Dallas Parallels: Spousal Secrets

Barbara Bel Geddes, Battle Lines, Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Mastectomy Part 1, Miss Ellie Ewing, TNT

Jock and Miss Ellie have the most stable marriage on the original “Dallas,” often serving as role models for the younger couples at Southfork. Bobby and Ann continue this tradition on the new series, although they’ve also inherited Jock and Ellie’s penchant for keeping secrets from each other.

During the old show’s third season, after Jock suffers a near-death experience on a hunting trip, he decides to reveal something to Ellie that he’s hidden from her for 40 years: He was previously married to a woman named Amanda. In “Mastectomy, Part 1,” Jock finally tells Ellie about the marriage, explaining how he divorced Amanda after she suffered a mental breakdown and was committed to a sanitarium.

In true “Dallas” style, Jock’s timing is lousy. He comes clean to Ellie on the night she was planning to tell him she might have breast cancer. When Ellie hears Jock’s admission, she’s too upset to share her news. “You walked out on a sick woman. If I get sick, are you going to walk out on me?” she asks.

Flash forward to “Battle Lines,” the new “Dallas’s” second-season opener, when Ann comes home and tells Bobby something she has hidden from him: During her first marriage to Harris, Ann and Harris had a daughter named Emma, who was kidnapped and presumed dead. Unlike Ellie, who ends up rushing out of the room after learning Jock’s news, Bobby remains calm when he hears Ann’s revelation. When she tells him Harris claims to have found Emma and that a DNA sample from Ann could confirm the young woman’s identity, Bobby simply says, “Well, OK, then. Let’s get your DNA checked, Annie.”

This difference aside, the staging of the scenes is almost identical: Jock and Ann both sit on Southfork sofas when they confess their secrets to their spouses, who are seated to next to them. The two confessions also trigger repercussions: Ellie remains angry at Jock for awhile, finally forgiving him after her cancer surgery. Likewise, Bobby harbors lingering resentment toward Ann until the night before J.R.’s funeral, when he finally blows up at her. (“I am pissed!”)

By the end of the season, like Jock and Ellie before them, Bobby and Ann have patched things up — until the next secret comes out, no doubt.

 

‘Her Name Was … Amanda’

Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, Mastectomy Part 1

Unwrapped wife

In “Mastectomy, Part 1,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) sits on a sofa in the Southfork den while Jock (Jim Davis) stands at the bar.

ELLIE: Jock, I think you’ve stirred that drink long enough.

JOCK: Yeah, I guess you’re right. [Carries two drinks to the sofa, hands one to her] Miss Ellie, when you’ve been married as long as we have, you kind of sense when something’s wrong.

ELLIE: Yes, I guess we’re beyond keeping things from each other.

JOCK: [Sits next to her] I could see it in your face.

ELLIE: I wanted to talk, Jock.

JOCK: I guess you picked it up from me.

ELLIE: The other way around. [Smiles]

JOCK: Well, I never really knew how to tell you, but I must have been on the verge of it a hundred times.

ELLIE: Tell me what?

JOCK: About Amanda.

ELLIE: Amanda?

JOCK: Here I wait 40 years to tell you, and wouldn’t you know, it all comes out backwards?

ELLIE: [Sets down her drink] Jock, I don’t understand what you’re saying.

JOCK: Ellie, I’m trying to tell you about my first wife.

ELLIE: Your first wife?

JOCK: Yes. I was married and divorced before I met you. Her name was, is Amanda.

ELLIE: What are you talking about?

JOCK: [Rises] Well, when I went hunting with the boys a few weeks ago and got shot, I didn’t know whether I was going to make it or not. I realized I had an obligation to her.

ELLIE: [Shouting] Obligation?

JOCK: Miss Ellie, she’s not a well woman. She had a complete mental breakdown, shortly after we were married. The doctor finally advised divorce. I paid all of her sanitarium bills. I figured that if anything happened to me, there ought to be some sort of trust fund to continue those payments. [Sits down again] But I had to talk to you first.

ELLIE: You divorced a woman because she was sick?

JOCK: No, Miss Ellie. It was on doctors’ advice.

ELLIE: And you kept this from me? All this time?

JOCK: I wanted to tell you, Miss Ellie, believe me. I didn’t want to lose you to Digger. I wasn’t so sure of myself in those days.

ELLIE: What else haven’t you told me, Jock? What else?

JOCK: Nothing. It was a long time ago, over 40 years, Ellie.

ELLIE: “A long time ago.” You walked out on a sick woman. If I get sick, are you going to walk out on me?

Jock looks down as Ellie gets up and rushes out of the room.

 

‘Her Name Was Emma’

Ann Ewing, Battles Lines, Brenda Strong, Dallas, TNT

Undisclosed daughter

In “Battle Lines,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) is standing at the Southfork kitchen counter when Ann (Brenda Strong) enters, holding an envelope.

BOBBY: Hey, honey. [Notices she seems upset, walks toward her as she approaches the sofa] Annie? Honey, what’s wrong? [Sits with her, holds her hand] Honey? Hey.

ANN: You told me to come to you when I was ready. Well, I have something to tell you. Twenty-two years ago, I had a daughter. Her name was Emma. When Emma was 18 months old, I was at the state fair. I turned away from her stroller to get a soda, just for a moment. [Begins sobbing] And when I turned back, she was gone. Someone had taken her. Everyone searched. But Emma was never found. [Sniffles] I saw Harris this afternoon. He told me he’d found Emma. But before he’ll tell me where she is, I have to give him a tape I made of him admitting to laundering money. [Bobby pulls his hand away.] I’m sorry I never told you.

BOBBY: How do you know what Ryland told you is true? What if he’s making all of this up, just to get back this … tape that you’ve made?

ANN: [Pulls a paper and photograph out of the envelope, hands it to Bobby, who examines it] Harris says he had his DNA checked against this young woman … and that I should do the same.

BOBBY: Well, OK, then. Let’s get your DNA checked, Annie.

What do you think of spousal secrets that rock the marriages of Jock and Miss Ellie and Bobby and Ann? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Parallels.”

Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 22 – ‘A Call to Arms’

Call to Arms, Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, TNT

Cry wolf

The new “Dallas” often feels like more of an ensemble show than the original series did. Every member of the endlessly growing cast generally gets a meaningful scene or two in each episode, although there are times when one actor seems to leave a bigger impression than others. In “A Call to Arms,” Josh Henderson is the one to watch. With help from Gail Gilchriest and Julia Cohen’s solid script, Henderson gives us a fresh look at John Ross’s vulnerabilities as the character struggles with Pamela’s rejection and begins to question his decision to follow in J.R.’s footsteps as Southfork’s schemer-in-chief. It’s a terrific performance.

My favorite scene is John Ross’s exchange with Uncle Bobby. The younger man sits in the bedroom he inherited from J.R., drinking his father’s bourbon and feeling regretful because Pamela didn’t believe him when he tried to tell her about Cliff’s machinations. “For once in my damn life, I told the truth. And she thought it was a move. I guess I’m the like boy who cried wolf,” John Ross says. This line reminds us how different John Ross is from his father. J.R. had plenty of moments of introspection on the old show, but we didn’t see him wrestle too often with feelings of self-doubt or remorse. John Ross, on the other hand, feels a little more moralistic. We saw this for the first time last season, when he tried to persuade J.R. to give up his battle for Southfork, and now we see it again in this scene with Uncle Bobby.

I also like this exchange because it does such a nice job honoring “Dallas” history. Bobby recalls his marriage to his Pamela, and the glint in Patrick Duffy’s eye suggests his character isn’t just nostalgic for those days; I get the feeling he’s still carrying a torch for his first wife. The conversation also acknowledges the special bond that has always existed between Bobby and John Ross, as longtime fans who remember Duffy’s scenes with young Omri Katz can attest. Between “A Call to Arms” and the previous episode, when Bobby shakes John Ross’s hand and welcomes him home to Southfork, I have a feeling the relationship between uncle and nephew is going to take on greater prominence as the new “Dallas” progresses.

We also see a more mature John Ross in the scene where Cliff sweeps into the Ewing Energies conference room and announces he’s taken over the company’s bank loan. When Christopher calls Cliff a “son of a bitch” and begins to lunge at him, it’s John Ross who puts his hand on his cousin’s shoulder and eases him back into his seat. The moment echoes the beginning of the brawl at the memorial service in “J.R.’s Masterpiece,” when Christopher rushes to John Ross’s side (“I’ve got this, cousin”) after one of the mourners insults J.R.’s memory. I know this truce between John Ross and Christopher isn’t going to last, but isn’t it nice to see them getting along? It makes both characters feel less like boys and more like men.

Henderson has two more moments in “A Call to Arms” that stand out: the swoon-worthy scene where he sweeps Julie Gonzalo’s Pamela off her feet in the pouring rain, which might symbolize the storm swirling around the Ewings as their enemies descend upon them. (The scene also makes me appreciate the technical mastery of the people who work behind the camera on this show. My guess is the crew, led by first-time “Dallas” director Ken Topolsky, had to create that rain.) I also like the opening scene, when John Ross dramatically removes his sunglasses in front of McConaughey and recalls how J.R. took down three senators, two governors and a vice president (!), adding: “He taught me everything he knows. Your head’s going to look real nice above my fireplace, governor.” Even though I’m glad John Ross hasn’t become a carbon copy of his father, a little Hagman-esque flair is nice now and then, and Henderson nails it in that sequence.

Other good moments: Sue Ellen’s scene with Bum, which demonstrates the unexpectedly charming rapport between Linda Gray and Kevin Page; the chilling final scene, where Christopher and Elena learn his mother may be alive and living under the alias “Patricia Barrett” in Zurich; and all those what-will-she-do-next sequences with wild child Emma, including the kinky scene where she entices a rodeo cowboy into snagging some painkillers for her by biting his lip. I also got a chuckle from Ken Kercheval’s deliciously malevolent delivery when Cliff announces he’s picked up the Ewings’ bank note; the actor’s line – “I love a good fire sale” – might be a sly tribute to Cliff’s skinflint tendencies on the old show.

“A Call to Arms’” other highlight: Steven Weber, who gives another nicely measured performance as the corrupt McConaughey. If Weber feels any temptation to chomp scenery, he wisely resists it. The actor gets one of this episode’s best lines – “I guaran-damn-tee!” – but he avoids going over the top when he delivers it. I hope he’s going to be with “Dallas” for awhile.

I also appreciate how “A Call to Arms” brings back Jason Douglas as McConaughey’s aide, who first appeared in the TV news report about Sue Ellen’s imploding political campaign at the end of the second-season premiere, “Battle Lines.” Some trivia: When TNT sent a preview of that episode to critics and bloggers, Douglas was identified in the fictional newscast as “Sam McConaughey;” by the time the episode was telecast, the reporter’s voiceover narration and on-screen graphics had been changed to refer to him as the McConaughey campaign’s chief of staff.

Interesting, huh? Makes me wonder if there might be more recasts in this show’s future.

Grade: B

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Call to Arms, Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Barnes, TNT

Perfect storm

‘A CALL TO ARMS’

Season 2, Episode 12

Telecast: April 8, 2013

Writer: Gail Gilchriest and Julia Cohen

Director: Ken Topolsky

Audience: 1.9 million viewers on April 8

Synopsis: McConaughey uses the Henderson property to build a pipeline. Cliff buys the Ewings’ bank note and vows to take control of Ewing Energies if the family doesn’t repay the loan within one day. Vickers foils the Ewings’ attempt to discover what’s in Ryland’s cargo from Mexico. Pamela learns Cliff was behind the rig explosion and turns to John Ross. Christopher discovers his mother may be alive and living under a different name in Zurich. Sue Ellen asks Bum to find Ken. After Emma promises Ann she’ll give up her pills, she buys painkillers from a ranch hand and tries to drive away Drew.

Cast: John Athas (Ellis), Amber Bartlett (Jill), Kuno Becker (Drew Ramos), Emma Bell (Emma Brown), Donny Boas (McCabe), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Jason Douglas (Erik Allen), Akai Draco (Sheriff Derrick), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Alex Fernandez (Roy Vickers), Julie Gonzalo (Pamela Barnes), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Bob Hess (Alan Westing), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Kevin Page (Bum), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Steven Weber (Governor Sam McConaughey)

“A Call to Arms” is available at DallasTNT.com, Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 13 – ‘Sins of the Father’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Sins of the Father, TNT

The master

Larry Hagman supplies “Sins of the Father” with its best moments, including the cool scene where J.R. pressures Frank to betray Cliff, as well as the surprisingly sentimental one where he vows to help Bobby get revenge against Ryland. But for once, Hagman isn’t the only great thing about the new “Dallas.” Every member of the ensemble shines in this episode, especially Brenda Strong, whose performances are pitch perfect. This is the first time I’ve cared about Ann’s storyline this season, and that’s mostly because Strong does such a beautiful job selling it.

Strong has always had the most thankless job on this show because Ann has been assigned a dual role previously occupied by two of the most beloved figures in the “Dallas” mythos. Not only has Ann succeeded Pam as Bobby’s wife, she’s also assumed Miss Ellie’s mantle as the first lady of Southfork. Now, in “Sins of the Father,” with all her secrets seemingly exposed, Ann finally begins to feel like her own woman. She repeatedly calls Harris a “son of a bitch,” lobs a few barbs at Judith, and then confesses to Emma her past addiction to tranquilizers. We’re not in Pam or Ellie territory anymore.

I applaud the “Dallas” writers for turning Ann into a flawed heroine, but Strong gets the credit for making the character so convincingly human. Ann’s tears during her reunion with Emma at the end of “Battle Lines,” the second-season premiere, seemed to exceed what the moment called for, but I never get that feeling watching her in “Sins of the Father.” Strong strikes the right balance between regret and resolve in this episode’s Ann/Emma scene, making me believe Ann is a woman who hasn’t forgotten her mistakes, even if she’s risen above them.

Strong is downright mesmerizing at the end of “Sins of the Father,” when Ann confronts Harris and shoots him. It’s unsettling to see Ann behave so coldly, although I can’t say the shooting shocked me since TNT’s second-season promos included a glimpse of her brandishing a gun. I also can’t help but notice how closely Ann’s shooting of Harris mirrors Pamela’s shooting of Tommy in last season’s “Family Business,” right down to the victim’s slow-motion fall to the floor. There’s one big difference, of course: Pamela’s shooting was an act of self-defense, while Ann shoots Harris in cold blood. How’s the show going to redeem her after this?

Even though Strong dominates “Sins of the Father,” this is a solid hour for all the “Dallas” women. For me, seeing Sue Ellen march into Ewing Energies and threaten to call in Elena’s loan was a little metaphysical: Suddenly it was the 1980s again and I was back in my parents’ living room, watching Sue Ellen square off against one of her rivals, except this time the fight was over her son, not J.R. The role of Mama Bear fits Linda Gray well, although I think this moment would’ve been more effective if Sue Ellen had taken it upon herself to go after Elena instead of being manipulated into it by John Ross. Regardless, I welcome the return of the take-no-prisoners Sue Ellen, and I’m thrilled to see her get involved with the family business. At long last, the new “Dallas” seems to have figured out how to put Gray’s gifts to good use.

As for Elena: How nice is it to see her do something besides moon over John Ross and/or Christopher? Jordana Brewster is an actress with tremendous poise and grace, and I’m glad the writers are turning Elena into such a smart, savvy businesswoman. She keeps her cool when Sue Ellen confronts her (Elena: “I’m not sure where all this anger is coming from, but if this is about something more personal, we should talk about it”), but Elena would be dull if she was perfect, and in “Sins of the Father” she isn’t. Brother Drew’s return rattles her, although I also feel the warmth between the characters during their heart-to-heart in the Southfork pasture. I hope the show will continue to develop Elena and Drew’s relationship with each other, as well as the one they share with mama Carmen. Between the three of them, Brewster, Kuno Becker (a promising addition to the show) and Marlene Forte have the potential to turn the Ramoses into a meaningful presence at Southfork.

Let’s also hear it for John Ross and Pamela. Their first scene in “Sins of the Father,” when they frolic in bed, arguing over who gets to be on top, is fun, and their repeated use of “Dallas’s” most enduring term of endearment – “darlin’” – is cute. On the other hand, John Ross’s worried expression over Pamela’s connection to Tommy’s death at the end of the episode feels a little out of place. I like the idea of him falling for Pamela, but isn’t it a little soon? For that matter, I also don’t buy the notion that the detective investigating Tommy’s death would call Christopher to the crime scene for a chit-chat (shouldn’t Christopher be a suspect too?), and I wonder if Harris would really be beyond punishment for kidnapping Emma. The criminal justice system on this show seems to be exist in another dimension.

Of course, every time “Dallas” offers head-scratchers like these, it usually cuts to something wonderful – like Hagman’s scenes. Director Jesse Bochco smartly shrouds Hagman and Faran Tahir in darkness during J.R.’s exchange with Frank, which makes it feel that much more mysterious. I also love how scriptwriter Bruce Rasmussen peppers J.R.’s dialogue with an extra dash of homey references (church socials, lapdogs), which allows Hagman to play off the suave Tahir. My gut tells me Frank isn’t long for this world, which is too bad because of all the new show’s villains, he’s the most menacing.

Hagman’s other highlight: the scene where Bobby asks J.R. to help him get revenge against Harris. Besides capitalizing on the chemistry between Hagman and Patrick Duffy, the scene also draws upon the deep familiarity between these characters. J.R.: “I’ve seen that look before. You go over there to get justice and you’re likely to beat him to death.” Bobby: “That’s why I need you. Help me find a way to bring him down.”

I wish the show had allowed the audience to savor the idea of J.R. and Bobby joining forces against a common enemy; instead, it cut to the scene of Ann shooting Harris, which kind of undermines any threat J.R. might pose. Then again, something tells me Mr. Ryland is going to be just fine (please note: Mitch Pileggi was added to this show’s opening credits two episodes ago), so J.R. might yet get his chance to stage his “masterpiece” against Harris. Rarely have I wanted to see anything more.

Grade: A

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Ann Ewing, Brenda Strong, Dallas, Sins of the Father, TNT

Woman on the edge

‘SINS OF THE FATHER’

Season 2, Episode 3

Telecast: February 4, 2013

Writer: Bruce Rasmussen

Director: Jesse Bochco

Audience: 2.2 million viewers on February 4

Synopsis: When the police begin to suspect Pamela killed Tommy, J.R. urges Frank to betray her. After Christopher warns Becky she’s in danger, she receives a visit from Frank and disappears. At John Ross’s urging, Sue Ellen threatens to call in Elena’s loan, prompting Elena to turn to her estranged brother Drew for help striking oil. Ann tries to connect with Emma but is once again rejected. Bobby asks J.R. to help him get revenge against Harris, unaware Ann has shot him.

Cast: Amber Bartlett (Jill), Kuno Becker (Drew Ramos), Emma Bell (Emma Brown), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Marlene Forte (Carmen Ramos), Julie Gonzalo (Pamela Rebecca Barnes), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Judith Light (Judith Ryland), Alex McKenna (Becky Sutter), Marcus M. Mauldin (Detective Ronnie Bota), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Matthew Posey (Bubba), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Faran Tahir (Frank Ashkani)

“Sins of the Father” is available at DallasTNT.com, Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.