Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 111 — ‘The Ewing Touch’

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Ewing Blues, Miss Ellie Ewing,

Word from a mother

In “The Ewing Touch’s” most memorable moment, Miss Ellie warns Rebecca not to cross her family. “Other people have fought the Ewings before — and they’ve regretted it,” Ellie says. This is a great scene for several reasons, not the least of which is the fun that comes from seeing two old pros like Barbara Bel Geddes and Priscilla Pointer square off against each other. Moreover, I like how the exchange recalls Ellie’s famous admonishment of the cartel, when the tiny matriarch chastised a roomful of powerful oilmen with a similar don’t-mess-with-the-Ewings speech. Ellie’s latest clash pits her against a fellow grandmother, but the confrontation is no less satisfying. Think about it: Rebecca wants revenge against the Ewings because she blames J.R. for Cliff’s suicide attempt. Her vendetta is as irrational as it is unfair. She deserves Ellie’s rebuke.

Of course, as terrific as this scene is, don’t allow it to overshadow the rest of Bel Geddes’ work in “The Ewing Touch,” which is typically wonderful. Most of Ellie’s scenes show how she is resuming her life after Jock’s death. We see her happily toasting Christopher’s adoption, attending a “political meeting” with Donna and, in the most surprising turn, hosting a dinner party at Southfork so her family can meet Frank Crutcher, the gentleman she met at the Oil Baron’s Ball. Frank’s presence at Southfork makes her sons uncomfortable, but Ellie later assures Bobby that she thinks of Frank only as a friend. Nevertheless, the fact remains: Ellie is making room in her life for a man who isn’t Jock.

This transitional phase in the life of the Ewings is symbolized by a moving sequence involving, of all things, Jock’s car. At the beginning of “The Ewing Touch’s” third act, Ellie is quietly surveying the Southfork landscape when Bud, who owns the garage where Jock had his prized Lincoln Continental worked on, arrives and reminds Ellie that the car is overdue for servicing. Bud suggests Ellie might want to sell the vehicle, but she dismisses the idea. “You take it in and do whatever Jock would have done to it,” Ellie tells him. We then cut to a scene of Ray preparing to teach Mickey to ride a horse — a subtle reminder that Ray is following in Jock’s footsteps by taking a younger man under his wing — and then we return to Ellie standing in the driveway, watching as Bud drives away in Ewing 1. The family, like the car, is moving on.

The other highlight in “The Ewing Touch” is the scene where J.R. drops by Holly’s house and pokes fun of the shirtless hunk lounging near her swimming pool. “Traveling with the intellectual set, I see,” J.R. quips. Holly flirts with J.R. — which is a bit odd, given the brush-off she gave him a few episodes earlier — and even suggests he “stretch out” and spend some time with her by the pool. To the surprise of the audience and perhaps even to himself, J.R. rejects Holly’s offer, telling her he’s trying to “stay pure” for his wedding. Besides, he says, “I wouldn’t want to confuse Bonzo.”

The rest of “The Ewing Touch” is a bit uneven. Cliff gets angry at Pam for helping Bobby going into business with the McLeish brothers, even though she had no idea Cliff was interested in a deal with them too. This is a little irrational, even for Cliff. My feelings about Lucy’s storyline are mixed too: I like how she resists her client Bill Johnson’s attempt to date her — it seems she learned a valuable lesson about mixing business with pleasure when she got involved with Roger Larson in the previous season — but the Shirley Temple getup that Lucy sports during her photo shoot is more than a little creepy.

“The Ewing Touch” also offers two casting milestones. First, Tami Barber makes her final appearance as Bev, Lucy’s girlfriend, when she sits silently next to Ellie at Lucy’s final divorce hearing. Second, Josef Rainer makes his first appearance on “Dallas” as Runland, the parts supplier who gives Bobby the run-around. Rainer later appears in the “Dallas: The Early Years” TV movie as Sam Culver, Donna’s first husband, then returns to the show as Mr. Barton, Sue Ellen’s business advisor. His fourth and most famous “Dallas” role is Dr. David Gordon, the plastic surgeon who treats Pam after her car accident. According to TV Guide, the producers of TNT’s “Dallas” hoped Rainer would play Gordon again two recent episodes of the new show, and when they were unable to track him down, they recast the role with Sam Anderson.

Too bad. One actor playing four roles in two “Dallas” series and a movie? That might have been a record.

Grade: A


Dallas, Ewing Blues

Moving on


Season 6, Episode 8

Airdate: November 19, 1982

Audience: 20.9 million homes, ranking 5th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Howard Lakin

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Driscoll gives J.R. permission to pump more oil and leaves town. Miss Ellie invites Frank to dinner and warns Rebecca about crossing the Ewings. Cliff is furious when he learns Pam helped Bobby land the McLeish deal. Christopher’s adoption and Lucy’s divorce are finalized.

Cast: Thomas Babson (Barry Archer), Tami Barber (Bev), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Norman Bennett (Bud), John Carter (Carl Hardesty), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Lois Chiles (Holly Harwood), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Tom Fuccello (Senator Dave Culver), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Nicholas Hammond (Bill Johnson), Fay Hauser (Annie), Alice Hirson (Mavis Anderson), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Kenneth Kimmins (Thornton McLeish), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), John Larroquette (Phillip Colton), J. Patrick McNamara (Jarrett McLeish), Timothy Patrick Murphy (Mickey Trotter), Ben Piazza (Walt Driscoll), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Josef Rainer (Runland), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Dale Robertson (Frank Crutcher), Albert Salmi (Gil Thurman), Paul Sorensen (Andy Bradley), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Harold Suggs (Judge Thornby), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Ray Wise (Blair Sullivan), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson)

“The Ewing Touch” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Drill Bits: ‘Dallas’ Faces Tough Ratings Competition

Bobby Ewing, Call to Arms, Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy, Steven Weber, TNT

No match

“Dallas” felt a ratings pinch on April 8, when TNT telecast back-to-back episodes against tough competition on the broadcast networks.

TNT showed the first hour, “A Call to Arms,” at 8 p.m., an hour earlier than usual. The episode drew 1.9 million viewers, including roughly 760,000 adults between ages 18 and 49, a group advertisers pay a premium to reach.

“Dallas’s” second hour, “Love and Family,” was shown in the 9 p.m. time slot, where it was seen by 2.4 million viewers, including more than 1 million people between 18 and 49. Through last week, “Dallas” has averaged about 2.7 million viewers in its Monday telecasts.

The April 8 “Dallas” double feature was seen opposite NBC’s two-hour “The Voice,” which drew 13.7 million viewers, including more than 6 million between 18 and 49, a season high for that series. Meanwhile, the second half of “Love and Family” faced CBS’s coverage of the NCAA basketball championship, which averaged 20.7 million viewers between 9:30 and 11 p.m.

“Dallas” continues to perform well with DVR users too. Last week’s telecast, “Let Me In,” attracted 2.6 million viewers on April 8, but during the next three days, DVR users boosted the audience to 3.6 million. This included 1.3 million adults between 18 and 49, a 16 percent increase over the previous week, and 1.5 million between 25 and 54, a 9 percent jump.

Et Cetera

• TNT has made no announcements, but Patrick Duffy says “Dallas” will return for a third season, according to a report in yesterday’s New York Daily News.

• “Lost” alum Sam Anderson will play Dr. David Gordon, Pam’s plastic surgeon, during the two-hour “Dallas” season finale, which will TNT will show Monday, April 15, from 9 to 11 p.m. Anderson replaces Josef Rainer, who played Gordon in 1988. Producers couldn’t locate Rainer to reprise the role, TV Guide reported yesterday.

• Dallas Divas Derby’s second brackets competition is down to its final two contestants: Sue Ellen Ewing (Linda Gray) and Kristin Shepard (Mary Crosby). Vote for your favorite through April 15.

A Dallas Decoder Programming Note

I’ll be posting a little less regularly through the rest of this week. My goal is to post critiques for “A Call to Arms” and “Love and Family,” along with my selections for Scene of the Day, sometime between now and April 15. I’m sorry I can’t be more specific.

Until then, please keep the conversations going in the comments section of my recent posts. I’ll do my best to approve comments as they come in, but I probably will be unable to chime in as often as I’d like. Please know how much I appreciate your contributions, though. I hope things will get back to normal next week. Thanks for understanding.

“Drill Bits,” a roundup of news about TNT’s “Dallas,” is published regularly. Share your comments below.

Drill Bits: ‘Dallas’ Holds Steady in the Ratings

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Guilt and Innocence, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Patrick Duffy, TNT

Steady fellas

“Dallas’s” March 25 telecast, “Guilt and Innocence,” was seen by 2.6 million viewers, including roughly 890,000 adults between ages 18 and 49, a demographic that advertisers pay top dollar to reach.

The numbers are down slightly from the March 18 telecast, “Ewings Unite!,” which scored 2.7 million viewers, including 1 million people between 18 and 49. Like all new “Dallas” episodes, “Ewings Unite!” received a healthy boost from people who record shows digitally and watch them later. By the end of last week, DVR users had boosted the “Ewings Unite!” audience to 3.5 million.

What does all this mean for “Dallas’s” future? It’s hard to say, but consider this: Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks, recently told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the show’s numbers are in line with what TNT promised advertisers.

Koonin, who says he’s “incredibly proud” of the show, knew the risk of bringing it back in the winter after its successful run last summer, the Journal-Constitution reported. He also told the newspaper he’s a longtime “Dallas” fan who recalled taping the show on a new-fangled VCR in 1983 so he could take his future wife on a date.

New Album from Landers

Audrey Landers, Dallas, Dallas Feels Like Home

Afton sings!

Here’s something I’m delighted to write: Audrey Landers, fresh off her sensational guest spot in “Guilt and Innocence,” has dropped a new album full of the songs she wrote and performed on the original “Dallas”!

The album, “Dallas Feels Like Home,” is available from iTunes and includes favorites like “Steal Me Away” and “Let Me Down Gently.” Five of the album’s songs comprise my latest “Dal-List,” which honors Afton Cooper’s greatest hits.

Paging Dr. Gordon

In case you missed it: “Dallas” plans to bring back Dr. David Gordon, TV Guide reported this week. “Dallas” diehards know Gordon, the plastic surgeon who treated Margaret Michaels’ version of Pam, was seen in “Carousel,” the 12th season premiere. He was played by Josef Rainer, who previously portrayed Mr. Barton, one of Sue Ellen’s lingerie industry associates, as well as Sam Culver in “Dallas: The Early Years.”

J.R. Ewing: TV’s Top Villain

Speaking of TV Guide: The magazine ranked J.R. as television’s top villain in last week’s issue. He beat “The Simpsons’” Mr. Burns, “The Fugitive’s” one-armed man and Al Swearengen, the anti-hero of “Deadwood,” portrayed by “Dallas” alum Ian McShane. TV Guide also ranked J.R. and Sue Ellen as one of TV’s all-time best couples.

And while we’re on the subject of Larry Hagman: In a new documentary about the Starck Club, a famed real-life Dallas nightclub, the actor recalled how he unintentionally scuttled a planned drug bust. The Dallas Morning News has the story.

Bottoms up

Product placement alert: TNT has struck a deal with MillerCoors to incorporate the beer company’s beverages into the cable channel’s programming, Variety reports. So grab your Microsoft Surface, pop open a Miller Lite and do your part to support “Dallas.”

“Drill Bits,” a roundup of news about TNT’s “Dallas,” is published regularly. Share your comments below.

‘Who Killed J.R.?’ New Suspects in ‘Dallas’s’ Mystery

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Katherine Wentworth, Ken Kercheval, Larry Hagman, Morgan Brittany, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

“Dallas’s” latest episode, “Guilt and Innocence,” didn’t offer many new clues in the “Who Killed J.R.?” mystery, but that doesn’t mean we can’t update our initial list of potential suspects. I’ve dropped Mitch Lobell and Carlos Del Sol (Richard Dillard, Castulo Guerra) as suspects since each character seems too obscure, along with Kristin Shepard (Mary Crosby), who seems too dead. Of course, any of them could be restored to the list as more clues emerge. I’ve also thrown some new names into the mix and divided everyone into three categories: “more likely” to be responsible for J.R.’s death, “less likely” and “who knows?”


Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, TNT, Who Killed J.R.?


J.R. Ewing. I’ve always felt with few exceptions, there’s only one character in the “Dallas” mythos who is “big” enough to take out J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) – and that’s J.R. himself. No one believes he would turn suicidal, but what if he was terminally ill and decided to take advantage of his illness by hiring someone to shoot him, then framing one of his enemies for his “murder?” This might be where Carlos comes into play; maybe the Mexican billionaire helped J.R. pull it off. How do I explain the stunned expression on J.R.’s face before he was shot? I can’t. But I also can’t explain how Miss Ellie managed to take half of Southfork away from Bobby.

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Ken Kercheval, TNT, Who Killed J.R.?


Cliff Barnes. Until recently, I wouldn’t have considered Cliff (Ken Kercheval) a likely suspect. He’s too pivotal to “Dallas.” But at the end of last week’s episode, “Ewings Unite!,” Cliff ordered henchman Roy Vickers to blow up the Ewing Energies methane rig, even though it endangered pregnant daughter Pamela, who ended up losing her unborn twins in “Guilt and Innocence.” This is even more heinous than when Cliff made Frank kill himself a few episodes ago. Now that Cliff has become a monster, it’s hard to imagine the show redeeming him. Maybe it won’t bother. Having him turn out to be J.R.’s killer might be the final nail in Cliff’s coffin.


Dallas, Harris Ryland, Mitch Pileggi, TNT, Who Killed J.R.?


Harris Ryland. Harris (Mitch Pileggi) hates the Ewings, but his ire has always been directed at Bobby and Ann. So why would he want to kill J.R.? Harris offered a clue in “Ewings Unite!” when he tells Vickers, his henchman, that he and Cliff want to “grind the Ewing clan under our boot heels. Now that J.R.’s gone, it’s gotten a whole lot easier.” Still, that doesn’t feel like a strong enough motive to me. There’s also this: “Dallas” has spent a lot of time grooming Pileggi as its new marquee villain, even elevating the actor to the opening credits. What kind of future would Pileggi have on the show if Harris turns out to be J.R.’s murderer?


Dallas, Katherine Wentworth, Morgan Brittany, TNT, Who Killed J.R.?


Katherine Wentworth. Yeah, I know. In “Ewings Unite!,” Bobby told Christopher, “Katherine’s dead.” That’s why I’m convinced she isn’t. Think about it: “Dallas” sometimes takes a pretty selective view of its past. (This isn’t always a bad thing.) So for Bobby to mention Katherine – by name – might mean something. One theory: What if Pam died and Katherine (Morgan Brittany) “stole” her identity? Suppose J.R., in his search for Pam, uncovered this scheme, so Katherine killed him to prevent her secret from getting out. Brittany told Dallas Divas Derby she hasn’t had contact with the show’s execs. Doesn’t mean that call won’t eventually come, right?

Dallas, Dr. David, Gordon, Josef Rainer, TNT, Who Killed J.R.?


Dr. David Gordon. At the end of “Guilt and Innocence,” Bobby received an update on the whereabouts of Pam, for whom J.R. was searching before his death. Bobby read the report aloud: “1989, with an unnamed man, presumably her husband, entered Abu Dhabi. Passports expired. No record of future travel.” Could this mystery man be Dr. David Gordon (Josef Rainer), the plastic surgeon who treated Pam after her accident? TV Guide reports “Dallas” will soon bring back Gordon. What if it turns out he married Pam, only to conspire with Cliff to bilk her out of her share of Barnes Global? If J.R. was on to him, could Gordon have killed J.R. to cover his tracks?

Dallas, Elena Ramos, Jordana Brewster, TNT, Who Killed J.R.


Elena Ramos. OK, this one requires explanation. We know the new “Dallas” loves to surprise viewers. I don’t know about you, but I almost never see the show’s twists coming. So what would be more shocking than if J.R.’s killer turned out to be a member of the core cast? I think we can rule out any of the Ewings, as well as Pamela, since she isn’t enough of a daddy’s girl to kill his oldest enemy. But what about Elena (Jordana Brewster)? She has no known motive, but she’s the only current “Dallas” leading lady who hasn’t shot someone yet. (Ann shot Harris, Pamela shot Tommy, Sue Ellen shot J.R. in ’88). Isn’t it time Elena had her turn at the trigger?

Who done it? Share your theories below and read more posts on Dallas Decoder’s “Who Killed J.R.?” page.