Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 162 — ‘Killer a Large’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Donna Culver Krebbs, Killer at Large, Patrick Duffy, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly

Reflected glory

“Dallas’s” seventh season winds down with half the cast once again gunning for J.R. In the final scene, an unseen assailant enters the darkened Ewing Oil offices and fires three shots into the back of J.R.’s chair, except he isn’t sitting there — good-guy brother Bobby tumbles to the floor. It’s one of “Dallas’s” greatest fake-outs, establishing the template that TNT’s sequel series would later use to keep viewers on their toes.

The problem is “Who Shot Bobby?” mimics “Who Shot J.R.?” too closely. What begins as a wink to “Dallas’s” most famous moment quickly becomes an imitation, and not a particularly good one. “Killer at Large,” the eighth-season opener, begins with Afton discovering Bobby moments after he’s shot. It’s not unlike the cleaning lady finding J.R. in 1980, although Afton’s reaction isn’t quite as campy. (No high-pitched shrieks and dropped feather dusters here.) We also see the Ewings assemble at Dallas Memorial Hospital to keep vigil for Bobby, just like they did with J.R., and both victims ultimately survive their shootings, but not without complications: J.R. is paralyzed while Bobby is blinded.

I’m sure fans appreciated the homage when “Killer at Large” debuted. It had been years since the “Who Shot J.R.?” episodes aired, so it was probably a kick to relive the mystery, this time with Bobby as the victim. Thirty years later, though, the remake comes off as uninspired. The producers don’t even bother to film Bobby being rushed out of the Ewing Oil lobby and into the waiting ambulance; they merely recycle the four-year-old footage of J.R. on the stretcher. Not helping matters: Most of the actors in “Killer at Large” look bored, and the mystery surrounding the shooter’s identity isn’t all that mysterious. Two characters — Peter and Edgar — are cleared by the end of the episode, leaving Sue Ellen, Cliff and Katherine as the remaining suspects. Was there any doubt in 1984 how that would turn out?

The episode isn’t a total wash. I like director Leonard Katzman’s shot of Ray and Donna spotting the TV news report about Bobby’s shooting while standing near a downtown department store window. Just think: Most of us probably watched this episode in 1984 on that kind of bulky TV set. It’s also fun to see Dennis Haysbert — the future President Palmer on “24” — cast in one of his first TV roles as Bobby’s doctor, although I’m more intrigued when Karen Radcliffe pops up as a nurse. Radcliffe will return to “Dallas” three years later as the nightingale who helps Pam run away after her car accident; should we assume she’s playing the same character in both appearances? I also like when Pam runs into Katherine in the hospital parking lot and refuses to allow her inside to see Bobby. It’s always nice to see Pam use her backbone to stand up for the people she cares about, not nag them.

“Killer at Large” also is notable as the first “Dallas” episode that doesn’t feature Barbara Bel Geddes in the opening credits. She departed the series at the end of the previous season, although Donna Reed won’t show up as her replacement for a few more episodes. Meanwhile, Howard Keel and Priscilla Beaulieu Presley get promoted to the title sequence in this episode, while Travilla begins his two-year run as the show’s costume designer. He makes his mark almost immediately: The actresses look a little more stylish than usual, especially Fern Fitzgerald, who sports slit sleeves when Marilee confronts J.R., and Audrey Landers, who wears a striking red hat and suit during Afton’s farewell to Cliff.

Afton’s poignant departure, by the way, is this episode’s other saving grace. It’s the rare example of a “Dallas” character receiving a decent sendoff, and even though Landers’ character isn’t as iconic as any of the Ewings or Barneses, her goodbye nonetheless signals the end of an era. “Killer at Large” is an eighth-season premiere, and it feels like it. “Dallas” is beginning to lose steam after almost a decade on the air, and so as Afton gives Cliff the kiss-off and heads for the door, I can’t help but think: This lady is getting out while the getting’s good.

Grade: C

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Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Killer at Large, Patrick Duffy

Lazy eye

‘KILLER AT LARGE’

Season 8, Episode 1

Airdate: September 28, 1984

Audience: 22.4 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: The shooting blinds Bobby, who is hospitalized while the police search for the assailant. J.R., believing he was the target, names Edgar as a prime suspect and is surprised when police tell him Edgar has an alibi. Sue Ellen reluctantly returns to J.R.’s bedroom, where she hides a gun. Afton leaves Cliff, who can’t recall his whereabouts during the shooting. Pam and Jenna rush to Bobby’s side while Katherine makes plans to move to Houston.

Cast: Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Martin E. Brooks (Edgar Randolph), Cora Cordona (Pearl), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Jenny Gago (Nurse), Gerald Gordon (Dr. Carter), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Dennis Haysbert (Dr. Forbes), Rose Ann Holloway (Irene), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), J.T. O’Connor (Patterson), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Karen Radcliffe (Jane), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Jill Scroggin (Sally), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Mitchell Ryan (Captain Merwin Fogerty), Randy Tallman (Dr. Halperson), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

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

Poll: Which ‘Dallas’ Episode is the Best?

Barbara Bel Geddes, Bobby Ewing, Dallas, House Divided, J.R. Ewing, J.R.'s Masterpiece, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Miss Ellie Ewing, Pam Ewing, Patrick Duffy, Sue Ellen Ewing, Swan Song, Things Ain't Goin' Too Good at Southfork, Victoria PrincipalHere’s a list of some of “Dallas’s” most memorable episodes. Vote for your favorite or share other choices in the comments below.

 

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The Dal-List: 37 Reasons to Love ‘Dallas’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Love to love them

“Dallas” debuted 37 years ago today. Here’s why we still love the Ewings.

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Pam Ewing, Patrick Duffy, Victoria Principal

Drive us crazy

37. “Digger’s Daughter.” Bobby marries Pam, Lucy and Ray take a roll in the hay and Jock calls J.R. a jackass. Could this show have gotten off to a better start?

Dallas, Southfork

Big house on the prairie

36. Southfork. To a lot of us, the white house on Braddock Road is more revered than the one on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy, Sue Ellen Ewing

Is blood thicker than liquor?

35. Bourbon and branch. Forget oil. This is what really fueled the Ewing empire.

Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing

Can’t touch this

34. Every time Jock asks for “a touch” of bourbon. Spoiler: It was always more than a touch.

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Miss Ellie Ewing

Stop or mom will shoot

33. “Ray, get me the shotgun out of the hall closet.” The quintessential Miss Ellie moment.

Dallas, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Long walk

32. Pam’s middle screen during the opening credits. It never changed! For almost a decade, she never stopped crossing the Southfork lawn.

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Knots Landing, Larry Hagman

Fishy

31. J.R.’s first visit to “Knots Landing.” J.R.: Hey, that is good. What do you call this? Valene: Tuna fish.

Dallas, Kristin Shepard, Mary Crosby

Smirky

30. Kristin Shepard. So much more than the answer to a trivia question.

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

About face

29. Sue Ellen’s 180s. No one does the slow, dramatic turn better.

Dallas, Who Shot J.R.

Clean scream

28. The cleaning lady who found J.R. Her reaction alone made it worth waiting eight months to find out who shot him.

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Moment of truth

27. “It was you, Kristin, who shot J.R.” The most famous line in “Dallas” history.

Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing

Daddy’s decree

26. “Real power is something you take.” Or maybe this is the show’s most famous line. Six words that encapsulate the Ewing creed.

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

He sizzles

25. Breakfast on the patio. Would you like some insults with your bacon?

Afton Cooper, Audrey Landers, Dallas

Them pipes!

24. The musical stylings of Miss Afton Cooper. She can steal us away anytime she wants.

Dallas, Dallas Press

Bleeds it leads

23. Headlines like these. The editors of The Dallas Press: The only people more obsessed with the Ewings than we are.

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Snake in the grass

22. “Hey, Ray. … You getting good mileage on Donna’s car?” So nice of him to be concerned, isn’t it?

Dallas, Donna Culver Krebbs, Susan Howard

Wind ’em up

21. Donna vs. Bonnie. “Dallas’s” best barroom brawl.

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy, Sue Ellen Ewing

Will power

20. Daddy’s will. Pitting your hyper-competitive sons against each other in a yearlong battle for control of the family empire? Sounds like a plan!

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Watch out, wallpaper

19. “I’m going to drink myself into oblivion.” And she damn near did.

Dallas

Paging KITT

18. The synthesized seventh-season theme music. We half expect Knight Rider to come roaring into the credits.

Bobby Ewing, Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Eric Farlow, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Oh, that lighting!

17. Bradford May’s cinematography. The Ewings never looked as gorgeous as they did from 1983 to 1984.

Dallas, Larry Hagman, J.R. Ewing

J.R. Ewing here

16. The phone at the Oil Baron’s Club. Be careful with that thing or you’ll poke out Dora Mae’s eye!

Charlene Tilton, Christopher Atkins, Dallas, Lucy Ewing, Peter Richards

Yes, sparklers

15. Lucy’s modeling career. There’s nothing about this picture I don’t love.

Dallas, Katherine Wentworth, Morgan Brittany

Hat attack

14. Katherine Wentworth. How can you blame a gal for going a little nuts over Bobby Ewing? Also: the hats!

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Turban renewal

13. When Sue Ellen changed into this outfit to go to the movies. What, you mean you didn’t wear something similar when you saw “Porky’s II” in 1984?

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Ken Kercheval

The best loser

12. Cliff Barnes. As essential to the “Dallas” mythology as any Ewing. Ken Kercheval is brilliant.

Dallas, Fern Fitzgerald, Marilee Stone

Drip drop

11. “Marilee, you all right, honey? Did it go up your nose?” Best pool dunking ever.

Dallas, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Buzz kill

10. When Bobby flat lines, jolting Pam. Gets us every time.

Dallas, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly

Who says cowboys don’t cry?

9. … And then when Ray loses it. Few things move me more than this moment.

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

What a dream

8. The dream season. Look, we love Bobby as much as anyone, but this is one of “Dallas’s” best years — especially where the leading ladies are concerned.

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Patrick Duffy

Mr. Clean

7. Bobby’s return. Was the dream explanation a cop-out? Sure, but who’s going to complain about seeing Patrick Duffy in the shower?

Dallas, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

The long goodbye

6. Pam. Give the lady her due: Fans spent twice as long clamoring for her return as she spent on the show.

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Omri Katz

Word

5. “John Ross, this is Ewing Oil.” Chills.

Brad Pitt, Dallas, Randy

A star is born

4. Brad Pitt’s hair. Also: “Randy”!

Dallas, J.R.'s Masterpiece, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Woman of the hour

3. “J.R.’s Masterpiece.” Linda Gray’s tour de force. If you can watch this episode without bawling like a baby, you’re stronger than me.

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, TNT

Another star is born

2. “I am not my father!” Chills again!

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Forever our hero

1. Larry Hagman. How we loved this man. What an actor! What a guy! We’ll never stop missing him, and we’ll always be grateful he shared his gift with the world.

Why do you love “Dallas”? Share your comments below and read more “Dal-Lists.” 

Poll: Who is ‘Dallas’s’ Second Greatest Character?

Barbara Bel Geddes, Bobby Ewing, Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Ken Kercheval, Linda Gray, Miss Ellie Ewing, Pam Ewing, Patrick Duffy, Sue Ellen Ewing, Victoria Principal, TNT

J.R. will always be “Dallas’s” greatest character, but who’s the runner-up? Vote for your choice or share other options in the comments section.

 

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Poll: Who is ‘Dallas’s’ Greatest Couple?

Barbara Bel Geddes, Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Jock Ewing, Jim Davis, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, J.R. Ewing, Linda Gray, Pam Ewing, Sue Ellen Ewing, Victoria Principal

“Dallas” has given us many classic romantic pairings. Vote for your favorite or share other options in the comments section below.

 

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Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 161 — ‘End Game’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, End Game, Patrick Duffy

Best shot

The “End Game” cliffhanger is still powerful, especially when you watch the entire episode. In scene after scene, we’re led to believe everyone is gunning for J.R., just like they were four years earlier. The momentum builds until the final moments, when an unseen figure steps off the Ewing Oil elevator, enters J.R.’s office and fires three shots into the back of his chair. The feeling of shock that once accompanied the sight of Bobby slumping to the floor has long since faded, but it’s been replaced with something more satisfying — an appreciation for how much care the producers put into crafting “Dallas’s” grandest fake-out.

It’s also worth revisiting “End Game” to be reminded of how many iconic moments it contains. Two showcase Larry Hagman at his gleeful best. In one, J.R. cracks wise when Katherine glares at him after storming out of Bobby’s office (“You know, she has a nasty temper”). Later, J.R. shows up at Barnes-Wentworth and reveals he engineered Cliff’s spectacular offshore drilling implosion. Hagman delivers a string of classic one-liners, including “You needed slapping down, Cliff” and “Tomorrow morning, the janitor’s going to come in here and sweep you out with the rest of the trash. Unless, of course, you do the honorable thing, get in the elevator, go up to the roof and jump off, huh?” (Bless Ken Kercheval, who manages to make the audience feel sorry for Cliff, even as we bask in J.R.’s triumph.)

Hagman’s other great scene displays J.R.’s darker side. He sits with Sue Ellen and Peter at the Oil Baron’s Club and calmly reveals he arranged Peter’s arrest on drug charges after finding out about Sue Ellen’s affair with the young man. When J.R. offers to keep Peter out of jail if Sue Ellen resumes her wifely duties, Peter drops his “Mr. and Mrs. Ewing” act and exclaims, “Don’t do it, Sue Ellen!” J.R.’s response — “So now it’s ‘Sue Ellen’? — reminds us that for once, he’s the spouse who’s been deceived. It’s also striking how Hagman and Linda Gray never take their eyes off each other in this scene. Make no mistake: This is a showdown between J.R. and Sue Ellen; Peter is nothing more than a pawn to them.

“End Game” also offers a mercifully speedy resolution to the Miss Ellie kidnapping subplot, although I’ll never understand why the producers didn’t leave Jessica on the lam through the end of the season. She would have made a fine suspect in the “who shot Bobby?” mystery, no? Also, after everything Jessica put Ellie and Clayton through, it would have been nice to finally see the couple’s long-delayed wedding, but maybe the shot of J.R. and Bobby preparing to walk Ellie down the aisle is all we need. Just think: This is Ellie’s last appearance until Donna Reed takes over the role, so if Barbara Bel Geddes hadn’t eventually returned to “Dallas,” this would have been our farewell to the beloved actress.

“End Game” does mark the final appearances of Christopher Atkins as Peter and Barry Corbin as Sheriff Washburn. The episode also boasts its share of oddities, including the reflection of a crewmember in a glass panel in the Ewing Oil reception area (you’ll spot him at 47-minute, 32-second mark), and a somewhat unusual scene in which Pam tells little Christopher about the mess she’s made of her life. “You don’t understand any of this, do you?” she asks. Gazing up at her, he whispers, “No.” My friend at Hill Place Blog is convinced Eric Farlow ad-libbed this line; the child is so caught up in Victoria Principal’s performance, he speaks from the heart. It’s a sweetly honest moment on a show that could have used more of them this season.

The episode’s other unexpected moment comes a little earlier, when Sue Ellen and Pam are having a heart-to-heart in the Southfork living room. Seeing how depressed her friend is, Sue Ellen offers to take Pam to a movie to cheer her up but says she wants to go upstairs and change first. In the next scene, Sue Ellen returns to the living room dressed to the nines — she’s ditched her perfectly acceptable sweater and slacks for a runway-ready flowing dress, complete with a turban. It’s one of the most epic costume changes in “Dallas” history, and it leaves me wondering: What’s a bigger tragedy in “End Game” — Bobby’s shooting or the notion that Sue Ellen would wear such a gorgeous outfit to a dark theater where no one could see it?

Grade: A

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Dallas, End Game, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Turban legend

‘END GAME’

Season 7, Episode 30

Airdate: May 18, 1984

Audience: 21.8 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Miss Ellie is rescued and returns to Southfork, where she marries Clayton while Jessica is put in a sanitarium. Pam takes Christopher and leaves town after finding out about Bobby and Jenna’s engagement. Bobby once again rejects Katherine. J.R. reveals he set up Cliff, who goes on a bender and misses the news that his offshore oil wells finally came in. J.R. also reveals he set up Peter, forcing Sue Ellen to return to their bedroom in exchange for keeping her ex-lover from going to jail. An unseen assailant enters Ewing Oil and fires three shots into J.R.’s chair, where Bobby is seated.

Cast: Mary Armstrong (Louise), Christopher Atkins (Peter Richards), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Billy Green Bush (Deputy Rockwell), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Pat Colbért (Dora Mae), Barry Corbin (Sheriff Fenton Washburn), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Bill Morey (Leo Wakefield), Dennis Patrick (Vaughn Leland), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Gene Ross (Bull Dawson), Danone Simpson (Kendall), Alexis Smith (Lady Jessica Montfort), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), John Zarema (Dr. Harlan Danvers)

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

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 160 — ‘Hush, Hush, Sweet Jessie’

Alexis Smith, Dallas, Hush Hush Sweet Jessie, Lady Jessica Farlow Montford

How sweet she is

What do I love about the final scene in “Hush, Hush, Sweet Jessie”? Oh, pretty much everything. The Ewings stand in the Southfork driveway, panicked because no one knows the whereabouts of Miss Ellie and Jessica, whose murderous past has finally come to light. Suddenly, Donna arrives in Ray’s pickup truck. She gets out, bloodied and shaken, and explains that she’s just come from the Krebbs’ home, where Jessica knocked her out, swiped one of Ray’s handguns, took Ellie and drove who-knows-where in Donna’s car. J.R. looks stricken. “We’ve got to find them,” he says. “Jessica has killed once. Who knows what she’ll do with Mama?” Duh-duh-duh!

Is this a moment of pure camp? Yes, of course. How could any scene that requires the audience to imagine Alexis Smith abducting Barbara Bel Geddes at gunpoint not be campy? And what about the way Donna announces her news? Shouldn’t she hop out of Ray’s truck and offer the most important facts first: “Hey, everyone, Jessica has kidnapped Miss Ellie!” Instead, Donna tells the story chronologically; this allows the episode to end with the dramatic revelation that Mama has been abducted, but it isn’t very realistic. There’s also this: After Larry Hagman delivers his “We’ve got to find them” line, we get a reaction shot from Howard Keel and Patrick Duffy, who stand side by side and turn their eyes to the camera in near perfect unison. It’s priceless.

And yet despite all this, the scene is undeniably thrilling. The most valuable actors are Hagman, who makes J.R.’s concern easy to believe, and Susan Howard, whose halting, anguished delivery is pitch-perfect. She gets a big assist from the brilliant composer Richard Lewis Warren, whose underscore lends urgency to the entire sequence. I especially love how there’s no music during most of Donna’s monologue until she recalls awakening after Jessica knocked her out. Warren slowly brings in the orchestra when Donna says, “And then when I came to … they were both gone.” By the time she gets to this line — “Ray, she took one of your guns!” — the music has swelled. Can any “Dallas” fan watch this part without getting goose bumps?

The rest of “Hush, Hush, Sweet Jessie” is almost as good. Smith is as over-the-top as ever when Jessica finally unravels in Ray and Donna’s kitchen, but Bel Geddes, with her believably bewildered expression, manages to keep the scene grounded. Meanwhile, Katherine proves she can wheel and deal with the best of them when she agrees to buy Cliff’s share of Wentworth Tool & Die at a bargain-basement price, and it’s great fun to see Morgan Brittany deliver lines like “Oil, oil, everywhere, and not a drop for Cliff.” Also, how can you not love the long-awaited moment when Pam confronts Katherine after learning she forged the letter that broke up her marriage to Bobby? The slap Pam delivers must be one of the most cathartic moments in “Dallas” history, and isn’t it nice to see Victoria Principal demonstrate some of the spark that once made her character so compelling?

“Hush, Hush, Sweet Jessie” raises a few other questions that probably wouldn’t occur to anyone but “Dallas” devotees. Here’s one: At the beginning of the episode, Lucy speaks on the phone to Jackie, Cliff’s secretary. Is this the first, and perhaps only, time these two women interact? Here’s another: After J.R. confronts Clayton and Ray with Jessica’s diary in a Braddock parking lot, the three men hop into J.R.’s Mercedes and hightail it back to the ranch. Is this the first time we’ve seen J.R. and Ray share a ride since they palled around in the first-season episode “Winds of Vengeance”?

There’s also this: When the producers named this episode, they were surely offering a loving nod to the 1964 thriller “Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” which starred Bette Davis as a wealthy spinster driven mad by her scheming cousin, played by Olivia de Havilland. (Future “Dallas” star George Kennedy has a small role too.) The film, which received seven Oscar nominations, is now regarded by some as a camp classic. Did the “Dallas” producers know this episode would achieve a similar distinction?

Grade: A

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Bobby Ewing, Charlene Tilton, Clayton Farlow, Dallas, Donna Culver Krebbs, Hush Hush Sweet Jessie, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Lucy Ewing, Patrick Duffy, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly

Through the looking glass

‘HUSH, HUSH, SWEET JESSIE’

Season 7, Episode 29

Airdate: May 11, 1984

Audience: 20.4 million homes, ranking 4th in the weekly ratings

Writer: David Paulsen

Director: Gwen Arner

Synopsis: Pam learns Mark knew he was dying and killed himself. Cliff reluctantly sells his share of Wentworth Tool & Die to Katherine, whom Pam slaps after she discovers Katherine’s role in ending her marriage to Bobby. Clayton tells Ray and Donna that Dusty is actually Jessica’s son. After J.R. uncovers evidence Jessica killed Clayton’s first wife, she kidnaps Miss Ellie.

Cast: Mary Armstrong (Louise), Christopher Atkins (Peter Richards), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), James L. Brown (Detective Harry McSween), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Bill Morey (Leo Wakefield), Charles Parks (Fred Robbins), Edmund Penney (doctor), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Alexis Smith (Lady Jessica Montfort), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), D.J. Zacker (Louis)

“Hush, Hush, Sweet Jessie” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 158 — ‘Turning Point’

Dallas, Katherine Wentworth, Morgan Brittany, Turning Point

Poor little rich girl

Am I the only one who feels sorry for Katherine Wentworth in “Turning Point”? At the beginning of the episode, she’s elated when Bobby invites her on a tour of the property he bought from her father’s old company. After plotting for more than a year to make Bobby her own, it’s the strongest sign yet that Katherine might have a shot with him. Then, at the end of the hour, after J.R. makes Katherine sleep with him, he cruelly tells her that he played Bobby the sex tape J.R. made with Katherine earlier. “It’s all over. … He’ll never marry you,” J.R. says. Katherine’s devastation is matched only by her rage. “I’ll kill you, J.R.!” she screams.

I suppose I should feel like Katherine is getting what’s coming to her, and in a way, I do. After all, she did break up “Dallas’s” golden couple, Bobby and Pam. Yet I can’t bring myself to completely dislike the poor thing. Some of this has to do with Morgan Brittany, who makes Katherine seem so nice in her scenes with Bobby and Pam, I kind of believe her, even though I know the truth. But there’s also this: Who among us hasn’t been in Katherine’s shoes? At some point, haven’t we all harbored a secret crush on someone who we know, deep down, will never be ours? Perhaps this, more than Katherine’s big hats and camp appeal, is what makes her an icon to so many gay men in the “Dallas” audience. Bobby is like the unattainable straight guy we all fall for in high school or college.

The question is: Why isn’t Bobby interested in Katherine? Yes, I know he claims he can never think of her as anything but a friend, but come on! Katherine is breathtakingly beautiful — those eyes! that hair! — and as far as Bobby knows, she’s a sincere, caring person. She seems like a much better match for him than his current flame, Jenna Wade, who stopped being interesting the moment she hung up her apron at Billy Bob’s. While we’re on this subject, can someone explain why J.R. wouldn’t want Katherine as a sister-in-law? He says her money threatens him, but as long as he has that sex tape, he has leverage over her. In the long run, wouldn’t the ability to control a wife of Bobby Ewing be worth more to him than any threat posed by her wealth?

J.R.’s game is also off when it comes to Jessica, who drops cryptic hints about the mysterious death of Clayton’s first wife Amy throughout “Turning Point.” Finally, at the end of the episode, after Jessica and Clayton argue over his decision to sell the Farlows’ ranch, she stomps into Southfork and erupts in front of J.R. “Amy died so we could keep the Southern Cross, not sell it!” Jessica shouts. By now, shouldn’t it have dawned on J.R. that he’s in cahoots with a kook? At least our hero still has what it takes to stick it to Cliff Barnes. In “Turning Point’s” niftiest twist, we learn J.R. is secretly paying Cliff’s offshore drilling foreman, Max Flowers, to sabotage the project. J.R. also tricks Cliff into selling the Murphy and Kesey properties, a subplot that has the unusual effect of making me feel happy for J.R. and sorry for Cliff.

“Turning Point” has a few other highlights, including the cute scene where the Ewing women help Miss Ellie address her wedding invitations. Here’s how fascinated I am by the world this show creates: When Sue Ellen asks if “the Crenshaws” should be invited, I find myself wondering who these people are and how they know the Ewings. Ellie explains that one of the Crenshaws is the sister of another family friend, although I can’t make out the character’s name; it’s written in the subtitles as “Pat Bauer,” but it sounds to me like Barbara Bel Geddes says “Pat Powers,” which is the name of the fellow who palled around with Jock and Punk during a few fourth-season episodes. If I’m correct, then kudos to “Dallas” for bothering to mention a name that only the show’s most devoted loyalists would have recognized in 1984.

“Turning Point” has its share of oddities too. It’s a running joke that no one actually eats on this show, but the degree to which Linda Gray and Victoria Principal move their salads around their plates when Sue Ellen and Pam go to lunch is more amusing than usual. Also, why has Jackie, Cliff’s secretary, been replaced by “Susan” in this episode? Furthermore, isn’t funny to see Susan wear the white suit that Principal sported a few times during the fourth and fifth seasons? (My husband Andrew calls this Pam’s “Star Trek” dress because the jacket flap reminds him of the Enterprise crew’s movie uniforms.) Should we believe all the gals in the Barnes-Wentworth secretarial pool wear Pam’s hand-me-downs?

Perhaps more than anything, “Turning Point” is remembered among “Dallas” diehards as the final episode credited to cinematographer Bradford May, who gave the series such a rich, textured look. I’ve read varying accounts about why May didn’t work on the series after this season, but one thing is certain: “Dallas” will never look this good again.

Grade: B

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Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Turning Point

Wolf at the door

‘TURNING POINT’

Season 7, Episode 27

Airdate: April 13, 1984

Audience: 20.9 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Gwen Arner

Synopsis: To finance his offshore oil project, Cliff is forced to sell valuable land, unaware that J.R. is the buyer. J.R. tells Katherine he played a tape of them having sex for Bobby and arranges for Peter to be arrested for drug possession. Jessica and Clayton argue over his decision to sell the Southern Cross. Pam and Mark continue their wedding plans.

Cast: Christopher Atkins (Peter Richards), John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), James L. Brown (Detective Harry McSween), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Pat Colbért (Dora Mae), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Dana Halsted (Susan), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Donald May (Wes McDowall), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Denny Miller (Max Flowers), Dennis Patrick (Vaughn Leland), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Danone Simpson (Kendall), Alexis Smith (Lady Jessica Montford), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), John Wyler (wedding planner)

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

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘You’re the Dangerous One’

Alexis Smith, Bobby Ewing, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Lady Jessica Montford, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy, Sue Ellen Ewing, Unexpected

Takes one to know one

In “The Unexpected,” a seventh-season “Dallas” episode, Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes), J.R. (Larry Hagman), Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), Bobby (Patrick Duffy), Ray (Steve Kanaly), Donna (Susan Howard) and Lucy (Charlene Tilton) are in the Southfork living room, awaiting Clayton and Jessica’s arrival.

J.R.: Mama, would you relax? You look like you’re going to pounce on Lady Montford when she walks through the door.

Clayton and Jessica (Howard Keel, Alexis Smith) enter.

CLAYTON: Well, if that’s what she’s going to do, now’s the time to do it.

JESSICA: Better be careful. As Clayton can tell you, folks used to say I wrastle mountain lions down in San Angelo. And there’s one thing I want to get straight from the beginning. Please don’t “Lady Montford” me to death. I answer to “Jessie.”

CLAYTON: She’s also shy, I might add.

ELLIE: Welcome to Southfork, Jessie. [Approaches, takes Jessica’s hands.]

JESSICA: Thank you, Miss Ellie. I was so anxious to see what you looked like, I asked Clayton to show me a snapshot. The man didn’t have any.

ELLIE: Well, we’ll have to fix that.

JESSICA: You sure waited a long time before you asked someone to marry you, Clayton. [Patting Ellie’s hands] But I think she was worth waiting for.

ELLIE: Thank you, Jessie.

JESSICA: [Slipping her hands out of Ellie’s] You know, I thought he was going to stay single for the rest of his life. Either that, or marry someone half his age. [J.R. chuckles]

ELLIE: Jessie, I’d you to meet my family. This is my granddaughter Lucy.

LUCY: Hi.

ELLIE: And my daughters-in-law Donna and Sue Ellen. [They smile and nod] And my three sons, J.R. and Bobby and Ray.

JESSICA: Well, I’m certainly happy to meet you. [Chuckles] Now I know I’ve been away from Texas too long. I’d forgotten how handsome they grew the men in this state.

BOBBY: Well, we thank you.

JESSICA: Now, all I want to know is, which ones are married and which ones play around, or both. [Chuckles] Oh, I’m only kidding, Sue Ellen and Donna. But I can’t remember which one belongs to which since there are three sons and only two daughters-in-law.

DONNA: Well, you’d have to fight me for the silver-haired one here.

JESSICA: No, I think I’d rather tackle another mountain lion. Sue Ellen?

SUE ELLEN: I’m married to J.R.

JESSICA: I see. Well, that leaves Bobby as the single one.

J.R.: Well, that’s only temporary. The ladies are lining up for him.

JESSICA: I’m not surprised. But on the way back from the airport, Clayton spent almost as much time talking about you, J.R., as he did about Miss Ellie. I have a feeling you’re the dangerous one.

J.R.: Well, yes, I have that reputation. But I’m kind to my family and close friends.

JESSICA: [Smiling] Then I think want to be your friend. [To Ellie] I especially want to be your friend.

ELLIE: [Smiling] I’d like that.

JESSICA: Sometimes I come on a little strong. If I do, slap me down. You know, Clayton, there was a nice young man out there struggling with my excess baggage. Did he make it?

CLAYTON: He’s here now. [Takes two shopping bags from Raoul, hands them to Jessica]

JESSICA: Well, there’s China and linen for the ladies — very British — and wool sweaters for the men. I hope I guessed the sizes right. Bobby, would you fix me a little bourbon and branch? Now where’s that special box?

CLAYTON: [Holds up a long wooden case] This one?

JESSICA: [Opens it, removes a sword] I think it’s appropriate to give this to the eldest male member of the Ewing family. It belonged to Henry’s great-grandfather. It hung over the mantel in our home. [Presents it to J.R.]

J.R.: [Hands his drink to Sue Ellen] Darlin’, would you please? Well, this is beautiful. [Takes the sword] Are you sure you want to give us a family heirloom?

JESSICA: Yes, I am. I want your family to know how important this marriage is to me.

ELLIE: Thank you, Jessica.

BOBBY: [Hands her a drink] Jessica?

JESSICA: Oh, thank you. [Raises her glass] To the Ewings … and to the Farlows.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 155 — ‘The Unexpected’

Barbara Bel Geddes, Bobby Ewing, Charlene Tilton, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Lucy Ewing, Miss Ellie Ewing, Patrick Duffy, Steve Kanaly, Sue Ellen Ewing, Susan Howard, Unexpected

Keeping it real

Lady Jessica Montford makes her memorable debut at the end of “The Unexpected,” sweeping into the Southfork living room on the arm of brother Clayton Farlow and introducing herself to her future in-laws as only she can. Jessica is brazen, asking which Ewing husbands “play around” on their wives, and a little baffling, gifting J.R. with an antique sword. The scene is like something out of a stage play, which should come as no surprise since actress Alexis Smith was a major Broadway star. At one point, with Clayton standing behind her, Jessica asks him a question without turning to face him. It’s as if Smith can’t bring herself to break the theater’s golden rule: Never turn your back on the audience.

I wish the same thing could be said about the series itself. “Dallas” always distinguished itself through the believability of its performances, but “The Unexpected” is another example of how the show cranked up the camp to compete with rival soap “Dynasty,” which was skyrocketing in the ratings at the time with over-the-top storylines and acting. Until this episode, the “Dallas” audience only had to contend with Morgan Brittany’s gentle nibbling of scenery; now we have Smith inhaling it with abandon. Consider “The Unexpected’s” final scene, when Miss Ellie walks Jessica to her guest room, tells her how happy she is to welcome her to the family and closes the door. Jessica’s smile turns to a scowl. “Family?” she says, standing in the middle of the room, alone. “Oh, I don’t think so. I wouldn’t count on you marrying brother Clayton, Miss Ellie. I wouldn’t count on it all.” I’ll admit this moment amuses me, but it also makes me cringe a little.

Let me be clear: It’s not that I dislike Smith or don’t admire the gusto she brings to her role. My point is that her broad performance feels out of place on “Dallas.” On the other hand, Jessica’s swing-for-the-fences debut in “The Unexpected” gives me new appreciation for the regular cast members — particularly the always wonderful Barbara Bel Geddes, who manages to exude warmth, sincerity and the slightest hint of skepticism in Ellie’s scenes with Jessica. Perhaps my opinion will change as I watch “Dallas’s” remaining seventh-season episodes, but in this segment at least, Smith makes Jessica feel like a character, while Bel Geddes makes Ellie feel like a person.

Other storylines in “The Unexpected” yield mixed reactions too, especially where “Dallas’s” leading ladies are concerned. It’s good to see Sue Ellen wise up — she realizes J.R. is only being nice to Peter because he’s hatching some sort of plot against him — but I wish she had the gumption to do something about it. Meanwhile, Lucy finally figures out Peter isn’t interested in her, but only after she sacrifices her self-respect by throwing herself at him. Then there’s Pam, who’s wrong to ask Mark’s doctor to not tell him he’s dying, even if I admire her selflessness in accepting his marriage proposal. (This is another step in Pam’s lamentable journey toward sainthood, but so far it hasn’t gotten too annoying.) The only heroine who doesn’t disappoint me is Afton, who gets so fed up with having to cook breakfast for distracted Cliff and demanding Vaughn, she simply walks out of the kitchen and leaves them to fend for themselves. Good for her.

The other highlights of “The Unexpected” include J.R.’s crashing of Cliff and Vaughn’s lunchtime negotiation at the Oil Baron’s Club, where J.R. slyly manipulates Cliff into signing the paperwork for Vaughn’s loophole-riddled loan. I also like the scene of J.R. and Serena in bed, where he reveals to her — and the audience — that Sue Ellen, not Peter, is the real target of his scheme. “I’ll tell you, she’s like a runaway mare with a bit between her teeth,” J.R. says. “I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried affection, patience, understanding. But she won’t pay attention to anything.” This is a great moment because I love hearing Larry Hagman’s drawl when he delivers that “runaway mare” line, but also because you get the feeling J.R. has convinced himself what he’s saying is true.

There are also two nice segues in “The Unexpected.” In the first, J.R. tells Katherine he’ll give her the tape of them having sex “when Pamela Ewing becomes Mrs. Mark Graison.” Cut to Mark and Pam at a restaurant, where he pours her a glass of champagne and says, “Mrs. Mark Graison — that has a nice ring to it.” Later, the scene that introduces Jessica ends with her raising a glass of bourbon and toasting, “To the Ewings … and to the Farlows.” Cut to another restaurant, where a jubilant Cliff toasts the newly engaged Pam and Mark. “To the Barneses and the Graisons,” Cliff says. He continues by praising “the union of these important families into the biggest, most powerful dynasty in Texas.”

Watch it, Barnes. No need for any “dynasty” talk here. Your show does fine on its own, thank you very much.

Grade: B

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Alexis Smith, Clayton Farlow, Dallas, Howard Keel, Lady Jessica Montford, Unexpected

Our Alexis

‘THE UNEXPECTED’

Season 7, Episode 24

Airdate: March 16, 1984

Audience: 20.6 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Nick Havinga

Synopsis: After Pam asks Dr. Kenderson to not tell Mark he’s dying, she accepts Mark’s marriage proposal, hurting Bobby. J.R. manipulates Cliff into accepting Vaughn’s loan, even though the terms put Barnes-Wentworth at risk. Sue Ellen grows suspicious of J.R.’s friendliness toward Peter. Clayton’s sister Jessica Montford arrives and privately vows to prevent his marriage to Miss Ellie.

Cast: Christopher Atkins (Peter Richards), John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Stephanie Blackmore (Serena Wald), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Pat Colbért (Dora Mae), Robert Donavan (Metcalf), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Wendy Fulton (Jan Higgins), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Sherril Lynn Katzman (Jackie Dugan), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Bill Morey (Leo Wakefield), Dennis Patrick (Vaughn Leland), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Alexis Smith (Lady Jessica Montford), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

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