Dallas Parallels: Hostage!

Blame Game, Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, TNT, Winds of Vengeance

No two “Dallas” episodes invite comparison as much as “Winds of Vengeance” and “Blame Game.” Both segments — which debuted in 1978 and 2013, respectively — depict armed intruders invading Southfork and holding the Ewings hostage. The two storylines play on common themes, including stubborn pride and misguided justice, but the episodes also demonstrate the distinctions between the original “Dallas” and its TNT sequel.

In “Winds of Vengeance,” the old show’s fourth episode, blue-collar Luther Frick discovers his wife Wanda spent the night in a Waco motel with a wealthy stranger from out of town: J.R. Ewing. Frick and Wanda’s brother, Payton Allen, track J.R. to Southfork, where they hold him, Ray and the Ewing women at gunpoint in the living room as a hurricane bears down outside. Frick believes J.R. raped Wanda, so he vows to get “justice” for himself by having sex with Sue Ellen while Allen sets his sights on Lucy. At the last minute, Jock and Bobby arrive, punch out Frick and Allen and send the creeps on their way.

In “Blame Game,” one of TNT’s second-season “Dallas” episodes, slimy oilman Vicente Cano, who went to jail after tangling with J.R. and John Ross, escapes and marches into Southfork with a band of armed thugs. Cano believes the Ewings owe him the methane technology that Christopher developed, and so Cano and his gang hold the family hostage in the living room while Christopher retrieves his methane prototype from the office. When he returns and hands over the equipment, Cano grabs Elena and begins to make his escape, but her brother Drew arrives at the last minute and shoots Cano while Bobby and John Ross overpower the rest of his gang.

There are plenty of similarities here, beginning with the motivations of the villains. When Frick and Allen pull their guns on the Ewings, J.R. assumes they’re robbers and tells them they can have all the cash in the family safe. “We ain’t no thieves. We don’t want your money,” Frick says. Cano, in the meantime, believes Christopher’s methane technology will be lucrative, but profit isn’t his primary goal. When he bursts into Southfork, he slaps John Ross and says, “Did you think you could get away with turning me into the authorities and painting me as the one with dishonor?”

The two episodes also show how the bad guys humiliate the Ewings by exposing their secrets. In “Winds of Vengeance,” when Frick announces J.R. raped Wanda, he turns to Sue Ellen and asks, “You like him any better now, knowing what a hotshot lover-boy he is?” Sue Ellen’s response — “Him?” — causes Allen to laugh uproariously. Something similar happens in “Blame Game” when Cano tries to intimidate Christopher by threatening Pamela, only to realize John Ross’s ex-fiancée Elena has become the object of Christopher’s affection. “You Ewing boys share after all. I love it!” Cano exclaims.

There are also quite a few differences between the episodes. The hostage situation in “Winds of Vengeance” unfolds slowly, giving the actors plenty of time to explore the mental trauma their characters are experiencing by being held against their will. Linda Gray steals the show with her gutsy performance in the scene where Frick forces Sue Ellen to sing for him, but there are also examples of the Ewing women resisting their captors. In one scene, Sue Ellen smacks Allen and tells him not to touch her. Later, Allen tries to make Pam dance with him, but she fights back and screams, “I’ll kill you!”

Contrast this with the hostage situation in “Blame Game,” which comes at the end of that episode and is interspersed with scenes from Ann’s trial. This gives the segment a faster pace overall, but it also robs the hostage sequences of the tense, psychological vibe that “Winds of Vengeance” mined so effectively. “Blame Game” also offers no scenes of the women fighting back, and if there are sexual undertones to the story, they’re only hinted at: When Cano grabs Elena and heads for the helicopter waiting outside, he says he’s taking her as “an insurance policy,” then adds: “Who knows? Maybe we have something in common.”

On the other hand, “Blame Game” shows the Ewings interacting with each other while their captors are holding them at gunpoint, which is something we really don’t see in “Winds of Vengeance.” In one exchange, Sue Ellen sits with Bobby and laments his rivalry with J.R., calling it “a vicious cycle that our sons seem destined to continue.”

She’s probably correct that John Ross and Christopher are fated to fight each other, but if the Ewings want to break one of their other vicious cycles — their penchant for being taken hostage — there’s a simple solution: Hire some security guards, for goodness sakes. I mean, these people can afford it, right?

 

‘Bravery’s Going to Get Your Dead, Junior’

Dallas, Brian Dennehy, Luther Frick, Winds of Vengeance

Injustice

In “Winds of Vengeance,” a first-season “Dallas” episode, J.R. and Ray (Larry Hagman, Steve Kanaly) sit in chairs while Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), Pam (Victoria Principal) and Lucy (Charlene Tilton) sit on the sofa and the gun-wielding Frick and Allen (Brian Dennehy, Cooper Huckabee) hover nearby.

LUCY: What are you going to do with us?

ALLEN: We were going to get up a softball game, but the weather. …

J.R.: Look, fellas. If you’re here for anything to do with justice.

FRICK: Shut up.

ALLEN: We’ll prove it. [Motions to Sue Ellen] This is your wife, right?

J.R.: Yes.

ALLEN: [Walks toward her] Pretty.

He reaches for her. She smacks him away.

SUE ELLEN: Don’t touch me.

J.R. tries to get up. Frick holds him place.

FRICK: [Snickering] Now bravery’s going to get you dead, Junior.

ALLEN: [To Ray] Hey, you. You! You married?

RAY: No.

ALLEN: That gives us a choice.

FRICK: [To J.R.] Hey, you know I’m married too, mister. [Kneels beside him] Yeah. My wife’s name is Wanda. You know her?

J.R.: [Sheepish] No, I don’t know any Wandas.

FRICK: Well, you got a short memory.

J.R.: I just can’t remember anybody by the name of Wanda.

ALLEN: She says she knows you pretty good.

FRICK: You know, Wanda didn’t come home last night. Now me and her brother here, we went looking for her. And guess where we found her this morning? We found her in this old motel room. Her and her friend Mary Lou.

J.R.: So?

FRICK: So she said she had been kidnapped, right off the main street by two guys last night. She said they took them up to this motel room. They got them drunk. And then they raped them.

J.R.: Well, what does that got to do with me?

ALLEN: You were kind enough to leave a business card.

J.R.: Well, now a lot of people have got my business card.

FRICK: [To Sue Ellen] Well, missus, what do you think of ol’ J.R. Ewing now? Huh? [Silence] Yeah. Yeah, maybe I’m doing you a favor, huh? [Shouting] Huh? You like him any better now knowing what a hotshot lover-boy he is?

SUE ELLEN: Him?

ALLEN: [Laughing] Somebody’s got to take care of the little lady. Looks like you don’t.

He kisses her. She screams and pushes him away as Allen laughs.

 

‘Your Beautiful Wife and Children Will Not Escape Unscathed’

Blame Game, Carlos Bernard, Dallas, TNT, Vicente Cano

Dishonor

In “Blame Game,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, Cano (Carlos Bernard) stands in the Southfork living room and speaks to Bobby and Christopher (Patrick Duffy, Jesse Metcalfe), who is held by one of Cano’s thugs. John Ross (Josh Henderson), Pamela (Julie Gonzalo), Elena (Jordana Brewster) and Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) are seated around the room, surrounded by other members of Cano’s gang.

CHRISTOPHER: What do you want, Cano?

CANO: Only what I was promised. You’re going to call Ewing Energies and you’re going to send all your employees home for the day. [The thug releases Christopher.] And once the place is empty, my friend here is going to accompany you to your office, where you’re going to retrieve the plans to your methane patent and prototype that I was promised. [Slaps his right-hand man on the back.] Now, if you are not back here within one hour, your beautiful wife and children will not escape unscathed. [Cano stands over Pamela and strokes her hair, then yanks her head back against him.]

JOHN ROSS: [Rises] Let her go! [A thug pulls him down.]

CANO: Well, your cousin has to defend your wife? Oh, wait a minute. [Laughs] You Ewing boys share after all. [Slaps his hands together] I love it! Well, since this clearly where your heart lies, you have one hour to bring me the prototype. [Holds a gun to Elena’s head]

How do you think “Winds of Vengeance” and “Blame Game” compare to each other? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Parallels.”

The Dal-List: Sue Ellen’s 10 Most Memorable Moments (So Far)

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

Mourning star

Sue Ellen WeekAs the indomitable Sue Ellen Ewing, Linda Gray has captivated television audiences since “Dallas’s” 1978 debut. Sue Ellen Week continues with this list of the character’s greatest moments from her first 35 years.

Brian Dennehy, Dallas, Linda Gray, Luther Frick, Sue Ellen Ewing, Winds of Vengeance

Command performance

10. Lady sings the blues. Crazed cuckold Luther Frick (Brian Dennehy) holds the Ewings hostage in the Southfork living room and forces Sue Ellen to don her Miss Texas bathing suit and sing for him. Humiliating? Yes, but it also demonstrates Sue Ellen’s willingness to do what’s needed to help her family survive a crisis. Moreover, this is one of Gray’s gutsiest — and smartest — performances. I especially love the final scene: After Jock and Bobby rescue everyone, Sue Ellen grabs her coat and exits the room, head held high. It’s an early glimpse of the character’s resilience: No matter what indignities may be visited upon Sue Ellen, she almost always walks away a lady.

Dallas, Linda Gray, Mother of the Year, Sue Ellen Ewing

Mama’s here

9. Embracing motherhood. When John Ross is born, Sue Ellen comes down with a Southfork-sized case of post-partum depression — and who can blame her? She’s emotionally devastated by her ongoing struggle with alcoholism, the collapse of her marriage to J.R. and her doomed affair with Cliff, who dumped her to preserve his political viability. With help from her shrink Dr. Elby, Sue Ellen finally realizes how much “little John” needs her, so she goes home, picks up the boy and holds him for only the second time since his birth, 13 (!) episodes earlier. It’s a powerful moment — and it sends baby-obsessed sister-in-law Pam running away in tears, so bonus points for that.

Dallas, Guilt by Association, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Set ’em up, Sue

8. Defeating the governor. When Sue Ellen discovers smirktastic Governor McConaughey suppressed evidence that would exonerate the Ewings in the investigation into their rig explosion, she glides into his office, pours a drink and announces she’s going to expose his malfeasance. McConaughey is not pleased. “You can never trust a drunk,” he seethes. Sue Ellen agrees, but says that’s beside the point as she places the glass on his desk and slides it toward him. “This drink, governor, is for you. You’re going to need it. Because now that I have the goods on you, you’re going to do what I want.” Dayum! Our gal really did learn at the feet of the master, didn’t she?

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Clean and sober

7. On the couch. After Sue Ellen hits rock bottom, J.R. once again commits her to a sanitarium, where she receives treatment from tough-love therapist Dr. Gibson (the terrific Bibi Besch). In an insightful exchange, Sue Ellen tries to blame her drinking problem on her parents and J.R. — until the good doctor sets her straight: “Sue Ellen, I don’t think it matters whose fault it is. What matters is where you go from here.” When Besch delivers this line, watch Gray’s eyes; it’s almost as if you can see the light go on inside Sue Ellen’s head. This moment marks the beginning of one of “Dallas’s” most satisfying storylines: Sue Ellen’s journey of self-discovery. Too bad it turned out to be Pam’s dream.

Dallas, J.R. Returns, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

She’s the boss

6. Joining the oil business. After a five-year absence, J.R. returns to Dallas and stages an elaborate scheme (does he do any other kind?) to persuade Bobby to buy back Ewing Oil from Cliff. The plan works like a charm … but wait! Baby brother has a trick up his sleeve too: He sells half the company to his new business partner — Sue Ellen, who can’t resist needling her ex-husband when she reveals her new career to him. “I was thinking about all the fun pillow talks we’ll have … about gushers and dry holes,” Sue Ellen says with a wink. The master is justifiably impressed. As she walks away, he turns to John Ross and says, “Your mama’s a hell of a woman.” We couldn’t agree more.

Dallas, Linda Gray, Mandy Winger, Deborah Shelton, Sue Ellen Ewing

You tell her, honey

5. Schooling Mandy. At the Ewing Rodeo, a newly sober Sue Ellen turns a corner — literally and figuratively — when she runs into Mandy Winger (Deborah Shelton), J.R.’s latest extra-marital squeeze. Sue Ellen treats Mandy with compassion, urging her to get away from J.R. before he destroys her. When Mandy refuses to listen and turns to leave, Sue Ellen grabs her by the arm and delivers a hard truth: “Isn’t it strange how the mistress always thinks she’s smarter than the wife? If she’s so smart, why is she the mistress?” In the hands of another actress, this scene might have come off like another catty soap opera confrontation, but Gray infuses the material with power and poignancy.

Dallas, Linda Gray, Rock Bottom, Sue Ellen Ewing

Oh, Sue Ellen

4. Hitting bottom. Sue Ellen tries to comfort J.R. after Bobby’s funeral, but he responds with devastating cruelty, sending her on her worst bender ever. Over the course of the next day or so, Sue Ellen’s purse, car and wedding ring are stolen, leaving her wandering the streets. She winds up in a cheap motel, where she catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror and shouts, “J.R. is right. They’re all right. You are disgusting. I hate you!” Finally, she stumbles into an alley, where she’s so desperate for a sip of booze that she accepts a swig from a bag lady’s bottle. I love how Sue Ellen’s outfit symbolically unravels along with her identity, but more than anything, I love Gray’s riveting, no-holds-barred performance.

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

Union of equals

3. A night to remember. Not long after recovering from his shooting, J.R. comes home and finds Sue Ellen asleep in the Southfork nursery, having dozed off while rocking John Ross. The couple put their son to bed and retreat to their own room, where they quietly reminisce about the early days of their courtship, reminding each other why they fell in love in the first place. Besides serving as a rare moment of peace for two characters who are usually at war, this scene shows how Gray is Hagman’s equal in every way. Think about it: It’s one thing to see J.R. and Sue Ellen lobbing insults at each other, but to make their love feel authentic and believable? That takes real talent. Lucky for us, Gray and Hagman had it in spades.

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, Who Done It?, Who Shot J.R.?

Triumph!

2. Catching Kristin. When Sue Ellen is arrested for shooting J.R., the Ewings toss her off Southfork — but our heroine refuses to give up. Sue Ellen gets out of jail, figures out she’s being framed and heads to the ranch to reveal the truth to J.R. As it turns out, the real culprit is visiting the ranch too — and when Sue Ellen spots her, Gray delivers the most famous line in “Dallas” history: “It was you, Kristin, who shot J.R.” Eighty-three million viewers watched this scene on the night it debuted. It was the cliffhanger resolution the world had been waiting for, but more importantly, it was the moment Sue Ellen returned to Southfork and to J.R.’s side — the place she always belonged.

Dallas, J.R.'s Masterpiece, Linda Gray, TNT

She is us

1. Mourning J.R. No one takes J.R.’s death harder than the woman he loved more than any other. On the night before his funeral, Sue Ellen goes into his bedroom, caresses a framed photograph from their wedding and drowns her sorrows with glass after glass of his bourbon, ending two decades of sobriety. The next day, when the Ewings gather at the cemetery to bury J.R., Sue Ellen confesses her relapse and delivers a haunting eulogy for the man she calls “the love of my life.” Gray is mesmerizing in these scenes, which draw upon the remarkable 35-year history between J.R. and Sue Ellen. Her deeply moving, Emmy-caliber performance also unites “Dallas” fans in shared catharsis. Through her, we were able to express the grief we felt after the death of our hero. It’s the moment Sue Ellen became our avatar. Then again, isn’t that what she’s always been?

Now it’s your turn. Share your choices for Sue Ellen’s most memorable moments below and read more “Dal-Lists.”

The Dallas Decoder Guide to Surviving a Hostage Crisis

Blame Game, Dallas, Drew Ramos, Kuno Becker, TNT

Drew to the rescue

In “Blame Game,” TNT’s latest “Dallas” episode, Vicente Cano ambushes Southfork and holds the Ewings captive. Dumb move, Vicente. These people are experts at surviving hostage crises, as they demonstrated time and again on the original “Dallas” and its “Knots Landing” spinoff. Let them show you how.

Charlene Tilton, Cooper Huckabee, Dallas, Lucy Ewing, Payton Allen

Light her fire

Beware of cute boys with shaggy hair. The best way to survive hostage crises is to avoid them altogether – a lesson Lucy (Charlene Tilton) learned the hard way. When Payton Allen (Cooper Huckabee) showed up at Southfork one windy afternoon, she flirted with him shamelessly – until he took her whole family hostage. Eight episodes later, when Lucy saw Willie Gust at a roadside diner, she gave him a coquettish glance. His response: taking her hostage as he traversed Texas in his far-out custom van, waging a one-man crime spree.

Brian Dennehy, Dallas, Greg Evigan, Luther Frick, Willie Gust

Bear and B.J.

Don’t get star-struck. Once you find yourself in a hostage situation, you may notice that at least one of your captors looks familiar. In the Ewings’ cases, Willie (Greg Evigan) bore a striking resemblance to that one guy who used to ride around in a semi-truck with a monkey (or that one guy who raised a daughter with Paul Reiser), while Luther Frick (Brian Dennehy), Payton’s partner in crime, looked an awful lot like that one guy who’s been in everything. Don’t let this cause you to lower your defenses. Remember: These are bad men!

Dallas, Ginger Ward, Joan Van Ark, Karen Fairgate, Kim Lankford, Knots Landing, Michele Lee, Valene Ewing

Please, Karen. Not again.

Stay calm. Don’t let this picture mislead you. When Val (Joan Van Ark) threw a baby shower for her Seaview Circle neighbor Ginger (Kim Lankford) and armed robbers burst in and took everyone hostage, the ladies remained admirably restrained. The only reason they look panicked here is because Karen (Michele Lee) was threatening to recite her famous “Pollyanna speech” for the umpteenth time. Kidding! We love you, Karen. And you’re right: Nice should be the norm. If only the hostage-takers of the world felt that way!

Dallas, Linda Gray, Peter Ellington, Philip Anglim, Sue Ellen Ewing

Hurt her and you’ll answer to us

Keep your priorities straight. J.R. was hashing out a big oil deal with Bobby, Ray and Carter McKay when he discovered McKay’s nutty protégé Peter Ellington (Philip Anglim) was holding Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) at gunpoint in the next room. So what did J.R. do? He finished negotiating his deal of course! Once that was settled, J.R. let everyone know what was happening on the other side of the door so they could rescue Sue Ellen. Hey, don’t look so surprised. These are Ewings we’re talking about. Oil comes first. Always.

Abby Ewing, Dallas, Donna Mills, Knots Landing

Hi, bob

Always look your best. When villainous Mark St. Clair took Gary’s second wife Abby (Donna Mills) hostage in the back of a limousine during the final moments of “Knots Landing’s” 1983-84 season, her flaxen hair fell onto her shoulders. The following fall’s season premiere picked up moments later, yet Abby was now sporting a chic bob. How? Why? It was never explained. Perhaps she gave herself a trim to ensure she’d be camera-ready in case the press showed up to cover her eventual rescue. Now that’s thinking like a Ewing.

Abby Cunningham, Dallas, Donna Mills, Knots Landing

She never liked Val’s curtains anyway

Give Abby the weapon. Speaking of Abby: If you’re able to wrest control of your captor’s weapon and she happens to be nearby, by all means toss the instrument to her. She’ll know what to do with it. During Val’s baby-shower-from-hell, Abby used a fire extinguisher to blow away one of the bad guys (literally!). Later, during her own hostage crisis, Abby managed to grab St. Clair’s gun and turn it on him. In that instance, her rescuer Greg Sumner insisted she give him the gun. Just like him to waltz in and take over a show, isn’t it?

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

What’s the big deal?

Master the art of the fake-out. When J.R. (Larry Hagman) went to an abandoned theme park to negotiate the kidnapped John Ross’s release, the boy’s captor, B.D. Calhoun, thought J.R. was alone. Wrong! Bobby and Ray secretly tagged along and helped J.R. stage a daring rescue of his son. Years earlier, J.R. and Ray pulled a similar stunt when they helped Cliff negotiate Bobby’s release from a trio of dim-witted kidnappers. In that instance, Cliff was almost killed, which seemed to upset a lot of people. J.R. never understood why.

Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Lucy Ewing

Command performance

When all else fails, sing! If your captors are anything like the bad guys the Ewings encounter, chances are they’re going to want you to sing. Don’t ask why; apparently this is something hostage-takers do. You could be like Sue Ellen, who sobbed her way through Barbra Streisand’s “People” for Frick and Allen, or you could play it like Lucy, who was forced to enter a talent competition by Willie and absolutely killed it with her rendition of “Silver Threads and Golden Needles.” It was a great performance, but we wonder: Why didn’t Lucy sing “Rescue Me” instead?

What have the Ewings taught you about surviving a hostage crisis? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Decoder Guides.”

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 4 – ‘Winds of Vengeance’

Brian Dennehy, Dallas, Linda Gray, Luther Frick, Sue Ellen Ewing, Winds of Vengeance

Two of a kind

There’s an unlikely symmetry between Sue Ellen and Luther Frick, her tormentor in “Winds of Vengeance.”

Both characters are married to cheating spouses, both avoid acknowledging these infidelities, and both feel humiliated when the truth finally comes out. Sue Ellen is by far the more sympathetic figure, but Frick is a victim, too. This doesn’t excuse his vile behavior, but it helps explain it.

And make no mistake: Frick and his cohort Payton Allen are despicable characters.

Not only do they objectify the Ewing women – Frick plans to rape Sue Ellen, while Allen will choose between raping Pam and Lucy – they also treat them sadistically. Allen yanks Pam off the sofa and makes her dance with him, while Frick forces Sue Ellen, a onetime Miss Texas, to don a swimsuit and her old beauty pageant sash and sing for him.

The latter sequence is the most disturbing moment in an episode full of them. Frick forces Sue Ellen to act against her will and derives pleasure from it. It’s mental rape.

Brian Dennehy is effectively creepy during the singing scene, but the standout is Linda Gray, who painfully sobs her way through the song – Barbra Streisand’s “People” – while wearing almost nothing. This is one of Gray’s gutsiest performances.

“Winds of Vengeance” climaxes when Pam makes Frick realize J.R. and Wanda’s encounter was probably consensual, and then Jock and Bobby burst into the house, attack Frick and Allen and send them away.

But “Dallas” doesn’t allow us to bask in this moment of triumph.

In the episode’s final moments, Jock and Miss Ellie put Lucy to bed and Pam walks away with her head on Bobby’s shoulder, leaving J.R. alone in the living room with Sue Ellen, who has collapsed in tears.

He bends down to help her cover up with a raincoat, but she turns away, stands and slowly walks out of the room.

The message is clear: The woman who just sang about people who need people will be recovering from her ordeal alone.

Grade: B

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, Winds of Vengeance

Domestic disturbance

‘WINDS OF VENGEANCE’

Season 1, Episode 4

Airdate: April 23, 1978

Audience: 15.3 million homes, ranking 12th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Camille Marchetta

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: J.R., Ray and the Ewing women are held captive by Luther Frick and Payton Allen, two working Joes who want revenge after J.R. and Ray slept with their women. Frick claims J.R. raped his wife, then realizes their encounter was probably consensual. Allen is about to rape Lucy when Jock and Bobby arrive and rescue the family.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Brian Dennehy (Luther Frick), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Nicki Flacks (Wanda Frick), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Cooper Huckabee (Payton Allen), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

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