Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 115 — ‘Barbecue Three’

Barbecue Three, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Mr. Right

In “Barbecue Three,” J.R. finally reveals his plan to win the contest for Ewing Oil: He begins flooding the market with cut-rate gasoline, hoping to drive up his half of the company’s profits. This ignites a firestorm within the cartel, prompting Cliff and a band of angry oilmen to come to the annual Southfork barbecue and demand J.R. stop lowering prices. The Ewings don’t like what J.R.’s doing either, but to everyone’s surprise, they close ranks around him when the confrontation with the cartel threatens to turn violent. “If you want to get to J.R., you’re going to have to come through us,” Bobby tells the group.

Like Ellie’s defense of J.R. in the fifth-season classic “Waterloo at Southfork,” this is another example of the Ewings circling the wagons against outsiders, one of “Dallas’s” hallmarks. There’s another reason this scene is satisfying: For once, J.R. isn’t wrong. Sure, he pulled some dirty tricks to get his hands on the crude he needed to produce all that cheap gas, but the cartel has no right to complain about it. J.R. is selling his product at a lower price than his competitors. Who are they to tell him to stop? (On another note: Why doesn’t Marilee Stone join her fellow cartel members in confronting J.R.? Surely it isn’t because she’s a woman. If you ask me, Marilee is much more intimidating than mild-mannered Jordan Lee, who stands alongside Cliff in this scene.)

To be fair, the other characters’ objections to J.R.’s scheme feel a little more justified than the cartel’s. Before the barbecue, Bobby complains J.R. will show “huge short-term profits and deplete our reserves,” which seems like a reasonable concern. Meanwhile, Donna, now a member of the Texas Energy Commission, becomes irritated when her fellow regulators backtrack on their opposition to J.R. As Donna explains to Punk Anderson, “Some of the members of the commission have political ambitions. They’re not about to vote against lower gasoline prices, even if it means conserving our oil reserves.” Fair enough, although the comment feels a little hypocritical coming from the widow of a governor and the stepmother of a senator.

Indeed, Arthur Bernard Lewis’s script covers so many different reactions to J.R.’s cheap gas gambit — his family, his competitors in the cartel and the politicians all weigh it —“Barbecue Three” feel like a lesson in capitalism. Lewis even manages to reflect the consumers’ point of view, albeit subtly. J.R. announces his cut-rate gas plan at the opening of the first J.R. Ewing-branded gas station, where we see a couple of attendants lowering the per-gallon price from $1.21 to 89 cents. Later, the TV news coverage shows long lines of motorists waiting to fill up. There’s also a scene where Sly, J.R.’s secretary, tells her boss she thinks what he’s doing is “terrific” and hopes he can “keep it up.” (Seeing Deborah Rennard deliver this line, I couldn’t help but imagine Sly’s everyday working-class drudgeries: fighting traffic during morning rush hour, standing in line at the bank to deposit her paycheck, shopping for bargains at The Store.)

“Barbecue Three” also delivers two Lucy/Mickey scenes that showcase the nice chemistry between Charlene Tilton and Timothy Patrick Murphy. In the first, Mickey asks Lucy on a date, only to be introduced to her cold shoulder. Later, at the barbecue, he tries again to charm her and begins to realize her snobbish demeanor masks deeper problems. Patrick Duffy also has several good moments in this episode, including a monologue in which Bobby promises Pam he won’t lose the fight for Ewing Oil: “Daddy taught me a lot of tricks in my early days with the company. Things that I hated doing. But I learned. And I learned real good. And I can get right down in the mud if I have to.” It’s a nice reminder that Bobby’s recent discovery of his inner junkyard dog on TNT’s “Dallas” has precedence.

I also appreciate the details in “Barbecue Three.” The scene leading up to the first Texas Energy Commission meeting is expertly executed. Director Leonard Katzman shows us Ray and Donna (looking chic in her red hat) arriving at the municipal building and being greeted by a throng of news reporters, which helps lend the moment a sense of drama and suspense. You get the feeling something big is about to happen, a notion that’s reinforced by the sight of so many familiar oil industry leaders in the audience. And even though the “Dallas” producers actually make us sit through the commission members reciting the pledge of allegiance, it really doesn’t slow down the momentum. Later, when J.R. is planning his press conference, I like his brief exchange with his public relations chief. Sometimes you get the feeling Ewing Oil has no other employees besides the people who work in J.R. and Bobby’s executive suite, so it’s nice to see the show acknowledge that the Ewing brothers don’t do everything themselves.

There are a couple of nice touches during the barbecue sequences too. Debra Lynn Rogers, who played Toni, the woman Ray flirted with during the previous season’s “Barbecue Two,” plays the role again in this episode, except now she’s dancing with Mickey. Meanwhile, Peyton E. Park, who played Larry, the Ewings’ caterer in “Barbecue Two,” reprises the role here. In “Barbecue Three,” we also meet a woman who appears to be Jordan’s wife. He introduces her as Evelyn, although in the third-season episode “Paternity Suit,” Jordan seemed to refer to his spouse as “Sara.” Is this a continuity error, or are they two different women? If it’s the latter, I have to wonder: Between Sara, Kristin and now Evelyn, is Jordan trying to give J.R. a run for his money as “Dallas’s” biggest lothario?

Grade: A


Barbecue Three, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Gasman cometh


Season 6, Episode 12

Airdate: December 17, 1982

Audience: 21.8 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: The Texas Energy Commission revokes J.R.’s variance but faces public backlash when he opens a chain of popular cut-rate gas stations. Holly asks Bobby to help her get J.R. out of her company. Mickey realizes Lucy is troubled. After angry oilmen confront J.R. at the Ewing Barbecue, Miss Ellie vows to go to court to break Jock’s will and sell Ewing Oil.

Cast: E.J. André (Eugene Bullock), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Lois Chiles (Holly Harwood), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Ken Farmer (oilman), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Alice Hirson (Mavis Anderson), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), James Karen (Elton Lawrence), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Julio Medina (Henry Figueroa), Peyton E. Park (Larry), Timothy Patrick Murphy (Mickey Trotter), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Debra Lynn Rogers (Toni), Kirk Scott (Buchanan), Danone Simpson (Kendall), Arlen Dean Snyder (George Hicks), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Robert Swick (Ewing Oil employee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson)

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

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 100 – ‘Blackmail’

Dark room

Dark room

In “Blackmail,” J.R., armed with newly obtained evidence that suggests Christopher is his biological son, comes home to Southfork and enters the nursery. It’s a dark and stormy night, and the little boy is whimpering in his crib as thunder crackles outside. J.R. doesn’t comfort the child, though. He merely watches him. “Hello Christopher,” J.R. says. “You don’t know it, but I’m your daddy. I wonder how your Aunt Pam would feel about it, if she found out?”

The line is made all the more ominous by the wicked smile Larry Hagman flashes after he delivers it. We don’t discover what J.R. is plotting until later in the episode, when he tells Bobby he’ll reveal the “truth” about Christopher’s paternity unless Bobby agrees to do his bidding at Ewing Oil. This is one of J.R.’s most despicable deeds, and not just because he’s using his own child to blackmail his brother. Consider: J.R. grew up with the pain that came from knowing Jock favored Bobby over him. Yet here J.R. is many years later, following in his father’s footsteps: J.R. has one son he adores (John Ross) and another (Christopher) he’s treating as a pawn in his quest for power.

In a clever touch, “Dallas” underlines J.R.’s favoritism by evoking the third-season classic “Paternity Suit.” In that episode, J.R. receives the blood test results that prove he’s John Ross’s father and visits the nursery, where he picks up the boy for the first time. This tender moment stands in sharp contrast with J.R.’s crib-side encounter with Christopher in “Blackmail.” (And even though we’ll soon learn Christopher is not J.R.’s child, “Dallas” doesn’t abandon the theme of J.R. emulating Jock’s parenting style. Toward the end of the show’s run, J.R. learns he has an illegitimate son, James, whose arrival leaves John Ross feeling like the neglected brother.)

The nursery scene isn’t the only dark moment in “Blackmail.” Bobby discovers Farraday’s dead body inside his dingy apartment, while Roger strikes Lucy and knocks her to the floor when she tries to escape from his captivity. I love the suspenseful music that composer Richard Lewis Warren uses to score both sequences, as well as the camera work from director Michael Preece. These two also collaborate nicely in the scene where the grieving Miss Ellie sits alone at the Southfork breakfast table and breaks into tears; Warren’s music grows more mournful as Preece slowly zooms in on Barbara Bel Geddes.

Bel Geddes helps supply “Blackmail” with its other highlight: the scene where Donna sits with Ellie in the Southfork kitchen and tells her the story of how Jock and Sam Culver’s land grab a half-century earlier resulted in another man’s suicide. Ellie refuses to accept the truth and threatens to sue Donna if she includes the story in the biography of Sam she’s writing. I love how Bel Geddes goes from disbelief to rage in a matter of seconds; Susan Howard’s performance is equally heartbreaking.

This scene, perhaps more so than any other in “Blackmail,” makes me appreciate how “Dallas” eschewed gimmicks during its heyday. When I was younger, I used to watch this episode and wonder why the show didn’t bring in a special guest star or deliver a major plot twist to mark its 100th hour. Now I realize: When your cast includes great actresses like Barbara Bel Geddes and Susan Howard, who needs stunts?

Grade: A


Woman alone

Woman alone


Season 5, Episode 23

Airdate: March 19, 1982

Audience: 26.9 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Leonard Katzman

Director: Michael Preece

Synopsis: J.R. tells Bobby he’s Christopher’s father and vows to keep quiet if Bobby cedes control of his voting shares. Cliff moves forward with his drilling project, even after J.R. reveals the land is dry. Miss Ellie explodes when Donna asks for permission to publish the story of Jock’s land grab. Roger holds Lucy captive. The police question Bobby after Farraday is discovered dead.

Cast: Tyler Banks (John Ross Ewing), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Jonathan Goldsmith (Joe Smith), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Art Hindle (Jeff Farraday), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Bob Hoy (Detective Howard), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Leigh McCloskey (Dr. Mitch Cooper), Pamela Murphy (Marie), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Dennis Redfield (Roger Larson), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Tom Stern (Detective White), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis)

“Blackmail” is available on DVD and at 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


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.”

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 79 – ‘Gone But Not Forgotten’

Foiled again!

Foiled again!

At the end of “Gone But Not Forgotten,” Sue Ellen and John Ross are gliding cheerfully through a Love Field airport terminal when they’re suddenly approached by two of J.R.’s goons. While one man distracts Sue Ellen, the other snatches the child. Is this the end of our heroine’s bid for happiness?

No, because seconds later, Dusty Farlow and a trio of white-hatted cowboys swarm the thug clutching John Ross. “Give us the boy,” Dusty says, and even though he’s using crutches to stand, there’s no doubt he means business. As Sue Ellen and John Ross are reunited, J.R., who’s been watching the whole thing from a mezzanine, fumes.

Larry Hagman, Linda Gray and Jared Martin are terrific here, but the real star is Bruce Broughton, whose score lets us know exactly what we should be feeling as we watch Dusty come to Sue Ellen’s rescue. I especially love how the music swells when director Leonard Katzman zooms in on J.R. the moment his scheme is foiled.

But as much as I like this sequence, the highlight of “Gone But Not Forgotten” comes at the end of the first act, when Katzman pans his camera across John Ross’s darkened Southfork nursery and stops at the doorway. The character we expect to see standing there is Pam, who has been using the boy’s absence as the means to express her dashed dreams of having children, but instead we find J.R. looking around the room in silence.

It’s impossible to watch this scene and not be reminded of the third-season episode “Paternity Suit,” when J.R. walks into the nursery and picks up John Ross for the first time. As joyous as that moment was, this one is very sad. Once again, Broughton’s music is instructive: His piano score shifts to a few bars of the “Dallas” theme when the camera reaches J.R.

For the audience, the “Gone But Not Forgotten” nursery scene is also useful. Hagman’s sad eyes let us know John Ross isn’t just a pawn in J.R.’s war with Sue Ellen. J.R. genuinely loves the boy, and it’s hard to not feel bad for a dad who misses his son – even when that father is J.R. Ewing.

Grade: A


Her hero

Her hero


Season 5, Episode 2

Airdate: October 16, 1981

Audience: 23.1 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: J.R. is cleared in Kristin’s death and hires a new secretary: Sly. Dusty foils J.R.’s scheme to snatch John Ross from Sue Ellen. Pam’s preoccupation with having children worries Bobby. Afton breaks up with Cliff.

Cast: Tyler Banks (John Ross Ewing), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Raleigh Bond (pathologist), James L. Brown (Harry McSween), Barry Corbin (Sherriff Fenton Washburn), Patrick Duffy (Senator Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Bruce French (Jerry Macon), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Sherril Lynn Katzman (Jackie), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Heather Lowe (Heather), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), Bill Morey (judge), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Herbert Rudley (Howard Barker), Lane Smith (prosecutor), William Smithers (Jeremy Wendell), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson)

“Gone But Not Forgotten” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘No One’s Made a Ewing Back Down’

Barbara Bel Geddes, Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Lucy Ewing, Miss Ellie Ewing, Paternity Suit

Scene from a mall

In “Paternity Suit,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Miss Ellie and Lucy (Barbara Bel Geddes, Charlene Tilton) are shopping for dresses when Marilee and Linda (Fern Fitzgerald, Joan Lancaster) approach.

LUCY: [Walks toward Miss Ellie with a red boa around her neck] Grandma? Grandma, what do you think?

ELLIE: Well, I think it has a rather limited usefulness.

MARILEE: Why, what a surprise.

LINDA: We didn’t expect to see you here.

LUCY: Where did you expect to see us?

MARILEE: This must be a terrible time for you, Miss Ellie.

LINDA: We’re all gonna miss Sue Ellen tomorrow night at the DOA dinner.

ELLIE: I don’t know what you mean.

LINDA: Well, with all the goings-on in the papers, I hardly think she’d be comfortable there.

ELLIE: Why, she wouldn’t miss it for the world. We’re all going, aren’t we, Lucy?

LUCY: Of course.

ELLIE: We’re buying some new clothes for the occasion.

LUCY: [Holds up the boa] Yeah, how do you like this one? For me, of course, you know.

LINDA: Well, it’s interesting.

MARILEE: We’d love to have you at our table, Miss Ellie.

ELLIE: Thank you, Marilee, but the whole family will be there. I imagine we’ll take up a whole table by ourselves. But why don’t you stop by the ranch for cocktails first. We’ve invited a few friends.

MARILEE: You’re having a party?

ELLIE: Six-thirty, tomorrow.


LINDA: Well, that sounds just fine.

MARILEE: I’m sure my husband will be delighted.

ELLIE: Good. We’ll see you then. Bye.


Marilee and Linda walk away.

MARILEE: [Under her breath] Who’d have thought?

LINDA: Honey, the Ewings have nerves of steel.

LUCY: Grandma, you were terrific.

ELLIE: I thought so. But I’ve faced worse scandals than this. No one’s ever made a Ewing back down yet. I doubt if they ever will.

LUCY: Are you sure you don’t like this? [Wraps the boa around her neck]

ELLIE: No. You may not wear that horrible dress.

Lucy smiles and walks away.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 46 – ‘Paternity Suit’

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Paternity Suite, Tyler Banks

Father and son, at last

“Dallas” creator David Jacobs has called the final scene in “Paternity Suit” – when J.R. picks up his son for the first time – his favorite moment during the series. I understand why. Nothing humanizes J.R., Jacobs’ most famous creation, quite like this.

In the scene, J.R. – clad in a tuxedo because he’s on his way to one of Miss Ellie’s charity dinners – enters the Southfork nursery moments after receiving the blood-test results that prove he is, indeed, the father of newborn John Ross Ewing III. J.R. picks up the child, holds him close and kisses him. No dialogue is spoken, and none is needed. The expression on Larry Hagman’s face – pride, relief, love – says it all.

This is one of several stellar scenes in another standout episode from “Dallas’s” third season. I also love when Miss Ellie refuses to act embarrassed when she and Lucy run into phony-baloney society matrons Marilee Stone and Linda Bradley while shopping. Barbara Bel Geddes is wonderful here, but so is Joan Lancaster. Each actress gets a great line at the end of the scene. Linda whispers to Marilee (“Honey, the Ewings have nerves of steel.”), while Miss Ellie imparts a little family wisdom to Lucy (“No one’s ever made a Ewing back down yet. I doubt if they ever will.”). Perfect.

I also get a kick out of the whole Southfork cocktail party sequence, which makes me appreciate the number of semi-regular characters – Harv Smithfield, Jordan Lee, the Stones, the Bradleys – the show has introduced in just two-and-a-half seasons. “Dallas” really does feel like its own little world now, doesn’t it?

Of course, not everything in “Paternity Suit” rings true: Cliff’s withdrawal from the congressional race feels a bit rushed, and the Dallas Press’s splashy headline (“BARNES CLAIMS EWING CHILD HIS”) is typically over-the-top, but these quirks are really part of “Paternity Suit’s” charm.

Similarly, Jock spends a lot of time in this episode huffing and puffing about Cliff’s lawsuit. Some might find the Ewing patriarch’s incredulousness annoying, but to me, his behavior is rather sweet. It’s as if the old man is incapable of fathoming the idea of Sue Ellen cheating on J.R.

Jock’s faith in his daughter-in-law’s virtue is misplaced, but it exists – and in the Ewing family, that’s saying something.

Grade: A


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

Facing the truth


Season 3, Episode 17

Airdate: January 11, 1980

Audience: 21.9 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Loraine Despres

Director: Harry Harris

Synopsis: After Cliff’s financing dries up and he quits his congressional race, he realizes J.R. set him up and seeks revenge by publicly claiming he is baby John’s father. A blood test proves the father is J.R., who finally embraces the child.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Martina Deignan (Deborah Johns), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Stanley Grover (Dr. Miles), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Stephen Keep (Barry Lester), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Joan Lancaster (Linda Bradley), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Randolph Powell (Alan Beam), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Paul Sorensen (Andy Bradley), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Keenan Wynn (Digger Barnes)

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