Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘Chances Are It’s Yours’

Act of Love, Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

In a family way

In “Act of Love,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, J.R. (Larry Hagman) pours champagne for him and Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), who is seated in the Southfork den.

J.R.: Now, tell me everything. How far along are you?

SUE ELLEN: About six weeks, near as we can tell.

J.R.: [Chuckles] Six weeks! How about that! Six weeks. That was right before Lucy’s birthday, wasn’t it?

SUE ELLEN: [Sips her champagne] Around there.

J.R.: Now, you sure it couldn’t be longer than six weeks?

SUE ELLEN: Well, I don’t think so. Why?

J.R.: [Sits down] I don’t see how you can be six weeks pregnant.

SUE ELLEN: Why, I don’t understand.

J.R.: Well, I do. Seems it’s been longer than that since you and I could’ve conceived a child. If I remember correctly, I was down in Austin for … 10 days, right about that time. Yeah, it was that time. I repeat, Sue Ellen: How can you be six weeks pregnant?

SUE ELLEN: [Rises and approaches J.R.] Well, I know we don’t practice our connubial rights with anything approaching regularity, but you did come home from Austin for the weekend. Is it possible that you don’t remember? It happens so rarely I thought it might make an impression.

J.R.: No, there’s something wrong here. Something wrong. Now even if I did remember, I think it’s mighty peculiar that after seven years of trying, you should get pregnant that one particular night.

SUE ELLEN: Stranger things have happened.

J.R.: Not to me they haven’t.

SUE ELLEN: Are you trying to tell me that you may not be the father of my child?

J.R.: [Simmering] You tell me.

SUE ELLEN: There’s nothing to tell. I’ve been just as faithful to our marriage vows as you have, darling. That’s the only thing that interests you, isn’t it? That precious Ewing heir – no matter whose it is.

J.R. rises and slaps her.

SUE ELLEN: [Angry] Don’t you ever do that again!

J.R.: I’ll do anything I want to.

SUE ELLEN: Not anymore! Because I finally have something you want – our baby.

J.R.: Our baby?

SUE ELLEN: Chances are it’s yours, J.R. And if it isn’t, what are you going to do about it? How are you going to tell Daddy that it isn’t yours, that it’s somebody else’s? What’s he going to think about you then? And what about the boys at the club – what are they going to say? I guess you’re just going to have to learn to live with it. Like I said J.R., chances are it’s yours.

She turns and exits, leaving J.R. bewildered.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 15 – ‘Act of Love’

Act of Love, Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Ken Kercheval, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Bad romance

“Act of Love” is the first “Dallas” script penned by Leonard Katzman, who becomes the show’s auteur, writing and directing more episodes than anyone else. It proves to be an inauspicious debut.

My main gripe: When the episode begins, Sue Ellen and Cliff have been sleeping with each other for six weeks, so we never see the first time they consummate their relationship – a big letdown given how much time “Dallas” spends laying the groundwork for their affair.

To make matters worse, Katzman’s plotting is a bit sitcommy.

It seems Bobby is wooing a client for his construction business and needs Pam to help him charm the man, whom Bobby’s business associate describes as an old-money conservative who “places just as much importance on a man’s personal life as he does on his professional.”

But Pam has a dilemma: Her boss Liz Craig has invited her on a business trip to Paris, which would prevent Pam from helping hubby entertain his client. What’s a wife to do?

There’s even a “Three’s Company”-style misunderstanding. Pam asks Sue Ellen to lunch but is vague about the reason for the invitation, saying only “it’s important that we talk.” Sue Ellen, suspecting Pam has found out about her affair with Cliff, accepts the invitation and is perturbed to discover Pam only wants advice on entertaining Bobby’s client. “You don’t mean to tell me that you have brought me in to lunch with you to talk about having a party?” Sue Ellen fumes.

(An aside: What’s with Victoria Principal’s Texas accent in this scene? It hasn’t been this thick since the first season!)

Of course, “Act of Love” isn’t altogether bad. The final scene, when J.R. questions Sue Ellen about her pregnancy, is nicely written and performed, although I cringe when J.R. slaps her. In 1978, this may have been an acceptable way to demonstrate J.R.’s anger. Not today.

I also like director Corey Allen’s handheld camerawork in the opening breakfast scene, when the younger Ewings rush off to work and school, leaving Jock and Miss Ellie alone, as well as the fisheye lens Allen uses when Pam and Liz ride the elevator at The Store.

Allen’s willingness to experiment isn’t enough to save Katzman’s script, but it makes me wish the show had used the director’s talents more frequently.

Grade: C


Act of Love, Barbara Babcock, Dallas, Liz Craig, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal



Season 2, Episode 10

Airdate: November 12, 1978

Audience: 12.1 million homes, ranking 41st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Leonard Katzman

Director: Corey Allen

Synopsis: The Ewings are overjoyed when they learn Sue Ellen is pregnant. Privately, Sue Ellen isn’t sure if the father is J.R. or Cliff, with whom she is having an affair. When J.R. questions her, she tells him he probably is the father.

Cast: Barbara Babcock (Liz Craig), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Nancy Bleier (Connie), Nicolas Coster (Joe Morris), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), John Zaremba (Dr. Harlan Danvers)

“Act of Love” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.