Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 197 — ‘Mothers’

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Martha Scott, Mothers, Patricia Shepard

Lives of mothers

“Mothers” brings back Patricia Shepard, who visits Southfork and is stunned to discover her daughter Sue Ellen is being treated for alcoholism. Patricia’s arrival allows “Dallas” to delve into Sue Ellen’s past, drawing a connection between her troubled childhood and the addiction that now overwhelms her. The episode also examines the prickly relationship between Miss Ellie and Patricia, two women who are united by the marriage of their children but who otherwise have very little in common. It all adds up to another hour that allows the women of Southfork to step into the spotlight. Just think: It took only nine seasons for them to get there.

This is an episode with many interesting moments, beginning with Sue Ellen’s visit to Dr. Gibson, a therapist at the sanitarium where she’s receiving treatment. Linda Gray’s dialogue reveals new information about her character — we learn Sue Ellen’s father was an alcoholic too — epitomizing new producer Peter Dunne’s determination to dig deeper into familiar figures like Sue Ellen Ewing. The Gibson character also is put to good use. She’s full of insight, refusing to allow Sue Ellen to blame other people for her problems. “It doesn’t matter whose fault it is. What matters is where you go from here,” Gibson says. The good doctor is played by Bibi Besch, a wonderful character actress who makes everything she appears in better. What a shame this is Gibson’s only “Dallas” appearance while Dr. Ellby — Sue Ellen’s creepy, glass-eyed therapist during the early seasons — logged 19 (!) episodes.

The scenes involving Ellie and Patricia reveal a lot too. Here are two women who couldn’t be more different. Earthy Ellie allows her children to make their own decisions — sometimes to a fault. In this episode, she wisely tells Ray he must make up his own mind about whether or not to sell his shares of Ewing Oil to Jeremy Wendell, but she also says nothing when J.R. causes a scene at breakfast, complaining about how his family is selling him out to Wendell. Contrast this with that master meddler, the status-obsessed Patricia. She pries J.R. for information about his marital life — even getting him to admit he’s had affairs (notably, she gives him a pass for this) — and later visits Sue Ellen and vows to “straighten out” her daughter’s marriage. When Sue Ellen points out that she’s always run third to J.R.’s work and his mistresses, Patricia snaps, “I didn’t raise my daughters to run third. I raised winners.” This lady is like Jock Ewing in a skirt, is she not?

Patricia and Ellie’s direct interaction tells us a lot too. Note how warmly Ellie greets Patricia when she arrives at Southfork. Only after Patricia has exited the scene do we learn the truth: “That woman’s never been anything but trouble,” Ellie tells Clayton. Mama is nothing if not a gracious hostess. It’s also worth noting that Patricia acts like she has no idea her daughter has a drinking problem, even though the Shepard matriarch’s most recent visit to the ranch came during the third season, right after Sue Ellen’s previous sanitarium stay. Perhaps this is an oversight on behalf of Dunne and the rest of the writing team, but it seems just as likely Patricia is suffering a classic case of denial. Consider what happens at the end of “Mothers,” when Patricia lashes out at Ellie. While Mama is talking about how Sue Ellen needs to learn to deal with her problems on her own, Patricia is focused on fixing her daughter’s marriage. Patricia simply has her own set of priorities.

There’s a lot more to like about “Mothers,” including the opening scene, when J.R. urges the Oil Baron’s Ball organizers to honor Bobby with the Oilman of the Year Award, as well as the final shot, when Mama overhears J.R. lamenting how he failed to keep the family business together. This episode also plants the seeds for storylines that will take on greater significance later in the season: Clayton takes a call from an associate who reports bad business news, Mark hires his friend Dr. Jerry Kenderson to run his research clinic, and Jack is followed by someone who keeps snapping photos of him. Does the stalker work for J.R.? Jeremy? Someone else? We won’t find out for several episodes, and even though the resolution ends up being disappointing, you can’t deny the mystery gets off to an intriguing start.

Mostly, though, “Mothers” belongs to the women, especially Barbara Bel Geddes and Martha Scott. Both actresses are class acts, and it’s fun to watch them go toe to toe with performances that are nuanced, subtle and above all, believable. These are the kinds of mature roles we rarely see on television today. Make no mistake: If Ellie and Patricia were characters on a contemporary soap opera like “Empire” or “Scandal,” they’d probably be reduced to trading cheap quips and dirty looks. Then again, what are the chances either of those shows would give meaningful roles to a couple of veteran actresses like Barbara Bel Geddes and Martha Scott?

Grade: B

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Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Miss Ellie Ewing, Mothers

Mama’s here

‘MOTHERS’

Season 9, Episode 6

Airdate: October 25, 1985

Audience: 19.5 million homes, ranking 8th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Hollace White and Stephanie Garman

Director: Michael Preece

Synopsis: Patricia Shepard, Sue Ellen’s mother, arrives and vows to repair her daughter’s marriage. Pam and Miss Ellie each decide to sell their shares of Ewing Oil to Wendell, but Ellie gets cold feet when she realizes it will devastate J.R. Mandy leaves town. Mark decides to fund a medical research institute and asks Jerry to run it.

Cast: John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Farlow), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Bibi Besch (Dr. Gibson), Donald Craig (Oil baron), Tony Garcia (Raoul), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Joshua Harris (Christopher Ewing), Jenilee Harrison (Jamie Ewing Barnes), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Barry Jenner (Dr. Jerry Kenderson), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Hal Landon (Oil baron), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Karen Radcliffe (Barbara), Dack Rambo (Jack Ewing), Carol Sanchez (Angela), Martha Scott (Patricia Shepard), William Smithers (Jeremy Wendell)

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

The Dallas Decoder Interview: Lee Majors

Lee Majors

Lee Majors (Photo by Dana Patrick)

Lee Majors is coming to “Dallas”! Majors, the iconic star of “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Fall Guy,” will begin a multi-episode guest stint on the TNT drama on Monday, March 25. (DVR alert: Majors will also appear on Fox’s “Raising Hope” later that week.) I was honored to speak to him recently about what it’s like to tangle with the Ewings.

Let me begin by telling you I that had two childhood obsessions growing up: The first was “Dallas,” but the second was “The Six Million Dollar Man.”

Oh, you put me in second place?

Well, actually, you came first because your show came first. So I spent a lot of my childhood running around the backyard in slow motion making the bionic sound effect.

As long as you didn’t jump off a barn or something and break anything.

No, never tried that.

I’ve heard that story before.

Oh, I’m sure you have. So tell me: How did you get the role on the new show?

I think Larry [Hagman] did it.

The Man

The Man

No kidding. How did that happen?

Well, Larry and I were friends for many, many years. We lived a couple of doors down from each other in Malibu. We used to see each other all the time on the weekends when we were both trying to recover from our week of work. And when TNT picked up “Dallas” for a second season, I was surprised because he gave me a call and said, “Lee, guess what? They picked us up and for 15 [episodes]!” He was like a little kid. He said, “You’ve got to do one.”

Oh, wow.

So I said, well, if it happens, it happens. I didn’t hear from him for awhile because we weren’t neighbors anymore, but he did text me about a month before he passed away and said, “I’m working on it.”

Wait, J.R. Ewing sent Steve Austin a text?

Yeah. All it said was, “I’m working on it.” I assumed he meant the show. So while I was at Larry’s memorial, I ran into Michael Robin, the exec producer, and he said, “Yeah, Larry mentioned you.” And I said, “That was sweet of him.” And that was about it, and then a month later, my agent got a call about availability. So I kind of point to the sky and say, “Thank you, Larry. Thank you, J.R.”

What kind of neighbor was Larry Hagman?

Larry was out there. All fun and games. You never knew what he was going to do next. He didn’t talk on Sundays because he once did a play and lost his voice. The doctor said, “Well, just don’t talk on Sunday.” So he did that, but he kept it up for years. He’d have a party at his place on the beach, but he wouldn’t talk. He would serve you champagne with a wink or write things down on a chalkboard or something. [Laughs] But he was just a great guy. Everybody loved Larry.

And you mentioned his memorial service. You went to the one at Southfork, right?

Yeah. That was the first time I’d been out there. I didn’t get to see much of the ranch, but it was wonderful. It was just happy. It was the way he wanted it. They had big screens up with all of his past endeavors. It was just all very cool.

Well, what can you tell us about your character on “Dallas”?

I can tell you a little. His name is Ken Richards and he had a past relationship with Sue Ellen. We were probably lovers or had an affection for each other. And then she calls me out of the blue for a meeting, and she needs a little help in a manner that I can’t discuss. [Laughs]

This sounds like so much fun. All I’ll say is you better be nice to Sue Ellen.

I’m very nice.

Oh, good!

If I want to survive I have to be. [Laughs]

Well, on this show, being bad is sometimes the way to get ahead.

Yeah, I know. I tuned into some back shows. I’ve been trying to keep up with who’s doing who and what for. That Josh [Henderson], he’s in and out of the bed every minute. And I was shocked when Brenda Strong’s character shot Harris. [Laughs] I saw her on the set yesterday and I said, “Are you still in jail? What’s happening?” And she says, “I don’t know! I’m trying to get bail.” I said, “You can’t get bail. You’ve been convicted already!”

The show seems very top-secret.

Well, they leave every show with a cliffhanger, so if you talk about the next episode, you get in trouble. They’re very tight-lipped. They gave a script to me and it’s got my name blazed across every page so that if they see one somewhere, they’ll know where it came from. You’re supposed to shred them.

Have you gotten to know the other cast members?

Some of the younger ones I haven’t worked with. I did do a scene with Jesse [Metcalfe] yesterday. There was a little scuffle is all I can say. [Laughs] I’ve known Patrick [Duffy] for a long time. Of course, Linda [Gray] and I hadn’t met, but when we did our first scene there was a chemistry there, which was good. And she was very happy with it and they seem to be very happy with me and the character so we’ll see what happens.

You know you’re not the first bionic secret agent to have a fling with Linda Gray.

I hope the first wasn’t Lindsay Wagner! [Laughs]

[Laughs] I was referring to Monte Markham, who was Sue Ellen’s college sweetheart and a bionic bad guy on your show.

I remember that, yeah.

And Martha Scott played your mom on “The Six Million Dollar Man” and Sue Ellen’s mom on “Dallas.”

You’re decoding everything here.

Sorry, I can’t help myself.

Do you know, though, that Lindsay Wagner is Linda Gray’s niece?

No kidding?

Yeah. My agent, who represented Lindsay for awhile, told me that when I went to do the first episode. And actually, she brought it up too. So there’s a tidbit that’s unique.

It’s very “Dallas”! Everyone is related to everyone else. Speaking of which: Were you a fan of the original show?

Yeah, but it was on during the ’80s when I was busy doing “The Fall Guy.” And of course, I’d see Larry on the weekends but we never talked business. We never talked about our shows. We just wanted to forget it for the weekend. When you’re working all that week, I never got to watch his show and he probably never watched mine.

It would’ve been great if you two could’ve done “Dallas” together. Do you feel his presence on the set?

Yeah. They still have his trailer with his name on the door and his name is still on the call sheet every day. You can certainly feel it. And I do because I thank him every day for the job.

So I’ve got to ask: Would you want to see “The Six Million Dollar Man” come back with the original cast, the way “Dallas” has?

No. [Laughs] Unless I could play Oscar Goldman.

You don’t want to be Steve again?

No. I would like to sit in an office and point my finger and talk on the phone: “Now, Steve, I want you to go here….”

Share your comments below and read more interviews from Dallas Decoder.

The Dal-List: Classic ‘Dallas’s’ 5 Most Meddlesome Mamas

Dallas, Judith Brown Ryland, Judith Light, TNT, Venomous Creatures

Boss mom

Judith Light is making quite a mark on TNT’s “Dallas,” where her cunning character, Judith Brown Ryland, exerts enormous influence over equally sadistic son Harris. Of course, Mrs. Ryland isn’t this franchise’s first meddlesome mama. Here’s a look at five others from the original “Dallas” and its “Knots Landing” spinoff, ranked in order from least intrusive to most.

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Miss Ellie Ewing

Boys’ mama

5. Miss Ellie Ewing. Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) spent most of her time quietly fretting about her sons and their wives, but occasionally she couldn’t help but stick her nose in their business. Like the time she called out J.R. for allowing Sue Ellen’s drinking to spiral out of control. Or the time she suggested the newly divorced Sue Ellen stop dating Cliff. Or the time she pressured Ray – gently, of course – into confessing his financial failings. Did the Ewings mind Miss Ellie’s interference? I doubt it. I mean, look at that woman’s kind face. How could anyone ever get mad at Mama?

Dallas, Priscilla Pointer, Rebecca Barnes Wentworth

Mommy’s revenge

4. Rebecca Wentworth. For a long time, Rebecca (Priscilla Pointer), Cliff and Pam’s mom, wasn’t meddlesome enough: She abandoned her kids when they were little and allowed them to believe she was dead. Once Cliff and Pam grew up, Rebecca re-entered their lives and tried to make up for lost time, but she overcorrected a bit, like the time she told Cliff to stop seeing Sue Ellen. Later, while Cliff was recovering from a suicide attempt, Rebecca browbeat him into resuming his war against the Ewings, even buying him his own oil company so he’d have a platform to launch his attacks. Gee, thanks Mom.

Abby Cunningham Ewing Sumner, Dallas, Donna Mills, Knots Landing

Maternal affairs

3. Abby Cunningham. Abby (Donna Mills) was a pretty good mom, although sometimes she was more smothering than mothering. Remember when she ordered daughter Olivia to stop seeing Harold Dyer, just because he was in the mob? Or how about when Olivia suspected Abby of killing her crush, Peter Hollister? Abby didn’t really do it, but the fact that Olivia thought Abby was capable of murder tells you what kind of mom she could be. Then there was the time Abby flipped out after discovering Olivia was using drugs. Oh, Abby. It was the ’80s. Girls just wanted to have fun!

Dallas, Martha Scott, Patricia Shepard

Mother wants best

2. Patricia Shepard. This one warrants a psychological dissertation. Patricia (Martha Scott), mother to Sue Ellen and Kristin, only wanted the best for her girls – and I mean that literally. When J.R. was courting Sue Ellen, Patricia didn’t think he was rich enough. Of course, once they wed, Patricia came around – so much so that when Sue Ellen began to lose interest in her marriage, Patricia began grooming Kristin to replace her as the next Mrs. J.R. Ewing. Weird! Later, Patricia softened and even made amends with Sue Ellen – but that turned out to be part of Pam’s dream. Thanks for nothing, Pam.

Alexis Smith, Dallas, Lady Jessica Montford

Serial mom

1. Lady Jessica Montford. This loony lady could out-meddle them all. Jessica (Alexis Smith) was the biological mother of Dusty Farlow, although he grew up believing she was his aunt (don’t ask). Jessica committed all manner of evil in Dusty’s name, including murdering a bunch of people to ensure he’d inherit a big chunk of Westar stock. Her killing spree was pretty heinous, but if you ask me, Jessica’s vilest crime was the time she knocked out Miss Ellie and stuffed her in a car trunk. Sorry Lady Jessica, but when you did that, you broke Dallas Decoder’s cardinal rule: Never mess with Mama!

Which “Dallas” mamas do you consider most meddlesome? Share your choices below and read more “Dal-Lists.”

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘Mama, I Remember Everything’

Dallas, Kristin Affair, Kristin Shepard, Martha Scott, Mary Crosby, Patricia Shepard

Coded language

In “The Kristin Affair,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Patricia and Kristin (Martha Scott, Mary Crosby) return to their hotel after having dinner with the Ewings at Southfork.

PATRICIA: J.R.’s such a fine man. The way he stands behind Sue Ellen. [Kristin takes Patricia’s shawl as the older woman puts her keys in her purse] Lately, that hasn’t been easy. Kristin, someday you’ll find a man like that just for yourself.

KRISTIN: I think that’s possible, Mama. Quite possible.

PATRICIA: Now, I’m going to leave tomorrow – and you’ll be entirely on your own. [Sits on the sofa, places her purse on the coffee table] I know I can trust you to remember all the things I’ve taught you, like watching for the right opportunity.

KRISTIN: Mama, I remember everything you’ve taught me. [Sits next to Patricia]

PATRICIA: So then wherever I am, I can be relaxed knowing that you’ll never do anything to harm your sister. I’m worried about Sue Ellen. Keep an eye on her, dear. Keep me informed.

KRISTIN: I don’t think she’s been succeeding too well with J.R.

PATRICIA: Sue Ellen may be a little depressed right now. That often happens after giving birth. But if it turns out she’s not entirely happy with the life J.R. has to offer –

KRISTIN: Well, above all, we want Sue Ellen to be happy.

PATRICIA: Of course, dear. We could give her all the love and support she’d need to start a new life elsewhere. I’d certainly miss having a son-in-law like J.R. [Chuckles] I’ve never met a man who enjoys the chase as much as he does. Almost more than winning.

KRISTIN: Why don’t you let me worry about J.R. Ewing?

PATRICIA: Whatever you do, Kris, it’ll be the right thing for all of us.

KRISTIN: You can trust me, Mama. I won’t let you down.

PATRICIA: I know you won’t.

The Dallas Decoder Interview: David W. of Dallas Divas Derby

The best thing about starting Dallas Decoder has been meeting fellow “Dallas” fans like David W., the genius behind Dallas Divas Derby, a new online brackets game that pits the show’s women characters against each other. David has really interesting ideas about “Dallas” and graciously agreed to share some here. Read what he has to say – and be sure to visit his site to vote for your favorite diva.

Dallas Divas Derby is great! How did you come up with the idea for the site?

Oh, thank you. I’m a lifelong “Dallas” fan and an interactive designer in my previous professional life, and I’d been thinking for years that it would be fun to make an online interactive family tree for the Ewing and Barnes families. Other projects and life prevented me from realizing that, but when TNT’s new show was announced, it struck me that it might be interesting to create some kind of online activity for fans to refresh their memories about “Dallas” history.

I’d always felt pretty strongly that “Dallas’s” best years were seasons 1 through 9, when it focused on a well-rounded ensemble cast and featured strong writing for the men and women alike. If you watch the show in its entirety, you see that the writing for the women begins strong, if a little sexist in some instances, and grows steadily better, peaking during the dream season.

In the years since “Dallas” ended, much of the lore of the show had been framed around the Ewing brothers’ saga. We all know the story. It’s a good one, but it has been told over and over again from the same male perspective. As I watched the show in reruns and on DVD as an adult, I gained a whole new appreciation for the female characters and actresses. I learned about Barbara Bel Geddes, Alexis Smith, Priscilla Pointer and Martha Scott’s stage and film careers, and I appreciated their rich nuanced performances even more. And my admiration for Linda Gray, Victoria Principal and Susan Howard grew deeper watching them evolve over the years. And then you had amazing villains like Kristin and Katherine, which I loved as a boy and appreciated even more as an adult.

For me personally, those actresses made a huge impression when I watched the show as a kid, and I became really interested in looking back at “Dallas” from the perspective of the female characters somehow. When you do, you realize how vital they were to the show’s success. You see huge arcs like Sue Ellen going from repressed alcoholic beauty queen, to strong female executive and mother, and Pam from strong-willed poor country girl from the wrong side of the tracks, to successful, confident independent businesswoman. I think for me personally, I identified closely with those arcs.

Though not a huge sports fan, I’d worked previously on interactive ad campaigns for the March Madness NCAA college basketball games, and I learned about that whole brackets game phenomenon that’s so popular among fans and office pools.

While re-watching “Dallas” this spring, it dawned on me that when you watch over the years, you see some recurring character archetypes common among the women. So I started scribbling down character names and playing around with them on paper, and grouping them based on similarities, and bingo, my earlier ideas about an interactive family tree merged into the brackets game idea!

Talk a little bit about how you came up with your matchups. There seems to be a method to your madness.

I quickly surveyed the entire 14 seasons to see if there’d be enough interesting characters that would work, and there were! Then I researched about how teams are “seeded” in brackets games based on their wins and losses, and it dawned on me, the characters could be similarly “seeded” based on the number of episodes they’d been in. In essence, each episode they were in counted as a “win” for them.

When I did the math, the results were really interesting to me. Similar archetypes often ended up paired against each other, like the case of “Sinister Sisters” Katherine Wentworth and Jessica Montford. When I saw that, I knew I had to make the game, even if only other die-hard “Dallas” geeks would appreciate it. It interested me, so that’s what drove me. And I was unemployed, so that helped too.

Once I did all that math, things happened very quickly to build the site. I knew we’d need a database, so I met with a dear friend who is a Ruby on Rails developer, and he volunteered to help. He made it possible for me to make the site a reality.

You know the characters really well. It sounds like you’ve been a fan of the show for a long time.

I started watching “Dallas” almost at its beginning, even though I was only 8 at the time. My parents, usually very conservative in what they allowed us to watch as kids, were quickly fans of the show, and somehow let us watch along with them.

I remember in the late ’70s being fascinated by the idea of Southfork. I was growing up in suburban Detroit, so the idea of a ranch, with all that land and a big family living together really fascinated me.

I remember often watching the show on Friday nights, and then getting up early the next day to play with my Legos in front of Saturday morning cartoons. I’d sit there for hours building elaborate Lego Southforks and Southern Crosses, and then I’d use Matchbox cars that matched all of the main character’s cars, and I’d re-play “Dallas” all morning. I even built a replica of Sue Ellen’s condo because I thought it was so glamorous and I was so happy to see her on her own, away from evil J.R. Mind you, I was like 10 or something.

I became the go-to guy in the family for episode re-caps. If my grandmother missed an episode, she’d have me re-tell it all to her the next time I saw her. Later in junior high and high school, I’d have “Dallas” finale parties for my entire family, and make cakes with oil derricks on them and things like that. It was ridiculous.

I love it! In general, what do you think of the way “Dallas” depicts women?

I do think the show’s portrayal of women really mirrors the idea of women in our pop culture from the late ’70s through the mid-80s. Not all of that is good, but I think it was pretty spot on.

For example, for my mom and my friends’ moms who were middle-class suburban housewives negotiating the idea of entering the working world, the evolutions of Sue Ellen, Donna, Pam and others was something that resonated. It was the point in time when the option and expectation of being a stay-at-home mom started to evaporate for many American women due to economic needs.

On “Dallas,” much of the early writing for these women focuses on tension between them and their husbands about their roles in the family. Sue Ellen’s meant to be a society wife and crank out Ewing heirs. Her life is booze, ladies’ luncheons and affairs. Pam wants to keep working and hates the society life, but struggles with Bobby’s sexist expectations for her to stay at home, and Ray struggles hugely with the idea that Donna is making more money than him, and what that means for his masculinity. And of course, Ellie is the traditional heart of the show, a true grandmother archetype.

As the Regan era/corporate greed era takes hold in the ’80s, you see Pam, Donna and eventually Sue Ellen staking claim to a desire to be successful professionally in their own right. They each pursue it differently, but they all eventually challenge their partners for respect, and you get to see all these previously traditional men dealing with the idea that their women are becoming fiercely independent. I think again, that mirrored what was happening in society to a degree.

On the “villains” side, you see people like Marilee Stone, Holly Harwood, Kristin and others using their gender and sexuality to gain power, and as weapons. Some of that feels pretty sexist now, but if you look at mainstream films of the era, the meme was everywhere. The mainstream white male was intrigued by – and simultaneously threatened by – strong independent businesswomen.

Of course now, looking back, especially amongst many of the supporting females, you do see lots of stereotypically weak secretaries, hookers, tramps and thieves, and some of that feels dated and uninteresting.

Since voting began on Dallas Divas Derby, what’s been the biggest surprise? Has any diva done better than you expected?

Ha ha, yes! My developer partner and I have kept our hands out of the voting, but based on my personal preferences, I’m not a big Cally Harper fan, no offense to Cathy Podewell. I just thought, in reference to what we were just talking about, that Cally was written as this incredibly one-dimensional country girl caricature, and from a very older white urban male slant. I never really felt like she fit with the rest of the cast.

What we’ve heard from fans online and seen in the voting so far, though, is that she has more fans than haters. She won her Round 1 match against Kimberly Cryder and really never was behind in that vote based on what we saw. She was always the favorite, though the voting was close.

For the purposes of the game though, we’re actually quite happy that the two Mrs. J.R. Ewings will go head-to-head in Round 2 on May 16. It should be a good match for fans of both her and Sue Ellen.

You also had some “Dallas”-worthy drama with a hacker. What happened?

Yes, we did! Well, you know, I’m not a professional programmer, and I wanted to keep the game simple and easy for users. I underestimated the level of security we’d need at first though.

Our Bring Her Back vote was meant to be a straight-up horse race for fans to vote in real-time for any of the “living” characters they wanted to see back on the new series. Unlike the brackets game, where match results are revealed every Wednesday morning – to promote Wednesday as the new day for “Dallas” on TNT – the Bring Her Back vote is always live on the site, so users can see the actual vote numbers.

This bred some fierce rivalry between a few Katherine Wentworth and Lucy Ewing fans earlier this month. We saw first a huge, and rather humanly impossible, spike in BHB votes for Lucy overnight one night. And we started to get complaints from Katherine fans, so we investigated. We found that at least one person, if not a couple, had “hacked” the BHB voting overnight, and within hours we had numbers in the thousands jumping back and forth for Lucy and Katherine. It was headed to the stratosphere, but clear the votes weren’t “real.”

We’d like to think we’re that popular, and though we do allow users to vote more than once, it reached a humanly impossible rate of voting, based on our other stats. So we had to add some more protections to the voting code, to prevent over-the-top gaming of the system, while trying to keep it easy and fun for users.

Since we’d been watching the vote closely, we made the call to remove the hacked BHB votes from the system so our fans could continue to play the game and feel like they had a chance.

Luckily, none of that affected any numbers on the brackets game, so that voting to date hasn’t been compromised. This is just meant to be a fun thing for fans and we hope everyone who wants to participate can and express their preferences in the voting.

OK, I must ask: Do you have a personal favorite “Dallas” diva?

This is a hard one for me. We’re trying to remain agnostic in the vote, and there are so many different types of characters to choose from.

On the heroines’ side, Sue Ellen has been an icon for me since I was a kid. I related to her struggles and her growth towards independence. I still love her and am so happy she’s back.

On a more complicated level, it’s Pam for me. I loved her in the beginning of the show as the tough poor country girl arriving at Southfork, then lost a bit of interest during her obsession to have a baby and the weird writing around some of that, but loved her again in Seasons 7 through 9 as she returned to strength and came into her own. Victoria Principal’s performances leading up to and after Bobby’s death still haunt me today. Those were award worthy in my book. They made a huge impact on my psyche as a teen. In my opinion though, the writers ran Pam into a ditch in Season 10 though, moving her to the periphery and weakening her. The way Pam was written out made many fans dislike her, and I think that was a huge detriment to the show’s legacy. We’re supposed to believe the show’s original leading lady, who desperately fought to have a successful marriage to Bobby and have a child, suddenly decides to leave them to go die alone with a stranger? It was stupid writing and it hurt the character and the show.

On the villains’ side, Katherine was my number one favorite, followed closely by Jessica Montford and Kristin. All could’ve lasted on the show longer in my opinion. Heck, I even enjoyed Angelica Nero as a super-villain. It was fun to see a woman besting J.R. in scheming.

I think you’re wise to praise Angelica. If she doesn’t win her next round against Mandy Winger, she might start blowing stuff up again!

Ha ha, indeed! She was fantastic. I’m keeping my eye out for exploding briefcases. Luckily I don’t own a Ferrari. I will add this though, we’ve learned during the Derby to not underestimate Katherine Wentworth fans. Things could get interesting if Angelica and Katherine face-off later in the Derby. I’m secretly hoping they might.

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘What a Wonderful Future’

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Martha Scott, Patricia Shepard, Silent Killer

Mothers

In “The Silent Killer,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Miss Ellie and Patricia (Barbara Bel Geddes, Martha Scott) watch baby John, who lies in his stroller on the Southfork patio.

PATRICIA: Oh, I just can’t get over this baby. My first grandchild – happy, healthy, so beautiful.

ELLIE: We were lucky, Patricia. The way he came into this world, we weren’t sure he was gonna live.

PATRICIA: I shouldn’t say this, but I prayed for a boy. I really prayed! Of course, I would’ve loved a little girl just as much, but a boy – just like J.R.

ELLIE: [Moving to her seat at the patio table] You know, I must’ve paced backed and forth in front of that phone for an hour before I could call you and tell you about Sue Ellen. You took it remarkably well.

PATRICIA: [Joins her at the table] Well, you were so kind and reassuring. I didn’t worry about it at all. Somehow I knew that if the Ewing family were in charge, nothing bad could happen to Sue Ellen.

ELLIE: Sue Ellen’s had a very rough time. I think it’s gonna be quite awhile before she gets her old spark back.

PATRICIA: Oh she must be suffering from that – oh, what do they call that? – postpartum depression. It’s not uncommon. Well, I know my girls. They always snap right back after any illness.

ELLIE: I’m sure.

PATRICIA: Meanwhile, little John will grow up on this beautiful ranch. His Uncle Bobby will teach him to ride – and someday, I expect, he’ll have a great big office, right next to his daddy’s. What a wonderful future.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 32 – ‘The Silent Killer’

Dallas, Digger Barnes, Keenan Wynn, Silent Killer

The rogue

“Dallas” recasts two pivotal roles in “The Silent Killer:” Keenan Wynn succeeds David Wayne as Digger Barnes and Mary Crosby replaces Colleen Camp as Kristin Shepard. Both newcomers instantly put their own stamp on the characters.

Wayne played Digger during “Dallas’s” earliest episodes, offering an angry performance that helped establish the show’s dark tone when it began. Wayne beautifully captured Digger’s broken spirit, earning the “special guest star” billing he received during his appearances.

The moment Wynn appears in “The Silent Killer,” it’s clear “Dallas” is taking Digger in a different direction. Wynn is taller than his predecessor, and with his bushy beard and cheap fedora, he comes off as more of a charming rogue than a pitiful drunk.

Wynn’s Digger is also mellower. In “The Silent Killer’s” first act, he tells Cliff, “I only want what’s coming to me. I don’t want to see Jock Ewing flat broke.” It’s hard to imagine Wayne delivering that line.

Crosby reinvents her character, too. Camp’s unconventional beauty was unique, but in Crosby’s hands, Kristin is slyer and more seductive. Neither Camp nor Crosby particularly look like they could be Linda Gray’s sister, but Crosby’s bitchy chemistry with Gray is undeniable, as demonstrated in the scene where Kristin asks Sue Ellen if she’ll be joining the family for dinner.

“Were you thinking of occupying my chair?” Sue Ellen asks.

“Somebody will if you don’t pull yourself together,” Kristin sneers.

In another fun scene, Patricia, played by the wonderful Martha Scott, stands with Miss Ellie on the Southfork patio, watching over baby John and imagining the bright future that awaits him. “Someday, I expect, he’ll have a great big office, right next to his daddy’s,” Patricia says.

This rather prescient moment, like Crosby and Wynn’s strong first impressions, make up for “The Silent Killer’s” eye-rolling final scene, when Pam refuses to tell Bobby why she suddenly doesn’t want to have children.

The audience knows Pam’s reason – she fears her children will inherit neurofibromatosis, the Barnes family’s newly discovered genetic disease – but it isn’t clear why she insists on keeping Bobby in the dark about it.

Be careful, Pam. Neurofibromatosis may kill children, but secrecy kills marriages – and if you want to save yours, you’ll have to come clean soon.

Grade: B

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Dallas, Kristin Shepard, Mary Crosby, Silent Killer

The rascal

‘THE SILENT KILLER’

Season 3, Episode 3

Airdate: October 5, 1979

Audience: 14.1 million homes, ranking 31st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: When Digger visits, Pam and Cliff learn the Barneses have neurofibromatosis, a rare genetic disease that could be fatal to their children. Pam persuades Cliff to keep this a secret from Sue Ellen, even though he might be baby John’s father. Patricia and Kristin visit and Kristin flirts with J.R.

Cast: William H. Bassett (Dr. Paul Holliston), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Jocelyn Brando (Mrs. Reeves), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Georgann Johnson (doctor), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Randolph Powell (Alan Beam), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Martha Scott (Patricia Shepard), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Keenan Wynn (Digger Barnes)

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