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 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.”

The Best & Worst of Dallas: Season 1

“Dallas’s” first season is comprised of just five episodes, but there’s no shortage of things to cheer and jeer.

Performances

Dallas, Digger's Daughter, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Own it, honey

Sorry Mr. Hagman, but Victoria Principal owns Season 1. The actress makes Pam confident and charming, with a laugh that would make Julia Roberts envious. Pam is also unapologetically sexual, making her one of television’s breakthrough women characters. If you’ve forgotten how intriguing Pam is when “Dallas” begins – and how terrific Principal is in the role – go watch any of the first five episodes. She’s the best thing about each one.

Episodes

I tend to like my “Dallas” dark, which might be why “Digger’s Daughter” is my favorite first-season entry. Some of this has to do with the writing, but a lot of it has to with the weather: This episode was filmed in the real-life Dallas in early 1978, when the city was in the midst of its coldest-ever winter, and all those stark landscapes and lifeless skies make it one of the show’s moodiest, broodiest hours. It’s also remarkable how many “Dallas” hallmarks are present from the very beginning: the Southfork cocktail hour, J.R. and Bobby’s Cain-and-Abel shtick, J.R.’s daddy issues, everyone’s obsession with the firstborn grandson.

Some fans consider “Lessons” the season’s lowlight. I don’t. Yes, the episode’s main plot – Lucy is skipping school! – makes “Lessons” feel more like an “ABC Afterschool Special” than “Dallas,” but don’t overlook the many wonderful character-building moments here, including Miss Ellie and Pam’s coffee talk and the precedent-setting office scene between J.R. and Bobby. As an added bonus, “Lessons” concludes with that ’70stastic disco sequence, which only gets more fabulous with age.

Scenes

Hands down, the season’s best scene showcases two characters you’ve probably forgotten: Tilly and Sam, the gossipy caterers who appear in “Barbecue” and are never seen or mentioned again. Irma P. Hall and Haskel Craver are a hoot; imagine the cheeky, “Downton Abbey” vibe they would have lent the show if they had become regulars.

No scene qualifies as the first season’s “worst,” although hindsight being what it is, I could do without all those shots of Lucy and Ray cavorting in the hayloft.

Supporting Players

Dallas, Julie Grey, Tina Louise

Grey matters

Oh, how I love Tina Louise in “Spy in the House.” Of all of J.R.’s mistresses, Julie Grey will always be my favorite because Louise makes the character feel so heartbreakingly real. I can’t help but root for Julie, even when she doesn’t root for herself.

My least favorite guest star: Cooper Huckabee, who cackles his way through his role as Payton Allen, Brian Dennehy’s “Winds of Vengeance” sidekick.

Locales

I know this puts me in the minority among “Dallas” diehards, but I like the estate used as Southfork during the first season. The compound-style setting – one big house for Jock and Miss Ellie, surrounded by a series of smaller homes for each son and his wife – feels more credible as a wealthy family’s homestead.

Worst set: Sky Blue, the Braddock disco where the Ewings shake their booties in “Lessons,” is the least convincing nightclub I’ve ever seen. Was this place a Sizzler in real life?

Costumes

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Seeing red

Bobby’s leather jacket is iconic and also metaphorical: He’s wearing it at the beginning of “Digger’s Daughter” when he and Pam are nervously headed to Southfork to announce their nuptials. We wonder: Are the Ewings are going to tan Bobby’s actual hide when they discover he has wed a Barnes?

Worst wardrobe choice: J.R.’s garish red belt buckle. Of course, as gaudy as it is, at least it’s not covered in gold and stamped with the character’s initials like the one he sports on the new TNT series.

Behind the Scenes

Every time I watch these early episodes, I can’t help but wonder what direction “Dallas” might have taken if creator David Jacobs had retained control of the series after the first season. Jacobs is a television genius; if he had stuck around, I have no doubt this great show would have turned out even greater.

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

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 12 – ‘Runaway’

Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Lucy Ewing, Runaway

Diary of a teenage brat

“Runaway” is one of “Dallas’s” weakest episodes. Almost everything about it – the writing, the directing, the acting, the music – is bad.

The episode treats Lucy, who was so daring during “Dallas’s” first season, like just another bratty TV teenager. She spends the beginning of “Runaway” whining about how the Ewings are ignoring her. At one point, Jock sends her to her room.

Is this the same Lucy who was blackmailing her teacher and seducing Ray a few episodes ago?

“Dallas” clearly wants us to feel sorry for the poor little rich girl. John Parker, who scored the music for “Runaway,” punctuates each of Lucy’s outbursts with a cloying violin solo that becomes the character’s theme music in later episodes.

By the end of “Runaway’s” first act, Lucy has run away from Southfork and fled to the outskirts of Dallas, where she hooks up with armed robber Willie Gust.

Greg Evigan, who plays Willie, must have prepared for the role by watching Cooper Huckabee’s performance in “Winds of Vengeance.” Both actors seem to believe maniacal laughing is the best way to signal their characters’ villainy.

When Willie isn’t in hysterics, he’s waging a one-man war on Texas’s cash registers, leaving Lucy to cower in the passenger seat of his far-out custom van. But if she’s so afraid of him, why doesn’t she just hop out and run away?

Another mind boggler: How does frightened Lucy manage to deliver such a confident performance during the talent show Willie makes her enter?

“Dallas” creator David Jacobs has said the show’s producers were crunched for time when CBS renewed the series for a second season. According to him, the writers scrambled to produce scripts for the season’s first seven episodes, which were filmed in Texas during the summer of 1978.

“Runaway” is the last of these seven episodes, and you can tell. This feels like something cobbled together by people who were eager to get out from under the hot Texas sun.

Making matters worse: “Runaway” doesn’t end – it stops.

In the final scene, Miss Ellie announces Bobby is bringing Lucy home.

“There’s just one thing,” Jock says. “I was hoping to have a dance with my granddaughter.”

“Well,” Ellie responds, patting his arm. “What about tomorrow?”

Parker’s cloying violin music swells, the frame freezes, the credits flash – and we’re finally done with “Dallas’s” most prophetically titled episode.

Run away, indeed.

Grade: D

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Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Greg Evigan, Lucy Ewing, Runaway, Willie Gust

Bonnie and Clod

‘RUNAWAY’

Season 2, Episode 7

Airdate: October 28, 1978

Audience: 12.8 million homes, ranking 35th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Worley Thorne

Director: Barry Crane

Synopsis: Lucy, feeling ignored, runs away and hitches a ride with an armed robber. Bobby tracks Lucy to Austin, where he rescues her and the robber is arrested.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Greg Evigan (Willie Gust), Jim Gough (Congressman Oates), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

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

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘Guess You’re Elected, Sugarplum’

Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Lucy Ewing, Winds of Vengeance

Be still

In “Winds of Vengeance,” a first-season “Dallas” episode, Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes), Lucy (Charlene Tilton) and Pam (Victoria Principal) sit on the living room sofa while Payton (Cooper Huckabee) points a gun at them, trying to decide who he’ll rape.

LUCY: [Crying] Ray used to go with Pam before she married Bobby!

ELLIE: [Holding Lucy] Lucy!

LUCY: Grandma, why should I have to…?

ELLIE: Lucy, you be still!

PAYTON: [To Pam] That true, beautiful?

PAM: Yeah.

PAYTON: Did pretty good for yourself.

PAM: I think I did.

PAYTON: So you was one of us?

PAM: I still am.

PAYTON: Well, then, you’re off the hook. We didn’t come here looking for one of us. We come looking for two of them. [To Lucy] Guess you’re elected, sugarplum.