Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 64 – ‘Executive Wife’

The bloom is off

The bloom is off

In “Executive Wife,” Pam feels hurt by her mother’s rejection and needs Bobby’s support, but he’s too busy running Ewing Oil to notice. For a moment, Pam allows herself to be tempted by another man: magazine publisher Alex Ward.

Sound familiar? It should. Pam and Bobby went through the same scenario in the third-season episode “Jenna’s Return,” except back then, the roles were reversed: Pam was the spouse who was preoccupied with work, which sent lonely Bobby into the arms of magazine editor Jenna Wade.

I appreciate “Executive Wife’s” attempt to depict the challenges facing dual-career couples, which were becoming more common in the 1980s, but it doesn’t change the fact this subplot is a rehash.

It isn’t “Executive Wife’s” only retread, either. Three episodes ago, in “The Fourth Son,” Bobby had to choose between keeping Jock’s commitment to Brady York and honoring a deal Bobby made himself. In “Executive Wife,” he has an opportunity to get back into business with the cartel, but he’s once again hamstrung by Ewing Oil’s commitment to Brady.

At least this time around, Bobby’s dilemma leads to one of “Dallas’s” all-time great scenes: Bobby and Jock’s showdown at the Cattleman’s Club, where the golden son confronts his beloved father over Jock’s decision to deplete Ewing Oil’s cash reserves without first checking with Bobby.

This is where Jim Davis ferociously delivers Jock’s famous line that “real power is something you take.” The dialogue perfectly encapsulates the Ewings’ approach to life, which explains why TNT’s “Dallas” had J.R. repeat the line to John Ross in its recent “The Price You Pay” episode.

“Executive Wife” also features the scene that inspired artist Ro Kim’s classic classic painting of Jock, which shows up after the character’s death during “Dallas’s” fifth season and becomes one of the show’s most enduring props.

In the scene, Jock stands in a Southfork pasture with Ray and vents his frustration with Bobby’s management of Ewing Oil. Davis wears the same straw hat, blue-and-white checked shirt and gold medallion he does in the painting, so watching him here is a bit like seeing the portrait spring to life.

If only that were really possible.

Grade: B

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Picture perfect

Picture perfect

‘EXECUTIVE WIFE’

Season 4, Episode 10

Airdate: January 9, 1981

Audience: 26.4 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Rena Down

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Jock puts Bobby in a bind when he invests in his friend Punk Anderson’s plan to build a resort at Takapa Lake, depleting Ewing Oil’s cash reserves. Bobby is too busy with work to pay attention to Pam, who allows herself to be tempted by dashing magazine publisher Alex Ward. J.R. Lucy and Mitch decide to get married before he graduates from medical school.

Cast: Barbara Babcock (Liz Craig), Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Michael Bell (Les Crowley), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Joel Fabiani (Alex Ward), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Ted Gehring (Brady York), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Jerry Haynes (Pat Powers), Susan Howard (Donna Culver), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Sherill Lynn Katzman (Jackie), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Leigh McCloskey (Mitch Cooper), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), William Smithers (Jeremy Wendell), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson)

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

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 48 – ‘Sue Ellen’s Choice’

Dallas, Dusty Farlow, Jared Martin, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, Sue Ellen's Choice

Choose, but either way you lose

In “Sue Ellen’s Choice,” our heroine wrestles with two options: She can leave J.R. for Dusty and lose custody of her son, or she can stay married and keep the baby. If other possibilities exist, “Dallas” doesn’t present them.

Sue Ellen ultimately chooses to stick with J.R., and I suppose we should admire her for sacrificing her romantic interests so she can remain a full-time mother to little John. Maybe Sue Ellen really loves Dusty as much as she claims, but she loves her son more, and that’s how it should be.

Besides, I’m not sure Dusty is right for Sue Ellen. I loved his introduction in “Rodeo,” an earlier third-season episode, but if there’s a good reason for his unquestioning devotion to her, “Dallas” hasn’t offered it. I find myself wondering: Does Dusty care for Sue Ellen as much as he claims, or does he want to take her and little John away from the Ewings to prove he’s more powerful than J.R.?

As for J.R., I’ll confess to feeling sorry for him when he enters the nursery in “Sue Ellen’s Choice” and tries to tell his wife about his day, only to have her dismiss him. After all the rotten things he’s done, I know I shouldn’t be willing to cut J.R. any slack, but I can’t help it. Deep down, J.R. loves Sue Ellen. How else to explain his envy in “Jenna’s Return,” when he begins to suspect Sue Ellen is having an affair?

Speaking of Jenna: Her two-part “return” comes to a rather unsatisfying conclusion in this episode. There’s a cool scene where Jenna confronts Pam and tells her she’ll take Bobby if Pam no longer wants him, but by the end of the hour, Jenna has disappeared.

Like Sue Ellen, I suppose Jenna makes a big decision, too – and her choice is to leave.

Grade: B

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Dallas, Francine Tacker, Jenna Wade, Sue Ellen's Choice

Hello, I must be leaving

‘SUE ELLEN’S CHOICE’

Season 3, Episode 19

Airdate: February 1, 1980

Audience: 21.8 million homes, ranking 3rd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Camille Marchetta

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Sue Ellen agrees to leave J.R. for Dusty, but when J.R. threatens to take their son from her, she decides to stay. After Bobby rejects Jenna’s advances, he and Pam agree to give their marriage one more chance. Donna asks Jock to talk to Ray, but when he declines, she tells Ray goodbye. Alan gives Lucy an engagement ring.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Culver), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), Randolph Powell (Alan Beam), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Francine Tacker (Jenna Wade), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

“Sue Ellen’s Choice” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘I Owe Sam More Than That’

Dallas, Donna Culver, Jenna's Return, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly, Susan Howard

Simply the best

In “Jenna’s Return,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Ray and Donna (Steve Kanaly, Susan Howard) are sitting on her living-room floor, where Ray just won another round of backgammon.

DONNA: You have to at least give me a chance to get even.

RAY: No, I don’t. You’ll have plenty chances to get even some other time. I gotta get up early tomorrow morning.

DONNA: [Moves across the floor on her knees, picks up her wine glass and takes a sip] You know, it just really beats me how a night person like me ever got entangled with a day person like you.

RAY: You ought to come out with me some morning at dawn and watch that old sun come up. I tell you, the land’s really beautiful then. Peaceful and quiet.

DONNA: I’d like that. [She begins gathering dishes from a nearby table.]

RAY: Hey. You just leave those dishes. [Sits on the sofa, pulls her onto his lap and kisses her] I love you.

DONNA: You don’t mind that we spend so much time alone, do you?

RAY: [Smiles] No, I got you all to myself that way.

DONNA: Well, it won’t be this way for much longer. It’s just I don’t want to seem like a merry widow. I owe Sam more than that. You understand, don’t you?

RAY: You’re feeling guilty about you and I.

DONNA: [Smiles] Yeah, yeah.

RAY: Well, don’t be silly.

DONNA: I know it. And I know that Sam would be the first one to approve. Because all he ever wanted what was best for me. And you are that. [Strokes his hair] The best.

They kiss.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 47 – ‘Jenna’s Return’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Francine Tacker, Jenna's Return, Jenna Wade, Patrick Duffy

Dude, that’s not your wife

Bobby’s first love resurfaces in “Jenna’s Return” – and so does his chauvinistic streak. In this episode, Pam’s boss is so impressed by her performance at The Store, he invites her on a business trip to Paris, but instead of being happy for his wife’s success, Bobby sulks.

Making matters worse: While Pam’s away, Bobby spends his free time with old flame Jenna Wade, who pops up for the first time since the second-season episode “Old Acquaintance.” Francine Tacker takes over the role from Morgan Fairchild and doesn’t make much of an impression. I really wish Fairchild played Jenna here, too. She made the character livelier and sexier, which might have made Bobby’s behavior in the cliffhanging final scene, when he appears poised to sleep with Jenna, more credible.

Bobby’s storyline grabs much of the screen time in “Jenna’s Return,” but Ray and Donna’s travails are much more interesting.

The characters began dating just a few episodes ago and already I’m completely charmed by their romance. They make an unlikely couple, but Steve Kanaly and Susan Howard’s chemistry is undeniable, and “Dallas” works hard to make their characters’ relationship feel real.

The first time we see Ray and Donna in this episode, they’re sitting on her living room floor, playing backgammon. Ray is ready to go to bed, prompting night-owl Donna to jokingly bemoan her fate of falling in love with an early riser.

Later, Donna feels out-of-place when Ray takes introduces her to his rough-around-the-edges cowboy friends, while Ray gets a case of the jitters when Donna throws a dinner party to introduce him to her stepson Dave, a state senator, and his wife Luanne.

These little flashes of domesticity are a welcome addition to the show. Many fans may turn to “Dallas” for escapism, but it’s nice to see everyday life reflected now and then, and it’s clear – even at this early stage in Ray and Donna’s relationship – this is the role these characters are destined to fulfill.

Grade: B

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Dallas, Donna Culver, Jenna's Return, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly, Susan Howard

The real thing

‘JENNA’S RETURN’

Season 3, Episode 18

Airdate: January 18, 1980

Audience: 20.7 million homes, ranking 8th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Camille Marchetta

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: Pam goes on a business trip to Paris, upsetting Bobby, who renews his friendship with Jenna and is tempted to sleep with her. Sue Ellen continues to see Dusty, arousing J.R.’s jealousy. Ray breaks up with Donna because they don’t have enough in common besides their love for each other.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Byron Clark (Tom), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Mel Ferrer (Harrison Page), Alba Francesca (Luanne Culver), Tom Fuccello (Senator Dave Culver), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Alex Harvey (Andy), Susan Howard (Donna Culver), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Brian Libby (Roy), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), Don Porter (Matt Devlin), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Francine Tacker (Jenna Wade), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

“Jenna’s Return” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.