Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 198 — ‘The Wind of Change’

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Miss Ellie Ewing Farlow, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal, Wind of Change

Keepers of the faith

Who doesn’t get chills at the end of “The Wind of Change”? Pam takes the podium at the Oil Baron’s Ball and delivers a stirring tribute to Bobby, then announces she’s decided to not sell Christopher’s share of Ewing Oil to Jeremy Wendell. As Pam exits the stage to applause, J.R. — who’s been desperately fighting Wendell’s takeover — rushes to his ex-sister-in-law’s side and praises her “wise and historic decision.” J.R. assumes Pam is going to sell the shares to him, but she quickly bursts his bubble. “I’m not selling at all,” she says. “From now on, it’s going to be you and me. I’ll see you at the office, partner.”

This is a great scene for a lot of reasons, beginning with the way it allows Pam to slide into Bobby’s old role as J.R.’s most effective antagonist. In one swoop, she manages to save J.R.’s bacon and ruin his day — just like Bobby used to do. The twist also carries more than a hint of destiny: Early plans for “Dallas” called for Bobby to be killed off at the end of the first season, leaving Pam as the spirited young widow, fighting for her place in the Ewing empire. Now Victoria Principal finally gets to play that character, except the conflict is far richer because the show has almost a decade’s worth of conflict between J.R. and Pam to draw upon.

Just as importantly, the Oil Baron’s Ball scene casts Pam in another role: as a kindred spirit to Miss Ellie. Earlier in “The Wind of Change,” Mama visits Pam and talks about how she used to dream of John Ross and Christopher growing up, side by side. “And then they’d finally start running the business together the way Jock used to — tough, honest,” Ellie says. “I had faith that they’d always do the right thing. I had faith.” It’s another nicely written monologue from Peter Dunne — delivered beautifully by Barbara Bel Geddes — and it lends extra poignancy to Pam’s big speech at the end of the episode. Her decision to hold onto the Ewing Oil shares doesn’t just mean Christopher will one day follow in Bobby’s footsteps; it also means Pam is poised to succeed Ellie as keeper of the Ewing faith.

‘I’m Pregnant Now!’

Dallas, Donna Krebbs, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly, Susan Howard, Wind of Change

Into the fire

With its emphasis on family and legacy, “The Wind of Change” bears more than a passing resemblance to the third-season classic “Ellie Saves the Day,” another episode that found the Ewing empire on the brink of ending. Both episodes are filled with somber moments, although “The Wind of Change” takes the theme of dashed dreams one step further with a subplot about Ray and the pregnant Donna learning their child will be born with Down syndrome. The performances from Steve Kanaly and Susan Howard are believably anguished, especially in the scene where Ray suggests Donna abort the child. “You can get pregnant again,” he says. “I’m pregnant now!” she shouts. We’re used to the Krebbses keeping “Dallas” grounded, but never have their problems felt this real.

And yet “The Wind of Change” manages to be a fun episode too, doesn’t it? The scenes at the Oil Baron’s Ball are everything we’ve come to expect from these affairs. When J.R. isn’t smiling and pretending he’s not seething about Wendell’s takeover, he’s discreetly caressing mistress Mandy Winger’s arm — something his nosy mother-in-law, Patricia Shepard, doesn’t miss. The ball scenes also find mysterious newcomer Angelica Nero spying Jack across the crowded room (this is Barbara Carrera’s “Dallas” debut), Jamie tossing a cream pie in Cliff’s face and Sue Ellen’s triumphant return to the public eye after her latest sanitarium stay.

The latter scene is shot from Sue Ellen’s point of view, an example of the visual flair that was a hallmark of director Corey Allen, helming his first “Dallas” episode since the second season. In another “Wind of Change” scene, Allen shoots Priscilla Beaulieu Presley and Shalane McCall galloping across a Southfork field on horseback (shades of Jim Davis’s cattle drive scene in “Bypass,” Allen’s first “Dallas” episode), while a breakfast conversation between Ellie and Clayton is staged on the Southfork balcony, which offers such dramatic, sweeping views of the ranch, I’ll never understand why other directors didn’t use the setting more often. I also love the cross-cut editing between Ray and Donna’s argument over their child and Jack and Jenna’s conversation about what the Krebbses are enduring.

The other great artistic achievement in “The Wind of Change” belongs to costume designer Travilla, who outfitted the actresses in gowns that became iconic. The secrets behind the dresses are almost as interesting as what we saw on screen. According to a newspaper article quoted in Barbara Curran’s book, “Dallas: The Complete Story of the World’s Favorite Prime-Time Soap,” the beaded black gown worn by Bel Geddes weighed 20 pounds and cost $5,000, while Principal’s white dress weighed 30 pounds, making it hard for her to walk. As for Gray’s famous black dress? It was lined with plastic bags attached with safety pins.

Sue Ellen may be sober, but I guess she hasn’t completely left her bag lady days behind her. Who knew?

Grade: A+


Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Wind of Change

Dallas deflation


Season 9, Episode 7

Airdate: November 1, 1985

Audience: 20.2 million homes, ranking 7th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Peter Dunne

Director: Corey Allen

Synopsis: At the Oil Baron’s Ball, Bobby is named Oilman of the Year, prompting Pam to change her mind about selling Christopher’s share of Ewing Oil to Jeremy Wendell. Sue Ellen leaves the sanitarium and moves in with her mother, while Mandy returns to Dallas and resumes her relationship with J.R. Ray and Donna learn their child will be born with Down syndrome.

Cast: John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Farlow), Barbara Carrera (Angelica Nero), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Tony Garcia (Raoul), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Joshua Harris (Christopher Ewing), Jenilee Harrison (Jamie Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Frances Lee McCain (Dr. Amy Rose), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Greg Michaels (Private eye), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Martha Scott (Patricia Shepard), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Karen Radcliffe (Barbara), Dack Rambo (Jack Ewing), Carol Sanchez (Angela), sDeborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), William Smithers (Jeremy Wendell), Don Starr (Jordan Lee)

“The Wind of Change” is available on DVD and at Amazon and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 15 – ‘Act of Love’

Act of Love, Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Ken Kercheval, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Bad romance

“Act of Love” is the first “Dallas” script penned by Leonard Katzman, who becomes the show’s auteur, writing and directing more episodes than anyone else. It proves to be an inauspicious debut.

My main gripe: When the episode begins, Sue Ellen and Cliff have been sleeping with each other for six weeks, so we never see the first time they consummate their relationship – a big letdown given how much time “Dallas” spends laying the groundwork for their affair.

To make matters worse, Katzman’s plotting is a bit sitcommy.

It seems Bobby is wooing a client for his construction business and needs Pam to help him charm the man, whom Bobby’s business associate describes as an old-money conservative who “places just as much importance on a man’s personal life as he does on his professional.”

But Pam has a dilemma: Her boss Liz Craig has invited her on a business trip to Paris, which would prevent Pam from helping hubby entertain his client. What’s a wife to do?

There’s even a “Three’s Company”-style misunderstanding. Pam asks Sue Ellen to lunch but is vague about the reason for the invitation, saying only “it’s important that we talk.” Sue Ellen, suspecting Pam has found out about her affair with Cliff, accepts the invitation and is perturbed to discover Pam only wants advice on entertaining Bobby’s client. “You don’t mean to tell me that you have brought me in to lunch with you to talk about having a party?” Sue Ellen fumes.

(An aside: What’s with Victoria Principal’s Texas accent in this scene? It hasn’t been this thick since the first season!)

Of course, “Act of Love” isn’t altogether bad. The final scene, when J.R. questions Sue Ellen about her pregnancy, is nicely written and performed, although I cringe when J.R. slaps her. In 1978, this may have been an acceptable way to demonstrate J.R.’s anger. Not today.

I also like director Corey Allen’s handheld camerawork in the opening breakfast scene, when the younger Ewings rush off to work and school, leaving Jock and Miss Ellie alone, as well as the fisheye lens Allen uses when Pam and Liz ride the elevator at The Store.

Allen’s willingness to experiment isn’t enough to save Katzman’s script, but it makes me wish the show had used the director’s talents more frequently.

Grade: C


Act of Love, Barbara Babcock, Dallas, Liz Craig, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal



Season 2, Episode 10

Airdate: November 12, 1978

Audience: 12.1 million homes, ranking 41st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Leonard Katzman

Director: Corey Allen

Synopsis: The Ewings are overjoyed when they learn Sue Ellen is pregnant. Privately, Sue Ellen isn’t sure if the father is J.R. or Cliff, with whom she is having an affair. When J.R. questions her, she tells him he probably is the father.

Cast: Barbara Babcock (Liz Craig), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Nancy Bleier (Connie), Nicolas Coster (Joe Morris), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), John Zaremba (Dr. Harlan Danvers)

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

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 9 – ‘Bypass’

Barbara Bel Geddes, Bypass, Dallas, Dan Ammerman, Dr. Harlan Danvers, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing

Ticker shock

“Bypass” has a little bit of everything – a health crisis, family squabbling, corporate intrigue. There’s not much romance, but there is a cattle drive.

The small moments in this episode are among its best, beginning with Jock and Miss Ellie’s heart-to-heart in his hospital room. As he lies in bed, with medical tubes taped to his chest, he urges Ellie to “keep the family together” if “anything happens” to him.

Like Jock’s plea with Bobby and Pam to stay at Southfork at the end of “Barbecue,” this scene reminds us how much family means to the Ewing patriarch. Jock is usually so gruff; it’s always nice to see his sentimental side.

“Bypass” also casts J.R. in a softer light. Yes, he does a dastardly thing when he forges Jock’s will so he can drill for oil on Southfork once his father dies, but remember: J.R. sets this plot in motion before Jock gets sick. After the heart attack, J.R. doesn’t have much enthusiasm for the scheme and seemingly goes through with it only after Jeb and Willie Joe pressure him.

Another small-but-revealing moment comes when Sue Ellen arrives at the Braddock emergency room, not knowing which Ewing is being treated there, and is relieved to discover J.R. isn’t the patient. “I thought it was you,” she tells him.

Later, when J.R. expresses regret about bringing Jock to a small-town hospital not equipped to effectively treat him, Sue Ellen reassures him, “J.R., you did the right thing.” Aside from being sweet, this exchange helps blunt the ugliness of Sue Ellen’s behavior later in the episode, when she drunkenly sashays around Southfork and threatens to evict Pam if Jock dies.

But as much as I appreciate the human drama in “Bypass,” my favorite part of this episode is the lightning-fast cattle drive at the top of the hour.

The sequence begins with a grounds-eye view of the herd as it surges forward, trampling the earth and covering director Corey Allen’s camera lens with clods of Texas dirt. Then, when Jock dashes off to round up some strays, Allen keeps the camera fixed on Jim Davis as he rides high in his saddle. It’s almost as if we’re bouncing alongside Jock.

Throw in John Parker’s triumphant score and Robert Jessup’s sumptuous cinematography and you have an exhilarating action sequence. It’s a fine way to open one of “Dallas’s” finest early episodes.

Grade: A


Bypass, Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing

Power steering


Season 2, Episode 4

Airdate: October 14, 1978

Audience: 10.7 million homes, ranking 52nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Corey Allen

Synopsis: Jock suffers a heart attack and is rushed to the hospital. J.R. shows cronies Jeb Ames and Willie Joe Garr a codicil to Jock’s will that gives J.R. permission to drill on Southfork when Jock dies, but Jeb and Willie Joe don’t know J.R. forged it. Bobby takes leave from Ewing Oil to help run the ranch. Jock’s bypass surgery saves his life.

Cast: Dan Ammerman (Dr. Harlan Danvers), John Ashton (Willie Joe Garr), Barbara Babcock (Liz Craig), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Lisa Lemole (Susan), Ed Nelson (Jeb Ames), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

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