Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 19 – ‘Home Again’

Dallas, Garrison Southworth, Gene Evans, Home Again

Missing heir

I can’t watch “Home Again” these days without thinking about “Downton Abbey,” PBS’s hit British soap opera. Both shows feature land-and-lineage stories that entertain but also baffle.

In “Downton Abbey,” a World War I-era nobleman is legally prohibited from leaving his estate to his daughters because, well, they’re daughters. It’s an odd concept for American audiences to grasp, but “Dallas’s” take on patriarchalism is even harder to understand.

In “Home Again,” when Miss Ellie’s long-believed dead brother Garrison Southworth turns up alive, she offers to give him Southfork because she feels he’s the rightful owner.

It seems Ellie inherited the ranch only after Garrison, the intended heir, was lost at sea. “My daddy made Garrison the sole heir,” Ellie tells Jock and her sons. “But that’s the way things were done in those days, father to son. Daughters, daughters always came second. It was my daddy’s wish that Garrison have the ranch. My conscience won’t let me do differently.”

Sorry, “Dallas.” I’m not buying it.

Ellie may feel bad about Garrison missing out on his inheritance, but this is her home, not a family heirloom. It’s a bit much to ask the audience to believe the character would give away Southfork so easily.

My guess is the “Dallas” writers came up with the “Home Again” storyline to show how Ellie is more principled than the rest of her cutthroat family, but the plot just doesn’t work. How can we respect Ellie’s desire to do right by her brother when it means giving the rest of her family the shaft?

I might be more willing to forgive the unconvincing plotting if “Dallas” used “Home Again” as a jumping off point to explore sexism, but the show never really goes there. We never find out, for example, how progressive Pam feels about Ellie’s decision.

Of course, “Home Again” has its strengths, beginning with Gene Evans’ fiery turn as Garrison. The actor proves to be an effective foil for Jim Davis and Larry Hagman.

It’s too bad Garrison didn’t stick around longer. He might have made an interesting addition to Southfork – just not as its owner.

Grade: B

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Bobby Ewing, Cathy Baker, Dallas, Garrison Southworth, Gene Evans, Home Again, Melinda Fee, Patrick Duffy

Big brother’s house

‘HOME AGAIN’

Season 2, Episode 14

Airdate: January 7, 1979

Audience: 19.1 million homes, ranking 11th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Don McDougall

Synopsis: Miss Ellie’s brother Garrison Southworth, whom she believed died 40 years ago, visits Southfork. Ellie considers Garrison the rightful heir to Southfork and offers him ownership of the ranch, but he reveals he’s come home to die.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Gene Evans (Aaron Southworth), Melinda Fee (Cathy Baker), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Michael McManus (Matt), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Charles Wilder Young (Charlie Watters)

“Home Again” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.