Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 189 — ‘Deeds and Misdeeds’

Dallas, Deeds and Misdeeds, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Bottle shock

Sue Ellen’s scenes in “Deeds and Misdeeds” aren’t easy to watch. The previous episode ended with her taking her first drink in almost two years, and in this hour, she continues slipping back into her old habits. Sue Ellen leads everyone to believe her relapse was only temporary, yet she swipes a bottle of vodka from the living room and stuffs it in her purse when no one is looking. Alcohol is once again overpowering her, which director Michael Preece brilliantly symbolizes in one scene by filming Linda Gray through the bottles on the Southfork liquor cart. It’s as if the booze is bigger than she is.

As much as I love this shot, no moment in “Deeds and Misdeeds” is more powerful than Sue Ellen’s visit to John Ross in the hospital. She’s wracked with guilt — the reason she fell off the wagon in the first place is because J.R. accused her of being a neglectful mother when their son fell ill with appendicitis — and Gray’s tentative body language does as much to convey her character’s remorse as her tears. Sue Ellen approaches the child slowly, then tenderly strokes his hair and says, “I’m so sorry. Mommy should have been here so you didn’t have to go through that operation alone.” John Ross tells her that “it wasn’t your fault” and wraps his arms around her neck, which might be the saddest thing I’ve ever witnessed on this show. This sweet little boy isn’t hesitating to forgive his mother, yet we know it’ll be a long time before she can forgive herself.

Although it’s hard to see Sue Ellen fall behind after making so much progress during the past two seasons, I’m glad “Dallas” is finally showcasing Gray, who’s been relegated to the background for too long. “Deeds and Misdeeds” continues the show’s late-season course correction in other areas too, including the storyline over the lawsuit to control Ewing Oil. The mysterious Jack brings his cousins J.R., Bobby and Ray to California to meet wealthy Wallace Windham, a figure from Jock’s past who has information that could tilt the suit in the Ewings’ favor. The audience won’t discover what Windham knows until the next episode, but no matter. At least we get to see the Ewing men looking cooler than ever as they stroll across Windham’s driveway. It’s not as neat as the slow-motion walk from “Reservoir Dogs,” but it’ll do.

“Deeds and Misdeeds” also features a cute scene in which J.R. shows up in John Ross’s hospital room with a toy robot — Daddy looks awfully pleased with himself, doesn’t he? — as well as the impromptu wedding of Cliff and Jamie, which demonstrates how isolated Ken Kercheval’s character is from the rest of the show. Cliff asks Jordan Lee to be his best man, a somewhat surprising choice since I rarely think of these two characters as being particularly close. Other oddities include Clayton expressing surprise to learn Jock was married before Ellie — how has she not mentioned this before? — as well as Mandy’s near-orgasmic reaction when J.R. embraces her during a visit to her dressing room. If this is all it takes for J.R. to send a woman into a fit of ecstasy, no wonder he’s such a popular fellow.

Speaking of unsubtle moments: Let’s discuss the dramatic encounter between Mitch, his ex-wife Lucy and his current squeeze Joanna. It begins with Mitch and Lucy chatting in the hospital corridor about how much they’ve matured since their divorce. When she says she’s proud of him and offers a friendly hug, he notices Joanna is watching and calls her over. “Hi, Joanna,” Mitch says. “I’d like to introduce you to Lucy Ewing. Lucy, this is Joanna Pearce.” Actress Cynthia Leake says, “Hello,” … and then she delivers a Shatner-esque pause while cutting Charlene Tilton the most withering glare in the history of 1980s prime-time soap operas. This is what the kids now refer to as “throwing shade,” except that doesn’t do it justice. Tilton does a nice job looking appropriately rattled, which Joanna ignores as she turns to Mitch and says, “Well, I’ll talk to you later.” Leake then exits the scene, but not before Joanna looks Lucy up and down one last time.

This is Leake’s second “Dallas” appearance — she also played one of Peter’s fellow camp counselors in the seventh-season episode “My Brother’s Keeper” — and it demonstrates how actors in small roles can leave lasting impressions on “Dallas.” In a way, it also speaks to the resiliency of Tilton’s character. If Lucy can survive a look this dirty, she might be the hardiest Ewing of all.

Grade: B

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Dallas, Deeds and Misdeeds, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Tin men

‘DEEDS AND MISDEEDS’

Season 8, Episode 28

Airdate: May 3, 1985

Audience: 18.2 million homes, ranking 3rd in the weekly ratings

Writer: David Paulsen

Director: Michael Preece

Synopsis: Jack introduces the Ewing brothers to Wallace Windham, who supplies them with evidence Jock owned Ewing Oil. After falling off the wagon, Sue Ellen hides her drinking from the Ewings. Cliff marries Jamie.

Cast: Roseanne Christiansen (Teresa), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Susan French (Amanda Ewing), Paul Gleason (Lieutenant Lee Spaulding), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Jenilee Harrison (Jamie Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), John Larch (Wally Windham), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Leigh McCloskey (Dr. Mitch Cooper), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Dack Rambo (Jack Ewing), Donna Reed (Miss Ellie Farlow), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

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

‘Dallas’ 2014: Remembering Those We Lost

Dallas, Denny Miller, Ed Nelson, Michael Filerman, Russell Johnson

Several people who contributed to “Dallas” died during the past 12 months. Here’s a list of those we lost, along with 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 IMDb.com.

 

James Avery

James Avery

James Avery

December 31, 2013 (age 68)

Avery, who is best known as Uncle Phil on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” played Fowler, the judge who allowed Bobby to keep Christopher in the 11th–season episode “Malice in Dallas.”

 

 

Jerry Biggs

Jerry Biggs

Jerry Biggs

Died March 30 (age 63)

Biggs appeared in bit parts in three episodes between 1982 and 1986, including playing a customer who flirted with Lucy at the Hot Biscuit in the eighth-season episode “Family.”

 

 

Lew Brown

Lew Brown

Lew Brown

Died July 27 (age 89)

Brown played Clarence, a Ewing Oil employee, in the seventh-season episode “My Brother’s Keeper.” He returned for two 10th-season episodes as Harrigan, a newspaperman who exposed J.R.’s connection to B.D. Calhoun.

 

 

Robert Cawley

Robert Cawley

Robert Cawley

Died June 23 (age 85)

Cawley played an instructor at the ice-skating rink where Bobby and Christopher met Lisa Alden in “Tough Love,” an 11th-season episode. He also played an oil field worker in the 1998 “Dallas” reunion movie, “War of the Ewings.”

 

 

Vince Davis

Vince Davis

Vince Davis

Died May 23 (age 59)

Davis played one of Sue Ellen’s business advisors in the 10th-season episode “Once and Future King” and a waiter who served J.R. and Wilson and Kimberly Cryder in “Hustling,” an 11th-season entry.

 

 

Michael Filerman

Michael Filerman

Michael Filerman

Died January 25 (age 75)

Filerman, “Dallas’s” executive program supervisor in 1978, later served as executive producer of “Knots Landing,” “Falcon Crest,” “Flamingo Road,” “Sisters” and other prime-time serials.

 

 

Med Flory

Med Flory

Med Flory

Died March 12 (age 87)

In the third-season episode “The Lost Child,” Flory played private eye Cal McBride, who J.R. hired to follow Sue Ellen when she began secretly seeing Dr. Elby. Other credits include “Lassie” and “Daniel Boone.”

 

 

Stefan Gierasch

Stefan Gierasch

Stefan Gierasch

Died September 6 (age 88)

Gierasch played Ben Masters, the storekeeper who helped Tom Owens seek revenge against Jock in the third-season classic “The Dove Hunt.” Other credits include a 1992 episode of “Knots Landing.”

 

 

Michael A. Hoey

Michael A. Hoey

Michael A. Hoey

Died August 17 (age 79)

Hoey directed “Missing,” a ninth-season episode, along with multiple episodes of “Falcon Crest” and “Fame.” He later produced several Primetime Creative Arts Emmy broadcasts.

 

 

Russell Johnson

Russell Johnson

Russell Johnson

Died January 16 (age 89)

Johnson, the Professor on “Gilligan’s Island,” played Sheriff Wyatt Mansfield in the ninth-season episode “Twenty-Four Hours.” Other credits include “Vanished,” a 1971 TV movie with Larry Hagman, Jim Davis and Denny Miller.

 

 

Dennis Lipscomb

Dennis Lipscomb

Dennis Lipscomb

Died July 30 (age 72)

Lipscomb played Nelson Harding, an IRS agent who helped J.R. pressure the Ewings to declare Jock dead, in the sixth-season episode “Billion Dollar Question.” His later credits include episodes of “ER” and “The X-Files.”

 

 

Ann Marcus

Ann Marcus

Ann Marcus

Died December 3 (age 93)

Marcus, a writer on “Peyton Place,” helped revitalize “Knots Landing” during its next-to-last season and co-wrote “Knots Landing: Back to the Cul-de-Sac” with “Dallas” scribe Lisa Seidman.

 

 

Frank Marth

Frank Marth

Frank Marth

Died January 12 (age 91)

Marth played Dr. Sidney Grovner, Lucy’s physician, in “Billion Dollar Question.” He also played doctors on “Starsky & Hutch,” “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “Aloha Means Goodbye,” a 1974 TV movie.

 

 

Denny Miller

Denny Miller

Denny Miller

Died September 9 (age 80)

Miller, a star of “Wagon Train,” played Max Flowers, Cliff’s foreman at Gold Canyon 340, in four episodes during the seventh season. Miller and Hagman also did episodes of “The Rockford Files” and “Barnaby Jones” together.

 

 

Ed Nelson

Ed Nelson

Ed Nelson

Died August 9 (age 85)

“Peyton Place” star Nelson originated the role of Jeb Amos in the second-season classic “Bypass.” Nelson and “Dallas” producer Leonard Katzman also worked together on a 1955 film, “New Orleans Uncensored.”

 

 

Byron Weiss

Byron Weiss

Byron Weiss

Died March 14 (age 51)

Weiss performed stunts for “War of the Ewings” and two TNT episodes, “Blame Game” and “Guilt By Association.” He also worked on Jesse Metcalfe’s 2010 series, “Chase,” and the Katzman-produced “Walker, Texas Ranger.”

 

 

What do you remember about these artists? Share your memories below and read last year’s tributes.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 138 — ‘Ray’s Trial’

Dallas, Ray Krebbs, Ray's Trial, Steve Kanaly

His day in court

I always remembered the mystery surrounding Mickey Trotter’s death as boiling down to a single question: Did Ray or Lil pull the plug on him? Last week, when I re-watched “Ray’s Trial” for the first time in a few years, I realized “Dallas” also poses a second, more complicated question: Did Mickey want to live or die? Ray and Lucy each offer different answers during the course of the episode, and technically, both of their statements are accurate. Does that mean both statements are also true? I’m not sure anyone can answer that definitively, which makes the storyline feel a lot more interesting than I previously gave it credit for.

To appreciate this aspect of “Ray’s Trial,” it’s worth remembering two crucial scenes from the preceding episodes. In “My Brother’s Keeper,” when Mickey is struggling to come to grips with his paralysis, he pulls Ray aside and tells him, “The idea of living like a vegetable with some damn machine keeping me alive disgusts me. It’s the worst horror I can imagine. … If it happens, I hope and pray that no one’s going to let me live that way.” Later, in “The Quality of Mercy,” Mickey’s mood brightens when he realizes Lucy is determined to stand by him despite the fact that he’ll never walk again. “Who knows? Maybe we’ll get married yet,” Mickey tells her.

But this is “Dallas,” so of course that never happens. When Mickey slips into a coma, his respirator is disconnected off-screen by either Ray or Lil, the two people with him at the time. The district attorney charges Ray, although the show goes out of its way to drop hints that the real culprit is Lil and Ray is only covering up for her. “Dallas” doesn’t solve the mystery until the next episode, allowing the audience to spend “Ray’s Trial” pondering what Mickey wanted, which turns out to be the more interesting question anyway. At the top of the hour, Ray meets with his lawyer and recalls Mickey’s “worst horror” comment, holding this up as evidence that Mickey preferred death to being kept alive via medical machinery. Later, when Lucy testifies at Ray’s trial, she recalls the marriage plans she and Mickey were making before he slipped into the coma. “He wanted to live. He really did,” she says.

Once again, these are two characters offering two technically accurate but fundamentally different answers to the question of whether Mickey wanted to live or die. Who you choose to believe may come down to where you stand on the issue of euthanasia, which is where “Ray’s Trial” ultimately falls short. Scriptwriter Arthur Bernard Lewis doesn’t devote much time to examining the moral implications of Mickey’s death, which is somewhat surprising considering the difference of opinion Ray and Donna apparently bring to the issue. At one point, Ray tells his lawyer, “What I did was not immoral.” This seems to put him at odds with Donna, whose personal beliefs are hinted at in the previous episode when she declares, “Nobody has the right to play God.” So why doesn’t “Ray’s Trial” give us a scene of husband and wife debating the issue?

Even if the material feels incomplete, Steve Kanaly makes the most of it. In my recent interview with him, Kanaly recalled growing up watching westerns and admiring actors like Gary Cooper. The comment must have lodged itself in the back of my mind because when I watched “Ray’s Trial” a few days later, I was struck by how much Kanaly reminds me of Cooper. The actors share similarly quiet, dignified mannerisms, and both are able to say a lot without uttering a single line of dialogue. In Kanaly’s case, watch his haunted eyes in this episode and you’ll see everything that the script doesn’t tell us about what Ray is feeling.

The other performer to watch is Charlene Tilton, who appears only twice but makes a lasting impression. She does a beautiful job delivering Lucy’s tearful testimony, which supplies “Ray’s Trial” with its moment of emotional catharsis. My favorite scene, though, comes a few moments later, when Donna comforts Lucy in the courthouse corridor after Lucy reluctantly testifies against Ray. This is a brief scene and the script doesn’t give Tilton much dialogue, but none is needed. Her anguished expression says it all. The courtroom scenes also feature a couple of old pros — Richard Jaeckel as prosecutor Percy Meredith and Glenn Corbett as Paul Morgan, Ray’s defense lawyer — as well as a young Steven Williams, who appears here as a bailiff and later plays the police captain on “21 Jump Street.”

This episode’s other notable moments include Mark Graison’s polo match, which might be “Dallas’s” most thrilling horseback riding sequence since Jock Ewing surged across the Southfork plains at the beginning of the second-season classic “Bypass.” “Ray’s Trial” also marks Lois Chiles’ final appearance as Holly Harwood. In her last scene, Holly approaches J.R. in a cocktail lounge and taunts him over losing the battle for Ewing Oil. Besides giving Chiles one last opportunity to spar with Larry Hagman, I like how this scene mimics J.R. and Holly’s first on-screen encounter, which also takes place in a cocktail lounge.

The other highlight of “Ray’s Trial” is the arrival of Priscilla Presley, who makes her “Dallas” debut as Jenna Wade. It’s a fine first appearance, although it includes a bit of a curiosity. In one of Presley’s scenes, Bobby pulls up in front of Jenna’s home as she approaches the sidewalk. He invites her to join him for lunch, but when director Michael Preece offers us a close-up shot of Bobby’s car radio, we see the clock reads “5:45.” From this, we can deduce one of two things: Either Ewings eat lunch very late, which makes them a lot different than you and me, or Bobby has yet to figure out how to set the clock in his car, in which case he’s just like us.

Grade: B

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Dallas, Jenna Wade, Priscilla Presley, Ray's Trial

Hello again

‘RAY’S TRIAL’

Season 7, Episode 7

Airdate: November 11, 1983

Audience: 22.4 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Michael Preece

Synopsis: Ray goes on trial and frustrates Donna with his reluctance to defend himself. Bobby runs into Jenna, who now works as a waitress. J.R. woos the cartel.

Cast: Charles Aidman (Judge Emmett Brocks), Christopher Atkins (Peter Richards), John Beck (Mark Graison), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Lois Chiles (Holly Harwood), Glenn Corbett (Paul Morgan), Michael Cornelison (Dr. Snow), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Steven Fuller (bailiff), Tony Garcia (Raoul), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Richard Jaeckel (Assistant District Attorney Percy Meredith), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing),  Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Joseph R. Maross (Dr. Blakely), Andrea McCall (Tracy Anders), Priscilla Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Kate Reid (Lil Trotter), Paul Sorensen (Andy Bradley), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

“Ray’s Trial” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘I Don’t Want You to Be Alone’

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Ken Kercheval, My Brother's Keeper, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Sister’s keeper

In “My Brother’s Keeper,” a seventh-season “Dallas” episode, Cliff and Pam (Ken Kercheval, Victoria Principal) walk down a busy street together.

CLIFF: I tell you, there is nothing better than some good Mexican food to clear the cobwebs out of your hair.

PAM: Ugh. Just the thought of Mexican food right now is enough to make me sick. What I need is some more sleep. Do you know what time Christopher got me up?

CLIFF: You’re healthy. You don’t need anymore sleep. I think there’s a pretty good Chinese restaurant right around this corner.

PAM: Well, there’s a coffee shop just down the block.

CLIFF: You can’t exist just on coffee.

PAM: So I’ll have some toast. Since when are you so concerned about what I eat?

CLIFF: I’m not concerned about what you eat. I’m more worried about you right now.

PAM: You really are.

CLIFF: Yeah. And I tell you, I’m gonna be the one to pick you up and drive you to court tomorrow.

PAM: [Laughs] Why? Are you afraid I’ll change my mind?

CLIFF: No, except I know that you’re hurting right now, and I don’t want you to be alone. [They stop and face each other. He holds her arms.] Believe it or not, I understand how much you love Bobby. And tomorrow is going to be a rough day, and I want to be with you.

PAM: You know, whatever else has gone wrong for me these past few years, it’s wonderful to have my brother back.

They lean in to each other and smile.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 135 — ‘My Brother’s Keeper’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, My Brother's Keeper

Brotherly love

J.R. goes through “My Brother’s Keeper” trying to buck up Bobby, who’s feeling down as his divorce date approaches. In a memorable scene, the brothers go out for a night on the town, where J.R. arranges for Bobby to bump into a call girl he hired to take Bobby’s mind off his troubles. Does it matter that J.R. is also secretly plotting to shut Bobby out of Ewing Oil, or that J.R. knows Pam will be at the restaurant and will spot her estranged husband dining with the other woman? Of course it matters. But even though J.R. has ulterior motives, the concern he displays for his brother in this episode feels very real.

It’s another example of what makes J.R. a forerunner for the protagonists of modern television drama. As critic Matt Zoller Seitz recently noted, one of the reasons the final hours of “Breaking Bad” were so riveting is because they showed how Walter White, the loving husband and father, and Heisenberg, his ruthless alter ego, had come to co-exist within the same mind and body. You can say something similar about J.R. Even though he’s scheming against Bobby and helped orchestrate the breakup of his marriage, he genuinely loves his brother and wants to help him cope with the loss of Pam and Christopher. J.R. is nothing if not a compartmentalist.

Like J.R., Cliff also balances his love for a sibling with his desire to advance his own agenda. In Cliff’s case, he wants Pam to divorce Bobby so she can marry Mark and pave the way for Cliff, Pam and Mark to form a business partnership. But unlike J.R.’s relationship with Bobby, Cliff’s affection for Pam feels a little less complicated. Watch the sweet scene in “My Brother’s Keeper” where Cliff insists on accompanying Pam to the courthouse for her divorce hearing. The warm rapport between Ken Kercheval and Victoria Principal makes me believe Cliff’s concern for Pam trumps everything else. (Interestingly enough, J.R. and Cliff essentially switch roles on TNT’s “Dallas,” where J.R. extols the virtues of putting family first and Cliff is willing to sacrifice his own daughter in his war against the Ewings.)

Three more scenes in “My Brother’s Keeper” deserve mentioning. In the first, Donna stands with Ray at a fence outside their house as he laments the tragedy that has befallen his family since Amos Krebbs’ funeral a year earlier. The shot echoes one from “Where There’s a Will,” the sixth-season episode where Ray and Donna stand in the same spot as he debates whether to attend the funeral. I also like the “My Brother’s Keeper” scene where Bobby and Pam sit silently in an office while their lawyers politely discuss the terms of their divorce. Patrick Duffy and Victoria Principal avoid eye contact throughout this sequence, making it feel even sadder than their farewell conversation at the end of the previous episode.

My other favorite scene from “My Brother’s Keeper” is also notable for what isn’t said. It comes at the end of the second act, when Katherine answers a knock on Pam’s hotel room door. “Who is it?” Katherine asks. The voice on the other side of the door belongs to Cliff, who jovially asks: “Who are you?” The eye roll that Morgan Brittany offers in response is priceless. In an episode that leaves us pondering sibling connections, this scene is a reminder that some of these relationships aren’t complicated at all.

Grade: B

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Dallas, Donna Krebbs, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly, Susan Howard

Don’t fence him in

‘MY BROTHER’S KEEPER’

Season 7, Episode 4

Airdate: October 21, 1983

Audience: 21.2 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Bobby and Pam’s divorce is finalized. J.R. and Bobby learn their battle has depleted Ewing Oil’s reserves. Mickey tells Ray he doesn’t want to live as an invalid. Sue Ellen gets to know Peter.

Cast: Christopher Atkins (Peter Richards), John Beck (Mark Graison), Stephanie Blackmore (Serena Wald), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Lew Brown (Clarence Colby), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Glenn Corbett (Paul Morgan), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Sean McGraw (Moran), Timothy Patrick Murphy (Mickey Trotter), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Kate Reid (Lil Trotter), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Tracy Scoggins (Diane Kelly), Harold Suggs (Judge Thornby), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Danone Simpson (Kendall), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), Chana Vowell (Dee)

“My Brother’s Keeper” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.