supposed to fit JR’s character in some way or other? Or is it just clumsy writing?

    As for Mandy and her relationship with JR, I first liked her independence and self-esteem which kept her from being JR’s mistress (or should I say “mattress”). I liked her not forgetting about Sue Ellen, feeling sympathy for her, putting JR in his place when he became too possessive. It made perfect sense for her to move to a different place and change her phone number. And now, all of a sudden, in this episode, where did all that go??? What happened to the independent, self-confident woman? OK, so maybe she was in love with JR, but suddenly not caring at all anymore if she was simply a mistress, a kept woman, whatever?… I don’t know if that scene with her and JR at the ball was supposed to be touching, but to me it was just… cringeworthy.

  3. Dan in WI says:

    This is another classic Oil Barron’s Ball. I’ve expressed my love for Ewing BBQ’s in the past because they get so many of the recurring characters in one place at the same time and the Ball does the same thing. Where else can we get the big sweeping revelation of Pam intermixed with the little things like the cream puff in the face? I just love these types of settings.

  4. Yes, this was a strong episode, setting up expectations that then weren’t met. Having Pam next to J.R. in the office could have caused drama in a million plots. She showed in this episode that she was up for the task. And yet they hardly used this opportunity. In episodes to come J.R. did not try very hard to make Pam’s life miserable. It’s Pam’s sole purpose in soap life – to have her life made miserable by J.R.! It didn’t happen this season. J.R. setting her up to hunt for something in a foreign country. Been there, done that. Excluding her from Ewing Oil’s business decisions? I recall just one or two half-baked incidents in the Marinos business. That was it I think. Come on! Nobody wants to see J.R. peaceful and Pam happy.

    Not to cause more drama than Dallas, but I’d also say from now on the character of Pam is in decline. She has a couple great moments when she is dealing with Angelica Nero face to face. But after that she is just following wherever the plot takes her. And next season Pam will be replaced by Whiny Housewife who is not able to make any reasonable decision anymore.

  5. I’m right with you Paul. This is right up there with Swan Song as one of the best episodes of Dallas ever. This hit the mark magnificently. The final episode of this season is another cracking humdinger but sadly yes the rest of this season, the rest of the run doesn’t find the poignancy and promise of this episode ever again.

    Barbara and Victoria shone in this episode and could someone please tell me how Susan Howard did not get an emmy nod for this episode?? That scream! Susan and Steve are the ones to watch this season apart from Pam and Mark. Donna and Ray are so grounded and realistic. Utterly believe every scene with them.

    I am equally dumbfounded how Jenna and Charlie are still in the show at this point. They’re like a spare glass of water that have me reaching for the fast forward button every time I watch this season.

    And why didn’t Sue Ellen, after traipsing to Hong Kong in search of Mark, have any reunion scene with him at all to say oh you are alive, how wonderful”?? Lost potential scene there writers.

    Dallas Queen Victoria reigns

  6. Christopher Barnes DALLAS Decoder Ewing, u may have just realized that neither your Daddy Bobby James Ewing or the greatest oilman of them all, even greater than Jock Ewing, a Mr. John Ross Ewing The IInd never actually won “Oilman Of The Year!” I only mention this in passing boy b/c since Bob comes back after this dream sequence yr, this award ceremony thus never took place! That seems great as a historical tidbit to pass on!

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