Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 95 – ‘Anniversary’

There she is

There she is

In the fourth-season “Dallas” episode “New Beginnings,” J.R. and Sue Ellen recall their meeting at the Miss Texas beauty pageant, where he was a judge and she was a contestant. The conversation is warm and nostalgic – until Kristin calls and announces she has given birth to J.R.’s son. This triggers a chain reaction that eventually includes Kristin’s death and J.R. and Sue Ellen’s divorce.

In “Anniversary,” J.R. and Sue Ellen finally get around to finishing the conversation her sister interrupted. It begins when J.R. shows up on Sue Ellen’s doorstep with a bouquet of yellow roses and a video recording of her appearance in the pageant, which occurred on that date 14 years earlier. “It was the first time I set eyes on you,” J.R. reminds his ex-wife. He also tells her that his life “hasn’t been the same” since their divorce. “I miss you,” J.R. says.

This scene isn’t quite as moving as the one in “New Beginnings,” but it’s still very sweet. Larry Hagman and Linda Gray had been working together for four years when “Anniversary” was filmed, but they have the chemistry of a couple who’ve been together much longer. This really feels like a conversation between two people with many years of shared connections and experiences. I also like how director Joseph Manduke shows us Sue Ellen’s television set as it plays the old footage of her pageant appearance. It’s a fleeting glimpse of the poised young woman J.R. described so lovingly in “New Beginnings.” (By the way: He’s lucky Sue Ellen has a VCR to play his cassette. The machines were available in fewer than 10 percent of homes in 1982, when this episode debuted.)

“Anniversary” also features a terrific guest turn from Claude Earl Jones, who portrays J.R.’s buddy Wally Hampton, the Tulsa industrialist who agrees to help J.R. lure Cliff away from Dallas. With his big belly and backslapping demeanor, Jones makes a fantastic Ewing crony. The actor is also one of a handful of performers to play three roles on “Dallas:” In addition to Hampton, Jones portrays one of J.R.’s dirty cops in the second-season episode “Call Girl” and rival oilman Duke Carlisle during the 13th season. He’s perfect for each of these parts.

Overall, “Anniversary” is another solid hour from “Dallas’s” solid fifth season. I also love Miss Ellie’s heart to heart with Lucy in the Southfork kitchen, as well as Lucy’s confrontation with Evelyn, the other woman in Mitch’s life. The scene where Bobby presents Pam with her aerobics studio is a kick too, especially for those of us old enough to remember Victoria Principal’s real-life foray into the physical fitness craze of the 1980s.

The other great moment in “Anniversary” comes during the third act, when J.R. arranges for Donna to catch Ray with Bonnie in that cheap motel room. It’s twisted how J.R. schemes to break up his half-brother’s marriage while trying to bring his own union back from the dead, but with J.R., would we expect anything less?

Grade: B

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Uh oh

Uh oh

‘ANNIVERSARY’

Season 5, Episode 18

Airdate: February 12, 1982

Audience: 22.4 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: David Paulsen

Director: Joseph Manduke

Synopsis: J.R. kisses Sue Ellen and arranges for Donna to catch Ray in bed with Bonnie. Hampton’s job offer tempts Cliff. Evelyn confronts Lucy, who sleeps with Roger. Bobby buys Pam an aerobics studio.

Cast: Barbara Babcock (Liz Craig), Tyler Banks (John Ross Ewing), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Lindsay Bloom (Bonnie), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Danny Dayton (emcee), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Claude Earl Jones (Wally Hampton), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Leigh McCloskey (Dr. Mitch Cooper), Patricia McCormack (Evelyn Michaelson), Pamela Murphy (Marie), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Dennis Redfield (Roger Larson), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Ron Tomme (Charles Eccles)

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