Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 31 — ‘Like Father, Like Son’

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Like Father Like Son, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Revealed

Josh Henderson is a revelation in “Like Father, Like Son.” I’ve admired Henderson’s work on “Dallas” from the beginning, but I didn’t know he was capable of the kind of performance he delivers in this episode. In some scenes, I want to reach through my screen and break John Ross in two; in others, my heart breaks for him. This reminds me of the early days of the original series, when we were beginning to discover what J.R. Ewing and Larry Hagman were made of. John Ross is becoming as bad as J.R.; will we one day say Henderson is as good as Hagman? Time will tell, but what a thrilling prospect to consider.

The dramatic highpoint in “Like Father, Like Son” is the scene where John Ross confronts Sue Ellen over her betrayal. This is a two-minute emotional roller coaster, and Henderson brings us along for the whole gut-wrenching ride. We feel everything John Ross does: his rage when he storms into his mother’s house, his incredulity when she accuses him of cheating, his disappointment when he realizes how drunk she is. I especially love when John Ross holds up Sue Ellen’s bottle of booze and says, “Why are you doing this to yourself again, huh?” It’s one of the best lines in Julia Cohen’s taut script because it shows how much John Ross cares about Sue Ellen while inviting us to consider what it must have been like for him to grow up with an alcoholic mother. As much time as I’ve devoted to “Dallas” over the years, I’m not sure that’s something I’ve thought much about until now.

Of course, nothing gives me chills like the moment John Ross slams his hand on Sue Ellen’s kitchen counter and exclaims, “I am not my father!” Henderson delivers the line with such uncontrolled force, it feels like the most genuine thing John Ross has ever said. Indeed, his statement is very true: John Ross loves J.R. and takes pride in being his son, as evidenced by the fact that he runs around wearing Daddy’s wristwatch. But I believe John Ross sees himself as being a better man than J.R. We witnessed this in the first-season classic “Family Business,” when John Ross urged J.R. to return ownership of Southfork to the cancer-stricken Bobby, and we see it again in this episode, when John Ross rejects Candace’s overtures. (Would J.R. have turned down the advances of a comely secretary?) This is why Sue Ellen’s accusations sting her son more than we might have expected.

Yet no matter how much John Ross might want to think of himself as being “better” than J.R, he can’t resist all of his dark impulses: At the end of “Like Father, Like Son,” John Ross takes advantage of Sue Ellen’s relapse by blackmailing Judge Blackwell to send her to rehab against her will. (Blackwell: “You certainly are just like your father.” John Ross: “You hear that enough, eventually you start to believe it.”) Is John Ross doing this because it will help his mother, or because it will make it easier for him to take Ewing Global public and seize control of the company? Perhaps we’ll never know, and maybe in John Ross’s mind, there’s no difference. I’m not sure J.R. saw too many distinctions when he committed Sue Ellen to a sanitarium during the original “Dallas.” Yes, J.R. knew his wife needed help for her alcoholism, but he was also eager to get her out of the way before she spilled their marital secrets to the rest of the family.

Regardless of John Ross’s motivation, I admire Henderson’s willingness to take his character into such dark territory. I also have to hand it to Linda Gray, who fearlessly takes Sue Ellen back to her roots. In the confrontation with John Ross, Sue Ellen stands in her kitchen, drinking openly; there’s no more discreet nipping from the flask. This is not the confident, successful Sue Ellen we’ve come to know; this is the old-school, deeply vulnerable Sue Ellen. She lashes out at John Ross and blames him for her problems (“You did this to me!”), just like she used to do with J.R. I’ve gotten so used to seeing Gray play Sue Ellen as a functional alcoholic, it’s surprising to see the character lose control like this.

The most startling moment: John Ross denies he’s cheating and Sue Ellen screams, “Bullshit!” Did you ever dream you’d see Miss Texas use this kind of language? It’s shocking, and yet it makes perfect sense: The love of Sue Ellen’s life is dead, her relationship with her son is broken, and now she’s back on the bottle. Sue Ellen’s entire identity is slipping away; of course her sense of decorum would go with it. I also love Gray’s reaction shots during this sequence. As John Ross loses control and gets choked up, so does Sue Ellen. Just as our hearts break for John Ross, so does hers. It’s similar to what Gray did in “J.R.’s Masterpiece,” when she became the audience’s avatar and allowed us to express our grief through her. Will someone please give this woman an Emmy already?

Together, Sue Ellen’s relapse and John Ross’s descent into full-fledged J.R.-dom fit with the broader theme of “Like Father, Like Son,” which shows how the “Dallas” characters struggle to break old patterns. We also see this when Ann urges Emma to find a man who will love her and not use her for sex. The pained expression on Emma Bell’s face at the end of this scene suggests Ann’s words have sunk in, but of course Emma later has, ahem, relations with John Ross in exchange for the file he wants on the judge. (After he satisfies her — without ever undressing himself, notably — she tells him, “Now go home and kiss your wife.” This might be “Dallas’s” naughtiest moment ever.) Even Bobby gives in to his baser instincts, using his new position as the railroad commissioner to threaten Nicolas. I suppose I should chastise “Dallas” for once again taking a dim view of public service, but at least Bobby isn’t patronizing Judith’s brothel like most of the other political figures on this show.

There’s much more to like about “Like Father, Like Son,” especially the slow-motion sequence that director Steve Robin gives us at the end of the episode, when John Ross walks away from Bobby after telling him he’s going to use Sue Ellen’s power of attorney in his bid to take Ewing Global public. Unlike Patrick Duffy’s slow-mo walk during Season 2, which felt so triumphant, Henderson’s version is positively chilling. I also love Jesse Metcalfe’s adorable scenes with Dallas Clark (yes, that’s his name), the child actor who plays little Michael, as well as Metcalfe’s charming rapport with AnnaLynne McCord’s Heather. McCord has proven an especially welcome addition to this show. I know a lot of fans watch “Dallas” for escapism, but isn’t it nice to see Heather experience a real-life problem like finding last-minute child care?

This episode’s other highlight: The dueling boys’ and girls’ nights out on the town, although just once, I’d like to see television characters in these kinds of settings have to shout at each other over the sound of the music, the way people do in real-life nightclubs. As my husband Andrew pointed out, the sequence with the women brings a touch of “Sex and the City” to “Dallas,” except one of the ladies is cheating with the other’s husband, and a third is trying to prove it. By the way: Cynthia Addai-Robinson brings an undeniable sense of cool to her scenes as Jasper, Elena’s private eye. How much fun would it be to see her go toe to toe with Kevin Page’s Bum (who is sadly missing from this episode, along with Mitch Pileggi’s Harris)?

Meanwhile, some fans are wondering how Carter McKay, George Kennedy’s character from the original “Dallas’s” final seasons, has a grandson as old as Hunter, who is introduced in this episode as one of John Ross’s childhood friends. As far as we know, Tracey and Tommy, Carter’s children, didn’t have kids of their own. In light of this episode’s boardroom showdown, there’s also confusion in Fan Land about the ownership of Ewing Global and how it’s divided. I, too, wish the show handled these details better, so my only advice to fellow fans — and I know this won’t satisfy many of you — is to just go with it.

My other gripe has to do with Harris’s accordion file. It’s become a treasure trove for storyline purposes, so I wish the show had made it an updated version of J.R.’s infamous “red file” instead; it would have been another nifty way to keep Larry Hagman’s spirit alive. Then again, Josh Henderson is doing a pretty good job of doing that on his own.

Grade: A

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Dallas, Linda Gray, Like Father Like Son, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Slipping away

‘LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON’

Season 3, Episode 6

Telecast: March 31, 2014

Audience: 1.82 million viewers on March 31

Writer: Julie Cohen

Director: Steve Robin

Synopsis: Bobby gives control of his Ewing Global shares to Christopher and, in his new role as railroad commissioner, vows to scrutinize Nicolas’s Texas holdings. Elena hires a private eye to follow John Ross and discovers he’s cheating with Emma. John Ross’s childhood friend, Hunter McKay, gives him the idea of taking Ewing Global public. John Ross gets support from Nicolas, who aims to take control of the company once it goes public, and also Sue Ellen, but when she gets the impression John Ross is cheating with Candace, she votes against her son, incurring his wrath. John Ross blackmails a judge into having Sue Ellen committed to rehab against her will and tells Bobby he has her power of attorney, which gives him her vote to take the company public.

Cast: Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Jasper), Emma Bell (Emma Ryland), Donny Boaz (Bo McCabe), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Dallas Clark (Michael), Jude Demorest (Candace), Juan Pablo Di Pace (Nicolas Treviño), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Julie Gonzalo (Pamela Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Rick Herod (Judge Blackwell), Fran Kranz (Hunter McKay), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Bryan Pitts (paramedic), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Kenneisha Thompson (police officer)

“Like Father, Like Son” is available at DallasTNT.com, Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Drill Bits: ‘Dallas’ Raises Its Ratings Again

Dallas, Elena Ramos, Emma Bell, Emma Ryland, Jordana Brewster, Julie Gonzalo, Like Father Like Son, Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing, TNT

Higher, ladies!

“Dallas” continued to climb in the ratings this week. “Like Father, Like Son,” the most recent episode, debuted to 1.82 million viewers on March 31, up roughly 2 percent from one week ago. The March 31 audience included 559,000 adults between ages 18 and 49, a demographic many advertisers pay a premium to reach.

The previous episode, “D.T.R.,” debuted to 1.79 million viewers on March 24, including 577,000 adults between 18 and 49. However, when DVR users who recorded the episode and watched it a few days later are counted, the “D.T.R.” audience rose to 2.6 million viewers, including 1.2 million adults between ages 25 and 54, an audience TNT targets, and 940,000 adults between 18 and 49.

This is the second consecutive week “Dallas” has raised its ratings since March 17, when “Lifting the Veil” dipped to 1.78 million viewers, a series low.

“Dallas” is averaging 1.99 million viewers on Mondays at 9 p.m. this season, down from 2.7 million viewers in this time slot last year. However, when DVR users are included, “Dallas’s” weekly viewership rises to 2.7 million viewers, making it TNT’s fourth most-watched original drama this winter. The top three: “Major Crimes” (7.4 million viewers), “Rizzoli & Isles (5.6 million) and “Perception” (3.3 million).

TNT also continues to draw hundreds of thousands of viewers with its “Dallas” replays on Monday nights. On March 31, after “Like Father, Like Son” debuted at 9 p.m., TNT showed the episode again at 10 p.m., where it drew another 624,000 viewers.

Happy Anniversary, Darlins

“Dallas” debuted on April 2, 1978. Since then, almost 400 hours of “Dallas” have been produced, including 357 episodes of the original series, 31 episodes of the TNT show and a handful of reunion movies and other specials.

Today also marks Dallas Decoder’s second anniversary. I’m still having fun writing and editing this site, and I hope you’re enjoying reading it. Thanks for your continued support.

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

TNT’s Dallas Recap: ‘Like Father, Like Son’

Dallas, Like Father Like Son, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Back to the bottom

Here’s what happened in “Like Father, Like Son,” TNT’s latest “Dallas” episode:

• John Ross and Sue Ellen clashed. John Ross (Josh Henderson) confronted Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) over her scheme to shut down his Southfork drilling venture, but she was in no mood to hear his griping. “You’re trying so hard to fill J.R.’s shoes, you’ve become drunk on power,” she said. His response: “I may be drunk on power, but you, you’re just drunk.” Later, after John Ross’s childhood friend Hunter McKay (Fran Kranz) — Carter McKay’s grandson — gave John Ross the idea of taking Ewing Global public to raise the capital needed for the Arctic oil deal, John Ross turned to Pamela (Julie Gonzalo) and Sue Ellen for their support. Pamela readily agreed to vote with her husband, and so did Sue Ellen — but only after John Ross assured her that he was no longer cheating on Pamela. “I love my wife,” he said.

• … And so did Bobby and Nicolas. Now that Bobby (Patrick Duffy) is a railroad commissioner, he turned control of his shares in Ewing Global over to Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe). But Bobby wasn’t giving up his fight with Nicolas (Juan Pablo Di Pace), telling him that he’s going to use his new position to put the squeeze on the Treviño businesses in Texas. “Take your best shot, Mr. Ewing,” Nicolas said. Back at the ranch, Bobby’s son and wife were feeling a little more charitable: Christopher agreed to babysit little Michael when Bo (Donny Boaz) left Heather (AnnaLynne McCord) in a childcare lurch, while Ann (Brenda Strong) assured Emma (Emma Bell) that she loves her unconditionally. “With me, there are no strings. And for what it’s worth, in his own way, I know your father loves you very much,” Ann said.

• John Ross courted Nicolas. With Sue Ellen and Pamela on his side in his bid to take Ewing Global public, John Ross went to work on Nicolas. John Ross offered him a 3 percent royalty on all oil produced by the Arctic leases in exchange for Nicolas’s vote. Nicolas agreed, but he had his own plan up his sleeve: He told Elena (Jordana Brewster) that he’ll help John Ross take control of the company — and then he’ll work with Elena to steal it out from under him. Elena warned Nicolas that he was playing “a dangerous game,” and so she proceeded with her own plan to undermine John Ross by hiring Jasper (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), a private eye, to determine if he’s being faithful to Pamela. “If he’s cheating, we’ll find out,” Jasper said.

• Candace courted John Ross. When John Ross and Nicolas went out to a club to talk business, they ran into Candace (Jude Demorest), who flirted shamelessly with her boss. Later, while John Ross was working late at the office, Candace slipped into the dress Harris gave her and tried to seduce John Ross, but he turned her down. “Look, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but you’ve got to start taking ‘no’ for an answer. I’m a married man,” he said. As Candace slinked out of the office, adjusting her dress, she ran into Sue Ellen. “That son of yours is something else,” Candace said, leaving Sue Ellen looking crestfallen.

• Sue Ellen surprised John Ross (again). When John Ross convened the shareholders to present his proposal to take Ewing Global public, Bobby was aghast. Pamela and Nicolas backed John Ross while Christopher — and Sue Ellen — voted no, sending the plan down in flames. That night, John Ross arrived at Sue Ellen’s house and found her drinking. He shouted at her for stabbing him in the back once more, and then he picked up her liquor bottle and tearfully said, “Why are you doing this to yourself again? You’re so busy seeing the ghost of J.R. in me that you cannot stop to take a hard look in the damn mirror.” John Ross left his mother weeping and went to see Emma, telling her he wanted her file on “the judge.” Emma agreed to give it to him — but only after he satisfied her sexually. “Tonight, it’s about my needs,” she said.

• John Ross gained the upper hand. It turned out the file contained photos of Judge Henry Blackwell (Rick Herod) having sex with the prostitutes at Judith’s brothel, which John Ross used to blackmail the judge into signing an order to have Sue Ellen taken to rehab. Later, when the paramedics arrived at Sue Ellen’s house, they found her drunk and put her in the back of the ambulance as John Ross watched. “Get her some help,” he said as the doors closed on his confused mother. Elsewhere, Elena was stunned to receive surveillance video from her private eye that showed John Ross and Emma cavorting. But this was nothing compared to the shock Bobby received when he came home and found John Ross sitting alone in the darkened Southfork living room. John Ross told Bobby that he was forced to send Sue Ellen away — and then he said that now that he has his mother’s power of attorney, he’s voting to take Ewing Global public. “And there’s not a damn thing you can do about it,” John Ross said.

What did you think of “Like Father, Like Son”? Share your comments below and look for Dallas Decoder’s critique later this week.

Dallas Burning Questions: Season 3, Week 6

Dallas, Emma Bell, Emma Ryland, Like Father Like Son, TNT

In control?

Here are the questions we’re pondering as we await tonight’s telecast of “Like Father, Like Son,” TNT’s latest “Dallas” episode:

• How will John Ross strike back against Sue Ellen and Bobby? In “D.T.R.,” last week’s episode, Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) blackmailed Governor McConaughey (Steven Weber) into replacing the corrupt railroad commissioner Stanley Babcock (Currie Graham) with a new appointee: Bobby (Patrick Duffy), who now has the power to revoke John Ross’s Southfork drilling permit. John Ross (Josh Henderson) was furious and vowed to “blow right past” any roadblock Bobby puts in his way. John Ross, realizing Sue Ellen’s role in putting Bobby on the commission, also left his mother a nasty voice mail message, saying, “Now I know I’ve got another enemy I’ve got to look out for. I ain’t going to forget this.” What will John Ross do?

• When will the Rylands strike back against John Ross? Emma (Emma Bell) used incriminating evidence from Harris’s files to blackmail Judith (Judith Light) into giving John Ross access to the Ryland ships for his Arctic drilling venture. Judith wasn’t happy and expressed her frustration to Harris (Mitch Pileggi), telling him it’s time to break up John Ross and Emma. Harris assured his mother that Candace (Jude Demorest), the prostitute posing as John Ross’s secretary, is still laying the groundwork to frame John Ross for a sex crime. Will this be the week Candace puts her plan in motion?

• What’s next for Emma — and her parents? When Ann (Brenda Strong) saw John Ross coming out of Emma’s bedroom, she got into a fight with Emma and kicked her off Southfork. Ann immediately regretted the decision and turned to Harris, who blackmailed CIA agent George Tatangelo (Gino Anthony Pesi) into giving his family extra protection. Eventually, Emma came home and assured Ann she had stopped seeing John Ross, but Ann told Harris she isn’t sure if she believes their daughter. How long can Emma continue to deceive Ann — and will Ann and Harris continue to soften toward each other?

• What will Elena and Nicolas do with their clue? After Cliff (Ken Kercheval) called Pamela (Julie Gonzalo) and failed to mend fences with her, he urged Elena and Nicolas (Jordana Brewster, Juan Pablo Di Pace) to turn his daughter against John Ross. Meanwhile, Nicolas examined J.R.’s autopsy photos and noticed an unusual incision on his chest. Could this be a sign J.R. was receiving chemotherapy before he died, and if so, will Elena and Nicolas finally figure out he arranged his own “murder” and framed Cliff for the crime?

• What’s next for Christopher and Heather? As Christopher and Heather (Jesse Metcalfe, AnnaLynne McCord) grew closer, he learned her secret: She was once married to ranch-hand-turned-roughneck Bo (Donny Boaz) and the two of them have a young son, Michael. Christopher and the boy bonded over their mutual love of Transformers, but Bo didn’t seem very enthused about the idea that his ex-wife is dating a Ewing. Will he cause trouble for Christopher and Heather?

What “Dallas Burning Questions” are on your mind? Share your comments below and watch TNT’s “Dallas” tonight.

New ‘Dallas’ Episode Titles Surface

Ann Ewing, Bobby Ewing, Brenda Strong, Dallas, Patrick Duffy, TNT

What’s in a name?

The titles and airdates for the first six episodes from “Dallas’s” new season are starting to pop up on TiVo and online TV listings. Stop reading now if you don’t appreciate breathless speculation about even the tiniest “Dallas” tidbits.

Here are the titles and dates: “The Return,” February 24; “Trust Me,” March 3; “Playing Chicken,” March 10; “Lifting the Veil,” March 17; “D.T.R.,” March 24; and “Like Father, Like Son,” March 31.

The listings also include a brief synopsis for “The Return,” the season’s first episode: “Sue Ellen plans a wedding for John Ross and Pamela; John Ross and Bobby dispute their joint ownership of Southfork; Elena returns to Dallas with a secret agenda; a mysterious stranger arrives.”

Keep in mind: This kind of stuff is subject to change, so take all of it with a grain of Southfork soil. Nevertheless, it’s worth considering what we might glean from this minutiae. For example, doesn’t “Lifting the Veil” seems like a good bet to be the wedding episode that brings Ray (Steve Kanaly), Lucy (Charlene Tilton) and Afton (Audrey Landers) back to Southfork? As for “D.T.R.”? Urban Dictionary tells us this expression is slang for “define the relationship,” although I wouldn’t put it past those crafty “Dallas” writers to give the acronym its own twist.

Thanks to Dallas Decoder reader Joe Siegler for tipping us off to the titles and airdates.

What do you think of the new “Dallas” episode titles? Share your comments below and read more news from Dallas Decoder.