Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 148 — ‘Eye of the Beholder’

Barbara Bel Geddes, Clayton Farlow, Dallas, Eye of the Beholder, Howard Keel, Miss Ellie Ewing

The natural

At the end of “Eye of the Beholder,” Miss Ellie tearfully tells Clayton that she had breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy years earlier. It’s another moving performance from Barbara Bel Geddes, although when I try to explain why she excels in scenes like this one, I always come up short. Is it her ability to summon tears whenever the script calls for it? Is it her halting delivery, which mimics the way people tend to talk in real life? Or is it some magical, Hagman-esque quality that can’t be described? Whatever the reason, Bel Geddes always makes me forget I’m watching a world of make-believe. She’s amazing.

To be fair, Bel Geddes gets plenty of help from “Eye of the Beholder” scriptwriter Arthur Bernard Lewis, whose unsentimental dialogue ensures Ellie isn’t seen as a figure of self-pity. Here’s how she tells Clayton about her ordeal: “Clayton, I had surgery. I’ve had a mastectomy. The doctor found cancer. They cut off my breast.” This series of clipped, matter-of-fact pronouncements reminds me of Bel Geddes’ wonderful monologue in “Return Engagements,” when Ellie acknowledges her failure to help Gary keep his family together. (“I should’ve fought them. I didn’t. I did nothing.”) Only one line in Ellie’s “Eye of the Beholder” speech gives me pause. After she tells Clayton about her mastectomy, she says, “It affects how I feel about myself, and I know it’s got to be harder for you.” This seems like another example of “Dallas’s” pervasive sexism — and maybe it is — but like it or not, I suspect this is how a lot of women from Ellie’s generation felt.

Regardless, I continue to marvel at “Dallas’s” acknowledgment that Ellie and Clayton, two characters who are supposed to be in their 60s or 70s, are capable of sexual intimacy. Besides “The Golden Girls,” which debuted a year after this episode aired, I can’t think of another show that did more more than “Dallas” to dispel the myth that people stop having sex with they get old. I also appreciate how sensitively “Dallas” handles this material. At the end of the scene, Clayton tells Ellie the mastectomy doesn’t matter to him and sweeps her into his arms. The final freeze frame shows him holding her tightly as Richard Lewis Warren’s soft piano music plays in the background. There’s no big cliffhanger, just two characters expressing their love and commitment to each other. What other prime-time soap opera from this era would be willing to end an episode on such a quiet, dignified note?

Above all, I love how Ellie and Clayton’s storyline mines “Dallas’s” history. “Eye of the Beholder” arrived four seasons after the show’s classic “Mastectomy” episodes, which broke ground by making Ellie one of the first major characters in prime time to get cancer. In “Eye of the Beholder,” the show doesn’t just mention her disease, it turns it into a major subplot and reveals Ellie is still struggling with the same feelings of inadequacy that she did in 1979. Her tearful scene with Clayton harkens to the memorable moment in “Mastectomy, Part 2,” when she comes home after her surgery and breaks down (“I’m deformed”) upon discovering her dresses no longer fit the way they once did.

The show’s history can also be felt in “Eye of the Beholder’s” third act, when Clayton tells Sue Ellen that Ellie has called off the wedding without telling him why. Sue Ellen gently quizzes Clayton and realizes he and Ellie haven’t been intimate with each other. “Don’t give up on her. I don’t think she’s told you everything,” Sue Ellen says. I love this scene for a lot of reasons, beginning with Linda Gray, whose expression lets the audience know that Sue Ellen has it all figured out. This also feels like a moment of growth for Gray’s character. Think back to “Mastectomy, Part 2,” when Sue Ellen reacts to Ellie’s cancer diagnosis by suggesting Jock will reject his wife after her surgery. Four years later, Sue Ellen is wiser, less cynical and more compassionate. When you think about it, if it wasn’t for Sue Ellen encouraging Clayton to not give up on Ellie, Ellie might not have opened up to him and given their relationship another chance. In many ways, Sue Ellen rescues this couple.

“Eye of the Beholder” contains several other nods to “Dallas’s” past, including the warm scene where Bobby and Pam share lunch at the Oil Baron’s Club and reminisce about their wedding. Besides showcasing Patrick Duffy and Victoria Principal’s sparkling chemistry, the scene fills in some blanks for “Dallas” diehards. For example, “Digger’s Daughter” opens with Bobby and Pam stopping at a gas station not long after their spur-of-the-moment wedding in New Orleans. I always wondered: Were the newlyweds coming straight from the chapel? It turns out they weren’t: In “Eye of the Beholder,” we learn the couple spent their wedding night in a motel while making their way back to Southfork. It’s also nice to know “When the Saints Go Marching In” was their wedding music. If that’s not a fitting theme for these two, I don’t know what is.

The other great scenes in “Eye of the Beholder” include Bobby forcing J.R. to sign the paperwork to buy Travis Boyd’s company, which ends with J.R. saying, “I don’t like doing business this way.” Bobby’s response: “Well, I’ll continue your delicate sensibilities some other time, all right?” I also like the scene that introduces Barry Jenner as Jerry Kenderson, Mark Graison’s doctor and confidante; Jenner and John Beck have an easy rapport, making the friendship between their characters feel believable. “Eye of the Beholder” also marks Bill Morey’s first appearance as Barnes-Wentworth’s longtime controller Leo Wakefield, whose weary demeanor makes him a worthy foil for Ken Kercheval’s hyperkinetic Cliff. (Morey previously popped up as a judge in the fifth-season episode “Gone But Not Forgotten.”)

Two more moments, both showcasing Larry Hagman’s comedic talents, deserve mentioning. In the first, J.R. enters the Southfork living room, where Sue Ellen is offering Peter a drink. J.R. accuses his wife of “trying to corrupt that young man,” until he finds out Peter has arrived to escort Lucy to a party. “Oh, in that case you’re going to need a drink,” J.R. says. In Hagman’s other great scene, J.R. takes Edgar Randolph to lunch, where he tells Edgar he wants him to reveal the high bidder in the offshore drilling auction so J.R. can beat the bid. Edgar resists, saying he doesn’t want to cheat the government, but J.R. points out the government will make more money under his scheme. “J.R., you have the amazing ability to make a crooked scheme sound noble,” Edgar says. J.R.’s response: “Edgar, that’s part of my charm.”

For once, he isn’t lying.

Grade: A


Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Eye of the Beholder, Pam Ewing, Patrick Duffy, Victoria Principal

On the march


Season 7, Episode 17

Airdate: January 27, 1984

Audience: 22 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Miss Ellie tells Clayton she doesn’t want to marry him because she had a mastectomy, but he tells her it doesn’t matter. Cliff agrees to sleep with Marilee if she’ll join his offshore drilling venture. J.R. tells Edgar he wants to see the offshore proposals so he can bid higher. Pam realizes Bobby and Jenna are sleeping together.

Cast: Denny Albee (Travis Boyd), Christopher Atkins (Peter Richards), John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Martin E. Brooks (Edgar Randolph), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Pat Colbért (Dora Mae), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Barry Jenner (Dr. Jerry Kenderson), Sherril Lynn Katzman (Jackie Dugan), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Anne Lucas (Cassie), Kevin McBride (George), Bill Morey (Leo Wakefield), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Donegan Smith (Earl Johnson), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

“Eye of the Beholder” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

‘Dallas’ 2013: Hail and Farewell to Those We Lost

Ben Stivers, Dale Robertson, Dallas, Frank Crutcher, Franklin Horner, Joan Van Ark, Julie Harris, Knots Landing, Laurence Haddon, Lillimae Clements, Ray Krebbs, Steve Forrest, Steve Kanaly, Valene Ewing, Wes ParmaleeIn 2013, “Dallas” fans said goodbye to several people who contributed to the original series. Here’s a list of those we lost, along with a few notable deaths that occurred among the show’s extended family. Click on each person’s name to learn more about his or her career at

Bruce Baron, Dallas, Linden Chiles, Martin Cassidy, Marc Breaux

Deanne Barkley

Died April 2 (age 82)

Barkley wrote “Curiosity Killed the Cat,” a ninth-season episode. She also produced several television movies.

Bruce Baron

Died April 13 (age 63)

In the eighth-season episode “Shattered Dreams,” Baron played the Texan who tried to chat with Sue Ellen and Pam during their visit to Hong Kong. He also headlined several Asian B-movies in the 1980s and ’90s.

Marc Breaux

Died November 19 (age 89)

Breaux is best known as the choreographer of “The Sound of Music” and “Mary Poppins.” He also acted, including appearing in the fourth-season episode “End of the Road, Part 1” as Mark Harrelson, Jordan Lee’s attorney.

Martin Cassidy

Died August 26 (age 75)

Cassidy played Frank Carp, the private detective J.R. hired to learn more about Mandy Winger, in the eighth-season episode “Shadows.” Cassidy also played various roles in four “Knots Landing” episodes in 1983 and 1990.

Linden Chiles

Died May 15 (age 80)

Chiles played Christopher Mainwaring Sr., father of Lucy’s closeted fiancé Kit, in the second-season episode “Royal Marriage.” His other roles include the dad on the acclaimed ’70s family drama “James at 15.” Chiles continued to work until his death; his final role will be in “Road to Paloma,” a film slated for release next year.

Charles Cooper

Died November 29 (age 87)

Cooper played Herb Reynolds in the second-season episode “The Heiress.” “The Heiress.” In “The Crucible,” a 13th-season episode, he played Curley Morrison, one of the men murdered by Jessica Montford. Cooper also did several episodes of “The Practice” and made appearances in “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

Ben Stivers, Dallas, Dan Gerrity, Franklin Horner, Julie Harris, Knots Landing, Laurence Haddon, Lillimae Clements, Steve Forrest, Wes Parmalee

Steve Forrest

Died May 18 (age 87)

After starring in the ’70s cop show “S.W.A.T.,” Forrest joined “Dallas” at the end of the 1985-86 “dream season” as mysterious ranch hand Ben Stivers. When Pam woke up, Forrest stayed with the show, except now his character was named Wes Parmalee, who claimed to be the presumed-dead Jock Ewing. Forrest appeared in 15 episodes altogether.

Dan Gerrity

Died November 20 (age 59)

In the 13th-season episode “Sex, Lies and Videotape,” Gerrity played Mike, the bartender who served Cliff in the scene where he meets and flirts with Rose McKay. Gerrity also played a maitre’d on “Knots Landing” and became a stage actor in Los Angeles and a public radio journalist in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Laurence Haddon

Died May 10 (age 91)

Haddon played Franklin Horner, the Ewings’ banker, in 17 episodes from 1980 to 1986. He also played Mitch Ackerman, the doctor who delivered Val’s twins and helped arrange their kidnapping, during “Knots Landing’s” sixth season. The character was named after the production supervisor for “Dallas,” “Knots Landing” and “Falcon Crest.” Haddon was also a regular on “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” playing one of television’s first non-stereotypical gay men.

Julie Harris

Died August 24 (age 87)

Harris, the most celebrated actress in Broadway history, played Lillimae Clements, Lucy Ewing’s other grandmother, on “Knots Landing” from 1980 until 1987. (The 1982 episode “Daniel” briefly reunited her with Larry Hagman, her co-star in the 1959 Broadway production of “The Warm Peninsula.”) Harris received six Tonys, an Oscar nomination and an Emmy nomination during her storied career.

Arthur Malet, Dale Robertson, Dallas, Jane Kean, Paul Mantee

Jane Kean

Died November 26 (age 90)

In the third-season episode “Mastectomy, Part 1,” Kean played Mitzi, the waitress at the diner where Sue Ellen and Dusty Farlow have a secret rendezvous. Kean is probably best known as Joyce Randolph’s replacement in “The Honeymooners” revivals of the 1960s and ’70s. She also did two guest spots on the David Jacobs-produced ’80s western “Paradise.”

Dudley Knight

Died June 27 (age 73)

Knight played the Dallas hotel shop manager where Val signed copies of “Capricorn Crude” in “New Beginnings,” the fourth-season “Knots Landing” episode that also featured appearances by Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Eric Farlow.

Arthur Malet

Died May 18 (age 85)

During the fifth season, Malet appeared twice as Forest, the Herbert Wentworth loyalist who tipped off Rebecca to Cliff’s embezzlement scheme. The actor returned during the 13th and 14th seasons as Ryan, one of the inmates who befriend J.R. during his stint in the sanitarium.

Paul Mantee

Died November 7 (age 82)

Mantee played Cochran, the Air Force general who told J.R. about Holly Harwood’s contract to supply the military with fuel, in the sixth-season episode “A Ewing is a Ewing.” He later became a regular on “Cagney & Lacey” and “Hunter.”

Shirley Mitchell

Died November 11 (age 94)

Mitchell played the woman who let Jenna into the missing Jack Ewing’s apartment in the ninth-season episode “Twenty-Four Hours.” Mitchell’s career spanned six decades and included guest spots on “I Love Lucy,” “Petticoat Junction,” “Three’s Company,” “CHiPs” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

Dale Robertson

Died February 27 (age 89)

During the sixth season, Robertson appeared in five episodes as Frank Crutcher, the first man to court Miss Ellie after Jock’s death. He is best known for his many western roles, including starring in the 1960s television series “Tales of Wells Fargo.” Robertson joined “Dallas” after appearing as a regular during “Dynasty’s” first season.

Mann Rubin

Died October 12 (age 85)

Rubin wrote two episodes of “Knots Landing,” including “New Beginnings,” which drew 21.3 million homes, becoming the most-watched broadcast in the show’s history. (It’s the only “Knots Landing” episode to follow an original episode of “Dallas” on CBS’s Friday night schedule.) Rubin’s TV writing credits date to the 1940s.

Bea Silvern, Dallas, Jane Sincere, Kirk Scott, Valentin de Varas

Kirk Scott

Died November 16 (age 77)

Scott played Ewing Oil’s public relations chief in the sixth-season episode “Barbecue Three” and one of the private eyes J.R. hired to find Jenna after she jilted Bobby in the eighth-season entry “Déjà Vu.” During Season 13, he made three appearances as Mr. Spangler, the lawyer who executed Atticus Ward’s estate.

Bea Silvern

Died August 23 (age 87)

In the 10th-season episode “The Ten Percent Solution,” Silvern played Senator Dowling’s maid. Two years later, she returned in “Fathers and Other Strangers” as Sarah Ewing, one of the Jews rescued by Jock Ewing during World War II. She was also a regular on “The Secrets of Midland Heights,” one of the Lorimar-produced nighttime soaps of the early ’80s.

Jean Sincere

Died April 3 (age 93)

In 14th-season episode “Heart and Soul,” Sincere played the hotel maid who discovered Johnny Danzig’s dead body. She began her career in the 1940s and continued to perform after she turned 90, including a recurring role on “Glee” as a librarian.

Valentin de Vargas

Died June 10 (age 78)

De Vargas played Patrick Wolfe, the first prosecutor in Jenna Wade’s murder trial, in two eighth-season episodes. His first role was as a Latino student in the “Blackboard Jungle” in 1955.

What do you remember about these artists? Share your memories below and read more features from Dallas Decoder.

Dallas Parallels: Spousal Secrets

Barbara Bel Geddes, Battle Lines, Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Mastectomy Part 1, Miss Ellie Ewing, TNT

Jock and Miss Ellie have the most stable marriage on the original “Dallas,” often serving as role models for the younger couples at Southfork. Bobby and Ann continue this tradition on the new series, although they’ve also inherited Jock and Ellie’s penchant for keeping secrets from each other.

During the old show’s third season, after Jock suffers a near-death experience on a hunting trip, he decides to reveal something to Ellie that he’s hidden from her for 40 years: He was previously married to a woman named Amanda. In “Mastectomy, Part 1,” Jock finally tells Ellie about the marriage, explaining how he divorced Amanda after she suffered a mental breakdown and was committed to a sanitarium.

In true “Dallas” style, Jock’s timing is lousy. He comes clean to Ellie on the night she was planning to tell him she might have breast cancer. When Ellie hears Jock’s admission, she’s too upset to share her news. “You walked out on a sick woman. If I get sick, are you going to walk out on me?” she asks.

Flash forward to “Battle Lines,” the new “Dallas’s” second-season opener, when Ann comes home and tells Bobby something she has hidden from him: During her first marriage to Harris, Ann and Harris had a daughter named Emma, who was kidnapped and presumed dead. Unlike Ellie, who ends up rushing out of the room after learning Jock’s news, Bobby remains calm when he hears Ann’s revelation. When she tells him Harris claims to have found Emma and that a DNA sample from Ann could confirm the young woman’s identity, Bobby simply says, “Well, OK, then. Let’s get your DNA checked, Annie.”

This difference aside, the staging of the scenes is almost identical: Jock and Ann both sit on Southfork sofas when they confess their secrets to their spouses, who are seated to next to them. The two confessions also trigger repercussions: Ellie remains angry at Jock for awhile, finally forgiving him after her cancer surgery. Likewise, Bobby harbors lingering resentment toward Ann until the night before J.R.’s funeral, when he finally blows up at her. (“I am pissed!”)

By the end of the season, like Jock and Ellie before them, Bobby and Ann have patched things up — until the next secret comes out, no doubt.


‘Her Name Was … Amanda’

Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, Mastectomy Part 1

Unwrapped wife

In “Mastectomy, Part 1,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) sits on a sofa in the Southfork den while Jock (Jim Davis) stands at the bar.

ELLIE: Jock, I think you’ve stirred that drink long enough.

JOCK: Yeah, I guess you’re right. [Carries two drinks to the sofa, hands one to her] Miss Ellie, when you’ve been married as long as we have, you kind of sense when something’s wrong.

ELLIE: Yes, I guess we’re beyond keeping things from each other.

JOCK: [Sits next to her] I could see it in your face.

ELLIE: I wanted to talk, Jock.

JOCK: I guess you picked it up from me.

ELLIE: The other way around. [Smiles]

JOCK: Well, I never really knew how to tell you, but I must have been on the verge of it a hundred times.

ELLIE: Tell me what?

JOCK: About Amanda.

ELLIE: Amanda?

JOCK: Here I wait 40 years to tell you, and wouldn’t you know, it all comes out backwards?

ELLIE: [Sets down her drink] Jock, I don’t understand what you’re saying.

JOCK: Ellie, I’m trying to tell you about my first wife.

ELLIE: Your first wife?

JOCK: Yes. I was married and divorced before I met you. Her name was, is Amanda.

ELLIE: What are you talking about?

JOCK: [Rises] Well, when I went hunting with the boys a few weeks ago and got shot, I didn’t know whether I was going to make it or not. I realized I had an obligation to her.

ELLIE: [Shouting] Obligation?

JOCK: Miss Ellie, she’s not a well woman. She had a complete mental breakdown, shortly after we were married. The doctor finally advised divorce. I paid all of her sanitarium bills. I figured that if anything happened to me, there ought to be some sort of trust fund to continue those payments. [Sits down again] But I had to talk to you first.

ELLIE: You divorced a woman because she was sick?

JOCK: No, Miss Ellie. It was on doctors’ advice.

ELLIE: And you kept this from me? All this time?

JOCK: I wanted to tell you, Miss Ellie, believe me. I didn’t want to lose you to Digger. I wasn’t so sure of myself in those days.

ELLIE: What else haven’t you told me, Jock? What else?

JOCK: Nothing. It was a long time ago, over 40 years, Ellie.

ELLIE: “A long time ago.” You walked out on a sick woman. If I get sick, are you going to walk out on me?

Jock looks down as Ellie gets up and rushes out of the room.


‘Her Name Was Emma’

Ann Ewing, Battles Lines, Brenda Strong, Dallas, TNT

Undisclosed daughter

In “Battle Lines,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) is standing at the Southfork kitchen counter when Ann (Brenda Strong) enters, holding an envelope.

BOBBY: Hey, honey. [Notices she seems upset, walks toward her as she approaches the sofa] Annie? Honey, what’s wrong? [Sits with her, holds her hand] Honey? Hey.

ANN: You told me to come to you when I was ready. Well, I have something to tell you. Twenty-two years ago, I had a daughter. Her name was Emma. When Emma was 18 months old, I was at the state fair. I turned away from her stroller to get a soda, just for a moment. [Begins sobbing] And when I turned back, she was gone. Someone had taken her. Everyone searched. But Emma was never found. [Sniffles] I saw Harris this afternoon. He told me he’d found Emma. But before he’ll tell me where she is, I have to give him a tape I made of him admitting to laundering money. [Bobby pulls his hand away.] I’m sorry I never told you.

BOBBY: How do you know what Ryland told you is true? What if he’s making all of this up, just to get back this … tape that you’ve made?

ANN: [Pulls a paper and photograph out of the envelope, hands it to Bobby, who examines it] Harris says he had his DNA checked against this young woman … and that I should do the same.

BOBBY: Well, OK, then. Let’s get your DNA checked, Annie.

What do you think of spousal secrets that rock the marriages of Jock and Miss Ellie and Bobby and Ann? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Parallels.”

The Best & Worst of Dallas: Season 3

“Dallas’s” third season offers lots to celebrate – and a few things to curse.


Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing

Can’t touch this

Larry Hagman and Linda Gray do mighty impressive work in Season 3, but even they can’t touch Jim Davis and Barbara Bel Geddes. Since I began re-watching “Dallas,” the nicest discovery has been how good Davis is as Jock, especially in third-season episodes like “The Dove Hunt,” when he stares down rifle-wielding Tom Owens, and “Return Engagements,” when the humbled Ewing patriarch is a surprise guest at Gary and Valene’s wedding.

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Miss Ellie Ewing

This either

Meanwhile, Bel Geddes brings her trademark quiet strength to “Ellie Saves the Day” and “Return Engagements,” but the actress also shows us her character’s vulnerable side in “Mastectomy, Part 1” and “Mastectomy, Part 2,” the episodes that won Bel Geddes an Emmy. She earned the award, but I can’t help but think how much sweeter her victory would have been if the equally deserving Davis had been honored too.


Choosing the season’s best narrative is tough – Sue Ellen’s struggle with motherhood and Ray and Donna’s tortured love story are each strong contenders – but J.R.’s risky Asian oil deal gets my vote for most compelling plot. This storyline isn’t about exploring J.R.’s business acumen as much as it is about delving into his psyche: By revealing how far the character is willing to go to build Ewing Oil (he mortgages Southfork!), the show lets us know J.R. is every bit as compulsive as Sue Ellen. She may be powerless over booze, but he’s addicted to his own ambition.

Least favorite storyline: Lucy becomes engaged to Alan Beam to spite J.R. Really, “Dallas”?


Bobby Ewing, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy

Save them, Mama

Choosing the third year’s finest hour is tough. A strong case can be made for “A House Divided,” the finale that famously ends with J.R. getting shot (for the second time this season, after he’s ambushed in “The Dove Hunt”). But my ultimate choice is “Ellie Saves the Day,” the poignant hour that brings the Ewing empire to the brink of collapse. If you want to understand why Bobby fought so hard to protect his mama’s legacy on TNT’s “Dallas,” watch this episode.

Worst third-season entry: “Power Play.” Lucy romances Alan at a roller disco, Kristin captures their canoodling with some artfully framed Polaroid snapshots and Jock starts jive talking. “You dig?” he asks Lucy at one point. Um, no big guy. We don’t.


Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Kristin Shepard, Larry Hagman, Mary Crosby


So many choices: I love when Patricia Shepard predicts John Ross’s future in “The Silent Killer,” the pep talk Bobby offers a worried Jock in “Ellie Saves the Day” and the “Paternity Suit” sequence where J.R. picks up his infant son for the first time. There’s also Miss Ellie’s encounter with phony-baloney Marilee Stone and Linda Bradley (also from “Paternity Suit”), as well as the lovely beach scene where Gary and Val make amends with Lucy, which occurred on “Knots Landing” but is too good to not mention here.

Ultimately, my favorite scene is the “Mother of the Year” sequence that mimics the rhythms of an oil strike. J.R. sits in his office, staring at his telephone, depressed because he hasn’t hit a gusher in Asia. Then the phones begin ringing as news of his big strike trickles in, leading to J.R.’s joyful eruption (“Yee-ha! We hit!”). Brilliant.

The season’s most ridiculous moment: when Kristin “accidentally” pours her drink into her sister’s lap during their “Divorce, Ewing Style” lunch date. Sue Ellen, how did you not know you were being set up?

Supporting Players

Dallas, Donna Culver, Susan Howard

The best, fur sure

Susan Howard, who was still a guest star during “Dallas’s” third season, is the best supporting player, hands down. This is the year Donna is torn between honoring the memory of her dead husband and beginning a new life with Ray – and the actress does a beautiful job conveying her character’s torment. Besides Patrick Duffy, no one delivers breathy, soul-searching dialogue better than Howard.


Forget about the metaphorical value associated with the jeans the rebellious Sue Ellen wears in “Rodeo” and focus on how good Linda Gray looks in them. Get it, girl!

The green spandex pants Kristin wears in the same episode might be the season’s most dated costume, but I’ll confess: I kind of love it.


I also love, love, love John Parker’s “I’ll Still Be Loving You,” which is heard at the end of “Rodeo,” when Ray finally calls Donna after ignoring her letters. The tune, which becomes another of Ray’s anthems, is rivaled only by Jerrold Immel’s theme as my favorite piece of “Dallas” music.


Best: “Once I heard you were back in town, I just had some of my friends check out some of the cheaper motels.” – J.R.’s greeting to Val in “Secrets.” I could watch Hagman and Joan Van Ark go at it all day.

Worst: “And when I didn’t get married, I thought I was gonna die. But instead, I went to college.” – Lucy recalling her romantic history to Alan Beam in “The Heiress.” Oh, “Dallas.” Charlene Tilton is such a charming actress. Why do you insist on giving her ridiculous lines?

What do you love and loathe about “Dallas’s” third season? Share your comments below and read more “Best & Worst” reviews.

Dallas Styles: Miss Ellie’s Fur Coat

Warm, in more ways than one

In “The Wheeler Dealer,” Jock and Miss Ellie visit the Colorado sanitarium where Amanda, his first wife, has lived for many years. The scene is beautifully written and performed, but whenever I watch it, I find myself a little distracted by the dark brown fur coat Barbara Bel Geddes wears.

This is a decidedly un-Ellie-like look, after all. On “Dallas,” Ellie is the rancher’s daughter who never outgrew her affinity for simple skirts and blouses. For her, dressing up usually means conservative suits and a strand of pearls. What’s she doing bedecked in fur?

Perhaps the “Dallas” wardrobe designers wanted to draw a contrast between Ellie and Amanda, who wears a basic floral print dress and long sweater in this scene. The fur might also offer a window into Ellie’s state of mind, suggesting she’s still struggling to accept the fact she isn’t the first Mrs. Jock Ewing.

Remember, Ellie didn’t learn about Amanda until the eve of her cancer surgery in “Mastectomy, Part 1,” an earlier third-season episode. The shock came at a time when Ellie was worried about her health and feeling insecure about her femininity. Is the fur coat her way of asserting her role as the wife of a wealthy and powerful man?

As “Dallas” fans, we tend to put Ellie on a pedestal, but she was capable of experiencing doubts, as we saw during the “Mastectomy” episodes. Of course, Ellie is mostly strong and compassionate, which the sanitarium scene ultimately demonstrates. When Amanda sees Jock, she doesn’t recognize him and appears somewhat frightened, so Ellie approaches the woman, gently puts her hand on her shoulder and quietly says, “Hello Amanda. My name’s Ellie.”

It’s a touching moment, and even though it’s very brief, I consider it one of Bel Geddes’ best scenes. It’s also a lovely reminder that Ellie is “Dallas’s” warmest character, and not just because of the coat she wears.

The Art of Dallas: ‘Mastectomy, Part 1’

Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) lies in a hospital bed after having a breast removed in this 1979 publicity shot from “Mastectomy, Part 1,” a third-season “Dallas” episode.

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘He’ll Turn Away From Me’

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Mastectomy Part 1, Miss Ellie Ewing

The face of fear

In “Mastectomy, Part 1,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Pam and Miss Ellie (Victoria Principal, Barbara Bel Geddes) discuss Ellie’s medical problem over lunch at a restaurant.

PAM: What do you do now?

ELLIE: Keep going back for regular checkups.

PAM: Well, that doesn’t sound too difficult.

ELLIE: I don’t wanna tell Jock.

PAM: Miss Ellie, why not?

ELLIE: He gets better looking as he gets older. Tall and lean. There’s not an ounce of fat on him. I admire his beauty. I know he still has an eye for a good-looking woman. How can I tell him that, that I may need a mastectomy? [Begins crying]

PAM: It’ll be all right.

ELLIE: He’ll turn away from me. I know he will.

PAM: No, he won’t.

ELLIE: I just don’t think he’ll ever be able to accept me again. And I don’t know if I’ll be able to, to face the possibility of that.

PAM: You once told me that your marriage to Jock was based on honesty. Now more than ever, you’ve got to trust your love for each other – and that honesty.

ELLIE: Well, I, I guess that’s what I wanted to do all along. [Smiles, wipes away tears] I’ll try to tell him tonight.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 38 – ‘Mastectomy, Part 1’

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Mastectomy Part 1, Miss Ellie Ewing

Oh, pioneer

In the 1970s, Edith Bunker and a few other major television characters had cancer scares, but no one actually got the disease. “Dallas” upends this convention in “Mastectomy, Part 1,” when Miss Ellie learns a newly discovered lump in her breast is malignant.

This storyline, like the second-season episode about Kit Mainwaring’s coming out, demonstrates the pioneering spirit that distinguished “Dallas’s” earliest seasons. The show’s willingness to venture into unchartered territory is commendable, even if it occasionally stumbles along the way.

For example, some of the dialogue in the “Mastectomy” episodes sounds like it was lifted from the cancer brochure Ellie is seen reading in “The Dove Hunt,” an earlier third-season entry. Various characters refer to “regular checkups,” “frequent self-examination” and “special radiation treatment.”

The clinical talk is clumsy, but in the pre-Google era, at least “Dallas” cared enough about its audience to want to educate them. (A measure of television’s potential back then: The “Mastectomy” episodes were originally broadcast as a single two-hour “Dallas” installment, drawing half the homes that watched TV that night.)

Of course, the heavy-handed dialogue isn’t as bothersome as the subplot about Amanda, Jock’s first wife, whom the “Dallas” writers seemingly invented to drive a wedge between Jock and Ellie before her surgery. This plot device is unnecessary. Cancer is scary enough. “Dallas” didn’t need to artificially heighten the drama surrounding Ellie’s diagnosis.

But don’t let the subplot distract you from Barbara Bel Geddes’ flawless performance, which undoubtedly helped her win the Emmy for best dramatic actress at the end of the 1979-80 season.

The actress is especially good when Ellie’s doctors explain what will happen if her tumor is malignant. In the scene, Ellie sits on her hospital bed, dressed in a pink medical gown, looking tinier than usual. As her doctors speak, tears slowly streak her face. It would’ve been easy to go overboard here, but Bel Geddes was smart enough to know those silent tears were all she needed to convey Ellie’s fear.

This is heartbreaking stuff, but the saddest moment in “Mastectomy, Part 1” comes when Jock turns to his sons and says, “God, why couldn’t it have been me they cut up instead of her?”

The line is made poignant by the fact Jim Davis died of cancer a little more than 500 days after the “Mastectomy” broadcast. Hearing him deliver the dialogue reminds us how real cancer is, and how frightening it remains.

Grade: B


Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, Mastectomy Part 1

Poignant pause


Season 3, Episode 9

Airdate: November 16, 1979

Audience: 22 million homes, ranking 5th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: After Jock tells Miss Ellie about his first wife, she refuses to tell him she is having a breast cyst examined. Jock eventually finds out and is at Ellie’s side after her surgery, when he learns the tumor was malignant and the doctors removed her breast.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Jeff Cooper (Dr. Simon Elby), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Jane Kean (Mitzi), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Lev Mailer (Dr. Mitch Andress), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), Randolph Powell (Alan Beam), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), John Zaremba (Dr. Harlan Danvers)

“Mastectomy, Part 1” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.