Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 190 — ‘Deliverance’

Bobby Ewing, Charlie Wade, Dallas, Deliverance, Jenna Wade, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, Shalane McCall

To the victors

“Deliverance” is the next-to-last episode from “Dallas’s” eighth season, but if you didn’t know better, you might think it was the finale. By the end of the hour, the year’s two major storylines are resolved: Cliff and Jamie’s lawsuit to claim two-thirds of Ewing Oil ends in humiliating defeat, while Jenna gets out of prison when Naldo’s killer confesses. I can’t remember how I felt when this episode debuted 30 years ago, but I would imagine it befuddled more than a few viewers. They must have thought, “If the show is going to tie up all its loose ends here, what’s left for the season finale?”

The answer, of course, is that “Dallas” would end the year with Bobby’s death in “Swan Song,” which would become one of the show’s finest installments. “Deliverance” can’t match the power of that episode, but at least it rewards the viewers who stuck with the series throughout its eighth season. The scenes that resolve Naldo’s murder mystery are particularly satisfying, thanks almost entirely to Patrick Duffy. When Bobby finally comes face to face with Schumann, the hit man who framed Jenna for the killing, he offers to set up the man’s wife with a fat bank account if Schumann confesses. “You help my lady and I’ll help yours,” Bobby says. This is one of those lines that Duffy delivers in his signature, Eastwoodian whisper, which never fails to give me chills.

Since Schumann already is facing life in prison for another murder, he agrees to help Bobby and explains how he killed Naldo and framed Jenna. As he confesses, we see flashbacks that fill in the gaps surrounding the shooting. Not everything holds up, though. According to this episode, when Naldo enters the hotel room where he’s eventually murdered, Schumann knocks him out, places his body on a table and then grabs Jenna from behind while she’s waiting in the hall. When the killing occurs in “Odd Man Out,” however, Jenna is yanked into the room mere seconds after Naldo enters. It’s also a little silly how quickly the police accept Schumann’s confession, but no matter. At least this storyline is finally over.

I’m also not going to complain about the trial to determine Ewing Oil’s ownership, which is completed in record time. Wally Windham, the mysterious character introduced in the previous episode, testifies that he purchased Digger and Jason’s shares of Ewing Oil in 1931 — only to sell them to Jock the following year. Windham is the only witness at the trial, and despite his earlier assertion that his story was long and complicated, he manages to tell it pretty succinctly here. Likewise, am I the only who finds it absurd that Jock left the bill of sale giving him ownership of a multi-billion-dollar corporation with his ex-wife Amanda, who lives in a mental hospital? Once again, I suppose I shouldn’t quibble. The lawsuit over Ewing Oil wasn’t as dreary as the Naldo murder mystery, but it wasn’t a shining moment in “Dallas” history, either. What’s important now is that it’s over.

Given the sense of finality in “Deliverance,” it’s no wonder the producers decided to end this episode with a Ewing victory bash at the Oil Baron’s Club. This is a fun sequence because it brings together so many different characters — including Jordan and Marilee, who were rooting for Cliff and Jamie in the fight over the company. (During the trial, Jordan even shows his solidarity with Cliff by offering him a fist pump.) I also get a kick out of Marilee making a beeline for handsome Jack the moment he arrives at the party, although I’m equally intrigued by another shot that shows her chatting with Ray. In fact, the only character who seems to be missing from the celebration is Jenna’s lawyer Scotty Demarest. This is an especially egregious oversight when you consider all of Scotty’s theories about the case were proven correct, right down to the fact the murder weapon was equipped with a sy-lun-suh.

“Deliverance” also brings us more evidence of Sue Ellen’s sad spiral: J.R. finds her passed out drunk in her bed at the beginning of the episode, and later, she discreetly nips from her flask in the courthouse corridor. (Shades of Sue Ellen sneaking a drink during “Jock’s Trial, Part Two.”) Shockingly, Linda Gray has only one line of dialogue in “Deliverance” — at the party, Sue Ellen says hello to Phyllis and Sly — although Gray’s limited screen time underscores how her character is receding into the shadows. Besides, Sue Ellen’s drinking will be dealt with more in “Swan Song,” along with the identity of the mystery woman who rips up the newspaper article about Jenna’s release (is there any doubt who’s under the blond wig?) and Bobby and Pam’s reunion, which the producers set up in “Deliverance” by having the characters finally admit that they still love each other.

Along these lines, this episode also finds J.R. telling Sly he’s glad Jenna will soon get out of jail because it means she can marry Bobby. “J.R., I thought you wanted Bobby and Pam to get back together,” Sly says. His response: “Well, that was last week.” Yes, it’s an amusing line, especially when Larry Hagman punctuates it with his chuckle, but it’s also a little too self-aware for my taste. Perhaps the producers need to indulge their campy impulses one last time before returning to serious dramatic territory in “Swan Song.” If that’s the case, all is forgiven.

Grade: B


Charlene Tilton, Clayton Farlow, Dack Rambo, Dallas, Deborah Tranelli, Deliverance, Don Starr, Donna Culver Krebbs, Donna Reed, Dr. Mitch Cooper, Fern Fitzgerald, George O. Petrie, Harv Smithfield, Howard Keel, Leigh McCloskey, Dr. Mitch Cooper, Jack Ewing, Jordan Lee, Marilee Stone, Phyllis Wapner, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly, Susan Howard

Toast of the town


Season 8, Episode 29

Airdate: May 10, 1985

Audience: 19.2 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Peter Dunne

Director: Nick Havinga

Synopsis: At the trial, Windham testifies that he bought Digger and Jason’s Ewing Oil shares and later sold them to Jock. Jenna is freed after Bobby persuades Schumann to confess to Naldo’s murder, but the assassin is unable to say who hired him. Dusty spots Sue Ellen drinking at the Oil Baron’s Club. Mitch asks Lucy to move to Atlanta.

Cast: Sam Anderson (Inspector Frank Howard), Mary Armstrong (Louise), Rod Arrants (Andre Schumann), Roseanne Christiansen (Teresa), Robert Clarke (Mason), Pat Colbert (Dora Mae), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Jenilee Harrison (Jamie Barnes), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), John Larch (Wally Windham), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Leigh McCloskey (Dr. Mitch Cooper), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Daniel Pilon (Renaldo Marchetta), 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), Dean Santoro (Raymond Furguson), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), Harvey Vernon (Judge Harding)

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

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘You Never Fail to Surprise Me’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Odd Man Out, Patrick Duffy

Bond of brothers

In “Odd Man Out,” an eighth-season “Dallas” episode, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) is seated at his desk at Ewing Oil when J.R. (Larry Hagman) knocks and enters, holding his hat.

J.R.: Hey, Bob. Say, it’s time to go home. You’ve increased the family fortunes enough for one day.

BOBBY: J.R., I’m not nearly done with the work I have. I’m going to be here for hours yet.

J.R.: Oh? Well, Sue Ellen and I were planning on going out tonight to eat. We’d like you to join us. [Sets down his hat, turns his back, begins fixing a drink] And just to show you how bighearted I am, I asked Jamie to come along. Can you believe that? [Chuckles]

BOBBY: Look, I think I understand what you’re trying to do, but not tonight, all right?

J.R.: Life goes on, Bob.

BOBBY: Look, I don’t need your platitudes either.

J.R.: Hear me out a minute, will you? [Faces Bobby] Do you remember what happened to me when Daddy died? All meaning went out of my life. Everything I’d done, every move I’d made, was to please him. There was no reason to go on.

BOBBY: I remember.

J.R.: And slowly, it dawned on me that there was a reason. That it was important that I go on. I had a little boy that needed me. I had John Ross. Now you have your Christopher at home, at Southfork. The boy needs his daddy. And whatever you believe Jenna did, he is there and he needs you 100 percent, Bobby. Unless, of course, you don’t think he’s worth it.

BOBBY: [Gets up, approaches J.R.] You know, you never fail to surprise me. [Grabs J.R.’s hat, puts it in his brother’s hands, slaps his arm] Let’s go. [J.R. smiles and they exit together.]

Watch this scene in “Odd Man Out,” available on DVD and at Amazon and iTunes, and share your comments below.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 175 — ‘Odd Man Out’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Odd Man Out, Patrick Duffy

Raising the bar

“Odd Man Out” is the 12th “Dallas” episode directed by Larry Hagman, who demonstrates once more that he’s as talented behind the camera as he is in front of it. The main storyline finds Bobby depressed because he believes Jenna dumped him to reunite with her ex-husband Naldo; little does Bob know Naldo is actually holding Jenna captive. This isn’t the richest material in the show’s history, but Hagman makes it compelling nonetheless. He also rewards the audience with several scenes that draw upon the history of the characters and their relationships. With the exception of Leonard Katzman and a few others, did anyone know “Dallas” better than its biggest star?

“Odd Man Out’s” most suspenseful moment comes at the end of the second act, when Naldo leaves Jenna alone to pay their hotel bill. She sneaks into a phone booth, drops a coin in the slot and punches the buttons. An operator comes on the line and tells her the call will cost a dollar. “Damn. Come on,” Jenna says as she dumps change out of her purse, sorts it quickly and inserts more coins. Cut to Southfork, where Bobby sits on the patio, reading a newspaper as the phone next to him begins ringing. He doesn’t answer it right away (is he waiting for Raoul or Teresa?), and when he finally picks up and says hello, Hagman cuts back to the phone booth — where Naldo takes the receiver from Jenna’s hand and hangs up. “Don’t ever try anything like that again,” he says.

The episode takes another dramatic turn at the end. J.R., Sue Ellen and Jamie have taken Bobby out to dinner, hoping to cheer him up. Bobby proposes a toast: “To Jenna Wade and the life she’s chosen for herself, wherever she is and whomever she’s with.” Hagman then cuts to a shot of Jenna, lying unconscious on a hotel floor. A lamp is knocked over, the sleeve of her blouse is torn and there’s a gun in her hand. As she slowly awakens, two police officers burst into the room. “Freeze, lady,” one says. “Drop the gun. Drop it!” Jenna looks bewildered and glances over her shoulder — where she sees Naldo’s dead body. Freeze the frame, roll the credits.

Other standout scenes in “Odd Man Out” showcase the “Dallas” characters. In one sequence, J.R. is having lunch with Mandy when he receives a call from Dora Mae, who tells him Bobby is drinking heavily at the Oil Baron’s Club. J.R. doesn’t hesitate to leave Mandy’s side so he can help his brother. (Something similar will happen in the eighth-season finale, “Swan Song,” except the circumstances will be dire.) Later, J.R. bucks up Bobby by reminding him that Christopher needs him; besides recalling a conversation years earlier where Bobby pulls J.R. out a depressive slump, this moment reminds us how good Hagman and Patrick Duffy are together. In another fun sequence, J.R. plays cupid in reverse: He runs into Pam and makes sure she knows how upset Bobby is over his breakup with Jenna, and then J.R. tells Bobby that Pam is too busy with her search for Mark to care about his problems.

Speaking of Pam: Victoria Principal is wonderful in the scene where Benton, the owner of the San Serrano medical clinic, tells Pam that Mark is alive. The actress cries and laughs at once, which gives the audience the odd sensation of being happy for Pam even though we suspect J.R. is behind her wild goose chase. Hagman also allows “Dallas’s” other leading lady, Linda Gray, a chance to shine. The script doesn’t give Sue Ellen much to do, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook her. In two scenes, Sue Ellen asks other characters where J.R. is. In each instance, Gray delivers her lines with just the right amount of doubt and suspicion, letting us know that Sue Ellen realizes her husband is up to his old tricks again.

“Odd Man Out” also illustrates Hagman’s eye for detail. The episode’s opening shot is a close-up of caviar being dished onto a plate — a signal, perhaps, that the competitive Hagman wanted his show to cede no ground in “Dallas’s” rivalry with glitzy “Dynasty.” Hagman also understood the need for balance, though, which is why he shows Ray, Donna and Dave Culver enjoying a down-home meal around the Krebbs’ dining room table. Ray and Donna are bringing Dave up to speed on Jamie’s claims about Ewing Oil’s ownership, and at one point Ray pauses to ask Dave if he’d care for some corn. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn Hagman suggested this gesture to make the scene feel more realistic. Think about it: When you watch “Dallas” dinner scenes helmed by other directors, do you ever hear someone ask to pass the salt?

Other highlights include a nice subplot about Clayton challenging Miss Ellie’s devotion to her sons by pointing out they are grown men who can take care of themselves. No matter how you feel about Donna Reed’s casting as Ellie, you have to appreciate how the show continues to give meaningful material to its oldest actors. The producers’ efforts to keep Lucy in the spotlight aren’t as successful. In this episode, she shuts off Eddie’s alarm so he’ll sleep in and skip work to spend the day with her. He’s angry when he wakes up and discovers this, and who can blame him? Did Lucy learn nothing from her too-brief foray into the working world?

On the other hand, when Lucy offers to support Eddie financially and he balks, she points out that if the roles were reversed, he probably wouldn’t think twice about supporting her. This is a good point. Lucy may not know much about the real world, but at least she recognizes sexism when she sees it.

Grade: A


Dallas, Jenna Wade, Odd Man Out, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley

Odd woman out


Season 8, Episode 14

Airdate: December 28, 1984

Audience: 20.8 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Larry Hagman

Synopsis: J.R. urges Bobby to get over losing Jenna. Miss Ellie and Clayton disagree over her involvement in her sons’ lives. Pam visits a Caribbean clinic that Mark supposedly visited two months earlier. Eddie quits his job. Jenna awakens next to Naldo’s dead body as police officers enter the room.

Cast: Don Banning (Roy Crowley), Burke Byrnes (Pete Adams), Pat Colbert (Dora Mae), Timothy J. Cutt (Leonard Boyle), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Tom Fuccello (Senator Dave Culver), 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), Fredric Lehna (Eddie Cronin), Michael McRae (Benton), Daniel Pilon (Renaldo Marchetta), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Donna Reed (Miss Ellie Farlow), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Danone Simpson (Kendall), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis)

“Odd Man Out” is available on DVD and at Amazon and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.