Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 179 — ‘Legacy of Hate’

Dallas, Legacy of Hate, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Girl on fire

Who doesn’t love the first scene in “Legacy of Hate”? Pam storms into J.R.’s office and demands to know why he sent her on a wild goose chase for her presumed dead fiancé, Mark Graison. J.R. plays dumb and denies everything, which only infuriates Pam more. She vows to get even by joining Cliff and Jamie’s legal fight to seize two-thirds of J.R.’s business. “You have one soft spot, one weakness — and that’s Ewing Oil, the only thing you’ve ever really loved,” Pam says. “Cliff and Jamie and I are going to take your company away from you. And then I’m going to watch you hurt.”

Hot damn! Often when these characters clash, J.R. threatens and Pam reacts. The dynamics here are reversed. At one point, she shouts, “Shut up! Just sit there and listen!” Under different circumstances, I might complain that a line like that further undercuts J.R., who’s already lost too much mojo this season. I could also point out that the wild goose chase scheme is unusually cruel, even by his standards. But if this is what it takes to reignite the spark in Victoria Principal’s character, I’m all for it. Make no mistake: This isn’t the namby-pamby Pam of recent seasons. This is Digger’s daughter, the fierce, feisty gal who refuses to be pushed around. Isn’t it nice to have her back?

I have to believe Principal is thrilled more than anyone. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen “Dallas” give the actress material like this; not even Pam’s years-in-the-making confrontation with Katherine was this emotionally charged. Larry Hagman is impressive too. Even though the audience knows J.R. is lying, you kind of want to believe him, don’t you? The scene also gives Hagman some fun one-liners, which he tosses off with typical effortless brilliance. (My favorite: “I never liked you a hell of a lot, you know that, Pam? But I never thought you were stupid until now.”) Is Hagman trying to upstage his co-star? Or is he merely giving her what she needs to get worked up? Whatever the case, their chemistry has never crackled quite like it does here.

Credit also goes to first-time “Dallas” director Robert Becker, who shows us what we need to see and then gets out of the actors’ way. When the sequence begins, Becker shoots Principal marching off the Ewing Oil elevator, through the reception area and into J.R.’s office. Once she’s inside the room, Becker keeps Hagman seated at the desk, allowing Principal to tower over him. The staging underscores how she’s dominating him. Another nice touch: Before Pam barges into the office, Kendall tries to stop her. Phyllis pipes up and says, “No, Kendall.” It’s telling that Phyllis would rather risk J.R.’s wrath than Pam’s.

The scene is easily one of “Dallas’s” best episode openings, ranking alongside the cattle drive that begins “Bypass” and Bobby’s heroics during the Southfork fire in “The Road Back.” Nothing else in “Legacy of Hate” matches the drama of J.R. and Pam’s confrontation, although Bobby and J.R.’s fight in the Southfork swimming pool comes close. I also like the episode’s quieter moments, including a good scene where Miss Ellie has a late-night heart-to-heart chat with J.R. in the Southfork kitchen. (He sips a beer, of course. Don’t the Ewing brothers ever drink milk to help them get back to sleep?) In another nice scene, Clayton offers to give Jamie one of his oil companies if she agrees to call off her lawsuit against the Ewings. It’s an outright bribe, but Howard Keel is so gentlemanly, he makes the offer seem perfectly honorable. I also like hearing Clayton refer to the Ewings as his family.

“Legacy of Hate” contains striking bit of continuity too: When J.R. plays Bobby the tape of his conversation with Cliff, the dialogue matches what he says when the exchange is depicted as a one-sided telephone call in “Déjà Vu.” The producers deserve applause for going to the trouble of making sure the two scenes sync, since I’m not sure even fervent fans would have noticed when these episodes aired weeks apart in 1985. I wish the same attention to detail was observed during “Legacy of Hate’s” next scene. After J.R. learns he’s been ratted out by Gerald Kane, the pilot he hired to lie to Pam, J.R. calls him and threatens to send over some “friends” if he doesn’t leave Texas right away. “Nobody, but nobody, double-crosses J.R. Ewing,” he says. True enough, but since when does J.R. give his enemies this kind of warning?

There’s also some humor in “Legacy of Hate,” although I’m not sure it’s intentional. When Mandy walks out on Cliff after Jamie interrupts their romantic dinner at home, she says, “I’m getting out, because three’s a crowd.” Could this be a sly reference to the sitcom that featured Jenilee Harrison before she arrived on “Dallas”? There’s an even funnier moment during J.R. and Bobby’s pool fight. After J.R. lands in the water and Bobby leaps into the water to punch him some more, watch Hagman. His face breaks into a comical, bug-eyed expression straight from his “I Dream of Jeannie” days. The expression is visible only a second, which makes me wonder if Hagman did it to amuse the crew, the stuntman or maybe just himself.

This is the kind of thing fans probably would have missed when this episode aired 30 years ago, before we all had the ability to search, scan, pause and replay scenes. Seeing it now is a reminder that no matter how many times we watch this show, there’s almost always something new to discover.

Grade: A

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Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Legacy of Hate

Slam dunk

‘LEGACY OF HATE’

Season 8, Episode 18

Airdate: February 1, 1985

Audience: 22.2 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Robert Becker

Synopsis: Pam and Bobby each confront J.R., who denies sending her on a wild goose chase. Cliff gains Pam as an ally in his fight with Jamie but loses Mandy’s support. The Ewings are stunned when Cliff and Jamie try to freeze Ewing Oil’s assets. Scotty tells Bobby they must find Naldo’s girlfriend, Veronica Robinson. Eddie cheats on Lucy with Betty.

Cast: Burke Byrnes (Pete Adams), Larry Cedar (Martin), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Lisa Cutter (Model), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Stephen Elliott (Scotty Demarest), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Rosemary Forsyth (Ann McFadden), 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), Sarah Partridge (Model), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Donna Reed (Miss Ellie Farlow), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Dean Santoro (Raymond Furguson), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Danone Simpson (Kendall), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson), Kathleen York (Betty)

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

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 177 — ‘Winds of War’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, Winds of War

Scene from a marriage

In “Winds of War,” J.R. insists he’s been faithful when Sue Ellen accuses him of cheating. He’s lying, of course, but why? Is he trying to spare his wife’s feelings, or is he trying to spare himself the embarrassment of another marital implosion? Does he want Sue Ellen to stay at Southfork because he fears she’ll take John Ross with her if she leaves, or does he want her there because he loves her? And what about Sue Ellen? Why does her husband’s fidelity matter to her? Is she in love with him, or is she merely dependent upon him? Does she want him, or does she need him?

None of the answers are clear, not that I’m complaining. Part of “Dallas’s” appeal lies in trying to figure out the mysteries of J.R. and Sue Ellen’s marriage, which will always be the show’s most fascinating relationship. But even when the motivations aren’t readily apparent, we can still see how these two characters are changing. Consider the “Winds of War” scene that ends with Sue Ellen tearfully ordering a double vodka at the Oil Baron’s Club. (“Just bring it, Cassie!”) We expect her to be drunk the next time we see her, since this is how she’s always coped with J.R.’s cheating. Yet in a surprising twist, Sue Ellen comes home sober, explaining to her husband that she stared at the drink for an hour before deciding he wasn’t worth a relapse.

We see changes in J.R. too. When Linda Gray delivers the line about not taking the drink, Larry Hagman’s eyes widen and he smiles slightly — as if J.R. is surprised, and perhaps more than a little proud, that his wife kept her demons in check. As the scene continues, Sue Ellen declares that she isn’t going to leave Southfork. “I have earned the right to be here,” she says. This feels like a moment of triumph for the character and an early glimpse of the grit she’ll display in later seasons. But it’s also an example of how J.R. still has power over her. Despite everything, she still can’t bring herself to leave him. Even when she can say no to booze, she can’t say no to him.

“Winds of War” is written and directed by Leonard Katzman, who sprinkles J.R. and Sue Ellen’s scenes with nods to other memorable moments in their marriage. In their confrontation at the end of the episode, Hagman is dressed in the same blue robe and pajamas that he wore at the beginning of the season, when J.R. won Sue Ellen back after being on the outs with her for more than a year. Also in the “Winds of War” scene, she tells him, “Don’t you ever explain anything to me again.” This recalls one of her memorable lines from their great clash two years earlier, when she chided him as “a terrific explainer.” You can even find allusions to J.R. and Sue Ellen in scenes that don’t feature them. When Bobby goes to Los Angeles and meets Veronica, the girlfriend of villainous Naldo Marchetta, he asks why she stayed with him despite his abusive tendencies. “I loved him,” she says. If a similar question was put to Sue Ellen, would her answer be any different?

Other “Winds of War” highlights include the final scene, when Cliff persuades Jamie to fight the Ewings for control of their company. Ken Kercheval delivers an urgent, heartfelt speech about how Cliff and Jamie owe it to their daddies to take back what Jock stole from them — and then when she agrees (“Let’s do it!”), he flashes a magnificently malevolent grin. Cliff has learned a thing or two from his nemesis, hasn’t he? Speaking of J.R.: I like his lie to Sue Ellen that the woman he was spotted kissing, Serena, is merely the daughter of “Congressman Hooker” (no stretch there, huh?), as well as Lucy and Eddie’s visit to Harv Smithfield’s office to formalize their real estate partnership. There’s unexpected warmth in George O. Petrie and Charlene Tilton’s exchanges. You get the impression Harv cares about Lucy and doesn’t want to see her get hurt. It’s the kind of small detail “Dallas” does so well.

Donna Reed supplies “Winds of War” with its other nice surprise. At the beginning of the episode, Miss Ellie becomes angry when she learns J.R. has kicked Jamie off Southfork. “Why, J.R.? What brought this on?” Ellie shouts. It’s the first time Reed has raised her voice since arriving on “Dallas” — and the first time she’s displayed Mama’s old fire. I like another scene between Reed and Howard Keel even more. Ellie and Clayton are dining at the Oil Baron’s Club, where she is fretting over Jamie’s future. Clayton encourages her not to make her niece’s problems her own. Ellie sits back in her chair, chuckles softly and realizes he’s right. It ends up being a rare example of two “Dallas” characters coping with their problems through laughter. The exchange also demonstrates Reed’s rapport with Keel, which feels genuinely affectionate.

At the end of this scene, Clayton asks Ellie if she’s ever considered running away from home. Reed smiles again and says, “A lot. But I think I’ll stay around and see how it all turns out.” For the first time, I wish she had been given that chance.

Grade: A

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Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Ken Kercheval, Winds of War

Grinning season

‘WINDS OF WAR’

Season 8, Episode 16

Airdate: January 11, 1985

Audience: 23.6 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer and Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: After Sue Ellen’s friendship with Jamie collapses, she moves out of J.R.’s bedroom. Jamie leaves Southfork and agrees to join forces with Cliff to fight for control of Ewing Oil. Bobby finds Charlie in California. Lucy and Eddie form a business partnership.

Cast: Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Stephen Elliott (Scotty Demarest), 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), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Fredric Lehne (Eddie Cronin), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Donna Reed (Miss Ellie Farlow), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Danone Simpson (Kendall), Gail Strickland (Veronica Robinson), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

“Winds of War” is available on DVD and at Amazon and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘Be Nice to the Little Orphan’

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

Hard knock life

In “Do You Take This Woman?,” an eighth-season “Dallas” episode, J.R. (Larry Hagman) is ranting in the Southfork living room, where Miss Ellie (Donna Reed), Clayton (Howard Keel), Bobby (Patrick Duffy), Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), Ray (Steve Kanaly) and Donna (Susan Howard) are gathered.

J.R.: I knew it. I knew that girl was trouble the moment she walked through the gate. But no, no, everybody said, “You’ve got to be nice to the little orphan because she’s family.” Well, I tell you, if that’s family, she’s not going to be in this house.

SUE ELLEN: J.R., calm down.

J.R.: Calm down? After what’s she done to us? Trotting out that phony piece of paper and having Clayton read it in front of everybody? I tell you, as far as I’m concerned, she is out of this house now. Tonight!

BOBBY: Now wait a minute.

ELLIE: This is my house, J.R. I will decide if she leaves, and when.

SUE ELLEN: Don’t you think we should at least talk to her about it first?

J.R.: Well, how? She’s got herself barricaded in her bedroom upstairs?

SUE ELLEN: She’ll talk to me. [Rises, exits]

J.R.: Well, good. Maybe you’ll find out what she’s trying to pull.

CLAYTON: How do you know she’s trying to pull anything?

RAY: How do you know that paper is phony?

J.R.: Well, how come we haven’t seen or heard about it before? Bobby, you went through Daddy’s papers with me. Did you see anything vaguely resembling that?

BOBBY: I didn’t see anything that mentioned Jason’s name. Mama, did Daddy ever talk to you about divvying up the company like that?

ELLIE: No, I admit he never did. And I never saw a document like that either.

J.R.: Clayton, you said that Sam Culver drew up that document. Donna, when you were going through Sam’s diaries and records and everything when you were writing those books, did you see anything?

DONNA: No, not that I remember. But then I wasn’t looking for anything like that, J.R. I mean, it could have been there. I just didn’t see it.

BOBBY: You still have the papers?

DONNA: I know where they are. It’ll take me some time to go through them.

J.R.: Well, we better do something — and damn quick. Can you imagine sharing Daddy’s company with Cliff Barnes?

Watch this scene in “Do You Take This Woman?,” available on DVD and at Amazon and iTunes, and share your comments below.

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘That Blue Thing’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Oil Baron's Ball III

Drive him crazy

In “Oil Baron’s Ball III,” an eighth-season “Dallas” episode, Miss Ellie and Clayton (Barbara Bel Geddes, Howard Keel) exit their car in the Southfork driveway, where Raoul (Tony Garcia) is signing a deliveryman’s paperwork.

ELLIE: That’s for me, Raoul.

RAOUL: Yes, ma’am.

ELLIE: Thank you. [Signs paper] Thank you. Uh, for us.

CLAYTON: Hm?

ELLIE: It’s a new set of bedroom furniture. Donna helped me choose it yesterday and I got them to deliver it today.

CLAYTON: Bedroom furniture?

ELLIE: I thought it was time for a change.

CLAYTON: Oh. [They kiss.]

ELLIE: [To deliveryman] Follow me and I’ll show you where to put everything.

J.R. (Larry Hagman) approaches.

J.R.: Hey Mama, what’s going on?

ELLIE: New set of bedroom furniture for Clayton and me. [Walks away]

J.R.: Oh, really? Well, how about that. [To Clayton] I’ve got to hand it to you. Not here a week and you’re changing things around already.

CLAYTON: For your information, it was your mother’s decision. And since it’s our bedroom and not yours, it’s really none of your business, is it?

J.R.: Mm-hm. I suppose not. [Walks toward his car, which is being blocked by Clayton’s] Uh, could you have that blue thing moved out of the way so I could get my car out of here?

CLAYTON: Be my guest. [Tosses keys to J.R.]

Watch this scene in “Oil Baron’s Ball III,” available on DVD and at Amazon and iTunes, and share your comments below.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 169 — ‘Oil Baron’s Ball III’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Oil Baron's Ball III

Look who’s lurking

“Dallas’s” Oil Baron’s Ball episodes are fan favorites, and for good reason. Not only do they show the cast dressed to the nines, we also get to see the actors together in one place. (The Southfork barbecue and wedding episodes are pretty much the only other occasions where this happens.) The balls often are remembered for their big moments — tearful tributes to dead Ewings, knock-down/drag-out fights — but don’t overlook the smaller scenes that show the characters gossiping about each other or commenting on the events unfolding around them. It’s not quite Altmanesque, but it’s as close as this show gets.

The most dramatic moment in “Oil Baron’s Ball III” comes at the end, when J.R. — in full-fledged jerk mode — humiliates Pam by taking the podium to announce Bobby and Jenna’s wedding date. It’s a perfectly fine way to finish the episode, although I get a bigger kick out of the vignettes that precede it: J.R. and Jordan Lee standing over an appetizer tray, bickering about Cliff; a pushy paparazzo stopping J.R. to take his picture; Ray and Donna filling their glasses at the champagne fountain while wondering if there’ll be a brawl at this year’s ball. These scenes help set the mood and allow us to feel part of the action, as if we’re moving around the room with the characters.

I also appreciate two scenes that require no dialogue to be effective. In the first, Sue Ellen crosses the ballroom alone with a concerned expression on her face. Because we know this character so well — and because Linda Gray can say so much with a single raised eyebrow — we know exactly what’s on Sue Ellen’s mind at this moment: Where is my husband, and what kind of trouble is he getting into? Likewise, when we see J.R. lurking in the shadows, listening as Mandy encourages Pam to tell Bobby she still loves him, we know J.R. is going to throw a wrench in Pam’s plans — not because J.R. discloses his intentions to another character, but because Larry Hagman has that look. The glint in his eye and the slight, mischievous smile say it all.

Other small moments in “Oil Baron’s Ball III” stand out. Before the Ewings leave for the ball, director Michael Preece brings the characters out of their bedrooms and into the hallway to admire each other’s outfits. The men look timeless in their tuxedos, while the women look extremely ’80s in their glittery Travilla designs. Later, Charlene Tilton has a nice moment when Lucy comes home and finds John Ross at the dining room table, playing checkers with Teresa. When Lucy takes her young cousin upstairs to put him to bed, he asks why she isn’t at the ball with the rest of the family. “I’m not part of that kind of life anymore. Things that are important to your mommy and daddy really aren’t very important to me,” she says, demonstrating how much she’s grown this season.

My favorite moment of all is a fun scene that pits J.R. against Clayton. It begins with J.R. leaving for work when he finds Miss Ellie and her new husband standing in the driveway, greeting a furniture delivery crew. After Ellie explains she’s bought new bedroom furniture and leads the deliverymen into the house, J.R. notices Clayton’s car is blocking his and asks him to move “that blue thing.” Clayton tosses him the keys and says, “Be my guest.” Parking problems like this happen in many suburban families all the time; isn’t it nice to know they happen to the Ewings too? And how much do you want to bet J.R. messed with Clayton’s mirrors, just to be mean?

The only thing here that doesn’t ring true is Ellie. Donna Reed exits the scene by looking off into the distance and moving out of camera range, except she doesn’t walk as much as she floats. It’s another example of how different Reed is from Barbara Bel Geddes, who most certainly never floated. I can accept the unique sensibilities the two actresses bring to the role, but I’m having a harder time dealing with how the character is being written since Reed took over the role. In another “Oil Baron’s Ball III” scene, Ellie confides in Donna about Clayton’s difficulty adjusting to life at Southfork. Donna compares the situation to Ray’s struggle to escape the shadow of her first husband, Sam Culver. It’s a perfectly apt analogy, except Ellie can’t seem to recognize this. In the past, Mama could be naïve, but in this scene, she seems almost dim.

Nevertheless, I admire how “Dallas” has made Clayton and Ellie’s problems a major storyline. Howard Keel does an especially nice job making Clayton’s struggle feel real without ever portraying the character as weak. I also like how “Dallas” continues referencing its own past. In addition to Donna’s mention of Sam, this episode finds Bobby comparing Pam’s doubts about Mark’s death to Ellie’s struggle to accept Jock’s demise. We also see Cliff tell Mandy about Pam’s emotional breakdown during her marriage to Bobby, and we find Eddie snooping into Lucy’s past by looking up old newspaper clippings about her wedding to Mitch.

Seeing Eddie combing through the library’s mirofische collection — with help from a pretty librarian, naturally — offers a reminder of how far technology has come since this episode was produced three decades ago. If Eddie wanted to find out about Lucy’s past today, he would only have to punch her name into Google and start scrolling. But honestly, where would be the fun in that?

Grade: B

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Dallas, Donna Reed, Miss Ellie Ewing Farlow, Oil Baron's Ball III

Say, can’t you see?

‘OIL BARON’S BALL III’

Season 8, Episode 8

Airdate: November 16, 1984

Audience: 22.5 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: David Paulsen

Director: Michael Preece

Synopsis: To humiliate Pam, J.R. announces Bobby and Jenna’s wedding date at the Oil Baron’s Ball. J.R. is intrigued when he spots Mandy. Miss Ellie worries Clayton feels uncomfortable at Southfork. Eddie breaks a date with Betty to ask out Lucy. Sly takes a break from work.

Cast: Michael Alldredge (Steve Jackson), Norman Bennett (Al), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Tony Garcia (Raoul), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. 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), Fredric Lehne (Eddie Cronin), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Donna Reed (Miss Ellie Farlow), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), William Smithers (Jeremy Wendell), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Christopher Stone (Dave Stratton), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson), Kathleen York (Betty)

“Oil Baron’s Ball III” is available on DVD and at Amazon and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 168 — ‘Homecoming’

Dallas, Donna Reed, Homecoming, Miss Ellie Ewing Farlow

New mom rising

Even after all these years, it’s still strange to see Donna Reed play Miss Ellie. Reed’s first episode is “Homecoming,” and as soon as she enters the frame in the famous scene where Ellie and Clayton arrive at their airport upon returning from their honeymoon, you can see how different the newcomer is from the actress she succeeds, Barbara Bel Geddes. Reed wears a stylish dress and jewelry, her hair is coiffed and when the camera moves in for her first close-up, she breaks into a bright, toothy smile. When Bel Geddes was Mama, did we ever see her teeth?

None of this is to say Reed is miscast as Miss Ellie. Consider the options facing the “Dallas” producers when the ailing Bel Geddes decided to retire in the spring of 1984. Since killing off Mama would have been heresy — and since no one would have bought her leaving Southfork to live happily ever after off-screen with new husband Clayton — the most viable alternative was to recast the role. There’s no disputing the regal Reed was an unusual choice to replace the downhome Bel Geddes, but if the producers had hired an actress who looked and acted more like the original, would it have made us miss Bel Geddes any less? At least Reed offered a new interpretation instead of an imitation.

Of course, this doesn’t make it any less jarring to see Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy calling Reed “Mama” in the airport scene, or to watch her and Howard Keel retire at the end of the episode to the set that served as Jim Davis and Bel Geddes’ on-screen bedroom for so many years. (As soon as I saw Reed and Keel there, I couldn’t help but flash back to Jock entering the room and finding Ellie in tears after her mastectomy.) To the producers’ credit, they seem to anticipate this will be the audience’s response and build this episode around Clayton moving into Southfork and realizing he’ll be sharing his new home with Jock’s ghost. I’m sure the show would have told this story if Bel Geddes were still playing Ellie, but I get the feeling the producers use it here to send a kind of subliminal message to the audience: Just as you want the Ewings to accept Clayton, we want you to give Reed a chance.

Even if that wasn’t the producers’ intent, that’s what I plan to do. Reed appeared in 23 additional episodes after “Homecoming,” and I want to approach each one with an open mind. No, Donna Reed isn’t Barbara Bel Geddes, but who is? What’s the point of bemoaning the fact that the two actresses have different styles? I give Reed a lot of credit for having the courage to replace one of the most beloved performers on one of the most popular television shows of the 1980s. It didn’t help matters that “Dallas” entered syndication a few weeks before Reed began her run as Ellie, which meant viewers could watch reruns from the show’s glory years with Bel Geddes every weekday afternoon and then tune in to new episodes on Friday nights to see her replacement.

In this instance, those viewers saw an episode that stands up pretty well to anything from the Bel Geddes era. The novelty of Reed’s debut aside, this is the eighth season’s strongest episode yet. I admire how the show devotes so much time to telling the story of Clayton’s introduction to life at Southfork. I especially appreciate how Arthur Bernard Lewis’s script gives us so many different points of view: In addition to the poignant final scene where Clayton addresses Jock’s portrait (“You still live here Jock. It’s still your house”), there’s a scene earlier in the episode where the Ewing brothers wrestle with the fact that a new man will be sleeping in the room Daddy once shared with Mama. It sounds like another example of adult Ewings being concerned with matters they’re too old to be worried about, except I know a lot of grownups in real life who struggle to accept stepparents.

Indeed, this episode is full of little reminders of how unique “Dallas” was among the era’s prime-time soap operas. Yes, this is a show where Sue Ellen Ewing considers buying a $1,095 dress at The Store, but it’s also a show where Ray Krebbs ruins his and Donna’s dinner by forgetting to turn on the microwave. There’s also charm in seeing the Ewings going to the airport to pick up Clayton and Ellie, as well as the scene where the family sits around and reminisces about the old days. These are small moments, but they help make the characters feel like real, knowable people.

Some final thoughts: “Homecoming” marks the beginning of Michael Alldredge’s four-episode run as Steve Jackson, the salvage man Pam hires to recover Mark’s plane wreckage. Alldredge previously appeared during the fourth season as Don Horton, one of the detectives who investigated J.R.’s shooting, and he returns yet again during the show’s final year as Carter McKay’s attorney, Ray King. Additionally, there are some memorable lines in this episode, beginning with J.R.’s crack about Pam’s inheritance from Mark (“I tell you, that woman has a knack for piling up unearned dollars”). Later, when J.R. says John Ross doesn’t know “half the nicknames” people call him, Sue Ellen responds, “That’s because he’s too young to know words like that.”

In an episode about life’s transitions, isn’t it nice to know some things at Southfork never change?

Grade: A

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Clayton Farlow, Dallas, Homecoming, Howard Keel

Daddy’s home

‘HOMECOMING’

Season 8, Episode 7

Airdate: November 9, 1984

Audience: 22.2 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Gwen Arner

Synopsis: Miss Ellie and Clayton return to Southfork, where he feels overshadowed by Jock’s memory. Pam hires a salvage company to search for Mark’s missing plane. Mandy tells Cliff she overheard Sue Ellen confide in Jamie that J.R. is worried about Cliff’s success. Eddie realizes there’s more to Lucy than meets the eye.

Cast: Michael Alldredge (Steve Jackson), Norman Bennett (Al), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Tony Garcia (Raoul), 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), 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), Christopher Stone (Dave Stratton), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Kathleen York (Betty)

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

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 164 — ‘If at First You Don’t Succeed’

Dallas, If at First You Don't Succeed, Katherine Wentworth, Morgan Brittany

Take another shot

The final scene in “If at First You Don’t Succeed” is another example of how music helps tell the stories on “Dallas.” As Bobby sleeps in his hospital bed, Katherine enters the room, fills a syringe with poison and prepares to inject him. This is supposed to be the moment the audience realizes Katherine fired the gunshots that landed Bobby in the hospital in the first place, although I suspect most viewers who saw this episode in 1984 had long since figured that out. The revelation is gripping nonetheless, thanks mostly to composer Richard Lewis Warren, whose music conveys emotion in ways images alone cannot.

Consider how much work Warren’s score does here. The scene requires Morgan Brittany to enter the room, walk to the nightstand, set down her purse, retrieve the syringe, fill it with poison, squirt a little (an especially nice touch) and stare menacingly at Patrick Duffy. All of this takes a little less than a minute, which is longer than it sounds when you consider there’s no dialogue and we don’t see Katherine’s face until the last few seconds. Nevertheless, Warren’s visceral score — the whirring strings, the escalating keys — makes the scene positively Hitchcockian. The music holds our attention, every step of the way. Of course, don’t overlook Brittany, who has never looked more sinister. Also, during the freeze frame, notice how Philip Capice’s credit moves from its usual spot in the center of the screen to the lower third, as if Katherine has willed the show’s executive producer out of her way.

This climactic moment aside, the “Who Shot Bobby?” mystery turns out to be much less interesting than it seemed three decades ago. The storyline’s truest bright spot is the way it reignites Pam’s spark, giving Victoria Principal some of her best material since “Dallas’s” first two seasons. For example, when “If at First You Don’t Succeed” begins, Pam confronts J.R. outside the Ewing Oil building and accuses him of trying to frame Cliff for the shooting. It’s one of J.R. and Pam’s great clashes, especially when she vows to join Cliff’s side in the Barnes/Ewing feud. “I’m not going to rest until all our family scores are settled,” she says, leaving J.R. looking more than a little unnerved. Later, when Sue Ellen visits Pam at home and tries to defend her husband, Pam is aghast — and she doesn’t hesitate to show it. Sue Ellen becomes equally indignant and suggests it might be time for the Barneses and the Ewings to go their separate ways, prompting Pam to snap, “Then why don’t you start, Sue Ellen, by leaving here right now?”

Too bad Donna’s storyline doesn’t hold up as well. I like how the writers have Bobby name Donna his proxy at Ewing Oil, if only because it’s good to see a “Dallas” woman in a position of authority for a change. Unfortunately, Donna comes off as a bit of a nag when dealing with J.R. at the office. She does give him this episode’s most memorable line, though, when she wonders how Cliff’s arrest is affecting Pam. J.R.’s memorable response — “I don’t give a damn about Pam” — is one of those times you know exactly what he’s going to say before it rolls off his tongue. A nicer moment comes when Clayton visits the Krebbs’ home to say goodbye to Ray and Donna before leaving to join Miss Ellie on their honeymoon in Greece. Before Clayton climbs into his Rolls Royce to head to the airport, Donna tells him she loves him, and he says it back to her. I don’t know if this exchange was scripted or if Susan Howard and Howard Keel ad-libbed it, but I’m glad it’s here.

“If at First You Don’t Succeed” is also notable because it brings Deborah Shelton to “Dallas” as Mandy Winger, who arrives as Cliff’s love interest but ends up becoming J.R.’s longest-running mistress. This episode also marks the first appearance of Cliff’s painting of himself, an ideal accessory for Ken Kercheval’s self-centered character, along with the icky scene where J.R. seduces sweaty Sue Ellen in the Southfork exercise room. (Couldn’t these two find another spot in that big house to get it on?) Also, notice that when Katherine hears the radio bulletin that Cliff has been cleared in Bobby’s shooting, the newscaster (“John Shaw”) is the same one who announces Bobby’s shooting in this season’s first episode and his death during the season finale. Additionally, there are quite a few nods to “Dallas’s” past, including the scene where Sue Ellen tells Jenna about Dusty’s paralysis, a storyline from the fourth and fifth seasons, and Lucy’s visit to the Hot Biscuit, the roadside diner where Valene worked during the second season.

Scenes like these do more than reward the memories of longtime viewers. They also make “Dallas” seem like something more than a television show, as if the series has become its own little world. Aren’t you glad we get to inhabit it too?

Grade: B

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Dallas, If at First You Don't Succeed, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Get another room

‘IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED’

Season 8, Episode 3

Airdate: October 12, 1984

Audience: 24 million homes, ranking 7th in the weekly ratings

Writer: David Paulsen

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Cliff is cleared in Bobby’s shooting when mystery woman Mandy Winger comes forward and reveals he spent the night with her. Bobby considers having risky surgery to restore his eyesight, upsetting Jenna. J.R. seduces Sue Ellen, who defends his actions to Clayton, Donna and Pam. Lucy is offered a waitressing job at a diner where Valene once worked. While Bobby sleeps, Katherine sneaks into his room and prepares to inject him with poison.

Cast: Norman Bennett (Al), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), James L. Brown (Detective Harry McSween), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Jenny Gago (Nurse), Gerald Gordon (Dr. Carter), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Bill Morey (Leo Wakefield), Joanna Miles (Martha Randolph), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Donna Reed (Miss Ellie Farlow), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Marina Rice (Angela), Mitchell Ryan (Captain Merwin Fogerty), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

“If at First You Don’t Succeed” is available on DVD and at Amazon and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 162 — ‘Killer a Large’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Donna Culver Krebbs, Killer at Large, Patrick Duffy, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly

Reflected glory

“Dallas’s” seventh season winds down with half the cast once again gunning for J.R. In the final scene, an unseen assailant enters the darkened Ewing Oil offices and fires three shots into the back of J.R.’s chair, except he isn’t sitting there — good-guy brother Bobby tumbles to the floor. It’s one of “Dallas’s” greatest fake-outs, establishing the template that TNT’s sequel series would later use to keep viewers on their toes.

The problem is “Who Shot Bobby?” mimics “Who Shot J.R.?” too closely. What begins as a wink to “Dallas’s” most famous moment quickly becomes an imitation, and not a particularly good one. “Killer at Large,” the eighth-season opener, begins with Afton discovering Bobby moments after he’s shot. It’s not unlike the cleaning lady finding J.R. in 1980, although Afton’s reaction isn’t quite as campy. (No high-pitched shrieks and dropped feather dusters here.) We also see the Ewings assemble at Dallas Memorial Hospital to keep vigil for Bobby, just like they did with J.R., and both victims ultimately survive their shootings, but not without complications: J.R. is paralyzed while Bobby is blinded.

I’m sure fans appreciated the homage when “Killer at Large” debuted. It had been years since the “Who Shot J.R.?” episodes aired, so it was probably a kick to relive the mystery, this time with Bobby as the victim. Thirty years later, though, the remake comes off as uninspired. The producers don’t even bother to film Bobby being rushed out of the Ewing Oil lobby and into the waiting ambulance; they merely recycle the four-year-old footage of J.R. on the stretcher. Not helping matters: Most of the actors in “Killer at Large” look bored, and the mystery surrounding the shooter’s identity isn’t all that mysterious. Two characters — Peter and Edgar — are cleared by the end of the episode, leaving Sue Ellen, Cliff and Katherine as the remaining suspects. Was there any doubt in 1984 how that would turn out?

The episode isn’t a total wash. I like director Leonard Katzman’s shot of Ray and Donna spotting the TV news report about Bobby’s shooting while standing near a downtown department store window. Just think: Most of us probably watched this episode in 1984 on that kind of bulky TV set. It’s also fun to see Dennis Haysbert — the future President Palmer on “24” — cast in one of his first TV roles as Bobby’s doctor, although I’m more intrigued when Karen Radcliffe pops up as a nurse. Radcliffe will return to “Dallas” three years later as the nightingale who helps Pam run away after her car accident; should we assume she’s playing the same character in both appearances? I also like when Pam runs into Katherine in the hospital parking lot and refuses to allow her inside to see Bobby. It’s always nice to see Pam use her backbone to stand up for the people she cares about, not nag them.

“Killer at Large” also is notable as the first “Dallas” episode that doesn’t feature Barbara Bel Geddes in the opening credits. She departed the series at the end of the previous season, although Donna Reed won’t show up as her replacement for a few more episodes. Meanwhile, Howard Keel and Priscilla Beaulieu Presley get promoted to the title sequence in this episode, while Travilla begins his two-year run as the show’s costume designer. He makes his mark almost immediately: The actresses look a little more stylish than usual, especially Fern Fitzgerald, who sports slit sleeves when Marilee confronts J.R., and Audrey Landers, who wears a striking red hat and suit during Afton’s farewell to Cliff.

Afton’s poignant departure, by the way, is this episode’s other saving grace. It’s the rare example of a “Dallas” character receiving a decent sendoff, and even though Landers’ character isn’t as iconic as any of the Ewings or Barneses, her goodbye nonetheless signals the end of an era. “Killer at Large” is an eighth-season premiere, and it feels like it. “Dallas” is beginning to lose steam after almost a decade on the air, and so as Afton gives Cliff the kiss-off and heads for the door, I can’t help but think: This lady is getting out while the getting’s good.

Grade: C

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Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Killer at Large, Patrick Duffy

Lazy eye

‘KILLER AT LARGE’

Season 8, Episode 1

Airdate: September 28, 1984

Audience: 22.4 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: The shooting blinds Bobby, who is hospitalized while the police search for the assailant. J.R., believing he was the target, names Edgar as a prime suspect and is surprised when police tell him Edgar has an alibi. Sue Ellen reluctantly returns to J.R.’s bedroom, where she hides a gun. Afton leaves Cliff, who can’t recall his whereabouts during the shooting. Pam and Jenna rush to Bobby’s side while Katherine makes plans to move to Houston.

Cast: Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Martin E. Brooks (Edgar Randolph), Cora Cordona (Pearl), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Jenny Gago (Nurse), Gerald Gordon (Dr. Carter), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Dennis Haysbert (Dr. Forbes), Rose Ann Holloway (Irene), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), J.T. O’Connor (Patterson), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Karen Radcliffe (Jane), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Jill Scroggin (Sally), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Mitchell Ryan (Captain Merwin Fogerty), Randy Tallman (Dr. Halperson), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

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

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 160 — ‘Hush, Hush, Sweet Jessie’

Alexis Smith, Dallas, Hush Hush Sweet Jessie, Lady Jessica Farlow Montford

How sweet she is

What do I love about the final scene in “Hush, Hush, Sweet Jessie”? Oh, pretty much everything. The Ewings stand in the Southfork driveway, panicked because no one knows the whereabouts of Miss Ellie and Jessica, whose murderous past has finally come to light. Suddenly, Donna arrives in Ray’s pickup truck. She gets out, bloodied and shaken, and explains that she’s just come from the Krebbs’ home, where Jessica knocked her out, swiped one of Ray’s handguns, took Ellie and drove who-knows-where in Donna’s car. J.R. looks stricken. “We’ve got to find them,” he says. “Jessica has killed once. Who knows what she’ll do with Mama?” Duh-duh-duh!

Is this a moment of pure camp? Yes, of course. How could any scene that requires the audience to imagine Alexis Smith abducting Barbara Bel Geddes at gunpoint not be campy? And what about the way Donna announces her news? Shouldn’t she hop out of Ray’s truck and offer the most important facts first: “Hey, everyone, Jessica has kidnapped Miss Ellie!” Instead, Donna tells the story chronologically; this allows the episode to end with the dramatic revelation that Mama has been abducted, but it isn’t very realistic. There’s also this: After Larry Hagman delivers his “We’ve got to find them” line, we get a reaction shot from Howard Keel and Patrick Duffy, who stand side by side and turn their eyes to the camera in near perfect unison. It’s priceless.

And yet despite all this, the scene is undeniably thrilling. The most valuable actors are Hagman, who makes J.R.’s concern easy to believe, and Susan Howard, whose halting, anguished delivery is pitch-perfect. She gets a big assist from the brilliant composer Richard Lewis Warren, whose underscore lends urgency to the entire sequence. I especially love how there’s no music during most of Donna’s monologue until she recalls awakening after Jessica knocked her out. Warren slowly brings in the orchestra when Donna says, “And then when I came to … they were both gone.” By the time she gets to this line — “Ray, she took one of your guns!” — the music has swelled. Can any “Dallas” fan watch this part without getting goose bumps?

The rest of “Hush, Hush, Sweet Jessie” is almost as good. Smith is as over-the-top as ever when Jessica finally unravels in Ray and Donna’s kitchen, but Bel Geddes, with her believably bewildered expression, manages to keep the scene grounded. Meanwhile, Katherine proves she can wheel and deal with the best of them when she agrees to buy Cliff’s share of Wentworth Tool & Die at a bargain-basement price, and it’s great fun to see Morgan Brittany deliver lines like “Oil, oil, everywhere, and not a drop for Cliff.” Also, how can you not love the long-awaited moment when Pam confronts Katherine after learning she forged the letter that broke up her marriage to Bobby? The slap Pam delivers must be one of the most cathartic moments in “Dallas” history, and isn’t it nice to see Victoria Principal demonstrate some of the spark that once made her character so compelling?

“Hush, Hush, Sweet Jessie” raises a few other questions that probably wouldn’t occur to anyone but “Dallas” devotees. Here’s one: At the beginning of the episode, Lucy speaks on the phone to Jackie, Cliff’s secretary. Is this the first, and perhaps only, time these two women interact? Here’s another: After J.R. confronts Clayton and Ray with Jessica’s diary in a Braddock parking lot, the three men hop into J.R.’s Mercedes and hightail it back to the ranch. Is this the first time we’ve seen J.R. and Ray share a ride since they palled around in the first-season episode “Winds of Vengeance”?

There’s also this: When the producers named this episode, they were surely offering a loving nod to the 1964 thriller “Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” which starred Bette Davis as a wealthy spinster driven mad by her scheming cousin, played by Olivia de Havilland. (Future “Dallas” star George Kennedy has a small role too.) The film, which received seven Oscar nominations, is now regarded by some as a camp classic. Did the “Dallas” producers know this episode would achieve a similar distinction?

Grade: A

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Bobby Ewing, Charlene Tilton, Clayton Farlow, Dallas, Donna Culver Krebbs, Hush Hush Sweet Jessie, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Lucy Ewing, Patrick Duffy, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly

Through the looking glass

‘HUSH, HUSH, SWEET JESSIE’

Season 7, Episode 29

Airdate: May 11, 1984

Audience: 20.4 million homes, ranking 4th in the weekly ratings

Writer: David Paulsen

Director: Gwen Arner

Synopsis: Pam learns Mark knew he was dying and killed himself. Cliff reluctantly sells his share of Wentworth Tool & Die to Katherine, whom Pam slaps after she discovers Katherine’s role in ending her marriage to Bobby. Clayton tells Ray and Donna that Dusty is actually Jessica’s son. After J.R. uncovers evidence Jessica killed Clayton’s first wife, she kidnaps Miss Ellie.

Cast: Mary Armstrong (Louise), Christopher Atkins (Peter Richards), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), James L. Brown (Detective Harry McSween), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), 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), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Bill Morey (Leo Wakefield), Charles Parks (Fred Robbins), Edmund Penney (doctor), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Alexis Smith (Lady Jessica Montfort), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), D.J. Zacker (Louis)

“Hush, Hush, Sweet Jessie” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘You’re the Dangerous One’

Alexis Smith, Bobby Ewing, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Lady Jessica Montford, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy, Sue Ellen Ewing, Unexpected

Takes one to know one

In “The Unexpected,” a seventh-season “Dallas” episode, Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes), J.R. (Larry Hagman), Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), Bobby (Patrick Duffy), Ray (Steve Kanaly), Donna (Susan Howard) and Lucy (Charlene Tilton) are in the Southfork living room, awaiting Clayton and Jessica’s arrival.

J.R.: Mama, would you relax? You look like you’re going to pounce on Lady Montford when she walks through the door.

Clayton and Jessica (Howard Keel, Alexis Smith) enter.

CLAYTON: Well, if that’s what she’s going to do, now’s the time to do it.

JESSICA: Better be careful. As Clayton can tell you, folks used to say I wrastle mountain lions down in San Angelo. And there’s one thing I want to get straight from the beginning. Please don’t “Lady Montford” me to death. I answer to “Jessie.”

CLAYTON: She’s also shy, I might add.

ELLIE: Welcome to Southfork, Jessie. [Approaches, takes Jessica’s hands.]

JESSICA: Thank you, Miss Ellie. I was so anxious to see what you looked like, I asked Clayton to show me a snapshot. The man didn’t have any.

ELLIE: Well, we’ll have to fix that.

JESSICA: You sure waited a long time before you asked someone to marry you, Clayton. [Patting Ellie’s hands] But I think she was worth waiting for.

ELLIE: Thank you, Jessie.

JESSICA: [Slipping her hands out of Ellie’s] You know, I thought he was going to stay single for the rest of his life. Either that, or marry someone half his age. [J.R. chuckles]

ELLIE: Jessie, I’d you to meet my family. This is my granddaughter Lucy.

LUCY: Hi.

ELLIE: And my daughters-in-law Donna and Sue Ellen. [They smile and nod] And my three sons, J.R. and Bobby and Ray.

JESSICA: Well, I’m certainly happy to meet you. [Chuckles] Now I know I’ve been away from Texas too long. I’d forgotten how handsome they grew the men in this state.

BOBBY: Well, we thank you.

JESSICA: Now, all I want to know is, which ones are married and which ones play around, or both. [Chuckles] Oh, I’m only kidding, Sue Ellen and Donna. But I can’t remember which one belongs to which since there are three sons and only two daughters-in-law.

DONNA: Well, you’d have to fight me for the silver-haired one here.

JESSICA: No, I think I’d rather tackle another mountain lion. Sue Ellen?

SUE ELLEN: I’m married to J.R.

JESSICA: I see. Well, that leaves Bobby as the single one.

J.R.: Well, that’s only temporary. The ladies are lining up for him.

JESSICA: I’m not surprised. But on the way back from the airport, Clayton spent almost as much time talking about you, J.R., as he did about Miss Ellie. I have a feeling you’re the dangerous one.

J.R.: Well, yes, I have that reputation. But I’m kind to my family and close friends.

JESSICA: [Smiling] Then I think want to be your friend. [To Ellie] I especially want to be your friend.

ELLIE: [Smiling] I’d like that.

JESSICA: Sometimes I come on a little strong. If I do, slap me down. You know, Clayton, there was a nice young man out there struggling with my excess baggage. Did he make it?

CLAYTON: He’s here now. [Takes two shopping bags from Raoul, hands them to Jessica]

JESSICA: Well, there’s China and linen for the ladies — very British — and wool sweaters for the men. I hope I guessed the sizes right. Bobby, would you fix me a little bourbon and branch? Now where’s that special box?

CLAYTON: [Holds up a long wooden case] This one?

JESSICA: [Opens it, removes a sword] I think it’s appropriate to give this to the eldest male member of the Ewing family. It belonged to Henry’s great-grandfather. It hung over the mantel in our home. [Presents it to J.R.]

J.R.: [Hands his drink to Sue Ellen] Darlin’, would you please? Well, this is beautiful. [Takes the sword] Are you sure you want to give us a family heirloom?

JESSICA: Yes, I am. I want your family to know how important this marriage is to me.

ELLIE: Thank you, Jessica.

BOBBY: [Hands her a drink] Jessica?

JESSICA: Oh, thank you. [Raises her glass] To the Ewings … and to the Farlows.