Dallas Drinks: The Kristin

To honor Mary Crosby’s performance on “Dallas,” Dallas Decoder and Cook In/Dine Out offer a Kristin-inspired “Dallas Drinks” cocktail. Enjoy!

Dallas, Kristin Shepard, Mary Crosby

3 Days, 33 Episodes: Here’s How to Catch Up on TNT’s ‘Dallas’

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, TNT

Look back

Did you promise yourself you’d spend the summer getting acquainted — or reacquainted — with TNT’s “Dallas”? Did you fail to keep this promise? Relax: You still have time. Grab your DVDs and downloads and have a marathon of your own this weekend. Here’s how to watch all 33 hours of the show before the third season resumes on Monday, August 18.


Friday, August 15

9 to 11 p.m. Kick off your marathon on Friday night at 9 o’clock — the holiest hour of the week for “Dallas” fans — with a double feature of the TNT’s show’s first two episodes: “Changing of the Guard” and “Hedging Your Bets.”

Can you watch the former without getting chills when J.R. (Larry Hagman) doffs his cowboy hat, flashes his grin and declares, “Bobby may not be stupid, but I’m a hell of a lot smarter”? Can you watch the latter without getting choked up when our hero tells Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) she’s “still the prettiest girl at the ball”? Me either.


Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Elena Ramos, Jesse Metcalfe, Jordana Brewster, TNT

First time for everything

Saturday, August 16

7 a.m. Rise and shine, darlins! With so much “Dallas” to watch today, there’ll be no sleeping in. Resume your marathon with “The Price You Pay,” in which Julie Gonzalo’s character receives a smartphone pic of her husband kissing another woman. Get used to it, honey.

8 a.m. Have breakfast with “The Last Hurrah,” in which John Ross (Josh Henderson) squirts Elena (Jordana Brewster) with his hose. Insert your own joke here.

9 a.m. Have you done your workout yet? Download “Truth and Consequences” to your mobile device and head to the gym. Mitch Pileggi’s debut as Harris Ryland is bound to get your heart racing.

10 a.m. Got errands to run? Chores to complete? You’ve got one hour. Make the most of it.

11 a.m. We learn jewelry makes Ann (Brenda Strong) cry in “The Enemy of My Enemy.” Then again, doesn’t everything?

Noon. Grab lunch while watching “Collateral Damage,” in which Vicente Cano (Carlos Bernard) wonders if John Ross: 1) is a good dancer, and 2) has any oil in his pipeline. OMG, Vicente was such a flirt!

1 p.m. Tommy (Callard Harris) plants a kiss on Rebecca in “No Good Deed” — which is almost as creepy as when Nicolas starts smooching Elena in Season 3.

2 p.m. Bloody monkeys, Johnny Cash and the redemption of J.R. Ewing. It’s “Family Business” — one of my favorite episodes of this show.

3 p.m. Carmen (Marlene Forte) gets one of the crummiest chores in “Dallas” history — returning Elena’s engagement ring to John Ross — in “Revelations.” Also: More Johnny Cash!

4 p.m. Have you taken a bathroom break yet? If not, take care of that now, and then hurry back to your TV or tablet to watch the second-season opener, “Battle Lines,” in which Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) learns his wife is really his cousin. Ick.

5 p.m. In “Venomous Creatures,” J.R. saves Sue Ellen from going to jail and Judith Light discovers a taste for “Dallas” scenery.

6 p.m. Drew (Kuno Becker) arrives in “Sins of the Father” — his hair won’t show up for several more episodes — and calls John Ross “J-Ro.” Thank heavens that didn’t catch on. Also: Ann shoots Harris!

7 p.m. Has your family seen you at all today? Why not take a break from the Ewings and go have dinner with them.

8 p.m. to midnight: The next four episodes are a murder-a-thon, so brace yourself. Frank (Faran Tahir) offs himself in “False Confessions,” Brenda Strong kills it during Ann’s testimony scene in “Trial and Error,” Vicente bites the dust in “Blame Game,” and then the saddest shot of all: the death of J.R. Ewing in “The Furious and the Fast.”

Midnight. The nice thing about a late-night viewing of “J.R.’s Masterpiece” is that no one else in your house is awake to see you bawling. Once you’ve dried your tears, catch some shut-eye. Tomorrow is going to be another big day.


Dallas, Judith Light, Judith Ryland, TNT

Leg up

Sunday, August 17

8 a.m. You did a hell of a job yesterday, “Dallas” fan. Your reward: You get to start your Sunday with the wonderfully wacky hodgepodge that is “Ewings Unite!” Miss Ellie disinherits Bobby from beyond the grave, Valene (Joan Van Ark) reveals she’s as loony as ever and Cliff becomes the most hated man in the history of “Dallas” fandom.

9 a.m. Audrey Landers shows she can slink around a corner better than anyone in “Guilt and Innocence.”

10 a.m. In “Let Me In,” Harris reveals his fondness for: 1) TV nature documentaries, 2) Almonds, and 3) Hunting Ramoses.

11 a.m. John Ross and Pamela get wet in “A Call to Arms.”

Noon. You know what goes good with a nice, leisurely Sunday brunch? Watching Bobby take that badass, slow-motion walk away from Cliff at the end of “Love and Family.”

1 p.m. Christopher discovers the mystery lady under the big hat is not his mama in “Guilt by Association.” It’s not Aunt Katherine either, sadly.

2 p.m. Kevin Page joins Mary Crosby as an answer to “Dallas’s” most famous trivia question in “Legacies.”

3 p.m. You might think this would be a good time to take a break, but you’d be wrong. The die is cast and there’s no turning back, so keep plugging away with the third-season episodes, beginning with “The Return,” in which J.R.’s belt buckle begins wearing John Ross. Also: Hello, Nicolas (Juan Pablo Di Pace)!

4 p.m. Time for “Trust Me” a.k.a. “Judith’s Snow Day.”

5 p.m. In “Playing Chicken,” Professor Bobby Ewing teaches us about endangered wildlife.

6 p.m. “Lifting the Veil” is the episode that should’ve included Sue Ellen’s comparison of Emma (Emma Bell) to Kristin, but instead it’s the episode that gives us scenes of hookers in canine costumes.

7 p.m. Dinnertime! Enjoy a glass of J.R. Ewing Bourbon (surely you have some, right?) while watching “D.T.R.” After the episode, check your bottle and make sure Sue Ellen didn’t bug it.

8 p.m. Despite the title “Like Father, Like Son,” John Ross wants you to know that he is not his father! Also: Carter McKay has grandchildren!

9 p.m. Pamela rocks Stella McCartney in “Like a Bad Penny.”

10 p.m. It’s finally time for “Where There’s Smoke.” Southfork goes up in flames and you get to go down for a well-deserved rest. Don’t forget to watch “Dallas’s” midseason premiere Monday night!

What are your favorite “Dallas” episodes? Share your choices below and read more features from Dallas Decoder.

#DallasChat Daily: What Was J.R.’s Worst Act?

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Ken Kercheval, Kristin Shepard, Larry Hagman, Mary Crosby, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

We all loved J.R. Ewing, even though he wasn’t exactly Mr. Nice Guy. During the course of the original “Dallas,” he lied, cheated and stabbed the backs of friend and foe alike. But what was his worst act of all?

Was it putting Sue Ellen in the sanitarium? Having an affair with Kristin? Driving Cliff to attempt suicide? Mortgaging Southfork without Jock and Miss Ellie’s knowledge? Forcing Holly and Laurel to have sex with him? Selling oil to Cuba? Trying to blow up the Middle East? Leading Pam on a wild goose chase to find the missing Mark? Bringing Lisa to Dallas to try to take Christopher away from Bobby? Taking that doomed hunting trip to Haleyville, Arkansas?

Your #DallasChat Daily question: What’s the worst thing J.R. ever did?

Share your comments below and join other #DallasChat Daily discussions.

#DallasChat Daily: Who Deserved to Be in ‘Dallas’s’ Credits?

Dallas, Deborah Shelton, Dusty Farlow, Jared Martin, Jeremy Wendell, John Beck, Katherine Wentworth, Kristin Shepard, Mandy Winger, Mark Graison, Mary Crosby, Morgan Brittany, William Smithers

As much as we all love “Dallas’s” opening credits, they aren’t without their quirks.

Linda Gray and Steve Kanaly weren’t added to the title sequence until the second season, while poor Ken Kercheval had to wait until Season 3 to get star billing. By the time the show was winding down, the credits had become a free-for-all: Lesley-Anne Down was added to the opening titles the moment she joined the show, even though hardly anyone remembers her character, Stephanie Rogers.

Meanwhile, actors who made lasting contributions to “Dallas” — including John Beck (Mark), Morgan Brittany (Katherine), Mary Crosby (Kristin), Jared Martin (Dusty), Deborah Shelton (Mandy) and William Smithers (Jeremy) — were never promoted to the title sequence. (This is just a sampling, of course. Feel free to name additional actors in your response.)

Your #DallasChat Daily question: Which “Dallas” actors deserved a spot in the opening credits?

Share your comments below and join other #DallasChat Daily discussions.

#DallasChat Daily: Who Stayed Too Long or Left Too Soon?

April Stevens Ewing, Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Donna Krebbs, Holly Harwood, Jenna Wade, Jeremy Wendell, Kristin Shepard, Lucy Ewing, Lois Chiles, Mary Crosby, Mickey Trotter, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, Ray Krebbs, Sheree J. Wilson, Steve Kanaly, Susan Howard, Timothy Patrick Murphy, William Smithers

Let’s face it: “Dallas” didn’t always know when to say goodbye. Some characters hung around long after their storyline possibilities were exhausted, while other favorites still had lots of untapped potential when they were written out.

Consider the group pictured here: Lucy, Ray, Donna, Jenna, Kristin, Jeremy, Mickey, Holly and April. (I’ll let you decide which character belongs in which category.) This is just a sampling; you’re welcome to name other characters too.

Your #DallasChat Daily questions: Which “Dallas” characters stayed too long? Which characters left too soon?

Share your comments below and join other #DallasChat Daily discussions.

#DallasChat Daily: What Were ‘Dallas’s’ Best/Worst Recasts?

Barbara Bel Geddes, Claude Earl Jones, Clifton James, Colleen Camp, Dallas, Dan Ammerman, David Ackroyd, David Wayne, Digger Barnes, Donna Reed, Dr. David Gordon, Dr. Harlan Danvers, Duke Carlisle, Gary Ewing, James Canning, Jenna Wade, John Zaremba, Josef Rainer, Keenan Wynn, Kristin Shepard, Margaret Michaels, Mary Crosby, Miss Ellie Ewing, Morgan Fairchild, Pam Ewing, Philip Levien, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, Sam Anderson, Ted Shackelford, Victoria Principal

“Dallas” recast several roles over the years. Which ones worked? Which ones failed?

Among the choices: Miss Ellie (played by Barbara Bel Geddes and Donna Reed), Gary (David Ackroyd, Ted Shackelford), Pam (Victoria Principal, Margaret Michaels), Digger (David Wayne, Keenan Wynn) and Kristin (Colleen Camp, Mary Crosby). There were also three Jennas: Morgan Fairchild, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley and Francine Tacker, who isn’t pictured because I couldn’t squeeze her into the collage.

Additional choices: Dr. Harlan Danvers (Dan Ammerman, John Zaremba), Jimmy Monahan (James Canning, Philip Levien) Duke Carlisle (Claude Earl Jones, Clifton James) and Dr. David Gordon, who was played by Josef Rainer on the original show and Sam Anderson on the TNT series.

Your #DallasChat Daily question: What were “Dallas’s” best and worst recasts?

Share your comments below and join other #DallasChat Daily discussions.

#DallasChat Daily: What’s Your Favorite ‘Dallas’ Pool Scene?

Bobby Ewing, Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Fern Fitzgerald, J.R. Ewing, Ken Kercheval, Kristin Shepard, Larry Hagman, Marilee Stone, Mary Crosby, Pam Ewing, Patrick Duffy, Victoria Principal

The Southfork swimming pool scenes were one of the original “Dallas’s” most-loved traditions. Do you have a favorite?

Was it the time Donna shoved J.R. into the pool? Or maybe it was the time Jamie pushed Marilee into the water? How about one of J.R. and Bobby’s pool fights? What about the season-ending cliffhanger that found Cliff discovering Kristin’s dead body floating in the pool? Or maybe it was one of Pam’s sexy swimming sequences?

Your #DallasChat Daily question: What’s your favorite “Dallas” swimming pool scene?

Share your comments below and join other #DallasChat Daily discussions.

#DallasChat Daily: Did J.R. Love Any of His Mistresses?

Dallas, Deborah Shelton, J.R. Ewing, Julie Grey, Kristin Shepard, Larry Hagman, Mandy Winger, Mary Crosby, Serena Wald, Stephanie Blackmore, Tina Louise, TNT

Everyone knows Sue Ellen was the love of J.R.’s life, but what about the women he cheated with during their marriage?

Among the mistresses: J.R.’s longtime secretary, Julie Grey; his favorite prostitute, Serena Wald; his favorite model, Mandy Winger; and of course his least favorite sister-in-law, Kristin Shepard.

Your #DallasChat Daily question: Did J.R. love any of his mistresses?

Share your comments below and join other #DallasChat Daily discussions.

The Dal-List: 15 Reasons You Should Be Watching ‘Dallas’

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing, TNT

Watch and love

What’s that, you say? You’re not watching the new season of “Dallas”? Well, put down that bottle of stupid pills and listen up. Here are 15 excellent reasons to start tuning in to the series, which TNT shows every Monday night.

Dallas, Judith Light, Judith Ryland, TNT

Snow’s the boss

15. Judith Ryland is nuts. Remember Angela Bower, Light’s sensible, self-controlled character on “Who’s the Boss?” Well, go ahead and put that performance out of your mind because Angela is nothing like Judith Ryland, the coke-snortin’, drug-traffickin’, truth-bomb-droppin’, cane-thumpin’ control freak Light plays on “Dallas.” Judith is the most wicked and unpredictable character on television today. What will crazy lady do next? I have no clue, but I can’t wait to find out.

Dallas, Juan Pablo Di Pace, Nicolas Trevino, TNT


14. Di Pace = Divine. So the Ewings are sitting around their boardroom, being Ewings, when all of a sudden some dude named “Nicolas Treviño” waltzes in and starts bossing everyone around. Who is Nicolas? Who cares! What matters is that he’s played by Juan Pablo Di Pace, who is absolutely delectable. I mean, look at this guy. How is he even real? Di Pace is suave, charming and so far, he’s had sexual chemistry with virtually everyone he’s had a scene with. Don’t you want to be there when Judith meets him?

Dallas, Elena Ramos, John Ross Ewing, Jordana Brewster, Josh Henderson, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Watch and learn

13. You can learn stuff. Did you know that in Texas, a company can’t unload a major division unless a “supermajority” of its shareholders approve the sale? Or that sometimes oil-rich “shale formations” can rise within a property’s “surface rights”? I know both things are true because “Dallas” tells me so. I’ll confess: I’m sometimes dubious of the veracity of the legal and technical mumbo-jumbo these characters spout, but it mostly checks out. So do your brain a favor and start watching. You’ll be entertained and enlightened.

Bum, Dallas, Kevin Page, Steve Jones, TNT

Bum in the night

12. Bum. You know what’s really cool about “Dallas” this season? Kevin Page is being featured more prominently than ever. His character, Steve “Bum” Jones, will go down in TV history as the last guy to shoot J.R., but Page’s greatest contribution to the show might be the way Bum has become John Ross’s conscience. And am I the only one who’s noticed Page’s off-the-charts chemistry with Linda Gray? He’s now a vital part of “Dallas.” Here’s hoping Bum gets bumped up to a series regular soon.

Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe, TNT


11. Jesse Metcalfe has a beard now. I know what you’re thinking: Metcalfe has such a nice face, why cover it up? I felt that way when I heard about the beard too. But then I saw it and oh my goodness it’s the best beard in the history of facial hair. (Yours is nice too, Mr. Pileggi.) I mean, take a look at that thing. What’s not to love? The sad part is the beard is going to go away midseason, but that’s still a good a reason to watch the show. Let’s all savor every second of Christopher’s scruff before he shaves it off.

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Patrick Duffy, TNT

Total. Badass.

10. Bobby Ewing is still pissed! Remember when Bobby screamed at Ann before J.R.’s funeral last season? Well, Patrick Duffy continues to bring an edge to his character this year. Who didn’t love Bobby’s recent “stupid pills” quip, or how he always looks like he wants to throttle John Ross? There’s also this: Duffy’s portion of “Dallas’s” new opening credits feature last year’s scene in which Bobby did that badass, “Reservoir Dogs”-style slow-mo walk. Now we get to relive it each week!

Ann Ewing, Brenda Strong, Dallas, TNT

Feel the love

9. Brenda Strong is awesome. We love Ann Ewing. We love how she stands by Bobby, how she embraces the Ewings for all their Ewing-ness, how she never seems to regret that one time she tried to kill Harris. That’s what makes Strong such an amazing actress. No matter what the script calls for, she never let us lose sight of her character’s humanity — even when Ann grabs her gun and starts shooting people. And isn’t it cool that Patrick Duffy finally has a leading lady who can look him in the eye?

Dallas, Elena Ramos, Jordana Brewster, TNT

Spy in the house

8. Elena Ramos is a sneaky bitch. Did you watch the first two seasons of TNT’s “Dallas”? Remember how Jordana Brewster’s character never had much to do? Yeah, well, those days are over. Elena found out J.R. Ewing screwed over her daddy and now she’s joined forces with Cliff Barnes to secretly plot against the rest of the Ewings. Does it make sense? No, but Brewster is such a good actress, she makes it all seem perfectly reasonable. Isn’t it great to see her get a juicy storyline to sink her teeth into?

Dallas, Emma Bell, Emma Ryland, TNT

So good at being bad

7. Emma Ryland is a naughty bitch. Look, I love my bitches, OK? One of my all-time favorite “Dallas” characters is Mary Crosby’s Kristin Shepard, the shrew who shot J.R. The old show killed off Crosby waaay too soon, but now that we have Emma Bell slinking around Southfork, it’s almost like Kristin’s back. Bell’s character, shameless Emma Ryland, is an oversexed vixen who can’t keep her hands off John Ross. (Blame her?) It doesn’t hurt that Bell is also a terrific actress. No one does bad better.

Dallas, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing, TNT

We’re not worthy

6. Julie Gonzalo is fabulous. Is there a more fascinating young heroine on television today than Pamela Barnes Ewing? The answer is no, there is not. Every season, Gonzalo unravels new layers of her character; she’s played Pamela as a sweet-as-spun-sugar ingénue, a corporate tigress, a devastated daughter, and now a suspicious bride. Gonzalo’s talents know no bounds, and even though I’m a gay man, I’m kind of in love with her. (It’s cool, though, because my partner loves her too.) All hail Queen Julie!

Dallas, Harris Ryland, Mitch Pileggi, TNT

This stud’s for us

5. Ryland, Harris Ryland. Mitch Pileggi may be best known as Skinner on “The X Files,” but is there any doubt Harris Ryland is the role he was born to play? Pileggi brings a wicked, Hagman-esque gleefulness to his “Dallas” performances; he’s so damned charismatic, you can’t help but root for Harris, no matter how mean he is to the Ewings. This character is constantly keeping us on our toes — now that we know he’s CIA, should we trust him? — but one thing is certain: Pileggi is a total stud.

AnnaLynne McCord, Dallas, Heather, TNT

Dressed to thrill

4. This is the best-dressed cast on TV. One of “Dallas’s” biggest stars works behind the camera: Rachel Sage Kunin, the show’s insanely gifted costume designer. In every scene of every episode, Kunin somehow chooses the absolute perfect look for each character. One example: Heather’s sexy dress/cowgirl boots combo, which showed how the character was both tough and feminine. Kunin isn’t just the show’s wardrobe chief; she’s a storyteller in her own right — and a hugely talented one at that.

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Always our darlin’

3. Sue Ellen is drunk again. Hold on, darlins. I’m not celebrating the fact our beloved heroine has fallen off the wagon. OK, I guess I am celebrating it, but only because I know Sue Ellen’s road back to sobriety is going to be a blockbuster television — and that means we’re going to be treated to another knockout performance from Linda Gray. As phenomenal as she was last year, my gut tells me Gray is going to be even more spectacular this season. Who knew such a thing was even possible?

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, TNT

The son also rises

2. This guy. Oh, Josh Henderson. Where do I even begin with you? You impress the hell out of me. Your performance honors both of your TV parents: In your capable hands, John Ross is as ambitious as J.R. and as sensitive as Sue Ellen. You’re also a brilliant foil for Uncle Bobby and Cousin Christopher and the perfect match for Pamela. And then there’s that smile of yours, which is sweet, sly and oh-so-sexy — all at once. Is John Ross now one of the best reasons to watch “Dallas”? Damn skippy, he is.

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, TNT

Do it for him

1. This guy too. No one loved a good time more than Larry Hagman, the great actor who brought J.R. Ewing to life. If Mr. Hagman were still here, I have a feeling he’d love how much fun TNT’s “Dallas” has become. Everyone involved in creating the show — the writers, the directors, the actors, the crew — is making Mr. Hagman proud by churning out the most consistently entertaining hour of television, week after week. Now it’s time for the audience to do its part by watching and enjoying the show!

What do you love about “Dallas’s” third season? Share your comments below and read more “Dal-Lists.”

In Season 3, ‘Dallas’ Resets the Chessboard, J.R. Style

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Linda Gray, Return, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Welcome back, darlins

Who misses J.R.? We all do, but the third season of TNT’s “Dallas” still manages to be fun, freewheeling television — even if our beloved Larry Hagman is no longer there to breathe life into his most famous character. Watching next week’s season premiere is a little like attending a family reunion after the loss of a favorite uncle. You can’t help but wish the old guy was still around, but isn’t it nice to see everyone else again?

Besides, it’s not like J.R. is gone altogether. His memory looms large in Season 3’s first two episodes. Some examples: John Ross inherits his daddy’s Southfork-sized belt buckle and hires contractors to renovate the house using blueprints J.R. commissioned before his death. Bobby, once again at odds with his ambitious nephew, growls that John Ross isn’t “half the man” J.R. was. Bum, the Ewings’ go-to private eye who now doubles as John Ross’s conscience, urges him to “grow into your father’s greatness, not his weakness.” There’s even a much-improved painting of J.R. hanging in the Ewing offices, allowing Hagman’s visage to peer over the shoulders of the other actors as they move around the set.

With so many verbal and visual references to J.R., isn’t the show just reminding us that this franchise has lost its marquee player? Yes, but since most of us can’t tune into “Dallas” without thinking about Hagman anyway, the producers might as well acknowledge the ghost in the room. Besides, when your franchise is built on a character as endlessly fascinating as J.R. Ewing, why not use him to pull everyone’s strings from the great beyond?

That’s why “The Return,” the third-season premiere, resets the “Dallas” chessboard, J.R.-style. The episode — penned by Cynthia Cidre and Robert Rovner and directed by Steve Robin — picks up 12 hours after last year’s finale, when we learned J.R. was dying of cancer and masterminded his own “murder” so archenemy Cliff Barnes could be framed for the crime, thus ending the Barnes/Ewing feud. (Ha!) The finale also positioned John Ross as J.R.’s heir in every way, and so at the beginning of “The Return,” we learn why the young newlywed went to that hotel room to cheat with Emma, who appears to have traded her pill habit for an addiction to risky encounters with John Ross.

We’ll also hear how John Ross justifies the fling to Kevin Page’s Bum; his excuse will sound familiar to longtime “Dallas” fans who remember how J.R. used to rationalize his cheating on Sue Ellen. This storyline has upset a lot of fans of the John Ross/Pamela pairing, but it allows Josh Henderson to display the sly charisma that makes him almost as much fun to watch as Hagman was in his heyday. And even though John Ross is a cheat, we can’t help but feel charmed by his relationship with Julie Gonzalo’s Pamela, whose smoldering gaze makes her the ideal match for the oh-so-suave Henderson. Let’s acknowledge something else too: As much as we despise Emma, there’s no denying that Emma Bell is terrific in this role. Not since Mary Crosby’s Kristin have “Dallas” viewers had a vixen who’s so much fun to hate.

During last year’s execution of the Ewings’ “master plan” against Cliff, almost all of the characters got in touch with their inner J.R., but Season 3 finds the good guys returning to familiar terrain. Patrick Duffy’s Bobby slides back into his role as the heroic guardian of Southfork traditions, while Jesse Metcalfe’s Christopher gets a refreshingly angst-free romance with Heather, a new ranch hand. This role is played with equal parts spunk and sex appeal by AnnaLynne McCord, who was the best part of the CW’s “90210” and makes a welcome addition to “Dallas,” a far better revival.

(Oh, and even though “The Return” begins 12 hours after Season 2 ended, Christopher now sports a face full of scruff. How did he grow a thick beard in a half-day? It’s probably better not to ask. Let’s consider it this era’s version of Sue Ellen’s hair, which magically shortened itself between seasons in the early 1980s, even though mere minutes had passed on screen.)

“The Return” also recasts Elena, once this show’s romantic heroine, into a shrewd schemer out for revenge — or as she calls it, “justice” — after Cliff revealed J.R. once stole oil-rich land from her father, just like Jock supposedly cheated Digger out of half the Ewing fortune. This might seem like a thin premise to extend the Barnes/Ewing feud, but it gives the underappreciated Jordana Brewster something to do besides moon over Henderson and Metcalfe’s characters. Cliff and Elena’s unlikely alliance also includes Nicolas Treviño, a dashing young billionaire played by Juan Pablo Di Pace, another strong addition to this ensemble.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: What about Sue Ellen? It’s no secret Linda Gray’s character is once again headed for rock bottom this season, although she goes nowhere near a drop of booze in “The Return.” Some fans hate to see Sue Ellen drinking again; I’m not wild about the idea either, but I have no doubt Gray will deliver another knockout performance, just like she did last year. She’s Hagman’s truest heir in a lot of ways, including this one: Like him, Gray can say more with an arched eyebrow or a wry smile than most actors can with a script full of dialogue. She exudes Old Hollywood star power, and whether Sue Ellen is drunk or sober, Gray always delivers riveting television.

“Dallas” fans also want to know about a couple of other favorites, including Brenda Strong’s Ann and her dastardly ex-husband Harris, played to menacing perfection by Mitch Pileggi. Regarding them, I’ll only say this: Just because you haven’t read much about their characters in “Dallas’s” pre-premiere publicity doesn’t mean they have nothing to do in the first two episodes. I also don’t want to give anything away about Judith Light’s character Judith Ryland, except to say her return in the season’s second hour, “Trust Me,” is a hoot.

That episode, written by Bruce Rasmussen and directed by Millicent Shelton, features a Ewing family gathering that showcases the brilliance of costume designer Rachel Sage Kunin, who never fails to impress, and hairdresser Charles Yusko, whose contributions to the success of this series shouldn’t be overlooked. You’ll also want to watch “Trust Me” to see the long-awaited reunion between two characters who had a charming scene last year, along with one of the most audacious moments I’ve ever seen on “Dallas” — or any other show, for that matter.

Most importantly, the episode ends with a shock that rocks two characters and will make you reconsider everything you think you know about a third. It’s a twist you’ll never see coming — and another reason this show remains so much fun, even without the man who got the party started.

“Dallas’s” third season begins Monday, February 24, at 9 p.m. Eastern on TNT. Are you excited? Share your comments below and read more opinions from Dallas Decoder.