Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘I Got Your Mother to Smile!’

What a smile it is

What a smile it is

In “Dallas’s” fifth-season episode “My Father, My Son,” J.R. and Sue Ellen (Larry Hagman, Linda Gray) talk in her townhouse, while John Ross (Tyler Banks) sits at the kitchen counter, eating.

J.R.: I guess having John Ross around so much, I just don’t know what it’s like without him.

SUE ELLEN: Well, I do miss him on the weekends.

J.R.: [Stands behind John Ross, picking food off his plate] Yeah. I never realized that Southfork was such a big house. It’s so empty there, I tell you.

SUE ELLEN: Really? Well, I thought you were the one that always filled up the house, J.R.

J.R.: [Chuckles] No, this little boy right here is the one that fills up that house. What are you doing today?

SUE ELLEN: Well, I haven’t decided yet. Maybe I’m the one that’ll have the empty house.

J.R.: You don’t have any plans?

SUE ELLEN: There’s a lot of things I could be doing.

J.R.: Oh, yeah, I’m sure there is. I kind of promised John Ross I’d take him to the kiddie park. Would you like to come along?

SUE ELLEN: Oh, uh, no. Thank you.

J.R.: Well, you said you didn’t have anything to do. Come on, Sue Ellen. When’s the last time you sat on a seesaw or had yourself a hot dog? [She smiles.] Lookee there, I got your mother to smile! [Chuckles] We’d both love to have you.

SUE ELLEN: Oh, I don’t know, J.R.

J.R.: Well, if you didn’t enjoy it, I’d drive you home anytime you wanted to. And I think it’d be a good idea for the boy to see his Mama and Daddy together sometime. Just once in awhile.

SUE ELLEN: [Leans across the counter] John Ross, would you like your mama to go with you today?

JOHN ROSS: [Smiling, softly] Yeah.

J.R.: [Laughs] How about that?

SUE ELLEN: I’ll go get my jacket. [Walks away]

J.R.: Well, boy, I tell you, you have a remarkable way of persuading ladies. Just like your daddy, huh?

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 94 – ‘My Father, My Son’

Coming around again

Coming around again

Toward the end of “My Father, My Son,” J.R. persuades Sue Ellen to join him and John Ross on a visit to what he calls “the kiddie park.” The family’s afternoon plays out in a montage of scenes: We see Daddy and Mommy watching their little boy on the swing set, J.R. and John Ross spinning on a merry go round, son chasing father through a maze. It’s very sweet but also a little sad.

Poor Sue Ellen looks miserable. Is she unhappy because she’s spending the afternoon with her ex-husband? No, I believe Sue Ellen wants to be with J.R. – and she hates herself for it. Despite the pain he has caused her, Sue Ellen still loves him. She’s also beginning to realize she wants him back. So at the end of the playground scene, when J.R. is driving his family home and John Ross’s balloon escapes through the car window, it might as well be Sue Ellen’s dreams of independence drifting away.

And what about J.R.? Why is he is working so hard to charm Sue Ellen and John Ross? As is so often the case with J.R., the answer is complicated. I believe J.R. genuinely misses his son and wants to spend time with him. It’s also clear J.R. wants John Ross’s voting shares in Ewing Oil, and he knows the only way he can get them is by wooing Sue Ellen and the boy back to Southfork.

But J.R. also seems to love Sue Ellen as much as she loves him. Some of this is expressed through jealousy: Recall how he tried to drive a wedge between Sue Ellen and Dusty in “The Split.” And at the beginning of “My Father, My Son,” notice how rattled J.R. becomes when he spots her dining with Cliff in the restaurant.

The most revealing moment of all comes in this episode’s final moments. In another nice scene between Larry Hagman and Tyler Banks, J.R. tells John Ross a bedtime story at Southfork. Once the child’s eyes close (Banks really seems to drift off during the course of this scene), J.R.’s true feelings emerge. “You know, John Ross, I have a feeling your mama’s going to be back on Southfork real soon,” he says. “Yeah, I think she’s learning that absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

In that instant, we know J.R. may as well be talking about himself. Absence has made his heart grow fonder too. Isn’t it nice to be reminded he has one?

Grade: A

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Gone baby gone

Gone baby gone

‘MY FATHER, MY SON’

Season 5, Episode 17

Airdate: February 5, 1982

Audience: 23.1 million homes, ranking 3rd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Will Lorin

Director: Larry Hagman

Synopsis: J.R.’s friend, industrialist Wally Hampton, agrees to lure Cliff out of Dallas by hiring him for a job in Tulsa. Cliff tells Afton he still loves Sue Ellen. Bobby learns he’ll need an affidavit from Sue Ellen to adopt Christopher. Lucy kisses Roger after discovering Mitch’s friendship with Evelyn.

Cast: Barbara Babcock (Liz Craig), Tyler Banks (John Ross Ewing), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Phyllis Flax (Mrs. Chambers), Bruce French (Jerry Macon), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Claude Earl Jones (Wally Hampton), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Sherril Lynn Katzman (Jackie), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Leigh McCloskey (Dr. Mitch Cooper), Patricia McCormack (Evelyn Michaelson), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Dennis Redfield (Roger Larson), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Ron Tomme (Charles Eccles)

“My Father, My Son” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.