Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 60 – ‘The Venezuelan Connection’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Patrick Duffy, Venezuelan Connection

Gone with the window

“The Venezuelan Connection” feels like the first half of one of “Dallas’s” two-part episodes. There’s a lot of setup here but not a lot of payoff.

In the main storyline, Bobby hires May-December power couple Eugene and Sally Bullock to ship Venezuelan crude to Ewing Oil’s new refinery, only to learn the tanker sank en route. This is a well-executed plot twist – and there’s much more to the sinking than Bobby realizes – but he won’t discover that until the next episode.

(Quick aside: While I’m delighted to see “The Venezuelan Connection” bring back the Bullocks, who make their first appearance on “Dallas” since their debut in the third-season episode “Return Engagements,” I’m disappointed the show recasts Sally with Joanna Cassidy, who isn’t as deliciously brazen as Andra Akers, the actress who originated the role. Similarly, E.J. André isn’t quite as amusingly cantankerous in this episode as he was during his first go-round as Mr. Eugene.)

Jock and Ray’s storyline in “The Venezuelan Connection” feels incomplete, too. In the third act, a mystery man spots the Ewing patriarch and his foreman in a Fort Worth saloon and quizzes the barkeep about them, but we don’t learn the stranger’s identity – or the reason for his curiosity – until the next episode, which by the way is entitled “The Fourth Son.” (Hint, hint)

Fortunately, “The Veneuzeluean Connection” offers one genuinely satisfying moment: Lucy’s confrontation with Mitch over his abrupt departure from the Southfork pool party she threw in his honor.

In the scene, working-class Mitch tells Lucy he fled the shindig because he felt he couldn’t “compete” with her wealthy friends – an idea she finds ridiculous. “Why do you have to compete with them? They live like that. So what? Can’t you just accept it?” she asks.

This response feels mature and logical, two qualities we don’t always associate with Lucy. I also appreciate how scriptwriter Leah Markus allows the character to recognize Mitch for what he really is. As Lucy tells him, “You’re the one who’s the snob.”

Charlene Tilton is terrific in this scene, which ends with Lucy suggesting she and Mitch break up. This might make their fight seem like another one of “The Venezuelan Connection’s” unresolved plot points, but not really. For Lucy and Mitch, this is turning a point, not a cliffhanger.

Grade: B

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, Joanna Cassidy, Sally Bullock, Venezuelan Connection

Not the same

‘THE VENEZUELAN CONNECTION’

Season 4, Episode 6

Airdate: December 5, 1980

Audience: 29 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Leah Markus

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Bobby taps Eugene and Sally Bullock to ship crude to his new refinery. Jock is impressed by Bobby’s initiative, while J.R. seethes. Pam’s detective continues searching for her mother. Mitch feels uncomfortable around Lucy’s friends. Bobby learns the Bullocks’ tanker sank en route to the refinery.

Cast: E.J. André (Eugene Bullock), Tami Barber (Bev), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Joanna Cassidy (Sally Bullock), Jeff Cooper (Dr. Simon Elby), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Ted Gehring (Brady York), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Jerry Haynes (Pat Powers), Richard Herd (John Mackey), Susan Howard (Donna Culver), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Leigh McCloskey (Mitch Cooper), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Janine Turner (Susan), William Windom (stranger), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson)

“Taste of Success” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.