Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 189 — ‘Deeds and Misdeeds’

Dallas, Deeds and Misdeeds, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Bottle shock

Sue Ellen’s scenes in “Deeds and Misdeeds” aren’t easy to watch. The previous episode ended with her taking her first drink in almost two years, and in this hour, she continues slipping back into her old habits. Sue Ellen leads everyone to believe her relapse was only temporary, yet she swipes a bottle of vodka from the living room and stuffs it in her purse when no one is looking. Alcohol is once again overpowering her, which director Michael Preece brilliantly symbolizes in one scene by filming Linda Gray through the bottles on the Southfork liquor cart. It’s as if the booze is bigger than she is.

As much as I love this shot, no moment in “Deeds and Misdeeds” is more powerful than Sue Ellen’s visit to John Ross in the hospital. She’s wracked with guilt — the reason she fell off the wagon in the first place is because J.R. accused her of being a neglectful mother when their son fell ill with appendicitis — and Gray’s tentative body language does as much to convey her character’s remorse as her tears. Sue Ellen approaches the child slowly, then tenderly strokes his hair and says, “I’m so sorry. Mommy should have been here so you didn’t have to go through that operation alone.” John Ross tells her that “it wasn’t your fault” and wraps his arms around her neck, which might be the saddest thing I’ve ever witnessed on this show. This sweet little boy isn’t hesitating to forgive his mother, yet we know it’ll be a long time before she can forgive herself.

Although it’s hard to see Sue Ellen fall behind after making so much progress during the past two seasons, I’m glad “Dallas” is finally showcasing Gray, who’s been relegated to the background for too long. “Deeds and Misdeeds” continues the show’s late-season course correction in other areas too, including the storyline over the lawsuit to control Ewing Oil. The mysterious Jack brings his cousins J.R., Bobby and Ray to California to meet wealthy Wallace Windham, a figure from Jock’s past who has information that could tilt the suit in the Ewings’ favor. The audience won’t discover what Windham knows until the next episode, but no matter. At least we get to see the Ewing men looking cooler than ever as they stroll across Windham’s driveway. It’s not as neat as the slow-motion walk from “Reservoir Dogs,” but it’ll do.

“Deeds and Misdeeds” also features a cute scene in which J.R. shows up in John Ross’s hospital room with a toy robot — Daddy looks awfully pleased with himself, doesn’t he? — as well as the impromptu wedding of Cliff and Jamie, which demonstrates how isolated Ken Kercheval’s character is from the rest of the show. Cliff asks Jordan Lee to be his best man, a somewhat surprising choice since I rarely think of these two characters as being particularly close. Other oddities include Clayton expressing surprise to learn Jock was married before Ellie — how has she not mentioned this before? — as well as Mandy’s near-orgasmic reaction when J.R. embraces her during a visit to her dressing room. If this is all it takes for J.R. to send a woman into a fit of ecstasy, no wonder he’s such a popular fellow.

Speaking of unsubtle moments: Let’s discuss the dramatic encounter between Mitch, his ex-wife Lucy and his current squeeze Joanna. It begins with Mitch and Lucy chatting in the hospital corridor about how much they’ve matured since their divorce. When she says she’s proud of him and offers a friendly hug, he notices Joanna is watching and calls her over. “Hi, Joanna,” Mitch says. “I’d like to introduce you to Lucy Ewing. Lucy, this is Joanna Pearce.” Actress Cynthia Leake says, “Hello,” … and then she delivers a Shatner-esque pause while cutting Charlene Tilton the most withering glare in the history of 1980s prime-time soap operas. This is what the kids now refer to as “throwing shade,” except that doesn’t do it justice. Tilton does a nice job looking appropriately rattled, which Joanna ignores as she turns to Mitch and says, “Well, I’ll talk to you later.” Leake then exits the scene, but not before Joanna looks Lucy up and down one last time.

This is Leake’s second “Dallas” appearance — she also played one of Peter’s fellow camp counselors in the seventh-season episode “My Brother’s Keeper” — and it demonstrates how actors in small roles can leave lasting impressions on “Dallas.” In a way, it also speaks to the resiliency of Tilton’s character. If Lucy can survive a look this dirty, she might be the hardiest Ewing of all.

Grade: B

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Dallas, Deeds and Misdeeds, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Tin men

‘DEEDS AND MISDEEDS’

Season 8, Episode 28

Airdate: May 3, 1985

Audience: 18.2 million homes, ranking 3rd in the weekly ratings

Writer: David Paulsen

Director: Michael Preece

Synopsis: Jack introduces the Ewing brothers to Wallace Windham, who supplies them with evidence Jock owned Ewing Oil. After falling off the wagon, Sue Ellen hides her drinking from the Ewings. Cliff marries Jamie.

Cast: Roseanne Christiansen (Teresa), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Susan French (Amanda Ewing), Paul Gleason (Lieutenant Lee Spaulding), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. 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), John Larch (Wally Windham), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Leigh McCloskey (Dr. Mitch Cooper), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Dack Rambo (Jack Ewing), Donna Reed (Miss Ellie Farlow), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

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