Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘J.R. Ewing?!’

Bail Out, Dallas, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Truth hurts

In “Bail Out,” an eighth-season “Dallas” episode, Pam (Victoria Principal) stands in her office doorway and greets pilot Gerald Kane (James Cromwell), who has flown from Corpus Christi to see her.

PAM: You’ve certainly come a long way for just a conversation.

KANE: I figured I owed it to you to say what I have to say to you in person.

PAM: Well, please sit down. [They sit.]

KANE: I surely don’t feel too good about what I’ve done.

PAM: Well, what have you done?

KANE: I’ve lied to you, Mrs. Ewing. I never flew Mark Graison down to the Caribbean. Truth of it is, I’ve never even laid eyes on the man you were looking for. I know I should have told you all this before, and I tried to three or four times when we were down there but … well, I never could convince myself to do it until now.

PAM: [Dumbfounded] But what about San Serrano? Mark was in the clinic down there. And just yesterday, Dr. Miller was here. The doctor from the clinic in Jamaica? Well, he came here with another doctor who actually saw Mark in Hong Kong.

KANE: I don’t think so.

PAM: What do you mean, you don’t think so? You think they were lying too? Well, why would they lie to me? Why would you lie to me?

KANE: I was … persuaded to.

PAM: Who persuaded you?

KANE: Somebody who convinced me that it would be easier on you if you still believed that Mark Graison was alive. And I went along with it because I saw how desperately you wanted to believe.

PAM: [Rubs her temples] Mark Graison is alive and there’s no doubt about that.

KANE: Believe me, Mrs. Ewing. The whole thing was a hoax. Now I don’t know about these doctors you saw, but … well, if I could be bought off, so can they.

PAM: You mean that somebody paid you to lie to me?

KANE: Yes.

PAM: No one has any reason to do something like that to me.

KANE: Obviously somebody has.

PAM: Who? Tell me who! I want to know their name!

KANE: J.R. Ewing.

PAM: [Screams, slaps him] J.R. Ewing?! [Sobs]

Watch this scene in “Bail Out,” available on DVD and at Amazon and iTunes, and share your comments below.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 178 — ‘Bail Out’

Bail Out, Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Truth to power

Bobby springs Jenna from jail in “Bail Out,” while Sue Ellen liberates her own tongue. After discovering J.R. has cheated on her yet again, she stops playing the dutiful wife and begins speaking her mind, even if it means telling loved ones things they don’t want to hear. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Sue Ellen assume the role of Southfork’s resident truth-teller, although when it’s happened in the past, it’s usually because she’s been drinking. Our heroine is sober in “Bail Out,” making this episode another early glimpse of the independent, wiser character she’ll become in “Dallas’s” later years.

In the first act, Sue Ellen wakes up — a metaphor, perhaps — and has coffee with Miss Ellie in the dining room. When the conversation turns to Jamie’s efforts to split up Ewing Oil, Ellie is surprised to hear Sue Ellen hopes Jamie succeeds. “We have to keep what is ours. That company means everything to this family,” Ellie says. Sue Ellen gently points out Ellie’s hypocrisy, reminding the Ewing matriarch she once tried to force the sale of the business to keep J.R. and Bobby from fighting over it. Ellie defends herself, saying this situation is different because her sons are no longer at each other’s throats. She also urges Sue Ellen to think of John Ross, who’s poised to run the company someday. Sue Ellen’s response: “I know. That used to matter to me very much. Maybe he’d be better off without it.”

Did you ever think you’d hear Sue Ellen Ewing say such a thing? After all, this is the woman who spent “Dallas’s” earliest episodes in a virtual race with Pam to bear the Ewings’ first grandson. Now she’s admitting what’s she’s known for some time: being a Ewing wife and mother isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sue Ellen’s newly brutal honesty is also on display later in the episode, when she warns Jenna about the Ewings’ looming war with Jamie. Sue Ellen predicts the battle will cause Bobby to revert to the cutthroat tactics he used during the contest for Ewing Oil. “Wait and see,” she says. “The Ewing boys are alike in certain ways. I found it out, and so did Pam.”

You may not like everything Sue Ellen has to say in “Bail Out,” but you have to admire “Dallas’s” willingness to allow the character to change. You also have to admire Linda Gray’s ability to make Sue Ellen’s evolution so believable. In the scene with Donna Reed, Gray’s delivery is beautifully heartfelt. (It helps that the conversation takes place right after Sue Ellen awakens, so Gray gets to perform with little makeup and her hair a little messy. It’s Sue Ellen, unvarnished.) Gray also is impressive in her scene with Priscilla Beaulieu Presley. It would have been easy to bring an air of classic Sue Ellen bitchiness to this exchange, but Gray takes a different approach. She treats her character’s speech as a helpful warning, not a hurtful threat.

The other standout performer in “Bail Out” is Victoria Principal, who is fantastic in the episode-ending scene where pilot Gerald Kane visits Pam and confesses he lied about flying Mark Graison to the Caribbean to seek a cure for his disease. This tightly written, three-minute exchange requires Principal to exhibit a range of emotions — shock, anger, disgust — and she hits each one with precision. (Future Oscar winner James Cromwell is also quite good, making Kane’s guilt and shame palpable.) The best moment comes when Pam demands to know who paid Kane to lie to her. “No one has any reason to do something like that to me,” she says, but of course she must know in her heart who’s responsible. When Kane tells her the culprit is J.R. Ewing, Pam strikes him and repeats the name: “J.R. Ewing?!” It’s a testament to director Michael Preece that this doesn’t come off as a campy soap opera slap. Instead, it feels genuinely reflexive, as if Pam can’t help lashing out.

Speaking of J.R.: He finally seduces Mandy in this episode, luring her to a high-rise hotel suite under the ruse that she’s visiting something called “Club 1900.” When she arrives, she’s in no mood for his charms and angrily tosses a glassful of champagne in his face. He responds by grabbing and kissing her hard; she squirms for a few seconds but eventually melts in his arms. It’s not quite as unappetizing as the scene where J.R. forces himself on Sue Ellen in the second-season classic “Black Market Baby,” but it’s uncomfortable nonetheless. Other moments in “Bail Out” also evoke earlier storylines, including one where Ray encourages Lucy and Eddie to get soil samples before starting construction on their housing project. It’s a subtle nod to Ray’s disastrous foray into the real estate business during the fourth season. Sue Ellen and Ellie’s conversation about John Ross’s future also has echoes of Mama’s memorable speech (“Where will this all end?”) during the contest for Ewing Oil.

Homages like these have become a hallmark of “Dallas’s” eighth season. Each one feels like a treat for fans who absorb every last detail of the Ewings’ lives. You have to admire the show’s willingness to honor fans this way. Is it any wonder so many of us continue to reward “Dallas” with our loyalty?

Grade: B


Bail Out, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman



Season 8, Episode 17

Airdate: January 25, 1985

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

Writer: David Paulsen

Director: Michael Preece

Synopsis: Bobby bails out Jenna and reunites her with Charlie. Sue Ellen warns Jenna about the looming battle for Ewing Oil. Cliff and Jamie gather evidence for their lawsuit. J.R. and Mandy have sex. Kane tells Pam that J.R. paid him to lead her on a wild goose chase.

Cast: Beau Billingslea (Dr. Miller), Burke Byrnes (Pete Adams), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Pat Colbért (Dora Mae), James Cromwell (Gerald Kane), Val De Vargas (Patrick Wolfe), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Stephen Elliott (Scotty Demarest), 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), Clyde Kusatsu (Dr. Albert Matsuda), Fredric Lehne (Eddie Cronin), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Joe Nesnow (Judge Lanley), George O. Petrie (Harve Smithfield), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Donna Reed (Miss Ellie Farlow), Dean Santoro (Raymond Furguson), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Danone Simpson (Kendall), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis)

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

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 174 — ‘Déjà Vu’

Dallas, Deja Vu, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Game of phones

What could be unholier than an alliance between J.R. Ewing and Cliff Barnes? In “Déjà Vu,” the sworn enemies agree to work together to keep Bobby and Pam apart. The scene where J.R. and Cliff meet in a dive bar and toast their partnership is one of the episode’s highlights, and not just because it’s one of the few times in “Dallas” history that Larry Hagman and Ken Kercheval are civil to each other on screen. The scene also demonstrates how their characters are beginning to change, if not grow. In an era when many of the show’s creative risks don’t pay off, here’s one that works.

“Déjà Vu” begins with the Ewings reeling after Jenna leaves Bobby at the altar on their wedding day. After the guests are sent home, J.R. and Bobby head to Ewing Oil and pull out all the stops to determine why she ran away — even ordering their secretaries to report to the office on a Saturday to help track down the runaway bride. (Why weren’t the secretaries invited to the wedding?) Later, J.R. receives a mysterious phone call from someone who wants to get together to discuss the situation. We don’t learn the caller’s identity until J.R. shows up in the bar and takes a seat across from Cliff, who tells him now that Bobby is free, he’s afraid he’ll reunite with Pam. J.R. agrees he and Cliff should do everything they can to stop such a reconciliation from taking place. “Maybe this is the one time a Ewing and a Barnes ought to work together,” J.R. says.

It’s fun to watch Hagman and Kercheval clink beer glasses, although this scene has more going for it than the novelty factor. For starters, the exchange shows how much Cliff has changed. Think about it: He’s the character in control here. Cliff calls the meeting, sets the time and location, and suggests the alliance with J.R. Since the eighth season began, we’ve seen Cliff become smarter and more successful, and now we know he can scheme with the best of them. J.R. has changed too: There was a time he wouldn’t have given his archenemy the time of day, but here he treats Cliff as an equal. (J.R. has always been more willing to join forces with Pam, who he probably considers a worthier adversary.) Some fans want Cliff always to lose and J.R. always to win, but I admire “Dallas’s” willingness to allow the characters to evolve. Besides, it’s not like they won’t slide back into their familiar roles eventually.

The title “Déjà Vu” points to Bobby’s backstory — Jenna also left him at the altar when the characters were younger — although I’m more interested in another blast from the past: the return of the terrific Sarah Cunningham as Maggie, the woman who raised Cliff and Pam. In the storyline, Cliff and Mandy visit Maggie to see what she knows about Jamie Ewing’s claim that Jock, Jason and Digger were equal partners in Ewing Oil. After Cliff arrives on her doorstep and pulls out some photos of Christopher, she invites him and Mandy into the backyard to discuss what’s really on his mind. “If I know my brother’s son, he didn’t drive three hours to Marshall on a Saturday just to show me baby pictures,” she says. That line alone makes me wish “Dallas” had used Cunningham more frequently. The actress is so natural and believable; the show would have benefitted from her homespun charm.

“Déjà Vu” also features James Cromwell’s first appearance as Gerald Kane, the pilot who approaches Pam with the bombshell news that he flew Mark Graison to a clinic in the Caribbean to seek a cure for his disease. Cromwell, who later received an Oscar nomination for his role as the farmer in “Babe,” is quite good in his scene with Victoria Principal. At the end of the episode, we learn Kane is secretly working for J.R. — a neat twist that probably would have been even more surprising if it had come later, once Cromwell’s character was more established. I wonder why the show exposed his connection to J.R. so soon?

Other “Déjà Vu” highlights include the scene where Ray assures Bobby that Jenna loves him — in a few years, Ray will be doubting Jenna’s love for him once they begin a relationship — as well as a nice moment when Maggie’s lawyer visits Cliff and suggests Digger must have been a gentleman. Cliff beams, reminding us that he sees his father differently than most of the other characters on this show. I also like the scene where Sue Ellen receives the call from J.R. informing her that Jenna has skipped town. After Sue Ellen hangs up, Miss Ellie and Donna eagerly ask her what J.R. said. As the music swells, Linda Gray keeps her back to Donna Reed and Susan Howard, looks into the distance and solemnly intones, “He said to send the guests home. The wedding is off.” It’s the kind of dramatic delivery that only occurs on soap operas, which is what makes it so wonderful.

This scene also leads to my biggest gripe with “Déjà Vu.” Once word reaches the Ewings that the wedding has been canceled, Ray volunteers to send the guests home, and Ellie agrees. It’s another example of how Ellie is being written differently since the show recast the role with Reed. Having Ellie defer to Ray makes her seem uncharacteristically delicate. This is a woman who once stared down an angry mob at a Ewing Barbecue, after all. Giving Reed the line where the guests are sent home might seem like a small thing, but it would have given her an opportunity to show some of the mettle we’ve come to expect from our beloved Mama.

Grade: B


Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Deja Vu, Ken Kercheval

Look who’s scheming


Season 8, Episode 13

Airdate: December 21, 1984

Audience: 19.5 million homes, ranking 4th in the weekly ratings

Writer: David Paulsen

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Naldo blackmails Jenna into remarrying him by threatening to keep her from Charlie, whom he sends to Italy. Pam is approached by a pilot who claims he flew Mark to the Caribbean, but she doesn’t realize the man works for J.R. Cliff searches Digger’s old legal papers, hoping to find a copy of Jamie’s document.

Cast: Burke Byrnes (Pete Adams), James Cromwell (Gerald Kane), Sarah Cunningham (Maggie Monahan), Patrick Duffy (Bobby 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), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Daniel Pilon (Renaldo Marchetta), 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), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis)

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