Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 170 — ‘Shadows’

Dallas, Donna Reed, Miss Ellie Ewing Farlow, Shadows

Frame love

The final scene in “Shadows” trembles with tension. Miss Ellie summons J.R. and Bobby to the Southfork living room, where she tells them she’s going to take down the painting of Jock that has hung there since his death. Ellie wants to make her new husband, Clayton Farlow, feel more comfortable in their home by moving the picture to the Ewing Oil offices. J.R. is adamant the portrait stay put. “You can’t do it, Mama. It belongs here,” he says. Ellie is equally resolute. She says the Ewings have mourned Jock “long enough,” then adds: “It’s time for this family to start again.”

Oh, the drama! You must admire “Dallas’s” ability to generate so much emotion over where to hang a picture, except things on this show are never that clear-cut, are they? Jock’s portrait has become a symbol of “Dallas’s” most essential themes — family, loyalty, tradition. That’s why Larry Hagman’s performance in this scene is so moving. Watch J.R.’s eyes. He looks more frightened than angry. For him, this is another example of how the world around him is changing. Cliff Barnes has become a successful oilman, Mama has married another man, and now Daddy’s picture is coming down. Despite the sharp tone J.R. takes with Ellie, Hagman manages to make his character seem vulnerable. He gets a big assist from Patrick Duffy, who only has three lines of dialogue, but whose expression lets us know how sorry Bobby feels for J.R.

If this scene isn’t as powerful as others involving Jock’s portrait (“Wendell, touch that painting and I’ll kill you where you stand!”), it’s probably only because Donna Reed is delivering Ellie’s lines instead of Barbara Bel Geddes. We watched Bel Geddes act opposite Jim Davis for years, and then we saw her character mourn his for another extended period. Bel Geddes made Ellie’s love for Jock feel real. Reed does a fine job in this scene, but it’s odd to see her standing in front of the picture and referring to Jock as her husband. On the other hand, Reed’s presence also adds something to the scene, at least when we watch it from J.R.’s point of view. After all, Mama must seem like a stranger to him at this moment.

The other moving scene in “Shadows” contains no dialogue. After learning that Bobby and Jenna have set their wedding date, Pam — clad in a satin robe — sits alone in her darkened bedroom. She gets up, walks to the dresser and picks up a framed picture of Mark, then sets it down and reaches for a bottom drawer, where she pulls out a picture of her, Bobby and Christopher. (It’s actually a publicity shot from the seventh-season episode “The Long Goodbye.”) Sitting on the floor and holding the picture to her chest, Pam sobs quietly. Victoria Principal is nicely understated here, and so is composer Bruce Broughton, who scores the scene with soft piano keys. It’s quite lovely.

“Shadows” also marks Christopher Stone’s final appearance as Dave Stratton, a minor character who nonetheless served a useful role. Stratton was Jeremy Wendell’s right-hand man, which made William Smithers’ character all the more mysterious and powerful. Wendell always seemed to be dispatching Stratton to deal with J.R. and Cliff, as if Jeremy had better things to do. I also was intrigued by the hint of attraction between Pam and Dave; I wonder if a romance between those two would have been a better subplot than having her chase Mark’s ghost? In a similar vein, “Shadows” is the episode where Sue Ellen suggests J.R. hire Jamie as a receptionist at Ewing Oil. As much as I like the idea of bringing another Ewing into the family’s workplace, imagine how this storyline might have played out if it were a character with a stronger connection to the show — like Lucy, or maybe Sue Ellen herself.

Speaking of J.R.: There’s a scene where he talks on the phone to a business associate and tells him he’d “like to start drilling around April 15 … for tax reasons.” Sheesh. Doesn’t J.R. know that’s merely a tax-filing deadline? The IRS would care only about income earned before December 31. Likewise, I’m a bit perplexed when Clayton and Ray jet to Houston to check on the Farlow business operations there. The men are supposed to fly home later that afternoon, but Clayton calls Ellie to tell her that he and Ray have decided to stay a few extra days. Gee, doesn’t Ray have to get back to the ranch? And since this was supposed to be a same-day trip, what will they do for clothing and toiletries?

I know, I know. These are very wealthy men. They’ll probably have no trouble acquiring some fresh underwear and a toothbrush, right?

Grade: A

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Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Patrick Duffy, Shadows

Sympathy for the devil

‘SHADOWS’

Season 8, Episode 9

Airdate: November 23, 1984

Audience: 19.2 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: David Paulsen

Director: Gwen Arner

Synopsis: J.R. hires a private detective to learn Mandy’s identity. Sue Ellen urges J.R. to hire Jamie as a receptionist. Clayton confides in Ray. Naldo returns and tells Jenna he wants to see Charlie. Miss Ellie takes down Jock’s portrait, upsetting J.R.

Cast: Michael Alldredge (Steve Jackson), Martin Cassidy (Frank Carp), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Pat Colbért (Dora Mae), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), 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), Fredric Lehne (Eddie Cronin), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Daniel Pilon (Renaldo Marchetta), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Donna Reed (Miss Ellie Farlow), Marina Rice (Angela), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Danone Simpson (Kendall), Christopher Stone (Dave Stratton), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), Kathleen York (Betty)

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

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘It’s Your Choice, Pam’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Long Goodbye, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Choose or lose, honey

In “The Long Goodbye,” a seventh-season “Dallas” episode, Pam (Victoria Principal) answers the door in her hotel suite and finds J.R. (Larry Hagman) on the other side.

PAM: What are you doing here?

J.R.: I want to talk. I think it’s important for both of us.

PAM: Nothing you have to say is important to me.

J.R.: Are you afraid of me?

PAM: I dislike you intensely. But I’m not afraid of you.

J.R.: Well, then why don’t you let me in? It won’t take long. I promise. [She opens the door. He enters.] Well, it must be kind of difficult, living in a hotel.

PAM: Do you really care?

J.R.: No. No, I don’t. You know how I feel about you. I’ve despised you ever since Bobby first brought you home.

PAM: Is that what you came here to tell me?

J.R.: No, I said that so that you’ll know that what I’m about to say is the truth. Now you might find that hard to believe, but I think I can convince you.

PAM: All right, J.R. What’s this all about?

J.R.: [Begins to circle her] Well, I’m talking about the two people you love most in life: Bobby and Cliff.

PAM: [Turns to face him] And Christopher.

J.R.: Oh, yes. Yes, of course. Christopher. He figures into this too. Pam, I know how close you and Bobby are to a divorce, and I’m sure it must be very painful for you. And when you do get that divorce, it’s gonna hurt. [Circles her again] Believe me, I know. But eventually, you’ll pull yourselves together and find happiness of another kind. I know you will.

PAM: How nice! You’re concerned about my happiness.

J.R.: Oh, no. I don’t give a damn about you or your happiness, honey. But I do care about what’s good for me.

PAM: Well, that I believe.

J.R.: Well, then try to believe this: If you divorce Bobby, I’m going to do certain things. [Circling] For instance, I think he and I could live in peace. Now, it might not be an easy peace, but I know that he and I could work together at Ewing Oil in harmony. And with you out of the picture, I think his natural instincts would lead him out of Ewing Oil and into something else. He never cared for it as much as I did anyhow.

PAM: I certainly hope that’s true.

J.R.: And as far as your brother goes, if you divorce Bobby, I’ll leave him alone. If he wants to become the biggest independent oilman in Texas, I won’t stand in his way. And to all intents and purposes, the Barnes-Ewing feud will cease to exist.

PAM: [Snickers] I find that hard to believe.

J.R.: Well, then try this one on for size: If you return to Bobby, all hell is going to break loose. I’ll call off this truce that exists between him and me. We’ll be in a dogfight that will make what went on before look like a love match. And as for your brother, I’ll use every penny at my disposal — and Ewing Oil’s disposal — to destroy him. I’ll bring Mr. Cliff Barnes down for good. And whoever goes down with him, so be it. Now, you’ve known me long enough to know I don’t make idle threats. So I promise you, what I have just said will happen — if you return to Bob. It’s your choice, Pam.

[He exits, leaving Pam looking unnerved.]

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 133 — ‘The Long Goodbye’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Long Goodbye, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

This time, it’s personal

J.R. Ewing is a man with many enemies, but his conflict with Pam is unique because it reveals his otherwise well-concealed insecurities. When Pam arrives at Southfork, J.R. fears she and Bobby will beat him and Sue Ellen in the “race” to produce the Ewings’ first grandson. It doesn’t happen, but Pam manages to solidify her position within the family nonetheless. One by one, she wins the hearts of the people J.R. loves most: first Bobby, then Jock and Miss Ellie and eventually Sue Ellen. Even John Ross enjoys a special bond with Aunt Pam, at least for a while. In J.R.’s eyes, the family’s affection for Pam gives her power. That’s what makes her dangerous.

The final scene in “The Long Goodbye” draws upon all of this subtext, resulting in one of the all-time great “Dallas” moments. It begins when J.R. turns up unexpectedly on Pam’s doorstep and asks to speak to her. She reluctantly lets him in; little does she realize he’s about to get inside her head too. After exchanging acidic “pleasantries,” J.R. lets Pam know that he’s aware of her plans to reconcile with Bobby. He then tells her that if she doesn’t go through with the divorce, he’ll destroy the people she loves most — beginning with Bobby. “I’ll call off this truce that exists between him and me. We’ll end up in a dogfight that will make what went on before look like a love match,” J.R. says.

Everything about this scene works. Leonard Katzman, who wrote and directed “The Long Goodbye,” has Larry Hagman deliver his lines while slowly circling Victoria Principal, making J.R. seem downright predatory. The dialogue itself is some of Katzman’s sharpest, and Hagman seems to relish every syllable. My favorite exchange: Pam mocks J.R.’s interest in her “happiness” and he responds, “Oh, no. I don’t give a damn about you or your happiness, honey. But I do care what’s good for me.” Principal, in the meantime, gives as good as she gets. When the scene begins, she counters Hagman’s winking bravado with steely sarcasm. But as J.R.’s language grows more venomous, Pam’s face falls, her shoulders drop and her eyes shift downward. By the time he slithers out of the room, she looks genuinely rattled — even though J.R. is probably the one who feels more threatened.

This is the kind of “Dallas” scene you can call up on DVD and enjoy any time, although it’s best appreciated when you consider it within the context of what was happening on the show at the time. Three episodes earlier, at the end of “Dallas’s” sixth season, J.R. had an attack of conscience as his battle with Bobby for control of Ewing Oil reached its destructive crescendo. In “The Road Back” and “The Long Goodbye,” the first two hours of the seventh season, J.R. calls a truce with Bobby and tries to patch up his broken marriage to Sue Ellen. It’s always nice to see “Dallas” showcase J.R.’s softer side, but no one wants J.R. go warm and fuzzy. This is why his confrontation with Pam at the end of “The Long Goodbye” is so crucial. It’s the moment J.R. gets his groove back.

It’s worth considering the scene from Pam’s point of view too. More than anything, Katzman designs “The Long Goodbye” to remind us what a terrific couple Bobby and Pam make. The characters share several charming scenes throughout this episode, including one at Southfork where Pam watches as Bobby returns from a horseback ride with little Christopher. Later, Bobby and Pam spend a night out on the town, where they reflect on their many years together. It feels like “Dallas” is paving the way for the star-crossed lovers to finally reunite. So when J.R. turns up on Pam’s doorstep and throws cold water on their reconciliation, it packs an emotional punch.

“The Long Goodbye” also includes a good scene where Afton accuses Cliff of wanting Pam to divorce Bobby because it will free her to marry Mark, thus allowing Cliff, Mark and Pam to form a business partnership. Cliff concedes his ambition often gets the better of him, but adds that he honestly believes Pam is better off without the Ewings. Ken Kercheval’s delivery here is so sincere, I believe every word Cliff says. In another highlight, Clayton tells Bobby that Miss Ellie is counting on him to be Southfork’s caretaker in her absence, presaging the role Patrick Duffy would go on to fill many years later on TNT’s “Dallas.”

“The Long Goodbye” also delivers another fun scene featuring Sue Ellen, who has been on a roll for the past two episodes, striking her husband with one wicked zinger after another. In this episode, J.R. drops by the pool at the Quorum, the hotel where he’s staying with his wife and John Ross during the reconstruction of Southfork. Sue Ellen tells J.R. she plans to go to the ranch to pick out the new wallpaper for their bedroom, along with a new bedroom for herself. “A new bedroom? What’s wrong with the old one?” J.R. asks. “You’re in it,” she responds. It’s a delicious quip, although I must admit: I cringe when Katzman cuts to a reaction shot from little John Ross, who sits there helplessly as his mother explains she will no longer sleep with her husband.

The things this poor kid witnessed during his childhood. No wonder he grew up to become the man he is today.

Grade: A

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Dallas, Linda Gray, Long Goodbye, Sue Ellen Ewing

Zing!

‘THE LONG GOODBYE’

Season 7, Episode 2

Airdate: October 7, 1983

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

Writer and Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Pam considers returning to Bobby, upsetting Katherine, Cliff, Mark and J.R., who tells her he’ll destroy everyone she cares about if she reconciles with his brother. Sue Ellen decides she’ll remain married to J.R., but they’ll have separate bedrooms and separate personal lives. A hopeful Mickey proposes to Lucy and she accepts, but his mood dims when he learns his paralysis is permanent.

Cast: Mary Armstrong (Louise), John Beck (Mark Graison), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), John Devlin (Clouse), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Joe Maross (Dr. Blakely), Timothy Patrick Murphy (Mickey Trotter), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Kate Reid (Lil Trotter), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Danone Simpson (Kendall), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), George Wallace (accountant)

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

The Dal-List: 10 Classic Clashes Between J.R. and Pam

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Julie Gonzalo, Larry Hagman, Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing, TNT, Venomous Creatures

2 for 2?

The confrontation between J.R. and Pamela (Larry Hagman, Julie Gonzalo) in “Venomous Creatures,” one of this week’s new “Dallas” episodes on TNT, was an instant classic. The scene demonstrated how Gonzalo can hold her own against the legendary Hagman, but it also evoked memories of J.R.’s showdowns with the original Pam (Victoria Principal). Here’s a look at some of those moments.

Dallas, Digger's Daughter, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Fight or flight

10. Let the games begin. J.R. and Pam’s first fracas set the stage for all the fights that followed. On the day she arrived at Southfork, he gave her a friendly tour of the ranch – then offered her a bribe to leave: “I’m willing to spend some money now to avoid any inconvenience. But if you insist upon being driven away – which you surely will be – you’re going to come out of this without anything, honey.” Pam ignored J.R.’s offer, but maybe she should’ve taken the money and run. Think of all the pain she would’ve been spared! (“Digger’s Daughter”)

Dallas, Barbecue, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Fall gal

9. Legend of the fall. J.R. and Pam’s most controversial encounter: During her first Ewing barbecue, pregnant Pam retreated to a Southfork hayloft for some much-deserved alone time. Suddenly, a drunken J.R. showed up, crawled (slithered?) toward her and apologized for “going too far” during her early weeks at Southfork. While trying to get away from him, Pam slipped, fell and lost her baby. Some fans remember J.R. pushing Pam, but when you watch this scene, it’s pretty clearly an accident. J.R. was bad, but he wasn’t evil. (“Barbecue”)

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Love and Marriage, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Stud or dud?

8. Stud finder? If there was sexual tension between J.R. and Pam, it was strictly one-sided. When he suggested her demanding job at The Store might prompt lonely Bobby to reclaim his reputation as Dallas’s top stud, Pam declared that Bobby “isn’t standing at stud anymore. … He left the field wide open for you. Of course, from what I hear, that still leaves the field wide open.” J.R.: “Anytime you want to find out, it can be easily arranged.” Pam: “Don’t bother, J.R. Even if I weren’t married to Bobby, you aren’t man enough.” OK then! (“Love and Marriage”)

Dallas, Pam Ewing, Quandary, Victoria Principal

Bag it, J.R.

7. Tea for one. When Bobby “died,” Pam joined Ewing Oil as J.R.’s new partner, bringing the animosity between them to new heights. Within minutes of her first day on the job, J.R. minced no words letting Pam know how he felt about her new career: “I don’t want you in my sight, much less my offices!” Pam didn’t miss a beat. She ignored J.R.’s huffing and puffing, buzzed her secretary Phyllis on the intercom and ordered “a cup of tea – a cup of herbal tea.” Pam then turned to J.R. and asked if he wanted anything. He didn’t. (“Quandary”)

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Nothing's Ever Perfect

Dream on, Pam

6. Truce? In your dreams. After spending months fighting with J.R. at Ewing Oil, Pam decided their war wasn’t worth it and sold him the share of the company she controlled. After signing the papers, Pam told him, “It’s all yours, J.R. I hope this does mean that we can all live in peace now.” His response: “We’ve got nothing to fight about anymore.” Ha! This scene aired six months before Bobby stepped out of Pam’s shower. Looking back, the moment J.R. and Pam made nice should’ve been the first clue our heroine was dreaming. (“Nothing’s Ever Perfect”)

Dallas, Fallen Idol, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Hold the butter

5. Dining with the devil. For purely selfish reasons, J.R. didn’t want Bobby doing business with shady college chum Guzzler Bennett, so J.R. invited Pam to lunch to enlist her help in stopping Bobby and Guzzler’s project. When Pam wondered how she might persuade Bobby to call off the deal, J.R. told her, “You’re a very clever woman, Pam. You’ll think of something.” I also love her cutting response to his attempt to butter her up at the start of the scene: “J.R., please don’t make me lose this good food.” (“Fallen Idol”)

Dallas, Ewing Inferno, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Sting like a bee

4. Slap! J.R. and Pam’s fights almost never turned physical. Emphasis on “almost.” While Pam waited alone for Bobby inside his office one day, J.R. popped in to say hello. She wasn’t in the mood for his insincerities. “Save that nonsense for somebody who doesn’t know you,” she said, then chastised him for his latest extramarital fling. “Climb down off your soapbox, honey,” J.R. responded before accusing her of sleeping around. Before all was said and done, Pam had stomped away, leaving J.R. with a big red mark on his cheek. (“Ewing Inferno”)

Dallas, If At First You Don't Succeed, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Change of tune

3. Get your feud on. When Cliff was arrested for Bobby’s shooting, Pam accused J.R. of framing her brother. Cue J.R.’s eye-roll: “I’m getting kind of tired of that old song. Mean, nasty J.R. beating up on poor, innocent Cliff Barnes.” Pam’s response: “I’ve never believed in the Barnes/Ewing feud, J.R., but now I’m going to join it. I’m going to do everything I can to help Cliff – and I’m not going to rest until all our family scores are settled!” Something tells me Pam’s namesake niece would be proud of auntie here. (“If at First You Don’t Succeed”)

Dallas, Legacy of Hate, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Babble on, honey

2. True lies. Just to mess with her, J.R. sent Pam on a wild goose chase to the Caribbean to find her presumed dead lover Mark Graison. When she found out, she stormed into J.R.’s office and demanded an explanation. J.R. played dumb. “You’re babbling like a lunatic,” he said, adding: “I never liked you a hell of a lot, you know that, Pam? But I never thought you were stupid until now.” Principal is fantastic here – and so is Hagman. Pam knows J.R.’s lying. The audience knows he’s lying too. Yet somehow, we kinda believe him. (“Legacy of Hate”)

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Long Goodbye, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Choose or lose

1. The choice. J.R. rejoiced when Pam left Bobby, but when he found out she was thinking about reconciling with him, J.R. knew he needed to act fast. He showed up on Pam’s doorstep and tried to persuade her that a divorce was in her best interest. “How nice! You’re concerned about my happiness,” she said, sarcasm dripping from every word. J.R.’s matter-of-fact response: “Oh, no. I don’t give a damn about you or your happiness, honey. But I do care about what’s good for me.” As Pam stood with her back to him, J.R. circled her, explaining she had two options: divorce Bobby and bring the Barnes/Ewing feud to an end, or return to him and watch as “all hell [breaks] loose.” Hagman is downright chilling, and as Pam, Principal looks visibly shaken. We can sympathize; in this scene, J.R. scares us too! (“The Long Goodbye”)

What do you think are J.R. and Pam’s best confrontations? Share your choices below and read more “Dal-Lists.”