Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘I Cannot — I Will Not — Sell’

Dallas, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal, Wind of Change

Speech, speech!

In “The Wind of Change,” a ninth-season “Dallas” episode, Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) calls Pam (Victoria Principal) to the stage at the Oil Baron’s Ball to accept Bobby’s posthumous Oilman of the Year Award.

PAM: There’s a lot of wisdom in what Miss Ellie has had to say here tonight. I guess that’s where Bobby got his from. It is only right that Bobby’s son should keep this award. It will forever remind him of his father’s achievements, his business expertise, his standing in the oil community. And that’s good, but maybe that’s not enough. Remembering his father’s achievement is one thing, but appreciating his heritage is quite another. And that is something that he must do. As most of you know, I had intended to sell Christopher’s share of Ewing Oil to Westar. But I’ve slowly come to realize that if I did that, I might not be doing what Bobby would have wanted. Bobby always said that Ewing Oil and the Ewing family were inseparable. Working with his family is my son’s birthright, and I don’t want to take away his chance to follow in his father’s footsteps: to honor him, by emulating him; to carry the torch, so to speak; to work beside you, as Bobby had. Therefore, with apologies to those who may not understand my change of heart, I cannot — I will not — sell Christopher’s share of Ewing Oil to Westar.

The audience applauds as Pam exits the stage and is approached by J.R. (Larry Hagman) and Mark (John Beck).

J.R.: [Beaming] Well, I’ve got to admit in front of God and everybody else that what you did tonight is going to be remembered as a wise and historic decision.

PAM: Well, I’m surprised to hear you say that, but I’m happy to hear you say it.

J.R.: [Chuckles] Well, not as happy as I am, honey. I’ll tell you what: I’ll get our lawyers together and we’ll just close this little deal.

PAM: What deal?

J.R.: For Christopher’s share.

PAM: J.R., when I said that I wasn’t selling to Wendell, I didn’t mean that I was selling to you.

J.R. [Confused] What?

PAM: I’m not selling at all. From now on, it’s going to be you and me. I’ll see you at the office, partner. [Walks away with Mark, leaving J.R. stunned.]

Watch this scene in “The Wind of Change,” available on DVD and at Amazon and iTunes, and share your comments below.

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘Hello, Cliff’

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, John Beck, Mark Graison, Saving Grace

Kitchen confidential

In “Saving Grace,” a ninth-season “Dallas” episode, Cliff (Ken Kercheval) is in the kitchen cooking when Jamie (Jenilee Harrison) answers the front door and greets Pam and Mark (Victoria Principal, John Beck).

JAMIE: Hi, come on in. How are you? [They kiss.]

PAM: Good, thanks.

JAMIE: Good.

PAM: Jamie, this is a very dear friend of mine, Mark Graison.

JAMIE: [Shakes his hand, stunned] Mark Graison?

MARK: [Puts his fingers to his lips.] Shh, shh, shh. Where’s Cliff?

JAMIE: He’s in the kitchen.

As Cliff tastes the sauce he’s making, Mark approaches from behind and peers over his shoulder.

MARK: Well, how does it taste?

CLIFF: Great. [Looks at him, does a double take, gasps]

MARK: Hello, Cliff. Pam wanted it to be a surprise.

CLIFF: Oh, boy. Oh, boy. She got her wish. [They shake hands, then embrace awkwardly.] Hey, where you been?

MARK: I’ll tell you all about it over dinner.

CLIFF: Okay. Great. Yeah. Boy, my sister’s had her share of shocks.

MARK: Yes, she has. I hope my being here doesn’t add to that. I came back to help her, Cliff.

CLIFF: Well, okay. I’m glad to hear you say that. Yeah. Because you know, she’s got a lot of responsibility. [Touches Mark’s shoulder] Oh, boy. You know, maybe we can both help her.

MARK: Uh-huh, I think we can. [Grips Cliff’s arm]

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

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 196 — ‘Saving Grace’

Dallas, John Beck, Mark Graison, Pam Ewing, Saving Grace

Swoon song

No one will ever accuse Mark Graison of being an interesting character, but you can’t deny the man knows how to make a comeback. In “Saving Grace,” Mark re-enters Pam’s life and reveals he faked his death a year earlier to focus on finding a cure for his fatal disease. Yes, the explanation is absurd, but it’s not like we haven’t been through this kind of thing before (Dusty Farlow), and it’s not like we won’t go through it again (Bobby Ewing). Mark’s resurrection might be “Dallas’s” best return from the grave, though — or at least the one that does the least damage to the show’s credibility.

Much credit goes to the actors who must carry this storyline, beginning with John Beck. Some “Dallas” fans will never forgive Mark for pursuing Pam while she was still married to Bobby, but Beck’s confident charm is put to good use here. It helps him sell all the outlandish dialogue he has to deliver about secretive death-staging and international cure-seeking. Victoria Principal also hits the right notes, especially when Pam faints in Mark’s arms, then awakens and simultaneously bursts into tears and laughter. Principal also gets to utter a line that is wonderfully hilarious, but only in retrospect: “Tell me I’m not dreaming.”

I also appreciate how “Saving Grace” doesn’t shortchange Mark’s return. “Dallas” dispenses with Dusty and Bobby’s revivals with just a few lines, but this episode has several lengthy scenes where Mark explains the reason for faking his death (he didn’t want Pam to watch him die slowly), the state of his disease (in remission, not cured), and why he’s re-entering Pam’s life (because now that Bobby’s dead, she needs him). We also get to see other characters react to Mark’s return: J.R. is rattled but refuses to show it, while Cliff is speechless. (Ken Kercheval’s double-take is priceless in the fun scene where Mark surprises Cliff in the kitchen.) By the end of the hour, though, everyone has recovered from the shock: Pam and Mark are back together, and he’s vowing to put Ewing Oil out of business after hearing about J.R.’s scheme to send Pam on a wild goose chase for him during the previous season.

Indeed, “Saving Grace” marks the moment “Dallas” begins getting back to business as usual after Bobby’s death. J.R. is once again battling Jeremy Wendell, pursuing Mandy Winger and neglecting the needs of Sue Ellen, including hanging up on her therapist when he calls to suggest J.R. attend marriage counseling. (The hang-up occurs off-camera, unfortunately). These scenes are balanced with a series of exchanges that highlight the show’s renewed sense of warmth: Donna and Jenna go shopping for baby clothes, Ray playfully asks his wife if she’d like to “mess around,” Jack sweetly urges Jamie not to worry about him after someone breaks into his apartment and noses around.

Miss Ellie also shows a little love, of the tough variety, when she tells Dusty to steer clear of Sue Ellen while she’s trying to get sober. This is a good scene because it brings together two characters who don’t usually interact and reminds us that Ellie has a fifth “son”: Dusty, which is a relationship I tend to forget about. The dialogue is smart too, especially when Dusty says the idea of staying away from Sue Ellen “isn’t that simple” and Mama smiles and responds, “Let me simplify it for you.” I also like how director Nick Havinga stages the scene in a corner of the Southfork lawn, with the actors in the foreground and the house looming behind them. It makes me wish more scenes had been filmed at this angle.

Ellie is planting a tree when the scene begins, which marks the third or fourth time we’ve seen her gardening since Barbara Bel Geddes resumed her famous role a few episodes ago. Q-Less, a Dallas Decoder reader, recently pointed out the frequency of these planting scenes at the beginning of the ninth season, suggesting it symbolized how Bel Geddes was keeping the show grounded. I couldn’t agree more. Every time we see Ellie puttering around her garden, it’s as if “Dallas” is getting back to its roots. Keep digging, Mama.

Grade: B


Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Dusty Farlow, Jared Martin, Miss Ellie Ewing Farlow, Saving Grace

Blood and soil


Season 9, Episode 5

Airdate: October 18, 1985

Audience: 19.2 million homes, ranking 9th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Joel J. Feigenbaum

Director: Nick Havinga

Synopsis: Mark tells Pam he faked his death to find a cure for his disease, which is now in remission. Jack resists Cliff’s pressure to sell to Wendell. Clayton orders J.R. to stop pressuring Miss Ellie, who tells Dusty to give Sue Ellen room to recover.

Cast: John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Farlow), Burke Byrnes (Pete Adams), Alan Fudge (Dr. Lantry), 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), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Dack Rambo (Jack Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Carol Sanchez (Angela), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger)

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

The Best & Worst of Dallas: Season 7

“Dallas’s” seventh season clocks in at 30 hours, making it the show’s longest season yet. Does quantity equal quality?


Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Ken Kercheval

Winning loser

If Cliff Barnes were played by anyone other than Ken Kercheval, we’d probably hate him. Cliff is foolish, petty, self-centered — yet throughout the seventh season, Kercheval brings a startling amount of vulnerability to the role. Cliff doesn’t want to beat J.R. as much as he wants to be J.R. — and who can blame him for that? The more I watch Kercheval, the more I appreciate his ability to balance Cliff’s bombast with pathos and humanity. What a great actor.


Is there anything more satisfying than seeing J.R. climb back to the top? When the season begins, his marriage to Sue Ellen is on the rocks, Bobby and Pam’s pending divorce is no longer a sure thing and Cliff is stealing big deals out from under him. By the end of the year, J.R. has everyone right where he wants them: Sue Ellen is back in his bedroom, Bobby is poised to marry Jenna and Cliff’s life is ruined. Once again, we’re reminded of a fundamental truth: “Dallas” is at its best when J.R. is at his worst.

Best storyline runners-up: Ray’s trial for euthanizing Mickey, a plot twist that dared to inject some topicality into “Dallas’s” narrative mix, and Miss Ellie’s struggle to tell Clayton about her mastectomy, another sensitively handled subplot that’s still ahead of its time. The season’s most disappointing stories: No, not Sue Ellen and Peter’s affair, which at least had the whole fortysomething-woman-gets-in-touch-with-her-sexuality thing going for it. Instead, the last-and-least prize goes to Bobby and Jenna’s “love story,” as dreary a romance as “Dallas” has ever offered.


Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Bag that nag, honey

“The Road Back” delivers the most exciting episode opening in “Dallas” history. Southfork is ablaze when Bobby roars into the driveway in his convertible, leaps into the pool and races into the house to rescue the Ewings. This episode also gives us the classic scene where Pam admonishes Sue Ellen for sipping champagne and Sue Ellen purrs, “Pam, don’t be a nag.” What “Dallas” fan hasn’t dreamed of saying that to Victoria Principal’s character?


I’ve written before about how much I love the scene where J.R. visits Pam and warns her to not call off her divorce from Bobby. The score, the staging, the performances — this is a highlight of the series, not just the season. Best scene runners-up: Bobby’s shocking shooting, Bobby and Pam’s breakup in Thanksgiving Square, Pam slapping Katherine, J.R. accusing Sue Ellen of treating him like a “stud service,” J.R. confronting Sly about her spying and any time Larry Hagman shared a screen with Kercheval.

Worst scene: Lady Jessica picks up a knife in the Southfork kitchen and wonders whether she should chop Miss Ellie’s vegetables or Mama herself. Who thought turning “Dallas” into a horror movie was a good idea?

Supporting Players

Dallas, John Beck, Mark Graison

Good. Bye.

John Beck shines in “Love Stories,” the episode where Mark Graison learns he’s dying and quietly slips out of Pam’s life. This is the most interesting thing Mark ever did; too bad for the underappreciated Beck it came during the character’s farewell. At the other end of the spectrum: Alexis Smith. Yes, she brought admirable gusto to her role as Lady Jessica, but if I wanted to see someone named Alexis camp it up, “Dallas” isn’t the show I’d watch.

Behind the Scenes

And now let us pause to honor Bradford May, whose brilliant cinematography transformed the seventh season into “Dallas’s” most gorgeous year ever. Under his lighting, Southfork was exquisite, Ewing Oil finally looked like a real executive suite and the Oil Baron’s Club radiated class and sophistication. “The May way” elevated the storytelling this season, making it easier to overlook flaws in other aspects of the production. He departed “Dallas” before the season concluded — one of the great blunders on a show that had more than a few — but his contribution to this franchise will never be forgotten.

The year’s other backstage VIP: Jerrold Immel, whose seventh-season version of the “Dallas” theme music remains my favorite. Every time I watch the titles and hear Immel’s synthesized riff (it occurs right when the split-screen sequence starts), I can’t help but smile.


Christopher Atkins, Dallas, Peter Richards

Little boy, blue

I usually don’t complain about good-looking dudes showing skin, but Peter’s Speedo is the worst costume in “Dallas” history. Every time he pranced around in that thing, we were reminded how Christopher Atkins — an otherwise fine actor — was too boyish to play Peter, who is supposed to be so studly, Sue Ellen can’t resist him. (Sue Ellen swooning over Mickey in his jean cutoffs? That I’d believe.) Best accessory: Katherine’s hats, of course.


Was this J.R.’s quippiest season yet? I can’t think of another year where he delivered so many classic gems. To Pam: “I don’t give a damn about you or your happiness, honey. But I do care about what’s good for me.” To Katherine: “Loving always makes me thirsty.” To Edgar: “Once you give up integrity, the rest is a piece of cake.” My favorite, though, is this one, which he delivered to Vaughn: “J.R. Ewing doesn’t get ulcers. He gives ’em.” That one should have hung on a sign above his office door, don’t you think?

What do you love and loathe about “Dallas’s” seventh season? Share your comments below and read more “Best & Worst” reviews.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 159 — ‘Love Stories’

Dallas, John Beck, Love Stories, Mark Graison

Leaving his mark

I don’t remember how I felt about Mark Graison’s death when I saw “Love Stories” as a kid, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t move me now. John Beck’s character was never one of my favorites; his shameless pursuit of Pam while she was still married to Bobby was a turnoff during Mark’s earliest appearances, and then he never grew much once he got together with Pam. Mark was more plot device than person — just another detour on Romeo and Juliet’s road to reunion. Nevertheless, he receives the kind of graceful, dignified exit that eludes so many of “Dallas’s” most iconic figures. (Yes, Pam, I’m looking at you.)

Much of the power in Mark’s farewell lies in how quiet it is. At the end of the second act, Mark confronts his best friend and physician, Jerry Kenderson, about the mystery surrounding Pam’s surprise decision to marry him. “I got some questions that need answering. I think you’ve got the answers,” Mark tells Jerry. Cut to a darkened restaurant, where we find the two men sitting together as Mark absorbs the news that he’s dying. The stillness of this scene is striking: The dialogue is spare, there’s virtually no underscore and Beck and Barry Jenner deliver nicely measured performances. This could easily have been a maudlin moment, but it plays instead like something from real life — a sad conversation between two longtime friends.

We next see Mark toward the end of the episode, when he’s lying in bed with Pam. Now the tables have turned: For the first time since this storyline began, Mark has more information than his fiancée — he knows he has a terminal illness and that she’s marrying him out of obligation, if not pity. He keeps her blissfully in the dark, telling her how much he loves her, how happy she’s made him, how much he regrets the years they didn’t know each other. I would expect a scene like this to be sappy, but Beck’s delivery is so touchingly sincere, I get caught up in the moment. I can’t decide what’s sadder: Mark’s realization that he’s dying, or that his illness is the thing that finally won him the woman he loves. This is why the scene’s punctuation mark — when Mark silently slips out of the sleeping Pam’s room after giving her one last look — is so poignant. He’s not walking away so much as he’s freeing her. Finally, at the end of the episode, Pam is stunned to learn Mark’s plane has exploded, killing him. (Until he returns during the dream season, that is.)

Maybe it’s because I find Mark so heroic in this episode, but Bobby has rarely annoyed me as much as he does in “Love Stories.” His rejection of Katherine after she confesses her affair with J.R. feels unnecessarily brutal. Bobby is correct, of course, when he tells Katherine that her love for him is “sick,” but does he have to be so mean about it? J.R. hits the nail on the head later in the episode when he prefaces his advice for Bobby’s love life by pointing out his brother’s self-righteousness. “You go around telling everybody how to live their lives and setting up rules and regulations that only you can live up to,” J.R. says. This is at least the third time a “Dallas” character has made this point recently; in “Fools Rush In,” Jenna criticizes Bobby’s sanctimoniousness, while Sue Ellen suggests he’s inflexible. Will Bob ever take the hint?

There are some nice touches sprinkled throughout “Love Stories,” including another cute scene where Miss Ellie and Clayton plan their wedding, as well as a nice nod to “Dallas” history when Pam visits Cliff’s offshore oil rig and mentions how proud Digger would be of him. Mostly, though, this episode feels bogged down by storylines that are taking too long to peak. I’m especially bored with the mystery surrounding the death of Clayton’s first wife, which is being doled out to the audience in dribs and drabs. I suppose the show’s writers were hoping to raise doubts about Clayton’s innocence, but did anyone watching these episodes in 1984 believe he was guilty for even a minute?

This storyline yields one inspired moment in “Love Stories,” however. It happens when Jessica confides in J.R. by the Southfork swimming pool, telling him that Clayton inherited his wife’s trust fund after she perished in the fire at the Southern Cross. Jessica then storms off, leaving J.R. alone. Standing on the patio set, Larry Hagman slips his hands in his pockets, looks askance and stage whispers his character’s next line: “So he did torch it. Now the hell am I going to prove it?” It reminds me a little of Kevin Spacey addressing the audience on “House of Cards” — except I’ll take J.R. Ewing’s quick asides over Frank Underwood’s gimmicky fourth-wall assault any day of the week.

Grade: B


Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Love Stories

Aside effect


Season 7, Episode 28

Airdate: May 4, 1984

Audience: 19.9 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Leonard Katzman

Director: Michael Preece

Synopsis: J.R. learns more details about Amy Farlow and pretends to help Peter, whom Sue Ellen bails out of jail. Jessica remains angry with Clayton for selling the Southern Cross. Jenna accepts a marriage proposal from Bobby, who rejects Katherine after she confesses her affair with J.R. When Katherine gets drunk and reveals Pam’s connection to Jerry, Mark confronts Jerry, learns he’s dying and slips out of his fiancée’s life. Pam is later shocked to learn Mark has died in a plane crash.

Cast: Christopher Atkins (Peter Richards), John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), James L. Brown (Detective Harry McSween), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Pat Colbért (Dora Mae), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Brad Harris (Mason), 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), Bert Kramer (Peter’s lawyer), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Denny Miller (Max Flowers), Bill Morey (Leo Wakefield), Dennis Patrick (Vaughn Leland), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Alexis Smith (Lady Jessica Montfort), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Debisue Voorhees (waitress)

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

#DallasChat Daily: Who Deserved to Be in ‘Dallas’s’ Credits?

Dallas, Deborah Shelton, Dusty Farlow, Jared Martin, Jeremy Wendell, John Beck, Katherine Wentworth, Kristin Shepard, Mandy Winger, Mark Graison, Mary Crosby, Morgan Brittany, William Smithers

As much as we all love “Dallas’s” opening credits, they aren’t without their quirks.

Linda Gray and Steve Kanaly weren’t added to the title sequence until the second season, while poor Ken Kercheval had to wait until Season 3 to get star billing. By the time the show was winding down, the credits had become a free-for-all: Lesley-Anne Down was added to the opening titles the moment she joined the show, even though hardly anyone remembers her character, Stephanie Rogers.

Meanwhile, actors who made lasting contributions to “Dallas” — including John Beck (Mark), Morgan Brittany (Katherine), Mary Crosby (Kristin), Jared Martin (Dusty), Deborah Shelton (Mandy) and William Smithers (Jeremy) — were never promoted to the title sequence. (This is just a sampling, of course. Feel free to name additional actors in your response.)

Your #DallasChat Daily question: Which “Dallas” actors deserved a spot in the opening credits?

Share your comments below and join other #DallasChat Daily discussions.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 148 — ‘Eye of the Beholder’

Barbara Bel Geddes, Clayton Farlow, Dallas, Eye of the Beholder, Howard Keel, Miss Ellie Ewing

The natural

At the end of “Eye of the Beholder,” Miss Ellie tearfully tells Clayton that she had breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy years earlier. It’s another moving performance from Barbara Bel Geddes, although when I try to explain why she excels in scenes like this one, I always come up short. Is it her ability to summon tears whenever the script calls for it? Is it her halting delivery, which mimics the way people tend to talk in real life? Or is it some magical, Hagman-esque quality that can’t be described? Whatever the reason, Bel Geddes always makes me forget I’m watching a world of make-believe. She’s amazing.

To be fair, Bel Geddes gets plenty of help from “Eye of the Beholder” scriptwriter Arthur Bernard Lewis, whose unsentimental dialogue ensures Ellie isn’t seen as a figure of self-pity. Here’s how she tells Clayton about her ordeal: “Clayton, I had surgery. I’ve had a mastectomy. The doctor found cancer. They cut off my breast.” This series of clipped, matter-of-fact pronouncements reminds me of Bel Geddes’ wonderful monologue in “Return Engagements,” when Ellie acknowledges her failure to help Gary keep his family together. (“I should’ve fought them. I didn’t. I did nothing.”) Only one line in Ellie’s “Eye of the Beholder” speech gives me pause. After she tells Clayton about her mastectomy, she says, “It affects how I feel about myself, and I know it’s got to be harder for you.” This seems like another example of “Dallas’s” pervasive sexism — and maybe it is — but like it or not, I suspect this is how a lot of women from Ellie’s generation felt.

Regardless, I continue to marvel at “Dallas’s” acknowledgment that Ellie and Clayton, two characters who are supposed to be in their 60s or 70s, are capable of sexual intimacy. Besides “The Golden Girls,” which debuted a year after this episode aired, I can’t think of another show that did more more than “Dallas” to dispel the myth that people stop having sex with they get old. I also appreciate how sensitively “Dallas” handles this material. At the end of the scene, Clayton tells Ellie the mastectomy doesn’t matter to him and sweeps her into his arms. The final freeze frame shows him holding her tightly as Richard Lewis Warren’s soft piano music plays in the background. There’s no big cliffhanger, just two characters expressing their love and commitment to each other. What other prime-time soap opera from this era would be willing to end an episode on such a quiet, dignified note?

Above all, I love how Ellie and Clayton’s storyline mines “Dallas’s” history. “Eye of the Beholder” arrived four seasons after the show’s classic “Mastectomy” episodes, which broke ground by making Ellie one of the first major characters in prime time to get cancer. In “Eye of the Beholder,” the show doesn’t just mention her disease, it turns it into a major subplot and reveals Ellie is still struggling with the same feelings of inadequacy that she did in 1979. Her tearful scene with Clayton harkens to the memorable moment in “Mastectomy, Part 2,” when she comes home after her surgery and breaks down (“I’m deformed”) upon discovering her dresses no longer fit the way they once did.

The show’s history can also be felt in “Eye of the Beholder’s” third act, when Clayton tells Sue Ellen that Ellie has called off the wedding without telling him why. Sue Ellen gently quizzes Clayton and realizes he and Ellie haven’t been intimate with each other. “Don’t give up on her. I don’t think she’s told you everything,” Sue Ellen says. I love this scene for a lot of reasons, beginning with Linda Gray, whose expression lets the audience know that Sue Ellen has it all figured out. This also feels like a moment of growth for Gray’s character. Think back to “Mastectomy, Part 2,” when Sue Ellen reacts to Ellie’s cancer diagnosis by suggesting Jock will reject his wife after her surgery. Four years later, Sue Ellen is wiser, less cynical and more compassionate. When you think about it, if it wasn’t for Sue Ellen encouraging Clayton to not give up on Ellie, Ellie might not have opened up to him and given their relationship another chance. In many ways, Sue Ellen rescues this couple.

“Eye of the Beholder” contains several other nods to “Dallas’s” past, including the warm scene where Bobby and Pam share lunch at the Oil Baron’s Club and reminisce about their wedding. Besides showcasing Patrick Duffy and Victoria Principal’s sparkling chemistry, the scene fills in some blanks for “Dallas” diehards. For example, “Digger’s Daughter” opens with Bobby and Pam stopping at a gas station not long after their spur-of-the-moment wedding in New Orleans. I always wondered: Were the newlyweds coming straight from the chapel? It turns out they weren’t: In “Eye of the Beholder,” we learn the couple spent their wedding night in a motel while making their way back to Southfork. It’s also nice to know “When the Saints Go Marching In” was their wedding music. If that’s not a fitting theme for these two, I don’t know what is.

The other great scenes in “Eye of the Beholder” include Bobby forcing J.R. to sign the paperwork to buy Travis Boyd’s company, which ends with J.R. saying, “I don’t like doing business this way.” Bobby’s response: “Well, I’ll continue your delicate sensibilities some other time, all right?” I also like the scene that introduces Barry Jenner as Jerry Kenderson, Mark Graison’s doctor and confidante; Jenner and John Beck have an easy rapport, making the friendship between their characters feel believable. “Eye of the Beholder” also marks Bill Morey’s first appearance as Barnes-Wentworth’s longtime controller Leo Wakefield, whose weary demeanor makes him a worthy foil for Ken Kercheval’s hyperkinetic Cliff. (Morey previously popped up as a judge in the fifth-season episode “Gone But Not Forgotten.”)

Two more moments, both showcasing Larry Hagman’s comedic talents, deserve mentioning. In the first, J.R. enters the Southfork living room, where Sue Ellen is offering Peter a drink. J.R. accuses his wife of “trying to corrupt that young man,” until he finds out Peter has arrived to escort Lucy to a party. “Oh, in that case you’re going to need a drink,” J.R. says. In Hagman’s other great scene, J.R. takes Edgar Randolph to lunch, where he tells Edgar he wants him to reveal the high bidder in the offshore drilling auction so J.R. can beat the bid. Edgar resists, saying he doesn’t want to cheat the government, but J.R. points out the government will make more money under his scheme. “J.R., you have the amazing ability to make a crooked scheme sound noble,” Edgar says. J.R.’s response: “Edgar, that’s part of my charm.”

For once, he isn’t lying.

Grade: A


Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Eye of the Beholder, Pam Ewing, Patrick Duffy, Victoria Principal

On the march


Season 7, Episode 17

Airdate: January 27, 1984

Audience: 22 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Miss Ellie tells Clayton she doesn’t want to marry him because she had a mastectomy, but he tells her it doesn’t matter. Cliff agrees to sleep with Marilee if she’ll join his offshore drilling venture. J.R. tells Edgar he wants to see the offshore proposals so he can bid higher. Pam realizes Bobby and Jenna are sleeping together.

Cast: Denny Albee (Travis Boyd), Christopher Atkins (Peter Richards), John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Martin E. Brooks (Edgar Randolph), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Pat Colbért (Dora Mae), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Barry Jenner (Dr. Jerry Kenderson), Sherril Lynn Katzman (Jackie Dugan), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Anne Lucas (Cassie), Kevin McBride (George), Bill Morey (Leo Wakefield), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Donegan Smith (Earl Johnson), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

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

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 147 — ‘Some Do … Some Don’t’

Barbara Bel Geddes, Clayton Farlow, Dallas, Howard Keel, Miss Ellie Ewing, Some Do ... Some Don't

Limited engagement

The first scene in “Some Do … Some Don’t:” Donna and Lucy are making muffins in the Southfork kitchen and listening to Miss Ellie and Clayton tease each other about their recent misadventures in Jamaica. Clayton recalls taking Ellie to a French restaurant, where she mistakenly ordered a head of veal instead of a veal chop but ate the whole thing because she was too stubborn to admit her error. Ellie, in the meantime, describes how Clayton accidentally lost his swim trunks on the beach in front of a group of New Jersey schoolteachers. “I would imagine I’m quite famous in Paramus,” he says.

The last scene in “Some Do … Some Don’t:” Clayton brings Ellie home after escorting her to the opening of Jenna Wade’s boutique. The mood is as light and as jovial as the earlier kitchen scene — until Clayton suggests he’d like to stay over so he and Ellie can spend their “first night together.” Suddenly, Ellie becomes rattled, begins to cry and calls off their wedding. “I can’t marry you. I can’t marry anyone,” she says as she runs upstairs. In the freeze frame, Clayton stands at the bottom of the steps, looking more than a little bewildered.

The two sequences serve as the emotional bookends in “Some Do … Some Don’t,” the strongest episode yet from “Dallas’s” seventh season. The opening scene does nothing to advance the show’s storylines, but it’s essential to the episode because it showcases the warm, effortless chemistry between Barbara Bel Geddes and Howard Keel. Together, these actors have charm to spare, and watching their characters gently chide each other allows the audience to feel emotionally invested in their relationship. By the time the hour is over and Ellie has called off the wedding, we can’t help but feel concerned for them.

I also love how “Dallas” doesn’t shy away from the idea that Ellie and Clayton, who are probably supposed to be in their late 60s or early 70s, are capable of having an intimate relationship. I find this subplot even more provocative than Sue Ellen’s May/December romance with Peter Richards. (Frankly, I’m also a little surprised Clayton wanted to sleep with Ellie before their wedding. Who knew the old chap was so modern?) When I watched these episodes when I was younger, I’m sure it never occurred to me to think of Ellie and Clayton as sexual beings, but now it’s not such a hard thing to wrap my head around. Bel Geddes was still a beautiful, vibrant woman when this episode was filmed in 1983, retaining more than a hint of the sauciness she exhibited in her early film roles. Meanwhile, Keel was dashing as ever. In this episode’s final shot, when Clayton stands at the bottom of the Southfork staircase with his hand on his hip, I’m reminded of Clark Gable striking a similar pose in “Gone With the Wind.” I’m sure this was intentional.

Indeed, “Some Do … Some Don’t” is full of flourishes like this. This comes as no surprise: This episode is helmed by Larry Hagman, who always brings an eye for detail to the director’s chair. For example, in one of the Ewing Oil scenes, Bobby tells J.R. about a company he wants to buy. Hagman could easily have started the exchange with J.R. seated in his office, but instead, he opens the sequence with a shot of Kendall at the reception desk, answering a phone call. In the background, J.R. steps off the elevator and walks through the room, stopping by Sly’s desk to pick up his phone messages. As he heads into his office, Phyllis buzzes Bobby on the intercom to let him know that J.R. has arrived, and then Bobby pops into J.R.’s office to tell him about the potential purchase. Maybe this was Hagman’s way of making sure the actresses who played the Ewing Oil secretaries each got a few lines in this episode — too often these performers toil silently in the background — but it nonetheless makes Ewing Oil feel like a real, functional workplace.

More details: The scene where Pam and Mark visit Cliff and Afton at their townhouse begins with Cliff sitting on the sofa, playing a videogame. It’s another small point, but isn’t it just like Cliff to get so wrapped up in a game that he would ignore his guests? (Also: Notice how John Beck seems to be limping as Mark crosses the living room, a subtle throwback to the previous episode, when the character pulled a muscle while playing tennis with Pam.) Additionally, I love when Cliff arrives at the dive bar for another clandestine meeting with Sly and steals the fries off her plate. In another great restaurant scene, J.R. brings Edgar Randolph to lunch at his favorite French eatery, where J.R. threatens to ruin Edgar’s life in one breath and enthusiastically orders him the bouillabaisse in the next. “Oh, you’re just going to love it. It’s really good,” J.R. says with a smile. I dare you to watch this scene without doing the same thing.

The scene where J.R. and Katherine sleep together for the first time is more wicked fun, and so is Pam’s confrontation with Marilee Stone. Pam is clearly out of line when she orders Marilee to stay away from Cliff, but who cares? Isn’t it nice to see Pam exhibit a little backbone and do something besides whine about being torn between Bobby and Mark? It also turns out that Pam and Marilee make good sparring partners. What a shame Victoria Principal and Fern Fitzgerald don’t have more scenes together on this show.

Surprisingly, I also like Sue Ellen and Peter’s scenes in “Some Do … Some Don’t.” Their once promising storyline took a turn for the ridiculous in the two episodes that preceded this one, but heaven help me, I find the couple’s outing to the ice rink kind of charming. I also like when Sue Ellen and Peter run into his classmates from the university and they mistake Sue Ellen for his mother. This feels like the kind of thing that might happen to a woman who dates a younger man, and Sue Ellen and Peter’s reactions to the situation ring true. Sue Ellen, ever the lady, is aghast at the thought that Peter’s friends are gossiping about them, while Peter couldn’t care less. I still have trouble believing Sue Ellen’s attraction to Peter, but at least it’s nice to see the show bring the couple back to a place that resembles reality.

Some more thoughts about Sue Ellen and Peter’s encounter with his friends: Besides Linda Gray, the actor who impresses me most during the scene is Lee Montgomery, who plays Peter’s pal Jerry Hunter. Watch Montgomery’s sly smile when Jerry spots Sue Ellen and Peter; it’s very subtle, but it lets us know he realizes there’s more to their relationship than meets the eye. It’s also worth noting this scene’s two young actresses, who both became science-fiction stars: Kate Vernon played Ellen Tigh on “Battlestar Galactica,” while Claudia Christian was Ivanova on “Babylon 5.” According to IMDb.com, Vernon and Christian are slated to appear together in a forthcoming film called “Chicanery” along with three other “Dallas” actresses: Colleen Camp, who originated the role of Kristin Shepard in 1979; Patty McCormack, who played Mitch Cooper’s friend Evelyn Michaelson during Season 5; and Michelle Scarabelli, who appeared during the 11th season as Connie, Ray’s stalker.

I have a lot of fun finding these connections. I’ve always appreciated how “Dallas” offered steady work to older performers like Barbara Bel Geddes and Howard Keel, but until I started this website, I didn’t realize how many young actors appeared on the show at the beginning of their careers. None of these up-and-comers have become as famous as Brad Pitt, who appeared on “Dallas” a few times in 1987 and will probably always be its most famous alumnus, but it’s impressive to see how so many actors who got their start on the show continue to find work.

This realization has made me watch TNT’s sequel series in a whole other light. Pay attention to all the actors who appear in small roles on the new show. Chances are some of them will still be entertaining us years from now.

Grade: A


Dallas, Linda Gray, Some Do ... Some Don't, Sue Ellen Ewing

Not the mama


Season 7, Episode 16

Airdate: January 20, 1984

Audience: 22 million homes, ranking 5th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Leonard Katzman

Director: Larry Hagman

Synopsis: J.R. sleeps with Katherine, allows Cliff to steal another deal from Ewing Oil and continues to pressure Edgar to unseal the offshore oil lease bids. Jenna celebrates the opening of her boutique by sleeping with Bobby. Clayton suggests he wants to be intimate with Miss Ellie, who is rattled and calls off their wedding. Mark checks into the hospital for tests without telling Pam.

Cast: Denny Albee (Travis Boyd), Christopher Atkins (Peter Richards), John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Martin E. Brooks (Edgar Randolph), Claudia Christian (Peter’s friend), 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), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Sherril Lynn Katzman (Jackie Dugan), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Anne Lucas (Cassie), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Lee Montgomery (Jerry Hunter), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Danone Simpson (Kendall), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), Kate Vernon (Peter’s friend)

“Some Do … Some Don’t” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

The Art of Dallas: ‘Hell Hath No Fury’

Dallas, Hell Hath No Fury, John Beck, Katherine Wentworth, Mark Graison, Morgan Brittany

Katherine and Mark (Morgan Brittany, John Beck) are seen in this 1983 publicity shot from “Hell Hath No Fury,” a sixth-season “Dallas” episode.

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘Who the Hell Were You in Bed With?’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Hell Hath No Fury, Patrick Duffy, Victoria Principal

What a stud

In “Hell Hath No Fury,” a sixth-season “Dallas” episode, Pam (Victoria Principal) awakens in her hotel bed and finds Bobby (Patrick Duffy) getting dressed.

BOBBY: [Sits on the bed] Good morning.

PAM: Good morning. [They kiss.]

BOBBY: Did you, uh, sleep well?

PAM: [Giggles] I sure did.

BOBBY: I love you.

PAM: You know, I’ve missed hearing that in the morning.

BOBBY: Well, you can hear it a lot more from now on. [Rises] I’m going to send a couple of the boys in from Southfork to help you pack.

PAM: [Grabs her robe] Pack?

BOBBY: Sure. Oh, honey, it’ll be a lot easier for you that way. [Pours himself a cup of coffee] You don’t realize it, but you’ve accumulated a lot of stuff here between your own things and Christopher’s.

PAM: [Now out of bed, facing him] Bobby, I’m not coming back to Southfork.

BOBBY: Well, what was last night all about?

PAM: I love you, but sex hasn’t changed anything.

BOBBY: Oh, come on, honey. [Sets down coffee cup] This separation of ours is silly. It’s obvious that we both want each other. [Holds her arms]

PAM: Well, of course I want you. Step out of Ewing Oil and I’ll come home with you right now.

BOBBY: Honey, I would do almost anything for you but I can’t do that.

PAM: That is what’s tearing us apart. As long as you’re obsessed with winning the company, you’ll never be the Bobby Ewing I fell in love with.

BOBBY: [Walks away] Honey, if I start giving up on the things that I try and do now, the Bobby Ewing you knew is going to cease to exist anyway.

PAM: He ceased to exist a long time ago!

BOBBY: [Facing her] Then who the hell were you in bed with last night?

PAM: Bobby, that was just a moment.

BOBBY: A moment? Is that what our marriage is to you now, a moment? You make me feel like I should give you a bill for services rendered.

He grabs his jacket and heads for the door, opening it to reveal Mark (John Beck) standing there with flowers.

MARK: Oh, my timing’s terrific again. Bobby?

Bobby brushes past him.