Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 60 – ‘The Venezuelan Connection’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Patrick Duffy, Venezuelan Connection

Gone with the window

“The Venezuelan Connection” feels like the first half of one of “Dallas’s” two-part episodes. There’s a lot of setup here but not a lot of payoff.

In the main storyline, Bobby hires May-December power couple Eugene and Sally Bullock to ship Venezuelan crude to Ewing Oil’s new refinery, only to learn the tanker sank en route. This is a well-executed plot twist – and there’s much more to the sinking than Bobby realizes – but he won’t discover that until the next episode.

(Quick aside: While I’m delighted to see “The Venezuelan Connection” bring back the Bullocks, who make their first appearance on “Dallas” since their debut in the third-season episode “Return Engagements,” I’m disappointed the show recasts Sally with Joanna Cassidy, who isn’t as deliciously brazen as Andra Akers, the actress who originated the role. Similarly, E.J. André isn’t quite as amusingly cantankerous in this episode as he was during his first go-round as Mr. Eugene.)

Jock and Ray’s storyline in “The Venezuelan Connection” feels incomplete, too. In the third act, a mystery man spots the Ewing patriarch and his foreman in a Fort Worth saloon and quizzes the barkeep about them, but we don’t learn the stranger’s identity – or the reason for his curiosity – until the next episode, which by the way is entitled “The Fourth Son.” (Hint, hint)

Fortunately, “The Veneuzeluean Connection” offers one genuinely satisfying moment: Lucy’s confrontation with Mitch over his abrupt departure from the Southfork pool party she threw in his honor.

In the scene, working-class Mitch tells Lucy he fled the shindig because he felt he couldn’t “compete” with her wealthy friends – an idea she finds ridiculous. “Why do you have to compete with them? They live like that. So what? Can’t you just accept it?” she asks.

This response feels mature and logical, two qualities we don’t always associate with Lucy. I also appreciate how scriptwriter Leah Markus allows the character to recognize Mitch for what he really is. As Lucy tells him, “You’re the one who’s the snob.”

Charlene Tilton is terrific in this scene, which ends with Lucy suggesting she and Mitch break up. This might make their fight seem like another one of “The Venezuelan Connection’s” unresolved plot points, but not really. For Lucy and Mitch, this is turning a point, not a cliffhanger.

Grade: B


Dallas, Joanna Cassidy, Sally Bullock, Venezuelan Connection

Not the same


Season 4, Episode 6

Airdate: December 5, 1980

Audience: 29 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Leah Markus

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Bobby taps Eugene and Sally Bullock to ship crude to his new refinery. Jock is impressed by Bobby’s initiative, while J.R. seethes. Pam’s detective continues searching for her mother. Mitch feels uncomfortable around Lucy’s friends. Bobby learns the Bullocks’ tanker sank en route to the refinery.

Cast: E.J. André (Eugene Bullock), Tami Barber (Bev), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Joanna Cassidy (Sally Bullock), Jeff Cooper (Dr. Simon Elby), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Ted Gehring (Brady York), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Jerry Haynes (Pat Powers), Richard Herd (John Mackey), Susan Howard (Donna Culver), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Leigh McCloskey (Mitch Cooper), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Janine Turner (Susan), William Windom (stranger), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson)

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

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 43 – ‘Return Engagements’

Dallas, Gary Ewing, Joan Van Ark, Return Engagements, Ted Shackelford, Valene Ewing

Talk about baggage

“Return Engagements” is an exercise in efficient storytelling. During the course of this episode, Gary and Valene reunite, remarry, reconcile with his family and decide to relocate to Southern California. Who says “Dallas” is slow-paced?

Much of this feels rushed and underwritten, but there are some exceptions, beginning with the monologue Miss Ellie delivers when she announces her intention to buy a house for the newlyweds. Val points out how much her mother-in-law has already done for her and Gary. “Miss Ellie, we owe you so much. You raised Lucy,” she says.

“Yes, I raised her,” Ellie begins. “I raised her because the Ewings made it impossible for you to raise her. But I shouldn’t have. I should’ve fought them. I didn’t. I did nothing. Do you think my giving you a house is fair payment? I don’t. If you want to refuse it, refuse it because the gift is small. Otherwise, take it. Please take it.”

Scriptwriter David Jacobs’ dialogue here is flawless. Short, declarative statements (“I didn’t. I did nothing.”), delivered with conviction by Barbara Bel Geddes. What a shame these two didn’t collaborate more frequently. It would’ve been wonderful to see Bel Geddes deliver more of Jacobs’ words.

Another lovely moment: Immediately after Ellie’s speech, there’s a knock on Val’s front door and Bobby opens it, revealing Jock. “I believe I have a son getting married here today,” the Ewing patriarch says as he steps into the room. “I’d like to attend the ceremony, if I’m welcome.”

I can’t help but get a little lump in my throat when I watch this scene. Jim Davis delivers his line quietly, almost sheepishly. Jock’s guilt has humbled him.

Also good in this episode: Ted Shackelford, who makes his first appearance as Gary, and Joan Van Ark, who is always wonderful as Val, even if the couple’s reunion is a little pat. Perhaps “Return Engagements” suffers because Jacobs was busy getting ready for “Knots Landing,” which debuted a week after this episode aired?

Interestingly, the most entertaining couple in this episode isn’t the spinoff-bound newlyweds, it’s shipping magnate Eugene Bullock and Sally, his gold-digging young wife. The Bullocks are a plot device – Sally offers Kristin a glimpse of the future she believes she’ll have if she succeeds in becoming Mrs. J.R. Ewing – but E.J. André is a hoot as crotchety Mr. Eugene and Andra Akers is delicious as bitchy Sally.

Maybe they should’ve gotten a spinoff, too.

Grade: B


Dallas, Joan Van Ark, Return Engagements, Valene Ewing

Willing victim


Season 3, Episode 14

Airdate: December 20, 1979

Audience: 20.3 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: David Jacobs

Director: Gunnar Hellström

Synopsis: Gary returns to Dallas and with Miss Ellie’s encouragement, proposes to Val, who accepts. J.R., who is on a “business trip” with Kristin, races home to stop the ceremony but arrives too late. Ellie’s gift to the newlyweds: a house in Knots Landing, a Southern California suburb.

Cast: E.J. André (Eugene Bullock), Andra Akers (Sally Bullock), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Terry Lester (Rudy Millington), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Ted Shackelford (Gary Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Joan Van Ark (Valene Ewing)

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