Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 122 — ‘Legacy’

Ben Piazza, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Legacy, Walt Driscoll

Into darkness

“Legacy” opens with Pam, having decided to separate from Bobby, packing up her Porsche and driving away with little Christopher. It’s a landmark moment in the life of the series. “Digger’s Daughter” shows Bobby and Pam arriving at Southfork as newlyweds, and now she has spent her last night under that roof as his wife. Soon the couple will be divorced, and even though they’ll eventually remarry and Pam will return to the ranch, things will never quite be the same. I know some fans welcome the changes that Bobby and Pam’s split herald, but as far as I’m concerned, a little bit of the old “Dallas” magic dies the moment she pulls out of that driveway.

Pam’s decision to leave is triggered by the death of her mother Rebecca, whose will reading delivers this episode’s other monumental moment. The Wentworth empire, which Rebecca inherited from her late husband Herbert, is divided among her three children, Cliff, Pam and Katherine. The “Dallas” writers make this division mighty complicated — Cliff gets Barnes-Wentworth Oil, Pam and Katherine split their mother’s shares in Wentworth Industries and all three siblings become equal partners in Wentworth Tool and Die — but no matter. What’s important is that Cliff and Pam are now rich, forever changing the original “Dallas” dynamic of the have-not Barneses versus the wealthy, wanton Ewings. It’s also worth noting that the collection of companies that Rebecca leaves behind becomes the basis for Barnes Global, the conglomerate that Cliff uses as his weapon to bludgeon the Ewings during the second season of TNT’s “Dallas.”

Beyond these turning points, “Legacy” offers some unusually nifty camerawork. This is the fifth episode directed by Patrick Duffy, who once again demonstrates a flair for visual storytelling. Two of my favorite shots are found in the sequence where J.R. and Walt Driscoll meet after hours at Ewing Oil. Duffy positions the camera behind the reception desk as Driscoll arrives and steps off the elevator, a unique angle that, as far as I can remember, is never repeated. Moments later, J.R. stands in the foreground, shrouded in darkness, as Driscoll sits behind him, counting the money from their crooked oil deal. The shot makes Larry Hagman look utterly sinister.

I also admire Duffy’s inventive approach in the opening scene. After Pam’s Porsche pulls out of the driveway, Duffy pans the camera upward to reveal J.R. watching from the balcony. We rarely see the Ewings up there — the shot of J.R. gazing at Kristin’s dead body in the swimming pool in “Ewing-Gate” is a notable exception — so it’s neat to see Duffy put this part of the Southfork set to use. (Perhaps the “Dallas” actors are particularly attuned to this sort of thing: When Hagman directed the third-season episode “Mother of the Year,” he showed Lucy sliding down the Southfork bannister — the first time we see someone descend those famous stairs in that manner.) The “Legacy” shot of J.R. on the balcony also reminds us that he was hovering in the shadows the last time Pam left Bobby, at the end of “The Red File, Part 1” a second-season classic.

Scriptwriter Robert Sherman doesn’t deliver many new insights into the characters, but he does a nice of reinforcing what we’ve come to expect from them. I especially like the scene where J.R. paces on the patio, ranting about the outcome of Rebecca’s will reading. It’s always fun to hear J.R. insult Cliff — in this scene, he calls him a “lunatic” and predicts he’ll now be free to do “any fool thing” he wishes — but beyond the humor, the scene allows Sue Ellen to once again serve as J.R.’s confidant. Ever since the state revoked his permission to pump extra oil, J.R. has publicly declared the loss is no big deal. Here, he tells his wife the truth: “I’m in trouble.” It’s nice to see J.R. treat Sue Ellen as a partner — and that’s how she seems to think of herself too. Notice how she asks him, “Are you afraid we’re going to lose?”

Another good scene: Sue Ellen tells Clayton she’s upset that he’s seeing Miss Ellie. “I thought you were my friend,” she says. This prompts Clayton to confess that he was once in love with Sue Ellen, but since growing close to Ellie, he realizes Sue Ellen isn’t the woman for him. “Clayton, I just don’t understand,” she says. His response: “Not then, and not now.” This dialogue makes Sue Ellen seem a bit more self-absorbed than she was when Clayton was secretly pining for her at the end of the fifth season, but Linda Gray manages to make her character sympathetic nonetheless.

The other highlight of “Legacy” is the scene where Lucy and Muriel pull Mickey out of the Braddock saloon after a thuggish cowboy punches out his lights. The next time we see Mickey and Lucy, he’s waking up in his car with his head on her shoulder. It’s a charming moment and the first time we’ve seen the troubled Lucy demonstrate her growing affection for him. More than anything, I like seeing a woman coming to a man’s rescue on “Dallas,” which marks a real departure for a show with chauvinistic tendencies. Of course, I know before all is said done, Mickey will end up rescuing Lucy. Or maybe he already has.

Grade: B


Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Lucy Ewing, Mickey Trotter, Timothy Patrick Murphy

Cold shoulder no more


Season 6, Episode 19

Airdate: February 18, 1983

Audience: 21.5 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Robert Sherman

Director: Patrick Duffy

Synopsis: Pam takes Christopher and moves into a hotel. Cliff inherits Barnes-Wentworth Oil from Rebecca, while ownership of Wentworth Tool and Die is split evenly among Cliff, Pam and Katherine. J.R., fearing Bobby and the newly wealthy Pam will reunite and join forces against him, offers to end the contest for Ewing Oil, but Bobby refuses. J.R. is forced to sell some of his gas stations and completes his first illegal shipment to Cuba. Clayton tells Sue Ellen he once loved her but now realizes she wasn’t the right woman for him. Lucy rescues Mickey from a bar brawl.

Cast: Mary Armstrong (Louise), John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), J.P. Bumstead (Horace), Lois Chiles (Holly Harwood), Karlene Crockett (Muriel Gillis), Michael Currie (Sam Reynolds), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Chuck Hicks (bar patron), 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), Ben Piazza (Walt Driscoll), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Tom Rosqui (Teddy), Paul Sorensen (Andy Bradley), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Bill Zuckert (Bill)

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

Dallas Parallels: Fatal Falls

A beautiful woman feels mistreated by her Ewing lover. She is distressed, distraught, desperate. There’s a confrontation. Harsh words are exchanged. Before you know it, the woman has plunged to her death, leaving the police to sort out if this was a suicide or murder.

Sound familiar? This scenario has played out on “Dallas” more than once. More than twice, actually.

In the original show’s second-season episode “The Red File, Part 1,” J.R.’s ex-secretary and on-again/off-again mistress Julie Grey realizes he doesn’t love her, so she decides to give Cliff Barnes a copy of J.R.’s “red file,” which details his shady dealings with Jeb Ames and Willie Joe Garr. Dumb move, darlin’: When Jeb and Willie Joe find out what Julie’s up to, they show up at her apartment and chase her to the roof – and then they chase her off it.

Flash forward two seasons: In “Ewing-Gate,” Kristin Shepard, another of J.R.’s ex-mistresses/ex-secretaries, threatens to spill the beans about their secret love child if he doesn’t pay her more hush money. When J.R. refuses to give in to Kristin’s scheme, she shows up at Southfork and, after a confrontation with J.R., falls from the balcony and drowns in the swimming pool.

Now, flash forward three decades: In “Collateral Damage,” an episode of TNT’s “Dallas,” John Ross races to the high-rise hotel room of his ex-lover Marta del Sol, who has tricked him into believing she has kidnapped his girlfriend Elena. Once John Ross realizes this is a ruse, he leaves, passing two shadowy men on his way to the elevator. Marta ends up reaching the driveway before John Ross.

Echoes from both older episodes reverberate in the newer one. All three women feel used by the Ewing men in their lives, but they’re also victims of their own deceit: Julie secretly copied J.R.’s red file and Kristin fooled both J.R. and Jordan Lee into believing they fathered her child, while Marta cheated business partner Vicente Cano during their Southfork swindle.

There are other similarities: Marta dies at the hands of two men, just like Julie. The shot of Kristin’s dead body (in “Missing Heir,” the episode that follows “Ewing-Gate”) is creepily reminiscent of the haunting image of Marta’s bloodied corpse. The police briefly suspect J.R. killed Kristin, while John Ross is arrested for Marta’s murder.

Eventually, John Ross is cleared of wrongdoing, just like J.R. was in Kristin’s death. But did John Ross learn a lesson? Or like his daddy, will he continue to get involved with dangerous women? Most importantly: Will those women be smart enough to steer clear of heights?


‘What Do You Want?’

Baby daddy?

In “Ewing-Gate,” a fourth-season “Dallas” episode, J.R. (Larry Hagman) walks into his office, followed by the visiting Kristin (Mary Crosby).

J.R.: What ill wind blew you into Dallas? I thought we had a deal. [Sits his briefcase on his desk]

KRISTIN: The baby’s just fine, J.R. Thank you for asking. He looks just like his daddy.

J.R.: [Turns to face her] What do you want?


J.R.: Do you now?

KRISTIN: I’m tired of your little monthly checks, J.R. I picked up some very expensive habits in California – and I want you to pay for them.

J.R.: This is not the time to try to negotiate with me, Kristin.

KRISTIN: Well, now I think it’s the perfect time. Judging from what I read in the papers, you’re making the headlines everywhere. Poor Jock and Miss Ellie. They must be shattered. Think of how they’d feel if they read about a paternity suit on top of everything else.

J.R.: All right, but you gotta give me time. I can’t pull too much out of the bank right now.

KRISTIN: Don’t take too long, J.R. I’m not very patient.

J.R.: You’ll be hearing from me real soon. Where can I call you?

KRISTIN: [Rises] I’ll call you, J.R. Somehow, I’d feel safer that way. Don’t take too long now. [Walks toward the door, stops, turns to face him] Oh, and give my love to Sue Ellen.


‘What the Hell Do You Want?’

Oh daddy, what a babe!

In “Collateral Damage,” TNT’s seventh “Dallas” episode, John Ross and Marta (Josh Henderson, Leonor Varela) argue in her hotel room.

MARTA: Vicente froze my bank accounts. I have no money. And I really need to get out of the country.

JOHN ROSS: How much?

MARTA: What?

JOHN ROSS: Money. How much money?

MARTA: I don’t want money.

JOHN ROSS: Then what the hell do you want?

MARTA: I want you to take responsibility. You got me into this. You need to help me!

JOHN ROSS: Marta, I’m here to find Elena. Where the hell is she? [She stares at him silently.] You don’t have her.

MARTA: It was the only way to get you here.

JOHN ROSS: You stole that phone.

MARTA: [Goes to him] You need to help me. Please, John Ross. Please. [He notices a camera in the corner.]

JOHN ROSS: [Pushing her away] You’re filming this? What did you think was going to happen here? What is wrong with you?

MARTA: I have earned what I have. I’ve earned my way out of the slums of Caracas.

JOHN ROSS: Congratulations.

MARTA: I need to watch out for myself. I thought we had that in common. But you’re just a spoiled boy. You’re not entitled to anything. Not me. Not your girlfriend’s love. Nothing.

What do you think of J.R. and John Ross’s entanglements with Julie, Kristin and Marta? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Parallels.”

The Art of Dallas: ‘Ewing-Gate’

Kristin and J.R. (Mary Crosby, Larry Hagman) are seen in this 1981 publicity shot from “Ewing-Gate,” “Dallas’s” fourth-season finale.

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘Keep Out of My Way, Pamela’

Daddy's boy

Daddy’s boy

In “Ewing-Gate,” “Dallas’s” fourth-season finale, J.R. and his security guard Gibson (Larry Hagman, Bill Boyett) enter the Southfork foyer, where Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) holds John Ross (Tyler Banks).

J.R.: Sue Ellen. Where you going?

SUE ELLEN: I’m going for a drive.

J.R.: I called the office from the airport. Phyllis said she had talked to you. Told you I was down in Austin.


J.R.: So why are you going for a ride with John Ross at night when you thought I’d be away?

SUE ELLEN: I’m going.

J.R.: Not with my son, you’re not.

SUE ELLEN: I’m leaving you, J.R. And I’m taking him with me.

J.R.: The hell you are. [As she walks past J.R., he snatches John Ross out of her arms while Gibson restrains her.]

SUE ELLEN: How long do you think you can stop me? You’re going to have to stand trial, and I’m going to get him then.

Pam (Victoria Principal) comes to the stairs and watches.

J.R.: You’re never going to get him.

SUE ELLEN: And if you go to prison? You can’t stop me. You think a court is going to let a criminal have his son? Oh, I’m going to get him, J.R. One way or another.

J.R.: Get her out of here! Get her off Southfork and never let her back on!

GIBSON: Come on.

SUE ELLEN: You can’t have him, J.R. Because I’m going to have him!

J.R.: I’ll kill you first!

SUE ELLEN: Well, you’re going to have to. [Screaming] Because I’m going to get him! I’m going to get him!

Gibson drags her away.

J.R.: Your mama’s crazy boy, trying to get you away from me.

PAM: He’s her child, J.R. He belongs with her.

J.R.: Stay out of my affairs, Pamela.

PAM: Give her her child. She loves him.

J.R.: She doesn’t know the first thing about love.

PAM: She should have him just for putting up with you all these years. He’s the only decent thing that’s ever happened to her.

J.R.: No wonder you care so much for Sue Ellen. She’s just like your mother – another drunken slut who ran away.

PAM: You slime. You make me sick.

J.R.: Keep out my way, Pamela, or I’ll destroy you. I’ll destroy anybody that tries to take my boy away from me.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 77 – ‘Ewing-Gate’

He done it?

He done it?

In “Ewing-Gate,” J.R. finally beds hard-to-get Leslie Stewart, but the experience turns out to be less than he expected. “It wasn’t worth the wait,” J.R. tells her in a flash of post coitus candor. After watching this episode, I know how he feels.

Although “Dallas’s” fourth season is much better than I remembered overall, the “Ewing-Gate” finale is a letdown – and the resolution to Leslie’s storyline is one reason why. Susan Flannery’s midseason debut was smashing, but somewhere along the line, the show’s writers seemed to lose interest in her character. This is a real shame: Leslie’s combination of business smarts and unapologetic sexuality made her a television breakthrough; she deserved a better sendoff.

“Ewing-Gate” has other flaws, including the scene where J.R. is hauled before the state senate committee investigating his Asian coup. It’s not just the ridiculous notion that the Texas legislature has jurisdiction over what happens in a foreign country. Or that Bobby wouldn’t be asked to recuse himself from a hearing into his brother’s activities. Or that Cliff, Bobby’s aide, would be allowed to sit on the panel and question the witnesses.

No, it’s also the length of this scene: It clocks in at a little more than 13 minutes – consuming almost the whole third act. Perhaps audiences found this more interesting in the years after Watergate, when televised government hearings were still a novelty, but the scene plays today like “Bad C-SPAN Theatre.” (Along these lines, “Ewing-Gate’s” title probably seemed clever three decades ago, before the press wore out the practice of attaching “gate” to every scandal.)

More gripes: “Ewing-Gate” marks the first time Kristin faces J.R. since she confessed to shooting him at the beginning of the season – yet their eagerly awaited reunion is flat. Also, even though the confrontation occurs in J.R.’s office, no one bothers to note this is Kristin’s return to the scene of the crime. Not giving Mary Crosby and Linda Gray a scene together represents another missed opportunity.

My biggest “Ewing-Gate” complaint has to do with the episode’s final sequence, when Cliff discovers the dead woman’s body in the Southfork swimming pool. Although the scene is nicely produced – thanks in large measure to Richard Lewis Warren’s driving score – the cliffhanger feels like something the producers tacked on at the last minute. The contrast couldn’t be sharper with the previous season finale, “A House Divided,” which rhythmically built toward J.R.’s climactic shooting.

And is there any doubt whose body Cliff discovers? The woman’s dark hair suggests it could be one of three characters – Sue Ellen, Pam or Kristin – yet even when I saw “Ewing-Gate” as a child, I was smart enough to know two of those suspects could be ruled out. While watching the episode more recently, I also noticed the unfamiliar car in the Southfork driveway when Cliff arrives – another clue the victim floating in the pool a few feet away is a visitor to the ranch.

So even though I appreciate the nifty symmetry this episode offers – one year after “Dallas” leaves us asking who shot J.R., we’re left to ponder who J.R. might’ve killed – there’s no denying the fact “Ewing-Gate” isn’t a cliffhanger as much as it is an exercise in poetic justice.

Grade: B


Together again

Together again


Season 4, Episode 23

Airdate: May 1, 1981

Audience: 25.6 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer and Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Afton helps J.R. sneak a peek at Cliff’s evidence against him, allowing J.R. to persuade the state senate to clear him of wrongdoing in the Asian coup. J.R. also sleeps with Leslie, refuses to give into Kristin’s extortion scheme, kicks Sue Ellen off Southfork and vows revenge when Pam takes John Ross to his mother. Cliff arrives at the ranch and finds a dead woman floating in the swimming pool.

Cast: Tyler Banks (John Ross Ewing), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Len Birman (Claude Brown), William Boyett (Gibson), James L. Brown (Harry McSween), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Patrick Duffy (Senator Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Susan Flannery (Leslie Stewart), Tom Fuccello (Senator Dave Culver), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), John Hart (Senator Carson), David Healy (Senator Harbin), James Hong (Ambassador Lanh Thon), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Sherril Lynn Katzman (Jackie), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), Leigh McCloskey (Mitch Cooper), Byron Morrow (Emmett Walsh), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), William Smithers (Jeremy Wendell), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), Jay Varela (Senator Arvilla), Joseph Warren (Senator Dickson), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson)

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