The Best & Worst of Dallas: Season 5

“Dallas’s” fifth season was dandy, save for a few disappointments.


Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Miss Ellie Ewing

Walk to remember

Barbara Bel Geddes delivers one tour-de-force performance after another as the grieving Miss Ellie. Everyone remembers the scene where Mama smashes the dishes in the Southfork kitchen, but Bel Geddes also shines in quiet moments like the one where Ellie takes that mournful stroll across the ranch. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Bel Geddes can say more with one look than most actors can with a whole script.

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Ewing blues

Runners up: Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy both break my heart as the brothers Ewing struggle – in very different ways – to deal with Jock’s death (J.R. falls apart, Bobby falls in line). Meanwhile, Linda Gray does a beautiful job conveying Sue Ellen’s conflicting emotions as a recent divorcee. I understand her confusion: It’s nice to see Sue Ellen on her own, but I also want her to reunite with the soul mate she’s left behind at Southfork.


I love to watch J.R. scheme his way back into Sue Ellen’s heart. This is another fascinating performance from Hagman, who keeps us guessing about J.R.’s motivation: Does he really love his ex-wife, or is he merely trying to get his hands on John Ross’s Ewing Oil voting shares? My guess is it’s a little from Column A and a little from Column B. One thing is certain: Seeing J.R. pick off Sue Ellen’s suitors (Dusty, Clayton, Cliff), one by one, is a hoot.

Weakest storyline: Pam’s mental breakdown. Victoria Principal does a nice job depicting her character’s despair, but this isn’t the heroic Pam I fell in love with during “Dallas’s” early years. Thankfully, she gets her groove back toward the end of the season, when she lays down the law to creepy Roger and helps Bobby solve the mystery of Christopher’s paternity. And while we’re on the subject: They may not be Nick and Nora, but isn’t it fun watching Bobby and Pam figure out that J.R. didn’t father Christopher? (The season’s best plot twist, by the way.)


Adoption, Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy, Sue Ellen Ewing

Adopt or cry

“Adoption” is one classic scene after another. Donna socks it to Bonnie. Bobby asks Sue Ellen to sign the affidavit. Sue Ellen tosses the necklace at J.R. and proclaims their relationship is “sick, sick, sick!” This is another great script from Howard Lakin, but don’t overlook Hagman, who sat in the director’s chair for this episode and once again proved he’s as gifted behind the camera as he is in front of it.

My least favorite episode: “The Maelstrom,” in which Lucy discovers Roger’s shrine to her and responds by making love to him. Come on, “Dallas.” Charlene Tilton deserves better. So do we.


This is always the toughest category to choose a winner, and Season 5 is no exception. Among the contenders: J.R. and Dusty’s Cotton Bowl showdown, Ellie’s confrontation with the cartel and J.R.’s soliloquy in front of Jock’s painting. In the end, I’m going with “The Search” scene where the Ewing sons break the news to Mama that Daddy isn’t coming home. I don’t know who moves me more here: Bel Geddes, Hagman, Duffy or Steve Kanaly. Beautiful performances all around.

Supporting Players

Afton Cooper, Audrey Landers, Dallas

Hot stuff

No one impresses me as much as Audrey Landers. This is the season Afton breaks J.R.’s grip and comes into her own as one of the show’s heroines. There’s no doubt she deserves a better mate than Cliff, but I love how Afton humanizes him – and you can’t deny Landers’ chemistry with Ken Kercheval. As an added bonus, Landers delivers several hot musical numbers this year, including that sultry rendition of “All of Me” in “The Phoenix.”

Runners up: Morgan Brittany, who debuts in Season 5 as scheming Katherine Wentworth and begins laying the groundwork for the havoc she’ll wreak in later years; Fern Fitzgerald, whose Marilee Stone becomes J.R.’s equal in every way; Barry Nelson as Sue Ellen’s sympathetic lawyer Arthur Elrod; Claude Earl Jones as Wally Hampton, J.R.’s co-conspirator in the plot to sabotage Cliff’s career; and Lindsay Bloom as Bonnie, the sad-sack barfly who beds Ray.


Clayton Farlow, Dallas, Howard Keel

Hello, handsome

Virtually every “Dallas” diva sports a fur coat during Season 5, but the full-length number Susan Howard dons during Donna’s barroom brawl is the most meaningful. Among the dudes, no one wears suits better than dapper Howard Keel. I especially love when Clayton shows up at Sue Ellen’s townhouse in pinstripes and an open collar shirt, the same look Josh Henderson often sports on TNT’s “Dallas.”

At the other end of the spectrum: What’s with Sue Ellen’s culottes during Season 5? You get the feeling the character spent every episode standing in front of her closet, trying to decide between skirts and pants and choosing to compromise by wearing both. No wonder she became a politician.


“You getting good mileage on Donna’s car?” – J.R.’s cheery query to Ray in “Five Dollars a Barrel” cracked me up. Only Larry Hagman could turn a throwaway line into a hilarious putdown.

What do you love and loathe about “Dallas’s” fifth season? Share your comments below and read more “Best & Worst” reviews.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 95 – ‘Anniversary’

There she is

There she is

In the fourth-season “Dallas” episode “New Beginnings,” J.R. and Sue Ellen recall their meeting at the Miss Texas beauty pageant, where he was a judge and she was a contestant. The conversation is warm and nostalgic – until Kristin calls and announces she has given birth to J.R.’s son. This triggers a chain reaction that eventually includes Kristin’s death and J.R. and Sue Ellen’s divorce.

In “Anniversary,” J.R. and Sue Ellen finally get around to finishing the conversation her sister interrupted. It begins when J.R. shows up on Sue Ellen’s doorstep with a bouquet of yellow roses and a video recording of her appearance in the pageant, which occurred on that date 14 years earlier. “It was the first time I set eyes on you,” J.R. reminds his ex-wife. He also tells her that his life “hasn’t been the same” since their divorce. “I miss you,” J.R. says.

This scene isn’t quite as moving as the one in “New Beginnings,” but it’s still very sweet. Larry Hagman and Linda Gray had been working together for four years when “Anniversary” was filmed, but they have the chemistry of a couple who’ve been together much longer. This really feels like a conversation between two people with many years of shared connections and experiences. I also like how director Joseph Manduke shows us Sue Ellen’s television set as it plays the old footage of her pageant appearance. It’s a fleeting glimpse of the poised young woman J.R. described so lovingly in “New Beginnings.” (By the way: He’s lucky Sue Ellen has a VCR to play his cassette. The machines were available in fewer than 10 percent of homes in 1982, when this episode debuted.)

“Anniversary” also features a terrific guest turn from Claude Earl Jones, who portrays J.R.’s buddy Wally Hampton, the Tulsa industrialist who agrees to help J.R. lure Cliff away from Dallas. With his big belly and backslapping demeanor, Jones makes a fantastic Ewing crony. The actor is also one of a handful of performers to play three roles on “Dallas:” In addition to Hampton, Jones portrays one of J.R.’s dirty cops in the second-season episode “Call Girl” and rival oilman Duke Carlisle during the 13th season. He’s perfect for each of these parts.

Overall, “Anniversary” is another solid hour from “Dallas’s” solid fifth season. I also love Miss Ellie’s heart to heart with Lucy in the Southfork kitchen, as well as Lucy’s confrontation with Evelyn, the other woman in Mitch’s life. The scene where Bobby presents Pam with her aerobics studio is a kick too, especially for those of us old enough to remember Victoria Principal’s real-life foray into the physical fitness craze of the 1980s.

The other great moment in “Anniversary” comes during the third act, when J.R. arranges for Donna to catch Ray with Bonnie in that cheap motel room. It’s twisted how J.R. schemes to break up his half-brother’s marriage while trying to bring his own union back from the dead, but with J.R., would we expect anything less?

Grade: B


Uh oh

Uh oh


Season 5, Episode 18

Airdate: February 12, 1982

Audience: 22.4 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: David Paulsen

Director: Joseph Manduke

Synopsis: J.R. kisses Sue Ellen and arranges for Donna to catch Ray in bed with Bonnie. Hampton’s job offer tempts Cliff. Evelyn confronts Lucy, who sleeps with Roger. Bobby buys Pam an aerobics studio.

Cast: Barbara Babcock (Liz Craig), Tyler Banks (John Ross Ewing), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Lindsay Bloom (Bonnie), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Danny Dayton (emcee), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Claude Earl Jones (Wally Hampton), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Leigh McCloskey (Dr. Mitch Cooper), Patricia McCormack (Evelyn Michaelson), Pamela Murphy (Marie), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Dennis Redfield (Roger Larson), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Ron Tomme (Charles Eccles)

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