Dallas Parallels: The Saboteurs

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

J.R. Ewing is a man of many talents, but he takes special delight in the fine art of sabotage. During the original “Dallas’s” seventh season, after Cliff Barnes blackmails J.R.’s secretary Sly into spying on her boss, J.R. retaliates by turning one of Cliff’s employees against him. J.R.’s ultimate goal: to ruin Cliff, once and for all.

The scheme begins when J.R. tricks Cliff into investing in some expensive offshore oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico. Once Cliff is leveraged to the hilt, J.R. bribes Max Flowers, Cliff’s foreman, to slow down the drilling so Cliff won’t strike oil before his bank loan comes due, thus bankrupting him.

This must be one of the dirty tricks J.R. teaches John Ross, because three decades later, the son pulls a similar stunt. It begins during the second season of TNT’s “Dallas,” when John Ross is secretly plotting to seize control of Ewing Energies from his partners, who include onetime love Elena Ramos. To nab her share, John Ross bribes Brian “Bubba” Davis, Elena’s foreman, to drill in the wrong direction on land where she’s trying to strike oil. By delaying Elena’s strike, John Ross hopes to prevent her from repaying a loan to his mother Sue Ellen, thus putting Elena’s piece of Ewing Oil in play.

Both storylines include scenes where the victims (Cliff, Elena) visit their drilling sites with their siblings (Pam, Drew) and talk about how proud their deceased fathers would be if they strike oil. The strongest similarities, however, are found in scenes where the saboteurs (J.R., John Ross) meet with the duplicitous foreman (Flowers, Bubba) to discuss their schemes.

In the 1984 episode “Turning Point,” J.R. ducks into a dive bar and sits in a booth across from Flowers, who worries a member of his crew will figure out what he’s up to and tip off Cliff. J.R. expresses confidence the plan will work and dismisses his enemy’s capabilities. “You’re just going to have to make sure he keeps getting the short straw. Hell, he’s used to that anyway, isn’t he?” J.R. says.

The parallel sequence is found in the 2013 episode “False Confessions.” This scene also takes place in a dive bar, where the principals sit across from each other in a darkened booth. Like Flowers, Bubba worries someone close to the victim — in this case, Elena’s fiancée Christopher — will figure out the scheme against her. Like J.R., John Ross expresses confidence the plan will succeed and takes a swipe at his rival. Referring to Christopher, John Ross says, “It’s good that he thinks he has a chance. That’ll make it hurt more when he loses.”

Originally, I ended this post by pointing out how J.R.’s plot fails, while John Ross’s plan succeeds, but as Dallas Decoder reader Stephan points out in the comments section below, neither scheme is particularly successful. In J.R.’s case, Cliff fires Flowers and replaces him with a new foreman who hits a gusher at the 11th hour, saving Cliff from bankruptcy. Meanwhile, Elena fails to strike oil on her land and loses her share of Ewing Energies, but only after Sue Ellen invokes a morals clause in her contract with Elena.

So more than anything, J.R. and John Ross’s forays into sabotage confirm what we already know: Like father, like son.


‘Someone Might Tip Him Off’

Dallas, Denny Miller, Max Flowers, Turning Points


In “Turning Point,” a seventh-season “Dallas” episode, J.R. (Larry Hagman) enters a bar and sits at a booth across from Flowers (Denny Miller).

J.R.: Hello, Flowers. I hardly recognized you.

FLOWERS: That’s okay. Want a beer?

J.R.: Yeah, sure. If that’s all they got.

FLOWERS: [To a waitress] Hon, bring us a couple beers.

J.R.: So how’s everything in the gulf? Cliff Barnes ready to strike oil?

FLOWERS: Not yet. But the whole operation’s got me worried.

J.R.: Yeah? Why’s that?

FLOWERS: Well, you’ve been paying me a lot of money to slow things down. I don’t think I’ve been able to slow them down enough.

J.R.: Well, now, you’ve been doing a good job so far.

FLOWERS: Oh, I know. I’ve been able to miss the most promising geological formations. Barnes is so dumb, he doesn’t know that. But the crew is getting suspicious, and someone might tip him off.

J.R.: Well, you’ve just got to get rid of any potential troublemakers.

FLOWERS: Oh, I’ve been trying to do that. And I’ve hired the worst crew I could find. But you know, that’s hard to do. [J.R. chuckles.] Most of those guys are pretty sharp.

J.R.: Well, you’ve just got to hold it up for another couple of weeks at the most. Barnes is just about to run out of money.

The waitress sets two beers on the table.

FLOWERS: Thanks. If he was drilling any other tract, it’d sure be easier. He’s got possibly the richest tract in the gulf.

J.R.: Yeah, I know that. If it wasn’t, he wouldn’t be pouring every dollar he can get his hands on into it.

FLOWERS: Okay. I just wanted you to know that I’m doing my best. But sooner or later, even an idiot with a long straw could suck up oil out of that tract.

J.R.: You’re just going to have to make sure he keeps getting the short straw. [Sips his beer] Hell, he’s used to that anyway, isn’t he? [Chuckles]


‘He’s On Your Tail’

Dallas, Brian Bubba Davis, Matthew Posey, TNT


In “False Confessions,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, John Ross (Josh Henderson) enters a bar and sits at a booth across from Bubba (Matthew Posey).

JOHN ROSS: [Slaps an envelope on the table] Let’s call that your severance.

BUBBA: [Peeks inside] Much obliged, John Ross. But you should know that Christopher’s after me. He thinks you put me up to it.

JOHN ROSS: Just because he’s a pussy doesn’t mean he ain’t smart.

BUBBA: [Chuckles] You’re not concerned that he’s on your tail?

JOHN ROSS: It’s good that he thinks he has a chance. That’ll make it hurt more when he loses.

What do you think of J.R. and John Ross’s schemes against Cliff and Elena? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Parallels.”

Drill Bits: ‘Dallas’s’ Ratings Rise Again

Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes, TNT, Trial and Error

Feel that ratings momentum!

“Dallas’s” audience has grown for the second week in a row. The TNT drama’s latest episode, “Trial and Error,” was seen by 2.5 million viewers on February 18, up from the 2.4 million who watched the previous week’s telecast.

The “Trial and Error” audience included about 890,000 viewers between ages 18 and 49, a group advertisers pay a premium to reach.

TNT shows “Dallas” on Monday nights at 9, where it faces stiff competition from the broadcast networks and other cable channels. This week, “Dallas’s” rivals included CBS’s “2 Broke Girls” (10.3 million viewers), Fox’s “The Following” (8.4 million) and History’s “American Pickers” (4.4 million).

But DVR users are giving “Dallas” a big boost each week. The two-hour season premiere was seen by 4 million viewers within a week of its January 28 debut, up 36 percent from the number who watched on opening night.

DVR users who recorded Season 2’s third hour, “Sins of the Father,” and watched it within three days of its premiere boosted the audience to 2.9 million viewers, while DVR users pushed the audience for the fourth episode, “False Confessions,” to 3.1 million viewers over a three-day period.

Is She Back?

Everyone is buzzing about Jesse Metcalfe’s new interview with TV Guide, in which he drops a big hint about you-know-who’s possible return to Southfork. Is this the news “Dallas” diehards have been longing to hear?

Now It Can Be Told

If you’ve read Edward McPherson’s fascinating essay on “Dallas” in the Paris Review, then you know – wait, stop. What do you mean you haven’t read it?

The two-part piece, published in December, traces the evolutions of Dallas the city and “Dallas” the TV show. It pays special attention to the echoes between the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 and the shooting of J.R. Ewing in 1980, examining how each incident shaped the way people see Dallas and the way Dallasites see themselves. McPherson, who grew up in Big D, will give you a new appreciation for all things Dallas, but don’t take my word for it. Go read Part 1 and Part 2. I’ll wait.

OK, now that you’ve enjoyed McPherson’s piece (I told you it was good, didn’t I?), you know that he spent time last fall on the set of TNT’s “Dallas,” where he got to observe production and meet the cast and crew. He even exchanged a fist bump (!) with Larry Hagman.

McPherson also describes how he helped the folks behind the scenes come up with a few words of dialogue. Now it can be told: The episode McPherson observed being filmed was “False Confessions,” which TNT telecast last week, and the scene that he contributed to is the one where Christopher interrupts John Ross’s conversation with Elena’s drilling foreman, Bubba, played by Matthew Posey. McPherson’s line, which Posey delivered: “But we’ve got a problem.”

“It was a total throwaway line, but fun nonetheless,” McPherson told me last week. He said he’s happy the episode has finally been shown, adding that he was “quite good about keeping the spoilers to myself.”

McPherson also said he’d love to hear what “Dallas” fans think of his essay, so be sure to share your feedback in the comments sections that accompany parts 1 and 2.

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