Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 36 — ‘Hurt’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Hurt, Patrick Duffy, TNT

His kingdom of dirt

Bobby Ewing is the steward of Southfork, but Patrick Duffy is the steward of Bobby Ewing. In “Hurt,” Duffy steps behind the camera and directs his first “Dallas” episode in more than two decades, demonstrating how well he knows both his character and the mythology that defines this franchise. This is an hour rooted in “Dallas” history, with references to Jock, Miss Ellie, the Barnes/Ewing feud and of course J.R., whose presence here is as strong as it was in last year’s funeral episode. Just as importantly, “Hurt” reveals Duffy’s knack for the conventions of modern “Dallas” storytelling, including cinematic, made-for-HD shots of Southfork and a musical montage that’s destined to be remembered as one of this show’s most moving.

Between the two of them, Duffy and scriptwriter Aaron Allen transform “Hurt” into a showcase for the “Dallas” ensemble, beginning with the riveting post-credits showdown, when Elena gathers the Ewings together and exposes the plot to frame Cliff. The staging evokes memories of the original cast standing around the living room, knocking back drinks and trading quips, although it also plays like a parlor scene out of a Miss Marple mystery. (One difference: On “Dallas,” everyone is guilty of something.) Next, Josh Henderson and Julie Gonzalo’s estranged spouses, John Ross and Pamela, have a nicely measured confrontation on the Southfork lawn, followed by a long-awaited moment of catharsis for Brenda Strong’s Ann, who finally gets to say what every fan’s been thinking lately: Isn’t Bobby being a hypocrite when he accuses his wife of keeping secrets from him?

Duffy also elicits a strong performance from Jordana Brewster, who brings the right mix of determination and doubt to Elena’s scenes, as well as another moving turn from Marlene Forte and a fun-but-too-brief appearance by Ken Kercheval, who gives us a glimpse of old-school Cliff Barnes giddiness when the character learns he’ll be getting out of jail. Of course, no one delivers for Duffy quite like his longtime friend and co-star, Linda Gray. In one of “Hurt’s” most powerful scenes, she confronts Bobby about not telling her the truth about J.R.’s death, allowing Gray to go from anger to disbelief to bitter disappointment. Her parting shot — “Miss Ellie would be ashamed of you” — is one for the ages. I can’t imagine any words that would hurt Bobby more, can you? (Also: Shades of Barbara Bel Geddes’ memorable “You both sicken me!” line to Jim Davis and Larry Hagman in “The New Mrs. Ewing,” the first of 29 episodes Duffy helmed during the original show’s run.)

Bobby and Sue Ellen’s scene also allows “Dallas” to address a mystery that has puzzled fans since her eulogy in “J.R.’s Masterpiece”: Why did J.R. invite his ex-wife to dinner if he knew he was never going to make it back to Dallas in the first place? I’ve always thought of J.R.’s invitation as a metaphor — he wasn’t asking Sue Ellen on a date, he was asking her to forgive him — which seems to be the subtext of Gray’s next great scene, when Sue Ellen visits Bum’s humble home in her quest for answers. The conversation ends with Bum asking Sue Ellen to forgive him. Her haunting response: “You’re not the one I need to forgive.” (In a lovely nod to Kevin Page, the wonderful actor and artist who makes Bum so sweetly charming, we also learn the character is the painter behind the J.R. portrait hanging at Ewing Global.)

Of course, Duffy is smart enough to give himself several good scenes too. If Bobby has gotten a little off course this season — always yelling at Ann and John Ross — “Hurt” might be remembered as the episode that puts him back on track, or at least the segment that makes him sympathetic again. In “Hurt’s” most poignant moment, Bobby enters Southfork, which stands empty after the rest of the Ewings have walked out on him. For an instant, he’s become J.R. at the end of the original series, wandering around that big house after he’s driven away everyone else. Then, with Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” playing in the background, Bobby demolishes his study in a flash of rage. The song might have been written about the horrors of drug addiction, but with its references to a “crown of thorns” and an “empire of dirt,” is it not also the perfect song for our favorite martyr-like rancher?

I also have to appreciate how expertly this sequence is edited, especially when Cash sings “my sweetest friend” and J.R.’s face, smiling from behind the framed glass, fills the screen. Indeed, “Hurt” can be seen as a kind of companion piece to the elegiac “J.R.’s Masterpiece.” It’s fitting that our hero’s final scheme falls apart here, given how many of his schemes backfired during the original series. Allen’s script seems to acknowledge this when Elena delivers her comments about how the Ewings “rushed to sentimentalize” J.R. after his death. She might as well be talking about the “Dallas” audience — although for the record, I believe J.R. did change in old age. Of course, I’m also the first to admit that I’ve always worshipped at the altar of J.R. Ewing, even before he was redeemed.

Elena’s comments are an example of how Allen’s “Dallas” scripts always contain dialogue that sticks with you. Another example is Henderson and Gonzalo’s conversation on the lawn in “Hurt.” John Ross: “If you give me the chance, Pamela, I’ll fix everything.” Pamela: “I don’t want you to fix things. I want you to stop breaking them.” I also love this episode’s sharper exchanges, beginning with John Ross’s farewell to Elena and Nicolas, which Henderson delivers with perfect acidity (“Y’all can both go to hell”), as well as Bobby’s description of his family’s longest-running conflict and Elena’s non-role in it: “The Barnes/Ewing feud is a whole other beast. And it doesn’t involve you. You want to take that dog for a walk? Fine. But if it bites somebody, it’s because you let it.” This sounds like the sort of thing a Texan would say, does it not?

I also like how “Hurt” gives the “Dallas” women the upper hand in several scenes. It’s good to see Sue Ellen figure out Bum shot J.R., and I appreciate how Elena puts the power to pardon Cliff in Pamela’s hands, although I’m not sure what to make of Elena giving Pamela land that Jock “stole” from Digger. Then again, the origins of the Barnes/Ewing war have always been kind of murky. In that spirit, I even like Ann’s common-sense prescription to resolving the conflict — “You end a blood feud by walking away from it” — although I sure as hell hope no one on this show ever follows that advice.

I even like “Hurt” because of what it doesn’t contain: Duffy and Allen give us no whiplash-inducing plot twists, choosing instead to offer character-driven surprises like the revelation about Bum’s artistic skills. Yes, this episode’s drug cartel sequences get in the way of the real drama involving the Ewings, but at least one of those scenes features Emma Bell’s Emma Ryland, who is always a kick. Her conversation with Luis about the Beach Boys is kind of kooky, but it’s also an example of another Allen signature: Recall Carlos Bernard’s monologue about dancing in “Collateral Damage” and Mitch Pileggi’s speech about Komodo dragons in “Let Me In.” Sometimes it’s clearer than others what the characters are really saying in these scenes, but for me at least, figuring it out is part of the fun.

Ultimately, any complaints about the cartel scenes are quibbles, because no matter how you slice it, this is a terrific hour of “Dallas.” It’s an achievement for everyone involved, but most of all Duffy, whose turn in the director’s chair marks the first time someone who had a hand in shaping the storytelling on the original series does something similar for the sequel. We’ve known for a while that Duffy is still capable of dazzling us when he steps in front of the “Dallas” cameras, and now we know the same is also true when he works behind the scenes.

Grade: A

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Hurt, Patrick Duffy, TNT

Hurts so good

‘HURT’

Season 3, Episode 11

Telecast: September 1, 2014

Writer: Aaron Allen

Director: Patrick Duffy

Synopsis: Elena tells the Ewings how J.R. swindled her father and also exposes Bobby, John Ross and Christopher’s conspiracy to frame Cliff for J.R.’s “murder.” Bobby is chastised by Ann, Pamela and Sue Ellen, who later confronts Bum. Bobby agrees to give Elena restitution and land and arranges for Cliff to be pardoned, but Elena gives both the parcel and the clemency paperwork to Pamela, telling her she should decide if her father gets out of prison. John Ross learns Nicolas sent the video to Pamela and retaliates by telling Nicolas that Elena slept with him to get her hands on J.R.’s letter. Nicolas forgives Elena and leaves town with her, but not before consulting the mysterious Victor Des Lauriers about Ewing Global’s looming initial public offering. Christopher realizes Nicolas is Elena’s childhood friend, Joaquin. Harris tells Emma about his work with the CIA after he learns she’s been meeting with the cartel.

Cast: Emma Bell (Emma Ryland), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Juan Pablo Di Pace (Nicolas Treviño), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Marlene Forte (Carmen Ramos), Julie Gonzalo (Pamela Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Antonio Jaramillo (Luis), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Kevin Page (Bum), Gino Anthony Pesi (George Tatangelo), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Max Ryan (Victor Des Lauriers), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing)

“Hurt” is available at DallasTNT.com, Amazon and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Love to Talk ‘Dallas’? Join #DallasChat on September 2

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Hurt, Ken Kercheval, TNT

Say what?

You’re invited to Dallas Decoder’s next #DallasChat on Twitter, which I’ll hold Tuesday, September 2, from 9 to 10 p.m. Eastern time.

Our topic: “Hurt,” this week’s episode of TNT’s “Dallas.”

If you have ideas for questions, leave them in the comments section below, tweet them to me @DallasDecoder or post them to my Facebook page. I may choose one or more questions and ask them during our discussion.

New to #DallasChat? Here’s how it works: For one hour, I tweet 10 questions to my fellow “Dallas” fans. Each question is numbered and includes the hashtag #DallasChat, so your answers should do the same. Please include the show’s official hashtag, #DallasTNT, in your tweets too.

Here’s a sample exchange:

Q1. Should Cliff get out of jail on #DallasTNT? #DallasChat

A1. Hell no. Maybe he didn’t kill J.R., but he’s done lots of other bad stuff. Let him rot, I say! #DallasTNT #DallasChat

Two tips:

  • During the discussion, enter #DallasChat in Twitter’s search field. This will help you watch the search results so you can follow the conversation. Click “All” to see all the related tweets.
  • Be sure to include #DallasChat in your tweets. This allows the other participants to see your contributions to the conversation.

This will be another fun discussion. Please join us!

Dallas Burning Questions: Season 3, Week 11

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Elena Ramos, Jordana Brewster, Juan Pablo Di Pace, Nicolas Trevino, Patrick Duffy, TNT

What now?

Here are the questions we’re pondering as we await tonight’s telecast of “Hurt,” TNT’s latest “Dallas” episode:

What will Elena do? In “Dead Reckoning,” the previous episode, Nicolas (Juan Pablo Di Pace) made Drew’s death look like a suicide, then stood by and watched as Carmen and Elena (Marlene Forte, Jordana Brewster) received the news that Drew killed himself. Later, when an arson investigation revealed Drew set the Southfork fire, Elena told Carmen about J.R.’s swindle, as well as her scheme with Nicolas to get justice for their family. After Carmen told Elena that John Ross (Josh Henderson) is carrying around a mysterious letter from J.R., Elena seduced John Ross, snuck into his wallet and found the note that outlines the Ewings’ plan to frame Cliff (Ken Kercheval). Now that Elena has the evidence she needs to nail the Ewings, what will she do with it?

How will the Ewing women react? If the truth about J.R.’s masterpiece finally comes out, what will the women of Southfork say? How will the newly sober Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) respond to the news that J.R. was dying of cancer and staged his own death? Will Ann (Brenda Strong) be angry at Bobby (Patrick Duffy) for keeping secrets from her? Perhaps most importantly: What will Pamela (Julie Gonzalo) do when she learns her estranged husband John Ross, her ex-husband Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) and Bobby conspired to frame Cliff for J.R.’s “murder”?

What will happen to the Ewing men? The Ewing men are having a pretty rough go of it lately. Bobby and Ann are separated, Pamela told John Ross their marriage is over and selfless Christopher said a bittersweet goodbye to Heather (AnnaLynne McCord), who plans to take Michael (Dallas Clark) and leave Dallas to join Bo (Donny Boaz) in Israel, where he’ll have surgery to repair his spinal cord — paid for by Christopher. If Elena spills the beans on J.R.’s masterpiece, will things go from bad to worse for Bobby, John Ross and Christopher?

Who’ll wind up with control of Ewing Global? Pamela told Sue Ellen she won’t divorce John Ross because she doesn’t want him to wind up with her shares of Ewing Global. Meanwhile, Nicolas continued to plot with Luis (Antonio Jaramillo) to take over the company, and Emma (Emma Bell) did some scheming of her own. She blamed Harris (Mitch Pileggi) for getting Drew mixed up with the rig explosion, then met with Luis and told him to get her father tossed back in jail. Should Harris be worried?

What “Dallas Burning Questions” are on your mind? Share your comments below and watch TNT’s “Dallas” tonight.

‘Dallas’ Episode Titles, Airdates Posted

Dallas, Elena Ramos, Hurt, John Ross Ewing, Jordana Brewster, Josh Henderson, Juan Pablo Di Pace, Julie Gonzalo, Nicolas Trevino, Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing, TNT

Who’ll get “Hurt”?

We don’t know what will happen during the second half of “Dallas’s” third season, but we do know what the episodes will be called and when we might see them:

• TNT posted the titles online last week. They are: “Denial, Anger, Acceptance” (Episode 34), “Dead Reckoning” (Episode 35), “Hurt” (Episode 36), “Victims of Love” (Episode 37), “Boxed In” (Episode 38), “Endgame” (Episode 39) and “Brave New World” (Episode 40).

• TNT hasn’t released airdates, except to say “Denial, Anger, Acceptance” will be shown Monday, August 18. According to IMDb, TNT will televise the remaining episodes on successive Mondays, with one exception: The last two episodes, “Endgame” and “Brave New World,” will each be shown September 22.

Nothing is official until TNT confirms it, of course. But if the airdates on IMDb are accurate, “Dallas” will wrap up its third year on what will probably be the first night of the 2014-15 television season, when the broadcast networks will be going all out to lure viewers. In other words: The competition will be tough.

Also, trivia buffs, take note: The original “Dallas” had an “End Game” (Bobby gets shot!) and a “Dead Reckoning” (Miss Ellie boots Clayton off Southfork!), while “The Sopranos” had a “Denial, Anger, Acceptance” (Meadow does speed!).

What do you hope to see when “Dallas” returns? Share your comments below and read more news from Dallas Decoder.