Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 173 — ‘Do You Take This Woman?’

Dallas, Daniel Pilon, Do You Take This Woman?, Jenna Wade, Naldo Marchetta, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley

Take your wife. Please.

“Do You Take This Woman?” marks the moment “Dallas” turns into a Lifetime movie. The hour begins with Jenna Wade happily planning to marry Bobby, but by the time the closing credits roll, her daughter has been kidnapped and Jenna has been forced to leave her fiancé stranded at the altar. In the episodes that follow, Jenna is held against her will, almost raped, accused of murder, found guilty, imprisoned and finally freed, only to watch Bobby “die” in the eighth-season finale. The only calamities missing are a nervous breakdown and an unwanted pregnancy, but fear not. Jenna will get to those eventually.

I know, I know. I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s also not fair to criticize the entire show based on Jenna’s storyline. But the fact is, this is the point during “Dallas’s” run that I’ve been dreading. Priscilla Beaulieu Presley is a fine actress, but I’m no fan of the weepy, woeful turn her character takes in this episode. Like Pam’s drawn-out search for Mark Graison, the “Perils of Jenna” story arc feels like “Dallas” is merely killing time until Bobby and Pam’s long-awaited reunion at the end of the season. It’s one reason I’ve been publishing twice-weekly critiques from this era of “Dallas.” I want to get the damn thing over with as quickly as possible.

Although there isn’t a lot in “Do You Take This Woman?” to get excited about overall, the fourth act isn’t without merit. Presley does a nice job in the scene where Jenna talks on the phone to one of Charlie’s friends and realizes her ex-husband, the villainous Naldo Marchetta, has kidnapped their daughter. Frantic Jenna drops everything and flees the house, only to run into Naldo. “Our daughter is quite safe. You have nothing to worry about,” he says. I also like when Bobby receives a mysterious phone call and dashes out of Southfork with J.R. close behind. The overhead shot of the brothers tearing away in Bobby’s convertible is cool, although I’m more impressed with the deeper meaning of this moment, which reminds us how the Ewing boys always have each other’s backs.

In a similar vein, “Do You Take This Woman?” contains another good scene that underscores Cliff and Pam’s sibling bond. He stomps into her house as only he can, ranting about Pam’s full-page newspaper advertisement offering a reward for information about Mark’s disappearance. Cliff doesn’t want to have to put extra people on the Barnes-Wentworth switchboard to field calls from the “crackpots” who are bound to respond to the ad, but he’s also frustrated with Pam’s obsessive search for her deceased fiancé. “Mark is dead. You have to face that,” he says. Pam walks away in tears, and then Mandy points out that Pam is already on edge because it’s Bobby and Jenna’s wedding day. Ken Kercheval’s response is masterful: In a matter of seconds, Cliff’s face registers anger, surprise and finally regret. Under all that bluster, this character really does love and care about his sister.

Speaking of bombast: “Do You Take This Woman?” opens with J.R. calmly assuring Jeremy Wendell that Jamie’s claims about Ewing Oil’s ownership are merely a prank, and then J.R. reveals his true feelings during a family meeting in the Southfork living room. Larry Hagman manages to make J.R.’s ravings amusing without sacrificing the character’s dignity. By the way: I don’t blame J.R. for being suspicious of Jamie. She possesses a document that might give her a piece of a multibillion-dollar corporation, yet she has no intention of claiming her share? This stretches credibility, even by eighth-season “Dallas” standards. And while we’re on the subject of Jamie: It’s nice that Sue Ellen has befriended her, but is serving as a supporting player in Jamie’s drama the best use of Linda Gray’s talents? Why doesn’t she have a meaningful storyline of her own?

“Do You Take This Woman?” also is notable because it includes both a barbecue and a wedding. It’s somewhat odd to think the Ewings would hold back-to-back bashes, but I suspect the producers saved money by staging the events over successive episodes. The extras who appear at the barbecue probably hung around to film the wedding scenes. (The show does something similar during the sixth season, when the Ewing Barbecue arrives on the heels of J.R. and Sue Ellen’s second wedding.) And even though the bride doesn’t show up for this ceremony, it’s by no means a waste: This episode’s establishing shot of a white limousine dropping off wedding guests in the Southfork driveway is used again — six years later — during Bobby and April’s nuptials in the 13th-season installment “The Southfork Wedding Jinx.”

Such prudent recycling! Who says the Ewings aren’t environmentally conscious?

Grade: C


Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Do You Take This Woman?, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy

Call guy


Season 8, Episode 12

Airdate: December 14, 1984

Audience: 21.4 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Leonard Katzman

Director: Gwen Arner

Synopsis: While J.R. and Cliff scramble to determine if Jamie’s claims about Ewing Oil’s ownership are true, she places her document in a safe-deposit box and promises not to use it against the Ewings. Pam hires a detective to find Mark. After Naldo takes Charlie, Jenna stands up Bobby on their wedding day.

Cast: Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Jenilee Harrison (Jamie Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Fredric Lehne (Eddie Cronin), Madison Mason (Jack Phipps), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Daniel Pilon (Renaldo Marchetta), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Donna Reed (Miss Ellie Farlow), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Marina Rice (Angela), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Danone Simpson (Kendall), William Smithers (Jeremy Wendell), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis)

“Do You Take This Woman?” is available on DVD and at Amazon and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 172 — ‘Barbecue Five’

Barbecue Five, Dallas, Fern Fitzgerald, Jamie Ewing, Jenilee Harrison, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Marilee Stone

The middle

“Barbecue Five” ranks among “Dallas’s” best barbecue episodes because it delivers almost everything we expect from a Ewing hoedown. There’s a fight, a dunking in the Southfork swimming pool and a dramatic revelation, along with crowds of people dancing, drinking and sweltering under the Texas sun. The only thing missing is a scene of two characters sneaking off to the barn for a romantic interlude, although we do get to see Jeremy Wendell wearing a cowboy hat. That alone is worth the price of admission, as far as I’m concerned.

This episode is probably best remembered for the clash between Jamie Ewing and Marilee Stone. “Dallas” doesn’t do a lot of catfights, so when these scenes occur, they almost always feel justified. (The best examples: Pam striking Katherine and Donna socking Bonnie, the barfly who slept with Ray.) In this instance, Jamie spots Marilee pawing J.R. and confronts her. Insults are exchanged, and then Marilee slaps Jamie, who retaliates by pushing Marilee into the pool. This is the first time I find myself cheering for Jenilee Harrison, whose character I’ve found hard to embrace, although I also admire how Fern Fitzgerald plays the obnoxious, overbearing Marilee to the hilt. Of course, both actresses end up being upstaged by Larry Hagman, who delivers one of the immortal “Dallas” lines when J.R. reaches into the pool to retrieve Marilee and asks, “You all right honey? Did it go up your nose?” Why do I get the feeling Hagman is ad-libbing here?

It’s also fun to see how smoothly each scene flows into the next. An example: Lucy and Eddie are dancing, and as they move out of camera range, J.R. and Sue Ellen enter the frame. We listen to their conversation for a few moments, and then J.R. nods to Bobby and Jenna, and the focus shifts to them. It’s all seamless, with one exception: a shot of Ray and Donna kissing becomes a scene in which Sue Ellen, J.R. and Jeremy talk shop while strolling through the crowd — except when Steve Kanaly and Susan Howard lock lips, you can see Hagman, Linda Gray and William Smithers in the distance, waiting for their cue to begin walking and talking. This is a minor oversight, of course, and I don’t mind it in the least because it makes me appreciate how artfully director Gwen Arner orchestrates all the other transitions.

Like other barbecue episodes, “Barbecue Five” was filmed in the summer, which means the actors are forced to sweat through uncomfortable looking western-flavored costumes. Most of the women wear long dresses and cowgirl boots, while Hagman and Howard Keel each don sport coats and scarves. Also, notice how the back of Fredric Lehne’s shirt is soaked with perspiration when Eddie spins Lucy on the dance floor. Another tradition honored here: the dramatic, episode-ending revelation. Past barbecues have concluded with the news that Jock’s helicopter crashed and that Miss Ellie and Clayton have become engaged, while “Barbecue Five” ends with Jamie’s announcement that she’s entitled to a share of Ewing Oil. This signals the birth of one of “Dallas’s” most tiresome tropes during its later years, when the focus of the business storylines shifts from making deals to a never-ending game of musical owners.

“Barbecue Five” also gives us the memorable scene where J.R. and Mandy continue their cat-and-mouse flirtation while dining in a private box at Texas Stadium. Both characters are spying on each other — J.R. wants dirt on Cliff, while Mandy wants intelligence that she can report back to him — but their ulterior motives are slowly being overtaken by their mutual attraction to each other. We also learn a lot about Mandy here. She tells J.R., “I’ve always known I was beautiful,” yet the line makes the character seem more confident than conceited. A lot of that has to do with Deborah Shelton, who is so stunning, there’s no point in having her character pretend otherwise.

Other “Barbecue Five” highlights include Jeremy’s annoyance when Cliff crashes his private lunch (Ken Kercheval’s scenes with Smithers are almost as golden as the Hagman/Kercheval pairings), as well as Naldo’s dinner with Jenna and Charlie. Any appearance by Naldo usually elicits an eye roll from me, but I’ll be darned if I don’t find him kind of charming as he tells Charlie about idolizing Tom Mix during his boyhood in Italy. Meanwhile, with her exotic white-streaked hair, character actress Ronnie Claire Edwards is perfectly cast as Lydia, the psychic Pam consults in her quest to find Mark. I also like how Lydia tells Pam that a “tall,” “athletic” and “handsome” man will be coming back into her life. Gee, I wonder who she’s describing? Something tells me it isn’t Mr. Graison.

I also love “Barbecue Five’s” opening, when Sue Ellen brings Jamie to Ewing Oil for her first day of work as the receptionist. It’s routine now, but everything about this scene — Kendall teaching Jamie how to use the switchboard, Sue Ellen promising to return in the afternoon to take Jamie to lunch — seemed so glamorous when I watched this episode as a kid. How I wished I could work alongside J.R. and Bobby at Ewing Oil too!

Truth be told, I still do.

Grade: A


Barbecue Five, Dallas, Jeremy Wendell, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, William Smithers

Walk to remember


Season 8, Episode 11

Airdate: December 7, 1984

Audience: 21 million homes, ranking 3rd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Gwen Arner

Synopsis: J.R. woos Mandy. Naldo charms Charlie. Pam visits a psychic, hoping for clues about Mark’s death. Miss Ellie is upset when Clayton decides to continue commuting to Houston. Jamie begins working as a receptionist at Ewing Oil, and after J.R. angers her at the Ewing Barbecue, she shows the family a document that claims her father owned a piece of the company.

Cast: Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Ronnie Claire Edwards (Lydia), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Jenilee Harrison (Jamie Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Barry Jenner (Dr. Jerry Kenderson), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Fredric Lehne (Eddie Cronin), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Daniel Pilon (Renaldo Marchetta), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Donna Reed (Miss Ellie Farlow), Marina Rice (Angela), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Danone Simpson (Kendall), William Smithers (Jeremy Wendell), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis)

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