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 129 — ‘Things Ain’t Goin’ Too Good at Southfork’

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, Things Ain't Goin' Too Good at Southfork

The bottom

Linda Gray always hits her marks on “Dallas,” but she’s especially effective when Sue Ellen is hitting the bottle. Unlike so many other actors who go overboard playing drunks, Gray is precise: never too slurry, never too silly, never too sullen. She gets it right, every time. Because her performances are so convincing, the audience never loses sight of Sue Ellen’s humanity, ensuring she remains a sympathetic character. This is a creative achievement, but it’s something else too: Given “Dallas’s” popularity, I’m convinced Gray has contributed to our understanding of alcoholism as a disease. I often refer to Sue Ellen as a heroine, but when you think about it, the same thing can be said of Linda Gray.

I offer these observations because Gray’s heartbreaking depiction of Sue Ellen’s fall from the wagon in “Things Ain’t Goin’ Too Good at Southfork” is one of the milestone moments in the life of the character. The episode opens where the previous one left off, with Sue Ellen spying J.R. in bed with Holly Harwood. Sue Ellen flees to a cocktail lounge, where she takes her first drink since the end of the third season. And then she has another, and then another. Sue Ellen drinks so much that the bar manager cuts her off, which sends her running into the arms of Clayton, who gently rejects her advances but allows her to spend the night in his hotel room. The next morning, Sue Ellen is embarrassed and promises Clayton she won’t drink again. Yet before he knows it, she has emptied one of his vodka bottles. Eventually, Ellie retrieves her troubled daughter-in-law and brings her home to Southfork, where Sue Ellen is once again full of regret. “Miss Ellie, I just want you to know that I never meant to hurt you,” she says.

The more Sue Ellen drinks in this episode, the more her spirit deteriorates. She goes from giggly in the bar to flirty in Clayton’s hotel room to depressed at Southfork. Her pattern with alcohol — relapse, recovery, repeat — mimics the rhythms of her marriage, which is an endless series of rifts and reconciliations. Listen to what Sue Ellen tells Clayton in this episode while she’s nursing her hangover. “I believed him,” she says, referring to J.R. “He promised me there would be no games, and no other women. And I did believe him until last night. I saw him with my very own eyes, and all those vows and promises didn’t mean anything.” This dialogue reminds us that alcohol isn’t Sue Ellen’s only addiction; she’s powerless where J.R. is concerned too.

On the Rocks

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Things Ain't Goin' Too Good at Southfork


As we watch Sue Ellen’s spiral in this episode, we know she’s eventually going to have to come face to face with J.R. It’s the moment we dread and anticipate at once. Scriptwriter Leonard Katzman wisely saves the confrontation for the next-to-last scene, when J.R. arrives home and finds Sue Ellen drinking in the living room. By this point, the booze has lost its numbing properties. She lets J.R. have it (“You bastard!”) and tells him she knows he slept with Holly. J.R. tries to deny he cheated, believing his wife only saw his car parked outside of Holly’s house. Soon, he realizes Sue Ellen knows the ugly truth. Her rage turns to tears, and when J.R. tries to comfort her, she tosses her drink in his face, grabs his car keys and rushes out of the room.

This is a short scene, lasting less than two minutes, but it tells us so much about the characters, as well as the actors who play them. When the scene begins, we want Sue Ellen to give J.R. hell, and Gray doesn’t disappoint. Her voice is full of incredulity and also clarity, even as she slurs her words. But then her voice cracks, and we realize Sue Ellen is in too much pain for this to be a moment of triumph. Seeing Gray go from wrathful to weepy is one of the episode’s most moving moments. Larry Hagman is impressive too, of course. J.R. is stunned to discover Sue Ellen knows he cheated with Holly, but listen closely to the inflection in his voice when he says, “Sue Ellen, don’t fly off the handle. I can explain all of this.” It’s always hard to know what J.R. is really thinking at a given moment, but in this instance, Hagman makes me the believe his character isn’t trying to save his own skin as much as he’s trying to shield Sue Ellen from more pain. J.R.’s love for his wife is clear, even if his respect for their marriage isn’t.

Collision Course

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Miss Ellie Ewing, Things Ain't Goin' Too Good at Southfork

No saving the day this time

“Things Ain’t Goin’ Too Good at Southfork” is a whimsical title for an episode that’s anything but. The director is Gunnar Hellström, who also helmed the third-season classic “Ellie Saves the Day,” another dark hour in Ewing family history. In that chapter, J.R.’s business dealings brought the family to the brink of financial disaster. This time around, the fallout from his scheming is personal. J.R.’s own marriage suffers, and so do the relationships of most of the show’s other couples.

The first act includes a terrific scene where Pam, who has left Bobby because she feels he’s too preoccupied with defeating J.R., confronts her husband about his relationship with her sister Katherine. Bobby says Katherine is nothing more than a friend — and then he asks Pam if she can say the same thing about her relationship with Mark Graison. It’s a damning moment for Pam, who admits she is confused about her feelings toward Mark, but it’s a great moment for Bobby, whose righteousness feels absolutely justified when he calls out his wife’s hypocrisy. (To that end: Does anyone do marital indignation better than Patrick Duffy?)

Later, Ellie is understandably rattled when she shows up at Clayton’s hotel room and finds Sue Ellen there, drunk and wearing nothing more than one of Clayton’s dress shirts. Barbara Bel Geddes does a beautiful job conveying Ellie’s quiet dismay here, but the actress is at her best a few moments later when Ellie gives Sue Ellen a much-needed dose of tough love. “Sue Ellen, now you listen to me,” Bel Geddes says, grabbing Gray by the arms and glaring at her. “Get into bed and sleep. Try to sober up. And then we’re taking you home!”

By the end of this episode, the war for Ewing Oil touches Lucy and Mickey’s lives too. The young lovers are grilling hamburgers on the Southfork patio and playfully planning their future when Sue Ellen staggers out of the house after her fight with J.R. She climbs behind the wheel of his Mercedes and begins to drive away, prompting Lucy to order Mickey to stop Sue Ellen before she hurts someone. Mickey hops into the passenger seat and pleads with Sue Ellen to pull over. She refuses, and as the Mercedes exits the Southfork driveway, another car strikes the vehicle, flipping it on its side. Freeze frame, roll credits — and if you’re watching this scene on DVD, try to resist the temptation to flip over the disc and immediately begin watching the next episode.


Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Lucy Ewing, Mickey Trotter, Things Ain't Goin' Too Good at Southfork, Timothy Patrick Murphy

What future?

Sue Ellen and Mickey’s accident puts a dramatic punctuation mark on “Things Ain’t Goin’ Too Good at Southfork,” even as it demonstrates the limits of ’80s era television production. When the car begins to roll, a chain attached to the vehicle can be seen on the underside. I assume the chain played some role in creating the stunt, and even though it probably wasn’t noticeable on analog TVs three decades ago, it’s as clear as day when I watch this episode today. Similarly, the car accident is shot from a wide angle so we never get a close-up of Sue Ellen and Mickey inside the Mercedes — except for a the moment of impact, when we catch a glimpse of the stuntmen sitting in for Gray and Timothy Patrick Murphy.

But these are quibbles. The car wreck remains about as fitting an ending as I can imagine. It perfectly encapsulates how the Ewings’ world is beginning to crash down around them. And when you stop and think about it, the whole episode is the “Dallas” equivalent of rubbernecking: No matter how much misery the Ewings experience during the course of this hour, we can’t bring ourselves to look away.

Grade: A+


Dallas, Things Ain't Goin' Too Good at Southfork

The upside of down


Season 6, Episode 26

Airdate: April 15, 1983

Audience: 20 million homes, ranking 3rd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Leonard Katzman

Director: Gunnar Hellström

Synopsis: Sue Ellen resumes drinking and seeks comfort from Clayton, which drives a wedge between him and Miss Ellie. Later, Mickey tries to stop Sue Ellen from driving drunk, but their vehicle is involved in a serious accident. Pam returns home, where Katherine denies being interested in Bobby. Cliff pressures Pam to side with him in the fight over the Tundra Torque.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Delores Cantú (Doris), Lois Chiles (Holly Harwood), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Patrick Dollaghan (bartender), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Kenneth Kimmins (Thornton McLeish), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Timothy Patrick Murphy (Mickey Trotter), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Kate Reid (Lil Trotter), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis)

“Things Ain’t Goin’ Too Good at Southfork” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 102 – ‘Acceptance’

The emperor's clothes

The emperor’s clothes

The scene everyone remembers from “Acceptance” is the one where the grieving Miss Ellie goes on a rampage in the Southfork kitchen, smashing every dish in sight before tearfully collapsing onto the floor. This is a big, dramatic moment and it never fails to give me chills, but it’s not the only great performance we get from Barbara Bel Geddes in this episode. The quiet moments that come before Ellie’s breakdown are just as moving. They deserve to be remembered too.

More than anything, “Acceptance” is about the journey Ellie takes before she comes to terms with Jock’s death. It begins when Ray visits Ellie on another rainy night at Southfork and suggests she forgive Donna for wanting to write an unflattering book about Jock. Steve Kanaly’s monologue consists of more than 350 words, and he delivers every one beautifully. I also love how Bel Geddes holds her own against Kanaly, even though she is almost completely silent. The look on Bel Geddes’ face tells us everything we need to know. Ellie isn’t really mad at Donna. She’s angry because the husband she loved has died and left her alone.

Virtually every scene that follows demonstrates how Bel Geddes can say more with a smile or a furrowed brow than most actors can with a script full of dialogue. Watch how her expression changes in the scene where Punk invites Ellie to accompany him and Mavis to the Oil Barons Ball. Bel Geddes is so sweet in the way Ellie politely declines Punk’s invitation, but once he tells her about the plan to introduce a memorial scholarship in Jock’s name, her expression shifts to shock, hurt and sadness, all within a matter of seconds. How does she do that?

The poignant moments keep coming. A pensive Ellie strolls around the Southfork grounds, recalling the walk she takes in the classic “Ellie Saves the Day.” She visits the stables and lovingly strokes Blazer, Jock’s horse. “You miss him too, don’t you?” she says. And the biggest heartbreaker of all: when Ellie stands in Jock’s bedroom closet and gently touches his clothes. (In a nice touch, the producers appear to have stocked this set with pieces from Jim Davis’s “Dallas” wardrobe, including the powder blue suit he memorably sported in “Runaway” and the white-dotted bathrobe he wore during the third season.)

Of course, as good as Bel Geddes is, she gets plenty of support from director Michael Preece, who always brings out the best in the “Dallas” cast, and Will Lorin, whose script is full of details that ring true. My favorite of these moments comes in the second act, when Lucy enters Ellie’s bedroom to announce Punk’s arrival. “Tell him I’ll be right there. Offer him a drink,” Ellie says. Offer him a drink. It’s a small line, but it tells us so much about Ellie’s devotion to keeping up appearances, even when she’s in mourning. This is exactly what we expect a woman of Ellie’s generation and stature to tell her granddaughter when company arrives.

Ellie’s struggle reaches its crescendo when she has her breakdown in the kitchen. The sequence begins with the Ewings gathered in the Southfork dining room. As the other characters chatter (listen closely and you’ll hear J.R. and Pam being cordial to each other), Preece slowly zooms in on Ellie’s face as she notices Jock’s empty chair at the other end of the table. Quickly and quietly, she excuses herself and goes into the kitchen, where she orders Teresa to leave. Suddenly, Ellie is overcome with emotion and begins smashing the dishes.

When I interviewed the wonderful Michael Preece last month, he told me Bel Geddes didn’t want to do multiple takes because the material was so gut-wrenching. When you watch the scene, you can tell the actress is taking care to hit her marks. In hindsight, her sense of caution works well. Yes, Ellie is a woman exploding with grief, but she’s also someone whose instinct is to always remain composed. Of course she’d hesitate a little before knocking over a stack of plates.

(Watching this scene, I’m also reminded of a famous sequence from the 1970s sitcom “Good Times,” when Esther Rolle’s Florida Evans, another matriarch in mourning, slams a glass punchbowl onto her kitchen floor. The dialogue is similar too. Florida: “Damn, damn, damn!” Ellie: “Damn you, Jock!”)

In “Acceptance’s” final scene, Ellie visits the Krebbses and gives Donna’s book her blessing. It brings to mind the final moments in the fourth-season episode “Ewing vs. Ewing,” when Ellie stands in Ray and Donna’s living room and asks Jock to forgive her for almost destroying their marriage. That scene, one of the last times Bel Geddes and Davis appeared together, ends with their characters declaring their love for each other. This time around, the moment of satisfaction comes when Ellie finally acknowledges that her husband is dead. “I know that Jock’s not coming back, but I have my memories of him,” she says. “And my memories are forever.”

So are great performances like this.

Grade: A





Season 5, Episode 25

Airdate: April 2, 1982

Audience: 29.1 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Will Lorin

Director: Michael Preece

Synopsis: Miss Ellie accepts Jock’s death and gives Donna’s book her blessing. Afton tries to comfort Cliff after Rebecca fires him. J.R. romances Sue Ellen. Bobby helps the police catch Farraday’s killers. Mitch moves to Atlanta.

Cast: Tyler Banks (John Ross Ewing), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Phyllis Flax (Mrs. Chambers), Jonathan Goldsmith (Joe Smith), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Bob Hoy (Detective Howard), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Leigh McCloskey (Dr. Mitch Cooper), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Tom Stern (Detective White), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson), H.M. Wynant (Ed Chapman)

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

Dallas Parallels: Saving Southfork

At the end of “Ellie Saves the Day,” one of my favorite “Dallas” episodes, Miss Ellie sits at J.R.’s desk and signs paperwork authorizing Ewing Oil to drill on Southfork. For Ellie, a principled conservationist, this is painful but necessary. J.R. has mortgaged the ranch and sunk the money in a foundering deal – and now the loan is due. Tapping Southfork’s vast oil reserves is the only way to raise the cash needed to stave off foreclosure.

As luck would have it, J.R. strikes oil elsewhere at the 11th hour, allowing the Ewings to preserve Southfork for ranching. But the story isn’t over. When TNT’s “Dallas” begins, Ellie is gone and Bobby has succeeded her as Southfork’s owner and guardian – until J.R. “steals” the ranch and sets out to pump its oil, triggering a bitter feud that divides the Ewings like never before.

The battle culminates in “Family Business,” an instant-classic episode from the new show. In a poignant scene, J.R. sits at a table in his bedroom, staring at the Southfork deed. With trembling hands, he takes a shot of bourbon, glances at a framed photograph of Ellie and signs the paper, returning ownership of the ranch to Bobby.

The parallels to “Ellie Saves the Day” are unmistakable. So are the ironies. Conservationist Ellie is forced to plunder the land, while oilman J.R. chooses to preserve it. Yet both characters end up saving Southfork.

The way mother and son reach their fateful decisions is revealing. In “Ellie Saves the Day,” the Ewing matriarch gathers her family in the living room and announces her plan to lift the drilling ban. Ellie mentions how much Southfork means to her, but she also displays her practical side. When Bobby reminds her Graddaddy Southworth’s dying wish was to preserve the land, Ellie responds: “Do you think the banks will preserve the land? They will not.”

Surprisingly, J.R. proves more sentimental. In “Family Business,” John Ross comes to his father’s bedroom and tries to persuade him to return the ranch to Bobby, but J.R. doesn’t want to hear it. Slumping onto his bed, he tells his son, “Southfork isn’t just a piece of dirt. It’s as much a part of me as my blood, in my bones.” Suddenly, we’re forced to consider the possibility that maybe the battle for Southfork isn’t just about the ocean of oil flowing beneath it.

Later, after confrontations with Sue Ellen and Bobby, J.R. finally comes around and signs over the deed. He brings the document to his brother, who is in his sickbed. “You’re still not off the hook for how you got this in the first place,” Bobby says. It brings to mind the final line in “Ellie Saves the Day,” when Ellie, after giving up the mineral rights, turns to her oldest son and says, “I may never forgive you for this, J.R.”

Perhaps that’s true, but something tells me Mama was smiling the moment J.R. put pen to paper and did his part to save Southfork.


‘Do You Know How Much Southfork Means to Me?’

Ms. Practicality

In “Ellie Saves the Day,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) enters the Southfork living room, where Jock (Jim Davis), J.R. (Larry Hagman), Bobby (Patrick Duffy) and the other Ewings await her.

JOCK: Miss Ellie.

ELLIE: Jock.

BOBBY: Mama, Ray said you took a tour of the ranch this morning.

ELLIE: [Smiling] Yes, I did. [She sits.]

JOCK: Well, we’ve tried everything, Miss Ellie.

ELLIE: I’m sure you have. J.R., do you know how much Southfork means to me? To all of us? I’ll never understand your motives as long as I live.

J.R.: Mama –

ELLIE: Now as I see it, the problem is this: Next week, the bankers who own the mortgages expect to be paid, and we don’t have the money. Is that right?

JOCK: Yes. And everything worthwhile is mortgaged.

ELLIE: Except one.

J.R.: What?

ELLIE: They can take this land, but they don’t have the right to drill for all that oil under Section 40. My daddy’s will gave the mineral rights to me.

BOBBY: [Leans forward] Mama, you can’t do that. You can’t break Granddad’s will. He wanted that land preserved for ranching.

ELLIE: You think the banks will preserve the land? They will not. However, I can release all of that oil for drilling. Millions and millions of dollars worth. And for that, I’m sure the bank will extend the due date on the mortgage indefinitely.

JOCK: I could never ask you to do that, Ellie.

ELLIE: It will save this ranch, Jock. And for that, I’ll go against my daddy’s wishes. [Rises, walks toward Jock] Jock, 40 years ago, Ewing Oil paid off the mortgage on Southfork and saved it. Now I think it’s time that Southfork repaid those debts.


‘Southfork Isn’t Just a Piece of Dirt’

Mr. Sentimental

In “Family Business,” TNT’s ninth “Dallas” episode, John Ross (Josh Henderson) speaks to J.R. (Larry Hagman) in his Southfork bedroom.

J.R.: I’m not signing Southfork over to anybody. The thing we should be concentrating on is a little payback to the boys who did that to you. [Points to the bruises on John Ross’s face]

JOHN ROSS: It’s a little late for that. Lucky for me, I had Uncle Bobby to get me out of that situation.

J.R.: Well, I got here as soon as I heard.

JOHN ROSS: Southfork is useless to you without the mineral rights. Now Uncle Bobby has agreed to drill. Once the Venezuelans are paid off, your piece of that oil, it’ll get you back on top.

J.R.: Christopher’s already agreed to pay off the Venezuelans with his gas rights. What’s gotten into you, anyhow?

JOHN ROSS: A little decency. They should not have to clean up after our mess. Haven’t we put Uncle Bobby through enough?

J.R.: You’re confusing emotion with business. This land is finally mine like it should have been all along.

JOHN ROSS: I’m so damn tired of hearing about your birthright.

J.R.: What did you say?

JOHN ROSS: Can’t you just let it go?

J.R.: [Sits on the bed] Southfork isn’t just a piece of dirt. It’s as much a part of me as my blood, in my bones. I paid a hell of a price for it. I thought you of all the people in the world would understand that.

What do you think of Miss Ellie and J.R.’s efforts to save Southfork? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Parallels.”

Dallas Parallels: Grave Decisions

The Ewings are always in crisis, but life at Southfork was downright agonizing at the beginning of “Dallas’s” ninth season: Bobby was dead, Sue Ellen was in a police station drunk tank and J.R. was scheming to keep Pam out of Ewing Oil. So when Jeremy Wendell took Miss Ellie to lunch and offered to take the company off her hands, the Ewing matriarch was understandably tempted.

In “Resurrection,” the season’s fourth episode, Ellie visits Bobby’s Southfork grave, near the tree house Jock built for Bobby when he was a boy. (A wooden Ewing Oil sign on the house proclaims “B.J. Ewing” president.) Sitting on a bench near Bobby’s headstone, Ellie tells him she’s leaning toward selling the company to Wendell, in part so “your little Christopher and little John Ross” won’t have to grow up to inherit unhappiness. “I hope you’ll understand,” Ellie says.

This terrific scene – along with everything else that happened during “Dallas’s” ninth season – was notoriously wiped away when Bobby’s death was written off as Pam’s dream, but that doesn’t mean fans should forget it. Nor does it mean the people who make TNT’s sequel series can’t draw inspiration from it.

In “No Good Deed,” one of the strongest hours during the new show’s first season, Bobby visits Ellie’s grave on Southfork, where life is once again in turmoil: J.R. has disappeared and John Ross, now an adult, has had the stuffing beaten out of him in jail. To make matters worse, J.R. and John Ross’s shady business partner Vicente Cano is inching closer to tapping the ocean of oil flowing beneath the ranch.

Bobby, who promised Ellie he’d never let anyone drill on Southfork, stands over her headstone and tells her it might be time to relent. “I keep trying to think what you’d do if you were here,” Bobby says. “But I know: You’d do whatever it takes to protect the family. And that’s just what I’m gonna do, Mama. And I know you’ll understand.”

Aside from echoing one of “Dallas’s” most resilient themes – the idea that sometimes you have to sacrifice your principles for the greater good (see also: “Ellie Saves the Day”) – this scene reminds me how much I love Patrick Duffy.

The actor has always been one of the “Dallas” franchise’s unsung heroes, but his gravitas is more readily apparent on the TNT series. Duffy has inherited the quiet strength and dignified spirit Barbara Bel Geddes brought to the original series. Like her, he never strikes a false note. And just as I can’t imagine the old show without Bel Geddes, it’s difficult to conceive the new “Dallas” without Duffy. Thankfully, we don’t have to.


‘I Hope You’ll Understand’


In “Resurrection,” a ninth-season “Dallas” episode, Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) visits Bobby’s Southfork grave.

ELLIE: Bobby. Oh, Bobby. [Sighs, sits on a nearby bench] This seems to be the only place where I can find peace. It’s the only place where I can get away from everyone’s questions. Here I’m just left alone with my own questions. You may not agree with me, but I hope you’ll understand. If this was the best of all worlds, I wouldn’t think of selling Ewing Oil. But it’s not the best of all worlds – or the best of all times. With you gone and Sue Ellen where she is, the family’s in trouble. I want to do what’s right, Bobby, for your little Christopher and for little John Ross. I don’t want them to inherit unhappiness. I couldn’t bear that. Your daddy always said that the only thing that really means anything is family. You knew that. Those were the last words that you, you tried to say to us. And now I have to do my part to, to keep us together.


‘I Know You’ll Understand’


In “No Good Deed,” TNT’s eighth “Dallas” episode, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) visits Miss Ellie’s Southfork grave.

BOBBY: Hey Mama. I spent the last 20 years trying to protect this land. Protect your legacy. I remember you once told me that family is like baking a cake – from scratch. Real messy. Well, I wish I could tell you things are different, Mama, but they’re not. Our family is as fractured and dysfunctional as always. And I keep trying to think what you’d do if you were here. But I know: You’d do whatever it takes to protect the family. And that’s just what I’m gonna do, Mama. And I know you’ll understand.

What do you think of Miss Ellie and Bobby’s grave decisions? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Parallels.”

The Best & Worst of Dallas: Season 3

“Dallas’s” third season offers lots to celebrate – and a few things to curse.


Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing

Can’t touch this

Larry Hagman and Linda Gray do mighty impressive work in Season 3, but even they can’t touch Jim Davis and Barbara Bel Geddes. Since I began re-watching “Dallas,” the nicest discovery has been how good Davis is as Jock, especially in third-season episodes like “The Dove Hunt,” when he stares down rifle-wielding Tom Owens, and “Return Engagements,” when the humbled Ewing patriarch is a surprise guest at Gary and Valene’s wedding.

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Miss Ellie Ewing

This either

Meanwhile, Bel Geddes brings her trademark quiet strength to “Ellie Saves the Day” and “Return Engagements,” but the actress also shows us her character’s vulnerable side in “Mastectomy, Part 1” and “Mastectomy, Part 2,” the episodes that won Bel Geddes an Emmy. She earned the award, but I can’t help but think how much sweeter her victory would have been if the equally deserving Davis had been honored too.


Choosing the season’s best narrative is tough – Sue Ellen’s struggle with motherhood and Ray and Donna’s tortured love story are each strong contenders – but J.R.’s risky Asian oil deal gets my vote for most compelling plot. This storyline isn’t about exploring J.R.’s business acumen as much as it is about delving into his psyche: By revealing how far the character is willing to go to build Ewing Oil (he mortgages Southfork!), the show lets us know J.R. is every bit as compulsive as Sue Ellen. She may be powerless over booze, but he’s addicted to his own ambition.

Least favorite storyline: Lucy becomes engaged to Alan Beam to spite J.R. Really, “Dallas”?


Bobby Ewing, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy

Save them, Mama

Choosing the third year’s finest hour is tough. A strong case can be made for “A House Divided,” the finale that famously ends with J.R. getting shot (for the second time this season, after he’s ambushed in “The Dove Hunt”). But my ultimate choice is “Ellie Saves the Day,” the poignant hour that brings the Ewing empire to the brink of collapse. If you want to understand why Bobby fought so hard to protect his mama’s legacy on TNT’s “Dallas,” watch this episode.

Worst third-season entry: “Power Play.” Lucy romances Alan at a roller disco, Kristin captures their canoodling with some artfully framed Polaroid snapshots and Jock starts jive talking. “You dig?” he asks Lucy at one point. Um, no big guy. We don’t.


Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Kristin Shepard, Larry Hagman, Mary Crosby


So many choices: I love when Patricia Shepard predicts John Ross’s future in “The Silent Killer,” the pep talk Bobby offers a worried Jock in “Ellie Saves the Day” and the “Paternity Suit” sequence where J.R. picks up his infant son for the first time. There’s also Miss Ellie’s encounter with phony-baloney Marilee Stone and Linda Bradley (also from “Paternity Suit”), as well as the lovely beach scene where Gary and Val make amends with Lucy, which occurred on “Knots Landing” but is too good to not mention here.

Ultimately, my favorite scene is the “Mother of the Year” sequence that mimics the rhythms of an oil strike. J.R. sits in his office, staring at his telephone, depressed because he hasn’t hit a gusher in Asia. Then the phones begin ringing as news of his big strike trickles in, leading to J.R.’s joyful eruption (“Yee-ha! We hit!”). Brilliant.

The season’s most ridiculous moment: when Kristin “accidentally” pours her drink into her sister’s lap during their “Divorce, Ewing Style” lunch date. Sue Ellen, how did you not know you were being set up?

Supporting Players

Dallas, Donna Culver, Susan Howard

The best, fur sure

Susan Howard, who was still a guest star during “Dallas’s” third season, is the best supporting player, hands down. This is the year Donna is torn between honoring the memory of her dead husband and beginning a new life with Ray – and the actress does a beautiful job conveying her character’s torment. Besides Patrick Duffy, no one delivers breathy, soul-searching dialogue better than Howard.


Forget about the metaphorical value associated with the jeans the rebellious Sue Ellen wears in “Rodeo” and focus on how good Linda Gray looks in them. Get it, girl!

The green spandex pants Kristin wears in the same episode might be the season’s most dated costume, but I’ll confess: I kind of love it.


I also love, love, love John Parker’s “I’ll Still Be Loving You,” which is heard at the end of “Rodeo,” when Ray finally calls Donna after ignoring her letters. The tune, which becomes another of Ray’s anthems, is rivaled only by Jerrold Immel’s theme as my favorite piece of “Dallas” music.


Best: “Once I heard you were back in town, I just had some of my friends check out some of the cheaper motels.” – J.R.’s greeting to Val in “Secrets.” I could watch Hagman and Joan Van Ark go at it all day.

Worst: “And when I didn’t get married, I thought I was gonna die. But instead, I went to college.” – Lucy recalling her romantic history to Alan Beam in “The Heiress.” Oh, “Dallas.” Charlene Tilton is such a charming actress. Why do you insist on giving her ridiculous lines?

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

TNT’s Dallas Styles: Bobby’s Pajamas

Dead men don’t wear plaid. Right?

In “Family Business,” TNT continues an old “Dallas” tradition: using the Ewings’ sleepwear to telegraph their vulnerabilities.

The practice can be traced to “Spy in the House,” the original show’s third episode, when a sexually neglected Sue Ellen buys a negligee, hoping to arouse J.R.’s interest. Her plan doesn’t work: J.R. calls the nightie “cheap” and storms out of the room, leaving his wife in tears.

In the second-season episode “Survival,” a bathrobe-clad Jock weeps when he learns a plane carrying J.R. and Bobby has crashed. Later, in the third-season episode “Ellie Saves the Day,” Jock and Miss Ellie are both wearing robes when they learn J.R.’s latest oil deal has brought the Ewing empire to the brink of collapse.

And when we encounter a deeply depressed J.R. at the beginning of “Changing of the Guard,” TNT’s first “Dallas” episode, what’s he wearing? You guessed it: a robe and pajamas.

In “Family Business,” Patrick Duffy sports plaid pajamas and what appears to be a dark green robe after Bobby is diagnosed with a life-threatening cerebral aneurysm. The PJs, like the reading glasses perched on Bobby’s nose, remind us our silver-haired hero is entering the twilight of his life – a point Bobby himself makes when he poignantly reminds J.R., “Nobody lives forever.”

But the sleepwear lets us know something else too: Even in pajamas, Patrick Duffy is still dashing.

Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 8 – ‘No Good Deed’

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, No Good Deed, TNT

Up close

In “No Good Deed,” John Ross is jailed for a murder he didn’t commit and then savagely beaten by a couple of inmates who are connected to the real killers. The Ewings respond to this crisis by rallying around their tarnished golden boy, making this the first time the characters on TNT’s “Dallas” begin to feel like a real family. Not coincidentally, it’s also the first time the new show begins to really feel like the old one.

The original “Dallas” is often described as a series about rich people behaving badly, but the deeper truth is that “Dallas,” at its heart, was a show about family. TNT seems to fully realize this in “No Good Deed.” This is an hour of big, dramatic moments that once again demonstrate an essential “Dallas” tenet: No matter how much the Ewings fight among themselves, when outside forces descend upon Southfork, they all pull together.

Several scenes in this episode give me chills. In the first, Bobby is in the den, railing to his lawyer about J.R. and the plot to steal Southfork, when Ann enters the room with a stricken look on her face. “It’s John Ross,” she says. The goose bumps return in the next scene, when we see Bobby, Ann, Elena and Christopher burst through the emergency room doors and circle a badly shaken Sue Ellen.

As good as these moments are, “No Good Deed” also benefits from its many scenes of quiet familial warmth: J.R. arrives at John Ross’s hospital bedside in the dark of night and gently strokes his sleeping son’s hair. Bobby visits Miss Ellie’s grave and vows to protect the family, finally recognizing the people who live on the ranch matter more than the land itself. John Ross and Christopher stand in the Southfork driveway, shake hands and acknowledge they’re not that different from one another after all. “We’re both just trying to make our fathers proud,” Christopher says.

Then there are “No Good Deed’s” small but meaningful details: When a trembling Sue Ellen fumbles with a coffee dispenser in the hospital waiting room, Ann takes the cup and pumps the coffee for her. During a family conference in the Southfork living room, Ann rubs the back of a worried Elena. John Ross calls Sue Ellen “mama” when she brings him home from the hospital.

The nice thing about Julia Cohen’s script is that it doesn’t just make the Ewings feel like a real family, it also makes them feel like real individuals. “No Good Deed” is centered around the theme of sacrifice – Bobby offers to lift the ban on drilling the ranch, Sue Ellen surrenders her integrity, Christopher forgoes a piece of his gas hydrate project – and by seeing what the Ewings are willing to give up, we discover who these characters really are. (Shades of “Ellie Saves the Day,” one of the greatest episodes from the original series.)

“No Good Deed’s” most heartbreaking moment belongs to Sue Ellen, who musters the courage to bribe the medical examiner, only to discover her ethical lapse was for nothing. I can’t help but feel sorry for her when she stands at John Ross’s bedside and proudly predicts Marta’s death will be ruled a suicide, only to learn the charges against her son have been dropped because new evidence has emerged clearing him. It’s tragic stuff, but isn’t it nice to see Ann provide Sue Ellen with so much support and comfort throughout her ordeal?

Of course, the character who provides “No Good Deed” with its heart is the young man who is at the center of it all: John Ross. Yes, we feel sympathetic toward him after that savage beating, but those cuts and bruises merely symbolize how he’s finally become a flesh-and-blood character.

John Ross seems genuinely ashamed of his role in the plot to steal Southfork, as evidenced by his willingness to stay in jail rather than reveal his relationship with Marta and risk losing Elena’s faith in him. He also refuses to blame J.R. for his misfortune, another sign this is no longer the petulant brat we met in “Changing of the Guard.” I’ve been a fan of Josh Henderson’s from the beginning, but “No Good Deed” finally makes me a fan of John Ross.

“No Good Deed” is also distinguished by Michael Katleman’s arty direction, including the moody opening scene, where Henderson and Jordana Brewster’s faces fill the screen, recalling the tight close-ups that were a signature of the old “Dallas.” And while TNT’s show has a style all its own, there are times I wish it more deliberately mimicked its predecessor. How cool would it have been to hear a few notes of Jerrold Immel’s “Dallas” theme music when J.R. received the call about John Ross’s beating, the way we did in the classic episode “Swan Song,” when J.R. got the call Bobby was dying?

Katleman also does a masterful job in “No Good Deed’s” final scene, when Tommy backs Rebecca against the wall, threatens her and then plants his mouth on hers, thus revealing the Sutters aren’t siblings after all. I suspect that creepy buss will have “Dallas” fans buzzing today, but I hope they don’t allow the shock value to obscure all the warm and wonderful moments to be found in “No Good Deed.”

The Sutters may not be family, but after this episode the Ewings finally are, and my goodness, isn’t that nice to see?

Grade: A


Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, No Good Deed, TNT



Season 1, Episode 8

Telecast: July 25, 2012

Writer: Julia Cohen

Director: Michael Katleman

Audience: 5 million viewers (including 3.3 million viewers on July 25, ranking 24th in the weekly cable ratings)

Synopsis: When Cano’s thugs beat John Ross in jail, Sue Ellen bribes the medical examiner to rule Marta’s death a suicide so her son will be freed. Her sacrifice is for naught: Christopher gives Cano the South American rights to his gas hydrate project, which prompts Cano to release evidence that clears John Ross. Christopher makes amends with John Ross and reconciles with Rebecca, who is later confronted by Tommy, who isn’t really her brother.

Cast: Amir Arison (Varun Rasmussen), Carlos Bernard (Vicente Cano), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Damon Carney (Paul Jacob), Akai Draco (Sheriff Derrick), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Julie Gonzalo (Rebecca Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Callard Harris (Tommy Sutter), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Glenn Morshower (Lou), Kevin Page (Bum), Marisol Ramirez (Detective), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing)

“No Good Deed” is available at, and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 53 – ‘The Wheeler Dealer’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Wheeler Dealer

J.R. Ewing here

With “The Wheeler Dealer,” “Dallas” continues tying up its third-season plot threads. The Ewings pay off the mortgage on Southfork, Kristin realizes she’ll never become J.R.’s wife, and Sue Ellen is back where she was a year ago: dreadfully unhappy and boozing herself into oblivion.

“The Wheeler Dealer” also offers a coda to the season’s biggest bombshell: Jock’s revelation that he was married to another woman before Miss Ellie became his wife.

The postscript begins when Ellie persuades Jock to visit the Colorado sanitarium where Amanda has lived for many years. (Trivia: The shot that concludes this scene, where Jim Davis and Barbara Bel Geddes gaze into each other’s eyes, inspired the “portrait” of Jock and Ellie seen on TNT’s “Dallas.”)

In “The Wheeler Dealer’s” most memorable sequence, Jock and Ellie, along with Bobby and Pam, visit the confused Amanda, who believes Bobby is Jock and that she’s still married to him. The saddest moment comes when 60-something Amanda girlishly twirls around to show off the “new” dress she wore to impress her husband. “I wanted to look so nice for you,” she says.

Lesley Woods is heartbreaking as Amanda, but the other actors in this scene shine, too. Jim Davis moves me when Jock gets tongue-tied as his frightened first wife recoils from him, while Patrick Duffy is wonderful as kind-hearted Bobby, who is put in the awkward position of having to pretend to be his own father. (More trivia: In 2006, Duffy played the son of Woods’ character on “The Bold and the Beautiful.”) I also love when Ellie, looking regal in her fur coat, gently puts her hand on Amanda’s shoulder and comforts her. What a terrific scene.

This episode’s other great moment: when Vaughn Leland, the banker who almost foreclosed on Southfork, tells J.R. he’s joining the deal with the cartel members who are buying Ewing Oil’s Asian wells. Leland doesn’t know the wells are about to be nationalized, so there’s something satisfying about knowing J.R. is about to stick it to the man who came close to evicting the Ewings.

I know I probably shouldn’t feel this way, but I bet I’m not alone. There’s probably a little wheeler-dealer in most “Dallas” fans.

Grade: B


Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, Miss Ellie Ewing, Wheeler Dealer

Gaze gone by


Season 3, Episode 24

Airdate: March 14, 1980

Audience: 21.1 million homes, ranking 6th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Barbara Searles

Director: Alexander Singer

Synopsis: J.R. gets an inside tip his Asian wells are going to be nationalized, so he unloads most of them on the cartel. Jock, Miss Ellie, Bobby and Pam visit Amanda, Jock’s first wife. Cliff learns Digger’s heirs are entitled to half the proceeds from the Ewing 23 oilfield. Sue Ellen goes on a bender. Alan and Kristin plot revenge against J.R.

Cast: Robert Ackerman (Wade Luce), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Stephanie Blackmore (Serena), Jeff Cooper (Dr. Simon Elby), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Sarah Cunningham (Maggie Monahan), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Ron Hayes (Hank Johnson), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ed Kenney (Seth Stone), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), Dennis Patrick (Vaughn Leland), Randolph Powell (Alan Beam), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Geoffrey Scott (“Dusty”), Paul Sorensen (Andy Bradley), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Lesley Woods (Amanda Ewing)

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

Dallas Styles: Jock’s Bathrobe

‘Ellie Saves the Day’

Is it a coincidence Jim Davis wears a bathrobe during some of Jock’s most vulnerable moments on “Dallas?”

In “Survival,” Jock is clad in a beige terrycloth robe when he overhears Miss Ellie’s confrontation with a Dallas Press reporter and learns the plane carrying J.R. and Bobby has crashed. The usually rock-like Jock crumbles upon hearing the news. “Damn it, Ellie,” he says with wet eyes. “Both of them. Why?”

In “Ellie Saves the Day,” Jock is wearing a different robe – this one appears to be dark blue with white dots – when he learns J.R.’s risky Asian oil deal has brought the Ewing empire to the brink of collapse. It’s a moment of reckoning for Jock. At one point, he buries his face in his giant hand and tells Bobby, “I trained J.R. and taught him everything he knows. Gave him the fever for big business. But I never taught him when to stop.”

The bathrobes are crucial props in both scenes. Davis cuts such an imposing figure, it’s hard to forget he was almost 70 when “Dallas” began. The robes help the actor humanize his character, reminding us Jock is in his twilight, even if he doesn’t look or act like it.

Appropriately, the bathrobe also helps Ellie – and “Dallas” viewers – come to terms with Jock’s loss. In the fifth-season episode “Acceptance,” Ellie finally stops denying Jock’s death and walks into his closet, where she tenderly touches his clothes. Hanging among them: that blue-and-white-dotted robe, reminding us once again that Jock really was mortal.