Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 122 — ‘Legacy’

Ben Piazza, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Legacy, Walt Driscoll

Into darkness

“Legacy” opens with Pam, having decided to separate from Bobby, packing up her Porsche and driving away with little Christopher. It’s a landmark moment in the life of the series. “Digger’s Daughter” shows Bobby and Pam arriving at Southfork as newlyweds, and now she has spent her last night under that roof as his wife. Soon the couple will be divorced, and even though they’ll eventually remarry and Pam will return to the ranch, things will never quite be the same. I know some fans welcome the changes that Bobby and Pam’s split herald, but as far as I’m concerned, a little bit of the old “Dallas” magic dies the moment she pulls out of that driveway.

Pam’s decision to leave is triggered by the death of her mother Rebecca, whose will reading delivers this episode’s other monumental moment. The Wentworth empire, which Rebecca inherited from her late husband Herbert, is divided among her three children, Cliff, Pam and Katherine. The “Dallas” writers make this division mighty complicated — Cliff gets Barnes-Wentworth Oil, Pam and Katherine split their mother’s shares in Wentworth Industries and all three siblings become equal partners in Wentworth Tool and Die — but no matter. What’s important is that Cliff and Pam are now rich, forever changing the original “Dallas” dynamic of the have-not Barneses versus the wealthy, wanton Ewings. It’s also worth noting that the collection of companies that Rebecca leaves behind becomes the basis for Barnes Global, the conglomerate that Cliff uses as his weapon to bludgeon the Ewings during the second season of TNT’s “Dallas.”

Beyond these turning points, “Legacy” offers some unusually nifty camerawork. This is the fifth episode directed by Patrick Duffy, who once again demonstrates a flair for visual storytelling. Two of my favorite shots are found in the sequence where J.R. and Walt Driscoll meet after hours at Ewing Oil. Duffy positions the camera behind the reception desk as Driscoll arrives and steps off the elevator, a unique angle that, as far as I can remember, is never repeated. Moments later, J.R. stands in the foreground, shrouded in darkness, as Driscoll sits behind him, counting the money from their crooked oil deal. The shot makes Larry Hagman look utterly sinister.

I also admire Duffy’s inventive approach in the opening scene. After Pam’s Porsche pulls out of the driveway, Duffy pans the camera upward to reveal J.R. watching from the balcony. We rarely see the Ewings up there — the shot of J.R. gazing at Kristin’s dead body in the swimming pool in “Ewing-Gate” is a notable exception — so it’s neat to see Duffy put this part of the Southfork set to use. (Perhaps the “Dallas” actors are particularly attuned to this sort of thing: When Hagman directed the third-season episode “Mother of the Year,” he showed Lucy sliding down the Southfork bannister — the first time we see someone descend those famous stairs in that manner.) The “Legacy” shot of J.R. on the balcony also reminds us that he was hovering in the shadows the last time Pam left Bobby, at the end of “The Red File, Part 1” a second-season classic.

Scriptwriter Robert Sherman doesn’t deliver many new insights into the characters, but he does a nice of reinforcing what we’ve come to expect from them. I especially like the scene where J.R. paces on the patio, ranting about the outcome of Rebecca’s will reading. It’s always fun to hear J.R. insult Cliff — in this scene, he calls him a “lunatic” and predicts he’ll now be free to do “any fool thing” he wishes — but beyond the humor, the scene allows Sue Ellen to once again serve as J.R.’s confidant. Ever since the state revoked his permission to pump extra oil, J.R. has publicly declared the loss is no big deal. Here, he tells his wife the truth: “I’m in trouble.” It’s nice to see J.R. treat Sue Ellen as a partner — and that’s how she seems to think of herself too. Notice how she asks him, “Are you afraid we’re going to lose?”

Another good scene: Sue Ellen tells Clayton she’s upset that he’s seeing Miss Ellie. “I thought you were my friend,” she says. This prompts Clayton to confess that he was once in love with Sue Ellen, but since growing close to Ellie, he realizes Sue Ellen isn’t the woman for him. “Clayton, I just don’t understand,” she says. His response: “Not then, and not now.” This dialogue makes Sue Ellen seem a bit more self-absorbed than she was when Clayton was secretly pining for her at the end of the fifth season, but Linda Gray manages to make her character sympathetic nonetheless.

The other highlight of “Legacy” is the scene where Lucy and Muriel pull Mickey out of the Braddock saloon after a thuggish cowboy punches out his lights. The next time we see Mickey and Lucy, he’s waking up in his car with his head on her shoulder. It’s a charming moment and the first time we’ve seen the troubled Lucy demonstrate her growing affection for him. More than anything, I like seeing a woman coming to a man’s rescue on “Dallas,” which marks a real departure for a show with chauvinistic tendencies. Of course, I know before all is said done, Mickey will end up rescuing Lucy. Or maybe he already has.

Grade: B

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Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Lucy Ewing, Mickey Trotter, Timothy Patrick Murphy

Cold shoulder no more

‘LEGACY’

Season 6, Episode 19

Airdate: February 18, 1983

Audience: 21.5 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Robert Sherman

Director: Patrick Duffy

Synopsis: Pam takes Christopher and moves into a hotel. Cliff inherits Barnes-Wentworth Oil from Rebecca, while ownership of Wentworth Tool and Die is split evenly among Cliff, Pam and Katherine. J.R., fearing Bobby and the newly wealthy Pam will reunite and join forces against him, offers to end the contest for Ewing Oil, but Bobby refuses. J.R. is forced to sell some of his gas stations and completes his first illegal shipment to Cuba. Clayton tells Sue Ellen he once loved her but now realizes she wasn’t the right woman for him. Lucy rescues Mickey from a bar brawl.

Cast: Mary Armstrong (Louise), John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), J.P. Bumstead (Horace), Lois Chiles (Holly Harwood), Karlene Crockett (Muriel Gillis), Michael Currie (Sam Reynolds), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Chuck Hicks (bar patron), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Kenneth Kimmins (Thornton McLeish), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Timothy Patrick Murphy (Mickey Trotter), Ben Piazza (Walt Driscoll), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Tom Rosqui (Teddy), Paul Sorensen (Andy Bradley), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Bill Zuckert (Bill)

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

The Dal-List: 15 Great ‘Dallas’ Scenes Featuring Larry Hagman

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Once and future king

Larry Hagman made magic every time he appeared on “Dallas,” so coming up with a definitive list of his greatest scenes feels like an impossible task. Instead, let’s just call this a list of 15 performances I love.

Dallas, Digger's Daughter, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

The rose and the briar

15. Welcome to the family. On the day Bobby brings Pam (Victoria Principal) home to Southfork and introduces her as his new bride, J.R. cheerfully takes her outside for a pre-dinner tour of Miss Ellie’s garden, where he offers Pam a bribe to “annul this farce.” When Bobby approaches with a concerned look on his face, J.R. explains he’s just “talking a little business” with his new sister-in-law. “Mama don’t like business talk with supper on the table,” Bobby says. “Well, you know Mama. She’s so old-fashioned,” J.R. responds with a chuckle. It was the first time we heard his mischievous laugh, and it signaled the arrival of a different kind of villain. (“Digger’s Daughter”)

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

The smiling cobra

14. Poor Cliff. When his latest underhanded deal goes awry, J.R. is forced to sign over ownership of one of the original Ewing Oil fields to Cliff. “I can’t believe it,” Cliff says as he reclines in his chair. “After all these years, I finally whipped J.R. Ewing.” It’s a measure of J.R.’s power that we don’t feel happy for Ken Kercheval’s character at this moment. We feel sorry for him because we know this is a temporary setback for J.R. To wit: When Kercheval delivers the line about “finally” whipping J.R., Hagman responds with a slight smile. It’s more unnerving – and oddly, more satisfying – than any dialogue the writers might have come up with. (“Five Dollars a Barrel”)

Dallas, Joan Van Ark,J.R. Ewing, Knots Landing, Larry Hagman, Valene Ewing

Friendly enemies

13. There goes the neighborhood. When the residents of Knots Landing decide to fight Ewing Oil’s plan to drill near the local beach, J.R. comes to town to squelch the protest. Seeing this larger-than-life Texan in suburbia is a hoot. In one great scene, a frazzled Valene telephones Gary at work while cucumber-cool J.R. pulls a book off her kitchen shelf and flips through it. “I just love cookbooks,” he says. In another golden moment, J.R. takes a bite of the sandwich Val has just served him. “Hey, that is good. What do you call this?” he asks. “Tuna fish,” she hisses. Rarely have Hagman’s comedic sensibilities – and his crackling chemistry with Joan Van Ark – been put to better use. (“Community Spirit”)

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Secrets cry aloud

12. Here comes Kristin. My favorite Southfork dinner scene: The Ewings are entertaining Sue Ellen’s visiting mother Patricia and younger sister Kristin, who has barely concealed her attraction to J.R. When Kristin announces she’s considering putting off going to college, J.R. suggests she could fill in for his honeymooning secretary Louella. And instead of having Kristin stay at Southfork, J.R. recommends putting her up in the company-owned condo. In other words: J.R. sets up his soon-to-be-mistress with a job and a love nest, right in front of his whole family. No wonder Hagman looks like he’s having the time of his life playing this role. (“The Kristin Affair”)

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Truth and consequences

11. Sock it to him. My favorite Southfork cocktail hour: Ellie worries Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) didn’t get enough to eat at dinner. “She gets all the nourishment she needs from this,” J.R. says, waving around a liquor bottle. Next target: Pam. “She’s cracking up, slowly and surely. And who can blame her? I mean, she finds out that her daddy, Digger Barnes, is no relation at all. … And her mother’s a whore!” Bobby responds by punching J.R., and even though we know he deserves it, we kind of feel sorry for him. This was Hagman’s genius: Despite the awful things J.R. said, the actor delivered his lines with such joy, you couldn’t help but root for him. (“The Wheeler Dealer”)

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

Mama dearest

10. He’s got your back, Mama. Hagman often said he only accepted the role of J.R. after the “Dallas” producers told him they had cast Barbara Bel Geddes as his mother. I believe it. Every time these two appeared together on camera, you could feel Hagman’s reverence for her. (Fun fact: Bel Geddes was just nine years older than Hagman.) In this terrific scene, J.R. stands behind Miss Ellie as she chastises the cartel for taking advantage of one of Ewing Oil’s misfortunes. Hagman doesn’t have a single line of dialogue here, but he doesn’t need one. Sometimes great acting means knowing when to let your co-star have the spotlight. (“Waterloo at Southfork”)

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Call waiting

9. Strike! J.R. is down because he hasn’t hit a gusher in Southeast Asia. The phone rings. “It’s the Associated Press,” Kristin announces. “They want to know something about an oil well.” Line 2 buzzes. This call is from Hank, J.R.’s man in the Orient. “Where the hell have you been?” J.R. demands as he takes the receiver. In the background: A drumbeat builds. Slow, steady. Bum. Bum. Bum. Finally, J.R. exclaims, “Yee-ha! We hit!” This scene is brilliant because it mimics a gusher: The news about J.R.’s strike trickles in before his joyful rupture. Hagman directed the sequence, proving he was just as clever behind the camera as he was in front of it. (“Mother of the Year”)

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Omri Katz

The legacy

8. “This is Ewing Oil.” When J.R. finally goes too far with one of his schemes, the Justice Department forces the Ewings to sell their company. J.R. is giving John Ross one last look around the office when Jeremy Wendell, Ewing Oil’s new owner, enters and orders father and son off the premises. “Take this eyesore with you,” Wendell says as he reaches for Jock’s portrait. “Wendell!” J.R. shouts. “Touch that painting and I’ll kill where you stand.” Hagman takes the picture off the wall, holds it aloft and – with trumpets sounding in the background – says to young co-star Omri Katz, “John Ross, this is Ewing Oil.” The boy smiles. So do we. (“Fall of the House of Ewing”)

Dallas, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, J.R. Ewing, Sue Ellen Ewing

Lest the truth be known

7. Out of the frying pan… J.R. is fixing his breakfast plate in the Southfork dining room when he notices Jock comforting a distraught Miss Ellie. It seems Bobby has just told them he’s leaving the ranch because he’s fed up with J.R.’s dirty deeds. That’s when Sue Ellen chimes in, pointing out J.R. has driven away another Ewing brother. Dumb move, darlin’. J.R. responds with a vicious tirade, calling his wife a “drunk and an unfit mother” and announcing it’s time to send her back to the sanitarium. This is J.R. at his most menacing – which is remarkable since Hagman holds a strip of bacon the whole time he delivers J.R.’s venom-filled speech. (“A House Divided”)

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

Sins of the father

6. Another close shave. An adult John Ross is in a barbershop getting shaved while J.R. tells him a story that demonstrates how J.R. loved – and feared – Jock. Quietly, J.R. takes the razor from the barber, holds it to John Ross’s neck, yanks off the towel covering his son’s face and reveals he knows the younger man is planning to double-cross him in their scheme to seize Southfork. Then J.R. says, “I don’t blame you for trying to screw me. I was never much of a father during your formative years. And I’d like to make up for that.” As J.R., Hagman could be tough, but he could also be very tender – sometimes all at once, as this scene demonstrates. (“The Price You Pay”)

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Revelations

5. Tears for Sue Ellen. After J.R. has a very pregnant, very alcoholic Sue Ellen committed to the sanitarium, our heroine escapes, steals a car, wrecks it and goes into premature labor. With the lives of both Sue Ellen and newborn John Ross hanging in the balance, J.R. sits with Bobby at his wife’s hospital bedside and recalls happier times. He concludes his moving monologue by saying, “Oh, Bobby. She’s got to live. She’s just got to.” With this line, Hagman purses his lips, shuts his tear-filled eyes and bows his head. It’s an early glimpse of J.R.’s humanity – and one of the few times the character cries on camera. (“John Ewing III, Part 2”)

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

The brothers Ewing

4. Mourning Daddy. Jock’s death sends J.R. into a deep depression. He stops shaving, stops showing up for Ewing family dinners and even stops showing up for work. Finally, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) has enough. Barging into J.R.’s bedroom, Bobby yanks him off the bed, drags him across the room, makes him look at himself in the mirror and reminds him their Daddy built the company not just for them, but also for their children. “It’ll never be the same, Bob,” J.R. responds. Hagman’s delivery of this line never fails to move me. Before this moment, we’d seen J.R. break a lot of hearts. This time, he broke ours. (“Head of the Family”)

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Daddy’s little darlin’

3. Welcome to fatherhood. For months after John Ross’s birth, J.R. all but ignored the child because he secretly suspected Cliff is the father. Cliff thought the same thing and eventually filed a lawsuit to gain custody, prompting him and J.R. to take blood tests to determine the child’s paternity once and for all. On the night of one of Miss Ellie’s charity dinners, the results come in and prove J.R. is, in fact, the father. Armed with this knowledge, our tuxedo-clad hero enters the Southfork nursery, picks up his son, holds him close and kisses him. No dialogue is spoken. None is needed. The look on Hagman’s face – pride, relief, joy – says it all. (“Paternity Suit”)

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

The Ewing touch

2. Reminiscing. After a long day at work, J.R. comes home and finds Sue Ellen asleep in John Ross’s nursery, having dozed off while rocking him. She awakens and helps J.R. put the boy in his crib, and then the couple moves into their bedroom, where they recall their courtship. The dialogue beautifully captures the unique qualities Hagman and Gray bring to their roles. (Sue Ellen on J.R.’s eyes: “They always seemed to be hiding secrets. Things you knew about the world that no one else knew.”) The conversation also reminds us J.R. is not a hateful man. He loves many people, and none more than Sue Ellen. Theirs is the greatest – and most complicated – romance Texas has ever known. (“New Beginnings”)

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

True confessions

1. Brotherly love. J.R. finally does the right thing when he ends the war for Southfork and returns ownership of the ranch to Bobby, but the drama isn’t over: Bobby suffers a seizure and is taken to the hospital for emergency surgery. Standing at his brother’s hospital bedside, J.R. holds Bobby’s hand and pleads with him to wake up. “I’m going to tell you something you never heard me say before,” J.R. says. “I love you, Bobby, and I don’t know who I’d be without you.” With this line, J.R. acknowledges what the audience has always known: He’s incapable of checking his own worst impulses; he needs Bobby to do it for him. This is a deeply moving moment in its own right, but it takes on added poignancy now that we know Duffy was at Hagman’s side when he died. It’s also comforting to know J.R.’s greatest fear – having to face life without his beloved baby brother – will never be realized. How sad for us, though, that we must now face a world without Larry Hagman. (“Revelations”)

What do you consider J.R. Ewing’s greatest moments? Share your choices below and read more “Dal-Lists.”

The Best & Worst of Dallas: Season 3

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

Performances

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.

Storylines

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”?

Episodes

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.

Scenes

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

Gusher!

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.

Costumes

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.

Music

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.

Quips

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 Scene of the Day: ‘You’re a Parasite!’

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Ken Kercheval, Linda Gray, Mother of the Year, Sue Ellen Ewing

The biggest users

In “Mother of the Year,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) visits Cliff (Ken Kercheval) at his apartment, where he asks about baby John’s wellbeing.

CLIFF: Look, Sue Ellen, please tell me what’s going on.

SUE ELLEN: [Gets up from her chair, walks away from Cliff] I’m fine, the baby is fine – and neither of us can get you to Washington, so you can stop wasting time your precious time worrying about either one of us.

CLIFF: You have no right to say that.

SUE ELLEN: [Turns toward him] If I don’t, who does? You used me like you used everybody else to get ahead and to destroy J.R. Ewing – and to hell with anybody else.

CLIFF: I loved you, Sue Ellen.

SUE ELLEN: You made love to me. You never loved anybody but yourself. You never cared about me. You used me to get at J.R., and when I wanted you and needed you, you left me.

CLIFF: So I used you?

SUE ELLEN: Yes, that’s what I think. I think men are users.

CLIFF: No, Sue Ellen. You are the user. You used J.R. to get position and wealth. And when that started to go sour, then you used me to get back at J.R. because you knew that I was the one person that could do that – and then you got your hooks into me.

She begins walking away. He grabs her arm.

SUE ELLEN: Let go of me.

CLIFF: No, you’re not going anywhere, Mrs. Ewing. You’re going to listen to me, because it concerns my son. Because what you are really doing now is using the baby as a weapon so you can keep the Ewing name, which you care about. Because you’re a parasite! You’re incapable of loving. Even your son!

She slaps him, walks toward the door and opens it.

SUE ELLEN: You are wrong. I love my son.

CLIFF: You can’t love anyone. All you can do is use.

She leaves.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 42 – ‘Mother of the Year’

Dallas, Linda Gray, Mother of the Year, Sue Ellen Ewing

Prodigal mother

Larry Hagman directed “Mother of the Year,” and despite his limited experience behind the camera (Hagman’s most notable pre-“Dallas” directing credit: “Beware! The Blob”), he makes this episode the third season’s most inventive entry.

Consider the moment J.R. learns he’s struck oil in the Pacific. Hagman opens the scene with J.R. staring at his office telephone, awaiting news from Hank Johnson, his man in Asia, while Kristin massages his shoulders.

The phone rings. Kristin answers.

“It’s the Associated Press,” she announces. “They want to know something about an oil well.”

J.R. takes the receiver, tenses his shoulders, rises from his chair.

“What? Well, now, I, I haven’t got a confirmation on that yet,” he stammers.

Another line buzzes. Kristin answers. It’s Hank.

J.R. puts the AP on hold, takes Hank’s call.

“Where the hell have you been?” he demands.

In the background: A drumbeat begins building – slow, steady.

Bum.

Bum.

Bum.

“What?” J.R. asks Hank. “Yee-ha! We hit!”

Folksy strings join the drums as J.R. switches back to the other line.

“Yes, that’s a confirmation,” he says. “Absolutely. A strike in the Pacific – maybe the biggest one ever yet! Yeah, you can quote me. J.R. Ewing!”

The scene is clever because Hagman constructs it like an oil strike: The news about J.R.’s “hit” trickles in over the phone lines – slow but steady – before finally producing his joyful rupture.

I also appreciate Hagman’s attention to detail. He is an honest-to-goodness Texan and has a good ear for how these people talk – or at least how we expect them to.

Before Sue Ellen arrives for the Daughters of the Alamo luncheon, Hagman allows us to eavesdrop as the socialites gossip around the buffet table (“I can hardly believe what she was wearing to that formal dinner party!”).

Hagman also proves to be generous with his fellow cast mates. Barbara Bel Geddes, Jim Davis, Ken Kercheval and Victoria Principal all have nice scenes here, although “Mother of the Year” is mostly a showcase for Linda Gray.

Sue Ellen gets two – count ’em, two! – scenes with Dr. Elby, and when she finally picks up baby John at the end of the episode, it’s a powerful moment.

By the time the closing credits roll, there’s no doubt: Sue Ellen might be “Dallas’s” mother of the year, but director-of-the year honors go to Larry Hagman.

Grade: A

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Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Mother of the Year, Larry Hagman,

Someday his wells will come in

‘MOTHER OF THE YEAR’

Season 3, Episode 13

Airdate: December 14, 1979

Audience: 19.6 million homes, ranking 7th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Rena Down

Director: Larry Hagman

Synopsis: To prevent Ewing Oil from having to drill on Southfork, Jock decides to sell the Asian leases. Before the sale, the company hits a gusher. J.R. stops funding Cliff’s campaign. After fighting with Cliff, Sue Ellen shows interest in her baby, leaving Pam feeling as if she has “lost” another child.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Jocelyn Brando (Mrs. Reeves), 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), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Joan Lancaster (Linda Bradley), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), Dennis Patrick (Vaughn Leland), Randolph Powell (Alan Beam), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

“Mother of the Year” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.