Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘I Gave You Up Too Soon, J.R.’

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, John Ewing III Part 1, Miss Ellie Ewing

Mama tried

In “John Ewing III, Part 1,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) sits at the piano in the Southfork living room, talking to J.R. (Larry Hagman).

ELLIE: You were a small child, J.R., when I stopped interfering in your life. For some time now, I’ve been thinking that wasn’t a very wise decision. But just because I didn’t say anything doesn’t mean I haven’t watched and seen. You’re power hungry. [J.R., standing behind Ellie, throws back his head and sighs.] You’re like your daddy in that. But he has redeeming qualities. His love for his sons, for one. I don’t know that you have any redeeming qualities, J.R. Is there anyone you love?

J.R.: [Standing at the bar] I love Sue Ellen.

ELLIE: From the day you brought that girl into this house, you’ve neglected her. First with the business, then with other women. You didn’t even bother to be discreet most of the time. I don’t know why she didn’t leave you years ago.

J.R.: Don’t you?

ELLIE: I know money’s important to Sue Ellen – and power. But she loves you, J.R. She always has. You just never gave her half a chance.

J.R.: I don’t wanna talk about this anymore.

ELLIE: Sue Ellen’s in trouble, J.R., and your child’s life is in danger. You must do something about it.

J.R.: [Sips a drink] It’s too late. [Leaves]

ELLIE: I gave you up too soon, J.R. I should have held onto you a little longer.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 28 – ‘John Ewing III, Part 1’

Dallas, John Ewing III Part 1, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing


To the list of recurring themes explored on “Dallas” – sibling rivalry, class warfare, the pitfalls of co-habitation – add this: the dangers of indulgence.

The Ewings enjoy life’s luxuries, but they also indulge each other’s bad behavior. This is particularly true for Sue Ellen, whose drinking problem grows progressively worse during the second season while everyone else politely looks away.

In “John Ewing III, Part 1,” the first half of the two-part season finale, we see how hard it is for the family to break this bad habit.

When Bobby and Pam discover Sue Ellen passed out drunk on the side of the road, they bring her home and Bobby forces the family to finally admit Sue Ellen’s drinking has gotten out of control. Jock and Miss Ellie tell J.R. he must help his wife – yet they refuse to confront Sue Ellen, even after she gets drunk again and tumbles down the Southfork stairs.

“I’ve got to stop wearing those ridiculously high-heeled shoes,” Sue Ellen says while recovering in her hospital room. “My baby’s much more important than fashion.”

“Well, sounds like a good idea to me,” Jock says.

“You must try and be more careful,” Ellie agrees.

I find myself wanting to reach through the screen and shake both Jock and Ellie. Don’t humor Sue Ellen; help her!

Not surprisingly, the family responds to Lucy’s worsening drug habit by repeating many of the mistakes they make with Sue Ellen.

When Lucy shows up on Ray’s doorstep, high-as-a-kite and slurring her words, his first instinct is to sober her up. “You don’t want Jock and Miss Ellie seeing you like this,” he says.

Ray seeks help from Bobby, who takes the same approach. Bobby stands with Lucy in the Southfork driveway and urges her to “go in that house just as if there’s nothing in the world wrong with you.”

By the end of the episode, good-guy Bobby has persuaded Lucy to stop abusing her pills. Yet I can’t help thinking if he really wanted to earn his white-knight bona fides, he’d get his family to kick their habit of enabling each other’s bad behavior.

Grade: B


Charlene Tilton, Dallas, John Ewing III Part 1, Linda Gray, Lucy Ewing, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly, Sue Ellen Ewing

Girls gone wild


Season 2, Episode 23

Airdate: March 30, 1979

Audience: 17.5 million homes, ranking 14th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Camille Marchetta

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: A drunken Sue Ellen falls down the Southfork stairs but neither she nor her unborn child are hurt. J.R., realizing he can no longer ignore his wife’s alcoholism, has her committed to a sanitarium. Lucy is taking drugs, but Bobby persuades her to stop.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Ellen Geer (Dr. Krane), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Peter Horton (Wayne), Dawn Jeffory (Annie Driscoll), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Sherril Lynn Katzman (Susan), Ed Kenney (Senator Newberry), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

“John Ewing III, Part 1” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com, iTunes and TNT.tv. Watch the episode and share your comments below.